In my experience this great ship never failed to answer the slightest touch of wheel or engines, nor did her armament ever fail when needed. The rapport between Renown and her commanders brought her to life and permeated all who served in her; indeed it became an identity. This ship thereby attained the heights of efficiency and morale, and was always found ready and anxious to ‘Hit First and Hit Hard’. Vice-Admiral B.C.B. Brooke, former commander H.M.S. Renown, Introduction to Hit First, Hit Hard; H.M.S. Renown 1916-1948, 1979 by Peter C. Smith
The 1912 battleship program for the Royal Navy consisted of the five fast battleships of the Queen Elizabeth Class. The 1913 program introduced the five ship Revenge Class designed for the slower battleline. The 1914 program, instead of introducing a new class, was comprised of repeat orders for one Queen Elizabeth and three slightly modified ships of the Revenge Class. Contracts were awarded and the selected builders began to accumulate the required material. Then in August World War One broke upon Europe. Britain, as well as Germany, thought that it would be a short war and a directive was issued that the battleships of the 1914 program would be suspended as it was thought that they would not be available before the end of the war. The 6th Queen Elizabeth, to be named Agincourt and built at the RN Portsmouth dockyard, was cancelled and the name given to a newly completed battleship built for Turkey and seized by the government. For the 6th and 7th battleships of the Revenge Class, fate had something else in store. The 8th Revenge, to be named Resistance and built at the RN Devonport dockyard, was also cancelled.
Admiral Jackie Fisher was the towering figure of the Royal Navy at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries. He was a man of extremely strong opinions, likes and dislikes. He knew no moderation. He either loved or loathed and in turn he was either loved or loathed by officer corps of the Royal Navy. In the 1890s Admiral Fisher was appointed commander of the North American and West Indies station with his flagship, HMS Renown. Fisher then became the commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, which was by far the largest British fleet. His flagship at that time was again HMS Renown, which he brought with him from the West Indies.
The HMS Renown of 1893 was the 7th ship of the name in the Royal Navy. She was the last 2nd class battleship ordered by the Royal Navy. Mounting only 10-inch guns, she was much lighter armed than the standard British battleship, of the Royal Sovereign Class of 1890 with their 13.5-inch guns or the Majestic Class of 1894 with their 12-inch guns. Renown had something that the stronger battleships did not have, speed. At a time when the standard British battleship was lucky to reach 17 knots, the Renown did 19.75 knots on trials. Jackie Fisher loved his Renown and he loved her greatest strength, speed. In addition to serving as flagship for Admiral Fisher, the 7th Renown occasionally served as a Royal yacht and in 1905 took the Prince of Wales, future King George V, and Princess of Wales to India. This Renown was sold for scrap in 1914, just before the start of the war.
When Admiral John Fisher became First Sea Lord of the Admiralty for the first time, he was responsible for the HMS Dreadnought and the all big gun battleship. What is often missed is the change to the steam turbine engine, which increased the battleship’s speed to 21 knots, when the standard was 18 knots. Under the lash of Fisher the Dreadnought was built in unheard of speed. Laid down on October 2, 1905, launched on February 10, 1906, Dreadnought started trials October 3, 1906, one year and a day from laying down. Speed, Fisher wanted speed in everything. With his project after Dreadnought, Fisher found his true love, cruiser equivalents to the Dreadnought.
On February 5, 1906, five days before the launch of Dreadnought, the first of these cruisers was laid down at Clydebank, HMS Inflexible. The three ships of the Invincible Class embodied everything Fisher loved, heavy armament on a very fast hull. The cruisers could hit 25 knots. He considered their lack of armor, with only a 6-inch belt, to be immaterial. In his view, speed was armor. Fisher considered them his "New Testament" ships opposed to the slow battleship designs. At first they were called, simply armored cruisers, like earlier heavy cruiser designs. Then they became known as Dreadnought Armored Cruisers or battleship cruisers to elevate them above the earlier designs but finally they received the name that stuck to the type, Battle Cruisers. After Fisher left office the RN continued to build battle cruisers but Fisher’s successors as First Sea Lord went back to emphasizing battleship construction. By 1914 the RN had 10 of the New Testament ships completed or almost ready, 3 Invincibles, 3 Indefatigables, 3 Lions & Tiger.
