Early in World War I, First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher along with Winston Churchill decided that an attempt should be made to pierce the entrance to the Baltic so that landings could be made on the north German Baltic coastline. While this fantastic scheme never materialized, ships meant to support it did. Three ships, Courageous, Glorious, and Furious, called "light battle cruisers" were constructed in furtherance of the scheme. The first two, sister-ships, were constructed with four 15" guns mounted in two turrets, but the last one was to mount only two 18" guns, one fore and one aft. In early 1917, after Fisher left office, and the Baltic scheme had been abandoned, the Admiralty decided that the need for better aircraft carrying ships than the small seaplane carriers then in use dictated the need for larger faster ships. The Furious, nearing completion, was both large and fast, and her unusual armament made her unsuitable for use with the fleet. It was decided therefore to convert the ship to use as a seaplane carrier.
The modifications were not extensive. Her forward turret and barbette were replaced with a hanger and flying off deck, as illustrated in the first Navis model. This model is no longer produced and has been replaced by a different version shown here also. It took only a matter of months for this conversion to be completed, and the ship then entered service and underwent trials. Not only were seaplanes launched, but land planes as well, and incredibly some landings back aboard were made, by Sopwith Pups, by flying up the side of the ship then stepping to the side to land aboard. This highly dangerous maneuver soon resulted in death, and it was decided that a landing deck should be installed aft. In late 1917, the ship returned to the yard and work commenced building a landing deck. This work was completed in March 1918 and the ship, as illustrated by the latest Navis version, emerged with a full deck except for the funnel and forward superstructure. In this configuration the ship took part in the famous Tondern raid in July 1918, sending off her planes to attack and destroy two Zeppelins based there.
With the end of the war, the ship languished for a brief time with uncertainty regarding her future. The configuration of the centerline funnel and superstructure made flying operations difficult and impractical. By 1921, with continued interest in fleet aviation, and based upon experience with flush deck ships like the Argus, the Admiralty decided that converting the Furious to a fully flush deck ship made sense. Work was therefore undertaken, and this time, the modifications were substantial. When she emerged from the yard in 1925, she was a full fledged aircraft carrier, with lifts and two hanger decks. She also sported a lower flying off deck forward, something also found on board on later contemporaries, Courageous, Glorious, and the Japanese Kaga and Akagi. The ship looked very much like she would towards the end of her career, save for the lack of an island. In this configuration, the ship entered service as one of Britain’s major carriers, a position she would retain until at least 1942. But not only was she one of Britain’s major carriers, she had the distinction of being the first of the large, fast carriers, and thus a model for the future. Unlike her smaller predecessors, then in service, the British Argus, Hermes, and Eagle, the Japanese Hosho, and the American Langley, she was large and had a speed of at least 30 knots, characteristics that would define the fleet carrier of the coming years.
The model of Furious circa 1932 depicted here is a conversion done by the author. Converted from an Argonaut model, the armament has been extensively retrofitted, and the forward flying off deck filed down to a slope. Among other changes, the modified model mounts single 5.5" guns, instead of the twin 4" guns on the original model.
In 1939, Furious underwent a substantial refit, with complete revision to her armament, the addition of an island, and the raising of the forward flying off deck (no longer used as such) so that it was level, rather than sloped. Many models of the ship in this configuration have been made. During the war, models of the ship were produced by Comet, Wiking and Framburg among others. The Framburg model was a excellent recreation, as opposed to the Comet one which was significantly under scaled. The Framburg model remained the best example until the production of the Argonaut and Neptun models, shown here, many years later. Superior adopted and thus copied the Framburg model as it’s own version in the 1960's.
During World War II, the Furious had a very active carrier, participating in the Norwegian Campaign in 1940, in Mediterranean operations in 1941 and 1942, including Operation Torch. In 1943 she returned to the Home Fleet and thereafter participated in continuing operations against German shipping in Norwegian waters, as well as attacks against the Tirpitz. Like most British carriers, her aircraft complement, of thirty-three, was not large, but unlike the newer ships she lacked an armored deck. In September 1944, with the need for large carriers in Atlantic waters ended, Furious was placed in reserve, and she was scrapped after the war. Although the Royal Navy was now preparing to send its large carriers to the Pacific, Furious was old, worn out and superfluous. Shortly after the war ended, after a long and active career of nearly thirty years, the ship was sent to be scrapped.