The 15-inch Guns of Vanguard, Courageous and Glorious

The following discussion took place on MARHST-L in August 1999. All postings appear here with the permission of the various authors.

From Martin H. Evans (mhe1000@CUS.CAM.AC.UK)

There is an interesting historical note in the latest (September 1999) issue of Navy News, prompted by replies NN received when it set a Picture Puzzle that asked, amongst other things, where HMS VANGUARD (1944) had obtained her 15" guns from.

The general belief is that Vanguard's 8 main guns, their mounts and turrets came from HMS COURAGEOUS and HMS GLORIOUS, when these were converted to aircraft carriers.

Navy News then received a letter from a Lt Cmdr Arnold Hague RNR, who had inspected a log formerly kept at Priddy's Hard (Naval Armaments Depot) and now in the Hampshire County Archives. It is clear from this log that although Vanguard's main turrets and mounts came from Courageous and Glorious, only one of the big guns came from one of them, and that was indirectly, as it had been in HMS WARSPITE in the intervening period.

It seems that Vanguard's 15 inch guns came from HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (2), HMS RAMILLIES (2), HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN (1), HMS RESOLUTION (1) and the monitor HMS EREBUS (1), as well as the one that came via HMS WARSPITE.

The RN held a pool of heavy guns - the article gives a figure of about 170 15 inch guns (I wonder if that could be a misprint?). They were rotated among several ships and refurbished in their intervals ashore. The 8 guns removed from Courageous and Glorious went, as well as to Warspite, also to Malaya, Renown and the monitor Roberts.

From Peter Skelton (skeltonp@HOME.COM)
5 - QE's @ 8 = 40
5 - R's @ 8 = 40
R & R @ 6 = 12
C & G @ 4 = 8
Hood @ 8 = 8

108 on capital ships around 1920

Hood's cancelled sisters 24 (or was it 32?)

Total for capital ships 132-140

The life of the liners was between two and three loadouts (ie. around 200 shots) for the ships. This gun went into service when fleet engagements were expected so a spare rate of 33-50% would not be excessive. 170 doesn't seem extreme under the conditions.

From Ian Buxton (I.L.Buxton@NEWCASTLE.AC.UK), 12 September 1999

I had to do a lot of research on 15-inch guns for Big Gun Monitors so dug out my old notes. I shared some of the info with Arnold Hague who wrote a most interesting article "The 15-inch Gun in the Royal Navy" for the World Ship Society's "Warships Supplement" No. 67, 1981. As Arnold indicated in his recent letter, there were (are?) records at Priddys Hard, Gosport which include the 15-inch gun registers. These are essentially logs, with one page for each gun, giving details of allocations, rounds fired etc. I summarised the history of each 15-inch installed in the monitors from these records on p.178 in BGM.

There were 195 15-inch Mark I guns ordered, of which 184 were completed, manufactured by six different works. Armstrong Whitworth completed 34 at their Elswick Works (Newcastle) and 12 at their Openshaw Works (former Whitworth factory in Manchester). Beardmore completed 37 at Parkhead, Glasgow, Vickers 49 at their Sheffield works, Royal Gun Factory 33 at Woolwich. Coventry Ordnance Works 19.

COW was an interesting company. Potential builders of export battleships like John Brown, Cammell Laird and Fairfield were held to ransom in quotes for big guns from Armstrong and Vickers, who had a virtual mon/duopoly in the UK. So they set up COW in 1905 to provide themselves with a capability to manufacture guns and mountings. The heavy mounts were manufactured at Scotstoun, Glasgow.

The history of 15-inch mounts is even more interesting than the guns. See BGM as to how the two 'surplus' twin turrets from RENOWN/REPULSE evolved after they became 6-gun battlecruisers instead of 8-gun battleships. The net effect was that there were four 'spare' turrets which were allocated to COURAGEOUS and GLORIOUS. G's two came from Vickers Barrow works (the only former heavy gun shop still in existence in the UK I think), while Elswick did C's A turret and COW her Y turret.

These four turrets were removed during their carrier conversions in the late 1920s and kept in store. Partly because it would take too long/too many resources to build the twelve triple 16-inch turrets for the four LION class battleships in 1940, it was proposed to use instead the four spare 15-inch turrets to arm one new battleship, namely VANGUARD.

The four turrets were shipped (from I guess Portsmouth and Devonport) to Scotstoun for refurbishment at the former COW works, now operated by Harland & Wolff. They were then shipped in VANGUARD only a few miles down the Clyde in 1944.

The actual guns shipped in VANGUARD were:
Y turret (ex COURAGEOUS A) No.21 (left), No.24 (right).
X turret (ex C Y) No.63, No.30.
B turret (ex GLORIOUS) No. 105, No.108.
A turret (ex G) No.65, No.77.

All guns and turrets were scrapped with the ship at Faslane 1960-61. See photos in "To Sail No More" Vol. 1 by Buxton and Warlow, Maritime Books, Liskeard, Cornwall, UK, 1997.

Last Updated: 31 October, 1999.

 Return to WWI The Maritime War

 Return to WWI Archive main page.