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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2003

HMS BARHAM - Queen Elizabeth-class 15in gun Battleship

Editing & Additional Material by Mike Simmonds

HMS Barham (Maritime Quest, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

QUEEN ELIZABETH-Class Battleship ordered from John Brown at Clydebank after approval of design in June  1912. This ship was laid down on 24th February 1913 and launched on 31st December 1914. She was the third RN warship to bear this name, introduced in 1811 and last used for a cruiser in 1989 sold in 1914. The ship began service in October 1915 and had cost £2,408,000, including the armament, communication equipment and other items of Admiralty supply. She was present at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 and after extensive service during WW2 was sunk by a U-Boat torpedo in November 1941. For more information on design see BRITISH BATTLESHIPS by A Raven and J Roberts.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s




H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a field Blue, a Wyvern Gold ducally gorged Silver

bearing in its mouth a laurel sprig.


M o t t o

Tout bien ou rien:  ‘All good or nothing’



D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information,  go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 9 3 9


September to October


Continued deployment with Mediterranean Fleet.




Continued deployment with Mediterranean Fleet.


28th - On completion of repairs at Malta sailed for Alexandria escorted by the destroyers DAINTY and DEFENDER.




1st - Sailed from Alexandria for Malta escorted by destroyers DAINTY and DEFENDER.

6th - Sailed from
Malta for the Clyde escorted by the destroyers DUNCAN and DUCHESS.

11th - West of Ireland the destroyers ECHO, ECLIPSE and EXMOUTH joined the escort.

12th - At 0437 hours 9 miles west of the Mull of Kintyre she was involved in a collision with DUCHESS. The destroyer was rolled over by the force of the impact and sank at 0503 hours taking 124 crew with her. BARHAM continued into the Clyde escorted by DUNCAN and EXMOUTH, leaving ECHO and ECLIPSE to pick up the 23 survivors.

15th - In company with the battleship WARSPITE and the battlecruiser HOOD sailed from the Clyde to a position 300 miles west of Malin Head to provide cover for the troop convoy TC.1 which was carrying 7450 Canadian troops.

28th - At 1450 hours 66 miles west of the Butt of Lewis when returning from patrol in company with battlecruiser REPULSE and destroyers ISIS and NUBIAN, she was hit on port side by torpedo from U.30. Four crew were killed and extensive damage caused to her A & B shell rooms. She proceeded under her own power escorted by the destroyers FAME, ICARUS and IMOGEN to

30th - Arrived at Liverpool and entered Gladstone Dock for repair.


1 9 4 0


January to June


Under repair. For details see BRITISH BATTLESHIPS.




1st - Sailed from Liverpool for Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers ATHERSTONE, FERNIE, IMOGEN and WARWICK.

2nd - Arrived at Scapa Flow where she carried out stability and firing tests. Following which she commenced working up exercises.




Nominated for support of planned French landings at Dakar. (Operation MENACE – For details see MENACE by A Marder, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C Barnett, and Naval Staff History.)


28th - Took passage from Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers ECHO, ECLIPSE, ESCAPADE and INGLEFIELD.




Passage to Gibraltar.


2nd - Arrived at Gibraltar.


6th - Sailed from Gibraltar in company with aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL, battlecruiser RENOWN, battleship RESOLUTION, and screened by destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY, GREYHOUND, ECLIPSE, ESCAPADE and INGLEFIELD. (ECHO joined later after completing repairs at Gibraltar).


20th - Pre-operation conference held on board at Freetown.


21st - Sailed from Freetown for Operation MENACE. (Note: cruisers DEVONSHIRE, CORNWALL, AUSTRALIA (RAN) and DEHLI had joined MENACE at Freetown.)


23rd - Arrived off Dakar to find the area shrouded in fog.

At 1000 hours in a momentary clearance of the fog the shore battery at Cap Manuel opened fire on BARHAM without scoring any hits. Between 1100 and 1130 hours BARHAM, RESOLUTION, AUSTRALIA, CUMBERLAND and DEVONSHIRE bombarded French warships including battleship FS RICHELIEU in Dakar harbour and also the shore batteries at Cap Manuel and Gorée Island.


