Allied Warships

HMS London (69)

Heavy cruiser of the London class

HMS London after reconstruction

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeHeavy cruiser
Built byPortsmouth Dockyard (Portsmouth, U.K.): Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland) 
Ordered10 Oct 1925 
Laid down23 Feb 1926 
Launched14 Sep 1927 
Commissioned31 Jan 1929 
End service 

In 1928 London served with the 1st Cruiser Squadron. From March 1939 she was under reconstruction and much altered in appearance, and somewhat resembled the Fiji class cruisers, replacement of the machinery was considered, but this idea was abandoned. Unfortunately the weight added by the construction of the new bridge overstressed the hull and considerable trouble was experienced until it was strengthened. In March 1941, the reconstruction work on the cruiser was completed.

In May 1941 she was in the North Atlantic, in company with the cruiser HMS Dorsetshire they were re-routed to a search area to join in on the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. On 5 June 1941 HMS London in company with the destroyer HMS Brilliant while operating in the supply area off the Freetown-Natal route, intercepted the German supply tankers Esso Hamburg and Egerland which were hurriedly scuttled by their crews. On the 26th, she intercepted the German tanker Babitonga who`s crew also scuttled her, she had been tasked to refuel the commerce raider Atlantis. September 1941 found her in Arctic waters where she was tasked in bringing an Anglo American delegation with Lord Beverbrook and Averell Harrison from Scapa Flow to Archangel for a meeting with the Soviet Government in Moscow. She returned to Scapa on the 30th in company with a return convoy of fourteen merchant ships. In October, it was apparent that the extra weight added during construction had greatly overstressed the hull, and the Atlantic operations had caused much damage to the hull, as a result she had to be docked again for repairs.

In January 1942 London was once again made operational. During April - May, she was a member of the close escort for Arctic convoys. During June-July she still served as close escort for Arctic convoys, in company with HMS Norfolk and the American cruisers USS Tuscaloosa and USS Wichita under the command of Rear Admiral Hamilton (RN). In September she was still serving in the covering force for Arctic convoys in company with HMS Norfolk and Suffolk under Vice Admiral Bonham-Carter (RN). In November she served with HMS Suffolk on Arctic convoys. By December, the stresses to her hull due to months of operating in heavy weather conditions, duly exposed more problems, and the cruiser had to be docked yet again for repairs.

In January 1943 HMS London was paid off for a refit at Tyne Middledock. A jear later in January 1944, London`s post refit trials were completed. In March, she was transferred to the British Eastern Fleet and based at Trincomalee, under the command of Admiral Sommerville. In April, she escorted the carriers for the air raid on Sabang. In May, she was involved in the carrier raid on Soerabaya and in company with HMS Suffolk escorted the supply ships for the task force. During 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 was unsuccessful.

During April 1945 HMS London whilst still operating in the Indian Ocean was involved in the shelling of Sabang (operation “Sunfish”). During May - July, the cruiser was docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa for the removal and repair of her rudders. By August she was back in the Indian Ocean when Commodore Poland anchored the cruiser off Sabang. Japanese delegates brought documents concerning various mine barrages and gave assurance of their peaceful intentions, later that month Vice Admiral Hirose of the Imperial Navy came aboard London and on behalf of the forces on Samatra surrendered. She then landed her marine detachments.

On 25 April 1949, Vice Admiral A. Madden, second in command of the Far Eastern Station, flew his flag in HMS London and after learning of the frigate HMS Amethyst being trapped up the Yangtse river, decided to sail upriver to render assistance in company with the frigate HMS Black Swan. The rebuilt heavy cruiser was an impressive ship, but her modern looks belied her age, and her main 8 inch gun turrets were long “past their prime”. Madden hoped that the mere presence of the cruiser would be enough, but it was soon clear that the Chinese Communists were not to be overawed by a warship, however impressive, sailing towards their vital river crossing. Within ten minutes of beginning her upriver dash, London was under fire from 105 mm and 37mm guns. She replied with her main armament and secondary 4 inch guns. Then a new more numerous battery joined in and Madden began to consider withdrawal. Again the Communists scored hits on their opponents bridge and the cruiser turned back. Still however she was fired upon, the action being heavier on the return trip than before. The London had both her forward turrets put out of action, and one of her aft turrets hit as well. Nevertheless the ship was still able to reply to her opponents before the action ended just over three hours after it had begun. The cruiser had expended 132 8 inch, 449 4 inch, and over 2,000 rounds from her light AA guns. Her casualties were 13 killed and 30 wounded. In June, she sailed from Hong Kong to the UK after being relieved by the cruiser HMS Kenya and was laid up on the river Fal. Sold on 3 January 1950. On 22 January 1950 London was broken up for scrap by T.W. Ward of Barrow.

Her badge can still be seen displayed on the side of the Selborne dry dock wall.


Commands listed for HMS London (69)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

1Capt. Reginald Maxwell Servaes, RN10 Dec 194019 Dec 1942
2Capt. Richard Victor Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN19 Dec 194219 Feb 1943
3Lt.Cdr. Ronald Ker Silcock, RN19 Feb 194315 Apr 1943
4Capt. Richard Victor Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN15 Apr 194325 Nov 1944
5Capt. Stuart Latham Bateson, RN25 Nov 194415 Jan 1946

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Notable events involving London include:

24 Jun 1941
The German blockade runner Babitonga (4422 GRT) was located by HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN) in the South Atlantic about 930 nautical miles south-west of Freetown in position 02°05'S, 27°42'W. The Babitonga was en route from Santos, Brazil to France and was scuttled by her crew.

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