Battleship HMS Rodney at War

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: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185114

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 1426) On board HMS RODNEY ‘Boys’ receiving instruction on how to ‘heave the lead’. The lead weighs 10 to 14 pounds and the picture shows a Boy standing in the ‘chains’ about to heave the lead. Going in and out of harbour a Leadman is always in the chains taking soundings which he calls out to the bridge. The Forth railway bridge can be seen in the distance. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185116

 

MEN OF THE HMS RODNEY KEEP FIGHTING FIT. 20 JANUARY 1943, MERS-EL-KEBIR, ON BOARD HMS RODNEY. (A 14364) A game of deck hockey during the dog watches on board HMS RODNEY. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205147536

 

GUNNERS KEEP UP TO THE MARK ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP RODNEY. MARCH 1943, ON BOARD HMS RODNEY. (A 15733) A gunnery spotting table rigged up on the forecastle on board HMS RODNEY. A model ship and model splashes are used to indicate to the gunnery control officer high up in the director control tower, the accuracy of his ‘fire’. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205149007

 

SENDING UP THE HEAVY SHELLS ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP RODNEY. MARCH 1943, ON BOARD HMS RODNEY. (A 15737) In a 16′ shell ammunition room on board HMS RODNEY a sailor revolves a shell into the hoist while an empty shell container returns to position to fetch another shell from the tray. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205148757

 

MIDSHIPMEN TRAINING ON THE BATTLESHIP RODNEY. MARCH 1943, ON BOARD HMS RODNEY. (A 15736) Midshipmen being trained in rifle drill on the forecastle on board HMS RODNEY. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205148756

In Constant Battle Royal Navy Town Class Light Cruisers

 

HMS EDINBURGH (Town class cruiser) HMS HERMIONE (Dido class cruiser) HMS EURYALUS (Dido class cruiser) steaming in line abreast whilst they escort a convoy (Operation HALBERD – convoy not visible).

Two men stained with fuel oil taking a breath of fresh air on on Town Class cruiser HMS Manchester flight deck, after being rescued from below deck. Both of them are wearing life preservers. Manchester had been damaged by an aerial torpedo but was not sunk. Photo by Imperial War Museum)

HMS Liverpool at speed February 1942 (photo courtesy Imperial War Museum)

All ten Town class cruisers were light cruisers, built to constraints of London Naval Treaty of 1930. This laudable but misguided treaty hurt the Royal Navy and the US Navy since the Japanese Navy and Kriegsmarine cheated outrageously and lied about the displacement of their “treaty cruisers.”

The two forward 6-inch gun turrets of the Town class cruiser HMS SHEFFIELD after she had opened fire and sunk the German tanker FRIEDERICH BREME in the North Atlantic. (Photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum).

 

HM King George VI, wearing the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, inspecting personnel from Glasgows crew at Scapa Flow as part of a four-day visit to the Home Fleet. Her two forward 6 inch gun turrets can be seen in the background. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

 

Cruisers HMS Glasgow (C21), left, and USS Quincy (CA-71), right, during the bombardment of Cherbourg in support of the advancing Allied troops. (Official Royal Navy photograph courtesy of Imperial War Museum)


HMS Sheffield, a Southampton class cruiser, was built by Vickers Armstrong , on the Tyne, and completed in 1937. Ice forming on a 20-inch signal projector on the cruiser HMS SHEFFIELD whilst she is helping to escort an Arctic convoy to Russia. (photograph courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

 

 

ROYAL NAVY ADVANCED COASTAL FORCES BASE CORSICA

 

THE NAVY AT BASTIA. 1 JUNE 1944, ADVANCED COASTAL FORCES BASE, BASTIA, CORSICA (A 24231) Some of the men and the craft at the Bastia base. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205156154

 

THE NAVY AT BASTIA. 1 JUNE 1944, ADVANCED COASTAL FORCES BASE, BASTIA, CORSICA (A 24229) View of the advanced coastal forces base at Bastia. MGB’s in the foreground. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205156152