In early October 1914 the current First Sea Lord, Prince Louis Battenberg, was shown the door, mostly because of his German birth and connections, although he was fiercely loyal to the Royal Navy and his adopted Great Britain. The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston S. Churchill, invited Jackie Fisher out of retirement to become First Sea Lord again and Fisher leaped at the prospect. Naval events in the fall of 1914 seem to amply confirm Fisher’s high opinion of the battle cruiser. At the Battle of Heligoland Bight on August 28, 1914, RN battle cruisers came rushing to the aide of British light cruisers and destroyers and smashed the attacking German force, sinking three German light cruisers, while three more escaped with heavy casualties.
On December 8, 1914 the battle cruiser reached her pinnacle of reputation. On that day HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible avenged the loss of Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock and two armored cruisers to Admiral Graf von Spee’s German Asiatic Squadron at the Battle of Coronel. One of the first actions that Fisher took upon replacing Battenberg was to dispatch two of his beloved greyhounds to the South Atlantic to hunt and crush the German Squadron. Von Spee found them at the Falklands and tried to escape when he realized that there were modern RN capital ships present. He made this decision before he realized that they were battle cruisers. "When the British ships had left harbour it was seen by the Germans that two, larger and faster, had detached themselves from the rest and these were at first thought to be Japanese, on the assumption that none of our battle cruisers could possibly be out at the Falklands. A little later they were recognized, and recognition meant a fight to the death." British Battleships, 1971 by Oscar Parkes at page 626. The two greyhounds overtook the fleeing German Squadron and sank the two armored cruisers and two of the three light cruisers with only Dresden escaping. British casualties amounted to one killed on Inflexible. The battle cruiser seemed to be everything that Fisher had envisioned.
Although policy had mandated that no new capital ships would be laid down in British yards until the end of the war, Fisher used the Battle of the Falklands to push through a plan that would allow the two R Class battleships of the 1914 program to be built, not as repeats of the Revenge Class, but as new battle cruisers. At first Churchill refused, as he was against the battle cruiser concept. However, Fisher asked Admiral Jellicoe, the new commander of the Grand Fleet to write Churchill a casual letter in which Jellicoe would lament his need for more battle cruisers. That was all that was needed to overcome Churchill’s resistance. The pair were ordered as battle cruisers. The pair retained the names assigned to them when they were planned as R Class battleships, HMS Renown and HMS Repulse. Fisher could not have been more delighted than seeing one of his newest creations become the 8th HMS Renown of the Royal Navy. The pair as designed, emphasized both the strengths and weaknesses of the type.
Since the advent of Dreadnought and Invincible, both battleships and battle cruisers had acquired greater armor protection as new classes were introduced. In battleships the Bellerophon Class had a 10-inch belt (Dreadnought had 11-inches) and more armor was added until reaching a 13-inch belt with the Queen Elizabth and Revenge. For the battle cruisers the belt was 6-inches for the Invincible and Indefatigable Classes and was upped to a 9-inch belt with the Lion and Tiger Classes. In late December 1914 Admiral Fisher mandated that preliminary designs should be prepared for a very fast, heavily armed battle cruiser to be built in an abnormally short 15-months. Ten days was given to prepare the designs. Fisher wanted ships with a 32-knot speed and mounting 15-inch guns. Further, the ships had to draw far less water than other capitol ships. This specification was to allow them to participate in Fisher’s per "Baltic Operation" in which Fisher planned to land Russian or British troops on the Baltic coast 80 miles north of Berlin. Originally it was envisioned to have four guns mounted in two twin turrets but the Fisher quickly added a third turret. Fisher would come back to the four gun cruisers with his "Large Light Cruisers" Glorious and Courageous. The limited number of mountings to become available within this time period further limited the ships to three twin mounts. Four twin mounts would have been much better for salvo shooting and another turret aft would have only added 30 feet to the length. There would have been very little rise in displacement if 31 knots was selected as maximum speed instead of 32. However, the additional two turrets would not be available in the time frame and Fisher wanted the pair built quickly, so each stayed with six 15-inch guns. Armor was strictly an after-thought. They were to be armored on the same scale as the original battle cruiser, Invincible. They were given anti-torpedo bulges as an integral part of the hull, rather than an afterthought.
