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The Last British Battleship - HMS Vanguard 1946-1960

R A Burt

The ninth HMS Vanguard, bearing one of the most illustrious names in the Royal Navy with honours from the Armada to Jutland, was the last and largest of Britain's battleships and was commissioned in 1946. Her design evolved from of the King George V class and incorporated much of the fully developed design for the two battleships, Lion and Temeraire, that were laid down in 1939 but never completed. At 813ft length overall and 42,300 tons, she was the last battleship to be built in the world and the only ship of her class.

The text is further enhanced by the addition of some 80 colour and black and white photographs from his collection. His earlier three volumes are regarded as definitive works on the subject of British battleships before 1945; with this new book he finally completes the story of the Dreadnought era, bringing to life the last of a magnificent type of vessel of which the world will not see again.



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The ninth HMS Vanguard, bearing one of the most illustrious names in the Royal Navy with honours from the Armada to Jutland, was the last and largest of Britain's battleships and was commissioned in 1946. Her design evolved from of the King George V class and incorporated much of the fully developed design for the two battleships, Lion and Temeraire, that were laid down in 1939 but never completed. At 813ft length overall and 42,300 tons, she was the last battleship to be built in the world and the only ship of her class. She was built during the Second World War and incorporated existing twin 15in mountings, and was part of the Royal Navy's response to the combined and increasing number of German and Japanese battleships in the early 1940s. She was immediately recognisable by her transom stern and high flared bow and had fine sea keeping ability. Her appearance after the end of hostilities, however, and her huge crew requirements proved a conundrum for the Royal Navy, her most significant role being that of Royal Yacht during the royal family's tour of South Africa in 1947. She was broken up at Faslane in 1960. In this new book by R A Burt her design, construction and career are all covered. Armour, machinery, power plants and weaponry are examined in detail and the author has produced some 35 superb plans, profiles and other line drawings for which he is renowned. The text is further enhanced by the addition of some 80 colour and black and white photographs from his collection. His earlier three volumes are regarded as definitive works on the subject of British battleships before 1945; with this new book he finally completes the story of the Dreadnought era, bringing to life the last of a magnificent type of vessel of which the world will not see again.

ISBN: 9781526752260
Format: Hardback
Author(s): R A Burt
First Publishment Date: 30 May 2019

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  1. Highly Recommended review by PWM on 29/08/2019

    The author has written comprehensive histories of British battleships from 1889, and this is his final volume on what he describes as the “best battleship the RN ever had”” - HMS Vanguard. Her design followed on from the KGV Class and the planned, but never built, Lion Class. Laid down in October 1941, her build was slow as there were higher priorities and she wasn’t accepted until August 1946. Costing over £11 million, even in 1945 the Admiralty acknowledged that she would be the last RN battleship. With her increased flare to her bows and foc’sle sheer over the KGV Class, she was a “magnificent sea boat”. Other features such as improved habitability with enclosed messdecks, a chapel and cinema, an AA system that in 1946 was the most sophisticated any RN battleship and with the best protection, she justifies the author’s view of her.

    After trials, she achieved fame when she took the Royal family to South Africa. Radar was removed from the mainmast to allow a Royal Standard to be flown, a saluting platform was built on top of B turret and Flag Quarters were upgraded to Royal suites. She completed this tour so successfully that a further tour was planned for 1949, and plans for this included stopping all 15” shoots apart from allowing one gun of A turret to fire ; the reason was that the enamel paint was too fragile – shades of Percy Scott! Ill health of the King meant the tour never took place.

    In the post war austerity, Vanguard was becoming increasingly uneconomic in both financial and manpower terms – the Admiralty could run 2 cruisers for her cost and in December 1955 she was placed in Reserve. To the public, she was always a special ship - over 48,000 visited her in Navy Days 1952. When finally it was decided to scrap her in 1960, pleas were made to save her as a Museum ship, but the Admiralty’s response would be recognised today – “it would cost as much in manpower and money to maintain her as it would to keep her in operational Reserve”. Vanguard never fired a shot in anger and her relatively short service life was about the same as the 1906 Dreadnought. This is a fitting testimonial both to the Vanguard herself and to those extraordinary ships – the battleship. With some impressive photos that do real justice to the ship and some comprehensive line drawings, this is a book to enjoy – highly recommended.

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