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Seaplane and Aircraft Carriers

Aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service and Fleet Air Arm are deployed aboard ships. We are constantly adding to the list below the majority of which were fixed-wing carriers. Today, all large RN ships can carry helicopters and are not included. If you know of ships which should be included, especially if you have images, please use the contact form to let us know.


HMS Activity © IWM (FL 137)
HMS Activity, Greenock with 3 Swordfish  © IWM (A 21849)
824 NAS Swordfish descending in HMS Activity's lift © IWM (A 18270)

HMS Activity (D94) was an Escort Carrier, laid down at Caledon shipyard, Dundee as a refrigerated cargo vessel Telemachus for Ocean Steamship but converted on slipway. Commissioned 29 September 1942. She had a complement of 700 and could carry only 10 aircraft in the short 100ft hangar. She had a single aircraft lift, arrester gear but no catapult.

She initially operated as a deck landing training ...

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HMAS Albatross

Albatross was an Australian built Seaplane Carrier operating with the RAN from 1928-33 but advances in aircraft design and technology meant that by the time she was completed, the seaplanes she had been designed for had been retired and the ship could not catapult-launch their replacements so she was put into reserve. She transferred to the Royal Navy (as part exchange for a new ship) in 1938 and ...

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HMS Albion launch
HMS Albion R07
HMS Albion with Royal Marines embarking Wessex helos
HMS Albion, Malta
HMS Albion
HMS Albion, Sydney 1954
HMS Albion Sea Venom launch, Suez 1956
HMS Albion L14

There were 7 ships bearing the name Albion before the first carrier.

HMS Albion (R07) was a Centaur-class aircraft carrier launched in May 1947 but due to a series of mishaps was not commissioned until 26 May 1954. She joined the Mediterranean Fleet and was flagship for Flag Officer Aircraft carriers. After a short refit in 1956, she returned once again to the Mediterranean for operations relating ...

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HMS Ameer © IWM (A 21338)

Lead ship of the Ruler-class Escort Carriers (D01), hence sometimes referred to as Ameer class. They were built as carriers rather than converted although still using merchantman hulls. All were built by Seattle-Tacoma although completion was sometimes by other yards. They were similar in design (but larger) to the Avenger-class.

Originally laid down as USS Baffins but transferred under lend-lease ...

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HMS Anne

HMS Anne was a seaplane carrier used during World War I.

The German freighter Aenne Rickmers was seized whilst in Port Said, Egypt and was requisitioned for service under the Red Ensign in January, 1915 operating two French Nieuport floatplanes that had been off-loaded by the French seaplane carrier Foudre; they were flown by French pilots with British observers. No special modifications were ...

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HMS Arbiter © IWM (A 25022)
HMS Arbiter
HMS Arbiter

Ruler-class Escort Carrier (D31) Originally intended to be USS St Simon, she was transferred under lend-lease and commissioned into the Royal Navy 31 December 1943. She was mainly used for aircraft trials and then as an aircraft transport in which role she could carry up to ninety aircraft.

She served on the western approaches to the British Isles as a ferry carrier. Her first operational trip, ...

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HMS Archer
HMS Archer
HMS Archer

Archer-class Escort Carrier (D78); first of class.

US merchant vessel Mormacland was requisitioned by the US Navy for conversion as an escort carrier. She was converted with a wooden planked flight deck and a small starboard side island for navigation and air control but no smokestacks as exhaust fumes discharged horizontally. She was commissioned as USS Archer before being transferred under ...

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HMS Argus (I49)
HMS Argus 1918
HMS Argus (I49) in dazzle camouflage
HMS Argus after 1925-26 refit
HMS Argus in dry dock 1942
HMS Argus 1943
RFA Argus (A135) in the Persian Gulf 1991

Fleet Carrier (I49) 1918-44

She was begun as the Italian Liner Conte Rosso in 1914, purchased by the Royal Navy in 1916 and finally completed as HMS Argus in 1918.

HMS Argus was the world's first-ever flush-deck aircraft carrier. Fitted with a full-length flight deck and a hangar capable of accommodating up to 20 aircraft, she was the first large vessel specifically designed and constructed ...

