HMS Repulseand HMS Renown were the penultimate design of Admiral Jackie Fisher. As such they constituted everything Fisher loved, heavy guns and very high speed, all at the expense of armor protections. After all, Fisherís motto was speed is armor. They also constituted the last true capital ship design that he fostered, as the last designs of the Courageous/Furious, whether called light battlecruisers or large light cruisers, could not be considered true capital ships.
When the pair joined the Grand Fleet in 1916, a few months after the Battle of Jutland, their armor belts of 6-Inches did not bode well for their future. This was the same belt width as the first battlecruiser, HMS Invincible, which had been so recently lost along with two other battlecruisers at Jutland. The pair were fast with Repulse achieving 31.72 knots at 119,025 shp on a 29,900 ton displacement. Although they had received some extra protection before completion, this added 1-Inch to the magazines and nothing elsewhere. Although Repulse completed August 18, 1916 with Renown following on September 1920, the pair were sent back for a much more extensive rearmoring in late 1916. An additional 550 tons of armor was added but the belt remained the same. Repulse received a "flying-off" platform on B turret in September 1917.
As part of the first Battlecruiser Squadron Repulse was supporting Courageous and Glorious in a sweep of the Heligoland Bight on November 17, 1917 to catch German light forces. Some German heavy units were at sea and Repulse engaged the battleships Kaiser and Kaiserin, as well as some light cruisers. Repulse scored one hit on the light cruiser Konigsberg.
After the war the Royal Navy had the time for a more comprehensive refit of Repulse, that would address the still glaring lack of armor. She went in December 1918. The 6-Inch belt was replaced with a new 9-Inch belt with a new 6-Inch strake being placed above this in a formerly unarmored area. She also received wider torpedo bulges. Additionally the under-water torpedo tubes were removed and replaced by four pairs of above water tubes. The refit added 4,300 tons of armor. The Repulse rejoined the fleet in October 1920 and joined the Atlantic Fleet on January 1, 1921, which became the Home Fleet in March 1932 From November 1923 to September 1924 Repulse, along with Hood and some light cruisers formed the Special Service Squadron in a world cruise. Low angle 4-Inch and 3-Inch high angle guns were replaced by 4-Inch high angle guns in 1924-1925.
Another major refit for Repulse started in April 1933. She received even more armor as well as receiving an athwartship catapult, the first to receive this fitting in the Royal Navy. She also received two hangars, one on each side of the aft funnel. Although Repulse could accommodate four aircraft, one in each hangar, one on the catapult and one on deck, she normally carried only two. At first these were pontoon equipped Swordfish but the Walrus was substituted in August 1941. The anti aircraft fit was also significantly increased with four 4-Inch twin mounts replacing two single 4-Inch mounts on the shelter deck. Light AA increases were two eight barreled 2 pdr pom-poms and two Vickers quad .50 cal mounts. Upon completion in January 1936 she was ordered to the Mediterranean, where she served until August 1938.
In 1938 the twin 4-Inch mounts were replaced by single 4-Inch HA mounts in order to create more room in the mission of transporting the King and Queen to Canada. The twin 4-Inch mounts were never refitted. However, Repulse did receive another pair of the quad MG Vickers mounts. This short refit ended in March 1939, when she rejoined the Home Fleet.
When World War Two began she initially enforced the blockade of Germany and searched for raiders. In October 1939 Repulse was ordered to American and West Indies waters to cover Canadian convoys. This duty ended in December 1939. Once back with the Home Fleet she made sweeps of the Atlantic, North Sea and Arctic Oceans looking for German warships and raiders. She also participated in the Norwegian campaign and a raid on Jan Mayen Island in the Arctic. Wartime changes were minimal. The aft triple 4-Inch gun was removed to make room for a third pom-pom mount, six Oerlikon 20mm guns were added with two of them being placed on Y turret and 284 radar was added.
In August 1941 she was ordered to escort a convoy around the Cape of Good Hope. When she reached Durban, South Africa she was ordered to join the East Indies Command on October 3, 1941. On November 28 Repulse joined Force Z with Prince of Wales at Colombo and sailed for Singapore, which was reached on December 2, 1941. When the Japanese made landings on the Malay Peninsula, Force Z sailed from Singapore on December 8, 1941. The British force never made contact with the Japanese and instead was spotted. Japanese medium Nell and Betty bombers armed with torpedoes attacked the force on December 10. They initially concentrated on the Prince of Wales, which received an unlucky torpedo hit in the shaft area. Repulse kept fighting after the Prince of Wales went down but then her turn came after being hit by at least five torpedoes.
