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HMS Ark Royal (1938)

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HMS Ark Royal (1938), was a 22,000-ton aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy, built at Birkenhead, England, was completed in November 1938.[1] After working-up during the months prior to the September 1939 outbreak of hostilities, she played an important role in the first two years of the Second World War. In December 1939 she was sent to the South Atlantic to help in the search for the German cruiser DKM Graf Spee. The spring of 1940 saw her participating in the Norwegian campaign, and in July she was one of the ships that attacked the French Navy's base at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria. The following September, Ark Royal took part in a second assault on the French Navy, this time at Dakar. While covering a Mediterranean convoy in late November, her planes attacked Italian battleships, though without making any hits. In return, she was bombed, and missed, by enemy aircraft.

During March 1941, Ark Royal pursued the German battlecruisers, DKM Scharnhorst and DKM Gneisenau during the last phase of their Atlantic sortie. On 26 May of that year, her torpedo planes hit the DKM Bismarck, making the enemy battleship virtually unmaneuverable and allowing other British warships to close and sink her.

Ark Royal was also very active in the Mediterranean during 1941. She struck the port of Genoa in early February, during a bold British Naval raid deep into Italian-controlled waters. On several occasions, she ferried planes to the beleaguered base at Malta and covered Malta-bound convoys. While returning to Gibraltar from one such mission, Ark Royal was torpedoed by the German submarine U-81. After a difficult struggle against progressive flooding, the carrier capsized and sank on 14 November 1941.


  1. HMS Ark Royal (Aircraft Carrier, 1938-1941), U.S. Naval Historical Center