The County-class, HMS Norfolk (78), 1943 is a rank IV British heavy cruiser with a battle rating of 5.7 (AB/RB/SB). It was introduced in Update "Direct Hit".
The Norfolk is a Dorsetshire-class heavy cruiser, subclass of the County-class cruisers built by the British post-Washington Treaty in the late 1920s for ocean power projection and trade protection. As a "treaty cruiser", the Norfolk sacrificed armour protection in favour of heavy 8-inch gun armament and high speed and endurance.
Survivability and armour
Due to the displacement limitations imposed on the County-class, the Norfolk does not have much in the way of armour. Most of what little armour she has is concentrated around the main 8-inch gun magazines, which are protected inside an armoured box of 102 mm in the sides, 76 mm on the ends and on the deck. These boxes are located below the waterline, and make her quite resistant to ammunition detonations from destroyer or light cruiser main guns at range.
The machinery is protected by only a thin strip 25 mm of armour on the sides, ends, and deck, and is thus vulnerable to even destroyer main guns. The main gun turrets and barbettes are similarly poorly protected.
The rest of the ship has no armour plating on the hull above the waterline. This means that the ship tends to take a lot of damage from even HE shells. In particular, like most British cruisers, the Norfolk has an open bridge which is highly vulnerable to getting disabled.
The Norfolk has a respectable crew complement of 819 men. However, many of these crew members are located on the exposed anti-aircraft gun positions, which means that she tends to suffer considerable crew attrition from even relatively light HE hits, such as from destroyers.
The Norfolk is fairly fast for a heavy cruiser. However, she is still a heavy cruiser, and thus her handling and acceleration/deceleration characteristics are still relatively cumbersome compared to those of lighter ships.
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Modifications and economy
The Norfolk's main armament consists of eight 8-inch Mark VIII guns distributed in four twin turrets. These guns have acceptable accuracy, though they will struggle to gain consistent hits at longer ranges. The shortest possible reload time with a fully trained crew is 12 seconds, which is fast for a heavy cruiser. There is no first-stage ammunition stowage, thus the reload is consistent no matter how much ammunition is left in the magazines.
The 8-inch guns have only two types of shell: HE and SAPCBC. The HE shell contains a powerful bursting charge of 10 kg of TNT. The SAPCBC shell is the only other shell present, with no access to a full AP shell. However, the SAPCBC makes up for this by providing a solid blend of penetrating power and explosive filler. Compared to the shells seen on the 8inch/55 on American heavy cruisers, the SAPCBC possesses over twice the penetration of the American Common shells, and twice the explosive filler of the American APCBC shell, with 5.2 kg of TNT, allowing the SAPCBC to be used to great effect against both cruisers and destroyers.
HE is used as the stock shell on the Norfolk, and while its large bursting charge deals heavy damage to light targets, the SAPCBC is more versatile and should immediately be researched following the basic survivability modifications, and SAPCBC should be used in nearly all circumstances.
The main guns have an unusual amount of elevation of 70 degrees: in real life, this was because the guns were expected to engage aircraft. However, as there is no time-fused or VT-fused shell available for the British 8-inch gun currently in the game, the Norfolk is unable to take full advantage of this feature.
The Norfolk is fitted with with four twin 4 inch/45 Mark XVI mounts, which were used on several destroyers in the British tech tree, two to a side amidships. These guns are mostly useful against aircraft, as unlike American cruisers with their broadside of eight 5 inch/38 Mk.12 guns, these guns have much poorer damage output. There are four shells available, HE, SAP, HE-TF, and HE-VT. The stock HE performs as can be expected for a gun of the caliber, doing minimal damage to anything it faces. The SAP shell has a reasonable 103mm of penetration at 1000m, and although the penetration rapidly falls off, it can still help defend the ship against surface threats. The HE-TF and HE-VT are both specialized for anti-aircraft, and can deal a reasonable amount of damage against enemy planes. It is recommended to take majority HE-VT, with some SAP as well.
The star of the ship's AA are the two octuple 40mm Pom-Pom mounts located just aft of the torpedoes. These will immediately dispatch aircraft, as well as patrol boats if necessary. Aside from those, and the dual-purpose 4 inch/45 mounts, the only other AA armament are eight single 20mm Oerlikon Mk.IIs. Four are located around the superstructure, one is on the B turret, two are on the X turret, and one more can be found on the stern. These will aid in downing planes, and provide a nice light show at whatever they are shooting at. While the Norfolk's AA is inferior to other cruisers, such as its counterpart the London and other foreign ships, it will sufficient to defend the ship against air attack.
