HMS BIRMINGHAM 1937 - 1960
a light cruiser of 9,000 tons and twelve 6-in guns, was built at Devonport
Dockyard with engines by John Brown and Co, Clydebank,
completed on 18 November 1937.
21’ 6” (mean)
Turbine geared – 4
31.62 (mean on trial)
a. at 12 knots: 12,400
b. at full speed: 2,800
12 x 6 inch guns
8 x 4 inch HA
2 x 2 pdr pom poms (4
8 x 20 mm Oerlikons (twin)
2 x triple mounting
torpedo tubes (21”)
1 Depth Charge rail and 15
HMS Dido, Zephyr, Zest and Zodiac
At the outbreak of the Second
World War she was serving in the 5th Cruiser Squadron, China Station, but
in January 1940, she was recalled to Malta, refitted, and in
February transferred to home waters. She joined the 18th Cruiser Squadron,
Home Fleet, in March. During the campaign in Norway she escorted the first
troop convoy, HP 1, and other convoys, took part in other operations, and
sank a German mine-laying trawler.
Early in May 1940, in view of
the enemy threat to Holland
was ordered to Rosyth to be available for operations on the East Coast. On
the night of 9 May, she was among the ships which covered the flotilla
leader Kelly, Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten, when she was torpedoed by an
E-boat, but was brought into port.
On receipt of the news of the
invasion of Holland
on 10 May, Birmingham
was ordered to Terschelling to render assistance to the Dutch. In June she
took part in an unsuccessful Home Fleet operation designed to intercept the
Scharnhorst, and in July was brought to the Nore in view of the invasion
threat to the United
Kingdom. Between September and December
1940, she was refitted at Liverpool,
rejoining the Home Fleet at Scapa on 27 December.
In January 1941 she covered the
passage of five Norwegian merchant ships from Gothenburg, Sweden,
to Kirkwall. A month later she was among
the escorts to the troop convoy WS 6 on the first stages of its journey to
the Middle East via the Cape.
Leaving Cape Town on 24 March she escorted a
convoy during her return passage to home waters.
When the German battleship Bismarck and cruiser
Prinz Eugen broke out into the Atlantic in
May 1941, Birmingham
was on patrol between Iceland
and the Faroes, but was not fortunate enough to make contact with the
In June 1941, Birmingham left the Clyde
escorting another Middle East convoy, WS
9A and on her arrival at Durban
in July was transferred to the South American Division in place of Newcastle. She became
the flagship of Rear-Admiral F H Pegram, who commanded this Division in
August, and took part in searches for German raiders and supply ships,
three of which were sunk by other cruisers between October and December.
In February 1942 Birmingham was
allocated to the Eastern Fleet under Admiral Sir James Somerville, but was
refitting at Simonstown until mid-May. Birmingham was one of the cruisers of the
Eastern Fleet borrowed by C-in-C Mediterranean to assist in the attempt to
run an eastern convoy from Egypt
(Operation Vigorous) in June. The attempt was not successful as enemy
superior forces were at sea and the convoy had to return to Egypt on 15
was hit on that day by an aircraft torpedo and received slight damage.
H.M.S. Birmingham leaving
After having new bows
fitted after being torpedoed in Med in 1944
She rejoined the Eastern Fleet
early in July and in September took part in the complete occupation by the
Allies of Madagascar. During October, November and December she was on
convoy protection and anti-U-boat patrols in the Indian
During January and February
escorted military convoys between Durban
In April 1943 the Birmingham arrived in
the United Kingdom
for a refit at Plymouth.
She left the Clyde on 16 November to
return to the Eastern Fleet.
On 28 November while on her way
unescorted through the Mediterranean eastward to join the Eastern Fleet the
Birmingham was torpedoed forward by a U-boat at 33° 05' N: 21° 43'
E, about 50 miles northwest of Derna. Her main machinery was undamaged and
she proceeded towards Alexandria
at 15 knots, later reduced to ten knots, arriving on the morning of 30
November. Her casualties numbered 29 killed and 28 wounded. Birmingham was out of
action for exactly a year, as she was unable to leave the Mediterranean
for permanent repair in the United
States at the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia,
until July 1944.
