Allied Warships

HMS Hawkins (D 86)

Heavy cruiser of the Cavendish class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeHeavy cruiser
PennantD 86 
ModHeavy cruiser 
Built byChatham Dockyard (Chatham, U.K.): Parsons 
OrderedDec 1915 
Laid down3 Jun 1916 
Launched1 Oct 1917 
Commissioned25 Jul 1919 
End service 

After commissioning HMS Hawkins was the flagship of the 5th Light Cruiser Squadron on the China Station. In 1928 Hawkins paid off at Chatham, and commenced refitting. She was refitted and her coal fired boilers were removed and the remaining oil fired boilers modified. In December 1929 Hawkins was recommissioned and joined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron as Flagship of the Atlantic Fleet. In May 1930 the cruiser was decommissioned and joined the Reserve Fleet. In 1932 Hawkins was again recommissioned and she became Flagship to the 4th Cruiser Squadron in the East Indies. In April 1935 once again the cruiser was returned to the Reserve Fleet. In 1937 Because of the London Naval Treaty the cruiser was demilitarised and had all her 7.5 inch guns and the deck mounted torpedo tubes removed before reducing to reserve. In September 1938 it was decided that Hawkins was to be used as a Cadets Training Ship.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 Hawkins was rearmed. She was recommissioned on 11 December 1939 at Portsmouth. She then became flagship to Rear Admiral Harwood after the Graf Spee incident, and she was used for patrol work off the South American coast as a member of the British blockade patrol squadron and operated as far as the Falklands. On September 5th 1940 Hawkins left Montevideo for Simonstown, South Africa for a long overdue refit, however she was unable to use the dry dock as it was occupied by the damaged aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. Hawkins had to be diverted to Durban where she stayed for seven weeks. She later docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown.

During February 1941 Hawkins supported the British offensive against Somaliland from Kenya as part of Force T of the East Indies Fleet, she and two other old cruisers supported the advance on land with gunfire. Later the same month eight Italian and two German merchant ships set out in an attempt to reach Mogadishu or Vichy French Diego Suarez. Three Italian ships had to be scuttled by their crews when the British troops overwhelmed the town. Aircraft from the carrier Hermes spotted the five remaining Italian ships and they were captured by Hawkins. On July 4th, convoy WS-9A arrived in South Africa from the U.K. embarked was the 161 Brigade on passage to the Middle East where it eventually joined the 4th Indian Division, the convoy consisted of 15 ships, HMS Hawkins and HMS Birmingham provided the escort. In August the cruiser was employed in Cape waters, tasked in the interception of neutral and Vichy shipping, in particular vessels from Vichy France and the Colonies. These vessels were then escorted to the nearest South African port by ships of the South African Seaward Defence Force. It was whilst off Mauritius that she was involved in a serious accident, her starboard outboard shaft fractured, just near the hull and her screw and shafting was lost. From October 10 - 28th she was once more placed in the Selborne dry dock. On November 2nd she left for the U.K. for a refit and repairs.

In May 1942 with her refit completed Hawkins left U.K. to join the Eastern Fleet. On November 5th, convoy WS-23 arrived in South Africa from the U.K. with reinforcements, the convoy consisted of 5 ships. The use of supply ships and “Milch cows” (submarine tankers) enabled U-boats to extend operations to the whole of the South Atlantic, an early success being the sinking of Orcades which was independently routed while homeward-bound on October 10th. From then on an A/S escort was provided for WS Convoys except those comprising the huge high speed ocean liners, HMS Hawkins and HMS Durban provided the escort for this convoy on the final leg of the passage, while the corvettes HMS Rockrose and HMS Thyme provided the A/S escort.

June – August 1943 was spent in the Simonstown dock yard, where she was placed in the dry dock to enable replacing of shaft bushes. November - December was again spent at Simonstown. During this period she spent time once again in the dry dock for the fitting of a new propeller shaft and A bracket.

During January – February 1944 Hawkins was still employed in the Southern waters around South Africa escorting troop convoys. It was during one of these trips that on 12 February 1944 the troopship Khedive Ismael was torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese submarine I-27 (offsite link) with the loss of nearly 1400 lives. At the end of the month she was once again docked in the Selborne dry dock, prior to her transfer to British waters. In June she was now operating in British waters, where she was involved in operation "Neptune," the amphibious phase of D day and formed part of the Western Task Force Gunfire Support Bombardment Force A, for “Utah Beach" commanded by Rear Admiral Deyo (USN). In August she reverted to a Training Ship.

