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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2003

HMS BIRMINGHAM -  Town-type Light Cruiser
including Convoy Escort Movements

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS  Birmingham (Navy Photos, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

The second Royal Navy ship to bear the name BIRMINGHAM and ordered from HM Dockyard, Devonport on 1st March 1935. This name was introduced in 1913 for a cruiser sold in 1931.  The ship was laid down on 18th July that year and launched on 1st September 1936. Build was completed on 18th Nov. 1937 and after trials in Home Waters she was deployed on the China Station. The City  whose name she bears has maintained a strong relationship with this ship until scrapped and with the third that entered service in 1976.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


HELIGOLAND 1914 - DOGGER BANK 1915 - JUTLAND 1916 - NORWAY 1940 -  KOREA 1952-53


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge:  On a Field White an arm proper holding a hammer proper

issuant from a mural crown Gold.


M o t t o




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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September             Attached to 5th Cruiser Squadron on the China Station.

                3rd          Based at Singapore and deployed in Indian Ocean and Malacca Straits on trade

                                protection. Search for enemy merchant ships attempting to return to Europe.


October                  Carried out patrol and interception duties in East Indies.



                4th          Relieved by HM Cruiser DAUNTLESS and took passage to Hong Kong

                10th        Based in Hong Kong for contraband control search duties in Chinese waters.

                28th        Escorted French liner ANDRE LEBON.



                9th          During search for German freighter BURGENLAND reported on passage from Kobe

                                intercepted Dutch ship and then joined the Armed Merchant Cruiser MORETON BAY

                                for patrol off Japan in an endeavour to find enemy vessel.

                17th        Damaged in collision with Tanker FRANCOL when fuelling.

                27th        Propeller replaced and bow repaired in dock at Hong Kong.


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                3rd          Transferred to Mediterranean Fleet and took passage for Alexandria.

                22nd       Under refit in Malta.


February                Transferred to Home Fleet.


March                    Passage to Scapa Flow to join 18th Cruiser Squadron in Home Fleet

                27th        Nominated for cover of simulated minelay off Norway at Bud in Force WB with

                                HM Destroyers HYPERION and HERO (Operation WILFRED).

                31st         Sailed with the destroyers HMS FEARLESS and HMS HOSTILE to ensure security of

                                simulated minelay and to capture any German fishing vessels in the area.


                8th          During deployment with HMS RENOWN to cover minelay ordered by CinC Home Fleet

                                to join units on passage to patrol entrance to Vest Fjord.

                                Due to fuel shortage ordered to return to Scapa Flow.

                10th        Under air attack off Norwegian coast.

                13th        Joined escort for military convoy NP1 carrying troops for landings in Norway,

                                with HM Cruisers MANCHESTER and CAIRO screened by HM Destroyers NUBIAN

                                SIKH and SOMALI (Operation RUPERT/R4).

                14th        Detached from NP1 with HMS MANCHESTER and HMS CAIRO screened by HM Destroyers

                                HIGHLANDER, VANOC and WHIRLWIND as escort for Polish liner CHOBRY and

                                rms EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA during passage to Namsos.

                                (Operation MAURICE - See Naval Staff History.)

                15th        Destination changed to Lillesjona where troops were to be transferred to destroyers for the

                                remainder of passage to Namsos.

                17th        Passage to Scapa Flow with HMS VANOC and HMS WHIRLWIND escorting rms

                                EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA.

                20th        Deployed to reinforce HMS CAIRO and two French destroyers as escort for French troopship

                                VILLE D'ALGER during final part of passage to Namsos.

                22nd       Return passage to Scapa Flow.

                24th        Took passage from Rosyth for delivery of stores and reinforcements to SICKLE FORCE at

                                Andalsnes and Molde in company with HM Cruisers MANCHESTER and YORK screened

                                by HM Destroyers ACHERON, HMS ARROW and HMS GRIFFIN.

                                (Note: Troops and stores were ferried ashore at Andalsnes from HMS BIRMINGHAM

                                and HMS YORK. For details see Naval Staff History.)

                25th        Retained in Norwegian waters with HMS MANCHESTER for interception patrols

                26th        Sank the German Trawler SCHELSWIG (Schiff 37) which had been wearing a Dutch

                                Flag. During this engagement rammed HMS ARROW.



