HMS Royalist (89)
Royalist anchored at Greenock, in Scotland, in September 1943
|Class and type:||Dido-class light cruiser|
|Builder:||Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company (Greenock, Scotland)|
|Laid down:||21 March 1940|
|Launched:||30 May 1942|
|Commissioned:||10 September 1943|
|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|
|Out of service:||Returned to Royal Navy control 1967|
|Beam:||50.5 ft (15.4 m)|
|Draught:||14 ft (4.3 m)|
|Installed power:||62,000 shp (46 MW)|
|Speed:||32.25 knots (60 km/h)|
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. Her motto was "Surtout Loyal", which translates to 'Loyal above all'.
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. 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 failed to join the Battle of the Malacca Strait where five Royal Navy destroyers successfully intercepted the Japanese cruiser Haguro and the destroyer Kamikaze evacuating troops from Port Blair in 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.
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 four other Dido- class cruisers in the December 1951 program, HMS Phoebe, HMS Sirius (to start in April 1954), HMS Diadem (in June 1955) and finally, HMS Cleopatra (in November 1955). The 1952 program called for the last two Didos' reboilering, for nuclear protection. Cleopatra (RN Reserve fleet flagship 55-6)  and Diadem did receive, a limited update with 14,40mm Mk 5/7 std, 1950s RN AA mounts.The Diadem(Babur)1956-7 refit being financed by US,MDAP funding  for transfer to Pakistan. The Didos were intended to be the most substantially updated war-built cruisers, as the view in the 1943-49 period was the 5.25 inch gun was more suitable and easier to develop to provide a dual purpose capability in the 1950s and was even intended to rearm the Crown Colony-class cruisers, because it required far less space and volume than 6-inch mounts. The upgraded 5.25 inch gunnery and radar systems were seen as providing hot war capability. However the excellent performance of the Royal Navy's 6 inch gun cruisers in providing shore bombardment in the Korean war, vitally when McArthur landed at Inchon in 1950, the longer range of the Town-class cruisers, and in particular, the 1955 decision to put into reserve, the last battleship, HMS Vanguard, which with a secondary 5.25 inch armament had been planned to lead the Dido cruiser squadron in anti-Sverdlov cruiser actions, meant the last, RN cruisers approved for long refits, in 1955-56, Bermuda, Gambia, Belfast and Swiftsure maintained, 6 inch, Mk 23 turrets.
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. While in late 1954 the RN had mothballed the last operational 5.25 units Euraylus and HMS Vanguard, both Mk 23 and Mk 26, 6 inch turrets weighed 170 tons, twice that of the Royalists(94 ton) 5.25 and took resources and space incompatible with modern warships. In 1944 24/25 of the RN Lords decided to abandon 6 inch gun cruisers for the new 5.25 gun N2 cruiser with Automatic Mk 3, 5.25 armament in a Colony size hull and new 62,000hp, economy machinery for range and 28 kts, vetoed only by First Sea Lord Cunningham, who led the Dido cruisers,HMS Cleopatra & Euralyus against the Italian fleet in 1943. Phipps claimed Royalist range was so limited the cruiser could not get as far as Tahiti without refueling. However the Type 12 frigates approved by Phipps had less endurance and it would have been more logical to order longer range diesel versions of the Type 12, ie the Type 11 or T41. The improved T12 Leander ordered by the RNZN essentially was essentially a GP AA/AW picket ships for RN aircraft carriers with much the same functions as Royalist, anyway. The NZ Navy Board which 3 professional members were RN officers, supported the retention of a modernised cruiser force, and supported the presentation of the loan of the cruiser to PM Holland. Phipps demanded some improvements, while in command of HMS Bellona as an accommodation ship and refused to accept the cruiser, until 3 weeks later than intended by the RN Dockyard until alterations were made, to the habitability of the cruiser, notably more showers, and some rectification of ventilation problems, but with extra electronic equipment, the cruiser had no weight margin, and the priority of being ready for possible action in the Mediterranean, meant the dockyard would not install the pre wetting, ABC spraydown equipment, specifically requested by the RNZN in 1955, the dockyard, simply said installing spraydown to wash nuclear fallout was possible, and provided, a wall size copy of the plan of the prewetting system under installation in HMNZS Sheffield 1956-7(Admiralty DNC 3/56 No 8/647), a complex system of pumps and tubing fed from 4 seacocks and suggested the NZ dockyard could do the