Wednesday 2 February 2011

ABC Wednesday – C is for Cunningham

Andrew Cunningham.jpg
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Andrew Browne Cunningham was born in 1883 and grew up to join the Royal Navy where he was known affectionately as ‘ABC’. He cut his teeth as a Midshipman during the Boer War and in the First World War commanded the destroyer HMS Scorpion. During this time he was decorated with the DSO and two bars.
Admiral Cunningham Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, August 1940. Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London
Image courtesy of the Imperial War Museum
He became the most famous British admiral during the Second World War, assuming the post of Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet in 1939. His flagship was HMS Warspite.

As C-in-C, ABC’s main concerns were for the safety of Malta and of convoys heading to Egypt.  In 1940 and 1941 he was victorious at Calabria, Taranto and Cape Matapan and gave invaluable support, without air cover, in the face of relentless bombardment from the Luftwaffe, to the evacuation of thousands of troops from Greece and Crete in April and May, 1941. The fleet suffered severe losses – three cruisers and six destroyers were sunk and fifteen more warships were damaged – but heeded his command that the ‘Navy must not let the army down.’ (His younger brother, incidentally, was General Sir Alan Cunningham)

He served under and was highly regarded by General Dwight D Eishenhower, who appointed him Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force. In his diary Eisenhower wrote:
"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."

As Supreme Commander Cunningham commanded the large fleet that covered Operation Torch (the Anglo-American landings in North Africa)

In 1943 he became the First Sea Lord, a post he filled until his retirement three years later. In this position he was responsible for the overall strategy of the navy for the rest of the war. In 1945 he was raised to the peerage, taking the title Baron Cunningham of Hyndhope and one year later became Viscount Cunningham.

In his retirement he attended the House of Lords, twice served as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and participated in the coronation of Elizabeth II as Lord High Steward.

He died suddenly after a meeting at the Admiralty in June 1963 and was given a naval burial off Nab Tower, Portsmouth, his body being consigned to the deep from HMS Hampshire.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
There is a bust of Cunningham in Trafalgar Square. It was unveiled by Prince Philip in 1967. 

Charming Denise Nesbitt and her Careful, Conscientious Collaborators organise this weekly Cheery Challenge. Look for more Cs here.


  1. He had a very distinguished career> Thanks for sharing the life of this amazing man.

  2. What an extremely distinguished career!
    And a C-in-C nicknamed ABC has to be the best choice ever for ABC Wednesday's C-day, Janice. I can't imagine anything or anyone topping that!
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  3. That's an interesting and informative post about Adm. Cunningham. Yet I'm curious to hear why you chose this as your C topic. :-)

  4. What an interesting post for the C Day, Janice, and what remarkable man! He certainly accomplished a lot in one lifetime!! Hope your week is going well! Enjoy!


  5. A long distinguised history. Excellent!

  6. He deserved to retire after having so much responsibility during WWII!

  7. Very interesting choice for 'C'--what an illustrious career.
    Hope you are enjoying your week!

  8. It is always good to read about those who fought for our freedom.

  9. Good for you for keeping his memory and accomplishments alive.

  10. Very informative. He sounds like a man well worth his salt.

    ABC Team

  11. What a very admirable man (if you will forgive the pun, - I didn't mean to be flip) and one who certainly deserves all the honours he was given.

  12. interesting history

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  13. I am always interested in anything to do with WW2 and found this to be a fascinating biography. Thanks!

    ABCW Team

  14. What an interesting history lesson. Must have slept through this when I was at school.

  15. I love it when the ABC entries are informative. Thanks for sharing.
    Donna - ABC Team


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