battleships

Mar

22

1942

Italian battle fleet attacks Malta convoy

22nd March 1942: Italian battle fleet attacks Malta convoy in Sirte Battle

A series of flashes in the smoke followed by a dull, rumbling boom announced the opening of the surface engagement. As if this was a signal, a formation of torpedo bombers flew into sight, skimming just above the sea. Simultaneously an even larger group of high level bombers were briefly glimpsed through the smoke and clouds on the opposite side of the convoy.

Mar

19

1942

‘Typical Examples of Performance of His Majesty’s Ships’

19th March 1942: ‘Typical Examples of Performance of His Majesty’s Ships’

In an annex to the weekly Naval Military and Air Reports on the progress of the war, there was was a brief summary of the huge serviceability issues that arose from from warships being at sea for extended periods of time:

Mar

9

1942

Fleet Air Arm attacks the Tirpitz

9th March 1942: Fleet Air Arm aircraft attack the Tirpitz

Subsequently this ship was identified as the Tirpitz, which was located and attacked with torpedoes by aircraft of the Home Fleet at 0930 on the 9th, about 80 miles west of the Lofoten Islands. No hits were claimed and Tirpitz was last seen steering towards Vestfjord. The Home Fleet has returned to Scapa.

Dec

19

December 1941

HMS Neptune lost and two Battleships disabled

Three more ratings died and we picked up an oar and I tried to steer the raft but could make no headway. By the fourth day there were only four of us left including the Captain who died that night. I was in the water for three days before being able to find room aboard the raft. Most of the lads just gave up the ghost but I was very fit because of playing so much sport and this is probably why I survived. I had a smashed leg and by Christmas Eve on the 5th day, there was only Price and myself left.

Dec

10

December 1941

Far East disaster for the Royal Navy

The Repulse is going down. The torpedo-smashed Prince of Wales, still a half to three-quarters of a mile ahead, is low in the water, half shrouded in smoke, a destroyer by her side. Japanese bombers are still winging around like vultures, still attacking the Wales. A few of those shot down are bright splotches of burning orange on the blue South China Sea. Men are tossing overboard rafts, lifebelts, benches, pieces of wood, anything that will float.

Dec

4

December 1941

The British reinforce Singapore

Bizarrely each day between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. the whole camp came to a standstill for a compulsory Siesta. Every man had to be in his bunk during that period. I disagreed with this from the start. The enemy seemed unlikely to suspend hostilities to allow us time to rest during the hottest part of the day.

Nov

25

November 1941

The sudden loss of HMS Barham

I saw water pouring into her funnels. There followed a big explosion amidships, from which belched black and brown smoke intermingled with flames. Pieces of wreckage, Hung high into the air, were scattered far and wide, the largest piece being about the size of my writing-desk.

Sep

24

September 1941

Force H departs Gibraltar with convoy

On the evening of the 24th Admiral Somerville’s flag was raised on HMS Rodney and the band played on the quayside as if the battleship were departing for home. She then sailed westward with an escort of destroyers. Admiral Somerville had in fact remained on HMS Nelson and would lead the main force into the Mediterranean after dark. Those watching from Spain and Algeciras in North Africa were duped for a time.

Jun

13

June 1941

The Lutzow torpedoed by Coastal Command

Twenty aircraft of the Command were despatched to attack this force, which consisted of one pocket battleship (possibly the Lutzow) and five destroyers with air escort. One aircraft scored a hit with a torpedo amidships on the battleship, and a second aircraft claimed a hit, though the result of its attack was not seen owing to the smoke which surrounded the target.

May

27

May 1941

The end of the Bismarck

Finally the probability of explosion became so acute that rescue work was abandoned. Orders were given to flood and the imprisoned men were drowned. In the forward canteen 200 men also became trapped under jammed hatches. At the very moment when a hatch to the upper deck became freed, a direct hit crashed through the deck, transforming the canteen into a charnel house. According to one prisoner, not one man of this group of 200 strong survived, and in making his own escape he was forced to pick his way between “mountains of flesh and bone.”