Renown would still be built at Fairfield but the construction of Repulse was transferred from Palmers to John Brown because Palmers did not have a slip long enough for the much longer battle cruiser design. Material assembled at Palmers was shipped to John Brown. To speed the design process, since no formal drawings had been prepared, the machinery plant for Tiger was selected with additional boilers to increase speed. Another requirement of the pair was that they have a comparatively shallow draft (26 feet) as Fisher wanted to use them in one of his pet projects, Royal Navy support of Russian Army landings on the Baltic Coast north of Berlin. By January 21, 1915 both builders had sufficient information to really start on the task and both keels were laid down on Jackie Fisher’s birthday, January 25. Final specifications were agreed upon in April. Construction proceeded at a furious pace but it was impossible to produce them in 15 months. Repulse took 19 months and Renown in 20. They were fast. Renown hit 32.68 knots at 126,300 shp on trials. Because of their very high speed, Admiral Beatty called the ships "The Gallopers". However, they suffered severe vibrations at speeds above 25 knots and the low quarter deck was flooded at full speed. They were the last lineal descendants of the battle cruiser concept started by the Invincible as the subsequent Hood carried the armor of a battleship with the same standard of the Queen Elizabeth with the speed of a battle cruiser. Fisher never liked a heavy secondary battery, so instead of continuing with 6-inch secondary guns, as with the Tiger, he reverted to 4-inch guns for a higher rate of fire. It was a new design, which combined the breach mechanism of one type of 4-inch gun with the mountings of another. More radically they were placed in three gun mountings with the idea of concentrating a high rate of fire from the best positions. The guns would train together but each gun could be elevated separately. However good in theory, they were a flop in actual operations. The breach mechanisms were set closely together. Since each triple mounting had a crew of 32, crewmen would get in the way of each other in firing the guns. The mountings could never generate the rate of fire of which they were technically capable.
They arrived at the Grand Fleet a matter of months after the Battle of Jutland, where two with the same thickness of belt, Invincible and Indefatigable, and one with a 50% greater armor belt, Queen Mary, were destroyed by catastrophic explosions. Just as the two had been laid down at the peak of enthusiasm for the type following the Battle of the Falklands, the came to the fleet at the nadir of enthusiasm for the type following the Battle of Jutland. Although additional plating had been incorporated in the design after the results of Jutland, they were not well received in the fleet. "Two long lines of scuttles proclaimed hulls devoid of armour, and armour in battle cuisers now not only meant ‘vision’ but ‘survival’ in a fleet action. Compared with the Derfflinger they were tin-cans, and although nothing could be done about side armor it was considered that their deck protection might be strengthened still further without much difficulty." British Battleships, 1971 by Oscar Parkes at page 610. Although deck armor was better than the preceding Tiger, belt armor was only half of that of the earlier design. A comparison of 1917 battle cruiser designs shows the following: Inflexible – Side Armor 2,020 tons, Deck Armor 1,200 tons; Princess Royal – Side Armor 3,900 tons, Deck Armor 2,300 tons; Tiger – Side Armor 4,750 tons, Deck Armor 2,300 tons; Renown – Side Armor 2,440 tons Deck Armor 3,300 tons; Hood – Side Armor 6,750 tons, Deck Armor 7,500 tons; Seydlitz – Side Armor 5,200 tons, Deck Armor 2,400 tons.
The Renown was laid down in January 1915 and launched March 4, 1915. After trials, she joined the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow on September 20, 1916. As built, the pair had funnels of even height. However, after trials revealed that there was too much intrusion of exhaust fumes of the first funnel into the bridge area and foretop, the height of their first funnel was increased by ten feet. This was done very shortly after the ships arrived at Scapa. The pair were sent to Rosyth for other improvements, particularly for extra horizontal armor over the magazines, steering room and a few other crucial areas, although there was no time to add additional vertical armor to their thin sides. Repulse had this done from November 10, 1916 to January 29, 1917, while Renown received the treatment from February 1, 1917 to April 1917. Neither ship became an operational component of the Grand Fleet until 1917. In additional to the heightened fore funnel, the Renown changed the arrangement of searchlight platforms on her second funnel. Originally she had three separate platforms at different heights on the stack. After the short refit, there was just one platform encircling the stack with searchlights at the corners. The pair, considered white elephants, spent so much time in the dockyard, that they received the derisive names Refit and Repair. With additions the maximum speed of Renown fell. After a very minor refit in 1919 her maximum speed was clocked at 29.85 knots.
