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HMS Formidable in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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HMS Formidable


HMS Formidable was an Aircraft Carrier of the Illustrious class. She was built by Harland & Wolff Ltd. in Belfast, Northern Ireland being launched on the 17th of August 1939

Her initial role during the Second World War was to accompany a convoy to Capetown from December 1940 to January 1941. Subsequently she was called to the Mediterranean to replace the damaged HMS Illustrious in February 1941. She saw action in the Battle of Cape Matapan 27-29 March 1941, and in the two following months was involved in convoy escort. She supported Crete operations in May where she suffered serious damage on the 26th of May 1941 in air attacks by 1000kg bombs, whioch put her out of action for six months. Between June and December 1941 she underwent repairs in America and then joined the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean from March until August 1942.

In October 1942 she returned to the Mediterranean taking part in the North African landings in November and the Sicily landings in July 1943 and Salerno landings in the September. In October 1943 she took part in an Arctic convoy. On the 17th of November, the German submarine U-331 was sunk in the Mediterranean north of Algiers after she had been badly damaged by a Hudson aircraft and attacked by a torpedo-equipped aircraft Albacore of 500 and 820 Squadrons flying from HMS Formidable.

HMS Formidable was refitted between January and June 1944 and then her aircraft were involved in Operation "Mascot" an attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz in Norway on the 17th July 1944. She took part in further attacks on Tirpitz between the 22nd and 29th of August. She then set sail to rejoin the Eastern Fleet on 16 September 1944, stopping at Gibraltar after machinery breakdown, which halted her voyage until January 1945. In April 1945 she joined the British Pacific Fleet in place of HMS Illustrious who had been damaged. She took part in air strikes against Sakishima Gunto in April and May 1945. In May she was hit by Kamikazes but was able to operate aircraft within a few hours of attack, her aircraft later took part in air strikes against Japanese home islands between July-August 1945.

The ship arrived in Sydney, Australia on 23 August 1945, subsequently undertook trooping voyages to the United Kingdom between September 1945 and November 1946. She was reduced to a reserve ship at Rosyth in March 1947 and sold in November 1953 being scrapped at Inverkeithing from November 1956.


If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have sailed in

HMS Formidable

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Benson Albert Edward.
  • Brady Frank. PO.
  • Bunker George Herbert. RPO
  • Dewhirst Jack.
  • Dodd James. CPO
  • Dow James.
  • Dow James.
  • Fletcher Norman. PO.
  • Gray Robert Hampton. Lt. (d.9 August 1945)
  • Griffin Milton John. PO.
  • Hinkins George. PO. (d.9th May 1945)
  • Marley William. Armourer.
  • Noble Charles. CPO.
  • Phillips Ronald Ernest. Able Sea.
  • Remnant Denis Alfred. Able Seaman
  • Rutledge John Patrick. Stkr 1st Cl.
  • Smith George Henry. Stoker (d.26th May 1941)
  • Thomas Dave Henry. Killick.
  • Waugh James Grey. Able Sea.

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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There are 1 pages in our library tagged HMS Formidable  These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.

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PO. Frank Brady air mechanic HMS Formidable

Petty Officer Frank Brady

My Father-leading seaman promoted to Petty Officer air mechanic Frank Brady served on H M S Formidable for the bulk of WW2. He was assigned to maintain the aircraft of 895 Pursuit Squadron, the aircraft included U.S. built Grumman F4F Wildcats, known in the Royal navy as Martlets. While preparing for Operation “Torch” Frank painted U.S. white star markings over the British roundels on the fuselage and wings of the aircraft on the flight deck of the carrier and had photographs of the painting taking place at sea.
Frank Brady and Mary Elizabeth Needham

Leading Seaman Frank Brady and LACW Mary Elizabeth Needham (my mother)

My Father put together quite a photograph album of his sorties around the world, Arctic, North Atlantic, in the Med and the Pacific. Unfortunately the album was lost just before he died in 1996. I would like to hear from anyone who remembers my father or may have photographs of any of the ships company.

