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HMS Indomitable (92)
HMS Indomitable
Career (United Kingdom)
Class and type: Illustrious-class aircraft carrier
Name: HMS Indomitable
Ordered: 6 July 1937
Builder: Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness
Laid down: 10 November 1937
Launched: 26 March 1940
Commissioned: 10 October 1941
Fate: Sold for scrap in 1955
Status: Scrapped
General characteristics
Displacement: 23,000 tons standard,
29,730 tons loaded
Length: 230.0 metres (754.0 ft)
Beam: 29.2 metres (95.5 ft)
Draught: 8.8 metres (29.0 ft)
Propulsion: Parson geared steam turbines
six boilers
three shafts
111,000 shp
Speed: 30.5 knots (56 km/h)
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement: 1,392
2,100 (later)
Armament: 16 × 4.5 inch AA
48 × 2 pounder AA
10 × 20mm AA
Aircraft carried: 1943: 55 Seafire and Albacore
1945: 45 Hellcat and Avenger
Notes: Pennant number 92

HMS Indomitable (pennant number 92) was a modified Illustrious-class aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy. The Illustrious class was developed in the 1937 Naval Programme. She had been configured to the original specifications of the Illustrious class, but was soon redesigned to enable her to operate far more aircraft than her sister ships were able to.

Construction and early history

An LSO aboard HMS Indomitable (92), 1942.

She was laid down by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness, on 10 November 1937, as war loomed ever closer. She was launched on 26 March 1940 and commissioned the following year in October. She was christened by Clementine Churchill.

She sailed to the West Indies in November 1941 for her maiden voyage. While there, Indomitable ran aground on a coral reef near Jamaica, though she returned to service soon afterwards. It has been suggested that this short delay proved fatal for British plans for Singapore. There were provisional plans that Indomitable was to join HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in the port of Singapore as part of a deterrent force, Force Orange, against Japanese aggression in the Far East. However, given that the aircraft carrier was in the vicinity of Jamaica, on November 3rd. 1941, it seems unlikely that Indomitable could really have reached Singapore in sufficient time to provide air cover for the battle fleet. For that to have been achieved, it would have been necessary to order the ship to proceed to Singapore at an earlier date than November 3rd. In the event, the other two capital ships, designated Force Z, did not have adequate air cover, and were sunk by Japanese aircraft (see Sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse) when the Japanese landed in Malaya in December 1941. The following month, in January 1942, Indomitable joined the Eastern Fleet based at Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. At the end of January, she ferried 48 Royal Air Force Hawker Hurricanes to airfields in Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies, to reinforce the air defenses of Singapore, but a large proportion of the Hurricanes were destroyed on the ground by Japanese air raids. The British commanders in Singapore surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February.

After the fall of Britain's Far Eastern colonies (Hong Kong and Burma also fell) Indomitable was redeployed. A new Eastern Fleet was established under the command of Admiral Sir James Somerville. Indomitable, and her sister ship Formidable were the only modern aircraft carriers of the Fleet, and were a vital asset to the Allies in the Far East; the only other available carrier, Hermes, was effectively obsolete.

In April 1942 Somerville attempted to intercept the Japanese carrier strike force as they raided the Indian Ocean. Incomplete intelligence led him to abandon his ambush just hours before the Japanese force arrived. Over the next few days Indomitable was part of a force that attempted to intercept the Japanese fleet at night, where the slow, but radar equipped, British torpedo planes would have the best chance of a successful strike. Despite several days of searching no decisive action was achieved, and Somerville eventually withdrew his fast carriers to Bombay. Hermes, the Australian destroyer HMAS Vampire, the corvette HMS Hollyhock, and two heavy cruisers, the Cornwall and Dorsetshire, were sunk in action during this Japanese raid, as were a score of merchant ships.

In May 1942 the British launched Operation Ironclad, the invasion of French Madagascar. It was feared that the Japanese would themselves occupy Madagascar and use it as a submarine base to attack allied convoy routes in the Indian Ocean.

