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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2004

HMS GAMBIA, later HMNZS  -  Colony-class Light Cruiser including Convoy Escort Movements

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Gambia (Navy Photos, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

FIJI or Colony-Class cruiser ordered from Swan Hunter, Newcastle upon Tyne under the 1938 Estimates in 1939. The ship was laid down on 24th July 1939 and launched by Lady Hilbery, wife of Mr Justice Hilbery on 30th November 1940. Build was completed on 21st February 1942 and was the first RN ship to carry this name. In March 1942 the ship was adopted by the civil community of Huddersfield, then in the West Riding of Yorkshire following a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign.


B a t t l e†† H o n o u r s


SABANG 1944 - OKINAWA 1945


H e r al d i c†† D a t a

Badge:  On a Field per fess blue and green, an elephant in front of a palm tree Proper



D e t a i l 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



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Contractors trials.


5th - Commissioned for service.


21st - Build completion and commenced acceptance trials.


On completion of trials and storing took passage to Rosyth for installation of 6 single 20mm Oerlikon mountings to improve defence against close range air attack.




Passage to Scapa Flow to worked-up with 18th Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet for service in 4th Cruiser Squadron, Eastern Fleet. Nominated for escort of military convoy to Indian Ocean.




On completion of work-up too passage to Clyde to join military convoy WS18.


14th - Joined HM Cruiser FROBISHER, Dutch Destroyer VAN GALEN and HM Destroyer TETCOTT as ocean escort during Atlantic passage. (Note: Convoy also included HM Destroyer Depot Ship HECLA.)


29th - Detached from WS18 on arrival at Freetown.




5th - Rejoined WS18 on departure from Freetown as ocean escort with same ships.


13th - Detached when HMS HECLA was mined off South Africa and escorted damaged ship to Simonstown.


18th - Passage to Kilindini to join Squadron in Eastern Fleet for convoy defence in Indian Ocean.


29th - Passage to Ceylon with HM Battleship WARSPITE, HM Aircraft Carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE to re-establish Base in Ceylon.




 On arrival deployed on convoy escort and interception patrol in Indian Ocean.




13th - Joined SCHOONER Convoy taking ANZAC troops for part of passage from Ceylon back to Australia with HM Armed Merchant Cruiser WORCESTERSHIRE. (Note: Convoy included rms QUEEN MARY, rms AQUITANIA, ILE DE FRANCE. NIEUW AMSTERDAM and rms QUEEN OF BERMUDA.)


19th - Relieved by USS PHOENIX and returned to Ceylon.




Passage to Mombasa with ships of Eastern Fleet for execution of planned landings to complete occupation of Madagascar (Operation STREAM).




Took part in Exercise TOUCHSTONE in preparation for STREAM with Madagascar Assault Force.


5th - Deployed with HMS WARSPITE, HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, HM Cruisers BIRMINGHAM, DAUNTLESS and CARADOC screened by destroyers as Force M


13th - Escorted transports taking 29th Infantry Brigade to Majunga for final occupation of Madagascar with HMS BIRMINGHAM and HM Netherlands cruiser VAN HEEMSKERCK. Cover was provided by HMS WARSPITE and HMS ILLUSTRIOUS (Operation STREAM). (Note: HM Aircraft Carrier FORMIDABLE was intended to take part but had been retained in Home waters. For full details of STREAM and other operations in the re-occupation see WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO).)




Remained in area until military operations completed and then went to Bombay for docking.




12th - On completion of docking returned to convoy defence in Indian Ocean.


28th - Relieved HM Australian Cruiser ADELAIDE and Netherlands cruiser HEEMSKERCK as escort for Convoy OW1.




Indian Ocean convoy defence and patrol in continuation.



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Indian Ocean duty in continuation.




