HMS Royalist (89)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Royalist.
HMS Royalist 1943 IWM A 19015.jpg
Royalist anchored at Greenock, in Scotland, in September 1943
Career (UK)
Class and type: Dido-class light cruiser
Name: HMS Royalist
Builder: Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company (Greenock, Scotland)
Laid down: 21 March 1940
Launched: 30 May 1942
Commissioned: 10 September 1943
Recommissioned: 1967
Decommissioned: November 1967
Out of service: Loaned to the Royal New Zealand Navy from 1956 to 1966
Reclassified: In reserve from 1946 to 1956
Identification: Pennant number: 89
Fate: Scrapped, Sold to Nissho Co, Japan, in November 1967. Left Auckland under tow to Osaka on 31 December 1967
Career (New Zealand)
Name: HMNZS Royalist
Commissioned: 1956
Decommissioned: 1966
Out of service: Returned to Royal Navy control 1967
General characteristics
Displacement: 5,950 tons standard
7,200 tons full load
Length: 485 ft (148 m) pp
512 ft (156 m) oa
Beam: 50.5 ft (15.4 m)
Draught: 14 ft (4.3 m)
Installed power: 62,000 shp (46 MW)
Propulsion: Parsons geared turbines
Four shafts
Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Speed: 32.25 knots (60 km/h)
Range: 2,414 km (1,500 miles) at 30 knots
6,824 km (4,240 miles) at 16 knots
1,100 tons fuel oil
Complement: 530
Armament: Original configuration:
Armor: Original configuration:
  • Belt: 3 inch,
  • Deck: 1 inch,
  • Magazines: 2 inch,
  • Bulkheads: 1 inch.

HMS Royalist was a Dido-class light cruiser of the Bellona subgroup[Note 1] of the Royal Navy. She was a modified Dido design with only four turrets but improved anti-aircraft armament. She was built by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Greenock with the keel being laid down on 21 March 1940. She was launched on 30 May 1942, and commissioned 10 September 1943.

Royal Navy career[edit]

A Supermarine Seafire of 807 Naval Air Squadron Fleet Air Arm flying above HMS Royalist during a training flight from the Royal Naval Air Station at Dekhelia, near Alexandria, in Egypt, in February 1945.

Following her commissioning, Royalist spent several months working up, during which time she underwent repairs for trial defects and for alterations and additions. Amongst these were modifications for service as a carrier flagship.[1] In March 1944 Royalist joined the Home Fleet and served for a short period in the Arctic theatre. In this capacity she took part in Operation Tungsten, the carrier raid against the German battleship Tirpitz whilst the Tirpitz was in Norway. Royalist was then ordered to the Mediterranean to support the landings in the south of France (Operation Dragoon) in August 1944, as part of the escort carrier squadron TF88.1. On 15 September, accompanied by HMS Teazer, she sank the transports KT4 and KT26 off Cape Spatha. She was then stationed in the Aegean Sea until late 1944, when she was ordered to the East Indies. By April 1945 she was with the 21st Escort Carrier Squadron as Flagship, supporting the Rangoon landings (Operation Dracula), and the following month was part of a force that unsuccessfully attempted to intercept a Japanese cruiser and destroyer evacuating troops from the Andaman Islands. For the remainder of the war she covered the carrier raids against targets in the East Indies and Sumatra.

Scottish author Alistair MacLean served on Royalist during the Second World War, and used his experiences as background for his acclaimed first novel HMS Ulysses as well as for some of his subsequent works.

