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Sister ships: none
Pennant number: I.95 (flag superior changed to "D" in 1940)
Notes: In July, 1917, the Admiralty decided to build an aircraft carrier "from the keel up", as opposed to converting another ship into a carrier. (The Royal Navy did not order another "purpose-built" aircraft carrier until 1932, when ARK ROYAL was ordered -- some fifteen years later!) Although some have claimed that HERMES was converted from the hull of a CAVENDISH class cruiser, there is no resemblance between their hulls, other than similarities in protection, gunpower and machinery. These were, however, the logical outcome from not only the choice of dimensions and displacement, but from the intent to use HERMES in the same role as that of a cruiser -- the only difference was the increased range HERMES was to be able to reconnoiter, due to her aircraft. To maximize the size of the flight deck, considerable flare was designed. She was fitted with a huge island along the starboard side of her flight deck; it is unclear whether this was in the original design. Either way, the island was topped with a sturdy tripod mast and foretop. These features eventually caused some problems with stability, and the size was not repeated in subsequent designs. HERMES was regarded as an excellent sea boat, but did suffer from trim problems; different watertight compartments had to be flooded dependent on whether she was carrying "Trinidad" or "Persian" oil! (Chesneau, AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OF THE WORLD, pg. 92 -- see Bibliography.) Her main criticism was the limited number of aircraft she could carry, but this is somewhat unfair, given both the constraints of her design and the increase in size of aircraft as time progressed. While building, the 6" guns were replaced with 5.5" guns (and reduced to six in number), common to the FURIOUS. After the end of World War I, the urgency of her building was slowed considerably. HERMES was launched in September, 1919, to clear the slip, and she was towed to Devonport for completion -- which took nearly four and a half years. She was little modified in service, but did receive a catapult and a second lift during a refit in the 1930's. A fourth 4" AA gun was also installed. And as aircraft grew in size, her compliment was steadily reduced. In October, 1930, she carried twelve aircraft "assembled" and seven "unrigged" -- by the beginning of World War II, only twelve aircraft in total were able to be carried. And her lifts were also rather small; for the Fairey Swordfish, there was only a single inch of clearance at the each end!
From her commissioning up to the beginning of World War II, HERMES was assigned to China Station. At the beginning of World War II, HERMES was transferred to Home Fleet, but soon after the outbreak of the war, she was transferred to the East Indies. Early during World War II, her anti-aircraft armament was supplemented by a single quad 2-pdr. "pom-pom" and six 20mm guns in single mounts. In mid-1940, HERMES collided with the armed merchant cruiser CORFU, severely damaging the forward portion of the ship. Following repairs in South Africa, HERMES carried out airstrikes against German positions and shipping in the middle east. Early in 1942, she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet. HERMES was sunk by Japanese carrier aircraft from the AKAGI, HIRYU and SORYU off Ceylon on 9 April 1942.