HMS Vanguard was the Royal Navy’s last Battleship. I once walked her decks when she was moored in the creek above Portsmouth harbour. An impressive ship, even if perhaps beyond the time of great battleships. She was not in service and was waiting to be towed north to be broken up for razor blades, (as they use to say in those days).
I had assumed I’d seen the last of this amazing ship, until one afternoon in the late summer of 1960. I was enjoying a pint with my shipmate Michael Chislett in a little pub named the Coal Scuttle. This quaint little bar was locate in Old Pompey on the point at the harbour entrance. We were sitting near a window in the warm sunshine. Suddenly the sun was gone and it became quite dark. We went outside to discover the reason . Towering above us the huge bow of the Vanguard. She was being towed out of the harbour when the tow line broke and the grand old lady slewed broadside across the harbour entrance. I imagine the harbour would have remained closed for sometime.
Moving this huge vessel would take time, but Michael and I didn’t stay to see the final outcome. Once again I assumed this would be the last time I’d see the mighty ship. However, some months later we arrived in Faslane aboard the submarine Taciturn. There across the dock lay what remained of Vanguard, just her hull still afloat with about two feet above the water line.
This was clearly the last time I’d see this old ship! or was it??? Approximately one year later we were in Campbelltown at the tip of Argyll. I meet a local man and we got talking about vehicles. He insisted I come home with him to see his old bus converted into a camper. It was indeed a marvelous conversion, bunk beds capped in rich mahogany stainless steel wash basin and brass fittings, and an array of other nautical fittings. All items he’d purchase in Faslane from the scraped HMS Vanguard. This was indeed the last time I’d see any part of the Grand Old Lady. Nevertheless, this was a sad story of a great ship that I believe should have been preserved for history.
God Bless and keep reading