HMS Royalist (89)
Royalist anchored at Greenock, Scotland in September 1943
|Class and type:||Dido-class light cruiser|
|Builder:||Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company (Greenock, Scotland)|
|Laid down:||21 March 1940|
|Launched:||30 May 1942|
|Commissioned:||10 September 1943|
|Out of service:||Loaned to the Royal New Zealand Navy from 1956 to 1966|
|Reclassified:||In reserve from 1946 to 1956|
|Identification:||Pennant number: 89|
|Fate:||Scrapped, Sold to Nissho Co, Japan, in November 1967. Left Auckland under tow to Osaka on 31 December 1967|
|Out of service:||Returned to Royal Navy control 1967|
|Beam:||50.5 ft (15.4 m)|
|Draught:||14 ft (4.3 m)|
|Installed power:||62,000 shp (46 MW)|
|Speed:||32.25 kn (60 km/h)|
The Royal Navy (RN) intended in late 1943 to use the Bellona class as flagships for escort-carrier and cruiser groups for the projected D-Day and South of France invasions and for operations with the USN and the RN Fleet in the Pacific. Royalist was a class of one from the start – being fitted out, within months of commissioning, with further modifications giving it two extra rooms for additional communications with carriers and Fleet Air Arm aircraft and one of the first AIOs (Action Information Office or Organisation) early Operations Room for plotting and display of the tactical position and associated mechanical computers to multiply the effectiveness of its armament. Intended to enhance the vessel's role as a command ship in Northern Atlantic waters for operations against the Tirpitz and Scharnhorst, the extra equipment took the ship to the limit with minimal comfort and sleeping provision for Petty officers and Ratings. The wartime development of radar and the requirement to equip Royalist as a flagship fitted with AIO increased the crew complement from 484 to 600, adding to the discomfort. HMS Scylla, the other AIO-fitted Dido was one of pair of the only, true anti-aircraft variants of the class, offering more space for flagship roles, with lighter 4 twin 4.5-inch turrets, unique in modern RN cruisers, main armament using ammunition with shell and charge in a single case, of equivalent weight to 5.25 shell, the maximum for manual loading. The other 4.5-inch armed Dido, HMS Charybdis would have been suited to be the second AIO flaghip, but its loss in France lead to the conversion of HMS Royalist. The Dido and the Improved Dido (Bellonas) are developed from the small Arethusa class (1936) Scout Light Cruisers, built as primarily surface fighting fleet, Mediterranean and trade route cruisers and originally designed, 5,500 ton light cruisers not scaled down versions of the RN/RAN Leander/Perth cruisers of the 1930s with the 5.25 gun replacing the Leander/ Arethusa, 60-degree, twin 6-inch guns with more modern turrets with 5.25 rifles, with secondary AA capability.
Royalist was built by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Greenock, with the keel being laid down on 21 March 1940. She was launched on 30 May 1942, and commissioned on 10 September 1943. Her motto, Surtout Loyal, translates to "Loyal above all".
Following her commissioning, Royalist spent several months working up, during which time she underwent repairs for trial defects and for alterations and additions. Amongst these were modifications for service as a carrier flagship. In March 1944 Royalist joined the Home Fleet and served for a short period in the Arctic theatre. In this capacity she took part in Operation Tungsten, the carrier raid against the German battleship Tirpitz whilst the Tirpitz was in Norway. Royalist was then ordered to the Mediterranean to support the landings in the south of France (Operation Dragoon) in August 1944, as part of the escort carrier squadron TF88.1. On 15 September, accompanied by HMS Teazer, she sank the transports KT4 and KT26 off Cape Spatha. She was then stationed in the Aegean Sea until late 1944, when she was ordered to the East Indies. By April 1945 she was with the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron as Flagship, supporting the Rangoon landings (Operation Dracula), and the following month was part of a force that failed to join the Battle of the Malacca Strait where five Royal Navy destroyers successfully intercepted the Japanese cruiser Haguro and the destroyer Kamikaze evacuating troops from Port Blair in the Andaman Islands. For the remainder of the war she covered the carrier raids against targets in the East Indies and Sumatra.
