British Town Class Cruisers – Design, Development & Performance – Southampton and Belfast Classes, Conrad Waters

British Town Class Cruisers – Design, Development & Performance – Southampton and Belfast Classes, Conrad Waters

The Town Class cruisers were the most modern cruisers in British service at the outbreak of the Second World War, falling into the slightly odd category of large Light Cruiser, combining the 6in guns of a treaty light cruiser with the maximum allowed displacement of around 10,000 tons. They weren’t really a type of ship the Royal Navy had wanted to build, hoping instead to convince the other naval powers to build a larger number of smaller ships, but once it became clear that wouldn’t happen, the British had to build their own 10,000 cruisers.

The section on the design process covers the original debates and early designs that led up to the first ships in the class, and the differences between the three main sub-types. I was interested to note that the second batch of Town class cruisers were given an enclosed bridge, but this was then removed on the last batch as it had proved to be unpopular with the officers! The design sections are supported by many plans, including the impressive colour plans produced when they were being constructed. As a result we get a really good idea of the layout of these ships. This is followed by a look at the many wartime changes, which included the almost compulsary increase in anti-aircraft firepower, and an ever increasingly complex array of electronics, including a series of radar sets.

I was particuarly impressed with the wartime operations chapter, which includes a good history of each ship’s wartime career along with a detailed examination of each occasion on which they were suffered damage. All four of the ten Town class cruisers were lost during the war, three of those four were scuttled by the Royal Navy, in some cases in rather controversial circumstances. These ships actually emerge as being impressively robust, with HMS Newcastle surviving despite having both sides of the hull torn away by stormy weather while crossing the Indian Ocean on her way to be repaired!

This is an excellent examination of these famous ships, beautifully illustrated, and very detailed. Perhaps its best feature is the examination of how well they actually performed, ranging from a look at the accuracy of their gunfire to the detailed studies of how well they absorbed damage.

1 – Class Origins
2 – The Design Process
3 – From Construction to Delivery
4 – Design Description
5 – Wartime Improvements
6 – Wartime Operations & Performance
7 – Post-War Requirements & Repair
8 – Post-War Operations & Disposal
9 – Evaluation

1 – Camouflage and Appeareances
2 – Supermarine Walrus
3 – Battle Honours

Author: Conrad Waters
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Publisher: Seaforth
Year: 2019

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