Queen Elizabeth Class Battleship - HMS Malaya
The name Malaya
The only image I have of Malaya as built
When britain commenced the planning for the Queen Elizabeth class battleships there was intended to be Five vessels built however the Federated Malay States offered to pay for another vessel, that vessel was named Malaya, the first to be so named in the Royal Navy and named in honour of her benefactors. Later the sixth ship, Agincourt, was cancelled before construction started leaving the class with five ships.
The decision to build Queen Elizabeth class of six battleships stems from rumours that the Germans were planning an increase of gun calibre in their next class of ships, in 1912 it had been intended to build three battleships of an improved iron Duke class and a single battle cruiser, but worries over Germany and the certainty that both the American and Japanese navies were building ships with 14” guns prompted Britain to go one better with the 15” gun, Elswick’s, the gun manufacturers had assured the admiralty that the 15” gun with a 1920 lb shell was perfectly feasible. With this confidence plans for a new class of ship were rushed forwards, this was initially a modified ‘Iron Duke’ with five twin 15” turrets, however this proved to be a much larger, heavier and more costly vessel, it was then accepted that an eight gun ship with four turrets firing a 1,920 lb shell had a broadside weight of 15,360 lbs whereas ten 13.5” guns firing a 1,400 lb shell had a broadside weight of 14,000 lbs less than the eight 15” so the four turret design was accepted. Another advantage of the four turret ship was that the space occupied by Q turret amidships could be used for more powerful engines and the necessary boilers to power them. Although the navy had fast battle-cruisers it was now thought that fast battleships would be safer, not only would they have the speed to run down an enemy they would have the armour to protect them in battle – unlike a battle-cruiser. To gain the speed 25 knots coal-firing would no longer be able to provide the power without taking up to much of the internal space with the large number of boilers needed so the greater thermal efficiency of oil firing was accepted, the only drawback to this was that whilst Britain had plentiful stocks of good steam coal she had little oil of her own. To get round this lack of oil Churchill then the First Lord of the Admiralty but a large number of shares in the Iranian Oil Company this assuring a plentiful supply of oil. One failure with the oil firing of these ships was the decision to stay with large tube boilers, small tube boilers would have delivered the power they really needed and saved weight. The 1912 order-books now consisted of four fast battleships, the battle-cruiser being replaced with the fourth battleship, the Federated Malay states then offered to pay for another ship so the four became five, their names were in future build order : Queen Elizabeth, Warspite, Barham, Valiant & Malaya – named in honour of the Malay States who paid for her construction. The Sixth ship was to be the Agincourt, she was to have been built by Portsmouth dockyard but she was cancelled 0n the 26th August 1914 before she was laid down.
Although a highly successful design and a great step forward from previous designs too much had been attempted on too small a ship so that a number of compromises had to be made, horizontal protection against plunging fire and bombs although improved was still lacking and the design was rather badly overweight making achieving the design speed difficult if not impossible.
This image shows Malaya post her first refit in 1927-9 - image courtesy of MartimeQuest
Malaya was built on the River Tyne by Sir Amstrong Whitworths yard at Walker at Newcastle upon Tyne, she was laid down on the 20th October 1913, launched on the 18th march 1915 and commissioned into the 5th Battle Squadron ( 5BS) on Tyne on the 01st February 1916, she was the fourth of the class to be finished, just beating the Valiant which commissioned on the 19th February 1916.
L 645'09" B 90'06" Draft 28'09" ( 198.8m x 27.6m x 8.8m) at standard disp 27,000 tons , full load 33,530 tons. Malaya was rebuilt in 1927-9 having her two funnels trunked into one large unit and receiving torpedo protection bulges increasing her beam to 104' and her full load displacement to just over 35,700 tons. Malaya was given a second refit in 1934-6 but this was not the radical refit received by the Queen elizabeth or valiant and was even less than that of the Warspite
Machinery ( as built) : Quadruple screws driven by Parsons direct drive steam turbines developing a maximum of 72,000 SHP at 300 rpm, this gave a maximum speed of 25 knots, this was the overload rating and the normal rating was 56,000 SHP for 23 knots. The turbines were supplied with steam at 285 psi from 24 Babcock and Wilcox large tube boilers split into four separate groups of six boilers each. Fuel capacity was 3,300 tons of oil and 100 tons of coal, her range was about 8,500 miles at 10 knots and 4,000 miles at 21 knots Electrical power was from two 450 Kw and two 200 Kw alternators and an emergency diesel alternator of 200 Kw.
