|Ark Royal class
Large Fleet Carrier
written by Bruce T. Swain
November 1941 by torpedoes from German submarine U81
|1:600 HMS Ark Royal , as
completed and sunk. Note the twin, manual 4.5" guns,
the quadruple 0.5" MG AA mounted quadrantly around
the ships, and the pom-pom arrangement. All these would
become fetures of the famous armoured carriers.
Unarmoured, Ark Royal was much taller and had
many more apetures in her hull than her later sisters. ©
Ark Royal can easily lay claim to being
the Royal Navy’s most famous carrier, for, apart from her
design, she achieved more in 3-year carrier than other ships
achieved in decades.
Her design benefited from the vast amount of experience gained
from the 6 carriers (all but one of them converted vessels)
completed between 1918 and 1930. For this reason, and because she
was designed as a fleet carrier from the start, she showed a
considerable improvement over the earlier carriers and set the
pattern for all subsequent fleet carriers.
The flight deck, instead of being carried by the hull, was
incorporated as part of its structure; the side plating continued
up to the flight deck, resulting in a fully enclosed bow that was
to become a distinctive feature of British carriers. This,
together with the extensive use of welding, produced a light but
very strong hull.
The two hangars could accommodate 72 aircraft (6 squadrons), but
in practice it was found that 60 was the optimum number.
The honour of the first enemy aircraft shot down by a Fleet Air
Arm aircraft went to one of Ark’s Blackburn Skuas in
late September 1939, then on 10 April 1940 her aircraft achieved
another first when they bombed and sank the German light cruiser Königsberg
- the first instance of a major vessel being sunk by air attack.
After participating in the ill-fated Norwegian campaign, Ark moved
to the Mediterranean, where she became the nucleus of Admiral
Somerville’s Force "H", and in July 1940 her aircraft
took part in the operations against the French warships at
Mers-el-Kebir, near Oran, mining the marked channel to the port
and carrying out torpedo attacks on the battlescruisers Dunkerque
and Strasbourg. On 1 August Ark’s aircraft bombed
the power station at Cagliari, then in September were in action
against French ships again - this time at Dakar, where the
British aircraft were roughly handled by French fighters.
In November 1940 there was an abortive brush with an Italian
fleet off Cape Spartivento, then from February to April 1941
Force "H" carried out an unsuccessful search for Scharnhorst
and Gneisenau in the Atlantic. Her aircraft were more
successful in the hunt for and destruction of Bismarck,
scoring the two torpedo hits that jammed the battleship’s
rudder and slowed her sufficiently for the Home Fleet to catch
and destroy her.
After carrying out aircraft ferry runs to Malta and escorting two
vital convoys to the island, Ark Royal’s luck finally
ran out on 13 November 1941 when she was torpedoed by U.81;
she was eventually taken in tow, but when only 20 miles from
Gibraltar - and 13 hours after she had been torpedoed - she
capsized and sank.
||7620 nm @ 20 kts
Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 6 x Parsons steam turbines @
Aircraft & Complement ( Final )
||1600 Officers &
Ratings including Air Group
- 4 x 2 x 4.5"AA
- 6 x 8 x 2 pdr AA
- 8 x 4 x 0.5" AA
- 26 x Fairey Swordfish
- 24 x Blackburn Skuas
- 30 x Fairey Swordfish
- 12 x Blackburn Skuas
- 12 x Fairey Fulmars
- 36 x Fairey Swordfish
- 18 x Fairey Fulmars
- Anti-submarine patrols off
Northern Ireland Sep.1939
- missed by 2 torpedoes from U.39
- near-miss by bomb from German
aircraft 26 Sep. - Germans announce Ark Royal
sunk for first of many times
- anti-raider patrols in South
Atlantic Oct. 1939-Feb. 1940
- Norwegian campaign Apr.-Jun. 1940
- aircraft sink German light
cruiser Königsberg 10 Apr
- strike Trondheim 12 June
- with Force "H" in
Mediterranean Jun.-Oct. 1940
- refit at Gibraltar Jul. 1940
- strike on Cagliari harbour 2 Aug.
- Dakar operation 23-25 Sep. 1940
- refit UK Oct.-Nov. 1940
- action off Cape Spartivento Nov.
- search for German heavy units in
Atlantic Feb.-Apr. 1941
- ferried Hurricanes to Malta May
- aircraft torpedo Bismarck 26 May
- ferried Hurricanes to Malta
- strike against Sardinia 24 Aug.
- strikes against Genoa, Leghorn and
Spezia 9 Sep. 1941
- hit by one torpedo from U.81
13 Nov. 1941
- sank 13nm from Gibraltar 14 Nov.
1941, under tow