HMS Rodney in action on D-Day

HMS Rodney in action on D-Day

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The D-Day Companion, ed. Jane Penrose. A selection of thirteen separate essays on different aspects of the D-Day lands, from the initial planning to post-war memorials; this is an excellent piece of work that sets the D-Day landings firmly in context. An excellent starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about Operation Overlord, but its wide range of topics means it is likely to be of value to anyone with an interest in the subject. [see more]

This British D-Day vessel was the only battleship to torpedo another battleship

The British battleship HMS Rodney stands out just by looking at her photo.

She and her sister ship, HMS Nelson, had a unique design — their entire main battery forward of their superstructure.

The Rodney took part in the bombardment of the Normandy beaches during the initial stages of Operation Overlord, capping off a wartime career that also included taking on the German battleship Bismarck.

It was during the final battle with the Bismarck that HMS Rodney would achieve a unique distinction among battleships — as the only one to torpedo another battleship. How did this come about? In fact, torpedoes seem like an odd thing to put on a battleship, especially as notes that the Nelson-class battleships had nine 16-inch guns.

But HMS Rodney was equipped with two 24.5-inch torpedo tubes with a number of reloads.

Torpedo room in HMS Rodney. (Imperial War Museum photo)

These torpedoes could pack quite a punch. According to, they carried 743 pounds of TNT and could travel at a top speed of 35 knots and a maximum range of 20,000 yards. In other words, it could ruin just about any warship’s day.

That can be very useful for a ship in combat.

Why? Because sometimes, battleships fought at close quarters. For instance, the Battle of Tsushima Strait was fought at very close range, according to In that case, a torpedo would have a good chance of scoring a hit.

Even if the torpedoes were fired at a longer range, an opponent would have to dodge them, and that might allow for a tactical advantage because even though battleships are tough, their captains don’t want to take a torpedo hit if they can help it.

The Nelson-class batteships in front of HMS Revenge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On May 27, 1941, when the Brits caught up to the Bismarck the Rodney closed in, firing numerous broadsides at the Bismarck. According to a report by an American observer, at one point, the commander of the Home Fleet, Sir John Tovey, ordered the Rodney to fire her torpedoes if possible. About 2.5 hours later, one of the Rodney’s torpedoes scored a hit on the German battleship.

Ultimately, the Bismarck would be sunk by torpedoes from the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire. The Rodney would go on to serve in the Royal Navy until she was scrapped in 1949. But she always holds the distinction of being the only battleship to torpedo another battleship.


Tag Archives: HMS Rodney

This is the final part of my rendition of the great naval tragedy in three acts involving the German Battleship Bismarck. The first part was the sinking of the legendary and graceful pride of the Royal Navy, the Battle Cruiser Hood. The second part was the seemingly futile hunt and chase of the Bismarck by units of the British Home Fleet. What seemed hopeless changed when hours from the protection of night Bismarck was discovered and then torpedoed in a last ditch effort by Swordfish torpedo planes from the HMS Ark Royal. Today, the final act, the sinking of the Bismarck.

I have written about this before and this is a massively edited and expanded version of that article. As I have mentioned before I have long been fascinated with this naval tragedy. I call it that because I have served at sea and in combat ashore and because I understand that amid all the technology and weaponry that ultimately it is the men who suffer the terrors of war, and who suffer and die who matter. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen seldom get a choice in the wars that the leaders of their nations send them to fight. Thus for me, even the Sailors of the Bismarck, the pride of Adolf Hitler’s Kriegsmarine are as much victims of war as the British Sailors aboard the HMS Hood.

I also apologize for not publishing this yesterday as I had planned. I went a lot deeper into my research and could not complete it before I needed to go to bed.

Padre Steve+

HMS King George V (above) and HMS Rodney (below)

The torpedo from the Swordfish from the HMS Ark Royal that struck the Bismarck in her stern, jammed her rudders and wrecked her steering gear at last light on May 26th 1941, doomed the remarkable ship and her crew. It was an astounding turn of events, as just minutes before the hit both the Germans and the British were expecting Bismarckto reach safety of German occupied ports in France to fight again.

After a sleepless night in which they attempted to regain control of their ship and endured multiple attacks from destroyers before sunrise, the officers and crew of Bismarck were preparing their ship and themselves for what they all understood would be their final engagement. That sense of fatalism had been fueled by messages they received from Grand Admiral Raeder and Adolf Hitler that were broadcast to the entire crew. Raeder’s message said `All our thoughts are with you and your ship. We wish you success in your difficult fight.’ Hitler addressed the crew `All of Germany is with you. What can be done will be done. Your devotion to duty will strengthen our nation in its struggle for its existence. Adolf Hitler.’ At that point the crew knew that both Raeder and Hitler already considered them dead. Bismarck’s 4th Gunnery Officer Kapitänleutnant Burkhard von Mullenheim-Rechbergwas told by another gunnery officer spoke words that Mullenheim-Rechberg would never forget: `Today, my wife will become a widow, but she doesn’t know it yet.’

Just days before Bismarck had sunk the legendary British Battle Cruiser HMS Hood in minutes and had she persisted in her attack could have sunk the new Battleship HMS Prince of Wales. Instead, Vice Admiral Gunther Lütjens in command of the Bismarck and her consort the Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen decided to break off contact and make for safety in the French port of Brest.

Bismarck slipped her pursuers and allowed Prinz Eugen to escape. It seemed that nothing that the British could do would stop her from gaining the safety of the French port and with it the knowledge that she had sunk the most powerful ship in the Royal Navy and gotten away. Then out of nowhere Bismarck was spotted by a Royal Air Force Coastal Command PBY Catalina seaplane piloted by an American Naval Officer. Hours later a relatively small and slow torpedo dropped from an obsolescent Swordfish torpedo bomber, a “Stringbag” hit the Bismarck in in her stern, wrecking her rudders and steering gear. Remarkably it was perhaps the only place that such a torpedo could have changed the developing narrative of a great German naval victory into defeat.

On that fateful morning the British ships prepared for a battle, even Admiral Tovey donned his steel helmet and put cotton in his ears as his ships closed the range with the German ship. Rodney, which was already being prepared for her overhaul in Boston had much gear stowed about her decks. Bismarck was ploughing in to force 8 winds (34-40 knots) and Bismarck struggled to maintain seven knots against the wind as the tension on her bridge mounted as the officers and watch standers knew that they would soon meet the British Battleships that would soon sink their ship. These German officers were realists who knew that their lack of maneuverability made them both a sitting duck for the British onslaught, and not be able to control their gunfire as they might have under better circumstances.

At 0833 Tovey order his ships to close with the last reported position of Bismarck. Their lookouts sighted the German ship at 0843 at a range of just over 25,000 yards. Rodney opened fire at 0847 followed by King George V a minute later. Bismarck’s forward turrets opened fire at 0849, and her first salvos straddled Rodney, something that sent shivers through British sailors who remembered the fate of the Hood, however that was the closest Bismarck got. Her inability to maintain a stable course, something necessary for accurate naval gunfire inhibited her gunnery, while Bismarck’s position amid rain squalls degraded the accuracy of the British gunfire.

For about 12 minutes an uneventful exchange of gunfire ensued, but at 0902 Rodney found the range and two of her 16” shells hit the forward part of Bismarck’s bridge, killing many senior officers and knocking out her forward fire control radar and fire direction equipment, also damaging turret Bruno, the forward 15” turret directly forward of the bridge. The hit blew the rear armor off the turret and over the side of the ship. The hydraulic lines to Anton were cut by a hit and her guns drooped down to their maximum depression, making them useless. At 0908 shells from both British Battleships, as well as the cruisers destroyed the forward gun direction radar and disabled turret Anton. Bismarck’s Fire control was shifted to the aft fire control center under Mullenheim-Rechberg. In six minutes half of Bismarck’s main battery, and her main fire director destroyed.

