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E Class Light Cruiser

Emerald at Aden, 1943. Note the heavy tripod foremast with an old fashioned fighting top. Enterprise had a lighter mast and a twin 6" gun forward.
Emerald at Aden, 1943. Note the heavy tripod foremast with an old fashioned fighting top. Enterprise had a lighter mast and a twin 6" gun forward.
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Following the Cavendish Class 3 ships of new class were ordered towards the end of World War I designed to emphasise high speed at the cost of other qualities, for use against rumoured new high speed German cruisers, and particularly minelayers, in the North Sea.

The 'E' class had a very high ratio of length to beam, and only one more gun despite being much bigger and more expensive. Much was sacrificed to achieve 33 knots, the horsepower was doubled and the hull increased by 100ft in length, and a 50% increase in displacement. Only 2 ships were actually built, and completed in 1926. Four propellers were needed driven from two engine rooms. There were four boiler rooms and the magazines were between boiler and engine rooms. This led to a bizarre funnel arrangement, accentuated further when in 1935 a longer catapult required the mainmast to be stepped forward of the after funnel, and the funnels were heightened by 5ft.

In the early 1930s Enterprise was fitted with a prototype twin 6" turret in place of her two forward single mounts; this was the turret later installed in the Leander, Amphion and Arethusa Classes.

Nothwithstanding their age and outlandish appearance these two ships were still the fastest cruisers in the RN at the outbreak of WW2, Emerald exceeding 32 knots in a full-power trial at full load in 1939.

Like the Cavendish class, they were mainly employed on the ocean trade routes, also seeing fleet service in the Far East.

Displacement: 7,550 standard ;Full load, over 9,000 tons
Dimensions: 535 feet pp o.a. 570 feet Beam 54.5 feet. Draught mean 16.5 feet.
Propulsion: 4 shafts Brown-Curtis geared turbines 8 boilers in 4 compartments - part forward of amidships magazine and part abaft forward engine room 80,000 shp = 33 knots
Range 1,746 tons fuel oil
Complement 572.
Armament: 7--6 inch, 50 cal. 5-4 inch AA. 4--3 pdr. 9 smaller. Torpedo tubes (21 inch): 16, quadrupled, above water. Aircraft 1 with catapult.
Armour (H.T.): 3in Side (amidships). 2.5in - 1.5in Side {bow). 2in Side (stern). 1in Upper Deck (amidships) 1in Deck (over rudder).

Modifications

In the mid-1930s both ships were fitted with a catapult which replaced the out-moded flying-off platform and an HACS Mk I for the 4in guns, which was fitted amidships between the searchlight platform and the after funnel. The funnels were raised 5ft at this time. Later proposals to increase the AA outfit by the addition of twin 4in and multiple 2pdrs were thwarted by the outbreak of war. Emerald had received two quadruple .5 MGs before the war, then during refit between August 1942 and April 1943 she landed the after 6in, two 2pdr singles and the .5MGs to receive instead six power-operated twin 20mm, two quadruple 2pdr and radars 273, 281, 282 and 285. In April 1944 six 20mm singles were added and the catapult was removed.

Enterprise landed two 6in singles in 1941 and had one quadruple 2pdr fitted. She later had four single 20mm fitted and then, in the course of a long refit between the end of December 1942 and October 1943, she lost the single 2pdr and 20mm weapons, receiving six twin power-operated mountings in lieu. The two 6in were reinstated and a second quadruple 2pdr fitted. She was fitted with radars 272, 281, 282, 284 and 285. In February she had an additional four single 20mm fitted and the catapult was removed.

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