|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|
Birth of a Greyhound
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.
British Battleships of World War Two
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, Battlecruisers. After Fisher left office the RN continued to build battlecruisers 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 battlecruiser. At the Battle of Heligoland Bight on August 28, 1914, RN battlecruisers 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 battlecruiser 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 battlecruisers. "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 battlecruiser 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 battlecruisers. At first Churchill refused, as he was against the battlecruiser 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 battlecruisers. That was all that was needed to overcome Churchill’s resistance. The pair were ordered as battlecruisers. 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.
British Battleships 1919-1939
Since the advent of Dreadnought and Invincible, both battleships and battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruiser 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. 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 battlecruiser, Invincible. They were given anti-torpedo bulges as an integral part of the hull, rather than an afterthought.
Renownwould 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 battlecruiser 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 battlecruiser 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 battlecruiser.
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. 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.
Hit First, Hit Hard; H.M.S. Renown 1916-1948
From March 16, 1920 to November 5, 1920 HMS Renown was engaged in traveling half way around the world with the heir to the throne aboard. The purpose was a good will visit to the far-flung commonwealths, dominions and possessions of the British Empire with a few other stops in between. The story of this odessy was made into an 183 page book entitled "H.M.S. Renown in Australasia" and subtitled "The Magazine of H.M.S. ‘Renown". Anyone familiar with the modern warship cruise book will instantly recognize the format of this title. Some material on the ship, some material on the crew (mostly the officers), some photos although far fewer than modern cruise books, and a lot of material on the places visited. In almost every regard, this title is the ancestor of the modern warship cruise book.
H.M.S. Renown in Australasia
The Renown went east to the Barbados in the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and then north to San Diego. From there she visited Hawaii before heading southwest to Fiji and New Zealand. From there she steamed to Australia, back to Fiji, then Somoa and then back to Hawaii. To conclude her homeward voyage stops were made at Acapulco, eastward through the Panama Canal, various British islands in the Caribbean were visited and then back to Great Britain. The volume covers the various stops and what happened and what was done. Clearly the Renown and her crew left a strong impression. The following are the first and last verses of a poem written by an unidentified young lady in Australia and found addressed to one of the officers of Renown.
|At evening when I go to bed
I think of him, and hide my head;
I – a simple girl in town;
He – a sailor of Renown.
I – a twinkling star at eve;
The cruise of Renown featured an unusual event. Those who had not previously crossed the equator, were initiated by King Neptune on April 17, 1920. That was a time honored custom and not unusual. What was unusual was that one of the recipients of the initiation was heir to the throne of Great Britain, as the Prince of Wales did participate. "Admiral Halsey then again introduced H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to His Aquatic Majesty, who invited him to take his seat on one of the stools. This done, His Royal Highness was plentifully lathered with fearsome-looking concoctions, his temperature was taken by the Doctor with an enormous thermometer, his chest and back were sounded with a huge stethoscope – a voice pipe head piece. He was given a large pill, which made him cough exceedingly, was lastly shaved with a two-foot wooden razor, the foot pedal of his stool was released, and he was tipped backwards into the bath, there to be seized and ducked by the waiting bears, who in the meantime been growling ferociously." H.M.S. Renown in Australasia "The Magazine of H.M.S. ‘Renown" at page 126. Sub-Lieutenant Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was flag lieutenant at the time, was another initiate at these proceedings. Lord Mountbatten had an anglicized last name, changed from the original German form during World War One. He was the son of Prince Louis Battenberg, replaced by Jackie Fisher as First Sea Lord of the Admiralty in October 1914, and had a long career with the Royal Navy, just as his father. The Prince of Wales however, went on to abdicate the throne to run off with Wallis Simpson.
