I have mentioned before that my wife is a genealogist, and it just so happens that one way to find information about dead relatives is to visit cemeteries. There are quite a few of my wife’s relatives buried in this particular cemetery … so we paid it a visit.
Whilst we were there I came across three graves that are worth mentioning because of their importance in local – and even national – history
The Princess Alice Memorial
The SS Princess Alice (formerly PS Bute) was a passenger paddle steamer that operated on the River Thames as an excursion steamer. She had been built as the PS Bute in Greenock in 1865 for the Wemyss Bay Railway Company, who sold her in 1867 to the Waterman’s Steam Packet Co. They renamed her Princess Alice, and she retained that name when she was sold first to the Woolwich Steam Packet Co. in 1870 and then to the London Steamboat Company in 1875.
On 3rd September 1878, she was making a routine trip from Swan Pier near London Bridge to Gravesend and Sheerness and back. Many of her passengers travelled as far as the Rosherville Gardens in Gravesend, which was a popular destination for such excursions.
At 7.40pm the Princess Alice was on her way back towards central London, and was in sight of the North Woolwich Pier, where a number of the passengers were due to disembark. At that moment the SS Bywell Castle, which was travelling empty towards Newcastle, came into view sailing in the opposite direction. The Bywell Castle was under the command of Captain Harrison, who had an experienced Thames river pilot aboard to assist him during the passage down the Thames.
The Princess Alice – which was commanded by Captain William R.H. Grinsted – was experiencing problems making progress against the tide, and turned towards the southern side of the Thames to seek the slack water … and right into the path of the oncoming Bywell Castle. Despite ordering his engines to go astern, Captain Harrison was unable to prevent his ship slicing into the starboard side of the Princess Alice, which split asunder and sank in four minutes.
It is estimated that over 650 people died when the Princess Alice sank (there were no passenger lists, nor had a proper count of how many were aboard been taken when she set sail from Gravesend), and 120 of them were buried in a mass grave in Woolwich Old Cemetery. There were between 69 and 170 survivors, but even here the actual number of people saved was never properly accounted for.
A memorial was erected over the mass grave, and it was paid for by a national six penny subscription.
The Phipson Family Memorial
One notable memorial in the cemetery is to the members of the Phipson family. It is shaped like a Celtic Cross, and on the south side bears an inscription to the memory of Thomas Barroll Phipson of Heathfield, Plumstead and to his youngest son, Sidney Lovell Phipson, M.A., B.L.
On the north side the inscription is to the memory of Captain Temple Leighton Phipson Wybrants.
Captain Temple Leighton Phipson (he added the surname Wybrants in order to secure an inheritance after he had married into the Wybrants family) served with the 75th Regiment of Foot (The Gordon Highlanders) in Gibraltar, Mauritius and South Africa. On leaving the Army he became an explorer and a surveyor, and in 1874 he accompanied Charles Brownlee on a mission to meet Chief Kreli of the Gcalekas. (The Gcaleka are a major subgroup of the Xhosa and live in the Transkei area of the Eastern Cape. At the time of the expedition they were ruled by King Sarili ka Hintsa, whose name may well have been incorrectly recorded a Kreli.)
He became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1878, and he died on 24th November 1880 (his 34th birthday) whilst leading an expedition to chart the land between the Zambesi and Limpopo Rivers, most specifically the Sabi River. His body was returned to England at the insistence of his mother, and it was buried in Woolwich Cemetery on 7th October 1881.
The grave of John Taylor VC
Like so many early holders of the Victoria Cross, John Taylor’s grave was almost lost when the original headstone became damaged and/or indecipherable due to the action of erosion, dirt, and weathering. His has now been replaced by a new one, which is shown below.
John Taylor won his VC during the assault of Sevastopol on 18th June 1855. He was serving with the Royal Navy’s Naval Brigade and held the rank of a ‘captain of the forecastle’. (A ‘captain of the forecastle’ was a Petty Officer.) Taylor and two other men – Lieutenant Henry James Raby and Henry Curtis – left the safety of their gun emplacement to go to the aid of a wounded soldier of the 57th Regiment who was crying for help some 70 yards in front of them. Despite heavy enemy gunfire, the three men were able to carry the wounded man back to safety. For this action all three men were awarded the Victoria Cross.
