Glorious class aircraft carrier: Wikis


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HMS Glorious
HMS Glorious as a carrier
Class overview
Name: Glorious class
Operators:  Royal Navy
Succeeded by: Single ship designs
Subclasses: HMS Furious completed to a modified design
Completed: 3
Lost: 2
General characteristics (HMS Glorious and HMS Courageous, as designed)
Type: large light cruiser/lightly armoured battlecruiser
Displacement: 19,230 long tons (19,539 t) standard
22,690 long tons (23,054 t) full load
Length: 786 ft (240 m) o/a
Beam: 81 ft (25 m)
Draught: 23 ft 4 in (7.11 m)
Propulsion: 18 Yarrow small tube boilers, 235 psi
Four Parsons geared turbines producing
91,195 shp (67 MW) driving four shafts
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)
Complement: 842 officers and men
  • Belt and bulkheads: 2–3 inches (51–76 mm)
  • Barbettes: 4–7 inches (100–180 mm)
  • Turrets: 13 inches (330 mm) maximum
  • Conning tower: 10 inches (250 mm)
  • Deck: 1.5 inches (38 mm) maximum
General characteristics (HMS Glorious and HMS Courageous, as aircraft carriers)
Type: Aircraft carrier
Displacement: 22,500 long tons (22,861 t)
Length: 735 ft (224 m) p/p
786.25 ft (239.6 m) o/a
Beam: 90.5 ft (27.6 m)
Draught: 27.75 ft (8.5 m)
Propulsion: 18 Yarrow small-tube boilers
Geared steam turbines
90,000 shp (67,100 kW) on four shafts
Speed: 30.5 knots (56.5 km/h; 35.1 mph)
Range: 5,860 nmi (10,850 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h)
Complement: 1,216
  • 16 × QF 4.7 inch AA guns (16 × 1)
  • 24 × 2pdr AA (3 × 8)
Aircraft carried: 48
General characteristics (HMS Furious, as aircraft carrier)
Displacement: 22,000 long tons (22,353 t)
Length: 750 ft (229 m) w/l
786 ft (240 m) o/a
Beam: 88 ft (26.8 m)
Draught: 25 ft (7.6 m)
Speed: 31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph)
Range: 6,000 nmi (11,000 km) at 20 kn (37 km/h)
Complement: 1,218 officers and men
Armament: As carrier
12 × 4 inch (102 mm) guns (6×2)
48 × 2 pdr (40 mm) pom-poms (6×8)
22 × 20 mm guns (22×1)
Aircraft carried: 22-40

The Glorious class aircraft carrier was one of the earliest classes of aircraft carrier to serve with the Royal Navy. Originally laid down as three 'large light cruisers', a cross between 'a light cruiser with 15-inch guns' and 'a battlecruiser with almost no armour', to be used in the Baltic they were converted into aircraft carriers during and after the First World War.


Original designs

As large light cruiser, depicted in Brassey's Naval Annual, 1923

The class originally consisted of three ships, HMS Glorious, HMS Furious, and HMS Courageous. They were also known in the Royal Navy as 'Lord Fisher's hush-hush cruisers'. They were to be armed with four 15-inch (381 mm) guns and were one of the most extreme expressions of the battlecruiser philosophy. The only example more extreme was their half-sister ship HMS Furious which as designed was to carry two 18-inch (457 mm) in two turrets. The three acquired the derogatory nicknames Uproarious, Outrageous, and Curious and Spurious.

They originated with the idea of the First Sea Lord; Admiral Lord Fisher's Baltic Project was a plan to force the Baltic Narrows and invade Germany from the north. This would be an amphibious landing within 100 miles of the German capital of Berlin with the intention of a quick end to the war. In order to do this it was thought that ships with heavy guns but with a shallow draft for close inshore operations were needed to work alongside the other ships. While the plan was not approved, funding for light cruisers for the Grand Fleet was and the "large light cruiser" name and careful security allowed their building.[1]

The final legend design for Glorious and Courageous was submitted to the Admiralty for approval on 28 January 1915 and was approved with a few changes on 14 March. Both ships took about 18 months to build; Courageous at Armstrong-Whitworth and Glorious at Harland & Wolff. Meanwhile, Furious design was changed and she was reworked between 1917 and 1918 to carry only one 18-inch (457 mm) gun and a flying-off deck for seaplanes at the bow. The gun was trialled but later removed (the 18 inch guns would be used in monitors) and a landing-on deck added for half the length of the ship. This was found to cause problems for landing aircraft, and it was later extended to the full length of the ship.