Under his control Bismarck’s aft turrets, Cäsar and Dora began to find the range of King George V,and on their fourth salvo straddled the British flagship, but at 0913 the director cupola was destroyed by a 14” shell from King George V. The result was that Bismarck was no longer able to control its main battery fire. Mullenheim-Rechberg wrote about his reaction to the hit:

“My aft director gave a violent shudder, and my two petty officers and I had our heads bounced hard against the eyepieces. What did that? When I tried to get my target in view again, it wasn’t there all I could see was blue. I was looking at something one didn’t normally see, the `blue layer’ baked on the surface of the lenses and mirrors to make the picture clearer. My director had been shattered. Damn! I had just found the range of my target and now I was out of the battle.”

Mullenheim-Rechberg, ordered the turrets to continue under local control, but within fifteen minutes every turret on Bismarck was out of action. At 0921 turret Dora was put out of action when a shell misfired in the starboard gun, killing much of the turret crew and leaving the gun tube peeled back like a banana. Ten minutes later turret Cäsar was silenced. Only a few guns of her secondary armament, useless against battleships remained in action. At 0930, Captain Lindemann passed the order to prepare to scuttle and abandon ship.

With no real threat to themselves the British ships closed to point blank range, Rodney to a mere 2500 meters, where her 16” and 6” blazing away and hitting the helpless ship with almost every shot, as did King George V and the cruisers from slightly farther away. Without opposition They fired shot after shot into the helpless German ship, but she still remained afloat, though the burning of fires within, seen through holes in her upper deck. She was listing 20 degrees to port and down by the stern, yet on her mainmast her battle flag still flew. Admiral Tovey could not believe Bismarck had remained afloat despite the barrage she had been subjected. In the last minutes before he ordered that the rate of fire be increased, as he due to the smoke he could not see shots hitting hitting. He was concerned. He had remained on station close to ten hours longer than his fuel situation recommended, and he knew that the Germans would certainly send Luftwaffe bombers and U-Boats to attack any British ship the found. Every minute that he remained would make his ships return that much more hazardous.

As the British continued to fire, the situation aboard Bismarck became ever more desperate. Lütjens had been killed. Lindemann was trapped on the forecastle of the ship and made no attempt to escape the sinking ship.

Reluctantly, Tovey ordered the British Battleships to cease fire and withdrew do to a lack of fuel and the real threats of air and submarine attacks. Whether Bismarck remained afloat or sank, Tovey had no doubt the great German ship would never make port. But there was much sympathy for crew of Bismarck.One British officer thought “Pray God I may never know. Another thought “What that ship was like inside did not bear thinking of her guns smashed, the ship full of fire, her people hurt and surely all men are much the same when hurt.” For 45 minutes the British ships had rained a hail of steel at Bismarck without threat to themselves. Rodney’s Captain, F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton said “I can’t say I enjoyed this part of the business much, but I didn’t see what else I could do.” Likewise, King George V’s Captain, W.R. Patterson remarked that he would have stopped firing earlier if he had been able to see what was going on aboard Bismarck.

Observers on the British ships could see flames shooting out of the many holes in her superstructure and little knots of men scurrying about the decks, some climbing over rails and jumping into the sea. Aboard Bismarck Mullenheim-Rechberg saw Rodney just 2500 meters away, her now silent guns still trained warily on Bismarck and he wrote “I could look down their muzzles. If that was her range at the end of the battle, I thought, not a single round could have missed.”

As the King George V and Rodney withdrew from the action Bismarck all that remained was death and destruction. All senior officers except First Officer Fregattenkapitän Hans Oels were dead. Oels ordered that the ship be abandoned and scuttled before he was killed trying to direct some 300 members of the crew to safety, and telling them that the ship had been scuttled and they needed to abandoned ship when a shell hit the crowed space, killing him and over 100 crewmen. Since scuttling cocks and watertight doors has already The senior remaining engineering officer Gerhardt Junack ordered the scuttling charges fired, just as HMS Dorsetshire fired torpedos which hit the German ship. The hits stuck the armored belt of Bismarck, and one hit her superstructure as she began to capsize. None would have sunk the Bismarck.

Bismarck under Fire from King George V and Rodney

Bismarck from Dorsetshire

The end of the Bismarck

The British battleships and cruisers fired 2,876 shells at Bismarck, of which an estimated 300-400 hit Bismarck. This doesn’t mention her previous damage the three 14” hits scored by Prince of Wales, the three aerial torpedoes from the Swordfish from Victorious and Ark Royal, including the one in a million hit on the night of 26 May which crippled her, and another 3-5 torpedo hits from Rodney and Dorsetshire.

The shells fired included 380 of 40.6 cm (16”) from Rodney, 339 of 35.6 cm (14”) from King George V, 527 of 20.3 cm (8”) from Norfolk, 254 of 20.3 cm (8”) from Dorsetshire, 716 of 15.2 cm (6”) from Rodney, and 660 of 13.3 cm (5.25”) from King George V.

Though the British had had silenced her and reduced the German ship to smoking ruins, the Bismarck remained afloat, defying her attackers. She was burning and certainly doomed but undaunted. The British battlewagons continued to pound Bismarck at point blank range, until finally, with their adversary obviously doomed and their own fuel supplies were dangerously low. Admiral Tovey then ordered his battleships to break off the action. As he did this the British cruisers continued to fire their guns and torpedoes at the blazing helpless ship.

Bismarck Survivors being hauled aboard Dorsetshire

Following the scuttling order, the ships watertight doors were opened by Bismarck’s damage control teams. Likewise, pumps which were being used to pump water out of flooded spaces were reversed. Likewise engineers had the scuttling charges fired at about the same time as HMS Dorsetshire launched her torpedoes at Bismarck. At 1039 the Bismarck slipped beneath the waves. To this day those who claim the Bismarck sank because her crew scuttled her, and those who believe the the torpedos fired by Dorsetshiredecided the fate of the ship still argue. But truthfully it doesn’t matter. No matter what happened Bismarck was going to sink and no German forces could save her, or her crew.

HMS Dorsetshire 1941

As the great ship slipped beneath the waves into the depths of the North Atlantic, hundreds of survivors bobbed about in the cold Atlantic waters. It was estimated that about 800 men successfully abandoned ship. Of these men, 110 were rescued by British ships, mostly by Dorchester. Then lookouts aboard the cruiser believed that they spotted the periscope of a U-Boat, and the British ships broke off their rescue operations to avoid attack. Aboard King George V, Admiral Tovey mused of the words that he would finish his operational report.

Their withdraw left hundreds more survivors to die of exposure or their wounds in the Atlantic. In a cruel twist of fate, the U-Boat they believed they spotted, the U-558had expended all of its torpedoes and was not a threat to them. A few more of the Bismarck’s survivors were rescued later by German ships or U-boats, but about 2200 German sailors went down with their ship or died awaiting rescue that never came. When it was all over just 2 officers Junack, Mullenheim-Rechberg and 113 men survived the sinking of the Bismarck. Combined with the three men who survived the sinking of Hood, those lost on Prince of Wales, and other ships, nearly 3700 British and German Sailors perished during Operation Rheinübung. Junack entered the West German Navy when it was established and in 1958 was the first commander of the Bundesmarine damage control and survival school. Mullenheim-Rechberg became a diplomat and later wrote Battleship Bismarck: A Survivor’s Story. Admiral Tovey retired in 1946 became a member of the House of Lords. He died in 1971. Captain F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton retired as an Admiral in 1950 and served in a number of minor civil service positions until 1983. He died in 1984. Rear Admiral Frederic Wake-Walker was promoted to Vice Admiral in 1943 and was appointed Third Sea Lord and Controller where his primary mission was the creation of the vast amphibious armada used from Operation Torch to D-Day. In May of 1945 he was promoted to Admiral and Commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet. He died unexpectedly at his home at the age of 57 in September 1945. Grand Admiral Erich Raeder resigned following Hitler’s Tirade against the surface Navy following the Battle of the Barents Seain January 1943. After the war he was tried for major war crimes by the International Military Tribunal and was found guilty on all four counts and sentenced to life in prison. He was release for health reasons in 1955 and died in 1960. Captain Patterson was Knighted and promoted to Admiral. He retired in 1950 and died in 1954.

