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The Story Of John Hornby 1901-1974

Author - John Haydn Barker Hornby, 2001. Edited and Published 2003 Copyright © Hubmaker
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without the prior consent of the publisher.

Chapter 5 - The "Glorious" Years

My father always spoke well of his time on HMS Glorious. She was an aircraft carrier, built first as a cruiser, and converted to carry aircraft before January 1930. He joined her on 7th January 1930, and left on 5th January 1933.

During his service in 1931 the ship's torpedo bombers were the first to demonstrate by nine direct hits that battleships were vulnerable to aircraft attack, and for the first time carrier borne aircraft assault was taken seriously. It was in fact the beginning of the end of the battleship era. Also, night flying was practised endlessly. It was new to aircraft carriers then along with the use of the catapult, first fitted in 1930, combined with the first principles of homing in on a primitive radio signal. It is as well to remember that HMS Glorious was a small carrier and had no arrester gear to stop her aircraft and so many were lost, even though they were slow flyers (Hawkers, Nimrods and Blackburn Rippons) at that time. Little aircraft called Fairey Flycatchers fitted with Jaguar engines used to fly straight out of the hangar with a tremendous roar, much to the delight, apparently, of all the crew members!

Records show that "Glorious" was a happy ship, and she was certainly a pretty one with her large single funnel. Her loss, on 8" June 1940 (in ignominious circumstances) was a traumatic event for the navy. She was being sent home from the Norwegian war theatre with an escort of the destroyers "Ardent" and "Acasta" and the group fell in with the very modern German battleships "Gneisnau" and "Scharnhorst" which sank all three of the British ships, killing most of their crews including the extremely valuable pilots. There were very few survivors, only one person from "Acasta".

In command of "Glorious" at that time was Captain G. D'Oyly Hughes, who had earned fame in the first World war in submarines (E11), but one commentator says "As a carrier commander he failed to have his ship ready for any emergency while in uncertain waters. He failed to have every aircraft ready for take off, even taking into account the fatigue of the pilots and the wind conditions which prevented aerial reconnaisance. And, even with his fuel situation, not having the ship's engines ready to provide full speed was a grievous error". He went down with the ship and was posthumously seriously censored by the Board of Inquiry into the loss.

Ironically, however, the damage inflicted on "Scharnhorst" probably averted a more serious disaster had she found the returning troop laden convoys just ahead of the "Glorious". Who knows?

On 1st April 1931 the "Glorious" collided, in thick fog, with the French liner SS "Florida". I have a series of photographs showing the aftermath of the collision including the frantic escape of the liners' passengers and the towing operation, during which my father, as Petty Officer, was in charge of. The captain of the Glorious kept the boats jammed initially together to prevent the liner sinking, although in the beginning she was settling at a rate of 3ft per hour.

HMS Glorious and SS Florida collide, 1931
HMS Glorious and SS Florida collide, 1st April, 1931

In the late 1930s my father lived in Devonport for a short while with my mother in accommodation owned by a Mrs Batten. They had a holiday in June 1930, when they visited Looe, Clovelly and Ivybridge, all in Cornwall.

In 1932 at Kotor Yugoslavia in the Meditteranean Fleet Regatta, Glorious won 8 fleet trophies for sailing and "pulling" (the navy term for rowing) and my father played a large part in the success, coxing the boat which won the older trophy in the fleet first won by HMS Temeraire in 1872. The other one was the "Exmouth" cup. I have several photographs covering these events. He was, throughout his career, very active in all sailing and pulling events.

HMS Glorious Seamans Cutter Pulling Crew.
HMS Glorious Seamens Cutter Pulling Crew, Kotor, Yugoslavia 1932
John Hornby - middle row, 2nd from right

In 1932, my sister Gloria was born, and named after the ship. (When I was born, my father was serving on "Vidette" and they could not think of a similar name!). I have a small sailing yacht made for Gloria on board the Glorious, and a copper picnic set also made on board and given to him at that time.

During my father's service in "Glorious" mother went out to Gibraltar and Malta to join him for his periods of leave. Mother did not like Malta. She did not take to the heat and she thought the Island barren and stony. She found the powerful influence of the Catholic Church disturbing, and commented more than once how lovely it was, on her return, "to see again the green fields of England".

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