Motto: None

 


Pennant Number:


D21 - R312

 


Battle Honours:


 


Specifications: 


Builder:

Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co.
Tacoma,

Washington

 


Displacement:

15,390 tons


length (Overall):

 494ft 9in


Beam:

 69 ft 6 in


Speed:

 18 knots


Crew Complement:

646


A/C Capacity:

20


Commanding Officers:


Cdr. V.I.H. Mylius RN Aug - Oct 43

 

***

 

Capt. W.J. Yendell RN Oct 43 -  Dec 45

 


Squadrons:


800
May 1945
Hellcat I/II

 

804
Apr -May 45
Hellcat II

 

845
Jun -Sep 45
Avenger I

 

851
Jun-Sep 45
Avenger I/Wildcat V

 

888
Apr - May 45
Hellcat II

 

1700 det
Aug 1945
Walrus I

 

 

Click here to see more photos

A History of HMS SHAH

 

HMS SHAH on her way from San Francisco to join the Eastern Fleet in Ceylon. She has a deck cargo of Hellcats and P-40 Warhawks, the Avengers of 851 squadron are stowed in the hanger.

HMS SHAH on her way from San Francisco to join the Eastern Fleet in Ceylon. She has a deck cargo of Hellcats and P-40 Warhawks, the Avengers of 851 squadron are stowed in the hanger.

 

HMS SHAH was an 'Ameer' ('Ruler') class escort carrier; her keel was laid down on November 13th 1942, at Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, Washington, a C3-S-A1 type freighter Maritime Commission hull number 254, Seattle-Tacoma hull number 38. The hull was purchased by the US navy for conversion into the auxiliary aircraft carrier USS JAMAICA AVG-43, a'Prince William' class escort carrier, and was launched on April 21st 1943 by her sponsor Mrs. C. T. Simard. On July 15th 1943 her US Navy designation was changed to CVE€“46. Whilst still under construction it had been decided that AVG-43 was to be transferred to the Admiralty under the Lend Lease agreement; she was delivered to the US Navy at the Seattle-Tacoma yard on September 27th 1943 and was transferred to Admiralty custody and was commissioned into RN service as HMS SHAH (D21), Captain W.J. Yendell RN in command, on the same day.


Modification and preparation to enter service:

After completing her builder's sea trials and Admiralty acceptance tests HMS SHAH proceeded to Vancouver, Canada to be modified to meet Admiralty requirements, receive her full crew compliment, and work up ready for beginning her active service. This work was undertaken by the Burrard Dry Dock Co. Ltd., North Vancouver, British Columbia. SHAH was the fifth ship to be modified by Burrards, and she arrived at Vancouver at on October 2nd and was berthed in the pool; at this time sister CVEs AMEER, ATHELING, BEGUM and EMPRESS were in the hands of the Burrard's yard and at various stages of modification,. Work commenced to de-store the ship and to remover her Low Pressure turbine for remedial work to be carried out, the rotor was removed on October 15th and despatched to Messrs. Allis Chalmers, Milwaukee, for partial re-blading. On the 17th SHAH was moved to number 3 berth at Lapointe Pier for her alteration work to begin: this work totalled 150 separate modifications and included lengthening of the flight deck, fitting redesigned flying controls and fighter direction layout, modifications to hangar, accommodation and store rooms, installing extra safety measures including major changes to the aviation fuel stowage and oiling at sea arrangements,, modifying gunnery and other internal communications, adding extra W/T and R/T sets, and improved darken ship arrangements.

The repaired LP rotor was refitted on November 14th before the ship was berthed in the floating dry dock on the 20th for the fitting of Asdic equipment and additional sea valves. She was undocked and moved to number 4 berth on the 24th where the alteration and modification phase of the work was completed on December 11th, having taken a total of 55 days. The remainder of the planned works was concluded while the ship was moored in the stream off Lapointe Pier, in particular the addition of 130 tons of concrete Ballast. The next fortnight was spent on trials and working up, including a short round trip voyage to the US Naval Yard at Bremerton, Washington to ammunition the ship and then returning to the Straits of Georgia (between Vancouver Island and the mainland), for steaming, gunnery, radar and other trials and exercises. After a short visit to Esquimalt, Victoria, North Vancouver, to embark Confidential Books and more stores.

Maiden voyage: Ferry trip to Trincomalee via Melbourne and Cochin

HMS SHAH was one of only a handful of escort carriers that were to be pressed into active service before making the maiden voyage to the UK, she was allocated to the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron in the East Indies Fleet and sailed for San Francisco on January 2nd 1944. Arriving there on the 7th she took on more stores and equipment before embarking the twelve Avenger aircraft of 851 Naval Air Squadron on the 14th. The squadron had flown across country from USNAS Norfolk, Virginia on completion of forming and working up to join the ship. The squadron would not be flying on the voyage because the flight deck was to be used for deck cargo; the squadron's aircraft were taken below into the hanger before a ferry load of 32 Wildcats and 22 Curtiss P-40 Warhawks. The following day HMS SHAH sailed for Melbourne.

