Enterprise class cruisers

Enterprise class cruisers

United Kingdom (1920)
Light Cruisers – Enterprise, Emerald

The little known “E” class

The two Enterprise (Enterprise and Emerald) or “E” class vessels were the last British light cruisers built during the Great War. However, the lack of manpower and shipbuilding priority given to destroyers meant that their launch only took place in 1920. They were only completed, with much revisions, in 1926. They were originally built to counter Fast cruisers, the German minelayer Brummer and Bremse, operating at the end of 1917. They could achieve 33 knots, using engines from the Shakespeare class flotilla leaders mounted in pairs, with classical artillery derived from “D” class.

WoW’s rendition of the Emerald.

The Emerald class was the last class of light cruisers planned and ordered during the great war. Three ships were ordered, HMS Emerald (laid down 23.9.1918), Enteprise (laid down 28.6.1918) and Euphrates (plannes to be laid down in November 1918 but cancelled). These were considered improved “D” class cruisers with a displacement of almost 10,000 tonnes fully loaded, compared to 5800 for the Danae. The ships were launched well after the war, in 1919 and 1920 but the first was completed and in service in january 1926 therefore the class was named after the Emerald and not the Enterprise. Their carrer in the interwar was quite active and both served throughout WW2 with distinction in many theaters of operations.

Three ships has been laid down, the third called HMS Euphrates being laid down at Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan in 1918 but cancelled shortly after on 26 November 1918. The first pencil lines had been laid in 1917 and much of their equipment was 1916 standard. With a complement of four sets of torpedo tubes, these ships were quite formidable for 1918, but in 1926 after their lengthy completion, this design was quite dated.


The two ships were thin, being longer without increase in beam. To afford the extended machinery and double the power available, reaching 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph), gaining 30 m in length at the expense of almost 50% more displacement. Four propellers were driven from two engine rooms, four boiler rooms, the 2 and 3 being arranged side-by-side and trunked into a common funnel, while the 1 and 4 each had their own funnel, but the 4 was much further aft, which gave this very recognizable and unusual silhouette. The truth was they emphasised high speed at the cost of other qualities.

The class would be reclassified as light cruisers thereafter. Their artillery comprised only one more gun than previous Danae class, with the last 152 mm single mounts: Seven pieces including port and starboard on the fore deck for the Emerald, and a twin turret for the Enterprise, the first to experiment one at that time for this light caliber. The twin turret was a prototype, successfully tested, that led to its adoption on the Leander, Amphion and Arethusa classes. In consequence the bridge was of a new design, and some features like a single block topped by a director tower would soon appear also on the ‘County’ class cruisers.

The two ships received a catapult for a seaplane in 1936, which will be deposited in 1944, because in the meantime they were equipped with efficient radars. Their torpedo tubes were replaced in 1929. Finally, their AA artillery was reinforced in 1940, with the addition of two quadruple Bofors 40 mm mounts, while in 1942 their benches of torpedo tubes were deposited in favor of 16 to 18 20 mm pieces Oerlikon AA. Until 1939 they were both stationed in the Far East and also in the Mediterranean.

Detail of the front twin turret, HMS Enterprise 1936

Career: HMS Enterprise

The HMS Enterprise served off the coast of France, carried out escort missions, participated in the Norwegian campaign, fought in Narvik and was badly hit there. After repairs, she joined H force in the Mediterranean, participating in operation “Catapult” against the French navy anchored at Mers-el-Kebir.

She then departed for the Indian Ocean and the Far East. later she returned to France for a refit and was assigned to the hunt for the German raiders. In December 1943 she engaged and destroyed a German destroyer and two torpedo boats, taking part in escort missions until June 1944, assisting the landing by battery cover. In January 1945 she was transferred to the reserve and made only secondary missions such as the repatriation of troops. She was disarmed and demolished in 1948.

Career: HMS Emerald

The HMS Emerald received radars and new tripod masts in 1940, losing a 152 mm piece. She crossed the North Atlantic, carrying the British gold reserves to Halifax (58 million pounds). She was then assigned to the Indian Ocean. She returned in 1941 to the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. She operated on the Iraqi coast (to support the repression of a pro-German revolt in the summer of 1941) and the Red Sea. In December, she was part of famous Z force at Singapore (also Prince of Wales and Repulse). She did not departed with the ships of Tom Philips on their fatal raid, and became after their loss the only major ship left in the “Asian Gibraltar”. She had to leave nevertheless before the fall of Singapore and made it home despite Japanese lookouts and reconnaissance over the area.

HMS Enterprise in Haifa, 1936.

After her overhaul she returned in 1943 to attend the 4th cruiser squadron in the Indian Ocean. In the summer of 1944, at D-Day she assisted the landings by covering Gold Beach sector. After being paid to the reserve shortly thereafter, she was reduced to sub-divisional roles before being struck off and broken up in 1948.

HMS Emerald in the interwar. The livery would have been white/pale grey with dark sand superstructures

Considerations about the class

All in all, the Emerald class in 1939 could have been obsolete and costly compared to new classes, but they were still the fastest cruisers in the Royal Navy and the heaviest torpedo-armed at the outbreak of World War II.
They were made “bankable” in the interwar and still found their place in the Navy despite the arrival of the large “County” colonial cruisers and the modern “Town” class to chasing German raiders thanks to their long range.
They very much had the same fate and career as the “C” or Cavendish class, mainly employed on the ocean trade routes and the Far East in 1942-43 with the East Indies Fleet. The small but successful naval battle of the Enterprise against a well-armed German destroyer and torpedo boat force in December 1943 in the Bay of Biscay was considered a feat for such an old cruiser.

The HMS Emerald in the 1930s


The HMS Enterprise on wikipedia
British Light Cruisers 1939–45 By Angus Konstam
British Cruisers: Two World Wars and After. By Norman Friedman
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

HMS Enterprise in November 1943

Neptune specifications

Dimensions 173.7 x16.6 x6.6 m (570 x54 x16 ft)
Displacement 8250 tons S, 10220 tons FL
Crew 680
Propulsion 4 screws, 4 BC turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 80,000 hp
Speed 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph)
Range 1,350nm @32 knots to 8,000nm @15 knots
Armament 7x 152mm, 5x 102mm MK VIII AA, 8 Bofors 40mm AA, 16(4×4) TT 533mm
Armor Sides 38-76 mm (1.5-3 in), deck 25 mm (1 in).


Profile of the HMS Enterprise at Haifa in 1936

Same, port side view

HMS Enteprise in June 1944, operation Overlord.

WW2 German Destroyers

WW2 German Destroyers

Germany (1930-44) circa 50 ships

Foreworld: German expertise on destroyers proceeded from humble beginnings: The weak TBs from 1910-1914, barely fit for the high seas. However the influence of Royal Navy designs and an order from the Russian navy before the war gave the experience of large, well armed oceanic destroyers. In particular, the “Russian” B97 and G101 class and the S113 class. For more see German destroyers of ww1. This development was halted and all these ships had to be conducted to Scapa Flow for internment, and Versailles treaty conditions later only allowed for a police fleet for the Reichsmarine of 12 destroyers and 12 torpedo-boats. The “destroyers” were still very much of ww1 style, 1300 tons fully loaded, six built of the 1923 type and six of the 1924 types, all reclassed as TBs after the Z1 was launched. Their lineage was the basis for more modern torpedo-boats of the 1935 class with their flush-deck hull. 36 were built, plus 30 more in Dutch and German yards, mostly unfinished. But that’s another story.

There was a rebirth after the arrival of Hitler, and the first 1933 design was based on the D106 class of 1918. These were equal, if not superior to the best allied designs of destroyers leaders, with solid hulls for the north sea and reliable turbines. Soon, classed armed with cruiser-size artillery will be launched. All were denominated “Z-” (for “zestörer”), together with proper namesakes. Z1 Leberecht Maas (launched 1935) was followed by three sister ships, followed by the 1934A class (twelve units) 1936 class (six) and 1936A class (six) others being scheduled until 1946: The 1936B, 1936C designs, the smaller 1942 class, large 1944 class, and the super-destroyers of the 1940/41 class.

Interwar 1923 class

Falke, of the Albatross class, as built.

These small vessels were inspired by the S113 and B114 design. They had a raised forecastle, two funnels far apart, three 105 mm partially under masks and two banks of three 500mm TTs. AA artillery consisted in two 20mm guns. The 1923 type were all but Albatross (Schichau) built in Whilhelmshaven, laid down in 1924-25, launched in 1925 and completed and commissioned in 1926-28. They were named after birds of prey (“Raubvogel”), Möwe (which tested a rounded bow, all the others had transom sterns), Greif, Seeadler, Albatros, Kondor, and Falke. In 1931 they were standardized with the 533 mm TTs, and funnels were shortened while the control and superstructure were modified and enlarged. Their old 105mm/45 C16 were replaced by C28 and C32 models. By 1944 they had received radars and their AA artillery was augmented to seven C38 guns (one in quad mount, three singles). They served heavily and were all lost in action: Albatros by artillery duel inh Oslofjord in 1940, Seeadler off Boulogne (Torpedoed by British MTB) in 1942, Greif bombed by the RAF in 1944 off Cherbourg as well as the remainder in Le Havre.

Möwe in April 1944

1923 type specifications

Dimensions 87.7 x 8.25 x 3.65 m
Displacement 923/1290t FL
Crew 127
Propulsion 2 shaft geared Blohm & Voss turbines (Albatross: 3 boilers) 24,000 hp
Speed 33.6 knots (62.2 km/h; 38.7 mph), 1,700 nmi (3,100 km; 2,000 mi)
Armament 3x 105 mm, 3x 20mm AA, 6(2×3) TT 500 mm

Interwar 1924 class

Wolf and other 1924 class ships
Several ships of the type

These six ships named after predators or “Raubtier” (Wolf, Itlis, Jaguar, Leopard, Luchs, Tiger) were slightly enlarged versions of the former, longer, wider, slightly more powerful with new shaft-geared turbines and more modern 105mm/45 C28 guns. They were built at the same yards but completed one year later in 1928-29. In 1931 they received the same modifications, new TTs, new superstructure, sights and fire control systems. However Leopard and Luchs were rearmed three 127mm/45 C34 guns, testing these for the new class of destroyer. Past 1943 the remainder received eight 20mm AA guns. All six were lost in action but Tiger in 1939 and Leopard because of collisions, Luchs torpedoed by HMS Swordfish in 1940, Wolf mined off Dover in 1941, Itlis by a MTB off Boulogne in 1942, and Jaguar bombed at le Havre in 1944 by the RAF.

Jaguar in 1942

1924 type specifications

Dimensions 92.6 x 8.65 x 3.52 m
Displacement 932/1300t FL
Crew 127
Propulsion 2 shaft geared B&V/Schichau/Brown-Boveri turbines, 3 boilers, 25,500 hp
Speed 35.2 knots (65.2 km/h; 40.5 mph), Radius 2,000 nmi (3,700 km; 2,300 mi)
Armament 3x 105 mm, 3x 20mm AA, 6(2×3) TT 500 mm

Both class counted as Torpedo Boats from 1934

1934/34A class: Z1-4 and Z-5-16

Destroyers Bernd von Arnim and Wolfgang Zenker in Bremerhaven 1938
Destroyers Bernd von Arnim and Wolfgang Zenker in Bremerhaven, 1938.

Also called Leberecht Maas class after the lead ship, this was a radical departure over all previous German designs. This new class flirted with 3200 tons limits fully loaded, being twice as large as the previous 23/24 classes of the Reichsmarine. In addition to large dimensions, they had a wide and very marine prow, and a square stern. Their tonnage and size were slightly above International standards, but their armament remained standard with regard to treaties. They were handsome, powerful and fast (almost 40 knots as shown in tests for some).

The series Z1 to Z4 was designed in 1933-34 and launched in 1935. All had a straight prow, converted into a clipper prow from 1943 for the sole survivor Z4 (Richard Beitzen). The Z1 class served as pre-series for the next 1934A class. The next 1934A included the Z5 to Z16.
Launched in 1936-37 and finished in 1937-39, they were longer by 1.70 meters. All had also a straight prow, but in 1943 the Z5 and Z6 had a clipper bow, rising to 125 meters in length, and a tripod main mast. The Z5 (above), will see its armament AA reinforced by 4 bofors of 40 mm, 12 guns of 20 and 4 of 37mm in double shafts.

Z5 of the 1934A class, May 1941

They survived the war and two became the French Kleber and Desaix, remaining in service until 1951 and 1957. The Z9, 11, 12 and 13 will be sunk during operations in Norway in 1940, the Z7 sunk by HMS Edinburgh in 1942 During the attack of a convoy and the Z16 by HMS Sheffield during similar circumstances in December 1942. The Z8 was blown by a mine in January 1942 near Calais. The Z1 and Z3 were sunk in February 1940 by mines and the Z2 at Narvik in April. The Z4 survived the war and was given to UK as war reparations, soon BU.

Destroyers of the Maas class
1934 Type, various destroyers

Z1 as built, wikipedia commons, uploaded by Alexpl.

1934A Type specifications

Dimensions 121 x 11.30 x 3.90 m (119,70m 1934 class)
Displacement 1625/3165t FL
Crew 315
Propulsion 2 geared steam turbines Wagner/Blohm & Voss, 6 Wagner/Benson boilers, 70 000 hp.
Speed 38,4 knots (71 km/h; 44 mph) Radius 2000 Nautical Miles
Armament 5x 127 mm, 4x 37mm AA, 4x 20mm AA, 8 TT 533 mm

1936/36A class: Z17-22, Z23-30

Modern ships derived from class 1934a but larger. The serie 1936 comprised the Z17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. They were completed in 1938-39. The first three had a straight bow and the other three had a clipper one and so raised from 123 to 125 meters. They were also wider by 50cm, with a 300 tons more of displacement. They were also more powerful and faster (40 knots versus 38.2), had a better AA artillery. All survivors except the Z20 survived the war and were handed over to the Soviets. However four would be famously sunk at Narvik, Z21 and 22 on April 10 and Z17, 18 and 19 on April 14, 1940 all by the battleship HMS Warspite.

The eight ships of the following class 1936A (Z23-Z30) were brand new in 1940. They were launched from December 1939 to December 1940 and completed in the end of 1940 for the first and 1941 for the others. They are (often) referred to as the “Narvik” class because they were mostly assigned to the 8 destroyers’ squadron based in Narvik from 1941 to 1944 and had nothing to do with the fighting of early 1940. Of the main changes, they all had a clipper bow, were slightly longer, their displacement increasing and their speed logically returning to 38.5 knots.

Z30 in may 1943

Z20 in 1940

On the other hand, they were heavily armed for destroyers, with 4 guns of 150 mm, usually reserved for light cruisers. In 1941, the Z28 received a modified command superstructure, and the Z30 a flight deck over its rear torpedo tubes, designed to operate a Flettner reconnaissance helicopter. The Z25s and 29s received a “Barbara” AA configuration, including 12 guns of 37 mm in single mounts and 18 of 20 mm in double and quadruple mounts. The Z26 was sunk during a 1942 convoy attack, and the Z27 in 1943 during a Homeric fight against the cruisers HMS Glasgow and Enterprise, “opening the way” to the Alsterufer blockade force. The Z24 was sunk by the RAF in 1944.

The so-called “Narvik” class was not yet operational when the Norwegian campaign started.

1936 Type specifications

Dimensions 123.20 x 11.80 x 4 m
Displacement 1811 standard, 3415t FL
Crew 1600
Propulsion like type 1934 but 70,000 hp
Speed 40 knots (74 km/h, 46 mph) Radius 2,050 nmi (3,800 km; 2,360 mi)
Armament Like Type 1934, but 7x 20mm AA

Destroyer brendt Von Arnim wreck, sunk in Oslofjord by the Warspite and scuttled.

Shipyard Model of the 1936A class on display at the Deutschen Schiffahrtsmuseum Bremerhaven

Z-29, type 36A in 1945 (USN photo).

1936A destroyer shortly after completion.

1936A destroyer – booklet for identification of ships, published by the Division of Naval Intelligence of the Navy Department of the United States.

Three Type 36A in an unindentified port (Australian Archives)

Mobilization class: Z31-39

Z39 underway off Boston, September 1945

Derived from class 1936A, these 7 units (Z31-Z34 and Z37-Z39, the Z35 and 36 being reported to type 1936b), were part of the mobilization program (“Mob”). They were launched in 1941 and completed in 1942. They were virtually identical to the previous ones except for their armament, with a heavy 150 mm double turret forward. These ships were far superior to their allied counterparts. Their 20 mm AA batteries were split into two of the new quadruple mounts and two singles. The Z32 was the only loss in action during the war, and was seriously damaged by the Canadian destroyers HMCS Haida and Huron in June 1944 off the lower island. The Z34 and 37 were scuttled in 1944-45 and the others went as war reparations after the war to France (Marceau), Great Britain, the USA (Z39) and the USSR.

The 1936 B Mob were equipped with a revised weaponry (returning to 127 mm pieces after a mixed experience with their heavy turrets) also to carry more AA weaponry. They were notably lighter than the previous ones. The class included the Z35 and the 36, the Z43, 44 and 45. These were the last German destroyers of the war. However, their construction was slowed down and the Z44s and 45s were never finished, bombarded in their slipway in 1944 and 1945. The Z35 and 36, finished in 1943, were sunk across a dam of German mines. The Z43 was scuttled shortly after its completion in 1945 in Geltinger Bay. They carried their 37 mm in double mounts and their 20 mm in three quadruple ones plus two doubles.

Z32 in April 1942

Z35 in 1942

Z39 turret - Boston NY August 1939
Closeup of the Z39 artillery – USN Archives, Boston NY.

