Ark Royal file photo [4548]

Ark Royal

CountryUnited Kingdom
Ship ClassArk Royal-class Aircraft Carrier
BuilderCammell Laird & Co Limited, Birkenhead, Merseyside, England, United Kingdom
Laid Down16 Sep 1935
Launched13 Apr 1937
Commissioned16 Dec 1938
Sunk14 Nov 1941
Displacement22,352 tons standard; 28,143 tons full
Length800 feet
Beam95 feet
Draft28 feet
Machinery6 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 3 Parsons geared turbines
Speed31 knots
Range7,600nm at 20 knots
Armament8x2.4.5in AA, 48x2-pdr 'pom-pom' AA, 8x4x12.7mm/0.50cal machine guns
Armor4.5in belt, 3.5in deck over boiler rooms and magazines
Aircraft60 to 72


ww2dbaseArk Royal was the first purpose-built fleet carrier built by the British. She was capable of carrying 60 to 72 aircraft, while still meeting the limits of the Washington Naval Treaty. Her distinctive feature of having side plating running up to the flight deck would become the symbol of future British carriers.

ww2dbaseArk Royal's first WW2 action took place on 25 Sep 1939, rescuing crew of the submarine Spearfish, which was damaged off Horn Reefs. On 26 Sep, she scored her first kill by one of her aircraft. In Dec 1939, she sailed to the South Atlantic in the search for the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee. In 1940, she participated in the Norwegian Campaign; on 13 Jun, her aircraft attacked German positions at Trondheim, Norway. In Jul and Sep 1940, she participated in attacks on the Vichy-French Navy at Mers-el-KĂ©bir and Dakar, respectively. On 1 Aug, in between the western Africa actions, she escorted a convoy that delivered 12 Hurricane aircraft to Malta; her aircraft attacked the Italian base at Cagliari while en route. She covered another convoy in late Nov. In early Feb 1941, she struck the port of Genoa, Italy. In Mar 1941, she pursued German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau during the last phase of their Atlantic sortie. In late May, she participated in the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. On 26 May, her scout planes found Bismarck, and torpedo bombers were dispatched to attack. During the first attack, her Swordfish torpedo bombers misidentified friendly ship Sheffield, fortunately for the crew of Sheffield, the torpedoes malfunctioned upon impact of the waves. A second attack was subsequently launched just before sunset, which hit Bismarck with torpedoes, damaging the German battleship's rudder, which allowed other British ships to sink her on the following day.

ww2dbaseIn mid-1941, Ark Royal returned to the Mediterranean Sea, escorting convoys to Malta. On 13 Nov 1941, she was escorting another convoy when she was struck on the starboard side by a g7e torpedo from German submarine U-81, killing one sailor. She developed a 10-degree list within 20 minutes. Uncontrolled flooding choked the boiler uptakes, leaving her dead in the water and without any power one hour and 19 minutes after the hit. HMS Legion sailed aside her to begin evacuating her 1,487 crew as her list got worse progressively, reaching 27 degrees about 13 hours after the hit. At this point, the order to abandon ship was given. All crew were off the ship at 0430 on 14 Nov as the list increased to 35 degrees. She finally capsized to starboard and sunk somewhere southeast of Gibraltar at 0619. Post-war investigation concluded that the main reason for the sinking was inexperience and poor judgment of the damage control party. The exact location of the wreck remained unknown until mid-Dec 2002, when it was finally located 50 kilometers off Gibraltar under 900 meters of water.

ww2dbaseSources: Fleet Air Arm Archive, United States Navy Naval Historical Center, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Aug 2007

Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal Interactive Map


Ark Royal immediately after launching, 13 Apr 1937A flight of Swordfish I aircraft of No. 820 Squadron Fleet Air Arm flying over carrier Ark Royal, 1939Ark Royal soon after completion, circa late-1938 or early-1939One Swordfish aircraft taking off of Ark Royal while another prepared to land, circa 1939
See all 13 photographs of Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal

Ark Royal Operational Timeline

16 Dec 1938 Ark Royal was commissioned into service.
14 Sep 1939 The new aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal, was operating west of the Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom when lookouts spotted the tracks of torpedoes passing astern. Her escorting destroyers counter-attacked and sank the German submarine U-39.
31 May 1940 HMS Acasta, HMS Ardent, HMS Acheron, HMS Highlander, and HMS Diana escorted aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious from the Clyde in Scotland, United Kingdom to the Norwegian coast to carry out air operations in support of the evacuation of Allied forces from Norway during Operation Alphabet.
14 Sep 1940 HMS Cumberland detached from convoy escort with HM Cruisers Devonshire, Australia and HM Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal to establish patrol off Cape Verde for interception of three Vichy French cruisers attempting to reach Dakar.
21 Sep 1940 HMS Cumberland joined HMS Ark Royal, HM Battleships Resolution and Barham, HM Cruisers Devonshire, Australia and Fleet destroyers in support of Free French landing at Dakar and carried out defensive patrol offshore (Operation Menace).
2 Feb 1941 Torpedo bombers from British carrier HMS Ark Royal attacked the hydroelectric plant at the Santa Chiara Dam on the Tirso River on Sardinia, Italy. The attack failed to damage the facilities. One Swordfish aircraft was shot down, with its crew of 3 taken prisoner.
19 May 1941 British Force H, consisting of the battlecruiser HMS Renown, the carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Furious, the cruiser HMS Sheffield and six destroyers proceeded to the area south of Sardinia, Italy.
21 May 1941 48 Hurricane fighters flew off from carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Furious to reinforce Malta; all fighters arrived safely. The carriers were part of British Force H, which also included battlecruiser HMS Renown, cruiser HMS Sheffield, and six destroyers. The Italian submarines Corallo and Diaspro, stationed at the point where the British force launched the aircraft, did not approach nor engage.
9 Sep 1941 British carrier HMS Ark Royal launched 14 Hurricane fighters to reinforce Malta.
13 Nov 1941 German submarine U-81 sank British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal in the Mediterranean Sea 150 miles east of Gibraltar at 0437 hours; 1 was killed, 1,487 survived. Destroyer escorts counterattacked with 130 depth charges, but U-81 would escape. HMS Ark Royal was taken in tow.
14 Nov 1941 British carrier HMS Ark Royal sank off Gibraltar at 0813 hours from the damage sustained from the previous day's German submarine attack.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. David Fownes says:
15 May 2008 11:40:43 AM

Please can you help me I am trying to find out how I go about locating if my father had any medels issued to him during WW2 he was on the "HMS ARK ROYAL" on the day she was sunk I cant remember his service number please can you help me find an address where i can write to or phone number that I can contact
Thank you

Yours David Fownes
2. rfdeegan says:
23 Oct 2008 10:34:36 AM

need help locating info on Tommy Nicholson/waterford/ireland. Killed at sea on Hood or Ark Royal WWII
3. richard ahtila says:
22 Mar 2009 01:40:02 PM

what,s the colour of the flight deck of ark royal.
4. Penny Coleman nee Mason says:
27 Mar 2009 09:05:16 PM

Any one knowing my father CPO Fred Mason who was on the Ark Royal when she was sunk.
5. tony keaveney says:
31 Mar 2009 01:56:11 AM

looking for any information about bernard keaveney who served on the h.m.s. ark royal and h.m.s. pepperpot
6. Anonymous says:
18 Jul 2009 09:19:36 AM

trying to find any details on my uncle thomas clarke who was i belive a petty officer on the ark royal and survived and after the war emergrated to australia anybody got any information or knows how to get information on this person thanks
7. shane donnelly says:
24 Jul 2009 08:39:48 AM

im trying to find out about my grandad who served on the ark royal between 1939-1941 i would love to know about his career in the royal navy his name was george o'connor from meath ireland .any info would be great

many thanks
8. Mike Dunn says:
3 May 2010 09:58:38 AM

Does anyone remember my late father John Ralph Dunn, British Royal Marine SN PX100154. I recall him mentioning he was on the Ark Royal during WWII. I have no photo's or anything of his life even family pic's having lost all in 1999 due to house fire. Our local RSL were kind enough to give me his Service Number recently so I can try to obtain some records and info for our family history. Any help,advice,photo's or stories would be gratefully received.

