HMS Gloucester (62)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Gloucester.
HMS Gloucester.jpg
Gloucester in 1939
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Gloucester
Builder: Devonport Dockyard (Plymouth, U.K)
Laid down: 22 September 1936
Launched: 19 October 1937
Commissioned: 31 January 1939
Identification: Pennant number: C62
Nickname: "The Fighting G"
Fate: Sunk, 22 May 1941
General characteristics
Class and type: Town-class light cruiser
Displacement: 9,400 long tons (9,600 t) (standard)
11,650 long tons (11,840 t) (full load)
Length: 588 ft (179.2 m)
Beam: 62 ft 4 in (19.00 m)
Draught: 20 ft 7 in (6.27 m)
Installed power: 82,000 shp (61,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4 × Parsons geared turbines
4 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
4 × shafts
Speed: 32 kn (36.8 mph; 59.3 km/h)
Range: 7,320 nmi (8,420 mi; 13,560 km) at 13 kn (15 mph; 24 km/h)
Complement: 800
Armament: Original Configuration: 12 × 6 in (152 mm) guns (4x3)
eight × 4 in (102 mm) (4 × 2)
4 × 3-pounder guns
2 quadruple QF 2 pounder ("pom-pom") AA mounts
8 x 0.5 in Mk.III (12.7mm) Vickers, in two quad mount Mk.III mounts[1]
6 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Aircraft carried: 2 × Supermarine Walrus flying boats
Aviation facilities: 1 × catapult

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.

Service history[edit]

In the Indian Ocean and South Africa[edit]

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.

In the Mediterranean[edit]

She was transferred again in May 1940, this time to the Mediterranean, where she experienced plenty of action. On 7 July, 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.[2]

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.[3]

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 and fellow cruiser Southampton came under attack from Junkers Ju 87 "Stuka" dive bombers while leaving Malta. Gloucester was hit by a bomb which failed to explode. Southampton was hit by at least two bombs south-east of Malta and caught fire; the resulting blaze spread from stem to stern and trapped a number of men below decks. 81 men were killed with the survivors being picked up by Gloucester and the destroyer Diamond. Heavily damaged and without power, Southampton was sunk by one torpedo from Gloucester and four from the cruiser Orion. In March, Gloucester was at the Battle of Matapan and, in April, performed several bombardments along the north African coast. One such mission took place on 21 April 1941. Under the command of Admiral Cunningham, Gloucester, along with battleships Warspite, Valiant, and Barham, and various destroyers, attacked Tripoli harbour.[4] 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 mi (12 nmi; 23 km)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.[5] Her sinking is considered to be one of Britain's worst wartime naval disasters.

Photograph taken by a German airman recording the sinking of Gloucester off the coast of Crete, 22 May 1941

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."[6]

Another account of the sinking differs from, and adds to, the BBC report. In this, Gloucester and the cruiser Fiji, both already low on ammunition, had been sent to support the rescue of survivors from the destroyer Greyhound. Fierce air attacks further depleted their ammunition and they were given permission to rejoin the main fleet. It was during their return that Gloucester was sunk.[7] 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."[8]

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

Amongst the crew was the former Southampton footballer Norman Catlin.[9][10]


  1. ^ Raven, p.418
  2. ^ Otter, Ken (2001) [1999]. HMS Gloucester The Untold Story (2nd edition ed.). Durham: G.A.M. Books. pp. 31–36. ISBN 0-9522194-2-5. OCLC 59524624. 
  3. ^ Otter, Ken (2001) [1999]. HMS Gloucester The Untold Story (2nd edition ed.). Durham: G.A.M. Books. pp. 37–39. ISBN 0-9522194-2-5. OCLC 59524624. 
  4. ^ Winston S. Churchill, The Grand Alliance. p.241.
  5. ^ Otter, Ken (2001) [1999]. HMS Gloucester The Untold Story (2nd edition ed.). Durham: G.A.M. Books. p. 1. ISBN 0-9522194-2-5. OCLC 59524624. 
  6. ^ "WWII battleship 'sunk by blunder'". BBC News. 18 February 1999. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  7. ^ Gloucester
  8. ^ Otter, Ken (2001) [1999]. HMS Gloucester The Untold Story (2nd edition ed.). Durham: G.A.M. Books. p. 136. ISBN 0-9522194-2-5. OCLC 59524624. 
  9. ^ Holley, Duncan; Chalk, Gary (1992). The Alphabet of the Saints. ACL & Polar Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 0-9514862-3-3. 
  10. ^ Commonwealth War Graves casualty details

Other reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°50′N 23°0′E / 35.833°N 23.000°E / 35.833; 23.000