Allied Warships

HMS Southampton (83)

Light cruiser of the Southampton class

HMS Southampton at an unknown date

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeLight cruiser
Built byJohn Brown Shipbuilding & Engineering Company Ltd. (Clydebank, Scotland) 
Ordered1 May 1934 
Laid down21 Nov 1934 
Launched10 Mar 1936 
Commissioned6 Mar 1937 
Lost11 Jan 1941 
Loss position34° 54'N, 18° 24'E

HMS Southampton (Capt. Basil Charles Barrington Brooke, RN) was heavily damaged in the Central Mediterranean about 195 nautical miles east-south-east of Malta in position 34º54'N, 18º24'E by German Ju-87 divebombers. 81 men were killed. The ship was finally sunk by torpedoes from HMS Orion and HMS Gloucester.

At 1522 hrs of 11 January, Southampton, in company of Gloucester and destroyer Diamond were at position 34.56 N, 18.19 E, some 220 miles east of the Sicilian coast. At that time they came under attack of a German Squadron consisting of 35 Ju-87s belonging to II/St.G.2. The planes were led by the Group Commander, the famous Oberst (Major) Werner Ennecerus.

In this attack the Ju-87s scored a hit with a 500-kg bomb on Gloucester: it was a dud and went through 5 decks, exiting the hull without detonating.
Southampton, on the other hand, sustained 2 500-kg bomb hits: the first detonated in the wardroom and the second in the Officer's mess. Huge fires broke out and isolated some of the control for flooding the magazines, rendering the situation immediately critical.

After 4 hours of fruitless efforts to bring the conflagration under control, Southampton was abandoned at 1900 hrs, the crew being rescued by Gloucester and Diamond. Subsequently, the wreck received a coup de grace from Orion, which had been despatched to the area to increase the AA protection for the damaged vessels. In the sinking there were 52 dead, 27 of whom officers. The cruiser sank at 2000 hrs in approximate position 34º54'N, 18º24'E.


Commands listed for HMS Southampton (83)

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1Capt. Francis William Hugh Jeans, RN2 Jan 193919 Jun 1940
2Capt. Basil Charles Barrington Brooke, RN19 Jun 194011 Jan 1941

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Notable events involving Southampton include:


5 Sep 1939
HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, RN) intercepts the German merchant Johannes Molkenbuhr (5294 GRT) off Stadlandet, Norway in position 61°40'N, 03°51'E. The Germans scuttled their ship before it could be captured. The crew was taken off by HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, RN). The ship was then finished off by HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN).

16 Oct 1939
While lying at anchor off Rosyth, Scotland, HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, RN) sustained one bomb hit in a German air raid. The 500-kg weapon, released from only 150 m height by a Ju-88 of I/KG.30, hit the corner of the pom-pom magazine, passed through 3 decks at an angle and exited the hull, detonating in the water. There was minor structural damage and temporary failure of electrical systems. Repairs were completed in only three days.

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.

9 Apr 1940
While operating off the Norwegian coast, HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN) sustained splinter damage in a German air attack. The main battery director was put temporarily out of order.

12 Apr 1940
HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN) sailed from Scapa Flow at 1300 hrs, carrying General Mackesy and 2 companies of Scot Guards. Arrived Harstad, Norway, at 0600/14 and while in the area was bombed on several occasions, sustaining only superficial damage.

25 May 1940
On 25-26 May 1940, operating in the Narvik area, HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN) suffered a number of near-misses by 50- and 100-kg bombs (110- and 220-lb) with extensive splinter damage to hull and superstructure, requiring 10 days of repairs. The commanding officer was wounded.

27 Nov 1940
Action off Cape Spartivento (Battle of Capo Teulada): an Italian force comprising BBs Vittorio Veneto and Giulio Cesare engaged a British force in the Central Mediterranean west of Malta off Cape Spartivento.
British cruisers BERWICK, NEWCASTLE, MANCHESTER, SOUTHAMPTON were taken under fire by Vittorio Veneto from 29,000 metres. In the action, Berwick sustained 2 203 mm hits from the Italian Heavy cruisers, but the action was inconclusive.


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