HMAS Van Diemen (CV-1914 (1940-mod))


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HMAS Van Diemen (ex Agincourt, ex Sultan Osman I, ex Rio de Janeiro) had probably one of the most chequered careers of any battleship even before she was built. Ordered by Brazil, bought by Turkey and seized by Great Britain on the outbreak of war to stop the ship being completed for Turkey. The only ship with 7 main turrets they were named after the days of the week rather than the usual A, B, Q, X, etc. It was felt that the ship may have problems firing full 14 guns broadsides as it may overstress the hull. The ship confounded the pundits by firing full broadsides at Jutland, even though the flash from the 14 guns looked like another battlecruiser exploding... Surviving the war the ship was placed in reserve and was to be discarded under the terms of the Washington Treaty. She was saved by the Australis Navy wanting a ship of approximately 700 feet for converting to an aircraft carrier.


The ship was transferred to the Australis Navy in 1923 and renamed Van Diemen on arrival in Australis. The ship went to Adelaide where the ship was stripped of its battleship fittings (to be used in other ships rebuilding later). Work proceeded slowly as news reached Australis of the conversions of the ships in Britain, the Furious types, and the newly built  Hermes, while the US Navy was converting the giant Lexington and Saratoga.


Taking the best parts from all of them the rebuild designsers went with the US enclosed bow with the Furious type stern mounting for the flight deck. Only one hangar deck was provided for and aircraft carrying capacity was a maximum of 40, which while only half that of the US and Japanese giants it was enough for the Australis Navies first aircraft carrier trials. Like most early aircraft carriers a lot of 'warship' fitting were kept to the detriment of aircraft carrying capacity.

Below the side view shows the long hull required for mounting 7 turrets also made it a good possibility for conversion to an aircraft carrier.

Van Diemens first war posting was to South America where the ship was to aid the Chilean and Brazilian navies in subduing Argentina and retaking the Falkands Islands. As an aid to this, the Van Diemen carried the first 2 jet aircraft squadrons into action. One squadron of Supermarine Seajets Mk1 and one squadron of Fairey SeaBattlejet Mk1 were available for service. These aircraft were the first full squadrons to go to sea as training of the pilots had only just finished and it was just as well that the trip accross to South Africa from Sydney was such a long journey as the pilots and aircraft were drilled on take offs and landings, formation flying and above all dogfighting techniques with the new aircraft during passage. The Van Diemen had started off from Sydney with 15 of each type and was down to 11 Battlejets and 10 Seajets by the time the ship docked at Simonstown. Further aircraft had been dispatched as they were completed at the CAC factories in Melbourne, trained accross to Perth and put on a ship bound for South Africa. It was the landing on that caused the most problems. With the higher landing speeds, if the pilots missed the arrester wires a badly damaged (some to the point of write off to spares) were pulled out of the safety net strung accross the deck. The other squadron carried aboard were 12 SeaHurricanes. These aircraft had proved extremely useful in the working out how the jets could best operate against piston engine fighters. Though the Hurricane pilots were a bit sick of having targets on their backs. Very galling to come down behind a Seajet only to watch it accelerate away from them as if they were standing still.

While only two thirds of the original complement of jets survived to take part in retaking the Falkands, these were more than enough to knock down the Argentinian Heinkel 112's like skeet targets. The 9 SeaBattlejets that launched in that strike against the 25 De Mayo put 3 torpedoes into the Argentinian ship which exploded and turned turtle in minutes with a huge loss of life due to the cold water temperatures. The remaining two SeaBattleJets put their two remaining torpedoes into the battleship Santa Cruz. The sea war for this theater was effectively over. With the 25 De Mayo gone and no air cover the Argentinian and German ships were sitting ducks to the aircraft from the 3 Allied aircraft carriers. The Germanic States ships received orders at this time to make a break from the imminent fleet action and to return north while the South American fleet units were engaged.

When this deployment was completed the Van Diemen returned to Adelaide where the ship was to undergo a refit that was to make the ship more capable of handling jet aircraft. The experience gained by this ship had been transmitted to the RN and RAN planners and proved excellent information when translated to designs and plans. No actual structural changes needed to be made. It was the refitting of the AA guns and arrester wires, otherwise the angle deck was just paint on the deck. Once the first two Tasman Sea class ships were completed, the Van Diemen was retired to Melbourne to act as the training carrier for jet pilots landing training while the Carpentaria joined also for for piston engine training. The two ships had many interesting 'battles' as officers of all ranks learnt the lessons that were to be had.

Interesting to see the twin 4" on both port and starboard mountings.


Displacement 32,500 tons full load
Length 706.5 ft
Breadth 89.5 ft (hull)
Draught 30 ft
Machinery 4 shaft steam turbines 75,000shp
Speed 26 knots
Range 6000 miles at 18 knots
Armour 4.5" side, 3" over machinery & magazines
Armament 12 x 4" (6x2)

16 x 2pd (4x4)

20 x 20mm (4x2 8x1)

Aircraft 40  (in1938 service)

20 Swordfish

8 Skua

12 Hurricane

Torpedoes nil
Complement 1300 (with aircrew)


HMAS Van Diemen at Adelaide dockyards in 1924 undergoing the removal of the weapons and superstructure.


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