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mofton's Tidbit's - British Battleships in WWII

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Hello All,

In the lead up to WWII the Royal Navy was widely considered to be the largest in the world, with a significant fleet and the joint greatest tonnage allowances under the Naval Treaties of the 1920's to 1930's. It's a common refrain on any discussion of German or Italian ships that 'it doesn't matter because the Royal Navy would just attack with 20 battleships!' which, although the RN was large is not entirely correct.

I have taken a look at compiling 'availability' of RN battleships - including battlecruisers - in WWII. This has required looking over the service histories of all 20 frontline battleships to serve in WWII, largely based on http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-aContents.htm

'The Rules of the Game'
I have to make certain caveats and assumptions to produce anything usable without going into too much detail - 

  • This is broken down by month, and taken a majority view - if available for more than half the month - available, if available less than half - not
  • 'Available' includes periods after commissioning and initial workup but not necessarily fully worked up - Prince of Wales did sail to engage Bismarck with contractors on board after all
  • 'Unavailable' includes all periods post damage spent sailing to yards for repair with that damage, and any moves between ports while seriously damaged. This matters because some RN ships took long routes to the US for repair and refit
  • Even if not in 100% operational condition I've tried to let the RN make the call
  • For 'battleship' read 'battleship or battlecruiser'

'Minesweeper'
Twenty ships, 72 months of war, one giant table which it hurts to look at for too long, but take a look if you like. 1 and green indicates available, 0 and red not. Red 0 indicates the ship was sunk. I've added a little bit of extra information on the right and totted up the available numbers.

0AXMZnR.jpg

Bullet point summary -

  • Despite operating a total of 20 battleships at some point in WWII the maximum ever available was 14, but 14 ships were only available in 3 months overall and never after May 1941 when Hood was lost and PoW damaged
  • The minimum number of available ships was just 5, for a brief period in January 1945 with a number of ships in refit and others being retired in the new age of the carrier and with the Naval war against Germany and Italy over
  • An average of 9.4 ships were available in any given month, something like 2/3 of those in service
  • Despite commissioning 5 new KGV class ships combat losses of Royal Oak, Hood, Repulse, Prince of Wales and Barham meant there was overall no net gain in strength
  • Refits were almost more important than losses
  • Combat repairs were significant
  • The most 'available' ships were the Renown and Rodney - both were in service at the outbreak of war and never suffered major damage
  • The least available ships were ships lost fairly early with Prince of Wales' and Royal Oak's brief WWII careers being particularly sad especially considering the loss of life.

PR9Qmzk.jpg

Yes, D-Day's in June 1944... oops.

The total availability is more easily toted up in a graph, above, with key incidents labelled. Note for instance that despite late 1941 being a particularly bleak time with the loss of Barham, PoW and Repulse the return of other ships to service kept the overall numbers up - Duke of York coming online offset Prince of Wales' loss, and Warspite coming back into service partially offset the loss of Barham and damage to Valiant and QE.

In general losses are final, but they're far from the only reason a ship wouldn't be in service.

Repairs, Refits, Rebuilds and R-Class Ships
Come 1939 the primary battle-line strength of the Royal Navy lay in the R and QE class ships, augmented by the pair of Nelson class battleships built in the early 1920's and three battlecruisers. But there was a huge problem with these ships. Of the thirteen ships of those fifteen lain down in WWI only a handful had benefited from a major rebuild.

Renown was rebuilt along modern lines (with a 4.5in DP battery and hangar) was rebuilt from 1933-1936. The Queen Elizabeth and Valiant were still being rebuilt at the outbreak of war and in fact QE wouldn't be available until well into 1941.

It is not a coincidence that of the thirteen WWI lay-down ships only two were still in service at the end of the war and both of those two were recipients of a major rebuild. The rebuilds not only made the ships more survivable, but more attractive to keep and less likely to wear out to the point of near uselessness.

The 'R' class are a good case study -

pWO0jcw.jpg

IWM Image  A 25722: The old and unmodernized HMS Ramilliies, note the lack of DP secondary guns, modern 'Queen Anne's Mansion' style superstructure and hangar, by quirk of fate and repair Ramillies lasted longest

BlOLmQI.jpg

Looking specifically at the R class battleships the overall downward trend is clear. Early war they were in some degree of demand, but damage to ships added up as well as periodical short refits - most ships required a 2-3 month refit every 9 months or so. The R's showed considerable vulnerability to torpedo strikes, but despite damage were never significantly modernized. As the war moved on and changed the lack of AA, speed thanks to worn out engines and general obsolescence saw more and more out of service - most were retired to reserve or as schools in 1940. 

