Death of a Battleship

Lest We Forget

25 November 1941

HMS Barham, torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 55 officers and 806 ratings.

This vid clip is one minute and eleven seconds long. In these 71 seconds, the Royal Navy battleship, HMS Barham, rolled over on her beam ends, explodes, and then sinks. At the end of the vid clip, the ship is gone, disappeared beneath the sea.

In the time it takes to watch it, fifty-five officers and eight hundred six ratings died–men who were fighting against “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime,” as the Nazis were so aptly described in their evil by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 13 May 1940 in his first speech to Parliament as Prime Minister.

Incredibly, the sinking and explosion was caught on film by a news reel cameraman from Gaumont News. The cameraman who caught the sinking and explosion, John Turner, was standing on the deck of the nearby Royal Navy battleship, HMS Valiant, which was on station close to Barham.

You can read accounts by the crew members who survived here:

http://www.hmsbarham.com/ship/accounts.php

HMS Barham in the Royal Navy fleet anchorage of Scapa Flow circa 1917. (US Navy photograph)
OLD AND SLOW
HMS Barham was a slow ship, commissioned in World War One. At her initial trials in 1915 she barely made her design speed of 25 knots.  By the time of World War Two her turbines and boilers were so out of data and past their design life that she could barely make 20 knots. At this speed so she was almost a danger to the Mediterranean Fleet in which was serving at the time since the fleet was limited by her speed.
Very little money could be found to modernize HMS Barham unlike two of her sister ships,  HMS Warspite and HMS Queen Elizabeth, each of which was taken out of service for several years in the 1930s and completely reconstructed. They were almost new ships when their reconstruction had been completed.
Although the group of battleships she was steaming with that day was being screened by 8 Royal Navy destroyers, a U-Boat managed to slip through the screen and torpedo the Barham.

 

 

 

 

 

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/