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British Industrial History

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HMS Manchester

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The second HMS Manchester was a Town-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy, belonging to the Gloucester subclass. She was laid down by Hawthorn Leslie at Hebburn in March 1936, launched in April the following year and commissioned in August 1938. She had a relatively short, but active, career.

Manchester was serving in the East Indies with the 4th Cruiser Squadron at the outbreak of war, but was ordered home and arrived back Britain on 25 November 1939. She subsequently served with the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, on Northern Patrol duties, capturing the German merchantman Wahehe on 21 February 1940. She first saw action during the ill-fated Norwegian campaign in 1940, where she won her first battle honour. She was then based in the Humber for anti-invasion duties, but on 15 September sailed to the Mediterranean for Operation Collar.

In 1940, Manchester, along with other Royal Navy warships, engaged an Italian cruiser squadron, in a naval action that became known as the battle of Cape Spartivento. Manchester was straddled by the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto and hit by shell splinters.

Manchester took part in Operation Pedestal, an operation to supply the besieged island of Malta, and which cost a number of warships, including the aircraft carrier Eagle. During the operation, on 13 August, she was torpedoed and disabled by two Italian motor torpedo boats and subsequently scuttled with explosive charges.

She was the largest ship sunk by motor torpedo boats during the Second World War.


1942 Loss of the Manchester

"ON Friday, August 14th, it was announced by the Admiralty that the cruiser " Manchester" had been lost in the Mediterranean Sea, in addition to the aircraft-carrier H.M.S. "Eagle". The "Manchester" was a cruiser of the " Newcastle " class, and was built and engined by R. and W. Hawthorn, Leslie and Co., Ltd., on the Tyne. She was ordered in March, 1935, and her construction was begun at the end of March in the following year. She was completed early in August, 1938, and had a displacement of 9400 tons.

Her water line length was 584ft , her beam 64ft. 4in., and her mean draught 17ft. 5in., with a maximum draught of 20ft. The armament of this cruiser comprised twelve 6in. guns, eight 4in. anti-aircraft guns, one 3 7in. howitzer, three threepounders, and sixteen smaller guns. The torpedo tubes were six in number, arranged in triple mountings. Provision was made for the carrying of three aircraft and one catapult was fitted. The armour was 1in. and 3in. on the gun turrets, with 4in. and 3in. side armour and 4in. conning tower armour. The propelling machinery consisted of a four-shaft arrangement of Parsons geared turbines, taking steam from eight Admiralty three-drum oil-fired boilers. The rated output of the turbines was 82,500 .H.P., corresponding to a speed of 32·3 knots. About 1970 tons of oil fuel were carried.

The ship's complement was about 700, and a later Admiralty communication states that most of the ship's officers and company are safe. Three officers and l42 men were picked up by H.M. ships, and the remaining survivors are in French hands."[1]


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