HMS Warspite

HMS Warspite in dock

HMS Warspite at Normandy

HMS Warspite in 1939


Belli Dura Despicio

"I Despise the Hard Knocks of War"


H.M.S. Warspite is probably the best known Royal Navy warship of all time, next to H.M.S. Victory. She was launched on 26th November 1913 at Devonport, the second of the five Queen Elizabeth class of battleships. These ships were the first R.N. vessels to mount 15" guns, in a hull that achieved a good balance between speed and protection, resulting in one of the most successful class of battleships ever designed, a factor which kept them in service until the end of World War Two. Warspite commissioned on 8th March 1915, joining the 5th Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow. After a grounding and collision, she was back in action in time for Jutland on 31st May 1916, during which Warspite was in the thick of the fighting. At one point her rudder jammed and she turned almost two complete circles under the German guns before coming back under control. The return to Rosyth for repair was not without incident, as she was narrowly missed by two torpedoes from a U-boat, which she attempted to ram. Despite the severe damage she had received at Jutland, Warspite suffered only 14 dead and 17 injured.

Between the wars, Warspite received two major refits, which resulted her entering the Second World War looking very different from her original form (model them both by buying the White Ensign kit of Warspite in 1916 fit!). On 13th April 1940 the "Old Lady" was back in action during the Second Battle of Narvik. Eight German destroyers remained in Narvik Fjord following the first battle, and in an audacious move the venerable battleship and nine destroyers sailed up the confined waters of the fjord to fight an action that resulted in the sinking of all eight enemy vessels, plus U64, sunk by Warspite's Swordfish aircraft. After Norway she returned to the Mediterranean, where she took part in the Battle of Punto Stilo, a number of bombardment and convoy escort duties, and in March 1941, the Battle of Matapan, where Warspite and her two sisters, Valiant and Barham, together with cruisers and destroyers, sunk three Italian cruisers and two destroyers in a night action. On 22nd May she was hit by a 500 lb bomb which, together with a later near miss, necessitated repairs in the U.S. The repairs were followed by a spell with the Eastern Fleet, before returning to the Med in June 1943, where she was employed in bombardment duties in support of the Italian campaign. After such a mission at Salerno, she was hit by a German FX1400 guided bomb, and near missed by another, leaving her severely damaged and dead in the water. She was repaired in Gibraltar and Rosyth until April 1944, when she was pressed back into service to work up for bombardment duties for the forthcoming D-Day landings, still with "X" turret and one boiler room unrepaired. After her fire support missions during the landings, the battered ship triggered a mine off Harwich on 13th June, resulting in further severe hull damage and the loss of the port shafts. She was hurriedly repaired in order to return to bombardment duties, and limped back into service on 24th August, still with the previous defects unresolved and now one of her port shafts encased in concrete to make it watertight, and a top speed of 15 1/2 knots. Her last operation was the bombardment of Walcheren on 1st November 1944, before being paid off in February 1945, and sold for scrap the following year. Even then she refused to go without a fight, breaking her tow en route to the scrap yard and running aground in Prussia Cove, Cornwall, where she had to be broken up in situ.


Ships particulars (1942).

Displacement: 31,315 tons standard, 36,450 tons deep load.

Dimensions (feet): 600' pp, 644' 7" oa x 104' x 33' (max).

Machinery: 4 shaft Parsons turbines. 24 Yarrow boilers. 75,000 shp, giving 24 knots.

Armour: 13" - 6" main belt. 1" minimum on plated decks.

Armament: 8 x 15" BL Mk. 42 on Mk. 1 twin mounts . 8 x 6" Mk. XII. 8 x 4" Mk. XVI on Mk. XIX twin mounts. 32 x 2 pdr. Mk. VIII in Mk. VI 8 barrelled mounts, 19 x 20mm Oerlikon in single mounts.

Complement: 1184

Battle Honours

Jutland 1916, Atlantic 1939, Narvik 1940, Norway 1940, Calabria 1940, Mediterranean 1940-43, Malta Convoys 1941, Matapan 1941, Crete 1941, Sicily 1943, Salerno 1943, English Channel 1944, Normandy 1944, Walcheren 1944, Biscay 1944....

....together with another 10 she inherited from her predecessors, going back to Cadiz in 1596, when the Warspite of the day was Sir Walter Raleigh's flagship.

HMS Warspite Statistics (After Modernisation)
Period in service: 1915 – 1944
Displacement: 32,450 tons
Length: 196.8m / 645.8ft
Beam: 31.7m / 104ft
Complement: 1190
Speed: 23 kts
Armament: 8 x 15 inch Guns

8 x 6 inch Guns

8x 4 inch anti aircraft Guns

Armour: 6 - 3 inch belt, 3 - 5 inch deck

4 -10 inch barbettes, 13 inch turrets

Aircraft: Four
Sister Ships: Queen Elizabeth, Barham, Malaya, Valiant

Notes: The armour belt was the protection along the sides of a ship’s hull. The barbette was an armoured cylinder below the turret which protected the ammunition hoists and the turret’s turning mechanism. Warspite’s aircraft were launched from a catapult amidships and recovered using cranes.