Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1883 - 1963
The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Theatre was under the command of Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham (affectionately known as ‘ABC’) who had assumed the post of Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Station in June 1939, with his flagship being HMS Warspite. Born in January 1883 in Dublin and older brother to Alan Cunningham (1887 – 1983), who was a senior Army Officer in World War II, leading the 8th Army in North Africa during Sir Claude Auckinleck's Operation Crusader. Cunningham spent three years at the Naval Preparatory School, Stubbington House and then moved to HMS Britannia in 1896. He served with the Naval Brigade as a Midshipman during the Boer War and commanded a destroyer, HMS Scorpion during the First World War, winning the DSO and two bars. In September 1932 he was promoted to Rear Admiral and stationed in the Mediterranean in charge of the destroyer fleet on the cruiser HMS Coventry, where he kept an eye on Italy's activities in Libya and Abyssinia, being again promoted in July 1936, this time to Vice Admiral.
As Commander-in-Chief, Cunningham’s main concern was for the safety of convoys heading for Egypt and that of Malta, whose significance he fully appreciated, and conducted an aggressive policy against the Italian Fleet, with victories at Calabria, Taranto and Cape Matapan. He was also able to provide valuable support to ground operations, especially in both the campaigns in Greece and Crete where the Royal Navy evacuated thousands of Allied troops against powerful opposition from the Luftwaffe. On 21 October 1943 he became First Sea Lord of the Admiralty after the death of Dudley Pound and Chief of the Naval Staff until 1945. He also served under General Dwight D Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and commanded the large fleet that covered the Anglo-American landings in North Africa (Operation Torch in November 1942) and then the naval forces used in the joint Anglo-American amphibious invasions of Sicily (Operation Husky in July 1943) and Italy (Operations Baytown and Avalanche in September 1943).
Cunningham had been made a Knight Commander of the Bath in 1939. In 1945 he was made a Knight of the Thistle and was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Cunningham of Hyndhope, Kirkhope, county of Selkirk. In 1946 he was made a Viscount and admitted to the Order of Merit. He acted as Lord High Steward during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and was Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He died suddenly in London on 12 June 1963 after attending a meeting at the Admiralty. He was buried at sea off the Nab Tower, Portsmouth from HMS Hampshire. Highly regarded by both contemporaries and subordinates, General Dwight D Eisenhower said of him in his diary:
"Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham. He remains in my opinion at the top of my subordinates in absolute selflessness, energy, devotion to duty, knowledge of his task, and in understanding of the requirements of allied operations. My opinions as to his superior qualifications have never wavered for a second."
Bibliography and Further Reading
Cunningham, A. A Sailor's Odyssey: The Autobiography of Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, Hutchinson, London, 1951.
Warner, O. Cunningham of Hyndhope, Admiral of the Fleet: A Memoir, John Murray, London, 1967.
How to cite this article:
Antill, Peter, Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1883 - 1963, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_cunningham.html