Bellona class light cruiser, HMNZS Royalist (C89) (1956) - The final evolution of the Dido class

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Bellona class light cruiser, HMNZS Royalist (C89) (1956) - The final evolution of the Dido class



HMNZS Royalist is one of 5 Bellona class cruisers that were built for the Royal Navy during the Second World War and was one of 3 vessels of the class which post war would end up serving the in the Royal New Zealand Navy and compared to her sisters who served in the New Zealand navy she was the only one to be modernized and not only that but technical the only Dido class to be modernized as the Bellona class cruisers were a subclass of the Dido class. Compared to the other ships of the Bellona class she was unique in that she was not only the only ship of the Dido and Bellona class however she was the only ship of her class that was finished as a command ship as she was completed to fulfill the role as flagship for carrier escorts and cruiser groups and as such had a slightly different AA armament than her sisters though this was only in the form of different 20mm mounts at first as she had the same amount of mounts however with less guns with only 2 twins and 4 single mounts however this suggestion is focused on her in her post war modernization.


In her post war modernization she was armed with the same 8 5.25-inch guns in 4 twin turrets however the rest of her armament had been completely been revamped as her AA armament consisted of 8 40mm guns with 3 twin STAAG mounts and 2 single mounts, furthermore the torpedo tubes were removed. As apart of her modernization she would have her superstructure rebuilt and a new mast was installed




HMS Royalist was laid down on March 21st, 1940, she was launched on May 30th, 1942, and commissioned on September 10th, 1943. During the Second World War she would serve in the role she was modified to serve in as she help cover the carriers attacking Tirpitz in Norway before heading to the Mediterranean to take part in the landings in southern France where she once again served as cover for carriers as she was assigned to cover the escort carriers of TF 88.1 of the USN. Following this she spent time covering carriers in operations against Japan and during which missed out on the opportunity to join the surface action against the Japanese cruiser Haguro and she continued to serve as cover for carriers until the end of the war.


With the end of the war she returned from the East Indies returned home to be mothballed and dehumidified in 1946. The reconstruction of Royalist from deep preservation with new superstructure and advanced interim fire control fitted involved major work but was intended to extend the cruiser’s life for only six years. Her sister Diadem was offered to the New Zealand Navy since she was in better condition of her preservation as she was closer to how US ships were preserved while in reserve however she would end up being sold to Pakistan being updated and this proved to be expensive and a similar story would play out for Royalist as she was the only ship of the class to receive a major modernization though all her remaining sisters were approved for modernization however this work was canceled as funding was reduced for the Royal Navy and was instead being given to the RAF however with the exception of Royalist whose modernization plans were changing however work on her suspended in 1955 after it was decided to do a down scaled modernization program.


Royalist modernization would only complete thanks to in part of the NZ Prime Minister Sid Holland who decided to have the ship purchased and reconditioned for a cost initially of 4 million euros however this would cost up to 4.5 million euros, the reason he decided to do this was because of the British Minister of Defence Harold Macmillan, to refocus NZ defense on the Pacific and shorter lines of communication to the SE Asia rather than Middle East. With work finally completed she was finally handed over to the RNZN on July 9th, 1956.


The acquisition of her was not without its criticism as her new captain criticized that she was a white elephant, unsuitable for use in the Pacific though the RNZN had been using Black prince and Bellona since 1946, additionally the captain claimed that she didn’t have enough range to reach the Panama Canal without refueling though once she reached Auckland he also stated that it was the most modern ship in the RNZN as well as being very capable, looking at his criticism in part of the range this would probably not be as significant since the reason she prime minister decided to acquire her was due to a recommendation to focus around SE Asia rather than as globally though at first she would not be considered as HMNZS New Zealand as at the time it was not seen as a independent force compared to the RAN and RCN, due to this when she came back into service she was crewed with a mixed crew with some officers being from the RN and RAN also included though this was mostly RN than a mix of RN and RAN at first.


Her first operation service in the RNZN was not near home waters but the Mediterranean after a British politician convinced the prime minister to keep her in the area for the time due to the tension between Israel and Egypt and once war had broke out she would serve in a air defense role before the New Zealand prime minister had decided to have her pull out due to international outrage after reversing his decision for supporting the British and so she would head home to New Zealand by going around Africa, following her arrival in New Zealand she took part in in exercises with the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Between 1957 to 1958 she took part in 2 bombardment missions during the Malayan Emergency against suspected terrorist areas in south east Johore before taking part in a AA exercises with a RN Town class cruiser in which she comes out on top with 5 target jets and other targets and in 1960 she was put into dock for refit and it was expected that she would serve for another 2 and a half years however she would end up lasting longer. In 1962 the still jointly-crewed RNZN/RAN/RN Royalist suffered permanent damage in rough weather in the Tasman Sea, the keel twisted out of alignment. It would never be possible again for cruisers, gun fire directors to determine the cruisers datum, centre line, necessary for accurate targeting, the back of the cruiser was technically broken, and it could have been assessed as a constructive loss, uneconomic to repair, and scrapped then however she wasn’t.


In May of 1964 she sailed with a RN force in provocative passages, to encourage a revolt against Sukarno and his generals during the Indonesian Confrontation had escalated with Indonesian forces conducting cross-border raids in Kalimantan and landings in Borneo though during this she would see no major action however there was considerable doubt among RNZN staff whether Royalist, which had not had a major refit since 1956, could deploy again in 1965 however once again she proved once more to prove critics wrong as she deployed once more in 1965 after a 6 week refit and she was able to make 27 knots.


After further operations she would last up until 1966 as Royalist returned to New Zealand, after a valiant repair of a milking boiler and turbine en route however she would end up missing her scheduled visit for Waitangi Day and tour of the New Zealand ports, and was effectively paid off five months early. She was finally returned to the Royal Navy in 1967 and was sold for scrap the same year.



5,950 tons (standard)

7,200 tons (full load)


485 ft (148 m) (pp)

512 ft (156 m) (oa)

Beam: 50.5 ft (15.4 m)

Draft: 14 ft (4.3 m)

Installed power:

4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers

62,000 shp (46 MW)

Propulsion: 4 shafts; 4 geared steam turbines

Speed: 32.25 knots (59.73 km/h; 37.11 mph)

Range: 6,824 km (3,685 nmi; 4,240 mi) at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)

Complement: 530

Sensors and systems:

1 x type 272 Surface warning radar

1x type 281 Air warning radar

3 x type 282 radars

1 x type 284 radar

2 x type 285 radars


Primary armament:

8 × QF 5.25-inch/50 (133 mm) dual purpose guns (4 x 2)

AA Armament:

8 x 40mm/56 Bofors AA guns (3 x 2 STAAG 2 mounts & 2 x 1 Mark 7 mounts)

( an alternate configuration can include 1 less twin mount however I am not sure when one of the twin mounts were removed as some images show the forward mount is not present however I am not certain when this was removed)


Belt: 3 in (76 mm)

Deck: 2 to 1 in (51 to 25 mm)

Magazines: 2 in (51 mm)

Bulkheads: 1 in (25 mm)

Link to suggestion on HMS Black Prince (81)



HMS Royalist (89) - Wikipedia

Dido-class cruiser - Wikipedia

Image Sources


Reddit - Dive into anything

Reddit - Dive into anything

HMS Royalist (89) - Wikipedia

Category:HMS Royalist (ship, 1942) - Wikimedia Commons

+1, let’s get it in a tree for AU/NZ naval.

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