HMS Ark Royal (91)

Ark Royal underway in 1939 with a flight of Swordfish from 820 Naval Air Squadron. Royal Navy photo.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down
1935
Launched
1937
Commissioned
1937
AD/BC
AD
History

Designed in the early 1930s, Ark Royal is probably the most well-known British carrier. Commissioned in 1938, Ark Royal saw extensive service in the early years of World War II, and participated in the sinking of U-39, the first U-boat lost in combat during World War II. One of her Skua fighters was also responsible for the first British air-to-air victory of the War. After covering the Norwegian Campaign, Ark Royal was transferred to the Mediterranean, where she continued to see heavy action. In late May, 1941, Ark Royal was deployed into the Atlantic to help hunt down the German battleship Bismarck after she sank the HMS Hood. On 26 May, Ark Royal's Swordfish torpedo bombers accidentally attacked the light cruiser HMS Sheffield without success. They then sortied again, and attacked the correct target, and one of them managed to score a lucky hit on Bismarck's rudder, delivering the German into the guns of the Royal Navy's battleships. Ark returned to the Mediterranean, and covered several Malta Convoys. Due to surviving many near misses, Ark Royal developed a reputation as a lucky ship, but her luck ran out on 13 November, when she was torpedoed by U-81, sinking the next morning.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: The ship's motto was "Zeal Does Not Rest."

Bonus Fact: When she went down, Ark Royal had aboard her the ship's cat from the sunken destroyer HMS Cossack. Cossack had picked up the cat from Bismarck. After the loss of Ark Royal, the cat, nicknamed Unsinkable Sam, was assigned to shore duty.