Blazon (Heraldic description)
On a blue field: A golpe, rayed gold, charged with an emperor’s crown, proper.
EMPEROR: A monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm.
For explanations of heraldic terms see the Badges & Honours page.
"Attack and destroy"
SOUTH FRANCE 1944
EAST INDIES 1945
Builder: Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co., Tacoma, Washington
Completed by: Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton Washington
Displacement: 15,390 tons
Length (Overall): 494ft 9in
Beam: 69ft 6in
Flight deck: 450ft x 80ft wood covered mild steel plate
Propulsion: 2 Foster Wheeler boilers; 1 x Allis-Chalmers geared
turbine driving 1 shaft
Speed: 16 knots
A/C Capacity: 20
Hangar: 260ft x 62ft x 18ft
A/C lifts: 2, Aft 34ft long x 42ft wide; forward 42ft long x 34ft
Arrestor wires: 9 with 3 barriers
Catapult: 1 H4C hydraulic
Armament: 2 single 5in USN Mk 12, 8 twin 40mm Bofors, 14 twin 20rnm
Oerlikon, 7 single 20mm Oerlikon
Crew Complement: 646
Capt. T.J.N. Hilken RN
Sep 43 - Jan 45
Capt. Sir Charles E. Madden, Bt RN
Jan 45 - Feb 46
Dec 43-Sep 45
Dec 43-Jun 44
Jul -Oct 45
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A History of HMS EMPEROR
HMS EMPEROR during her work up off the U.S. coast.
Photo:: Jack Price (Via Carl Berrington).
Two US maritime Commission hulls were earmarked for transfer to
the Royal Navy as escort carriers with the ships' name 'EMPEROR':
On 19 April 1943, the keel was laid for a Casablanca class auxiliary aircraft carrier at the Kaiser Shipyard, Vancouver, Washington. Kaiser hull no. 313, Maritime Commission no. 1104, a type S4-S2-BB3 hull. She was the thirteenth of fifty Casablanca class auxiliary aircraft carriers ordered and the fifth intended for transfer to the Royal Navy under Lend-Lease arrangements as the HMS STINGER (later changed to EMPEROR).
However, on June 28th 1943 the US Navy decided that she was required for the US war effort and would be retained, the name NASSUK BAY being assigned. CVE-67 was launched on October 6th 1943 by Mrs. F. J. McKenna. On November 5th her name was changed again to SOLOMONS. She was delivered to the U. S. Navy on November 21st 1943 and commissioned the USS SOLOMONS, CVE-67, Captain M. E. Crist in command.
The second auxiliary aircraft carrier earmarked to be named HMS EMPEROR began her carrier as the USS PYBUS (ACV-34), a Bogue class escort carrier. Her keel was laid down on June 23rd 1942 at Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp., Tacoma, Washington, Maritime Commission C3 hull number 245, and Seattle-Tacoma hull number 29. She was launched October 7th 1942, her hull being towed to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Washington for completion.
She was commissioned into the US Navy on May 31st 1943 and after working up she undertook a ferry voyage from San Diego to Pearl Harbour, arriving there on July 11th to deliver 10 Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless aircraft. She sailed from Pearl Harbour on July 12th. The USS PYBUS was then selected for transfer to the UK under the lend-lease agreement that existed between the US and Britain. Om her return from Pearl Harbour she passed through the Panama Canal, leaving Cristobal on the 26th for Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York. She secured alongside Berth No. 27, 35th Street Pier Brooklyn at 19:30 on July 31st. Dockyard workers began carrying out voyage repairs beginning on August 1st
At 09.45 on August 6th she was de-commissioned and transferred to the Royal Navy. The ship was recommissioned as HMS EMPEROR (Pennant number D98) on the same day, under the command of Captain Thomas J. N. Hilken RN. The work to carry out voyage repairs was completed on the 11th and the ship moved to the Army Port of Embarkation, Staten Island to begin embarking a ferry cargo of stores and aircraft for delivery to the UK. Further visage repairs were carried out while alongside at Staten Island commencing on the 16th and completed on the 20th.
HMS EMPEROR during her Atlantic crossing from New York to the Clyde carrying a ferry load of American aircraft. Heavy U-Boat activity in the Atlantic forced the convoy to make a more northerly track and the ships encountered ice floe and snow. Photos: Jack Price (Via Carl Berrington)
While alongside in Brooklyn HMS EMPEROR embarked a
ferry cargo of aircraft for delivery to the UK; she was to sail with the
Liverpool bound convoy HX 253 departing from New York on August 20th to
make the Atlantic crossing.
Upon her arrival on the Clyde on September 3rd she
was allocated to Western Approaches Command. After unloading stores and
aircraft EMPEROR proceeded to Belfast where she entered a dockyard for
modification to RN standards on September 7th. This work was completed
by the beginning of December and the ship put to sea for a work-up in
the Irish Sea. Part of this work-up involved giving experience to the
ship's air departments when 800 and 804 Naval Air Squadrons (No. 7 Naval
Fighter Wing, equipped with Hellcats) embarked on December 5th; 800 NAS
remained onboard for one weeks flying training, returning to RNAS
Eglinton, Northern Ireland, on the 11th.
