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HMS Victorious (R38)

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HMS_Victorious_(Illustrious-class_aircraft_carrier)_Post-WWII.jpg
Image:HMS_Victorious_(Illustrious-class_aircraft_carrier)_Post-WWII.jpg


Victorious after World War II
Career RN Ensign
Ordered:
Laid down: 4 May 1937
Launched: 14 September 1939
Commissioned: 14 May 1941
Fate: Decomissioned 13 March 1968, scrapped 1969
General Characteristics
Displacement: 29,500 tons; post-refit 35,200 tons
Length: 673 ft (205 m); post-refit 753 ft (230 m)
Beam: 95 ft (29 m); post-refit 103 ft (31.4 m)
Draught: 28 ft (8.5 m); post-refit 31 ft (9 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines, six boilers, 3 shafts
Range: 11,000 nautical miles at 14 knots (20,400 km at 26 km/h)
Speed: 30 knots (56 km/h)
Complement: 2,200 (including air group)
Aircraft: 36 During World War II these included: Albacore, Avenger, Barracuda, Corsair, Fulmar, Seafire, Sea Hurricane, Swordfish, Wildcat
Post-refit these included: Gannet, Scimitar, Sea Fury, Sea Hawk, Sea Vixen

HMS Victorious (R38) was an Illustrious-class aircraft carrier. She was laid down in 1937, and launched just two weeks into World War II in 1939. Yet she was not commissioned into the Royal Navy until 1941, due to an urgent and more pressing need for escort vessels for service in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Contents

Bismarck

In 1941, her first active mission, began when she took part in the infamous hunt for the German battleship Bismarck, which had already sunk the World War I-era designed battlecruiser Hood, and severely damaged Prince of Wales, which newly-commissioned, had been unprepared for a duel with Bismarck, indeed some of Prince of Wales's main armament were inoperable before the battle had commenced. Victorious herself was hardly ready to be involved in a hunt for such a potent battleship as Bismarck, with just one-quarter of her aircraft embarked aboard her, hastily deployed to assist in the pursuit of the German ship. On 24 May 1941, Victorious launched nine of her biplane Fairey Swordfish aircraft, attacking the German battleship, but hitting her just once, with her aircraft receiving tremedous fire from Bismarck's anti-aircraft guns. Contact with the battleship was soon lost though, and Victorious would have no further part in the historic sinking of this true monster of the seas. Bismarck herself was sunk just three days after Victorious's first and only attack on the warship.

Convoys

After ferrying aircraft to the besieged British territory of Malta, Victorious returned to the naval base at Scapa Flow. She took part in various attacks against ports in Norway and Finland, both under German occupation, as well as taking part in the arduous Arctic convoys, a vital supply line for the Soviet Union. On 9 March 1941, Victorious launched an attack on Bismarcks equally fearsome sister-ship Tirpitz. She scored no hits on the battleship, but it was enough to play a part in Hitler's decision to order all Kriegsmarine capital ships to not risk themselves against enemy aircraft.

The Arctic convoys were suspended temporarily after the horrendous losses that Convoy PQ17 suffered, in which twenty three ships out of thirty six were sunk, after the convoy had been scattered due to the fear that an imminent attack was to take place from the German warships Admiral Hipper, Lützow, Admiral Scheer and Tirpitz. The suspension of this convoy route, allowed Victorious to take part in one last courageous effort to relieve the besieged Malta named Operation Pedestal, which began on 10 August 1942. It involved an astonishing array of ships, including the battleships Rodney and Nelson, the aircraft carriers Eagle, Indomitable, and Furious, the cruisers Cairo, Charybdis, Kenya, Manchester, Nigeria, Phoebe, and Sirius, thirty-two destroyers and fourteen merchant ships. One of the objectives of the operation was for Furious to launch her Spitfires and land them at Malta, thus reinforcing that island's air defence. Furious succeeded in doing on 11 August 1942 and headed back to Gibraltar, her mission complete.

On the same day, Eagle was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-73 and Victorious herself was slightly damaged by bombs from enemy aircraft. The next day, Indomitable was badly damaged by enemy aircraft forcing her to return to Gibraltar. Later that day, catastrophe ensued: the cruiser Cairo and two transports were sunk, while the cruisers Kenya and Nigeria and the tanker Ohio were heavily damaged.

