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Transcribed by Don Kindell

 HMS Renown (Maritime Quest, click to enlarge) on to Battlecruiser Squadron, May-December 1940
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Other Home Fleet and Battlecruiser Operations in this period


  Areas of Operations (click to enlarge). Only some locations in text are shown  


Click for Convoy Route Codes, Operation Code Names and Royal Navy  Minelaying



Source: ADM 199/379


Battle Cruiser Squadron's War Diary commenced on 1 March 1940. Before this time, their activities were carried by the Rosyth War Diary which only began on 5 November 1939 (ADM 199/362) and more broadly in the Daily Operations Report for First Lord (ADM 199/1939 et al)


This Diary includes details of HMS Renown's engagement with German Battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on 9 April 1940




Battle Cruiser One War Diary, 1-31 March 1940


War Diary of Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron, 1-30 April 1940


Enclosure No. 1 - 5th to 9th April

Report of Proceedings. 9th April. Engagement between RENOWN and two German warships

Commanding Officer, H.M.S. RENOWN’s letter No. 2022/061

Technical remarks on the gun armament engagement of 9th April.

Navigational Record During the Engagement between H.M.S. Renown and Scharnhorst and Hipper on 9th April 1940

Letter from S.H. Phillips, Principal Assistant Secretary, on RENOWN’s displacement and performance in high seas.

Vice Admiral Whitworth’s (B.C.S.) report on the RENOWN engagement.

Admiral Forbes’ Report of Proceedings on RENOWN engagement.

Letters from various Naval Departments commenting on the RENOWN during the Engagement with the German ships
9th April 1940.





Commenced 1 March 1940

(previous to this time, BC1 activities were carried by other Diaries)



(Enclosure to B.C. One’s No. 184/B.C.S. 42/4 of

27 March 1940)


MARCH 1940


1st March


H.M.S. HOOD, flying the flag of the Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron, at Greenock. H.M. Ships REPULSE and RENOWN at Devonport.


2nd March


2. H.M.S. REPULSE, escorted by HARDY, HOSTILE, and VIMY left Devonport for Greenock.


3. H.M. Ships HOOD and VALIANT, screened by KELLY, KANDAHAR, FAULKNOR, FAME, FORESTER, and SIKH proceeded via the Minches to a position North and East of the Shetlands and Faroes to act in support of the Northern Patrol and of the force covering the Norwegian Convoys O.H.N. 17.


3rd March


4. H.M. Ships FAME and FORESTER were detached to investigate contact and each dropped four patterns.


As reported in FORESTER’s message 1030/4, a small stream of oil was issuing from contact which was on bottom at 60 fathoms in position 58-27N, 005-46W.


5. H.M.S. KELLY was also detached at 2130 to investigate contact in approximate position 61-02N, 4-01W.


Six depth charges dropped without apparent result.


6. H.M.S. RENOWN escorted by ACASTA, KIMBERLEY, and FIREDRAKE left Devonport for Greenock.


7. H.M.S. REPULSE and escort arrived Greenock.


4th March


8. During the night of 3rd and 4th March, heavy weather was encountered and continued throughout the day and the destroyers FAME, FORESTER, and KELLY, which had been detached, were unable to rendezvous as arranged.


9. H.M.S. RENOWN and escort arrived Greenock.


5th March


10. H.M.S. KELLY rejoined screen


6th March


11. H.M.S. FAME rejoined screen


7th March


12. FORESTER who had developed condenser trouble while investigating contact on 3rd March proceeded to Scapa to effect repairs. She rejoined the screen at 1400.


13. Long and short rang H.A. practices were carried out by H.M. Ships HOOD and VALIANT on approaching Scapa which was reached at 1800.


8th March.


At Scapa


14. German aircraft seen over the Flow and observed to drop two bombs or mines in the vicinity of the Calf of Flotta.


15. As a result, an area to the north eastward of the Calf of Flotta was declared dangerous and the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, who was due to arrive at Scapa at 1800 in RODNEY, with H.M. Ships REPULSE and RENOWN in company, decided to remain at sea till the area had been swept.


16. The 1st Lord of the Admiralty, the Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, accompanied by his Parliamentary private Secretary Mr. Brendan Bracken, M.P. and the Flag Commander to the Board of Admiralty, who had taken passage from the Clyde in H.M.S. RODNEY with a view to inspecting the defences at Scapa, were transferred from H.M.S. RODNEY to H.M.S. KIMBERLEY for passage to H.M.S. HOOD. H.M.S. KIMBERLEY entering through Switha Gate.


The 1st Lord’s party was accommodated on board H.M.S. HOOD for the night.


9th March


17. The Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, in H.M.S. RODNEY with H.M. Ships REPULSE and RENOWN arrived Scapa at 1000.


18. The 1st Lord’s Party transferred from H.M.S. HOOD to H.M.S. RODNEY during the afternoon.


10th March


At Scapa


11th March


19. Flag of the Vice Admiral Commander, Battle Cruiser Squadron, transferred from H.M.S. HOOD to H.M.S. RENOWN at 1800.


12th March


At Scapa


13th March


At Scapa


20. H.M.S. HOOD proceeded to Greenock to give leave preparatory to refit.


14th March


At Scapa


15th March


At Sea



(Enclosure to B.C. One’s No. 266/B.C.S. 41/4 of 11th May 1940)


16th March


H.M.S. RENOWN flying the flag of the Vice Admiral and H.M.S. REPULSE at Scapa. H.M.S. HOOD at Greenock.


2. Air raid on the Fleet Anchorage at Scapa Flow and the Orkneys.


17th and 18th March


At Scapa


19th March


3. H.M. Ships RENOWN and REPULSE screened by INGLEFIELD, ILEX, BEDOUIN, FORTUNE, DELIGHT, and DIANA left Scapa at 1400.


The Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, in RODNEY with H.M. Ships VALIANT and WARSPITE also sailed from Scapa.


4. Both forces were proceeding to support operation on the Norwegian Coast, being carried out by the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and 8 destroyers (Operation DU) as well as carry out the capital ships’ normal function of supporting the Norwegian convoys and Northern Patrol.


20th March


5. H.M.S. DIANA detached to Sullom Voe to refuel.


6. H.M.S. FORTUNE reported passing raft bearing name of S.S. SYDFORD of Haugesund. Later she reported confirmed contact at 1820 in position 63-27N, 0-36E and dropped depth charges.


7. Destroyer remained in vicinity during the night.


21st March


8. H.A. practice was carried out by H.M. Ships RENOWN and REPULSE.


9. H.M.S. FORTUNE rejoined screen.


22nd March


10. H.M.S. DIANA rejoined from Sullom Voe and reported that her A/S gear was out of action.


11. H.M.S. DELIGHT was detached to refuel at Sullom Voe.


12. H.M.S. DIANA boarded Norwegian tanker AINO bound Bergen and Oslo from Gibraltar with 9000 tons diesel and fuel oil. Ship had Naval Clearance and was allowed to proceed.


13. H.M.S. HASTY from Battle Fleet Screen took placed of H.M.S. DIANA in the Battle Cruiser screen, the latter with A/S gear out of action taking up ahead position of Battle Fleet Screen.


23rd March


14. H.A. practice carried out by H.M. Ships RENOWN and REPULSE.


15. H.M.S. DELIGHT rejoined after aliberg at Sullom Voe.


16. H.M. Ships FEARLESS and ILEX from the Battle Fleet joined Battle Cruiser screen and BEDOUIN and HUNTER joined Battle Fleet screen.


17. H.M. Ships INGLEFIELD and FORTUNE fuelled from H.M.S. RENOWN.


24th March


18. Nothing of interest


25th March


19. Parted company with Commander in Chief, Home Fleet at 1030 in position 63-48N, 9-14W and carried out full aliber main armament throw off firing, RENOWN firing first then REPULSE.


20. Main and Secondary Armament full calibre took place after dark.


26th March


21. Rejoined Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, at 1400 in position 63-04N, 3-30W.


27th March


22. Battle Practice Target and H.A. practices which were to take place before entering harbour had to be cancelled owing to the weather.


