HMS Orion

HMS Orion (85)

HMS Orion (85)

This article is about a light cruiser of Royal Navy during World War II. It was involved in Battle of Calabria, Allied invasion of SicilyBattle of Cape Matapan and so on.

The HMS Orion (pennant number 85), the fifth British warship to bear that name, was a Leander class light cruiser of the Royal Navy. Devonport was set in the yards of 26 September 1931, launched 24 November 1932 and entered service Jan. 18, 1934. During its career it received 13 Battle Honours record surpassed only by a British naval ship and equaled by the other two.


At the time of entry into service the Orion was assigned to the Home Fleet. In 1937 it was transferred to the West Indies at the Eighth British Cruiser Squadron where it remained until the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The ship started the war on patrol duties in the Caribbean based in Kingston. On December 19, it intercepted the German freighter Arauca off the coast of Florida with the help of a U.S. Navy plane. To board the ship managed to escape by hiding in U.S. territorial waters, where it was interned.

In February 1940 Traslo home the ashes of John Buchan, Governor General of Canada. In the early days of the month of March it came in the yard at Devonport, where it received the equipment to demagnetize the hull. Returned to service, it was assigned to the Seventh Cruiser Squadron Mediterranean Fleet based at Alexandria in Egypt, becoming the flagship.

After entry into the war, it participated in the bombardment of Bardia on June 21. This was the last joint operation with the French fleet based in Alexandria. On June 28, then it took part in the battle known as the Battle of the Espero Convoy. On July 9, it participated in the Battle of Punta Stilo. Later it participated in the operations of Malta escorting supply convoys and bombarding the Italian positions on the island in Karpathos. On October 14, it was with the Liverpool when it was hit by a torpedo. The Orion towed the damaged ship to Alexandria where it arrived two days later. In the early days of November it embarked RAF personnel transporting it to Crete. On November 11 it was sent into the area of Taranto, whose base was attacked the following night, to attack Italian convoys direct to Albania along with the cruisers Ajax and Sydney and the destroyers Mohawk and Nubian. On the night of November 13th four merchant ships were sunk and damaged the escorts. The following 15 transporting 1,000 troops embarked at Piraeus, the port of Athens.

In January 1941, it provided coverage in Operation Excess, which provided for the passage of some ships and reinforcement of a troop convoy to Alexandria: in this way, Bonaventure joined the fleet, the cruiser and four destroyers. On 11 January, along with other ships sent to rescue all’incrociatore Southampton badly damaged they recovered the crew and then sink the wreck with three torpedoes. In the early days of February was installed onboard the radar type 286m for the detection of enemy ships and aircraft in a limited radius. In the weeks following the escorted convoys to Malta and Greece.

On March 28, it participated in the Battle of Cape Matapan against the Italian fleet, which resulted in a British victory thanks to radar installed on Orion and Ajax. In April it participated in the evacuation of British troops from Greece. On 29 May while he was en route to Alexandria with 1,900 soldiers on board was attacked by German dive bombers that could hit the ship on Tower A. The explosion and subsequent fire killed 100 crew and 280 soldiers on board. After repairing the worst damage the ship managed to return to port at a speed of 12 knots. After temporary repairs of June 29 it sailed to go to Simon’s Town in South Africa via the Suez Canal and Aden. After further repairs it came to the United States to receive permanent repairs in yards Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California.

In March 1942 the works were completed the ship returned home for the installation of new radar installations: Type 279 for the detection of enemy aircraft and Type 273 for the ships. Also it received the apparatus for the control arms fire main (Type 284) and secondary weapons (Type 285). After a brief period at the Home Fleet it was moved back into the Mediterranean with the 15th Cruiser Squadron, arriving in Alexandria on September 29 and returning to his old tasks of escorting convoys to Malta.

Since May 31, 1943 it began to bombard the island of Pantelleria with several destroyers to prepare the ground for the British landing on the island called Operation Corkscrew, which took place on 10 June. The Italian troops surrendered immediately. In July it took part in Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily by supporting the troops landed. In August it bombarded the Italian positions on the Straits of Messina and 31 months of Reggio Calabria bombed along with the battleships Warspite and Valiant in preparation for landing in Calabria called Operation Baytown and occurred on Sept. 3. The Orion then put the troops employed in the discharge of Salerno on September 9 hours after the Italian surrender by bombarding the German positions in the area. The September 18 it was withdrawn from the area of oerations and returned home for repairs.

In November it returned in the Mediterranean area by participating in the bombing of the Garigliano on 27 and Dec. 12 bombing of Gaeta. In January 1944 it supported the Allied landing at Anzio called Operation Shingle remaining in the area even in the weeks following the artillery to support the advance of Allied troops.

In April it was transferred to the 10th Cruiser Squadron Home Fleet in view of the Normandy landings. During the landing operations it supported in the Argonaut Gold Beach along with the cruisers, Ajax and the Dutch gunboat Emerald and Flores. In July it returned again in the Mediterranean to support the Allied landings in southern France called Operation Dragoon, which began Aug. 15. In September following supported the occupation of the Aegean Islands and worked off the coast of Greece during its release and the withdrawal of German troops.

In January 1945, it remained firm in Malta for repairs, being visited on February 5 by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed the Yalta Conference. Until the end of the war it worked in the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic. It remained in the Mediterranean until 1946, remaining involved in the incident of the Corfu Channel in May 1946, during which the Albanian shore batteries fired on British ships passing by, causing the rupture of diplomatic relations between the two nations and making them aware of the climate of “cold war” that was created in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Orion returned home July 5, 1946 being immediately transferred to reserves. After being used for experiments in the underwater explosion in 1948 it was sold June 19, 1949 to be demolished in the West of Scotland yards Shipbreakers Troon.

Battle Honours

The Orion received during his 13 Battle Honours, a record equaled only by the destroyers Jervis and Nubian who served in the Mediterranean and exceeded only by the battleship Warspite, flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet, which was in service in both world wars .

Atlantic 1939

Calabria 1940; Mediterranean 1940-1943-1944

Malta convoys 1941; Matapan 1941, Greece 1941, Crete 1941

Sicily 1943, Salerno 1943

Aegean 1944, 1944 Anzio, Normandy 1944, South of France 1944

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