Tag Archives: HMS Vanguard

Vandy Aglow

70 years ago: HMS Vanguard (23), the last British dreadnought, floodlit on a visit to Rotterdam, Holland, in early July 1952. 

IWM A 32246

The ship was lit for the occasion of a reception aboard the battlewagon by Commander in Chief Home Fleet, Admiral Sir George Creasy, for HM Queen Juliana and Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, and after dinner, the Queen– who was no stranger to British warships— went afloat in the C in C’s barge to see the illumination. 

The building in the background is Hotel New York, former headquarters of the Holland-America Lines.

Vanguard, commissioned in 1946– with a somewhat antiquated main battery left over from the 1920s– visited Rotterdam for a week after exercises with NATO warships.

At the time this photo was taken, she was still assigned to the Heavy Squadron of the Home Fleet. Minimally manned at the time, she operated with many of her turrets sealed off and with shells loaded in the magazines of just two of her 15-inch turrets while only star shells were carried for her secondary battery of 5.25-inch guns.

“HMS Vanguard entering Rotterdam during her visit to the Netherlands, 28 June 1952. She is the largest ship to enter the port.” Nationaal Archief Materiaalsoort.

Laid up in 1955 at Portsmouth after less than a decade of service– where she appropriately became Flagship of Reserve Fleet– Vanguard was decommissioned on 7 June 1960 and scrapped soon after, still in her teens.

Get to the choppa: Battlewagon edition

An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter is secured by flight deck crewmen aboard the battleship Iowa (BB-61) on 1 Sep 1985. Official USN photo # DN-ST-86-02511, by PHC Jeff Hilton,

The Iowa-class battleships received official helicopter pads and a helicopter control station below their after 5-inch director–although no hangar facilities– in the 1980s during their Lehman 600-ship Navy modernization.

The helicopter control station on the 02 level of the battleship Iowa (BB-61). Official USN photo # DN-ST-86-09557, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

They used them to host visiting Navy SH-60 and SH-2s, as well as the occasional Marine UH-1, CH-46, and CH-53 while also running their own early RQ-2A Pioneer UAV detachments–to which Iraqi units would later surrender to during the 1st Gulf War. 

Crew members on board the battleship USS Iowa (BB 61) prepare an HSL-32 SH-2F Seasprite helicopter for launch from the fantail of the ship during NATO Exercise Northern Wedding in August 1986. NNAM photo

Crew members aboard Iowa (BB-61) wait for a Helicopter Light Anti-Submarine Squadron 34 (HSL-34) SH-2F Seasprite helicopter to be secured before transporting a badly burned sailor injured during NATO exercise North Wedding 86. Official USN photo # DN-ST-87-00280, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter approaches the landing area at the stern of the battleship USS IOWA (BB 61)

A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter is parked on the helicopter pad during flight operations aboard the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61).

A U.S. Marine Corps Boeing Vertol CH-46D Sea Knight (BuNo 154023) of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (HMM-165) prepares to land aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64). The helicopter was transporting Allied military personnel who were coming aboard the ship to be briefed by Wisconsin´s Commanding Officer, Capt. D.S. Bill. The meeting was taking place during the 1991 Gulf War. 6 February 1991 Navy Photo DN-ST-92-07868 by PH2 Robert Clare, USN

The curator of the Battleship New Jersey Museum tours the ship’s helicopter deck.


However, the 1980s-90s by far was not the first time those dreadnoughts sported whirly-birds.


Back in 1948, while the ships still had floatplane catapults and a quartet of Curtiss SC-2 Seahawk floatplanes on their stern, USS Missouri (BB-63) accommodated a visiting experimental Sikorsky S-51, piloted by D. D. (Jimmy) Viner, a chief test pilot for Sikorsky.

Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter (Bureau # 122527) landing on Missouri’s forward 16-inch gun turret, during the 1948 Midshipmen’s cruise. Guard mail, ships’ newspapers, and personnel were exchanged via helicopter while the Midshipmen’s cruise squadron was at sea. Most exchanges were made by hovering pick-up. The forward turret was used as a landing platform since the floatplane catapults on the ship’s fantail prevented helicopters from operating there. The photo was filed on 13 September 1948. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-706093

With the cats deleted in the early 1950s, the Iowas saw more HO3s, now equipped with folding blade rotors and externally-mounted rescue hoists.

