Summary of Service: HMS Newcastle (1937 to 1958)

HMS Newcastle was a cruiser of the “Southampton” class, with a displacement of 9,100 tons (standard), designed speed of 32 knots, and main armament of twelve 6 inch guns (reduced after the Second World War to nine 6 inch). She was built by Vickers-Armstrongs at Walker-on-Tyne, and was laid down on 04 October 1934; launched on 23 January 1936; and completed 05 March 1937, for service in the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Home
Fleet.

When the Second World War broke out on 3 September 1939, she was under refit at Plymouth, but left on the 12th to rejoin the Fleet at Scapa, in the 18th Cruiser Squadron. On 11 October she was detached to cover convoys in the Western Approaches, and was away until early November.

On 23 November, she was on patrol in the Atlantic to the north-westward of the armed merchant cruiser Rawalpindi when that ship was sunk by the German battleship Scharnhorst. She proceeded to the position reported and actually sighted a darkened ship 6½ miles away
and another large ship signalling to her by lamp. These were the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and the Newcastle endeavoured to shadow them, but bad visibility intervened, and she had no radar, so that touch was lost.

Up to 31 December 1939, in 120 days of war, the Newcastle was at sea on 88 days. She arrived in the Tyne on 26 March, 1940, and was under refit until the end of May. She therefore missed taking part in the campaign in Norway, not returning to Scapa until 03 June.

From 7 July, the Newcastle was stationed at Plymouth in anticipation of enemy activity in the western part of the English Channel during the period of possible invasion of Britain. On 11 October she was present at a bombardment of Cherbourg by the REVENGE.

On 17 October, the Newcastle and Emerald, accompanied by five destroyers, gave chase to four enemy destroyers which had left Brest, but although doing 32½ knots with paravanes streamed, could not get nearer than 25,000 yards.

On 13 November, the Newcastle left Plymouth for Gibraltar to join Force H. Four days later she left Gibraltar with the forces engaged in passing a convoy and reinforcements to Malta and Alexandria (Operation “Collar”). This led to the indecisive engagement with the Italian Fleet off Spartivento on 27 November.

On 01 December, the Newcastle left Gibraltar for Freetown to join the South American Division, South Atlantic Command, and took up patrols in the Plate Area. In April 1941, she was ordered to St Helena to assist in the escort of troop convoy WS7 to the Cape. A month later, she returned to the Plate Area and took over the flag of the Rear-Admiral, South American Division, Rear-Admiral F H Pegram, from the Cumberland. Relieved by the Birmingham as flagship, on 15 August, she went to Freetown, and left there on the 28th for Boston, USA, where she arrived on 20 September after escort duty to and from Trinidad. She was refitted at Boston until December, leaving there on the 13th for Norfolk, Virginia and Bermuda. She left Bermuda on the 17th and arrived at Plymouth on 29 December.

On 29 January 1942, she arrived at Scapa to work up, and early in February was ordered to join the Eastern Fleet. On 15 February Rear-Admiral W G Tennant hoisted his flag in her as FO Commanding China Force, and she left on the 18th escorting the troop convoy WS16. On 1 March she arrived at Freetown, and in view of the threat to Ceylon her allocation to the Abda Area was cancelled she was placed at the disposal of the C-in-C, Eastern Float. She accompanied WS16 to Capetown and Durban, and then went to Bombay, Colombo, Seychelles and Mombasa, arriving at the latter on 10 May. Rear-Admiral Tennant took up the appointment of FO Commanding 4th Cruiser Squadron, Eastern Fleet.

In June she was among the ships lent to the Mediterranean to enable a convoy to be run to Malta from the east, Operation “Vigorous”. She arrived at Suez on 5 June, and a week later the convoy left Haifa and Port Said, the Newcastle being one of the eight cruisers in the escort. Air attacks were heavy throughout, and the Italian Fleet, including two battleships, put to sea from Taranto to intercept. As a result, the convoy and escort spent so much time in diversions to avoid action with superior forces in daylight that they could not reach Malta and had to return.

