Update: Open-sided versus closed hangars in aircraft carriers

I’ve previously seen bits and pieces of this document quoted by authors such as Hobbs and Brown, I’ve now finally gotten hold of the whole thing.

This memorandum was compiled in July 1943. It was after some considerable war experience. It was also after the USN had shared its action and damage reports relating to aircraft carriers for the first years of the war in the Pacific.

Naturally, the naval constructors and designers had a burning question:

Which was better?

Open or closed hangars?

Obviously it is a question we are still asking. But it is fascinating to see what the RN’s Director of Naval Construction (Goodall) was thinking at the height of the war.

Update: HMS Victorious Captain's report for Operation Pedestal

I’ve added this transcript of the original HMS Victorious, Operation ‘Pedestal’report as it provides a fascinating insight of what was to that point the longest running and most intense carrier-involved air battle of the war.

It also demonstrated the power of HMS Victorious’ experimental Fighter Control facilities and techniques, and a first-hand account of this experience is clearly detailed here.

It also comes to some interesting conclusions … this one in particular, which would be reversed just months later as HMS Victorious toured with the USS Saratoga:

It is tempting when planning an operation to try and obtain additional force by loading carriers with more aircraft than they are designed to take. It is emphasized that our carriers are designed and fitted to operate as many aircraft as will stow in the hangars. The addition of a deck cargo slows up operation and this is greatly aggravated if the aircraft forming the deck cargo are too large to go down the lifts. The point is very soon reached where fewer aircraft can be got in the air because there are too many onboard.

This must be read in the context of the difficult mixture of folding and non-folding aircraft Victorious was carrying at the time, and that she didn’t have the additional aircraft handlers and deck tractors that would come soon after… But it does show how the RN had to grapple with the restricted size of these “Batch I” armoured carriers, and the need to operate as many aircraft as possible.

Update: Picture donation and new content

Alll my Christmases have just come at once ... John Clark - the son of the photographer aboard HMS Illustrious when it was bombed on in 1941 - has just been in touch with me. His father's photo album has high-quality prints of the action - including many of those missing from the archives! Wow.

Among them is a particularly clean and high resolution print of the deck of HMS Illustrious shortly after the first bombing wave.

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Given the rare clarity of this early print from the original plate/negative, the detail is much greater. I feel this strengthens the idea the wreckage on HMS Illustrious' aft deck is the Stuka wing referred to by a couple of accounts...

Meanwhile, I know I have not done any major content updates in a considerable time. This is due to growing family and demanding work commitments.

However, I have constantly been tinkering by adding and updating images, video and 3d models etc to enhance existing pages. So they may be worth a fresh look.

And I’ve finally managed to get my hands on sufficient detail about the design history and conceptual work behind the USS Midway class of armoured carriers. I’m just reading through it all now - taking notes - and hope to write that up sometime in the new year.

Thanks to you all.

Update: Original "USS Robin" documents added

Predictably, the page on HMS Victorious' operations with USS Saratoga as part of the US fleet is the most popular on the site (closely followed by IJN Taiho). So I've been updating it as much as I can. A whole bunch of reports has recently come available through Ben Jones' excellent collection of documents in 

- I've added: ADM 199/534 Letter of Proceedings from Commanding Officer, HMS Victorious to Secretary of Admiralty OPERATING HMS VICTORIOUS WITH US PACIFIC FLEET 29 APril - 6 June 1943 as a related/linked standalone page as it is quite large.

- I've inserted part of an Admiralty assessment of the ability to support the USN along with a reply from President Roosevelt to Churchill discussing needs.

- I'm also going to add some air operations assessment documents shortly where the FAA discusses what it observed of US practices.

Update: Still here



I know things appear to have been quiet since May, but I've been constantly 'tinkering' under the hood - replacing less relevant pictures with new ones as I discover them, adding video - deleting dead links, adding new first-person accounts, detailing more technical components on existing pages, as well as uploading amazing reader contributed archival material.

You may have also noticed a restructure of the home-page to put the damage control assessments and original documents in a somewhat more prominent position.

