HMS Warspite (S103)

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49 HMS Warspite entering Gibraltar Feb1970.jpg
HMS Warspite
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Warspite
Ordered: 12 December 1962
Builder: Vickers-Armstrongs
Laid down: 10 December 1963
Launched: 25 September 1965
Commissioned: 18 April 1967
Decommissioned: 1991
Fate: In storage, awaiting disposal
Badge: Warspite Crest.jpg
General characteristics
Class and type: Valiant-class submarine
  • 4,200 long tons (4,300 t) surfaced
  • 4,900 long tons (5,000 t) submerged
Length: 285 ft (87 m)
Beam: 33 ft 3 in (10.13 m)
Draught: 27 ft (8.2 m)
  • 20 knots (23 mph; 37 km/h) surfaced
  • 28 knots (32 mph; 52 km/h) submerged
Range: Unlimited, except by food supplies
Complement: 116

The latest HMS Warspite was the third of Britain's nuclear-powered submarines, and the second (and final) of the Valiant class. After entering service in 1967 she collided with a Soviet submarine the following year. A mechanical failure associated with the submarine's nuclear reactor in 1991 led to the boat being laid up at HMNB Devonport where she awaits disposal.

Operational history[edit]

The second Valiant-class submarine, to be called Warspite was ordered from Vickers-Armstrong's Barrow shipyard on 12 December 1962, and was laid down on 10 December 1963.[1] She was launched on 25 September 1965[1] by Mary Wilson, the wife of the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson,[2] and entered service on 18 April 1967.[1]

In October 1968 whilst following a Soviet boat identified as an Echo II-class submarine, Warspite collided with the stern and propellers of that boat. Warspite suffered damage to her fin but after surfacing to inspect damage was able to submerge and return home, and later sail to Barrow for proper repairs.[3] On 2 May 1976, Warspite was alongside in Liverpool, when she suffered a fire in her diesel generator room, in one of the most serious incidents the Royal Navy's nuclear submarines have encountered. The fire filled the aft end of the submarine with dense smoke, making it very difficult for the submarine's crew to monitor the status of the reactor, and Warspite's commanding officer considered scuttling the submarine in the event that a reactor accident did develop. The fire was eventually extinguished with the aid of civilian firefighters from the Liverpool Fire Brigade after 4​12 hours. The submarine's Marine Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Tim Cannon, was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his role in the response to the fire.[4][5]

Warspite underwent a two-year refit, which was nearing completion just as the Falklands War with Argentina started. After the war ended she carried out a record breaking patrol around the Falkland Islands and the Argentine coast.[6]

She was also part of a BBC television documentary called Submarine.

The submarine was decommissioned due to mechanical failure associated with the reactor in 1991. Mainly operated out of HMNB Clyde, at Faslane (the former Clyde Submarine Base) with the Third Submarine Squadron. Her hull and reactor are currently laid up afloat at Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth until facilities are available for the long term storage of her radioactive components.

Notable commanders of this vessel include Sandy Woodward.[6] Woodward went on to command the Falklands Conflict battle group, became Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command and rose to the rank of admiral.

Warspite (left) and Conqueror (centre) with Valiant (at rear) at Devonport Navy Days, 26 August 2006.


  1. ^ a b c Blackman 1971, p. 336.
  2. ^ "Mrs Wilson Launches H.M.S. Warspite". Navy News. October 1965. p. 8. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  3. ^ Ballantyne, Iain (2013). Hunter Killers. London: Orion. pp. 139–145. ISBN 9781409144182.
  4. ^ Hennessey and Jinks 2016, pp. 358–359.
  5. ^ "Warspite Blaze Awards". Navy News. February 1977. p. 31. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  6. ^ a b Ballantyne, Iain (2001). Warspite Warships of the Royal Navy. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. pp. 206–207. ISBN 0-85052-779-1.


  • Ballantyne, Iain (2014). Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service. London: Orion. ISBN 978-1-4091-3901-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Blackman, Raymond V.B. Jane's Fighting Ships 1971–72. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., Ltd. ISBN 0-354-00096-9.
  • Hennesey, Peter; Jinks, James (2016). The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-241-95948-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Gardiner, Robert; Chumbley, Stephen, eds. (1995). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1947–1995. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-132-7.