Renown was one of Admiral Jackie Fisher's very fast and heavily armed but lightly armored battle cruisers, the like of which had blown up in the Battle of Jutland. Renown was commissioned after that along with sistership Repulse and saw no serious action during the rest of World War 1.
Between the wars, both ships were reconstructed, but Renown much moreso, having 5 twin dual purpose 4.5" gun turrets installed on each side, like was done for battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant.
Renown operated off Norway in the spring of 1940 and encountered the formidable German battle cruisers (if not battleships) Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, sailing together. Although outnumbered, Renown engaged with Nelsonian aggressiveness and scored a phenomenal long-range hit on Gneisenau's conning tower, and both German ships fled.
It later became the principal capital ship in Force H in/from Gibraltar, along with famous aircraft carrier Ark Royal. They and light cruiser Sheffield were involved in the running down of Bismarck, after that monster had sunk battle cruiser HMS Hood off Iceland. They also regularly sortied into the Mediterranean, often to fly fighter aircraft off to Malta in the battle for the Middle Sea and its convoy routes.
After the Mediterranean was effectively under Allied control, Renown went into the Indian Ocean where it had better luck against the Japanese than its sistership Repulse had had - Repulse and battleship Prince of Wales were sunk off Malaya on 10Dec41. The class's wide turning circle made it vulnerable to aerial torpedo attack, despite its relatively high speed.
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