HMS Cornwall (56)


HMS Cornwall (56)

HMS "Cornwall" (56) was a County class heavy cruiser of the "Kent" subclass of the Royal Navy. She was built at Devonport Dockyard (Plymouth, UK), with the keel being laid down on 9 October 1924. She was launched on 11 March 1926, and commissioned 8 May 1928.

History

Upon completion in 1928 "Cornwall" joined the China Station. In 1936 "Cornwall" had her tour of duty completed left the China Station for United Kingdom for a refit the following year. In 1938 with the refit completed "Cornwall" joined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. In 1939 "Cornwall" was once again transferred to the China Station, joining the 5th Cruiser Squadron.

In September 1939, after the outbreak of war, the cruiser was transferred to the Indian Ocean as a member of the newly created Force "I" based on Ceylon. On 5 October, she was involved in the search for the German pocket battleship "Admiral Graf Spee".

From 8 February to 14 February 1940 "Cornwall" was docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa. In August she was summoned from the South Atlantic to proceed on convoy duties from Freetown. On the 25th convoy "WS-2" arrived in South Africa with troop reinforcements including at least three Armoured Regiments for the 7th Armoured Division in Middle East. Also embarked was the 2nd West African Brigade en-route from Mombassa to participate in the Abyssinian Campaign. The convoy split into "WS-2A" for Cape Town and "WS-2B" for Simonstown, it included fourteen ships. In September in the central Atlantic area, a French naval expedition force consisting of the light cruisers "Georges Leygues", "Montcalm", "Gloire" and the large destroyers "Le Fantasque", "Le Malin" and "L'Audacieux" were sent to re-establish the authority of the Vichy government. The light cruiser "Primauguet" with the tanker "Tarn" had been sent ahead of the French force to Libreville to provide fuel supplies, but they were intercepted by "Cornwall" and "Delhi" and escorted to Casablanca.

January 1941, was spent in Selborne dry dock where "Cornwall" had her rudder removed and refitted. In May she was in the Indian Ocean while on patrol the German commerce raider "Pinguin" was sighted near the Seychelles and was engaged. Unfortunately 200 prisoners along with 332 Germans were lost with the ship, "Cornwall" managed to rescue 60 crew members and 22 prisoners who were originally the crew of the 32 merchant ships the raider had either sunk or captured. During the battle, "Cornwall" was hit in the stern. She returned to Durban for repairs, which were completed on 10 June. On 25 November, "Cornwall" intercepted the Vichy-French merchant "Surcouf" off the east coast of Somalia and brought her to Aden. The "Surcouf" was en route to Djibouti with food.

January 1942 found "Cornwall" at the Dutch East Indies Station participating in convoy duties between Ceylon and the Sunda Strait. During February until March the cruiser was still deployed in escorting convoys. Admiral Somerville, Commander in Chief Eastern Fleet, received reports on 29 March, of the impending attack by the Japanese on Ceylon, "Cornwall" (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, R.N.) together with her sister ship HMS "Dorsetshire" made up Force "A", and were then detached to Colombo.In early April, "Cornwall" and her sister ship HMS "Dorsetshire" were detached from the fleet to escort the aircraft carrier HMS "Hermes" to Trincomalee on Ceylon for repairs. On 4 April, the Japanese carrier fleet was spotted, and the two cruisers left the Harbour, and after a hurried refuelling at sea, set out for Addu Atoll shortly after midnight. On 5 April, the two cruisers were sighted by a spotter plane from the Japanese cruiser "Tone" about 200 miles (370 km) southwest of Ceylon. Bombers were immediately flown off the carriers to attack the two vessels, in an engagement known as the Easter Sunday Raid.

"Cornwall" was sunk in 12 minutes by nine 250- to 550-pound bombs, and six near misses. All boiler and engine rooms were out of action within minutes, thereby resulting in a lack of power to the pumps and fire fighting equipment. "Dorsetshire" was also lost in this engagement. 1,120 men from the crews of both ships were rescued by the light cruiser "Enterprise" and the destroyers "Paladin" and "Panther".

The cruiser's badge can still be seen proudly displayed on the Selborne dry dock wall at Simonstown, South Africa.

References

* "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
*Colledge
* [http://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/1184.html HMS Cornwall at U-boat.net]


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