Colossus Class


Country: United Kingdom

The December 1941 sinking of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales by Japanese land based aircraft made it clear to the Royal Navy how vulnerable capital ships were without air cover. If protection could not be provided by land-based forces then it was urgent that these ships be provided with aircraft carrier escort.

The Colossus Class aircraft carriers emerged as something of a hybrid and expedient at the same time. The Royal Navy had operated two forms of aircraft carrier – the fleet carrier capable of operating the latest types of combat aircraft and the escort carrier really only able to operate in a defensive role. However the escort carrier was smaller and cheaper to build and could be ready much more quickly that the large and heavier fleet carrier types. The Colossus Class ships were based on a reduced size Illustrious Class design and were built to commercial, rather than naval, standards. They were intended to be available in two years from order.

At one stage a total of sixteen vessels were planned. In the event, at least six of these were converted to orders for Majestic Class ships. HMS Perseus and HMS Pioneer were used exclusively as aircraft maintenance vessels rather than combat ships.
The first four Colossus carriers were completed in December 1944 and were immediately dispatched to the Far East. None saw action probably because they did not have armoured flight decks which would have given some protection against Japanese kamikaze attacks.

Less costly to operate than bigger fleet carriers the Colossus Class provided a cheap way of projecting the Royal Navy's presence after the Second World War. Their main contribution to the Cold War story was that some of them saw service with the Royal Navy during the Korean War.

Many ships went on to see service with foreign navies and continued to serve into the 1990s.

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