Every Name A Story Content

Ankers, B.T., L/Stkr., 1940

USN Photograph Ref NH60793

On Plymouth Naval Memorial is the name of D/KX 80558 Leading Stoker Benjamin Thomas Ankers, serving with the Royal Navy who died 08/06/1940.

He was the son of Benjamin Lawrence Ankers and Elizabeth Ankers, of Newcastle-on-Tyne; husband of Jane McKay Ankers, of Byker, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

He was aboard HMS Glorious. At 03.00 on June 8th the Glorious parted from the Ark Royal, which wore the flag of the Admiral (Air), in a position 17 degrees N. by 14 degrees 10 minutes E. She was accompanied by the destroyers Acasta and Ardent as an anti-submarine escort. Unfortunately she was sent tight into the jaws of the enemy.

No Reconnaissance Aircraft Up.

An enemy squadron, comprising the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, ships of nearly 32,000 tons each, armed with nine 11-in. guns, and the cruiser Admiral Hipper, of nearly 15,000 tons with eight 8-in. guns, had left Kiel on June 4th and passed Bergen at midnight on June 5-6. Their orders were to attack British convoys proceeding from the Narvik area. No suspicion of their presence seems to have been entertained by British Naval Intelligence; at any rate, neither the Flag Officer, Narvik, nor the C.-in-C., Home Fleet, was aware of it.

At 8am on the morning of June 8th the Admiral Hipper encountered the tanker Oil Pioneer, which she sank, rescuing 11 survivors. A little later she did the same with the empty transport Orama and the trawler Juniper, picking up 112 from these ships. Though the British hospital ship Atlantis saw the Orama being shelled, the Geneva Convention precluded her reporting the fact by wireless. It may be doubted if our enemies would have acted so scrupulously in such a case.

Soon after 16.00 on the same day the Glorious sighted the two German battleships, the Admiral Hipper having put into Trondheim. No reconnaissance aircraft were up, nor had any been flown since parting from the Ark Royal, or the encounter might have been avoided. As it was, the Glorious did her best to escape to the southward under cover of a smoke-screen laid by the two destroyers. Though this caused the enemy to cease fire for a time, the forward upper hangar had already been hit, destroying the Hurricane aircraft and preventing any torpedoes being got out before the fire curtains were lowered. About an hour after the enemy ships had first been sighted, a salvo hit the bridge of the Glorious, and further heavy hits were sustained about 15 minutes later. Soon after this the order was given to abandon ship, and she sank with a heavy list to starboard about 17.40. The carrier's armament of 4.7-in. guns was, of course, quite useless against two such powerful adversaries.

Both the destroyers were sunk, the Acasta about 17.28 and the Ardent at 18.08. They had duly fired torpedoes, one from the Ardent hitting the Scharnhorst abreast of her after 11-in. turret, inflicting severe damage. As the result of this, the Scharnhorst made for Trondheim under escort of her sister ship, their cruise being abandoned. They took with them an officer and four ratings from the Glorious and one man from the Ardent as prisoner of war.

No intelligible report of the action was received by any British ship, though at 17.20 the cruiser Devonshire nearly 100 miles to the westward picked up the beginning of a wireless signal addressed to the Vice-Admiral (Air) from the Glorious; it must have been made as the ship was being abandoned. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Ark Royal, Southampton and Coventry, other ships in the North Sea were keeping wireless watch on a different wave frequency. This applied to the Valiant, which was then about 470 miles to the south-westward. On the morning of the following day that battleship made contact with the hospital ship Atlantis, which reported having seen a transport being attack by the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and the heavy cruiser Hipper.

This information was at once passed to the Commander-in-Chief at Scapa, who sailed with the Rodney, Renown and six destroyers to cover the convoys. First news of the end of the Glorious came from an enemy broadcast on June 9. Though diligent search was made for survivors, aircraft from the Ark Royal actually passed close over a number of men on rafts without seeing them. Owing to the heavy sea, which capsized the Acasta's boats, and the extreme cold, men soon perished, the total death roll in the three ships amounting to 94 officers and 1,380 ratings, besides 41 R.A.F. personnel. The few who did survive were picked up by the little Norwegian steamer Borgund (341 tons gross), which landed them at Thorshavn, in the Faroe Islands.

Apart from the fact that aircraft carriers were extremely precious, the loss of the Glorious must be accounted a sad waste of the lives of brave men, most of them of high professional qualifications, not easily replaced. In the absence of any official statement on the subject, it must be left to future historians of the War, who presumably will have full access to all relevant documents, to award the blame, for the disaster, if any is due.

Source : War Illustrated Volume 10. 240.

Benjamin Thomas Ankers is remembered on our List of Ships’ crews.

Glarac co.uk The Association
H.M.S. Glorious
The CWGC entry for Leading Stoker Ankers

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk