First commission 1959-1961
On the 25th November 1959 the ship was commissioned at Portsmouth captain Tibbets read out the commissioning warrant to 3,000 ships company families and guests gathered in the hangar. Among those that attended were several survivors of Hermes 9.
The following day the ship left Portsmouth on her first voyage to Gibraltar much of the following time was spent at Portsmouth testing equipment on 10th may 1960 a Seahawk of 700 squadron became the first jet aircraft to land on Hermes air trials continued and when over the ship sailed for the Mediterranean. With a full complement of 189 officers and 1,643 ratings Hermes arrived in Gibraltar on July 9th to begin the “work up” in the med exercises gave a chance to try out the new radar system before visiting Algiers. Hermes headed back to the UK first to Falmouth then on to Rosyth where she took part in a major air defence exercise code named “sword thrust” which tested the vixens to the limit. Hermes returned to Greenock next she returned to Portsmouth for three weeks before heading off to the Far East on 7th November 1960.Docking at Gibraltar for a bottom paint Hermes then transmitted the Suez Canal for the first time then on briefly to Aden and Christmas in Columbo and new year in Singapore continuing with a ten day visit to Hong Kong returning to Singapore and heading for home.
A particularly poignant moment came for Hermes when on the 10 th of march the ship passed over the spot where Hermes 9 was sunk by Japanese bombers during this time a service was held on the flight deck in memory of those lost in 1942.
The Suez Canal was next follower by Malta and Naples finally Gibraltar and back to Portsmouth on April 19th having been away 173 days and travelling 33,300 miles. After five weeks leave the ship re-embarked and after more exercises on 3rd of June Hermes sailed for North America for various exercises but this changed when the British government withdrew ships from exercises off the eastern USA Hermes was back at Gibraltar then a trip to Oslo then home to Portsmouth and buccaneer flying trials sadly one aircraft crashed on lunch into the sea and both crew members were lost. On 11 September 1961 Hermes went into Portsmouth for her first refit Billy Smarts circus visited the ship and gave a performance in the hangar complete with elephant!. In November1961 Captain Tibbets handed over command to Captain W D O’Brien.
Second Commission 1962-1964
On 24th April Hermes was re commissioned and in May Hermes sailed for the Mediterranean and heading for Gibraltar and Malta for maintenance. The ship then sailed for the North African coast then for an official visit to Beirut. Hermes then went on to Cyprus, Crete and Malta before returning to Gibraltar for maintenance. Hermes left Gibraltar and headed for the Atlantic for exercises visiting Lisbon and Palma returning to the Mediterranean in October for more maintenance.
Christmas was spent in Singapore and New Year in Hong Kong where the ship was greeted by HRH The Duke of Kent. Back to Singapore.
In dockyard with a new propeller fitted and new paint all over she then continued making way to Manila. The ships second visit to Hong Kong was during a heat wave where it was able to help by supplying fresh water ashore. Hermes then sailed for Japan but due to a catapult defect as far as they got was the coastline returning to Singapore and a very hot ten days in dock. Hermes sailed off to Gan and Mombassa then heading home for Portsmouth. In September 1963 Admiral of the Fleet Lord Louis Mountbatten arrived on board by RAF Belvedere helicopter. The ship returned to the Mediterranean for the next month returning back to Portsmouth in October 1963.
After Christmas Hermes left for Copenhagen and back to Devonport for de-amunitioning Hermes was now in for a refit that would take until 1966.
Third Commission 1966-1968
On 3rd February 1966 Captain Tim Lewin took command and Hermes was re commissioned on 28th March 220 officers and 1,900 men formed the ships company.
First she went to Gibraltar, Hamburg and Scotland engine failure caused great problems the engineers did there best and the journey continued it was then back to Portsmouth a new propeller was fitted along with other work she was then on her way again to Gibraltar for planned maintenance. While in Gibraltar in January 1967 Hermes was in the making of a James Bond film.
