|Ship Class||Courageous-class Aircraft Carrier|
|Builder Name||Harland and Wolff, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom|
|Laid Down||1 May 1915|
|Launched||20 Apr 1916|
|Sunk||8 Jun 1940|
|Displacement||25,370 tons standard; 27,859 tons full|
|Machinery||Four-shaft Parsons 94,000 SHP turbines with double helical gearing driving four screws, 18 Yarrow (small tube) boilers|
|Power Output||90,000 SHP|
|Range||5,860nm at 16 knots|
|Armament||16x4.7in QF dual-purpose guns, 3x40mm Eight-barrel pom-poms, 1x 4-barrel Vickers AA machine gun|
|Armor||25mm flight-deck, 19mm other decks, 51-76mm belt, 76mm sides|
|Recommission||24 Feb 1930|
|Aviation Fuel Capacity||157,000gal|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
ww2dbaseThe 1922 Washington Naval treaties allowed each signatory to convert two capital ships of up to 33,000 tons into aircraft carriers. The British Royal Navy's work on converting the 18,000-ton battlecruisers HMS Courageous and HMS Glorious into aircraft carriers began at Devonport in England and Rosyth in Scotland respectively in February 1924, but when Rosyth closed Glorious was towed to Devonport for completion. The conversion involved the removal of the entire superstructure, 15-inch guns (which were placed in storage and later reused on the battleship HMS Vanguard), torpedo tubes and fittings down to the main deck. A two-storey aircraft hangar was built on top of the remaining hull opening onto a short flight deck beneath the main flight deck. This, in turn, was reached from the hangar via two lifts located fore and aft. The bridge, flight-control station and funnel were relocated on an island on the starboard side of the main flight deck. In addition provision was made for the ship to carry 157,000 gallons of aviation fuel for her aircraft.
ww2dbaseDesigned in 1909 by S. V. Goodall to a specification formulated by the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher, for a class of heavily armed "large light cruisers" that could support Baltic landings in co-operation with the Russians, in the event of a war with Germany, Goodall's design for the Courageous-class was based largely on utilising armament and machinery already available, in the form of the 15-inch guns and turrets intended for the three cancelled Revenge-class battleships. The machinery was scaled up from normal light cruiser practice with two sets of the Parsons geared turbines with eighteen rather than the usual eight Yarrow boilers which proved to be very effective for these larger ships. HMS Glorious, the second of the three ships in this class (HMS Courageous, HMS Glorious, and their half-sister HMS Furious) was conceived to meet Lord Fisher's obsession with fire power and speed although coupled with a shallow draught and armour protection that was vestigial at best. Launched on 20 April 1916, Glorious was finally completed in January 1917 at a cost of £1,967,223, and joined her sister, HMS Courageous, in the 1st Cruiser Squadron in October 1917. In action during the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight during WW1 Glorious suffered damage to a turret when muzzle blast from a shell prematurely detonated in one of the forward guns. After the war both Courageous and Glorious were briefly attached to gunnery schools, at Portsmouth and Devonport.
ww2dbaseWith the conversion completed, Glorious was re-commissioned on 24 February 1930 and dispatched, in June, to relieve the Courageous in the Mediterranean Fleet, where she would remain based until October 1939. In a fog on 1 April 1931 Glorious was involved in an accident with the French liner Florida. The impact crumpled 60 feet of the flying-off deck and killed 1 seaman aboard Glorious and 24 passengers and crew aboard the Florida. Glorious immediately put into Gibraltar for temporary repairs before sailing on to Malta for permanent repair work which kept her out of service until September 1931. During the early 1930s, arrester gear traverse was installed, and while undergoing a refit at Devonport from July 1934 to July 1935 two catapults were installed on the flight deck, which was also extended further aft. At the same time her quarterdeck was raised by one deck and multiple pom-pom anti-aircraft guns installed. Before returning to the Mediterranean Glorious would participate in the Coronation Fleet Review held at Spithead, on 20 May 1937, for the newly crowned King George VI (q,v.).
ww2dbaseThe German invasion of Norway in April 1940 provided the carriers of the Royal Navy's Home Fleet with invaluable experience. The first into battle was the Furious, which having embarked two Swordfish torpedo-bomber squadrons sailed from the Clyde in Scotland on 9 April, two days after the invasion. Two days later her aircraft conducted their first air strike, an unsuccessful attack on a German destroyer. Unfortunately Furious had no fighter squadrons embarked and was therefore unable to protect the troops ashore from the deadly Luftwaffe dive-bombers. Consequently HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious (Captain G. D. D'Oyly-Hughes, RN) were hastily recalled from the Mediterranean where they had been training, in order to relieve the strain on the Furious,
ww2dbaseThere was little that they could do to reverse the trend of events ashore. Fighters working from carriers 150 miles out to sea could not hope to provide the continuous cover that aircraft operating from airfields close to the scene of action could. Also the naval fighter aircraft were too few in number and too slow in performance to greatly influence the situation (although their pilots did fight with sustained gallantry, shooting down many enemy aircraft but suffering heavy losses themselves). Therefore, the Royal Air Force's No. 263 squadron, under the command of Squadron Leader John W. Donaldson, equipped with eighteen Gladiator biplane fighters - a quite inadequate number for the task but which was all that the Air Ministry could make available at short notice – was embarked aboard the Glorious. It was decided to make use of the frozen Lake Lesjaskog, conveniently located near the road and railway connecting Dombaas and Aandalsnes, as their base in Norway.
