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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
  • 1 The name Rodney
  • 2 Class information
  • 3 Building data
  • 4 Basic Details
  • 5 Machinery
  • 6 Armament
  • 7 Torpedo armament
  • 8 Armour Protection
  • 9 Service History
The name Rodney[edit]

HMS Rodney was named after Admiral George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney-Stoke 1719-1792. Although now not in use there have been six ships named Rodney but only four of them were official Warships.

  1. Was certainly less grand than the final Rodney - the battleship of this article, she was one of the unofficial ships, initially she was used of fisheries protection duties off Newfoundland, the then captain Rodney had introduced a number of small cutters for this task, one of which was named in his honour, In 1759 the Rodney was used in support of general Wolfe's assault on Quebec. Under the command of Lt The Hon Philip Tufton-Perceval, she carried jusat 4 guns and was used to carry dispatches.
  2. Was listed in Steel's 1793 list of the Navy as a Brig-sloop of 16 guns. a Brig Sloop being a naval term for a sloop with two masts, she had been purchased in the Caribbean sometime about 1779 and was the second unofficial Rodney, it was quite common in those days for the commander of an important fleet to purchase a ship such as this for his own purposes and name her after himself. John Douglas Brisbane her commander led a crew of 51 and as part of a force of small British ships off the Demerara River in a battle against a much larger French force the Rodney was captured by the French in late January 1782.
  3. Was the first official Rodney and was a third rate ship of the line of 1,754 tons and 74 guns she was ordered by the Admiralty on the 28th May 1808 from the shipbuilder William Barnard who's yard on the Thames was close to Deptford. She was launched on the 08th December 1809 and after consuming more than 3000 oak trees in her construction she was in commission at Plymouth in May or June of 1810. In 1827 she was renamed Greenwich to free up the name for a new ship, she lasted as the Greenwich until 1836 when she was sold on.
  4. Was a larger vessel again, advances in ship design dictated that ships were getting bigger and more powerful thus the new Rodney was a 92 gun second rate wooden wall ship of the line designed by Sir Robert Seppings she was built at Pembroke having been laid down in 1827 she was launched in 1833, displacing some 2,600 tons she was innovative in that she was the first two deck ship to carry more than 90 guns on a length of about 206 feet. She completed her fitting out at Plymouth and set out on her first commission in September 1835 under the command of Captain Hyde Parker with a crew of 484 men, 47 boys and 146 Royal marines. Her first call to action did not come until 1854/5 when she was involved in the first siege of Sevastopol when she shelled shore batteries in particular the one on Telegraph Hill, she received far more damage during this engagement than she meted out. In 1959 she was taken in hand at Chatham Dockyard for conversion to a steamship, she re-commissioned in 1860 with a displacement of 2,770 tons but with 72 guns to give more space for her machinery. Her first commission was to the China station, In April 1870 she returned to Portsmouth to pay off, she was the last wooden wall battleship in the Royal Navy she spent the next fourteen years on harbour duties before being sold out of the nave after 53 years of good service.
  5. Was one of the six admiral class battleships: Anson, Benbow, Camperdown, Collingwood, Howe and Rodney, Rodney being the second ship to complete after Collingwood. Although they were classed together slight differences split them into 3 groups, Collingwood in group one on her own, Rodney was in the second group with Anson Camperdown and Howe and the third group was Benbow. Classed as barbette type battleships in which the main armament was contained behind a barbette, a high circular iron wall protecting (just) the gun and it's crew. The second group differed mainly from the Collingwood in that they mounted 13.5 inch instead of 12 inch guns. L 325' B 68' Draft 27'10" Dispt. 10.300 tons full load, they were twin screw ships with three cylinder inverted compound steam engines by Humphreys with 12 cylindrical boilers developing 7,500 IHP for 15 knots on natural draft and with a sealed boiler room and forced draft 11,500 IHP and 17 knots. She was armed with four 13.5" Mk1 guns of 30 calibres these early breech loading guns fired a 1250lb to a range of just under 12,000 yards using over 600 lbs of a slow burning cocoa powder - so called as that was what it looked like, the guns were mounted in tow pairs in a barbette at each end of the ship. The secondary battery consisted of six single 6" guns, twelve 6 pounder, and ten 3 pounder guns, the class also carried four above water 14" torpedo tubes with two on either beam. Armour was heavy but not comprehensive with a main belt of 18" in the magazine areas but 8" elsewhere which was closed of with a 16" bulkhead forwards and 7" aft, the barbettes were 11.5" and the decks 3" over the magazines. The class was not well liked due to the open barbettes and tended to be overloaded and rather wet at sea., they were also well known as the Camperdown was the ship that rammed and sank the Victoria a sort of half sistership. Rodney had an undistinguished career ending her days as a guard ship at Queensferry until 1901 when she went into reserve in 1909 and was sold and broken up that same year.

