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Motto: None

 


Pennant Number:


 

D12 (Atlantic)
R315 /A460
(Pacific)

 


Battle Honours:


Atlantic 1943-44
Arctic 1944
Norway 1944
Okinawa 1945


Specifications: 


Builder

Western Pipe & Steel, San Francisco California

 

Completed by:

Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California

 


Displacement:

14,170 tons


length (Overall):

 486ft


Beam:

 69 ft 6 in


Draught:

 26 ft


Speed:

 18 knots


Crew Complement:

646


A/C Capacity:

20


Commanding Officers:


Capt. E.W. Anstice RN

as OIC
Aug 42 - Oct 42
***
Capt. F.M. Walton RN
Oct 42 - Dec 1943


**
Capt. W.P. Carne RN
[later Cdre. 2nd cl]
Feb 44 - Feb 46

 


Squadrons:


824

Oct 43-Oct 44

Swordfish I

Sea Hurricane IIc

Wildcat V

 

898

May 1944

Wildcat V

 



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A History of HMS STRIKER

 

May 20th 1943, STRIKER in San Francisco Bay  during trials. Photo: US Navy Yard, Mare Island.

 

Laid down December 15th 1941, by the Western Pipe and Steel Co., San Francisco, California as Maritime Commission C3-S-A2 type freighter, hull number 198, Western Pipe and Steel hull number 78; the hull was purchased by the US navy to be the USS PRINCE WILLIAM AVG-19. She was the fourth, and last vessel built for completion as an auxiliary aircraft carrier by Western Pipe and Steel; all were transferred to the Royal Navy, the other three were - ATTACKER (ex USS BARNES), STALKER (ex USS HAMLIN), and FENCER (ex USS CROATAN).

Whilst still under construction it had been decided that AVG-19 was to be transferred to the Admiralty on loan under the 'Lend-Lease' agreement upon her completion. The name PRINCE WILLIAM was withdrawn before her launch on May 7th 1942 (her USN designation changed to ACV-19 on August 20th 1942). On completion the hull was towed to the Mare Island Naval Dockyard, Vallejo, California for fitting out as an escort aircraft carrier; it was to take another year before she was completed and ready for handing over to the Royal Navy.

The commissioning crew for the new ship began to assemble in August 1942, Captain E.W. Anstice RN was appointed as her senior officer. The advance party of her crew sailed for New York the following month on board the troop ship HMTS QUEEN ELIZABETH. They disembarked at New York on the east coast of the United States, and were accommodated at RN Camp Peekskill, New York State, while awaiting transport across the continent to San Francisco on the west coast. Captain F.M. Walton RN was also appointed to the ship on October 7th 1942 and was to be her commanding officer upon commissioning (Captain Anstice became C.O. of HMS FENCER).
 

 

Sea trials: Striker in San Francisco bay  Photos: Richard Webb collection Click an image to enlarge it.

 

Transfer to RN and commissioning May 1943

On completion of defect rectification and final fitting out, ACV-19 was officially delivered to the US Navy at Mare Island on April 28th 1943. During April members of the crew received specialist training in the use of ASDIC equipment at the U S Navy Patrol Force Anti-Submarine Training Unit. ACV-19 was transferred to the United Kingdom under the Lend Lease agreement and delivered on May 18th 1943 while alongside Pier 26 in San Francisco. She commissioned into Royal Navy service as HMS STRIKER, pennant number D12, on that date, Captain F.M. Walton RN in command.

 

Trials and maiden voyage May - June 1943

Sea trials began at 1540 on May 21st off San Francisco, and calibration and speed trials commenced at 1535 on the 25th. While alongside at Pier 26 she was stored in preparation for her maiden voyage. She left San Francisco for the last time on May 29th to conduct Gunnery exercises off the coast escorted by the USS PC-570, firing her main armament at a target towed by the fleet tug USS BAGADUCE. The Shoot which included night firings, completed at 2217 and STRIKER set course for Balbao, the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.

She arrived at Balbao on June 9th and transited the Canal to Cristobal on the Atlantic side to await her escort to Norfolk Navy Yard. STRIKER departed from Cristobal on June 14th to rendezvous with her escort, the USS FRANKFORD at 0843. During the day the ship carried out an anti-aircraft gunnery shoot on passage, firing at drogue targets towed by US Navy aircraft.

 

Norfolk Naval Dockyard and Ferry load to UK June - July 194343

STRIKER arrived at Norfolk Navy Yard at 1900 on the 20th to undergo the installation of additional equipment before beginning a short work-up. The work included installing radar and radio equipment. Repairs to main feed suction pipe and hangers, two reducing valves, steering gear bushings, refrigerating units, F.G. transfer pump, auxiliary feed pump, UC and VF equipment, battle announcing equipment and general alarm circuit. Overhauled one train power drive for heavy Anti-aircraft Machine Gun. Once this work was completed STRIKER called at the US Naval Ammunition Depot, St. Juliens Creek, Virginia, on June 23rd to embark small arms and gun ammunition, returning to Norfolk on completion of loading.

Her dockyard work and work-up complete STRIKER left the Norfolk Navy Yard at 1945 on the 25th and moved to the Norfolk Naval Operating Base to embark more stores and a cargo of Lend-Lease airframes for ferrying to the UK. The Ferry load comprised of 10 Curtis Seamew, 10 Grumman Tarpon (Avenger), 16 Grumman Martlet V (Wildcat), 10 Grumman Hellcat, 8 Vought Corsair. She sailed for New York on the 27th to join the eastbound convoy HX246 for passage to the UK. Arriving at New York on June 28th she joined her sister escort carrier SEARCHER which was also waiting to join the convoy with a ferry load. Both carriers were taken in hand by Bethlehem Steel Co. at 28th Street, Brooklyn for voyage repairs which were completed the same day.

The two carriers Sailed from New York with convoy HX246 on June 30th, this was a large convoy consisting of 64 merchantmen and 19 escorts. After an uneventful crossing STRIKER & SEARCHER escorted by ACANTHUS, POTENTILLA & VERVAIN detached as fast section on July 11th, arriving in Liverpool Bay on the 13th.
 

RN Dockyard Chatham, Modification to RN standards July - October 1943

On completion of unloading her ferry load STRIKER sailed from Liverpool on July 15th for Chatham Dockyard, taking the northern route passing Cape Wrath, May Island, and Flamborough Head, arriving at Chatham on the 18th. Here she was to be modified to meet RN standards before entering full service. This work included installing British Type 79B aircraft warning and Type 272 surface search radars, replacing the US 5in gun mountings with British model, and modification of her petrol distribution system. The work was to take three months; on completion of the dockyard work, she was allocated to Western Approaches Command and sailed for the Clyde on October 18th 1943.

On October 21st STRIKER began Working up in the Irish Sea in preparation for operational service as a Trade Protection Carrier. She had not yet operated any aircraft so her flight deck equipment had to be put through its paces and certified as safe; a number of different aircraft types flew out to the ship to make arrested landings and accelerated take-offs, including Martlet JV577 which carried out catapult trials in STRIKER on October 24th. She was passed as operationally fit to operate aircraft and was allocated number 824 Composite Naval Air Squadron. The squadron was equipped with 9 Swordfish II aircraft for anti-submarine defence and 6 Sea Hurricane IIc fighters to provide protection against enemy aircraft. The squadron flew out to the ship from RAF St. Angelo, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland on October 27th.

STRIKER spent the next month conducting flying training and generally working up her ship's departments in the Irish Sea training areas. On November 25th she entered a Clyde shipyard for defect rectification before becoming operational. There were two aircraft accidents during this period, Swordfish LS285 piloted by Sub-Lt T.O. Hounslow RNVR suffered aileron damage while being pushed aft, the tail ran over the rounddown on November 20th. On the 29th Sub-Lt T.R.P. Mohan RNVR was killed while flying in Sea Hurricane NF696, the aircraft spun into the sea from 1,000ft.

On leaving the dockyard she resumed flying training in readiness for her first operational voyage. On December 9th Swordfish, LS319, flown by Sub-Lt W.H. Thompson RNVR hit the barrier after catching a late wire landing on.


