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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2003

HMS ARGUS - early Aircraft Carrier
including Convoy Escort Movements 

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Argus (Navy Photos/Mark Teadham, click to enlarge)   return to Contents List 

Aircraft Carrier built by Beardmore, Glasgow after purchase by Admiralty in August 1916. She was to have been  completed as Liner CONTE ROSSO for Lloyd Subuado of Italy but work had been suspended on out break of war  in August 1914. Launched on 2nd December 1917 as the 11th RN warship  to carry the name which was first used  for a captured French privateer in 1792 and last borne by a Coastguard  Vessel built in 1904. The conversion was  completed on 16th September 1913 at a cost of  £1.3M and she was extensively deployed with the Fleet until 1936  when modified for operating QUEEN BEE aircraft  (See General Information). No adoption by a UK civil community  after a WARSHIP WEEK  National  Savings campaign is recorded in official List.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

GROIX 1795 - ASHANTEE  1873 -74 - ATLANTIC  1941-42 - ARCTIC 1941 - MALTA CONVOYS  1942 - NORTH AFRICA  1942

H e r a l d i c  D a t a

Badge: On a Field Blue, a  Peacock Gold.


M o t t o

Occuli Omnium:  'The  eyes of  all.'



D e t a i l s    o f    W a r    S e r v i c e


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 9 3 9


September             Deployed with Mediterranean Fleet for Contraband Control duties based at Toulon.

to                            Nominated for transfer to Home Waters.



1 9 4 0


January                  Passage to Scapa Flow to Join Home Fleet.


February                Deployed in Horns Waters for aircrew training.




April                       Deployed at Scapa Flow with Home Fleet after German invasion of Norway.


May                        Not deployed with Fleet off Norway and remained in NW Approaches.


June                        Deployed in NW Approaches for convoy defence duties.


July                         Detached for delivery of aircraft for transfer to Middle East from Takoradi.

                                Passage to Takoradi and returned to UK

                                Embarked aircraft for delivery to Malta and took passage to Gibraltar.

                31st         Sailed for Malta escorted by HM Destroyers HOTSPUR, ENCOUNTER, GALLANT and

                                GREYHOUND covered by HM Cruiser ARETHUSA, HM Battleships VALIANT and

                                RESOLUTION screened by HM Destroyers ESCAPADE and VELOX of Force H.

                                (Operation HURRY).

                                (See THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D MacIntyre.)



                4th          Passage to Liverpool from Gibraltar with HMS VALIANT screened by HM Destroyers

                                FAULKNOR and FORESTER on completion of HURRY.

                                Rejoined Home Fleet after passage from Liverpool.


September             Deployed in NW Approaches for anti-submarine patrols and convoy defence.

                                Carried out aircraft delivery to Freetown.



                2nd         Under attack by Italian submarine which failed.


November              Detached from Hone Fleet for aircraft delivery.                             

                                Embarked two SKUA and twelve HURRICANE aircraft for delivery to Malta and took

                                passage to Gibraltar.

                15th        Sailed from Gibraltar escorted by HM Cruiser DESPATCH and HM Destroyers DUNCAN,

                                WISHART and FURY (Operation WHITE).

                17th        Aircraft launched west of Sicilian Narrows but only one SKUA and four HURRICANE

                                aircraft arrived. Diversionary operation by HM Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL had to

                                be cancelled by bad weather which may account for the losses of aircraft.

                19th        Return passage to UK on completion of WHITE


December              Detached duty for aircraft delivery in continuation.

                19th        Joined military convoy WS5A in Clyde for passage to Freetown with      replacement

                                aircraft embarked for transfer to Middle East from West Africa.

                                HM Aircraft Carrier FURIOUS also joined convoy and was carrying aircraft for

                                delivery to West Africa.

                25th        With WS5A during attack by German cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER.

                                Launched SWORDFISH aircraft to embark torpedoes in HMS FURIOUS as only bombs

                                were being carried on board.

                                Intended air operations on German ship ware cancelled by Admiralty.


1 9 4 1



                6th          Convoy W55A arrived at Freetown.

                                After disembarking aircraft took passage to UK to resume Home Fleet duties.



February                Deployed with Home Fleet.


March                    Detached for aircraft delivery duties.

                                Embarked aircraft for delivery to Malta and took passage to Gibraltar.



                1st           Arrived at Gibraltar and transferred 12 HURRICANE aircraft to HMS ARK ROYAL

                                for delivery to Malta (Operation WINCH).

                                (Note: HMS ARK ROYAL made a delivery of HURRICANE and FULMAR aircraft

                                on 3rd. One source indicates HMS ARGUS was also involved but is not confirmed.)

                8th          Passage to UK from Gibraltar.


May                        Detached service for aircraft delivery in continuation.

                22nd       Joined military convoy WS8B in Clyde for part of passage to Gibraltar.

                27th        Detached from WS8B for independent passage to deliver replacement aircraft.


June                        Passage from Gibraltar to UK after disembarking aircraft.

                                (Note: An aircraft delivery was carried out on 6th June by HM Aircraft Carrier

                                FURIOUS. This may have included aircraft delivered in May.

                                (Operation ROCKET).

                                Resumed Home Fleet duties.


July                         Nominated for aircraft delivery to North Russia.



August                  Embarked HURRICANE aircraft and took passage to Reykjavik.

                26th        Sailed from Reykjavik for aircraft delivery off North Russia.

                30th        Joined HM Cruiser SHROPSHIRE, HM Destroyers MATABELE, PUNJABI and SOMALI

                                as escort during passage (Operation STRENGTH).

                                (Note: Cover was provided by HM Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS, HM Cruisers SUFFOLK

                                and DEVONSHIRE, HM Destroyers ECLIPSE , ESCAPADE and INGLEFIELD.)



                7th          Launched aircraft and took return passage to Scapa Flow.

                                Embarked aircraft for delivery to Gibraltar after return to UK.

                30th        Joined military convoy WS12 in Clyde for part of passage to Gibraltar.



                5th          Detached from WS12 with HM Destroyer SIKH as escort for passage to Gibraltar


November              Disembarked aircraft on arrival and returned to UK.

                                Detached service for aircraft transport in continuation.

                                Embarked aircraft for delivery to Malta and took passage to Gibraltar.

                7th          At Gibraltar.

                9th          Passage for aircraft delivery escorted by HMS ARK ROYAL, HM Battleship MALAYA,

                                HM Cruiser HERMIONE with HM Destroyers LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, SIKH, ZULU,

                                GURKHA and Dutch ISAAC SWEERS (Operation PERPETUAL).

                10th        Launched aircraft for delivery to Malta from position west of Sicilian Channel.

                13th        During return passage HMS ARK ROYAL was torpedoed in position 36.06N 05.07E by

                                U81. Carrier was disabled and sank on 14th.

                14th        Transferred to Force H in place of HMS ARK ROYAL pending arrival of replacement.


December              Force H deployment at Gibraltar in continuation.


1 9 4 2


January                  Deployed at Gibraltar with Force H.


February                Passage to UK with ships of Force H for escort of military convoy in Atlantic in

                                view of threat posed by German warships SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU then based

                                in Brest.

                                On arrival embarked fighter aircraft for transfer to Malta.

                17th        Joined military convoy WS16 as part of convoy which was escorted by ships from

                                Force H including HMS MALAYA, HM Aircraft Carrier EAGLE (as the replacement for

                                HMS ARK ROYAL), HM Cruiser HERMIONE screened by destroyers from Gibraltar.

                22nd       Detached from WS16 with Force H ships.

                24th        Arrived at Gibraltar.

                27th        Deployed for aircraft delivery to Malta with HMS EAGLE (Operation SPOTTER I).

                                (Note: Escorted by HMS MALAYA, HMS HERMIONE, LAFOREY, LIGHTNING,

                                ANTHONY, ACTIVE, WHITEHALL, WISHART, BLANKNEY, EXMOOR and


                29th        Operation abandoned because of defects in aircraft fuel tanks.

                                Returned to Gibraltar.




                6th          Resumed aircraft delivery with same ships (Operation SPOTTER ).

                8th          Returned to Gibraltar on completion of SPOTTER II. 22 aircraft launched.

                20th        Deployed for further aircraft delivery with HMS EAGLE (Operation PICKET I)

                                (Note: Escort included HM Destroyers LAFOREY, DUNCAN, ACTIVE, ANTHONY,

                                WHITEHALL, WISHART, BLANKNEY, EXMOOR and CROOME with same

                                covering ships.)

                23rd        Returned to Gibraltar with same ships.

                27th        Sailed with same ships for repeat aircraft delivery (Operation PICKET II).

                30th        Returned to Gibraltar on completion of PICKET II

                                Released from detached service with Force H.


April                       Resumed Home Fleet duties on arrival from detached service.


May                        Detached for further aircraft delivery and embarked SPITFIRE aircraft.

                                Took passage to Gibraltar with aircraft for delivery to Malta.

                15th        At Gibraltar.

                17th        Deployed with HMS EAGLE for aircraft delivery, covered by HM Cruiser CHARYBDIS

                                screened by HM Destroyers PARTRIDGE, ITHURIEL, ANTHONY, WISHART, WESTCOTT

                                and WRESTLER (Operation LB).

