Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Doomed Destroyer by Ron Hope featuring a guest post courtesy of the author himself.
I had never written a book before but I was determined to tell my father, Cyril’s story, which he himself had intended to do. However, I had to wait a few years before starting when I retired as a Probation Officer.
In fact looking back now the only skills or natural talent [if you can call it that] is that I was known in my formative years being a good story teller. Secondly, one of my tasks as an Officer of the Courts was to write Presentence Reports for Judges and Magistrates.
This was an extremely important task as it could mean the difference of someone going to prison or remaining in the community. I quickly realised previous reports by colleagues did not tell much about the offender’s personal back ground –why did this person commit this offence? Who is he? Where does he come from? Etc. Hence I did a lot of research and followed ups involving one or two interviews with the person perhaps in prison. Sometimes I had two or three reports going at the same time, so I had to be very well organised.
This organisational ability, I believe came from my twenty three years in the Royal Navy where for instance as the Chief in charge of the ships communications, I had as much as forty pieces of electronic equipment to keep in good working order. Requiring a well organised repair and maintenance schedule for my staff to follow. Basically the ‘Buck stopped with me’ and answerable to the Captain.
Subsequently, when I began researching for my two books I felt adequately skilled in completing the job. However, I only had my father’s forty five pages of his account, as well audio tapes as well a mass of letters and material he left me in his archives. First job was to try to make contact with his shipmates on the five destroyers in the flotilla. Luck came my way [as strangely, it seemed to be throughout the nine years.] I found a website ‘submerged.co.uk’ where a number of his fellow sailors had written short excerpts of their own experiences in the First Battle of Narvik. There were audio taped interviews on the Imperial War Museum website and official papers in the National Archives at Kew.
I was now on my way and from these men or their families, both, survivors or those who tragically lost their lives, I was able to put together a more thorough picture of events. By now I had gathered a considerably amount of ‘online friends’ [well over one hundred] who were willing me on to make sure the book/s would finally be published in into the public domain.
However, the next extremely tedious and time consuming task was knitting all the research I had gathered into chronological order. I achieved this by keeping files on every contact, including relevant pieces of other written material. [To my wife, Alison’s dismay of taking up the breakfast room] Not made easier because as time went by more information, including photographs, came my way and if I thought these were important they had to be placed somewhere within the manuscript.
This organised system continued right up till the completion of my second book “Doomed Destroyer”. When the son in law contacted me of a ninety eight year old survivor of one of the flotilla was still with us and living in Canada. Publishers had to wait, politely of course.
To conclude, I am proud to have received a special accolade from John Warburton-Lee, the grandson of the great flotilla Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee V.C. John wrote, “To have told this story from one person’s perspective would have been a great challenge, but to have researched the stories of so many, pieced together such a multifaceted jigsaw and then sewn the story together into one coherent whole has clearly been a massive undertaking”.
Author of ‘Attack at Dawn’ and ‘Doomed Destroyer’.
On March 1st 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered Operation Weserubung: the invasion of Norway. Having swept across Europe, the Nazi assault on Scandinavia was designed to secure the valuable iron ore being delivered by rail from Sweden to the Norwegian port of Narvik. To complete the task, Hitler sent ten large destroyers, with 220 Alpine Troops on each. Five smaller British H Class destroyers were sent up the fjord in retaliation, with little knowledge of what to expect. On April 10th , the first British battle of Narvik began in earnest. Royal Naval Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee led his flotilla at midnight into the fjord; undetected, under darkness and in driving snow storms. The harbour erupted into a torpedo attack; back into the fjord, the destroyers Hardy, Hunter, Hotspur, Havock and Hostilewere confronted by five German destroyers. A ferocious sea battle ensued and Hardy and Hunter were lost.
In his first account of The Battle of Narvick, Attack at Dawn, Ron Cope focussed on the experience and the survival of the crew of HMS Hardy. After nine long years of research, he now reveals for the first time the untold story of HMS Hunter and her crew. Just forty-eight of the 159 servicemen on board survived in the cold waters of the fjord; picked up by German destroyers, they were eventually forced to march in freezing conditions over the mountains into internment in Sweden. Before the handover to the Swedish authorities, a German Army officer made the British servicemen sign a form: “On my being sent into Sweden I will not take up arms against Germany… Should I do so, and in the event of again being taken prisoner I shall be subject to such conditions as are provided under the Death Penalty Act”.
Doomed Destroyer follows the astounding stories of the Hunter sailors, who would spend the next five years plotting and attempting to escape their captivity. Cope provides an extensive account of the viciously fought events at sea and in the fjords, examining the Norwegian price paid at Narvik and the early impact of war on the local community’s simple way of life. A remarkable account delivered with care and respect for those lost and left behind, Doomed Destroyer shines a light on this important but previously little known event in British history.
“Without dedicated men like Ron Cope, the testimony and the stories of the men who were there – whether they were lost, wounded, or survived – what became of them, their families, might otherwise be lost to future generations.” Percy C. Danby, Lieutenant (E), C.D. RCN Retired. Ottawa. March 2017, survivor on HMS Hotspur.
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About Ron Hope.
Born in Salford, Ron Cope followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy in 1964, working in electronics. After leaving the forces in 1986, he spent over twenty years working in the probation service, specifically with young offenders. Now a proud father and grandfather, Cope is retired and living with his wife Alison in Telford, Shropshire. His first naval history book Attack at Dawn: Reliving the First Battle of Narvik in World War Two was published to acclaim back in 2015.
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