HMS Aurora (12)

HMS Aurora was an Arethusa-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy. She was built by Portsmouth Dockyard, with the keel being laid down on 27 July 1935. She was launched on 20 August 1936, and commissioned 12 November 1937.

Aurora at anchor off Liverpool, April 1942
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Aurora
Builder: Portsmouth Dockyard
Laid down: 27 July 1935
Launched: 20 August 1936
Commissioned: 12 November 1937
Decommissioned: April 1946
Identification: Pennant number: 12
Fate: Sold on 19 May 1948 to the Nationalist Chinese Navy
Republic of China
Name: Chung King
Acquired: 19 May 1948
Fate: Defected to Communist China
People's Republic of China
Name: Tchoung King
  • Huang He (1951)
  • Pei Ching (1951)
  • Kuang Chou
Fate: Continued in service until mid-1950s
General characteristics
Class and type: Arethusa-class light cruiser
  • 5,220 tons standard load
  • 6,665 tons full load
Length: 506 ft (154 m)
Beam: 51 ft (16 m)
Draught: 14 ft (4.3 m)
  • Four Parsons geared steam turbines
  • Four Admiralty 3-drum oil-fired boilers
  • Four shafts
  • 64,000 shp
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h)
Range: Unknown; 1,325 tons fuel oil
Complement: 500
Aircraft carried: One aircraft (later removed)


Aurora served with the Home Fleet from completion as Rear Admiral (D). In September 1939 she was with the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, escorting convoys to Scandinavia and engaged in the hunt for the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. From October 1940 she was commanded by Captain William Gladstone Agnew. After the Norwegian Campaign she participated in the operations hunting the German battleship Bismarck and, with the cruiser Kenya, intercepted one of the German supply ships, Belchen, on 3 June 1941.

Between July and August 1941, as part of Force K with the Home Fleet, she was involved in operations to Spitzbergen and Bear Island (Operation Gauntlet). After one of these sorties, in company with the cruiser Nigeria, she intercepted a German troop convoy off Northern Norway, and the German Bremse was sunk. In the autumn she was transferred to the Mediterranean and arrived in Malta on 21 October 1941 to join a new Force K.[3]

On 9 November 1941 leading Force K, consisting of HMS Penelope, HMS Lance and HMS Lively, she was involved in the destruction of the Beta Convoy. In the resulting battle the Italian destroyer Fulmine was sunk, as well as the German transports Duisburg and San Marco, the Italian transports Maria, Sagitta and Rina Corrado, and the Italian Conte di Misurata and Minatitlan. The Italian destroyers Grecale and Euro were damaged.[4]

On 24 November Force K, made up of the British light cruisers Aurora and Penelope and the destroyers Lance and Lively, intercepted an Axis convoy about 100 nautical miles west of Crete. The Axis convoy was bound from the Aegean to Benghazi. The two German transports in the convoy, Maritza and Procida were both sunk by HMS Penelope and HMS Lively despite the presence of the Italian torpedo boats Lupo and Cassiopea. On 1 December 1941 Force K with HMS Penelope and HMS Lively attacked the Mantovani Convoy. The Italian destroyer Alvise Da Mosto and the sole cargo ship Mantovani were sunk.[5]

HMS Aurora also participated in the First Battle of Sirte on 17 December 1941. On 19 December while steaming off Tripoli she was heavily damaged in a mine field and was forced to retire to Malta.[6]

After her return to the Mediterranean she joined Force H, and in November was part of the Centre Task Force for the Landings in North Africa, Operation Torch. Off Oran, she engaged the Vichy French destroyers Tramontane and Tornade on 8 November 1942, sinking the latter and damaging the former so badly that she had to be beached. The following day she badly damaged the destroyer Épervier and drove her ashore. By December she was operating as part of Force Q at Bône against the Axis evacuation and supply convoys between Trapani and Tunis.

Then, as a unit of the 15th Cruiser Squadron, she participated in the invasion of Sicily and the Salerno landings (Operation Avalanche) before moving into the Aegean in October 1943. While escorting British destroyers reinforcing troops on the island of Leros on 30 October, she was attacked by German Junkers 87 and 88 aircraft off Castellorizo, sustaining a 500 kg bomb hit abaft the after funnel. The explosion and subsequent fire killed 47 crew. Aurora was forced to withdraw to Taranto for repairs which lasted until April 1944.[7] In August 1944 she was at the landings in the south of France, then returned to the Aegean, where she assisted in the liberation of Athens. One notable member of crew was the actor Kenneth More, who used his theatre skills in his role as 'action broadcaster' to describe to the crew below decks via the public address system what was happening when the ship was in action.[8]

Chinese service

After the war Aurora was sold on 19 May 1948 to the Chinese Navy as compensation for six Chinese custom patrol ships and one cargo ship that the British seized in Hong Kong and lost during the war. She was renamed Chung King, after the Chinese war time capital of Chung King (Chongqing), and became the flagship of the Chinese navy. On 25 February 1949 her crew defected to the Communists with the ship. Her name in Chinese remained unchanged but the Communists romanised the name differently, as Tchoung King. In March 1949 she was sunk in Taku harbour by Nationalist aircraft. She was later salvaged with Soviet assistance but then stripped bare as "repayment". The empty hulk spent the rest of her life as an accommodation and warehouse ship, being subsequently renamed Yellow River (Huang He) in 1959, when it was transferred to Shanghai on 27 October of that year to be converted to a salvage ship at a planned budget of 3 million ¥. After spending 276,000 ¥, the conversion project was cancelled, and the ship was once again transferred, this time to Tianjin in June 1965, used as a barracks ship and renamed Beijing. She served until the 1990s before finally being retired and scrapped. Her name tablet and ship bell were preserved in the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution.[9]

Commanding officers


  1. Lenton & Colledge 1968 p.41
  2. Campbell 1985 p.34
  3. Our Name Wasn't Written – a Malta Memoir, Caroline Vernon, Canberra, 1992, p37 ISBN 0-646-07198-X
  4. "Struggle for the Middle Sea", Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2009, p 143-147 ISBN 978-1-59114-648-3.
  5. "Struggle for the Middle Sea", Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2009, p 150-152 ISBN 978-1-59114-648-3.
  6. "Struggle for the Middle Sea", Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2009, p 155-159 ISBN 978-1-59114-648-3.
  9. Archived 15 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine


  • Caruana, Joseph (2006). "The Demise of Force "K"". Warship International. XLIII (1): 99–111. ISSN 0043-0374.
  • Chesneau, Roger, ed. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7.
  • Raven, Alan; Roberts, John (1980). British Cruisers of World War Two. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-922-7.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2.
  • Whitley, M. J. (1995). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. London: Cassell. ISBN 1-86019-874-0.
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