The Battle of Cape Matapan (Greek : Ναυμαχία του Ταινάρου) was a Second World War naval engagement between British Imperial and Axis forces, fought from 27–29 March 1941. The cape is on the south-west coast of the Peloponnesian peninsula of Greece. Following the interception of Italian signals by the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, ships of the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy, under the command of the Royal Navy's Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, intercepted and sank or severely damaged several ships of the Italian Regia Marina under Squadron-Vice-Admiral Angelo Iachino. The opening actions of the battle are also known in Italy as the Battle of Gaudo.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.
In late March 1941, as British ships of the Mediterranean Fleet covered troop movements to Greece, Mavis Batey, a cryptographer at Bletchley Park, made a breakthrough, reading the Italian naval Enigma for the first time. The first message, the cryptic "Today’s the day minus three,"was followed three days later by a second message reporting the sailing of an Italian battle fleet comprising one battleship, six heavy and two light cruisers, plus destroyers to attack the merchant convoys supplying British forces. As always with Enigma, the intelligence breakthrough was concealed from the Italians by ensuring there was a plausible reason for the Allies to have detected and intercepted their fleet. In this case, it was a carefully directed reconnaissance plane.
Mavis Lilian Batey, MBE, was an English code-breaker during World War II. Her work at Bletchley Park was one of the keys to the success of D-Day. She later became an historian of gardening, who campaigned to save historic parks and gardens, and an author. Batey was awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal in 1985, and made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1987, in both cases for her work on the conservation of gardens.
Ultra was the designation adopted by British military intelligence in June 1941 for wartime signals intelligence obtained by breaking high-level encrypted enemy radio and teleprinter communications at the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park. Ultra eventually became the standard designation among the western Allies for all such intelligence. The name arose because the intelligence thus obtained was considered more important than that designated by the highest British security classification then used and so was regarded as being Ultra secret. Several other cryptonyms had been used for such intelligence.
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the battleship was the most powerful type of warship, and a fleet of battleships was considered vital for any nation that desired to maintain command of the sea.
As a further deception, Admiral Cunningham made a surreptitious exit after dark from a golf club in Alexandria to avoid being seen boarding his flagship, the battleship HMS Warspite. He had made a point of arriving at the club the same afternoon with his suitcase as if for an overnight stay, and spent time on the golf course within sight of the Japanese consul. An evening party on his flagship was advertised for that night but was never meant to take place.
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, characteristically a flag officer entitled by custom to fly a distinguishing flag. Used more loosely, it is the lead ship in a fleet of vessels, typically the first, largest, fastest, most heavily armed, or best known.
HMS Warspite was a Queen Elizabeth-class battleship built for the Royal Navy during the early 1910s. Her thirty-year career covered both world wars and took her across the Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and Pacific Oceans. She participated in the Battle of Jutland during the First World War as part of the Grand Fleet. Other than that battle, and the inconclusive Action of 19 August, her service during the war generally consisted of routine patrols and training in the North Sea.
At the same time, there was a failure of intelligence on the Axis side. The Italians had been wrongly informed by the Germans that the Mediterranean Fleet had only one operational battleship and no aircraft carriers. In fact the Royal Navy had three battleships, while the damaged British aircraft carrier Illustrious had been replaced by HMS Formidable.
An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is currently not possible to land them. By its diplomatic and tactical power, its mobility, its autonomy and the variety of its means, the aircraft carrier is often the centerpiece of modern combat fleets. Tactically or even strategically, it replaced the battleship in the role of flagship of a fleet. One of its great advantages is that, by sailing in international waters, it does not interfere with any territorial sovereignty and thus obviates the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries, reduce the times and transit distances of aircraft and therefore significantly increase the time of availability on the combat zone.
