Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) 1939-1960, Armed Merchant Cruisers (Prince Class), and Cruisers

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) 1939-1960,

Armed Merchant Cruisers (Prince Class), and Cruisers

Data currrent to 21 July 2019.

Armed Merchant Cruisers

HMCS Prince David (F89) (Prince-class); HMCS Prince Henry (F70) (Prince-class); HMCS Prince Robert (F56) (Prince-class)

HMCS Prince David (F89)

 (RCN Photo)

HMCS Prince David (F89).

HMCS Prince David was one of three Canadian National Steamships passenger liners  that were converted for the RCN, first to armed merchant cruisers at the beginning of the Second World War, then to Infantry Landing Ships (medium), ISL (M) or to an anti-aircraft escort.  For three years, they were the largest ships in the RCN.

The three 'Prince' ships were a unique part of Canada's war effort: taken out of mercantile service, converted to armed merchant cruisers, two of them (Prince David and Prince Henry) were reconfigured to infantry landing ships and one (Prince Robert) to an anti-aircraft escort; all three ships were paid off at war's end and then returned to mercantile service.

In the early part of the war, as armed merchant cruisers equipped with antique guns and very little armour, Prince David and her sisters were sent to hunt enemy submarines and surface ships, tasks better suited to warships.  As the needs of the RCN changed, the 'Prince' ships adapted to new roles.  Their flexibility offered the RCN greater scope and balance in its operations.   Prince David and her sisters, each with two separate employments, roamed most of the navigable world.

(RCN Photo)

HMCS Prince David (F89).

 (RCN Photo)

HMCS Prince David (F89) with landing craft.

 (DND Photo)

HMCS Prince David (F89), 1942.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3394410)

HMCS Prince David (F89), Oerlikon 20-mm Anti-Aircraft Gun, Kithera, Greece, 16 Sep 1944.  She was armed with four 6-inch/45 cal Mk. VII guns in two single mounts forward and two aft (as an AMC); four 4-inch Mk. XVI HA/LA guns in two twin mounts (as an LSI (M)); two 3-inch HA guns in two single mounts (as an AMC), two 40-mm Bofors AA guns (as an LSI (M)), several Vickers .303-inch twin Machine-guns, ten 20-mm Oerlikon cannon Mk. 5 in single mounts after her refit in April 1942; and two stern-munted depth charge chutes for Mk. VIII 300-lb canister depth charges (as an AMC).

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3394502)

6-inch QF Guns awaiting installation in HMCS Prince David, RCN, 19 Aug 1940.

HMCS Prince Henry (F70) 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3612526)

HMCS Prince Henry (F70).

HMCS Prince Henry was an armed merchant cruiser and Infantry Landing Ship (ILS) in service with the RCN during the Second World War.  The ship began service as the ocean liner SS Prince Henry for the Canadian National Steamship Company servicing ports along the BC coast and cities in the northwest USA.  In 1937, the vessel was renamed SS North Star for service with the Clarke Steamship Company. The RCN acquired the vessel on the outbreak of the Second World War, and remaned it HMCS Prince Henry.

HMCS Prince Henry was converted to an armed merchant cruiser, and ordered to patrol along the west coast of South America to intercept German merchant vessels trying to break a British blockade in order to return to Germany.  HMCS Prince Henry took part in the apprehension of two German merchant vessels.  The armed merchant cruiser escorted convoys in the Aleutian Islands campaign against the Japanese, before returning to Canada to undergo conversion to a Landing Ship Infantry (LSI).  Following its conversion, HMCS Prince Henry was sent to the United Kingdom to take part in the invasion of Normandy.  HMCS Prince Henry landed troops on Juno Beach on D-day and then spent the next two months supporting the beachhead.  The vessel was then sent to the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France.  HMCS Prince Henry was the flagship of one of the advance forces clearing coastal islands prior to the main invasion.  HMCS Prince Henry continued service in the Mediterranean, landing Allied troops at Piraeus during the liberation of Greece from the Axis powers.  Following this service, HMCS Prince Henry returned to the United Kingdom where the ship was paid off by the Royal Canadian Navy and loaned to the Royal Navy.  The vessel was taken out of service in 1961 and sold to be broken up for scrap at La Spezia, Italy in 1962.

