Barham was launched on New Years Eve 1914 on the River Clyde, one of five Queen Elizabeth class battleships that was 643 feet 9 inches long, around 33,000 tons and carried an impressive armament of four 15 inch guns on two forward turrets. With over 1000 crew on board, she was built in a time when the Dreadnoughts were the up and coming warship, more powerful and heavily armoured than anything launched before, and Barham was one of those ships. Not least because she had been launched as the world was plunged into war just a few months earlier.
21 years later she was part of the Mediterranean fleet when
the Second World War was declared, so her mission now was to head back to
British waters and join the home fleet. As she neared the
So Barham now sailed around the Atlantic and
On 25th November the submarine U-331 saw the fleet and fired four torpedoes at the Barham, three of which struck the ship in quick succession. The huge battleship rolled over slowly as crew fought to escape the sinking ship, but at this exact moment the warship Valient was doing something that would propel the death of the Barham into history. On board the Valient was a cameraman filming the ship for Pathé News.
The Barham was rolling right over onto her side when
suddenly the magazine blew up and hug
e pieces of the ship flew in every direction. The sight was shocking and the smoke enveloped everything around it. By the time the smoke had clearend, Barham had gone. 862 of her crew were killed, the nearby warships managing to rescue 487 survivors, two of whom would die later.
The Barham wreck has never been found, but she lies somewhere in the Eastern Med. Maybe some day we will gaze upon her once again.
Memorials to the Barham are dotted around the country at various war memorials, one being at the National Memorial Arboretum which I visited in 2020.