Royal New Zealand Navy career[edit]

HMNZS Royalist at the Devonport Naval Base, 1956

Royalist was withdrawn from the East Indies after the conclusion of hostilities, and returned home to Naval Reserve. In 1954 she began a major refit which was completed in April 1956. The modernisation of the Royalist was expected to be followed by similar upgrades to the other three improved Dido class cruisers. The Dido's were intended to be the most substantially updated war built cruisers, as the view in the 1943-49 period was the 5.25 gun was more suitable and easier to develop to provide a DP capability in the 1950's and was even intended to rearm the Colony class cruisers, because it required far less space and volume than 6 inch mounts.[2] The upgraded 5.25 inch gunnery and radar systems were seen as providing hot war capability, .[3] However the excellent performance of the RN 6 inch gun cruisers in providing shore bombardment, in the Korean war, vitally, when McArthur landed at Inchon in 1950 and the long range of the Colony class cruisers, led to a decision not to reconstruct more Dido's, and leave Royalist a orphan, and give limited refits to the Colony class cruisers Gambia and Bermuda which machinery was more easily refitted and somewhat automated. The Royalists reconstruction indicated furthur Dido reconstructions would need new boilers and turbines.[4]

The ship was handed over to the Royal New Zealand Navy on 9 July 1956. When Captain Phipps went to take command of the Royalist in 1955, New Zealand diplomat Frank Corner was shocked to find that Phipps agreed that the Royalist was a white elephant and completely unsuitable for use by the RNZN in the Pacific; she had limited range so could not get as far as Tahiti without refuelling. The British Treasury had objected to the extra expense of renovating the ship . "Then Whitehall thought of New Zealand!"[5] However First Lord Mountbatten disagreed, publicly defending Royalist as the modern modern British cruiser in Auckland when it arrived in 1956 [6] and regarded Phipps as inexperienced and unsuitable.[7] The Royalist would, in fact have been reactivated for Suez service, regardless, as essential for the RN in Musketeer, its modernization, for Aircraft direction of RN carrier fighters and bombers, and AW, communication and CIWS was ideal for likely future operations of the RN Carriers focused on the Indian Ocean and SE Asia till 1971. Auckland and the RNZN base was the logical logistics base to operate and maintain Royalist.,[8] NZ was used to the Dido and the most loyal ally. Royalist was perfect name for a NZ and the RNZN warship then, if not NZ Diplomats like Corner who rejected colonialism and priority given to traditional defense relations, ahead of the UN, for doubtful regional and economic benefits The fact is that the Type 12 , that Phipps wanted were ordered for the RNZN early in 1957, was even more short ranged.

After refitting, she was reequipped with new equipment for her role as an AA and AD escort ship for carriers, and 5.25-inch rather than the usual 6-inch (or 4-inch) guns. However RN and British Mod documents recently released show the Royalists refit was to prepare it for all-out hot wars and high-level gun engagement of shadowers whereas the British colony class frigates and Belfast were modernised only for colonial visits and shore bombardment. The Royalists complement was 600 against the 550 of the Bellona, and with extra equipment the larger crew had to be accommodated in less space. This was because the all the Royalists turrets were manned where the British Colony and Town class cruisers in the 1950s usually operated with a crew of only 650 and with gun crews for only one of their three main turrets. Fully manned with a crew of a 1000 a Colony or Town cruiser would have been just as crowded and fetid as the Royalist.

The transfer of the Royalist to the New Zealand was partly a bookkeeping manoeuvre, as the RNZN was assumed by the British chiefs and Government to be an extension of the RN and almost automatically follow British command. Around 25% of the officers on the Royalist were RN officers on loan or exchange, as were many of the specialist ratings and, the RNZN officers on the cruiser were usually more junior and had lengthy training with the RN in the UK. Even on the Royalists final deployment in 1965 on Confrontation patrols in SE Asia the higher rank officer positions still included many RN and RAN officers [9] ). In the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force many high positions in 1956 were held by NZ-born subjects, including some in relation to the Mediterranean . NZ was used to operating Dido class cruisers and substantial stocks of 5.25 ammunition remained in Europe for the Vanguard and new 5.25 shore mountings for defence of Gibraltar.