HMS Illustrious was the lead ship of her class of aircraft carriers built for the Royal Navy before World War II. Her first assignment after completion and working up was with the Mediterranean Fleet, in which her aircraft's most notable achievement was sinking one Italian battleship and badly damaging two others during the Battle of Taranto in late 1940. Two months later the carrier was crippled by German dive bombers and was repaired in the United States. After sustaining damage on the voyage home in late 1941 by a collision with her sister ship Formidable, Illustrious was sent to the Indian Ocean in early 1942 to support the invasion of Vichy French Madagascar. After returning home in early 1943, the ship was given a lengthy refit and briefly assigned to the Home Fleet. She was transferred to Force H for the Battle of Salerno in mid-1943 and then rejoined the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean at the beginning of 1944. Her aircraft attacked several targets in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies over the following year before Illustrious was transferred to the newly formed British Pacific Fleet (BPF). The carrier participated in the early stages of the Battle of Okinawa until mechanical defects arising from accumulated battle damage became so severe that she was ordered home early for repairs in May 1945.
HMS Formidable was an Illustrious-class aircraft carrier ordered for the Royal Navy before the Second World War. After being completed in late 1940, she was briefly assigned to the Home Fleet before being transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet as a replacement for her crippled sister ship Illustrious. Formidable's aircraft played a key role in the Battle of Cape Matapan in early 1941, and they subsequently provided cover for Allied ships and attacked Axis forces until their carrier was badly damaged by German dive bombers in May.
The Allied force was the British Mediterranean fleet, consisting of the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable and the battleships HMS Barham, Valiant, and Warspite. The main fleet was accompanied by the 10th Destroyer Flotilla (HMS Greyhound and Griffin, and HMAS Stuart, commanded by Commander "Hec" Waller, RAN), and the 14th Destroyer Flotilla (HMS Jervis, Janus, Mohawk, and Nubian, commanded by Philip Mack); also present were HMS Hotspur and Havock. Force B, under Admiral Sir Henry Pridham-Wippell, consisted of the British light cruisers HMS Ajax, Gloucester, and Orion, the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth, and the British destroyers HMS Hasty, Hereward, and Ilex. The Australian HMAS Vendetta had returned to Alexandria. Allied warships attached to convoys were available: HMS Defender, Jaguar, and Juno waited in the Kithira Channel and HMS Decoy, Carlisle, Calcutta, and Bonaventure and HMAS Vampire were nearby.
The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
HMS Barham was a Queen Elizabeth-class battleship built for the Royal Navy during the early 1910s. Often used as a flagship, she participated in the Battle of Jutland during the First World War as part of the Grand Fleet. For the rest of the First World War, except for the inconclusive Action of 19 August 1916, her service during the war generally consisted of routine patrols and training in the North Sea.
HMS Valiant was a Queen Elizabeth-class battleship built for the Royal Navy during the early 1910s. She participated in the Battle of Jutland during the First World War as part of the Grand Fleet. Other than that battle, and the inconclusive Action of 19 August, her service during the war generally consisted of routine patrols and training in the North Sea. She saw further action during the Second World War in the Mediterranean and Far East.
The Italian fleet was led by Iachino's flagship, the modern battleship Vittorio Veneto, screened by destroyers Alpino, Bersagliere, Fuciliere, and Granatiere of the 13th Flotilla. The fleet also included most of the Italian heavy cruiser force: Zara, Fiume, and Pola, accompanied by four destroyers ( Alfredo Oriani , Giosué Carducci, Vincenzo Gioberti, and Vittorio Alfieri) of the 9th Flotilla; and Trieste , Trento , and Bolzano , accompanied by three destroyers (Ascari, Corazziere, and Carabiniere) of the 12th Flotilla. Joining them were the light cruisers Duca degli Abruzzi and Giuseppe Garibaldi (8th division) and two destroyers of the 16th Flotilla (Emanuele Pessagno and Nicoloso de Recco) from Brindisi.Significantly, none of the Italian ships had radar, unlike several of the Allied ships.
Vittorio Veneto was the second member of the Littorio-class battleship that served in the Italian Regia Marina during World War II. The ship's keel was laid down in October 1934, launched in July 1937, and readied for service with the Italian fleet by August 1940. She was named after the Italian victory at Vittorio Veneto during World War I, and she had three sister ships: Littorio, Roma, and Impero, though only Littorio and Roma were completed during the war. She was armed with a main battery of nine 381-millimeter (15.0 in) guns in three triple turrets, and could steam at a speed of 30 knots.
