In August 1917, at the height of the First World War, a small biplane landed on the makeshift flight deck of HMS Furious - the first ever carrier landing in aviation history. This small act ushered in a new era. Two decades later, when Britain stood on the brink of another World War, the Royal Navy had a small fleet of aircraft carriers, with several more nearing completion. When war came the newly-formed Fleet Air Arm would demonstrate that what it lacked in modern equipment, it made up for in skill and daring.
The first of these carriers were converted from existing ships. Then in 1938 HMS Ark Royal was launched - Britain's first purpose built carrier. Its design set the standard for what was to come. The "Ark" was followed by the highly successful Illustrious Class, and then by others whose design was modified in the light of wartime experience. British fleet carriers had steel flight decks, and although smaller and able to carry less aircraft that the carriers seen in the Pacific, they were better suited to conditions in European waters. It also meant they were more resilient, and could shrug off damage that would cripple their American counterparts.
Over the next six years these British aircraft carriers would launch attacks against a major Italian naval base, attack the Italian battle fleet on the high seas, and cripple the Bismarck, so that the battleships of the Home Fleet could overtake her. They would also see service in every theatre of war, including the Pacific. Inevitably, their success came at a price. Courageous, Eagle and Ark Royal were torpedoed by U-Boats, Glorious was sunk by the guns of a German battlecruiser, and Hermes was lost to Japanese bombs. Most of the rest of the carrier fleet were damaged to some extent during their service lives, but they survived and kept on fighting.
This New Vanguard title tells the story of these remarkable warships, and reveals the secrets of their design, how they operated, and above all, what they achieved.
About the Author
With over 50 history books in print, Angus is a widely recognised and much-published historian. While he specialises in military and naval history he has also written numerous more general history books, designed to make the subject more accessible to a wider audience. Uniquely he has been able to draw on his expertise as a senior museum curator who has worked on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as on his academic training as a historian and as a maritime archaeologist. His latest book is a full-length biography: Blackbeard: America's Most Notorious Pirate, which is published by Wiley & Sons. of New York (June 2006) Angus is also just finished writing a history of the Allied landings at Salerno in September 1943 for the British publisher Pen & Sword, and he is currently working on a new project, with the working title of Supership: The Quest for the Renaissance Battleship. Angus lives in Edinburgh, in Scotland.
Innes McCartney is an historian and nautical archaeologist, specializing in 20th-century naval vessels. He lectures widely on a number of associated subjects. A passion for shipwrecks has led to some famous discoveries, including the submarine M1 and the battlecruiser "HMS Indefatigable," His previous book, "Lost Patrols" detailed his uncovering the 121 submarines sunk in the English Channel. His own underwater photography illustrates this book. The author lives in Cornwall, UK.
Tony Bryan is a freelance illustrator of many years' experience who lives and works in Dorset. He initially qualified in Engineering and worked for a number of years in Military Research and Development, and has a keen interest in military hardware - armor, small arms, aircraft and ships. Tony has produced many illustrations for partworks, magazines and books, including a number of titles in the New Vanguard series. Tony Bryan lives in Dorset, UK.
"An excellent book on a most interesting subject and one that I am positive you will find to be of interest. One that will be pulled from the shelves time after time and one I can highly recommend to you." - Scott Van Aken, Modeling Madness
"This excellent survey of the craft's capabilities is a must for any in-depth military, aircraft or World War II collection!" - The Midwest Book Review, October 2010