I've also done a fair bit to update, expand, correct and illustrate the 'Debunking Slade & Worth's Were the Armoured Carriers Worthwhile page ... any feedback (preferably attributed and sourced) most welcome.

I hope to find some time in my January holidays to tackle Operation Ironclad (the invasion of Madagascar) which featured air operations from Illustrious and Indomitable.

I'm also considering a major reworking of the Doctrine Determined page, based on books published since I first wrote it - including Fighters over the Fleet (American and British Aircraft Carrier Development was published before I started, but I didn't get a copy until fairly recently).

Regards, and thanks for your patronage.

Update: Matapan to Tiger - HMS Formidable's forgotten 1941 fight

I've added a page detailing HMS Formidable's 'forgotten fight' in the eastern Mediterranean in the first half of 1941.

Everybody knows about the Battle of Matapan, but little of Formidable's role in it.

Almost nobody knows about the Tiger Convoy, the urgent rush of tanks and aircraft through the Sicilian Channel to reinforce Egypt against Rommel. Ark Royal and Formidable were instrumental in getting it through.

But it also provides much needed context as to why Formidable's fighter defences were so fragile in Operation MAQ3 - a raid against Scarpanto to support shipping evacuating Crete - in which she was heavily bombed.

Click here to find out about Formidable's activities betwen February and March 1941.

Operation Pedestal: Newsreel footage

Stumbled on some great Movietone (now AP) newsreel footage of the Pedestal convoy to Malta. The four or so different reels (some soundless 'extra footage' clippings) included great shots of the carriers engaged in flight and escort operations. Some even captured the moment HMS Indomitable was bombed, and showed her in the final stages of damage control before her fires were completely contained.

I've embedded the original clips from Youtube, but I've also created my own clips to focus on relevant footage for the armoured carrier narrative.

The Pedestal convoy narrative can be found here

ADM 267-27 Indomitable Torpedoed

Thanks to Alexander Clarke, I have a copy of HMS Indomitable's damage report for when she was torpedoed during Operation Husky.

I have uploaded the damage control diagrams.

I'll begin transcribing this extensive document soon (tm), though it may take me quite some time to plod through it all...

Also thanks to Alexander Clarke, I have begun adding missing Appendix chapters to the Captain's Report for HMS Illustrious' January 10, 1941 action.

So far this includes:




Update: Palembang - The FAA'S finest hour

I've finally had some spare time to tackle one of my remaining pages. This time it's the seminal raids by the fledgling British Pacific Fleet against the oil refineries of Palembang in Operation Meridian.

It's yet another one of the Forgotten Fleet's forgotten actions. Even at the time, British media barely mentioned the fact that four of its fleet carriers had operated in concert to seriously damage two of Japan's largest oil production facilities. 

Like all battles, its impact on the war effort is a matter of eternal debate. While neither refinery was ever fully repaired, Japan was eventually able to increase production elsewhere to make up the shortfall. But, by that time, the lack of tankers meant the much needed aviation and bunker fuel ended up just sitting in its storage tanks.

Henry Adlam argues Palembang was the Royal Navy's greatest achievement of World War II. He also argues that it leaves Taranto in its shadow.
I don't fully agree. But it was certainly the largest, most complex and well-opposed operation the FAA ever engaged in.

Judge for yourselves.

CLICK HERE - Palembang, the FAA's finest hour

Updates: Norfolk Navy Yard pictures of HMS Illustrious

Thanks immensely to 'Researcher at Large' for providing me with scans of Norfolk Navy Yard photos and damage diagrams of HMS Illustrious after her bombing during Operation Excess.

I think it is fair to say that many of these pictures have not been printed or distributed before as researchers have picked over (and often not returned) copies in the British Admiralty Archive.

These pictures have been added (and more will be added) to the Operation Excess and Damage Overview pages.

Update: Operations Councillor to Robson, the British Eastern Fleet

While the British Pacific Fleet is often called the 'Forgoten Fleet', it is the operations that led up to its formation that have truly been lost to history.

