On this day in history, 9 June 1953, Royal Navy ships assemble for the Coronation Fleet Review of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
On this day in history 7 June 1902, the Royal Navy Formidable-class battleship HMS London was placed in commission.
Built at Portsmouth Dockyard, London was a battleship of the pre-dreadnought era, armed with four Armstrong Whitworth 12-inch naval guns, firing semi-armour-piercing shells weighing 850 lbs.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, London was assigned to the Channel Fleet, and later served in the Dardanelles campaign and with the Mediterranean Fleet.
In 1918, now obsolete as a battleship, London’s main armament was removed and she was converted to service as a minelayer. By 11 November 1918, London had laid 2,640 mines as part of the Northern Mine Barrage.
Reduced to reserve status in 1919, London paid off in 1920 and was towed to the breaker’s yard in 1922.
Windy Corner, Jutland, 1916. Oil on canvas by William Henry Bishop. In collection of National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth.
My grandfather owned a book ‘Warships of World War II’ (H.T. Lenon & J.J. Colledge, price 35/-) that provided me with untold hours of statistical wallowing when I was a lad. I inherited the book in adulthood and it’s one of the few that travelled with me when I joined the ranks of expatriate Englishmen. It’s here beside now while I sit overlooking my wintery garden, drinking my umpteenth cup of morning coffee and thinking of times past.
My grandfather annotated the book with slips of paper that are filled with his neat copperplate handwriting. I’m looking at one where he notes his decision to join the Royal Navy.
“Iron Duke. I went aboard this ship when a Territorial gunner in City of London Battery on weekend training at Southsea, Victoria Barracks, Hants, during 1936. It was this visit which decided me to enlist in the Royal Navy if war should come. The ships company’s food was far better than we were getting as gunners, and of course, cigarettes were duty free. I was aged 23 at the time.”
As you can see, my grandfather was a purely practical man with an eye on good food and cheap tobacco.
Oh yes… a family of patriots, one and all 🙂
As for what the book says about Iron Duke:
The IRON DUKE had been de-militarised as a Gunnery Training Ship and had her boiler power mutilated and speed reduced, here main belt armour removed and two turrets (“B” and “Y”) taken out. Deck and internal armour and the second battery were left intact and varying lighter calibre guns were added and removed from time to time for instructional and experimental purposes. Owning to severe bomb damage received early in the Second World War the IRON DUKE was grounded at Scapa Flow but continued to serve as a base ship.
Anyway, war came and my grandfather and his brother motored down to Portsmouth on a BSA motorbike to enlist in the Navy.
Here he is in Malta in 1943, already switched from cigarettes to a pipe (future tobacconist’s shop no doubt in his mind).
He was the SBA on HMS Rye. The stories about that can wait for another day.
Criminal. Bloody criminal.
High politics ends Navy shipbuilding in Portsmouth
What would Nelson have made of it? Before Trafalgar he signalled “England Expects.” But it is the argument over Scotland’s independence that has left ship-building holed below the waterline in the Royal Navy’s headquarter port.
Most people who’ve lobbied hard for Portsmouth now believe the writing is on the wall.
I am told that the announcement has been brought forward to this morning due to leaks in the media.
Everyone expects it to be curtains for shipbuilding. Some wonder whether BAE may also lose some of the maintenance contract for the surface fleet, perhaps to Babcock.
It has become clear that while BAE is keen to work on low-risk ventures like the Type 26 it sees ship services, not ship building, as its future and so it is natural for them to rationalise facilities.
The only good news could be an impending city deal worth at least £100m to help widen the marine industry in Portsmouth, with Rolls Royce Marine, Qinetiq maybe involved. Perhaps private refit work could provide some income at Basin 3.
There have been radical ideas in the past. The Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt, is Phillip Hammond’s PPS, a navy reservist and named after a warship, HMS Penelope!
Her ideas outlined in a letter to the Prime Minister included putting Royal Navy crews on commission, “sell what you sail and get a bonus”.
Considerations of the vote on Scottish independence seem to have trumped the hi-tech yard run by BAE in Portsmouth. The move of Vosper Thornycroft from Southampton to Portsmouth meant the kit was amongst the best in the world. But the Clyde carries more weight at the moment.
Nevertheless, the Royal Navy could still do well from new deals with Babcock. Perhaps the two ocean patrol vessels as well as 13 Type 26s – perhaps a permanent replacement for HMS protector or HMS Ocean’s successor.
Even Nelson could not have turned a blind eye to Alex Salmond. But there could still be plenty for Pompey to be proud of.