Tag Archive | HMS Blake (C99)

Warship Wednesday March 18, 2015 Her Majesty’s Final Cruiser

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday March 18, 2015 Her Majesty’s Final Cruiser

Blake8

Here we see the Minotaur-class cruiser, Her Majesty’s Ship Blake, pennant C99, of the Royal Navy as she appeared after her refit to accommodate both a fleet flag suite and a quartet of helicopters.

When the Royal Navy entered World War II, they did so with a number of modern light cruisers to include 10 11,000-ton Town-class and had another 11 improved Crown Colony-class vessels on the builder’s ways.

However, within the first couple years of the war, the fleet lost a number of these ships to include HMS Fiji and HMS Gloucester (both sunk in air attack at Crete, 22 May 1941) HMS Trinidad (scuttled following air attack off North Cape, 15 May 1942), HMS Southampton (scuttled following air attack off Malta, 11 January 1941), HMS Manchester (scuttled following torpedo attack off Cap Bon, 13 August 1942) and HMS Edinburgh (scuttled following torpedo attack, 2 May 1942).

With the RN down a quarter of their new cruisers and a long war expected, the call went out in another nine emergency ships to be funded as part of the Additional Naval Programme also known as the “something keeps happening to all of our bloody cruisers” program.

These new ships would be the Minotaur-class light cruiser.

Fundamentally an improvement of the Crown Colony-class design that was already being built, these 11,130-ton ships could make 31.5-knots which didn’t make them the fastest cruisers in the world, but the fact that they could steam at an economical 16-knots (the going rate for convoys) for 8,000 nautical miles on a single fill up made it clear they were intended for distant travels.

Two triple 6

Two triple 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Mark XXIII mounts as seen on HMS Belfast. The Minotaur class repeated these and carried a third mount aft for a total of 9 tubes.Via Navweaps

Armed with 9 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Mark XXIII guns in 3 triple turrets, they had the same big tubes as the rest of the Commonwealth light cruiser fleet. These guns could fire a 112-pound shell to a maximum of 25,480 yards and the Minotaur-class was set up to carry as many as 1800 shells in their magazines at a rate of 6 round per minute per tube.

The thing is, by 1943, the Royal Navy was concentrating more on destroyers, and small escorts, which meant the new Minotaur‘s were put on the back burner.

Only one, HMS Swiftsure was completed during the war and even this ship just became operational in late 1944 (rushed to the Pacific she was flagship of the British Pacific Cruiser Squadron, and was selected by Admiral Cecil Harcourt to hoist his flag for the Japanese surrender.) Class leader Minotaur was transferred before she was complete to Canada who commissioned her as HMCS Ontario almost a month after Hitler ate a bullet (or went to Argentina whichever you believe). A third ship, HMS Superb,was commissioned after the war.

That left six incomplete hulls at the end of WWII, lingering.

Three of these, Mars, Hawke, and Bellerophon were cancelled, their steel broken back up and recycled.

Three floating hulls that had made it far enough to be launched, Tiger, Lion, and Blake, were left hanging out while the Admiralty decided what to do with them.

Which brings us to the hero of our story.

Laid down 17 August 1942 at the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd, Govan, Glasgow, Scotland, Blake was launched 20 December 1945– some three months after the end of World War II and work was suspended. Named after Admiral Robert Blake (1598-1657), considered the founder of what became the modern Royal Navy, of whom even Nelson wrote, “I do not reckon myself equal to Blake” she was the fifth (and last as of 2015) RN warship to bear his name.

This guy

This guy

Finally, after nine years of languishing, it was decided to complete the three floating but yet unfinished Minotaurs, Blake included, to a modified design due in large part to the perceived threat of the new Soviet Sverdlov-class cruisers.

This modification amounted to scrapping the entire armament scheme to include 6 and 5 inch guns, AAA pieces and surface torpedo tubes, in exchange for a trio of twin 3″ guns QF Mark N1 DP guns and a pair of twin 6″/50 (15.2 cm) QF Mark N5 mounts.

A good view of the twin 152mm QF Mark N5 mount forward and the twin 3

A good view of the twin 152mm QF Mark N5 mount forward and the twin 3″QF Mark N1 DP guns in the No.2 mount. This same gun scheme was repeated aft and was the primary and secondary teeth of the Tiger, Blake and Lion as commissioned. Via Navweaps.

The latter, only mounted in these three post-WWII British light cruisers, were the first to use complete cartridges rather than bagged powder under a shell. As noted by Navweaps, “Controlled by the Gun Direction System (GDS1) using the Type 992 radar. This system enabled the ships to engage multiple targets within a few seconds of each other and was technically very advanced for its time.”

Out of the six turrets used afloat, three used RP15 hydraulic control and three used RP53 electric control. It is believed that HMS Tiger had all hydraulic control; HMS Blake had all electric control while HMS Lion had one of each. They could fire a 133-pound shell 20 rounds per minute per tube to about 25,000 yards.

As such, the four tubes on Blake and her two full sisters could dish out 80 shells in a frantic minute while their original 9-gun Minotaur half-sisters could only fire 54.

Science!

With the three “new” cruisers entering the fleet, the RN took their half-sister baggers Swiftsure and Superb out of service and both were scrap by 1962. The Canadians followed suit with Ontario/Minotaur.

Finally commissioned 18 March 1961, HMS Blake took to the sea.

HMS Lion in Malta early 1960s. Tiger and Blake shared the same outline at the same time

HMS Lion in Malta early 1960s. Tiger and Blake shared the same outline at the same time. Bigup and note the arrangement of the twin 3″ DP guns to the stern.