23. Ships arrived Scapa at 1100.


28th and 29th March


At Scapa


30th March


24. H.M.S. HOOD sailed from Greenock to carry out refit at Devonport.


25. Major Atlee – Leader of the Opposition- came on board RENOWN and was taken round the ship.


31st March


26. Single enemy aircraft sighted over the Orkneys at 0850. Shore batteries opened fire and the aircraft turned away.


27. H.M.S. HOOD arrived at Devonport.






(No. 347/B.C.S. 41/4 of 5th June 1940)


APRIL 1940



1st – 4th April 1940


H.M. Ships RENOWN (flying flag of Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron) and REPULSE at Scapa. HOOD at Devonport refitting.


5th to 9th April


Report of proceedings to A.M. 9th April are attached (Enclosure No. 1)


9th April


H.M.S. RENOWN in action with two enemy warships believed to be SCHARNHORST and HIPPER (Note: in fact SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU). Detailed report of this action was forwarded to the Admiralty by the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, (No. 933 H.F. 1325 of 29th May 1940).


9th to 12th April


Reports of proceedings are attached (Enclosure No. 2).


13th April


Click to enlarge


Flag of Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron, transferred to H.M.S. WARSPITE. 2nd Battle of Narvik (map above). A report of this operation was forwarded to the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet (B.C.S. No. 017, dated 25th April 1940) for transmission to Admiralty.


H.M.S. RENOWN in company with Commander in Chief, Home Fleet.


14th to 28th April


Reports of proceedings attached (Enclosure No. 3).


14th to 17th April


H.M.S. RENOWN in company with Commander in Chief, Home Fleet until A.M. 17th April.


17th to 18th April


At 0400 on 17th April, H.M.S. REPULSE left Scapa to join convoy F.P. 1 proceeding to Norway, but before making contact with convoy was directed by Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, to take RENOWN under his orders and proceed at full speed to cover H.M.S. SUFFOLK damaged by bombs.


At 2200 17th April when H.M.S. SUFFOLK had reached Fair Island Channel, H.M.S. REPULSE proceeded North to cover F.P. 1 and H.M.S. RENOWN continued to escort H.M.S. SUFFOLK till arrival at Scapa at 0700 on Thursday 18th.


19th April


H.M.S. RENOWN left Scapa for Rosyth to dock.


20th April


H.M.S. RENOWN arrived Rosyth


22nd April


H.M.S. RENOWN de ammunitioned.


H.M.S. REPULSE arrived Scapa


23rd April


H.M.S. RENOWN completed de ammunitioning. Movement into dock postponed 24 hours on account of weather.


24th to 30th April


H.M.S. RENOWN in dock at Rosyth.




List of Engagement Reports

Enclosure No. 1 - 5th to 9th April, Report of Proceedings. Engagement between RENOWN and two German warships

Commanding Officer, H.M.S. RENOWN’s letter No. 2022/061

Technical remarks on the gun armament engagement of 9th April.

Navigational Record During the Engagement between H.M.S. Renown and Scharnhorst and Hipper on 9th April 1940

Letter from S.H. Phillips, Principal Assistant Secretary, on RENOWN’s displacement and performance in high seas.

Vice Admiral Whitworth’s (B.C.S.) report on the RENOWN engagement.

Admiral Forbes’ Report of Proceedings on RENOWN engagement.

Letters from various Naval Departments commenting on the RENOWN during the Engagement with the German ships
9th April 1940.



Enclosure 1



(B.C.S. 41/4, dated 29th April 1940)


c/o G.P.O.

29th APRIL 1940

No. B.C.S. 41/4



I have the honour to forward the following report of proceedings covering the period of Operation WILFRID (Minelaying off Norwegian Coast) and subsequent movements until a.m. 9th April 1940.


5th April


2. In accordance with the orders contained in your signal timed 1229 of 5th April, I sailed from Scapa in RENOWN at 1800, HYPERION, HERO, GREYHOUND, and GLOWWORM in company.


3. While on the route southwards through the swept channel to the West of the Orkneys, RENOWN carried out H.A. Sleeve target firings.


4. At 1852, a signal was made to RENOWN and Close Screen

“We are proceeding to operate on the Norwegian Coast and expect to rendezvous with ESK, IMPULSIVE, ICARUS, IVANHOE, HARDY, HOTSPUR, HAVOCK, and HUNTER at 0700 tomorrow Saturday and BIRMINGHAM, FEARLESS, and HOSTILE at 2000 Saturday, 7th April.”

And at 2031, the following night intention signal to the Close Screen

“Intend to alter course to North at 2030 and to 056 degrees at 0200. Speed of advance will be maintained during the night. Rendezvous at 0700 is in position 61-06N 01-44W. If ordered to take up Night Cruising disposition destroyers form up by sub divisions, 2 miles 45 degrees on their respective bows.”

6th April


5. At 0631, GREYHOUND reported to me that GLOWWORM had lost a man overboard and had turned back to search. Visibility was 1 – 2 miles.


This unexpected turn back of GLOWWORM in low visibility prevented my informing him of our intended alteration of course to 041 degrees at 0700. As a result he never again made contact.


6. At 0700 contact was made with Captain (D) 2nd Destroyer Flotilla in HARDY with the following destroyers in company:



7. HYPERION and HERO were detached to Sullom Voe and I gave the following instructions to HYPERION.

“When ordered to proceeded with HERO try and get in touch with GLOWWORM on your way to Sullom Voe. GLOWWORM parted company at 0642 to look for a man overboard and is unaware of our course and speed. If you fail to sight GLOWWORM pass following signal in cypher on arrival at Sullom Voe. My position course and speed at 0730 was BQBP 0712 (n.b. from S.P. 02274 (3) TABLE OF LETTERED COORDINATES: BQ – 61N, BP – 2W, which is obviously not correct), course 041, speed 13 knots. Further rendezvous at 2000 7 April 67 degrees N. 10 degrees E. Ends. HYPERION repeat back signal to GLOWWORM.”

7th April


8. Course was continued to the Northeastwards for the position 67 degrees North, 10 degrees East, where it was the intention to detach the minelaying force for the operation.


BIRMINGHAM, HOSTILE, and FEARLESS were ordered in Commander in Chief’s 1147/5 to join me in this position.


9. The weather throughout the day was poor; the wind force 5 -6, from between West and South-west, visibility 2 miles, sea 4-5, and I was concerned for the stability of the minelaying destroyers with their heavy top weight, which was making them roll heavily.


10. At 1215, ICARUS reported the loss of a man overboard.


11. At 1739 information was received in Admiralty Message 1720/7 that enemy heavy forces were at sea in the Bight.


12. The rendezvous was reached at the time ordered but touch was not made with BIRMINGHAM. The minelaying force was detached and I proceeded to the Northwest. GREYHOUND only was now in company and it was my intention to patrol 30 miles to the westward of Skomvoer Light, while the operation was in progress.


13. The transmission of the instructions for GLOWWORM which HYPERION was ordered to make had not been heard and at 1730 GLOWWORM reported to the Commander in Chief that she had failed to regain touch.


14. At 2157 I sent the following instructions to BIRMINGHAM and GLOWWORM

“Intend to be in position 67-15N, 10-40E (R) 67-10N, 10-40E at 0500 tomorrow Monday, and then patrol to the West of a line joining this position and 67-45N, 10-40E. Position at 18900 will be 67-30N, 10E (R) 67-30N, 10E. Join me.”


15. At 2211, the Commander in Chief ordered GLOWWORM to make the rendezvous already ordered for BIRMINGHAM at 2000 7th April. It was not until 0119 on the 7th April that the message given by HYPERION was intercepted by RENOWN.


8th April


16. At 0432 Captain (D) 20 reported that Operation WILFRID commenced, and at 0529, Operation WILFRID completed.


17. I continue on patrol in accordance with my message 2157/7, quoted above. BIRMINGHAM was not sighted.


18. At 0827, the following signal was received retransmitted by Scapa Base W/T.

“Base Ship Scapa from GLOWWORM – 2 DE 350 II 4 240 “022 RJRU 45 0759” (n.b. S.P. 02274 TABLE OF LETTERED COORDINATES: 022 degrees from 65 degrees North, 6 degrees East, 45 miles, timed 0759)

19. I ordered RENOWN to alter course to the southward and proceed at the best possible speed.


20. Further signals were received from GLOWWORM reporting the enemy, the last was

“1 UN 00 6 180 RJRU 30 0855” (n.b. S.P. 02274 TABLE OF LETTERED COORDINATES: 180 degrees from 65 degrees North, 6 degrees east, 30 miles, timed 0855)

21. RENOWN was steaming with a head sea. It was reported that the ship was working heavily forward and that the upper strake of the port bulge was peeling away from the ship’s side. Speed was therefore reduced to avoid extension of the damage.


22. At 1045, I received the Admiralty message 1027/8, directing the destroyers of the minelaying force to join me.


23. At 1114 Admiralty message 1100/8 was received saying that there was a possibility of a German landing at Narvik.


24. At this time RENOWN was in position 66-58 North, 09-50 East, proceeding to locate the enemy reported by GLOWWORM. GREYHOUND only was in company.


25. On the presumption that the enemy would proceed to Narvik, and giving their force a maximum speed of 25 knots, I found that I could reach the line of advance ahead of them at 1330. I steered for this point. In the visibility, which was now reduced to two or three miles, there was, however, little chance of intercepting an enemy force with only one destroyer in company, and I decided to turn to the Northeastwards at 1330 and rendezvous with the minelaying force.


26. At 1516, I received the following report:

“Admiral Commanding Orkneys and Shetlands from CinC, Rosyth. Following received from aircraft” “1 BC 2 CR 2 DR 360 11 5 11 270 CXRO 0725 1400.” (n.b. S.P. 02274 TABLE OF LETTERED COORDINATES: 270 degrees 64 North, 56 West (in error – should have been RR 9 East) timed 0725.)

This force might well have been that which had sunk GLOWWORM, whose last report had given the enemy course as 180 degrees.


27. I appreciated the situation as follows. The German force reported by GLOWWORM might


(a). Return to their base at once.


(b). Make for Iceland


(c). Make for Murmansk where it was possible a German tanker was waiting to refuel them.


(d). Be part of a force proceeding to Narvik.


28. Our own forces were at sea to the southward and I therefore determined to dispose my force to deal with the situation if the enemy ships chose the alternative of proceeding to the Northward. Accordingly, I prepared a plan which provided for a line ahead patrol by destroyers to the westward of Skomvoer Light, with RENOWN in a position some fifty miles to the Northward. It was my further intention to form an extended screen at dawn and sweep to the southwest.


29. At 1715, in low visibility the destroyer force joined me, and at 1725 I altered course to the Westward with the above intention.


30. At 1752, I received the following signal

“B.C. One (R) C in C H.F. D.2 from Admiralty. As Sunderland only sighted part of force specified in my 1817 of 7th April, it is possible the undetected part is still making for Narvik.”

The undetected part consisted apparently of two cruisers and twelve destroyers.


31. At 1915, I received the following Admiralty Message

“MOST IMMEDIATE. The force under your orders is to concentrate on preventing any German force proceeding to Narvik. 1850.”

32. On receipt of this signal I calculated that the enemy had had ample time to reach my vicinity if they were proceeding direct to Narvik.


Assuming that they had not yet passed me, I decided to proceed up West Fiord with the object of placing myself between the enemy and his objective. There were two objections to this course of action. One was the possibility of being brought to action in the confined space of the Fiord by a superior force (Four of the destroyers in company being minelayers had no torpedoes and only two guns). The other was the navigational danger due to approaching a dangerous coast in low visibility.


The weather at this time showed signs of improving, and I decided to disregard both these objections. But the improvement in the weather proved only a lull, and it came on to blow with great force from the Northwest, accompanied by rain and snow squalls and prolonged periods of bad visibility.


This sudden deterioration in the weather decided me to change my plans because I felt the enemy would make little progress and not try and make West Fiord during dark, and would probably stand to seaward during the dark hours; so I decided to do the same.


Later on, hearing that enemy forces had reached Narvik, I felt very strongly that I had made a mistake in not proceeding with my original plan in face of the navigational dangers due to weather.


After the second battle of Narvik on 13th April, I received strong evidence from a German prisoner and other sources to show that enemy forces had arrived at Elvegaard, some ten miles from Narvik at 0200, 9th April; which points to their having passed us in the low visibility which prevailed whilst our forces were concentrating. It seems therefore that my plan to go up West Fiord would not have been effective. As things turned out the change of plan brought RENOWN into action with the two ships believed to be SCHARNHORST and HIPPER in the early hours of the morning of 9th April. But I should like to emphasize, on the information available at the time, I still feel that I ought to have pursued my original plan of proceeding up West Fiord in face of the objections in the way of this course of action.


33. While keeping to seaward, I decided to maintain a patrol of destroyers to the southwestward of Skomvoer Light with RENOWN in support to the Northward.


34. By 2000 the weather was such as to make it advisable to keep my ships concentrated and I conceived it my first duty to maintain them in a condition of seagoing and fighting efficiency.


35. At 2014, I made the following signal

“Our object is to prevent German forces reaching Narvik. My present intention is to alter course at 2100 to 280 degrees and to turn 180 degrees in succession at midnight. Enemy heavy ships and light forces have been reported off the Norwegian Coast. Position of BIRMINGHAM force is not known.”

36. At 2047, I received the Commander in Chief’s message ordering REPULSE’s force to join me. This force consisted of REPULSE, PENELOPE, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, PUNJABI, and KIMBERLEY.


37. At 2203 I sent the following message

BIRMINGHAM, REPULSE (R) Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, Admiralty. My position course and speed at 2200 is 67-09N, 10-10E, course 310. Speed 8 knots, wind north west, force 10. Nine destroyers in company. Intend to patrol entrance to West Fiord when weather moderates.

38. At 2210, I received a message that BIRMINGHAM was also hove to in position 66-12N, 7-52E.


39. At 2140, I received a signal from Captain (D) 2 stating that the destroyers had become unmanageable in the seaway. Accordingly course was altered to 310 degrees, speed 6 knots.


9th April


40. From midnight onwards the weather improved but knowing that the destroyers would be widely strung out on account of the weather, I decided to wait until first sign of dawn, and sufficient light to make the turn to the southeastward without losing touch with them or any part of them.


41. At 0230, course was altered 180 degrees to starboard in succession. Snow squalls made the visibility variable.


42. Dawn twilight strengthened to the Eastward and conditions improved.


43. At 0337, between squalls a darkened ship was sighted on the bearing 085 degrees, distance 10 miles.


44. The report of the subsequent action between RENOWN and nine destroyers and the German ships believed to be SCHARNHORST and HIPPER is contained in B.C.S. 41/4A, dated 29th April 1940, which will be forwarded when completed.


I have the Honour to be,


Your obedient servant

(sgd) W.J. Whitworth







Commanding Officer, H.M.S. RENOWN’s letter No. 2022/061

Dated 22nd April 1940



22nd April 1940


I have the honour to report that at 0400 on 9th April 1940, when in position latitude 67-20 North, 9-40 East, off the Lofoten Islands, I brought two enemy ships to action.


2. Prior to the action, RENOWN, in company with HARDY, HUNTER, HAVOC, HOTSPUR, HOSTILE, ICARUS, IVANHOE, IMPULSIVE, ESK, and GREYHOUND, was, at 2000 on 8th April in position 67-07 North, 10-57 East, steering 260 degrees speed 12 knots. During the night 8th there had been a strong southwesterly gale with a rough sea. At 1800 the wind veered to the northwest and increased to full gale force, accompanied by snow squalls and a heavy sea. The barometer rose 22 m.b. from 990 m.b. (n.b. 99 typed and the 0 added in ink. 99 alone would be an incorrect number) in six hours.


