(EDINBURGH Class Cruiser)
by Darren Scannell

The term cruiser originates from the days of sailing ships when large frigates would detach from the main fleet to cruise independently. The sailing cruiser was powerful and fast enough to attack and destroy enemy commerce raiders. When sail and wood ships were replaced by steam and iron or steel, the cruiser evolved into a powerful warship which was used to patrol trade routes and protect friendly merchant shipping. After WWI, the category of cruiser was created so that it's size could be implied by the diameter of its guns. HMS BELFAST is a 6-inch cruiser, designed to protect trade as well as for offensive action and fire support for amphibious landings.

In 1936, the Admiralty ordered two enlarged and improved versions of the SOUTHAMPTON (or TOWN) class light cruisers. In keeping with the policy of naming the SOUTHAMPTON's after British cities and towns, it was decided to call the two ships EDINBURGH and BELFAST. The two EDINBURGH class cruisers were to have sixteen 6-inch guns in four quadruple turrets and a displacement of 10,000 tons (the maximum permitted under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty). It proved too difficult to manufacture reliable quadruple 6-inch mountings and the final design used an improved version of the successful triple mounts used in the SOUTHAMPTON class. The weight saved was used to improve armour protection and to increase the ships' anti-aircraft armament by 50%.

After fitting out and builder's trails, HMS BELFAST was commissioned into the Royal Navy on August 5, 1939.  When war broke out with Germany in September 1939, HMS BELFAST was part of the 18th Cruiser Squadron operating out the Home Fleet's main base at Scapa Flow in Orkney. During the first few weeks of the war, BELFAST patrolled the Northern waters, as part of the Royal Navy's maritime blockade of Germany. HMS BELFAST successfully intercepted the German liner SS Cap Norte on  October 9, 1939.  While leaving the Firth of Forth on November 21,1939, BELFAST struck a magnetic mine that broke the ship's back and damaged her hull and machinery so severely that almost three years were to pass before she was fit for action again.

When she finally rejoined the Home Fleet in November 1942, BELFAST was the largest and arguably the most powerful cruiser in the Royal Navy. She had been 'bulged' amidships, increasing her standard displacement to 11,500 tons and significantly improving her stability, she had also been equipped with the most up-to-date radar and fire control systems.

On the morning of December 26, 1943, the German Battlecruiser SCHARNHORST, separated from her destroyers, encountered the Royal Navy's Force one and was driven off after being hit by one of HMS NORFOLK's 8-inch shells. After another unsuccessful attempt to break through the convoys, SCHARNHORST retreated at high speed with BELFAST and SHEFFIELD in pursuit, driving the enemy towards the HMS DUKE OF YORK. The DoY succeeded in hitting the German battle cruiser with her first salvo. The SCHARNHORST was hit by at least three torpedoes and pounded by heavy artillery at point blank range, and the battlecruiser was now dead in the water. The BELFAST and JAMAICA were ordered to sink her with torpedoes. But even as BELFAST fired, SCHARNHORST disappeared off radar as she slipped beneath the waves. Only thirty-six of her complement of 1,963 men survived.

In the Spring of 1944, HMS BELFAST was part of a powerful force of battleships and aircraft carriers that went after the battleship TIRPITZ. The TIRPITZ was hit by 15 bombs and although not sunk, was incapable of putting to sea for several months. She was finally destroyed by RAF heavy bombers on November 1944. The Fleet was then divided into two naval task forces and five assault forces, one for each of the main landing beaches. Each of the assault forces was in turn supported by its own naval bombardment force. As flagship of bombardment Force E, HMS BELFAST was part of the Eastern Naval Task Force, with responsibility for supporting the British and Canadian assaults on 'Gold' and 'Juno' beaches and, at 5.30am on June 6, 1944, was one of the very first ships to open fire on German positions in Normandy.

HMS BELFAST went to the Far East in 1945, she helped evacuate the survivors of Japanese prisoner of war and civilian internment camps from China, and until autumn of 1947 she was occupied with peace-keeping duties in the Far East. After a refit, HMS BELFAST returned to the Far East in December 1948 as flagship of the Fifth Cruiser Squadron. HMS BELFAST was among the first British ships to see action off Korea, bombarding in support of retreating South Korean and American troops eleven days after the North Korean invasion. On 27 September 1952, she sailed for home, having fired her guns in anger for the last time.

HMS Belfast returned to the UK and made a final visit to the City of Belfast. Following one last exercise in the Mediterranean, she finally paid off in Devonport on August 24, 1963 and her Admiral's flag was hauled down for the last time. She had steamed nearly half a million miles during her operational life. Normally her next destination would have been the scrap yard. However, a determined group of men led by her former captain, now Rear Admiral, Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles, decided to save her. She was brought to the Pool of London on the Thames river and opened to the public on October 21, 1971(Trafalgar Day) as the only WWII British cruiser museum ship.

Town /Modified Town/Edinburgh Class Light Cruisers
(Sometimes Called The Southampton Class)

Southampton Built by Brown, J (Clydebank), Launched - Nov21/34, Commissioned - Mar6/37
ex-Ployphemus. Bombed by German A/C and scuttled Jan11/41 in the Mediterranean, near Malta.

Newcastle C76, Built by Vickers-Armstrong (Tyne), Launched - Oct4/34, Commissioned - Mar5/37
ex-Minotaur. Decommissioned - 1948, scrapped Aug/59.

