Revenge Class Battleship - HMS Ramillies

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The name Ramillies[edit]

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an early picture of Ramillies

Ramillies first appeared in the Royal Navy in 1706 and came from the battle of Ramillies War which was fought on 23 May 1706 during the of the Spanish War of Succession.

  1. Was an 82 gun second rate ship of the line originally named the Royal katherine and renamed ramillies in 1706, she was lost to shipwreck in 1760 with 699 of her crew of 725 being lost.
  2. Was a 74 gun third rate shuip of the line she was lost in a storm in 1782
  3. Was another 74 gun third rater built in 1785 by built by Randall's of Rotherhithe, she was scrapped in 1850
  4. Was a predreadnought type battleship of the Royal Sovereign' class built in 1890-3 by J & G Thomson on the Clydebank this 14,200 ton ship mounted four 13.5" and ten 6" guns was scrapped in 1913
  5. Is the revenge class battleship, the subject of this article
  6. The fifth Resolution class Polaris armed nuclear submarine was to have been called ramillies but this ship was cancelled, the name Ramillies is now not in use

Class information[edit]

In 1913 a programme was started for the construction of a class of five battleships which for some reason are frequently referred to as the Royal Sovereign class, however the correct name for them was the Revenge class as that is how they were referred to in the Admiralty at their time of building. There was an original plan to built eight of the class but in 1914 all future capital ship building was cancelled , Jackie Fisher then the new First Sea Lord managed to get two of the classes construction suspended, these were the Renown and Repulse – the materials for these ships were later to become the battle-cruisers of that name, the eight ship Resistance was cancelled altogether. They followed the Queen Elizabeth class and if ever a design can be called a retrograde step then this is that design, once again costs and the need to keep these down reared it’s unwanted head, the Revenge class were smaller and cheaper than the QE’s and they were to be coal fired thankfully during construction the design was altered and they reverted back to oil firing, original bunker capacity had been planned at 3,000 tons of coal and 1,500 tons of oil, this was changed to 3,400 tons of oil and 150 tons of coal but still gave a rather short range of action. Another strange feature was the single rudder, all other battleships had had twin rudders whilst the revenge class were fitted with a single main rudder on a centre-line skeg aft with a smaller auxiliary rudder immediately forwards of it. The secondary rudder was for use if the main rudder was damaged and it was the only one able to be operated by hand. in use the rudder was proved as ineffective and was later removed. From ahead the class looked similar to the preceding QE class but the secondary battery 6” guns in their casemates were set much further aft, although almost amidships these guns were still much to low in the ship and as such suffered badly in any seaway, and as they could not be closed watertight posed a threat to the ship by allowing flooding of the ship should she be damaged, from beam on the single upright funnel made them easily distinguishable. One good feature of the design was the better disposition of the armoured protection, the middle deck was no longer the armoured deck, instead this was moved up one level to the main deck. They were also steady sea boats which made them good gun platforms however the later fitting of anti torpedo bulges somewhat reduced this by making them prone to roll more.

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Another ealy image of ramillies sporting an experimental camouflage system circa 1917-8 scanned from an old magazine clipping

Building data[edit]

Ramillies was built by Wlliam Beardmore and Company at their Dalmuir Yard - the northern-most area of Clydebank, in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. She was laid down on the 12th November 1913 and launched on the 12th June 1916. During this launched she seriously damaged the main rudder and had to be towed to Cammell Lairds at Birkenhead for drydocking. As a consequence of the damage to the rudder her delivery was very much delayed and in March 1915 permission was granted to delay her completion further by the fitting of anti-torpedo bulges, these seven-foot wide structures in the form of blisters over the midships section of her hull, the were faired into the hull just forward of A gun barbette and ran the length of the hull to just aft of Y gun barbette, or from the forward to aft torpedo rooms, and covered the hull from just above the load waterline down to the turn of the bilge. On completion in September 1917 she commissioned into the 1st Battle Squadron ( 1BS) of the Grand Fleet.

Basic Details[edit]

As built :- L 624'03" B 88'06" Draft 28'06" inc to 30'06" Disp 28,000 tons standard and 31,000 tons full load. Her beam was increased to 102'06" after the fitting of the torpedo bulges during her construction.

