musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: battleship

Fleet Manoeuvres

Regular readers of this blog may have seen posts about my slowly expanding fleet of Triang Minic Ships. The fleet occupies 2 display cases and a smaller plastic box and has become somewhat too large for the few harbour parts that I do have. This weekend I hauled the ships out and set them up on my kitchen table and took some pics.

The ships alongside here are mostly Triang Minic in 1/1200 scale, although I did sneak in one or 2 1/1250 scale ships that fit in with the others. Only the smaller warships are in this layout.

The dominant ship in this image is the RMS Queen Elizabeth; she is one of my original vessels and I really want to buy one in a better condition. Also in view is the Ivernia, Flandre, 2nd Mauretania, United States and QE2, with the Pendennis Castle underway. The piers are lengths of stripwood while the cranes are all Triang issues.

The dominant ship here is the Caronia while the Nieuw Amsterdam is in front of the venerable Aquitania.

And while the Pendennis was sailing the Pretoria Caste was arriving

The two Union-Castle ships are part of my Union-Castle collection that was also in port on this reasonably sunny day. 

Unfortunately, only while I was packing away did I realise that the Reina Del Mar was not in this image and was probably away cruising somewhere. I did rectify the matter in a later pic.

I also gathered the Cunard fleet together for a photo session.

I lined up the battle wagons for a rare airing too, fortunately they did not open fire on each other or there would have been bits and pieces all over the place. 

My newest addition is the SS Australis, but she is in limbo at the moment as she is not scaled according to what she should be.

She may be returning back to her supplier, although I may keep her and finish her off anyway because I really did like the original ship. 

The fleet is now back in its display, and the table has been restored to its former state. That was a lot of work, and I am not likely to do it again for a  long time. I do have a smaller project on the go that may end up here, although sometimes my ideas are a bit better than the actual end result. Watch this space as they say in the classics.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 26/11/2016

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:30

The Sinking of the Bismarck

As the 27th of May approaches I could not help but think of what it was like in 1941 when the events surrounding the sinking of the German battleship KMS Bismarck were announced.

KD Bismarck. 1/1200 scale (Triang Minic)

KMS Bismarck. 1/1200 scale (Triang Minic)

As a child I was enthralled by all things naval, so her demise was probably amongst my favourite wartime moments, although viewed through the eyes of a child who did not understand the mechanics involved in naval battles such as this. Neither was there the wealth of information that is available now so a lot of what we read as children was skewed from the British point of view with no input from the German. 

The first time I really understood the last days of this ship was when I read Dr Robert Ballard’s book “The Discovery of the Bismarck” about the rediscovery of the long lost battleship. My viewpoint was also enhanced by reading “Battleship Bismarck” by Burkard Baron von Mullenheim-Rechberg, who was gunnery officer on board the vessel when she went down.  I do recall watching the TV special about the discovery and it was strange to see this floating fortress in her dark underwater world. It is hard to believe that it is the same ship that gave the Royal Navy a run for its money.

There is no doubt that Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were tough opponents, and had they been given a free hand they would have not only sunk HMS Hood but probably HMS Prince Of Wales too. And of course, had she come across a convoy the carnage would have been horrific. 

It is difficult to write about something like this so many years after the fact. I am not a naval historian, and there are others much more qualified to expound on what is now known as the Battle of the Denmark Strait. As I have said so often, I only photograph what is left over and view things like this with some sort of hindsight. I did do some thinking about the events that occurred on 24 May 1941 about how I could present my own small tribute to these ships and men that fought battles at long distances in an environment that was even more deadly than the shells that they fired from their large calibre guns,

15" Naval Guns, Imperial War Museum.

15″ Naval Guns, Imperial War Museum.

The biggest shock of the battle was the loss of HMS Hood in one cataclysmic explosion that left 3 survivors out of a complement of 1418 on board.  