It had been intended to steer to the westward until midnight and then turn to the eastward, so as to be to the southward of Skomvoer Light at dawn. Owing to the high wind and heavy seas this plan had to be abandoned, as the destroyers in company were becoming unmanageable. To ease their situation course was altered to 310 degrees at 2207 and speed reduced to six knots. At 0200 on 9th April the wind began to moderate slightly and veered to the north northwest. Snow and sleet squalls were frequent and in them visibility was only a few cables. Between squalls, visibility was extreme. The sky and horizon to the northeast were beginning to get light. At 0240 it was decided to turn to the eastward and course was altered to 130 degrees and speed increased to 10 knots. The destroyers in company forming in a single line ahead astern of RENOWN.


3. At 0337 a large unknown ship was sighted in a gap between the squalls on the horizon, silhouetted against the light, on a bearing of 085 degrees (i.e. Red 45 degrees) at a distance of about ten miles. A second ship was thought to have been seen some distance astern of the first. The ships were steering approximately northwest. Both ships were lost sight of in a large squall on the horizon. Speed was increased to 15 knots and then to 20 knots and at 0350 course was altered to 310 degrees. At 0356, when the turn was nearly completed, the two ships were resighted coming out of the squall on a bearing of 035 degrees at a distance of about 9 miles, steering 300 degrees. After a short time they were identified was two enemy cruisers, and fire was opened at 0405 on the leading ship, later identified as a ship of the SCHARNHORST class and hereafter referred to as the SCHARNHORST. The second ship was identified as a 8 inch cruiser of the HIPPER class and is referred to hereafter as the HIPPER.


Fire was opened at an estimated range of 18,000 yards; this was short: normal spotting rules were applied and a straddle obtained with the third double at a range of 18,600. The enemy thereupon altered away about 30 degrees and opened fire about three minutes after RENOWN, found the range with their third salvo and at about this time hit RENOWN right aft and through the fore lower mast.


The hit aft, apart from wrecking the gunroom bathroom, Midshipmen’s chest flat and chapel furniture and flooding the Admiral’s, Captain’s, and Officers’ baggage stores (230 tons), did no harm. The hit on the foremast put most of the wireless aerials out of action, until others could be rigged. These were the only two hits sustained by RENOWN during the whole action, with the possible exception of a near miss from HIPPER abreast the mainmast.


As soon as the enemy turned away RENOWN altered towards, bring the enemy to about 40 degrees on the starboard bow, and speed was increased to about 26 knots (i.e. telegraphs were put at full speed). The action then became general, the enemy on a retired course with his “A” arcs just open and RENOWN chasing followed by the destroyers who, although at the extremity of their range, were all firing rapidly. Later, due to the heavy sea, they had to fall back and were detached to patrol West Fjord.


The enemy started to take avoiding action, causing salvos to fall out for line so that the range was temporarily lost. At 0414 a hit was observed in the fore superstructure of SCHARNHORST and two minutes later a second hit, in the form of a quick rising column of smoke amidships, was also observed. The latter was not funnel or gun smoke as SCHARNHORST had stopped firing after the first hit. Two salvos later, although a salvo of three guns had fired, only one splash appeared. Previously splashes including overs had been clearly seen, and it can be assumed with confidence that a further hit or hits on SCHARNHORST had been obtained. The result of this and the previous hits was to make a reluctant enemy into a hurriedly retiring one, as SCHARNHORST turned directly away at high speed.


The HIPPER meanwhile had been firing rapidly at RENOWN but without obtaining any hits. She had been engaged by the starboard 4.5 inch battery at a range of 18, 000 to 20,000 yards. At this range the fall of shot of these small 4.5 inch shell were only seen intermittently and the control officer adopted the tactics of firing blind ladders across the best obtainable rangefinder range.


During this and subsequent periods I took advantage of the agility of the modern fire control now fitted in RENOWN to alter course within small limits as necessary to prevent the enemy establishing hitting.


As soon as the SCHARNHORST broke off the action and turned away, HIPPER started to draw across making smoke to try and screen her. The fire of the main armament was then shifted to HIPPER, who, after the first salvo, also turned abruptly and joined her consort in flight. She, however, swung occasionally to bring her “A” arcs to bear and fire a broadside. This finished the main part of the action, which lasted twenty minutes.


The second phase then consisted of a chase directly to windward and into a heavy sea. This second phase lasted about 1 ½ hours, with fire only being possible intermittently as both the enemy and RENOWN were passing through squalls of sleet lasting from a few minutes to, in one case, twenty minutes.


The HIPPER was engaged as opportunity offered at a gradually increasing range from about 22, 000 to 29, 000 yards. As soon as RENOWN turned into the sea at 26 knots after the first phase, heavy seas were taken over the forecastle and it became a practical impossibility to fight the armament. Speed was therefore reduced to 24 knots during the periods of engagement and increased when the enemy disappeared into squalls; the average speed during the period was about 25 knots. An attempt was made to increase speed to the maximum towards the end, but the ship began to strain badly and speed had to be reduced again.


The fire at HIPPER during this second phase was ineffective, mainly due to the long range, the end on view and the dodging of the enemy, who altered course every time RENOWN fired, and also the fact that the only two foremost turrets were bearing. During part of this phase also the right gun of “A” turret was out of action due to a mechanical failure of the anti flash arrangements.


At 0600 the enemy went into a prolonged squall at a range of 29, 000 yards. They reappeared at 0615 for a short period far ahead and out of range. Contact was then lost, and the enemy had disappeared by the time RENOWN finally drew clear out of the squalls about an hour later.


4. Great disappointment is felt that neither of the enemy was damaged sufficiently to stop him, as if this had happened there is little doubt that he would have been destroyed. I am confident, however, that SCHARNHORST, apart from her engines, was heavily hit. It was clear that her fire control was put out of action before she turned away as her whole armament stopped firing. After turning away and after quite a long period, her after turret came into action again in what appeared to be “local control”, as the triple salvoes fired were ragged and their positions inaccurate.


During the chase, RENOWN passed a number of objects in the water distributed over quite a large area which looked like inflated lifebelts about two feet square. Their position was such as to have been thrown or blown overboard about the time hits were observed on SCHARNHORST.


5. I am pleased to report that the bearing and behavior of the ship’s company during the action were excellent. All were out to do their best with a cool determination to defeat the enemy and ensure a crushing victory. Had nature been kinder their hopes should have been realised. They are, however, looking forward to an early opportunity to complete their unfinished task.


6. Although not hit appreciably by the enemy, considerable and extensive damage was done in RENOWN by the blast from the 15 inch turrets, including the blowing in of the fore hatch abaft the breakwater, which allowed the heavy seas breaking over the forecastle to find their way before. Much water also found its way into the turrets, whose blast bags were torn early in the action.


7. The only casualty in RENOWN was my Navigating Officer, Lieutenant Commander Martin J. Evans, who was wounded in the left foot by a splinter of shell from a burst short on the water. Two toes had subsequently to be amputated. Although in considerable pain, he continued to con the ship during the action and showed commendable coolness.


8. A report on lessons learned is being forwarded separately.


I have the honour to be,


Your obedient Servant

(sgd) C.E.B. Simeon





(n.b. in copying, the top line or two of each page of this document was chopped. If anyone could help with the missing information, it would be most appreciated.)



Technical Remarks on the Gun Armament Engagement of 9th April.


No. 2056/65


Date. 23rd April 1940

To: The Commander in Chief, Home Fleet


Copy to: The Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron




The following technical remarks on the gun armament are forwarded in continuation of my 2022/061 of 22nd April 1940.




1. Fire was opened on SCHARNHORST at 0405 with an estimated range of 180. Initial salvos were observed short and a straddle was obtained with salvo 6, after crossing the target with salvo 5. Straddle range 186.


Fire was continued at an inclination between 050 and 070 left. At 0414 a hit was observed on the fore superstructure of SCHARNHORST, and two salvos later a second hit was seen further after. A third salvo was thought to hit at 0418; only one splash was seen out of three shots fired. After this the enemy made a large alteration of course away to an inclination of 005 Left.