With Respect
Mike Dunn, Perth, Western Australia.

9. DENNIS says:
5 Jul 2010 02:33:59 PM

please can you help,I am trying to see list of Royal Marines on board the ark roayl when it was sunk in my father was on board.thank you, dennis
10. Susan says:
29 Oct 2010 07:11:08 AM

I am also hoping to see a crew list for the Ark Royal in the second world war.
Any information greatly appreciated.
Thank you
11. Tom Brunton says:
18 Jan 2011 08:51:52 PM

I have an Air Ministry Waltham 23 jewel deck chronometer watch side marked "HMS Ark Royal" , most Navy watches were marked "HS" (Hydrographic Survey) so some think my watch is suspect as it is back marked "AM Chronometer 6/B/60,G&S Co.Ltd.,191/40" Any help or direction would be appreciated,thank you ,Tom
12. robert coyle junior says:
12 May 2011 01:34:13 PM

hi i am the grandson of robert coyle who served on the arch royal in the second world war, he was nick named tattoo coyle becouse of his tattoo of the ship on his chest seems he was a great navy boxer and later become scotish welter wieght champion he came from gorgie in edinburgh and later lived above sceawn connery ie yes james bond /in bread streat in toll cross edinburgh any info would be most helpfull
13. Jacquie Purcell says:
14 Jun 2011 06:23:42 AM

Would like to hear from anyone who knew my father William Frederick Purcell who served in the Royal Navy during the second world war. He served on HMS arkroyal, albion and loads more. He was born in Smethwick West Midlands 11th May 1919
14. robert coupe says:
4 Jan 2012 11:11:06 AM

i would love to hear from anyone who remembers my father edward gordon coupe who joined the ark shortly after she was commisioned. as far as i know he was something to do with gunnery until he was transfered to hms nelson i think.
15. Jane Robertson says:
7 May 2012 01:15:56 AM

I would love to hear from anyone with information on those who served on the Ark Royal. My father George McLuskie served during the war, as far as we know he was Chief Flight Artificer on board working with the Fairey Swordfish
16. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
24 Dec 2012 07:27:03 AM

The only fatality arising from the loss of the Ark Royal was Able Seaman E Mitchell who, together with three other men was on watch below decks in the lower steering position, main switch board room and main telephone exchange. Whilst the other three sailors managed to grope their way in pitch darkness, up to their waists in a mixture of fuel amd water, to reach the hatch leading to the compartment above, poor Mitchell was sadly never seen again.
17. Wendy Crooks says:
21 Jan 2013 11:59:21 AM

I am trying to find out a little about my father's brother, Peter Garrett, who was a pilot on the HMS Ark Royal during WW2. As I understand it, he was killed when taking off from the aircraft carrier, but I don't know the year.
18. Julie Coyle says:
25 Mar 2013 01:52:25 AM

In reply to Robert Coyle 12/05/11, I don't know if this is related but very coincidental if not. My father is Robert Coyle, his father was William Coyle who served on HMS Venomous, and was also a boxer. He lived in Gorgie area of Edinburgh too (Wardlaw) Not answering your question, but perhaps William and Robert are related
19. Anonymous says:
28 Mar 2013 04:34:10 AM

hi im looking for some info in my granuncle his name was george O'connor from co.meath ireland
20. James Kirkham says:
7 May 2014 07:09:48 PM

Hi, I'm looking for some information on my Grandfather Robert Bernard Ogden who served on HMS Ark Royal when it sunk. Any information would be gratefully recieved
21. Fay Bowen says:
3 Jun 2014 12:17:25 AM

Hi, I am looking for any information on Steven Bowen, my father. He was on the HMS ARK ROYAL when it went down in 1941. It was just about a month before his 21st birthday - 22nd December. I do not know his service number, a list of names of men that were on the ship when it sank would be awesome. Thank you.

