1941: Sinking of the Ark Royal

History Hit

1 min

13 Nov 2015

On 13th November, 1941 two U-boats attacked the British aircraft carriers Argus and Ark Royal.

The carriers were en route to Gibraltar after delivering fighter aircraft to Malta when they were attacked.

Barely six months earlier, on 27th May, Ark Royal played a key role in an attack on the German super-battleship Bismarck. An assault by Swordfish biplanes launched from Ark Royal disabled the Bismarck’s steering, allowing her to be encircled by other vessels, including the battleships Rodney and King George V, whose attacks silenced all four turrets of the Bismarck and shattered her hull. She capsized at 10.35am with the loss of most of her crew.

The torpedo attack on Ark Royal ripped a large hole in her hull. The explosion knocked out the main switchboard, severing communications throughout the ship, and she began taking on water on the starboard side. Within 20 minutes she was listing to starboard at an angle of 18°. Admiral James Somerville was desperate to save the ship, ordering salvage teams and a tug from Gibraltar. But with the flooding out of control and the ship’s list increasing at a rapid rate, Somerville was forced to abandon ship. Only one crewman was killed during the attack, Able Seaman Edward Mitchell, who died in the explosion caused by the torpedo strike.

Early in the morning of 14th November, Ark Royal capsized and broke into two before sinking.