A History of HMS CAMPANIA
HMS CAMPANIA underway
The ship that was to become HMS CAMPANIA was one of a pair of passenger cargo vessels of 12.000 tons ordered form Harland & Wolff, Belfast by the Shaw Savill Line in 1940. One vessel was launched as the SS WAIWERA (III) while the other was requisitioned by the Admiralty.
Her keel was laid down on August 12th 1941 in the Belfast dockyard of Harland & Wolff. On July 29th 1942, while still on the stocks, her hull was requisitioned by the Admiralty for completion as an as an Escort Aircraft Carrier, part of a programme to convert five merchant vessels into escort carriers in British dockyards (ACTIVITY, CAMPANIA, NAIRANA, PRETORIA CASTLE and VINDEX).
She was launched on June 17th 1943 and remained at Belfast during her fitting out. During this time her crew would have arrived in Belfast, towards the end of 1943, to begin working on the ship and preparing her various departments prior to her builder's Trials. During this time her ship's company were held 'on the Books of HMS CAROLINE' the local Naval Base. Commander J.M. Robb RN was appointed was as Executive Officer in October 1943, and was the senior officer aboard the ship until her commanding officer, Captain K. A. Short RN, arrived on November 29th.
CAMPANIA was the last of the five merchant conversions to be completed and she benefited from the extra time in the dockyard by becoming the first British carrier to be fitted with an Action Information Organization (AIO) suite and the more capable type 281B aircraft warning and control, type 277 aircraft height-finding, and type 276 surface warning radar arrays. Because her hull was still under construction when requisitioned it was possible to make further modification to her internal structure, such as adding additional transverse bulkheads and incorporating the hanger and other elements that where ‘bolted on’ in the US built carriers, to be incorporated into the structure of the ship. She was fitted with a modern Air Direction Room (ADR), which coupled with her radar outfit proved invaluable for directing both her own and other carrier's aircraft, and flight deck lighting giving her night flying capabilities. She was however equipped with only one aircraft lift, this coupled with a narrow flight deck would restrict her to a capacity of only 20 aircraft.
Fitting out and working up: February - May 1944
HMS CAMPANIA was commissioned in Belfast on February 9th 1944 and was allocated the pennant number D48. She began her builder's trials in late February and her build was completed on March 7th. She sailed for the Clyde to begin her work up period the following day.
She received her first aircraft on March 13th when the 3 Fulmar Mk.IINF (Night fighter) of 784 squadron B3 flight embarked from
RNAS Drem. Although a second line squadron its aircraft were to operate as part of 813 which was to join the ship later in April. On April 3rd they disembarked to RNAS Ballyhalbert. Three days later 4 Wildcat Vs embarked from
RNAS Eglinton, these were formerly 'F' flight of
1832 squadron and they were to form the fighter element of 813 composite naval air squadron. Engine problems halted her work up in mid-April; CAMPANIA was forced to return to Harland & Wolff's yard for defect ratification on the 16th.
The ship was back at sea on April 26th when the 9 Swordfish IIs of 813 squadron flew out from RNAS Maydown to join the ship, 784 B3 flight re-joined from
RNAS Ballyhalbert on the same day. The beginning of May brought the ship's first deck crashes; both involved Wildcat Vs of 813 and both were flown by Sub. Lt J. A. Quigg RNZNVR. He missed all the wires and entered the barrier in JV575, and repeated his performance later that day in JV577. On May 6th Sub. Lt Quigg again pranged the same two aircraft; He caught the trickle wire, pulled out his arrester hook and entered the barrier in both JV575 and JV577. Swordfish NE922 piloted by Lt J. T. Courlander RNVR also suffered a barrier crash on this date, missing all the wires during a night deck landing.
There were two more Swordfish incidents on the 13th; Sub Lt. M. A. Mitchell RNVR flaying in NF200 hit the barrier, and Sub Lt. J. Rooke taxied NE983 into the tail of an aircraft parked forward of the barrier. There was only one other flying incident, on 19th Wildcat V JV580 piloted by Lt D. E. Leamon struck the DLCO's windshield with his Port wing landing on, no one was injured.
Her work up was completed on May 23rd but flying training continued several more days before the ship returned to the Clyde to store ship. One of 784 squadron's Fulmars, DR738 flown by Lt M. B. W. Howell RNVR crashed on landing on May 25th.
Allocated to Western Approaches Command : June 1944
HMS CAMPANIA was allocated to Western Approaches Command on June 3rd 1944 and sailed on this date to provide air cover for the combined convoy OS.79/ KMS.53 outbound from Liverpool.
Convoy OS.79/KMS.53 depart Liverpool on June 2nd 1944 containing 30 merchant vessels bound for West Africa and the Mediterranean. While covering OS.79/ KMS.53 There were four flying incidents, one ditching and three deck landing incidents: on the 8th Swordfish NE983 ('J') hit the rounddown landing and fell into the sea, the crew Pilot PO F. M. Sutherland, Observer SUB-Lt K. H. Tilley & Petty Officer Airman J. H. Jones were picked up unhurt by the SS ACCRINGTON. On the 9th SWORDFISH LS394 ('C') flown by Sub-Lt A. C. Darlow RNVR had its port undercarriage leg collapse on landing, and Lt. Howell had a second crash on landing, this time in Fulmar BP791. The following day Sub-Lt M. Aa Mitchell RNVR flew Swordfish NE933 ('G') Into the barrier. The convoy split on June 11th and CAMPANIA detached and switched cover to the Inbound combined convoy SL 160/MK.51.