Fay Bowen
South Adrica
22. Gill says:
17 Jul 2014 01:35:15 PM

Please could you find for me any pictures of my dad who served on the ark royal in world war 2 his name is john Rattigan
23. Ken Milward says:
4 Sep 2014 07:55:38 AM

Any information on my father, ken milward, who was on the ark royal when she was hit, I know he ended up in hospital in Malta, because of some infection from being in the water, he was a PO on the ark, so any information about him, would be fantastic, as like many men from WW2 he never really talked about the war.
24. John Muchowski says:
25 Sep 2014 02:15:18 PM

Hi Robert Coyle, I am the eldest son of Mabel Coyle, who was 'Bobby' Coyle's eldest daughter. My grandfather had a galleon tattooed on his chest. He used to shout "Sink the Ship" when he went in the boxing ring. I think he is the same person you are referring to. My middle name is Moran and that was my grandmother's maiden name. She was Mabel Moran. My mother's brothers and sisters were Ronnie, Jackie, Hilda and Tommy. Perhaps you are Ronnie or Jackie's son. It would be nice to hear from you. Regards, John.
Sorry it is now 2014 and I have just found this page while looking up family records.
25. louise stanley says:
18 Jan 2015 12:00:50 PM

Trying to find information on my granddad George Albert Stanley, I know he served on HMS Ark Royal as he often showed me pictures of his service days, he was at the Battle Of Matapan aswell, he also served on HMS Barham when it was torpeadoed. it would be lovely to hear from anyone who may have any knowledge of his days in service. He was originally based at the Royal Marines Barracks in Portsmouth UK.
26. Anonymous says:
31 Jan 2015 01:52:18 PM

I'm trying to find my grandfather Cyril Lawrence ....he served on HMS ark royal
27. Anonymous says:
28 Jan 2017 12:09:53 PM

Anyone know my uncle Raymond bickerton served on his ark royal
28. Anonymous says:
11 Nov 2017 08:06:37 AM

My Grandfather served on The Ark Royal, his name was George Cullen
29. Anonymous says:
7 Dec 2017 12:40:58 PM

hi i am looking for information on my granddad petty officer j.w.cook,know to mates as jack from hull
30. Joni says:
12 Jan 2018 01:17:38 PM

I'm looking for information on Edmund/Edward Mitchell who died on the Ark Royal in 1941. Thank you!
31. Anonymous says:
19 Jan 2018 03:12:53 PM

Any information on Charles Thomas walker “seaman” served on hms ark royal would be much appreciated especially photos
32. Gareth critchfield says:
20 Feb 2018 02:36:26 PM

Looking for any information on a Herbert Speller who was on the Ark royal
33. Max Williamson says:
1 Oct 2018 10:27:18 AM

Does anyone know about my father Seaman Frederick Kenneth Taylor’Ken’ who was on HMS Ark Royal and reportedly rescued an injured sailor when the ship was sinking. He was recommended for a medal according to a newspaper report but refused it.
34. Ronald Hastead says:
3 Dec 2018 02:34:11 PM

My Mother says her brother was killed on the Ark Royal in WW2 but I can’t find reference to this.1 sailor died when ship attacked.But can’t find out the sailors name.Sailors name was Thomas Dawson & Was from South Shields,in the UK.Mum is now 94.
35. Anonymous says:
25 Apr 2019 01:19:58 PM

My grandfather served aboard the ark royal his name was Eric Greenhalgh I know very little about his service as he died before I was born looking for anyone who can help thank you in advance
36. Andrew says:
28 May 2019 05:46:07 AM

My granddad was on Ark Royal in ww 2 have his papers but would like to know more his name was Bert King base Pembroke Chatham Naval docks
37. ROBERT BATES says:
21 Oct 2019 01:49:31 PM

Father John William Bates Fleet Air Arm serviced on HMS Ark Royal as mechanic. Any body know of him? Trying to find out about his war record. Regards Robert
38. Geoff Bergman says:
16 Jan 2020 12:45:47 PM

My dad Harry William Bergman served on Ark Royal (91), he was FAA, Air Mechanic, he was not aboard when she was torpedoed having been put ashore to put together and prepare a delivery of fighter aircraft - presumably to Malta? although before he died he says it was to Australia? I would love to know more? thanks for reading this
39. Carol Allen says:
28 Jan 2020 12:21:57 PM

My Dad was on HMS Ark Royal in WW2, sadly I don’t know much as some of his stuff went missing when moving into a home a few years before he passed away. His name was Albert Edward Allen born Feb 1922, is there anyone who may have information about my Dad or where to find anything??

