HMS Tiger before conversion
Minotaur class (1947) (planned)Minotaur class (1943) (actual)
|Class and type:||Light cruiser|
|Displacement:||11,700 tons (12,080 tons after conversion of Blake and Tiger)|
|Length:||555.5 ft (169.3 m)|
|Beam:||64 ft (20 m)|
|Draught:||23 ft (7.0 m)|
|Installed power:||80,000 shp (60 MW)|
|Speed:||31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)|
|Range:||8,000 nautical miles (14,816.0 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h)|
|Complement:||716 (885 after conversion of Blake and Tiger)|
|Aircraft carried:||4 × helicopters (originally Wessex, then Sea King)|
Design and commissioning
Development of the Tiger class
The Tiger-class cruisers were developments of the Minotaur-class (later renamed Swiftsure-class) light cruisers, laid down in 1942–3, but production of the Light Fleet Carrier was given priority and the Tiger design was viewed as obsolete by 1944 - the extra weight required by war requirements for radar, electronics and AA armament exceeding the structural strength and deep-water stability limits. The design also lacked the speed and size for Pacific and Arctic action, as even the Town and County class vessels had proven to have inadequate speed against heavy German units in the Battle of the North Cape in December 1943, and inadequate armour to protect the increased electronics. Accordingly, only the first Tiger, HMS Superb, was completed, largely fitted out to the earlier Minotaur specifications of HMS Swiftsure and Minotaur. Minotaur, and the late Colony (1943) class HMS Uganda were given to Canada in April 1944. Churchill strongly supported and approved a similar plan to negotiate the sale of two incomplete Tiger cruisers to Australia  Australia's War Cabinet had approved new construction of a cruiser and destroyer for 6.5 million pounds on 4 April 1944, partly to replace the sunk HMAS Sydney and seriously damaged HMAS Hobart. The Australian PM Curtin at Chequers on 18–21 May 1944 agreed if an acceptable option of the transfer of new RN units, (despite RAAF opposition and support for local shipyards building warships), provided RAN crew was available for HMS Defence (Lion) and Blake as renamed RAN cruisers, by October 1945 to operate as escorts for British carrier groups in the Pacific war against Japan which was expected to continue to the end of 1946, with the RAN Tigers re-armed with 4-6, twin Mk 2 5.25 turrets or the triple 5.25 turrets(3X3) a Nov 42 design option for the N2 and RAN cruisers,The RAN strongly supported the Tiger purchase, but General MacArthur, the Pacific War commander, advised that Australia in reality depended on the US Navy and should prioritise its own land bases' air defence, not small carriers and cruisers. The Australian government feared they were being sold unwanted pups and preferred to build locally. However, in February 1945 the Australian government and its Defense Committee accepted the 2-Tiger offer. However the British Treasury now refused to gift the cruisers to Australia, as they had to the RCN. On 11 April 1945 the UK Exchequer demanded 9 million pounds for the later Lion and Blake. Despite Australia's contribution, the UK Treasury viewed Canada as Britain's main Commonwealth support partner - in ships, men, food, industry and repayment. The Royal Navy's last wartime-built cruiser, HMS Minotaur, was handed over on schedule to the RCN in June 1945, gratis, the first British cruiser with both Type 275/274 lock and follow, air and surface fire control and USN quad bofors, despite the fact the first RN transferred cruiser, the Ceylon-class, HMS Uganda, volunteer crew, voted to retire from the Pacifc War after success in anti-kamikaze action- with the British fleet in early 1945. In mid-1945 the UK faced ruination with lend-lease debt, which led in September 1945 to the cancellation of the second batch of 25 US-supplied, accurate and reliable, Mk 37 Type 275 DP directors for the Tigers and the battle destroyers. The UK wanted payment for the two Tigers or equivalent writing-off of repair bills of RN ships in Australian dockyards. As the RN had sufficient cruisers of quality coupled with a lack of capacity to build and crew more cruisers, the Tigers had been suspended by late 1944, after Defence' (later Lion), was launched in September 1944. Immediately post-war, sufficient work was done that Tiger and Blake could be launched, albeit in a lesser state of completion. In June 1945 the Australian government rejected the purchase of Defence (later HMS Lion) and HMS Blake, as it still had insufficient manpower to man the cruisers in addition to new carriers and destroyers. With the Tigers nowhere near commissioning and the RAN not tempted by the final UK/RN offer to transfer 2 cruisers, a Town and Colony class, to the RAN while the Tigers were completed as the two RAN County-class heavy cruisers were good to 1950.
