HMS Rodney is ready, but more Merchant ship losses

Sunset in the Firth of Forth, with one of the eight barrelled two pounder pom-pom guns of HMS RODNEY silhouetted against the Forth Bridge whilst two sailors stand to attention nearby.

Sunset in the Firth of Forth, with one of the eight barrelled two pounder pom-pom guns of HMS RODNEY silhouetted against the Forth Bridge whilst two sailors stand to attention nearby.

The Royal Navy remained a formidable force with a full complement of capital ships. Launched in 1925 HMS Rodney, with her 16 inch guns, was the product of the tactical thinking that continued to see a role for big ships with big guns. Only as the naval war unfolded during the next few years would it become apparent that, with the advent of air power, such ships were often a liability as a target rather than impressive, powerful, assets.

The official photographers documenting the war visited HMS Rodney in October 1940 and produced a wide range of images illustrating life aboard.

ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP HMS RODNEY. OCTOBER 1940, TRAINING ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP. Rifle drill. Sailors practice a bayonet charge on board RODNEY.

ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP HMS RODNEY. OCTOBER 1940, TRAINING ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP.
Rifle drill. Sailors practice a bayonet charge on board RODNEY.

The port eight barrelled Vickers two pounder Mark VIII 'pom-pom' gun in action during anti-aircraft practice on board HMS RODNEY whilst she is at sea.

The port eight barrelled Vickers two pounder Mark VIII ‘pom-pom’ gun in action during anti-aircraft practice on board HMS RODNEY whilst she is at sea.

A mock action with the use of a dummy ship. The spotting table in the foreground shows a tiny model of a warship. The Gunnery Officer in the Director seen in the background is training his gun on it and firing dummy rounds. The shell splashes are then registered in the positions where they would have fallen in relation to the model ship according to the officer's calculations.

A mock action with the use of a dummy ship. The spotting table in the foreground shows a tiny model of a warship. The Gunnery Officer in the Director seen in the background is training his gun on it and firing dummy rounds. The shell splashes are then registered in the positions where they would have fallen in relation to the model ship according to the officer’s calculations.

Gunnery scenes on board the battleship HMS Rodney. October 1940, at sea. Cleaning the big guns.

Gunnery scenes on board the battleship HMS Rodney. October 1940, at sea. Cleaning the big guns.

Weighing anchor. A hose is played on the cable and the cable is cleaned as the anchor comes up. The links of the cable are also tapped with a hammer to test for any weakness.

Weighing anchor. A hose is played on the cable and the cable is cleaned as the anchor comes up. The links of the cable are also tapped with a hammer to test for any weakness.

Minesweeping. October 1940, on board the battleship HMS Rodney. Whenever enemy planes had been in the vicinity of the fleet's anchorage overnight, it is fairly certain mines were laid and the minesweepers have plenty of work. The Minesweepers BRAMBLE and SPEEDY passing close to RODNEY on their way out of harbour. Their sweeps can be seen trailing.

Minesweeping. October 1940, on board the battleship HMS Rodney. Whenever enemy planes had been in the vicinity of the fleet’s anchorage overnight, it is fairly certain mines were laid and the minesweepers have plenty of work.
The Minesweepers BRAMBLE and SPEEDY passing close to RODNEY on their way out of harbour. Their sweeps can be seen trailing.

However the big battleships were not the class of ship to deal with the main threat at the time, the U-Boat menace.

The Dutch merchantman Ottoland had almost completed her journey from New Brunswick, Canada when she hit a mine in the North Sea on 5th October 1940. She was already sinking when Coastal Command aircraft arrived on the scene and her cargo of timber and pit props had floated off. Minesweepers were directed to rescue the crew, seen in a boat top right.

The Ottoland was just one of thirteen ships sunk in the week up to the 10th October, at the time it was believed she had been torpedoed. The statistics for ship losses were closely monitored and featured every week in a report to the War Cabinet:

Enemy Attack on Seaborne Trade.

During the period [the week up to 10th October], thirteen ships (32,369 tons) have been reported sunk. Of these, four British (18,141 tons), one Dutch (2,202 tons), and two neutral ships (7,465 tons), were sunk by submarine. Four small ships (1,710 tons) were mined, and two British ships (2,851 tons) were sunk by aircraft. In addition, three British ships (14,418 tons), previously reported as damaged, are now known to be sunk, and three ships (25,418 tons) were destroyed by enemy raiders in the Indian Ocean in September.

The reduction in tonnage lost during this week may be partly due to bad weather.

See TNA Cab 66/12/43

Comments on this entry are closed.

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: