Royal Navy Dido Class Light Cruisers


HMS Sirius




24 or 25 June 1944. The Royal Navy’s big guns support the Allied armies in Normandy on board the cruiser HMS SIRIUS in the Sword area. The number of shells used by Royal Marines manning the twin 5.25 inch gun X turret can be gauged by the shell cases massed on X-gun deck. They number more than 2,000. (Photo by Lt. C. H. Parnall, Royal Navy official photographer, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

(Comments Charles McCain: One or more of the gun turrets aboard Royal Navy ships of cruiser size and above were manned by a crew drawn from the ship’s contingent of Royal Marines. Destroyers sometimes has Royal Marine complements but typically for special assignments and not as a permanent part of the ship’c company. As in the days of sail, when it was thought that the Royal Marines would always be loyal to the officers, the Marines were berthed between the common seamen and the ship’s officers.

One of the great shocks to the Admiralty during the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931 was that many Royal Marines sided with the sailors and refused orders to muster.)




Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum shows HMS Sirius Underway leaving Portsmouth.

British Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Sirius. Commissioned 6 May 1942. She was one of sixteen Dido-class light cruisers built this figure includes the five Bellona sub-class cruisers). Most were named after mythical figures of classic Greek history including Naiad, Argonaut, Cleopatra, Scylla, Charybdis, Phoebe, etc.

Ten survived the war. Some were sold to foreign governments. Others continued in operation service until the early 1960s. Others, such as HMS Sirius, were withdrawn from service, placed in the reserve fleet and eventually scrapped. (Sirius broken up in 1956)

The ships were built in different groups with each group being slightly different. General characteristics were a length of 512 feet, width of 50 feet, fully loaded displacement from 6,900 tons to 7,600 tons. Ten 5.25 inch guns in dual turrets.



 Normandy, June 1944 The Royal Navy’s big guns support the Allied armies in Normandy as seen on board the cruiser HMS SIRIUS in the Sword area. From information passed by forward observation units operating ashore near the front line, the cruiser’s artillery officer; Captain C I Chapman, RA, of Scarborough, Yorks, and Lieutenant F C Boys, RN, of London, the Gunnery Officer, direct the fire of the naval guns. Here they can be seen on the bridge of the cruiser, with a map of the beaches in front of them. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Invergordon Mutiny of the Royal Navy – Part 7

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The British Admiralty in London, 1927.

From this building, Their Lordships of the Admiralty debated whether to recommend to the Government that Royal Marines from other ships and naval bases in Great Britain be concentrated in the hills overlooking the Invergordon anchorage. Once in place, artillery would be brought forward and the Royal Marines would bombard the Atlantic Fleet into submission. The minutes of this critically important meeting of the Board of the Admiralty are missing from the public record or have not been released.

Bringing in Royal Marines from other naval units to enforce order and discipline would have caused bloodshed and created huge problems for the British Admiralty which already had enough problems. Something long forgotten now but all too well remembered then was this: both the Russian Revolution and the overthrow of the Imperial German government began as mutinies by sailors against their governments.

British Royal Marines in 2012.

Alan Ereira, author of The Invergordon Mutiny published in 1981, wrote one of the few books on the subject published decades after the event when more records were available:

Such a plan seems quite incredible, but there are indications that this idea had some approval at the very highest levels of government… the King’s staff at Balmoral (the Scottish highland estate of the British monarch) were kept informed by telephone… the King would need to be kept in the picture, as Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom, and as a monarch who happened to regard the navy as his first love and his private property.

Another puzzle comes from The Invergordon Mutiny. Ereira writes that on the evening of September 15, 1931, records of the Royal Household show that King George V dined alone with a Captain S. R. Mallet. Most curiously, the author says:

…Captain S.R. Mallet… is something of a mystery figure… he does not exist in the Army or Navy lists…

There is speculation that the man may have been Admiral Sir John Kelly who was both a personal friend of the King and a man known to have a sure touch with the Lower Deck. However, the Admiralty had never considered appointing Kelly as C-in-C Atlantic Fleet. In fact, he had been retired some months before the Mutiny.

The steps by which Kelly came to be appointed seem to be a secret still. There is every reason to believe that he was placed in command on the personal insistence of George V, to diffuse the crisis and sort out the Atlantic Fleet.

Four Kings all in naval uniform. King Edward VII of the United Kingdom (right) together with his son Prince George, the Prince of Wales, later George V (left), and his grandsons, Prince Edward of Wales, later Edward VIII, and Prince Albert of Wales, later George VI. Taken by Queen Alexandra, Edward VII’s wife. Printed in Queen Alexandra’s Christmas gift book, published for charity by the Daily Telegraph, London, 1908.

