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HMS Glorious was a warship of the Royal Navy. Built as a "large light cruiser" during World War I, Glorious, her sister markerHMS Courageous, and half-sister HMS Furious were the brainchildren of Admiral Lord Fisher, and were designed to be "light cruiser destroyers". They were originally intended to be heavy support for shallow water operations in the Baltic Seamarker, which use ultimately never came to pass. She saw action in World War I, and then was converted into an aircraft carrier. While evacuating British troops from Norway in 1940, she was sunk with the loss of over 1,200 lives.


3-view drawing as completed in 1917
Glorious was built by Harland and Wolffmarker, Belfastmarker. The design was for a light battlecruiser; while having guns, she was actually classed by the British Navy as a light cruiser because of her light armour protection. Her keel was laid down on 1 May 1915, the ship was launched 20 April 1916, completed on 14 October 1916, and Glorious was commissioned in January 1917. She cost £2,119,065 to build.

Her machinery was essentially similar to an earlier light cruiser, HMS Champion, with two sets to drive four shafts. During a test in 1917, Glorious managed to fire a torpedo out of one of her submerged torpedo tubes while moving at full speed. Under normal conditions, the firing of the underwater tubes could be done at speeds of no more than , because of potential damage caused by water pressure at higher speeds. Her secondary guns were a new type of triple gun, intended to provide a high rate of fire against torpedo boats and other smaller craft. However, as it turned out, the loaders for the guns would get in each other's way, and the rate of fire was far slower than three single mountings. One interesting note is that it was observed that Glorious was actually 1½ knots faster on full load than when in normal loading condition. Because of her light construction and other faults, causing more than average time in the repair yard, she was nicknamed 'Uproarious'.
HMS Glorious as battlecruiser
When Glorious commissioned, she was the flagship of the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, and later the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron. On 17 November 1917, along with Courageous and Repulse, she engaged light Germanmarker forces in the Heligoland Bightmarker, sustaining no damage. In 1918, short take-off platforms for aircraft were mounted on both 15-inch turrets. On 21 November 1918, she was present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet. In 1919, she was attached to the Gunnery School at Devonportmarker as a gunnery training ship. Later, she became flagship of the Reserve Fleet.


When the Washington Naval Treaty was signed in 1922, Glorious was surplus tonnage as a capital ship, so the decision was made to convert her to an aircraft carrier. The combination of a large hull and high speed, not to mention an unsuccessful original design, made her an ideal candidate for conversion. The vessel was converted to a carrier starting in 1924, and she was re-commissioned 10 March 1930.
HMS Glorious after her conversion in 1934
conversion started at Rosythmarker, but when the Rosyth shipyard closed in 1929, she was transferred to Devonportmarker for completion. Her conversion cost £2,137,374. When recommissioned as an aircraft carrier, she had two flight decks: the main flight deck, and at the bow, a lower smaller 'flying off deck'. During a 1935–36 refit, this smaller forward flight deck was converted into a gun deck with anti aircraft guns, and two catapults capable of shooting off aircraft weighing 10,000 lb were installed on the main flight deck. She had two levels of hangars, both long, both 24 feet (7.3 m) high. She could carry up to forty-eight aircraft; when first recommissioned, she carried Fairey Flycatchers, Blackburn Ripons, and Fairey IIIf reconnaissance planes; later, the Fairey Swordfish and Gloster Gladiator types were carried. Glorious could be distinguished from her sister Courageous by a longer round-down on her flight deck at the stern, and by a different type of mast.

The 15-inch turrets that were removed from Glorious during the conversion were later installed as A and B turrets in HMS Vanguard.

On 1 April 1931 she collided with the French liner Florida, sixty miles from Gibraltarmarker, holing the liner severely; she took passengers on board and towed the other vessel to Málagamarker. Over thirty lives were lost, one of which was a member of the crew of Glorious.

World War II

She served with the Mediterraneanmarker Fleet for a time after World War II broke out. In October 1939, she moved through the Suez Canalmarker to the Indian Oceanmarker area for a short time to participate in the Indian Ocean hunting group searching for the Graf Speemarker.

Norwegian Campaign

When the invasion of Norway occurred in April 1940, she was recalled to home waters. On 23 April, she and HMS Ark Royal arrived in Britain, and sailed the next day for Norwegianmarker waters. She conducted a series of strikes on Germanmarker positions in Norway with her Skua and Gladiator aircraft. On 27 April, she was detached to return to Britain to refuel, and returned to Norway on 1 May for further attacks. On this return trip, she brought some Gloster Gladiators to Norway to operate off of a frozen lake, but these were soon destroyed by the Germansmarker. On 28 May, she delivered a squadron of Hawker Hurricane fighters to Bardufossmarker, which provided cover for the evacuation. On this voyage, she sailed without escort because there were no destroyers available. On 2 June, her aircraft assisted in providing cover in the Narvikmarker evacuation. Starting on 5 June, Glorious took part in Operation Alphabet, the evacuation of Allied troops from Norway.