2. Fire was shifted at 0420 after 23 salvoes, to the right hand ship HIPPER who was crossing SCHARNHORST’s stern an inclination about 060 left. Fire was opened on an estimated range of 200 at 0421. Initial salvos were observed “over” and the target was crossed with the first down ladder. HIPPER immediately altered course away to an inclination of 020 Left and the engagement became a chase.


3. Fire had to be checked on account of snowstorms on four occasions between 0421 and 0557 when the last salvo (100) was fired. On one occasion at 0430, the Control Officer ordered “Broadsides” to improve the changes of getting a short in line, and five broadsides were fired. From this time onwards “Y” turret would not bear. Observations became very difficult, inclination varying between 010 Left and 005 Right.


Standard spotting…..


(n.b. top of page chopped)…in enemy deflection before any alternation of course had been observed. Remarked on this period are given in Paragraph 7.


4. Rangefinder. All rangefinders including the D.C.T. were washed out by sea and spray before opening fire. No rangefinder ranges were obtained during the course of the firing. “A”, “B”, and “Y” rangefinders were continually submerged, and D.C.T. was covered with spray as fast as the rangefinder windows could be cleaned and dried by men stationed to this.


After this action, the rangefinders were dessicated and cleaned, but as only one motor dessicator is provided for the 15 inch armament it was two or three days before all the rangefinders were in action again. It is recommended that at least two motor dessicators should be provided for the 15 inch Rangefinders.


5. Observation of Fall of Shot. The 15 inch splashed were most of the time difficult to see in the poor visibility obtaining. The enemy was continually covered by sheets of spray as she drove into the sea, and this spray made a poor background against which to observe with accuracy.


During the early part of the action against SCHARNHORST, salvos 1 to 23, the enemy was making a certain amount of smoke, which concealed all the fall of shot astern of her. To avoid losing a number of salvos unobserved the Control Officer had to keep the splashes further forward on the target than is normally desirable. This was appreciated at the time, but was considered inevitable.


Two hits were observed as such. One as a bright orange flame halfway up the bridge structure, and one as a thin pillar of small blowing upwards from a vent in a position between the funnel and mainmast.

There were no observations of fall of shot from any position except the D.C.T. Secondary Spotting Officers are stationed in “B” turret and the Armed Tower aft; “B” turret saw nothing because of the heavy seas breaking over the forecastle and turret, while the Armed Tower either would not bear or was blinded by the blast of “Y” turret and the after group of 4.5 inch guns.


In addition.....


(n.b. top of page chopped)… to control firing from the Armoured Tower, the bearing must not be forward of 70 degrees, and the after group of 4.5 inch guns must cease firing to allow the control personnel to see the target.


There was no interference to spotting from enemy splashes short, when spotting from the D.C.T.

Conditions for observation and director layings were made difficult by spray and water which covered the glasses and telescopes. 14 clean pocket handkerchiefs were used for drying the Control Officer’s glasses alone. It is considered that conditions for director laying would have been improved had “Kent” clear view screens been fitted in front of the director sight.


Gyro firing was only used intermittently, since visibility through the stabilized telescopes was insufficient under the conditions which obtained.


6. Control. During the earlier part of the action, T.S. Control of the range spotting correction was employed, and this worked smoothly and well. Later on when the situation became obscure due to salvos continually falling out for line the Control Officer ordered the range corrections.


7. Fall of Shot for Line. During the time that the inclination was 50 degrees or broader, there was little difficulty in keeping the shots in line, but as soon as the enemy turned away and maintained a mean inclination of zero, line keeping was extremely difficult. The bearing of the enemy from the firing ship was always fine on the bows usually less than 20 degrees, with the result that cross leveling errors when present were very large. The conditions were made more difficult when the wind was on the bow. This produced a list, and Director Layer had to wait some times two or three rolls before the ship was sufficiently upright, with the trainer’s and layer’s crosswires together, to permit a salvo to be fired. A number of crossleveling errors were reported to the Control Officer by the Director Layer as the salvo was fired, and without this check line keeping would have been impossible.


During the chase….


(n.b. top of page chopped)… the salvo was seen to fall, and this was the cause of the failure to obtain shots in line. The salvos appeared to fall accurately where the enemy would have been had she not altered course. The average time of flight was about 41 second.


After a number of salvos had been fired, some as deflection doubles, with line corrections on them, and some as uncorrected doubles, it was realised that little progress was being made. Double salvos were therefore fired with the “A” salvo allowing for an inclination of 015 right and “B” salvo allowing for an inclination of 015 left. This was more successful, and the inclination allowed varied from 010 and 020, as the enemy appeared to be reacting. The only salvos that fell in line between 0441 (Salvo 47) and 0557 (Salvo 100) were obtained by these methods. Seven salvoes fell in line during this period.


8. Fall of Shot for Range. During the early part of the action, Salvos 1 to 25, range keeping was not difficult, straddles being obtained and hits observed. From then onwards information regarding the range was so scanty that little could be done, except apply bold spotting corrections when opportunity offered.


9. Fire Control Table and Electric Circuits. These functioned correctly throughout. There were no mistakes in drill in the T.S.


10. 15 inch Turrets. The turrets fired an average of 50 rounds a gun from “A” and “B” turrets and 30 rounds a gun from “Y” turret.


Only one mechanical failure occurred during the action. During the chase, at Salvo 48, the right gun of “A” turret lowered the unloading cage on to the upper cordite chopper door in the working chamber, which was not fully closed. The cordite doors were wrecked and it was necessary to hammer them up and leave them permanently in the closed position. The cage and doors took 15 minutes to clear; the cage was then lowered and fire proceeded, using secondary loading from the gun house. In the meantime pressure was blanked off from the cordite telescopic rammers, and by the end of the action the gun was in action again, loading shell from the gun loading cage and cordite from the auxiliary cordite hoist. A report on Form S.1148 (h) is being forwarded.


11. …..


(n.b. top of page chopped)… in the main cage. In the first case the shell, due to the movement of the ship, was placed slightly out of position on the Kenyon door, and would not roll into the main cage. It was handspiked into position with the loss of one salvo. In the second case she shell surged in the main cage on the way up and fouled the structure when traversing into the waiting position in the working chamber. It was handspiked into the correct position with the loss of one salvo.


12. The conditions in the gunhouses and working chambers were very severe. “A” and “Y” blast bags were burst by the sea before the first salvo had been fired. The bags were new and had been in position for only six weeks. As result, large quantities of water entered the gunhouse and poured down onto the working chamber. The sighting ports of “A” and “B” were often submerged and quarters firing would not have been practicable at the speed the ship was steaming.


13. The primary lighting in “Y” turret and the primary and secondary lighting in “A” turret were fused quite early on. “A” Turret working chamber had to rely on torches and magazines handlamps until temporary leads could be run. This did not facilitate repair work at the right gun.


14. After salvo 50, when each gun had fired about 25 rounds, the gunhouses and working chambers were filled with steam from the sea water boiling off the hot gun barrels.


15. The air blast was not sufficient to check the flow of sea water down the barrels of “A” turret when the breech was opened to reload. There is no doubt that “A” turret fired on several occasions with water in the barrels. The guns have been visually inspected since firing and do not seem to have suffered any damage.


16.The lock and firing circuits were constantly being drenched by sea water. After the firing the locks on the left of “A” and the right of “B” showed zero when tested for insulation. In spite of this there were no misfires nor failure of electric circuits except the lighting.




(n.b. top of page chopped)…maintain a rapid rate of fire for any length of time. These numbers have now been increased to 10 men in the handling room and 14 men in the magazine and it is strongly recommended that this number be approved generally.


18. The shell rooms were manned with authorized complement and had no difficulty in maintaining the rate of fire required.


A considerable amount of water found its way into “A”, “B”, and “Y” shell rooms. The walking pipe spaces filled up rapidly, the drains being unable to cope with the flow of water. As soon as the water was above the level of the trunk guard, it flooded over into the trunk and down into the handing rooms and shell rooms.