The Airfix Repulse
A whole new modeling world opened up with the flotillas of Royal Navy subjects offered by Airfix. I believe that I purchased more Airfix Hood kits than the kit of any other manufacturer, except for being duped numerous times by the Revell new box art scam in which the terrible Missouri came with new box art to fool kids into thinking it was a new kit, or else was packaged as New Jersey, Iowa or Wisconsin, all of which came with their own Rope-A-Dope change the box art scams. Airfix however, was not hit or miss. They produced good kits and never scammed the kids.
A series of memorable kits was released, Hood, Warspite, Iron Duke, carriers, cruisers, destroyers, all of which were very exotic for someone just used to USN topics or the handful of Aurora non-USN topics. By the time I was a teenager my interests had changed. I was far more interested in girls and spending what money I had on them rather than on models. That is why I missed the HMS Repulse kit from Airfix. This kit was released as one of the last in the series and was arguably the best. Instead of spending my money on a state of the art Repulse, I squandered it on going to see Valley of the Dolls or another movie of like ilk with the then current girlfriend.
When I finally regained my sanity and re-entered the world of model warships, the Airfix HMS Repulse was long out of production. The only place you could find the kit was on E-Bay at some ridiculous price. I refused to enter the bidding wars in the hope that it would eventually be released. From time to time comments would be made that it was one of the best kits ever produced by Airfix. All I could do was wistfully wish that I had purchased several when they were readily available. That was the status quo until November 10, 2003 when the following appeared in the News Section on the White Ensign Models web site: "New in from Frog Models is the 1/600 HMS Repulse. This is a re-run of the old Airfix kit, produced under license in Singapore, with a price tag of GBP 16.60."
What was this Frog? Airfix? I remembered the old Frog line, Revenge, Exeter, Cossack, Hotspur, they were all in 1:500 scale if I remember correctly, but I didnít remember a Frog Repulse. Frog kits were a notch or two below the quality of Airfix. The key was the scale, good old 1:600. It had to be the Airfix Repulse, Paydirt! For years I had wanted this kit and there it was, available at WEM, so off went my order. Well, is the kit as good as its reputation? In my opinion, yes it is.
The box showed the Frog and Airfix labels and the box side states that it was manufactured by Hobby Bounties of Great Britain and distributed by TRI-ANG Distributors of Singapore. I donít know the story of how or why Airfix let this kit go elsewhere but it is a puzzle. For a forty-year-old kit, it is still fresh and definitely a cut above earlier Airfix offerings. The model comes on three sprues. Having looked at mostly 1:700 scale kits in the mid size range, it is startling how much difference in size a 1:600 scale kit is over the same ship in 1:700 scale.
The Airfix Repulse measures in at 15 ĺ-Inches and therefore builds into a model of substantial size. The hull is halved down the middle in typical Airfix fashion. There is a lot of good detail on the hull with a prominent torpedo bulges, bilge keels (two on each side) , open hawse holes, forefoot, above water torpedo doors and armor belt. The rest of this sprue includes shipís boats, three foretop pieces, pom-pom bases, some well done carley floats, two upper bridge parts and assorted other parts.
The next sprue has a considerable number of parts. The largest part on this fret is the 01 level deck. Here you will find more Carleys molded into the deck and yes, Airfix aztec steps. Actually these are better than the aztec steps found on the earlier models from Airfix. They have treadways and railing, even though they are in a solid triangle. With the Repulse kit the sides to the superstructure are separate pieces and several are found on this fret including a nicely done hangar face with segmented doors. The three turrets are also well done with the Oerlikon bases on Y turret, with a distinctive tread pattern. The 15-Inch gun barrels are flared at the muzzle but not bored out. The three-piece Walrus is OK but doesnít have a part for the engine. The aft stack is also halved down the middle but does have nice segment bands and steam pipes. Interestingly for a plastic kit, the plastic crane arms come in two halves and have open lattice work. Although still too thick, it is still far better than the far more typical sold cranes in most plastic kits.
The last sprue the main deck and quarter deck, both of which exhibit a lot of fittings. It is especially busy around A barbette. A couple of down notes about these decks are the separation of the planking, which appears to be slightly raised rather than inscribed, and the AA tubs, which are a trifle thick but not excessively so. All the AA guns are on this fret with nice single 4-Inch HA guns. The triple 4-Inch mounts have individual breech blocks. The quad Vickers machine guns and pom-poms are not in the same league and could use replacement and the shielding on the Oerlikons is far too narrow.
In the meantime, if you model the warships of the Royal Navy, you should consider this Frog/Airfix version. For decades this kit has been out of production but now the drought is over. The window has opened. But how long will this window of opportunity remain open. No one can say. My advice, instead of taking your girlfriend to the Return to the Valley of the Dolls, just tell her you have a headache or a hangnail and pick up the Frog/Airfix Repulse. It should work if you have not used that line too many times in the past.