John Taylor was born in the Parish of St Phillip and St Jacob, Bristol in February 1822, and died on 25th February 1857 in the Royal Marines Infirmary, Woolwich. It is worth noting that Taylor’s medals included the Victoria Cross (the 86th to be awarded), the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, the China War Medal 1842, the India General Service Medal 1854 (with clasp for Pegu), the Crimea Medal (with clasps for Inkermann and Sevastopol), the Légion d’honneur, and the Turkish Crimea Medal.
- Lieutenant Henry James Raby eventually became Rear-Admiral Henry James Raby VC, CB (26th September 1827 to 13th February 1907). He was the first man to receive the VC from The Queen at the first investiture on 26th June 1857. (The Queen pinned the VCs on the recipients in strict order of Service precedence and seniority. As the by-then Commander Raby was the most senior officer of the senior service, he was given his medal first even though it was not the first to be awarded.)
- Henry Curtis (21st December 1822 to 23rd November 1896) was serving as a Boatswain’s Mate at the time he won his VC.
Whereas most of the ceremonies held today will concentrate on what is often thought to have been the British Army’s worst day, the role played by the French Army should not be forgotten. The offensive that started on 1st July 1916 was a combined offensive by units of the British Third and Fourth Armies and the French Sixth Army, and took place on a front that ran from Foucaucourt on the south bank of the Somme to Gommecourt, 2 miles beyond Serre on the north bank.
In the sector between Foucaucort and the Albert–Bapaume road (where the French and southernmost divisions of the British Fourth Army attacked), the attack was a success, and the Germans were forced to retreat. It was very different story in the sector between the Albert–Bapaume road and Gommecourt where the bulk of the British Fourth Army mounted its attack. (The British Third Army’s role was to mount diversionary attacks north of Gommecourt.) The British attacks were met with fierce resistance and few units even reached the German front line. Whereas the French only suffered 1,590 casualties, the British losses were in excess of 57,000, of whom 19,240 were killed.
The reason why these terrible losses had such an impact on the British national psyche is not difficult to understand. A large number of the units that went over the top on the first day of the battle were Kitchener battalions. In other words they were units raised during the initial period of patriotic fervour that occurred in the early days and months of the war, and a large number of them were so-called ‘Pals’ battalions. These were often raised from what were quite small geographic areas (i.e. a town or district in a city) where most of the members of the battalion were know to each other. Other ‘Pals’ battalions were recruited from people who shared a common interest or profession (e.g. sportsmen, stockbrokers). When a ‘Pals battalion’ suffered casualties, the impact on a local area was immense, and for many towns and districts it was a disaster. For example, of the ‘Accrington Pals’ who took part in the attack, 235 were killed and 350 wounded within the space of twenty minutes.
The concept of the ‘Pals’ battalions was never repeated, and it is not difficult to see why.
Pre-dreadnought Battleship Orel
Orel (Eagle) was the fourth of the five Borodino-class battleships that were built, and the only one of the four sent to the Far East to survive the Battle of Tsushima. She surrendered to superior Japanese forces on 28th May 1905, and after being rebuilt (her superstructure was reduced, her guns were replaced and re-positioned, and new boilers were fitted) she was commissioned into the Imperial Japanese Navy as the Iwami.
During the First World War she participated in the Siege of Tsingtau and served as the flagship of the Japanese squadron sent to Vladivostok in 1918 during the Japanese intervention in the Russian Civil War. In 1921 she became a training ship in 1921 and in accordance with the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty she was disarmed the following year. She was discarded in 1924.
Protected Cruiser Variag
Variag was an American-built protected cruiser that served with the Imperial Russian Navy at the beginning of the twentieth century. She was built by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, laid down during October 1898, launched on 31st October 1899, and commissioned on 2nd January 1901.
After being commissioned Variag was sent to join the Imperial Russian Navy’s Far East Fleet, with the result that she took part in the Battle of Chemulpo Bay at the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War. After failing to escape from the superior Japanese force that opposed her, Variag was scuttled on the orders of her commanding officer, Captain (First Rank) Vsevolod Rudnev.
