Royal Navy Aircraft Carriers Part 2

1940 - 1949

Illustrious, Implacable, Colossus & Majestic Classes.


Illustrious Class

Fleet Carriers (CV)


Displacement: 23,100 tons standard ; 28,661 tons full load
Dimensions: 673 pp, 743.75 oa x 95.75 x 28 feet
Propulsion: Steam Turbines (6 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 3 shafts, Parsons geared turbines), 111,000 shp.
Speed: 30.5 knots
Range: 11,000 nmiles at 14 knots
Compliment: 1200 (including air group)
Aircraft: 36
Guns: 8 x twin 4.5 inch ; 48 x 2 pdr AA

The small number of aircraft carried was due to extensive armouring, including the flight deck. This was considered more important than aircraft capacity when operating close to shore based enemy aircraft. Indomitable's capacity was increased to 48 by completing her with a two-level hangar for half the length of the ship. All went through various war-time reconstructions including a slight increase in deck space, provisions for deck parking of aircraft which increased capacity to 54 and a large increase in AA guns.
The increase in size of aircraft, particularly jets, made post-war use of the Illustrious class impractical due to a lack of hangar height. Victorious was the only carrier to serve past the early 1950's after being extensively reconstructed to operate jet aircraft.


HMS Illustrious

Built by Vickers Armstrong, Barrow. Laid down 27 April 1937. Launched 5 April 1939. Commissioned 25 May 1940. British Pacific Fleet 1945. Trials carrier 1946-1954. Paid off 1954, stricken 3 November 1956 and broken up.


HMS Victorious

Built by Vickers Armstrong, Newcastle. Laid down 4 May 1937. Launched 14 September 1939. Commissioned 15 May 1941. Took part in the Bismark chase soon after commissioning. Refitted at Norfolk Navy Yard USA, winter 1942-43, after which she was loaned to the US Pacific Fleet until being replaced by USS Essex. British Pacific Fleet 1945, hit by two kamakazes, repaired in Australia. Reconstructed October 1950 - January 1958, ship rebuilt from hangar deck upwards with angled flight deck and large increase in hangar height:

Displacement: 30,530 tons standard ; 35,500 tons full load
Dimensions: 781 oa x 103.25 x 31 feet
Propulsion: reboilered
Compliment: 2200 (including air group)
Aircraft: 35 inc. Sea Vixen and Buccaneer
Guns: 6 x twin 3 inch / 50 ; 6 40 mm AA
Radars: 3D Fighter-control - Type 984 ; Height Finding - Type 293Q ; Navigation - Type 974

Refitted 1960. Damaged by fire during 1967 refit when it was decided that she should be decommissioned early. Stricken July 1969 and broken up.


HMS Formidable

Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 17 June 1937. Launched 17 August 1939. Commissioned 24 November 1940. Damaged by 1000kg bombs 26 May 1941, out of action for six months. Hit by kamakaze May 1945. Paid off 1947, stricken 1953. Broken up 1956.


HMS Indomitable

(Modified Illustrious Class)
Built by Vickers Armstrong, Barrow. Laid down 10 November 1937. Launched 26 March 1940. Commissioned 10 October 1941. Served in the Far-East from July 1944, kamakazied 4 May 1945. Paid off and stricken May 1953. Broken up.




Implacable Class

Fleet Carriers (CV)


Displacement: 23,825 tons standard ; 32,624 tons full load
Dimensions: 673 pp, 766.5 oa x 95.75 x 29 feet
Propulsion: Steam Turbines (8 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 4 shafts, Parsons geared turbines), 148,000 shp.
Speed: 32 knots
Range: 11,000 nmiles at 14 knots
Compliment: 1400 (including air group)
Aircraft: 54
Guns: 8 x twin 4.5 inch ; 48 x 2 pdr AA ; 27 x 20 mm

The Implacables were a follow-on from the Illustrious class which took Indomitable's modifications a stage further with a full length two-level hangar. Hangar height was even less than in the Illustrious' due to an attempt to stay within the London Naval Treaty's limitations on displacement.
By the end of the war, deck parking allowed 81 aircraft to be carried. The lack of hangar height rendered the ships almost useless after the war, unable to operate many modern aircraft.


HMS Implacable

Built by Fairfield. Laid down 21 February 1939. Launched 10 December 1942. Commissioned 28 August 1944. British Pacific Fleet 1945. Refitted 1948-49. Paid off 1954 and stricken 1955. Broken up from November 1955.


HMS Indefatigable

Built by John Brown. Laid down 3 November 1939. Launched 8 December 1942. Commissioned 3 May 1944. British Pacific Fleet 1945, superficial damage from kamakaze hit. Reserve 1946-1949, training carrier 1950-1954. Stricken 1956 and broken up.




Colossus Class

Light Fleet Carriers (CVL)


Displacement: 13,400 tons standard ; 18,330 tons full load
Dimensions: 630 pp, 650 wl, 695 oa x 80 x 23.5 feet
Propulsion: Steam Turbines (4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 shafts, Parsons geared turbines), 40,000 shp.
Speed: 25 knots
Range: 12,000 nmiles at 14 knots
Compliment: 1300 (including air group)
Aircraft: 48
Guns: 24 x 2 pdr AA ; 32 x 20 mm

Scaled down version of Illustrious class but with a large aircraft compliment achieved by a lack of armour. Designed for rapid construction in merchant yards to make up for the shortfall in carriers but much more capable than escort carriers. Perseus and Pioneer were completed as maintenance carriers without catapults.
After the war various units of the class were sold or reconstructed with angled decks or as helicopter carriers.


