Light cruiser HMS Calypso

The light cruiser HMS Calypso belonged to the cruisers of the C-Class and was the first British warship that was sunk by the Italian Navy in World War II.


Launching and design:

The construction of the C-class cruiser was begun in 1913. The plan included 28 light cruisers, divided into seven subcategories. The HMS Caledon was the type ship of the Caledon class, the HMS Calypso was the second ship in the series.

The first subgroups formed the Caroline, Calliope, Cambrian and Centaur classes, followed by the Caledon class. These were improved models of the previous Centaur class, which is why they were also dubbed as Improved Centaur.

At the form especially the bow was changed, since in the predecessor models this was quite deep, could be washed over by water and thus the front weapons partly could not be used any more. Although now the bug was set a little higher, but a significant improvement did not result.

The main armament served five 6-inch guns, with four stood on the fore ship between bridge and chimney and the last on the lower quarterdeck section. The torpedo armament was strengthened and now consisted of eight tubes in four sets of twins on deck.

The launch of the HMS Calypso took place on 24 January 1917, the commissioning on 21 June 1917.



HMS Calypso




Use in the war:

Shortly after the commissioning and the test drives, the HMS Calypso was involved in the second naval battle near Heligoland on 17 November 1917. Together with their sister ship HMS Caledon and the HMS Galatea they shot at the German minesweeper and forced them to retreat. Shortly thereafter attacked the German battleships SMS Empress and SMS Kaiser and met the Calypso in the bridge, where in addition to the commander nine other crew members died. When the British battlecruisers and big cruisers joined, the German ships withdrew.




Use after the war:

After the German Empire capitulated, the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron was relocated to the Baltic Sea at the request of the Estonian government to provide the country with weapons and protect against the Russian Navy.

During one of the backup runs, the HMS Cassandra ran on a German sea mine and sank. The Calypso took part in the reception of the survivors and brought them back to Britain. Following the ship drove back to the Baltic Sea.

In March 1919, HMS Calypso was assigned to the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron and sent to the Black Sea to assist the White Army in the Russian Civil War and bring refugees to safety.

When in December 1922 in Greece the military carried out a coup and forced the royal family to abdicate and carry out cases against officers, the royal family asked for British assistance. In Corfu, home of the royal family, HMS Calypso welcomed the prince, his wife, four daughters and their 18-month-old son Philippos (later husband of Queen Elizabeth II) into Italian Brindisi.

Until April 25, 1932, the ship remained in the Mediterranean and then returned to the UK. On May 5, 1932, it arrived in Chatham, moved to Plymouth in October and was assigned to the reserve.




Use in the Second World War:

When at the end of August 1939 threatened a new war, the HMS Calypso was reactivated and assigned on September 3, 1939 the 7th Kreuzergeschwader. The ships of the squadron was used to secure the North Sea and to prevent German ships to go to Germany and search merchant ships for goods for Germany. Thus, on September 24, 1939 coming from Rio de Janeiro Minden of North German Lloyd was spotted. However, as the British ships approached, the crew themselves sank the ship.

Just like its sister ship HMS Caledon, Calypso was involved in the search for the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on 23 November 1939, which had previously sunk the British aid cruiser Rawalpindi.

On December 1, 1939, the ship was relocated to Newcastle -up-Tyne to be there overhauled. Afterwards it went to Plymouth, where it was prepared for use in the Mediterranean. On December 31, 1939, the ship reached the Mediterranean and served in the 3rd Cruiser Squadron.

In early 1940, the transfer to the eastern Mediterranean, where served as the port of Alexandria. With Italy's entry into the war against France and Great Britain, British ships were ordered to attack Italian warships as well.





In search of Italian warships and utilities, the HMS Calypso was hit by a torpedo on 11 June 1940 by the Italian submarine Alpino Bagnolini and began to sink.

As the ship sank slowly, most of the crew was rescued by the other British warships. The HMS Calypso sank on 12 June 1940 around 01:00 clock. The attack and demise cost 39 crew members the life.




Ship data:


HMS Calypso


Great Britain

Ship Type:  

Light cruiser


(Subgroup Caledon-Class)


Hawthorn, Leslie & Co., Hebburn am Tyne




January 24, 1917


June 21, 1917


On June 11, 1940 torpedoed by the Italian submarine Alpino Bagnolini, sunk on June 12, 1940


137,2 meters


13 meters


Max. 5 meters


Max. 4.925 tons


400–437 men


6 Yarrow boiler

2 Parsons geared turbines


43.312 PS

Maximum speed:  

29 kn (54 km/h)




5 × 152 mm Mk.XII rapid-fire gun

2 × 76 mm L / 45 Mk.I anti-aircraft guns

4 × 47 mm Hotchkiss salute guns

4 × 2 torpedo tubes ∅ 53,3 cm


Side armor: 30-76 mm

Deck: 25 mm

Shields: 25 mm

Bulkheads: 25 mm

Command bridge: 76 mm






You can find the right literature here:


British Battleships of World War One

British Battleships of World War One Hardcover – November 15, 2012

This new edition of a classic work on British battleships is the most sought after book on the subject. Containing many new photographs from the author's exhaustive collection this superb reference book presents the complete technical history of British capital ship design and construction during the dreadnought era. Beginning with Dreadnought, all of the fifty dreadnoughts, 'super-dreadnoughts' and battlecruisers that served the Royal Navy during this era are described and superbly illustrated with photographs and line drawings.