Trade Protection Duties

The ship sailed from the Clyde on December 15th 1943 to join the 1st Escort Group on convoy protection duties in the Atlantic. She covered the passage of the out-bound combined convoy OS62/KMS36 between the 16th and 28th of December on passage from Liverpool bound for Freetown and Gibraltar. Although 824 squadron was an experienced unit the weather in the South-West Approaches and the Atlantic made flying challenging:; during her first convoy escort sortie the squadron had three landing accidents involving Swordfish; on the 20th LS319 piloted by Sub-Lt W.A. Penlington RNVR, bounced on landing, missing all the arrestor wires he opened the throttle and attempted to climb away but hit the ship's radar aerials and crashed into the sea. The crew was safely rescued. Sub-Lt S.W. Taylor RNVR made a heavy landing on a pitching and rolling deck on Christmas Eve, the undercarriage collapsed and the propeller hit the deck. Sub-Lt J.C.H. Simpson RNVR also made a heavy landing on the 26th when he broke the tail wheel of LS461.

At dusk on December 28th STRIKER was detached from the convoy to rendezvous with the in-bound convoy SL143; she was escorted by the Royal Indian Navy Sloops HMIS CAUVERY & KISTMA, they re-joined OS62/KMS36 once STRIKER made contact with SL143 at 1200 on the 29th. It was the turn of the fighter pilots to suffer damage landing on New Year's Eve, Sea Hurricane NF699 floated into the barrier, causing damage to the propeller, undercarriage & engine; this machine was piloted by Sub-Lt P.A. Clarke RNVR but was usually the personal aircraft of Major V.B.G. Cheesman Royal Marines and bore the name LIBBY on the engine cowling. Major Cheesman also suffered a barrier crash on the same day, flying in Sea Hurricane NF694 ('U'), he floated into the barrier, causing damage to the propeller.

On January 1st 1944 STRIKER switched to cover the out-bound convoys OS63/KMS37, remaining with them until the 7th. On that date she joined the in-bound SL144, providing fighter and anti-submarine cover until January 15th. During this period only one Sea Hurricane had a barrier crash while another engaged the enemy; Lt C.J. Allen RNZNVR on returning from a fighter patrol in JS333 ('S') on the 7th could not lower his arrester hook and broke through no.1 barrier on landing before being stopped by no.2 barrier. At 1300 on the 9th Sub-Lt I.W. Hayes RNVR in Sea Hurricane NF670 ('Q') attacked a Ju290 which was shadowing the convoy, it dived away but he could not pursue as his aircraft began vibrating due to a detached fuselage panel so was forced to return to the ship.

STRIKER detached from the convoy on the 15th and arrived back in the UK on the 17th after 26 days at sea and entered a Clyde shipyard for a period of defect rectification.

 

Operations with the 16th Escort Group

On completion of her repairs STRIKER was allocated to work in company with her sister ship FENCER. The two carriers escorted by the Sloops CRANE and WHIMBREL, exercised with the 7th Escort Group (7th E.G.) off the Clyde on February 4th and 6th before sailing for Red Bay, Northern Ireland to rendezvous with the 10th Escort Group (10th E.G.). During night Deck Landing Training (DLT) on the night of the 5th Sea Hurricane NE977 suffered extensive damage to its rear fuselage when its tail hit the rounddown, the pilot, Sub-Lt L J.R. Harrison, RNZNVR was OK.

On arrival at Red Bay 10th E.G. comprising of the Frigates SPEY (8.0.), ROTHER, WEAR, FINDORN, and LOSSIE, and 7th E.G. comprising the Sloops WOODCOCK, CRANE, WHIMBREL with STRIKER and FENCER formed 16th E.G, to operate as an independent submarine hunting force off Western Ireland. STRIKER was Senior Officer 16th E.G.

STRIKER and FENCER sailed from Red Bay on February 7th to cover the 60 ship Convoy ON223, out-bound from Liverpool for New York, joining with the convoy at 1400 on the 8th and provided anti-submarine sweeps until the 15th before detaching to rendezvous with the in-bound convoy HX278; FENCER with Frigates SPEY ROTHER, WEAR, FINDWRN, and LOSSIE joined as close escort while STRIKER with the Sloops WOODCOCK, CRANE, and WHIMBREL operated as distant cover 50 - 100 miles out. The force accompanied the convoy back to the UK, detaching on the 19th for the Clyde where STRIKER was to undergo another period of defect rectification in a Clyde yard. There was only one recorded flying accident during this period, Swordfish NE990, flown by Sub-Lt A.F.N. Turvey RNVR, landed on the starboard side of the deck and its starboard oleo was damaged when it went over the deck edge on the 17th.

 

A Sea Hurricane of 824 squadron awaiting take off for a patrol, STRIKER's sister CVE HMS FENCER is sailing in formation with her.

A Sea Hurricane of 824 squadron awaiting take off for a patrol, STRIKER's sister CVE HMS FENCER is sailing in formation with her. Photo: Richard Webb collection

 

Her squadron was disembarked to RNAS Donibristle on February 19th for the duration of period in dockyard hands, re-embarking on February 29th in preparation for STRIKER's next operation.

STRIKER next sailed to provide anti-submarine air cover for joint out-bound convoy OS70/KMS44 during passage in the NW Approaches. She covered the convoys from March 3rd to march 15th when the two convoys split.

On March 10th STRIKER was detached with the Frigate BAYNTON and Corvette CLOVER to conduct air attacks on U575 which at 0154 had torpedoed and sunk the Corvette ASPHODEL west-northwest of Cape Finisterre. She was part of escort for joint inward convoy SL150/MKS41 which was passing through the same area. Only five survivors out of ASPHODELs crew of 97 were picked up by CLOVER. After the attack the U-boat was hunted for 18 hours but managed to escape. On leaving OS70/KMS44 STRIKER switched to cover Convoy KMS44G and escorted it into Gibraltar arriving there on March 17th.

There were ninecrashes during this period; Sub-Lt H.G. Foster RNVR damaged the fuselage of Swordfish LS461 on March 2nd when his machine ended up in the barrier, and on the 8th Sub-Lt S.W. Taylor RNVR in Swordfish NE980 floated into the barrier and the aircraft ended on its nose. On March 9th three aircraft were damaged landing while on a pitching deck; Sub-Lt H.G. Foster RNVR selected insufficient throttle when he landed in Swordfish LS461, the hard landing damaging the aircraft's stem post. Sub-Lt T.H. Talbot RNVR did the same in NF116 ('V'), landed tail first damaging the stern post and tail oleo. The ship pitched suddenly while Swordfish NE990 was over the stern and the aircraft hit the rounddown and bounced into the barrier, the crew, Sub-Lt D.A. Davies RNVR, Sub-Lt A. Boden RNZVRN and TAG T.W. Leggetter were unhurt); the aircraft was beyond repair and after being stripped of essential parts was jettisoned overboard. On March 10th Sub-Lt D.A. Davies RNVR made a heavy landing in LS240 ('G'), in a heavy swell, caught the last wire, and ended up on its nose.

 LS461, which had been repaired after the incident of March 9th, suffered engine failure on the 13th and force landed on the sea, the pilot Lt. Cdr G.C. Edwards RCN and crew were picked up by FUSILIER. Also on the 13th Sea Hurricane JS292 bounced on landing, floated over all the wires and ended up in the barrier and tipped on its nose, the pilot Sub-Lt C.J. Allen RNZNVR was OK. The final incident was on March 16th when Sea Hurricane NF694 ('U'), flown by Petty Officer Pilot P.H. Blanco RNVR, bounced landing on and crashed into the barrier.

On March 18th STRIKER was allocated to the Home Fleet on loan for planned operations in Norwegian waters. On the 21st while alongside in the dockyard at Gibraltar, His Excellency the Governor General of Gibraltar visited the ship and met the officers of the ship and her squadron. STRIKER sailed the next day to rendezvous with Convoy MKS43G, this rendezvoused with SL152 on March 23rd and the combined convoy of 95 merchants and 11 escorts continued on to Liverpool, arriving there on April 4th. STRIKER detached from the convoy on April 2nd and proceeded to the Clyde for a Further defect rectification period.

