battleships

Aug

12

1942

Pitched battles all around Pedestal convoy

12 August: Evening Air and Submarine Attacks: The Italian submarine AXUM's torpedo strikes the tanker OHIO on her port side.

I decide to carry out a second depth-charge attack and the ship is just turning when a roar goes up, ‘There she is.’ It was a successful attack, and the U-boat has come to the surface, but the job is not yet finished. Perhaps she will crash-dive and try to escape. We can take no chances. So, ‘Full ahead both engines; prepare to ram.’ The guns need no orders. They have already opened fire and the U-boat is getting seven bells knocked out of her.

Mar

30

1942

Another raid on the Tirpitz

The German battleship Tirpitz was on the top of the RAF's target list, seen here at Fættenfjord, where she was in March 1942.

On the evening of the 30th of March, just after 1800hrs BST, twelve Halifax aircraft from 76 Squadron took off from Tain to commence the first phase of the attack. Ten Halifax aircraft from 10 Squadron took off from Lossiemouth and twelve from 35 Squadron took off from Kinloss for the second phase of the attack. The aircraft would be flying a total distance of approximately 1,300 miles with a total flight time, including time over target, estimated at being around eight to eight and a half hours.

Mar

22

1942

Italian battle fleet attacks Malta convoy

HMS CLEOPATRA throws out smoke to shield the convoy as HMS EURYALUS elevates her forward 5.25 inch guns to shell the Italian Fleet.

A series of flashes in the smoke followed by a dull, rumbling boom announced the opening of the surface engagement. As if this was a signal, a formation of torpedo bombers flew into sight, skimming just above the sea. Simultaneously an even larger group of high level bombers were briefly glimpsed through the smoke and clouds on the opposite side of the convoy.

Mar

19

1942

‘Typical Examples of Performance of His Majesty’s Ships’

A heavy sea breaking over the bows of the battleship HMS RENOWN.

In an annex to the weekly Naval Military and Air Reports on the progress of the war, there was was a brief summary of the huge serviceability issues that arose from from warships being at sea for extended periods of time:

Mar

9

1942

Fleet Air Arm attacks the Tirpitz

View from the search-light platform overlooking the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS, showing the strike force of twelve Fairey Albacores of 832 or 817 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm loaded with torpedoes to strike at the TIRPITZ when she was at sea off the coast of Norway. The attack obtained no hits on the German battleship and two aircraft were lost. In the background can be seen HMS RENOWN, HMS DUKE OF YORK, and HMS BERWICK in line ahead.

Subsequently this ship was identified as the Tirpitz, which was located and attacked with torpedoes by aircraft of the Home Fleet at 0930 on the 9th, about 80 miles west of the Lofoten Islands. No hits were claimed and Tirpitz was last seen steering towards Vestfjord. The Home Fleet has returned to Scapa.

Dec

19

1941

HMS Neptune lost and two Battleships disabled

The Light Cruiser HMS Neptune, only one man survived out of her entire complement when she came to grief in a minefield.

Three more ratings died and we picked up an oar and I tried to steer the raft but could make no headway. By the fourth day there were only four of us left including the Captain who died that night. I was in the water for three days before being able to find room aboard the raft. Most of the lads just gave up the ghost but I was very fit because of playing so much sport and this is probably why I survived. I had a smashed leg and by Christmas Eve on the 5th day, there was only Price and myself left.

Dec

10

1941

Far East disaster for the Royal Navy

Photograph taken from a Japanese aircraft during the initial high-level bombing attack. Repulse, near the bottom of the view, has just been hit by one bomb and near-missed by several more. Prince of Wales is near the top of the image, generating a considerable amount of smoke. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry.

The Repulse is going down. The torpedo-smashed Prince of Wales, still a half to three-quarters of a mile ahead, is low in the water, half shrouded in smoke, a destroyer by her side. Japanese bombers are still winging around like vultures, still attacking the Wales. A few of those shot down are bright splotches of burning orange on the blue South China Sea. Men are tossing overboard rafts, lifebelts, benches, pieces of wood, anything that will float.

Dec

4

1941

The British reinforce Singapore

The new British battleship HMS prince of Wales in Singapore Harbour, 4th December 1941. She had arrived with HMS Repulse, together forming 'Force Z' designed to deter Japanese aggression.

Bizarrely each day between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. the whole camp came to a standstill for a compulsory Siesta. Every man had to be in his bunk during that period. I disagreed with this from the start. The enemy seemed unlikely to suspend hostilities to allow us time to rest during the hottest part of the day.

Nov

25

1941

The sudden loss of HMS Barham

The moment when HMS Barham's magazine exploded after being torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

I saw water pouring into her funnels. There followed a big explosion amidships, from which belched black and brown smoke intermingled with flames. Pieces of wreckage, Hung high into the air, were scattered far and wide, the largest piece being about the size of my writing-desk.

Sep

24

1941

Force H departs Gibraltar with convoy

Loading a 16" shell on board HMS Rodney

On the evening of the 24th Admiral Somerville’s flag was raised on HMS Rodney and the band played on the quayside as if the battleship were departing for home. She then sailed westward with an escort of destroyers. Admiral Somerville had in fact remained on HMS Nelson and would lead the main force into the Mediterranean after dark. Those watching from Spain and Algeciras in North Africa were duped for a time.