HMS Gambia (48)

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HMS Gambia3c.jpg
Career (United Kingdom)
Class and type: Crown Colony-class light cruiser
Name: HMS Gambia
Builder: Swan Hunter, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom
Laid down: 24 July 1939
Launched: 30 November 1940
Commissioned: 21 February 1942
Recommissioned: 1 July 1946
Decommissioned: December 1960
In service: Returned to the Royal Navy on 27 March 1946
Out of service: Transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy on 22 September 1943
Fate: Scrapped by Ward, Inverkeithing, arriving on 5 December 1968
Career (New Zealand)
Name: HMNZS Gambia
Commissioned: 22 September 1943
Out of service: Returned to the Royal Navy on 27 March 1946
General characteristics
Displacement: 8,530 tonnes standard
10450 tons full load
Length: 169.3 m (555.5 ft)
Beam: 18.9 m (62 ft)
Draught: 5.0 m (16.5 ft)
Propulsion: Four oil fired three-drum Admiralty-type boilers
four-shaft geared turbines
four screws
54.1 megawatts (72,500 shp)
Speed: 33 knots (61 km/h)
Range: 6520 nmi at 13 knots
Complement: 730
Armament: Twelve BL 6 inch Mk XXIII naval guns (4 × 3),
eight 4 inch guns (4 × 2),
eight 40 mm Bofors AA (4 × 2) guns,
3 quadruple 2 pounder ("pom-pom") AA mounts, 12 20 mm AA (6 × 2) guns.
Six 21 inch (2 × 3) torpedo tubes
Armour: 83 mm,
deck: 51 mm,
turrets: 51 mm,
Director control tower: 102 mm.
Aircraft carried: Two Supermarine Walrus aircraft
Notes: Pennant number 48

HMS Gambia (pennant number 48, later C48) was a Crown Colony-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy. She was in the service of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) as HMNZS Gambia from 1943 to 1946. She was named after the then Crown colony of The Gambia, and has been the only ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name.


Gambia was conceived in the 1938 Naval Estimates and was laid down on 24 July 1939, at Swan Hunter's Yard at Wallsend. She was launched on 30 November 1940, by Lady Hilbery and finally commissioned on 21 February 1942.

Operational history[edit]

Early wartime career[edit]

The cruiser saw active service in the East Indies with the British Eastern Fleet, and was involved in the Battle of Madagascar in September 1942. She then carried out trade protection duties in the Indian Ocean, but returned to home waters, calling at the territory of the Gambia on the way, where West African Chiefs in full regalia led thousands of their subjects to visit the ship named after their Colony.

She refitted at Liverpool between June and September, following which she operated anti-blockade runner patrols in the Bay of Biscay in December, as part of Operation Stonewall.

Royal New Zealand Navy service[edit]

Because New Zealand's two other cruisers of the time, HMNZS Leander and HMNZS Achilles were damaged, it was decided in discussions with the Royal Navy Admiralty that HMS Gambia would be recommissioned as HMNZS Gambia, for the use of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Gambia was transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy on 22 September 1943.

HMNZS Gambia, 18 May 1944.

Gambia served with the British Pacific Fleet, and participated in attacks on Japanese positions throughout the Pacific. In February 1944 she was searching for blockade runners in the Cocos Islands area. She also supported a series of carrier raids against oil installations and airfields. She saw action off Okinawa, Formosa and Japan and took part in the bombardment of the Japanese city of Kamaishi on 9 August. She was under attack by Japanese aircraft at the time that a ceasefire was announced, and so has the honour of firing some of the last shots of World War II.

She was present on 2 September 1945 in Tokyo Bay for the signing of Japanese Instrument of Surrender.

Return to the Royal Navy[edit]

Gambia was returned to the Royal Navy at Portsmouth on 27 March 1946. She underwent a refit and was recommissioned on 1 July 1946 for the 5th Cruiser Squadron with the Far East Fleet. She returned to the UK on 6 January 1948, and in January 1950 she was assigned to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean, later serving with the 1st Cruiser Squadron on the same station until October 1954. In 1953, she and her sister HMS Bermuda brought aid to the Greek island of Zakynthos when it was struck by a severe earthquake. Greek officials would later comment, "we Greeks have a long-standing tradition with the Royal Navy and it lived up to every expectation in its infallible tradition of always being the first to help".[1] In the same year she took part in the Fleet Review to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.[2]

In 1955 she became flagship of the 4th Cruiser Squadron on the East Indies Station, but the decision not to continue the refit of HMS Vanguard, meant funds were available for a life extension of HMS Gambia and HMS Bermuda, with additional finance and equipment from US assistance to NATO, the refit gave them a final light AA armament of 9 twin 40mm Bofors, refitted in positions than gave wider angles of fire and MRS8 fire control, similar that being fitted to the remaining USN Baltimore class cruisers,in 1956-7, although the 12 X 2 3inch/50 calibre on the US cruisers were far more accurate and effective, than the RN Mk 3 Bofors or X1X Twin 4 inch. In May 1957 the Gambia sailed again for the Persian Gulf station, as the last flagship on this station, and returned to Rosyth on 19 September 1958. On 4 November 1958 she recommissioned for the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean. She deployed to the Far East on 4 December 1959 to relieve HMS Ceylon in the Red Sea. The ship returned to the UK via South Africa with a visit to Freetown and the Gambia Colony, before arriving in Portsmouth in July 1960. The last months of 1960 she served in the South Atlantic and the Home Fleet before entering the reserve in December of that year, her crew largely going to the new HMS Blake.

Decommissioning and fate[edit]

Gambia was paid off to reserve in December 1960. She remained in reserve at Portsmouth until she was put on the disposal list and sold to Thomas W. Ward Ltd for scrapping. She left Portsmouth under tow on 2 December 1968 and arrived at Inverkeithing for breaking up on 5 December.


  1. ^ Navy News
  2. ^ Souvenir Programme, Coronation Review of the Fleet, Spithead, 15th June 1953, HMSO, Gale and Polden


External links[edit]