Fiji-class cruiser

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HMS Nigeria.jpg
Class overview
Name: Fiji class
Operators:
Preceded by: Dido class
Succeeded by: Minotaur class
Subclasses:
  • Fiji
  • Ceylon
Built: 1938–1943
In commission: 1940–1985
Completed: 11
Lost: 2
Scrapped: 9
General characteristics
Class and type: Light cruiser
Displacement:
  • 10,725 tons full load
  • (Ceylon class: 10,840 tons full load)
Length: 555 ft 6 in (169.32 m) overall
Beam: 62 ft (19 m)
Draught: 16 ft 6 in (5.03 m)
Propulsion:
  • Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers
  • Four Parsons geared steam turbines
  • Four shafts
  • 72,500 shp (54,100 kW)
  • (Ceylon group; 80,000 shp (60,000 kW))
Speed:
  • 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h; 36.2 mph)
  • (Ceylon group; 32 kn (59 km/h; 37 mph))
Range: 10,100 nmi (18,700 km; 11,600 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement: 730
Armament:
Aircraft carried: Two Supermarine Walrus aircraft (removed by 1944, never fitted in Fiji or Kenya)

The Fiji-class cruisers were a class of cruisers of the Royal Navy named after colonies of the British Empire. The last three were built to a slightly modified design and were also called the Ceylon class. The class was also unofficially known as the Crown Colony-class cruisers or Colony-class cruisers though unrelated to the Colony-class frigates).

Design[edit]

They were built to the limitations that the 1936 Second London Naval Treaty imposed on cruisers, which lowered the limit for a light cruiser set in the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty from 10,000 tons to 8,000 tons displacement. Externally they appeared as smaller derivatives of the 1936 Town-class cruisers.

The Fiji-class cruisers however, like the Minotaur class that followed in the middle of the war, essentially fit the same armament on a 1,000-ton less displacement. The Fiji and Minotaur classes were very tight designs, built largely in war emergency conditions with little margin for any great updating postwar. The 62-foot (19 m) beam imposing crippling limits.[citation needed]

The Fiji class were distinguishable from the Towns as they had a transom stern and straight funnels and masts; those of the Towns being raked. The armour scheme was revised from that of the Towns in that the main belt now protected the ammunition spaces for the 6-inch (150 mm) guns, although the belt itself was reduced to 3.5 and 3.25 in (89 and 83 mm) in the machinery spaces. The 6-inch Mk XXIII gun turrets and ammunition spaces were laid out as per the Edinburgh group of the Town class, except the after turrets were a deck lower as in the Southampton and Gloucester groups. The long turret version of the triple 6-inch gun fitted to the Fiji class were 25 tons heavier than the 150-ton turret on the Group 1 & 2 Towns and further cramped the design. The supply of ammunition to the 4-inch (102 mm) guns was also improved, dispensing with the complicated conveyor system.

Due to the size of the Fiji class, a number of the ships had their 'X' turret removed to fit additional light anti-aircraft (AA) guns. Ships of the first group were equipped with the High Angle Control System (HACS) for secondary armament AA fire while the Ceylon group used the Fuze Keeping Clock for AA fire control. Both groups used the Admiralty Fire Control Table for surface fire control of the main armament and the Admiralty Fire Control Clock for surface fire control of the secondary armament.[1] By the late 1940s most of the Fiji class had the updated Type 274 'lock and follow' surface fire control radar, which massively increased the chance of hits from the opening salvoes. In the 1950s (except during the Korean War and Suez crisis) no more than one of the MKXIII turrets was ever manned, with 'B' and 'Y' turrets mothballed due to the huge manning requirements of the turrets. This allowed for more liveable peacetime conditions by operating with a crew of 610–750 rather than the wartime crew 1,000–1,100.

Modifications[edit]

The addition of radar sets meant that the aircraft were now surplus to requirements,[citation needed] allowing the removal of the aircraft and catapult. Not only did this provide additional accommodation spaces for enlarged wartime crews, but there was no longer the need to carry large quantities of volatile aviation fuel; in 1940, Liverpool had her bow blown off when a torpedo detonated the 5,700 gallons of aviation fuel stored forwards and was out of action for a year. Fiji and Kenya never received the catapult, Nigeria had hers removed in 1941 and the other ships had theirs removed between 1942 and 1944.

