Allied Warships

HMS Asturias (F 71)

Armed Merchant Cruiser

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeArmed Merchant Cruiser
Class[No specific class] 
PennantF 71 
Built byHarland & Wolff Ltd. (Belfast, Northern Island) 
Laid down 
Launched7 Jul 1925 
CommissionedOct 1939 
End service25 Jul 1943 

On 28 August 1939 the passenger ship Asturias of the Royal Mail Lines Ltd, London was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Conversion was completed on 28 September 1939

Displacement: 22048 BRT
Armament: 8x 152mm, 2x 76mm
Speed: 19 knots

October 39: Halifax Escort Force
November 39 - April 40: Northern Patrol
May 40: North Atlantic Escort Force
June 40: Northern Patrol
July 40 - April 43: South Atlantic Station
May 43 - July 43: West Africa Command

On 25 July 1943 torpedoed and badly damaged by the Italian submarine Ammiraglio Cagni (Roselli-Lorenzini) in position 06°52'N, 20°45'W, towed to Freetown and laid up. On 30 May 1944 handed over to the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) and towed to Belfast for rebuild as troop transport. 1957 scrapped.


Commands listed for HMS Asturias (F 71)

Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

1Capt. (retired) Claud Finlinson Allsup, DSO, RN4 Sep 193925 Nov 1939
2Capt. John Robert Sutherland Haines, RN25 Nov 193924 Oct 1940
3Capt. (Retd) Hubert Ardill, RN24 Oct 19402 Mar 1943
4Capt. Richard Meuric Southern, RN2 Mar 194328 Apr 1943
5Capt. (Retd.) Sir John Meynell Alleyne, DSO, DSC, RN28 Apr 1943

You can help improve our commands section
Click here to Submit events/comments/updates for this vessel.
Please use this if you spot mistakes or want to improve this ships page.

Notable events involving Asturias include:

10 Aug 1940

Convoy ZA.

The troopships Empress of Australia (British, 21833 GRT, built 1914) and Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921) departed Liverpool on 10 August. They were being escorted by the destroyers HMS Highlander (Cdr. W.A. Dallmeyer, RN) and HMS Walker (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN).

On 11 August the troopships Antonia (British, 13867 GRT, built 1921), Duchess of York (British, 20021 GRT, built 1929), Georgic (British, 27759 GRT, built 1932) and Oronsay (British, 20043 GRT, built 1925). They were escorted by the battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. E.R. Archer, RN) and the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. W.G. Davis, RN), HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO, RN), HMS Watchman (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Day, RN) and HMS Vortigern (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Howlett, RN).

The troopships were evacuating children from the U.K. to Canada. HMS Revenge had £ 14.5 million in gold bullion on board.

The troopship Orion (British, 23371 GRT, built 1935) and armed merchant cruiser HMS Asturias (Capt. J.R.S. Haines, RN) also were with the convoy until 0800A/13, when they parted company and set course for Freetown.

The destroyers parted company wither late on the 12th or early on the 13th.

The convoy arrived at Halifax on 19 August 1940.

30 Aug 1940
Around 1200N/30, the armed merchant cruisers HMS Alcantara (Capt.(Retd.) J.G.P. Ingham, DSO, RN) and HMS Asturias (Capt. J.R.S. Haines, RN) made rendezvous in approximate position 21°49'S, 31°57'W. A draft coming from the U.K. was then transferred from HMS Asturias to HMS Alcantara before both armed merchant cruisers resumed their patrols. (1)

18 Jan 1941
HMS Asturias (Capt. H. Ardill (retired), RN) while patrolling in the Plate area, intercepts and captures the Vichy-French freighter Mendoza (8199 GRT).