Following the end of the war and the signing of the Washington Treaty, it was recognized that the pair would be in the service of the Royal Navy for some time. Throughout the war, there had only been time to add just extra deck armor over the magazines, however they couldn’t have any additional vertical armor added to their anemic 6-inch belt. Now their was time, but precious little money. In a refit in 1919-1920 the belt armor of Repulse was increased to 9-inches with a supplemental belt of 6-inches thickness above the main belt. HMS Renown did not receive a refit at this time because she was tasked with two consecutive missions that would take almost three years, before she received her refit. Both ships of course entered the Second World War in a far different form from their very fast, very lightly armored original form. For the Renown, it was a total rebuild that totally changed her appearance. Jackie Fisher gave birth to the battle cruiser and it was only fitting that the last surviving British battlecruiser was the one with the same name as his favorite flagship, HMS Renown, the most noble of the breed.
NNT HMS Renown 1916
The decks are very much different in design from all of the prewar battle cruiser designs. The ships were built with metal decks with no wood-planking overlay. This was because the wood planking would have added extra top-weight and increase building time. Since the contracts called for a 15-month building time, time was very important to the builders. Wooden planking serves a number of purposes, among which are insulation and traction. To insulate crew quarters, lagging was added inside the ship. This of course would not be seen on a ship model. A wooden deck provides for better traction for crew members, in that a wet steel deck is far more slippery than wood. With the ships’ high speeds, the forecastle would take some amount of water and with the low freeboard of the quarterdeck, that area would also be wet. To help with traction, foot panels were placed on the steel decks. Photographs of the ships in construction reflect that the decks were such darker in color than the vertical surfaces, as if the horizontal surfaces were an equivalent to AP507A and the vertical surfaces AP507C.
With the steel decks came something not only very different in color but also in texture. The steel decks of Renown come with an abundance of lines across the deck. Why are these there? If you look at the plans found in a number of sources, you’ll notice these lines. Fisher wanted the ships capable of laying mines but this idea was canned before completion. It is highly doubtful that these represent mine laying tracks, as they would only be found aft on the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck indeed has these lines but so does the forecastle and more tellingly them shelter deck (01 level). Any mines pushed over the sides of the quarterdeck would simply smash into the weather deck/forecastle or quarterdeck. They could be the foot strips added for traction, but that too is doubtful. The most logical reason for the slightly raised lines is for drainage. With flat metal decks there are no grooves as found with wooden decking to assist in draining excess water from the decks. These lines appear ideal in channeling water off of the decks. They are laid in a chevron pattern with the apex of the chevron forward of the two ends. The chevrons further have centerline length-wise channels through their apex and at their ends, forming a series of channels to move water. However, I could be wrong in my assessment/guess-work and maybe WR will mention their true purpose. In any event, you’ll find these lines all over the decks of the NNT Renown.
It is not just the plethora of lines on the deck that adds great interest to the NNT model, there are an abundance of other fine details that make this a standout. There is a strong outward flare for the forecastle, designed to deflect water off of the deck. Three oval angled deck hawse fittings for the anchor chains, two to starboard and one to port, further enhance the bow. Further back is a central windlass with raised lines radiating out from it and further back is a cluster of anchor windlasses and other fittings. Additional detail for the forecastle comes in the form of deck access hatches with panel detail, open chocks and bollard fittings. When you arrive at the very crisp and fine breakwater, you’ll see another treasure trove of detail. The rear face of the breakwater has support gussets and ventilator fittings are behind these, laid out in an asymmetrical arrangement. There is also another access hatch coaming here. Then there is A barbette and a cluster of ventilator fittings running along its circumference. NNT has also added a number of cast on cable reels here. These are very nice and I see no need to use brass reels in their place. Indeed, I prefer the NNT cast on reels to brass add-ons since the NNT versions come showing the cable. When you get to B barbette, you get more ventilators, plus some vertical strakes running up the barbette. Two flanking breakwaters run from the superstructure to deck edge. The weather deck continues on each side of the shelter deck on its long sweep aft to the deck break. Closer the aft ending of this deck are cast on boat chocks.
