List of cruiser classes of the Royal Navy

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This is a list of cruisers of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom from 1877 (when the category was created by amalgamating the two previous categories of frigate and corvette) until the last cruiser was decommissioned more than a century later. There are no longer any cruisers in the Royal Navy.

First class cruisers[edit]

Armoured cruisers were protected by a belt of side armour and an armoured deck. In the Royal Navy this classification was not actually used, the term first class cruiser being used instead for both armoured cruisers and large protected cruisers. Thus, the first class cruisers built between the Orlando class (1886) and the Cressy class (1897) were, strictly speaking, protected cruisers as they lacked an armoured belt. The first class cruiser was succeeded by the battlecruiser in the Royal Navy.

Protected cruisers[edit]

Protected cruisers were so-called because their vital machinery spaces were protected by an armoured deck and the arrangement of coal bunkers. The ships below are all protected cruisers, but were rated as second and third class cruisers by the Royal Navy. The third class cruiser was not expected to operate with the fleet, was substantially smaller than the second class and lacked the watertight double-bottom of the latter. With the advent of turbine machinery, oil firing and better armour plate the protected cruiser became obsolete and was succeeded by the light cruiser.

Scout cruisers[edit]

The scout cruiser was a smaller, faster, more lightly armed and armoured cruiser than the protected cruiser, intended for fleet scouting duties and acting as a flotilla leader. Essentially there were two distinct groups – the eight vessels all ordered under the 1903 Programme, and the seven later vessels ordered under the 1907-1910 Programmes. The advent of better machinery and larger, faster destroyers and light cruisers effectively made them obsolete.

Light cruisers[edit]

The light armoured cruiser – light cruiser – succeeded the protected cruiser; improvements in machinery and armour rendering the latter obsolete. The Town class of 1910 were rated as second-class protected cruisers, but were effectively light armoured cruisers with mixed coal and oil firing. The Arethusa class of 1913 were the first oil-only fired class. This meant that the arrangement of coal bunkers in the hull could no longer be relied upon as protection and the adoption of destroyer-type machinery resulted in a higher speed. This makes the Arethusas the first "true example" of the warship that came to be recognised as the light cruiser. In the London Naval Treaty of 1930, light cruisers were officially defined as cruisers having guns of 6.1 inches (155 mm) calibre or less, with a displacement not exceeding 10,000 tons.

Heavy cruisers[edit]

The heavy cruiser was defined in the London Naval Treaty of 1930 as a cruiser with a main gun calibre more than 6 inches but not exceeding 8 inches. The earlier Hawkins class were therefore retrospectively classified as such, although they had been initially built as "improved light cruisers". The County were built as light cruisers with most of them in service at the time of the Treaty of London, after which they were also redesignated as heavy cruisers. A further three Countys were cancelled. The York class was a reduced version of the County to build more ships within tonnage limits.

  • Hawkins class (also known as Cavendish) or 9,860 tons, 7x 7.5-inch
    • Cavendish (1918) – completed as aircraft carrier Vindictive, converted to cruiser in 1925, to training ship 1937; scrapped 1946
    • Hawkins (1919) – scrapped 1947
    • Raleigh (1920) – wrecked 1922
    • Frobisher (1924) – scrapped 1949
    • Effingham (1925) – wrecked 1940
  • County class, 8x 8-inch
    • Kent group 10,570 tons
      • Cumberland (1928) – scrapped 1959
      • Berwick (1928) – scrapped 1948
      • Cornwall (1928) – bombed 1942
      • Suffolk (1928) – scrapped 1948
      • Kent (1928) – scrapped 1948
      • Australia (1928) – Royal Australian Navy, scrapped 1955
      • Canberra (1928) – Royal Australian Navy, torpedoed 1942
    • London group 9,830 tons
      • London (1929) – scrapped 1950
      • Devonshire (1929) – scrapped 1954
      • Shropshire (1929) – to Royal Australian Navy 1943, scrapped 1955
      • Sussex (1929) – scrapped 1950
    • Norfolk group 10,300 tons
      • Norfolk (1930) – scrapped 1950
      • Dorsetshire (1930) – sunk by dive bombers in Far East 1942
  • York class modified County design 8,250 tons, 6x 8-inch
    • York (1930) – damaged by explosive motor boats, salvage abandoned and wrecked 1941, scrapped 1952
    • Exeter (1931) – sunk 1942, Far East

Large light cruisers[edit]

The "large light cruisers" were a pet project of Admiral Fisher to operate in shallow Baltic Sea waters and they are often classed as a form of battlecruiser.

Minelaying cruisers[edit]

These "minelaying cruisers" were the only purpose-built oceangoing minelayers of the Royal Navy. The Abdiel class could reach 38 knots and in practice were used as fast transports to supply isolated garrisons, such as those at Malta and Tobruk.

Helicopter cruisers[edit]

Two ships of the Tiger-class were rebuilt to each operate four helicopters. Tiger (C20) and Blake (C99) served for part of the 1970s before they were withdrawn from service.

Through-deck cruisers[edit]

Although at times called "through-deck cruisers", the Invincible class of the 1980s were small aircraft carriers.

See also[edit]