After just two years she was withdrawn and converted once more in 1965 to become one of the first modern helicopter cruisers.

While she retained her forward mounts, those aft were replaced by a hangar enormous enough to fit a quartet of Wessex (later Sea King) helicopters inside. Additionally she was given room, space and commo equipment to serve as a fleet flagship.

Stern view of Tiger, showing the same conversion that Blake endured

Stern view of Tiger, showing the same conversion that Blake endured

blake after her refit

Further, she was given realistic anti-air protection in the form of a pair of quad GWS.21 Sea Cat missile launchers. Short-legged surface to air missiles with a range of about 5km, Sea Cat was effective enough to earn at least one confirmed kill in the Falklands.

hms blake

Blake shown with a Wessex helicopter landing

Rejoining the active list in 1969, she was perhaps one of the only cruisers to have a Harrier jump jet land upon her.

Her sister Tiger was similarly converted while the Lion was cannibalized for future spare parts.

Then there were two…

Good overhead view of Blake

Good overhead view of Blake

Blake 1979

Blake 1979. Note the Seacat launcher amidships.

Blake endured through the 70s as something of a love boat design: big and expensive to operate and only trotted out for special occasions. She had happy if mechanically troublesome cruises in the Med, Indian, and Pacific before a 1980 refit saw her placed in mothballs, the Invincible-class “harrier cruisers” built to replace Tiger and Blake.

Blake in layup

Blake in layup. Via Flickr

When the Argentinians moved into the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982, both Blake and Tiger were pulled out of storage and readied for use in the South Atlantic. As the Royal Marines and Paras only brought 105mm light guns with them, it was thought that the rapid fire 152mm models of Tiger and Blake may help in naval gun fire support while the extensive helicopter facilities allowed them to be lillypads for thirsty harriers and choppers.

However, the war soon proved faster than the old cruiser’s reactivation and, following the conflict, both Blake and Tiger were sold for scrap.

In all Blake spent just 15 years of her 40-year life in active fleet service and, though technically part of the RN during WWII, Korea, and the Falklands, never fired a shot in anger.

Blake was the last cruiser in the Royal Navy and, when she ran her battery before entering refit in 1979, fired the last “big gun” salvo in Britannia’s history.

HMS Blake by Ivan Berryman. The newly converted Command Helicopter Cruiser HMS Blake leaves Grand Harbour Malta at the end of the 1960s. In the background, the old Submarine Depot ship HMS Forth lies at anchor at the very end of her long career.

HMS Blake by Ivan Berryman. “The newly converted Command Helicopter Cruiser HMS Blake leaves Grand Harbour Malta at the end of the 1960s. In the background, the old Submarine Depot ship HMS Forth lies at anchor at the very end of her long career.” Via Cranston.

The bell of the last HMS Blake, scrapped in 1982, is on display in Saint Mary’s Church, Bridgewater while numerous statutes and plaques exist for her namesake.

HMS Belfast, a Crown Colony-class cruiser preserved as a museum ship in London, is the closest living survivor to the “Shakey Blakey.”

Specs

Minotaur design

HMS Jamaica, 1945. This Crown Colony class cruiser was essentally the same scheme that the Minotaurs were designed to. Via shipbucket.

HMS Jamaica, 1945. This Crown Colony class cruiser was essentially the same scheme that the Minotaurs were designed to. Via shipbucket.

Displacement: 8,800 tons standard 11,130 tons full
Length: 555.5 ft. (169.3 m)
Beam: 63 ft. (19 m) (Superb: 64 ft.)
Draught: 17.25 ft. (5.26 m)
Installed power: 72,500 shp (54.1 MW)
Propulsion: Four Admiralty-type three drum boilers
Four shaft Parsons steam turbines
Speed: 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)
Range: 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) at 30 knots (60 km/h)
8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h); 1,850 tons fuel oil
Complement: 867
Armament:
3 × triple BL 6 inch Mk XXIII guns
5 × dual 4-inch / 45 QF Mk 16 HA
4 × quad QF 2 pdr
6 × single 40 mm AA
2 × triple 21-inch (530 mm) Torpedo Tubes.
Armour:
3.25 to 3.5-inch (89 mm) belt
2 inch deck
1 to 2-inch (51 mm) turrets
1.5 to 2-inch (51 mm) bulkheads

Blake as built

Blake, 1961. Note the different armament scheme than the original as above. Photo via shipbucket

Blake, 1961. Note the different armament scheme than the original as above. Photo via shipbucket

Displacement: 11,700 tons (12,080 tons after helicopter conversion)
Length: 555.5 ft. (169 m)
Beam: 64 ft. (19.5 m)
Draught: 23 ft. (7.0 m)
Installed power: 80,000 shp (60 MW)
Propulsion: Four Admiralty-type three drum boilers
Four shaft Parsons steam turbines
Speed: 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)
Range: 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h)
Complement: 716 (885 after conversion)
Armament: As built:
2 × twin 6 in guns QF Mark N5 with RP53 (electric) control
3 × twin 3 in guns QF Mark N1

Armour:
Belt 3.5 in – 3.25 in
Bulkheads 2 in – 1.5 in
Turrets 2 in – 1 in
Crowns of engine room and magazines 2 inches.

As helicopter cruiser

Note radically different aft profile. Photo via shipbucket

Note radically different aft profile. Photo via shipbucket

1 × twin 6 in guns QF Mark N5 with RP53 (electric) RPC
1 × twin 3 in guns QF Mark N1
2 × quad GWS.21 Sea Cat missile launchers

Aircraft carried 4 × helicopters (originally Wessex then Sea King)

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