The fourth and last HMS Colossus (R15)
had a relatively brief time with the Royal Navy
. She was the name-ship of the Colossus-class light fleet aircraft carriers
, which were smaller derivatives of the Illustrious-class
carriers. She was launched in 1943 and commissioned in 1944. She served with the British Pacific Fleet
1945-46, prior to being loaned to France.
She was renamed Arromanches in 1946 and lent to the French Navy. While in French service, she participated in the First Indochina War in 1948 for three months. She was later purchased by the French in 1951. In the following year, she returned once again to Indochina, this time as French warship. These modifications allowed her to operate Breguet Alizé aircraft.
In 1968 she was converted to an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) carrier, operating up to 24 helicopters. She was decommissioned in 1974 after a long career with the French Navy. She was broken up at Toulon in 1978.
Design and construction
This ship was intended to address the Royal Navy
's shortage of carriers, being cheaper and quicker to construct than a fleet carrier, but far more combat-worthy than the escort carriers which provided air cover to the Atlantic convoys. Scaled down version of Illustrious class
but with a large aircraft compliment achieved by a lack of armour. Designed for rapid construction in merchant yards to make up for the shortfall in carriers but much more capable than escort carriers
Weapons and systems
In 1947 she had for air scanning only, one 79B, for air and surface scanning, one 277 and one 281B. With those she also had a target indicator, a 293. Then in 1954 she still had in her possession a 281B for air and surface scanning a 291B and a 277. Arromanches also still had a 293 as her target indicator. Still for air scanning only she had the 79B, but she also gained later that year a YE and for navigation a DRBN-30. In 1959 she was down-graded and only had a YE in her possession left. That year she gained new scanning equipment. She had a DRBV-22 for air scanning and for surface scanning and navigation a new DRBV-31. And finally in 1972 she was fully downgraded and had her YE removed, but kept her DRBV-22 and her DRBV-31 for air, surface, and navigation consecutively.
During her time in military service she had twenty-four Vickers Armstrongs 2 pounder guns, thirty-two Oerlikon 20 mm guns, later replaced in 1945 by twenty-one Bofors 40 mm guns and four Vickers 3 pounder guns.
During her time in service, before 1968 she also carried the Breguet Br-1050 Alizé, the Chance Vought F4U-7 Corsair, the Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, the Fouga Zéphyr CM-175, the Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver, the Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless, the de Havilland SNCASE Aquilon, the Supermarine Seafire Mk III and XV, and the Grumman TBM Avenger. During her time in service, after 1968, she further carried the Alouette II and III, the Sikorsky S-51, the H-19D (S-55), and the HSS-1 (S-58), the Piasecki H-21 and the HUP-2, and the Fieseler MS-500 Criquet.
Se had a regular flight deck (211 x 24. 50 m), the catapult (at the bow of the ship), two lifts (13. 72 x 10. 36 m wide), and a hangar (104. 24 x 15. 85 m wide) fitted (in 1964) to accommodate 13 TBMs, 2 HUP-2s or 15 F4Us and 2 HUP-2.
Commission and Role
The plans for the construction were laid down 1 June 1942 at the Vickers-Armstrongs
shipyard. It was then launched the 30 September 1943 and commissioned on the 16 December 1944. Arromanches (Colossus) was the fourth and last of the Colossus-class and had a relatively brief time with the Royal Navy
. She was the name-ship of the Colossus-class light fleet aircraft carrier
. She was also tasked with intervention/assault, training, and fast military transport.
She served with the British Pacific Fleet
from 1945-46. While serving with them she held 24 Corsairs
, and 18 Barracudas
. Colossus had two serving squadrons
while with the BPF, the 827 Barracuda Naval Air Squadron and 1846 Corsair Naval Air Squadron.
was then loaned to France as the Arromanches
from August 1946. While in French service, she participated in the First Indochina War
in 1948 for three months. She returned to France
in 1949 and was purchased by the French in 1951. November 3rd 1956, Eighteen F4U Corsair
aircraft coming from the Lafayette
and the Arromanches
struck Cairo airfield during the Suez Crisis
. She was reconstructed with a four degree angled flight deck in 1957-58. During this time Arromanches
was outfitted to become an anti-submarine warfare
and training carrier. The overhaul allowed her to begin operating Breguet Alizé
ASW aircraft starting in 1959. Also in 1959 she returned once again to Indochina
, this time as a fully fledged French warship. Arromanches
was fully converted to a helicopter ASW carrier
in 1968 with up to 24 helicopters. By then the ship was no longer designated as a training carrier.
|| Starting date
|| Starting date |
| Captain (Royal Navy)
|| August 6th 1946
|| June 25th 1962 |
| Capitaine de vaisseau (CV)
|| July 18th 1947
|| September 9th 1963 |
|| October 25th 1948
|| November 16th 1964 |
|| May 13th 1950
|| October 12th 1965 |
|| December 19th 1951
|| October 14th 1966 |
|| August 14th 1952
|| October 30th 1967 |
|| August 29th 1953
|| October 4th 1968 |
|| October 30th 1954
|| Chossat de Montburon
|| December 24th 1969 |
|| April 22th 1956
|| December 3rd 1970 |
|| October 5th 1957
|| December 17th 1971 |
|| July 11th 1959
|| March 20th 1973 |
|| December 19th 1959
|| January 22nd 1974 |
|| January 12th 1961 |
In peace and war time the crew differed greatly, but at both times the officers were of a lesser number forty-two in peace-time and sixty in war. Petty officers were also of lesser number than the regular crew but of a greater number than the officers with 145 in peace-time and 171 in war. The regular crew consisting of men and sailors was of the greatest number. The total was more than the combined number of officers and petty officers with 516 in peace and 613 in war.
Decommissioning and fate
In the mid-1950s she was replaced in the first-line role. At the end of her life, she was used as a training carrier and as a helicopter carrier for the French Marine Corps by 1968 with no aircraft. The ship was decommissioned on 22 Jan 1974, and broken up at Toulon in 1978, a place of importance for both the first Colossus in 1793, and the last in 1978.