Fleet Aircraft Carrier


HMS Formidable was built by Harland & Wolff, laid down 17 June 1937, launched 17 August 1939 and commissioned 24 November 1940. Paid off 1947, stricken 1953. Broken up 1956.

In 1935 the Admiralty took a radical step by deciding that the next generation of aircraft carriers would be afforded the same protection as the big-gun units. Previous carriers had been armoured, but only only the lower or main deck over the machinery and magazines and in a waterline belt. The "Illustrious" Class ships were to have a hangar protected against 500lb bombs and 6" shells; this meant armouring the flight deck, and extending the vertical armour upwards to meet it. The flight deck between the lifts was 3" thick and the hangar walls, like the side belt, were 41" thick. As 5000 tons of armour had to be worked into a treaty limit of 23,000 tons, Illustrious was consequently considerably shorter than Ark Royal, and because the flight deck armour weighed 1500 tons, the second hangar deck was omitted to reduce the freeboard by 22 feet and preserve stability. The flight deck armour of the ships was penetrated only once - by an 1100lb (500kg) bomb which struck Illustrious during a concerted attack on her by German dive-bombers on 10 January 1941. That and six other bomb hits kept her out of action until the following December. Both Formidable and Victorious were struck by Kamikazes in 1945, but both were operating aircraft again soon after the hits - unlike the wooden-decked US carriers.

Throughout her career HMS Formidable operated mainly in the Mediterranean, where she, suffered bomb damage that kept her out of action. Her initial role was to accompany a convoy to Capetown from December 1940 to January 1941. Subsequently she was called to the Mediterranean to replace HMS Illustrious in February 1941.

She took part in the Battle of Cape Matapan 27-29 March 1941, and in the two following months was involved in convoy escort. She supported Crete operations in May where she suffered serious damage in air attacks by 1000kg bombs on 26 May 1941, and so was out of action for six months. Between June till December 1941 she underwent repairs in the USA, after which she sailed for the Indian Ocean remaining there between March-August 1942.

She returned in October 1942 to the Mediterranean and remained on station there until October 1943, where she took part in the North African landings in November 1942, Sicily landings in July 1943, and Salerno landings in September 1943. On completion of her Mediterranean tour of duties she took part in an Arctic convoy in October 1943.

Taken shortly after the Operation Goodwood II strike on 22 August 1944.
Tirpitz is located in the upper right corner, hiding behind the smoke.

24 August 1944. The British Force turns into the wind to launch the third strike of Operation "Goodwood III". Left to right on the photograph is Formidable, Devonshire, Indefatigable and Duke of York

HMS Formidable was refitted between January -June 1944 and then her aircraft were involved in the operation "Mascot" attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz in Norway on 17 July 1944. She took part in further attacks on Tirpitz 22, 24 and 29 August 1944 as part of the "Goodwood" operations.

HMS Formidable sailed for the Far East on 16 September 1944, being stationed at Gibraltar between September 1944 till January 1945 after machinery breakdown. She finally joined the British Pacific Fleet in place of HMS Illustrious on 16 April 1945. She subsequently took part in air strikes against Sakishima Gunto between April-May 1945. Between 4-9 May 1945 she was hit by Kamikazes  - yet was able to operate aircraft within a few hours of attack, her aircraft later took part in air strikes against Japanese home islands between July-August 1945.

HMS Formidable arrived in Sydney, Australia on 23 August, subsequently undertook trooping voyages to UK September 1945-November 1946.

Formidable was reduced to reserve at Rosyth in March 1947, stricken 1950 and sold in 1953. She was scrapped at Inverkeithing from November 1956.

Battle Honours
Matapan 1941, Crete 1941, Mediterranean 1941, North Africa 1942- 3, Sicily 1943, Salerno 1943, Okinawa 1945, Japan 1945.

Captain Ruck Keene (1944-1945).