She was armed with four 6-inch/45 cal Mk. VII guns in two single mounts forward and two aft (as an AMC); four 4-inch Mk. XVI HA/LA guns in two twin mounts (as an LSI (M)); two 3-inch HA guns in two single mounts (as an AMC), and a variety of machine guns.  After the conversion, HMCS Prince Henry was of similar strength to the destroyers in service with the RCN, but with greater range.  As a warship, the vessel's compliment was 31 officers and 386 ratings.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191678)

LCAs leaving HMCS Prince Henry (F70), during a training exercise, May 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3612507)

HMCS Prince Henry (F70), Ordnance QF 40mm Bofors AA Gun.

HMCS Prince Robert (F56)

  (RCN Photo)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56).  She was the first of three refrigerated passenger and cargo ships constructed at Birkenheaad for Canadian National for service along the BC coast during the 1930s. On the outbreak of the Second World War, the RCN acquired the vessel for use as an armed merchant cruiser for protection of the western coast of Canada.  Upon completion, HMCS Prince Robert and her sister ships were the most powerful ships in service with the RCN until the arrival of larger cruisers later in the war.  She was converted at Esquimalt, BC, and commissioned into the RCN in Sep 1941.  HMCS Prince Robert saw her first action along the Mexican coast, capturing the German freighter Weser later that month.  HMCS Prince Robert then continued patrolling along the Pacific coast of North America, and then being sent to Australia to escort troop convoys across the Pacific.

Following the entry of the United States into the war in 1941, HMCS Prince Robert took part in the naval operations in Alaska alongside her sister ships HMCS Prince Henry and HMCS Prince David.  In 1943, HMCS Prince Robert was converted into an anti-aircraft cruiser.  HMCS Prince Robert returned to service later that year and escorted convoyes in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea between the United Kingdom and Naples, Italy, protecting them from air attack.  In 1944, the ship was transferred to the Pacific once again and was at Sydney, Australia when Japan surrendered.  HMCS Prince Robert was ordered to Hong Kong to repatriate Canadian prisoners of war, and to assist in control of the island.  The ship returned to Canada on 20 October 1945 and was paid off on 10 December and transferred to the War Assets Corporation for disposal.

The ship was sold to private buyers who returned to the vessel to the cargo/passenger trade as Charlton Sovereign in 1948.  Charlton Sovereign transported displaced persons and refugees from Europe to locations in Central and South America.  In 1951, the ship was sold again and renamed Lucania.  Lucania was used a passenger ship between Italy and Venezuela until 1962, when the vessel was sold for scrap.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233654)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56), Esquimalt, British Columbia.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950890)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56), 4-inch Mk. XVI anti-aircraft guns and crew, during convoy escort in March, 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950889)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56), 20-mm Oerlikon AA Gun crew, 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821078)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56)Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950948)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56)Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950950)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56)Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950947)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56)Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950951)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56)Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

Cruisers

HMCS Uganda (C66) (Ceylon-class), later renamed HMCS Quebec (C66); HMCS Ontario (C53) (Minotaur-class)

HMS Uganda (C66)

 (RCN Photo)

HMCS Uganda (C66), overhead view showing her 3 triple BL 6-inch Mk XXIII guns.

HMS Uganda (C66), was a Second World War-era Crown Colony-class light cruiser launched in 1941.  She served in the Royal Navy during 1943 and 1944, including operations in the Mediterranean, and was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Uganda (C66) in October 1944.  She served in the Pacific theatre in 1945 and was put into reserve in 1947.  When she was reactivated for the Korean War in 1952 she was renamed HMCS Quebec.  She was decommissioned for the last time in 1956 and scrapped in Japan in 1961.

 (Legion Magazine Archives Photo)

HMCS Uganda (C66).

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3624562)

Sailors setting shell fuses on board HMCS Uganda (C66), 23 Jun 1945.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191651)

HMCS Uganda (C66) bombarding Sukuma Airfield on Miyako Jima, 4 May 1945.

 (RCN Photo)

HMCS Uganda (C66).

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821077)

HMCS Uganda (C66), ca 1947.

HMCS Quebec (C31)

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4951392)

HMCS Quebec (C31)ca 1956.  As HMS Uganda, the name-ship of her class, she was completed 3 Jan 1943, at Vickers-Armstrong Ltd., Newcastle-on-Tyne.  After working up with the Home Fleet she joined Plymouth Command in Apr 1943 for operations in the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, and in Jul 1943 joined the 15th Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet, as part of Force "K."  She was badly damaged by a German glider bomb on 13 Sep 1943, while supporting the Allied landing at Salerno, Italy, and arrived at Charleston, SC, in November for a year of repair work.  Presented to the RCN, the ship was commissioned HMCS Uganda on 21 Oct 1944, at Charleston, and in Nov 1944 returned to the UK for further modifications.  She left in Jan 1945, for the Pacific via the Suez Canal, to join the 4th Cruiser Squadron, British Pacific Fleet.  In Apr 1945 she joined Task Force 57 in the Okinawa area, and was thereafter principally employed in screening the Fleet's aircraft carriers operating against Japanese airfields in the Ryukyu Islands.  On 14 Jun 1945 she participated in the bombardment of Truk, and in Jul 1945 supported carriers operating against Tokyo.  She left the Fleet late in Jul 1945 and arrived at Esquimalt on 10 Aug 1945 for refit.  HMCS Uganda spent the rest of her career as a training ship; she was renamed HMCS Quebec on 14 Jan 1952.

After transiting from Esquimalt to Halifax in 1952, HMCS Quebec sailed for Newfoundland where she took Lieutenant Governor Sir Leonard Outerbridge CBE - DSO, on an official tour of isolated Newfoundland out ports.  This was a RCN service guaranteed under the terms of union with Canada.  Upon returning to Halifax, HMCS Quebec was selected as the flagship of Rear Admiral Bidwell, and tasked to lead Canada's Coronation Squadron to the Queen's Review of all Royal Naval and USN Vessels at Spit head.  In 1955 HMCS Quebec was tied up at the RCSCC Training Camp [Protector] at Point Edward Naval Station, Cape Breton NS.  She was finally paid off on 13 Jun 1956.  On 6 Feb 1961 she arrived at Osaka, Japan to be broken up.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821173)

HMCS Quebec (C31), Copenhagen, 1954.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4951382)

HMCS Quebec (C31), receiving supplies from HMCS Magnificent, 1952.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4951384)

HMCS Quebec (C31), jackstay transfer of pers to HMCS Magnificent, 1952.

HMCS Ontario (C32)

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950944)

HMCS Ontario (C32) in 1945.  She was a Minotaur-class light cruiser built for the Royal Navy as HMS Minotaur (53), but transferred to the RCN on completion and renamed HMCS Ontario.  HMS Minotaur was laid down on 20 November 1941 by Harland & Wolff of Belfast and was launched on 29 July 1943 and transferred to the RCN in July 1944. She was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in July 1944, and completed and commissioned as HMCS Ontario on 25 May 1945 at Belfast.  She sailed to join the 4th Cruiser Squadron in the Pacific Theatre, but was too late to see active service, although she was employed in the operations at Hong Kong, Manila and in Japan.  She returned home for refit, arriving at Esquimalt, BC, on 27 Nov 1945.  In 1953 she took part in the Fleet Review to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  She was used for training duties postwar until paid off on 15 October 1958.  She arrived at Osaka for breaking up on 19 November 1960.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821379)

HMCS Ontario (C32), passing Duntz head, Esquimalt.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4951249)

HMCS Ontario (C32), passing Duntz head, Esquimalt.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821380)

HMCS Ontario (C32), 7 Feb 1958.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821179)

HMCS Ontario (C32), docked at Esquimalt.

 (State Library of Victoria, Australia Photo)

HMCS Ontario (C32), ca Feb 1951.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4951128)

HMCS Ontario (C32), Midshipman B.A. Rogers in front of the warship's main guns, 1957.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233795)

Normandy invasion fleet, Royal Navy town-class light cruiser with four turrets, June 1944.