The Ceylon group were completed without 'X' 6-inch turret, and between 1944 and 1945, those of Bermuda, Jamaica, Mauritius and Kenya were also removed. This allowed the carriage of additional light AA weapons, a quadruple QF 2 pdr pom-pom mounting Mark VII generally being carried in 'X' position. Bermuda, Jamaica and Mauritius had 2 additional quadruple pom-poms added (for a total of five) and between two and four single pom-poms in powered mountings Mark XV. In Kenya, all pom-poms were removed, and were replaced with five twin and eight single 40 mm Bofors guns. By the end of the war, Newfoundland had one and Uganda had two American pattern quadruple 40 mm Bofors mounts Mark III and Nigeria had four single mounts Mark III. Generally, 6 to 24 20 mm Oerlikon guns were also added in a mixture of single mounts Mark IIIA and twin powered mounts Mark V.

Postwar modifications of the class were very limited with improved Type 274 lock and follow surface fire control, Newfoundland had a fragile and unreliable, glasshouse version of Type 275 for twin 4-inch control,[2] Ceylon the short range type 262 MRS1 AA control limited to about 4 km (2.5 mi) tracking, Bermuda and Gambia had much more advanced US Mk 63 radar with four High Angle DCT and separate radar disks on the mounts themselves[3] as in US cruiser secondary and tertiary 5- and 3-inch mounts using systems redundant after the cancellation of HMS Vanguard's 1955 long refit. Slightly improved new versions of the basic twin 4-inch gun mounts were generally fitted in 1950 extended refits, with electric drive and training and elevation speed of 20 degrees/sec to track subsonic jets. US advice and offers under mutual assistance to replace the obsolete and inaccurate 4-inch guns with twin 3-inch 50-calibre 20-ton turrets of similar weight and dimensions as the old RN twin 4-inch XIX turrets were rejected because the RN had huge stocks of 4-inch and L60 shells[4][page needed] These ships would have been altered for water sprays to wash off nuclear fallout and received the Type 960 standard long-range air search radar. Newfoundland received a greater extent of electrical updating, rewiring and more comprehensive AA fire control and was the only Fiji-class vessel updated close to the standard planned for the improved Dido-class ships which were intended for hot war with eventual reboilering, while the Fiji class were only refitted for shore bombardment and colonial patrol and presence. Mid-1950s refitting to Ceylon, Gambia and Bermuda was very austere and mainly consisted of increasing automation and the life of the geared steam turbines and reducing manning below decks and simplification of the close-in weapons systems to six-eight twin L/60 Bofors in Mk 5 twin mountings with a fire rate increased to 150 rpm per gun and 280–300 rpm for each twin Mk 5 and would have stopped earlier WWII low-level or later Falklands War-type attacks, by which time the RN no longer fitted 40 mm, the last withdrawn with HMS Bulwark in 1981.[citation needed]

Service[edit]

They served with distinction during the Second World War. Jamaica took part in a number of operations, including driving off the heavy cruisers Admiral Hipper and Lützow in 1942, the sinking of the battleship Scharnhorst in 1943, and escorting carrier air attacks on the battleship Tirpitz in 1944. Fiji was lost in 1941, and Trinidad the following year. The survivors continued in service after the war, taking part in further actions, such as the Korean War. Ceylon was later sold to Peru, being renamed Coronel Bolognesi, along with Newfoundland, which was renamed Almirante Grau. These two ships were decommissioned by 1982. Nigeria was also sold, to India, who had it reconstructed in 1954-7 to the same standard as Newfoundland. As INS Mysore, the ship was heavily used from the time of her transfer, seeing action in the 1971 war with Pakistan,[5] and later converted to a harbour training ship in 1979. She was decommissioned by 1984 and then scrapped in 1985, and as such she was the longest-lived (41 years) member of her class.

