Massive 16 inch guns of battleship HMS Rodney

HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney were the only two battleships in the British Royal Navy with 16 inch guns.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2127) View looking forward from the bridge of HMS RODNEY in rough seas, showing two of the three 16 inch turrets trained on either beam, the barrels of the third turret can be seen in the foreground. Water can be seen coming up over the bow. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

All three main batteries were in the forefront of the ship before the bridge giving them an unusual appearance and the only battleships designed this was. During testing the Royal Navy discovered that if the turret closest to the bridge was traversed abeam to the maximum extent, then firing it broke all the windows on the bridge.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2115) After spending the night in the gun turrets and engine rooms of the battleship HMS RODNEY, crewmen (sailors and marines) take some fresh air on the starboard deck. Two of the triple 16 inch gun turrets can be seen in the background. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Built to the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty, the ships had heavy guns and heavy armour but had to reduce engine capacity to stay within the treaty limits. Unfortunately, their maximum speed was only 23 knots and that was on commissioning in the 1920s. They had a difficult time making that speed in World War Two although on occasion they made that speed and even higher such as when Rodney was trying to close with the Bismarck.

HMS Rodney had severe problems with water leaking into the ship due to defective riveting. In spite of extensive repairs made in the US Navy shipyard in Philadelphia the ship continued to have significant problems with water leaks–not a problem one wants in a man o’ war.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2147) A very clear shot of B turret on board HMS RODNEY taken from the bridge as the ship prepares to enter harbour. Beyond, on the focsle, some of the men are preparing to haul in the paravanes and get the cable cleared for anchoring. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


In her clash with the Bisarck, HMS Rodney fired 340 16-inch shell. While most firing was done in salvos, that is one barrel per turret would fire, the Rodney did fire a few broadsides. This meant all nine 16 inch guns fired at the same time. While designed for this, a full broadside was tough on the ship.


THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 15453) Inside the gunhouse of one of the three 16 inch triple Mark I mounting, housing three 16-inch Mark I guns on board HMS RODNEY. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 1135) On board HMS RODNEY a group of officers and men standing on a 16 inch turret watching a ‘Fashion Parade’. Aircraft of all types (not in the picture) fly past at a considerable height to give the Navy practice in identifying the machines. Note the 16 inch guns are at maximum elevation. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2123) Inside the gunhouse of one of the three Mark I triple mountings of HMS RODNEY showing the three 16 inch Mark I guns. In the foreground the gun lock is being shifted. In the centre the gun is being loaded and the gun on the left is ready to fire. Three members of crew can be seen. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 1417) Royal Marines remove old paint from the X gun turret on board HMS RODNEY before repainting. Another of the triple 16 inch gun turrets can be seen beyond the men. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 4608) Members of the South African Division of the Royal Naval Volunteers Reserve on board HMS NELSON posing for the camera between two of the enormous 16 inch guns of A turret. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

While the photo above is of HMS Rodney’s sister ship, HMS Nelson, you can see just how big were these 16 inch guns. HMS Nelson was the first of the ships constructed so they were known as “Nelson class” battleships. These were the only two battleships which carried main battery guns actually larger than than the Bismarck’s 15 inch guns.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2113) A memorial service for the Armed Merchant Cruiser JERVIS BAY, being held on the upper deck of HMS RODNEY whilst she is at sea. Comparatively few were able to attend the service, the rest being at their action stations, some being in the turrets of the 16 inch guns seen in the picture. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 200) Some of the barrels of goods passing under a 16 inch gun of HMS RODNEY as they are being rolled to the store rooms. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7694) Changing the 16 inch guns on HMS RODNEY at Cammel Laird shipyard, Birkenhead. Lowering a gun into position in A turret. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 16216) The battleship HMS RODNEY underway in the Mediterranean (photographed from the aircraft carrier HMS FORMIDABLE). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Mississippi Given to Greeks Bombed by Germans

The USS Mississippi was the first battleship of her class and was commissioned for the US Navy in 1908. She was subsequently sold to Greece in 1914 and was then renamed Kilkis. Kilkis saw minimal action during WW 1, assisted the White Russian Forces in the 1919 Allied Crimean expedition, and became a naval artillery training ship in 1935. She was sunk by German Bombers in April 1941 while docked at Salamis Naval Base.



