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HMS Dorsetshire in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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HMS Dorsetshire

   H.M.S Dorsetshire, a County Class Cruiser was launched at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1929 by the Countess of Shaftesbury.She was serving with the 5th Cruiser Squadron on the China Station in 1939. The ship was part of the fleet that sunk the German battleship Bismark in the Atlantic in 1941.

The Dorsetshire was sunk on the 5th April 1942, by a Japanese carrier aircraft, three hundred miles west of Colombo, Ceylon. 227 lives were lost.


1st Apr 1942 Extract from Ships Log April 1942

If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have sailed in

HMS Dorsetshire

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Angear John Cecil. Shpwrt.
  • Armstrong Edwin Francis. Telegraphist (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Austin Joseph. (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Austin Joseph. (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Ball Fred Charles Arthur.
  • Beedham Ernest William. AB.
  • Beggs Alistair Duncan.
  • Bell Douglas Stewart. Stkr 1st Cl. (d.5th April 1942)
  • Bellis Arthur. Ldg. Stkr. (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Benny Cyril John.
  • Benny Cyril John. PO.
  • Branagan Charles Stanley. ERA 3rd Class (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Brill Vernon Richard. Able Sea.
  • Cambridge William Richard. CPO.
  • Concanon Harold Bernard. Surgeon Lieut. (D) (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Concanon Harold Bernard. Surgeon Lt. (D) (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Deeley John. Nav.Officer.
  • Dorrington Albert J..
  • Doyle Sidney Richard.
  • Eades William Walter. (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Eriksen Edward Anders. Ord.Sea. (d.5th April 1942)
  • Farley Albert Walter. (d.5th April 1942)
  • George Henry. PO.
  • Gordon G Douglas. Mjr.
  • Gubb Allan Geoffrey. Tel. (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Halfacre Norman George Ryder.
  • Herbert Robert Francis Joseph. Sgt.
  • Johnson Francis Douglas Lloyd. AB
  • Laborde Denzil. Chaplain (d.5th Apr 1942 )
  • Lines Alfred Edward. Sub/Lt.
  • Meadows Alfred Ernest.
  • Mowat John Alexander. ERA4.
  • Nicklin Robert.
  • Nicklin Robert.
  • Nicklin Robert.
  • Pitt William. (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Rowbotham Markham Cyril. stoker first class (d.4th April 1942)
  • Rule Albert Henry. Stkr. (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Sheldon Charles. (d.5th April 1942)
  • Sheldon Charles. (d.5th April 1942)
  • Spriddle Bruce Sydney George. CPO.
  • Stothard Samuel. Canteen Assnt. (d.5th Apr 1942)
  • Trebilcock Edwin.
  • Vivian Albert. PO.
  • Wade Charles.
  • Williams Godfrey. Stkr.
  • Williams John. Stkr. (d.5th April 1942)
  • Wills Lesley George.
  • Wills Lesley George.

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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There are 1 pages in our library tagged HMS Dorsetshire  These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.

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Surgeon Lieut. (D) Harold Bernard Concanon HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942)

My father's cousin, Harold Concanon was the dentist on HMS Dorsetshire when she was sunk in 1942. He and my father were about the same age and effectively grew up together in Ireland. My Father qualified as a doctor in 1941 at the National University of Ireland. Harold qualified as a dentist a year earlier. Both joined the Royal Navy (even though Ireland was neutral). Harold was initially posted to Liverpool but then joined Dorsetshire. My Father went to Portsmouth, initially as a civilian, but then joined the Navy after Harold's death.

Tim Concanon

Lesley George Wills HMS Dorsetshire

My grandfather, Lesley George Wills, served on HMS Dorsetshire. He was on her when she was sunk. He was picked up and taken to South Africa; our family is still in contact with the family who looked after him there.

Christianne Pollock

Charles Wade HMS Dorsetshire

Does anybody remember my grandad, Charles Wade? He served with the Royal Navy with HMS Dorsetshire. He never spoke much about his time with the navy, but once a year he would recall how he got sunk and how he lost some good friends. Sadly he passed away about 12 years ago. I would be grateful for any info about my grandad.

Charlotte Mills

Lesley George Wills HMS Dorsetshire

My grandfather served on HMS Dorsetshire. He was called Lesley George Wills, and was on her when she was sunk. He was picked up and taken to South Africa - our family are still in contact with the family who looked after him there.

