The Royal Navy's ship HMS Ark Royal is the fifth by that name to have served the Crown.
The first HMS Ark Royal was built at Deptford on the River Thames in 1587, to the order of Sir Walter Raleigh.
Leading the Spanish Armada
Originally named Ark Ralegh, she was bought by Queen Elizabeth's navy for £5000 and renamed Ark Royal. She became the flagship of the English fleet during the Spanish Armada campaign of 1588. In 1608, under the new monarch James I, she was rebuilt and renamed Anne Royal and broken up in 1636.
Serving in the First World War
The next Ark Royal was a merchant ship converted on the building stocks to be a seaplane carrier for the First World War. Launched in 1914 she gave valuable service in the Dardanelles and throughout the remaining campaign. She was renamed HMS Pegasus in 1934 to free the name for a new ship, and broken up in 1950.
Defeated in World War Two
The third Ark Royal was a 22,000 ton aircraft carrier launched in 1937. After taking part in many wartime operations, including the hunt for the Bismarck, she was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-Boat in November 1941.
A celebrity ship
In 1955 a new HMS Ark Royal entered service. Still remembered by the public for her starring role in the 1970s BBC series Sailor, she eventually went to the breaker's yard in 1980.
The ‘invincible’ class
Today's HMS Ark Royal is a member of the 'Invincible' class of support carriers, together with the Falklands veteran HMS Invincible and HMS Illustrious. Last of the class to be built, HMS Ark Royal's keel was laid at Swan Hunter's yard in 1978. She was launched in June 1981 and entered service in 1985.
Using our collections for research
The collections at Royal Museums Greenwich offer a world class resource for researching maritime history, astronomy and time.