Crown Colony-class cruiser
The Crown Colony-class cruisers were a class of light cruisers of the Royal Navy named after Crown Colonies of the British Empire. The first eight are known as the Fiji class, while the last three to be built are commonly referred to as the Ceylon class and were built to a slightly modified design.
|Name:||Crown Colony class|
|Preceded by:||Dido class|
|Succeeded by:||Minotaur class|
|Class and type:||Light cruiser|
|Length:||555 ft 6 in (169.32 m) overall|
|Beam:||62 ft (19 m)|
|Draught:||16 ft 6 in (5.03 m)|
|Range:||10,100 nmi (18,700 km; 11,600 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)|
|Aircraft carried:||Two Supermarine Walrus aircraft (removed by 1944, never fitted in Fiji or Kenya)|
They were built to the limitations that the Second London Naval Treaty imposed on cruisers, which lowered the Washington limit of 10,000 tons to 8,000 tons, and were at least in external appearance smaller derivatives of the Town-class cruiser. The Colony-class cruisers however like the following Minotaurs, essentially fit the same armament on a 1,000 ton less displacement and the Colony class and the follow on Swiftsure were very tight designs, built largely in war emergency conditions with little margin for any great updating postwar. The 62 feet (19 m) beam imposing crippling limits. The armour scheme was revised from that of the Towns in that the main belt now protected the 6 inch ammunition spaces, although the belt itself was reduced to 3.5 and 3.25 inches (89 and 83 mm) in the machinery spaces. The 6-inch (150 mm) Mk XXIII turrets and ammunition spaces were laid out as per the Edinburgh group of the Town class, except the after turrets were a deck lower as in the Southampton and Gloucester groups. The long turret version of the triple 6-inch gun fitted to the Colony class were 25 tons heavier than the 150 ton turret on the Group 1 & 2 Towns and further cramped the design. The supply of ammunition to the 4-inch (102 mm) guns was also improved, dispensing with the complicated conveyor system. The Crown Colonies were instantly recognisable as they had a transom stern and straight funnels and masts; those of the Towns being raked. Due to the size of the Crown Colony class, a number of the ships had their 'X' turret removed to allow the shipping of additional light anti-aircraft (AA) guns. Ships of the Fiji group were equipped with the HACS AA fire control system for the secondary armament while the Ceylon group used the Fuze Keeping Clock for AA fire control. Both groups used the Admiralty Fire Control Table for surface fire control of the main armament and the Admiralty Fire Control Clock for surface fire control of the secondary armament. By the late 1940s most of the Crown Colony class had the updated 274 lock and follow surface fire control radar, which massively increased the chance of hits from the opening salvoes. In the 1950s (except during the Korean War and Suez operation) no more than one of the MKXIII turrets was ever manned, with 'B' and 'Y' turrets mothballed due to the huge manning requirements of the turrets. This allowed for more liveable peacetime conditions by operating with a crew of 610–750 rather than the wartime crew 1,000–1,100.
The addition of radar sets meant that the aircraft were now surplus to requirements, allowing the removal of the aircraft and catapult. Not only did this provide additional accommodation spaces for enlarged wartime crews, but there was no longer the need to carry large quantities of volatile aviation fuel; in 1940, Liverpool had her bow blown off when a torpedo detonated the 5,700 gallons of aviation fuel stored forwards and was out of action for a year. Fiji and Kenya never received the catapult, Nigeria had hers removed in 1941 and the other ships had theirs removed between 1942 and 1944.
The Ceylon group were completed without 'X' 6-inch turret, and between 1944 and 1945, those of Bermuda, Jamaica, Mauritius and Kenya were also removed. This allowed the carriage of additional light AA weapons, a quadruple QF 2 pdr pom-pom mounting Mark VII generally being carried in 'X' position. Bermuda, Jamaica and Mauritius had 2 additional quadruple pom-poms added (for a total of five) and between 2 and 4 single pom-poms in powered mountings Mark XV. In Kenya, all pom-poms were removed, and were replaced with 5 twin and 8 single 40 mm /60 Bofors AA guns. By the end of the war, Newfoundland had one and Uganda had 2 American pattern quadruple 40 mm /60 Bofors mounts Mark III and Nigeria had 4 single mounts Mark III. Generally, 6 to 24 20 mm Oerlikon guns were also added in a mixture of single mounts Mark IIIA and twin powered mounts Mark V. Postwar modifications of the class were very limited with improved Type 274 lock and follow surface fire control, Newfoundland like Superb and SWiftsure had a fragile and unreliable, glasshouse version of Type 275 for twin 4 inch control, Ceylon the short range type 262 MRS1 AA control limited to about 4 km tracking, Bermuda and Gambia had much more advanced US MK 63 radar with 4 HADCT and separate radar disks on the mounts themselves as in US cruiser secondary and tertiary 5 and 3 inch mounts using systems redundant after the cancellation of HMS Vanguards 1955 long refit. Slightly improved new versions of the basic twin 4-inch gun mounts were generally, fitted in 1950 extended refits, with electric drive and training and elevation speed of 20 degrees/sec to track subsonic jets. US advice and offers under mutual assistance to replace the obsolete and inaccurate 4-inch guns with standard 1951 introduced twin 3-inch 50-calibre 20-ton turrets of similar weight and dimensions as the old RN twin 4-inch XIX turrets were rejected because the RN had huge stocks of 4-inch and L60 shells These ships would have been altered for water sprays to wash off nuclear fallout and received the 960 standard long-range air search. Newfoundland received a greater of electrical updating, rewiring and more comprehensive AA fire control and was the only Crown Colony-class vessel updated close to the standard planned for the improved Didos which were intended for hot war with eventual reboilering, while the Crown Colony class were only refitted for GFS and Colonial patrol and presence. Mid-1950s refitting to Ceylon, Gambia and Bermuda was very austere and mainly consisted of increasing automation and the life of the geared steam turbines and reducing manning below decks and simplification of the CIWS to 6-8 twin L/60 Bofors in Mk 5 twin mountings with fire rate from each 40 mm rifle increased to 150 rpm and 280–300 rpm for each twin Mk 5 and would have stopped earlier WW2 low-level or later Falklands-type attacks, by which time the RN no longer fitted 40 mm CIWS, the last withdrawn with HMS Bulwark in 1981.
