Renown-class Battlecruiser, HMS Repulse (34) - Qui Tangit Frangitur

Would you like to see HMS Repulse in-game?
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Where should Repulse be added?
  • Tech Tree
  • Event/Gift
  • Squadron
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If added, should Repulse replace Renown as the event vehicle?
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HMS Repulse
As Outfitted in 1941

HMS Repulse in 1941, in her final configuration.

Background
HMS Repulse was the second ship of the Renown-class of battlecruisers. She was laid down on the 25th of January, 1915, launched on the 8th of January, 1916, and commissioned into the Royal Navy on the 18th of August, 1916. Her motto, “Qui Tangit Frangitur,” is Latin for “Who touches me is broken.”

Built off of the Revenge-class battleships, the Renown-class battlecruisers were originally intended to essentially be four slower but improved versions of the Revenges that preceded them. At the start of World War 1, in August 1914, two of the ships were cancelled. Admiral Lord Fisher, then becoming First Sea Lord, pressured the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to allow the conversion of the two remaining ships into a class of battlecruisers capable of the very high speed of 32kts (59kph). Churchill initially disagreed, but experiences at the Battle of Helgoland Blight and the Battle of the Falkland Islands showed that high speed and heavy firepower was a potent combination. Further pressure from commander of the Grand Fleet, Admiral Jellicoe, and the commander of the Battlecruiser Force, Vice Admiral Beatty, caused Churchill to eventually get the Cabinet to green-light the conversion, in December, 1914.
One hope for the new ships was an ambitious build time of 15 months. While not quite meeting that ambitious goal, they were nonetheless delivered a few months after the Battle of Jutland, in 1916. During trials, Renown achieved a speed of 32.58kts (60.34kph). Upon commissioning, the ships were the fastest capital ships afloat, and would remain such until the commissioning of HMS Hood in 1920.

In late 1941, then Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided to send a small group of fast capital ships and a fleet carrier to Singapore to deter Japanese aggression in the Southern Pacific. HMS Repulse was in the Indian Ocean at the time, and would rendezvous with the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, along with a few destroyers, to comprise Force Z. The Force arrived in Singapore on the 2nd of December.
On the evening of the 8th of December, following the Japanese Declaration of War on the United States and United Kingdom, Force Z set out in an attempt to destroy Japanese troop convoys and cover the army’s rear flanks.
At 1130, on the 10th, Force Z came under Japanese air attack. During the attack, both HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse would sink. Repulse endured one bomb hit, two near misses, and four or five torpedo hits before capsizing at 1223, with the loss of 508 men. Repulse and Prince of Wales were the first capital ships to be sunk purely by air power while defending themselves, demonstrating the potency of air power in modern warfare.

Service History

HMS Repulse was commissioned near the end of World War 1, and did not participate in the Battle of Jutland. Upon commissioning, she would join the Grand Fleet, and relieved HMS Lion in 1st Battlecruiser Squadron, where she would remain for the rest of the war.

She would participate in the Second Battle of Helgoland Blight, in 1917. The Admiralty had become concerned with German minesweeping efforts on British-laid minefields, and had dispatched a force to “raid” the minesweepers. Repulse was part of the covering force for the operation.
At 0730, the British force encountered the German force, consisting of four light cruisers, eight destroyers, three divisions of minesweepers and eight Sperrbrechers (ships with reinforced hulls designed to “run over” mines to detonate them without sinking). At 0737, the British opened fire, and the Germans responded by laying a smokescreen and blocking the view of the British. Losing sight of the Germans, the British force continued pursuing and firing at the light cruisers should any opportunity present itself.
Soon after the sighting, Repulse was detached from the covering force and raced towards the enemy at full speed, arriving at around 0900. She opened fire soon after, and scored one hit on the light cruiser SMS Königsberg, temporarily reducing the cruiser’s speed. At about 9:50, the German battleships SMS Kaiser and SMS Kaiserin were spotted, and the British broke pursuit. Repulse covered the retreat, aided by a fog that appeared at around 1030.
During the battle, Repulse fired 54 main gun shells, for one hit, on the aforementioned Königsberg.
Repulse collided with the battlecruiser HMAS Australia in December, 1917, and was present at the Surrendering of the High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow on the 21st of November, 1918.



Repulse as the flagship of 1st Battlecruiser Squadron, 1918.

