Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence

Lest We Forget
British Legion
The Royal British Legion

H.M.S. DEVONSHIRE

HMS Devonshire

HMS Devonshire was a County class heavy cruiser of the Royal Navy that served in World War II. HMS Devonshire, a 9850-ton London class light cruiser built at Devonport, England, was launched in October 1927 and completed in March 1929.

Devonshire served with the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean until 1932. She suffered a mishap early in her career, when on 26th July, 1929 while engaged in firing practice in the Aegean, off the island of Skhiatos, the left gun of "X" turret misfired. The breech operator did not realize it and opened the breech block, causing the charge inside the barrel to explode and also ignite the next one inside the turret; 17 men died in the mishap. Devonshire returned to England for repairs in August with "the turret swung 'round and the guns awry". As a result of this incident, a new interlock was fitted, which prevented the operator from opening the breech until it had been tripped by the gun firing or manually reset by another operator inside the turret. She was on the China Station until 1933, and returned to the Mediterranean again until 1939. This year, the surrender of the island of Minorca was signed on board, during the Spanish Civil War, and Devonshire subsequently evacuated distinguished republicans.

Under the command of the future First Sea Lord John H. D. Cunningham, she participated in the Norwegian campaign, and evacuated the Norwegian Royal Family from Norway on 6th June 1940, two months after Germany had invaded. She was part of the force for the raid on Dakar in August 1940 (Operation Menace, when she shelled ships and batteries in and around the port. When the attack was abandoned she was employed in operations against Vichy French territories on the coast of equatorial Africa, blockading the Cameroons and Gabon. She was involved in the search for the German raider Kormoran in the South Atlantic, and during her time off South Africa under the command of captain R. D. Oliver, captured an entire Vichy French convoy east of the Cape of Good Hope, on 2nd November, 1941. She then served with the Home Fleet off Norway and Russia until September 1941.

On 21st November 1941, under the command of Captain R. D. Oliver, and with the help of its Supermarine Walrus observation plane, Devonshire located and then sunk a German merchant raider, the auxiliary cruiser Atlantis, at a range of 14–15 km. Seven German sailors were killed.

She was under refit at Norfolk, Virginia between January and March 1942. She then served with the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean until May 1943, covering Anzac troop convoys from Suez to Australia and then participated in the assault on Madagascar in May 1942. She underwent another refit until March 1944, and was then assigned to serve with the Home Fleet off Norway, where she covered the carrier raids against the Norwegian coast until 1945.

Postwar, she was converted to the Royal Navy's cadet training ship in 1947, in which role she served until 1953. Life aboard her during her service in this role was chronicled in John Winton's 'We Joined the Navy'. Devonshire was sold for scrap on 16th June 1954 and arrived at Newport on 12th December 1954 where she was broken up by Cashmore's.

Mishap 26th July 1929

On 19th March 1929, 17 months after her launch, HMS Devonshire was commissioned into the Royal Navy and on 11th May, after carrying out trials at Portland, she sailed for Gibraltar. Before joining the First Cruiser Squadron of the Mediterranean Fleet Devonshire, together with her sister Sussex, underwent an eight-week work-up period at Gibraltar before, on 8th July, she finally steamed east to Malta, arriving in Grand Harbour three days later.

Eight days after arriving on station, Devonshire and the rest of the Mediterranean Fleet sailed for manoeuvres in the Aegean Sea, off the island of Skiathos. Controlling the exercises was the C-in-C in his Royal Oak flagship and also taking part were Queen Elizabeth London and Sussex, together with units of the Third Destroyer Flotilla. Arriving off Skiathos on 21st July the fleet lay at anchor, and while the senior officers planned the forthcoming manoeuvres the sailors were granted recreational leave for 'picnic and bathing parties'.

When they got under way Devonshire and the destroyers practised torpedo firing, after which there was gunnery practice. At 0800 on Friday 26th July the fleet weighed anchor, and within minutes London, Sussex and Devonshire had formed single line ahead in order to carry out a full calibre shoot. At 08.45 there was a flurry of manoeuvring as Sussex, which was rejoining the line, almost collided with Devonshire; the latter’s stern did in fact touch Sussex's port quarter, but no damage was done and the exercise continued.

