Summary of Service for HMS Manchester, 1938-1942

HMS Manchester, a Southampton class cruiser, was built and engined by Hawthorn Leslie and Co at Hebburn-on-Tyne. Laid down on 28 March 1936, she was launched on 12 April 1937 by Mrs Toole, the Lady Mayoress of the City of Manchester and completed on 4 August 1938.

She was allocated to the East Indies Station, and left Portsmouth on 26 September, arriving at Bombay on 18 October 1938. She served in the East Indies during the first two months of the Second World War leaving Bombay on 10 November 1939 for the United Kingdom (UK). Arriving at Malta on 18 November, she hoisted the flag of Vice-Admiral Geoffrey Layton on 20 November and left that day for England, arriving at Portsmouth on 25 November.

Vice-Admiral Layton assumed command of the 18th Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet, and the post of Second-in-Command, Home Fleet. After repairs at Portsmouth, HMS Manchester arrived at Scapa on 24 December 1939.

On 21 February 1940, she intercepted the German merchant ship Wahehe on the Northern Patrol.

During the campaign in Norway which began on 8 April 1940, HMS Manchester took part in the expedition to Namsos, the landing at Aandalsnes, and the evacuation in the first week of May. She was afterwards ordered to work from Rosyth. On 26 May, after the German advance through the Low Countries she was sailed for the Humber and arrived there next day. She went up to Rosyth again in June and took part in Home Fleet operations to intercept the Scharnhorst but returned south in July to Sheerness and Portsmouth, where she was docked in August.

On rejoining the Home Fleet she was based on the Humber during the period of an expected German invasion in September, and left there on 3 October for Scapa.

On 15 November HMS Manchester, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.E. Holland, 18th Cruiser Squadron, left Scapa to take part in a convoy of troops and reinforcements to the Mediterranean (Operation “Collar”). The convoy left Gibraltar on 25 November and two days later encountered units of the Italian Fleet in an action off Cape Spartivento.

HMS Manchester left Alexandria on 2 December for Scapa, arriving there on 13 December. She was refitted on the Tyne between January and April 1941.

When the German battleship Bismarck broke out into the Atlantic on May 1941, HMS Manchester was on patrol between Iceland and Faeroes, and she took part in the operations which resulted in the destruction of that ship on 27 May. To watch for any attempt by the enemy to break back, HM Ships Manchester, Birmingham and Arethusa were on 24 May ordered to patrol north of Langanaes, the north-eastern part of Iceland.

During June 1941, HMS Manchester was on the Denmark Strait patrol. She left Iceland on 02 July for the Clyde, and was detached with three other Home Fleet ships (the Nelson, Edinburgh and Arethusa) to escort an important convoy to Malta (Operation “Substance”). In the course of this on 23 July she was attacked when south of Sardinia torpedo aircraft and high level bombers. A torpedo hit on the port side aft did considerable damage, and she returned to Gibraltar on 26 July. There temporary repairs were carried out to enable her to go to the USA for permanent repairs. She arrived at Philadelphia on 23 September, and was there until March 1942.

Leaving on 8 March 1942 she arrived at Portsmouth via Bermuda on the 17 March and proceeded to Scapa in the first week of May.

In late June and early July 1942, HMS Manchester took part in the cover provided for the ill-fated Russian Convoy PQ 17, combining this with an expedition for the relief and reinforcement of the Norwegian force in Spitsbergen.

In the first week of August 1942, HMS Manchester and other Home Fleet ships left the Clyde to escort another important convoy to Malta (Operation “Pedestal”). Early on 10 August the convoy passed through the Straits of Gibraltar. About midnight on the night of 12-13 August the Manchester was torpedoed by two Italian motor torpedo boats, Ms 16 and Ms 26, of Cape Bon, Tunisia, and sank at 0400 on 13th about 4 miles of Kelibia. Most of her crew got ashore in Tunisia or were picked up by destroyers, but 1 officer and 12 ratings were lost.

Battle Honours

  • Norway, 1940.
  • Spartivento, 1940.
  • Arctic, 1942.
  • Malta Convoys, 1941-42.

Ship Details (1942)

Displacement (Standard)9,400 tons
Length (Extreme)591 ft 6 in
Beam (Extreme)62 ft 4 in
Draught (Forward)21 ft 5 in
Draught (Aft)21 ft 6 in
Machinery4 shaft geared steam turbines
Power74,000 shp
Speed31.5 knots
Endurance12,000 miles at 10 knots
2,600 miles at full speed
Oil Fuel2,100 tons
Armament (Guns)12 x 6 in
8 x 4 in AA
2 x 2 pdr 4 barrell pompoms
2 x 5 in mutliple machine guns
5 x 20 mm Oerlikon
Armament (Torpedo Tubes)6 x 21 in
Armament (Anti-Submarine)1 depth charge rail; 6 DC’s
Aircraft2 walrus


FOI 2019/01021 dated 06 February 2019.


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