On January 11th 1944 800 NAS re-embarked and the ship
sailed for Norfolk, Virginia (most probably escorting convoy ON 219
which departed Liverpool on January 8th for New York) where she arrived
on January 25th; both 800 and 804 Squadrons disembarked to US Naval Air
Station Norfolk until rejoining the ship on February 5th. From Norfolk
EMPEROR proceeded to Argentia, Newfoundland to join the east bound
convoy HX 278 which had departed from New York on the 5th for Liverpool
via Halifax; the convoy left Halifax on February 7th, EMPEROR left the
convoy off Ireland and preceded to the Clyde on the 18th, her squadrons
disembarking to RNAS Eglinton.
Passage to the UK and Modification to RN standards
EMPEROR sailed with the Liverpool bound convoy HX.253 departing from New York on August 20th to make the Atlantic crossing. On reaching the Irish coast EMPEROR detached and preceded to the Clyde, arriving on September 3rd to unload stores and her ferry load of aircraft. She was now allocated to Western Approaches Command.
On completion of unloading EMPEROR proceeded to Belfast where she entered a dockyard on September 7th for modification to RN standards. This work included the lengthening of the flight deck, installing British Type 79B aircraft warning and Type 272 surface search radars, replacing the US 5in gun mountings with British model. Modifications to hangar, accommodation and store rooms, installing extra safety measures including major changes to the aviation fuel stowage and oiling at sea arrangements, modifying gunnery and other internal communications, adding extra W/T and R/T sets, and improved darken ship arrangements. The work was to take two and a half months.
At the beginning of December EMPEROR put to sea for a work-up in the Irish Sea. Part of this work-up involved giving experience to the ship's air departments when 800 and 804 Naval Air Squadrons (No. 7 Naval Fighter Wing, (7 Wing) equipped with Hellcat Mk.Is each) embarked on December 5th; 800 squadron however only remained on board for one weeks flying training, returning to RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland, on the 11th. There is one recorded incident for this work-up period; on December 8th Sub-Lt R. S. Holloway, RNVR in Hellcat FN361 ('A') of 800 Sqn jumped the chocks running up his engine and hit 3 other Hell cats parked forward.
Action stations! Right: The bridge officers and
messengers closed up to with anti-flash gear and
hard hats. Left: One of EMPEROR's twin 40mm Bofors
mounts manned and ready for action. Photos:
Jack Price (Via Carl Berrington)
Round trip UK to Norfolk: January – February 1944
On January 11th 1944 800 NAS re-joined 804 squadron, re-embarking from RNAS Eglinton and the ship sailed for Norfolk, Virginia as part of Convoy UC.10 which departed Liverpool on January 12th for New York; EMPEROR is not listed as part of the convoy escort. Detaching from the convoy off New York she arrived at Norfolk on January 25th; both 800 and 804 Squadrons were disembarked to US Naval Air Station Norfolk until re-joining the ship on February 5th. The purpose of this visit to Norfolk is unclear, she was already carrying 20 operational aircraft so would not be embarking a ferry load.
From Norfolk EMPEROR proceeded to Argentia, Newfoundland to join the east bound convoy HX 278 which had departed from New York on the 5th for Liverpool via Halifax; the convoy left Halifax on February 7th, EMPEROR left the convoy off Ireland and preceded to the Clyde on the 18th, her squadrons disembarking to RNAS Eglinton.
Home Fleet Offensive operations April - June 1944
On March 6th 7 Wing re-joined the ship for passage to Scapa Flow, Orkney where the ship was allocated to the Home Fleet on March 18th for operations off the coast of Norway. She spent the next month work up with her squadrons in preparation for her first combat outing as part of the force for operation TUNGSTEN.
Operation TUNGSTEN forces left Scapa on March 30th in two groups; Force 1 comprised DUKE OF YORK, ANSON, VICTORIOUS, BELFAST, and 5 destroyers left Scapa early morning and after conducting brief exercises proceeded to a position off Bear Island to cover the passage of the outbound Russian convoy JW58. Force 2 comprised ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers), FURIOUS, SHEFFIELD, JAMAICA, EMPEROR, FENCER, PURSUER, SEARCHER, 2 oilers, and 5 destroyers left Scapa p.m. and preceded west of the Orkneys.
Originally planned for April 4th Operation TUNGSTEN was reassessed
on April 1st and was brought forward 24 hours to take advantage of
favourable weather forecasts and the lack of German air
reconnaissance of Force 1. The two oilers with two destroyers were
detached to the oiling position later that day. On April, 2nd ANSON,
VICTORIOUS, BELFAST, and 4 destroyers were detached from Force 1 and
joined Force 2. The TUNGSTEN force then steered for the flying off
position. Flying conditions were perfect when the flying off
position was reached at 0400 on the 3rd and the aircraft were flown
off according to plan except for the loss of one Barracuda which
ditched. 40 Barracudas and 81 fighters took part in the two strikes
and a further 25 fighters and 9 Swordfish were kept for the defence
of the Fleet.
