With the Royal Navy’s latest aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth being officially named by the Queen at Rosyth the Fleet Air Arm is looking forward to flying fixed wing aircraft again. This marks the resumption of a long line of illustrious aircraft carrying ships that have served under the RN Ensign.
Here are just a few of the most significant in my humble opinion…
HMS Hermes (R12)
HMS Hermes began life as a one of the light fleet carriers designed in the war to be built quickly and have a short life. Neither proved true for this ship. Having served as a conventional carrier for nearly 20 years she then went on to become a commando carrier operating helicopters before getting a new lease of life as a Harrier carrier. Under this guise she was the flagship of the taskforce that retook the Falklands. And as for a short life…she still serves in the Indian Navy today!
HMS Ark Royal (91)
Her wartime career might have been cut short by a torpedo from a German U-Boat but that doesn’t mean she didn’t endear the British people with her majesty and exploits hunting Germany’s capital ships. If that wasn’t enough then its worth noting that many lessons were learned from her sinking that were applied to future vessels.
HMS Ark Royal (R09)
Another ship named Ark Royal that endeared millions thanks to the fact that she was the last conventional carrier operated by the Royal Navy and also as a result of a much loved BBC television series that took a thorough look at life aboard the ship; warts and all. Dogged by mechanical problems all her life she never the less gave the Royal Navy the ability to operate an air wing that was capable enough to take on anything in Europe and the Atlantic, something the Fleet Air Arm had struggled to achieve for many years.
HMS Audacity began life as the German merchantman Hannover but was captured by the Royal Navy and then converted to the role of escort carrier to help protect the Atlantic convoys. Audacity and her brethren proved instrumental in finally turning the tide against German U-Boats and aircraft. Despite having a small air wing Audacity gave the convoys a powerful defensive punch.