Zara was a heavy cruiser built for the Italian Regia Marina, the lead ship of the Zara class. Named after the Italian city of Zara, the ship was built at the Odero-Terni-Orlando shipyard beginning with her keel laying in July 1928, launching in April 1930, and commissioning in October 1931. Armed with a main battery of eight 8-inch (200 mm) guns, she was nominally within the 10,000-long-ton (10,000 t) limit imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty, though in reality she significantly exceeded this figure.
Fiume was a Zara-class heavy cruiser of the Italian Regia Marina. She was the second of four ships in the class, and was built between April 1929 and November 1931. Armed with a main battery of eight 8-inch (200 mm) guns, she was nominally within the 10,000-long-ton (10,000 t) limit imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty, though in reality she significantly exceeded this figure.
On 27 March, Vice-Admiral Pridham-Wippell—with the cruisers Ajax, Gloucester, Orion and Perth and a number of destroyers—sailed from Greek waters for a position south of Crete. Admiral Cunningham with Formidable, Warspite, Barham and Valiant left Alexandria on the same day to meet the cruisers.
The Italian Fleet was spotted by a Sunderland flying boat at 12:00, depriving Iachino of any advantage of surprise. The Italian Admiral also learned that Formidable was at sea, thanks to the decryption team aboard Vittorio Veneto. Nevertheless, after some discussion, the Italian headquarters decided to go ahead with the operation, to show the Germans their will to fight and confidence in the higher speed of their warships.
On 28 March, an IMAM Ro.43 floatplane launched by Vittorio Veneto spotted the British cruiser squadron at 06:35. At 07:55, the Trento group encountered Admiral Pridham-Wippell's cruiser group south of the Greek island of Gavdos. The British squadron was heading to the south-east. Thinking they were attempting to run from their larger ships, the Italians gave chase, opening fire at 08:12 from 24,000 yd (22,000 m). The three heavy cruisers fired repeatedly until 08:55, with Trieste firing 132 armour piercing rounds, Trento firing 204 armour-piercing and 10 explosive shells and Bolzano firing another 189 armour piercing shells, but the Italians experienced trouble with their rangefinding equipment and scored no significant hits. HMS Gloucester fired three salvos in return. These fell short but did cause the Italians to make a course change.
As the distance had not been reduced after an hour of pursuit, the Italian cruisers broke off the chase, turning to the north-west on a course to rejoin Vittorio Veneto. The Allied ships changed course in turn, following the Italian cruisers at extreme range. Iachino let them come on in hopes of luring the British cruisers into the range of Vittorio Veneto's guns.
An officer on Orion's bridge remarked to a companion, "What's that battleship over there? I thought ours were miles away." The Italians eavesdropped on Orion's signal that she had sighted an unknown unit and was going to investigate. At 10:55, Vittorio Veneto joined the Italian cruisers and immediately opened fire on the shadowing Allied cruisers. She fired 94 rounds from a distance of 25,000 yd (23,000 m), all well aimed but again with an excessive dispersal of her salvos. The Allied cruisers, until then unaware of the presence of a battleship, withdrew, suffering slight damage from 381 mm (15.0 in) shell splinters. A series of photographs taken from HMS Gloucester showing Italian salvos falling amongst Allied warships was published by Life magazine on 16 June 1941. VittorioVeneto fired a total of 94 shells in 29 salvos. Another 11 rounds got jammed in the barrels.
Cunningham's force, which had been attempting to rendezvous with Pridham-Wippell, had launched an attack by Fairey Albacore torpedo bombers from HMS Formidable at 09:38. They attacked Vittorio Veneto without direct effect, but the required manoeuvring made it difficult for the Italian ships to maintain their pursuit. The Italian ships fired 152, 100 and 90 mm guns and also 37, 20 and 13.2 mm guns when at close range, repelling the attack, while one of the two Junkers Ju 88s escorting the Italian fleet was shot down by a Fairey Fulmar. Iachino broke off the pursuit at 12:20, retiring towards his own air cover at Taranto.
