HMS Malaya

HMS Malaya was a Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth-class battleship ordered in 1913 and commissioned in 1916. Shortly after commissioning she fought in the Battle of Jutland as part of the Grand Fleet. Other than that battle, and the inconclusive Action of 19 August, her service during the First World War mostly consisted of routine patrols and training in the North Sea.

United Kingdom
Name: HMS Malaya
Namesake: Federated Malay States
Ordered: 1913
Builder: Armstrong Whitworth
Cost: £2,945,709
Laid down: 20 October 1913
Launched: 18 March 1915
Commissioned: 1 February 1916
Decommissioned: 1 December 1944
Struck: 12 April 1948
Identification: Pennant number: 01
Fate: Sold for scrapping, 20 February 1948
General characteristics (as built)
Class and type: Queen Elizabeth-class battleship
  • 32,590 long tons (33,110 t)
  • 33,260 long tons (33,790 t) (Deep load)
Length: 643 ft 9 in (196.2 m)
Beam: 90 ft 7 in (27.6 m)
Draught: 33 ft (10.1 m)
Installed power:
Speed: 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Range: 5,000 nmi (9,260 km; 5,750 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement: 1,217 (1919)

Design and description

The Queen Elizabeth-class ships were designed to form a fast squadron for the fleet that was intended to operate against the leading ships of the opposing battleline. This required maximum offensive power and a speed several knots faster than any other battleship to allow them to defeat any type of ship.[1][2]

Malaya had a length overall of 643 feet 9 inches (196.2 m), a beam of 90 feet 7 inches (27.6 m) and a deep draught of 33 feet (10.1 m). She had a normal displacement of 32,590 long tons (33,110 t) and displaced 33,260 long tons (33,794 t) at deep load. She was powered by two sets of Brown-Curtis steam turbines, each driving two shafts, using steam from 24 Yarrow boilers. The turbines were rated at 75,000 shp (56,000 kW) and intended to reach a maximum speed of 24 knots (44.4 km/h; 27.6 mph). Malaya had a range of 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km; 5,754 mi) at a cruising speed of 12 knots (22.2 km/h; 13.8 mph). Her crew numbered 1,217 officers and ratings in 1919.[3]

The Queen Elizabeth class was equipped with eight breech-loading (BL) 15-inch (381 mm) Mk I guns in four twin gun turrets, in two superfiring pairs fore and aft of the superstructure, designated 'A', 'B', 'X', and 'Y' from front to rear. Twelve of the fourteen BL 6-inch (152 mm) Mk XII guns were mounted in casemates along the broadside of the vessel amidships; the remaining pair were mounted on the forecastle deck near the aft funnel and were protected by gun shields. Their anti-aircraft (AA) armament consisted of two quick-firing (QF) 3-inch (76 mm) 20 cwt Mk I[Note 1] guns. The ships were fitted with four submerged 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes, two on each broadside.[4]

Malaya was completed with two fire-control directors fitted with 15-foot (4.6 m) rangefinders. One was mounted above the conning tower, protected by an armoured hood, and the other was in the spotting top above the tripod foremast. Each turret was also fitted with a 15-foot rangefinder. The main armament could be controlled by 'B' turret as well. The secondary armament was primarily controlled by directors mounted on each side of the compass platform on the foremast once they were fitted in April 1917.[5]

The waterline belt of the Queen Elizabeth class consisted of Krupp cemented armour (KC) that was 13 inches (330 mm) thick over the ships' vitals. The gun turrets were protected by 11 to 13 inches (279 to 330 mm) of KC armour and were supported by barbettes 7–10 inches (178–254 mm) thick. The ships had multiple armoured decks that ranged from 1 to 3 inches (25 to 76 mm) in thickness. The main conning tower was protected by 13 inches of armour. After the Battle of Jutland, 1 inch of high-tensile steel was added to the main deck over the magazines and additional anti-flash equipment was added in the magazines.[6]

Construction and career

First World War

Malaya was built by Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth and Company at High Walker and launched in March 1915. She was named in honour of the Federated Malay States in British Malaya, whose government paid for her construction. She served in Rear-Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas's 5th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet. She took part in the Battle of Jutland, on 31 May 1916,[7] where she was hit eight times and took major damage and heavy crew casualties. A total of 65 men died, in the battle or later of their injuries. Among the wounded was Able Seaman Willie Vicarage, notable as one of the first men to receive facial reconstruction using plastic surgery and the first to receive radical reconstruction via the "tubed pedicule" technique pioneered by Sir Harold Gillies.[8] Uniquely among the ships at the battle, HMS Malaya flew the red-white-black-yellow ensign of the Federated Malay States.

