Fiji-class Light Cruiser, HMS Fiji (58) - Shrinking a Town

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HMS Fiji

HMS Fiji at sea. August, 1940.

HMS Fiji was the lead ship of her class of light cruisers. She was laid down on the 30th of March, 1938, launched the 31st of May, 1939, and commissioned into the Royal Navy on the 5th of May, 1940.

Sometimes called the Colony or Crown Colony class, the Fijis were basically smaller versions of the preceding Town-class. Developed due to the 1936 London Naval Treaty, the idea was to squeeze the capabilites of a Town on 2,000t less displacement; the displacement limit for new cruisers being 8,000t compared to the previous 10,000t of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty. The lowered displacement but similar requirements left the Fijis very cramped, leaving little space for improvement going forward.
While appearing mostly similar to the Towns that came before them, the Fijis had a number of changes both internal and external. Compared to the former, the funnels and masts were straight, and the ships were fitted with a transom stern. The 6" turrets were revised, becoming slightly heavier and more cramped. Internally, the armor scheme had been revised, covering the ammunition spaces in exchange for the armor around the machinery spaces. Ammo handling for the 4" guns were revised, the complex mechanism of the Towns being removed.
At the time of her sinking, in 1941, Fiji would have been equipped with the Type 279 and Type 281 radars, along with a High Angle Control System (HACS) for AA gunnery. During her final refit, was also fitted with a Type 284 gunnery radar, an extra pair of quadruple Vickers .50 AA mounts.

Service History

HMS Fiji had a relatively short career compared to some other ships of her class. At the time of her commissioning, April, 1940, she was assigned to the Home Fleet.

In June, 1940, Fiji was patrolling Bermuda to intercept any Italian merchant ships leaving the Caribbean, Italy having recently declared war on Great Britain. She returned to Great Britain in late July, conducting gunnery and torpedo practice in Scapa Flow during August.

On the 31st of August, 1940, she began sailing for the African Atlantic Coast to take part in Operation Menace, the attack on the Vichy-French port of Dakar. While underway, on the 1st of September, she was hit by a torpedo from U-32 destroying her forward funnel and boiler room, and taking on a heavy list to port. She was detached from formation and limped back to port at 11kts, her crew having jettisoned all ammo from the forward turrets as well as the port torpedoes to gain balance. She would be under repairs until February of 1941, being back in action by March.

She was deployed in April to temporarily join “Force H” in Gibraltar, soon leaving with Force H after it was found that the battleships KMS Scharnhorst and KMS Gneisenau might sortie from Brest. Very quickly after leaving, however, she was recalled back to Gibraltar to serve as a convoy escort for a convoy to Malta. She was part of Operation Tiger, escorting a convoy to Alexandria, departing on the 15th of May to Crete to take part in upcoming operations. British intel expected an attack on Crete in the coming days, and had notified Admiral Cunningham to prepare for it.