In 1947 the class suspension was confirmed for complete redesign. By 1946, nine Mk 24 turrets were advanced to 75–80% of their planned specifications, with three other turrets partially complete for either the Tiger or Neptune class cruisers. These turrets were a more advanced version of the Mk 23 wartime triple 6-inch. The new Mk 24 6-inch mounts were interim turrets which had remote power-control and power-worked breech. Theoretically, the heavier Mk 24 offered a dual-purposea electric RP10 (DP) capability with greater 60° elevation.A full electric powered Turret first being fitted in HMS Diadem in 1944 and with power ramming, the shells would fire at consistent intervals, and combined with the faster training speed of Vanguard's secondary armament, they might be useful against bomber and jet aircraft flying at World War II speeds and heights. The Tiger design had a broader 64 ft (20 m) beam from HMS Superb on which to accommodate the larger turrets. But it was preferred to complete Superb with the older Mk 23 turrets in 1945, a 64ft beam 'Swiftsure'. The 1943 Tiger design was redesigned with better protection and internal division to take advantage of a three turret design with with 4 STAAG 40 mm close-in weapon systems with 262 radar, AIO, and more pumps and generators. However by early 1944 it was obvious the turret weight, crewing and electrical requirements of the Tiger design required a much larger design, and by March 1944 Defence and the later HMS Blake, were all, but signed off for transfer to the RAN to be completed as a 5.25 armed cruiser, a fit of 6x2, 5.25 RP 10, turrets was aimed for, possibly in the positions planned for the 1948 proposal for all AA 6x2, 3/70 armament or the orginal planned Fiji configuration of 5.25 turrets but with lower mounted superfiring turrets in A, B(2) and Y(2)similar to USN light cruiser designs. Britain production of 5.25 turrets and convertions of Mk 1 5.25 mounts to 5.25 RP10 for the RNs was slow. So, little work, was done on the cruisers ,, other than to launch, Defence in Sept 1944 and the lack of any real British shipyard progress on the cruisers construction,possibly also because in 1944-45, stopping the work on HMS Vanguard, the last battleship and using its power rammed secondary 5.25 turrets on the Tigers for either the RAN or RN in 45-46 was seriously considered. The lack of significant work on the Tigers in the last year of the war and the fact they were years from commissioning, was a factor, decisive in the Australian government rejected the deal.
Another two Tiger-class cruisers were cancelled. HMS Hawke was laid down in July 1943, and HMS Bellerophon in July 1944. Work on all the Tiger cruisers other than Superb effectively stopped after mid-1944. It appears that work on Hawke and Bellerophon restarted in July 1944 and February 1945, as 15,700 ton Neptune-class cruisers with twelve Mk 24 6-inch guns, and both were cancelled in March 1946. The more advanced of the two ships, HMS Hawke, was broken up in 1947, a controversial decision, for although she was still on the slip in the Portsmouth dockyard, her boilers and machinery were complete and her new 6-inch guns nearly so.
