HMS Malaya

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HMS Malaya was a Queen Elizabeth class battleship that fought at the battle of Jutland during the First World War and in the Mediterranean during the Second World War. She was commissioned into the 5th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet in February 1916. At Jutland that squadron was part of Beatty’s battlecruiser squadron. As Beatty rushed south to catch the Germans in the first stage of the battle, the battleships fell behind, and so were absent when the British and German battlecruisers clashed. They arrived after the first of Beatty’s battlecruisers had been destroyed, and were unable to prevent the loss of a second, but probably saved the rest of his squadron from a further mauling. She was at the rear of the line when the squadron turned north after the High Seas Fleet arrived on the scene, and was subjected to half an hour of intense fire. She was hit by seven large shells, two below the waterline, causing her to list, and one close to the side that knocked out many of her 6in guns. She suffered the most casualties of any British battleship at Jutland – 63 dead and 33 wounded.

Between the wars she was modernised twice. In 1927-29 she was given anti-torpedo bulges and her two funnels were channelled into one. She was the second member of the Queen Elizabeth class to begin her second modernisation, at Devonport between October 1934 and December 1936. This time her deck armour was improved, her anti-aircraft guns increased in number to eight 4in quick firing Mk XVI guns and sixteen 2pdr pompoms (in two eight gun mountings). She was equipped with hangers for two aircraft, and a cross-deck catapult. This was removed in late 1942, by which time the escort carrier had begun to eliminate the need for battleships to carry their own aircraft.

In 1922 the Malaya carried the last sultan of Turkey, Mohammed VI, from Istanbul into exile.

Second World War

At the start of the war, HMS Malaya formed part of a hunting group in the Gulf of Aden, searching for German surface raiders. She then joined the Mediterranean fleet under Admiral Andrew Cunningham, taking part in the battle off Calabria of June 1940 and in the preliminary operations that ended with the Swordfish attack on Taranto. During this period she suffered from problems with the condensers in her boilers that reduced her maximum speed but that couldn’t be repaired in the eastern Mediterranean.

After the battle of Taranto, there was no longer a need for such a large battleship force in the eastern Mediterranean, and so on 21 December 1940 HMS Malaya was assigned to Force H, based at Gibraltar. She had three main jobs with Force H (listed in an August 1941 memo from the First Sea Lord to Churchill) – 1: to escort important troop convoys; 2: to give cover to convoys east of 26 degrees west in an emergency; 3: to back up Force H for operations in the western Mediterranean when necessary.

In this role she took part in a number of memorable operations. On 9 February 1941 (with Renown and Sheffield) she took part in a half hour bombardment of the port of Genoa. In March she was escorting a convoy from Freetown, which on 8 March was threatened by the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, preventing the German ships from attacking. In May she provided part of the escort for a “Tiger” convoy, carrying tanks through the Mediterranean to Egypt. In June 1942 she accompanied Operation Harpoon, one of the many important Malta convoys.

Specifications as built

Displacement (loaded)

31,500t (design)
33,530t (as built)

Top Speed

23kts

Range

4,500 nautical miles at 10kts

Armour – deck

3in

 - belt

13in-6in

 - bulkheads

6in-4in

 - barbettes

10in-4in

 - turret faces

13in

 - conning tower

11in

Length

645ft 9in

Armaments

Eight 15in Mk I guns
Fourteen 6in Mk XII guns
Two 3in Mk I AA guns
Four 3pdr saluting guns
Four 21in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement

925-951

Launched

18 March 1914

Completed

February 1916

Captain

Captain Boyle

Sold for break up

1948

 

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 November 2007), HMS Malaya , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Malaya.html

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