HMS Warspite (03)

Warspite providing fire support off Normandy, France, during the landings on 6 June, 1944. Photo in the collection of the Imperial War Museums.

Laid Down

HMS Warspite (03) was a Queen Elizabeth-class superdreadnought battleship, laid down on Trafalgar Day, 1912. Commissioned in April, 1915, Warspite was one of the newest ships in the fleet at the time of the Battle of Jutland, which saw her in attached to the Battlecruiser Squadron during the action against the German High Seas Fleet. Warspite was damaged several times in this action, and her steering gear was never the same after. She saw no further action in the War, but suffered two collisions and a boiler room fire. She remained with the Atlantic Fleet post-War, and underwent a short modernization in 1924-26. A further modernization was undertaken in 1934-37, improving her boilers, armor, and armament, and allowing her to ship a spotter seaplane. Warspite was in the Mediterranean when World War II broke out, returning home in October after the loss of HMS Royal Oak. Warspite saw action in nearly every theater of the War, and racked up fourteen battle honors, the most of any Royal Navy ship. Warspite participated in the Norwegian Campaign in April, 1940, and rejoined the Mediterranean Fleet at the end of the month. She achieved one of the longest range gunnery hits from one moving ship to another in the Battle of Calabria, and was one of the victors at the Battle of Cape Matapan. She was damaged in the evacuation of Crete, and repaired in the US, with repairs completed in December. Warspite was assigned to the Indian Ocean, and remained there into 1943, and covered the invasion of Madagascar in September, 1942. By May, 1943, Warspite had logged 160,000 nautical miles since the outbreak of War, and she rejoined the Mediterranean Fleet to support the invasions of Sicily and Italy. She was heavily damaged by radio-guided bombs on 16 September, requiring repairs in England. Warspite was the first ship to open fire in support of the invasion of Normandy in June, 1944, although her X main battery turret was permanently out of action due to the bomb damage. Warspite continued shore bombardment duties until 1 November, and decommissioned on 1 February, 1945. Warspite was considered as a museum ship, but was sold for scrapping. On the way to the breakers in 1947 her tow cable broke, and she ran aground in Prussia Cove. Warspite spent the next several years refusing to budge, so she was broken up as she lay in the mid-1950s.

Bonus Photos

Shell hole in Warspite's starboard side, aft, after the action at Jutland. Her steering was plagued by the damage for the rest of her service life. Photo in the collection of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Warspite earned the nickname The Grand Old Lady in July, 1943. She returned to Malta at high speed after a bombardment mission in support of the 8th Army. Admiral Andrew Cunningham commented "There is no question when the old lady lifts her skirts she can run." The nickname stuck.