Allied Warships

HMS Jamaica (44)

Light cruiser of the Fiji class

HMS Jamaica as seen in 1943 or 1944

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeLight cruiser
Built byVickers Armstrong (Barrow-in-Furness, U.K.) 
Ordered1 Mar 1939 
Laid down28 Apr 1939 
Launched16 Nov 1940 
Commissioned29 Jun 1942 
End service20 Nov 1957 

In September 1942 Jamaica was employed as a close support for convoys. In November, she was part of the central task force covering the Allied landings in French North Africa, operation Torch in the area of Oran. In December she was in the Arctic and once again she was tasked in supplying close support for convoys.

In 1943 Jamaica spent this entire year in the escorting of Arctic convoys. In December the cruiser was a unit of the distant Covering Forces for an Arctic convoy, with the battleship HMS Duke of York and four destroyers. On the 22nd German air reconnaissance spotted the convoy, and the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst and five destroyers headed for it. They were intercepted by the Covering Force, consisting of cruisers HMS Belfast, HMS Sheffield, HMS Norfolk and four destroyers. Coming up fast from the south west was Jamaica with the battleship Duke Of York who barred the German battle cruisers way. In a pursuit engagement the British ships obtained some hits with their radar controlled fire, but the Germans superior speed enabled her to out-range her pursuers, but not the British destroyers who managed to obtain four torpedo hits using a skilful pincer attack, this brought the German to a halt. Sharnhorst was battered by gunfire from Jamaica and Duke Of York, and from Belfast and Norfolk who arrived later. The German was once again hit by another ten torpedoes, and sunk in the evening of December 26th. Only 36 survivors were rescued.

During March – April 1944, still in the Arctic, Jamaica Was a unit of a large covering force for the Murmansk convoys. In July an unsuccessful attack was carried out on the German battleship Tirpitz which was lying in Kaafjord. Jamaica was part of the covering force for the carriers HMS Formidable and HMS Indefatigable. In September she was once again involved with Arctic convoy operations. In October Jamaica and two destroyers carried out the provisioning of Spitzbergen.

During a refit in 1945 Jamaica had her X turret removed and increased anti-aircraft armament was fitted. In September she joined the 5th Cruiser Squadron of the East Indies Fleet.

In February 1946 Jamaica became a member of the 4th Cruiser Squadron, based at the same station. On August 19th, she was dry docked at Simonstown, South Africa for the removal of a rudder and a general refit. On October 4th she was undocked and on the 25th she entered the wet dock for one day to carry out an inclination experiment. In November 1947 Jamaica returned to the U.K. In August 1948 Jamaica joined the America and West Indies Station as a member of the 8th Cruiser Squadron.

In July 1949 Jamaica arrived at the Far East Station on loan to the 5th Cruiser Squadron for participation in the Korean war. On 25 June 1950 while Jamaica was on passage to Hong Kong, heavy fighting broke out between North and South Korea. On the 29th, she rendezvoused with the cruiser HMS Belfast and a frigate, after receiving orders from Command Naval Forces Far East, she was dispatched with two frigates to the coast of Korea where she joined a United Nations support force under Rear Admiral Higgins. On July 2nd, Jamaica and the American cruiser Juneau were patrolling together near Chumunjin when four Korean MTB`s were detected escorting about ten fishing trawlers. The MTB`s were destroyed by the cruisers, and three trawlers were sunk. Light artillery opened up from the shore, and the warships were forced to withdraw. After this action Jamaica set out for Sasebo, where she was refuelled, and then she relieved USS Juneau in the Chumunjin area. Bombardments of various coastal targets were carried out in an attempt to slow down the Communist invasion. On the 7th, together with the frigate HMS Hart and the US destroyer USS Lyman K. Swenson she bombarded Yangyang in North Korea itself. On the 8th, Jamaica and Swenson moved south where there were suitable cliff roads for bombardment. Moving at only 6 knots to gain accuracy, Jamaica was taken under fire by a hidden 76.2 mm gun battery which scored a hit on the starboard tripod of the mainmast, killing two and wounding others. The Communist guns were soon silenced, and the two ships returned to their original targets. In September planning was in progress for the landing at Inchon, which was to turn the tide of the war against the North Koreans. This was kept an American affair, but the 6 inch guns of Jamaica and her sister ship HMS Kenya were a valuable addition to the gunfire support groups of the American Task Force. On the 13th, the bombardment began, using Firefly aircraft from the carrier HMS Triumph as spotters, and on the 14th, the peninsula of Walmindo, the first objective of the landing forces, had been silenced. On the 15th, Jamaica and Kenya teamed up with the two US heavy cruisers USS Rochester and USS Toledo, and opened fire on Walmi-do. Each British cruiser had one spotting Firefly allocated to her. The bombardment went on at intervals all day, the Triumph providing three pairs of Firefly`s in constant rotation. The attempt was made to limit fire to known military targets, and Jamaica succeeded in hitting an ammunition dump with spectacular results. On the 17th, just before 0600, two aircraft appeared overhead, they were initially mistaken for “friendlies”, but as the first approached the USS Rochester it dived and released two bombs, which fell astern. The second also dropped a bomb that landed on the American cruisers crane, but failed to explode. The two North Korean machines, a Yak-9 and a Shlurmovik then made for Jamaica which had already opened fire, as the Shlurmovik flew over the cruiser it raked her port side with gunfire, and one sailor was killed and two others injured. One machine gun bullet had penetrated the 1 inch armour protecting the rear of the 6 inch gun turret, grazing and surprising the one rating occupying the turret at the time. The aircraft was badly hit however, and was brought down, while the more nimble Yak got away. At the end of the Korean bombardment the Jamaica`s guns crews had fired 1,290 rounds of 6 inch ammunition and 393 rounds of 4 inch. In February 1951 Jamaica returned to the U.K, and was placed into reserve.

