HMS Sheffield was one of the first British ships to be fitted with a surface-search radar, which she put to good use in shadowing the German battleship Bismarck.

The Royal Navy realized that in future cruiser-destroyer battles, 6" gunned light cruisers would be more valuable than the slower-firing and fewer-gunned 8" type established by the Washington Naval Treaty. This realization came to the RN in the early 1930s, whereas the USN only realized it via the tutelage of combat off Guadalcanal and Japan never did. It still, however, took the USN and IJN's construction of the Brooklyn and Mogami classes to force the RN to take the final step, and design a 6" gun cruiser that was in every other way equal to a heavy cruiser. In this, they succeeded.

The Royal Navy Town-class cruiser HMS Sheffield (C24) underway near Scapa Flow, 28 October 1941 [Via]

From this was born today's ship, HMS Sheffield. She differed from others of her class in that, rather than the brass fittings common to the time, hers were stainless steel; an attempt to reduce the man-hours the crew spent on cleaning, and resulting in the nickname "Shiny Sheff". Otherwise she was a standard Town-class ship, four triple 6" guns, four twin 4" guns, light AA, 32 knots, decent armor, as modern as the Royal Navy got at the outbreak of World War 2. Commissioning in 1937, she spent most of the next two years working up, and at the outbreak of war in 1939 was patrolling the Denmark Straits with 18th Cruiser Squadron. [Via]

The Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Sheffield (C24). The cruiser arrived for a refit at the Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts (USA), in late 1944. The refit was completed in May 1946 [Via]

Sheffield took part in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck, narrowly escaping a friendly firetorpedo attack by the aircraft carrier Ark Royal's Fairey Swordfish; Eleven torpedoes were dropped (despite having been warned Sheffield was in the vicinity), and only defective Duplex exploders and fine ship handling saved her from disaster. (In the report of the attack, Admiral Sir John Tovey, commanding Home Fleet, was told only no hits were scored on Bismarck. The reaction of Sheffield's crew "has not made its way into the official records".)

Vice Admiral Sir James F Somerville addressing the ship's company of HMS Sheffield on their return from the operation against the Bismarck in the Atlantic. He is congratulating them for the fine part they played in shadowing the enemy. Two of the cruiser's triple six inch Mark XXIII gun mountings can be seen in the background as can the barrels of the 6 inch Mark XXIII guns [Via]



Sheffield's after battery and director tower, date and location unknown [Via]

The north of the North Atlantic: Heavy seas off Sheffield's stern somewhere north of Iceland, date unknown. Note the fact that her center guns are mounted 30 inches behind her outer ones, which was a distinctive feature of the Town-class. It was meant to provide better ergonomics inside the turrets [Via]

Sheffield's forward battery shortly after ceasing fire against Bismarck's support tanker Friedrich Breme. Note the paint blistering from the turrets and the barrels; the ship has been at sea for a long period and at the time the Royal Navy only painted in port [Via]

The signal bridge of Sheffield in December 1941 on Arctic duty. I hope you appreciate ice [Via]

Sheffield as Flagship of the Reserve Fleet, sometime in the '60s. Check out the postwar radars and masts, and the square director towers rather than round ones [Via]

HMS Sheffield underway [Via]

HMS Sheffield, AT Greenock, 10 January 1943. after the battle off the North Cape, 31 December 1942 [Via]

Inside one of the gunhouses for the triple mounted 6 inch gun aboard HMS SHEFFIELD. Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines sleep on the floor of the gunhouse. Others stand or sit whilst reading. 6 inch armour-piercing shells sit in the gun cradles ready for immediate action [Via]

Some of the gun’s crew of the HMS SHEFFIELD which took part in the battle off the North Cape, 31 December 1942 [Via]

Southampton Class Cruiser:

  • Laid down: 31 January 1935 
  • Launched: 23 July 1936 
  • Commissioned: 25 August 1937 
  • Status: scrapped Faslane 1967 
  • Displacement: 9100 tons (std) / 11,350 tons (fl) 
  • Length: 180.2 metres 
  • Beam: 18.79 metres 
  • Complement: 748 


  • 12 6 inch Mk XXIII (4x3) 
  • 8 4in Mk XVI (4x2) 
  • 8 2 pounder (2x4) 
  • 8 .5in machine guns (2x4) 
  • 6 21in torpedo tubes (2x4) 


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