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Sister ship: RENOWN
Pennant Number: 34
Notes: The Admiralty had decided that there would be no more battlecruisers after HMS TIGER -- but that was before the return of Admiral Jack Fisher as First Sea Lord in October, 1914. Capitalizing upon the success of INVINCIBLE and INFLEXIBLE at the Battle of the Falklands, Fisher was able to convince the Cabinet to order two more battlecruisers, using much of the materials on hand for the building of two of the ROYAL SOVEREIGN class battleships. As six sets of turntables and 12 15" guns were available, the armament was set at three twin turrets for each ship. But Fisher (among others) clung to the belief that "speed equals protection", and the RENOWN class carried a similar outfit of armor as the INVINCIBLE, despite the fact that the new ships were expected to take their place in the battle line and withstand the fire of enemy battleships -- whose guns would easily riddle their inadequate armor. Fisher's hand was also evident upon their requirements for speed -- an un-heard of 32 knots in a capital ship (30 knots was actually achieved) -- and the inclusion of 4" guns in triple mounts as the secondary battery. While in theory, the sheer volume of gunpower would be sufficient to stop enemy torpedo boats, the triple mounts (requiring huge gun crews) proved unwieldy in action, lessening their volume of fire -- and as it turned out, the range and the "stopping power" of the 4" shell had been greatly over-estimated.
When REPULSE joined the Grand Fleet as a member of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, shortly after the Battle of Jutland, any reputation the battlecruisers had enjoyed had been destroyed. By October, 1916, REPULSE had taken in to receive additional armor. But the amount (500 tons) spread over a ship of such size did little to alleviate the fears of the Admiralty. In 1917, REPULSE was the first capital ship to receive a flying-off platform, and trials in the autumn of 1917 proved generally successful. On 17 November (in the company of COURAGEOUS and GLORIOUS), REPULSE saw action against German light forces; she fired 54-15" shells, scoring one hit on the light cruiser KÖNIGSBERG).
Armor continued to be a concern; in July, 1918, REPULSE was taken to Portsmouth for refit, where she received the 9" armored belt which had been removed from the ex-Chilean battleship ADMIRAL COCHRANE (which was being converted into the aircraft carrier EAGLE). The refit took nearly two and a half years; upon its completion in January, 1921, REPULSE joined the Battle Cruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet. Like the RENOWN, REPULSE carried out several Royal Tours, and made a world cruise. In November, 1924, REPULSE had her two single 4" and both 3" mounts removed and replaced by four 4" Mk. V QF AA guns. A much more thorough refit occurred at Portsmouth from April, 1933 through May, 1936. Armor was increased throughout, raising her displacement to 38,300 tons (thus reducing her top speed to 28.3 knots). One of the triple 4" mounts was removed, and four more 4" AA guns were added, along with two octuple 2-pdr. "pom-poms". A cross-deck catapult was added, as were hangars for two aircraft. In 1940, another triple 4" mount was removed and replaced by a third "pom-pom"; eight single 20mm Oerlikons were added in 1941.
REPULSE was with Home Fleet at the outbreak of World War II. In November, 1941, she was sent with the battleship PRINCE OF WALES (as Force "Z") to form the backbone of the Eastern Fleet. On 10 December 1941, REPULSE was sunk by Japanese dive and torpedo bombers (five torpedo hits) off Malaya; 796 of her crew were rescued by accompanying destroyers.