6. was the ship of this article. since her scrapping in 1948 the name has not been in use

Class information[edit]

The two ships of the class, Rodney and Nelson, were both laid down on the same day the 28th December 1922 but their story begins well before that. Immediately following the first world war Britain realising that it had slipped down the world order and that it's current ships were below the standard of it's main threat - those of the USA and Japan designed two new class of warship the G3 class of four battle-cruisers of 48,000 tons and some 850 feet long armed with nine 16" guns, the planned 160,000 SHP was to give them a speed of 32 knots, to accompany them were 4 battleships of the N3 class of similar displacement but slightly shorter to allow more armour these were to be armed with nine 18" guns also in three triple turrets, the lower power of 80,000 SHP g]was to give a speed of 23-04 knots and the weight saved allow further armour for protection.Orders had been placed in 1921 with work to start in 1922 when the Washington naval Treaty of November 1921 curtailed all building and escalation of naval power.

Britain had to scrap a huge number of ships under this treaty but in realising that both Japan and the USA had ships armed with 16" guns - Japan two ships of the Nagato class ( Nagato and Mutsu) and the USA the four ships of the Colorado class ( Colorado, Maryland, Washington and West Virginia - the Washington BB47 was cancelled under the treaty and used as a target ship) left Britain at a disadvantage so she was allowed to build two new ships with 16" guns, the two ships were designed using the best features of the both the G3 and N3 designs and was certainly the most radical battleship class ever built for the Royal navy if not the world.

The class were given many nicknames, most well known was the 'Cherry Tree class' because they were cut down by Washington, another nickname they earned due to their unusual design with the all aft structure which left them looking like tankers was the Rodol and Nelsol after a fleet a tanker design that all had names ending in OL., Another nickname applied to the huge tower of her deck house - Queen Anne's mansions -part of the Admiralty buildings in London.

Building data[edit]

Rodney was built by Cammell Laird's at their Birkenhead yard and was was laid down on the 28th December 1922 - the very same day as her sistership Nelson, she was launched on the 17 December 1925, some three months later than the Nelson, and commisioned on the 10 December 1927


This image shows Rodney post trials in her 'as built' state in 1927 imagecourtesy of SN member Stein

Basic Details[edit]

L 710' B 106' Draft 33'06" Displacement 33,313 tons standard and 41,250 tons full load, by 1945 the full load displacement had risen to 44,054 tons on a draft of 34'06"One of the specifications of the Washington treaty was for a battleship was for a maximum standard displacement of 35,000 tons, standard indicated a ship fully stored and ammuntioned but with just circulating water in her systems, both the sisters were initially well under that figure, that 1,700 tonnes would have allowed a significant improvement of what was already a well armoured ship.


Twin screws driven by Brown-Curtis single reduction geared steam turbines supplied with steam by eight Admiralty type 3-drum oil fired boilers with a working pressure of 260 psi , originally designed for wet steam they were adapted for super-heaters, developed power was 45,000 SHP giving a speed of 23 knots. Bunker capacity was 3,965 tons of fuel oil and 160 tons of diesel oil giving her a range of 5,500 miles at full speed and 7,000 miles at 16 knots.The machinery was contained in two separate engine rooms placed forwards of the two gearing rooms, aft of the gearing rooms were the four boiler rooms, each room containing two boilers.


