Motto: None

 


Pennant Number:


 

D02

 


Battle Honours:


Burma, 1945
Malaya 1945

 


Specifications: 


Builder:

Western Pipe & Steel,
San Francisco

 

Completed by:

Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo California


Displacement:

14,170 tons


length (Overall):

 486ft


Beam:

 69 ft 6 in


Speed:

 18 knots


Crew Complement:

646


A/C Capacity:

20


Commanding Officers:


 

Capt. W.W.P. Shirley-Rollison RN
Apr 42 - Apr 44

 

***

 

Capt. H.B. Farncomb RAN
May 44 - Oct 44

 

***

 

Capt. G.F. Renwick RN Nov 44 - Jan 46

 


Squadrons:


809
Nov - Dec 44
 Seafire L.IIc

 

838
Dec 42 -Apr 43
Swordfish I

 

840
Mar-Apr 43
Swordfish II

 

879
Jul 43-Nov 45
Seafire L.IIc

 

886
Jun -Oct 43
Seafire L.IIc /
Swordfish I

 

886
Dec 43-Feb 44
Seafire L.IIc

 

Click here to see more photos

 

 

 

A History of HMS ATTACKER

 

Port broadside view of HMS ATTACKER during her trials with swordfish of 838 squadron aboard off San Francisco. Photo: Author's collection

 

Her keel was laid down on April 7th 1941, by the Western Pipe and Steel Co. in San Francisco as the 'Steel Artisan' a Maritime Commission C3 type freighter; Maritime Commission hull number 171, Western Pipe and Steel hull number 62. She was purchased by the US navy to be the USS BARNES ACV- 7). She was launched on September 27th 1941 by her sponsor Mrs. William A. Ross. The hull was towed to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo California on October 10th 1941 for conversion and fitting out as an aircraft carrier. Whilst still under construction it had been decided that ACV- 7 was to be transferred to the Admiralty, on loan on her completion.


ACV- 7 was delivered to the US Navy and commissioned as USS BARNES on September 30th 1942; she was decommissioned and transferred to the Royal Navy on the same day. She was the first Bogue class escort carrier to be supplied under the Lend-Lease scheme. She commissioned as HMS ATTACKER (D02) while alongside Pier 26 in San Francisco on October 7th 1942, Captain W.W.P. Shirley-Rollison RN in command.


Sea trials and work-up: November 1942 to March 1943

HMS ATTACKER began sea and flying trials off San Francisco on November 12th, embarking the 4 Swordfish Is of 838 naval air squadron from USNAS Alemeda Island. On being passed fit for duty on completion of her trials and shake down she sailed from San Francisco and passed through the Panama Canal on December 22nd 1942. From Cristobal she headed for the Naval operating Base at Norfolk, Virginia. 838 squadron disembarked to USNAS Quonset Point on January 1st 1943. During January ATTACKER underwent defect rectification after her maiden voyage and then began a period of flying training in Chesapeake Bay. She was visited by Martlet fighters from 882, 896 and 898 squadrons for Deck Landing Training (DLT) sessions prior to their embarking in the Fleet Carrier HMS VICTORIOUS at the start of February, and Swordfish from 838 and 840 squadrons which were working up at USNAS Quonset Point. On the last day of the fighter DLT period a Martlet, FN 132 of 898 Squadron flying from USNAS Quonset Point, crashed into the sea on take-off from ATTACKER and sank; killing the pilot Sub Lt R.U. Davis RNZN on February 1st 1943. ATTACKER lost her first crew member two days later, D/JX 288228 Able Seaman Sidney Morgan who is recorded as having died of wounds.
 

October 7tth 1942, Captain W. W. P. Shirley-Rollison RN reads the commissioning warrant for HMS ATTACKER alongside Pier 26 in San Francisco before the White Ensign is raised.. Photo: Author's collection


Passage to the UK: March 1943

On March 2nd 838 squadron re-embarked together with a further 6 Swordfish of 840 squadron, both flying out from USNAS Quonset Point. From Norfolk ATTACKER proceeded to Curacao, via Jamaica, to join a UK bound convoy. ATTACKER sailed from Willemstad, Curacao with convoy CU.01 on March 20th as part of the escort force and provided anti submarine cover for the Atlantic crossing. She detached from the convoy on reaching the safety of UK waters and anchored on the Clyde on April 1st. She sailed for Liverpool the following day, both 838 and 840 squadrons disembarked, flying ashore to RNAS Machrihanish.

Modification and working-up: April - July 143

On April 4th 1943 she arrived at Liverpool for a two month period of modification to bring her to RN standards before entering full service. This work included installing British Type 79B aircraft warning and Type 272 surface search radars, replacing the US 5in gun mountings with British model, and modification of her petrol distribution system. Towards the end of her modification period a Swordfish (V4570 of 837 squadron was embarked on June 7th for trials using with torpedoes with a fine-pitch prop.