Wildcats and Swordfish of 813 squadron ranged on the
the light deck,.
Convoy SL 160/MKS.51G had rendezvoused at sea on June 19th, SL.150 from Freetown with 29 merchantmen and MKS.51G from Gibraltar with 21 merchantmen making a combined total of 50 merchantmen inbound for Liverpool. CAMPANIA began covering the convoy on the 12th. There were three further Swordfish flying incidents during passage; on the 14th NE922 ('L') flown by Sub-Lt J. Rooke RNVR, caused some concern when its starboard oleo leg collapsed on landing still carrying its payload of 2 depth charges. On the 19th NE931 ('K') was lost after the observer, Sub-Lt L J. C. Keary RNVR, considered he was lost and, unable to locate the ship or landfall the pilot, Sub-Lt J. Rooke RNVR ditched the aircraft off Achill Head, Co. Mayo, Ireland at 07:32. The two officers and their gunner, Leading Airman W. J. MacRae were picked up by and Irish trawler. NES95 ('B') crashed on the 29th when the port oleo leg collapsed on landing. The convoy arrived at Liverpool on the 21st.
Convoy OS.82/KMS.56 depart Liverpool on July 1st 1944 containing 32 merchant vessels bound for West Africa and the Mediterranean. CAMPANIA began providing air cover from July 2nd. On the 4th one of her Wildcat fighters, JV590 flown by Lt. D. E. Leamon RNVR entered the barrier. One Swordfish was damaged beyond local repair on the 11th NE934 ('F') flown by Lt J. T. Courlander RNVR caught a wire but swung into the starboard nets. The convoy Split on July 11th and CAMPANIA detached and switched cover to the Inbound combined convoy SL 163/MK.54.
Convoy SL 163/MKS.54G had rendezvoused at sea on July 11th, SL.163 from Freetown with 28 merchantmen and MKS.54G from Gibraltar with 24 merchantmen making a combined total of 52 merchantmen inbound for Liverpool. CAMPANIA began covering the convoy on the 12th. She detached from the convoy on the 21st proceeding to Glasgow where the wreckage of Swordfish NE934 ('F') was put ashore to RNAS Abbotsinch. The convoy arrived at Liverpool on the 22nd.
Convoy OS.85/KMS.59 depart Liverpool on August 1st containing 37 merchant vessels bound for West Africa and the Mediterranean. CAMPANIA began covering the convoy on the 3rd. On the 9th Wildcat JV590 flown by Sub-Lt Quigg crashed into the barrier after its arrestor hook was pulled out.
The convoy Split on August 11th and CAMPANIA detached and switched cover to the Inbound combined convoy SL.166/MKS.57G.
Convoy SL.166/MKS.57G had rendezvoused at sea on August 9th, SL.166 from Freetown with 29 merchantmen and MKS.57G from Gibraltar with 18 merchantmen making a combined total of 47 merchantmen inbound for Liverpool. CAMPANIA began covering the convoy on the 11th. The following day Swordfish NR987 swung into the starboard nets on landing. the crew, Sub-Lt O. R. Tupper RNVR & Lt R. Benyon RNVR were OK, but the aircraft was seriously damaged and was jettisoned overboard. On the 14th Swordfish NR984 flown by Sub-Lt E. P. Jardine RNVR caught the trickle wire but the arrestor hook parted and the aircraft entered the barrier. There was one final crash on the 15th, after towing a drogue in Wildcat JV590 Sub-Lt Quigg could not lower his arrestor hook and entered the barrier. CAMPANIA detached from the convoy on the 198th and proceeded to
The Swordfish of 813 squadron flew ashore to
RNAS Belfast and the Fulmars of 784 B flew
RNAS Drem; the wreckage of Swordfish NR984 was unloaded to the jetty at RN Air Maintenance Yard Belfast later that day. The convoy arrived at Liverpool on the 20th.
Reallocated for service with the Home Fleet : September 1944
August, early September CAMPANIA was prepared for operations escorting
convoys to Russia, being reallocated to the Home Fleet from September 14th.
The Fulmars of 784B re-embarked on September 6th and the Wildcat flight of
813, which had remained onboard disembarked to
RNAS Eglinton on the same date to receive new equipment, including some Mk.VI machines, before re-barking on the 12th. It is assumed that the 12 Swordfish of 813 also re-joined the ship on this date. HMS CAMPANIA sailed from Belfast on the 13th to rendezvous with escort carrier
STRIKER and destroyers KEMPENFELT & OBEDIENT in the Mull of Kintyre for passage to Scapa Flow. The ships arrived at Scapa on the 14th and CAMPANIA came under the orders of Commander in Chief, Home Fleet. Two days later she sailed as part of the escort force for convoy JW 60 to North Russia.
