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Brifish Aircraft
Grriers d
Wbrld\ihrll
With a limited number of ships but with worldwide
rcsponsibilities, the Royal Navy deployed and operated its
The toughest campaigm for Britkh
carriers was the siege of Malta; they
were exposed to the full fury of the
carfierc in a very diffetent way to the Americans. Yet despite Luftwaffe. An even greater menace
lurked below the uraves.'Ark Royal
thefu laek of nunhers and mediocre aircraft, British carrierc and Eagle were both lost to U -boat
made a vital conhibution to the victory at sea, attack.

Though the British pioneered aviation at sea and at the end of World War as their heavier sisters, while enjoying the benefits of an enhar:e:
I were well ahead of everybody in the field, they lost their way badly aircraft capacity.
between the wars, squandering their great initial advantage, Probably The Royal Navy fought a different type of war to the Americars a;-j
*,}re most contentious issue of the time was RAF control of the Fleet Air
Japanese. In place of the latters' vast trials of strength in a comparai;e-_.-
Arm for the two decades from 1918, with interservice problems doing hmited theatre were world-wide resporsibilities in the defence of tl=i=
nothhg for the spirit of the service. Second was the deteriorating per- and vital outposts, together with long and patient operations aga-:-_<:
brmance standard of FAA aircraft in comparison with foretgn equiva- unwillingly-disturbed fleets-in-beinQ that could not be ignored, The-
-ents: this problem was as much naval as RAF in origin but meant that, functions, together with the value placed on each carrier, engenderei =
:mtially at least, the Royal Navy's aircraft were almost invariably outclas- fundamentally defensive approach. Only with the formation of the Br-''.:.
sed in combat. Lastly, there were the shlps themselves. The UK's naval Pacific Fleet could the Royal Navy permit itself the luxury of hazari-;
appropriations between the wars resulted in the first of the thlrd- major units by going on the offensive. For the first time, four and five --
=e
.

leneration carriers comlng irrward too late for worklng experience to carriers worked together, the irony being that they were fightrrg a-,','-
:e gained before the emergency progffammes began, Therefore the already won by a US fleet that overshadowed their efforts in ever;'-,',-1-.-
icyal Navy entered the war with too few flightdecks, while those that Yet, a similar force working in European waters, even only a coup-: :-
',','ere coming forward were, it could be argmed, over-protected. Wtth years previously, would have rewritten maritime history,
:-assive vertical armouring, their aircraft capacity was drastically re-
i:ced and construction times lengthened. Late in the war, it was quite HMSVictorious fought in every major theatre of operations during World
::rvincingly shown that the later fleet carriers, with the same horizontal War II . Surviving fwo kamikaze suicide bomb attacks, she was eventually
::: much reduced vertical protection, survived kamlkaze strikes as well recons tucted and sewe d until I 9 6 7.

alt,;iab::;U.tl:.irlt::,ru:,ul

w,i&i:-ii,rr iirurr:la

, "'iir8trN#dgray

@.,;&'

-C
>K finns Furious
The several guises of HMS Furrbus
represented the transitional stages be-
tween what miqht be termed 'air-
capable' ships and the true aucraft-
carrier. As the thud of Admiral Fisher's
'tin-clad' light battle-cruisers (laid
down in 1915), she was launched in
August 1916 but delayed in completion
to allow her to ship the navy's largest
gnm, a 457-mm (I8-in) weapon, in sing-
le mounts at each end. Although vir-
tua1ly complete in March 1917, she
then had her forward gnrn removed in
favour of a sloping flying-offdeck some
69.5 m (228 ft) in lenqth, A hangar be-
neath this deck accommodated up to
l0 aircraft (some seaplanes and some
wheeled), Completed thus in]uly 19lZ
she rapidly showed the limitations of
carrying aircraft that could not (official-
ly at least) be recovered after a flight,
In November 1917, therefore, her after
gn:n mounting made way for a B6.Sm
(284-ft) flying-on deck over a second
hangar. Much of her superstruch:re Abov e : L an ding or ;IMS Furious 3
sti-li remained, however, and the high fotwArd deck was very dangerous;
speeds at which she steamed to create S quadron Commander Dunning was
the necessary wind-over-deck re- killed when his Sopwith Pup
sulted in severe turbulence, causing overshot.InNovembr 1917 the after
an unacceptable accident rate among 1 f -in gan was removed in favour of a
would-be landers-on, Relegated agarn fuing-ond*k.
to flyrng-off only, the Furious still had
the distinction of mounting the first real Right:The first ship to launch an air
carrier-based air stnke when, on 19 striJre, HIVS t\uions was originally
luly 19 18, seven of her Sopwith Camels designd for Adtniral Fisher's plan to
destroyed two Zeppelins and thelr attack Germany's Bdtic coast during
sheds at Tondern, A through-deck was WorldWarL
obviously required, as on the new
,Argrus, and she was thus modified be- rRigit;.HMS Fwious in April I 927. The
tween 1921 and 1925. Even lollowingr superstructure was removed in I 92 l
this, she was still of rntenm desigm, as it czeated serious turbulence
havrng no island, Not until her final pre- problems. Further alterations took
war refit did she acguue a vestignal place in the I 930s, cross-dec/<
superstructure, topped-off by a arrestet gear was fitted and the AA
diminutive mast that supported a dis- Syun arranlement changed.
hnctive hominq beacon.
Despite her age and inflrmities, the Below : I n her World W ar I I gtuise
Funbus saw service in Atiantic hunting i1IMS Furious Jooke d r a dic ally
groups and convoy escorts, the ditferent from the ship that attacked
Norwegian campaign, aircraft- the Zeppelin sheds in I 9 I 8. By the
ferrying to both Malta and West Atica, lime sie fookp art in Oper ation
and the North African landings, Her 'Torch' , the Allied landings in North
last flying was agarrst the Tirpitz, nn- Africa, shecarried 33 aircraft.
mured in a Norwegnan fjord, before
she went into reserve during Septem-
ber 1944. She was scrapped in 1948,
Specification
HMSFurious
Tlpe: fl eet a:rcraft -carrier
Displacement: 22,500 tons standard
and 28,500 tors flr]l load
Dimensions: lengith 239.5 m (785.75 ft);
beam 27.4 m (90 ft); draught 7,3 m
(24 ft)
Propulsion: 4-shaft geared steam
trubines delivering 90, 000 shp
(67U3 kW)
Speed:31,5 kts
Armour: belt 5l-76 mm (2-3-in); hangar
deck38 mm(I.5 in)
Armament: six twin 102-mm (4-in) AA,
three octuple 2-pdr AA, and several
smaller-calibre gnms
Aircraft:33
Complement: 750 excluding aircrew

The World W ar I I camouflage


B elow :
does not concea/IfMS F\rrioust
battlecruiser origins. The island was
notaddeduntil 1939.
ffi fims Arsus
Proposals had been made before
British Aircraft Carriers of World War II

World War I for an aircraft-carrier with


a straight-through flightdeck capable
ofhandling the launch and recovery of
wheeled arrcralt, but the Royal Navy
had to 'make do'with improvised sea- -\ce-1
plane carriers, and it was not until 19 16
that the proposer, the Beardmore com-
mercial yard, u/as given the contract to
complete a half-flnished Italian liner as
a prototype carrier. The ship, the Con-
te Rosso, had been laid down in 1914
and had suitable dimensions plus the
high freeboard necessary for the job,
No superstructure was planned to in-
terrupt the flightdeckwhich, like those
of all pioneering carriers, was pointed
at the forward end, A single hangar
was provided and the necessary small
chadhouse was made retractable lnto
the flightdeck, As fuIl of character as
she was devoid of grrace, HMS Argrus In the late 1920s the Argus was H MS ArgJJs ofi the N orth African extensively used as a frials siip rh
was understandably known as 'The bulged to improve stability as much as coast, November I 942. The Royal the years after World War I, proving
Flatiron', to enhance survivability and, ailer the Navy's first flush-decked carrier the validity of the straight-through
Her name (fugms was all-vigilant, completion of the larger fleet carriers, started life as anltalianliner. Shewas Ilightdeckdesign.
wrth 100 eyes) suggests that she was acted as a training and target aircraft-
seen by planners as being strongly re- carrier, Small and slow by World War
connaissance-oientated, particularly II standards, she gave vaiuable sewice
with the recent memory of Jutland, a ferrying fighter aircraft to Gibraltar, Specification Propulsion: 4-shaft geared steam
victory lost for want of good intelli- Malta and Takoradi (for onward HlvLS.Argrus h:rbines delivering 21,000 shp
gence, She was wanted for the end of staged flights to Egypt), Lack of car- Type: training, atrcraft-ferry and (15660 kW)
1917 but was launched only in Decem- riers saw her also in operational roles second-line aircraft -carrier Speed:20,5 kts
ber of that year, and eventually com- from trme to trme, notably on an Arctic Displacement: 14, 000 tons standard Armour:none
missioned only weeks before the convoy and at the North African land- and l5,75Otonsfullload Armament: six 102-mm (4-in) AA, and
Armlstice of November l9l8, carrying ings, From mid- 1943 she was used only Dimensions: lengrth 172.2 m (565 ft); several smaller-calibre gmns
a squadron of the unpopular Sopwith for trarning in home waters, being pard beam 20,7 m (68 ft); draught 7,3 m Aircraft: about 20
Cuckoo torpedo aircraft. offin 1944, She was scrapped in 1947, (24 tt) Complement: 370 excluding aircrew

Handicapped by her lack of sped,


I
j HMS Argus wa s removed from front-
g
Iine service during the I 9 30 s. S he
* nevertheless had to actas a
};
Lj
replacement carrier for Force H alter
ArkRoyalwassunk

ffi fivrs
:e::re World War I, Chile ordered
Eagte
and low, topped-offby two funne1 cas-
:,r: stretched 'lron Duke' class bat- lngs with the same thrck and thin pro-
--:s:ips from Armstrong's Elswick portions as the ship's erstwhile sister,
1-r Only one of these, the Almirante Her more ample battleship propor-
i::rre, was well advanced by Augnrst tions made her considerably slower
- : i compulsorily purchased by the
. than the large cruiser conversions, but
-r-r::i:a.lty, she was completed in 1915 she had better stabihty. Despite the
=. fl'S Canada. Work on her unlaun- fact that she rntroduced the ftvo-level
:':i srster, the Almirante Cocfuane hangar, she still had only modest au-
,-: :own in 19 13), ceased with hostili- craft capacity,
::j ::i she was taken in hand, post- Much of the Eagrle's pre-World War
-.---::-l for completion as an arrcraft- II service was in the Far East, but the
Llke the Hermes she was far carrier moved into the Indran Ocean in H M S Eagle fl ew SpjtEres lo Ma.lta
-:::.'=:e for
r:,- the war; being iaunched in September I939, thence to the during Match 1942and rassunl.m
_'::: -3lB and commissioning for ex- Mediterranean to replace the Glo- Augu s t d urin g Opera tion'Pedshti'-
e=::i [ra]s in 1920, Several versrons nous, Following air strikes against Ita-
:: -:: pioneering island superstruc- lian shipping at Tobruk she was badly ffMS Eagle spenf the bul& of.ircr
:i:: riere tried after rnitial experi- shaken by bombing dwing the action senil'c€ careeron dre C?r:ra s:aaon
=--::= .:r the lrgus. This kept her in off Calabria, suffering damage that returning to lheMed;'lerrarear tr
::,:5-d harids for a grreat portion of eventually caused her to miss the' spring 1940.
::e ;e:rcd betriveen 1920 and 1923,
w:-=:, -:-e Hermes was commissioned,
I- --='
.,.ersion of the rsland was longt
Taranto raid, Before she could refit in
the UK, she saw further action in the
Red Sea and the South Atlantic, Arriv-
ing back in the Mediterranean early in
1942, she was later involved in the
famous August convoy (Operation
'Pedestal') when 4l warships fought
through just five out of 14 merchantmen
to lift the Malta slege, TheEagle was a
major casualty, sunk by four torpedoes
fromU-73 on 11 August 1942,