In December, 1918, Repulse began undergoing a major refit, intended to improve her armor. Her 6-inch belt was replaced by a 9-inch one, courtesy of the battleship Almirante Cochrane, at the time being converted to the carrier Eagle. The original armor was fitted between the middle and upper decks, above the new armor. High-tensile steel was added over the magazines, and the ship’s anti-torpedo bulge was deepened and reworked to a similar standard to the ones on the Revenge-class battleships.
After her recommissioning, in 1921, Repulse would join the Battlecruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet. She would join Hood in the 1923 world-spanning Cruise of the Special Service Squadron, returning in 1924. She visited Lisbon in 1925, and hosted the Prince of Wales during the tour of Africa and South America.



Repulse entering Vancouver Harbor during the world tour of the Special Service Squadron.

In the 1930s, Repulse would be reconstructed, although not to the same standard as her sister Renown. The existing horizontal high-tensile steel were replaced by non-cemented steel, and aircraft facilities were added for up to three aircraft, plus one more if an aircraft was kept on the newly installed catapult. A few prototype QF 4-inch Mk XV DP guns were added, two on each side abreast of the mainmast. Two octuple 2-pdr mountings were added, on extensions of the conning tower, and a pair of Mk II* mountings for Vickers .50 cals were added above these. Two HACS systems were added, one on the fore-top and one on the rear superstructure. The ships vintage submerged torpedo tubes were removed.
She would rejoin the fleet in 1936, and transported refugees from Spain to France during the Spanish Civil War. She was present for the Fleet Review in 1937 to celebrate King George VI’s coronation, and was sent to Haifa during the 1938 Arab Revolt. She was chosen to embark the King and Queen on a voyage to Canada in 1939, but the two Royals ended up taking an ocean liner, which Repulse escorted.



Repulse under refit in 1938-1939 in preparation for taking the King and Queen to Canada.

At the start of WW2, Repulse was part of the Battlecruiser Squadron of the Home Fleet. She patrolled for German ships and enforced the blockade in the first months of the war. At some point in this time, her aft triple 4-inch mount was replaced by an octuple 2-pdr mount. In late October, she was transferred to Halifax, along with the carrier HMS Furious. The two ships would sortie in late November in search of the battleship KMS Scharnhorst, but Repulse was damaged by heavy seas during a storm and had to return to port. She would then escort the convoy of 1st Canadian Infantry to Britain, and was reassigned to the Home Fleet upon her arrival.
In February, 1940, she and the carrier HMS Ark Royal searched for some German blockade runners that had broken out of Spain, to no avail. In April, 1940, Repulse was sent to support Allied operations during the Norwegian Campaign. On the 7th of April, Repulse and the Home Fleet were ordered to sea to intercept an assumed break-out attempt. Repulse was detached the next day to search for a contact reported by HMS Glowworm, but the destroyer was sunk by the contact, KMS Admiral Hipper, before Repulse arrived and so Repulse was ordered back. In July, 1940, she, Renown, and the 1st Cruiser Squadron attempted to intercept KMS Gneisenau, as it sailed from Trondheim to Germany, but this was unsuccessful. Until May, 1941, Repulse would escort convoys and attempt to hunt for German ships. On the 22nd of May, 1941, she was detached to search for KMS Bismarck, but broke off the search early, on the 25th, due to low fuel. She would be refitted during the summer, gaining 8 Oerlikons and a Type 284 radar. She would escort a convoy around the Cape of Good Hope, and was then assigned to East Indies Command.

In late 1941, Churchill decided to send a group of capital ships to Singapore to deter Japanese aggression; at this point, Japan was not at war with the UK or US. Repulse was to rendezvous with the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the carrier HMS Indomitable, before going to Singapore. Indomitable ran aground in the Caribbean, and was delayed, so Repulse and Renown would head to Singapore without Indomitable. The newly formed Force Z arrived in Singapore on the 2nd of December, 1941.
On the evening of the 8th, following the announcement of the official Japanese Declaration of War, Force Z departed Singapore, now at war.



HMS Repulse departing Singapore, December 8th, 1941.

