Majorca Class Battleship.
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The Tyrrhenian Navy only had the Crete building on the out break of war. The Allies asked for another ship to be put into production to help with the war effort against the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. The Tyrrhenian government advised they were short of funds for such a huge investment. After some deliberation the Allied nations offered various bits and pieces that would assist with the building of a new ship. The British offered armour for the decks, barbettes and belt. The French offered director equipment off of a Normandie class ship that had had to be put on hold. The most important pieces of equipment were to be supplied from the US at a very reasonable rate, four triple 14" turrets and guns. This left the Tyrrhenians the hull and engines and minor fittings, secondary / tertiary armament and any other necessary equipment. The French had to renege on their part of the Bargain and US optical equipment was supplied, free, instead.
The British also assisted with the design work. Improving the previous Crete design from a battlecruiser to a fully fledged fast battleship. The reduction in armament from the twelve 15" the British were designing into their Majestic Class down to the twelve 14" to be installed on the Majorca with the thinner armoured area to be carried gave the ship the extra tonnage necessary to get the Tyrrhenians magic 28 knot speed.
The Majorca was the first ship to feature radar assistance for any of its weaponry. Radar ranging and targeting was fitted to the main director for the 14", while the 2 pounder pom poms received simple 'follow me' predictors that improved accuracy by almost 50%. As more radar units were received then the secondary directors were given improvements. Overall the rebuilding of the Majorca required less than that given to the Crete, but the improvements made were significant. The taking up of the old 3" deck armour, the replacement of the old machinery with a new 140,000shp set improved the speed from 28 to 30 knots. The deck armour was replaced with a new 5.5" thick deck that improved vertical protection. With its rebuilt bits and pieces the Majorca joined the Fleet at the main base at Syracuse in April 1940. Three months later the Majorca was at war.
The two Mediterranean powers, Italy and Tyrrhenia agreed to split the Mediterranean into West and East spheres of influence. Tyrrhenia would look after the Western Mediterranean and Force H, while Italy would be responsible for the Eastern Mediterranean and the Commonwealths Mediterranean Fleet. Tyrrhenia based its forward Fleet vessels on Majorca at their base there. Force H generally had 2 CV's, 1 BB and 2BC's as its capital ship content, while the Tyrrhenians had 3 BB's and 2 BC's until the Tyrrhenia (BB) is completed in 1941. Having air bases on Majorca, the Tyrrhenian Navy could operate up to 150 miles, from Majorca, with air support but outside that range the Tyrrhenian Navy ships would be at the mercy of the Commonwealth aircraft carriers. Even with the aircraft cover available about half the time the aircraft got lost and never turned up, the other half the Commonwealth fighters chased the aircraft off or shot them down leaving the ships open to attack from the bombers and dive-bombers. The lack of aircraft carriers in the Tyrrhenia Navy came home to roost time and again.
With the Spanish being a pro-Axis Neutral, The Tyrrhenian ships were able to sneak along the coast of Spain without the Spanish reporting them. It was in this way that the Tyrrhenians were able to force the Battle of Cartagena. The Commonwealth were down to one carrier, the other was repairing battle damage. The Tyrrhenian Fleet had managed to sneak behind Force H so that as the sun rose the Tyrrhenian ships roared out of the sunrise and onto Force H. The first salvoes were at the Commonwealth carrier hoping to damage it enough to stop it launching aircraft that could swing the battle to Force H. Those salvoes hurt the Kwazulu which was immediately ordered out of the battle with a cruiser and a couple of destroyers as escort. This left a battleship and two battlecruisers facing the might of the Tyrrhenian Navy. One King George V (9x15") and two Renown and Reliant (8x15") capital ships. The Admirals orders to the Commonwealth Captains was to provide a fighting withdrawal to cover the damaged Kwazulu.
The Tyrrhenian ships all had 14" or smaller weapons, but these guns fired a similar distance to the Commonwealth 15" guns. It was the penetration power of the 15" that made the difference with the Tyrrhenian ships having less armour than the Commonwealth ships. The Tyrrhenians had a numerical advantage and needed it. For the next thirty minutes, both sides jockeyed for position, all the ships taking minor damage, till finally the twelve gun broadside of the Majorca had its say. Landing six hits on the Reliant, three of them in the engineering spaces and another two hitting and putting X and Y turret out of action. At one stroke the Reliant was crippled and waiting its executioner. The Admiral signaled 'Good Luck' to the Reliant and left it to its fate. The Admiral had to think of the greater good, and having lost one ship, no further pretense at a fighting withdrawal remained, the Admiral ordered best speed and hit the road. While on the other side the Tyrrhenian Admiral took stock of his remaining forces. The two light battlecruisers had taken damage and could make no better than 20-22 knots, while the brand new Cyprus class battleship was also down to 24-25 knots through damage. This left only the Minorca and the Majorca in a condition to chase the Commonwealth forces. Another three salvoes from the Majorca and the Reliant was stopped in the water with no guns firing, but as the flag was still flying, a destroyer was sent in to put three torpedoes into HMS Reliant, which slowly rolled over and sank.
Though the Tyrrhenian Navy had won a hard fought victory, the damage to the Tyrrhenian capital ships from the Commonwealth 15" guns kept half the fleet at Syracuse in docks for repairs. The rest of the fleet remained at Palma where the Commonwealth carriers Golden Hind and Kwazulu had their revenge by attacking and damaging the three capital ships in port. The Cyprus and Majorca both received torpedo hits and the Minorca bomb hits from the dive bombers. From November 1940 to January 1941, the Tyrrhenian Navy had no capital ships available.
The Majorca and the rest of the fleet took very little further action. The impunity with which the Commonwealth aircraft carriers could attack anywhere they wanted because their aircraft were just so superior to the aircraft in the Tyrrhenian Air Services. The fleet units tried some night attacks but even there the Commonwealth Radar was far superior to that on the Tyrrhenian ships. Such attacks usually ended in disaster. It took twelve months for the torpedo damage to the Majorca to be repaired and after the repairs were completed the ship remained in harbour at Syracuse. The Majorca was still in Syracuse when the Fleet surrendered to the Allies in 1943.
The Majorca was the newest capital ship left after the three more modern ships were ceded to the Allies as part of the reparations package. It had been Fleet Flagship from 1920 to 1938 and then again from 1945 to 1955. The Majorca was kept as a museum ship, being the only Tyrrhenian ship to sink an enemy capital ship.
|Displacement||34,450 tons standard, 39,800 tons full load|
|Machinery||4 shaft steam turbines, 120,000shp as completed (140,000shp as refitted)|
|Speed||28 knots as completed (30 knots refitted)|
|Range||5000 miles at 10 knots|
|Armour||11-8in belt, 3in decks, 12"/8"/6" turrets (5.5" deck after rebuild)|
|Armament||As Completed 1920
12 x 14" (4x3)
16 x 5.5" (8x2)
6 x 4" AA (6x1)
4 x 2pd AA (4x1)
|Refits to 1940
12 x 14" (4x3)
16 x 5.1" (8x2)
56 x 2pd (6x8, 2x4)
32 x 20mm (32x1)
|Complement||1150 (1215 as Flagship)|
|Notes||TNS Majorca: 1955 Museum ship, still in existence.|
Triple turret provided for fitting to the Majorca.
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