The whole class, which was constructed within a tight, cramped, and near impossible to modernise citadel, was nearly superseded by the completely redesigned N2 8500-ton 1944 cruiser, within the same 555 ft × 64 ft (169 m × 20 m) box of the Colony/Minotaur design, approved by the Admiralty Board on 16 July 1943, with four twin automatic 5.25-inch guns, better range, internal space and subdivision and economical 48,000 hp for 28 knots (52 km/h) machinery. 24/25 of the leading RN admirals and the Sea Lords favoured the N2 and prefered the lighter DP 5.25 turrets, except the incoming, new First Lord Andrew Cunningham, who believed 6-inch guns were essential. By 1944 the 5.25 RP10 was a improved surface and DP weapon, compared with the 1942 Med operations. HMS Spartan firing 900 rounds in two days in support of the preliminaries to the Anzio landings in Italy in 1944  and in the June 1944 D Day landings, HMS Diadem and Black Prince played a very important GFS and command role  Back Prince firing 1300 rounds in 6-15 June 44 Construction of two Mk 3 5.25 intended for N2 continued at Vickers Elswick until 1948  One aim of the naval staff in 1946-1950 was to take the existing 5.25 RP10 turrets out of the Dido/ Bellonas and rebuild the better Town and Fiji cruisers as four turret 5.25 N2 Mod. (Half Modernisation of the Towns Birmingham. Newcastle and Belfast cost 3.5-6 million pounds) but this was too expensive, costing 5 million pounds per Town reconstruction). As a result an improved Belfast,the Neptune class was designed and started but abandoned in 1946, replaced by a paper design the Minotaur 15,000 ton class. With fully automatic and unproven twin 6 inch and twin 3/70 which did not exist even as prototypes are which specifications far exceeded those of the most modern 6 inch guns developed for the USN and Swedish Navy in the late 1940s. The Minotaur was not fully designed until 1951 and offered considerable less than US Worchester class. The 1951 Minotaur with 5x2, twin 6 inch and 4 twin 3/70. was considered by the Atlee Cabinet under, the 1951 Korean war, expanded programme, Cabinet however decided the Minotaurs were far too large and expensive and for the first time put the the Tiger cruisers, to their 1948 legend on the building programme and instead of the proposed new Dido broad beam class with 4 twin Mk 6 4.5 decided to reconstruct of 5 Dido/ Bellona as AA cruisers, both the Tigers and modernised Dido were interim proposals until new missile ships were developed. Large cruisers were a low priority in post-war Britain, where the economic needs were better met by using the big slips to build fast steam ocean passenger liners. Plans to build the 15,000-ton 1947 Minotaurs had been abandoned by 1949. Attempts to develop such designs in the mid-1950s as guided missile cruisers were opposed when Admiral Earl Mountbatten became First Lord in 1955. The decision not to complete the new Tigers in the late 1940s was due to the desire to reassess cruiser design; furthermore, the provision of effective anti-aircraft (AA) fire-control to engage jet aircraft was beyond UK industrial capability in the first post-war decade. Consequently, higher priority was given to HMS Vanguard, the Battle-class destroyer, and to new aircraft carriers, Eagle and Ark Royal, for allocation of the only 26 US-supplied lease lend effective medium-range anti-aircraft Mk 37/275 directors, The 1947–49 period saw a peace dividend, and frigate construction became the priority in the Korean War.
By 1949 two alternative fits for the Tigers had been drawn up: one as pure anti-aircraft cruisers with six twin mountings of the new 3-inch 70 calibre design, and the later fit (ultimately adopted) with QF 6 inch Mark N5 guns in two twin Mark 26 automatic mountings and three twin 3-inch/70s. In historical terms, this represented a light armament, and similar US weapons introduced on USS Worcester had experienced considerable problems with jamming and had performed below expectation. A third lower-cost option of fitting two Mk 24 turrets in 'A' and 'B' positions and 4 Daring class's semi-automatic Mk 6 twin 4.5-in 'X' and 'Y' and possibly in place of the twin 4-inch X1X was considered during the Korean War. However, completing them to the 1946 plans or the mix of Mk 24 triples and Mk 6 4.5-inch mounts required 150 more crew than fully automatic DP armament was impossible post war  and other alternatives of 2 Mk 24 6 inch turrets combined with 2 Mk 6 Twin 4.5 ; single 4.5 guns or Twin 4 inch (1945 spec) with RP20 were options, offered little more than the original legend. Significant work and trials would be required to bring the first six Mk 24 turrets and cruisers into service by 1953.[Note 1] However, much of the original DC wiring used by the Mk 24 turrets had been stripped from the Tigers in 1948; there was a strong desire that the new cruisers should have AC power, not DC or dual.
