We cannot afford to risk the safety of our commerce on experiments. Reduce the number of your battleships, cut down the number of submarines or aircraft if you must,  but no naval holiday at present for cruiser construction. The fewer the battleships the greater the necessity for commerce protectors. Agreements, treaties or conferences, if they assist in checking aggressive policy are undoubtedly of value, but they are not absolutely binding nor are they infallible to inexorable realities, and we may be unexpectedly be faced again with war. Let us not be found unprepared to defend our most vital spot.” (Cruisers and Naval Warfare, Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1923, by Rear Admiral W. H. D’Oyley, at page 117)

The year was 1923 and the major naval powers had just signed the Washington Treaty, which restricted construction of battleships and other types of warships. Although the numbers of cruisers for each power were not restricted, their individual size and armament was restricted to 10,000 tons and eight-inch guns. In an eleven page essay printed in Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1923, Rear Admiral W. H. D’Oyley described the types of cruisers of World War One and their missions. His central thesis was the absolute importance of protecting the merchant marine and commerce of Great Britain . He promoted the construction of large cruisers, which would have long range and maximize crew habitability. Of the then existing classes of cruisers, D’Oyley chose the Hawkins class as the cruiser best suited for the job. He further stated that any new cruiser design, which would be used for trade protection should have a displacement of no less than 9,000 tons. 

In that same volume Sir George Thurston had a fifteen-page essay entitled The Washington Conference and Naval Design. His analysis concluded that the Treaty limitations on cruisers allowed for cruiser designs better than any seen before. “This proposed cruiser, on a displacement within 10,000 tons, is capable of carrying eight 7 ½-in. or 8-in. guns twin mounted in barbettes on the centre line, 2 forward and 2 aft, and an auxiliary armament of 4-in. high angle guns suitably placed, and is capable of maintaining a speed of not less than 34 knots. The protection in every particular is equivalent to the protection of cruisers of this type built or building. As it is quite possible satisfactorily to embody all of these features in a design of such displacement, it appears to me that anything short of this should not be accepted by any first-class Power under present conditions." (The Washington Conference and Naval Design, Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1923, by Sir George Thurston, at page 96) An accompanying illustration of the ideal light cruiser (all cruisers, other than armored cruisers and battle cruisers were light cruisers) depicts a three funneled ship with a fairly high freeboard, two twin gun turrets forward, two twin gun turrets aft and a tripod foremast rising from a moderate sized superstructure. Considering that previous RN cruiser designs, including the Hawkins class, had mounted some of their guns on the broadside rather than centerline, Sir George must have had a crystal ball because his prophesy of the future designs of cruisers for the Royal Navy was almost right on the money. 

Profiles, Plan & Quarter Views
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At the close of World War One, the Royal Navy basked supreme in her status as the most powerful navy in the world. As the High Seas Fleet steamed into a gloomy internment, the Royal Navy had beaten down the latest and most serious challenge to her supremacy since Napoleon. However, everything was not as it seemed. By and large the Royal Navy had discontinued designing and building capitol ships during World War One to build lighter craft to combat the U-Boats of Germany . The USN and IJN suffered no such requirements and continued to develop battleships and battle cruisers. As a result, many of the dreadnoughts of the Royal Navy were obsolescent at best in light of continued Japanese and American building programs. With a new and more expensive arms race developing, the United States , the country most capable of sustaining a hugely expensive naval arms race, suggest a “Battleship Holiday” in which new battleship construction would be suspended. Great Britain was broke and could not afford another naval race and Japan was in little better position, with a much smaller industrial and financial base than either of her western competitors. So the powers came to terms with the Washington Treaty of 1922. With no new battleship construction, with a few exceptions, the focus of naval construction shifted to the cruiser. 

The Royal Navy still had the greatest number of cruisers of any navy, but that too was somewhat deceptive. In numbers and age, the RN seemed well placed. The ships were fairly new but many had been worn out by hard usage in the Great War. Prior to and during World War Two, cruiser design had been fixed almost exclusively on the scout cruiser, a design of short range whose primary duty was to work with the battle fleet as scouts. Designs for larger cruisers had disappeared. The armored cruiser was made obsolete by the battle cruiser and a long range trade protection cruiser was neglected by the need for numbers of scout cruisers needed for the German challenge. One exception to this was the Hawkins class of light cruisers, also called the Elizabethans. Named after the naval heroes in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, this class was designed to combat German raiders of the extensive British trade routes. They were light cruisers because all cruisers were light cruisers, except for the obsolete armored cruiser and the battle cruiser. The Hawkins design, mounting 7.5-inch guns and slightly under 10,000 tons was the prime reason that the new benchmarks in cruiser construction were set at 10,000 tons and 8-inch guns.