On completion of her visit to Melbourne SHAH sailed for Cochin, S. India, via Fremantle, departing Melbourne on February 8th. She reached Cochin on the 23rd and disembarked the ferry load; this included the airframes of 851 squadron. The squadron was to remain ashore until March 6th before rejoining the ship. The next two weeks would be spent working up her air department and flight deck parties; this was the first opportunity for flying operations to be carried out. SHAH Arrived in Colombo on February 19th and 851 was flown off to RNAS Colombo Racecourse. Aircraft were embarked as required when further training; it was on such training that 851 suffered its first operational loss when Avenger FN813 stalled and ditched in the sea off the West coast of Ceylon while conducting a night anti submarine exercise on April 14th killing all three crew members.

P-40 Warhawks on the quay side at Cochin as HMS SHAH unloads her ferry load in February 1944. A pair of Avengers are ranged on the front of the flight Deck.


Offensive operations: Anti submarine sweeps in the Indian Ocean

HMS SHAH was employed on ferry duties again on April 26th 1944, leaving her squadron ashore in Ceylon she sailed for Bombay, arriving there on the 30th. On her return to Colombo her squadron was re-embarked on May 13th from RNAS Katukurunda equipped with 12 Avengers and a fighter flight of 6 Wildcats which had been added to form a composite trade protection squadron. After further working up HMS SHAH arrived in Trincomalee on June 16th 1944 and was allocated to anti submarine duties, sailing on her first A/S patrol in the Indian Ocean, east of Trincomalee the following day. The CVEs of the Eastern Fleet had were employed as hunter/killers from the spring of 1944 since close escorting of convoys was ineffective due to U-Boat commanders targeting vessels not sailing in convoy. Many of these anti submarine sweeps were conducted off the Seychelles; HMS SHAH operated with her sister ship HMS BEGUM on several of these A/S sweeps.

On completion of this sweep SHAH preceded to Colombo, arriving there on June 30th; after a short turnaround SHAH put back to sea on July 5th for trade protection sweeps between Colombo and Cochin. During this patrol 851 Squadron suffered another serious incident on the 28th when Avenger JZ119 stalled after being waved off by the DLCO and crashed onto the quarterdeck, her petrol tanks exploded on impact killing the observer Sub Lt JHW Calder, the pilot Sub Lt RA McCartney RNZN and the Telegraphist Air Gunner Leading Airman A Kane escaped. At the end of July SHAH was allocated to join Task Force 66, a trade protection force for operations in the northern Indian Ocean. TF66 comprised of CVEs SHAH and BEGUM, Frigates FINDHORN, INVER, LOSSIE and PARRET, Indian Sloops GODAVERI, and SUTLEJ.

During their last sweep in early August TF66 was looking for a U-Boat, U-198, that had been attacking shipping of the East African coast; on August 6th the MV EMPIRE CITY, a 7,295-ton cargo vessel was torpedoed and sunk east of Mocimboa, Portuguese East Africa. The following day the MV EMPIRE DAY a 7,242 ton cargo vessel was torpedoed and sunk about 200 miles east of Dar es Salaam. Both vessels were en route from Lourenco Marques, Mozambique, to Aden & Port Said with a cargo of coal sailing with convoy DKA-21 which scattered dispersed after the initial attack. On August 10th Avengers from SHAH spotted German submarine U-198 near the Seychelles; one of 851 squadrons aircraft Avenger JZ123 stalled and ditched alongside SHAH, the crew was rescued by the plane guard. On the 12th Avengers from SHAH's 851 and BEGUM's 832 squadrons attacked U-198 but reported no damage seen. They then directed the frigate HMS FINDHORN and the Indian sloop HMIS GODAVARI to its location, the U-Boat was later sunk by'hedgehog' attacks.

Following this action TF66 proceeded to Kilindini, Kenya on the 18th to fuel and store ship in preparation for escorting a convoy between Kilindini and Aden which sailed on the 27th. After a short stay SHAH made the return voyage to Kilindini departing Aden on September 15th. Upon arriving at Kilindini 10 of 851 squadron's aircraft were disembarked to R.N. Air Sect. Port Reitz on September 21st. The squadron remained ashore until October 5th shortly after this time HMS SHAH put to sea bound for Cochin, continuing anti-submarine operations in the Indian Ocean en route to Cochin On passage she flew off her squadron to RNAS Ratmalana, Ceylon on the 19th; it is not clear what duties took her to Cochin but SHAH did not return to Colombo until November 26th and did not re-embark her aircraft again until January 10th 1945 when she proceeded to Trincomalee. Flying practice was carried out on passage to Trincomalee and three of 851's Avengers were involved in accidents, two being damaged in the same incident on the 13th. On the 23rd 861 flew ashore to RNAS Trincomalee to regroup in preparation for a further period of A/S sweeps in February.

