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Box - from the teak of HMS WARSPITE

Date: 1947-1956
Overall: 57 x 112 x 109 mm, 0.2 kg
Medium: Wood: Teak, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Trench art
Object No: 00006229
Place Manufactured:Cornwall

User Terms

    This souvenir timber box was made from teak salvaged from the beached battlecruiser HMS WARSPITE. The ship served in the British Royal Navy during both World Wars and was beached in Prussia Cove, Cornwall in 1947 during a gale. Attempts to refloat her were unsuccessful until 1950 - but this was short lived when the ship had to be beached again due to leaks.
    SignificanceSouvenirs crafted from the remains of ships - naval and merchant - are popular commemorative artefacts.
    HistoryHMS WARSPITE was a Queen Elizabeth class battleship of the British Royal Navy, launched on 26 November 1913 at Devonport Royal Dockyard and serving in both World Wars with distinction. The ship was awarded the following Battle Honours -
    Jutland 1916, Atlantic 1939, Narvik 1940, Norway 1940, Calabria 1940, Mediterranean 1940-41-43, Malta Convoys 1941, Matapan 1941, Crete 1941, Sicily 1943, Salerno 1943, English Channel 1944, Normandy 1944, Walcheren 1944, and Biscay 1944.

    HMS WARSPITE was held in Reserve at Portsmouth and placed on the Disposal List and sold on 12 July 1946 to BISCO for demolition by Metal Industries at Faslane on the River Clyde in Scotland. On 23 April 1947 whilst on passage to the breaker’s yard, the tow parted in a severe storm and the ship ran aground in Prussia Cove, six miles east of Penzance. The wreck was surveyed and declared a total loss with a payment of £150,000 by the insurers. The hulk was too big to deal with and resold to R H Bennet of Bristol. The hull was badly damaged and the ship was partially scrapped where it lay. Eventually it was refloated in 1950 and beached at Marazion, near St Michael's Mount where the breaking up was not completed until 1956.

    From The Mercury, Hobart, 10 January 1947:
    "Veteran Battleship To Be Broken Up
    LONDON, Thurs. (AAP).- HMS Warspite, veteran battleship of two wars, which has been moored at Spithead for l8 months, has been towed to Portsmouth harbour for the removal of gun turrets prior to her last voyage - to a shipbreaker's yard."

    From The Advertiser, Adelaide, 25 April 1947
    "Better Than Razor Blades," Says Officer LONDON. April 24.—AAP.
    The hulk of the battleship Warspite, which twice broke its tow-lines while being towed by tugs to the shipwreckers, is believed to be hard and fast on the rocks at Prussia Cove, some miles from Penzance, and may end its fighting career there.
    The skipper of a lifeboat which took off the skeleton crew of the Warspite, said that the hulk had been driven hard on to the rocks about 100 yards from the shore. "I am sure that she is a total wreck," he said. "There is a 60 m.p.h. gale and 50 ft. waves are driving her on to the rocks. I do not think we will ever float her again. When I left her she was down at the bows and pitching slightly to port." A naval officer commented:—"lt is a better end for her than to be cut up for razor blades."

    From The Mercury, Hobart 17 March 1950:
    "Worker Killed In Attempt To Float Warspite
    LONDON, Thurs. (A.A.P.). - The grounded British 30,600-ton battleship Warspite claimed one life yesterday and again set back attempts to get her to the shipbreakers.
    The man killed was one of seven trapped below the waterline within the ship's hull and overcome by fumes when an airlock exploded. The men were preparing the hull for a new floating off operation.
    The Warspite, veteran of two world wars, has been fast on the rocks in Prussia Cove, Cornwall, since April, 1947, when she broke adrift in a gale while being towed to the shipbreakers.

    From The Courier-Mail, Brisbane 31 July 1950:
    "Old battleship defiant to end
    LONDON, July 30 (A.A.P.). — Veteran 31,000 ton battleship H.M.S. Warspite had to be beached after she had been refloated yesterday from rocks where she ran aground in a gale three years ago. Tugs freed the ship, but beached her after a leak was discovered in the boiler room.
    She had covered only four miles from the jagged rocks at Prussia Cove, where she had snorted defiance at the Admiralty for three years. The episode writes yet an other chapter in the history of the gallant old battler's refusal to be destroyed. She was completed just in time to fight in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, which she sur- vived with only damaged steering gear. She survived a collision with the battleship Malaya off Gibraltar in 1931, and then fought her way through the last war. She was in the thick of the battle of Narvik. She was damaged by bombs and mines, but managed to take part in the Normandy landings.
    Her last fight
    Then came her last fight. The Admiralty pensioned her off to the scrappers. But Britain's 'never say die' warhorse refused to go. She wrenched herself from tugs towing her to the scrappers in 1947, and it took one of the greatest salvage operations on record to move her. Three tugs yesterday screamed on their sirens as H.M.S. Warspite shuddered and was jerked free. But Warspite had not sur- rendered. The battle, however, will go on. For engineers are confident they can repair the leak and refloat her."

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