HMS Warspite centenary marked at Devonport Dockyard

HMS Warspite being launched from Devonport Dockyard, 26 November 1913 Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, was among 30,000 people who watched the launch of HMS Warspite on 26 November 1913
HMS Warspite nearing completion at Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth, circa 1914 The ceremony at Devonport was a celebration of Plymouth's ship-building skills as well as the Royal Navy, HMS Warspite Association said
HMS Warspite, alongside Devonport Dockyard, 1915 When she was launched, HMS Warspite was the most technically advanced ship of her era and carried a company of more than 1,000 sailors and officers

One of Britain's "deadliest ships" has been honoured at a centenary service in the city where she was built.

More than 200 guests attended the celebration of HMS Warspite at Plymouth's Devonport Dockyard.

The ship, launched in 1913, holds more honours than any other in British naval history and served in both World Wars.

Alan Jones from HMS Warspite Association said she was "a mighty warship of historical significance" to both Plymouth and the nation.

The "iconic" super dreadnought was launched on 26 November 1913 in the presence of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, and 30,000 others.

HMS Warspite in numbers

  • Length: 646ft (197m)
  • Beam: 104ft (32m)
  • Speed: 24 knots
  • Armament: 8 x 15in (38cm)guns; 8 x 6in (15cm) guns; 8 x 4in (10cm) anti-aircraft guns
  • Ship's company: 1,190

During the Battle of Jutland in 1916, Warspite held off the German High Seas Fleet, surviving two dozen heavy shell hits, while in World War Two, she saw action in the Arctic, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the English Channel.

She was taken apart after running aground in a storm off Prussia Cove in Cornwall in 1947.

The ship was the seventh Royal Navy vessel to bear the name Warspite.

The original was launched in 1596 and became Sir Walter Raleigh's flagship for an attack on the Spanish port of Cadiz.

'Tremendous success'

Iain Ballantyne, associate member of the HMS Warspite Association and Plymouth naval historian and author, said the 1913 ship's "amazing" life was also the story of a navy and a nation.

"She was created and launched when Britain was at the zenith of its imperial power and last saw action when the empire was in decline," he said.

"Warspite used oil-fired boilers for her propulsion at a time when most naval vessels relied on coal, plus she carried the biggest guns ever mounted in a vessel of her kind."

Mr Ballantyne, who has documented the ship's history in his book, Warspite: From Jutland Hero to Cold War Warrior, said despite fears while she was being built, "Warspite turned out to be a tremendous success [and] a remarkable vessel".

HMS Warspite's battle honours

  • Battle of Jutland, 1916
  • Battle of Narvik, 1940
  • Battle of Calabria, 1940
  • Battle of Cape Matapan, 1941
  • Italian fleet surrender, 1943
  • Normandy D-Day landings, 1944

"Churchill famously had nightmares that, with time running out in the race with Germany, Warspite would turn out to be slow and her untested guns might not work at all.

"[However] she and four sister vessels - Queen Elizabeth, Valiant, Barham and Malaya - were the deadliest battleships fielded by any side in World War One and greatly feared by German Navy."

Mr Jones, a chief stoker on board the eighth Warspite - a nuclear-powered submarine - said the service was "a celebration of the Navy today and in the past, the ship-building skills of Plymouth and the ship, her four sister ships, and the Cold War submarine that bore the same name".

"This is a mark of our appreciation of the ship builders' skills and the sailors who served in battleship HMS Warspite during three decades of distinguished service in war and peace.''

Guests at the service included former Plymouth Devonport MP Lord David Owen, the mayors of Plymouth, Torpoint and Saltash, veteran sailors and former admirals.

The Devonport Naval Base commander Commodore Graeme Little said the ship was "the iconic battleship of the last century and extremely important as a reference point to the Royal Navy, the city of Plymouth and Devonport".

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