Patricia M. Wright

Stoker George Henry Smith HMS Formidable (d.26th May 1941)

George Henry Smith was a stoker on HMS Formidable in 1941 at the time when she was assisting off Crete. Formidable was bombed on May 26th 1941 and my Grandmother was told by another sailor from the ship sometime later when home on leave that George was killed during the bombing. He died of bomb blast and was buried at sea.

George was my uncle though he died 5 years before I was born. His brother Ralph Smith, my father, was according to my mother badly affected by his brothers death. I do not recall my father ever talking about George except in the briefest way. It is only recently that I have found out the circumstances of Georges death.I have never seen a photograph of George and I'd like to know more about him.

I wonder if there are any old crewmen out there who might have known George Smith?

Peter Smith

Armourer. William Marley HMS Formidable

My late father, Wiliam Marley told me of many stories of both commitment and friendship amoungst fellow shipmates. This led me to pursue a career in the merchant service in 1975.

He always reminded me of the time a plane crash landed on the deck of the Formidable with a 'bomb' still attached to the wing. Upon crashing the bomb 'released' and rolled accross the deck. to which the officer in charge shouted 'Clear That Off The Deck!' My father and friend lifted it, with some trepidation, onto a trolley for loading said bombs, and promptly pushed the bomb and trolley over the side. They thought they did well but got a severe bollocking for ditching the trolley.

Bill Marley

Able Sea. Ronald Ernest Phillips HMS Formidable

My dad, Ron Phillips served on HMS Formidable from 1942 till 1945, he was a gunner but he did not talk a lot of what went on during the war. I know he had shrapnel wounds on his back, sadly he passed away in 1994. He was on the shipwhen they brought Prisoners of War back and I know my Dad was very proud to have served on HMS Formidable. He used to do boxing on the ship at fly weight as he was only short.

Lynn Verity Strange

Killick. Dave Henry "Tom" Thomas HMS Formidale

My Father, Dave Thomas was in a reserved occupation until 1944 (I believe) He was then conscripted into the Fleet Air Arm. He sailed to America and travelled across the USA by Train to join HMS Formidable on the west coast, with the British Pacific Fleet.

He was a mechanic, servicing the aircraft and did a course on Seafires which were a bit too fragile for aircraft carriers although they were still used. He mainly serviced Avengers and Corsairs. I remember him telling me of one occasion when he had just finished a service on a n Avenger and the Pilot came to ask him if it was ready. Upon confirming this he was told to get in the rear gunners turret and when my father asked why, the Pilot said, well you serviced it so if I go down so do you.

He was in Sydney Australia on two occasions, I'm not sure of dates but I believe it was in 1945 and I still have some of the photo's he took of Sydney at that time, complete with Trams. When the war ended they returned to Sydney and were moored at Pier 1 alongside HMS Indefatigable. We used to have photos of this but are now long gone.

Eventually they were advised that the Indefatigable was to go home the Formidables crew were, naturally upset. But just before the ship left both ships complements were marched down onto the docks with all their personal gear and the crews swapped ships! So the Formidables crew sailed home, first on the Indefatigable.

My father achieved the rank of Killick and it was his inability to spell that stopped him becoming a Petty Officer. He died in 1984 at the age of 69 after along illness

Derek Thomas

Jack Dewhirst HMS Formidable

My grandad served on the HMS Formidable. I am in need of some pictures urgently to help him with his memory as he has just lost his wife and has started to go back in time to his navy days. I really would appreciate anyone's help in locating some pictures of his crew or stories from 1942 and before on the HMS Formidable. Thank you.

Joeanne Ward

James "Cush" Dow

I am the second son of James Dow. Unfortunately I do not have much stories to tell about my father, only that he did some service as and engineer on HMS Formidable during the war years and was involved with HMS Indomitable as well I think. I left Scotland in 1972 for Australia, and I am still here. He told me then that he had been in Sydney in Australia during WW11, so I was not going to be the first Dow to put my feet on to Bondi Beach, as he had done so during the war.

Dad, unfortunately died in 1992. I was wondering if there would be any records available of his service during this time and any information at all that would help me to put some pieces together on his service life at that time.

