Summary of Service: HMS Sheffield (1937-1964)

The Sheffield, a “Southampton” Class cruiser of 9100 tons standard displacement with a main armament of twelve six inch guns, was built and engined by Vickers Armstrong Ltd, at Newcastle-on-Tyne. Laid down on 31 March 1935, and launched on 23 July 1936, she was completed on 25 August 1937 and joined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet. In August 1938 she had the first experimental Radar set fitted in a ship.

When the 2nd World War broke out in September 1939 the Sheffield was with the 18 Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet. She was present when the Home Fleet was first attacked by German aircraft off Norway, on 26 September. The Sheffield sustained no damage. Until the end of 1939 the Sheffield patrolled in the Denmark Strait against enemy shipping trying to reach Germany.

Warship

For the first three months of 1940 the Sheffield continued patrols in the Denmark Strait and helped escort convoys between Norway and the United Kingdom. She also carried out patrols off the Norwegian coast during the first half of April and on the 14th with the Glasgow and Somali she landed an advance force of seamen and marines at Namsos, Norway, to assist the Norwegian defence against the German invasion. The Sheffield landed further troops and stores in Norway during April, and assisted with the evacuation of Andalsnes on 30 April.

The Sheffield carried out anti-invasion patrols in the Nore Command during the next few months and on 22 August she left Scapa with the Illustrious and other ships to join Force H at Gibraltar and to convey aircraft reinforcements to Malta – Operation ‘Hats’.

On the evening of 10 September the Sheffield and 8 destroyers left Liverpool escorting convoy A.P.3 – reinforcements for the Middle East – through the North-West Approaches. During last part of September and October the Sheffield carried out patrols off the Azores. She returned to Gibraltar and with Force H took part in a fleet Air Attack on Cagliari, Sardinia, Operation ‘Coat’ on 9 November.

On 25 November again with Force H the Sheffield assisted in escorting a convoy to Malta through the Mediterranean – Operation ‘Collar’. This movement led to an action with the Italian Battle Fleet off Cape Spartivento, Sardinia, on the 27th, in which both sides sustained damage by gunfire but no ships were sunk. The main purpose of the operation, the passage of an important convoy to Malta and Alexandria, was achieved.

The Sheffield returned to patrols from Gibraltar off the Azores until the end of 1940.

On 09 February 1941 with units of the Force H the SHEFFIELD bombarded Genoa – Operation ‘Result’.

The Sheffield proceeded from Gibraltar on 12 February 1941, to assist convoy SLS64 which had been attacked by the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper about 200 miles east of the Azores; the Sheffield then covered Convoy HG63 (Gibraltar-UK) which was in the neighbourhood.

On 30th March the Sheffield with 4 destroyers tried to intercept an eastbound French convoy off Nemours. The convoy refused to stop and retired into Nemours. Shore batteries opened fire on the British warships which replied.

On 02 April the Sheffield assisted in escorting the Ark Royal with aircraft from Malta through the Mediterranean. Again on the 24th the Sheffield provided escort for the ARGUS conveying aircraft to Malta. On 19th May further aircraft reinforcements were taken to Malta in the Furious and the Ark Royal, the Sheffield with Force H escorted them through the Mediterranean.

The Sheffield took part in shadowing and the operations which led to the sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck on 27 May, and on 12 June, sank the Friedrich Breme, 10,397 tons, one of the tankers supplying the BISMARCK in position
49 48′ N; 24 W.

In September 1941 the Sheffield again assisted in fighting through the Mediterranean an important convoy to Malta – Operation ‘Halberd’.

Whilst on passage to the United Kingdom the Sheffield, with the Kenya from Gibraltar, sank the German U-boat supply ship Kota Pinang on 03 October about 750 miles west of Cape Ortegal. For the remainder of 1941 and until early March 1942 the Sheffield was employed with the ocean escorts of Arctic convoys. On 04 March whilst escorting one of these convoys she struck what was thought to be a mine. On return to the UK she was laid up for repairs and refit until July.

The Sheffield returned to escorting North Russian Convoys in September, and during one of these voyages landed supplies for the garrison at Barentsburg, Spitzbergen – Operation ‘Gearbox II’ – on 17th September.

