HMS Ark Royal (1938) CV (3rd)
The third Ark Royal was the second large aircraft carrier to be
designed from as such from the start for the Royal Navy. She had a long flight deck 60ft
(18m) above the deep water load line and an island superstructure on
the starboard side. She was the first carrier to use a flight deck safety
barrier. Other aircraft equipment included 2 accelerators, 3 lifts, and
hydraulic arrester wires.
She was fully operational by Sept-1939 when she replaced HMS Courageous as Flagship - Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers in the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.
Her war career was almost over before it began when on 14-Sep-1939 she was on Submarine hunting duties in company with her escorting destroyers Faulknor, Firedrake and Foxhound. U-39 got into a firing position and fired 2 torpedoes at Ark Royal which misfired astern of her. The destroyers immediately attacked U-39 and sank her. However the misuse of such high value ships for submarine hunting was underscored 3 days later when HMS Courageous on was hit and sunk by torpedoed fired from U-29.
Ark Royal lived to fight another day and war duties continued during late Sept when she sailed into Rio de Janeiro during the hunt for the Graf Spee. She took part in the Norwegian campaign of 1940, and was later transferred to the Mediterranean Theatre, where she joined 'Force H' at Gibraltar. Her aircraft spotted for the guns during the action against the Vichy French Fleet at Oran. Then it was on to Dakar to cover Free French Forces
A short refit followed Sept-Oct 1940. Then back to the Mediterranean Nov-1940. East Atlantic convoy duties in early 1941 was used as a work-up period for Malta convoy escort work.
In May 1941, her Swordfish aircraft of 818 Sqn hit the German Battleship Bismarck with two torpedoes, damaging her steering gear. This led to Bismarck being caught and sunk by the pursuing British Fleet.
Summer and Autumn of 194 continued work with Force 'H'.
On 13 November 1941, returning from an aircraft ferrying operation to Malta, the Ark Royal was torpedoed by U-81, 30 miles from Gibraltar. Although taken in tow, the flooding could not be controlled and the following day she sank, 14 hours after being hit. Only one rating was lost of her complement of nearly 1600.
This page last edited -
16 December, 2012.
Copyright © Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.