HMS Glorious


george bowes

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I read an entry in the Belfast Daily Feature, Wednesday, February 06,2008: "The Belfast-built aircraft carrier HMS Glorious was sunk by two German gunboats in May 1940, the single worst naval disaste of World War two, with a loss of 1,500 lives."
Military History Online.com states Wihelm Gustoff as the Greatest Marine Disaster in History

Any comments? I wish to know why HMS Glorious is the worst naval disaster, not to mention Bismarck.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
This is both confused and confusing. The aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and the escorting destroyers Acasta and Ardent were sunk by the German battlecruisers (not “gun boats”) Gneisenau and Scharnhorst on 8 June 1940, resulting in the loss of around 1,500 officers and men. However, this death toll resulted from the loss of three ships, not one. On that basis, the attack on Pearl Harbor could be regarded as a much greater disaster. In any case, the term “disaster” is surely inappropriate in a military context, when victory for one invariably means utter disaster for the other. Trafalgar, for example, was undoubtedly a great disaster for the French and Spanish fleets.
 

george bowes

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Mr Jenkins:

It is confusing to me also. I gave the reference to the Belfast Daily and I am questioning the statement:"the worst naval disaster..."
Thank you for the reply to my first message.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Sounds like Military History OnLine needs to revise that article a bit. After all, calling the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst "gunboats" is a stunning understatement.

I wouldn't call this the worst naval disaster that Britain faced but it was at a time when they could ill afford to lose any carriers.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Hello George,

It seems to me to be quite clear that the loss of the carrier Glorious and its two escorts was not, by any means, Britain’s worst naval disaster. In terms of wartime losses, the destruction of HMS Hood was probably the worst single loss, followed (arguably) by the losses sustained by the ill-fated convoy PQ17 in 1942 (although the human death toll was relatively low, with around 150 fatalities). The destruction of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales might also be considered a major disaster.

The worst peacetime disaster must have been the loss of Admiral Sir Cloudesley-Shovell’s flagship, HMS Association, which was wrecked off the Scilly Islands on the evening of 22 October 22 1707. Admiral Sir Cloudesley-Shovell was a hero of the Dutch Wars and the War of Spanish Succession, and his death added greatly to the sense of shock felt by the entire nation.
 

george bowes

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Mr Jenkins and Mr Standart:
Thank you for your input.
As I scaled down the topics under "other ships and shipwrecks", I noticed two entries by Iian Stuart Yardley: worst wartime shipping disasters and worst peacetime shipping disasters.
 

Bob Godfrey

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I'd say that the worst naval disaster of ww2 was that suffered by the Japanese at the Battle of Midway, with the loss of four of their fleet carriers and hundreds of their most experienced naval aircrew. This was a major turning point of the war, and the beginning of the end for Japanese ambitions in the Pacific.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
"Disasters" can be very much a matter of perspective, especially if your successes come back to haunt you. Pearl Harbour was a tactical success in that it crippled the U.S. Pacific fleet. In grand strategic terms, it was a disaster for Japan in that it drew the United States into the war.

Once that occured, the issue became one of industrial support and Japan couldn't possibly match the industrial juggernaut that the USA was at the time. There was also the matter of logistical support which the Japanese were never able to successfully interdict.
 
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The destruction of the French fleet in its harbour at Mers-el-Kebir might also have been regarded as something of a disaster insofar as a major world navy was eliminated in a ten minute bombardment.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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It would have been an even worse disaster for Anglo-French relations if the French Navy had placed itself under the control of the Vichy collaborators (or indeed the Germans).
 
Apr 3, 2005
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sorry to be off topic a little but if anyone is interested on the japanese side of the battle of midway, there is a book called "Shattered sword: The untold story of the battle of midway" by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully that goes into it in some depth.
Very interesting read that debunks some of the myths about the japanese side of the battle. Also has a photo of part of the Akagi's flight deck that they found. To my knowledge, it's the only piece yet found so far of the four japanese carriers that were sunk or scuttled at midway by the japanese fleet.
 

Bob Godfrey

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I'd recommend also Walter Lord's book on Midway, which gives equal weight to the recollected experiences of the battle by combatants on both sides. It was written 40 years ago so I daresay that, like A Night to Remember, it isn't the most accurate account available now but like ANTR it is based on first-hand accounts from the people who were there, and is very readable and very moving.
 

Grant Carman

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Actually, the worst British war time disaster is the sinking of the troop ship Lancastria. It is estimated that over 5,000 people died when the ship went down.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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The initial question was about the worst wartime naval disaster, rather than the worst wartime disaster. I took this to mean disasters involving the Royal Navy, rather than the merchant service. The loss of the Lancastria would obviously be the worst disaster in terms of human life, although I suspect that the PQ17 disaster would have been the worst loss in terms of merchant navy tonnage.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>although I suspect that the PQ17 disaster would have been the worst loss in terms of merchant navy tonnage.<<

That was a mess and then some. I suppose this would count as a resounding success for the Germans. I wouldn't shortsell the loss of merchant tonnage either. There's an old saying that amatures think in terms of tactics and stratagy while professionals think in terms of logistics and there's quite a bit of merit to that. It's extremely difficult to carry on with any sort of military campeign unless you can support the troops with food, fuel, munitions, and spare parts. Admiral Doenitz's brilliance...his mistakes notwithstanding...was that he understood this and did his best to act on it.

He damned near succeeded too, and had the Allies not got their act together in anti-submarine warfare, he just might have pulled it off.
 

george bowes

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Gentlemen:
Since I started with the question: Why did the Belfast Daily claim that the HMS Glorious was the "worst" naval disaster of WW2 which I don't agree and the reference is in terms of loss of human life, I am pleased and appreciate your input of valuable research information. Thank you.
 
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The PQ17 disaster resulted in the loss of around 142,000 tons of shipping, over 93,000 tons of general cargo, 200 aircraft, 3,350 motor vehicles and 430 tanks, although human losses were comparatively small. What is particularly sad about the Arctic convoys was the way in which the merchant navy crews were apparently snubbed when they reach Russia — while “Uncle Joe” Stalin sneered that the British and Americans were “fighting to the last Russian”. It is also said that the British knew about the threat to the convoy, but did nothing about it because to have acted more decisively would have compromised the work of the Enigma code-breakers at Bletchley Park.
 
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Linda Sherlock

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My late father was an army gunner assigned to the Maritime Regiment and served as a gunner on merchant ships throughout WWII. He said they were indeed snubbed, worse, treated with open hostility in both Russia and Iceland when on convoy duty.

Dad horrified me by telling me he and his fellow gunners had so little ammunition they could scarcely defend the ship at times. That is, until they were befriended in an Iceland bar by their opposite numbers in the U.S. Navy who literally filled a truck for them with the ammo they needed. My father always spoke of the American Navy boys with warmth and respect for their comradeship and willingness to share their resources with their British friends.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Why did the Belfast Daily claim that the HMS Glorious was the "worst" naval disaster of WW2<<

Probably because it made for snappier reading that sold copy. It's not the first time a media outlet has done that and it won't be the last.

>>but did nothing about it because to have acted more decisively would have compromised the work of the Enigma code-breakers at Bletchley Park.<<

In hindsight, one could point out that they need not have worried. The Germans flat out refused to believe this even though the U-boat losses made it painfully obvious that the Allies were reading their mail. In fairness however, this was not something the players in the game could have known. In light of that, the concern is at least understandable.
 

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