There was great doubt of the merits of completing the Tigers, given that Soviet jet aircraft, as demonstrated from 1950 in the Korean War, were faster than anticipated, meaning that missiles and small 40 mm/57 guns firing shells with modern fuses would be more useful for anti-aircraft purposes.The higher-than-expected speed of the MiG-15 and the somewhat unanticipated value of 6-inch shells for shore bombardment in the Korean War, combined with Soviet resumption of large light-cruiser construction, meant the case for the original planned Mk 24 rested with its surface potential offering greater accuracy and slightly higher (7.5rpm) rate of fire, against Soviet cruisers. The 168-ton Mk 24 turret demanded huge space and was poorly armoured compared with the Sverdlov class 6.9-inch armour. However even six inch GFS was increasingly unacceptable to the Royal Navy after Korea and was allowed only on the first day of Operation Musketeer, after strong political opposition. The RN staff, were completely divided over the development of new AA guns larger than 4 inch post war, including the DNC Lillicrap in 1946 who saw the new 3/70 as eliminating the need for the new Mk 26 DP and advocating suspending cruiser design due to irrevocable divisions within the RN as much as lack of finance and the fact the new twin 3/70 and twin Mk 26 6 inch were 6 years from test, led to the Tiger class and Minotaurs being suspended in 1947,and slowed work on the new six inch and proposed new 5 inch guns. Arguments were made that US experience of light-cruiser action during the Guadalcanal action against Japanese cruisers suggested that manually operated 6-inch triples at low elevation could sustain high rates of fire of 8–10 rpm in the heat of the battle in action, andBermudain 1960 achieved 12rpm for a couple of minutes, at low elevation at close range (up to 5 miles) at a cost of higher barrel-wear. The USN maintained the similar Cleveland class triple 6-inch turret on its post-war missile conversions, including USS Galveston, not completed until 1958. Galveston maintained half its original 6 and 5 inch armament with twin Talos surface-to-air missile launchers and was far more capable than HMS Tiger, if very, overweight. While the 1945 names finally selected for the Tiger class, Lion, Tiger, Hawke and Blake, suggest strong Admiralty support for the class, many of the leading RN naval architects favoured scrapping them all in 1947. The Director of Naval Construction (DNC) informed the Acting Chief of Naval Staff that the Tigers were nearly structurally complete, making substantial modernization or adding real aircraft direction capability impossible, and the later war priority of heavy 6-inch turrets and close-range AA weaponry to counter the Japanese air threat meant they were the least suitable Royal Navy cruiser class for modernization. Unlike the Colony class, the Minotaur class could only be rearmed with three medium main turrets due to weight and internal-volume restrictions, whereas all the other cruiser types could be refitted with four modern medium turrets on the centreline. A decision to approve rearming the Tigers with fully automatic Mk 26s was made in late 1954. Of the suspended Minotaurs, Bellerophon was completed as Tiger, the name-ship of the new Tiger class, Blake was completed under her own name,[Note 2] and Defence was completed as Lion. Conversion of Blake and Tiger to helicopter cruisers in the 1960s left no money to convert Lion, and she was scrapped in 1975, after eight years in reserve.
Construction of the three suspended ships resumed in 1954, to a revised design known as the Tiger class, as a platform to mount new automatic 6-inch and 3-inch guns. It had always been intended to fit a tertiary battery of 3–4 twin 40mm CIWS guns particularly to guarantee available weapons to counter head-on air attack over the bow, with ac STAAG Mk 2 and then twin L70s under the bridge wings, but the RN abandoned both systems in 1959 and the twin L60/MRS8 fitting to Hermes and Belfast in 1959 looked dated and required too much space, weight and crew. Completing the cruisers was a controversial decision, reflecting exaggerated concern about Soviet Sverdlov cruiser construction, described as "chilling" by the director plans. The threat of the new Sverdlov-class cruisers was to be countered by the Blackburn Buccaneer strike-aircraft, the Tigers lacking the speed,range, armament and armour required and cruisers in number too expensive and a outdated solution.  Immediately post war, the carrier and cruiser might be complimentary in the old cruiser role, the defense and attack on trade , But by 1954, trade protection was better provided by large carriers and the RN small and intermediate light fleet carriers operating the light Sea Hawk and Sea Venom fighters, HMAS Melbourne (1955),with Sea Venom fighters  and HMCS Bonaventure (1957) with Banshee fighters and 4X2 3/50 AA provided, as a priority for this role and HMS Hercules, completed for, India as HMS Virkant with Sea Hawks and French Alize turbo prop a/s strike planes demonstrated its Sea Hawks in the classic attack on trade role to effect in the 1971 Indo Pakistan war with the Virkants main escort two Type 41 diesel gunships with 2 X 2 Mk 6 4.5 replacing the cruiser escort, as they did on the RN South America station in the 1960s, and under the Bengal Desh flag in GFS for the coalition in the 1991 Gulf war.