1936A Type specifications

Dimensions 127 x 12 x 3.92-4.62 m
Displacement 3600t FL (3530t Z25,26,27)
Crew 321
Propulsion Like 1934 class but 70,000 hp
Speed 38,5 knots Radius ?? Nautical Miles
Armament 4x 150 mm, 6×2 105mm, 2×2 37mm AA, 5x 20mm AA, 2×4 TT 533 mm

Z39 in Annapolis, 1945.

Nice photo of an handsome destroyer, Z39 at full speed.

Details of the mast of the Z39, 1936(mob) type in 1945.
More: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Z_39_(ship,_1941)

Unfinished projects
Wartime was not tender for surface ships building program, and despite the plan Z new series being approved and ordered to various shipyard, lack of manpower and soon materials, sabotages and shortages of all sorts, plus allied air raids all but condemned these series. Only a few ships were launched, and none but two were really operational.

1936B class: Z35-45

Z36 at sea, 1942

The Type 1936B destroyers abandoned the twin 15-centimetre (5.9 in) turrets because of stability concerns in heavy seas. They reverted to five single 15 cm (5.9 in) turrets and had better AA artillery, but for other aspects remained copies of the 1936A class. At 2,527 tonnes (2,487 long tons) of displacement they still can reach 36.5 knots (67.6 km/h; 42.0 mph) with a 2,600 nautical miles range at 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). The 12.7 cm SK C/34 naval guns fired 28-kilogram (62 lb) HE shells at 830 m/sec. up to 17,400 metres at 30° max. elevation. like previous classes they had rails long enough to laid 76 mines.

Of the eight ships laid down at DeSchiMAG Bremen and Germania Werft of Kiel, only a few were completed: Z35, 36 and Z43, although the latter was scuttled in situ on 3 May 1945 after being commissioned on 24 March 1944. The first two were commissioned on 22 September 1943 and 19 February 1944 and sunk in December 1944 in the Gulf of Finland after hitting friendly mines. Z44 and 45 were bombed by the RAF before completion.

1936B Type specifications

Dimensions 127 x 12 x 4.21 m
Displacement 3100/3540 t FL
Crew 330
Propulsion 2 Wagner shaft geared turbines, 70,000 shp
Speed 36.5 knots (42.0 mph; 67.6 km/h) range 2,600 nmi (4,800 km)@ 19 kn (35 km/h)
Armament 5x 127 mm, 4-10x 37 mm, 16x 20mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm

1940/41 scout cruiser class: German super-destroyers

Spährkreuzer design, rendition by Atlas publications, 1984

Classed as scout cruisers/destroyers they took advantage of the artillery developed for the 1936A class, with a 6300t displacement. Studies for these get back to the 1938 Z plan. After the cancellation of the 1938B type, these three ships were planned as “spährkreuser” 1 to 3. The first, Sp1, was laid down at Germaniawerft in 1941 but work was suspended and she was eventually broken up on slip to be recycled into other ships. The Sp2 and 3 were planned but never started.

1st design, with a floatplane. scr: unknown

How these unique “scout-cruisers” looked like ?: They were 162-169 m long by 16m wide with 4.90 draught, had three shaft and two geared turbines plus four Wagner boilers that gave an output in excess of 80,00 hp for a top speed of 36 knots, cruise and long range being assured by two MAN diesels, double acting 2-stroke, producing 32,000 hp on the central shaft. complement was 520 and they were armed with three turrets with 150 mm/48 guns, two 88mm AA guns, and 12 20mm AA guns in quad-mounts plus two banks of five 533 mm TTs.

Blueprint (Russian)

1940 Type specifications

Dimensions 162 x 16 x 4.9 m
Displacement 6300t FL
Crew 520 est.
Propulsion 3 screws, 2 geared turbines, 4 Wagner boilers 80,000 hp
Speed 36 knots
Armament 6(2×3)x 150 mm, 2x 88 mm, 12x 20mm AA, 2×5 TT 533 mm

1936C class: The 128mm dual purpose destroyers

German reconstitution of the 1936C class design - JüEi
German reconstitution of the 1936C class design – JüEi

Although relatively conventional in general layout these destroyers relied on a set of three double turrets with brand new 128mm guns, dual-purpose, meaning they had enough elevation and speed to tackle aircraft as well, a powerful asset by the time allied air superiority seems to be the most present threat for the German Navy. This was completed by three twin 37mm/83 and six 20mm mounts, plus the usual quadruple TT mounts. At 3030t standard, these 1936C were 500 tons heavier than the previous 36B, but kept the same propulsion system with Wagner turbines and boilers, and same 38 knots top speed. Five ships were to be built in 1943 at Deschimag of Bremen from Z46 to Z50, but due to the shortage of materials and relentless allied bombings, construction stalled and was eventually abandoned in 1944, while the ships were broken up in 1946.

A what-if Z-46 (wow)

1936C Type specifications

Dimensions 126,20 x12.20 x 4 m
Displacement 3030/3594t FL
Crew 320
Propulsion 2 Wagner shaft geared turbines, 6 Wagner boilers 70,000 hp
Speed 38 knots
Armament 6(3×2)x 128 mm DP, 6×2 37mm AA, 6x 2mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm

1942 class: The diesel experiment

German reconstitution of the 1942 class design - JüEi
German reconstitution of the 1942 class design – JüEi

Turbines procured advantages in terms of speed but were also known gas-guzzlers and could be troublesome as experience with the Hipper shown. A type of destroyer was launched to test an all-diesel propulsion while not sacrificing speed, but for the sake of reliability and range. The 1942 type was not however daring in layout which remains consistent with previous designs, but somewhat smaller and lighter and less well-armed than previous classes. Mass production was also in mind. The powerplant consisted in six diesels, four one the central shaft and one for each outer shaft, totaling 57,000 hp. AA artillery was impressive with four twin 37mm 83 cal. M42, and three quadruple mounts 20mm C38 FLAK.
The single Z51 was started at Deschimag, launched in 1944 and its completion was well advanced when an air raid all but destroyed it. Never repaired, the hull lays untouched until she was broken up in situ in 1946.

A What-if z52

1942 Type specifications

Dimensions 114,30 x 11 x 4 m
Displacement 2330/2630t FL
Crew 235
Propulsion 3 shafts, 6V double acting 2-stroke diesels 57,120 hp
Speed 36 knots
Armament 4x 127 mm, 4×2 37mm AA, 3×4 20mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm

1944 class: The most modern

Impression of the 1944 class design - combo JüEi
Impression of the 1944 class design – combo JüEi

Capitalizing on the new tendency to built all-diesel powered destroyers, the new 1944 type is generally considered by experts and historians as the most modern class of destroyers (perhaps worldwide) at that time, a culmination of the Z-type started ten years ago. In addition to larger dimensions than the previous type 1942, these new kids on the block had a whole set of features that were way ahead of previous designs. For starters, they combined a powerful punch with three turrets, for six of the new and successful, semi-auto, rapid fire 128mm/50 and /45 C41M, their next evolution.

These were deadly accurate dual purpose guns, well served by advanced, radar-guided fire control systems. These guns were the navalized version of the Flakwilling 40, a gun that all but eclipsed the legendary 88mm late into the war. Some experts esteemed these would have been more likely fully automatic cannons. Second, they would have the new 55mm mid-range quick-firing Flak Gerät 58 in development (eventually rejected by Hitler and Speer for the Army).

At last, they also get rid of their combination of 37 and 20mm for short range, swapping over a brand new, revolutionary superfast fully automated 30mm gun/13 C38 also rejected by the Army, in no less than 14 mounts. The entire battery was directed by optical/electronic range-finder cupolas. The powerplant consisted in eight MAN diesels, double-acting two-stroke delivering 76,000 on two shafts, for a top speed of 37.5 knots, nearly the same speed as turbine destroyers, which was a remarkable feat for the advantages this solution procured in terms of range and reliability. Five ships were ordered and started at Deschimag, Bremen in early 1944, but due to intense allied bombings and shortages, none even reached launching point. The hulls were dismantled in 1946.

1944 Type specifications

Dimensions 132.10 x 12.60 x 4.30 m
Displacement 3170/3703t FL
Crew 308
Propulsion 2 shafts, 8 MAN double acting 2-stroke diesels 76,000 hp
Speed 37.5 knots
Armament 3×2 128 mm DP, 3x 55m AA, 14x 30mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm

Paper Projects

According to http://german-navy.de there were paper-only destroyers projects that also deserve attention:
Zerstörer 1938A/Ac : In 1937/38 a large Atlantic destroyer was studied, about 50% larger than usual classes they also had a mixed propulsion reminiscent of the Köln and Leipzig, missing Diesels and turbines and a light armor protection. Z-plan included 24 of these, and 10 were programmed for 1943, the remainder to be delivered until 1945, but the program was cancelled in 1939, and some of these studies were recycled into the larger Spähkreuzer. Their appearance was very singular, with three 128mm turrets (for and aft and one center next to the two TT banks, a twin 105mm AA mount, several 37mm twin mounts and probably 20mm mounts also, and funnels far apart.

Zerstörer 1938B : These were in appearance large torpedo boats, with their characteristic flush deck, but were designed for the coastal waters and especially the Baltic Sea. This 1938 design was small, but well armed with two 128 mm armed turrets, two banks of three TTs but a weak AA artillery. 12 were planned within Z plan in the summer of 1939, only to be cancelled three weeks after the beginning of the war.

Zerstörer 1945 : This very last class of destroyer was studied in 1945, amidst devastating air raids and low priority that left little chance for the ships to be built, if any. Nevertheless these destroyers on paper looks interesting. They were compact, reverted to a full steam turbine power for extra speed, well armed with three 128mm turrets and an impressive AA battery reminiscent of the type 1944, and the same optical/electronic range-finder cupolas and advanced radar-guided controlled systems. Needless to say no order ever came for a production.

Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

Manta (paper project, 1944)

Manta (paper project, 1944)

Germany (1944), Fast Attack Craft

A daring concept born from desperation: At the end of the war, Nazi Germany desperately needed new, essentially technological ways to deal with the allied steamroller, on land, air and sea. This led to an engineering fest of epic proportion, spawning some of the most amazing and advanced projects and ideas ever seen. Some were impractical, other were so advanced that they were realized twenty to fifty years afterwards. Although there are tons of records for advanced missiles, rockets, and jet planes, naval concepts were fewer in between but no less exciting to consider.

German naval secret weapons

The most advanced of these “secret weapons” was of course the superfast submarine, originally to be powered by an advanced closed loop propulsion (Walter system). But as researches dragged on, a cut was made by Albert Speer leading to the mass-production Type XXI to be propelled by a hybrid system, combining conventional diesels with twice as many batteries to double the underwater speed, a brand new streamlined hull, and snorkel. Interesting also were the mass-built mini-subs Delphin, Hecht (53), Seehund (138), Biber (324), Molch (393), human torpedoes like the Neger class (100), Marder (500) and Hai (the only prototype of a Marder enlarged by 36 meters).

German researches on hydrofoils

But one of the most amazing project of that era of 1944-45 was the array of fast surface ships using jets, catamaran hulls, or hydrofoils. Hans von Schertel worked before and during the war on many such prototypes and paper projects aimed at replacing the traditional S-boote and R-boote. The idea was such kind of ship were so fast they could not be destroyed, either for launching torpedoes or laying mines.

VS6 hydrofoil
VS 6

Attack Hydrofoil VS 6

These innovative fast attack crafts were the brainchild of Baron Hanns von Schertel, and realized by shipbuilder Sachsenberg. The prototype was tested in 1941. It was a 17-ton vessel, capable of 47 knots (80 kph) and laying mines. 52.5 feet in length, it was powered by two Hispano-Suiza gasoline engines of 560 hp each.

The Tietjens VS-7 followed, this time designed by Oscar Tietjens. It was largely based on a 1932 prototype with a patented surface-piercing hoop foil system, tested with success in the USA. The light vessel was able to reach 25 mph with a 5 hp outboard engine. The VS-7 largely emulated the previous VS-6, built at Schleswig, Germany, Vertens Yacht Yard. Also 17 tons, about the same specs, but fitted with these revolutionary hoop foils. It was tried and reached a blazing 55 knots (101 kph) but was found slow to accelerate and had poor handling and maneuverability.

VS 8

Transport Hydrofoil VS 8

One of the most remarkable project of the time was the fast transport VS 8, which could carry and land a light tank Type 38T up to a Panzer IV, stored on a tailored back deck, which was flooded as the self-propelled pontoon reached the beach (two 40 hp engines) with its load, in less than two minutes. This vessel was propelled by a 1800 hp Mercedes Benz diesel, not up to the task.
Other applications has been as an fast minelayer with 15-20 mines. The VS8, ordered in 1940 was commissioned on 01.03.1943 but was found underpowered and the project was dropped after September 1944 total engine failure and failed rescue, apparently also a casualty due to sabotage. The VS9 ordered in 1941 was never started.

Hydrofoil “VS 8” at Sachsenber-Shipyard- Picture from Fock Schnellboote Vol. 2

The following VS-10 was even larger, at 46-tons, 92 feets long, 60 knots and torpedo-carrying. The prototype was completed and made ready for launch but completely destroyed in an air raid just a few days before it could happen.

The final TR5b or TRAGFLÜGELBOOT was probably the most advanced of all these. It combined to a rather conventional hull twin turbojets Jumo 004s or He S 011s and three VS-type foils which housed the propellers. That way, the propellers helped reaching the final attack phase, and to escape. Tests were performed in 1944 with a radio-controlled jet powered boat, the Tornado, which showed calm sea was required. K-Verband once planned the building start in early 1945, only to cancel it as low priority compared to more immediately useful and simpler vessels.

Size comparison with a German SdKfz.234 reconnaissance car

Camouflaged Manta UGC
Reconstruction in what-if camouflage

Second fictional livery, with periscopes up

UGS Manta: Origins

The Manta was an even more extreme prototype, that found its origins in the collaboration between the Walter facility and Versuchskommando 456. Named Untersee-Gleitflächen-Schnellboot Manta or UGS Manta, it was driven by the limitations of midget submarines, speed and range limitations, and the drag caused by the torpedoes when underwater. The obvious solution was to have these in the air instead, meaning this was to led to a completely new type of craft.

The Manta which resulted from these researches looks stunning in its radical aproach, and the only possible comparison were the 1960-1980s Ekranoplanes series built for the Soviet Navy. Indeed, that kind of hybrid between a plane and a ship used a well-known fluid property, the “wing-in-ground effect”, which allowed for a very large plane (the “Caspian Monster” remains the largest “plane” ever built in that occurrence), much longer than the 747, C5 Galaxy or Antonov An-225 Mriya at 92.00 m (301 ft 10 in) and heavier at 240 tons. A small serie of operational anti-ship and landing versions were operational in the 1980s and we will dig soon into these interesting crafts.

General description

The Manta only used this effect when in surface to lower drag at its minimum, thanks to a trimaran configuration: Three cylindrical hulls and large vertical keels/tanks that captured the air flow under the main wing when up. However the acronym is loosely translated as “Submarine sliding speedboat”, in fact these were indeed submarines unlike the Soviet Ekranoplanes, and only raised above the surface thanks to the keel/tanks that provided buoyancy. When above water (final phase of the attack), the Manta could reach 50 knots (93 kph) which made it difficult to hit, in addition presenting a rather hollow frontal target. It can then launch up to eight torpedoes.

Mockup model of the UCS Manta
Mockup model of the UCS Manta


Basically the Manta was made of three tube-like hulls linked by a main wing and two vertical keels. The central tube was housing the two-men crew cabin (each had a bubble-like canopy) and contained the diesel-electric propulsion and diesel-hydraulic transmission to link these to the lower keels propeller. The outer cylinders are Schwertwal-I type, but with the batteries, fuel tanks filled with Ingolin, trim tanks and compensating tanks. The wing was divided into an upper and lower part and sandwiched in between were located the tow to eight torpedoes, or 8 TMA or 12 TMB mines. These were the same as the rest of the midget submarine fleet, aviation type, 450 mm in diameter, or the larger marine type (four carried). mines. They could also carry 4 “projectiles”* which are not precisely described but would have been likely heavy rockets.

Three-view drawing of the Manta, from the model.

The Manta was about 15 m long, 6 m wide, with 1.5 m diameter cylinders, and weighted 15 tons empty/ 50 tons loaded. This was compensated by two 600 hp engines or 800 hp Walter turbines coupled with 440 Kw electric motors. The maximum surface speed was noted as 50 kts, the maximum submerged speed: 30 kts (55 kph) which was impressive enough. Range was 200 nm @50 kts/600 nm @20 kts on the surface, and 120 nm @30 kts/500 nm @10 kts when submerged.

Navigation equipment was similar to that of the Schwertwal, and safety equipment was well-thought with marker buoy with an antenna, self-inflating dinghy and special diving suits. In addition, the crew could jettison the two very heavy electric batteries from the keels, providing extra buoyancy, and helping the craft when submerged, to reach more easily the surface in emergency.

When surfacing, the propulsion mode is even more exotic you can think: With less drag, the speed was to be in excess of 90 kph and the keels where not even supposed to surf, but to roll over the waves thanks to four encased massive aviation wheels. This way, the drag was even more limited and at that speed the water surface was hard enough for the Manta to roll over. For extra lift there were two extra pairs of foils, for and aft of the keels before the wheels took over.

The ultimate naval V-weapon

The Manta was a submarine/flying/fast attack craft way ahead of its time. In fact, it left the paper phase, but only for a small mockup model stage. All documents produced after the Kleinst-U-Bootwaffe (Miniature Submarine Command) blessed this project has been burnt. Only the model remained, which was used to draw 3-view blueprints after the war.