The handing rooms were cleared by opening the hatch to the shell rooms during the lulls and allowing the water to drain down. The shell rooms were pumped continuously, and a greatest depth of one foot over the floor plates was recorded in “Y” turret.


19. 4.5 inch. Fire was opened on the SCHARNHORST at 0405 using an estimated range of 150 (?). Observation of fall of shot was impossible due to the heavy seas and the whole shoot was fired “blind.” Range was increased to the maximum (180) by a series of 800 yards and 400 yards up ladder groups immediately after opening fire. Subsequent salvos were nearly all fired at this range. The control officer giving occasional “blind ladders” down and up again.


20. At 0410 a salvo was spotted falling ahead (to the left of the target , and a right correction was made. This was the only salvo spotted during the action.


21. Fire was shifted at 0415 when it was apparent that the enemy having made a big alteration away, was beyond the range of the armament. Salvos fired 51.




(n.b. top of page chopped)…on this target and fire was ceased at 0429 after 72 salvos when the enemy turned away in retreat.


23. Conditions for observation were practically impossible. Conditions for laying were bad and consideration interference was caused by 15 inch black, flash and cordite smoke, and worst enemy splashes. This was, however, more in the form of inconvenience than a serious hindrance.


24. Conditions for rate keeping were very difficult. The inclination is use started at about 100 left in both cases, gradually altering to 10 left. The enemy was altering course frequently to avoid being hit and seemed to make large alteration very quickly. The Rate Officer remarks that he found the best time for estimating inclination to be when the enemy was silhouetted by the flash of his own guns. No information of errors in rate was obtainable from the fall of shot.


25. The fire control equipment in the T.S. operated satisfactorily.


26. Guns. 4.5 inch guns and mountings were satisfactory. Drill at the guns was good and crews kept up a good rate of fire. A few jambs occurred due to the projectiles being loose in cartridge cases. The projectile bells out the mouth of the cartridge case and this jambs on ramming. Although all ammunition is inspected in the magazines before being supplied, a close scrutiny is not possible at any later stage, as there is no time. S.5 left gun had a delay due to the lever operating air blast jambing the breech in the open position. This was cleared by the crew. A report on Form S.1148 (h) is being forwarded. All guns were in action at the end of the firing.


Total Rounds fired 1065

Average rate of fire 5.1 salvos per minute.


27. …..


(n.b. top of page chopped)…


28. Several Kilroy’s turret danger signals and the majority of the range and deflection receivers got out of line due to shock. A Report on Form S. 1148 (h) is being forwarded.


29. Ammunition Supply. Arrangements worked satisfactorily. Magazine crews and supply parties worked well. These ratings are nearly all daymen. Endless chain hoists and conveyors worked perfectly throughout.


30. Due to the blast from “Y” turret, the starboard screen doors to the after casemate flat were blown open. This caused considerable inconvenience to the supply parties due to smoke, ….. and blast, but did not seriously hinder the rate of supply. This smoke could not be cleared at once as leads to the fans were cut, but eventually cleared itself due to the draught coming in through ports in the Admiral’s cabin which had themselves been blown in. The blast also smashed the multiphone to the magazines and all communication had to be passed by the “Teleflex” indicators which worked satisfactorily. Main lighting was out and secondary lighting had to be rigged. Paraffin oil lamps in the vicinity of the casements went out at the first salvo, were relit, and at once went out again. The lamps are not much use and are being replaced with Oldman’s electric lamps.


31. During the action the order “Aircraft in Sight” came down the disengaged side. One hoist was at once put to H.E. to supply as necessary, and this changeover worked well. The stowage racks for ammunition cleared from the hoists were found inadequate. The hoist was subsequently put back to S.A.P. The supply to the engaged guns was not held up due to the above change.


32. It was found that the empty cylinders were rapidly filling the empty cylinder compartment. Steps were taken to clear these compartments during a lull.





Navigational Record

During the Engagement Between H.M.S. Renown

and Scharnhorst and Hipper on 9th April 1940


0330 course 130 degrees 12 knots

0347 altered course 080 degrees increased to 15 knots

0354 increased to 20 knots

0359 alter course 305 degrees

0413 ordered full speed

0419 reduced to 23 knots – half speed

0422 altered course 000 degrees

0425 altered course 345 degrees

0430 altered course 012 degrees

0433 altered course 018 degrees

0435 altered course 021 degrees

0438 altered course 000 degrees

0440 reduced to 20 knots

0443 altered course 022 degrees

0446 altered course 020 degrees

0448 altered course 010 degrees

0449 altered course 020 degrees

0450 altered course 010 degrees

0456 altered course to starboard

0459 steady on 090 degrees

0500 increased to 25 knots

0506 altered course 095 degrees

0516 altered course 037 degrees

0520 altered course 028 degrees

0523 altered course 040 degrees

0524 altered course 015 degrees

0527 altered course 012 degrees

0528 altered course 048 degrees

0530 altered course 025 degrees

0532 altered course 044 degrees

0535 altered course 023 degrees

0538 altered course 043 degrees

0539 altered course 048 degrees

0540 altered course 032 degrees

0541½ altered course 013 degrees

0544 altered course 017 degrees increased to 27 knots

0549 altered course 015 degrees

0554 altered course 020 degrees

0556 altered course 027 degrees

0600 altered course 016 degrees

0605 altered course 025 degrees

0609 increased to 29 knots

0613 altered course 348 degrees

0617 altered course 026 degrees




3rd October, 1940


Letter from S.H. Phillips, Principal Assistant Secretary, on RENOWN’s Displacement and Performance in High Seas.




On the outside of the envelope as well as

In the text



The Commander in Chief, Home Fleet

(Copy to: The Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron)


With reference to your submission No. 933/H.F. 1325 of the 29th May, paragraph 6, I am to inform you that their Lordships concur that the displacement of RENOWN has increased some 5,000 tons since the ship was designed, the increase being approximately from 31,000 to 36,000 tons. The freeboard forward has decreased from about 27 feet to about 26 feet.


2. The increase in displacement and alteration of form by bulging necessarily entail a loss of speed, but compensating factors are the increase in side, deck, and under water protection, greatly improved H.A. and L.A. armament, addition of catapult, etc.


3. The loss in speed amounts to about 2 knots in the deep condition, i.e. from 32 knots to 30 knots, the latter figure being estimated from runs on the Talland Mile after the 1936-1939 reconstruction.


4. There is no precise information concerning the speed of SCHARNHORST but it is thought to be of the order of 30 knots in the deep condition.


5. As between the 2 ships, the bad weather operated against RENOWN which was unable to make full speed and at the same time keep her forward 15 inch guns in action. In this connection, paragraph 6 of the Commanding Officer’s Report No. 2022/061 and paragraph 18 of the Commanding Officer’s record that much water was shipped through a hatch on the fo’castle deck and through the forward turret; this water would still further reduce the freeboard forward and the speed.


6. Their Lordships concur that steps should be taken to get rid of every ton of unnecessary weight in the three battlecruisers. Separate action is being taken to reduce considerably the quantity of water carried as water protection in RENOWN where this can be done without appreciable loss of protection. It is understood that over 1,000 tons of water has been carried for this purpose, much of which it is now proposed to omit, it being considered preferable to maintain speed and freeboard in this ship at the expense of some slight reduction in under water protection. The question of reducing weight of water protection is also being considered for REPULSE; HOOD is less effected.


7. I am to request that you will call for reports from Commanding Officers, REPULSE and RENOWN, concerning the items which can be surrendered, with the approximate weights and positions in the ship. Much was done in HOOD during the recent refit and it is doubted whether the Commanding Officer of that ship can make further recommendations.



(Sd. S.H. Phillips)





Vice Admiral Whitworth’s (B.C.S.) Report on the RENOWN Engagement.




29th April 1940

No. B.C.S. 41/4A



I have the honour to forward the following report of the engagement between H.M.S. RENOWN and two enemy warships believed to be SCHARNHORST and HIPPER on 9th April 1940. The movements of the force under my command before the engagement are reported in B.C.S. 41/4 dated 29th April 1940.


