carriers

Nov

13

1941

HMS Ark Royal sunk

The destroyer HMS Legion came alongside and took off almost 1500 men whilst a group stayed on board attempting to prevent her sinking.

When the torpedo struck most of the ship’s company were below decks, working in the hangars, or on watch in the machinery spaces and other compartments. Men off duty were in their messes having tea. Everything was as it had been hundreds of times before. Without any warning the ship was shaken by a violent convulsion. Decks seemed to whip like springboards.

Sep

24

1941

Force H departs Gibraltar with convoy

Loading a 16" shell on board HMS Rodney

On the evening of the 24th Admiral Somerville’s flag was raised on HMS Rodney and the band played on the quayside as if the battleship were departing for home. She then sailed westward with an escort of destroyers. Admiral Somerville had in fact remained on HMS Nelson and would lead the main force into the Mediterranean after dark. Those watching from Spain and Algeciras in North Africa were duped for a time.

May

26

1941

Torpedo attack on the Bismarck

The Fairey Swordfish biplane in flight with torpedo

Some torpedoes were avoided by turning the ship, but as a surviving officer explained, whichever way the “Bismarck” turned to evade one torpedo, she was constantly exposed to others. Another prisoner stated that the aircraft came down to the attack at an angle of approximately 50° and darted through the barrage like flashes of lightening, and the courage displayed by the pilots in pressing home their attacks in this fashion was beyond praise. This prisoner added ruefully: “If only Germany actually had sunk the ‘Ark Royal’.”

Feb

13

1941

The Indian Ocean fleet in action

The aircraft carrier HMS Formidable, pictured later in the war.

It is probable that one hit was made with a torpedo on a ship lying at a jetty in the Northern Harbour, where a submarine and a supply ship had been reported by reconnaissance, and one merchant ship was sunk outside, also by torpedo. A second merchant ship was also sunk either by torpedo or bomb. In the bombing attack on the main harbour one probable hit was made on a large destroyer.

Feb

2

1941

Swordfish from Ark Royal attack Sardinia

HMS Ark Royal and one of her Swordfish aircraft, operating in the Mediterranean during 1941.

H.M. Ships Renown, Malaya, Ark Royal and light forces operated off Sardinia on the 2nd February. Owing to unfavourable weather the original plans had to be modified, but at dawn 8 Swordfish made an attack on the Tirso Dam which holds the water for the hydro-electric station. Observation of results was impossible; but it is thought that 3 torpedoes hit the dam.

Jan

24

1941

HMS Illustrious escapes Malta for Egypt

HMS Illustrious, beside the crane, under attack in Malta Harbour.

On the 24th the cruiser force was attacked when 130 miles north of Benghazi by about 30 enemy aircraft, the larger proportion being dive-bombers. Many near misses were obtained, but no damage was sustained by our ships. Four or five of the enemy aircraft were damaged. The enemy aircraft missed sighting the Illustrious.

Jan

10

1941

HMS Illustrious bombed by the Luftwaffe

HMS Illustrious under attack on the 10th January 1941. Courtesy MaritimeQuest.

The first attack was by torpedo bombers on the Battle Fleet, in which torpedoes missed after avoiding action had been taken. The second, which occurred at about 1235, was carried out by 25 or more Ju 87 and 88 dive-bombers which attacked with great determination and skill, thus confirming the arrival in the Mediterranean of units of the German Air Force.

Aug

30

1940

British fleet sails into the Mediterranean

The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal with Fairey Swordfish torpedo planes from No. 820 Squadron Fleet Air Arm.

‘Operation Hats’ consisted of the aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious with the battle cruiser HMS Renown and the battleship HMS Valiant supported by three cruisers and seventeen destroyers. For the first time the fleet was defended by all round radar, based on four ships covering different sectors. Although the fleet was spotted by Italian aircraft, the Italian Navy did not attempt an engagement.

Jun

8

1940

HM Ships Glorious, Acasta and Ardent sunk

world war 2 aircraft carrier at sea - hms glorious

The escorting destroyer [HMS Ardent] on the port side of the battleships continued her torpedo attacks and tried, extremely skilfully, to avoid the effective defensive fire of the battleships’ medium armament by means of constant alterations of course. Finally this destroyer also opened fire on the battleships. She fought with outstanding resolution in a situation that was hopeless for her. The destroyer received numerous hits and finally went down, her bow armament firing to the last and her engines apparently in order and driving her at high speed. The final range was about 5 miles.

Dec

4

1939

Nazi aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin under construction

She was never completed, as the constant argument within the Nazi regime as to how best to allocate naval construction resources was to continue throughout the war.