On This Day – 14 November 1941

The HMS Ark Royal was sunk

Commissioned in November 1938, the HMS Ark Royal was sunk less than three years later  on 14 November 1941 by the German U-81. The HMS Ark Royal was an innovative Royal Navy aircraft carrier serving during WWII, the first on which the flight deck and hangers were an integral part of the hull.

The Ark Royal was designed using the latest available technologies and featured arrestors and steam catapults which allowed for shorter landings and take-offs. Although the Ark Royal was originally designed to carry up to 72 aircraft, in practice the carrier only held between 50 and 60 as the size of aircraft had increased during the period the Ark Royal was being built.

Although only in service for less than three years the HMS Ark Royal saw significant action before being sunk.

At 16:37 on November 13 1941, U-81 fired a spread of four torpedoes at the HMS Malaya, with two detonations heard 6 minutes 6 seconds and 7 minutes 43 seconds after launch. One of the torpedoes had actually struck the Ark Royal amidships. The Ark Royal did not sink immediately but rather on the following day whilst being towed to Gibraltar with the loss of almost all the aircraft aboard.

Of the 1488 crew aboard, only one member of the crew actually died as a result of the attack and sinking of the carrier.