A second aerial attack at 15:09 surprised the Italians; Lieutenant-Commander John Dalyell-Stead (DSO) was able to fly his Albacore to within 1,094 yards (1,000 m) of Vittorio Veneto before releasing a torpedo which hit her outer port propeller and caused 4,000 long ton s (4,100 t ) of flooding. Dalyell-Stead and his crew were killed when their aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire from the battleship. The ship stopped while the damage was repaired, but she was able to get under way again at 16:42, making 19 knots (35 km/h ; 22 mph ). Cunningham heard of the damage to Vittorio Veneto, and started a pursuit.
A third attack by six Albacores and two Fairey Swordfish of 826 and 828 Naval Air Squadrons from Formidable and two Swordfish of 815 squadron from Crete took place between 19:36 and 19:50. Admiral Iachino deployed his ships in three columns and used smoke, searchlights, and a heavy barrage to protect the Vittorio Veneto. The tactics prevented further damage to the battleship, but one torpedo hit the Pola, which had nearly stopped to avoid running into the Fiume and could not take any evasive action. This blow knocked out five boilers and the main steam line, causing Pola to lose electric power and drift to a stop.The torpedo was apparently dropped by Lieutenant F.M.A. Torrens-Spence.
Unaware of Cunningham's pursuit, a squadron of cruisers and destroyers was ordered to return and help Pola. This squadron included Pola's sister ships, Zara and Fiume. The squadron did not start to return towards Pola until about an hour after the order had been given by Iachino, officially due to communication problems, while Vittorio Veneto and the other ships continued to Taranto.
At 20:15, Orion's radar picked up a ship six miles to port, apparently dead in the water; she was the crippled Pola. The bulk of the Allied forces detected the Italian squadron on radar shortly after 22:00, and were able to close without being detected. The Italian ships had no radar and could not detect British ships by means other than sight; Italian thinking did not envisage night actions and their main gun batteries were not prepared for action. At 22:20 they spotted the Allied squadron, but thought them to be Italian ships. The battleships Barham, Valiant, and Warspite were able to close to 3,800 yards (3,500 m) – point blank range for battleship guns – at which point they opened fire. The Allied searchlights (including those aboard Valiant, under the command of a young Prince Philip ) illuminated their enemy. Some British gunners witnessed cruiser main turrets flying dozens of metres into the air. After just three minutes, Fiume and Zara had been destroyed. Fiume sank at 23:30, while Zara was finished off by a torpedo from the destroyer HMS Jervis at 02:40 of 29 March.
Two Italian destroyers, Vittorio Alfieri and Giosué Carducci, were sunk in the first five minutes. The other two, Gioberti and Oriani, managed to escape in a smoke screen, the former with heavy damage, after being chased and fired at by the British destroyers Griffin and Greyhound . 's crew was taken off and she was sunk by torpedoes from the destroyers Jervis and Nubian shortly after 04:00. The only known Italian reaction after the shocking surprise was a fruitless torpedo charge by Oriani and Gioberti and the aimless fire of one of Zara's 40 mm guns in the direction of the British warships.Towing Pola to Alexandria as a prize was considered, but daylight was approaching, and it was thought that the danger of enemy air attack was too high. British boarding parties seized a number of much-needed Breda anti-aircraft machine guns. Pola
The Allied ships took on survivors but left the scene in the morning, fearing Axis air strikes. Admiral Cunningham ordered a signal to be made on the Merchant Marine emergency band. This signal was received by the Italian High Command. It informed them that, due to the risk of air strikes, the Allied ships had ceased their rescue operations and granted safe passage to a hospital ship for rescue purposes. The location of the remaining survivors was broadcast, and the Italian hospital ship Gradisca came to recover them. 's 90 mm (3.5-inch) anti-aircraft batteries, with the loss of the three-man crew. Italian losses were up to 2,303 sailors, most of them from Zara and Fiume. The Allies rescued 1,015 survivors, while the Italians saved another 160.Allied casualties during the battle were a single torpedo bomber shot down by Vittorio Veneto
Matapan was Italy's greatest defeat at sea, subtracting from its order of battle a cruiser division. The British in the Mediterranean lost the heavy cruiser York and the new light cruiser Bonaventure in the same period (26–31 March 1941), but while the Royal Navy lost four heavy cruisers during the war (York, Exeter, Cornwall and Dorsetshire), at Matapan the Regia Marina lost three in a night. That the Italians had sortied so far to the east established a potential threat that forced the British to keep their battleships ready to face another sortie during the operations off Greece and Crete.