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Ark Royal

HMS Ark Royal 1914
HMS Ark Royal seaplane carrier
HMS Ark Royal (91) ©Fleet Air Arm Museum
Fairey Swordfish I of 820 Squadron over HMS Ark Royal (91)
HMS ARK ROYAL (R09) Circa 1956
Ark Royal (R09) with Phantoms and Buccaneers
Phantom Ark Royal (R09)1974
HMS Ark Royal (R07) launch 2 Jun 1981
HMS Ark Royal (R07)
Buccaneer S2, 809 Sqn; Phantom FG1, 892 Sqn; Sea King HAS1, 824 Sqn; on board ©Fleet Air Arm Museum

Seaplane Carrier 1914-34 (renamed Pegasus December 1934)

She was purchased by the Royal Navy in 1914 shortly after her keel had been laid and the ship was only in frames; this allowed the ship's design to be modified almost totally to accommodate seaplanes.

Commissioned early in December 1914 and sailed for Dardanelles on 1 February 1915, arriving at Tenedos on the 17th. Although hampered ...

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HMS Atheling © IWM (A 21918

Ruler-class Escort Carrier (D51) built by Seattle-tacome Shipbuilding, Tacoma, Washington and completed by Burrard Dry Dock Company, vancouver, originally intended to be USS Glacier but transferred under lend-lease to the Royal Navy and commissioned 28 October 1943. She transitted from the west to the east coast and loaded 18 Corsiars of 1836 NAS for transit to UK, leaving New York 1 January 1944 ...

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HMS Attacker (D02) US Navy photo #7043-42
Ships Company and personnel of 809 squadron onboard HMS ATTACKER

Attacker-class Escort Carrier (D02), lead ship in class. Built by Western Pipe & Steel in San Francisco. Laid down as merchant vessel Steel Artisan, renamed USS Barnes then transferred under lend-lease to RN and commissioned 7 October 1942.

Complement: 646, aircraft 20, arrester wires aft, 2 lifts , single catapult forward.

After trials, she transitted the Panama Canal and sailed to ...

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HMS Audacity
HMS Audacity (D10)

HMS EMPIRE AUDACITY (later HMS AUDACITY) (D10) was originally built as Norddeudscher Line cargo vessel Hannover and converted by Blyth Shipbuilding Company after capture. Commissioned 17 June 1941 as the first Royal Navy escort carrier.

She could carry 8 aircraft, had arrester gear aft but no hangar, lifts or catapults. She embarked Martlet fighters of 802 Squadron and had successes against ...

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Sea Hurricanes of 802 NAS, HMS Avenger © IWM (A 10982)

Avenger-class Escort Carrier (D14), lead ship of the class. Built by Sun Shipyard, Chester, Pennsylvania as merchantman Rio Hudson and converted by Bethlehem Steel at Staten Island, New York. Originally intended for US Navy but transferred to RN under lend-lease, commissioning 2 March 1942.

Complement 555, aircraft 15, arrester gear aft and hangar with single lift.

With 4 Swordfish of 816NAS ...

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HMS Battler
HMS Battler © IWM FL 1588
HMS Battler © IWM (A 16643)
835 NAS Swordfish on HMS Battler  © IWM (A 16649)
834 NAS Swordfish taking off HMS Battler © IWM (A 21626)
834 NAS aircrew with Seafire on HMS Battler, off Greenock © IWM (A 21600)

Attacker-class Escort Carrier (D18) built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi, USA. Originally laid down as merchantman Mormactern and intended to be USS Altamaha but transferred under lend-lease and commissioned into the Royal Navy 15 November 1942.

After trials, in Norfolk, Virginia, she embarked 890 NAS, 892 NAS and 894 NAS a total of 18 Martlet IVs for ferrying to UK. 6 Swordfish ...

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Begum crest
HMS Begum
HMS Begum
Ruler-class Escort Carrier (D38) originally intended to be USS Bolinas but commissioned with Royal Navy 3 August 1943. Returned to the US Navy 4 January 1946 and converted as merchantman Raki. Complement:646, aircraft:20, arrester gear aft and hangar with two lifts, single accelerator on port side forward capable of handling heavier aircraft. Battle Honours East Indies 1944

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