                1st           Took part in evacuation of allied troops from Andalsnes and Molde with HM Cruisers

                                MANCHESTER and CALCUTTA, HM Sloop HMS AUCKLAND and HM

                                Destroyers DELIGHT, DIANA, INGLEFIELD, MASHONA and SOMALI.

                                390 troops were embarked for return passage.

                                For full details of the Norwegian operations see NARVIK by Donald MacIntyre

                                THE DOOMED EXPEDITION by Jack Adams and Naval Staff History.

                2nd         Arrived at Scapa Flow with passengers.

                8th          Transferred to Nore Command with HMS MANCHESTER and HMS SHEFFIELD for

                                interception duties in southern North Sea.

                9th          Sailed from Rosyth with HM Destroyers JANUS, HAVOCK, HEREWARD and HYPERION

                                for duty in Nore Command.

                                Diverted on passage to join search with destroyers for ships reported in Little Fisher Bank area.

                                Under air attacks. For details see Naval Staff History.

                                (Note: During this search HM Destroyer KELLY was badly damaged in action with E-Boats

                                and had to be towed to Tyne for repair covered by this ship

                10th        Deployed with HM Cruiser SHEFFIELD to cover the tow by HM Destroyer BULLDOG

                                of the damaged destroyer KELLY to Tyne Estuary.

                12th        Arrived at Harwich on completion and deployed in support of Dutch military

                                operations at Terschelling.


June                        Based in Humber estuary with ships of 1st Cruiser Squadron for patrol duty

                                in North Sea.


July                         Remained in North Sea for anti-invasion patrol.



                31st         Transferred to Sheerness for anti-invasion patrols.

                                Deployed with HM Cruisers MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON screened by three

                                Fleet destroyers in search for invasion craft.


September             Under refit at Liverpool. Type 286M surface warning radar fitted.

to                            (Note: This was the first ship borne radar capable of detection of surface

November              craft and was a modified RAF type equipment fitted in aircraft for ship

                                detection. For details of the development and use of Radar by the RN

                                see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse.)


December              Post refit trials.

                27th        On completion returned to Scapa Flow to resume Home Fleet duties.

                                Deployed with 18th Cruiser Squadron in Home Fleet for escort and patrol duty

                                in NW Approaches. One of the objectives of this was the interception of enemy

                                commerce raiders and blockade runners.

                                (Details of Contraband Control in Northern waters are given in ARMED MERCHANT

                                CRUISERS by K. POOLMAN).


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                24th        Relieved HM Cruisers AURORA and NAIAD with HM Cruiser EDINBURGH and three

                                Fleet destroyers as escort for the merchant ships ELIZABETH BURKE, TAURUS and TAI

                                SHAN which had escaped from Gotenberg carrying essential commodities obtained

                                in Sweden (Operation RUBBLE).


February                Nominated for Ocean Escort of Middle East military convoy and took passage

                                to Clyde to join.

                9th          Joined Convoy WS6A with HM Cruiser PHOEBE and HM Armed Merchant Cruiser

                                CATHAY as Ocean Escort during passage to Freetown.

                15th        HM Battleship RODNEY screened by HM Destroyers ECLIPSE AND ELECTRA joined


                17th        HMS RODNEY and screen detached and replaced by HM Battlecruiser RENOWN and

                                HM Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL.

                21st         HM Battleship MALAYA joined.



                1st           Arrived at Freetown with WS6A

                6th          Sailed from Freetown as Convoy WS6 Ocean Escort during passage to Cape Town with

                                HMS PHOEBE and HMS CATHAY.

                21st         Detached from WS6 on arrival at Cape Town.

                                Joined 18th Cruiser Squadron for trade defence duties in South Atlantic.


April                       Nominated for return to Home Fleet duties and took passage to Scapa Flow.


May                        Deployed with Home Fleet.

                6th          Ocean Escort for minelay in Northern Barrage by 1st Minelaying Squadron

                                (Operation SN9A).

