Prince Class AA Ships.
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The British and Canadian Governments had given assistance to various merchant
ship lines to build ships that would be assets in time of war. These ships
included eight ships which comprised four Canadian Prince Class, and four
British Engadine Class Cargo-Liners.
While the ships were not overly large at 385 x 57 x 21 feet, they were the size of the cruisers of old. At 5,800 tons displacement, the ships were exactly what the Admiralty had wanted to have built for conversion into Escort Cruisers. Classed as Anti-Aircraft Ships because of their dual purpose armaments, their main and most important role was as the Convoy Escort Commanders ship. With a speed of 22 knots the ships were able to shepherd any of the standard 8 and 15 knot convoys. Their long range of 3,500 miles at 20 knots made them ideal as long range escorts.
The ships were taken in hand, 2 at Esqimault, 2 at Glasgow, 2 at Belfast and the last 2 at Southampton. Being of merchant construction the conversion work could be carried out at non-naval yards, freeing up the navy yards for other essential work. The two Canadian conversions were initially armed with 4x6", 2x4" AA, 4x2pd, 8x0.5"mg. These two ships were then used for patrol work in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, chasing German Raiders. They also provided escort for the troop convoys going from Australia up to the Western Desert theatre. The three pairs of conversions completed in the UK had much enhanced weaponry with 4 twin 4.7" DP open mountings. These guns gave the ships a good Anti-aircraft capability better than the converted C Class cruisers. Two quad 2pd mountings and 9 twin 20mm finished the gun armament. What was just as important was the electronics armament. With both sea and air, search and targeting radar systems, this allowed the convoy escort commander to keep track of the convoy, who was in position and who was not. U-Boats could be targeted when on the surface or sub-surface using ASDIC. Aircraft coming near the convoy could be spotted far enough away so that the convoy could not be 'surprised', and would be waiting for their visitors. The Hedgehog was added in 1942 to surviving units.
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