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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2003

HMS SOUTHAMPTON - Town-type Light Cruiser  
including Convoy Escort Movements

HMS Southampton (Navy Photos/Bruce Constable, click to enlarge)

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SOUTHAMPTON-Class cruiser ordered from John Brown of Clydebank under the 1933 Estimates on lst June 1934 with sister ship HMS NEWCASTLE from Vickers shipyard in Newcastle. The ship was laid down on 21st October 1934 and launched on 10th March 1936 as the 5th RN ship to carry this name. It was first used in 1693 for a 4th Rate and previously borne by a 1912 cruiser sold in 1926. Build was completed on 6th March 1937 and she served with the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet.


B a t t 1 e   H o n o u r s 


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge:  On a Field White a figure of Justice in  purple robe, crowned,

holding sword in right hand, scales in left, all proper, rising out

f a castle, Gold.


M o t t o

Pro justitia pro rege:    'For Justice and the King'



D e t a i 1 s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 9 3 9



                3rd          Detached from 2nd Cruiser Squadron Home Fleet with HM Cruiser GLASGOW and

                                deployed as Humber Force for patrol off Norway in search for German blockade


                4th          One of the attendant destroyers HMS JERSEY intercepted the German freighter

                22nd       Planned offensive sweep in Skagerrak by 2nd Cruiser Squadron cancelled during passage.

                25th        Escorted damaged submarine HMS SPEARFISH from Horns Reef to Rosyth with the

                                HM Cruisers SHEFFIELD, GLASGOW and AURORA screened by 6 Fleet destroyers.

                                RAF air cover was also provided.

                26th        Under air attack for first time.



                8th          Deployed with HM Battlecruisers HOOD and REPULSE, HM Cruisers AURORA,

                                GLASGOW and SHEFFIELD screened by four Fleet destroyers in search for German

                                battleship GNEISENAU, cruiser KOLN and destroyer escort reported in North Sea, south

                                of Norway

                16th        Damaged during air raid on warships in Forth Estuary.

                                One bomb penetrated three decks.

                                Deployed on patrol SE of Norway.



                10th        Joined Striking Force with HM Cruisers BELFAST, GLASGOW and AURORA for

                                North Sea patrol.

                21st         During departure from Rosyth with HMS BELFAST had to return to return to harbour

                                when HMS BELFAST detonated a magnetic mine.

                23rd        Carried out search between Iceland and Faeroes with HM Cruisers EDINBURGH and

                                AURORA for SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU after the sinking of HM Armed

                                Merchant Cruiser RAWALPINDI.



                24th        Under repair in Tyne shipyard until 23rd January 1940.

                                Radar Type 279 fitted for air warning.


1 9 4 0



                23rd        Rejoined Home Fleet on completion.


February                Deployed with ships of 10tn Cruiser Squadron on convoy defence in North Sea.

to                            and patrol duty in NW Approaches to intercept commerce raiders.




                7th          Deployed to cover convoy ON25 to Norway with HMS MANCHESTER and the

                                destroyers ECLIPSE, GRENADE, JANUS and JAVELIN.

                                Joined HM Auxiliary Minelayer TEVIOT BANK, HM Destroyers ILEX, INGLEFIELD,

                                ISIS and IMOGEN which had been on passage to lay minefield of Bud and later ordered

                                to join Home Fleet when Operation R4 was cancelled Transferred to Home Fleet.

                9th          Joined Home Fleet ships.

                                Detached with HM Cruisers MANCHESTER, GLASGOW and SHEFFIELD with screen

                                of seven destroyers to attack shipping at Bergen.

                                Operation cancelled by Admiralty during passage and returned to rejoin Home Fleet units.

                                Under air attacks and sustained slight damage.

                                Returned to Scapa Flow to refuel.

                12th        Embarked half a battalion of Scots Guards with General Mackesy, the Military

                                Commander for operations in Norway and sailed from Scapa Flow.                          

                                Orders for destination changed to Vestfjord not received until after landings

                                had been made at Salangen. Attacked by U38 during patrol off Narvik but this

                                failed due to torpedo defect. On arrival at Harstad Military decided to land

                                troops at Sjovegan 35 miles NE of Narvik.

                                HM Destroyers ELECTRA and ESCAPADE provided screen during passage

                14th        Arrived at Vaagsfjord and disembarked General Mackesey. Landed troops at

                                Sag Fjord.

