Naval History Homepage and Site Search




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

HMS DESPATCH   -   World War 1 D-type Light Cruiser
including Convoy Escort Movements

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Despatch (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

return to Contents List   


D-Class cruiser ordered from Fairfield shipyard at Govan, Glasgow under an Emergency War Programme in March 1918. The ship was laid down in July that year and launched on 24th September 1919 as the 17th RN ship to bear this name. Introduced in 1692 for a Brigantine sold in 1712 it was last used for a Brig sold in 1901. She was transferred after launch to HM Dockyard, Chatham to be completed as part of an economy measure and was not completed until 2nd June 1922. A proposal made during her build to convert the ship for use as the Royal Yacht was cancelled. In common with other cruisers of this Class she was mainly deployed on foreign stations until 1938 when she was placed in Reserve. Following a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in March 1942 she was adopted by the civil community of St. Marylebone, Greater London.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s



(* Only recorded in Manning.)


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge:  On a Field Blue, a Cadecus Gold.


M o t t o

Festina non lente:  “Hasten not slowly.”



S u m m a r y   o f   P r e - War   S e r v i c e


1 9 2 2


May                        Contractors trials and commissioned for service on China Station in 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron.



                2nd         Build Completion and commenced Acceptance Trials in Nore Command.


July                         On completion of trials worked-up for foreign service in Home waters

to August


September             Passage to join Squadron on China Station.


October                  Deployed with Squadron for visits and exercises.

to December


1 9 2 3     t o    1 9 2 5


                Deployed with Squadron on China Station

                (Note: Ship would have carried out refits on Station with docking facilities

                available at Hong Kong and Singapore.


1 9 2 6


                China Station deployment in continuation.

                On 16th November this ship with HM Cruiser VINDICTIVE was despatched from

                Hong Kong to search for pirates who had taken over the mercantile ss SUNNING

                and abandoned the ship in a lifeboat.


1 9 2 7


                Returned to UK to pay off and re-commissioned for service in 8th Cruiser Squadron

                on America and West Indies Station as Squadron Flagship.

                Sailed for Bermuda on 20 December and after a stormy passage via the Azores arrived in

                Bermuda on 31st December having damaged one propeller and using one engine.


1 9 2 8


January                  On completion of repairs deployed for visits programme to ports in South America.

to April


May                        Deployed in West Indies

to June



                2nd         Sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

                On arrival off Halifax towed HM Cruiser DAUNTLESS off rocks on which this ship

                had grounded.

                12th        Took return passage to Bermuda


August                  Deployed on West Indies Station for exercise and visits programme.

to December


1 9 2 9    t o    1 9 3 0


                West Indies deployment with Squadron in continuation.

                (Note: Docking and refits for ships in Squadron were carried out

                in HM Dockyard at Bermuda or in RCN dockyard at Halifax)


1 9 3 1


January                  Nominated for reduction to Reserve on return to UK pending refit

to August              Passage to UK from Bermuda on relief.


September             In Reserve at Portsmouth

to December


1 9 3 2


January                  Passage to Chatham for refit

                20th        Paid-off into Dockyard control and taken in hand for refit.


February                Under refit

to December          Carried out Post refit trials


1 9 3 3


January                  On completion of trials took passage to Portsmouth.


                3rd          Re-commissioned for service in 3rd Cruiser Squadron Mediterranean Fleet.


March                    Deployed in Home waters and worked up for service.

to August


September             Passage to Alexandria to join Squadron.

                25th        Arrived at Alexandria.


October                  Deployed with Squadron for exercises and visits

to December


1 9 3 4


                Squadron deployment in Mediterranean including joint exercises with ships of

                Home Fleet at Gibraltar and Mediterranean Fleet Spring and Summer Cruises

                (Note: Visits included ports in western and eastern Mediterranean with Fleet



1 9 3 5


January                  Mediterranean Fleet deployment in continuation

to March                Nominated for attendance with HM Cruiser COVENTRY at Jubilee Review by

                                HM King George V at Spithead.


April                       Passage to Portsmouth


May                        Deployed in Home waters and prepared for Review ceremonials.

to June


July                         Present at Review.

