She was laid down by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness during WW II as HMS Elephant, part of the Centaur class. Construction was suspended in 1945 but work was resumed in 1952 to clear the slipway and the hull was launched on 16 February 1953. The vessel remained unfinished until 1957, she was extensively modified and entered service on 18 November 1959 as Hermes. She was redesignated as a commando carrier in 1971 and then as a V/STOL carrier.
Hermes was due to be decommissioned in 1982 after a defence review by the British government, but when the Falklands War broke out, she was quickly refitted and made the flagship of the British forces. Hermes carried Sea Harrier jets of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, as well as a troop of SAS and Royal Marines.
See HMS Hermes for other Navy ships of the same name.