The author’s father was one of the many casualties, killed when the ship sank. – This is a long-overdue review of the events that led to the loss of HMS Gloucester, from the launching in 1937 to the sinking in 1941 – Highly Recommended.
NAME: HMS Gloucester, The Untold Story FILE: R2551 AUTHOR: Ken Otter PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword BINDING: soft back PAGES: 206 PRICE: £14.99 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: Cruiser, destroyers, Crete, Mediterranean, air power, dive bomber, Stuka, survivors, medium bombers, anti-aircraft armament, WWII, World War 2, World War II, Second World War.
IMAGE: B2551.jpg BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/yaz8hvkn LINKS: DESCRIPTION: The author's father was one of the many casualties, killed when the ship sank. - This is a long-overdue review of the events that led to the loss of HMS Gloucester, from the launching in 1937 to the sinking in 1941 – Highly Recommended. The author has provided a well-researched and well-written account of the life and death of a British cruiser. When HMS Gloucester was launched in 1937, she was an armoured cruiser in the classic British design. With a main armament of 6in guns, she was a powerful warship, but between the light cruisers that typically carried 4.5in or 5in guns, similar to destroyer leaders, and the heavy cruisers that received 8in guns. Her anti-aircraft armament was strong for the time of her launch, comprising multiple 'pom-pom' mounts and 0.5 heavy machine guns, but this was to prove inadequate for the conditions that rapidly developed during WWII. The politicians had been very keen to prevent the Royal Navy from having its own naval aviation. Although the RN started training officers to fly in 1911, the politicians placed aviation under their control of the War Office, effectively making is an Army Aviation Service that had a Fleet Air Arm. Fortunately, the RN regained full control of its aviation a month before the outbreak of WWI and celebrated by dropping the first torpedo from a naval aircraft. In 1918, the politicians struck again and formed the RAF, forcing RFC and RNAS aviators into this new force that was expected to win wars by bombing. The RN clung on to its airships for a short while but then began the wasted inter-war years when British military aviation became little more than a light bomber force that spent much of its time bombing tribal villages in the Middle East. The RN maintained a limited form of control by funding its own aircraft and building aircraft carriers. It also progressively increased the percentage of naval officers trained as aviators and rested control back from the RAF in 1938, with the exception of Coastal Command flying boats and land-based bombers. The result of political games and fund squeezing meant that the RAF was not equipped for modern air war and naval experience of aviation had been seriously impaired. For the RAF, they were equipped with light and medium bombers that were incapable of meeting its primary task of strategic bombing, and a fighter force that had advanced little from 1918, being essentially biplane fighters struggling to reach 200 mph and equipped with twin rifle calibre machine guns. By the time HMS Gloucester was completed the RAF were busy playing catch-up with a major effort in getting the Hurricane into fighter service and starting manufacture of the Spitfire. Efforts were also underway to produce the heavy bombers that were vital to strategic bombing, but without the design and production of adequate fighter escorts to protect the bombers to and from their targets. The newly formed Fleet Air Arm was also desperately trying to acquire adequate shipboard aircraft but facing the priorities for RAF machines. The Coastal Command faired worst of all because it was part of an RAF that was simply not interested in maritime patrol and attack aircraft other than to prevent their transfer to the Royal Navy. This deplorable situation was not confined to the ability of the British military aviators to do the job they would soon be called to perform. It impacted directly on the design and tactics of warships, including cruisers like HMS Gloucester. Very little air attack experience was included in training, not least because the aircraft were lacking. The experience was to come bitterly in war. Had the Royal Navy been allowed to control all naval aviation from 1911, British warships would have been much better protected from air attack. To ensure adequate training of aviators and seamen, the RN would have carried out regular training exercises and the competition between seaman and aviator would have caused the development of both warship and aircraft armament and tactics. As it was, there would be only so much that could be quickly achieved. When the Italians faltered and fell back from their attempts to invade Greece, Hitler was forced to send German forces to do the job. That inevitably forced Churchill to divert resources from clearing North Africa of Italians to deploy soldiers airman and ships to Greece. Those resources were woefully inadequate and attempts had to be made to evacuate the forces. The Germans were on a roll once more and decided to take Crete. They did not have the ships or naval superiority so they depended on aircraft to vertically insert their invasion force and gain air superiority. That in turn inevitably required the RN to deploy warships, that were poorly equipped to fight aircraft, into an environment where the enemy was almost totally relying on air superiority, and was equipped with very effective aircraft. HMS Gloucester was to be one of the victims. She was not only poorly equipped to meet the current aerial threats in terms of guns and directors, but she also had very limited supplies of ammunition for those guns. The author has used vivid first hand accounts to graphically set the story. They explain not only how the ship became fatally exposed to enemy aircraft, but also why there were no other warships to provide close support, or to come in to rescue survivors. The account is well-illustrated and the only omission, which is entirely understandable because space had to be prioritized for the ship's story, was in reviewing the lack of effective air cover and the reasons for this.