Machinery[edit]

The machinery of the Revenge class was a virtual repeat of that first fitted in the Queen Elizabeth class except that as a cost saving measure the designed power was considerably less. The installation consisted of Parsons reaction type direct drive steam turbines driving quadruple three bladed propellers each 9.5 feet in diameter, and developing 36,000 SHP for 21 knots, overload power being 40,000 SHP at 320 RPM giving 23 knots. There were three engine rooms, the two wing spaces contained the HP turbines which drove the outboard shafts with a small cruising turbine driving through a set of reduction gears , the two low pressure turbines were sited in the centre engine room driving the inboard shafts.


Steam was provided by 18 large tube Babcock and Wilcox oil fired boilers at 235 psi, bunker capacity was 3,400 tons of oil and 160 tons of coal which gave a range of 7,500 n. miles at 12.5 knots and 2,400 n. miles at 21 knots, on her trilas she attained 21.5 knots on 42,356 shp.

Armament[edit]

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 23,500 yards at 20 degrees elevation and using 428 lbs of MD45 propellant in four quarter charges contained in 'Shallon’ silk bags. 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 on 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 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. Secondary battery

As built the class were fitted with fourteen 6” C45 Mk12 guns all on single Mk9 pedestal mountings, all in casemates with six either side of the upper-deck and one either side of the foc’sle deck above the Number two gun in the lower casemates. This was the same secondary weapon as fitted to the Queen Elizabeth class and a large number of cruisers as their main battery, they suffered from flooding at sea but to a slightly lesser degree that those of the Queen Elizabeth class and in a even a moderate sea were difficult if not impossible to use. They had a very similar construction to that of the main battery with a liner inside an A tube, then wire wound with a shrunk on jacket , the guns were just over 23 feet long and weighed about 7 tons, maximum elevation was 15 degrees giving a range of about 14,000 yards. They fired a 100 lb shell using a charge of 27lbs of cordite contained in a single silk shallon bag. Rate of fire would be about 6 rounds per minute and 130 rounds per gun were carried, this gun could also fire star-shell with just 100 rounds carried on the ship. Designed to combat the larger torpedo boats then appearing the gun was not a success, at the same time aircraft were appearing and the low elevation of these guns was useless for AA fire. One improvement on this class was that from the outset director firing was fitted for the 6” batteries however the directors themselves were not fitted until 1917-18.

AA weapons : as new two 12 pounder (3”) C45 Mk1 guns were fitted, one either side of the boat deck, this was the first purpose built British AA weapon which weighed 20 cwt ( one ton) and was just over 10 feet long, ammunition was of the fixed type with the shell and charge/ cartridge loaded as one unit the original round weighed 12.5 lbs but rose later to 17.5 lbs and used a 2.1 lb charge of cordite. Normal ceiling was 23-24,000 yards and range when used as a surface gun was just under 11,000 yards.

The class were also fitted with four 3 pounder signalling guns

In her 1924/5 refit the two twelve pounder (3") AA guns were replaced with two 4" Mk4 HA AA guns , in 1932 two more 4" were added and the two boat deck 6" casemate guns removed. In 1933/4 she was fitted with a pair of eight barelled 2 pounder pompoms on platforms either side of the funnel and two quadruple 0.5" MGs abreast the control tower. In 1938 the single 4" were replaced with four twin 4" C40 Mk16 HA AA guns, these had a surface range of 19,700 yards and had an AA ceiling of 39.000 feet. During WW2 (1942) the useless quad 0.5" MG's were removed and ten single 20mm oerlikons fitted along with a quadruple 2 pounder pompom on b and X turret roofs. In 1943 four more 6" casemate guns were removed and a five twin 20mm oerlikons fitted later a fuerther three single 20mm were added

Torpedo armament[edit]

The original outfit was four submerged 21" torpedo tubes, two on either n beam, one pair forward of A turret and the other pair aft of Y turret, in 1932 the after pair of tubes were removed and in 1938 the forward pair went.

