The Big E, 62 years ago today
Here we see the crew of the Audacious-class fleet carrier HMS Eagle (R05), spelling the ship’s name, as her aircraft are arrayed on the flight deck, 4 August 1955, the day before the ship’s visit to Naples. She went on in short order to prove herself in the Suez crisis.
Later that month, her carrier air group made up of Westland Wyverns, Douglas Skyraiders, Hawker Sea Hawks and de Havilland Sea Venoms flew a record 201 sorties in one day, which is not bad for a flattop of any era. The lead ship of her class of large carriers for the Royal Navy, she was laid down at Harland and Wolff in Belfast (makers of the Titanic) during WWII but was only commissioned in 1951.
Along with her sister, HMS Ark Royal, Eagle was the largest warship operated by the British navy– at 55,000-tons fl– until the Queen Elizabeth-class takes to the waters in coming years.
Eagle was paid off in January 1972 at Portsmouth after only 20 years and 4 months of service, and was promptly stripped of reusable equipment to keep her sister in working order for another decade, before being scrapped in 1980.
It could be argued that if Eagle and Ark Royal, with airwings of Fleet Air Arm Buccaneers and F-4 Phantoms, would have been operational in 1982, at which point they would have been in their early 30s, then the Argentinians would have never taken a second look at the Falklands.