Warship Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018: Churchill’s best Boxing Day gift

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018: Churchill’s best Boxing Day gift

National Museum of the U.S. Navy. Lot-3478-38 (2407×1750)

Here we see the King George V-class dreadnought battleship HMS Duke of York (17) in heavy seas, often captioned as firing her 14-inch guns at the distant German battleship Scharnhorst during the Battle of the North Cape, some 75 years ago today– Boxing Day, 1943. Her broadside of 10 BL 14-inch Mk VII naval guns could throw almost eight tons of shells at once.

Part of a class of five mighty battleships whistled up as Hitler was girding a resurgent Germany, Duke of York was ordered 16 November 1936, just eight months after the Austrian corporal-turned-Fuhrer violated the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact by reoccupying the demilitarized Rhineland. Built at John Brown and Company, Clydebank (all five KGVs were constructed at different yards to speed up their delivery), she commissioned 19 August 1941– as Great Britain remained the only country in Western Europe still fighting the Blitzkrieg. What a difference a few years can make!

Some 42,000-tons, these 745-foot long ships were bruisers. Capable of breaking 28-knots, they were faster than all but a handful of battleships on the drawing board while still sporting nearly 15-inches of armor plate at their thickest. Armed with 10 14-inch and 16 5.25-inch guns, they could slug it out with the biggest of the dreadnoughts of their day, possibly only outclassed by the American fast battleships (Washington, SoDak, Iowa-classes) with their 16-inch guns and the Japanese Yamatos, which carried 18-inchers.

HMS Duke of York, one of five King George V-class battleships

HMS Duke of York in drydock at Rosyth, Scotland.

HMS Duke of York (17), showing off her unusual quadruple turret as she departs Rosyth, 1942

Her first assignment, once she was commissioned, was to carry Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill to the United States in mid-December 1941 to confer with London’s new ally, President Roosevelt.

HMS Duke of York visits America to transport Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill to the United States, mid-December 1941. Note the Anti-Aircraft pom-pom guns in the drill. The photograph released January 27, 1942.

HMS Duke of York puffing a smoking “O” from her Y turret during exercises off Scapa Flow. This photo was taken aboard HMS Bedouin on 27 February 1942 and if you ask me is from the same set that the first image in this post is. The next day, Duke of York would cut short her work upon a sighting by HMS Trident of the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugene steering for Trondheim in Norway. Trident winged the latter, sending her running for Lofjorden. At 1830 hours on 28 Feb, Duke of York, the light cruiser Kenya, and destroyers Faulknor, Eskimo, Punjabi and Eclipse sailed from Scapa for Hvalfjord, Iceland, to join the Home Fleet and carry out her first operational sortie. IWM A 7549

By March 1942, she was active in the Battle of the Atlantic, sailing from Hvalfjord northwards around Iceland to provide distant cover for convoy PQ 12 against the threat posed by German heavy cruisers (Hipper, Prinz Eugen, Scheer), and battleships (Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau) possibly operating from Norway.

Battleship HMS Duke of York in heavy seas on a convoy escort operation to Russia, March 1942. In all, she would screen 16 convoys from March 1942 to December 1943, with breaks to cover landings in North Africa and Sicily and escort the Italian fleet to captivity.

Rear Admiral Robert C. Giffen, USN, Commander, Task Force 99 Visits with a British Vice Admiral on board HMS Duke of York, probably at Scapa Flow. The photo is dated 22 April 1942. USS Wasp (CV-7) is in the right background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-21027

With the planned Torch landings in North Africa, in October 1942, Duke of York was sent to Gibraltar as the new flagship of Force H, from where she would lend her might to the Allied effort in the Med.

Force H warships HMS Duke of York, Nelson, Renown, Formidable, and Argonaut underway off North Africa, November 1942.

From there, she was later involved in the Operation Husky landings in Sicily in July 1943, again as flagship. She would end up escorting the Italian fleet to Alexandria, Egypt after their surrender in September.

HMS Duke of York leading the Italian Fleet to Alexandria for surrender left to right Italia, Vittorio Veneto, Cadorna, Montecuccoli, Da Recco, Eugenio Di Savoia, and Duca d’Aosta – 14 September 1943

With no rest for the weary, Duke of York was then again off Norway, this time screening the carrier Ranger on her raids there— the only time American carrier aircraft would strike Europe during the War.

Royal Navy battleship, HMS Duke of York, underway astern of USS Ranger (CV 4), September 1943. Note the TBM Avengers on deck. #80-G-88048 (2048×1641)

Remaining on-call for convoy escort, Duke of York would be screening JW 55B on the Russian run past Norway when she would meet her biggest boogeyman.