A Hellcat fighter leave the deck of HMS EMPEROR while
another comes a cropper while landing on. Photos:
Jack Price (Via Carl Berrington)
The good weather allowed for the two strike forces to obtain their desired heights and to take the best route over the mountains. No enemy aircraft were seen by the strike aircraft or the Fleet and the flak around the TIRPITZ was much less than anticipated. The attack was carried out by both fighters and bombers; fighters strafing the defences from a low height and bombers pressing home an accurate attack. The losses during the attack were remarkably small. One Barracuda was shot down over the target and another by shore batteries, both after dropping their bombs. A third Barracuda was lost taking off from VICTORIOUS. EMPEROR lost one Hellcat, Sub-Lt T. H. Hoare, RNZNVR (800 Sqn) was forced to ditch near the ship in FN418, he was rescued by one of the escort group.
Both strikes returned and landed on safely. The question of repeating the attack the next day was considered but owing to fatigue of the air crews and serious damage reported to TIRPITZ this was abandoned and the force withdrew to the westward, arriving back art Scapa on the 6th; 7 Wing disembarked to RNAS Hatston, Orkney. This was a short break before re-embarking on the 11th to prepare for Operation PITCHBOWL.
Left: Armourers wait to load their ordinance onto the aircraft for strikes against the TIRPITZ during Operation "TUNGSTEN". Right: Aircrew muster before manning their planes. Photos: Jack Price (Via Carl Berrington)
Operation PITCHBOWL called for the provision of fighter protection to RAF Beaufighters operating in two strikes against shipping in the Norwegian Leads provided by three CVES of the Home Fleet. The force, comprising of ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers) CVEs EMPEROR, PURSUER, FENDER, Cruisers BERWICK, and SHEFFIELD, escorted by Destroyers MUSKETEER, METEOR, MARNE, MATCHLESS, ONSLAUGHT, PIORUN, and SIOUX, sailed on the 13th, for the flying off position 62°00’ N, 2°30’ E.
Visibility was poor throughout the day and no flying took place. On the following day, the first RAF strike was postponed owing to weather and the force reversed its course. There was no improvement in the weather by the afternoon of the 14th and the first RAF strike was cancelled. The following morning was the same and the operation was abandoned. The force returned to Scapa arriving p.m. on 15th.
Operation PLANET: This was a repetition of Operation TUNGSTEN, again involving two forces. Force 7 – Battleship ANSON (VA, 2IC Home Fleet), Fleet Carriers VICTORIOUS and FURIOUS, Cruiser KENT, Destroyers ALGONQUIN, KEMPENFELT (Captain (D) 26), KELVIN, SIOUX, SWIFT, VENUS, VIGILANT. Force 8 -Cruisers ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers), JAMAICA, CVEs SEARCHER, EMPEROR, PURSUER, STRIKER, Destroyers JAVELIN, ORP PIORUN, SERAPIS, UNDAUNTED, URSA, WAKEFUL, and WIZARD. Both Forces sailed from Scapa on Friday April 21st. The attack was planned for April 24th and involved 40 Barracudas with 40 escort fighters, when the forces arrived in the area on the 23rd the weather forecasts were unsuitable and they reversed course for 48 hours. Weather on the following day was equally bad. Both forces proceeded to the flying off position but there was no improvement and the Vice Admiral, Second in Command, abandoned the operation and proceeded to carry out Operation RIDGE ABLE.
Operation RIDGE was originally intended to be carried out in two parts – RIDGE ABLE (Attack by Force 7 on the shipping in the Bodo area) and RIDGE BAKER attack by Force 8 on shipping in the Rorvik area). In the event it was decided that both forces should carry out RIDGE ABLE with two strikes, one attacking Bodo harbour and the other sweeping the leads to the southward. The two forces arrived at the flying off position at dawn on April 26th.
Weather conditions were not ideal and were worse inshore and in the end both strikes attacked the same target – an escorted convoy of 4 or 5 merchant ships in approximately 67°06’ N, 13°57’ E at about 06:00. The convoy was southbound, presumably having left Bodo about an hour previously. Four merchant ships and one escort vessel were claimed to have been hit with bombs. The largest merchant ship was reported beached and burning and two others on fire.
Two Barracudas and several fighters succeeded in penetrating Bodo Harbour in spite of the weather and one hit was obtained on a large merchant ship. Two other Barracuda bombed a derelict merchant ship ashore and obtained at least one hit. No German aircraft were seen; light but accurate flak was encountered, particularly at Bodo and the force lost 1 Barracuda, 2 Corsairs, 1 Hellcat, and 1 Wildcat. EMPEROR lost two pilots during RIDGE ABLE; Sub-Lt Brine, RNVR (804 Sqn) died from his injuries rafter his aircraft, FN358 landed heavily on the rounddown on landing after the strike and broke up. Sub-Lt. C. H. Roncoroni. RNVR (800 Sqn) failed to return after the strike, flying in FN366 ('H'), he was hit by flak at 4,000ft, he made a controlled landing near the convoy south of Bodo a and was taken prisoner.
VICTORIOUS, KENT, and two destroyers were detached at 07:00 to carry out Operation VERITAS and the remainder of Force 7 and 8 returned to Scapa; EMPEROR arrived back at Scapa early in the morning on April 28th, and her squadrons flew ashore to RNAS Hatston. They re-embarked on May 6th in preparation for Operation HOOPS.