HMS ATTACKER left Liverpool on June 15th and sailed for the Clyde to begin a five week post modification work up and flying training program in preparation for operational service in the Mediterranean. Between the 19th and 21st June she carried out flying training with Swordfish aircraft from 886 squadron, operating out of RNAS Machrihanish. This training session got off to an inauspicious start when Swordfish HS547 ('L'), piloted by Sub Lt J.A. Luke was forced to make an emergency landing after his engine began spluttering and he had to return to the ship during the first day.

The squadron's full strength of 9 Seafire L.IIc & 6 Swordfish Is flew out from RNAS Machrihanish to join the ship on July 12th. The squadron's arrival was not without incident again, two Seafires were damaged on the 12th; Lt I.O. Robertson broke the fuselage of LR633when he failed to lower the tail after catching a wire, and he floated into the barrier in his replacement airframe NM927 later that day. Flying training continued through the month, with two more Seafires suffering damage; on the 21st Lt H. Lang RNZN stalled MB157 into the sea when it was caught by air eddies from ship, he was recovered OK. Two days later Lt H.G. Thom RAN in NM919 made a heavy tail landing and the aircraft suffered skin wrinkling. ATTACKER embarked a second squadron from RNAS Machrihanish on July 29th; this was 879, operating 10 Seafire L.IIc.


Operations in the Mediterranean with Force V:

After storing ship and loading stores and passengers ATTACKER, in company with her sister CVE STALKER, sailed from the Clyde on August 3rd bound for Gibraltar. Upon arrival at Gibraltar on the 9th 886 squadron disembarked to RN air section North Front. The squadron's Swordfish were to remain ashore until October 1st conducting anti-submarine patrols, the Seafires re-embarking when the ship sailed for Malta on August 31st; 879 remained embarked.


Operation AVALANCHE: September 1943
HMS ATTACKER sailed from Gibraltar on September 1st in company with STALKER on passage to Malta. On arrival there on the 5th she became part of Force 'V' the covering force for the allied invasion of Salerno Italy operation AVALANCHE.

ATTACKER was to form part of Task Force 88, a part of Force 'V' which comprised HM Escort Aircraft Carriers ATTACKER, BATTLER, HUNTER, STALKER and the maintenance carrier UNICORN (making a rare operational contribution), Cruisers EURYALUS, SCYLLA and CHARYBDIS, Destroyers CLEVELAND, HOLCOMBE, ATHERSTONE, LIDDESDALE, FARNDALE, CALPE, and Polish destroyers ORP SLAZAK and ORP KRAKOWIAK. A second force, Force H comprised the Battleships NELSON, RODNEY, WARSPITE and VALIANT, Fleet Carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE and a screen of 21 destroyers including French, Polish and Greek warships was a covering force for the landings, intended to prevent any interference by Italian surface warships. On the eve of operation AVALANCHE Italy surrendered so the threat had passed, however there was a strong German force in the area. Task Force 88 sailed from Malta on 8th September 1943, arriving on station 45 miles south-west of the beachhead on the early morning of the 9th.

The five carriers were to provide fighter cover for the landings. It was intended that a constant presence of naval air cover would be maintained over the landing sites, up to 20 aircraft aloft at a time. The first flights were launched at dawn on the 9th. It had been envisaged that one or more enemy airfields would be in allied hands by the end of the first day and so shore based air cover would take over, this was not the case; it was not until the third day that this became possible. The CVEs were not equipped as fighter or assault carriers so fighter direction was provided by the Fighter Direction Ship HMS ULSTER QUEEN.

The attrition rate was high, and the CVEs required additional aircraft to be transferred from the Fleet Carriers of Force H in order to continue operations at this level (Force H withdrew to Malta on the 11th, being nearly out of aircraft itself by this time). An improvised airfield opened at Paestum, which was under Allied control, and as many serviceable fighters as could be mustered were put ashore to operate from there. Each of the five carriers provided what serviceable aircraft they could muster to operate ashore on the 12th; ATTACKER managed 4, BATTLER 5, HUNTER 5, and STALKER only 2, UNICORN supplied 10. After disembarking these fighters the force withdrew to Palermo1, Sicily to replenish. During the four days on station the carriers, which all flew Seafires, launched a combined total of 713 sorties, providing more than half the allied air coverage over the beach head. Aircraft from ATTACKER flew 132 sorties. No RN aircraft were lost to enemy action but 4 were lost through engine failure and 32 were written off in deck landing accidents. There was one fatality, Sub Lt P.B.N. Prentice of 886 squadron was killed when his aircraft NM923, ditched into the sea on approach to landing on the first day of operations. The carriers were back on station by the 16th and the detached aircraft were recovered.
 