The QE Class and Renown
The QE clas had a mixture of modernizations. The QE and Valiant had the most complete rebuilds, finishing after the outbreak of war. Warspite was an intermediary. Barham less and Malaya least of all. This really matters as the two available for the longest were both lucky and modernized. Warspite was generally knocked out from attrition but was granted brief reprieves to participate in shore bombardment missions in support of D-Day and afterwards in Europe. Valiant was unlucky to be knocked out by a drydock accident late war. The Renown is a similar story, although lucky not to suffer the fate of Hood or Repulse she was a sufficiently useful ship to be in play until the end.

8ZyGj5h.jpg

The QE's lasted the entire war, though QE herself was alone by the end thanks to damage to Valiant. A 'surge' to get bombardment ships for D-Day accounted for the late peak

KhLn97Mg.jpg

IWM Image A 7322 - Still valuable in 1945, the 30kt Renown had taken advantage of a rebuild along the lines of Valiant and QE but earlier and was the joint most available RN BB in WWII.

New Blood - the King George V Class
The King George V class were Britain's sole class of fast battleship available for service in WWII although five were built the early loss of Prince of Wales - with just 6 months in service - meant that no more than 4 were in service at any given time. Although damage wasn't a major problem for the class, refits typically kept the numbers available below four and the the last two ships, Anson and Howe commissioned fairly late. Although one of few modern ships available KGV herself stayed out of major refit for a long time after commissioning, though not all that period was active - battleships spent a lot of their time 'swinging around a buoy' at Scapa, frequently months at a time.

GEjij50.jpg

Of note with the KGV's is low availability in late 1944 and early 1945 when three of the ships had quite drawn out refits in preparation for service in the Far East.

N88iqmb.jpg

IWM Photo A 10381 - HMS Howe belatedly fitting out in Glasgow, the service history of the last two KGV class ships would be unremarkable

 

So, to conclude - there's a lot more to a navy than total number of ships in commission. All ships will need periodic repair and refit eating into the available time and developing the 3-1 maxim where 3 ships gets you 1 ready, 1 working up and 1 in refit/repair. The RN was also poorly served by pre-war modernizations and the age of the fleet was a problem, by 1945 the biggest ship killer was age, not the Axis.

Although numbers may have been good at points periods such as April 1942 can be deceptive - although 9 battleships were in theory available 4 of them were 'R's and one was the least modernized QE - Malaya. That left just Renown, Warspite and two KGV's to cover the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Pacific. To an extent you can track the fortunes of the Allies in microcosm by looking at this.

Hope you enjoyed, if there's a positive response I may look at RN carriers or USN battleships.

 

mofton

Edited by mofton
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Very interesting read thanks Mofton

 

ps: Don't do carriers they are cancer

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Hi @mofton

Great work this is the second one you have done and there required reading for any naval enthusiast wanting to know about there favourite ships or ship types in game keep up the good work.

plus 1

cheers   

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I've always felt the British would have been better off retaining the Tiger as a training ship rather than the Iron Duke.  Tiger with a gold-plated US rebuild such as some other ships received would have been a very useful unit.

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From what I recall, the Revenge-class was smaller, lighter in tonnage, less stable, and slower then the previous BBs. While this was ok when they were built, it made them very hard to update later. They couldn't put in more powerful engines to speed them up, nor could they mount the large 'tower' the QE's received. As a result, they became considered as second line BBs, and were used away from the Main Theater of war.

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Excellent post mofton! The only thing I might've considered doing differently was making a distinction between time in yards for repairs, and time for refits & maintainence. It would provide a useful look at how much the daily wear and tear of such an active force affected it compared to raw damage.

 

8 hours ago, crzyhawk said:

I've always felt the British would have been better off retaining the Tiger as a training ship rather than the Iron Duke.  Tiger with a gold-plated US rebuild such as some other ships received would have been a very useful unit.