Main battery

The main battery weapons were already in the design process having been intended for the cancelled G3 class battle-cruisers, work was well in advance when the Nelson class were ordered with around £600,000 having been already spent. The Nelson class mounted Nine 16" C 45 Mk1 guns in Mk1 turrets, these guns were of a new design and fired a high velocity shell weighing 2,048 lbs, they were the last guns to be of wire wound construction - were miles of thin flat wire are would round an inner steel tube and then covered with a shrunk on steel sleeve, they were also the only capital ship weapon in the Royal Navy to be carried in triple turrets. This weapon was at first not a success, wear rates for the gun barrels was disappointingly poor with them lasting just 180 firings this was corrected to a degree by the gun barrel rifling being modified circa 1930 when the barrels were designated the Mk2 , the wear rate was still well below that of the highly successful British C42 15" guns fitted to the reminder of the battle-fleet. The charge firing the guns was contained in six artificial silk bags called shallon, each bag weighed a little over 83 lbs for the total charge weight of 498 lbs of MD45 Cordite. Approximately 100 rounds per gun were carried, 80 being APC and twenty HE with a total of 900 rounds on board. The 2,048lb shell was a lightweight weapon and was fired at the relatively high velocity of 2,700 feet / second. In line with the humour of the Nelsons crew the main guns were named individually after the seven dwarfs with the remaining two being named Mickey and Minnie.

The guns were necessarily complex with many interlocks and precautions to protect he magazines from flash fires this complexity caused much unreliability with the guns and this remained a feature with the class throughout their lives. One factor which may have caused these early reliability problems was that when built the guns were not subjected to a 'pit trial'. A pit trial is were the entire turret is constructed in a 'pit' constructed to resemble the barbette on the ship. Once built turret is run through the loading operation many times to iron out any problems, it can be appreciated this a dry firing exercise only. After the pit trial the turret is stripped back down to it's component parts for installation, fitting a complete turret would have been far in excess of the capacity of any lifting equipment of the day, the turret itself weighed in at about 1150 tons with the three guns adding another 108 tons each.

Another unanticipated side effect was blast damage to the structure of the ship from the muzzle blast the after most, X, turret being the main offender, whereas A and B guns could fire from right ahead to 150 degrees on either beam, X turret being sited behind B gun was limited to 40 to 150 degrees with any angle aft of 90 degrees ( abeam) certain to cause blast damage to the bridge structure, this was particularly apparent at higher elevations when the bridge would be untenable during the firing of X turret. Maximum range of these guns was about 41,000 yards at their maximum elevation of 40 degrees and the rate of fire was stated as one round every 40 seconds however this was for initial firings, after ready use shells had been used the delays with the hoist mechanisms in reality lowered to this to about one round per minute, disappointingly slow when compared with the earlier 15" guns rate of 2 rounds per minute.