The layout of the turbines was very similar to that of the preceding Iron Duke class with the HP turbines driving the wing propeller shafts and the low pressure turbines driving the inner shafts. Cruising turbines were fitted by way of a gear drive to forward end of the of the HP turbines.
This image shows Malaya using the left gun of B turrt to hoist a plane on board, the strange brackets on the top of B turrets guns were for laying wood boards on to make a flying-off plaform for the plane, the plane could only fly-off, it had to land ashore and be brought back to the ship by lighter as seen here, Malaya has two planes, one on B guns and another on X guns - taken either late WW1 or just after image courtesy of Maritime Quest
Main battery : eight 15” C42 Mk1 guns in four twin Mk1 turrets, these guns fired an AP shell weighing 1,920 lbs out to approximately 23,400 yards at 20 degrees elevation and using 428 lbs of MD45 propellant in four quarter charges contained in 'Shallon’ silk bags. Post the 1937 refit the guns were given a 30 degree elevation and were designated Mk2 guns with a new shell weighing 1,938lbs and using a charge of 432 lbs of propellant they now had a range of 32,500 yards, a shell covering this distance would take slightly over a minute to arrive. The 15 inch gun was without a doubt the finest gun ever produced by the UK, it was first test fired for the Queen Elizabeth class in 1912 and it’s last firing was the Vanguard in 1954, ( Vanguard was fitted with the 15” turrets and guns originally intended for the 1916 Glorious class battlecruisers – it was often said that she was the best battleship but was fitted with her Great Aunts teeth!). The Queen Elizabeth class were built at great risk, the normal proving of a new gun was surpassed to allow the guns to be made in time for them to be fitted, if this had not been done then they would have had to have been fitted with the 13.5” weapon fitted to the preceding Iron Duke class, the man responsible for this great rush was Winston Churchill, he wanted the ships built quickly and to be armed with the 15” gun and the man that made it happen was Rear Admiral Moore the Director of Naval Ordnance. The 15” gun was very powerful but had a very good wear rate and could fire 330 to 340 rounds with a full charge before needing relining, they were constructed of a steel liner inside a steel inner or A tube over this to reinforce the gun 185 miles of thin flat wire was wound at a set tension , over the wire windings a steel jacket was shrunk on, the entire gun was 54 feet long and weighed about a hundred tons and the entire two gun turret a total of 770 tons.
For details of how to operate one of these weapons see : Warspite
The secondary battery weapon chosen for the QE class was the 6” breech loading Mk12 C45 gun, originally there was to have been sixteen of these weapons fitted and the Queen Elizabeth was the only ship of the class to be so fitted. They were all originally fitted in case mates in a very similar layout to that of the Iron Duke class, with 6 guns either side of mid-ships below the foc’sle deck and four guns aft below the quarter-deck fitted two aside just aft of Y turret, these four guns proved so wet as to be totally useless, the guns were removed and the casemates were plated over , a single shielded gun was then mounted over the 6” battery at the aft end of the battery. The other four ships were not fitted with the after guns instead the casemates were plated over from new and 14 guns as per the Queen Elizabeth were fitted. The forward casemates suffered from water ingress and used the same solution as the Iron Duke class, low bulkheads were built behind the guns to prevent water ingress finding it’s way below and rubber seals and gaskets were fitted to the casemate doors, a workable but far from satisfactory arrangement as in any kind of a seaway the forward guns could not be used These guns had a range of about 13,500 yards at 14 degrees elevation firing a 112lb shell with a 27 lb cordite charge. Rate of fire was in the order of five or 6 rounds per minute with 130 rounds per gun being carried plus a 100 rounds ( per ship) of star-shell. Although a reasonable weapon to repel surface craft, the possibility of attack by aircraft was now starting to appear and the 6” gun was far too slow and had far too low an elevation to be of any use, what was now needed was rapid fire dual purpose weapons.
Other light weapons were : two twelve pounder (3”) C45 Mk1 HA AA guns these fired a 12.5 lb shell to a ceiling of 37,000 feet, four 3 pounder signalling guns were also fitted
Originally fitted with four beam firing submerged 21” torpedoes with 20 torpedoes they were located one pair abreast A turret and the other abreast Y. te forward pair were removed in 1927-29 and the other two in the 1932-4 refit
When first built the QE class were the best protected of all British battleships, their armoured belts were 13" thick over the magazines and machinery spaces and tapering to 6" elsewhere, the upper armour belt was 6" running the length of the ship btween end barbettes, the transverse armoured bulkheads were 6 inches tapering to 4", barbettes were 10" when outside of other armour and 4" inside other armour. The 15" gun turret faces were 14" thick with 4.75" roofs and sides, the deck armour ( middle deck) was 3" other decks added another 2.5" to this. Following her rebuilds in 1932 and 1934 her middle deck armour was increased to 5" with the upper deck contributing another 3.25" to 2,75".