News had arrived that Pearl Harbor had been attacked mere hours earlier and that eight USN battleships had been sunk, destroyed, or rendered inoperable. Pre-war planning that had assumed the USN would send a force to Singapore was now impossible. Admiral Phillips, commander of Force Z, had concluded that his ships were insufficient to counter the Japanese, nonetheless he prepared the Force to intercept Japanese convoys in the South China Sea. He had little faith in Allied air cover, believing that there was not enough planes to both cover the land troops and the ships of the Force, and also believed that the ships were able to provide enough anti-air to deal with any aircraft that should approach, as the Royal Navy ships in the Mediterranean had been doing against the Germans and Italians.
So Force Z would get underway with no plans for air cover. In the early morning of December 9th, Force Z would be overflown by Japanese reconnaissance aircraft, and then subsequently spotted and shadowed by the submarine IJN I-65. Orders went out for the Japanese 2nd Fleet, consisting of two battleships, six heavy cruisers, and numerous destroyers, to find and intercept Force Z. Meanwhile, Force Z had been spotted yet again by more floatplanes in the evening of the 9th. Phillips ordered the fleet to return to Singapore, saying that their element of surprise had been lost.
At 1015 the next morning, on the 10th of December, a Japanese scout plane found and reported the location of Force Z. The Japanese planes, which had been searching for the Force, converged on the location over the course of the next several hours. At 1113, eight bombers attacked Repulse. They scored seven near misses and one hit, causing no serious damage to the ship. Half an hour later, at 1140, 17 torpedo-laden bombers appeared over the Force, with eight going for Repulse and nine going for Prince of Wales. One bomber would be shot down during this attack, by Prince of Wales. Repulse was missed, but a fatal hit was struck on Prince of Wales, dropping her speed to 16kts. The hit damaged the port propeller shaft, causing flooding when the shaft was restarted, and resulted in a 11.5 degree list. At 1120, another attack was made against Prince of Wales, this time with three hits. One torpedo bent the starboard shaft, and the ship stopped with no further power. At 1241, Prince of Wales was hit by a bomb amidships, penetrating through the deck and exploding near where the wounded had been gathered, causing heavy casualties. The destroyer HMS Explorer came alongside, to evacuate wounded, at around the same time as abandon ship was ordered, Prince of Wales rolling over and sinking at 1318, taking 327 down with her.
Repulse, meanwhile, had so far dodged 19 torpedoes, but during the same 1120 attack on Prince of Wales, Repulse was hit by one torpedo, slowing her down, quickly followed by three more. The captain ordered the crew overboard, as Repulse began a heavy list to port. She would roll over and sink at 1233, taking 513 down with her.
Almost 1000 sailors from Repulse were rescued by the destroyers, including the captain, William Tennant.



HMS Repulse (bottom) and HMS Prince of Wales (top) under attack on December 10th, 1941. *Repulse had just been hit by a bomb, and Prince of Wales is trying to gain speed.

Repulse had issued a call for Allied aircraft about an hour into the attack, and these aircraft would show up at about 1318, right as Prince of Wales sank. They encountered a Japanese scout, who escaped and reported that the two capital ships had been sunk.
The next day, Lt. Haruki Iki, of the Kanoya Air Group, the Japanese force responsible for the sinking, flew to the site of the battle and dropped two wreathes to honor the dead. One for his fellow pilots, and another for the British sailors, whose bravery and defiance during the action had won the admiration of all pilots in Haruki’s squadron.

Prince of Wales and Repulse were the first capital ships sunk purely by airpower while trying to defend themselves. The sinking, along with the Attack on Pearl Harbor a few days prior, had demonstrated to the world the vulnerabilities of fleet units without air cover. The sinking of the two British capital ships caused a massive drop in morale, and left the Allies with no operational battleships in the entire Pacific Theater.



Depiction of the AA armament of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse at the time of their sinking, December, 1941. Also visible are the triple 4-inch mounts on the forward superstructure.