The German battleship Scharnhorst at the time was the only serious naval asset the Kriegsmarine had at the time as Bismarck had been sunk in May 1941, the pocket battleship Graf Spee run to ground in 1939, Scharnhorst‘s sister Gneisenau crippled by a British air raid in 1942, the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer in Wilhelmshaven for major overhaul, Tirpitz left nearly condemned after a British X-Craft mini-submarine raid in Sept 1943, and the pocket battleship Lutzow in Kiel under repair until after the new year. The two remaining Hipper-class heavy cruisers were likewise deployed to the Baltic in support of operations against the Soviets.

With that, the epic 11-hour running fight that was the Battle of North Cape stretched out between the guardians of JW 55B (Duke of York along with heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk, light cruisers HMS Belfast, HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica, and the destroyers HMS Savage, Scorpion, Saumarez, Opportune, Virago, Musketeer, Matchless, and HNoMS Stord) and the unescorted Scharnhorst.

The 38,000-ton Scharnhorst, with her 13-inch armor belt and battery of nine 11-inch guns, was no match for Duke of York, however, she could make 31-knots, which gave her a slight advantage in speed during the running fight. Nevertheless, the British radar sets mounted on their ships meant she could never shake her pursuers. Almost her entire crew, including KAdm. Erich Bey, would be lost in the cold sea off North Cape, Norway.

While the German battlewagon parted Duke of York‘s hair so to speak with her own 11-inch guns– passing shells through her masts, severing wireless aerials– the British battleship, in turn, used her own radar-controlled guns to get deadly serious with 52 salvos on her opponent, straddling her on 31 of them and inflicting terrific damage.

Sinking of the Scharnhorst, 26 December 1943 by Charles Pears via Greenwich RMS. The action began at 0900 and went to nearly 2000. Duke of York is seen to the left, Scharnhorst over the central horizon. Illum shells light the final scene. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/12177.html

In the end, it was too much for any ship and Scharnhorst, crippled, blind, burning, and outnumbered 13-to-1, was sunk by a brace of 19 torpedoes fired by the British destroyers Opportune, Virago, Musketeer, and Matchless at near point-blank range. Just 36 of her nearly 2,000-man crew was saved. As far as I can tell, it would be the last significant British surface action to involve battleships.

Cobb, Charles David; The Sinking of the ‘Scharnhorst’, 26 December 1943; absorbing torpedoes from British and Norwegian destroyers National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-sinking-of-the-scharnhorst-26-december-1943-25967

“The last moments of the ‘Scharnhorst’ are recorded in this painting as fire takes hold of her and she is listing to starboard. Her guns are trained to port and her bridge tower glows in the light of the flames that rage through most of her length. In the right background are three destroyers and in the left background is a cruiser, probably the ‘Jamaica’. This painting was commissioned by the artist for publication in the ‘Illustrated London News’.” http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/13726.html Object ID BHC2250 from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. The artist is Charles Eddowes Turner

The Battle of the North Cape: HMS ‘Duke of York’ in Action against the ‘Scharnhorst’, 26 December 1943, by John Alan Hamilton (1919–1993) via the Imperial War Museum London. Painted 1972, transferred from the Belfast Trust, 1978.

Gun crews of HMS DUKE OF YORK under the ship’s 14-inch guns at Scapa Flow after the sinking of the German warship, the SCHARNHORST on 26 December 1943.

Given a refit for service in the Pacific, Duke of York would sail in April 1945 for the Far East, arriving in Sydney on 29 July.

Forward turrets of Duke of York during a refit at Rosyth in 1945. Note the 2pdr on “B” turret and the 20 mm Oerlikon guns at left. This would be her configuration for the Pacific Theatre. IWM Photograph A20166.

Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser waving his telescope in greeting as HMS Duke of York entered Sydney Harbor. July 1945

She would move to Japanese Home waters for the final push and helped screen Allied carrier task forces in the weeks before VJ Day.

HMS Duke of York in Guam Harbor, August 1945. She was there to allow Adm. Sir Bruce Fraser, RN, C-in-C British Pacific Fleet, to present the order of Knights Grand Cross of the Bath (GCB) awarded by King George VI to Adm. Chester Nimitz.

Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser with Admiral Nimitz after the investiture on board the DUKE OF YORK at Guam. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161320

In the end, she was one of 10 Allied battleships— eight American and her sister HMS King George V (41)— in Tokyo Bay during the Japanese surrender ceremony, 2 September 1945.

HMS Duke of York and King George V silhouetted against Mount Fuji 1945 IWM

WITH THE BRITISH NAVY IN THE FAR EAST. AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER 1945, ON BOARD HMS EURYALUS AND HMS DUKE OF YORK, AND ASHORE WITH THE BRITISH NAVY IN THE FAR EAST. (A 30576) Naval air might on parade when more than 1,000 Allied naval aircraft flew over HMS DUKE OF YORK as she proceeded on her way to Tokyo. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161681

Warships of the U.S. Third Fleet and the British Pacific Fleet in Sagami Wan, 28 August 1945, preparing for the formal Japanese surrender a few days later. Mount Fujiyama is in the background. Nearest ship is USS Missouri (BB-63), flying Admiral William F. Halsey’s four-star flag. British battleship Duke of York is just beyond her, with HMS King George V further in. USS Colorado (BB-45) is in the far center distance. Also, present are U.S. and British cruisers and U.S. destroyers. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, 80-G-339360, now in the collections of the National Archives.