At sea again she passed though Malta and Napes on to Athens and Cyprus and down the Red sea to Aden. Next stop was Singapore naval base and on to Hong Kong where jelly fish choked her strainers and fuel leaked from holes in the tanks next to Fremantle and back to Portsmouth on route boilers were cleaned and steam leaks repaired. Rounding the Cape and heading for Mombasa eventually the ship retuned to Aden and the next stop was Hong Kong and Subic enjoying the hospitality of Australia at Fremantle and then an 11,800 mile trip round the Cape of Good Hope back to Portsmouth in October 1967. At this time Hermes was handed over to Captain D C Parker a month later Hermes sailed under her new Captain back East of Suez, Ascension and Mombasa were next followed by Christmas on the Arabian Riviera during this time Captain Parker was taken ill and Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse took command in his absence. On 1st February of 1968 Hermes began the home journey with a stop at Cape Town before returning to Portsmouth on 18th February.
Fourth Commission 1968-1970
The re commission ceremony took place at Portsmouth on 17th May 1968 Hermes began trials in the Channel which included the Royal Navy’s new Phantom aircraft. After a fog shrouded trip to Moray Firth the next destination was the Far East via Gibraltar and Cape Town. The next phase of the deployment was, Exercise Coral Sands the participating countries were Australia, New Zealand, America, and UK all sending ships to take part after all ships were sent to various ports to rest and Hermes was lucky enough to get Sydney Harbour then on to the Australian Naval air base the US Naval Base was next and then Hong Kong and Singapore was the location Hermes spent Christmas of 1968.
Exercise Fotex took place after Christmas and Hermes saw her 2,000 deck landing of the commission 32 ships of four Navy’s took part in exercise Fotex and after there was a brief visit to Singapore then back to Fremantle Western Australia.
Hermes headed for home having been away almost nine months and travelled 59,000 miles. The ship then had a complete re paint inside and out ready for families day on 29th August 1969 before sailing again on 2ed September and a trip to Scotland for intense flight exercises. In November 1969 back in Portsmouth the TV show opportunity knocks was broadcast live from the Hangar. Exercise Decamp followed in the eastern Atlantic Hermes entered Gibraltar on 28th November but was back home to Portsmouth for Christmas. The last deployment of this commission was from January to June 1970 in the Mediterranean where the new ejection seat was put to the test when a buccaneer broke loose and launched without catapult assistance and went straight into the sea both pilots were saved due to the ejection seats. two planned maintenance trips took place in Malta and on to Monaco and Istanbul returning to the UK on 22ed June 1970.In two years Hermes had steamed 126,000miles and was now to be placed in preservation her company reduced and towed to Devonport for conversion to a helicopter carrier that was going to take until 1973 to complete.
Conversion to commando 1970-1976
At Devonport in 1971 work began at a cost of £15 million and in February 1973 Captain Branson took command on April 18th 1973 2,000 people were in the hangar for the re commissioning. Attending were four previous captains and the daughter of Lady Churchill who originally had launched Hermes in 1953. Hermes visited Oslo and was honoured by a visit from King Olav and back to Devonport in November and Arbroth and Skye and Devonport for Christmas 1973.
Narvik and an Atlantic snowstorm were experienced before Hermes headed for a warmer climate of Hamburg then Malta before sailing to Cyprus to carry out a NATO exercise involving five navy’s.
Hermes went to Halifax and then Bermuda for a Canadian exercise. The next plan was to return home but with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus things changed and Hermes was sent into the Turkish war zone to help evacuate British and other refugees in Northern Cyprus. British military forces rescued 7,526 people. One lady rescued with her new born baby christened her daughter Hermoula the female word for Hermes. With the refugees off loaded and 41 re embarked to return to Malta Hermes was back to Devonport from August until September.
Copenhagen was visited next all the famous little mermaid was seen wearing a Hermes hat! on route home a stop was made at Cherbourg and returning to Portsmouth where Captain Branson was relieved by Captain Reffell.
