The Crown Colony Class Cruisers

By the late 1930s the American and Japanese were bringing into service large 6-inch cruisers carrying fifteen guns in triple turrets. Britains initial reply was the eight ships of the Southampton Class, carrying twelve 6-inch in triple turrets. Armour protection was greatly increased with a 3 to 4-inch belt. These were very fine ships and were followed by the larger Belfast and Edinburgh which had a heavier belt. All these were completed before the war, while eleven ships of the Colony Class were building, being slightly smaller than the Southamptons, but with the Belfast's armour: they could be distinguished from the former by their upright funnels. Of the Southampton's three were lost; the Manchester, which had been the last cruiser to appear in the Far East in white and buff before the war, was torpedoed by an Italian motor-torpedo-boat in 1942. The Southampton had previously been lost to German aircraft during the most ferociously attacked of the Malta convoys in January 1941, while the Gloucester succumbed to the same enemy during the expensive operations resulting in the loss of Crete.

Of the rest, the Sheffield had a distinguished war record which included taking part in the sinkings of the Bismark and Scharnhorst and she was at the Barents Sea action on 31st December 1942, when she arrived in time to save Sherbrooke's heroic destroyers and drive off, with the Jamaica, the German cruisers Hipper and Lutzow; an action that sickened Hitler of his surface forces. The Sheffield continued after the war to be the last of her class and was scrapped in 1967. The Glasgow, with the Enterprise, engaged German destroyers in a running action in bad weather in late December 1943 and sank three of them. The two cruisers were under air attack at the same time. The Liverpool, which had her bows blown off by an aerial torpedo in 1940, was repaired but torpedoed again in June 1942 and remained out of servce until October 1945. The Birmingham distinguished herself in the bombardments of the Korean War of 1950 to 1952.

The Belfast and Edinburgh with their wide-spaced funnels separated by the main mast differed very much in appearance from the Southampton and Colonies. The Belfast was mined and broke her back early in the war but was repaired in time to take a distinguished part in the sinking of the Scharnhorst. She is Britains last conventional cruiser afloat, and has been preserved as a museum ship moored on the River Thames. The Edinburgh was sunk during an Arctic convoy action in May 1942.

The Colonies numbered eleven ships which completed beween 1940 and 1943. They were the Bermuda, Ceylon, Fiji, Gambia, Jamaica, Kenya, Mauritius, Newfoundland, Nigeria, Trinidad, Uganda. The growing preoccupation with anti-aircraft defence caused the suppression of turrets in the later ships,so as to save space and weight for more anti-aircraft guns. Two were lost in the war, both to German aircraft; the Fiji off Crete in 1941 and the Trinidad in the Barents Sea in 1942. The Gambia was loaned to the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Uganda to the Royal Canadian Navy. The Kenya and the Nigeria were damaged by torpedoes during the Malta convoy called 'Pedestal' in August 1942. The Jamaica, as already mentioned, fought the Lutzow and Hipper in the Barents Sea and she was also in action, steaming with the Duke of York, when they sank the Scharnhorst. After the war these cruisers continued in service into the 1960's, the last survivor being the Gambia. The Nigeria, which was the only one to retain her X turret, was sold to the Indian Navy in 1957 and the Newfoundland and Ceylon were sold to the Peruvian Navy in 1960.

A third batch of almost identical cruisers, the Superb, Swiftsure and Minotaur, followed. The Minotaur was transferred 'New' to Canada as the Ontario, and the Swiftsure was involvd in a dramatic collision with the destroyer Diamond in 1953. The paint-store in the Diamond's bows caused a fierce fire to rage under the cruisers bridge, which dropped 2 feet. Much time and money was spent on refitting her in Chathams dockyard but this was not completed and she never served again. The Superb, although the latest of the Southampton and Colonies type, was one of the first to be broken up. Prewar ships lasted longer - the difference between wartime and peacetime building.

