Eagle-eyed readers quick to identify historic warships

HMS Centaur
HMS Centaur
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Thanks to all of you who so swiftly managed to identify these two warships, which were featured on this page last Friday.

The overwhelming majority settled on two names: the battle-scarred ship was the cruiser HMS Vindictive from 1918, while the carrier was HMS Centaur, probably photographed in April 1954.

HMS Vindictive

HMS Vindictive

I’m particularly grateful to Peter Thurgill from Purbrook who passed the pictures to his brother-in-law Bob Todd, who works at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Bob, like several of you, says that Vindictive was first commissioned in 1898 and the picture shows her on April 24, 1918, in Dover harbour after her return from the famous raid on Zeebrugge.

Bob says: ‘On April 23, 1918 (St George’s Day) a naval force attacked Zeebrugge with the intention of blocking the harbour entrance.

‘Vindictive was laid against the mole [a stone wall built in the sea, used to protect an anchorage] and held in position by the former Mersey ferries Daffodil and Iris while their embarked Royal Marines stormed on to the mole to attack the batteries.

‘The submarine C3 was driven into the shoreward end of the mole and blown up, effectively cutting off the mole’s defenders from any assistance.

‘Meanwhile the old cruisers Intrepid, Iphigenia and Thetis were filled with concrete and scuttled in the canal entrance. Vindictive, her work done, pulled away from the mole and steamed back to Dover.’

Bob says more than half the Royal Marine force were casualties. Eight Victoria Crosses were awarded for this action.

On May 10, 1918, the patched-up Vindictive steamed to Ostend and was scuttled in the entrance channel, effectively blocking it for a short time. A further three VCs were awarded for this expedition.

Bob says Centaur was built in Belfast by Harland & Wolff and was launched on April 22, 1947, by the Duchess of Kent.

She was commissioned on September 17, 1953, in Belfast and arrived in Portsmouth Harbour for the first time on October 2, 1953.

She went straight to North Corner Jetty and began alterations to fit her with an angled flight deck.

On April 26, 1954, she sailed for St Helen’s Roads and anchored there for three days before sailing for Sheerness. Bob adds: ‘It is quite probable that this photograph was taken between April 26 and 29, 1954.

‘The photograph is definitely taken prior to January 10, 1956, when Centaur left Portsmouth for the Far East.’