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HMS Royal Oak (08).jpg
HMS Royal Oak
Class overview
Name: Revenge
Preceded by: Queen Elizabeth class
Succeeded by: N3 class
Completed: 5
Lost: 1
General characteristics
Class and type: Battleship
Displacement: 28,000 tons standard
31,000 tons full load
Length: 624 ft (190 m)
Beam: 88.5 ft (27.0 m)
Draught: 28.6 ft (8.7 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines
24 boilers
26,500 shp (20 MW)
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h)
Range: 5,000 nmi (9,000 km) at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Complement: 997–1,150
Armament:
Armour: Main Side Belt: 13.0 in (330 mm) midship, 6 to 4 in (152 to 102 mm) ends
Deck: up to 5 in (127 mm)
Turrets: 13 in (330 mm) face, 5 in (127 mm) sides, 5 in (127 mm) roof
Barbettes: up to 10 in (254 mm)
Citadel: 11 in (279 mm)

The Revenge-class battleships (listed as Royal Sovereign Class in Jane's Fighting Ships, 1931 edition) were five battleships of the Royal Navy, ordered as World War I loomed on the horizon, and launched in 1914–1916. There were originally to have been eight of the class, but two were later redesigned, becoming the Renown-class battlecruisers and the other, which was to have been named HMS Resistance, was cancelled.

Contents

Design

The ships of the class were slower and smaller than the preceding Queen Elizabeth-class battleships. Despite sometimes being referred to as the "Royal Sovereign-class", official documents from World War I clearly state that the class was known as the Revenge class. They were envisaged partially due to fears of the Queen Elizabeth class' total reliance on oil as its fuel source, which was a first for a British class of dreadnought battleships. At that time, oil could only be obtained from overseas sources, while high-quality coal was readily available in the British Isles, and there seemed to be a possibility that oil supplies might not be able to be maintained during wartime, thus placing crippling restrictions on the usefulness of the five Queen Elizabeths. As a response to these concerns the Revenge class was designed to be able to use both coal and oil as its fuel source.

They were also designed to be cheaper than the Queen Elizabeths. This was achieved by reducing their size and using lower power engines - their slim single funnel design makes them easy to distinguish from the Queen Elizabeths, which had twin funnels (or thick trunked funnels after being rebuilt during the interwar years). The armour was very different: the armoured deck was raised much higher in the ship, and the side armour was much more extensive at its full thickness of 13 inches (330 mm). This scheme was chosen since, at the time the Revenges were being designed, it was still believed that any major fleet-to-fleet engagement would take place at relatively close ranges such that the principal danger would be direct fire striking the sides of the ship, rather than plunging fire striking the deck. Additionally, this change in the armour layout was a cost-saving measure. The Queen Elizabeth had plates that tapered at the top and bottom of the armour belt, and tapered armour was extremely expensive to produce. Overall, it was probably an effective armouring scheme which was made obsolescent by developments in naval gunnery and tactics that, unfortunately, occurred almost immediately after the ships entered service and that, ultimately, did not lend itself to the upgrades necessitated by WWII-era weapons. In accordance with contemporary practice, the Revenges were fitted with 6 inch secondary batteries. The heavier guns were intended to combat the larger classes of destroyers entering service but in practice proved to be somewhat too heavy to be of practical use against light craft. Additionally, their low positioning made them largely unworkable in heavy seas - a flaw shared with the similarly equipped Iron Duke and Queen Elizabeth class battleships.

The major flaw in the class was the deliberately reduced stability to give the ships a slow rolling motion to make gunnery easier. This made it almost impossible to update them. In addition, it was not economically possible to fit more powerful machinery later in their lives.

Anti-torpedo bulges were included, which provided superb protection against attacks by torpedo for its time, but due to the increasing power of torpedo warheads, proved to be not enough for Royal Oak when she was torpedoed in 1939.

Due to their smaller size, at 624 ft (190 m) conditions were decidedly more cramped for the crew of a Revenge-class battleship compared to the Queen Elizabeths.

Service

3-view drawing of HMS Revenge as she was in 1916, with Sopwith 1½ Strutter and Sopwith Pup aircraft fore and aft, respectively.

Only two ships of the class, Revenge and Royal Oak, were ready in time for the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. During the engagement, neither ship suffered damage nor casualties.

Unlike Queen Elizabeths, the Revenges were not given major reconstructions between the two World Wars. In fact, apart from some minor upgrades, they remained very much unchanged until the Second World War began. Partly this was because of the expense involved in giving them a thorough modernization; what money the Royal Navy received for this purpose was better spent on the Queen Elizabeths which, because of their higher speed and better adaptability, had retained better fighting value. Moreover, the Revenges were scheduled to be replaced by the new Lion class capital ships as they came into service. However, the coming of the Second World War resulted in the cancellation of the Lions, leaving the Revenges to remain in service despite their limited value in the face of advances in naval technology.

All ships of the class were reduced to subsidiary roles during World War II, with some becoming bombardment ships, taking part in the Normandy Landings, and even the hunt for the battleship Bismarck. The demise of the Revenge class and others soon after the war showed the advent of the aircraft-carrier as the new queen of the seas; though it must be said, the contribution the dreadnoughts made to the Royal Navy's history was immense. Churchill writes that they were a constant anxiety, and he witnessed the Admiralty keep as many thousands of miles between them and the enemy as possible. However, they were valuable as second-class battleships, performing escort and other routine duties that freed up the front-line ships.

The Revenge class brought to a close the tale of Royal Navy World War I battleship construction. For subsequent British capital ships, see Renown class battlecruisers that fought in WWI, HMS Hood which was laid down during WWI, the Nelson class of battleships laid down in 1922, the King George V class built before WWII and the world's last battleship, HMS Vanguard. For other battleships that were acquired as "war purchases", see HMS Erin, HMS Canada, and HMS Agincourt.

Ships of the class

  • Ramillies took part in the Battle of Cape Spartivento in World War II. She was torpedoed by a Japanese minisub after the Battle of Madagascar in 1942. She took part in the bombardment of German positions during the Normandy Landings. She was scrapped in 1948. One 15 inch gun was preserved and is now on show at the Imperial War Museum in London.
  • Resolution took part in convoy duty early in World War II. Was torpedoed by a Vichy French submarine in 1940 during the Battle of Dakar, receiving little damage. She then joined the Far East Fleet, before becoming a training ship in late 1944. She was scrapped in 1948. One 15 inch gun was preserved upon scrapping and takes pride of place, along with the aforementioned gun from Ramillies, at the Imperial War Museum.
  • Revenge took part in the Battle of Jutland, sustaining no damage and receiving no casualties. In World War II, Revenge undertook a number of operations, though by 1944 she became a training ship. She was scrapped in 1948.
  • Royal Oak fought at the Battle of Jutland. In 1939, during World War II, Royal Oak was sunk by three torpedoes from U-47, with the loss of 833 of her crew. She is now an official war grave.
  • Royal Sovereign had a relatively quiet career, missing the Battle of Jutland. She took part in convoy duty in the early part of World War II. She was loaned to the USSR in 1944 and renamed Arkhangelsk, escorting Arctic convoys for the remainder of the war. Returned after the war, she was scrapped in 1949 in the UK.

Notes and references

  • Gardiner, Robert and Randall Gray. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1985. ISBN 0 85177 245 5.
  • Whitley, M.J. Battleships of World War Two: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. London: Cassell, 2001. ISBN 0-304-35957-2.

See also

External links

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