In 1945 Hawkins was reduced to reserve. In January 1947 Hawkins was allocated for ship target trials, and was subjected to bombing by Royal Airforce Lincoln bombers off Spithead. She was sold for scrap on 21 August 1947 and in December the old cruiser was broken up by Arnott Young at Dalmuir.

The ships badge can still be seen displayed on the side of the Selborne dry dock wall.


Commands listed for HMS Hawkins (D 86)

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1Capt. Eustace Rotherham, RN15 Nov 19396 May 1940
2Capt. Harry Percy Kendall Oram, RN6 May 19402 Feb 1942
3Cdr. (retired) Peter Keith Wallace, RN2 Feb 194217 Mar 1942
4Cdr. Michael Everard, RN17 Mar 194216 Apr 1942
5Capt. Godfrey Alexander French, RN16 Apr 194213 Jan 1943
6Cdr. Michael Everard, RN13 Jan 194319 Feb 1943
7Capt. Godfrey Alexander French, RN19 Feb 194328 Jun 1943
8Cdr. Michael Everard, RN28 Jun 19431 Jul 1943
9Capt. John William Josselyn, DSC, RN1 Jul 19438 Oct 1944
10Capt. (retired) Edward Clifford Watson, DSO, RN8 Oct 194416 Dec 1944
11A/Cdr. Arthur Alfred Havers, DSC, OBE, RN16 Dec 1944mid 1945

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Notable events involving Hawkins include:

3 Feb 1940
Around 0800 hours (zone +2), HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN) and HMS Shropshire (Capt. T. Bisset, RN), made rendez-vous in position 29°23'S, 41°49'W with HMS Hawkins (Capt. E. Rotherham, RN with Rear-Admiral Sir H. Harwood, KCB, OBE, RN on board). They then proceeded to patrol and exercise in company with each other.

HMS Hawkins had relieved HMNZS Achilles (Capt. W.E. Parry, CB, RN) as flagship of the South America Division by now as the Achilles was to return to New Zealand to refit. (1)

14 Feb 1940
In the evening HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN), while of Rio de Janeiro was joined by HMS Hawkins (Capt. E. Rotherham, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir H. Harwood, KCB, OBE, RN) which had just left that port. Both cruisers then remained in company (1)

20 Feb 1940
HMS Hawkins (Capt. E. Rotherham, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir H. Harwood, KCB, OBE, RN) and HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN), which were still on patrol in the 'Rio de Janeiro area' were joined by HMS Alcantara (Capt.(Retd.) J.G.P. Ingham, DSO, RN). She parted company the next day. (1)

27 Feb 1940
While now in the 'River Plate area', HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN) parted company with HMS Hawkins (Capt. E. Rotherham, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir H. Harwood, KCB, OBE, RN) and set course to proceed to the Falkland Island. (1)

3 Jan 1941
HMS Hawkins (Capt. H.P.K. Oram, RN) picks up 9 survivors from the British tanker British Premier that was torpedoed and sunk on 24 December 1940 by German U-boat U-65 200 nautical miles south-west of Freetown in position 06°20'N, 13°20'W.

12 Feb 1941
HMS Hawkins (Capt. H.P.K. Oram, RN) intercepts the German merchant Uckermark (7021 GRT) near Massawa, Eritrea. The Germans scuttled their ship when Hawkins approached.

2 Aug 1941

Convoy WS 10

This convoy assembled in the Clyde area on 2 August 1941 destined for the middle east area.