Scottish author Alistair MacLean served on Royalist during the Second World War, and used his experiences as background for his acclaimed first novel HMS Ulysses as well as for some of his subsequent works.
Royalist was withdrawn from the East Indies after the conclusion of hostilities, and returned home to be mothballed and dehumidified in 1946. The reconstruction of Royalist from deep preservation, of a tight war emergency cruiser, was similar to the, following, expensive and, controversial, rebuild of its sister, HMS Diadem in an 18-month refit tropicalised, with new bridge, lattice mast and secondary armament, as Babur for Pakistan, heavily persuaded by the First Lord to have her. Refit of Diadem allowed the RN dockyard to maintain skills to refit the ADR Didos & Bellonas; Euralyus, Cleopatra and Bellona and recommission Diadem in the RN in a war emergency. A year later after the Suez crisis Defence Minister minister, Duncan Sandys radical review, saw HMS Vanguard downgraded to, reserve HQ ship displacing, HMS Cleopatra and HMS Dido, as maintained reserve HQ ships at Portsomouth and in 1957, the last of the class were decommissioned. However disposal of the last RN Dido class and HMS Bellona, was disputed by retired Sea Lords in the, post Sandy's HL/HC, estimates debates. Construction of the last gun destroyers for Venezuela and Chile in 1952-1960, allowed the option they would be used by the RN if required  In 1954 Royalist began a major reconstruction or "facelift", which was completed in April 1956. The modernisation of Royalist was announced, as part of a 4/5 ship programme in the massive, Korean War, Labour December 1951 estimates: HMS Phoebe, HMS Sirius (to start in April 1954),and, more comprehensive reconstuctions with new engines and more comprehensive anti nuclear washdown and insulation of HMS Diadem (in June 1955), and finally, HMS Cleopatra (in November 1955). However the new PM, Churchill, favored the RAF and the following 1952 Navy estimates were slashed. HMS Phoebe, deteriorated when Malta's RN dock proved too short to fit, new drive shafts to the propellers, sent from the Uk in a major repair and refit after colliding with HMS Gambia in October 1950. HMS Cleopatra received an austerity refit with 14(3X2, 8X1) RN Bofors to replacing 3 USN Quad Bofors, also fitted to HMS Phoebe in 1945. The forward, quad Bofors, Mk 5 Bofors twin or quad pom pom an effective CWIS against over the bow air attack, in the raised Q position, as can be seen in the 1953 film Sailor of the King which stars Cleopatra, rebuilt in the US (1943–44) and like HMS Euralyus had a more compact ADR rather than AIO fitted in 1945 and useful post war in Med and South Atlantic.
The ship was handed over to the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) on 9 July 1956. When Captain Peter Phipps went to take command of Royalist in 1955, New Zealand diplomat Frank Corner was shocked to find that Phipps agreed that the ship was a white elephant, completely unsuitable for use by the RNZN in the Pacific. Phipps claimed the cruiser's range was limited and it could not even reach Panama without refueling. However Captain Phipps also stated when the cruiser reached Auckland, that it was updated, as a most modern warship, with the capability to take "three targets simultaneously, and shoot down air targets with reasonable frequency often on the first salvo" while the Type 12 frigates approved by Phipps had less endurance, meaning it would have been more logical to order longer range diesel versions of the Type 12, i.e. the Type 41. The actual diesel variant of the Type 12, the Type 11 was cancelled by the RN but the T41/T61 had the same T12 hull, 4.5 turrets and radar fit. The improved Type 12 Leander-class frigates ordered by the RNZN essentially was also essentially a picket ship for RN aircraft carriers.
