POCKET SIZED AIRCRAFT CARRIERS

H.M.S. Nabob limps back to base after being torpedoed. H.M.S. Shah

The escort carrier was designed as a solution to the shortage of naval air power for convoy protection. By the end of WW2 Britain had operated 45 escort carriers, in the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian and Pacific oceans: 6 were British built 39 US built the later were affectionately known as 'Woolworth' carriers.

H.M.S. Ruler
 

Humble beginnings & Lend lease batch 1

The first escort carrier was the British built HMS Audacity, entering service on June 17th 1941 she was the first escort carrier to operate as a convoy escort sailing with convoy, OG74 on September 13th 1941. Although she had only a brief active career before being sunk, she had shown that the concept worked.  The idea of converting merchant hulls into vessels capable of operating naval aircraft, was to be taken forward by the US Navy  who began utilising merchant 'C3' type  freighter hulls for conversions into escort carriers. The first US conversion was the USS Long Island which was commissioned on  June 2nd 1941.

 

Under the terms of the Lend Lease agreement between the US and Britain 39 US built escort carriers were transferred to the control of the Admiralty. Of the first five escort carrier conversions completed for the RN (Archer, Avenger, Biter, Charger, Dasher) were essentially copies of the 'Long Island' design. Charger was the first  to be handed over, commissioning as HMS Charger on  October 2nd 1941; however, the USN reclaimed her two days later for duty as an training carrier. The second carrier Archer was a fairly rudimentary conversation and she saw little active service before machinery problems saw her laid up for a considerable time. Avenger and Dasher were both sunk, Biter being the only one of the initial batch to see continuous active service until the end of the war.

 

Demand  increases - Lend lease Batches 2 and 3

The U-Boat treat was increasingly claiming merchant and military vessels on vital convoys, the need for more escort carriers was to become a priority. Orders were placed for two further batches of US  CVEs whilst the Admiralty undertook to complete a further five. Batch 2 was 11 'Bogue' class CVEs, although some 'Casablanca' class vessels were initially earmarked for transfer, but these were diverted to the US navy. Batch 3 was a repeat order for a further 23 Bogue class vessels.

 

By the end of 1942 the RN had received 8 US  escort carriers and completed two conversions in British shipyards.  During 1943 it was to gain a further 30, 27 lend lease CVEs and 3 more British conversions; this was to be the height of escort carrier production for the RN, the final four US built vessels and the final British conversion had all arrived by the end of February 1944.

 
"Full protection could not be afforded to the convoys until it was possible to provide air escort for the whole of the Atlantic passage; and for some time there was a gap of some 600 miles in mid-Atlantic which land-based air forces could not reach. That was finally bridged partly by the provision of the ‘V.L.R.’ (very long range) aircraft, but even more effectively by the provision of escort carriers which could accompany each convoy."

Rear-Admiral H. G. Thursfield

 "Failure of the U-Boat Campaign." 

Illustrated London News January 22, 1944

 

Tasking and carrier employment

The escort carriers were to fill various different roles other than convoy protect duties, especially after the battle for the Atlantic in 1944. Many of them were assigned to the British Pacific Fleet and the East Indies Fleet from late 1944 onwards.

 

The various roles undertaken  included:

  • Ferry carrier, transporting aircraft as deck cargo

  • Anti Submarine Warfare carriers

  • Combat Air Patrol Carriers

  • Assault carriers (Army co-operation role)

  • Replenishment carriers (BPF Air Train)

  • Secondary role -Auxiliary oiler capable of limited refuelling in addition to its primary role

  • Post war carriers provided humanitarian aid and assisted with POW evacuation and repatriation

 


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Last updated: September 05, 2014 14:43 UK time

 


 

 

 

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Click on  an underlined  link to view the carriers history page.  Vessels are listed in alphabetical order,  commissioning date into RN service is given alongside. BOLD Green links are completed pages normal Green links are works in progress

A camera icon denotes that a gallery of images is available for this ship. * = recently added or updated

 

Ship Name   

Images

  Commissioning date

ACTIVITY

29 Sep 1942

AMEER  

 

20 Jul 1943

ARBITER

31 Dec1943

ARCHER 

 

17 Nov1941

ATHELING

31 Jul 1943

ATTACKER *

*

30 Sep 1942

AUDACITY

 

17 Jun 1941

AVENGER

 

02 Mar 1942

BATTLER

 

31 Oct 1942

BEGUM

 

12 Aug 1943

BITER

 

01 May 1942

CAMPANIA

 

09 Feb 1944

CHARGER

 

02 Oct 1941

CHASER

 

09 April 1943

DASHER 

 

02 Jul 1942

EMPEROR

06 Aug 1943

EMPRESS

12 Aug 1943

FENCER

 

01 Mar 1943

HUNTER

 

09 Jan 1943

KHEDIVE

 

25 Aug 1943

NABOB

07 Sep 1943

NAIRANA

 

26 Nov 1943

PATROLLER

22 Oct 1943

PREMIER *

 

03 Nov 1943

PRETORIA CASTLE

 

29 Jul 1943

PUNCHER

 

05 Feb 1944

PURSUER

 

11 Jun 1943

QUEEN 

 

07 Dec 1943

RAJAH

 

17 Jan 1944

RANEE

08 Nov 1943

RAVAGER

25 Apr 1943

REAPER

 

18 Feb 1944

RULER

 

22 Dec 1943

SEARCHER

 

07 Apri1943

SHAH

27 Sept 1943

SLINGER

11 Aug 1943

SMITER

20 Jan 1944

SPEAKER 

20 Nov 1943

STALKER

 

21 Dec 1942

STRIKER 

29 Apr 1943

THANE

19 Nov 1943

TRACKER

 

31 Jan 1943

TROUNCER

 

31 Jan 1944

TRUMPETER

 

04 Aug 1943

VINDEX

 

26 Nov 1943

 

HMS Arbiter - Sunset in the Med

 

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