SHIPS-IN-CLASS (8): HMS Danae (D44); HMS Dauntless (D45); HMS Dragon (D46); HMS Dalhi (D47); HMS Dunedin; HMS Diomede (D92); HMS Durban (D99); HMS Despatch (D30); HMS Daedalus (cancelled); HMS Daring (cancelled); HMS Desperate (cancelled); HMS Dryad (cancelled); ORP Dragon (HMS Dragon); ORP Conrad (HMS Danae)
OPERATORS: United Kingdom; Poland
PROPULSION: 6 x Yarrow water-tube boilers feeding Parsons geared steam turbines delivering 40,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts.
Detailing the development and operational history of the HMS Dragon (D46) Light Cruiser Warship.
Entry last updated on 12/4/2016.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
British results of the naval Battle of Jutland (May-June 1916) forced particular attention on improving armor protection for various ship types including light cruisers. More torpedo tubes were also called for as were improved gun mounts for the main battery (while retaining the existing Mk XII 6" gun turrets). The new light cruiser class - the Danae-class (also recognized as the "D-class") - was formed and the group saw commissioning from 1918 until 1946. Twelve such vessels were planned though only eight were ever completed with four being cancelled (three were ultimately lost in action).
HMS Dragon was laid down by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Greenock on January 24th, 1917 and launched on December 29th of that same year. She was commissioned on August 16th, 1918 - just months before the close of World War 1. She was part of the three original ships ordered in September of 1916 under the War Emergency Programme - HMS Danae and HMS Dauntless becoming her sisters.
Her profile showcased two smoke funnels at midships with the bridge superstructure seated ahead. A secondary, lower profile, superstructure was fitted further aft of the funnels. Power was through 6 x Yarrow water-tube boilers feeding Parsons geared steam turbines while delivering 40,000 shaft horsepower to 2 x shafts under stern. She was able to make headway near 30 knots and could range out to 2,300 nautical miles. Dimensions included a running length of 445 feet, a beam of 46.5 feet and a draught of 14.5 feet. Displacement was 5,700 tons under full load. The crew complement totaled 462 and armor ranged from 3" at midships to 1" of plate protection on the upper decks.
As completed in 1918, Dragon held a main battery of 6 x 6" L/45 Mark XII BL 6 series main guns backed by 2 x 3" Mk II Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns. There were 2 x 40mm 2-pounder "Pom-Pom" guns for additional air defense and her armament was rounded out by the inclusion of 12 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes installed as four triple-tube launchers. In 1930, the vessel's armament suite was revised. Her 6" guns were retained but 3 x 102mm Mk V AA guns added. She also continued use of the Pom-Pom AA guns as well as the twelve torpedo launchers.
At the beginning of World War 2 (1939-1945), HMS Dragon began her wartime career as part of the 7th Cruiser Squadron to be used to control German U-boat actions near the Shetlands. From there, she was part of the flotilla arranged to hunt down the Admiral Graf Spee in November of 1939, the enemy vessel eventually damaged, trapped and scuttled in Montevideo before Christmas. Having returned closer to British shores for 1940, she took on her first war prize in the form of the French destroyer "Touareg" in September and then came her participation in "Operation Menace" - the failed operation to take the French port city of Dakar in West Africa.
For most of 1941, Dragon made up a portion of the convoy defense for Allied shipping crossing the Atlantic with regularity. Before the end of the year, she was relocated to the Pacific/Asia Theater where she continued offering convoy defense. She was brought back home to Liverpool (by rounding South Africa) before the end of 1942. During the year her armament was once again revised: the 6" guns stayed but she lost one of her 102mm AA guns. 6 x 40mm Pom-Pom AA guns were now in play while her torpedo capability was left untouched.
On January 15th, 1943, the vessel was signed over to the Polish government where she now carried the name of ORP Dragon under the Polish Navy flag and a modernization program followed which updated her engines, radar and guns. This work was completed on August 23rd, 1943 and the vessel was sent to Scapa Flow to undertake more convoy defense sorties. Her 1943 armament consisted of 5 x 6" main guns, 1 x 102mm AA gun, 8 x 40mm Pom-Pom AA guns, 3 x Mark VII 2-pounder Mark VIII guns (quadruple mountings) and 12 x 20mm Oerlikon AA guns. Her torpedo tubes were removed and a depth charge launcher rail installed.
Her most prominent action in the war was in support of the Allied amphibious operation of Normandy, France on June 6th, 1944. Her guns came alive against German shore positions but close enemy fire eventually led to her withdrawal. Her guns then came into play against inland enemy positions at Caen as Allied ground forces moved in to secure the strategically important city. After resupplying at Portsmouth, she returned to the French coast to shell enemy positions and ended as an escort for the crippled HMS Nelson (28).
A German manned/human torpedo eventually knocked the ship out of action on July 7th, 1944 as she committed to unseat defenders in Caen once again. Over two dozen of her crew were killed in the surprise attack and her third magazine store went alight forcing a flooding. This brought about a list to port but the crew was able to right the ship for travel and she proceeded to shallower waters. From there the ship was written off, her useful equipment (including guns) stripped and her hulk towed to be scrapped. She formed a part of the artificial breakwater at Courseulles from the middle of July on.