HMS Formidable (67)
HMS Formidable, circa 1944
|Career (United Kingdom)|
|Name:||HMS Formidable (67)|
|Builder:||Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Northern Ireland|
|Laid down:||17 June 1937|
|Launched:||17 August 1939|
|Commissioned:||24 November 1940|
|Nickname:||The ship that launched itself.|
|Class & type:||Illustrious class carrier|
|Displacement:||28,661 tons full load|
|Length:||743.75 ft (226.70 m)|
|Beam:||95 ft (29 m)|
|Draught:||28 ft (8.5 m)|
6 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
|Speed:||30.5 knots (56 km/h)|
|Range:||11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)|
|Armament:||2 pdr (40-mm) guns|
|Aircraft carried:||1940: 36 Fulmar and Swordfish
1943: Martlets, Seafires, and Albacores
1945: 54 Corsair and Avenger
HMS Formidable was an Illustrious class aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy during World War II. She was constructed by Harland & Wolff, Belfast, and launched on 17 August 1939. An accident occurred just before the launch ceremony was to begin - the wooden cradle supporting the ship collapsed and the ship slid down the launchway while workmen were still underneath and around the ship. One spectator was killed by flying debris and at least 20 others were injured, however Formidable was not damaged. Because of the incident, Formidable was referred to as "The Ship That Launched Herself."  She was commissioned on 24 November 1940.
Formidable took part in the Battle of Cape Matapan on 27–29 March 1941. On 26 May 1941 she received serious damage, after being hit by two 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) bombs that put her out of action for six months. After repairs at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, in the United States, she re-equipped with Grumman Martlet Mk II fighters.
In 1942, she travelled across the Pacific and served briefly in the Indian Ocean, returning to the Mediterranean in October. Formidable then provided air support for the North African Campaign and Italian campaign (1943), including the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky), before taking part in an Arctic convoy. On November 17 aircraft from HMS Formidable attacked U-boat U-331 (the U-Boat that sank HMS Barham) and sank her.
On 17 July 1944, Swordfish aircraft from Formidable were involved in Operation Mascot, an attack on the Tirpitz in Norway. She took part in further attacks on Tirpitz in August, as part of Operation Goodwood.
During 1945, she saw service against Japanese forces with the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron of the British Pacific Fleet, and survived several kamikaze attacks while supporting the landings on Okinawa. On May 4, just after 11.30 a.m. a Japanese plane made a steep dive from "a great height" at Formidable and was engaged by AA guns. The kamikaze was hit at close range, but crashed into the flight deck, making a massive dent about 10 feet (3 m) long, two feet (0.6 m) wide and two feet deep in the armoured flight deck. A large steel splinter speared down through the hangar deck and the centre boiler-room, where it ruptured a steam line, and came to rest in a fuel tank, starting a major fire in the aircraft park. Eight crew members were killed and forty-seven were wounded.
The 3" armoured steel flight deck of Formidable prevented further damage by kamikaze attacks.[I] One Corsair and ten Grumman Avengers were destroyed. However, the fires were gradually brought under control and the crater in the deck was repaired with concrete and steel plate. By 5 p.m., Corsairs were again able to land on Formidable. A further kamikaze hit Formidable's flight deck on 9 May 1945, but the level of damage was nowhere near as serious as that incurred in the previous attack.
On August 9, 1945, at Onagawa Bay, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, RCNVR, flying a Corsair from Formidable, led an attack on a Japanese destroyer. Gray's attack sank the destroyer, although his aircraft was shot down and he was killed. Gray was later awarded the Victoria Cross, posthumously. He was one of only two Fleet Air Arm aircrew to win the VC in World War II, and the last Canadian to be so honoured.
The accumulation of damage through the war took its toll on the ship. The bomb damage received in the Mediterranean had left her permanently maimed, and the Royal Navy's postwar fleet review revealed that she was beyond economical repair. She was placed in reserve in 1947 and never saw active service again. She was sold for scrap in 1953 and was scrapped from November 1956.
Battle honours 
- Matapan 1941
- Crete 1941
- Mediterranean 1941
- Indian Ocean early 1942
- North Africa 1942-3
- Sicily 1943
- Salerno 1943
- Okinawa 1945
- Japan 1945
- January, 1941: 33 aircraft - Fulmar and Albacores
- July, 1943: Martlets, Seafires, and Albacores
- July, 1944: 40 aircraft - 16 Corsairs, 24 Barracudas
^[I] World War II American carriers had wooden flight decks, while British carriers used steel, with a number of classes including the Illustrious class fleet carriers being fitted with armoured flight decks.
- "Formidable - the ship that launched herself", "The Times of London", August 8, 2009, accessed March 6, 2011.
- "HMS Formidable Launches Herself" "British Pathe", August 17, 1939, accessed March 6, 2011.
- Chesneau (1998), pp.103-107
- Sturtivant (1990), pp.91-94
- Sturtivant (1990), p.95-97
- Sturtivant (1990), p.104
- Sturtivant (1990), p.109
- Biggs & Ott (1994), p.39
- Sturtivant (1990), pp.133-135
- Waters (1956), pp.383-385
- Biggs, Morris; Ott, Frank (1994). 80 Years of the British Aircraft Carrier. Yeovilton: The Society of Friends of the Fleet Air Arm Museum. p. 60. ISBN 0-9513139-3-2.
- Chesneau, Roger (1998). Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present. An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Rev Ed). London: Brockhampton Press. p. 288. ISBN 1-86019-875-9.
- Friedman, Norman (1988). British Carrier Aviation: The Evolution of the Ships and Their Aircraft. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-054-8.
- Sturtivant, Ray (1990). British Naval Aviation: The Fleet Air Arm 1917-1990. London: Arms & Armour Press Ltd. p. 224. ISBN 0-85368-938-5.
- Waters, S.D. (1956). The Royal New Zealand Navy: Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45, Chapter 24 - With the British Pacific Fleet. Wellington: War History Branch New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. p. 571.
- Maritimequest HMS Formidable photo gallery
- Fleet Air Arm entry for Formidable
- Links to surviving members of the ship and "friends of" HMS/HMAC Formidable
- Huge gallery of photos of Formidable
- Found photos in Sydney. Geoffrey St Maur Mills archive scanned and posted. Includes rare scans of messages including "War Is Over" Formidable