                On completion took passage to Malta with Rear Admiral (Destroyers),

                Mediterranean Fleet embarked.


August                  Resumed Squadron duties

                Deployed with HM Battleship RESOLUTION in eastern Mediterranean

                (Note: Following the Italian invasion of Ethiopia significant reinforcement of

                of the Mediterranean Fleet took place and Fleet activities were adjusted to

                to ensure suitable response to any escalation of hostilities in the area.



                2nd         At Port Said with HMS RESOLUTION.

                15th        Rejoined Mediterranean Fleet units.


October                  Deployed in Eastern Mediterranean with Squadron.

to December


1 9 3 6


                Squadron deployment in continuation with Fleet units and including

                exercises planned to provide instant readiness to deal with the existing

                emergency and the outbreak of civil war in Spain.


1 9 3 7


January to             Deployed in Mediterranean with Squadron which carried out Fleet and

October                  Squadron exercises and visits in accordance with Fleet Programmes,.

                (Note: Extensive deployments were made by ships of Mediterranean Fleet

                to deal with civil war in Spain.

                Ship visited Varna in the Black sea.


November              Passage to UK


December              Nominated for reduction to Reserve Status.

                                Arrived at Portsmouth


1 9 3 8


January                  Paid-off and de-stored

to February           Accepted into Reserve at Portsmouth.


March                    Laid-up at Portsmouth in Reserve

to December


1 9 3 9


January                  Laid-up at Portsmouth in reserve.

to June


July                         Brought forward for service to take-up war station in South Atlantic

                                on mobilisation.


August                  Commissioned at Portsmouth for service with ship’s company mainly of

                Reservists and to be deployed with 9th Cruiser Squadron in South Atlantic.

                Took passage to Gibraltar with HM Cruiser DAUNTLESS to take up war station.

                (Note: Attendance at Royal Review of Reserve Fleet at Weymouth to be confirmed.)



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




                3rd          Sailed from Gibraltar with HMS DAUNTLESS as escort for convoy to Freetown.

                14th        Arrived at Freetown.

                21st         Sailed for patrol from Freetown.


October                  Transferred to 8th Cruiser Squadron for service ion West Indies.

                2nd         On return to Freetown prepared for service based in Bermuda.

                4th          Sailed for West Indies.

                23rd        Joined West Indies Station for trade protection and interception of blockade runners.

                26th        Arrived at Kingston, Jamaica

                29th        Deployed for interception patrol in Caribbean


November              Diverted for interception operation in Pacific.

                19th        Transit of Panama Canal.

                21st         Deployed off west coast of South America



                5th          Intercepted German freighter DUSSELDORF off Punta Caldera, Chile.

                                Captured enemy ship which was taken as Prize.

                15th        Resumed patrol duties in Caribbean


1 9 4 0


January                  Caribbean area patrol and interception in continuation.

to February


March                    Intercepted German freighters TROSA and HEIDELBERGH which both

                                scuttled on approach.


April                       Interception and trade defence duties in continuation.

to May


June                        Under refit by HM Dockyard, Bermuda.



                25th        On completion of post refit trials resumed trade protection and interception

                                patrol duties.


August                  Caribbean area duties in continuation.

                                Detached from Squadron and returned to Home waters prior to refit and repair



                1st           Took passage from Kingston for UK

                29th        Sailed from Clyde to Portsmouth


October                  Under repair by HM Dockyard, Portsmouth

                                Nominated for service at Gibraltar with Force H on completion.


November              Took passage to Clyde on completion of post refit trials

                3rd          Arrived in Clyde and took passage for Gibraltar as escort for HM Aircraft

                Carrier ARGUS taking aircraft to Mediterranean for onward flight to Malta.

                (Note: For details of naval activities in the western Mediterranean

                during 1940 see THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN

                by D Macintyre, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY

                by C Barnett, Malta Convoys by R Woodman and the Naval Staff


                15th        Deployed with HM Destroyers DUNCAN, FURY and WISHART as escort

                during passage in western Mediterranean to launch position for delivery of

                aircraft to Malta (Operation WHITE). Cover was provided by HM Battlecruiser

                RENOWN, HM Cruiser SHEFFIELD and screen of eight destroyers of Force H.