Specification
HMSEag/e
Type: fl eet arrcraft -carrier
Displacement: 22,600 tons standard
and 26,500 tons ful]]oad
Dirnensiors: lengrth 203,3 m (667 ft);
beam32.l m(105,25 ft); draughtT,3 m
(24 ft)
Propulsion: 4-shaft qeared steam
hrrbines dellering 50,000 shp
(37285 kW) .
Speed:24 kts
Armour:belt 102-178 mm(4-7 in); 102-mm (4-in) AA, and eight 2-pdr AA HMS EagLe photographed trom a that month Eagle made ffi ree sorfi es
flightdeck25 mm(l rn); hangardeck guns 'Queen Elizabeth' class battleship, to Malta, flying off a total of 3 I Spitfire
102 mm (4 in), shields 25 mm ( I in) Aircraft:21 probably H M S Malaya, in ffi e MkVs.
Armament: nine l52-mm (6-in), four Complement: 750 excluding aucrew M editerranean, M arch I 942. During

ffi iius Hermes


Thelrgus concept was obviously con- HM.S Hermes seryed in the Far East
sldered sound for early in 19i8, before for most of her career. This
her completion, the keel was laid photogiraph clearly shows her
down for HMS flermes, Though she unusually large island
was designed for the job, it was superstructure. Purpose-built, she
obviously not with the benefit of oper- carried almost as many aircraft as
atronal experrence, Lacking a prece- Eagle, a ship of twice her
dent, her designers made her too dlsplacement.
small, prompting the Japanese to re-
peat the error with their pioneer 1941 and escorting Indian oceal con-
Hosho, lard down in the followrng year, voys, She was sunk in April 1942 off
With the end of World War I, constrrc- Ceylon during the Japanese carrier
tion was lersurely, the ship being laun- raids, but had adequately demons-
ched in September I9I9 and with com- trated the value of even a small flight-
pletion delayed until 1923, As a result deck in areas where no other anation
she entered servrce after the much lar- suppod exrsted.
ger but converted HMS.6a9Je, which
had meanwhile proved the idea of the Specification
lsland superstructure, Like that of the HlvLSllermes . .,.,U iii:utl,ui&1u,,
Eagle, Hermes' island seemed dis- Type: second{ine light aircraft -carrier
proportionately large, wrth a massive Displacement: 10,850 tons standard
battleship-style tripod and fighting top, and 12,950tonsfullload
bearing rangefinders for the unusual Dimensions:lenqth 182.3 m (598 ft); ^.w - iai
.3rr':i,11: .
amament of six 140-mm (5.S-in) gnms: beam 21,4 m (70,25 ft); draught 6.9 m
early carriers were expected to be (22 6 ft)
able to repel light surface attack, the Propulsion: 2-shaft geared steam
potential of their aircraft not having hubrnes delivering 40,000 shp
been firlly evaluated, A light armour (29828 kW)
belt was also worked in, An improve- Speed:25 kts
ment on the lrgus was a doubfng of Armow: belt 5l-76 mm (2-3 in); hangar
irstalled power to give a speed in- deck 25 mm ( 1 in) shields 25 mm ( I in)
creaise of over 4 kts, Armament: sx 140-mm (5,5-in), and
A distinctive feature on the after three lQ2-mm (4-in) AA surs
flightdeck was a low hump, desigmed Aircraft: about 20
to decelerate incoming aircraft. This Complement: 660 excluding aircrew
was also copied by the Japanese, but
neither fleet found it a success and The first British carrier actually Above: HMS Hermes sinks off Ceylon
abandoned it. designed as suci, IIM.S Hermes was (Sri Lanka) after aJapanese carrier
Though obsolete by World War il, built along the lines of a light cruiser. aircraft attack in April I 942.
the Hermes made an extremely valu- She carried six I 40-mm (5.5-in) gruns, Sym p tom atic of B r itish handling of
able contribution in lower-threat as itwas not believed that aircraft the war in the Far East at this time,
areas, This found her hunting for raid- alone could repel enemy surface she had no aircraft aboard and no
ers in the Atlantic, undertaking spot- attack. means of signallingfor help if
trng and reconnalssance mrssions in attacked.
operations against the Vichy French in
West Africa and the Italians in the Red
Sea, gnving shore support during the
suppression of the Iraqi rebellion of
Ttre WmshflngfonTrearg
The 1922 Washington Treaty put a temparary stap to the
frantic warsk:p cansfrue fi"on whieh preceded World War I , but
p/a eed ferv res fn'e#ons on th e bui lding of ai r er af t- c a r r ie r s "
The race to produce ffie foest carrier des:grn lta d begun.
Foi'the purposes of the Washington T:'eaty of 1922, Parl4 defined an aircraft-
cari-ier as any lvership erceedrng 10,000 long tons for the'specific and exclu-
srve' purpose of carrying aircraft so constructed as to enabie aircraft to be
'launched thereirom and landed thereon'. Signatories i,r,'ere allowed to bLrild any
numoer Lrp to ihe agreed total tonnage ceilings in Article Vli, which were
i 35,000 long tons eaih for the UK and the USA, 81,000 fcr Japan and 60,000
:ich ror France and taly. Article lX stat€d that no indivtdualships shc-,uld exceed
l- -!O tcns (standard). but powers co'uici build up two not exceeding 3.3,000
-'-'.- provrdedl^ethat the agreedpowe's
ceiiings were not breached. For thts purpose,
esr,rq Y, coniid( ''.g co-lo converl i lius 'wnetner ccttst'ucted
'-1' :r tne c6urse of constructJon', lvhrch would otherw se be scrapped under the
:ap'tal ships lirnitatlon clauses. Up to 10 guns of between 152- and 203-mrn (6-
:id 3-in) calibre could be f itted with no restnction on smaller weapons (Aritcle
X
'. =xcept
r n cases of loss, carriers cou ld, u nder Part 3, be replaced only 20 years
a;ier their completion dates but those alreadv exis{ing or building could be
regarded as 'experirnenlal' and be replaced al any time subject to the tctal
.','' rge cei ings.
To $ut this in the coniext ot the time \1921-2), it should be remembered thai
octh the LJK and Japan were stiil building therr first, small cari-rers designed for
-. e pJ rpose, i'.' nile lhe U SA was converttng a f leet collier to its CV.1 . France and
t: y nad hard y cons dered rhe sublect. Suddenly, f rom the leisurely falter ngs of
rre first generation of carriers, {he signatories found themselves wtth the
:rarameters defined for the seccnd generation, written to make full use of a
: ."r rlde ol .ncomplete cap lal sn o-hults.
-i'hus
the Americans werd able to apply the results of a destgn stuciy tc the
-rlls of two battle-cruisers. These, completed in i927 as the USS Lextngton
iV 2) anC USS Sarafoga (CV 3) were 210.5-m (887.5-ft) 34-kt monsters com-
. cd w;rr :^e I65 4-.-' 1542.6-t1\ l5 kl JSS Langley rCV llof on\ rive ,ea's
:arlier, with no interrnerjiate evolutronary stages. ihe'33,000-ton official 'tleaty'
.prace-ent was exceeoed bv rroo.lt I0 pe'cetrt.
-lc -dpanese'olioired a s rni.ar Dat" w.tn tne Akag, and Kaga. Both.'o'no
-,rcd reason other than lack of experience, were fitted with a 203-mm {B-in)
rain battery, demonslraiing agarn that treaty limitations tend to becorne targets
,i
.', re re ilo larget prevrously existed. Unsure of what therT hac done, both f leets
-:'rerted iemporarily to smailer ships, (USS Ranger and Ryuib) whose practrcal
.- .al ons serveo 1o urrderi:ne ihat b gger wds better.
-ne Bntish. wrth more available hulls and more experience, opted foi-a patr ol
12,500-tonners, HMS Glorious and HMS Caurageouswhich, with only 120-mm
-.7-:n) guns were in no,way treary-lirnited. By conservative design and'lhinking
- : ' the Foyai Navy found itself in 1930 with six carrters carrying far fewer
. :':': in totd Tlan t'e i1'ee ca,r ets ava lacle to t1e A-ericans. seer nglv a
- --e'aLe pol:uv.
Med Lerranean, ihe ltalians considered carriers unnecessary and, but
- ' i'relhetreetv, the French would probably have thought similariy. The choice of
:- 3p or converr', however, persuaded them to produce lne Bearn, too small
': -cc slow lor Lne Job. "ler rrns-cces5t"l design was lo inrlJence Fre"ch
,;11 lrorr nava' a\ cl o^ 'o' *any years.
JWaV
.1, rrre the
Washrngion Trealy successfully curbed rivalries tn capital ship
,-.:truction it unwritingly boosted competition in both carriers and crursers,
-::'r of which developed rap cily in their technology as a result.
The cautious attitude ofnavalplannersled lhefioyalNavy to cpe:a
air cr af t- car r ie r s than the American s o r J ap anese. HMS Cor::ag e . :
and Glorious, seen lere in 1933, carried 120 aircraft. in fofaJ, C-:l:' i *-. : --:
desified to survive the war.

Left: Built from lirelrulls ofmassrye Below: After bu;,rc:":,: .r-. r : : - :


hattlecru isers which were cancelled Ilaga- 3C,060- r;.: --:.-.-. :: j
because of tfte treaty, the' Lexington' aircralt each.l,t 9-'a: :.- : -. :
class had bigger hangars than any experimente= :r'. :.'. :- ..- -: -
earrier built untitr 1945. Carrying 8A aircraftLntoa:.: -'... :- . - .-
aircrafi anc! capable of 34 kts, they t}Ie Ryulo. U.::.::::-i--= : '
resoJved to.E.::.-: .': '=: : - -
=
were superior to any of their
eontemporaries. construat: ss.-.:-: :.'.:-.: :: :
ffi [nnS Courageous and HMS Glorious
Known, for political reasons, as largre
light cru:sers, Jackie Frsher's famous
trio of light battle-cruisers were sup-
posed to be the largest units of a 600-
strong, shallow-draught armada con-
structed to realze hrs vision of landing
an army on the Baltic coast of Ger-
many, only 130 kn (80 miles) from Ber-
ltn. The plan died unth Fisher's depar-
hue ftom the Admiralty in 1915 but his
strange ships were completed as a
legacy, Ready for sea in I9i7, the first
two were HMS Couragreous and HMS
Glorious (laid down in I9I5, and iaun-
ched in February and April 1916), but
were found to be virtually unemploy-
able in the active fleet, unprotected
and, with only four of theu erreat 381-
mm (i5-in) gnrns, slow to get on to the
target, On the only occasion when they
saw serious action, against convention-
al light crursers, they suffered more
damage than they inflicted.
Under the terms of the Washingrton
Treaty, the two ships were eligible for
conversion into aircraft-cafiiers. Re-
building of both started in 1924, the
Courageous completing in 1928 and IIMS Courageous and Glorious, lke
the Glonbus u:r 1930. Funbus (with no Furious, werc light battlecrur'sers
rsland) had had her uptakes led well intended for Admiral Fisher's ill-
at, detracting from her hangar space, conceived Baltic strategy. This is
but these later conversions had the be- Glorious on lrer sea trials in 1917. Her
nefit of developments on the Hermes speed rras an im pressive 3 I knots
and Eagrle, their combined funnel and but her lackof armour made her unfit
bridgre structure boosting therr air for serious combat.
complement considerably, The
Courageous and GJonbus had similar Specification
forward flightdecks, which terminated 'Courageous'class
about 20 per cent of the ship's lengrth Type: fleet aircraft-carrrer
back from the bows, The hangar deck Displacement: 22,500 tons standard
was extended forward at forecastle and 26,500 tons full load
level, allowing fighters to take offfrom Dimensions: length 239.5 m (785,75 ft);
the lower level in favowabie circum- beam 27,6 m (90,5 ft); draught 7.3 m
stances. Both ships were extensively (24 r't)
bulged to improve stabilrty, Propulsion: 4-shaft geared steam
The Courageous was the Royal turbines deliverinq 90, 000 shp
Navy's first major casualty of World (67i 13 kW)
War II, being sunk only a fortnight after Speed:31 kts
hostilities commenced. Her loss Armour: belt 38-76 mm (L5-3 in); IIMS Glorious could be distingrukhed was caught and sunk during the
brought the G/onbus back from the hansar deck 25-76 mm ( 1-3 in) from her sister by her longer flight withdr aw aI by the G erman
Mediterranean as a replacement and Armament: 16 120-mm (4,7-in) AA enrns deck aft. Her aircraft gave sterling ba tljecruisers Scharnhorst and
she, too, was lost only nine months later Aircraft: about 45 sewice over Norway in I 940, but she Gneisenau
during the evacuation of Norway. Complement: 1,2 15 including aircrew
ffM,S Courageous and Glorious
carried abalanced airgroupof 16
Flycatchers, 16 III F spotter/
reconnaissance aircraft and 16 Ripon
torpedobombers

