Military Wiki
Town-class cruiser (1910)
HMS Gloucester (1909).jpg
Class overview
Name: Town
Operators: United Kingdom Royal Navy
Australia Royal Australian Navy
Preceded by: None
Succeeded by: Arethusa class
Subclasses: Bristol
Completed: 21
Lost: 2
General characteristics
Type: light cruiser
Displacement: 4,800–5,440 tons
Length: 430 ft (131.1 m)
Beam: 50 ft (15.2 m)
Draught: 16 ft (4.9 m)
Propulsion: 4 shaft Parsons turbines
22,000-31,000 shp (16–23 MW)
Speed: 25–30 knots (46–56 km/h; 29–35 mph)
Complement: 400-425

Bristol subclass :
Two BL 6-inch (152 mm) Mk XI guns (50 calibre)
ten BL 4-inch (101.6 mm) Mk VII guns
four QF 3 pounder guns
Two 18 inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes

Birmingham, Weymouth, Chatham subclasses :
Eight to nine BL 6- inch (Mk XI (50 calibre) guns or Mk XII (45 calibre) guns
four QF 3 pounder guns
Two 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

Birkenhead subclass :
Ten BL 5.5 inch (140 mm) Mk I (50 calibre) guns
One 3 inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft gun

Two 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Armour: machinery spaces: 3 inch sides
magazines: 2¼ inch sides
deck: 1 inch

The Town class was a group of twenty-one light cruisers built for the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN). These vessels were long-range cruisers, suitable for patrolling the vast expanse covered by the British Empire. These ships, initially rated as Second Class Cruisers, were built to a series of designs, known as the Bristol (five ships), Weymouth (four ships), Chatham (three RN ships, plus three RAN ships), Birmingham (three ships, plus one similar RAN ship) and Birkenhead (two ships) classes - all having the names of British towns except for the RAN ships, which were named after Australian cities.


Bristol class[]

Left elevation and deck plan of Bristol sub-class as depicted in Jane's Fighting Ships 1914

The Bristol class were all ordered under the 1909 Programme and commissioned in late 1910. They were 453 feet (138 m) long and had a full load displacement of 5,300 tons. They had a rather low freeboard which was rectified in the subsequent Weymouth-class. Their main armament was relatively light, with just two 6 inch (152 mm) single guns located fore and aft. Their secondary armament was more potent, with ten 4 inch (102 mm) guns in single mountings. Their anti-air warfare weaponry (AA) consisted of four 3 pounder guns and four Maxim machine guns. In World War I, the class's AA armament was increased with the fitting of a single QF 3 inch (76 mm) 20 cwt gun. They were second class cruisers and designed for a variety of roles including both trade protection and fleet duties. Overall they were considered a success but there were some criticisms that the ships were cramped, they could be lively gun platforms and that the mixed calibre armament could cause problems for fire control and the 4 inch guns were mounted too near the sea.


  • HMS Bristol, built by John Brown and Company, Clydebank, laid down March 1909, launched February 1910, and commissioned December 1910. Sold for breaking up May 1921.
  • HMS Glasgow, built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan, laid down March 1909, launched September 1909, and commissioned September 1910. Sold for breaking up April 1927.
  • HMS Gloucester, built by William Beardmore and Company, Dalmuir, laid down 15 April 1909, launched 28 October 1909, and commissioned October 1910. Sold for breaking up May 1921.
  • HMS Liverpool, built by Vickers, Barrow in Furness, laid down February 1909, launched October 1909, and completed October 1910. Sold for breaking up November 1921.
  • HMS Newcastle, built by Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth and Company, Walker on Tyne, laid down April 1909, launched November 1909, and completed September 1910. Sold for breaking up in May 1921.

Weymouth class[]

The Weymouth class were ordered under the 1910 Programme and commissioned between 1911-12. They differed from the Bristols in only a few aspects. They were fitted with a potent main armament, having eight 6 in (152 mm) guns in single mountings with shields. Their secondary armament consisted of four 3 pounder guns. The class saw a number of alterations during the war, including the addition of one QF 3 in (76 mm) AA gun. They were also the first cruisers to be fitted with an aircraft, the Sopwith Pup, though the aircraft could only launch from the ship and not land on it and the pilot would have to ditch into the sea if it was not possible to reach land. Overall they were enlarged and improved versions of the Bristol class with a uniform 6-inch gun armament that were mounted in more weather resistant positions. They also mounted the more powerful 21 inch torpedoes. In 1915, a single 3-inch anti-aircraft gun was added.


  • HMS Weymouth, built by Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick, laid down 19 January 1910, launched 18 November 1910, and completed October 1911. Sold for breaking up 2 October 1928.
  • HMS Yarmouth, built by London and Glasgow Company, Glasgow, laid down 27 January 1910, launched 12 April 1911, and completed April 1912. Sold for breaking up 2 July 1929.
  • HMS Dartmouth, built by Vickers, laid down 19 February 1910, launched 14 December 1910, and completed October 1911. Sold for breaking up 13 December 1930.
  • HMS Falmouth, built by Beardmore, laid down 21 February 1910, launched 20 September 1910, and completed September 1911. Torpedoed by German submarine U-66 in the North Sea and damaged 19 August 1916, then torpedoed by German submarine U-52 off Flamborough Head the next day and sunk.

Chatham class[]

HMS Gloucester in 1917

The Chatham class were ordered under the 1911 Programme and commissioned between 1912 and 1916. Three ships were built to the same design for the new Royal Australian Navy. The Chathams differed from the two previous sub-classes only slightly. Deck armour was reduced in order to allow the introduction of belt armour, and they had eight 6 in guns in single mountings with shields. They had no secondary armament but did have AA weaponry that consisted of four 3 pounder guns. Their AA armament was further increased during the First World War, with the addition of four 3 in guns. As was common at the time the guns only had shields to protect them from splinters and so were spaced well apart to reduce the chance of a single hit knocking out several at once. The class also had aircraft fitted during the war. Chatham was briefly part of the New Zealand Naval Forces in 1920, subsequently the New Zealand Division, until it returned to the RN in 1924.


