HMS Rawalpindi

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HMS Rawalpindi
Career (Great Britain)
Name: SS Rawalpindi
Owner: Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company
Port of registry:  United Kingdom
Route: London-Bombay passenger and mail service
Builder: Harland and Wolff, Greenock
Yard number: 660
Laid down: 1923
Launched: 26 March 1925
Homeport: London
Fate: Requisitioned by Royal Navy, 24 August 1939
Status: Sunk
Career RN Ensign
Name: HMS Rawalpindi
Acquired: 24 August 1939
Commissioned: 19 September 1939
Out of service: 23 November 1939
Fate: Sunk 23 November 1939, Iceland Gap
General characteristics
Type: Armed merchant cruiser
Displacement: 16,697 long tons (16,965 t)
Length: 548 ft (167 m)
Beam: 69 ft (21 m)
Draught: 29 ft 6 in (8.99 m)
Propulsion: 2 x quadruple expansion four cylinder steam engines
Speed: 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 276
Armament: 8 × 6 in (150 mm) guns, 2 × 3 in (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns

HMS Rawalpindi was a British armed merchant cruiser (a converted passenger ship) that was sunk during the Second World War.

She started life as the 16,695 registered tons P. & O. Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. ocean liner SS Rawalpindi out of London. She was requisitioned by the Admiralty on 26 August 1939 and converted to an armed merchant cruiser by the addition of eight 6 in (150 mm) guns and two 3 in (76 mm) guns and set to work from October in the Northern Patrol covering the area around Iceland.


While patrolling north of the Faroe Islands on 23 November 1939, she investigated a possible enemy sighting, only to find that she had encountered two of the most powerful German warships, the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau trying to break out through the GIUK gap into the Atlantic. Rawalpindi was able to signal the German ships' location back to base. Despite being hopelessly outgunned, 60-year old Captain Edward Coverley Kennedy RN of Rawalpindi decided to fight, rather than surrender as demanded by the Germans. He was heard to say "We’ll fight them both, they’ll sink us, and that will be that. Good-bye".

The German warships sank Rawalpindi within 40 minutes. 238 men died, including Captain Kennedy. Thirty-seven men were rescued by the German ships, and a further 11 were picked up by HMS Chitral (another converted passenger ship). Captain Kennedy — the father of broadcaster and author Ludovic Kennedy — was posthumously Mentioned in Dispatches.

Thanks to the actions of Rawalpindi, the German attempt to break out into the Atlantic was foiled. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were forced to return to base in order to avoid interception by the British Home Fleet.

Sister ships

Rawalpindi was one of the P&O 'R' class liners from 1925 that had the much of their interiors designed by Lord Inchcape's daughter Elsie Mackay[1]. Her sister ships SS Ranchi, Ranpura and Rajputana were also converted to armed merchant cruisers. Rajputana was torpedoed by U-108 in the Denmark Strait and sunk on 13 April 1941.


External links

Coordinates: 63°23′59″N 12°18′36″W / 63.39972°N 12.31°W / 63.39972; -12.31

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