Motto:

'Of one company'

 


Pennant Number:


D48

 


Battle Honours:


Atlantic 1944-45
Norway 1944-45
Arctic 1944-45

 


Specifications: 


Builder:

Harland & Wolff

Belfast,

Northern Ireland

 


Displacement:

15,970 tons


length (Overall):

 540ft


Beam:

 70ft


Speed:

 18 knots


Crew Complement:

639


A/C Capacity:

18


Commanding Officers:


 

T/Skpr. J.H. Gibbs RNR
as OIC,
Jun 42 - May 43

 

***

 

Cdr. (E) S.L. Agius RNR
as OIC,
May - Jun 43

 

***

 

Lt. (T) E.J. Gillitt RNVR as OIC?
Jun - Nov 43

 

***

 

Capt. K.A. Short RN
 Nov 43 - Jun 44

 

***

 

Cdr. J.M. Robb RN
Jun - Dec 45

 


Squadrons:


842Q

Oct-Nov 42
Wildcat V

 

784B

Mar 44-Mar 45
Fulmar II/Firefly INF

 

813

Apr 44-Mar 45
Swordfish III/

Wildcat V

 

850 det

Oct-Nov 44
Wildcat V

 

825

March-April 45 Swordfish III/

Wildcat VI

 

821 det

Apr-May 45
Barracuda II

 

815 det

May 45
Wildcat VI

 

 

 

 

 

A History of HMS CAMPANIA

 

 

HMS CAMPANIA

 

 

The ship that was to become HMS CAMPANIA one of a pair of passenger cargo vessels of 12.000 tons ordered by the Shaw Savill Line in 1940 form Harland & Wolff, Belfast. One vessel was launched as the SS WAIWERA (III) the other was requisitioned by the Admiralty.
CAMPANIA's keel was laid down on August 12th 1941 in the Belfast dockyard of Harland & Wolff. On July 29th 1942, while still on the stocks, her hull was requisitioned by the Admiralty for completion as an as an Escort Aircraft Carrier, part of a programme to convert five merchant vessels into escort carriers in British dockyards (ACTIVITY, CAMPANIA, NAIRANA, PRETORIA CASTLE and VINDEX).

CAMPANIA was the last of the five merchant conversions to be completed and she benefited from the extra time in the dockyard by becoming the first British carrier to be fitted with an Action Information Organization (AIO) suite and the more capable type 281B aircraft warning and control, type 277 aircraft height-finding, and type 276 surface warning radar arrays. Because her hull was still under construction when requisitioned it was possible to make further modification to her internal structure, such as adding additional transverse bulkheads and incorporating the hanger and other elements that where 'bolted on' in the US built carriers, to be incorporated into the structure of the ship. She was fitted with a modern Air Direction Room (ADRwhich coupled with her radar outfit proved invaluable for directing both her own and other carrier's aircraft, and light deck lighting giving her night flying capabilities. She was however equipped with only one aircraft lift, this coupled with a narrow flight deck would restrict her to a capacity of only 20 aircraft.
She was launched on June 17th 1943 and remained at Belfast during her fitting out. During this time her crew would have arrived in Belfast, towards the end of 1943, to begin working on the ship and preparing her various departments prior to her builder's Trials. During this time her ship's company were held 'on the Books of HMS CAROLINE' the local Naval Base. Commander J.M. Robb RN was appointed was as Executive Officer in October 1943, and was the senior officer aboard the ship until her commanding officer, Captain K.A. Short RN, arrived on November 29th HMS CAMPANIA was commissioned in Belfast on February 9th 1944 and was allocated the pennant number D48. She began her builder's trials in late February and her build was completed on March 7th. She sailed for the Clyde to begin her work up period the following day.

 

Working up March - May 1944

She received her first aircraft on March 13th when the 3 Fulmar NF.IIs of 784 squadron B3 flight embarked from RNAS Drem. Although a second line squadron its aircraft were to operate as part of 813 which was to join the ship later in April. On April 3rd they disembarked to RNAS Ballyhalbert. Three days later 4 Wildcat Vs embarked from RNAS Eglinton, these were formerly 'F' flight of 1832 squadron and they were to form the fighter element of 813 composite naval air squadron. Engine problems halted her work up in mid-April; CAMPANIA was forced to return to Harland & Wolff's yard for defect ratification on the 16th.

The ship was back at sea on April 26th when the 9 Swordfish IIs of 813 squadron flew out from RNAS Maydown to join the ship, 784 B3 flight rejoined from RNAS Ballyhalbert on the same day. The beginning of May brought the ship's first deck crashes; both involved Wildcat Vs of 813 and both were flown by Sub. Lt J.A. Quigg RNZN. He missed all the wires and entered the barrier in JV575, and repeated his performance later that day in JV577. On May 6th Sub. Lt J.A. Quigg RNZN again pranged the same two aircraft; He caught the trickle wire, pulled out his arrestor hook and entered the barrier in both JV575 and JV577 Swordfish NE922 piloted by Lt J.T. Courlander also suffered a barrier crash on this date, missing all the wires during a night deck landing.
There were two more Swordfish incidents on the 13th; Sub Lt. M.A. Mitchell flaying in NF200 hit the barrier, and Sub Lt. J. Rooke taxied NE983 into the tail of an aircraft parked forward of the barrier. The work up period had only one other flying incident, on 19th Wildcat V JV580 piloted by Lt D.E. Leamon struck the DLCO's windshield with his Port wing landing on, non one was injured. Her work up was completed on May 23rd but flying training continued several more days before the ship returned to the Clyde to store ship. One of 784 squadron's Fulmars, DR738 flown by Lt M.B.W. Howell crashed on landing on May 25th.

 

She served as an escort on Russia convoys and as an ASW carrier in the Arctic. Deployed to the Baltic after the German surrender; operated as a transport post-war.

 

Decommissioned to reserve 30 December 1945. Possible reactivation as a civilian-manned ferry carrier cancelled 1947. Served as an exhibition ship in 1951, with the hangar converted to an exhibition area; It docked at 10 ports around the UK from Glasgow to Southampton and was open to the public from 4th May to 6th October 1951. Briefly in reserve following the exhibition, then reactivated as transport and headquarters ship for atom bomb tests.

 

Decommissioned to reserve 12/1952. Sold 10/1955 and scrapped at Blyth starting 11 November 1955

 

 

HMS CAMPANIA after her conversion to a floating exhibition for the Festival of Britain

 

A fuller account of this ships history will be added at some time in the future.

 


Content revised: July 2008

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

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)

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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