List of cruiser classes of the Royal Navy

First class cruisers

Armoured cruisers were protected by a belt of side armour and an armoured deck. In the Royal Navy this classification was not actually used, the term first class cruiser being used instead for both armoured cruisers and large protected cruisers. Thus, the first class cruisers built between the Orlando class (1886) and the Cressy class (1897) were, strictly speaking, protected cruisers as they lacked an armoured belt. The first class cruiser was succeeded by the Battlecruiser in the Royal Navy.

Protected cruisers

Protected cruisers were so-called because their vital machinery spaces were protected by an armoured deck and the arrangement of coal bunkers. The ships below are all protected cruisers, but were rated as second and third class cruisers by the Royal Navy. The third class cruiser was not expected to operate with the fleet, was substantially smaller than the second class and lacked the watertight double-bottom of the latter. With the advent of turbine machinery, oil firing and better armour plate the protected cruiser became obsolete and was succeeded by the light cruiser.

  • Iris class second class cruiser, 3,730 tons, 10-64pdr
  • Comus class third class cruiser, 2,380 tons (Constance 2,590 tons), 2-7in + 12-64pdr (except Comus 4-6in + 8-64pdr; Canada & Cordelia 10-6in)
    • Comus (1878) – Sold 1904
    • Curacoa (1878) – Sold 1904
    • Champion (1878) – Sold 1919
    • Cleopatra (1878) – Sold 1931
    • Carysfort (1878) – Sold 1899
    • Conquest (1878) – Sold 1899
    • Constance (1880) – Sold 1899
    • Canada (1881) – Sold 1897
    • Cordelia (1881) – Sold 1904
  • Leander class second class cruiser, 4,300 tons, 10-6in
  • Calypso class third class cruiser, 2,770 tons, 4-6in + 12-5in
    • Calypso (1883) – Sold 1922
    • Calliope (1884) – Sold 1951 (drill ship from 1907)
  • Surprise class third class cruiser, 1,700 tons, 4-5in
    • Surprise (1885)
    • Alacrity (1885)
  • Mersey class second class cruiser, 4,050 tons, 2-8in, 10-6in
    • Mersey (1885) – Sold 1905
    • Severn (1885) – Sold 1905
    • Thames (1885) – Renamed General Botha, scuttled 1947
    • Forth (1886) – Sold 1921
  • Scout class third class torpedo cruiser, 1,580 tons, 4-5in
    • Scout (1885)
    • Fearless (1886)
  • Archer class third class torpedo cruiser, 1,770 tons, 6-6in
  • Marathon class second class cruiser, 2,850 tons, 6-6in
    • Magicienne (1888)
    • Medea (1888) – Sold 1914
    • Medusa (1888) – Sold 1920
    • Marathon (1888)
    • Melpomene (1888)
  • Barracouta class third class cruiser, 1,580 tons, 6-4.7in
    • Barracouta (1889)
    • Barrosa (1889)
    • Blanche (1889)
    • Blonde (1889)
  • Barham class third class cruiser, 1,830 tons, 6-4.7in
    • Barham (1889)
    • Bellona (1890)
  • Pearl class third class cruiser, 2,575 tons, 8-4.7in
  • Apollo class second class cruiser, 3,400 tons, 2-6in, 6-4.7in
    • Latona (1890) – Sold 1920
    • Melampus (1890) – Sold 1910
    • Andromache (1890)
    • Sirius (1890) – Scuttled 1918
    • Terpsichore (1890) – Sold 1914
    • Naiad (1890) – Sold 1922
    • Pique (1890) – Sold 1911
    • Thetis (1890) – Scuttled 1918
    • Sybille (1890) – Wrecked 1901
    • Apollo (1891)
    • Tribune (1891) – Sold 1911
    • Spartan (1891) – Renamed Defiance 1921, sold 1931
    • Indefatigable (1891)
    • Rainbow (1891) – To Canada as HMCS Rainbow 1910
    • Sappho (1891) – Sold 1921
    • Intrepid (1891) – Scuttled 1918
    • Brilliant (1891)
    • Retribution (1891) – Sold 1911
    • Scylla (1891) – Sold 1914
    • Aeolus (1891)
    • Iphigenia (1891) – Scuttled 1918
  • Astraea class second class cruiser, 4,360 tons, 2-6in, 8-4.7in
  • Eclipse class second class cruiser, 5,600 tons, 5-6in, 6-4.7in
  • Arrogant class second class cruiser, 5,750 tons, 4-6in, 6-4.7in
    • Arrogant (1896) – Sold 1923
    • Furious (1896) – Renamed Forte 1915, sold 1923
    • Gladiator (1896) – Collision 1908, refloated, sold 1909
    • Vindictive (1897) – Scuttled 1918
  • Pelorus class third class cruiser, 2,135 tons, 8-4in
  • Highflyer class second class cruiser, 5,650 tons, 11-6in
  • Challenger class second class cruiser, 5,880 tons, 11-6in
    • Challenger (1902) – Sold 1920
    • Encounter (1902) – To Australia 1912 as HMAS Encounter, renamed Penguin 1923, scuttled 1932
  • Topaze class third class cruiser, 3,000 tons, 12-4in
    • Topaze (1903) – Sold 1921
    • Amethyst (1903) – Sold 1920
    • Diamond (1904) – Sold 1921
    • Sapphire (1904) – Sold 1921