Variag was subsequently salvaged by the Japanese, who repaired and commissioned her into the Imperial Japanese Navy as light cruiser Soya. She was used mainly as a training ship, but when the First World War broke out she was sold back to the Russians, who restored her original name when she was recommissioned into the Imperial Russian Navy. Unfortunately she never returned to Russia.
On her return journey from Japan she went to Liverpool to be overhauled by Cammell Laird, and whilst she was there the October Revolution of 1917 took place. Siding with the Bolsheviks, the Variag‘s crew raised the Red Flag and refused to set sail for Russia. Fearing the spread of revolution, the British government acted, and on 8th December 1917 Variag was seized by a detachment of British soldiers and incorporated into the Royal Navy.
The ship proved to be a problem, and during February 1918, whilst under tow off the coast of Ireland, Variag ran aground. She was re-floated, but the damage was too great to warrant expensive repairs, and she was thereafter used as a hulk. She was sold to a German company for scrap in 1920, but ran aground again off the Scottish coast whilst being towed to Germany. In the end it was decided to scrap her en situ, and this took place from 1923 to 1925.
Aurora was one of three Pallada-class cruisers, built in St. Petersburg for service in the Pacific. She was built at the Admiralty Shipyard, St. Petersburg, and was laid down on 23rd May 1897, launched on 11th May 1900, and commissioned on 29th July 1903. After entering service she was sent to join the Imperial Russian Far East Fleet, but had only reached Djibouti, she was recalled to the Baltic. After a short refit she then joined the Russian 2nd Pacific Squadron under the command of Admiral Rozhestvensky.
All three ships of the Pallada-class took part in the Russo-Japanese War; one (Pallada) was sunk at the Battle of Tsushima, one (Diana) was interned in Saigon after the Battle of the Yellow Sea, and Aurora survived the Battle of Tsushima, only to end up being interned in the Philippines from 6th June 1905 until the end of the war.
Once the war with Japan was over, Aurora returned to the Baltic in 1906 and became a training ship, and over the next six years she visited a number of other countries, including Siam. Once First World War had broken out, Aurora began conduction operations against German targets in the Baltic. In 1915 she was rearmed with fourteen new 152 mm/6-inch guns, and at the end of the following year she entered the dockyard in Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg) for a major overhaul. She was still there when the October Revolution of 1917 took place, and most of her crew sided with the Bolsheviks.
Aurora became famous on 25th October 1917 when – at 9.45 pm – she fired a blank shot from her forecastle gun. In popular history this is said to have signalled the start of the assault on the Winter Palace … but more recent research has indicated that this was purely coincidental and may have been the result of a drunken prank rather than a deliberate act!
During the summer of 1918, Aurora sailed to Kronstadt and was placed into reserve. She was recommissioned during the early 1920s, and again did service as a training ship. When the Germans invaded Russia in 1941, Aurora was in a very poor state, and her guns were removed and used in the defence of Leningrad. She was docked in Oranienbaum port, where she was repeatedly shelled and bombed, with the result that – on 30th September 1941 – she was sunk in the harbour. Aurora underwent extensive repairs from 1945 to 1947, after which she was permanently anchored on the River Neva in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) as a monument to the October Revolution. Ten years later she became a museum-ship, and she remains in this role today.
The Marat began life as the Petropavlovsk, the third of the four Gangut-class dreadnoughts built before and during the First World War for the Imperial Russian Navy. She was built at the Baltic Works, Saint Petersburg, laid down on 16th June 1909, launched on 22nd September 1911, and commissioned on 5th January 1915.
During the First World War she was used to defend the mouth of the Gulf of Finland from German attacks the Germans and to provide cover for minelaying operations. Petropavlovsk‘s crew joined the general mutiny of the Baltic Fleet in February 1917 and supported the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution of 1917. Under Bolshevik control she bombarded the mutinous garrison of Fort Krasnaya Gorka and supported operations mounted to counter the White Russians who were operating in the Gulf of Finland area in 1918–19. In 1921 – in the aftermath of the Kronstadt Rebellion – she was renamed Marat.