At 10.00 exactly Devonshire fired her first broadside, but practically simultaneously a huge explosion shook the ship. A faulty breech mechanism in 'X' turret had caused a shell and some cordite bags to ignite, and the force of the explosion blew the roof off the gun turret and started fires in the gun house and pump room. Fortunately these were soon extinguished, but the explosion took a heavy toll of the Royal Marines who were manning the turret.

One officer and six men were killed instantly, one of them being blown overboard. Devonshire, meanwhile, made for the Greek port of Volos where 17 injured men were transferred to the hospital ship Maine. However, 11 of these subsequently died and 16 of the victims were buried at Volos with full military honours. Devonshire, with the guns of 'X' turret awry, returned to Malta and from there proceeded to Devonport where, on 14th August 1929, her tragic first commission ended.

The funeral ceremony, with full military honours, of yhe sixteen servicemen killed on board Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire, on 26th July 1929, as a result of an explosion in one of the 8" gun turrets.

The coffins being lowered into the graves.
One can be identified as that of Royal Marine Joseph Brindle

Salute over the graves

Salute over the graves

The graves of the Sailors and Marines after the funeral ceremony has ended


Fatalities - Royal Marines

 

BACON

Edward

Corporal. Killed outright. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

BARBER

Joseph E

Corporal. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

BATH, D.S.C

John Arthur

Captain. Killed outright. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

BLACKMAN

James W

Marine. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

BRINDLE

Joseph S

Marine. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

GOLDSMITH

Samuel

Marine. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

GRINDLE

Frank

Marine. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

HARRIS

Edward C

Marine. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

HELLYER

William Ernest

Marine. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 29th July, 1929.

HOLE

William George

Marine Died on board HMS Devonshire. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

LEVINS

James

Corporal. Killed outright. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

MACDONALD

Augustus Alexander

Marine Died on board HMS Devonshire. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

OLD

John Tossel

Marine. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

SNELL

William Ernest

Sergeant. Missing, presumed drowned. Commemorated in the Memorial in the Naval Reservation at Volos. Sgt. Snell's body was never recovered, despite HMS Sussex and HMS Frobisher searching the area for the rest of the day.

TAYLOR

Lionel R

Marine. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

WILLIAMS

Frank

Marine. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

Fatality - Royal Navy

 

EDWARDS

Arthur C

Ordnance Artificer. Died on board HMS Maine. Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July 1929.

Injuries - Royal Marines

 

AGAR

T

Marine. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

BRIMBLECOMBE

A

Marine. Hospitalised on HMS Maine

CHALICE

F

Marine. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

ELLIOTT

L E

Corporal. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

ELLIOTT

W J

Marine. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

HALLAM

J

Marine. Hospitalised on HMS Maine

HARKCOM

G H

Marine. Hospitalised on HMS Maine

HYMEN

E F

Marine. Hospitalised on HMS Maine

PENGELLY

G C

Corporal. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

SMITH

W

Marine. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

STREAMS

Albert Edward

Marine. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire. Later awarded the Albert Medal in recognition of his part in rescuing casualties from the turret.

WICKENDEN

Charles Percival

Acting Corporal. Hospitalised on HMS Maine, later died of his injuries in Malta, probably at Bighi Royal Naval Hospital. He was buried at Kalkara Naval Cemetery on 4th September, 1929, in Plot D, Grave 586.

Injuries - Royal Navy

 

EASON

W G

Leading Seaman. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

HALEY

A E

Able Seaman. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

JENNS

R E

Chief Petty Officer. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

MASON

O C

Ordinary Seaman. Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

SMITH

J

Able Seaman. Hospitalised on HMS Maine

[Sources: Wikipedia - HMS Devonshire ]

Last updated 29 December, 2008

Friends of the War Memorials
War Memorials Trust
Main page
Commonweath War Graves Commission
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Copyright © Roll-of-Honour.com 2002-
Email: rollofhonour@ntlworld.com

See our on-line bookstore
Visit our bookstore