Improved SOUTHAMPTON or
Edinburgh-Class "heavy" cruiser
ordered on 15th August 1936 from Swan Hunter at Wallsend under the 1936
Estimates on with sister ship HMS BELFAST from Harland and Wolf at Belfast. The
ship was laid down in December 1936 and launched on 31st March 1938 as the 45th
RN ship to carry this name introduced for a 5th Rate Scots ship ROYAL WILLIAM
transferred to the RN in 1707 and last
used for a Turret Ship in 1882, sold in 1910. 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
1 9 3 9
August Contractors trials and commissioning
3rd Build completion and
commenced Acceptance Trials.
completion took passage to
Scapa Flow to work-up with ships of Home Fleet.
operation al service in 18th Cruiser Squadron.
On completion of work-up joined
18th Cruiser Squadron for Home Fleet duties.
8th Deployed with HM Battleship HOOD, HM Battlecruiser RENOWN and
BELFAST in NW Approaches for interception
of enemy merchant ships and raiders
18th Deployed on patrol in NW Approaches.
26th Joined HM Battleships NELSON and RODNEY, HMS HOOD, HMS RENOWN,
Carrier ARK ROYAL and HM Cruiser
NEWCASTLE, screened by
destroyers of the 4th and 8th Destroyer Flotillas covered by
the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and
ships of the 7th Destroyer Flotilla escorting the damaged submarine
from Horns Reef.
1st Transferred to 2nd Cruiser Squadron when
relieved by HM Cruiser
8th Searched with HM Cruisers GLASGOW and SOUTHAMPTON for the German
and cruiser KOLN reported in
16th Damaged by splinters from near misses during air attack on ships
of the Home
Fleet in Firth of
30th Under repair in HM Dockyard Rosyth.
12th Transferred to Humber Estuary for
North Sea patrol duty in case of possible
break out of German warships into the
23rd Joined HM Cruisers SOUTHAMPTON and AURORA with three destroyers
to search in
Isle Channel for German Battleships SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU following
the loss of HM Armed Merchant Cruiser RAWALPINDI.
2nd Returned to
Humber for North Sea patrol duty.
Boiler clean in HM Dockyard, Rosyth.
1 9 4 0
7th Deployed with HM Cruiser GLASGOW for convoy escort In Atlantic.
12th Resumed interception duty in
North Sea and NW Approaches.
28th Deployed with HMS GLASGOW and four Fleet destroyers to escort
during return from patrol and unable to dive.
February Interception patrol in NW Approaches
For further information about Home Fleet operations between September
the German invasion of
Norway in April 1940 see ENGAGE
MORE CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett and ARMED MERCHANT
CRUISERS by K.Poolman).
repair in builders shipyard at
Newcastle to correct structural design
to weakness which had caused cracks
in hull abaft hangar. Air warning radar Type
September 279 was fitted during this period.
Details of design weaknesses in this ship and HMS BELFAST are given
in A CENTURY OF NAVAL CONSTRUCTION by D. K. Brown,
18th Cruiser Squadron and worked-up for service.
November Deployed in
Atlantic on convoy defence between
Freetown because of the
threat of German warship attacks. ADD New items in existing November
17th Joined military convoy WS4B at
Liverpool as Ocean Escort during Atlantic
29th Detached from WS4B on arrival at Freetown.
December On return to Home waters from
Freetown detached for patrol off
1 9 4 1
3rd Provided Ocean Escort for ships of 1st Minelaying Squadron during
minelay in Northern
24th Deployed with HMS BIRMINGHAM and destroyer screen to join HM Cruisers
and NAIAD to cover passage to Kirkwall of merchant ships escaping from
Escorted the ships able to enter the North Sea to Kirkwall. (Operation RUBBLE).
February Relieved HM Battleship ROYAL SOVEREIGN
as escort for a military convoy TC9
bringing Canadian troops to
17th Covered minelay by ships of 1st Minelaying Squadron in Northern
(Operation SN7B and SN68A).
3rd Deployed with NIGERIA in support of
Commando Raid on Lofoten Islands.
11th Covered minelay by ships of ML1 in Northern Barrage (Operation
24th Joined HM Battleships NELSON and REVENGE in
Clyde for deployment as Ocean
for military convoy WS7 during Atlantic passage.
28th HMS REVENGE detached with mv GEORGIC
for passage to
29th Detached from WS 7 and returned to Scapa Flow to resume duty
with Home Fleet.
on convoy defence and interception in NW Approaches.
6th Covered minelay by ships of ML1 in Northern Barrage (Operation
7th Diverted to Join HM Cruisers BIRMINGHAM and
MANCHESTER with four
destroyers to intercept German weather ship MUNCHEN.
On approach. HM Destroyer SOMALI sent boarding party which recovered
documentation before enemy ship sank.
NORWAY 1940-41 must relate to this operation
EDINBURGH was under repair during the operations
off Norway in 1940).
24th Diverted to Join Home Fleet in search for German battleship
the sinking of HMS HOOD.
25th Intercepted German supply ship
LECH which was taken as Prize
27th Returned to Londonderry to refuel and
resumed Northern Patrol.
Fleet duties based at Scapa Flow for interception patrols in continuation.
Nominated for escort of military convoy.
29th Joined convoy WS9B in
Clyde as part of Ocean Escort during Atlantic
passage to Freetown.
HM Armed Merchant Cruisers
CATHAY, CHITRAL and
with HM: Cruiser GALATEA were also part of Ocean Escort.