Christianne Pollock

Robert Nicklin HMS Dorsetshire

I am a ww2 Navy veteran, I volunteered at 17 and a few months served on the cruiser HMS Dorsetshire in the action against the Bismark. She had the distinction of finishing her off with torpedoes and picking up most of the survivors.

Served on a Destroyer in the landings at Madagascar, numerous actions in the Mediterranean including three Malta convoys and, in company with another Destroyer, sank eleven enemy ships in a three hour night action. I finished my sea duty on another Cruiser at the Normandy landings.

I kept a diary of my time in the Med and looking back now at my age I realise how lucky I was as I lost a lot of great pals and comradeship the likes of which I have never seen again.

Robert Nicklin

Charles Sheldon HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th April 1942)

Marine Charles Sheldon served and died on the HMS Dorsetshire. He was my wife’s uncle.

Ralph Farrugia

Charles Sheldon HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th April 1942)

Marine Charles Sheldon served and died on the HMS Dorsetshire. He was my wife’s uncle.

Ralph Farrugia

Telegraphist Edwin Francis Armstrong HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942)

Edwin Francis Armstong; RN Telegraphist, died on 5 April 1942 aboard the HMS Dorsetshire. He is remembered by the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 68, Column 2. He is also remembered on the CWGC website

Cathy Reed

ERA 3rd Class Charles Stanley Branagan HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942)

Charles Stanley Branagan, Engine Room Artificer 3rd class was killed 5th April 1942 aboard HMS Dorsetshire. He was the son of Thomas and Nellie Branagan of New Moston, Manchester, and husband of D. Branagan.

Robert Brannagan

William Pitt HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942)

While researching my Family Tree it seems my Dad has a Step Brother who he knew nothing about. His name is William Pitt & he was lost at Sea when the Dorsetshire was sunk but his body was never recovered & from Family Stories seems my Grandmother, William's Mother saw a Medium many times & was told he was still alive. Obviously he will be long gone now but any information however little would be greatly appreciated.

Stewart C.Bailey

Joseph Austin HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942)

My grandfather's uncle, Joseph Austin, served on the Dorsetshire, and went down with her on April 5th 1942. Many thanks for producing such a wonderful website.

Mike Austin

William Walter Eades HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942)

My Grandfather served on HMS Dorsetshire as CPO William Walter Eades, unfortunately he went down with the ship, so I never met him.

Richard Eades

Robert Nicklin HMS Dorsetshire

My most vivid memory of WW2 out of dozens of action's that I participated in was the sinking of Hitlers pride of the german navy the Bismark, my ship had raced through gales to take part in the action H.M.S. Dorsetshire was a County class cruiser eight 8" guns when we arrived on the scene the action had just started and in the next two hour's we fired 240 eight inch shells at the Bismark and I could see our's and another ships shells smashing into her superstructure and when she was nothing more than a burning wreck we were ordered to finish her off,and as we fired three torpedoe's into her I could see hundreds of men jumping into the very rough sea,we lay off and watched her turn over and bottom up with scores of men standing on her steel plates as she slowly sank beneath the waves' the pride of the german navy was no more and H.M.S.Hood had been avenged. We then started the dangerous task of picking up the survivors being stopped in the water for this task we were sitting ducks for any Uboat but we managed to pick up some eighty odd men and were still hauling men over the side when a lookout spotted what he thought was a periscope and as I have already pointed out to a question from a German 'would the skipper of that Uboat let us carry on picking up survivors?' I think not! so off we went.

Robert Nicklin

CPO. William Richard Cambridge HMS Dorsetshire

I would like you to put my father's name on the list of personel who served on H.M.S.Dorsetshire during the Second Word War He served from 1937 until she was sunk in 1942. He is a survivor. Thank you.


Joseph Austin HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942)

Joseph Austin, died on the Dorsetshire, he was my grandmother's brother. He was a professional sailor. I have in my possession a letter written on the Wednesday before the ship sailed on the Saturday. In his letter he writes about starting a 10,000 mile journey home, a trip which we now know was never completed. I have also letters listing his service duties, one of which was to escort the King on his tour of the West Indies.

