“On this day in history” HMS Furious placed in commission, 1917

“On this day in history” 26 June 1916, Royal Navy Courageous-class battlecruiser HMS Furious was placed into commission.

Furious was modified to become an aircraft carrier trials ship, her forward turret was removed and a flying-off deck added. Floatplanes, such as the Short Admiralty Type 184, would land on the water for recovery.


HMS Furious as completed. Note flying-off deck forward (IWM SP 89).

Between November 1917 and March 1918, Furious underwent further conversion. Her aft turret was removed and a landing deck added. Elevators were installed to service aircraft hangars.


HMS Furious in 1918 with landing deck aft (NHHC 42000).

The modifications proved unsatisfactory, particularity due to the separate flying-off and landing decks, and in 1921 Furious was taken in hand for further conversion.

The work was intensive and took place at HM Dockyards Rosyth and Devonport. Her bridge superstructure and funnels were removed to provide for a full-length flight deck. A two-level hangar was built under the flight deck and serviced by two elevators. Furious recommissioned in 1925.


HMS Furious after completion of her major redesign (NHHC 60973).

By the outbreak of war in 1939, Furious was serving as a deck landing training carrier. She was then assigned to the Home Fleet to replace Courageous, lost on 29 September.

On 10 April 1940, Furious embarked Swordfish aircraft of 816 and 818 Naval Air Squadrons for service in the Norway campaign. Without fighter aircraft, she was vulnerable to German attack, and on 18 April bombs dropped by an He.111 damaged her propeller shafts.

After repairs, Furious sailed for Canada carrying £18,000,000 in gold bullion. This was part of Operation Fish, the temporary evacuation of British wealth to safety in Canada during the Second World War. The British bullion – amounting in total to $25 million (~ $28 billion in 2016) – was stored in a specially constructed vault at the Sun Life Building in Montreal.

Furious served with Force H during Operation Torch in 1942 and with the Home Fleet during two operations against the Tirpitz – Operation Tungsten in April 1944 and Operation Mascot in July 1944.


Fleet Air Arm crewman chalks message onto bomb carried by one of Furious‘s Barracuda aircraft during Operation Tungsten, April 1944 (IWM A22640).

Showing signs of age, Furious was placed reserve in September 1944 and paid off in April 1945. She was sold for scrap in 1948.





“Last Call” (1965) with HMS Bulwark and the Far East Fleet on Exercise Dark Night

Feature length documentary (61 minutes) demonstrating a Royal Navy and Royal Marines exercise in the Far East. Filmed during 1964/65 and based on Exercise ‘Dark Night.’

With 40 Commando, 42 Commando, and 845 NAS aboard the commando carrier HMS Bulwark (R08). The “Rusty B” was deployed East of Suez with the Royal Navy’s Far East Fleet throughout the 1960s and served during the Konfrontasi with Indonesia.

Also features strike carriers HMS Victorious (R38), HMS Eagle (R05), and the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R21). Aircraft include the De Havilland Sea Vixen and the Blackburn Buccaneer.

Also the (new for 1964/5) County-class guided missile destroyers HMS Kent (D12) and HMS London (D16). Additional escorts include Battle-class destroyers HMS Barrosa (D68) and HMS Corruna (D97), C-class destroyer HMS Caesar (D07), Type 61 aircraft direction frigate HMS Lincoln (F99), Australian destroyer escort HMAS Derwent (DE49), New Zealand frigate HMNZS Otago (F111), and Type 15 frigate HMS Zest (F102).

Ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary include the replenishment oilers RFA Tidepool (A76), RFA Tidesurge (A98), and RFA Bayleaf (A79).

Baby born aboard Sea King search-and-rescue helicopter

That’s going to make for some interesting form-filling when he gets older. Place of birth: Sea King helicopter.

Special delivery for Culdrose rescuers as baby is born mid-flight

For only the second time in the Fleet Air Arm’s history a baby was born in the back of a helicopter on a maternity mission.

Marcus Daniel McLachlan was born aboard a 771 NAS Sea King which was ferrying his mum to hospital in Truro from the Scilly Isles.

Special delivery for Culdrose rescuers as baby is born mid-flight.

Meet Marcus Daniel McLachlan, all 5lb 3oz of him, not two days old. Place of Birth: Sea King Rescue 193, two miles southeast of Truro – and 150ft above Cornish soil.

He’s thought to be only the second baby born in a Royal Navy helicopter in more than six decades of rotary wing flight – adding a bit of last-minute excitement to an otherwise fairly routine mission for the rescuers of 771 Naval Air Squadron.

The duty Sea King at the squadron’s base at Culdrose was scrambled just after 5pm on Tuesday to ferry Ella McLachlan, who’d just gone into labour on the tiny island of St Martin’s in the Scillies.

Aboard the Sea King to assist the expectant mother was midwife Sue Merritt from Helston Birthing Centre – which is standard practice for any such sorties.

Having picked up mum and dad Barney from St Martin’s (population 142), the helicopter headed for the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske, near Truro.

“I gave the crew a ‘10 minutes left to run’ heads up so they could prepare for arrival,” said pilot Flt Lt Jon Owen RAF.

“The midwife shouted back that baby was preparing for his own immediate arrival and that we needed to get ready to deliver in the air. I simply looked at the other pilot, Lt Paul Smalley, and we continued to fly as Mother Nature took over.”

Rescue 193’s observer Lt Cdr ‘Chuck’ Norris and pilot Flt Lt Jon Owen in their makeshift maternity ward.

In the back of the helicopter, observer Lt Cdr ‘Chuck’ Norris – who’s trained to deal with a whole range of medical emergencies – prepared for his first birth as he and aircrewman PO Gary Kneesh helped the midwife.

“It’s pretty uncommon to announce to the coastguard that you had launched with seven persons on board, but were preparing to land with eight!” said Chuck.

On arrival mum, dad and baby were quickly whisked away to the Royal Cornwall Hospital. All are doing well after the excitement of the journey.

“We thought we’d have a relaxing day. Then at the end of the afternoon Ella started feeling some cramps,” said Barney, a baker on the small island.

“We went to see the midwife for an examination and she confirmed Ella was in labour and that she needed to call Culdrose to pick us up.

“The Culdrose boys were immense, absolutely phenomenal. At one point they had to shine a light for Sue. They were hugely caring and brilliant. They always deliver and always look after us.”


Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal at Cairnryan breaker’s yard 1980

HMS Ark Royal. Seen at Cairnryan – her last resting place prior to being broken up here in 1980. She arrived at Cairnryan on the 28th Sept 1980 demolition completed by 1984. (via Jim Bavin)