After the defeat at Cape Matapan, the Italian Admiral Iachino wrote that the battle had
... the consequence of limiting for some time our operational activities, not for the serious moral effect of the losses, as the British believed, but because the operation revealed our inferiority in effective aero-naval cooperation and the backwardness of our night battle technology.
The Italian fleet did not venture into the Eastern Mediterranean again until the fall of Crete two months later. Despite his impressive victory, Admiral Cunningham was somewhat disappointed with the failure of the destroyers to make contact with Vittorio Veneto. The escape of the Italian battleship was, in the words of the British Admiral, "much to be regretted".
For reasons of secrecy, code breakers at the GC&CS were rarely informed of the operational effects of their work, but their impact on the Battle of Cape Matapan was an exception. A few weeks after the end of the battle, Admiral Cunningham dropped into Bletchley Park to congratulate 'Dilly and his girls, with a positive impact on morale:Mavis Batey (née Lever), one of the code breakers remembers: "Our sense of elation knew no bounds when Cunningham came down in person to congratulate us". Admiral John Godfrey, the Director of Naval Intelligence, stated: "Tell Dilly that we have won a great victory in the Mediterranean and it is entirely due to him and his girls".
There is still controversy in Italy regarding the orders given by the Italian Admiral Angelo Iachino to the Zara division to recover the Pola, when it was clear that an enemy battleship force was steaming from the opposite direction.
|“||When Cunningham won at Matapan |
By the grace of God and Dilly
He was the brains behind them all
And should ne'er be forgotten. Will he?
|— 'Nobby' Clarke, codebreaker|
For decades after the end of the Second World War, the involvement of the GC&CS, as well as the code breaking methods used, were kept secret. A number of controversial theories were published before more complete accounts emerged after records were declassified in 1978. Only later, after Dilly's rodding method was demonstrated by Mavis Batey to the Admiral in charge of naval history, were Italian official records corrected.In 1966, H. Montgomery Hyde published a story alleging that a spy (codename Cynthia) seduced Admiral Alberto Lais (the Italian naval attaché in Washington, D.C.) and that she obtained a codebook used by the British to defeat the Italians at Matapan. Hyde was found guilty of libelling the dead, but evidence of GC&CS involvement was not made public at that time. In 1980, the BBC series Spy! included similar allegations about a spy called 'Cynthia' who obtained a codebook. In 1974, Frederick Winterbotham in The Ultra Secret falsely credited the decryption of Luftwaffe Enigma traffic.
Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, was a senior officer of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He was widely known by his nickname, "ABC".
The Battle of Calabria, was a naval battle during the Battle of the Mediterranean in the Second World War. It was fought between the Italian Royal Navy and the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. The battle occurred 30 miles to the east of Punta Stilo, Calabria, on 9 July 1940. It was one of the few pitched battles of the Mediterranean campaign during the Second World War involving large numbers of ships on both sides. Both sides claimed victory, but in fact the battle was a draw and everyone returned to their bases as soon as possible.
The Battle of Cape Spartivento, known as the Battle of Cape Teulada in Italy, was a naval battle during the Battle of the Mediterranean in the Second World War, fought between naval forces of the Royal Navy and the Italian Regia Marina on 27 November 1940.
