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statistics as originally built
Sister ships: GLORIOUS
Pennant Number: 50
Notes: To get around the Cabinet ruling against funding for any new capital ships, in early 1915, First Sea Lord Fisher ordered three "large light cruisers". Basically an expansion of existing light cruiser designs, with slightly improved armor and double the existing machinery. However, the design showed that the Royal Navy was becoming aware of the benefits of more advanced machinery, as the small-tube boilers developed much more power than their earlier "large tube" predecessors. There was concern about the ships being too lightly built. This came to fruition during the trials for COURAGEOUS on 8 January 1917, when she suffered some buckling between the forecastle and the forward 15" barbette, as well as various leaking fuel tanks. Both ships received an additional 130 tons of stiffening (although GLORIOUS was not strengthened until early in 1918). Despite 12 additional fixed torpedo tubes being fitted (in six double mounts), no proper role could be found for these ships, and they were often the subject of ridicule within the Royal Navy (even to the point of being referred to as "SPURIOUS" and "OUTRAGEOUS").
COURAGEOUS was commissioned into the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, but was soon transferred to the Grand Fleet's 1st LCS (with GLORIOUS). She was converted to a minelayer in April, 1917; the mine rails over her stern earned her the nickname "Clapham Junction". This conversion was not very successful, and the rails were ordered removed on 23 November 1917. COURAGEOUS was in action on 17 November 1917 (with GLORIOUS and REPULSE) against German light forces in the Heligoland Bight, firing 92 - 15" shells. Following World War I, COURAGEOUS was attached to the gunnery school at Devonport in 1919; later, she became flagship of reserve.
There was discussion of scrapping COURAGEOUS and GLORIOUS in compliance of the Washington Treaty, but it was decided to follow the relatively successful conversion of their near-sister FURIOUS and convert them into aircraft carriers. COURAGEOUS was taken in for reconstruction in June, 1924 and completed in May, 1928; she was constructed along similar lines to FURIOUS, but with an island superstructure. Consideration was given to mounting 8" guns as defensive armament, but this was rejected, as was a similar proposal for 5.5" guns. All previous armament was removed (her 15" guns, along with the 15" guns from GLORIOUS, were eventually fitted to the battleship VANGUARD in 1944) and COURAGEOUS was re-armed with 16 - 4.7" / 40 cal. high-angle guns in twin mounts, and a single four-barreled 2-pdr. "pom-pom" was installed. Aircraft capacity was set at 48, but rarely (if ever) was a full complement carried. In 1936, two catapults were installed on the main flight deck; at this time, the original "pom-pom" was removed, and three eight-barreled mounts were added.
COURAGEOUS was the first Royal Navy ship sunk in World War II, as she was hit by two torpedoes from the German submarine U29 on 17 September 1939 and sank within 15 minutes; 514 of her crew were killed.