job. The Royalist had extra communication systems and AIO (Action Information Office) fitted in 1943-45 to 13 other Town, Fiji and Minotaur class cruisers  doubling the effectiveness of its armament in the RN postwar assessment  but less space for senior ratings and petty office, than RNZN's earlier Dido cruisers. The ratings on Royalist, wrote to the Auckland Star, the 'Royalist had not been modernised, didn't have bunks, just 4 millions pound of new electronic junk, crowded into a old cruiser', designed for operations off the Koala Peninsular  The concern of NZ servicemen and Phipps was about living conditions, recruitment and steady funding of a programme of new frigates. The Royal Navy staff were concerned about the RNZN equipping itself to aid the RN in global and regional wars in the next 5 years and rejected the luxury of long term perspective. The 'provincial' NZ Foreign service viewed the British Treasury as simply opposing the refit of an obsolescent cruiser, which in their definition must be useless . "Then Whitehall thought of New Zealand!" However First Lord Mountbatten disagreed, publicly defending Royalist as the modern modern British cruiser in Auckland when it arrived in 1956  and regarded Phipps as inexperienced and unsuitable. Mountbatten viewed New Zealand's Cabinet and officials, as out of touch, with the Cold War need, to maintain, immediately ready, broad based naval and defense capabilities and frequently visited NZ to try and maintain control Royalist essentially incorporated the new fire control and radars fitted to frigates being commissioned in 1956-58, in doubled up form, in a cruiser size hull with room for processing electronic data and communications and large enough for speed and seakeeping in the Pacific and considerable surface and anti air defense. Its close in air defense of 40mm CIWS was sharper than other RN warships and used std RN 40mm ammunition. The RN whole cruiser reconstruction and construction was ended in 1955-1957 (other than finishing 3 old Tigers). Britain could not afford escorts larger than destroyers in addition to its carrier and frigate force but the Royalists 5.25 DP guns, fitted to battleships and AA cruisers were more modern and effective than those of other 1950s RN cruisers. Royalist may have been reactivated for Suez service, regardless, as its modernization, for AA/AW and particularly AD support of RN carrier fighters and strike aircraft was ideal for Musketeer and likely future operations of the RN Carriers focused on the Indian Ocean and Singapore. Auckland was the logical logistics base for Royalist., NZ was used to the Dido cruisers and a loyal ally. Royalist was perfect name for a NZ and the RNZN warship then, if not for 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 Type 12 frigates, that Phipps wanted were ordered for the RNZN early in 1957, proved more short-ranged, and the Royalist transit speed to escort Pacific convoys was 18 knots, compared with the Type 12s ability to just cover the leg from Suva to Honolulu, at low, most economical speed and, it was arguable the traditional cruiser role in trade defense, against Russian cruisers and raiders was still relevant, and the first priority to the Royal Navy First Sea Lord, Admiral McGrigor in 1955, along with providing effective airwarning and aircraft direction for the RAN aircraft carriers  rather than the questionable submarine threat.
After refitting, she was re-equipped with new equipment for her role as an AA and AD escort ship for carriers, retaining 5.25-inch, as more powerful high level AA and surface weapons rather than the usual 4-inch (or 4.5-inch) guns. However RN and British Defence documents released under the 30 year rule, show the Royalists refit was to prepare it for all-out hot wars and high-level gun engagement of shadowers  whereas the Crown Colony class cruisers and Belfast were modernised 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 Crown 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.
In transferring, Royalist to the New Zealand, the Royal Navy assumed the RNZN to be an extension of the RN and, the junior New Zealand service and its Government would 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 Royalist's final deployment in 1965 on Confrontation patrols in SE Asia the higher rank officer positions still included many RN and RAN officers  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 in reserve, until 1960 and new 5.25 shore mountings for defence of Gibraltar. The four Modernised 5.25 RP10 turrets, firing at a max 8-10rpm, potentially a total of 72-80rpm more reliably than the new RN Tiger class cruisers, in the main intended new roles under the South East Asian Command of AA and support of amphibious operations by the new RN Commando Carriers.