21 Jan 1941
As ordered on 19 January, HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN), made rendez-vous with the armed merchant cruiser HMS Asturias (Capt.(Retd.) H. Ardill, RN) and the Vichy-French passenger/cargo ship Mendoza (8199 GRT, built 1920) she had captured on the 18th. The prize crew of the Asturias was now replaced by one of the Dorsetshire. The Mendoza then proceeded to Freetown independently. (2)

27 May 1941
HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN) arrived at Samborombón Bay, River Plate area where she joined HMS Cumberland (Capt. G.H.E. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral F.H. Pegram, DSO, RN) and the RFA tanker Abbeydale (8299 GRT, built 1937). Shortly afterwards the armed merchant cruiser HMS Asturias (Capt.(Retd.) H. Ardill, RN) also arrived.

HMS Newcastle fuelled from the Abbeydale and Rear-Admiral Pegram transferred his flag to her.

Around 2100P, HMS Newcastle and HMS Cumberland proceeded on patrol in company with each other. (3)

22 Feb 1942
The light cruiser, HMS Birmingham (Capt. H.B. Crane, RN), departed Samborombón Bay for Simonstown, South Africa via Tristan da Cunha.

Shortly before departure, Rear-Admiral F.H. Pegram, DSO, RN, had transferred his flag to the armed merchant cruiser HMS Asturias (Capt.(Retd.) H. Ardill, RN). (4)

19 Dec 1942

Convoy CF 10.

This convoy departed Capetown on 19 December 1942.

The convoy was made up of the (troop) transports; Almanzora (British, 15551 GRT, built 1914), Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (Dutch, 19429 GRT, built 1930), Largs Bay (British, 14182 GRT, built 1921) and Straat Soenda (Dutch, 6439 GRT, built 1939).

On departure from Capetown the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara (A/Capt.(retd.) J.D. Harvey, RN) and the destroyer HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. R.D.H.S. Pankhurst, RN).

Around 0655B/21, HMS Fortune parted company with the convoy to proceed to Simonstown.

Around 1400A/27, the corvette HMS Hydrangea (A/Lt.Cdr. J.E. Woolfenden, RD, RNR) joined the convoy.

Around 1615Z/28, the escort destroyer HMS Holcombe (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Pinchin, DSC, RN) and corvette Commandant Drogou joined the convoy.

The convoy arrived at Freetown on 29 December 1942.


The convoy departed Freetown on 1 January 1943 but now escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Asturias (Capt.(Retd.) H. Ardill, RN), destroyer HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. V.A. Wight-Boycott, OBE, RN), escort destroyer HMS Holcombe and corvette HMS Woodruff (A/Lt.Cdr. F.H. Gray, RNR).

Around 1940Z/1, HMS Ilex was detached to participate in an A/S hunt off Dakar.

Around 1120Z/2, the corvette HMS Bellwort (A/Lt.Cdr. N.F.R. Gill, RNR) joined, having departed Bathurst on 1 January.

Around 1930Z/3, HMS Ilex rejoined the convoy. At the same time the Largs Bay escorted by HMS Woodruff parted company. The Largs Bay was to proceed to New York escorted part of the way by the corcette. HMS Woodruff arrived at Bathurst on 10 January.

Around 1800Z/4, HMS Holcombe parted company to proceed to Bathurst where she arrived on 6 January.

Around 0800Z/5, the sloops HMS Sandwich (Lt.Cdr. H. Hill, RD, RNR), HMS Leith (Lt.Cdr. E.C. Hulton, RN) and HMS Erne (Lt.Cdr. E.D.J. Abbot, RN) joined.

Around 0840Z/5, HMS Ilex and HMS Bellwort parted company to proceed to Bathurst where HMS Ilex arrived on the 6th and HMS Bellwort on the 7th.

Around 1200A/8, the convoy merged with convoy MKF 6. (5)


  1. ADM 53/111364 + ADM 53/111476
  2. ADM 53/114129 + ADM 199/394
  3. ADM 53/114785
  4. ADM 53/115375 + ADM 53/115430
  5. ADM 53/115299 + ADM 53/116962 + ADM 199/635

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

Return to the Allied Warships section