 

THE NAVY AT BASTIA. 1 JUNE 1944, ADVANCED COASTAL FORCES BASE, BASTIA, CORSICA (A 24230) View of the advanced coastal forces base at Bastia. MGB’s in the foreground. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205156153
THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 24228) View of the advanced coastal forces base at Bastia, Corsica with MGBs , including MGB 658, in the foreground. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119869

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 26456) MGB 646 on its way to Skiathos, Greece, with the escort carrier HMS STALKER in the background. After its liberation Skiathos was used as an advanced base for the assault on Salonika. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119920

 

 

British Troops In Hell at Dunkirk

 

DUNKIRK 1940 (MH 5848) British troops disembarking from a destroyer at Dover after their return from the Dunkirk beaches, June 1940. Copyright: © IWM. 
DUNKIRK AND THE RETREAT FROM FRANCE 1940 (C 1720) Ships off the beaches at Dunkirk, c.3 June 1940. Smoke billows from burning oil storage tanks. Copyright: © IWM.

 

DUNKIRK AND THE RETREAT FROM FRANCE 1940 (C 1717) A Hudson of RAF Coastal Command patrols over Dunkirk, as oil storage tanks burn fiercely in the background, c. 3 June 1940. Copyright: © IWM.

 

Soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force fire at low flying German aircraft during the Dunkirk evacuation. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL) This photo is in the public domain and getty images cannot claim as one of their pictures.

 

 

THE EVACUATION FROM DUNKIRK 1940 (HU 73187) A hospital ship carrying wounded soldiers away from Dunkirk. In the background can be seen columns of smoke and flames from fires burning in the bomb and shell shattered port. Copyright: © IWM.

 

THE FALL OF FRANCE IN 1940: GERMAN OFFICIAL COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS OF DUNKIRK IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE BRITISH EVACUATION (COL 289) German forces arrive in Dunkirk after the completion of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force earlier in the day. Clearing the blocked road into Dunkirk. Under the direction of their German captors, French troops push away an immobilised British Universal Carrier tracked vehicle. Copyright: © IWM.

 

THE FALL OF FRANCE IN 1940: GERMAN OFFICIAL COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS OF DUNKIRK IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE BRITISH EVACUATION (COL 288) German forces arrive in Dunkirk. The sea front at Dunkirk photographed immediately after the completion of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force earlier in the day. Vehicles and troops of the German mobile assault unit Motorensturm 13, drawn up on the sea front at Dunkirk near one of the unit’s light anti-tank guns. Copyright: © IWM.

 

DUNKIRK AND THE RETREAT FROM FRANCE 1940 (HU 104614) A woman from the Mechanised Transport Corps (MTC) hands out tea to troops evacuated from Dunkirk at a railway station in the UK, 31 May 1940. Copyright: © IWM.

Dunkirk, France. 1940-05-28. Troops of the British Expeditionary Force lined up on the beach awaiting the arrival of the British Evacuation fleet.

 

DUNKIRK AND THE RETREAT FROM FRANCE 1940 (HU 104604) A paddle steamer, seen from the deck of another vessel, reaches safety at an east coast port during the evacuation from Dunkirk, 2 June 1940. Copyright: © IWM. 

 

DUNKIRK AND THE RETREAT FROM FRANCE 1940 (HU 104607) Some of the ‘little ships’ used during the evacuation of Dunkirk being towed back along the River Thames past Tower Bridge, 9 June 1940. Copyright: © IWM. 

