HMS Eagle (1918)
Launched in 1918, HMS Eagle was an aircraft carrier in the Royal Navy and the fourteenth ship to bear that name. The aircraft carrier was built on the hull of a battleship ordered by Chile . The ship served in the British Navy from its commissioning in 1924 until it was sunk in 1942.
During the Second World War , the aircraft carrier Eagle was awarded the Battle Honors "Calabria 1940", "Mediterranean 1940" and " Malta Convoys 1942 ". On August 11, 1942, the Eagle was torpedoed south of Mallorca by U 73 and sank within four minutes. 160 members of the crew died.
In 1911 the Chilean Navy ordered two battleships from the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard in Newcastle upon Tyne , which had already delivered a number of warships for the South American state, such as the Esmeralda and the O'Higgins . The first of the battleships, the Almirante Latorre , was started in 1912 and was already in the final equipment when the First World War broke out . In 1914, the Chilean ships were not treated like the newbuildings under construction in other countries, but the British endeavored to reach an amicable settlement. Great Britain, for example, formally acquired the new Chilean buildings for the duration of the war in order to return them to Chile after the war had ended. The Almirante Latorre came into service with the Royal Navy in 1915 as HMS Canada . The same was done with the four destroyers of the Faulknor class not yet delivered by J. Samuel White .
Redesign to an aircraft carrier
The later Eagle was started in 1913 as the second battleship for the Armada de Chile with the planned name Almirante Cochrane at the Armstrong-Whitworth shipyard in Elswick . When the World War broke out, the work, which was not very advanced, was discontinued, however, as all capacities were needed for Great Britain's war effort. From 1917 onwards, the Royal Navy believed in the use of wheeled aircraft from ships to add to the value of this weapon. In the wake of these considerations, the Admiralty decided to buy the hull of the unfinished second Chilean battleship for 1.3 million pounds sterling in order to build a carrier with a continuous flight deck from it. The conversion was ordered on January 25, 1918 and in March the new building was given the name Eagle , when an existing 74-gun ship that was used as a training ship in Liverpool was renamed the Eaglet . On June 8, 1918, the future aircraft carrier was launched with a few modifications to the hull after the experience with the sister ship Canada and was towed down the Tynes to Walker Yard a few days later to be completed there. The originally planned two chimneys have now been redirected to the outside in order to be led upwards in two planned lateral islands of the girder. Behind the smokestacks, the hangar for the emergency aircraft began on the fuselage. With a length of 121.9 m, it was 20 m wide and 8 m high. The steel flight deck formed the ceiling of the hangar and continued to the bow and stern on stilts and struts. At the end of the war, the construction work on the unfinished ship was largely stopped. They were resumed in the spring of 1919, only to be discontinued in October, as it was considered to give the ship to Chile. The proponents of an aircraft carrier based on a warship prevailed, especially since the cost of completion as a battleship would significantly exceed the price agreed with Chile and Chile also had little interest in a second battleship. However, the Admiralty decided to complete it at the Portsmouth Navy Yard . The Armstrong shipyard on the Tyne therefore prepared the ship from November 1919 for the transfer trip, which took place in April 1920. The ship had no armament, only an island and a funnel. Only two oil-fired boilers were in operation. With these two vessels, the ship reached 18.5 knots (kn) on a test voyage and partly completed the overpass at 16 kn continuous speed.
First tests as a carrier
The first tests with aircraft began in May. First in the harbor, then before Portsmouth and finally around Scapa Flow . A large number of different aircraft such as Sopwith 2F1 Camel , Parnall Panther , Bristol F.2B , Sopwith Cuckoo , de Havilland DH9 and DH9A were used . By the end of October 1920, over 140 deck landings were carried out, in which there were twelve accidents in which no one was injured and no machine was destroyed. On November 16, 1920, the ship was decommissioned to be completely completed.
During the final completion, many of the original ideas were discarded, such as the idea of two side islands connected by a bridge over the planes. The ship received an island with a bridge and two chimneys on the starboard side, which, for reasons of space, could not be optimized in terms of flow technology as would have been desirable according to flow channel tests. In front of the island was a tripod with the command post. The hull was protected by an additionally installed torpedo bead.