Would those had been built in numbers prior to June 1944, they could have disable or destroy many allied ships assembled at the D-Day landings. Only AA anti-artillery would have been fast enough to catch these when surfaced, provided they had the right depression. Does this idea still means something today ? The Russian Ekranoplanes are mothballed, FAC hydrofoils has been retired for the most as well as hovercrafts that are known gas-guzzlers. This kind of submarine/wing-in-ground craft was only meant to deal the enemy with torpedoes, that is too dangerously close to be safe when modern sensors/radars can spot you early on, and when missiles and deadly accurate 57 to 120 mm fast to 30 mm CIWS superfast cannons (Phalanx-type) are aiming at you.

However the same concept applied to a missile-launching craft is much more appealing. Indeed, these could approach the enemy’s inner radar/outer sonar detection limits and try a saturation fire after surfacing. The enemy ships could have quickly fired back missiles and destroy the bogeys, but MACH 3 missiles in large numbers within reach would had left little time to respond, especially if the attacking crafts are coated and stealthy shaped.

UGS Specifications
Dimensions 15 x6 m, hull diam. 1.5 m
Displacement 15 – 50t FL
Crew 2
Propulsion 2 props, 2x 600 hp diesels, 2x 440 Kw elect. mot.
Speed 50 knots/sub 30 knots (90 km/h; 55 mph)
Range 200 nm @50 kts/600 nm @20 kts, 500 nm @10 kts sub
Diving depth 50-60 m
Armament 2-8 Torpedoes or 8/12 TMA/TMB mines or 4 rockets

Reminds something ?

Sources, Links


Renown class battlecruisers (1916)

Renown class Battlecruisers (1916)

HMS Repulse, Renown (1916)

Veterans of two wars: The Renown class battlecruisers were initially planned as two extra battleships of the Revenge class, or which five were already in construction. Admiral Sir Jackie Fisher was rebuffed by the admiralty for more battlecruisers, but after the first battles of 1914, opinion changed, and Fisher convinced Churchill to grant permission to convert the suspended battleships into battlecruisers, despite the fear they might never be achieved during the war.

Eventually, both the Renown and Repulse were completed in record time, pressed into service in August and September 1916, a few months after the battle of Jutland, urging some add-on armor. By that time, the admiralty was once again hostile to the battlecruiser idea, albeit much beefed-up with armour. Both battlecruisers soldiered on until the end of the war and the whole interwar, receving minor upgrades along the way. Only Renown was taken in hands for a full reconstruction which was a sort of peacetime prototype for her sister ship and Hood, the last Battlecruiser in service. She was entirely rebuilt along the lines of the Warspite and emerged after rushing preparations on 28 August 1939, ready for the war with 48 hours to spare…

Their fate in WW2 is well known: HMS Repulse was sent by Churchill in reinforcement to the far east in the fall of 1941 (Force Z), with HMS Prince of Wales: Both were attacked by IJN bombers and sunk. Renown stayed in Europe with the Home Fleet, alternating between the north sea, the north and south atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Far east at the end of the war. From 1942 onwards, she was the last battlecruiser in existence on the planet (except arguably the Turkish Yavuz), last remnant of a short-lived concept.

Foreworld: Jackie Fisher’s first follies

This was not the last class of English battlecruisers, but they marked a new milestone in the evolution of the type, as in terms of tonnage, they were almost superior to the recent dreadnoughts, while being far larger. In fact, in 1917 they became the largest warships afloat worldwide. They held this status until 1920 and HMS Hood. They marked a logical evolution to the 15-inch (381 mm) caliber shadowing the Revenge and Queen Elisabeth classes, ensuring Royal Navy’s superiority over the latest German Battlecruisers then in construction or just planned. Indeed, the contemporary SMS Hindenburg (also completed in 1917) was still limited to the decade old 12-in caliber.

HMS Repulse in 1917
HMS Repulse in 1917

Initial Design (1914)

Battecruiser versions of the Revenge?

Strangely, these giant ships were first started as improved versions of the Revenge, there were three units planned, HMS Repulse, HMS Renown and HMS Resistance, laid down at Royal Dockyards and Palmers. With the early successes of battlecruisers (at Heligoland Bay and Falklands), and the combined pressure of Fisher, Jellicoe, and Beatty on Churchill, the first Lord of the Admiralty, conversion of these ships into battlecruisers was approved at the end of 1914.

The condition was they used the turrets of the Revenge class battleships and Queen Elisabeth, but reduced to 6 guns, to make it practical with the loss or hull strength due to a lighter armour. Very long, these ships shown some structural problems, which were quickly settled. The construction process of their original yards included light alloy manufacturing, but for fear of delaying completion, more classic solutions were eventually chosen.

The battleships of the 1914 Naval Programme had indeed no less than three improved Revenge-class designs, “Renown”, “Repulse” and “Resistance”, and a further member of the Queen Elizabeth class, “Agincourt”. Resistance and Agincourt were allocated to Royal dockyards and Renown to Fairfield, Repulse to Palmers. Aapproved on 13 May 1914 the design was basically a great improvement over the Revenge class, notably because of the following:
– 1.5 inches (38 mm) everywhere for the protective wing bulkheads.
– Enlarged torpedo control tower.
– Enlarged conning tower a rearranged layout for access.
– Protected spotting position in the bow.
– Longer Keel for a more rigid structure amidships and less docking stress.
– Increased Shell stowage to 100.

These changes would have done little for chagung their size but perhaps lowering the draught down to 28 feet, 6 inches (8.7 m) and 1 foot 6 inches (45.7 cm) fore and aft. They would have been 2 knots (3.7 km/h; 2.3 mph) slower than a Revenge-class for the same 23,000 kW, since the Revenge produced 30,000 kW.

Complete design revision

However, eventually, work on all four was suspended when the war broke out. Those from Royal dockyards were cancelled on 26 August 1914, since completion before the end of the war was unlikely. Lord Fisher was back as First Sea Lord in October and started pressuring Winston Churchill allow him to convert theses suspended contracts inti new battlecruisers reaching 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph).

Churchill opposed Fisher, arguing that their construction would interfere with other programmes and absorb too much resources while still risking not to be completed before the end of the war. Fisher in return argued that construction could be done withing a reduced delay, as done with HMS Dreadnought already, by using as much exusting parts ortdered for existing battleships, notably their 15-inch (381 mm) gun turrets. Churchill at first did’nt bulge, until the Battle of Heligoland Bight in August, and after the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914. Both seemed to demonstrate that battlecruisers were the way forward, by combining speed and heavy artillery. Between an unflinching Fisher, pushing for the viability of the battlecruiser, pressure from Admiral Jellicoe (commander of the Grand Fleet) and Vice Admiral Beatty (commander of the Battlecruiser Force) had Churchill eventually sign the approval, and the Cabinet authorized the two ships on 28 December 1914 and Fisher still hoped for a commission as soon as early 1916.

Fisher’s solutions to urge design

To save time, Fisher proposed to use the armour and equipments already provisioned for the two Revenge class dreadnoughts of the same name. What he proposed was literally to cannibalize them, including their main guns. Speed being the determining factor, Fisher wanted 32 knots. To reach this, he proposed new and lighter machinery using thin-tube boilers, combined with lighter turbines, the type of which were tested on light cruisers. But their development meant no schedule was realistic. A cutback meant the HMS Tiger powerplant was to be used, but with four additional boilers. Protection was inspired, also to save time, from the Invincible class, and fairly light.

Since Jutland’s lessons were still 2.5 years away, Fisher’s illusions about speed bisng used as an active protection remained valid. Even with that protection sacrifice, the ships exited the yards with a greater displacement as initially planned, and could not reach their top speed of 32 knots. It could be obtained by overheating their boilers to the extreme, producing a total of 120,000 hp, and to the cost of a monster consumption of fuel oil. Even in that case, “whipped to blood”, both had a hard time reaching 31 knots. Their new designed speed was lowered below 30 knots, based on 112,000 hp. This figure was nothing short of exceptional nevertheless for a ship that size. This was way above the SMS Hindenburg notably, and remained so until the arrival of the paper-thin Furious and Courageous class, or even the Hood which reclaimed nevertheless most of the lost protection.

Design features of the Renown class

From the start, the hull was designed with light protective bulges as long as the belt. For the adopted secondary guns of a light caliber, the same caliber as n previous vessels was chosen, but instead of barbettes, the more complicated solution of triple mounts was chosen; This triple configuration was a risky but very innovative solution (see later). They were large ships, in order to accomodate all their boilers, with overall length of 794 feet 1.5 inches (242.0 m), and a beam of 90 feet 1.75 inches (27.5 m), a draught of 30 feet 2 inches (9.2 m) deeply loaded. Displacing 27,320 long tons (27,760 t) standard, 32,220 long tons (32,740 t) deeply load they were the longest, but not the heaviest British capital ships of the time. They were indeed 90 feet (27.4 m) longer than HMS Tiger, displacing 2,780 long tons more. Both battlecruisers had fine lines and proved to be good sea boats, but like other earlier battlecruisers, needed to be buffed up, reinforced while under construction with additional stiffening and pillars, right under the forecastle deck. Some structural problems forward were detected linked notaby to the two large turret rings. They had a metacentric height of 6.2 feet (1.9 m) at deep load as built as well as a complete double bottom.


The light bulges added from the beginning offered a good protection all over the belt. They carried for their hungry turbines some 4,300 tons of fuel and more in wartime. Their armor was directly inspired by the previous Indefatigable class. The armour protection was still classic:

Waterline belt made of Krupp cemented armour (the bes weight-protection ration of that time) and measured 6 inches (152 mm) thick, amidships from “A” barbette to “Y” barbetten, stopping at mid-point. It had a total lenght of 462 feet (140.8 m), 9 feet (2.7 m) high. 3-in armour strake were placed aft, plus 4-in forward to end the ship’s hull on either side of the barbette, down to the bow and stern. These strakes were enclosed by equal transverse bulkheads. Above the waterline belt was place an upper belt made of high-tensile steel just 1.5 inches (38 mm) in thickness for splinter protection.

Gun turrets were 9 inches (229 mm) thick (face) and sides, down to 7 inches (178 mm) for their rear plate. The roof was protected by 4.25 inches (108 mm) thick.

Main barbettes had 7 inches (178 mm) walls above the upper deck, down to 4–5 inches (102–127 mm) below.

Conning tower: 10 inches (254 mm) thick walls with 3-in (76 mm) roof.

Communication tube: It was 3-in thick between the CT and below the protected deck.

Torpedo control tower: Also 3-inch thick walls wit a 1.5-inch cast steel roof.

Armoured decks: Made of high-tensile-steel: They ranged from 0.75 to 1.5 inches (19 to 38 mm).

Modifications: After the Battle of Jutland in 1916, when still completing it was decided to add an extra 1-in (25.4 mm) of high-tensile steel, both for the main deck and over the magazines.
This was still far below the Hood’s protection, and both battlecruisers were still very vulnerable to plunging fire. At last it was decided to sent them for a refit in Rosyth in 1916–1917, adding extra horizontal armour, about 504 long tons in total to the decks, especially over the magazines aas well as the steering mechanism.

ASW protection: Both ships were fitted with a shallow anti-torpedo bulge, integral to the hull. Like other bulges of that time it acted as sâced armor, detonating the torpedo before reaching the main hull. It was also designed to vent out due to its shape the blast wave to the surface rather than underwater, as vibration with pression were much more severe. Post-war tests showed this bulge was not deep enough and lacked extra layers of empty and full compartments insie the hull in backup to really well absorb the force of the explosion.


A said above the intended lighweight machinery was largely experimental and untested for warhips of that size. The plan was altered and to avoid delaying their completion, plans included dusplication of HMS Tiger’s machinery. Three extra boilers were provided for the extra power required to reach the designed speed. The compartments comprised two sets of Brown-Curtis, direct-drive steam turbines housed in their separate engine-rooms. Each set was composed for high-pressure turbines ahead, plus astern turbines for the outboard shafts. They were housed in the same casing and driving the inner shaft. They were given three-bladed propellers 13 feet 6 inches (4.11 m) in diameter. The turbines were fed by high pressure steam coming from 42 Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers. They were located in six boiler rooms, at a working pressure of 235 psi. Total output was 112,000 shaft horsepower (84,000 kW). On trials, Renown achieved 126,000 shp (93,958 kW) and reached 32.58 knots, but at great expense in fuel, which was not sustenable. They were the fastest capital ships in the world until the Hood in 1920.

The Renown class battlecruisers were designed to carry 1,000 long tons (1,016 t) of fuel oil in meacetime conditions. In wartime, all vacant spaces and voids on both sodes of the hull and triple bottom represented a maximum capacity of 4,289 long tons (4,358 t) available. At full capacity their top speed could be as high as 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) maintained over 4,000 nautical miles (7,410 km; 4,600 mi). In addition to theior main turbines, The Renown class battlecruisers had two reciprocating, steam-driven, 200-kilowatt (270 hp) dynamos. One was oil-driven (150-kilowatt, 200 hp) and another turbine-driven but 200-kilowatt, supplying the internal electric network of 220 volts.

Main armament

Overview of the armament in 1918

The Renown class battlecruisers, as wanted by Fisher, were to be given the same main armament as the Revenge class battleships, which were their previous affectation. These meain turrets and barrles were ready and usable, allowing to gain considerable time.

These were three twin turrets carrying BL 15-inch Mk I naval guns. These excellent pieces of ordance, perhaps the best evern designed for the Royal Navy has been seen already in detail in the Queen Elisabeth Battleships post.
Let’s just reminds they fired 1,938 pounds (879 kg) shells at 33,550 yards (30,680 m) for the Mk XVIIB or Mk XXII, streamlined shell at 30° elevation.

animation showing the 15-in turret reload process

Secondary armament

4-in triple turret

The Renown class battlecruisers’s secondary artillery used innovative twin and triple mounts, with 4 in (105 mm) Mk.9 guns. These were early semi-automated dual purposed turrets, but they proved too cumbersome and labor-intensive, requiring 32 per turret. All for a relatively low firing rate improper for true dual-purpose guns. The experiment was never renewed and such mounts were eliminated during the 1930s refit. Indeed, the crew’s action in the confined space of the armor mask was made more hazardous by the complexity of the loading system. Both were criticized as being dangerous. The firing arc on paer was excellent as these mounts were placed high on the decks and more serviceable than traditional barbettes often hampered in heavy weather. But in the end, their low caliber made them ineffective agaianst ships, while ther slow rate of fire was useless against aviation. The concept, rushed out without a proper tuning, turned out to be mediocre and was never adopted again.

This main dual armament was seconded by trusted, simpler pieces of ordnance: Two single 3 in (76 mm) AA guns. They could be used to fire flares or blank shots as saluting guns as well. These QF 3 inch 20 cw on single high-angle mountings were placed on the shelter deck abreast, the rear funnel. Max depression was 10°, max elevation 90°. As standard they fired the 12.5-pound (5.7 kg) shell (2,500 ft/s) for about 12–14 rounds per minute up to 23,500 ft (7,200 m) max range.

Torpedo Tubes: As customary at the time, the Renown class battlecruisers had just two submerged tubes abreast, forward of the “A” barbette not to comprimise armour. A total of ten torpedo reloads were carried.

Fire control

The Renown class battlecruisers received nothing really innovative, just the provisioned telemeters and ballistic computers, fire tables of the Revenge class:

The Main guns were directed thanks to a pair of fire-control directors. The primary one was placed above the conning tower, in an armoured hood. The other was much higher, placed atop the foremast. Data was input into a Mk IV* Dreyer Fire Control Table which sat in the Transmitting Station (TS). It was converted into range/deflection data sent to the turrets indicators.Target’s data was graphically recorded on a plotting table, to be followed by the gunnery officer. He could predict targets movements that way.

The secondary armament depended on platform-mount directors, on each mast. Each turret in addition had a 15-foot (4.6 m) rangefinder on the turret roof. They were upgraded during the war to two 30-foot (9.1 m) models, one on “Y” turret and the second above the conning tower in 1918. 15-ft rangefinders landed also on “A” and “B” turrets. One was placed over the torpedo control tower, abaft the mainmast. On the fore-top, a new 12-ft (3.7 m) rangefinder was added. The anti-aircraft guns were controlled by a single 6 ft, 6 in (1.98 m) model placed on the aft superstructure and extra 9-foot models landed on the bridge also during wartime modifications.

Repulse firing in 1929
Repulse firing in 1929

Repulse 1918

Author’s illustration of the Repulse in 1918

Renown & Repulse Specifications 1916

Dimensions 242 x 27,4 x 7,8 m (full load)
Displacement 27 600 t, 30 800 T Fully Loaded
Propulsion 4 shafts turbines Brown-Curtis, 32 B&W boilers, 112 000 hp
Speed/Range Top speed 30 knots, RA 5000 nautical at 12 knots
Armament 6 x 381 (3×2), 17 x 102 (5×3, 3×1), 2 x 76 AA, 4 x 47, 2 x 533mm (Sub) TTs.
Armor Belt: 6 in, Decks 2.5 in, Barbettes 7 in, turrets 9 in, CT 10 in, Bulkheads 4 in
Crew 950

In service: WW1

HS Repulse was completed on 18 August 1916. Her construction cost has been £2,829,087 (That would be £ 159,700,000 in 2021) and joined the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. She relieved HMS Lion as flagship of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron (for what remained of it). She was found in action at the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1917:

The Admiralty that year became concerned about German action to clear the British-laid minefields restricting and channeling in known areas, the actions of the High Seas Fleet, but also U-Boats inbound for the Atlantic. German mineswers made a raid in force on 31 October, covered by light forces. The Admiralty decided to destroy this fleet, based on intelligence reports. The date was 17 November 1917: They allocated two light cruiser squadrons, the 1st Cruiser Squadron, covered by the 1st BCS (Renown was not in it still)a and in distant backup, battleships of the 1st Battle Squadron.