                7th          Diverted with HMS EDINBURGH, HMS MANCHESTER, HMS SOMALI and three

                                other Fleet destroyers to intercept German Weather Ship MUNCHEN known to be on

                                station in North Atlantic. This operation was intended to obtain the ENIGMA Coding

                                machine with its associated documentation. MUNCHEN scuttled but these vital

                                items were recovered by the boarding party before enemy vessel sank.

                19th        Deployed with HMS MANCHESTER for interception patrol between Faeroes Islands

                                and Iceland.

                23rd        Joined by HM Cruiser ARETHUSA.

                24th        Patrol line adjusted after loss of HM Battleship HOOD on order to cover any

                                possible escape by BISMARCK to NE of Iceland.



                4th          Transferred to South Atlantic as Flagship for ships engaged in trade defence.

                                Nominated as Ocean Escort for Middle East WS military convoy during passage to

                                Durban from Clyde.

                7th          Joined Convoy WS9A with HM Armed Merchant Cruiser DUNOTTAR CASTLE.

                14th        At Freetown with Convoy WS9A.

                20th        Sailed from Freetown for Cape of Good Hope with WS9A.



                2nd         At Cape Town.

                5th          Took passage to Durban as WS9A Ocean Escort.

                9th          Detached from WS9A on relief by HM Cruiser HAWKINS.

                12th        Deployed for commerce raider interception and trade defence.


August                  Interception patrols and convoy defence deployment in southern oceans.




1 9 4 2


January                  Deployed off Falklands with HM Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS ASTURIAS after

                                Japan entered war to deter any possible attack.


February                Under refit by HM Dockyard Simonstown, South Africa.

                                20mm Close Range AA armament fitted and Radar Type 284 for 6in main armament

                                fire control installed. Surface warning Type 286M Radar replaced by improved

                                RN British equipment (Type 291) using rotating aerial instead of 'fixed' type

                                used with Type 286.


March                    During refit period transferred to 4th Cruiser Squadron in Eastern Fleet.




May                        On completion of Post Refit trials detached for duty at Alexandria with the

                                Mediterranean Fleet with HMS NEWCASTLE.

                25th        Took passage via Suez to Mediterranean.



                6th          Arrived at Alexandria for service with 15th Cruiser Squadron.

                11th        Part of escort for passage of Malta relief convoy from Alexandria with ships

                                of 15th Cruiser Squadron and destroyers of Mediterranean Fleet.

                                (Operation VIGOROUS)

                15th        Under heavy air attacks and damaged by near miss. The consequential severe

                                whipping of structure disabled gun turrets.

                16th        Returned to Alexandria when operation was abandoned due to threat of surface

                                intervention by Italian fleet and continuation of heavy air attacks.

                                Full details of this disastrous operation which was a classic case of much

                                interference by shore authorities is given in ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE

                                CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett, THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by

                                D MacIntyre, MALTA CONVOYS by R Woodman and The Naval Staff History)



                2nd         Passage to Kilindini to rejoin Eastern Fleet.

                18th        Deployed at Kilindini with HM Battleship WARSPITE, HM Aircraft Carriers

                                FORMIDABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS.

                                (Note: This was part of the revised policy made possible by the arrival of

                                reinforcements in the Indian Ocean and intended to intensify the RN

                                contribution o naval operations in South East Asia against Japan.

                21st         Took passage to Colombo with HM Cruiser MAURITIUS, HM Destroyers NORMAN,

                                NIZAM, INCONSTANT and Dutch VAN GALEN as Force A

                25th        At Colombo and prepared to provide cover for passage of three Dummy convoys on

                                passage in Bay of Bengal to simulate an attack en the Andaman Islands.

                                (Operation STAB - Diversion during US landings on Guadalcanal.



                2nd         STAB cancelled after CinC determined that the objective had been achieved.

                                (See WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO), Volume HE)

                11th        Returned to Kilindini with HM Minelaying Cruiser MANXMAN.



                5th          Deployed with Eastern Fleet ships including HM Cruiser GAMBIA, HM Seaplane

                                Carrier ALBATROSS escorted by HM Destroyers EXPRESS, FORTUNE, HOTSPUR

                                and INCONSTANT to Majunga with Netherlands destroyer VAN HEEMSKERCK for the final

                                occupation of Madagascar by 29th Infantry Brigade (Operation STREAM).

                10th        Covered landings at Majunga, Madagascar.

