by Ron Klages

Gruppe I [Narvik]
Kapitän zur See Friedrich Bonte
Z-2 “George Thiele” KK Max-Eckart Wolff
Z-9 “Wolfgang Zenker” FK Gottfried Pönitz
Z-11 “Bernd von Arnim” KK Kurt Rechel
Z-12 “Erich Giese” KK Karl Schmidt
Z-13 “Erich Koellner” KKAlfred Schulze-Hinrichs
Z-17 “Diether von Roeder” KK Erich Holtorf
Z-18 “Han Lüdemann” KK Herbert Friedrich
Z-19 “Hermann Künne” KK Friedrich Kothe
Z-21 “Wilhelm Heidkamp” KK Hans Erdmenger
Z-22 “Anton Schmitt” KK Friedrich Böhme

This gruppe was to sail at midnight on 6 April for Narvik with Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 139 with three battalions [about 2,000 men]. Two battle ships, the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst, were to escort the group until it was off Namsos late on 8 April at which point the battleships would turn northwards to create a diversion.

On the morning of 7 April, Hudsons from RAF Coastal Command spotted German ships sailing north and that afternoon 12 Blenheims of No. 107 Wing spotted the ships 80 miles south of Cape Lindesnes and they attacked the convoy with no success. At about 0900 hours on the morning of 8 April the British destroyer Glowworm came across Z-11 “Bernd von Arnim” and the German destroyed attempted to engage the British destroyer but the seas were to rough. The Admiral Hipper was called in and it soon sunk the Glowworm with only 31 survivors being picked up by the Hipper.

On 9 April in the early morning hours the Narvik Gruppe sailed up the Ofotfjord with nine destroyers [Z-12 “Erich Giese” was 3 hours late because of damage suffered in the heavy seas.
Z-17 “Diether von Roeder”, Z-18 “Han Lüdemann” and Z-22 “Anton Schmitt” landed troops at Ramnes, 30 kilometers west of Narvik, to capture Norwegian batteries that quickly proved not to exist.
Z-9 “Wolfgang Zenker”, Z-13 “Erich Koellner” and Z-19 “Hermann Künne” sailed up the Herjangen fjord to land troops at Bjerkvik, 10 kilometers north of Narvik, to take the Norwegian army depot at Elvegardsmoen.

Z-2 “George Thiele”, Z-11 “Bernd von Arnim” and Z-21 “Wilhelm Heidkamp” headed for Narvik. At about 0415 hours, in a squally snowstorm, the squadron came across the Norwegian ironclad Eidsvold at the entrance to the harbor. In the leading Z-21 “Wilhelm Heidkamp” KzS Bonte lowered a small boat and sent an officer across to explain that the Germans were coming to Norway as friends to protect the Norwegians against the British. The German officer returned to his ship and the Norwegen Captain Odd sachsen Willoch called to his superior, Captain Petter Askim, on board Norge, the second Norwegian ironclad at Narvik. As Askim ordered Willoch to open fire, the German envoy was called back whereupon Willoch told him that he had orders to resist. The german departed again and Captain Willoch ordered the port side battery to open fire but, before he could do so, the Eidsvold was hit by three torpedoes from Z-21 “Wilhelm Heidkamp”. She quickley broke up into two pieces and sank and only six survivors could be rescued.
Then at 0440 hours the Norge spotted the other two German destroyers calmly tying up amidst the other ships moored in the harbor and quickly opened fire with her 210mm and 150mm guns. Z-11 “Bernd von Arnim” returned with a series of torpedoes and two of them found the Norge which listed and went down in less than a minute. Ninety of the crew were saved.
Soon the Gebirgsjäger jumped ashore and the surprised Norwegian garrison offered no resistence. At 0615 hours Narvik was surrendered to the Germans and only one battalion of Norwegian troops, about 250 men, escaped eastward amidst the confusion.

Gruppe Narvik was scheduled to sail back to Germany on the evening of 10 April but the Norwegian patrol boat Nordkapp had intercepted the German tanker Kattegat at the entrance to the Ofotfjord and the German captain had scuttled the tanker resulting in no fuel to refill the 10 destroyers.
On the evening on 9 April destroyers Z-21, Z-18, Z-22, Z-17 and Z-19 moored for the night in the Narvik harbor while Z-9, Z-19 and Z-12 went to Bjerkvik at the head of Herjangen fjord, 10 kilometers north of Narvik. The remaining two destroyers, Z-2 and Z-11 went to Ballengen bay on the south side of the Ofotfjord, 25 kilometers west of Narvik.

Early the following morning, 10 April five British destoyers steamed out of the morning mist into Ofotfjord and caught the destroyers moored there offguard. Z-22 was sunk and Z-17 and Z-21 were seriously damaged and sinking. KzS Bonte yhad been killed on board. The British lost the destroyer Hunter and the destroyer Hardy had to be grounded.
On 13 April a strong British force of the battleship Warspite and nine destroyers had entered the Ofotfjord to engage the remaining seven German destroyers. Z-12 and Z-13 were sunk and Z-18 was struck by a torpedo. The remaining German destroyers lacking fuel were scuttled by their crews and went ashore to continue to fight as infantry with the Gebirgsjäger.

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