HMS Vanguard was born on 9th August1946 when she completed her final acceptance trials but her conception was many years earlier during the dark years of World War Two. The decision to build the ninth Vanguard was taken at a time when Allied victory was still only a distant hope. Her keel was laid down in John Brown's yard at Clydebank on 2nd October 1941. At that time the Geman advance across Russia had not then been stemmed: the launching of the second front was still only a distant hazy dream. Only in Africa was the British Army on the offensive.
HMS Vanguard takes to the Water
It was the faith in the future of Britain that justified the building of HMS Vanguard. Despite air raids, high shipping losses and the inevitable wartime shortages of materials, no thought, no effort and no equipment was spared to ensure that she should be the last word in battleship construction. It has always been a mistake to claim that a ship is unsinkable - the fate of the Bismarck was proof of that - but there is no doubt that Vanguard was made as difficult to sink as humanly possible. Many improvements were incorporated in her design after building started as a result of experiences gained in the form of sea warfare encountered in the the Second World War.
After the Launch
HMS Vanguard was the largest warship ever built in Great Britain. She was 814 feet long and weighed 45000 tons. A point of interest was that her 15 inch guns were taken from reserves for the 'Royal Sovereign' class of battleship. The two reasons for this were that as she was constructed in wartime it was important that the armament firms should not have to employ their resources in the manufacturing the guns and mountings to the detriment of their other work. Further, the original 15 inch gun and mounting was the most successful ever produced.
The armour plating and watertight subdivisions had been planned to provide the highest degree of protection against bomb and torpedo damage. Her oil-fired boilers were operated on a new system which led to greater efficiency and less work for the engine room staff. Her ventilating system was of the most modern design for the period, and thereby improved the working conditions for those whose duties kept them below decks. A special system of humidity control was installed in the engine and boiler rooms which helped to maintain an even temperature whether the ship was in the Arctic or in the Tropics. Her anti-aircraft equipment was the finest ever installed in any ship of the Royal Navy. The battleship cost about £9,000,000, exclusive of her guns and mountings. During her construction no fewer than 3500 men and women were employed.