HMS Queen Elizabeth? What’s in a name?

HMS Queen Elizabeth? What’s in a name?

by Stuart Crawford
article from Monday 12, March, 2018

SELDOM in British military history has so much nonsense been written than has recently been forthcoming on the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth. The biggest warship ever built for the Royal Navy at 65,000 tonnes and at a cost of £3.5 billion, her development and construction has been dogged by a number of delays, controversies and changes of mind over capabilities which have been well covered in the media.

Chief amongst the nuttier of these have been claims that she is an aircraft carrier with no aircraft – while that may be true at the moment, the F-35B STOVL jets which will equip her are being delivered and, anyway, she isn’t yet ready to receive them.

Then there is the claim she is “leaking”, which was also true but it was insignificant – 200 litres per hour – easily countered by her bilge pumps, and sorted now anyway at no expense to the taxpayer. All much ado about nothing, to be honest.

The latest stooshie, though, has reached a new level of hysteria. The pro-Scottish independence leaning newspaper (I’m being kind here) The National (aka “McPravda”) pounced upon the “revelation” that HMS Queen Elizabeth was not, in fact, named after our reigning monarch but rather – Heaven forfend – after Queen Elizabeth I of England who, as McPravda reminds us helpfully, “had the head of Mary, Queen of Scots, chopped off”.

To add insult to injury, the Royal Navy’s new carrier also has the temerity to have a badge which “features a red and white Tudor rose and the insignia ER which belonged to Elizabeth of England”. Social media erupted into a frenzy of CyberNattery as The National spluttered:

“In the biggest piece of hoodwinking since winks were first hooded, the Westminster Government and the Unionist press have colluded in allowing the public to think that the aircraft carrier assembled at Rosyth was named after the reigning Queen.”

Clearly the message was that the whole of Scotland had been insulted by this shameless chicanery and the Fiery Cross should now be sent out down the glens to rouse the nation to arms.

It would be funny if it was not so pathetic. If articles like The National’s one here are meant to keep independenistas like me true to the cause then, let me tell you, it’s having the exact opposite effect.

The truth is that HMS Queen Elizabeth is so named because the Royal Navy traditionally names its warships after their predecessors, in this case after the Dreadnought battleship HMS Elizabeth that entered service in January 1915 (pictured above), served in the First and Second World Wars (including the Battle of Jutland in 1916), and was scrapped in 1948. Just for reference, nine ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Glasgow. I am unaware of any complaints about that.

This storm in a teacup, however, has made me think how an independent Scotland, if and when it comes to pass, might name its warships, presuming of course it decides to have a navy. Much depends on whether independent Scotland would retain the monarchy or go the whole hog and become a republic.

The last time I looked I think the consensus was that we would retain the monarchy and have Her Majesty The Queen and her successor(s) as head of state. In which case we might assume the independent Scottish Navy’s ships’ names would be prefaced by HMS, or possibly HMSS (Her/His Majesty’s Scottish Ship) as per the Australian (HMAS) and Canadian (HMCS) model.

On the other hand, if Scotland were to become a republic, the mind boggles. We could possibly see The Peoples’ Republic of Scotia’s Ship (PRoSS) or even The Democratic Republic of Alba’s Ship (DRoAS). I’m sure there are many other suggestions out there if anyone has the energy.

As for what an independent Scottish Navy might choose for its ships names, I have previously estimated that such a navy might consist of 20-25 ships (see “A’ The Blue Bonnets: Defending An Independent Scotland”, RUSI, October 2012) so we shouldn’t have any difficulty here given our rich history. I for one look forward to seeing HMSS William Wallace, or PRoSS Robert de Brus (French spelling because he was, well, essentially French and also in honour of the Auld Alliance), or possibly even DRoAS Kenny Dalglish. Why not? I can think of a lot worse.

But to come back to the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, I prefer to think she is named after HRH The Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Who was, as any fule kno, a Scot.

Stuart Crawford is a former army officer and military commentator.

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