Scout cruisers

The scout cruiser was a smaller, faster, more lightly armed and armoured cruiser than the protected cruiser, intended for fleet scouting duties and acting as a flotilla leader. Essentially there were two distinct groups – the eight vessels all ordered under the 1903 Programme, and the seven later vessels ordered under the 1907-1910 Programmes. The advent of better machinery and larger, faster destroyers and light cruisers effectively made them obsolete.

Light cruisers

The light armoured cruiser – light cruiser – succeeded the protected cruiser; improvements in machinery and armour rendering the latter obsolete. The Town class of 1910 were rated as second-class protected cruisers, but were effectively light armoured cruisers with mixed coal and oil firing. The Arethusa class of 1913 were the first oil-only fired class. This meant that the arrangement of coal bunkers in the hull could no longer be relied upon as protection and the adoption of destroyer-type machinery resulted in a higher speed. This makes the Arethusas the first "true example" of the warship that came to be recognised as the light cruiser. In the London Naval Treaty of 1930, light cruisers were officially defined as cruisers having guns of 6.1 inches (155 mm) calibre or less, with a displacement not exceeding 10,000 tons.

Heavy cruisers

The heavy cruiser was defined in the London Naval Treaty of 1930 as a cruiser with a main gun calibre not exceeding 8 inches. The earlier Hawkins class were therefore retrospectively classified as such, although they had been initially built as "improved light cruisers". The County and York classes were also built as light cruisers with most of them in service at the time of the Treaty of London, after which they were also redesignated heavy cruisers.

  • Cavendish or Hawkins class 9,860 tons, 7-7.5in
    • Cavendish (1918) – completed as carrier Vindictive, to cruiser 1925, to training ship 1937
    • Hawkins (1919) – scrapped 1947
    • Raleigh (1920) – wrecked 1922
    • Frobisher (1924) – scrapped 1949
    • Effingham (1925) – wrecked 1940
  • County class, 8-8in
    • Kent group 10,570 tons
      • Cumberland (1928) – scrapped 1959
      • Berwick (1928) – scrapped 1948
      • Cornwall (1928) – bombed 1942
      • Suffolk (1928) – scrapped 1948
      • Kent (1928) – scrapped 1948
      • Australia (1928) – Royal Australian Navy, scrapped 1955
      • Canberra (1928) – Royal Australian Navy, torpedoed 1942
    • London group 9,830 tons
      • London (1929) – scrapped 1950
      • Devonshire (1929) – scrapped 1954
      • Shropshire (1929) – to Royal Australian Navy 1943, scrapped 1955
      • Sussex (1929) – scrapped 1950
    • Norfolk group 10,300 tons
      • Norfolk (1930) – scrapped 1950
      • Dorsetshire (1930) – sunk by dive bombers in Far East 1942
  • York class modified County design 8,250 tons, 6-8in
    • York (1930) – damaged by explosive motor boats, salvage abandoned and wrecked 1941, scrapped 1952
    • Exeter (1931) – sunk 1942, Far East

Large light cruisers

The "large light cruisers" were a pet project of Admiral Fisher to operate in shallow Baltic Sea waters and they are often classed as a form of battlecruiser.

Minelaying cruisers

These "minelaying cruisers" were the only purpose-built oceangoing minelayers of the Royal Navy.

Through deck cruisers

Although at times called "through deck cruisers", the Invincible class of the 1980s were small aircraft carriers.

See also

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