HMS Hermes of the Royal Navy was the first ship to be designed and built as an aircraft carrier. She was laid down in January 1918, launched in September 1919 and finally commissioned in 1923. In 1931 she was involved in the search for survivors from HMS Poseidon and apparently picked up 5 people.
During the Second World War she carried 12 Fairey Swordfish torpedo aircraft. She served briefly with the Home Fleet, then in the southern Atlantic. After a collision with a merchant ship she was repaired in South Africa, before carrying out patrols in the Indian Ocean as part of the Eastern Fleet.
While undergoing repairs at Trincomalee in Sri Lanka she got advance warning of a Japanese air raid in time to leave port. Unfortunately on 9 April 1942 she was spotted by a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft off Batticaloa. Subsequently she was attacked by a large number of Japanese bombers and sank with the loss of 307 men. A destroyer, a corvette and 2 tankers were also sunk. A hospital ship picked up 590 surivivors of the attack.
HMS Hermes now lies off Batticaloa at a depth of 58 metres, partially overturned to port with her shallowest point at around 44 metres.
During the Civil War in Sri Lanka, the dive site was inaccessible, but now the war is over, there are a number of operators offering dives on her to those divers who are suitably qualified. A rare chance to dive a piece of history.