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H.M.S. Ajax at Crete is a website created in honour of Robert (Bob) John Sharplin, his shipmates, and every other person who served on the first and second Ajax. We also dedicate the website to the Town of Ajax, Ontario, Canada, whose community named their town after this ship and its streets after the names of the crews of not only both ships but also those who served in the other Royal Naval ships that took part in the Battle of the River Plate, Achilles and Exeter. Bob’s name is commemorated there by “Sharplin Drive”.

This site’s original intention was purely to promote sales of prints of the painting commissioned by Clive and Wendy Sharplin, the children of Bob Sharplin, to commemorate the 100 years of their father’s death. The website also describes the detail of the action behind it and its historical place in World War 2. With the increasing amount of information uncovered during the research for the painting, the early decision was made to widen the project. The information gathered could be easily accessed by Bob’s family or possibly to assist others in their branch of research, hence the creation of the website.

In creating a painting that will show Bob’s naval experience, the difficulty was picking which one. Many paintings were already drawn of actions where he was present, which means a new action yet to be drawn has to be picked. What was eventually settled upon was one part of the Battle for Crete, which has not to anyone’s knowledge been portrayed before in any medium. Indeed, the published accounts of this action differ in quite a few aspects, not least quite a few incorrectly recording that Ajax had been hit by the bombs targeted on her that morning. It was by no means a major action but one of a whole series of such intensive action-packed incidents which made up the Battle for Crete when the Royal Navy, pathetically short of air-cover, when sent to perform a seemingly suicidal task, had to face the full wrath of the German Luftwaffe assisted by the Italian air force. One eyewitness account of the incident reported massive Naval losses on either side, with the War being one of the most ferocious ones ever fought at sea at that time. One aspect that quickly became clear was that considerable erroneous information exists across published accounts and other sources, all without doubt well-intended, probably emanating from earlier errors or assumptions perpetuated by being accepted as fact by those who followed and included in their works. Even the official war diaries vary in the detail of various actions and the participants. The website’s primary and unimpeachable source was Ajax’s actual ship’s log as recorded on the day of the battle itself, which is now being held at the National Archive at Kew in England.
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