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HMS Courageous (50).jpg
Career (United Kingdom)
Class and type: Glorious-class aircraft carrier
Name: HMS Courageous
Ordered: 14 March 1915
Builder: Armstrong Whitworth
Laid down: 18 March 1915
Launched: 5 February 1916
Commissioned: 4 November 1916
(completed 28 October)
Reclassified: Converted to aircraft carrier June 1924 to May 1928
Fate: Sunk by U 29 on 17 September 1939
General characteristics
Displacement: 22,500 tons standard,
27,560 tons loaded
Length: 786.6 ft (239.8 m) overall
Beam: 90.5 ft (27.6 m)
Draught: 28.0 ft (8.5 m)
Propulsion: 18 Yarrow small tube boilers, 235 psi
Four Parsons geared turbines producing
91,195 shp (67 MW) driving four shafts
Speed: 30.8 knots (57 km/h) (trials)
Range: 5,860 nautical miles (10,850 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h)
(9,400 km at 30 km/h)
3,250 tons oil
Complement: 829 as battlecruiser
1,216 (total); 748 + 450 Fleet Air Arm personnel as aircraft carrier
Armament: (as built) (aircraft carrier)
Armour: as battlecruiser:
Aircraft carried: As battlecruiser: two
As aircraft carrier: 48
Notes: Pennant number 77

HMS Courageous was a warship of the Royal Navy. She was built at the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard as a "large light cruiser". Courageous, her sister HMS Glorious, and half-sister HMS Furious, were the brainchildren of Admiral Jackie Fisher, and were designed to be "light cruiser destroyers". They were originally intended to be heavy support for shallow water operations in the Baltic, which ultimately never came to pass. Courageous saw action in World War I, and then was converted into an aircraft carrier. She was torpedoed and sunk in the opening weeks of World War II, going down with more than 500 of her crew.



HMS Courageous shortly after completion as a cruiser in 1916

The design was for a light battlecruiser; while having 15-inch guns, she was actually classed by the British Navy as a light cruiser because of her light armour protection. Her keel was laid down on 28 March 1915, the ship was launched 5 February 1916, completed on 28 October 1916, and Courageous was commissioned on 4 November 1916. Her machinery was essentially similar to an earlier light cruiser, HMS Champion, with two sets to drive four shafts. Her secondary guns were a new type of triple 4-inch gun, intended to provide a high rate of fire against torpedo boats and other smaller craft. However, as it turned out, the loaders for the guns would get in each other's way, and the rate of fire was actually slower than three single mountings. Because of her light construction and other faults, causing more than average time in the repair yard, she was nicknamed 'Outrageous'.

During trials, Courageous received structural damage to the forecastle area while steaming full speed in rough seas. Side plating buckled, and there were leaks in oil tanks and reserve feedwater tanks. Repairs included additional structural stiffening in the damaged area.

World War I

Upon commissioning, Courageous served with the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet. In the spring of 1917, Courageous was fitted as a minelayer. Over 200 mines could be carried on mine rails on the quarterdeck. She was fitted like this for only a short time, and was never used operationally as a minelayer. On 17 November 1917, along with Glorious and Repulse, she was briefly engaged with German light cruisers in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, and sustained minor damage. Later in World War I, she served with the First Cruiser Squadron in the North Sea. In 1918, short take-off platforms for aircraft were mounted on both 15-inch turrets. On 21 November 1918, she was present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet.


When the Washington Naval Treaty was signed in 1922, Courageous was surplus tonnage as a capital ship, so the decision was made to convert her to an aircraft carrier. The combination of a large hull and high speed, not to mention an unsuccessful original design, made her an ideal candidate for conversion. The vessel was converted to a carrier at Devonport starting in 1924, and she was re-commissioned in May 1928. Her conversion cost £2,025,800 (approximately £82 million in 2005 currency[1]). The 15-inch turrets that were removed from Courageous in the conversion were later installed as X and Y turrets on HMS Vanguard. When recommissioned as an aircraft carrier, Courageous had two flight decks: the main flight deck, and at the bow, a lower smaller "flying off deck". During a 1935-36 refit, this smaller forward flight deck was converted to a gun deck with anti aircraft guns, and two catapults capable of shooting off aircraft weighing 10,000 lb were installed on the main flight deck. She had two levels of hangars, both 550 feet long, both 24 feet (7.3 m) high. She could carry up to 48 aircraft; when first recommissioned, she carried Fairey Flycatchers, Blackburn Ripons, and Fairey IIIF reconnaissance planes; later, the Fairey Swordfish and Gloster Gladiator types were carried. Courageous could be distinguished from her sister Glorious by a shorter round-down on her flight deck at the stern, by a different type of mast, and the addition of a charthouse on the island.

World War II and sinking

HMS Courageous sinking after being torpedoed by U 29

Courageous served with the Home Fleet in the Channel Force at the start of World War II. On 17 September 1939, under the command of Captain W. T. Mackaig-Jones, she was on an anti-submarine patrol off the coast of Ireland. Two of her four escorting destroyers had been sent to help a merchant ship under attack. During this time, Courageous was stalked for over two hours by the U-29, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Schuhart. Then Courageous turned into the wind to launch her aircraft. This manoeuvre put the ship right across the bow of the U-29, which then fired three torpedoes. Two of the torpedoes struck the ship on her port side, and she capsized and sank in 15 minutes with the loss of 518 of her crew, including her captain. She was the first British warship to be lost in the war; the civilian passenger liner Athenia having been sunk two weeks earlier.

An earlier unsuccessful attack on HMS Ark Royal by the U-39, on September 14, and the sinking of Courageous three days later, caused the Royal Navy to withdraw its fleet carriers from anti-submarine patrol.

See also


  1. ^ "Inflation: The value of the pound 1750-2005" (PDF). House of Commons Library research paper. 2006-02-13. Retrieved 2008-04-12.  
  • Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I (Janes Publishing, London, 1919)
  • Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II (Janes Publishing, London, 1946)
  • 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 ship as designed and as built.
  • John Roberts, Battlecruiser, (Chatham Publishing, London, 1997), ISBN 1-86176-006-X, ISBN 1-55750-068-1
  • Robert Gardiner, ed., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922 - 1946 (Conway Maritime Press, London, 1980)
  • Robert Gardiner, ed., Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947 - 1982 (Conway Maritime Press, London, 1983)
  • Roger Chesneau, Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present; An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1984)
  • Dan Van der Vat, The Atlantic Campaign: World War II's Great Struggle at Sea (Harper and Row, New York, 1988) ISBN 0-06-015967-7
  • Correlli Barnett, Engage the Enemy More Closely (W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1991) ISBN 0-393-02918-2
  • Peter Gibbings, Weep for me comrade (Minerva Press, London, 1997) ISBN 1-86106-437-3

External links

Coordinates: 50°10′N 14°45′W / 50.167°N 14.75°W / 50.167; -14.75



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