Armour Protection[edit]

The revenge class were armoured very much like the Queen Elizabeth class, reputedly with better distribution but by the fact that the class as a whole was kept out of harms way during WW2 showed they were very much under protected. The main belt, 13” thick, ran from just forward of A barbette to just aft of Y barbette and was just under 13 feet deep and projected 5 feet below the load waterline, forward and aft of the two end barbettes the armour tapered to 6” and finally 4” forwards , above this was a lighter belt 6” thick protecting the 6” gun batteries and running from A to Y barbette. The ends of the armoured belt were closed off with armoured bulkheads 6” thick forwards and 4” inches aft forming the armoured citadel. Torpedo protection was afforded by a a bulkhead covering the magazines and machinery spaces, 1.5” thick over the magazines and 1” elsewhere, this was considered rather poor and the small size and narrow beam of this class made improving this very difficult. Deck armouring was 1” on the foc’sle deck, the next deck the upper or battery deck was 1.5”, the armoured deck below this was just 2” thick, although this was one deck higher than the QE class it was still woefully inadequate against modern long range gunnery with steeply falling shells, the steering gear was in an armoured box of 3 or 4” plate. The barbette armour was 10” when on the beam and outside of other armour this tapered to 4” on the fore and aft line and also reduced to 4” when behind the side armour belts. The Turrets had 13” faces, 11” sides and a 4.5” roof whilst the control tower had 11” sides a 3” roof and a 4” hood, the armoured communications tube down into the ship from the control tower was 6” thick when outside of other armour and 4” inside. In 1943 whilst under repair in plymouth her woeful deck armour was supplemented by the additon of 2" of High Tensile steel on the armour deck over the magazines.


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In this image Ramillies has been refitted with the twin 4" HA AA guns and although undated the clean condition of her hull indicates this is post refit so the date will be 1939

Service History[edit]

As mentioned in the building data Ramillies was damaged during her launch and due to this and that modifications such as the fitting of bulges was carried out she commissioned well after her other four sisters. On September 1917 she commissioned into the 1st Battle Squadron ( 1BS) of the Grand Fleet and remained there for the remainder of WW1 in 1918 the first aircraft installations were fitted to battleships, Ramillies included, these were simple flying off platforms for light-weight bi-planes, these were simple metal framework structures fastened to the tops of the gun barrels of B and X turrets and were boarded over to provide a simple flying platform, recovery was not possible after launching the plane had to land ashore and would be brought back by lighter . Hher first major role was in June 1920 in the Mediterranean, Ramillies and Revenge were sent to Ismid to protect British interests during the war between Greece and Turkey during this time she bombared Turkish targets ashore in the Sea of Marmara, she remained in the Med until 1924, when she returned to the Atlantic Fleet joining the 2BS, following this she had a short refit in 1924 Plymouth were the two of the 3” HA AA guns were replaced with 4”. During the nine days of the General strike 03rd to 12th May 1926 in which Britain came close to revolution, Ramillies and Barham landed food supplies to the people of Merseyside, following this Ramillies sailed to rejoin the Med fleet.


In September 1926 she returned to the UK and paid off for a major refit in Plymouth, in this refit the two six inch guns on the focsle deck were removed , the anti torpedo bulges lightened by the removal of the timber, metal tubes and concrete that they had been filled with to absorb the gas bubble from a torpedo explosion, weight reduction was needed to try and maintain the ships speed. A second pair of 4” Mk4 HA AA guns were added . On re-commissioning in March 1927 she briefly rejoined the Atlantic fleet before moving back to the Med Fleet, in October 1929 she was once again protecting British interests but this time during the Palestinian disturbances. In June 1932 she was back in the UK and paid off for a further major refit in June at Plymouth, in this refit the casemates for the foc’sle 6” guns were removed and plated over her AA outfit was at last updated with the addition of a platform either side of the funnel supporting an eight-barrelled 2 pounder pompoms and a quadruple 0.5” Vickers MG was mounted either side of the conning tower and for the first time a director was installed for these weapons – these were two Mk1 HIACS ( Hi angle Control Station) one on the foremast and one above the after main gun director. She also had the two aircraft flying off platforms removed and a catapult fitted on top of X turret, the type of aircraft would be typically the Fairey Flycatcher , the after torpedo tubes were also removed during this refit.

In September 1934 she re-commissioned into the Med fleet once more and in July 1935 moved to the Atlantic fleet, even now it was apparent that the Revenge class were obsolete, their small size to appease the accountants back in 1914 was now their nemesis, they were too small to carry the many weapons and the much more powerful machinery they would need to become modernised warships would not fit into the small engine rooms. In January 1936 until just before WW2 she was relegated to the role of a training ship, during this time she did have her single 4” AA guns changed for four twin Mk9 twin 4” HA AA guns the aircraft catapult and the forward torpedo tubes were also removed.