In 1921 to 1922 Renown again conveyed the Prince of Wales but this time to India and Japan. Renown left Portsmouth on October 26, 1921 stopped at Malta, went through the Suez Canal into the Indian Ocean. Stops were made at Persian Gulf ports, Bombay, Karachi, Bombay, Port Swettenham, Singapore, Hong Kong and Yokohoma. On the return trip stops were Manila, Labuan, Penang, Trincomalee, the Suez Canal, Malta and Gibraltar.
Renownreceived her refit from 1923 to 1926. Costing more than the refit of Repulse, 979,927 sterling versus 860,684sterling, the Renown also received a 9-inch armor belt. Twenty-four of the fifty-two 9-inch plates came from an order for the Chilean battleship Almirante Cochrane, which was purchased from Chile and became the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. She was given a new anti-torpedo bulge built over the existing bulge, which gave her greater protection against the torpedo. She also received additional deck plating over key areas. She also received sponsons for pom-poms, extra bridge work and a larger control top.
After her refit she was again assigned the role of Royal Yacht but this time she took the Duke of York to Australia in 1927. This time Renown did again carry the heir to the throne. Upon his older brother’s abdication of the throne, the Duke of York became King George VI and was the father of the present British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. He was king during World War Two in which HMS Renown had her most glorious period of service in her lengthy career. From 1928 to 1936 she was part of the four ship Battle Cruiser Squadron, consisting of Hood, Renown, Repulse and Tiger, until Tiger was removed in 1931, leaving only the three battlecruisers started after the beginning of World War One. Renown had a minor refit in 1931-1932 that added a HACS Mk I to the fore top and added some pom-pom mounts and directors. In 1933 a catapult was amidships. On January 23, 1935 Renown collided with Hood off of the coast of Spain. Renown rammed Hood on her starboard aft quarter with Renown fracturing her bow above and below the waterline. After temporary repairs in Gibraltar, Renown steamed to Portsmouth for three months of repairs.
Renown and Repulse, Ensign 8
The Great Rebuild
Elevation for the main guns was increased to 30 degrees. The only new armor that could be fitted was an additional 4 to 3 inches over the new 4.5-inch magazines, boiler room and engine room and an additional 2.5-inches over the steering gear. The A & B barbette armor below deck was increased as well. Additionally, Renown was equipped with a water protection system. When fuel tanks were empty, water would be pumped in to add extra protection. On average she would carry an additional 1,040 tons of weight in the form of water pumped into empty spaces. A new large tower superstructure replaced the classical British bridge with tripod fore mast. However, the tower bridge of Renown was more graceful than the blocky, angular tower design of the three Queen Elizabeths or even the modern King George V bridge work. In part this was because her upper bridge/compass platform was rounded at the forward edges and in part because Renown received streamlined, tear-shaped stacks, which fume interference. Seaplane hangars on either side of the second funnel and a cross deck catapult aft of these were also added. After finishing her rebuild in 1939 Renown was actually 1,491 tons lighter than after her 1926 refit, displacing 30,025 light load. This however, was still far heavier than her 26,500 tons light as commissioned. Renown did 32 knots only on trials in 1916 as speed immediately dropped with addition of extra protection in that year and her refit between 1923 through 1926. After her rebuild she had a top speed of 29.93 knots on trials in shallow water at 120,560shp. She later hit 30.1 knots. It wasn’t the 32 knot ship that Jackie Fisher wanted but it was a far better warship in 1939 than she was as new in 1916.
