Allied Warships

HMS Ark Royal (91)

Aircraft Carrier of the Ark Royal class

HMS Ark Royal in sinking condition

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeAircraft Carrier
ClassArk Royal 
Built byCammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.) 
Ordered17 Apr 1935 
Laid down16 Sep 1935 
Launched13 Apr 1937 
Commissioned16 Dec 1938 
Lost13 Nov 1941 
Loss position36° 03'N, 4° 45'W

In December 1939 HMS Ark Royal was sent to the South Atlantic to help in the search for the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee The spring of 1940 saw her participating in the Norwegian campaign, and in July she was one of the ships that attacked the French Navy's base at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria. The following September HMS Ark Royal took part in a second assault on the French Navy, this time at Dakar. While covering a Mediterranean convoy in late November, her planes attacked Italian battleships, though without making any hits. In return, she was bombed, and missed, by enemy aircraft.

During March 1941, Ark Royal pursued the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau during the last phase of their Atlantic sortie. On the 26th May of that year, her torpedo planes hit the German battleship Bismarck, making the enemy battleship virtually unmaneuverable and allowing other British warships to close in and sink her. Ark Royal was also very active in the Mediterranean during 1941. She struck the port of Genoa in early February, during a bold British Naval raid deep into Italian-controlled waters. On several occasions, she ferried planes to the beleaguered base at Malta and covered Malta-bound convoys. While returning to Gibraltar from one such mission, Ark Royal was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine.

At 1637 hours on 13 November 1941 the German submarine U-81 fired a spread of four torpedoes at the British battleship HMS Malaya in Force H and heard two detonations after 6 minutes 6 seconds and 7 minutes 43 seconds. In fact one torpedo hit HMS Ark Royal (Capt. Loben Edward Harold Maund, CBE, RN) amidships, which sank under tow by the British tug HMS Thames with almost all of her aircraft about 25 nautical miles east of Gibraltar, in position 36º03'N, 04º45'W, at 0813 hours on 14 November 1941. The carrier was returning from Operation Perpetual. On 10 November, the carrier had left Gibraltar together with the British carrier HMS Argus to ferry 37 Hurricane fighters to Malta under escort by the Force H, formed by HMS Malaya, HMS Hermione and seven destroyers.


Hit by U-boat
Sunk on 13 Nov 1941 by U-81 (Guggenberger).

U-boat AttackSee our U-boat attack entry for the HMS Ark Royal

Commands listed for HMS Ark Royal (91)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

1Capt. Arthur John Power, RN17 Jan 193820 Apr 1940
2Capt. Cedric Swinton Holland, RN20 Apr 194018 Apr 1941
3Capt. Loben Edward Harold Maund, RN19 Apr 194113 Nov 1941

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Notable events involving Ark Royal include:

5 Nov 1939
The German merchant Uhenfels (7603 GRT) is captured in the Mid-Atlantic by the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. A.J. Power, CVO, RN) and several destroyers.

6 Feb 1941
British raid on Genoa.

Force H (Vice Admiral Somerville) left Gibraltar on 6 February 1941. The battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt R.R. McGrigor, RN), battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN), light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St.J. Morgan, RN) and HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Burnell-Nugent, DSC, RN) left Gibraltar to the west with convoy HG-53. This was done to fool German and Italian observers in Spain. In the meantime 4 destroyers HMS Duncan (Capt. A.D.B. James, RN), HMS Isis (Cdr. C.S.B. Swinley, DSC, RN) HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. N.V.J.P. Thew, RN) left Gibraltar and steamed to the east to conduct a anti-submarine sweep. During the night Force H reversed course and passed Gibraltar on an easterly course back into the Mediterranean. There they were joined by the 4 destroyers that conducted the anti-submarine sweep.

On 8 February the Italian fleet left port and steamed south after they received reports of British carrier aircraft south of the Balearics. The Italians thought that there was another convoy to Malta.

Early in the morning of 9 February Renown, Malaya and Sheffield bombarded the Italian city of Genoa. In the harbour 4 ships were sunk and 18 were damaged. Also the city itself was damaged.

The Italian fleet turned around and tried to intercept the British ships but due to the bad weather this failed.

In the meantime Ark Royal's aircraft raided Livorno and mined the harbour of La Spezia.

Force H safely returned to Gibraltar on 11 February.

Media links

U-Boat Attack Logs

Daniel Morgan and Bruce Taylor

Ark Royal

Poolman, Kenneth

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