Town-class cruiser (1936)

The Town class consisted of 10 light cruisers built for the Royal Navy during the 1930s. 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.

Class of British light cruisers
For the Town class of World War I, see Town-class cruiser (1910).
Not to be confused with Town-class destroyer.

Liverpool in 1942
Class overview
Name Town class
Operators  Royal Navy
Preceded by Arethusa class
Succeeded by
  • Southampton
  • Gloucester
  • Edinburgh
Built 1934–1939
In commission 1937–1960
Completed 10
Lost 4
Retired 5
Preserved 1
General characteristics
Class and type Light cruiser
  • 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)
  • Southampton and Gloucester classes: 591 ft 7.2 in (180.3 m)
  • Edinburgh class: 613 ft 7.2 in (187.0 m)
  • Southampton class: 62 ft 3.6 in (19.0 m)
  • Gloucester and Edinburgh classes: 64 ft 10.8 in (19.8 m)
  • 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
Propulsion 4 × shafts; 4 × steam turbines
  • Southampton class:32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)
  • Gloucester and Edinburgh classes:32.25 knots (59.73 km/h; 37.11 mph)
Range 5,300 nmi (9,800 km; 6,100 mi) at 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Complement 750
Aircraft carried 2 × Supermarine Walrusflying boats (removed in the latter part of WWII)
Aviation facilities 1 × catapult

. . . Town-class cruiser (1936) . . .

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

Like their US and Japanese counterparts of that era, the Town-class cruisers were “light cruisers” in the strict terms of the London Treaty, which 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. In practice the guns could not be trained or manually loaded quickly enough for continuous anti-aircraft fire, so the Royal Navy designed the Auto Barrage Unit (ABU) which allowed the guns to be loaded with time-fuzed shells and then fired when the target aircraft reached a set 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.

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

The secondary armament consisted of four twin Mk XIX 4-inch turrets, and two quad pom-poms.[2] Additional light anti-aircraft weapons were added during the war and the 4-inch mounts were converted to Remote Power Control (RPC).[2] Postwar the Birmingham and Newcastle were partially reconstructed in 1949–51 with enclosed bridges, new lattice masts, improved surface fire control and long range radar and an improved but still unreliable version of the Glasshouse Directors with 275 lock and follow radar, with flyplane control [2] for the twin 4 inch guns with elevation speed increased to 15–20 degrees per second, to engage faster jet aircraft. Similar electronic alterations were made to Sheffield but it received less structural alteration. Liverpool was put into reserve in 1952 to preserve it for potential modernisation and Glasgow had a less extensive refit to allow her to be sent quickly if needed in the Suez crisis of 1956. Birmingham, Newcastle and Sheffield had the pom pom and 20 mm armament replaced by 40mm Bofors mounts.[2] Belfast was fitted with MRS 8 HACDT to combine 40 mm and twin 4 inch AA fire and to permit the use of 40 mm proximity fused ammunition as used by the British Army.

. . . Town-class cruiser (1936) . . .

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