Prior to the out-break of war Ramillies carried out searches in the Icelandic areas for returning German cargo ships but on the outbreak was immediately used as a convoy escort to deter German surface raiders such as the Deutschland class armoured cruisers, the Scharnhorst class small battleships and of course the armed commerce raiders which Germany had had at sea ready for some time, although too slow now at just 20 knots ( in an emergency) and although s fitted with the unmodified Mk1 15” guns with a range of just 23,500 yards they still fired a 1,920 lbs shell, to a German surface raider far from a port of refuge they still represented a formidable risk.

Her first Convoy was a trooping convoy to Alexandria, following this she was stationed out of Gibraltar In late 1939 a young 18 year old midshipman joined her, his name was Philip Battenberg and this was his first ship, he is of course slightly better known no,. Ramillies now sailed out to New Zealand and escorted troop convoys from both New Zealand and Australia to Suez on the first leg of their journey to Europe. In 1939 Ramillies and the un-modernised QE class battleship Malaya along with the aircraft carrier Glorious formed force J in the hunt for the Graf Spee ,her home base during this time was Aden. In June 1940 Ramillies was part of the Mediterranean fleet under the command of Admiral Andrew B Cunningham ( or ABC as he was widely known), again escorting convoys, this time from Alexandria to Malta she also undertook some bombardments, notably the port of Bardia in Libya near the Egyptian border in August 1940. Following Operation Judgement, the Attack on Taranto by the Swordfish aircraft from Illustrious which reduced the operational Italian battleships to just two Ramillies was released from service with the Med fleet and in November 1940 escorted a convoy to Malta and then carried on to Gibraltar, here she joined up with Somerville’s force which had been escorting a convoy from Gib to Malta, these were the Renown and Ark Royal, the Heavy Cruiser Berwick along with the two light cruisers Sheffield and Manchester and Despatch plus five destroyers The Italians tried to interfere with this convoy with a heavy force of two battleships :|Vittorio Veneto and the Gulio Cesare, six heavy cruisers and fourteen destroyers. To prevent an attack on the convoy Somerville charged the Italians in the hope o scaring them off, Renown raced ahead along with the cruisers and the much slower Ramillies was easily left behind, the gun-fire of the Renown and cruisers was enough to deter the Italian admiral ( Campioni) and when the long range and ineffective gunfire of the Ramillies was added he retreated, thus although not fast enough to join the fleet action the mere threat of a second capital ship and the presence of Ark Royals aircraft was enough to save the day, this action is referred to as the battle of Cape Spartivento, these was little damage done ( apart from the Italian navies reputation) the Berwick was hit by an 8” shell from an Italian cruiser and the Italians had a destroyer damaged. Following this incident Ramillies returned to the UK and once again provided a heavy escort to the North Atlantic convoys, one such convoy, HX-106, ( Halifax to Liverpool) was found by the two German small battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on the 08th February 1941, they were under the command of Admiral Gunther Lutjens ( later of Bismarck fame) if Lutjens had not followed Hitler’s strict, and in this case unwise, instructions not to engage a superior (ob Paper) enemy force the future for HX106 would have been bleak, one of these ships could have easily engaged and kept occupied the Ramillies, although they German ships only mounted 11” guns these had a range of around 39,000 yards against the 23,500 of Ramillies, they could have crippled her whilst out of range leaving the second ship to decimate the convoy being also more than ten knots faster , Ramillies would have been in a very difficult position, but once again the threat of those 15” guns and the royal navies reputation as a fighting force saved the day and the German ships withdrew