The Four light cruisers of 2nd German Scouting Force was reinforced by eight destroyers, and covered three divisions of minesweepers, which used eight Sperrbrechers -cork-filled trawlers to detonate mines- and two trawlers to mark the path. They were the first to be spotted, at 7:30 a.m. on the rising sun. HMS Courageous and Cardiff opened fire first. The Germans layed an effective smoke screen but the pursuit went on, until loossin track of most of the smaller ships. The German light cruisers also counterfired efficiently. At last, HMS Repulse raced forward at full speed to engage the cruisers opening fire at about 9:00 AM, and scoring a hit on the SMS Königsberg, her only significant contribution to the battle. Indeed the battleships SMS Kaiser and SMS Kaiserin, the backup force arrived in between and were spotted about 9:50 and the British force broke off their pursuit. HMS Repulse covered their retreat all along, while a heavy fog came about 10:40. In all, Repulse had fired no less than fifty-four 15-inch shells. Königsberg only temporarily reduced her speed but returned home safely and undergone short repairs.

Nothing much happened for the remaining of the year, at least until 12 December 1917, when Repulse was damaged in a collision with HMAS Australia. She stayed in the firth of forth, still the flagship of the 1st BC force, until V-Day. Renown on her side never fired a shot in anger during the war. On 12 December 1917 she followed the grand fleet in an unsuccessful attempt to intercept the German 3rd Half-Flotilla of destroyers which destroyed a Scandinavian convoy off the coast of Norway. Like her sister ship she patrolled the North Sea uneventfully. Repulse and Renown escorted the Hochseeflotte for their surrender on 21 November 1918 later disarmed as per the armistice conditions. Overall, Their career during the Great War was barely significant, since the Admiralty just was weary about exposing them in battle. In 1918, experts estimated some vital parts could still be penetrated by 6-in shells.

1916-1917 Modifications

When they entered service with the Grand Fleet, the battle of Jutland had just ended and battlecruisers had lost credibility. The turmoil caused by the loss of Beatty’s “splendid” caused such outrage that some in the government purposely offered to set disarm the ship and reaffect the crews. When the calm return however, the admiralty decided by the voice of John Jellicoe to have the remaining Renown class upgraded wth some 500 tons of extra armor, mainly above the mot sensitive parts, the ammunition bunkers and steering room. Their fore funnel was raised in November 1916, because of the inconvenience caused by smoke interference for fire direction. In the fall of 1917, s small platform was fitted on their ‘B’ turret, the first time it was done for the Royal Navy. The small biplane, a Pup or Camel was used for observation. The 20 meters patform prolongated the main turret roof, being attached to the turret’s guns by the way of struts. This was not without problem in case of firing them. In that case, the need to differenciate the elevation or just firing would have blasted the platform intantly. Nevertheless, this platform was experimented again in the 1920s, and ways to quickly fit or demount it.

1918 Modifications

In 1918, modifications were made on the Reuplse, notably baffles were installed and new projectors placed in armored towers along the aft funnel, while the long hull structure was braced and reinforced while the Fire control room was rearranged, fire direction modernized with upgraded telemeters, and new extra ones installed, notably for the new Duel-Purpose 4-in installed, and Bofors guns. The protection in 1918 was further reinforced on the Repulse, with the armor removed from the former battleship Cochrane, requisitioned in 1914 and now transformed into an aircraft carrier (see Eagle). By the end of the year, Renown had to wait for the availability of a new armor set, received in 1923-26.

Repulse in the Interwar

Both modern battlecruisers were spared by Washington’s tonnage cuts in 1921, but had to be partially redesigned in the 1920s and early 1930s. It was unequal, yet. When WW2 broke out, only Renown had been comprehensively modernized. Repulse suffered the same fate as Hood, which was far better protected, of just cosmetic changes.

HMS Repulse started a major refit at Portsmouth on 17 December 1918. It was intended to improve considerably her protection and her original armour belt was replaced by a new 1/3 thicker (9-inch or 229 mm) armour plate, surplus from the conversion of Almirante Cochrane. The original armour in tun was reinstalled between the main and upper decks, and above the new armour. Additional high-tensile plating also was added the decks, and over the magazines (in additon to what was added already in 1917). Her anti-torpedo bulge were deepened and reworked, following the same design scheme as for the battleship Ramillies. The bulge was longer too, covering from the submerged torpedo room to “Y” barbette magazine. Its inner compartments were filled with crushing tubes. With these new bulges, the beam took 12 feet 8 inches (3.9 m) while the extra weight made the draught deeper from 1 foot 4 inches (0.4 m). In all, 4,500 long tons of stell was added to the displacement. Metacentric height jumped to 6.4 feet (2 m) deeply load. New very large rangefinders were also added and the hull TTs eliminated for four twin torpedo tubes mounted on the upper deck. The flying-off platforms were removed. This refit cost £860,684, to compare to the £2,829,087 of her original construction cost (almost half).

HMS Repulse was recommissioned after this, on 1 January 1921. She joined the Battlecruiser Squadron, Atlantic Fleet, with her suister ship and soon, HMS Hood. In November 1923 the latter, plus Repulse and some D-class cruisers made the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron. Tey set out on a world cruise, west to east via the Panama Canal, returning after ten months at sea, in September 1924. On Repulse, two of the 3-in AA guns and two single 4-in mounts were removed. They were replaced with four new QF 4-inch Mark V AA guns. The Battlecruiser Squadron made another tour, visiting Lisbon in February 1925 for the Vasco da Gama celebrations and in the Mediterranean. A first for Repulse. There, they took part in several exercises. At some point, HMS Repulse hosted the Prince of Wales for his tour of Africa and a squash court was managed on the starboard side, between the funnels. The tour also included South America, until October 1925. She had her second major refit, starting imediately in November 1925 and until July 1926. A new high-angle control position (HACP) was added to her fore-top among others.

1925-26 modernization

Repulse Specifications 1926

Dimensions Beam 89 ft 11.5 in, draft 29 ft 8 in
Displacement 34,600 long tons (35,200 t)
Speed/Range Top speed 30,5 knots, RA 3,650 nautical at 12 knots
Armament Addition 6 single 4-in DP, 2 x 4 40 mm 2-pdr AA
Armor Belt: 9 in, Decks 4 in
Crew 1,181

1933 Repulse Reconstruction

After her 1926 refit, Repulse returned for another serie of light moditications in July–September 1927, but served in between with the Battlecruiser Squadron until paid off in June 1932, as for her major reconstruction in April 1933. She entered the drydock to be gutted, basically.


Most of the existing high-tensile steel layers for the decks was replaced by non-cemented armour plates, 2.5–3.5 in (64–89 mm) thick. The torpedo control tower was removed entirely.


A fixed catapult was installed in place of the midships 4-in triple turrets, and a hangar built on either of her aft funnel, to house two Fairey III floatplanes. One additional Fairey III could be carried on deck (protected by a tarpaulin) and one more on the catapult if needed, so four in all. Electric cranes were fitted above each hangar for handling them.


Her four vintage 4-in AA guns were relocated: A pair abreast the rear funnel at hangar roof level, the other abreast the fore funnel, forecastle deck. Four brand new QF 4-inch Mark XV DP guns were added in twin Mark XVIII mounts, abreast the mainmast. Also two octuple Mark VI, 2-pdr mounts were placed on extensions of the conning-tower platform, abreast the fore funnel. Also a pair of quadruple Mark II* mounts with tandem 0.5-inch Vickers Mark III HMGs were placed above them. These machine guns fired a 37.6 g bullet at 2,520 ft/s to about 5,000 yd (4,600 m), in practice barey 800 yd (730 m). This was considered a close-in defense.

Other modifications:

Two High-Angle Control System (AA directors) were added, one Mark II placed on the fore-top, and one Mark I* on a pedestal, above the aft superstructure. The two submerged torpedo tubes were removed entirely, the former spaces turned into store-rooms.

Repulse in Haifa during the Arab revolt in 1938

When she emerged from the yard and was pre-recommissioned, HMS Repulse sailed to join the Mediterranean Fleet. She was recommissioned there officially in April 1936. Her first mission was to cary 500 refugees from Valencia and Palma, Majorca to Marseilles as the Spanish Civil War just started. In 1937, she was back home to participate in the Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead for George VI. Back to the Med, she was in Haifa in July 1938, to maintain order, during the Arab Revolt. The hosted also the Royal coupled during their May 1939 Canadian Tour. From October 1938 to March 1939 she was modified to perform this role but her armament was reinforced also, her twin 4-in AA guns were replaced by two more Mark V and two extra quadruple .50-cal. Vikers HMS mounts. The King and Queen however changed their mind and travelled aboard the RMS Empress of Australia, still escorted by Repulse on the first half of the journey. As wide decision as interbational tensions meant the battlecruiser could be requisitioned at any moment.

HMS Renown interwar service & reconstructions

The Grand Fleet was disbanded in April 1919. So Renown was assigned to the Battlecruiser Squadron, Atlantic Fleet but in June she was prepared ti host the Princes of Wales in preparation for a tour of Canada, Newfoundland and the United States. Both flying-off platforms were removed, a 30-foot rangefinder added, a 20-foot one the conning tower. By January-March 1920 she served as a “royal yacht” and her aft 4-in and 3-in AA guns were removed, making room for extra accommodation and promenade deck. A large deck house was built on the shelter deck between the funnels housing a squash court port, and cinema on starboard. She sailed in March for Australia and New Zealand, making many stops en route. She was back to Portsmouth in October 1920 and decomm. for a short overhault and refit.

HMS Renown was recommissioned in September 1921, again hosting Edward PoW for tour of India, the Philippines and Japan, back to Portsmouth in October. In June 1922 she was placed in reserve in July for a reconstruction identicatl to her sister ship, but with fixes based on ealier experience. For example, her new belt was installed about 3 feet (0.9 m) higher to offset draught increase. Aso she received a strake of tapered armour underneath the main belt to deflect incoming shell diving beneath the surface, 9-in thick down to 2 inches. Two longitudinal bulkheads were added between the upper and main decks and ASW bulges reworked, simialr to those of the Queen Elizabeth-class battleships with crushing tubes only abreast the magazines. The B turret flying-off platform returned but a high-angle control position (HACP) was added to the fore-top. Total reconstruction coast was £979,927, more than her sister-ship, but less than 1/3 of her original cost of 1916.

Repulse in Vancouver Canada during its world cruiser 1923-24

After her reconstruction in September 1926, she was assigned to the Battlecruiser Squadron, and detached to escort The Duke and Duchess of York to Australia in January-July 1927. While she was on her way back, there was a fire in her boiler room on 26 May 1926. Four ratings died before it was put out. Back to the Atlantic Fleet she became flagship of the BCS as Hood was absent for refit in 1929-1931. Renown refitted fterwards, reeiving a Mark I HACS and the fore-top received a new high-angle rangefinder, the conning tower platform enlarge for two Mark V octuple QF 2-pdr ‘Pompom’ Mark VIII. The midships triple 4-in mount were removed and an aircraft catapult prepared, eventually fitted in 1933 and a Fairey III floatplane given for reconnaissance and spotting. She collided with Hood on 23 January 1935 during exercises off Spain. Her bow was temporarily repaired at Gibraltar and completely at Portsmouth until May. Her Captain (as Hood’s) were court-martialled as well as Rear Admiral Sidney Bailey, but Renown’s Captain Sawbridge was the only relieved of command, later reinstated by the Admiralty, criticising Bailey for ambiguous signals. She also took part in King George V’s Silver Jubilee. Back to Gibraltar she observed the Second Italo-Abyssinian War from Alexandria in January 1936 (1st Battle Squadron). In May 1936 she rejoined the Home Fleet.

Repulse in WW2

HMS Repulse never received the same attention as her sister-ship, her redesigns were superficial. As the Second World War broke out, HMS Repulse still served in the Home Fleet’s Battlecruiser Squadron, atlantic fleet. She patrolled off the Norwegian coast and North Sea, searching for German ships and enforce the blockade in September-October 1939. When at port, her remaining aft vintage triple 4-in mount was replaced by a 8-barrel 2-pounder AA. By late October, she sailed to Halifax with HMS Furious, protecting a convoy while still looking for German raiders. Early into the war, she chased for the Graf Spee, escorting the Furious and Ark Royal.

Repulse and Furious made another sortie from Halifax on 23 November, this time searching the German battleship Scharnhorst after signalled by the AMC Rawalpindi (sank in action soon after). However Repulse was damaged by heavy seas as a north sea winter storm hit them. She was forced to return to port for some repairs. She was soon back at sea to escort a convoy carrying the 1st Canadian Infantry Division to Britain on 23 December 1939. In February 1940, she escorted the Ark Royal on a fruitless search for six German blockade runners sighted off Vigo (Spain).

Norwegian Campaign

HMS Repulse was assigned in support of Allied operations during the Norwegian Campaign in April–June 1940. On 7 April she was ordered to intercept what was another reported German breakout attempt into the North Atlantic. She was detached to search for an unknown German ship reported by the destroyer Glowworm. It happen to have been the German cruiser KMS Admiral Hipper, which sank the Glowworm before Repulse could arrive. She was recalled to join Renown south of the Lofoten Islands. On 12 April 1940, HMS Repulse was ordered back to Scapa Flow to refuel and escorted a troop convoy to Norway on her way back. In early June she returned in the North Atlantic to search for German raiders. She was absent during the evacuations of Norway.

Accompanied by Renown (1st Cruiser Squadron), Repulse attempted to intercept Gneisenau sailed from Trondheim in July 1941. Until May 1941, Repulse went on her escort duties and on 22 May, she was diverted from Convoy WS8B to search for KMS Bismarck. She broke off however as soon as 25 May, low on fuel. She entered the drydock for a summer refit, from June to August 1941. Eight Oerlikon 20-mm were added during this refit and a new Type 284 surface gunnery radar. She escorted another troop convoy around the Cape of Good Hope in August-October before being recalled to be transferred to the East Indies.

Force Z, the Far East

HMS Repulse leaving


HMS Repulse camouflaged, escorting convoys and departing from Singapore in December 1941

By late 1941, PM Winston Churchill wanted a small task force of fast capital ships to reinforce Singapore, as well as an aircraft carrier, expecting a Japanese move there. In November 1941, Repulse was already in the Indian Ocean and sailed to to Colombo (Ceylon) meeting the Prince of Wales. HMS Indomitable was delayed as she ran aground in the Caribbean. Prince of Wales and Repulse plus their escrt of destroyers maed Force Z, arrived on 2 December 1941. On 8 December, admiral Tom “Thumb” Philips order Force Z to depart in an attempt to destroy a Japanese troop convoys and intercept Japanese landings to their rear.

Force Z was underway when the submarine I-35 spotted it in the afternoon, 9 December. IJN Cruiser’s floatplanes latter spotted Force Z, confirming its compoisitin and heading. They were repetedly spoytted and reported until dark. Admiral Sir Tom Phillips knew at that time his “suprprise” wa no longer on his side, and cancelmled the whole operation. Force Z headed back for Singapore that evening, after a deceiptve manoeuver, making them believed they were heading to Singora instead. At 00:50, 10 December, Admiral Philips was informed of a landing at Kuantan and altered course; Philips expected to fell upon the landing force.

I-58 spotted Force Z again at 02:20, firing five torpedoes but missing. The Japanese the scrambled 11 reconnaissance aircraft, takng off just before dawn, to try to locate Force Z again. Before even they were spotted, some 86 bombers (22nd Air Flotilla) took off from Saigon, carrying bombs or torpedoes. A single isolated Mitsubishi G3M, used as reconnaissance bomber, spotted Force Z agan at 10:15. Position was radioed to the HQ and signalled to the 22nd flotilla. The pilot went on shadowing Repulse and PoW all along, broadcasting to the Japanese bombers while underway.

The first wave of eight G3M bombers arrived on 11:13 and started dropping their 250 kilograms (551 lb) bombs from 11,500 feet (3,505 m). Renown was straddled by two near misses, while a third hit. It penetrated through the hangar and explode just over the armoured deck, which played ot role. Apart casualties and the loss of the Supermarine Walrus (later pushed over, not to risk a fire hazard), there was no serious damage. AA fire from Repulse damaged five of these. Two turned back to Saigon but the others remained on site. Let’s cite here the captan of HMS Renown, Bill Tennant, which skillfully managed to steer his shiped literraly between droppings, avoiding 19 torpedoes when the second phase of the operation started, and all remaining bombs.

But in the end, the Japanese were skilled in the art of coordinate attacks: They made a synchronised pincer attack, led by 17 G4M torpedo bombers, that Repulse coud not avoid. She took five torpedoes hits in rapid succession. Her AA gunners managed to shoot down two planes, damaging eight, but ths was too late. At 12:23, crippled by multiple under waterline breaches, took thousands of seawater liters and listed severely to port. This became so severe that she quickly capsized, with the loss of 508 officers and men. HMS Electra and Vampire stayed to rescue survivors, Captain Tennant srviving as well.

The wreck site became a ‘Protected Place’ in 2002 (Military Remains Act 1986) to avoid pirate actions. It seems the ships took five torpedo hits, four port, one starboard. They hit amidship, abreast of the rear turret and close to propellers. This was precised during a 2007 diving expedition confirming only two hits, portside near the propellers, starboard amidship. Otherse were buried in the ocean floor. Nevertheless, in 2014, the Daily Telegraph reported both ships had been “extensively damaged” by explosives from illegal scrap metal dealers.

Repulse 1941

Author’s illustration of the Repulse in Dec. 1941

HMS Renown in ww2

Renown’s major reconstruction 1936-39

Renown by that time was considered by the admiralty to be used as a prototype for reconstruction, in September 1936. Design proposals were considered, the first accepted was based on battleship HMS Warspite’s own reconstruction plans, the latest on offer. The ship was drydock, armament was partly removed, as well as the superstructure and funnels. All were razed down to the upper deck to have a clean state. The masts were also removed as well as the TTs and the while secondary armament. Only the clean deck and three main turrets remained.