All ships of the Fiji class were decommissioned from active service with the Royal Navy by 1962 and began being sold for scrap, though Bermuda was fully operational during 1961 and sometimes ventured to sea in 1962 as flagship of the Reserve Fleet. Gambia had been reduced to reserve in December 1960 and Ceylon and Newfoundland sold to Peru a year earlier. During the 1950s the larger Town-class cruisers were usually regarded as more habitable and comfortable in patrolling in the tropics and Far East, although being older their operational use generally ceased by 1958 and went for scrap the following year except for Sheffield (which had at sea deployments as a reserve flagship until late 1960 and was then, maintained as a reserve headquarters ship) and Belfast which stayed in active seaworthy service until 1963. Sheffield and Belfast were the last of the wartime commissioned cruisers considered capable of reactivation for GFS and were in semi maintained reserve until the election of the Labour Government in 1964, which immediately decided to scrap them, pending short term use as accommodation ships and consideration for historical preservation.[citation needed]

The last Fiji-class cruisers were seriously deteriorating due to being in an unmaintained extended reserve status many years. Gambia was considered as an alternative for use as the London museum ship, as the ship's condition was more original than Belfast, but Gambia was sold for scrap in 1968, because the state of the ship made it more expensive to preserve than Belfast.[citation needed] None of them were the last cruisers of the Royal Navy however; Blake, a modified Tiger-class cruiser first laid down in 1942 as a Minotaur, decommissioned in 1980 was the last classic Second World War cruiser design to serve in the Royal Navy.

Ships of the class[edit]

Ships of the Fiji class
Name Namesake Builder Ordered Laid down Launched Commissioned Fate
Fiji group
Fiji Colony of Fiji John Brown, Clydebank 20 December 1937 30 March 1938 31 May 1939 5 May 1940 Sunk in air attack during Battle of Crete, 22 May 1941
Nigeria Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria Vickers-Armstrongs, Walker 8 February 1938 18 July 1939 23 September 1940 Sold to Indian Navy as INS Mysore in 1954
Mauritius Crown Colony of Mauritius Swan Hunter, Wallsend 13 March 1938 19 July 1939 4 January 1941 Placed in reserve in 1952 and broken up at Inverkeithing in 1965
Kenya Colony and Protectorate of Kenya Alexander Stephens and Sons, Linthouse 18 June 1938 18 August 1939 28 August 1940 Placed in reserve in 1958 and broken up at Faslane in 1962
Trinidad Island of Trinidad
(part of Crown Colony of Trinidad and Tobago[note 1])
HM Dockyard, Devonport 1 December 1937 21 April 1938 21 March 1940 14 October 1941 Scuttled in Artic Ocean following air attack, 15 May 1942
Jamaica Jamaica and Dependencies Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness 1 March 1939 28 April 1939 16 November 1940 29 June 1942 Placed in reserve in 1958 and broken up at Dalmuir in 1960
Gambia Gambia Colony and Protectorate Swan Hunter, Wallsend 24 July 1939 30 November 1940 21 February 1942 Served with the Royal New Zealand Navy as HMNZS Gambia 1943–1946
Placed in reserve in 1960 and broken up at Inverkeithing in 1968
Bermuda Bermuda John Brown, Clydebank 4 September 1939 30 November 1939 11 September 1941 5 August 1942 Decommissioned in 1962 and broken up at Briton Ferry in 1965
Ceylon group
Ceylon Crown Colony of Ceylon Alexander Stephens and Sons, Linthouse 1 March 1939 27 April 1939 30 July 1942 13 July 1943 Sold to Peruvian Navy as BAP Coronel Bolognesi in 1959
Uganda Uganda Protectorate Vickers-Armstrongs, Walker 20 July 1939 7 August 1941 3 January 1943 Transferred to Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Uganda in 1944
Newfoundland Dominion of Newfoundland Swan Hunter, Wallsend 4 September 1939 9 November 1939 19 December 1941 21 January 1943 Sold to Peruvian Navy as BAP Almirante Grau in 1959


Fiji group[edit]

