History of HMS Queen Elizabeth

More than 20 ships in Britain’s Navy have carried the name Elizabeth, going all the way back to the namesake monarch and battle honours beginning with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Only one previous warship has been named Queen Elizabeth, however. She proved to be one of the great names of the 20th Century Royal Navy. The ship was the apotheosis of pre-World War 1 battleship design, the first oil-powered capital ships in the Royal Navy, and the first equipped with the 15in gun, capable of hurling a shell weighing nearly one ton just short of 20 miles.

Joining the Fleet in 1915, Queen Elizabeth was sent to the Dardanelles to support the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign before being returned to the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. She missed the titanic clash of dreadnoughts at Jutland because she was being refitted (four of her sisters all saw action that day) but she did witness the capitulation of the German Navy.

As the flagship of the Grand Fleet in November 1918, it was here that the armistice terms were dictated to the leaders of the High Seas Fleet by Admiral Beatty, Britain’s most famous admiral of the day.

The ship spent much of the period between the wars in the Mediterranean before undergoing a massive rebuilding programme in Portsmouth on the eve of WW2. The work was finished in Rosyth to escape German bombing of the Hampshire naval base.

Once the overhaul was completed, the battleship was dispatched to the Mediterranean, where she supported convoys to Malta and the evacuation of Crete. She was damaged by an Italian human torpedo in Alexandria harbour. The damage caused meant she was out of action for 18 months.

When she returned to service, she was sent to the Far East to support operations off Burma, the Malay peninsula, before returning to home waters just before the war’s end.