ww2dbaseWhen twenty-five tons of lubricating oil for the Gladiator aircraft failed to arrive in time the cruisers HMS Glasgow and HMS Sheffield were ordered, on the night of 23 April 1940, to land the few gallons which they carried for their own aircraft - a very inadequate substitute. On 24 Apr, Ark Royal and Glorious arrived off the Norwegian coast where, that afternoon, the Gladiator aircraft flew off during a snowstorm. Guided by two Fleet Air Arm Skua aircraft they reached their makeshift airfield at 1800 hours landing safely between the banks of heaped up snow which marked a primitive runway. In 30 degrees of frost the aircraft parked out in the open were quickly frozen solid. Controls became immovable and carburettors became blocks of ice. The starter trolleys sent with the ground equipment had batteries uncharged and no acid with which to fill them. A single trained armourer was available to service the seventy-two Browning guns. It was as well that no more aircraft were sent. By the next morning, two hours of strenuous endeavour only managed to get one or two aircraft into the air to oppose the first bombing raid. One bomber was shot down, but others dropped their loads on the frozen lake to start the process which would soon make the airstrip unusable. At 0830 hours came the enemy's main effort as German Luftwaffe Heinkel aircraft attacked at their leisure while the majority of the Gladiator aircraft still remained exposed and immovable. A few did get into the air, but others, unable to start were destroyed or put out of action where they lay. The RAF ground crews, many new to the unit and unfamiliar with the aircraft quickly became demoralised, taking shelter among the trees on the lake shore and leaving their officers and sergeants with the task of refuelling, rearming and starting the aircraft. On the other hand the naval crews manning two Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns and the Royal Marine platoon, with Lewis guns, guarding the petrol dump stuck valiantly to their posts to give a warm reception to any bomber that ventured too close to the airstrip. In spite of all discouragement, the Gladiator aircraft which did get into the air performed brilliantly while their ammunition lasted, shooting down several German bombers and bringing relief to the harassed, Stuka-dominated, troops in the area. By the end of 26 Apr 1940, nonetheless, all the Gladiator aircraft had been destroyed or rendered unserviceable and at the end of the month the squadron personnel were ordered home.
ww2dbaseOn 21 May 1940 a re-equipped No. 263 squadron returned to Norway bringing its HMS Gladiators over on the Furious to set up a new base at Bardufoss airfield. They were followed five days later by the Hurricane aircraft of No. 46 Squadron, under the command of Squadron Leader Kenneth "Bing" Cross, who flew off from the flight deck of Glorious. Although Bardufoss was a somewhat primitive airstrip with few suitable facilities for the Hurricane aircraft, the squadrons commenced air patrols and were at once able to make their presence disagreeable to the enemy. But, by now, it was recognized that the fall of Norway was inevitable. Then on 25 May came the disheartening news that the Allied governments, faced with the fall of France, had made the disagreeable decision to evacuate their troops from the whole of Norway. The most painful aspect of this decision was the abandonment of the Norwegians who had been bravely fighting alongside the Allied troops in the Narvik area. For reasons of security it seemed essential to keep the decision from them until the last moment, while under an elaborate smokescreen arrangements for the evacuation went ahead. As a prelude to disengagement a joint Polish, Norwegian and French Foreign Legion landing was conducted to destroy any harbour facilities at Narvik that would be of use to the German navy.
ww2dbaseOn 7 June, Glorious, with a reduced complement of aircraft, was ordered to embark the surviving RAF Gladiator and Hurricane aircraft from Norway. Led out to sea by a naval Swordfish aircraft, the ten fighters were all skilfully landed on the carrier's deck, despite the fact that none of the pilots had ever landed on a carrier before. With its valuable cargo safely aboard and escorted by two destroyers, Glorious set off independent of the slow Group 2 convoy (the large liners Oronsay, Ormonde, Arandora Star and Duchess of York with three Irish Channel packet-boats, Royal Ulsterman, Ulster Prince and Ulster Monarch) which were carrying the last evacuated troops and their equipment.