 

Featured Image: As oil storage tanks burn in the distance, a trawler crowded with troops heads from Dunkirk back to England, June 1940. Imperial War Museum

Fleet Air Arm Protecting Convoys

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 22308) Protection for convoys is one of the jobs of the Fleet Air Arm planes of the Royal Air Naval Station, Sierra Leone. Here a Boulton Paul Defiant from the station sweeps over a big convoy which is just leaving Freetown Harbour. The aircraft took off from from HMS SPURWING, Royal Naval Air Station in Sierra Leone, once a stretch of untouchable bush. Part of the wings and struts of the biplane from wh… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016128

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 22306) Two of the station’s Boulton Paul Defiant aircraft in flight after taking off from HMS SPURWING, Royal Naval Air Station in Sierra Leone, once a stretch of untouchable bush. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016127

 

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7869) A Fairey Fulmar returns to HMS VICTORIOUS after doing patrol during a Home Fleet convoy to Russia. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185619

Escorting convoys to Russia was a brutal task given the terrible weather and constant attacks by German aircraft and U-boats out of Norway. Home Fleet provided “distant cover” since fleet carriers like HMS Victorious and battleships such as KGV were too valuable to risk anywhere close to German air attack. Home FLeet distant cover was laid on in the event the Tirpitz came out.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 22312) A Fairey Fulmar aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm about to take off from HMS SPURWING, a Royal Naval Air Station in Sierra Leone, on a coastal reconnaissance. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186969

The Royal Navy named all of its bases as if they were ships. Hence, HMS Spurwing was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm base providing cover for convoys forming up off Freetown, Sierra Leone, a major convoy destination point where escorts changed.

The Royal Navy did most of its accounting by ship so it was easier to keep track of everything if all bases were treated as ships. For instance, unassigned officers were carried on the books of HMS Victory although they were obviously not on the ship itself although it did have accommodation for a small number of officers in transit.

If you wrote someone in the Royal Navy in World War Two, you addressed the letter to that person followed by name of ship followed by GPO, London.

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6123) A Fairey Fulmar being flagged off from the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS at Scapa Flow. The carrier’s island can be seen in the background. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185487

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6120) A Fairey Fulmar taking off from the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS at Scapa Flow. Two more of the aircraft can be seen at the end of the flight deck. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185486

The two photographs above are unusual because they show planes both landing and taking off from the Royal Navy fleet carrier HMS Victorious while the carrier is at anchor in the Royal Navy Home Fleet anchorage of Scapa Flow.

Because of aerodynamic reasons, carriers in World War Two typically had to turn into the wind which gave added lift to planes taking off.  As an aircraft carrier neared its anchorage, the planes based on the carrier took off while the carrier was still at sea and could turn into the wind and flew to a Fleet Air Arm base on land.

They usually practiced landing on a carrier deck by landing on runways on land marked with the length of a carrier deck. Aircraft carrier pilots then and to this day often describe landing on a carrier as a “controlled crash.” It isn’t and wasn’t for the faint of heart.

In the last few years, the US Navy has started to fly drones from aircraft carriers which calls in question our naval strategy based around massive aircraft carrier battle groups. This is according to defense writer and expert Thomas Ricks, not me.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6955) A Fairey Fulmar warming up on the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS. Note the Donald Duck painted on the nose of the plane. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185544

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7003) Sub Lieutenant (A) M Bennett, RNVR, in the cockpit of his Fairey Fulmar on board HMS VICTORIOUS. Note the art work on the nose of the aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185552

RNVR means Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. Officers wore wavy stripes on their coat sleeves instead of regular stripes worn by professional “regular service” officers. Hence known as “wavy navy.” Nonetheless, RNVR officers came to vastly outnumber the regular service officers of whom there were only about 5,000 when the war began.

RNVR officers who were pilots assigned to the Fleet Air Arm wore a small insignia denoting this. The men claimed the small insignia was meant to inform all other RN personnel that they knew absolutely nothing about the navy.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7279) In the hangar deck of HMS VICTORIOUS at Hvalfjord, Iceland a row of Fairey Fulmars is flanked on either side by two rows of Fairey Albacores, all with their wings folded. The photograph was taken around the time of the search for the TIRPITZ. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185573