Malcolm Beeston

Sgt. Robert Francis Joseph Herbert G Company

My father served on the Dorsetshire from 8th September 1937, until it was sunk, as a coporal in the Royal Marines. He never spoke much about his time in the Royal Marines or during WW2. He did speak briefly of the sinking and mentioned some of his time in the water and how lucky he was not to be killed. I believe he was taken back to Cape Town after being rescued and was stationed there for some time. He met my mother in Cape Town and they were married there before being stationed back at Plymouth in 1944. Many years ago we watched a documentary about the sinking of the Bismark and after the sinking there was a film scan of the ship and a number of the crew and he named a number of the crew which was amazing and interesting. He passed away in 2002 and was very proud of his time in the Royal Marines.

Derrick Herbert

Ord.Sea. Edward Anders Eriksen HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th April 1942)

Edward Eriksen was my fathers brother, Uncle Eddie. On a recent holiday in Plymouth I found his name on the War Memorial.He is still well remembered by the family and I was very emotional when I found his name.

Doris Clark

Surgeon Lt. (D) Harold Bernard Concanon Volunteer Reserve (d.5th Apr 1942)

Harold Bernard Concanon, my mother's first husband, was killed when HMS Dorsetshire was sunk during WWII. He was a South African who had trained as a dentist at Liverpool University. While he was at Liverpool University I understand he was President of the Students Guild. His dental practice was at 60 Rodney Street, Liverpool and my mother lived there during the war. He was a commissioned officer and was the ships dentist.

I know that my mother still thought of him until the day she died, although she happily re-married and had me. 'Uncle Bernard', as she referred to him when she talked of him to me, would not consider having a family whilst the war was on, so he has no direct descendants. I suspect that his nephews know little about him as his brother died at an early age as well.

There must be very few survivors still living now, but, I am glad that the internet helps to keep alive the memory of those brave men and women who battled to keep us free.

Update: Harold Bernard Concanon is remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 76 Column 3 according to CWGC.

David McGuinness

Chaplain Denzil Laborde HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942 )

Denzil Laborde was ship's Chaplain on board HMS Dorsetshire for most of the war and was lost when the ship sank. His young wife had two small girls, the youngest never saw her father, and was only 5 months old when he died. Close to the end of the war, my father, a close university friend of Denzil Laborde, married his young widow. I grew up hearing about the tragedy from both my half-sisters and well remember the small blue book all about this famous ship, which I believe my elder sister still has.

Mark Stevens

Stkr. Albert Henry Rule HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942)

Firstly I would like to congratulate you on such a well researched and interesting site. It brings home how much we owe to so many, one of the many being my father, Albert Henry Rule, Stoker 1st class. He was serving on HMS Dorsetshire and went down with the ship on Easter Sunday 1942. He was 24 yrs of age and left a widow of 21yrs and 2 children my brother and myself. He only saw me once when he came home on leave when I was 6 or 7 months old so I do not remember him. My Mother sadly died recently and I now have a photo of him with a couple of his crew mates.

Roselyn T. Catterall

Nav.Officer. John Deeley HMS Dorsetshire

My father, John Deeley, served on HMS Dorsetshire during 1942 as navigating officer, I believe, when she was sunk in the Indian Ocean. He was badly wounded with shrapnel in the leg and one eye but survived and was sent to South Africa to recuperate. I still have his navigation manuals that went with him into the sea - they are very much the worse for wear! Happily, my father survived the war and died peacefully at the age of 70

Gavin Hamilton-Deeley

ERA4. John Alexander Mowat HMS Dorsetshire

Alec Mowat served on the Dorsetshire 12th July 1941 - 5th April 1942 as an ERA4. He survived and was picked up in Durban South Africa by the 'Valiant' working on board until the 30th September 1943.

Eileen Mowat-Cannon

Cyril John Benny HMS Dorsetshire

My father, Jack Benny, served on HMS Dorsetshire from prior to the Bismarck action until she was sunk on April 5th 1942. He survived the sinking, with some assistance I believe as he was a non swimmer!

Nick Benny

PO. Cyril John Benny HMS Dorsetshire

My father, Cyril John "Jack" Benny, served on HMS Dorsetshire from sometime prior to the Bismark action until the sinking in April 1942, a non-swimmer he was assisted to some floating wreckage until rescued with the other survivors. I am not quite sure what happened next but he did spend a fair amount of 1942/43 in East Africa, Kenya/Mombasa before returning to England late 1943 or early 1944 to join the Ramilies in time to be involved with the shelling of northern France on D Day. He passed away on September 21st 1996, without ever telling his full story.