ffi
Completed
finns
in
Ark Royat
1938, HMS Ark ^Royal have required replacement to cater Royal carried eight twin-barrelled
Specification
lIJvlSArkRoyal
was the Royal Navy's first 'modern' car- for the rapidly increasing size of au- destroyer-type mountinqs, with high Type: fl eet aircraft-carrier
ner. A combination of meagre naval craft, She had two catapr:Jts ( accelera- elevations conferring a true dual- Displacement: 22,000 tons standard
budgets and the lowly status of the tors') from the outset, pupose capabih$ and sited fow on and 26,700 tons full load
Fleet Air Arm meant that she was the The&kRoyal's most innovatory fea- each beam at the flightdeck edges to Dimensions: length 243,8 m (B0O ft);
first carrier to joln the fleet since the ture was her strenorth, the ship intro- gnve good finng arcs, Designers were, beam2B.9 m(94.75 ft); draught6,9 m
remodelied Gloious back in 1930. ducing armoured flight and hangar at last, alive to the dangers ofair attack (22.66 ft)
Plenty of time had thus been availabie decks, with the hangar walls an integ- and a comprehensive fit of smalier Propulsion: 3-shaft geared steam
to plan her, resulting in a thoroughly ra1 part of the main huli girder. Despite automatic weapons was also incorpo- trrrbines delivering 102,000 shp
workmanlike and influential design the space-consumrng aspects of this rated. Though aircraft were, indeed, to (76061kW)
laid down in 1935 and launched in confignrration, she could stow a far prove the main hazard to both Amer- Speed:31 kts
April 1937. Though much of a size and greater number of aircraft than the rcan and Japanese carriers, the Royal Armour:belt 114 mm (4,5 in); deck
displacement as the G1orious, she Glorious, Capable of 31kts, she was Navy was pitted primarily against 64 mm(2.5 in)
appeared much larger, having ftvo also as fast as the earher ships. fleets without carriers, so suffering Armament: eight twin I 14 mm (4,5-in)
levels ofhangars with adeguate head- Though the earlier conversions had most of its carrier casualties, the lrk AA, sx octuple 2-pdr AA, and erght
room. Three elevators were incorpo- 16 medium-calibre gruns, these were Roya.lincluded on 14 November I94i, quadruple 12, 7-mm (0. 5-in) AA gmns
rated but they were small and, had the poorly srted, mainiy with a view to de- from submarrne attack, Aircraft: about 65
ship enjoyed a ionger career, would fence agalnst surface attack. The firk Complement: 1, 575 including aircrew

- 126
ArkRogclin Action
weapon failed to explode), the carrier -r,e::
Themostfamousof BritishcarriersinWorldWarll, ArkRoyalwastheRoyalNavy's south in company with HMS Hood tc )c:-
first purpose-built large carrier . Despite repeated German claims to have sunk her , Admiral Somerville's Force H,
she battled on until November l94I , when she fell victim to a U-boat. During her The position of the French Mediterrar:ea::
short career she saw action against theVichy French in North Africa, fought herway fleet was confusing. Its bulk lay rn Touion u:-
mobilized under the eye of the newly-irstajJei
to Malta and struck the decisive blow against the German bafflesfilp Bismarck.
Vichy regime, but powerful elemenls la_l' -:-
various ports in French Alrican territories. A:
Though the war career of HMS&kftoyal span- five out of slx enemy merchantmen that were Mers-el-Kebir, near Oran, lay a force rrcludi:g
ned only a brief 27 months, these were so pack- endeavouring to reach home from internment two modern battle-cruisers and a couple ci
ed with incident that the shrp seemed to be in Spain. elderly battleships. Under no circwnstances
rarely out of the headlines. Stil1 a new ship, she When Germany invaded Norway in April could the already-outnumbered British aLlo,";
was attached to the Home Fieet at Scapa when 1940 the Ark Royal was in the still-quiet these powerful units to fall lnto enemy hands
hostrlities opened. Events started quietiy at sea Mediterranean for a spell of training, TVro of yet French pride would not permit accession ic
mth only ihe enemy's U-boats particularly ac- her Skua squadrons, however, were in the UK the British alternatives of placing the slups
lrve, but the naval policy of aggressive patroll- and on I0 April I5 of these aircraft, working beyond hostile reach or of destroying then:
ing put the big ships in harm's way, and the ftk from the Orkneys to the limit of their range, The British cut short prevarication with ar-
Royal was narrowly missed by submarine tor- drve-bombed and sank the German cruiser ultimatum, backed up by the arrival offthe por:
pedoes on 14 September 1939. She was foitun- Konigsberg in the port of Bergen. Thts was on 3 Juiy of Somewille's forces, includrng three
another naval record, beinq the first instance of '381-mm (15-in) qunned capital ships and the
ate for, only three days later, HMS Courageous
was lost to a similar attack. Carrlers were even- a major warship sunk in action by arr attack. Ark Royal. Moored behind a substantial mcie
hrally to prove the masters of the U-boat, but the With HMS Fuious the only carrler in home and with the torrn at their backs, the French
time was still well in the future, waters, both the Ark Royal and HMS Gloious worked furiously to raise steam while discus-
Within a fortnight, the fleet was at sea in were returned with all despatch. Throughout sions dragged on, To prevent their sudden en:
strength to cover a strrcken submarine and the whole melancholy campaign until the in- the Ark Royal's aircraft mined the marke:
Biackburn Skuas from lhe Ark ftoyal chalked evitable Allied evacuation during june, thelr channel, a move which unfortunately seemed
up a 'first' by shooting down an enemy shadow- aircraft were active over land as well as sea, to stiffen French intractability. Concemed ab-
er, lhe first LuJtwaffe casualty to the RN. The the attrition rate being high. Durinq the with- out attack from without, the waiting Brltrsh be-
pnce was still a stiff dive-bombing attack that drawal, the Glonous was sunk by enemy sur- came edgry and, though the French made coi-
narrowly missed her. face action, but though the Ark Royal was at sea cessions, these did not go iar enough, A fi::a-
The following month saw Ihe Ark Royal de- she was unable to intervene as she was escort- demandwas not met andthe Britishheavy ur,=
tached to join Force K in the equatorial Atlantic, ing a vrtal troop convoy. opened fire at 17.54, with aircraft spottug
to engage in a search for an active enemy The enemy gained Norway, but his fleet suJ- Amid the vertlcal columns of smoke from a
raider. Her aircraft galned great experience in fered severely in the process, so the&kRoyaJ, dozen funnels grew the masthead-hig:
area search, locating enemy supply shrps and could reasonably be spared to proceed to Gib- splashes of the big shells from 13715 m (15 ?l,l
disrupting their organizatron. Uniortunately the raltar, lbr in the same month the Mediterranean
I{MS Ark Royal fighla off German air attack in the
rarder, which turned out to be the Graf Spee, balance had changed completely with the fa]] Mediterranean.ln the face of heavy bomb and
was apprehended much farther south, Some of France and ltaly's entry into the war, torpedo attacks she flew off about I 70 Hawl<er
:onsolation was gained early in 1940 when, on Thus, following a valedlctory raid on Trond- Hurricanes to reinforce Malta in I 94 L I t was while
'jre ship's return north, her aircraft were rn- heim on 13 June, when a Skua put a 227-kg returning from one sucfi rnr'ssrbn that she was
srumental in the lnterception of no less than (500-lb) bomb into the Scharnhorsf (the torpededbyU-81.
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Ark Royal in Action
yards), Moored end-on, unable either to flee or
to fight, the French suffered little more than
ntual execution: the new battle-cruiser Dunk-
erque took a three-shell salvo and had to be
beached; the oldBrefagne exploded and cap-
sized; and lhe Bretagne's sister Provence had
also to be beached to prevent her foundering.
The power of the shells was immense, the com-
plete after end of the large destroyer Mogador
being amputated by one hit Of the major units,
only the battle-cruiser Strasbowg made her
escape, by cutting the boom and keeping close
inshore. T\ro bomb and torpedo strikes were
mounted by the Ark Royal but the ship suc-
ceeded in escaping to Bizerta.
Anothertorpedo drop
As the beachedDunkerque was still thought
to be a threat, the carrier returned three days
later, her Fairey Swordfish aircraft carrying out
a different torpedo drop within the shallow
confines of the port, One hit the target without
exploding but a second sank a patrol craft
close aboard, this wreck then absorbing a third
which triggered a tull load of depth charges
adjacent to the battle-cruiser's hull, The whole
Oran affair was acutely distasteful to the British,
but the desperate post-Dunkirk sihration de-
manded resolute action.
A busy couple of months of operations
against the Italians were followed by another
against a French base, this time Dakar in
Senegal. The force here had Vichy sympathies
and included the brand new battleship Riche-
1ieu, damaged by an earlier strike from the
veteran carrier HMSHermes. Negotiatiors be-
gan, with a view to installing a Free French
administration. These failed and force again
had to be used, though the whole affair was a
failure. Despite lhe Ark Royal's aircraft being
used widely for spotting, reconnaissance and
grrouad support, the planned French landing
did not succeed and the operation was aban- Ark Royalp/ayed a maj or role in the British attacks HMS ArkRoyal
doned with several ships damaged. As sole on the French fleet during I 940 . Her aircraft mined
source of aerial support, the Ark rtoyal had Mers-el-Kebir to prevent the French escaping, but cutawaydrawing key
at Dakar in Senegal her aircraftwere roughly
achieved another Tirst', but her aircraft had
handled by French land-based fighters. '1 Safetynet 1 Hingedplatformforradio
been badly outclassed by the French land- 2 Rounddown
1
aerials
based machines and sulfered nine losses, 3 Searchlight '12 lvlotorcutter
4 Multiple machlne{uns '13 Balancedrudder
A short refit in the UK included the neces- rying fighters and escorting convoys to Malta, 5 Additional supportsfor '14 Support
sary updating of her fighter complement from and having a direct brush with the Italian fleet, overhang 15 Propeller
Skuas to Fairey Fulmars, but theft,kRoyal was which retired immediately on observing the 6 Flightdeck 16 Shaft
7 Arresterwires 17 Aviationstorelobbies
back with Force H in early November, Spotting presence of the carrier, 8 Twin 1 14-mm (4.5-in)quns 18 Companionway
for the bombardment of Genoa, softening-up In March I94i Force H narrowly missed 9 Radio aerials 19 '1 14-mm (4.5-in)thick
10 "1 14-mm i4.5-in) gunfire armourbelt
Italian airfields before the Taranto raid, fer- apprehending a particularly sought-after quar- director