The above photo was immortalised by martime artist Charles David Cobb

Cobb, Charles David, 1921-2014; Japanese Surrender, Tokyo Bay

Japanese Surrender, Tokyo Bay USS Missouri HMS Duke of York HMS King George V Mount Fuji Tokyo Bay Charles David Cobb via National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth

Retiring to Hong Kong, she was present there for the reoccupation of the colony from Japanese forces.

View of Hong Kong harbor from Mount Victoria. The battleship at anchor is the HMS Duke of York.

 

The flagship of the British Pacific Fleet, HMS Duke of York. Pictured at Woolloomooloo Wharf November 23, 1945. At this point, she was just four years old and had fought the Italians, Japanese and Germans (2222×1700)

HMS Duke of York at Hobart, Tasmania, 1945

Returning to the UK, Duke of York deployed as Home Fleet Flagship until 1949 then became Flagship of the Reserve Fleet for two years until reduced to Reserve status in November 1951.

HMS DUKE OF YORK AT MADEIRA. APRIL 1947, MADEIRA, PORTUGAL. HMS DUKE OF YORK, FLAGSHIP OF THE HOME FLEET VISITED MADEIRA DURING THE SPRING CRUISE OF THE HOME FLEET. (A 31304) The Commander in Chief, Admiral Sir Neville Syfret, KCB, KBE, inspecting Portuguese troops at Madeira. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162328

Laid-up in the Gareloch, she was placed on the Disposal List and sold to BISCO for scrapping, arriving at Faslane on 18 February 1958, less than 22 years after she was ordered. Her three surviving sisters (sister Prince of Wales was sunk by the Japanese in December 1941 in the South China Sea) were likewise disposed of at the same time.

Specs:
Displacement:42,076 long tons (42,751 t) deep load
Length:
745 ft 1 in (overall) 740 ft 1 in (waterline), Beam: 103 ft 2 in
Draught: 34 ft 4 in
Installed power: 110,000 shp (82,000 kW)
Propulsion:
8 Admiralty 3-drum small-tube boilers
4 sets Parsons geared turbines
Speed: 28.3 knots
Range: 15,600 nmi at 10 knots
Complement: 1,556 (1945)
Radars:
(1942)
1 x Type 273/M/P Surface search
1 x Type 281 Long range air warning
6 x Type 282 Pom-pom directors
1 x Type 284/M/P Main armament director
4 x Type 285/M/P/Q HA directors
( Radars added between 1944–1945)
Type 281B
2 × Types 277, 282 and 293 radars added.
Armament:
10 × BL 14 in (360 mm) Mark VII guns
16 × QF 5.25 in (133 mm) Mk. I DP guns
48 × QF 2 pdr 40 mm (1.6 in) Mk.VIII AA guns
6 × 20 mm (0.8 in) Oerlikon AA guns
Armor:
Main Belt: 14.7 inches
Lower belt: 5.4 inches
Deck: 5–6 inches
Main turrets: 12.75 inches
Barbettes: 12.75 inches
Bulkheads: 10–12 inches
Conning tower: 3–4 inches
Aircraft carried: 4 × Supermarine Walrus seaplanes, 1 catapult

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

2 responses to “Warship Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018: Churchill’s best Boxing Day gift”

  1. bklynphil says :

    Ah Christopher – I continue to learn new things every time I read one of your postings. This one on HMS Duke of Yotk bought forth the investiture of ADM Nimitz into the Order of the Bath. I han’t known about that. Here’s a link to drinking a toast and a more complete caption.

    Admiral Nimitz Honoured

    Admiral Chester William Nimitz (1885 – 1966, left), the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces in the Pacific during World War II, drinks a toast after receiving the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on board the flagship ‘HMS Duke of York’, August 1945. The investiture was carried out by Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser (1888 – 1981, centre), Commander-in-Chief of the British Pacific Fleet, on behalf of the King. On the right is General Carl Andrew Spaatz (1891 – 1974) of the US Air Force. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

    https://www.gettyimages.se/detail/nyhetsfoto/admiral-chester-william-nimitz-the-commander-in-chief-of-nyhetsfoto/961804704 Thanks again for all you do to keep the rest of us informed.

    Phil Gilson, Brooklyn NY

    On Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 8:00 AM laststandonzombieisland wrote:

    > laststandonzombieisland posted: “Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off > every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 > time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a > life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the st” >

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