Fleet Aircraft Carrier

ex Almirante Cochrane (Chile)


HMS Eagle was built by Armstrong Whitworth and laid down on 20 February 1913. She was launched on 8 June 1918 and commissioned 26 February 1924. She was sunk on 11 August 1942 by 4 torpedoes from German submarine U73 while escorting a convoy to Malta in operation 'Pedestal'.

HMS Eagle was converted from the partially built Chilean battleship Almirante Cochrane, a Dreadnought Battleship and sister ship to the Chilean Almirante Latorre. All work on this ship ceased in 1914 and she lay on her slip until 1917 when her purchase by the Admiralty was negotiated with the Chilean Government, the purchase price being £1,334,358. Her design was modified to aircraft carrier by Sir E H Tennyson d'Eyncourt.

Eagle went under conversion, first to a sea-plane carrier and then to a strike carrier, which was started during WWI but slowed when it became clear that the ship could not be completed before the end of the war. It was decided to continue with the conversion 24 September 1920. The ship was eventually completed with a full length flight deck and a large starboard island. She was finally completed on 20 February 1924. She became renowned across the navy for her engine room instruments which were displayed only in Spanish and in metric.

Pre war HMS Eagle manouevering in Grand Harbour, Valetta, Malta

Just pre-war, a HA/DCT was added on the fore-top, an octuple pom-pom was added between the two funnels, and four quad machine guns were added. Later, a second pom-pom was added, the machine-guns were replaced by twelve 20mm Oerlikons along the flight deck sides, AW type 290 and AR type 285 were added, and some furnace-oil bunkers were replaced by aviation fuel storage. Eagle remained the only British carrier with more than one funnel, two units being fitted atop the island.

At the outbreak of World War II, Eagle was at Singapore and in October 1939 was part of Force I hunting for the German ship Graf Spee. For the first two months of 1940 she was escorting troop transports in the Indian Ocean but on 14 March 1940 was damaged by an internal explosion in her fore bomb room, when 13 ratings were killed, and she returned to Singapore for repairs.

Keighly-Peach after landing on flight-deck in Sea Gladiator N5517, HMS Eagle, 1940

Eagle joined the Mediterranean fleet in May 1940,  and on 5 July her aircraft from 813 squadron attacked enemy shipping in Tobruk. They sank the Italian destroyer Zeffiro, the merchant ships Manzoni (3,955 tons) and Serenitas (5,171 tons) besides damaging the Liguria (15,354 tons) which was later scuttled. After four days she was in action off Calabria when her aircraft attacked the Italian fleet. During her return to Alexandria after this engagement she was heavily bombed and four Italian bombers were shot down during the attacks.

On 20 July 1940, on another attack on shipping in Tobruk, her aircraft from 824 squadron sank the Italian destroyers Ostro and Nembo as well as the merchant ship Sereno (2,333 tons). On 22 August her aircraft (824 Squadron) attacked and sank the Italian submarine Iride in the Gulf of Bomba. At the end of the month she took part in Operation 'Hats' in a reinforcement of the Mediterranean fleet, and her aircraft attacked the airfield at Maritza, Rhodes.

For the next six months she provided cover for convoys in the Eastern Mediterranean, her aircraft attacked Italian airfields, laid mines, and attacked shipping.

HMS Eagle took part in one of the most memorable Fleet Air Arm events in history. On 11 November 1940, five of her aircraft which were embarked in HMS Illustrious took part in the attack on Italian battleships at Taranto.

Subsequently, she was ordered through the Suez canal in March 1941. Her aircraft flew to Port Sudan and assisted in the destruction of the Italian ships at Massawa and in the Red Sea. She arrived at Simonstown, South Africa on 8th May and then proceeded to Freetown, remaining on the South Atlantic station until October 1941. On 6 June 1941 her aircraft sank the German MV Elbe (9,179 tons) and on 15 June 1941, in conjunction with HMS Dunedin, she intercepted the U boat supply ship Lothringen (10,746 tons) which surrendered about 1000 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands.

HMS Indomitable with HMS Eagle behind. Taken from flight deck of HMS Victorious - Operation Pedestal.

After refitting in the UK she returned back to the Mediterranean early in 1942. In February 1942 she carried aircraft for Malta and took part in Operations "Spotter" and 'Picket". In June 1942, Sea Hurricanes from 801 Squadron on HMS Eagle provided top cover for Harpoon, the essential supply convoy heading for Malta. Upon entering the Mediterranean, the convoy came under almost constant attack from the Germans and Italians. The Sea Hurricanes and Fulmars from HMS Argus did an outstanding job of defending the convoy, with No 801 Squadron claiming six Italian planes. This was the beginning of the Sea Hurricane’s escapades in the Mediterranean.

She was later involved in the famous August 1942 convoy (Operation 'Pedestal') when 41 warships fought through just five out of 14 merchantmen to lift the Malta siege. On 11 August 1942 whilst still in the Malta bound convoy she was hit by 4 torpedoes from the German Uboat U-73 and sank in position 38'05' N: 3'02' E. Two Officers and 158 Ratings were lost but 927 of her ship's company including Captain Mackintosh,were picked up by HMS Laforey and HMS Lookout and the tug Jaunty.