6th - Joined Ocean Escort off Socotra for military convoy taking ANZAC troops back to Australia from Suez with HM Cruiser DEVONSHIRE. (Note: Cover was provided by HM Battleships REVENGE, RESOLUTION and WARSPITE, HM Cruiser MAURITIUS and 6 destroyers. Operation PAMPHLET - Convoy included rms QUEEN MARY, AQUITANIA, ILE DE FRANCE, NIEUW AMSTERDAM and mv QUEEN OF BERMUDA.)


17th - Passage to Durban from Fremantle.




17th - Deployed as Flagship in 4th Cruiser Squadron for patrol and Fleet exercises in Indian Ocean.




Deployed for trade defence in Indian Ocean.




28th - Took passage to UK from Capetown with call at Bathurst.




16th - Paid-off. (Note: During refit in Liverpool commercial shipyard: Aircraft facilities removed. 10cm surface warning radar Type 272 and additional fire-control radar Type 283 fitted for barrage control. For details of development and use of radar in RN see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse).


July to August


Transferred to RNZN in place of HM Cruisers ACHILLES and LEANDER approved. Under refit.



W a r†† S e r v i c e   a s   H M N Z S   G A M B I A




Harbour trials


22nd - Commissioned for service with RNZN.




Passage to Scapa Flow on completion of post refit trials.


11th - Shakedown and work-up with Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.




Deployed with Home Fleet for convoy defence on completion of work-up.




Transferred to Plymouth for service in SW Approaches.


12th - Deployed with HM Cruiser GLASGOW NNW of Azores for interception of supply ships and blockade runners in conjunction with RAF Coastal Command aircraft.


Refuelling arranged in Azores (Operation STONEWALL).


23rd - Diversion orders cancelled after blockade runner sunk by aircraft.


27th - At Fayal in Azores and deployed to join HM Cruisers GLASGOW, ENTERPRISE, PENELOPE and ARIADNE in search for German supply tanker ALSTRUFER, which was sunk later by HALIFAX aircraft strike before ships could arrive. (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett).


28th - Unable to join operation in time to take part in engagement by HMS GLASGOW and ENTERPRISE against German destroyers sent to assist ALSTRUFER. Carried out search for survivors.


30th - Relieved from patrol deployment by Free French FS LE FANTASQUE and FS LE MALIN and returned to Plymouth.



1 9 4 4




Prepared for service with Eastern Fleet.


30th - Took passage to join Eastern Fleet via Mediterranean




19th - Joined 4th Cruiser Squadron, Eastern Fleet at Trincomalee.


22nd - Deployed in unsuccessful search for blockade runners in Indian Ocean SW of Cocos Islands with HM Aircraft Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, HM Cruiser SUSSEX, HM Destroyers ROTHERHAM and Dutch destroyer TJERK HIDDES (Operation SLEUTH). (For details see WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO) and ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY).


28th - Detached to refuel in Fremantle after relieved by HMS SUSSEX.




2nd - At Fremantle.


8th - Escorted Indian Ocean convoy to Ceylon.


17th - Returned to Trincomalee after arrival of convoy.


21st - Deployed with HM Battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT, HM Battlecruiser RENOWN, HM Cruisers LONDON and CEYLON screened by ten destroyers, for offensive sweep in Indian Ocean (Operation DIPLOMAT).


27th - Met US Aircraft Carrier SARATOGA and US destroyers joining Eastern Fleet Returned with Eastern Fleet ships to Ceylon..




2nd - Arrived at Trincomalee.


18th - Joined HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, HMS VALIANT, French battleship RICHELIEU), HM Cruisers CEYLON, NEWCASTLE, NIGERIA and Dutch cruiser TROMP in Task Force 69. Detached with HMS CEYLON to cover air attacks on Sabang by HM Aircraft Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS and USS SARATOGA as Task Force 70. (Operation COCKPIT).




6th - Joined HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, HMS VALIANT, FS RICHELIEU, HM Cruisers NEWCASTLE, HMS NIGERIA, and Netherlands cruiser TROMP (Task Force 65) to cover air strikes on Soerabaya by HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and USS SARATOGA (TF66). (Operation TRANSOM).


8th - Full transfer to RNZN approved except for operational control.