While you do have quite a valid point in the reagrds to usefulness after refit, it really didn't matter the RN. They weren't going to spend the money between the wars to update an old 13.5" or 12" unit when they had 10x 15" BBs plus 3x 15" BC's left over, and they lacked the funds to fully refit all of them. It's one of those things that's great in theory, but just not practical due to constraints via other factors.

8 hours ago, Lord_Slayer said:

From what I recall, the Revenge-class was smaller, lighter in tonnage, less stable, and slower then the previous BBs. While this was ok when they were built, it made them very hard to update later. They couldn't put in more powerful engines to speed them up, nor could they mount the large 'tower' the QE's received. As a result, they became considered as second line BBs, and were used away from the Main Theater of war.

It depended on the stage if the war. R's did see surface action, but they tended to be reliant on the fight coming to them - they were just too slow.

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9 minutes ago, Phoenix_jz said:

It depended on the stage if the war. R's did see surface action, but they tended to be reliant on the fight coming to them - they were just too slow.

Hence they were on Convoy escort duty, or bombardment. The action they did see was very limited.

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Excellent work as usual. I’ve always found it interesting that Howe and Andon had such mundane service lives compared to the other KGVs. My only question is would the B.B. availability have mattered? The German surface threat was relatively small and I want to say the Italians were in the same state as the Royal Navy in regards to their Battleship fleet

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6 hours ago, Hot_tamale25 said:

Excellent work as usual. I’ve always found it interesting that Howe and Andon had such mundane service lives compared to the other KGVs. My only question is would the B.B. availability have mattered? The German surface threat was relatively small and I want to say the Italians were in the same state as the Royal Navy in regards to their Battleship fleet

The RN had lots of commitments. They had to tie down their BBs in case Tirpitz or Scharnhorst tried something funny, they had to keep a force in the Indian Ocean to discourage any Japanese adventurism - and then they had to maintain Force H and the Mediterranean fleet on either end of the Mediterranean in order to deal with the Italians.

This was an issue because, while the Japanese Battleships weren't going to have a massive edge over the QE's and R's that might've faced them in battle (only Nagato and Mutsu, really), Tirpitz was a modern fast battleship, as was Littorio and Vittorio Veneto. On top of that, while they didn't have the same offensive power as the larger battleship, Scharnhorst and the Italian rebuilds were still Battleships, and they were fast, 30 knots and 26-27 knots respectively.

The only ships the RN had that could stand up to the fast BBs were the KGV's and Nelson's, but the Nelson's were only good for 23 knots like the 'fast' QE's. The only ships fast enough to catch all these ships were the KGV's and the three battlecruisers.

Thus you can start to see why the RN was stretched so thin. The enemy fleets tended to be small, but they were modern.  If you want to break the RN captial ships down by speed;

30 Knots - Battlecruisers (Hood, Renown, Repulse) (3)

27-28 Knots - KGV-class (5)

23 Knots - Nelson-class, QE-class (8)

20-21 Knots - Revenge-class (5)

By January of 1942, the RN had lost two of their battlecruisers and one of the KGV's, leaving them with only one 30-knot BC and two 27-28 knot KGV's, with two more joining about halfway through 1942 (Although the RM also received Roma at about the same time) - and keep in mind, Renown may have been fast with 15" guns, but she only had 6, with little armor. She was not suited to standing up to the enemy fast BBs. 

So you can see where availability is an issue. It's not just a question of 'who's around?', but also, 'who's around that can do the job?'

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4 hours ago, Lord_Slayer said:

From what I recall, the Revenge-class was smaller, lighter in tonnage, less stable, and slower then the previous BBs. While this was ok when they were built, it made them very hard to update later. They couldn't put in more powerful engines to speed them up, nor could they mount the large 'tower' the QE's received. As a result, they became considered as second line BBs, and were used away from the Main Theater of war.

I think the R's could have had a bit more pre-war investment, though whether it would have been worth it is unknown. They might not have been able to do a full (Bridge, 20x 4.5in gun, 4x octuple pom-pom, hangar for 2 Walrus) rebuild but I wonder if they could have had some engine attention. QE's rebuild included a complete boiler replacement:

Existing 25 boilers replaced by 8 High Pressure type saving 50% in weight and 33% in space.

