Fleet Aircraft Carrier


HMS Glorious was built by Harland & Wolff, being laid down on 1 May 1915 and launched 20 April 1916. She was commissioned on January 1917. Subsequently, she was converted to become an aircraft carrier February 1924 - March 1930. Sunk 18 June 1940 by gunfire from German battlecruisers Scharnhost and Gneisenau while covering the Allied withdrawal from Norway.

Hawker Nimrod S1581 is a preserved former Fleet Air Arm aircraft of 802 squadron HMS Glorious.
It made its first post restoration flight in July 2000

Pre-war HMS Glorious was stationed in the Mediterranean Fleet, primarily at Malta, and with the impending threat of war with Italy she ultimately moved to Alexandria, Egypt. In October 1939, HMS Glorious was part of Force I, supported by the battlecruiser HMS Malaya she patrolled the Gulf of Aden in search of amongst others the Graf Spee. By January 1940, HMS Glorious had landed all of 802 Squadrons aircraft in Malta, her Captain having elected not to carry her fighters during her cruises in the Red Sea.

HMS Courageous 4.7-inch Anti-Aircraft gun semi-automatic quickfirer, nearly sixteen feet in length,
which is mounted only in HMS Rodney, Nelson, Courageous, and Glorious.
The total weight of the gun, with its mounting, is 12 tons.

Twenty four Gladiators were delivered by the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious to Malta in 1939, seven remained on Malta when war was declared by Italy on 10 June 1940.

Fairey IIIF S1405 "45" of HMS Glorious in 1931-1932

With the invasion of Norway on 9 April 1940, HMS Glorious was recalled to England with great haste. On 11 April 1940 when she left Malta, she had re-embarked 802 Squadron with 9 Sea Gladiators. The remaining Sea Gladiators including N5519 "Charity", N5520 "Faith", N5524, N5531 "Hope" were assembled and formed into the RAF Hal Far Fighter Unit on 19 April 1940. HMS Glorious never returned to claim back these aircraft and was later sunk in the war.

Former HMS Glorious Gladiator MkI "Charity" of the Malta Fighter Flight,
Hal Far, Malta 1940

On 9 April 1940 the Germans invaded Norway. Five days later British troops landed at Narvik but it was too little too late. It was during the abortive Allied expedition in Norway that Glorious was first heavily engaged. On 21 April 1940, HMS Ark Royal and Glorious departed England for Norway, arriving on 23 April. 6 Skuas launched to cover the Allied landings near Namsos and Aandulsnes. Then late in the afternoon on 24 April 1940, eighteen Gloster Gladiator II biplanes of 263 RAF squadron flew off Glorious 130 nautical miles off shore, led by two Blackburn Skuas for navigation and landed on a frozen lake. Their arrival at the lake was a great morale booster for the locals who had prepared the 750 x 70 meter airstrip. Ten of them were destroyed next morning by German bombs. Some operational patrols were flown before the remnants of the squadron were withdrawn on the 26th. Of the Gladiators left behind in Norway one has survived. After the battle at lake Lesjaskog, some wrecks along the shore were sold to a local scrap merchant, and the 70-year old lay preacher Ludvig Hope, whose cottage lay on the shore of the lake, purchased the best (HE-B, serial No. N5641) and built a shed for it. There the Gladiator remained, cared for by Mr. Hope's family, until it was donated to the Royal Norwegian Air Force in the mid 1970's. N5641 was later restored at Rygge Air Force Base and displayed in the Flysamlingen at Gardermoen. A couple of years ago it was transferred to the museum at Bodø against the wishes of Mr. Hopes family.

HMS Glorious continued to be fully employed in transporting RAF aircraft to the Norwegian Campaign, and in May 1940,  46 RAF squadron debark from HMS Glorious for Norway with 18 hurricanes.

By late May 1940 Allied troops were being evacuated from Norway after desperate battle against troops of the German Gebirgsjäger, Fallschirmjäger and Heer. Covering the withdrawal of troops from Norway was a strong Royal Navy presence including the aircraft carrier Glorious. With the Luftwaffe a dangerous threat to Allied shipping, valuable protection was afforded by pilots of the Fleet Air Arm, as well as shore based Hurricanes.

