Greatest Dreadnought Ever To Sail? Royal Navy’s HMS Warspite?

What Is The Greatest Dreadnought Battleship : HMS Warspite?

Warspite bombarding defensive positions off Normandy, 6 June 1944

Greatest Dreadnought : Could the HMS Warspite lay historical claim to being the greatest Dreadnought battleship to ever sail the seas?

She wasn’t the biggest, the most advanced nor the most powerful, but she served long past her theoretical obsolescence.

Warspite and Malaya at Jutland
Damage caused by a shell that exploded inside the ship at Jutland
Diagram of the Queen Elizabeth class published by Brassey’s Naval Annual in 1923

Warspite
 engaging shore batteries during the Second Battle of Narvik
Warspite under attack in the Mediterranean, 1941
A Grumman Martlet from HMS Formidable flying near HMS Warspite during operations off Madagascar
Warspite shelling German positions at Catania, July 1943
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On the way to be broken up. Courtesty IWM
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A Grumman Martlet fighter of No 888 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm operating from the aircraft carrier HMS FORMIDABLE, is seen flying over HMS WARSPITE while circling to land during Madagascar operations.
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HMS Warspite & the Second Battle of Narvik

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However, it is tough to think of another battleship that comes close to her war record.

Whether HMS Warspite was slugging it out on the High Seas Fleet at Jutland, heading up a fjord to sink a flotilla’s worth of destroyers, showing the Italians a thing or two in the Mediterranean, to having a Fritz X blow a big hole in her bottom, or to pounding the beaches of Normandy.

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HMS Warspite, HMS Illustrious, HMS Resolution & HMS Royal Sovereign

The HMS Warspite gave sterling service for over three decades. HMS Warspite possessed the same 15″/42 guns as the HMS Hood, HMS Repulse, HMS Renown, R-class ships and other Queen Elizabeth class boats.

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This class of guns were an old medium velocity wire-wound design that was technically obsolete by the mid 1920s.

However, it was arguably the best capital ship gun ever to see action in terms of the great service they gave over three decades. HMS Vanguard, the last battleship ever built for the Royal Navy was armed with them.

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HMS Warspite during the the D-Day landings

The Royal Navy modernized her guns extensively, including cutting the opening for the guns to extend higher, allowing them to elevate more and therefore have greater range.

Furthermore, the 15/42 gun was older technology. Built using the wire wound method, shorter barrel, a medium velocity gun firing a heavy shell.

The 14/45 gun required more modern construction since the gun tube’s construction from several pieces. Moreover, called ‘built up’ construction. Which meant the barrel was more rigid and allowed higher velocities and better accuracy as the gun tube was more rigid and thus suffered less droop.

Another advantage over the older wire wound guns was the ability to refurbish the guns by simply replacing the barrel liner.

The 14/45 was a very good gun too. But suffered from treaty restrictions. In addition, faced overmatched guns built without regard for the treaty. Such as the Italian 15/50 on the Littorios and the Japanese 18/46 on the Yamatos.

Britain did design and build a more powerful gun in the mkII 16 inch pieces intended for the Lions that were never built due to the war starting.

Of course, ‘’Best’ is a moot point!

HMS Warspite, Indian Ocean 1942.jpg
HMS WARSPITE of the Eastern Fleet and Flagship of Admiral Sir James Sommerville, underway in the Indian Ocean.

The HMS Warspite had the best service record, so if you are wondering which carrier had the best service record, you will have to do some digging. One would expect it would be a carrier that served throughout WW2 without getting sunk and participated in many battles.

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HMS Warspite passing HMS Hood at port

HMS Illustrious also fought right through the war and survived, so it’s probably a choice between USS Enterprise CV-6 and the HMS Illustrious for best war service record, bearing in mind that the HMS Illustrious fought for 9 months years before the US entered the war.

But, the HMS Illustrious had a lengthy repair in the middle after being hit with 2,200 lb bombs, so he actual time in active service during the war might be about the same as Enterprise.

Germany’s Vanished Carrier
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Grounded on her way to the breakyard.

HMS Warspite being scrapped (early 1950s).

Sadly, Britain was bankrupt after the war so almost everything that could be scrapped was. That’s why there are so few wartime aircraft or ships left in preservation – they melted them all down for the aluminum.

Warspite Memorial, Prussia Cove