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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2002

HMS  CAPETOWN - World War 1 C-type Light Cruiser including Convoy Escort Movements

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Capetown (Photo Ships, click to enlarge)

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CAPETOWN-Class Cruiser ordered from Cammell Laird. Birkenhead in July 1917 and laid down on 23rd February 1918. The ship was launched on 28th June 1918 as the 1st RN ship to bear this name. Build was transferred to HM Dockyard, Pembroke Dock after the end of WW1 and completed on 28th February 1922. Until placed in Reserve in 1938 this cruiser served on foreign stations and had been intended for conversion into an anti-aircraft cruiser but this was not implemented and she commissioned for service in August 1939. Following a WARSHIP WEEK campaign for National Savings in March 1942 she was adopted by the civil community of Watford, Hertfordshire.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s




H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge:   On a field Blue an anchor proper.


M o t t o

'Good Hope'



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


1 9 2 2


February                Contractors Trials

                                Commissioned for Trials



                9th          Paid off on completion of Acceptance Trials.



                11th        Re-commissioned for service in 8th Light Cruiser Squadron on America and West

                                Indies Station.


March                    Deployed with Squadron.

to December          (Note: Visits were paid to Empire communities in the Area and to foreign countries in the area


1 9 2 3    to    1 9 2 5


January                  Carried out Squadron exercise and visits programme based at Bermuda.

to December          (Note: Routine dockings and refits in Canadian dockyards.)


1 9 2 6


January                  Squadron deployment on Station in continuation

to September         (Note: During visit to Montreal in this period ship sustained structural damage to

                                stern by collision when entering harbour.)


October                  Resumed Squadron service and returned to Bermuda.

                21st         Rescued 29 survivors from HM Sloop VALERIAN which capsized in a hurricane

                                south of Bermuda.

                                (Note: HMS VALERIAN sank on 22nd October.)


November              West Indies deployment with Squadron in continuation.

to December


1 9 2 7


January                  West Indies deployment with Squadron in continuation

to April


May                        Passage to Devonport to re-commission.


June                        Deployed at Devonport

                                (Note: During this period ship may have been refitted.)



                1st           Re-commissioned for service with 8th Light Cruiser Squadron in West Indies.


August                  Passage to Bermuda to resume foreign service with Squadron.

to                            Deployed with Squadron for visits and exercises.



1 9 2 8


                                Squadron duties based at Bermuda in continuation.


1 9 2 9


January                  West Indies deployment in continuation.

to November         Nominated for reduction to Reserve status at Devonport.


December              Passage to Devonport to pay-off.

                17th        Arrived at Devonport

                31st         Reduction to Reserve commenced


1 9 3 0    t o    1 9 3 2


                                Laid-up in Reserve Fleet Devonport.


1 9 3 3


January                  Laid-up at Devonport

to October


November              Prepared for refit by HM Dockyard, Devonport prior to foreign service.



                7th          Taken in hand for refit.


1 9 3 4


January                  Under refit

to June



                17th        Re-commissioned for service on China Station with 5th Light Cruiser Squadron.


August                  Carried out trials and shakedown in Home waters.

to September         Passage to Hong Kong to commence Squadron service.


October                  Deployed with Squadron and took part in exercises and duties to protect British

to December          flagged shipping.


1 9 3 5


                                Squadron duties based at Hong Kong in continuation.


1 9 3 6


January                  Deployed on China Station.

to March                Nominated for return to UK to re-commission.



                25th        Sailed from Hong Kong to re-commission

                                (Note: The reason for early return to UK is not known.

                                Foreign commissions usually lasted 2½ years and would have normally

                                lasted until December 1936)


May                        Passage to UK

to June                   Paid-off


July                         Deployed at Devonport

                30th        Re-commissioned for service on China Station with 5th Light Cruiser Squadron.


August                  Deployed at Devonport

to December          (Note: Ship may have refitted during this period.)

