There is no record of a badge ever being approved or created for this
North Africa 1943
Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. Chester, Pennsylvania.
Tietjen and Lang Dry Dock Co., Hoboken, New Jersey
69 ft 6 in
Capt. R.B. Davies RN
VC, CB, DSO, AFC
Feb - Aug 42
Capt. C.N. Lentaignes RN
Aug 42 - Mar 43
Capt. L.A.K. Boswell RN
Sea Hurricane IIc
July - Sep 42
837 det (5)
Sea Hurricane IIc
A History of HMS DASHER
The newly commissioned HMS DASHER with Swordfish of 837
squadron embarked on in late July 1942 for deck
landing training and training the ship's air
department in flying operations
Laid down 14 March 1940 at Sun Shipbuilding & Dry
Dock Company, Chester PA as Maritime Commission hull number 62, Sun
number 189, as a 9,100 ton C3 type passenger-cargo vessel Rio de
Janeiro for the US operator Moore-McCormack Lines. She was launched
on 12 April 1941 and was completed 22 November 1941. Rio de Janeiro
was purchased by the US Navy 20 May 1941 for conversion into a modified
'Long Island' class Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier BAVG 5 by Tietjen and
Lang Dry Dock Co., Hoboken, New Jersey. [US Navy classification 'BAVG'
designates her as 'British Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier']
Her conversion consisted of installing a lightweight
wooden flight deck on a truss work superstructure which covered 70% of
the ships' length, fitting a small enclosed hangar beneath the aft of
the flight deck to be serviced by a single lift. Biter, Like her sister
ship BITER, DASHER was completed with a small island
superstructure. Upon the completion of her conversion into a carrier she
was transferred to the Admiralty and commissioned into the Royal Navy as
HMS DASHER (D37) on 2 July 1942, Captain Richard Bell Davies RN
Captain Bell-Davies was to work up HMS
in preparation for her assuming operational duties, part of this was
working up the flight deck parties and other departments involved in
flying operations, for this task the four Swordfish of 837 squadron were
embarked on July 25th for DLTs and flying training. This complete,
command passed to Captain C.N. Lentaignes RN on August 6th 1942: HMS
Dasher sailed for the UK on August 24th 1942 with 837 squadron
providing anti-submarine sweeps for the Atlantic crossing. Dasher
arrived in the Irish Sea on September 10th and 837 disembarked to RNAS
On November 8th 1942 Dasher, in company with
sister ships Avenger and Biter participated in Operation
'TORCH', n support of landings in North Africa. Dasher,
Biter and Argus operated off the coast of Oran, between them
they operated 30 Sea Hurricanes and 3 Swordfish. Dasher had
embarked two squadrons for the operation, 804 on October 26th and 891 on
October 16th, with six Sea Hurricanes each; upon the ships return to the
Clyde both squadrons disembarked to RNAS Donibristle on November 18th.
The ship next went to Liverpool, arriving there on
November 20th where she entered a shipyard for modifications to be
carried out. This was primarily the fitting of an air defence
operations room to improve her fighter capabilities. she remained there
until mid January when she returned to active duty, being
allocated to the Home Fleet; Dasher embarked the 3 Swordfish of
837 NAS 'D' flight 0n January 22nd before steaming for Scapa Flow,
arriving there on February 1st, to begin working up in preparation
for convoy escort duty. Subsequently Dasher was assigned to the
escort group covering Russian bound convoy JW53 which sailed from
Loch Ewe on the 15th.
HMS DASHER at Hvalfjord, Iceland in February 1943 with
convoy JW53. Photo is taken from the deck of the cruiser
HMS Belfast. Photo: From the collection of
Sub-Lieutenant (A) John Vallely RNVR
On February 16th she embarked five Sea
Hurricanes of 804 NAS to provide fighter cover and the six
Swordfish of 815 NAS and proceeded to Iceland. Dasher was
forced to return to Hvalfjord, Iceland two days after the convoy
set out on the long North Atlantic leg to Russia to effect repairs to
her flight deck which was damaged in severe weather conditions north of
Iceland. Fortunately the convoy suffered no loses. Once initial
repairs were completed Dasher returned to Scapa Flow. disembarking her
aircraft to RNAS Hatston, Orkney on February 26th. She next
proceeded to Dundee for further repairs to be carried out Captain C.N.
Lentaignes RN left Dasher
at the end of February, being relieved in command by Captain L.A.K.
On completion of repairs Dasher began working
up in the Clyde on March 24th in preparation for her next
operation, embarking 5 Sea Hurricanes from 894 squadron, and six
Swordfish from 816 squadron.
HMS DASHER at anchor, there are two Swordfish parked on
her flight deck, The aft lift is down for ventillation.
On Saturday March 27th 1943
Dasher spent the day carrying out flying exercises with the
aircraft of her two squadrons, 816 and 891 in preparation for a night
torpedo strike against the German battle ship Tirpitz in Norway.
At 4:40 pm, the ship's recently appointed commanding officer, Captain
Boswell, made an announcement over the ship's tannoy system that flying
for the day was completed and that shore leave would be granted on
arrival back at Greenock. Shortly after this there was a tremendous
explosion; the officers on the bridge looked in astonishment as the
ship's two ton aircraft lift, flew about 60 feet, into the air before it
fell into the sea behind the ship. Dasher lurched drunkenly
before settling by the stern as she began to take on water. The ship
quickly lost head way as the engines had stopped, and all electrical
power was lost, below decks bring plunged into darkness. The now exposed
lift shaft was belching thick black smoke and flames.
Those men not part of the duty
watch had already begun preparing for their return to port and the
imminent run ashore, they were plunged into disorienting darkness were
they stood. Those that could make tier way out of the ship began
abandoning ship, jumping overboard from any point of exit they could
reach as the fires in the hanger deck grew more intense and the ready
use ammunition began to 'cook off'.
The closest vessels to the
scene of the disaster were HMS Sir Galahad, four miles to the
north and HMS Isle of Sark, five miles to the south; both ships
responded immediately in the knowledge that hundreds of men were
swimming in the cold waters of the Clyde, many possibly injured. Other
vessels were despatched from ports and harbours long the Clyde to
assist. Two merchant vessels in the area art the time of the explosion
deserve mention for their heroic rescue efforts, the SS cragsman
and the SS
Lithium; both ships steamed into the heat and smoke, of the
burning oil, the cragsman emerged with fourteen survivors while
the Lithium emerged from the dark poll of smoke with a total of
sixty survivors! Others were hauled to safety by lifeboats from the
Royal Navy ships which were soon at the scene, pulling men out of the
Burning fuel oil and aviation
fuel had claimed the lives of many those in the water, hypothermia yet
others; in all 379 men of the 528 men onboard Dasher perished
that Saturday evening in March.
The loss of HMS Dasher was
kept a secret from the British nation until 1945 when her loss received
a brief mention in the Times. Theories about her loss and why it was
kept a secret have been explored be many, one suggests that reports of
her loss were suppressed to cover an even bigger secret - that of 'the
man who never was' Is it possible that a member of Dasher's crew was
posthumously the central character in the famous deception ploy which
employed a dead body carrying fake secret documents set adrift of the
Spanish coast in May 1943.
Click here to learn more.
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
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.
Steele, J. (1995) 'The Tragedy of HMS Dasher'
Argyll. Argyll Publishing
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.
Convoy Web A
comprehensive resource listing WW2 convoys and ships .
Ships in Atlantic and miscellaneous convoys during WW2.
Fold3.com various documents including;
Admiralty War Diaries
Norfolk Navy Yard War Diaries
Mew York Navy Yard War Diaries