Squadrons and Aircraft
January 1941: 33 aircraft - Fulmar and Albacores
July 1944: 40 aircraft - 16  Corsairs,  24 Barracudas

FAA squadrons embarked Dates Aircraft type
803 Nov 1940-May 1941 Fulmar I
826 Nov 1940-May 1941 Albacore I
829 Nov 1940-Dec 1941 Albacore I/Swordfish I
805 dt March-April  1941 Fulmar I
806 March-May 1941 Fulmar I
810 Dec 1941 Swordfish I
818 Feb-April 1942 Albacore I
820 Feb 1942-Nov 1943 Albacore I
888 Feb 1942-Nov 1943 Martlet II/IV
803 April 1942 Fulmar II
885 Oct 1942-Nov 1943 Seafire Ib/IIc
893 Oct 1942-Nov 1943 Martlet IV
1841 June 1944-Aug 1945 Corsair IV
853 dt June 1944 Wildcat V
827  July 1944 Barracuda II
830 July 1944 Barracuda II
826 Aug-Sept 1944 Barracuda II
1842 Aug 1944-Sept 1945 Corsair II
848 Sept 1944-Aug 1945 Avenger I

Associations and Reunions

HMS Formidable Association, Betty Smith, Secretary, 78 Fosseway, Syston,  Leicester, LE7 1NE. Email

President: Lt (E.) Dennis W EDWARDS R.N, Chairman: DENNIS SMITH, Vice-Chairman: KEITH QUILTER
Founder: Tom Blurton, 5 Croft Close, Netherseal, Swadlincotes, Burton-on-Trent, BE12 8BN, Derbyshire.

The HMS Formidable Association website by

See also website by a veteran: Bristol Fashion Home Page by Cliff "Rocky' Winters

Carrier name HMS Formidable
Class Illustrious
Type Fleet Aircraft Carrier
Ships in Class Illustrious, Victorious, Formidable, Indomitable
Launched Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 17 June 1937. Launched 17 August 1939. Commissioned 24 November 1940. 
Tonnage Displacement: 30,530 tons standard ; 35,500 tons full load 
Engines Propulsion: reboilered. Original propulsion: Steam Turbines (6 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 3 shafts, Parsons geared turbines), 111,000 shp.
Speed in Knots Speed: 30.5 knots
Armament 6 x 8 x 2pdr "pom-pom" AA 2 x 4 x 40mm Bofors AA 4 x 1 x 40mm Bofors AA 10 x 2 x 20mm Oerlikon AA 14 x 1 x 20mm Oerlikon AA 
Crew Complement Compliment: 2200 including Officers & Ratings and Air Group
Range  Range: 11,000 nmiles at 14 knots
Length (ft/inches) Dimensions: 781 oa x 103.25 x 31 feet 
Beam (ft/inches)  
Draught (ft/inches)  
Flight Deck length (ft/inches) 620
Flight Deck width (ft/inches) 95'
Armour 3" flight deck 2" hangar deck 4" side belt 4" hangar sides 
Number of aircraft carried  
Fate of carrier Paid off 1947, stricken 1953. Broken up 1956. 
Notes As originally envisaged, the class comprised 6 ships, but the fourth ship and the last pair differed sufficiently for them to be regarded as separate classes. The increase in size of aircraft, particularly jets, made post-war use of the Illustrious class impractical due to a lack of hangar height. Victorious was the only carrier to serve past the early 1950's after being extensively reconstructed to operate jet aircraft.

The HMS Formidable Association website by  Website dedicated to HMS Formidable and its veteran association
HMS Illustrious Class in THE ROYAL NAVY WWII website Specifications and brief history of this class of aircraft carrier
Summary history of the Illustrious class in Royal Navy Ships of World War 2  
Bristol Fashion Home Page Cliff 'Rocky' Winters photos serving on Formidable and Implacable - includes info about the attack on the Tirpitz and serving in the BPF
 Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS  FAIREY FULMAR Mk. I, 803 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Formidable, Mediterranean Sea, December 1940
Extracts from the wartime film Operation Pedestal, with clips of Operation Pedestal the beginning, featuring HMS Eagle, The Heavy Escort Forms up featuring HMS Formidable, Down to the Mediterranean featuring HMS Furious. 
Aircraft profiles by Scott Fraser, owner of Tally Ho! decals Martlet II (G-36B), AM978, 888 Squadron, HMS Formidable Madagascar, May 1942, Martlet IV (F4F-4B), FN121, 893 Squadron, HMS Formidable Mediterranean Sea, early 1943, Martlet II (G-36B), AJ108, 888 Squadron, HMS Formidable Operation 'Torch', October 1942
World Aircraft Carrier Lists and Photo Gallery - from 1913 to 2000. Naval History Information Center, Haze Gray & Underway
Sturtivant, R & Ballance, T  (1994). 'The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1994 ISBN: 0 85130 223 8

The World’s Warships 1941 by Francis E. McMurtrie (1944). Jane's London 1941 1st ed. 

Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II by Francis E. McMurtrie (Editor)(1984). 320 pages. Crescent Books; ISBN: 0517679639

        Last Modified: 23-2-2001


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