In November 1942, the Sheffield took part in the first major Allied landing of the war in North Africa – Operation ‘Torch’.

Less than a month later she was with Arctic convoys. At the end of December the Sheffield, with other units of the Home Fleet, helped to get a convoy through to North Russia despite a carefully planned attack by the heavy cruisers Lutzow and Hipper with six destroyers. In the course of the action the Sheffield sank the destroyer Friedrich Eckholdt: we lost the Achates and the Bramble.

During January and February 1943 the Sheffield continued with the North Russian convoys and during one of these was damaged by gales and between March and June was under repair at Glasgow. During July and August the Sheffield operated in the Bay of Biscay on anti-submarine and blockade breaker duties.

In September she went to the Mediterranean and carried out the final bombardment at Salerno of this campaign on the 28th, remaining in the Mediterranean until she returned to Plymouth on 24 November.

The Sheffield returned to the escort of Russian convoys in December and on the 26th, with other units of the Home Fleet operating in support of the North Russian convoys, assisted in sinking the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst in approximate position 72 16′ N: 28 41′ E, thus depriving the Germans of their only effective capital ship.

During February and March 1944 the carried out attacks on enemy shipping in the Norwegian Leads. On 03 April she covered the aircraft carriers Furious and Victorious when they carried out an air attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in Kaa Fiord, Norway.

During May and June she carried out further attacks on enemy shipping off Norway. In July the Sheffield went to Boston, USA for a refit returning to Portsmouth in May 1945, there to continue refitting until May 1946. In September she became the flagship of C-in-C, America and West Indies at Bermuda.

On 28 February 1948 the Sheffield put ashore a landing party of Royal Marines in British Honduras during unrest there. In November 1948 she returned to the United Kingdom to carry out extensive repairs during 1949-1950.

In April 1951 she returned to duty with the Home Fleet, and on 23 April was visited by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Kent at Portsmouth.

On 31 May 1951 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (now Her Majesty The Queen Mother) embarked in the Sheffield at Liverpool and escorted by HM Ships Battleaxe and Broadsword left for a visit to Belfast.

On 01 October she left Portsmouth to join the America and West Indies Station, arriving at Bermuda on 12 October 1951.

In November the Sheffield took part in the US Atlantic Fleet Exercise ‘Lantflex 52’ – minesweeping in the Caribbean and along the East Atlantic Coast of the USA.

In December 1952, she returned to the United Kingdom for a refit at Portsmouth completing in March 1953.

HMS Sheffield left the Clyde in October 1953, for Bermuda to relieve the cruiser Superb.

In September 1954 HMS Sheffield whilst in New York Harbour was visited by Their Royal Highnesses The Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra. The Duchess of Kent, who launched HMS Sheffield in August 1936 saw, in the wardroom, a portrait of herself which was damaged by shell splinters in the action in which the Bismarck was sunk in 1941. After a period of service on the America and West Indies Station, the Sheffield arrived back at Portsmouth in October 1954.

In March 1955 Sheffield arrived in Malta for service in the Mediterranean. She returned to the United Kingdom the following year and after extended refit, re-commissioned at Chatham in July 1957 for a general service commission in Home and Mediterranean waters.

The Sheffield relieved the battleship Vanguard as flagship of the Reserve Fleet in June 1960 and in November the same year, a party of the York and Lancaster Regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel A W Stansfield, visited the Sheffield at Portsmouth to revive liaison with the ship that was established in 1940 when she conveyed the 1st Battalion from Scotland to Central Norway.

She went on to serve as flagship of the Flag Officer Flotilla, Home Fleet, until the summer of 1964 when she was paid off for the last time and placed on the Sales List. She remained at Portsmouth until she was sold to Messrs Shipbreaking Industries Ltd, in September 1967, for breaking up at Faslane.

Battle Honours

  • Norway: 1940.
  • Spartivento: 1940.
  • Atlantic: 1941-43.
  • ‘Bismarck’: 1941.
  • Mediterranean: 1941.
  • Malta Convoys: 1941.
  • Arctic: 1941-43.
  • North Africa: 1942.
  • Barents Sea: 1942.
  • Biscay: 1943.
  • Salemo: 1943.
  • North Cape: 1943.

Reference

FOI 2019/01021 dated 06 February 2019.

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