The Norfolk is equipped with two quadruple torpedo tubes, located on each side of the ship. They fire Mk.IX wet-heater torpedoes, which are superior to the antiquated Mk.V steam turbined torpedoes found on older cruisers in range and explosive mass, but are still unexceptional compared to foreign torpedoes like the Type 93. They will certainly save you if you get into a close-quarters brawl with an enemy ship, but they shouldn't be relied on aside from a last resort weapon
Usage in battles
The Norfolk is a bit of a glass cannon, having excellent firepower but very poor armour protection for a heavy cruiser. Her armour will protect against magazine detonations from most cruiser shells, but the lack of armour elsewhere, especially on critical parts like her turrets and the bridge, mean that she can take crippling damage from even destroyers if they get within effective range. This means that she excels at providing medium range support and should generally avoid drawing too much attention to herself. She has a good turn of speed for a heavy cruiser, allowing her to get to tactically advantageous positions a little bit faster while the large fillers in her HE and SAPCBC shells can inflict heavy damage on destroyers and cruisers. It is recommended to become familiar with the armor schemes of enemy cruisers, and target those which have poor protection, as against them the massive bursting charge will shine, while you won't notice the inferior penetration of the shells.
The Norfolk is also one of the few 5.7 cruisers equipped with air-search radar, giving crucial early warning of any incoming enemy aircraft. She also has a very reasonable anti-aircraft armament suite, allowing her to provide effective air cover to teammates when necessary.
Specific enemies worth noting
- Late destroyers + USS Atlanta
- Several late destroyers, such as the Porter, Somers, and Spokoinyy can prove to be a dangerous foe, as the Norfolk's general lack of armor protection makes it extremely vulnerable against a hail of small-caliber fire. When encountering them, you should remain calm, as they while they will sting, they will not sink you fast enough. Fire your opening salvo against them under the front turrets, as it will likely destroy the turrets, damage the bridge, and ideally cause an ammunition detonation as well. A larger threat, in both size and danger, is the USS Atlanta, which can rain a 14-gun broadside of 5" shells down on you. It is best to try to engage the Atlanta at range, where the long travel time of the Atlanta's shells proves to be a disadvantage, while your 8" guns are very well suited for engaging cruisers at long range
- German 5.7 Cruisers
- The German trio of Admiral Hipper, Prinz Eugen, and Admiral Graf Spee are all extremely dangerous enemies, as they possess a blend of both firepower and armor that put the Norfolk to shame. You should never engage them directly, as they will soundly beat you in a duel. Instead, fight them when they are distracted by other people. Specifically, when fighting the Graf Spee, put extra effort into dodging the enemy's fire, as their poor fire rate and high single-shot damage means they rely on making every shell count.
- Other County-class cruisers
- The Norfolk also happens to fall into the type of thin-skinned cruisers that it most efficiently engages, and thus enemy County-class cruisers should be dealt with immediately. Distribute your fire of SAP around different sections of the enemy ship, and let the excellent bursting charge of the shells do the rest of the work for you. Put effort into dodging enemy shots, as their return fire will hurt quite a bit.
- Late light cruisers
- Light cruisers such as the Mikuma, Helena, Brooklyn, etc. possess a very high damage output, and their large broadsides and high fire rate will tear through the nonexistent armor of the Norfolk. However, their armor is also generally lacking, and you can defeat them if you are able to hit them more consistently than their return fire. Try to destroy their turrets, or damage their ammunition hoists to decrease their firepower. Ideally, you could immediately kill them with an ammunition detonation, and with a bit of luck one of your hits under the turrets may give you a quick victory.
- Battleships and battlecruisers
- The Norfolk's position as a moderately high BR cruiser means it may regularly face battleships. Against them, there is very little that can be done. When fighting battleships, your best bet is to run to cover with your superior speed, dodge their shells, and attempt to deal some damage to their superstructure, while praying that your friendly battleships dispatch them quickly. If you spot an overextended battleship, using island cover to get close and make a suicidal torpedo attack may be viable.