The New Zealand Navy Board, of which three of its members were RN officers, unsurprisingly, argued the RN view that the RNZN needed a cruiser in the South Pacific and to support the RAN/RN. The cruiser was still a RN cruiser on loan rather than New Zealand's reflected the fact the UK did not regard it as an independent force, cf the RAN and RCN. Phipps demanded some improvements, while in command of HMS Bellona as an accommodation ship, and refused to accept the cruiser until three weeks later than intended by the RN Dockyard until alterations were made to the habitability of the cruiser. These notably included more showers, and some rectification of ventilation problems. With extra electronic equipment, the cruiser had no weight margin, and the priority of being ready for possible action in the Mediterranean meant the dockyard would not install the pre-wetting, ABC spraydown equipment, specifically requested by the RNZN in 1955. The dockyard responded that installing spraydown to wash nuclear fallout was possible, providing a wall size copy of the plan of the pre-wetting system under installation in HMS Sheffield, and suggested the New Zealand dockyard could do the job. Royalist had no weight margin with extra communications systems and an AIO (Action Information Office) fitted late 1943. The Dido cruiser, HMS Scylla was also fitted with AIO as Admiral Vian, RN D Day command ship, but with only four twin 4.5-inch turrets had more internal space and suffered such severe damage, 18 days after the invasion, it never recommissioned, although scheduled post war for reconstruction as a prototype ship, with two twin Mk 6 Twin 3/ 70 mounts and the new 992 radar, but massive defence cuts, scrapped its scheduled 1948-51 restoration, AIO fitted cruisers usually late Colony and Minotaurs doubled the effectiveness of armament in RN postwar assessment, but less space for senior ratings and petty office, than RNZN's earlier Dido cruisers.
The concern of New Zealand Naval servicemen and Phipps was on living conditions, recruitment, and an affordable schedule of new frigates. New Zealand Department of External Affairs viewed the British Treasury as simply opposing the refit of an obsolescent cruiser. "Then Whitehall thought of New Zealand!" However, as with Bellona and Black Prince in 1946 transferring Royalist was a means of supplementing Australian defence by the backdoor. In 1954 the RAN stopped, its last cruisers HMAS Hobart & HMAS Australia. Leaving it with only light 4.5 gun Daring destroyers, 3 years from commissioning and a new light anti submarine carrier, HMAS Melbourne which Sea Venom fighters were RN AD/AW platforms, the Royalist provided the only escort for Melbourne and Sydney and its surface 82lb shells more deterrence to Sverdlov or raiders than light RAN 4.7 or 4.4 Battle guns and HMS Newcastle, Birmingham and Newfoundland (all 1950-52) were with the Royalist the only really reconstructed WW2 cruisers, and its 5.25 guns effective in the AA and DP role with new modern two channel medium range fire control and alone among the RN cruisers effective radar processing and communications systems for RN/ RAN Fleet air arm  with Australian PM Robert Menzies, dubious that RN policy in the age of nuclear deterrence, was simply, "minor fleet to the Far East in peacetime only", and no real counter to, piecemeal communist erosion in SE Asia. The Radical UK Defence Review released 10/7/1953 in the wake of the new hydrogen bomb which lessened the likelihood of a lengthy broken backed war, cut the cruiser modernisation programme and the enormous cost and difficulty of both medium range missile and AA gun development for both the UK and US meant Britain had decided to concentrate exclusively on Seaslug missiles and abandon new AA gun development and redevelopment of the 5.25 and new 5 inch guns in 1955. First Lord Mountbatten disagreed, publicly defending Royalist as the most modern British cruiser in Auckland when it arrived in 1956 and regarded Phipps as inexperienced and unsuitable. Mountbatten viewed New Zealand's Cabinet and officials as out of touch with the Cold War need to maintain ready, broad based naval and defense capabilities and frequently visited New Zealand to make appeals.