Artist’s image of the Wreck of the Bismarck

Subsequent investigations of the wreck of the Bismarckwould show that all the British shells and torpedoes did not sink the Bismarck, and that it was indeed the scuttling charges that sent the mighty ship to the bottom of the Atlantic. In fact only two of Rodney’s 16” shells penetrated Bismarck’s armored belt out of the hundreds of shells that hit her. But even had she not been scuttled, she was doomed, and the damage that she had sustained would have sent her to the bottom within 12 to 24 hours had Commander Oels not ordered Lieutenant Commander Junack to scuttle the ship.

As the survivors went into the water the Bismarck began to sink by the stern as she began to capsize. Some crew member attempted to dive headfirst over the port side only it break their necks on the bilge keel. Others decided to slide feet first as the ship began to capsize. When Bismarck sank some 800 of her crew were adrift in the open Atlantic. The Dorsetshire and the last of Vian’s destroyers went to rescue of the survivors. The sea conditions and their injuries made rescue hard, but then a lookout sighted a periscope, and the rescuing ships took up their lines and steamed away, leaving hundred to die of exposure or drown. A few others would be rescued by German and Spanish ships, but of over 2200, officers, crew, and the admiral’s staff, only 115 survived.

At 1100, Winston Churchillinformed the House of Commonsof the battle: “This morning shortly after day-break, the Bismarck virtually immobilized, without help, was attacked by British battleships that pursued her. I don’t know the result of this action. It seems however, that Bismarck was not sunk by gunfire, and now will be sunk by torpedoes. It is believed that this is happening right now. Great as is our loss in the Hood, the Bismarck must be regarded as the most powerful enemy battleship, as she is the newest enemy battleship and the striking of her from the German Navy is a very definite simplification of the task of maintaining effective mastery of the Northern sea and maintenance of the Northern blockade.” Churchill had just sat down following the announcement when he was handed a note. He rose again From his seat and said: “I have just received news that the Bismarck is sunk.” After so much bad news the members loudly and lonely cheered and clapped at the news.

The German High command issued their statement in the evening.

“Berlin, May 27, 1941. The Supreme Command of the Armed Forces announces: The battleship Bismarck, which in her first battle against superior British forces sank the Hood and damaged the King George V, had her speed reduced by a hit forward. A torpedo from an aircraft attack that took place on the 24th of May, again affected her speed. On May 26, when 400 miles west of Brest, towards 21 hours, the ship was again hit by two aerial torpedoes from aircraft, destroying one steering gear and propellers, and the ship was unable to steer. During the night, the Chief of Fleet, Admiral Lütjens sent the following report to the High Command of the Navy: ‘Ship unable to manoeuvre. We will fight to the last shell. Long live the Führer. Chief of Fleet.’ Contending with enemy naval forces which were gradually being reinforced, the battleship Bismarck went on fighting in her incapacitated state, until finally, on the morning of May 27, she fell victim of the superior strength of three battleships, an aircraft carrier, several cruisers and destroyers. The British formation itself has been attacked early today by German bombers. The thoughts of the entire German people are full of pride and sorrow towards the victorious fleet commander, Admiral Lütjens, during his naval battle in Iceland, towards the battleship Bismarck, her commander, Captain Lindemann, and his brave crew.”

Bismarck was now at the bottom of the seas, and within a year the Ark Royal, Prince of Wales, and Dorsetshire would also lie at the bottom of the seas. Prince of Wales along the HMS Repulse was sunk by Japanese land based bombers off Malaya in 1941, Dorsetshirewas sunk near Ceylon by Japanese Carrier aircraft in April 1942, and Ark Royal was torpedoed by the U-Boat U-81 in November 1941 not far from Gibraltar. Of the destroyers that harassed Bismarckthe night before her sinking only one, the Polish Destroyer ORP Piorun would survive the war.

The tragedy of mission of the Bismarck is that nearly 3700 sailors died aboard the two mightiest ships in the world. While the legendary the losses of the two ships did not materially alter the course of the war. Hood’s loss though tragic did not alter the strategic equation as more new battleships of the King George V class entered service. Likewise the surviving German capital ships were harassed by RAF bomber sorties and attacks by the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. With few exceptions these ships remained confined to ports in France, Germany or Norway and slipped into irrelevance as the war progressed as the German U-Boat force took the lead in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Bismarck’s Survivors in England

But from the perspective of the survivability of a battleship against overwhelming odds and against a massive number of hits by shells and torpedoes. Bismarck was not sunk by the fusillade of British shells and torpedoes, but by the actions of her crew, ordered by Captain Lindemann and carried out by Commander Junack and his engineering and damage control teams. The expedition which discovered her wreck and subsequent explorations of the her by multiple teams have determined damage sustained by Bismarck by the British gunfire and torpedoes was not the cause of her sinking, at least of when she sank. Of all the hits on her main armored belt, only two of the 16” shells of Rodney pierced them. None of the torpedoes, except the last ditch strike launched by Ark Royal’s Swordfish which disabled her steering gear and ended her chance of a safe escape to France, did any appreciable damage.

The one weakness were not appreciated at the time was the structural weakness of the stern of Bismarck, a design flaw found in the Scharnhorst Class, and the Admiral Hipper Class Heavy cruisers. After Bismarck was lost, Tirpitz and other ships with the same weakness were corrected. The last 35 feet of the stern collapsed either shortly before her sinking or afterward. In 1942 Prinz Eugen had her stern collapse from a single torpedo hit.

However, even today there are many controversies about what was the cause of the sinking of Bismarck, however, there are no ships that were designed and built after the Washington and London Naval Treaties, even those built in defiance of them, that ever survived the amount of damage that Bismarck sustained in her short career. Prince of Wales was sunk by just four aerial torpedoes, Roma of the Vittorio Veneto Class, was sunk by one hit by a German guided rocket, Jean Bart of the French Richelieu Class, put out of action by a few 16” shell hits from USS Massachusetts, and last but not least the massive Japanese battleships Yamato and Musashi. Both ships were far larger than Bismarck and had much heavier armored belts, decks, and turrets, yet they were sunk by much less ordnance. Yamato was by 11-13 Mk 13 Aerial torpedoes and 6-8 550-1000 pound bombs. Her sister, Musashi was hit by an estimated 19 torpedos and 17 bombs. Their weakness was their torpedo protection. Though on paper their torpedo protection appeared strong there were three major weaknesses. First the voids between the triple underwater armored belts were left empty, rather than filling them with reserve water or fuel. Second, the upper main belt was not joined well to the lower torpedo belt, which created a vulnerable seam just below the waterline, and finally, their bow sections, which were very long were poorly protected, resulting in massive flooding when hit by torpedos. The only modern battleship to survive a large number of hits from 14”, 8”, and 6” shells, was USS South Dakota which was struck by at least 26 shells, but only one was 14”. It is it is doubtful if she or any other ship could have survived the damage inflicted on Bismarck.

As an officer who has served at sea on a cruiser at war which came within minutes of a surface engagement with Iranian Revolutionary Guard patrol boats in the Northern Arabian Gulf in 2002 I have often wondered what would happened in the event of an engagement that seriously damaged or sank our ship. Thus I have a profound sense of empathy for the sailors of both sides who perished aboard the Hoodand the Bismarck in the fateful days of May 1941.

I hope that no more brave sailors will have to die this way, but I know from what history teaches that tragedies like this will happen again.


One of the most famous episodes in naval history, at the time it gripped the attention of people around the world. They wondered if Britain could weather the shock of losing its grip on maritime supremacy, which had been established at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The epic pursuit of the German battleship KM Bismarck took place across 1,700 miles of the North Atlantic, starting with the destruction of the legendary British battle-cruiser HMS Hood, on 24 May 1941 during the Battle of the Denmark Strait.

That devastating blow, with all but three of the ‘Mighty Hood’s’ 1,418 ship’s company lost, was followed by a dramatic search and destroy mission conducted by much of the Royal Navy.

After losing the Bismarck for 31 hours, contact was regained on 26 May followed by Swordfish torpedo-bombers making a bid to stop the flagship of Germany’s navy escaping to safe refuge in a port on the Atlantic coast of occupied France.

With Bismarck’s steering crippled, next into the boxing ring with the Kriegsmarine heavyweight were British destroyers – and one plucky Polish warship – which threw themselves at the enemy during a tumultuous night action.