Once USS Saratoga departed in early 1944, it was up to HMS Illustrious and her colleagues - freshly arriving from Europe - to re-learn the lost art of RN multi-carrier operations and 'get up to speed' to serve alongside the USN in the Pacific.

It was not a process without incident or hurdle - not least among them having to come to grips with the limitations of the Fairy Barracuda.

Read here

Update: IJN Taiho - Japan's armoured carrier

There isn't a lot of reliable, in-depth information about Japan's armoured carrier, Taiho, floating about in readily accessible publications. Even worse so than Britain's Illustrious class armoured carriers. But fortunately you can scratch about and find a few works which provide a comprehensive account. From these  I've assembled an overview of the doctrine, design and fate of this radical ship.

Fortunately, a comprehensive account can be found in the Polish/English Okretow Wojennych publication by Lars Ahlberg and Hans Lengerer – Taiho, Volumes 1 and 2. These documents go well beyond detailing Taiho's evolution and characteristics. They also spell out in fine detail the Japanese doctrines and practices that shaped her.

IJN Taiho - Japan's armoured carrier

Update: Operation Judgement - the attack on Taranto

I've added a page on the attack on Taranto by HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and 20 of her Swordfish. The results were disproportionately successful - one battleship permanently out of action and two severely damaged, for the loss of two Swordfish.

The details of the attack - which was truly an enormous operation involving pretty much the entire Mediterranean - are often passed over in most general histories. But it is an operation truly deserving of far more attention than it is given. 

This was the attack that proved the strength of fleet carriers, as well as the vulnerability of even heavily defended naval bases to determined torpedo attack aircraft.

CLICK HERE to see read all about Operation Judgement


Update: Audacious Class, Indomitable torpedoed

I've put up two new pages in recent weeks.

First is an overview of HMS Indomitable's battle damage sustained during Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, in 1943. Transcribing the original damage report is an ongoing process...

Second is an overview of the ultimate 'armoured box' carrier design - the Audacious Class (Better known as HMS Ark Royal and Eagle). Initiated as a repeat of the Indomitable sub-class, war developments saw a complete re-think of the concept, resulting in a much larger - and more capable - ship.

Update: Joint operations between USS Saratoga and HMS Illustrious

I've added a page pulling together what I can find about the largely overlooked joint operations between USS Saratoga and HMS Illustrious in May-June 1944.

This was intended to be a crash course in the new methods devised for the fast-paced Pacific war. HMS Illustrious, with a new air wing in the process of working up with the only-just introduced Corsair and the problematic Barracuda, had much to learn.

It was certainly a completely different style of war to the defensive operations she and the other armoured carriers had been engaged in for the previous four years.

But the veteran Saratoga taught the old-dog new tricks: Which she would in turn pass on to HMS Victorious, Indomitable and Indefatigable during the many 'Club Runs' against Japanese Indian Ocean installations during the remainder of the year.

Thanks to the generosity of David Anderson in the US, I've been able to transcribe two USN documents relating to this operation: A Liaison Officer's report, and the debriefing interview with VF-12's Commander Clifton.  

Update: New original documents added

Two documents relating to "USS Robin" - the Captain's Report from HMS Victorious and the USN Liaison Report - have been transcribed and added to page.

The original "Staff Requirement" drawn up in 1936 to initiated the detailed design of the Illustrious Class has been added.

A transcript of an account of one of the Seafire pilots who crash-landed aboard USS Essex in 1945 is also now available: Another interesting cross-service insight.

New article: USS Robin - The ship that never was

I've pulled together as detailed an account as I can concerning the transfer of HMS Victorious to the USN in 1943 from a variety of sources. The most useful, however, was Micahel Apps' "Send her Victorious". This book was compiled from the carriers' wardroom scuttlebut during the 1960s and interviews with crew who had served on the carrier during World War II.

Also now attached are original documents including the Captain's Report from Captain Mackintosh, and an Air Technical Analysis Division interview with USN Liaison Commander Mitchell

Click here: USS Robin - The ship that never was.