Early on the morning of 15 June, the Newcastle was it forward by torpedo from an E-boat, about 90 miles north-west of Derna. She fortunately sustained no casualties, but her speed was reduced and forward turret put out of action. It was not possible to repair her at Alexandria in the prevailing conditions, and she therefore made a second voyage to the USA for the purpose, after temporary repairs at Bombay. She arrived at New York on 10 October via Capetown, Pernambuco and Bermuda, and was in dockyard hands until December. She arrived at Plymouth on 18 December, and underwent further repairs there until March 1943.

After working up at Scapa, she left on 15 April for the East Indies to rejoin the 4th Cruiser Squadron, Eastern fleet. On the way she assisted in the escort of troops convoy WS29 as far as Durban, and then went on to Kilindini, arriving on 27 May. She remained in the Eastern Fleet for two years, until the spring of 1945. During 1944 she took part in various operations of the Fleet against blockade runners, in the carrier-borne air strike on Sabang on 19 April, and in a similar strike on Belawan Deli on 20 December.

On 03 January 1945, she was present at the capture of Akyab, and on 26 January at the landing in Cheduba Island.

Leaving the East Indies Station in April 1945, the Newcastle arrived at Plymouth on 23 May. She underwent a refit in the Tyne, and on 3 November left Plymouth for a trooping voyage to Freetown and Simonstown. She returned to Portsmouth in December, and made a further trooping trip to Malta, Port Said, Aden and Colombo in January 1946, returning in February.

The Newcastle underwent a long refit at Devonport in 1946-47, and from December 1947, served in the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean, until December 1949.

In 1950-52 she underwent large repairs and modernisation at Devonport. Leaving in mid-May, she worked up for a month in the Mediterranean, and in July 1952, relieved the Ceylon in Korea, where the war had then been in progress for two years. In May 1954, she visited the United States Fleet in Pearl Harbour, on her way home to re-commission at Portsmouth in June.

She arrived at Singapore on 24 August 1954,on her return to the Far East. On 15 January 1955, she took part in a bombardment of terrorists at Kuala Lumpur; and on 18 May carried out a further bombardment in South-East Johore. At the end of August, she left Singapore for a cruise to Australia and New Zealand. A new crew for her was flown out from England to Singapore in November 1955.

In July 1956, the Newcastle was flagship of the Flag Officer Second-in-Command, Far East, on a cruise to Korea and Japan. In November 1956, she accompanied the RN Squadron which visited Australia for the Olympic Games.

In January 1957, she was detached to the East Indies Station until April, during which time she visited Karachi and Bombay and cruised in the Persian Gulf. On 06 December 1957, she carried out another bombardment of terrorists in South-East Johore.

On 09 February 1958, she was present at Rangoon for the unveiling of the Commonwealth Land Forces War Memorial at Taukkyan, Burma, flying the flag of the FO Second-in-Command, Far East.

She left the Far East Station in June 1958, returning via Pearl Harbour, Vancouver, San Francisco and the Panama Canal. On 15 July, she was present at the first full dress Naval Review of the Royal Canadian Navy by Princess Margaret at Esquimalt.

She arrived at Portsmouth on 25 August, and a month later it was approved for her to be scrapped. Presentation silver given to her and her predecessor of the same name was returned to the city of Newcastle-on-Tyne at a ceremony on 14 October 1958.

Battle Honours

  • Spartivento: 1940.
  • Burma: 1944-45.
  • Korrea: 1952-53.

Previous Ships bearing the Name

  • A 4th Rate built at Ratcliffe in 1653 and lost at sea on 27 November 1703 during the ‘Great Storm’.
  • A 4th Rate built at Sheerness in 1704 and broken up at Portsmouth in 1746.
  • A 4th Rate built at Portsmouth in 1750 and was driven ashore during a violent cyclone on 01 January 1761, becoming a complete wreck.
  • A 4th Rate built at Blackwell in 1813 and sold at Liverpool for breaking up in 1850.
  • A Screw Frigate built in 1860, re-commissioned as Sheerness in 1879, and sold for breaking up on 19 February 1929.
  • A 2nd Class Protected Cruiser built in 1909 and sold for breaking up in 1921.

Reference

FOI 2019/01021 dated 06 February 2019.

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