In May 1941 Ramillies was the heavy escort of HX127, again from Halifax to Liverpool when the German ships Bismarck and Prinz Eugen sortied into the Atlantic, after sinking the Hood on the 24th may 1941 Britain ordered every available ship to take uop the hunt for the German pair, Ramillies detached from her convoy and steamed off to intercept them. Thankfully units more suited to the task got there first, it is certain that the men of Ramillies would have done their duty but there could have been only one end had she found the Bismarck. Following this Ramillies stayed on convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic until early March 1942 when she sailed to join her sister-ships Resolution and Royal Sovereign again as heavy escorts for convoys in the Indian Ocean based on Diego Suarez ( now Antsiranana ) on the northern tip of Madagascar . On the 29th May 1942 two Japanese midget submarines launched from the larger ocean going subs I16 and I10 attacked the port, two torpedoes were fired, one sinking the tanker British Loyalty and the other hit the Ramillies. Although reported sunk by her assailants she was in fact seriously damaged , the torpedo hit abreast A gun on the port side flooding ‘A’ main magazine and many other compartments and increasing her forward draft to 43 feet from 35 feet, she lost all power , bu the diesel dynamos provide power for her emergency pumps and she managed to stabilise herself for the short voyage to Durban on the 03rd June arriving on the 06th. After temporary repairs to make her seaworthy she steamed home for full repair arriving back in August 1942, she re-commissioned in June 1943, during this period the magazines areas of the armour deck received an additional two inches of high tensile steel, she also lost another 4 of her secondary battery 6” guns , her AA outfit was increased by the addition of two four barrel pompoms, one on B and one on X turret roofs.

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'Another undated image of my fathers, the condition of her and the cammoflage indicates another post refit shot, the presence of the AA guns on X and B turrets indicate this is post the 1943 refit before she sailed for east Africa so I think this is most likely to be June 1943 at Plymouth. Note the presence of the funnel cap to deflect exhaust gasses away from the foremast also the radar 'lantern' at the top of the main mast, below this on a platform halfway up the main mast can be seen the after HIACS

July 1943 saw her back in the Indian Ocean based at Kilindini before returning to the UK in January 1944

Her next action of note was as a fire support vessel for the Normandy landings on the 06th June 1944, here her first task was the 6” gun battery at Benneville, in this engagement she knocked out all six guns, In an ironic moment she had had all but eight of her secondary 6” guns removed, designed to repulse torpedo boat attacks which were judged no longer a risk she fired on two attacking German destroyers which fired five torpedoes at her, thankfully all missed. On the evening of the 06th June she returned to Portsmouth to restock her ammunition, she returned on the 08th and destroyed another gun battery Throughout June Ramillies provide fire support to troops ashore , usually radio directed, she hit concentration of enemy armour, troop concentrations and another attack by German torpedo boats On the 10th June she shelled a railway junction at Caen at her maximum gun range, on the 11th June she destroyed a large number of enemy tanks massing to counter-attack then returned to shelling Caen railway junction. On the 15th June she was shelled by a mobile artillery battery which hit her twice injuring one of her crew, she simply moved out of range and carried on with her many bombardment tasks during which she fired just over 1000 rounds of 15” – the highest number of heavy shells fired by an RN ship in a single duty August 1944 saw her providing fire support to the allied landings in southern France, this time the German gun batteries at the port of Toulon were her target. Following this her last active duty the old ship returned to Portsmouth and went into reserve as an accommodation ship as part of HMS Vernon, the shore training base, her she was known as Vernon III until December 1947 when she was placed on the Disposal list, handed over to BISCO ( British Iron and Steel Company) in February 1948 she was towed to Arnott Young’s yard at Cairn Ryan on the 28th April 1948 for scrapping, and once strpped back to a bare hull she was taken to Troon for 'finishing' in Octrober 1949 As a memory of this hard worked old lady one of the two 15” guns outside of the Imperial War Museum in London belonged to her.

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an undated image of Ramillies courtesy of MartimeQuest, the presence of the landing craft indicate this is the time of the Normandy invasion in June 1944


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'This image or Ramillies shows her in reserve as an accommodation ship and renamed HMS Vernon III as part of the shore training base HMS Vernon during the period September 1944 to December 1947. Alongside is the Bellona class light cruiser HMS Royalist which was in reserve here until her transfer to the RNZN : Contributed by SN Moderator Marconisahib

Bibliography[edit]

Bibliography: IWM,

  1. Jutland – John Campbell,
  2. Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
  3. Conway’s 1906-21
  4. Second world war carrier campaigns - David wragg for details of the battle of Spartivento
  5. MartimeQuest's website for the final picture of Ramillies

Article completed on the 16th Janury 2008 by Steve Woodward

Revenge Class Battleships[edit]

Revenge Class Battleships
Revenge Class Battleship - HMS Ramillies Revenge Class Battleship - HMS Resolution Revenge Class Battleship - HMS Revenge Revenge Class Battleship - HMS Royal Oak Revenge Class Battleship - HMS Royal Sovereign