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British Aircraft Carriers of World War II

- -*::".:ids"g.ir^-
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20 Crane (handles 5443 kg/ 23 Multipleeight-batrelled 26 Cutter 45 Admiral'sbridge Force.tl.' Ark Royal, the battlecruiser Renown and
12,000 lbweiqht) 'pom-pom'gun 27 64-mm{2.5-in)thick 46 Plottingoffice
21 Motorpinnace 24 Hangarlift armourdeck 47 Compassplatform ffte cruiser Sheffield- Dunng tI e hunt for the
22 Fireproofcurtain 25 9-m(30-ft) motorcutter 28 Turbine 48 Wheel house Bismarck, Ark Royal's Swordfrshes attacked
29 Engineroom 49 Airintellioenceoffice Sheffield bymrstake but made up for thek error by
30 Boilerroom 50 Meteoroiooical office
3'1 Boiler 51 Upperhanjar cripplrng Bismar ck's steering by a daring torpedo
32 Bulkheaddividing boiler 52 Lowerhanoar attack delivered in appalling weather conditions.
rooms 53 Liferaft(s) "
33 Armouredfunnelcasing 54 Uppergallerydeck(two)
34 Doublebottom 55 Lowergallerydeck(two) 67 'Pom-pom'magazine 72 Rollerstotakesteelslat
35 Bridgestructure 56 Armoureddeck 68 3&mm{1.5-in)thick fire curtains
36 Funnelcasing 57 Hydraulic machinery longitudinal bulkhead 73 Transporterforll3-kg
37 Funnel uptake department down centre ofship {250-lb) bombs
40
\ 38 Affirmative/negative
39
landing signal
Direction-f inding beacon
58 Athwartships bulkhead
59
60
Canteen
Lobby
69 Bilge
70 Fuel
7'1 89-mm (3.5-in)thick
74 FaireySwordfish Mkll
75 Stores
76 Crew
40 Mainmast 61 Washroom armoured deck 77 Watedine
41 Signalhouse 62 Bombliftcompartment 78 Pneumo-hydraulic
42 l\,4eteorological instrument 63 Switchboardroom catapults
platform 64 Aviationspirit 79 Acceleratortrack pullev
43 Remotecontroloffice 65 Bomb rooms ( 80 Deoaussinocoil
-
44 'Pom-pom'direclors 66 Ammunition/bomb racks 81 Andhors
I 82 Prow
i 83 Forefoot
I 84 Keel
el. 85 Saltwater spraysprink :=

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Ark Royal in Action

Heavy flooding choked the boiler uptakes, which


While returning to Gibraltar after ferrying aircraft submanne U-81 and hit on the starboard side by a were vented through one large funnel ; total powet
to Malfa, Ark Royal was attacked by German single torpedo. failure resulted and a severe listdeveloped.

Crew members gather on deck as an'L' class Salvage tugs raced to the scene, but meanwhile the .lls tfie list increa sed, the order was given to
destroyer arrives alongrside llre s tricken carrier. flooding conlinued unchecked. abandon ship and in the small hours of I 4
iVovemberArk Royalsankfo ffi e bottom.
British Aircraft Carriers of World War II

:f ihe German fast battleships (or battle- Sie/feid had gone on ahead, for the Swordfish The resultant alarming iist brought abou: a F:+-
:-:sers) Schamhorst and Gne;senau, retum- leader also attacked by radar through the low matue abandonment. Neither of her esccr-rj
commerce raid. Though
a-fter a successfi:l cloud base, wasting the torpedoes on the destroyers essayed a tow and, when sa--.=3e
=g
.- airsraft from the Ark
RoyaL achrally sighted wrong ship, which skilfully avoided them, A tugs finally arrived, they were too ia:e :c r=
:em some 965 krn (600 miles) off Cape Finis- further fi.ve hours elapsed before anotherstrike verse the situation, the Ark Royal rol-ling :;e:
rerre, a combination of communication prob- could be mounted. In conditions that would and sinking in the early hours of 14 Novem.ber
b::.s and evasive manoeuvring on the part of have aborted flying in peacetime, the aircra-ft some I4Vz hours after being hit and only 4" k:
:e enemy prevented flrrther contact. took oif and flew via the Shefteld to the target. (25 miles) from safety.
Jlvo months later another German raider Two hits were scored, one severely damaging The loss of one of the UK's few modem car-
:rcught Force H into the Atlantic again. This a rudder and propeller shaft. Now slowed sig- riers was to have a profound impact on -:e
:ne it was the Elsmarck. Early on 24 May the nificantly, the Brsmarck was harried throughout conduct of naval operations.
eiemy sank the Hood while breaking out of the the night by destroyers before being sunk after
lenmark Strait but, damaged in the process, a grunnery duel on the following morning. Suc-
:ad to make for home shadowed by two British cess was a close-run thing and would not have
:ruisers. These were able to vector in the new been possible without carrier support.
il =rrier HMS Victoious whose aircrews, de- A more mundane but hazardous task was the
pite their inexperience, succeeded in putting constant ferrying of fighters to Malta. Between
I a :orpedo into the battleship's midship section.
--::iortr:nately,the injurywas insuffi.cient to stop
April and September 1941, sometimes in com-
pany with another carrier, the Ark Royal car-
-:e ship, which then managed to shake off the ried about I70 Hawker Hurricanes to the island
:ruisers. With a dawn air search from theVicto- at a period of hiqh attrition. She also covered
rcus failing to re-establish contact, there be- two major convoys, one in July ('Substance')
lan an anxious 32 hours until a Consolidated and one in September ('Halberd') which, de-
ktalina sighted her, trailing oil but clear of the spite every enemy eiicrt, lost only one mer-
Home Fleet and weil on her way to Brest. Force chantman out of the 25 involved.
3 had, however, been brought north for just On 13 November 1941 thedrkRoyal's luck
s:ch an evenhrality and was well placed, An ran out, Returning to Gibraltar from yet another
Ark Royal aircraJt was in touch by noon on 26 ferrying trip to Malta, she was hit by a single
lvlay and, despite appalling weather condi- torpedo fromU-81. Oniy 80 km (50 miles) from
fons, an aerial torpedo strike was launched. It harbour, she had a good chance initially but all
ras bad luck that the radar-fitted cruiser HMS power failed, Ieading to uncontrolled flooding,

^fl: Ark RoyalSfiu/J was as longas dry docking


facilitieswould allow, andwas protected hy a
1 1 4-mm (4.5-in) armour belt. H er flightdeck had
64-mm (2.5-in) armour and the liftswere offsetand
rather naffow to maximize deck strength. The two
hydraulic catapults were capable of handling a
5443 kg ( 1 2,000 lb) aircraft and the positioning of i
her twin 4.5-in AAgruns a/ongside the flightdeck !I
gave them an excellent field of fire.
I
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A
ffi tilustrious'class
The Ark Royal was very much a pro-
totype, combining speed with capac-
ity and new standards of protection,
Though late coming, she had hardly
been launched when a new 'Illustrious'
class of fow aircraft-carriers was laid
down ln i937 to respond to the aiready
increasing likelihood of war, Oper-
ational experience was, therefore, not
a part of the later concept, which took
the scale of the .Ark Roya/'s belt and
horizontal protection, and added a I 14-
mm (4.5-in) hangar well. Thus the
whole of the vulnerable aircraft
accommodation became an armoured
box, but so much weight high in the
ship limited the protection to only one
hangar and, though HMS lllustrious,
HMS l/icforious and HMSFormidabje
(all iaunched in 1939) were not signi
ficantly smaller than the Ark Royal,
they carried far fewer aircraft. There
must have been second thoughts on
reducrnq the ships' primary arm so
drasticaliy, for HMS Indomitable,
launched in I94O as last ofthe four, and
the two 'Implacable' class ships that
followed, reverted to liqhter protec-
tion and an extra half-lengrth hangar,
The immense strenelth of the ships
stood them in good stead, for their war
turned out to be one of air, rather than
submarine attack, Soon after Taranto,
the lllustrious suwived punishment
from dive-bombing that wor:ld have Above : HMS F ormidable, seen fi ere
sunk any other carier afloat, a Per- fro m H M S W ar spile, foug h t f or m os t
formance echoed by lhe Formidable of the w ar in the Mediterranean. An
after Matapan, In the Pacific War most attack by her aircrafton the ltalian
of them withstood one or even tlvo lleet on 28 March I 941 dantaged tfie
kamikaze strikes without having to batflesirb Vittorio Veneto and
Ieave station, But all these rmmerse crippled the crurer Pola, which was
biows were absorbed mainly by the subsequently sunk.
ships' horizontal protection and it
would seem in retrospect that the ver- Left: Joining the fleet in Augrust I 940,
[ca] armour was bought at an exces- IIM.S lllnstrious s teamed str aight to
sive price in operatlonal efficiency the M editerr anean, where her
even though, in the Pacific, the class airgroup sank two ltalian destroyers
worked with something like 60 per and raided N or th Africa.
cent over its desigmed aircraft comple-
ment. When the Americans copied the
armoured deck concept, it was not at
the cost of capacity, so carrier sizes
began their inevitable escalation. The
ships were scrapped in 1956, 1969,
1955 and 1953 respectively,