                                Passage to rejoin Squadron

1 9 3 7


January                  Deployed with Squadron on China Station.

to June


July                         Deployed at Wei-Hei-Wei with Squadron

                15th        Arrived at Hong Kong for refit.

                                (Note: Refit was cancelled and ship had routine docking before despatch to

                                Nanking for guardship duties.)

                22nd       Sailed from Hong Kong to Nanking.



                1st           Arrived at Nanking as relief for HM Cruiser DANAE as guardship.

                                (Note: Guardship was responsible for providing shore parties as needed to

                                protect British community during threat of Japanese military actions

                                including air attacks and to act as a secure wireless communication link

                                in support of British Embassy requirements.)


September             Guardship duties at Nanking in continuation.

                20th        Embarked British Embassy personnel for evacuation in view of air attacks expected

                                within 48 hours

                21st         Passage to Hangchow with passengers,

                                (Note: Air raids began on Nanking on 22nd)



                2nd         Arrived at Hangchow after delay caused by wrecks of Chinese mercantiles deliberately

                                sunk to prevent passage of Japanese warships in the Yangtse River.


November              Remained at Hangchow pending Japanese permission to sail down river.



                18th        Sailed from Hanchow after permission by Japanese to leave.

                27th        Arrived at Hong Kong after call at Shanghai.


1 9 3 8


January                  Deployed for Squadron duties based at Hong Kong.

to February



                6th          Despatched to assist French freighter YOLANDE which was aground in

                                Betty Cove near Alceste Island.


April                       Nominated for return to UK for conversion into an anti-aircraft cruiser.

                26th        Sailed for UK from Hong Kong


May                        Passage to Devonport


to July                    (Note: Ship may have been delayed in Mediterranean in view of Italian

                                aggressive operations against Abyssinia.)


August                  Passage from Mediterranean to Devonport.

                9th          Arrived at Devonport


September             Reduced to Reserve status prior to conversion by HM Dockyard Rosyth.


October                  Laid-up at Devonport

to December


1 9 3 9


January                  Transferred to Rosyth and used as an Accommodation Ship.

to June                   Conversion delayed due to international situation


July                         Commissioned with Fleet Reserve personnel to attend review of the

                                Reserve Fleet by HM King George VI.


August                  Attended Review in Weymouth Bay and remained in commission to take up

                                war station as part of 11th Cruiser Squadron.

                                (Note: Ship is likely to have done limited work-up prior to being deployed for

                                Atlantic convoy defence and must have stored for war service before sailing.)

                28th        Sailed from Plymouth for Gibraltar.



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




                1st           Deployed at Gibraltar

                3rd          Sailed for interception patrol to enforce blockade and for defence of Atlantic

                                convoys which were commenced after commencement of war with Germany.

                12th        Returned to Gibraltar from patrol

                                (Note: Other ships of the Class were deployed in northern Atlantic.)

                17th        Sailed from Gibraltar for escort of SL convoy from Freetown.

                27th        Returned to Gibraltar.



                2nd         Sailed for patrol and convoy escort.

                                During passage developed defects and returned to Gibraltar.

                3rd          Returned to Gibraltar.

                                Repair arranged at Malta.

                                (Note: Deployment to be transferred to North Atlantic on completion.)

                6th          Sailed from Gibraltar for repair.

                8th          On arrival taken in hand for repair by HM Dockyard, Malta.

                21st         Deployed at Malta on completion of repair.

                25th        Transferred to 3rd Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet.

                                (Note: Deployment of this Class of cruiser in North Atlantic had been found unsuitable.)

                27th        Deployed for contraband patrol and sailed from Malta.



                3rd          Returned to Malta from patrol

                7th          Deployed for patrol and convoy defence in western Mediterranean.

                9th          At Gibraltar.

                12th        Deployed for patrol in Gibraltar area.

                18th        Sailed from Gibraltar.

                20th        Returned to Malta.