Early 1953 she started a refit. In October she was brought forward to replace the cruiser HMS Swiftsure that had been damaged by collision with the destroyer HMS Diamond. In 1954 Jamaica was transferred to the Home Fleet. Not long after this, she was once again on the move this time to join the Mediterranean Fleet. In 1956 Jamaica was flagship of F02 Mediterranean, she led the amphibious warfare squadron onto the beaches of Port Said, (operation “Musketeer”) having acted as radar picket ship for the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF. In November 1957, her tour of duty completed, the cruiser returned to the U.K. She was decommissioned on the 20th. On 20 December 1960 Jamaica arrived at Dalmuir to be broken up by Arnott Young Ltd.

The ships badge can still be seen painted on the side of the Selborne dry dock wall with the inscription Non Sibi Seb Patria.


Commands listed for HMS Jamaica (44)

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1Capt. Jocelyn Latham Storey, RN27 Feb 194212 Dec 1943
2Capt. John Hughes-Hallett, DSO, RN12 Dec 1943Jan 1946

3Capt. Frank Arthur Ballance, DSO, RNOct 1948Mar 1950

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Notable events involving Jamaica include:

30 Jun 1942
HMS H 28 (Lt. J.S. Bridger, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area with HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN). Upon completion of these exercises HMS H 28 proceeded to Ardrishaig. (1)

8 Nov 1942
HMS Jamaica assisted in the invasion of North Africa. She was part of the Centre Task Force (Oran area).

30 Dec 1942
On 30 December 1942 the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper attacked convoy JW.51B and was held at bay by the British destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Obedient, HMS Obdurate and HMS Orwell. When renewing her attack she was engaged by the British cruisers HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica and was badly damaged them. The only success of the operation was the sinking of the destroyer HMS Achates and the minesweeper HMS Bramble, the destroyers HMS Onslow, HMS Obedient, HMS Obdurate and HMS Orwell were damaged in the action.

29 Mar 1943
HMS Usurper (Lt. D.R.O. Mott, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Jamaica (Capt. Capt. J.L. Storey, RN), HMS Newcastle (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, DSO, RN), HMS Stevenstone (Lt. P.B.N. Lewis, DSC, RN), HMCS Athabascan (Cdr. G.R. Miles, DSO, OBE, RCN) and HMS Brissenden (Lt. D.C. Beatty, RN). (2)

26 Dec 1943
Assisted the British battleship HMS Duke of York, and other vessels in the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst on 26 December 1943.
Finally HMS Jamaica (Capt. J. Hughes-Hallett, DSO, RN) was ordered in to sink the heavily damaged Scharnhorst with torpedoes.

21 Apr 1944

Operations Planet, Ridge and Veritas.

On 21 April 1944, two forces departed Scapa Flow for operations off Norway, these were divided in two groups;

Force 7 was made up of the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSO, DSC, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kempenfelt (Capt. M.L. Power, OBE, RN), HMS Venus (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson DSO, RN), HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMCS Algonquin (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Piers, DSC, RCN), HMCS Sioux (A/Lt.Cdr. E.E.G. Boak, RCN), HMS Swift (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Gower, RN) and HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. R.M.W. MacFarlan, RN).

