Compass HMS Warspite

Eye catching compass from HMS Warspite



Lovely compass from HMS Warspite.

Warspite was among a WW1-era battleship class whose existance had much to do with the influences of First Sea Lord Admiral Sir John “Jackie” Fisher and First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Churchill was present when she conducted her first gunnery trials in 1915. In the subsequent months she was damaged twice, first running aground in the Forth then colided with battleship Barham. After repairs, she joined the rest of the 5th Battle Squadron and participated in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. She received 15 hits from German capital ships. She lost 14 men and many more were injured while the ship sustained serious damage, plus she was twice hunted by German submarines, but she was eventually able to make it to Rosyth for repairs. Bad luck with collisions and other incidents kept her more so in the shipyards than in battles. At the end of WW1, she was among the ships of the Grand Fleet that received the surrendering German High Seas Fleet.

Warspite served mostly in the Mediterranean Sea in the years following WW1. Between 1924 and 1926, she was modernized, receiving an array of small caliber guns among other changes. She returned to the Mediterranean as the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet, then spent some time with the Atlantic Fleet. In 1934, she underwent a complete modernization, radically altering her superstructure and adding an aircraft hangar. She returned to active duty in 1937, once again as the flagship in the Mediterranean. In Jun 1939, Vice Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham came abroad as the new commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet.

WW2 began for Britain on 3 Sep 1939, and Warspite was immediately set sail for the Atlantic from the Mediterranean. In Apr 1940, she operated off Norway and on 10 Apr she lent gunfire support at Narvik where British ships sank three German destroyers and damaged 5 others (all 5 were eventually scuttled to avoid capture). Also off Norway, Warspite’s Swordfish biplane torpedo bomber sunk German submarine U-64, making it the first U-boat sinking by aircraft in WW2. In the summer of 1940, Warspite returned to the Mediterranean Sea. At the Battle of Calabria on 9 Jul 1940, her shell traveled a distance of 26,000 yards to hit Italian battleship Giulio Cesare. At the Battle of Matapan on 28 Mar 1941, battleships Barham, Valiant, and Warspite and other ships sank three Italian cruisers and two destroyers. In May 1941, she was damaged off Crete by German dive bombers.

Between Aug and Dec 1941, Warspite received repairs at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in the United States. When she left the shipyard on the Pacific coast, it was decided that she would join the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean to counter the new enemy power, Japan.