HMS Argus (I49)

HMS Argus (I49)

HMS "Argus" was a British aircraft carrier from 1918 until 1944. She was the world's first example of what is now the standard pattern of aircraft carrier, with a "flush deck" enabling wheeled aircraft to take-off and land. "Argus" had the nickname "Ditty Box" due to its similarity to the article of a sailor's kit.


"Argus" was laid down in 1914 by William Beardmore and Company in Glasgow as the Italian ocean liner "Conte Rosso". However, before she was launched, she was purchased by the Royal Navy for conversion into an aircraft carrier. She was built from the start with an unobstructed flight deck (the "flush deck") upon which conventional aircraft could take off and land. Prior to that, the aircraft carrier HMS "Furious" had been built with separate decks fore and aft of the main superstructure.

"Argus" was launched 2 December 1917 and was commissioned 6 September 1918, just before the end of the First World War. Due to her small size (approx 14,000 tonnes) and relatively slow speed, she was of limited use as a combat vessel. Instead, she was used primarily to develop the techniques of aircraft carrier combat and train aviators in the operation of aircraft at sea. At the end of the 1920s, having been superseded by larger and more modern vessels, she was removed from the front line force and used as a training carrier.

"Argus" initially served in a training role at the beginning of the Second World War, but after the significant losses suffered by the Royal Navy in the first years of the war between 1939-41 — during which HMS "Courageous", "Glorious" and "Ark Royal" were sunk, and "Illustrious" was heavily damaged — "Argus" was recalled to front line service. Interestingly, "Argus", with her tall and capacious hangar, was the only British carrier that served in the Second World War capable of striking down aircraft with non-folding wings. [" Designing the grand fleet : warship development, 1905-1923", D K Brown, 1999, Chatham Publishing, ISBN 186176099X]

Her first operational duties, 1941 - 1942, were ferrying aircraft for Malta, Gibraltar and Takoradi (en route to Egypt). Aircraft were ferried to within flying distance of their destination and then "flown off" to complete the journey.

"Argus" was allocated to Force H in the western Mediterranean and she was part of the strong covering forces that provided air cover for Operation "Harpoon", a critical Malta convoy. In 1942, she supported the Allied landings in North Africa and in 1943 she reverted to her training role, before going into reserve as an accommodation ship in 1944.

She was sold for scrap in 1946.


External links

* [ Maritimequest HMS Argus photo gallery]
* [ Fleet Air Arm archive]

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