Refitting in South Africa: February -April 1945

HMS SHAH re-embarked her squadron on February 8th 1945 and sailed for Durban, South Africa, conducting trade protection operations between Trincomalee and Diego Suarez before continuing on to Durban for a refit. On arrival off Durban on February 23rd 851 disembarked to RN Air Sect. Stamford Hill and SHAH was taken in hand by the dockyard; the work took six weeks to complete, SHAH re-embarked her quadroon to begin a post refit shakedown on April 5th. On completion of her shakedown SHAH sailed for Kilindini on the 8th. After a three day stop at Kilindini, during which time four Aircraft operated ashore at RN Air Sect. Port Reitz, SHAH proceeded to Trincomalee via Colombo to prepare for her next assignment.

On April 25th a detachment of four Hellcats from 804 squadron were embarked from HMS EMPRESS, also embarking on that day were the 6 photo reconnaissance Hellcats of 888 squadron for SHAH's participation in Operation "Bishop", a strike on the Nicobar and Andaman Islands.

Operation "Bishop": April 27th -May 7th 1945

For this operation SHAH joined Force 63 on April 27th for Operation "Bishop", a covering operation for 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), cruisers RICHELIEU, CUMBERLAND (flag of CS 5), SUFFOLK, CEYLON and TROMP, CVEs EMPRESS and SHAH, destroyers ROTHERHAM, TARTAR, VERULAM, NUBIAN and PENN. Logistic support Force 69 RFA oiler OLWEN escorted by PALADIN provided refuelling at sea. For this operation SHAH carried 19 Avengers of 851 and a detachment of 4 Hellcats from 804 NAS. 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.

The operation concluded on May 7th with a final strike on Car Nicobar airfield; during the 12 days of the operation only one aircraft was lost and there was no enemy opposition from the air. On May 8th all the ships in the force celebrated Victory in Europe Day by "Splicing the Main brace", the issue of an extra tot of rum, and holding services of thanksgiving The task force arrived at Trincomalee on the 9th and 888 squadron were flown off to RNAS Colombo Racecourse, while the detachment from 804 returned to EMPRESS. The celebrations which continued ashore in Trincomalee were curtailed by the news that the Japanese cruiser HAGURO, one of the last surviving major Japanese warships, with the destroyer KAMIKAZE, were attempting to evacuate troops from the Nicobar and Andaman Islands to Singapore. A sighting by the submarine SUBTLE had reported a cruiser and destroyer to the north of the Malacca Strait and based on this intelligence the fleet was ordered to prepare for sea to intercept them.
 

HMS SHAH moored in the channel at Cochin on one of her ferry runs with the East Indies Fleet.


Operation "Dukedom": Sinking of 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 six 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. Later that day one of the Hellcats JX797 of 800 Squadron had a deck landing accident that was to cause damage to 6 aircraft; the aircrafts arrestor hook caught on the metal frame of the after lift the hook pulled out and the aircraft careered through 2 barriers into Hellcats JV260, JV322, JW777, JW886 & JW890 parked forward. The second mechanical failure occurred on the morning of the 14th when EMPRESS suffered a catastrophic engine failure minutes before she was to turn into wind to catapult the first of her Avengers, the fault could not be rectified at sea so she had to proceed back to Trincomalee under tow by the cruiser BLACK PRINCE.

HMS EMPEROR was the only carrier to engage the HAGURO; on May 15th a flight of four Avengers from 851 squadron, armed with bombs located and attacked the Japanese cruiser and her escort, one Avenger, JZ137. was shot down by heavy AA fire, killing the air gunner Petty Officer Murley; The rest of the crew, Sub Lt. Burns and Sub Lt. Robinson were able to take to their dinghy and were taken prisoner. This attack had no success so a second strike of four Avengers was launched from EMPEROR but one returned to the ship with engine trouble. The remaining flight of three failed locate the target but two of them did find a group of five ships that they could not identify -this turned out to be 26th Destroyer Flotilla which had been despatched to help in the hunt; having loitered for thirty-five minutes trying to identify them, the Avengers were short of fuel and had to break off and head for EMPEROR.