Along with a new captain came a VIP this was Lieutenant The Prince of Wales in a Wessex 5 during his commando Operational Flying Training he was to join 845 squadron on the next deployment. December through to February 1975 were spent in Devonport for much needed maintenance. Exercise Rum Punch was in March where pilots had the chance to try US helicopters. Short visits to Curacao and Aruba then Florida and Miami followed. Heading North to Canada staying at Navy Yard Halifax, Nova Scotia for maintenance and finishing with Montreal and Quebec.
Hermes returned to Plymouth saying a fond farewell to HRH The Prince of Wales ending six months of being a full member of the squadron .Devonport followed for summer maintenance during that time Navy days of 1975 saw 40,000 visitors to Hermes. On September the 1st she sailed for Malta and then Istanbul and Malta in October. Rosyth for wash up and de brief and then to Devonport for Christmas 1975.The final deployment was the northern flank of NATO in below zero temperatures two months were spent here then Hermes paid a last visit to Copenhagen.
The final day at sea was joined by families on route to Devonport for another refit saying Farwell to Captain Reffell leaving commander Peter Erskin in command.
After a refit at Devonport Hermes returned with a new talent as anti-submarine support ship (CVS)and with a new commanding officer Captain Fitch. Hermes was honoured with Freedom of the town of Tiverton and took the honour with pride and a grand parade through the town. Sea trials began around Plymouth ,Firth and the North East coast of England and back to Portland.
In March Hermes set off to Gibraltar and during the short stat there 140 of the ships company joined the Top of The Rock race. Toulon was next port of call followed by Malta where an inter ships sports day was held with over 400 joining in varied games and the Royal Marines winning. While in Malta Hermes was paid a visit by an ex Captain now promoted to First Sea Lord Admiral Lewin and to celebrate they held a horse race evening in the hangar .Hermes went on to Naples to prepare for the NATO exercise “Determined Defenders” in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Sardinia was next transporting HQ3 Commando Brigade and its marines turning the flight deck into a car park with all their vehicles.
back home Hermes was to prepare for the Queens Silver Jubilee review of the fleet, the review took place on 28th of June and all bar one of Hermes ex Captains were on board when HM The Queen embarked from Royal Yacht Britannia. Families joined Hermes for the trip to Devonport for summer leave.
During a passage to Bermuda hurricane Clara hit causing a few delays but when the weather got better trips were made to Mayport and Norfolk, Virginia where some of the US ships joined with Hermes for Exercise Combined Effort and Ocean Safari taking them back across the Atlantic stopping at Lisbon and back to Portsmouth. After a short trip to Copenhagen in November it was back to Devonport for Christmas. Leaving on January 17th Harbour inspection was in Gibraltar and a visit back to Mayport for a three week AMP gave the ships company chance to visit Florida and Disneyland.
Returning to Bermuda Captain Fitch was relieved by Captain Jenkins before crossing the Atlantic with a brief stop in Gibraltar and home for Easter. After intense exercises the ship sailed for Den Helder the combined exercise ASW/Amphibious took Hermes up the Hebrides and across southern Norway with six inches of snow falling on the flight deck in an hour and a half this snow had to be cleaned off to allow the ship to go to flying stations. Copenhagen followed complete with Danish models and a fashion show on board! and back to Devonport.
Hamburg was next and Harrier trials in the Moray Firth and Christmas was spent in Portsmouth and in the new year more exercises then heading for Naples and Athens. The ship was then taken to Trondheim for Exercise Cold Winter followed by leave and maintenance in Portsmouth.
Exercise Jolly Rodger was next taking Hermes out into the sun with a trip to Gibraltar and returning via the western isles of Scotland and back out to Mayport again. Ocean Safari ended at Bergen and returning to Portsmouth and Naval Harrier trials followed in Carmarthen Bay returning to Portsmouth for Christmas.
Captain McKenzie took command from Captain Jenkins and the last deployment was to be the Caribbean and USA taking in Mississippi and New Orleans and even joining in the famous Mardi-Gras the ship being honoured with the invitation to lead the parade .HRH Prince Andrew then joined Hermes for four weeks training, Florida and Bermuda rounded off the trip before returning to Plymouth.