Dressed with flags, off Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during Founders’ Week, 1908. Note motor launch off the starboard quarter, with Mississippi’s name painted on its stern, and the ship’s name in large letters atop the after superstructure.




View on the foredeck, looking aft, with the forward 12″/45 gun turret trained to starboard, 1908. Note: anchor chain and capstans; hatches; bridge structure with ship’s bell attached below its forward end. Photographed by Enrique Muller.




View looking forward from the ship’s port bridge wing, 1908. Note the 12″/45 gun turret with grating hatches open; also winch and capstans, with decorated tops on the latter. An old fortification is in the left distance. Photographed by Enrique Muller.

Under attack by German JU 87 dive bombers, at the Greek naval base at Salamis, 23 April 1941. In the lower left, in the floating drydock, is the destroyer Vasilefs Georgios. Kilkis, the former USS Mississippi (Battleship # 23), was sunk in this attack. The floating dock and destroyer were also sunk (reportedly on 20 April ?), but Vasilefs Georgios was subsequently raised and placed in service by the German Navy as Hermes (ZG-3). Photograph and some caption information were provided by Franz Selinger.


Sunk at the Greek naval base at Salamis, after she was hit by German air attacks on 23 April 1941. Photographed from a German Heinkel HE 60 seaplane after the base was occupied by the German Army. Note bomb damage to the nearby pier. Kilkis was the former USS Mississippi (Battleship # 23). Photograph and some caption information were provided by Franz Selinger.
Lots of American naval ships end up in foreign navies.


Family of Austrian Naval Hero Von Trapp Inspires Sound of Music

Heroic Austrian naval officer Baron Von Trapp and his family inspire musical Sound of Music


Austrian Baron Georg Johannes von Trapp

commanded Austrian Uboats in World War One

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Austrian Navy? How is that possible? Isn’t Austria is landlocked? Yes, but it wasn’t when the Austro-Hungarian Empire existed. That multi-ethnic state  collapsed after World War One. Territories ruled by the Austrian Emperor included Slovenia and Croatia which bordered the Adriatic thus giving access to the sea.

Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, in uniform, undated. Credit: Library of Congress

Above is the longest reigning Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph I,  who reigned from 2 December 1848 – 21 November 1916. He was also King of King of Hungary and Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria; and retained the heriditay title of King of Jerusalem one of the kingdoms established by the crusaders in the Middle Ages.

In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire in central Europe, a very loose federation of Germanic states and principalities, finally collapsed. Since the Habsburgs had usually supplied the Holy Roman Empire with its Emperor,  the Austrian Empire, ruled by the Habsburgs, became the successor state. There is an old saying in history that the Holy Roman Empire was neither “Holy” nor “Roman” nor an “Empire,” all of which is substantially true.

Whenever you come across a historical figure whose title was “Elector” then that person was one of the seven princes and kings who elected the Emperor.


Austro-Hungarian main naval base at Pula shown by red arrow on map above


The Austrian Empire or Austro-Hungarian Empire had a substantial navy with almost 36,000 officers and men and a large number of ships, including dreadnoughts and submarines. They did well considering that there wasn’t a common language in the Habsburg Empire. Educated people spoke German like the Austrians do today of course but others refused out of sense of nationalistic identity, the Magyars in Hungary being some of the most uncooperative.

singing von Trapps in Vermont in 1946. While pictured as a sweet and loving person in the Sound of Music, Mrs von Trapp was something of a dragon and ordered everyone around.