"When she steamed out of Portsmouth in June 1939 her ‘refit’ represented only 30,000 (sterling) less than her prime cost, but an out-of-date and very vulnerable ship had been given the teeth to defend herself from air attack, and by the then standards was well equipped to withstand it." British Battleships, 1971 by Oscar Parkes at page 614. Renown rejoined the Home Fleet just in time as war came in three months. In September 1939 Renown and Hood with supporting cruisers and destroyers made a sweep of the Iceland to Faroes gap to intercept returning German merchant ships. In October she and Ark Royal formed Force K in the search for the Graf Spee in the South Atlantic. Renown was reassigned to Force H with Eagle and two cruisers based in Capetown when the Graf Spee was reported in the Indian Ocean. She stayed in the Cape of Good Hope area while assigned to this force. On December 2, 1939 she sank the German freighter Watussi, 9,552 tons. The freighter had already been abandoned when set on fire by the cruiser Sussex and Renown just polished off the burning hulk. "One of our companions had intercepted the German liner Watussi; she was well alight when we arrived and it was decided to use one of B turrets guns to sink her. Imagine the delight of the engine-room crowd assembled on deck to watch the fun when B gun missed completely at close range, but managed to sink her after a couple of further shots; her survivors had previously been picked up by Sussex and taken on to Capetown." Hit First, Hit Hard; H.M.S. Renown 1916-1948, 1979 by Peter C. Smith, at Page 85. In February 1940 Renown and Ark Royal were again paired in hunting six German freighters that had left Vigo, Spain. Only one of them reached Germany as four were sunk or scuttled and one wrecked on the Norwegian coast. She returned to England on March 4, 1940. Her next targets would be more formidable than the derelict burning Watussi.
Renown & the Twins
Before the Germans were out of range Renown scored two more hits on Gneisenau that put her forward turret out of action. Renown was hit by three 11-inch shells. All three passed through unprotected areas without exploding. One went through a leg of the light tripod foremast, one passed through the extreme stern damaging a fan and light fittings and the third cracked the upper casing of the forward funnel. "One shell drilled a hole in our mainmast, the second clipped the funnel, while the third penetrated close aft of Y magazine, into and out through the bottom of the Admiral’s wine store. Never have I seen so many volunteers to help the DB party pump out the compartment, all arriving with their suck-sacks, tool bags and what have you and all subsequently gliding away forard with their loot! I don’t know how the Admiral managed for wine but we all did very well thank you, our DB section looked more like an off-license." Hit First, Hit Hard; H.M.S. Renown 1916-1948, 1979 by Peter C. Smith, at Page 109. It took one month to repair the damage, which was far greater with that caused by the rough weather and blast damage than the damage caused by the glancing German hits. Jackie Fisher would have laughed approval of his battlecruiser child, 24 years out of the builders, chasing two new German fast battleships through the snow squalls.
Renown, Profile Morskie #34
In May 1941 Renown was still part of the Gibraltar based Force H. Earlier in the month when the ship was subjected to an air attack, the interrupter gear of the third 4.5-inch DP mount on the port side malfunctioned. As a result, in the heat of action P3 turret fired two shells into the rear of the adjacent P2 turret causing five instant deaths in the gun crew to P2. Five more gunners were seriously injured, one of whom died latter, and 22 more received lesser injuries. "Our 4.5’s were firing at the torpedo bombers with their barrels pretty well depressed. For some unknown reason P3 gun fired into the back of P2 and blew the crew and guns to smithereens. Theoretically this should not have happened because when a gun is trained on a dangerous bearing it cuts out and breaks the firing circuit and so automatically prevents the guns from being fired. This did not happen and when we got back to Gibraltar they erected angle iron around the outside to prevent this type of ghastly accident happening again. It is ironic to think that this should happen to ourselves, the only casualties of the war we suffered." Hit First, Hit Hard; H.M.S. Renown 1916-1948, 1979 by Peter C. Smith, at Page 198.