2. At 0330 on Tuesday, 9th April, H.M.S. RENOWN, (Captain C.E.B. Simeon), flying my flag was off the Lofoten Islands in position 67-22 North, 9-34 East, steering 130 degrees, speed 12 knots.


A strong northwesterly wind had prevailed until midnight but since then had abated to force 5, and veered to N.N.W. A resultant sea and swell remained (44). The weather was overcast. There were frequent snow storms and the visibility was obscured except in some areas where the horizon could be seen clearly. Dawn was strengthening in the sky to the eastward.


3. The following of His Majesty’s Ships were in company with H.M.S. RENOWN:


HARDY (The late Captain B.A.W. Warburton-Lee, Captain (D) 2nd Destroyer Flotilla)

ESK (Captain J.G. Bickford, D.S.C., Captain (D) 20th Destroyer Flotilla)

HOTSPUR (Commander H.F.H. Layman)

GREYHOUND (Commander W.R. Marshall-A’Deane)

IVANHOE (Commander P.H. Hadow)

HAVOCK (Lieutenant Commander R.E. Courage)

ICARUS (Lieutenant Commander C.D. Maud)

IMPULSIVE (Lieutenant Commander W.S. Thomas)

HUNTER (Lieutenant Commander L. de Villiers)


There destroyer (except H.M.S. GREYHOUND) had carried out the minelaying operation “WILFRED” and were stationed astern because of the weather conditions which had prevailed.


4. At 0337 a darkened ship was sighted silhouetted against the light as it emerged from a snow squall. The bearing was 070 degrees and distance estimated at ten miles. The enemy’s course was approximately northwest. A second ship was thought to have been seen about a mile astern of the first. Snow storms obscured the view, but it was established that one large enemy ship was present and an enemy report was made.


At 0347 course was altered to 080 degrees to close the enemy and speed increased to 15 knots.


At 0354 speed was increased to 20 knots. The presence of two enemy ships was confirmed and course was altered at 0359 to 305 degrees, the destroyers following astern.


5. The identification of the enemy ships proved exceedingly hard. Both were known to be either of the SCHARNHORST or the HIPPER class, but throughout the action observation of the details of the enemy was so difficult that even direct comparison with the silhouette cards failed to establish the identity.


Evidence taken from control personnel after the action and fragments of an eleven inch shell was found on board RENOWN appear to confirm that the leading ship was a battle cruiser of the SCHARNHORST class and the second ship a cruiser of the HIPPER class, and they are so referred in the following narrative.


6. At 0405, fire was opened on the leading ship on a bearing of 18 degrees and at a range afterwards proved to be 18,600 yards.


The enemy did not reply for approximately three minutes. It was doubtful whether he sighted the RENOWN before the first salvo was fired.


7. RENOWN maintained a course of 305 degrees, keeping “A” arcs just open. The enemy was straddled with the sixth salvo, but appeared to maintain his course.


Although heavy seas were breaking over the forecastle at 20 knots, it was necessary to gain bearing and at 0413 “full ahead” was ordered. The working of the ship and the seas breaking over the gun turrets made it impossible to maintain this speed and six minutes later speed was eased to 23 knots.


8. The leading enemy ship had opened fire about a thousand yards short. His third salvo appeared to straddle. Thereafter both ships fired at RENOWN but the fall of shot was ragged both for line and range and the spread was very variable.


The secondary armament of RENOWN and the destroyers astern had also opened fire. At such range the fall of shot could not be observed and such fire can hardly have been effective.


In the heavy weather the destroyers soon had to drop back and were detached to patrol West Fiord.


9. At 0415, with the fall of RENOWN’s sixteenth salvo, a bright orange flash was observed near the enemy’s fore superstructure.


At 0418, when the twentieth salvo fell only one splash was seen out of three shells fired. About this time the SCHARNHORST made a large alteration of course away with the obvious intention of breaking off the action. She was partially obscured by smoke and her fire became spasmodic.


The HIPPER also altered away but drew across the stern of SCHARNHORST, making smoke and attempting to screen her. While shifting target to HIPPER, RENOWN altered course towards, sacrificing “A” arcs in order to close the range.


10. During this first phase of the action, the RENOWN was hit twice. One shell passed through the ship after without exploding; a second passed through the centre strut of the foremast. The time that these hits occurred is not known, but the inclination at which they penetrated the ship proves that they occurred during this phase.


11. At 0429 a vertical column of smoke was seen to rise quickly from the target ship amidships. This had neither the appearance of gunfire nor funnel smoke and was considered to be a hit. (Note: The time at which this incident occurred is not definitely established).


12. At 0434, target was shifted to SCHARNHORST. The records are not clear as to the reason for the change but it is believed that HIPPER altered away making smoke and thereby disclosed SCHARNHORST to windward.


Before fire on the SCHARNHORST could be opened HIPPER had again become the better target and at 0436 firing was resumed at her.


Both enemy ships were now retiring at high speed. The SCHARNHORST, firing occasionally from the after turret, was ahead. The HIPPER following her turned to port periodically and fired a broadside.


13. The wind had freshened and veered and was now blowing from the N.N.E., force 7, and the seas sweeping over the forecastle broke on the forward turrets. It was necessary to keep the guns in action and speed was reduced at 0440 to 20 knots.


14. The chase continued. Conditions for gunfire were exceedingly difficult and the fire of both sides was ineffective.


15. At 0455, the enemy disappeared into a rain squall. RENOWN at this moment was steering 010 degrees and the sea was running from 25 degrees on the starboard bow. I decided to alter course to bring the sea on the other bow and endeavour to make more speed. Course was therefore altered at 0456 to 095 degrees to 25 knots.


16. The rain squall was of some duration and did not clear until 0513 when the enemy was sighted bearing 023 degrees.


Course was altered towards and fire reopened at 0515. Fire continued to be ineffective, both sides altering course to avoid the fall of shot.


17. The chase continued at gradually increasing range. At 0544, when the enemy was again obscured the turrets were turned away from the sea and speed increased to 27 knots and later to 29 knots. This strained the ship to the maximum but failed to reduce the range for at 0615 the enemy appeared for a short period far ahead and out of range. Contact was then lost and the enemy disappeared by the time RENOWN finally drew out of the squalls.


18. In an action fought at dawn in bad weather it is natural that different impressions were formed and it will be found that the preliminary report from the Commanding Officer H.M.S. RENOWN (No. 2022/061, dated 22nd April 1940) differs in detail from the foregoing. In preparing this report all available records have been used, namely:


The Admiral’s Secretary Diary

The Plot Narrative

The Navigating Officer’s Notebook.

The Engine Room Register

The Gunnery Records.


19. (n.b. shown as 14.) The names of officers and men whose services I consider are worthy of special mention are being forwarded separately.


I have the honour to be


Your Obedient Servant

(sgd) W.J. Whitworth





(1). Navigational Record

(2). Track Chart





Admiral Forbes’ Report of Proceedings on RENOWN engagement.




No. 933/H.F. 132529th May 1940






(1). Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron’s No 41/4A of 29th April 1940 (with enclosures)


(2). RENOWN’s No. 2022/061 of 22nd April 1940


(3). RENOWN’s No. 2056/65 of 23rd April 1940


The Secretary of the Admiralty

(Copy to: The Vice Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Squadron)

Forwarded for information


2. It was satisfactory that the RENOWN opened fire 3 minutes before the enemy and was able to obtain hits on each of the enemy ships in very difficult conditions.


3. The large expenditure of 4.5 inch ammunition was not justified and in the circumstances was a waste of valuable ammunition.


4. The action confirms the experience of that off the River Plate, namely, that the enemy has little liking for close action and his morale deteriorates rapidly if the ship is hit.


5. Other points of general interest that arise from the action are:


(a). The great difficulty in distinguishing between the different classes of German ships is once more shown. This must always be borne in mind when the enemy reports are received.


(b). The ships appear to be capable of high speed in bad weather, though there is no evidence of course to show that they did not in fact damaged themselves thereby.


(c). The shell that hit the RENOWN aft did not detonate or even explode.