HMS ATTACKER leading HMS STALKER (seen from BATTLER, in a formation lead by HMS HUNTER) leaving Naples. Photo: Author's collection

Force 'V' was to disband on September 20th; ATTACKER, HUNTER and STALKER proceeded to Gibraltar, arriving there on the 24th to await a convoy to the UK to refit and allow their squadrons the opportunity to receive replacement aircraft and aircrews. The three carriers joined the Clyde bound convoy MKF.24 as additional escorts on September 30th. The Swordfish element of 886 squadron rejoined ATTACKER on October 1st and conducted anti-submarine patrols on passage. The convoy arrived on the Clyde on October 6th.


Conversion to an Assault Carrier: October - December 1943

After disembarking her squadrons to RNAS Machrihanish, ATTACKER continued on to Rosyth naval dockyard, arriving there on October 10th to undergo conversion to an assault carrier. She was one of a number of CVEs selected for conversion into a new type of ship to be used to provide air support for major military landings.

The assault CVE would provide air cover until shore based air strips became operational; Operation AVALANCHE was the first time such a strategy was tried and as a result ATTACKER, HUNTER and STALKER were nominated for conversion to the roles. The modifications involved many new pieces of equipment being installed; a new type 277 radar, a new telephone system consisting of over 100 telephones, a new Briefing Room and `Army Plot' Room, cabins added around the 'Aircraft Direction Room,' and numerous other additions such as extra W/T and R/T sets and still further improvements to the bridge. Another important modification was an anti-aircraft armament upgrade; all existing single Oerlikon mounts on the Gallery Deck and foc'sle deck, were to be changed for fourteen powered twin mountings. After emerging from the dockyard in December the ship underwent her post refit trials and then took passage from Rosyth to the Clyde. She re-embarked the Seafires of 879 and 886 squadrons on December 29th to begin work up and training in her new role.


Working up on the Clyde January to March 1944
Four flying incidents occurred during this training period; on January 3rd Sub Lt W.T.S. Buchan, 886 Squadron pilotingNM973 floated into the barrier, on the 4th Sub Lt C.M. Carter, 879 squadron piloting NM914, struck rounddown on landing, caught a wire but the aircraft fell over the port side, he was rescued by the attendant destroyer. On January 7th Lt J.M. Howden RNZN, 886 Squadron, made a forced landing after his aircraft LR645 suffered an engine fire. 886 squadron lost another pilot on February 1st when Sub Lt J.W. Leake in Seafire MA984 missed all the wires and bounced over the barrier and dived over the starboard bow into the sea. In early February ATTACKER was ordered to Liverpool for further repair work to be carried out, her squadrons flew ashore to RNAS Burscough on the 6th.

 

HMS ATTACKER March 1944, in Bangor Bay, Northern Ireland. Photo: Author's collection

Match 21st 1944; Seafire MB215 floated over all the arrestor the wires, hit the barrier and overturned, the pilot, Sub Lt R.G. Hallas, was unharmed.. Photo: Author's collection

 

At this time 886's association with ATTACKER ended, the squadron was to be re-equipped and reallocated to other duties; 879 absorbed the aircraft and some of the aircrew of 886 squadron to bring the unit strength up to 20 aircraft. The ship entered the Alexandra Dock on the 9th; she would remain in dockyard hands for the next month before returning to the Clyde.

On March 13th ATTACKER was in a collision when CHASER2 dragged her anchor and later ran aground. No damage was suffered in the collision. On the 16th 879 squadron rejoined the ship, for nine days of flying, during this period the squadron suffered three more flying accidents; MB215 floated over the wires, hit the barrier and overturned on the 21st, Sub Lt R.G. Hallas was unharmed, the following day Sub Lt J.G. Hornshaw in NM937 caught a late wire and was stopped by the barrier and Sub Lt G. Calder in LR730 hit the rounddown landing on. The squadron flew ashore to RAF Long Kesh, Northern Ireland on the 24th for a short spell of Army Co-operation training. ATTACKER anchored off Belfast and the ship's company was granted leave from March 31st. ATTACKER provided a day's Deck landing practice for STALKER's 809 squadron on April 7th.

On April 30th 879 rejoined the ship and ATTACKER was allocated to join the  Home Fleet at Scapa Flow for Operation HOOPS, an attack on Norwegian coast shipping with HUNTER and STALKER scheduled for May 8th. She left the Clyde for Scapa on the 4th arriving there on the 5th. Tasking allocations were changed before the operation was launched; EMPEROR, SEARCHER and STRIKER were to participate instead of the three assault carriers which departed from Scapa on the 7th and proceeded to Belfast. The three ships arrived at Belfast on the 8th.

