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NAME

HMS. ARK ROYAL III

CLASS

AIRCRAFT CARRIER

ENT/SERVICE

NOVEMBER 17th 1938

BUILT

CAMMEL LAIRD / BIRKINHEAD / ENGLAND

WEIGHT

19,500 TONS

LENGTH

800 FEET

WIDTH

95 FEET - FLIGHT DECK 112 FEET

SPEED

31 KNOTS

PROPELLERS

3

ENGINES

3 - GEARED STEAM TURBINES - 102,000 HP

AIRCRAFT

70 - SKUA FIGHTER BOMBERS / SWORDFISH TORPEDO


Ark Royal is probably the most famous name in the history of the British Navy with five warships having used that name by the end of the 20th Century. The first Ark Royal was built at Deptford on the River Thames for Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587. Queen Elizabeth's navy acquired that ship to serve as the English flagship during the Spanish Armada campaign of 1588. The British Navy bought a merchant ship nearing completion to create the second Ark Royal. That ship entered service as a seaplane carrier a few months before the outbreak of World War One in 1914. After the navy ordered a new aircraft carrier in 1934, they renamed the seaplane carrier Pegasus so the name Ark Royal could be used for the new ship.

Ark Royal launch

The third Ark Royal had to be designed to comply with the Washington Treaty limits of 1922. This ship gave the British Navy 7 carriers at that time with another 7 being completed before the end of WWII. Her first deployment during the Second World War was to the South Atlantic in search of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee. Although Ark Royal failed to locate the German warship, a ferocious battle with three British cruisers forced Graf Spee to put into Montevideo/Uruguay for repairs. The German warship was scuttled a few days later as her captain received reports British capital ships were amassing outside the port. Ark Royal’s next deployment in July 1940 took her to the French Navy base at Mers El Kebir/Algeria. With the commander of that base refusing demands his ships should join the war against Germany, Ark Royal and other British warships were ordered to destroy the French ships in the harbor. Ark Royal took part in a second attack of that type on the French Navy base at Dakar in September 1940.

Ark Royal

In March 1941, Ark Royal began patrols in the North Atlantic in search of the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. These warships had been carrying out attacks on supply convoys traveling between America and Britain. Although they both made it safely back to the German held port of Brest/France, the German battleship Bismarck was not as fortunate, as on May 26th 1941, Ark Royal’s Swordfish aircraft tracked her down. That battle ended with Bismarck’s rudder being damaged beyond repair. British warships were then able to close in to finish her off. Ark Royals next deployment was to escort convoys traveling to and from Malta. On November 14th 1941, an attack by the German submarine U-81 succeeded in hitting her with one torpedo. As the explosion opened a hole in Ark Royal’s side about 130 feet long and 30 feet deep, her crew had to be transferred to another ship while a salvage team fought to control the damage. The salvage team was forced to leave the carrier after her list reached a critical level. Thirteen hours after the torpedo hit, Ark Royal capsized and sank in the Mediterranean off Gibraltar.

Ark Royal capsizing

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