HMS Warspite (pennant number 03) was a Queen Elizabeth-class battleship of the British Royal Navy. She was launched on 26 November 1913 at Devonport Royal Dockyard. She was, and is, one of the most famous and glamorous of names in the Royal Navy. Warspite would, during World War II, gain the nickname "The Grand Old Lady", after a comment made by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham in 1943.
Warspite, and the rest of the class, was the brainchild of two men. One was Admiral Sir John 'Jackie' Fisher, who was First Sea Lord when the first all big-gun battleship, HMS Dreadnought, came into existence. The other was Winston S. Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, who was paramount in getting the Queen Elizabeths off the drawing board and into the water; but he was also influenced in a number of decisions about the Queen Elizabeths by Lord Fisher, who had been persuaded to come out of retirement by Churchill.
In 1916, Warspite, and the rest of the 5th Battle Squadron, were temporarily transferred to David Beatty's Battlecruiser Force. On 31 May, Warspite took part in her first, and largest, engagement in her career, the Battle of Jutland. Warspite received fifteen hits from main armament guns of the German capital ships, which resulted in considerable damage, so that she came close to foundering. Her steering jammed after she had attempted to avoid collision with her sister-ship Valiant. Her captain decided to stay on course, in effect going round in circles, rather than stop and reverse, a decision that would have made Warspite a sitting duck. These manoevres saved Warrior, for the Germans switched their attention from the badly damaged cruiser to the more tempting target of a battleship in difficulty. This gained her the eternal affection of the crew of Warrior, who believed Warspite's actions were intentional. The crew finally regained control of Warspite after two full circles, though the actions undertaken to stop her circling had the negative aspect of potentially taking her straight towards the German High Seas Fleet.The rangefinders and the transmission station were out of order and only "A" turret could fire, but under local control all 12 salvos fell short of their target. Midshipman Herbert Annesley Packer was promoted and mentioned in dispatches for his command of "A" turret. The Warspite was no longer a fighting force and therefore the order was given for Warspite to stop to allow repairs, after which she was underway once more. Warspite would, after the Battle of Jutland, be plagued with steering problems for the rest of her service life.
During the battle, Warspite suffered fourteen killed and sixteen wounded; among the latter was warrant officer Walter Yeo, notable as one of the first men to receive facial reconstruction via plastic surgery. She sailed, despite considerable damage, for home after being ordered to do so by Rear-Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas, commander of the 5th Battle Squadron. On her journey home, on 1 June, she came under attack from a German U-boat which unsuccessfully fired two torpedoes at her. A second attack occurred soon after, with another torpedo launched but again missing. Only a short while after that incident, Warspite confronted a U-boat directly in front of her; she attempted to ram the U-boat but failed. She safely reached Rosyth, where her damage was repaired.
During the summer of 1940, Warspite was transferred to the Mediterranean theatre and fought in several engagements. During the Battle of Calabria she was credited with achieving the longest range gunnery hit from a moving ship to a moving target in history. This was a hit on the Giulio Cesare at a range of approximately 26,000 yards (see also the Scharnhorst, which scored a hit on the Glorious at approximately the same distance, in June 1940).
From 27 to 29 March, 1941, Warspite took part as the flagship of Admiral Cunningham in the Battle of Cape Matapan, in which three Italian heavy cruisers and two destroyers were sunk in a night action
On 21 April, 1941, still under Cunningham's command, Warspite along with battleships Barham and Valiant, as well as the cruiser
Warspite also took part in the naval portion of the Battle of Crete, where she was badly damaged by German bombers.
Warspite's sister ships were all sunk or heavily damaged during their time in the
After repairs, she bombarded
On the way to her scrapyard, after already experiencing trouble on the journey to the breakers due to a storm, she broke free of her anchor, subsequently running hard aground in Prussia Cove and she was towed to St. Michael's Mount, where the ship had to be scrapped in situ over the next few years.