HMS Coventry (D43)

HMS Coventry was a C-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy, named after the English city of Coventry. She was part of the Ceres group of the C-class of cruisers.

United Kingdom
Class and type: C-class light cruiser
Name: HMS Coventry
Builder: Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-on-Tyne
Laid down: 4 August 1916
Launched: 6 July 1917
Commissioned: 21 February 1918
Reclassified: Converted to Anti-Aircraft cruiser before the Second World War
Fate: Damaged and scuttled 14 September 1942
General characteristics
Displacement: 4,190 tons
Length: 450 ft (140 m)
Beam: 43.6 ft (13.3 m)
Draught: 14 ft (4.3 m)
  • Two Brown-Curtis geared turbines
  • Six Yarrow boilers
  • Two propellers
  • 40,000 shp
Speed: 29 knots (54 km/h)
Range: carried 300 tons (950 tons maximum) of fuel oil
Complement: 327

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(as built)

(At outbreak of World War 2)

  • 10 × 4-inch (102 mm) (102 mm) guns on high-angle mounts
  • 8 × 12.7mm machine guns on two quad mounts
  • 3 inch side (amidships)
  • 2¼-1½ inch side (bows)
  • 2 inch side (stern)
  • 1 inch upper decks (amidships)
  • 1 inch deck over rudder

Early career and wartime service

Coventry was initially going to be called HMS Corsair. She was laid down on 4 August 1916, launched 6 July 1917 and completed for naval service in February 1918. HMS Coventry was in the 5th Light Cruiser squadron from February 1918 till May 1919, and served in the Baltic in this time. Commissioned with the pennant (D43) in May 1919 she was accepted into the Atlantic fleet, until in 1920 when HMS Coventry became the HQ ship for naval Inter allied Disarmament Commission. She went into refit in late 1920 and once the refit was completed she joined the 2nd Light cruiser squadron and she became flagship to the Rear-Admiral [D], Mediterranean Fleet Andrew Cunningham. A torpedo explosion while in Gibraltar in March 1923 caused the death of two of her crew, Chief Stoker Burt and ERA Jackson. In 1935, Coventry went into Portsmouth Dockyard to be refitted as an anti-aircraft cruiser. This refit involved the removal of her 6-inch guns and torpedo tubes, and the fitting of 10 QF 4-inch Mk V guns on single high-angle mountings and 2 octuple-mounted QF 40mm 'pom-pom' autocannon. The 12-pounder AA guns were retained. At the outbreak of World War II HMS Coventry was serving with the Home Fleet between 1939 and 1940, and was damaged on 1 January 1940 in a German air attack on the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland. She was assigned to the Mediterranean fleet in 1940, and was torpedoed and damaged by the Italian submarine Neghelli in the eastern Mediterranean. Coventry also participated in the Battle of Cape Spartivento.[1]

The Victoria Cross

On 18 May 1941 the first Victoria Cross of the Mediterranean campaign was awarded posthumously to Petty Officer Alfred Edward Sephton for "great courage and endurance" while on HMS Coventry as she was being attacked on 17 May 1941 by German Stuka dive bombers while off Crete. The Coventry had gone to the assistance of hospital ship Aba,[2] which was being attacked by German dive-bombers. When the enemy engaged Coventry, raking her with machine-gun fire, Petty Officer Sephton was mortally wounded, a bullet actually passing through his body and injuring an able seaman beside him. Although in great pain and partially blinded, he stuck to his instruments and carried out his duties until the attack was over. He died of his injuries next day. Petty Officer Sephton was buried at sea. His VC was on display at Coventry Cathedral but was stolen on 25 September 1990.


HMS Coventry was heavily damaged in the Eastern Mediterranean, north-west of Alexandria, Egypt by 16 German Junkers Ju 88s of I./Lehrgeschwader 1 under the command of Joachim Helbig, whilst participating in Operation Agreement. 8./StG 3 also took part in the attack. The ship was on fire and had to be scuttled by HMS Zulu.


  1. A Sailor's Odyssey , the Autobiography of R/A Cunningham.
  2. "Aba 1918 HMHS - Hospital Ship". Retrieved 13 April 2019.

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