                15th        Deployed with Narvik Force to support shore military operations and for defence against

                                air attacks on ships.

                                (For details see THE DOOMED EXPEDITION by Jack Adams).

                19th        Returned to Scapa Flow.

                                (For details of the policy changes and setbacks during the disastrous allied

                                operations in Norway see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C. Barnett,

                                by Donald MacIntyre, CARRIER GLORIOUS by J Winton, THE DOOMED

                                EXPEDITION by Jack Adams and the Naval Staff History.

                29th        Detached from Narvik Force to assist in evacuation of allied troops from Andalsnes

                                and Molde.

                30th        Deployed at Andalsnes to support evacuation of allied troops with HM Destroyers

                                SOMALI, MASHONA, SIKH, WALKER and WESTCOTT.



                1st           Provided AA defence during evacuation from Andalsnes and Molde. Part of the

                                Naval Base Party and 300 troops were embarked from HM Destroyers SIKH and

                                and WANDERER which had picked them up at Alfarnes six miles to the north of


                2nd         Returned to Scapa Flow.

                25th        Under sustained air attacks lasting two days off Harstad

                27th        Provided naval gunfire support for assault by Polish troops on the Arkanes

                                Peninsula as part of allied military operation to capture Narvik.

                28th        Under air attack.

                29th        Damaged in air attacks and repair carried out by ships staff.



                7th          Flagship of Flag Officer, Narvik (Admiral of the Fleet The Earl of Cork and

                                Orrery) during evacuation from Narvik. Embarked General Auchinleck and the

                                French General Bathouart and joined escort for troop convoy (Group II).

                                (Note: Ships taking party in evacuation included HM Destroyers HAVELOCK, FAME,

                                FIREDRAKE, BEAGLE and DELIGHT.

                9th          Reported sighting of wreckage during return passage with Group II convoy.

                                (Note: This was later identified as being from HM Aircraft Carrier GLORIOUS which

                                had been sunk by German SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU on 8th.)

                10th        Detached from convoy and returned to Scapa Flow with HMS COVENTRY.



                6th          Escorted the damaged submarine HMS SHARK with HMS COVENTRY and under air

                                attack during passage.

                16th        Deployed with HM Cruisers GLASGOW, SHROPSHIRE and SUFFOLK to intercept

                                German warships reported in North Sea. After HMS GLASGOW collided with HM

                                Destroyer IMOGEN in fog, returned to Scapa Flow with these ships.

                31st         Transferred with HM Cruisers BIRMINGHAM and MANCHESTER to Thames Estuary

                                for anti-invasion patrols.


September             Deployed for anti-invasion patrol duties in North Sea.

to August


October                  Nominated for service in Mediterranean and to escort ships during passage to Malta

                                (Operation COLLAR)

                16th        Returned to Scapa Flow.



                15th        Deployed with HM Cruiser MANCHESTER as escort for ss NEW ZEALAND STAR

                                during Atlantic passage from Scapa Flow.

                                Joined by ss FRANCONIA, ss CLAN FORBES and ss CLAN FRASER.

                                HMS MANCHESTER detached with ss FRANCONIA and took passage to Gibraltar.

                                Remained with the remaining mercantiles.

                                (Note: HM Destroyers JAGUAR and KELVIN were also deployed.)

                21st         Detached when HM Cruiser SHEFFIELD joined as escort for mercantiles during passage

                                into Mediterranean.

                                Took passage to Gibraltar.

                                (Note: One source records that troops were embarked)

                24th        Embarked RAF personnel for passage to Malta.

                25th        Joined Force F with HMS MANCHESTER, HM Destroyer HOTSPUR, HM Corvettes

                                PEONY, GLOXINIA, SALVIA and HYACINTH for passage to eastern Mediterranean

                                to reinforce Mediterranean Fleet based at Alexandria.

                                Rejoined ss NEW ZEALAND STAR, ss CLAN FRASER and ss CLAN FORBES as

                                screened by HM Destroyers DUNCAN and VIDETTE. Cover was provided by HM

                                Battlecruiser RENOWN, HM Aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL, HM Cruisers SHEFFIELD

                                and DESPATCH screened by eight destroyers of Force H.

