HMS Norfolk (78)

For other ships with the same name, see HMS Norfolk.
Norfolk in wartime camouflage. As she still has an X turret, this photo is pre-1944.
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Norfolk
Builder: Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd, Govan
Laid down: 8 July 1927
Launched: 12 December 1928
Commissioned: 30 April 1930
Identification: Pennant number: 78
Honours and
  • ATLANTIC 1941
  • BISMARCK Action 1941
  • ARCTIC 1943
  • NORTH CAPE 1943
  • NORWAY 1943
Fate: Sold for scrapping on 3 January 1950
General characteristics
Class and type: County-class heavy cruiser
  • 10,035 long tons (10,196 t) (standard)
  • 13,420 long tons (13,640 t) (full load)
Length: 632 ft 9 in (192.86 m)
Beam: 66 ft (20 m)
Draught: 18 ft (5.5 m)
Installed power: 80,000 shp (60,000 kW)
  • 4 × Parsons Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines
  • 8 × boilers
  • 4 × shafts
Speed: 31.5 kn (36.2 mph; 58.3 km/h)
Range: 12,000 nmi (14,000 mi; 22,000 km) at 12 kn (14 mph; 22 km/h)
Complement: 710 private ship, 819 war
  • 8 × BL 8 inch (203 mm L/50) Mk.VIII in twin mounts Mk.II
  • 8 × QF 4 inch (102 mm L/45) Mk.XVI in twin mounts HA/LA Mk.XIX (from 1937-)
  • 16 × QF 2 pdr (40 mm L/39) Mk.VIII in oct mounts HA Mk.VIII
Aircraft carried: 2 × Supermarine Walrus flying boats (operated by 700 Naval Air Squadron)

HMS Norfolk was a County-class heavy cruiser of the Royal Navy; along with her sister ship Dorsetshire, she was part of a planned four-ship subclass. She served throughout the Second World War.


She was laid down in July 1927 at Govan by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd and launched on 12 December 1928. She was commissioned on 30 April 1930.

Service history

Inter-war period

In September 1931, Norfolk was part of a mutiny that later became known as the Invergordon Mutiny. She later served with the Home Fleet until 1932 and then went to the America and West Indies Station between 1932 and 1934. From 1935-1939, she served on the East Indies Station before coming home to refit in 1939, being still in dockyard hands when war was declared.

Norfolk with destroyers and merchant ships in a Russian inlet whilst on northern convoy duty. Photograph taken from HMS Scylla

Second World War

At the outbreak of war in 1939, Norfolk deployed with the 18th Cruiser Squadron of the Home Fleet, and was involved in the chase for the German small battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, along with the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. She was soon receiving numerous repairs for damage that she had received, not to mention vital modifications to the ship. Her first repairs were carried out in Belfast, after damage from a near-miss by a torpedo from U-47, the submarine responsible for sinking the battleship Royal Oak at Scapa Flow.

Shortly afterward, bomb damage that she had received from a heavy air raid by Kampfgeschwader 26 at Scapa Flow on 16 March 1940 forced her into yet another repair, this time on the Clyde.[1] After these repairs had been completed, Norfolk proceeded to the Tyne Shipyard for a new addition to her equipment — a radar set.

In December 1940, Norfolk was ordered to the South Atlantic on trade protection duties, operating from Freetown as part of Force K and also tasked with the hunt for Admiral Scheer and, in January 1941, the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran. In February, she escorted Atlantic troop convoys, but by May she had returned to Icelandic waters. Norfolk was the second ship to sight the German battleship Bismarck. She and her near sister—from the earlier County-class—Suffolk continued to trail the German battleship; the cruisers later joined the battleships Rodney and King George V as part of the force that finally sank Bismarck. From September onward, she was employed as an escort for the arduous Arctic Convoys. During this period, her sister Dorsetshire had been bombed and sunk by Japanese torpedo and dive bombers in the Pacific Theatre as part of the British Eastern Fleet's attempts to dodge Japanese advances on Ceylon. Norfolk was part of the cruiser covering force of Convoy JW 55B when it engaged Scharnhorst, on 26 December 1943. She scored three hits on the German ship, and received several 11-in shell hits (all passing through the thin-skinned ship without exploding) in return, before she withdrew; Scharnhorst was later caught and sunk by the battleship Duke of York and her escorting cruisers and destroyers.

The royal family of Norway waving to the welcoming crowds from HMS Norfolk at Oslo

She sustained damage (especially to X-turret and barbette) in that confrontation, and she was subsequently repaired/refitted (losing X-turret in favour of additional AA guns) on the Tyne, which prevented her from being involved in the historic D-day landings. Norfolk was the flagship of Vice Admiral Rhoderick McGrigor off North Norway during Operation Judgement, Kilbotn, an attack by the Fleet Air Arm on a U-boat base which destroyed two ships and the U-711 on May 4, 1945, in the last air-raid of the war in Europe. When the war came to a close, Norfolk left Plymouth for a much needed refit at Malta, after transporting the Norwegian Royal family back to Oslo after their five-year exile in London. This was followed by service in the East Indies as the flagship of the Commander-In-Chief East Indies Station.


In 1949, Norfolk returned to Britain and was placed in Reserve. She was sold to BISCO for scrapping on 3 January 1950. On 14 February 1950, she proceeded to Newport, arriving on 19 February, to be broken up after a long and proud service of 22 years, in which she gained the Norfolk lineage the majority of her battle honours, including her last.

Battle honours



    1. Search for HMS Norfolk at WW2 Cruisers


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