On making the rendezvous 824 lost another Swordfish; LS456 stalled off the turn on approach to the flight deck and crashed into the sea on the ship's port quarter. The crew, Sub-Lt D.A. Davis & TAG T.W. Leggetter were picked up unhurt by the Convoy Rescue Ship ABOYNE. Two days later on the 25th Sea Hurricanes NF674 and JS333 (pilots unnamed) were involved in a friendly fire incident when on a Cobra patrol around the convoy, they attacked and shot down an American C-54 which was not showing IFF while en route from Stephenville to Casablanca. There was one final incident on the voyage home on the 26th; Swordfish NF116 ('V'), flown by Sub-Lt J.L. Harrison RNVR, hit the rounddown attempting to land on a pitching deck, the aircraft broke its back. The damage was not repairable, the aircraft was probably jettisoned.
 

Operations with the Home Fleet: April - July 1944

On leaving the dockyard STRIKER sailed for Scapa Flow on April 17th to report for temporary duty with the Home Fleet's Escort Carrier Squadron. On arrival at Scapa on the 18th 824 squadron was briefly disembarked to RNAS Grimsetter [1]  where a further 3 Swordfish were also received, increasing their number to 12 in readiness for her first mission, operation PLANET. STRIKER sailed for the operation from Scapa On Friday April 21st.

Operation PLANET was a strike at the German Battleship TIRPITZ. The Force comprised of ANSON (VA, 2IC Home Fleet), ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers), VICTORIOUS, FURIOUS, EMPEROR, SEARCHER, STRIKER, KENT, JAMAICA, URSA, UNDAUNTED, WAKEFUL, WIZARD, SERAPIS, JAVELIN, VENUS, VIGILANT, SIOUX, ALGONQUIN, PIORUN, SWIFT, KEMPENFELT, and KELVIN. The attack on TIRPITZ, which would have involved 40 Barracudas and 40 escort fighters, was cancelled because of bad weather conditions on the 24th. The weather situation improved sufficiently for the next round of operations, codenamed RIDGE ABLE and RIDGE BAKER to be carried out on the 26th.

Operation RIDGE ABLE involved the Fleet carriers VICTORIOUS and FURIOUS, and the escort carriers EMPEROR, SEARCHER, PURSUER and STRIKER, to conduct attacks on enemy shipping in the Bodo and Rorvik areas respectively. The second stage had to be cancelled, again due to bad weather. However RIDGE ABLE did result in three ships sunk off Bodo and a fourth damaged. The force arrived back at Scapa on April 28th. STRIKER and her squadron now prepared for the upcoming Operation HOOPS.

Operation HOOPS called for strikes by aircraft from EMPEROR, escorted by fighters from SEARCHER, on shipping between Kristiansand North and Grosse, together with oil tanks at Kjehn and a fish oil factory at Fossevaag. STRIKER was to provide anti-submarine coverage. Ships of the Home Fleet put to sea again on Sunday, May 7th, the force, which departed Scapa at 0600, comprised ROYALIST Flagship Rear Admiral Escort Carriers (R.A.E.C.), with JAMAICA, SEARCHER (joined at sea later that day), EMPEROR, and STRIKER, escorted by KEMPENFELT, WAGER, MARNE, SIOUX, ONSLAUGHT, and UNDAUNTED.
 

 

Left: Sea Hurricane NF694 ('U'), caught as it is stopped in its tracks by the barrier, causing damage to the propeller.  Right : Swordfish LS240 ('G') after landing in a heavy swell, caught last wire, ending up on its nose. Photos: Richard Webb collection Click an image to enlarge it.

 

The Force arrived in the flying off position at 0730 on the 8th May and two strikes, each of 8 Hellcats escorted by 8 Wildcats, were flown off. The first strike attacked a northbound convoy of 5 merchant ships with ten escorts 15 miles south west of Kristiansand. One merchant ship was probably damaged and two Wildcats were shot down. On returning the strike was 'jumped' by a mixed force of 6 Me 109Gs and FW 190s. One Hellcat was shot down, but the remaining Hellcats destroyed at least 1 FW 190 and 2 Me 109s. No convoy was sighted by the Second strike so the Hellcats attacked the oil tanks at Khjen and a Herring Oil factory at Fosnavaag. One merchant vessel was machine gunned off Aalesund and two BV 138s shot down by the escorting Wildcats. One Hellcat of the second strike which was damaged by flak was lost after homing successfully back to the force. The force then withdrew to the westwards and returned to Scapa at 1100 on May 9th. Striker's squadron had an uneventful mission with no casualties or enemy encountered; the squadron disembarked to RNAS Hatston later that day.

 

An additional squadron and a Royal visit

On May 11th STRIKER embarked the 10 Wildcats of 898 squadron to provide Combat Air Patrols (CAP) during strikes on Norwegian coastal targets. Normally embarked in SEARCHER the squadron had remained in the Orkneys when SEARCHER withdrew for a period of defect rectification in Rosyth Dockyard. They were on board when His Majesty King George VI visited Scapa on the 11th; he inspected many of the ships assembled, including STRIKER. 824 was embarked the following day when the ship sailed from Scapa for Operation POTLUCK

Operation POTLUCK was another strike against shipping on the Norwegian coast (between Rorvik and Frohavet) by the escort carrier squadron; however the main object was to create a diversion for Operation BRAWN which was being carried out simultaneously further north. The Force comprised of ROYALIST (R.A.E.C.), SHEFFIELD, EMPEROR, and STRIKER, screened by ONSLOW, OBEDIENT, URSA, BLYSKAWICA, PIORUN, and WAKEFUL, left Scapa on May 12th and proceeded towards the Norwegian coast, arriving in the flying off position at 1230 on May 14th by which time German shadowers were in company.

After withdrawing to the westward, the force was attacked by 6 to 8 Me 110's. Gunfire from ROYALIST turned the formation away and Sea Hurricanes from STRIKER's 824 squadron caused them to jettison their bombs and veer off. On 15th May, the force closed the Norwegian coast again and at 0425 a second strike of 8 bombers and 7 fighters proceeded to attack the fish oil factory at Fosnavaag and two armed coasters off the shore as no convoy was sighted. At 0600 on at position 65°16' N 6°13' E one of the shadowing Focke-Wulf 200 Condors was attacked by two of 898s Wildcats, JV510 ('7R') flown by Lt R. I. Harrison RNZNVR, and JV496 ('6V') piloted by Lt W. I. Sheppard RNVR. The aircraft was driven off and went into cloud with its port engine smoking On returning from a CAP sortie Lt R.I. Harrison RNZNVR flying JV460 ('7T'), landed on STRIKER with his hook up and was stopped by the barrier. The strike returned without loss. Unfavourable weather reports prevented any further strikes and the force withdrew, arriving back at Scapa on May 16th. Only two aircraft from 824 were damaged during operation POTLUCK. Both on the 14th; Sea Hurricane JS333 flown by Sub-Lt E.C. Gulden RNVR bounced after catching a wire, causing port oleo damage, and Swordfish NF161('N') flown by Sub-Lt D.A. Davies RNVR, landed tail down, damaging the tail oleo and stem post.

The Force arrived back at Scapa at 0600 on Tuesday, 16th May 1944, The following day a detachment of 8 aircraft from 824 were put ashore to RNAS Hatston; they remained ashore till the 31st when they were briefly re-embarked. A further detachment of 13 aircraft then flew ashore to RNAS Grimsetter on June 1st, re-embarking the next day. It is assumed that 898 squadron remained aboard STRIKER at Scapa until June 1st when they are recorded s disembarking to RNAS Hatston to await the return of SEARCHER from Rosyth.