Because she was one of the few large, reasonably modern Soviet warships available, Marat was reconstructed from 1928 to 1931 to ensure that she was capable of continued front line service. During the Winter War with Finland, she took part in the bombardment of Finnish coastal artillery positions. Soon afterwards she was again in dockyard hands, this time to have her anti-aircraft armament enhanced.
During the opening months of the war with Germany, Marat provided gunfire support to Soviet troops trying to stop the German advance on Leningrad. On 23rd September 1941 she was sunk at her moorings when by two 1,000-kilogram/2,200lb bombs hit her just forward of her bridge structure. (One of these bombs is reputed to have been dropped by Stuka pilot Oberleutnant Hans-Ulrich Rudel of III./Sturzkampfgeschwader 2.) The bombs caused the forward magazine to explode, which almost totally destroyed the forward third of the ship and caused her to sink in 11m/36 ft of water.
Several month later Marat was re-floated and became a floating battery. She was never repaired, and in 1950 she was renamed Volkhov after the river of that name and began to be used as a stationary training ship. She was stricken in 1953 and scrapped soon afterwards.
Guided Missile Cruiser Slava
The Slava(Glory) was the name-ship of her class of three guided missile cruisers. They were originally designed and constructed for the Soviet Navy, and are currently operated by the Russian Navy.
Slava and her sister ships are heavily armed, and carry:
- 16 (8 x 2) P-500 Bazalt (SS-N-12 Sandbox) anti-ship missiles
- 64 (8 x 8) S-300F Fort (SA-N-6 Grumble) long-range surface-to-air missiles
- 40 (2 × 20) OSA-M (SA-N-4 Gecko) SR SAM
- 1 twin AK-130 130mm/L70 dual purpose gun mounting
- 6 × 6 AK-630 CIWS (close-in weapons systems)
- 2 × 12 RBU-6000 anti-submarine mortars
- 10 (2 x 5) 533mm/21-inch torpedo tubes
- 1 Kamov Ka-25 or Kamov Ka-27 Helicopter
Slava was built 61 Kommunar yard, in Nikolaev, laid down 1976, launched 1979, commissioned 1982, and renamed Moskva (Moscow) in 1995.
… that includes the following:
Circular Ironclad Coastal Defence Vessel Novgorod
Novgorod was a circular coastal defence ship built to a design prepared by Rear-Admiral Andrei Alexandrovich Popov of the Imperial Russian Navy. The hull was circular in order to reduce her draught (and thus make her capable of sailing in very shallow water) whilst at the same time permitting the ship to carry much more armour and a heavier armament than other ships of the same size. It was also hoped that the design would make her very stable, and therefore a good gun platform.
During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 Novgorod defended Odessa, but other than that her service career was uneventful. She was eventually decommissioned in 1903 and used as a storeship until she was sold for scrap in 1911.
Armoured Coastal Defence Battleship General-Admiral Graf Apraxin
The General-Admiral Graf Apraxin was one of the three Admiral Ushakov-class coastal defence battleships that were built in the 1890s for the Imperial Russian Navy. There role was to counter the growing fleet of armoured ships being constructed for the Swedish Navy.
In February 1905 the three ship of the Admiral Ushakov-class were part of the 3rd Pacific Squadron that was sent to reinforce Admiral Rozhestvensky’s 2nd Pacific Squadron, which was already en route to the Pacific to face the Japanese fleet. They eventually joined up with the 2nd Pacific Squadron at Van Fong in French Indochina and subsequently took part in the Battle of Tsushima on 27th and 28th May 1905.
The General-Admiral Graf Apraxin was one of the Russian ships that survived the battle, and she surrendered to Japanese forces on 28th May. She was subsequently repaired, refitted, and commissioned into the Imperial Japanese Navy as the 2nd class coastal defence vessel Okinoshima. She was one of the units of the Japanese Second Fleet at the outbreak of the First World War, and took part in the operations to capture the German colony of Tsingtao. Okinoshima was re-classified as a submarine tender on 1st April 1921 and was decommissioned on year later. She was then sold for scrap, but her new owners transformed her into a memorial to victory at the Battle of Tsushima. She was badly damaged in storms in 1939, and scrapped not long afterwards.