Hvalfjord was a treacherous anchorage because it was exposed to vicious winds. Ships at anchor normally dropped both bow and stern anchors which they usually didn’t do in more protected anchorages as well as keep steam on since they often had to make revolutions for two or three knots simply to stay where they were and not drag their anchors if a storm came up.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 5950) The forward part of the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS with Fairey Fulmars and Fairey Albacores on board during preparations for Norwegian operations. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185479

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7540) A bearded Fleet Air Arm gunner, Leading Airman C H Clark, from Tadworth, Surrey, exits his Fairey Albacore aircraft carrying his flying kit, after his aircraft returned from a patrol to HMS VICTORIOUS off the coast of Iceland. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185586

 

Featured image shows: Fairey Albacores, the torpedo carrying plane of the Fleet Air Arm landing on the deck of HMS VICTORIOUS while the ship was en route to Hvalfjord, Iceland from Scapa Flow. The automatic Bat can be seen in the right of the picture, as can the arrestor wires running across the flight deck.

ROYAL NAVY COASTAL FORCES DURING WORLD WAR TWO

Motor Gun Boats during the Second World War, 1939-1945

 

Motor Gun Boats during the Second World War, 1939-1945
Steam Gun Boat, MGB S309, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Peter Scott underway at sea. S.309 was also known as ‘Grey Goose’ Photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 25313) 71.5ft British Power Boat MTB 447 based at the coastal forces base HMS BEEHIVE. The boat was not fitted with tubes and was really a Motor Gun Boat. Powered by three Packard engines, it had a complement of two officers and 14 ratings. The armament included a 2pdr pom-pom and three 20mm Oerlikons. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119897

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 4262) Motor Gun Boat Flotilla, including MGB 62 and MGB 64, manoeuvring at sea. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119377

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 4263) Motor Gun Boat Flotilla manoeuvring at sea in line ahead formation, with a close up shot of MGB 62. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119378

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 4259) Motor gun boats in line abreast at speed. Nearest is MGB 60 with MGB 62 and MGB 65 further back. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119376

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6960) The machine gunner of Motor Anti-Submarine Boat MASB 37 on the alert with his pair of Lewis Guns, in the Firth of Forth. These vessels are known as the mosquitos of the Navy and help keep the channels clear of enemy submarines. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185545

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 4251) Some of the crew on the bridge of an MTB as the flotilla goes to sea from Felixstowe. One of the men is fitting a magazine to a Lewis Gun. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185327

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 25309) A 21-inch torpedo being fired from the port tube of a 70ft Vosper MTB based at the coastal forces base HMS BEEHIVE, Felixstowe. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187312

USS Wasp Supplies Malta Urgently Needed Spitfires

uss wasp in mediterranean flying off urgently needed spitfires to malta.

British_Spitfire_takes_off_from_USS_Wasp_CV-7-595x475

RAF Spitfire launches from USS Wasp

USS Wasp Twice Resupplied Malta with Spifires

Mediterranean_Relief

In the early 1930s the British government decided Malta would not be defended if war came. While a major naval base with huge warship repair years for the Royal Navy, no funds were allocated for building up the defenses of Malta. Those defenses which remained from World War One were left to decay.

As you will note from the map above, Malta was a key position if you wanted to control the Mediterranean. And when war came, the British desperately needed to either control the Med or deny its control to other belligerents like Italy or Germany. So the decision not to defend Malta was reversed.

BombDamageMalta

April 1942. A heavily bomb-damaged street in Valletta, Malta. This street is Kingsway, the principle street in Valetta. Service personnel and civilians are present clearing up the debris.  (photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

Unfortunately for the British, since Malta had few defense installations, actually defending the island required a far greater effort than ever envisioned the Royal Navy and RAF. Both services suffered heavy losses in ships of the former and planes of the latter.

Wichita_and_Wasp_1942

USS Wichita (CA-45) at anchor in Scapa Flow in April 1942. USS Wasp (CV-7) is in the background. The Wichita sortied as part of the Allied escort of one of the PQ convoys to Russia while the Wasp sortied into the Med as described below.

