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HMS Hermes - Spithead - 1937.jpg
HMS Hermes
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Hermes
Ordered: April 1917
Builder: Sir W. G. Armstrong-Whitworth and Company
Laid down: January 1918
Launched: September 1919
Commissioned: 1923
Fate: Sunk in April 1942 off Ceylon
General characteristics
Class and type: Aircraft carrier
Displacement: 10,850 tons standard,
13,000 tons loaded
Length: 182.3 metres (598 ft)
Beam: 21.4 metres (70 ft)
Draught: 5.7 metres (19 ft)
Propulsion: geared Parson steam turbines, two shafts, 6 boilers; 40,000shp (29,828kW)
Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h)
Complement: 664 excluding aircrew
Armament:

six 5.5in (140mm) guns.

Three 4in (102mm) AA guns.
Armour:

Belt 51-76mm (2-3in). Hangar deck 25mm (1in).

Shields 25mm (1in)
Aircraft carried: Up to 20

HMS Hermes (95) of the Royal Navy of United Kingdom was the first ship in any navy to be designed and built as an aircraft carrier, although the Imperial Japanese Navy's Hōshō was the first to be commissioned. The design of Hermes preceded and influenced that of the Hōshō, and she was launched before Hōshō was laid down, but was commissioned more than six months later than Hōshō.

Hermes was laid down by Sir W. G. Armstrong-Whitworth and Company at High Walker on the River Tyne in January 1918 and was launched on 11 September 1919. She was not commissioned until 1923.

Like Hōshō, Hermes was based on a cruiser-type hull, and the design incorporated lessons learned from the operation of the earlier carriers such as HMS Furious and HMS Argus. Notably, this included a full-length flush flight deck and an island superstructure and funnel to starboard. The latter innovation allowed the ship to be conned effectively but did not interfere with air operations. The logic behind placing it to starboard was that early aircraft were powered by rotary engines that rotated in a clockwise manner (when viewed from the rear). The whirling mass generated considerable torque, and aircraft tended to yaw to their left upon take off. It was therefore desirable that they would turn away from any potential obstructions. An interesting identification feature was the tripod mast, which had two forward and one rear leg, a unique arrangement. However, operational experience with Hermes demonstrated that her air complement was too small, her protection and endurance limited, her speed was not sufficient for fleet operations and that her stability was poor, especially in high seas.

Despite her size, Hermes was only able to carry 20 aircraft. Like other carriers of the time, Hermes, as built, was fitted with longitudinal wires, but these were changed to transverse arrester wires in the early 1930s.

During World War II she served briefly with the Home Fleet before being assigned to the southern Atlantic from October 1939. She worked with the French navy based at Dakar until the Vichy government came to power, following that her aircraft took part in a strike against the French vessels at Dakar. In July 1940 she collided with a merchant vessel and was repaired at Simonstown, South Africa. Following repairs she continued patrols but this time in the Indian Ocean as part of the Eastern Fleet.

During the Indian Ocean raid, Hermes was in harbour at Trincomalee, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), undergoing repairs. Advance warning of a Japanese air raid allowed her to leave port, but as she returned following the raid on 9 April 1942, she was spotted off Batticaloa by a Japanese reconnaissance plane. Lacking planes of her own, she was defenceless when she was attacked by 70 Japanese bombers. Hit 40 times, Hermes sank with the loss of 307 men. Her escorts – the destroyer HMAS Vampire and the corvette Hollyhock – and two tankers were also sunk. 590 survivors of the attack were picked up by the hospital ship Vita and taken to Colombo. Some survivors were taken to Kandy where they spent 10 days recuperating at the Queens Hotel.

The wreck of the Hermes is located in the Indian Ocean off Batticaloa, Sri Lanka.

References

Hermes sinking after Japanese air attack on April 9, 1942.

The Encyclopedia of Warships, From World War Two to the Present Day, General Editor Robert Jackson

External links

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