• Si Biggs

Glider Bomb Attack off Anzio - Loss of HMS Spartan

1944 Loss of AA Cruiser HMS Spartan at Anzio during Italian Campaign.

HMS Spartan passing astern of HMS Orion to take up a new position at Anzio the week before her loss

At sunset on 29th January, the Luftwaffe began a glide bomb attack on the ships in Anzio Bay.



Henschel Hs.293 guided bombs were carried to the target by Dornier Do.217 bombers. The bomb aimer used a small joystick to guide the bomb onto the target, and with some practice, crews could deliver the ordnance with some degree of accuracy.

At the time of this attack, HMS Spartan was anchored providing AA protection for the ships in the vicinity of the beachhead. Smoke had been ordered in the anchorage but was not fully effective owing to the short time it was in operation and the strong breeze. HMS Spartan was making smoke from stem to stern but was not herself covered.


About 18 aircraft approached from the north and circling over land, delivered a beam attack against the ships that were silhouetted against the afterglow. The timing of the attack prohibited the aircraft from being sighted except by very few witnesses, and radar was ineffective owing to land echoes. By the time the warning had been received and HMS Spartan and other ships had opened fire in the general direction of the attack, six bombs were already approaching the anchorage, most of them falling into the water.


Shortly afterwards, at approximately 17:56, another glider bomb (radio-controlled Henschel Hs 293) was seen approaching the starboard side of the ship. This bomb was engaged by close range anti-aircraft fire; it was first thought likely to miss astern but is reported to have altered course during the final stage of its approach.


The bomb struck the ship at the after end of “B” funnel casing, started a heavy fire in the vicinity, the projectile passed through the ship and exploded high up on the port side of the main watertight sub-division containing “B” Boiler Room.


The main mast collapsed and boiler rooms were flooded. Steam and electrical power failed, a serious fire developed and the ship heeled over to port. Thus HMS Spartan was immobilized.

About an hour after being hit, Spartan had to be abandoned in the dark, and 10 minutes later she settled on her beam-ends in about 25–30 ft (7.6–9.1 m) of water in position 41.26N 12.41E.523


Survivors were rescued by HM Cruiser DIDO, HMS LAFOREY and HMS LOYAL.


Five officers and 41 enlisted men were posted killed or missing presumed killed, and 42 enlisted men were wounded.


The following 6 Royal Marines were lost:


BISHOP, George H, Marine, PLY/X 3167:

BROADRIBB, Henry W, Ty/Sergeant, RM, PLY/X 294:

COLE, William G E, Marine, PLY/X 2875:

KENT, Albert, Ty/Corporal, RM, PLY/X 101429:

LUNN, Alfred V, Marine, PLY/X 3227:

SELKIRK, George, Marine, PLY/X 1550.


Further reading:

The Italy Star Association - The Loss of HMS Spartan 29th January 1944

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