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statistics as designed
Sister ships: none
Pennant Number: 47
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". They were 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. FURIOUS was designed to carry two 18" guns in single turrets (firing a 3,600-lb. shell for nearly 20 miles). The 18" mounts were designed to have the same size turret ring as the 15" twin mounts used in other Royal Navy ships, so that if the 18" guns proved unsatisfactory, FURIOUS could easily be rearmed with twin 15" guns as in near-sisters COURAGEOUS and GLORIOUS. However, the 18" retained the same good qualities of the 15" gun it was designed from (with the exception of the tremendous muzzle blast). (One of those 15" turrets eventually armed the monitor ABERCROMBIE, finished in 1943.) The triple 4" mounts of the COURAGEOUS class proved entirely unsatisfactory, and the FURIOUS was redesigned to carry 11 - 5.5" guns, as these guns had been proven in service with other light cruisers.
FURIOUS was nearly complete at Elswick when on 19 March 1917, the Admiralty decided to convert her to an aircraft carrier. The after 18" turret had already been installed, but as the forward turret was still under construction (the gun itself had been delivered, but it lay under wraps and heavily guarded on the dock beside the ship). (Cmdr. C. A. Jenkins, WARSHIPS IN PROFILE II, p. 251 - see Bibliography.) That forward turret was to be replaced by a hangar and sloped flying-off deck. FURIOUS was completed to her new design and joined the Grand Fleet on 4 July 1917. On 17 October, orders were issued to remove the remaining 18" turret (these guns were installed on LORD CLIVE class monitors), and a landing deck to be installed aft. Unfortunately, this arrangement did not work; exhaust gasses from the large funnel played havoc with landing aircraft, with only three successful landing attempts made in thirteen attempts during trials. Landings were suspended, but FURIOUS still was able to launch aircraft. On 19 July 1918, she launched seven Sopwith Camels in a successful attack on the Zeppelin sheds at Tondern; two Zeppelins (L54 and L60) and their hangars were destroyed. Unfortunately, only three of her Camels returned, ditching near the fleet and rescued by destroyers; three others landed in Denmark, while the seventh disappeared without a trace. (Jenkins, WARSHIPS IN PROFILE II, p. 261.)
Following World War I, FURIOUS served through much of 1919 in the Baltic, and was placed in the Reserve at Rosyth in November, 1919. Finally in July, 1920, it was decided to fully convert FURIOUS into an aircraft carrier (although the particulars were not settled until March, 1921). This third attempt at conversion to an aircraft carrier was quite successful, with a flush flight deck of 576' in length. She still carried ten - 5.5" guns, and six - 4" and four single - 2-pdr. AA guns were added; 36 aircraft could be carried. FURIOUS was commissioned as an aircraft carrier on 1 September 1925. FURIOUS was the site of the first night landing on a carrier, when a Blackburn Dart landed on her deck on 6 May 1926. Further modifications ensued; in 1931, her quarterdeck was raised to upper deck level; cross-deck arrester gear was added in the mid-1930's; and in 1938-39, she received an island on the starboard side, and her armament had been changed by the removal of the 5.5" guns; her armament was augmented to 12 - 4" / 45 cal. guns in twin mounts and three eight-barreled 2-pdr. "pom-poms" (a fourth was added in 1941). These changes raised her displacement to 22,450 tons, with a reduction in top speed to 29.5 knots.
During Fleet Exercises in the Mediterranean in 1933, torpedo planes from FURIOUS, COURAGEOUS and GLORIOUS launched 32 torpedoes at targets, scoring 21 hits - surely a warning of the powers of the new air arm. (Jenkins, WARSHIPS IN PROFILE II, p. 276.) Due to having no experience to build on, the FURIOUS had many unsatisfactory features, including the fact that parts of her were "cobbled together" from various other ships. "When something quasi-vital inside her broke during the Second World War, the dockyard was asked for a replacement. Back came the answer: 'This fitting originated from the battleship NEPTUNE, broken up in 1903, and it is regretted that no spare exists.'" (Woodward, THE TIRPITZ, p.142.) Despite these shortcomings, FURIOUS gave good service during World War II, initially with Home Fleet and then in the Mediterranean. During the war, 22 single 20mm AA guns were added.
In the early part of World War II, FURIOUS took part in several operations in the North Atlantic, and on 12 April 1940, her Swordfish torpedo planes attacked German destroyers near Narvik, Norway; two torpedo hits were claimed. In June, 1940, FURIOUS carried £18,000,000 in gold bullion from England to Halifax. On her return trip, she ferried 49 aircraft, and "all available space was filled with sugar for rationed Britain". (Jenkins, WARSHIPS IN PROFILE II, p. 283.) In November, 1941 - February 1942, FURIOUS and ARGUS ferried 142 Hawker Hurricanes to Africa for use there. She sailed to the United States for a refit in October, 1941, returning to Home waters the following April. In August, 1942, FURIOUS was moved to the Mediterranean. She made three sorties to ferry aircraft to Malta, delivering a total of 95 Supermarine Spitfires there. FURIOUS took part in "Operation Torch" (the Allied landings in North Africa) in November, 1942. In January, 1943, FURIOUS returned to the Atlantic and Home Fleet. Her aircrews made various strikes against German shipping, including an attack on the battleship TIRPITZ in Altenfjord, Norway on 3 April 1944; the raid (made by aircraft from six carriers) scored 15 hits by 500- and 1,000-pound bombs and killed over three hundred of the TIRPITZ's crew. After years of duty, FURIOUS was taken out of service in September,1944. Following intermittent use as a target trials ship, she was sold for scrap in 1948 and towed to Troon for breaking up, finishing in 1954.