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HMS Malaya- First of Her Name

Background & History

HMS Malaya was a Queen Elizabeth class Battleship ordered before the outbreak of the first World War. Laid down in October 1913 and eventually commissioned in February 1916 she would be given Pennant Number 01. The Queen Elizabeth class Battleships at the time of their construction were designed to operate as lead ships of the line, requiring good speed and the best available firepower in an attempt to defeat whatever was thrown against them. HMS Malaya in particular was paid for by the Federated Malay States and was the final Queen Elizabeth class Battleship to be built. Standard Admiralty practise of the time held the view that the average lifespan of a battleship was about twenty years, meaning the QE class was due for replacement around the middle of the 1930’s. With no option to build replacements due treaties in place at the time they would require major surgery to remain as the original front line designed units. Malaya would receive a refit but not on the same scale as those of her sisters, Barham aside.

Her first engagement following commission was the Battle of Jutland in which she was hit a total of 8 times with over a 120 dead or wounded suffering major damage. Between the wars there was a great deal of debate over the need to deal with longer enemy gun ranges. A conclusion reached that the 15 inch armed balleships would all require extra armour protection, wether or not all the Queen Elizabeths were worth doing was another question entirely. Malaya would receive extra deck armour, a moderate refit and no alterations to the main battery, only three of these ships would be modernised. Essentially completed by 1938 this meant that Malaya would retain her inter-war appearance for the remainder of her wartime career.

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Unfortunately her service life following was not particularly eventful in comparison to some, coming close to an engagement with the German Battleships Scharnhort and Gneisenau before being assigned to further convoy escort missions. Being hit by a torpedo from U-106 in March 1941 she would eventually be placed into reserve at the end of 1943. She would then be used as a target ship for the development of the bouncing bomb prototypes before a brief re-activation as a reserve bombardment ship for the D-Day Landings. Finally withdrawn from service at the end of 1944 Malaya would be sold for scrap in April 1948.

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Armour & Armament

The Queen Elizabeth class were designed to lead the line when constructed however by the outbreak of the Second World War this was not neccesarily the case. Displacing 27,940 tons ‘standard’ and 33,260 at ‘deep load’ she had a 6-13 inch (330mm) thick belt covering her vitals. Turret armour was also relatively good at between 11-13 inches, supported by 4-10 inches covering the barbettes. Her deck armour was improved during the interwar period to feature multiple decks between 1-3 inches in thickness.

The Queen Elizabeth class were the first ships to be armed with 4×2 15 inch (381mm) guns in two superfiring pairs either side of the superstructure, firing a 875kg projectile at a muzzle velocity of 750 m/s for a maximum range of just over 22,000m. Gun elevation was limited to 20 degrees which resulted in a shorter maximum range, Malaya would never receive the upgrade to 30 degrees and subsequent increased range. The seconday battery comprised of 14x 45-calibre BL 6-inch (152 mm) Mk XII guns, 6 aside mounted in case-mates on the upper deck with the last pair closer to ‘Y’ turret. The anti air battery was rounded off with 4x 8 barrelled 2-pdr pom poms and 4x quad machine guns. Complement varied from 950 to over 1200 depending on the role assigned at the time

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Specifications

Length – 643 ft 9 in

Beam – 90 ft 7 in

Draught – 33 ft

Displacement – 27,940 tons ‘standard’ and 33,260 at ‘deep load’

Speed – 2x Brown-Curtis turbines for approx 24 kts with a range of 5,750 at 12 kts

Main Belt – 6-13 inch (330mm)

Deck Belt – 1-3 inches multiple layers

Armament – 8x (BL) 15-inch (381 mm) Mk I (4×2)

Secondary Battery – 12x (BL) 6-inch Mk XII (12×1)

Anti Air Battery – 8x 4-inch AA Mk XIX Mountings 4×2), 16x 2-pdr (2×8) & 16 0.5-inch AA (4×4)

Torpedoes – 4x 21-inch torpedo tubes (2×2)

Aircraft – 2 x Supermairine Walrus Floatplanes

 

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