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HMS Dorsetshire (40)
HMS Dorsetshire (40).jpg
HMS Dorsetshire (40) in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1938.
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Dorsetshire
Builder: Portsmouth Dockyard
Laid down: 21 September 1927
Launched: 29 January 1929
Commissioned: 30 September 1930
Fate: Sunk by IJN aircraft, 5 April 1942
General characteristics
Class & type: County-class heavy cruiser
Displacement: 10,035 long tons (10,196 t) (standard)
13,420 long tons (13,640 t) (full load)
Length: 632 ft 9 in (192.86 m)
Beam: 66 ft (20 m)
Draught: 18 ft (5.5 m)
Installed power: 80,000 shp (60,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4 × Parsons geared or Brown Curtis steam turbines
8 × boilers
4 × shafts
Speed: 31.5 kn (58.3 km/h; 36.2 mph)
Range: 12,000 nmi (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement: 653
Armament: 8 × 8 in (200 mm) Mk VIII guns
8 × 4 in (100 mm) dual purpose guns
24 × 2-pounder pom-pom anti-aircraft guns
8 × 24 in (610 mm) torpedo tubes
numerous light anti-aircraft guns
Aircraft carried: 2 × Supermarine Walrus floatplanes (operated by 700 Naval Air Squadron)
Aviation facilities: 1 × catapult

HMS Dorsetshire (pennant number 40) was a heavy cruiser of the County class of the Royal Navy, named after the English county (now usually known as Dorset). She was launched on 29 January 1929 at Portsmouth Dockyard, UK. During the Second World War, she was last commanded by Captain Augustus Agar V.C.. The Dorsetshire was sunk by Japanese dive bombers in the Indian Ocean in 1942.



Upon commissioning, Dorsetshire became the flagship of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. In 1931, she was part of the Atlantic Fleet during the Invergordon Mutiny but the incident was brought to a close before her crew joined the mutiny. From 1933–1936, she served on the Africa Station. In 1936, she received a refit, and the following year she joined the China Station.

The Atlantic and South Africa

In December 1939, a couple months after war was declared, Dorsetshire — with other Royal Navy ships— was sent to Uruguay in pursuit of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the aftermath of the Battle of the River Plate. Dorsetshire left Simonstown, South Africa on 13 December, and was still in transit on 17 December when the Germans scuttled Graf Spee.

She operated in the Atlantic for a short while, and in February 1940, she intercepted the German supply freighter Wakama, which was promptly scuttled by her crew. On 2 March, Dorsetshire left the Falklands — with wounded sailors from fellow cruiser Exeteren route to Cape Town via Tristan da Cunha, where the islanders were supplied with stores. On the 11th, the wounded and the prisoners from the German freighter were put ashore.[1]

Dorsetshire then returned to the UK, arriving at Plymouth on 25 May. She spent less than a week here, departing again for Freetown at the end of the month. In June, she set out from Freetown to follow the French battleship Richelieu, which had left Dakar for Casablanca. Richelieu was eventually ordered to return to Dakar by her admiral, François Darlan. Dorsetshire continued to monitor the French Navy off Dakar throughout July. On 4 September, she was dry-docked at Durban, and on the 20th she arrived back in Simonstown. She sailed for Sierra Leone the next day.[1]

Now operating in the Indian Ocean, in November she bombarded Zante in Italian Somaliland. In December, she was back in dock at Simonstown, before departing later that month to search for the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, which had recently sunk a British refrigerator ship in the South Atlantic. On 18 January 1941, she captured the Vichy French freighter Mendoza and escorted the ship to Takaradi. By March, she was once again at Simonstown.[1]

The Bismarck and Singapore

Survivors from Bismarck are pulled aboard Dorsetshire on 27 May 1941.

In late May 1941, Dorsetshire was one of the ships which engaged the German battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic. On 27 May, Dorsetshire was ordered to torpedo Bismarck, which had by that point been crippled by repeated aircraft and naval attacks. Dorsetshire torpedoed Bismarck, which then sank rapidly, either from the damage she had received from the British, or from Bismarck's crew working to scuttle her. Dorsetshire was able to recover only 110 of the Bismarck's crew from the ocean, before being forced to leave to evade a suspected U-boat. Dorsetshire's navigating officer, Lieutenant Commander Durant, sighted on the starboard bow two miles away a smoky discharge in the water. He pointed it out to Captain Benjamin Charles Stanley Martin and others on the bridge. No one knew what it was but the most likely explanation was a U-boat. The Admiralty had sent a warning that U-boats were on the way and they were lucky not to have encountered any already. And if it was a U-boat, Dorsetshire, lying stopped in the water, was a sitting target. In the circumstances, Captain Martin had no choice but to ring down for full speed and in HMS Maori, Commander Armstrong did the same.

In September, Dorsetshire departed Freetown to cover the five-ship convoy WS-10X which arrived in South Africa from the UK with troops in route to the Middle East. In November–December, WS-12X, a convoy of 10 troop transport ships, steamed out from Halifax, Canada en route to Bombay, India. However, when WS-12X arrived in Cape Town on 9 December, it was diverted to Singapore with the Dorsetshire as an escort. This convoy was labelled "12X" instead of "13" in deference to nautical superstition, but to no avail. The entire 18th Division successfully landed only to surrender a few weeks later after seeing little action in the capitulation of Singapore.[1]

Eastern Fleet and sinking

Dorsetshire and Cornwall under heavy air attack by Japanese carrier aircraft on 5 April 1942. Photographed from a Japanese aircraft.

Dorsetshire was deployed on 11 November in the search for the German commerce raider Atlantis (the "Raider C") that had preyed on Allied shipping. Dorsetshire also chanced upon the German supply ship Python on 1 December, which was refuelling U-boats in the South Atlantic. The U-boats dived, and one of them fired some torpedoes at Dorsetshire, but missing her. The crew of Python scuttled their ship.

In 1942, Dorsetshire was assigned to the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. In the Imperial Japanese Navy's Indian Ocean raid, she and her sister ship Cornwall were attacked by Japanese Navy Aichi D3A Val dive bombers 320 km (200 mi) southwest of Ceylon on 5 April. Dorsetshire was hit by 10 bombs and sank stern first at about 13:50. Cornwall was hit eight times and sank bow first about 10 minutes later. Of Dorsetshire's crew, 234 men were killed in the attack; more than 500 survived in the water or on rafts, being picked up by the cruiser Enterprise and the destroyers Paladin and Panther the next day. Captain Agar was among the survivors.

See also

  • Augustus Agar for a more detailed discussion of the circumstances surrounding Dorsetshire's last days.

Book Sources

  • 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. 


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 website on Allied warships: (accessed 18 May 2013)

External links

Coordinates: 1°54′N 77°45′E / 1.9°N 77.75°E / 1.9; 77.75

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