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Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Renown

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HMS Renown was to be the sixth “R” class battleship, but construction was suspended at the beginning of World War I in the expectation that the ship would not be ready by the end of the war. The return of Jackie Fisher to the Royal Navy and the victories at the Falkland Islands and Helgioland Bight changed this calcution, however, and it was decided that Renown and her sister Repulse would be completed as battlecruisers. HMS Renown carried 6 15″ guns in three twin turrets, displaced about 28000 tons, and could make 30 knots. Renown’s armor was on the same scale as previous British battlecruisers, which is to say that it was almost criminally light.

Commissioned in September 1916, Renown fortunately missed the Battle of Jutland. The loss of three battlecruisers convinced the Admiralty that Renown’s protection was too light, resulting in addition of extra armor.Renown participated in the rest of World War I but never engaged the High Seas Fleet. Renown and her sister Repulse were never popular ships in the Royal Navy, as they suffered constant teething problems, such that the ships were nicknamed “Refit” and “Repair”. Retained under the terms of the London Naval Treaty, Renown underwent modernization between 1937 and 1939, resulting in a new superstructure, better fire control, and a greatly enhanced anti-aircraft armament. Renown rejoined the fleet in September 1939, just in time for the war.

Although an older unit, Renown’s high speed made her useful for operations that other old battleships could not undertake. Renown could hunt German raiders, escort fast carriers, and support cruiser flotillas. Her weak armor was a handicap, but used appropriately Renown could make a significant contribution to the war effort. One of Renown’s first operations involved convoy escort and support of British operations in Norway. In service off the latter, Renown encountered the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in April 1940. Renown lightly damaged Scharnhorst before the Germans broke off. The German decision to break off contact must be regarded as overly cautious, as the destruction of Renown was well within the capabilities of either German ship, much less both. Scharnhorst’s 11″ guns could easily penetrate Renown’s light armor, and with their high rate of fire and large number of guns, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau could each fire 27 shells per minute to Renown’s 12. Better German fire control and damage absorption capability should have made the fight no contest, but the Germans failed to press their advantage.

Renown participated in operations in the Atlantic and the Med for the next two years, including pursuit of the battleship Bismarck in 1941. In 1944 Renown shifted to the Pacific, operating out of Ceylon and escorting carrier attacks on Japanese bases in Southeast Asia. By mid-1945 Renown was simply worn out, and massive Allied naval superiority meant that she could be placed in reserve before the war ended. After use as a training ship for a couple years, Renown was sold for scrap in 1948.

Trivia: What battleship carried guns designated “40.6cm Special”?

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