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Devonshire’s 21st Birthday

Extracted from the Spring Cruise magazine 1950
Thanks to Jerry judge ex RM

On Saturday, March 18th, 1950 whilst on passage from Jamaica to Gibraltar, H.M.S. “Devonshire” celebrated her twenty-first birthday. A Devonport ship, built and commissioned there, she still is on very active service to-day with twenty-one years of illustrious service, in peace and war, behind her.

A cruiser of the County Class she had, when completed in 1929, eight Sin. guns, and with her tremendous range and endurance was admirably fitted for her task of protecting the vital ocean trade routes of the world on which the safety of the United Kingdom so largely depends. Most of her pre-war service was in the Mediterranean, where she was taken in May, 1929, by ie first Captain, Captain H. C. Rawlings, R.N., and here she stayed, save for one bcief spell in 1932-33 when she was in China.

The outbreak of the war in 1939, soon found the “Devonshire” in far Northern waters on the Northern Patrol, where, with her great endurance she stayed for three weeks at a spell, searching and sweeping the cold, icy seas aronnd Greenland and Iceland, waiting and watching for German raiders and German shipping.
In these waters she stayed till April. 1940, when the German invasion of Norway took her, in company with most of the Home Fleet, into the Norwegian Sea whilst this short campaign was fought. Here she had her baptism of bombing and aerial attack, and it was from Tromso that she was able in June, 1940, to evacuate King Haakon VII, the Royal Family and Government of Norway to this country to continue the struggle. The plaque on the Quarterdeck of the “Devonshire “ commemorating this operation, presented by the Royal Norwegian Navy, is one of her proudest trophies, and when she visits Norway, as she does each summer, she is received with great feeling and deep affection.

Summei, 1940, took her to the abortive attack on Dakar, and here again she was in action in skirmishes with the “Richelieu” and other units of the French Navy. The year that followed took her from the North Cape to the Cape of Good Hope, convoying, escorting and endlessly seeking raiders. Her reward in this task came in November, 1940, when she sank in the South Atlantic the German Raider, “Atlantis,”
which had been, and remained in terms of tonnage sunk, the most successful German raider, even including the Pocket Battleships.

Early 1942, after a refit in the United States, found her in the Indian Ocean at the occupation of Madagascar. and at the interception of Vichy French Convoys with supplies for Germany. In this ocean, too, she escorted the large ocean convoys of the world’s greatest liners, including both the “Queen Mary “ and “Queen Elizabeth,” which took the entire Australian Army Corps from the Middle East to Australia for the mounting offensive against the Japanese.

During the winter of 1943-44, she was extensively refitted and modernised on the Tyne, and when she rejoined the Home Fleet in the Spring of 1944 for the closing stages of the war against Germany, she had lost one of her 8in. turrets. and had in place a mass of modern equipment. For a time, during the annihilation of the German forces in Europe, she wore the flag of the Admiral Commanding the first Cruiser Squadron—he is now Admiral Sir R. R. McGrigor, K.C.B. D.S.O., C. in C. Plymouth. It was fitting that at the end of the European war she should have the honour of escorting the gallant King of Norway back to his capital, Oslo. –

After a spell of bringing numbers of men back to the United Kingdom from the Far East at the end of the Japanese war, she was again converted—this time to the Cadet
Training Cruiser with only one 8in. turret remaining, but many gunrooms to accommodate the Cadets. And since May, 1947, she has been engaged in what is probably the most important task she has so far been called upon to perform—that of training the future officer of the Royal Navy. Before joining the fleet as a Midshipman, the Cadet of the Royal Navy does two cruises in the “Devonshire,” where in the West Indies, or Northern Waters or the Mediterranean he recieves his introduction to the sea and the Royal Navy.

And because the first impressions that the Cadet receives on his introduction to the Royal Navy are likely to remain with him always, how vital it is that the Cadet leaves the “ Devonshire” certain in the knowledge that the example he has been set, and the lessons he has learned will stand by him in the days to come when on his shoulders will rest the tremendous responsibility which is that of the Naval Officer.

Which is why we in the “Devonshire” feel that any standard save that of perfection is inadmissible.

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