They served with distinction during the Second World War. Jamaica took part in a number of operations, including driving off the heavy cruisers Admiral Hipper and Lützow in 1942, the sinking of the battleship Scharnhorst in 1943, and escorting carrier air attacks on the battleship Tirpitz in 1944. Fiji was lost in 1941, and Trinidad the following year. The survivors continued in service after the war, taking part in further actions, such as the Korean War. Ceylon was later sold to Peru, being renamed Coronel Bolognesi, along with Newfoundland, which was renamed Almirante Grau. These two ships were decommissioned by 1982. Nigeria was also sold, to India, who had it reconstructed in 1954-7 to the same standard as Newfoundland. As INS Mysore, the ship was heavily used from the time of her transfer, seeing action in the 1971 war with Pakistan, and later converted to a harbour training ship in 1979. She was decommissioned by 1984 and then scrapped in 1985, and as such she was the longest-lived (41 years) member of her class.
All ships of the Crown Colony class were decommissioned from active service with the Royal Navy by 1962 and began being sold for scrap, though Bermuda was fully operational during 1961 and sometimes ventured to sea in 1962 as flagship of the reserve fleet. Gambia had been reduced to reserve in December 1960 and Ceylon and Newfoundland sold to Peru a year earlier. During the 1950s the larger Town-class cruisers were usually regarded as more habitable and comfortable in patrolling in the tropics and Far East, although being older their operational use generally ceased by 1958 and went for scrap the following year except for Sheffield (which had at sea deployments as a reserve flagship until late 1960 and was then, maintained as a reserve headquarters ship) and Belfast which stayed in active seaworthy service until 1963. Sheffield and Belfast were the last of the wartime commissioned cruisers considered capable of reactivation for GFS and were in semi maintained reserve until the election of the Labour Government in 1964, which immediately decided to scrap them, pending short term use as accommodation ships and consideration for historical preservation.
The last Crown Colony-class cruisers were seriously deteriorating due to being in an unmaintained extended reserve status many years. Gambia was considered as an alternative for use as the London museum ship, as the ship's condition was more original than Belfast, but Gambia was sold for scrap in 1968, because the state of the ship made it more expensive to preserve than Belfast. None of them were the last cruisers of the Royal Navy however. That honour went to Blake, a modified Tiger-class cruiser, which was decommissioned in 1980: the last classic Second World War cruiser design to serve in the Royal Navy.
Ships of the class
|Fiji||Colony of Fiji||John Brown, Clydebank||20 December 1937||30 March 1938||31 May 1939||5 May 1940||Sunk in air attack at Crete, 22 May 1941|
|Nigeria||Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria||Vickers-Armstrong, Walker||8 February 1938||18 July 1939||23 September 1940||Sold to Indian Navy as INS Mysore in 1954|
|Mauritius||Crown Colony of Mauritius||Swan Hunter, Wallsend||13 March 1938||19 July 1939||4 January 1941||Broken up at Inverkeithing, 1965|
|Kenya||Colony and Protectorate of Kenya||Alexander Stephens and Sons, Linthouse||18 June 1938||18 August 1939||28 August 1940||Broken up at Faslane, 1962|
|Trinidad||Island of Trinidad
(part of Crown Colony of Trinidad and Tobago1)
|HM Dockyard, Devonport||1 December 1937||21 April 1938||21 March 1940||14 October 1941||Scuttled following air attack off North Cape, 15 May 1942|
|Jamaica||Jamaica and Dependencies||Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness||1 March 1939||28 April 1939||16 November 1940||29 June 1942||Broken up at Dalmuir, 1960|
|Gambia||Gambia Colony and Protectorate||Swan Hunter, Wallsend||24 July 1939||30 November 1940||21 February 1942||Transferred to Royal New Zealand Navy as HMNZS Gambia 1943–1946|
Broken up at Inverkeithing, 1968
|Bermuda||Bermuda||John Brown, Clydebank||4 September 1939||30 November 1939||11 September 1941||5 August 1942||Broken up at Briton Ferry, 1965|
|Ceylon||Crown Colony of Ceylon||Alexander Stephens and Sons, Linthouse||1 March 1939||27 April 1939||30 July 1942||13 July 1943||Sold to Peruvian Navy as BAP Coronel Bolognesi in 1959|
|Uganda||Uganda Protectorate||Vickers-Armstrong, Walker||20 July 1939||7 August 1941||3 January 1943||Transferred to Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Uganda in 1944|
|Newfoundland||Dominion of Newfoundland||Swan Hunter, Wallsend||4 September 1939||9 November 1939||19 December 1941||21 January 1943||Sold to Peruvian Navy as BAP Almirante Grau in 1959|
- Bermuda – Took part in Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa, during World War II, as well as other operations. After the war, the ship continued in service, seeing much of the world, and receiving a number of refits which helped her last until her decommissioning in 1962. She was scrapped in 1965.
