The HMS Argus

The HMS Argus was the first aircraft carrier to have a “full-length flight deck upon which wheeled aircraft could land and take-off with relative safety. As such, she established the general pattern for future aircraft carriers.” While researching her for other works, I came across the US Navy Naval Historical Center’s page on the HMS Argus and am sharing it with you below.

HMS Argus (Aircraft Carrier, 1918-1946)

HMS Argus, a 14,550-ton aircraft carrier, was built at Glasgow, Scotland. Begun as the Italian passenger liner Conte Rosso, the ship’s construction was suspended after the outbreak of World War I. She was purchased unlaunched in 1916 and converted into an aircraft carrier, the World’s first to have a full-length flight deck upon which wheeled aircraft could land and take-off with relative safety. As such, she established the general pattern for future aircraft carriers.

Argus was commissioned in September 1918, shortly before the end of the “Great War”. She spent much of her first decade on the vital work of developing carrier techniques and training aviators in the demanding work of operating aircraft at sea. Her merchant ship hull, relatively small size, and modest speed limited her utility as a combat ship, and she was superseded in fleet service as newer carriers were completed during the later 1920s. Laid up early in the next decade, she was later modified for use as mother ship for target aircraft and as a training carrier.

Argus served in a training role during much of World War II, but the desperate circumstances of the first years of that conflict sometimes required that she see front-line service, notably in 1942, when she served with Force H and later supported the landings in North Africa. After further training duty, she was reduced to reserve in late 1943 and spent the rest of the war as an accommodation ship. HMS Argus was sold for scrapping in December 1946.

This page features virtually all of our satisfactory views of the British aircraft carrier Argus (1918-1946).

In British waters, circa late 1918. She is painted in wartime “dazzle” camouflage.

Photographed in a British harbor, circa late 1918, painted in “dazzle” camouflage. An “R” class battleship is in the distance.

In the Firth of Forth, Scotland, circa late 1918. A paddle tug is alongside. The Forth Bridge is in the distance.

Photographed circa the later 1920s, showing modifications made during her 1925-26 refit.

[Source and Images: Department of the US Navy – Naval Historical Center.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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