Karel Doorman (R81) was a Colossus-class aircraft carrier of the
Royal Netherlands Navy. Formerly the British ship HMS Venerable, she
was sold to the Netherlands in 1948 as a light attack carrier. In
1960, she was involved in the decolonization conflict in Western New
Guinea with Indonesia. In the mid 60's the role was changed to
anti-submarine warfare carrier and only ASW aircraft and helicopters
were carried. An engine room fire took her out of service in 1968.
She was sold to Argentina in 1969 and renamed ARA Veinticinco de
Built at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead on 3 December 1942, Venerable
was launched just over a year later and commissioned on 17 January
In 1948, Venerable's short career in the Royal Navy came to an end
when she was sold to the Netherlands and recommissioned as Hr.Ms.
Karel Doorman, replacing a smaller Nairana-class escort carrier of
the same name while in Dutch service.
In 1955-58 she was rebuilt with an 8° angled flight deck, new
elevators, new island, 40 mm anti-aircraft guns, steam catapult, and
all new aviation facilities and electronics were fitted, including a
Dutch-built new radar. At the same time, a similar Dutch rebuild was
done to her sister ship, the Brazilian aircraft carrier Minas Gerais.
The Karel Doorman, frigate Johan Maurits van Nassau, and light
cruiser Jacob van Heemskerck made a voyage to the Dutch Antilles on
2 January 1950. Embarked on the Karel Doorman was Prince Bernhard.
The ships returned to Holland on 4 May.
In 1954, during a North American cruise, she visited Montreal,
Canada for an air show appearance.
Early in 1959 the ship made a trip to the United States (Newport,
Rhode Island and Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and then continued on to
visit the Antilles again.
In 1960, during the Dutch decolonization and planned independence of
Western New Guinea, a territory which was also claimed by Indonesia,
the Karel Doorman set sail along with two destroyers and a modified
oil tanker to "show the flag". In order to avoid possible problems
with Indonesia's ally Egypt at the Suez Canal, she instead sailed
around the horn of Africa. She arrived in Fremantle, Australia,
where the local seamen's union struck in sympathy with Indonesia;
the crew used the propeller thrust of aircraft chained down on deck
to nudge the carrier into dock without tugs. In addition to her air
wing, she was ferrying twelve Hawker Hunter fighters to bolster the
local Dutch defence forces, which she delivered when she arrived at
Hollandia, New Guinea. The Karel Doorman was also to have visited
Yokohama, Japan during this Asian cruise to celebrate the 350th
anniversary of the establishment of Japanese-Dutch diplomatic
relations but, due to Indonesian and local protests, Japan withdrew
After the 1964 refit, the Karel Doorman served the rest of her
career mostly conducting NATO anti-submarine patrols in the north
Atlantic, no longer carrying strike or fighter aircraft as part of
her regular air wing.
The Karel Doorman also regularly conducted various exercises near
Scotland during her career.
Western New Guinea Crisis
During the 1960 crisis, Indonesia prepared for a military action
named Operation Trikora (in the Indonesian language, "Tri Komando
Rakyat" means "The Three Commands of the People"). In addition to
planning for an invasion, the TNI-AU (Indonesian Air Forces) hoped
to sink this aircraft carrier with Soviet-supplied Tupolev Tu-16KS-1
Badger naval bombers using AS-1 Kennel / KS-1 Kometa anti-ship
missiles (six planes were intended for the attack on the Karel
Doorman). This bomber launched missile strike mission was cancelled
because of the implementation of the cease-fire between Indonesia
and the Netherlands; this led to a Dutch withdrawal and temporary UN
peacekeeping administration followed by occupation and annexation of
West Papua by Indonesia.
In 1964, following the settlement of issues threatening its former
colonial territories and changes in the mission for the Royal
Netherlands Navy within NATO, coupled with the huge costs for
operating and maintaining an aircraft carrier, it was decided to
withdraw her from the operational fleet by the early 1970s. This was
to coincide with the arrival of long range maritime patrol aircraft
that were to take over the ASW role Karel Doorman had been tasked to
perform ever since the start of the 1960s.
A boiler room fire on 26 April 1968 removed her from Dutch service.
To repair the fire damage, new boilers were transplanted from the
incomplete HMS Leviathan. In 1969, it was decided that the costs for
repairing the damage in relation to the relatively short time Karel
Doorman was still to serve in the fleet proved to be her undoing and
she was sold to the Argentine Navy, renamed ARA Veinticinco de Mayo,
where she would later play a role in the 1982 Falkland Islands
In the late 1960s, the NATO anti-submarine commitment was taken over
by a squadron of Westland Wasp helicopters operated from six Van
Speijk class anti-submarine frigates and two squadrons of shore
based maritime patrol aircraft. These were one squadron of Breguet
Atlantique sea-reconnaissance aircraft and one of P-2 Neptunes.
First deploying as an attack carrier with 24 WW-II era propeller
driven Fairey Firefly strike fighters and Hawker Sea Fury fighters,
for sea rescue a Supermarine Sea Otter flying boat was carried, it
was replaced by a Sikorsky S-51 helicopter.
From 1958, she operated with an ASW/Strike profile with up to 14 TBF
Avenger ASW/torpedo bombers, 10 Hawker Sea Hawk fighters (a first
generation naval jet fighter considered by the larger naval powers
to be undersized and nearly obsolete at the time of delivery to the
Dutch) and 2 S-55 ASW helicopters.
In 1960, the Royal Netherlands Navy received 17 Canadian built S-2
Trackers ASW aircraft formerly used by the Royal Canadian Navy.
Changing roles to a dedicated NATO Antisubmarine warfare carrier, a
wing of 8 Grumman S-2 Trackers and 6 S-58 ASW helicopters served
aboard from 1961 until the 1968 shipboard fire and removal from
From 1959, Dutch Sea Hawks were equipped with Sidewinder missiles
that significantly enhanced and extended their air-to-air combat
capabilities. While never engaged in combat, the aircraft were
present as a carrier based deterrent during the 1962 New Guinea
Indonesia crisis. They served aboard between 1957 to 1964 until the
Doorman's overhaul, after which the attack role was eliminated and
22 aircraft were transferred to land based reserve storage - they
were all retired from service by the end of the 1960s after the sale
of the Karel Doorman to Argentina.