(a). It is apparent that we have no ships that can catch the SCHARNHORST or GNEISENAU, which is not to wondered at as our battlecruisers are 20 to 24 years old and 3,000 to 5,000 tons above the displacement for which they were designed.


(b). This action also shows clearly that the freeboard of our battlecruisers is too small to fight efficiently in a head sea.


(c). For both the above reasons drastic steps should be taken to get rid of every ton of unnecessary weight in all three ships, starting with the sheet anchor and cable, catapult, hanger and aircraft, stern anchor were fitted, etc, etc.


7. The dispositions that led to this action will be dealt with in my despatch covering the operations on which the fleet was engaged at the time.


(sgd) C. M. Forbes

H.M.S. RODNEY, Admiral of the Fleet




Letters from various Naval Departments commenting on the RENOWN during the Engagement with the German ships 9th April 1940.


RENOWN did well to straddle both SCHARNHORST and HIPPER very early under very severe weather conditions, and hits were observed on the former at 18,600 yards.


2. In general, the experience gained with the main armament confirms the lessons learnt from the River Plate battle and in particular the difficulty of maintaining line at fine inclinations.


3. With regard to the secondary armament fire, the C in C’s para. 3 is concurred in.


4. It was found necessary to increase the 15 inch cordite supply numbers by 7, and RENOWN strongly recommends that this increase should be approved generally. Will D.N.O. remark?


5. The C in C’s paras 6 (b) and (c) are concurred in, except for the catapult, aircraft, and hanger. Although aircraft could not be used on this occasion, they form an integral part of modern fire control equipment under suitable weather conditions. At other times, valuable information can be obtained from reconnaissance as for example by WARSPITE’s aircraft in the Second Battle of Narvik.


(Sgd). J.W. Rivett-Carnac



RENOWN has not at present got an aircraft, as her catapult is not complete.


2. Had she had one, and used it, it is improbable that the difficulty of hitting an end on target would have remained; and the outcome of this engagement would then have been a resounding success.


3. D.N.A.D. does not concur in the removal of RENOWN’s hanger and crane; aircraft will be allotted to her just as soon as the catapult is ready for use.







2. With reference to para 6 of C in C 29.5.40 concur that displacement of RENOWN has increased some 5,000 tons since the ship was designed, the increase being approximately from 31,000 to 36,000 tons. The freeboard forward has decreased from about 27 feet to about 26 feet.


3. The increase in displacement and alteration of form by bulging necessarily entails a loss of speed, but compensating factors are the increase in side, deck, and underwater protection, greatly improved H.A. and L.A. armament, addition of catapult, etc.


4. With regard to the loss of speed this amounts to about 2 knots in the deep condition, i.e. from 32 knots to 30 knots, the latter figure being estimated from runs on the Talland mile after the 1936-1939 reconstruction.


5. There is no precise information concerning the speed of SCHARNHORST, but it is thought to be on the order of 30 knots in the deep condition.


6. As between the 2 ships, the bad weather operated against RENOWN which was unable to make full speed and at the same time keep her forward 15 inch guns in action. In this connection, para 6, of C.O.’s 2022/061 and para. 18 of C.O.’s No. 2056/65 record that much water was shipped through a hatch on the fo’castle deck and through the forward turret; the water would still further reduce and freeboard forward and the speed.


7. D.N.C. concurs that steps should be taken to get rid of every ton of unnecessary weight in the 3 battlecruisers. Separate action is being taken to reduce considerably, the quantity of water carried as water protection in RENOWN, where this can be done without appreciable loss of protection. It is understood that over 1,000 tons of water has been carried for this purpose, much of which it is now proposed to omit, it being considered preferable to maintain speed and freeboard in this ship at the expense of some slight reduction in underwater protection.


The question of reducing the weight of water protection is also being considered in REPULSE; HOOD is less affected.


8. Propose to inform C in C in the sense of the above remarks and request him to call for reports from C.O.s HOOD, REPULSE, and RENOWN, concerning the items which can be surrendered, with the approximate weights and positions in the ship. Much was done in HOOD during the recent refit and it is doubted whether C.O. of that ship can make further recommendations.


(Sgd) S.V. Goodall


12 Jul 1940


Noted and concur in the action proposed by D.N.C.


(Sgd) J.W.S. Dorling




Read with interest


Encl. 3, para: 4


Allowance of motor desiccators was increased from 1 to 2 per ship (with turret rangefinders) in G.05674/40


A method of desiccation with compressed air from turret air bottles in under trial in HOOD and NELSON. This may possibly prove to be a prevention as opposed to the cure which is all that the normal desiccator provides; but it is doubtful that any R/F will stand up to the treatment RENOWN’s must have got.


Window cleaning gear is under trial in NAIAD which should keep the D.C.T. R/F windows free from spray but it is doubtful whether we can hope to compete with such very bad conditions.


Encl.3, para: 5


KENT clear view screens are fitted in font of the Director telescopes in all D.C.T.s of modern cruisers, capital ships, and destroyers. The question of an A. & A to fit RENOWN, VALIANT, etc, whose D.C.T.s are similar will be raised separately.


Encl. 3, para: 16


The absence of misfires under these severe conditions is very satisfactory. C.I.N.O. and D.E.E. referred


Encl. 3, para: 17 and D.T.S.D.’s para: 4


The question of increasing each of the Handing Room and Magazine Crews in all 15 inch gun capital ships by 2 ratings is being dealt with on G.0574/39, (charged to D.P.S. 4/3/39), consequent on the report from WARSPITE in T.S.D. 531/38/G on the 15 inch prolonged firing using ¾ charges.


2. On G.0574/39, D.N.O. recommended for consideration that these additional ratings should be allowed and that they should be reserves borne in War only.


3. In view of the remarks in para: 17 of enclosure No. 3, it is proposed that each of the Handing Room and Magazine crews should be increased by 2 and 4 ratings respectively (reserves borne in War only), in all 15 inch capital ships as soon as possible.

4. If D.P.S. concurs, it is requested that this …(n.b. page chopped)


Para 15. The air blast could not normally be expected to deal with green seas. The 15 inch guns were inspected on 27.4.40 and found serviceable.


Para 26. The tortuous course of the 4.5 inch ammunition to the guns must be expected to cause some failures of this nature.



For Chief Inspector of Naval Ordnance





Para 9, 16, 25 (Functioning of L.P. Circuits). Noted




(Range and Deflection Receivers out of step). Action has been taken on other papers

Para 28. (N.S. 16021/40) to improve this.




(Primary lighting in A and Y Turrets). Insufficient information is contained in the report to enable this department to comment on the failure of the electrical lightging, in “A” and “Y” turrets.


(Sgd) J.S. Pringle


5 September 1940


With reference to “A” of D.N.O. (11.8.40), there was a shortage of Reserve Seaman on Mobilisation and it was consequently not possible to implement D.N.O.’s recommendation on G.0574/39 (attached).


2. In view of increasing commitments (including notably, the U.S. Destroyers), it is still not possible to meet this requirement, which now totals 276 men (24 for each ten 4-turret ships) and 18 for each of the two 3-turret ships). Unless further unforeseen commitments arise, however, d.P.S. hopes to be able to allocate Ordinary Seaman (H.O.) for this purpose early in 1941.


3. D.P.S. accordingly concurs in principle in para 3 of D.N.O.’s remarks at “A” but would prefer that the formal quarter bill amendments should not be issued until there is a definite prospect of providing the personnel. It is proposed that this matter be brought forward on 1st November 1940, for reciew of the position.


(Sgd). P.B.R.W. William-Powlett




In view of the remarks of D.P.S. concur that this paper be brought forward on 1st November 1940.


(Sgd) N.G. Garnons-Williams

For D.N.O.


Referring to para 3 of D.P.S. (8/9/40), the quarter bills of 15 inch capital ships have now been amended by C.A.F.O. 1990/41 and their complements by A.L. N.19379/40 of 3/10/41.



For D.P.S. 2/12


on to Battlecruiser Squadron, May-December 1940
or back to Admiralty War Diaries

revised 16/7/11