Narvik part 3

February 23, 2016 10:12 pm Published by - Leave your thoughts

On to the Royal Navy. The immediate prewar and near-war crash build programmes produced seaworthy DDs, such as the G and H classes (with ships names starting that letter eg Hotspur). They all had 4x 4.7 in single guns and two 4-tube torpedo mounts. The I class also present at Narvik was an experiment in that it had two 5-tube mounts.
The real glamour ships were the Tribals: big, gun heavy ships (4 twin turrets of 4.7in) and only one torpedo mount. As the class name suggests ships included Cossack, Eskimo and Ashanti.
RN ships did have hull number, ‘pennant numbers’ all through the war, and I had always thought it D for destroyer and then a number. Ooh no…. it varied by function and even class, and changes over time. The Tribal class went through three letters from 1936-39 ending up with F eg Cossack is F03. And why would you keep easy and give a G class Destroyer a G pennant? So my H, G and I class have hull numbers starting with H and F, put on with a sharpee pen and writing VERY small.
Anyway enough to drive a rivet counter like me mad. I’m going for a lie down in a dark room and watch ‘The Cruel Sea’ and ‘In Which We Serve’ back to back (though sure they use a L class as the K class HMS Kelly in that….)

The RN colour schemes are another exotic item and you can disappear down many a rabbit hole when you start to investigate. The RN started the war in shades of grey. They move rapidly to a mix of off-white, light grey and dark blue or green, with the lighter colours at the bow and stern, pattern and colours depending on where they were stationed. Seems odd to have a lot of white but the idea was that ends of the ship disappeared in the normal North Atlantic/North Sea murkiness. This hides the true length if a ship to a range finder and hence fools a firer about the range: ‘these ships are SMALL, but those ships are FAR AWAY…’.
Below left to right is mighty Warspite touched up in 1940 Home Fleet two tone grey, a Tribal in ‘Western Approaches – blue’, and an H class in the green version.

The eagle eyed may be asking ‘why are the decks green’? DDs had steel and wooden sections of upper deck, and these would covered in no slip ‘Lino’ in a reddy brown that ended up many different shades depending on how much scrubbing the petty officer was keen on. The other option was cemtex, no not that kind, a sort of paste a bit like zimmerit on late panzers, that came out various shades including Dunlop green, but again could fade to mucky grey, grey blue, or even off brown. Like walking on sandpaper it was said. But neither of these was necessarily on the whole deck, sometimes they stretch a canvas over the deck or used coconut matting around gun mountings.

I actually made the blue/green darker than ‘real’ as otherwise it was all too washed out on a 1/1250 ship. As an interesting aside for you shading obsessed painters, they started to counter shade ships! Areas normally in ‘shade’ like underneath gun barrels or areas under overhanging bridges were painted white or light colours to remove sense of shadow and depth. However a ship arrived in a destroyer flotilla in the Med in full snazzy new official camo and the flotilla Commodore told them to immediately return to two shades of grey because ‘stuff the enemy, I want to bloody well see where you are.’

Finally on Warspite.  As I said in an early post, Belfast gives you a feel for a big warship but my favourite way to remind people of the power of her broadside in the narrow confines of the Fjords is to look at the two massive gun barrels and shells in front of the London Imperial War Museum and note that Warspite carried EIGHT of them…
Game reports to follow …

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This post was written by Philip Andrews

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