|Ship Class||Ark Royal-class Aircraft Carrier|
|Builder Name||Cammell Laird & Co Limited, Birkenhead, Merseyside, England, United Kingdom|
|Laid Down||16 Sep 1935|
|Launched||13 Apr 1937|
|Commissioned||16 Dec 1938|
|Sunk||14 Nov 1941|
|Displacement||22,352 tons standard; 28,143 tons full|
|Machinery||6 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 3 Parsons geared turbines|
|Range||7,600nm at 20 knots|
|Armament||8x2.4.5in AA, 48x2-pdr 'pom-pom' AA, 8x4x12.7mm/0.50cal machine guns|
|Armor||4.5in belt, 3.5in deck over boiler rooms and magazines|
|Aircraft||60 to 72|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
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-Kébir 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
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.|
|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.|
|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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Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 16 Mar 1945