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Cruisers Between Classes
By Kristin Ann High and Steven Ford High
December 2013

The four Hawkins-class light cruisers began as the Royal Navy's answer to Germany's effective commerce-raiding light cruisers. More heavily armed than traditional British light cruisers, they were mixed coal-oil fuel ships. With their 10,000 tons' displacement they were a compromise between the obsolete armoured cruiser and the lightly armed and armoured 6-inch cruisers. Raleigh became a private vessel and was wrecked on 8 August 1922 in the Belleisle Strait off Labrador. Cavendish became the aircraft carrier Vindictive in 1918. All four surviving ships were disarmed under the terms of the London Treaty of 1936. Vindictive was reconstructed as a repair vessel in 1939-1940 and served throughout the war, while the three surviving cruisers were re-armed and reconstructed.


Effingham transits the Suez Canal, 1925.

 

Effingham was re-constructed as a 6-inch cruiser between 1937-1938, and she received a new Ack-Ack fit and a catapult in 1939-1940. She ran aground during the fighting in Norway on 18 May 1940. Frobisher was re-activated for war service and reconstructed and re-armed between 1939 and 1942. Hawkins was re-armed in 1939; she had already undergone extensive improvements in 1929-1930.

 

The Statistics

Displacement: 9,750 tons
Speed: 30 knots ("3" in SWWAS terms)
Complement: 712

Original Armament: Seven 7.5-inch/45-Calibre BL Mk.VI in seven single shielded mounts; six 12-Pdr/20-cwt QF HA Mk.I in six single mounts; Four 3-Pdr/12-cwt QF Mk.IC HA Ack-Ack in single mounts; three 2-Pdr/39-Calibre QF Mk.II HA; six 21" torpedo tubes, with two tubes submerged (one port and one starboard) and four fixed tubes (two port and two starboard).

Effingham 1938-1939: Re-armed with nine 6-inch/45-Calibre BL Mk.VII rifles in 30* mounts; four 4-inch/45-Calibre QF Mk.V HA Ack-Ack in five single mounts; the four fixed 21" torpedo tubes were remounted.
1940: Eight 4-inch/45-Calibre QF Mk.XVI HA Ack-Ack in four twin mounts replaced the four single Mk.V mounts; sixteen 40mm/39-calibre Mk.VIII Ack-Ack in two octuple mountings added; catapult and spotter aircraft added.
Displacement 12,514 tons deep load; speed 29 knots ("2+" in SWWAS terms); fuel 2,620 tons oil.
Pennant number: D.98
SWWAS ID: CL100
Laid Down: 23 September 1918
Completed: July 1925
Fate: Wrecked 18 May 1940

Frobisher 1942-1945 (re-armed): Five 7.5-inch/45-Calibre BL Mk.VI in five single shielded mounts; four single 4-inch/45-Calibre QF Mk.V HA Ack-Ack; four 2-Pdr/39-Calibre QF Mk.II HA in one quadruple mount in 1940, and four more in another quadruple mount in 1943; seven Oerlikon 20mm/70-Calibre Mk.II in single mounts.
When ready for operations in 1942, Frobisher mounted Type 271 Surface Warning
RDF; Type 285 Main Battery DCT RDF; Type 281 Air Warning RDF.
Displacement 13,160 tons deep load; speed 29 knots ("2+" in SWWAS terms); fuel 2,620 tons oil.
Pennant number: D.81
SWWAS ID: CL101
Laid Down: 28 June 1918
Completed: September 1924
Fate: Scrapped April 1946

Hawkins 1939-1945 (re-armed): Seven 7.5-inch/45-Calibre BL Mk.VI in seven single shielded mounts; four single 4-inch/45-Calibre QF Mk.V HA Ack-Ack; four 2-Pdr/39-Calibre QF Mk.II HA in one quadruple mount in 1940, and two more in two single mounts during 1941-1942 refit; nine Oerlikon 20mm/70-Calibre Mk.II in single mounts fitted during 1941-1942 refit.
Type 271 Surface Warning RDF; Type 285 Main Battery DCT RDF; Type 281 Air Warning RDF; all fit during 1941-1942 refit.
Displacement 13,160 tons deep load; speed 29 knots ("2+" in SWWAS); fuel 2,740 tons oil.
Pennant number: D.86
SWWAS ID: CL102
Laid Down: 3 June 1916
Completed: July 1919
Fate: Scrapped August 1947

SWWAS Ratings


Raleigh hard aground.

