Naval History

HMS Prince Of Wales: Which Vessels Have Had The Name?

Numerous vessels have had the name 'Prince of Wales', ranging from a captured 18th-century ship, right to the 21st-century aircraft carrier.

HMS Prince of Wales is one of the most powerful surface warships ever constructed for the UK military, but the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier is far from the first Royal Navy vessel to hold the name.

Those to have carried the moniker throughout British naval history contain a selection of battleships designed to fight in very different eras of sea warfare.

Among the first vessels to be called 'Prince of Wales' was a privateer ship that swapped hands between the French and the British over its lifetime and was at different points involved in various roles.

Another early Prince of Wales has sometimes been referred to as a "budget" battleship, as it boasted the firepower of a late 18th-century battleship, but was not as well built as her contemporaries, like HMS Victory.

Despite being a generally unpopular type of ship, the Boyne-class vessel went on to fight throughout the Napoleonic Wars, but did miss the Battle of Trafalgar.

According to the Royal Navy, the fifth Prince of Wales never saw active service, as it was surpassed by the technology of the era.

Winston Churchill walking alone on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales during the Atlantic Conference in 1941 (Picture: Alamy).

Eventually, she was converted into a training vessel for officer cadets in Dartmouth as HMS Britannia, in what would become the precursor to Britannia Royal Naval College.

The sixth Prince of Wales was a pre-dreadnought battleship serving diligently through the first half of the First World War.

She transported Royal Marines to Belgium in the first weeks of the conflict before moving on to spend the next two years in the Mediterranean.

She would finish her days of service as an overflow accommodation ship in Portsmouth.

The seventh Prince of Wales was built in response to the growing global unrest in the 1930s and was still being tested in 1941 when she was dispatched to intercept Hitler's flagship.

Despite dealing with several mechanical problems with her turrets, the battleship hit the Bismark multiple times, forcing her to cut short her sortie.

German battleship Bismarck opens fire on British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and British battlecruiser HMS Hood in Atlantic WWII 240541 CREDIT SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG PHOTO,ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
German battleship Bismarck opens fire on HMS Prince of Wales and British battlecruiser HMS Hood in 1941 (Picture: Alamy).

Once repaired at port, she took Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Newfoundland for a meeting with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, before moving on to the Mediterranean to support the Malta convoys.

It would be her final act of the war, safeguarding Singapore, that would see her sunk, attacked by Japanese bombers.

Both she and the battle-cruiser Repulse would sink beneath the waves, sharing a loss of more than 800 lives.

The present-day HMS Prince of Wales is the second of the UK's Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

She was cmmissioned in December 2019 during a ceremony attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.

The 65,000-tonne vessel recently passed basic sea training, after having taken part in training with three British Army Apaches developing their take-off and landing capabilities - the first time an Apache and an F-35 have operated from the same flight deck.

An F-35 fighter also landed on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales for the first time during the training.

Watch: F-35s landed on board HMS Prince of Wales for the first time this year.

Cover image: The Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales leaving Singapore for her final cruise in 1941 (Picture: Alamy).