U-boats ordered to the scene were unable to do anything to protect Bismarck, with one would-be rescuer running out of torpedoes and forced to watch impotently as enemy ships steamed past unharmed.

Come the new day British battleships HMS King George V and HMS Rodney charged into action and, with the heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk and HMS Dorsetshire, surrounded the limping Bismarck. They unleashed a storm of fire such as has rarely been seen in modern sea combat.

Image: Steve Jagger, based on original artwork by Paul Wright

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill endured high anxiety as he kept track of events at his War Rooms in London, while at his Eagle’s Nest in Bavaria, the German dictator Adolf Hitler raged against his naval chiefs’ decision to even deploy Bismarck.

HMS Rodney in action on D-Day - History

Could you tell me how I could access a list of the crew members of HMS Rodney please? My father worked on board in the engine room I think. His name was William Holden born 16th May 1911.

My father served on HMS Rodney from November 1939 to September 1943. He was a Boy/Ordinary seaman and progressed to Leading Seaman by the time he left. His name was James Noel Edwards (Bungy/Edwards). I would be interested in any information about life on board.

Many thanks,
Letitia Edwards

My uncle, Christopher Dunkley, served on the Rodney, on the site I noticed a copy of the Christmas Menu. My mum kept a copy of it which my brother now has. It was strange seeing another copy of it. My uncle worked in the boiler rooms as far as I know, he died two years ago, age 80. He came from Tottenham Hale. When he married Lena he moved to Romford they had one daughter Joyce. Hope this helps you in finding more names for your list of crew.

Christine Lee
(Barking, Essex, U.K.)

I know that my grandfather served on HMS Rodney during WW2. His name was Wilfred J. Wallace, from Newport, Gwent and he was a stoker. He married my grandmother Elizabeth (Betty) and had his first daughter Ann in 1941. He unfortunately passed away last year at 90 and never spoke much about his experience except for the numerous campaigns and also helping to sink the Bismarck. Am hoping to find out a bit more.

I am trying to find information about my father Able Seaman Thomas Dennis. Thomas, who served on board HMS Rodney during the Normandy invasion as part of the main bombardment force. And the main covering force for convoy JW-60 to Russia. I am trying to find photos or crew lists during this period.

I have a medal from HMS Rodney dated 1928. On one face is the ships emblem and on the reverse is "Interdepartmental Football 1928" Have you ever seen one? I believe it to be my grandfather's, but sadly it does not photograph well.

I wondered if you could help me. As a boy in Weymouth after WW2 I seem to remember either Rodney or Nelson being berthed in Portland Harbour. In the summer naval whaleboats used to come to the beach at Castle Cove in Portland Harbour, and take kids on trips round the harbour. I seem to remember sailing round one or both of these ships, one having suffered major damage. Am I dreaming?

I'm trying to find the crew list for the HMS Rodney for 1940/41 can you help me as it would be much appreciated as my late uncle Thomas Delaney was crew during the battle with the Bismarck, many thanks.

Kind regards,
Martin Delaney

My grandad was called Gavin Taylor he served on HMS Rodney in the Second World Wa,r do you have any information on his rank and his service any information would be a great help.

I am researching my family history and in particular those who joined the forces. Unfortunately those that knew are no longer with us and anecdotally I have been told that two of my great uncles where in the navy. The oldest John Wakeham is reputed to have served on the Thunderer during the first and second wars and his younger brother Alfred Wakeham is reputed to have served on the Rodney during the second war and was aboard during the hunting of the Bismarck. Please could you advise me which direction I should take to confirm if this is true? Incidentally both returned home after the war.

Best regards,
Steffan Evans

My Grandfather served on the Rodney during the Bismarck attack. His name was Peter Wakeham.

As a New Zealander now living in England, I must say I was really delighted to have one of my relations in New Zealand email me the details of HMS Rodney - now a family Christian name of two of my male family back in New Zealand - bringing back to me the fact that my uncle, Alexander Innes apparently the only Kiwi aboard, was a member of the crew during World War Two, seemingly in that position during the engagement that ended in the sinking of the Bismarck and possibly being on board during the Normandy Landings. The set of your files are now in my personal family history collection so if you have any details of his time as a crew member during WW2, I should be very glad to receive same.

Arohanui e hoa,
Innes King
Oxford, England

I had a relative who served on Rodney during the war, my brother was christened in 1942, his middle name is Rodney. Relatives name is Norman Atkinson from Doncaster who I believe was a CPO.

Would you or any of your correspondents be able to confirm if HMS Rodney was at Spike Island, Queenstown, Ireland on July 11th 1938? The occasion was the handing over of the "Treaty Ports" in Ireland to the Irish government. These ports had remained under British Navy jurisdiction since the Treaty of 1921 when part of Ireland gained independence, and were then handed over. I was at Queenstown on the date in question and believe that I saw "Rodney" at the quayside. I would like to be able to confirm this for some family history which I am compiling.

HMS Rodney left Bangor for The Skaw on July 8, 1938, I doubt this was the ship you saw. According to the article I found HMS Acasta was at Cork at that time.

Michael W. Pocock

My father, Philip Smith, served on the HMS Rodney between 1940 and 1945 and was on board at the time of the sinking of the Bismarck. He passed away in 2001. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 7 December 1917. We have no information on his duties on the ship or, in fact, much about his service history as we migrated from the UK to Australia in 1963. He rarely spoke about his war time experiences and would like to know something of his time in the Navy. Any information would be greatly appreciated for both his children and his grandchildren.

Joan Evenden (nee Smith)
Stanhope Gardens, NSW, Australia

I am currently researching a former gunnery officer from HMS Rodney who was a friend of mine's Grandfather (she lives not far from you actually, at Schofields) I was just wondering if you had any luck in your search for a crew list? My friends Grandfather was with the Rodney in NZ when war was declared in 1939. She believes he was with the ship for most of the war including the Bismarck sinking. Any help would be appreciated.

Tim Coleman
Eastern Creek, NSW, Australia

My father served on HMS Rodney during WW2, his name was Walter Ernest Lingard and I think he was an engine room artificer.I know he served on the convoy duties to Murmansk but that is all I know (he was very reticent about his wartime experiences). Does anyone remember him or can point me in the direction of a printed crew list. I am curious to know if he played any part in the sinking of the Bismarck. He originally came from Barrow in Furness having an apprentice in Vickers shipyard there.

I believe my father, William Leatten Hurley served on the Rodney during the period between 1939-1945. My father died in 1987 and I have no details of his Navy Service record. I believe he served in the RNVR before the outbreak of WW11. I would very much appreciate any information you may have concerning my father's naval service.

My granddad, Philip King served on the Rodney as a Stoker/Mechanical Engineer from about 1940 -44. He was awarded the DSM in the New Years Honours 1942 but to this day says he doesn't know why he got it, but that it "must have been something to do with the Bismarck business". If anyone remembers him, or might be able to shed any light on why he was awarded the medal I would be very grateful and would love to hear from you.

Tom Balch,
Bruton, UK

I was wondering where I can obtain the crew list for the Rodney. I understand that my father-in-law (now deceased) was a radio operator on one of the ships that helped to sink the Bismarck, and I believe--but am not sure--that it was the Rodney. His name was Sydney Pilkington and he was from Southampton, England.

Marilyn Pilkington

My father George William Walter Booth served on the Rodney in 1944/45, and was on Rodney on D-day when she was shelling German positions in Caen. He told me that he was a radio operator and that he was involved in passing messages to the gunners about the accuracy of their fire. He also did one or more trips to Murmansk on the Rodney on convoy protection. He was known as "Scouse", as he came from Liverpool. He played the piano in the mess and apparently had a nice little earner on the side doing other ratings' laundry! He received a medal in 1985 from the Soviet government (along with other naval personnel who served on the convoys to Murmansk).

I also recall Dad recalling that the Rodney was once visited by an Admiral. When inspecting the crew, the Admiral asked my Dad very quietly if he could swim. When Dad said yes, the Admiral said he wanted Dad to jump overboard (they were in dock) to see how the crew reacted and what they did! Apparently my Dad was very efficiently rescued and the crew were commended for their reactions!

I don't think he progressed beyond ordinary seaman, but in later life he became the Head of the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service in Liverpool, a position he held until the mid 1980's. He died in 1998. I noticed on the crew list for the Rodney that there was an Ivan Walter Booth who apparently served on the Rodney from 1940-44, and that there was a George William Brears. Given my father's full name, I am just curious to know whether there could be any mistake in the crew list? I don't suppose there might be anyone out there who knew him? His best friend on the Rodney was Harry Carpenter, who later became a well-known BBC sports broadcaster.

I visited my sister in Canada last August, the last time we met was 1979.Whilst there we looked through a great many photographs of old times, amongst them was this menu card which I took a copy, how she came by it I'm not sure.

HMS RODNEY. Transcript of my father's log narrative of the action

Post by NigelTickner » Thu Sep 10, 2015 3:09 pm

Transcipt of a record made by Acting Leading Seaman (Frederick) James Tickner (D/JX150848) of the Bismarck action from the Radio Operations Room onboard HMS RODNEY. Originally, my father made it into a narrated record in his own voice in a store where you could make your own records in Boston, MA. during the battleship’s refit in docks after the action.

My father, born in 1921 had joined the RN as a boy telegraphist in HMS ST. VINCENT in 1936. He originally joined HMS RODNEY as an Ordinary Telegraphist in 1938. He was selected for the Upper Yardman scheme to become an officer so had to swap to a Seaman Branch. He was promoted to Acting Leading Seaman on 15 March 1941, and subsequently was promoted to Acting Petty Officer until he left the ship on 9 December 1941.

He was involved with the communications during the action, and wrote the details down which wasn’t entirely the right thing to do according to RN Regulations! Captain Dalrymple-Hamilton, however, heard about it, and summoned my father to see him. Fearing that he would be in trouble, instead the Captain said that he had been unable to keep an accurate record during the action, and requested a copy of these notes to help him fill in his log of the action.

By the time I heard the record it had been played so many times in the family that the grooves had been worn down with a lot of crackle while being played. A year or so after my father’s early death in 1975 I taped a recording of both sides of the record onto a blank audio cassette. I kept this for many years, but in 1999 I was working in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and a sound technician working with our theatre group transferred the recording onto CD. He said that unfortunately at the time he was unable to separate my father’s voice from the crackle and hiss of the original recording as both were at the same frequency. However, in time he hopes that technology will develop to separate the two. Here, I have made a transcript of what I believe are the correct words from a poor recording:

…sinking of the German battleship BISMARCK on the 26TH/27TH May 1941

2250 on the 26th. Action Stations! BISMARCK reported leading towards RODNEY. ARK ROYAL has already carried out two unsuccessful torpedo bomber attacks. Only one hit scored.

2255 SHEFFIELD shadowing. RENOWN is in close vicinity astern. D4 and KING GEORGE V and two destroyers are ahead.

0005 May 27th. Visibility decreasing. Range 3000 yards.

0020 Enemy speed reduced to 5 knots.

0040 Enemy steering 330 degrees RODNEY 040 degrees.

0200 All positions relax. Signal from Commander-in-Chief. Intend to attack at dawn. D4 and SHEFFIELD still shadowing.
0300 Message from D4. Dispatched tinfish into BISMARCK. Set forecastle on fire. MAORI has copied leader’s example. Commander-in-Chief hopes to attack before dawn breaks. Previously accompanying enemy ships presumed to be in the vicinity…also the HIPPER. Hope to engage them.

0330 …three cryptic words from the Captain: “Just going in.” Enemy visible to D4 destroyers, not yet to us.

0335 Enemy will be in sight in twenty minutes time. Somebody remarked: “Enemy will be ****** in five minutes time!”

0440 …the lads are eager to come to grips.

0450 16 in. turrets about to open up starboard side. 16 in. salvoes…KING GEORGE V opened up. RODNEY again. RODNEY altering course to port. Further salvoes from BISMARCK fall short. RODNEY again. Enemy altering to starboard. Coming towards us. After guns elevated and apparently staying there. Enemy shells still falling short. NORFOLK now opening fire on the common foe.

Control…find out how much ammunition expended. Reply…44 rounds per gun…40 rounds per gun. Port inch stand by.

0926 …on fire. Starboard 6 in. open up again. Fell short. No answering salvoes from the latter. KING GEORGE V…BISMARCK now coming towards, RODNEY firing on beam. Registered hit on former’s quarterdeck…from the Captain: “You are doing well.”…diving overboard…Enemy cease firing. Loud cheers from the bridge.

0940 …out to sink her now. Two direct hits from 16 in. Last shell split open remaining turret. Bodies flung everywhere or what is left of them. BISMARCK replies with 5.9s. Altering course intending to have a last thump at us. By Jiminy they’re game! 16 in. open up again….Y Turret on fire.

1001 She’s settling in the water now.

1022 Unidentified aircraft approaching starboard side. Starboard battery stand by for close barrage. BISMARCK finally sunk by torpedoes. Captain thanks us and in the same breath warns us of imminent air attack. These did not materialise due to weather conditions. Strong gale blowing now. Now it is all over we feel frayed out. No sleep since 6pm. yesterday. No food since 5am Sunday morning. Not likely to get any until midnight tonight. Mess decks in a shambles. Lights out, lockers overturned, plates smashed, water flowing like the Jordan…Guard rails down…Incredible, but there are no fatalities. This account was recorded by myself, James Tickner of HMS RODNEY.

Break out the holystone

Today’s bluejackets have to worry about modern 21st-century problems while underway such as flakey internet signals, running out of pop, broken exercise equipment, 1980s tech in the CIC, chicken wheels, and lines for the washing machine. One thing they don’t have to fool with is the old 01 Division holy-stone train.

What is a holystone? Well here is the wiki on it and another mention here but suffice to say that this lump of sandstone, boiler brick, or even ballast weight was common to sailors from the 18th century through WWII.

It’s simple to use, just add seawater and sometimes a liberal coating of sand and scrub away at the teak decking of your old school battleship, cruiser, destroyer, or frigate along with a dozen or so of your closest hammock mates under the close supervision of the bosun.

Sailors rubbing the deck of the Japanese battleship Yamashiro, Seto Island Sea, 1943

Sailors rubbing the deck of battleship HMS Rodney, 1940

Sailors holystoning the deck of Pelorus-class protected cruiser HMS Pandora in the early 20th century

Working the deck of the old HMS Nelson

Royal Navy Battleship Sailors scrubbing holystoning Bridge HMS Royal Oak Photo 1917 colorized by Postales Navales

A working party holystones the deck of USS Oklahoma City (CLG 5) in June 1966. 󈬉 licks per board”

At the end of the day, you would have a nice, clean deck that had been stripped of its top layer of grit and grime.

September 1, 1986: German destroyer Rommel D-187 (right) in company with USS Iowa BB-61 and Peder Skram F-352. The deck was likely freshly stoned as the battlewagon was headed to NATO-allied ports and needed to be squared away for the inevitable spate of visitors

Of course, today’s sailors much prefer nonskid.

Except for those who are assigned to the last two wooden decked ships in the U.S. Fleet, the USS Constitution, and USCGC Eagle who just donated a spare one to the USS Missouri museum…

However, they still have plenty of leftovers.

Share this:

Like this:

Readers also enjoyed

&aposBismarck: 24 Hours to Doom - 80th anniversary edition&apos is Iain&aposs latest book and an updated and expanded new version of the 2016 original, this time published both as an e-book and a shop paperback. His previous book was &aposArnhem: Ten Days in The Cauldron&apos (Sept 2019), also for Agora Books.

Although he has written several naval history books, including those on the Second World War and the Cold War 'Bismarck: 24 Hours to Doom - 80th anniversary edition' is Iain's latest book and an updated and expanded new version of the 2016 original, this time published both as an e-book and a shop paperback. His previous book was 'Arnhem: Ten Days in The Cauldron' (Sept 2019), also for Agora Books.

Although he has written several naval history books, including those on the Second World War and the Cold War, Iain Ballantyne has, during the course of his career as a journalist, editor, and author, also covered the activities of land forces.

Those assignments took him to Kuwait, Oman, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Hong Kong, sometimes during times of conflict. Iain has visited WW2 battlefields in company with those who fought there as young men, while also spending hours in conversation with Arnhem veterans.

As a teenager, Iain embarked on an expedition to follow the course of the Rhine, including a pilgrimage to Oosterbeek and Arnhem. He retraced the route of the British Airborne soldiers in 1944 as they tried to take the famous ‘bridge too far’.

Iain Ballantyne’s assignments as a writer on naval affairs have taken him from the Arctic to mine infested waters off war-torn Kuwait, aboard a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier off Libya, into the South China Sea and below the Irish Sea in a hunter-killer submarine.

Iain has contributed to coverage of naval and military issues in national and regional newspapers, and provided analysis and commentaries for radio and television, as well as prestigious publications by NATO and the Royal Navy.

His most recent naval history book was 'The Deadly Trade: The Complete History of Submarine Warfare from Archimedes to the Present' (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018). It was published in the USA in December 2018, as 'The Deadly Deep' (Pegasus Books).

Iain's other books include ‘Hunter Killers’ (Orion, 2013), which was published in the USA in September 2019 as 'Undersea Warriors' (Pegasus Books).

Iain won a Mountbatten Certificate of Merit for his action-packed depiction of the pursuit and destruction of Hitler's flagship as recounted in ‘Killing the Bismarck’ (Pen & Sword, 2010).

In 2017 he was awarded a Fellowship by the UK’s Maritime Foundation. One of its top annual awards, it recognised Iain’s immense contribution to the maritime cause since 1990, as a journalist, author of naval history books and Editor of 'WARSHIPS International Fleet Review' magazine from 1998 to the present. . more

HMS Rodney in action on D-Day - History

This recollection is different to the others published on the site in that the author of the content of this page is not known. The source is a document found by Clare Koebert in her father's personal effects after he died. Clare says that he didn't write them himself and she has no idea where they came from.

The document is reproduced by permission of the family of Charles D. Hagerty, (Born May 14 1925 Philadelphia, PA, Died July 31, 2009, Lansdale, Philadelphia USA). In October 2010 Clare Koebert sent the original of this document to me for safekeeping.

Charles Hagerty served in the US Navy from 1942 to 1945 as an aircraft mechanic having enlisted on his 17th birthday his rank is not currently known. He trained at various US Naval Air Stations - Pensacola, FL, Norfolk, VA and San Diego, CA and eventually sailed to Guam. The family has no information to associate him with anyone who may have had connections to HMS Rodney or indeed any other British naval vessels, but enquiries about this continue and this page will be updated if further information comes to light.

There is a history of HMS Rodney with photographs on the Benjidog Battleships and Battle Cruisers website HERE.

About the Author of the Document

There is something about the style of this account that convinces me that the writer was actually aboard HMS Rodney and saw the events first-hand rather than getting them second-hand or from a book. The three pages were typed on an old-fashioned manual typewriter by a reasonably competent hand and include various spelling mistakes, including several variations on the spelling of the name of the German ship Bismarck. Manually typewritten documents could not be easily corrected in those days. The writer was either not aware of the errors or thought this version was good enough - which may indicate that it was a personal memoir not expected to be read by anyone else.

The text uses the US/Canadian spelling "harbor" rather than the UK spelling "harbour" on three occasions from which we can infer that the writer was almost certainly from North America. The start of the account refers to HMS Rodney being on a convoy to Canada and, after the action involving Bismarck, she sails to the USA. I asked my friend Steve Woodward who has written a history of HMS Rodney which may be accessed HERE, whether there could have been any US or Canadian personnel on board HMS Rodney at this time and he replied as follows:

My conclusion is that it is likely that the account was written by one of the US personnel on board preparing for the refit. Presumably this was not Charles Hagerty, if the information about his service dates supplied by his relatives are correct, as this account dates from 1941 and he is stated as serving from 1942-1945. Perhaps this was passed to him by one of the people he met during his period of service, or even much later in life. We will probably never know.

As the original document is a bit difficult to read on-line, I have transcribed it but have also reproduced the original pages as provided to me (apart from cleaning up the contrast using Photoshop) below the transciption.

Anyone reading this who can throw any light on the origins of this document, or who wishes to contact the family of Charles D. Hagarty, is invited to contact me via Contact on the menu.

Précis of the Document

  • The writer’s ship HMS Rodney is summoned to intercept the German battleship Bismarck
  • Bismarck is hit by a torpedo and loses her steering
  • The attackers move in - Bismarck continues to put up an effective defence
  • Harrowing scenes as Bismarck suffers major damage yet still attempts to ram HMS Rodney
  • Confusion as Bismarck attempts to surrender but the white flag is flying underneath the German ensign so the engagement continues
  • Damage to HMS Rodney and subsequent repairs before she is sent on her next mission
  • Description of HMS Rodney's next trip to Boston USA


The Rodney left Greenock on the 22nd of May 1941 In charge of a convoy bound for Canada. The weather was fair and the visibility was high.

May 23: The weather pretty fair, speed of convoy 19 knots.

May 24: The weather pretty rough, Rodney receives signal, HMS Hood sunk by German battleship Bismarck. Rodney ordered to leave convoy and give chase to Bismarck. HMS Tarta takes charge of convoy and returns to British port.

May 25: Weather fair as Rodney proceeds at full speed in the tracks of the Bismarck, the fast cruiser Edinburgh passed us on our beam as she was scouting ahead of us for the Bismarck. That night we received the signal that the planes from HMS Ark Royal. We were trying to torpedo the Bismarck. First torpedo attack was not successful, the second was successful. The Bismarck was said to have lost considerable speed and was making her way towards Brest.

May 26: Catillina Aircraft again torpedoes the Bismarck. Up till now the Battle ships Rodney, King George V had lost trace of the Bismarck. And owing to the Catillina Aircraft sighting her we were able to get her course again and carry on the chase. The Captain speaks to Rodney ships Company. The Captain, Dalrimple MacCampbell Hamilton told the Rodney that the Bismarck was now going around In circles and the Rodney would probably meet her tonight, and give action. But owing to the flagship being with us we were told to incircel the Bismarck and wait till morning. Mean time the fast cruiser Dorchester, was coming up and was now lying off on the horizon. The KG5 had turned back and wished the Rodney's ship company good luck. All that night on board the Rodney the men were eating at action stations and getting as much sleep as they possibly could get.

Bismarck in front of Blankenese with tugboats Seefalke and Seebär at the stern [32]

5 A.M: KG 5 appears in sight again
6 AM: Men are waiting in content
7 AM: Men getting restful
8 AM: We’ve got a few old dog biscuits to eat
8:45 AM: Rodney hoists her battle ensigns
9 AM: Bismarck opens fire on Rodney. The first salvo from the mighty 16 inch guns missed the Bismarck. The next two salvos just fell a little short of their mark. This battle was being fought in a very high sea with the waves coming over the bows of both ships and the gun layers were having a hard time to lay the guns in such heavy seas. The Bismarck was very good and her gunnery in fact naval experts say that that she was the finest ship afloat. The fourth salvo from the Rodney’s 16 inch guns shot away the Bismarck control tower.

Down in the shell room of A turret the men were having a bad time. The cordite fumes were coming down the fresh air pipes and nearly chocking the shell room's crew. The water was coming through the escape hatch. Half of the room's crew were employed and pumping out water. The other half were sending out shells to the gun.

Well, to get back to the action, the Rodney was now closing the range from 3500 yards to 2500 yards. At this time the captain ordered broad sights and at the same time the 6 inch guns opened fire. The Bismarck was now a mass of flames from the wide turret to her stern. The 16 inch shells were exploding in sight and you could see the flames coming out through her hold. Meantime the Bismarck altered course and was heading straight toward the Rodney with the intentions of ramming her but the Rodney altered course and opened fire with another broadside.

