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HMS Vanguard

At least ten ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Vanguard, meaning the forefront of an action or movement.

Table of contents
1 HMS Vanguard (1586)
2 HMS Vanguard (1631)
3 HMS Vanguard (1678)
4 HMS Vanguard (1748)
5 HMS Vanguard (1787)
6 HMS Vanguard (1835)
7 HMS Vanguard (1869)
8 HMS Vanguard (1909)
9 HMS Vanguard (1946)
10 HMS Vanguard (1992)

HMS Vanguard (1586)

The first HMS Vanguard, 32, was a galleon launched in 1586 from Woolwich. She played a key part in the action against the Spanish Armada in 1588. She was commanded by Martin Frobisher in 1594 and by Sir Robert Mansell in 1596. During actions against Algerian pirates Vanguard flew the flag of Sir Richard Hawkins in 1620. The ship was dismantled in 1599 and again in 1615 and rebuilt, but in 1630 she was broken up.

General Characteristics

HMS Vanguard (1631)

The second HMS Vanguard, 56, was a second-rate launched in 1631. She took part in both the First and Second Dutch Wars. The ship served as the flagship for George Monck. In 1667 Vanguard was scuttled to form a barrier in the Medway River to prevent the Dutch fleet from capturing or burning the British ships there.

General Characteristics

HMS Vanguard (1678)

The third HMS Vanguard, 90, was a three-decker second-rate built in Portsmouth and launched in 1678. The ship took part in the Battle of Barfleur as part of Edward Russell's fleet, and then in the following action at La Hogue when French ships were burned in 1692.

Vanguard was wrecked in a gale during November 1703.

General Characteristics

HMS Vanguard (1748)

The fourth HMS Vanguard was a third-rate, launched in 1748. She took part in the capture of Louisbourg in 1758 under Admiral Edward Boscawen, and in the capture of Quebec in 1759 under Admiral Charles Saunders. In 1762, under the command of Sir George Rodney she took part in the capture of Martinique.

Vanguard was sold in 1774.

General Characteristics

HMS Vanguard (1787)

The fifth HMS Vanguard, 74, was a third-rate built in 1787 at Deptford. She saw much action before being broken up in 1821; see HMS Vanguard (1787) for details.

HMS Vanguard (1835)

The sixth HMS Vanguard, 78, was a second-rate built in 1835 at Pembroke Dock. She saw little action in her career, but one moment of controversy stands out of her record.

On the night of January 30, 1838, Vanguard was at Malta under the command of Captain Sir Thomas Fellowes. The ship's First Lieutenant, C.M.M. Wright, ordered the Assistant Surgeon, Robert Thomas Charles Scott, to stomach-pump a drunken seaman. Scott expressed the medical opinion that a stomach-pump should not be administered. Wright ordered him to give it anyway as a punishment and reminded Scott that it was an order he had received. A short while later Wright ordered Scott to do the same to another seaman. The next morning Scott reported the matter to Commander Baldwin Wake Walker who reported Scott to the Captain for disrespect and disobedience of a lawful order. Captain Fellowes threatened Scott with a court martial and reported him to Sir William Burnett, the Physician-General of the Navy. When this affair became public knowledge, an Admiralty Order was issued banning the use of a stomach-pump as a punishment.

Vanguard was renamed Ajax in 1867, to allow her former name to be given to an ironclad battleship then being laid down in the ways. Ajax (ex-Vanguard) was broken up in 1875.

General Characteristics

HMS Vanguard (1869)

The seventh HMS Vanguard was an ironclad battleship launched in 1869.

Vanguard, under the command of Captain Richard Dawkins, sailed out of Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) Harbour on August 27, 1875, in convoy with three other ironclads, Warrior, Hector, and HMS Iron Duke, en route to Queenstown (Cobh), County Cork. As they passed the Kish lightship a heavy fog came down, restricting visibility to less than a ship's length.

Iron Duke noticed she was drifting off course and began returning to her proper station. A problem with her steam plant meant that her foghorn was inoperable, and could not be used to alert the other vessels of her position or course.

At about 1250, a look-out on Vanguard spotted a sailing ship directly ahead. As Vanguard turned to avoid it, Iron Duke appeared out of the fog on her port side less than 40 yards away. Collision was unavoidable. Iron Duke's underwater ram tore open Vanguard's hull near her boilers.

Iron Duke freed herself after a few minutes, sustaining only minor damage. Vanguard, however, was sinking. Her pumps could move 3000 pounds of water per minute but the flooding exceeded 50 tons a minute. The pumps were powered by the engines, which shut down ten minutes after the collision when the engineroom flooded.

Vanguard and Iron Duke both launched all boats. The abandonment was completed in good order with Captain Dawkins the last to leave. Warrior and Hector sailed on and learned of the sinking only upon reaching Queenstown.

A little over an hour after the collision Vanguard rested on the seabed 50 meters (165 feet) deep. The tips of her masts were still visible above the surface. The Admiralty was confident that the ship could be raised and diving operations started but were soon abandoned.

General Characteristics

HMS Vanguard (1909)

The eighth HMS Vanguard was a St. Vincent-class battleship, an enhancement of the "dreadnought" design built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness. She was launched in April 1909, commissioned into the Royal Navy at Devonport in October 1910, and spent her life in the Home Fleet.

At the outbreak of World War I, she joined the First Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow, and fought in the Battle of Jutland as part of the Fourth Battle Squadron. She was a part of the action from beginning to end, but did not suffer any damage or casualties.

Just before midnight on Monday, July 9, 1917, Vanguard suffered an explosion in one of the two magazines which served the amidships turrets P and Q. She sank almost instantly, killing over 800 men.

General Characteristics

HMS Vanguard (1946)

The ninth HMS Vanguard, a modified King George V-class battleship, was the last battleship to be built by the Royal Navy.

Early in 1939, the Admiralty decided to build a new battleship that would use four spare twin 15-inch mountings originally manufactured for HMS Courageous and Glorious during World War I. A design for a 40,000-ton battleship was produced, intended to be the core of a Far East Fleet, where her high speed and armament would be a match for Japanese warships.

Commissioned August 9, 1946, she was completed too late to be of any practical use and became known as the only British battleship never to fire her guns in anger. After various duties as flagship, training ship and "royal yacht" but never seeing combat, she was decommissioned in 1954, after only 10 years’ service, and sold for scrap in 1960.

Vanguard was unique among British battleships in having remote control for both main and secondary guns.

The ship's motto was "We Lead."

General Characteristics

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HMS Vanguard (1992)

The tenth HMS Vanguard (S28) is the lead boat of her class of Trident-capable ballistic missile submarines. She was built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited (now BAe Systems Marine), was launched on March 4, 1992, and commissioned on August 14, 1993. She is based at the Clyde Naval Base, Faslane, but in February 2002, Vanguard began a two-year refit at Devonport Naval Base.

General Characteristics