The convoy was made up of the following troop transports; Andes (25689 GRT, built 1939), Britannic (26943 GRT, built 1930), Cameronia (16297 GRT, built 1920), Highland Monarch (14139 GRT, built 1928), Indrapoera (Dutch, 10825 GRT, built 1925), Nea Hellas (16991 GRT, built 1922), Orcades (23456 GRT, built 1937), Rangitiki (16698 GRT, built 1928), Reina del Pacifico (17702 GRT, built 1931), Stirling Castle (25550 GRT, built 1936), Strathallan (23722 GRT, built 1938), Volendam (Dutch, 15434 GRT, built 1922), Warwick Castle (20107 GRT, built 1930), Windsor Castle (19141 GRT, built 1922) and the following transports; Diomed (10374 GRT, built 1922), Indian Prince (8587 GRT, built 1926), Manchester Port (7071 GRT, built 1935), Nigerstroom (Dutch, 4639 GRT, built 1939) and Phemius (7406 GRT, built 1921),

Escort was initially provided by the heavy cruiser HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN) (2 – 10 August), armed merchant cruiser HMS Worcestershire (A/Capt.(Retd.) E.H. Hopkinson, RN) (2 – 6 August), the light cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. I.R.H. Black, RN) (2 – 5 August), the destroyers HMS Winchelsea (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, OBE, DSC, RN) (2 – 5 August), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN) (2 – 5 August), HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN) (2 – 5 August), HMS Broadway (Lt.Cdr. T. Taylor, RN) (2 – 6 August), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) (2 – 6 August), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) (2 – 6 August), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) (2 – 6 August), HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) (2 – 6 August), ORP Piorun (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki) (2 – 6 August) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. N.V.J.T. Thew, RN) (2 August – 17 August).

On 5 August, around 2200 hours, HMS Cairo, HMS Winchelsea, HMS Witch and HMS Whitehall parted company with the convoy.

On 6 August, around 2300 hours, HMS Worcestershire, HMS Broadway, HMS Gurkha, HMS Lance, HMS Legion, HrMs Isaac Sweers and ORP Piorun parted company with the convoy. Shorty afterwards the troopships Warwick Castle and Windsor Castle collided. Due to this the Warwick Castle was detached and was escorted to Halifax, Nova Scotia by HMS Worcestershire. Windsor Castle dropped astern and was brought back to the convoy the next day by HMS Jupiter who had been despached to search for her.Jupiter

Very early on the 9th HMS Jupiter was detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores. HMS Jupiter re-joined the convoy around 0700 on the 10th.

Around noon on 10 August, HMS London, was relieved by the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN) which had departed Gibraltar on the 8th. HMS Edinburgh remained with the convoy until it reached Freetown on the 17th.

When approaching Freetown A/S escorts joined the convoy. On 14 August 1941 two destroyers and a corvette joined, these were; HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and HMS Bergamot (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.P. Chapman, RNR). The next day the corvette HMS Cyclamen (Lt. H.N. Lawson, RNR) also joined.

On 21 August 1941 the convoy departed Freetown for South Africa. Escort was provided by the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh until 2 September 1941, when part of the convoy (Troopships Britannic, Indrapoera, Reina Del Pacifico, Striling Castle, Strathallan, Volendam, Windsor Castle and the transports Nigerstroom and Phemius) arrived at Capetown.

The light cruiser HMS Hawkins (Capt. H.P.K. Oram, RN) then took over the remained of the convoy and took these towards Durban were they arrived on 5 September 1941. These were the troopships Andes, Cameronia, Highland Monarch, Nea Hellas, Rangitiki and the transports Diomed, Indian Price and Manchester Port.

On 6 September 1941 the part of the convoy (minus Reina del Pacifico) that had entered Capetown on 2 September departed from Capetown escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt.(Retd.) H.N.M. Hardy, DSO, RN). On 8 September the Britannic split off and proceeded to Durban to embark troops that had been on the Cameronia. Britannic rejoined the next day escorted by Hawkins. The troop transport Aronda (9031 GRT, built 1941) was also with them and joined the convoy. After these ships had joined HMS Carnavon Castle then split off with the Indrapoera, Volendam, Nigerstroom and Phemius and took these ships to Durban.

The convoy (by now called WS 10B), now made up of the troopshipsAronda, Britannic, Stirling Castle, Strathallan and Windsor Castle, and escorted by HMS Hawkins proceeded to Bombay where it arrived on 20 September 1941. En-route, in position 03.25’S, 51.12’E and on September 13th, HMS Hawkins had been relieved by the light cruiser HMS Emerald (Capt. F.C. Flynn, RN).

[Other ships that had been part of convoy WS 10 later proceeded to their destinations in other convoys.]


  1. ADM 53/112032

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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