HMS Edinburgh (16)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Edinburgh.
HMS Edinburgh.jpg
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Class and type: Town-class light cruiser
Name: HMS Edinburgh
Builder: Swan Hunter, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom
Laid down: 30 December 1936
Launched: 31 March 1938
Commissioned: 6 July 1939
Fate: Sunk 2 May 1942
General characteristics
Displacement: 13,175 tons
Length: 613.6 ft (187.0 m)
Beam: 64.9 ft (19.8 m)
Draught: 22.6 ft (6.9 m)
Propulsion: Four-shaft Parsons geared turbines
Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers
82,500 shp (62 MW)
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h)
Complement: 750
Armament:

12 × BL 6 inch Mk XXIII naval guns (152 mm) in triple turrets
12 × QF 4-inch (101.6 mm) Mk XVI guns
Two octuple mount QF 2 pounder (40 mm) AA guns

8 × 0.5 in (12.7 mm) Vickers machine guns
6 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Aircraft carried: Two Walrus aircraft (Removed in the latter part of World War II)
Notes: Pennant number 16

HMS Edinburgh was a Town-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy, which served during World War II. She was one of the last two Town-class, which formed the Edinburgh sub-class. Edinburgh saw a great deal of combat service during World War II, especially in the North Sea and the Arctic Sea, where she was sunk by torpedoes in 1942.

Construction and specifications[edit]

Edinburgh was built in Newcastle-upon-Tyne by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, her keel laid down on 30 December 1936. She was a fast cruiser, displacing 10,635 tonnes, and with an intended sea speed of 32.25 knots (59.73 km/h), reaching a maximum speed of thirty-three knots.

The ship was heavily armed for a light cruiser, with twelve 6 inch guns, twelve (later eight) 4 inch AA guns (along with her sistership, the heaviest 4-in battery among all the British cruisers), sixteen 2 pdr pom pom guns, in addition to sixteen Vickers .50 machine guns. Also, she carried six 21 inch torpedoes in a pair of triple racks, giving the ship extra firepower..

Edinburgh was designed as a very modern vessel, equipped with an impressive radar array and fire-control systems, and the ability to carry up to three Supermarine Walrus seaplanes for reconnaissance, though she usually carried only two.

Her armour thickness statistics were 4.88 inches on the main belt, and 1.5 inches at its thinnest, the heaviest of all the British light cruisers. As with battlecruisers, light cruisers were intended to be fast enough to avoid engagements with more heavily armed opponents, negating the need for immensely thick armour like that found on the battleships of the day.

War service[edit]

HMS Edinburgh with the crusiers HMS Hermione, and HMS Euryalus on convoy duty during Operation Halberd in September 1941.

Edinburgh was launched on 31 March 1938, and after commissioning in July 1939 was immediately attached to the 18th Cruiser Squadron at Scapa Flow, in Scotland, as part of the British Home Fleet. For a time, she was assigned to patrol between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, but in 1939, she was transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, serving with the Humber Force.

However, Edinburgh was still in the Firth of Forth when the Luftwaffe made their first raid on the naval bases at Rosyth on 16 October 1939. She sustained minor damage from the attack, but no direct hits. Of the three ships damaged in the raid including HMS Edinburgh, destroyer HMS Southampton, and cruiser HMS Mohawk; Sixteen Royal Navy crew died and a further 44 were wounded, although this information was not made public at the time.[1]

She left Rosyth on 23 October, on escort duties with the convoys heading to and from Narvik, in Norway. When the armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi was attacked and sunk defending her convoy on 23 November, Edinburgh was among the flotilla detached to search for the German commerce raider, the battleship Scharnhorst, responsible. However, the search was unsuccessful, and Edinburgh returned to escort duties.

