Barracuda-class submarine aircraft carrier
£1,672,483 (excluding armament)
527 ft (161 m)
21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)
Diesel engines/electric motors
Submarine aircraft carrier
HMS Barracuda is the lead ship of the Barracuda-class submarine aircraft carriers. Designed to combine the air superiority of the Royal Air Force with the long reach of the Royal Navy, the Barracuda-class was intended to provide the British Empire with an airborne striking force anywhere in the world.
Launched in 1931 at Barrow-in-Furness, HMS Barracuda was first deployed as a propaganda tool, appearing at several exhibitions and air shows, using her prodigious onboard aircraft capacity as part of the displays.
In 1935, HMS Barracuda was deployed in her first combat role, protecting convoys of British merchant marine vessels from the United Kingdom to the Maritime Provinces. Despite several attacks by pirate gangs and one major raid by the Broadway Bombers, the convoy lost only a single merchantman. The Barracuda-class concept had been proved in the heat of battle.
During 1936 and the early part of 1937, HMS Barracuda was deployed as part of a diplomatic mission to the Nation of Hollywood, included as part of the fleet that escorted Ambassador Trubridge to a high-level summit with David Dunbar. After the summit broke down, HMS Barracuda was detatched from the fleet as part of Operation Gainsborough, the Empire's covert attempt to take over the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Initial operations were successful - Operation Gainsborough involved only HMS Barracuda as the warship element, and the transport vessels were able to land several expeditionary forces, positioned to seize control after King Kalaniana'ole's abdication. However, the American pirate gang, the Fortune Hunters, attacked British units on sight, destroying bridges and otherwise hampering the operation. On receiving word that the Fortune Hunters were raiding the secret harbour and prison camp in the islands, Captain William Fitzclarence ordered HMS Barracuda to intercept them. Although HMS Barracuda arrived too late to prevent the destruction of the zeppelin HMS Molyvidos, she was able to launch her Peacemakers to engage the Fortune Hunters.
Unfortunately for HMS Barracuda, Captain Fitzclarence brought her too far into the harbour. Standard engagement doctrine was for the carrier to hang well back from the fight, rather than close to engage with only a few planes and her own armament. The Fortune Hunters were able to take advantage of this error, attacking directly into the hanger of HMS Barracuda. The aircraft fuel and muntion stores were breached and ignited, and HMS Barracuda sank within minutes. Two hundred and three of her crew drowned, although the remaining six hundred and ninety were able to abandon ship and reach the nearby coastline.
Following the loss of HMS Barracuda, the Board of Inquiry decided that Captain Fitzclarence was responsible for her loss, and political pressure to downplay the seriousness of the British bid to seize Hawaii prevented reprisals against the Fortune Hunters.