HMS Malaya

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Malaya about 1919–1921
United Kingdom
NamesakeFederated Malay States
BuilderArmstrong Whitworth, South Tyneside
Laid down20 October 1913
Launched18 March 1915
Commissioned1 February 1916
Decommissioned1 December 1944
Stricken12 April 1948
IdentificationPennant number: 01
Motto Malem Fero Malis ("I bring evil to the evil")
FateSold for scrap, 20 February 1948
General characteristics (as built)
Class and typeQueen Elizabeth-class battleship
Length639 ft 9 in (195 m)
Beam90 ft 7 in (27.6 m)
Draught33 ft (10.1 m)
Installed power
Propulsion4 shafts; 2 steam turbine sets
Speed24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Range5,000 nmi (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement1,217 (1919)

HMS Malaya was one of five Queen Elizabeth-class battleships built for the Royal Navy during the 1910s. Shortly after commissioning in early 1916, she participated in the Battle of Jutland of the First World War as part of the Grand Fleet. In the Second World War, Malaya served mostly in escort duties in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. She was withdrawn from service at the end of 1944, and sold for scrap in 1948.

Design and description[edit]

The Queen Elizabeth-class ships were designed to form a fast squadron for the fleet that was intended to operate against the leading ships of the opposing battleline. This required maximum offensive power and a speed several knots faster than any other battleship to allow them to defeat any type of ship.[1][2]

Malaya had a length overall of 639 feet 9 inches (195 m), a beam of 90 feet 7 inches (27.6 m) and a deep draught of 33 feet (10.1 m). She had a normal displacement of 32,590 long tons (33,113 t) and displaced 33,260 long tons (33,794 t) at deep load. She was powered by two sets of Parsons steam turbines, each driving two shafts using steam from 24 Babcock & Wilcox boilers. The turbines were rated at 75,000 shaft horsepower (56,000 kW) and intended to reach a maximum speed of 25 knots (46.3 km/h; 28.8 mph). The ship had a range of 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km; 5,754 mi) at a cruising speed of 12 knots (22.2 km/h; 13.8 mph). Her crew numbered 1,217 officers and ratings in 1919.[3]

15-inch guns of 'A' and 'B' turrets trained to starboard, 6-inch guns in casemates below, c. 1920

The Queen Elizabeth class was equipped with eight breech-loading (BL) 15-inch (381 mm) Mk I guns in four twin-gun turrets, in two superfiring pairs fore and aft of the superstructure, designated 'A', 'B', 'X', and 'Y' from front to rear. Twelve of the fourteen BL 6-inch (152 mm) Mk XII guns were mounted in casemates along the broadside of the vessel amidships; the remaining pair were mounted on the forecastle deck near the aft funnel and were protected by gun shields. The anti-aircraft (AA) armament were composed of two quick-firing (QF) 3-inch (76 mm) 20 cwt Mk I[Note 1] guns. The ships were fitted with four submerged 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes, two on each broadside.[4]

Malaya was completed with two fire-control directors fitted with 15-foot (4.6 m) rangefinders. One was mounted above the conning tower, protected by an armoured hood, and the other was in the spotting top above the tripod foremast. Each turret was also fitted with a 15-foot rangefinder. The main armament could be controlled by 'B' turret as well. The secondary armament was primarily controlled by directors mounted on each side of the compass platform on the foremast once they were fitted in April 1917.[5]

The waterline belt of the Queen Elizabeth class consisted of Krupp cemented armour (KC) that was 13 inches (330 mm) thick over the ships' vitals. The gun turrets were protected by 11 to 13 inches (279 to 330 mm) of KC armour and were supported by barbettes 7–10 inches (178–254 mm) thick. The ships had multiple armoured decks that ranged from 1 to 3 inches (25 to 76 mm) in thickness. The main conning tower was protected by 13 inches of armour. After the Battle of Jutland, 1 inch of high-tensile steel was added to the main deck over the magazines and additional anti-flash equipment was added in the magazines.[6]

The ship was fitted with flying-off platforms mounted on the roofs of 'B' and 'X' turrets in 1918, from which fighters and reconnaissance aircraft could launch. Exactly when the platforms were removed is unknown, but no later than Malaya's 1934–1936 reconstruction.[7]

Construction and career[edit]

First World War[edit]

Malaya was built by Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth and Company at High Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, and launched in March 1915. She was named in honour of the Federated Malay States in British Malaya, whose government paid for her construction.

Malaya served in Rear-Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas's 5th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet. She took part in the Battle of Jutland, on 31 May 1916.[8] She first engaged the German battlecruisers and targeted the battlecruiser SMS Seydlitz, scoring numerous hits with her 15-inch (381 mm) main guns.[9] As the German battleline intercepted the 5th Battle Squadron, Malaya was hit by seven 12-inch (305 mm) shells from multiple German battleships.[10] As 5th Battle Squadron retreated to join the rest of the Grand Fleet, she was hit by an additional battleship sized projectile for a total of eight hits, taking major damage and heavy crew casualties. A total of 65 men died, either in the battle or later due to their injuries. However, her armour held up, surviving nowhere near critical condition. Among the wounded was Able Seaman Willie Vicarage, notable as one of the first men to receive facial reconstruction using plastic surgery and the first to receive radical reconstruction via the "tubed pedicule" technique pioneered by Sir Harold Gillies.[11] Uniquely among the ships at the battle, HMS Malaya flew the red-white-black-yellow ensign of the Federated Malay States.[12]

Other than Jutland, and the inconclusive Action of 19 August, her service during the First World War mostly consisted of routine patrols and training in the North Sea.