On completion in January 1916 Malaya commissioned into the 5th. Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet on the 01st February 1916 at Newcastle on Tyne. Hardly out of work up and still a brand new ship she and her sister-ships took part in the battle of Jutland on the 31st May and 01st June 1916. The 5BS was formed as follows 13th Sub-divison; Barham flag, Rear Admiral Hugh Evans-Thomas, - Captain A.W.C. Waller, Valiant - Captain M. Woollcombe, 14th Sub-division; Warspite - Captain E. Phillpotts, and Malaya Captain the Hon. A.D.E.H. Boyle. The 5BS was in support of the 1st battle-Cruiser Squadron (1BS) this comprised the Lion, Princes Royal, Queen Mary and Tiger and the under the flag of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, and the 2BS comprising the New Zealand and Indefatigable under Rear Admiral W.C. Packenham, Although the Queen Elizabeth class had been designed to be as fast as a battle-cruiser they could not actually attain the designed speed of 25 knots due to their being over their design weight and so they fell astern of the battle cruisers, rather than reduce speed Beatty well known for his ‘up and at em’ mentality, rather than slow down and keep all his ships together deliberately left the 5BS astern in his determination to meet the enemy, at 1548 when Beatty first opened fire on Hippers battle-cruisers Evan Thomas with the 5BS was several miles astern. A lamentable situation given that the four ships of the Queen Elizabeth class were the most powerful ships by far at Jutland, The QE herself being in dry-dock during the battle. Hippers forces comprised the following ships:- SMS Lützow flag, Viceadmiral Franz von Hipper, Kapitän zur See Harder, SMS Derflinger , Kapitän zur See Hartog, SMS Seydlitz , Kapitän zur See von Egidy, SMS Moltke , Kapitän zur See Harpf, SMS von der Tann , Kapitän zur See Zenker; At 1602 Indefatigable was hit by the Von der Tann and exploded and sank with a loss of 1,017 of her man, at 1626 the Queen Mary at which the Defflinger and Lutzow were firing exploded and sank with the loss of 1,266 of her men. Barham was in the lead of the 5BS with the Valiant Astern then the Warspite and finally Malaya, Malaya first came to action at a few minutes after Barham had opened fire on the Moltke at 1608, the 5BS were ordered to fire in pairs with Warspite and Malaya engaging the Von der Tann at a range of 19,200 yards, Malaya straddled the target on the 4th salvo, the new 15 foot range finders fitted to the QE class were found to be very good during the battle. At 1623 the VDT was hit by a 13.5” shell from Tiger which caused a serious and smoky fire thus hiding her from the attentions of the two battleships, at 1640 the 5BS had to cease fire as Beatty’s battle-cruisers passed between the 5BS and the German 1st Scouting group, the arrival of the 5BS at this juncture of the battle did not prevent the loss of the Queen Mary but probably saved the rest of Beatty’s ships from certain destruction. At 1644 realising the threat posed by the 5BS Hipper ordered his ships to engage the battleships, Malaya reported shells falling close ahead at this time, at 1815 Jellicoe signalled for the fleet to deploy in line astern to engage the High Seas Fleet, the 5th BS now turned north to join up with the main fleet, during this turn the 5th BS were engaged by the German ships Malaya was fired upon by the 3rd BS – the battleships König , Grosser Kurfürst , Markgraf and Kronprinz at 1709 onwards at 18,600 yards this firing went on for some 30 minutes and seven large calibre shells hit the Malaya causing little structural damage The German ships had the better visibility and the British ships had few target opportunities due to smoke and mist, Primarily the Warspite and Malaya still firing as a pair engaged the German 5BS although Malaya had to guess the range to a Konig class battleship as 17,000 yards causing a very short fall of shot , she did hit the Grosser Kurfurst at 1709 and the Markgraf at 1710, at 1725 Malay shifted target to what appeared to be the leading battleship and as soon as she was on target shifted to rapid fire, the ship was actually the Lutzow and was hit three times followed by a hit on the Derfflinger. The seven shells to hit Malaya were as follows, 1720 a ricochet off the water hitting the 8” side armour , although some minor flooding occurred little damage was done. 1727 was the hit on X turret roof, the shell exploded on impact, although the 4.75 ” turret roof was set down a few inches and a very small hole made, a lot of the armour bolts were sheared but the only internal damage was to the local range-finder and the turret remained in action. 1730, two shells hit the first causing little damage, the second a SAP ( semi Armour Piercing) penetrated the 1” foc’sle deck near No3 starboard 6” gun making a 5 by 4 foot hole and wrecking the gun, the galley and canteen inboard of the gun wre also destroyed, it was normal practice to have 12 charges per gun as ready ammunition and although these were in protective cases shell fragments penetrated these are started a cordite fire, the flash from this fire passed down the ammunition hoists into the 6” shell room, two men Petty officer Day and Leading Seaman Watson extinguished smouldering debris and saved further cordite from igniting, had these ignited then the fire would have spread to the 6” magazine exploding this, the 6” magazine was next to the main forward 15” magazines so the destruction of the ship would surely have followed. 