It is unclear what duties STRIKER performed at Scapa over the period between the completion of operation POTLUCK and her next outing, operation WANDERERS in mid-June. It is possible she conducted flying training and anti-submarine sweeps since there is recorded aircraft activity in June which indicates she was conducting flying operations, all relating to Sea Hurricanes. On June 2nd Sub-Lt J.W. Hayes RNVR, in JS222 ('Q'), bounced on landing and floated into the barrier, and on the 7th Sub-Lt E.C. Gulden RNVR floated NF674 ('R') into the barrier. There were two more barrier crashes on the 13th, Sub-Lt R.O. Steel RNVR in JS292 bounced overall the arrester wires and flew into the barrier, damaging his propeller and wheel fairings, and Sub-Lt P.A. Clarke RNVR put NF694 ('U') into the barrier after his arrester hook jammed up. The Squadron disembarked to RNAS Hatston on June 14th, re-embarking on the 19th

Operation WANDERERS was designed to create a diversion in Norwegian waters in the hope of influencing the German navy to retain the large U-boat force already in that area, instead of relocating them south to harass convoys in the English Channel supplying the on-going operation OVERLAORD. The force comprising of ROYALIST (R.A.E.C.), SHEFFIELD, STRIKER, and FENCER escorted by MILNE, MUSKETEER, MARNE, METEOR, WAKEFUL, and WESSEX sailed from Scapa 0600 on Tuesday June 20th1944. The operation was unsuccessful; no U-boats were sighted. One Sea Hurricane, JS292, had a barrier crash on the 22nd; the pilot Sub-Lt P.A. Clarke RNVR was unhurt.


Defect ratification and 824 Fighter flight is re-equipped

On arrival back at Scapa on the 25th the Swordfish flight was out ashore to RNAS Hatston and the ship sailed for the Clyde later that day. On June 27th STRIKER entered a Clyde Shipyard for a short defect rectification period. On leaving the yard STRIKER proceeded to Belfast Lough where her remaining Sea Hurricanes were flown ashore to RNAS Eglinton on June 30th. The Sea Hurricanes were withdrawn and 6 Wildcat Mk.5 fighters were issued.
 

STRIKER on convoy protection duties in the Atlantic, Wildcat and Swordfish aircraft of 824 squadron are on deck. Photo: Richard Webb collection

 

Detached operations: July - August 1944

STRIKER sailed from Belfast at 16:30 on July 10th, under orders to assist in the search for German submarine U-11which had attacked fishing trawlers in a position west of Cape Wrath. Her fighter flight re-embarked that afternoon once she was underway.

She was to rendezvous with Force 34 which consisted of the British built escort carrier VINDEX, Frigates BULLEN, GOODALL, MANNERS, Corvettes LAUNCESTON CASTLE, and PEVENSEY CASTLE, Canadian Corvettes ARNPRIOR and ST. THOMAS. On reaching the rendezvous point off the North Minches 824 Swordfish flight was landed on and STRIKER relieved VINDEX which returned to the Clyde for aviation petrol, escorted by ARNPRIOR and LAUNCESTON CASTLE. She returned on July 13th escorted by the 3rd Escort Group Which relieved Force 34 on station. This was to be the last protracted submarine hunt in the European theatre of war conducted by escort carriers.

Weather conditions were poor; Coastal Command aircraft engaged in the operation had been ordered to return to their bases because of sea fog but carrier aircraft continued to fly and were often landing on in visibility of less than 200 yards. On completion of the sweep on July 27th STRIKER was detached on loan to Commander in Chief, Plymouth for operation KINETIC. There is only one serious accident recorded for this mission despite the extreme operating conditions; on the 18th Swordfish NE980 caught the last wire, her arrester hook pulled out and the machine broke through both barriers and crashed into Swordfish NF237 parked forward. The pilot Sub-Lt H.G. Foster was OK.

Operation KINETIC was an anti-shipping sweep in the Bay of Biscay with the aim of the destruction of enemy merchant shipping and escorts on the coastal convoy route between Gironde and Brest. Force 26 comprising DIADEM (V.A. Tenth Cruiser Squadron) with BELLONA, STRIKER and Canadian destroyers ASSINIBOINE, FOXHOUND, RESTIGOUCHE and SKEENA of the tenth Destroyer Flotilla and three ships of the Eleventh Escort Group sailed from Plymouth at 1838 on July 30th and was at sea for four days operating off La Rochelle but failed to locate the enemy. Force 26 arrived back at Plymouth on August 3rd. There was only one aircraft crash during Operation KINETIC, Sub-Lt M.E.R. Keates RNVR in Wildcat JV635 caught No.8 wire, continued into the barrier and damaged the propeller & tail oleo on August 2nd.

 

Return to Scapa and Arctic convoy escort duty: August - September 1944

STRIKER arrived back at Scapa on August 7th and was allocated to form part of the escorting force for the round-trip artic convoy code named operation VICTUAL.

Operation VICTUAL was to provide safe passage of convoys JW59 and RA59A between the United Kingdom and North Russia. The convoys were to be protected by a force comprised of VINDEX (V.A. Tenth Cruiser Squadron) STRIKER, JAMAICA, Destroyers MILNE, MARNE, METEOR, MUSKETEER, CAPRICE, Twentieth Escort Group, Destroyer WHITEHALL, Frigate LOCH DUNVEGAN, , Sloops CYGNET, PEACOCK, KITE, KEPPEL, MERMAID, Corvettes BLUEBELL, CHARLOCK, DIANELLA, OXLIP, and HONEYSUCKLE.

The convoy of 33 ships of JW59 left Loch Ewe on August 15th with 12 E.G. VINDEX with STRIKER and JAMAICA, escorted by VOLAGE, ALGONQUIN, VERULAM, VIRAGO, SCOURGE, WHIRLWIND, and WRANGLER left Scapa on the 16th to rendezvous with the convoy on the 17th. On passage, 23 U-boats were sighted though none was allowed closer than 40 miles from the convoy. The two carriers flew 444 hours in the U-boat area and made 14 attacks at distances between 50 and 75 miles from the convoy.

On the 20th another group joined the convoy; this was eight Destroyers being delivered to the Russian Navy under the Lend-Lease agreement, they were USSR ZARKIJ ex BRIGHTON, USSR DERZKIJ ex CHELSEA, USSR DEJATELNYJ ex CHURCHILL, USSR ZOSTKIJ ex GEORGETOWN, USSR ZGUCHIJ ex LEAMINGTON, USSR DRUZNYJ ex LINCOLN USSR ZIVUCHIJ ex H RICHMOND, and USSR DOBLESTNYJ ex ROXBOROUGH accompanied by the British Destroyer CASSANDRA. More escorts also joined on the 20th, the Battleship USSR ARCHANGEL (ex ROYAL SOVEREIGN) flying the flag of Vice Admiral Levchenko accompanied by the British Destroyers SCORPION, SERAPIS, and CAMBRIAN. In addition, ten Russian M.L.'s also sailed with the convoy.

No merchant ships were lost, but the Sloop KITE of the 22nd EG was torpedoed and sunk by 2 torpedoes from U-344 on August 21st. A shadowing flying boat, a BV 138 was shot down by STRIKER's Wildcats At 0410 on August 22nd; JV476 ('Z') flown by Sub-Lt T.D. Lucey RNVR, and JV589 ('R') flown by Sub-Lt R.I.C. Dibben RNVR, shot down a black Bv138 which dived vertically into the sea, no survivors were seen, at position 74°55' N 13°50' E. Later the same day one of VINDEX's Swordfish sank U-344. The next day another Swordfish from VINDEX located U-354, attempting to approach the convoy to the north of North Cape, she was sunk by the Destroyer KEPPEL, Frigate LOCH DUNVEGAN, and Sloops MERMAID and PEACOCK of the 20th EG. Russian fighter cover was available from the morning of August 24th. There were no casualties to aircraft. JW59 arrived at Kola Inlet on the 25th with all 33 merchant ships The Russian warships arrived at Kola on the 24th having left the convoy on the 23rd.

While at anchor in the Kola Inlet awaiting the assembly of the return convoy STRIKER played host to British and Russian sailors and Naval Officers, when a concert was held in the hangar; the entertainment included performances accompanied by a string quartet.

The return convoy RA59A sailed from the Kola Inlet three days later for the return voyage to Loch Ewe. This was a much smaller convoy of only 9 merchant ships. Swordfish from VINDEX attacked the only U-boat sighted, on September 2nd with rockets and depth charges; it was destroyed by the Destroyers KEPPEL and WHITEHALL, and Sloops PEACOCK, and MERMAID. RA59A arrived at Loch Ewe on September 5th. VINDEX, STRIKER, JAMAICA, and the Fleet destroyers arrived at Scapa on the 6th.