Operation HOOPS was another strike against shipping off the South Norwegian coast. The Force comprised of the Cruisers ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers) and JAMAICA with CVEs EMPEROR, and STRIKER, screened by Destroyers KEMPENFELT, ONSLAUGHT, MARNE, UNDAUNTED, WAGER, and SIOUX left Scapa on the 7th and proceeded west of the Orkneys where SEARCHER joined, 20 miles north of Noup Head having been realised from the Operation CROQUET force. The Force arrived in the flying off position at 07:30 on May 8th and two strikes, each of 8 Hellcats escorted by 8 Wildcats, were flown off. The Hellcats were armed with bombs and this was the first time they had been utilised as Fighter/Bombers even though the pilots had not received any dive-bombing training.
The first strike of 8 Hellcats from 800 Squadron attacked a northbound convoy of 5 merchant ships with ten escorts 15 miles south west of Kristiansand. One merchant ship was probably damaged but two Wildcats were shot down by flak; JV367 ('6L') of 882 Sqn ditched, the pilot was taken prisoner, and JV538 ('7X') 898 Sqn crashed into the sea killing the Piot.
Returning from the strike the remaining aircraft were 'jumped' by a mixed force of 6 Me 109Gs and FW 190s. One Hellcat JV 107 flown by Sub-Lt R. L. Thompson, RNVR was shot down, he baled out 7 miles off Smolen Island swam away but drowned. The remaining Hellcats engaged with Lt. B. Ritchie, RNVR shooting down a FW190 and Sub-Lt J. G. Devitt, RNVR a Bf109, Sub-Lts T. H. Hoare, RNZNVR and I. D .Scarves, RNZNVR shared a second Bf109.
The Second strike failed to locate a convoy so the 8 Hellcats from 804 squadron attacked oil tanks at Khjen and a Herring Oil factory at Fosnavaag. One merchant vessel was machine gunned off Aalesund and two BV138 Maritime patrol flying boats were shot down by the escorting 898 Squadron Wildcats. On recovering the second strike the force then withdrew to the westwards and returned to Scapa on 9 May. This was a short stay in harbour to prepare for Operation POTLUCK.
Operation POTLUCK was another strike against shipping off the South Norwegian coast between Rorvik and Frohavet, however the main object was to create a diversion for Operation BRAWN being carried out simultaneously further north. The Force comprised of the Cruisers ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers) and SHEFFIELD with CVEs EMPEROR and STRIKER, screened by Destroyers ONSLOW, OBEDIENT, URSA, ORP BLYSKAWICA, ORP PIORUN, and WAKEFUL left Scapa on 12th May and proceeded towards the Norwegian coast.
On arrival in the flying off position at 12:30 on May 14th several snoopers had begun to shadow the Force. The strike, a mix of 8 Hellcat fighters and 8 Hellcat bombers launched from EMPEROR resulting in probable damage to one, and possible damage to 3, 4,000-6,000 ton merchant ships. At 13:00 a group of five He115 Torpedo bomber seaplane was attacked while attempting to alight on the water, off Rorvik, they were attacked by Hellcats from 800 squadron, 4 of which were destroyed. Sub-Lt Hoare in JV103 attacked one which spun in from 20ft, hit water and burst into flames, shared with Sub-Lt R. Hooker RNZNVR in JV148; he attacked a second which was left afloat on fire, shared with Lt Ritchie in JV132 and a third whose port float collapsed and it started to sink was shared with Lt.Cdr S. G. Orr, RNVR. Lt Ritchie in JV132 attacked and destroyed a second. One Hellcat and its pilot were lost during the first day’s strike; Sub-Lt R. S. Holloway, RNVR (800 Sqn) was drowned after baling out of JV135 off Vikna returning to the ship with his undercarriage jammed halfway down
After withdrawing to the westward, the Force was attacked by 6 to 8 Bf110 fighter-bombers, gunfire from ROYALIST turned the formation away and Sea Hurricanes from STRIKER caused them to jettison their bombs and make off at high speed for home, one in a damaged condition.
On May 15th the force again closed the Norwegian coast and at 04:25 a second strike of 8 Hellcat bombers and 7 fighters was launched. No convoy was found so they proceeded to attack the fish oil factory at Fosnavaag and two armed trawlers, all were hit by bombs. The strike returned without loss. Unfavourable weather reports prevented any further strikes and the Force withdrew to the westward. The Force arrived back at Scapa on 16 May. The diversionary aspect of Operation POTLUCK also appeared to have been successful, Operation BRAWN forces remained, apparently undetected, in their operation area for about 48 hours.
This was EMPEROR's last operation with the Home Fleet; she was re-allocated to Western Approaches Command and was ordered to proceed to the Clyde, sailing on May 20th.
Re-allocated to Western Approaches Command May – June 1944
EMPEROR was to spend the next few weeks providing air cover for anti-submarine forces and convoys operating in the western approaches. Air coverage was provided for the Gibraltar/Freetown bound convoys OS78/KMS52, which departed Liverpool on May 22nd and the Liverpool bound SL158/MKS49 which departed Gibraltar on May 29th. On handing off her charges on June 1st EMPEROR joined the CVEs PURSUER and TRACKER for operations in the western approaches as part of the cover forces for operation NEPTUNE. The carriers were employed in a position 150 miles west of Lands' End to carry out anti-submarine patrols to intercept U-Boat attempting to enter the English Channel for attacks on invasion traffic. The 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 9th, 11th, 14th, and 15th Escort Groups were also deployed in this area to provide additional support.
