Allied Warships

HMS Devonshire (39)

Heavy cruiser of the London class

HMS Devonshire in 1940

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeHeavy cruiser
Built byDevonport Dockyard (Plymouth, U.K.): Vickers Armstrong (Newcastle-on-Tyne, U.K.) 
Ordered12 Oct 1925 
Laid down16 Mar 1926 
Launched22 Oct 1927 
Commissioned18 Mar 1929 
End service 

To the Mediterranean Fleet on completion, had a gunnery accident in July 1929 (see below). Went to the China station 1932-33 then back in the Med.

Operated off Norway in April 1940, participated in Operation "Menace" (the failed Gaullist attempt to bring Senegal into the Free French sphere of influence), when the attack was called off she was assigned the blockade of the coast of the Cameroons and Gabon, under Vichy's control. In January 1941 was in the South Atlantic searching for Kormoran.

February to May 1941 was under refit in the UK then was assigned to operations in northern waters until September. In late 1941 transferred to the Eastern Fleet.

January to March 1942 underwent a refit at Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, then returned to the Indian Ocean. Took part in the seizure of Madagascar. Remained with the Eastern Fleet, mainly escorting New Zealand troop convoys from Suez back to Australia.

Returned to the UK in May 1943 for a refit and spent the rest of the war attached to the carrier groups raiding the Norwegian coast.

Served as a training ship during 1947-1953. Sold to be broken up for scrap on 16 June 1954. Broken up by Cashmore at Newport arriving on 12 December 1954.


Commands listed for HMS Devonshire (39)

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1Capt. John Maurice Mansfield, DSC, RN10 May 193929 Oct 1940
2Capt. Robert Don Oliver, DSC, RN23 Oct 19401 Nov 1942
3Capt. Douglas Young-Jamieson, RN1 Nov 194218 Jun 1943
4Cdr. Charles James Blake, RN18 Jun 194313 Jul 1943
5Cdr. Walter Wilmott Sitwell, RN13 Jul 194313 Sep 1943
6Cdr. John Curthoys Richards, RN13 Sep 194329 Feb 1944
7Capt. Donald Keppel Bain, DSO, RN29 Feb 194411 Jan 1945
8Capt. Gerald Maxwell Bradshaw Langley, OBE, RN11 Jan 19451 Jan 1946

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Notable events involving Devonshire include:

26 Jul 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.

23 Nov 1939
Sinking of the armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi;

Around midday on 21 November 1939 the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, escorted by the light cruisers Köln and Leipzig and the destroyers Z 11 / Bernd von Arnim, Z 12 / Erich Giese and Z 20 / Karl Galster, departed Wilhelmshaven for a raid into the North Atlantic, this was to relieve the pressure of the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee operating in the South Atlantic. Late on the 21st the escorts left the battlecruisers.

Just after 1500 hours on 23 November the British armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi (Capt. E.C. Kennedy, (retired), RN) sighted the Scharnhorst. Rawalpindi was part of the British Northern Patrol and was stationed south-east of Iceland in the Iceland-Faroes gap. Captain Kennedy tried to outrun the German ship and reported to the Admiralty that he sighted the German pocket battleship Deutschland, still believed to be operating in the North Atlantic. Just after 1600 hours, Rawalpindi came within range of the Scharnhorst and was quickly reduced to a flaming wreck. During this engagement Scharnhorst was hit by a 6? shell from Rawalpindi causing only light damage. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau together picked up 27 survivors from Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi finally sank around 2000 hours.

The British light cruiser HMS Newcastle (Capt J. Figgins, RN), that was also part of the Northern Patrol, picked up Rawalpindi?s signal and closed the scene. She sighted the Gneisenau but the Germans managed to escape in the fog.

The Admiralty also thought the ship sighted by Rawalpindi and Newcastle was the Deutschland that was trying to return to Germany. In response to the sighting and destruction of the Rawalpindi the Admiralty took immediate action;
The battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN with Admiral Forbes aboard) HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN) and the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) departed the Clyde to patrol of Norway to cut off the way to Germany for the Deutschland.

The light cruisers HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) and HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Afridi (Capt. G.H. Creswell, DSC, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. F.R. Parham, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, RN) and HMS Isis (Cdr. J.C. Clouston, RN) departed Rosyth to patrol between the Orkney and Shetland islands.

Light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN) was sent from Loch Ewe to the last known position of the German ship(s).

On northern patrol, south of the Faroes were the light cruisers HMS Caledon (Capt. C.P. Clark, RN), HMS Cardiff (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN) and HMS Colombo (Capt. R.J.R. Scott, RN). These were joined by HMS Dunedin (Capt. C.E. Lambe, CVO, RN) and HMS Diomede (Capt. E.B.C. Dicken, RN).

Of the ships of the Denmark strait patrol, the heavy cruisers HMS Suffolk (Capt. J.W. Durnford, RN) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.G.B. Wilson, MVO, DSO, RN) were ordered to proceed to the Bill Bailey Bank (to the south-west of the Faroes)

The light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. J.S. Crawford, RN) were already at sea patrolling north-east of the Shetlands were to be joined by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) and HMS Imogen (Cdr. E.B.K. Stevens, RN) .

Despite the British effort to intercept the German ships, both German battlecruisers returned to Wilhelmshaven on the 27th.

6 Jun 1940
Transported King Haakon VII and members of the Norwegian Government to Britain where they remained in exile for the duration of the war (1)

23 Sep 1940
Between 23-25 September 1940 HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN) was engaged in Operation "Menace", shelling the coastal batteries and French defences around Dakar.

23 Jul 1941
HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, DSC, RN) sailed from Scapa Flow escorting the carriers Victorious and Furious in a raid against Petsamo and Kirkenes.

2 Nov 1941
HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, DSC, RN) was flying the flag of the Senior Officer when an entire Vichy French convoy was captured east of the Cape of Good Hope.

21 Nov 1941
On the way home after 622 days of patrol, the German raider Atlantis (Capt. Bernard Rogge) met German U-boat U-126 to refuel her north of Ascension Island. During that operation, a lookout reported a warship that turned out to be the British heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, DSC, RN) that arrived due to intelligence report on the rendezvous. Devonshire fired from 17000 feet, out of range from German guns. The second and third salvoes hit the German raider, her magazine exploded and Atlantis sank quickly in position 04°12'S, 18°42'W. As U-126 submerged, Dorsetshire made off at high speed, leaving it to German U-boat to pick up the survivors. (1)

Apr 1942
HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, DSC, RN) took part in Operation "Ironclad", the British attack on Madagascar. She did not have a chance to engage since the carrier planes did all the damage.


  1. Personal communication

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