Colony Class (CL-1943+)


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The Colony class cruisers were laid down in 1940 with completion expected late 1942, early 1943. However with the 1941 steel shortage and higher priorities placed in front of them, the first two did not complete till mid 1943. HMNZS New Zealand was the fourth completed in September 1943 and after trials and commissioning, joined the fleet in November 1943. A total of 14 had been laid down by the end of 1942. The last four were placed on a go slow and were completed post war to a different design. The last two, completed during the war, were for Canada and entered service in late 1944.

The design was based on the Sirius and earlier Town class cruisers. The Sirius class it had been decided was too big for mass production, but some of its design features were carried forward. A ship the size of the Town class with the same three triple turret arrangement was chosen. The hull was enlarged to allow space for bigger magazines for both the main and secondary armaments. A new mark of 6" gun with the ability to fire up to 50% faster was to be fitted. The dual purpose armament was to keep the same numbers as the Towns but the size was increased from the earlier 4" twins to the new automatic mark V 4.5". These weapons were tied to a new director system of which 5 were fitted so that the turrets could be individually controlled or centralised control for barrage firing. The new 40mm STAAG mountings were to make up the light AA with its much better knockdown capability with the onboard radar.

Various changes in equipment were made during the building of the ships. The electronic suite was added to almost on a monthly basis. The normal tripod masts of the earlier classes were replaced with the new lattice mast that had the ability to carry a lot more of the electronics. New bridge superstructures being fitted to allow the new directors to be fitted.

The New Zealands first war cruise was to be a rude awakening for the new ship. Ordered to join the Arctic convoy JW55B as the close cruiser escort, its new radar picked up the blip of an incoming large unit. The new radar aboard the eNZed (slang name) allowed the Scharnhorst to be spotted before coming in range of its own radar range. The eNZed radioed the contact to Admirals Fraser and Burnett and ordered the convoy away from the Scharnhorsts track. ENZed was joined by Admiral Burnetts cruisers and intercepted the Scharnhorst at approximately 9.00am with both sides exchanging fire. It was during this first part of the Battle of the North Cape that the Scharnhorst was hit with a crippling blow. An 8" shell from HMS Norfolk hit the Scharnhorsts main radar array atop the bridge superstructure. This left the Scharnhorst almost blind in severe weather conditions with sleet and snow blowing through the battle area. The Scharnhorst turned away and lost the cruisers in the heavy seas. The cruisers being unable to keep up the pace set by the much bigger Scharnhorst. Setting his cruisers between the convoy and where the Scharnhorst was expected from the eNZed again proved useful with its radar picking up the Scharnhorst and passing the information on. The cruisers again engaged the Scharnhorst. The Scharnhorst without its radar was forced to fire at the flashes of the enemies guns. The three 6" cruisers had the new flashless powder so the only ship it could 'see' was the Norfolk. The Norfolk took damage in this phase of the action with its radar being knocked out and the after turrets being put out of action. While the 6" cruisers hit the Scharnhorst numerous times, little damage was done. What was happening in the background was Admiral Fraser aboard the Duke Of York was cutting all the corners he could to close the action and bring his big guns to bear. At 4.15pm with the Scharnhorst running south for home the Duke of York came within range. The Scharnhorsts end was in sight. With large shell hits and torpedo hits from the destroyers, Scharnhorst was sunk. Of her total complement of 1,968, only 36 were pulled from the frigid waters.

If people have noticed the pennant number on the ship, if you google the number you will find it belongs to the yacht that won the Americas Cup for New Zealand, NZL32.


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