HMS Lord Kitchener (CV-1927-39)
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Of the original six ships of the
R class battlecruisers two were uncompleted
at approximately 70-75% each
when construction was halted at wars end. The two hulls sat there for a further
2 years while these ships future was being decided. The news of the Confederate
and Commonwealth Union giants with the ships being built in Japan made these two
ships look badly outclassed. The setting up of the Southern African Navy took
away many modern ships from the Royal Navy stocks of which the loss of the Eagle
from the aircraft carrier list gave the Royal Navy designers the chance to use
the bigger Lord Kitchener and Lord Gambier to replace the much smaller Eagle
(the title 'Lord' was dropped from the names prior to launch).
The Geneva conference of 1922 sealed these two ships fates as the Royal Navy was going to have to divest itself of lots of ships to come within the new treaties limits. Completeing these two ships could never have been contemplated as there was no tonnage availble for new construction, especially of 15" gunned battlecruisers, conversion to aircraft carriers was their last chance to be saved from the breakers yards hammers.
The ships conversions followed (or replaced) the Courageous type with just a bit more of
everything due to the extra size of these ships over the light battlecruisers of
the Courageous class. The extra size of the ships allowed an extra half hangar
at the rear of the ship. The two deck take off strips forward pioneered by the
Furious was carried on to these ships (as well as the Japanese conversions that
took it even further). One of the major problems with this
conversion was the forward flying off deck where it was mated to the foredeck.
During one period of service in the West Indies the ship went through the edge
of a hurricane where the forefoot of the ship was plunging so much that it
ripped back the flying off deck to the point where it was unuseable and a
danger. With this and other anomalies and problems only highlighted after only 8 years in service, they
were taken in hand for major refurbishment.
The Royal Navy had learnt its lessons well from the operations with the aircraft carriers it had built and converted. The first true carrier, Hermes, had proven too small and with too many ship features included to the detriment of aircraft handling facilities. The Ark Royal class took all of the best bits and philosophies from its own and foreign built aircraft carriers and what emerged was probably the best of the pre-war aircraft carrier designs. The actual length and breadth of the Ark Royal type was very similar to the Kitchener type. Unfortunately that was where the similarities ended. The Ark Royal hull shape with its enclosed bow and broad hull was quite different from the narrow fore and aft footprint of the R type ships. A complete revamp of the armament and other essentials mounted on the side of the ships was undertaken, but the major work was the rebuilding of the bow to an enclosed design. The design work carried out on the Ark Royal was to be carried on to the rebuilding of these ships. The single 4" AA guns were kept but resited just below the flight deck level where they were less prone to spray interference. A complete set of minor armament of 2pd and 20mm sizes were fitted off the sides of the hangar.
The first four ships were completed as battlecruisers, the last two as aircraft carriers.HMS Repulse 08/1916
HMS Renown 09/1916
HMS Hood 11/1918
HMS Howe 01/1919
HMS Kitchener (conv to CV 1928)
HMS Gambier (Conv to CV 1929)
Aft end of Lord Kitchener shortly after completion.
Original drawings of Kitchener type using cut down HMS Hood hull.
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