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Recent British And German Naval Losses

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 23 April 1940

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4.2 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government a question of which I have given private notice—namely, whether in view of the claims of the German Government that they have sunk or severely damaged a large proportion of the British Fleet during the operations in Norwegian waters, His Majesty's Government will state the full measure of our naval losses since the German invasion of Norway and Denmark, and their relation to the claims made by the enemy.

My Lords, His Majesty's Government are aware of the recent flights of fancy of the enemy propaganda department, which have rivalled its previous achievements on the occasion of the Battle of the River Plate and the ignominious end of the "Graf Spee." I therefore welcome the opportunity afforded me by the noble Viscount of stating the exact measure of our losses. Since the German invasion of Norway and Denmark three destroyers, one submarine and one Admiralty trawler have been sunk, and a fourth destroyer, His Majesty's ship "Hardy," was beached after being damaged. One cruiser and two destroyers have been damaged but have returned safely to their bases. His Majesty's ship "Renown" and His Majesty's ship "Rodney" have both received hits. No serious damage was done in either case, nor was the fighting efficiency of the ships in any way affected. In addition, as has been announced in the Press, four other destroyers have received some damage, not of a serious nature, and three cruisers have received trifling damage from bomb splinters.

The noble Viscount's request that I should contrast these losses with those which the enemy claim to have inflicted is no easy task, since consistency has never been a characteristic of the enemy's propaganda and their claims, rising in direct proportion to their losses, are totalled by no known rules of arithmetic. Their latest claims appear to total five battleships, two battle cruisers, one aircraft-carrier, twelve cruisers, eleven destroyers and eleven submarines sunk or seriously damaged during the period in question. I need only add that this statement is as untrue as the oft-repeated announcement that German airmen had sunk His Majesty's ship "Ark Royal."

4.6 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to ask the noble Lord whether he is able to give details of German naval losses and other losses at sea.

My Lords, I am particularly anxious not to fall into the error of gross exaggeration, to which the enemy is so grievously addicted that no credence can be given to his official announcements. Your Lordships may, therefore, feel assured that I have done my best to verify the following answer to the supplementary question. The German battle cruiser "Scharnhorst" has been damaged in an engagement with His Majesty's ship "Renown," while our Norwegian Allies report that the other enemy battle cruiser "Gneisenau" has been sunk. In addition, the "Admiral Scheer" was hit by torpedoes from one of our submarines, and we have every reason to believe that she has at least been very seriously damaged. The enemy themselves admit the loss of two cruisers, while hits were also obtained on two other cruisers by aircraft of the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm, and there is every probability that they were sunk. Another cruiser is reported to have been sunk by the Norwegians and at least eight enemy destroyers have been sunk and others damaged. With regard to the sinkings of enemy submarines, the success of His Majesty's ship "Zulu" has already been announced. For the rest, I think I will confine myself to the words of a recent Admiralty communiqué—namely, that

"although no sinkings have been published, it would be incorrect assume that positive results have not been obtained."