Revenge-class battleship

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HMS Royal Oak (08).jpg
Class overview
Name: Revenge class
Preceded by: Queen Elizabeth class
Succeeded by:
In commission: 1916–49
Planned: 8
Completed: 5
Cancelled: 3 (2 re-ordered to different design)
Lost: 1
Retired: 4
General characteristics
Type: Battleship
  • 29,150 tons standard
  • 33,500 tons full load
Length: 624 ft (190 m)
Beam: 88.5 ft (27.0 m)
Draught: 28.6 ft (8.7 m)
  • Steam turbines, 4 shafts
  • 24 boilers coal or oil
  • 26,500 shp (19,800 kW)
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)
Range: 5,000 nmi (9,000 km) at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Complement: 997–1,150
  • Belt: 13 in (330 mm) amidships; 4–6 in (102–152 mm) ends
  • Deck: up to 5 in (127 mm)
  • Turrets: 13 in (330 mm) faces and sides; 5 in (127 mm)
  • Barbettes: up to 10 in (254 mm)
  • Citadel: 11 in (279 mm)

The Revenge-class battleships (listed as Royal Sovereign class in several editions of Jane's Fighting Ships, such as the 1919[1] and 1931 editions, and sometimes also known as the "R" class) were five battleships of the Royal Navy, ordered as the First World War loomed, and launched in 1914–16. There were originally to have been eight of the class, but two were later redesigned, becoming the Renown-class battlecruisers, while the other, which was to have been named HMS Resistance, was cancelled.


The ships of the class were slower and smaller than the preceding Queen Elizabeth-class battleships. Despite sometimes being referred to as the "Royal Sovereign class", official documents from the First World War clearly state that the class was known as the Revenge class;[citation needed] the confusion apparently even extended to the Grand Fleet's commander, Sir John Jellicoe, as they are mentioned in both fashions in his voluminous The Grand Fleet 1914–1916: Its Creation, Development and Work—as the Revenge class in some places[2] as well as the Royal Sovereign class in others.[3] The ships have also been referred to on occasion as the "R" class.


They were designed to be able to use coal and oil as fuel sources. This was partially due to fears over the total reliance of the Queen Elizabeth class on oil as their fuel source, which was a first for a British class of dreadnought battleships. At that time, oil could be obtained only from overseas sources, while high-quality coal was readily available in the British Isles, and there seemed to be a possibility that oil supplies might not be able to be maintained during wartime, thus placing crippling restrictions on the usefulness of the five Queen Elizabeths. The unusual design of the Revenge class was a response to these concerns. They were also designed to be cheaper than the Queen Elizabeths. This was achieved by reducing their size and using lower power engines—their slim single funnel design makes them easy to distinguish from the Queen Elizabeths, which had twin funnels (or thick trunked funnels after being rebuilt during the interwar years).

Armour protection[edit]

The armour was very different from that of the Queen Elizabeths: the armoured deck was raised much higher in the ship, and the side armour was much more extensive at its full thickness of 13 inches (330 mm). This scheme was chosen since, at the time the Revenges were being designed, it was still believed that any major fleet-to-fleet engagement would take place at relatively close ranges such that the principal danger would be direct fire striking the sides of the ship, rather than plunging fire striking the deck. Additionally, this change in the armour layout was a cost-saving measure. The Queen Elizabeths had plates that tapered at the top and bottom of the armour belt, and tapered armour was extremely expensive to produce. Overall, it was probably an effective armouring scheme, made obsolete by developments in naval gunnery and tactics that, unfortunately, occurred almost immediately after the ships entered service and that, ultimately, did not lend itself to the upgrades necessitated by Second World War-era weapons.

Anti-torpedo bulges were included; these provided superb protection against attacks by torpedo for their time, but due to the increasing power of torpedo warheads, proved to be deficient[4] for Royal Oak when she was torpedoed at Scapa Flow in 1939.


Similar to the Queen Elizabeths, the Revenges mounted eight 15-inch (381 mm) Mk 1* guns. The barrel was 42 calibers long (i.e., 15 in x 42 = 630 in) and was referred to as "15 inch/42". This wire-wound gun fired a 1,938 lb (879 kg) Mk XVIIB shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,458 ft/s (749 m/s).[2] Maximum range in shipboard mountings was 33,550 yards (30,680 m) at 30 degrees elevation.[2] During the Second World War, older battleships with gun elevation limited to 20 degrees were supplied with supercharges to increase their maximum range to 29,930 yards (27,370 m) at 2,638 ft/s (804 m/s) using the Mk XVIII or Mk XXII projectile, while HMS Vanguard could range to 37,870 yards (34,630 m) while using supercharges at a gun elevation of 30 degrees.[2] Coastal artillery mountings with higher elevations could reach 44,150 yards (40,370 m). The firing life of a 15-inch gun was approximately 335 full-charge firings using standard charges, after which it had to be re-lined.[3] In accordance with contemporary practice, the Revenges were fitted with 6-inch (152 mm) secondary batteries. The heavier guns were intended to combat the larger classes of destroyers entering service but in practice proved to be somewhat too heavy to be of practical use against light craft. Additionally, their low positioning made them largely unworkable in heavy seas—a flaw shared with the similarly equipped Iron Duke and Queen Elizabeth-class battleships.


The major flaw in the class was the deliberately reduced stability to give the ships a slow rolling motion to make gunnery easier. This made it almost impossible to update them. In addition, it was not economically possible to fit more powerful machinery later in their lives.


Due to their smaller size, at 624 feet (190 m) conditions were decidedly more cramped for the crew of a Revenge-class battleship compared to the Queen Elizabeths.