Gun Operation. The loading of the 16" Mk1 was different from other large guns in the RN in that the shells were hoisted to the guns in separate shell and charge hoists. The Cordite charges were stowed in the magazines in flash-proof protective cases, the magazine location was the lowest of the gunnery compartments just above the treble bottom of the ship, the charges were removed from their protective cases and were then at their most vulnerable. Once out of their cases the six piece charge was loaded into a hopper for exiting the safety of the magazine this worked like an airlock so there was no route for the flash of an explosion to reach the magazine from here it was sent up to the gun house (turret) with the charges in the vertical position - note all other Large guns in the RN sent the charge up in the horizontal position. In the gun house it remained in the charge hoist with the flash doors closed until it was ready to placed on the loading tray to be rammed into the gun. As well as the main hoist for each gun there were also three secondary charge hoists in case of failure of the main hoists The shells were stored, as per standard RN procedure, horizontally in the shell room in bins, the shell room was located over the magazine thus giving the magazines the maximum amount of protection from a plunging enemy shell. The shells were lifted from their storage bins by large hydraulic and wire operated grabs and deposited into one of four bogies - the forth bogie being a spare. These bogies were on a shell ring that was free to rotate round the turret trunk at the base of the turret, once loaded with three shells they were rotated to line up with three openings in the trunk, here the shells were rammed through a flash-tight 'airlock' and in one movement were pushed into the trunk and rotated into the upright position and then rammed into each of the three main shell hoists, these were of the pusher type. In othger RN heavy guns the shells were then hoisted straight up to the gun loading cages here the hoist moved up a layer and another shell could be loaded into the next cage until eventually a maximum of four shells for each gun were in the vertical hoist up to the gun house. In the gun house (turret) the shell appeared through the floor to one side of the gun were it was then tipped over into the horizontal and then rammed sideways into the gun loading tray were the gun was waiting with its controls hydraulically locked at a elevation of about 3 degrees and with it's breech open and the shell loading tray swung into the breech, the shell once on the loading tray was then rammed into the gun using a seven section chain driven telescopic ram, once the shell was in the gun the rammer withdrew and three bags of cordite - half the charge, were rammed onto the loading tray and then rammed into the gun but at a slower speed that the shell to prevent accidental ignition of the cordite, this operation was then repeated for the latter three parts of the charge when the loading tray would retract and the massive breech with it's interrupted screw threads would swing across, slam shut and then rotate through 90 degrees locking it shut, at this moment the firing charge rather like a small shell casing would be inserted and locked into the breech. The gun was now ready to fire, it would be released from the locked position and free to elevate to follow the gun director, it would already be trained to the correct bearing all the time through the loading interval. Once on elevation the gun ready lights would come on and the gun could them be fired either by the director control tower (DCT) located on top of the huge deck house or if this was out of action the secondary battery control located aft or by local control from within the turret using the turrets own fire control set up located in the 'silent cabinet'. The silent cabinet being a small room located at the right rear side of the gun house, each turret was equipped with a forty-foot rangefinder for this purpose. On firing the recoil of these huge weapons was about forty inches with the recoil being arrested by two large buffer cylinders, the recoil pressurised these air cylinders with this pressure being used to run the gun back out after firing. Elevation of the guns was independent for each gun and achieved by a hydraulic ram located below the gun breech. Rotation of the turret was by one of two 400 HP hydraulic motors located below the gun house floor and driving via a rack and pinion into a huge circular rack on the inside of the barbette, only one motor was used the other being a back-up spare.

Turret Crew

Gun-house and silent room

1 captain of the turret - normally a quarters rating 1st class, 3 Guns crew of three men each, 1 Range taker, 1 Rangefinder, 1 LDS trainer, 1 LDS Layer, 1 Sight setter, 1 Telephone operator, 1 Range Officer, 1 rate officer, 1 Dumaresq operator, 3 Gunlayers, 1 turret trainer . Total 23 men in the gunhouse.

Shell / magazine room crews

1 Second captain of the turret, 4 Shell bogie operators, 4 pivot tray operators, 3 Shell scuttle operators, 1 PO in charge of shell room, 24 men in shell room to handle the shells, 1 PO in charge of the magazine, 24 men to handle charges. Total 62 men Total for entire turret operation 85 men

The above description of loading the gun is my shortening of a vastly more complex operation, I could add exactly how it was done but this would be a book not an article and it does give an insight into the hugely complex operation of the RN's second biggest weapon. Steve


This image shows a 16" Armour Piercing (AP) being loaded onto the Rodney, the shell, this is one of the 2,048lb models, was lifted via a small wooden davit located well forwards. It ws then lowered onto the shell bogey located bottom left and then pushed by hand to the intended turret's loading hatch, not the rope ring round the base of the shell, this is to protect the copper 'driving band' from damage, the driving band being soft copper would engage with the rifling in the gun barrel, imparting both spin to the shell an providing a gas tight seal during firing. Image courtesy of MaritimeQuest

Secondary battery

The guns for the secondary battery were also well advanced in the design stage when plans for the Nelson class were made, they had been intended as the secondary battery on both the N3 battleships and G3 battle-cruisers.Just ten years or so earlier the Queen Elizabeth and Revenge classes had been fitted with hand oprated and loaded six inch guns, the 100lb shell was judged to be the heaviest a gun crew could load and fire efficiently by hand, however fatigue would rapidly set in and the rate of fire would drop, also the weapons on these two classes were mounted below the upper-deck in single case mate mounts which resulted in a very wet exposed gun, unusable in only moderate weather, at last this practice was ended. The Nelson class carried their secondary weapons on the upperdeck in weather-tight gun houses, usuable in all but the very worst of weather.