The 1954 Guy Fawkes Day Cabinet Meeting that decided the fate of the Royal Navy took six hours. Churchill was determined to limit the defence budget and the Royal Navy to develop nuclear weapons and the less vulnerable land-based airpower of the RAF.Two alternative new 8000 ton cruiser designs were considered, with similar COSOG propulsion to the later County DDG, one with the three Mk 26 6 inch twin and 4 twin L70 the other with two twin 5 inch & ten 40mm ( 1x6 and 4x1 or twin 3/70 in Y). However the cheaper legacy Tigers were approved, as quicker to build and half the price,with the new automatic Mk 26 twin, along with the very expensive completion of the aircraft carriers Hermes and reconstruction and re-boilering of Victorious, both with Type 984 3D radar. The update of the Tigers and the aircraft carriers was the financially less risky alternative to two new 35,000-ton strike aircraft-carriers, planned for laying down in 1957, and fought for with determination by First Lord Rhoderick McGrigor. Most of the Cabinet believed aircraft carriers disposable, would have scrapped the Victorious and put one of the two new large carriers Eagle or Ark Royal in reserve, as advocated by the new Minister of Defense Harold MacMillan and by his immediate predecessor Lord Alexander. Both Churchill and Macmillan wanted only small carriers with anti-submarine warfare aircraft and Sea Vixen strike fighters Churchill believed the cruisers "increasingly were becoming floating bulls eyes", but considered them much more useful than anti-submarine vessels in maintaining the prestige of the Royal Navy abroad and in the colonies. The relentless argument of Churchill, Sandys the Minister of Supply, the Cabinet Secretary, Brooke, Chancellor Butler and Minister of Defence MacMillan against HMS Eagle, Ark Royal and the planned, new strike Buccaneer bombers and new 35,000-ton carriers with the minimum full airgroup of 35 second-generation aircraft: 14 bombers,12 Vixen fighters and 9 AS/AD aircraft, meant a programme of the inadequate two-turret Tigers and a 'half empty' carrier force (HMS Hermes and Victorious, with only 25 plane airgroups) which were rebuilt for 20 years but expected to be declared irrelevant and too vulnerable after a decade. Therefore, the work on the Tigers proceeded; they appeared the newest cruisers, and with the Tiger prototype Superb they were the only cruisers with the 64-foot beam which allowed the fitting of the new twin 3-inch 70 calibre turrets on the flanks with adequate magazine capacity and more effective citadels to survive nuclear fallout. The 1957 Defence Review by Sandys justified the Tigers and the extended refit of Superb and Swiftsure, as interim anti-aircraft ships, until the County-class missile destroyers were commissioned. However the Towns Belfast and Liverpool had space for three new twin Mk 26 Turrets  but the Royal Navy considered them too old, and by 1960 serious consideration was being given to fitting HMS Blake and its half-sister HMS Swiftsure with Seaslug missiles rather than an X position 6-inch turret.
As gun cruisers, Tiger served 8 years, Lion 5 years, and Blake 2 years. A modest refit would have allowed the Second World War completed Newfoundland, Ceylon and Belfast to run until 1966. Blake was in reserve in 1963 for lack of 85 technical staff in the weapon, radio and turbine department and 31 high skill electricians . This indicates, Blake was probably the one Tiger originally fitted with high performance RP 40 all electric main turret armament with elevation, training of the guns and the shell and cartridge hoists, electrically driven,and was massively overengineered for the limited GFS role the RN from 1963 and the electrical requirements of HMS Albion, 3 County DDG, 9 new frigates, commissioning in 1963  and Lion was used, little, East of Suez due to boiler, mechanical and gun jamming problems. HMNZS Royalist, with many RN crew, was reactivated as a surface escort for carrier groups in Southeast Asia in 1964, to deter the threat of the Indonesian ex-Soviet Sverdlov, and in a brief tour in 1965 to support the amphibious carriers with AD and GFS potential, but by 1966 Royalist like Blake, Lion was unsustainable as a gun cruiser,in the year of maximum danger. The Indonesian confrontation . The three turret, 4.5 Mk 6, RAN and RN Darings, with 3 turrets ensured at least one turret available for GFS and surface action. All the large RN Darings destroyers, the Darings, refitted with MRS3 fire-control, even the last Daring, Defender was refitted in 1963–65 with the new fire control for its three 4.5-inch twin turrets in a final Daring refit in an attempt to provide a substitute for the failed Tiger cruisers ( the final RAN Daring upgrade in 68-71 to Vampire and Vendetta with new Dutch Radar and Fire Control and Ops room, finally giving a Daring-Cruiser capability) and a counter to the Sverdlovs and the aircraft/detection Battles, with new electronics and the County-class guided missile destroyer also did GFS and fleet escort role. Lion, launched in 1944, and eight years in reserve in a Scottish loch, was in poor condition when reconstruction began in 1954 and made the class completion even more questionable.
