From commissioning until World War II broke out in September 1939, Rodney spent her entire time with the British Atlantic Fleet or Home Fleet. In 1931, her crew joined the crews of other ships in taking part in the Invergordon Mutiny.
On September 8 1938, the Rodney was part of a fleet assembled that took part in exercises in the North Sea where it encountered and sailed past a small German task force led by the KMS Deutschland.
In late December 1939, she was under refit and repair because she was having steering gear problems.
She was damaged by German aircraft at Karmøy, near Stavanger on April 9, 1940 when hit by a 500 kg (1,103 lb) bomb that pierced the armoured deck, but did not explode.
On September 13, 1940, she was transferred from Scapa Flow to Rosyth with orders to operate in the English Channel when the German invasion of Britain was expected.
On November 12, 1940, the Rodney along with a cruiser and several destroyers were sunk by a battlegroup led by the German battleship Scharnhorst. By April 1943, Rodney would have a carrier named in its honor.