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HMS Illustrious (87), the fourth Illustrious of the Britishmarker Royal Navy, was an aircraft carrier which saw service in World War II, the lead ship of the Illustrious class of carriers which also included HMS Victorious , HMS Formidable , and HMS Indomitable .

Illustrious was built by Vickers-Armstrongs at Barrow-in-Furnessmarker, launched in 1939, and commissioned in 16 April 1940. She displaced 28,000 tonnes and had the capability to carry up to 52 aircraft(depending on type), a number greatly reduced by her armoured deck. She was nicknamed "Lusty" by the men who served on her.

Service

Illustrious under Stuka attack


Illustrious joined the fleet in August 1940. Her first assignment was in the Mediterraneanmarker, where she was used to provide convoy cover, perform anti-shipping strikes, and raid positions in North Africa.

On 31 August, she was used to launch a strike against airfields at Maritza. On 11 November 1940, she became the first carrier in history to launch a major strike against an enemy fleet in a daring attack against the Italianmarker fleet at Tarantomarker. Twenty-one aircraft from Numbers 813, 815, 819, and 824 Squadrons based on Illustrious attacked the Italian fleet at night. The Italians were caught off-guard, and one battleship was sunk and 2 were heavily damaged.

On 10 January 1941 Illustrious was attacked while escorting a convoy east of Sicily by Axis Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Ju-87 "Stuka" dive-bombers, being hit by 8 bombs and suffering extensive damage, destroying her sick bay and ward room, and killing amongst others the England rugby player W. G. E. Luddington. While in Maltamarker receiving repairs for her battle damage she was again bombed, flooding her boiler room. The ship was partially listing into the ocean at this stage, when repairs righted the ship the deck was painted to make it appear to still be partially submerged so at to avoid further bombing. On 23 January she sailed to Alexandria, Egyptmarker for temporary repairs, arriving at noon on 25 January, and then sailed to Virginiamarker for permanent repairs at the safer Norfolk Navy Yardmarker. One propeller shaft had to be cut away and her speed fell to 23 knots.

She returned to service in May 1942, and was immediately dispatched to the Indian Oceanmarker. Later in May, Illustrious and her sister ship Indomitable participated in Operation Ironclad, covering the landings at Diego Suarezmarker in Vichy French controlled Madagascarmarker. In 1943, she returned to the Mediterraneanmarker, for operations with Force H, based at the British territory of Gibraltarmarker. She was used to help cover the Allied landings in Sicily in September 1943.

In 1944, she joined the Eastern Fleet, where she participated in raids on the Indonesian islands of Sabangmarker on 22 July 1944 and Palembangmarker on 24 January and 29 January 1945. After this, Illustrious put into Fremantlemarker, Australia, for rest and re-supply. She then sailed with the rest of the British Pacific Fleet on 4 March to Manusmarker, and from there sailed on 19 March to Ulithimarker. Later in 1945, as part of the British Pacific Fleet, designated Task Force 57 by Admiral Nimitz she supported the landings at Okinawamarker with her sister ships HMS Indomitable, HMS Indefatigable and HMS Victorious, where she won her last battle honour. While in the Pacificmarker, she was hit by two kamikaze aircraft . Her armoured flight deck absorbed the brunt of some hits and enabled to stay in action. A kamikaze near miss on 6 April, however, caused serious structural damage below the waterline and, after operations against Formosamarker, she was replaced by HMS Formidable on 14 April and sailed to the Philippines for inspection. The damage was more serious than suspected and she returned to Sydney and thence to Rosythmarker for repairs and refit, which were completed in June 1946.

After the war she was given the role of training and trials ship, with a speed limited to 22 knots due to accumulated wartime damage. She was refitted and modernised from January through August 1948, decommissioned at the end of 1954, sold on 3 November 1956, and finally scrapped, after a successful career, at Faslanemarker. Formidable and Indomitable were also scrapped in the 1950s; Victorious, the last of the class, was scrapped in 1969.

Gallery

File:HMS Illustrious bow 1944.jpg|HMS Illustrious in 1944File:HMS Illustrious 1944 astern.jpg|HMS Illustrious in the Indian Ocean, 18 May 1944Image:Hmsillustrious1.jpg|Greetings card from HMS Illustrious, 1948Image:crashonillustrious.jpg|Seafire crash on HMS Illustrious, 1948Image:visitfromking.jpg|Visit from King George VI, 1948Image:jetlanding.jpg|Supermarine Attacker on HMS Illustrious, 1948


Battle honours



References

  1. Petty Officer Telegraph operator: George Russell Dickson, personal account
  • V.B. Blackman, ed., Jane's Fighting Ships 1950-51 (Sampson Low, Marston, & Company, London, 1951)
  • Roger Chesneau, Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present; An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1984)
  • Correlli Barnett, Engage the Enemy More Closely (W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1991) ISBN 0-393-02918-2
  • Richard Collier, War in the Desert (Caxton Publishing Group, London, 2000) ISBN 0783557213


External links




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