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. 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). The UK government didn't remove, Holland's letters and phone data from the records, and released them and it was the view of the RN and the First Lord Earl Mountbatten that NZ was an active and knowing party to the action, directed against Nasser, which was spelt out at UK Cabinet meetings attended by Mountbatten  as well as reopening the canal and Phipps was too inexperienced and responsive to uninformed NZ officials and ministers, who failed to see conventional, Cold war, hard power was necessary  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 secondary need to provide early AW/AD against the use of new French strike aircraft supplied by Israel to France was the main reason for the insistence on convincing Holland to retain the Royalist in the Med by the RN and the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Hailsham, to his PM A.Eden, ADM 116/6077, min 22/10/56  to check the possibility of Israel threatening the joint task force, should Israel decide to extend its operation to invade Britain's, Arab ally, Jordan, but it's unlikely, if not Hailsham's and the RNs (questionable) ) view that Israel AF had better crew capability than Egyptians air force, Badger, Migs and 40mm AA units and demanded the best early AW for the Task Force. However the 'quicksilver' Hailsham by that date was doubtless aware of the brewing Soviet and American opposition to UK intervention and would have felt any extra early warning, vital. The Royalist was intended to be mainly a radar picket and aircraft direction ship for the RAF Canberra and RN Carrier based Seahawk and Sea Venom. The Royalist had the standard RN long range air warning 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 more effective, medium range DP MK 6 275 radar for its 5.25 guns than the older versions used on other British cruisers or their short range MRS1/8 DP 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 used by the other RN carriers but 982 was still somewhat experimental, Royalist offered the most effective early air warning and communications,in 1956-7  100km offshore, where carriers couldn't be risked. 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 " 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  assumed the picket having given 25 minutes, 6 inch fire support to the landing at Port Said on 31-10. 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. K.Kyle. 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)  an apparent non decision, which was probably a continuation of support for kith and kin through 'thick and thin'  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. Much of the Soviet-supplied Badgers and Migs of the Egyptian Air Force were still intact and a threat to the RN fleet. RNZN radar operators on the ship in the Med, insist that it was heavily involved in the action  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. 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. The cruiser made two shore bombardment missions in 1957-8 during the Malaysian Emergency against suspected terrorist areas in SE Johore firing about 240 5.25 rounds In AA exercises with the British Far East fleet in 1956-57, Royalist out performed the RN Town cruisers shooting down 5 jet Meteor unmanned targets and many towed targets, usually on opening fire
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.The cruiser operated with the British Far East fleet, in three tours of duty in 1963, 1964 & 1965, during the Confrontation. From mid 1963, reports by the Royalists, Captains note that one of the two Mk 6/275 HALADCTs are often unservicable, as is often 1/2 STAAGs and the ships hull and lower structure, is marginal, requiring constant work, painting ( an extra Asian workforce is employed) due to the construction of the cruiser out of "low quality wartime steel' and the ships below deck hummidity means the constant temperature is a min of 85 degrees faranheit which is beyond comfort. The ships modernisation provided only for 6 years expected life so the condition was expected. Effective modernisation of the ship, once acquired from the RN was only several ECM/ESM updates. In the 1964 deployment the Royalist, out of Singapore returning to Auckland, via the Cairns races in Queensland transited the Carmat Straights on 15 July, Sapud on 16 July and the Lombok Straight on 17 July 1964  on what was described as 'routine passage' in the highly confidential flash to Canberra. During the 6 hour passage, HMNZS Royalist went through the Sapud straights, at 11.45pm on 16 July in condition X Ray, a high state of nuclear readiness, passing Balli at about 2.20am and through the Lombak Straights at about 4.20.am, during this crucial transit the log entry notes several time that the X gyro is unservicable and the A gyro is only serviceable from about 2.00am to 3.47am, this probably indicates that several of the turrets were not working and that the gunnery fire control lock and follow tracking system and associated stabilised 5.25 turrets