The Germans crew were now going into a panic. A signaller from the Bismarck was trying to signal to the Rodney to cease fire but a 6 salvo blew him and the turret away. The German crew were now running aft to abandon ship but a 16 inch salvo landed there and blew them away. There was one gun on the Bismarck in action which was soon silenced by a 16 inch salvo. The Germans were now hoisting a white flag but owing to their hoisting the white flag below the German ensign our gunnery officer gave orders to keep firing. If the Germans would have taken down their ensign and put up the white flag, the Rodney would have ceased fire.

Meantime in the Rodney's torpedo room the torpedo branch had fired twelve torpedoes, four of them being direct hits on the Bismarck. Now that the Bismarck was silenced, the Rodney ceased firing and the fast cruiser Dorchester, up for to finish her.

10:45 AM: The KG 5 gave orders for the Rodney to proceed to Greenock and refuel and reammunition.

10:58 AM: The Bismarck was on her way under.

With the KG 5 leading and the Rodney and the Dorchester following her we made out way to port. The destroyers were left behind to scout the areas for submarines.

2:00 PM: A German reconnaissance plane was sighted. The aircraft gunners on board the KG 5, Rodney, and Dorchester opened fire but without any luck. From there and onward the watches were doubled.

3:00 PM: A strong formation of German bombers was sighted. From 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock in the afternoon the Germans dive-bombed us but without any luck. Three German bombers broke down. Just after the attack we had received the signal that one destroyer had been sunk. Just after supper that night we were dive-bombed again without any luck.

May 28, 1941:

Rodney, KG 5 and Dorchester decreased speed owing to heavy seas. That afternoon the Dorchester left the Rodney and KG 5. South of Ireland KG 5 and Rodney met with 17 destroyers and got escorted to the North of Ireland. KG 5 takes 13 destroyers and proceeds to Greenock. In the North Sea the Rodney met with a strong formation of spitfires which escorted her to Greenock. Meanwhile on board Rodney the crew were having a bad time. The sick-bay was wrecked. The chef's and P.O’s flat was wrecked. The seaman's quarters the cups and saucers, plates were broken. All the electrical equipment on board was out of order. And the water was coming in through the hatches.

On the upper deck from the fo'c'stle to B gun the deck was wrecked and all the lockers were carried away. All the guard rails were bent and on the port side they were all washed over the side. The Galley was flooded and up on the octipidal was full of shrapnel. All the telescopes and the control towers were burned. On the port side of the ship's side just under the water line was a hole caused by shrapnel. That is about all the damage done to the Rodney.

Rodney got into Greenock about 8 o'clock that night. Also in Greenock was HMS Repulse, Bristol, Tartar, Victorious.

May 28, 29, 30 1941:

At 1 o'clock the Rodney left Greenock in charge of the Georgia which she convoyed to Halifax, N.S. The speed of the convoy was about 29 knots. Aboard the Georgia were children and nurses. The first of June the weather was fine. Speed of convoy 19 knots. Visibility good. Air pressure good. Temperature good.

Heading for rough sea. Convoy down 16 knots. Rodney’s ship company in high spirits. The movie on board was unknown.

Storm. On board the Rodney the men were lashing everything up and cooking utensils and on with their daily work.

Still in storm. Convoy 10 knots.

Weather fine. All the crew off the Rodney were allowed on the upper deck.

Nearing Halifax. Rodney slows down and the Georgia proceeds on her own. Rodney prepares for entering harbour. Rodney comes in the harbour.

Rodney leaves Halifax. Destination Boston.

Rodney proceeding very slowly towards Boston. Crew getting restless. In fact they nearly mutinied. Captain speaks. Tells Rodney ship's company that it's not his fault that the Rodney is going to Boston. That night the American lieutenant commander spoke to Rodney's ship company and told them what like it would be in Boston. After that the ships company went to the movies.

Still at sea. We’re at sea till 10:15 PM. Then the captain gave orders to prepare ship for entering Boston harbour. Just outside we picked up an American naval pilot. All the crew were up on the upper deck. They were amazed by so many lights. They were all shouting when they passed Revere Beach. The U.S. Pilot was not good. For entering dock he nearly drove the Rodney through the dock into dry dock. The captain was furious.


First day. Nobody was allowed ashore.

The first British sailors stepped ashore on Boston.

Images of the Original Document

Scans of the original document [84] HMS Rodney after a refit in 1942 [32]

Website designed and coded by Brian Watson using HTML & CSS.
I can be contacted via Feedback

HMS Rodney in action on D-Day - History

At the beginning of the war RODNEY was at Scapa with the Home Fleet. Her first action with the enemy was on 26th September when the RODNEY, NELSON and ARK ROYAL were covering the crusiers AURORA and SHEFFIELD escorting home the damaged submarine SPEARFISH. The Force was attacked by aircraft about 2:30pm some 150 miles from the Norwegian coast, but no damage was inflicted though the Germans claimed the ARK ROYAL had been sunk. During October and November RODNEY put to sea several times for patrol and excerises, and then docked at Liverpool for rudder repairs from 9th to 29th December. The flag of C. in C., Home Fleet, was transferred to RODNEY on 1st January, 1940, and on 7th March RODNEY, with the First Lord, Mr. Churchill, on board, left the Clyde for Scapa.

On the evening 8th April reports came in of enemy movements to occupy Norwegian ports, so the Home Fleet put to sea from Scapa. At noon on 9th April the main fleet (RODNEY, VALLIANT, 6 crusiers and 8 destroyers) was off Bergen, and for over three hours in the afternoon were attacked by enemy aircraft. The RODNEY was hit by a 1,000lb bomb which fortunately broke up on the armoured deck and did not penetrate. The Fleet returned to Scapa on 17th April. RODNEY and RENOWN and their destroyer screen, sailed from Scapa on 9th June to cover a troop convoy returning from Norway. The following morning, on receiving a report that the GNEISENAU and HIPPER had put to sea from Trondheim, the C. in C. altered course towards them and ordered the ARK ROYAL to join him. An extensive reconnaisance by aircraft failed to find the enemy, and at midnight the Fleet turned back to provide cover to the convoys from Narvik. In the meantime, the two German ships had rejoined the SCHARNHORST at Trondheim and it was decided that naval aircraft should attack them. The Fleet was then, 11th June, somewhere to the northward and turned south that evening. At 2am on the 13th the aircraft left the ARK ROYAL to carry out the attack, and on their return reported that the SCHARNHORST had been hit by at least one bomb. The fleet went back to Scapa, the RODNEY and RENOWN entering the harbour on the 15th.

The flag of the C. in C., Home Fleet, was transferred to the NELSON on 24th July, and RODNEY sailed to Rosyth on 23rd August for the retubing of her boilers. The battleship left Rosyth on 4th November and was ordered to give covering protection to Halifax convoys. The ship joined the convoy on the morning of 12th November and left on the afternoon of the 20th. On 5th December RODNEY proceeded once more from Scapa towards Halifax to rendezvous with an important convoy which had left there on the 3rd. The voyage home was uneventful, but RODNEY sustained heavy weather damage and sailed to Rosyth for necessary repairs, arriving at the port on the 17th. The battleship left Rosyth on 13 January, 1941 and proceeded to Scapa. RODNEY then provided escort to a homeward bound Halifax convoy from 12th to 23rd February. No enemy interference was encountered.

On 9th March RODNEY sailed from Scapa with other ships for the Home Fleet, but was detached on the 13th to rendezvous a convoy on passage from Halifax, During the evening of 16th March a raider distress message was received from the M/V CHILEAN REEFER. RODNEY proceeded at full speed towards the position and sighted her on fire some distance ahead. Then, almost immediately, sighted a warship with a large tanker in company at a distance of 15 miles. The RODNEY gave chase but the ships disappeared in the darkness. By this time it was quite dark, and RODNEY made search for possible survivors in the vicinity of the burning vessel. A boat containing 27 men, including the Captain and Chieg Officer of the CHILEAN REEFER was sighted and the survivors taken on board. They stated that the enemy ship was the GNEISENAU. Further search revealed no trace of any other survivors, and RODNEY turned to rejoin the convoy. On 24th March, an unknown vessel was sighted and asked to identify herself. No reply was received and she was ordered to stop. She still continued her way so warning shots were fired across her bows. The vessel then signalled she was the VILLE DE LIEGE and was allowed to proceed on her passage. The convoy arrived at the United Kingdom without any further incidents. RODNEY then proceeded to Halifax and left there on 10th April as senior escort ship to a Canadian troop convoy which arrived in the Clyde on the 19th without mishap.

