HMS Renown (72)
Battlecruiser Warship / Fast Carrier Escort
HMS Renown survived World War 1 only to serve in the next Grand War in Europe - though by this time she was fully modernized.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The arrival of World War 1 (1914-1918) in July-August of 1914 forced the British Royal Navy to rethink immediate requirements going forward. What was to become a two-strong class of battlecruisers drawn up as improved Revenge-class ships turned into a complete reworking in just a year's time - giving birth to the Renown-class lead by HMS Renown and joined by sister-ship HMS Repulse. HMS Renown became a player in the latter part of World War 1 and managed an existence throughout the interwar years, eventually seeing combat service in World War 2. Her story ended shortly thereafter as the Cold War (1947-1991) between East and West took root - though she could claim to have survived two world wars as well as the instability found in-between despite her Great War origins.
At this time in naval warfare history, the battlecruiser was a fixture of the fleet, an outgrowth of the armored cruisers appearing in the 1870s. They were categorized as capital ships and held similar armament and dimensions to frontline battleships while costing no more to construct. However, for the purpose of making them faster than their battleship brethren, the types were completed with reduced armor protection and this trade off was notable - but deemed necessary for the speeds required as battlecruisers were needed to actively track down older armored cruisers and send them to the bottom of the sea with potent weaponry.
HMS Renown (72) was ordered on December 30th, 1914 and awarded to Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Govan. Her keel was laid down on January 25th, 1915 and she was launched to sea on March 4th, 1916. Her commissioning was had on September 20th, 1916 as the war grew to become two years old by then. The warship fought under the motto of "Guardians of Ancient Renown".
Once adopted, HMS Renown and HMS Repulse marked the last battlecruisers taken into service by the Royal Navy.
As built, the vessel was given a displacement of 27,600 tons under normal load and 32,740 tons under full load. Dimensions included a length of 794 feet with a beam of 90 feet and a draught of 27 feet. Installed power was 42 x Water-tube boiler units feeding 2 x Steam turbines developing 112,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts under stern. This arrangement allowed the ship to make headway at speeds up to 32.5 knots out to a range of 4,600 miles.
Her profile was consistent with warship design of the time but, because the warship was rebuilt twice throughout her ocean-going career, these lines changed accordingly. The forecastle was largely devoid of obstructions save for the two forward primary turrets and the third primary turret was set aft of the superstructure overlooking the stern. The superstructure aft of the forward guns held the bridge section as well as the various communications and main mast structures. Twin smoke funnels were seated in line at midships as part of the main superstructure. The hull was tapered sharply at the bow and less so at the stern while the hull sides were bulged at midships as an anti-torpedo measure.
Armament centered on 6 x 15" (381mm) guns in the main battery arranged across three twin-gunned primary turrets. Behind this were 15 x 4" (102mm) guns in five triple-gunned turrets and another two 4" guns in single-gunned mountings. The warship also carried 2 x 3" (76mm) guns as an anti-aircraft measure (in single-gunned mountings) and 2 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes.
Armor protection ranged from 6" thick at the belt and 2/5" at the decks to 7" at the barbettes and 10" at the conning tower. Bulkheads were protected over in up to 4" and the primary gun turrets had up to 9" of plate armor. The crew complement numbered 953 but wartime needs ballooned this total to 1,223 by 1919.
Well-armed and well-powered, Renown was a warship to be noticed when it appeared in 1916. She and her sister were well-regarded in the category of speed, being some of the fastest capital ships available to any one navy.
While Renown was still under construction, World War 1 broke out in July-August of 1914. This forced the Admiralty to suspend her construction under the belief that she simply would not be made ready in time for actions in the war. Indeed, armament and stores needed to be thoroughly fitted and tested and machinery needed to be put through its paces in a months-long procedure to ensure reliability and efficiency. All this on top of the training required of all onboard personnel - gunners, support crew and the like. Upon Admiral Lord John Fisher's appointment as First Sea Lord, construction of the warship was restarted in an effort to finish her at speed and this to a revised design prepared in short order.
HMS Renown was actively sailing before the end of 1916 though, by this time, the pivotal Battle of Jutland (May 31st - June 1st, 1916) had already taken place off the coast of Denmark and Renown was already taken back into dock to receive greater armor protection. The Battle of Jutland marked the largest naval battle of the war and the only one to include direct-contact between enemy battleships. Both sides claimed the victory and over 200 ships participated in the melee.
Despite the war lasting into the Armistice of November 1918, HMS Renown did not see any direct combat action in what remained. She survived the large post-war draw-down and had her armor protection scheme revised for the better during 1918 and 1923. In the 1930s, with war once again looming on the European horizon, the warship was given a much deeper reconstruction effort to keep her a viable fighting platform for the foreseeable future. In 1936, she was revised to serve as a fast carrier escort.
The rebuild of 1939 simplified her machinery to include 8 x Boiler units and 4 x Steam turbines driving 4 x Shafts. Speed was reduced to 31 knots but operational range was increased to 6,580 miles. The crew complement was slightly reduced to 1,200. The 15" main gun battery was retained but secondary firepower was now 20 x 4.5" Dual-Purpose (DP) guns in ten twin-gunned mountings. 24 x 2-pounder guns were carried for anti-aircraft work in three octuple-gunned emplacements. The torpedo weaponry was completed removed from the reborn Renown.
Belt protection was increased to up to 9" and decks reached 5". The gun turrets carried up to 9", the bulkheads up to 4" and the conning tower was protected in up to 10" of plating. Unlike her earlier incarnation, HMS Renown was not outfitted to handle up to 4 x Floatplane (recoverable) aircraft for over-the-horizon and artillery spotting work. A single double-ended catapult was added to manage their launching and a crane worked at their retrieval.
When World War 2 (1939-1945) broke out on September 1st, 1939, HMS Renown was placed into immediate action and targeted commerce raiders in the South Atlantic. Her first notable work was in the hunt of the German "pocket battleship" Admiral Graf Spee which ended her run in December of 1939 in Uruguayan waters. From April until June of 1940 HMS Renown was part of the failed attempt to save Norway from the German conquest. In 1941, she participated in the hunting down of KMS Bismarck which helped to remove one of the more powerful surface combatants of the Germans from the war. From there her purpose was in convoy escort in support of Malta. In 1942, she was stationed in home waters as part of the Home Fleet but also served as a deterrent in the critical Arctic Convoys attempting to resupply Allies in the East (namely the Soviet Union). For November of that year, she took part in the Allied invasion of North Africa through Operation Torch.
The following year, HMS Renown was a transport for high-level British officials including Churchill himself. In the early part of 1944, she was relocated for action to the Far East in the Indian Ocean (as part of the Eastern Fleet), centered on attacks against Japanese territories across the region including Indonesia. Called back to home waters in the early part of 1945, she was refitted but the end of the war arrived in Europe in May and in the Pacific in August so she was held up in reserve.
With her services no longer needed, and the war-weary world undertaking another dramatic military drawdown, HMS Renown was stripped of her war-making usefulness at Faslane and her hulk sold off for scrap on March 19th, 1948.