The Sudden Death of HMS Barham

This vid clip is one minute and eleven seconds long. In these 71 seconds, the Royal Navy battleship, HMS Barham, rolls over on her beam ends, explodes, and then sinks. At the end of the vid clip, the ship is gone, disappeared beneath the sea.

Incredibly, the sinking and explosion was caught on film by a news reel cameraman from Gaumont News, which was then, and continues to be, one of the largest French film studios. The cameraman who caught the sinking and explosion, John Turner, was standing on the deck of the nearby Royal Navy battleship, HMS Valiant, which was in station close to Barham.

HMS Valiant (British battleship, 1916) – Photographed following her 1929-30 refit. US Naval Historical Center Photograph in the public domain.

In the time it takes to watch it, fifty-five officers and eight hundred six men died–men who were fighting against “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime.” As the Nazis were so described in their evil by Prime Minister Churchill.

battleship, HMS Valiant, which was in station close to Barham.

HMS Valiant (British battleship, 1916) – Photographed following her 1929-30 refit. US Naval Historical Center Photograph in the public domain.

In the time it takes to watch it, fifty-five officers and eight hundred six men died–men who were fighting against “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime,” as the Nazis were so described in their evil by Prime Minister Churchill.

HMS Hunter, Sunk During First Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 15

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USS Iowa in a floating drydock at Manus Island, Ulithi Atoll, 28 December 1944.

You can see the mammoth size of a floating dry-dock big enough to take a battleship. This happens to be an American floating dry-dock big enough to take a the largest size US battleship. The Royal Navy had several floating dry docks which could accommodate battleships and these dry-docks were prime targets.

There was a huge floating dry-dock in Alexandria, Egypt, the main base of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. This had been towed to Alexandria by the Royal Navy because at one point as many as five Royal Navy battleships were on station there. German and Italian aircraft bombed the port on a regular basis hoping to hit the floating dry-dock but never succeeded in putting it out of action.

From Sailor’s Odyssey: Autobiography of Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope by Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, KT, GCB, OM, DSO and two Bars (7 January 1883 – 12 June 1963):

The Italians, I may say, kept their bombing rigidly to the port. When the Luftwaffe arrived they bombed indiscriminately all over the city, particularly in the Arab quarter teeming with natives and their families.

 

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The 15 inch guns of HMS Warspite bombarding German positions around Caen during the invasion of Normandy. In the beginning years of the war, HMS Warspite was the flagship of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet.

[Source: Sailor’s Odyssey: Autobiography of Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope by Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, KT, GCB, OM, DSO and two Bars (7 January 1883 – 12 June 1963). Images courtesy of Wikipedia and the Imperial War Museum.]

The Royal Navy and the Evacuation of British Troops from Crete – Part 1

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The Disaster of Trying to Help Greece

German artillery firing during the advance through Greece. They are firing an 149 mm K-series artillery piece made by the Skoda Works in Czechoslovakia. When Prime Minister Chamberlain of Great Britain allowed Hitler to occupy much of Czechoslovakia, what the Germans really, really wanted was the Skoda Works, one of the largest and for the time most advanced manufacturer of arms in the world. As you will note from the photo above, the Germans wasted no time in placing orders for Skoda products.

One of the worst military disasters to befall the British Empire in World War Two was their brave yet completely disorganized and futile effort to assist Greece in beating back the German invasion of that country. While everyone knew a German attack was imminent, Greece continued to maintain their neutrality while inviting the British to send armed forces to their country. But their neutrality compelled them to continue diplomatic relations with Germany so as not to give the Germans any excuse for accusing them of hostile acts. (Such as expelling German diplomats.)

This allowed German military and naval attaches to stand in full view of the British ships debarking troops and equipment into Piraeus, the main port for Athens. And the Germans counted all these soldiers to the last private and all the equipment to the last tank and all the supplies to the last cartridge.

A portrait of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, Commander in Chief of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet in April 1941. He is dressed in ‘whites’, or Royal Navy tropical dress. Rescuing British troops from Greece and subsequently Crete was to prove far more difficult than Cunningham or anyone else could have imagined.

[Images courtesy of Wikipedia and the UK Imperial War Museums.]