HMS Gloucester (62)

HMS Gloucester (62)

HMS "Gloucester" was one of the second group of three ships of the "Town" class of light cruisers. She was launched on 19 October 1937 prior to commissioning on 31 January 1939.

"Gloucester" was nicknamed "The Fighting G" and saw heavy service in the early years of World War II. The ship was deployed initially to the Indian Ocean and later South Africa before joining Vice Admiral Cunningham's Mediterranean fleet in 1940. She was sunk on 22 May 1941 during the Battle of Crete with the loss of 722 men out of a crew of 807.

ervice in the Indian Ocean and South Africa

On 7 April 1939, "Gloucester" left Malta to take over the East Indies station as flagship of the 4th Cruiser Squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Ralph Leathem. She spent much of that year patrolling the Indian Ocean. In December, she was moved to Simonstown, South Africa where she was used, unsuccessfully, against German raiders.

ervice in the Mediterranean

She was transferred again in May 1940, this time to the Mediterranean, where she experienced plenty of action. On 7 July 1940 she sailed from Alexandria bound for Malta with the rest of Vice Admiral Cunningham's fleet to take up convoy duty. The next day an Italian air attack hit the ship's bridge killing 18 crew members instantly, including the Captain, F R Garside CBE, Commander J R D'Aeth and Lieutenant Commanders Churchill and Lindsay. As a result of the attack the ship could not be steered from the bridge and was uncontrolled for a time before Lieutenant Commander Reginald P Tanner took charge from the aft steering position. Despite an inoperable bridge the ship remained with the fleet and saw action on 9 July in the Battle of Calabria. After the battle the fleet joined up with the allied convoys in Malta, before arriving back in Alexandria on 13 July. [cite book |last=Otter |first=Ken |title=HMS Gloucester The Untold Story |origyear=1999 |edition=2nd edition |year=2001 |publisher=G.A.M. Books |location=Durham |isbn=0-9522194-2-5 |oclc=59524624 |pages=pp. 31-36]

While repairs were carried out to the bridge in Alexandria the crew was introduced to their new Captain, Henry Aubrey Rowley DSO, and Lieutenant Commander Tanner was promoted to Commander. [cite book |last=Otter |first=Ken |title=HMS Gloucester The Untold Story |origyear=1999 |edition=2nd edition |year=2001 |publisher=G.A.M. Books |location=Durham |isbn=0-9522194-2-5 |oclc=59524624 |pages=pp. 37-39]

The second half of 1940 was spent in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Aegean. On 11 January 1941, while supporting Operation Excess (several coordinated convoys), "Gloucester" was hit by a bomb which failed to explode. In March, she was at the Battle of Matapan and, in April, performed several bombardments along the north African coast. A second bomb hit caused minor damage.


"Gloucester" formed part of a naval force acting against German military transports to Crete, with some success. On 22 May 1941, while in the Kithera Channel, about 14 miles (26 km) north of Crete, she was attacked by German Stuka dive bombers and sank, having sustained at least four heavy bomb hits and three near-misses. Of the 807 men aboard at the time of her sinking, only 85 survived. [cite book |last=Otter |first=Ken |title=HMS Gloucester The Untold Story |origyear=1999 |edition=2nd edition |year=2001 |publisher=G.A.M. Books |location=Durham |isbn=0-9522194-2-5 |oclc=59524624 |pages=pp. 1] Her sinking is considered to be one of Britain's worst wartime naval disasters. The circumstances of the sinking were featured by a BBC programme. According to this, the despatch of "Gloucester", alone and low on fuel and anti-aircraft ammunition (less than 20% remaining), into danger was a "grievous error". Furthermore, the failure to attempt to rescue survivors after dark was "contrary to usual Navy practice". A survivor commented "The tradition in the Navy is that when a ship has sunk, a vessel is sent back to pick up survivors under cover of darkness. That did not happen and we do not know why. We were picked up by Germans." [ [ BBC News | UK | WWII battleship 'sunk by blunder' ] ]

Another account of the sinking differs from, and adds to, the BBC report. In this, "Gloucester" and HMS "Fiji", both already low on ammunition, had been sent to support the rescue of survivors from the destroyer HMS "Greyhound". Fierce air attacks further depleted their ammunition and they were given permission to rejoin the main fleet. It was during their return that the "Gloucester" was sunk. [ [ Gloucester ] ] "Fiji" was sunk later the same day.

On 30 May 1941, in a letter to the First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound, Admiral Cunningham wrote, "The sending back of Gloucester and Fiji to the Greyhound was another grave error and cost us those two ships. They were practically out of ammunition but even had they been full up I think they would have gone. The Commanding Officer of Fiji told me that the air over Gloucester was black with planes." [cite book |last=Otter |first=Ken |title=HMS Gloucester The Untold Story |origyear=1999 |edition=2nd edition |year=2001 |publisher=G.A.M. Books |location=Durham |isbn=0-9522194-2-5 |oclc=59524624 |pages=pp. 136]

The wrecksite is a protected place under the Protection of Military Remains Act.


*cite book|last=Chesneau|first=Roger (ed.)|title=Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922-1946|year=1980|publisher=Conway Maritime Press|location=London|id=ISBN 0-85177-146-7
* [ HMS Gloucester at]
* [ HMS Gloucester - WWII cruisers]
* [ Royal Navy history]
*cite book
last = Whitley
first = M J
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia
publisher = Arms and Armour Press
year = 1995
location = London
pages = pp. 104 & 109
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 1-85409-225-1

External links

* [ BBC article on HMS "Gloucester"]

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