Operation RIGMAROLE was the codename given to the task of escort convoy JW.60 to North Russia and the return convoy RA.60 back to the UK On the 16th Rear Admiral Commanding, First Cruiser Squadron (R. Adm. R. R. McGrigor, RN) transferred his flag from HMS KENT to CAMPANIA for the upcoming Operation.The force sailed from Scapa on the 16th, and comprised of escort carriers CAMPANIA (Flag CS1),
STRIKER , Battleship RODNEY, Cruiser DIADEM, 3rd Destroyer Flotilla MILNE (captain(D)), MARNE, METEOR, MUSKETEER, 20th Destroyer Flotilla SAUMAREZ (captain (D)), SCORPION, SIOUX, ALGONQUIN, VIRAGO, VOLAGE, VENUS, VERULAM, The 31 ships of JW 60 left Loch Ewe on September 15th-with the 7th Escort Group, (Destroyers BULLDOG, CYGNET, KEPPEL, WHITEHALL, Corvette s BAMBOROUGH CASTLE, ALLINGTON CASTLE). The Scapa force joined on the 17th. JW.60 arrived Kola Inlet on September 23rd without incident. Rear Admiral McGrigor transferred his flag to RODNEY.
After a five-day spell in port, Admiral McGrigor transferred back to CAMPANIA as the force sailed to cover the passage of the 32 ships s of RA 60. One day out from Kola U-310 detected and attacked the convoy. At 16:27 the U-Boat fired two Torpedoes at the convoy; one struck the American merchantman EDWARD H CROCKETT carrying a cargo of 1659 tons of chrome ore, was struck by one torpedo on the starboard side, she was abandoned after an hour and the survivors were picked up by the rescue ship ZAMALEK. The wreck was later scuttled by the destroyer MILNE. The second torpedo struck the British merchantman SAMSUVA, breaking her in two, the two hull sections remained afloat due to her cargo of wooden pitprops. Survivors were picked up by the rescue ship RATHLIN. The wreck was sunk by gunfire from MUSKETEER and BULLDOG. U-310 had not been detected by CAMPANIAs patrols or by asdic and she slipped away undetected. Another U-Boat was detected on the 30th, U-921 was attacked by depth charges from Swordfish NE985 ('GF’) and sunk at position 72°32'N 12°55’E, the crew Sub-Lt M. A. Mitchell RNVR and Lt D. M. Bentley RNVR were both Mentioned in Despatches. Sadly, on the same day Lt. Cdr C. A. Allen and Lt K. H. Tilley RNVR were both killed when their Swordfish NR986 ('GC') failed to return from an anti-submarine patrol at position 72°47' N 17°50' E.
The escort force detached for Scapa on October 3rd the convoy proceeded to Loch Ewe with the 7th Escort Group arriving there on the 5th with no further losses. CAMPANIA had only oone other flying accident on passage, on the 2nd Swordfish NR940 ('GR') flown by CPO pilot F. H. Sutherland was blown into the safety nets making a landing at dusk in bad weather. On reaching Scapa on the 4th Rear Admiral McGrigor transferred his flag from CAMPANIA back to KENT.
CAMPANIA sailed from Scapa on the 6th, arriving on the Clyde on October 7th. Flying training continued in preparation for the next outing Operation HARDY later that month. For this operation some adjustments were made her aircraft complement; the Swordfish element was reduced to accommodate additional Wildcats which were embarked from
FENCER; 850 squadron fighter flight transferred on the 18th, followed by 842 squadron fighter flight on the 19th. [This brought her strength to 8 Swordfish, 3 Fulmar night fighters and 12 Wildcats.] She sailed for Scapa on October 20th, arriving on the 21st.
Operation HARDY had two objectives; to lay mines in Lepsoyrev and Harhamsfiord on the Norwegian coast and to strike enemy shipping between 62°°N-64N. CAMPANIA joined Force 2 which comprised of the Cruiser DEVONSHIRE, escort carriers CAMPANIA (813 + additional wildcats) and
TRUMPETER (846 squadron, 12 Avengers 8 Wildcats) destroyers SAUMAREZ (Captain (D) 23rd Destroyer Flotilla), SERAPIS, SCORPION, SAVAGE, ZAMBESI, and ZEPHYR. The force sailed on the 23rd and the Avengers from
TRUMPETER successfully laid their mines while the Wildcats from both carries provided escorts and attacked shore targets. Bad weather curtailed the operation and Force 2 arrived back at Scapa on the 27th. She next prepared for her second Russian Convoy escort run for the safe conduct of convoys JW.61A and RA.61A codenamed Operation GOLDEN.
Left : On the bridge L-R Captain K Short, RN, the CO - Lieut Cdr G R G Watkins, DSO, DSC, RN, SO Ops- and Rear Admiral McGrigor, CB, DSO, in command convoy escort. © IWM (A 27525)
Right: CAMPANIA rolls to Starboard in rough seas.
