Boiler water in WW2 era warships

Apr 2018
589
India
#1
Okay so I was reading this - http://www.world-war.co.uk/cornwall_loss.php3. Near the end I came across the fact that the Revenge Class Battleships were down to 50% of their boiler capacity. This means not only half the required steam going to the turbine, but also less steam temperature than the rated value if 50% load is less than the lowest limit of steam temperature control range. Meaning even less energy for the turbine.

Also the article mentions that even sickbay casualties were issued only 2 pints of drinking water per day due to boiler problems and washing had to be done by seawater. This is confusing. Does this mean all the freshwater is being used for the boiler? But if the boilers are running at 50% load, they are not supposed to gulp that much water in the first place. One plausible explanation could be that the water, although fresh did not have the quality required for the 18 Babcock and Wilcox boilers on board. In that case the only way to run the boilers would be do drain (or blowdown) an excessive quantity of this impure water from the boiler drum and replenish this with fresh make up water. But thing is, this can be done only upto a limit even if the blowdown valves are opened wide and it certainly won't create enough shortage to reduce drinking water rations so severely.

Does anyone have any idea what's going on here? And this leads to the broader question - how did WW2 era navies managed boiler water quality and quantity under such dire conditions and how it affected their wartime performace?

Generally people talk about fuel shortages, like one major reason Germany kept Tirpitz hidden in Fjords was the extreme scarcity of furnace oil. But discussions on water woes are woefully rare.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,933
Dispargum
#2
This source says that at Addu Atoll the Revenge-class battleships were all short of water and were delayed departing port by the need to take on water. Addu Atoll would seem to be a primitive base with limited facilities for the support of large warships. It's possible the only source of fresh water was difficult to connect to the warships. One would think the water situation was not too bad or else Revenge would have refused taking on additional mouths.
HMS Revenge (06) of the Royal Navy - British Battleship of the Royal Sovereign class - Allied Warships of WWII - uboat.net
This source says the Revenge was in overhaul at Durban S.A. August-Nov 1942. If there was boiler trouble in May, why wait until August to fix it? Unless again there was a shortage of good maintenance and support facilities.
HMS Revenge, British battleship, WW2
I agree you don't hear much about boiler problems or water shortages.
 
Mar 2014
6,611
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
#3
Does anyone have any idea what's going on here?
The law of conservation of energy. All ships had evaporators to produce fresh water through distillation of seawater. Waste heat was used to operate these evaporators, but there is only so much waste heat available, so evaporator production is limited, and cannot compensate for the needs of a thousand men and the boilers too.
 
Mar 2019
1,244
Kansas
#5
Does anyone have any idea what's going on here? And this leads to the broader question - how did WW2 era navies managed boiler water quality and quantity under such dire conditions and how it affected their wartime performace?
The few references I have seen on the subject talk about doing clean outs when a boiler was being fired up.[/QUOTE]
 
Apr 2018
589
India
#6
This source says that at Addu Atoll the Revenge-class battleships were all short of water and were delayed departing port by the need to take on water. Addu Atoll would seem to be a primitive base with limited facilities for the support of large warships. It's possible the only source of fresh water was difficult to connect to the warships. One would think the water situation was not too bad or else Revenge would have refused taking on additional mouths.
HMS Revenge (06) of the Royal Navy - British Battleship of the Royal Sovereign class - Allied Warships of WWII - uboat.net
This source says the Revenge was in overhaul at Durban S.A. August-Nov 1942. If there was boiler trouble in May, why wait until August to fix it? Unless again there was a shortage of good maintenance and support facilities.
HMS Revenge, British battleship, WW2
I agree you don't hear much about boiler problems or water shortages.
Thanks for the link. That Durban visit was for boiler re-tubing. Which means a whole bunch was toast. They probably had run the boilers with gagged tubes with circulation shot off to hell. No doubt they were desperate. Also this can happen if the boiler operations are not proper (which I doubt, Royal Navy Engineers were certainly not idiots) or water quality was not maintained. Most probably it was the latter. Probably availability of dosing chemicals became very little in wartime.

This seems a persistent problem with RN Battleships throughout the war. In the days preceding the Hunt for Bismarck, HMS Rodney was in the US for boiler tube refits. And unlike the Revenges, Nelsons had British Admiralty boilers. This can mean one thing - even procuring basic carbon steel boiler tubes was a tremendous challenge for the UK in the middle of the war. Similarly getting them to Asia and Africa was also a humongous task. Hence, maybe, the delay.
 
Apr 2018
589
India
#8
The law of conservation of energy. All ships had evaporators to produce fresh water through distillation of seawater. Waste heat was used to operate these evaporators, but there is only so much waste heat available, so evaporator production is limited, and cannot compensate for the needs of a thousand men and the boilers too.
Basically compounding of the problem.
 
Mar 2019
1,244
Kansas
#9
Can you share these references? Or tell about it?
I used to be an avid watcher of the Pathe news reels. Some used to focused on ships in the British navy. And a couple followed the process of firing boilers. My understanding was that the way the boilers were brought up to temperature and the way the pressure was built was in part to help clean crud produced by using sea water.

Now I am definitely not an expert on this, and would happily bow to anyone with even a passing understanding of warship engine plants.
 
Apr 2018
589
India
#10
I used to be an avid watcher of the Pathe news reels. Some used to focused on ships in the British navy. And a couple followed the process of firing boilers. My understanding was that the way the boilers were brought up to temperature and the way the pressure was built was in part to help clean crud produced by using sea water.

Now I am definitely not an expert on this, and would happily bow to anyone with even a passing understanding of warship engine plants.
Inside Engine Room On British Warship Aka A Navy Story

I think this was the reel you are referring to. It's silent. So not of much help. Instead I have found another excellent instructional video giving an overview of boiler startup on board a Royal Navy Destroyer. It also gives an excellent understanding of how the natural circulation, forced draft combustion system works. Here's the link -


Thing is, it shows that the chemist checks only the salinity and density of the boiler water during operation. I wonder what they did for pH, dissolved oxygen, suspended particles and silica. The first three, if not checked can easily lead to boiler tube damage over a period. Silica in steam is deadly for turbine blades, depending on pressure. If these were not maintained, then that answers the chronic tube failures, undercapacity operations and frequent needs of repair. This is also a bit unusual, at least in case of the Revenge class as Babcock and Wilcox systems come with manuals which elaborately state water quality requirements. Don't know about old British systems.

Whatever, thanks for the lead. Got a good insight.