Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
HMS Duke of York (17)
|Launched:||28 February 1940|
|Propulsion:||110,000 hp to four shafts|
|Range:||6,000 nm at 14 knots|
|Armament:||Ten 14-inch, sixteen 5.25-inch guns|
HMS Duke of York was a King George V-class battleship of the Royal Navy, and the second of the name, the predecessor having been a 4-gun cutter purchased in 1763 and sold in 1766. Launched in 1940, she was too late to see action against the Bismarck, or any other German naval surface raider in the Atlantic battles of World War II. However, Duke of York did play a pivotal role in reducing German naval power.
In late December 1943, Duke of York was part of the Home Fleet, covering convoys between the UK and Soviet Union. German surface vessels based in Norway were a constant threat to these convoys, and the German fleet in being forced the retention of powerful naval forces in British home waters.
One of those vessels was the battlecruiser (or light battleship) Scharnhorst. During the passage of convoy JW51A, Scharnhorst left its base and steamed to engage. The Admiralty were well aware of the sortie, but were worried that the relative position of the two battleships would mean that Duke of York would never be in a position to engage Scharnhorst. Scharnhorst was harassed by British cruisers, and set a course such that Duke of York was able to close the range and intercept, resulting in the battle of North Cape.
In this last naval action by a British battleship, Duke of York, and its accompanying cruisers and destroyers pounded Scharnhorst mercilessly. Duke of York had a great advantage over Scharnhorst; radar fire control. That meant that Duke of York straddled the German ship with its first salvo, and continued to regularly score hits at a rate which would have been considered almost impossible to achieve with optical fire control. With Scharnhorst reduced to a burning wreck, Duke of York retreated to avoid the threat of submarine attack.
After the sinking of Scharnhorst, and the retreat of most of the other German heavy units from Norway, the need to maintain powerful forces in British home waters was diminished. Duke of York thus headed east to join the British Pacific Fleet, then assembling to take part in the invasion of Okinawa. The ship performed a vital anti-aircraft protection role for the aircraft carriers of the fleet and also bombarded Japanese positions on several occasions.
Following the end of the war, Duke of York was quickly decommissioned. Battleships were now, whilst not completely obsolete, certainly rapidly approaching obsolesence. They were also money- and crew-intensive units, two things that Britain of the postwar era could not afford. The ship was scrapped in 1957.
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