Gerard Broadmead Roope
|Intro||Recipient of the Victoria Cross|
|Birth||13 March 1905, Taunton|
|Death||8 April 1940, Norwegian Sea (aged 35 years)|
Lieutenant-Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope VC RN (13 March 1905 – 8 April 1940) was a posthumous British recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
A 35-year-old Royal Navy officer, his action was the earliest awarded a Victoria Cross in the Second World War (although the award was gazetted after hostilities ended) and is one of very few to have the award justified, in part, from a recommendation and supporting evidence provided by the enemy.
Gallantry in action
On 8 April 1940, in the Norwegian Sea, the destroyer HMS Glowworm (1,345 tons), commanded by Lt-Cdr Roope, engaged two enemy destroyers while heading alone to Norway's West Fjord. After one of the enemy ships was hit, they both broke off and retreated to the north. Though aware that the enemy destroyers were attempting to draw him towards German capital ships, he gave chase. Glowworm soon spotted the German cruiser Admiral Hipper (14,000 tons). He alerted the Home Fleet before turning to engage the cruiser. Glowworm fired ten torpedoes but scored no hits and was soon battered by enemy rounds and set on fire. With only three guns still firing, Roope successfully rammed the cruiser as a last gesture of defiance. Glowworm then fired one more salvo, scoring a hit, before she capsized and sank. Of the crew of 149, one officer and 30 men survived and were chivalrously picked up by the Admiral Hipper. Lt-Cdr Roope was drowned in the course of assisting rescue of survivors. The extensive damage she had sustained forced the Admiral Hipper to return to port for repairs. The Admiral Hipper's commander, Kapitän zur See Heye, wrote to the British authorities via the Red Cross, recommending award of the VC for his opponent's courage in engaging a vastly superior warship.
The citation reads:
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS for valour to:—
The late Lieutenant-Commander Gerard Broadmead ROOPE, Royal Navy. On the 8th April, 1940, H.M.S. Glowworm was proceeding alone in heavy weather towards a rendezvous in West Fjord, when she met and engaged two enemy destroyers, scoring at least one hit on them. The enemy broke off the action and headed North, to lead the Glowworm on to his supporting forces. The Commanding Officer, whilst correctly appreciating the intentions of the enemy, at once gave chase. The German heavy cruiser, Admiral Hipper, was sighted closing the Glowworm at high speed and an enemy report was sent which was received by H.M.S. Renown. Because of the heavy sea, the Glowworm could not shadow the enemy and the Commanding Officer therefore decided to attack with torpedoes and then to close in order to inflict as much damage as possible. Five torpedoes were fired and later the remaining five, but without success. The Glowworm was badly hit; one gun was out of action and her speed was much reduced, but with the other three guns still firing she closed and rammed the Admiral Hipper. As the Glowworm drew away, she opened fire again and scored one hit at a range of 400 yards. The Glowworm, badly stove in forward and riddled with enemy fire, heeled over to starboard, and the Commanding Officer gave the order to abandon her. Shortly afterwards she capsized and sank. The Admiral Hipper hove to for at least an hour picking up survivors but the loss of life was heavy, only 31 out of the Glowworm's complement of 149 being saved.Full information concerning this action has only recently been received and the VICTORIA CROSS is bestowed in recognition of the great valour of the Commanding Officer who, after fighting off a superior force of destroyers, sought out and reported a powerful enemy unit, and then fought his ship to the end against overwhelming odds, finally ramming the enemy with supreme coolness and skill.— Supplement to London Gazette, 6 July 1945 (dated 10 July 1945)
The award was presented to his widow on 12 February 1946. This Victoria Cross is currently in private ownership and is not on public display.
The novel Battle of the April Storm, by Larry Forrester, is based upon the action between Glowworm and Hipper. The characters are fictional, including the Glowworm's captain, but the story depicts an "unlucky" ship that is redeemed by an heroic final action and, at the end, the fellowship between mariners, even enemies.