Royalist had identical fire control and radars fitted to frigates being commissioned in 1956–58, in doubled up form, in a cruiser-size hull with room for processing electronic data and communications and large enough for speed and seakeeping in the Pacific and considerable surface and anti air defense. Its close in air defense of 40-mm CIWS was sharper than other RN warships, while using standard RN 40-mm ammunition. Britain could not afford escorts larger than destroyers in addition to its carrier and frigate force but the 5.25-inch DP guns, fitted to Vanguard, Diadem and the Gibraltar base as well as Royalist, were more modern & accurate than the obsolete twin 4 inch on all other 1950s RN cruisers. Royalist modernization for AA/AW and particularly AD support of RN carrier fighters and strike aircraft was ideal for Musketeer and likely future operations of the RN carriers focused on the Indian Ocean and Singapore. The looming Suez crisis forced the RN to reactivate three unmodernised reserve cruisers – poor ships compared with Royalist – HMS Glasgow, HMS Jamaica and HMS Superb in late 1955. The Type 12 frigates that Phipps wanted were ordered for the RNZN early in 1957, but proved more short-ranged. Royalist could escort Pacific convoys across the whole distance at a speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph), compared with the Type 12s' ability to cover only the leg from Suva to Honolulu at its most economical speed. It was arguable the traditional cruiser role in trade defense against Russian cruisers and raiders was still relevant, and would be the Royal Navy's first priority, along with providing effective airwarning and aircraft direction for the RAN aircraft carriers, rather than defending against the questionable submarine threat.
After refitting, Royalist was re-equipped with new equipment for her role as an AA and AD escort ship for carriers, retaining 5.25-inch, as more powerful high level AA and surface weapons rather than the usual 4-inch (or 4.5-inch) guns. However RN and British Defence documents released under the 30-year rule, show the refit was to prepare it for all-out hot wars and high-level gun engagement of shadowers, whereas the Crown Colony class cruisers and Belfast were modernised for colonial visits and shore bombardment. The Royalist complement was 600 versus the 550 of the Bellona, and with extra equipment the larger crew had to be accommodated in less space. This was because the all the cruiser's turrets were manned where the Crown Colony and Town class cruisers in the 1950s usually operated with a crew of only 650 and with gun crews for only one of their three main turrets.
In transferring Royalist to New Zealand, the Royal Navy assumed the RNZN as an extension of the RN and, the junior New Zealand service and government following British command. Around 25% of the officers on Royalist were RN officers on loan or exchange, as were many of the specialist ratings. The RNZN officers on the cruiser were usually of junior experience and had lengthy training with the RN in the UK. Even on the cruiser's final deployment in 1965 on Confrontation patrols in southeast Asia, many RN and RAN officers occupied higher-ranking officer positions on board.
After working up in UK waters, Royalist was operational with the British fleet in the Mediterranean as the fleet awaited the possibility of action against Egyptian air force during the Suez crisis. Royalist was intended to be mainly a radar picket and aircraft direction ship for the RAF Canberra and RN carrier-based Seahawk and Sea Venom aircraft. Royalist had the standard RN long range air warning Type 960 radar carried by other British cruisers and carriers in the area, but Royalist was somewhat better equipped for aircraft direction than its other counterparts in the area. After hostilities with Egypt commenced, the resulting international outrage caused Prime Minister Sidney Holland to reverse his support for the British by calling for Captain Peter Phipps to withdraw from operations against Egypt. At that point the only other immediately available replacement, cruiser was, HMS Jamaica, a surface fighting unit without modern AA systems or Royalist's, equipment to process airwarning radar data and 'multiple communication channels' with fleet air arm aircraft. HMNZS Royalist continued for an indeterminate time as the primary coastal AD ship for the RN/RAF, for possibly 24hrs, till HMS Ceylon transferred from GFS duty, off Port Said and the risk from Egypt's jet Meteors, Migs and Badger bombers was suppressed. After about a day, HMNZS Royalist also withdrew from a scheduled bombardment mission in support of a RN destroyer squadron, moved further offshore, away from the main body of the RN fleet (changing identity to the undefined, RNZN cruiser Black Swan according to some British published accounts) continuing to assist the RN fleet, in its primary passive soft AW/AD/C3 role. Holland officially ordered a withdrawal from operations, but had allowed the cruiser to stay with the Operation Musketeer fleet, as, "there was insufficient time for a decision not to withdraw", an apparent non-decision. Much of the Soviet-supplied Tupolev Tu-16 and MiGs of the Egyptian Air Force remained a threat to the RN fleet, making the presence of Royalist crucial to fleet defence. The reality of the pro Musketter, sentiments of the intensively worked up RNZN/RN crew (told against other options) in which most of the key officer and senior ratting positions were other than Phipps were, RN officers and many of the RNZN officers also essentially, professional RN career officers on the return voyage to New Zealand via South Africa Captain Phipps told the crew they deserved the recognition given to RN personnel for their involvement in the incident. In the 2000s the New Zealand Labour Government and the RNZN awarded these personnel battle honours for war service in the Mediterranean. The cruiser's log for the crucial days of the Suez War was destroyed at the time, meaning the full account of her Suez service will never be known.
