Completed in November 1918, too late to see service in the First World War, the Capetown class light cruiser HMS Carlisle (4290 tons) was built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. at Glasgow in Scotland. The five ship Capetown class differed from other C class light cruisers by having a trawer bow. HMS Carlisle had been identified as HMS Cawnpore but the name was changed before commissioning. During the interwar years HMS Carlisle served with the Royal Navy's China Station (1919-1928) and the South Africa Station (1929-1937). During her service on the China Station, HMS Carlisle was involved in the rescue of survivors from the SS Hong Moh wrecked on a rock in March 1921 near Shantou. Although more than 1,000 lives were lost, the crew of the Carlisle saved 221 people. Carlisle's commanding officer Captain (Sir) Edward Evans CB, DSO was awarded an exceptionally rare Lloyd's Gold Medal For Saving Life at Sea as he had jumped into the water himself to assist survivors. Lloyd's Silver Medals were awarded to Lieutenant-Commander Ion Tower DSC, Mr J.G Dewar, Leading Seaman William Able and Leading Seaman Albert Whitehead, all from HMS Carlisle. Until 2009 Evans was the only person to receive the Lloyds Gold Medal but a second award was made to Captain Chesley Sullenberger III who ditched his Airbus aircraft in the Hudson River, New York in January 2009, saving all on board.

Conversion of HMS Carlisle to an Anti-Aircraft Cruiser was completed in 1939 which involved the removal of the six inch guns. These were replaced with four inch guns in twin high-angle mountings. During the Second World War, HMS Carlisle served with the Home Fleet during the Norwegian campaign and then with the 4th Cruiser Squadron off East Africa along with the RAN light cruiser HMAS Hobart. In 1941 HMS Carlisle was heavily engaged during naval actions off Greece and Crete as escorting convoys to Malta. During the Crete campaign HMS Carlisle saw action alongside HMAS Perth and RAN destroyers. In July 1941 HMS Carlisle was off the coast of Syria providing naval gunfire support to ground forces including the AIF 7th Division. Subsequently HMS Carlisle escorted convoys to the besieged port of Tobruk held by the AIF 9th Division. In 1942 she escorted convoys to the island of Malta. Following a UK refit in late 1942 HMS Carlisle joined the 15th Cruiser Squadron in 1943 and operated off Sicily during the allied invasion in July. In October 1943 the ship was badly damaged by Stuka dive bombers during the ill-fated British campaign to occupy the Aegean islands following the surrender of Italy. After being towed to Alexandria in Egypt to be used as a base ship and was written off as beyond economical repair and scrapped at Alexandria in 1949.

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