HMS Anson at virtual naming ceremony in Barrow 111220 CREDIT MOD
Naval History

HMS Anson: Which Navy Vessels Have Carried The Historic Name?

With the Navy's newest submarine receiving the name, we look back at all the vessels that have used it in the past.

HMS Anson at virtual naming ceremony in Barrow 111220 CREDIT MOD

The Royal Navy's fifth Astute-class submarine has been officially named as HMS Anson.

The eight vessels to be known as 'Anson' are named after the Admiral of the Fleet, George Anson (1697-1762), who is noted for his circumnavigation of the globe and overseeing the Royal Navy during the Seven Years' War.

Seven ships bore the name Anson before the 2020 submarine, with the first, a fourth rate 60-gun ship, appearing in the admiral's lifetime, given the moniker back in 1747, serving until 1773 when she was sold.

In service around the same time was the second Anson, a six-gun cutter which had been bought in February 1763 but was sold in July the following year.

The next Anson was launched in 1781, originally as a 64-gun third rate ship of the line, and going on to fight the French in the Caribbean at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782.

Although Britain won, the ship proved too weak to stand in the line of battle, so in 1784 she was reduced in size, becoming a frigate of 44 guns, stronger than the average frigate of the time.

The ship went on to have a successful career during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars, used against privateers, but also in small actions against enemy frigates.

During a storm on 29 December 1807, more than 100 Royal Navy sailors drowned within sight of the Cornish shore as they wrecked off the coast.

HMS Anson at virtual naming ceremony in Barrow 111220 CREDIT MOD
HMS Anson at the virtual naming ceremony at BAE Systems' Barrow-in-Furness shipyard (Picture: MOD).

Within five years the fourth Anson, a 74-gun third rate, was launched from Hull in 1812.

This ship had a far different career, closing out her service as a prison ship for seven years until 1851.

The next ship to take the name, a 3,361-ton 91-gun screwship, launched in 1860 but only held the name until 1883 when it was renamed Algiers.

Anson number six was the last of six Admiral-class ironclad battleships built for the Royal Navy during the 1880s. The 10,600-ton battleship launched on 17 February 1886.

Most notably in 1981 this Aston suffered a collision off the coast of Gibraltar with the passenger ship SS Utopia, killing more than 560 civilians.

The seventh ship to bear the name was launched in 1940, a 35,000-ton battleship, but was renamed early in the build and entered service as HMS Duke of York on 28 February 1940.

Another vessel and the sister ship to the battle cruiser HMS Hood, was to be named Anson, but was ordered in April 1916 and later cancelled in October 1918.

Very different from her forebears, the newest HMS Anson represents the cutting edge of the UK’s military capabilities.

She is armed with Tomahawk land-attack missiles and Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes, befitting her role as an attack submarine.

The nuclear reactor on board means she will never need to be refuelled during her 25-year service period.

She is fitted with air and water purifiers, which means the only thing limiting her range is food stores.

Like her namesake, she can circumnavigate the globe, but the modern vessel achieves the feat completely underwater. 

Cover image: MOD.