Today, looking back, it is safe to say that these ships were among the best representatives of the class of light cruisers. For many reasons, which we will now begin to iterate over.
Naturally, the ships owe their appearance to the London Agreement, which in 1936 limited the displacement to eight thousand tons. In principle, the British Admiralty was fine with all this, and therefore, having temporarily abandoned the construction of heavy cruisers, which the country already had, all efforts were concentrated on creating a new light cruiser. Such a ship was just very necessary, since at the end of the First World War, British losses from German raiders were very tangible.
Apparently, someone in the military department felt that it would only get worse in the future ...
In general, the British designers were assigned to the project of a light cruiser with a displacement of 8 tons and with a main caliber of 000 mm. And here the most important question was "how much to hang in the barrels?", Because the main caliber is still a very important thing on a light cruiser.
The project of the cruiser "Southampton" was taken as a basis, a lot was taken from it, but the new cruiser was supposed to be 1000 tons lighter. In general, "Southampton" was developed as a response to the Japanese "Mogami", so the new ship was designed with some eye to the Japanese, since they did not sign the contract, and they could build on the sly anything that came to their mind. The Japanese skills to build something epoch-making had to be taken seriously. To fit 10 000-mm guns in 15 tons was a lot, so I had to look around.
At first, the designers decided to install four-gun turrets on the new cruiser, but this would entail an increase in displacement by 500 tons. The idea was to install ten guns in four towers, like on the Pensacola, two three-gun towers, two two-gun towers. It was decided to take the anti-aircraft armament and the booking scheme from the Gloucester-class cruiser. But this decision also weighed the cruiser up to 8900 tons.
The next project consisted of three turrets with three guns each. By reducing the booking, the designers were able to fit everything into 8 tons, with only 000 tons left for the armor.
Then the race began, as a result of which weight was saved bit by bit. We played with the thickness of the armor belt, the power plant, the thickness of the turret armor.
The result was a cruiser with a displacement of 8 tons with a speed of 500 knots and a power of 32,5 hp, armed with twelve 77000-mm guns in three-gun turrets.
In general, there were as many alterations and developments as there were probably not with any class of British cruisers. Power plants changed, the number of auxiliary caliber guns, the number of catapults and aircraft changed. In total, 34 projects of this class of cruisers were proposed for consideration by the Admiralty Commission!
As a result, the naval leadership settled on a ship with twelve 152-mm guns with a total displacement of 8360 tons. But 8 tons were needed. Therefore, in order to enter the limit of 000 tons, it was decided to reduce the thickness of the barbets and some bulkheads from 8 to 000 mm. The frontal armor of the turrets was also reduced from 50 to 25 mm.
The final design of the new cruiser with a displacement of 8 tons was submitted for approval in November 170. The series planned to build nine ships. The construction of the first five cruisers was financed according to the budget of 1937-1937, the rest four a year later.
The first group of cruisers included "Fiji", "Kenya", "Mauritius", "Nigeria" and "Trinidad". Construction began at the end of 1937. The second group of cruisers consisted of the Ceylon, Jamaica, Gambia and Uganda began construction in March 1939.
During construction, the displacement of the cruisers is quite expected; it increased slightly. On the little things, a more modern catapult, torpedo tubes, radar ... Everything seems to be on the topic, but the "Fiji" upon completion of construction had a displacement of 8 tons instead of 631 tons according to plan.
But that was only the beginning. Time passed, the war continued, and therefore more and more various useful things appeared, which it was unrealistic to refuse. Therefore, for example, the cruiser "Uganda", which entered service in January 1942, already had a displacement of 8 tons, and even more when fully loaded - 846 tons.
On tests, "Fiji" showed a very good speed of 32,25 knots with 80 hp from the power plant.
A distinctive feature of the cruiser can be considered a superbly organized and comfortable command bridge. True, judging by the photographs, the cruiser could easily participate in the competition for the ugliest bridge. But this is the case when beauty is good and convenience is better.