On 18 March 1940, she arrived in the Tyne for a lengthy refit which lasted until 28 October. After these repairs, she was re-attached to the 18th Cruiser Squadron, and on 18 November left Faslane Naval Base, on the Clyde, escorting the troop convoy WS4B as far as Freetown (now Sierra Leone) before returning to Scapa Flow on 12 November. Shortly before Christmas, Edinburgh participated in a hunt for a German surface raider that had been reported as breaking out into the North Atlantic. The force consisted of the battlecruiser HMS Hood, Edinburgh, and the destroyers Electra, Echo, Escapade, and Cossack. After spending a week at sea, including Christmas Day, after the report turned out to be false, she returned to port on New Year's Eve.

During the winter of 1940, Edinburgh took part in several minor operations with the Home Fleet. She escorted convoy WS7 to the Middle East, returning to Scapa Flow on 15 April. She supported several mine-laying operations off the Danish coast, and supported Operation Claymore, the successful Allied raid on the German-occupied Lofoten Islands, on 4 May 1941.

Edinburgh also played a minor role in the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941. She was on patrol in the Bay of Biscay, where she intercepted the German vessel SS Lech on 22 May 1941. Edinburgh was sent to intercept Bismarck on her projected course for Brest, and then shadow her, but Bismarck never reached that area.

On 1 June, she was sent to relieve the Dido-class light cruiser HMS Hermione on the Denmark Strait patrol route. After an uneventful assignment, she was ordered to cover another Middle East-bound convoy, WS 9B, and docked in Gibraltar again in early July. Later that month, Edinburgh took part in Operation Substance, arriving in Malta on 24 July. The next day, she had a close call when a German torpedo bomber attacked her. However, the ship sustained no damage, and continued on her course back to the Clyde.

In August 1941, Edinburgh escorted convoy WS10 to Simonstown, South Africa, and later sailed to Malta once more, this time as part of Operation Halberd, arriving at Malta on 28 September. She returned to Gibraltar shortly afterwards, departing from there on 1 October 1941, with supplies and prisoners of war aboard, and bound once more for the Clyde. After repairs at Faslane, she rejoined the Home Fleet on Iceland Forces Patrol during November.

In December 1941, she provided cover to Arctic convoys bringing aid to the Soviet Union. From January 1942, she refitted in the Tyne, until 4 March, when she was once again placed on the Iceland-Faroes patrol.

She escorted two convoys to the Soviet Union (QP4 and PQ13), returning to Scapa Flow on 28 March. On 6 April, she left Scapa Flow to escort convoy PQ 14 to Murmansk. Of the 24 ships in PQ14, 16 were forced by unseasonal ice and bad weather to return to Iceland, and another was sunk by a U-boat. Edinburgh and the remaining seven vessels arrived in Murmansk on 19 April.

Sinking[edit]

Edinburgh's wrecked stern after being struck by a torpedo on 30 April 1942.

Edinburgh was the flagship of Rear-Admiral Stuart Bonham Carter, commanding the escort of returning Convoy QP 11: 17 ships which left Murmansk on 28 April, 1942.[2] On 30 April, U-456 (under the command of Kapitänleutnant Max-Martin Teichert) fired a torpedo into her starboard side. The U-boat, on her fifth patrol, had been alerted to the convoy by German aerial reconnaissance.[3] The ship began to list heavily, but the crew reacted quickly and competently by closing watertight bulkheads, which prevented the ship from sinking immediately. Soon after, U-456 put a second torpedo into Edinburgh's stern, wrecking her steering equipment and crippling her.

Edinburgh was taken in tow, and tried to return to Murmansk with destroyers HMS Foresight and HMS Forester, and four Halcyon-class minesweepers, HMS Gossamer, HMS Harrier, HMS Niger and HMS Hussar. Along the way she was hounded constantly by German torpedo bombers. On 2 May, as she progressed at a snail's pace under tow and her own power, she was attacked off Bear Island by three large German destroyers, Hermann Schoemann (Z 7), Z 24 and Z 25.