The flight deck covered the entire hull and tapered to a point at the bow. It had a length of 652 ft. And a maximum width of 96 ft. The hangar below was connected to the flight deck by two central elevators, of which the front was operated purely electrically and had a cross shape, while the rear was a hydraulic-electric And was rectangular. Both were 14 m long, the rear 10 m wide. The 122 m long hangar consisted of four parts that could be separated by fire curtains. The front, slightly wider part around the front elevator in front of the island structure, the second, narrow part (10 m) next to the island structure, the widest part (20 m) behind the structure and towards the rear an even narrower part around the rear elevator.
The armament, which was initially designed to fight against small cruisers of the Imperial Navy, finally consisted of nine 152 mm Mk.XVII individual guns on the ship's hull near the waterline, four of which were placed on the side of the foredeck and another five in the stern area. The originally planned armament with torpedo tubes was dispensed with. But there were also five 102 mm Mk.V anti-aircraft guns , two of which were in front of and one behind the superstructure on deck. The other two were installed between the chimneys and behind the rear chimney on the island structure. Originally, they did not want to install anti-aircraft weapons at all, as fighter aircraft stationed on the carrier provided sufficient protection against attacking aircraft. In 1921 they would have liked to have installed automatic weapons for close range, but their development was not yet complete. During his first period of service, the carrier had only two 7.7 mm twin machine guns of the Lewis type in the command post. Before the conversion, the ship was powered by coal and oil like many ships at the time, but the drive has now been completely converted to oil. Initially 3,050 tons of oil could be carried, this was later increased to 3,810 tons. However, 510 tonnes of this were needed to compensate for ballast. The commissioning took place in February 1924. The construction of the ship thus took 11 years with interruptions. The ship was known to the entire fleet because all displays in the engine room were in Spanish and metric units ; (a holdover from the construction time as a Chilean ship).
Pre-war operations of the Eagle
After tests from September 1923, including a journey at 24.37 knots over eight hours, test landings of the emergency aircraft and the delivery of the missing equipment (front lift and ammunition feeds for the 102 mm guns), the ship was on February 26, 1924 put into service. On June 7th, the Eagle arrived at the Mediterranean Fleet , where she was to spend her first active period. With 24 aircraft, it was the carrier with the largest aircraft equipment in the world. These were organized into four "Flights" of six machines: No 402 Flight with Flycatcher -Jagdflugzeugen , No 422 Flight with Blackburn -Aufklärern , No 460 Flight with darts -Torpedobombern and No 440 Flight with Seagull -II - an amphibian to educate and support of the fleet. However, one of the flights was usually not on board and trained from the land bases Halfar on Malta or Aboukir near Alexandria . By the summer of 1931, the aircraft carrier had three periods of service with the Mediterranean fleet.
During this time, the 402 Flight with Flycatcher fighters and the 460 Flight with Dart torpedo bombers remained unchanged. However, the equipment of the reconnaissance flights has been changed. First, the unsatisfactory Seagulls were replaced by Fairey IIID , which could be used as wheel and float planes. In 1929 the 440 Flight received Fairey IIIF . The 422 Flight was replaced in 1925 by the No 421B Flight with six Avro Bison . For its second mission in the Mediterranean, its position was also taken by No 448 Flight with Bison s, which were also replaced by Fairey IIIF scouts in 1929 .
A special event was a South America voyage of the Eagle during its third assignment with the Mediterranean fleet. On January 8, 1931, the aircraft carrier left Malta to take over a special flight in Portsmouth, which was formed from the latest British naval aircraft ( Hawker Nimrod and Osprey fighter planes , Blackburn Ripon torpedo bombers , Fairey Seal reconnaissance aircraft). With these machines on board, the Eagle ran to Buenos Aires , accompanied by the new destroyer Achates, to take part in the opening of the “British Empire Trade Exhibition” by the Prince of Wales on March 14, 1931 . Eagle demonstrated the new models and its own machines in Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro .
In August 1931, the aircraft carrier returning from the Mediterranean was decommissioned in Devonport to be "modernized". The main reason for a longer repair, however, was the ship's boiler, all of which had to be replaced. It was also necessary to strengthen the stern structure. For this purpose, the crew rooms were converted and now offered space for 753 members of the Royal Navy and 235 of the Royal Air Force . The ventilation of the living and working rooms has also been improved. The anti-aircraft armament was changed. The 102 mm gun between the funnels was replaced by a new eight-way "PomPom" . The planned installation of a second such weapon was not carried out because a second gun was not available in time. In addition, the prototype of a heavy quadruple MG of the Vickers type was installed for the first time . A new fire control system was also installed for the anti-aircraft guns . The safety equipment was also further improved with a foam extinguishing system for the flight deck. Construction work was completed in autumn 1932 and the aircraft carrier returned to service on January 9, 1933. He was supposed to relocate to the Far East and replace the carrier Hermes there . Nine Hawker Osprey of "No.803 Squadron" and nine Fairey IIIF of "No. 824 Squadron" came on board as operational aircraft . The new squadrons were created from No 409 and No 460 Flight .
When the Second World War broke out , the Eagle was in Singapore . In October 1939 she made as part of the Force I hunt for the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee . In the following months she escorted troop carriers in the Indian Ocean until she was damaged on March 14, 1940 by an internal explosion in the front bomb magazine.
After her repairs in Singapore, the Eagle was relocated to the Mediterranean fleet in Alexandria in May . On July 5, their sunken Swordfish bombers in an attack on the port of Tobruk the Italian destroyer Zeffiro the turbine class , and two merchant ships, a third merchant ship was damaged and had to be abandoned later. Four days later she took part in the naval battle at Punta Stilo , on the way back to Alexandria she was violently attacked by the Italian air force. The attacking bombers did not score direct hits, but several close hits led to structural damage to the ship. These remained undiscovered at first, so that the Eagle attacked the port of Tobruk again on July 20, with its bombers sunk the destroyers of the turbine class Ostro and Nembo as well as a merchant ship. On August 22, their planes sank the Italian submarine Iride of Perla class and a depot ship in the Gulf of Bomba . In September she took along with the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious in the Operation Hat's part. At the end of the month, their planes attacked Maritza airfield in Rhodes .
After the Eagle was involved in convoy operation MB 6 in mid-October 1940, she was supposed to take part in the attack on Taranto on October 21st, but in between the structural damage, which had worsened in the meantime, had to be repaired in Alexandria. Despite a postponement of the attack to November 11, which had become necessary due to minor damage to the Illustrious , the Eagle could not participate. Some of their bombers were moved to the Illustrious and flew the attack from there.
For the next six months, the Eagle protected convoys in the eastern Mediterranean, their planes attacking Italian airfields and ships. In March 1941 she was relocated to Freetown to operate in the South Atlantic against German blockade breakers , auxiliary cruisers and long-range submarines. During the transfer through the Red Sea and around the southern tip of Africa, their planes took off from Port Sudan on missions against Italian ships in the Red Sea and Massaua .
During their deployment in the South Atlantic, which lasted until October, their aircraft contributed to the sinking of the German blockade breaker Elbe and the capture of the submarine supplier Lorraine (ex Dutch Papendrecht ). The Eagle then returned to Great Britain, where it underwent a major overhaul.
Use with the Force H
In February 1942, was Eagle of Force H allocated by Gibraltar was operating from the western Mediterranean. Up to June, four fighter planes took off from her to Malta from a position south of the Balearic Islands . During Operation Harpoon to supply Malta, the carrier gave air support with Sea Hurricanes to the British convoy en route to Malta from June 12 to 16, 1942 .
The end of the eagle
In August she was used again to cover a Malta convoy ( Operation Pedestal ). On the morning of August 11, 1942, she was hit by four torpedoes from the German submarine U 73 and sank 70 nautical miles south of Cap Salines ( Mallorca ) in just four minutes. 160 crew members were killed, 927 were rescued by the destroyers HMS Laforey and HMS Lookout .
- Peter Brook: Warships for Export, Armstrong warships 1867-1927. World ship Society, Gravesend 1999, ISBN 0-905617-89-4 .
- David Brown: HMS Eagle. Warship Profile 35, Profile Publications, Windsor 1973.
- Maurice Cocker: Aircraft-Carrying Ships of the Royal Navy. The History Press, Stroud 2008, ISBN 978-0-7524-4633-2 .
- David Hobbs: British Aircraft Carriers: Design, Development & Service Histories. Seaforth Publishing, 2014.
- Ray Sturtivant: The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. Air-Britain (Historians), Tonbridge 1984, ISBN 0-85130-120-7 .