HMS London (69)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS London.
HMS London tow.jpg
Career Royal Navy Ensign
Class and type: County-class heavy cruiser
Name: HMS London
Builder: Portsmouth Dockyard, UK
Laid down: 23 February 1926
Launched: 14 September 1927
Commissioned: 31 January 1929
Fate: Sold for scrapping, 3 January 1950. Broken up from 22 January 1950
General characteristics
Displacement: 9,750 tons standard
13,315 tons full load
Length: 633 ft (193 m)
Beam: 66 ft (20 m)
Draught: 21 ft (6.4 m)
Propulsion: Eight Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Four shaft Parsons geared turbines
80,000 shp (60 MN)
Speed: 32 knots (59.3 km/h)
Range: 9,120 nm at 12kts
Complement: 784 officers and enlisted
  • 8 × BL 8-inch (203 mm L/50) Mk.VIII in twin mounts Mk.I*
  • 4–8 × QF 4-inch (102 mm L/45) Mk.V in single mounts HA Mk.III
  • 4 × QF 2 pdr (40 mm L/39) Mk.II in single mounts HA Mk.I
  • 8 × QF 0.5-inch (12.7 mm L/50) Mk.III in quad mounts Mk.I
  • 8 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes in quad mounts
Aircraft carried: One Supermarine Walrus, one catapult
Notes: Pennant number 69

HMS London (C-69) was a member of the second group of the County class heavy cruiser of the Royal Navy. She and her sisters; HMS Sussex, Shropshire, and Devonshire differed from the earlier group of Counties, (known as the Kent class), by having a smaller forward superstructure, which was positioned slightly further aft, and next to no armour plating. HMS London '​s career spanned over twenty years.

Interwar career and rebuild[edit]

The gun crew of a .5-inch four barrelled Vickers gun at their quarter on board HMS London. Note the long belts of ammunition hanging off the two men.

London was laid down at Portsmouth Dockyard on 23 February 1926, and later launched on 14 September 1927 and commissioned on 31 January 1929. London served with the 1st Cruiser Squadron until March 1939, and was the flagship of Admiral Max Horton during his time in command of 1st Cruisers. Her flag captain during this time was Henry Harwood. From 1936 she was the flagship of Vice-Admiral Charles Kennedy-Purvis (later Sir Charles) and on 1 September 1937 she and her sister ship Sussex made a week long goodwill visit to Venice, mooring opposite the Doges Palace. London and her sister ship Shropshire facilitated the evacuation of thousands of civilians from Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. From March 1939 she was under reconstruction at the Chatham Dockyard, and was much altered in appearance. Replacement of her machinery was considered, but later abandoned. She was given a new superstructure above the main deck and in many ways resembled a Colony class light cruiser. Her single 4" gun mounts were changed to twin mounts, several 20mm AA guns, and radar were added. In addition she was fitted with a 3½" cemented armoured belt, 8' deep down from the main armoured deck which covered the machinery spaces. The reconstruction work was finally completed in March 1941. The refit was planned to be implemented to other ships of the County class but due to wartime pressures no other ships were reconstructed.

Wartime career[edit]

HM King George VI meeting the officers of HMS London lined up on deck next to one of the cruiser's 8-inch gun turrets, part of the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.

London was involved in the pursuit of the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941. During this time at sea many cracks appeared in her upper deck and hull, due to the weight of the new superstructure causing stresses. She entered a commercial shipyard on the River Tyne in October 1941 and was under repair until February 1942. London then spent from October 1941 to November 1942 in the North Atlantic on convoy protection duties in the company of several US Navy warships. This time of operations in the heavy North Atlantic seas caused hull cracks and popped rivets in her lower hull resulting in the ship again going into the dry-dock in December 1942 for strengthening of the hull, fitting of newer and more refined radar, and more light anti-aircraft guns. This refit work successfully rectified her hull strength issues and was finished in May 1943, with the ship then ready for sea in July. After sea trials and ammunition onloading she was then assigned to operate off the South African coast, and then to the Indian Ocean Fleet for the rest of the war.

Postwar, the Amethyst incident, and decommissioning[edit]

Following the Second World War, and being the Royal Navy's only modernised 8" gun cruiser, London was refitted for further service in early 1946 to allow her to serve in the postwar fleet. Following the refit she sailed for the far east in 1946 and served there for the next three years on the China Station. In the spring of 1949 the frigate Amethyst became trapped by advancing Communist Chinese forces up the Yangtze River. London sailed up the river as a show of strength in an attempt to help free the frigate. The Communist forces were not intimidated and took the cruiser under fire. London returned fire with her 8" and 4" guns, firing several hundred rounds, but was hit several times. Her two forward 8" turrets and "X" turret aft were damaged and made inoperable, and her bridge sustained several hits. London retreated down river and returned to Hong Kong for repairs which lasted until the end of July.

London remained in Chinese waters until August 1949 when she was relieved by HMS Kenya and returned to the UK in the autumn of 1949. London was surveyed to determine if an extensive repair and refit for further service was feasible, but the condition of her machinery (dating back to 1928 and not replaced during her rebuild in the 1930s), as well as the large crew she required made her too expensive a proposition, given Britain's post war financial difficulties. She was retired to reserve in the River Fal until sold for scrapping in 1950.



  • 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. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Two Red Stripes: A Naval Surgeon at War, R Ransome Wallis, Ian Allen Ltd, ISBN 0-7110-0461-7

External links[edit]