- Mediterranean Fleet (United Kingdom)
Infobox Military Unit
caption=The battleships "Bulwark", "Renown" and "Ramillies" at Malta in 1902.
Samuel Hood, Horatio Nelson, Andrew Cunningham
Mediterranean Fleetredirects here. For the Mediterranean Fleets of other countries, see Mediterranean Fleet (disambiguation)."The British MediterraneanFleet was part of the Royal Navy. The Fleet was one of the most prestigious commands in the navy for the majority of its history, historically defending the vital sea link between the United Kingdomand the majority of the British Empirein the Eastern Hemisphere. The first Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, may have been named as early as 1665, [ [http://www.navylist.org/risk.htm nbdrisk ] ] and the Fleet was in existence until 1967.
Malta, a part of the
British Empiresince 1814, was used as a shipping waystation and headquarters for the Mediterranean Fleet until the mid-1930s.
In 1893, Vice-Admiral Sir
George Tryondrowned as his flagship, HMS "Victoria", sank within fifteen minutes of a collisionwith HMS "Camperdown". About this time, the Mediterranean Fleet was the largest single squadronof the Royal Navy, with ten first-class battleships - double the number in the Channel Fleet- and a large number of smaller vessels. [ [http://www.generalist.org.uk/docs/navy1894.html Commissioned ships of the Royal Navy] , from the "Sunlight Almanac", 1895]
Of the three original
Invincible class battlecruisers which entered service in the first half of 1908, two (HMS "Inflexible" and "Indomitable") joined the Mediterranean Fleet in 1914. They and HMS "Indefatigable" formed the nucleus of the fleet at the start of the First World War when British forces pursued the German ships "Goeben" and "Breslau".
A recently-modernised HMS "Warspite" became the flagship of the
Commander-in-Chiefand Second-in-Command, Mediterranean Fleet in 1926.
The Mediterranean Fleet achieved an especially high degree of professional excellence under the leadership of Admiral
Roger Keyesfrom 1926 to 1929. He had under his command such strong figures as Dudley Poundas Chief of Staff, "Ginger" Boyle, commanding a cruiser squadron and Augustus Agar, V.C.commanding a destroyer flotilla.
econd World War
The fleet was moved to
Alexandria, Egyptjust prior to the outbreak of the Second World War due to the perceived threat of air-attack from the Italian mainland, a decision which would prove to be costly during the Siege of Maltabut which would ensure the continuing safety of the Fleet to enable a sustained fight against the Axis forces.
The Fleet had to block Italian and later German reinforcements and supplies for the
North African Campaign.
One of the first major Cold War incidents for the Fleet was the
Corfu Channel Incidentof mid 1946, in which, after HMS Saumarez was mined in a sweep during October, 'Operation Recoil' cleared the channel of mines in November in which eleven minesweepers were covered by HMS "Ocean", two cruisers, three destroyers, and three frigates. [Groves, 1987, p.154] More onerous was the prevention of Jews trying to surreptitiously emigrate to Palestine. When Sir Arthur Powertook over as Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, in May 1948, virtually his first act was to arrange a show of force in which "Ocean", four destroyers, and two frigates escorts the High Commissioner out of territorial waters aboard the cruiser HMS Euryalus. The force stayed to cover the evacuation of British troops into the Haifaenclave and south via Gaza. In July 1947, after the main force, headed by two carriers, "Ocean" and "Triumph," had visited Istanbul, HMSs Liverpool, HMS Chequers, and "Chaplet" visited Sevastopol.The battleship "Vanguard" briefly served with the Fleet in 1949 for six months. "Vanguard" was back in the Mediterranean briefly in 1954 during combined exercises with the Home Fleet.
From 1952 until 1967, the post of Commander in Chief Mediterranean Fleet was given a dual-hatted role as
NATO Commander in Chief Mediterraneanin charge of all forces assigned to NATO in the Mediterranean Area. The British made strong representations within NATO discussions over the developing NATO command structure, and wished to retain their direction of NATO naval command in the Mediterranean due to their need to protect their sea lines of communicationrunning through the Mediterranean to the Middle East and Far East. [Sean Maloney, 'To Secure Command of the Sea,' University of New Brunswick thesis, 1991, p.258-261] When a NATO naval commander, Admiral Robert B. Carney, C-in-C Allied Forces Southern Europe, was appointed, relations between him and the incumbent British C-in-C, Admiral (Sir John?) Edlesten, were frosty. An apparent friendly offer of communications facilities from Edlesten to Carney, as Carney did not initially have secure communications facilities, was met by the response 'I'm not about to play Faust to your Mephistopheles through the medium of communications!' [Maloney thesis, p.261]
Ships of the Fleet took part in the
Suez Waragainst Egyptin 1956.
In the 1960s, with the decrease in importance of maintaining the link between the United Kingdom and the Empire
East of Suez, as a result of the dismantling of the Empire, and the increasing focus in the Cold Waron the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean Fleet was drawn down over a period of time, finally disbanding in June 1967. Eric Groves, in "Vanguard to Trident," details how by the mid-1960s the permanent strength of the Fleet was 'reduced to a single small escort squadron [appears to have been 30th Escort Squadron with HMS Brighton, HMS Cassandra, HMS Aisneplus another ship] and a coastal minesweeper squadron.' [Groves, Vanguard to Trident, 1987, p.297] Deployments to the Beira Patroland elsewhere reduced the escort total in 1966 from four to two ships and then for a period to no frigates at all. The Fleet's assets and area of responsibility were given to the new Western Fleet. As a result of this change, the UK relinquished the NATO post of Commander in Chief Mediterranean, which was disbanded. The Royal Navy maintains a presence with the deployment of a warship to the NATOmulti-national squadron Standing Naval Force Mediterranean(STANAVFORMED). The Navy also usually provides a warship to the NATO Mine Countermeasures Force (South).
Commanders in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet
S.W.C. Pack's "Sea Power in the Mediterranean" has a complete list of fleet commanders.
The list from 30 March 1831 to 1 July 1899 is taken from [http://www.pdavis.nl/ShowCommanders.php Principal Royal Navy Commanders-in-Chief 1830-1899] .
*Eric J. Grove, Vanguard to Trident,
Naval Institute Press/The Bodley Head, London, 1987
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