HMS Ark Royal
There have been, including the current HMS Ark Royal, a total of five ships bearing this illustrious name. Four of these have been involved in naval aviation.
16th Century Ark Royal
The first Ark Royal named as Ark Ralegh and served in the 16th century. She was a name well known to the Spanish at that time and was under the captaincy of Sir Walter Raleigh.
1914 Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal
A ship built as a collier became the second HMS Ark Royal. She was commissioned in 1914 as a seaplane carrier and thus became the worlds first aircraft carrier. It was an aircraft from this ship that carried out pre-strike reconnaissance for the disasterous Dardanelles campaign. On the 28th February HMS Ark Royal was subjected to the first air attack on an aircraft carrier and fortunately no damage was caused. After a very busy war she was eventually renamed Pegasus in 1934, having very much added honour to the name Ark Royal.
1937 Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal
The third Ark Royal was launched in 1937 and was as much a household name as HMS Hood. It was aircraft from Ark Royal that caused such damage that it resulted in the destruction of the Bismark. Unfortunately torpedoed in 1943, she stayed afloat for some time and was fortunate to lose only one member of her ships company when she finally sank.
1955 Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal
The history of the 1955 Ark Royal dates back to 3rd May 1943 when a keel was laid that was to have been the aircraft carrier HMS Irresistable. The metal was renamed Ark Royal but it wasn’t until exactly 7 years later that she was launched. Finally completing for service on the 25th February 1959, some 16 years after her keel was laid.
HMS Ark Royal was the second heaviest ship apparently ever to have entered service with the Royal Navy. The heaviest on entering service was HMS Eagle in 1952, at 54.000 tons full load. HMS Ark Royal was the most modern aircraft carrier available to the Royal Navy until HMS Eagle finished her 1959 modernisation in May 1962.
HMS Ark Royal served in all theatres during her long service finally being paid off on the 4th December 1978, and was broken up at Cairnryan on 22nd September 1980.
1978 Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal
The present Ark Royal was launched in 1978 and continues to serve. Described as a light carrier when designed, the ship has proved to be an essential part of the fleet. The ship carries about 15 aircraft which are a mix of helicopters and fighter/strike aircraft. Well equipped to protect both herself and ships in company she is a modern day equivalent of a 1944 light fleet carrier. The ship is worked hard and has proved to be very effective. The name Ark Royal is also embellished by this ship and her ships companies.
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