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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2004

HMS DORSETSHIRE  - County-type Heavy Cruiser including Convoy Escort Movements

HMS Dorsetshire (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

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DORSETSHIRE-Class cruiser ordered from HM Dockyard Portsmouth in the 1927-8 Estimates and laid down in September 1927. She was launched on 29th January 1929 as the 3rd RN ship to bear this name introduced in 1694 and previously been used in 1757 for a 3rd Rate ship. Build completion date was 30th September 1929. She was serving with the 5th Cruiser Squadron on the China Station in 1939.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


GIBRALTAR 1704 - VELEZ MALAGA 1704 - CAPE  PASSARO 1718 - TOULON 1744 - QUIBERON 1759 - BISMARCK Action 1941 - ATLANTIC   1941


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

 Badge: On a Field Red, a Lion passant Gold.


M o t t o

Pro  Patria et commitatu: 'For  country and County'




D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



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                2nd         Passage to south coast of Japan for interception patrol.

                                (Note: Italian cruiser BARTOLOMEO COLLEONI had been reported in Japan and would

                                have been brought to action in event of war with Italy).

                3rd          Trade defence and interception duties in continuation off Japan and China.

                                (Note: Enemy mercantiles were to be taken as Prize if possible but it was known

                                that ships would scuttle if unable to prevent capture.)

                16th        Passage to Hong Kong after relief by HM Cruiser KENT.

                22nd       Passage to resume patrol duties in Northern area.


October                  Interception and trade defence patrol in continuation.

                11th        Passage to Hong Kong for docking.

                18th        Transferred to East Indies Station.

                                Prepared for passage to Colombo with call at Singapore.

                25th        On arrival at Colombo deployed with HM Cruisers GLOUCESTER and CORNWALL for

                                trade defence and interception patrol in Indian Ocean.

                28th        Joined Hunting Force I with HM Aircraft Carrier EAGLE, HM Cruiser CORNWALL, HM

                                Destroyers WATERHEN (RAN) and VENDETTA (RAN) based at Colombo.

                                (Note: This Group was deployed for interception of commerce raiders known to be operating

                                in Indian Ocean and South Atlantic and including the battleship GRAF SPEE.

                                (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett).


November              Force I deployment in continuation.

                10th        Carried out search for GRAF SPEE in Indian Ocean with Force I.



                3rd          During interception patrol transferred to South Atlantic Station.

                                Detached from Force I and took passage via Mauritius to Simonstown.

                10th        Arrived at Simonstown for duty in South Atlantic.

                13th        Sailed for patrol between Tristan Da Cunha and Falkland Islands.

                19th        Diverted to join HM Cruisers ACHILLES (RNZN), AJAX and EXETER off Montevideo

                                after sinking of German battleship GRAF SPEE (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE

                                CLOSELY and THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE by Dudley Pope).

                22nd       After refuelling off Montevideo sailed for Port Stanley, Falklands.

                24th        Joined HMNZS ACHILLES, HMS AJAX and HMS EXETER at Port Stanley.

                                (Note: Shore leave not granted because of weather conditions).

                29th        Sailed from Port Stanley with HM Cruiser CUMBERLAND.

                30th        Passage to patrol area after HMS CUMBERLAND detached for transit to Simonstown.


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                3rd          Joined HM Cruiser SHROPSHIRE.

                5th          Deployed on patrol off Montevideo.

                12th        Carried out Gunnery exercises with HMS AJAX and HMS SHROPSHIRE.

                                On completion too passage from patrol area to Falklands.                          

                                (Note: HMS AJAX sailed for Freetown on passage to Plymouth).

                18th        Arrived at Port Stanley.

                                (Note: Shore Leave granted for first time in Falklands)

                21st         Escorted KM Cruiser EXETER with HM Cruiser SHROPSHIRE during passage to UK

                                after being, damaged in action with GRAF SPEE.

                29th        Escort of WS EXETER transferred to Home Fleet ships in position 17 Degrees South

                                30 Degrees West.

                                (Note: These included HM Battlecruiser REPULSE and HM Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL

                                and Fleet Destroyers).

                                Resumed trade defence and interception duties in South Atlantic.


February                South Atlantic duties in continuation with HMS SHROPSHIRE.

                3rd          HM Cruiser HAWKINS joined patrol.

