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HMS Hermes rebuild, South Africa 1941-42

Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:48 am
by Fatboy Coxy
Hi all

Hypothetical discussion for you all re what might have been done for HMS Hermes

She arrived at Simonstown, South Africa for a refit, and although I have no details as to what the refit was, I’d say an overhaul of her engines, boilers cleaned out and bottom scrapped would have been highly likely. She made Simonstown on the 19th November 1941, was in the Selbourne Dry dock from 6th December to 23rd January 1942, and completed her sea trials by 31st January.

Given the short time span for refit, and the recognition that she was an old ship that was going to be used on secondary tasks, and resources available are limited, what I propose could have happened was the following. The tripod mast and fire command post are removed, along with all six 5.5-inch guns. This reduces topside weight, accepting any surface threat will realistically be dealt with by her escorts, or own aircraft.

The three 4-inch Mk V guns are removed from the flight deck, and are mounted on extended sponsions, allowing them to use their 80-degree elevation, where the 5.5’s were, along with another three 4-inch guns, shipped in from the UK. They will use the same magazines as the 5.5-inch did, abet with some modification. Four new sponsions, one either side forward of the first 4-inch gun, and another one either side, astern of the rear 4-inch guns are built. These each are given a single 2-pdr Pom-Pom gun.

A single mast replaces the tripod, and a Type 286P radar set, brought out by HMS Repulse, on her way to Singapore, is fitted to provide air and surface search capability. Two 284 AA gunnery control radar sets are also installed to provide separate port and starboard gun control with the HACS.

Moving onto aircraft capabilities, seven outriggers, two before the bridge, three after and two opposite, are installed. Aviation fuel is increased from 8,000 to 13,000 imperial gallons, at the cost of slightly reducing bunker fuel. This would allow a deployment of a maximum of 20 aircraft, 12 Swordfish and 8 Martlet Mk II (with folding wings)

The ship would remain in Indian Ocean waters, and be used for escorting convoys, hunting raiders, as part of a task force, or deployed to the Med. Now onto the questions.

Does Selbourne dry dock have the infrastructure to remove the weighty tripod and control room, and also lift out the 5.5-inch guns, which look like they will be difficult to get out. Is she also capable of installing a new mast and building gun sponsions?

What would be a realistic time frame for all this work to be done?

How does fire control work, can we have to HACS, one for each side?

Can she carry so many outriggers, do the two on the port side, opposite the island, inhibit flying operations.

Re: HMS Hermes rebuild, South Africa 1941-42

Posted: Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:04 pm
by HMSVF
Fatboy Coxy wrote:
Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:48 am
Hi all

Hypothetical discussion for you all re what might have been done for HMS Hermes

She arrived at Simonstown, South Africa for a refit, and although I have no details as to what the refit was, I’d say an overhaul of her engines, boilers cleaned out and bottom scrapped would have been highly likely. She made Simonstown on the 19th November 1941, was in the Selbourne Dry dock from 6th December to 23rd January 1942, and completed her sea trials by 31st January.

Given the short time span for refit, and the recognition that she was an old ship that was going to be used on secondary tasks, and resources available are limited, what I propose could have happened was the following. The tripod mast and fire command post are removed, along with all six 5.5-inch guns. This reduces topside weight, accepting any surface threat will realistically be dealt with by her escorts, or own aircraft.

The three 4-inch Mk V guns are removed from the flight deck, and are mounted on extended sponsions, allowing them to use their 80-degree elevation, where the 5.5’s were, along with another three 4-inch guns, shipped in from the UK. They will use the same magazines as the 5.5-inch did, abet with some modification. Four new sponsions, one either side forward of the first 4-inch gun, and another one either side, astern of the rear 4-inch guns are built. These each are given a single 2-pdr Pom-Pom gun.

A single mast replaces the tripod, and a Type 286P radar set, brought out by HMS Repulse, on her way to Singapore, is fitted to provide air and surface search capability. Two 284 AA gunnery control radar sets are also installed to provide separate port and starboard gun control with the HACS.

Moving onto aircraft capabilities, seven outriggers, two before the bridge, three after and two opposite, are installed. Aviation fuel is increased from 8,000 to 13,000 imperial gallons, at the cost of slightly reducing bunker fuel. This would allow a deployment of a maximum of 20 aircraft, 12 Swordfish and 8 Martlet Mk II (with folding wings)

The ship would remain in Indian Ocean waters, and be used for escorting convoys, hunting raiders, as part of a task force, or deployed to the Med. Now onto the questions.

Does Selbourne dry dock have the infrastructure to remove the weighty tripod and control room, and also lift out the 5.5-inch guns, which look like they will be difficult to get out. Is she also capable of installing a new mast and building gun sponsions?

What would be a realistic time frame for all this work to be done?

How does fire control work, can we have to HACS, one for each side?

Can she carry so many outriggers, do the two on the port side, opposite the island, inhibit flying operations.
I think that she was an old ship, however...


I think that she could have been utilised as a "fighter carrier". Give her 12 Seafires or Hurricanes to provide CAP. She would be a one shot deal but to be honest other than being an expensive escort carrier I don't see what else she could do. From what I can gather her margins were pretty tight, down to what oil she used as it effected her trims any modernisations would be limited IMHO. Whether removing her giant spotting top would have made a a difference? I don't know. She was a very pretty ship, and in some respects experimental. You have a 12'000 ton carrier armed with 5.5 inch guns and a spotting top that should have been on a battleship. You can see the diversity in what a carriers role should be in her design. She was fast enough in the 20's but relatively slow by WW2,but she would have been quick enough to work with Warspite and the "R's. However I imagine she took a fair amount of manpower.

Re: HMS Hermes rebuild, South Africa 1941-42

Posted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 6:26 pm
by Fatboy Coxy
Hi HMSVF, thanks for your post

Problem with the idea of being a "fighter" carrier was the restrictions imposed on her by the size of her lifts and hanger, which couldn't have handled either the Seafires or Hurricanes. The Martlet, with folded wings could be used, but these weren't arriving until late 1941.

However she could be the eyes for the slower battleships, provide a decent anti-submarine screen during daylight hours, and possibly, with my suggestions implemented, a small CAP.

She was rather manpower hungry, a ships crew of something like 665 and an air operating crew of 233 plus aircrew.

Regards
Fatboy Coxy