HMS Revenge (06)
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2010)|
HMS Revenge at sea, July–August 1940
|Laid down:||22 December 1913 (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Launched:||29 May 1915|
|Commissioned:||1 February 1916|
|Class & type:||Revenge-class battleship|
|Displacement:||28,000 tons standard 31,200 tons max|
|Length:||624 ft (190 m)|
|Beam:||88 ft (27 m), later expanded to 102 ft (31 m)|
|Draught:||28 ft (8.5 m)|
|Propulsion:||Steam turbines, eighteen boilers, four shafts, 40,000 hp (30 MW)|
|Speed:||23 kn (43 km/h)|
HMS Revenge (pennant number 06) was the lead ship of the Revenge class of battleships of the Royal Navy, the ninth to bear the name. She was launched during World War I in 1915. Although the class is often referred to as the Royal Sovereign class, official documents of 1914–1918 refer to it as the Revenge class. She was commissioned in 1916, just before the Battle of Jutland.
First World War
Revenge was present at the battle of Jutland, where she was under the command of Captain E. B. Kiddle, and served in the powerful 1st Battle Squadron, second in line behind Marlborough flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney. The first ship to be engaged by Revenge along with the other ships of the squadron, was the light cruiser, SMS Weisbaden, which had been disabled by the battlecruiser HMS Invincible. Before the Weisbaden sank, she was able to torpedo the Marlborough, which although already damaged, was able to continue in action. Revenge then engaged the leading German battlecruisers which appeared out of the mist, landing five hits on the SMS Derfflinger, two of which caused explosions within the main gun turrets. A single hit was scored on SMS Von der Tann, damaging her superstructure. Finally, Revenge fired her 6-inch batteries against the German 6th and 9th Destroyer Flotillas which had attacked the squadron with torpedoes. Although none of the British ships were hit, in avoiding the incoming torpedoes, the squadron turned away, allowing the German battlecruisers to make good their escape. In the subsequent pursuit, the Marlborough had to reduce her speed due to the earlier torpedo damage, so Admiral Burney transferred his flag to Revenge by means of the destroyer HMS Fearless, although the chase eventually had to be abandoned. Revenge had fired 102 armour piercing shells from her main armament and 87 rounds from her 6-inch guns; she also launched a single 21” torpedo without result and had fired at the Zeppelin L11 with her 3-inch anti-aircraft guns.
The day before the Grand Fleet departed their base to confront the surrendering German High Seas Fleet in Operation ZZ, a visit was made by senior members of the British Royal Family: King George V, Queen Mary and Edward, Prince of Wales. The King and his son visited USS New York, HMS Lion (flagship of the Commander-in-Chief David Beatty, when he commanded the battlecrusiers at the Battle of Jutland), and Revenge, flagship of the Second-in-Command. Queen Mary had tea in Revenge.
In 1919, at Scapa Flow, Admiral Ludwig von Reuter issued the order to the now interned German High Seas Fleet to scuttle the entire fleet of 74 ships to prevent their use by the victorious Allies. After the incident, von Reuter was brought to the quarterdeck of Revenge, flagship of Vice-Admiral Sydney Fremantle and accused of breaching naval honour. Von Reuter replied to the accusation, "I am convinced that any English naval officer, placed as I was, would have acted in the same way." No charges were brought against him.
In January 1920, the 1st Battle Squadron was detached to the Mediterranean due to crises in the region. While there, Revenge supported Greek forces and remained in the Black Sea, due to concerns about the Russian Civil War until July, when she returned to the British Atlantic Fleet.
In 1922, Revenge, with her sister ships Ramillies, Resolution and Royal Sovereign, was again sent to the Mediterranean due to further tension in the area, in no small part due to the forced abdication of King Constantine I of Greece. Revenge was stationed at Constantinople and the Dardanelles throughout her deployment. She rejoined the Atlantic Fleet the following year.
In January 1928 she was paid off for refit at Devonport Dockyard; this included her 3-inch anti-aircraft guns being replaced by 4-inch guns and a control system was installed to direct them from a station on the foremast. Two of the 6-inch guns were removed from the foc’sle deck. She was recommissioned in March 1929 into the British Mediterranean Fleet. A further minor refit in May 1931 added two platforms for the new eight-barrelled 2-pounder pom-pom anti-aircraft guns, although only the starboard set of guns was actually fitted due to a shortage. On 16 July 1935, Revenge was part of the Naval Review of 160 warships at Spithead in celebration of George V's Silver Jubilee. Later that year she was stationed at Alexandria due to potential dangers posed by the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.
In 1936 she was paid off for another refit. She was recommissioned a year later into the 2nd Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet. Early in 1939, her single 4-inch guns were replaced with four twin Mark XVI 4-inch guns and the fire control system was upgraded with a second system being added astern. She finally received the port multiple 2-pounder pom-pom and two four barrelled Vickers .50 machine guns were fitted on either side of the control tower. On 9 August 1939 she was part of another Fleet Review, that was observed by George VI. Revenge was now becoming rather antiquated and slow, but she was still used a great deal throughout the war, being assigned to the North Atlantic Escort Force, together with her sister-ship Resolution.
