'Ruler' Class

 Description Shape:
Standard, circular.
Blazon (Heraldic description)
On a gold field: A lozenge, purple, charged with an empress; crown, proper.
EMPRESS: A female imperial monarch, or the wife of an imperial monarch. In heraldry the lozenge is the sign of a lady, the crown featured in the design was made for Queen Mary, Empress of India, for the royal visit to the Dheli Dubar, India in 1911.

For explanations of heraldic terms see the Badges & Honours page.





Pennant Numbers:




Battle Honours:


BURMA 1945




Builder: Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, Washington

Displacement: 15,390 tons

Length (Overall): 494ft 9in

Beam:  69ft 6in

Flight deck: 450ft x 80ft wood covered mild steel plate

Propulsion: 2 Foster Wheeler boilers; 1 x Allis-Chalmers geared turbine driving 1 shaft

Speed:  16 knots

A/C Capacity: 20

Hangar: 260ft x 62ft x 18ft

A/C lifts: 2, Aft 34ft long x 42ft wide; forward 42ft long x 34ft wide

Arrestor wires: 9 with 3 barriers

Catapult: 1 H4C hydraulic

Armament: 2 single 5in USN Mk 12, 8 twin 40mm Bofors, 14 twin 20rnm Oerlikon, 7 single 20mm Oerlikon

Crew Complement: 646


Commanding Officers:


Cdr. T.K. Masterman RN

Aug - Nov 43


Capt. H.A. Traill RN

Nov 43 - Apr 45


Capt. J.R.S. Brown RN

Apr 45 - Feb 46





Feb -Apr 45

Hellcat II



Feb -Mar 45

Avenger I



May -Jun 45

Avenger I



Jan-Apr 44

Avenger I



Feb -Mar 45

& May -Jun 45

Hellcat II



Jun -Sep 45

Hellcat II



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A History of HMS EMPRESS

HMS EMPRESS entering Wellington Harbour, New Zealand, November 3rd 1945. Photo: Courtesy of Ross McGregor

HMS EMPRESS approaching her mooring at Wellington, New Zealand, November 3rd. 1945. Photo: Courtesy of Ross McGregor


HMS EMPRESS was an 'Ameer' class escort carrier, her keel was laid down September 9th 1942 at Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, Washington, a Maritime Commission C3 type freighter hull number 249, Seattle-Tacoma hull number 33; the hull was purchased by the US navy to become the auxiliary aircraft carrier USS CARNEGIE ACV-38, a 'Prince William' class escort carrier. She was launched on December 30th 1942. Whilst still under construction it had been decided that CVE 38 was to be transferred to the Admiralty on loan on her completion as an aircraft carrier.

Upon her delivery on August 9th 1943 she was accepted on behalf of the US Navy by Captain J. L. McGuigan, USN Supervisor of Shipbuilding at Tacoma. The following day CVE-38 sailed for Vancouver Island, British Colombia where she berthed at berth No 8 at LaPointe Pier August 12th and was transferred to the Royal Navy on arrival. She was accepted on behalf of the Admiralty by Commander T.K. Masterman RN, as acting commanding officer and commissioned into RN service as HMS EMPRESS (Pennant number D42).

Modification and preparation to enter service:

At the time of her arrival in Vancouver it was unclear whether she would enter the yard for her modification work; due to a shortage of merchant shipping there had a shortfall in Lend-Lese aircraft deliveries from the US to India had developed and the Admiralty proposed that three of the newly completed CVEs should be employed in the ferry role rather than become fully operational. EMPRESS (CVE 38), PATROLLER (CVE 44) and RANEE (CVE 46) were earmarked for this duty, EMPRESS was to begin ferry operations as soon as possible, while PATROLLER would follow in November and RANEE in December. This planning was later amended, with THANE (CVE 48) replacing EMPRESS. This may have been due to the fact that EMPRESS was fully operational upon leaving the Seattle-Tacoma shipyard and would be required for combat operations.