By 1964 the Conservative Government and half the naval staff saw the Tigers as no longer affordable or credible in the surface combat or fleet air defense role, and would have preferred to decommission them but technically they were only three years old, built at immense expense, which, made scrapping them politically impossible, approved their conversion into helicopter carriers,carrying Wessex helicopters primarily to land troops in Marine operations with a large hangar replacing 'Y' turret, and 'A' and 'B' turrets retained for NGFS, and anti-surface vessel warfare, to provide extra powerful vessels to support and conduct amphibious operations east of Suez where it was difficult logistically for the Royal Navy to sustain even one operational carrier and one commando carrier in 1963-64. The original plan retained the full three twin 3 inch mounts or CIWS with full update of the sonar and radar including 965M AW but replacing the 992 target indicator radar with the slower 993. The Army preference in 1964 with the Indonesian confrontation building, was actually, to retain the Tigers with their full two turret 6 inch gun armament for NFGS , To avoid the political problem os scrapping new cruisers as well as the aircraft carriers, the Labour Government elected in October 1964 decided to retain, large ships for command and flagship roles and accepted the RN and MOD argument , three Tiger cruisers would in some way replace the anti-submarine warfare role provided in the past provided by Aircraft Carriers , in theory providing twelve dipping-sonar and torpedo equipped helicopters (4 x 3) in a 30kt hull with considerable self-defense capability. At the time the Royal Navy was concentrated mainly east of Suez operation and the anti-submarine deterrent role was mainly to counter slow Indonesian and Chinese diesel submarines. In theory even, one Tiger might be available to threaten nuclear depth charge use and free space on aircraft carriers like Hermes and Victorious for Strike and Air Warfare aircraft. However, major exercises conducted in 1965 with modernised WW2 cruisers like the USS Topeka and HMNZS Royalist suggested they were not suitable platforms for tracking modern submarines.
The Wilson Labour Government continued the conversion of Tiger and Blake, after deciding, on further ship cuts and a faster phase out of carriers in 1968. However, during the conversion of Blake the plan was changed to allow the cruisers to operate, 4 of the more capable Westland Sea King carriers, although only 3 Sea Kings could actually, ever be accommodated and serviced in the longer hangar which extended further into the main structure of the ship, and greater cost and forcing the replacement of the side 3-inch gun mounts (which fire arcs were now too restricted) with much less effective Seacat GWS22. The low priority given to deterrence of Soviet submarines in the Northern Atlantic by the MOD is reflected by the decision to convert a suitable anti-submarine helicopter platform, the carrier Hermes into an amphibious carrier. The suggestion of the captain of the aircraft carrier Bulwark in 1966 that Bulwark and the other light fleet carriers be developed for the 'cruiser' role, carrying P1127 Harriers and anti-submarine helicopters, as well as troops and marine-carrying helicopters, was rejected, despite the argument there capacity was under-utilised. The later advent of the Invincible-class aircraft carriers would seem to add weight to this proposal. Hermes and Bulwark were larger, and offered better silencing and hangar capacity. The Labour Government's priority was to arm aircraft in West Germany with tactical and thermo-nuclear weapons, and secondly, amphibious support of the British Army in Norway. Provision of nuclear depth charges for anti-submarine, aircraft carriers and destroyers and frigates was limited and late, although approval to wire all the Leander, Rothesay and County class ships for triggering NDB was given in 1969, and frigates and destroyers offered, quieter listening platforms, than the old Tigers. The proposed class of four large Type 82 destroyers fitted with nuclear Ikara anti-submarine missiles could have been a more reliable nuclear deterrent, but the British Ikara missile was ultimately fitted only to carry conventional Mark 46 torpedoes, while only one Type 82, HMS Bristol, was built; this ship lacked even a helicopter hangar, and was plagued by problems common with dated and complex steam propulsion. Crewing and developing large cruiser size warships with steam propulsion was becoming more difficult in the RN, contributing to the issues in Tiger and the much later Type 82 destroyer. With no other approved option, in 1965, work began on Blake to convert her to a helicopter cruiser while Tiger began her conversion in 1968. The structural modernisation work on these old hulls was difficult and expensive. However, the ships successfully served as helicopter command cruisers and provided an