HMS Jamaica
  • Bermuda – Took part in Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa, during World War II, as well as other operations. After the war, the ship continued in service, seeing much of the world, and receiving a number of refits which helped her last until her decommissioning in 1962. She was scrapped in 1965.
  • Fiji – In 1940 Fiji was torpedoed by a German U-boat but survived. In 1941, during the Battle of Crete, Fiji was damaged by a bomb from a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 aircraft, after having survived 20 bomb hits, this one caused her to list; further bomb hits increased the list and the cruiser rolled over an hour later. 523 of her crew were picked up.[6]
  • Gambia – Was transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy from 1943, seeing active service in the British Pacific Fleet. She was returned to the Royal Navy in 1946. The ship was scrapped in 1968.
  • Jamaica – Served in World War II, taking part in a number of operations during that war, including the sinking of the battleship Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape, driving off [German cruiser Admiral Hipper at the Battle of the Barents Sea, and escorting carrier air attacks on the battleship Tirpitz. In the Korean War, Jamaica was known as "The Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast", due to the North Koreans claiming that she had been sunk three times. In 1955 Jamaica was used to play HMS Exeter in the film The Battle of the River Plate. She was scrapped in 1960.
  • Kenya – Was heavily involved in World War II, being deployed to the Far East for some time. Kenya was also involved in the Korean War. She was scrapped in 1962.
  • Mauritius – She was involved in the Normandy Landings, and other actions during World War II. She was scrapped in 1965.
  • Nigeria – Was involved in Operation Pedestal (when she was damaged by Italian submarine Axum), the largest attempt to assist the besieged island of Malta in 1942. She participated in raids on Sumatra as part of the Eastern Fleet in 1945, as well as a number of other deployments. She was sold to India in 1958, being renamed Mysore. She was scrapped in 1985.
  • Trinidad – In 1942 while engaging three German destroyers attacking convoy Convoy PQ13, she was hit by her own torpedo, which had a faulty gyroscope causing it to run in circles, though she did destroy one of the German warships. After temporary repairs in USSR, on return journey through Barents Sea to UK Trinidad was hit by a bomb from Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 bombers, further damaging her to an extent that she was scuttled with a torpedo the following day.

Ceylon group[edit]

  • Ceylon – Was deployed to the Far East for much of World War II, and was heavily involved in the Korean War. She was decommissioned in 1960, and subsequently sold to Peru, being renamed Coronel Bolognesi. She was decommissioned in 1982.
  • Newfoundland – She was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Ascianghi, receiving temporary repairs at Malta, and full repairs at Boston Navy Yard. In 1944, the ship suffered an explosion at Alexandria while docked there. She sustained heavy damage, and suffered a number of casualties. She was in the Far East from 1945, supporting a number of operations there, and was present at the Japanese surrender, being one of the few British ships able to reach Japan in time. She sank the Egyptian frigate Domiat, during the Suez operations, after the latter ship fired on her. She was sold to Peru in 1959, being renamed Almirante Grau and then Capitan Quinones in 1973. She was decommissioned in 1979. She was scrapped in Japan, the country that she and her crew fought against in World War II.
  • Uganda – Escorted RMS Queen Mary to Washington, D.C. with Winston Churchill embarked. Covered the invasion of Sicily in 1943. She was then hit by a German glide bomb that same year, causing significant damage and killing sixteen of her crew and wounding seven. Following repairs carried out in 1944 in the USA she was recommissioned in the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Uganda. She joined the British Pacific Fleet in 1945 taking part in a number of actions in the Far East. She was put in reserve in 1947 but recommissioned as HMCS Quebec for service in the Korean War. The ship was scrapped in 1961.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In addition to HMS Trinidad, the other half of the colony was represented in the Royal Navy by the Colony-class frigate HMS Tobago

References[edit]

  1. ^ Campbell, Naval Weapons of WWII, p.15.
  2. ^ The same was fitted to HMS Superb and Swiftsure
  3. ^ "Last of the Colony cruisers" Ships Monthly March 2016 page 40
  4. ^ N. Friedman. British Cruisers WW2 & After
  5. ^ A. Preston. Warships of the World. Janes. London (1980) p87.
  6. ^ [ https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-06CL-Fiji.htm HMS 'Fiji'] naval-history.net

Bibliography[edit]

  • Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. 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.
  • Fiji class at Uboat.net
  • WWII cruisers

External links[edit]