Summary of Service: HMS Liverpool (1938-1958)

HMS LIVERPOOL was a SOUTHAMPTON class cruiser, built and engined by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd, Govan, Glasgow. Ordered under the 1935 programme on the 11th November of that year, she was laid down on the 17th February 1936, launched on the 24th March 1937, by Mrs Montagu Norman, wife of the Governor of the Bank of England, and completed on the 2nd November 1938. She was the seventh of the class to complete, at a cost of £1,851,968.

During a visit to the city after which she was named, at the beginning of January 1939, the LIVERPOOL was presented with three pairs of silver candlesticks, a silver cup, and two bugles, all suitably inscribed. She left Liverpool on the 10th January, en-route to join the 4th Cruiser Squadron on the East Indies Station but was delayed at Malta undergoing repairs until mid-April 1939. The LIVERPOOL eventually arrived at Colombo on the 14th May, to begin a summer cruise of the East Indies Station.

On the outbreak of war, in September 1939, the LIVERPOOL was initially employed on trade protection duties in the Indian Ocean before being transferred to the 5th CS on the China Station in mid-November. In December 1939 she left Singapore for Hong Kong flying the flag of the Commander-in-Chief, China, and later carried out a number of patrols off Japan. During one of these patrols, on the 21st January 1940, the LIVERPOOL intercepted the Japanese liner ASAMA MARU in position 34 35′ N, 142 32′ E (35 miles off the coast of Japan), and took aboard 21 German officers and men, survivors from the SS COLUMBUS (intercepted by the destroyer HMS HYPERION off the coast of Florida on the 19th December 1939, and subsequently scuttled by her crew) who were on their way back to Germany.

Following docking and repairs at Hong Kong the LIVERPOOL proceeded to Aden in April 1940, where she became temporary flagship of the Red Sea Force until her transfer to
the 7th CS, Mediterranean Fleet at the beginning of June 1940.

On the night of 11th-12th June 1940, the LIVERPOOL, with her sister ship GLOUCESTER, engaged six Italian minesweepers off Tobruk and sank one of them. Both cruisers were under fire form shore batteries for 11 minutes without being hit, and had cut mines adrift with their paravanes.

On the evening of the 28th June 1940, the LIVERPOOL, together with the cruisers GLOUCESTER, NEPTUNE, ORION and SYDNEY engaged the Italian destroyers ESPERO, OSTRO and ZEFFIRO 60 miles south west of Cape Matapan, sinking the ESPERO; the other two destroyers escaped to Benghazi were they arrived the following morning. In this action the LIVERPOOL was hit by a 4.7in shell which struck the side armour belt at number 180 frame on the starboard side three feet above the waterline, causing minor damage to the armour and cutting the degaussing cable.

On the 9th July 1940, with other units of the Mediterranean Fleet, the LIVERPOOL took part in an action off Calabria with an Italian Force consisting of two battleships, ten cruisers and 23 destroyers. At the end of July whilst acting as escort for the Aegean convoy AS2, the LIVERPOOL was attacked by aircraft and hit by a 250lb delayed action bomb which struck the bridge front a glancing blow, penetrated ‘B’ gun deck and the forecastle deck and came to rest on the upper deck without exploding. Minor damage was sustained to the bridge instruments and one rating was killed.

Whilst covering a Fleet Air Arm attack on Leros on the 14th October 1940, the LIVERPOOL was attacked by aircraft south-east of Crete, and sustained a torpedo hit forward. Severe structural damage was caused; the aviation petrol tank was also damaged, the petrol vapour permeating the fore end where it was ignited by a spark from an electrical short circuit. The resulting explosion severely damaged the fore end and blew the roof off ‘A’ turret. She was taken in tow stern first by HMS ORION; the damaged bows caused some difficulty in steering but the situation was later eased when the bows broke off. She was eventually brought safely into Alexandria at noon on the 16th October.

The LIVERPOOL underwent temporary action damage repairs at Alexandria until May 1941, when she proceeded to the USA for permanent repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard, San Francisco, between 16th June and 15th November 1941. She then returned to the UK, arriving at the Clyde on 5th December 1941, to undergo final repairs, completing on the 27th January 1942.