There is a long connection between the British Royal Family and the Royal Navy. As a 12 year old boy, then holding the title Prince George of Wales, the future King George V joined the Royal Navy’s cadet training ship HMS Britannia in September of 1877. He served on active duty in the Royal Navy until 1892. When he was born, he was third in line to the throne and there was no expectation he would become king. He happily intended to pursue an active career in the Royal Navy but that dream came to an end with the death of his older brother from influenza in 1892. From then on George was in the line of direct accession to the throne and after the death of his father, Edward VII, in 1910, George ascended the throne as George V.

His second oldest son, who came to throne as George VI after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, had served as a turret officer aboard HMS Collingwood during the famous battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916. (Much of this story is very well told in the recent movie, The King’s Speech.)

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Elizabeth II, served on active duty in the Royal Navy in World War Two as a young officer and participated in a number of combat actions against the enemy.

His second son, Prince Andrew, younger brother of Prince Charles, served on active duty in the Royal Navy for 21 years and fought in the Falkland’s War.

[Source: The Invergordon Mutiny by Alan Ereira. Images courtesy of NUCIUS, British Ministry of Defence, and Wikipedia.]

Invergordon Mutiny of the Royal Navy – Part 5

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HMS Hood‘s Royal Marines are shown welcoming the President of Madeira during his visit to the ship in January 1934. Hood was in the area participating in the annual Spring Cruise to Spain and Mediterranean. This is from a scrapbook of photos retained by then Commander Rory O’Conor.

Royal Marines were about every large Royal Navy ship and served as the ship’s policemen and enforcers of order and discipline. Fraternization with the sailors was not encouraged. Rivalry with the matelots or sailors was encouraged and the two groups developed a completely different culture. Royal Marines looked on the sailors as undisciplined n’er do wells who had to be kept in line by constant vigilance and the sailors looked on the Royal Marines as empty headed fools who would stand guard over a frog if so ordered.

The Marines were trained separately and accommodated separately with their own mess. They referred to their quarters aboard ship as “barracks” and were under the command of a Captain of Marines who was under the Captain of the respective ship.

Royal Marines on Liberation Day, May 9, 2010, on the Isle of Jersey, one of the few parts of the United Kingdom to be occupied by the Germans in World War Two.

Further, they all came from the Royal Marine Corps, had their own depots ashore and were not thought of as sailors although they often did the same jobs. They had a completely separate identity in their minds even though the Royal Marines were then and remain now, part of the Royal Navy. This was the same situation in the US Navy until after World War Two. However, just as in the Royal Navy today, officer’s quarters, the captain’s cabin, and other sensitive areas of US Navy warships are still guarded by US Marines.

In another quote from Rear Admiral Tomkinson’s confidential report to the Admiralty, I can only surmise that Their Lordships were taken aback by this:

The general attitude of the men appeared that they were prepared to take their own ship to sea but that if they did so they would be deserting their companions in other ships.

Reports showed that the trouble was confined to the ratings below leading rate, and that there was no feeling of any sort against the officers. The position with regard to the Royal Marines was uncertain.

THEN: Royal Marines exercising on the foc’sle of a battleship at Scapa Flow, April 1943.

NOW: Royal Marines team, embarked on Chilean ship ACh Ministro Zenteno (PFG 08) board the destroyer USS O’Bannon (DD 987) during a Maritime Interdiction Operation (MIO) training evolution.

In fact, to the Admiralty in London, the idea that the Royal Marines would be disobedient to orders was not something the senior officials of the Royal Navy could have ever imagined. From the very beginnings of the Royal Navy, there were contingents of Royal Marines aboard warships and these men were always berthed between the officers and the sailors since it was a given that the Marines would always stay loyal to the officers.

Originally formed in 1755 as marine infantry for the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines can trace their origins in variously named formations to 1664. To the astonishment of the officers, the Royal Marines aboard HMS Hood and other ships proved unreliable and unresponsive to orders to enforce order even from their own officers and sergeants. Unlike the sailors, the Royal Marines were “sworn men,” that is, they had taken an oath of loyalty to the monarch while the sailors had not. This oddity is explained by the following from the official website of the Royal Household in Great Britain:

On enlistment, the Army and Air Force Acts require members of the Army, Royal Air Force, and Royal Marines to take an oath of allegiance to the Monarchy as Head of the Armed Forces.

Members of the Royal Navy have never been required to swear an oath – the service was formed hundreds of years ago and its existence stems from the Sovereign’s prerogative.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II greets her subjects during her 80th birthday celebration in Windsor 2006. The British monarch is the official head of all armed forces of the Crown.

[Source: The Official Website of The British Monarchy. Images courtesy of HMS Hood Association, Wikimedia, The Imperial War Museum, Wikimedia, and The Official Website of The British Monarchy.]