In early 1957, Royalist was involved in exercises with the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. The cruiser made two shore bombardment missions in 1957-8 during the Malayan Emergency against suspected terrorist areas in SE Johore, firing about 240 5.25 rounds. In AA exercises with the British Far East Fleet in 1956–57, Royalist outperformed the RN Town-class cruisers, shooting down five jet Meteor unmanned targets and many towed targets immediately on opening fire.
In 1962, the still joint-crewed RNZN/RAN/RN Royalist suffered serious damage proceeding at high speed in rough sea conditions through the Tasman to get to a six test series between the Wallabies and All Blacks at Eden Park. The cruiser operated with the British Far East Fleet, in three tours of duty in 1963, 1964 & 1965, during the Indonesian Confrontation the crews being belatedly awarded General Service Medals for the 1963-1964 tours and Operational Service Medals for active service in combat zones in 1956, 1957–1958 and 1965, finally recognised by the New Zealand government in 2000. From mid 1963, reports by the captain of Royalist note that one of the two Mk 6/275 HALADCTs are often unserviceable, as is often one or two STAAGs, while the ships hull and lower structure is marginal, requiring constant work and frequent painting requiring an extra Asian workforce due to the construction of the cruiser out of "low quality wartime steel', and the ship's below deck humidity and constant temperature at a minimum of 85 °F (29 °C). The ships modernisation provided only for a lifespan of six years so these conditions were expected. Effective modernisation of the ship after acquisition from the Royal Navy only amounted to several ECM/ESM updates.
By May 1964 the Indonesian Confrontation had escalated with Indonesian forces conducting cross border raids in Kalmintan and landings in Borneo. The British Minister of Defence Peter Thornycroft and CDS Mountbatten requested the RN use in carriers and major units to conduct provocative passages, to encourage revolt against Sukarno and his Generals. After rest and recreation in Singapore the Captains briefing from the Commander of RN Far East Strategic Forces, the Royalist took on 580 tons of fuel oil on 14 July 1964 and the following morning from 8.15 to 11.15 took ammunition on from lighters alongside. It left Singapore in the afternoon Royalist, returning to Auckland from Singapore via the Cairns races in Queensland, transited the Carmat Straits on 15 July, Sapud on 16 July and then ran along the coast of Java thru the night to arrive off Bail at sunrise about 6.00am and thru the Lombok Strait on 17 July 1964 on what was described as 'routine passage' in the highly confidential flash to Canberra. The two transits of the straights made the task group led by HMS Victorious, a month apart that followed were both also described as 'routine passage only the second was even notified with a note from the British embassy, RN attache to the Indonesian Navy, which was a concession the track would be through Lombok not Djakarta and the major Indonesian military bases. During the transit of the straights the guns were fully manned with the crews closed up,if the cruiser had been buzzed by Indonesia Migs or patrol craft, the Captain was instructed to take "precautionary measures" and not train or elevate the guns or test fire them again during the deployment, a "diplomatic artifact" given a scenario of undetectable possible threat of surprise long range air launched kangaroo cruise missile attack from Indonesia Badger bombers and full ABC protection at X Ray state 9 as were the crew of the escorting destroyers, in the transit through Lombok, two months later of the RN aircraft carrier HMS Victorious on 19 September 1964 in the company of two C Destroyers and the second RN group of the guided missile destroyer HMS Hampshire, which replaced HMS Lion and the Type 12 frigates HMS Dido and HMS Berwick. The Victorious assertion of the right of innocent passage by a carrier which mounted Blackburn Buccaneer and de Havilland Sea Vixen aircraft painted in grey anti flash, and believed to be nuclear armed was viewed as one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War, with mass panic in Java, but proved a brave and effective move, in asserting rights for naval passage and Malaysian independence.