HMS Hood. 1/1250 scale. (Atlas Editions)

HMS Hood. 1/1250 scale. (Atlas Editions)

1384 Members of her crew are Commemorated at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. They are however not listed under their ship, but rather in order of rank for 1941.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

HMS Prince of Wales was fortunate enough to escape with reasonably minor damage, 

HMS Prince of Wales. 1/1250 scale (Atlas Editions)

HMS Prince of Wales. 1/1250 scale (Atlas Editions)

but she too met her end on 10 December 1941 along with HMS Repulse by Japanese air attack off Kuantan, in the South China Sea. Of her crew are mentioned on the Chatham Naval Memorial

As for the Bismarck, the one machine that really brought about her end was an insignificant biplane from HMS Ark Royal, possibly flown by pilot John Moffat that delivered a torpedo that critically damaged her rudder, leaving the ship sailing in circles, thereby ensuring that she would not be able to flee to a safe haven, but would have to face up to the might of the Royal Navy that was closing in on her for the final battle.


The age of the battleship was drawing to a close, no more would the imposing firepower of these floating fortresses dominate all within range, the Second World War was really the final gasp of the big gun ship.  From now on the aircraft carrier and submarine would reign supreme. 

Bismarck however lives on our memories as one of the ultimate war machines of her era, and as we remember her sinking so many years ago, let is not forget those who went down with her, and those who died on HMS Hood and the brave pilots in their biplanes that went forth and crippled the pride of the Kriegsmarine.

Remembered on the grave of his mother. A sailor from HMS Hood.

Remembered on the grave of his mother. A sailor from HMS Hood.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 26/05/2016.

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:17

A Loud Bang

Naval gunnery is one of the many aspects of warfare that is almost a science in itself. The fact that your artillery piece is now mounted on board ship means that there are a whole new set of problems that need dealing with. It also means that you are no longer tied down to having to move your gun and ammunition wherever you go, instead you get to take the whole fort to where the action is.  I am not going into the mechanics and technicalities of gunnery, I was a mechanised infantryman, and our lives really revolved around our personal weapon and vehicle. 
There are three specific examples I am interested in, and they really come from the age of the battleship. When large ships traded fire with equally large ships at long distance. What I find very interesting is the sheer size of these guns, and some of the statistics relevant to them.
The first pair are mounted outside the Imperial War Museum in London.
The gun on the left came from HMS Ramillies, and was mounted on the ship in 1916 and saw action in 1920 and 1940. It was removed from service in 1941. My handy naval gunnery book lists this as a 51 inch Mk I gun,
The right hand gun originally comes from HMS Resolution, and was mounted on that vessel from 1915-1938. It was removed and remounted in HMS Roberts, and saw action at D-Day. It was removed in 1945. Both were mounted outside the Imperial War Museum in 1968
Both guns are 15 inch and were developed in 1912, seeing service in 22 ships. Each weighs  in at a hefty 100 tons, and fired an 876 kg projectile at a maximum range of 29 kilometres. 
london 090
The next example I photographed at Fort Nelson near Portsmouth. 
This example is 14 Inch MK VII, (number 136) and was made by Vickers-Armstrong in 1946, and is the last of her type. These were destined for ships of the King George V class battleships, although this particular gun  never went to sea. The gun with its counterweight weighed in at 91 tons and the maximum range at 40 degrees elevation was 35,4 kilometres.  The counterweight would have shifted the centre of gravity towards the breech and allowed a greater angle of elevation. 
Projectiles weighed in at 660 kg with a propellant charge of 153 kg of Cordite.  1000 projectiles were taken to sea.  These huge guns are very impressive to see, and when you consider that they were usually mounted in pairs, or triples in a turret (or even a quadruple turret), it makes you wonder what size the ship was!. They were also not the largest guns to go to sea, the Japanese battleships Yamato and Musashi had 9 x 18,1 inch guns and they were the largest of naval artillery ever fitted to a warship.

