LIST OF CAPTAINS
1 Mar. 1910 John Eustace
23 Sept. 1911 Arthur D. Ricardo
5 June 1913 Cecil S. Hickley, M.V.O.
22 Jan. 1916 James D. Dick
After the calamity which befell the Vanguard in 1875 came the longest period since 1586 - 33 years - when there was no ship of the name in the Royal Navy. The eighth Vanguard was laid down by Vickers - Armstrong & Maxim at Barrow-in-Furness in 1908. She was of the St. Vincent Class, 19,250 tons, the second improved and enlarged versions of the Dreadnought; they mounted the same main armament of ten 12-inch guns in three centre-line and two sided twin turrets, but had a secondary battery of twenty 4-inch instead of 12-pounder guns; their main machinery was similar to the prototype but gave the same maximum speed of 21 knots, in spite of their additional 3,000 tons displacement.
She was first commissioned by Captain J. B. Eustace at Devonport in 1910 for service in the Home Fleet. She recommissioned in 1912 and again in 1914, on the latter occasion from Chatham, for further service in the same fleet; when war broke out she was in the 1st Battle Squadron. With other heavy ships she shared the monotony of Scapa Flow, the occasional excitements when the German High Seas Fleet was reported at sea and the subsequent disappointment of the abortive sweeps through the North Sea.
On 30th May, 1916, under the command of Captain J. D. Dick, the Vanguard, in the 4th Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow, sailed with the battle fleet under the command of Admiral Jellicoe on what appeared to be just another sweep. On this occasion the German Fleet was out and, at 113O on 31st May, an enemy report was broadcast by the Galatea, who had sailed from Rosyth with the battle-cruiser force. At 1500 Admiral Jellicoe made the signal to prepare for action, followed at 1647 by the exhilarating message : "The Enemy Battle Fleet is coming North." At 1800, when our own battle cruisers were imminent but, the exact position of the enemy was still uncertain, the battle fleet had not yet deployed into line of battle.
At 1815 the signal to deploy to port on a south- easterly course was made and Vanguard, in rear of the 4th Division, became sixteenth ship in the line of twenty- four battleships ; at 1830 she opened fire at 14,000 yards range on the head of the enemy battle fleet, which came into sight to the south-west through the smoke from our own battle cruisers. This battle fleet engagement was of short duration, as Admiral Scheer turned his fleet 16 points as soon as he saw the trouble into which it was running; at the same time he ordered his destroyers to attack with torpedoes and make smoke to cover his withdrawal. The destroyer attack was driven off without causing any damage to our battle fleet, but contact with the High Seas Fleet was lost ; course was altered to the south, tben southwest, to regain it.
Half-an-hour later, Admiral Scheer turned back to the eastward, hoping to break past ahead or astern of our battle fleet which was now between him and his own coast, but luck was not with him; he found our whole battle fleet barring his way. The German battle cruisers and leading battleships silhouetted against the setting sun had a very unpleasant ten minutes under fire from almost all our battle line. Again, Admiral Scheer had to order a "battle turn away", covered by his battle-cruisers, more destroyer attacks and smoke screens. The secondary armaments of the battle fleet again came into action and this torpedo attack was as unsuccessful as the first. At 1920 firing died away as the German battle cruisers and destroyers retired. The big ships had no further contact with the enemy, the light forces bearing the full brunt of the night action which followed, as Admiral Scheer forced his way to the eastward astern of our battle fleet. The Vanguard was fortunate in suffering neither casualties nor damage during this action. These two brief periods of firing during the battle of Jutland, the culmination of six years of regular battle practice and some- times monotonous drill, were the only real action the ship was destined to see, though she had another year of service in the Home Fleet. On 9th duly 1917, at about 2200, while the Vanguard was lying at anchor in Scapa Flow, one or more of her magazines blew up. She sank instantly. Of the men on board, only two were rescued but, as leave was being given at the time, a total of 97 actually survived out of a ship's company of over 800. The Vanguard was the fourth British ship to be lost during World War I from similar internal explosions, but the precise cause remains unexplained.