HMS Glorious was the second of the three Courageous-class battlecruisers built for the Royal Navy during the First World War. She participated in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in November 1917 and was present when the German High Seas Fleet surrendered a year later. Glorious was paid off after the war, but was rebuilt as an aircraft carrier during the late 1920s. She could carry 30 per cent more aircraft than her half-sister Furious which had a similar tonnage. After re-commissioning in 1930, she spent most of her career operating in the Mediterranean Sea.
After the start of WWII, Glorious spent most of 1939 unsuccessfully hunting for the commerce-raiding German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee in the Indian Ocean before returning to the Mediterranean. She was recalled home in April 1940 to support operations in Norway. While evacuating British aircraft from Norway in June, the ship was sunk by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in the North Sea with the loss of over 1,200 lives.
Glorious had an overall length of 786 feet 9 inches (239.8 m), a beam of 81 feet (24.7 m), and a draught of 25 feet 10 inches (7.9 m) at deep load. She displaced 19,180 long tons (19,490 t) at load and 22,560 long tons (22,922 t) at deep load. Glorious and her sisters were the first large warships in the Royal Navy to have geared steam turbines. The Parsons turbines were powered by eighteen Yarrow boilers. Many modifications were made to the ship to convert it into an aircraft carrier, a two-storey hangar, each level 16 feet (4.9 m) high and 550 feet (167.6 m) long, was built on top of the remaining hull; the upper hangar level opened on to a short flight deck, below and forward of the main flight deck. The lower flying-off deck improved launch and recovery cycle flexibility until heavier fighters requiring longer takeoff rolls made the lower deck obsolete in the 1930s. Two 46-by-48-foot (14.0 m × 14.6 m) lifts were installed fore and aft in the flight deck.
Glorious could carry up to 48 aircraft; when first recommissioned, she carried Fairey Flycatcher fighters, Blackburn Dart and Blackburn Ripon torpedo bombers, and Fairey IIIF reconnaissance planes of the Fleet Air Arm. From 1933 until Glorious returned to the United Kingdom in April 1940, aside from a period when refitting in the mid-1930s, she carried 802 Squadron which flew a mixture of nine Hawker Nimrod and three Hawker Osprey fighters, until re-equipping with a dozen Gloster Sea Gladiators in May 1939.
Her sinking raised a lot of questions and controversy inside the British government resulting in multiple inquiries and commissions releasing various reports that ultimately failed to come to a single satisfactory conclusion.