HMS Repulse

Repulse, 1939. Rangefinders, searchlight and anti-aircraft artillery stands can be seen

Gun weight    68.04 kg
Gun length oa    2.21 m
Bore length    1.4 m
Grooves    9
Chamber volume    34.855 cm3
Rate of fire    450 rpm (in practice 250-320 rpm)
Barrel life    about 9 000 rounds
Ammunition    fixed, 0.241 kg
Range    4 300 m
AA ceiling    3 000 m
Mount weight    520 kg
Elevation    -5° to +85°
Train    360°

From the service entry until the 1939 modernization the ship carried four Hotchkiss 3-pdr (47 mm) QF Mk I saluting guns on Mk I mounts.
In 1916 Repulse was equipped with two fixed 21” Mk II*** torpedo tubes (533 mm, 234 kg TNT bursting charge, range of 4 110 m at 45 kt) installed forward of turret A, below the waterline. The ship could carry a supply of ten torpedoes. In 1922 the torpedo launchers were removed and replaced with eight fixed above water tubes (installed in twin sets on each side of the hull, abaft of the stack and the mainmast). Installation of that sort of weapons on a large capital ship did not make much sense, especially when the torpedoes were to be launched from fixed tubes, which further degraded their effectiveness. Nonetheless, the torpedo tubes on Repulse were retained until the ship’s sinking in 1941.


Main artillery fire control centered around two gun directors placed on the conning tower and on a platform located on the foremast. Additionally, each main gun turret was equipped with a 15 foot (4.57 m) rangefinder. During the ship’s service life optical fire control equipment was constantly upgraded and by 1936 Repulse carried the following types of rangefinders:
30 foot (9.14 m) – rear of turret A, in a revolving dome on the conning tower and roof of turret Y,
15 foot (4.57 m) – roofs of turrets A and B and a rotating dome on the conning tower,
12 foot (3.65 m), AA fire control – top of the foremast, platforms of the forward superstructure (one on each side) and top of aft superstructure, abaft the mainmast,
9 foot (2.74 m) – each side of the forward superstructure, below the 12 foot rangefinder stations.
During the last modernization in August 1941 the ship received the newest model of main gun fire control radar – Type 284. The set utilized 50 cm wavelength (600 MHz) and featured 25 kW power output, which allowed the “blind” tracking of a target. The radar sets of that type were successfully used for main gun fire control on cruisers and capital vessels until the introduction of centimeter wavelength units later during the war. Two radar Type 284 antennas were installed in a rotating dome on the conning tower and placed in a position that would not interfere with the rangefinders. In November 1941, while the ship was in transit to the Far East, she was probably fitted with Type 286P air surveillance radar (1.4 m wavelength, 6 kW power output).
Initially the battlecruiser was equipped with as many as 10 searchlights (one on each side of the superstructure, two on platforms on the fore stack, four on platforms on the aft stack and one on each side of the mainmast). After the 1917 refit only eight searchlight remained and by 1936 the number was reduced to six 36” units (superstructure, aft stack and the mainmast). Additionally two 24” signal lights were installed on superstructure platforms.
The Admiralty had a keen interest in exploring the possibilities of cooperation between the air and naval components, which gave rise to the idea of embarking aircraft aboard capital ships. In 1917 Repulse became the first Royal Navy heavy warship to carry embarked aircraft. First trials were performed using a single-seat Sopwith Pup aircraft launched from a catapult installed on the roof of turret B (the launch would be in the direction of the gun barrels). Later trials used a catapult mounted on top of turret Y (launching in the direction of the turret’s rear wall). Make-shift canvas hangars were erected on the ship’s deck. All experimental aircraft facilities were removed by 1933 and in 1936 Repulse received permanent aircraft handling equipment. Two seaplane hangars were installed abaft the aft smoke stack, complete with 7 ton cranes. A D(II)H type catapult was installed across the deck. The facilities could handle up to 4 seaplanes, although in practice that number would be most likely reduced to two. Initially the ship was equipped with Blackburn Sharks, replaced in 1939 by Fairey Swordfish seaplanes. Towards the end of her career Repulse carried Supermarine Walrus flying boats.

Fairey Swordfish Mk I on floats (No. 093), ready for launch, 1939. [Visualization 3D Stefan Dramiński]

Supermarine Walrus flying boat
Length    10,2 m
Wingspan    14 m
Height    4,6 m
Take-off weight    3 265 kg
Powerplant    Bristol Pegasus VI radial engine, 680 HP
Maximum speed    215 km/h
Range    600 miles
Ceiling    5 650 m
Armament    2 x Vickers K, up to 345 kg bombs/depth charges
Crew    3-4

In May 1940 a degaussing cable was installed on the ship as a countermeasure against magnetic naval mines. The cable ran along the external section of the hull.

Summary of construction timeline and service history

30.12.1914 Order placed for the ship’s construction.
01.1915 Transportation of material earmarked for the unfinished battleship project from Palmers shipyard at Jarrow to John Brown & Company Shipyard & Engine Works in Clydebank, Scotland (the former could not handle the construction due to the ship’s size).
25.01.1915 Laying down ceremony.
12.04.1915 Ship’s technical documentation is finished.
22.04.1915 Technical documentation approved.
08.01.1916 Hull is launched.
15.08.1916 Sea trials begin.
18.08.1916 Live weapons trials of all caliber guns. Repulse officially enters service with the Royal Navy in a record-breaking time (a little over a year and a half after construction had begun).
08-09.1916 Sea trials and crew work-ups.
21.09.1916 Joined the Grand Fleet as flagship of 1st Battlecruiser Squadron.
10-12.1916 Modernization at Rosyth (forward stack’s height increased by several meters, armor strakes’ thickness increased to 4”, additional 2” plating added to the main deck above the engine room, 2” armor plating added to the upper deck above the ammunition magazines, upper armor forward of turret A and aft of turret Y increased to 2.5”).
09.1917 Searchlight platforms rebuilt, launch platforms installed on turrets B and Y.
01.10.1917 Successful launch of a Sopwith Pup from a launch platform on turret B.
08.10.1917 Successful launch of a Sopwith Pup from a launch platform on turret Y.
16.11.1917 Deployed with 1 BCS in support of operation by light cruisers to intercept German minesweeping off Heligoland.
17.11.1917 The second battle of Heligoland: having fired 54 15” shells the Repulse crew score two hits against an enemy ships. Light cruiser Frankfurt suffers damage, while another light cruiser – Königsberg – sustains heavy damage. The battle’s result is inconclusive.
12.1917 Return to Grand Fleet base at Scapa Flow.
05.03.1918 Unsuccessful attempt to launch a two-seat aircraft from a platform on turret B.
21.11.1918 Present at formal surrender of German Hochseeflotte at Scapa Flow.


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3D06 Repulse CMYK


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