                12th        Supported landings at Antanarive until 15th September.

                18th        Supported landings at Tamatave.


October                  Returned to trade protection duty in Indian Ocean.



                24th        Rescued survivors from ss TILAWA sunk by Japanese submarine 129 off Bombay.


December              Deployed with Eastern Fleet for trade protection duty and offensive sweeps.

                                (Eastern Fleet activities between 1942 and 1945 are provided in OPERATION

                                PACIFIC by E. Gray).


1 9 4 3


January                  Eastern Fleet deployment in continuation.


February                Nominated for return to UK for refit after escort of military convoy during

                                passage in Indian Ocean.



                1st           Joined Convoy WS26 at Durban with HM Cruiser CERES as Ocean Escort during

                                passage to Aden.

                9th          Detached from WS26 on relief by HMS HAWKINS.

                                (Note: HMS CERES detached on 8th.)

                                Passage to Devonport.


April                       Taken in hand for repair and refit by HM Dockyard on arrival.

                                Nominated for further deployment with Eastern Fleet.

                                Additional radar fitted for AA fire-control (Type 285), Air warning (Type 281)

                                and IFF sets installed. Radar Type 291 for surface and air warning replaced

                                by new 10cm Type 273- (For details see RADAR AT SEA by D. Howse).


May                        Under refit




September             On completion carried out post refit trials at Plymouth.


October                  Prepared for foreign service and work-up with Home Fleet.



                18th        On completion of work-up at Scapa Flow took passage to rejoin Eastern Fleet

                                via Mediterranean.

                27th        Deployed in eastern Mediterranean.

                28th        Sustained major damaged after being hit by torpedo fired from U407 off the

                                coast of Cyrenaica. Forward magazine flooded and ship listed 8 degrees. Speed

                                had to be reduced to 20 knots.


December              Under temporary repair at Alexandria.


1 9 4 4


January                  Under repair.

to                            Arrangements made for permanent repair to be carried out in US Navy shipyard.

April .


May                        Passage to USA



                9th          Taken in hand for repair and refit by US Navy Yard at Norfolk, Va.


July                         Under refit

to                            Harbour trials

October                  (Note: Preparatory work for installation of RN radar and other equipment

                                was carried out


November              On completion of trials took passage to UK to complete refit work in UK.


December              Under refit at HM Dockyard, Portsmouth. Type 282 AA fire control radar fitted

                                for Close Range weapons. X Turret and aircraft facility removed.


1 9 4 5



                14th        Joined 10th Cruiser Squadron in Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.


February                Deployed with Home Fleet and took part in offensive sweeps against shipping

to                            off Norwegian coast.

March                    (For details of Home Fleet operations off Norway between 1944 and 1945

                                see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett and Naval

                                Staff History.)



                3rd          Deployed with HM Cruiser BELLONA to cover air strikes by HM Escort Carriers

                                HMS QUEEN, HMS SEARCHER and HMS TRUMPETER on Norwegian coastal

                                shipping. This operation had to be cancelled because of weather.

                                Carried out patrol inside Arctic Circle till 12th April..



                5th          Passage to Copenhagen with HM Cruiser DIDO screened by HM Destroyers ZEALOUS

                                ZEPHYR and ZEST (Operation CLEAVER).

                6th          Accepted surrender of German warships PRINZ EUGEN and NURNBERG.

                13th        Relieved by HM Cruiser DEVONSHIRE and returned to Scapa Flow.

                26th        Embarked troops at Rosyth for passage to Trondheim to assist with capture of

                                German troops still not in custody.

                28th        Arrived in Trondheim.


June                        Deployed as Flagship to 10th Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet.                    

to                            Remained in Home Fleet until the end of hostilities with Japan.



P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


After the end of hostilities HMS BIRMINGHAM continued in service to 1952 and in  1953 took part in United Nations naval operations off the west coast of Korea. She was put on the Disposal List and broken up in 1960 at Inverkeithing. This name continued in naval use when given to a Type 42 Destroyer which entered service in 1976 and maintained the close association with the City.






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








NP 001





SL 070





MW 011





MC 003





CM 038





MC 004





SL 127





KMF 026





UGS 023





MKF 032








(Note on Convoys)



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