HMS EMPRESS was the fourth of nineteen escort carriers to be modified by the Burrard Dry Dock Co. Ltd., North Vancouver, to meet Admiralty requirements. While in Vancouver she was to receive her full crew complement and work-up ready for active service. Alteration work started on August 30th and as the work progressed the ship moved to other berths for different phases of the work. She moved to No 3 berth on September 23rd and to no. 4 berth on October 3rd. While at No. 4 berth her Low pressure turbine rotor on the 10th for remedial work which required the component to be returned to its manufacturer. EMPRESS was moved to No 5 berth on Oct 17th and a replacement LP rotor was received (originally from CVE 41- HMS NABOB) on November 9th and work began installing this before the ship entered Burrards floating dry dock on the1 6th. EMPRESS spent three days in the dry dock before returning to No 8berth after undocking on the 19th.

During November many key members of the ship's crew arrived including her commanding officer Captain H.A. Traill RN, Commander Mastermann assuming the position of executive officer. Her alterations were completed in a total of 99 days, work being finished on December 6th. On December 9th she left the LaPointe Pier site and was moved to the Burrards terminal where she was to load stores and prepare for sea. On December 27th EMPRESS was moved to a mooring in the pool before finally emerging from the Burrards works on January 13th 1944 when she was moored in the harbour inlet.

On December 12th 850 Naval Air Squadron arrived at the RCAF station at Sea Island, Vancouver with 12 Avengers for service with EMPRESS; the squadron had flown from USNAS Squantum on the US east coast to work up and join the ship at Vancouver. The squadron operated with EMPRESS for the first time on January 20th 1944, conducting a period of deck landing training while the ship steamed in the Georgia Strait, between Vancouver Island and the Pacific coast of British Columbia. They were to embark again on February 17th when EMPRESS departed from Vancouver bound for the UK, via San Francisco, Norfolk, and New York.

One of 850 squadron Avengers on the forward lielevator about to be raised to flight deck level. Note the man stood on the lift; the controls are visible in the open panel by his feet. February 17th 1944. Photo:   CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military  Museum, VR995.30.11 Avenger (’4H’) of 850 Sqdn is moved by hand off the forward elevator onto  the flight deck of HMS Empress February 17th 1944.Photo:   CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military  Museum, VR995.30.15

Avenger aircraft being raised from the hanger  and positioned on the flight deck ready for operations on. HMS EMPRESS

Maiden voyage: Ferry trip to UK, March 17th - April 8th 1944

On the 21st of February EMPRESS rendezvoused with NABOB off San Diego; the two ships were to proceed to Norfolk together, but EMPRESS had stripped a turbine and could not continue without repairs, so NABOB was instructed to proceed to Balboa alone. Upon reaching San Francisco, additional communications equipment was fitted to the bridge and combat communications room and further stores were taken aboard. EMPRESS reached Balboa on 8th March and passed through the Panama Canal the following day. On reaching Cristobal on the Atlantic side she met up with her sister CVE HMS SPEAKER and several other US and Canadian vessels which were destined for Norfolk, Virginia. It was decided that these ships would form a small convoy consisting of three CVEs, the U.S.S. TULAGI, HMS EMPRESS and HMS SPEAKER, two American Destroyer escorts and two Canadian Corvettes proceeded to Norfolk on March 18th. While on rout to Norfolk one of 850 squadron's Avengers operated with SPEAKER giving the ship's flight deck parties and air department their first experience of first deck landings and take-offs. EMPRESS and SPEAKER spent a week at Norfolk before sailing on to New York in preparation for joining the Liverpool bound convoy CU 19 which departed on March 28th. On reaching the Irish coast EMPRESS broke away from the convoy and made for the Clyde, arriving at Greenock on April 8th; 850 squadron departed on the 10th bound for RNAS Lee-on-Solent.

Deck Landing Training Duties: April 11th - November 27th 1944

On April 11th EMPRESS was officially allocated to the strength of Western Approaches Command and was initially employed for Deck Landing Training operating with aircraft from 768 Squadron based at RNAS Abbotsinch. On completion of DLT duties EMPRESS placed in the hands of a Clyde dockyard for defect rectification and later moved to Rosyth Dockyard for further modification.

