HMS Hermes (95)

HMS Hermes (95)

HMS "Hermes" (95) of the Royal Navy of United Kingdom was the world's first purpose-built aircraft carrier to be launched, 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 her commissioning did not occur until more than six months after that of the "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.

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.


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

External links

* [ Fleet Air Arm Archive]
* [ WW2DB: Hermes]
* [ Maritimequest HMS Hermes photo gallery]
* [ Hermes Wreck Diving photos]

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