HMAS
Shropshire

HMAS Shropshire (I)
Class
County Class
Type
Heavy Cruiser
Pennant
73
Builder
William Beardmore & Co Ltd, Dalmuir, Scotland
Laid Down
24 February 1926
Launched
5 July 1928
Launched by
Countess of Powis, Baroness D'Arcy de Knayth
Commissioned
20 April 1943
Decommissioned
10 November 1949
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 9,850 tons
Length 633 feet
Beam 66 feet
Draught 17 feet
Performance
Speed 32.5 knots
Complement
Crew
  • 650 (peace)
  • 820 (war)
Propulsion
Machinery Parsons geared turbines, 4 screws
Horsepower 80,000
Armament
Guns
  • 8 x 8-inch guns
  • 4 x 4-inch guns (later 8)
  • 4 x 2-pounder guns (later 16)
  • 4 x 3-pounder guns
  • 2 x 1.5-inch machine guns
Torpedoes 8 x 21 inch torpedo tubes (2 quadruple mounts)
Awards
Battle Honours
HMAS Shropshire (I) Badge

HMS Shropshire, the first ship of the name in the Royal Navy, commissioned on 24 September 1929 under the command of Captain R.W. Oldham OBE RN. She began her service career when she left England on 9 November 1929 to join the 1st Cruiser Squadron as a unit of the Mediterranean Fleet where she spent most of the following two years.

In April 1932 Shropshire returned to England, paid off at Chatham on 4 April and after recommissioning the following day, returned to the Mediterranean for her second tour of duty with the Mediterranean Fleet, arriving at Gibraltar on 29 April 1932. Two and a half years of uneventful routine Mediterranean service ended at Chatham on 28 November 1934 when she again paid off. By Christmas 1934 Shropshire was again back in the Mediterranean to begin her third period with the 1st Cruiser Squadron.

Shropshire remained in the Mediterranean throughout the Abyssinian War (1935-36) and Spanish Civil War, playing a leading part in the evacuation of refugees from Barcelona (22 August to 16 September 1936). The cruiser remained with the 1st Cruiser Squadron until 1937 when she returned to England for a refit lasting four months.

HMS Shropshire prior to her transfer to the RAN
HMS Shropshire prior to her transfer to the RAN

On 10 November 1937 Shropshire again commissioned for Mediterranean service. On 19 September 1938 she became the flagship of Rear Admiral J.D.H. Cunningham CB MVO RN, and wore his flag until 25 May 1939.

On the outbreak of war in September 1939 Shropshire was ordered to take up patrol in the South Atlantic and for the next four months she was almost continuously at sea on trade protection duties. During the period of October to December 1939 she steamed some 34,000 miles and was under way more than 1,800 hours. Atlantic patrols ended early in 1940, and Shropshire returned to England for refit before proceeding for service in the Indian Ocean, where she was employed on patrol and escort duties between Capetown, Durban, Mombasa and Aden.

In 1941 the cruiser operated against Italian Somaliland, bombarding Mogadishu and Kismaya during the advance of the South African Army from Kenya to Abyssinia. With HM Ships Hawkins, Hermes and Kandahar, Shropshire played a leading part in the campaign which ended with the collapse of the whole of the Italian Empire.

In June 1941 Shropshire withdrew from the Indian Ocean and returned to England for refit which was not completed until March 1942. She then returned to the Atlantic for a second period of patrol and escort duty.

Following the loss of the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (I) on 9 August 1942 in the Battle of Savo Island, the British Government approved the transfer of Shropshire to the Royal Australian Navy as a replacement. The transfer was announced in the House of Commons on 8 September 1942 by the Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill. Mr Churchill said:

'His Majesty's Government consider that the Commonwealth should not bear this grievous loss following the sinking of other gallant Australian ships. We have therefore decided to offer, freely and unconditionally, to transfer His Majesty's 8-inch gun cruiser Shropshire to the Commonwealth Government, this offer has been most warmly received.'

The decision to transfer Shropshire to the Royal Australian Navy brought her recall from service on the South Atlantic Station. Captain J.T. Borrett OBE RN relinquished his command at Chatham on 23 December 1942, and five days later CMDR David H. Harries RAN assumed command to supervise refit and transfer to the Royal Australian Navy. At this stage in her history Shropshire had steamed some 363,000 miles of which 220,000 had been on war service. During the refit the ship's aircraft and catapult were landed. She did not carry an aircraft during her Australian service.

