"Ship on the starboard bow!" the look out shouted. Roope turned his glasses towards the grey silhouette which had suddenly appeared from a fog bank. "She doesn’t look like one of ours," he said. "She’s bigger than an H-class, at any rate." He suddenly stopped talking. A Swedish ensign had been run up by the unknown ship. "Swedish my foot!" Roope exclaimed. "She’s no more Swedish than…" On the morning of April 8, 1940 Lieutenant Commander Roope was in command of His Majesty’s Ship Glowworm. He and his command had less than an hour of life left.
Immediately after World War One the Royal Navy had a surplus of fine destroyers of the V&W Class. In the first half of the 1920s Britain was far more interested in scrapping ships and cutting back the naval establishment, than in designing new warships, especially destroyers. Five years were to pass before two one-offs, Amazon and Ambuscade, were designed as part of the 1924-25 program. In July 1926 the admiralty finally got around to look at the requirements for a new destroyer class. The Acasta or A Class of the 1927 program was the result. The nine members of the class (8 A’s plus leader Codrington) were launched in 1929-30. This class established the general characteristics and appearance of British destroyer designs for the next decade, with mostly changes in detail separating class from class. Each subsequent year saw a new destroyer class, given the next letter of the alphabet and for the most part with 8 members plus one larger leader, whose name did not start with the same letter as the rest (A, B and C Classes). Starting with the D Class of the 1930 program, leaders did use the same first letter as the rest of the class.
HMS Glowwormbegan he existence in 1935 as one of the nine members of the Greyhound or G Class Destroyers of the 1933 naval program. Grenville was the leader and was 7 feet longer and 1 ½ feet wider than the other eight. The G Class destroyers were slightly smaller and lighter than the preceding F Class. Other than dimensions, changes were mostly internal, except all were given a tripod mainmast. However, Glowworm did have one unique difference. Some in the Admiralty had been toying with the idea of increasing the torpedo load on destroyers. With the G Class it was considered changing the two quadruple 21-Inch torpedo mounts to two quintuple torpedo mounts. However, only Glowworm was given the quintuple mounts. Trial speeds ranged from 34.689 knots in Garland to 35.694 knots in Greyhound.
HMS Glowworm Vital Statistics
Laid Down: August 15, 1934; Launched: July 22, 1935; Commissioned: January 22, 1936; Sunk: April 8, 1940
Dimensions: Length - 323 feet (98.45m) oa, 320 feet (97.5m) wl, 312 feet (95.09m) pp: Width - 33 feet (10.05m): Draught - 12 feet 5 inches (3.78m): Displacement: 1,350 tons standard, 1,854 tons full load
Armament - Four 4.7-inch Mk IX QF 1x4; Eight .5 Vickers MGs 2x4; Ten 21-inch Torpedoes 2x5
Machinery: Three Admiralty 3 drum boilers, 2 shaft Parsons Turbines; 34,000 shp; 36 knots: Complement - 145
HMS Glowwormwas part of the destroyer flotilla of Captain Warburton-Lee, screening for HMS Renown in April 1940. On the night of April 7, 1940 a man had fallen overboard from Glowworm and she turned back for rescue, as the rest of the flotilla raced onward. Although only expending half an hour in the fruitless search, the Glowworm became separated from the rest of the British ships. With rising seas Glowworm had to slow and could not catch up during the night. She was further hampered by the breakdown of the gyro-compass and had to rely on a less exact magnetic compass for navigation.
The ship that was spotted from Glowworm at 08:30 of April 8 was the German destroyer Bernd von Arnim. Glowworm quickly scored a hit with a 4.7-inch shell, which carried away a wing of the German destroyer’s bridge. "She’s sheering off, sir," Ramsey (second in command) said. "Poor show. She’s got heavier guns than we have. I should think she’s a Z-class destroyer with five 12.7-cm and four 3.7." "We hit her," Roope said. "It looked as though her bridge had been knocked in." As von Arnim disappeared back into the fog bank, Glowworm aggressively followed. However, behind the fog bank were more German destroyers and the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. As Admiral Hipper came out of the fog, Roope was concerned with broadcasting a contact report. An eight-inch shell from the first broadside from Hipper hit Glowworm aft. Glowworm fired her ten torpedoes but missed. Another German shell destroyed one of the 4.7-Inch mounts. Damage was piling up on the British destroyer.
Glowwormmade smoke and disappeared into her own smoke screen. With no target the Hipper fell silent. Roope knew his ship was in poor shape. The speed of Glowworm had been reduced and was still falling, because water she was taking due to hits below the water line. She had expended all of her torpedoes and her gunnery power had been reduced by one quarter. She had no hope in a gunnery duel and could not get away due to her reduced speed. Glowworm still had one weapon, her bow. Under the cover of the smoke screen Roope reversed course. Hipper had been coming on full speed towards the smoke screen and when Glowworm charged back out of the smoke, she was already extremely close to the German cruiser. Every gun possessed by the Hipper, from 8-Inch to machine guns, tried to stop the Glowworm but it was too late and the British destroyer was too close to her target. The cutwater of the Glowworm crashed into the bow of the Hipper, opening a gash 130 feet long and ripped the cruiser’s starboard torpedo tubes from their housings. With the momentum of the 13,000 ton Hipper, Glowworm was pushed over, turned turtle and went down right away. Commander Roope and 117 men of Glowworm went down with her but 31 crew were rescued by Hipper. Hipper limped back home and missed the rest of the Norwegian campaign. In London the Admiralty received a short series of radio transmissions. First the report of sighting a cruiser and destroyer, then "Am attacking"; after ten minutes "Am under fire from enemy cruiser, am on fire bridge and amidships….am sinking." Then silence, as Glowworm was never heard from again.
The details of the last hour of HMS Glowworm were not learned until the end of the war, when the survivors of the crew were released from prison camp. Lieutenant-Commander Roope was awarded the Victoria Cross. There is no doubt that Commander Roope and the officers and men of His Majesty’s Ship Glowworm, embody the courage and skill of the Royal Navy destroyer force in both World Wars. (Bulk of history from British Destroyers by Edgar J. March and The Narvik Campaign by Johan Waage (source of quotations).
The Glowworm with its squared bridge is a handsome ship. Maybe it is he design or maybe it is the ship’s history, I have always wanted to see a model of this ship. I think the hull casting captures the Glowworm very well. There are 1:700 scale destroyer kits with more detail. Deck detail on this B-Resina kit is functional but not exceptional and the steam pipes look to be on the thick side. This kit does come with the B-Resina version of Aztec steps, as their inclined ladders are solid but are less obtrusive than the proto-typical Airfix version. In addition to all superstructure the hull casting has details of anchor chain and anchor gear, bollards, stern depth charge rack, side depth charge throwers, bridge searchlights and a few other items.
The smaller resin parts include masts; armament of 4.7-Inch, Vickers quad .50 MGs & torpedo tubes; boats & davits; and loading cranes. Some of these castings were a little bit of register and will require some minimal clean-up. With so much packed into the hull casting and so few additional resin parts to be attached, the kit can be assembled extremely quickly.
Early war British destroyer designs were very clean. It was not until later that all sorts of gear and weaponry were added. With some British specific photo-etch, railings and replacement of the resin inclined ladders with PE inclined ladders, the B Resina HMS Glowworm will make a very attractive addition to anyone’s 1:700 collection.