At the end of the month, when Bismarck sortied, Force H sailed north with the main components being the carrier Ark Royal escorted by Renown and Sheffield. After the Bismarck was sighted by a Catalina, Force H closed with the position. Admiral Somerville requested permission for Renown to engage Bismarck. Although Renown stayed with the carrier and did not see action. To the contrary, with an armor scheme lighter than the just sunk Hood, Renown was ordered not to engage Bismarck unless she was already under fire from other capital ships. "This is the Captain speaking – I have signaled Admiralty, requesting permission to engage Bismarck – That is all.’ Thinking in our minds of what that ship had just done to the Hood, that was plenty! It was a very subdued D/C party that sat around. About an hour later, or so it seemed like, the intercom crackled again. ‘This is the Captain speaking – In reply to my signal, Admiralty has sent the following reply. On no account is Renown to engage Bismarck unless already engaged.’ It’s just as well the Jerries couldn’t hear the cheers throughout the ship at that announcement, we felt we’d probably lived to fight again by that decision." Hit First, Hit Hard; H.M.S. Renown 1916-1948, 1979 by Peter C. Smith, at Page 203. It was a torpedo hit from a Swordfish from Ark Royal that disabled the steering of Bismarck and sealed her doom. However, the Admiralty order, kept top secret, that Renown was not to engage a Bismarck or Tirpitz Class alone, remained in effect. Upon entering Gibraltar, one British soldier shouted out, "Does it take all the Bloody Navy to sink the Bismarck?’ The reply from our side probably sank him too – ‘No, only half. The other half is evacuating you bastards from Crete!" Hit First, Hit Hard; H.M.S. Renown 1916-1948, 1979 by Peter C. Smith, at Page 204-205.
On June 4 she intercepted the German supply ship Gonzenheim, which was tasked to support the Prinz Eugen and now sunk Bismarck. For eight months Force H, which called themselves "The Club", had consisted of Renown, Ark Royal, Sheffield and the F Class destroyers of the 8th Flotilla. Mediterranean operations were called "Club Runs". It was deemed to be an exclusive club of the most efficient warships in the Royal Navy. A mythical regimental tie was designed for members of "The Club", consisting of a Mediterranean gray field, scattered with raspberries. However, the run was now over as replacements arrived. Hermione took over from Sheffield, the L Class destroyers took over from the F Class and Renown was replaced by Nelson. Later that year the last member of "The Club", Ark Royal was sunk by a U-Boat. In August 1941 Renown was ordered back home for a refit to prepare her for operations in the east. She was initially selected to be sent to Singapore to strengthen the British Navy in the Pacific but, luckily for Renown, her sister Repulse was substituted in her stead. Renown would have probably have been sunk by the Japanese Nell and Betty torpedo bombers in December 1941, just as easily as Prince of Wales and Repulse, in spite of her better AA fit than Repulse. With the loss of Repulse, HMS Renown became the last of the battlecruisers but to her crew her nickname was the "Largest Destroyer in the Fleet".
British Battle Cruisers Type Repulse, Okrety Swiata #12
Renown & Sara
Between February 22 to June 9, 1943 there was another big increase in AA armament. Another three single and 13 twin Oerlikon guns were added to the existing AA fit. The aircraft equipment was removed to provide more space for AA and to modify boat storage.
From December 1943 to January 1944 Renown was being fitted to join the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. More AA mounts were added in the form of a quad pom-pom replacing the 20mm guns on B turret. These displaced Oerlikons were repositioned seven twin and five single Oerlikons were added. Each addition added weight and crew requirements for the new guns but very little if anything could be removed to improve stability. On April 19, 1944 she escorted HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga on an air attack mission of Sabang, Sumatra. "Sara’ made an immediately good impression on the British Fleet as she joined up with her ship’s company fallen in in immaculate white uniform on her flight deck. She never lost her reputation for smartness and efficiency from that moment." Hit First, Hit Hard; H.M.S. Renown 1916-1948, 1979 by Peter C. Smith, at Page 274-275.
