HMS Birmingham

HMS Birmingham was the name ship of the Birmingham class of light cruisers, sometimes known as part of the Town class. She took part in all three of the main naval battles of the First World War in the North Sea.

When the war broke out Birmingham was part of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet. The Navy’s first crucial duty during the war was the protection of the troop ships carrying the BEF to France. On 9 August, during this early phase of the war, the Birmingham rammed and sank the German submarine U 15 . In the same month she also sank two German merchantmen.

HMS Birmingham from the right
HMS Birmingham from the right

On 16 December she was part of the Light Cruiser squadron that took part in attempts to intercept the German ships that had attacked the Yorkshire Coast. She was one of two cruisers to actually engage the German light cruisers, but was forced to break off the chase after received a poorly worded signal.

She was present at Dogger Bank and Heligoland Bight with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, but didn’t play a major part in either battle. In February 1915 she was moved to the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, as flagship. In that role she was attacked by U 32 during a cruiser sweep on the North Sea (19 June 1915), without taking any damage. During the August 1915 search for the German mine layer Meteor the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron was posted between the Firth of Forth and the Skagerrak.

The Birmingham was present at the battle of Jutland with the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron. There she took part in the night battle, clashing with the German 4th Scouting Group. Along with her sister ship Nottingham she avoided German fire, and escaped the battle without suffering any casualties. After the battle she stayed with the damaged cruiser Southampton while repairs were carried out, reaching Rosyth twelve hours behind the main battlecruiser fleet.

Birmingham took part in the fleet sortie of 19 August 1916 that saw the loss of her sister ship Nottingham. Some confusion can arise in August 1917. At this point the American cruiser USS Birmingham arrived at Gibraltar to help protect convoys, but in the Official History of the War the American ship is mis-indexed as her British namesake.

In October 1917 HMS Birmingham was one of the cruisers deployed in the North Sea in an attempt to catch German ships known to be at sea. In the event those ships attacked a Scandinavian convoy and then escaped back to Germany in safety.

After the war Birmingham served as flag ship of the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron from 1919-20, entered the Nore Reserve during 1920-22 then returned to the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron on the Africa Station, still as flagship, in 1923. She spent most of the rest of her career on overseas duties before been sold off in 1931.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



4,140 nautical miles at 16kts

Armour – deck

1 ½in over steering gear
3/4in over machinery
3/8in elsewhere

 - belt

2in armour on 1in plate

 - conning tower





Nine 6in guns
Four 3pdr guns
Two 21in submerged torpedo tubes (beam)

Crew complement



7 May 1913


February 1914

Sold for break up

March 1931


A. A. M. Duff (1914, 1915, 1916)

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 October 2007), HMS Birmingham ,

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