Dido-class light cruiser, Bellona subgroup, HMS Spartan (95)

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Dido-class light cruiser, Bellona subgroup, HMS Spartan (95)


Design and service History:

HMS Spartan was a Dido-class light cruiser, that made up the 4th order of the class that would sometimes be refered to as Dido group 2 or the Bellona subgroup. She was a modified Dido design with only four main turrets, in exchange for improved anti-aircraft armament . She was built at Vickers-Armstrong, in Barrow-in-Furnace, with her keel laid down on the 21st of december 1939, with her completion occuring on august 27th 1942, and ultimate comissioning and completion not occuring until mid 1943. Like the rest of the Bellona sub-class, were mainly intended to serve as picket ships for amphibious warfare operations, in support of aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy and United States Navy in the Pacific. The ship was equipt with a main armament of eight 5.25-inch RP10 Mk II guns laid out in four twin turrets, and as previously mentioned had an improved AA compliment. This took the form of twelve 2-pounder guns and twelve Oerlikon 20 mm cannon. The bridge was also lowered by one deck, reducing toipweight, and allowing a full radar control system to be fitted for the 5.25-inch turrets and 2-pounder pom-pom guns. The ship also possessed a HACS high angle fire control system. The only other major difference was the ship’s two funnels were more upright than the raked ones found in the preceeding Dido class batches.

HMS Spartan was commissioned with a crew from Devonport, and was initially intended for service in teh eastern fleet, but after a couple of months in the home fleet for working-up at scarpa flow she was sent to the Mediterranean on the 17th of october 1943. She would arrive at malta on the 28th of august 1943, to be “temporarily” attached to the Mediterranean fleet, and she would go on to Taranto to join the 15th cruiser squadron on november 8th of the same year. Ten days later she would carry out a diversionary bombardment in the Terracina area, along with the cruiser Orion and four destroyers(Jervis, Janus, Laforey and Faulknor). This was to provide fire support during the Garigliano River Operations and there was only minor opposition from shore batteries, and during the engagement Spartan expended over 900 rounds firing on shore positions. Her assignment to the mediterranean ment that Spartan was present for Operation Shingle, the landing of troops at Anzio, which began on january 22nd 1944, to which Orion and Spartan were present to provide gun support, though there was little opposition and Spartan returned to Naples to remain available at short notice.

This would occure shortly there after, when on january 27th she was ordered to report to CTF 81, for anti-aircraft protection duties off Anzio. Two days later on the 29th of January, the Luftwaffe began a glide bomb attack on the ships in Anzio Bay at sunset, which caught HMS Spartan at anchor, and though she attempted to raise smoke, it was ineffective due to the short notice and strong breeze, resulting in Spartan being unable to cover herself in smoke. 18 aircraft approacted from the north and circling over land delivered a beam attack against the ships at anchor which were sihoutted against the afterglow. The nature of land echoes had rendered radar mostly ineffective, and by the time a warning had been received and the ships had began to opewn fire six glide bombs were already approaching the anchorage. Most fell short or high, but at 18:00 one of the Henschel Hs293 glide bombs struck Spartan just aft of her rear funnel and detonated high up in the compartments abreast of the port side, blasting a huge hole in the upper deck just above the after boiler room. This served to instantly flood the boiler rooms, and caused the main mast to collapse, resulting in steam and electrical power failing, and a serious fire developing in a matter of minutes as the ship heeled over to port. It soon became clear that even in a port the ship had entered an irrecoverable flounder and the order to abandon ship was given about a hour after being hit. Within ten minutes the ship had settled on her beam in about 30 feet of water, taking with her five officers and 41 ratings, with an additional 42 ratings wounded.

Ship Specification:

Displacement: 5,950 long tons (6,050 t) (standard)
7,200 long tons (7,300 t) (full load)

Length: 485 ft (148 m) p.p.
512 ft (156 m) o/a

Beam: 50 ft 6 in (15.39 m)

Draught: 14 ft (4.3 m)

Installed power: 62,000 shp (46,000 kW)

Propulsion: 4 × Parsons geared turbines
4 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
4 × shafts

Speed: 32.25 knots (59.73 km/h; 37.11 mph)

Range: 1,500 mi (2,400 km) at 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
4,240 mi (6,820 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)

Complement: 530

Armament: 8 × QF 5.25-inch (133 mm) dual purpose guns (4x2)
12 × 2-pounder anti-aircraft guns (3x4)
12 × 20 mm anti-aircraft cannons (6x2)
6 × 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes (2x3)

Armour: Belt: 3 in (7.6 cm)
Deck: 1 in (2.5 cm)
Magazines: 2 in (5.1 cm)
Bulkheads: 1 in (2.5 cm)

Additional Historical Photos:

Photo of HMS Spartan under tow in 1943, offering a good view of the ship from above:

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Spartan bombarding enemy shore positions as the landing craft of the U.S. 5th Army close in on the beaches in the opening stages in the battle for Rome. Smoke can be seen rising from the beachhead:

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