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HMS Fiji

Fiji Class Light Cruiser

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 Built by John Brown, Clydebank. Laid Down 30 March 1938.

Launched 31 May 1939. Completed 5 May 1940.

Torpedoed 1/9/40 in N Atlantic - repaired in UK for 6 months.

Sunk 22 May 1941 by bombs from German and Italian aircraft, having expended all her AA ammunition south-west of Crete (241 lost).

The first of the class of 8,000-ton cruisers. The original preference had been to give these ships a fully dual purpose 5.25in main armament but production difficulties with the new mountings enforced a more conventional 6in. This was a pity as aircraft would be the cruisers' major opponents. Fiji was fitted with radar in a 1940 refit that followed torpedo damage. Her AA armament had also been marginally increased. She had one director control tower and three HACS Mk IVs.

Fiji joined the Home Fleet on completion, but on 31 August 1940 left the Clyde for Operation Menace, the attack on Dakar. However, she was damaged by a torpedo from U32 on 1 September and had to return to Britain for repairs which lasted about six months. In March 1941 she was on patrol duty in the Denmark Straits, but failed to intercept the homeward bound Admiral Scheer. A month later she was with Force H, blockading the German heavy ships then stationed at Brest, before she sailed with Force H to escort an operation to fly reinforcement fighters to Malta.

She later escorted convoys to Malta, then participated in the Crete campaign, where, on 22 May 1941, she was sunk by bombs from a Bf 109 of 1/LG2, having expended all of her AA ammunition while in company with the destroyers Kandahar and Kingston, shortly after the loss of the Gloucester. As an isolated force these three ships were vulnerable and they suffered numerous attacks, which went on for about two hours without much success. Then eventually at 1845 JG77 inflicted the vital damage. One of its fighter bombers at the limit of its endurance, spotted Fiji and dropped its bomb close alongside to port. This blew in the cruiser's bottom plates and caused a list to port. The ship came to a standstill and lay there almost defenceless as she had finally run out of 4in ammunition. A Stuka now appeared to inflict the coup de grace with three bombs, all of which hit. Captain William-Powlett gave the order to abandon ship and at 2015 Fiji, a new ship just over a year in commission, rolled over and sank. The destroyers dropped floats and withdrew to the south returning after dark to pick up 523 out of the cruiser's 780 man crew.

late summer 1940
late summer 1940
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1941, just before her loss
1941, just before her loss
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the last photos - bombs falling astern on 22 May 1941
the last photos - bombs falling astern on 22 May 1941
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