1. Was the Royal Navy still the largest in the world at the beginning of World War II?
Yes. Although at this time the gap between the Royal Navy and other navies had been narrowed, it still remained the world’s largest navy. Large-scale navies in the world then were respectively the U.S. Navy, the Japanese Navy, the French Navy, the Italian Navy and the German Navy. In the early days of World War II, the Royal Navy had about eight aircraft carriers, 19 battleships or battle cruisers and about 80 cruisers, surpassing the German Navy, its main rival in Europe by far. But the Royal Navy not only needed to perform combat missions at sea, but also to protect sea lines of communication. Therefore it took great combat stress. At the beginning of World War II, the number of battleships of the Royal Navy was comparably smaller than that in the First World War. But the sea battle pattern was changing and battleships began to gradually relegate to the secondary status. Carrier species gradually became main force of sea battles.
2. What were the main combat missions of the Royal Navy during World War II?
The main task the Royal Navy was to ensure the safety of the sea lines of communication. The Italian and the Kriegsmarine, the Royal Navy’s main rivals in Europe were relatively weaker and were unable to be involved in direct engagement. But the Kriegsmarine’s submarine attacks on the sea lines of communication caused a lot of troubles to the Royal Navy. Due to the insufficient number of surface ships of the Kriegsmarine, the Kriegsmarinel used these ships dispersed to attack on British sea lines. Therefore, the most common form of the sea battles was one or several naval ships of the Germans were found, then a large number of Royal Navy ships went to chase and surround them. Fighting with submarines of the Germans was actually an unbalanced combat. Submarines usually did not combat directly with the Royal Navy’s fleet and rather carried the attack and harassment and sunk some large warships of the Royal Navy at the ear stage of the war. But after anti-submarine technology was improved, the Kriegsmarine’s submarines no longer posed a great threat. Contest between the Royal Navy and the Italian Navy mainly happened in the Mediterranean Sea. The two sides broke out several naval battles and the Royal Navy seized the upper hand and captured the seal control of the Mediterranean sea. Victory in the Mediterranean region was mainly due to the advanced equipment and accurate intelligence of the Royal Navy. And the Royal Navy had aircraft carriers. On the other hand, the Italian Navy not only did not have aircraft carriers, but also other surface ships were not equipped with radar and other modern equipment. After Japan joined the war, the Royal Navy also needed to fight in the Pacific theater. But the Royal Navy was short of troops in the region and the region’s main combat missions were undertaken by the United States Navy. The Royal Navy, however, still suffer not small losses in the Pacific theater. Only in the the next day after the war started, a battleship and a battle cruiser were hit and sunk by Japanese aircrafts.
3. Which navy surpassed the Royal Navy in size at the late stage of the war?
It was the U.S. Navy. Because the U.S.’s productivity was better than that of the UK, so it made warships a lot more than the British during the war. Consequently, since the late period of World War II, the U.S. Navy fleet was significantly larger than the size of the Royal Navy. For example, the U.S. Navy in WWII had at least 100 or more kinds of aircraft carriers while the Royal Navy had only over 50 vessels. This situation also ended the history of the Royal Navy as the world’s largest and strongest navy. In the 200 years before that time, the Royal Navy was the world’s largest and most powerful navy. From World War II to now, the gap between the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy’s was growing. But it still was the world’s second largest navy.
4. Which several major battlefields did the Royal Navy combat during World War II?
The main battle area was the Atlantic battle, because the British major sea lines went through there. The Royal Navy’s main rival in this area was the Kriegsmarine submarine forces as well as a small amount of the Italian Navy submarine forces. Eventually, the Royal Navy, with the assistance of the U.S. Navy, kept the sea lines of communication and made a naval victory. Another important area of operations was in the Mediterranean. Because the Allies needed to carry out ground battles in Africa, so it must make use of the Mediterranean to transport war materials and personnel. The Royal Navy performed escort missions for these transportations. Meanwhile, the Royal Navy attacked the Axis’s convoys in the region, which also needed reinforcements of troops and supplies to Africa. Eventually, the Royal Navy captured the seal control in the Mediterranean sea and successfully guaranteed its own transport lines and cut off the Axis’s sea lines, causing the failure of the latter in the war in Africa. The Royal Navy also fought in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, aiming at the Japanese Navy. In fact, the strength of the Japanese Navy this region was stronger than that of the Royal Navy, which in this theater played only a secondary role. And the combat missions with the Japanese Navy were primarily taken by the U.S. Navy.
5. When was the most critical moment for the Royal Navy during World War II?
It should be after the French campaign. After the French withdrew out of the war, the Royal Navy lost not only the help from the French Navy, but also needed to face the Italian Navy entering the war not long ago. In addition, there were risks that the French Navy would join the Axis’s navy. Another critical moment should be when the United States just entered the war. Because of the Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy suffered great losses. The next day, the Japanese again sank two large British warships, resulting in the sea control in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions falling into Japanese hands.