EMPEROR during the first week of June 1944 on anti-submarine sweeps as part of
the build-up for D-Day operations. Note only
one aircraft has the 'invasion stripes' applied..
It is unclear why, but EMPEROR was released from the anti-submarine sweep just prior to the start of the invasion, she disembarked both her squadrons to RNAS Belfast on June 5th, re-embarking them on the 7th. She sailed to return to support PURSUER and TRACKER in company with elements of the 9th Escort Group. On the 8th One of her Hellcats, FN443 of 804 squadron hit he island landing on and went over the side, the pilot, Sub-Lt C. M. Carter, RNVR was rescued by the frigate HMCS PORT COLBANE.
A change of policy regarding the structure of Naval Fighter Wings resulted in change to the number of squadrons embarked in the escort carriers; the two squadrons embarked in each carrier were to be combined to form a single 20 or 24 aircraft squadron, the other disbanded. On June 18th 1944 804 squadron was officially disbanded aboard EMPEROR, her aircraft and aircrew being absorbed into 800 Squadron with a total strength of 20 Hecla’s. 800 flew ashore to RNAS Ayr the next day as EMPEROR returned to the Clyde to prepare for passage to the Mediterranean for her next operations.
Re-allocated to the Mediterranean Fleet July - November 194
800 squadron flew out from RNAS Ballyhalbert to re-join EMPEROR on July 9th and began a flying training programme prior to sailing for the Mediterranean. Also on board was a single Walrus from 700 squadron for search and rescue duties.
EMPEROR, in company with assault CVEs KHEDIVE, PURSUER, and SEARCHER, Fighter Direction ship ULSTER QUEEN, Anti-Aircraft sloop STORK and frigate AWE, sailed from the Clyde at 22:30 on July 15th 1944 to rendezvous at 05:07 in the Irish Sea with Task Group 120.8, comprising the USS TEXAS and her screen consisting of USS JEFFERS, BUTLER, HERNDON, MURPHY, SHUBRICK, and GHERARDI for passage to the Mediterranean. The convoy passed Gibraltar in the early hours of July 22nd, and at 09:39 the USS TEXAS, HM Ships EMPEROR, and KHEDIVE, escorted by USS JEFFERS, SHUBRICK, and HERNDON, detached and preceded for Oran at 15 knots. The remainder of the convoy continued on for Malta.
At 16:00 TEXAS and JEFFERS parted company and headed for Oran, EMPEROR and KHEDIVE, escorted by USS SHUBRICK, and HERNDON headed for Algiers. On reaching Algiers the next morning the group was joined by another assault CVE HMS ATTACKER at 11:00, she had been undergoing a Self-Maintenance Period at Algiers. KHEDIVE and her charges re-joined TG.120.8 at 11:50 and continued on course for Malta. The ships entered Grand Harbour at 1000 on the 25th, 800 disembarked a detachment to operate from RAF Ta Kali.
Task Force 88 and Operation DRAGOON: July – August 1944
At Malta EMPEROR joined Carrier Force TF88 for Operation DRAGOON, the invasion of Southern France. The Carrier Force comprised of the seven carriers of Rear Admiral Troubridge’s Escort Carrier Squadron and two U.S. CVEs, divided into two Task Groups; TG 88.1 cruisers ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Troubridge, CTF 88 and CTG 88.1) and COLOMBO, CVEs ATTACKER (879 squadron with 28 Seafire), EMPEROR (800 squadron with 23 Hellcat), KHEDIVE (899 squadron with - 26 Seafire), PURSUER (881 squadron with 24 Wildcat), SEARCHER (882 squadron with 28 Wildcat), destroyers TYRIAN, TEAZER, TROUBRIDGE (Screen Commander), and US destroyers JEFFERS, H.P. JONES, MARSH, NIRLACK and MURPHY. TG 88.2 comprised of the CVEs USS TULAGI (Rear Admiral Durgin USN, CTG 88.2, VOF-1 - 24 Hellcat), USS KAZAN BAY (VF-74 - 24 Hellcat), HUNTER (807 squadron with 24 Seafire) and STALKER (809 squadron with 23 Seafire).
TG88.1 sailed for tactical exercises off Malta on August 1st, putting to sea at 07:30, At 19:40 ships of the Task Group conducted a barrage fire exercise. The 800 squadron detachment at RAF Ta Kali re-embarked on the 6th. The force continued to exercise off Malta until the 11th. Task Force 88 sailed from Malta at 17:45 on Saturday August 12th. EMPEROR led TG88.1 out of Harbour and once clear of the swept channel the carriers formed on ROYALIST. On the afternoon of the 14th EMPEROR carried out a DLT session for 5 squadron pilots, 4 new Dutch pilots who joined at Malta and one who had been unfit to fly for several weeks.
Operation DRAGOON commenced in the early hours of August 15th, TF 88 flying operations commenced at 06:00, the last aircraft landed on at 20:35. Only daylight flying operations were carried out. The assault area, centred on St Tropez, extended some 30 miles along the Cote d'Azur. It was divided into four sectors, code named (from east to west) Camel, Delta, Alpha and Sitka. The assault troops were formed of three American divisions of the VI Corps, reinforced by the French 1st Armoured Division. The 3rd Infantry Division landed on the left at Alpha Beach (Cavalaire-sur-Mer), the 45th Infantry Division landed in the centre at Delta Beach (Saint-Tropez), and the 36th Infantry Division landed on the right at Camel Beach (Saint-Raphaël). A fourth Force, the First Special Service Force, a joint U.S.-Canadian special forces unit was landed on the offshore islands for ‘Operation Sitka’ to neutralise the Hyères Islands, (Porquerolles, Port-Cros, Bagaud, and Levant). By the end of the first day, 60,150 troops and 6,737 vehicles had been put ashore, including the first French armoured contingent.
