HMSAS Transvaal (BB-1923)


Back to Commonwealth Ships List


The fast battleship Rio de Janeiro sat at the Harland & Wolff's shipyard 70% complete at the end of WW1, The Brazillians had not completed payment of the ship and were in default. The ship had been placed for sale but no offer had been received. The Royal Navy was not sure whether they wanted to complete the ship (they did not have any battleship tonnage to spare) or just have the ship scrapped as like the Erin the ships design was outside the Royal Navies normal operating parameters. With the Southern African Navy shopping for ships for its new fleets, Harland and Wolff offered the ship at a discount which the Africans accepted. Work recommenced on the ship in 1920. This occurred during 1919, while just two years later the Brazilians were back to buy the Orion class ships and others due to the Chileans and Argentinians purchasing or being given complete fleets to which the Brazilians had to buy ships to answer. They were just too late to reclaim the Rio de Janeiro, the Southern African Navy was very happy to have it.

The design was based on the Queen Elizabeth type with the armament being retained at 8x15". Larger overall dimensions were required to make the new specified speed. The ship was fast with one of the largest powerplants so far fitted to a warship (at the time of launching). The speed came at a cost with side armour and deck armour being below normal RN limits.

The ship operated with the two Southern African ex Lion battlecruisers as the flagship of the Southern African Fast Fleet. In 1939 the ship was taken in hand at Simonstown Navy Yard for refurbishment. The rebuilding followed the set designs and plans with heavy AA battery, aircraft handling facilities, new propulsion plant, and new deck armour.

It was this ships superb gunnery at the battle of Tristan da Cunha that sealed the fate of the Germanic States battleraiders. One salvo hit the KM Kaiserin and slowed it enough so that it could be caught and sunk by the pursuing battlefleet. The Mk.1 15" again proving why it was such a devastating weapon.


Displacement 33,000 tons std, 39,250 tons full load 34,500 tons standard, 41,250 tons full load
Length 774 ft
Breadth 102 ft
Draught 30 ft
Machinery 4 shaft Steam turbines, 110,000shp 4 shaft, geared turbines, 120,000shp
Speed 29 knots
Range 8,500 miles at 14 knots
Armour 10" side, 2" deck, 12" turrets. 10" side, 5.5" deck, 12" turrets.
Armament 8 x 15" (4x2)
21 x 4" (7x3)
4 x 4" AA (4x1)

8 x 15" (4x2)
24 x 4.5" (12x2)
56 x 2pd (7x8)
8 x 40mm (2x4)
22  x 20mm (22x1)
Aircraft nil (4 after rebuild)
Torpedoes nil
Complement 1380
Notes HMSAS Transvaal (1923)

Triple 4" as fitted to the Transvaal. These guns did not last long in service. Unwieldly and required a large crew to operate.


Back to Commonwealth Ships List