The R's were rated for about 21-22kt as built, added weight and bulges in the '30's with no real compensation. Stories abound in WWII of them being a bit of an encumbrance speed wise. As examples at Calabria Royal Sovereign fell behind Warspite which was doing about 24kt to her 19kt, at Mers-el-Kebir her sister the Resolution pursued Strasbourg at a stately best speed of 18kt, Ramillies tried to get in on the Bismarck action at 19kt, and it seemed an achievement when Revenge managed 21.5kt briefly in 1940.

Royal Sovereign had a particularly bad incident (same sources as the OP):

Spoiler

August 16th – At 1730 hours ROYAL SOVEREIGN and destroyers DAINTY, DEFENDER and DECOY arrived at Aden. On arrival at Aden ROYAL SOVEREIGN had only one of her 18 boilers operational.
Her engine room staff then set to work using the limited facilities available at Aden to get at least half of her boilers operational.

August 29th – At 1500 hours ROYAL SOVEREIGN sailed from Aden for Durban.

September - Steaming south through the Indian Ocean en route to Durban.

September 15th – At 1400 hours ROYAL SOVEREIGN arrived at Durban. The average speed had been 8 knots, but on occasions her speed had fallen off to 3 knots. The conditions in the boiler and engine rooms had been a living hell.
ROYAL SOVEREIGN went straight into dry dock for repairs and a refit.

A nominally 21kt battleship completing a transit at as little as 3kt.

I also wonder if given the QE's traded their 6in casemates and 4in DP guns the R's might have been able to have the same done, or maybe ending up with 16 barrels of 4.5in instead. Weak AA was a huge problem that restricted their use.

The other modification that at least some of the QE's had, which I'm not sure on the R's was that main battery elevation was increased to about 30', allowing a maximum range of 32,000 yards. That wouldn't have cost much weight to do.

There's also the case of the least-modernized or refitted QE class, Malaya:

Spoiler

During Operation Grog - where the RN bombarded mainland Italy and then probably wanted to get the heck out of dodge ASAP:

At 0845 hours the ARK ROYAL Force rejoined and Force H made at best speed, which at one point was only 17 knots, the best MALAYA could make, for Gibraltar

In comparison Warspite did manage a 'real' 24kt at Calabria, QE after rebuild was rated to 23.5. The well modernized Valiant did 24kt at the battle of Cape Matapan, while the Warspite/Barham were doing more like 22kt.

 

The fully refitted ships were generally the fastest with the most reliable engines - the least modernized the slowest and with frequent problems down the road. More pre-war investment might have been well rewarded, the USN with greater resources was able to get use from most of their Standard-types well into 1945.

 

5 hours ago, crzyhawk said:

I've always felt the British would have been better off retaining the Tiger as a training ship rather than the Iron Duke.  Tiger with a gold-plated US rebuild such as some other ships received would have been a very useful unit.

I have mixed thoughts on that, as a training ship both fulfill the role quite adequately but in a 'surprise it's not a training ship any more' move (per Haruna) then arguably Tiger might have been more useful.

Specifically because I believe she could have been deployed against the Deutschland class with every chance of success, especially if rebuilt to 29-30kt. There's also the chance that she might better intercept other raiders.

The downside is cost. If there was never availability or time or money to fully rebuild Malaya or Barham, then it's hard to see Tiger being high priority.

4 hours ago, Phoenix_jz said:

Excellent post mofton! The only thing I might've considered doing differently was making a distinction between time in yards for repairs, and time for refits & maintainence. It would provide a useful look at how much the daily wear and tear of such an active force affected it compared to raw damage.

 

What you do have quite a valid point in the reagrds to usefulness after refit, it really didn't matter the RN. They weren't going to spend the money between the wars to update an old 13.5" or 12" unit when they had 10x 15" BBs plus 3x 15" BC's left over, and they lacked the funds to fully refit all of them. It's one of those things that's great in theory, but just not practical due to constraints via other factors.

It depended on the stage if the war. R's did see surface action, but they tended to be reliant on the fight coming to them - they were just too slow.

Thanks!

I think I can probably do that fairly easily, damage wasn't that frequent and is easy to ID so not too hard, I could use different letter codes and see. I'm pretty much with you on Tiger on cost grounds, though if I had to scrap an R for a rebuilt Tiger I think I would, it's just a sexier ship.

1 hour ago, Phoenix_jz said:

It RN had lots of commitments. They had to tie down their BBs in case Tirpitz or Scharnhorst tried something funny, they had to keep a force in the Indian Ocean to discourage any Japanese adventurism - and then they had to maintain Force H and the Mediterranean fleet on either end of the Mediterranean in order to deal with the Italians.

