The aircraft carrier Ark Royal was the third vessel of the Royal Navy to bear the name. She was launched at the Birkenhead shipyard of Cammel Laird on the 13th April 1937.
In September 1939, Ark Royal was serving with the Home Fleet and was almost immediately in action against U-boats and German aircraft, one of which claimed to have sunk her. In October, she and Renown proceeded to the South Atlantic, to take part in the hunt for the Graf Spee. During the Norwegian campaign, Ark Royal's aircraft were very active in support of the ground forces and the Skuas with which she was then equipped scored many victories, as the campaign closed in June 1940 the Skuas took part in a gallant but unsuccessful attack upon the Scharnhorst. By the end of June, the Ark Royal was in Gibraltar as part of the famous Force H and was continuously in action against the Italian Navy and Air Force during siege of Malta. In May 1941, the German Battleship Bismark left Gdynia for the open sea and almost the whole resources of the Royal Navy were directed to sinking her. Force H sailed from Gibraltar and on 26th May, Swordfish operating from the Ark Royal, under extremely difficult conditions, attacked the Bismark with torpedoes, scoring two hits. The damage was sufficient to cripple the German ship which was dispatched by the Dorsetshire the next day. H.M.S. Ark Royal returned to Gibraltar and the Malta convoys and during one of these operations was torpedoed by the German submarine U-81. Despite all attempts to tow her to Gibraltar, the Ark Royal slowly heeled over and at 0613 hrs on 14th November, she finally went down, only one sailor losing his life. H.M.S. Ark Royal was 800 ft long overall with a beam of 95 ft and a draught of 23 ft, displacement was 22,000 tons.
Her armament consisted of sixteen 4.5 inch A.A. guns, forty-eight 2pdr A.A. guns and thirty-two 0.5 inch A.A. guns. She carried 72 aircraft, the types differing at various stages of her career and her complement was 1,575. The three shaft geared turbines of 102,000 S.H.P. gave a speed of 30.7 knots.
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