Pre-dreadnought Battleship Kniaz Potemkin Tavricheskiy
The Kniaz Potemkin Tavricheskiy (Prince Potemkin of Tauris) was a pre-dreadnought battleship that was built to be a unit of the Imperial Russian Black Sea Fleet. Her design was based upon that of the earlier battleship Tri Sviatitelia. She was laid down on 10th October 1898, launched on 9th October 1900, and completed in early 1905.
She was became internationally famous as a result of the mutiny that took place aboard her during the Revolution of June 1905. Her crew seized her on 25th June, and after sailing for Odessa the ship was involved in a curious and confused ‘stand off’ with other ships of the Black Sea Fleet. Potemkin escaped, and after trying to obtain supplies from Constanta in Romania, and then Theodosia in the Crimea, she returned to Constanta. The crew then attempted to scuttle the ship.
After negotiations with the Romanian government, the Russians re-floated the Potemkin and towed her back to Sevastopol to be repaired. She was subsequently renamed Panteleimon in honour of the saint of that name. She took an active part in naval operations in the Black Sea during the First World War, but after the Revolution of April 1917 took place she hardly went to sea again.
She was initially renamed Potemkin-Tavricheskiy (Potemkin of Tauris) and then Borets Za Svobodu (Freedom Fighter). She was placed in reserve in March 1918, captured by the Germans in May, and then handed over to the Allies in December 1918 after the Armistice. Before the Allies abandoned the Crimea in April 1919, they wrecked her engines. She was then captured by the Red Army, who then lost her when the White Army took control of the Crimea. She was finally recaptured by the Red Army in November 1920, by which time she was beyond economic repair, and she was scrapped during the early months of 1923.
Pre-dreadnought Battleship Tsarevitch
The Tsarevich was a pre-dreadnought battleship that was built in France for the Imperial Russian Navy. She was built by Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, La Seyne-sur-Mer, France, and was laid down on 8th July 1899, launched on 23rd February 1901, and commissioned on 31st August 1903.
The Russians were so impressed by the design that it formed the basis of the design used for the Russian-built Borodino-class battleships. After entering service she was based at Port Arthur in Manchuria and was the flagship of Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft during the Battle of the Yellow Sea during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05. Tsarevich was interned in Tsingtau after the battle, and escaped the destruction that overtook the Imperial Russian Navy at the Battle of Tsushima.
Once the was was over was transferred to the Baltic Fleet. She was fairly inactive during the early part of the First World War I and sailors were amongst those who took part in the mutiny of the Baltic Fleet in early 1917. She was then renamed named Grazhdanin (Citizen) and soon afterwards she took part in the Battle of Moon Sound in 1917, during which she suffered slight damaged. She was seized by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution in late 1917, decommissioned in 1918, and scrapped in 1924.
Auxiliary Cruiser/Raider Atlantis (HSK 2) (Germany, 1939)
Originally launched as the merchant ship Goldenfels in 1937, Atlantis was converted into a auxiliary cruiser/raider in 1939. After a very successful career as a raider, during which she sank or captured 22 ships, she was finally sunk on 22nd November 1941 by HMS Devonshire.
Minesweeper HMS Sir Kay (T241) (Britain, 1941)
HMS Sir Kay was one of the Round Table-class of minesweepers built specially for the Royal Navy. Their design was based on a standard trawler of the time. She was sold for commercial use in 1946.
Minesweeper FNS Lilas (M682) (France, 1950s)
Lilas was one of the Adjutant-class of minesweepers that were built by the United States in the early 1950s. They were loaned to fifteen foreign countries under the Military Defense Assistance Pact. She remained in service with the Frecnh Navy until 1981.
Minesweeper HMS Arun (M2014) (Briatin, 1986)
HMS Arun was a River-class minesweeper. Like most of its sister ships it served with the Royal Navy Reserve until being sold abroad. HMS Arun was sold to the Brazilian Navy and became the Patrol Corvette Babetonga (P63).
Motor Torpedo Boat MAS-532 (Italy, 1940s)
On 24th July 1941 MAS-532 took part in an attack on the Malta-bound Convoy GM1, during which she torpedoed and crippled the transport Sydney Star. The Sydney Star was hit by a torpedo on the port side and began to list, but despite this damage she managed to limp on to her destination, assisted by HMS Nestor.
