This British D-Day vessel was the only battleship to torpedo another battleship

The British battleship HMS Rodney stands out just by looking at her photo.

She and her sister ship, HMS Nelson, had a unique design — their entire main battery forward of their superstructure.

The Rodney took part in the bombardment of the Normandy beaches during the initial stages of Operation Overlord, capping off a wartime career that also included taking on the German battleship Bismarck.

It was during the final battle with the Bismarck that HMS Rodney would achieve a unique distinction among battleships — as the only one to torpedo another battleship. How did this come about? In fact, torpedoes seem like an odd thing to put on a battleship, especially as MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Nelson-class battleships had nine 16-inch guns.

But HMS Rodney was equipped with two 24.5-inch torpedo tubes with a number of reloads.

Torpedo room in HMS Rodney. (Imperial War Museum photo)

These torpedoes could pack quite a punch. According to NavWeaps.com, they carried 743 pounds of TNT and could travel at a top speed of 35 knots and a maximum range of 20,000 yards. In other words, it could ruin just about any warship’s day.

That can be very useful for a ship in combat.

Why? Because sometimes, battleships fought at close quarters. For instance, the Battle of Tsushima Strait was fought at very close range, according to WeaponsandWarfare.com. In that case, a torpedo would have a good chance of scoring a hit.

Even if the torpedoes were fired at a longer range, an opponent would have to dodge them, and that might allow for a tactical advantage because even though battleships are tough, their captains don’t want to take a torpedo hit if they can help it.

The Nelson-class batt;eships in front of HMS Revenge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On May 27, 1941, when the Brits caught up to the Bismarck the Rodney closed in, firing numerous broadsides at the Bismarck. According to a report by an American observer, at one point, the commander of the Home Fleet, Sir John Tovey, ordered the Rodney to fire her torpedoes if possible. About 2.5 hours later, one of the Rodney’s torpedoes scored a hit on the German battleship.

Ultimately, the Bismarck would be sunk by torpedoes from the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire. The Rodney would go on to serve in the Royal Navy until she was scrapped in 1949. But she always holds the distinction of being the only battleship to torpedo another battleship.

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