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HMS Dorsetshire seen at Sidney harbour bridge 1938. Photo.

Completed: 1930

Displacement: 13,420 tons

Length: 610 ft

Beam: 66 ft

Draught: 16 ft

Propulsion: 4 × Parsons geared or Brown Curtis steam turbines, 8 × boilers, 4 × shafts, 80,000 shp

Speed: 31 kts

Range: 12,000 miles

Complement: 653

Armament: 8 × 8 in (200 mm) Mk VIII guns, 8 × 4 in (100 mm) dual purpose guns, 24 × 2-pounder pom-pom anti-aircraft guns, 8 × 24 in (610 mm) torpedo tubes, numerous light anti-aircraft guns

Aircraft carried: 2 × Supermarine Walrus floatplanes (operated by 700 Naval Air Squadron

Above, one Supermarine Walrus is launched from HMS Ajax for a reconaissance sortie. Photo.

In December 1939, a couple months after war was declared, Dorsetshire — with other Royal Navy ships— was sent to Uruguay in pursuit of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the aftermath of the Battle of the River Plate. Dorsetshire left Simonstown, South Africa on 13 December, and was still in transit on 17 December when the Germans scuttled Graf Spee.

She operated in the Atlantic for a short while, and in February 1940, she intercepted the German supply freighter Wakama, which was promptly scuttled by her crew. On 2 March, Dorsetshire left the Falklands — with wounded sailors from fellow cruiser Exeter — en route to Cape Town via Tristan da Cunha, where the islanders were supplied with stores. On the 11th, the wounded and the prisoners from the German freighter were put ashore.

German Blockade Runner Wakama seen above. Photo

Dorsetshire then returned to the UK, arriving at Plymouth on 25 May. She spent less than a week here, departing again for Freetown at the end of the month. In June, she set out from Freetown to follow the French battleship Richelieu, which had left Dakar for Casablanca. Richelieu was eventually ordered to return to Dakar by her admiral, François Darlan. Dorsetshire continued to monitor the French Navy off Dakar throughout July. On 4 September, she was dry-docked at Durban, and on the 20th she arrived back in Simonstown. She sailed for Sierra Leone the next day.

In December, she was back in dock at Simonstown, before departing later that month to search for the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, which had recently sunk a British refrigerator ship in the South Atlantic. On 18 January 1941, she captured the Vichy French freighter Mendoza and escorted the ship to Takoradi. By March, she was once again at Simonstown.

On 6  May 41 HMS Dorsetshire rescued survivors from British merchant Oakdene sunk in that same day by U-105 in pos. 06º 19’N 27º 55’W. northwest of St. Paul Rocks. The master, 31 crew members and three gunners were picked up

Dorsetshire was deployed on 11 November in the search for the German commerce raider Atlantis (the "Raider C") that had preyed on Allied shipping. Dorsetshire also chanced upon the German supply ship Python on 1 December, which was refuelling U-boats in the South Atlantic. The U-boats dived, and one of them fired some torpedoes at Dorsetshire, but missing her. The crew of Python scuttled their ship.

In 1942, Dorsetshire was assigned to the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. In the Imperial Japanese Navy's Indian Ocean raid, she and her sister ship Cornwall were attacked by Japanese Navy dive bombers 320 km (200 mi) southwest of Ceylon on 5 April. Dorsetshire was hit by 10 bombs and sank stern first at about 13:50. Cornwall was hit eight times and sank bow first about 10 minutes later. Of Dorsetshire's crew, 234 men were killed in the attack; more than 500 survived in the water or on rafts, being picked up by the cruiser Enterprise and the destroyers Paladin and Panther the next day. Captain Agar was among the survivors.



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