Improved SOUTHAMPTON-Class heavy cruiser ordered on 15th August 1936 from Harland and Wolff at Belfast under the 1936 Estimates on with sister ship HMS EDINBURGH from Swan Hunter in Newcastle. The ship was laid down on 30th December 1936 and launched on 31st March 1938 as the 1st RN ship to carry this name. Build was completed on 3rd August 1939 and she joined the Home Fleet for working-up before outbreak of war. This cruiser was not adopted by a civil community as a result of a WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign during 1941 and 1942 as she was out of commission and undergoing extensive repair (See below).
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July Contractors trials
3rd Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials.
5th Commissioned for service in Home Fleet.
On completion of trials and storing worked-up for service in Home waters.
September Joined HM Cruisers AURORA, EDINBURGH and SHEFFIELD in 18th Cruiser
Squadron, Home Fleet for interception of German warships and blockade runners
in NW Approaches.
October Deployed for patrol in NW Approaches to intercept blockade runners.
5th Intercepted Swedish whaling ship which was allowed to proceed.
7th Intercepted Swedish mercantile LILJEVATCH which was also allowed to proceed.
9th Intercepted and boarded Norwegian mercantile TAI YIN.
(Note: Mercantile taken to Kirkwall for examination.).
Intercepted and captured German Liner CAP NORTE (13,000 CRT).
(Note: This was the largest enemy mercantile captured during WW2).
Escorted CAP NORTE to Shetlands and on relief by HM Cruiser DEHLI resumed patrol
and surveillance in NW Approaches.
For details of naval activities in Home waters in 1939 see Naval Staff History).
November Squadron deployment in continuation.
21st Sailed with HM Cruisers AURORA, EDINBURGH and SHEFFIELD to carry out a search for
German warships reported on passage to attack convoy traffic in Atlantic.
On departure from Rosyth detonated magnetic mine in Firth of Forth and sustained major damage.
(Note: The explosion caused major 'whipping' of ships structure and as a result equipment was
damaged throughout her length and her back was broken.
For details see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C Barnett and
A CENTURY OF NAVAL CONSTRUCTION by David Brown).
Returned to Rosyth.
23rd Under temporary repair by HM Dockyard to allow passage for permanent repair
December Under repair at Rosyth
1 9 4 0
January Under repair at Rosyth.
May Prepared for passage to Devonport for permanent repair.
June Passage to Devonport.
Paid off into Dockyard Control.
July Under Dockyard control and placed in dry dock.
August Under repair
to (Note: Work including fitting of external bulge around centre armour.
December This added 2ft 6 inches to beam and increased displacement
Although stability was improved speed was reduced by 2 knots.)
1 9 4 1
January Under repair.
to (Note: Radar equipment was installed for the first time to provide warning of
December approach of aircraft (Type 281) and for detection of surface targets and
land (Type 273).Fire control Radar for main (Type 284) and secondary
AA armament was also fitted (Types 283 and 285).
1 9 4 2
January Under repair
to (Note: Radar equipment was progressively installed with latest modification.)
September Ship undocked during this period.
October Commissioned for service in Home Fleet and carried out post refit trials.
November Post refit trials in continuation and took passage to Scapa Flow to work-up for
service in 10th Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet.
Deployed with Squadron in NW Approaches for cover of Russian convoys and for the
interception of German warships and commerce raiders during their passage to Atlantic
for attacks on convoys.
December Work-up with Home Fleet in continuation prior to joined 10th Cruiser Squadron.
(Note: Squadron comprised HM Cruisers BELFAST, SHEFFIELD and CUMBERLAND).
1 9 4 3
January Deployed with Squadron in NW Approaches and North Sea in continuation.
(Note: An early production model of Radar Type 273 had been fitted by this date.
See RADAR AT SEA by D Howse.)
February Passage to Loch Ewe to join Force R covering passage of Russian Convoy JW53-
Flagship of Force R commanded by Rear Admiral R Burnett.
14th Departure from Loch Ewe with HM Cruiser SHEFFIELD and CUMBERLAND delayed
due to a defective capstan (See CONVOY ! by P Kemp).
16th Sailed to join Force R.
18th Arrived at Seidisfjord but unable to enter to refuel.
Passage to Akureyi
(Note: The extreme weather conditions during the passage to Iceland caused major
structural damage to HMS SHEFFIELD which was withdrawn from Force 'R’
for repair in UK.
HM Cruiser NORFOLK replaced HMS SHEFFIELD.)
21st Sailed with Force R to join JW53.
23rd Detached from Convoy with Force R to investigate report of surface threat.
No contact made and rejoined JW53-
26th Left convoy on arrival near Kola Inlet.
(Note: Air attacks were limited and only one mercantile was damaged).
For details of all Russian Convoy operations see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA by
R A Ruegg, THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS by B Schoefield, CONVOY ! by
P Kemp and ARCTIC CONVOYS by R. Woodman).
2nd Deployed with Force R to cover passage of returning Convoy RA53-
9th Detached from RA53 and returned to Scapa Flow.
April Squadron interception and patrol duty in continuation.
26th Provided Ocean Escort for HM Auxiliary Minelayers AGAMEMNON, MENESTHEUS and
PORT QUEBEC of 1st Minelaying Squadron during passage for minelay in Northern Barrage.
(Operation SN123B - See Naval Staff History (Mining).).
11th Escorted HMS AGAMEMNON, HMS MENESTHEUS and HMS PORT QUEBEC during
minelay in the Northern Barrage (Operation SN123C).
July Deployed with Squadron in NW Approaches and North Sea.
Took part in demonstration sweep by Home Fleet off Norway as diversion during the
HUSKY allied assault landings in Sicily (Operation CAMERA).
(Note: HM King George VI visited Home Fleet at Scapa Flow after this operation).