                8th          Detached for passage to Buenos Aires.

                                (Note: On arrival received 76 Bags of mail, the first since leaving Colombo !)

                                Outstanding hospitality from British community).

                9th          Resumed patrol.

                10th        Joined HM Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL, HM Battlecruiser RENOWN and HM Cruiser

                                CUMBERLAND for interception of commerce raiders and blockade runners in Atlantic.

                12th        Ship's aircraft intercepted German freighter WAKAMA off Cape Frio.

                                Enemy ship set on fire by crew and scuttled.

                                46 rescued from boats and made Prisoners of War.

                27th        Passage to Falklands from patrol area.

                29th        Arrived at Port Stanley.

                                (Note: Planned visit to Montevideo cancelled).



                2nd         Embarked wounded survivors from HMS EXETER and took passage.

                7th          Called at Tristan da Cunha

                                (Note: Ship had steamed 100,000 miles since leaving UK on 14 September 1937.

                11th        Disembarked wounded and prisoners from WAKAMA at Capetown.

                                (Note: The prisoners had been released from close custody.).

                15th        Passage to HM Dockyard Simonstown for docking and refit.

                                (Note: During the 190 days since outbreak of war ship has steamed 60,000 miles).


April                       Under repair at Simonstown.

                24th        Took passage for UK for further refit with calls at Freetown and Gibraltar.


 May                       Passage in Atlantic

                22nd       Sailed from Gibraltar.

                25th        Arrived at Plymouth.

                                Taken in hand for refit by HM Dockyard Devonport.

                                (Note: Leave granted - 7 days for each Watch ! ).


June                        Under refit.

                9th          Carried out Post Refit trials.

                23rd        Joined HM Aircraft Carrier HERMES for surveillance of French warships at Dakar.

                25th        Shadowed French battleship RICHELIEU during her passage from Dakar to Casablanca.


July                         Surveillance of Vichy French warships in continuation.

                4th          Joined HM Cruiser AUSTRALIA (RAN) and HMS HERMES off Dakar.

                8th          Deployed with HMAS AUSTRALIA to provide cover during attack on RICHELIEU at Dakar.

                                (Note: Depth charges were dropped alongside French warship by motor boat from

                                HMS HERMES covered by aircraft. See RELUCTANT ENEMIES by W Tute)

                                On completion resumed interception duties in Atlantic with HMS HERMES.

                10th        HMS HERMES in collision with H M Anted Merchant Cruiser CORFU and detached to

                                go to Freetown.

                                HMS CORFU taken in tow by tug,

                15th        Carried out unsuccessful search for raider 500 miles west of Cape Verde Islands.

                24th        Intercepted Portuguese ship and detained Italian Consul who was a passenger.

                29th        Landed Consul at Freetown and refuelled.

                                On completion sailed to carry out search for German raider reported by HM Armed

                                Merchant Cruiser ALCANTARA.

August                  Atlantic search in continuation.

                11th        Refuelled at Freetown and resumed search.

                21st         Called at St. Helena.

                24th        Sailed to join rms ORION as escort to Capetown.

                25th        Completed 3 years since commissioning.

                28th        Relieved Netherlands cruiser as escort for rms ORION.

                29th        Arrived at Capetown and took passage to Simonstown.


September             Passage to Durban for routine docking.

                4th          Arrived Durban.

                                (Note: Mileage steamed in first year of war 92,300.)

                18th        On completion took passage to Freetown to resumed interception and convoy defence

                                duties in Atlantic with call at Simonstown.

                29th        Arrived at Freetown after rough passage.



                7th          Resumed patrol duties.

                18th        Returned to Freetown to refuel

                19th        Joined escort for military convoy WS3B during passage in Atlantic and Indian Ocean

                                for defence against raiders.

                                (Note: Convoy included mv GEORGIC, rms MONARCH OF BERMUDA, rms ORONTES,

.                               ss DUCHESS OF YORK, rms CAPETOWN CASTLE and rms STIRLING CASTLE).

                28th        Detached from convoy on arrival at Capetown.

                30th        Rejoined escort for WS3 after stay at Simonstown.


November              Escort of WS3 in continuation.

                3rd          Additional 7 ships joined convoy for passage to Aden.

                12th        HM Cruisers CARLISLE, CALEDON, HM Sloops PARAMATTA (RAN) and AUCKLAND

                                joined WS3 as escort during passage in Red Sea.