The third Avenger, flown by the squadron CO Lt. Cdr Fuller was searching for the dinghy carrying the downed aircrew from the first strike. After jettisoning his bombs to increase his range, he never found the dinghy but did spot another pair of ships, a Japanese supply vessel KURISHOYO MARU, escorted by a submarine chaser which had successfully evacuated the garrison on the Nicobar Islands and was on her way to Singapore. A while later he spotted the HAGURO and reported her position to the fleet at 11:50pm; he shadowed the two ships until 12:50am before having to break off and return to the ship. Although at extreme range from the HAGURO's position EMPEROR launched a third strike of three Avengers which flew straight to the target and attacked; they achieved one direct hit on the HAGURO and one near miss, all three aircraft ran low on fuel on the return flight and had to ditch 30 miles from the fleet. All three crews were rescued.

The two ships were next by the engaged 26th Destroyer Flotilla in a battle that saw the HAGURO sunk by gun fire and torpedo strikes; the 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.

A ferry trip and squadron work up duties: May 19th -August 26th 1945

The Hellcat detachments from 800 and 804 squadrons were returned to their carriers on May 19th as the fleet returned to Trincomalee to regroup, rearm and store ship. The aircraft of 851 squadron did not re0embark on SHAH but were put ashore to RNAS Katukurunda. After effecting repairs SHAH left Trincomalee and proceeded to Bombay, arriving there on May 24th. The purpose of this trip is not clear, but the ship spent the next 15 days in Bombay, sailing for the return voyage to Trincomalee on June 9th.

On her return to Ceylon SHAH began a period of flying training; she carrying out DLP for the Avengers of 845 squadron on June 15th before embarking 8 Hellcats from EMPEROR's 800 squadron on the 24th. These were followed by the Avengers of 851 and a detachment of four from 845 squadron embarking from RNAS Colombo Racecourse on the 27th for anti-submarine duties. The Hellcats of 800 squadron returned to EMPEROR at the beginning of July when SHAH returned to Trincomalee. Disembarking her own squadron to RNAS Trincomalee on July 6th SHAH was tasked with flying training working up squadrons.

One visitor during this period, Corsair III JS640 of the station flight at RNAS Trincomalee, crashed on deck after Floating over all the arrestor wires and taking Nos.2 & 3 barriers on July 11th, the pilot was OK. Six days later the 845 detachment were joined by the squadron's remaining 8 aircraft to work up for the intended landings on the West Coast of the Malay Peninsula, Operation"Zipper", set for September 1945. At the beginning of the second week of August SHAH embarked 5 more Avengers from 851 and a single Walrus from 1700 squadron for search and rescue duties.

Stand down: August 1945

Following the dropping of the Atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima, August 6th 1945, and Nagasaki three days later the Japanese surrendered on August 15th bringing the war in the Far East to an end. Operation "Zipper" was still mounted but in a revised form that had no role for HMS SHAH; she returned to Trincomalee by the 26th of August, unloading damaged airframes and was ordered to prepare to sail for the UK. She sailed for Colombo the following day where she disembarked the Walrus of 1700 squadron to RNAS Colombo. On September 1st she disembarked her remaining aircraft to RNAS Katukurunda.

At Colombo HMS SHAH began embarking passengers and stores, on September 3rd the personnel of 851 squadron re-embarked, their aircraft remained in Ceylon. They were joined on the 8th by the personnel of 845 squadron, also without aircraft. She departed Colombo on September 12th bound for the Clyde via Aden, the Suez Canal and Gibraltar. She arrived at Gourock on the Clyde October 7th 1945, the first time she had been to the UK; this marked the end of her operational service, and work began to de-store her in preparation for her return to US Custody. Upon their arrival back in the Uk both 851 and 845 naval air squadrons were disbanded.

Disposal: Return to US custody December 1945

On completion of de-storing and equipment removal HMS SHAH sailed for Norfolk, Virginia on November 11th 1945, arriving there on the 26th and decommissioned. CVE 43 was returned to the US Navy custody at Norfolk Navy Yard on December 6th 1945 and put up for disposal. She was sold to Rio De La Plata, S.A. on June 20th 1947 for conversion into passenger ship. the conversion work was carried out by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry-dock Company were she was Hull No. 472.

On completion of her conversion, on April 4th 1949, she was sold to Compania Argentina De Navegacion Dodero S.A. for operation as an Immigrant ship and transferred to Argentine Flag and Registry bearing the name "SALTA". She began operating on the Dodero lines Genoa-Buenos Aires service in 1951. In 1955, the Dodero Line ceased operations and the management of the ships passed to Flota Argentina de Navegación de Ultramar ("FANU"). Later, in 1962, FANU merged with the state-owned Flota Mercante Del Estado to form Empresa Lineas Maritimas Argentinas ("ELMA"). She was withdrawn from operations in December 1964 after suffering boiler damage and was laid up in Buenos Aires until she was sold in June 1966 to local ship breakers for scrap.

 


Content revised: November 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

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)

Weaver, D. (2004)'The History of HMS Queen -A World War II Lend Lease Escort Aircraft Carrier' Hong Kong, D.G. Weaver.

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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