The collapse of France militarily and Italy's entry as an Axis belligerent in June 1940 prompted his first significant actions in World War II—the peaceful neutralization of the French fleet at Alexandria and an engagement with the Italians on 9 July 1940 off Calabria; in the latter, he pursued a powerful force returning from North Africa into Italian home waters, damaging its flagship. Four months later, on 11 November 1940, with his fleet strengthened by the addition of the carrier Illustrious, Cunningham launched a night air attack on the Italian base at Taranto, sinking three battleships, two of which were later raised and repaired. On 28 March 1941, he fought the Italians off Cape Matapan, sinking three heavy cruisers and two destroyers and damaging a battleship. Soon afterward, however, British armies in Greece and Crete required evacuation, and Cunningham's full support of them brought severe losses to his ships from German air attacks.
In June 1942, Cunningham became the Admiralty's representative to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington. Promoted to Admiral of the Fleet, he became Allied naval commander in chief in the Mediterranean in October 1942. Cunningham oversaw Operation torch, the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942, and the Allied assaults on Sicily in April 1943 and at Salerno five months later, followed by Italy's surrender and internment of the Italian fleet at Malta.
When First Sea Lord Sir Dudley Pound died in October 1943, Cunningham succeeded him, serving in the post for the rest of the war. Often at odds with Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill, he also faced growing American naval dominance and a very different war in the Pacific. Ennobled in September 1945, he retired in June 1946, recognized as one of the last British admirals in the Nelson tradition. Cunningham died in London on 12 June 1963.
John A. Hutcheson Jr.
Barnett, Correlli. Engage the Enemy More Closely: The Royal Navy in the Second World War. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991.; Cunningham, Andrew Browne. A Sailor's Odyssey: The Autobiography of Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope. New York: Dutton, 1951.; Grove, Eric J. "Andrew Browne Cunningham: The Best Man of the Lot." In Jack Sweetman, ed., The Great Admirals: Command at Sea, 1587–1945, 418–441. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997.; Pack, S. W. C. Cunningham the Commander. London: Batsford, 1974.; Winton, John. "Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope." In Stephen Howarth, ed., Men of War: Great Naval Leaders of World War II, 207–226. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.