Specification
Tllustrious'class
Type: fl eet aircraft -carrier
Displacement: 23,000 tons standard
and 25,500 tons fr:Il load
Dimeruions: length 229.7 m (753.5 ft);
beam29.2 m(95,75 ft); draughtT,3 m
(24ft)
Propulsion: 3-shaft geared steam
nubines delivering I 10,000 shp
(82027 kW)
Speed:31kts
Armour: belt and hangarwall I 14 mm
(4.5 rn) exceptlndomilable 38 mm
(1.5 n); deck76 mm (3 in)
fr.rmament: eight twin I 14-mm (4. S-in)
DP, sixoch:ple 2-pdr AA, and eiqht D es pite having rather lighter
20-mmAAguns protection than her sisterships, HMS Below : The'l lluslrious' cjass were
Aircraft : about 45 exceptlndomr'tabJe lndomitable abs orbed a great deal of probably the toughest carriers afloat
about65 punjsftmen!, su rviving two hits from inWorldWar II. but although their
Complement: I,400 rncluding aucrew 500 l<g (1, I 00 lb) bombs during thickarmour enabled them to
Operation'Pedestal', a torpedo hit withstand some heavy blows itwas
ottSicily in 1943 and several only achieved by a large reduction in
intheFarEast. aircraft strength.
'Implacable' class
Completed some 30 months after the many carrier strikes against the ftr-
:cur 'lllustrious' class ships, the two'Im- pitz, holed-up in Norwegian waters,
placable' class aircraft-carriers were Though damaging the target sulficient-
rore closely related to the prototype ly to keep her almost permanently
*k Royal, wtth the hangar walls slim- under repair, the aircraft of the time
::red down to only 38 mm (I.51n), This were the shrp's weakest link until they
3llowed a betterweight distribution for were replaced. Once in the BPF, the
:he shrps' increased displacement, in- ships were engaged in a war already
:luding the all-important lower han- won, in which the Britrsh participation
;ar. The ships were slightly longer but was not welcomed in all quarters. Post-
appeared much bulkier than their half- war, they were employed mainly in the
sjsters, their larger hull containing also training role and were scrapped in
a fourth set of machinery, Thrs gave 1955 and 1956 after hardly a decade of
:hem the extra speed that enabled sewice, belng thought not worth the
Srem to pace an American 'Essex' class vast expense of a rebuilding along the
unit in the Pacific war, although they lines of the Victoious,
were considerably smaller in-terrns of
both size and capacity,
Though both were laid dovrn in 1939, Specification
HMS /mplacable and HMS /ndefatr?- 'lmplacable'class HMS Implacablewas faster and returning to Sydney in I 945 and
abje were launched in 1942 and 1944 Type: fl eet aircraft -carrier carriedmany more aircraft than the (below) on her way through the Suez
respectively, but their completion Displacement: 26,000 tons standard 'I llustrious' class. Sfi e is seen (aboye) C anal to i oin the Pac ific F ler-t.
went back becawe of higher shipyard and 3 1, 100 tons fu-ll ioad
priorities, When they were most Dimensions: lenqth 233,4 m (765.75 ft);
:eeded, they were still on the stocks, beam29.2 m(95,75 ft); draughtT,9 m
-'iaderlimng the truth that the navy (26 ft)
f,ghts a war largely rmth what it has Propulsion: 4-shaft geared steam
3var-lable at the beginning, Once final- hubines delivering i I0,0OO shp
iy completed in 1944 they were active (82027 kW)
ior a comparatively short period. ln Speed:32,5 kts
March 1944, while still a new ship, the Armour:belt 114 mm (4,5-m); hangar
indefatigable achieved a 'first' in the wal138 mm(1.5 in); deck76 mm(3 Ln)
irst-ever deck landing by a twin- Armament: eight twin 114-mm (45-in)
engnne aircraft, a de Havilland Mos- DP, six octuple 2-pdrAA and about 38
guito, Before headmg east to join the 20-mmAAgmns
rapidly-expanding British Pacific Aircraft: about 70
Ileet, she participated in some of the Complement: 1.800 includrng aircrew

NIZ
Zzlr\ HMS Unicorn
With commendable foresight, con- responsibility, during which time the
-
sidering the quantity of tonnage then combinatron of the CVEs' low speed
berng ordered, the 1938 Naval Esti- and small decks whrle operating in
mates allowed for the construction of near windless conditions, wrote off
cne of a new type of ship, to be em- over 40 fragile Supermarine Sealire
ployed on the maintenance of the air- fighters in deck accidents alone, The
craft of a Fleet Air Arm that was Unicorn's 6-kt speed advantage and
obnously due for expansion. She was Iarger deck prevented even more los-
to be the aviation eguivalent of a sub- ses,
marine or destroyer depot shlp in pro- By early 1944 the Unrcorn was in the
viding major forward repair facilities ' Far East, still doubling as operatronal
for jobs beyond the capabilities of the carrier pending the delayed amval of
average carrier. Though described as the Victorious, Laid up for several
an 'aircraft maintenance carrier', it years after the war, she was reacti-
would appear that actlng as a carrier vated for the Korean War, finding at
was part ofher specification, an option Iast her true vocahon at a time when
taken up due to the wartime shortage shore air support was almost all car-
of flightdecks, Like the&kRoyal, HMS rier-based. Tlte Unicom shuttled with
Unicorn was given hvo hangars and a replacement aircrat to and ftom Sing-
flightdeck increased in lengfth by an apore, her space frequently belng
ungainly overhang aft. She possessed used as short{erm trooplng accom- Speed:24 lls Desigmed as an 'aircraft maintenance
grreat freeboard with only moderate modation. She was scrapped in 1959. Armour: none caftier', wartime shortage of carriers
length, gnving an oddly foreshortened Armament: four twin I l4-mm (4.5-in) led to H MS Unicorn berngpressed
aspect, Specification DP, three quadruple 2-pdr AA, and 12 intofront line service. As part of
The Unicorn was laid dom in 1939, HM.SUnicorn 20-mmAAquns Force 7, Unicotnhelped provide
launched in l94I and compieted in Type: maintenalce camer and Aircraft: 35 when used as a light fleet frghter support for the Salerno
1943, in trme to join the CVEs of Force secondary light fleet aircraff -carrier carrier landings in 1 943 and saw action ofl
V, tasked to provide the fighter cover Displacement: 14,750 tons standard Complement: I,050 Okinawa the nextyear.
for both fleet and forces ashore in the Dimensions: lenqth 195.I m (640 ft);
first 24 hours followrng the iandings at beam27.4 m(90 ft); draughtS,B m(I9 ft)
Salerno. In{he event, it was near}y fow Propulsion: 2-shaft geared steam
days before the aaphne of an arfield turbines deliverinq 40, 000 shp Equipped with a double hangar like
ashore could relieve the force of the (29828 kvf) Ark Royal, Unic orn had a shor tened
hull, giving her a rather cumbersome
appearance. In resewe trom 1946 to
I 949 , she was recommissrbned as a
transport carrier for thb Korean war,
fenying aircraft and sewing as a
troopship.

I 133
X bnm ships
With the European coast from the Unit, would sit for hours, strapped in
North Cape to the Spanish border the cockpit, awaiting the sighting of a
under enemy control by mid-1940, 'snooper', Once launched, they were
Iong-rangre German aucraft began to committed to catching the enemy and
prove a serious menace to British con- returning on a limtted amount of fuel.
voys. The latter, beyond the range of There was no landing-on; if ftiendly
their own air-support and with the Iand were ciose enough (a rare event)
escort carrier still in the future, were the pilot wonld try to reach it, but, more
shadowed relentlessly, the aircraft usually, he had to return to the convoy
vectoring in marauding U-boats and, (often getting shot at) and 'ditch' along-
increasingiy boldly, attacking strag- srde a likely ship, hoping to be rescued
glers. In 1940, aircra-ft alone accounted qurckly before death arrived ftom ex-
for I92 Allied ships of 580,000 sross posure or drowning. It demanded a
registered tons, a total passed in the special sort of bravery,
first four months of 1941, A somewhat Once contact was made, the enemy
desperate measue to counter these usually fell easlly to the high-
pests was the Catapult-Armed Mer- perbrmance eight-gnrn fighters. The
chantman or CAM ship, a series of flrst recorded lcll was by a Hurricane
whichwere convertedwhile the CVEs ftom the PCS Maplin early tn August
were building, Initially, three mer- 1941, shortly before the CVE HMSAU-
chantmen and the old seaplane carrier dacitls epic maiden run and, by the
HMS Pegasus were each fitted with a end of the year, some six successes
catapult upon which was mounted an had been achieved,
early Hawker Hurricane or Fairey Ful- The first CAM ship was the Empre
mar fighter. This grroup, termed Fight- Rainbow, The Empire Lawrence
er Catapult Ships, proved the idea and formed part of the contentious USSR-
a S0-ship progrramme was initiated, us- bound convoy PQl6 in mid-1942. Her making Soviet soil, Once launched from aCAM ship
rng merchantrnen of various sizes. All aircraft dovuned one Hemkel He lll The CAMs served briefly before there was no way of landing; atter
wore the red ensigm, carried cargo torpedo bomber and damaged being supplemented and then dis- hopefully destroying the intruder,
and had civilian crews but, spanning another, returning to find her ship piaced by MACs and CVEs, but their the pilot had to bale out over the
the forecastle and No. I hatch, was the sunk. Dwing PQ 18, the Empire M orn's gallant contributlon at a desperate convoy ktowing th at un le s s he was
ungainly catapuit struchre fixed axial- Hurricane, during its briefflight, des- time deserves to be fully recognized, quickly rescred he would die in the
ly and facing forward, Pilots, drawn troyed one aircraft, broke up the No specification is possible for this tqwater.
from the MF's Merchant Ship Fighter attacks of others and succeeded in widely disparate erroup of ships,
Britain's chronic shortage of aircraft
carriers in the early years of the war
lef t the Ail an tic convoy s v ery
vulnerable to long-range Gerrnan
aircraft. A desperate solutionwas the
CAIlll ship, a merchantman with a
fighter plane on a forward catapult.
'll',,
'r-...

,i !i
''i' \li

ffi finns Audacity


Though contingency plans existed
pre-war to convert merchant ships to
au:cliary aircraft carriers, the produc-
tron of the first such ship seems, in re-
uospect, to have been leiswely con-
sidering the urgency of the situation.
The hull selected for conversion was
that of the fire-damaged Hannover, an
alnost new Hamburg-Amerika cargo
Iiner seized by the Royal Navy offSan
Domingo in February 1940. She com-
missroned as HMS Audacjfy in June
l94l with the functions of carrying
fighters to curb the menace ofthe long-
ralge German maritime aircraft and, if
possible, Fairey Swordfish to provide a arrangements, Audacity retained merchantmen, With radar direction, Thetirst escort carrier, HMS
measure of anti-submarine protection, much of her original accommodation, the carrier had downed two more Audacity's lran dful of fighte$ could
Her facilities were basic, a I40-m (460- September l94l saw the little car- snoopers and spoiled the attacks ofva- mean the ditference between IiIe or
ft) lhghtdeck being laid from the raised rier's first trip, with the UK-Grbraltar rious U-boats. On 21 December she death for a convoy. With convoy
forecastle over a lowered brldge convoy OG41, HeaW attacks from both herself fell victim to three submarine OG4 t her airgroup desEoyed a
structure to a buiit-up poop, There submarine and aircraft sank sx ships torpedoes but had proved the value of Focke-Wulf Fw 200C andchasedoff
were just tlvo arrester wires and a bar- but gireater losses were prevented by the escort carrier. severalU-boats.
rier; no elevator was fitted because the Audacily's aircraft, which caused
there was no hangar: the six aircraft several U-boats to dive and lose con- Specification
were stowed and serviced on deck, tact, They also shot downa Focke-Wulf HMSAudacify 4,750 bhp (3542 kW)
flight operations involving much manu- Fw 200C and chased off other intrud- Type: escort arrcraft -carrier Speed: 15 kts
al rearrangement, Because of a shor- EIS. Displacement: 5,540 tons standard Armout: none
tage of Hawker Sea Hurricanes, she TheAudacity returnedwith the next Dimensions:length 144.7 m (474,75 ft); Armament: one I 02-mm (4-in) and
took Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats to sea convoy, HG76, in mid-December 1941, beam 17, 1 m (56 ft); draught 8.3 m some smaller gn-:ns
for the first time in the Royal Navy, Dwing a four-day nonstop battle the (27.25ft) Aircraft: six
Conbastrng with the spartan aviation enemy lost five submarines for two Propr:lsion: 2-shaft diesels delivering Complement:not known