Operation GOLDEN covering force sailed from Scapa on November 1st 1944 and comprised of escort carrier CAMPANIA (813 Swordfish, plus 3 Fulmar Night fighters and additional Wildcats), cruiser BERWICK, Destroyers SAUMAREZ (Captain (D) Twenty-third Destroyer Flotilla), SCOURGE, SERAPIS, CAPRICE, CAMBRIAN, and CASSANDRA. Convoy JW.61A had departed from Liverpool on October 31st 1944 and comprised of only two ships, the Troop Ships EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA and SCYTHIA carrying 11,000 Russian former POWs home and the Norwegian contingent and stores for liberated Northern Norway.
On the morning of November 3rd Lt D. E. Leamon in Wildcat JV755 ('Z2'), and Sub-Lt J. C. R. Buxton RNVR in Wildcat ('Z1') engage a shadowing Bv138 and shot it down in flames at 09:57 at position 67°37'35”N 0°33'E. The convoy arrived safely at Kola on the 6th. At Murmansk the two Troop ships disembarked their passengers and prepared for the return voyage, SCYTHIA would return empty but EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA embarked 58 naval personnel from HMS MOUNSEY which had been damaged by a torpedo for U-295 while escorting Convoy RA.61 and was at Murmansk for repairs.
Convoy RA.61A departed Kola Inlet on November 10th 1944, the destroyers SAVAGE and SCORPION, mow part of the escort force. Shortly after sailing the launch of Wildcat JV738 8 was aborted by Lt D. E. Leamon as the aircraft’s engine failed during the take-off run. In the afternoon of November 13th Sub-Lt P. J. W. Davies RNVR in Wildcat JV755 ('Z2'), and Sub-Lt WV Machin RNVR in Wildcat ('Z1') engage a shadowing Bv138 and shot it down at 133:5 in position 67°28’48”N 20°53'E. The escort force detached on the 15th and proceeded to Scapa, CAMPANIA and her escorts proceeded to Belfast arriving here on the 16th; the Wildcats of 850 squadron departed for
RNAS Machrihanish on this date. The two Troop Ships arrived safely on the Clyde on the 17th.
CAMPANIA was to spend 10 days in Belfast,
during this time her aircraft complement was again adjusted; 842 ‘Q’ flight
disbanded on board on November 18th, being absorbed into 813 which was now
comprised of 12 Swordfish and 8 Wildcats. It is possible the ship underwent
a Boiler clean or self-maintenance period during its time at Belfast. She sailed on the 25th, arriving at Greenock later that day. She sailed for Scapa on the 26th, arriving there on the 27th to join the covering force escorting another Russian convoy.
Operation ACUMEN was the codename given to the task of escort convoy JW.62 to North Russia and the return convoy RA.62 back to the UK On the 30th Rear Admiral Commanding, First Cruiser Squadron (R. Adm. R. R. McGrigor, RN) transferred his flag from HMS KENT to CAMPANIA for the Operation. The force sailed from Scapa on November 30th, and comprised of escort carriers CAMPANIA (Flag CS1) and
NAIRANA, Cruiser BELLONA, destroyers CAESAR (Captain (D) Sixth Destroyer Flotilla), CASSANDRA, CAPRICE, CAMBRIAN. ONSLOW (Captain (D) Seventeenth Destroyer Flotilla), OBEDIENT, OFFA, ONSLAUGHT, ORIBI, ORWELL. The 34 ships of JW.62 left Loch Ewe on November 29th-with the 7th Escort and 8th Escort Groups.
The outward passage was almost without incident, one shadowing Bv138 was shot down by Wildcats flown by Sub-Lt J. W. Machin RNVR & Sub-Lt W. H. Davies RNVR (date and aircraft IDs ont known) and approaching Kola Inlet on the 6th Sub-Lt W. J. L .Hutchison & Sub-Lt A. l. Famingham in Swordfish NR934 carried out a Depth Charge attack on a U-boat at approximate position 69°40' N 33°35' E which was possibly sunk. All 34 merchant ships arrived without loss.
The return convoy RA.62 sailed from the Kola Inlet on December 10th, the following day the destroyer CASSANDRA was hit by a torpedo from U-365 which managed to slip away; this submarine was sunk on the night of the 13th by depth charges dropped two Swordfish from 813 squadron. The attack was made by Sub-Lt W. J. L. Hutchison RNVR and his navigator Sub-Lt A. I. Famingham RNVR flying in NR934 ('GL') and Sub-Lt M. W. Henley RNVR and his navigator Lt C. D. Chapman in NS194 ('GQ') were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their actions.
NAIRANA arrived back at Scapa on December 18th and sailed for the Clyde the following day escorted by CAESAR (Captain D6), CAPRICE, and CAMBRIAN. On arrival at Greenock on the 20th CAMPANIA underwent repairs in a Clyde shipyard. She arrived back at Scapa on January 15th 1945 and sailed for operation CHARLTON on the 20th.
