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HMS Gloucester (Hardback)

Maritime Naval Warfare WWII

By Ken Otter
Imprint: Pen & Sword Maritime
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 108
ISBN: 9781844151226
Published: 30th September 2004
Last Released: 1st August 2007

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On 22 May 1941 the cruiser HMS Gloucester was sunk by aircraft of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Crete. Of her crew of 807 men, only 83 survived to come home at the end of the War in 1945. The fact that Allied destroyers were in the area and were not sent to the rescue was due to poor naval communications and indecision by local fleet commanders. This book looks at the ship's history and operational successes from her launching in 1937 to her final demise, including many first-hand accounts.

This excellent volume tells the unique and fascinating story of the ninth HMS Gloucester, a 9,600 ton ‘Southampton’ Class cruiser launched on the 19th October 1937 at Devonport. Capable of 32.3 knots, she certainly was a “force to be reckoned with!” However, despite her powerful armament, which included twelve x six inch and eight x four inch guns, sixteen anti aircraft pom-poms, two triple torpedo tubes, five machine guns and three Walrus aircraft, she was unfortunately sunk by aircraft of the Luftwaffe on the 22nd May 1941, during the Battle of Crete.
Regrettably, 808 men serving aboard the “Fighting G” (as “Gloucester” was affectionately known) were to lose their lives on that fateful Spring day sixty three years ago. Sadly, Chief Yeoman Fred Otter (father of the author), was one of those casualties. Therefore inspired by the need to learn more of the tragic incident that was to “rob” him of a Dad, the author of this superb volume spent many hours researching the history of this remarkable warship and the brave ship’s company that served in her, from her launch in 1937 through to her final demise.

Tragically, just 83 survivors from the sinking , returned home at the end of the war, however, the author has been fortunate enough to have access to many of their first hand accounts of events at the time and has therefore been able to add his own conclusions to the official reports. Sadly, it is still officially unknown as to how many men actually went down with the ship and how many died in the sea whilst clinging to rafts and wreckage in the hope of being rescued. One thing for certain is that the author has been successful in producing an excellent volume that is packed with fascinating information. Researchers and historians will therefore find the archive and personal photographs interesting, however the detailed Roll of Honour and list of survivors also included will be an invaluable source of reference and a fitting tribute to the men who served in this splendid ship.
As an aside, readers may be interested to learn that the proud name of HMS Gloucester lives on in the Royal Navy of today, in the form of a type 42 Guided Missile Destroyer. With a compliment of 253, the tenth HMS Gloucester was commissioned in 1985. Capable of a speed of 29 knots, she is fitted with the latest technology that includes a Sea Lynx helicopter and guided missiles. She is of course, a far cry from the previous ship bearing the same name!

Michael Booker
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