In June 1940, the British forces started to evacuate Norway. Operation ALPHABET, the evacuation of all British and Allied forces from Norway, was carried out from the 5th to the 8th of June 1940. On 3 June 1940, HMS Ark Royal and Glorious sailed to Narvik to cover the withdrawal. On 8 June 1940, the Glorious was evacuated along with RAF squadron personnel from 263 and 46 squadrons. In the early hours on 8 June 1940, five Swordfishes led the 10 Gladiators of 263 RAF Squadron and the Hurricanes of 46 RAF Squadron to the Glorious. The Gladiators landed first, followed by the Swordfishes and were stowed below with the other aircraft, the 6 Sea Gladiators of 802 Squadron and the 823 Squadron Swordfish. Finally 7 Hurricanes made their approaches and every one was landed without undue difficulty. This was the first time that high-performance monoplane fighters without arrester hooks had been landed on a carrier.

The Royal Navy force included HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious, cruisers HMS Southampton and HMS Coventry, 16 destroyers and numerous smaller vessels, with which to cover the evacuation convoys. A further cruiser HMS Devonshire was embarking the King of Norway and preparing to sail independently for Scapa Flow.  That morning, HMS Glorious detached from the main British force, accompanied by destroyers Acasta and Ardent,  she set out for Scapa Flow to sail home independently due to a supposed fuel shortage.

At about 1630hrs the two German battlecruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, homing on the smoke from Glorious' stack, opened fire on the three ships at a range of 27,000 yards. Before any aircraft strike could be launched the aircraft carrier received a direct hit on her forward hangar. Fire destroyed the Hurricanes and torpedoes stored below for her aircraft were unable to be retrieved for the aircraft on deck. The small calibre weapons of all three Royal Navy ships were completely ineffective at that range. By 1720hrs she was listing heavily in the swell. Within 20 minutes the carrier had sunk. Both destroyers were also hit. While laying a smoke screen to shield Glorious, first Ardent and then Acasta were sent to the bottom, the latter managing to damage Scharnhorst with a torpedo fired during her death throes. The wrecks are located 170nm W of Harstad, Norway.

Wartime colour photograph on the Scharnhorst

Loss of life from the Glorious included 1 474 Royal Navy crew and 49 Royal Air Force men. Only 39 sailors were rescued by a Norwegian vessel while six were found by the German ships. From the three British ships, 1,519 lost their lives, 41 of the latter were RAF ground personnel, and 18 were pilots, qualifying the incident as one of the worst naval disasters of the second world war.

Battle Honours
Norway 1940

Captain Lyster (-1939)
Captain D'Oyly-Hughes (1939-1940)

RAF aircrew lost with the Glorious includes Pilot Officer Louis Reginald 'Lou' Jacobsen DFC, RAF no. 41423 and his RAF squadron colleagues of 263 sqdn

Squadrons and Aircraft

Former HMS Glorious Gladiator surviving in Malta, Gladiator N5520 one of the famous "Faith, Hope and Charity" aircraft that defended the island in the dark days of war.

Glorious Sept 1939 - 36 x Fairey Swordfish Torpedo Bombers 6 x Sea Gladiator Fighters November 1939 - 36 x Fairey Sworsfish Torpedo Bombers 12 x Sea Gladiator Fighters April 1940 - 11 x Blackburn Skua Fighter / Dive Bombers 18 x Sea Gladiator Fighters June 1940 - 9 x Fairey Sworsfish Torpedo Bombers 9 x Sea Gladiator Fighters

FAA squadrons embarked Dates Aircraft type
823 Dec 1935-June 1940 Swordfish I
825 July 1936-April 1940 Swordfish I
812 Dec 1936-April 1940 Swordfish I
802 Auig 1939-June 1940 Sea Gladiator
803 April 1940 Skua II
804 April-May 1940 Sea Gladiator
701 May 1940 Walrus I

Glorious's squadrons which were retained on board "for her own protection" 8 June 1940 when she was sunk:
823 Squadron FAA 
(CO: Lt. Cdr. C. J. T. Stephens RN)
6 Swordfish 
(one of which was unserviceable on 8 June)
802 Squadron FAA 
(CO: Lt. Cdr. J. F. Marmont RN)
10 Sea Gladiators

The following RAF aircraft were flown on board in the early hours of 8 June 1940 for transport to the UK prior to Glorious being attacked and sunk:
46 Squadron RAF
(CO: Squadron Leader K. B. Cross RAF)

Squadron Leader Cross was a survivor of Glorious and went on to become Air Chief Marshall Sir Kenneth Cross KCB, CBE, DSO, DFC.)