Profile drawing in 1939 (CC)

Profile drawing in 1939 (CC)

-A large section of the middle deck was removed to access the powerplant several decks below.

-A large splinter-proof tower superstructure was constructed forward.

-A new director-control was built on top to direct the main armament.

-Alongside it on a platform, were installed two model HACS Mark IV directors for the secondary armament.

-The conning tower armoured hood was reinstalled on the aft superstructure.

-The ship’s engines and boilers were replaced by Parsons geared turbines and eight Admiralty three-drum boilers

-New output figures were 400 psi (2,758 kPa; 28 kgf/cm2)

-Overall reduction of 2,800 long tons (2,800 t) of machinery weight

-Two freed forward boiler rooms converted to 4.5-inch (110 mm) magazines.

-Deck protection upgraded with extra non-cemented armour

-New 4.5-inch magazines armour stray.

-Hangars built abreast the rear funnel, catapult fitted in between the aft superstructure.

-15-inch gun turrets upgraded to Mark I (N) standard, 30° elevation.

-20x dual-purpose QF 4.5-inch Mark III guns (5×2) BD Mark II mounts* installed abreast the fwd funnel and main mast.

-4 DP Mark IV directors installed, rear of the bridge and aft superstructure.

-HACS Mark IV analog computer for AA fire installed

-Admiralty Fire Control Clock Mark VII for low-angle targets

-3×8 Mark VI 2-pdr ‘Pompom’ installed, platform between funnels and aft superstructure.

-3 Mark III* director provided for them

-4×4 Vickers .50-cal. Mark III added, forward and rear superstructures.

-Sub. TTs removed, 4×2 deck TTs installed.

*These BD Mark II mounts had a −5° to +80° elevation and the Mark III gun fired a 55-pd (25 kg) HE shell at 2,457 ft/s (749 m/s), 12 rpm, max ceiling 41,000 ft (12,000 m), 400 rds in store each.

In the end, the reconstruction cost £3,088,008, more than the ship’s cost in 1916 (inflation included) three time that of earlier reconstructions. No doubt that was a concern for the budget-restraint Royal Navy in 1936-37.

Renown in the Second World War

Renown was recommissioned on 28 August 1939, a few days before WW2 broke out. She required some training with a rookie crew before joining the Home Fleet. At that point, her career mirrored her sister ship: She patrolled the North Sea, was transferred to Force K (South Atlantic) in October in search of Admiral Graf Spee. She joined Force H at the Cape of Good Hope in November 1939 in an attempt to prevent Admiral Graf Spee to reach the South Atlantic. Underway, her spotter plane located the blockade runner SS Watussi, which she sank on 2 December. Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled on 17 December but Renown was still patrolling the area, returning to the Home Fleet in March 1940. She was by then flagship of the Battlecruiser Squadron. Hood indeed, was just decomm. for a refit.

Norwegian campaign

HMS Renown took part in the Norwegian Campaign: She engaged Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on 9 April 1940, but the latter quickly folded and departed in the heavy fog, leaving behind Renown and Repulse. The British battlecruiser spotted the Germans and fired first, however the Germans hit her first, two 11 in (280 mm) shells which did slight damage. In return, she hit Gneisenau with a single 15-inch and two 4.5-inch shells (The weather was mediocre, vibility poor and ships were closer, so the secondaries were at the party). She knocked out Gnesenau’s main fire-control director, damaged the rangefinder over ‘A’ turret.

Nevertheless, the “terrible sisters” were still faster than Renown and thanks to the heavy weather they disengaged after and exchange of 90 minutes. Renown lost their sight and it was time for a report. The captain received new that Renown had fire no less than 230 main rounds and 1065 recondary rounds, all for tow hits. This speaks volumes about accuracy at that time, still. Renown came back for repair from 20 April to 18 May 1940. Afterwards, she provided cover during the evacuation fro Norway in early June 1940. After this episode she was transferred to Force H (Gibraltar) in August 1940, relieving Hood as flagship, which returned to the Home Fleet (and met her fate in May).

Mediterranean campaign

In November 1940, Force H covered HMS Argus, carrying Hurricane to Malta from Sardinia. Force H also participated in the inconclusive Battle of Cape Spartivento. Renown later shelled Genoa on 9 February 1941. She then followed Force H, escorting convoys inside and outside the Mediterranean until May 1941. As Bismarck was spotted and Churchill ordered she was sunk, Force H was scrambled in the Atlantic in turn. Back to base underway, Renown intercepted the German supply ship Gonzenheim en route to resupply Bismarck on 4 June 1941.

Force H escorted another convoy to Malta in July 1941. She returned home for repairs (starboard bulge) in Augist. Her radar was upgraded at that time, notably the Type 284 radar (surface gunnery control radar) and the Type 285 AA gunnery radar and the Type 281 air warning radar, plus the Type 271 surface search radar. She also received two more quadruple “pom-pom”, one on ‘B’ turret. After this refit she was transferred to the Home Fleet in November 1941, as deputy fleet flagship (Duke of York was indeed sent to carry Winston Churchill to the Arcadia Conference, Washington, D.C. on 9 December 1941). Renown escorted several convoys to the Soviet Union (Mursmansk), by early March 1942. Duke of York came back on 3 April and retook the role of flagship.

Renown became however the flagship of Force W to escort carriers taxiing fighters t Malta in April–May 1942. HMS Renown then returned to the Home Fleet, and shortly after a quick overhaul and supplies, was ordrered back to Force H in October 1942. She participated in Operation Torch. She covered the invasion and reinforcements convoys, guarding them to any Vichy French attack or frm the Regia Marina.

HMS renown in 1943

Last refit

Renown was back home for a refit, starting in February 1943. It lasted until June 1943. Her catapult and associated aircraft were removed. The hangar was converted into a laundry/cinema. No less than seventy-two Oerlikon 20 mm AA guns, in 23 twin mounts, 26 single. Between July 1942 and August 1943. In January 1944 a quadruple “pom-pom” mounting was placed on the roof of ‘B’ turret and the 20mm guns there were re-sited elsewhere.[36] Additional light AA directors with Type 282 radars were also fitted during this time.[37] The ship brought Winston Churchill and his staff back from the Quebec Conference in September and conveyed them to the Cairo Conference in November. She rejoined the Home Fleet in December, just in time to be transferred to the Eastern Fleet a few weeks later.

Renown close to the battleship Valiant and Richelieu in the Indian Ocean

Renown close to the battleship Valiant and Richelieu in the Indian Ocean, 12 May 1944

Renown arrived in Colombo in the fall of January 1944 and became flagship of the 1st Battle Squadron. In April 1944, she participated in Operation Cockpit, an air strike against Sabang’s port and oil facilities. She sailed to take postition off the island of Sumatra and shelled the facilities on Car Nicobar (Nicobar Islands) as well as Port Blair (Andaman Islands), on 30 April and unti the 1st of May. HMS Renown also covered the carriers launching an air strike against Surabaya, Java (Operation Transom), on 17 May. Sje was alo covering the follow-on attack against Port Blair, on 21 June. She made another air strike on 25 July, on Sabang, and shelled the Japanese-occupied city as well. She shelled installation in the Nicobar Islands on 17–19 October. On 22 November 1944, HMS Renown conceded her place as flagship to HMS Queen Elizabeth. She sailed for a refit at Durban, starting in December 1944 to February 1945. In March she was back n home waters and prepared in case of a sortie of remaining German Kriegsmarine ships, reaching Rosyth on 15 April 1941.

HMS renown 1943

Her very last planned refit was to be brief, but even that was considered not very useful due to her old age and was placed in reserve, in May 1945. HMS Renown was partially disarmed in July 1945. wAt first, six of her 4.5-inch turrets were removed (they were to be fitted elsewhere, using remote power control). The refit was cancelled eventually and Renown last public appearance was then she hosted a meeting between King George VI and President Truman, on 3 August. The latter came previously aboard the heavy cruiser USS Augusta. Decision to dispose of Renown was announced on 21 January 1948 after Four years of mothball reserve. She was eventually towed to Faslane to be scrapped on 3 August 1948, the very last of Admiral Jackie Fisher’s battlecruisers, as Yavuz herself (The former Goeben) was retired in 1947.

Renown 1945


Dimensions 242 x 27.4 x 9.7m (794 x 90 x 32 ft).
Displacement 36,080 t. standard, 36,660 t. Fully Loaded
Crew 1,200
Propulsion 4 shafts Parsons turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 120,000 hp.
Speed Top speed 31 knots, RA 6,580 nautical at 18 knots.
Armament Same but 5×2 4-in (113 mm) DP, 3×8 40 mm AA, 3 Walrus seaplanes.
Armor 355 mm turrets, 160 mm decks, 152 mm rangefinders, 406 mm turrets, 38 mm barbettes, 343 mm CT.







Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1922-1947

Burt, R. A. (1993). British Battleships, 1919-1939. London: Arms and Armour Press.

Burt, R. A. (1986). British Battleships of World War One. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.

Campbell, John. (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. London: Conway Maritime Press.

Haarr, Geirr H. (2010). The Battle for Norway: April–June 1940. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.

Parkes, Oscar (1990). British Battleships (reprint of the 1957 ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.

Raven, Alan & Roberts, John (1976). British Battleships of World War Two: The Development and Technical History of the Royal Navy’s
Battleship and Battlecruisers from 1911 to 1946. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.

Roberts, John (1997). Battlecruisers. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.

Smith, Peter C. (2008) [1976]. The Battle-Cruiser HMS Renown, 1916–1948. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Maritime.

Stephen, Martin (1988). Sea Battles in Close-Up: World War 2. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.

Taylor, Bruce (2008). The Battlecruiser HMS Hood: An Illustrated Biography, 1916–1941. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.

More photos – Repulse

More photos – Renown

Renown 1943

Author’s illustration of the Renown in 1943

German mini-subs and human torpedoes

Introduction: K-verband projects:
Not a part of the series of famous “V-weapons”, these ultra-modern miracle weapons supposed to reverse the fate of the Reich, these very light units of the Kriegsmarine appeared late, as a last-ditch naval bulwark to the enormous means deployed by the allies. With the massive intensification of anti-submarine warfare in the Atlantic, the efficiency of classical U-Bootes – particularly those of type VII – was diminishing while seeing the losses increasing, at a point of rupture.

Classical U-boote operations shown their limitations. Costly in men, oil and raw materials, large U-boats were no longer efficient.

The general staff was beginning to think of a massive production of lightweight units, much more economical, in particular to meet well-localized objectives. These units were produced by the hundreds (in total more than 1200), and two main types could be distinguished: “Pocket subs” commonly called midget submersibles, and human torpedoes.

A serie of Seehunds – perhaps the best midget submarine of the war.

German Midget Submersibles:

Four types of “Kleine Unterseeboote” (KU) saw successively the day. They were characterized by a crew of one or two men, a classic or torpedoid hull, an electric or mixed gasoline propulsion, two torpedoes, built in prefabricated sections. Their handling was in principle easy and their hull was pressurized. They were not “disposable weapons” but rather reusable submersibles. Relatively light, they could be transported by rail to see by air, and thus operate from many defense zones including large rivers. In operations, however, they were rather disappointing.



The “Salamanders” were the first German pocket submersibles in use. They were inspired by torpedo technology and had a cylindrical hull, housing a huge Nickel-Cadmium battery. The latter gave them a great submerged autonomy, but a radius of action of only 40 nautical miles at 5 knots. The pilot was sitting behind the battery, between the two ballast tanks. In coastal use, submerged and silent, they were dedicated to special operations against allied landings. The first copy was only operational in June 1944, delivered by AG Weser in Bremen. In the south of France, 12 units entered operation during the desperate attempt of the flotilla K-Werband 411 to oppose the landing in Provence (operation Anvil-Dragoon).


The failure was total, with the loss of 10 units out of the 12, the other two being later destroyed by a bombardment of San Remo. Deployed in Holland, notably in Antwerp, other Molch attempted unsuccessfully to threaten the Allied transports. There were a total of 107 sorties until March 1945, with no notable success and most of the 393 Molch built went to training, an aspect previously neglected by Kriegsmarine cadres for this type of unit and which Would produce such low results.

-Dimensions 10,8 x 1,8 m
-Weight 11 tonnes
-1 Electric motor 13 hp, 4,3/5 kn surface/sub
-Armament 2 G7e 533 mm torpedoes (21 in)
-Crew 1



The “Castor” were created from a submersible captured in Norway on Nov. 22, 1943, the Welman W46, which was then trying to blow up the doors of the dry docks of Bergen. This type of single-seater, two-tonne British submersible was produced at more than 100 units and did not have a periscope or torpedoes. They simply had to approach his target and deliver his explosive head of 540 kg. Replicated satisfactorily from 1944, the Biber was the second German pocket submersible in use. Unlike the relatively poor English model, the Biber had two standard 533 mm torpedoes and a periscope, was capable of spinning 6 knots on the surface and traveling 130 nautical miles. It was the Flenderwerke shipyards in Lübeck which were responsible for its production series, starting in May 1944, after a prototype in March, and 24 of pre-production in April.

Biber at the Technik Museum Speyer in Germany, rear view.

A total of 324 units were produced, the last in December 1944. The massive raids on Lübeck and the surrounding area disrupted production, as the Biber was pre-assembled into three sections merely joined together. The operational career of the Biber was not to be significant: Apart from the cargo ship Alan A. Dale, sent by the bottom in 1944, the tonnage sunk was only 4910 tons. The Biber never worried about the allied lines of communication, particularly at the level of the landing craft. As for the Biber II and III future two-seaters, they never past the the drawing board stage.

Biber’s control surfaces

-Dimensions 10,4 x 1,6 m
-Weight 6,3 tonnes
-Prop. 1 Opel Blitz 32 hp, 13 hp electric generator, 6,5/5,3 kn surface/sub
-Armament 2 G7e torpedoes 533 mm (21 in)
-Crew 1

Bieber exhibited at the Imperial War Museum


These “pikes” were designed to deposit a time-lag explosive charge on the flank of a ship at anchor, a role entrusted by the British to their units of the Welman and X type, and dating back to the Fulton and Bushnell experiments in the eighteenth century. This kind of “mission-suicide” remains eminently random. In fact, these triple-shell units with cylindrical hulls, the front part of which (a 1000 kg suction cup) was detached, were practically never used in this role, any more than those carrying magnetic mines. They were therefore grafted two torpedoes, but in general these units were considered mediocre.

Their range was limited to 78 miles and their speed to 3 knots, or 6 submerged, with 40 miles in diving. Built at Germaniawerft in Kiel from May 1944, 53 units were created (numbered as U-2111, 2112 and 2113, and U2251-2300). Finally they were used for the training of the Seehund and Biber crews.

Hecht type at Dresden.

-Dimensions: 10,5 x 1,7 m
-Weight: 12,5 tonnes
-Propulsion: 1 Electric motor 13 hp, 5,6/6 knots surface/sub
-Armament: 2x G7e 533 mm torpedoes (21 in), or a mine
-Crew: 2

Seehund (Type XXVII)

Literally “sea dogs” these were the last, largest and best pocket submersibles built by Nazi Germany. While 138 units were eventually taken into account by the Kriegsmarine, an initial series of 1,000 units was planned, all in service for January 1945.

This production began in September 1944 and ended in April 1945. With a solid hull welded by sections, Equipment simplified and automated to the extreme, it was even considered to be given to the Hitler youth. This was not the case because their handling required weeks of practice for every sailor.

They carried two standard G7a torpedoes 533 mm (21 in), dived at 38 meters, surfaced at 7 knots even with a force-formed sea on the Beaufort scale. However the simple relief when launching their torpedoes required a stationary position during firing.

Two-seaters, designed as true submersibles with mixed propulsion, they should in principle successfully support the XXI and XXIII series, although limited to operations from the coast. Some 50 units in 1945 obtained a substantial extension of their oil tank, their autonomy rising to 300 nautical miles (550 km).


In the end, these units sank 8 allied ships for a total of 17,300 tons and damaged three others. It was the best performances of German mini-subs so far, for 142 sorties and 32 losses. They operated for the first time from the Banks of Holland on December 31, 1944, and throughout January.

Kwinte’s raid on an allied convoy resulted in the loss of 16 units out of the 17 sent, most of which ran aground on sandbanks, others sunk by the RN, and others lost in heavy weather. The other raids were hardly happier.

See in 3D

In February 1945 (and as of late January), the units attempted to obstruct maritime traffic on the south-eastern coast of England, particularly in the Ramsgate area. Operations continued with a bit more success in March (3 sunken ships), while units based in Ijmuiden in Norway practically did not made any outings due to the heavy weather.

The latter operated in the Danish Strait in April 1945. On the 28th, all exits were canceled. Most of the losses were due to poor weather conditions and the lack of experience of their operators. Many Seehunds have been captured or recovered, and are nowadays museum pieces. See in 3D HD (sketchfab)

-Dimensions 10,9 x 1,7 m
-Weight 14,9 tonnes
-Prop. 1x Büssing diesel 60 hp, 1x Electrical engine 25 hp, 6,5 to 5,3 knots surface/sub
-Armement: 2 G7e 533 mm (21 in) torpedoes.
-Crew 2

Human torpedoes:

Three types were tested during the war, and two series became operational. Overall, the concept of “torpedo carrier” was reduced to its simplest expression since the torpedo was launched from another torpedo summarily arranged to allow a basic piloting. They were not, however, genuine “suicide torpedoes” such as those used by the Japanese and in which the operator was directing the torpedo itself until explosion. Nevertheless, this type of arrangement, although very economical to produce in mass, proved practically unfit for service due to a far too small radius of action. The “cockpit” was submerged to allow pressure balancing, and the pilot was helmeted, equipped with a breathing apparatus borrowed from the Luftwaffe and a frogman suit. He launched his torpedo after monitoring summary graduations on the hood, but no navigation marks nor speed calculator (For moving ships).