Crown Colony Class Cruiser Sites

HMS Bermuda
HMS Ceylon (Association site)
HMS Fiji (Association site, Internet Archive). The site was started in 2000, but when I checked in March 2003, it couldn't be reached. The Internet Archive last indexed it in January 2003.
HMS Jamaica (hobby site similar to this one, Internet Archive). This site was active from 2007 to 2016 but is now only available on the Web Archive
HMS Kenya (Association site)
HMS Mauritius
HMS Nigeria (hobby site similar to this one)
HMS Newfoundland (Association site, Internet Archive) This site was active from 2002 to 2017 but now is only available on the Web Archive
HMS Trinidad
HMS Uganda (HMCS Uganda site)

Crown Colony Class Cruiser Summary of Service

In February 2020, someone asked for the Summary of Service for the Crown Colony Class Cruisers under the Freedom of Information Act from the Ministry of Defence. The document they were sent is available for viewting from the UK Government site or from this site.

It was inevitable that information and pictures of the other ships in the Crown Colony Class of cruisers would be received and those are presented here:

The following newspaper cuttings come from former Royal Marines Musician Dave Simmonds. It is thought the clippings come from the Straits Times of Malta, maybe in the early 1980s.

HMS Bermuda

HMS Bermuda
HMS Bermuda

The text reads:

HMS Bermuda: Adopted by West Bromwich in March 1942. A Crown Colony Class light cruiser launched in September 1941, her first duties were in Operation Torch and later in the year she went on convoy escort duty in the Atlantic and Arctic. She remained with the Home Fleet for most of the remainder of the war, taking part in Operation Neptune, but in August 1944 she began a refit in preparation for deployment with the Pacific Fleet.

She arrived at Sydney, Australia, in July 1945 but the war ended before she could begin active duties. In September 1945 she was present at the formal Japanese surrender at Formosa and she remained in the Far East until 1947, when she was placed on reserve. She was back on active service in 1950 in the South Atlantic and later saw service in the Mediterranean. She was decommissioned in 1962 and scrapped in 1965.

HMS Jamaica

In February 2019, Terry Bateman sent me some infomation about his father, Roy Bateman, who joined the Royal Navy just after the end of WWII. Roy's first ship was HMS Nelson after she had her rear turret removed, he also served on HMS Jamaica, HMS Swiftsure, snd HMS Phoebe. Terry remembers him saying HMS Phoebe was his favourite ship.

After leaving the Royal Navy he joined the merchant navy and joined the liner SS Canton where he continued with his hobby of photography eventually leaving the merchant navy, marrying, and opening his own photographic studios in Kentish Town, London, named Canton studios finally retiring in 1999 to Spain. Sadly, Roy passed away in 2014.

HMS Bermuda

Roy is second row, second from left of this photo from HMS Jamaica
Naval uniforms did change over the years and Alan Priestman suggests that because of the white caps and dark sea jerseys, this photo would have been taken around 1956.

HMS Newfoundland

HMS Newfoundland
HMS Newfoundland

The text reads:

HMS Newfoundland: adopted by Wolverhampton following the sinking of HMS Curacao. A Crown Colony Class light cruiser launnched in December 1941, she was briefly deployed with the Home Fleet before joining the Mediterranean Fleet in April 1943. In July she was engaged in the Allied landings on Scily bombarding targts on the island. Damaged by an Italian torpedo she sailed for repairs in Boston, USA, in August and returned to the UK for further work in June 1944.

In December 1944 she returned to the Mediterranean but in April 1945 she joined the Pacific Fleet in Australia. In June she was engaged in the attack on the Caroline Islands and in July she bombarded the Hitachi works north of Tokyo. She was present in Tokyo Bay when the official Instrument of Surrender was signed on 2nd September, 1945.

She remained with the Pacific Fleet throught 1946, returning to Britain in December. She was used for training until refitted and recommissioned in 1952. In November 1956, during the Suez Crisis, she engaged and sank the Egyptian frigate Domeat.

In 1959 she was sold to the Peruvian Navy and renamed Almirante Grau, only to be renamed again in 1973 as Capitan Quinonis. Taken out of service in 1979, she was later sold for scrap in Japan.