15th - Refuelled at Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia from Replenishment Group.


17th - Covered flying operations from position south of Java.


27th - Returned to Trincomalee with Eastern Fleet after refuelling in Exmouth Gulf.




10th - Deployed with HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and HM Escort Carrier ATHELING for offensive sweep in Bay of Bengal.


11th - Covered carrier operations at targets in Sabang as diversion during US assault on Marianas (Operation FORAGER).


13th - Passage to Madras to embark FAA personnel for transfer to Colombo.


17th - Rest and Recuperation period at Colombo.




Carried out exercises with Eastern Fleet.


22nd - Joined Eastern Fleet cover for attacks by HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and HMS VICTORIOUS for bombardment of Sabang with HMS VALIANT, HMS RENOWN, FS RICHELIEU, HM Cruisers CUMBERLAND, KENYA, NIGERIA, CEYLON, Netherlands cruiser TROMP and destroyers (Operation CRIMSON).


25th - Bombarded shore batteries at Sabang with HMS KENYA.




Carried out Squadron exercises.




8th - Joined in Eastern Fleet exercises with HM Battleship HOWE, HM Cruisers CUMBERLAND and LONDON.


10th - Under refit at Colombo.




6th - Rejoined Squadron on completion of refit.


16th - Joined escort for convoy to Fremantle during passage to New Zealand.




Paid series of call at ports in New Zealand before arrival at Wellington.


22nd - Transferred to British Pacific Fleet on formation.




Taken in hand for refit by HM New Zealand Dockyard, Auckland.



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26th - On completion of post refit trials carried out work-up for BPF service in Auckland area.




14th - Passage to Sydney with HM Battleship HOWE screen by HM Australian Destroyers QUALITY and QUEENBOROUGH. Carried out gunnery exercises on passage with HMS HOWE.




1st - Sailed with part of BPF for exercises prior to passage to Manus to join British Task Force 113


17th - Joined TF113 at Manus. (For details of all BPF operations see THE FORGOTTEN FLEET by John Winton, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY, OPERATION PACIFIC by E Gray and WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO).)


23rd - Joined Task Force 57 on formation with ships of Task Force 113 when approval was given by US Navy Commander in Chief for British ships to be deployed with the US 5th Fleet for operations against airfields in the Sakishima Group. Designated as part of Task Group 57.5 with HM Cruisers SWIFTSURE, BLACK PRINCE and ARGONAUT. Sailed from Ulithi for Operation ICEBERG ONE.


27th - Covered series of air attacks by HM Aircraft Carriers INDOMITABLE, VICTORIOUS, ILLUSTRIOUS and IMPLACABLE on airfields in Sakishima-Gunto Group with TF57.




1st - Under sustained air attack including the first by KAMIKAZES.


2nd - Detached to tow damaged destroyer HMS ULSTER to Leyte for repair, escorted by HM Destroyer QUIBERON (RAN).


4th - Joined by minesweepers HMAS BALLARAT and LISMORE. Tow broke and replacement delayed passage.


6th - Returned to operations from Leyte with HM Cruiser UGANDA, HM Destroyer URCHIN and URSA.


11th - Rejoined TF57 with HMS UGANDA and deployed to cover carrier attacks on airfields in Formosa by HMS INDEFATIGABLE (Operation ICEBERG OOLONG).


13th - Accidentally shot down HELLCAT aircraft.


16th - Resumed covering role for British carrier attacks on Sakishima Gunto.


20th - Took passage to Leyte with TF57 after 6th strike by RN carriers.


23rd - Arrived at Leyte. (Note: The ship had and epidemic of mumps on board with 45 personnel infected).




4th - Deployed with TF57 in joint operations with US TF58 for renewed air attacks and bombardments of targets in Sakishima-Gunto (Operation ICEBERG TWO). Redesignated as part of Task Group 57.5 with HM Cruisers SWIFTSURE, UGANDA (RCN), EURYALUS and BLACK PRINCE (See above references).


