The Dido-class light cruiser was a pre-World War 2 warship design in which sixteen hulls were completed from 1937 until 1943 and operated primarily by the British Royal Navy (RN). These sevred in commissioned service from 1940 until 1966 with five being lost-in-action and the remaining eleven units ultimately scrapped at various times. One of their number was HMS Black Prince (81) which joined HMS Bellona, HMS Royalist, HMS Diadem, and HMS Spartan as part of the "Bellona" sub-group.
The sub-group, the fourth of four constructed Dido batches, was nothing more than an improvement of the original design and would be sometimes referred to as the "Improved Dido" class. All of the group was inherently related to the preceding pre-war/interwar Arethusa-class.
For Black Prince's part in naval history, the ship was laid down at Yard No. 1049 by Harland & Wolff shipbuilders of Belfast (Northern Ireland) on November 2nd, 1939 (the war officially began on September 1st, 1939). She was launched to sea for trials on August 27th, 1942 and was officially completed on November 20th, 1943, entered commissioned service on November 30th of that year.
Light cruisers of the World War 2 period incorporated a useful main gun battery, these guns typically ranging between 5" and 6" in caliber and called upon to do the heavy work in battle. The Dido-class warships were drawn up with fleet defense in mind, providing security primarily against enemy aircraft for supply convoys, larger capital ships, and the all important aircraft carrier.
With this in mind, HMS Black Prince was originally completed with a main battery of 8 x 5.25" (133mm) QF guns in four twin-gunned primary turrets - three fitted forward and one aft. This was supported by 6 x 20mm Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns in twin-gunned emplacements and backed by 3 x 2-pounder (40mm) "pom-pom" automatic guns in quad-gunned mountings. In addition to this, the warship was equipped with 2 x 21" (530mm) triple torpedo launchers as an additional threat to enemy surface ships at range. The armament suite would change during the latter stages of the war as the situation required (and slightly more in the post-war period) but the general heart of the arrangement was more or less retained throughout the ship's service career.
As completed, the warship had a rated displacement of 6,000 tons under standard load and 7,200 tons under full load. Dimensions included a bow-to-stern length of 512 feet with a beam measuring 50.5 feet and a draught down to 14 feet. Installed power amounted to 4 x Admiralty 3-drum boiler units feeding 4 x Geared steam turbines developing 62,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts astern. This arrangement provided the warship with an ocean-going speed reaching just over 32 knots and a range out to 3,685 nautical miles (4,240 miles) when cruising at 16 knots to conserve fuel.
Aboard was a complement of 530 crew.
Armor protection ranged from 3" at the belt and 1" at the deck to 2" at the magazine stores and 1" at the bulkheads. Because of the required performance and its light classification, HMS Black Prince was relatively lightly armored but still well-armed for the roles intended of her.
After commissioning in 1943, HMS Black Prince was thrust into the war, first serving as a vital escort during the critical "Arctic Convoy" days. In late-April, 1944, she was part of a force that claimed the German torpedo boat T-29 and managed to damage vessels T-24, and T-27 near Brittany. In June of 1944, as part of "Force A" (Task Force 125), she formed a portion of the Allied naval contingent in the north of France in support of the D-Day landings at Normandy - her station was at Utah Beach and she was joined by American warships in the resulting action.
With the invasion of Northern France proving successful, the ship was relocated to the Mediterranean Theater that August in support of the invasion of Southern France to envelope the Axis defenders. From there, the ship had assignments in the Aegean, near Egypt, and offshore of the island of Crete. In November of 1944, she transited the Suez Canal en route to the Indian Ocean to begin her Pacific Theater career as part of the East Indies Fleet, now directing her capabilities against the Japanese Empire.
In January of 1945, she was assigned to the British Pacific Fleet and was part of the Okinawa campaign before moving on to the ultimately destruction of the Japanese mainland itself. At this time, the ship was rebuilt with 12 x 2-pounder guns in three quadruple-gunned emplacements, 24 x 20mm AA guns in eight twin-gunned and eight single-gunned emplacements, and 6 x 21" triple torpedo tubes.
Japan capitulated in August of 1945 and the war officially ended the following month.
In the post-war period, HMS Black Prince was loaned out to ally New Zealand on May 25th, 1946. Planned modernization of the veteran vessel was ultimately cancelled and she was sent to reserve during 1947. Still afloat, the ship was being readied for service once more in early 1952 and recommissioning followed in February of 1953 still under the banner of the Royal New Zealand Navy. At this time, she fielded her 5.25" main gun battery along with 8 x 40mm Bofors Mk 3P "Toadstool"(NZ) Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWSs). This second career lasted just until August of 1955 when the vessel was decommissioned (by British authorities) for a second time due to her obsolescence, once again placed in reserve.
In March of 1962, the stripped hull was sold for scrapping and moved from Auckland to Osaka, Japan for the final work.