Allied Warships

HMS Cumberland (57)

Heavy cruiser of the Kent class

HMS Cumberland in 1945

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeHeavy cruiser
Built byVickers Armstrong (Barrow-in-Furness, U.K.) 
Ordered26 Apr 1924 
Laid down18 Oct 1924 
Launched16 Mar 1926 
Commissioned23 Feb 1928 
End service 

Upon completion in 1928 HMS Cumberland served on the China Station. In March 1935 Cumberland returned to the U.K. for a refit. After her refit she returned once more to the China Station. In 1938 Cumberland joined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and at the outbreak of war the ship was in the South America Division.

In October 1939 HMS Cumberland was a member of Force G part of the hunting group searching for the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, her allocated search area was along the east coast of South America. December, Whilst still on patrol with cruiser HMS Ajax in an area off the Falkland Islands she intercepted the blockade runner Ussukuma (7,834 tons) however before the cruiser could capture the vessel her crew had her scuttled. On 16 December she arrived off the river Plate estuary and was joined on the 19th by the cruisers HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Shropshire.

During January-February 1940, Cumberland had a refit at Simonstown, South Africa. In May-June, the cruiser was involved in convoy escort duties between Cape Town and Freetown, this being the first of the many Middle East troop convoys, convoy WS-1 arrived in South Africa with about 10,000 troop reinforcements for the Middle East. This was the first and last WS Convoy in which all the so called “Monsters” (Aquitania, Ile De France, Mauretania, Nieuw Amsterdam, Normandie, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary) sailed in company; thereafter they sailed independently relying on speed, zigzagging and evasive routing for A/S protection; not one was torpedoed during the war. Ile de France and Nieuw Amsterdam were largely employed on a shuttle between Durban and the Middle East/India thereby releasing other ships to return to the UK for the next WS Convoy. In July, she was employed in the task of hunting for the German commerce raider Thor before moving to Freetown for operation “Menace” . In company with HMS Cornwall and two sloops they she was summoned from the South Atlantic to proceed to Freetown and on the 16th September whilst patrolling south of Dakar she intercepted and sunk the French merchantman, Poitiers (4,185 tons), which was sailing for the Ivory Coast loaded with ammunition. Later that month she attacked Dakar and French coastal batteries opened fire on the assault fleet. A single 9,4 inch shell penetrated the hull just above the armour belt putting the main machinery out of action due to the loss of feed water to the boilers. Repairs to Cumberland were carried out at the Simonstown dock yard in South Africa until November. In December, Cumberland was once agian tasked to find the merchant raider Thor which had given the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnavon Castle a severe pounding south east of Rio de Janeiro, the search proved unsuccessful.

From 1941 until 1943 Cumberland served with the Home Fleet, where she was then tasked to escort the Arctic convoys.

By April 1944 Cumberland was back in the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean and there she joined up with the Eastern Fleet. In July she was involved in the bombardment of Sabang. In September she carried out raids of Northern Sumatra. In October the Eastern Fleet was used as a diversion force and attacked the Nicobar Islands, so that the landings on Leyte could take place, unfortunately the diversion did not succeed.

On 7 February 1945, Cumberland was docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa for removal of her rudder, and the following month completed an inclination experiment in the wet dock before sucessfully completing her trials. During April whilst operating in the Indian Ocean the cruiser was involved in the shelling of Sabang. In May she was also responsible for the shelling of Nicobar and Port Blair in the Andaman Islands group was carried out under the command of Vice Admiral Walker (R.N.) On 3 September, under the command of Rear-Admiral Patterson, and in company with the cruiser HMS London they put ashore marine detachments at Sabang in Sumatra after the surrender of Japan the previous day. She arrived at Jakarta on the 15th, in company with one frigate and four Australian minesweepers, because of the disturbances ashore between the Indonesian Nationalists and the Japanese, a British Battalion was not landed on Batavia before September 29th.

From 1947 until 1949 Cumberland was placed in reserve. During 1949-1951 Cumberland was converted to a trials ship with lattice masts new directors and added accommodation. The original armament was entirely removed, but individual light weapons were added from time to time for trials, and the new quick firing 6" MK26 twin automatic turret was tested on B barbette, she also undertook pre wetting trials against radio-active fallout. In April 1955, glass-reinforced plastic, used today for constructing warships of as much as 700 tons made it`s debut, when a new 29 foot general purpose sea-boat made of this material was taken onboard Cumberland for the start of her summer season of tests in the Mediterranean. In August 1956, at the start of the Suez crisis, Cumberland was deployed in trooping in reinforcements to Cyprus. In November 1959, Cumberland left Malta for her birthplace at Barrow-in-Furness at the end of a distinguished career. Very few warships had attained the distinction of being in full commission after 30 years active service. The only breaks were for modernisation in 1935-36 and a short period in reserve 1947-49. Cumberland was broken up at Cashmore, Newport arriving there on 3 November 1959.

The the ships badge can still be seen proudly displayed at the Selborne dry dock wall at Simonstown, South Africa.


Commands listed for HMS Cumberland (57)

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1Capt. Walter Herman Gordon Fallowfield, RN15 Feb 193929 Feb 1940
2Capt. the Hon. Guy Herbrand Edward Russell, RN29 Feb 19404 Dec 1941
3Capt. Alexander Henry Maxwell-Hyslop, RN4 Dec 194116 Mar 1942
4Cdr. Robert Syme Denholm Armour, RN16 Mar 194210 Apr 1942
5Cdr. Michael Grant Goodenough, DSO, RN10 Apr 194213 Apr 1942
6Capt. Alexander Henry Maxwell-Hyslop, RN13 Apr 194216 Dec 1943
7Capt. Francis John Butler, RN16 Dec 194323 Dec 1943
8Capt. William York La Roche Beverley, RN23 Dec 194310 Jul 1944
9Capt. Philip King Enright, RN10 Jul 194422 Jun 1946

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Notable events involving Cumberland include:

5 Dec 1939
The German passenger ship Ussukuma (7834 GRT) is intercepted in the South Atlantic off Bahia Blanca, Argentina in position 39°25'S, 57°15'W by the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt W.H.G. Fallowfield, RN) and the British light cruiser HMS Ajax (Capt. C.H.L. Woodhouse, RN). However, before the German ship can be captured she is scuttled by her own crew.

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