3rd Detached from WS9B and took passage to resume Home Fleet duties
12th Nominated for detached service with other Home Fleet ships for
15th Detached from Home Fleet with HMS NELSON, HM Cruisers
HM Minelayer MANXMAN and 11 Fleet destroyers to escort
relief convoy from
UK (Operation SUBSTANCE).
2Oth Joined escort for Convoy WS9C during passage. Detached to join Force X.
21st Part of Force X with HMS ARETHUSA, HMS MANXMAN, HM
MAORI and SIKH for escort of merchants through to Malta.
24th Under E-Boat attack in Skerki Channel.
25th Rejoined Force H ships with empty merchantmen for
escort to Gibraltar.
27th Deployed in Atlantic for defence of
convoy defence duties in continuation.
10th Joined military convoy WS11 during passage in
relieved HM Cruiser
LONDON as Ocean Escort.
17th Arrived at
Freetown with WS11
21st Joined WS 11 on departure as Ocean Escort with HM Destroyer JUPITER
September Nominated for escort of military convoy.
2nd Detached from WS 11 on arrival at
Cape Town and took passage to
Gibraltar to join
18th Deployed with HM Battleships PRINCE OF
WALES, NELSON and RODNEY,
Cruisers KENYA, EURYALUS and Fleet destroyers for escort of convoy
GM1 from UK (Operation HALBERD).
24th Part of Force X with HM Cruisers
SHEFFIELD, HERMIONE and
EURYALUS for escort of merchant snips through to Malta.
27th Under heavy air attacks and a threat from a superior Italian force
28th Escorted returning convoy MG2 from
30th Arrived at
to UK with Home Fleet ships.
November Deployed on convoy defence and interception
duty in NW Approaches.
December NW Approaches deployment in continuation
with HM Destroyers ECHO and ESCAPADE.
12th Joined PQ6 after delay due to heavy weather and refuelling in
ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman.
13th Detached for gunnery exercises.
14th Provided fuel to HMS ESCAPADE in extreme
18th HMS ESCAPADE detached to investigate engagement between HM Minesweepers
HAZARD and SPEEDY and German minelaying destroyers. See above
19th Detached from PQ6 for escort of two Russian mercantiles into
20th Lost contact with one mercantile and detached HMS
ECHO to escort second ship into
20th Under air attack which was repelled by Russian
at Murmansk with mercantile and took passage to Kola Inlet.
1 9 4 2
in Kola Inlet to await departure of return Convoy QP4.
5th Relieved Local Escort for Convoy QP4 from
Archangel and deployed as Ocean Escort
with HM Destroyers ESCAPADE and
9th Detached when QP6 dispersed and took passage
15th Under refit in Tyne shipyard.
8th Rejoined Home Fleet and deployed on Northern Patrol.
21st Part of reinforced Home Fleet Distant Cover for Russian Convoy
PQ13 and the
returning Convoy QP9. Joined HM Battleships KING GEORGE V and
HM Battlecruiser RENOWN, HM Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS and HM Cruiser
screened by eleven Home Fleet destroyers.
This was required because of the threat presented by the deployment of German
major warships, TIRPITZ, ADMIRAL SCHEER and HIPPER in Northern
of Russian Convoy operations see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE
by Corelli Barrett, CONVOYS TO
RUSSIA by R. Ruegg
CONVOY ! by P Kemp).
3rd Met US Navy ships, the battleship USS WASHINGTON, aircraft carrier
USS WASP, the
cruisers TUSCALOOSA and WICHITA with a screen of nine USN destroyers
Force 69. These allied warships were joining the British Home
Fleet whilst RN
were deployed for
9th Joined Distant Covering force for Russian Convoy PQ14 with the
FORESIGHT and HMS FORESTER but did not join close escort.
25th Independent passage to
Murmansk with steel plates for repair of
cruiser HMS TRINIDAD and to embark gold bullion for transfer
29th Sailed from Murmansk to join returning
30th On Joining escort for Convoy QP11 whilst taking position ahead
of the body of
ships was twice attacked by German submarine U456. The first
attack failed but
on the second attempt two torpedoes struck on the starboard side.
amidships and the other blew away the stern structure including
the ship was able to use the port shafts, steering by engines was
impracticable because of the prevailing weather conditions. Little
was made and a towing attempt by HMS FORESTER failed when the
was then taken in tow by the damaged cruiser which proved
much more successful until both destroyers had to be detached
1st After making slow progress eastwards other RN ships and a Russian
but an attempt to tow again failed. Despite the significant damage
armament could still be used in Local Control.
2nd Engaged German destroyers making torpedo attacks and hit SCHOEMANN
abandoned by her crew and subsequently sank. One of the torpedoes
the German destroyer Z24 hit the ship on the port side amidships
the hangar. Further major damage amidships sealed her fate as
it was unlikely
that the structure could remain intact. As salvage was clearly
the ship had to be abandoned. 790 men of the 847 in the complement
off by HM Minesweepers HARRIER and GOSSAMER before HMS FORESIGHT
was ordered to sink the ship by torpedo. The final casualty list
recorded that 78
men were killed and 43 wounded. (Casualty List
note on casualties)
see ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman and Naval Staff History.
More details of this heroic action are given in THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS
by B. B. Schoefield, ENGAGE THE ENEMY
MORE CLOSELY by Corelli
CONVOY! by P. Kemp and in the Naval Staff War History).
bullion was recovered in the 1981 despite the fact that the wrecked
hull of HMS BELFAST is designated as a "War Grave").