Speaking of convenience. The British sailors cannot be reproached for being overly effeminate. These guys didn't need special conditions. But the Fiji-class cruisers were not very hospitable. The small size and overcrowding of the equipment made the living conditions not very comfortable. The decks were more than overcrowded.
The third main turret was not installed on the last three cruisers of the series. In its place, anti-aircraft weapons were additionally installed.
In fact, cruisers like Fiji or Colony were a more compact version of Southampton. Shorter and narrower, but not losing anything due to the fact that it turned out to be more compact to place all systems and equipment.
The standard displacement was 8 tons, the total displacement was 666 tons.
The total length of the hull is 169, 31 m, width - 18,9 m, draft - 6,04 m.
The main booking was an armored belt 89 mm thick in the area of artillery cellars, decreasing to 82,5 mm in the engine room.
The armored deck went over the armor belt, its thickness was 51 mm, above the tiller compartment - 38 mm.
The towers were armored 50 mm in the frontal part, 25 mm on the sides.
The main power plant consisted of four Parsons turbo-gear units and four three-collector steam boilers of the Admiralty type. And, accordingly, four shafts with screws.
The maximum speed shown during tests under ideal conditions was 32,25 knots, measurements at sea showed a slightly lower speed, 30,3 knots.
The cruising range at 16 knots was 10 km. The circulation radius was 600 m at a speed of 686 knots.
The number of crew in peacetime was 733 people, in wartime it increased to 920.
The main caliber consisted of 12 152 mm / 50 BL Mark XXIII guns. The guns were installed in three-gun towers in a linearly elevated manner, two at the bow and two at the stern.
The rate of fire of the guns is 6-8 rounds per minute, the muzzle velocity of the projectile is 841 m / sec, and the firing range at an elevation angle of the gun of 45 degrees is 23,2 km.
The auxiliary artillery of the Fiji-class cruisers consisted of eight 102-mm Mk XVI universal guns in four twin mounts.
The rate of fire of universal guns was 15-20 rounds per minute, the muzzle velocity of the projectile was 811 m / s.
Firing range at surface targets - 18,15 km;
The firing range at air targets is 11,89 km.
Small-caliber anti-aircraft artillery consisted of two quad mounts of 40-mm machine guns "pom-pom" Mk VIII (QF.2 pdr)
The rate of fire is 115 rounds per minute, the initial speed of the projectile is 701 m / s, the firing range is from 3,47 to 4,57 km.
The cruisers' mine-torpedo armament consisted of two 533-mm three-tube torpedo tubes, one per side.
"Fiji" carried a catapult and from two ("Uganda", "Newfoundland", "Ceylon") to three (all other ships of the series) Supermarine "Walrus" reconnaissance aircraft.
The plane, let's say, did not shine with characteristics, but as a close reconnaissance spotter it could act quite normally.
The cruisers were necessarily equipped with radars. These were complexes of the type 279, 281, 284, 285.
As soon as the war began and it was understood that the role of aviation was clearly underestimated, the cruisers began to receive anti-aircraft weapons in the process of modernization.
"Fiji" shortly before the death received two quad mounts of machine guns "Vickers" and a radar type 284.
Kenya was ahead of everyone else in terms of modernization. In 1941, it was equipped with two 20-mm machine guns from the "Oerlikon" and two radars, type 273 and 284. In 1942, instead of single "Erlikons", six paired 40-mm automatic "Bofors" were installed, and in 1943 two more were installed paired 20-mm "Erlikonov" installations. In April 1945, the elevated aft turret was removed and instead of it, two twin 40-mm Bofors units were placed, and the pom-poms were replaced with twin Bofors. The Oerlikons were also changed to Bofors. As a result, the cruiser anti-aircraft armament consisted of 18 40-mm barrels (5 x 2 and 8 x 1).
