HMS Devonshire (39)

HMS Devonshire (39)

HMS "Devonshire" was a County class heavy cruiser of the Royal Navy that served in World War II. She was part of the "London" subgroup of the County class.

Early career

"Devonshire" served with the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean until 1932. She suffered a mishap early in her career, when on 26 July, 1929 while engaged in firing practice in the Aegean, off the island of Skhiatos, the left gun of "X" turret misfired. The breech operator did not realize it and opened the breech block, causing the charge inside the barrel to explode and also ignite the next one inside the turret; 17 men died in the mishap. "Devonshire" returned to England for repairs in August with "the turret swung 'round and the guns awry". As a result of this incident, a new interlock was fitted, which prevented the operator from opening the breech until it had been tripped by the gun firing or manually reset by another operator inside the turret. She was on the China Station until 1933, and returned to the Mediterranean again until 1939. This year, the surrender of the island of Minorca was signed on board, during the Spanish Civil War, and "Devonshire" subsequently evacuated distinguished republicans.

Wartime service

Under the command of the future First Sea Lord John H. D. Cunningham, she participated in the Norwegian campaign, and evacuated the Norwegian Royal Family from Norway on 6 June 1940, two months after Germany had invaded. She was part of the force for the raid on Dakar in August 1940 (Operation Menace, when she shelled ships and batteries in and around the port. When the attack was abandoned she was employed in operations against Vichy French territories on the coast of equatorial Africa, blockading the Cameroons and Gabon. She was involved in the search for the German raider "Kormoran" in the South Atlantic, and during her time off South Africa under the command of captain R. D. Oliver, captured an entire Vichy French convoy east of the Cape of Good Hope, on 2 November, 1941. She then served with the Home Fleet off Norway and Russia until September 1941.

On 21 November 1941, under the command of Captain R. D. Oliver, and with the help of its Supermarine Walrus observation plane, "Devonshire" located and then sunk a German merchant raider, the auxiliary cruiser "Atlantis", at a range of 14–15 km. Seven German sailors were killed.

She was under refit at Norfolk, Virginia between January and March 1942. She then served with the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean until May 1943, covering Anzac troop convoys from Suez to Australia and then participated in the assault on Madagascar in May 1942. She underwent another refit until March 1944, and was then assigned to serve with the Home Fleet off Norway, where she covered the carrier raids against the Norwegian coast until 1945.

Postwar, she was converted to the Royal Navy's cadet training ship in 1947, in which role she served until 1953. Life aboard her during her service in this role was chronicled in John Winton's 'We Joined the Navy'. "Devonshire" was sold for scrap on 16 June 1954 and arrived at Newport on 12 December 1954 where she was broken up by Cashmore's.


* "British and Empire Warships of the Second World War", H T Lenton, Greenhill Books, ISBN 1-85367-277-7
* "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922-1946", Ed. Robert Gardiner, Naval Institute Press, ISBN 0-87021-913-8
* [ HMS Devonshire at]
* [ Cruisers of World War II]

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