'-:l
Tcranto - Operafion Tudgemenf '
One of the Royal Navy's mosf audacious Malta. The British, old Mediterranean hands,
and successfu I operations duringWorld had long planned an air strike on the port as a
War II, the carrier strike on the ltalian war-qame, a possibility considered more
Teet had been planned severalyears seriously in 1935 as a step in the graded re-
p r eviously when I taly's increasing sponse to Mussohni's invasion of Abyssinia.
This plan was dusted-off once two carriers
nelligerence made war in the were available, and preparations began for a
! 4 e diterranean a real pos sibility.
rard on Trafalgar Day, 2l October 1940, To this
end the RAF, using Malta-based Martrn Mary-
:.;une I940 the whole strategic balance of the lands, began a regmlar reconnaissance sche-
: ::vrously-quiet Mediterranean was upended dule, but a delay was imposed by a flre in the
:',- the collapse of France and by Italy's entry hangar of the ///ustnous, whrch destroyed or
:-.: the war, The latter had a powerful fleet, damaged several alrcraft,
'-:-i-placed geographrcally to dominate the Urgency was then injected by the unex-
--::lral nartows, pected ltalian invasion of Greece on 28 Octo-
- he British Mediterranean Fleet, under ber, which presented the British wrth a whole
,:-::riral Cunningham, was divided between its new range of naval commitments. Clearly the
:=ses at Gibraltar, Malta and Alexandria, of east-west route through the Mediterranean
'':,-ch the first and last are about 3220 km (2 000 had to be kept open, and dealing with Taranto
:-es) distant, Malta, near the mid-point, was would be a step in the right direction,
-=:cgnized as being a key position, to be de- It was resolved to hit the base at the next
:..Ced at all costs, but the Axis powers, favourable moon-phase, on I I November, nav-
=:parently not having envisaged a North Afri- al activity being disgnlsed in a serles of convoy
:::: war, realized its strategic signrficance too movements, necessary because the enemy
-::: anticipated an attack but needed to be kept
-:ke the German fleet, the Italian navy had unaware of its timlng, Unfortunately the vener-
.,: aircraft-carriers, lts sphere of influence, able Eagle, which had been heavily shaken-up
'--.:cretically, belng easily serviced by land- by bombing following the action off Calabria ln
: -..sed airpower. Lacking this latter luxury, the the previous Ju1y, had to withdraw with a major
::-:lsh appreciated fully the value of a carrier failure of her aircraft tuelling system. She left
-. j one, at least, was usually attached, Before Illustrious wiih a legacy of flve night-trained
:.= cnset of hostilities in the Mediterranean, the Swordfish and crews to make up numbers,
:.,.91e flrghtdeck available, HMS G/onous, was The fleet sailed from Alexandria on 6
:=:sferred to the Indran Ocean on a raider November 1940, covering convoys to both
,-.,:: and thence to European waters to replace Crete and Malta, and the passing{hrough of
:.: lost HMS Courageous. When the Glonous,
-:'cinwas lost in June 1940, HMS Eagle was sent
, Cunninerham's flag, reinforced further in
:.: Augnrst by arrival of the new HMS 111usl-
-:::s, Between them, these two shrps could
:. -.ster 42 Fairey Swordfish torpedo/search/re-
_ : :laissance arrcraft (the much-loved'String-
:-;') and 19 fighters comprising Fairey Ful-
:.=rs and Gloster Sea Gladiators.
the Royal Navy was active from the outset,
-'- =sinq reinforcements particularly from west
.
east and bullding up the forces at Malta.
",',
lle the Italian fleet was often observed at
,== it remained fairly passrve, but the latent
---:eat that it posed could not be ignored.
llie ltalian fleet's main base was the south-
=::r port of Taranto, only a few hour's dash from

<4

,*.ry . r**'
Taranto - Operation Judgement'
(551-1b) bombs, The flares were to silhouette support, In the open cockprt of a Swordfrsh one The value of the attack 1ay in its demonstra-
the main targets for the low-flying torpecio- was very close to the actron. Like whrrring grey tion of the sheer economy of a rvell-planned
carriers, and the bombs were for diversionary moths the aircraft quartered the anchorage, carrier strrke, the firrther moral ascendency
attacks on smaller warships in the Mar Piccolo, rumbiing in and out at below tunnel height, the given to the outnumbered Royal Nalry and the
the seaplane base and the oil fuel depot. tracer following rn a multitude of flat arcs. Mira- withdrawal of all Italian heavy units io points
A final air attack on the Britrsh on the after- culously, only one of the aircraft was lost, whiie north, Cunningham signalled, on the foliowing
nocn of I I November should have given the a single hit put the Cavour on the l:ottom and day, 'lltusirious manoeuvre well executed', and
Italians cause for concern throuqh the very another holed the new ftifono's port quarter, rndeed it was so.
nature of the task group's composition, but The bombers, meanwhile, had raised a heariy
there was no apparent reaction. In dead calm blaze in the seaplane base, which thus served
conditions under a three-quarter moon, the first as a beacon to welcome the second strike,
12 Swordfish iumbered, heavily loaded, into about 40 minutes behind the first,
the air. By 20 40 they were all away on the Again the flare-line worked well, throwing
275-km (170-mile) two-hour flrght, their crews tire statronary Italian ships into sharp reIlet
freezing in their open cockpits, Long before Only frve torpedo aircraft were in this group,
their arrival the port was marked by a multi- arriving from the north after a dtversionary jink
coloured cascade of fire, arcing aimlessiy in in the course. From a height of barely 6 m (20 ft)
the clean air, the jittery Itahans betng warned the torpedoes went in, one by one, ihe attack-
of alrcra{t noises by listening apparatus but, ers dodging each other, the targets and the
fortunately, lackrng night-ftghters. bailoons, One crashed and another was hlt, but
At 23.02, the first Brttish flare blossomed at so was the Dulio and, again, the trjftono, The
1370 m (4 500 ft) followed by others in a neat bombers sullered from faulty fusing and many
line at 805-m (880-yard) intervals, The torpedo of therr weapons lailed to explode, including
aircraft had gone their own way, splttting furth- one that penetrated well into the cruiser ?ren-
er into two groups to attack from the south west /o, but this d-etracted little from the scale of the
and north west, Of these the first had to fly success,
belween the invisible balloon cables, and here In the early hours, close aboard the Greek
the stately 85mph (l37km,/h) oi a Strtngbag Islanci of Cephalonra, the llluslruous received
was a positive advantage, Al] crews spoke of her brood as they arri,red singly and in pairs,
the sheer volume of fire thrown up from all tattered and eiated, For the loss of only two
sides but, apparently, there was no searchlight aircraft, three enemy battleships had been bot-
tomed confrrmed on the following day by ae-
rral reconnarssance, In deep water they would
have been lostl as it was, two were eventually
salvaged and returned to servrce.

,il ''*"'*::l'"-
-9"
;
?- _d..
.ii 'tr"*!
t. -
.];'i,:4., r i':i.
'
,#j.'r-";-']:t'"

Dodging between the barrage balloon cables


anid a hailof anti-aircraftfke, theSwordfish roar
low across thewater to drop their torpedoes.They
attacked in two waves, the second going in iust
be{ore midnight, andby the timethe attackwas
over three battleshjpsiadbeen sent to the bottom.
*
&

..::
fi ;'-r14i-4"11:

rilF
.-i:,:i:1:!:.t:it!',, -
.=-!.':1':::nt4{:a::;:15

'-::!++:-{t':l']:

#
6
ffi ihnc ships
Lead orders for escort carriers (CVEs) From the point of vtew of cargo re- Specification Propulsion: l-shaft diesel delivering
were placed in early 1942, but wgent quirements and dimensiors, tankers 'Empire Mac'dryclass 3,300 bhp (246I kW)
measures were required to close the were also very surtable candidates for Type: merchant aircraft -carrier Speed: II.5 ks
mid-Atlantic gap during their buildinar. conversion, but the Admiralty had Displacement: 7,930 to 8,250 gnoss tors Armou:none
One such was the CAM ship, the other grave doubts of the fire risk, Anglo- Dimensions: lengrth between 135,6 and Armament: one i 02-mm (4-in) and
the MAC (Merchant Aircraft Carrier), Saxon Petroieum (now Shell) resolved 139,9 m(445and459 ft); beam some smaller gnrns
an ingenious solution later copied by the problem on their behaif, resulting between 17, I and I7.7 m (56 and 58 ft); Aircraft:four
the Japanese. The Ministry of War in nine of their tankers being con- draught 7.5 m (24,66 ft) Complement:110
TYansport was, understandably, reluc- verted (though retaining their famlliar Propulsion: I-shaft diesel delivering
tant to release good-class cargo ton- Shell names) and four more liquid- 3,300 bhp (2461 kW)
nage for conversion to dbdicated cargo Empre 'Macs' belng launched Speed: 12.5 kts Specification
CVEs, but the MAC retained the €rea- for the job, The matn difference be- Armour: none 'Shell'class
ter part ofits cargo capacity while hav- tvveen the wet and dry cargo carriets Armament: one 102-mm (4-in), two 40- Type: merchant aircraft -carrier
ing a flight deck topside. Breakbulkers lay in the'lack of a hangar on the tank- mm AA and some smaller gnrns Displacement: 8,000 grross tons
reguired hatches and cargo-handling ers, the aircraft remaining topside in Aircraft:icur Dimensions: IenSrth 146.5 to 147 m
gear to function, but gEain carrters re- all weathers, Despite the urgency of Complement: I10 (480.66 to 482,25 ft); beam 18.0 m (59 ft);
quired only small aperh:res to their the programme, it was April 1943 be- draught 8.4 m (27.66 ft)
holds, through which the hoses for fore the first MAC entered sewice, Propulsion: I-shaft diesel delivering
loading and discharging gnain could They were exceedingly fortunate Specification 3,7s0 bhp (2796 kW)
be irserted. This arrangement was frrl- ships, all 19 srirviving the war to be ' Empire M ac' tanker c/ass Speed: 13 kts
ly compatible with fitting a flightdeck. reconverted. Type: merchant aircraft -carrier Armow:none
Like the CAMs, the MACs sailed The dry-cargo 'Empire Mac' class Displacement: B,B5O to 9,250 Crross tons Armament: one 102-mm (4-in) and
under the red ensigm, only theu flight ships were the Empire Macalpine, Dimensions: length 146.7 to ]48 m some smaller gnrns
personnel being Royal Navy. Similarly, Empfue Macandrew, Empke Maccal- (481,31o485,5 ft); beam lB.0to 18,8 m Aircraft: four
they were integrrated more wlth the lum, Empire Macdermott, Empire (59 to 61.66 ft); drausht 8.0 to 8,4 m Complement: I05
convoy than its escort, though requir- Mackendrick and Empt're Macrae. (26,25 to 27,5 ft)
tng more manoeuvrrngi space, The equivalent tanker 'Empire Mac'
Appropriately carrying Empire'Mac' class comprised the Empire Mac- MAC ships weremercian f yessels
names (particularly so as they came cabe, Empfue Maccoll, Empire Mack' only partially converted into aircratt
ftom Scottish yards), the first six were ay and Empire Macmahon. Finally, carriers; a flight deckwasfitted, but
aII converted from incomplete ships, the units of the 'Shell' class were the they could stillcarry cargo. Their
with 129 by 19 m (423 by 62 ft) flight- Acavus, Adula, Alexia, Amastra, air cr af t protecte d co nvoys in the
decks and a diminutive hangar aft cap- Ancylus, Gadila, Macoma, Miralda 'Atlantic Gap' , the area in mid-
able of accommodating four Fairey and Rapana. Atlantic out of range of Allied shore-
Swordfish aircraft. based aircraft.