Operation CHARLTON called for the laying of serial mines in Lepsoyrev and Harmsfiord, and in Skatestrommen and Aarumsund on the Norwegian coast. She sailed with the CVEs
PREMIER (856 Sqn Avenger & Wildcat), and
TRUMPETER (846 Sqn Avenger & Wildcat), escorted by destroyers ONSLOW (Captain (D17)), ORWELL, ONSLAUGHT, OPPORTUNE, ZEST, ZEALOUS. The operation was to commence on the 22nd but was cancelled due to severe weather, the force arrived back art Scapa on the 25th. After a brief replenishment she sailed for Operation WINDED.
Operation WINDED called for a night attack on shipping near Vaagso, Norway, during a full moon period, CAMPANIA sailed in company with the carriers
PREMIER (856 Sqn Avenger & Wildcat),
NAIRANA (835 Sqn Swordfish & Wildcat), and the Cruiser BERWICK, escorted by Destroyers MYNGS (Captain (D23)), ALGONQUIN (RCN), CAVENDISH, SIOUX (RCN), SCORPION, and SCOURGE. For this cooperation an additional 4 Wildcats from 842 NAS were added CAMPANIA’s air group. Six of her Swordfish were armed with 8 x 25lb solid headed rocket projectiles each for the strike and four more carried flares. PREMIER was to provide fighter and anti-submarine cover for the force and patrols were flown throughout. . The Swordfish from CAMPANIA, and
NAIRANA were launched at 20:00 hours to attack shipping off Norwegian coast; 4 enemy merchant ships were hit and damaged by bombs and rockets, all aircraft recovered by 24:00 hours. The force withdrew in the early hours of January 29th and entered Scapa Flow that evening. The carrier now had eight days to prepare for another run to Murmansk, Operation HOTBED.
Operation HOTBED was the name allocated to the covering of Russian conveys JW/RA.64. On February 5th Rear Adm. R. R. McGrigor, RN, Commanding First Cruiser Squadron transferred to CAMPANIA from NORFOLK and she sailed with the force covering convoy JW.64 for Operation HOTBED. The covering force comprised of the Carriers CAMPANIA (Rear Admiral Commanding, First Cruiser Squadron) and
NAIRANA, Cruiser BELLONA, Destroyers ONSLOW (D17), ONSLAUGHT, OPPORTUNE, ORWELL, SERAPIS, SIOUX, ZAMBESI (D2), ZEST, ZEALOUS, Sloop LAPWING, Corvette DENBIGH CASTLE. The convoy was escorted by the Sloops CYGNET (SO Escort Group) and LARK, Destroyers CAVALIER, MYNGS, SCOURGE, SAVAGE, SCORPION, WHITEHALL, ZEBRA (returned to Scapa with defects), Corvettes ALNWICK CASTLE, BLUEBELL, RHODODENDRON, BAMBOROUGH CASTLE, and RFA BLACK RANGER.
The escorting force rendezvoused with the convoy on the 6th but late that afternoon it was spotted by a chance sighting by a Ju88 on a meteorological flight and their position reported. This aircraft was intercepted by two pilots from 813 squadron, Sub-Lt R. J. Smyth, RNVR in Wildcat JV434 ('Z5') and Sub-Lt R. A. Fleischmann-Allen, RNVR in JV573 ('Z7') which engaged the JU88 at 17:18 in position 63°36' N 2°14' W; Sub-Lt Smyth’s aircraft was hit by return fire and crashed into the sea, he was not recovered. Sub-Lt Fleischmann-Allen scored several direct hits and shot it down. Now alerted the Germans began deploying the eight U-boats of the 'Rasmus' wolfpack in the area of the Bjørnøya Passage ahead of the convoy.
On the 7th a force of 48 Ju 88 torpedo bombers, of KG 26 was detected on radar by the escort force but the attack was not pressed home as a result of the German spotter plane failing to pass on information about the convoys speed and bearing, Wildcats from both carriers gave chase and 6 enemy aircraft were shot down and a seventh fell to anti-aircraft fire from DENBIGH CASTLE.
One of her three Fulmar night fighters was whiten off returning from a night sortie, Sub-Lt K. M. Hicks, RNVR in DR742 missed the arrestor wires but snagged the trickle wire which pulled out the tail hook and the aircraft entered the barrier, the machine was badly damaged but the pilot was OK. On the 9th Wildcats from both Carriers attacked JU88s, CAMPANIA’s 813 Sqn shooting down 2 and NAIRANA’s 835 Sqn claiming another possibly destroyed.
A second mass torpedo bomber attack was launched on the 10th when 32 aircraft (14 from II/KG 26 and 16 from III/KG 26), launched in two waves about one hour apart; they tried to break through the convoy’s fighter and gun defences. Again these attacks failed to inflict any damage although the Germans claimed it a major successes; they suffered the loss of another seven aircraft to the fighters from both and NAIRANA and the convoy' anti-aircraft guns.