Patrol Torpedo Boat/Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 (United States of America, 1942)
This Patrol Torpedo Boat was commanded by Lieutenant John F Kennedy during the Second World War. It was sunk in action by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri on 2nd August 1943.
Submarine Delfino (Italy, 1891)
This was the first submarine to serve with the Italian Navy. She was designed by Engineer Inspector Giacinto Pullino, and as a result she was also known as Delfino-Pullino or Pullino for short. She was rebuilt fro 1902 to 1904, when her original electric motor was supplemented by a petrol engine for use on the surface and her original 350mm/14-inch torpedo tubes were replaced by a single 450mm/16-inch one.
Submarine U-2334 (Germany, 1944)
U-2334 was a Type XXIII U-boat. She was laid down on 14th July 1944, launched on 26th August 1944, and commissioned on 21st September 1944. She was surrendered at Kristiansand, Norway, on 9th May 1945, and sunk in the North Sea as part of Operation Deadlight on 28th November 1945.
Nuclear Guided Missile Submarine Kursk (K-141) (Russia, 1994)
Kursk was an Oscar-II-class nuclear-powered cruise-missile submarine. It was lost with all hands when it sank in the Barents Sea on 12th August 2000.
Nuclear Guided Missile Submarine Yuri Dolgorukiy (K-535) (Russia, 2008)
Yuri Dolgorukiy is the first Borei-class ballistic missile submarine to enter service. Laid down in 1996, the design had to be recast when the original missiles the submarine was designed to carry failed numerous tests.
Battleship Littorio (Italy, 1937)
Littorio was the lead ship of the Italian Littorio-class of battleships designed during the late 1930s. (The class comprised Littorio, Vittorio Veneto, Roma, and Impero, but only the first three were completed and entered service with the Italian Navy.)
The Littorios were designed to counter the French Navy’s new Richlieu-class battleships, and were fast and well-armed. They utilised the unique Pugliese torpedo defense system, which did not perform as well in real combat as had been hoped. As a result they were susceptible to underwater damage cause by torpedoes and shells, and tended to restrict their use.
When Italy withdrew from the Axis and changed sides, all three Littorios (along with a sizable part of the Italian Navy) set sail from their bases and attempted to reach Allied ports in the Mediterranean. During her passage to Malta, the Roma was hit by two Fritz-X radio-guided bombs. One passed through the ship and exploded under her keel, seriously weakening her, and the second hit near the forward magazines. The latter caused a massive explosion, and the Roma to sink very quickly thereafter. After the Second World War had ended, the remaining two ships (Littorio and Vittorio Veneto) were scrapped in La Spezia during 1948.
Battleship Yamato (Japan, 1940)
Yamato was the lead ship of the Yamato-class of Japanese battleships. She and her sister ship, Musashi, were the heaviest (71 590 tons full draft) and most heavily gunned (they carried 9 x 18.1-inch guns) battleships ever constructed.
Yamato was laid down on 4th November 1937, launched on 8th August 1940, and commissioned on 16th December 1941. She took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and Battle of Leyte Gulf, and on 6th April 1945 she was involved in Operation Ten-Go as part of the Surface Special Attack Force. This operation was the Japanese preemptive strike against the Allied forces that were operating in the area around Okinawa.
On 7th April the Japanese ships came under sustained air attack by American carrier-based aircraft. During the first wave of attacks Yamato was hit by two armor-piercing bombs and one torpedo, and during the second wave a further fifteen bombs and eight torpedoes hit her. This did considerable damage to the Yamato, which had to slow down and counter-flood in order to prevent herself from capsizing. A third wave of attackers hit her with a further three torpedoes. Further torpedo hits brought Yamato to a standstill, and at 2:05pm the Captain ordered her crew to abandon ship. At 2.20pm she capsized and began to sink, but before she completely slipped below the surface she exploded.
Battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) (United States of America, 1944)
USS Missouri was the third of the Iowa-class fast battleships to be built. (Two more were laid down, but were never completed). She was laid down on 6th January 1941, launched on 29th January 1944, and commissioned on 11th June 1944. After arriving in the Pacific on 13th January 1945, she was assigned to Task Force 58, which was commanded by Admiral Mitscher. As a result she took part in Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa as well as shelling the Japanese home islands. On 9th May 1945 she became the flagship of Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr.’s 3rd Fleet, and it was on her quarterdeck on 3rd September 1945 that Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the formal Instrument of Surrender that ended the war.
After the war Missouri spent some time in Japanese waters before returning to the USA for a much needed overhaul. She then spent the next few years ‘showing the flag’ around the world and acting as a training ship. When the Korean War broke out Missouri was one of the ships sent to support forces on the Korean peninsula. She remained off the coast of Korea until 19th March 1951 when she returned to the USA. She remained active, and took part in several training cruises for midshipmen as well as acting as a flagship. She was eventually decommissioned on 26th February 1955, and became part of the Reserve Fleet.
She remained inactive until 1984, when she was modernised. She lost he original armament of 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft gun and four of her twin 5-inch guns and received four x MK 141 quad cell launchers that held a total of 16 AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, eight x Armored Box Launchers (ABL) containing a total of 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles, and four Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS) in their place. Her radar and fire control systems were also upgraded and her electronic warfare capabilities improved. Missouri was recommissioned on 10th May 1986 and later that year she embarked upon an around-the-world cruise. She then had spells of duty in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean before returning to the Pacific region.
When the Gulf War broke out in 1990, Missouri was sent back to the Persian Gulf area to support Allied forces, and on 17th January 1991 she fired her first Tomahawk missile at an Iraqi target, and over the next five days she fired a further twenty seven. On 29th January Missouri fired her main armament in anger for the first time since the Korean War when she fired at an Iraqi command and control bunker near the Saudi border. She followed this with an intermittent bombardment of Iraqi beach defenses in occupied Kuwait that began on the night of 3rd February and lasted for three days. During this bombardment she fired 112 16-inch rounds, and on 11th/12th February she fired a further 60 16-inch rounds near Khafji. Missouri‘s final spell of coastal bombardment took place on 23rd February when she fired 133 16-inch rounds as part of a deception operation that was supposed to persuade the Iraqi’s that there was about to be an amphibious landing on coast of Kuwait. She left the Persian Gulf area Persian Gulf on 21st March 1991, and returned home by early April.
Missouri was decommissioned on 31st March 1992, and again became part of the Reserve Fleet. On 4th May 1998 she was transferred to the non-profit-making USS Missouri Memorial Association (MMA) of Honolulu, Hawaii, and on on 29th January 1999 she opened as a museum ship, moored on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbour.
Battleship Richlieu (France, 1939)
The Richlieu was the lead ship of what was intended to be a class of four ships (only two were completed) that were designed in response to the Italian Littorio-class battleships. Their design was based upon that of the earlier Dunkerque-class, and they had a main battery of eight 15-inch guns in two quadruple turrets.
She was laid down on 22nd October 1935 in Brest, and the hull (less the bow and stern sections) was floated out of the dry dock it was built in on 17th January 1939. These were attached once the hull had been placed in the Laninon docks in the Brest Navy Yards. Still incomplete, the Richlieu went to sea for the first time in April 1940, and during May and early June she conducted speed and gunnery trials. On 18th June she set sail for Dakar to ensure that she did not fall into the hands of the advancing Germans, and she reached her destination on 23rd June.
After the Armistice had been signed between France and Germany, the British became concerned that Richlieu might fall into German hands, and on 7th and 8th July she was attacked by carrier aircraft from HMS Hermes. As a result Richlieu was damaged and rendered unable to go to sea for some time.
Further British attacks took place in September 1940, and Richlieu was damaged yet again. She was repaired as best as the limited resources in Dakar allowed, and when the Allied invasion of North Africa took place and the French forces in Africa joined the Allied cause, she sailed across the Atlantic to be fully repaired and refitted in the New York Navy Yard. This was completed on 10th October 1943, and from November 1943 to March 1944 Richlieu served as part of the British Home Fleet. She was then transferred to the British Eastern Fleet, and took part in operations in the western Indian Ocean and around the Dutch East Indies.