The dockyard works were to take until late August to complete, the ship sailed from Rosyth to return to Greenock on August 30th to prepare for another tour of duty as the west coast Deck Landing Training Carrier. From September 6th to October 13th 1944 EMPRESS operated with pupils from 768 Squadron, now based at RNAS Ayr. The squadron operated a mixture of aircraft for DLT courses, including Hellcats, Avengers, Fireflies, Seafires Sea Huricanes, and Swordfish and on one occasion Fulmar. On the 7th Sub Lt (E) CB Coleman RNVR was killed in an accident.

During November EMPRESS carried out night DLT sessions with Swordfish from 766 Squadron from RNAS Inskip followed by night and day DLT for the Fireflies of 1772 Squadron from RNAS Burscough between November 25th and 27th. Once the DLT sessions were completed a series of exercises were flown for the benefit of the ship's Fighter Direction Team.

Allocated to East Indies Fleet for operations with 21ACS

Her flying training duties at an end HMS EMPRESS proceeded to Devonport, arriving there just before Christmas. Leave granted to both watches. An ENSA party gave performances on a stage built in the hangar for those remaining on board and guests from other ships in the dockyard. Towards the end of December work began storing and equipping the ship for operations with the East Indies Fleet. At the beginning of January 1945 EMPRESS began loading F6F Hellcat fighters into the hangar and flight deck to be transported to India after which she was to join the East Indies Fleet based in Trincomalee in Ceylon.

EMPRESS was to complete the first leg of her voyage in company with convoy KMF 38 which sailed from the Clyde on January 5th and arrived at Gibraltar on the 10th. After refuelling at Gibraltar the ship made a solo passage to Port Said and passage through the Suez Canal. From Port Tewfik she preceded directly to Cochin in Southern India were her ferry load was disembarked. She next sailed for Trincomalee; 845 squadron flew aboard with 12 Avengers from RNAS Colombo Racecourse on February 3rd, EMPRESS arrived in Trincomalee on February 4th ready to begin operations.

EMPRESS now operated as part of the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron (21 ACS eventually included; AMEER, ATTACKER, EMPEROR, EMPRESS HUNTER, KHEDIVE, PURSUER, SEARCHER, SHAH, STALKER and TROUNCER) with the newly created East Indies Fleet. The ship was pressed into service within days of her arrival on station, embarking the photo recon Hellcats of 888 squadron from RNAS Colombo Racecourse on February 7th for a short work-up before embarking a detachment of 4 Hellcats from 804embarked on the 20th to provide CAP; the Avengers of 845 squadron were to carry out A/S Patrols.

Operation "STACEY": February 22nd - May 6th 1945

On February 22nd EMPRESS sailed as part of Force 62 which comprised of the CVEs EMPRESS flying the flag of Vice Admiral Walker and AMEER, the cruiser KENYA, destroyers VOLAGE, VIRAGO, VIGILANT, and frigates SPEY, SWALE and PLYM. Logistic support was proved by the Tanker Group, Force 61, RFA ECHODALE escorted by the frigate TRENT. Force 62 was to conduct Operation STACEY, a series photographic reconnaissance missions covering Sumatra and the Kra Isthmus EMPRESS spent 24th and 25th February cruising around the Andaman Islands, small groups of Japanese aircraft were picked up on the radar screens but it was not until March 1st that the first enemy aircraft were engaged by 804 Squadron Hellcats. AMEER's planes claiming a Dinah and an Oscar, while EMPRESS's flight of four took out another Oscar. These three Japanese aircraft were the first to be shot down by fighters from British escort carriers. On completion of the photo reconnaissance of the Kra Isthmus, the adjacent islands and Penang the ships of Force 62 had moved to a position off Simalur Island by March 4th where similar missions were carried out over Sumatra and Sabang. On completion of Operation STACEY the group returned to Trincomalee, the aircraft of 888 squadron flew off EMPRESS on March 6th and headed for RNAS Colombo Racecourse.

