Admiral Andrew Cunningham

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by merdiolu, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    I just finished reading memoirs of a Turkish naval officer who was sent to British Mediterranean Fleet for training during the war. He actually served in Royal Navy Mediterannean Fleet in Alexandria for an exchange program and was an officer on anti aircraft cruiser HMS Dido. He also met with Admiral Andrew Cunningham and he says nothing but praise for the Admiral "ABC"....Name was familiar to me for Cunningham's name came up in Dardanelles/ Gallipoli Campaign which has huge historical reverance here in Turkey. So I looked up and learned more about Cunningham's extraordinary service in RN....

    - Commander of destroyer HMS Scorpion involved in Dardanelles Campaign in WW1
    - Commander of British Mediterranean Fleet in Alexandria during WWII, disarmed French squadron in Alexandria without firing a shot in July 1940
    - Led several successful engagements against Italian Fleet including Battle of Calabria ( one Italian battleship took heavy damage ) , Air Attack on Taranto harbour ( Operation Judgement , one Italian battleship sunk , two took heavy damage ) in 1940
    - Won Battle of Matapan in March 1941 , sunk three Italian cruisers and two destroyers , damaged Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto
    - Rescued British Army isolated in Crete during German airborne assault in May 1941 despite heavy losses among his vessels ( three cruisers and six destroyers were lost due to Luftwaffe air attacks , several other ships badly damaged ) , saying "it takes three years to build a ship , it takes three centuries to build a tradition"
    - Continued to lead Mediterranean Fleet with usual determination despite growing losses among his vessels towards end of 1941 ( sinking of carrier HMS Ark Royal battleship HMS Barham and cruiser HMS Galatea by u-boats , destruction of Force K based in Malta , heavy damage on his remaining battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant caused by underwater attack of Italian frogmen in Alexandria harbour )

    - Units under his command destroyed various Axis supply convoys between Italy and Libya ( destruction of Tarigo and Duisburg convoys and battle of Cape Bon-two more Italian cruisers sunk on this engagement- during 1941 and Skerki Bank in 1942 ) in several surface actions not to mention several other smaller successful surface engagements against Italian Navy ( Naval battles of Calabria , Cape Spada , Cape Passero , Otronto between 1940-41 , bombing of Genoa and Tripoli) - though some of these actions might be work of Force H based on Gibraltar.

    -Supplied Malta with various convoys despite heavy losses again

    - Planned and executed naval parts of Operation Torch ( North African landings )

    - Blockaded whole Tunisian coast in spring 1943 with his fleet , stopped Axis sea transport complately between Italy and Tunisia , giving his famous order "Sink , Burn , Destroy , let nothing pass" and prevented Axis Army Group Africa evacuating Tunisia from sea

    - Planned and executed Operation Husky and Operation Avalanche ( landings in Sicily and Italy ) General Eisenhower said about him :

    "Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham. He remains in my opinion at the top of my subordinates in absolute selflessness, energy, devotion to duty, knowledge of his task, and in understanding of the requirements of allied operations. My opinions as to his superior qualifications have never wavered for a second."

    - Accepted the surrender of Italian Fleet in September 1943

    - Became First Sea Lord of Admiralty in October 1943

    Cunningham became a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB), "in recognition of the recent successful combined operations in the Middle East", in March 1941[40] and was created a Baronet, of Bishop's Waltham in the County of Southampton, in July 1942

    A true Nelsonian naval commander. I wonder why he is so unknown.
  2. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    Not so unkown in Britain, but maybe not as widely known as Monty and Patton, say, which is a shame.
    I can recommend his autobiography "A sailors odyssey" an excellent read.
  3. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Cunningham was a remarkable sailor and officer. His Med fleet carried out a huge amount of work with significant losses (often attributed to lack of air cover). As RDR says, probably better known in UK than most senior RN officers but probably not given the public recognition he deserved. His impressive list of appointments and positions however shows that those 'in the know' appreciated his ability.
    In researching landing craft operations in the Med his accounts of the fleet operations (published in the London Gazette in 1948) are very revealing.

    A personal link - I think Cunningham was a Lt Cdr on HMS Russel, sunk by mine off Valetta in 1916, and my Grandfather was a boy sailor on Russel at the time. Thankfully both survived the loss.
  4. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    No mention of the Russell in ABCs autobiography, but wiki has a john Cunningham (no relation) on board when it sank, John Cunningham survived and went on to become Admiral of the fleet and first sea lord.
    He seems to be of similar age and followed a similar career path to ABC.
  5. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    Been thinking on this for a while, generals (monty, patton, rommel etc) are well known as are airmen, (bader, gibson, galland etc) but navy chaps seem to be overshadowed by their ships, Hood, bismark, ark royal etc, strange eh?
    von Poop likes this.
  6. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Thanks for that RDR, put it down to a bit of 'sloppy research' on my part (might have to confess on that thread).

    I probably saw the name Cunningham in relation to Russell and, given dates etc, thought it was the same (later) Admiral.

    I will have to look into both of them and google A. Cunningham's Autobiograhpy. Could be useful for my Greece/Crete LCT research although I doubt is would be as detailed as his London Gazette 1948 reports on the Med campaign.
  7. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    What do u need to know? I can look through the book.
    Its 700 pages long so quite detailed in parts.
  8. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    Another interesting thing about Cunningham was he led by example , inspiring his men under his command BUT he distrusted scientists , boffins , new gadgets / devices etc..

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