On 13 August 1942, the cruiser Manchester was damaged by Italian motor torpedo boats and subsequently scuttled; four merchant ships were sunk. Ohio was attacked again, this time by Stuka dive-bombers. At the end of the day, in just five of the original fourteen merchant ships were left. Later that day, three of the merchant ships, Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers, Rochester Castle, entered Malta to the jubilation of the besieged peoples and forces of the territory. The fourth merchant ship entered Malta the next day. The crippled tanker, Ohio, the most vital of them all arrived at Grand Harbour, lashed between two destroyers, on 15 August. The oil from Ohio, as well as the supplies from the heavily damaged survivors of the original fourteen merchant ships, not to mention the Spitfires that were flown from the deck of Furious were vital for the survival of Malta. A large price was paid though, with the loss of nine merchant ships, one aircraft carrier, two cruisers and a destroyer. One carrier and two cruisers were badly damaged during the operation.

Operation Torch

In November 1942, she took part in the North African landings. Operation Torch involved 196 ships of the Royal Navy and 105 of the United States Navy. The total number of Allied soldiers that landed was about 107,000. It was a total success.

First Pacific service

In April 1943, Victorious sailed for Pearl Harbour to join Saratoga's Battle Group, at that time the only operational American carrier in the Pacific. Her initial operation was an attack on the Solomon Islands along with Saratoga. Between May and June, Victorious and Saratoga covered the invasion of Bougainville, Munda and New Georgia. In late 1943, Victorious returned to the UK, to the naval base at Scapa Flow.

The German battleship
The German battleship Tirpitz

Attack on Tirpitz

In April 1944, Victorious joined Anson, Duke of York, Emperor, Fencer, Furious, Pursuer and Searcher, along with numerous cruisers and destroyers. On 2 April 1944, both forces joined up, launching a devastating attack on Tirpitz, involving twenty Barracudas in two waves, hitting the battleship fourteen times. The attack put Tirpitz out of action for three months. During the operation, Victorious became the first Royal Navy aircraft carrier to operationally use the F4U Corsair. The Task Force returned to Scapa Flow after this relative success three days later.

Second Pacific service

In June 1944, Victorious was attached to the British Eastern Fleet at Trincomalee. In July 1944, Victorious along with Illustrious, launched a strike against Palembang, and on the 25th, another strike in conjunction with Indomitable occurred against the Andaman Islands. Over the next eight months, as part of the British Pacific Fleet, which now included the carriers Formidable, Illustrious, Implacable, Indomitable, and Indefatigable along with the battleships Howe and King George V, escorted by six cruisers and twelve destroyers, launched numerous air strikes against Japanese forces and installations in Indonesia.

In April 1945, Victorious along with Illustrious, Indefatigable and Indomitable, launched strikes against Okinawa, along with the US 5th Fleet. While there, Victorious after launching further strikes against Sumatra and Palembang with other British carriers, Victorious was hit by a kamikaze, though suffered only minor damage due to her armoured flight deck, which was far superior against such attacks compared to the wooden decked American carriers, which suffered badly when attacked by kamikazes.

In July, aircraft from No. 849 Squadron, embarked aboard Victorious located and attacked the Japanese escort carrier Kaiyo, seriously damaging her while at Beppu Bay, Kyushu. She was stricken from the Japanese naval register a few months later after. Afterwards, Victorious assisted in the repatriation of prisoners of war. After the war, Victorious had a pivotal role in decks trials for the new carrier aircraft, known as the Hawker Sea Fury. She became a training ship from 194750.

Postwar

Immediately post war, in 1946, Victorious was pressed into service to carry war brides of British servicemen from Australia to the UK; her lifts were converted into temporary accommodation.

In 1950, extensive reconstruction commenced, that would radically alter her appearance and capability, a reconstruction that would last over eight years. Her hull was widened, deepened and lengthened, her machinery was replaced, along with her hangar and the addition of an angled flight deck. She looked completely different to the carrier that won ten of the eleven battle honours of the Victorious lineage. In 1958, she joined the Home Fleet, then the Far East Fleet, serving there for nine years, but sadly her career came to a premature end, when during refit in 1968, she was damaged by a fire, and the decision was made to not repair her. She was decomissioned in that year, and scrapped, beginning in 1969 at Faslane Naval Base.

See HMS Victorious for other ships of the name.

Illustrious-class aircraft carrier
Illustrious | Formidable | Victorious

List of aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy
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