HMS EMPEROR follows her sister CVEs KHEDIVE, SEARCHER, PURSUER and ATTACKER, the carrier element of ask Group 88.1 during Operation "Dragoon". Photo: Jack Price (Via Carl Berrington)
On ‘D’ Day,
August 15th EMPEROR and TG88.1 were at the flying off position at 053:0 and Hellcats from 800 squadron were tasked with four tasks: Dive bombing and ground strafing (F/B), Tactical Reconnaissance (TacR), Force Cover, and Beach Cover. There were 26 pilots and 23 Hellcats on board and 4 reserves aircraft held ashore at Casabianda airfield in Corsica.
he first two Serials launched at 06:00, a 4 aircraft F/B strike lead by Lit. Cdr F. E. Fell, DSO, RN 7th Naval Fighter Wing Leader, and two aircraft for Force Cover. The second 4 aircraft F/B strike was led by the squadron C.O. Lit. Cdr S. C. Hall, DSO, RN.
Owing to the light wind all aircraft carrying bombs had to be catapulted; the alternative was to 'Swanee Range” them and utilise the full length of deck for the take-off run. The later method entailed much hard work for the deck handling party. The flying programme was intense for the first part of the day, by O9:50 a total of 22 sorties had been flown, 16 on F/B missions and 6 on Force Cover sorties. By 20:15 the number of sorties had risen to 42 of which 28 were fighter bombers armed with 500lb bomb loads attacking coastal Defence Batteries, 10 force cover, and 4 sorties Beach cover.
One pilot from Serial 1, Sub-Lt J. W. D. Spiller, RNVR became lost returning from striking the coastal defence batteries on Porquerolles and landed on the USS TULAGI of Task Group 88.2. He returned to EMPEROR the same day. Returning from Serial 6, a fighter bomber attack on a coastal defence battery, Sub-Lt C. D. Spencer, RNZNVR had been unable to release his bomb on target so was ordered to fly ashore to Casabianda airfield as a precautionary measure and to be disarmed, he returned to the ship later that day. The same thing happened to Sub-Lt Spiller during Serial 9, his second sortie of the day, he was over the target area at 17:20 so remained at Casabianda airfield overnight, re-joining the carrier the next day.
Visibility was poor and some of the early missions bombed the target area through cloud, being unable to pin point their exact objectives. A number of direct hits were, however, claimed on forts and coast defences. No enemy fighters wore seen and enemy flak was not very effective. No aircraft were damaged and all landed on safely in spite of the low wind speed. The last four aircraft, which had been providing force cover landed on safely at 21:05. The squadron flew a total of 42 sorties: 8 on Force Cover, 34 Fighter/Bomber.
August 1944 - Hellcats are ranged on deck
during operations during Operation "Dragoon" the
invasion of Southern France. The black and white stripes
are to identify the aircraft as 'friendly'.
Photos: Jack Price (Via Carl
On D+1 the first launch was at 06:30, a pair of Hellcats for Force Cover, a second pair launched at 07:00. The first fighter bomber mission took off at 07:15, led by Lit. Cdr Hall they attacked their targets, costal gun emplacements, at 07:45 before switching to “APPLES” (Beach Cover?) patrol for the remainder of the mission. Three other missions of eight aircraft each provided beach cover after first dropping a bomb on enemy positions and transports.
Lt. Cdr Fell lead an 8 F/B aircraft TacR mission which launched at 09:30 to reconnoitre roads Toulon- Marseilles – Aix- Tarascon and bombed the German 338th Infantry Divisional HQ reporting 4 hits The second TACR reconnoitred railway infrastructure and scored 5 hits on railway sidings and repair shops at Portius.
On returning from Serial 3 (TacR 1) Sub-Lt W. Saltykoff, RNethN attempted to ‘go around again’ when landing on but left it too late; his arrester hook caught a wire and pulled his aircraft down, it ended up in the catwalk. Lt R. J. Tee entered the barrier returning from the same Serial. The squadron flew a total of 38 sorties; 16 fighter bomber, 6 force cover, and 16 TacR. The ship’s Walrus nad flown to Casabianda airfield in Corsica and collected two additional Dortch pilots for 800 squadron, on its return it logged EMPEROR’s one thousandth deck landing. 00 squadron flew a total of 38 operational sorties: 6 on Force Cover, 32 Fighter/Bomber, and 2 ferry sorties.
On D+2 the first launch was at 07:45, when 8 Hellcats began Beach Cover patrolling Cap Benat to
t. Maxime led by Lit. Cdr Hall. At 09:30 a flight of 4 aircraft launched for an F/B strike on the fort on Port Cross Island led by Lit. Cdr Fell; this fort was in dead ground from ship's gunfire, and was attacked by all available fighter bombers from the Task Force. It surrendered early in the afternoon.