New Zealand prime minister Sidney Holland in private correspondence with British PM Anthony Eden approved the Royalists use in Middle East Conflicts in 1956 as long as the New Zealand public didn't find out as documented by leading Cambridge and US Historians Correlli Barnett and Kyle.[10] where her role could have been protecting the British fleet against Israeli Mystere jets if Britain was supporting Jordan against Israel (Cordage) rather than any use against Egypt (Musketeer).[11] The UK government didn't remove, Holland's letters and phone data from the records,[12] and released them and it was the view of the RN and the First Lord Earl Mountbatten that that NZ was an active and knowing party to the action, and Phipps was too inexperienced and responsive to uninformed and junior NZ diplomats[citation needed] After working up in UK waters, the Royalist was operational with the British fleet in the Mediterranean as the fleet built up with the possibility of action against Nasser and the Soviet Equipped Egyptian air force. The idea that would have been used against the Israeli Air Force may have been the information originally supplied to the RNZN, but is unlikely. The Royalist was intended to be mainly a radar picket and aircraft direction ship for the RAF Canberras and RN Carrier based Seahawks and Sea Venoms. The Royalist had the standard RN long range airwarning 960 radar carried by other British cruisers and carriers in the area but Royalist was somewhat better equipped for aircraft direction than the other cruisers and destroyers in the area. The Royalist had a rather more accurate and reliable MK 6 275 radar for the direction of its 5.25 guns than the older version used on other British cruiser or their secondary MRS1 4 inch directors. The British carrier Eagle did have a good earlier US sourced 275 and the backup long range and over land 982/983 radar combination also used by the other carriers but the 982 radar on the carriers was still somewhat experimental. After hostilities with Egypt commenced under the false pretext of the arranged invasion by Israel of Sinai and Egypt's counter move. The international outrage caused Holland to reverse his support for UK and in some eyes to establish NZ independence by calling for Captain Peter Phipps to withdraw from operations against Egypt and bombardment duties it was scheduled to conduct with a Daring squadron. However Neilland states the NZ Cruiser 'Black Swan'(sic) was often seen "[13] The other RN cruiser in the area HMS Jamaica had WW2 AW/AD and it was days till, modernised sister, HMS Ceylon, recommissioned a month earlier [14] assumed the picket having given 25 minutes, 6 inch fire support to the landing at Port Said on 31-10.[15] It is unclear whether Phipps immediately complied completely or whether the Royalist continued to assist the RN fleet in a passive role with aircraft direction and air-warning [16] an apparent non decision,[17] which was probably a continuation of support for kith and Kin through 'thick and thin' [18] with maximum deniability in the face of NZ Foreign Service and the NZ Opp view that NZ faced a significant risk of being tried for aggression with the UK and France before the UN Security Council.[19] Much of the Soviet-supplied Badgers and Migs of the Egyptian Air Force were still intact and a threat to the RN fleet. A RNZN radar operators on the ship in the Med, insist that it was heavily involved in the action [20] In the 2000s the New Zealand Labour Government and the RNZN saw those personnel were awarded battle honours for war service in the Mediterranean. The Royalists' log for the crucial days of the Suez War was destroyed at the time - and the entire truth is not knowable.

In early 1957, Royalist was involved in exercises with the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne.[21]

In 1962, the still joint crewed RNZN/RAN/RN Royalist suffered serious damage proceeding at high speed in rough sea conditions through the Tasman to get to a six test series between the Wallabies and All Blacks at Eden Park.[citation needed] In November 1965, she suffered a breakdown when her boilers became contaminated with salt water; she was towed for a short time, but after the ships' engineering made repairs she was able to return to Auckland under her own steam.[22]

Decommissioning and fate[edit]

Royalist was paid off on 4 June 1966. After eleven years in the RNZN, Royalist reverted to Royal Navy control in 1967. She was sold for scrap to the Nissho Co, Japan, in November 1967 and was towed from Auckland to Osaka on 31 December 1967.