3-view drawing of HMS Revenge as she was in 1916, with Sopwith 1½ Strutter and Sopwith Pup aircraft fore and aft, respectively.

Only two ships of the class, Revenge and Royal Oak, were ready in time for the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. During the engagement neither ship suffered damage or casualties.

Unlike Queen Elizabeths, the Revenges were not given major reconstructions between the two World Wars. In fact, apart from some minor upgrades, they remained very much unchanged until the Second World War began. Partly this was because of the expense involved in giving them a thorough modernization; what money the Royal Navy received for this purpose was better spent on the Queen Elizabeths which, because of their higher speed and better adaptability, had retained better fighting value. Moreover, the Revenges were scheduled to be replaced by the new Lion-class capital ships as they came into service. However, the coming of the Second World War resulted in the cancellation of the Lions, leaving the Revenges to remain in service despite their limited value in the face of advances in naval technology.

The Revenge class were in general reduced to subsidiary roles during the Second World War. Churchill wrote that the Revenge class were a source of constant anxiety, and that he saw the Admiralty keep them as many thousands of miles away from the enemy as possible. Two joined the hunt for the battleship Bismarck, but mainly they escorted convoys and performed shore bombardment (including the Normandy landings). However, they were valuable as second-class battleships, performing these duties and freeing up front-line ships. The scrapping of the Revenge class and other battleships after the war's end reflected the status of the aircraft carrier as the new queen of the seas.

The Revenge class brought to a close the tale of Royal Navy First World War battleship construction. For subsequent British capital ships, see Renown-class battlecruisers that fought in the First World War, HMS Hood which was laid down during the war, the Nelson-class battleships laid down in 1922, the King George V-class battleships built during the Second World War, and the world's last battleship, HMS Vanguard. For other battleships that were acquired as "war purchases", see HMS Erin, HMS Canada, and HMS Agincourt.

Ships in class[edit]

Ships of the Revenge class
Name Pennant Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Fate
06 Vickers 22 December 1913 29 May 1915 1 February 1916 Broken up at Inverkeithing, 1948
Resolution 09 Palmers 29 November 1913 14 January 1915 30 December 1916 Broken up at Faslane, 1949
Royal Oak 08 HM Dockyard, Devonport 15 January 1914 17 November 1914 1 May 1916 Sunk at Scapa Flow, October 1939
Royal Sovereign 05 HM Dockyard, Portsmouth 29 April 1915 18 April 1916 Transferred to Soviet Navy as Arkhangelsk 1944–49
Broken up at Inverkeithing, 1949
Ramillies 07 W. Beardmore 12 November 1913 12 June 1916 1 September 1917 Broken up at Troon, 1949
Resistance N/A HM Dockyard, Devonport N/A Cancelled, August 1914
Renown N/A Redesigned as Renown-class battlecruiser
Repulse N/A Redesigned as Renown-class battlecruiser
  • Ramillies took part in the Battle of Cape Spartivento in the Second World War. She also briefly took part in sea-hunt for the Bismarck in late May 1941, after the Battle of the Denmark Strait.[5] She was torpedoed by a Japanese mini-submarine after the Battle of Madagascar in 1942. She took part in the bombardment of German positions during the Normandy landings in June 1944 and the invasion of the south of France in August 1944. She was scrapped in 1948. One 15 inch gun was preserved and is now on show at the Imperial War Museum in London.
  • Resolution took part in convoy duty early in the Second World War. She was torpedoed by a Vichy French submarine in 1940 during the Battle of Dakar, receiving little damage. She then joined the Far East Fleet, before becoming a training ship in late 1944. She was scrapped in 1948. One 15 inch gun was preserved upon scrapping and takes pride of place, along with the aforementioned gun from Ramillies, at the Imperial War Museum.
  • Revenge took part in the Battle of Jutland, sustaining no damage and receiving no casualties. In the Second World War, Revenge undertook a number of operations, including the hunt for the Bismarck,[5] though by 1944 she became a training ship. She was scrapped in 1948.
  • Royal Oak fought at the Battle of Jutland. In 1939, during the Second World War, Royal Oak was sunk by three torpedoes from U-47, with the loss of 833 of her crew. She is now an official war grave.
  • Royal Sovereign had a relatively quiet career, missing the Battle of Jutland. She took part in convoy duty in the early part of the Second World War. She was loaned to the USSR in 1944 and renamed Arkhangelsk, escorting Arctic convoys for the remainder of the war. Returned after the war, she was scrapped in 1949 in the UK.

See also[edit]


  • Gardiner, Robert and Randall Gray. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1985. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
  • Whitley, M.J. Battleships of World War Two: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. London: Cassell, 2001. ISBN 0-304-35957-2.
  • Jane, Fred T. (1990) [1st. Pub. 1919], Oscar Parkes; Maurice Prendergast, eds., Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I, Jane's Publishing, ISBN 0-517-03375-5
  • Archibald, E.H.H. (1987) [1st. Pub. 1972], The Fighting Ship of the Royal Navy, London: Blandford Press, ISBN 0-517-63332-9
  • Bercuson, David J.; Herwig, Holger H. (2003), The Destruction of the Bismarck, New York: The Overlook Press, ISBN 1-58567-397-8
  • Jellicoe, John (1919), The Grand Fleet 1914-1916 : Its Creation, Development and Work, New York: George H. Doran, p. 288, ISBN 0-946958-50-5


  1. ^ Jane 1990, p. 35.
  2. ^ Jellicoe 1919, p. 288.
  3. ^ Jellicoe 1919, p. 303,308.
  4. ^ Archibald 1987, p. 169.
  5. ^ a b Bercuson & Herwig 2003, p. 174-175.

External links[edit]