Kind Regards

C. Allen.
40. CaptainC says:
19 Feb 2020 12:59:06 PM

New to this. Were any of the aircraft saved after the torpedo struck?
41. Graham Tanker says:
16 Aug 2020 12:36:09 AM

There were no aircraft saved,the swordfish that that were on deck went overboard,either pushed or toppled.My father was onboard that night,as part was of the RAF being transported,and went to serve two years on Malta where further ships were sunk waiting to come into harbour,and the lack of planes on the island made it impossible to face the constant German/ Italian bombing raids,.He had photos of so many planes overhead,it must of been shocking.He rarely spoke about it,but only once I remember he talking about the loss of his friend during one bombing.Unimaginable.
42. Anne Whiting says:
11 Jan 2021 05:19:20 AM

Hello my dad was on the ark when it was sunk. Everyone got off except one but how frightening it must have been. He went to the commissioning of the next Ark Roya and was presented with a small brass bell. Can't remember what it was part of but we had it on the mantelpiece for years.
43. David Murray says:
15 Jan 2021 07:26:09 AM

@Shane Donnelly
"shane donnelly says:
24 Jul 2009 08:39:48 AM

im trying to find out about my grandad who served on the ark royal between 1939-1941 i would love to know about his career in the royal navy his name was george o'connor from meath ireland .any info would be great"

I think I can help you here, if you see this message please respond
44. Pete Ward says:
26 Jan 2021 12:50:49 AM

My Grandfather, Owen Ward was a CPO onboard the Ark and served as an Aircraft Handler - after the sinking her was transferred the the Escort Carrier HMS Biter for the remainder of the war.
I would love to find out more info is possible!!
45. Robert Green says:
22 Feb 2021 08:28:36 AM

My father Lesley Green served in the Royal Navy from 1940-58. He was a chief air arm arficer. He was on the Ark Royal when it sank. He told me that while they were being pulled by tugs, the captain wanted to arrive at port under his own steam, and started the engines, the vibratoins being too much for the ship, and it sank. Any comments?
46. Marlene Silk says:
14 Apr 2021 03:11:43 AM

I believe my father was serving on the Ark Royal in 1941, I would love to verify this, he died when I was 12.
47. alistair clelland says:
21 Apr 2021 04:34:09 PM

searching for information on my father he served on the ark royal during ww2 whilst she served in the med
48. Annon says:
27 Dec 2021 06:00:01 AM

Can someone check records, my grandfather Emlyn Charles Griffiths served on this ship.
49. Anonymous says:
27 Jul 2022 06:23:09 AM

Looking to see if either of my grandfathers served on ark royal Charles Smith & Albert Bowen
50. Sandie Budd says:
9 Sep 2023 08:53:18 AM

My uncle William craft served on arkroyal unsure if his title but was decorated by the queen any info would be appreciated please he has gone now
51. Nick Perry says:
24 Oct 2023 12:25:36 PM

I'm told my Uncle Ernie Ware was among the crew on Ark Royal when it was sunk in 1941, can anyone confirm please?
52. Anonymous says:
6 Feb 2024 06:28:55 AM

hi my father was on the ark royal when she was sunk he was one of the last to leave as he was a stoker my dad never really spoke about the war but I believe he was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the oak leaf for this I could you confirm this please his name was Thomas Scott thanks

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More on Ark Royal
Event(s) Participated:
» Invasion of Denmark and Norway
» Malta Campaign
» British Attacks on the French Fleet
» Battle of Denmark Strait

» UK Aircraft Carrier Functions
» UK Aircraft Carrier Time Operational

Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal Photo Gallery
Ark Royal immediately after launching, 13 Apr 1937
See all 13 photographs of Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal

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