Serial 3 was an all Dutch TacR mission, 4 aircraft lard by Lt. De-Witt RNethN cover roads Brignoles- Mirabeau - Cadenet - Aix- Cap Sicié; during this mission they strafed several vehicles and dropped bombs on the St. Maxime railyard and machine gunned a goods train in Meyrargues railway sidings. During this mission Sub-Lt C. Poublon, RNethN was hit by flak, his controls wore damaged and he was unable to gain height. While his Dutch colleagues provided him with top cover he flew right across Marseilles at a height of under 1,000 ft. and then made his way back to the force, loosing height all the time and finally ditching alongside one the screening destroyers, which picked him up unhurt.
A second TacR mission launched at 15:10, Lt. Cdr Hall led 6 aircraft to reconnoitre roads Brignoles-Oraison-Yap; they strafed 12 trucks and had 3 near miss bombs dropped on a road bridge. The final mission of the day was for Beach Cover, Lt Cdr Fell led 8 aircraft patrolling Cap Benat to St. Maxime. Although the wind was still very light all aircraft landed on safely by 18:55. The squadron flew a total of 30 sorties: 16 on Beach Cover patrolling Cap Benat to St. Maxime , 4 Fighter/Bomber, 10 TacR reconnoitre ring roads.
On D+3 there were only two missions on the programme. The first launch was at 07:15, another 8 Hellcats Beach Cover patrolling Cap Benat to St. Maxime. The Second was a TacR of 8 aircraft reconnoitre ring roads St. Maxime- -Mirabeau- Cadenet- Aix- Cap Sicie; they scored 2 direct bomb hits on a road bridge.
The ship’s Walrus was sent to Casabianda airfield to collect Surgeon Commander D. W. Bawtree, RNVR, on returning to the carrier its rear wheel struck the rounddown and the impact broke the back of the hull. The pilot, Lt J. P. Issaverdens, RNVR and his passenger were unhurt but the aircraft, Walrus W3046, the only one of its kind in the force was a write-off. 800 squadron flew a total of 16 sorties: 8 on Beach Cover and 8 on TacR.
On D+4 the first launch was at 06:00, a section of 2 aircraft for a ‘treetop’ patrol, and ceased at 20:35 with the return of the fifth and final ‘treetop’ patrol. During the second ‘treetop’ patrol of the day Sub-Lt Saltykoff RNethN had to make an emergency landing on SEARCHER when his engine developed a fault, he returned to the ship later the same day.
At 09:20 Lt. Cdr Hall led an 8 Fighter/Bomber sweep targeting the Rhone river ferries and bridges plus targets along the Avignon - La Motte road to Lyon. Several bridges were hit, 1 Tug and 6 barrages strafed, rail traffic strafed including one engine and 20 trucks left burning. On returning to the ship at 11:50 Sub-Lt Hooker damaged his prop when his aircraft engaged the crash barrier.
Two Hellcats launched at 13:55 for Casabianda airfield in Corsica, these could not carry bombs and were to be exchanged for two of the reserve aircraft held ashore. They landed back on EMPEROR at 17:50.
Eight Hecla’s launched at 14:45 to provide fighter cover for forces in STIKA sector off Cap Benat. 8 aircraft launched at 17:15 for a Beach Cover mission At 17:40 4 fighter/bombers were ordered to rendezvous with four Wildcat VI's from PURSUER to attack a concentration of 16 tanks. They failed to find the tanks, but attacked Arles Railway yard instead, one pilot scored a direct hit on a locomotive with a 500 lb. bomb and two fires were started. On their return Journey across the Rhone estuary they sighted and attacked 2 E-Boats just off the coast, one exploded and disintegrated, but the other refused to sink although each aircraft in turn expended all its remaining ammunition on it in close range attacks. Flying ceased at 20:55 when the last ‘treetops’ patrol was recovered and TG 88.1 withdrew and took passage overnight to Maddalena, Sardinia, to refuel and rearm. 800 squadron flew a total of 34* sorties: 10 ‘treetop’ patrol, 8 TacR, 8 Beach Cover, 8 STUKA Fierce cover
The two Task Groups of Force 88 had operated together for the first five days of the operation, but separated late on the 19th; ATTACKER, EMPEROR, PURSUER, and SEARCHER withdrew to Maddalena, Sardinia for a 24 hours replenishment and rest period while KHEDIVE transferred to TG 88.2 to bolster that force which remained off the French coast providing air cover.
D+5, rest day: TG88.1 arrived at Maddalena at 08:00 on the 20th and the carriers anchored in Arcachon Bay. The pilots had a day’s rest but most of the ship's company were busy on maintenance work, embarking bombs, ammunition, petrol, stores, etc. The Force sailed at 18:00 to return to the operational area.
On D+6 TG88.1 carriers arrived t at the flying off point south of Marseilles at 06:00 on the 21st, however EMPEROR’s first launch was not until 08:05. This was an all Dutch armed reconnaissance by 4 Hellcats up the Rhone valley covering Remoulins-Port St. Esprit-Barjac- Alès- Remoulins. They encountered and strafed a number of armoured cars and other vehicles but one pilot Sub-Lt G. Greve RNIrthN was shot down in flames, he made a perfect ditching in the Rhone and was seen to swim ashore apparently unhurt. A motor patrol boat which approached the ditching position was shot up by the remaining 3 aircraft and stopped; on returning to the force Sub-Lt Saltykoff diverted to land on STALKER because his fuel was almost gone.
