HMS Triumph (R16)

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HMS Triumph

Career RN Ensign
Laid down: 27 January 1943
Launched: 2 November 1944
Commissioned: May 1946
Fate: Scrapped 1981
Struck: 1981
General Characteristics
Displacement: 13,400 tons
Length: 695 ft
Beam: 80 ft
Draught: 23.5 ft
Propulsion: Steam Turbines 4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, Parsons geared turbines
Speed: 25 knots
Complement: 1,300 (including air group)
Aircraft: 48

HMS Triumph (R16) (1944–1981) was a Colossus-class light fleet aircraft carrier, laid down during World War II on 27 January 1943. Her construction was relatively quick, with the carrier being launched on 2 October 1944 with the war only a few months from its finish. On 6 May 1946 she was commissioned into the Royal Navy, joining a number of her sister-ships.

In 1950, Triumph was on a cruise to Japan as part of the Far East Fleet. She was nearing Hong Kong when news reached Triumph and her accompanying ships of war breaking out in the Korean peninsula, forcing Triumph into a state of alert, including fully armed aircraft on deck. Triumph, escorted by the WWII veteran Cossack, who would also have an escort role with her sister-ship Theseus, was refueled and provisioned at the Royal Australian Naval base at Kure, Japan. Consort and Jamaica, who would both have prominent roles during the Korean War, as well as the Australian Shoalhaven, a River-class frigate and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Wave Conqueror, joined Triumph as she departed the base.

The following day, she and her assorted escorts, headed for Okinawa, being subsequently refueled at the American base there. Then, she and her escorts proceeded to West Korean waters, where other Royal Navy warships were converging. At this time, she was the sole RN carrier in the Far East. She was thus destined to have a vital role in the early months of the Korean War. After joining the US Fleet, No. 827 Squadron, part of Triumphs air group, commenced operations with a number of vintage Seafires, which were a naval variant of the iconic Spitfire, and which saw much action during the closing years of WWII. She also flew Fireflies during the initial operations of the Korean War, which were also of WWII vintage. During the Second World War, Fireflies provided air cover during the sinking of the massive battleship Tirpitz in 1944, sister-ship of the gigantic Bismarck.

The Seafires and Fireflies of Triumph, in conjunction with aircraft from the American carrier Valley Forge, hit airfields at Pyongyang and Chinnam, the first carrier strikes of the war. The Seafires, though agile and fast, had an appearance that was a liability when operating with allied forces The aircraft had a remarkable similarity to the Yak-9, a Soviet fighter aircraft of WWII vintage, in service with the North Korean forces. Such similarities would play to an almost tragic incident further into Triumph's deployment during the Korean War.

On on 19 July 1950, Lieutenant P. Cane, flying a Sea Otter, an air-sea rescue aircraft, performed the type's last operational sea rescue, when a WWII vintage F4U Corsair had been shot down by flak, forcing the American pilot to ditch into very rough seas. The Sea Otter landed, despite the adverse conditions, and the American pilot was soon rescued, with the Sea Otter returning to Triumph successfully, thanks mainly to the skill of the pilot.

On the 28th July, an almost tragic event occurred, when a flight of Seafires were deployed to an area to investigate possible enemy air activity. They discovered that the activity was in actuality a flight of WWII vintage B-29s. One of the Seafires was hit by one of the bombers, hitting its fuel tank, and forcing the pilot to bail out and land in terrible sea conditions. Rescue by Sea Otter was impossible due to the appalling conditions. The pilot was forced to wait about an hour until he was rescued by the American warship Eversole.

Further Combat Air Patrol (CAP) and anti-submarine operations continued until she left Korean waters for Kure in Japan, where she spent her eight days there in refit. On the 9th July, Triumph was back back on the west cost of Korea, accompanied by the cruiser Kenya, the destroyer Comus and two Canadian warships, Athabaskan and Sioux. Seafires launched numerous Photographic Reconnaissance (PR) operations around areas such as Mokpo, Kunsan, Chinnam, as well as Inchon. Over the next few days, Seafires destroyed two North Korean gunboats, attacked railway tracks, small coaster vessels and oil tanks.

On 23rd August, Triumph, with just nine operational aircraft left, returned to Sasebo, Japan, where she joined two other carriers, Valley Forge, in which she had the launched the wars first carrier strike with, and Philippine Sea. While in harbour the North Koreans launched, what was an unexpected air attack, hitting Comus, causing damage to her hull and killing one sailor in the process. She was escorted to Kure for repair by her sister-ship Consort. This caused carriers to be extra vigilant in the aftermath of the surprise attack, with CAP operations being increased.