Between the wars

On 17 November 1922 Malaya carried the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed VI, from Istanbul into exile on Malta (and later San Remo). In August–September 1938 she served in the port of Haifa during the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine.[9]

Unlike her sisters Queen Elizabeth, Warspite and Valiant, Malaya did not undergo a comprehensive reconstruction between the wars. She did receive a Le Cheminant deck watch from the Royal Observatory on 5 April 1933.[10]

Second World War

Malaya served in the Mediterranean in 1940, escorting convoys and operating against the Italian fleet. She shelled Genoa in February 1941 as part of Operation Grog but due to a crew error, fired a 15-inch armour-piercing shell into the south-east corner of the Cathedral nave. The fuse failed to detonate.[11]

On 7 March 1941, while escorting convoy SL 67, Malaya encountered the German capital ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. By her presence she forced them to withdraw rather than risk damage in an attack.[12]

Later that month Malaya was escorting convoy SL 68. On the evening of 20 March 1941, about 250 miles west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, Malaya was hit by a torpedo from U-106. Damaged on the port side, and with a 7 degree list due to flooding, Malaya was forced to leave the convoy and make for port, escorted by the corvette Crocus. She reached Trinidad safely on 29 March.[13] After temporary repairs were made, she continued to the New York Navy Yard, where she was docked for four months.

On 9 July, under the command of Captain Cuthbert Coppinger, the battleship left New York on trials and steamed to Halifax, Nova Scotia to provide protection for an urgent fast convoy. No ships were lost, and Malaya arrived in Rosyth on 28 July. Thereafter she escorted convoys from the United Kingdom to Malta and Cape Town until summer 1943.

Malaya was placed in reserve at the end of 1943. During this time her entire secondary 6-inch armament was offloaded and her anti-aircraft armament was enhanced. Between 15 and 17 May 1944, Malaya was used in Loch Striven as a target ship for inert Highball bouncing bomb prototypes, one of which punched a hole in the ship's side.[14] She was reactivated just before the Normandy landings to act as a reserve bombardment battleship.


Malaya was finally withdrawn from all service at the end of 1944 and became an accommodation ship for a torpedo school.[15] Sold on 20 February 1948 to Metal Industries, she arrived at Faslane on 12 April 1948 for scrapping. The first watch bell was presented to the Perak (Malaysia) Council after a refit and was hung in the Council Chamber. The furthermost bell can be seen in the East India Club, and the second watch bell was handed to the Victoria Institution on 12 September 1947, before being handed over to the Royal Malaysian Navy in 2007.[16]


  1. "Cwt" is the abbreviation for hundredweight, 20 cwt referring to the weight of the gun.


  1. Burt 1986, p. 251
  2. Parkes, pp. 560–61
  3. Burt 1986, pp. 255, 257–58, 261
  4. Burt 1986, pp. 252–53, 256–57
  5. Raven & Roberts, p. 20–21, 30
  6. Raven & Roberts, pp. 21, 26
  7. "21 June 1916 – Paul to Ted". 1 June 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  8. Fisher, David (2009). "Plastic Fantastic". New Zealand Listener. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  9. The Royal Navy and the Palestine Patrol By Ninian Stewart. Routledge. 2002. ISBN 9780714652108. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  10. Ledger of Receipts and Issues of Chronometers. Held by the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, UK. Le Cheminant Deck Watch No. 217241
  11. "Obituary:Commander Henry Hatfield". Daily Telegraph. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  12. "Scharnhorst – The History – Operation "Berlin"". Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  13. HMS Malaya at; retrieved 5 July 2018
  14. Flower, Stephen (2002). A Hell of a Bomb: The Bombs of Barnes Wallis and How They Won the War. NPI Media Group. p. 320. ISBN 978-0752423869.
  15. Ballantyne, Iain (2001). Warspite warships of the royal navy. Pen & sword books Ltd. p. 215. ISBN 0-85052-779-1.
  16. "The Victoria Institution Web Page: The Presentation of the H.M.S. Malaya Watch Bell". Retrieved 9 July 2019.


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