HMS Repulse 1936
Originally designed in 1914 to be a Royal Sovereign Battleship, the building of the HMS Repulse was halted by the onset of WWI. When building reinitialized later in the year, after the Falkland’s battle, it was determined that she was to be instead a battlecruiser (a much larger vessel than the original design). Built rapidly to meet the expanding war, innovations that might have been implemented in less hurried times were left behind. When Lord Fisher, First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, wanted a ship built, he got it accomplished, to the point of using threats and cajolery. And so it came to pass that in the years following the war, the HMS Repulse, like many of her compatriots, was subject to a substantial number of modifications and retrofits.
Her most massive rebuild occurred in the years between 1933 and 1936. The work was accomplished by Portsmouth shipyard and entailed much modernization. The most significant of these changes, at least to the eye, was the removal of the low one-story superstructure aft #2 funnel and its replacement by two story twin aircraft hangers and a fixed cross deck catapult. The bridge and foremast supports were considerably stiffened and refined, giving the overall bridge structure a far more solid appearance. Another dramatic update was the addition of two brand new counter sunk 4 inch AA guns abreast of the mainmast, far superior in every way from the original single barrel, 4-inch gun, a clumsy contraption that was quite slow and very difficult to handle.
This painting depicts her first post refit entry into Portsmouth, just following her sea trails, gleaming and spic and span in her fresh paint. Such occasions would bring a considerable number of onlookers. The crowd shown here is obviously quite stuck the stunning elegance of her majestic presence.
An excursion boat – a paddle steamer – crammed with onlookers, crosses the stern of the HMS Repulse as she makes her way to her anchorage up the bay. The waterfront is packed with admiring spectators, and even the port admiral has been driven down in his staff car to view the scene. A sailor, taken aback by unexpected proximity to such a superior officer’s presence, shoots a nervous salute in the direction of the party and hastens aside.
In the left foreground, a sailboat changes tack abruptly in the lee of a beautifully polished admiral’s barge, as the officer in charge excitedly waves her off. A bold British sailor, in an attempt to impress his female companion, has sailed far too near.
In a launch off the pier, in the center foreground, eager photographers from the prominent photography firm Wright and Logan preserve the scene for posterity.