Twelve 6" C50 Mk22 guns in six twin turrets, three either side were place aft of the funnel , these were essentially a quick-firing gun using charges contained in a brass cartridge - the first 6" gun to do so for decades, with an elevation of 60 degrees and a rapid rate of fire of up to 7 or 8 rounds per minute these weapons were intended for a dual role of surface and heavy AA gun, however they were rather to slow in train and elevation to be successful AA weapons although they did contribute to the ships AA defence.

Maximum range as a surface gun was about 25,000 yards at 45 degrees, 150 rounds of shell weighing 112 lbs were carried, the firing charge being a little over 30 lbs of Cordite.

Heavy AA battery

Six single 4.7" C40 Mk8 QFHAAA power operated guns in six single mounts, these were place two right aft and side by side on the quarter deck, one either side of the funnel and one each side of the deck house a deck above the 6" guns. These fired a one piece fixed round weighing just over 75 lbs of which 50 lbs comprised the projectile, rate of fire was supposedly 12 rounds per minute but 10 or just under would be more realistic, approximately 200 rounds per gun were carried. Surface range was about 16,000 yards and the AA ceiling was just over 30,000 feet. On completion these weapons wer completely open but at the start of WW2 shields were added to the guns and a splinter shield type bulwark added in front of the guns.

Light AA battery

Initially this started out as eight single 2 pounder pompoms and four three pounder signalling guns, it had been intended to install four octuple pompoms bu these were not yet available and the single guns were fitted as a stop-gap measure. Reality soon set in that six 4.7" and eight small pompoms were not going to be enough.By the end of the war Nellie mounted no less than 156 guns namely: seven octuple 2 pounder pompoms , one on B gun, one either side of the funnel, one either side about the No3 6" gun, and one right aft on the quarter deck.Four quadruple 40mm Bofors guns located at each corner of the deck house and sixty five single 20mm Oerlikons in seven groups.

Torpedo armament[edit]

Unusually for a battleship Nelson and Rodney were armed with two torpedo tubes, one each side, right forwards firing at a slight outward angle to the fore and aft line, these were no normal torpedoes however, they were 24.5" monsters weighing no less than 5,628 lbs with a warhead of almost 750 lbs of TNT , they had a range of 30,000 yards at 30 knots or 15,000 yards at 35 knots, ten torpedoes were carried - Rodney used them against the Bismarck and is the only known case of one battleship torpedoing another.

Armour Protection[edit]

The Nelson class were the first British battleships to feature the all or nothing principle of armour in which a compartment was either fully armoured, or not at all. The protection comprised a main belt 14" thick over the main armament and 13"over the machinery spaces and the six inch guns, it was located internally some 12 feet inboard and sloped inwards at it's base by 15 degrees, it covered from just over six feet above to six feet below the load water line, below this was the 1.5" anti torpedo bulkhead, out board of this protection scheme were void spaces which could be liquid filled to further absorb damage Inboard were compartments designed to limit flooding should the anti torpedo or armoured belt leak, the torpedo defence scheme was designed for defence against a 750 lb TNT charge.

The main armoured citadel was closed off with 12" armoured upper bulkhead forwards with a 7" one below it, aft the bulkhead was of 10" armour plate.Deck armour consisted of 6.25" over the magazines at the level of the upper-edge of the main belt reducing to 3.75" over the machinery, below this was a lower deck of 4.5" forwards and 4" aft, additional to the armour on each deck was an additional 0.5" of normal plating.

The barbettes protecting the turret operating machinery and shell hoists were 15" thick at the outboard and unprotected areas and 12" elsewhere, the main turrets had 16" thick face plates with 11" sides, 9" rear plates and 7.25" roofs, the six inch turrets were just 1.5" thick.The control tower and main director were protected with plating ranging from 16" to 4.5".


The above image shows the armour distrubution on the Nelson, Rodney as her sistership was identical to this, the black area is the main armoured belt covering the machinery and main magazines this was 14" over the magazines and 13" aft over the machinery and 6" magazines. The armoured control tower is shown below the bridge and abaft Xturret, this armour was up to 16" thick.