Edinburgh cast off the tow, so that she started to sail in circles. Although her guns were in disarray, she fired on the attacking German ships. Her second salvo straddled the Schoemann, damaging her severely enough that her crew scuttled her.[4] Edinburgh's escorts drove off Z 24 and Z 25, but she was struck by a torpedo that had missed another ship.[5] The torpedo struck Edinburgh amidships, exactly opposite the first torpedo hit from U-456. She was now held together only by the deck plating and keel, which was likely to fail at any time, so the crew abandoned ship. HMS Gossamer took off 440 men and HMS Harrier about 400. Two officers and 56 other ranks were killed in the attacks. The vigorous action of the minesweepers led the Germans to mistake the power of the force they were facing.

Harrier tried to scuttle Edinburgh with 4 inch gunfire, but 20 shots didn't sink her. Depth charges dropped alongside also failed. Finally, Foresight sank Edinburgh with her last torpedo (the others having been expended against the German destroyers), the torpedo being fired by David Loram (later to become Vice-Admiral Sir David Loram).

Gold salvage[edit]

On the return journey, Edinburgh was carrying 4.5-long-ton (4,570 kg) of gold bullion back to the UK. The consignment, which had a value of about £1.5 million sterling in 1942 (£65.9million in 2014), was a partial payment by the UUSR for the supplies of war material and military equipment from the Western Allies. In total the ship had 465 gold ingots in 93 wooden boxes stored in the bomb-room just aft of where the first torpedo - fired from U-456 - struck.

Nine years after the Second World War, the British government offered the salvage rights on the Edinburgh to the British salvage company, Risdon Beazley Ltd., in 1954. However the project was put on hold due to strained political relations with the Soviet Union. In 1957, the wreck was designated as a war grave, which further complicated any recovery attempts because of the limitations in salvage techniques of the era.

In the late 1970s, the British government became increasingly anxious to recover the gold; not only because of its value but also because there was a growing concern that the wreck might be looted by unscrupulous salvagers or by the Soviet Union.

In the early 1980s, seasoned diver Keith Jessop's company Jessop Marine, strongly supported by Wharton Williams Ltd ~ a leading global diving company and OSA ~ a specialist shipping company, won a contract to attempt a recovery. Cutting into the wreck by divers was deemed more appropriate for a war grave than the traditional 'smash and grab' explosives-oriented methods. The consortium of specialist companies for the project was then formed: Wharton Williams as managers, OSA and Decca. This group was contracted to Jessop Marine to attempt a recovery of the gold from the bomb room of the Edinburgh.

In April 1981, the OSA survey ship Dammtor, with Decca surveyors embarked, began searching for the wreck in the Barents Sea. The area was approximately 150 miles North of the coast of the USSR and Norway. After less than 48 hours, Decca discovered the wreck at 72°N 35°E / 72°N 35°E / 72; 35, about 400 km NNE of the Soviet coast at the Kola Inlet. The depth was 245 metres (800 ft). Deploying a Scorpio ROV,the Dammtor took detailed film of the wreck, which allowed Wharton Williams and OSA to evaluate a recovery project. The survival of her sister ship HMS Belfast lying in the Thames, permitted management and later the diving team to inspect and absorb the layout of the compartments surrounding the bomb room and, not least, the enormity of the challenge to cut into the ship 800 feet down.

Later that year, on 30 August, the OSA dive-support vessel Stephaniturm steamed to the site, and the diving operation began in earnest. On 15 September 1981, diver John Rossier found the first bar of gold. By 7 October, when bad weather finally forced the cessation of the diving operation, 431 of 465 ingots had been recovered. At the time the haul was worth in excess of £40,000,000 sterling. This project created a World Record in deep diving bullion recovery which stands to this day.

A further 29 bars were brought up in 1986 by the Consortium, bringing the total to 460, leaving five unaccounted for.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/20thand21stcenturies/worldwarii/airattack/index.asp
  2. ^ Eyewitness account on BBC People's History
  3. ^ UBoat.net on Max-Martin Teichert
  4. ^ David Irving: Destruction of Convoy PQ-17 (1968), reprint (1989), St. Martins Mass Market Paper, ISBN 0-312-91152-1
  5. ^ Quotes Halcyon Minesweepers
  6. ^ Salvor's report citing recovery of further 29 bars.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 72°N 35°E / 72°N 35°E / 72; 35