Two Wildcats from CAMPANIA were put out of action as a result of this engagement; Lt J. A. Quigg, RNVR flying JV686 ('Z3') and Sub-Lt PJW Davies, RNVR flying JV755 ('Z2') shared one JU88 probably destroyed & another possibly destroyed at position 73°2' N 20°56' E at 10:37. Lt Quigg’s aircraft took damage from return fire but managed to return to the convoy and ditched near NAIRANA at 11:20. He was rescued by OPPORTUNE. On arriving back at the convoy Sub-Lt Davies was engaged by ‘friendly fire’ mainly from the Cruiser BELLONA, the rounds severely damaged his engine and he barely managed to clear the rounddown with it cutting out and the deck pitching; he entered the barrier at 11:15.
At 00:13 on the 13th, U-992 attacked the convoy in position 69º20' N, 33º33' E hitting the Corvette DENBIGH CASTLE with a single torpedo. She was towed into the Kola Inlet by BLUEBELL and a Russian Tug, she was beached, but later capsized and was declared a total loss.
JW.64 arrived at the Kola Inlet later that day without further loss.
Left: Snow and ice being cleared from CAMPANIA'S flight deck before ranging aircraft as she prepares to leave Kola Inlet, Murmansk, on the return to Britain. © IWM (A 27218). Right: Swordfish ranged on deck ready to begin anti-submarine patrols as soon as he ship leave Kola Inlet. © IWM (A 27524
The return convoy RA.64, which comprised of 33 merchant ships bound for Loch Ewe, departed from the Kola Inlet on February 17th. The close escort sailed in advance in the afternoon of the 16th to conduct an A/S hunt outside Kola Inlet; during this night operation U-425 was sunk by ALNWICK CASTLE and LARK. The Germans had in fact assembled as many as six U-boats off the entrance of the Kola inlet and they struck as the convoy assembled on the morning of the 17th; at 10.15 LARK was hit in the stern by a single torpedo fired from U-968. She was towed into the Kola Inlet and beached near Rosta and was later declared a total loss. At 11:48 U-968 struck for a second time, the American merchantman THOMAS SCOTT was hit on the starboard side by one torpedo while trying to take position in the forming convoy, her passengers and crew abandoned ship and it sank later that day. At 17:30 BLUEBELL was struck in the stern by a single torpedo from U-711 just after increasing speed after she apparently detected the U-boat about 30 miles east-northeast of Kildin Island. The corvette blew up as the hit detonated her depth charges and sank in less than 30 seconds; only one crewman survived.
One of NAIRANA's Swordfish was lost at 23:30 on the first day out, NS188 ('X') went overboard after striking the island attempting to take-off from the pitching deck; the crew was picked up ONSLAUGHT. The only fighter intercepts occurred on the 20th, all involving Wildcats from NAIRANA’s 835 Squadron; at 10:25 in position 72°33' N 20°37' E Sub-Lt O. K. Armitage, RNZNVR in JV702 ('YD') and Sub-Lt N. W. Sargent, RNVR in JV748 ('YZ') attacked a Ju88, it was last seen with both engines on fire and smoking, probably destroyed. At 10:45 a second Ju88 was attacked and shot down in position 72°32' N 20°36' E by Sub-Lt P. H. Blanco, RNVR in JV712 ('YV') and Sub-Lt G. D. Gordon, RNVR in JV718 ('YW').
CAMPANIA and the covering Force arrived back at Scapa on February 27th without further incident, and Rear Admiral McGrigor transferred his Flag to NORFOLK, 813 squadron Wildcats disembarked to
RNAS Hatston. During Operation HOTBED 813 squadron completed a total of 75 hours flying time, 17 of them at night. On the 28th CAMPANIA, escorted by WAGER left Scapa for Greenock; 813 squadron swordfish and the Fulmars of 784 B flight were flown ashore to RNAS Machrihanish on March 1st and she entered a Clyde Dockyard for repairs to be carried out in readiness for her next outing in Operation SCOTTISH.
Operation SCOTTISH was the name allocated to the covering of Russian conveys JW/RA.65. On completion of her repairs CAMPANIA embarked a new squadron, 825 (12 Swordfish and 8 Wildcat) from
RNAS Machrihanish on March 9th. She was moored on the Clyde and on March 12th when Vice Admiral Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN,
(CS10) transferred his Flag from DIADEM to CAMPANIA and sailed for Scapa the same day.
Convoy JW.65 had sailed from the Clyde on the 11th escorted by the Destroyer MYNGS, Sloop LAPWING, Corvettes ALINGTON CASTLE, ALNWICK CASTLE, BAMBOROUGH CASTLE, CAMELLIA, HONEYSUCKLE, LANCASTER CASTLE, and OXLIP with the escort oilers RFAs BLACK RANGER & BLUE RANGER. The Escort Carriers CAMPANIA ((Flag CS10) 825 Sqn),
TRUMPETER (846 Sqn), Cruiser DIADEM, Destroyers SCORPION, SCOURGE, STORD (Norwegian), SAVAGE, and ONSLAUGHT, sailed from Scapa on the 13th, they were joined by the Destroyers OPPORTUNE, ORWELL (D2) SIOUX, ZAMBESI and the Corvette FARNHAM CASTLE, joined on the 14th.