Renown bombarded Car Nicobar and Port Blair in the Andaman Islands on April 30 to May 1, 1944. She was again escort to Illustrious and Saratoga in air attacks of Surubaya, Java on May 17 and Port Blair on June 21. On May 18 when Saratoga and her three USN destroyers departed the British Eastern Fleet, the fleet was strung in line and as each ship was passed, the British crews cheered the Saratoga. On July 25, 1944 Victorious and Illustrious made an air attack on Sabang, Sumatra. Renown, Queen Elizabeth, Valiant and Richelieu then closed and bombarded the port with gun fire. From October 17 to 19, 1944 she bombarded the Nicobar Islands after air assaults. In November she was selected to be part of the new British Pacific Fleet along with Queen Elizabeth and Valiant. In March 1945 Renown was recalled to supplement the now depleted Home Fleet just in case the remaining German heavy units tried a last ditch suicide sortie. On May 11, 1945 following VE Day, Renown hosted a conference with German naval delegates in which the Germans showed the locations of their mine fields. Four days later Renown was placed in reserve.
The Royal Navy still had plans for Renown. In July 1945 six of her 4.5-inch turrets were removed and along with all of her light AA. The plan was to replace the turrets with fully automated mounts. However, in a brief flash of her old status as Royal yacht, she served as host for the meeting of King George VI and President Truman on August 3, 1945 as Truman was returning from the Potsdam Conference and about to take USS Augusta home. A final refit that would have added another 350 tons was scheduled for October 1945 but was cancelled in September with the surrender of Japan.
Lack of Speed for the Fastest Capital Ship in the Navy
Throughout almost all of her long career HMS Renown, along with her sister Repulse, remained the weakest armored British capital ships. However, until 1940 they could outrun any ship more powerful, which was exactly what was called for by Jackie Fisher back in December 1914. (Bulk of history from British Battleships, 1971 by Oscar Parkes;British Battleships 1919-1939, 1993 by R.A. Burt ; British Battleships of World War Two, 1976 by Alan Raven & John Roberts; Hit First, Hit Hard; H.M.S. Renown 1916-1948 1979 by Peter C. Smith; H.M.S. Renown in Australasia" "The Magazine of H.M.S. ‘Renown"; Renown and Repulse, Ensign 8, 1978 by Maurice Northcott )
HMS Renown From White Ensign Models
Deck planking is almost universal on models of ships that had timber planks. Whether plastic or resin, the planking can be readily seen. Sometimes subtly done, sometimes overdone. However, in each case the planking runs length wise along the long axis of the ship, conveying the impression that a series of extraordinarily long planks were used. Some of the best modelers have spent a great deal of time in adding in the athwartship "width" lines for the planking. The butt ends of the planks had to be added because they were never present in the casting or molding. Peter Hall decided that he would add this detail. For the WEM HMS Renown Peter prepared a brass photo-etch deck in which each individual plank was delicately etched. Is this the EXACT plank arrangement that Renown carried? I don’t know and I doubt if anybody knows but it surely looks right. Maybe there is a small band among the "rivet counters" that can be classified as "plank counters". Maybe Peter unintentionally started a brand new club. As I frequently say in reviews, "Look at the photos!" They are far more eloquent in showing this amazing detail than words can ever be.
The other detail is almost as amazing. Normally when I describe hull detail features in a review, I just look at the hull and write what I see. With the WEM Renown I had to change this custom. The detail is so fine and plentiful that I had to look at the photographs, magnified greatly over the size of the model by macro-photography, to see everything that is present on this casting. The bow capstans have a very delicate hour-glass profile and the star-rayed metal foc’sle deck at the bow is spectacular. The breakwater with its brace work is superb. The catapult has 74 lateral supports. The resin deck hatches have individual hinges, handles and dogs. The individual cable and hose reels are extraordinary in the fineness of their detail. The bollards & cleats and their base plates are plentiful and crisp. The small deck ventilators, boat chocks and other deck bits create a forest of detail blooming from the deck. With all this detail cast integral to the hull casting, perhaps the most amazing thing is that it is all perfectly executed. Everything was crisp, clean and totally without defect. The only damage to the casting was when I accidentally broke a boat choke loose by putting my finger on it during the photography.