                                Rejoined ss NEW ZEALAND STAR, ss CLAN FRASER and ss CLAN FORBES as

                                (Operation COLLAR which included the passage of three mercantiles).

                27th        Joined by Force D comprising HM Battleship RAMILLIES, HM Cruisers BERWICK,

                                COVENTRY and NEWCASTLE, HM Destroyers DEFENDER, DIAMOND, GALLANT

                                GREYHOUND and HEREWARD.

                                Mercantiles detached with escort before taking part in brief but long range engagement

                                with Italian warships including three battleships and several heavy cruisers screened by


                                Following air attacks from HM Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL and an exchange of fire

                                the enemy ships broke of the action.

                                (Battle of Cape Spartivento – see Naval Staff History (HMSO, 2002), THE BATTLE FOR

                                THE MEDITERRANEAN by D. MacIntyre and ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE

                                CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett).

                                (Note: Admiral Somerville’s decision to discontinue pursuit was the subject of an

                                Admiralty Board of enquiry supported this as it was clear his orders to

                                ensure safe arrival of this convoy were correct.)

                                Rejoined mercantiles and made passage through Sicilian Narrows with Mediterranean

                                Fleet units.

                                (Battle of Cape Spartivento).

                28th        Landed personnel in Malta. and completion joined escort for Convoy ME4 during passage

                                to Alexandria.

                                (Note: ss NEW ZEALAND STAR joined the three empty mercantiles in ME4).

                30th        Arrived at Alexandria and joined 7th Cruiser Squadron.


December              Nominated for detached service on East Indies Station for convoy defence.

                2nd         Sailed from Alexandria and took passage to Durban.

                3rd          Passage in Red Sea.

                10th        Passage in Indian Ocean

                                Diverted during passage to provide support to military operations in Italian Somaliland.

                                Bombarded shipping at Kismayu and on completion took passage to Durban.

                16th        Joined HM Cruisers DEVONSHIRE and SHROPSHIRE at Durban for Ocean

                                Escort of WS4B during passage to Suez.

                28th        Detached from WS4B on arrival at Suez.

                                (Note: HMS DEVONSHIRE detached on 18th and HMS SHROPSHIRE on

                                26th HM Cruiser CARLISLE, HM Destroyers KANDAHAR and

                                KIMBERLEY joined WS4B to supplement escort in Red Sea.)


1 9 4 1


 January                 Nominated for escort and cover of Malta convoys (Operation MC4)

                5th          Sailed for Suda Bay, Crete with HM Cruiser GLOUCESTER, HM Destroyer ILEX and

                                JANUS as Force B.

                6th          Embarked troops at Suda Bay for passage to Malta.

                                Escorted convoy for part of passage to Piraeus

                7th          Detached from convoy to proceed to Malta.

                8th          Landed troops.

                9th          Joined HM Cruiser BONAVENTURE, HM Destroyers HASTY, HASTY, HEREWARD

                                and HERO with Force D ships. This cruiser and 4 destroyers were on passage in the

                                Sicilian Narrows to reinforce the Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean.

                                (Note: Part of a joint operation (EXCESS) with Force H at Gibraltar also

                                covering convoys taking urgent supplies to Malta and Greece.

                                See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY, Naval Staff History and the above


                10th        Part of escort for damaged destroyer HMS GALLANT which had been mined during

                                passage of EXCESS Convoy and was under tow by HM Destroyer MOHAWK.

                                (Note: HMS GLOUCESTER, HMS BONAVENTURE and HM Destroyers GRIFFIN and

                                DIAMOND were also in this operation)

                11th        Rejoined Fleet after HMS GALLANT reached Malta.

                                Joined escort for EXCESS convoy to Alexandria with HMS GLOUCESTER and HM

                                Destroyers ILEX and JAGUAR. Under attack by dive bombers SE of Malta and hit by

                                two delayed action bombs which caused very extensive damage. In the face of

                                continual air attacks repair work was impossible and the ship was abandoned

                                after the survivors had been rescued by the destroyer HMS DIAMOND.

                                Sunk by torpedoes from HM Cruisers GLOUCESTER and ORION.

                                (Casualty List - note on casualties)

                                (For details see BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN and the Naval Staff History).







by Don Kindell


These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








HN 000





HN 003










ON 025/1








(Note on Convoys)



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revised 5/6/11
further editing and formatting is required