Between the wars[edit]

On 17 November 1922 Malaya carried the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed VI, from Istanbul into exile on Malta. In August–September 1938 she served in the port of Haifa during the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine.[13]

Malaya received a major refit in 1927-29 with funnels trunked and bulges fitted. Second major refit/reconstruction at Devonport from Oct. 1934 to Dec. 1936. Middle Deck armor increased to 5" over magazines and 3.5" over engine rooms. AA armament increase to 8x4" Mk XVI (4x2) and 16-2pdr pompoms (2x8) Torpedo tubes removed and cross-catapult and hangers added amidships. [14]

Second World War[edit]

Malaya departing New York after repairs, 9 July 1941

Malaya served in the Mediterranean in 1940, escorting convoys and operating against the Italian fleet.

Malaya's second big action of her career, and her first of World War II, was the Battle of Calabria, on 9 June 1940. British forces engaged an Italian fleet, including the battleships Conte di Cavour and Giulio Cesare. Malaya fired several main battery rounds against the Italians while under fire from Conte di Cavour.[15] Through her actions, Malaya helped to chase off all of the Italian warships with no damage received or hits scored, though most of the heavy lifting was carried out by her sister ship Warspite.[16]

She shelled Genoa in February 1941 as part of Operation Grog but due to a crew error, fired a 15-inch armour-piercing shell into the south-east corner of the nave of Genoa Cathedral. The shell failed to detonate.[17]

Armour-piercing shell – with cap (left) fired on 9 February 1941 into the nave of Genoa Cathedral

On 7 March 1941, while escorting convoy SL 67, Malaya encountered the German capital ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau that were conducting the Operation Berlin raid which targeted Allied convoys. By her presence she forced them to withdraw, although a U-boat attack aiming to sink Malaya inflicted some damage on the convoy.[18]

Later that month Malaya was escorting convoy SL 68. On the evening of 20 March 1941, about 250 miles west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, Malaya was hit by a torpedo from U-106. Damaged on the port side, and with a 7 degree list due to flooding, Malaya was forced to leave the convoy and make for port, escorted by the corvette Crocus. She reached Trinidad safely on 29 March.[19][20] After temporary repairs were made, she continued to the New York Navy Yard, where she was docked for four months.[21] During that time, personnel from the ship ferried ten Banff-class sloops to Britain.

On 9 July, under the command of Captain Cuthbert Coppinger, Malaya left New York on trials and steamed to Halifax, Nova Scotia to provide protection for an urgent fast convoy. No ships were lost, and Malaya arrived in Rosyth on 28 July. Thereafter she escorted convoys from the United Kingdom to Malta and Cape Town until summer 1943.[12]

Malaya was placed in reserve at the end of 1943. At this time her entire secondary 6-inch armament was removed and her anti-aircraft armament was enhanced. Between 15 and 17 May 1944, Malaya was used in Loch Striven as a target ship for inert Highball bouncing bomb prototypes, one of which punched a hole in the ship's side.[22] She was reactivated just before the Normandy landings to act as a reserve bombardment battleship.[21]


Malaya was finally withdrawn from all service at the end of 1944 and became an accommodation ship for a torpedo school.[23] Sold on 20 February 1948 to Metal Industries, Limited she arrived at Faslane on 12 April 1948 for scrapping. The first watch bell was refitted and presented to the Perak Council in Malaya, and was hung in the Council Chamber. The furthermost bell is located in the East India Club, and the second watch bell was handed to the Victoria Institution on 12 September 1947, before being handed over to the Royal Malaysian Navy in 2007.[24]


  1. ^ "Cwt" is the abbreviation for hundredweight, 20 cwt referring to the weight of the gun.


  1. ^ Burt 2012b, p. 277
  2. ^ Parkes, pp. 560–561
  3. ^ Burt 2012b, pp. 284–285, 287
  4. ^ Burt 2012b, pp. 284–285, 288–289
  5. ^ Raven & Roberts, p. 20–21, 30
  6. ^ Raven & Roberts, pp. 21, 26
  7. ^ Raven & Roberts, pp. 30, 217, 219
  8. ^ "21 June 1916 – Paul to Ted". 1 June 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  9. ^ "HMS Malaya Crew List". Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  10. ^ The Battle of Jutland - Clash of the Titans - Part 1 (Beatty vs Hipper), retrieved 29 March 2023
  11. ^ Fisher, David (2009). "Plastic Fantastic". New Zealand Listener. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  12. ^ a b "HMS Malaya". Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  13. ^ The Royal Navy and the Palestine Patrol By Ninian Stewart. Routledge. 2002. ISBN 9780714652108. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  14. ^ Coway's All The Worlds fighting Ships 1922-1946
  15. ^ "Action off Calabria". Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  16. ^ "Lots of Bark but No Bite - WW II Naval Battle of Calabria". warhistoryonline. 20 August 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  17. ^ "Obituary: Commander Henry Hatfield". Daily Telegraph. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  18. ^ Rohwer 2005, p. 62.
  19. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "HMS Malaya (01)". Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  20. ^ Donnelly, Luke (27 April 2022). "Family pays tribute to 'loving' Royal Navy D-Day veteran from Bognor after death aged 97". SussexLive. Retrieved 27 April 2022.
  21. ^ a b "HMS Malaya (01) of the Royal Navy - British Battleship of the Queen Elizabeth class - Allied Warships of WWII -". Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  22. ^ Flower, Stephen (2002). A Hell of a Bomb: The Bombs of Barnes Wallis and How They Won the War. NPI Media Group. p. 320. ISBN 978-0752423869.
  23. ^ Ballantyne, Iain (2001). Warspite warships of the royal navy. Pen & sword books Ltd. p. 215. ISBN 0-85052-779-1.
  24. ^ "The Victoria Institution Web Page: The Presentation of the H.M.S. Malaya Watch Bell". Retrieved 9 July 2019.


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