 

The ship's company and personnel of 879 squadron aboard HMS ATTACKER in Bangor Bay, N.I. Photo: courtesy of George Clarke. click to see larger image


Return to the Mediterranean: May 1944

On  May 10th replacement Seafires were hoisted  aboard from tenders. One was hoisted to the deck head storage in the afternoon but fell in the evening; it was written off but another that it had damaged was repairable. A further five Seafires were securely slung up on  May 12th; there were now 30 Seafires aboard, 20 were on squadron strength with 10 reserves.. Also on the 12th the ship's new commanding officer, Capt. H.B. Farncomb RAN  came aboard

ATTACKER, in company with HUNTER & STALKER sailed on May 14th as additional escort for convoy KMS.51, which departed from Liverpool the day before, for passage to rejoin the forces in the Mediterranean. The carriers detached from the convoy at latitude 43N, on the 19th, to proceed to other assigned support duties. ATTACKER put into Gibraltar on May 24th, and two groups of 5 Seafires were disembarked to operate from RNAS North Front until June 5th.

On June 2nd, the ship moved from its berth on the North mole to one on the detached mole; while there on the night of Sunday, June 4th at 02.15 an explosion rocked the ship and momentarily put out all the lights. An enemy submarine had apparently seen the silhouette of ATTACKER showing above the mole and loosed off a torpedo which detonated on hitting the mole. No serious damage occurred, the ship had been 'cushioned' by floating rafts between the ship and the mole. ATTACKER put to sea again with HUNTER, on June 6th, re-embarking the detached aircraft they sailed for Mers-el-Kebir, arriving the next day. The ship was to spend the next few months escorting convoys while in the western Mediterranean. She provided air cover for Convoy KMS.52 from Gibraltar June 6th to June 9th.

The ship moved on to Algiers on the 16th, and flew off 6 aircraft to operate from Blida, they were joined by four others on the 18th. 879 squadron was now split 50/50 between the ship and various airfields engaged on Army co-operation flying with units in North Africa and Italy including Blida (Algeria) June 16th - July 22nd, Pomigliano (Italy) June 22nd - 25th, Capodichino (Italy) June 22nd - 26th, Orvieto (Italy) June 25th - July 19th and Castiglione (Italy) July 5th - 18th.

From Algiers ATTACKER provided partial cover for Convoy NSF.25 which departed from Oran June 19th while on passage for Naples arriving there on June 22nd when more detachments of 879 flew ashore to Pomigliano, She covered the return Convoy SNF.25 from Naples on June 24th, arriving ORAN June 27th. On leaving SNF.25 ATTACKER switched to briefly cover the Port Said to Liverpool convoy MKF.3 2 as it passed her area of patrol. During early July ATTACKER was nominated to support the allied landings in south France and she undertook a Self Maintenance Period, including a boiler clean, at Algiers before re-embarking her squadron on July 22nd in the Bay of Naples. She sailed for Malta the following day in company with KHEDIVE, PURSUER, SEARCHER and EMPEROR, anchoring in Dockyard Creek on July. 25th.

Operation DRAGOON, the invasion of Southern France: August 1944

At Malta ATTACKER joined Carrier Force TF88.1 for Operation DRAGOON. TF88 also included CVEs EMPEROR, KHEDIVE, PURSUER and SEARCHER, Cruisers ROYALIST and DELHI screened by five RN destroyers and one Greek destroyer. The force exercised off Malta between August 2nd and 12th, the actual invasion commenced in the early hours of August 15th.

The CVEs ATTACKER, EMPEROR, KHEDIVE, PURSUER and SEARCHER joined Task Group 88.1 under Rear Admiral Troubridge in the cruiser HMS ROYALIST, as carrier task force flagship. HMS HUNTER, STALKER, and two US CVEs, USS TULAGI and USS KAZAN BAY joined Task group 88.2 under Rear Admiral Durgin USN in USS TULAGI. By this time 879 squadron strength had been increased to 28 aircraft (24 Seafire L.III and 4 Seafire LR.IIcs), 19 of which were equipped for dive bombing. The first sorties took off at 0600 hours on Tuesday August 15th, TacR (Tactical Reconnaissance) sorties were flown throughout the day but cloud and haze prevented the identification of targets, some encountered light flak. Two aircraft put out of action through barrier crashes, LR759 flown by Sub Lt D.A. Gibson and LR692 flown by Lt J.G. Hornshaw was so badly damaged the airframe was jettisoned to clear the deck.

