HMSAS Rhodesia (BC-1913 (1935-mod))


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HMSAS Rhodesia (ex Lion) and HMSAS Free State (ex Princess Royal) were the remaining two Lion class battlecruisers of WW1 vintage. They were to be deleted from the Royal Navy on completion of the 2 Nelson class battleships but were transferred to Southern Africa instead. The ships acted as the scouting division of the South Atlantic Fleet untill 1933 when they were taken in hand at Simonstown Navy yard to receive the major refit that most of the older WW1 capital ships went through. New bridge superstructure, aircraft handling facilities, new secondary dual purpose armament and lesser AA weapons were all fitted along with more deck armour and a new propulsion system.

After their refit these ships were acting as part of the Indian Oceant fleet and operating with the Australis Indian Ocean Fleet in training exercises it was decided that unlike the Tiger type battlecruisers that had had the 'Q' turret replaced in X superfiring position that the two Rhodesias would not have this done and the extra space would be used for a larger boiler and engine installation. This was to raise the speed to 32+ knots so that the ships could act as flagships to the latest generation of Heavy Cruisers that were all making 32+ knots as well.

In 1942 with the start of the buildup of forces in the UK for the purpose of retaking Europe, both ships were transferred to the New York/Halifax to Liverpool route escorting the large liners that could maintain 25+ knots for the whole crossing. The extra speed of these ships was an operational requirement. If a torpedo was spotted these ships were to put themselves between the torpedo and its target. It was felt that these ships may not sink and be recoverable where the large liners were not built to withstand explosions.


Displacement 26,700 tons std, 32,500 tons full load
Length 704 ft
Breadth 88.6 ft
Draught 32.4 ft
Machinery 4 shaft geared turbines, 140,000shp
Speed 33 knots
Range 4,000 miles at 28 knots
Armour 9" side, 5.5" deck, 9" turrets
Armament 6 x 13.5" (3x2)

20 x 4.5" (10x2)

64 x 2pd (8x8)

6 x 40mm (6x1)

Aircraft 2
Torpedoes nil
Complement 1200
Notes HMSAS Rhodesia

HMSAS Free State


Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, Normandie, Mauretania, awaiting their next loads of troops. Able to carry a division at a time the two Queens and Normadie were probably the most sought after targets on the North Atlantic. Their sailing times were some of the most closely guarded secrets.


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