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By 1924 things had changed for the Royal Navy. Indeed, partly it had gotten worse as one of the Elizabethans, HMS Raleigh, had been lost in running aground in fog in August 1922. The Japanese had started on new 8-inch gun cruisers and the USN was finishing the large number of the Omaha class. “As regards the Effingham and Frobisher, of the ocean-going commerce-protecting type of light cruiser, designed in 1915, the former is still uncompleted, although the Frobisher was ordered to be finished by the end of 1923 and will be a useful addition to the Fleet in place of the lost Raleigh . The Enterprise and Emerald, smaller and faster vessels, with a 6-in. instead of a 7.5-in. gun armament, remains over until 1924-25. These are the only light cruisers remaining over from the war programmes. No new vessel of this kind has been put in hand since 1918, and a review of foreign progress in this connection indicates that the time cannot be far distant when British light cruiser construction must be resumed, in order to anticipate the large proportion of wastage which will occur by so many vessels built during the war becoming obsolete together. In every country but Great Britain , steps have been taken to provide new light cruisers of post-war design.” (The British Navy, Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1924, by Commander C. N. Robinson, R.N., at page 15)  

However, the Admiralty had been busy in designing a new cruiser that would fit the top limitations of the Washington Treaty. On October 23, 1923 Mr. Baldwin, the Prime Minister, announced that the government would be building many new cruisers to replace the old County class armored cruisers. On November 17, 1923 in an election address, he stated that, “A substantial proportion of the seventeen light cruisers required during the next few years would be laid down as soon as the designs were ready.” On January 21, 1924 the First Lord of the Admiralty announced to the House of Commons to build 52 cruisers in the next ten years. Further, that the government proposed to immediately lay down eight cruisers with 8-inch guns and 10,000 tons. The plans had been underway throughout 1923. First a turret design mounting 8-inch guns had to be selected. Single guns wouldn’t provide the necessary quantity of guns on a ship and triple gun turret was rejected because of complexity and development time. So a twin gun turret was selected and Vickers was assigned the mission of developing it. A series of designs were prepared and presented in August 1923. An initial selection was made but the Admiralty wanted more protection. New designs were prepared for a conference on October 29. A design was selected and the particulars were tweaked until on December 13, 1923 it was approved. This design was called the Kent class and in light of their size it was decided to call them cruisers, instead of the previously used term of light cruisers.

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An election had turned out the Tories and the new Labour Government immediately slashed military spending. Instead of eight new cruisers to be laid down, the number had to be reduced to five. However, the Australian government then chose to build two of the class as well, so total numbers climbed back to seven. The seven ships of the Kent class, Kent, Suffolk , Cornwall , Cumberland , Berwick , Australia and Canberra could easily be identified by their external torpedo bulges. For the program of cruisers for the next year, the board tinkered with the Kent design. The Admiralty wanted a faster ship, so the hull was lengthened by 2-feet 8-inches and the bulges of the Kent class were dropped, which reduced the beam by 2-feet 4-inches. The new hull form was longer and thinner and accordingly was ¾ a knot faster than the Kents . Weight saving allowed for the installation of a catapult and aircraft. Bridge and funnels were moved aft by 15-feet compared to the Kent design. The Admiralty wanted to continue with quantity production of the cruiser but the government would only fund four units. This design was called the London class, and consisted of London , Sussex , Shropshire and Devonshire .

Now there were eleven County class building, seven Kents and four Londons , and the Admiralty went back to tinker with the design for the next years program (1926 Programme). A new mount for the main guns was approved. Other than the new gun mount and a slightly better armor scheme, this design was very much the same as the preceding London design. Called the Dorsetshire class, only two units were funded, Dorsetshire and Norfolk . The guns were now in Mk II mounts and had simpler loading arrangements. HMS Norfolk was laid down in July 1927 at Fairfield . She was the last of the Counties to launch, on December 12, 1928 but finished on April 30, 1930, five months ahead of her sistership Dorsetshire. At first she served in the Atlantic and Home Fleets but from 1932 to 1934 Norfolk was on Americas/West Indies Station.

