Description Shape:
Standard, circular.
Blazon (Heraldic description)
On a blue field: An eagle , Volant, diving, gold
NAIRANA: A Tasmanian aboriginal word for the wedge tailed eagle.

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



"She stoops to conquer"



Pennant Numbers:




Battle Honours:


ARCTIC 1944 -45





Builder: John Brown & Company, Clydebank, Glasgow, Scotland

Displacement: 117,210 tons

Length (Overall): 528ft 6in

Beam:  68ft

Flight deck: 495ft x 60ft mild steel plate

Propulsion: 2 Doxford diesels driving 2 shafts

Speed:  17 knots

A/C Capacity: 21

Hangar: 231ft x 61ft x 17ft 6in

A/C lifts: 1, aft, 45ft long x 34ft wide

Arrestor wires: 8 with 2 barriers

Catapult: None

Armament: 1 twin 4in QF Mk XVI HA, 4 quadruple 2 pounder "pom-pom", 8 twin 20mm Oerlikon

Crew Complement: 554


Commanding Officers:


Capt. R.M.T. Taylor
Jul 43 - Jun 44



Capt. V. N. Surtees DSO
Jul 44 -Jun 45



Capt. G. H. Beale DSO OBE
Aug 45 - Mar 46




Feb-March 44
Fulmar 2NF


Dec 43-Sept 44
Swordfish III/Sea Hurricane IIc


Sept 44-March 45
Swordfish III/Wildcat IV


Oct-Nov 45
Barracuda III



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A History of HMS NAIRANA


Starboard broadside  view of HMS NAIRANA.


Following the successful conversion and operation of the first, but short lived, escort carrier HMS AUDACITY, the Admiralty urgently sought to convert more merchant vessels but all available shipping was reserved for the ministry of war transport; however several incomplete hulls were made available from January 1942.

In January 1942 the hull of the refrigerated cargo carrier MV EMPIRE ACTIVITY was the first vessel requisitioned while building at the Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering company in Dundee, This was to be a one off design and she entered service as HMS ACTIVITY. In July 1942 the Admiralty requisitioned three more merchant gulls, while still on the stocks, for completion as NAIRANA Class escort carriers.

Two of the ships chosen were sisters, fast cargo-passenger ship being built for the Port Line Ltd, of London; the PORT PIRIE by John Brown & Company on the Clyde was to become HMS NAIRANA, and the PORT SYDNEY at Swan Hunter on the Tyne was to become HMS VINDEX. The third selection was a refrigerated cargo ship building for the Shaw Savill Line at Harland and Wolff’s yard in Belfast, when completed she became HMS CAMPANIA. All were named after WW1 seaplane carriers. The three carriers were to be built to the same design, the prototype was built by John Brown who supplied the other two companies with copies of the plans, but in reality they were all slightly different. NAIRANA and VINDEX were only slightly different from each other; CAMPANIA was sufficiently different and could almost be considered a one off build rather than part of the class. There was one other carrier converted in a British yard, HMS PRETORIA CASTLE, a former passenger liner requisitioned for An Armed Merchant Cruiser in 1939. Purchased the Admiralty in July 1942 and converted at Swan Hunter, she commissioned in July 1943 but was used only as a trials and training carrier.

First of her class

HMS NAIRANA began life as John Brown Yard No. 577, a fast cargo-passenger vessel ordered for the Port Line Ltd, London. Her keel was laid on November 7th 1941 but her construction was delayed as dockyard labour was diverted to work on priority Admiralty work. The incomplete hull was acquired by the Admiralty on July 9th 1942 for completion as an Escort Aircraft Carrier.

She was launched on May 20th 1943. Her crew began to assemble near the shipyard from July as the ship began to take shape as a carrier. She was sufficiently complete to commission into RN service on November 26th 1943 as HMS NAIRANA, Captain R.M.T. Taylor RN in command. Her build was completed on December 12th 1943 and began her acceptance trials. The first aircraft to visit the ship flew out two days later when Avenger FN837 from 778 Naval Trials Squadron successfully conducted deck landing trials.

Work up and 835 squadron embarks

NAIRANA sailed to start her work up on the Clyde on December 17th. She was allocated 835 Naval Air Squadron as her air group and they flew out from RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland on New Year’s Eve to join the ship. This composite squadron operated an anti-submarine flight of 9 Swordfish Mk. II and a fighter flight of 6 Sea Hurricane Mk. IIc.

The flying work up began straight away; this was primarily to work up the ships air departments since the squadron had been aboard HMS CHASER during November and early December 1943. One aspect which proved t0 be problematic was night Deck Landing Training (DLT) with several aircraft suffering damage, including Swordfish LS272, which suffered an undercarriage collapse on January 12th, and LS370 which crashed on landing on the 19th; both flown by Sub-Lt J.P. Supple RNVR. Night landing casualties was a problem encountered by all the British built carriers.

On completion of her work up NAIRANA was allocated to Western Approaches Command on January 25th for trade protection duties.

Operations with the 2nd Escort Group

NAIRANA sailed from the Clyde on January 29th for operations with the 2nd Escort Group to provide anti-submarine cover for convoys in the Atlantic.



Loaned to the Netherlands as Karel Doorman (QH 1) and recommissioned 23 March 1946. Returned to RN 28 May 1948 and immediately sold into merchant service as Port Victor.  Scrapped at Faslane starting 7/1971.






























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



Content revised: 11 June 2020


Sources used in compiling this account:

Click here for a list of Primary sources


Additional sources: various documents including;

Admiralty War Diaries

Norfolk Navy Yard War Diaries

Mew York Navy Yard War Diaries

Miscellaneous documents

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