Allied Warships

HMS Calcutta (D 82)

Light cruiser of the Carlisle class

HMS Calcutta before the war

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeLight cruiser
PennantD 82 
Built byVickers (Barrow-in-Furness, U.K.) 
OrderedJun 1917 
Laid down18 Oct 1917 
Launched9 Jul 1918 
Commissioned21 Aug 1919 
Lost1 Jun 1941 
Loss position32° 00'N, 28° 00'E

Taken in hand for reconstruction as an anti-aircraftcruiser at Chatham Dockyard in 1938, completed in July 1939.

HMS Calcutta (Capt. Dennis Marescaux Lees, DSO, RN) was sunk in the Eastern Mediterranean, about 100 nautical miles west-north-west of Alexandria, Egypt in position 32º00'N, 28º00'E by 2 bombs from German Ju-88 bombers. There were 255 survivors.


Commands listed for HMS Calcutta (D 82)

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1Capt. Herbert Annesley Packer, RN23 Aug 193918 Mar 1940
2Capt. Dennis Marescaux Lees, RN18 Mar 19401 Jun 1941

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Notable events involving Calcutta include:

1 May 1940
In the evening, HMS Manchester (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN), HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN), HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) arrived off Aandalsnes to evacuate troops. At Aandalsnes they joined the AA cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN) and the sloop HMS Auckland (Cdr. J.G. Hewitt, RN). (1)

2 May 1940
After having taken on board troops, HMS Manchester (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN), HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN), HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN) and HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) set course to return to Scapa Flow where they arrived around 0015/3. HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) was detached to transport the Norwegian General Ruga and his staff to Tromsö, where she arrived at 1100/3. HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSO, DSC, RN) had gone ahead and arrived at Scapa Flow at 1630/2. HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN) and HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow at 0730/3 and finally HMS Auckland (Cdr. J.G. Hewitt, RN) arrived there at 1015/3. (1)

25 Jun 1940
HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, RN) assisted in evacuations in the Bayonne area and St. Jean de Luz. On 25th June, an Armistice having been signed between France and Germany, the Calcutta left St. Jean de Luz at night with the Canadian destroyers HMCS Fraser (Cdr. W.B. Creery, RCN) and HMCS Restigouche (Lt.Cdr. H.N. Lay, RCN) to help in the rescue of an estimated four thousand refugees trapped in the Bordeaux area by the German military. In rough seas and poor visibility, the captain of the Canadian Destroyer, HMCS Fraser, decided that the three ships should move closer together and ordered a turn to port in order to bring his ship behind HMS Calcutta. In doing so, the two ships collided, the bow of the heavier Calcutta sliced into the side of the Fraser with such force that the lighter vessel was cut into three pieces. Forty-five crew members were killed and nineteen men from the Calcutta lost their lives. Despite the darkness and a rising swell, 16 officers and 134 men were rescued. After her return to Plymouth the Calcutta was under refit until the end of July 1940. (2)

17 Sep 1940
British raid on Benghazi;
Aircraft from the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (Capt. D.W. Boyd, DSC, RN) attacked Italian ships in Benghazi harbour. Also mines were laid off the harbour. The destroyer Borea was sunk by torpedo, The destroyer Aquilone was mined and sunk. The merchants Gloria Stella (5490 GRT) and Maria Eugenia (4702 GRT) were also sunk during the attack.

Illustrious was escorted by the British battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN) the British heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. D. Young-Jamieson, RN), the British light cruisers HMS Liverpool (Capt. P.A. Read, RN) HMS Gloucester (Capt. H.A. Rowley, RN), HMS Orion (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN), HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN), HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN) and the Australian destroyer HMAS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RAN).

After the attack HMS Kent, escorted by HMS Nubian and HMS Mohawk, was detached to bombard Italian positions at Bardia early on the 18th. However before this could materialise HMS Kent was torpedoed and heavily damaged by Italian torpedo bombers just before midnight. Kent was hit in the stern and badly damaged. Kent was towed to Alexandria by HMS Nubian, escorted by light cruiser HMS Orion, AA cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN) and destroyers HMS Mohawk, HMS Jervis, HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN), HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN) and the Australian destroyer HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. R. Rhoades, RAN).


  1. ADM 53/112664 + ADM 186/798
  2. Personal communication

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

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