                14th        Detached from WS3 and took passage to Aden.

                17th        On departure from Aden took passage to resume duties in Atlantic.

                                Diverted for support of military operations in Somaliland on passage to Durban.

                18th        Bombarded Dante in Italian Somaliland. 200 rounds fired.

                                Discharged torpedoes at wharves to prevent use.

                                On release resumed passage..


December              Passage in Indian Ocean

                                (Note: Sighted by German raider ATLANTIS which withdrew without being observed.

                                Planned operations in southern oceans were abandoned after the unexpected


                2nd         Sailed from Durban to Simonstown.

                4th          Routine docking at Simonstown.

                                (Note: No all night leave granted even to 'natives').

                15th        Sailed for Freetown.

                18th        On arrival refuelled and immediately deployed with HM Cruiser NEPTUNE to search

                                in area 500 miles west of Freetown for German battleship SCHEER after ss DUQUESA

                                made a raider report

                                (Note: Deployed as Hunting Force K)

                26th        Returned to Freetown to refuel after dismal Xmas Day at sea during search.

                27th        Sailed to reinforce defence of Convoy WS5A.

                                (Note: German cruiser HIPPER had been driven off an attack on WS5A by HM Cruisers

                                BERWICK and DEVONSHIRE on 25th December.)

                31st         HM Aircraft Carrier FORMIDABLE joined Force.


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                3rd          HM Cruiser DUNEDIN and HM Aircraft Carrier FURIOUS deployed to reinforce defence

                                of WS5A

                5th          Arrived at Freetown.

                8th          Deployed with HMS FORMIDABLE and HM Cruiser NORFOLK for interception patrol and

                                to cover passage of WS5A to Cape of Good Hope..

                15th        HMS FORMIDABLE and HMS NORFOLK detached to continue cover for WS5A.

                                Resumed interception patrol

                                (Note: Burial at sea of Petty Officer who had committed suicide.).

                21st         Intercepted Vichy French ss MENDOZA.

                                Prize crew put on board. and ship proceeded independently to Freetown).

                                Trade defence and interception patrol resumed.

                25th        Called at St Helena.

                                (Note: Tanker was stationed at St Helena for support of ships deployed in South Atlantic)

                26th        Passage to Freetown.

                29th        Arrived at Freetown.



                1st           Resumed patrol duties after Prize crew rejoined.                           

                3rd          After refuelling at Freetown deployed for convoy defence and took passage to join military

                                convoy on passage to Middle East.

                7th          Met HM Cruiser KENYA with convoy and escorted to Freetown.

                11th        Sailed with convoy for Capetown.

                19th        Arrived at Capetown.

                20th        Leading Seaman committed suicide whilst at Capetown..

                21st         Sailed with convoy for passage in Indian Ocean.

                24th        Detached from convoy in search for raider reported in area.

                26th        Rejoined convoy after unsuccessful search.

                28th        HM Cruiser GLASGOW joined convoy.

                                (Note: These convoys have not been identified as WS Series. Further research required.)



                2nd         Detached from Convoy and took passage to Seychelles.

                5th          During stay at Seychelles ship's WALRUS aircraft crashed on shore.

                                (Four naval personnel and one civilian lost their lives.)

                6th          Took passage to Simonstown after the funeral of those killed in WALRUS crash.

                12th        Arrived at Simonstown.

                27th        Deployed for escort of military Convoy WS6 during passage in Indian Ocean and sailed from


                                (Note: German raider PINGUIN was active in Indian Ocean in this period).



                2nd         (Note: An additional 19 ships of Convoy WS6 were escorted separately by HM Cruisers

                                PHOEBE and CORNWALL.)

                7th          Detached from WS6 SHIPS and took passage to Durban.

                10th        Arrived at Durban.

                                (Note: HM Aircraft Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS in port during passage from Mediterranean to

                                USA for repair after being badly damaged in air attacks).

                15th        Deployed for escort of military convoy to Capetown.

                                (Note: Convoy included ss EMPRESS OF JAPAN and mv MONARCH OF BERMUDA).

                19th        HMS ILLUSTRIOUS joined convoy.

                23rd        Sailed with same ships for passage to St Helena.