This was an issue because, while the Japanese Battleships weren't going to have a massive edge over the QE's and R's that might've faced them in battle (only Nagato and Mutsu, really), Tirpitz was a modern fast battleship, as was Littorio and Vittorio Veneto. On top of that, while they didn't have the same offensive power as the larger battleship, Scharnhorst and the Italian rebuilds were still Battleships, and they were fast, 30 knots and 26-27 knots respectively.

 

Very much so. Early 1942 with QE and Valiant gone, Barham sunk the available ships are Warspite which was just finished with repair in the USA and in the Indian Ocean, DoY and KGV - needed in the Atlantic to provide any superiority to Tirpitz which had just arrived in Norway, Renown with the shortcomings as mentioned and... 4 'R' class and Malaya. Writing off the R's/Malaya leaves 4 modern/ized battleships to cover the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and Atlantic. Stretched very thin.

I think the Japanese Fuso and Ise's would have had a decent-excellent edge over the QE's/R's, less so the modernized QE's but certainly the R's. I'm not sure if the 15in's had the range on the Japanese 14in without the 30' elevation upgrade which is awkward. All things considered an R/QE battle line is probably going to be stuck at about 18kt (because at least one of the R's is inevitably going to struggle) while the Japanese have a bit of a speed edge for what that's worth. The Japanese also had significant upgrades to their fire control systems compared to at least the R's and less-loved QE's - new, wider, higher rangefinders. In a long-range daylight engagement I can see the RN having a really, really bad day.

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2 hours ago, mofton said:

Very much so. Early 1942 with QE and Valiant gone, Barham sunk the available ships are Warspite which was just finished with repair in the USA and in the Indian Ocean, DoY and KGV - needed in the Atlantic to provide any superiority to Tirpitz which had just arrived in Norway, Renown with the shortcomings as mentioned and... 4 'R' class and Malaya. Writing off the R's/Malaya leaves 4 modern/ized battleships to cover the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and Atlantic. Stretched very thin.

I think the Japanese Fuso and Ise's would have had a decent-excellent edge over the QE's/R's, less so the modernized QE's but certainly the R's. I'm not sure if the 15in's had the range on the Japanese 14in without the 30' elevation upgrade which is awkward. All things considered an R/QE battle line is probably going to be stuck at about 18kt (because at least one of the R's is inevitably going to struggle) while the Japanese have a bit of a speed edge for what that's worth. The Japanese also had significant upgrades to their fire control systems compared to at least the R's and less-loved QE's - new, wider, higher rangefinders. In a long-range daylight engagement I can see the RN having a really, really bad day.

Perhaps? I suppose it would depend on the level of modernization on the RN 15" BBs present, more danger from the modernized QE's as you say. I'm not entirely sure when it comes to deck armor (tends to be all over the place with the Revenge and QE's due to who got what upgrade, but I think they had a slight IZ), but the 330mm belt is a big factor in their favor - the Japanese 14" gun, in reality, was fairly underwhelming in penetration. While the armor was WWI-era on those older BBs, the Japanese gun is still probably going to fail to penetrate unless its within 20000 yards. The British 15" gun could punch through the 305mm belt of the Japanese battleships out to 32000 yards (Although the Japanese deck armor probably keeps them safe from deck penetration within 26000 yards). 

In terms of the raw guns vs armor, I think the British battleships have a major edge. That being said, Fire Control could make quite a difference (I just got the kindle version of Friedman's "Naval Firepower", so currently learning a lot more about Fire Control than I knew before lol), but if I'm not mistaken the Fuso's and Ise's had many other issues associated with them in terms of stability and structural strength, but I'm honestly not knowledgeable enough about them to be able to say whether or not that's just anecdotal or legitimate (ex; Fuso damaging her turrets if she fired both guns at the same time, etc).

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2 hours ago, mofton said:

I think the R's could have had a bit more pre-war investment, though whether it would have been worth it is unknown. They might not have been able to do a full (Bridge, 20x 4.5in gun, 4x octuple pom-pom, hangar for 2 Walrus) rebuild but I wonder if they could have had some engine attention. QE's rebuild included a complete boiler replacement:

Existing 25 boilers replaced by 8 High Pressure type saving 50% in weight and 33% in space.