The quarterdeck is again dominated by parallel lines and chevrons, whether for foot strips or drainage. These run almost to the stern, changing patterns at the very rear. There are a couple of ventilators around X barbette, three centerline fittings and the usual bollard fittings and open chocks. The weather deck, which starts at B barbette, has its own quota of detail. B barbette has the asymmetrical groupings of ventilators and there is another cluster of access hatches, ventilators and other fittings just behind this at the base of the conning tower. Two tall bulkheads start here and angle back and out to the edge of the weather deck. This makes the 02 level of the superstructure appear solid but it actually open at the rear. A separate 02 level deckhouse forms the base for the bridge, followed by a series of ventilation panels surrounding three sides of the first funnel. Outboard of these are inclined ladder wells and some other fittings. As the weather deck runs aft there are three more deck houses, skylights, more ventilator panels in from of the second funnel, base fittings for 3-inch AA guns and two more ladder wells. About half way back the weather deck pinches in on each side and for the rest of its length still has a reat amount of detail. It is just before the deck narrows that the raised lines make their appearance on the weather deck. These continue to the end of the deck. There are deck access hatches, other centerline fittings, some open bulkheads, and a series of small deckhouses, which form the base for a flying deck above.
Smaller Resin Pieces
Most of the superstructure pieces are found on a small rectangle of resin film. The largest of the parts is the 02 deck. This has the top of the conning tower with vision slits and director base. There is a solid splinted shield encircling the deck around this position. At the rear on each side are additional splinter shields forming a half circle for the forward triple 4-inch gun mounts. Inboard of the shielding are some ready ammunition lockers. Aft of the conning tower is a deckhouse, which is the next level of the bridge. Behind this is a small deck house and a set of open bulkheads. These are right in front of a U shaped cut out for the first funnel. There are numbers skylights and other fittings on this deck. The 03 level of the superstructure continues the build of the bridge with a separate platform added to the notch at the rear of the superstructure. On a separate runner is the top level of the superstructure, which is the navigation bridge. Other parts on this sheet are tripod mast platforms, foretop parts and funnel searchlight platforms. Another small resin sheet has the aft flying or hurricane deck found at the rear of the weather deck. This includes an aft control station, other fittings and opening for a ladder well.
Guns come in three different mountings, the twin 15-inch turrets, triple 4-inch mountings, single 4-inch mountings and 3-inch open AA guns. It appears that the 15-inch turrets are off from the plans that appear in various references. It appears that they are slightly too wide at the rear. Crown detail differs as well. Photos show that the turrets have three sighting hoods forward on the crown but the resin turrets only have the centerline hood. There are two types of 15-inch barrels in the kit with a third option available from NNT. Included in the kit are resin barrels with blast bags and another set without blast bags. The third option, which is shown in the photographs, are brass barrels from NNT, which have open gun muzzles. The triple 4-inch guns are a delight. They are very fine and of superb detail. A separate open back gun shield fits over each mount. The Renown carried two additional single 4-inch guns at the forward corners of the shelter deck. These mounts come with the gun mounts, blast bags and smaller open back gun shields. There are also two open 3-inch AA gun mounts, which go onto the positions on each side of the second funnel. The two funnels have panel lines, upper lip, lower apron and interior flue fittings, which is unusual. Other resin fittings include support pillars for the 02 deck, tripod legs, searchlights, directors, anchors, signal lamps, yard arms and various types of steam launches and open ship’s boats.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret & Instructions
Now you can get the last true battle cruiser, Jackie Fisher’s beloved HMS Renown. This beautiful large design maximized Fisher’s favorites of heavy hitting guns with 15-inch twin turrets and a high 32-knot top speed, while minimizing what Fisher considered unnecessary, armor. With the NNT 1:700 scale HMS Renown 1916 you can build this lovely, large floating magazine as she first appeared at the dawn of her long noble career.