HMS Victorious (R38)

HMS Victorious in 1959, after her major rebuilding. US Navy photo.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down
1937
Launched
1939
Commissioned
1941
Decommissioned
1968
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History

Third of the four Illustrious-class aircraft carriers, HMS Victorious' completion was delayed by the need of additional escorts upon the outbreak of World War II. She commissioned 14 May, 1941, and barely a week later was deployed against the battleship Bismarck. With much of her air wing still ashore, Victorious launched a strike against the battleship on 24 May, after the devastating Battle of the Denmark Strait, she Swordfish scored a torpedo hit, but it didn't affect the Bismarck. Victorious withdrew from further action. She spent most of the next year on convoy duty, also flying aircraft to Malta, and attempting to intercept Bismarck's sister ship Tirpitz when she deployed to Norway in late 1941. She successfully supported the reinforcement of Malta in August, 1942, before undergoing a two-month refit ahead of supporting the landings in North Africa. In December, she was loaned to the US Navy, since they were down to just USS Saratoga in the Pacific, and she operated with them from March to August, 1943, while Enterprise was repaired and the Essex-class were brought online. Victorious returned to Royal Navy control in September, and was refitted from December to March, 1944. She participated in another attack on Tirpitz in April, then spent two months on anti-shipping strikes off Norway. Victorious was deployed to the Indian Ocean in June, and began British offensive operations against the Japanese in July. Victorious suffered from frequent issues with her steering gear over the next few months, but still managed to take an active part in the fighting. She transferred to the British Pacific Fleet when it was formed in November, and supported the American invasion of Okinawa by attacking staging airfields for kamikazes. She was hit by two kamikazes in May, but her armored flight deck absorbed the hits. From July, Victorious participated in raids against Japan, and her aircraft crippled the escort carrier Kaiyō. At War's end, Victorious was en route to Australia, and her crew took part in the victory parade in Sydney on 31 August. Victorious returned home in October, but conducted three trips to bring home British servicemen from the Pacific theater. She was reduced to reserve and training status, and was taken in for a major rebuild in 1950. Victorious emerged in 1958 a completely new ship, with an angled flight deck, new superstructure and engines, and a larger hull. Victorious continued in service until 1968, when the nearly thirty-year-old ship was decommissioned for good. She was sold for scrap the following year.

Bonus Photos

HMS Victorious (R38) and USS Saratoga (CV-3) at Noumea in 1943. US Navy photo in the collections of the Australian War Museum.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Victorious, despite looking little like her old self, played not only herself but the HMS Ark Royal in the 1960 film Sink the Bismarck!

Bonus Fact: While working with the Americans in 1943, Victorious was found to have superior fighter direction to that of Saratoga, but had trouble handling the Avenger torpedo bombers. Consequently, Victorious operated the fighters of the Task Force, while Sara handled the strike aircraft.