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April 27th Focus: HMS Illustrious

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Alpha Tester
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168 battles


April 27th


1896       Budapest -  Monarch-class - Launched

1897       Freya     Victoria Louise-class     Launched

1904       Katori    Katori-class        Laid Down

1912       König Albert       Kaiser-class       Launched

1930       Alberto da Giussano       Condottieri-class             Launched

1930       Giovanni dalle Bande Nere          Condottieri-class             Launched

1930       Zara       Zara-class           Launched

1937 – Illustrious – Illustrious class – Laid down

1939 – Ceylon – Fiji-class  – Laid down

1944 – Makassar Strait – Casablanca-class– Commissioned




Laid down - 33

Launched - 39

Commissioned – 40


Not Allies


Austro-Hungary – 1

Germany – 2

Japan – 1

Italy – 3






Britain reinvents the aircraft carrier. The Naval Disarmament Treaties are still in force limiting to total fleet tonnage and individual ship tonnage of aircraft carriers. At this time the USA is building USS Wasp a reduced Yorktown class. Britain sees her needs differently. The Ark Royal was designed to carry 72 aircraft and has two hanger decks. The Admiralty see another European war looming and any aircraft carrier would likely be operating within range of land based aircraft. For the Illustrious class number of aircraft is sacrificed to add stubstanially to the armor. The protection is meant to withstand 6” shell fire and 1,000 pound bombs and includes 4.5” armor on the belt and hangar sides as well as a 3” thick flight deck. With only a single hangar deck the height of the flight deck above the waterline is reduced reduction topweight and improving stability. With sixteen 4.5” heavy AA guns and substantial numbers of light AA guns these ships are almost the opposite of the contemporary Wasp.




They are built right to the treaty limit of 23,000 tons standard displacement. Top speed is 30 knots but the aircraft complement as designed is only 36. This is increased later by parking some aircraft on the flight deck. Her air wing changes quite a bit over time.


1940: 33 aircraft: Fulmars and Swordfish 
September 1942: 21 Martlet, 6 Fulmars, and 18 Swordfish 
July 1943: 28 Martlets and 18 Avengers 
January 1944: 24 Corsais and 21 Barracudas 
May 1944: 24 Corsairs and 18 Avengers 
June 1944: 42 Corsairs and 15 Barracudas 
November 1944: 36 Corsairs, 15 Avengers



Illustrious is launched before the start of World War 2 but completes after the fall of France. She immediately goes to the Mediterranean. She covers convoys, attackes enemy positions in North Africa and carries out anti-shipping strikes. It is for the raid on the Italian harbor of Taranto that she is famous.




 In a harbinger of things to come her 21 aircraft find the Italian battleships ill prepared and sink the Conte di Cavour and damage the Caio Duilo and the new battleship Littorio.




Cavour never returns to service.




The armored design is vindicated by the survival of battle damage from bombing that surely would have spelled the end of any unarmored carrier.



Under attack




Under attack while leaving Malta harbor, Illustrious is too the right of the crane.


A detailed description can be found here:










Temporary repairs allow her to get to Norfolk Navy yard in the USA where she is under repair for several months. Afterward she sails for the Indian Ocean to join her sister Indomitable and from there on to the Pacific after refit that sees her flight deck extended and various detail upgrades.






How extra planes were carried


On April 6, 1944 she suffers serious underwater damage from a kamikaze near miss. The damage is so serious she is withdrawn from active service and not repaired until 1946.




Vibration problems that had plagued the ship are finally corrected by the repair and fitting a new five bladed propeller on the center shaft. [simply put, the ship was bent, that causes excessive wear on various parts as well as vibration.] She remains a training ship until sold in 1956.


I can recommend the site armouredcarriers.com as having a wealth of information about this ship and her sisters.




Thanks for listening.


Edited by Capcon
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