On 22nd May, news reached the C. and C., Home Fleet, that the BISMARCK and PRINZ EUGEN were at sea. The RODNEY, with four destroyers, was escorting the troopship to BRITANNIC to Canada. She was ordered to leave the BRITANNIC, and did so at noon, leaving one destroyer and proceeding with the other three. By daybreak on the 27th May the C. in C. in KING GEORGE V, who had been joined by RODNEY the previous day, had worked round the position of the BISMARCK to attack from the westward. At 8:43am the BISMARCK was sighted at about 25,000 yards range. The RODNEY opened fire at 8:47am, followed one minute later by KING GEORGE V, and then by BISMARCK, who directed her fire at RODNEY. At 9am the range was 20,000 yard and rapidly decreasing. By 9:30 BISMARCK was on fire and virtually out of control. RODNEY, KING GEORGE V, and the cruiser NORFOLK - who had now joined in the action - continued firing at ranges which eventually came down to 3,300 yards. By 10am BISMARCK's main armament was out of action, though her secondary armament was still firing spasmodically. By 10:10am this too had ceased, and BISMARCK was now a wreck pouring high into the air a great cloud of smoke and flames. The cruiser DORSETSHIRE - which had now arrived on the scene - torpoedoed BISMARCK on both sides and she sank at 10:37am with her colours still flying. KING GEORGE V and RODNEY, while on their way home, were attacked by two enemy aircraft. Both aircraft were driven off and jettisoned there bombs in the sea one of the aircraft was hit by RODNEY and was last seen losing height as it disappeared four miles astern.

RODNEY left the Clyde for Halifax, arriving on 10th June, and then proceeded to Boston to undergo a refit. This completed on 12th August, and RODNEY sailed to Bermuda. The battleship was then ordered to the Mediterranean to join Force 'H' and arrived at Gibraltar on 24th September. On the 27th a report was received of a strong Italian naval force speeding at 20 knots for a convoy which Force 'H' was escorting through the western end of the Mediterranean. The PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, cruisers and destroyers were detached to close the Italians. By 2:25pm the total enemy forces sighted were 2 battleships, 4 cruisers and 16 destroyers, but very soon this enemy force turned and ran for the shelter of Naples. As the enemy could not be reached before dark, our ships were withdrawn. On 16th October, Force 'H', with RODNEY as Flagship, sailed from Gibraltar to provide support to ARK ROYAL on an aircraft ferrying operation to Malta. On the afternoon of the 17th the aeroplanes were flown off and the Force returned to Gibraltar. On the 30th RODNEY was ordered home, and left Gibraltar on 2nd November, arriving at Aultbea on the 8th. She left the same day for Iceland to be stationed at Hvalfiord to be handy if raiders threatened the convoys.

On 16th February, 1942, RODNEY arrived at Liverpool for refit and completed 5th May. She left Scapa on 3rd June to escort a convoy to Freetown and returned on 26th July. The battleship left again on 2nd August for convoy duty in the South Atlantic, but was detached to form part of a force escorting an important convoy to Malta. (Operation PEDESTAL). RODNEY joined the convoy on 10th August and passed through the Straits of Gibraltar that same day. On the 11th, 12th and 13th the convoy was continously attacked throughout the days and nights by dive bombers, torpedo carrying aircraft, submarines, and even E-boats, and losses were heavy on both sides. RODNEY took her full share in repelling the attacks and, so far as could be seen in the general situation, had quite a number of successes against enemy aircraft, though she, herself, was damaged by a near miss.

RODNEY arrived at Gibraltar on the 14th and then proceeded to Scapa. On 22nd August the ship arrived at Rosyth for docking and completed 15 September. RODNEY left the United Kingdom at the end of October on escort duty to a convoy bound for North Africa. In the North African assaults (Operation TORCH) RODNEY was in support at Oran to protect the anchorage from attacks by heavy enemy forces. The battleship also bombarded shore postions, and her special objective was the silencing and destruction of Fort Santon. On the 8th, 9th and 10th November, this strong and well placed fort was bombarded by the RODNEY until it eventually capitulated on the 10th. RODNEY, as part of Force 'H', continued to cover operations on the North African coast until her return to Gibraltar on 22nd November. From then, until May, 1943, RODNEY was engaged with Force 'H' in the duties of covering the operations which followed the initial phase of the landings. An attempted attack by two human torpedos was made on Force 'H' at Mers-elKebir, Oran, on the night of 23rd March. They were fired on by patrols on the breakwater and by FORMIDABLE berthed alongside. They disappeared and no attack developed.

On 7th May, 1943, RODNEY left Gibraltar for Plymouth, where she was docked for repairs on the 13th and completed 28th. The battleship then rejoined Force 'H' at Gibraltar, arriving on 23rd June. RODNEY, as a unit of Force 'H', took part in the invasion of Sicily (Operation HUSKY) on the 10th July. On 6th July RODNEY sailed for Algiers with the 1st Division of Force 'H' to rendezous south east of Malta in readiness for D-day. Their part in the assault was to cover the landing forces from interference by enemy surface forces, and to carry out bombardments by the battleship if need be. During the first two days Force 'H' cruised in the vicinity of its covering position, and was not called upon for bombardments. RODNEY with the 1st Division, proceeded to Malta on 12th July, where she anchored off the breakwater. (This was the first visit of British battleships to Malta since December, 1940). Force 'H' continued to cruise in the vicinity of the operations and, while several attacks by aircraft and submarines took place on units of the Force, RODNEY was not called upon for action.

On the morning of 31st August, the battleships NELSON and RODNEY and cruiser ORION with destroyer escorts, made a sally into the Straits of Messina and carried out bombardments of the Calabrian coast. The targets were coast defence batteries north east of Reggio, and spotting aircraft reported that these targets were well covered by battleships' bombardments. On 7th September, RODNEY sailed from Malta to provide cover for the assault convoys for the Salerno landing on 9th. On the 8th, when Force 'H' was about 60 miles south west of Capri, attacks were made by enemy torpedo carrying aircraft. None of our ships received damage, though WARSPITE and FORMIDABLE were narrowly missed. The A/A fire of the Force was effective: at least three of the enemy aircraft were seen to crash and three more thought to have been destroyed. On the 9th and 10th, Force 'H', including RODNEY, maintained a patrol of the seas off the West Coast of Italy, but on the evening of the 11th withdrew to Malta. With the surrender of the Italian Fleet, one of the reasons for the existence of Force 'H' ceased and the title lapsed on 18th October, 1943.

RODNEY arrived in the Clyde on 5th November to undergo repairs, and left on 16th December for Scapa. On 28th February, 1944, the ship went into dock at Rosyth and completed repairs on 28th March. RODNEY then took part in the Invasion of France as a unit of the bombarding forces. By the 9th of June the warships were intervening in the fighting on shore, and RODNEY assisted the 3rd British Division to hold an enemy counter-attack. Continuing her support of the Army, RODNEY, on 30th June, bombarded two important enemy concentrations, and on 7th July shelled the Houlgate area, at the mouth of the Dives. On the 8th the ship engaged important targets with great success in support of the Caen offensive, As the fighting on land receeded, there was naturally fewer opportunities for shore bombardments by H.M. Ships, and RODNEY withdrew from the area.

On 12th August, RODNEY bombarded heavy enemy gun batteries on Alderney, Channel Islands, and three of the four guns in the battery were reported damaged. The RODNEY returned to Portland and later proceeded to Scapa, arriving on 14th September. On the 16th the battleship left Scapa to give covering protection to Russian outward and homeward bound convoys, and returned to Scapa on 4th October. On 30th November the flag of C. in C., Home Fleet, was transferred to RODNEY, and the ship remained at Scapa Flow until April, 1945, when she was relieved by RENOWN.

Watch the video: HMS Rodney - Guide 146 (December 2022).

Video, Sitemap-Video, Sitemap-Videos