Ark Royal in Plymouth Sound – Extra Info
Ark Royal motto: Zeal Does Not Rest
This Ark Royal was the fourth ship in the British Royal Navy to bear this distinctive name.
This Ark Royal was far the most impressive, a mighty ship built to include the angled flight deck, a revolutionary development at the time, with steam catapult, both British inventions.
With the RNAS ending the use of fixed wing aircraft, Ark Royal was quickly considered obsolete, being paid off in 1978 and laid up on the Hamoaze near the Tamar bridge, Plymouth, Devon.
Ark Royal in the late 1970s, starred in a major BBC television documentary series, Sailor tracking life on board HMS Ark Royal.
The theme song for the programme, “Sailing” by Rod Stewart– is still associated with the ship and her successor, the fifth Ark Royal (which was decommissioned in 2011).
HMS Ark Royal IV was built to be Flagship of the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers.
Ark Royal was a mobile airfield and a most impressive sight as she launched a Buccaneer or Phantom jet from one of her catapults.
With a standard displacement of 43,000 tons, a beam of 168 feet, and was 846 feet long.
Ships Company numbered 2,570 and her Air Group consisted of Phantom Interceptors, Buccaneer strike and Gannet AEW aircraft together with Wessex SAR and Sea King ASW helicopters.
Ark Royal served her Nation and the Royal Navy for 23 years and sailed 900,000 miles of valuable service, finally being decommissioned in 1979.
This Ark Royal was the sister ship to HMS Eagle, initially named HMS Audacious hence the name of the class.
Both ships were extensively upgraded throughout their lifetimes.
Ark Royal was 7 years building to launch, and 5 more before completion.
During this time ideas and technology were changing fast so Ark Royal underwent considerable redesign, and was markedly different from her sister HMS Eagle.
As commissioned, Ark Royal was fitted with a 5.5° partially-angled flight deck.
Ark Royal’s flight deck as built was 800 feet (240 m) long by 112 feet (34 m) wide, a new mirror landing system, 2 steam catapults capable of launching aircraft weighing up to 14,000 kg, a deck-edge lift on the port side and modified armament.
These improvements allowed Ark Royal’s aircraft to land and take off from the carrier simultaneously.
A year after commissioning, to improve aircraft operations over the angled deck, Ark Royal’s forward port 4.5 inch (114 mm) guns were removed.
Four years later, the port deck edge lift and the forward starboard 4.5 inch (114 mm) guns were also removed.
The remaining 4.5 inch guns were removed in the 1964 refit.
From March 1967 to February 1970, she underwent her final major refit.
This refit included an 8.5° angled flight deck, 3 new catapults, new arresting gear, a new island, and partially new electronics (some of her original radars were retained). Ark Royal was also fitted for 4 Seacat missile launchers, but they were never installed, so when completed Ark Royal had no defensive armament.
This extraordinary idea accepted by the politicians of Thatcher’s economy led government was one of many they had, shown to be expensive errors during the Falklands war.
Initially the Ark Royal had a complement of 78 aircraft comprising of Sea Hawks, Gannets, Skyraiders and various helicopters.
This Ark Royal participated in many exercises with the British fleet and NATO, but saw no combat duty.
During the Suez Crisis in 1956, a year after commissioning, she was still working up at her post-refit trials.
In 1963, she carried out trials for a new type of Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (V/STOL) aircraft, the Hawker P.1127, which developed into the famous jump jet, the Hawker-Siddeley Harrier and Sea Harrier.
Ark Royal was involved in a notorious incident in 1970 when she collided with the Soviet destroyer Kotlin while Kotlin was shadowing Ark Royal (a common practice during the Cold War) in the Mediterranean in a NATO exercise. Ark Royall was damaged only slightly while the Soviet destroyer Kotlin sustained significant damage.
By 1970, the Ark Royal carried a complement of 43 aircraft, comprising of F-4 Phantoms (the only British carrier to operate the type) and Buccaneers.
In July 1976, she represented Britain at the United States Bicentennial Celebration in New York City.
Originally intended to be removed from service in the mid 1970s, she was kept operational only by cannibalizing parts from her decommissioned sister HMS Eagle.
Ark Royal was paid off finally in 1979 and despite efforts to preserve her she was scrapped.
The scrapping of the Ark Royal in 1980, two years after the Eagle had been scrapped, marked the end of fixed-wing naval operation aboard Royal Navy carriers excluding the use of Sea Harriers.
She had borne so many new inventions, and yet, was not replaced by a new carrier with them.
There was some discussion about preserving her as a museum ship, and some private funds were raised; however, the Ministry of Defence would not sanction these efforts.
Ironically the Falklands War occurred only two years after the Ark Royal was scrapped.
If this carrier had still been in service for the conflict the Argentine Air Force would have had a considerably tougher time attacking on the British Royal and Merchant Navy.
Today, Great Britain is building new strike carriers.
HMS Ark Royal is a name that has been borne by five ships in the British Royal Navy.
Only one Ark Royal saw service before the age of flight – yet she, too, occupies a place of prominence in maritime history.
She was no less a vessel than the flagship of the Lord High Admiral, Howard of Effingham, who led the British Fleet to victory over Spain’s Armada in 1588.
The first Ark Royal was built as Ark Raleigh at Deptford, Kent, on the River Thames in 1587, to the order of the famous Devon seaman Sir Walter Raleigh.
She was bought (“money well given”, according to her new commander, Lord Howard of Effingham) for Queen Elizabeth’s navy for £5,000 and, renamed in honour of the Queen, Ark Royal, became the flagship of the English fleet waiting in Plymouth for and later engaging the Spanish Armada of 1588.
In 1608, under the new monarch James I, she was rebuilt and renamed Anne Royal.
She saw very little further active service and in 1636 was badly damaged after running aground in the Thames so broken up and re cycled.
Almost 300 years passed before another Ark Royal joined the British Fleet.
She was purchased by the Admiralty in 1913 while undergoing construction as a merchant ship at Blyth, Scotland.
She was launched as a 7,400-ton seaplane carrier and within two months of commissioning her aircraft were in action in the Dardanelles campaign.
She was renamed HMS Pegasus in 1934, to free the name Ark Royal for a new ship, and was broken up in 1950, thus outliving her successor by some 9 years.
The third Ark Royal (91) was launched in 1938, saw much action in World War II, and is best known for her fairy Swordfish aircraft crippling the German Battleship Bismarck.
This Ark Royal was sunk by a U-boat near Gibraltar in 1941.
This, the fourth Ark Royal (R09) is the subject of this painting.
The fifth Ark Royal (R07) was an Invincible-class aircraft carrier.
She served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.