The Germans had detected the convoy early and by the 13th had 6 U-Boats patrolling the Bjørnøya Passage and others were ordered to the area off Kola inlet. The convoy enjoyed good weather on the out bound leg and somehow managed to remain undetected by German reconnaissance planes between the 14th and 17th March and the patrolling U-Boats failed to sight them. All U-Boat s were ordered to gather off the Kola Inlet and await the convoy’s arrival on the 20th. The weather now changed back to its usual harsh conditions and a snowstorm prevented all flying. At 09:10, U-995 fired torpedoes at convoy hitting and sinking the US merchantman HORACE BUSHNELL; at 13.:5 U-968 attacked the convoy in position 69°26' N, 33°44' E as it prepared to enter the Kola inlet, torpedoes hit the US merchantman THOMAS DONALDON and the Sloop LAPWING sinking both. The rest of the convoy reached Murmansk on the 21st.
JW.65 reached their destination on the 21st, CAMPANIA had lost 1 aircraft on passage, on the 14th; Wildcat JV672 flown by Sub-Lt D. W. Vance, RNVR hit one of the crash barrier stanchions while landing on, the aircraft was badly da aged and was later jettisoned overboard.
The turnaround between inbound and out bound convoys was a lot shorter this time, the 26 ships of RA.65 left the Kola Inlet on the 23rd and successfully evaded detection by either U-Boats or aerial reconnaissance and arrived at their destination ports without loss or damage on March 31st. CAMPANIA and the covering Force arrived at Scapa on the 30th and Vice Admiral Dalrymple-Hamilton transferred his Flag back to DIADEM. During Operation SCOTTISH 825 squadron aircraft flew a total of 87 hours, 19 of them at night. The squadron departed for
RNAS Grimsetter on the 30th.
Reallocated for Duty as a training carrier, April 1945
On April 5th a detachment of Barracudas from 821 squadron embarked from
RNAS Fean, CAMPANIA left Scapa on the 6th sailing for the Clyde escorted by CARRON and CAVENDISH, she entered a Clyde Dockyard on the 7th to enter a dock for repairs and crew leave was granted.
She was now allocated to squadron training under Flag Officer Carrier Training, the 821 squadron Barracuda detachment remained on board until the 13th. She was at sea on April 16th to give Deck Landing Training to pilots from 815 squadron out of
RNAS Machrihanish. The session was uneventful until the 20th when there were two accidents; Barracuda ME118 flown by Sub-Lt G. W. Whittle, RNVR lost speed on approach to the deck and hit he rounddown, the tail oleo and arrester hook were sheared off, the aircraft swung to starboard and went over the side, he was rescued by the plane guard. A second Barracuda was lost just after take-off, ME138 made a steep turn to join formation but sun in and crashed at Sheriffs Point, near Millport, Great Cumbrae Island killing the pilot Lt. J. P. Cansfield, RNVR.
On May 4th she sailed from the Clyde for Scapa, embarking the 8 Wildcats of 815 fighter flight from RNAS Machrihanish. once at sea. She arrived at Scapa on the 5th.*
It is unclear whether the whole squadron was now on board; there is a suggestion, in the Home Fleet War Diary, that CAMPANIA sailed to participate in operation CLEAVER (Covering the entry of naval surface force into the Skagerrak and Kattegat straits off Denmark to return of the Danish government-in-exile to Copenhagen and the take the surrender of German warships in Danish waters) on the 6th, returning to Scapa on the 8th but she is not listed among the forces allocated for this operation.
On the 10th she embarked a detachment of Barracudas of 821 squadron from
RNAS Hatston, these remained aboard until the 14th. CAMPANIA sailed for the Clyde on the 20th, in company with PREMIER and escorted by d SCOURGE and CARYSFORT. She disembarked the 815 squadron aircraft to
RNAS Machrihanish on the 21st on arrival on the Clyde.
Under repair and post-war reallocation for Trooping Duties
On putting to sea on June 6th 1945 CAMPANIA struck the dock leaving her berth; she could not be repaired locally and she sailed for London for repairs, entering a Dockyard on the 10th She was to be out of commission for two months, on returning to active duty on August 11th she was reallocated to Nore Command for trooping duties.
She spent the next month at Devonport being outfitted for topping, sailing for Trinidad on September 9th. On arrival off Port of Spain she embarked service personnel, stores and equipment for passage to the UK. This most likely involved the evacuation of the Fleet Air Arm from R.N. Air Station
Piarco which was running down to closure. The base was the home of the No. 1 Observer Training School which operated four squadrons; the first these disbanded on October 1st, the other three by October 10th.
Post War service
In 1947 she was seriously considered for conversion to an auxiliary aircraft transport for operation by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary but this plan did not materialize. She remained in reserve until being selected for loan to the Festival of Britain organizing committee for use as an exhibition ship in 1950. Work on her conversion started in May 1950 at Camell-Laird shipyard at Birkenhead, this included removing her flight deck equipment and to convert her hangar into an exhibition space. By December 1950 she was at Bidston Dock, Birkenhead having her exhibit hall outfitted. Once converted she was to be transferred to civilian authorities and would wear the Red Ensign.
