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

HMS CLEOPATRA   -  Dido-class AA Cruiser  
including Convoy Escort Movements 

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Cleopatra (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

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DIDO-Class cruiser ordered from R&W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co. Ltd at Hebburn, Newcastle on 18th March 1938. The ship was laid down on 5th January 1939 and was launched on 27th March 1940 as the seventh RN warship to carry this name, dating from 1779. Build was completed on 5th December 1941 and in February 1942 this ship was adopted by the civil community of Harrogate, then in the West Riding of Yorkshire, following a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign.


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 Black, Cleopatra's head proper crowned Gold.


M o t t o 

Invicta ut olim :  ‘Unconquered as ever’.



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



1 9 4 1


December              Commissioned for service in 15th Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet

                5th          Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials.

                                On completion took passage to Scapa Flow to work-up with ships of Home Fleet.


1 9 4 2


January                  Worked-up for operational service based at Scapa Flow.


February                Passage to Clyde

                5th          Sailed from Clyde

                11th        Arrived at Malta with HM Destroyer FORTUNE after call at Gibraltar

                                Under air attack during entry into Grand Harbour.

                                Hit by 500Kg bomb which exploded after passing through forward structure.

                                Sustained flooding forward with some splinter damage to torpedo tubes and structure by

                                other near misses.

                12th        Taken in hand for repair by HM Dockyard, Malta.



                10th        On completion deployed with HM Destroyer KINGSTON to join Force B in search for Italian


                                (Note: Force B included Flagship of Squadron, HM Cruiser NAIAD.

                11th        During search with Force B came under sustained air attacks

                                Following loss of HMS NAIAD by torpedo from U565 became Flagship of Squadron.

                15th        Bombarded Rhodes with ships of 15th Cruiser Squadron.

                20th        Provided cover for Malta supply convoy (MW10) during passage from Alexandria

                                (Operation MG1) with H M Cruisers DIDO and EURYALUS (Force B) in conjunction with HM

                                Cruiser PENELOPE and HM Destroyer LEGION (Force K) from Malta.

                21st         Joined convoy escort (HM Cruiser CARLISLE and HUNT Class Destroyers).



                22nd       In action against aircraft and superior Italian naval force including battleship LITTORIO and

                                three cruisers.

                                After brief engagement and threat of torpedo attack by the Fleet destroyers, Italian ship turned

                                away and convoy was saved.

                                Hit on Bridge by 6in return fire from an Italian cruiser caused some casualties.

                                (2nd Battle of Sirte - for details see MEDITERRANEAN MAELSTROM by G. C. Connell.

                                THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D Macintyre. MALTA CONVOYS by R

                                Woodman and Naval Staff History.)

                                (Note: Convoy MW10 came under heavy air attacks and losses. See references.)

                28th        Returned to Alexandria with Force B.

                                (Note: Congratulatory signal from Prime Minister was received by Admiral Vian for the

                                engagement with a superior Italian force.)


April                       Deployed in eastern Mediterranean with Squadron based at Alexandria

to                            (Note: Operation IRONCLAD in Indian Ocean to carry out landings at Diego Suarez,

May                        Madagascar had reduced strength of Fleet in Eastern Mediterranean and no relief

                                convoys were passed to Malta.)


                13th        Deployed as Flagship of escort for Malta supply convoy (MW11) with ships of Squadron

                                which had been reinforced by HM Cruisers NEWCASTLE and BIRMINGHAM on return

                                from detached service in Eastern Fleet fir IRONCLAD (Operation VIGOROUS)

                                (Note: HM Battleship CENTURION (Pre 1911 build), disguised as modern King George V Class

                                battleship and 25 destroyers also formed part of the escort.

                                This was also intended as a Diversion during passage of a relief convoy to Malta from

                                Gibraltar (Operation HARPOON)

                14th        Under heavy and sustained attacks by high level and dive bombers.

                15th        After night torpedo boat attacks, a surface threat from heavy Italian naval force and a series of

                                conflicting orders from a new CinC in Alexandria, operation abandoned.