Pros and cons
- High rate-of-fire for a heavy cruiser
- Large shell explosive fillers
- Heavy anti-aircraft armament
- Relatively high top speed for a heavy cruiser
- Equipped with air-search radar
- Well-protected main gun ammunition magazines
- Little to no armour protecting the ship outside of the magazines
- Mediocre main gun accuracy
- Can be matched against battleships
- Tends to lose crew quickly due to exposed secondary guns and anti-aircraft mounts and turret/bridge disables
- Lacks a floatplane
The County-class cruisers were the first British cruisers designed under the restrictions of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty. The treaty, which limited cruiser tonnage to 10,000 tons, clashed with the Royal Navy's need for a cruiser to defend its global trade routes to its colonies. To ensure a blend of firepower and range, the Royal Navy called for a long ship with four twin-turrets as their new heavy cruiser design. This became the County-class cruiser, a conservatively built ship with a very high freeboard, allowing for high directional stability. The superstructure was taken from a design first used on the HMS Enterprise, which transformed the scattered sections of conning towers, wheelhouses, navigating and signaling platforms, and fire control seen on World War I-era cruisers into a neat block at the front of the ship. The two boiler rooms, were ventilated into four uptakes, of which the central one was combined into a larger funnel, giving the Counties their distinctive funnel arrangement. However, the size of the ship left little displacement available to be allowed for armor protection, and thus the side armor was less of an armor belt and more of basic shrapnel protection.
HMS Norfolk was the lead ship of her subclass, which involved minor modifications such as the movement of the 4-inch guns further forward, the slight shortening of the superstructure, and the changing of the primary armament from the Mark I variant to the Mark II variant, with simplified loading. She was initially part of a four ship class, with an additional ship in the talks, but in the end she only received one sister, Dorsetshire, due to budget cuts. Construction started on Norfolk on July 8, 1927. She was launched on December 12, 1928, and entered service on April 30, 1930.
Norfolk became involved in the September 1931 Invergordon Mutiny, where sailors protested an imminent major pay cut. In the end, the sailors only received the minor pay cut the entire armed forces received, and the incident was settled peacefully. Between 1932 and 1934, she served with the America and West Indies Station at Bermuda, cruising around the Americas, engaging in exercises, providing hurricane relief, and protecting British interests in the area. In 1935, she moved to the East Indies Station, where she remained in 1939. Then, she returned back to Britain for a refit, and was in dockyard when the World War II began.
For the first years of the war, Norfolk was engaged with the Home Fleet in hunting German surface raiders, although she saw no success. In November 1939, she was damaged by the submarine U-47, necessitating repairs. Not long after, she was bombed in an air raid, requiring more repairs, where she also had a radar set installed. She was then engaged in several raids off the Norwegian coast, until December 1940, where she operated out of Freetown in the South Atlantic, and attempted to hunt down the raider Kormoran, but again with no success.
By April 1941, Norfolk had returned to Scapa Flow, where intelligence reports suggested the battleship Bismarck was readying for action. On May 20, 1941, Norfolk was patrolling with fellow heavy cruiser Suffolk in the Denmark Strait under the command of Rear Admiral W.F. Wake-Walker, when they received reports from that the Swedish cruiser Gotland had encountered two large warships with heavy escort. Realizing the situation brewing, the Admiralty sent out reconnaissance aircraft, but the Bismarck had already slipped away and was cruising through the North Sea. With the Home Fleet scrambling ships to sea, on May 23, Norfolk and Suffolk encountered Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Strait at a range of only 6 nautical miles, and the cruisers quickly disengaged. After sending out contact reports, the cruisers began shadowing the German ships. The Admiralty had the foresight to predict the Denmark Strait as a likely route for Bismarck to take, and had dispatched a force under Vice Admiral Holland, with HMS Hood, Prince of Wales, and destroyers to aid Wake-Walker. At 0516 the following morning, Holland arrived, with Norfolk and Suffolk still trailing behind the German ships. Shortly after, Holland engaged the Bismarck, but after just 10 minutes of firing, the Hood exploded, killing Holland and nearly the entire crew. After another 10 minutes, Prince of Wales was crippled, and withdrew. Norfolk witnessed the battle from 15 nautical miles away.