TG57.5 detached with HM Battleships KING GEORGE V and HOWE for bombardment of the airfields on Miyako Shima. Withdrew after signal received notifying RN aircraft carriers in Task Group 57.2 were under extensive air attacks (See above references).


8th - Further KAMIKAZE attacks during which HMS FORMIDABLE and HMS VICTORIOUS were hit.


23rd - Took passage to Manus prior to R&R period at Sydney. (For full details see above references.)


27th - On re-organisation by US Navy transferred to US 3rd Fleet in redesignated as TF37.


30th - Passage to Sydney.




5th - Arrived Sydney for repair and leave.


28th - Took passage with ships of TF37 for Manus arriving on 4th July.




4th - Arrives at Manus with TF37 ships


6th - Took passage to join BPF ships off Japan (Operation OLYMPIC initial phase).


16th - Joined TF 37 with HM Battleship KING GEORGE V, HM Aircraft Carriers FORMIDABLE, VICTORIOUS, IMPLACABLE, HM Cruisers NEWFOUNDLAND, ACHILLES (RNZN), EURYALUS, UGANDA (RCN), BLACK PRINCE and Fleet destroyers to cover joint air operations and bombardments by TF37 and TF38 off Japan.


18th - Covered carrier group during air attacks on targets in Tokyo - Yokohama area.




2nd - Detached with HM Cruisers ARGONAUT, BLACK PRINCE and NEWFOUNDLAND to provide radio communications link between BPF and US TF38.


4th - Released from Link duties.


9th - Detached as Task Unit 37.1.8 to join US Task Unit 34.8.1 to carry out bombardment of Ironworks at Kamaishi, Northern Honshu with HMS NEWFOUNDLAND, HM Destroyers TERMAGANT and TERPSICHORE. Under air attack and shot down one aircraft. Rejoined TF37 on completion.


12th - Transferred to TF38 with HMS KING GEORGE V, HMS INDEFATIGABLE, HMS NEWFOUNDLAND and nine RN Fleet destroyers of 24th Destroyer Flotilla as TG38.5 under command of US Admiral TF38.


13th - Covered HMS INDEFATIGABLE during air attacks on airfields and shipping in North Honshu and Hokkaido.


14th - Covering operations in continuation.


15th - Shot down one aircraft attacking force at the time of official cease-fire. (For details see above references.)


31st - Entered Tokyo Bay with HMS NEWFOUNDLAND.




2nd - Represented RNZN at Japanese surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay. (For RNZN war service see AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND WARSHIPS by R. Gillett).



P o s t†† W a r†† N o t e s


HMS GAMBIA remained as part of the Royal New Zealand Navy although with a reduced complement from January 1946. The ship then returned to UK with a call at Sydney before arriving at Plymouth of 27th March in 1948. After refit she was deployed as Flagship of the 5th Cruiser Squadron in the Pacific Fleet until 1948 when she Paid-off into Reserve at Devonport. Brought forward in 1950 she was deployed in the Mediterranean Flagship of the 1st Cruiser Squadron for two commissions. After refit she re-commissioned in 1955 and went to the East Indies as Flagship of the CinC East Indies until completing a General Service Commission in 1956. . On completion of a refit at Rosyth this cruiser re-commissioned for General Service (Note: from 1956 until August 1958, HMS GAMBIA served a commission in the East Indies  Station - courtesy Peter Wright who served on her) and was deployed in Home waters, in the Mediterranean and finally in the Indian Ocean where she gave aid to Mauritius after the island had had sustained major cyclone damage in 1960. On return to UK she served briefly in Home Waters before Paying-off at Portsmouth on 7th December 1960. Placed in Reserve the ship went on the Disposal List in 1968 and was sold to BISCO for demolition by T W Ward at Inverkeithing. She arrived in tow at the beakersí yard on 5th December that year and was broken up in 1969.







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













OW 001/1





MC 002





CM 037A










OW 002/1








(Note on Convoys)



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revised 10/6/11
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