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Pennant number: 67
Notes: The 1936 Programme provided for two aircraft carriers (ILLUSTRIOUS and VICTORIOUS) to built for the Royal Navy. A limit of 23,000 tons, set by the Second London Treaty, was in force. While at first it was thought to use modified ARK ROYAL plans (with the extra 1,000 tons to be used to add improvements), it was thought that war on the European continent was imminent -- and that these ships would be under a near-constant threat of air attack. Instead, it was decided to give them an unprecedented measure of passive defense, in the form of heavy armoring, in addition to a much heavier anti-aircraft battery. The problem was how to accomplish this and remain within Treaty limits; the solution chosen was to eliminate the second hangar deck. This reduced the new carrier's overall height and improved stability, but at the cost of a smaller air group (33 planes vs. the 60 of the ARK ROYAL). Thus, they were the first aircraft carriers to built with full armored hangars, by any navy. 16 - 4.5" DP guns were provided in eight twin turrets, with their crowns at deck level which (in theory) allowed for some cross-deck arcs of fire. A single steam-powered catapult was mounted on the flight deck, forward and on the port side. Tactical diameter was 1,050 yards.
Two more carriers were added in the 1937 Programme, but one (INDOMITABLE) was built to a modified design, with slightly less armor and a second "half-hangar" deck, which allowed her to carry 48 aircraft.
Upon commissioning, FORMIDABLE was sent to the Mediterranean, where she replaced ILLUSTRIOUS. On 29 March 1941, one of her Swordfish torpedoed the Italian heavy cruiser POLA, leaving her disabled. This led to the Battle of Matapan, in which British battleships closed with and sunk POLA and two other heavy cruisers (ZARA and FIUME) which were attempting to tow the disabled POLA to safety.
On 26 May 1941 while ferrying aircraft to Malta, FORMIDABLE was attacked by German aircraft near Scarpanto; two hits were scored with 2,200-lb. bombs. While the hits did not penetrate her armor, the damage caused took nearly six months at the Norfolk (USA) Navy Yard to repair. In March - August, 1942, FORMIDABLE served in the Indian Ocean, but then returned to the Mediterranean. FORMIDABLE served there until she was scheduled to be transferred to the Far East in September, 1944. However, a machinery breakdown left her at Gibraltar until repairs were finished in January, 1945. On 4 May 1945 off Okinawa, FORMIDABLE was struck by a kamikaze aircraft. The damage left a massive dent in her armored flight deck, nearly 10' long, 2' wide and 2' deep. Her damage control crews patched the damage with concrete and steel plate, and FORMIDABLE was back in action within six hours, and she remained in active service until the end of hostilities in the Pacific.
Like her sisters, FORMIDABLE had her anti-aircraft battery augmented during World War II. By the end of the war, she carried 48 - 2-lbrs. (6x8), 12 - 40mm Bofors (12x1) and 34 - 20mm Oerlikon AA guns.
FORMIDABLE was never fully repaired from the kamikaze hit in May, 1945. Following service in bringing troops back to Britain, she was placed in the reserve in 1947 at Rosyth. In 1949, plans were drawn up to modernize FORMIDABLE and VICTORIOUS. However, a thorough inspection of FORMIDABLE showed excessive strains in her hull, and she was deemed unsuitable for further service. FORMIDABLE was towed to the Motherbank in 1950 where she laid there derelict until she was sold for scrapping in 1953. FORMIDABLE was broken up in 1956 and Inverkeithing.