were often not effective, during the dangerous transit, but were in operation, firing ammunition and starshells, illuminating the presence and intent of the ANZUK SE Asian strategic command naval force at a critical time. RN cruisers frequently fired their guns in transiting the straights and before 1964 the Royalists gunnery were a more reliable display of force than the Tigers. The Royalist crew have recently been awarded general service medals by the NZ Government for the 1963 and 1964 South East Asia tours, for the period ending 17 July 1964, with the transit through Lombok. It appears HMS Victorious travelled to Australia a few days late and its advertised later transit of the straights two months later with the Royal Naval battlefleet is regarded as a moment of maximum danger in the cold war rivaling the Cuban missile crisis. There was considerable doubt among RNZN staff, whether the Royalist,which had not had a major refit since 1956, could deploy again in 1965, again after a 7 week 24/7 refit of intense work in the Devonport dockyard and work up in the Hauraki Gulf where it managed 27 knots at full half power, without full briefing of COMFarEast, of the increasing inaccuracy of the two Mk6m 275 fire control systems, particularly in the shore bombardment role. However the gunnery systems, with the use of splash spotting radar, to adjust range and bearing, could probably still engage, the 600 feet long, ex Soviet cruiser or destroyer, the Indonesians might deploy, which Moscow had given to Indonesia in 1962 and refitted in 1964. As intended the ex Soviet Sverdlov class cruiser seems to have succeeded partially in deterring operations by Dutch gun cruisers in Indonesian waters. However in line with the more serious situation with Indonesia, 50% of the AA 5.25 AA shells were fuzed during the final 1965 deployment and the fuzes were installed in line with 1965 RN practice ,in so far as was possible with shells obsolescent, in the RN in 1965  The cruiser was still visually impressive, and provided the crucial appearance of capability and ability to operate It was judged the fire control systems needed either either a years refit or $140,000 new parts , and one of two STAAG CIWS mounts was refitted with the rather worn spare, after rust removal, the 2 UA3 ESM systems were playing up, and it was hoped the worn steam turbines could last 15 months to allow ,after a final 1966 visit to all the NZ Ports if 'hope prevailed over fear'. Against most RNZN staff advice it was decided not to inform the Commander of the British Far East Fleet, of the Royalist situation as " Commander Far East has enough trouble fitting Royalist in his operational plans now with limitations on his main capability in the Confrontation War". However the Royal Navy was desperately overstretched during the confrontation, and keeping one carrier fully operational in the theatre at all times was very difficult, to deter Djkarta with the deterrence of potential nuclear strike from the S1 Buccaneer, meant, keeping only one of the high maintenance, Tiger class cruisers, with the Far East fleet in 1964-5, and it was decided the Royalist would proceed to Pearl Harbour for a second workup, as planned rather than refit longer in the Devonport dockyard, before deploying to HK and Singapore. The Royalist conducted anti infiltration patrols, boarding boats, put patrols on shore, participated in Exercise Guardrail and deployed to give AD support of the Commando Helicopters of HMS Bulwark for a week. For the 1965 far east tour in a period of increasing tension, the crew were awarded Operational Service Medals (OPSM). The deployment was somewhat marked by the refusal of the NZ External affairs or the NZ or British ambassador to allow the Royalist to dock with RN Warships, in the Tokyo or Yokohama area  as according to the RN attache at Tokyo, the RNZN sailors 'could not afford the 1 pound a minute price in the Ginza nightclubs and bars'  The Captain of the Royalist J.P . Vallant replied to the Deputy Secretary of Defence in Wellington, ' find it quaint that the flagship of the NZ navy is persona non grata in the Tokyo Bay area'. Published memoirs of NZ diplomats in the 1960s refer to a shocking behaviour at a 1962 diplomatic function attended by HMNZS Royalist crew, after the daily rum ration and third drink, and little sleep in the inferno of Royalists, lower deck,. On a Dido cruiser,in the tropics, sleep was never possible, except for officers with a deck cabin. HMNZS Royalist was confined to the Japanese provincial ports were the NZ diplomat persuaded the local police chiefs that, their request for a curfew was unwise and it was essential to keep bars open 24 hours. After furthur RR in Bangkok, Singapore, Subic Bay the Royalist made it back to NZ, after a valiant repair of a milking boiler and turbine, but was unable to make its final scheduled 1966 visit to Waitangi day and tour of the NZ Ports, and effectively paid off 5 months early.
Decommissioning and fate
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.
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