The hull sides are just as well done from the unique outward flair at the bow with its cleaver cutwater to the prominent bulging with its series of vertical strakes. About the only thing to pick at is the portholes, which are rather shallow. However, to me the most significant, although rather minor, problem with the hull casting was the clean up of the resin sheet on which the hull was cast. On other WEM kits I have not noticed this casting sheet but with the Renown it was very noticeable as the sheet extended beyond the bottom hull edges. Now, all it took to remove the sheet was to easily break it loose from the hull with a thumb and finger. However, you also have to get out the sanding pad or sanding stick and smooth the tiny remnants of the sheet from the water line. I was so eager to start photography on the hull that I just used a pad and didn’t go get my sanding stick for the minute cleanup. As a result the photographs still show very minute particles of the casting sheet still at the waterline as well as some resin dust on the hull casting. The small amount of time necessary for this cleanup is a very small price to pay for the incredible detail packed into this hull casting.
Just so the reader doesn’t think that I have gone overboard in my description of the WEM HMS Renown kit or thinks that I have been co-opted by WEM, I’ll again depart from the format of my usual review by adding comments posted on the SteelNavy message board by a few modelers that have already received their Renown.
Jon Iverson – "My WEM Renown just arrived and folks, if you buy one kit this year, buy this one!… One definitely does not build this kit! But, merely should take the hull out and fondle and caress it while watching one's favorite documentary on the Royal Navy in WW2. Peter Hall: You have made a masterpiece!…Everything is in this kit to make a sure show-stopper….This is WEM's best offering yet IMHO - and they offer some wonderful kits….Folks, you may believe that I am gushing a bit much about this kit, but trust me, hold this beauty in your hands and you may no doubt state I have understated this kits true magnificence. Again, thank you Peter Hall and the rest of the WEM gang for creating this much needed subject - and doing it so well!"
Jim Baumann – "I have to admit to having cleaned up the casting plugs, and applied a light undercoating to the decks and hull sides of Renown, very, very thinly..., neat decking like this must not be buried under thick paint!!" Jim stopped in the middle of another build just to start preparation of the WEM Renown. "I have to say I am REALLY looking forward to this build/assembly, looks so far to be hassle free and crisp; truth be told I cannot wait... Damn Monitor holding up the production line!!"
Clay - Confessions of a 1/350th bigot... - "Even if an inaccuracy can be seen this is an incredible effort. With efforts like this 1/700th may yet be considered worthy enough for consideration for "true scale" status like 1/350th and 1/72nd are. There. I said it. I am actually impressed by a 1/700th kit. Humbled, Clay" Clay didn’t have the kit but made his statement after seeing one photograph of the deck detail.
J.R. - WEM Kits Are Works of Art – "Its almost a shame that you have to build them."
Maybe all of us are under some mass-illusion cast and spun by the guileful Master of Illusion, Mad Pete, and Caroline, John and Dave, his willing accomplices at White Ensign Models, but I don’t think so. The kit is that good!
Smaller Resin Parts
After clean up the smaller parts readily fall into place. The model’s design makes them practically lock into place. There is no need to maneuver pieces around before the glue hardens because there is perfect placement from the get-go. When you look at the photographs of the model with some of the larger parts attached, remember that they are dry-fitted. The parts were simply placed in their positions on the hull with no glue or any other form of attachment. In spite of the exquisite detail of the hull casting and the smaller parts, the kit is designed for easy, error free assembly.
I could describe almost each of the smaller resin pieces and proclaim its detail but in stead you can see the photographs. I will describe some of the stellar parts. My favorite smaller part is the aircraft hangar. Actually there are two, sitting one on each side of the second funnel but the hangar piece is one of the larger size smaller pieces and comes as a single block. Each segment of the roll-up hangar doors is minutely shown with the utmost care in detail. The boat chock base plates on the top are already cast into place. The different platforms already have their supports cast in place. The rear lip to the hangar already has its nine supports cast integral to the part. WEM is probably has the most photo-etch fret intensive approach among the manufacturers, probably being only equaled by YS Master Pieces. In the past WEM may have made all of these supports and many details on the hull as separate brass pieces. However, if WEM did this with their Renown, the brass photo-etch fret would have been twice the size of the already large fret provided. With these details cast onto the parts in resin with such fineness and detail, it is unnecessary to produce them in brass. Another significant benefit to the modeler is the reduction in build time and the elimination of points of possibly botching the assembly.
The tower bridge is one block with the two top levels being separate parts. This part from WEM has some wonderful and perfectly clean undercuts, with all of the smaller architectural features cast into the part. These details also include different raised platforms on the bridge and two of the 20mm tubs. The stacks are nicely done, although from the pictures, you can see that a little clean-up is still necessary. The forward stack especially deserves note as the two platforms on the forward face of that stack are cast integral to the stack. There is no fumbling around with those platforms as they are already perfectly placed through the magic of Mad Pete and WEM. The armament, as a whole, deserves special note. The eight-barreled pom-poms are outstanding creations. Each minute single piece casting of this ordnance has a tremendous amount of detailing cast into the part. Although not as intricate, the ten 4.5-inch counter-sunk 4.5-inch DP turrets have all of the detail that a modeler could want. Although B turret with its three roof top Oerlikon tubs is the most prominent, all three of the main gun turrets come packed with roof top detail.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
As always WEM uses extensive relief etching for this fret. This provides an extra 3rd dimensional perspective to the two dimensional character of photo-etch. Although the kit provides superb one piece resin parts for the pom-pom mounts, optional brass pom-poms are provided on the fret. Each of the mounts consists of nine brass pieces. Even if you choose to use the resin ordnance pieces, you still need the safety railing for the mounts found on the fret. The early quad Vickers machine gun mounts are there on the fret in all of their splendor. Each of these minute pieces of ordnance is made up of seven parts, starting with the relief-etched base plate on which you can actually count the eight bolts that secured the base plate to the deck. If you think about that – you can actually see and count individual bolts in 1:700 scale! Although the heavy tripod and foretop of Renown was eliminated during her 1936-1939 rebuild, the new Renown still had starfish, two of them, the larger 13 piece on for the foretop and the smaller 5 piece starfish for the maintop. The boat/aircraft cranes feature their own relief etching in the spidery grid work pattern. The Yagi radars are extraordinarily well detailed and fine with eight parts in each array. Patience and time will be needed to assemble these miniatures to do the parts justice, as well as a good pair of magnifying glasses to see what you are doing.
For those modelers than wanted all of the itsy-bittsy brass piece assembly of a WEM kit and bemoan the decision of WEM to cast doors, hatches and platforms in resin, this fret still contains all of the brass detail for which White Ensign Models is "renowned". In addition to the optional brass pieces already mentioned and the assemblies that only found in brass already mentioned, there is plenty more detail on this fret. In addition to the cast on stack platforms, there are more, smaller stack platforms that done in brass and feature a platform tread/grid work and folding railing. Of course the multiple piece relief etched anchors still need to be assembled and the accommodation ladders feature relief-etched platforms. There is still plenty of supports, electronic gear with a mass of different radars, large lattice boat chocks for the top of the hangar, relief-etched catapult turntables, Walrus detail, davits, yards, 3-D boat thwarts with oars and rudders, relief etched deck hatches & doors and a host of other detail to satisfy even the most jaded brass junkie. WEM even throws in searchlight covers in the photo-etch parade. WEM also provides brass rod for the light tripods of the fore and main masts.
The color plate provides full port and starboard profiles of Renown featuring her distinctive 1942 Admiralty Disruptive camouflage scheme as well as a top down plan. This camouflage is striking in the rainbow of colors used to such an extent that Peter Max would have been proud to have designed it. From the plan the modeler will see that although A & B turrets have an AP507A dark gray (grey) roof, Y turret has the roof in a two color white & AP507A scheme. White Ensign Models was kind enough to note, in addition to the colors Admiralty designations, the eight colors by their Colourcoat number. How thoughtful!