Maritime Journalist Discovered World's Oldest Aircraft Carrier

The worlds' oldest aircraft carrier which was a forerunner to today's giant Navy vessels has been discovered - rusting by a river bank.

Looking like another just another rusting hull poking out of the water, for years the big dirt covered rusting wreck in the Thames was unnoticed. But a maritime journalist found the vessel was a 1918 Thorneycroft Seaplane Lighter.

Although at just 58 feet long it looks nothing like the contemporary HMS Ark Royal - which is more than ten times as long - the broken vessel was the first of the kind. The tiny craft, discarded in the river like a shopping trolley or part of litter, would have seen action during the First World War as aircraft carriers were introduced for the first time.

Now it is being restored by experts at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset after being recovered from the water. Iinitially it would have carried one plane that was launched by being towed into the wind - and then recovered after it was discarded into the sea on landing.

Jon Jefferies, from the museum, said the small vessel was a important find. 'It's only tiny but it's this ship that led to the growth of the massive modern aircraft carriers,' he said.

'It's the world's first aircraft carrier and at the time the Ark Royal is decommissioned it's fitting it's being restored to its unique state.' Several of the craft's original features have been revealed by experts as they work restore it.

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