Thomas Dow

Able Seaman Denis Alfred Remnant HMS Formidable

My father had few funny stories of serving on board the Formidable.

One I can reveal is about landing in Gibralter. Coming down the gangplank he was greeted by an ape taking hold of his hand. The only way you could get the ape to let go of you was to buy it a banana obviously from the ape's owner.He said he was quite scared of the ape at the time.

He trained as a range finder and a kamikaze plane landed on his turret and he was engulfed in flames. He was wearing a fire suit but his friend removed top first so my father lost hair to all of his head and face and arms. He was removed to an American Hospital ship and he always recalled how good the Americans had it, with coke and icecream on tap and lots less sharing of accommadation.

He only told us of his comrades and how they all made the best of things. He had sad memory of being on duty for preparing bodies for burial at sea. He performed this duty with a fellow from his mess and when they returned to their mess realised they had been preparing quite a few from their own friends.

Brenda Davidson

James Dow Fleet Air Aarm

My father, James Dow was in the Fleet Air Arm during the war, I know he was In Sydney, Australia during 1944-45 he was on the ship HMS Formidable. He never spoke much about the war, but I would like to know his story.

Thomas Dow

PO. George Hinkins HMS Formidable (d.9th May 1945)

My dad, PO George Hinkins was on HMS Formidable from 6 January 1942 until he was killed by a Kamikaze on 9 May 1945. At a reunion a few years ago I was told the full story of his death and how he saved a number of young sailors lives by sending them away from the gun and into shelter behind the island. Unfortunately the Kamikaze hit the ship and killed my father who had continued to fire the gun single handed until the plane hit. Captain Ruckean's only entry about my Dad's death was (Satisfactory) which I find rather insulting to his memory.

Now I am retired I am aware of his death more than at any time in my life and I am applying to the First Sea Lord for some kind of recognition for my father and the brave and selfless way in wish he died. Any information I can get to put to the First Sea Lord to support my application would be appreciated. I never thought about any award for my father until the reunion I attended and was told by some of the men that my dad saved that he should have had a medal so now I am trying for my Fathers memory to get him justice. Can any one help me in my quest?

David Albert Hinkins

PO. Norman Fletcher HMS Formidable

My Grandad, Norman Fletcher was on board HMS Formidable. He was very proud of his time during the war. He died a few years ago and I was very close to him and would love to hear any stories anyone has about him.

Petra Moss

Albert Edward "Bill" Benson HMS Formidable

Albert (aka Bill) Benson was my Uncle, he died before I was born. I believe he sailed aboard HMS Formidable in 1945 when it visited Sydney we have photos of Sydney Harbour and Wooloomooloo taken by him. My Mother says he changed his birth certificate to read 1924 (instead of 1926) so he could join the Navy and leave home. He must have visited Portsmouth, Aden, Colombo, Port Said and Suez, we have photos of all those places.

He then went to Palestine during the period 1946-1948 and served in the Palestine Police, his photo album includes pictures of all the Jewish blockade runners including 'Exodus'. He returned to the UK aboard 'Empress of Australia' in 1948, my father John Hogsden was also aboard the same ship returning to the UK after serving in the Palestine Police. Bill Benson then joined the Malay Police to fight the communists in Malaya during the uprising. He was shot in an ambush and was buried at Gods Little Acre cemetery in Batu Gajah in 1952.

Susan Hill

CPO. Charles Noble HMS Penelope

Charles Noble, was semi-adopted by my grandmother and raised by her. He served as a Petty Officer then Chief Petty Officer on HMS Penelope and HMS Formidable during the 2nd World War.

I would like to obtain more information and photos if possible relating to his war service in the Royal Navy. I'm compiling a family history and would appreciate any further information.

Charles Keighley

Stkr 1st Cl. John Patrick Rutledge HMS Gosling

My father John Rutledge was 18 when he joined the Royal Navy in 1943. He served on a number of ships including Gosling, Duke, Drake, Nile, Formidable, Golden Hind and Glenearn. He was a Stoker Class 1 and served from July 1943 to February 1947.

Val Swaine

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