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  • Christina Drummond

Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee V.C. of the Royal Navy

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1940, Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee V.C. of the Royal Navy was killed in action at Ofotfjord in the first Battle of Narvik. From HMS Hardy he commanded the British 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, consisting of five destroyers in a surprise attack on German destroyers and merchant ships during a blinding snowstorm. The attack was successful, but immediately followed by an engagement with five more German destroyers, during which Captain Warburton-Lee was mortally wounded by a shell which hit HMS Hardy's bridge. He was posthumously awarded the first Victoria Cross to be gazetted in the Second World War, and two years after his death was awarded the Norwegian War Cross.

This from the citation: "For gallantry, enterprise and daring in command of the force engaged in the First Battle of Narvik. On being ordered to carry out an attack, Capt. Warburton-Lee learned that the enemy was holding the place in much greater force than had been thought. He signalled to the Admiralty that six German destroyers and one submarine were there, that the channel might be mined, and that he intended to attack at dawn. He led his flotilla of five destroyers up the fjord in heavy snow-storms, arriving off Narvik just after daybreak. He took the enemy completely by surprise and made three successful attacks on warships and merchantmen in the harbour. As the flotilla withdrew, five enemy destroyers of superior gunpower were encountered and engaged.

The captain was mortally wounded by a shell which hit the bridge of H.M.S. Hardy. His last signal was "Continue to engage the enemy"." Here is a link to a video of the surviving crewmen: Captain Warburton-Lee, from Wrexham, was 44 years old and married with a son.

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