On the 20th of May, 1941, the Battle of Crete begun. Paratroopers landed on Crete, and a fierce battle for Maleme Airfield began.
On the morning of the 20th, Force A1, consisting of HMS Warspite, HMS Valiant, HMS Ajax, and various destroyers, were about 100 miles to the west of the island. Force B, consisting of HMS Fiji and HMS Gloucester was at this time enroute from Alexandria to join up with Force A, having been detached earlier for fuel and ammunition replenishment. Force C, consisting of HMS Niad, HMAS Perth, and a few destroyers, was to the south of the Kaso Strait, and was proceeding towards Force A1. Force D, consisting of HMS Orion and HMS Dido, was also underway to join Force A1.
Force B joined with Force A on the 21st, and had weathered several air attacks. Late on the 21st, Forces B, C, and D were detached from A to find troop convoys in the Agean Sea, due to a recon report of small craft, escorted by destroyers, moving towards Crete.
Early in the morning of the 22nd, after having weathered an air attack independent of Forces A1 and D, and also having rejoined Force A; along with Force D. Both Force B and D were ordered to report on their supply of high-angle anti-aircraft ammunition. Of them, in Force D, Orion had 38%, Ajax had 42%, and Dido had 30%. In Force B, meanwhile, Fiji had only 30%, and Gloucester had 18%. Forces B and D were both ordered back to Alexandria to replenish ammunition, but critically, Fiji and Gloucester both stayed behind for some time.
Force C weathered a particularly fierce air attack at this time, running critically low on anti-air ammunition as well. HMS Carlisle had been hit, but not seriously damaged, and HMS Naiad had been damaged by near misses; over 181 over a period of 2 hours, and was slowed. Fiji and Gloucester, along with destroyer escort, were to assist Force C due to damage and continuous attack. At this time, the senior Rear Admiral King took command of Fiji and Gloucester, unaware of their low level of anti-aircraft ammunition. The destroyer HMS Greyhound had been detached from Force C to sink a small ship, and was sunk by two bomb hits returning to the Force. Fiji and Gloucester were to rescue survivors of Greyhound, along with two destroyers.
Rear Admiral Rawlings, at this time present in Force A1, was feeling uneasy about the orders given to Fiji and Gloucester, having received their report about low ammunition earlier that day. He relayed this to Admiral King, who recalled Fiji and Gloucester.
About thirty minutes later, Fiji and Gloucester were both closing at high speed with Force A, engaging enemy aircraft along the way. Gloucester was hit by four bombs and, having exhausted almost all anti-aircraft ammunition, Fiji was forced to drop life rafts for the crew of Gloucester and continue; Gloucester sinking soon after. The Commanding Officer of Fiji had said the sky over Gloucester was “Black with planes.”
Fiji was then hit by a bomb amidships, after being reduced to firing practice rounds as AA. She took a heavy list to port, and her forward boiler and engine rooms were flooded, but she could still make 18kts. Half an hour later, three more bombs hit Fiji, increasing the list. She would soon roll over and sink, having expended all of her 4" anti aircraft ammunition. The accompanying destroyers would return after dark, to avoid air attack, and pick up what remained of Fiji’s crew, rescuing 523 men; 241 went down with the ship.

The loss of Fiji and Gloucester prompted the Royal Navy to begin instructing its cruisers to communicate when anti-aircraft ammunition was falling below 40%, to avoid further such losses in the future.
Within the Battle of Crete, these two losses, along with the loss of Greyhound earlier the same day, prompted an order to return to Alexandria. Two more destroyers, HMS Kelly and HMS Kashmir would be lost the next day, before the fleet returned to Alexandria on the 24th of May.


General Information
Displacement 10,830 tons (full load)
Length 555ft 6in (169.32m)
Beam 62ft (19m)
Draft 16ft 6in (5.03m)
Speed 32 knots (59.26 km/h)
Complement 920 officers and enlisted
Type 279 Air/Surface Search/Warning
Type 281 Air Warning/Ranging
Type 284 Fire Control
HACS AA Fire Control
Weapon Turret/Mount
12 × 6"(152mm)/50 BL Mk XXIII 4 x Mk XXIII Triple
8 × 4"(102mm)/45 Mk XVI 4 x Mk XIX Twin
8 x QF 2pdr (40/39mm) Pom-Pom Mk VIII 2 x Mk VII Quad
8 x 12.7mm Vickers Mk III 2 x Quad
6 x 21" (533mm) Mk IX Torpedo 2 x Triple
Belt 3.25-3.5" (83-89mm)
Deck 2-3.5" (51-89mm)
Turrets 1-2" (25-51mm)
Magazines 2-3.5" (51-89mm)
Bulkheads 1.5-2" (38-51mm)

As an important and long serving class of light cruiser for the Royal Navy, I think the Fijis deserve a place in the game. I would like there to be a few of them added, as two Fijis, were used by New Zealand and Canada respectively, HMNZS Gambia and HMCS Uganda, and I think both of those would be a good way to represent their respective countries. But for this one, HMS Fiji, I was going for an early-war version with fewer anti-air guns. Later Fijis would get increased anti-air capability, and for the Ceylon subclass especially, a removed turret for yet more anti-air guns. I think those ships have a place in the game as well, but it would all start with the progenitor, HMS Fiji.

In game it would function very similar to the Town-class cruisers in game, perhaps with less durability due to lower crew; but the revised armor scheme might help alleviate this to some degree. She would be most similar to HMS Southampton, and would likely play extremely similarly, with practically the same amount of AA, and slightly more accurate fire control.


Wikipedia - HMS Fiji (58)
Wikipedia - Fiji-class cruiser
naval-encyclopedia - Fiji-class cruiser
navweaps - 6"/50 (15.2cm) BL Mk XXIII
navweaps - 4"/45 (10.2cm) QF HA
uboat- HMS Fiji (58) - HMS Fiji and her sinking off Crete

Its surprising we dont have FIji yet

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