Passport to the World over 64 years. Pages from my Travel Diary

Alexandria. British Mediterranean Naval Base. 1940.

Alexandria from its founding in 332 B.C. became an important city of the ancient world. Ptolemy, one of the Greek Generals, ruled Alexandria after the death of Alexander the Great, and Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemies, used her charms to bring both Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony to heel. However upon her death, Egypt became a Province of Rome.

The Muhammads took control until 1798, when Napoleon landed his troops at Adjmi, to the west of Alexandria, marched on the city and captured it.

Napoleon had not anchored his fleet in Alexandria Harbour, but sought shelter to the east of the city at Aboukir Bay. However, Nelson seeking out the invader's ships discovered them anchored there, and risking the dangers of the surrounding shoals, inflicted a great Naval defeat upon the French, thus stranding Napoleon in Egypt, virtually a prisoner in the city he had only just conquered.

Alexandria had long been of strategic significance, its natural harbour having been improved by man through the construction of breakwaters to enclose the harbour and protect it from the elements. The entrance between the breakwater ends was half a mile wide, and scattered rocks left in the entrance when the deep water harbour was built assisted to make its defence easier.

Two fairways were available to shipping, one 600 feet wide and 30 feet deep, and a second one, both narrower and even more shallow.

A mole separated an inner harbour of some 464 acres from the outer harbour of about 1,400 acres.

In 1939, a large floating dock was towed from Portsmouth in England to Alexandria, with a capacity to lift Capital ships, when coupled with the dry dock, 520 feet long by 64 feet wide, owned by the Egyptian Government, the facilities available to the Royal Navy made the port of Alexandria a very vital base in the struggle to maintain control of the Mediterranean, and keep Malta opened as a viable British base.

The subsequent photograph depicts an unusual sight, three County Class cruisers secured side by side, all with their quarterdeck awnings spread, this must surely be a peace time photograph.

The 3 County Class cruisers, Alexandria
The 3 County Class cruisers Alexandria

The Royal Australian Navy only had three Cruisers of this class in its history, but never more than two of them at any time, Australia with her sister Kent Class Canberra, then, after Canberra was sunk, Shropshire gifted by the Royal Navy to the RAN, joined Australia, to be the common thread over the years.

This class of cruiser served both the RAN and the RN with distinction in both peace time and at war.

Perhaps some one visiting our site may be able to be positive about their identification.


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