1735 two shells hit close together on the ships side at the forward boiler room below the water line and the armoured shelf, one passed downwards through the ship and out through the double bottom making a large hole without exploding, the other exploded on the ships side with fragments penetrating the 1” hull plating and hitting the outer torpedo bulkhead denting but not penetrating this, wing compartments over a length of 50 feet flooded causing a starboard list of 4 degrees , later there was some leakage of oil into the forward stokehold causing the burners to be pulled on the boiler therein. The next hit was untimed and was on the 6” side armour just above the armoured deck and between A and B turrets, the shell exploded on impact – damage was slight, all these hits were of 12” shells from German battleships with the hits impossible to attribute to any ship.
At 1815 the visibility for the British 5 BS improved and they did some very good shooting in this period although Malaya’s list to starboard caused her problems – her guns were having to be used at maximum elevation to counter the list. The targets were unknown but about this time Lutzow was hit by many heavy shells causing very severe damage which resulted in her scuttling later by her own crew. At 1900 due to steering problems Warspite left the 5BS and retired home for repairs, , at 1920 the Malaya briefly sited the Von der Tann and engaged with a few salvos at 10,400 yards but poor visibility from smoke and mist caused her to cease fire, at 1928 the Malaya which now had two of her starboard 6” battery back in service opened fire with these on the 6th and 9th German destroyer flotilla’s which were attacking with torpedoes, this attack caused Jellicoe to turn his entire Grand fleet away to the north and allowed the German fleet under Scheer to turn away to the south under the cover of smoke and make his escape back to Germany, effectively this was the end of the battle with only a few minor skirmishes during the night and the loss of the old German pre-dreadnought Pommern to torpedoes fired at around 02:00 on on the 0st June by the destroyer Faulknor. At 0400 the Malya struck some wreckage causing some slight under-water damage but could still steam at 20 knots even with one boiler room shut down to the the earlier bunker oil leaks. Malaya arrived back at Invergordon and was docked on the 04th June for repairs which she completed on the 24th June and rejoined the 5BS on the 11th July. Malaya suffered the largest number of casualties to any British ship apart from those sunk with 63 dead and 68 wounded. She fired a total of 215 rounds of 15” shell. Main APC but they eact composition is not known. Post Jutland she remained with the 5BS, in 1918 she collided with the Moon class destroyer HMS Penn And in April 1919 she visited Cherbourg for the peace celebrations and in 1920 she carried the Allied Disarmament Committee to inspect the German ports. 1921 saw her carry Prince Arthur of Connaught to India and pay a courtesy visit to Malaya. In November 1922 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire Malaya carried the last Sultan Mehmed VI into exile in Malta She served in the Atlantic fleet until 1924 followed by the Mediterranean fleet until 1927 when she paid off for her first rebuild , the second of the class to start this partial modernisation. The refit ran from September 1927- to February 1929 and during this time she was fitted with anti-torpedo bulges which increased her beam to 104 feet, the two funnels were trunked into one distinctive large unit, the shielded 6” guns above the 6” casemate batteries were removed and replaced with two 4” HA AA guns and a pair of 8 barrel 2 pounder pompom’s fitted. The forward two torpedo tubes were also removed at this time. Following this refit the deep load displacement was now over 35,000 tons and the top speed 23.5 knots. Following the refit she returned to the Mediterranean until 1930 and then spent the next two years in the Atlantic Fleet, the years 1932 to 1934 were spent with the Home fleet before returning to Devenport for her rebuild, the was along the lines of the Warspite’s refit, whilst a great improvement it was no-where near as far reaching and was limited to Improving her middle deck armour to 5” over the magazines and 3.5” over the machinery spaces the upper deck was also increased to3.25”. The two 4” AA guns were replaced with four twin 4” Mk16 guns; two octuple 2 pounder pompoms were also fitted. Aircraft hangers aft of the funnel were fitted for two Walrus aircraft plus a single cross deck catapult, the aircraft facilities lasted until 1942 when they were removed due to aircraft then being supplied by the escort carriers, following this refit she returned to the Mediterranean fleet until the outbreak of WW2, this outbreak cancelled plans for a further refit aslong the lines of the QE and Valiant so that she entered the war as rather out of date compared to the three fully refitted ships, Warspite QE and Valiant, only Barham was less modernised.