In the early 1930s there were some minor refits with a new catapult and HACS Mk I director fitted in 1931 and two quadruple .5 caliber Vickers machine gun mounts added in 1933. More significant refits occurred in 1936 to 1937, which further added to the AA defense. Single 4-inch AA guns replaced the twin mounts, two Mk VI 8-barreled pom-poms were added along with positions for pom-pom directors, and a second Mk I HACS director was added. As well as AA fittings, the ships received a new catapult and bridge was enlarged. With good habitability, the Norfolk was sent to India as flagship and from 1935 to 1939 enjoyed duty more attune to a cruise ship than a warship. “In 1936, I joined HMS Norfolk, the Flagship of the East Indian Squadron and had a marvelous time touring such places as Calcutta , Bombay , Mauritius and Zanzibar . We were based at Colombo and seemed to do little else other than attend parties, which never seemed to start before 2 am, and play tennis.” (Surgeon-Lieutenant Dick Caldwell, The True Glory, Isis Publishing, Oxford England 1997, by Max Arthur, at page 373)  

HMS Norfolk Vital Statistics

Dimensions: Length -
632-feet 8-inches oa, 595-feet pp; Beam - 66-feet: Displacement - 9,595 tons light; 13,290 tons deep:
Armament - Eight 8-inch/50 Mk VIII on Mk II mounts; Four 4-inch QF Mk V; Four 2pdr Mk II; Eight 21-inch Torpedo Tubes:

Armor : Belt - 4-inches to1-inch; Magazines - 3-inches; Lower Deck - 1 3/8 to 1 1/2-inches; Bulkheads - one inch; Turrets - 1-inch; Barbettes - 1-inch: Machinery: Parsons geared turbines; four shafts; Eight Admiralty 3-drum boilers; 80,000shp: Maximum Speed - 32.25 knots

At the start of World War Two the three German Panzerschiffes posed the greatest threat to British shipping. With diesel engines, they were designed for long range and of course were built specifically to pray upon merchant shipping. The British used luck and skill to bag the Graf Spee but that left Admiral Scheer and Deutschland, renamed Lutzow. On September 1, 1939 Norfolk was back home receiving a refit. In summer 1940 Norfolk received two UP mounts. Norfolk spent part of 1940 as part of a task group searching for the Scheer. Force K, specifically tasked with hunting panzerschiffes and raiders was based at Freetown in November 1940 and was composed of the carrier Formidable and cruisers Norfolk and Berwick. However, the numerous hunting forces never managed to come to grip with the raiders and it was soon realized that this was a waste of assets. By 1941 Norfolk was again at Scapa Flow and along with Suffolk formed the 1st Cruiser Squadron under Rear Admiral W.F. Wake-Walker. In May the squadron was patrolling the Denmark Straits between Iceland and Greenland when the word reached them that the new battleship Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen had sortied from Norway .

Hunt for the Bismarck
The German pair had been spotted in Bergen Fjord on May 21 but bad weather precluded another opportunity for reconnaissance until midday May 22 when it was discovered that they were gone. Indeed they had left the previous day and were on the way to break out into the Atlantic through the Denmark Strait . It was on May 23 when word first reached Admiral Tovey on King George V that Bismarck had been spotted and that message came from Norfolk . Actually it was the Suffolk that first spotted the German battleship. It was another hour before Norfolk emerged from mist and spotted the Bismarck at the oh too close range of six miles. Bismarck opened fire on Norfolk and the cruiser immediately made a smart turn about and headed back into the mist untouched. It just so happened that the Norfolk contact report reached Tovey before the Suffolk contact report. Weather turned bad as rain came in but the Suffolk and Norfolk maintained loose contact as the Germans sped south at 27 knots. It was more dangerous for Norfolk to maintain contact than Suffolk as the Norfolk had to rely on visual contact as she did not have radar like the Suffolk . Early on the 24th Norfolk ’s observers caught sight of Hood and Prince of Wales closing in for an engagement.
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Vice Admiral Holland intended his battleships to engage Bismarck while Norfolk and Suffolk took on Prinz Eugen but this plan did not reach the cruisers. As a consequence of this failure, the British cruisers were too far astern to engage. When the Hood was blown up Wake-Walker found that he was senior British officer. He had witnessed the battle and judged that Prince of Wales in her damaged state could not successfully engage the Bismarck . He therefore ordered the battleship to follow Norfolk and provide close cover for his cruisers in his task of maintaining contact. This was undoubtedly a correct assessment, although it angered the brass in London , especially Admiral Dudley Pound who wanted to court martial Wake-Walker and Captain Leach of Prince of Wales for failing to engage Bismarck after the loss of Hood. If the idiot Pound had his way the Prince of Wales probably would have been lost as well. For the rest of the day the cruisers alertly followed Bismarck . During the day the Suffolk lost radar contact and with the bad weather Wake-Walker was worried that Norfolk would blunder into the battleship. He therefore ordered Norfolk to complete a circle until Suffolk regained radar contact. This proved again to be the correct assessment as Bismarck had indeed swung broadside to the pursuing cruisers. If Norfolk had continued blindly into the rain she would have made visual contact with ready and waiting Bismarck at the murderously short range of one mile. At 1841 there was a brief moment when the mists cleared and Bismarck, the cruisers and Prince of Wales all opened fire at the range of eight miles before the mists again drew a curtain across the sea. Around midnight, which was sunset at this time of year this far north, Victorious launched a Swordfish strike, and it was Norfolk , which guided the aircraft onto Bismarck . There was one torpedo hit on the armor belt, which was shrugged off by Bismarck . Early on the 25th the Suffolk again lost radar contact with Bismarck and unfortunately it was at this time that Bismarck maneuvered to shake contact. The Bismarck , now alone as Prinz Eugen had broken free during the short engagement the day before, circled. With no radar contact the British continued to steam south so that when Bismarck completed her loop she was unseen, 30 miles north of the British force.