                (Note: Only four HURRICANE and one SKUA aircraft of the 14 launched arrived.

                18th        On return to Gibraltar joined Force H for Mediterranean deployment.

                25th        Joined HMS RENOWN, HM Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL and HMS SHEFFIELD

                as Force B to provide cover for passage of Force F (HM Cruisers SOUTHAMPTON

                and MANCHESTER to join Mediterranean Fleet in eastern Mediterranean and a

                convoy of mercantiles taking stores to Malta. (Operation COLLAR)

                (Note: HM Destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FURY, WISHART

                ENCOUNTER, KELVIN and JAGUAR were deployed as Screen for Force B.

                and HM Destroyers DUNCAN, HOTSPUR, and VIDETTE with four corvettes

                as escort for Force F.)

                27th        Met HM Battleship RAMILLIES, HM Cruisers BERWICK and NEWCASTLE of

                Mediterranean Fleet on passage to provide cover during eastward passage.

                Detached with HMS VIDETTE and HMS WISHART as Close escort for mercantiles

                after threat of attack by an Italian naval force including the battleship VITTORIO


                (Note: Italian force withdrew after brief engagement by other ships of Force B and

                Mediterranean Fleet Battle of Spartivento – See above references.)

                29th        Returned to Gibraltar with Force B.

December              Passage to Portsmouth prior to resuming duties in West Indies with Squadron.


1 9 4 1


January                  Deployed for trade defence duties during return passage to Bermuda.


February                Taken in hand for refit by HM Dockyard, Bermuda.

to March


April                       Resumed trade defence. interception and patrol duties off east coast of South America

to July                    and in Caribbean area.


August                  Atlantic deployment with Squadron in continuation.

                15th        During operation with HM Armed Merchant Cruiser PRETORIA CASTLE intercepted

                                German freighter NORDERNEY NE of Amazon estuary but ship scuttled on approach.


September             Atlantic deployment in continuation.

to November


December              Transferred to Pacific for service in conjunction with US Navy Task Group to intercept

                                any Japanese attempt to attack Falkland islands.


1 9 4 2


January                  Pacific deployment in continuation

                (Note: One source records service off Galapagos Islands, but this is to be confirmed.

                Released from Pacific duties and returned to Bermuda.


February                Passage to Bermuda. 8th Cruiser Squadron disbanded.

                26th        Docking and routine maintenance at Bermuda.



                20th        Deployed in South Atlantic for interception duties and trade defence.


April                       Nominated for return to Home waters and took passage to UK.

                                Joined Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.


May                        Passage to Chatham for refit.

                                Taken in hand by HM Dockyard, Chatham.


June                        Under refit.


July                         Refit completion transferred to Tyne commercial shipyard

                                Passage to Tyne


August                  Under refit

                (Note: Close range AA defence was improved by fit of eight 20mm single Oerlikon

                weapons. Radar outfit Type 271 was fitted to provide surface warning and a

                Modified RAF Air-Surface radar naval Type 286 also installed to provide

                limited air warning. For details of the development and use of radar in the RN

                see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse.)


September             On completion of post refit trials resumed Home Fleet service and took

                                passage to Scapa Flow


October                  Worked up for operational service with ships of Home Fleet at

                Scapa Flow.

                Nominated for detached service at Freetown for trade defence and

                interception patrol

                4th          Joined military convoy WS23 in Clyde with HM Cruiser DURBAN. HM

                Armed Merchant Cruiser QUEEN OF BERMUDA, HM Destroyer PUCKERIDGE,

                and Greek destroyer KANARIS as Ocean Escort during Atlantic passage to Freetown.

                15th        Detached from WS23 on arrival of Local Escort from Freetown.

                23rd        Rejoined WS23 with HM Sloop during convoy passage to Cape of Good Hope.

                31st         Detached from WS23 before convoy arrived at Capetown and took passage to join

                military convoy WS24 then on passage in Atlantic from UK to Brazil.