There were only three flying incidents during the passage of JW59 and RA59A; shortly after sailing from Scapa a serious crash occurred which resulted in a fatality, Lt R. Moss RNVR in Wildcat JV442 landed on STRIKER but the arrester wire broke, the aircraft broke through both barriers and into the tail of Swordfish LS231 in the forward aircraft park, FX 561956 Air Mechanic (Airframes) Harry Barrow was killed, possibly by the parted wire. On August 21st Sub-Lt C.G. Rowe RNVR made a heavy landing in Swordfish HS406 which damaged the starboard oleo and lower wing. The third was on September 1st, Swordfish LS231 ('D') missed all the arrester wires and flew into the barrier, on coming to an abrupt stop the engine fell out. The pilot Sub-Lt J.C. Simpson and crew were OK.
 

 

Left: Swordfish LS231 ('D') with its engine on the deck after  being stopped by the barrier. Right Wildcat  JV442 'S' after  the arrester wire broke, the aircraft broke through both barriers, hit the tail of Swordfish LS231 in the forward aircraft park and swung to starboard, hitting the Island..  Photos: Richard Webb collection Click an image to enlarge it.

 

STRIKER and VINDEX sailed from Scapa at 1600 on the 6th for the Clyde, escorted by VIRAGO and SIOUX as far south as the North Minches, and arrived on the Clyde the following day. Here STRIKER made preparations for her next mission. She sailed again at 0730 on Wednesday, September 13th 1944 to rendezvous with the British built escort carrier CAMPANIA in the Mull of Kintyre, escorted by KEMPENFELT and OBEDIENT on passage to Scapa. CAMPANIA and STRIKER arrived at Scapa on September 14th

Operation RIGMAROLE was the codename for the next Arctic convoy escort mission to the Kola Inlet and back with convoys JW60 and RA60. The escort force comprised of the Battleship RODNEY, Cruiser DIADEM and Escort Aircraft Carriers CAMPANIA (R.A. First Cruiser Squadron) and STRIKER screened by Destroyers MARNE, METEOR, MILNE, MUSKETEER, VENUS, SAUMAREZ, SCORPION, VERULAM, VIRAGO, VOLAGE, ALGONQUIN (RCN)and SIOUX (RCN)

The 30 merchant vessels of JW60 departed from Loch Ewe on September 15th escorted by the ships of the 7th E.G., Destroyers BULLDOG, CYGNET, WHITEHALL, Frigate KEPPEL, Corvettes BAMBOROUGH CASTLE, and ALLINGTON CASTLE. The carriers and their escorts sailed from Scapa on the 16th to rendezvous with the convoy on the 17th. JW60 arrived at Kola Inlet on September 23rd without loss, there was little enemy contact due to bad weather conditions.

The return convoy RA60 sailed from the Kola Inlet four days later on the 27th for the voyage to Loch Ewe. The convoy contained 32 merchant ships. Swordfish from both carriers flew night anti-submarine patrols on the homeward voyage.

Two merchant vessels were torpedoed and sunk by U-310 on the 29th, the American S.S. EDWARD H CROCKETT was abandoned by her crew and was later scuttled by gunfire from MILNE, and the British S.S. SAMSUVA, she broke in two after being hit by a torpedo but remained afloat and had to be scuttled by gunfire from MUSKETEER and BULLDOG. On the 30th Swordfish aircraft F of CAMPANIA's 813 Squadron attacked and sank U-921 in position 72°32' N 12°55' E, west of Bear Island. The carriers detached from the convoy on October 3rd, arriving at Scapa on the 4th. Convoy RA60 arrived at Loch Ewe on October 7th.

824 squadron had three landing incidents on the return voyage, all on the 29th; Wildcat JV634 flown by Sub-Lt B.J.C. Dibben RNVR hit the rounddown, the arrester hook snapped and the aircraft flew into the barrier. Swordfish NE988 flown by Sub-Lt P.G. Comber RNVR had Barrier crash, while the undercarriage of Swordfish DK762 collapsed on landing and the engine fell out, the pilot Sub-Lt S.W. Taylor and crew were OK.

 

Allocated to the British Pacific Fleet: Ferry voyage to Australia

STRIKER arrived on the Clyde on October 6th for a period of defect rectification; 824 squadron parted company with STRIKER after this operation, the squadron disembarked to RNAS Machrihanish. The short time in dockyard hands was to repair damage incurred during her last voyage and to prepare her for her new role as part of the 30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron (30 ACS) which was to form as part of the new British Pacific Fleet for operations in the South West Pacific.

On October 25th STRIKER was berthed at King George V dock, Liverpool alongside FENCER for aircraft to be loaded aboard as deck cargo by floating crane. The aircraft were Mosquito B.IVs belonging to 618 Squadron RAF and these, together with their equipment and stores, were to be ferried to Australia aboard the two carriers on their voyage to join the British Pacific Fleet. The personnel of 618 Squadron embarked on October 30th, half in STRIKER the other half in FENCER.

618 Squadron was a specialist unit operating 24 Mosquito B.IVs and 3 Mosquito PR.XVI for the delivery of the 'Highball' anti-shipping bouncing bomb. By the time this unit was ready German targets were scarce so in July 1944 it was allocated for the Pacific theatre for operations against Japanese targets. The aircraft were carrier capable and had arrestor hooks and strengthened undercarriage legs but no record of any of their Mosquitoes performing ship board deck landings are known. The squadron's pilots were trained in the art of deck landing flying Barracudas on HMS RAJAH.

The two carriers departed the Clyde at 1430 on October 31st bound for Gibraltar, escorted BY KELVIN, MARNE, and MUSKETEER. The ships arrived at Gibraltar at 0100 on November 5th. After refuelling they continued on to Alexandria, UNDAUNTED joining the escort. They arrived at Alexandria on November 11th where the three destroyers that had escorted her from the UK detached to join the Mediterranean Fleet. After transit of the Suez Canal STRIKER, FENCER and UNDAUNTED took passage down the Red Sea to call at Aden to refuel before crossing the Indian Ocean, they arrived at Trincomalee, Ceylon on November 22nd.
 

 

Crossing the line: King Neptune and his party watch as those who have not crossed the equator before are initiated intro the order of the Shellbacks.  613 squadron Mosquitoes are clearly visible. Photos: Richard Webb collection Click an image to enlarge it.

 

After a short time spent in Ceylon both STRIKER and FENCER sailed from Colombo on December 10th 1944 this time in company with the cruiser SWIFTSURE (flagship of Rear-Admiral E. J. P. Brind, CB, CBE, commanding Fourth Cruiser Squadron) and their escort, the destroyers KEMPENFELT (Captain D, 4th Destroyer Flotilla), WESSEX, and WAKEFUL. Once at sea they were joined by the CVEs ATHELING and BATTLER, the cruiser HMNZS ACHILLES and destroyers WAGER and WHELP, to proceed in convoy to Australia. Most of the destroyers returned to Trincomalee on the 11th and on the 16th the cruisers SWIFTSURE and ACHILLES parted company with the carriers and went on ahead to Fremantle.

From Fremantle ATHELING and BATTLER continued on to Sydney before crossing the Pacific for a period of duty on loan to the US Navy. FENCER and STRIKER sailed for Melbourne after refuelling; arriving there on December 23rd to unload 618 Squadron and their aircraft at Nelson Pier, Williamstown, Victoria. Both ships then proceeded to Sydney to join the BPF, arriving there on January 7th 1945.

 

Alongside at Williamstown, Victoria, FENCER (Left) &STRIKER (Right) wait to to unload the men and aircraft of 613 squadron RAF before proceeding on to Sydney.  Photo: Richard Webb collection

 

Operations with the BPF: January - August 1945

During February STRIKER was employed on Deck Landing Practice (DLP) duties operating in the Jervis Bay area for squadrons ashore at RNAS Nowra (MONAB 1). 1836 squadron's Corsairs visited the ship on several occasions and two serious landing accidents occurred during this month. The first involved Sub Lt H West RNVR who flew JT538 into the barrier on the 12th. On the 21st, Sub Lt H Griffin RNVR overturned JT419 on landing in a spectacular accident which was caught on camera.