The R's were rated for about 21-22kt as built, added weight and bulges in the '30's with no real compensation. Stories abound in WWII of them being a bit of an encumbrance speed wise. As examples at Calabria Royal Sovereign fell behind Warspite which was doing about 24kt to her 19kt, at Mers-el-Kebir her sister the Resolution pursued Strasbourg at a stately best speed of 18kt, Ramillies tried to get in on the Bismarck action at 19kt, and it seemed an achievement when Revenge managed 21.5kt briefly in 1940.

Royal Sovereign had a particularly bad incident (same sources as the OP):

  Hide contents

August 16th – At 1730 hours ROYAL SOVEREIGN and destroyers DAINTY, DEFENDER and DECOY arrived at Aden. On arrival at Aden ROYAL SOVEREIGN had only one of her 18 boilers operational.
Her engine room staff then set to work using the limited facilities available at Aden to get at least half of her boilers operational.

August 29th – At 1500 hours ROYAL SOVEREIGN sailed from Aden for Durban.

September - Steaming south through the Indian Ocean en route to Durban.

September 15th – At 1400 hours ROYAL SOVEREIGN arrived at Durban. The average speed had been 8 knots, but on occasions her speed had fallen off to 3 knots. The conditions in the boiler and engine rooms had been a living hell.
ROYAL SOVEREIGN went straight into dry dock for repairs and a refit.

A nominally 21kt battleship completing a transit at as little as 3kt.

I also wonder if given the QE's traded their 6in casemates and 4in DP guns the R's might have been able to have the same done, or maybe ending up with 16 barrels of 4.5in instead. Weak AA was a huge problem that restricted their use.

The other modification that at least some of the QE's had, which I'm not sure on the R's was that main battery elevation was increased to about 30', allowing a maximum range of 32,000 yards. That wouldn't have cost much weight to do.

 

It wasn't necessarily that changing out the boilers would help. The entire engine plant including turbines would have to have been replaced in order to bring them up to a higher speed. The R's were basically a 'cheaper' and modified QE. Another reason for the lack of major upgrades was that they were to be replaced by the Lion-class as they came online. The QEs were larger and faster and easier to rebuild. The R's were designed for battle tactics that were basically obsolete by the time they entered service.

Yeah, I don't think the R's got the 30' elevation. I think the turret design prevented it.

 

Also, Royal Sovereign was later loaned to the Soviets, who from all things I've read,  didn't maintain the thing. It came back in horrible condition.

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4 hours ago, mofton said:
  Reveal hidden contents

During Operation Grog - where the RN bombarded mainland Italy and then probably wanted to get the heck out of dodge ASAP:

At 0845 hours the ARK ROYAL Force rejoined and Force H made at best speed, which at one point was only 17 knots, the best MALAYA could make, for Gibraltar

I have mixed thoughts on that, as a training ship both fulfill the role quite adequately but in a 'surprise it's not a training ship any more' move (per Haruna) then arguably Tiger might have been more useful.

Specifically because I believe she could have been deployed against the Deutschland class with every chance of success, especially if rebuilt to 29-30kt. There's also the chance that she might better intercept other raiders.

The downside is cost. If there was never availability or time or money to fully rebuild Malaya or Barham, then it's hard to see Tiger being high priority.

 

IIRC, the USN was offered the Iron Duke after Pearl Harbor if we wanted to rebuild it.  The US declined, as it was not economical.  Tiger's speed was an entirely different proposition.  I think the USN would have rebuilt her either for their own use if offered, or for the British if desired.  We rebuilt several other less useful units for the British, I am positive that room would have been "found" for the Tiger.

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The "R" class had their 15in guns upgraded to operate the "supercharge" shells, but were not given the extra elevation. I cannot remember the reasons given (they were essentially the same turrets as on the QEs), but it may have been as mentioned above - they were slated for replacement. And with the breakout of war in 1939, giving them modified shells was much quicker than the lengthy rebuild needed for the turret elevation.

The "R"s had been allowed to 'run down' in the late 30s. They were in generally poor condition. And their freshwater condensers only enabled them to stay at sea about 3 days.

