Saturday, June 30, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Thursday, June 07, 2012
I don't understand the reasons, but in 1941, the British Royal Navy was an extremely proficient and professional service, while the British army had serious problems. There are many potential explanations. There was the friction between the regular British army and the British Indian Army. Many of the commanders in 1940 to 1941 were Indian army trained. There was also the obtuse influence of the mechanization clique in the British army. They thought that they were trying to modernize the army, but they didn't understand how tanks and armoured cars were best employed. The German army had a good understanding and doctrine and they beat everyone in their path up through the end of 1941, although Russia was proving to be too much for them. The Australian and New Zealander commanders and men were much better prepared for war than the British. On the other hand, the British forces in North Africa in 1940 to early 1941 were trained to a very good state and were well led. Their reward was to be dismantled by General Wavell.
I have never liked Bernard Law Montgomery, but I have come to appreciate what he accomplished. He took the British and Commonwealth forces in the Mediterranean theater and reformed them into a force that could win battles. He really did not have time to make the transformation prior to the Second Alamein, so they had a much harder time than a Montgomery army would have in 1943 or 1944.
Eight cruisers with eight six-inch guns had been built in the early to mid-1930's. There were the five Leander class ships (Achilles, Ajax, Leander, Neptune, and Orion, and the three Amphion class ships, all sold to Australia as the Hobart, Perth, and Sydney. The Neptune was the only ship of the first group lost, but two of the three ships transferred to Australia were lost. The Hobart was the sole survivor. All of the ships had a designed speed of 32.5 knots. The Achilles and Ajax were best known for their part in the Battle of the River Plate in 1939.
As we saw, the Leander class cruiser Ajax evacuated some 2,500 troops from Porto Rafti on 27 April 1941. The cruisers had sufficient space to carry several thousand men, when necessary. Orion and Perth both embarked troops from Tolos on the night of 26-27 April. Earlier that night, the two cruisers and loaded men at Navplion. Great risks were taken, as the ships only sailed at 4am, which was dangerously close to dawn. Earlier, the Perth had helped bring Australian reinforcements to Greece.
Vice-Admiral Pridham Wippell had been a cruiser squadron commander in March 1941. His ships included the Orion, Ajax, and Perth, along with the larger cruiser Gloucester. His squadron fought in the Battle of Cape Matapan on 28 March 1941, not that long before the withdrawal (just about a month). Of the ships, three were lost in the war. The Neptune was lost in the Mediterranean Sea in late 1941. The Sydney was lost in the Indian Ocean fighting the German auxiliary cruiser Cormorant. The Perth was involved in the Southwest Pacific, fighting the Japanese, where she survived the Battle of the Java Sea, but was sunk at the Battle of the Sunda Strait.