HMS Dorsetshire (40)


HMS Dorsetshire (40)

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. In World War II, she was commanded by Captain Augustus Agar V.C.

Career

Interwar

Upon commissioning she 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 until 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 heavy units, was sent to Uruguay in pursuit of German surface raider pocket battleship (heavy cruiser) "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 the 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 1940 "Devonshire" left the Falklands with wounded sailors from the cruiser HMS "Exeter", enroute 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.

"Devonshire" 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. The "Richelieu" was eventually ordered to return to Dakar by her admiral, François Darlan. "Dorsetshire" continued to monitor French Naval Forces 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.

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 German 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.

The "Bismarck" and Singapore

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. "Bismarck"'s crew however had already begun the process of scuttling the ship, which then sank rapidly. "Dorsetshire" was able to recover only 110 of "Bismarck"'s crew from the sea, before being forced to evade a suspected U-boat.

In September, she departed Freetown to cover the five ships of convoy WS-10X which arrived in South Africa from the U.K. with troops on deployment to the Middle East. During November/December, a convoy of 10 troop transports set out from Halifax, Canada en-route to Bombay, India. On 9 December WS-12X arrived in Cape Town, and departed with "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 landed at Singapore but had barely time to get into action before the capitulation. The Units involved were 53, 54, and 55 Brigades.

Eastern Fleet and sinking

On 21 November 1941, "Dorsetshire" was involved in sinking "Atlantis" (the "Raider C") which had preyed on Allied shipping. She also chanced upon the German supply ship "Python" on 1 December 1941, which was refuelling U-boats in the South Atlantic. The submarines dived, and one of them fired torpedoes at "Dorsetshire" which missed. The crew of "Python" scuttled their ship.

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

ee also

*Augustus Agar for a more detailed discussion of the circumstances surrounding "Dorsetshire"’s last days.

References

*Colledge
* "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
* [http://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/1185.html HMS Dorsetshire at U-boat.net]
* [http://www.world-war.co.uk/index.php3 Cruisers of World War II]

External links

* [http://www.bismarck-class.dk/other_craft_involved/british_ships_involved/cruisers/dorsetshire.html Details of HMS Dorsetshire]


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