At the end of February STRIKER was assigned as a forward area replenishment carrier; in this role she would not carry any operational squadrons but carried replenishment loads of spare airframes for issue to other carriers whilst at sea. In this role she operated as a part of 'the Air Train', the aviation logistic support element of the British pacific Fleet's logistics life-line -the Fleet Train-. This organisation consisted of a collection of merchant and military vessels which supplied the fleet with fuel, food ammunition and stores; the main base was at Sydney with forward bases at Manus in the Admiralty Islands and Leyte in the Philippines, its vessels operating over a distance of some 2,500 miles each way.

STRIKER spent the first week of March loading equipment, spares, airframes and passengers in preparation for her first voyage to the forward base at Manus. On March 4th she embarked elements of MSR 3 (Maintenance, Storage & Reserve unit No. 3) from RNAS Bankstown (HMS NABBERLY). This unit was added to STRIKER's air engineering department to provide additional capabilities and maintain a reserve pool of ready to issue airframes afloat. This was a stop gap measure imposed because the proposed 'Forward Aircraft Pool' that was to be established ashore in the forward area had not yet been set up, and no suitable location for it had yet been found. Other elements of MSR 3 were embarked in the maintenance carrier UNICORN to bolster her engineering department and provide a second pool.

STRIKER became the flagship of the 30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron (30 ACS), on March 4th; her commanding Officer, Captain W.P. Carne, receiving promotion to the rank of Commodore 2nd Class and Officer in command 30 ACS. On March 7th 1945 STRIKER sailed from Sydney on passage to Manus, arriving there on the 13th.

STRIKER and the other escort carriers of 30 ACS were issued two new pennant numbers for operations in the Pacific theatre, STRIKER was allocated R315 and A460; she wore R315 for operations as a forward area replenishment carrier. The second number was to be worn when operating in the ferry carrier role (there is photographic evidence that she did wear A46, she is pictured alongside at Circular Quay in Sydney).
 

March 1945 Ferry load to Manus: Striker on passage from Sydney to Manus transporting a ferry load for distribution to the carriers of the 'air train' .

 

ICEBERG One Replenishment operations: March - April 1945

In order to have the replenishment force in position at the appointed time for the British Pacific Fleet to top up with fuel, before going on to conduct their first strike operation, the first elements of the Fleet Train (designated Task Force 112), were sailed from Manus on the 17th. This was the Logistic Support Group (LSG) which comprised of Task Unit (TU) 112.2.1, CVE STRIKER (with 18 replacement aircraft), escorted by CRANE, FINDHORN, and WHIRLWIND, the Tankers SAN AMBROSIO, CEDARDALE and SAN ADOLPHO, and TU 112.2.5, the CVE SPEAKER, (1840 squadron Hellcats for Combat Air Patrol duties over the LSG), escorted by PHEASANT and KEMPENFELT.

A second convoy of logistic support ships, comprising of LOTHIAN (flag ship Rear-Admiral, Fleet Train), SLINGER, EMPIRE SPEARHEAD, ARTIFEX, BACCHUS, WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, ARNDALE, DINGLEDALE, FORT COLVILLE, AASE MAERSK, DENBIGHSHIRE, ROBERT MAERSK, THYRA S., HERMELIN, and TYNE, left Manus on March 19th bound for the Philippines. The convoy arrived at Leyte Gulf on the 26th and anchored in San Pedro Bay.

At this time the Air Train comprised of the CVEs SPEAKER, ST,A RUKER and ARBITER and the maintenance carrier PIONEER. SLINGER and STRIKER were employed as forward area replenishment carriers (later joined by CHASER, and ARBITER), SPEAKER (1840 Sqdn) and later RULER (885 Sqdn) as CAP (Combat Air Patrol)& ASP (Anti-Submarine Patrol) carriers, UNICORN operated at Manus and Leyte as required, and PIONEER was based at Manus on arrival on station. The replenishment carriers embarked mixed loads for transport to the replenishment area, numbers varied from 14 - 25 aircraft. A typical load for ICEBERG One was 9 Seafires, 7 Avengers, 6 Corsairs, 1 Hellcat, and 1 Firefly but composition was adjusted when attrition of certain types exceeded estimates or available spare airframes were in short supply.

First replenishment period: The British Pacific Fleet (now re-designated Task Force 57), sailed from Ulithi at 06:30 on March 23rd 1945 for operations as part of the U.S. Fifth Fleet under Admiral Raymond Spruance U.S.N. They met with the LSG for a short replenishment at sea on the 25th which included the issuing of 4 replacement aircraft from STRIKER and topping off fuel tanks.

T F57 joined US Task Force 58 on the 26th for joint attacks on islands of the Sakishima-Gunto group in support of preparations for US landings on Okinawa. This was the first of 12 strike sorties against Japanese airfields on the Islands of the Sakishima-Gunto group in operation ICEBERG One. Because of the long distances involved between the operational area and the nearest forward base, all replenishment had to be done at sea; TF57 was operating a strike cycle of 2 days on station followed by 2-3 days of replenishment.

Second replenishment period: On withdrawing from the operational area at dusk on March 27th TF57 met the LSG in Area Midge One at 07:30 on March 28th, a rectangular area east of Luzon which covered 5000 square miles of ocean, and began refuelling. STRIKER issued 13 replacement aircraft and recovered 3 2 'flyable duds' (flyable but unserviceable aircraft), in addition she transferred a replacement Avenger aircrew to 854 Squadron aboard ILLUSTRIOUS. Her stock of spare aircraft exhausted STRIKER departed for Leyte in the afternoon of the 29th, escorted by CRANE and WHIRLWIND. Replenishment was complete by mid-afternoon on March 30th and TF57 withdrew.

The next (third) replenishment was done by SLINGER, 2nd - 5th of April; she issued 22 of her 25 replacement aircraft to the fleet carriers and recovered 2 'flyable duds'. STRIKER sailed from Leyte on April 5th with a smaller replacement load of 14 aircraft.

Fourth replenishment period: This began at 06:00 on April 8th, TU112.2 STRIKER, CRANE and WHIRLWIND and TU112.2:5 tankers ARNDALE, DINGLEDALE, SAN AMBROSIO, and SAN ADOLPHO, rendezvoused with TF 57 in position Cootie One. SPEAKER's 1840 squadron Hellcats again provided CAP for the Fleet Train while STRIKER issued 12 replacement aircraft and recovered 4 'flyable duds' and provided one Avenger crew to 854 squadron. Replenishment was completed by the afternoon of the 9th and TF 57 left Cootie One to return to Sakishima.

Fifth and Sixth replenishment periods: There were no replacement airframes available when the fleet next withdrew to replenish on April 14th but FORMIDABLE was awaiting their arrival to relieve ILLUSTRIOUS which was returning to Leyte for repairs; FORMIDABLE's air group was at full strength though. The shortage of airframes was still not resolved by the time of the next replenishment period on April 18th and the Fleet departed for the final serial of strikes on the evening of the 19th. On completion of this sortie they were to withdraw to Leyte to meet the Fleet Maintenance Group for repairs and a replenishment period.

32 days after sailing from Ulithi the Fleet anchored in San Pedro Bay, the Philippines close to the ships of the waiting Fleet Train on April 23rd. Task Force 57 had spent 26 of these days on operations, and had completed 12 strike days.
 

STRIKER at Leyte, the Philippines, April 1945 She is carrying a variety of different aircraft types in the role of Replenishment Carrier Photo © Andrew Toppam

 

ICEBERG Two Replenishment operations: May - August 1945

After eight days of repair and replenishment Task Force 57 sailed from Leyte on at 06:30 on May 1st to return to their operational area off the Sakishima-Gunto group for a second series of 12 strike days

Seventh replenishment period: The Fleet refuelled from the Tanker Group SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO and CEDARDALE with RULER (replacing SPEAKER in the CAP & ASP role, carrying 885 squadron operating a mix of Hellcats, Corsairs and Avengers), CRANE, AVON and WHIMBREL in Area Mosquito One during the day on the 3rd to top off their tanks before departing for the flying off position. No aircraft were issued.

Eighth replenishment period: At 0630 on May 6th TF 57 met up with the Logistic Support Group RULER (885 CAP & ASP), STRIKER (Replenishment), CRANE, NAPIER, - NORMAN, NEPAL, AVON, WHIMBREL, PHEASANT, and Tankers WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO, and CEDARDALE. The replenishment loads for ICEBERG Two were adjusted due to an acute shortage of Seafires; the average load for ICEBERG Two was 3 Seafires, 1 Avenger, 10 Corsairs, 7 Hellcat, and 1 Firefly, this was due to a shortage in Seafires being assembled and sent forward from Australia.

During the day STRIKER transferred 15 replacement aircraft to the Fleet and then embarked 34 casualties from FORMIDABLE injured by Kamikaze attack on May 4th. STRIKER and the other CVEs of 30 ACS were tasked with casualty evacuation in the replenishment areas and STRIKER, as Flagship had the largest medical staff aboard, having a Sick Berth C.P.O. on staff above the allowance for CVEs. On completion of embarking the casualties she sailed in company with KEMPENFELT at 19:15 for Leyte where the casualties were transferred to the Hospital Ship OXFORDSHIRE. Fuelling and exchange of stores, mail and correspondence was completed by 14:00 the next day and the Fleet disengaged from the tankers and took departure for the operations area.

STRIKER was at anchor in San Pedro Bay, Leyte when Victory in Europe (V0E Day) was announced; those not involved in embarking aircraft were allowed ashore to celebrate.

Ninth replenishment period: TF 57 met the Tanker Group ARNDALE, AASE MAERSK, DINGLEDALE, and SAN AMADO at 06:10 May 10th, SPEAKER was now on Replenishment duties, RULER with 885 Combat Air Patrols & Anti-Submarine Patrols, with NEPAL, CRANE, PHEASANT, WHYALLA, BALLARAT, WOODCOCK, WEASEL (Tug). Six Corsair flyable duds were received by SPEAKER from FORMIDABLE and 7 replacements were issued. 20 casualties were embarked from FORMIDABLE and VICTORIOUS for passage to the Hospital Ship OXFORDSHIRE at Leyte.

Tenth replenishment period: At 0630 on May 14th TF 57 met RULER (885 CAP & ASP), CRANE, WOODCOCK, PHEASANT, WEASEL and Tankers ARNDALE and DINGLEDALE in area Cootie One. A second group comprising STRIKER (Replenishment), NIZAM and Tankers WAVE KING and WAVE MONARCH were delayed, but were on station by 10:00. The hospital, ship TJITJALENGKA arrived at the replenishment area later that afternoon prepared to accept any future casualties when the Fleet withdrew from operations. STRIKER transferred 14 replacement aircraft and recovered 1 flyable dud. At 19:10 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night. A further 6 aircraft were transferred and one flyable dud received by STRIKER during the second day of replenishment on the 15th. At 17:05 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group and departed for the operations area; STRIKER, NAPIER, and NIZAM with Tankers WAVE KING and- WAVE MONARCH, and PHEASANT and WOODCOCK with Tanker ARNDALE and DINGLEDALE departed for Leyte.

Eleventh replenishment period: The Logistic Support Group met with the Fleet at 05:45 May 18th in area Cootie One, present were RULER (CAP & ASP), CHASER (Replenishment), CRANE, GRENVILLE, NORMAN, WHIMBREL, BENDIGO, PARRETT, .WEASEL and Tankers SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO, and CEDARDALE. CHASER Transferred 3 Seafires, 2 Hellcats, 1 Firefly, 2 Avengers and 1 Corsair to Task Force 57. The following day CHASER recovered 3 flyable but unserviceable Avengers and 1 Firefly.

Twelfth replenishment period: TF 57 net with the LSG on the morning of May 22nd for the last full replenishment period of the ICEBERG operations. There were two replenishment carriers on station CHASER and SPEAKER, RULER providing CAP and ASPs. Also present were CRANE, NAPIER, AVON and FINDHORN, and Tankers WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, AASE MAERSK, SAN AMADO, and the ammunition issuing ship ROBERT MAERSK. During the day CHASER transferred 10 aircraft to the Fleet, SPEAKER issued 1 Avenger to 849 squadron on VICTORIOUS. At 1800 FORMIDABLE was detached to proceed to Manus and then Sydney to expedite repair of battle damage. She was escorted by KEMPENFELT and WHIRLWIND, both of whom were due for refit. At 1915 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night.

Replenishment continued on the 23rd; SPEAKER issued 3 Fireflies to 1770 squadron on INDEFATIGABLE and CHASER transferred 4 more aircraft. During the day 2 Hellcats from CHASER crashed into the sea: neither pilot was recovered. At 1800 CHASER, SPEAKER and NAPIER were detached for Manus, leaving RULER with the Tanker Group. At 1815 the Fleet, now operating only 3 carriers, detached from the Tanker Group taking departure for the operations area for one final strike period. [STRIKER is also noted as being present on the 23rd and issued aircraft, returning to MANUS on completion, but this is not confirmed.]

 

Withdrawal to Sydney for maintenance: June 1945

On May 27th 1945 the BPF was redesignated Task Force 37 when it became part of Admiral William Halsey's United States Third Fleet. TF 37 arrived at Manus on May 30th and departed for Sydney the following day.

After nearly a month in port making repairs and storing, he ships of TF 37, and elements of TF 112, sailed from Sydney on June 28th to return to Manus, arriving there on July 4th.
 

Operations against the Japanese mainland: July - August 1945

TF 37 sailed from Manus for the forward area on the 6th, meeting the Tanker Group DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO, WAVE EMPEROR, escorted by USK and BARLE on the 13th to top off their fuel reserves. Meanwhile STRIKER sailed with ARBITER, NIZAM, NAPIER and LAUNCESTON on the 9th for the new replenishment area, codenamed BRITISH TIZZY, off the coast of Japan.

TF 37 rendezvoused with US Navy's Fast Carrier Force TF 38 on July 16th for joint operations against the Japanese mainland. TF 37 was in action on the 17th with air strikes against airfields and railways on the Island of Honshu.

The Force withdrew to rendezvous with the LSG on July 20th where the Tanker Group SAN AMBROSIA, SAN ADOLPHO, WAVE MONARCH, VSIS (Victualling Stores Issuing Ship) GLENARTNEY, RULER (CAP & Asp), ARBITER and STRIKER (Replenishment) were waiting. The LSG was escorted by the Destroyers NAPIER, NIZAM (RAN), Sloops PHEASANT, REDPOLE, WHIMBREL, Frigate FINDHORN and Minesweeper GAWLER. Also present was the Fleet Carrier INDEFATIGABLE which had been delayed leaving Sidney. ARBITER detached for Manus on the 21st to embark more aircraft and for conversion to an auxiliary oiler. Both ARBITER and STRIKER transferred aircraft to Task Force 37.

TF 37 resumed strikes on July 24th and 25th, returning to replenishment area BRITISH TIZZY to rendezvous with the LASG on the 26th. They began oiling at 0900 from the Tanker Group OLNA, CEDARDALE, CARELIA, EASEDALE, and WAVE GOVERNOR, whilke other ships took on stores from the VSIS GLENARTNEY, ASIS (Armament Store Issuing Ship) ROBERT MAERSK and NSIS (Naval stores issuing ship) CORINDA. RULER (CAP & Asp), CHASER, and SPEAKER and STRIKER (Replenishment), escorted by light cruiser ARGONAUT, destroyers NORMAN and NEPAL, sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, WOODCOCK and REDPOLE, frigates ODZANI and DERG and minesweeper PIRIE. The following day STRIKER transferred her remaining 3 replacement aircraft to SPEAKER and dethatched for Guam on route to Manus.