The Sinking

In the night of 7/8 June, the Glorious, under the command of Captain Guy D'Oyly-Hughes (who was a submarine specialist and had only ten months experience in aircraft carrier operations), took on board ten Gloster Gladiators and eight Hawker Hurricanes from No. 46 Squadron RAF and No. 263 Squadron Royal Air Force, the first landing of modern aircraft without arrestor hooks on a carrier. These had been flown off from land bases to keep them from being destroyed in the evacuation after the pilots discovered that a 14lb sandbag carried in the rear of the aircraft allowed full brakes to be applied immediately on landing.

Glorious was part of a troop convoy headed for Scapa Flowmarker, also including the carrier Ark Royal, but in the early hours of 8 June Glorious requested and was granted permission to proceed independently, and at a faster speed. It is believed this was because D'Oyly-Hughes was impatient to hold a court-martial of his Commander (Air), J. B. Heath, who had refused an order to attack certain shore targets on the grounds that his aircraft were unsuited to the task, and had therefore been left behind in Scapa to await trial. While sailing through the Norwegian Seamarker, the carrier and her two escorts, the destroyers HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent, were intercepted by the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The carrier and her escorts were sunk in two hours, roughly 280 nautical miles (510 km) west of Harstadmarker,

The Scharnhorst was badly damaged by a torpedo from Acasta, and both German vessels took a number of 4.7-inch shell hits. The damage to the German ships was sufficient to cause the Germans to retire to Trondheimmarker, which allowed the safe passage of the evacuation convoy through the area later that day. Bletchley Parkmarker had received information and reports that wireless traffic analyses indicated that Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were out, but these were disregarded as insufficiently credible.

The loss of Glorious, Ardent and Acasta went unnoticed and although an estimated 900 men abandoned Glorious, those that reached rafts drifted for three days with the eventual loss of 1,519 men in total; there were only 45 survivors. The single survivor from Acasta was rescued by the Norwegian steam merchant ship Borgund which also saved 38 men from one of Glorious' lifeboats. All 39 men saved by Borgund were set ashore at Tórshavnmarker in the Faroe Islandsmarker on 14 June. According to Winton a further four survivors were rescued by the Norwegian ship Svalbard II which was also bound for the Faeroe Islands but was sighted by the enemy and forced to return to Norway where the four became prisoners of war.

Lee (page 20) comments that four German radio broadcasts announcing the sinking were intercepted but were not acted on, as the Admiralty duty officer was not aware of the naval movements from Norway because communications between the operational and intelligence sections were haphazard. Winton also states that the whole evacuation from Norway was carried out under extreme secrecy. The Glorious did not have time to send a radio message.

In 1997, Channel 4 screened a documentary in its Secret History series entitled "The Tragedy of HMS Glorious" and showed interviews with a surviving RAF pilot and personnel from the Royal Navy and the German Navy. Witnesses from Glorious and the cruiser Devonshire stated that an enemy sighting report of "2PB" (two pocket battleships) had been transmitted by radio from Glorious and received correctly in Devonshire but that the latter ship, under the command of Vice Admiral John H.D. Cunningham, continued on her course and maintained radio silence for essential operational reasons (she was evacuating the Norwegian Royal Family at the time). More technical details are given by Howland (below). Allegations were also made by British and German witnesses that Glorious had insufficient speed immediately available and that her reconnaissance aircraft were not in use, allowing her to be discovered and overtaken by the enemy ships, which achieved hits with their third 11-inch salvo at a range of 26,500 yards (24 km).

There is a degree of mystery about the sinking of the Glorious because papers relating to the sinking have a "100 year rule" embargo on their release.

Approximate sinking position based on last transmission from Glorious: .Howland quotes the position of Glorious given in the enemy sighting report as 154 degrees 11 miles to 69N 04E, corresponding to a position of or 260 miles (480 km) west of Andenesmarker.

See also


  • Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I (Janes Publishing, London, 1919)
  • Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II (Janes Publishing, London, 1946)
  • Siegfried Breyer, Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905-1970 (Doubleday and Company; Garden City, New York, 1973) (originally published in German as Schlachtschiffe und Schlachtkreuzer 1905-1970, J.F. Lehmanns, Verlag, Munchen, 1970). Contains various line drawings of the ship as designed and as built.
  • John Roberts, Battlecruiser, (Chatham Publishing, London, 1997), ISBN 1-86176-006-X, ISBN 1-55750-068-1
  • Robert Gardiner, ed., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922 - 1946 (Conway Maritime Press, London, 1980)
  • Robert Gardiner, ed., Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947 - 1982 (Conway Maritime Press, London, 1983)
  • Roger Chesneau, Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present; An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1984)
  • Dan Van der Vat, The Atlantic Campaign: World War II's Great Struggle at Sea (Harper and Row, New York, 1988) ISBN 0-06-015967-7
  • Correlli Barnett, Engage the Enemy More Closely (W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1991) ISBN 0-393-02918-2
  • John Winton, Carrier "Glorious": The Life and Death of an Aircraft Carrier (Cassell Military, London, 1999) ISBN 0-304-35244-6 (first published 1986)
  • Bruce Lee Marching Orders: The Untold Story of World War II (1995, Crown, New York) ISBN 0 517 57576 0

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