HMS Bermuda in 1943. HMS Bermuda, flagship of 5 Cruiser Squadron, enroute from Yokohama to Hong Kong in July 1946. HMS Bermuda. Built by John Brown, Clydebank. Laid down November 30, 1939. Launched 11 September 1941. Completed 21 August 1942. Paid off 1962. Broken up by Ward, Briton Ferry, 1965. HMS Bermuda and HMS Warrior entering Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta in 1953. Photo from dad's photo albums. HMS Bermuda was a Crown Colony-class cruiser. Dad served on HMS Gambia, her sister ship, from 1950 to 1952. HMS Warrior was a Colossus-class aircraft carrier and dad served on her from 1953 to 1955. HMS Bermuda in Valletta harbour, Malta HMS Bermuda in the late 1950s. The X-turret was removed in 1945 and the bridge totally enclosed in 1956 HMS Ceylon in 1942. Built by Alex. Stephen, Govan. Launched July 30, 1942. Completed July 13, 1943. Paid off 1959. Sold to Peru 1960. Retired May 1982. Scrapped August 1985 HMS Ceylon at anchor off Greenock, July 1943 HMS Ceylon at anchor off Greenock, July 9, 1943. Imperial War Museums A17911 HMS Ceylon in April 1950 HMS Ceylon in 1951 HMS Ceylon escorting the Royal Yacht Gothic to Colombo in April 1954 HMS Ceylon in 1957 HMS Ceylon HMS Ceylon from the ship's Christmas Card. Unfortunately I don't know the year or have the cover. HMS Ceylon with her paying-off pennant flying. Possiibly leaving Trincomalee in September, 1954 HMS Fiji on August 28, 1940. Imperial War Museums FL13125. HMS Fiji was sunk on May 22, 1941 during the Battle of Crete. HMS Fiji, C58. Built by John Brown, Clydebank. Laid down March 30, 1938. Launched May 31, 1939. Commissioned May 5, 1940. HMS Fiji was sunk on May 22, 1941 during the Battle of Crete. HMS Jamaica. Photo from Ray Holden. HMS Jamaica in dazzle paint at Hvalfjord, Iceland, photographed from the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable in October 1943. Photo: Imperial War Museums A20388. HMS Jamaica refueling at sea in September 1944. In the foreground is a rating holding a marked line which enables the navigator watching from the bridge to keep a true course during the operation. The tanker is probably RFA Empire Salvage. Photo: Imperial War Museums A25705. HMS Jamaica HMS Jamaica. Built by Vickers Armstrong. Laid down November 30, 1939. Launched September 11, 1941. Completed June 20, 1942. Paid off 1957. Broken up 1960-1962 at Dalmuir and Troon. HMS Jamaica at Trincomalee, Ceylon in 1952 HMS Jamaica at Trincomalee, Ceylon in 1952. This is a colorized version of the previous photo. Unfortunately I do not know anything about either of them. HMS Kenya in the Actic, May 1942. Imperial War Museums A9223 HMS Kenya's Anniversary. I do not know when this was; 1946? 1947? HMS Kenya floodlit in Bermuda, 1947 HMS Kenya C14, in October 1949. Laid down June 18, 1938. Launched August 18, 1939. Completed September 27, 1940. Paid off 1958. Broken up Faslane 1962. In November 2001, Ray Holden sent me this photograph taken in 1951 from HMS Liverpool, the ship he served on. He said "The picture is of 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Med 1951, the cruiser trying to take our stern off is HMS Kenya." At first the ship was thought to be HMS Gambia but it is HMS Kenya as there are no director platforms on the front of the bridge. HMS Gambia had platforms that jutted out above B turret. HMS Kenya from HMS Sheffield. A jackstay is being prepared between the two ships. Photo from Ray Holden. Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta, 1955. Photo from Ray Holden. Ray sent me this photo in January 2002. He writes "The 1st Cruiser Squadron used to tie up on the far side. This picture was taken in 1955 when Sheffield was flagship, that's her second from left. The ship behind is Kenya, this is where Gambia used to tie up behind her flagship which was Liverpool." HMS Kenya. Photo from Royal Marines Musician Dave Simmonds Map of HMS Kenya's 1955/57 commission. Kindly submitted by Royal Marines Musician Dave Simmonds HMS Mauritius in 1942 HMS Mauritius in August 1942. Imperial War Museums A12927 HMS Mauritius: Cleaning the 6" guns, 1942 HMS Mauritius C80. Built by Swan Hunter. Laid down March 31, 1938. Launched July 19, 1939. Completed January 1, 1941. Paid off 1952. In reserve 1953-1960. Broken up by Ward, Inverkeithing, 1965. HMS Mauritius at speed during WWII. Imperial War Museums A11657 A Supermarine Walrus amphibious aircraft from HMS Mauritius lands on the sea after her patrol flight and makes her way towards the cruiser. Imperial War Museums A8910 HMS Mauritius ready for action with other Allied shipping off the beachhead at Anzio, Italy in March 1944. Note the twin 4 inch guns at full elevation on the starboard side of the cruiser. She was adopted by Kingston-upon-Hull. Imperial War Museums A22535 HMS Mauritius of the 1st Cruiser Squadron arrives from the Mediterranean at Chatham Royal Dockyards on Wednesday, September 1, 1948, passing HMS Duke of York (King George V class battleship) and showing off the Cock of the Fleet (1948) on 'B' turret. They also won the 1946 Mediterranean Regatta. Photo: Antino Biliary HMS Mauritius at Thos. W. Ward breakers-yard, Inverkeithing, March 1965 HMS Newfoundland in 1945 HMS Newfoundland at Hong Kong circa 1953 HMS Birmingham, Newfoundland & Warrior at Singapore in 1954. Photo from dad's photo albums. HMS Birmingham was a Town-class light cruiser, HMS Newfoundland was a Crown Colony-class cruiser and HMS Warrior was a Colossus-class aircraft carrier. Dad served on HMS Gambia, Newfoundland's sister ship, from 1950 to 1952. He served on Warrior from 1953 to 1955. HMS Newfoundland C59 off Hong Kong, November 1957. Built by Swan Hunter. Laid down November 9, 1939. Launched December 19, 1941. Completed January 20, 1943. Paid off June 24, 1959. Sold to Peru 1959 and renamed Almirante Grau. Renamed Capitán Quiñones in 1973. Scrapped 1979. Photo by Peter M. Ress, RAN. MID 1945/46. HMS Nigeria was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Axum on Agust 12, 1942. 52 men were killed but the ship did make it back to Gibraltar before being sent to the US for repairs. HMS Nigeria in 1945 HMS Nigeria entering Malta. Built by Vickers Armstrong. Laid down February 8, 1938. Launched July 18, 1939. Completed September 23, 1940. Paid off 1950. In reserve 1950-1954, then sold to India. Recommissioned in 1957 and renamed Mysore. Decommissioned on August 20, 1985. HMS Nigeria. Photo kindly submitted by Julian Best (Fresh Water Tankie - FWT) HMS Trinidad in late 1941 HMS Trinidad in 1942 at Hvalfjord, Iceland. Built by Devonport Dockyard. Laid down April 21, 1938. launched March 21, 1940. Completed November 14, 1941. Scuttled May 15, 1942 after being damaged the previous day by torpedoes from German aircraft in the Barents Sea, 63 lost. Imperial War Museums A7683 HMCS Uganda 1944. Built by Vickers Armstrong. Laid down July 20, 1939. launched August 7, 1941. Completed January 31943. Transferred to Royal Canadian Navy October 21, 1944. Renamed Quebec 1952. Paid off 1956, placed on disposal list 1958. Broken up at Osaka 1961. HMCS Uganda in November 1944 enroute to the UK and thence to the British Pacific Fleet HMCS Quebec (ex-Uganda) in the mid-1950s. Built by Vickers Armstrong. Laid down July 20, 1939. Launched August 7, 1941. Completed January 3, 1943. Transferred to Royal Canadian Navy October 21, 1944. Renamed Quebec 1952. Paid off 1956. Placed on disposal list 1958. Broken up at Osaka 1961. Photo submitted by Gerry Sullivan