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Crown Colony-class cruiser
HMS Nigeria.jpg
Class overview
Name: Crown Colony-class cruiser
Operators: United Kingdom Royal Navy
United Kingdom Royal Canadian Navy
India Indian Navy
Peru Peruvian Navy
Preceded by: Dido class
Succeeded by: Minotaur class
Subclasses: Fiji
Completed: Eleven
Lost: Two
General characteristics
Class & 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 MW)
(Ceylon group; 80,000 shp (60 MW))
Speed: 31.5 knots
(Ceylon group; 32 knots)
Range: 10,100 nm (18,700 km) at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Complement: 730

Fiji group:

Ceylon group:

  • 9 x BL 6 in (152 mm) Mark XXIII guns in 3 triple mountings Mark XXI
  • 8 x QF 4 in (102 mm) Mark XVI guns in 4 twin mountings Mark XIX
  • 12 x QF 2 pdr (40 mm) Mark VIII in 3 quad mountings Mark VII
  • 2 x triple 21 in (533 mm) tubes for torpedoes Mark IX
Aircraft carried: Two Supermarine Walrus aircraft (removed by 1944, never fitted in Fiji or Kenya)

The Crown Colony-class light cruisers of the Royal Navy were named after Crown Colonies of the British Empire. The first eight are known as the Fiji class, while the last three to be built are commonly referred to as the Ceylon class and were built to a slightly modified design.


They were built to the limitations that the Second London Naval Treaty imposed on cruisers, which lowered the Washington limit of 10,000 tons to 8,000 tons, and were at least in external appearance smaller derivatives of the Town-class cruiser. The Colony class cruisers however like the following Minotaurs, essentially fit the same armament on a 1,000 ton less displacement and the Colony class and the follow on Swiftsure were very tight designs, built largely in war emergency conditions with little margin for any great updating postwar. The 62 ft beam imposing crippling limits. The armour scheme was revised from that of the Towns in that the main belt now protected the 6 inch ammunition spaces, although the belt itself was reduced to 3.5 inches and 3.25 inches in the machinery spaces. The 6 inch Mk XXIII 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 Colony 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. The Crown Colonys were instantly recognisable as they had a transom stern and straight funnels and masts; those of the Towns being raked. Due to the size of the Crown Colony class, a number of the ships had their 'X' turret removed to allow the shipping of additional light anti-aircraft guns. Ships of the Fiji group were equipped with the HACS AA fire control system for the secondary armament 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 Colony class had the updated 274 lock and follow surface fire control radar, which massively increased the chance of hits from the opening salvoes. In the 1950's (except during the Korean war and Suez operation) 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.


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 bows 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 A/A 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 2 and 4 single pom-poms in powered mountings Mark XV. In Kenya, all pom-poms were removed, and were replaced with 5 twin and 8 single 40 mm /60 Bofors A/A. By the end of the war, Newfoundland had one and Uganda had 2 American pattern quadruple 40 mm /60 Bofors mounts Mark III and Nigeria had 4 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 lock and follow surface fire control and Newfoundland, Ceylon, Bermuda, Gambia and possibly Kenya being fitted with US supplied Mk 63 radar to control the twin 4 inch guns. These ships would been altered for water sprays to wash off nuclear fallout and received the 960 standard long range air search. Newfoundland received a greater degree of electrical updating, rewiring and more more comprehensive a/a fire control and was the only Colony updated close to the standard planned for the Improved Dido's which were intended for hot war with eventual reboilering, while the Colony class were only refitted for GFS and Colonial patrol and presence. Mid 1950's refitting to the 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 CIWS to 4-6 twin L/60 Bofors.


They served with distinction during the Second World War. Jamaica took part in a number of operations, including driving off the heavy cruisers Hipper and Lützow in 1942, the sinking of the Scharnhorst in 1943, and escorting carrier air attacks on the 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 being renamed INS Mysore. The ship was heavily used from the time of her transfer until the late 1970's, but then converted to a harbour traning ship by 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 Crown Colony-class were decommissioned from active service with the Royal Navy 1962 and began being sold for scrap, though HMS Bermuda was fully operational during 1961 and sometimes ventured to sea in 1962 as flagship of the reserve fleet. Gambia had being reduced to reserve in December 1960 and Ceylon and Newfoundland sold to Peru a year earlier. During the 1950s the larger Towns were usually regarded as more habitable and comfortable in patrolling in the tropics and far east, though they were being retired by and then sold for scrap by 1960, except for Sheffield (being retired from sea-going service in 1958 and maintained as a reserve headquarters ship) and Belfast which stayed in active seaworthy service until 1963. Sheffield and Belfast were in semi maintained reserved, and were probably capable of reactivation as late as 1964-66. This cannot be said of the last Colony class cruisers, which were seriously deteriorating due to being in an unmaintained extended reserve status many years before the last ship; HMS Gambia, was sold for scrap in 1968. None of them were the last cruisers of the Royal Navy however. That honour went to Blake, a modified Tiger-class cruiser, which was decommissioned in 1980: the last classic WW2 cruiser design to serve in the Royal Navy.

Ships of the class

HMS Jamaica

Fiji group

  • Bermuda - Took part in Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa, during WWII, 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 hit by a bomb from a German Me 109 aircraft, after having survived 20 bomb hits, this one caused her to list heavily, though three further bombs proved fatal for the cruiser. 244 of her crew were lost.
  • 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 WWII, taking part in a number of operations during that war, including the sinking of the Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape, driving off Admiral Hipper at the Battle of the Barents Sea, and escorting carrier air attacks on the 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. She was scrapped in 1960.
  • Kenya - Was heavily involved in WWII, 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 WWII. 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 INS Mysore. She was scrapped in 1985.
  • Trinidad - In 1942 while engaging three German destroyers, 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. The same year, Trinidad was hit by Luftwaffe Ju 88 bombers, damaging her to an extent that her crew were forced to scuttle her in the Barents Sea the following day.

Ceylon group

  • 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 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 sustaining heavy damage, also suffering 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 ironically broken up in Japan, the country that she and her crew fought against in World War II.
  • Uganda - Escorted the RMS Queen Mary to Washington 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


  1. Campbell, Naval Weapons of WWII, p.15.


External links

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