ww2dbaseOn the following day Glorious was intercepted by the German battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau to the west of Narvik. With her deck still crowded with the Gladiator and Hurricane aircraft there was no time to fly off a strike of Swordfish before, at 1630 hours, Scharnhorst's 28-centimeter shells started to fall upon the flight deck from a range of about 28,000 yards. At 1700 hours a shell hit square on the bridge putting the carrier out of control. When a further devastating hit was scored aft, Glorious was doomed. By 1720 hours the carrier was burning fiercely and listing at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees, the ship's crew were give the order to abandon ship and twenty minutes later she rolled over and sank. 1,474 naval officers and ratings and forty-one RAF personnel, including nearly all the pilots who had flown on board rather than abandon their aircraft in Norway, lost their lives. Only three officers and forty men would survive from the entire ship's company.
ww2dbaseGlorious' two destroyer escorts, HMS Acasta (Commander C. E. Glasfurd, RN) and HMS Ardent (Lieutenant-Commander J. F. Barker), fought with great bravery to protect the stricken carrier. Both laid a defensive smoke-screen to shield the carrier and then proceeded to attack the German battle-cruisers with guns and torpedoes. Both were overwhelmed and sunk, although Acasta succeeded in hitting Scharnhorst aft with a torpedo which killed two officers and forty-six ratings, flooded her centre and starboard engine rooms, reduced her speed to twenty knots and put her after turret out of action. German Admiral Wilhelm Marschall, anxious to get his damaged ship to port changed course at once for Trondheim and did not tarry to collect survivors. A few sailors managed to reach life floats but as hour followed hour the cold of the northern waters took a steady toll. One float with twenty-two officers and men had only four still alive by the next morning. There were two survivors from Ardent picked up by a German seaplane and made prisoner of war and one solo survivor (Leading Seaman C. Carter) from Acasta who was rescued (along with three officers and thirty five rating from the Glorious) by the Norwegian steamer Borgund on the morning of 11 Jun 1940 and landed in The Faeroes.
ww2dbaseOvershadowed by events at Dunkirk, the threat of German invasion and Italy's entry into the war, the loss of one of the few aircraft carriers available to the Royal Navy in those days, the darkest days of the war, was calamitous indeed. Nonetheless the selfless sacrifice by the heroic crews of these three warships saved the homeward bound convoy from almost certain destruction by the German behemoths.
Antony Preston, Aircraft Carriers (Bison Books, 1982)
Janes Fighting Ships of World War II (Random House Group, 2001)
Donald Macintyre, Narvik (Pan Books, 1962)
John Winton, The War at Sea (Book Club Associates, 1974)
Tony Gibbons, The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers (Salamander Books, 1983)
Warships of World War II (Harper Collins, 1996)
Last Major Revision: Apr 2017
Aircraft Carrier Glorious (77) Interactive Map
Glorious Operational Timeline
|1 May 1915||The keel of battlecruiser Glorious was laid down by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.|
|20 Apr 1916||Battlecruiser Glorious was launched in Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.|
|31 Dec 1916||Battlecruiser Glorious was completed.|
|24 Feb 1930||Glorious was recommissioned as an aircraft carrier.|
|1 Apr 1931||In a fog, HMS Glorious accidentally rammed the French liner Florida, damaging the flying-off deck, killing 1 aboard Glorious, and killing 24 aboard Florida.|
|20 May 1937||HMS Glorious participated in the Coronation Fleet Review held at Spithead off Hampshire, southern England, United Kingdom.|
|23 Apr 1940||HMS Glasgow and HMS Sheffield transferred a few gallons of lubricating oil aboard HMS Glorious after the scheduled arrival of 25 tons of the lubricating oil failed to arrive.|
|24 Apr 1940||HMS Glorious arrived off off the Norwegian and transferred Gladiator aircraft to airfields on land.|
|25 Apr 1940||HMS Glorious transferred Gladiator aircraft to airfields on land in Norway.|
|30 Apr 1940||HMS Glorious provided air cover for troops fighting on land in Norway.|
|2 Jun 1940||HMS Glorious provided escort for British RAF bombers attacking German airfields in Norway.|
|7 Jun 1940||British pilots without proper carrier landing training safely landed 10 Gladiator and 8 Hurricane aircraft aboard HMS Glorious, completing the evacuation of 46 and 263 Squadrons RAF from Norway.|
|8 Jun 1940||Captain Guy D'Oyly Huges of HMS Glorious failed to launch scouting aircraft as the carrier sailed for Britain, thus was caught unprepared by the arrival of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau (amidst Operation Juno) about 170 miles west of Narvik, Norway. Aircraft aboard Glorious could not be launched to participate in the battle due to flight deck damage. She was sunk by gunfire at 1910 hours. 1,474 naval officers and ratings and 41 RAF personnel were killed, 43 survived.|
|11 Jun 1940||Norwegian trawler Borgund rescued 37 survivors of sunken HMS Glorious and 2 survivors of sunken HMS Acasta.|
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Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 16 Mar 1945