STRIKER escorted by NEPAL called at the US Naval Operating Base Guam on July 30th to fly off press materials. They arrived at Manus on August 2nd to load more replenishment aircraft from RNAS Ponam (Mobile Naval Air Base No.4, HMS NABARON). Loading completed STRIKER and NEPAL sailed from Manus on the 4th to return to BRITISH TIZZY. On the 6th she was ordered to return to Manus, arriving at Seeadler Harbour on the 8th. This change of orders came about as a result of a rethinking of the BPFs participation in the next phase of operations; it had become clear that the Fleet Train could not supply sufficient tankers to meet the fuel needs of TF 37, some ships had to be refuelled by US tankers and even some of the replenishment carriers were pressed into service as auxiliary oilers. Consequently only a token force was to remain operating off Japan with the US Third Fleet, KING GEORGE V and INDEFATIGABLE with their escorts, the remainder were to withdraw on the 12th and return to Manus to await further orders. Negotiations for a Japanese surrender were also taking place at this time but combat operations were to continue until the morning of August 15th.

STRIKER was at anchor in Seeadler Harbour when the surrender was announced but the time for celebration was short, she sailed in company with ARBITER escorted by ULYSSES on August 16th to return to Sydney.

 

Round trip to Hong Kong and Singapore: September - October 1945

On her arrival in Sydney STRIKER, and her sister carriers, was next employed on humanitarian relief work, repatriating refugees and POWs became the priority effort after the Japanese surrender. All aircraft and related equipment was off loaded and large quantities of food and medical supplies were embarked for delivery to Hong Kong along with folding beds and spare clothing, for the men, women and children they were to embark as passengers for the return leg.

Three marriages took place amidst all these preparations, two were in North Sydney, there are no details for the third; on August 27th members of the ship's company attended the wedding of the ship's Padre, the Rev. Alfred 'Dickie' Bird RNVR, to Miss Ellie Lucas, daughter of the Rector of St John's Church, Darlinghurst, East Sydney. The ceremony was performed at St John's Darlinghurst; the guest of honour was Commodore Carne. The following day Lieutenant (S) F. B. Drake, R.N.V.R., secretary to Commodore Carne, was married to Corporal, Marjorie Morris, W.A.A.A.F., daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. N. Morris, of North Sydney, at St. Mary's Church, North Sydney.

On completion of loading and embarking passengers, which included military personnel and Australian Nurses, STRIKER sailed from Sydney on September 5th and arrived at Hong Kong on the 18th. STRIKER was berthed at Holt's Wharf and work began immediately to off load the relief supplies and to make ready for the embarkation of recently liberated internees and Prisoners of War for repatriation to Australia. Whilst in Hong Kong many members of her original ship's company were relieved of their duties and returned to the UK on board the Troop Ship RMS STERLING CASTLE.
 

 

September 1945. Left: the voyage out to Hong Kong, Australian nurses and medical personnel in trhe shade on the flight deck. Right Refugee children on passage to Sydney from Hong Kong and Singapore Note the Bofors gun in the background is encased in its peacetime covers.. Photos: Richard Webb collection

 

From Hong Kong STRIKER sailed for Singapore, where she embarked more recovered Australian POWs and a number of medically unfit but walking POWs transferred from the Hospital Ship GERUSALEME on September 27th. STRIKER escorted by QUADRANT, re-crossed the equator on the 2nd October 1945 and called at Manus the following day. She arrived back in Sydney on October 9th 1945 and berthed at Pyrmont Wharf to disembark her passengers to the Red Cross clearing centre. On completion of unloading STRIKER began a period of defect rectification (yard unknown).

 

Return to the United Kingdom

At this time STRIKER was released from British Pacific Fleet operations and was allocated for return to the UK. On leaving dockyard hands STRIKER began loading stores, equipment and passengers for passage home via Brisbane, Singapore, Colombo, Aden, Port Said, Malta, and Gibraltar. She sailed from Sydney on October 26th for Brisbane where she was berthed at Brett's Wharf, at Hamilton, Brisbane to load stores, and aircraft, including a number of Sea Otters, for ferrying to the UK. She sailed for Singapore on the morning of November 5th.

At Singapore she disembarked some of her passengers and embarked others for onward passage. She sailed from Singapore on November 24th bound for Colombo. She arrived on the Clyde on December 16th 1945.

 

Disposal: return to US custody January 1946

Upon her arrival on the Clyde STRIKER was removed from active service. Under the terms of the agreement through which she was loaned to the Royal Navy she was to be paid for or returned; STRIKER was not to be retained.

Once her passengers and cargo were disembarked many of her crew went home for Christmas leave; many leaving the ship for the last time as only a steaming party would be required to make her final Atlantic crossing. Next work started to de-store the ship and to remove Admiralty equipment in preparation for returning her to the US Navy. HMS STRIKER departed from the Clyde on her final voyage on January 29th 1946.

On arrival at U.S. Naval Base Norfolk she was decommissioned and CVE-19 was returned to US Navy custody on February 12th 1946. She was struck from the US Navy List on March 28th 1946, and laid up in reserve. She was sold June 5th 1946 to the Patapsco Steel Scrap Co., of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and was broken up for scrap in 1949.


Notes
[1] It is unclear when 824 NAS disembarked from, and re-embarked in, STRIKER during her time with the Home Fleet. Some commentators give dates that put them ashore at times when STRIKER was at sea on operations, and incident reports of flying accidents indicate aircraft were on board. Therefore this account assumes they remained embarked from April 21st 1944 until May 9th 1944.

 


Content revised: 09 November 2016

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

Hobbs, D. (2007) 'Moving bases: Royal Navy Maintenance Carriers and MONABs' Liskeard, Maritime Books

Smith,P.C., (12001) 'Task Force 57: The British Pacific Fleet, 1944 - 45' Bristol, Crecy 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)

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.

The contribution of the British Pacific Fleet to the assault on Okinawa, 1945. - The London Gazette Of Tuesday, the 1st of June, 1948

On-line archive Fold3.com various documents including;

Admiralty War Diaries

Mare Island Navy Yard War Diaries

US Thirteenth Naval District War Diaries

Norfolk Navy Yard War Diaries

Mew York Navy Yard War Diaries

Miscellaneous documents

CTF 37 (British) Report of air & surface strikes against the Japanese empire, preparation for and initial occupation of the Tokyo bay area, Honshu, Japan. 6/28/45 to 9/2/45

 

 

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Comments (6)

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Gwenda Allsworth (Maryborough, Australia) says...
My Father, Alfred Ronald Allsworth was on the HMS STRIKER in WW2 I am trying to find as much info about this carrier and his friends in particular a George Foreman who left the carrier with him when it came to Sydney, Australia. Do you have or know where to direct me in my search for more information about this. Thank You Gwenda Allsworth Maryborough QLD Australia
14th December 2015 9:59pm
Wayne W. Smith (Bandiana, Australia) says...
Hello Gwenda, I have two framed photos of HMS Striker, which were given to me by Graeme Morris from the Bright (Victoria)RSL. It is unknown where the photos came from. You can have the photos if you want them. I am the Commanding Officer of the local Australian Navy Cadet unit, Training Ship (TS) Albury and occasionally families denote Navy artifacts to me once their relative, usually an old sailor, has passed on. I was doing some research on Stiker and came across your message. Graeme Morris ... Read More
19th December 2015 10:37pm
Gwenda Allsworth (Maryborough, Australia) says...
Thank you Wayne W Smith for your replyl
I have been in touch with the Bright RSL
but because its holiday time there is now a delay in communication. I am looking forward to hearing from the right Graeme Morris, apparently there are a few there. I'm not sure if you got my reply email but I would dearly love to have the framed photos of the Striker. Could you let me know how this can be done. My ph number is 0427161904 Thank You Gwenda A
28th December 2015 10:06am
Gwenda Allsworth (Maryborough, Australia) says...
Wayne, could you call me on 0427161904 about the two framed photos of HMS Striker. I would still like to get them if they are still available. I will pay postage. Thanks Gwenda Allsworth
27th May 2016 12:25pm
Gordon Gadsby (Melbourne, Australia) says...
Hi Gwenda
Reading your post and would like to know more about the striker and it's crew, as my father was a aircraft mech. on the Striker. I have quite a few photo's of the crew and ship.
Cheers
Gordon Gadsby.
22nd December 2016 9:07am
John Fulcher (Lincoln, UK) says...
I served on HMS STRIKER from 1942 to 1946, I am now 93 years old ! and good for a few more !
Difficult to remember names sorry about that.
I was a leading signal man.
7th March 2017 5:31pm
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