Force 62 returned to Trincomalee on March 7th after which EMPRESS was sent to Colombo for a period of rest and recuperation; one carrier at a time was taken out of the active force and given the opportunity to rest between operations. This was particularly appreciated in CVEs which had not been tropicalised before joining the EIF. It was a common sight to see the carriers with both lifts fully lowered to provide a source of ventilation, both at anchor and at sea when not operating aircraft. EMPRESS arrived in Colombo harbour on the 9th and disembarked 845 squadron to RNAS Colombo Racecourse. The ship sailed for Trincomalee on March 29th, 845 re-embarked for passage and disembarked to RNAS Trincomalee when the ship arrived there on the 30th.

Operation "SUNFISH": April 1945 [See foot note]
EMPRESS was back at sea again with 845 embarked on April 8th as part of Task Group 63.2 in company with sister CVE KHEDIVE, Battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH and RICHELIEU, Cruisers LONDON and CUMBERLAND screened by the Fleet destroyers SAUMAREZ, VIGILANT, VERULAM, VIRAGO, and VENUS to carry out air reconnaissance flights of Port Swettenham and Port Dickson, Malaya, code name operation SUNFISH.

On April 11th EMPRESS and KHEDIVE came under air attack, a large formation of Oscars and Dinahs was detected on radar and KHEDIVE's Hellcats (808 squadron) intercepted them but some Kamikazes got through and attempted to attack. EMPRESS was targeted by two attackers, the first attacked from the stern but being badly damaged by fighter and AA fire it crashed into the sea once EMPRESS manoeuvred hard over to starboard. The second managed to approach EMPRESS to within 200 yards before it was destroyed by gun fire from her two Port forward Bofors turrets. [See foot note] After 10 days at sea EMPRESS transferred the aircraft of 845 squadron to HMS KHEDIVE; her catapult was put out of action once 845 had departed, the main accelerator cable was near to the point of failure and needed to be replaced. While on passage back to Trincomalee news was received that Captain Traill was being appointed to a new post and would be leaving the ship when she made port. The Captain was rowed ashore, as tradition demanded, as the search for an accelerator cable began. However upon enquiring after spares the Flight Deck Engineer was informed that no cables existed anywhere on the island.

A few days later Captain J.R.S. Brown RN arrived to assume command; he was dismayed at the news about the delay in repairing the accelerator cable, and so he set the crew to work painting the ship. Her repairs completed EMPRESS embarked 804 squadron on April 22nd with 20 Hellcats and a single Walrus from 1700 squadron and put to sea to test her newly repaired catapult in preparation for her next operation.

Operation "BISHOP": April - May 1845

EMPRESS joined Force 63 again on April 27th for Operation BISHOP, a covering operation fori the invasion of Rangoon Operation DRACULA. "BISHOP" was to involve diversionary strikes against Japanese installations on the Nicobar and Andaman Islands. Force 63 comprised of the Battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH (Flag of Vice Admiral Walker) and  RICHELIEU, cruisers CUMBERLAND (flag of CS 5), SUFFOLK, CEYLON and TROMP, CVEs EMPRESS (20 Hellcats of 804) and SHAH (l0 Avengers of 851 Sqdn., 4 Hellcats of 804 Sqdn.), destroyers ROTHERHAM, TARTAR, VERULAM, NUBIAN and PENN. Logistic support Force 69 RFA OLWEN escorted by PALADIN.

On April 30th the Force 63 carried out a dawn bombardment and Hellcat strikes on both airfields at Car Nicobar, the largest of the Nicobar Islands. That evening strikes were made against targets at Port Blair before returning to repeat the Car Nicobar bombardment. Malacca was attacked on May 1st and Port Blair again on the 2nd. On the 3rd the force separated into two groups, TROMP, CEYLON, and CUMBERLAND, with CVEs SHAH and EMPRESS and destroyers HMS TARTAR and PENN were despatched to make an armed reconnaissance of the coastal shipping between Mergui and Victoria Point.  Operations concluded with a final strike on Car Nicobar airfield on May 7th; during the 12 days of the operation only one aircraft was lost, Sub Lt (A) JA Scott RNVR was killed when his Hellcat JX803 ditched off the port bow having succumbed to damage from enemy AA fire on Sunday May 6th, and there was no enemy opposition from the air.

