Warship Wednesday Nov. 2: From Jutland to Boston and everywhere in between
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday Nov. 2: From Jutland to Boston and everywhere in between
Here we see the Calliope or Cambrian-class light cruiser HMS Constance (76) as she appeared in August 1920 sailing into Boston harbor as captured by the legendary Boston Herald photographer Leslie Jones. Note her then-distinctive tripod mast and clock.
Ordered under the 1913 Naval Programme, the 28 ships of the C-class of light cruisers were to be the backbone scouting ship of the Royal Navy. The first of HMs cruisers to be fitted with geared turbines, underwater torpedo tubes to reduce topside weight and a mixed armament of 6- and 4-inch guns, they could make 28.5-knots and cross the Atlantic or sail to the Suez on one bunker of coal while giving a good account of themselves against anything smaller than their own 4,950-ton weight.
Class leader Caroline was laid down on 28 January 1914 at Cammell Laird and Company, Birkenhead and quickly followed by her sisters.
The hero of our tale, HMS Constance, was the sixth such vessel in the RN to carry that name, going back to a 22-gun ship of the line captured from Napoleon in 1797 off Egypt and most recently carried by the Comus-class third-rate cruiser of the 1880s which was the first of Her Majesty’s ships to carry torpedo carriages that used compressed air to launch the torpedoes.
The new cruiser HMS Constance, the most powerful ship to carry that name, was laid down five months into the Great War on 25 January 1915 at Cammell Laird. Rushed to completion, she was commissioned just a year later, Capt. Cyril Samuel Townsend in command.
Just barely off her shakedown cruise, she joined three of her sisters in the Grand Fleet just in time for the big one.
Two heavy cruiser squadrons led the battle fleet during the great naval clash at Jutland: Rear-Admiral Arbuthnot’s 1st Cruiser Squadron (HMS Defense, Warrior, Duke of Edinburgh and Black Prince) and Rear-Admiral Heath’s 2nd Cruiser Squadron (HMS Minotaur, Cochrane, Shannon and Hampshire). And leading these squadrons was Cdre Charles Edward Le Mesurier’s 4th Light Cruiser Squadron (HMS Calliope, Constance, Comus, Royalist and Caroline).
During the battle, the 4th LCS screened HMS King George V, observed Queen Mary and Invincible blow up back to back, engaged the German battle cruiser and destroyer divisions, and fought into the night. For her actions, Constance was mentioned in dispatches and given the battle honor JUTLAND.
Constance finished the war in relative inaction, the Germans rarely taking to sea again, though she did witness the surrender of the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow. In May 1918, she was fitted with a new enclosed fire control director that required her pole mast to be replaced with a tripod mast for greater rigidity– a modification that for a time set her apart from the rest of her class.
In March 1919, she was assigned to the 8th Light Cruiser Squadron and dispatched to the North America and West Indies Station, arriving at Bermuda 22 March, carrying the flag of Vice Admiral Morgan Swinger.
She soon was needed in British Honduras to help put down a riot of Belizean ex-servicemen, formerly of the British West Indies Regiment, upset about conditions back home upon their discharge from hard service in Palestine and Europe. There, her sailors went ashore, Enfield-clad, and met the rioters.
Other than the occasional saber rattling, over the next seven years she led a quiet life, cruising around the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, U.S. East Coast, hailing in Canadian ports, and popping in on occasion along the South American coastline.
On 19 November 1919, she sailed into New York harbor accompanied by the old protected cruiser USS Columbia (C-12), destroyer Robinson (DD-88) and battleship USS Delaware, to meet the battlecruiser HMS Renown with Edward, the Prince of Wales on board. For the next two weeks Constance escorted Renown and her dignitaries, sailing with them as far as Halifax, then resumed her more pedestrian beat.
In late August 1920, Constance arrived at Boston where she moored at No2 Wharf, Navy P Yard Charlestown, along the battleships USS Florida and Delaware. There, the intrepid Leslie Jones called upon her and caught a series of great images, which are now in the collection of the Boston Public Library.
Sailing home in 1926, Constance underwent a 16-month refit at the Chatham Dockyard after which she was the flagship of the Portsmouth Reserve. Her last overseas deployment came in 1928 when she chopped to the 5th LCS for service on China Station until November 1930.
Constance returned home, age 15, only to be placed in ordinary until 28 July 1934 when her crew was landed. She was stricken the next year and sold on 8 June 1936.
At the time of her sale, about half of her class had already been scrapped with some 14 ships retained for further use in training roles. One, Cassandra, had struck a mine during the Great War and was lost.
Of her remaining sisters, some were pressed into service in WWII and six were lost: Cairo was sunk in 1942 by the Italian submarine Axum during Operation Pedestal; Calcutta was attacked and sunk by German aircraft during the evacuation of Crete; Calypso was sunk by the Italian submarine Bagnolini in 1940; Coventry was badly damaged by German aircraft while covering a raid on Tobruk in 1942 and subsequently scuttled by HMS Zulu to scuttle her; Curacoa was sunk after colliding with the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary in 1942; and Curlew was sunk by German aircraft off Narvik during the Norwegian campaign in 1940.
Just one C-class cruiser, HMS Caroline, the only ship left from Jutland, with whom Constance sailed close by during that fierce battle in 1916, remains as a museum ship.
As for Constance‘s memory, the old cruiser’s badge and bell are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. Since 1936 only one other Constance has appeared on the RN’s list, HMS Constance (R71), a C-class destroyer who fought in WWII and Korea and was scrapped in 1956.
Draft: 3,750 tons, 4950-full load
Length: 446 ft. (136 m)
Beam: 41.5 ft. (12.6 m)
Draught: 15 ft. (4.6 m)
Two Parsons turbines
Eight Yarrow boilers
Speed: 28.5 knots (53 km/h)
Range: carried 420 tons (841 tons maximum) of fuel oil, 4000 nmi at 18 knots.
4 × 6 inch guns
1 × 4 inch gun
2 × 3 inch guns
2 × 2 pounder guns
4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
3 inch side (amidships)
2¼-1½ inch side (bows)
2½ – 2 inch side (stern)
1 inch upper decks (amidships)
1 inch deck over rudder
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