(official US Navy photo)

As valuable as Malta was a naval base, it was even more valuable as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. The only problem was that German and Italian planes attacked the island constantly and kept shooting down all the RAF planes defending Malta.

In April and May of 1942, the British were desperate to send additional aircraft to defend Malta. But no British airfield was close enough so an aircraft carrier had to be loaded with planes and escorted to within about 400 miles of Malta (this being the range of fighter aircraft before running out of fuel) and then launch the aircraft which would fly to the island.

Because of the incredible danger from German and Italian air attacks on shipping, the aircraft carriers would not get closer and even coming within 400 miles was risky. The Med also was infested with numerous German and Italian U Boats.

The British did not have a carrier available so Churchill asked President Roosevelt if an American aircraft carrier could be sent to the Med to perform the urgent task of resupplying Malta with fighter aircraft.

Roosevelt agreed although Admiral King, CNO and C-in-C US Fleet (the only person ever to hold these two offices) no doubt was pissed off since he had an intense dislike of the British. USS Wasp was sent, first going to Great Britain to embark Spitfires. She subsequently entered the Mediterranean heavily escorted by units of the British Home Fleet including the battlecruiser HMS Renown. A very large number of Royal Navy destroyers and sloops formed the screen around the USS Wasp.

Wildcats_and_Spitfires_on_USS_Wasp_(CV-7)_in_April_1942

19 April 1942. U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-4 Wildcats from Fighting Squadron 71 (VF-71) and Royal Air Force Supermarine Spitfires Mk.Vc of No. 603 Squadron RAF on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) on 19 April 1942. 

(Official US Navy photograph) 

On 19 April 1942, USS Wasp launched 47 Spitfires which flew to Malta (several did not make it). Incredibly, the British forces on the island had no prepared revetments or other safe locations for these precious Spitfires and most were destroyed on the ground by the Germans and Italians within 24 hours.

The military Governor of Malta, Lt. Gen. Dobbie, was sacked several weeks later and replaced by Lord Gort, promoted Field Marshal in 1943 because of his successful leadership of the defense of Malta.

CV-7_Spitfires_1942_NAN10-1-45

Supermarine Spitfires Mk.VC spotted on the deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) in 1942.  HMS Eagle is visible in the background. 

(official US Navy photograph)

On 9 May 1942, USS Wasp again entered the Med, again heavily escorted by the Royal Navy, and flew off 47 Spitfires. The British had finished refitting HMS Eagle, a World War One battleship converted to an aircraft carrier and she joined the Wasp.

However, HMS Eagle could not carry many Spitfires because they did not have folding wings and did not fit her old lifts. But she did manage to fly off 17 Spitfires which joined the others flown off by the USS Wasp.

This time the British ground forces had prepared protected areas for the Spitfires and each time one landed, it was immediately taken off the runway and parked in a protected revetment.

These aircraft helped save the island which was under continual bombing attacks day and night by German and Italian warplanes.

Sources: The Siege of Malta 1940-1943 by E. Bradford and author’s research

SUPERMARINE SPITFIRES FOR MALTA. 19 TO 23 MARCH 1942, ON BOARD HMS EAGLE. HMS EAGLE IN COMPANY WITH ‘FORCE H’ TAKING SUPERMARINE SPITFIRES FROM GIBRALTAR TO MALTA FOR THE DEFENCE OF THE ISLAND. THE AIRCRAFT WERE FLOWN OFF HMS EAGLE AFTER BEING TAKEN HALF WAY ON BOARD THE CARRIER. (A 9581) Supermarine Spitfire pilots in front of one of their planes. They are Empire and American pilots (Eagle Squadron). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205143393

Supermarine Spitfire pilots in front of one of their planes. They are Empire and American pilots (Eagle Squadron). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205143393

MOST OF THE PILOTS ABOVE WERE AMERICANS WHO HAD BEEN FLYING FOR THE RAF BEFORE USA GOT INTO THE WAR. THESE MEN WERE GROUPED IN THE FAMOUS EAGLE SQUADRONS.