Some members of the maintenance team of 804 squadron pose with a Hellcat on EMPRESS during operation “BISHOP”. Photo:  Courtesy John Browne.Members of the crew and squadron personnel muster on the flight deck of HMSEMPRESS to hear the captain give them a briefing in preparation for operation “BISHOP”. HMS SHAH is in the background.  Photo:  Courtesy John Browne.

Hellcat maintainers pose with one of their aircraft  aboard HMS EMPRESS and personnel gather on the flight deck for a briefing about an upcoming operation.


On May 8th all the ships in the force celebrated Victory in Europe Day, the order was given to "Splice the mainbrace"[the issue of an extra tot of rum] and services of thanksgiving were held throughout the EIF. EMPRESS reached Trincomalee on May 9th and 804 disembarked to Trincomalee. Shore leave was granted but all personnel were recalled later that day when an order was received that all serviceable vessels in the East Indies Fleet were ordered to prepare for sea.

Operation "Dukedom": the search for the HAGURO - May 10th - 16th 1945

On the May 10th the CVEs EMPRESS, EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE, and SHAH put back at sea tasked to provide air support for the 3rd Battle Squadron as it swept across the Andaman Sea hunting for the HAGURO; this action was codenamed Operation "Dukedom". Japanese intelligence however had learned that that the Royal Navy was at sea, and the two ships returned to Singapore; on May 14th the HAGURO and KAMIKAZE tried again and left Singapore.

Of the five CVEs involved two were to suffer mechanical failures which affected their operational capabilities, on the 11th SHAH experienced catapult problems and this prompted a rearrangement of the squadrons between carriers. The heavy Avengers of 851 were transferred to EMPEROR while eight Hellcats from 800 squadron were accepted by SHAH along with four more from 804 squadron on EMPRESS. The second mechanical failure occurred on the morning of 14th when EMPRESS suffered a catastrophic engine failure minutes before she was to turn into wind to catapult the first of 845 Squadron's Avengers, which had embarked from RNAS Colombo the day before. The Chief Engineer reported the ship was suffering from 'condenseritis' and would need dockyard assistance before the main engines could be restarted. After being sat dead in the water for several hours with only auxiliary power she was taken in tow by the cruiser Black Prince and set out back to Trincomalee.

HMS EMPEROR was the only carrier to engage the HAGURO, only inflicting minor damage operating at extreme range; The HAGURO was later engaged the engaged 26th Destroyer Flotilla in a battle that saw the HAGURO sunk by gun fire and torpedo strikes. #her escorting destroyer KAMIKAZE received light damage. [Operation "Dukedom" saw the longest airborne attack flight ever undertaken from a British carrier, the target being 530 miles from the launch point, and the final sinking of the HAGURO was the last gun action ever fought between surface ships].
EMPRESS arrived back in harbour on May 22nd and disembarked 845 Sqdn to RNAS Trincomalee before work began on repairing her engines; she was visited by Lord Louis Mountbatten while under repair. She was back at sea at the end of the month.

Squadron work ups and supporting roles: June - July 1945

At the end of May EMPRESS embarked squadrons for training in preparation for the upcoming operation COLLIE; she embarked 888 Sqdn from Colombo Racecourse on the 31st for a short period of training, the squadron returned to Colombo on the 4th of June. Next the Hellcats of 896 Sqdn embarked from RNAS Tambaram and the Avengers of 845 Sqdn from Trincomalee on June 10th; 845 returned to Trincomalee on the 13th while 896 remained aboard until the 24th when they transferred to AMEER.

From July 2nd EMPRESS was at sea tasked with supporting Force 61 during operation COLLIE, the force comprised of the cruiser NIGERIA, CVEs AMEER and EMPEROR Destroyers ROEBUCK, ESKIMO and VIGILANT as screen. [It is not clear what her role was in this operation as she does not appear to have embarked any aircraft]. EMPRESS was back in Trincomalee by the 9th and spent a week in harbour before embarking the Hellcats of 896 on the 17th in preparation for her next operation.

Operation "LIVERY": July 1945

EMPRESS was deployed with Force 63 for operation LIVERY on July 19th; the force comprised of Battleship NELSON, cruiser SUSSEX, and CVEs EMPRESS and AMEER with Destroyers PALADIN, ROTHERHAM, RACEHORSE and RAIDER to cover minesweeping operations carried out by HM Minesweepers PLUCKY, PINCHER, VESTAL RIFLEMAN and HM Indian Minesweepers PUNJAB and DECCAN off Phuket Island and conduct strikes on targets in northern Malaya. The operation began on the 24th and was to last for three days: This was an intense flying period for the two CVEs, over a 3 day period Hellcats from both carriers flew over 150 sorties and destroyed more than 30 Japanese aircraft on the ground, together with trains and road transport in attacks on Kra Isthmus. On July 26th HMS AMEER was attacked by a Kamikaze, a single "Sonia" attempted to dive onto AMEER, it was hit and successfully deflected by fire from the ships' defensive armament, splashing into the sea some 500 yards out. Operation LIVERY was the last offensive operation carried out by the East Indies Fleet in WW2, two minesweepers were sunk during the operation: the remaining ships of Force 63 returned to Trincomalee on the 28th. Once back at Ceylon 896 Sqdn disembarked to RNAS Trincomalee on July 30th for training, returning to the ship on August 9th when EMPRESS put to sea again.

Operation "CARSON": August 1945

EMPRESS sailed from Trincomalee on August 8th and re-embarked part of 896 Sqdn: on the 10th she joined Force 61 for operation CARSON, attacks on Japanese shipping and airfields in Penang and Medan areas of Malaya. The force included five CVEs, including ATTACKER and KHEDIVE, and the cruiser ROYALIST. On the 11th the operation was cancelled but the force remained at sea; on 14th August the long-awaited signal arrived from the Admiralty 'Cease hostilities against Japan.' Japan had surrendered unconditionally. Force 61 returned to Trincomalee. EMPRESS continued flying operations throughout August, her squadron suffering two more accidents towards the end of the month; JX724 skidded into a walkway on the 23rd and JX706 burst a tyre landing on the 29th.

HMS EMPRESS and other ships of the East Indies Fleet in Trincomalee harbour alight with fireworks to celebrate Victory over Japan, V-J night. August 15th 1945.  Photo:  Courtesy John Browne.HMS EMPRESS and other ships of the East Indies Fleet in Trincomalee harbour alight with fireworks to celebrate Victory over Japan, V-J night. August 15th 1945.  Photo:  Courtesy John Browne.

The view from the flight deck of HMS EMPRESS on the night of August 15th 1945 as V-J Day celebrations are underway.

Operation "ZIPPER": September 1945

At the start of September EMPRESS together with sister CVEs AMEER, EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE, and STALKER  were tasked with the reoccupation of Singapore, code name Operation "ZIPPER". EMPRESS embarked replacement aircraft before sailing with the force which left Trincomalee on the 4th. The replenishment went badly as the first of the Hellcats to fly out to the ship had to be waved off by EMPRESS' DLCO and had to wait until the second one had landed safely; on his second attempt Sub Lt. RW George came in to high but ignored the DLCO signals and attempted a landing anyway. He cut his engine but passed over all the arrestor wires, and the barriers to drop onto several airframes in the forward aircraft park. More replacements had to be organised before she could proceed to join the task force.

Force 61 arrived off Singapore Island on the 6th and waited for instructions; on the 8th one of 896 squadrons hellcats, JX679 ditched alongside EMPRESS the pilot Midshipman IC McLean was picked up by the destroyer SAWNAREZ. On the 10th the order was given for part of the force to proceed into the harbour, of the force CVEs EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE and STALKER anchored in Keppel Harbour, Singapore. AMEER and EMPRESS were among 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 which took place on the 12th. EMPRESS returned to Trincomalee on the 13th flying off the aircraft of 896 Sqdn for the last time to RNAS Katukurunda.

‘Crossing the Line’ in November 1945; King Neptune and his retinue pose on one of the elevators ready to make their entrance while on rout to Melbourne.  Photo:  Courtesy John Browne.‘Crossing the Line’ in November 1945; The ‘Pollywogs’ (those who have not crossed the equator before) get their ritual ducking during the ceremony while on rout to Melbourne.  Photo:  Courtesy John Browne.

Members of the ship's company participate in the traditional 'Crossing the line' ceremony as HMS EMPRESS passes the equator.

Trooping voyage to Australia and New Zealand: October - November 1945

After a spell in Trincomalee HMS EMPRESS moved to Colombo on October 11th to embark passengers for a round trip voyage to Australia and New Zealand; on this trip EMPRESS was carrying commonwealth naval personnel home for demobilisation. She embarked (an unknown number) of passengers for Melbourne together with 370 ratings and 53 officers of the Royal New Zealand Navy, and 13 New Zealand soldiers for Wellington. She sailed from Colombo on October 17th.

EMPRESS arrived in Wellington on the morning of November 3rd having briefly called at Melbourne; once berthed at Aotea Quay she disembarked her passengers who were greeted by large crowds of relatives and spectators who lined the dockside. HMS EMPRESS was one of the first warships to be open to the public after the war, and for several hours in the afternoon she was toured by eager visitors. The following day she was moved to another berth for minor repairs to be carried out before sailing on the return leg to Ceylon.

Passage to the UK: November27th - December 19th 1945

The ship arrived back at Colombo on November 23rd and began embarking more passengers and stores, this time in preparation for a voyage to the UK. Amongst her passengers were the aircrews and personnel of 896 Squadron; their aircraft were left at RNAS Katukurunda, and the squadron was to disband on reaching the UK.

HMS EMPRESS left Colombo on November 27th and arrived in the Clyde on December 19th. Once all passengers and stores were unloaded EMPRESS was stood down from active service in preparation for her return to the US Navy. On completion of de-storing and equipment removal HMS EMPRESS sailed for Norfolk, Virginia on January 6th 1946

Disposal: return to US custody February 1946

HMS EMPRESS arrived at Norfolk Navy Yard on January 20th, she was decommissioned as an RN ship on January 28th.. CVE 38 was returned to the US Navy custody on February 4th 1946 and stricken for disposal on 28 March 1946. She was sold for breaking June 21st 1946.



The action of April 11th when EMPRESS and KHEDIVE came under Kamikaze attack is drawn from Wellham (2003), an eye witness account from his biography; he was Commander Flying on EMPRESS. Other accounts give differing information: Sturtivant & Balance (1994) list 845 Sqdn as aboard EMPEROR not EMPRESS darning the period of this operation, EMPEROR was an assault carrier and not equipped to operate Avengers except in an emergency see HMS SHAH account. Also details of an incident involving KHEDIVE in Wellham's (2003) account match the dates (April 8th) given in Sturtivant & Burrows (1995) for a Hellcat of 808 Sqdn crashing into KHEDIVE's rounddown when the two carriers were embarking their squadrons prior to sailing for the operation. Claims that the first Kamikaze attack on an EIF carrier was against AMEER on July 26th, Brown (1974), must also be questioned in light of Wellham's (2003) account which put it as over three months earlier. Another source of confusion is the mixing up of EMPEROR and EMPRESS in historical works; Winton (1968, p.234) makes this switch when describing the air attack on AMEER during operation LIVERY. Since his account has been widely used by contemporary writers this error may well have been repeated over several other works.



Content revised: 31 October 2021


Sources used in compiling this account:

Click here for a list of Primary sources


Additional sources:

Wellham, J., (2003) 'With Naval Wings' Staplehurst, Spellmount Publishers Ltd

Fold3.com various documents including;

Admiralty War Diaries

Norfolk Navy Yard War Diaries

Mew York Navy Yard War Diaries

Miscellaneous documents

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