Military Wiki
HMS Formidable (67)
HMS Formidable
HMS Formidable, circa 1944
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Formidable (67)
Operator: Royal Navy
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Laid down: 17 June 1937
Launched: 17 August 1939
Commissioned: 24 November 1940
Decommissioned: 1947
Struck: 1953
Nickname: The ship that launched itself.
Fate: Scrapped 1956
General characteristics
Class & type: Illustrious class carrier
Displacement: 28,661 tons full load
Length: 743.75 ft (226.70 m)
Beam: 95 ft (29 m)
Draught: 28 ft (8.5 m)

6 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers

Pearsons geared turbines producing 110,000 shp (82 MW) driving three shafts
Speed: 30.5 knots (56 km/h)
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement: 1,200

8 × QF 4.5 inch (113 mm) Mk III guns

48 × 2 pdr (40-mm) guns
Aircraft carried: 1940: 36 Fulmar and Swordfish
1943: Martlets, Seafires, and Albacores
1945: 54 Corsair and Avenger

HMS Formidable was an Illustrious class aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy during World War II. She was constructed by Harland & Wolff, Belfast, and launched on 17 August 1939. An accident occurred just before the launch ceremony was to begin - the wooden cradle supporting the ship collapsed and the ship slid down the launchway while workmen were still underneath and around the ship. One spectator was killed by flying debris and at least 20 others were injured, however Formidable was not damaged. Because of the incident, Formidable was referred to as "The Ship That Launched Herself." [1][2] She was commissioned on 24 November 1940.



A Grumman Martlet Mk II of 888 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, on the flight deck of HMS Formidable

Formidable took part in the Battle of Cape Matapan on 27–29 March 1941.[3] On 26 May 1941 she received serious damage, after being hit by two 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) bombs that put her out of action for six months.[3] After repairs at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, in the United States, she re-equipped with Grumman Martlet Mk II[4] fighters.

In 1942, she travelled across the Pacific and served briefly in the Indian Ocean, returning to the Mediterranean in October. Formidable then provided air support for the North African Campaign[4] and Italian campaign (1943), including the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky),[5] before taking part in an Arctic convoy.[6] On November 17 aircraft from HMS Formidable attacked U-boat U-331 (the U-Boat that sank HMS Barham) and sank her.[4]

On 17 July 1944, Swordfish aircraft from Formidable were involved in Operation Mascot, an attack on the Tirpitz in Norway.[7] She took part in further attacks on Tirpitz in August, as part of Operation Goodwood.[6]


HMS Formidable on fire after being struck by three kamikazes off Okinawa, May 9, 1945

During 1945, she saw service against Japanese forces with the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron of the British Pacific Fleet, and survived several kamikaze attacks while supporting the landings on Okinawa.[8][9] On 4 May, just after 11.30 a.m. a Japanese plane made a steep dive from "a great height" at Formidable and was engaged by AA guns.[10] The kamikaze was hit at close range, but crashed into the flight deck, making a massive dent about 10 feet (3 m) long, two feet (0.6 m) wide and two feet deep in the armoured flight deck.[10] A large steel splinter speared down through the hangar deck and the centre boiler-room, where it ruptured a steam line, and came to rest in a fuel tank, starting a major fire in the aircraft park.[10] Eight crew members were killed and forty-seven were wounded.[10]

The 3" armoured steel flight deck of Formidable prevented further damage by kamikaze attacks.[I] One Corsair and ten Grumman Avengers were destroyed.[10] However, the fires were gradually brought under control and the crater in the deck was repaired with concrete and steel plate.[10] By 5 p.m., Corsairs were again able to land on Formidable.[10] A further kamikaze hit Formidable's flight deck on 9 May 1945, but the level of damage was nowhere near as serious as that incurred in the previous attack.[10]

On 9 August 1945, at Onagawa Bay, Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, RCNVR, flying a Corsair from Formidable, led an attack on a Japanese destroyer. Gray's attack sank the destroyer, although his aircraft was shot down and he was killed. Gray was later posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He was one of only two Fleet Air Arm aircrew to win the VC in World War II, and the last Canadian to be so honoured.

HMS Formidable arrived in Sydney, Australia on 23 August 1945, subsequently undertook trooping voyages to UK September 1945-November 1946.[11]

The accumulation of damage through the war took its toll on the ship. The bomb damage received in the Mediterranean had left her permanently maimed, and the Royal Navy's postwar fleet review revealed that she was beyond economical repair. She was placed in reserve in 1947 and never saw active service again. She was sold for scrap in 1953 and was scrapped from November 1956.[3]

Battle honours

HMS Formidable entering Sydney Harbour 1945




^[I] World War II American carriers had wooden flight decks, while British carriers used steel, with a number of classes including the Illustrious class fleet carriers being fitted with armoured flight decks.

  1. "Formidable - the ship that launched herself", "The Times of London", August 8, 2009, accessed March 6, 2011.
  2. "HMS Formidable Launches Herself" "British Pathe", August 17, 1939, accessed March 6, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Chesneau (1998), pp.103-107
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Sturtivant (1990), pp.91-94
  5. Sturtivant (1990), p.95-97
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sturtivant (1990), p.104
  7. Sturtivant (1990), p.109
  8. Biggs & Ott (1994), p.39
  9. Sturtivant (1990), pp.133-135
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 Waters (1956), pp.383-385

External links

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