On 20th March Hermes entered harbour for the refit that would change her look it would fit her with a 12-degree ski jump and would take thirteen months to complete and during this time Captain Middleton took command from Captain McKenzie.
Sea acceptance trials began under the command of Captain Middleton on 12th May 1981 Hermes now having the ski jump fitted and updated control and communication facilities ready for re-dedication on 5th June.
Hermes was the largest ship in the fleet now and the main attraction for Portsmouth Navy day providing the grandstand for the flying displays. On 2ed September Hermes headed for USA and Florida and the Louisiana where Hermes carried out Contractor Assisted Maintenance. A record was broken here when Hermes became the first ever carrier to launch and recover fixed wing aircraft alongside in the naval base.
In October Hermes left Mayport for Norfolk, Virginia for an exercise against USN nuclear submarines Bermuda followed after the exercise and return to the UK travelling back through a force 10 hurricane.
More exercises followed in the new year and a trip to Lisbon and Hermes was in Portsmouth in March for a Dockyard Assisted Maintenance Period.
Within 72 hours Hermes was prepared/stocked and her crew re-called from leave and on 5th April was ready to leave Portsmouth just three days after the invasion of the Falkland islands.
Hermes passed the equator on 15th April where Rear Admiral Woodward embarked-Hermes had now become Flagship of the campagne. Reaching Ascention on 16th April and the Total Exclusion Zone on the 18th.On the 23rd April during poor visibility a Sea King 4 was lost all were recovered apart from Petty Officer Aircrew man Ben Casey becoming the ships first casualty of the campagne.
On 1st of May entering the Total Exclusion Zone Hermes launched a 12 Sea Harrier strike on Port Stanley and Goose Green all aircraft returning safely. With the torpedo attack and sinking of the Belgrano all aboard were not allowed to sleep below water level. On 4th May the task force suffered losses and from Hermes Lieutenant Nick Taylor was lost. On the same day HMS Sheffield was attacked and many of her injured were taken aboard Hermes.
Sadly Hermes was to suffer another loss Lieutenant Commander Gordon Batt was lost when his Sea Harrier blew up on launch on 23rd of May.
Fierce air land and sea battles were to continue bringing further tragedy with the bombing of Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram. After the ceasefire on 14th June the remainder of the month was spent providing air cover for ground forces. Rear Admiral Reffell returned to Hermes with his staff for briefings on the 1st of July where he took command of the task group. On the 3rd of July a full Air group fly past took place over Port Stanley before Hermes headed home to an amazing welcome when entering Portsmouth with a flotilla of escort vessels and the Prime minister and Admiral of the Fleet on board.
This page is dedicated to all those lost in the Falklands Campaign.
Much paint and maintenance was needed on return from the South Atlantic and this took place at Portsmouth dockyard and in November the Falklands Task force Ball was proudly held in the hangar
Captain Dimmock had now taken command from Captain Middleton who had been promoted to Rear Admiral. In late November Hermes returned to sea for a shakedown cruise testing the engines and boilers .After Christmas Hermes left Portsmouth sailing West of Scotland joining exercise Roebuck then on to Hamburg. Arctic stores were needed for the next trip to Norway and after Easter Hermes headed for the USA New York then Mayport Florida entertaining many American defence officials. The ship moved on to Norfolk Virginia and Gothenburg was visited on route back to Portsmouth.
Captain Dimmock was relieved as Captain Snow took command and Hermes took to sea in September visiting Naples. Hermes was re routed to Italy next due to diplomatic difficulties between Turkey and Greece later to return to Saros bay Turkey. Istanbul followed then Hermes sailed to Cyprus and in October Alexandria for a working visit to the Egyptian armed forces. Gibraltar was next port of call where many of the ships company took part in the Top of The Rock race.
Hermes returned to Portsmouth then to Devonport for the end of commission Ball with seven of her ex Captains in attendance. Hermes sailed back into Portsmouth for the last time on 12th April 1984 just as HMS Bulwark was being towed out to a Scottish scrap yard sirens blasted as the two great ships passed each other.