- Fiji – In 1940 Fiji was torpedoed by a German U-boat but survived. In 1941, during the Battle of Crete, Fiji was hit by a bomb from a German Bf 109 aircraft, after having survived 20 bomb hits, this one caused her to list heavily, though three further bombs proved fatal for the cruiser. 244 of her crew were lost.
- Gambia – Was transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy from 1943, seeing active service in the British Pacific Fleet. She was returned to the Royal Navy in 1946. The ship was scrapped in 1968.
- Jamaica – Served in World War II, taking part in a number of operations during that war, including the sinking of the Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape, driving off Admiral Hipper at the Battle of the Barents Sea, and escorting carrier air attacks on the Tirpitz. In the Korean War, Jamaica was known as "The Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast", due to the North Koreans claiming that she had been sunk three times. In 1955 Jamaica was used to play HMS Exeter in the film The Battle of the River Plate. She was scrapped in 1960.
- Kenya – Was heavily involved in World War II, being deployed to the Far East for some time. Kenya was also involved in the Korean War. She was scrapped in 1962.
- Mauritius – She was involved in the Normandy Landings, and other actions during World War II. She was scrapped in 1965.
- Nigeria – Was involved in Operation Pedestal (when she was damaged by Italian submarine Axum), the largest attempt to assist the besieged island of Malta in 1942. She participated in raids on Sumatra as part of the Eastern Fleet in 1945, as well as a number of other deployments. She was sold to India in 1958, being renamed Mysore. She was scrapped in 1985.
- Trinidad – In 1942 while engaging three German destroyers, she was hit by her own torpedo, which had a faulty gyroscope causing it to run in circles, though she did destroy one of the German warships. The same year, Trinidad was hit by Luftwaffe Ju 88 bombers, damaging her to an extent that her crew were forced to scuttle her in the Barents Sea the following day.
- Ceylon – Was deployed to the Far East for much of World War II, and was heavily involved in the Korean War. She was decommissioned in 1960, and subsequently sold to Peru, being renamed Coronel Bolognesi. She was decommissioned in 1982.
- Newfoundland – She was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Ascianghi, receiving temporary repairs at Malta, and full repairs at Boston Navy Yard. In 1944, the ship suffered an explosion at Alexandria while docked there. She sustained heavy damage, and suffered a number of casualties. She was in the Far East from 1945, supporting a number of operations there, and was present at the Japanese surrender, being one of the few British ships able to reach Japan in time. She sank the Egyptian frigate Domiat, during the Suez operations, after the latter ship fired on her. She was sold to Peru in 1959, being renamed Almirante Grau and then Capitan Quinones in 1973. She was decommissioned in 1979. She was scrapped in Japan, the country that she and her crew fought against in World War II.
- Uganda – Escorted RMS Queen Mary to Washington, D.C. with Winston Churchill embarked. Covered the invasion of Sicily in 1943. She was then hit by a German glide bomb that same year, causing significant damage and killing sixteen of her crew and wounding seven. Following repairs carried out in 1944 in the USA she was recommissioned in the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Uganda. She joined the British Pacific Fleet in 1945 taking part in a number of actions in the Far East. She was put in reserve in 1947 but recommissioned as HMCS Quebec for service in the Korean War. The ship was scrapped in 1961.
- Campbell, Naval Weapons of WWII, p.15.
- Conrad Walters. 'Last of the Colony cruisers' in Ships Monthly March 2016, p40
- N. Friedman. British Cruisers WW2 & After
- A. Preston. Warships of the World. Janes. London (1980) p87.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.
- Crown Colony class at Uboat.net
- WWII cruisers
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Crown Colony class cruiser.|
- Gunnery Layout of "Mauritius" Class Cruiser. from Gunnery Pocket Book 1945 placed online courtesy of Historic Naval Ships Association