Indomitable, her sister ship Illustrious, and many other warships converged at Durban, South Africa preparing for the invasion. The assault began on 5 May at Courrier Bay, just west of the actual objective. Sea Hurricanes made their first operationally hostile duties during the invasion and, in their escort role, destroyed three French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighters on the ground. The following day the Royal Marines launched an assault on the town itself and after bitter fighting that lasted almost two days the strategic town was taken.

The Mediterranean

In July, Indomitable returned to the United Kingdom. She was soon back in action, participating in Operation Pedestal, the largest convoy to supply the besieged island of Malta. This convoy comprised 14 cargo ships and an unprecedentedly large escort of warships: Cairo, Charybdis, Eagle', Indomitable, Victorious, Kenya, Manchester, Nelson, Nigeria, Phoebe, Rodney, Sirius, and 32 destroyers. One objective was for Furious to launch her Spitfires to land at Malta where they would remain; this was done successfully on 11 August, and Furious returned to Gibraltar.

12 August 1942: HMS Indomitable on fire after being bombed. HMS Charybdis is screening the carrier

During the operation Indomitable was hit by two 500 kg bombs and suffered three near misses; a 500 kg bomb penetrated the unarmoured portion of the flight deck, causing damage that required her to withdraw for repairs, although she was able to steam at 28.5 knots less than two hours after the hits.[1] She sailed to the United States, where repairs were completed in February 1943, after which she immediately returned to the Mediterranean. She was torpedoed by a Ju-88 bomber[2] on 16 July[3][4] while supporting the build up for the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky), and returned again to the USA where repairs were completed. She commenced sea trials 10 April 1944.[5]

The Far East

Indomitable returned to the Eastern Fleet in early 1944. She and Victorious launched effective strikes against Sumatra in August and September. They later launched strikes on the Nicobar Islands, after which Indomitable joined up with Illustrious for air strikes against Medan and once more against Sumatra on 20 December.

The following year, Indomitable joined the British Pacific Fleet. On 4 January 1945 she, her sister ship Victorious and another fleet carrier Indefatigable attacked Medan. Subsequent actions were taken against Palembang and, yet again, Sumatra, later in January.

On 4 May 1945 she was hit by a Kamikaze, but her armoured flight deck saved her from serious damage. In August, with the war ending, Indomitable supported the liberation of Hong Kong, arriving after a landing party from HMCS Prince Robert had taken the Japanese surrender. Her aircraft flew the carrier's last combat missions of the war and of her career on 31 August and 1 September against Japanese suicide boats which were attacking British forces.

Post war

The Indomitable returned to the UK in November 1945. The following year she carried the Great Britain national rugby league team to Australia on their first post-war tour, earning the team the nickname, 'The Indomitables'. In 1947, she was placed in reserve, and then given a refit that took three years, from 1947 to 1950. Late in her refit her boilers were discovered to have only 10 years of life, and the engine spaces had to be torn apart and rebuilt to replace the boilers. Upon the completion of her refit she returned to operational duty with the Home Fleet in far cooler climates than her wartime operations. On 3 February 1953, she was badly damaged by an internal fire and explosion; the damage was later covered in concrete, and was never repaired. In the same year she sailed to take part in the Fleet Review to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.[6] She then did deck landings in the channel, with experimental landing lights replacing the batman. She returned to the reserve fleet. In October 1953 she was placed in unmaintained reserve. She was sold for scrap in 1955.

Battle honours


  1. Friedman, British Carrier Aviation, p151
  2. Hervieux. Hervieux states that SM.79 aircraft participated in the attack.
  3. McCart, p.125
  4. H.M.S Indomitable-Torpedoed-16.7.43
  5. McCart, p.126
  6. Souvenir Programme, Coronation Review of the Fleet, Spithead, 15th June 1953, HMSO, Gale and Polden


  • Friedman, Norman (1988). British Carrier Aviation: The Evolution of the Ships and Their Aircraft. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-054-8. 
  • Hervieux, Pierre. "Le Operazioni Degli Aereosiluranti Italiani e Tedeschi Nel Mediterraneo" (in Italian). Storia Militare N.42 March 1997
  • McCart, Neil (2000). The Illustrious and Implacable Classes of Aircraft Carrier 1940-1967. Cheltenham, UK: Fan Publications. ISBN 1901225046. 

External links

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