Military Wiki
Town-class cruiser (1936)
HMS Belfast
Class overview
Name: Town-class cruiser
Operators: RN Ensign Royal Navy
Preceded by: Arethusa-class
Succeeded by: Dido class
Subclasses: Southampton
Completed: 10
Lost: 4
Preserved: 1
General characteristics
Class & type: Light cruiser
Displacement: Southampton class: 11,540 long tons (11,730 t)
Gloucester class: 11,930 long tons (12,120 t)
Edinburgh class: 13,175 long tons (13,386 t)
Length: Southampton and Gloucester classes: 591 ft 7.2 in (180.3 m)
Edinburgh class: 613 ft 7.2 in (187.0 m)
Beam: Southampton class: 62 ft 3.6 in (19.0 m)
Gloucester and Edinburgh classes: 64 ft 10.8 in (19.8 m)
Draught: Southampton class: 20 ft (6.10 m)
Gloucester class: 20 ft 7.2 in (6.28 m)
Edinburgh class: 22 ft 7.2 in (6.89 m)
Installed power: Southampton class: 75,000 shp (55,900 kW)
Gloucester and Edinburgh classes: 82,500 shp (61,500 kW)
Propulsion: 4 × Parsons steam turbines
4 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
4 × shafts
Speed: Southampton class:32 kn (36.8 mph; 59.3 km/h)
Gloucester and Edinburgh classes:32.25 kn (37.1 mph; 59.7 km/h)
Range: 5,300 nmi (6,100 mi; 9,800 km) at 13 kn (15 mph; 24 km/h)
Capacity: 1,325 short tons (1,202 t) fuel oil
Complement: 750
Sensors and
processing systems:

Southampton and Gloucester classes, as designed:

Edinburgh class, as designed:

  • 12 × BL 6 in (152 mm) Mark XXIII guns (4x3)
  • 12 × QF 4 in (102 mm) Mark XVI guns (6x2)
  • 16 × QF 2-pounder (40 mm) Mark VIII pom-pom guns (2x8)
  • 8 × .5 in (12.7 mm) Vickers machine guns
  • 6 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (2x3)
Aircraft carried: 2 × Supermarine Walrus flying boats (removed in the latter part of WWII)
Aviation facilities: 1 × catapult

The Town class was a 10-ship class of light cruisers of the Royal Navy. The Towns were designed to the constraints imposed by the London Naval Treaty of 1930. The ships were built in three distinct sub-classes, the Southampton, Gloucester and Edinburgh classes respectively, each sub-class adding on further weaponry.


Mk XXII turret with rounded contours mounted on Southampton and Gloucester sub-classes

Mk XXIII turret with squared-off contours mounted on the Edinburgh sub-class

Like their US and Japanese counterparts of that era, the Town-class cruisers were "light cruisers" in the strict terms of the Treaty. The London Treaty defined a "light cruiser" as one having a main armament no greater than 6.1 in (155 mm) calibre, all three major naval powers sought to circumvent the limitations on heavy cruiser numbers by building "light cruisers" that were equal in size and effective power to heavy cruisers. These ships made up for their smaller calibre guns by carrying larger numbers of them.

All of these ships carried BL 6-inch Mk XXIII guns in triple turrets, with the centre gun mounted 30 in (76 cm) behind the two outer guns to prevent interference between the shells in flight and to give the gunners more room to work in.[1] The turret roofs had cutouts at the front to allow extreme elevation, originally intended to give the guns an anti-aircraft capability, although the guns could not be trained or manually loaded quickly enough in practice for continuous anti-aircraft fire so the Royal Navy designed the ABU, which allowed the guns to be preloaded with time fuzed shells, and then fired when the target aircraft reached the preset range. These ships were equipped with the HACS AA fire control system for the secondary armament and the Admiralty Fire Control Table for surface fire control of the main armament.

Southampton class

The Southampton class was the first and the subsequent two sub-classes were also known as modified or improved Southamptons. They had originally been built in response to the US Brooklyn-class and Japanese Mogami-class light-cruisers.

Gloucester class

The subsequent Gloucesters had a redesigned deck and received thicker armour on the gun turrets.

Edinburgh class

The Edinburgh class were longer at 614 ft (187 m) compared to 592 ft (180 m), initially to allow an increase in the main armament from twelve 6 in (152 mm) guns in four triple turrets as in the two previous sub-classes, to sixteen 6 in guns in four quadruple turrets. The idea was soon shelved however, due to the difficulties in actually manufacturing an effective quadruple 6 in turret, and so the class reverted to the original main armament design, although improved through a "long trunk" Mk XXIII turret design, which reduced the crew requirements and increased the speed of the ammunition hoists.[2] Four extra 4 in (102 mm) "High Angle Low Angle" guns and eight extra 2-pounder (40 mm) guns and further armour protection were added instead.

Later improvements

All were heavily modified during the Second World War and after the Korean War; Glasgow, Sheffield and Newcastle had one aft turret replaced by two quad 40 mm Bofors guns during the Second World War, since there was insufficient space to fit the needed extra anti-aircraft guns and retain the turret. This was not a problem in the Edinburghs, because they were longer and had more room. They still had substantial modifications to their weaponry, including addition of 40 mm Bofors guns. The addition of radar equipment during the Second World War, aided the ships' combat effectiveness.


The first Town-class ship was launched in 1936 and commissioned in 1937, just two years before the outbreak of war. The Town class saw much service during the Second World War and took in many famous actions, such as the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst. Four were sunk during the war, Edinburgh, Gloucester, Manchester, and Southampton. Many of the surviving ships saw successful service during the Korean War and continued in active service to the end of the 1950s. The last Town-class ship to be scrapped was Sheffield in 1967. One Town-class warship — Belfast — remains, moored on the River Thames in London as a museum-ship of the Imperial War Museum, a role she has performed since 1971.


Name Pennant Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Fate
Southampton class
Newcastle C76 Vickers-Armstrongs 4 October 1934 23 January 1936 5 March 1937 Sold for scrap August 1959
Southampton C83 John Brown & Company, Clydebank 21 November 1934 10 March 1936 6 March 1937 Sunk off Malta, 11 January 1941
Sheffield C24 Vickers-Armstrongs 31 January 1935 23 July 1936 25 August 1937 Scrapped at Faslane, 1967
Glasgow C21 Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Greenock 16 April 1935 20 June 1936 9 September 1937 Sold for scrap July 1958
Birmingham C19 Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth 18 July 1935 1 September 1936 18 November 1937 Broken up in 1960
Gloucester class
Liverpool C11 Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan 17 February 1936 24 March 1937 2 November 1938 Sold for scrap July 1958
Manchester C15 Hawthorn Leslie, Hebburn 28 March 1936 12 April 1937 4 August 1938 Scuttled on 13 August 1942 off Tunisia
Gloucester C62 Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth 22 September 1936 19 October 1937 31 January 1939 Sunk, 22 May 1941
Edinburgh class
Belfast C35 Harland and Wolff shipyard, Belfast 10 December 1936 17 March 1938 5 August 1939 Museum ship since 21 October 1971
Edinburgh C16 Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 30 December 1936 31 March 1938 6 July 1939 Sunk 1942

See also


  1. DiGiulian
  2. Campbell, Naval Weapons of WWII, p.35-36.


External links

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