After work up the LIVERPOOL joined the 18th CS Home Fleet at the end of March 1942. During April and May 1942 she formed part of the escort for the Russian convoys QP10, PQ16 and QP16.

On the 12th June 1942, the LIVERPOOL left Gibraltar as part of the covering force for the Malta convoy operation codenamed ‘Harpoon’. At about 1120hrs on the 14th June, when the convoy was approximately 70 miles north of Bone, a determined attack by about 30 Italian Savoia torpedo bombers, escorted by 20 fighters, was launched in two waves. The first wave passed through the convoy screen on the port beam at a height of 500 feet, rounded the rear of the convoy and attacked from the starboard side, splitting into two groups before releasing their torpedoes. The LIVERPOOL was hit on the starboard side abreast the after engine room by a torpedo. A large hole was blown in the outer bottom and the lower deck was blown up three feet. The after boiler room and engine rooms, the starboard oil fuel tanks and compartments up to the lower deck flooded immediately, with controlled flooding in then engine room. The ship took on an immediate 7 degree list to starboard, which was corrected a little by flooding ‘A’ and ‘B’ magazines and shell rooms. The starboard outer, and both the inner-propeller shafts were put out of action. The steering gear jammed and ‘X’ and ‘Y’ turrets were unable to train due to loss of power. The LIVERPOOL was taken in tow by the destroyer HMS ANTELOPE and later the same day was again attacked by aircraft which near missed with two 100 kg delayed action bombs that exploded on the starboard side within 15 feet of the ship. More flooding of compartments immediately occurred; the list increased to 9½ degrees and she settled by the stern. She eventually reached Gibraltar on the 17th June where she was taken in hand for temporary action damage repairs.

In July 1942 the LIVERPOOL proceeded to Rosyth for permanent repairs and refit which lasted until the 22nd July 1945. She re-commissioned for trials on the 24th June 1945, and subsequently proceeded to Portland to await a full foreign service complement. She completed to full complement on the 10th October 1945, and left the UK on that date to relieve HMS ARETHUSA in the 15th CS Mediterranean Fleet. She was for a time flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean. On the 10th October 1951, she left Malta for Egypt during the strike trouble in the Suez Canal, and on the 24th October moved the Grenadier Guards from Tripoli to Tobruk. The LIVERPOOL sailed to Malta from the Canal area on the 12th February 1952, and returned to the United Kingdom on the 24th April 1952.

The LIVERPOOL was subsequently reduced to reserve at Portsmouth in May 1952. Approval to scrap was given in March 1958 and on the 27th June 1958, she was handed over to the British Iron and Steel Corporation and left Portsmouth under tow of the tug WELSHMAN, arriving at Bo’ness to be broken up by P and W MacLellan Ltd on the 2nd July 1958.

Battle Honours

  • Heligoland: 1914.
  • Mediterranean: 1940.
  • Calabria: 1940.
  • Arctic: 1942.
  • Malta Convoys: 1942.

Select Details

Displacement (Standard)9,400 tons9,400 tons (12,330 tons full load)
Length (Extreme)591ft 6in591ft 6in
Beam (Extreme)62ft 4in62ft 4in
Draught (Forward)20ft 6in21ft 5in
Draught (Aft)21ft 1in21ft 1in
Machinery4 Shaft Geared Steam Turbines4 Shaft Geared Steam Turbines
Power74,000 shp74,000 shp
Speed31.5 knots30.2 knots
Endurance12,000 miles @ 12 knots or
2,600 miles @ full speed
12,000 miles @ 12 knots,
7,100 miles @ 20 knots, or
2,650 miles @ full speed
Oil Fuel2,100 tons1,950 tons
Armament (Guns)12 x 6in,
8 x 4in HA,
2 x 2pdr multiple popom (4 barrel), &
2 x 5in multiple machine guns
9 x 6in,
8 x 4in HA,
4 x 3pdr saluting,
24 x 2pdr pompom (4 barrel),
4 x 2pdr single,
4 x 40mm Bofors single, &
4 x 20mm Oerlikon twin
Armament (Torpedo Tubes)6 x 21in6 x 21in
Armament (A/S Weapons)1 depth charge rail, &
6 depth charges
1 depth charge rail, &
15 depth charges
Aircraft2 WalrusNil


FOI 2019/01021 dated 06 February 2019.


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