Allied Warships

HMS Formidable (67)

Aircraft Carrier of the Illustrious class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeAircraft Carrier
Built byHarland & Wolff Ltd. (Belfast, Northern Ireland) 
Ordered19 Mar 1937 
Laid down17 Jun 1937 
Launched17 Aug 1939 
Commissioned24 Nov 1940 
End serviceMar 1947 

HMS Formidable operated mainly in the Mediterranean. Her initial role was to accompany a convoy to Capetown from December 1940 to January 1941. Subsequently she was called to the Mediterranean to replace the damaged HMS Illustrious in February 1941.

She took part in the Battle of Cape Matapan 27-29 March 1941, and in the two following months was involved in convoy escort. She supported Crete operations in May where she suffered serious damage in air attacks by 1000kg bombs on 26 May 1941, and so was out of action for six months. Between June till December 1941 she underwent repairs in the USA, after which she sailed for the Indian Ocean to join the Eastern Fleet remaining there between March-August 1942.

In October 1942 she returned to the Mediterranean and remained there until October 1943. She took part in the North African landings in November 1942, Sicily landings in July 1943, and Salerno landings in September 1943. On completion of her Mediterranean tour of duties she took part in an Arctic convoy in October 1943.

HMS Formidable was refitted between January -June 1944 and then her aircraft were involved in operation "Mascot" attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz in Norway on 17 July 1944. She took part in further attacks on Tirpitz 22, 24 and 29 August 1944 as part of the "Goodwood" operations.

HMS Formidable sailed for the Eastern Fleet on 16 September 1944, being stationed at Gibraltar between September 1944 till January 1945 after machinery breakdown. She finally joined the British Pacific Fleet in place of the damaged HMS Illustrious on 16 April 1945. She subsequently took part in air strikes against Sakishima Gunto between April-May 1945. Between 4-9 May 1945 she was hit by Kamikazes - yet was able to operate aircraft within a few hours of attack, her aircraft later took part in air strikes against Japanese home islands between July-August 1945. HMS Formidable arrived in Sydney, Australia on 23 August, subsequently undertook trooping voyages to UK September 1945-November 1946.

Formidable was reduced to reserve at Rosyth in March 1947, stricken 1950 and sold on 11 November 1953. She was scrapped at Inverkeithing from November 1956.


Commands listed for HMS Formidable (67)

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1Capt. Arthur William La Touche Bisset, RN7 Aug 194023 Aug 1942
2Capt. Arthur George Talbot, DSO, RN23 Aug 194223 Sep 1943
3Capt. Philip Ruck-Keene, RN23 Sep 1943Jan 1944
4Cdr. Conrad Byron Alers-Hankey, DSC, RNJan 194429 Jan 1944
5Capt. Philip Ruck-Keene, RN29 Jan 194413 Feb 1946

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Notable events involving Formidable include:

10 Jan 1941
Around 0600 hours (zone +1), HMS Formidable (Capt. A.W.La T. Bisset, RN), HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.J.L. Phillips, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.F. Wake-Walker CB, OBE, RN), HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN), HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) and HMS Vidette (Lt. E.N. Walmsley, RN) split off from convoy WS 5A and proceeded to cover this convoy from a distance.

Both destroyers parted company, the next day, around 1715/11 to return to Freetown. (1)

15 Jan 1941
Early in the evening HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN) split off from the other two ships, HMS Formidable (Capt. A.W.La T. Bisset, RN) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.J.L. Phillips, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.F. Wake-Walker CB, OBE, RN).

HMS Dorsetshire then proceeded on an anti-raider patrol in the South Atlantic and HMS Formidable and HMS Norfolk continued to provide cover for convoy WS 5A from a distance. (2)

17 Nov 1942
German U-boat U-331 was sunk in the Mediterranean north of Algiers in position 37°05'N, 02°27'E after she had been badly damaged by a Hudson aircraft she signalled surrender to a seaplane but was attacked by a torpedo-equipped aircraft Albacore from the British aircraft carrier HMS Formidable (Squadrons 500 and 820).

9 Aug 1945
Award of the Victoria Cross posthumously to the late Temporary Lieutenant Robert Hampton-Grey, R.C.N.V.R. " For great valour in leading from the Aircraft Carrier Formidable an attack on a Japanese destroyer in Onagawa Wan in the Japanese Island of Honshu, on 9th August 1945. In the face of fire from shore batteries and a heavy concentration of fire from some five warships, Lieutenant Grey pressed home his attack, flying very low to ensure success. Although he was hit and his aircraft in flames, he obtained at least one direct hit , sinking the destroyer. Lieutenant Grey has consistently shown a brilliant fighting spirit and most inspiring leadership." (3)

Media links

British Aircraft Carriers 1939-45 (New Vanguard)

Angus Konstam
($ 17.71)
(£ 9.99)
(EUR 11.99)


  1. ADM 53/114129 + ADM 53/114264 + ADM 53/114806
  2. ADM 53/114129
  3. Personal communication

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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