argument to justify construction of their replacement, the Invincible class 'through deck cruisers'. Lion's conversion was cancelled, due to rising cost and obvious fact by 1969 that Blake's conversion was unsatisfactory. Lion remained operational until late 1965, after which she was placed in reserve, although in the event she was used as a parts source for the conversion of Tiger. The conversion of two or three County-class guided missile destroyers as anti-submarine helicopter cruisers might have provided a quite effective anti submarine vessel, as Chile did with two of its second hand County class. Running on their steam turbines alone, the County GMD was a quiet anti submarine platform and three RN County-class vessels were expensively updated in the late 1970s with Exocet and improved C4 and Glamorgan proved useful in the 'cruiser' role in the Falklands War, being faster through rough seas than even Hermes. Without proper modernisation and removal of the Sea Slug missile system, their helicopter capabilities were cumbersome and limited. Had the last two County class HMS Antrim and HMS Norfolk, which commissioned in 1970, been redesigned early in their construction as helicopter carrier a very good anti submarine helicopter carrier might have resulted with Sea King capacity, and it is not inconceivable HMS Bristol could have been redesigned with the single Sea Launcher forward and a hangar for 4 Sea King in place of where Sea Dart and Limbo and pad were actually sited on the T82. The conversion of the destroyer Devonshire, proposed for Egypt in 1978, would have had both a deck hangar and below deck hangar (in the area of the former Sea Slug magazine) to operate 4 Lynx or 3 Wessex and might have produced a flawed anti-submarine helicopter cruiser. The Tigers as half heavy gun cruiser and half short life anti-submarine carrier, suited the RN as flagships with good communications and some modern sensors, but they did not really add to task force defence and needed protection themselves, and by 1979, the USN had mothballed its last 6-inch gun cruiser USS Oklahoma City.
The conversions left Tiger and Blake some 380 tons heavier with a full displacement of 12,080 tons and their crew complements increased by 169 to 885. Originally, Lion was also to have been converted, although this never materialised: Blake's conversion had been more expensive than envisaged (£5.5 million) and so funds were no longer available. Ironically Tiger's conversion cost even more (£13.25 million), such was the level of inflation at the time. After much material was stripped off her for use as spares for her sisters, Lion was subsequently sold for breaking up in 1975.
Obsolescence and decommissioning
In 1969, Blake returned to service followed by Tiger in 1972. However, the large crews and limited helicopter capacity made Tiger's further fleet service limited to less than nine years. After spending seven years in reserve, the decision was made in 1973 to strip Lion for spares to maintain Blake and Tiger, and Lion was sold for scrap in 1975.
The cutback in operating funds and manpower, faced by the Royal Navy when the new Conservative government limited fuel and operating allowances in a policy of tight monetary control, and the belief in the economy of Nimrod aircraft and submarines for anti-submarine operations quickened their demise. The recommissioning of the carrier Bulwark and conversion of Hermes meant that they could carry twice as many Sea Kings as could the Tigers in anti-submarine warfare, vital against the Soviet Union submarine threat in the Atlantic, and decreased the importance of the Tigers even further. What was often overlooked however was the vulnerability of Hermes or Bulwark in operating independently, with only minimal CIWS, and the Dutch Tromp and De Ruyter were particularly vital stand-in, destroyer leader ships working with RN carriers from the mid 1970s. Operating alone as a RN task force, carriers could not be risked in blue water operations without an escort of Type 42 destroyers, Type 22 frigates or Sea Wolf-fitted Leander-class frigates. The true manpower requirements for open water and power projection were high in terms of fiscal cost and hulls but not improved by ships like the Tigers. It is easy to overlook the fear the Royal Navy had of the Second World War era ex-American cruiser General Belgrano during the Falklands War, but her ability to efficiently fight her armament is doubtful and her two Exocet-armed FRAM 2 Allen M. Sumner-class escorts may have represented a greater threat to the Task Force. The rapid-firing twin 6-inch Mk.26 turrets of 'Tiger' and 'Blake', their flight-decks and speed, along with a virtually inexhaustible stock of 6-inch and 3-inch ammunition held for them in the 1970s, were arguments for emergency reactivation as landing pads during the Falklands War but the stock of 3-inch ammunition held for the Tigers was more useful providing for the Canadian St. Laurent class.