With the loss of contact Norfolk was out of the game when contact was reestablished with Bismarck . She was too far north, having been engaged in fruitless searches. It was the torpedo strike on the rudder of Bismarck from Ark Royal that gave her enough time to be in at the kill on May 27. Norfolk had regained visual contact of the crippled Bismarck at 16 miles, when she flashed this news to the oncoming King George V and Rodney. Rodney was the first to fire at 8:47am followed at 8:48 by King George V and 8:50 by Bismarck . Norfolk in the meantime had also rushed in and opened fire at 8:54 ten miles from Bismarck . At 9:04 another County class, the Dorsetshire joined in. The two cruisers were not passive. Between them they fired 781 8-inch shells at Bismarck , although of course they were unengaged since Bismarck was firing at the battleships. Unlike Dorsetshire, Norfolk did not fire torpedoes at the end of the battle. That summer the UP mounts along with the Vickers MG mounts were removed and received six 20mm Oerlikons, along with 273, 281, 284 and 285 radars.

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The Frozen North
The next year found Norfolk employed in covering Arctic convoys to and from Russia . On May 21, 1942 convoy PQ16 left Iceland bound for Murmansk . Comprised of 35 merchant ships, it was the largest convoy yet. Norfolk , along with Kent , Nigeria and Liverpool provided close cover. Twenty percent of the convoy was lost to U-Boats and the Luftwaffe but this was considered a success. However, the story of the next convoy PQ17 would prove far different. Again Norfolk , along with London , USS Tuscaloosa and USS Wichita provided close cover. PQ17 left Iceland on June 27, 1942 with 36 merchantmen. On July 3 it was reported that Tirpitz, Scheer, Lutzow and Hipper were all on the move. Just at this time the Germans made a change in their code and there would be a delay before it was cracked. Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord, again used his unfailingly bad judgment to make a poor decision. On July 5 staff officers told Pound that they thought Tirpitz had been moved to the northern fjord at Alten but he demanded that they promise him that she was there. When a promise was not forthcoming, Pound retired to take counsel of his fears. Pound assumed the worst case scenario, that Tirpitz and her consorts were at sea headed at full speed towards PQ17. Within a span of 25 minutes Pound ordered three signals sent with deadly consequences. At 21:11 the Norfolk with the rest of the cruisers were ordered to withdraw westward at high speed. At 21:23 the convoy was ordered to disperse or spread out and that at 21:36 it was finally ordered to scatter. Now each merchantman, now unescorted, was on its own, not against the Tirpitz, which was still in a northern fjord, but against U-Boats and aircraft, which could pick them off one by one at leisure. Only eleven of the 36 merchantmen survived the massacre.

The next convoy, PQ18 of 35 merchantmen, left Iceland on September 3, 1942. Norfolk , carrying the flag of Vice-Admiral Bonham-Carter, along with London and Suffolk , again provided close cover. This time there was stronger air protection and no new code to break. Positions of German heavy ships were constantly monitored and it became clear that they were not sortying. Only seven merchants were lost. It is only fitting that Norfolk was at the end-cap of brutal Arctic convoy missions. This was a smaller convoy of 22 merchant ships designated JW55B, which left Scotland on December 20, 1943. Again Norfolk , with Belfast and Sheffield , provided close cover. On the 22nd the Scharnhorst was ordered to raise steam for interception but when the interception came it would be the Scharnhorst intercepted by Norfolk .