Specifications
1941

General Information
Displacement 35,155 tons (full load)
Length 794ft 1.5in (242m)
Beam 90ft 1.75in (27.5m)
Draft 29ft 8in (9m)
Speed 32 knots (59 km/h)
Complement ~1,181 officers and enlisted
Sensors
Type 284 Fire Control (Main Battery)
HACS Mk II AA Fire Control
Gun Turret/Mount Notes
6 × 15"(381mm)/42 BL Mk I 2 × Mk I Twin, 1 x Mk I* Twin
6 x 4"(106mm)/45 BL Mk IX 2 x T.I. Mk 1 Triple
6 x 4"(102mm)/45 QF Mk V 6 x Single AA
24 x QF 2pdr (40/39mm) Pom-Pom Mk VII 3 x Mk V Octuple
8 × 20mm/70 Oerlikon Mk I/II 8 x Mk II Single
16 x 0.5" (12.7mm)/62 Mk III 4 x No. 1 Quad
3/4 x Supermarine Walrus 1 x Seaplane Catapult Could have carried up to four, assuming one was on the catapult and one was on the deck - other two stored in hangar
15" (381mm) Ammunition
Designation Mass Bursting Charge Muzzle Velocity Notes
APC Mk XXIIb (6crh) 1,938lbs (879kg) 48.5lbs (22kg) Shellite 2,638f/s (804m/s) Supercharged, with increased muzzle velocity, as Repulse did not receive the upgraded turrets
APC Mk XVIIb (6crh) 1,938lbs (879kg) 48.5lbs (22kg) Shellite 2,458f/s (749m/s) Unknown difference between Mk XVIIb (non supercharged) and Mk XXIIb
APC Mk XIIIa (4crh) 1,938lbs (879kg) 48.5lbs (22kg) Shellite 2,467f/s (752m/s) Repulse was technically unable to use 6crh ammo, as her ammunition hoists were not modified, unlike sister Renown
APC Mk XIIa (4crh) 1,938lbs (879kg) 48.5lbs (22kg) Shellite 2,467f/s (752m/s) Unknown difference between Mk XIIIa and Mk XIIa - present due to aforementioned technical inability to use 6crh shells
CPC (4crh) 1,920lbs (871kg) 129.3lbs (58.6kg) TNT 2,467f/s (752m/s)
HE Mk VIIIb (6crh) 1,938lbs (879kg) 130lbs (59kg) TNT 2,458f/s (749m/s)
HE (4crh) 1,920lbs (871kg) 216.5-224lbs (98.2-101.6kg) Lyddite 2,467f/s (752m/s) Present due to aformentioned technical inability to use 6crh shells
Armor
Belt 2-9" (51-229mm)
Decks 1-4" (25-102mm)
Turrets 7-9" (178-229mm)
Barbettes 4-7" (102-178mm)
Conning Tower 10" (254mm)
Bulkheads 3-4" (76-102mm)

Conclusion
This is a ship that, while not particularly needed due to the presence of HMS Hood, would still in my eyes be a worthwhile addition to the tree. She would probably play similarly to HMS Hood, but with thinner armor.
I would have liked Repulse’s sister ship, Renown. to be here instead. Unfortunately, last year, Renown was added as an event reward during the 2023 Summer event. In my opinion, Repulse should have been the event reward and Renown should have been the tech-tree ship, seeing as Renown gets much improved anti-aircraft defenses and spotting systems, along with being refitted to have dual purpose secondaries that Repulse does not have. Renown was also modified to use 6crh shells, and Repulse was not; being sunk too early for such modernizations. Being the more modern of the two, Renown would be better as a tech tree ship because she has benefits that make her a worthwhile tech tree addition, whereas Repulse would just be a side grade in comparison.
And so I additionally ask, should Renown be replaced by Repulse, due to Renown’s bonuses over Repulse, and thereafter allowing Renown to be in the tree?

Sources

Wikipedia - HMS Repulse (34) (1916)
Wikipedia - Renown-class Battlecruiser
Naval-Encyclopedia - Renown-class Battlecruiser
Naval-History - HMS Repulse (34)
NavWeaps - BL 15-inch Mk I
NavWeaps - BL 4-inch Mk IX
NavWeaps - QF 4-inch Mk V
NavWeaps - 2pdr QF Mk VIII
NavWeaps - 20mm/70 Oerlikon Mk I/II
NavWeaps - Vickers 0.5" MG Mk III
Wikipedia - BL 15-inch Mk I
Wikipedia - List of WW2 British Naval Radar

2 Likes

I dont think renown and repulse can nor should replace each other but repulse would be nice addition to already strong british 6.7.

1 Like

Take my +1, would be nice to have a tech tree version of Renown. That said it’s a shame they chose Renown for the event ship when she has some many extra features that would make her extremely appealing as a TT ship.

1 Like