                26th        Sailed for patrol from Malta



                5th          Returned to Malta from patrol

                18th        Sailed for patrol from Malta

                26th        Returned to Malta


1 9 4 0


January                  Deployed in Malta

                12th        Taken in hand for refit by HM Dockyard, Malta

                30th        Resumed Squadron duties.


February                Deployed for blockade duties and patrol based in Malta.

to May                   (Note: During this period extensive Mediterranean Fleet exercises were carried

                                out in anticipation of war with Italy.


June                        Deployed in Eastern Mediterranean for defence of convoys.

                26th        Escorted convoy during passage from Egypt to Dardanelles with HM Destroyers

                                NUBIAN and MOHAWK.

                30th        Returned to Alexandria with HM Cruiser CALEDON, HM Destroyers GARLAND,

                                VAMPIRE (RAN) and same ships having escorted convoy from Cape Helles

                                during passage to Egypt.



                6th          Carried out bombardment at Bardia in support of shore military operation.

                11th        Sailed from Alexandria as escort for convoy to Piraeus during initial stage of passage.

                13th        Returned to Alexandria.

                18th        Transferred to 7th Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet.

                21st         Deployed with HM Cruiser LIVERPOOL, HM Destroyers DIAMOND and STUART

                                (RAN) as escort for single ship from Alexandria to Aegean.

                22nd       Joined by HM Destroyers DAINTY and DEFENDER with four mercantiles

                                to form Convoy AN2 escort during passage.

                27th        Detached with AN2 escort when convoy dispersed and joined south bound convoy

                                to Egypt as escort

                31st         Transferred to East Indies station.

                                (Note: This change was made when experience of the extent and severity of aerial

                                attacks on RN warships in eastern Mediterranean clearly showed that this

                                Class of cruiser was unsuitable for deployment in the Mediterranean

                                because of lack of speed and poor AA armament,)



                3rd          Sailed from Alexandria to join 4th Cruiser Squadron for convoy defence in Indian

                                Ocean and Red Sea.


                20th        Deployed with HM Cruisers CANBERRA (RAN)), DURBAN, HM Aircraft Carrier

                                HERMES and HM Armed Merchant Cruiser WESTRALIA (RAN)) in search for

                                German raider ATLANTIS active in Indian Ocean.


October                  On release from search took passage to Singapore for refit.


November              Under refit by HM Dockyard, Singapore.


December              Resumed convoy defence and patrol duty in Indian Ocean.


1 9 4 1


January                  Indian Ocean deployment in continuation.


February                Nominated for service in Force T for support of planned military operation in

                                Italian Somaliland.

                10th        Deployed with HM Cruiser SHROPSHIRE, HMS HERMES, HMS HAWKINS,

                                HM Cruiser CERES and HM Destroyer KANDAHAR as Force T.

                14th        Deployed at Mogadiscio with Force T and provided support bombardment.

                18th        On release from support duties took passage to Mombasa with Force T ships.

                21st         Sailed from Mombasa and joined HMS HERMES and HM Cruiser EMERALD

                                in search for German ADMIRAL SCHEER.

                26th        Search abandoned and joined HM Cruiser ENTERPRISE in escort for military

                                convoy WS5BX during passage from Mombasa to Bombay,

                29th        Detached from WS5BX and took passage to Red Sea for convoy defence, patrol

                                and support of military operations duties.

                31st         Arrived at Port Sudan.


March                    Deployed in Red Sea for convoy defence and interception patrol.

                                (Note: In order to ensure convoy routes were clear of mines, ships on patrol

                                streamed paravanes to cut any moored mine cables. Dan buoys were laid

                                to mark limits of swept channel.)


April                       Red Sea deployment in continuation.

                8th          During patrol duty north of Massawa, off Mersa Kuba with HM Australian

                                Sloop PARRAMATTA came under attack by Italian torpedo boat MAS 213

                                which launched two torpedoes.

                                Hit in after boiler room and sustained severe damage with flooding.

                                Ship disabled with many casualties.