                20th        Returned to Gibraltar after successful launching.

                                Passage to UK to embark aircraft for delivery to Malta.



                1st           Joined military convoy WS19P in Clyde for passage in NW Approaches.

                5th          Detached from WS19P and made independent passage to Gibraltar.

                9th          Deployed at Gibraltar for temporary duty with Force H after aircraft had been disembarked.

                10th        Sailed from Gibraltar with HM Aircraft Carrier EAGLE, HM Battleship MALAYA,

                                HM Cruisers CAIRO and CHARYBDIS of Force H designated as Force T.

                11th        Joined Malta Relief convoy in western Mediterranean to provide cover for its

                                passage to Sicilian Narrows with HM Cruisers KENYA and LIVERPOOL which were

                                part of escort from UK. Redesignated Force W and screened by HM Destroyers


                                and VIDETTE.

                                (Operation HARPOON. See THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN and ENGAGE

                                THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY.)

                14th        Detached from HARPOON off Bizerta with ships of Force W.

                                (Note: Close escort for passage through Sicilian Narrows provided by Force X.

                                See above references.)

                15th        Deployed with Force W to west of Sicilian Narrows to cover return passage to

                                Gibraltar of Force X.

                16th        Returned to Gibraltar with HMS MALAYA. HM Destroyers ESCAPADE, VIDETTE,

                                WISHART and WRESTLER. Remaining ships of Force W remained in area.

                17th        Arrived at Gibraltar.

                22nd       Return passage to UK to resumed Home Fleet duties.

                                (Note: During this deployment it was evident that the ship was not suitable for

                                Fleet use when large scale air and surface attacks were likely.)


July                         Deployed with Home Fleet whilst future deployment under consideration.



                5th          Took part in multi-carrier exercise in Atlantic with HM Aircraft Carriers EAGLE,

                                FURIOUS, INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS (Exercise BERSERK)

                                (Note: To practice procedures for use by Fleet Carriers during Operation PEDESTAL)

                8th          Believed in Gibraltar after BERSERK for several days and supplied FURIOUS with aircraft

                               for operation BARITONE. Followed by return passage to Scapa Flow.


September             Home Fleet deployment in continuation at Scapa Flow.


October                  Nominated for support of planned allied landings in North Africa with ships of

                                the Home Fleet. Took passage from Scapa Flow to Gibraltar.

                                (For details see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C Bamett and

                                the Naval Staff History.)


November              Joined Central Task Force at Gibraltar for support of landings,

                                (Operation TORCH - HMS FURIOUS and Five escort aircraft carriers were also

                                used as well as cover by major warships from Home Fleet and Force H.)

                7th          Passage to beachhead area with HMS FURIOUS.

                                (Note: Attack by U8l failed. See HITLER'S U-BOAT WAR by C Blair.)

                8th          Provided air support during landings at Oran.

                10th        Attack by U561 failed. See above reference.

                11th        Provided air support during landings at Bougie.

                                Came under air attack and sustained damage.

                12th        Passage to UK as part of escort for Convoy MKF1 with HM Escort Aircraft

                                Carrier AVENGER and HM Destroyer WRESTLER and four other destroyers.

                15th        Convoy MKF1 under attack by U98 which was sunk by HMS WRESTLER.

                                (See U-BOATS DESTROYED by P Kemp and above reference.)

                                HMS AVENGER sunk by U135. See WARSHIP LOSSES IN WW2 by D Brown.

                                On arrival in UK resumed Home Fleet duties


December               Home Fleet duties


1 9 4 3


January                  Withdrawn from operational duties and nominated for aircrew training and trials.


February                Deployed in Home Waters for training and trials.

to December          (Note: During November 835 Squadron aircraft carried cut trials on new design

                                'Bouncing Bomb' for use against ship targets such as TIRPITZ. The weapon

                                was never introduced.)

                                Aircrew training and trials duties in continuation.

                                Nominated for withdrawal from sea service and to be deployed as an Accommodation

                                Ship. Reduced to Reserve status.


 1 9 4 4


                                In reserve


1 9 4 5


January                  Deployed in Nore Command as an Accommodation Ship

to August


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS ARGUS paid off after VJ Day and was laid up  in the Reserve Fleet at Portsmouth. The ship  was placed on the Disposal List and sold to TW Ward  on 12th December that year. She was then towed to Inverkeithing for demolition which was carried out in 1947.






Convoy Escort Movements of HMS ARGUS

by Don Kindell


These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








WS 005A










WS 012





WS 019P










MKF 001Y





KMF 005





MKF 005





KMF 008





MKF 008




(Note on Convoys)



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