Allied Warships

HMS Ceres (D 59)

Light cruiser of the Ceres class

HMS Ceres at Malta circa 1920

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeLight cruiser
PennantD 59 
Built byJohn Brown Shipbuilding & Engineering Company Ltd. (Clydebank, Scotland) 
OrderedApr 1916 
Laid down26 Apr 1916 
Launched24 Mar 1917 
Commissioned1 Jun 1917 
End service 

In 1918 Ceres joined the 6th, Light Cruiser Squadron, the following year she was operating in the Mediterranean as a member of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron. During 1920 the cruiser spent some time deployed in the Black Sea. In 1927 Ceres was in the U.K. for deployment with the Home Fleet. During 1929-1931 was spent refitting and in reserve. In 1932 Ceres was once more brought forward from reserve and joined the Mediterranean Fleet. In November she was however once again reduced to reserve.

In 1939 Ceres recommissioned from the Reserve Fleet and was sent on Northern Patrol in the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland. In January 1940, Ceres was refitted by Harland & Wolff at Belfast, Northern Ireland. On February 15th she sailed from Devonport to Gibraltar. During March while based at Malta, she took part in contraband patrols in the Ionian Sea, Straits of Otranto and off the coast of Greece. During April-May 1940, the old cruiser was now based at Singapore and carried out patrols off the Dutch East Indies coast. In June she went to Colombo and later to Bombay when Ceres convoyed tankers from the Arabian Gulf to Aden. She spent several months off the east coast of Africa, based at Mombassa. Whilst on patrol off the coast of Somaliland she was called upon to assist in the evacuation of troops and civilians from British Somaliland to Aden bombarding the various enemy positions with shellfire. After this incident she was involved in convoy duties between Durban and Cape Town. Later that year she was sent to the Seychelles and other islands to search for German commerce raiders. From 4 until 9 August 1940 the cruiser assisted with the evacuation of civilians and sick personnel from British Somaliland, which was occupied by the Italians. She also assisted in the evacuation of Commonwealth soldiers from Berbera. (British Somaliland).

In February 1941 Ceres blockaded Kisimayu in support of the offensive against Italian Somaliland, in company with the British cruisers HMS Hawkins and HMS Capetown and the British destroyer HMS Kandahar. She was also responsible for rescuing merchant navy prisoners of war from Brava and taking them to Mombassa. After this she proceeded to Colombo for repairs, and a well deserved rest for the crew at Diyatalawa.

On New Years day 1942, convoy WS-14 arrived in South Africa from the U.K. with reinforcements for the Middle East, The convoy consisted of 18 ships, Ceres and the sloop HMS Bridgewater provided the escort. Ceres spent two months in the Persian Gulf, and then arrived at Simonstown for a three month refit, where she was dry-docked. She was also fitted with six 20 mm single AA weapons. She was then based at Aden and she also participated in the fall of Djibouti. She completed that year employed on convoy duties to Durban.

In October 1943, Ceres returned to Devonport having steamed 235,000 miles since the outbreak of war.

In April 1944, Ceres received radars type 290 and 273, the 3 inch 2 pounders were landed and replaced by eight 20 mm singles. On June 6th, Operation "Neptune" the amphibious landings on Normandy, Ceres was employed as a depot ship to the Eastern Task Force. The following October it was decided to reduce her to reserve and use her as an accommodation/base ship at Portsmouth.

In July 1946, the old cruiser was broken up for scrap at Bolckow, Blyth.


Commands listed for HMS Ceres (D 59)

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1Capt. Edmund Geoffrey Abbott, RN31 Jul 193920 Sep 1941
2Capt. Henry Hastings McWilliam, RN20 Sep 19415 Dec 1941
3Lt.Cdr. (retired) Harry William Vaughan Stephenson, RN5 Dec 194130 Dec 1941
4Capt. Henry Hastings McWilliam, RN30 Dec 19413 Jan 1942
5Lt.Cdr. (retired) Harry William Vaughan Stephenson, RN3 Jan 19425 Apr 1942
6Capt. William Power Carne, RN5 Apr 194221 Apr 1942
7Capt. Cecil Charles Acland Allen, RN21 Apr 194211 Jun 1943
8A/Capt. Roy Carlton Harry, RN11 Jun 19434 Nov 1943
9Lt.Cdr. (retired) Wilmot Pynson Bennitt, DSC, RN4 Nov 194314 Apr 1944
10A/Capt. Roland Charlton Allen, RN14 Apr 1944late 1944

11Cdr. (retired) Charles Richard Garrett, RN4 Dec 1944mid 1945

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Notable events involving Ceres include:

31 Jul 1940
HMS Regent (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Browne, RN) departed Aden for Alexandria. Upon leaving Aden exercises were carried out with HMS Ceres (Capt. E.G. Abbott, AM, RN). (1)

15 Aug 1941

Convoy WS 10X

This convoy departed U.K. ports on 14/15 May 1941 for Suez where the ships arrived between 1 to 4 October 1941.

The convoy assembled in the Clyde area on 15 May 1941.

The convoy was made up of the following troop transports; Brisbane Star (12791 GRT, built 1937), Orion (23371 GRT, built 1935), Strathmore (23428 GRT, built 1935), Strathnaver (22283 GRT, built 1931), And the transports Palma (5419 GRT, built 1941) and Port Jackson (9687 GRT, built 1937).

Escort was initially provided by the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) (joined at sea on 17 August 1941 until 28 August when the convoy arrived at Freetown), the AA (light) cruiser HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Cdr. E.J. van Holte, RNN) (15 – 17 August) and the destroyers HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN) (15-17 August), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN) (15-17 August), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) (17-19 August), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) (17-19 August), HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) (17-19 August) and ORP Piorun (Cdr. E.J.S. Plawski) (17-19 August).

When approaching Freetown the convoy was joined on 26 August by a local escort made up of the destroyers HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) (left the convoy before noon on 27 August), HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and the corvettes HMS Clematis (Cdr. Y.M. Cleeves, DSO, DSC, RD, RNR) and HMS Crocus (Lt.Cdr. E. Wheeler, RNR). The convoy arrived at Freetown on 28 August 1941.

The convoy departed Freetown for Capetown on 1 September 1941. Escort was now provided by the battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. E.R. Archer, RN). The convoy arrived at Capetown on 11 September 1941.

The convoy departed Capetown for Suez on 14 September 1941. Escort was still provided by HMS Revenge until 22 September 1941 when the light cruiser ), HMS Ceres (Capt. E.G. Abbott, AM, RN) took over until the dispersal of the convoy on 27 September 1941 when it was near Aden. The ships of the convoy then continued independently towards Suez where they arrived between 1 and 4 October 1941.

21 Dec 1941
In the morning, the US transport Orizaba (6937 GRT, built 1918) parted company with convoy WS 12X and set course for Mombasa. She was escorted by the British light cruiser HMS Ceres (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H.W.V. Stephenson, RN) which had made rendez-vous with convoy WS 12X and its escort, the British light cruiser HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN). (2)


  1. ADM 173/16466
  2. ADM 53/114140

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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