The following day the first 8 aircraft launched at 09.30 on a bombing and strafing mission between Brignoles and Aix. Red section was targeting a railway bridge, and though the bridge was not destroyed the road was cratered and an armoured car, a bowser, a lorry and two trailers and a searchlight were all set on fire. 26 sorties were flown during the day - 8 bombing, 10 TacR, 2 spotting and 6 CAP (Combat Air Patrol), and at the end of the day 879 had 24 aircraft serviceable. Comment was made on the keenness shown by the troops. One aircraft was damaged by flak but returned to the ship OK. Similar sorties were flown on the 19th, Sub Lt W.A. Clarke flying in Seafire LR704 successfully dive bombed some suspected tanks, through severe AA fire, hitting two lorries before bouncing over all the arrestor wires and flying into the barrier on his return to  ATTACKER.

TF88.1 withdrew late on the 19th and took passage overnight to Maddalena, Sardinia, to refuel and rearm. Arriving at dawn men were allowed ashore to have a short rest & recuperation period before she sailed that evening to return to the beachhead. Arriving at the flying off point, a position south of Marseilles, on the 21st, ATTACKER launched 4 Seafires at dawn which split into pairs to search for targets of opportunity; only one returned to the ship. Each pair was to have an aircraft shot down, Sub Lt G. Calder was hit first, suffering damage from AA fire; he managed to make a forced landing in the countryside and avoided capture until allied forces found him. His wing man loitered in the area before his fuel levels made him head back to the coast, he landed on another carrier when it looked like his fuel was too low to make it to ATTACKER. Later that sortie Sub Lt A.I.R. Shaw's Seafire was hit by enemy AA fire after he successfully attacked German mobile artillery on a country road; his engine was on fire so he had to bail out over enemy territory. He was soon captured but subsequently escaped and was helped by locals until the advancing allied forces reached his location. His wingman was flying in a camera equipped Seafire and he took photos of the parachute as it floated to earth, he arrived back on board safely. Both downed pilots eventually rejoined the squadron. A further 5 aircraft were put out of commission that day; Sub Lt W.A. Clarke in LR710, returning from a TacR sortie, caught his hook on a plate on the after lift, was thrown up over all the arrestor wires and cleared the barriers to continue on into the forward deck park, damaging LR643, NN128 & LR740; Sub Lt A.A. Gowan RNZNVR5 was critically injured in the crash, he was still in the cockpit of his aircraft (NN128) having taxied forward into the aircraft park, his thigh was broken by LR740's airscrew which ripped through the cockpit door. The fifth aircraft put out of commission was LR760, Lt G. Ogilvy caught No.5 wire but continued into the barrier.

ATTACKER and the ships of TF88.1 withdrew from the area for a second time to refuel and rearm on the evening of August 23rd and headed for Maddalena. A further barrier crash occurred on the 24th when the arrestor hook of NN357, flown by Sub Lt R.I. Sturges bounced off the deck and locked up. A further barrier crash occurred on the 28th when Sub Lt D.A. Gibson flying in MB260 landed off centre, caught number 8 wire and hit the island.

ATTACKER and the other CVEs of Task Group 88.1 were released from their duties on August 28th; by this time Sub Lt. Gowan was off the danger list. 879 squadron's aircraft had completed 226 sorties including strikes on ground targets, bombardment spotting for HMS AURORA and tactical reconnaissance missions;120 were bombing missions. HMS ATTACKER left Maddalena to proceeded to Alexandria on the 29th, having suffered a generator failure which held her departure up by 24 hours. She arrived there on September 2nd to replenish stores,879 squadron received replacement aircraft and aircrew from RNAS Dekhelia.

 

August 21st 1944; Seafire LR710 floated over all the arrestor the wires, and the barrier  to severely damage three other parked aircraft. The pilot, Sub Lt W.A. Clarke, was unharmed.. Photo: George Clarke


Operation OUTING I & OUTING II: September - October 1944

ATTACKER put to sea again on September 14th bound for the Aegean to relieve HMS HUNTER deployed for operation OUTING I. She arrived on station on the 15th joining Force A with CVEs EMPEROR, KHEDIVE, PURSUER, and SEARCHER, Cruisers ORION, AJAX, ROYALIST, BLACK PRINCE, ARGONAUT, AURORA, and COLOMBO; their task was to hamper and delay German troop movements in the Dodecanese Islands, (Leros, Kos, Samos, Rhodes and Levitha).

ATTACKER's aircraft (15 Seafire L.III and 5 Seafire LR.IIcs) flew armed reconnaissance sorties from the 16th, and ground attack missions on enemy transport, including dive-bombed shipping in Rhodes harbour on he 19th. Returning from a Force Cover sortie on the 19th Sub Lt W.A. Clarke suffered a barrier crash on Landing in Seafire LR704, after a hard three point landing the aircraft bounced and the tail wheel fell off, unable to regain airspeed the aircraft continued into the barrier.