There was considerable doubt among RNZN staff whether Royalist, which had not had a major refit since 1956, could deploy again in 1965. It managed to deploy again after a seven-week, 24/7 refit in the Devonport dockyard and work up in the Hauraki Gulf, where it managed 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph) at half power. The cruiser was still visually impressive, and provided the crucial appearance of capability and ability to operate. It was judged the fire control systems needed either a year's refit or $140,000 of new parts, and one of two STAAG CIWS mounts was refitted with the rather worn spare, after rust removal, the two UA3 ESM systems were playing up. It was hoped the worn steam turbines could last 15 months to allow a final 1966 visit to all the NZ ports if "hope prevailed over fear".
Against most RNZN staff advice it was decided not to inform the Commander of the British Far East Fleet, of the situation as "Commander Far East has enough trouble fitting Royalist in his operational plans now with limitations on his main capability in the Confrontation War." The Royal Navy was desperately overstretched during the confrontation, and keeping one carrier fully operational in the theatre at all times was difficult. Deterring Jakarta with the threat of potential aerial nuclear strike meant keeping only one of the high-maintenance Tiger class cruisers, intended for the role, with the Far East Fleet; HMS Lion was withdrawn after a boiler explosion on anti infiltration patrol and HMS Blake was put into reserve from December 1963 due to crew shortages in the RN. HMS Royalist was still perceived as useful and needed in Plymouth and Singapore, even if it could not run at the 25 knots plus speed a carrier group needed to launch Vixens and Scimitar as an escort for amphibious carriers like HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark and it was decided Royalist would proceed to Pearl Harbor for a second workup, rather than a longer refit in the Devonport dockyard, before deploying to Hong Kong and Singapore in support of RN forces. Royalist conducted anti-infiltration patrols, boarding boats, deployed shore patrols, participated in Exercise Guardrail as the simulated "enemy Sverdlov cruiser" and provided extra men, potential heavy GFS and AD support for HMS Bulwark's on a vulnerable deployment, transferring a new helicopter squadron to Borneo. For the 1965 Far East tour, the crew were awarded Operational Service Medals (OPSM). This reflects the general build up in tension with Indonesia, the probable use of weapons by landing parties, the higher grade of main munition preparation and the political support for the mission, but the earlier deployments of Royalist when its system were more effective were much more important in the tactical and even strategic sense.
The 1965 deployment was somewhat marred by the refusal of the New Zealand Ministry of External Affairs or the New Zealand and British ambassadors to allow Royalist to dock with Royal Navy warships in the Tokyo or Yokohama area. According to the Royal Navy attache in Tokyo, the RNZN sailors "could not afford the one pound per minute price in the Ginza nightclubs and bars." The captain of Royalist, J.P. Vallant replied to the Deputy Secretary of Defence in Wellington, "find it quaint that the flagship of the New Zealand navy is persona non grata in the Tokyo Bay area." Royalist was confined to the Japanese provincial ports when New Zealand diplomats persuaded the local police chiefs that their request for a curfew was unwise and it was essential to keep bars open 24 hours. After further shore leave in Bangkok, Singapore, and Subic Bay, Royalist returned to NZ, after a valiant repair of a milking boiler and turbine en route. It was unable to make its final scheduled 1966 visit for Waitangi Day and tour of the New Zealand ports, and was effectively paid off five months early.
Decommissioning and fate
Royalist was paid off on 4 June 1966. After eleven years in the RNZN, Royalist reverted to Royal Navy control in 1967. She was sold for scrap to the Nissho Co, Japan, in November 1967 and was towed from Auckland to Osaka on 31 December 1967.
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- Media related to HMS Royalist (ship, 1942) at Wikimedia Commons