 

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Had they somehow closed that 100km gap at the Battle of Ceylon ... It is hard to predict the outcome. Somerville's idea to commit to night battle was certainly the only (slightly) viable option available to him. Warspite and some of the cruisers had radar. While the RN was well practised in night combat, they were not aware that the Japanese had also recently developed that skillset...

But the potential was there - mostly thanks to the air-surface radar on a handful of Albacores, and their ability to launch night torpedo attacks - with Fulmars providing additional night recon.

 

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3 hours ago, Phoenix_jz said:

Perhaps? I suppose it would depend on the level of modernization on the RN 15" BBs present, more danger from the modernized QE's as you say. I'm not entirely sure when it comes to deck armor (tends to be all over the place with the Revenge and QE's due to who got what upgrade, but I think they had a slight IZ), but the 330mm belt is a big factor in their favor - the Japanese 14" gun, in reality, was fairly underwhelming in penetration. While the armor was WWI-era on those older BBs, the Japanese gun is still probably going to fail to penetrate unless its within 20000 yards. The British 15" gun could punch through the 305mm belt of the Japanese battleships out to 32000 yards (Although the Japanese deck armor probably keeps them safe from deck penetration within 26000 yards). 

In terms of the raw guns vs armor, I think the British battleships have a major edge. That being said, Fire Control could make quite a difference (I just got the kindle version of Friedman's "Naval Firepower", so currently learning a lot more about Fire Control than I knew before lol), but if I'm not mistaken the Fuso's and Ise's had many other issues associated with them in terms of stability and structural strength, but I'm honestly not knowledgeable enough about them to be able to say whether or not that's just anecdotal or legitimate (ex; Fuso damaging her turrets if she fired both guns at the same time, etc).

If the R's have supercharges, which I'm not certain were ever really used, and the QE's had the 30' upgrade then the range is probably there. The problem as I see it is fire control and rangefinding. I can't find anything on the R's that suggests they ever traded in their older-version Dreyer tables - older than those of Hood which struggled with them at Denmark Strait. The height and width of the rangefinder remains unchanged too, and the British did like turret mounted ones.

While there may be a penetration advantage my interpretation is that it didn't necessarily bear out in practice - for instance at Jutland the Warspite was struck by something like 13 heavy shells (but still only 11-12in instead of 14in) and despite the fact that her belt and deck held took quite a pounding, thousands of tons of flooding, restricted to 16kt or then less, guns knocked out etc. The Malaya was similarly knocked about. Penetrations to the general ship, upper belt, turrets, FCS, waterline causing flooding, casemate etc. all do considerable damage even without the ship being lost. I think the German BC's are pretty much the same story - the main armor belt and decks held but still a battering and still a loss.

If penetration is less important then the individual higher throw weight of the Fuso's and Ise's matters, though then we start to get into a total numbers game given ships available on each side.

3 hours ago, Lord_Slayer said:

It wasn't necessarily that changing out the boilers would help.

I'm not entirely sure on the intricacies, but even without a total engineering plant rebuild there was plenty of room to get more from the R's. They didn't need to be improved like the Kongo's gaining speed, but just being able to make roughly the design speed and not break down would have been advantageous.

Royal Sovereign was in pretty bad condition when given to the Soviets, though she did come back worse -

January 1944 - At Rosyth.

Shell and cordite handling gear from the magazines to the 15in turrets was found to be badly worn and in need of replacement but the Americans refused to carry out this work.

The Admiralty commissioned a report on the condition of ROYAL SOVEREIGN to see if she would be suitable for bombardment duties during the Normandy Invasion which was at that point of time in the planning stage. The report identified major defects in the shell and cordite handling gear for the main armament which the Admiralty decided not to repair so she was not included in the invasion bombardment plan.

A 30 year old design with shell hoist problems, very minimal modernizations, while I think if you borrow people's things you should return them in as-good condition I'm thinking the Russians probably weren't that grateful for RS.

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If I recall correctly the Rs were only originally built as a stop gap during WWI with the intent of replacing them. The Brits needed more big gun BBs (especially with the on going post WWI arms race) but because of the Washington Naval Treaty they were now stuck with these ships, for a good long while also. They were built on the cheap and designed to be built quickly to get them out into the sea. Hence the 2nd line battleship someone coined earlier. Even though they were never intended it, they filled the hole the Royal Navy needed during WWII and that was some ships with a big enough to stick to keep the enemy from directly challenging them

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