The mighty warship was hit with a torpedo some 30 nautical miles east of Europa Point in Gibraltar, in November 1941.
Despite the damage, only one sailor – Able Seaman Edward Mitchell – out of a complement of 1,749 men was killed during the attack.
Ark Royal’s crew battled for more than 12 hours to save the ship, after it was blasted by the German U boat, U-81.
Engineers toiled to maintain steam and shore up the damage – the torpedo ripped a hole 130ft long and 30ft deep in the hull – but when the list reached 27 degrees, Captain Loben Maund reluctantly gave the order to abandon ship.
Some 190 sailors from Portsmouth-based HMS Dragon took time out of their Mediterranean patrol to gather in the wind and rain and remember the carrier.
‘When we think of Ark Royal we must remember that we too are men and women of the sea; we are mariners who are trained and committed to our ship and our shipmates,’ Dragon’s commanding officer Commander George Storton told his ship’s company.
‘Courage and determination are values that transcend thousands of years of seafarers. We must all take a moment to stop and think of the times, such as Ark Royal, when men and women no different to ourselves, fought bravely on the ocean in times less peaceful than the present.’
The wartime Ark Royal – the third Royal Navy ship to bear the name – was a constant thorn in Hitler’s side for more than two years.
His propaganda machine repeatedly proclaimed the ship sunk. By the time the Germans succeeded, Ark Royal had attained almost mythical status.
She served extensively in the Atlantic, Norway and Mediterranean. Most famously in May 1941, it was Swordfish flown from the Ark which crippled the German battleship Bismarck, bringing her under the heavy guns of the British fleet.