The Regia Marina was the navy of the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 to 1946. In 1946, with the birth of the Italian Republic, the Regia Marina changed its name to Marina Militare.
The Battle of the Mediterranean was the name given to the naval campaign fought in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II, from 10 June 1940 to 2 May 1945.
Angelo Iachino was an Italian admiral during World War II.
Trieste was the second of two Trento-class heavy cruisers built for the Italian Regia Marina. The ship was laid down in June 1925, was launched in October 1926, and was commissioned in December 1928. Trieste was very lightly armored, with only a 70 mm (2.8 in) thick armored belt, though she possessed a high speed and heavy armament of eight 203 mm (8.0 in) guns. Though nominally built under the restrictions of the Washington Naval Treaty, the two cruisers significantly exceeded the displacement limits imposed by the treaty. The ship spent the 1930s conducting training cruises in the Mediterranean Sea, participating in naval reviews held for foreign dignitaries, and serving as the flagship of the Cruiser Division. She also helped transport Italian volunteer troops that had been sent to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War return to Italy in 1938.
Trento was the first of two Trento-class cruisers; they were the first heavy cruisers built for the Italian Regia Marina. The ship was laid down in February 1925, launched in October 1927, and was commissioned in April 1929. Trento was very lightly armored, with only a 70 mm (2.8 in) thick armored belt, though she possessed a high speed and heavy armament of eight 203 mm (8.0 in) guns. Though nominally built under the restrictions of the Washington Naval Treaty, the two cruisers significantly exceeded the displacement limits imposed by the treaty.
The First Battle of Sirte was fought between the British Royal Navy and the Regia Marina during the Mediterranean campaign of the Second World War. The engagement, largely uneventful, took place on 17 December 1941, south-east of Malta, in the Gulf of Sirte.
Naval Battles is a turn-based, card-driven wargame based on naval combat during World War II. Designed by Dan Verssen and published by Phalanx Games, the game is playable by 2 or more players, each commanding a fleet with the objective of sinking a certain amount of their opponents' ships.
HMS Gloucester was one of the last batch of three Town-class light cruisers built for the Royal Navy during the late 1930s. Commissioned shortly before the start of World War II in August 1939, the ship was initially assigned to the China Station and was transferred to the Indian Ocean and later to South Africa to search for German commerce raiders. She was transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in mid-1940 and spent much of her time escorting Malta Convoys. Gloucester played minor roles in the Battle of Calabria in 1940 and the Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941. She was sunk by German dive bombers on 22 May 1941 during the Battle of Crete with the loss of 722 men out of a crew of 807. Gloucester acquired the nickname "The Fighting G" after earning five battle honours in less than a year.
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Varyl Cargill Begg was a Royal Navy officer. He fought in the Second World War as gunnery officer in a cruiser taking part in the North Atlantic convoys, the Norwegian campaign and the occupation of Iceland and then as gunnery officer in a battleship operating in the Mediterranean Fleet during the Battle of Cape Matapan. After that he commanded a destroyer during the Korean War and was Commander-in-Chief of Far East Command during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation. He was First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff in the late 1960s. In that role he vehemently opposed plans to introduce large new aircraft carriers and instead managed to persuade the British Government to develop the design for three small "through-deck cruisers".
Admiral Sir Henry Daniel Pridham-Wippell, was a Royal Navy officer who served in the First and Second World Wars.
Pola was a Zara-class heavy cruiser of the Italian Regia Marina. She was built in the Odero-Terni-Orlando shipyard in Livorno in the early 1930s and entered service in 1932. She was the third of four ships in the class, which also included Zara, Fiume, and Gorizia. Pola was built as a flagship with a larger conning tower to accommodate an admiral's staff. Like her sisters, she was armed with a battery of eight 203-millimeter (8.0 in) guns and was capable of a top speed of 32 knots.
Carlo Cattaneo was an Italian admiral during World War II. He was killed in the Battle of Cape Matapan.
Force B was the name of several British Royal Navy task forces during the Second World War.