ffi tritish-built escort carriers


Few escort carriers were produced Short ofspare merchant tonnage,
by British yards, which worked on Britain built few escort carriers, but
more specialued shrps, leaving series ships likeHMS Vinde:<, seenierein
production to the Americans, There I I 44, proved very successfuJ
was, understandably, also reluctance working with submarine hunting
to release good-quality mercantile ton- groups.
nage for conversion at a time ofsevere
shortage, As a result, only five British- The British CVEs ran extensively
buiit CVEs saw serrnce, HMS Tlndex wrth convoys to and from Gibraltar.
and the roughly-similar HMS /Vairana, Working in pairs, they became potent
the smaller HMS Activity, the larger anti-submarine ships, Their Sword-fish
HMS Campania and the ex-passenger were equipped wtth search radar and
iiner HMS Pretoria Casile, Unlike they themselves wrth Asdic (sonar),
their American counterparts, built which allowed co-operation wrth dedi-
from similar hulls, they were all diffe- eated hunter-krller groups, a luxury Propulsion: 2-shaft diesels delivering Propulsion: 2-shaft dieseis delivering
rent, tending to have longer but nar- possible only after all the convoys 12,000 bhp (8948 kW) 11,400 bhp (8501 kW)
rower flightdecks, In addrtion the han- were adequately escorted, Later in the Speed: 18 kts Speed: 16 kts
qar was served by only one elevator, war they were used on the Arctic con- Armour:none Armout:none
which made for much manhandling of voy roule, the significance of their con- Armament: two l02-mm (4-in) AAand Armament: tvvo twin 102-mm (4-in) AA,
aircraft, They were more solidly burlt tribution being recognized by their 10 twin 20-mm AA gmns four quadruple 2-pdr AA, and l0 twin
than the American CVEs, with stee]- wearing the flag of the senior naval Aircraft: 15 20-mmAAgmns
sided hangars and steel flightdecks, officer, They were less successful in Complement: 700 Aircraft: 15
On average, they stowed 15 to 18 air- the severe northern conditions, their Complement: notknotm
cra-ft, in the approximate ratio of two Iack of lengrth making them extremely Specification
Fairey Swordfish to one fighter (Haw- lively in pltch, which restricted flight HMSPrelon'a Casfle
ker Sea Hwricane, Grumman Wildcat operations. Tlpe: escort aircraft-carrier
or Fairey Fulmar), TheActirzify stowed Displacement: 17,400 tons standard
fewer, and the larger Pretoria CasUe Specification Dimensions:length 18L l m (594 ft);
spent most of her operational career rh HMSActivity beam 23.3 m (76.6 ft); draught 8,8 m
the training ro1e. The four smaller ships Type: escort aircraflcarrier (28.75 ft)
were converted from twin-screw Displacement: I 1,800 tons standard
diesel cargo liners of the Blue Funnel Dimensions:lengrth i56,2 m (512.5 ft);
and Port Lines, which could be recon- beam 20,3 m (66,66 ft); drauqht 6,7 m ffMS Nairanais seen here in her I 943
verted post-war. Q2ft) colourscheme.
Britislr Ccrriers in the Far East
As the naval war in the Mediterranean and Atlantic drew to a
close, the Royal Navy was able to concentrate its major
carriers in the Far East to form the British Pacific Fleet.
The strike on the oilrefinery atSabang, April 1944,was
modest by American standards yet involved four times as
many aircraft as were used at Taranto.

3y the final year of World War ll, when the British Pacific Fleet formally came
ito existence, the US Navy was using naval airpower on a grand scale with
:cerational doctrines to which the British needed to be re-educated. A first
s:age had been reached in early 1943, when HMS Vlctoriousworked in the
)acific for several months with the USS Saratoga. A year on, the Americans
'eciprocated with the temporary loan of the Saratoga to the nucleus of the new
S.itish fleet, then based on Ceylon. This included the lllustriousand other major
-'rits. which could be released to eastern service by virtue of the running-down
:= the sea war in the Mediterranean
Following a couple of Weeks' intensive work-up, the two carriers formed the
: rtting edge of a 27-ship task force, known as TF 70, formed to carry out a strike
: - the major: oil refinery at Sabang lsland, at the northern tip of Sumatra on 1 6
-cnl 1944. Though under a British flag officer, it was a multi-national force,
,,,earing six different ensigns. To the British it was a luxury to go on to the
:-ensive against the Japanese, the two caniers fielding 83 aircraft, or over four
--
-es the force employed at Taranto. The following month saw a repeat exer-
: se carried out on Surabaya in Java. Though losses were very light, results were
:^ n but, even so, the experience was valuable. Firstly, the British learnt the By thetime theRoyalNavy hadassemb,leda Iarge carrier force tfie reslJ: s:*e
,,' sdom of sailing the force commander in a carrier, where he had an immediate P_acific war was no longer in doubt. A carrier group of this size opratng n
:,'erview of the situation, rather than (as was traditional) having him wear his European waters a few years earlier could have dranatically afielc.ted. tne
' ag in a battleship. Further, the availability of a second flightdeck was found to courseof thewar.
:e vital for sustained operations if accidents were not to hold up proceedings.
3y the end of 1944, the quietening lndian ocean could be left to the six she was out of action only briefly.
:,ailable escort carriers of the East lndies Fleet, based on Ceylon, occupied After a month's continuous operations the British pulled out'i. : :-:.., :-:
:':marily with supporting the 14th Army campaign in Burma with their 150 were soon back as theirAmerican CVE stand-ins were unabie.l-: e::." :_
: 'craft, these being relieved finally by the new light fleet carriers. subdue Japanese aerial activity from the islands. On 4 May HVS ::*:::r:
in January 1945 the British fleet carriers, which had been exercising in twos was hit by a kamikaze, so hard that even the armoured flight ce:< ,'-a: :--,:-
:rad ihrees, primarily against oil-production targets in the East lndies, left to form tured. She was out of action for B0 minutes. Another bounced oi * \, S - :,:,-i :-
:^e nucleus of the new British Pacific Fleet (BPF) based on Sydney. On the way, able. Attrition in aircraft on both sides continued relentlessly dav a-::. :=, I - l
:-ey mounted the first British four-carrier strikes against the Palembang re- May the Formidablewas hit again, and HMS Victoriouswassri-3< :.., := --:.:
' ^ eries in south east Sumatra. These were successf ully carried out in the face of were few casualties, but aircraft losses aboard were considerac :
f
:: opposition and provided usefql experience in the operation of upwards of
''10 aircraft in the simultaneous strike and support roles.
On 25 May, with Okinawa in US hands, TF 57 left the area af rer :.,, : - :-:- : :'
concentrated activity. The heavy construction of the British c;--.-3 -.:,: :::--
On 15 March 1945, the British Pacific Fleet reported itself fully operational vincedtheAmericansof itsutilityfor,thoughtheytoohadlostr.:".--:--: -:-:
'':m its temporary base at Manus, in the Admiralty lslands, north of New campaign, several had been very seriously damaged and forcec it r, t-t-ri',
j rinea. Not the least of its problems had been the assembly and organization of Restyled TF 37, the BPF joined Admiral McCain'i TF 38, whic: :se' - a: : :--
:^e enormous American-style 'f leet train', necessary for the independent suste- fleet and six light carriers for the final assault against the Japa^ss: -: -:
=: :
-:nce of the fleet in all respects in a mobile war far removed f rom established This occupied the last month of the war with continlous ac:,:. i:= -:: :
:ases. As TF 57, the BPF was commanded by Vice Admiral Rawlings under the stilllively enemy who, fortunately, had apparently run out o' <e- q--=.
:,'erall direction of the American Commander-in-Chief Pacific, Admiral Nimitz, After the de facto Japanese surrender in mid-August, the A e: ':::: --
:-t serving as an element of Admiral Spruance's 5th Fleet. The BPF was centred mained on station off ihe Japanese coast until th6 fo;mal s g- -:: - :r:-,
:r fourfleet carriers and a couple of modern battleships and was supported also Septernber. They were struck by a typhoon in late August, a ::-ie :':-:
:,. six CVEs, its main strength equating roughly to a task group within the US A_merican carriers pitching heavily enough to collapse their ove-.--J':-u.1-1
::sk force. lts first involvement was in the taking of Okinawa.
-ihe flightdecks. Again the British design proved superior and the sma e.l -- -- ::.-..
British were tasked with suppressing th-e Japanese airfields on the bow', plated right up, was introduced to later US designs.
s ands between Okinawa and Formosa, the Sakishima Gunto. Attacking by day The BPF effort had extended to nearly 8,000 aircrait sorries v, :- :-: ::: -
::C withdrawing by night to replenish and renew aircraft, the force was little action of 85 aircraft. Half that number again were lost to kami<aze :-.'r :: -: -
:: posed for the first few days but, on 1 April 1 945, the day of the main landings, achievements had been considerable and both fleets had bene'::: '':- :-q
'',4S nd ef ati gable was hit sq uarely by a ka m i kaze. f hanks to her armou red deck
l other's experiences.

::-'rlS Victorious and Implacable, seen from HMS Formidable on I 0 July I 945 as Time and timeagain, Britishcarrierswere saved by theL thickdeckarmou.r
:e British Pacific Fleet prepares to launch air strikes against the Japanese from destructionbrz kamikaze af tack. H er e, ak ct a{t burn onI{MS llhrsrrcs.ls
:ainland. Even when cartying a bigger air group than they were designed after a suicide bomber has struck. Several Anerican carriers had to b
-'br the8rjfrsi sI ips carried far fewer aircraft than their American withdrawn for repair but British carriers were quickly hr,ck in action.
:E|fiterparts.
>K ffi ifi"ri"an-built escort carriers
Lke the British, the Amencars had machinery problems,
pre-war rdeas on the conversion of With limited capacity for flexibiltty,
mercantile hulls to arxiliary carriers. CVEs tended to be fitted out for roles
Early in 1941, two C3 hulls were thus either in convoy escort or in assault
earmarked and the first was rebuilt in support, their organization and aircrafi
only three months, commtssiontng as complement being tailored to suit,
the USS Lons Island (AVG, 1) within Once available in larger numbers they
days of the British Audacity. In con- were often integrrated drectly vrrth AS
cept, the American ship was well gnoups. They often worked in larger
ahead, having both hangar and eleva- grroups (five at Salerno and nine for the
tor, though making poor use of avail- South of France landings), but some
able space. Such early AVGs had a saw no action, being engaged on air-
hangrar occupying only the after quar- craft ferryrng, All that were still fit were
ter or so of the underdeck space, a converted back to mercantile roles af-
simrlar voiume ahead of it being de- ter the war.
voted to accommodation (which The 'A:che/ class comPrised five
should have qone below in the original ships, namely HMS ArcIer, HMS Displacement: 8,250 tons standard IIMS Avenqer and Biter, pjcf ured
cargo spaces in the huli proper). Be- Avenger, HMS Bifer, HMS Cfiarger except lrcler 9, 000 tons standard here in heavy seas, were both
1ow the forward half of the flightdeck and HMSDasier, though the Charger Dimensions:length 150.0 m (492,25 ft); 'Archer' class escort caniers.
the space was open, the overheads was retained by the US NavY as beam 20.2 m (66.25 ft); draught 7, i m
being supported on frame structures, CVE.30 for the training of British air- (23.25 ft)
What they did have was a catapult crews in American waters. The Propulsion: -shaft diesel delivering
1 Armament: tl,vo 102-mm (4-in) AA, four
(known as an 'accelerator') and the 'Attacker' class was larger, and was 8,500 bhp (6,338 kW) exceptlrcirer 1- hrin 40-mm AA, and 15 20-mm AA
popular bunk beds and cafeteria mes- made up of HMS Atfacker, HMS Bat' shaft diesel delivering 9,000 bhp guns
smg. fJer, HMS Chaser, HMSFencer, HMS (671r kW) Aircraft: 18
The longlsJands first sister was not Pursuer, HMS StalJ<er, HMS StriJ<er Speed: 16.5 ktsexceptlrcfier 17 kts Complement:645
completed until November I94I, and and HMS ?rarler, Finally there was the Armour:none
was transferred to the Bntish as HMS 'Ruler' class, which was made uP of Armament: three l02-mm (4-in) AA, Specification
Archer (BAVG 1), being jotned later HMS Patroller, HMS Puncfier, HMS and I520-mmAAguns 'Rulet' class
by three more'Archet' class ships. As Ravager, HMS Reaper, HMS ^Sear- Aircraft: l5 Type: escod aircraft -carrier
the progrramme got into its stride the c}er, HMSSJinger, HMSSmjfer, HMS Complement: 555 Displacement: I 1,400 tons standard
Royal Navy received eight of the .Spea/<er, HMS fracker, HMS ?roun- Dimensions:length 150,0 m (492,25 ft);
'Attacket' class and 26 of the very stmi- cer, HMS Trumpeter, HMS Ameer, Specification beam21.2 m (69,5 ft); draughtT.T m
lar 'Rule/ class, Both had fuIl-lenqth HMs.Arbifer, HMS Afieling, HMS Be- 'Attacket'class (2s.25 ft)
hangars, the later class having im- grum, HMS Emperor, HMS EmPress' Type: escort atrcraft -carrier Proprrlsion: I -shaff geared steam
proved stowage factors. Following HMS Klredive, HMS /Vabob, HMS Pre- Displacement: I I,400 tons standard turbine delivering 9,350 shp (6972 kW)
early experience, the British required mier, HMS Queen, HMS r?a.|'afi, HMS Dimensions: length 150.0 m (492.25 ft); Speed: 17 kts
higher standards of fuel and fire pro- rtanee, HMS RuJer, HMS Sfiafi and beam2L2 m(69,5 ft); draughtT,3 m Armour: none
tection than the Americans, promotinql HMS ?hane. (24ft) Armament: tvvo 102-mm (4-in) AA,
a measure of criticism of 'gold-plating'. Propulsion: I -shaft geared steam eight twin 40-mm AA, and 20 20-mm
Early Americhn ships were diesel- Specification h:rbine delivering 9,350 shp (6972 k\ D AAquls
dnven, later umts having steam plant; 'Archer'class Speed: 17 kts Aircraft:22
both types experienced a fair share of Type: escort aircraft-carrier Armour:none Complement:645