  1. ^ The Bellona sub-group were also known as Dido group 2


  1. ^ Mason,
  2. ^ D. Muffin. AA to AA. The Fiji's Turn Full Circle in Warship 2010. London and N.Freidman. British Cruisers. Two World wars and After. Seaforth. (2010)London.
  3. ^ E. Grove. The RN since 1815. A New Short History. Palgrave MacMillan (2005)
  4. ^ N. Friedman. British Cruisers. Two World Wars and After. Seaforth. (2010)Friedman indicates the Didos reconstructed would have been Diadem and two of the original class, probably Euralyus and Cleopatra.
  5. ^ Unofficial Channels: Letters between Alister McIntosh and Foss Shanahan, George Laking and Frank Corner 1946-1966 edited by Ian McGibbon, page 186 (1999, Victoria University Press, Wellington NZ) ISBN 0-86473-365-8 and Ties of Blood and Empire:New Zealand’s Involvement in Middle East Defence and the Suez Crisis 1947-57 by Malcolm Templeton, page 124 (1994, Auckland University Press, Auckland NZ) ISBN 1-86940-097-6
  6. ^ RNZ.Yesterdays.Sat Evening.NZ Sound Archives
  7. ^ Unofficial Channels.(Commentary) McGibbon ed(99)
  8. ^ The UK Treasury and the RN was always keen where tenable,up to the Thatcher era to transfer to NZ the cost of refit cost blow outs or repairing serious action damage, often when, if unavoidable, UK would have paid the cost of refits and operating for 6-10yrs, eg offer HMS Lincoln (1973),Yarmouth(1976) and Dido(1981) Info supplied NZDF, circa 86 to writer on ship offers RN/USN
  9. ^ C. Pugsley. From Emergency to Confrontation. The NZ Armed Forces in Malaysia and Borneo 1949-66. OUP (2003) NZ/Au ,
  10. ^ Correlli Barnett. The Verdict of Peace. Britain between Yesterday and the Future. MacMillan. (2001)London, p487 ; Keith Kyle. Suez. St Martins Press. (1991) NY, p 159 and T Earys. The Commonwealth Connection and Suez. (1964)OUP , p 15-16, 60
  11. ^ Ties of Blood and Empire: New Zealand’s Involvement in Middle East Defence and the Suez Crisis 1947-57 by Malcolm Templeton, pages 130-1 (1994, Auckland University Press, Auckland NZ) ISBN 1-86940-097-6
  12. ^ ADM 116/ 6097 14-8-56
  13. ^ Furthur GFS by heavier than 4.5 guns was stopped by C in C Med order 6-11-56 cited by R. Neillands. A Fighting Retreat. British Empire.1947-97. Hodder & Stoughton. (1996) London, 313
  14. ^ P.Catterall ed. MacMillan Diaries 1950-57. MacMillan. (2003) London states that as of Ch Exch, H.MacMillan asked the Admiralty on 5-8-56 to make all old cruisers they could find available for service in the Mediterranean
  15. ^ Ltd A. Briggs, Communication officer,Ceylon. IMPWMuseum audio
  16. ^ K.Kyle. Suez. 1991, p394-95 considers Holland and the NZ cabinet, officially ordered a withdrawal from operations, but allowed the cruiser to stay with the Operation Musketeer fleet, as " there was insufficient time for a decision not to withdraw."(quote) <Keith Kyle. Suez. 1991, p 395
  17. ^ K. Kyle, p394 ,
  18. ^ Holland-Eden 56
  19. ^ Kyle, p 394
  20. ^ phone interviews mid 1990s,NZ with Royalist Radar crews (56-65), and on the return voyage to New Zealand via South Africa Captain Phipps told the crew they deserved the recognition given to RN personnel for their involvement in the incident.
  21. ^ "HMAS Melbourne (II)". Sea Power Centre. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  22. ^ Howard, Grant (1981). The Navy in New Zealand: An Illustrated History. Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed. pp. 101–106. ISBN 0-589-01355-6. 

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