Sheffield C24, Built by Vickers-Armstrong (Tyne), Launched - Jan31/35, Commissioned - Aug25/37
Placed in reserve 1959, scrapped Sep/67.

Glasgow C21, Built by  Scotts' (Greenock), Launched - Apr16/35, Commissioned - Sep9/37
Decommissioned - Nov/56, scrapped Jul/58.

Birmingham C19, Built by Devonport DYd (Plymouth), Launched - Jul18/35, Commissioned - Nov18/37
Decommissioned - Dec/59, scrapped Sep/60.

Gloucester Class (Modified Town):

Liverpool Built by Fairfield (Govan), Launched - Feb17/36, Commissioned - Nov2/38
Decommissioned 1952, scrapped Jul/58.

Manchester Built by Hawthorn Leslie (Hebburn), Launched - Mar28/36, Commissioned - Aug4/38
Torpedoed by Italian MTB in the Mediterranean, east of Kelibia, Tunisia. Scuttled Aug13/42.

Gloucester Built by Devonport DY (Plymouth), Launched - Sep22/36, Commissioned - Jan31/39
Bombed and sunk May22/41 by German Aircraft in the Mediterranean, west of Antikithera Island
with heavy casualties (45 officers and 648 enlisted men).

Edinburgh Class (enlarged and modified Town):

Edinburgh Built by Swan Hunter (Wallsend), Launched - Dec29/36 Commissioned - Jul6/39
Torpedoed twice Apr30/42 by German submarine U456, torpedoed again May2/42 by German Z24,
Scuttled by torpedo from destroyer Foresight May2/42 in the Barents Sea near North Cape, Norway
while covering Russian Convoy QP11. She was carrying a large amount of gold bullion.

Belfast C35,  Built by Harland & Wolff (Belfast), Launched - Dec10/36,  Commissioned - Aug3/39
18th Cruiser Squadron in Home Fleet at commissioning. Flagship of 10th Cruiser Squadron 1942, transferred to Pacific in 1945
Decommissioned -  Oct15/47, Recommissioned - Sep22/48 for Korean War service as flagship of 5th Cruiser Squadron.
Placed in reserve 1953, Modernized 1956-59, Recommissioned to Far East fleet. Decommissioned - Aug24/63.
Made into a Museum in the Pool of London, Thames River, London Oct14/71.


Length - 591.6' (180m)
                613.6' (187m) (Edinburgh)
Beam -    64.02' (19.5m)
                64.10' (19.53m) (modified)
                63.04' (19.2m) (Edinburgh)
Draft -     20' (6m) (Avg)
                20.07' (6.1m) (modified)
                20.09' (6.12m) (Edinburgh)

9,320 - 11,540 tons
9,655 - 11,930 tons (modified)
10,635 - 13,175 tons (Edinburgh)

4 Admiralty 3 drum-type boilers
Parsons geared steam turbines
75,000 shp horsepower  (82,500 modified/Edinburgh)
4 shafts
32.5 knts Max Speed (33 knts Edinburgh)
Range -   9,000 NM @ 15 knts
                 8,400 NM @ 15 knts (modified)
                 9,800 NM @ 15 knts (Edinburgh)

Belt -             4.88" (124mm) main belt
                      4.88"-2.5" (124-63.5mm) magazines
                      2.5"-1.5" (63.5-38mm) ends
Deck -           2"-1.25" (51-32mm)
Bulkheads - 2.5" (63.5mm)
Turrets -       1" (25mm)
                      4" (102mm) face, 2" (51mm) sides (modified/Edinburgh)
Barbettes - 2"-1" (51-25mm)

Armament (1945):
Main Battery - 12 x 6" (152mm)/50cal BL Mark XXIII (4x2) 2 forward 2 aft
                           1 aft "X" place turret removed to make way for 2 quad 40mm Bofors 1943 (Glasgow,Sheffield,Newcastle)
AAW - 16 x 40.5mm (2pdr)/40cal Vickers MkII PomPom (4x4) (Birmingham,Newcastle,Sheffield)
              32 (8x4) in Glasgow
              26 (6x4,2x1) in modified
              36 (2x8,4x4,4x1) in Belfast
              8 x 40mm/56.3cal Bofors (2x4) (Birmingham,Sheffield)
              4 x 40mm/56.3cal Bofors (2x2) (Belfast)
              5-24 x 20mm/65cal Oerlikon (various fits)

Armament (postwar):
Main Battery -   12 x 6" (152mm)/50cal BL Mark XXIII (4x2) 2 forward 2 aft
                             1 aft "X" place turret removed to make way for 2 quad 40mm Bofors 1943 (Glasgow,Sheffield,Newcastle)
AAW - 24 x 40.5mm (2pdr)/40cal Vickers MkII PomPom (6x4) (Glasgow,modified)
              8 x 40mm/56.3cal Bofors (8x1) (Glasgow)
              18 x 40mm/56.3cal Bofors (6x2,6x1) (Birmingham,Newcastle)
              18 x 40mm/56.3cal Bofors (8x2,2x1) (Sheffield)
              12 x 40mm/56.3cal Bofors (6x2) (Belfast)
              2 x 40mm/56.3cal Bofors (2x1) (modified)

Radar (WWII):
Air Warning - 1 x HA.DCT
Air Search - Type 284/286
Surface Search - Type 273, Type 271
Fire Control - air recognition (AR) Type 285, air recognition (AR) Type 282 (2pdr)

2-3 Supermarine Walrus amphibians until late WWII, then none.



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