Service History[edit]

1927 to 1939

On the 17th December 1925 a large crowd had gathered at Cammell-Lairds Birkenhead shipyard to watch the Rodney being launched, even the local fire-brigade were there, their role was to stand by incase the immense weight and friction of the launch set fire to the grease that lubricated the slipways, the ceremony was carried out by HRH the Princess Mary, Viscountess Lascelles, the ceremony went well except that three attempts were made to break the bottle of Imperial Burgundy on the battleships bows.

Rodney's displacement at the time of her launch was 20,000 tons and she was the first battleship to be launched with her boilers already in place. There was a lot said in the press about the ships being the 'Cherry Tree' class having been cut down by Washington, a reference to the 1923 naval arms limitation treaty held at Washington but the two ships of the Nelson class, Nelson and Rodney, were in truth the most powerful and well armed and armoured ships in the world and remained so for a considerable period.

During a speech, Admiral Chatfield, the then First Lord of the Admiralty, declared that if truth be known Cammell-Lairds had built the Rodney not for profit but to give the men of the yard work, that may have been so but she still cost the sum of £7,617,000 to build.

Rodney's first Commanding Officer (CO) was Captain HK Kitson who arrived on the 20th may 1927, on Saturday the 13th August, largely completed she left for sea trials and gunnery tests off Plymouth, on the 07th September she achieved 23.8 knots on her sea trials, this speed was the major criticism of the class so perhaps we should look at the opposition, two classes of 16" battleship faced the Nelsons. Principle future opponent were the two Japanese ships of the Nagato class, Nagato and Mutsu, their specifications were: Length 708 feet Beam 95 feet draft 30 feet Displacement 32,700 tons Normal and 39,116 full load, quadruple screws and 80,000bhp gave them a speed of 26 knots, belt armour was 12" and decks were 7" and they carried eight 16" in four twin turrets.

The other main possible opponents were the three ships of the Colorado class: Colorado, Maryland and West Virginia ( a fourth the Washington was not completed and expended as a target) the top speed of these ships was just 21 knots from quadruple propellers drive by turbo electric drive of just 28,900 hp.L 624' B 97' 4" x draft 31' 4" Displacement 32,600 Tons, belt armour was 13.5" and the decks were rather thin at 3.5" for the armour deck and 1.5" for the upper-deck and like the Nagato's were armed with eight 16" guns.

The Nelson class were L 710' B106' Draft 33'06" displacement 33.700 tons the belt armour being 14" and the armour deck was 6.25" with another 4.5" on the lower deck. Comparing the two figures shows that the Nelson class were although slower than the Nagato's they were faster than the Colorado's and considerably better armoured than both so all in all the designer had achieved his aims to build a powerful ship within the terms of the Washington treaty, the only area that the nelson class was deficient was in having just twin screws and a single rudder, the loss of one engine would make the ships rather unhandy, one other factor would also count heavily in favour of the Nelsons, they had a cruising range of over 16,000 miles whilst the Colorado's was 8,000 miles and the Nagato's even worse at just 6,000 miles

During the gunnery trials the one problem that would plague the class appeared, blast damage to the bridge structure, with the aftermost triple turret, X, trained as far aft as it would go and at maximum elevation the gun muzzles were just a few feet from the bridge, in the trials just one gun was fired at a time, and whatever could be said of Admiral Chatfield he plaid the part of a 'crash test dummy' for this test. The shock of the gun firing was said to feel like 'ones chest being crushed' the blast caused a lot of structural damage to the bridge and also shattered the windows, limits had to be built into x turret to prevent this damage, however if need be the limiters could be over-ridden.

Trials over Rodney returned to Cammell-Lairds in mid September to complete her building and put right any defects, her crew paying off and returning home for leave. On the 9th of November 1927 her crew were back and she was officially handed over to the navy on that day, she sailed on the 12th for Plymouth for further modifications and repairs.In the new year further gunnery trials revealed that it would be unwise to fire all three guns in each turret together as damage to the ship could result, in fact a battleship would usually ripple fire it's guns to reduce the shock to the ship, bearing in mind that each one ton shell being nearly six feet high would need nearly 500lbs of explosive charge to propel it this is not surprising.It was about this time Rodney acquired her nickname - Rodbox, on account of the massive boxy deck house aft and when the two ships were moored together they were called the 'Pair of boots' due to their looking like a boot from a distance.

