HMS Ark Royal (1914)

HMS Ark Royal was the first Royal Navy ship to be completed as an aircraft carrier. She was renamed HMS Pegasus in 1934. For other ships names HMS Ark Royal see HMS Ark Royal

The Royal Navy had been using a converted cruiser, HMS Hermes, as a seaplane carrier, to conduct trials in 1913. However, another ship was needed, and in 1913 a Channel Ferry was purchased for £81,000 whilst under construction at the Blyth Shipbuilding Company. This 7,000-ton vessel was converted to a seaplane carrying ship on the slipway prior to completion and named HMS Ark Royal. Although some seaplane tenders had entered service before Ark Royal, such as HMS Engadine and HMS Hermes, each of these had been used for some other purpose before being converted.


Extensive changes to the design were made in converting the ship to a seaplane tender. The oil fired cylindrical boilers providing steam for the vertical triple expansion engine driving one screw was moved aft and a working deck occupying the forward half of the vessel. This deck was not originally intended as a flying-off deck, but for starting and running up of seaplane engines and for recovering damaged aircraft from the sea. The ship was equipped with a large aircraft hold, 150 ft long, 45 ft wide and 15 ft high along with workshops. Two 3-ton steam cranes would lift the aircraft through the sliding hatch onto the flight deck or into the water.

She could carry five floatplanes and 2 normal aircraft. The latter would have to return to land after launch, but the seaplanes could take off over the bow and land in the water alongside the carrier, before being lifted back onboard by the cranes. Her original complement of aircraft were two Sopwith Type 807 seaplanes, two Wright Pushers, a Short 135 and two Sopwith Tabloid land based aircraft.

The crew compliment was 180 Royal Navy and RNAS (later RAF) personnel. Defensive Armament consisted of four 12-Pdr Naval Guns and two machine-guns. Fuel Capacity was 500 tons of oil.


HMS Ark Royal sailed for the Dardanelles on February 1, 1915 and provided support to Allied landings there until May 1915, serving in the Eastern Mediterranean until the Armistice. In January 1918 two of her Sopwith Baby aircraft attempted to bomb SMS Goeben.

After the war she operated in the Black Sea, transporting aircraft to Batumi to support White Russian forces fighting the Russian Civil War. She was also used in support of the air and land campaign in Somalia against the Mad Mullah. During 1920 she assisted the withdrawal of White Russian forces from Crimea. She then returned to Britain and was put into reserve at Rosyth for a refit.

She was recommissioned in September 1922 to take aircraft out to the Mediterranean during the Chanak crisis, before undergoing another refit at Malta in April 1923. In December 1934 she was renamed HMS Pegasus to free her name for a new carrier that was then beginning construction.

HMS Pegasus was converted to a catapult ship in 1940, but served in only for convoy escort duties during the Second World War. She was withdrawn from front line service in 1944 and spent the remainder of the war as an accommodation ship, finally being sold in December 1946. Work began to convert her into a merchant ship named Anita I, but this was halted and she was broken up for scrap in 1950.


  • World Aircraft Carriers List
  • Young, John. "A Dictionary of Ships of the Royal Navy of the Second World War"'. Patrick Stephens Ltd, Cambridge, 1975. ISBN 0-85059-332-8
  • Lenton, H.T. & Colledge, J. J. "Warships of World War II", Ian Allen, London, 1973. ISBN 0-7110-0403-X
  • Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I (Studio Press reprint of Jane's 1919)
  • Battleships-Cruisers Retrieved on 2008-8-20

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