Thanks for your contributions lads - very glad you're sticking around.
Ok there's a bit of a backstory to go with this puppy so please read carefully. As usual, constructive critique/comment is encouraged and i'll take on board any suggestions as I continue to develop things.
DCFI - Chatham Class Light Cruiser (1913-1948)
The Chatham class cruisers of the DCFI (known as the City class locally) were a product of First Sea Lord Sir Jackie Fishers’ Dominion Fleet Scheme which aimed to produce independent naval squadrons for service in the Dominions forming the farthest reaches of the Empire. Only Australia and the DCFI bought into the idea wholesale, each ordering such an array and quantity of vessels as to enable the creation of balanced, independent navies of their own (Canada, India, Malaya and New Zealand funded major capital ships of the Royal Navy but still, largely, relied on the Royal Navy for defence of their sea approaches and protection of their trades).
DCFI’s agreement with the Royal Navy and British shipbuilders was by far the greater of the two fleet unit packages; where Australia ordered and received a Battlecruiser, three Light Cruisers and a small flotilla of Destroyers, the DCFI ordered three Battlecruisers, ten Light Cruisers (six to be indigenously built) and a flotilla of 10 destroyers (to be added to by local builds). The cruisers supplied were a development of the Town class light cruiser series of the Royal Navy - long, sleek and fast (27 knots +) ships equipped with a powerful main armament of 8x 6” Mark XI guns in single mountings and two (submerged) torpedo tubes. Armour along its flanks was a maximum of 3” thick and tapered to half that at bow and stern.
The first tranche of four ships, were laid down in UK yards during 1911 and delivered along with their Battlecruiser compatriots during 1913. These vessels, HMFS Waverley, Skye, Stanley, Grytviken, were joined within a year by the first of 6 additional members of the class (Hawick, Sterling, Aberdeen, Stranraer, Argyll and Gleneagles) which were completed in the DCFI during WWI (two to replace classmates lost in the conflict). They served widely during the War, escorting convoys and participating in fleet and squadron actions against the Germans in the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean and North Seas. HMFS Grytviken and Waverley participated in the pursuit and destruction of the Asiatic Squadron of Admiral Graf Von Spee off the DCFI in 1914, Grytviken later going on to sink the Light Cruiser Dresden off the Pacific coast of Chile after a massive search of the Magellan archipelago. They participated in the North Sea Blockade, supported the Gallipoli landings, fought at the battles of Dogger Bank, Heligoland Bight and Jutland. HMFS Stranraer participated in the Zebrugge raid during which she was so badly damaged that she barely made it back to Rosyth and was set to be scrapped. However, the loss during the previous 18 months of Stanley, Hawick and several destroyers to U-Boats and Mine strikes in the North Sea and Baltic approaches meant that the RFN needed every ship it could, so she was instead taken in hand at Chatham Naval Dockyard for significant (and costly) repairs, finally returning to the fleet in 1919.
Postwar, the eight surviving members of the class spent varying periods cycled in and out of reserve as newer ships of the Elusive and Ethereal Classes (Based on the Hawkins class design of 1915) took over the first line roles in peacetime. By the mid-late 1920’s however, the South Atlantic and South America was an increasingly troubled region with Argentina, Brazil and other regional powers increasingly throwing their weight around. In response to this, the Admirals of the DCFI saw a need to increase the size and firepower of the RFN to safeguard the sea lanes and territorial waters of the DCFI. Whilst new ships were laid down, reconstruction and upgrading of older ships in the fleet was also undertaken (under an optimistic interpretation of the WNT rules) to save time and resources. A comprehensive reconstruction (based on the Elusive class) was devised for the Chatham class, but it was discovered that the existing hull was far too restrictive for the modifications and upgrades desired. Taken in hand for a revised refit by Hawick Naval Dockyard during 1927, HMFS Skye emerged the following year a completely revitalised and significantly more effective Man-O-War, despite the downward revision in the project’s scope. Her old guns and superstructure removed to the level of the main deck and foc’sle, her engines and machinery spaces gutted, the near bare hull was reconstructed with new generation yarrow boilers and parson turbines with two funnels in place of the original four. New deckhouses and upper works increased her accommodations and allowed for the mounting of two twin 21” torpedo launchers amidships on either flank. Gunnery was totally revitalised by the addition of new rangefinders fore and aft and new director control equipment atop the foremast. 4 of the 8 x 6” guns of the refurbished main armament were arranged on the centreline in a super-firing configuration fore and aft, secondary armament consisted of the torpedo launchers amidships and 2 positions for quad Pom-Pom mountings at the step of the quarterdeck. The ships boat deck was located aft of the funnels atop the superstructure where the ships boat crane and cradle for a Walrus seaplane were also located. This comprehensive reconstruction resulted in a far more capable ship that was barely recognisable as compared to it’s now obsolete classmates. The only weaknesses in this transformation was the resultant ship was still only very lightly armoured, and carried a minimum of AA defenses, an Achillies heel that would cost the class dearly in later years. Stability issues from the reconstruction were resolved in subsequent ships with ballasting changes and the addition of larger bilge keels.
Five of the class (Skye, Aberdeen, Grytviken, Argyll, Gleneagles) were eventually reconstructed, the last entering the yards for transformation just weeks before Argentina invaded in June, 1929. All members of the class (original and rebuilt) saw service in the ensuing conflict, Waverley, Sterling, Stranraer, Skye and Argyll being involved in the Battle of San Matias (15 February, 1930) where Waverley blew up and sank thanks to a direct hit on her magazines by plunging fire from the pre-dreadnought Moreno. Stranraer and Sterling were both crippled in the same action, resulting in their disposal and scrapping immediately after the war. Argyll, Grytviken and Gleneagles took part in the second battle of the Falkland Islands a month later when their squadron engaged and nearly wiped out an Argentinian flotilla of similar size, the advanced fire control slaved to the main armament allowed accurate, ranged fire from the first salvo, proving too much for the aggressive but ill-trained Argentinians (Torpedo Bombers from HMFS Vigorous also participated in this action). After the ceasefire treaty was signed in 1931, Stanley and Hawick (both largely in 'as built' condition) were decommissioned and scrapped relatively quickly, whilst their rebuilt sisters soldiered on in service, finding a niche role as flagships of the various Escort Flotillas that guarded the long convoy routes north to the central Atlantic and the UK, a role that would become vitally important in the coming renewal of world war.
On the declaration of war with Germany in 1939, the RFN immediately swung into action as the protector of the empire’s merchant shipping in the region, escorting convoys too and from Australia, South Africa and England. The remaining Chatham’s served vital role’s in this regard, providing support to convoys as flagships of the various escort groups. Used solely for this task throughout the conflict, two of the class were lost in action; Grytviken was sunk by the German Pocket Battleship, Deutschland off the Brazilian coast during July 1940, sparking a frenetic hunt across the South Atlantic and the Caribbean that resulted in the cornering and destruction of the Commerce Raider off the Azores three months later. Gleneagles was lost the following year in a U-boat attack off St Helena. HMFS Skye scored a major success, sinking the German Merchant raider Widder in March 1940 off the northern tip of New Zealand whilst escorting a Australia-bound convoy to Sydney via Auckland. Despite some close shaves (mainly due to air and submarine attack) the remainder of the class survived the war to be decommissioned and scrapped during 1946/7, but HMFS Skye was retained and recommissioned as an alongside sea training ship, before being permanently moored in her namesake port as a floating museum in 1979.
Last Edited: 02/07/2017
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