The “R” class battleships enlisting again in WW2
Launched shortly after the Queen Elisabeth class and commissioned from 1916 to 1917, the five Revenge class battleships, sometimes referred to as the Royal Sovereign class, were designed to be more “economical” while retaining the essential of the previous dreadnoughts. Dimensions, the tonnage, and propulsive apparatus were reduced (notably by the number of boilers). So their speed and range were, therefore, lower, but they retained their impressive 15in (381 mm) artillery then almost unparalleled in Europe: German battleships of the Baden class were the only ones competing, late in the war. Some compromises with supplies were also made by a return to mixed heating, by coal and oil, initially for fear of a lack of oil supplies in wartime.
Notice: This is the traduction of an old article which was never released publicly, please do consider it as a placeholder as it will be corrected and expanded in the future.
Profile of the class in 1916 (wikimedia commons)
In the end these ships looked more stocky and their unique funnel had them immediately recognized from the previous battleships. The class included HMS Revenge, Ramillies, Resolution, Royal Oak, and Royal Sovereign. Armor protection for these ships was reviewed and quite different from the previous Queen Elizabeths: The armored bridge was much higher, side armor were made thicker, reaching 13 inches (330 mm). This scheme was chosen because at the time the Revenge was designed, the Admiralty still believed that the fleet engagements would take place at a relatively close distance, and so that the main danger would came from direct fire on the flanks, rather than high angle plunging fire striking the deck. Moreover, this change in armor arrangement was a seen as a measure of economy.
HMS Royal Oak in 1937.
The previous Queen Elisabeth had conical plate reinforcements at the top and bottom of the armored belt, which were extremely expensive to produce. Overall, it was probably an effective scheme but quickly rendered obsolete by developments in naval artillery, aviation, and tactics that, unfortunately, evolved almost immediately after the ships entered service. Later, they were given added anti-torpedo Bulges on the flanks, which provided excellent protection in theory against torpedo attacks in the thirties, but because of the rise of new torpedoes warheads, proved insufficient for the Royal Oak when she met her fate in 1939…
HMS Revenge, date unknown (IMW)
Another of their most important characteristics was their stability, voluntarily sacrificed to give them a better elevation for the artillery. This made any further modernization difficult if not impossible: Thus, total reconstructions such as the Warspite or Valiant ones where it was necessary to add nearly 3000 tons of additional steel for superstructures, new rangefinders, AAA, etc. were out of question.
As a result, the “redesign” of these five ships was rather superficial: It consisted in modernizing their powerplant, turned after the war to “all-oil”, improving their endurance, saving space and allowing for extra anti-torpedo ballasts in 1922-24. In 1928, two of their barbette guns were eliminated in favor of modern dual-purpose 102 mm turrets, four being mounted on the central superstructure. Submarine torpedo tubes were removed from 1931, but two and then two more Octuples 40 mm Bofors were quickly added to bolster their AA defence, for a total of 2-pdr 32 guns and from 12 to 16 single Oerlikon guns in 1941.
Subsequently, until 1941, they received up to 40 of these 20 mm guns to increase their survivability. Fortunately, none suffered a fatal air attack, their protection focusing on the side shield was thus never put in default. On the other hand it was not the same for submarines.
The Revenge class in action
In operation, the five battleships were considered less efficient than the previous Queen Elisabeth and were somewhat relegated to less active posts. They all participated in convoy escorts from 1939. They were based at Scapa Flow, in the event of a Kriegsmarine raid in force against the convoys. This was an interception and in no way chase, because their speed was no match to that of German battleships. Scapa Flow was judged by the admiralty and the press as “inviolable”.
So this came as a shock for the Nation when the HMS Royal Oak was sunk, then anchored on November 14, 1939, by Commander Gunther Prien’ U47, making a hero return in Germany… Later in operations, the Ramillies and the Resolution were also torpedoed, but their ballasts damped the shock, and they were able to regain an harbor for repairs.
The Royal Sovereign, as part of Russian aid in Murmansk convoys, was eventually to the Soviet Navy, taking the name of Arkhangelsk in 1944. She escorted the convoys in anticipation of a Norway-based Kriegsmarine attack. She was returned to the Royal Navy in 1948, put in reserve and scrapped soon after, a fate rather similar, of later than the other battleships of the class.
HMS Royal Sovereign at Philadelphia in 1943
Royal Sovereign 1940 specifications
|Dimensions||190 m long, 30 m wide (27 origin), 8.7 m draft.|
|Displacement||28,000 t. standard -34 510 t. Full Load|
|Propulsion||4 propellers, 4 Parsons turbines, 24 Admiralty boilers, 26,500 hp.|
|Speed||Maximum speed 21 knots, RA 5000 nautical at 12 knots.|
|Armament||8 pieces of 381mm cal 42 (4×2), 12 Mk XII 152 mm in barbets, 8 x 102 mm AA (4×2), 32 x 40 mm AA, 52 x 20 mm, 2 seaplanes.|
|Armor||330 mm belt, 127 mm bridge, 278 mm central reduction, 330 mm turrets, 254 mm barbettes, 278 mm bunker.|
HMS resolution in the Indian Ocean
Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1922-1947
HMS ramilies Normandy 1944
HMS ramilies in 1945
HMS Ramilies in Operation Ironclad, the allied invasion of Madagascar in 1942
The battleship HMS Ramillies during the operation mounted against Dakar with the free French (July 1940). She will be torpedoed by the Poncelet.