Leaving Norfolk on 28 November, Birmingham arrived at Portsmouth and was allocated to the Home
Fleet. She arrived at Scapa on 14 January 1945 and joined 10th Cruiser Squadron.
During February and March she was temporarily the flagship of the
Vice-Admiral Commanding this Squadron, Vice-Admiral F H G
During April she took part in
sweeps by the Home Fleet off the coast of Norway.
The German Surrender at Copenhagen
Early in May 1945 when the
collapse of Germany
appeared imminent, the C-in-C Home Fleet assembled at Rosyth a force which
included the Birmingham and which was ready
to enter the Skaggerak and Kattegat at
short notice, (Operation Cleaver).
At 17.45 on 6 May the cruisers Birmingham
and Dido and four destroyers and eight minesweepers left Rosyth on this mission,
and on the night of 7 May Captain H W Williams of the Birmingham, with the Dido and the four
destroyers, was ordered to proceed to Copenhagen,
where they arrived on 9 May. Despite the area having been swept through by
paravane cut a mine on the edge of one of the minefields but otherwise this
first penetration into former enemy-held waters was uneventful. (See photos
below and Bert Cochrane’s story. Also Frank
following photos from the Taylor Family Collection
Crew members releasing
mine (seen bobbing, centre)
Captain Williams firing at mine in North Sea.
H.M.S. Birmingham (VE day + 4)
H.M.S. Birmingham (VE day + 4)
H.M.S. Birmingham (VE day + 4)
remained at Copenhagen until 20 May;
returned to Rosyth to hoist the flag of Rear-Admiral A E M B
Cunninghame-Graham, Commanding the 10th Cruiser Squadron; and left again
arriving 24 May. The situation there was delicate pending the repatriation
of 80,000 German personnel from Norway, and the presence of
British ships had a valuable steadying influence.
Returning to home waters in
continued as flagship of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, which in 1946 was
renumbered 2nd Cruiser Squadron. In September 1946, she was taken in hand
for repairs at Portsmouth,
and on their completion in June 1947, was allocated to the East Indies
Stations where she arrived in October.
From 30th December 1947 she was
present at Rangoon
for the New Year ceremony of the transfer of power to the Government of
On 22nd October 1949 Birmingham arrived at Mogadishu, Italian
Somaliland, to support the Military and Civil Authorities
during unrest there. She left 29 November.
On 29 January 1950 the Birmingham embarked Mr Devin, Foreign
Secretary, at Alexandria
for passage to Naples.
She returned from East Indies to the United Kingdom
arriving at Portsmouth
on 9 February.
During the rest of 1950 until
1952 she undertook repairs and modernisation at Portsmouth and in July 1952 left for the Far East. Birmingham
relieved the cruiser Belfast on the West
Coast of Korea at the end of September 1952 and on 10 October in the Birmingham, the 1st
Sea lord, Admiral Sir R McGrigor, visited all Task Units on the West Coast.
served in Korea
until after the end of the War on 3 July1953. She came home to Chatham in
June, 1954, was re-commissioned and returned to the Far East until May,
1955, when she returned home via the East Coast of Africa and Simonstown.
She arrived at Sheerness on 11 July.
She was re-commissioned for
general service, and left first for the Mediterranean
until early 1958, and then to the Home Fleet. In June 1958, she visited Quebec for the celebration
of the 350th anniversary of that city.
returned to the Mediterranean in 1959, and
then to Devonport on 3 December, 1959.
There she was accepted into extended reserve, and approval to scrap
her was given in April, 1960. She left Plymouth on 2 September under tow for
Inverkeithing, where she arrived on 7 September, 1960 to be broken up.