                27th        Additional ships joined convoy at St Helena and took passage the same day

.               29th        Transferred escort of mercantiles to HM Cruiser DUNEDIN and remained as escort for HMS

                                ILLUSTRIOUS for passage north.



                4th          Transferred escort of HMS ILLUSTRIOUS to HM Cruiser CARADOC.

                                Detached for independent passage to Freetown.

                6th          Rescued 35 survivors from ss OAKDENE, torpedoed by submarine earlier that day.

                                (Note: HMS CORNWALL deployed in Indian Ocean received a distress message from the

                                British tanker BRITISH EMPEROR on 7th May after being attacked by German

                                commerce raider PINGUIN.

                                PINGUIN was intercepted and sunk on 8th May by HMS CORNWALL).

                8th          Arrived at Freetown.

                11th        On arrival nominated for escort of Convoy SL747 which had sailed on 10th May for passage

                                to UK.

                12th        Joined HM Armed Merchant Cruiser BULOLO as escort for Convoy SL74.

                26th        Detached from Convoy SL74 to join search operation for German battleship BISMARCK

                                after sinking of HM Battlecruiser HOOD.

                27th        Directed to BISMARCK'S position by HM Destroyer COSSACK.

                                Took part in engagement with HM Battleships RODNEY and KING GEORGE V.

                                Sank BISMARCK with torpedoes after she had been demolished by surface gunfire.

                                Rescued 110 survivors with HM Destroyer MAORI until operation cancelled because of

                                increased threat of attack by U-Boats and aircraft.

                                (For details see PURSUIT by Ludovic Kennedy and Naval Staff History)

                29th        Burial for German sailor who had died from injuries received during action.

                30th        Prisoners landed and handed to military escort.

                                Arrived at South Shields.


June                        Paid off after 3 years, 10 months in commission.

                                Total mileage steamed 207,401.

                                Taken in hand for refit in Tyne shipyard.

                                Air warning radar fitted

                                (Note: For details of development and use of radar by RN see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse)


July                         Re-commissioned for Atlantic interception and convoy defence based at Freetown

                19th        Carried out Post Refit trials.

                27th        On completion took passage to Scapa Flow.

                28th        Commenced work-up with 1st Cruiser Squadron.


August                  Work-up in continuation.

                8th          Captain B C S Martin relieved by Captain Agar.

                9th          Present at Royal visit by HM King George VI to Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.

                                (Note: Royal Inspection by HM The King on board HM Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS

                                included some of ship's company.)

                15th        Sailed from Scapa Flow to join escort for military Convoy WS10X in Clyde.

                20th        Provided Ocean Escort for Atlantic passage of WS10X from Clyde.

                28th        Detached from WS10X on arrival at Freetown.

                                Deployed for trade defence.

                29th        Passage to St Helena.


September             South Atlantic deployment In continuation

                18th        Deployed with HMS EAGLE off St Helena.

                21st         Ship's WALRUS aircraft crashed over bows of HMS EAGLE.

                26th        Returned to St Helena.

                28th        Passage to Freetown with HMS EAGLE.



                3rd          Arrived at Freetown.

                8th          Took passage to Join military convoy WS12 after embarking new seaplane.

                10th        Joined WS12 during passage from UK as relief for HM Cruiser DEVONSHIRE

                14th        Detached from MS12 with Local Escort on arrival at Freetown.

                17th        Sailed with HM Cruiser DUNEDIN to join escort for convoy.

                19th        Returned to Freetown and rejoined WS12 with HMS DEVONSHIRE as Ocean Escort

                                during passage to Indian Ocean..

                30th        Remained with WS12 as Ocean Escort when HMS DEVONSHIRE detached.



                3rd          Detached from W512 on arrival at Durban.

                                Resumed trade defence and interception role during passage to Freetown.

                                Arrived at Freetown for convoy defence and sailed after refuelling.

                11th        Deployed for search for German commerce raiders ATLANTIS and U-Boat Supply ship

                                PYTHON, known to be operating in Atlantic

                                (Note: These movements had been the result of interception of signals and decryption

                                of ENIGMA at Bletchley Park. See BREAKING THE ENIGMA by D Kahn.

                                HITLERíS U-BOAT WAR by C Blair and BRITISH INTELLIGENCE IN WW2


                                HM Cruisers DEVONSHIRE, DUNEDIN and HM Armed Merchant Cruiser

                                CARNARVON CASTLE were also deployed independently.