Nick Benny

Norman George Ryder Halfacre HMS Dorsetshire

My dad, Norman Halfacre was a survivor of the Dorsetshire, he never talked about it. He also survived the sinking of HMS Spartan, it's amazing to read these accounts from the brave men & see the photos, I can't imagine what they went through.

Lesley Leworthy

Albert Walter "Walter" Farley HMS Dorestshire (d.5th April 1942)

My great uncle, Walter Farley, was a Marine during the Second World War and was aboad the HMS Dorestshire when she sunk the Bismarck and when she was sunk by Japanese dive bomber planes.

My nan never knew what happened to her big brother until I started researching his service. I found that the HMS Dorestshire sunk off Sri Lanka on the date that my great uncle died. I was able to use Google Earth to pin point the site of the wreck she could finally see where he had died.

Sub/Lt. Alfred Edward Lines HMS Dorsetshire

My father, the late Alfred Edward Lines (died 1991 in Scotland aged 70), was serving on HMS Dorsetshire when she was bombed, by the Japanese, on Easter Day 1942. He only survived because he was on his way to the sick bay instead of being in the engine room. He was in the water for two days before being taken to Nairobi. He never spoke about his war experiences so reading stories of other survivors has helped me piece together his war service. I am grateful to the Association for 'remembering'.

Marion Farmer

Able Sea. Vernon Richard Brill HMS Dorsetshire

My Dad, Vernon Brill who is now 95 years old (and still drives his own car), was on the HMS Dorsetshire until it was sunk on the 5th of April, he is the last South African survivor.


Fred Charles Arthur Ball HMS Dorsetshire

Chris Ball

AB. Ernest William Beedham HMS Dorsetshire

Ernest Beedham joined the Royal Navy in March 1934 and served on HMS Dorsetshire as LTO from June 1937 to July 1941 when he was injured in action. He was discharged as physically unfit for naval service in Sept 1942

Eric Beedham

Canteen Assnt. Samuel Stothard HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th Apr 1942)

Samuel Stothard was a Canteen Assistant for the Navy Army and Air Force Institute (Naafi) on board HMS Dorsetshire and died on the 5th April 1942 when the Heavy Cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall were sunk under attack from Japanese carrier based aircraft in the Indian Ocean about 300 miles from Ceylon.

Dawn Taylor

Albert J. Dorrington HMS Dorsetshire

I don't know much apart from my grandfather Jack Dorrington was aboard HMS Dorsetshire when she sank and was lucky to survive allbeit with injuries. He didn't speak of his time in the navy and with him gone now, myself and my brother would like to try and find out about his time. The problem is we think he joined the navy when he was under the legal age and gave false information so it's proving difficult to trace him.

Sarah Welsh

PO. Henry George HMS Dorsetshire

My father, Henry George joined the Royal Navy before the outbreak of the war as a boy. He was aged about 14 or 15. He was at HMS Drake in Plymouth, (I was also a cadet there in the late 1950s). I believe his first seaborne duty was on HMS Dorsetshire, training with torpedoes and catapult launching of the amphibian aircraft. His rank on joining the ship was of Ordinary Seaman, and I believe he was a gunnery specialist and a Navy 'sharpshooter'.

I know that he spent some time in South Africa, (maybe Durban), and also in Canada. He did not speak much about his wartime ships. I believe he was on convoy escort ships in the North Atlantic. The words Golden Fleece come to mind; I do not know if it was a ship or a shore establishment. (HMS Golden Fleece was a Royal Navy Minesweeper.) Towards the end of the war, or shortly after, he served on Minesweepers. His final rank was of Petty Officer, and was a 'Captain of the Gun'.

At the end of the war he joined the Royal Naval Fleet Reserve, and I think served annual training again at HMS Drake or HMS Excellent. If you or anyone else could confirm or deny any of these facts I would be grateful. He died around 2006.

Ken George

Alistair Duncan "Mackie" Beggs HMS Dorsetshire

My uncle 'Mackie' Alistair Duncan Beggs, known to us children as 'Tarzan', was a survivor of HMS Dorsetshire when she was sunk on April 5th 1942. He was badly burned and spent some time in the sea before being rescued. He was born in Pinetown, Natal, South Africa. Four of his brothers served with the South African Division in East Africa, the Western Desert, Abyssinia and Italy. They all survived as their older brother Thomas had done in WWI.