She returned to French North Africa in late 1944, and after a further refit in Gibraltar in January 1945, she returned to the Far East, where she remained (except for a short time in Durban, South Africa) until the end of the war. During the last three months of 1945, Richelieu was part of the French force that reoccupied to Indochina. On 29th December 1945, she set sail for France, and she arrived in Toulon on 11th February 1946.
Richlieu spent the next few years as a training ship, showing the flag, or as flagship (in 1948 and 1949) of the Force d’Intervention. She was refitted several times, but by 1956 her role was being taken over by her newer sister ship, Jean Bart. From May 1956 until she was placed in reserve in 1958, she was used as an accommodation ship in Brest. Was eventually sold for scrapping in early 1968.
Pre-dreadnought Battleship Danton (France, 1909)
Danton was the lead ship of a class of pre-dreadnought battleships that were laid down and completed for the French Navy after the completion of HMS Dreadnought. Despite the fact that she was already obsolete when she entered service, she had an active career in the Mediterranean until 19th March 1917 when she was torpedoed and sunk by U-64, a German U-Boat commanded by Kapitänleutnant Robert Moraht.
Dreadnought Battleship HMS Dreadnought (Britain, 1906)
When HMS Dreadnought entered service with the Royal Navy in 1906, she revolutionised naval power and represented such a paradigm shift in naval technology. At a stroke she rendered all other battleships obsolete, and although by the time the First World War started in 1914 she was herself obsolete, her name came to be that by which all subsequent battleships would be described.
Battlecruiser HMS Hood (Britain, 1918)
HMS Hood was the last battlecruiser to be built for the Royal Navy, and during the 1920s and 1930s she came to symbolise British seapower. Long, low, fast, and well-armed, she looked both menacing and graceful. She was originally intended to be the first of a class of four battlecruisers, but after the Battle of Jutland the design was revised and this slowed down progress on her construction. Hood was eventually launched on 22nd August 1918 and commissioned on 15th May 1920.
She was scheduled to undergo a major rebuild in 1941 to correct her growing obsolescence and lack of modern armour protection, but the outbreak of World War II prevented this from happening. As a result she was essentially un-modernised when she engaged (and was sunk by) the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen on 24th May 1941.
Battleship USS Arizona (BB-39) (United States of America, 1915)
USS Arizona was one of the two Pennsylvania-class battleships that were built for the US Navy during the early years of the First World War. She served with the Pacific Fleet for most of her life, and was extensively modernised form 1929 until 1931. She was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour of 7th December 1941. After being repeatedly hit by bombs, she exploded and sank, with the result that 1,177 officers and crew were killed. Her wreck still remains in situ, and forms the underwater part of the USS Arizona Memorial, which was dedicated on 30th May 1962 to the memory of all those who died during the attack.
Battleship Bismarck (Germany, 1939)
The design of the Bismarck was based on plans developed from those of the German World War I-era Bayern-class battleships. Bismarck and her sister ship Tirpitz were heavily armoured and had twenty two watertight compartments. This made them very tough opponents and both survived incredible amounts of punishment before they sank.
The Bismarck was sunk during her maiden raiding cruise in the North Atlantic after she had managed to sink HMS Hood and severely damage the new battleship HMS Prince of Wales. An attack by a group of Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers during the night of 24th May 1941 from the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious did sufficient damage to cause the Birmarck to turn for home.
When fifteen of HMS Ark Royal‘s Swordfish torpedo bombers launched an attack on Bismarck on 25th May, three of their torpedoes are thought to have struck the ship. Two of them did very little damage but the third hit and jammed Bismarck‘s rudders hard to starboard. This damage could not be repaired, and the battleship began turning in a large circle. This turned her into the path of her pursuers, and early on the morning of 26th May 1941 the British battleships HMS King George V and HMS Rodney began firing at the Bismarck. Within a short time Bismarck‘s main armament was silenced, and at a little after 10.15am the cruiser HMS Dorsetshire was sent in to finish her off with torpedoes. Only 110 of Bismarck’s crew were picked up after the battle, the rest having been killed, drowned, or died from exposure.