1938 Ships in Victoria Harbour

Mon, 03/01/2021 - 01:12

Cropped from Hong Kong. Victoria Harbour. 1938

Many ships assembled in Victoria Harbour. I tried to identify the H labelled (probably D class) ships, also think HMS Eagle is in the back. For all others I need the help from the ship experts.

Date picture taken


Top left - cruiser Birmingham of 5CS with carrier Eagle from starboard bow beyond

Top right - cruiser Dorsetshire of 5CS

Centre right - H.22 Diamond

Low right - 2 sloops, the left almost certainly Grimsby or Lowestoft of the Grimsby classs, to the right a slightly older sloop, could be any of Falmouth, Sandwich or Folkestone as these ships did not display their pendant numbers during this period an exact id is very problematic.

Low centre - H.64 Duchess with H.38 Delight

Low left - H.75 Decoy with H.53 Dainty

All 5 D class destroyers are of 8DF denoted by funnel bands.

Hope this helps and will enable an accurate dating.

Birmingham was constructed at Devonport Dockyard and completed 18 Nov 1937. Allocated for service on the China station she departed Portsmouth 1st Feb 1938, CO Captain E J P Brind RN, for Hong Kong via Suez in lieu of cruiser Capetown. Arriving in Singapore 3rd March for 6 weeks she needing docking and was then worked up over a couple of weeks departing 18th April, arriving in HK a week later.

She was now a member of the 5th Cruiser squadron and was the only modern post C, D or E class 6" armed, or light cruiser, to ever serve here until the outbreak of hostilities 3rd September 1939.

She departed 3rd Jan 1940 for the Med and then home to join the 18 CS of the Home fleet that March.

The brand new Birmingham was the most recent arrival of the warships in this panoramic image, all the other 9 having served in the China station for a few years and would have been familiar to many on numerous occasions.

Consequently the photo is after 23rd April 1938.

Thanks for reading my contributions.

Thank you culverin for these extra information. 

We had some discussion about similar photos, and one comment refered:

The following were the plans of the China Squadron's summer cruise to Wei Hai Wei:

a) HMS Medway and submarines and HMS Cumberland to leave on 30 May;

b) Destroyer Flotilla on 1 June:

c) HMS Dorsetshire on 3 June and

d) HMS Eagle on 4 June.

Source: HK Daily Press dated 30 and 31 May 1938

I'm not sure if these ships returned to Hong Kong later this year, but this could narrow down the time span.

This will be an incredibly difficult image to date with a lack of other cruisers, sub depot ship Medway and her brood of numerous submarines.

The 8th Destroyer Flotilla comprised all 8 of the D class with leader Duncan D.99

Daring H.16, Defender H.07, Diana H.49 and Duncan do not feature here and rarely, if ever, functioned as a full flotilla together although each flotilla was divided into 2 divisions or half flotillas. At least 1 was always in refit, frequently in Singapore, others with boiler cleaning, repairs or other problems and when at sea Eagle always had 1 as plane guard / escort.

A very tragic class which did not fare well a couple of years hence with 7 being lost by mid July 1941 including 4 of the 5 here, Decoy H.75 survived to 1946 after transfer in 1943 to Canada as Kootenay. Leader Duncan also made it to 1945 virtually unscathed.