USS New Jersey (BB-62) A Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter of squadron HU-1 takes off from the battleship’s afterdeck, while she was operating off Korea. The upraised green flag signifies that the pilot has permission to take off. Crash crew, in yellow helmets, are standing by with fire hoses ready. This helicopter is Bureau # 124350. The photograph is dated 14 April 1953. The photographer is Lt. R.C. Timm. 80-G-K-16320

USS Iowa (BB-61) steams out of Wonsan harbor, Korea, after a day’s bombardment. The photograph is dated 18 April 1952. Note HO3S helicopter parked on the battleship’s after deck. Also, note the WWII catapults are deleted but the floatplane crane is still on her stern. NH 44537

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) snow falling on the battleship’s after deck, 8 February 1952, while she was serving with Task Force 77 in Korean waters. Note 16″/50cal guns of her after turret, and Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter parked on deck. Photographed by AF3c M.R. Adkinson. 80-G-441035

Four Marine HO4S/H-19 (Sikorsky S-55) and one Navy HO3S/H5 on the fantail of USS Missouri during the Korean War, 1952. The H-19s are likely of HMR-161, which largely proved the use of such aircraft in Korea. 


New Jersey also supported the occasional helicopter during her reactivation in the Vietnam war. Notably, she received 16-inch shells and powder tanks from USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) by H-34 helicopter lift, the first time heavy battleship ammunition had been transferred by helicopter at sea.

New Jersey (BB-62) underway off the Virginia Capes with an SH-3D Sea King from HS-3 “Tridents”, (attached to the Randolph CVS-15 and a squadron of CVSG-56), about to land on the fantail. However, it is more likely that the helicopter flew out to the “Big J” from NAS Norfolk. Official Navy Photograph # K-49736, taken by PH3 E. J. Bonner on 24 May 1968, via Navsource.

Two UH-1 Huey helicopters resting on the fantail of the New Jersey (BB-62) during her service in December 1968 off Vietnam. Courtesy of Howard Serig, via Navsource.

But wait, old boy

With all that being said, it should be pointed out that it was the Brits who first successfully used a helicopter on their last battlewagon, HMS Vanguard, in 1947, a full year before Missouri’s first rotor-wing visit.

Sikorsky R-4 Hoverfly landing on the quarterdeck of HMS Vanguard on February 1, 1947 off of Portland Bill.

Landing a Sikorsky R4 helicopter on the aft deck of the battleship Vanguard February 1, 1947

And Vanguard would go on to operate both RN FAA Westland WS-51 Dragonflies and USN Piasecki HUP-2s on occasion in the 1950s.

The more you know…

RN to trim UAVs, but will at least keep the boomers

The aging HM Submarine Vanguard (S28), commissioned in 1993, is the lead ship of the RN's four boomers.

The aging HM Submarine Vanguard (S28), commissioned in 1993, is the lead ship of the RN’s four boomers.

It looks like the Brits will keep their SSBN fleet for another generation with MPs voting overwhelmingly in favor of renewing their aging Trident submarine fleet by 471 to 117. Opponents to the renewal of the Faslane, Scotland-based subs came from the Scottish National Party (SNP) and parts of the Labour Party, however new PM Theresa May stressed lawmakers to back Trident, not only to protect Britain from growing threats from Russia and North Korea, but also to protect thousands of jobs in Scotland and elsewhere post-Brexit.

The Brits, along with former WWII Big Five countries U.S., Russia, France and China, are the only operators of SSBNs, and the only other country besides the U.S. to operate Trident SLBMs (D5 variants) from their four 15,900-ton Vanguard -class submarines.

They form the UKs only nuclear deterrent.

Meanwhile, maritime surveillance capabilities of the British Royal Navy are to experience a setback in 2017 due to budget constraints. Janes has it that the ScanEagle UAS will leave RN service, without being replaced, in November 2017.

Since 2014, ScanEagle flights have operated from the Type 23 frigates HMS Somerset, HMS Northumberland, HMS Kent, HMS Richmond, and HMS St Albans, with HMS Portland now deploying. As well as using the UAS in primary ISR and overwatch roles, the RN has also conducted tactical development to explore the utility of ScanEagle for other tasks such as covert surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, naval gunfire support spotting, and support to Harpoon missile surface engagements.

But don’t worry, the RM is now opening combat roles to females, so there is that.

Warship Wednesday November 20, 2013 The Last Dreadnought

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, November 20, 2013, The Last Dreadnought


Here we see the 10th HMS Vanguard that sailed in the Royal Navy. Coming from a long maritime tradition, she was the third battleship to carry that name. As a twist of fate would have it, she was also the last of Her Majesty’s battleships and the above image is how she spent most of her life.

Ordered under the Emergency War Program of 1940 she was laid down on 2 October 1941 at  John Brown and Company, Clydebank, Scotland with Winston Churchill taking a keen interest in her.  The largest and fastest warship in the Royal Navy, the 47,000-ton HMS Hood, had been sunk by Hitler’s Bismarck on 24 May 1941 with a profound effect on the British nation. Vanguard would be larger, and better.