"Mauritius" in 1942 received four single 20-mm "Erlikons" and radars of types 273, 284 and 285. In June 1943, the aircraft catapult was removed, and in its place were placed 20 (!) Single-barreled "Erlikons" and two quad mounts of machine guns MG.
"Nigeria" in 1941 received four 20-mm assault rifles, in 1942 they added radars 273 and 284, two quad machine gun mounts. In 1943, all anti-aircraft weapons were removed and eight twin 20-mm "Erlikonov" installations were installed instead.
"Trinidad" before his death managed to receive two single 20-mm machine guns.
"Gambia" in February 1942 had six single 20-mm machine guns. In 1943, aviation equipment, pom-pom guns and single 20-mm anti-aircraft guns were removed, and ten paired 20-mm Erlikons were put in their place.
"Jamaica" in 1943 received eight twin and four single "Oerlikons".
The Bermuda, the last of the ships of the type built, was commissioned with ten 20mm Oerlikons. In September 1943, six more such installations were installed on the cruiser. In the spring of 1944, aviation equipment and twelve single 20-mm assault rifles were replaced with 8 paired 20-mm installations. During a major overhaul in 1944-45, the cruiser lost its third turret and instead received three quadruple and four single Bofors 40mm installations.
In total, four ships parted with the third tower: Bermuda, Jamaica, Mauritius and Kenya.
The first to enter service, the first to leave. On August 1, 1940, he received a torpedo from a German submarine and stood up for repairs for a long time.
In the future, the cruiser took part in the search for German raiders in the Atlantic, then was transferred to the Mediterranean Sea, where it entered the A1 formation, which covered the convoys from attacks by Italian ships.
On May 22, 1941, the ships of the formation (cruisers Fiji and Gloucester, 4 destroyers) came under a massive attack from German aviation. The destroyer "Greyhound" was sunk, then the "Fiji" received several hits. The cruiser was left without a move, and in the face of continued attacks by the Luftwaffe, "Fiji" was actually abandoned by other ships. The Gloucester was also sunk, and the crews picked up the destroyers that remained afloat.
He served in the Atlantic, patrolled and escorted convoys. When the Admiral Hipper smashed the WS5A convoy, he was gathering the convoy and assisting the damaged ships.
Together with the cruiser Aurora, he took part in the pursuit of the Bismarck. On June 3, the cruisers stumbled upon the German tanker Belchen (6367 brt), which was fueling the U-93 submarine. The cruiser's artillery fire and torpedoes sank the tanker.
On October 1, 1940, "Kenya" together with the cruiser "Sheffield" intercepted German supply ships in the Atlantic. It was discovered by a seaplane from "Kenya", the transport "Kota Penang" was intercepted and sunk.
Kenya took part in escorting Arctic convoys. PQ-3 and QP-4, PQ-12 and QP-8, PQ-15 and QP-11. Delivered 10 tons of gold bullion from the USSR to Britain to pay for supplies.
The second half of the war, "Kenya" spent in the Pacific Ocean, participating in many operations of the British fleet and allies, the list is quite long, so Kenya's career is worthy of separate consideration.
The beginning of military service took place in the Atlantic, where, together with various ships ("Repals", "Hood", "Nelson"), the cruiser was looking for German raiders.
In 1941 he was transferred to the North, where he participated in the sinking of the German meteorological ship "Lauenburg". Participant of raids on Spitsbergen and Bear. In September 1941, together with the cruiser Aurora, he sank the German ship Bremse. Member of convoys PQ-8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15,17 and return convoys QP-7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.
Then in 1943 he was transferred to the Mediterranean Sea in the region of Malta, where he received a torpedo hit from an Italian submarine.
The repair continued until 1944, after which the cruiser went east, where until the end of the war she took part in various Allied operations.
From 1941 to 1944 he served first in the Eastern Fleet, then was transferred to the Mediterranean. He took part in escorting convoys, intercepting enemy convoys, and covering landings. He ended the war in the Pacific Ocean.