The Festival ship CAMPANIA
By March 1951 she was referred to as “The Festival ship CAMPANIA”, painted white overall she now sported a number of yellow masts along her flight deck from which patriotic bunting was hung. Her hangar now housed three distinct exhibition areas showcasing ‘Land of Britain’ featured a floor map of the British Isles indicating main agricultural areas and their products, industrial centres, ports and harbours; ‘Discovery’ showing British initiative in exploration and discovery, on Earth and in Space; and ‘People at Home’ which displayed the types of products that the consumer could expect to purchase in the future to use within home, new technologies for the Kitchen and for home entertainment. Her flight deck was used for sports displays, demonstrations, dances, amusements and an open-air cafe as well as hosting exhibit s such motor boats and yachts.
The static elements of the Festival Opened on May 3rd 1951 and closed on September 30th; the Festival was timed to coincide with the centenary of the Great Exhibition in 1851 and was designed to showcase Britain. CAMPANIA began a tour around British ports in Southampton on May 3rd 1951, ending at Glasgow on October 6th. In all she visited 10 ports spending on average 10 – 14 days alongside and open to the public. Visitor numbers were high, during her 10 days stay in King George Dock, Hull she hosted 87,814 visitors.
HMS CAMPANIA after her conversion to a floating
exhibition for the Festival of Britain
The Festival ship CAMPANIA itinerary:
Southampton (4 May – 14 May)
Dundee (18 May – 26 May)
Newcastle (30 May – 16 June)
Hull (20 June – 30 June)
Plymouth (5 July – 14 July)
Bristol (18 July – 28 July)
Cardiff (31 July – 11 August)
Belfast (15 August – 1 September)
Birkenhead (5 September – 14 September)
Glasgow (18 September – 6 October)
On completing her duties as the seaborne exhibition CAMPANIA was stripped of the exhibits and returned to RN custody. The cost of the loan, conversion, operation and reversion to military use was estimated to be £500,000. She was now returned to Class B reserve.
Outfitted as the British Atomic bomb test Headquarters ship, 1952
She was not in the reserve fleet for along, she was next selected to act as the Flagship of Rear Admiral A. D. Torlesse, RN for Operation HURRICANE, the testing of Britain’s first Atomic Bomb planned for October 1952. On being re-commissioned she was under the command of Captain A. B. Cole, DSC.
HMS CAMPANIA was outfitted as the Headquarters ship for the small force which comprised of three LSTs (Landing Ships (Tank)) NERVIK, ZEEBRUGGE and TRACKER, between them, these LSTs carried five LCMs and twelve LCAs, and the frigate PLYM, which would act as a target ship. No longer could equipped for fixed wing flight operations CAMPANIA could still operate seaplanes and helicopters; in May 1952 she embarked two Sea Otters to act as the ship’s flight, and three Dragonfly helicopters for rescue, communications and in due course for the hazardous task of flying over the target area soon after the explosion and of lifting samples.
The LSTs sailed first, NERVIK, and ZEEBRUGGE leaving the UK first in March carrying a detachment of Royal Engineers with stores and equipment, they arrived Fremantle on April 16th. They were followed by TRACKER sailing at the start of June. CAMPANIA and PLYM sailed from Portsmouth Harbour on June 11th 1952, she arrived at Fremantle, Australia on July 31st. The voyage took eight weeks, a military coup and anti-British uprisings in Egypt meant they sailed around the Cape of Good Hope instead of traversing the Suez Canal.
The test was to be conducted at Monte Bello Island off North West Australia. HURRICANE was detonated on October 3rd 1952 in a lagoon off the western shore of Trimouille Island. The bomb was exploded inside the hull of HMS PLYM which was anchored in 40ft of water 400 yards off shore. The explosion occurred below the water line. The detonation was observed and recorded by cameras and scientific equipment carried on CAMPANIA which was at sea 15 miles away. Everyone on board was ordered to stand with their backs to the island for the detonation to avoid being blinded by the flash. The blast wave struck the ship soon after and was described as ‘being hit by depth charges’. CAMPANIA spent the next three weeks at the Monte Bello Islands while the scientists continued to take measurements.
CAMPANIA as the headquarters ship of the special squadron for the Atomic bomb test, at Monte Bello Island off North West Australia. © IWM FL 7474
She arrive back at Fremantle from Monte Bello on November 3rd, NERVIK, ZEEBRUGGE and TRACKER arrived back on November 8th. After disembarking a party of 36 British scientists who were to fly back to Britain CAMPANIA took on stores before sailing from Fremantle for the UK on November 9th. After retracing her outward voyage around the Cape CAMPANIA arrived at Portsmouth on December 16th 1952.
Return to Reserve and disposal
After her small collection of aircraft were off loaded CAMPANIA was de-adored at Portsmouth and again reduced to Reserve status, this time at Chatham in the New Year. She was placed on the Disposal List in 1954 and was sold in 1955 to Hughes Bolckow and arrived at Blyth under tow at the breaker’s yard on 11th November 1955.
21 June 2022
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