ATTACKER withdrew to Alexandria on the 20th to re-supply. She sailed for the Dodecanese Islands on September 27th for the second phase of operations, OUTING II. Seafires from 879 squadron strafed the W/T station on Levitha on the 3rd before conducting Tactical Reconnaissance flights on the 4th together with bombardment spotting for the cruiser ROYALIST. The force returned to Alexandria for a further replenishment of aircraft and stores on October 5th; ATTACKER's aircraft having completed 102 sorties.


Operation MANNA October 1944

On her return to the Eastern Aegean ATTACKER again relieved HUNTER on October 11th, for the next offensive, Operation MANNA. ATTACKER operated as part of Force 120 from the 15th, with CVEs EMPEROR and STALKER, Cruisers AURORA, BLACK PRINCE, AJAX, ORION, Destroyers TROUBRIDGE, TERMAGANT, TUSCAN, TYRIAN and Polish ORP GARLAND to cover the reoccupation of Piraeus. STALKER left the force on the 20th, returning to Alexandria. On the 23rd and 24th railway rolling stock and motor transport was strafed and set on fire, and together with extensive dive-bombing of the railway system stopped all rail traffic on Kos. Towards the end of the month ATTACKER and EMPEROR provided air cover for amphibious landing at Mitylene on the island of Lesbos. On the 26th, aircraft from 879 squadron operated ashore at Mitylene until re-embarking to cover the landing on Piskopi on the 29th. ATTACKER withdrew to Alexandria on October 30th leaving EMPEROR as the only CVE operating in the area. 879 had flown 240 sorties between September 16th and October 29th.


Return to UK, repairs, leave and refit: November 1944 - March 1945

On October 31st the three Assault Carriers, ATTACKER, HUNTER & STALKER sailed in company for the UK. Calling at Malta on November 3rd ATTACKER embarked 150 ratings for passage to the UK The three carriers were earmarked for service with the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron (21 ACS), with the East Indies Fleet and were to undergo a short period of defect rectification while their crews went on home leave. They reached Plymouth on November 10th and were put in the hands of Devonport Naval Dockyard.

The carriers sailed from Plymouth on November 29th for Gibraltar; all three were on passage to undergo refits in Mediterranean dockyards; STALKER was to refit in Gibraltar on their arrival on December 3rd so her squadron, 809 Seafires transferred to ATTACKER on leaving Plymouth and were disembarked along with 879 squadron to RNAS Dekhelia, Egypt on December 11th. HUNTER proceeded to Malta for refit beginning December 6th. ATTACKER was to refit in the Italian port of Taranto4.
 

On completion of post refit trials HMS ATTACKER sailed for Alexandria on April 1st 1945. She re-embarked the 24 Seafires of 879 squadron from RNAS Dekheila on the 14th and proceeded through the Suez Canal to Aden and on to Ceylon. There were two barrier crashes while on passage; Sub Lt W.T.S. Buchan in NN490 in April 19th and Sub Lt H.C. Vane in NN495 on the 21st, ATTACKER arrived off Ceylon on April 29th and disembarked her squadron to RNAS Katukurunda.

Although now a part of 21 ACS ATTACKER was not fit for operational duty due to defects that had presented themselves on passage. She was initially deployed with HUNTER on aircraft transport duties from ports in India and South Africa to Ceylon. The squadron re-embarked on June 10th, remaining aboard until July 17th, presumably on flying training, they then returned to RNAS Katukurunda. They re-embarked three days later as ATTACKER continued flying operations before taking passage to Trincomalee where they disembarked to RNAS Trincomalee on the 19th. This short ten day outing was a costly one for 879 squadron, 11 aircraft suffered damage through flying incidents, and one pilot was killed. The run of bad luck began the day the squadron re-embarked with Sub Lt B. Lees RNZN putting NF445 into the barrier. On the 11th two aircraft 'pecked' the deck on landing, NF600 flown by Sub Lt G. H. Wilson RNZN and NN401 flown by Sub Lt M.D. S. McClelland; Sub Lt I.H. Gladders made a heavy landing in NN437 resulting in the starboard tyre bursting and buckling the oleo leg. A fourth incident on the 11th resulted in Sub Lt A.W.K. Foxon being killed; his Seafire NN347 flew through the barrier damaging parked aircraft as it dived over starboard side into the sea. There were five more aircraft put out of action on the 12th, Sub Lt W.J. Cody in NF643 hit the rounddown with his tail wheel causing damage to the fuselage; later that day he put NN408 into the barrier. Sub Lt L. Livemore in t NN365 also put his aircraft into the barrier, while Sub Lt G.H. Wilson RNZN flying NN451 caught a wire but his prop clipped the deck. while attempting to go round again, Sub Lt. HC Vane in NN397 hit the edge of the flight deck and the aircraft fell into the sea. The pilot was safely rescued. On the final day of flying before flying ashore to Trincomalee Seafire NN437 flown by Sub Lt G.H. Wilson RNZN suffered fuselage damage when a bomb carrier dislodged landing on.