 

Three more difficult ships to classify in Second World War at Sea would be difficult to imagine. Poised between a true "CA" and a true "CL," they were a unique answer to a unique problem. The Hawkins-class Cruisers were designed to obviate the conflicting demands upon British dreadnought battle cruisers, taking over their anti-raider role. By the time of World War II, the ships were difficult to employ, and the conversion of Effingham was probably not particularly successful. The ships had tremendous endurance for their time, and by 1940-1942 cruiser standards, they had capacious oil bunkers.

Despite popular claims to the contrary, all three ships were refitted and re-armed for war service, and all three served in that capacity. Both Hawkins and Frobisher were finishing their trails at Portsmouth in February 1942. Frobisher, finishing a major reconstruction, had a modern RDF suite, while Hawkins' refit was more modest, but still added surface warning and main battery RDF; Hawkins also received 20mm close-in Ack-Ack weapons. Both ships transited to Scapa Flow in March 1942.

Effingham

Effingham is perhaps the easiest to rate, as she mounted 6-inch BL Mk.XII rifles similar to the E-Class cruisers, and was basically reconstructed along the lines of a D-Class cruiser, though she was significantly heavier and had a much better hull form than either of those classes. She rates as follows:

Main Battery: (2) Secondary Gunnery Factors protected by no armour, for nine 6-inch/45-Calibre BL Mk.VII rifles in open mounts (similar to E-Class).

Anti-Aircraft Battery: (2) Anti-Aircraft Factors for eight 4-inch/45-Calibre QF Mk.XVI HA rifles in four dual-mounts, and sixteen 40mm/39-calibre Mk.VIII Ack-Ack in two octuple mountings. Although the weight-of-fire is fair, Effingham was a Great War design, with limited arcs of fire even after her reconstruction, and she had no RDF fit.

Torpedo Armament: (1) for four 21" tubes in two fixed mounts.

Hull: (3) Hull Factors protected by Light Armour for 10,000 tons' Standard Displacement and her relatively modern armour scheme (bulges and 1" box protection).

Speed: 2+ for flank speed of 29 knots on oil fuel.

Fuel Capacity: 14 for 2,620 tons of oil fuel.

Effingham has a floatplane.

Victory Point Value: 12 Points, as being a compromise between the D- and C-Class ships and the E-Class ships.

Frobisher and Hawkins


Another view of Hawkins' ratings.

Frobisher and Hawkins are more problematic. The 7.5-inch/45-Calibre BL Mk.VI rifles were superior to the 6-Inch/45-Calibre BL Mk.VII rifles of contemporary light cruisers, and not too far inferior to the 8-inch/50-Calibre Mk.VIII rifles of the County-class heavy cruisers. The mounts were clearly inferior, but the two ships had as good (if not better) DCT-RDF fits.

Main Battery: (3) Secondary Gunnery Factors protected by No Armour, for seven/five 7.5-inch/45-Calibre BL Mk.VI rifles in open mounts (maybe (4), but that's equal to a Southampton and only 1 less than a County, and though the RDF fit is a major advantage, the open mount is a major disadvantage). Maybe (3) for Hawkins pre-1942, and (4) for Hawkins and Frobisher in 1942 and after?

Anti-Aircraft Battery: (2) Anti-Aircraft Factors for four/five 4-inch/45-Calibre QF Mk.XVI HA rifles in four or five single mounts, and ten 40mm/39-calibre Mk.VIII Ack-Ack in two quadruple mounts and two single mounts (Hawkins), or sixteen 40mm/39-calibre Mk.VIII Ack-Ack in four quadruple mounts (Frobisher), and nine or seven Oerlikon 20mm/70-Calibre Mk.II in single mounts. Although the weight-of-fire is good, the ships were still basically Great War designs, with limited arcs of fire even after their reconstruction. However, they had a good RDF fit, and DCT RDF for their heavy Ack-Ack weapons, so a (2) does not seem too generous (perhaps (3) for the DCT RDF, but Great War layout?).

Torpedo Armament: 1 for four 21-inch tubes in two fixed mounts.

Hull: (3) Hull Factors protected by Light Armour for 10,000 tons' Standard Displacement and their relatively modern armour scheme (bulges and 1" box protection).

Speed: 2+ for flank speed of 29 knots on oil fuel.

Fuel Capacity: 14 for 2,740 tons of oil fuel.

Victory Point Value: 19 Points, as a compromise between the E-Class ships and the Southampton-class ships, and for the time, money and energy invested in the two ships (note that Hawkins rates but 16 points in Horn of Africa).

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