HMS Colossus

Built by Vickers Armstrong, Newcastle. Laid down 1 June 1942. Launched 30 September 1943. Commissioned 16 December 1944. Loaned to France as Arromanches from August 1946, purchased by France 1951. Reconstructed with 4 degree angled flight deck 1957-58. Converted to ASW carrier 1968 operating 24 helicopters. Decommissioned 1974, broken up at Toulon 1978.


HMS Vengeance

Built by Swan Hunter. Laid down 16 November 1942. Launched 23 February 1944. Commissioned 15 January 1945. Transferred to the Royal Australian Navy from 1953 to August 1955. Sold to Brazil as Minas Gerais late 1956. Refitted at Rotterdam 1957-1960 with 8.5 degree angled deck. Overhauled 1976-1980. Laid up 1987 due to catapult problems. Currently serving as a helicopter carrier, though in very poor condition.


HMS Venerable

Built by Cammell Laird. Laid down 3 December 1942. Launched 30 December 1943. Commissioned 17 January 1945. Sold to the Netherlands as Karel Doorman in May 1958. Reconstructed 1955-1958 with 8 degree angled deck. Paid off from Dutch service April 1968 due to a boiler room fire. Sold to Argentina as 25 de Mayo and refitted with replacement boilers from the incomplete HMS Leviathan. Commissioned into Argentinean Navy 22 August 1969. Out of service since June 1986, currently nothing more than a hulk although not yet stricken.


HMS Pioneer

Built by Vickers Armstrong, Barrow. Laid down 2 December 1942. Launched 20 May 1944. Commissioned 8 February 1945 as maintenance support ship. Stricken 1954. Broken up.


HMS Glory

Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 27 August 1942. Launched 27 November 1943. Commissioned 2 April 1945. Reserve 1956-1961. Stricken 1961. Broken up.


HMS Ocean

Built by Stephen. Laid down 8 November 1942. Launched 8 July 1944. Commissioned 8 August 1945. Host to first carrier landing by a jet aircraft, 3 December 1945. Commando carrier at Suez, November 1956. Reserve 1957. Stricken 1960. Broken up 1962.


HMS Perseus

Built by Vickers Armstrong, Newcastle. Laid down 1 June 1942. Launched 26 March 1944. Commissioned 19 October 1945 as maintenance support ship. Stricken late 1950's. Broken up May 1958.


HMS Theseus

Built by Fairfield. Laid down 6 January 1943. Launched 6 July 1944. Commissioned 9 February 1946. Commando carrier at Suez, November 1956. Reserve 1957. Stricken 1960. Broken up May 1962.


HMS Triumph

Built by Hawthorn Leslie. Laid down 27 January 1943. Launched 2 October 1944. Commissioned 9 May 1946. Reserve mid 1950s. Converted to heavy repair ship 1958-1965. Paid off 1975. Stricken 1980. Broken up 1981 in Spain.


HMS Warrior

Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 12 December 1942. Launched 20 May 1944. Loaned to Royal Canadian Navy 1946-48 and not commissioned into RN until November 1948. Sold to Argentina as Independencia 1958. Commissioned 26 January 1959. Stricken from Argentinean Navy 1971. Broken up.




Majestic Class

Light Fleet Carriers (CVL)


Displacement: 14,224 tons standard ; 18,085 tons full load
Dimensions: 630 pp, 650 wl, 695 oa x 80 x 23.5 feet
Propulsion: Steam Turbines (4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 shafts, Parsons geared turbines), 40,000 shp.
Speed: 25 knots
Range: 12,000 nmiles at 14 knots
Compliment: 1100 (including air group)
Aircraft: 37
Guns: 24 x 2 pdr AA ; 19 x 40 mm

Originally part of the Colossus class, these last six ships were completed to a slightly modified design more suited to operating heavier aircraft. None commissioned into the Royal Navy, all but one being sold.


HMS Majestic

Built by Vickers Armstrong, Barrow. Laid down 15 April 1943. Launched 28 Feb 1945. Construction suspended 1945. Sold to Australia as HMAS Melbourne 1949. Completed 1955 to a modified design including a 5.5 degree angled flight deck. Commissioned 28 October 1955. Paid off 1983. Broken up 1985.


HMS Terrible

Built by Devonport. Laid down 19 April 1943. Launched 30 September 1944. Transferred to Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Sydney 16 Febraury 1948. Commissioned 5 February 1949. Converted to transport 1962. Stricken 1973. Broken up 1975.


HMS Magnificent

Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 29 July 1943. Launched 16 November 1944. Loaned to Royal Canadian Navy upon completion in 1948. Commissioned in RCN 21 March 1948. Returned to RN control 1957, placed in reserve. Stricken 1965. Broken up.


HMS Powerful

Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 27 November 1943. Launched 27 February 1945. Sold to Canada as HMCS Bonaventure 1952. Completed to a modified design with 8 degree angled flight deck. Commissioned 17 January 1957. ASW carrier from 1961. Decommissioned July 1970, stricken. Broken up.


HMS Leviathan

Built by Swan Hunter. Laid down 18 October 1943. Launched 7 June 1945. Never completed, boilers removed 1968 to refit damaged 25 de Mayo. Scrapped from May 1968.


HMS Hercules

Built by Vickers Armstrong, Newcastle. Laid down 12 October 1943. Launched 22 September 1945. Laid up for 10 years before being purchased by India in January 1957. Completed by Harland & Wolff along similar lines to HMCS Bonaventure. Commissioned 4 March 1961 as INS Vikrant. Refitted for Sea Harrier operation 1979-1982. Decommissioned late 1995.