The most famous officer of the long defunct Austro-Hungarian Navy is Baron von Trapp. He and the singing Von Trapp family were made famous in the movie “The Sound of Music” which is loosely based on their story. Baron von Trapp was an outstanding Austrian submarine commander in World War One. He made 19 war patrols and sank 11 cargo ships, a French cruiser and an Italian submarine.

After the proclamation of the Dual Monarchy in 1867 with the Emperor of Austria becoming the King of Hungary as well as Austrian Emperor, the fleet was known became known as the “Imperial and Royal War Navy.”

That phrase in German is “kaiserliche und königliche Kriegsmarine,” abbreviated as k.u.k. which how the fleet was known. The k.u.k. operated mainly in the Adriatic Sea but during World War One also positioned itself as a “fleet in being” which could enter the Mediterranean if so chose and dispute French, British and Italian control.



Austro-Hungarian Dreadnoughts At Pula before World War One.

Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum


Austrian battleship Viribus Unitis


The fleet was based at the port of Pola, now Pula, in Croatia, then part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. After its defeat in World War One and the collapse of the empire, Hungary was deprived of all of its territory along the Adriatic and hence no longer had ports for Imperial and Royal fleet which was dispersed.



Austro-Hungarian fleet on maneuvers circa 1912

(photo courtesy Wikipedia)

A former commander of the k.u.k. was Admiral Horthy who proclaimed himself Regent of Hungary after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This is how a land locked country of Hungary came to be ruled by an admiral for decades.

If you have an interest in learning more,  substantial detail on the k.u.k. can be found here:

Veteran Royal Navy Battleship Malaya at Sea World War Two

Battleships HMS Barham, HMS Malaya and aircraft carrier HMS Argus at sea circa 1935.  (US Navy Archive)

Both HMS Barham and HMS Malaya were Queen Elizabeth class battleships built during World War One. Neither received significant modification between the wars and were past their design life when World War Two came. They were both old and slow. HMS Barham was sunk in the Mediterranean while HMS Malaya spent much of the war escorting Allied troop convoys. Under specific instructions from the Admiralty, all troop convoys, many from America, had to be escorted by a battleship plus a heavy close escort force.

The Cunard liners, RMS Queen Elizabeth and RMS Queen Mary were exempt from this because of their speed. When accepted into service as troop transports, their designation was changed to HMT/S (His Majesty’s Transport ship)

HMS Malaya, in spite of not being reconstructed like several of her sisters including HMS Warspite, still performed yeoman service in the war. Her engines were not in great condition and she could not make more than 20 knots which limited her from staying with a battle fleet. In the Med, she often feel far behind HMS Warspite, flagship of C-in-C Mediterranean.




After being hit by a German torpedo in March of 1941, HMS Malaya spent four months in dry dock in New York being repaired. She was scrapped in 1948 after long and honourable service.

ON BOARD HMS MALAYA. OCTOBER 1941. (A 5692) Seamen replacing the guard rails after a Fairey Swordfish sea plane had been catapulted from the deck of HMS MALAYA. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


Fairy Swordfish torpedo bombers were rugged planes in spite of their fragile look. A handful of them were made as amphibious planes and used for shot spotting during battle or reconnaissance. Once landed in the water, the plane would position itself so that its home ship only had to slow down but not stop to when a tow rope was thrown to the crew. They attached this to a special fitting and a crane lifted them out of the water.

ON BOARD HMS MALAYA. OCTOBER 1941. (A 5693) After a reconnaissance flight the Fairey Swordfish sea plane returns to HMS MALAYA and is hoisted in board. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


ON BOARD HMS MALAYA. OCTOBER 1941. (A 5691) A Fairey Swordfish sea plane catapulted from the deck of HMS MALAYA. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


ON BOARD HMS MALAYA. OCTOBER 1941. (A 5695) Sunday morning Divisions on board HMS MALAYA. The Captain, Captain C Coppinger, DSC, RN, inspecting a division on the quarterdeck. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: