Queen Elizabeth Class Battleship - HMS Valiant
The name Valiant
An old magazine image of Valiant looking very much as she would have as a new ship
There have been six ships named valiant in the Royal Navy with the use of the name going back to the 1750's
- was a Third rate ship of the line of 74 guns built at Chatham in 1759
- was another third rater built 1807
- was yet another third rater built in 1825
- Was a Hector Class Broadside Iron clad Battleship built by Westwood and Bailiie which went bankrupt in 1861 during the construction the work then being finished by the Thames Iron Works in 1868, she displaced 6,700 tons and was armed with two 8" and seven 6" guns, she was renamed Indus in 1898 and back to valiant III in 1919, she became a floating oil storage unit in 1924 and was finally scrapped in 1957 - a year short of her century.
- Was the QE class battlship of this article
- Is the Valiant class nuclear Submarine HMS Valiant - S102, the second of britains fleet of nuclear subs she was built by in 1960-66, she participated in the Falklands war in 1982. paid off in 1994 she is currently laid up afloat in Devonport Dockyard at Plymouth, some of her fittings were removed to restore HMS Courageous for use as a museum ship and she is now awaiting removal of her reactor before scrapping.
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.
Valiant, Yard No 497, was built by Fairfield's at their Govan yard, Glasgow on the River Clyde and was laid down on the 31st January 1913, and launched on the 04th November 1914 commissioning on the 19th February 1916, the last of the five ships to do so. Valiant remained in service for nearly thirty years being finally decommissioned into reserve in July 1945, she was deleted from the navy list in 1948 and scrapped in 1950
This picture shows Valiant after her first major rebuild ( 1929-30) taken between the years 1930-3, this is a definite age as these are the only years she carried a Fairey 3F plane on it's catapult on the quarterdeck, in this picture she still carries her full outfit of 12 casemate mounted 6" guns, these were to be removed in the 1937-9 refit The photo is from the US NH website and is freely available
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 31,500 tons. Following her 1029-30 rebuild the beam increased to 10'06" with the addition of her torpeo bulges, her draft was now 30'01" in 1939 this was further increased to 32'10" with a corresponding displacement of 36,513 tons
Machinery ( as built) : Quadruple screws driven by Brown-Curtis 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 Yarrow 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.
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 preceeding 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 fire 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. The two forward tubes were removed in the 1929-30 refit and the two afte ones went in the 1937-9 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 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 1930 and 1939 her middle deck armour was increased to 5" with the upper deck contributing another 3.25" to 2,75".
Valiant the third of the class of five to complete was commissioned at Govan on the 19th February 1916 and joined the 13th sub-division in the 5th Battle Squadron (5BS) on the 03rd March 1916 she was part of the 5BS at Jutland on the 31st May-01st June 1916 as aprt of the Grand Fleet. 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 stern in his determination to meet the enemy, at 1548 when Beatty first opened fire on Scheers 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. 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 in the lead of the 5BS with our ship Valiant close astern sighted the German ships of the 1st Scouting groupat 1605 and opened fire with 15” CPC ( Common Percussion Cap) at 19,000 yards on the Von der Tann hitting her a few minutes later at 1609 causing a lot of damage aft, narrowly missing destroying the steering gear, Valiant came to action shortly afterwards firing in pairs the Valiant Joined the Barham in engaging the Moltke, the battleships of the 5BS had a major advantage over Beatty’s battle-cruisers in that their range finders were the new 15 foot model against the older 9 foot type and the German battle-cruisers now found themselves under a hail of accurate 15” shells , German commanders reflected that the speed of fire, accuracy and the very small spread of shot from the 5BS was of great concern and certainly better fire control than that of the battle-cruisers. This action was a rather confused affair with furious actions between the opposing destroyer escorts, arround 1650 Valiant reported a torpedo, a result of one of the destroyer attacks, passing ahead of her, the mean course at this time was to the south with the 1st scouting group hoping to lead Beatty’s battle-cruisers back onto the main German high seas fleet, Jellicoe was to the north with the main Grand Fleet steaming hard to the south to join battle. During the above action Moltke was hit by a 15” APC ( Armour Piercing Capped) shell, as the Barham was firing CPC this hit can be attributed to Valiant, this hit pieced the 8” thick upper side armoured belt below the No5 5.9” gun and 9 feet above the water line making a hole 21” wide on the outside of the armour and 39” inside with the shell exploding in the coal bunker beyond with splinters doing a lot of damage to the lighter structures killing the 12 men of the gun above, possibly by the flash of ready ammunition charges igniting. At 1753 Valiant was hit by a single light shell possibly a 5.9” from the Moltke doing little damage but injuring one man, Valiant was still engaging the Ist SG along with the Barham and such was the hail of shells that hit’s cannot be attributed to any particular ship around 1800 the German fleets united and the courses were reversed to the north now Beatty and Evan Thomas were luring the German ships towards Jellicoe and the Grand Fleet the two combined fleets meeting shortly after 1800. At 1819 the 5Bs turned together to the south, it was at this time that Warspite’s helm jammed narrowly missing Valiant’s stern during this Warspite performed one and a half full circles in full view of the German fleet who took advantage of the easy target she presented hitting her with 13 heavy shells. The gun fire records of the 5BS are sadly lacking at during this period so it not known who they were engaging. Between 1910-23 both Barham and Valiant engaged what was possibly the Grosser Kurfurst which was hit by four 15” shells causing heavy damage, the Helgoland was also hit at 1915 by a single 15” shell most likely from the Valiant., this shell hit the 6” forward side armour belt a little under 3 feet above the water-line blowing a hole some 4’06” wide and 21” high with only mild splinter damage on the nearby forward 5.9” gun which remained in service, the Helogoland noted that the although fired at a longer range the spread fo fire from the Valiant was much tighter than that of the nearer 12 gunned Dreadnoughts. About 1824 Valiant opened with her 6” batteries on the 6th and 9th German destroyer flotilla’s, which were attacking with torpedoes during these attacks the German Highs seas fleet had made their turn to the south and were now retiring to their base, in the darkness that followed sunset the following British fleet made sightings of the fleeing German ships, Valiant included, but no direct contact was made and eventually the British fleet returned to base, the Valiant escorted by the destroyers Moon and Mounsey reached Rosyth at 0700 on the 012nd June. The Valiant had suffered no deaths but had one man injured by the single 1753 hit and had fired 288 rounds of 15” of which 278 were APC and 10 CPC, she also fired 91 rounds from her 6” guns. During the battle Valiant and Barham fired a total of 625 rounds between them scoring either 23 or 24 hits giving a hit percentage of 3.7 to 3.8% this was far better than the other british shios and rank on a par with the German 1st SG and above the rest of the German fleet at less than 3%, the worst was the british 1st battle-cruiser squadron at 1.4%.
Post Jutland Valiant was in collision with her sister-ship Warspite on the 24th August 1916 returning to service after repairs on the 18th September 1916, she was part of the fleet accepting the German fleets surrender into interment at Scapa Flow and then in 1919 joined the Atlantic fleet followed by service in the Mediterranean. On 23rd. March 1929 she was decommissioned and entered dry-dock for her first major rebuild in this period the two funnels were trunked into the single large funnel that was to make the class very distinctive, her AA batteries were improved, the major work carried out was the fitting of Anti-torpedo bulges, these ran for most of the ships length from just above the waterline to below the turn of the bilge and added 15 feet to the overall beam of the ship which was now 105’06” she returned to service commissioning with the Atlantic Fleet on the 02nd December 1930. Were she remained until transferring to the Home fleet in 1932. In 1935 she transferred once more to the Mediterranean fleet before returning to Devonport for a major refit in 1937. She paid off on the 01st March 1937 for what was to be a rebuild that would turn her into a modern battleship, the entire deck structure was removed, all her boilers and turbine machinery removed and scrapped, her 15” gun turrets were returned to the manufacturer , Vickers for overhaul and modernisation.
When she re- commissioned on the 30th November 1939 she barely looked the same ship, she now sported a modern tower bridge structure, the single wide funnel remained her newly re-installed 15” guns now had a higher maximum elevation raised from 10 to 30 degrees increasing the range from 20,000 to 32,000 yards , new fire control equipment had been fitted enabling her to utilise the new maximum gun range. The old 6” casemate batteries had gone, completely plated over giving a much bigger deck area allowing the installation of a modern dual purpose battery of twenty 4.5” guns in ten twin power operated turrets. In addition she was also fitted with four eight barrelled 2 pounder pompoms ( nicknamed Chicago piano’s) and 54 20mm Oerlikon’s as a light AA battery. In the defensive role the deck armour was increased and a new hangar and catapult for her two Walrus aircraft had been fitted, however the aircaft and equipment were removed in 1943.
Overall the valiant and the Queen Elizabeth which received a similar refit war far and away the best of the five Queen Elizabeth class ships following this refit, Warspsite their more famous sister only had a part of the old 6” battery removed along just four twin 4.5” guns to be fitted.
This image shows valiant post her 1939 rebuild, she looks every inch the modern battleship ( excluding the 1918 stem) her new 4.5" DP batteries can be clearly seen here with three twin turrets abreast the funnel amd two more just forwards of X turret, the crane is for aircraft handling and is seen in it's other role as store crane. this image is cropped from the US NH 97486 image
On re-commissioning the valiant joined the Home fleet but worked up in the safer waters of the West Indies, once worked up her fist action was to escort the returning troop convoys from the Norwegian campaign in June 1940. In July 1940 Valiant and Illustrious were sent to the Mediterranean to reinforce Admiral Andrew Cunningham’s Med fleet. Valiant was part of Force H based of Gibraltar under Admiral Sir James Somerville flying his flag in Hood, on the 03rd July 1940 Force H attacked the French fleet in Oran On the 30th August Valiant, Illustrious and two AA cruisers made the hazardous voyage from Gibraltar to Alexandria to join Cunningham’s ships based at Alexandria On the 28th March 1941 the three sisters of the QE class Warspite, Valiant and barham took part i the battle of Matapan in which Valiant’s radar allowed Cunningham to place his ships across the line of advance of an Italian cruiser fleet, this classic ‘crossing the T’ manoeuvre cost the Italian fleet two heavy cruisers – Fiume and Zara, this battle had a severe effect on Italian Moral. One of the more well known crew members on the Valiant at this time was a Midshipman - HRH Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh was mentioned in despatches for his work on the ships search lights, he also received the Greek War Cross of Valour.
Valiant’s next action was on the 21st April 1941 when the three battleships bombarded Tripoli harbour at 0500 in the morning, Cunningham was highly opposed to these bombardments as he had few ships, no proper repair facilities and in truth the Luftwaffe ruled the central Mediterranean, thankfully on this day they were absent and the ships escaped undamaged. During the Evacuation of Crete 0n the 20th May 1941 Valiant and Warspite were involved to prevent any interference in the evacuation of British forces by heavy units of the Italian navy, warspite was hit quite badly by a German bomb and had to leave for repairs, this left valiant and the Queen Elizabeth as the only capital ships in the Eastern Mediterranean On December the 09th 1941 Six Italian frogmen from the Decimo MAS made a daring nigh time attack on Alexandria and placed explosives beneath both the valiant and Queen Elizabeth, the bottoms of both ships were badly damaged and sank to the bottom of the harbour, thankfully due to the shallow nature of the harbour they did not sink very far and the enemy could be deceived that they were still in commission. Initial repairs were carried out at Alexandria to make her sew-worthy for the voyage to Durban were she was fully repaired at Durban and joined the eastern fleet in April 1942. In July 1943 she was back in the Mediterranean in support of the invasion and landings at Sicily and Salerno, on the 17th july she sailed from Malta with Warspite to bombard Catania but valiant fouled the anti-torpedo nets and had to be left behind. On the 02nd September Warspite and valiant shelled the shore batteries south of Reggio ready for the Canadians to cross the straits of Messina the Canadians landed on the 03rd to find the battery out of action with seventeen shell craters around the battery, blast and splinters had destroyed the guns. The Italians had signed an Armistice on the 03rd of September 1943 but the announcement was not made until the 08th and on the 10th September Warspite, followed by the Valiant, at the head of the British fleet, received a part of the Italian navy as they surrendered in Malta, on the 11th she sailed out from Malta to meet more of the Italian fleet.
Valiant seen here leading part of the Italian fleet into malta for internment, although not mentioned on the photo the large guns in the forground belong to Warspite.
Following the Italian armistice she was re-assigned to the British Eastern fleet here she took part in the attack and bombardments of Sabang and Sumatra, during a dry-docking in August 1944 at Trimcomalee Ceylon in which the dry-dock caollapsed she was very badly damaged and had to return to deveonport for major repairs which lasted until 1946, she never fully re-commissioned instead became a stokers training ship as part of HMS Imperieuse at Devonport. She was sold for scrap in March 1948 and arrived at Cairnryan for partial scrapping on the 12th November 1948, her hull was finished off at troon were she arrived in 1950.
- Jutland – John Campbell,
- Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
- Conway’s 1906-21 and 1922-46
- Wikipediea for the list of HM ships bearing the name Valiant
This article was completed on the 13th December 2007 by Steve Woodward
|Queen Elizabeth Class Battleships|
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