After the second Flight deck was added, which failed to solve the problem of landing on board, HMS Furious was used for anti-Zeppelin work in the North Sea. In July1918 seven Sopwith Camels took off from Furious in the early hours to bomb theZeppelin sheds at Tondern with some success as two Zeppelins were destroyed, but one pilot was lost. The painting shows three of the Tondern Raid Sopwith 2F1 Camels flying over HMS Furious, the nearest was flown by Captain B A Smart.The 2F1 variant of the famous Sopwith Camel had a slightly shorter wingspan, one of the Vickers machine guns replaced by an over wing Lewis but most significantly was the fuselage behind the cockpit which was detachable and containe dflotation gear.
HMS Furious was laid down as a battlecruiser but was completed as Britain’s first designated Aircraft Carrier. Originally built with only a forward flight deck, Sopwith Pups were taken on board for flying trials. While take off was a relatively easy operation landing was an entirely different matter as the aircraft had to manoeuvre around the superstructure. After two successful landings were made by Squadron Commander Dunning, the third attempt ended in disaster and Dunning was drowned. As a result Furious was returned to the dockyard for a second, aft flight deck to be installed. The painting shows Furious as built with one of her pilots in Sopwith Pup N6454 contemplating the problem.
If you are thinking, ‘that looks like a big gun’, you’re right. The
BL 18″ Mk I naval gun mounted here on the stern of HMS Furious, a quasi-battlecruiser herself designed specifically for
a planned invasion of Germany via its Baltic coast during World War I, threw the heaviest shells ever fired by a naval gun, at 3,320 lbs.
The N3 design, approved in November 1921 as a 48,500 long ton (54,320 U.S. short ton) battleship, was to mount nine similar guns in three turrets, giving a broadside weight of 29,880 lbs.
HMS Furious (47) at sea in her original configuration as a large light cruiser - mid-1917. The design evolved for one very specific task, to support the landing of troops on the German Baltic Coast.
Such an operation required a shallow draft vessel with a number of very large guns. As such, Furious was to carry two 18″ weapons. However, the forward turret was removed and replaced with a flying-off deck during construction. In November 1917 she was again redesigned with the removal of her rear turret (seen above) and addition of a rear flight deck. Between 1921 and ‘25 she was converted to an aircraft carrier proper, with her superstructure removed and an uninterrupted flight deck installed. Her 18″ guns did see action during WWI however, aboard the monitor Lord Clive.
When was the HMS Furious retired and when did it see combat?
Furious was designed for one purpose and that operation, to invade Germany via the Baltic coast came to no fruition. She had immense speed, a single massive gun and little armour - pretty useless for combat on the high seas. So by 1918 the aft gun was removed and a landing deck added, but the ship’s superstructure remained rather stupidly - carriers were a new technology.
She went back in for refit and between 1921 and 1925 was reworked to have a continuous flight deck, along with everything else a carrier of the time required. Furious served officially until September 1944 but by then she was well surpassed in capability by the fleets modern carriers.
The monstrous guns designed for her had found new homes on a couple of monitors called Lord Clive and General Wolfe. The gun aboard
General Wolfe was used in anger during World War I, hitting a railway bridge at a range of 36,000-yards, or 20 miles, whichever sounds most impressive without radar.
The single 18″ guns were placed on the stern of Lord Clive and General Wolfe.