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Motto: None

 


Pennant Number:


D18

 


Battle Honours:


Atlantic 1943

Salerno 1943

 


Specifications: 


Builder:

Ingalls Shipbuilding
Corp, Pascagoula, Mississippi


Displacement:

14,170 tons


length (Overall):

 486ft


Beam:

 69 ft 6 in


Speed:

 18 knots


Crew Complement:

646


A/C Capacity:

20


Commanding Officers:


Cdr. | A/Capt. F.M.R. Stephenson RN

Apr 42 – June 44

 

***

A/Capt. H. Norman RN Jul 44 – Jan 46

 


Squadrons:


807
Aug-Oct 43
Seafire L.IIc

 

808
Apr -Sep 43
Seafire L.IIc

 

834
Sept 43-Oct 44

Swordfish II / Seafire L.IIc / Wildcat V

 

835
Apr -Jul 43
Swordfish II

 

840
Dec 42
Swordfish I/II

 

890 (Ferry)
Dec 42 – Jan 43
Martlet V

 

892 (Ferry)
Dec 42 – Jan 43
Martlet IV

 

894 (Ferry)
Dec 42 – Jan 43
Martlet IV

 

 

 

 

 

A History of HMS BATTLER

 

HMS Battler on her sea trials. Photo: Author's collection

 

Laid down 15 April 1941, by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp. Pascagoula, Mississippi as a Maritime Commission C3 type freighter, hull number 160, Ingalls hull number 293. An 11,900 ton freighter Mormacland for the US operator Moore-McCormack Lines (a previous vessel of this name was converted while building to become HMS ARCHER). She was launched 4 April 1942 by her sponsor Mrs. Phillip Seymour, wife of Captain Seymour USN.

 

The Mormacland was purchased by the US navy 31 October 1942 (it had been intended that she would be the USS ALTAMAHA AVG – 6, this name being announced on 7 January 1942 but the name was cancelled on 17 March 1942 when it was decided that AVG - 6 was to be transferred to the Admiralty on loan). AVG – 6 was transferred to the Royal Navy on 31 October 1942 and was commissioned as HMS BATTLER (D18), Captain F. M. R. Stephenson RN in command. US designation now became BAVG – 6.


BATTLER began her sea trials in early November, but disaster soon struck as she struck a jetty on the 9th and had to undergo repairs in New Orleans. These repairs were completed by the 15th and the trials continued until the 23rd when BATTLER put into Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia for a period of defect rectification.


HMS BATTLER embarked three squadrons for ferrying to the UK on December 8th when 890 and 892 squadrons embarked from USNAS Norfolk, and 894 squadron from USNAS Quonset Point, each equipped with 6 Martlet IVs. BATTLER proceeded to the east coast of Florida to embark the aircraft of 840 squadron (6 Swordfish) from USNAS Miami, Florida, On December 12th; they were embarked for a short period of carrier flying training while taking passage to New York.

 

On December 21st HMS BATTLER assembled with the ships of UK bound convoy HX220 off New York, sailing initially for Halifax. 840 left BATTLER and flew to USNAS Quonset Point on December 26th. BATTLER arrived on the Clyde on January 8th 1943, where 890, 892 and 894 disembarked to RNAS Machrihanish.

 

HMS BATTLER proceeded to Liverpool for modification to RN standards, arriving on January 12th 1943. On completion of her modifications BATTLER sailed for Greenock on April 4th to work up.  808 and 835 squadrons embarked from RNAS Machrihanish on April 10th to work up with BATTLER, 808 operating 9 Seafire L.IIc and 835 with 6 Swordfish II. On May 7th six of 808s aircraft disembarked to RNAS Donnibristle and 3 of 835s to RNAS Machrihanish; the remaining 3 Seafires disembarked on the 11th, the 3 Swordfish re-embarked on the 14th before the whole of 835 was put ashore to RAF Ballykelly, Northern Ireland,.

 

Birds eye view – Battler photographed by one of her Swordfish immediately after launch. Photo: Author's collection

 

A detachment of 5 of 835s Swordfish re-embarked from RNAS Eglinton on June 5th, followed by 4 Seafires from 808 ('A' flight) from RNAS Yeovil ton on the 6th; these aircraft were to provide cover for convoy OS.49/KMS.16 which sailed from Liverpool on June 4th, arriving at Gibraltar on the 16th. BATTLER escorted UK bound convoy XK.9 on he return leg, sailing from Gibraltar on June 22nd; one of 808s aircraft shooting down a Fw200c on the 22nd. On arrival in UK waters 834 disembarked to RNAS Eglinton and 'A' flight of 808 rejoined the main squadron at RAF Turnhouse, both on the 29th.

 

HMS BATTLER’s next operational tour was to be in the Mediterranean, July 30th BATTLER re-embarked 808 squadron’s 9 Seafires as she headed fro Gibraltar where on August 14th she embarked a further 9 Seafires when 807 squadron from RN Air Section North Front came aboard.

 

On September 1st 1943 BATTLER became a part of Force V, the covering force for the allied invasion of Salerno Italy in operation ‘AVALANCHE’ which saw operations between September 9 – 12th. BATTLER operated in company with the assault CVEs ATTACKER, HUNTER and STALKER and the maintenance carrier UNICORN making a rare operational contribution. Just prior to the beginning of ‘AVALANCHE’ BATTLER embarked 834 squadron's  3 Swordfish II & 6 Seafire L.IIc, which transferred from HMS HUNTER on September 7th. Six of 834 squadron’s Swordfish operated from North Front providing anti submarine patrols as 834 ‘Z’ flight between September 9th and October 1st.

 

HMS Battler in Grand Harbour Malta, Sept ember 1943 with a deck full of Seafire L.IIcs belonging to 807 and 808 squadrons during Operation ‘AVALANCHE’. Photo: Author's collection

 

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 attrition rate was high, and the CVEs required addition aircraft to be transferred from the Fleet Carriers of Force H to continue operations at this level ( nearly out of aircraft itself by now, Force H withdrew to Malta on the 11th.). Once the airfield at Paestum was under Allied control as many serviceable fighters as could be mustered were put ashore to operate from there. BATTLER could only manage 5 serviceable Seafires to disembark on the morning of September 12th out of 18 embarked. After disembarking fighters the force withdrew to Palermo to replenish. On the 17th 808 squadron transferred to HMS HUNTER, while the detached aircraft of 807 rejoined the ship. 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.

 

Force V disbanded on the 20th of September, the CVEs returning to the UK to refit and allow squadrons the opportunity to receive replacement aircraft and aircrews. BATTLER proceeded to Gibraltar to await her next orders which came two days later on September 22nd BATTLER was assigned to the Eastern Fleet for duties as a trade protection carrier; she was initially to operate out of Bombay covering Aden to Bombay convoys. [It appears likely that 807 squadron transferred to HMS HUNTER and sailed for the UK with her on September 30th, the squadron disembarked to RNAS Burscough on October 9th]  On October 1st the detached elements of 834 re-embarked and BATTLER sailed for Aden, disembarking 834 squadron to conduct anti submarine sweeps from October 3rd – 17th.

 

A Seafire L.II and  Swordfish II form 834 squadron n in formation. Photo: courtesy Gary Evans.

 

HMS BATTLER provided cover for the first of four Indian Ocean convoys on November 4th 1943, flying anti submarine sweeps for convoy AB 18A. On November 11th she covered AB20, followed by AB24A on December 12th and AB27 on January 8th 1944. Between November 17th to December 26th a detachment of 4 of 834 squadron’s Seafires operated ashore at RAF Santa Cruz, India

 

On January 16th BATTLER, in company with HM Ships NEWCASTLE & SUFFOLK (Cruisers), and ROEBUCK and QUADRANT (Destroyers) commenced an anti-submarine sweep off the coast of East Africa and the island of Madagascar. BATTLER disembarked the aircraft of 834 squadron to RN Air Section Stamford Hill, Durban South Africa on February 4th re-embarking them on the 13th. At the beginning of March this group began hunting for the U-boat supply vessel KMS Brake. After seven days of searching a Swordfish of 834 sighted the Brake with 2 U-boats alongside on March 12th. BATTLER launched Swordfish armed with rocket projectiles to shadow the Brake and her charges, while HMS ROEBUCK came in for an attack. The engagement saw the Brake sunk and one U-boat was damaged by rockets fired from circling Swordfish. The group withdrew to Mauritius, arriving there on the 16th, BATTLER proceed to Durban, South Africa for refit, arriving there on March 21st; 834 again disembarking to RN Air Section Stamfod Hill.

 

On completion of her refit HMS BATTLER re-embarked the Swordfish element of 834 squadron on June 24th 1944, the Seafires remaining ashore, and proceeded to Cape town to join a north bound convoy, convoy CM53, Cape town to the Red Sea which sailed on the 28th. Her next operation was to escort the Indian Ocean convoy KR11 to Colombo from July 11th.

 

On July 25th a new fighter flight joined 834 squadron when it disembarked to RNAS Katukurunda, this comprised of 6 Wildcat Vs and had form d RNAS Putttalam on April 14th; this flight replaced the Seafires left in Durban. The squadron re-embarked on August 11th and carried out A/S patrols in the Colombo area before moving to Addu Atoll, the Maldive Islands on the 22nd, to continue anti submarine patrols.

BATTLER put 834 ashore to RNAS Coimbatore, Southern India on September 19th, re-embarking then on the 28th from RNAS Cochin. After completing her tour of A/S patrols BATTLER preceded to Trincomalee, disembarking the aircraft of 834 on October 7th. Captain Stephenson bid farewell to HMS Battler at   October 27th  1944, addressing the assembled ship's company on the flight deck before handing over command to Captain H. Norman RN.

 

Battler on ferry duties: the Seafires of 834 squadron are parked forward of the forward lift with the squadron's Swordfish parked aft of the lift, the remainder of the flight deck is covered with Hellcats as deck cargo. Photo: Author's collection.

 

On November 7th the aircrews and squadron personnel of 834 came aboard and the squadron’s aircraft were-embarked for ferrying to the military harbour at Adabiya on the Gulf of Suez, BATTLER being reassigned to duties as a ferry carrier from this date. On arrival at Adabiya on November 21st BATTLER unloaded 834s aircraft and embarked a ferry load of new aircraft which had been delivered to the harbour by HMS THANE. The aircraft and crews of 834 squadron embarked in HMS THANE for onward passage to the UK, where the squadron officially disbanded upon arrival on December 6th 1944.

 

BATTLER was to operate as an East Indies Fleet ferry carrier until December 9th when she set sail for the UK via Australia, the South Pacific, Panama Canal and Norfolk, Virginia. Upon her arrival in the UK she was allocated to Western Approaches Command for duty as a deck landing training carrier from March 5th 1945. BATTLER received minor modifications for her new role in Belfast, beginning sea trials in the Belfast area from March 24th before taking up her new duties.


On June 4th BATTLER was re-allocated to Rosyth Command, still as a Deck landing training carrier, where she operated until January 8th 1946 when she arrived back at Greenock for de-storing in preparation for decommissioning. HMS BATTLER left the Clyde on January 19th bound for the Norfolk Naval Dockyard, Virginia.


BAVG – 6 was returned to United States custody on 12 February 1946, and was struck from the US Navy list on 28 March 1946. She was sold on 14 May 1946 to the Patapsco Steel Scrap Co., Bethlehem, Pa., and subsequently scrapped.

 

 


Content revised: July 2009

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

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 (Historians)

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

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.

 

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