Guy Beggs

Stkr. John Williams HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th April 1942)

During recent research into my family history, I have discovered the military history of my Great Uncle, John Williams, who was a Stoker Class 1 on-board HMS Dorsetshire; both during the time when it helped sink the Bismarck, and when it was sank by the Japanese in April 1942, when he sadly lost his life with many others. He was just 22 years of age.

I know very little of him other than this but the record books clearly show they all played a major part in such a huge conflict; it would be great to know if he was ever spoken about by survivors from HMS Dorsetshire, or people that knew him.

Michael Williams

PO. Albert Vivian HMS Dorsetshire

My grandfather served on HMS Dorsetshire and was Petty Officer Albert Vivian. He was involved in the Bismarck pursuit and was onboard when the Devonshire was destroyed, on Easter Sunday, 5th of April 1942.

Paul Vivian

Robert Nicklin HMS Dorsetshire

I volunteered at the age of 17 for the Royal Navy in 1940 and saw action on my first ship which was damaged by bomb and machine guns. It was in action against the Bismarck on HMS Dorsetshire firing 240 rounds of 8" shells. After putting three torpedoes into her and watching her sink we rescued 84 survivors. We bombarded the North African coast and took part in the landings in Madagascar. There was also lots of action in the Mediterranean, including three Malta convoys. With another destroyer we sank 13 enemy ships in an action lasting three hours. On my return to England I was just in time to take part in the Normandy landings on the cruiser HMS Emerald who, with other British warships, bombarded the shore batteries on the French coast. We were hit by a bomb and sustained only slight damage. We returned to Pompey [Portsmouth] for repairs and then went back to the landings, returning to England after things had settled down.

Robert Nicklin

Mjr. G Douglas Gordon Royal Army Medical Corps

I am researching my father, Gordon Douglas' RAMC's stay in Malta at the end of the siege. He arrived there on board HMHS Somersetshire on 28th May 1943 and left on HMHS Dorsetshire on 7th March 1944 (which was my 6th birthday - I was a seevacuee in Kamloops, BC Canada). My father kept a very complete diary of his service from 8th September 1939 to May 1945 through France, Belgium, Dunkirk, North Africa, Palestine, Italy and Chepstow(!) and it is inconceivable that he has made an error over the ships' names. Does anybody know if other ships were renamed Dorsetshire and Somersetshire or what other explanation there may be? Any help would be gratefully acknowledged.

During his time in Malta my father was posted to No 39 General Hospital in/near Mellieha and spent time at No 90 GH in Mtarfa and at No 45 GH at St Patricks. Any records of the locations of these hospitals or photographs would also be of great interest to me.

Andy Gordon

Stkr. Godfrey "Taffy" Williams HMS Dorsetshire

My Grandfather Godfrey Williams served as a stoker on the , he was there when she sank. He had very fond memories of his time serving on board, he had attributes to the drinking of rum as saving his life. He said that just as the sirens started blaring, and everyone leaped and ran to their stations, he stopped back and nicked his friend's tot of rum - just ahead of him, his friend got caught in an explosion. If he hadn't stopped, he would have been killed too. He was also fond of telling me that in one of the photos of when the crew were plucking Bismarck survivors from the sea, that it was his feet that you can see in the top corner of the photo (I don't know if this is true or not, but I like to think it is)! He made friends with one of the survivors he helped pull from the sea, a gentleman named Otto, and they remained in contact after the war. He died some years ago now, but his memory and influence live on.

Helen Richmond

Sidney Richard Doyle HMS Dorsetshire

My grandfather, Sidney Richard Doyle, served on the Dorsetshire. He was aboard when the Bismarck was sunk and when his own ship was sunk. He survived 30 hours in the water. I would like his name added to the list of crew. His friend Mike Brasler also served on the Dorsetshire and his name should also be added to the list of crew. It appears that South African personnel have been omitted from the crew list.

Anne Skinner

Stkr 1st Cl. Douglas Stewart Bell HMS Dorsetshire (d.5th April 1942)

Douglas Bell married my step aunt, Dorothy Mabel Page. He served on HMS Dorsetshire and went down with the ship on 5th April 1942.

L Peters

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