HMS Warspite, 1937

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To fans of naval history, Queen Elizabeth-Class Battleship HMS Warspite needs no introduction. She is the most decorated Royal Navy warship of all time, with a total of 25 battle honours, 15 of which were earned by HMS Warspite (03). She saw service from the Battle of Jutland in World War 1, all the way to the closing days of World War 2, being among the first ships to open fire on German positions during the Normandy landings. Warspite also lays claim to the longest range ship-to-ship hit, landing a shell on the Italian Battleship Giulio Cesare at a range of 24 kilometres.

Class History


HMS Warspite (03) served as a Dreadnought Battleship within the Queen Elizabeth-class of the British Royal Navy. The design of this groundbreaking “big gun” vessel drew inspiration from the “Iron Duke” battleship class. The inception of the Queen Elizabeth class was advocated for by Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time. To secure funding for the ambitious project, Churchill enlisted the expertise of retired Admiral Sir John “Jackie” Fisher. Their joint efforts proved successful, with the lead ship of the class, HMS Queen Elizabeth, being launched from Portsmouth in October 1913, and commissioned in December 1914. HMS Warspite followed quickly behind, being launched from Devonport in November 1913, and commissioned in March 1915.

Characterized as “Super Dreadnoughts,” the Queen Elizabeth-class battleships surpassed their predecessors in firepower, armor thickness, and overall dimensions. Winston Churchill played a pivotal role in advocating for the inclusion of 15-inch main guns, a development kept well-secret. These guns, the world’s largest rifled cannons in 1913, marked a revolutionary step in naval armament. The Elizabeth-class became the first battleships designed around this cutting-edge weaponry, featuring four twin-gun turrets arranged in two forward and two aft emplacements. This departure from the previous five-turret design of Dreadnought battleships contributed to a reduced overall displacement, providing space for a larger powerplant. The larger powerplant, in turn, increased the class’s speed, making the Queen Elizabeth-class the first “fast battleships” of World War 1, capable of reaching 24 knots under ideal conditions.

In total, five ships of the Queen Elizabeth Class were completed: Queen Elizabeth, Warspite, Valiant, Barham, and Malaya. All saw service during WW1, received considerable upgrades during the interwar period, and returned to combat during WW2. HMS Barham was sunk by a U-boat in November 1941, but all others survived to the end of the war. Unfortunately, no Queen Elizabeth Class ships were preserved as museum ships, and all surviving ships were broken up for scrap.

HMS Warspite Service


HMS Warspite saw such extensive service that entire books could (and have) been written on the topic. To briefly summarise:

  • 1915-1918: World War I
    • Commissioned in 1915 during World War I.
    • Engaged in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, a crucial naval confrontation in the North Sea.
    • Participated in routine patrols and training in the North Sea during the war.
  • Interwar Period: 1919-1939
    • Served in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, often as a flagship.
    • Underwent thorough modernization in the mid-1930s to enhance its capabilities. This including extensive modernisation and replacement of the propulsion and boilers, the addition of 1100 tons of armour, an increase in anti-air capabilities, and a modernisation of the fire-control systems.
  • 1940: Norwegian Campaign
    • Played a role in the Norwegian Campaign early in 1940, notably at the Battle of Narvik, engaging and sinking German Destroyers in the Ofotfjord.
  • 1940-1941: Mediterranean Operations
    • Transferred to the Mediterranean and engaged in fleet actions against the Italian Navy. These include the Battles of Calabria, Taranto, Cape Matapan, and Crete.
    • Provided escort to convoys and bombarded Italian troops ashore.
    • Sustained damage during the Battle of Crete in mid-1941, requiring repairs in the United States.
  • 1942: Indian Ocean Operations
    • Joined the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean in early 1942 after repairs, participating in the lesser-known Battle of Madagascar.
  • 1943: Return to the Mediterranean
    • Returned to the Mediterranean in mid-1943, conducting naval gunfire support during the Italian campaign, providing cover for the Allied landings in Sicily and mainland Italy.
  • 1943-1944: Normandy and Walcheren Operations
    • Badly damaged by German radio-controlled glider bombs during the landings at Salerno in 1943 and spent most of the next year undergoing repairs.
    • Participated in the bombardment of German positions during the Normandy landings, the Battle for Brest, and on Walcheren Island in 1944.
  • 1945: End of Service
    • Decommissioned in 1945, marking the end of Warspite’s active service.
    • Ran aground in 1947 near Prussia Cove, Cornwall, and was eventually broken up.

Specifications (1937 refit)



  • Standard: 33 315 tons – Extra Deep load: 36 450 tons


  • Length: 643ft 9in
  • Beam: 104ft
  • Draught: 32ft 4in


  • Propellers: 4 x 3x11ft blades @ 270rpm
  • Boilers: 6 x Admiralty 3-drum boilers (72 000 shp)
  • Max speed: 24 knots (44kph)

Main Battery Armament

  • 8 x BL 15-inch 42 calibre guns in four twin-gun turrets

Secondary Battery armament

  • 8 x 6-inch MKXII (152mm) guns

Anti-Aircraft Battery

  • 8 x 4-inch Mk XVI anti-aircraft cannons (twin mountings)
  • 32 x 2-pdr (40mm) QF 2pdr anti-aircraft cannons (octuple mountings)
  • 15 x 20mm anti-aircraft cannons OR 16 x 0.50 calibre Vickers AA guns in (quad mountings)

Crew complement: 1,300


  • Main belt: 13 inches
  • Conning tower: 2-3 inches
  • deck: 3.1-5 inches
  • main turrets: 11-13 inches
  • barbettes: 7-10 inches

Air arm:

  • Two Swordfish recon planes and torpedo bombers





Antony Preston; Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War II

HMS Warspite (03) of the Royal Navy - British Battleship of the Queen Elizabeth class - Allied Warships of WWII -

HMS Warspite, British battleship, WW2

HMS Warspite (03) - Wikipedia


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