On completion of working up Rodney Joined the 2nd Battle Squadron ( 2BS) of the Atlantic Fleet, 1928 was spent on exercises and battle practice against both aerial and surface targets, in 1929 Rodney at Invergordon was ordered to raise steam promptly and steam to a position in the Irish sea were tow submarines L12 and h47 had collided with H47 sinking with 19 of her men still inside., Rodney sailed to Milford haven to collect rescue gear, rescue attempts were delayed due to bad weather and came to no avail, in the end Rodney held a memorial service over the wreck site. In September 1929 Rodney was in Portsmouth dry-dock for urgent machinery repairs. In December 1929 command of the Rodney passed over to one captain Andrew Browne Cunningham, then an ex destroyer captain, Cunningham worried about how to handle the crew whilst the crew wondered how to handle Cunningham, his reputation for being tough and hard to get on with preceded him, to be fair some loved him some did not, but under his leadership Rodney became a very efficient ship but punishment was harsh if you failed. In June 1930 Rodney carried a government delegation to Iceland in celebration of the 1,000th anniversary of their parliament the Althing.

In Britain in the midst of a depression sailors wages had been threatened with cuts, this and the toughness of life on board led to Rodney being involved in the mutiny at Invergordon on the 15th and 16th of September 1931, only junior ratings were involved in refusing to work, the crews involved did not take it out on the officers but were respectful in refusing to work, the crews complaints were found to be just in the following enquiry and the pay reductions lessened, however some 400 men left the service over the mutiny, four days after the event the Atlantic fleet was renamed the Home fleet to hopefully expunge the memory of the mutiny.

In April 1932 Cunningham was relieved by another man also to become famous, Captain John Tovey and in an attempt to improve morale the executive officer, Commander Schwedt was relieved by Commander G Cooke, this changeover had an immediate effect with life on board becoming more cheerful. In an attempt to invoke a friendly rivalry between the ships of the fleet the flag officer on the Flagship - Nelson, Admiral Kelly, would send unusual requests which whilst seeming odd did indeed raise morale and training. One such odd request was a signal to all the ships in the fleet to send a fried egg to the admiral, this exercise whilst seemingly mad involved not only the cooks frying the egg but the sea-boats crews in launching and rowing over to the flagship with the 'fried egg' not to be left out nelson was tasked with sending a poached egg to Rodney, in the friendly rivalry Rodney's cried foul in that the egg was one left over from breakfast.

In Early 1934 nelson had the misfortune to run aground on the Hamilton bank at the entrance to Portsmouth , this luckier for Rodney as she took Nelsons place on a cruise to the Caribbean visiting Barbados, Dominica, Grenada and St Kitts before sailing to Stavanger in Norway. In August command of the ship was handed over to Captain Wilfred Custance, back at Devonport on the 21st November 1934 a young midshipman joined the Rodney as his first ever ship, his name was Peter Hill-Norton, perhaps better known in his time as Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hill-Norton.

In 1936 with trouble flaring up in the Spanish civil war and trouble with Nazi Germany looming larger the Home Fleet cancelled its cruise to the Caribbean and instead went to Gibraltar, thirty warships of the Med fleet had evacuated over 6,000 refugees, during the period at Gibraltar the German ships Graf Spee and Deutschland arrived at Algeciras and there were various visits and liaisons between the two navies.In April Rodney was back in home waters taking part in the fleet review off Southend on the 12th May for the coronation of King George VI and later in the review at Spithead on the 14thMay, Britain had no less than seven battleships at this latter review, Nelson (flag), Rodney, Ramillies, Resolution, Revenge, Royal Oak and Royal Sovereign, Rodney's French lookalike the French Dunkerque was also present. In 1936 Rodney was fitted with an aircraft catapult on top of X turret for her new swordfish aircraft, this was fitted as a floatplane and would land on the water in the lee of the battleship before being craned back aboard onto the catapult by the new crane, later the swordfish would be replaced by a Supermarine walrus or Shagbat as it was affectionately known, nelson was not so fitted so during the years 1936 until mid to late 1943 when the catapult was removed it was easy to tell the two sister ships apart.

