|Ship Class||Hermes-class Light Carrier|
|Builder||W. G. Armstrong-Whitworth and Company, High Walker, England, United Kingdom|
|Laid Down||15 Jan 1918|
|Launched||11 Sep 1919|
|Commissioned||1 Jul 1923|
|Sunk||9 Apr 1942|
|Displacement||10850 tons standard; 13208 tons full|
|Machinery||Two Parsons Steam Turbines, six Yarrow small-tube boilers, two shafts|
|Power Output||40000 SHP|
|Range||6000 nm at 18 knots|
|Armament||6x140mm guns, 3x102mm AA guns|
|Armor||2-3in belt, 1in upper deck, 1in main deck, 1in hangar deck|
|Aircraft||15 Swordfish torpedo bombers|
|Flight Deck Length||570 ft|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
HMS Hermes was the first ship in the world to be designed and built as a dedicated aircraft carrier, although the Japanese carrier Hosho was the first in the world to be commissioned into service. Due to the inexperience with carriers, which type was extremely new at the time of her building, Hermes suffered from some problems such as a small hangar (capacity of only 20 aircraft) and instability at high seas caused by the large starboard island. In late 1934, she received a catapult and a second lift, which further reduced her air complement to 15.
When Hermes entered service, her first task was to conduct flying exercises on the Firth of Forth. In Nov 1924, she joined the Mediterranean Fleet, with which fleet she remained until May 1925. In Aug 1925, she arrived at Hong Kong and joined the China Station and generally remained in the Far East until the end of 1933. She returned to the United Kingdom in May 1937.
When the European War began, Hermes was a part of the Home Fleet and, along with HMS Courageous, operated off the southwestern approaches to search for and attack German submarines. Her complement at the time included 12 Swordfish torpedo bombers of the 814 Naval Air Squadron. She was transferred to the southern Atlantic in Oct 1939, where she would work with the French fleet at Dakar, French West Africa until France surrendered and the Vichy-French government came to power. Hermes then launched strikes against French ships, including launching Swordfish torpedo bombers against the French battleship Richelieu on 8 Jul 1940. During that engagement, one of the torpedoes that her aircraft launched scored a hit against the battleship. In Jul 1940, she collided with the merchant vessel Corfu, and was sent to Simonstown, South Africa for repairs. After which, she was reassigned to the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. The British Eastern Fleet was recently devastated by the Japanese after overwhelming airpower sank battlecruiser HMS Repulse and battleship HMS Prince of Wales. It was hoped that Hermes and other ships assigned to join the fleet would bolster the airpower necessary to prevent a repeat of such a disaster.
On 9 Apr 1942, Admiral Nagumo of the Japanese Navy launched an air raid on the British Royal Navy base at Trincomalee at the island of Ceylon. On that date, Hermes was in port undergoing repairs, but advanced warning due to the successful decryption of Japanese codes allowed her to flee the port. As she returned following the attack, however, she was spotted off Batticaloa by a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft. She was not carrying any aircraft at the time, thus was defenseless against the 70 Japanese aircraft that came to attack her. She sustained 40 hits before she finally sank, killing 307 in the process. 590 survivors were picked up by hospital ship Vita and delivered to Colombo, Ceylon. Her escorts destroyer HMS Vampire and corvette HMS Hollyhock, as well as two oil tankers, were also sunk during the same attack.
Sources: Fleet Air Arm Archive, The Pacific Campaign, Wikipedia.
HMS Hermes Operational Timeline
|1 Jul 1923||Hermes was commissioned into service.|
|19 Feb 1924||HMS Hermes entered service with the Royal Navy.|
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal