A History of HMS AUDACITY
HMS AUDACITY undergoing her sea trials in August 1941.
Image © IWM (FL 1204)
AUDACITY was the first escort carrier built for the Royal Navy:
originally launched March 29th 1939 as the German passenger-cargo
liner MV Hanover, she was captured by HMS DUNEDIN on March 8th 1940
trying to run the blockade in the West Indies, being boarded before
she could be scuttled by her crew.
Impressed into service by the Admiralty she was initially renamed
SINBAD. She was commissioned as an Ocean Boarding vessel on 11
November 1940 as HMS EMPIRE AUDACITY. This was a short lived role,
as she was selected for conversion into Britain's first escort
carrier; work commenced in Bootle on January 22nd 1941, the
conversion was completed by Blyth Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company,
Northumberland. Work was completed in early June 1941. The ship
re-commissioned on June 17th as HMS EMPIRE AUDACITY, Commander D.M.
MacKendrick in command.
EMPIRE AUDACITY sailed for sea trials and work up in the Clyde on
June 20th with her first deck landing being made by Martlet of 802
on July 10th, this was followed by a detachment of 802 squadrons
aircraft operating with her air department between 19th and 21st
July. On July 31st she was renamed as HMS AUDACITY.
AUDACITY was a flush deck carrier with no hanger or aircraft lift,
all her aircraft were parked on deck, at the mercy of the elements.
She was equipped with three arrestor wires and an open conning
position on the starboard side; her exhaust vent was flush with the
deck and angled at ninety degrees to vent sideways away from the
ship. She carried minimal anti-aircraft armament.
AUDACITY was capable of operating eight Martlet Mk II fighter
aircraft, and embarked 802 Naval Air Squadron, which was to
undertake the first shipboard operations of this aircraft type in RN
service. Her task was convoy protection duties, her fighters being
called upon to tackle the German long range 'Condor' maritime
reconnaissance planes which would report back convoy numbers and
positions to U-Boat headquarters.
AUDACITY sailed with her first convoy, OG 74 on September 13th 1941
outbound, UK to Gibraltar, her squadron had embarked on September
10th. One of her aircraft shot down a Focke-wulf Condor on the 14th,
it had just been making a bomb run on the convoy rescue ship WALMER
CASTLE which was carrying over 80 survivors from other vessels, she
was set on fire and had to be sunk by gunfire from a corvette.
AUDACITY escorted the return convoy HG74 sailing from Gibraltar on
October 2nd; this voyage was to prove uneventful. Upon arriving on
the Clyde 802 disembarked to RNAS Donibristle on October 17th
re-embarked on the 28th of October as AUDACITY took passage to
Gibraltar escorting convoy OG76, conducting anti-submarine sweeps on
route. Over 10 days of flying 802 squadron's pilots were to shoot
down four 'Condors' but were to lose their commanding offer, Lt. Cdr
J.M. Wintor on November 8th when his Martlet was shot down, Lt.
D.C.E.F. Gibson assuming the role.
HMS AUDACITY at sea with her Wildcat fighter aircraft
secured on the after end of the flight deck; she had no
hanger so the aircraft were exposed to the elements at
all times, Photo: Author's collection
December 14th 1941, AUDACITY joined Commander Walker's Second
Support Group to escort convoy HG-76, homeward bound from Gibraltar
to UK. The Convoy consisted of 32 merchantmen, nine escorts, three
destroyers, and HMS AUDACITY as escort carrier. At this time only
four of AUDACITYs 8 Martlets were serviceable. This convoy was to
fight a running battle with twelve U-boats sinking five for the loss
of only three merchantmen, and one destroyer. AUDACITY's aircraft
shot down 2 'Condors'. On December 17th, a Martlet from AUDACITY
attacked U-131 which had been shadowing the convoy, she was later
was sunk by the destroyers HMS BLANKNEY and STANLEY, the sloop STORK
and the corvette PENTSTEMON, of the convoy escort.
HMS AUDACITY under way © IWM (FL 1203)
AUDACITY herself was struck by 3 torpedoes from the German U-boat
U-751 on 21 December 1941 off Portugal; she began to sink by the
stern as water flooded her engine room. The U-boat was on the
surface of her port beam and AUDACITY's number 1 & 2 port gun
mountings managed to open fire for a while. HMS AUDACITY sank
at 22:10 hours, taking her aircraft with her. In addition to the
loss of AUDACITY Convoy HG76 lost 5 merchant Ships and the
escort vessel HMS STANLEY.
22 December 2016
Sources used in compiling this account:
Brown, D. (1974) 'Carrier Operations in World War 2 - vol
1 the Royal Navy' Shepperton, Ian Allen Ltd.
Brown, E. (1961) 'Wings on my sleeve' Tiptree, The
Anchor Press Ltd.
Hobbs, D. (2003) 'Royal Navy Escort Carriers'
Liskeard, Maritime Books
Poolman, K. (1988) 'Allied Escort Carriers of World War
Two in Action' London, Blandford Press
Poolman, K. (1972) 'Escort Carriers
1941 - 1945' Shepperton, Ian Allen Ltd.
Sturtivant, R. & Burrows, M. (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm
Aircraft 1939 to 1945' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain
Sturtivant, R & Balance, T., (1994) 'Squadrons of the
Fleet Air Arm' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)
(including Commonwealth officers serving in British
units) Part of WWII Unit Histories and Officers web site.
Fold3.com various documents including;
Admiralty War Diaries