Template:Ship table HMS Ark Royal was a Royal Navy ship originally laid down as a merchant vessel but completed in the builder's shipyard as an aircraft carrier, entering service a few months after the outbreak of the First World War. She was renamed HMS Pegasus in 1934.

The Royal Navy had been using a converted cruiser, HMS Hermes, as a seaplane carrier, to conduct trials in 1913. However, another ship was needed, and in 1913[1] a tramp steamer was purchased whilst under construction at the Blyth Shipbuilding Company in Blyth, Northumberland. This 7,000-ton vessel was converted on the slipway whilst still under construction, to become the first Royal Navy ship to be originally completed as an aircraft carrying vessel, HMS Ark Royal.[2] Seaplane tenders which entered service before Ark Royal, such as HMS Engadine and HMS Hermes had been used for some other purpose before being converted.

Extensive changes to the design were made in converting the ship to a seaplane tender, with propulsion machinery moved aft and a working deck occupying the forward half of the ship. The deck was not originally intended as a flying-off deck, but for starting and running up of seaplane engines and for recovering damaged aircraft from the sea[3]. The ship was equipped with a large aircraft hold, 150 ft long, 45 ft wide and 15 ft high along with workshops. Two 3-ton steam cranes would lift the aircraft through the sliding hatch onto the flight deck or into the water.

She could carry five floatplanes and 2 normal aircraft. The latter would have to return to land after launch, but the seaplanes could take off over the bow and land in the water alongside the carrier, before being lifted back onboard by the cranes.

On the outbreak of the First World War a number of cross channel ferries were requisitioned and converted as well.


The ship spent the war in the Eastern Mediterranean and took part in the Dardanelles campaign from February to May 1915. In January 1918 two of her Sopwith ABC planes attempted to bomb SMS Goeben.

After the war she operated in the Black Sea, transporting aircraft to Batumi to support White Russian forces fighting the Russian Civil War. She was also used in support of the land campaign in Somalia against the Mad Mullah. During 1920 she assisted the withdrawal of White Russian forces from Crimea. She then returned to Britain and was put into reserve at Rosyth for a refit.

She was recommissioned in September 1922 to take aircraft out to the Mediterranean during the Chanak crisis, before undergoing another refit at Malta in April 1923.

In December 1934 she was renamed HMS Pegasus to free her name for a new carrier that was then beginning construction. HMS Pegasus served in only minor roles during the Second World War, and was sold in December 1946. Work began to convert her into a merchant ship named Anita I, but this was halted and she was broken up for scrap in 1949.

See HMS Ark Royal for other ships of the same name.



  1. HMS Ark Royal. Royal Navy website. Retrieved on 2006-10-13.
  2. Ark Royal 1914. Battleships-Cruisers. Retrieved on 2006-10-13.
  3. A Century of Naval Construction, The History of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. Conway Maritime Press, 114. ISBN 0-85177282X.

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