The neger (“nigger”) was perhaps an extrapolation of the name of its inventor, Richard Mohr (“Moorish” in German, who headed the engineering firm Kleinkampfverbände). Moreover, these torpedoes were invariably black, for mostly nocturnal operations. This was the first type of steered torpedo. The first was operational in March 1944 and 200 were to follow. Equipped with an electric motor, the neger could sail at 3.7 to 4 knots over 48 nautical miles (88 km). At worst, given the rudimentary and economic nature of the craft, its pilot could bring it within range and then evacuate it once the batteries were empty, swimming for safety.

The pilot had a (relative) good vision thanks to a plexiglass bubble. Nevertheless, the respirator mask provoked several deaths by asphyxiation. The other big black dot was the inability of these units to dive. Their cockpit bubble, though small, was still very visible even at night, and in heavy weather this kind of craft was simply not maneuverable. In spite of these limitations, volunteers were recruited for missions intended to carry severe blows to the landing fleet.

The first intervention took place in front of Anzio, on April 20, 1944, 30 units were to attack the north of the bridgehead from Torre Vaianica. It was a total failure, only 17 were launched, losing their way en route, the commander of the squadron perishing from the beginning of the operation of a CO2 intoxication. Three units were lost, all the others ran aground and were captured. The second implementation began in June 1944, in the night of 5 to 6, from Villers-sur-mer in the Bay of Seine and north of Honfleur. This time the 26 units arrived in sight of their objectives in spite of the detestable weather, and sank three minesweepers (HMS Cato, Magic and Pylades) and several small transports, and from June 7 to 8 the best success was to damage The Polish Dragon cruiser, which was deemed unfit for service and was subsequently submerged as a breakwater of the artificial harbor, which earned medals for two of these pilots. Others gave up without having seen the objective.

-Dimensions: 8 x 0,53 m
-Weight: 2,7 tonnes
-Propulsion: 1 Elect. mot. 12 hp, 4,2/3,2 knots surface/sub
-Armament: 1 G7e torpedo 533 mm (21 in)
-Crew: 1


The Marder was simply an extrapolation of the Neger. Unlike the first, limited to the surface, the Marder could dive to 40 meters. This allowed her to escape a potential “predator” or in case of very bad weather. 500 units were produced, until May 1945. Again, equipments were reduced to the bare minimum, only a few graduations on the cockpit and a stem at the front of the nose which allowed to aim the enemy ship. Stress on board was considerable and many losses were due to physical exhaustion, despair, utter claustrophobia, carbon dioxide poisoning, or simply execrable weather (most volunteers were not even sailors).

Marder at the Bundeswehr Museum

Their first sortie was attempted on the night of August 2-4, 1944 from Houlgate, and Marders sank the escort destroyer HMS Quail, a minesweeper, an LST, a liberty-ship and another 7,000-ton transport, and damaged one cruiser. However, the Allied counter-attack was vigorous and only 17 units returned to port. This loss rate – which was not going to improve later – would quickly make these units, which were supposed to return to their base after the action, real one-ticket “coffins”, and volunteers quickly rarefied. Another action was attempted on 16-17 August, 42 Marders attacking the old French battleship Courbet (two hits with no great consequences), and the small balloon-boat HMS Fratton and a transport were also sunk. 26 Marder were lost during this attack. Finally in September 1944 another “K-Verbänd” of 30 units attacked the allied landing fleet in Italy. No victory was recorded and at the same time 17 units were lost at sea, the others who had survived the mission and hoisted dry were destroyed by a coastal bombardment at Vertimiglia.

-Dimensions: 8,30 x 0,53 m
-Weight: 3 tonnes
-Propulsion: 1 Elect.motor, 12 hp, 4,2/3,2 knots surface/sub
-Armement: 1 G7e 533 mm torpedo
-Crew: 1

Hai prototype schematics


The “shark” was a very improved model of the Marder, sometimes called “super-Marder”. Enlarged, and with bigger batteries, for a top speed of 20 knots in the final attack phase. Longer from 2.40 m, they also offered a radius of action of 78 km at 3 knots. However, its long development due to numerous technical problems resulted in the cancellation of the program in April 1945, which ended with just three prototypes.

other German pocket subs Projects

The Seeteufel was an interesting submarine tank, perhaps the only one of its kind built in ww2.


Experimental Delphin midget sub

Three prototypes of the Dauphin were produced. It was a derivative of the Marder, but with a specially designed hull and a bigger battery. He had to be able to sail at 17 knots at the time of the attack. The three prototypes were lost after the testing began in January 1945.


Blueprint of the Seeteufel

The “seas devils” were an interesting concept of “submersible tank” inspired among others special versions of Italian tracked MAS like the Grillo in 1917-18. Basically this was an amphibious unit capable of moving on the sea bottom to its objective before launching its two torpedoes. Two-seater, weighing 35 tons, 14.2 meters long, it was one of the most fantastic German submarine projects. The only prototype was deliberately destroyed in its test field near Lübeck at the time of the German surrender. A longer article will be done in collaboration with Tank Encyclopedia.


The “Orca” (or Grampus) also officially known as SW1 was a prototype of a fast mini-submersible equipped with a Walter turbine. It was on paper capable to sail 30 knots not only during its approach phase but cruising all the way while being submerged. The prototype made only rare attempts (known to be the problems of these revolutionary turbines) in Plöner’s seawater trial area before being scuttled in May 1945. British engineers sought it out and bailed it out for detailed study after the war.



There was also the V.80, a four man, 76-ton prototype completed in 1940 to test Walther geared turbine propulsion system. Her Range was 50 nautical miles at 28 knots. A serie named “Orca” were also built postwar. The midget submarines were swimmer delivery vehicle, for covert operations. Another cold war type called Narwal was also used until the Berlin wall fall.

V80 experimental midget sub, notice the camouflage

Blueprint of the V80

Sources and links


Admirals of WW2

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

Although the war at sea in Europe saw few “big guns” engagements (no Jutland equivalent here), Admirals still played a major part in many operations, from the long battle of the Atlantic to shore bombardments in North Africa, Sicilia, Italy, and France, and naval battles in the Mediterranean. However this was in the pacific that things really get nastier for these top brass, obliged to take history-making decisions, sometimes responsible of the fate of their entire nations on a dice roll. No Top ten here, although some of these admirals would deserve fully-fledged biopics as their career was long and outstanding.

Cunningham, Andrew Browne (1883-1963)

Admiral Cunningham

Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, born in Dublin, son of a distinguished Scottish doctor who had become dean of the University of Edinburgh, young Cunningam served early on the Britannia, Fox and Doris, taking part in the Boer War. Then he was promoted commander of a torpedo boat, and destroyer during the great war. Andrew Browne (nicknamed “ABC” in the Navy), crossed the ranks and in 1937 became vice-admiral with the command of cruisers, then the battleship Rodney. He then commanded a squadron of destroyers in the Mediterranean, then battle cruisers, and became Deputy Chief of Staff in 1938. As a great connoisseur of the Mediterranean (over 30 years of service), he became commander-in-chief Of the Royal Navy in this sector in 1939.

He finds himself faced with the worst of situations when Italy entered the war in June 1940, with a powerful Italian fleet, a French fleet about to be captured, and its own fleet weakened by transfers in the Atlantic. With great skill he managed as ordered to “deactivate” the French fleet in his area of Alexandria (Operation Catapult). Later adopting a decidedly aggressive tactic, he managed to inflict several crushing blows to the Regia Marina, including the famous Taranto raid that inspired Pearl Harbor.

In general, he was the pivot of British defense in North Africa, protecting with his means the vital Suez canal against the regia marina assisted by the Luftwaffe. He received the surrender of the Italian fleet at La Valette harbour in 1943, then became first Lord of the Sea, following Sir Dudley Pound. Honored Admiral for life, he remains one of the most emblematic Royal Navy officers in history, the “Nelson of the Second World War”.

Darlan, François (1881-1942)

Admiral Darlan

Probably the most famous and controversial French admiral of the war, he was above all a convinced “vichyst”, known paradoxically for his action of turning the fleet to the allies, following Operation Torch. An officer instructor on the Jeanne d’Arc cruiser, then commanding a mobile navy battery on the front during the great war, he was promoted commander of the fleet, including the Atlantic squadron in 1939. Well introduced into the political spheres and personal friend of Georges Leygues, Minister of the Navy, he was promoted by Leon Blum in 1937 to the supreme rank of “Admiral of the Fleet”, Commander-in-Chief of all naval forces.

Nicknamed “the Red Admiral” for his political loyalties to the popular front by his opponents, he effectively reorganized the navy and launched large-scale programs, including those of the first French carriers, and made accurate suggestions for the defense of the northern front, not retained by Gamelin. Faithful of Petain, he would enclose the fleet in a dead end, only leading to British attacks and captures. Hardly struck by the drama of Mers-el-Kebir, he became openly Anglophobic, fervent supporter of the collaboration. He went so far as to lend to the Kriegsmarine in Syria several naval bases, and it was even assumed that he had prepared for a joint offensive with the axis in that sector.

Following the allied landings in North Africa and under the pressure of General Juin, he signed a ceasefire. He was gradually marginalized by Vichy, loosing the confidence of the Nazis. Disavowed by Petain, he eventually took command of the empire as high commissioner, under the close surveillance and support of the Americans, only to see the scuttling of the fleet he promised. He was assassinated on 24 December 1942 by a young pro-Gaullist student, Fernand Bonnier de la Chapelle.

Dönitz, Karl (1891- 1980).

Admiral Dönitz

Born in 1914 on board the Breslau, he moved to submarine command in 1916, with a beautiful “chart”. He was taken prisoner in the Mediterranean in 1918 following the destruction of his U-Boote, interned in Malta, and was released and assigned to various positions in the German temporary navy. In 1934, the Anglo-German naval agreement gave him the freedom to reconstitute the submarine fleet, but he found himself in the face of the backward views of Grand Admiral Raeder.

However, he developed the “Rudeltaktik”, or pack tactics, which was successfully undertaken until 1943. In 1939 he was able to hire only a handful of ocean submersibles. However, with the fall of France and the new bases gained on the Atlantic, this strategy takes on its full meaning. In spite of the ASDIC, the subtle shots of submarines (like the U-47 of Prien) begin to make Hitler doubt of the resistances of Raeder, especially as surface actions are often disappointing (Graf Spee, Bismarck).

After May 1940, Hitler was more circumspect, forbidding even more surface exits, but gave carte blanche to Dönitz, and in particular impressive means: The construction of U-Bootes will increase, in spite of the programs of classic construction. In 1942, the packs of gray wolves are at the top of their action, with 400 units engaged in the Atlantic, saturating the defense of the convoys. The situation became critical for the Admiralty, which urged the US to go to war. Dönitz was promoted Grand-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, succeeding Raeder, disavowed. But shortly after his appointment, the US entry into the war and its tremendous material means gradually blurred the U-Boats, then in 1943, making it almost impossible in view of the losses.

However Dönitz is relying on a new generation of U-Bootes, the revolutionary types XXI. Faithful to Hitler, Dönitz will retain his confidence and become his official dolphin after his suicide in his blockhouse in Berlin in 1945. In a week, he will only transfer his armies to the west to avoid their capture by the Red Army And will negotiate with the allies, without success, for a common front against the “reds”. He signed the capitulation, and was arrested two weeks later with his collaborator Albert Speer. He was brought before the Nuremberg court and sentenced to ten years for having prepared a war of aggression and supposed to have condoned the killings (controversial after the “Laconia” affair) of shipwrecked.

Halsey, William (1882-1959)

Admiral Halsey

An officer in 1904, commander of the destroyers during the great war, he became naval attache in Berlin in 1919, then in Scandinavia, will still have some commandments before graduating from the Naval Aviation School at the age of 52, obtaining his pilot’s license. Very popular, he rose to the rank of Rear Admiral commanding Saratoga, then the 2nd Division of Aircraft Carrier, and Vice Admiral with the command of the Pacific fleet.

Following Pearl Harbor and the destruction of the bulk of the classic fleet, he has to face with the remaining aircraft carriers and is conducting an offensive to the Marshall Islands and Gilbert, taking over the Doolittle raid. The “Taurus”, impulsive, energetic and tenacious, is absent for health reasons in Midway, but then exercises all its authority on the South Pacific, organizing in particular the offensives of Guadalcanal and the Carolinas. He was the artisan of the reconquest of New Guinea, of the New Georgia, of the Bougainville.

He was then appointed to the head of the powerful Third Fleet and had to take the decisive blow to the Philippines in 1944. His impulsiveness almost caused the Japanese plan to succeed in Leyte, but the crews would behave wonderfully, reestablishing the situation. With Spruance, he completed the reconquest by destroying the rest of the Nippon fleet in Kure and Tokyo, and preparing for the landing on the island of Honshu. It is aboard his battleship Missouri that will be signed the capitulation of Japan putting an end to the war.

Kinkaid, Thomas Cassin (1888-1972)

Admiral Kinkaid

An officer in 1908, he participated in the Great War as an observer with the Royal Navy, then became shooting director of the battleship Arizona. While specializing in artillery, he obtains other commands and becomes a diplomat, participating in the disarmament commission in Geneva within the American delegation. Then he became naval and air attache to the Italians and Yugoslavs from 1938 to 1941.

After Pearl Harbor, he became engaged as rear admiral, commander of the fleet of cruisers of the Pacific, and then commanded a task force grouped around Of the Enterprise Carrier. With this force, Kinkaid will be the hardest engagements from 1942 to 1944, showing qualities of remarkable cold blood, organization and tactical genius. (Gilbert, Marshall, Wake, Marcus, Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Santa cruz, Solomons).

He was then sent to expel the Japanese from the Aleutians, to occupy Attu and Kiska, and was then propelled to the head of the Fifth Fleet under the direction of Marc Arthur and engaged during the whole reconquest of the Philippines. Participating in the Battle of Leyte and Surigao, he was the main craftsman of the destruction of the Nippon fleet. He was then engaged for the reconquest of Luzon, Borneo, and then went to Korea in 1945 to receive the Nippon capitulation. He became the Admiral and took over as head of the Atlantic Reserve Squadron until 1950.

Leahy, William Daniel (1875 – 1959)

Admiral Leahy

Leahy left the Annapolis naval school in 1897 and fought in the Philippines in 1898, in China in 1901 (the Boxers revolt), then in Central America, Nicaragua and Cuba in 1912-14, commandant of the gunboat Dolphin, As in Mexico in 1916.

He is a very experienced man who is entrusted with a cruiser, operating in the Mediterranean, then in the Atlantic from which he climbs the ranks: In 1921 during the Greco-Turkish War, In charge of the command of the American fleet in the Aegean Sea. Rear-Admiral in 1927, he was Vice-Admiral in 1935 and Admiral in 1936, and Head of US Naval Operations. Eminence gray of Roosevelt, he advised firmness to him during the Japanese offensive in China, when the gunner USS Panay is destroyed, but is not followed.

Reached by the age limit in 1939, he became governor of Puerto Rico, then joined to Vichy as ambassador in 1940, of which he denounced the collaborationist drift. Recalled to Washington, and still having Roosevelt’s confidence, he will accompany him as chief of interallied staffs, participating in major conferences until the end of the conflict, being assigned a function of Allied defense organizer To the USSR by Truman after the war.

Muselier, Emile (1882 – 1965)

Admiral Muselier

After leaving the naval school of Toulon, and a campaign in the Far East in 1902-05, Emile Muselier fought n the front in the great war, as an artillery batery officer, first under the command of Admiral Ronarc’h, in champagne, and in Belgium. After the war, he was heading the naval control delegation in Germany. In 1933 he became Rear Admiral, commanding the Tunisian fleet and the 2nd Division of Cruisers. He was in charge of the defense of Marseilles and was appointed Vice-Admiral By darlan in October 1939.

Refusing the armistice, he joined Gibraltar on board a cargo ship, and then by plane London where De Gaulle appointed him commander-in-chief of the FNFL (Free French Navy) and provisionally he organized the FAFL (Free French Air Force). Despite Operation Catapult, he continued his recruitment, and famously proposed a new navy pavilion showing a cross of Lorraine (symbolizing Jeanne d’Arc), lated adopted by the Free French at large. Difficult relations with De Gaulle have him assigned to Algeria in 1943 with General Giraud to maintain order. Compromised in a Putsch against De Gaulle, he was deprived of any official function until his appointment as head of a naval delegation charged with German affairs in 1945.

Nagano, Osami (1880-1947)

Admiral Nagano

Descendant of an illustrious family of samurai, Nagano is one of the pillars of the imperialist party Nippon. Released in 1900 from the naval academy, he entered the war school but also made his right to Harvard. Having become a commander, but without participation in the Russo-Japanese war or the great war, he was an officer on the Nisshin, the Iwate and the Hirado. He told the naval attache of the Nipponese Embassy in Washington. Against Admiral, he was appointed head of the fleet of the Yangtze, and the squadron command, and holds leadership positions as the direction of the Naval Academy, or as head of state of the Assistant Or assist the Director of the Naval Training Office.

He participated in the London naval conference in 1930, trying to get more resources for his fleet. He was then delegated to the Geneva and London Conferences of 1936, withdrawing Japan for lack of agreement on the limitation of armaments in his favor. He then became Minister of Marine of Hirota Cabinet in 1936. In April 1941 he became chief of staff of the navy, and directs all naval strategy, well attended by Yamamoto. But the back of the fleet in 1942 and its inaction in 1943 are reported to be his responsibility, he assumed and resigned in 1944. Captured in 1945, prosecuted, convicted of war crimes Japanese diet, And dies in prison.