The wreck is located in the Mediterranean Sea, 70nm S of Cape Salinas, Majorca (the Balearic Islands).

Calabria 1940, Mediterranean 1940, Malta Convoys 1942
Up to 24 aircraft including prewar; Fairey IIIF, Hawker Nimrod, Hawker Osprey. In World War II: Sept 1939: 18 Fairey Swordfish; June 1940: 18 Fairey Swordfish, 3 Gloster Sea Gladiators; December 1940: 18 Fairey Swordfish, 3 Gloster Sea Gladiators,  and 2 Blackburn Skuas.

February 1941: 18 Fairey Swordfish, 3 Gloster Sea Gladiators, 2 Fairey Fulmars;  May 1941: 18 Fairey Swordfish; November 1941: 18 Fairey Swordfish,  2 Hawker Sea Hurricanes; February 1942: 18 Fairey Swordfish and 16 Hawker Sea Hurricanes; May 1942: 16 Sea Hurricanes; August 1942: 20 Sea Hurricanes.

FAA squadrons embarked Dates Aircraft type
824 Jan 1937-Aug 1942 Swordfish I
813 Feb 1937-Jan 1942 Swordfish I/Sea Gladiator
805 dt Jan-Feb 1941
Fulmar I
804A Oct 1941 Fulmar I
807 Jun 1942 Fulmar I
801 June-Aug 1942 Sea Hurricane Ib
813 Jan-June 1942 Sea Hurricane Ib
Associations and Reunions
HMS Eagle Survivors 1942 Association. Also see HMS Eagle website
Contact: A `Les` Goodenough, 3 Brimpton Road, Reading, Berks. RG30 3HY.

HMS Eagle Communications Department 1962 to last commission Email: or Email:

Carrier name HMS Eagle (ex built Chilean battleship Almirante Cochrane)
Class Eagle Class
Type Fleet Aircraft Carrier
Ships in Class  
Launched Built by Armstrong Whitworth. Laid down 20 February 1913. Launched 8 June 1918. Commissioned 26 February 1924. 
Tonnage Displacement: 22,200 tons standard ; 27,229 tons full load
Engines Propulsion: Steam Turbines (32 Yarrow boilers, 4 shafts, Parsons geared turbines), 55,000 shp.

Brown Curtis (AG) turbines by J Brown and Co, Clydebank.

Speed in Knots Speed: 24 knots
Armament Guns: 9 x 6 inch ; 4 x 4 inch AA; 4 x 3 pdr (22 smaller guns) 12 x 1 x 20mm Oerlikon AA 
Crew Complement 834 Officers & Ratings including Air Group
Range  Range: 4,000 nmiles at 18 knots


Length (ft/inches) Dimensions: 667ft long, 92ft beam and 24ft draught
Beam (ft/inches)  
Draught (ft/inches)  
Flight Deck length (ft/inches)  
Flight Deck width (ft/inches)  
Number of aircraft carried Aircraft: 21 
Fate of carrier Sunk 11 August 1942 by 4 torpedoes from German submarine U73 while escorting a convoy to Malta (operation 'Pedestal').

HMS Eagle Class in THE ROYAL NAVY WWII website Details and specifications of the Eagle class including summary history
The Malta Convoys 1941 - 1942 - War at Sea 1939-1945 Details of each of the Malta convoys and of the operations of the aircraft carriers Argus, Ark Royal, Eagle, Furious, Indomitable and Victorious
Warship photographs of the Royal Navy A to Z. Information about HMS Eagle in Operation Pedestal and the Malta Convoys.  
How the "Eagle" was avenged !  U-boat that sank her is rammed by British destroyer
Gloster Gladiator in Commonwealth squadron service (Håkans Aviation page) Includes Gladiator operations from HMS Eagle in the Mediterranean 
Ships Co UK info on the history of HMS Eagle [tranferred to new URL in April 2001]
British and HMS Eagle
HMS Eagle Carrier history by
Summary history of the carrier Eagle in Royal Navy Ships of World War 2
Information by Red Rooster.
Extracts from the wartime film Operation Pedestal, with clips of Operation Pedestal the beginning, featuring HMS Eagle, The Heavy Escort Forms up featuring HMS Formidable, Down to the Mediterranean featuring HMS Furious.
Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS BLACKBURN FIREBRAND T.F. Mk. 5, 827 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, H.M.S. Eagle, 1952-1953
World Aircraft Carrier Lists and Photo Gallery - from 1913 to 2000. Naval History Information Center, Haze Gray & Underway
Sturtivant, R & Ballance, T  (1994). 'The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1994 ISBN: 0 85130 223 8

The World’s Warships 1941 by Francis E. McMurtrie (1944). Jane's London 1941 1st ed. 

Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II by Francis E. McMurtrie (Editor)(1984). 320 pages. Crescent Books; ISBN: 0517679639

       Last Modified: 23-2-2001


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