The origin of HMS Furious dates back to pre-World War 1 (1914-1918) days when First Lord of the Admiralty Jack Fisher called for a three-strong group of fighting "battlecruisers". These were warships with all of the elements of a traditional battleship but given reduced armor protection so as to make them faster in open water. Additionally their draughts were drawn up as shallow so as to be capable of operating in the critical lanes of the Baltic Sea. The three warships of what became the "Courageous-class" were HMS Courageous, HMS Glorious and HMS Furious and, at different points in their service lives, all were eventually earmarked for conversion to aircraft carriers to serve the British Royal Navy.
HMS Furious Basics and Walk-Around
HMS Furious was laid down by Armstrong Whitworth on June 8th, 1915 and launched for trials on August 15th, 1916. Her completion was delayed in the hopes of securing the intended 18" guns, the Royal Navy's largest weapons, which later arrived to complete her profile. She was commissioned on June 26th, 1917 and assigned Pennant Number "47" in the Royal Navy inventory fighting under the motto "Ministrat Arma Furor" ("Fury Supplies Arms").
As designed, the vessel carried two of the massive 18" guns in a pair of primary turrets, one fitted fore and one fitted aft of the centralized hull superstructure. Additional firepower stemmed from 11 x 5.5" guns in single-gunned mounts, 2 x QF 3" guns in single-gunned mounts (as an anti-aircraft measure), and 2 x 21" torpedo tubes.
The profile included a twin-main mast approach with a single funnel seated at midships. Aboard was a crew of 737. Armor reached 3" at the belt, 3" at the decks, 7" at the barbettes, 9 " at the primary turrets, and 10" at the conning tower. Installed machinery, consisting of 18 x Yarrow boilers feeding 4 x Geared steam turbines, developed 90,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts under stern. Maximum speed, in ideal conditions, reached 31.5 knots.
Dimensions included an overall length of 786.8 feet, a beam of 88 feet, and a draught of 24.10 feet. Displacement was 19,825 tons under normal loads and up to 23,260 tons under full loads.
Changes During World War 1
As soon as March 1917, the near-complete Furious was tagged for conversion into an aircraft carrier in an effort to increase the Grand Fleet's aircraft capabilities over longer ranges. This work involved complete removal of her forward primary turret and a 10-aircraft hangar and short, sloping "fly-off" deck was added in its place (the hangar sat below the flight deck and housed both wheeled and seaplane types). The warship could launch aircraft while aircraft management was handled by an onboard crane - though aircraft recovery was a true limitation in the warship's earliest form. The work ended in July of 1917 and, on August 2nd, 1917, the ship was witness to the first-ever landing of an aircraft on a moving ship - this being a Sopwith Pup biplane under the control of Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning.
In November of that year, the warship was returned to continue her progression to aircraft carrier. This involved replacement of the aft primary gun turret with another hangar/fly-off deck combination but with better prospects installed for landing on the moving ship. A section of deck now joined the forward and aft decks to better manage the flow of aircraft. However, the unchanged superstructure, coupled with the new and existing deck works, meant that the warship suffered from too much wind-over-deck at-speed which led to enough accidents to restrict onboard landings considerably.
The changes left Furious as something of a mutt for it was now neither a battlecruiser nor was it a true aircraft carrier by definition. Nevertheless, she played an important early role for the British in carrier-based operations involving aircraft. Her first attack by way of aircraft came July 19th, 1918 when Sopwith Camels were launched against Zeppelin shed structures, destroying two as well as a pair of Zeppelins. World War 1 then ended in the Armistice of November 1918.
HMS Furious Reborn
A more complete rebuild project followed in the post-war world, the overhaul occurring from 1921 until 1925 and incorporating lessons learned from two of the Royal Navy's earlier aircraft carriers, HMS Argus and HMS Eagle (both detailed elsewhere on this site). During this major refit period, her superstructure was entirely done away with and replaced by a through-deck running along three-quarters of her length, from aft of the forecastle to the stern. No island superstructure was given (this not added until the 1939 refit and set to include a short mast seating a homing beacon function) but a two-story hangar area was now set under the flight deck and capable of housing some thirty-six aircraft. The operating crew soon grew to become 795 personnel.
Her new form showcased an overall length of 735.2 feet, a beam of 89 feet, and a draught of 27.2 feet. Displacement grew to 22,900 tons under normal loads and 26,900 tons under full loads. The same machinery outputted 90,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts but her outright speed was reduced some to 30 knots. Range was out to 7,500 nautical miles. The armament scheme now involved 10 x 5.5" guns in single-gunned mountings and 6 x 4" guns in single-gunned mountings - all more or less intended to protect the vessel from aircraft attacks.
World War 2 Service
The reborn HMS Furious was operated throughout the early and middle parts of World War 2 which arrived with the German invasion of Poland in September of 1939. Furious was still in play, despite her age and obvious tactical limitations, and served with both the British Home Fleet and the Mediterranean Fleet where she formed a critical component to Royal Navy actions in the early-going - particularly in the Mediterranean Theater (where she was able to commit warplanes to the effort of besieged Malta during 1940 - 1942). Furious also took part in the Norwegian Campaign of 1940, operated as part of the various hunter groups arranged by the Royal Navy, provided support to convoys, and assisted in the Allied landings of North Africa in November 1942 during "Operation Torch". In 1944, her aircraft attacked KMS Tirpitz and this marked her last notable wartime action for, after this, HMS Furious was set in reserve status on September 15th, 1944. Her doomed structure was stress-tested against RAF aerial bombs for a short time before her stripped, beaten, and battered hulk was sold off for scrapping in 1948.