                9th          Under tow by HMAS PARRAMATTA escorted by HM Indian Sloop INDUS.

                10th        At Port Sudan

                11th        Ship de-stored and commenced preparation for tow to naval dockyard for repair.

                                (Note: Ship paid off and ship’s company transferred to other ships on station..

                                It is not known whether a party was retained to man ship during tow.)


May                        Repair arranged at Bombay.

                                Passage to in Red Sea under tow.


June                        On arrival at Bombay taken in hand for repair by HM Dockyard.


July                         Under repair

to December          (Note: One source suggests that period under dockyard control may have been

                                extended by delay in arrival of replacement boilers from UK)


1 9 4 2


January                  Under repair and refit

to May                   (Note: No major alterations were made to increase AA armament or to fit radar.)


June                        Re-commissioned for service in 5th Cruiser Squadron, Eastern Fleet

                                Carried out post refit trials.


July                         On completion of storing took passage to resume Squadron duties in Persian Gulf.


August                  Deployed as Base Ship at Hormuz



                10th        After relief at Hormuz deployed in Persian Gulf deployed for convoy defence

                                in Red Sea and Arabian Sea.



                15th        Transferred for convoy defence of traffic in Indian Ocean between Persian Gulf,

                                East Africa and India.


November              Indian Ocean convoy defence in continuation.


December              Deployed with escort for military convoy WS24 in Indian Ocean (to be confirmed)


1 9 4 3


January                  Indian Ocean convoy defence in continuation.

to June


July                         Nominated for return to UK.


August                  Passage in Atlantic.



                1st           Arrived at Gibraltar

                                Passage to Plymouth


October                  Paid-off and placed under Care and Maintenance at Devonport.


December              Taken in hand for refit to fit 20mm Oerlikon weapons for close range defence

                                against air attacks and for installation of surface warning radar Type 273

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

                                by D Howse.)


1 9 4 4


January                  Deployed at Plymouth as an Accommodation Ship.


February                Used for accommodation of landing craft personnel at Plymouth

 to March               (Note: Large numbers of Landing craft were based at Plymouth in preparation

                                for planned allied landings in Normandy (Operation NEPTUNE)


April                       Nominated for service in support of NEPTUNE.

                17th        Re-commissioned


May                        Prepared for duty as Control Ship for military convoys during passage from

                                beachhead area.

                                Nominated for deployment with Western Task Force in MULBERRY A


June                        Deployed under overall US Command for duty as Captain Southbound Sailings

                                Control Ship and Depot Ship at Mulberry A.

                4th          Operation delayed for 24 hours

                6th          Passage to Solent.

                7th          Passage through swept channel from south of Isle of Wight to Mulberry A

                                in Western Task Force Area.

                9th          Commenced duty as Control Ship Southbound sailings to US landing beaches.

                                (Note: HM Cruiser CERES was deployed as Captain North Bound Sailings

                                at Mulberry A

                19th        Mulberry A wrecked in severe gale. No serious damage known in ship.

                24th        NEPTUNE terminated when headquarters moved ashore.

                                Depot Ship duties in continuation.


July                         Beachhead deployment under command of ANCXF in continuation.

to August


September             Passage to Plymouth on release from far shore duties.


October                  Paid-off and reduced to Reserve status.

                                Some secondary armament removed.

                                Deployed at Falmouth as an Accommodation ships for personnel of Reserve

                                Fleet ships laid-up there.


 November             Falmouth deployment in continuation.

to December


1 9 4 5


January                  Falmouth deployment in continuation.

to May


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS CAPETOWN remained in Reserve after VE Day and was later placed on the Disposal List. She was sold to BISCO for breaking-up in April 1946 and arrived in tow at Preston on 2nd June 1946 for demolition by TW Ward & 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








SL 001





AS 001/1





BM 001S





BS 020





BN 021





BS 021





BN 022





BA 040





AB 006





KA 006





KR 005








(Note on Convoys)



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