Although undated this picture shows Malaya with aircraft handing equipment so is definitely post the 1934-36 refit, note that X and Y turrets are trained towards the camera - image courtesy of MaritimeQuest
At the start of the War Malaya was part of a hunting group for German surface raiders in the gulf of Aden before returning to the Mediterranean fleet but the threat of surface raiders, in particular the Deutschland class heavy cruisers and the small battleship sisters Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, caused her transfer to Atlantic convoy escort duties, her presence in a convoy to Freetown , detected by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, deterred them from attacking. In July 1940 she was back in the Med again and whilst escort a Malta convoy suffered a near miss from an Italian bomber, splinter damage was caused to the 4” guns control systems, on the 09th July in company with her sister ship Warspite and the revenge class battleship Royal Sovereign came to action against the Italian fleet of Vice Admiral Inigo Campioni, comprising the modernised battleships Conte di Cavour and Guilio Cesare, although the british outnumbered italians three to two in battleships the unmodernused and slower Malaya and Royal Sovereign had dropped behind leaving the main action to Warspite at the unprecedented range of 26,000 yards she hit the Gulio Ceasare with a 15” AP shell causing considerable damage and dissuading the Italians admiral from interfering with the convoy any further, this hit at 26,000 yards is a record for a non-radar assisted hit on a moving target that has never been beaten, although out of range the other two battleships also lent their fire and helped the Italians with their decision. – it should be noted that the warspite had the Mk two guns with 30 degrees elevation and 32,000 yard range whilst the other two had Mk1 guns with 20 degrees and 24,000 yards range.
Malaya in 1941 - courtesy of MartimeQuest
In 1941 Malaya, Renown Sheffield and the ark Royal bombarded Genoa on the 09th February, on the 20th. March 1941 she was escorting a convoy to Sierra Leone when the submarine U106 attacked the convoy, one torpedo hit a merchant ship, the other hit Malaya, the hit on the port side was serious and although she listed to 7 degrees she was not in danger of sinking, she detached from the convoy and steamed to Trinidad for temporary repairs befor sailing to the New York navy yard for full repairs, her she was given a mini refit in readiness for fitting radar, following the work in New York she returned to the Med in July, then shortly after returned to the UK for the fitting of the radar sets, she also received eleven single 20mm Oerlikons. The elderly ship was showing her age and was increasing relegated to secondary roles, mainly due to her never receiving the all important major refit – In October 1942 she was refitted at Rosyth were two additional twin 4” HA AA guns were fitted as well as another 2 eight –barreled pompoms and two further 20mm Oerlikons, in June 1943 she was placed in reserve in care and maintenance at Faslane so that her crew could be used for more important duties, most were transferred to the Valiant, convoy escorts were now placing massive man-power drains on the RN. During this period in reserve her 6” guns were removed for other duties and the ports plated over and another twenty 20mm Oerlikons added. In June 1944 she was re-commissioned for bombardment duties during the Normandy landings but she never actually returned to service, in 1945 most of her guns were removed as spares for the ships actually bombarding Normandy, decommissioned again she served as an accommodation and training ship at Portsmouth. In 1948 she was sold and handed over to Bisco ( British Iron and Steel Company) for disposal, she was scrapped at Faslane in 1948
- Jutland – John Campbell,
- Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
- Conway’s 1906-21 and 1922-46
- MartimeQuests website for pictures of Malaya
This article was completed on the 15th december 2007 by Steve Woodward
|Queen Elizabeth Class Battleships|
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