HMS Cornwall (56)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Cornwall.
HMS Cornwall (56).jpg
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Cornwall
Builder: Devonport Dockyard (Plymouth, UK)
Laid down: 9 October 1924
Launched: 11 March 1926
Commissioned: 8 May 1928
Identification: pennant number 56
Fate: Sunk 5 April 1942, with HMS Dorsetshire, by bombs from Japanese carrier aircraft, west of Ceylon (198 lost)
General characteristics
Class and type: County-class heavy cruiser
Displacement: 9,750 tons (9,010 t) standard
13,450 tons (13,670 t) full load
Length: 630 ft (190 m)
Beam: 68 ft 3 in (20.80 m)
Draught: 16 ft 3 in (4.95 m)
Propulsion: Eight Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Four shaft Brown Curtis geared turbines
80,000 shp (60 MW)
Speed: 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)
Range: 3,100 nautical miles (5,700 km; 3,600 mi) at 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h; 36.2 mph)
13,300 nautical miles (24,600 km; 15,300 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Endurance: 3,400 tons (3,450 t) fuel oil
Complement: 700
Original configuration:
  • 8 x 8 in (203 mm) dual guns
  • 4 x 4 in (102 mm) single AA guns
  • 2 x 2 pdr (37 mm/40 mm) pom-poms quad guns
  • 2 x 0.5 in MG quadruple guns
  • 2 x 21 in (533 mm) quadruple Torpedo Tubes.

1936 – 1942 configuration:

  • 8 x 8 in (203 mm) dual guns
  • 4 x 4 in (102 mm) dual AA guns
  • 2 x 2 pdr (37 mm/40 mm) pom-poms eight barrel guns
  • 2 x 0.5 in MG quadruple guns
Aircraft carried: Three aircraft with one catapult, removed in 1942

HMS Cornwall, pennant number 56, was a County-class heavy cruiser of the Kent subclass built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1920s. She was built at Devonport Dockyard (Plymouth, UK).


In a single ship action of 8 May 1941 Cornwall sank the German commerce raider Pinguin but was hit in the stern. She returned to Durban for repairs, which were completed on 10 June 1941. On 25 November 1941, Cornwall intercepted the Vichy-French merchant Surcouf off the east coast of Somalia and brought her to Aden. Surcouf was en route to Djibouti with food.

HMS Dorsetshire and Cornwall under heavy air attack by Japanese carrier aircraft on 5 April 1942. Photographed from a Japanese aircraft.

In early April 1942, Cornwall and her sister ship Dorsetshire were detached from the fleet to escort the aircraft carrier Hermes to Trincomalee on Ceylon for repairs. On 4 April, the Japanese carrier fleet was spotted, and the two cruisers left the harbour, and after a hurried refuelling at sea, set out for Addu Atoll shortly after midnight. On 5 April 1942, the two cruisers were sighted by a spotter plane from the Japanese cruiser Tone about 200 miles (370 km) southwest of Ceylon.

As part of the engagement known as the Easter Sunday Raid, a wave of dive bombers led by Lieutenant Commander Egusa took off from Japanese carriers to attack Cornwall and Dorsetshire, 320 km (170 nmi; 200 mi) southwest of Ceylon, and sank the two ships. British losses were 424 men killed; 1,120 survivors spent hours in the water.


From the 1942 diary of Betty Clay (to be posted when complete[1]):- "At dinner sat next to a Naval Lieutenant [actually Lt. Cmdr. and Gunnery Officer[2]] who was sunk in the Cornwall, a cruiser, in March off Ceylon . A very pleasant young man, John Streatfeild. They were sunk in the afternoon & all got together on rafts & floated for 36 hours. He & three others on a submerged plank up to their chests in water. The Jap planes, when they had sunk the ship, flew past in formation and dipped in salute, they all thought they were going to be machine-gunned but these Japs were gents. They had some tinned peaches & bully beef but no water. The sharks came next day but didn’t attack any living man, only the corpses. Not many lost by drowning but quite a number killed by bombing, or wounded & died in the boats. It was quite fascinating & he told it so gaily."



  • Chesneau, Roger, ed. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Greenwhich: 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. 
  • Dimbleby, Ken (1984). Turns of Fate. The Drama of HMS Cornwall 1939–1942. London:William Kimber. ISBN 0-7183-0523-X

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 1°54′N 77°54′E / 1.900°N 77.900°E / 1.900; 77.900