One of Royal Navy's most famous ships of the Twentieth Century, HMS Warspite served with distinction in both world wars. The Queen Elizabeth class super dreadnoughts marked the climax of the naval race between Britain and Germany since the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1905. Mounting eight 15 inch/381mm guns, the Queen Elizabeths were the first oil-fired British battleships capable of a speed of 23 knots. They possessed an almost perfect combination of gun power, armour protection and speed. At the Battle of Jutland in 1916, Warspite was hit 13 times after her steering gear jammed and she circled in front of the German fleet. Thanks to her excellent construction damage was not severe.
Extensively modernised between 1934 - 1937, Warspite saw extensive action throughout the Second World War. In the Second Battle of Narvik on 13 April 1940 her reconnaissance aircraft bombed and sank submarine U-64 before the battleship and nine escorting destroyers swiftly overwhelmed eight German destroyers.
Warspite will be best remembered for her service with the Mediterranean Fleet as flagship of Admiral Andrew Cunningham . At the Battle of Calabria on 9 July 1940 she hit the Italian flagship, Guilio Cesare, at the amazing range of 21 kilometres. Accompanied by sister ships Barham and Valiant at the Battle of Cape Matapan on 28 March 1941, they sank two Italian heavy cruisers in a notable night time engagement. In 1942 Warspite was re-deployed to join the Eastern Fleet to counter the Japanese threat but did not see action. She returned to the Mediterranean to be present at the surrender of the Italian Fleet at Malta on 10 September 1943.
Warspite was severely damaged by a German radio-controlled bomb off Salerno while covering the landings in Italy on 16 September 1943. Nevertheless she was repaired and played a valuable role in the bombardments supporting the landings in Normandy and against Brest, Le Havre and Walcheren Island in 1944.
Indian Ocean Episode
In 1941, Warspite departed Alexandria, and began her journey to the USA to be repaired at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton. Repairs and modifications there began in August and ended in December, which included the replacement of her worn out 15 in guns. She was still at the shipyard when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. After working-up around the west coast of North America, Warspite departed the area to join the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean.
In January 1942, Warspite joined the Eastern Fleet, becoming the flagship of Admiral Sir James Somerville, who had, in 1927, commanded the Warspite. As part of the Eastern Fleet, Warspite was based in Ceylon and was part of the fast group of the Fleet, which also included the two carriers Formidable and Indomitable, while four slow Revenge-class battleships and the old carrier Hermes comprised the slower group.
Somerville soon decided to relocate his Fleet for its own protection. He chose the Addu Atoll, part of the Maldives, to be his new base. Despite the threat of Japanese attack, Somerville had sent two heavy cruisers, Cornwall and Dorsetshire and the carrier Hermes back to Ceylon. In early April, two Japanese naval forces began the Indian Ocean raid. One force was led by a light fleet carrier, the Ryūjō and included six cruisers, while the second group included five carriers which had launched the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and four battleships. They were deployed to the Indian Ocean to search for Somerville's Eastern Fleet, at that time, the only significant Allied naval presence in the area. The first sighting of the Japanese occurred on 4 April 1942, and orders were given for the two detached cruisers to return to the Fleet. The Fast Group, including Warspite, set sail from their base with the objective of launching a strike against the Japanese forces within the next few days. All three ships that had been detached from the Fleet, the Cornwall, Dorsetshire, and Hermes, were eventually sunk by Japanese forces with the loss of many lives. An attack on the Japanese forces by Somerville's fleet never occurred, and the Japanese soon left the region altogether, after failing to find and destroy the Eastern Fleet. The rest of Warspite's time in this theatre was largely uneventful, with only limited naval operations by the Royal Navy occurring in that theatre. Warspite departed the area in 1943, heading once more for the Mediterranean.
Displacement: 33,410 tons
Length: 194.9 m (overall), 182.9 m (waterline)
Beam: 27.6 m
Draught: 9.3 m
24 × boilers at 285 psi maximum pressure
4 × direct drive turbines
4 × shafts
75,000 shp at 300 rpm
2 × oil driven 450 kW dynamos2 × turbine driven 200 Kw dynamos
1 × reciprocating engine driven 200 kW dynamo added shortly after commissioning
Speed: 24 knots (design)
Endurance: 8,600 nmi (16,000 km) at 12.5 knots (23 km/h) 3,900 nmi (7,200 km) at 21 knots (39 km/h)
Capacity: 3,300 tons of oil and 100 tons of coal
Complement: 925 to 1,220
4 × twin Mk I 15-inch/42 guns
12 × single Mk XII 6-inch guns
2 × single 3-inch high-angle guns
4 × single 3-pdr (47 mm) saluting guns
4 × 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes
4 × twin 15 in (381 mm) guns
12 × single 6 in (152 mm) guns
8 × 4 inch Mk V guns (4×2)
32 × 2 pounder anti-aircraft guns (4×8)
4 × quadruple 0.5 cal machine guns
Armour: belt: 14 in max. turrets: 13 in max. conning tower: 12 in max.
Aircraft carried: 1 catapult and 1 spotter aircraft after 1920s