24th - In misty weather BARHAM, RESOLUTION, AUSTRALIA and DEVONSHIRE carried out a further bombardment of the port area and the shore batteries at a range of 14000 yards. BARHAM concentrated her fire on the RICHELIEU. The return fire from RICHELIEU and the shore batteries was concentrated on BARHAM and she was hit by two shells causing slight damage.

At 1325 hours the bombardment was checked and the bombarding force moved out to sea. An assessment of the results was that despite the battleships having fired 400 rounds of 15in little or no damage had been caused to RICHELIEU or the shore batteries. Engaged French submarine PERSÉE with depth charges


25th - In clear weather she launched her Walrus aircraft which then spotted for her when a further bombardment of RICHELIEU was carried out which obtained one hit. (Note: Post war evidence records this caused no damage.) The Walrus was shot down.

At 0910 hours RESOLUTION was torpedoed by French submarine BÉVÉZIERS. Shortly after this BARHAM was hit in the bows by a 15in shell from RICHELIEU.

At 0930 hours the attack was called off. BARHAM took RESOLUTION in tow and they proceeded to Freetown.


28th - BARHAM towing RESOLUTION arrived at Freetown.




On release from MENACE took passage to Gibraltar from Freetown.


15th - Arrived at Gibraltar where she was dry-docked for repairs to damage sustained at Dakar.


30th - At Gibraltar where she was subjected to a failed attack by an Italian Chariot. Nominated to join the Mediterranean Fleet.




6th - Embarked 750 troops (4th Battalion the Buffs) and stores at Gibraltar for passage to Malta.


7th - Formed Force F for Mediterranean transit covered by ARK ROYAL and SHEFFIELD screen by destroyers of Force H For details see Naval Staff History, Operation COAT. (Note: Operation CRACK and air attack from ARK ROYAL took place coincidentally with COAT.)


10th - Joined ships of Mediterranean Fleet. See above reference and THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D MacIntyre.


11th - Disembarked troops and stores in Malta. Rejoined battleships VALIANT and WARSPITE, cruisers AJAX, GLOUCESTER, ORION, SYDNEY (RAN) and YORK, screened by Mediterranean Fleet destroyers. (Note: These ships of the Mediterranean Fleet were providing cover for passage of Convoy ME3 to Alexandria. aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS sailed for this operation but detached during passage ton carry out attack on Italian Fleet at Taranto. (Operation JUDGEMENT) (For details see above references.)


14th - Arrived at Alexandria with ships of the Mediterranean Fleet.


26th - Deployed with battleship MALAYA to provide cover for aircraft carrier EAGLE during air operations on Tripoli. (Note: This was part of coincident Operation C)




9th - Provided support for military operations with MALAYA (Note: Ships bombarded supply routes in Cyrenaica and were covered by cruiser screened by destroyers.)



1 9 4 1




3rd - Joined Force A with MALAYA and VALIANT screened by 11 destroyers for bombardment of Bardia with cover from ILLUSTRIOUS and cruiser CALCUTTA.


11th - Deployed with EAGLE, AJAX and destroyer screen to carry out air attacks on Dodecanese. (Note: This operation was cancelled after ILLUSTRIOUS had been seriously damaged in air attacks whilst covering passage of Convoy to Alexandria. See references.)


22nd - Part of escort for damaged aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS during passage from Malta. (Note: VALIANT and Australian cruiser PERTH were also deployed.)


24th - Provided Distant Cover with EAGLE and VALIANT during passage of cruisers AJAX, GLOUCESTER and ORION, destroyers MOHAWK and NUBIAN taking troops to Malta (Operation MC8)




20th - Provided Distant Cover for passage of MW6A to Malta with aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE, VALIANT, WARSPITE, cruisers GLOUCESTER and YORK screened by destroyers of Mediterranean Fleet deployed as force A (Operation MC9) (Note: Italian Fleet units were known to be at sea covering passage of a convoy to North Africa.)


