HMS Argus 

 Fleet Aircraft Carrier

Ex Conte Rosso (Italy)


In 1916 the Beardmore commercial yard was awarded the contract to complete the half-finished Italian liner Conte Rosso, laid down in 1914, as a prototype aircraft carrier. She was launched 2 Dec 1917, and eventually completed only a matter of weeks before the Armistice. She was commissioned 6 Sep 1918. Between the wars she was employed mainly as a training carrier.

In the first few years of the Second world war, HMS Argus saw service ferrying aircraft to Gibraltar and Malta to augment the defending aircraft during siege of Malta, and for Takoradi for onward staged flights to Egypt, 1941-1942.

In June 1942, Sea Hurricanes from 801 Squadron on HMS Eagle provided top cover for Harpoon, the essential supply convoy heading for Malta. Upon entering the Mediterranean, the convoy came under almost constant attack from the Germans and Italians. The Sea Hurricanes and Fulmars from HMS Argus did an outstanding job of defending the convoy, with No 801 Squadron claiming six Italian planes. This was the beginning of the Sea Hurricane’s escapades in the Mediterranean.

Argus's other main role was for deck landing training for RN aircraft from the 767 sqdn deck-landing school at RNAS Arbroath in 1939-1941. Her operational duties, included notably an Arctic convoy (early 1943) and involvement in the North African landings in Noivember 1942. From mid-1943 she was again used only for training in home waters.

After being paid off in December 1944, she served as an accommodation ship 1945 and eventually sold on 5 December 1946. She was scrapped in 1947.

Battle Honours
Atlantic 1941 - 2, Arctic 1941, Malta Convoys 1942, North Africa


Personalities included Richard Acworth RAF and Gray-Worcester Flying Officer Anthony Gray-Worcester, RAF no. 33338, Bennett Pilot Officer R. J. Bennett, RAF no. 40982 Pilot Officer P. E. C. Strahan, RAF no. 36154 , Pilot Officer P. O. V. Green, RAF no. 41015, Pilot Officer J Hamlyn, RAF no. 40109, Pilot Officer R. H. Smith, RAF no. 36161 when RAF Sqd 112 formed on HMS Argus in 1939.
Squadrons and Aircraft
Squadrons and aircraft for when Argus was engaged on operations. November 1939 14 Fairey Swordfish Trainers. June 1940 11 Fairey Swordfish. August 1940 3 Fairey Swordfish. April 1941 12 Fairey Swordfish. May 1941 3 Fairey Fulmar Fighters. August 1941 2 Grumman Martlet.  November 1941 4 Fairey Fulmar, 4 Fairey Swordfish, 2 Sea Hurricane. January 1942 4 Fairey Fulmar and 4 Fairey Swordfish.
FAA squadrons embarked Dates Aircraft type
701 June 1940-Oct 1940 Walrus I
821X Dec 1940  Swordfish I
825 dt Dec 1940-Jan 1941 Swordfish I
800Y May 1941  Fulmar I
804B Sept 1941-Oct 1941  Fulmar I
828 Sept 1941-Oct 1941 Albacore I and Swordfish I
818 dt Sept 1941-Nov 1941 Swordfish I
812 Nov 1941-April 1942 Swordfish I
804 dt Nov 1941 Fulmar II
807 dt Nov 1941 Fulmar II
807 Feb 1942-June 1942 Fulmar II
801 May 1942-June 1942 Sea Hurricane Ib
824 dt May 1942-June 1942 Swordfish I
804 July 1942-Aug 1942 Hurricane IIb
880 Oct 1942-Nov 1942 Spitfire Vb
837A dt Jan 1943-Feb 1943 Swordfish I/II
Associations and Reunions
No information
Carrier name HMS Argus. Ex Conte Rosso (Italy)
Class Argus
Type Fleet Aircraft Carrier
Ships in Class Argus
Launched Laid down 1914. Dec 1917 Commissioning Sep 1918.
Tonnage Net displacement 14,000 tons, Gross displacement 15,750 tons, Load 1750 tons
Engines Twelve cylindrical boilers; four Parsons geared turbines @ 20000 hp, 4 shafts
Speed in Knots 20.75 knots
Armament Gun: four 1 x 4" AA four machine-guns, four Lewis guns 
Crew Complement 272 Officers & Ratings excluding Air Group
Range  4370nm @ 16 knots
Length (ft/inches) Length 576
Beam (ft/inches) Beam 79 ft 6"
Draught (ft/inches) 22 Ft 6"
Flight Deck length (ft/inches) 470
Flight Deck width (ft/inches) 85
Armour  -
Number of aircraft carried up to 18 aircraft 
Fate of carrier Paid off Dec. 1944. Sold 5 Dec. 1946. Scrapped 1947
Notes  -

Royal Navy Ships of World War 2 Summary history of the carrier Argus 
British Forces. com web Information
The Malta Convoys 1941 - 1942 - War at Sea 1939-1945 Details of each of the Malta convoys and of the operations of the aircraft carriers Argus, Ark Royal, Eagle, Furious, Indomitable and Victorious
Warship photographs of the Royal Navy A to Z.   Information about HMS Argus in Operation Pedestal and the Malta Convoys. 
The FLEET AIR ARM MEMORIES website of Chris Young  About the photograph collection of the late C.S.Snoxell, TAG who served on HMS Argus and other carriers 1923-1941.
 An A-Z of Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS  HAWKER HURRICANE Mk.I, 418 Flight, Royal Air Force, H.M.S. Argus (en route Malta), August 1940
World Aircraft Carrier Lists and Photo Gallery - from 1913 to 2000. Naval History Information Center, Haze Gray & Underway American based World Aircraft Carrier Lists & Photo Gallery - one of the definitive online sources for British and world aircraft carrier & seaplane tender data, histories and images - over 1000 photos. 
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). Janes London 1941 1st ed. 

Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II by Francis E. McMurtrie (Editor)(1944). 320 pages. Crescent Books; ISBN: 0517679639

        Last Modified: 23-2-2001


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