Second World War
On 3 September 1939 at the start of hostilities, Revenge formed part of the Channel Fleet based at Portland and escorted troop convoys carrying the British Expeditionary Force to France. On 1 October, she was ordered to prepare to take up convoy escort duties in the South Atlantic, because of the threat posed by the German "pocket battleship", Graf Spee; however, on 5 October 1939, in a change of orders, she was attached to the North Atlantic Escort Force based at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fulfilling another urgent need at the same time, Revenge and her sister ship Resolution were to carry gold bullion to Canada, which was needed by the Anglo-French Purchasing Board in New York, to pay for arms bought from the United States. 148 boxes of gold bars, worth a total of £2 million, were loaded onto each battleship at Portland; they departed on 7 October and arrived in Halifax nine days later.
After several convoy escorts, Revenge was again used to transport gold, this time to a value of £10 million, departing from Plymouth on 28 January 1940. On 7 February, she collided with a small British tanker while a convoy was forming up off Halifax; although damaged, she continued as an escort, returning to Halifax on 18 February for repair. On 12 May 1940, she accidentally rammed and sank the Canadian Battle-class trawler HMCS Ypres which was acting as a boom defence vessel at Halifax, although without loss of life. For the duration of the war that she served, whenever Revenge came to Halifax, the crews of other gate ships would make elaborate and exaggerated "Abandon Ship" manoeuvres in mockery. On 30 May, Revenge took part in Operation Fish, the removal of all of the United Kingdom's gold reserves to Canada, in case of invasion, leaving the River Clyde with £40 million worth of bullion on board, bound for Halifax.
On 3 July 1940, while at Plymouth, boarding parties from Revenge took control of the French battleship Paris and the large submarine-cruiser Surcouf, in case their crews decided to return them to Vichy France where they might fall into the hands of the Germans. The first British sailor to board the Surcouf, Leading Seaman Albert Webb, was shot dead by a French officer, who was in turn shot dead by a British officer. On the following day. Revenge resumed Operation Fish, this time with a cargo worth £47 million, repeating this on 11 August with £14.5 million from Greenock.
On 15 September, Revenge arrived in Plymouth where she came under the control of Western Approaches Command, in case of an invasion. If the German amphibious landing, codenamed Operation Sealion, had gone ahead as planned, Revenge would have been the only British capital ship in the English Channel area. Unknown to the British high command, Hitler had ordered that the invasion be postponed indefinitely on 17 September; however in the early hours of 11 October, HMS Revenge formed the main element of Operation Medium, which aimed to bombard invasion transport ships and barges that were still concentrated in the French port of Cherbourg. Revenge, six destroyers and a screen of Motor Gun Boats formed the striking force, while a covering force of three cruisers and six destroyers aimed to prevent German naval forces from interfering. There was a simultaneous air raid by RAF Bomber Command who also dropped flares to illuminate the target. During the 18 minute bombardment, Revenge fired 120 15-inch shells at the harbour while her escorts fired 801 rounds from their 4.7-inch guns. The British force came under accurate fire from German heavy coastal artillery but were able to retire undamaged, Revenge managed to make 21½ knots on the return journey, just faster than her designed maximum speed. On 13 November 1940, she resumed North Atlantic convoy duties, which continued without major incident well into 1941.
In August 1941, following the Atlantic Charter between the United Kingdom and the United States, it was proposed that the four Revenge-class battleships should be sent to bolster Singapore against possible Japanese aggression. Winston Churchill was opposed to this scheme, calling the old battleships "coffin ships", so the newer HMS Prince of Wales and the faster HMS Repulse were sent instead as Force Z; both ships were sunk by Japanese naval bombers on 10 December. Revenge and Royal Sovereign were sent instead to the Indian Ocean for convoy escort duties, arriving in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 31 August to collect a convoy bound for Cape Town and Kilindini in Kenya. She subsequently operated from Trincomalee in Ceylon.
In March 1942, after a refit at Durban which included new radar equipment, Revenge joined the Eastern Fleet as part of 3rd Battle Squadron, based at Addu Atoll which was more secure than Trincomalee. In April 1942, the Fleet's commander, Admiral James Somerville, withdrew his force from the Indian Ocean to avoid contact with a superior Japanese fleet which he narrowly avoided. Thereafter, convoy escort operations were conducted from Kilindini, and there was a further refit in Durban during the autumn. In February 1943, with the rest of the fleet, Revenge participated in Operation Pamphlet, the escort of a convoy carrying the Australian 9th Division back to their country to allow them to be involved in the Pacific theatre. By September 1943, she had returned to home waters. In October 1943, she was withdrawn from operational service due to her very poor condition, being reduced to Reserve status. However, Winston Churchill remarked in a memo that the venerable battleship should be put to better use and so he embarked on Revenge to sail to Malta, as a leg of the journey to the Tehran Conference being held in Iran.
In May 1944, her main armament was removed to provide spare guns for the battleships Ramillies and Warspite, as well as monitors which were to be vital during the bombardment of the beaches of Normandy during Operation Overlord. She spent the rest of the war as part of the stokers' training establishment HMS Imperieuse.
On 8 March 1948 she was placed on the disposal list, being sold for scrap four months later. Some of Revenge's gun turret rack and pinion gearing was reused in the 76 metre diameter Mark I radio telescope built at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, in the mid-1950s.
- Woodward, Steve (13 January 2008). "Revenge Class Battleship - HMS Revenge". http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/. Ships Nostalgia Directory. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
- Switky, Robert (2013), Wealth of an Empire: The Treasure Shipments that Saved Britain and the World, Potomac Books Inc, ISBN 978-1612344966 (Chapter 10)
- Claude Choules, the last living British World War I veteran, served aboard HMS Revenge during the Great War.
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