This week in the War, 24–30 November 1941: Sinking of HMS Barham

British battleship HMS Barham explodes, 25 November 1941 [Public domain wiki]

British battleship HMS Barham explodes, 25 November 1941 [Public domain wiki]

This week in the war, on the afternoon of 25 November 1941, the British battleship HMS Barham was torpedoed and sunk by the U-331, commanded by Kapitanleutnant Hans-Dietrich von Tiesenhausen. The event took place in the eastern Mediterranean north of Sollum in western Egypt.

HMS Barham was a World War I vintage battleship, launched on Clydebank on 31 December 1914. She served as a flagship with the Grand Fleet and took part in the Battle of Jutland. She was refitted between the wars, and anti-torpedo blisters were added.

During World War II, she was part of Admiral Cunningham’s eastern Mediterranean battle-squadron, which included her sister ships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant.

The U-331 penetrated the battle-squadron’s destroyer screen and fired three torpedoes at the Barham. All of them struck home. The ship’s magazine exploded and the Barham sank with great loss of life: over 800 sailors killed.

Once again, the wisdom of Hitler’s decision to send additional U-boats to the Mediterranean was confirmed. The loss of the Barham was a severe blow to British sea power in the Mediterranean, coming so soon after the loss of the Ark Royal.

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