Operation CARSON: August 1945

ATTACKER was not employed on offensive operations until early August; she re-embarked 879 on August 9th on being allocated to Force 61 for operation CARSON, a series of attacks on shipping and airfields in Penang and Medan area of Sumatra. Force 61, consisting of the AA Cruiser ROYALIST (Flag of Rear Admiral G.N. Oliver, CB, DSO, Rear Admiral Commanding 21ACS), CVEs AMEER, ATTACKER, EMPEROR, EMPRESS, KHEDIVE, and SHAH, Destroyers TARTAR (Captain (D), Tenth Destroyer Flotilla), PENN, VIGILANT, and VERULAM. The force sailed from Trincomalee on August 10th, to carry out strikes on August 14th and 15th. On August 11th the force was ordered to hold west of 90 degrees east and await further orders; the operation was eventually cancelled in light of the news of Japan's announced willingness to accept the Allies' surrender terms. The force subsequently returned to Trincomalee, arriving on August 15th when the Station General Message "SUSPEND OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS AGAINST JAPANESE FORCES" was made to all ships and allied forces.

HMS ATTACKER briefly celebrated V-J Day in Trincomalee harbour while awaiting further orders. She had been allocated to participate in Operation ZIPPER, the invasion of Singapore, planned for September 1945, but now that hostilities had ended they were now a reoccupying force, not invading one, so the plan was radically revised.


The surrenders at Penang, Sabang and Singapore: August -September 1945 Operations JURIST, BEECHAM, and TIDERACE

With hostilities over attention turned to the reoccupation of former British territories held by Japanese forces, but it was to be late August before orders were received to send out naval forces to reoccupy key ports in Burma, Malaya and Singapore. Elements of the EIF had put to sea on August 15th (V-J Day) to conduct operation 'JURIST', the reoccupation of Penang by British Marines.
Vice Admiral H.T.C. Walker, CB, Vice Admiral Commanding Third Battle Squadron sailed with Task Force 11 in the Battleship HMS NELSON, in company with Cruisers NIGERIA, and CEYLON, CVEs ATTACKER, HUNTER, STALKER, SHAH, and Destroyers TARTAR (Captain (D), Tenth Destroyer Flotilla), PETARD, VOLAGE, and LCIs PRINCESS BEATRIX, and QUEEN EMMA.

Shortly after these forces took passage eastward delays in negotiations, and in the arrival of the Japanese Emperor's orders to cease hostilities in South East Asia became apparent; orders were issued postponing the start of 'JURIST' and on August 20th all forces took shelter on the north east coast of Great Nicobar Island. ATTACKER and HUNTER were ordered to proceed to Rangoon. Political constraints also meant that no landing could take place until after signing of surrender in Tokyo. These delays meant that all plans were now to change; the occupation of Penang was to be undertaken as Operation JURIST and the occupation of Sabang as Operation BEECHAM, and Operation TIDERACE, the occupation of Singapore by the 5th Division. Carriers of the 2 ACS were to provide air cover for the various forces and convoys that were to take part in these operations

ATTACKER and HUNTER, sailed from Rangoon on August 27th 1945, headed for Penang to rendezvous with Vice Admiral Walker's force [NELSON, CEYLON, HUNTER, ATTACKER, 3 Destroyers and 3 Landing Ship (infantry)] to accept the Japanese surrender of Malaya, operation JURIST. The force reached Penang on the 28th, the surrender ceremony taking place on September 2nd. Vice Admiral Walker's force next sailed for Singapore, and ATTACKER and the rest of the force formed part of 90 ships (including 70 RN and RIN warships, 3 Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, 3 hospital ships and 14 merchant vessels) present in Singapore Roads for the surrender ceremony on September 12th 1945.


Return to the UK: October - November 1945

On September 14th HMS ATTACKER sailed from Singapore bound for Trincomalee, arriving there on the 19th, her squadron disembarked to RNAS Trincomalee. She was released from duties with the EIF and prepared to take passage to UK; she re-embarked her squadron on October 10th and sailed for Bombay the following day. She carried many passengers and servicemen going home to be de-mobbed; after Bombay she called at Malta on route, arriving in UK waters on November 10th 1945. 879 squadron departed from the ship for the final time she steamed up the Irish Sea, flying off to RNAS Nutts Corner, Northern Ireland. HMS ATTACKER arrived at her mooring on the Clyde on November 11th 1945.


Disposal: return to US custody December 1945

She was to be removed from active service upon her arrival and once her passengers had been disembarked work began to de-store her. The next stage was the removal of Admiralty equipment in preparation for her return to US Navy custody under the terms of the Lend/Lease agreement.