August Home Fleet interception and patrol duties with Squadron in continuation.
4th Deployed as escort for HM Battleships DUKE OF YORK and ANSON with US cruiser USS
TUSCALOOSA to cover US Aircraft Carrier USS RANGER during air attacks on coastal
convoys and shipping in harbour at Bodo, Norway (Operation LEADER).
(Note: USS TUSCALOOSA had been loaned to Home Fleet - See ENGAGE THE ENEMY
2nd Provided cruiser cover with HMS KENT and HMS NORFOLK for passage of the returning
Russian Convoy RA54A.
(Note: This was first west bound convoy of winter season.)
8th Detached from RA54A which had an undetected passage
28th Deployed with HMS ANSON, screened by HM Destroyers ASHANTI, MATCHLESS,
MUSKETEER and OBDURATE to provide Distant Cover during passage of Russian Convoy
JW54B and also returning Convoy RA54B.
(Note: Replaced USS TUSCALOOSA).
2nd Resumed Squadron duties after release from convoy cover.
Returned to Scapa Flow.
15th Provided Cruiser Cover for the passage of Russian Convoys JW55A with HM Cruisers
NORFOLK and SHEFFIELD.
19th Detached from JW55A to join HMS DUKE OF YORK and Home Fleet ships at Kola Inlet.
22nd Sailed with HMS NORFOLK and HMS SHEFFIELD to provide cover for passage of Convoy
JW55B and returning Convoy RA55A
26th Made radar contact with German SCHARNHORST and engaged with HMS NORFOLK and
HMS SHEFFIELD as Force 1.
Took part in Battle of North Cape.
(For details see KOLA RUN by I Campbell and D MacIntyre, 73 NORTH BY Dudley Pope
and above references).
Fired torpedoes at the stricken German warship.
(Note: SCHARNHORST was almost certainly sunk after torpedo hits. Her armour had
protected her from fatal damage and she had withstood a total of 2, 195 rounds of
various calibres of shell. In all 35 torpedoes were fired and 11 hits were claimed.
See BRITISH BATTLESHIPS OF WW2 by A Raven and J Roberts).
After the sinking of SCHARNHORST took passage to Kola Inlet with HMS NORFOLK and
27th Arrived at Kola Inlet.
Kola Inlet (NP/Alan for Mr S Vallely)
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Passage to Scapa Flow.
(Note: Rear Admiral Burnett was awarded a KBE on January 4th).
Resumed Squadron duties in Home Fleet.
February Home Fleet interception and patrol duties at Scapa Flow.
to (Note: Russian Convoys JW56A&B and return Convoy RA56 were on passage during
March the period but cruiser cover recorded in above references does not include this ship.
It is however recorded in HITLER’S U-BOAT WAR by C Blair.)
3rd Joined HM Battleships ANSON and DUKE OF YORK with HM Cruisers ROYALIST,
SHEFFIELD and JAMAICA as covering force during air attacks by HM Aircraft
Carrier VICTORIOUS on German battleship
TIRPITZ in Altenfjord, the passage of
Russian Convoy JW58 and returning Convoy RA58 (Operation TUNGSTEN).
10th On return to Scapa Flow prepared for refit.
May Under refit
Nominated for support of allied landings in Normandy (Operation NEPTUNE).
On completion joined HM Cruiser DIADEM in Bombarding Force E as Flagship of Rear
(Note: Target allocated in Pre-Arranged Fire Plan - Gun Battery at Ver-sur-Mere.and to
provide naval gunfire support for landings on JUNO Beach.
Took part in bombardment exercises with Home Fleet ships prior to gunfire support and
Eastern Task Force deployment in Force J
Passage to Clyde to join Bombardment Force E.
June Joined HMS DIADEM in Clyde estuary.
3rd Sailed with HMS DIADEM escorted by HM Destroyers ULSTER and URCHIN as Convoy
4th Operation delayed for 24 hours. Remained at sea in SW Approaches.
5th Sailed through swept channel from Solent to JUNO beachhead with Convoy G11.
6th Provided naval gunfire support for assault on LOVE Beach.
to Deployed in Eastern Task Force Area for gunfire support.
28th Provided naval gunfire support during military attacks on Caen with HM Battleship
RODNEY, HM Monitor ROBERTS, HM Cruisers ARGONAUT and DIADEM.
July Remained in Channel area for naval gunfire support on completion of NEPTUNE.
Provided naval gunfire support to military operations on eastern flank of assault area.
Nominated for service with British Pacific Fleet after refit.
August Taken in hand for refit.
September Under refit.
to (Note: During this refit extensive modernisation of fighter direction and Anti-Aircraft
December protection took place for service in the Far East
Radar Type 281B using single mast replaced Type 281 for air cover.
Radar Type 293 replaced Radar Type 273Q for surface warning.
Radar Type 274 replaced Radar Type 284 for main armament fire-control.
Interrogation equipment (IFF) and modern plan position radar displays (PPI)
were fitted together with improved radio telephone equipment for control of aircraft.
1 9 4 5
January Under refit
April Post refit trials and passage to join Home Fleet.
May Deployed at Scapa Flow for work-up prior to service with British Pacific Fleet.,
July Passage to join British Pacific Fleet
August After end of hostilities diverted to join British Task Force 111 in South China Sea.
(Note: TF111 was formed after British ships ware released from US Navy control).
Joined HM Light Fleet Aircraft Carrier COLOSSUS, HM Cruisers ARGONAUT and
BERMUDA, HM Destroyers TYRIAN, TUMULT, TUSCAN and QUIBERON as
Task Group 111.3
Deployed for support of rehabilitation of allied nationals held in China.
Arrived at Shanghai with HMS ARGONAUT for re-occupation duty and repatriation of