In April 1978, Tiger was withdrawn from service, followed by Blake in 1979; both ships were laid up in reserve at Chatham Dockyard. When Blake was decommissioned in 1979, she had the distinction of being the last cruiser to serve the Royal Navy and her passing was marked on 6 December 1979 when she ceremonially fired her 6-inch guns for the last time in the English Channel. Just a few days after the Falklands War started, both Blake and Tiger were rapidly surveyed to determine their condition for reactivation. The survey determined both ships to be in very good condition; they were put into dry-dock (Blake at Chatham, and Tiger at Portsmouth) and round-the-clock work reactivation work was immediately begun. By mid-May it was determined that the ships would not be completed in time to take part in the war and the work was stopped. Ships such as the Tigers required large crews, their missile systems needed updating and the ships themselves needed heavy repairs to the machinery and rewiring. Attempts to maintain more modern hulls for emergency reactivation, such as Intrepid and Fearless (amphibious assault ships), were expensive and questionable, but one has to consider the fact that there was nothing else, and both acquitted themselves well during the Falklands conflict. Retaining a couple of the first group County-class destroyers at Chatham dockyard half-manned and permanently maintained might have allowed a heavier GFS capability to actually fight in the Falklands War, but their aircraft operating ability was already obsolete, and the Tigers' Sea Kings and main armament were worth two Counties, and at a lesser manpower, so this suggestion is flawed.
Though Chile showed some interest in acquiring both ships, the sale did not proceed and the ships sat at anchor in an unmaintained condition until sold. Blake was then sold for breaking up in late 1982, followed by Tiger in 1986.
|Pennant||Name||(a) Hull builder
(b) Main machinery manufacturers
|Laid down||Launched||Accepted into service||Commissioned||Decommissioned||Estimated building cost|
|C20||Tiger (ex-Bellerophon) ||(a) & (b) John Brown and Co Ltd, Clydebank.||1 October 1941 ||25 October 1945 ||March 1959 ||18 March 1959 ||20 April 1978 ||£12,820,000 |
|C34||Lion (ex-Defence) ||(a) Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Greenock (to launching stage)
(a) Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Wallsend-on-Tyne (for completion).
|24 June 1942 ||2 September 1944 ||July 1960 ||20 July 1960 ||December 1972 ||£14,375,000 |
|C99||Blake (ex-Tiger, ex-Blake) ||(a) & (b) Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Govan, Glasgow.||17 August 1942 ||20 December 1945 ||March 1961 ||8 March 1961 ||December 1979 ||£14,940,000 |
- With two pairs of 274 and 275 directors. The first UK-sourced accurately machined and reliable 275M directors were fitted in 1956, in Royalist and in Type 12 frigates, 14 years after the introduction of the US Mk 37 DCT. confirms in late 1951 UK industry could still not build precision bearings or work to the fine tolerances needed for accurate naval AA fire and fire-control box components, had to ordered, again from the US. However by 1953, US Mk 63 directors in the MRS 8 directors for close-in defence had been fitted at US expense in most major RN units and cruisers. Newfoundland was reconstructed to a pattern very similar to that planned for HMS Hawke and the Tigers with 2/274 surface DCTs with the unreliable, UK glasshouse 275 offset. On exercise AA firing Royalist outshot HMS Newcastle easily.
- Although she had been named Tiger halfway through the process, then renamed Blake.
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- "Unit cost, i.e. excluding cost of certain items (e.g. aircraft, First Outfits)."
Text from Defences Estimates
- Gardiner, Robert Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947–1995, pub Conway Maritime Press, 1995, ISBN 0-85177-605-1 page 504.
- Navy Estimates, 1959–60, pages 230–1, List and particulars of new ships which have been accepted or are expected to be accepted into HM service during the Financial Year ended 31st March 1959
- Navy Estimates, 1961–62, pages 220–1, List and particulars of new ships which have been accepted or are expected to be accepted into HM service during the Financial Year ended 31st March 1961
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tiger class cruiser.|
- 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.
- Tiger-class cruisers
- Tiger class at Uboat.net