Nagumo, Chuichi (1887-1944)

Admiral Nagumo

An officer in 1908 and a torpedo specialist, he commanded a destroyer in 1917 before entering the war school, then climbed the ranks quickly, captain, then rear-admiral and finally vice-admiral in 1939 Destroyers flotillas, but also Takao and Yamashiro. Curiously then, he took the command of the naval aviation, still little considered. At the head of this first fleet he led brilliantly the attack on Pearl Harbor, the destruction of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales, the Dorsetshire and Cornwall cruisers, the Hermes aircraft carrier, the Dutch fleet, the ABDA force, Chased the Royal Navy from the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and ensured effective coverage of all operations of conquest until the end of 1942.

But he also made the unfortunate decision to change, at the last minute, armaments of aircraft which would eventually lead to the destruction by the American naval aviation of the bulk of its force at Midway. Then it will be the Solomons. Santa Cruz will be a Pyrrhic victory, and he will not be able to clear Guadalcanal. His disgrace would only be temporary, for in 1943 he returned to the head of a new carrier force but wiped another defeat to the Mariana in an attempt to defend Saipan. Associated until the end with General Saito defending the island, he eventually committed Seppuku.

Nimitz, Chester Williams (1885-1966)

Admiral Nimitz

This quiet and introverted Texan left the school of Annapolis in 1905, served in Manila before preferring the submersibles and became the chief of staff of this fleet in 1917. Affected in Hawaii, School of War, he joined the naval staff. He was noted for his qualities as a captain, was assigned to the training of reserve officers, then became director of the shipping office in Washington, and became a rear admiral in 1939. He then trained naval officers.

Following the Japanese attack in the Hawaiian Islands, he was promoted to Vice-Admiral and became Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. Under his vigorous leadership, the staff is reorganized and priorities set. His first major decision will be to launch the bulk of the oceanic submersible force in the Pacific to ensure the disruption of Nippon traffic, and a total underwater warfare. He directs and creates the task forces that will bomb the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, as well as Doolittle’s bold raid. He also heads the US forces during the Battle of the Coral Sea, and indirectly saves Port Moresby. He took a major part in the victory of Midway, well supported by spruance and Fletcher.

He then committed his forces to Guadalcanal, leading to a very aggressive and also very risky solution: The remaining Pacific fleet’s fate then had for a brief moment little more than one carrier, the USS Enterprise, and he did the most of it. Nimitz then embarked on a slow and costly reconquest of the Solomons, and in 1943 found himself at the head of a huge new fleet from the gigantic industrial efforts of the United States under the leadership of Admiral King. But a different one will quickly oppose him to Mac Arthur, a proponent of a reconquest of the Pacific West, including the Philippines, while Nimitz wants to go up the island to Okinawa. He devised a combined tactic promised to a great success, operating against the bases of Rabaul and Truk, which he took over, and advanced gradually towards the Mariana.

In September 1944, however, he rejoined MacArthur’s forces in the Philippines and confronted the Japanese forces in the immense battle of Leyte. Despite Halsey’s impulsiveness, he managed to trap the big units of the Nippon fleet and destroy his last aircraft carriers. He later engaged a real Maelstrom in front of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, wiping away swarms of kamikazes almost without loss. He again opposed Mac Arthur on the question of whether or not to conquer Japan, Nimitz preferring a blockade and naval operations designed to bend the Japanese government. But the atomic bomb will solve this question and it is Nimitz who will sign the act of surrender aboard the battleship Missouri.

The press will finally be grateful to him for his efforts in the face of a Mac-Arthur hitherto more media and he will be entitled to a triumph in Washington on his return. He was appointed “Admiral of the Fleet”, an honorary higher rank, and then fully engaged in politics as a UN administrator, regulating the Indian question. He retired in 1951 from politics as well as from his command.

Ozawa, Jizaburo (1886-1963)

Admiral Ozawa

He joined the navy in 1906 and was enthusiastic about the victory of Port Arthur, who quickly specialized in the question of torpedoes and destroyers in 1916. Captain of a frigate, then of ship, he commanded the cruiser Maya then the ship of line Haruna.

Rear-Admiral in 1936, then Chief of Staff of the Combined Fleet, he commanded the 1st and then the 3rd Naval Aviation Squadron. Vice-Admiral in 1941, after serving as Director of the Naval High School, playing his role at Pearl Harbor, he then took over Nagumo’s leadership of the forces that destroyed the Dutch fleet and led to the conquest of Java and Sumatra. In 1944, he was to face Mitscher Task Force 38 in the Marianas, an offensive that turned into a disaster.

In Leyte, he will take the lead of the “bait fleet” including aircraft carriers deprived of air force. He realizes his share but the plan fails following the unexpected withdrawal of Kurita. He will finally take the lead of Kamikazes training for the defense of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After the capitulation, he will not be disturbed by justice, having had no role in the decision-makers of the regime.

Pound, Sir Dudley (1877-1943)

Admiral Pound

Sailor by blood (born on the Isle of Wight), Pound entered the naval school in 1891, then became commanding officer in 1909 and instructor at the Portsmouth naval school in 1913. Captain and Lord Fisher’s deputy, He commanded the battleship Colossus and participated in the battle of Jutland. He served in the Mediterranean, commanding the Hood and the Repulse, and in 1927, after having commanded under Keyes, was appointed Rear Admiral, Deputy Chief of Staff.

Vice-Admiral in 1930, he became commander of the Mediterranean squadron, then gave up his post at Cunningham, to be appointed in 1939 Admiral and First Lord of the Sea, and as Chief of Staff of the Navy , Will become a close counselor of Churchill. Particularly dynamic, although with a failing health, he spends without counting during the pursuit of the Graf Spee, the operations in Norway, the Dynamo operation (the Dunkerque embarkation), then the bismarck affair. He organized the best defense of the convoys of the Atlantic (despite the total loss of the PQ-17) until his deaths of exhaustion in 1943, in London.

Raeder, Erich (1876-1960)

Admiral Raeder

He entered the naval school in 1894 and retired as an officer in 1897, campaigned in the Far East, moved to the naval academy in 1904, and rapidly climbed the ladder. He was first assigned to the naval information service, then to the Imperial Yacht Hohenzollern, Lieutenant-Commander in 1912, and then Chief of Staff to Admiral Hipper during the Great War.

He will see the battles of Dogger Bank and Jutland. Captain of a frigate, then captain of cruiser, commander of the Köln, was called to berlin to direct the central section of the ministry of the navy, and was finally captain of ship in 1919. Rear-Admiral in 1922, Raeder commands the forces of The North Sea, then head of the Baltic station, and the Nazis out of respect for his career, offered him the command of the Kriegsmarine then reconstituted thanks to the naval agreement of 1935.

He then developed an ambitious program , Plan Z, whose completion is planned in 1944, with the construction of 6 to 8 battleships, two aircraft carriers, and other surface vessels of which he is an unconditional of the old guard.

Opposed to the visions of Dönitz, he enjoys the confidence of Hitler until the disastrous exit of the Bismarck against the English traffic. His views on Hitler’s strategy, including the attack on the USSR, brought him a growing animosity by the leader of the Third Reich, consummated when the Hipper group operating in the Arctic was destroyed.

Hitler decides to disarm the surface fleet in favor of the submarines, and Raeder resigns in January 1943, replaced by Dönitz. Having never been a proponent of the Nazis, Raeder frequently opposed attempts to “purge Aryan” naval personnel. He was nevertheless tried and sentenced in Nuremberg to life imprisonment and released in 1955 on account of his age. He died 5 years later.

Sommerville, Sir James Fownes (1882-1949)

Admiral Sommerville

A commanding officer, after being appointed lieutenant in 1898, Sommerville was at the head of various staffs during the Great War. He was recognized and decorated (DSO) for his service during the Dardanelles expedition (Amiral Robeck), and became director of communications at the Admiralty during the 1920s and before the command of Norfolk.

Admiralty staff, and was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Squadron. He became interested, then specialized in radars, and was recalled to the Admiralty, assistant Ramsay during the evacuation of Dunkirk. It is Sommerville who will have the heavy task of firing on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir near the capitulation. He then engaged the Italians and fled them to Punta Stilo, bombed Italian cities, including Genoa, and in May 1941 brilliantly engaged his forces from Gibraltar to sink the Bismarck.

He then returned to the Far East fleet in April 1942, succeeding Layton, himself a follower of Philips, but undergoes the attacks of Nagumo and Ozawa and is obliged to replicate his surviving forces on the East African coasts . Vice-Admiral, he was seconded as a delegate of the British Admiralty in Washington and in 1945 was appointed Admiral. He then left his post and died shortly thereafter.

Spruance, Raymond Ames (1886-1969)

Admiral Spruance

Released from Annapolis in 1903, “Ray” Spruance served aboard Iowa and Minnesota as an officer, with the skills of an electrical engineer. Recognized in these skills, he will be assigned to the technical services of the navy and large shipyards. He made war school in 1926-27, was ship’s captain in 1932, commanded the battleship USS Mississippi in 1937, freshly rebuilt. He will also command the naval district of central america, before becoming chief of naval operations in Washington.

At the head of a division of cruisers of the Pacific fleet in 1941, he replaced Halsey, sickly, with happiness at Midway. Impressed, Nimitz then appointed him vice-admiral, and he became his chief of staff. He then commands the Fifth Fleet in charge of the peaceful center, brilliantly resumes the Gilbert Islands, Marshall, and develops and executes the Truk raid. He became Admiral and began his campaign in the Marianas in 1943. He then commanded the naval forces deployed at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. He was then Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet and later Diplomat at the request of Truman, In 1955.

Tovey, Sir John Cronyn (1885-1971)

Admiral Tovey

Lieutenant of the ship during the great war, he served aboard the Faulknor and the light cruiser Amphion. Known for his brilliant maneuver on the Onslow in Jutland, he was appointed frigate captain in 1916. He was subsequently deployed to the 2nd lord of the sea, then became captain of the ship, commanding the battleship Rodney and the Cruiser Chatham.

Rear Admiral in 1938, he commanded a squadron in the Mediterranean, and directed the convoys to Malta and the Middle East. In July 1940 he was vice-admiral and commanded the light forces of the Mediterranean, illustrated at Punta Stilo, and was summoned to London to take over as head of the Home Fleet, succeeding Admiral Forbes. He then took on the heavy task of escorting the convoys, and directed the combined actions against the Bismarck, before organizing and controlling the convoys of the Arctic.

He will be responsible for the destruction of the PQ17 by giving the order of his dispersion, which will earn him the wrath of Churchill. But protected from Cunningham, under whose command he had served, he remained at his post. In 1943, he became an admiral and actively prepares the “D-Day” operations.

Vian, Sir Philip (1894-1968)

Admiral Vian

Of French origin (Huguenot), Vian leaves as an officer the naval school of Dartmouth and served aboard destroyers during the great war. He climbed the ladder and in 1934 became captain. In 1939, he was awarded the honors of the press by capturing the tanker Altmark (supplier of the Graf Spee), as commander of HMS Cossak, carrying out an old school boarding commando operation.

Speaking French, he headed the Franco-British operations at Narvik at the head of the 4th flotilla of destroyers. He then committed his forces against the Bismarck and was named afterwards at the head of the XVth Division of Cruisers under the orders of Cunningham in the Mediterranean. It is Vian who will keep the supplies of Malta at the worst hours of his siege, and will illustrate himself during the second battle of the Great Sirte.

Under the orders of Ramsay, in 1943 he went to protect the landing in Sicily and then in Normandy the following year. He then took the lead at the end of 1945 of the British Carrier Task Force which will engage the reconquest of the sector of the Indian Ocean. He also participates in the assault of Okinawa. Vice-Admiral and Fifth Lord of the Sea in 1946, he became Admiral and Commanding Officer of Home Fleet in 1950.

Yamamoto, Isoroku (1884-1943)

Admiral Yamamoto

Undoubtedly the most famous Japanese admiral of the war, Yamamoto was recognized as an unparalleled tactician, a talented organizer fully aware of the possibilities of the plane in naval warfare. Orphaned and adopted by the Yamamoto family, he entered the naval school of Yetajuma, and it is as a young officer that he engages during the Russo-Japanese war, on the Nisshin. Wounded at Tsushima (loses two fingers), he is fascinated by the possibility of torpedoes and consequently attends classes at the torpedo boats school.

He left in 1908 with the rank of lieutenant. After further studies at the Navy High School, he returned to the Staff of the Second Fleet in 1916 and then to the Military Affairs Office. In 1919 he studied at Harvard, and in 1925 he returned to the United States as naval attache and then delegated to the London conference in 1929 where he pleaded in vain for the parity of the Japanese fleet with those of the USA and Great Britain, likewise at the second conference which will see Japan withdraw.

He was then Rear Admiral, and Deputy Minister of Marine, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Violently anti-American, he urged the government to accelerate the arms programs, introduced very advanced methods of training for the crews, and was an indefatigable advocate for aircraft carriers of which he knew the potential. The performance of the combined fleet at the beginning of 1942 is entirely due to him.

In 1941, he was promoted to Admiral, set up the main lines and led Operation “Tora”, the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the direction of the forces of the Pacific he unfolded his forces with great success, and personally commanded his forces at Midway. He is surprised at the American response and in the face of disaster, is obliged to give up the operation against the island.

He was then criticized for not having committed his remaining considerable forces in the Solomons, leaving the Americans the initiative, winning with his “tokyo night express” still some successes at the expense of the American cruisers and supplying his troops. Although he was a virulent critic from the USA, he had warned the Tojo government against aggression in the country. The admiral died when his transport was abased by American fighters in the Solomons, who were ignorant of his precious passenger.

Aoba class heavy cruisers (1926)

Aoba class heavy cruisers (1926)

Japanese Navy Japan, 1926. Heavy Cruisers Aoba, Kinugasa

The Improved Furutaka

The two heavy cruisers of the Aoba class followed the Furutaka a year apart, so that their development did not take into account the defects of the two previous ships. They had from the start three double turrets and AA parts of 120 mm. On the other hand their tubes were always in six groups of two on the flanks. A first modification intervenes in 1932: They received 8 machine guns of 13.2 mm in reinforcement. In 1938-40, their fixed tubes were replaced by two quadruple rotating benches on the deck, while they were equipped with lateral ballasts. Their DCA was reinforced with 25mm guns and another four heavy machine guns, bringing the total to 12.

Aoba ONI US Navy archives recoignition plate
Aoba ONI US Navy archives recoignition plate

Aoba on trials in 1927
Aoba on trials in 1927

⚠ Note: This post is in writing. Completion expected in late 2022.


In operations, the two ships were all fights. Particularly active in the Solomon Islands, they participated in the “massacre” of the Savo Island, the night of August 8, 1942. The Kinugasa was sunk by a plane embarked on November 14, 1942 during the second battle of Guadalcanal, while the Aoba survived long enough to see his armament increase to 15 pieces AA 25 mm, then 42 two months later, in May-June 1944. He was also added a radar, while he lost one of his two banks of tubes launches -torpilles. He was at the Battle of the Coral Sea, at the first battle of Guadalcanal, at the second, and was finally wiped out by the raids of the 3rd US Air Fleet at the Kure Naval Base on July 25, 1945.

Aoba sunk at Kure, 1945

Aoba off Buin, Bougainville, October, 13 1942 Battle of Cape Esperance

Displacement 7100 t. standard; 8760 t. Fully loaded
Dimensions 183,58 m x 15,83 m x 5,71 m
Propulsion 4 propellers, 4 turbines, 12 boilers, 102 000 hp, 34,5 knots
Armor: 25 to 76 mm
Armament: 6 x 203 (3×2), 4 x 120, 8 x 25 AA, 4 x 13.2 mm AA, 12 x 610 mm TTs (6×2), 1 plane
Crew 625

Aoba 1933
Cruiser Aoba in 1933, 2 views Author’s illustration

Aoba 1941
Cruiser Aoba in 1941, after refit – HD 1/200 Author’s illustration

Sources/Read More
Conway’s all the worlds fighting ships 1921-1946

IJN ww2 IJN Aoba

sea trials

Aoba (青葉) was first of her namesake class to be completed (Named after Mount Aoba, a volcano located behind Maizuru, Kyoto) after being Launched in 1926, and heavily modernized in 1938-40. IJN Aoba patrolled along the China coast and from December 1941, she became flagship of Rear Admiral Aritomo Goto, CruDiv 6. She participated in the Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942, the The Battle of Savo Island, 7 August 1942 (damaged) against USS Astoria, Quincy, Vincennes and HMAS Canberra, the Battle of Cape Esperance on 11 October 1942 against USS San Francisco, Boise, Salt Lake City, and Helena (she was hit by up to forty 6-inch and 8-inch shells), was repaired spent time in Kure, statione din Singapore from 24 December 1943, soldiered in the Philippines, heavily damaged, repaired again and finally crippled by bombing, sinking in the shallow waters of Kure harbor in April 1945, followed by more damage after two raids in late July and finished off on 24 July 1945. She was formally stricken on 20 November 1945, her wreck scrapped in 1946–47.

Cruiser Aoba in the 1930s

IJN ww2 IJN Kinugasa

IJN Kinugasa

Second ship launched and completed of the class, IJN Kinugasa, named after a mount. She was flagship of the 5th CruDiv, then 6th and 7th. During a training exercise on 11 July 1929, she collided with I-55 while using the cruiser as a target practice. She also served off the China coast (1928–1929), making other patrols there in the 1930s, place din reserve by September 1937, extensively modernized at Sasebo and recommissioned in October 1940.