                1st           Sighted German U-Boat supply ship PYTHON with submarines UA and U68 alongside.

                                Submarines departed and made torpedo attack which failed. PYTHON scuttled.

                                In view of threat of further submarine attack left the area and took passage to


                                Nominated for Ocean Escort of military convoy WS12X during passage in Indian


                                (Note: This convoy had been specially and most unusually routed because of the threat.

                                It had been escorted by US Navy warships for part of Atlantic passage including

                                aircraft carrier USS RANGER, cruisers QUINCY and VINCENNES screened by

                                eight US Navy destroyers as part of US foreign policy before entry into WW2.)

                7th          Arrived at Simonstown

                13th        Joined HS12X as Ocean escort during passage in Indian Ocean.

                                Six USN destroyers provided anti-submarine screen.

                                (Note: WS12X had been Intended for Suez but was redirected to Bombay.

                                USS RANGER and two destroyers had detached on 27th November)

                14th        Remained as Ocean Escort when the six Navy destroyers detached.

                27th        Detached from WS12X on arrival..


1 9 4 2



                2nd         Took passage from Bombay to Durban for convoy escort. 10th Arrived at Durban.

                13th        Joined escort for military convoy to Bombay.

                21st         Detached to refuel at Aden.

                22nd       Rejoined convoy escort.

                26th        Arrived at Bombay.


February                Nominated for defence of convoys to Singapore.

                7th          Took passage to Colombo.

                8th          Arrived at Colombo for new duties.

                10th        Took passage.

                14th        Joined Singapore convoy during passage.

                17th        Detached and returned to Colombo

                19th        Arrived at Colombo

                21st         Sailed to join escort for Singapore convoy.

                23rd        Detached after relief by HM Cruiser GLASGOW.

                                Took passage to Trincomalee

                24th        Arrived at Trincomalee.

                26th        Sailed from Trincomalee to join convoy.

                27th        Joined escort for military convoy to Rangoon.

                                (Note: Eastern Fleet was in course of Formation)



                2nd         Deployed in support of military operations to evacuate personnel from Burma.

                                Landed Royal Marines Detachment to man Motor Launches of Inshore Flotilla

                                during evacuation of allied troops to Akyab from Burma.

                                On completion escorted evacuation convoy from Rangoon.

                5th          Arrived at Trincomalee.

                24th        Passage to Colombo for refit

                27th        Entered dry dock.

                31st         Refit work suspended when Japanese surface ships reported in Indian Ocean

                                Undocked and sailed from Colombo to join Eastern Fleet ships off Ceylon.

                                (See OPERATION PACIFIC by Edwyn Grey and WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO) ).


April                       Passage with HMS CORNWALL to join HM Battleship WARSPITE, HM Aircraft

                                Carriers INDOMITABLE, FORMIDABLE, HM Cruisers ENTERPRISE and EMERALD

                                as Force "A" in search for Japanese warships reported on passage to Ceylon.

                2nd         Detached with HMS CORNWALL to return to Ceylon to continue refit.

                                (Note: HMS CORNWALL was required to join military convoy SU4 due at Trincomalee

                                on 8th April and on passage to Australia after ANZAC troops withdrawn from Middle

                                East because of Japanese threat to Australia).

                4th          Recalled by CinC Eastern Fleet to join Force A after further report of Japanese warships.

                                Took passage to join Fleet with HMS CORNWALL.

                5th          Sighted by aircraft from Japanese cruiser TONE in position 01.54N 77.45E south of Ceylon.

                                Came under heavy dive bombing attacks and sank within 8 minutes.

                                234 of ship's company lost their lives. (Casualty List - note on casualties)

                6th          1,122 survivors from both cruisers rescued by HMS ENTERPRISE, HM Destroyer PANTHER

                                and PALADIN some 30 hours after the sinking.

                                (For details see OPERATION PACIFIC, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY. the

                                Naval Staff History Battle Summary No 15, TURNS OF FATE by Dimbleby and WAR WITH

                                JAPAN (HMSO).







by Don Kindell


These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above 






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








WS 003B





WS 003










CF 001





SL 074





SL 092





CM 025A





CM 025B





JS 002





SJ 001





MR 005








(Note on Convoys)



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