Tag Archives: HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08)

What a Difference 68 Years Makes

With Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee passing last week, the Admiralty made sure to release a bunch of images of Tars and Marines assembled at assorted Royal Navy assets to celebrate.

Among the imagery was this shot of the deck of the RN’s 65,000-ton Lightning Carrier, named after Elizabeth herself.

This of course begs comparison to this shot of the 18,000-ton Australian Colossus-class light carrier HMAS Vengeance (R71) from April 1954 when the then 28-year-old Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, made her first historic visit to Western Australia and the Port of Fremantle.

As noted by the RAN, “On seeing the image taken of Vengeance, HM is reported to have commented that it was ‘a most original forgery.'” Photo via the Robert Elliston Glasgow Collection – State Library of Western Australia.

During her service in the RAN, Vengeance carried a squadron each of Hawker Sea Furies and Fairey Fireflies as well as three early Bristol Sycamore helicopters. She appears to have six Furies on deck and it is likely the image was captured from a Sycamore. Interestingly, although she was only a third the size of today’s HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Australian light carrier had about the same sized air wing!

Vengeance, laid down the same week as the 1942 Torch Landings in North Africa, languished and wasn’t completed until 1952 when she was completed for a temporary loan to the Australians. She only operated “Down Under” for four years and in 1956 was sold to Brazil just after the RAN took possession of a replacement carrier, HMAS Melbourne.

Following extensive reconstruction and modernization in Rotterdam, Vengeance was renamed and commissioned by the Brazilian Navy as Minas Gerais on 6 December 1960, serving until 2001.

Low clearance, tight squeeze

The largest Royal Navy warship ever to take to the sea, the fleet carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), has been in the water for six years. This means a drydocking period to check her hull and strip away the trees that are growing upon it.

While based at HMNB Portsmouth, she was assembled over an eight-year period in the Firth of Forth at Rosyth Dockyard from components built in six UK shipyards (way to subcontract the pork!) and has headed back to her place of birth for the work. This means sailing under the three Forth bridges, for which she was specifically designed to pass through the (temporary) lowering of her mast.

Similarly, the Queen Elizabeth-class were designed with just 39-inches of clearance to pass through the lock into Rosyth Dockyard– weather and tides providing.

It’s not the only case of ships being formatted to meet navigational limitations. For generations, the U.S. Navy’s carriers and battleships were limited to fit the 110-foot-wide and 890-foot-long Miraflores lock chambers of the Panama Canal (the waterline beam of the Iowa-class was 108 feet while they were 888-feet long, providing just a foot on each side to squeeze through).

A bow view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) passing through the Pedro Miguel Locks of the canal. DN-SN-87-09408

It was controversial to construct the Midway-class of carriers in the 1940s as too big to transit the Canal– a first for the Navy.

Further, to be able to reach the Brooklyn Navy Yard, vessels up to the Forrestal and Kitty Hawk-class conventional supercarriers had an allowance to swing their mast so that could get under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier USS Constellation (CV-64), which was constructed at Brooklyn Naval Yard, passing under the Brooklyn Bridge in 1962

Previous carriers, the Midways, and Essex-classes included could just make it without de-masting.

Essex-class carrier USS Tarawa (CV-40) passes under the Brooklyn Bridge

As could the tallest lattice masts of dreadnought battleships.

BB-39 Arizona in New York City,1918, colorized by Monochrome Specter