Received baptism of fire as part of the PQ-8 convoy and the return QP-6.
On March 23, 1942, the cruiser, together with the destroyers Eclipse and Fury, sailed as an escort for the PQ-13 convoy. On March 29, a battle took place with the German destroyers Z-24, Z-25 and Z-26, which intercepted the convoy and sank the transport "Bateau". In battle, "Trinidad" sank the destroyer Z-26.
During the battle, the cruiser was damaged: a faulty torpedo, by a fateful coincidence, released by the cruiser, described the circulation and hit the left side in the boiler room area. A fire broke out and the cruiser lost speed. But the minesweeper "Harrier", the destroyers "Oribi" and "Fury" took the cruiser in tow and brought it to Murmansk, where Soviet specialists took over the repair of the "Trinidad".
On May 13, the cruiser departed from Murmansk, accompanied by the destroyers Foresight, Forester, Matchless and Somali. The next day, a detachment of ships was subjected to massive attacks by German aircraft. "Trinidad" received 4 bombs in the bow, which not only destroyed the entire result of the repair, but also caused new fires. A day later, on May 15, it became clear that the crew was losing the battle for the ship. It was decided to leave the cruiser. The escort destroyers took over the crew, and they planted three torpedoes on board the Trinidad.
In general, the practice of the British in the North showed that they quite calmly left the ships. Both the Edinburgh and Trinidad were destroyed by the British long before the cruisers had exhausted their survivability.
The service began in the Indian Ocean, the cruiser participated in the landing in Madagascar, then there was service in the Pacific Ocean. He covered landing operations on the islands, was transferred to New Zealand and became part of the New Zealand Navy. Represented New Zealand at the Japanese Navy surrender ceremony.
He began his military service in the north, covering the landing on Spitsbergen. Then he was transferred to the Mediterranean, where he took part in the landing operation in Oran. Took part in repelling attacks by destroyers of the French Vichy government, which were trying to counter the operation. One Vichy destroyer ("Epervier") was disabled.
Then the cruiser was again transferred to the north, where she took part in the New Year's battle on December 31, 1942, when 2 light cruisers, 6 destroyers and a British minesweeper converged with 2 German heavy cruisers and 6 destroyers.
"Jamaica" was marked by hits on "Admiral Hipper" and was a co-author of the sinking of the destroyer "Z-16" "Friedrich Eckholdt".
A year later, on December 26, 1944, "Jamaica" was among the ships that drowned the "Scharnhorst".
The cruiser met the end of the war in the Pacific Ocean.
He began his combat activities by covering the landing of allied forces in North Africa, then he was transferred to the north and covered the northern convoys. Participated in the escort of 8 northern convoys.
Fiji turned out to be the most balanced light cruisers in the world. Lacking armor, like the French ships of the "La Galissoniere" type or the speed of the Italian "Raimondo Montecuccoli", in fact, the "Fiji" have become very serious ships in terms of weapons and seaworthiness.
The long service life of the ships only confirms this. "Newfoundland" and "Ceylon" served in the Peruvian Navy until 1972. "Nigeria" served in the Indian Navy until 1985, having easily survived THREE (!!!) collisions with other ships.
Strange as it may seem, but the cruisers, which were built in conditions of restrictions and economy (as opposed to the more luxurious in all respects, but also more expensive "Belfast"), turned out to be very strong and combat-ready ships.
We can say that the British designers did an excellent job of creating a versatile light cruiser.
Perhaps the only drawback of the Fiji-class cruisers was the very dense layout of everything. When the time came to strengthen the air defense, for the sake of this it was necessary to dismantle either one of the towers or aviation equipment. And as practice has shown, it is the additional "Eyes" in the form of a scout that is very necessary for such a ship.
Fiji is considered by many analysts to be the best light cruiser of the Second World War, and, I must say, not without reason. No outstanding qualities, but versatility and balance made this type of ships just that.