HMS Edinburgh (16)
|Class and type:||Town-class light cruiser|
|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|
|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)|
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
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 her an added punch.
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 being hit, negating the need for immensely thick armour like that found on the battleships of the day.
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.
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.
HMS Edinburgh's final voyage
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. 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. 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. Edinburgh's escorts drove off Z 24 and Z 25, but she was struck by a torpedo that had missed another ship. 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).
The cargo of gold
On this voyage, Edinburgh was carrying a 4.5-long-ton (4,570 kg) consignment of gold bullion, intended as partial payment for Allied supplies to the USSR. The 465 gold ingots, carried in 93 wooden boxes, were in the armoured bomb-rooms on the starboard side, near the first torpedo's impact point. At the time, the estimated worth of the bullion was about £1.5 million sterling.
In 1954, the British government offered the salvage rights to the Edinburgh to Risdon Beazley Ltd., a British salvage company. But 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 complicated any salvage attempts still further.
In the late 1970s, interest in the Edinburgh was reawakened, and the British government became increasingly anxious to recover the gold. This was not only because of its value, but also because there was growing fear that the wreck might be looted by unscrupulous salvagers, or salvaged by the Soviet Union, the coast of which was nearby.
In the early 1980s, seasoned diver Keith Jessop won the salvage rights to Edinburgh for his company Jessop Marine. Jessop's methods, using complex cutting machinery, were deemed more appropriate for a war grave than the explosives-oriented methods of other companies.
In April 1981, the survey ship Dammtor began searching for the wreck in the Barents Sea, on behalf of Jessop Marine. After only ten days, Dammtor discovered the wreck at approximately Kola Inlet. The depth was 245 metres (800 ft). Using specialized cameras, the Dammtor took detailed film of the wreck, which allowed Jessop and his divers to carefully plan the salvage operation. The survival of her sister ship HMS Belfast (C35) enabled the team to preview the layout of the lower decks., about 400 km NNE of the Soviet coast at the
Later that year, on 30 August, the dive-support vessel Stephaniturm journeyed to the site, and salvage operations began in earnest. Several divers were injured during the operation, but on 15 September 1981, a diver finally penetrated the bomb room and recovered a bar of gold. By 7 October, when bad weather finally forced the suspension of diving operations, 431 of 465 ingots had been recovered, now worth in excess of £43,000,000 sterling. A further 29 bars were recovered in a subsequent operation in 1986, bringing the total to 460, leaving five unaccounted for.
- Eyewitness account on BBC People's History
- UBoat.net on Max-Martin Teichert
- David Irving: Destruction of Convoy PQ-17 (1968), reprint (1989), St. Martins Mass Market Paper, ISBN 0-312-91152-1
- Quotes Halcyon Minesweepers
- Salvor's report citing recovery of further 29 bars.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8. OCLC 67375475.
- HMS Edinburgh at Uboat.net
- HMS Edinburgh - World War II cruisers
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