Battle Honours awarded to Birmingham were:-
Her Commanding Officers during the Second World War
E J P Brind
A C G Madden
H B Crane
H W Williams
At sea the light cruiser HMS Birmingham
H.M.S. Birmingham with Sheffield
Courtesy Mr Frank Bee
Liberty men going ashore in Copenhagen May 1945
Prinz Eugen Cap Tally
following photos courtesy Mr Frank Bee
Cruiser Prinz Eugen
heavy cruiser, Prinz Eugen and the light cruiser Nurnberg
at the end of the war were the only two operational cruisers left.
right Vice Admiral Dalrymple – Hamilton,
Montgomery, Capt. Williams
officers of HMS Birmingham May 1945
Bert Cochrane’s Story
VE Day on HMS Birmingham
This story was told to East Ayrshire Library staff at
Darvel World War 2 café day on Saturday 18th June 2005 by Bert
was in the Royal Navy and served on HMS Birmingham. He will always
remember VE-Day. As Winston Churchill was on the radio announcing
Victory in Europe HMS Birmingham,
a cruiser — a ship mid-way between a battleship and a destroyer
— was sailing through the straits between Denmark
The sailed first into Skagerrak and then onto Kattegat
with another cruiser, HMS Dido and 3 destroyers — Zest, Zodiac
and Zephaire — and for some of the journey they had been
accompanied by mine sweepers.
Birmingham was in front, followed in line by Dido, Zephyr, Zest and the
Zodiac. The men in the Birmingham’s
transmitting room heard Bump! Bump! Bump! So the Birmingham stopped and the other
ships circled her. The Birmingham’s
Captain ordered the paravanes (which caught the mines) be cut lose.
Bert’s action station was on the upper deck and they were soon
joined by the sailors from the lower decks. Some looked over the
starboard and some the port side — those on the port side saw a
big mine coming up and the port side sailors ran to the starboard side.
Birmingham’s Commander wanted to float it free and blow it up
with rifle fire but the Captain insisted it was let free (if it
hadn’t it could have broken the Birmingham’s back). All
this action took place with Churchill’s VE announcement in the
this incident the Birmingham
sailed into Copenhagen
— the cleanest and nicest place Bert had ever been. He remembers
being able to get anything to eat he wanted. A week later he went to Bergen where the
people were starving. He remembers visiting a local family and being
offered bread that tasted like sawdust.
story: Bert Cochrane
story: North Sea
story: Royal Navy
on: 22 June
List > Royal Navy
© Copyright of content
contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you
can use this.
refer to H.M.S. Birmingham crew member Frank
Bee for his first hand account of the incident.
Wartime Danish Currency
(From Dad’s collection)
H.M.S. Birmingham at Malta
HMS Birmingham at anchor
typhoon rescue mission
NAVY CARGO VESSEL IN DISTRESS
RESCUE DASH BY R.N. SHIP
The British cruiser Birmingham is struggling through mountainous seas
in an attempt to reach the U.S. Navy cargo ship Muskingum, in distress
in a typhoon 130 miles south-west of Formosa. Muskingum had
reported that she was in the 150 mile-an-hour typhoon
“Pamela,” and required help. She carries a crew of 40. The
cargo ship was last reported to be rolling badly and difficult to
Birmingham had put to sea from
Hong-Kong early today to ride out the typhoon. Later an unidentified
vessel radioed from off the north-western coast of Luzon Island,
in the Philippines,
stating that she was going to the Muskingum’s aid. British Navy
head-quarters said Muskingum was about 60 miles from the centre of the
The United States heavy cruiser Helena (13,600
tons) was today ordered to hurry to the aid of the distressed vessel. Helena is about 200 miles south-west of Formosa.
The typhoon was expected to pass within 100 miles of Hong-Kong in the
next 24 hours. The British liner Chusan was putting out to sea this
afternoon to ride out the gale, says Reuter.
HMS Birmingham cruise record chart 1955/56 Issued
(Captain J.R.B. Longden O.B.E. Royal Navy and
mascots can be seen at top of picture)
photograph of HMS Birmingham in Hong Kong
photograph of HMS Birmingham Officers 1955
Guns and Oerlikon 20mm cannons and shields)
(Click to enlarge)
Command (Admiral. Sir Richard Onslow), waves his cap in greeting as the
21-year-old cruiser H.M.S. Birmingham arrives at Plymouth yesterday from
Malta on completion of her last voyage.
An aerial view
of a shipwrecking yard, at Inverkeithing, Fife,
where seven ships are at present in various stages of demolition. The
most recent arrival was the 30-year-old Cunard liner Britanic 27,066 tons
(top right), berthed alongside the
9,100 tons, which was built in 1937. The other ships are (Left to Right)
Karamea, Limatula, Clavella, Barkentine and Captain Cook.
Courtesy Mr Frank Bee