Force 8 was made up of the light cruisers HMS Royalist (Capt. M.H. Evelegh, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral T. Bisset, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J. Hugh-Hallett, DSO, RN), escort carriers HMS Emperor (A/Capt. T.J.N. Hilken, DSO, RN), HMS Pursuer (A/Capt. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Searcher (Capt. G.O.C. Davies, RN), HMS Striker (Capt. W.P. Carne, RN) and the destroyers HMS Serapis (Capt. P.G.L. Serapis, DSC, RN), HMS Ursa (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, DSC, RN), HMS Undaunted (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Mackenzie, RD, RNR), HMS Wakeful (Lt.Cdr. G.D. Pound, DSC, RN), HMS Wizard (Lt.Cdr. D.T. McBarnet, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski) and HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. P.B.N. Lewis, DSC, RN).

Operation Planet

The target date for this operation was 24 April 1944. When the forces arrived in the operations area on 23 April the weather forecasts were unsuitable and they reversed course for 24 hours but the weather to following day was equally bad. Both forces proceeded to the flying off position but there was no improvement in the weather so Vice-Admiral Moore decided to cancel the operation. Both forces then proceeded as for Operation Ridge.

In the meantime the destroyers HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin had been detached to fuel at the Faroes where they arrived on the 24th. After fuelling they were instructed to wait there for further orders.

Operation Ridge.

Operation Ridge was originally intended to be carried out in two parts; 'Ridge Able' was to be an attack on shipping in the Bodo area by Force 7 and 'Ridge Baker' was to be an attack on shipping in the Rorvik area by Force 8.

In the event it was decided that both forces were to carry out 'Ridge Able' in two stikes, one attacking Bodo harbour and the other sweeping the leads to the southward.

The two forces arrived at the flying off position at dawn on 26 April 1944. Weather conditions were not ideal and were worse inshore and in the end both strikes attacked the same target - an escorted convoy of 4 or 5 merchant ships in approximate position 67.06'N, 13.57'E at about 0600 hours. The convoy was southbound, presumebly having left Bodo about one hour previously. Four merchant ships and one escort vessel were claimed to have been hit with bombs. The largest merchant ship was reported beached and burning. Two other were also seen to be on fire.

[The convoy attacked was en-route from Narvik to Germany with iron oreand was made up of four merchant vessels; Eugenio C. (4094 GRT, built 1928), Itauri (6838 GRT, built 1923), Leena (1079 GRT, built 1905) and Lotte Leonhardt (4167 GRT, built 1937). It was being escorted by the patrol vessels V 5905 / Varanger and V 5906 / Nordpol. The Eugenio C., Itauri and Lotte Leonhardt were sunk while the V 5905 was damaged.]

Besides the attack on the convoy two Barracudas and several fighters attacked Bodo harbour in spite of the weather. One hit was claimed on a large merchant ship. Two other Barracudas attacked a derelict merchant vessel that was ashore. They obtained at least one hit.

One Barracuda, two Corsairs, one Hellcat and one Wildcat were lost during the attacks. Another Hellcat crashed while landing on HMS Emperor.

At 0730/26, HMS Victorious, HMS Kent and two destroyers (HMS Venus and HMS Vigilant) parted company to conduct operation 'Veritas' (see below). The remainder of Forces 7 and 8 set course to return to Scapa Flow where they arrived on the 28th. HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin also returned with them having joined Force 8 on the 27th having departed the Faroes on the 26th.

Operation Veritas.

On leaving Force 7, the 'Victorious'-Force proceeed to the flying off position (69°31'N, 12°50'E). Reconnaissance flights were to be carried out for a possible future amphibious assault on Narvik. The flying off position was reached at 1620/26 and six Corsairs with long range fuel tanks were launched for the operation.

The aircraft returned to HMS Victorious almost two hours later. One Corsair had machine gunned a tanker on the way back starting a small fire amidships. All aircraft landed safely despite the difficult conditions due to the weather. (3)

28 Jul 1944
HMS Trusty (Lt. L.E. Herrick, DSO, RN) conducts attack exercises for the Commanding Officer Qualifying Course with HMS Jamaica (Capt. J. Hugh-Hallett, DSO, RN). (4)


  1. ADM 173/17202
  2. ADM 173/18389
  3. ADM 199/1427
  4. ADM 173/19127

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

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