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HMS Anson, battleship  (CyberHeritage, click to enlarge)

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"The War at Sea: Royal & Dominion Navy Actions in World War 2" was published in 1989 to meet a specific personal aim - to discover why my father was killed when and where, and the circumstances leading to the sinking of his ship - HMS Charybdis in October 1943. The work involved gave me an understanding, still very limited of just how immense World War 2 was.

Running a naval web site which generates regular email queries, convinces me there is no lessening of people's interest in this greatest of all conflicts. Perhaps even more as men and women, young and old still try to find out why their relatives, parents, friends, brothers, great-uncles were lost at sea.

I have therefore made the original book, edited and enlarged, available as an E-Book in the hope it will prove as useful an introduction to the Second World War at Sea to others as it was to me writing it.

The E-Book and the original are basically similar except as follows:

1. The World was split into four main theatres for the Royal Navy - Atlantic, Europe, Mediterranean, Indian/Pacific Oceans. In the book these were displayed across the page in four columns. In the E-Book, the theatres follow one after the other month-by-month, a more workable arrangement.

2. More detailed research on Royal Navy losses carried out at the Naval Historical Branch (now Admiralty Library) was not included in the original book. It is now in this E-Book, and each time a major Royal Navy warship is lost, there is a link to that research.

3. Additional maps have been added based on the map details from Captain Roskill's unsurpassed one volume "The Navy at War, 1939-45"

Gordon Smith, Penarth, UK 2006






Journeying through the immensity of World War 2, the main aim of this book is simply to answer the questions what Royal Navy warships were lost, when, where and in what circumstances? And what else of significance was taking place in the naval and maritime, military and political spheres. To balance this picture, German, Italian and Japanese losses inflicted by the Royal Navy are also included.

There are two other aims:

First to acknowledge the part played by all the navies (and other armed forces) of the then British Empire, now the Commonwealth of Nations, and especially the Royal Australian, Canadian, Indian and New Zealand Navies. Collectively they are referred to, as they would have been at the time of World War 2, as the Dominion Navies.

Secondly to ensure a more balanced account by summarising the operations of the US Navy in the Atlantic, European and Mediterranean areas, as well as their overwhelming role in the Pacific, the theatre most important to Australia and New Zealand.


To convey all this information, the background events and major warship losses on both sides are shown month-by-month across the four main theatres of the world. The result is not so much a reference book as a framework within which the reader can better appreciate the overall war at sea, and place his, and increasingly her own particular interests.

By major warships are meant capital ships, aircraft carriers, cruiser, destroyers and submarines. To reflect the importance of the Battle of the Atlantic and in part, the role of the Royal Canadian Navy, losses in ocean escorts are also included in the text.

Although the emphasis is on warships sunk (in large capital letters - blue for British and Allied, red for Axis powers) or so badly damaged (in lower case letters) that repair was not worthwhile, the greatest loss was in the men of the Royal and Dominion Navies killed in action. These totalled over 50,000, or nearly 50% of the prewar strength of the Service, and understanding how just one of these men was lost, in this case my father, gave me the reason for tackling this vast subject in this way.


Any book of this nature builds on the work of many others. Some were more invaluable than others and to these a special debt of gratitude is due. On the naval side, Capt Roskill's monumental four volumes of "The War at Sea" set a standard for any writer on maritime matters, and Rohwer and Hummelchen's encyclopaedic "Chronology of the War at Sea" has no obvious equal. Understanding something of this great conflict is no easy task, and any guides through the maze are to be welcomed. Amongst these must be mentioned Simon Goodenough's "War Maps", Basil Liddell Hart's "History of the Second World War" and "The Almanac of World War II" edited by Brigadier Young.

The Naval Historical Branch of the Ministry of Defence kindly allowed me to check the details of all major Royal Navy warship losses, and special thanks are offered for their help and patience.

After all these acknowledgements are made, there is still one more, and that is to accept that any errors or misinterpretations remain mine.

Gordon Smith, Penarth, UK 1989


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revised 24/12/10