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Cavendish Class Heavy Cruiser

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aka Hawkins class - designed in 1915 for hunting down commerce raiders in the oceans of the world and armed with the heavier 7.5in gun in order to outrange and overpower vessels armed with the standard cruiser 6in calibre In fact the 7.5in proved too heavy a weapon for easy hand working even when allocated crews of the largest and strongest men available.

Dating in concept from World War I and little short of 10,000 tons. These were the first heavy cruisers to have been built for over a decade. During World War I there were rumours that the German Navy were fitting heavier guns in their commerce raiders and this was to be the answer, a cruiser mounting 7.5inch guns. But the answer was so long delayed that when it came the war was over. HMS Hawkins, the first, was not completed until 1919, and the other three (including Raleigh, wrecked in 1922) drifted into service between 1921 and 1925.

The boilers were arranged initially for dual firing, 4 coal and 6 oil, to increase their sphere of action. Raleigh, Frobisher and Effingham were converted to oil as they were built. The main armament was disposed generally as in the C classes, with an additional gun aft. Deck protection was extended, but not strengthened.

They are usually referred to as the Cavendish class, which was to have been the name of the first ship, which was converted to a light aircraft carrier, renamed Vindictive and in the twenties reconverted to a cruiser. In 1932 she was disarmed and modified to replace HMS Frobisher as a training ship. Ceasing, as a result, to be an effective combatant warship she is customarily omitted from the list of cruisers in WW2. Nevertheless she acted as a headquarters ship at Harstad during the Norwegian campaign and, as such, attracted a great many bombs though never hit. More confusingly still, official records call these ships the improved Birmingham class though they had nothing at all in common with the old broadside cruisers of the early 1900s. As originally built, these handsome ships with their raked tripod masts and twin funnels closely followed the lines of their immediate predecessors, on a larger scale.

In 1937 HMS Effingham was extensively refitted and re-armed. Her 7.5-inch guns were replaced by nine 6-inch and her single 4-inch AA guns by twin mountings. Her two funnels were replaced by one, unraked, to give her an appearance markedly similar to that of the later Leander class. Unhappily, her appearance was also brief, for she struck a rock off the entrance to Bodo in May 1940 and had to be sunk, becoming the only cruiser to be lost by stranding throughout the war.

Plans to similarly convert Frobisher and Hawkins were abandoned on the outbreak of war.

Displacement: 9,800 tons.
Dimensions: 565 pp, 605 oa Beam 58 ft, 65 feet outside bulges. Draught mean 17.25 feet. max 20.5 ft
Propulsion: 4 shaft Parsons geared turbines, Yarrow small tube Boilers. Hawkins 55,000 shp = 29.5 knots. Frobisher 65,000 shp = 30.5 knots
Range: 2,150 tons fuel oil
Complement, 712
Armament: 7--7.5 inch, 45 cal. (Hawkins, 50 cal.) 4-4 inch AA. 14 smaller. Torpedo tubes (21 inch) 4 above water
Armour (H.T. or Nickel): 3in -2in Side amidships, 2.5in - 1.5in Side (bow) 2.5in - 2.25in' Side (stern) 1in Upper deck (amids.) 1.5in - 1in Deck over rudder (Hadfield) Anti-Torpedo Protection: Bulges, 5 ft. deep . Unpierced Bulkheads below lower deck


In 1927 Frobisher was fitted with a catapult on the quarterdeck, together with a crane. This displaced one 4in gun, which was resited between the funnels with a fourth gun. Hawkins was refitted in 1929, when her coal-fired boilers were removed and the remaining oil-fired boilers modified to an output of 55,000shp for a maximum speed of 29.5kts. Bunker capacity was increased also. She received an additional 4in gun, which was sited between the funnels, as in Frobisher. One HACS director was also fitted.

In the mid-1920s there was a proposal to re-gun these ships with three twin 5in turrets, but this never progressed beyond planning. Then the London Naval Treaty of 1930 required their demilitarisation, following which, in 1932, Frobisher lost numbers 5 and 6 7.5in guns, as well as all but two 4in AA, to serve as a cadets training ship, while Hawkins and Effingham had all their 7.5in guns and the above-water tubes removed in 1937/38 before reducing to reserve. Before this had been done, however, there was already a proposal on the table for their conversion to 6in gun cruisers, and in fact the refit of Effingham had been approved. As the provisions of the London Treaty in this respect had by now lapsed, this conversion could proceed. Thus, in 1937/38, Effingham was taken in hand to receive nine 6in Mk XII (probably surplus C class guns after their conversion to AA cruisers), of which three were fitted in a tiered superfiring arrangement forward, two abeam amidships, and three in a widely separated tiered arrangement aft. Four 4in AA in single mountings and three quadruple .5in MGs were also added. She was fitted for, but not with, two multiple 2pdr mountings abreast the bridge at shelter deck level. Two HACS directors were provided for, but not fitted; one atop the rebuilt bridge and the second on the after superstructure.

Provision was made for aircraft, but again the equipment was not fitted. Internally, she had the two after boilers and the after funnel removed, all uptakes being trunked into an enlarged single funnel. Finally, the submerged tubes were landed. This refit had in the main been completed by the summer of 1938, but it was not until the following year that the missing equipment was eventually fitted. By this time she had also received twin 4in AA in lieu of the singles. Both Hawkins and Frobisher were to be treated similarly, but the war intervened and, in the case of the former, her refit merely replaced the guns removed on demilitarisation.

Effingham in all probability received no further modification in view of her early loss. Frobisher's refit was very leisurely, not being taken in hand until 5 January 1940. By completion, in March 1942, her armament consisted of five 7.5in (i.e. no wing guns), five single 4in AA, four quadruple 2pdr and seven single 20mm, together with radars 273, 281 and 285. In April 1944 this remained the same, but in May 1944 two eight-barrelled 2pdr replaced the four quadruple, and twelve 20mm singles were added. Hawkins received four single 2pdr on her re-entry into service in January 1940, then in 1942 received two quadruple 2pdr and seven single 20mm as well as radars 273, 281 and 285. Two single 2pdr were landed. This remained her outfit until August 1944, when she received two eight-barelled 2pdr in exchange for the four quadruples and an additional two single 20mm.

Raleigh completing in 1919 - ran aground and lost in 1922
Raleigh completing in 1919 - ran aground and lost in 1922
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Hawkins on convoy duty in the Indian Ocean
Hawkins on convoy duty in the Indian Ocean
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