HMS Manchester (15)

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HMS Manchester (C15) 1942.jpg
Manchester in 1942
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Manchester
Builder: Hawthorn Leslie, Hebburn
Laid down: 28 March 1936
Launched: 12 April 1937
Commissioned: 4 August 1938
Fate: Scuttled after being damaged by Italian MAS boats on 13 August 1942 off Cap Bon, Tunisia
General characteristics
Class and type: Town-class light cruiser
Displacement: 11,930 tons full load
Length: 591 ft 6 in (180.29 m)
Beam: 64 ft 9 in (19.74 m)
Draught: 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)
  • Four-shaft Parsons geared turbines
  • Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers
  • 82,500 shp (61.5 MW)
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h)
Range: 7,320 nmi (13,560 km; 8,420 mi) at 13 kn (24 km/h)
Complement: 750
Sensors and
processing systems:
Aircraft carried:
Notes: Pennant number C15

The second HMS Manchester was a Town-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy, belonging to the Gloucester subclass. She was laid down by Hawthorn Leslie at Hebburn in March 1936, launched in April the following year and commissioned in August 1938. She had a relatively short but active career.

Early war service[edit]

Manchester was serving in the East Indies with the 4th Cruiser Squadron at the outbreak of war, but was ordered home and arrived back Britain on 25 November 1939. She subsequently served with the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, on Northern Patrol duties, capturing the German merchantman Wahehe on 21 February 1940. She first saw action during the ill-fated Norwegian campaign in 1940, where she won her first battle honour. She was then based in the Humber for anti-invasion duties, but on 15 September sailed to the Mediterranean for Operation Collar. In 1940, Manchester, along with other Royal Navy warships, engaged an Italian cruiser squadron, in a naval action that became known as the battle of Cape Spartivento. During the engagement, Manchester was straddled by the main guns of the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto and hit by shell splinters.[1]

Two men stained with fuel oil taking a breath of fresh air on Manchester's flight deck, after being rescued from below deck. Both of them are wearing life preservers. Manchester had been damaged by an aerial torpedo but was not sunk

Bismarck and the Mediterranean convoys[edit]

Manchester returned to Britain on 13 December 1940 and spent the first four months of 1941 under refit, then patrolled the Iceland-Faroes passage during the Bismarck sortie. In July she returned to the Mediterranean for an important Malta convoy, but on 23 July she was hit on the port quarter by an Italian aerial torpedo and badly damaged. Temporary repairs were made at Gibraltar, and the ship then sailed for Philadelphia for complete repair. This was finished on 27 February 1942, after which she returned to Portsmouth, where final work was completed by the end of April. On her return to service she joined the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow during the first week of May, then carried out Russian convoy cover duties and the reinforcement of Spitzbergen.


In August 1942 she returned to the Mediterranean and took part in Operation Pedestal. The operation, designed to supply the besieged island of Malta, cost several warships including the aircraft carrier Eagle. In the early hours of 13 August during the operation Manchester was torpedoed and severely damaged[2] by two Italian motor torpedo boats MS 16 and MS 22 and subsequently scuttled with explosive charges.[a] She was the largest warship sunk by motor torpedo boats during the Second World War.[3]

Operation Pedestal, 11 August: A general view of the convoy under air attack showing the intense anti-aircraft barrage put up by the escorts. The battleship Rodney is on the left and Manchester is on the right


Her commanding officer, Captain Harold Drew, was court-martialled due to the Admiralty's belief that the ship was still navigable and capable of reaching a friendly port. Captain Drew was informed prior to the court martial of an earlier enquiry which determined that the ship likely could have been saved. Captain Drew was aware that he was taking part in a court martial that could bring charges against him and subsequently he was charged with negligence by the court after hearing from all the witnesses and Admiralty experts. Captain Drew claimed that he was unaware that Manchester retained mobility, after the torpedo hit, and that he understood that her armament was also largely incapacitated.[4]The court proceedings determined that Manchester's damage was remarkably similar to that suffered on 23 July 1941; that Manchester was capable of steaming at 10-12 knots on her port outer propeller shaft, that her main and secondary armament was largely intact, and that the initial list of 10-11 degrees had been considerably reduced via counter-flooding and transfers of fuel oil.[5] He was found guilty, was reprimanded, and was prohibited from further command at sea. In 1948 Drew served as Naval ADC to King George VI and later that year transferred to the Indian Navy from whom he retired in 1952, with the rank of Acting Commodore.[6] It remains a contentious decision; the ship had been crippled, and the Captain had feared the ship, including her radar gear, might fall into enemy hands. Many of the ship's crew were rescued by the Allied warships Pathfinder and Eskimo.[citation needed] Others, including Nigel Malim, fell into the hands of the Vichy French and were interned at Laghouat,[7] to be released in November as a result of Operation Torch. The surviving crew members strongly supported both Captain Drew's assessment of the ship's situation and his decision to scuttle her, with one seaman stating: "We were down to 10-15% ammunition, listing at nearly 45 degrees, with one engine destroyed and not much hope of getting the other working. The Captain decided that his choices were to wait until dawn and get blown to buggery, or to save the men."[citation needed] Captain Drew's decision to scuttle Manchester, which was capable of steaming at 10-12 knots with her powerful armament mainly intact, was in stark contrast to the determination of the officers and men of the merchant and Royal Navy vessels that fought their way through to Malta, and in the case of the tanker Ohio, had to be towed into Malta through constant air attack.[8]

In 2002, Manchester was the subject of a documentary by ITV, called "Running the Gauntlet: Sink the Manchester!".

In 2009, a successful expedition to dive Manchester was completed.[9]

Battle honours[edit]

See also[edit]


a. ^ There is some disagreement about Manchester's fatalities among the sources: The following websites mention 150 "lost":

A more accurate account of the cruiser casualties reports 132 killed or missing and 568 survivors (rescued either by Allied forces or Vichy authorities).[Kemp, Paul:The Admiralty Regrets: British Warship Losses of the 20th Century, Sutton Publishing,1999].

Other sources only mention the deaths as result of the torpedo impact (about a dozen). [Woodman, Richard: Malta Convoys, 1940-1943, Jack Murray Ltd., London, 2000].


  1. ^ Stern, Robert C. (2015). Big Gun Battles: Warship Duels of the Second World War. Seaforth Publishing. p. 63. ISBN 1473849691.
  2. ^ Osbourne, Chapter 15.
  3. ^ Malvezzi, Pierluigi. "MAS, VAS and MS". Regia Marina Italiana. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  4. ^ Osborne, Chapter 15.
  5. ^ Osborne, Chapter 15.
  6. ^ Osborne, Chapter 15.
  7. ^ Rear Admiral Nigel Malim CB LVO DL at, accessed 3 July 2013
  8. ^ Osborne, Chapter 7.
  9. ^ "Sleeping giant". Diver Magazine. November 2009. Archived from the original on 15 December 2009.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°50′0″N 11°10′0″E / 36.83333°N 11.16667°E / 36.83333; 11.16667