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Revenge Class Battleships

Revenge Class Battleships

The Revenge class battleships and their WW2 service, very underrated as they achieved a lot as well as being involved in heavy action at the Battle of Jutland in WW1

Diagram of the Queen Elizabeth class, which provided the basis for the Revenge design

With the start of war in August 1939, Revenge and Resolution were assigned to the Channel Force, based in Portland, while Royal Sovereign served with the Home Fleet. Ramillies was by this time at Alexandria, Egypt, where she remained until early October, when she was sent to search for the German heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee in the Indian Ocean.

At the same time, Resolution and Revenge were sent to the South Atlantic Command to participate in the hunt for Admiral Graf Spee.

However, before they arrived they were sent to the North Atlantic Escort Force to cover convoys from Canada to Britain. They carried gold bullion to Canada to safeguard it during the war during this period.

Royal Oak remained in Scapa Flow during this period, and on 14 October, the U-boat U-47 broke through the harbor defenses and torpedoed Royal Oak, sinking her at her mooring and killing 833. Ramillies covered troop convoys from Australia to Egypt, including those that carried the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the Second Australian Imperial Force in late 1939 and early 1940.

Resolution took part in the Norwegian Campaign, seeing action at the Battles of Narvik in April 1940. The following month she was struck by a German bomb, but was not seriously damaged. Also in May, Ramillies was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet in anticipation of Italy’s entry into the war. The following month, Resolution had joined Force H, and on 3 July she participated in the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir.

As a result of the Italian declaration of war, Ramillies bombarded Italian positions in Italian Libya in mid-August. In September, Resolution steamed south to Dakar with Force H to neutralize French warships there, but during the Battle of Dakar, she was torpedoed and badly damaged by a French submarine.

During October, Revenge bombarded the port of Cherbourg in occupied France.
Royal Sovereign as Arkhangelsk in Soviet service

With a mission to destroy German supplies assembled for the planned invasion of Britain, Operation Sealion. Ramillies was present with the convoy that was attacked by Italian warships during the Battle of Cape Spartivento in late November but she was not involved in the battle.

Wartime changes to the battleships were generally limited to augmenting their deck armor, their anti-aircraft suites and the addition of radars. Each ship received a pair of quadruple two-pounder mounts and anywhere from 10 (Revenge and Resolution) to 42 (Royal Sovereign) 20-millimeter (0.8 in) Oerlikon guns. Radars were added beginning in 1941, including early-warning, search and fire-control systems.

Armor plates 2 inches (51 mm) thick were added over the magazines on Resolution, Royal Sovereign and, partially, in Ramillies in 1941–1942. To increase the accommodations available for the greatly-enlarged wartime crew, the four forward six-inch guns were removed from each ship in 1943, except for Resolution, which only lost two guns.

In late 1940, Revenge and Royal Sovereign returned to convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic, and Ramillies joined them in January 1941 after completing a refit.

During this period, Ramillies discouraged the two German Scharnhorst-class battleships from attacking a convoy she escorted. Revenge and Ramillies were at sea during Operation Rheinübung, the sortie of the German battleship Bismarck in May and they joined the hunt for the ship, but did not locate her.

Resolution spent much of 1941 under repair.

Frst in Freetown, South Africa and then the United States. Late in the year, the Admiralty decided to deploy the four Revenge-class ships to the Far East as the 3rd Battle Squadron in anticipation of war with Japan.

They arrived in early 1942, by which time the Japanese had already declared war and inflicted a string of defeats on the Allied countries in the region. The ships fled in advance of the Japanese Indian Ocean raid, as they were no match for the aircraft carriers of the powerful 1st Air Fleet.
Resolution and the aircraft carrier Formidable sailing in the Indian Ocean in 1942–1943

The battleships thereafter primarily operated off the coast of Africa, escorting troop convoys. Ramillies was present during the Battle of Madagascar in May, where she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. She was repaired first in Durban, South Africa, and then Devonport.

Revenge at sea in 1940

In late 1943, Revenge and Resolution were recalled to Britain, as a result of their poor condition; the former carried Prime Minister Winston Churchill part of the way to the Tehran Conference in November and December while the latter underwent a refit. Both ships were then decommissioned and assigned to the Portsmouth Command; Resolution joined the training establishment HMS Imperieuse, while Revenge remained out of service.

Furthermore, in January 1944, Royal Sovereign and Ramillies were also recalled; Ramillies was refitted and assigned to the fire support force for the invasion of Normandy; Revenge and Resolution were disarmed to provide spare barrels for this work. Royal Sovereign was transferred to the Soviet Navy as Arkhangelsk to reinforce the fleet covering convoys to the Soviet Union in the Arctic Ocean. Revenge and Resolution were sold for scrap in 1948 and were dismantled at Inverkeithing and Faslane, respectively. Ramillies went to the breakers’ yard at Cairnryan, also in 1948. 

HMS Royal Sovereign

Royal Sovereign was returned to Britain in 1949 in poor condition as a result of being poorly maintained in Soviet service; her turrets were jammed and much of her equipment was unusable. The last surviving member of the class, she was sold for scrap that year and broken up at Inverkeithing.

Revenge Class Battleships Written by Harry Gillespie

Harry Gillespie is a writer who resides in the UK with his family. His work focuses on Naval & British history with a specific look at 20th century warfare and ships. From World War 1 to The Falkland Islands Campaign.

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