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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2003

HMS HERMES - early Aircraft Carrier
including Convoy Escort Movements

HMS Hermes, and below in 1934 (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

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The ninth British warship to bear the name HERMES and was the first Royal Navy warship designed and built for use as an aircraft carrier. Ordered from Armstrong's at Elswick in July 1917 and laid down on 15th January 1918. After launched on 11th September 1919 work was suspended and in January 1920 the vessel was towed to HM Dockyard Devonport for completion. By the completion date in July 1923 it had been possible to take into account some of the lessons learnt during the conversion and reconstruction of HMS FURIOUS. That ship had been altered from her designed role as a battle cruiser to operate several aircraft instead of being restricted to one or two as in other major warships. Three design changes had been necessary before HMS FURIOUS was able to be used operationally in her new role as an aircraft carrier.


The island structure sited on the starboard side of the flight deck included the funnel and a Gunnery Control position at the top of the mast. A special ventilation system was provided in the hangar to reduce the danger of fire from petrol fumes. New handing gear was used to assist in moving aircraft and an electric lift was fitted from the after end of the hangar to the flight deck.


The original design allowed for 15 aircraft but by 1938 had increased to 20. In 1939 the total complement was 1,575 including aircrew and maintenance personnel.


HMS HERMES proved to be very satisfactory in her designed role and was an excellent sea-boat with little roll.


Her full load displacement was about 12,900 tons with an overall length of 598 feet and a bean of 70 feet 9 outside bilges. She had a mean draught of 18 feet 9 inches. Armour protection was similar to that in light cruisers.


The armament fitted consisted of six 5.5 inch guns for defence against surface ships and AA defence of three 4in guns was provided. Before the outbreak of war additional close range weapons for use against aircraft were fitted and later during WW2 some 20mm guns. Replacement of the 5.5in armament by eight twin 4.5in guns was intended.


Geared turbines with a shaft horsepower of 40,000 driving 2 shafts gave a speed of 25 knots.


HMS HERMES was in use as an accommodation ship for officers under training in 1938 and brought forward for service in 1939. She was deployed in the Atlantic for trade protection duties for a brief period before the outbreak of war and was then transferred to the Indian Ocean. In April 1942 whilst deployed with the Eastern Fleet she came under air attack from a Japanese aircraft carrier with heavy loss of life after being hit by several bombs.





B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


BURMA  1852 - ATLANTIC  1940


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

        Badge : On a Field Blue, the Head of Hermes with winged hat, all gold


M o t t o

Altioro petro  -  'I seek higher things'



D e t a i l s   o f    W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 93 9


September             Joined Fleet after being used as an accommodation ship.

                                Deployed on trade protection duty in Atlantic.


October                  Joined Hunting Force N in Caribbean for interception of German raiders and

                                for trade protection with French battleship STRASBOURG.


November              Continued duties in western Atlantic.


December              Transferred to Indian Ocean in continuation of interception duty.


1 9 4 0


January                 Continued trade defence and interception duties in Indian Ocean.

to April



                31st         Deployed with HM Cruiser CUMBERLAND to cover passage of Convoy US3

                                taking ANZAC troops to UK.


June                        Transferred to Atlantic for convoy defence and interception duties.

                8th          Joined escort for US3 until relieved by HM Aircraft Carrier ARGUS on 12th June.

                23rd        Joined HM Cruiser DORSETSHIRE in surveillance of Vichy warships at Dakar.



                6th          Escorted by HMS DORSETSHIRE and HM Australian Cruiser AUSTRALIA made

                                torpedo attacks on French battleship RICHELIEU at Dakar with SWORDFISH



August                  Resumed convoy defence and interception duties in Atlantic.

to October


November              Joined Hunting Group based at St. Helena for interception duties.


December              Carried out search for German battleship SCHEER in South Atlantic Ocean with

                                HM Cruiser DRAGON.


1 9 4 1


January                  Transferred to Indian Ocean.

                                Deployed in support of shore military operations in Eritrea.

                                Carried out air strike on troops and ships.


February                Continued support of military operations and made air attacks on Mogadishu and


                22nd       Sailing with light cruiser CAPETOWN, and joined by HM Heavy Cruisers AUSTRALIA,

                                CANBERRA (both RAN) and SHROPSHIRE, and HM Cruisers HAWKINS, EMERALD,

                                ENTERPRISE and GLASGOW to search for the German battleship

                                ADMIRAL SCHEER.

                24th        Search called off and resumed convoy defence duties.


March                    Deployed in Indian Ocean in continuation.


April                       Detached for duty in Persian Gulf to cover allied operations in Iran after a

                                pro-German coup.


May                        Supported military operations and aircraft made attacks on shore targets.

                                Damaged in collision with HM Armed Merchant Cruiser CORFU.


June                        Passage to South Africa


July                         Under repair in HM Dockyard Simonstown.

to October


November              Resumed convoy defence in Indian Ocean.

                16th        At Capetown with HM Battleship PRINCE OF WALES on passage to join Force Z

                                at Singapore. Not deployed with Force Z because of lack of speed.


December              Under refit at Durban.


1 9 4 2


January                  Under refit at Durban.


February                On completion resumed convoy defence duties in Indian Ocean.



                26th        At Trincomalee and joined Eastern Fleet on formation.

                31st         Joined HM Battleships RAMILLIES, REVENGE, RESOLUTION and ROYAL

                SOVEREIGN in Force B of Eastern Fleet to support HM Battleship WARSPITE

                HM Aircraft Carrier INDOMITABLE, HM Cruiser EMERALD and HM Cruiser

                ENTERPRISE (Force A) during search for Japanese warships in Indian Ocean.



                4th          Detached to take passage to Trincomalee and prepare for Madagascar landing


                8th          Remained south of Ceylon after Japanese air attacks and had no serviceable

                                aircraft on board.

                9th          Under attack by Japanese aircraft off Ceylon and sank after being hit by no

                fewer than forty 250 lb Bombs. 306 of her ship's company lost their lives.

                (Casualty List - note on casualties)

                HM Australian Destroyer VAMPIRE was also sunk in these attacks.

                (For details of operations against Japanese warships in Indian Ocean during

                March to April 1942 see OPERATION PACIFIC by E. Gray).






Convoy Escort Movements of  HMS  HERMES

by Don Kindell


These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








SL 014F








(Note on Convoys)



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revised 14/10/10
further editing and formatting is required