                                (See above references for details of this ill fated and poorly organised operation.)

                30th        Transferred to Haifa with ships of Squadron to act as a Bombardment Force for support of

                                military operations.

                                (Note: Operation EXPORTER to support military advance in Syria has begun and support

                                from Haifa was planned. Vichy French warships were also known to be active.

                                See RELUCTANT ENEMIES and Naval Staff History and Military (Middle

                                East) Staff History).


July                         Deployed with Squadron in eastern Mediterranean based at Haifa.



                12th        Carried out bombardment at Rhodes with HM Cruiser ARETHUSA, HM Destroyers

                                JAVELIN, KELVIN, SIKH and NUBIAN as a Diversion during passage of Malta Relief

                                Convoy from Gibraltar (Operation PEDESTAL)

                                Nominated for self refit at Massawa in Red Sea,

                                Passage to Massawa.


September             Under self-refit at Massawa.

                                (Note: As there was no suitable floating dock available extempore arrangements were


                                Only the half the ship could be raised at a time.

                                Some damage was caused when ship slipped off blocks.


 October                 On completion took passage to rejoin Fleet in the Mediterranean.

                                Joined HM Cruisers ORION and EURYALUS for deployment in eastern Mediterranean



                16th        Deployed with HM Cruisers ARETHUSA, DIDO, EURYALUS, ORION and destroyers of

                                14th Destroyer Flotilla to cover passage of MW13 to Malta from Port Said.

                                (Note: This was first relief convoy to Malta since siege was lifted - Operation STONEAGE.)

                                During air attacks on 18th HMS ARETHUSA was seriously damaged but able to

                                return to Alexandria with great difficulty.)

                19th        Nominated for return to Malta as Force K.

                                (Note: Other ships in Force K comprised HM Cruisers DIDO, EURYALUS, HM Destroyers

                                JERVIS,  JAVELIN, KELVIN and NUBIAN.)

                25th        Sailed from Alexandria for service based in Malta.



                4th          Deployed with Force K to cover passage of Convoy MW14 during final stage of passage

                                into Malta from Egypt (Operation PORTCULLIS)

                10th        Transferred to Bone with HM Cruisers ARGONAUT, DIDO and EURYALUS for

                                deployment as Force Q for attacks on enemy supply convoys to North African ports.

                12th        In action with HM Cruisers EURYALUS and four destroyers against convoy off Tunisia

                                sinking three ships. For details see above references


1 9 4 3



                22nd       Bombarded enemy withdrawal route near Zuara, with HMS EURYALUS and HM

                                Destroyers JERVIS,  JAVELIN, KELVIN and NUBIAN.


February                Deployed in eastern Mediterranean on convoy defence and for support of military

to                            operations, based at Bone.



May                        Transferred to 12th Cruiser Squadron and continued deployment at Bone


June                        Escorted military convoys for build up of allied forces before allied landings in Sicily.



                1st           Based at Bone for support of planned allied landings in Sicily,

                6th          Sailed from Algiers to commence HUSKY support

                8th          Covered assault convoys in Gulf of Sirte with Force H and Mediterranean Fleet units.

                10th        Deployed in Ionian Sea with HM Battleships NELSON, RODNEY, WARSPITE,

                                VALIANT, HM Aircraft Carriers INDOMITABLE and FORMIDABLE and ships of


                                (Operation HUSKY - See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY and Naval Staff


                11th        Deployed for gunfire support on northern Flank of Beach head,

                                Involved in “Friendly Fire” incident with HM Cruiser EURYALUS and Motor Torpedo


                                (Note: This incident was not public knowledge until after 1993.

                                For information on this subject see FRIENDLY FIRE by P Kemp.)

                12th        Deployed for interception patrol with HMS EURYALUS and HM Destroyers ILEX and


                                During anti-submarine operations the two destroyers sank the Italian submarine NEREIDE

                                10 miles SE of Augusta.

                14th        Torpedo attack by aircraft during naval gunfire support failed.

