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HMS Hermes (D 95) was built by Armstrong (Newcastle-on-Tyne), laid down 15th January 1918, launched 11th September 1919 and commissioned 7th July 1923. She was sunk by Japanese aircraft, off Ceylon, 9th April 1942.

HMS Hermes was the first purpose-designed aircraft carrier built for the Royal Navy and fitted with an off-centre island containing the funnel and operations spaces. Although very narrow, the island was quite long and massive for a ship this size. The island located forward of amidships made the ship trim by the bow, the weight of the off-set island also caused a list to starboard. This imbalance had to be corrected by carrying more water ballast and fuel oil in the port side and aft tanks than in the starboard side and forward tanks. It was a time of trial and error. The basic hull had been built along the lines of a light cruiser.

From 1920 until 1938 Hermes served mainly on the China Station. During 1928 and again in 1934 she received refits at Chatham.

During World War II she served briefly with the Home Fleet before being assigned to the southern Atlantic from October 1939. She worked with the French navy based at Dakar until the Vichy government came to power, following that her aircraft took part in a strike against the French vessels at Dakar. In July 1940 she collided with a merchant vessel and was repaired at Simonstown, South Africa. Following repairs she continued patrols but this time in the Indian Ocean as part of the Eastern Fleet.

During the Indian Ocean raid, Hermes was in harbour at Trincomalee, Ceylon, undergoing repairs. Advance warning of a Japanese air raid allowed her to leave port, but as she returned following the raid on April 9, 1942, she was spotted off Batticaloa by a Japanese reconnaissance plane. Lacking planes of her own, she was defenceless when she was attacked by 70 Japanese bombers. Hit 40 times, Hermes sank with the loss of 307 men.

Her escorts — the destroyer HMAS Vampire and the corvette Hollyhock — and two tankers were also sunk. 590 survivors of the attack were picked up by the hospital ship Vita and taken to Colombo. Some survivors were taken to Kandy where they spent 10 days recuperating at the Queens Hotel.

For more information see - HMS Hermes

Last updated 25 November, 2008

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