HMS ATTACKER departed from the Clyde on her final voyage on December 9th 1945, calling at Southampton to embark US troops for passage to Norfolk, Virginia, arriving on 24th December. She was decommissioned by the Royal Navy on December 29th 1945 and returned to USN custody at Norfolk. CVE 7 was struck from the US Navy list on February 26th 1946 and put up for disposal.

She was sold on September 11th 1946 to William B. St. John, for conversion into a merchant vessel for National Bulk Carriers of New York City, N.Y. Work on her conversion was stopped when she was purchased in 1950 by Navcot Corp, a company set up by Alexander Vlasov, founder of Sitmar Lines. She was renamed CASTEL FORTE but remained laid up; in 1952 she was transferred to the books of the Sitmar Line but work did not resume until February 1957 when she was moved to the Bethlehem Shipyards in New York to begin a conversion to a passenger liner. She sailed to Genoa in December 1957, where she received her interior fittings including accommodations for 1,461 passengers. On completion in 1958 she was registered in Panamanian under her new name FAIRSKY. She commenced service from Southampton on June 26th 1958. She operated on the England to Australia route carrying immigrants until February 1972 when she was laid up at Southampton. She re-entered service in December 1973 and completed just 2 round voyages UK to Australasia, before becoming a full-time cruise ship from Australian ports, from mid-1974.

FAIRSKY hit a submerged wreck on June 23rd 1977 near Jakarta, Indonesia, and beached to prevent sinking. Re-floated June 29th 1977 after being temporarily patched up, the ship continued to Singapore under her own power, but when the extent of the damage became apparent it was decided she was beyond economical repair and was to be scrapped. She was purchased by a Philippines consortium which planned to convert her into a floating hotel and casino ship the PHILIPPINE TOURIST. She was towed to Mariveles, Luzon, Philippines, arriving there on March 28th 1978 to begin the conversion work but was destroyed by fire on November 3rd 1979 and subsequently scrapped at Hong Kong starting 24 May 1980.


 

NOTES

1. Some commentators state Palermo, others Bizerta

2 Uncorroborated reports of ATTACKER having sustained no damage when CHASER dragged her anchor in Clyde during gale and collided with ship on January 22nd 1944. Other reports now place this incident as March 13th in Liverpool Bay. Also - on January 24th sustained damage when FENCER dragged anchor in Clyde during gale conditions and collided with ship.

3 In his account of the incident in his book 'Upside of trouble' Anthony Shaw gives the date as the 21st - the entry in Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945' by Sturtivant & Burrows the date is given as August 28th.

4 Several commentators have ATTACKER arriving at Taranto for refit on Dec 6th with squadron personnel taking passage to Egypt in the Italian cruiser DUCA D'AOSTA. However, squadron records show that the aircraft of both 809 and 879 squadrons were disembarked from ATTACKER on Dec 11th in Egypt.

5. Later awarded the DSC for skill and leadership in dive-bombing and strafing missions during 'Operation Dragoon'

 


Content revised: 29 November 2014

Sources used in compiling this account:

Brown, D. (1974) 'Carrier Operations in World War 2 - vol 1 the Royal Navy' Shepperton, Ian Allen Ltd.

Hobbs, D. (2003) 'Royal Navy Escort Carriers' Liskeard, Maritime Books

Hobbs, D. (2007) 'Moving bases: Royal Navy Maintenance Carriers and MONABs' Liskeard, Maritime Books

SShaw, A. (2005) 'The upside of trouble' Lewes, The Book Guild

Smith,P.C., (12001) 'Task Force 57: The British Pacific Fleet, 1944 - 45' Bristol, Crecy Books

Sturtivant, R. & Burrows, M. (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)

Sturtivant, R & Balance, T., (1994) 'Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)

Weaver, D. (2004) 'The History of HMS Queen - A World War II Lend Lease Escort Aircraft Carrier' Hong Kong, D.G. Weaver.

Winton, J. (1969) 'The forgotten Fleet', London, Michael Joseph Ltd.

British officers (including Commonwealth officers serving in British units) Part of WWII Unit Histories and Officers web site.

Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies, 1922-present A comprehensive resource listing service details of men and women killed in RN and RM service.

Convoy Web A comprehensive resource listing WW2 convoys and ships .

War Sailors Ships in Atlantic and miscellaneous convoys during WW2.

Special thanks to Mr. George Clarke for making available the reminiscences of his late father, Sub Lieutenant (A) William Anthony 'Nobby' Clarke, RNVR (P) who served  with 879 squadron 8 March 1944 - 14 November 1944. Many dates and events have been drawn from his diary, flying log book, and the squadron history.

 

 

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