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Battle of the North Cape
At 1900 on Christmas day Scharnhorst weighed anchor.  Early on the 26th the British cruisers swung to the south to interpose themselves between the convoy and Scharnhorst. Duke of York 200 miles to the west was closing as well. At 8:40 AM the cruisers picked up Scharnhorst on radar and made visual contact at 9:21 at 12,000 yards. Norfolk was the only cruiser that could bear on the German battleship, so she opened the party, in her second engagement with a German battleship. “Meanwhile at 9.24 Belfast fired her first star-shell, and six minutes later Norfolk opened fire with her 8-inch guns. The first that anyone in Scharnhorst knew of this was when the water-splashes from the British shells were seen to rise alongside the German ship.” (Battleship Scharnhorst, Essential Books, Fair Lawn, New Jersey 1958, by Albert Vulliez and Jacques Mordal, at page 218)  

Scharnhorst immediately turned south and outran the cruisers in the rough seas, which then went to the head of the convoy. However, German Admiral Bey having lost the cruisers, decided to make another go at the convoy. He reversed course again and around noon again made contact, not with the convoy but with the cruisers. There was a repeat of events. A brief engagement at 11,000 yards between the Scharnhorst and the three cruisers and then the battleship again turned south. This time Norfolk got a bloody nose. After several salvoes a heartening rumour spred through the German ship that a great explosion had been seen in the enemy’s line. Actually a projectile had hit Norfolk ’s after turret at 12.33 p.m., putting it out of action. As a precaution the cruiser’s after magazine had to be flooded, and shortly afterwards a further hit incapacitated her entire radar equipment. She had seven men killed and five seriously injured.” (Battleship Scharnhorst, Essential Books, Fair Lawn, New Jersey 1958, by Albert Vulliez and Jacques Mordal, at page 222)

Instead of staying with the convoy, the cruisers turned south to shadow the Scharnhorst and serve as guides for the onrushing Duke of York. Norfolk was handicapped in this mission with only one operational radar but she managed all temporary repairs of which she was capable. “ Norfolk ’s damage did not prevent her from keeping up with the squadron. At 4 p.m. she had to reduce speed for a time, but an hour later she was back in company with the other cruisers, taking her share in this exciting chase, just as she had played a unique part in the destruction of the Bismarck in May 1941.” (Battleship Scharnhorst, Essential Books, Fair Lawn, New Jersey 1958, by Albert Vulliez and Jacques Mordal, at page 226)

Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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At 1617 Duke of York finally picked up Scharnhorst with her radar and the cruisers fired star shells. The engagement lasted for almost 3 hours as Scharnhorst desperately sought to break contact. During the engagement she was hit by at least thirteen 14-inch shells, about a dozen 8-inch or 6-inch shells from the cruisers and eleven torpedo hits from British destroyers and cruisers before she rolled over and went down. She went in for repairs and a lengthy refit and did not return to service until November 1944. For the rest of the war she made sporadic, inconsequential sweeps of the Norwegian coast. The great cruiser was finally sold for scrap on January 3, 1950 and she was was taken to Newport where her breaking started on February 19, 1950. (History from: (Battleship Scharnhorst, Essential Books, Fair Lawn, New Jersey 1958, by Albert Vulliez and Jacques Mordal; Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1923, Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1924; British Cruisers of World War Two, Arms and Armour Press, London 1980, by Alan Raven and John Roberts; Cruisers of World War Two, Brockhampton Press, London 1996, by M.J. Whitley; Engage the Enemy More Closely, Norton & Company, New York 1991, by Correlli Barnett

Preview of Commanders/Iron Shipwright HMS Norfolk
This photographic preview shows the resin parts to the new 1:350 scale model of HMS Norfolk. When received the kit did not have the brass photo-etch, turned brass gun barrels or instructions sets that are included in the finished product. The model is now available and shipping with all components. The shelter deck was the first casting from the new mold and as a consequence is very this with some small gaps at the base of the splinter shielding. Casting is typical of Commanders/Iron Shipwrights with some voids to fill, flash on small parts and clean-up.

Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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Some warships of the Royal Navy in World War Two won fame in the Mediterranean. However, there is one that won her fame by hunting big game on the open ocean and holds the unique distinction of being the only Royal Navy warship to engage and participate in the destruction of two German battleships. That ship is the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk. Now Commanders/Iron Shipwright has produced a multi-media 1:350 scale model of the famed HMS Norfolk

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