On 29 August, another tragic incident occurred, when a Fairey Firefly landed without an arrestor hook and entered the barrier. A large piece of its propeller blade broke off, hurtled towards the surface of the Flying Control position, breaking the glass of the Operations Room and entering the room with tragic consequences, striking Lieutenant Commander I. M. McLachlan, the Commanding Officer of No. 800 NAS Squadron, who later died from the injuries he sustained in this freak incident. He was buried at sea off the coast of South Korea with full Naval Honours.

On 30 August, after a four day patrol, Triumph returned to Sasebo, where she received 14 aircraft from the support carrier Unicorn. On the 3rd September, Triumph departed Sasebo for the West Coast of Korea. When Triumph got there, her aircraft performed the now routine Combat Air Patrol (CAP) missions along with reconnaissance duties and bombardment spotting for the Fiji-class cruiser HMS Jamaica and the destroyer Charity.

After the 6th of September, Triumph, accompanied by Athabaskan and HMA Ships Warramunga and Bataan, proceeded to the East Coast of Korea to replace the carriers of the US 7th Fleet. The operations commenced on the 8th, with Fireflies and Seafires attacking numerous targets, causing much havoc for the North Korean forces.

On the 9th, bad weather forced operations to limit themselves to just eight sorties, with four Fireflies attacking the airfield at Koryo, causing a large amount of damage. No. 800 Squadron's aircraft was decreased yet again, now to just six aircraft, after four others had been written off. The following day, Triumph returned once again to Sasebo.

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On the 12th September, Triumph departed Sasebo, accompanied by Warramunga and the Royal Navy C-class destroyers - Charity, Cockade and Concord. Their objective, though unknown to the crews of the ships at that time, was to cover the landings at Inchon. The group, part of CTF 91, a Commonwealth Task Force, was joined by the cruiser Ceylon and RAN warship, Bataan, and was now known as the Northern Group. There was also a much smaller Southern Group which comprised HMC Ships - Athabaskan, Cayuga and Sioux.

Triumph's aircraft provided vital air cover for the attacking forces in the first few days before the landings. After the landings took place, Triumph and her accompanying escort, provided anti-submarine patrols, while her aircraft commenced interdiction and spotting operations. The latter operations proved very successful with Fireflies spotting for the cruisers Jamaica and Kenya. Thanks to the spotting by the Fireflies, Jamaica launched a devastating bombardment on North Korean positions, destroying a hidden cache of weapons, which resulted in the top of a hill being completely obliterated, creating a large plume of smoke that reached 8,000 feet.

The end of the days operations led to a message to the commander of the Commonwealth, Admiral Andrewes, from the United Nation's overall commander, General Douglas MacArthur, "My heartiest felicitations on the splendid conduct of the Fleet units under your command. They have added another glamorous page to the long and brilliant histories of the Navies of the British Commonwealth."

By the end of D-Day an astonishing 13,000 troops and all their equipment had been landed. On 17 September, North Korean aircraft bombed the American warship, Rochester, as well as strafing the British cruiser, Jamaica, killing one and wounding two. Shortly afterwards, both warships managed to carry out a brief bombardment of North Korean troops.

On the 21st September, Triumph entered Sasebo for the last time in her deployment during the Korean War. She spent two days there in drydock for temporary repairs, before departing for Hong Kong on the 25th September, with her role in the conflict being replaced by Theseus.

Her duties after that war were a relatively mundane one. She was placed in reserve and became a training and trials ship in the mid 1950s. She was then converted to a heavy repair ship from 19581965, being designated A108. Triumph was based in Singapore after her conversion, being involved in a major exercise in 1968 in the Far East, with numerous capital ships from Britain and other nations taking part, as well as dozens of destroyers and frigates, with Triumph being used as a heavy repair and transport ship for troops. In 1975 Triumph was paid off. In 1981 she was stricken and subsequently scrapped in Spain in that same year.

See HMS Triumph for other ships of the name.

Colossus-class aircraft carrier
Royal Navy
Colossus | Glory | Ocean | Vengeance | Pioneer | Venerable | Warrior | Perseus | Theseus | Triumph
Royal Australian Navy
Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Netherlands Navy
Karel Doorman (ex-Venerable)
French Navy
Arromanches (ex-Colossus)
Argentine Navy
Veinticinco de Mayo (ex-Venerable) | Independencia (ex-Warrior)
Brazilian Navy
Minas Gerais (ex-Vengeance)

List of aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy

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