                (Note: Atlantic passage for WS24, en route to Middle East exceptionally been routed

                via Bahia, Brazil to avoid extensive US traffic on passage to North Africa for

                the planned landings in North Africa (Operation TORCH).



                11th        Joined HM Armed Merchant Cruiser QUEEN OF BERMUDA and HM Destroyer

                                ILEX with HMS ROTHERHAM to supplement Ocean Escort for WS24.

                17th        Detached from WS24 on arrival of convoy at Bahia.

                20th        Rejoined WS24 with HM Armed Merchant Cruisers QUEEN OF BERMUDA,

                                ALCANTARA, HMS ROTHERHAM and HMS ILEX as Ocean Escort.

                23rd        Detached from WS24 during passage in South Atlantic and resumed Trade Defence

                                and patrol duties.


December              South Atlantic deployment in continuation.


1 9 4 3


January                  South Atlantic deployment in continuation

to March


April                       Under self refit and routine maintenance at Rio de Janeiro.


May                        Resumed South Atlantic trade defence and patrol duties.


June                        South Atlantic deployment in continuation.

                Nominated for escort duty in Indian Ocean and took passage to join

                military convoy.


July                         Passage to Indian Ocean an d joined by HM Destroyers QUADRANT

                                and REDOUBT.

                26th        Joined military convoy WS31 as Ocean Escort during passage to Bombay.



                4th          Detached from WS31 on relief by HM Cruiser FROBISHER.

                                and resumed trade defence and patrol in Indian Ocean.


September             Withdrawn from duties in South Atlantic

                                Passage to Scapa Flow.


October                  Nominated for special duty in planned operations after refit and

                conversion to new role at Portsmouth.

                Passage to Portsmouth and taken in hand by HM Dockyard.


November              Under refit and conversion for use as depot ship.

to December          (Note: 6in armament, a single 4in AA mounting and the four triple torpedo tubes

                were removed. Close Range AA defence was improved by installation

                of 16 40mm single weapons and two twin 20mm mountings.


1 9 4 4


January                  Under refit.


February                Nominated for support of planned landing in Normandy and to

to April                  be deployed as HQ Ship stationed at Arromanches with MULBERRY

                                B in Eastern Task Force Area.


May                        On completion of post refit trials prepared for new type of deployment.


June                        In Solent area during assembly of invasion forces.

                4th          Operation delayed by 24 hours.

                6th          Joined Convoy EWP1 comprising six personnel ships and two hospital

                ships for transit through swept channel escorted by HM Sloops REDPOLE

                and STORK, HM Escort Destroyer EGLINTON, HM Frigates DUFF and


                7th          Passage to Arromanches.

                9th          On arrival commenced Depot Ship duties at MULBERRY B in Eastern

                Task Force area.

                (Note: NOIC for Naval Party 1500 was Captain C H Petrie, DSO, RN)

                16th        Present during visit to MULBERRY B by HM King George VI.

                24th        NOIC moved ashore and HQ duties terminated

                For details of naval activities before and during NEPTUNE see OPERATION

                NEPTUNE by K Edwards and LANDINGS IN NORMANDY (HMSO).


July                         Returned to Portsmouth on release from NEPTUNE.


August                  Nominated for refit and took passage to Devonport.


September             Taken in hand for refit by HM Dockyard, Devonport

                                Nominated for reduction to Reserve at Falmouth and Paid-off.


October                  Laid-up at Falmouth.

to December


1 9 4 5


January                  Selected for duty as an Accommodation Ship at Portsmouth

                                Passage to Portsmouth.


February                Deployed at Portsmouth as an Accommodation Ship.

to August


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS DESPATCH remained at Portsmouth in this role until placed on the Disposal List in 1946. The ship was sold to BISCO on 5th April that year and towed to the Breaker’s yard at Troon in August 1946 for demolition by The West of Scotland Shipbreaking Co. 







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








AB 001/1





SL 002













(Note on Convoys)



back to Contents List
or Naval-History.Net

revised 3/6/11
further editing and formatting is required


if any ads offend, please contact Naval-History.Net