27th - Sailed from Alexandria with WARSPITE, VALIANT and FORMIDABLE screened by Fleet destroyers to intercept Italian Fleet units intending to attack convoys between Egypt and Piraeus. The subsequent encounter with these Italian warships is known as The battle of Matapan.) (Note: This deployment was made on the basis of interception of Italian Navy signals traffic and is described in MATAPAN by S W Pack which with the above references give details of the action.) Took part in sinking of two enemy ships.




18th - Covered passage of Supply Ship BRECONSHIRE to Malta and return Convoy ME7 with FORMIDABLE, WARSPITE, VALIANT, cruisers AJAX, CALCUTTA, GLOUCESTER, ORION and PHOEBE screened by Fleet destroyers.


20th - Detached with WARSPITE, VALIANT, GLOUCESTER screened by four destroyers identified as Force A.


21st - Took part in bombardment of Tripoli for 49 minutes covered by Force C comprising FORMIDABLE, AJAX and HMAS PERTH.


23rd - Returned to Alexandria with Fleet units (Note: A proposal by the Prime Minister that this ship should be used as a blockship for an operation to carry out an attack on Tripoli was rejected by C-in-C Mediterranean Fleet.)




6th - Deployed with FORMIDABLE, VALIANT, WARSPITE, AJAX, ORION, HMAS PERTH and cruiser Minelayer ABDIEL screened by 12 Fleet destroyers to provide Distant Cover for passage of Convoy MW7 from Alexandria to Malta and military convoy on passage to Egypt (Operation TIGER). (Note: This operation also covered transit of battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH, cruisers FIJI, GLOUCESTER and NAIAD to reinforce the Fleet at Alexandria.


10th - Under air attacks, which were repelled by aircraft from FORMIDABLE and ships AA gunfire.


25th - Deployed with QUEEN ELIZABETH to provide cover for units of Mediterranean Fleet engaged in support of military operations in defence of Crete.


26th - Provided cover for air attacks by FORMIDABLE on Scarpanto.


27th - Under air attacks and sustained serious damage after a bomb hit on Y-turret and effect of near misses. See BRITISH BATTLESHIPS.


29th - Return passage to Alexandria.




Repair arranged in Durban and prepared for passage by local resources. Took passage to Durban for repair.


July to August


Under repair at Durban.




On completion took passage to rejoin Fleet at Alexandria.




Deployed for Fleet duties in eastern Mediterranean.




Fleet duties in continuation including support of military operations by bombardment of coastal targets.


18th - Deployed with QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT for diversionary cruise to draw off enemy aircraft during bombardment of Libyan coast positions by 7th and 15th cruiser Squadrons (Operation ME4) Although Fleet units were shadowed by enemy aircraft, no attacks developed. (Note: The bombardment support was the RN contribution to planned military advance in the western desert, Operation CHIEFTAIN).


20th - Deployed with same ships for further diversionary cruise during support bombardment by cruisers. (Operation ME7).


21st - Deployed with Fleet units to cover passage of cruisers for support bombardment. Under air attacks which were driven off by Fleet Air Arm aircraft based at Mersa Matruh.


22nd - Returned to Alexandria with QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT and destroyer screen.


24th - Took part with QUEEN ELIZABETH , VALIANT and screen of eight Fleet destroyers for provision of cover to cruisers of 7th and 15th Squadrons carrying out search for military convoys on passage to Benghazi (Operation ME7). (Note: cruisers were deployed as Force B – See Naval Staff History).


25th - Under constant observation by enemy aircraft. Under attack by U331 and hit by three torpedoes which struck between funnel and X turret on port side. Ship sank in position 32.34N 26.24N within 4 minutes after the magazine detonated. (On VALIANT, the closest ship to BARHAM when she was hit, was the Gaumont News cameraman John Turner who shot 2 minutes of movie film, all he had left in the camera, of the sinking. This film became one of the most poignant shots in the whole war). Only 450 survived from the complement of about 1312. (Casualty List - note on casualties)

Note: At the subsequent Board of Inquiry it was suggested that the fires started caused the explosion of the 4in and 15in magazines.  All internal communications failed and the speed of the development of a list made it impossible for many to escape. See above references and TUBAL CAIN by E Muspratt.)


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