Fortunately a number of these guns still survive in some form or another, although the United States probably has the largest collection of big guns still around, and I speak under correction but I think 16 inchers are the biggest naval guns still around today. An 18 inch railway gun still survives in Britain and that has been relocated to Fort Nelson where the 14 inch gun is. Unfortunately that happened after I visited the fort in May 2013

The British did produce an 18 inch weapon and it was called a “15 inch B” and 2 (plus one spare) were constructed for fitting on HMS Furious.  The guns were 40 calibres long and weighed in at 149 tons including breech, and the intention was to have one gun forward and one aft in an adapted 15 inch gun house. Only the aft gun was mounted, and it was removed when Furious was converted into an aircraft carrier. It was proposed to use the 3 guns in a shore based role, but they were re-allocated to 3 monitors (General Wolfe, Prince Eugene and Lord Clive), although only two were ever in service, albeit for a very short time.     

Cruisers usually mounted smaller guns, although these were no less deadly than their much bigger sisters. HMS Belfast on the Thames has a wonderful set of turrets mounting mounting 12 x 6 inch guns which gave her quite a punch. Although, taking on a battleship would not have been a good idea.

The workings of the turrets and their shell and charge handling equipment is really fascinating to see, but in a static role it becomes almost mundane. In the heat of battle it must have been a totally different story altogether.
Turret interior, with the breech of one of the guns.

Turret interior, with the breech of one of the guns.

Shell hoist with ready use ammunition

Shell hoist with ready use ammunition

Todays modern warships lack the massive gunfire capabilities, but then given their ability to fight it out over the horizon with an opponent using anti-ship missiles, those heavy guns are no longer needed. The capital ship was rendered obsolete by the aircraft and submarine, and with their demise the big gun left centre stage and was relegated to museum piece or as part of a preserved warship.

Twin 4" gun turret.

Twin 4″ gun turret.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 11/04/2016
Updated: 22/09/2018 — 15:47

A quick stroll up the road

I had decided that one of the places I wanted to visit in London was the Imperial War Museum. This  repository of all things military has a fearsome reputation of being an awesome place, amongst military historians caps are removed and it is spoke of in hushed tones. I decided that seeing as it was a mere 2 tube stops away I would tackle it on my first day in London. However, as I came to the exit of the Elephant and Castle Tube Station a sign informed me that it was closed till July!!!
I was seriously disappointed, but was still determined to see the place so boldly went walkies, Naturally having to turn around almost immediately because I was going in the wrong direction! Eventually I got my bearings and soon found the glorious building with those vintage naval guns dominating everything. 
I always was under the impression that the guns originated from HMS Rodney, but the information sheet informs that they originate from other ships; the left from HMS Ramillies, while the gun on the right is from HMS Resolution. Both are 15 inch guns with a range of about 29 kilometres. Their shells are no toys either, weighing in at about 876 kg. I was very overwhelmed by these guns though, they were still not the largest guns ever mounted on a battleship.
Lip dragging in the floor, I left those guns and headed in what I thought was the way home, only to end up in the maze of side streets that are in the Borough of Southwark. Unfortunately that was where I made a slight mistake and I ended up meandering around, being very overwhelmed by all I was seeing around me. 
The nice thing is that in the midst of this city there is both old and new side by side. Their age and condition varying from street to street. The traffic is fast moving, but disciplined; cars stop at pedestrian crossings, cyclists use hand signals and the robots actually work. It is also a very multicultural society and the area where I am staying has a real mix of European, Africa, Asian and everything in between. Sadly though I keep on bumping into South Africans!
That concluded my abortive trip to the Imperial War Museum. I am not amused!!! However, I will probably be around in July anyway, so may still get to see it. I look forward to that a lot.
I finally did get to the IWM in August 2014, and I was disappointed. It is not easy to explain, but I did do a blog post about my experience. The guns however are still magnificent!
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 26/03/2016
Updated: 02/02/2018 — 07:47
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