In 1937 Rodney as flagship of the home fleet ( Admiral Sir Roger Backhouse) made a cruise to Norway in July, this was a very successful event with the men of the Rodney meeting the King and Queen of Norway at a dance held in their honour.In July 1938 Rodney went into refit, the refit for once, and the last time, was fully carried out and actually overran its target date with the ship finally re-appearing in November 1938, at this time two ships Sheffield and Rodney were selected for the fitting of the type 79Y radar so during the above refit Rodney became the first British battleship to be fitted with radar, the 79Y set was for the detection of aircraft, Rodney received the set instead of the Flagship Nelson as it meant flying the admirals flag at a lower and more inferior position. In early 1939 flying the flag of Rear Admiral Lancelot Holland she made a cruise to the western Mediterranean as flagship of the 2BS following this she returned to home waters and was guard-ship at Dover for the visit of the French president Albert Lebrun, firing a 21 gun salute for the visit. Britain was now beginning to gear up for war, Rodney and Nelson represented the newest battleships in the Royal navy and they were now 16 years old, exercising was almost continuous.

On the 11th August 1939 the home fleet was given orders to sail for their war time base of Scapa Flow in order that the fleet may be ready for the coming hostilities, Rodney was the first battleship to arrive.


Shortly after arrival at Scapa Flow Rodney experienced problems with her Rudder requiring urgent attention, Rosyth dockyard had a dry-dock big enough to take the ship but was not yet on a wartime footing and fully manned, the only staff available were enough to operate the docks pumps and repair the rudder so Rodney's own crew turned to scraping and painting the bottom. On the 29th august Rodney was back at Scapa Flow, on the 31st august 1939 the whole home fleet put to sea , the following day Germany invaded Poland and on the 03rd September 1939 a simple signal was received 'Total Germany' - war had been declared.Throughout that September Rodney and other heavy units of the Home Fleet patrolled the NW approaches hoping to catch German ships attempting to return to Germany; on the 26th September she was part of the screen force covering the return of a damaged submarine, HMS Spearfish. Spearfish had been patrolling in the Helgoland bight on the watch for German warships on the move, she had been detected and depth charged but escaped and limped home, On the 08th October Rodney sailed to search for the German light battleship Gneisenau and her destroyer escort, however the German ships had only made a brief sortie up the Norwegian coast and were already back in port when the British ships arrived in the area.In November 1939 command of the Rodney passed to Captain Frederick Hew Dalrymple-Hamilton, Born at Girvan this Scotsman was to take the battleship through some of her most testing and triumphant times.

On the 27th November Nelson, Rodney, heavy cruiser Devonshire and seven destroyers as their escort sailed on an unsuccessful search in Faroes-Iceland Gap for the German sister light battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, this was following the loss to the German pair of the armed merchant Cruiser HMS Rawalpindi on the 23rd November.

On Friday the 13th October 1939 the Royal Oak was sunk in the Scapa Flow by torpedoes from Gunther Priens submarine U47 thus making the home fleets base temporarily unsafe, Rodney then made for the Clyde, on the way the British ships consisting of Rodney, Nelson and Hood were sighted to the west of the Orkneys on the 30th October by U56 under the command of Lt Wilhelm Zahn, two of three torpedoes hit Rodney but thankfully neither exploded, the torpedoes had hit her rudder disabling it, the rudders of the Nelson class were rather weak, Nelson's had been re-enforced but Rodney's had not, she then steered using her engines for Liverpool entering the Gladstone dock for repairs on the 09th December, events elsewhere made her repairs very urgent, Nelson has struck a mine on the 04th December and was out of commission, so once again Rodney had her repairs hurried given the short time available and not to the best standard, on the 30th December she sailed from the Mersey for the Clyde relieving Nelson as flagship until she could be repaired. The following winter months were spent on tedious and boring patrols and escort duties in case of German interference with convoys; during the severe weather in the North Atlantic in February 1940 Rodney experienced problems with plating forwards in her hull due panting damage.

See link below to access Part 2.

Nelson class Battleships
Nelson Class Battleship - HMS NelsonNelson Class Battleship - HMS RodneyNelson Class Battleship - HMS Rodney (Part 2)
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