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The British Battleship: 1906-1946

The British Battleship: 1906-1946 Hardcover – October 15, 2015

Norman Friedman brings a new perspective to an ever-popular subject in The British Battleship: 1906-1946. With a unique ability to frame technologies within the context of politics, economics, and strategy, he offers unique insight into the development of the Royal Navy capital ships. With plans of the important classes commissioned from John Roberts and A D Baker III and a color section featuring the original Admiralty draughts, this book offers something to even the most knowledgeable enthusiast.

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British Battlecruisers 1905-1920

British Battlecruisers 1905-1920 Hardcover – December 15, 2016

The brainchild of Admiral Sir John Fisher, battlecruisers combined heavy guns and high speed in the largest hulls of their era. Conceived as "super-cruisers" whose job it was to hunt down and destroy commerce raiders, their size and gun-power led to their inclusion in the battlefleet as a fast squadron of capital ships. This book traces in detail the development of Fisher's original idea into the first battlecruiser Invincible of 1908, through to the "Splendid Cats" of the Lion class, and culminating in HMS Hood in 1920, the largest warship in the world for the next twenty years. The origins of the unusual "light battlecruisers" of the Courageous type are also covered.

The well-publicized problems of British battlecruisers are examined, including the latest research throwing light on the catastrophic loss of three of the ships at the Battle of Jutland. The developmental history is backed by chapters covering machinery, armament, and armor, with a full listing of important technical data. The comprehensive collection of illustrations includes the author's superb drawings and original Admiralty plans reproduced in full color. This revised and updated edition of the classic work first published in 1997 will be welcomed by anyone with an interest in the most charismatic and controversial warships of the dreadnought era.

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British Battlecruiser vs German Battlecruiser: 1914–16 (Duel)

British Battlecruiser vs German Battlecruiser: 1914–16 (Duel) Paperback – November 19, 2013

Battles at Dogger Bank and Jutland revealed critical firepower, armor, and speed differences in Royal Navy and Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy) Battlecruiser designs.

Fast-moving and formidably armed, the battlecruisers of the British and German navies first encountered one another in 1915 at Dogger Bank and in the following year clashed near Jutland in the biggest battleship action of all time. In the decade before World War I Britain and Germany were locked in a naval arms race that saw the advent of first the revolutionary dreadnought, the powerful, fast-moving battleship that rendered earlier designs obsolete, and then an entirely new kind of vessel - the battlecruiser. The brainchild of the visionary British admiral John 'Jacky' Fisher, the battlecruiser was designed to operate at long range in 'flying squadrons', using its superior speed and powerful armament to hunt, outmanoeuvre and destroy any opponent. The penalty paid to reach higher speeds was a relative lack of armour, but Fisher believed that 'speed equals protection'. By 1914 the British had ten battlecruisers in service and they proved their worth when two battlecruisers, Invincible and Inflexible, sank the German armoured cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau off the Falklands in December 1914.

Based on a divergent design philosophy that emphasised protection over firepower, the Germans' battlecruisers numbered six by January 1915, when the rival battlecruisers first clashed at Dogger Bank in the North Sea. By this time the British battlecruisers had been given a new role - to locate the enemy fleet. Five British battlecruisers accompanied by other vessels intercepted and pursued a German force including three battlecruisers; although the battle was a British tactical victory with neither side losing any of its battlecruisers, the differences in the designs of the British and German ships were already apparent. The two sides responded very differently to this first clash; while the Germans improved their ammunition-handling procedures to lessen the risk of disabling explosions, the British drew the opposite lesson and stockpiled ammunition in an effort to improve their rate of fire, rendering their battlecruisers more vulnerable. The British also failed to improve the quality of their ammunition, which had often failed to penetrate the German ships' armour.

These differences were highlighted more starkly during the battle of Jutland in May 1916. Of the nine British battlecruisers committed, three were destroyed, all by their German counterparts. Five German battlecruisers were present, and of these, only one was sunk and the remainder damaged. The limitations of some of the British battlecruisers' fire-control systems, range-finders and ammunition quality were made clear; the Germans not only found the range more quickly, but spread their fire more effectively, and the German battlecruisers' superior protection meant that despite being severely mauled, all but one were able to evade the British fleet at the close of the battle. British communication was poor, with British crews relying on ship-to-ship flag and lamp signals even though wireless communication was available. Even so, both sides claimed victory and the controversy continues to this day.

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