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April 26th Focus: Roberts Class

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Alpha Tester
1,275 posts
168 battles



April 26th


1894 – Jupiter -                 Majestic - Commissioned

1905 - Lübeck - Bremen-class - Commissioned

1916 - Ceres – Ceres Class – Laid Down

1941 – Abercrombie – Roberts class – Laid down

1943 - Arbiter – Bogue- and Repeat Bogue-class– laid down

1943 – Kalinin Bay – Casablanca-class– laid down

1943 – Intrepid – Essex-class- Launched



Laid down - 36

Launched - 30

Commissioned  - 34


Not Allies - one cruiser




Britain is fighting alone. Casting about for anything to quicken the pace of building needed ships it was noted that the spare 15”42 turret originally built for HMS Furious (should her 18”/40 guns prove a failure) was available. Two 15” guns is not enough to make a battleship but makes for a very effective monitor. The same trick had been done using the turret from the Marshal Soult and commencing of building a new ship around it, HMS Roberts, one year before.




So on April 26, 1941 a repeat of Roberts named HMS Abercrombie was begun. [i need to come clean here, our database says April 26th, but at least one other source I trust, D. K. Brown in The Design and Construction of British Warships 1939-1945, says May 26th]. I will talk about the class.




The major failure of the World War One large monitors was not the guns but the engines and hull form. They were largely underpowered bluff bowed barges barely able to make headway in a stiff current with top speed in single digits. The Roberts were to be of longer and more slender form but still sporting very wide bulges as they would be close in shore and quite the target for mines and torpedoes. Roberts was designed to resist torpedoes with 1,000 pound warheads. The bulges were so wide the belt armor was sloping inward from top to bottom. Their great width provided the extra buoyancy to keep the draft at a shallow 12 feet.




Unlike the normal sloping belts that have the top of the belt farther out and improve performance against plunging fire. Since the expectation was that these ship would face fire from shore batteries in the 6’ to 8” range the belt is listed as 200 pounds. Pounds? Yes, a number of sources keep to the practice of listing the armor as pounds per square foot. For steel armor 40 pounds per square foot equals 1 inch of thickness. The barbette and turret retained their battleship armor thicknesses while the remained of the ship was armored on a cruiser like scale.

Since no reliable drawings of the Marshal Soult existed the 15” gun barbette and turret were carefully measured and the Roberts designed around these items.




The speed was set at 12 knots and engines were sought. This is a ship with a deep load displacement of over 9,100 tons and the machinery chosen was the same as in the Black Swan class sloops! The 4800 horsepower turbines produced the desired speed but the ships would never be called fast. Model trials were carried out and twin rudders fitted to give better maneuverability. A few additional construction details might be of interest.

The cooling for the magazines was 30,000 BTU/hour and two 20,000 BTU/hour plants kept food cool.

Two 200kW steam dynamos provide electrical power along with two 60kW oil powered ones.

There four 550 tons per hour salvage pump for flood compartments.

Distilling machinery produced 60 tons per day.

They stowed 550 tons of fuel oil.


The later Abercrombie increased, crew, electrical generation, water production, deck armor, funnel height, and refrigeration capacity.

Roberts was completed in October of 1941 and Abercrombie in May of 1943.




Roberts immediately headed for the Med to support the Torch landing in North Africa. She was dmaged by two 500 kg bombs. She supported the Sicily and Salerno landing and was positioned off Sword beach for D-Day and supported post D-Day operations. She was sold for scrap but hired back as an accommodation ship lasting until 1965. One of her guns is outside the Imperial War Museum in London.




Abercrombie also supported the landings in Sicily and was damaged by a contact mine. Repaired in Taranto she was damaged by two mines near Malta. Repaired again she was heading for the Pacific when the war ended. She was used for gunnery training until scrapped in 1954.




I have to say I was a little surprised by the apparent popularity of these ships as models based on the number of photos on the web.




Thanks for listening.

  • Cool 7

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