Her combat records included: CruDiv6 flagship, Rear Admiral Aritomo Goto, First Fleet (Vice Admiral Takasu Shiro) with Aoba, Furutaka and Kako. Invasion of Guam, second invasion of Wake Island, Truk (Caroline Islands) in Jan-May 1942 protecting convoys and landings in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Rabaul, Kavieng, Buka, Shortland, Kieta, Manus Island, Admiralty Islands and Tulagi. At the Battle of Coral Sea

she was undamaged, and back in Truk in July, reassigned to the 8th fleet. She fought at the Battle of Cape Esperance on 11 October 1942, damaging Boise and Salt Lake City but taking four hits and was back to the Shortland. She met her fate at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal: On 14 October 1942, as flagship Crudiv 6 she teamed with Chōkai to bombard Henderson Field and covered on 24–26 October and 1–5 November replacement convoys of troops.

On 14 November, she was attacked by USMC land-based Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers and Douglas SBD Dauntlesses from USS Enterprise. The attack started at 9:30 and at 11:22, she capsized and sank off Rendova Island, stricken on 15 December 1942.

Type II U-Boats (1935)

In 1930, the false Dutch company NV Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw den Haag (set up in the Netherlands to develop submarines for Germany after WW1) set out to design a new class of submarine as a means of coastal patrol and defense. This submarine was bought by the Finnish government and was called the CV-707 Vesikko. This became the basis for the development of a new class of submarine for the German Kriegsmarine.

Finnish Vesikko, CV-707 prototype submarine in service and camouflage livery during the war.

In 1933, NV Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw den Haag designed a new and improved CV-707 that would be built for the German navy at the Kiel shipyard. This class became the Type IIA, with the U-1 being the first built. It’s primary roles were training of new crews and coastal defense.


The Type IIA had a length of 134 feet, a beam of 13 feet, and a draft of 12 feet, meaning that the sub was small and could only operate in coastal waters. A conning tower was located in the center of the boat and housed the periscopes that the sub would use to see while underwater. A single anti-aircraft gun may be mounted here.

U-1, Type IIa

Displacement for the Type IIA was 250 tons surfaced and 298 tons submerged. A test depth of 150 meters could safely be reached, although captains of submarines would regularly take their subs deeper than the test depth. With a crew of up to 25 men, the Type II was cramped and uncomfortable, although proportionate as other submarines such as the American Gato Class were 3 times the size and had 3 times the crew.

Type II Cutaway
Cutaway plans of the U Boat type II


Armament of most Type II submarines was 3 533mm torpedo tubes, all forward facing, with 5 torpedoes carried in total. In addition, 1-2 20mm anti-aircraft cannons were carried. No deck gun or heavy anti-aircraft was carried.
In addition to the underwater and surface weapons, small arms such as MP-40 submachine guns and P-38 handguns were carried for self-defense and boarding.
Interestingly, all German submarine crews were also trained in land combat, so it can be assumed that the crews were at least somewhat skilled with their small arms.


German submarines, while having diesel and electric engines, were not true diesel-electrics. They used their louder diesel engines on the surface and their electric engines underwater.
Powering the Type II were 2 diesel engines and 2 electric motors allowing for up to 13 knots surfaced and 7 knots submerged.
Type IIA subs could travel 1,600 nmi at 8 knots while surfaced and 35 nmi at 4 knots while submerged.
Type IID subs could travel 5,650 nmi at 8 knots while surfaced and 56 nmi at 4 knots while submerged.

Active Service

The first Type II submarines were completed in 1934, although most of the world did not know of their existence until 1935, when Germany and Great Britain signed a treaty allowing Germany to match England’s submarine fleet.

Type II submarines would be used in the beginning years of the war as a training and coastal patrol boat until a shortage of U-Boats in 1942 and 1943 would see them supplementing the larger Type VII class in anti-ship roles.
In total, there were at least 4 combat flotillas that operated the Type II. These included the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 30th Flotillas. Most of these operated out of Kiel, with one notable exception.

Starting in 1942 with the formation of the 30th U-Boat Flotilla, Type IIBs would be used in the Black Sea, attacking Russian shipping and reinforcements making their way to the front line. The Flotilla was disbanded in 1944 after the destruction of all remaining U-Boats.
At the start of hostilities with France and England, the Type II was more used for coastal patrol and training, but as the war dragged on, it saw more combat in the English Channel. Eventually, the Type II was to be replaced by the Type XXIII “Elektroboot”, although the Type II was never fully replaced in the Kriegsmarine.

U-37 entering Wilhelmshaven after a mission
U-37 entering Wilhelmshaven after a mission



U-Boat Type IIa waterline profile
U-Boat Type IIa waterline profile (1/400)

U-Boat Type IIc full profile for comparison
U-Boat Type IIc full profile for comparison

U1 in service with the Kriegsmarine before the war
U1 in service with the Kriegsmarine before the war

U9, of the following IIb class.
U9, of the following IIb class.

Vesikko preserved at Susisaari island in Suomenlinna near Helsinki
The Vesikko preserved at Susisaari island in Suomenlinna near Helsinki as of today. It has been restored and opened as a museum in 1973.

KMS Emden (1925)

KMS Emden (1925)

Germany (1925), Light Cruiser
First postwar cruiser in Germany, the Emden (from the city, also to honor the famous 1914 corsair cruiser) was authorized in 1921 in an unfavorable economic environment and suspicious allies. The Emden was directly modeled after the last class cruisers of the great war, namely the “Königsberg II”. Configuration of the main armament in 152 mm cannons under masks was not of the highest standard compared to those to be developed, but the Reichsmarine was forbidden to study more modern turrets.

Note: This post is a placeholder. There will be a complete overview of the class in the next future, officially released on Facebook and other social networks

KMS Emden official photo in 1935
KMS Emden (official) 1935

The Emden in action

After the commissioning of the first ship of the Köln class, the Emden was reclassified as a cadet training ship. Under the command of Karl Doenitz, she participated in several international peacetime tours. With the outbreak of war she actively participated in operations in Norway (Weserübung), without notable action, and the rest of her career was spent in the Baltic, training Sea Cadets. In 1945 she participated in the evacuation of civilians and troops from East Prussia trapped by Soviet Forces, and later brought troops from Norway. She also carried the remains of Marshal Hindenburg. Badly damaged in April 1945 by the RAF, she was scuttled at Heikendorfer Bucht and dismantled after the war.

Emden in China, 1931

Emden's replacement MAN diesel engines, never fitted as preserved.
Emden’s replacement MAN diesel engines, never fitted as preserved.


The Emden on wikipedia
The Emden in World Naval ships
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

Emden in libon 1935

KMS Emden specifications

Dimensions 155.10 x14.30 x6.60 m
Displacement 5,600t/6,900t FL
Crew 650
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 Brown-Boveri turbines, 4 coil/6 fuel oil boilers, 45 900 cv
Speed 29,4 knots (54 km/h; 34 mph)
Range 6,700 nmi (12,400 km; 7,700 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Armament 8 x 150 mm, 3 x 88 mm, 4 x 20 mm AA, 4 TT 533 mm (2×2)
Armor Belt: 50 mm (2.0 in), Deck: 40 mm (1.6 in), Conning tower: 100 mm (3.9 in)

KMS Emden on her way to Oslofjord in March 1940 - notice the camouflage
KMS Emden on her way to Oslofjord in March 1940 – notice the camouflage


KMS Emden 2KMS Emden 3KMS Emden 4KMS Emden 5KMS Emden 6Video extract footage emden IIIProw Emden III at Kiel

Emden in 1938 - Blueprint
Emden in 1938, Blueprint

KMS Edmen
The Emden in 1939. It was apparently never camouflaged but perhaps according to this reference, with a dark central band to make it shorter.

German Commerce Raiders

German Commerce Raiders

Germany (1937-40): Orion, Atlantis, Widder, Thor, Pinguin, Stier, Komet, Kormoran, Michel

Historical Overview

Privateers freighters are already a very old idea: Since the Renaissance and seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, merchant ships were armed, but with a reduced artillery. One could still make a difference. But from the nineteenth century, all hulls were painted with rows of false gun ports, and this according to a stylistic tradition continued until the twentieth century.

The principle was to deter potential “predators”. During the Secession war already, the Confederate Navy largely outclassed, used armed civilian ships as commerce raiders and blockade runners, while already the young American navy used fast bricks and armed merchant clippers to attack British vessels in 1815. Some corsairs also started to use various disguises to hide their armament, unveiled only at the last moment.

German Raiders in ww1

During the Great War, Germany employed several ways to disrupt British trade and counter the Blockade, using a number of privateers: The Möwe, Wolf, Greif, Wolf II, Geier, Leopard, Iltis, and Seeadler (a tall ship). Using such kind of ship was singular but not anachronistic: Nearly half of the merchant tonnage in 1914 was still assumed by sailing ships. These ships enjoyed mixed success, had artillery up to 105 and 150 mm, light guns and torpedo tubes. Guns were hidden under the hinged folding panels for quick release. The Hochseeflotte also commissioned a number of fast ships as auxiliary cruisers: Steamer SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, Prinz Eitel Friedrich, Crown Prince Wilhelm, and Kormoran, Cape Trafalgar, Berlin, Vineta and Meteor.

German Auxiliary Cruisers in Action

Their process was intangible: When a raider spotted a merchant ship, the former was closing up to be at firing range, compared the name of the ship to Lloyd’s register to identify her as Belligerent or neutral. By megaphone, the raider’s captain then intimated his fellow counterpart to stop, while unveiling its artillery and true flag. The cargo was then torpedoed or gunned into oblivion after been warned to evacuate, leaving a chance to the crew. Neutrals were visited by a company that checked the bulk list.

Komet schematics
Blueprint of the Komet

If it was bound for neutral ports, the cargo could resume its journey unmolested, otherwise the process was repeated, crew evacuated and the ship sunk. Eventually raiders also sometimes attacked military vessels. Disguised as a cargo and flying neutral flags and markings or the silhouette of another ship through improvised contraptions. The captain waited until the military ship was close enough to launch an inspection party and unveiled at the last moment its true colours while revealing its artillery hidden behind folding panels, and opening fire asap, even also sometimes launching a torpedo without warning. What generally followed was a short and bloody artillery duel at close range for which the Raider had the advantage of surprise.

German Raiders in 1939

In 1939, facing a lack of ships to launch an effective commerce war, the concept was reactivated with new ships converted, even more heavily armed than in teh first world war. The “Hilfskreuzer” (auxiliary cruisers, generally complemented by “HSK”- Handels Stör Kreuzer, commerce raiders) were one of the trump cards of Admiral Raeder in his strategy. They ships were generally recent, powerful and fast, roomy and adaptable (and equipped) to fake numerous identities. Their armament was obsolete (old cannons salvaged from cruisers of the Hochseeflotte), but their crews were hand-picked and the best in the German Navy. However the results of their campaign was relatively disappointing. One the right are some of these Ships and their stories.

Pinguin Blueprint
Blueprint of the Pinguin, same class as the Atlantis

Just as during the First World War, the German navy turned for use as auxiliary cruisers a number of recent, massive and fast freighters. The changes, made through civilian authorities with civilian engineers and military equipment were sometimes radical, and the vessels in question, apart from speed, had real offensive capabilities, threatening even for cruisers. The aim of the design was to have them mimicking a large array of near-similar or approaching neutral ships, approach other ships, then reveal their true identity.

Such procedure did not include capture but annihilation of the opposing ship, often after allowing the crew to evacuate, by means of 150 mm reformed guns and torpedo tubes. They could also laid mines unsuspected, or repel strafing attacks by their AA artillery, all served by modern fire control systems. For long range reconnaissance they embarked one of two seaplane. Small torpedo crafts tailored to operate also from the ship were another way to deal with protected harbours, extend her reach or catch faster ships.

The results they obtained in operations were generally good. 9 ships (HK1 to HK9) were put into service, keeping their civilian name: Orion, Atlantis, Widder, Thor, Pinguin, Stier, Komet, Kormoran and Michel. Their most active and effective period was 1939-1941: Together they sank 140 ships, a total of 700 000 tons. A score well above other military ships of the Kriegsmarine, and also superior to many U-Bootes. They were feared by allied crews, but in general their captains behaved according to the natural unwritten solidarity rules of sailors at sea. When not gathered to be kept on board, crews of sunk ships were often given food, blankets, navigation instruments or maps and directions.

KMS Orion

The Orion in 1940
KMS Orion in 1940 (bismarck-class.dk)
Launched in 1931 in Hamburg, former SS Kurmark. Requisitioned, armed, equipped and put into service in December 1939. Covers: Dutch Beemsterdjik, Soviet SS Sovet, Japanese Maebasi Maru. Sank 5 ships (41 138 GRT), participated in the destruction of 4 others. Became the gunners training ship Hector in January 1944, then cadet training ship Orion in 1945. Sunk by RAF in Swinemünde April 4, 1945.


Dimensions 148 x 18,60 x 8,20m
Tonnage (Empty/Fully Loaded) 15 700 tons (7021 GT)
Crew 351
Propulsion 1 screw, Blohm & Voss turbine, 4 boilers, 6200 hp = 13,5 kn
Armament 6 x 150mm, 1 x 75mm, 4 x 37mm AA, 4 x 20mm AA, 6 TT 533 mm, 288 mines, 2 planes

KMS Kormoran

Battle between HMAS Sydney and Kormoran
Battle between HMAS Sydney and Kormoran
Probably the most famous German Hilfskreuzer, and corsair of the Second World War. Formerly the bulk carrier Steiermark, it was rebuilt in Kiel in 1938-39, and completed in 1940 under the name of Schiff 41, and a profile resembling Viacheslev Molotov and Japanese Satiko and Kinka Maru (above). She could also quickly be converted in many other disguised. British secret service “Raider-G.” Like any of its kinds, she wore a heavy armament, hidden 150 mm pieces and AA artillery in dismantled parts easy to reassemble very quickly. Two banks of torpedo tubes were hidden in the sides, above the waterline, but the other two were submarine. No radar was provided so she carried Arado 196 for advanced long range recognition, and a single torpedo craft LS3, able to launch two aviation torpedoes. Her cruise in the Pacific lasted 350 days, during which she sank or captured 11 ships, to be eventually tracked down and sunk by the Australian cruiser Sydney (also lost), following a bloody close quarter duel.


Dimensions 164 x 20,20 x 8,50m
Tonnage (Empty/Fully Loaded) 19 900 tons, 8736t GRT
Crew 400
Propulsion 2 screws, 4 diesels Kupp-Germaniawerft, 2 Siemens Schuckert motors, 16 000 hp, 18 kn
Armament 6 x 150mm, 1 x 75mm, 4 x 37AA, 5 x 20mm AA, 6 TT 533 mm, 360 mines, 1LS MBT, 2 planes

KMS Atlantis

Profile of the Atlantis disguised as the Kasii Maru
Launched in 1938 in Bremen. Requisitioned, armed, equipped and returned into service in November 1939; Covers: Freighter MS Goldenfels, Norwegian Knute Nelson, Soviet freighter SS Kim, Japanese Kasii Maru, Dutch Abbekerk. Its 150 mm guns came from the battleship Schliesen. She had 2 Heinkel 114. Sank or captured 22 ships during her career (145 968 GRT), which classed her among the best German Hilfskreuzers. Ended in an unequal duel against the British heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire in the South Atlantic, November 23, 1941.


Dimensions 155 x18.70 x8.70 m ( ft)
Tonnage (Empty/Fully Loaded) 17,600 tons (7862 GT)
Crew 351
Propulsion 1 screw, 2 MAN diesels 6cyl, 7600 hp = 16 kn
Armament 6 x 150, 1 x 75, 2 x 37AA, 4 x 20AA, 6 TT 533 mm, 92 mines, 2 planes

KMS Widder

KMS Widder
KMS Widder
Launched in 1930 in Kiel. Requisitioned, armed, equipped and put into service in September 1939. Also training ship Neumark. Covers: Norwegian SS Narvik, Spain’s Neptuno. Its 150 mm guns came from pre-dreadnought Deutschland. Had 2 Heinkel 114. Sank or captured 10 ships (58 644 GRT) in a 180-day cruise. Survived the war and became the British repair ship Ulysses. Returned to Germany, was used as training ship Fenchenheim. Ran aground on a sandbar near Bergen and was scrapped in situ in 1955.


Dimensions 152 x 18,20 x 8,30 m
Tonnage (Empty/Fully Loaded) 16 800 tons (7851 GT)
Crew 364
Propulsion 1 screw, Blohm & Voss turbine, 4 boilers, 6200 hp = 14 kn
Armament 6x 150mm, 1x 75mm, 4x 37mm AA, 4x 20mm AA, 6 TT 533 mm, 2 planes

KMS Thor

KMS Thor in the south atlantic, 1940
KMS Thor, South Atlantic 1940
Launched in 1939 in Hamburg as SS Santa Cruz. Requisitioned, armed, equipped and put into service in March 1940. Very fast for a cargo ship. Covers: Yugoslav SS Vir. Its 150 mm guns came from the old battleship Deutschland. Known by British intelligence as “Raider E”. Sank or captured 12 ships (96,541 GRT) in her first trip, 10 more in the second, totaling 55,587 GRT. Tied to the supply ship KMS Uckermark in Yokohama November 30, 1942 but exlosed for still unclear reasons. Declared total loss, scrapped in situ afterwards.


Dimensions 122 x 16,70 x 8,10 m
Tonnage (Empty/Fully Loaded) 9200 tons (3862 GT)
Crew 345
Propulsion 1 screw, AEG turbine, 2 boilers La Mont, 6500 hp = 18 kn
Armament 6 x 150mm, 1 x 75mm, 1 x 37mm AA, 4 x 20mm AA, 6 TT 533 mm, 1 plane


Hilfskreuzer on bismarck-class.dk
Documentary duel HMAS Sydney vs Kormoran