HM King George VI greets Commander Harries and Captain Collins on the occasion of his visit to the newly commissioned HMAS Shropshire
HM King George VI greets Commander Harries and Captain Collins on the occasion of his visit to the newly commissioned HMAS Shropshire

CAPT John A. Collins CB RAN assumed command on 7 April 1943 and she commissioned as HMAS Shropshire at Chatham on 20 April 1943. However, the pre transfer refit occupied many months and it was not until 25 June 1943 that Shropshire was formally handed over to the Royal Australian Navy by Admiral Sir George d'Oyly Lyon KCB, Commander-in-Chief, The Nore.

In August 1943 Shropshire began her voyage to Australia escorting a Gibraltar bound convoy. She arrived at Capetown on 4 September, Fremantle three weeks later and finally Sydney on 2 October 1943. On 30 October at Brisbane the cruiser joined the Australian Squadron (Task Force 74) under the command of Rear Admiral Victor A.C. Crutchley VC RN, flying his flag in HMAS Australia (II).

In December 1943 Shropshire took part in the New Britain operations covering the landings at Arawe and Cape Gloucester. In March 1944, with other ships of Task Force 74, she took part in the operations leading to the seizure of the Admiralty Islands and the following month was again in action at the Hollandia / Humboldt Bay operations.

HMAS Shropshire carrying out a shore bombardment c.1944
HMAS Shropshire carrying out a shore bombardment c.1944

Continuing support of the American northward sweep, she was at the Wakde / Sarmi / Biak operations in May 1944 before returning for a brief period to Sydney. On 12 July Shropshire proceeded to the Aitape (New Guinea) area operating in support of the 6th Army ashore and followed this duty with bombardment support for the landings at Cape Sansapor on 28 July.

In September 1944 the cruiser gave support to the landings on Morotai Island, prior to proceeding north as part of the invasion fleet for the Philippine operation at Leyte. She took part in the Battle of Surigao Strait on 25 October as part of Rear Admiral Oldendorf's force (Task Force 77) ending in the rout of the Japanese. In January 1945, after Leyte Gulf patrols, Shropshire took part in the assault on Lingayen, in the Philippines, before returning to Sydney in March for refit.

Shropshire ratings at work and at play.
Shropshire ratings at work and at play.

In June 1945 Shropshire was back in the operational area and after supporting the landings at Brunei, she was part of the force at the Balikpapan landings on 3 July. Shropshire then returned to the Philippines and was there when the Japanese surrendered. She sailed for Tokyo Bay and was present for the surrender ceremony. She remained in Japanese waters until 17 November when the Broad Pendant of the Commodore Commanding Australian Squadron was transferred to HMAS Hobart (I) and Shropshire departed for Sydney.

HMAS Shropshire's ships company c.1945
HMAS Shropshire's ships company c.1945

In May 1946 Shropshire left Australia for the United Kingdom, carrying the Australian Contingent for the Empire Victory celebrations, returning to Australia in August.

In January 1947 she became Squadron representative in Japanese waters, returning to Sydney in March 1947 in preparation for paying off, her days as an active warship ended. Since first commissioning in the Royal Australian Navy she had steamed 506,445.9 miles. The ship paid off into Special Reserve on 10 November 1949 after a number of periods in different Reserve categories.

HMAS Shropshire in Portsmouth, May 1946.
HMAS Shropshire in Portsmouth, May 1946.

After several years lying in Sydney Harbour, Shropshire was sold as scrap on 16 July 1954 to Thomas W. Ward Ltd, Sheffield, on behalf of the British Iron and Steel (Salvage) Corporation. On 9 October 1954 she left Sydney in tow of the Dutch tug Oostzee bound for the shipbreakers in Scotland. Shropshire was broken up at Troon and Dalmuir.

Further Reading

  1. Fire Across the Pacific by David Mattiske © 2000
  2. H.M.A.S. Shropshire by Stan Nicholls. The Naval Historical Society of Australia, 1989. Available online: HMAS Shropshire