                16th        Hit amidships by torpedo from Italian submarine

                                Sustained major damage to structure with flooding of machinery compartments.

                                Only 'Local' control of armament was possible.

                                30 of ship's company were killed or missing with 23 wounded,

                                (Note: Submarine probably DANDALO but another source claims ALAGI)

                17th        Returned to Malta at 10 knots screened by HM Destroyers QUIBERON and QUAIL

                                with AA cover by HMS EURYALUS.


August                  Deployed at Malta pending arrangements for repair.

to                            Under temporary repair to allow passage



October                  Repair arranged in USA

                                Passage to Gibraltar with call at Algiera



                7th          Sailed from Gibraltar for Philadelphia.

                                Taken in hand for repair and refit in US Navy Yard, Philadelphia


December              Under repair and refit.


1 9 4 4


January                  Under repair and refit




September             Carried out post refit trials.


October                  On completion of trials took passage from Philadelphia to Bermuda with call at New York.


November              Deployed at Bermuda for shakedown before passage to Clyde.

                28th        Arrived in Clyde


December              Completion of refit work and A's and A's in Clyde shipyard.

                                (Note: Work including installation of equipment not available in USA and

                                included new radars and IFF outfits.

                                Q 5.25in mounting forward replaced by Close Range AA armament.

                                For details of development and use of radar see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse.


1 9 4 5


January                  Under refit

to                            Carried cut post refit trials.

April                       Nominated for duty in Eastern Fleet and began work-up in Clyde.



                3rd          Took passage from Clyde to Mediterranean for further working-up in Malta

                                with ships of Mediterranean Fleet.

                12th        Arrived in Malta


June                        Deployed in Malta.

                                Sailed from Malta on completion to join 5th Cruiser Squadron in Eastern Fleet.


July                         Passage in Red Sea and Indian Ocean

                12th        Arrived at Colombo.

                                Joined 5th Cruiser Squadron, East Indies Fleet


August                  Deployed for exercises with ships of Eastern Fleet in preparation for planned landings

                                in Malaya (Operation ZIPPER).

                                (Note: Operation delayed by US insistence and problems relating to return of service

                                personnel from SEAC under the PYTHON Scheme. See Final Report of the

                                Supreme Commander SEAC (HMSO)

                15th        At Colombo

                                Nominated for duty as Flagship for Re-occupation of Singapore (Operation TIDERACE.)

                27th        Embarked CinC Eastern Fleet for passage to Penang via Sabang.

                                Passage from Colombo



                1st           At Penang for surrender ceremonies.

                2nd         Covered minesweeping operation during passage in Malacca Strait to Singapore.

                3rd          Arrived at Singapore with HM Minesweeper BENGAL (RIN) and remained for

                                landing of re-occupation forces,

                9th          Covered landings at Port Swettenham with HM Battleship NELSON, French battleship

                                RICHELIEU, ships of 21st Escort Aircraft Carrier Squadron , HM Cruisers NIGERIA,

                                CEYLON and 15 Fleet Destroyers.

                                (Operation ZIPPER - For details of this operation see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE

                                CLOSELY and Naval Staff History).

                12th        Attended Formal Surrender at Singapore

                17th        Released from ZIPPER and took return passage to Trincomalee.


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS CLEOPATRA remained in the East Indies until 7 January 1946 when she returned to UK arriving at Portsmouth on 7th February. After delays due to manning problems she re-commissioned for service in 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet until reducing to Reserve in January 1951. After refit she again commissioned on 30th October for service in the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet. In February 1953 she returned to UK and attended the Coronation Review in June that year before going into Reserve at Chatham. Between 1954 and 1956 this cruiser was used as Flagship for the Reserve Fleet at Portsmouth. Laid-up at Portsmouth she was placed on the Disposal List in 1958 and sold to BISCO for demolition by Cashmore at Newport. Taken under tow she left Portsmouth on 9th December that year and arrived at the breaker’s yard on 15th December. 







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








MW 011





MW 013





MW 014





ME 016





MKF 025





GUS 020








(Note on Convoys)



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revised 3/6/11
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