Displacing over 50,000-tons, she would be heavier than any German battleship ever built. Capable of over 30-knots, she could outrun all but the U.S. Navy’s new Iowa-class fast battleships. Her armor, except for the Iowas and Japan’s Yamato-class, was the heaviest installed on the world’s oceans with improved splinter protection. She did, however, have a throw back to the Hood and the battleships of the rest of the British fleet in the fact that she was designed to carry the same 1915-era BL 15 inch Mk I naval gun as her main armament. This same gun was fitted to Queen Elizabeth, Revenge, and Renown class battlewagons (as well as the Hood herself). With these HMS Vanguard could range to 33,550 yards (30,680 m) (1900-pound Mk XVIIB or Mk XXII streamlined shell at 30 degrees.

With air attack an ever-increasing concern, she was fitted with over 70 40mm Bofors cannons.


The thing is, building a 50,000-ton warship while your country is fighting for its life against U-boats, buzzbombs, the Blitz and threatened landings across the English Channel was not the most urgent of matters. In that type of warfare, destroyers were needed, not battleships. Since Hitler never was able to get more than a half-dozen large armored ships operational at any time, and the Royal Navy outnumbered these by a factor of 2:1 with their WWI-era battleships alone, Vanguard never had much emphasis put upon her.

By the time she was launched on 30 November 1944, the war in Europe was already a forgone conclusion and the German navy had sidelined their last few armored warships to provide crews for U-boats which were being sunk as soon as they were commissioned.


This left Vanguard to enter service on 12 May 1946, some eight months after the Japanese surrender. She was the last battleship completed by any navy on earth.

vanguard 3

As such, the Royal Navy came full circle as they had commissioned the HMS Dreadnought in 1906, exactly forty years before, starting the period of all-big-gun Dreadnoughts.


Vanguard had a happy and peaceful, if boring life. She was the fleet flagship and as such was one of the best accommodations in the fleet, being both air-conditioned and heated. She was very connected to the royal family with then-Princess Elizabeth having christened her and King George VI almost having died upon her.

Princess Elizabeth playing tag with midshipmen on board HMS Vanguard during the Royal Tour of South Africa. 1947.

Princess Elizabeth played tag with midshipmen on board HMS Vanguard during the Royal Tour of South Africa. 1947.

However the days of battleships were waning and in 1955, after just nine years with the fleet, she was placed into reserve, though still in commission. There she served as flagship of the reserve fleet.

Sailors employed in the very peacetime job of polishing HMS Vanguard's gun caps. [1600x1265]

Sailors employed in the very peacetime job of polishing HMS Vanguard’s gun caps. [1600×1265]

At the time, besides the old WWI-era Turkish battlecruiser Yavuz Sultan Selim which had struck in 1954, and the collection of US battleships in mothballs, she was the last battleship in the world in any type of military service. As such, she had almost all of the scenes involving battleships for the 1960 film “Sink the Bismarck!” filmed aboard her. Thus she had the distinction of playing both the Hood and the Bismarck in movies.

vanguard at night

Two of John Brown’s finest; HMS Vanguard and RMS Queen Elizabeth. Absolute stunners both.

She was decommissioned on 7 June 1960 and sold to the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain for £560,000, scrapping in 1962.

Vanguard hard aground on way to breakers

Vanguard hard aground on way to breakers


The 11th ship with this name in the Royal Navy is the HMS Vanguard (S28) is a Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarine launched in 1992 and currently in service.


Displacement:     44,500 long tons (45,200 t) (standard)
51,420 long tons (52,250 t) (deep load)
Length:     814 ft 4 in (248.2 m)
Beam:     108 ft (32.9 m)
Draught:     36 ft (11.0 m) (deep load)
Installed power:     130,000 shp (97,000 kW)
Propulsion:     4 shafts
4 Parsons steam turbine sets
8 Admiralty 3-drum water-tube boilers
Speed:     30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Range:     8,250-nautical-mile (15,280 km; 9,490 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement:     1,975
Sensors and
processing systems:     1 × Type 960 air-warning radar
1 × Type 293 target-indication radar
1 × Type 277 height-finding radar
2 × Type 274 15-inch fire-control radar
4 × Type 275 5.25-inch fire-control radar
11 × Type 262 40 mm fire-control radar
Armament:     4 × 2 – BL 15-inch Mk I guns
8 × 2 – QF 5.25-inch Mk I dual-purpose guns
10 × 6 – 40 mm Bofors AA guns
1 × 2 – 40 mm Bofors AA guns
11 × 1 – 40 mm Bofors AA guns
Armor: Belt: 4.5–14 in (114–356 mm)
Deck: 2.5–6 in (64–152 mm)
Barbettes: 11–13 in (279–330 mm)
Gun turrets: 7–13 in (178–330 mm)
Conning tower: 2–3 in (51–76 mm)
Bulkheads: 4–12 in (102–305 mm)

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