10 Hurricanes
263 Squadron RAF 
(CO: Squadron Leader J. W. Donaldson DSO RAF)
10 Gladiators

Associations and Reunions
HMS Glorious Annual Memorial Service - Contact details via FAAOA

Carrier name HMS Glorious
Class Courageous
Type Fleet Aircraft Carrier Fleet Carriers (CV) (ex Large Light Cruisers)
Ships in Class Courageous, Glorious (half-sister Furious)
Launched Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 1 May 1915. Launched 20 April 1916. Commissioned January 1917.Converted to carrier 1924 - 1930.
Tonnage Final design:- Displacement: 22,352 tons standard ; 26,518 tons full load 
Engines Propulsion: Steam Turbines (18 Yarrow small-tube boilers, 4 shafts, Parsons geared turbines), 90,000 shp.
Speed in Knots Speed: 30.5 knots
Armament Guns: 16 x 4.7 inch AA; 3 octuple 2 pdr pom-pom AA 4 x 1 x 2 pdr pom-pom AA 
Crew Complement Compliment: 1200 Officers & Ratings, including Air Group
Range  Range: 5,860 nmiles at 16 knots
Length (ft/inches) Dimensions: 735 pp, 786.5 oa x 90.5 x 27.75 feet 
Beam (ft/inches)  
Draught (ft/inches)  
Flight Deck length (ft/inches)  
Flight Deck width (ft/inches)  
Number of aircraft carried Aircraft: 48 


Fate of carrier Sunk 18 June 1940 by gunfire from German battlecruisers Scharnhost and Gneisenau
Notes Converted to carrier February 1924 - March 1930.

Both ships of the Class were completed originally as Large Light Cruisers mounting 2 twin 15 inch guns. When these ships were found to be inadequate and there was a need for fast carriers, both were converted along the same lines as Furious; 

In 1934/6, three multiple pom-poms were added, one on each side of the forecastle and one abaft the island. In addition, Glorious had the small quarterdeck raised to upper deck level, and the flight deck extended over. With a tripod mast fitted in Courageous, it was now fairly simple to tell the sisters apart. This pair of carriers were the best conversion for the RN, having the strongest AA armament and air group, yet were lost to the two forms of enemy not designed to combat; the submarine and the battleship.

HMS Courageous Class in THE ROYAL NAVY WWII website History and specifications about Glorious and Courageous
Photographs of HMS Glorious
British Information about the ship.
 Summary history of the carrier Glorious in Royal Navy Ships of World War 2  
Carrier Glorious by: Winton John 
Courageous class Fleet Carriers in Royal Navy ships of World War 2
The Norwegian Campaign - How the Chance to Save HMS GLORIOUS was Lost
The Loss of HMS Glorious An Analysis of the Action by Vernon W. Howland Captain, RCN (Retd.) 
"The sinking of HMS Glorious and loss of 263 Squadron" in Håkans aviation page
"Gloster Sea Gladiators and Fiat CR.42s over Malta 1940-41" in Håkans aviation page. Detailed history of the HMS Glorious's Sea Gladiators of Malta in Håkans aviation page.
NO. 263 (F) SQUADRON IN NORWAY by Warbirds of Norway About 263 RAF squadron and the surviving Gladiataor in a Norwegian Museum
Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS GLOSTER SEA GLADIATOR Mk.I, 802 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, H.M.S. Glorious, August 1939, GLOSTER SEA GLADIATOR Mk.I, Fighter Flight Malta, Royal Air Force, Hal Far, Malta, July 1940 This aircraft [named "Charity"] was shot down on 29.7.40 The pilot, Flying Officer P.W.Hartley, was severely burned, GLOSTER GLADIATOR Mk. II, 263 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Lake Lesjaskog, Norway, April 1940, HAWKER NIMROD Mk.II, 802 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, H.M.S. Glorious, October 1937 
Carrier Glorious by Winton John. 1986. Publisher: Cassell. ISBN: 0304352446  The life and death of an aircraft carrier. One of the most extraordinary stories of
 human folly in World War II: the sudden destruction of the Royal Navy aircraft
 carrier HMS Glorious off the Norwegian coast in June 1940 by the German
 battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisnau. 
Loss of the Glorious. "Secret History" series on Channel 4. Producer: Barker
House of Commons Hansard Debates for 28 Jan 1999 (pt 30)
28 Jan 1999 : Column 564 HMS Glorious-[Mr. Kevin Hughes.] 
House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 27 Jan 2000 (27 Jan 2000 : Column: 223W). DEFENCE. HMS Glorious. 
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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