Following the spectacular defeat, the Royal Navy's resolve to sink the Bismarck grew. Norfolk joined Prince of Wales shortly after the battle concluded, as the British destroyers tried to find survivors from Hood. Despite the damage sustained to Prince of Wales, she kept pace with Norfolk and Suffolk as the cruisers continued to shadow Bismarck. However, early in the morning on the 25th, the cruisers lost contact with Bismarck. Prince of Wales broke off to refuel, and Norfolk and Suffolk split up. Norfolk was operating independently when Bismarck was spotted on the 26th by a PBY flying boat. She rapidly closed the distance to the contact report until the morning of the 27th, where she made visual contact with the now crippled Bismarck and 0753. Shortly after, she sighted the battleships HMS King George V and Rodney under Admiral John Tovey, who had come to finish the job Norfolk had started four days prior. At 0847, with Norfolk 10 nautical miles away, the final action of the Bismarck began, with Norfolk's sister Dorsetshire joining from the south. Norfolk joined in the shelling, and claimed two torpedo hits on Bismarck. After just over an hour of intense action, the four British ships had fired 2,800 shells at Bismarck, scoring 400 hits, reducing the Bismarck to a wreck. Norfolk also claimed two torpedo hits on Bismarck. At 10:20, Tovey turned for home, and Dorsetshire finished off the Bismarck with torpedoes.
After the action, Norfolk returned to menial duties, now assigned the arduous task of escorting the Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union. She would participate in escorting the convoys through the unending daylight of the summers and the darkness of the arctic winters for the next few years.
On December 20, 1943, eastbound convoy JW 55B departed for the Soviet Union. Norfolk was at sea at the time escorting westbound convoy RA 55A back from Murmansk after an uneventful journey. The eastbound journey had been uneventful. It had been nearly a year since German capital ships had sortied against an Arctic convoy, at the Battle of the Barents Sea, and German battleships had been holed up in port since the loss of Bismarck. However, the two surviving battleships, Scharnhorst and Tirpitz, had proved a formidable fleet-in-being, and were always poised to strike from their Norwegian bases. Bruce Fraser, chief Admiral of the Home Fleet, and in charge of protecting the Arctic convoys, suspected that German surface ships may try to strike at JW 55B. He envisioned a decisive battle around Christmas against British and German battleships, where the threat of German battleships striking a the convoys could be permanently neutralized. On December 22, JW 55B was spotted by the Luftwaffe, and the next day, Fraser put to sea personally commanding his flagship HMS Duke of York, with a light cruiser and four destroyers as escort. Fraser proved to be correct, as on Christmas, Scharnhorst and five destroyers sortied from Norway.
As RA 55A was diverted north. Norfolk, along with light cruisers Belfast and Southampton, joined JW 55B instead. At 0900 on December 26, the cruisers encountered Scharnhorst, and immediately opened fire from 12,000 meters, destroying Scharnhorst's radar. Norfolk, whos guns produced the brightest flashes, was in turn targeted by Scharnhorst, but Scharnhorst soon broke off the battle, misidentifying Norfolk as a battleship. Norfolk and the cruisers pursued Scharnhorst, while struggling to keep pace in the heavy seas. Shortly after noon, the two sides exchanged fire again, disabling X turret on Norfolk and damaging her radar, but again broke off, while the German destroyers fruitlessly searched for JW 55B alone. Norfolk was eventually forced to retreat due to her damage, in addition to Southampton, leaving Belfast alone. However, they escaped undetected due to Scharnhorst's destroyed radar, and Belfast successfully maintained contact until Fraser arrived in Duke of York and sank Scharnhorst.
Following this, Norfolk eventually had her entire X turret removed and replaced with additional AA. These repairs and refits resulted in her being unable to participate in the D-Day landings. The rest of her wartime service was uneventful. On May 4, 1945, she served as the flagship of Operation Judgement, where Norfolk and several other ships escorted escort carriers for a raid on Kilbotn, Norway, where they sank a submarine and two other ships. After the war's conclusion, Norfolk ferried the Norwegian Royal Family back to Oslo, after their five year exile in London.
Norfolk remained in service until 1949, where she was transferred to reserve. In 1950, she sold off for scrapping. She was the third of five ships to bear the name Norfolk, and accounted for 6 of the 11 battle honors the lineage earned.
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