During trials, Courageous sustained buckled side plating in the forecastle while running full speed in a rough sea. As a result, additional stiffening was added; this stiffening was not given to Glorious until 1918. Furious was recommissioned before the end of the war on 15 March 1918, and her embarked aircraft served in a number of important battles in World War I, notably the Tondern raid of July 1918 when her Sopwith Camels attacked the Zeppelin sheds at Tondern.

Interwar conversions

As a result of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, Glorious and Courageous were surplus tonnage as capital ships. As such, they were converted to aircraft carriers; Courageous at HMNB Devonport starting on 29 June 1924, and Glorious at Rosyth on 14 February 1924. The latter was moved to Devonport when the Rosyth shipyard closed to complete the work. All superstructure, guns, and fittings down to the main deck were removed. A two-storied hangar, 550 feet (168 m) long, was built on top of the remaining hull; the upper hangar level opened on to a short 'flying off deck', below and forward of the main flight deck. In essence, they could launch and land aircraft at the same time. Two 46 ft × 48 ft (14 m × 15 m) lifts (elevators) were installed to transfer aircraft between the flight deck and hangars. An island with the bridge, flying control station, and smokestack was added on the starboard side. The original proposed armament was 10 × 5.5 in (140 mm) and 6 × 4 in (102 mm) anti-aircraft guns; this was changed during construction to 16 × 4.7 in (119 mm) AA guns.

After recommissioning, the ships served several years in this configuration. In the early 1930s, arresting gear was installed. A few years later, the ships received two hydraulic catapults on the flight deck, and the 'flying off deck' was converted to a gun deck with the addition of light anti-aircraft guns. In terms of visual recognitional differences: Courageous had a tripod mast while Glorious had a pole mast; Glorious had a lengthened flight deck at the stern with a more pronounced round-down; Glorious had her quarterdeck 1 deck higher; Courageous had an additional chart-house on the island. In their final configuration, they could carry up to 48 aircraft.

Although not purpose-built ships of that type, they compared well with their contemporaries in the Royal Navy in that respect. By the time of World War II, they had been aircraft carriers for nearly 20 years and were approaching the end of their service lives. However, that conflict interrupted plans to replace them.

The Second World War

Courageous was one of the first British victims of the conflict. In the early days of the war, hunter-killer groups were formed around the fleet aircraft carriers to find and destroy U-boats. However, U-29 turned the tables and sank Courageous on 17 September 1939. Following a near miss with HMS Ark Royal, the fleet carriers were withdrawn from this duty.

Glorious survived a little longer. The first major campaign of the war involving the Royal Navy took place around Norway. Glorious, in concert with Ark Royal, provided cover to British forces in the centre of Norway, until they were driven out by the Luftwaffe. Glorious then flew fighters off to the area around Narvik. However, even that place became untenable, and British forces were withdrawn. Glorious took Hurricanes on board to attempt to bring them back to the UK, since they would shortly be desperately needed in the Battle of Britain. The Hurricanes were not designed to land on an aircraft carrier. Nevertheless, the squadron managed it. On the way back across the North Sea on 18 June 1940, disaster struck. Glorious had an unstable Captain, who had not been warned by Navy Intelligence that there could be German ships near, and was not flying any air patrols. Glorious and her two escorting destroyers, Acasta and Ardent, were found by the two German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau of the Kriegsmarine. The German heavy ships sent all three British vessels to the bottom in 70 minutes with most of their crews.

Furious meanwhile had been attached to the Home Fleet, mostly hunting U-boats in the Atlantic, and carrying bullion to Canada. She then moved to the Mediterranean where she played a vital role in ferrying Spitfire reinforcements for Malta until they were in range. She played this role during Operation Pedestal and was also amongst the carriers providing cover for Operation Torch. In 1943, she took part in strikes against German shipping, and attacked the German battleship Tirpitz in Altafjord, Norway. However, as the war progressed, the ship's age and limitations became increasingly apparent, and she was replaced by more modern vessels. Furious was placed in reserve in September 1944, and sold in 1948. She was scrapped starting on 15 March 1948, and the hull was scrapped at Troon in July.

See also


  • John Roberts, Battlecruiser, (Chatham Publishing, London, 1997), ISBN 1-86176-006-X, ISBN 1-55750-068-1
  • Roger Chesneau, Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present; An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1984)
  • Siegfried Breyer, Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905-1970 (Doubleday and Company; Garden City, New York, 1973) (originally published in German as Schlachtschiffe und Schlachtkreuzer 1905-1970, J.F. Lehmanns, Verlag, Munchen, 1970). Contains various line drawings of the ships as built and as converted to aircraft carriers.


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