HMS Vanguard’s dramatic final departure, 1960

HMS Vanguard was not only the biggest, fastest and last of the Royal Navy’s battleships but she also had the distinction of being the last battleship ever launched when she was commissioned on May 12th 1946. Throughout her career, Vanguard usually served as the flagship for Royal Navy or NATO surface groups and in 1953 she participated in Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Review. While undergoing refit in 1955, the Admiralty announced that the ship was going to be put into reserve and was finally sold for scrap in 1960. However, the ship would have one last defiant and almost catastrophic moment in her life before she was to go to the breaker’s yard.

On August 4th 1960, the sea front was packed with people who came to see the mighty ship off as she was to leave Portsmouth for Faslane, Scotland where she would be broken up. As the last battleship was being towed towards the harbour entrance however, she slid across the harbour and ran aground near the Still & West pub. It would take an hour and the effort of five tugboats to pull her off again and lead her out to sea for her final journey north.

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