Britain received eight'Attacker' class submarine warfare as well as


and 26 'Ru[er' class escort carriers providing air support during several
from the USA. They were used both of the M editenanean arnPhibious
for convoy escort and anti' assauJls. i

ffi firvrs Perseus and HMS Pioneer


early as i954 (earller intentions of con- Displacement: 13, 300 tons standard
Far Eastern operations had to be con- hangar, they were margdnally faster
ducted far from established bases and but looked 'unfinished' with few of the versions to passenger liners were not Dimensions: Iength 2I 1,8 m (695 ft);
maintenance facilities, Hiqh attritlon deck-edete fixtures sported by the pursued due probably to a combina- beam 24.4 m (80 ft); draught 5,6 m
tion of cost and a diminishing demand (rB 4 ft)
rates ln aircraft would demand 'repair operatronal carriers,
by replacement to keep the front-line Both HMS Perseus and HMS for these ships by a public acqurring a PropuJsion: 2-shaft geared steam
carriers fully operatronal, CVEs being Pioneer were completed by the end of taste for air travel), The Perseus was turbines delivenng 42, 000 shP
Lrsed extensively in the exchange pro- the war, but only the Pioneer suc- nearly recommissioned for the Suez (31319 k\ D
cess. Lightly damaged aircraft or ceeded in getting to an operational affair of 1956, but then scrapped in Speed:25 l.ts
routine maintenance tasks could be theatre, with the 1]th ACS, arriving in 1958, Armour:mrnimal
carried out on the fleet carrier herself the Far East just in time for the Armament:three quadruple z-pdr AA
but lack of space and time demanded Japanese surrender, Paradoxically, Specification and 1020-mmAAgrms
that anything more complex be ship- earlier in the war when they could HMS Perseus and HMS Pioneer Aircraft: none
have been of use, they would (like the Tlpe: jnlenance aircraft-carrier Complement:not known
ped out for repair and, bY the very ma
!
nahre of things, the repair facilities Unicorn) almost certarnly have been *
had to be afloat, With the only spectal- pressed into an operational role, leav- IIMS Perseus and Pioneer were
ist marntenance carrier Unicorn used ing CVEs to be used as auxliaries, 'CoJossus'class carriers, completed
permanently in an operational role, while in peace too few active flight- as m ainten ance ships un able to
two ofthe new ligrht fleet carriers ofthe decks were maintained to warrant operate in a combat role. Too late to
'Colosstts' class were earmarked as re- their existence, With little post-war ap- serve in lhe wartime fleet, they were
placements, Though lacking the extra p[cation, the Plbneer was scrapped as among the first British carriers to be
scrapped.
6rps ffi
Armed Forces of the World Part I

US f{arine
Organization
Since World War ll, the US Marine Corps has tradi-
tionally been organized into three ground combat
divisions: one on the east coast of the United
States, one on the west, and one headquartered on
Okinawa. Each division has its own aircraft wing.
The 2nd Marine Division is based at Camp
Lejeune, North Carolina (supported by the 2nd
Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Cherry Point, North
Carolina), and acts as the nucleus of the Fleet
Marine Force Atlantic (FMFLant), providing the
manpower to support naval operations with the 2nd
Fleet in the Atlantic and the 6th Fleet in the Mediter-
ranean.
The 1st Marine Division is located at Camp
Pendleton, California (supported by the 3rd Marine
Aircraft Wlng at MCAS El Toro, California), and
operates primarily as a component of the Rapid
Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF), providing a
combat force ready to be sent into action in any
climate and in any location, at only a moment's
notice.
The 3rd Marine Division is on Okinawa (supported
by the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Futema,
Okinawa), and forms the nucleus of the Fleet
Marine Force Pacific (FMFPac), providing troops in
Support of the US Navy's 7th Fleet in the east Asian
and western Pacific region,
Each division is broken into battalions (nine
infantry, one reconnaissance, one armour, one of
combat engineers and one for specialized Mention must also be made of the 4th Marine M arinesin their ampirbious pers onnel carriers,
amphibious operations) and has an artillery regiment Division, together with lts own 4th Marine Aircraft LWP-7s. Assisted by a formidable array of aircraft
Wing, the former at Camp Pendleton, the latter at and sustajned jn action by a fleet of support ships,
with towed guns. The aircraft wings supporting the Marines' primary mission remains assault from
these divisions each have up to eight squadrons of NAS Glenvlew, lllinols. This division is the US the sea. Renowned Ior their toughness and
tactical jet aircraft, seven helicopter squadrons, and Marine Corps Reserve, kept in being by inegular professionalism, they are ready for combat
three transport/observation squadrons. Addition- call-up of reservists who train at locations close to anwhere in the world.
ally, the US Marine Corps has two independent their homes. ln wartime or in emergency, the Presi-
brigades, one in Hawaii intended for Pacific opera- dent can call the Reserves to active duty.
tions and one at Camp Pendleton as a further Among bases where US Marines make thelr Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where a reinforced US
component of the RDJTF. homes is the beleaguered US Navy base at Marine company some 420 strong is used for
security purposes. ln the Pacific region, some US
Marines are stationed at Subic Bay in the Philippines
and at Yokosuka in Japan. ln the Mediterranean,
another key base is at Naples.
Operationally, the US Marine Corps can be organ-
ized into any of three types of formation. The largest
is the Marine Amphibious Force (MAF) formed from
an entire division plus an aircraft wlng. Next in size is
the Marine Amphibious Brigade (MAB) one of
which, as noted, is kept in being for the RDJTF. The
more usual formation is the Marine Amphibious Unit
(MAU), based on a composite US Marine battalion
and from five to seven US Navy assault ships. Each
composite battalion has its own armour, artillery and
helicopters. Normally, one MAU is in being at any
time in the Mediterranean with another in the
Pacific. Avariation of the MAU is the Marine Landing
Team (MAT), which is a MAU minus the helicopler
component. Normally one of these is kept in being in
the Pacific region and from time to time another is
formed for deployment in the Atlantic. lt must be
stressed that US Marine forces are Jormed and
deployed as required, so the 'order of battle' out-
lines are subject to change at any time.

AnLWP-7 swims ashorefrom USS Saipan A sfijpo/


this class can deploy and support a Marine
tunphibious Unit of I ,900 men. On the right is a
'Newport' class LST , the largest vessel capable of
beaching. LWP-Is spearhead the assau/l,
carrying 25 Marines towards the beach.
Armed Forces of the World

Marines come ashorefrom anLCU. Deployedto


separate thewarring factions inLebanon, they
suffered heavycasualtl'esaf tft e hands of Muslim
Iana6cs. Their mere presence failed to subdue the
militias, and political considerations ruled out
anything more than token military action.

Current troop strength of the US Marine Corps is


198,574, of whom 162,881 serve in the continental
USA, including those commltted to the RDJTF;
3,467 US Marines are in Europe and 2B,B5B in East
Asia, mostly on Okinawa.
The US Marines have a reputation for tough dis-
cipline arrrd hard training. lt begins during 'boot
camp'at Parris lsland, South Carolina, or San Diego,
California, where the drill instructor (Dl) reigns
almost godJike over recruits who have volunteered
from civilian life.
Not even the toughest US Marine wants to return
to the era of mindlessly stern discipline exemplified
by the night march at Parris Island in April 1956
when, because of an error by Dl Staff Sergeant
Matthew C. McKeon, six men drowned fording a
swamp. But the 12-week basic training course,
much of it conducted under starkly realistic condi-
tions, is intended to breed an elite fighter. ln the US
Marine Corps, unlike the other US services, every
member is first and foremost a rifleman. No matter
what his military occupation specialty (MOS), each
US Marine is expected to be ready to be hurled into a
pointblank fire fight,
Once through boot camp, the typical private first
class (salary $109.20 per month) can be assigned to
any one of nearly 500 training schools. These vary
from Air Command/Control Electronics (six weeks
at Tustin, California) to Journeyman Plumbing and
Water Supply Specialist (11 weeks at Camp
Le.ieune, North Carolina) to Manual Morse lntercept
Electronic Warfare Operator (20 weeks at NAS
Pensacola, Florida). Butwhether plumberor missile
technician, every US Marine must meet demanding
standards of physical fitness and be prepared to
fight on the front line.
US Marine officers come from the 57 colleges
and universities which offer Naval Reserve Officer
Training Corps (NROTC) programmes, or from
officer training programmes within the US Marine
Corps itself , The elite regular officer is a graduate of
one of the service academies and most come from
the United States Naval Academy, the hallowed
institution on the Severn River ln Annapolis, Mary-
land, which boasts the world's largest dining room, Trucks are unloaded over the bow ramp of a men. They are desigmed to transport 520 troops ,.:'.'.:

offers four years of scholarly and military education, 'Newport' class LST. There are 20 ships in this and 500 tons of vehicles or cargo at speeds of 20 .''
tums out good football teams, and produces the class, each with a complement of 225 officers and knofs. .' ..'tl:
future leaders of the US Navy and US Marine Corps.
Annapolis sent hundreds of fresh second lieuten- Like the other services, the US Marine Corps has operates a McDonnell Douglas C-98 Skytrain :ie.ti
ants to command platoons in combat in Vietnam, made increased use of wombn since the armed transport assigned to NAS Memphis, Tennessee.,r,;
men like Peter A. Messenies, who won the Medal of forces became all volunteer in 1975. As of 31 Actual combai is legally ruled out for female U€ ''i'
Honor for taking out a gun position at An Hoa, and December 1982, the US Marine Corps had 591 Marines, but the ruling might be unenforceable in a;i :''
James Webb, much-decorated author of the novels woman officers (3.1 per cent of its total) and 8,039 sudden crisis, since men jnd women serve cheek:li:'
Fields of Fireand A Sense of Honor. enlisted women (4.5 per cent). An 'all-women' crew by-jowl in nearly all units. ,,, :i,

-'i
ESVct Z( :.