  • HMS Chatham, built by Chatham Dockyard, laid down 3 January 1911, launched 19 November 1911, and completed December 1912. Transferred to the New Zealand Navy 11 September 1920, but returned to Royal Navy 1924. Sold for breaking up 13 July 1926.
  • HMS Dublin, built by Beardmore, laid down 3 January 1911, launched 30 April 1912, and completed March 1913. Sold for breaking up July 1926.
  • HMS Southampton, built by John Brown, laid down 6 April 1911, launched 16 May 1912, and completed November 1912. Sold for breaking up 13 July 1926.
  • HMAS Sydney, built by London & Glasgow, laid down 11 February 1911, launched 29 August 1912, and completed June 1913. Broken up at Cockatoo Dockyard in April 1929.
  • HMAS Melbourne, built by Cammell Laird, laid down 14 April 1911, launched 30 May 1912, and completed January 1913. Sold for breaking up 8 December 1928.
  • HMAS Brisbane, built by Cockatoo Dockyard, laid down 25 January 1913, launched 30 September 1915, and completed November 1916. Sold for breaking up 13 June 1936.

Birmingham class[]

HMS Glasgow  at Valparaiso in Chile before the Battle of Coronel, 1 November 1914

The Birmingham class were all ordered under the 1912 Programme and was commissioned in 1914. They featured slight differences in appearance and armament. Their main armament were nine 6 in guns in single turrets, with an additional 6 inch gun mounted on the forecastle in order to improve forward fire. Their AA armament was exactly the same as the Chatham sub-class and a 3 in (76 mm) gun was also added during the First World War. The class did not have an aircraft fitted during the war. Also more flare was added to the bow to improve sea keeping. Further improvement to the Birmingham class resulted in five ships of the Hawkins class. The similar Adelaide was built for the Royal Australian Navy. She had one of her funnels removed in the late 1930s.


  • HMS Birmingham, built by Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick, laid down 10 June 1912, launched 7 May 1913, and completed February 1914. Sold for breaking up 5 February 1931.
  • HMS Lowestoft, built by Chatham Dockyard, laid down 29 July 1912, launched 23 April 1913, and completed April 1914. Sold for breaking up 8 January 1931.
  • HMS Nottingham, built by Pembroke Dockyard, laid down 13 June 1912, launched 18 April 1913, and completed April 1914. Torpedoed three times by German submarine U-52 in the North Sea 19 August 1916 and sunk with 38 dead.
  • HMAS Adelaide, built by Cockatoo Dockyard, laid down January 1915, launched 27 July 1918, and completed August 1922. Sold for breaking up in Australia in January 1949.

Birkenhead class[]

The Birkenhead class were ordered in early 1914 for the Greek Navy as Antinavarchos Kountouriotis and Lambros Katsonis respectively. In early 1915 the contracts were taken over by the British Admiralty, the ships were renamed and were commissioned in 1915. They were modified versions of the previous sub-class. Their main armament was ten 5.5 in (140 mm) guns, a first for an RN class. Although firing a lighter shell the gun was easier to handle in rough weather and indeed the gun proved so successful[citation needed] that it was introduced properly into the RN, being fitted to a small number of warships, including the battlecruiser HMS Hood. One weakness of the gun was the gun shields which didn't reach the deck leaving the gun crews vulnerable to splinters. Their AA armament was exactly the same as the previous sub-classes. After the war, they were offered for sale back to the Greeks but this offer was not taken up.


  • HMS Birkenhead, built by Cammell Laird, laid down 27 March 1914, launched 18 January 1915, and completed May 1915. Sold for breaking up 26 October 1921.
  • HMS Chester, built by Cammell Laird, laid down 7 October 1914, launched 8 December 1915, and completed May 1916. Sold for breaking up 9 November 1921.

Operational Service[]

HMS Birmingham under fire at the Battle of Jutland

The class saw much service in World War I and many of the ships left their mark on history. Ships of the class saw action at the Battle of the Falkland Islands and the Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1914. That same year, Sydney attacked SMS Emden in an action that lasted over an hour and resulted in the German warship being beached by her captain to avoid his ship sinking. Also that year, Birmingham became the first ship to sink a submarine when she rammed U-15.

In 1915, HMS Glasgow found SMS Dresden which had escaped from the engagement at the Falkland Islands the previous year, in which Glasgow had helped in sinking SMS Leipzig. Dresden was eventually scuttled by her own crew after a short engagement. Ships of the class also took part in the Battle of Dogger Bank (1915).

HMS Chester, showing damage sustained at the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916

In 1916, ships of the class also saw action at the Battle of Jutland, the largest surface engagement of World War I. In 1917, a Sopwith Pup from HMS Yarmouth became the first aircraft from a cruiser to shoot down an aircraft, specifically the Zeppelin L23. The ships of the class saw more service than mentioned above, including action against German merchant ships. During the course of the war, two ships of the class were sunk, these were HMS Falmouth and HMS Nottingham, both torpedoed by German submarines.

After the end of World War I, the surviving ships performed a variety of duties, including service on foreign stations. All ships, except Adelaide, were scrapped by the 1930s. Adelaide saw an extensive refit between 1938-1939. However, Adelaide was obsolete when World War II began, and she saw limited service, performing patrol and escort duties in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. She was decommissioned in 1945, but recommissioned to become a tender at Sydney. She was broken up in 1949.



External links[]

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