By noon the enemy were reported to be in full retreat to the northward and one road in particular which was crammed with transport for a distance of 40 miles offered a perfect target. All available aircraft were readied and launched at the shortest possible intervals on bombing and straffing missions. The first, an 8 aircraft armed reconnaissance led by Lt. Cdr Fell, launched at 12:15 and proceeded up the Rhone valley again covering Remoulins-Port St. Esprit-Barjac- Alès- Remoulins. This mission resulted in approximately 80 mechanised vetches, 6 tanks and 3 fuel bowsers being attacked and left burning. AT 14:20 Lt. Cdr Hall led a section of 4 Hellcats on a five bombing mission against a concentration of mechanical transport; they bombed 12 vehicles moving North, another 12 heading east, and another 7 heading North were straffed. This mission was repeated by a group of 8 Hellcats led by Lt T. H. Hoare, RNZNVR which launched at 15:00, successfully straffed and bombed 60 plus vehicles. The next attempt to hamper the enemy’s retreat was a 4 aircraft dive bomb mission at 16:25 expecting to find 1`00 vehicles but found no movement on the roads. At 18:05 Lt Cdr Fell led his second 8 aircraft mission of the day, a dive bombing mission to attack targets near Uzès; 8 tanks were observed but they attacked 6 armoured cars and a column of vehicles leaving them burning before the failing light made further attacks impossible. Flying ceased at 19:35; during the day the squadron flew a total of 36 sorties: 12 on armed reconnaissance, and 24 dive bombing.
On D+7 the flying off position was moved to the western side of the Gulf of Lyons in response to information that a German division was believed to be moving across from the Biscay coast. The division, however, moved north instead of east, targets were hard to find in the new operational area. KHEDIVE re-joined the force at 08:00. The first launch was at 11:50, an armed reconnaissance by 4 aircraft with long range tanks which searched the country between Narbonne and Toulouse. They observed a stationary column of 20+ motor vehicles which were bombed and straffed. A 2,000 ton ship was sighted in the port of Sète which straffed was scoring multiple hits. On returning to the ship Lt. Devitt found he his aircraft, Hellcat JV1O2 ('EB') had one undercarriage leg which failed to lower, he was ordered to bale out near the ship and was safely picked up by a destroyer.
At 12:15 four Dutch pilots were launched to conduct armed reconnaissance, splitting into two flights of 2, one covering Millau- Rodez -Albi- Castros-St. Pons the other covering Rodoz-Villefranche-Montauban- Gaillac- Villefranche- Revol; they reported back on troop movements but did not engage. An 8 aircraft dive bombing mission was flown off at 13:55 led by Lt Cdr Fell to attack a train spotted south of Béziers, the target received 3 hits and 2 near misses. During this mission Lt R. M. Rogers, RN was killed when his aircraft failed to pull out of its dive attacking the train. A follow up dive bombing mission was launched at 17:00, again 8 Hellcats, to attack 40 railway wagons in the railyard east of Béziers and then to carry out an armed reconnaissance of roads Aumes – Roujan-Béziers. During the attack Sub-Lt C. D. Spencer, RNZNVR dropped his bomb very low to the ground and his aircraft received shrapnel damage from his own bomb, he managed to reach the carrier force but had to ditch, he was safely rescued by a destroyer. A second Hellcat was lost on returning from the same mission, Lt. Oakes, RM landed on the carrier safely but on moving forward to the aircraft park he taxied his aircraft, JV110, over the side, he too was picked up by a destroyer.
800 squadron flew a total of 24 sorties: 4 armed reconnaissance and 20 dive bombing. They lost 2 aircraft and one pilot was killed.
On D+8 the force returned to the operating position south of Marseilles overnight and flying commenced at 06:50 when Lt. Cdr Hall led 4 aircraft to conduct armed reconnaissance, splitting into two flights of 2, one covering roads Bezieres- Narbonne-Carcaconne-Castelnaudry, the other Bezieres - Narbonne- Carcassonne - Cestas - St. Pons – Hérépian; they reported back on road and rail movements but did not engage. On returning to the force all 4 aircraft landed on PURSUER which was acting as a spree deck, returning to EMPEROR later that morning.
At 09:45 Lt. Cdr Fell led 8 Hellcats on a mission to dice bomb a road and straffe any vehicles and horse drawn transports, they returned to the ship at 11:30. A second dive bombing mission of 8 aircraft launched at 13:05 to attack targets on the Nîmes to Uzoe road. A road junction was bombed and the roads cratered, a bridge was also bombed. A few vehicles were straffed but this area had been attacked by other squadrons and appeared to be fully neutralized on returning to the ship Sub-Lt Painter pout his Hellcat into the barrier Lt. Tee having landed in Hellcat JV134 ('EZ') ran into JV174 ('EH') just forward of last barrier while taxying up the deck and chopped off its tail.
At 15:35 Lt. Cdr Fell led a 4 aircraft armed reconnaissance along rood Bagnoles to Pont-Saint-Esprit. They found no movement on the road but bombed and cratered it in several locations before straffing a group of 20 mechanized transports concealed in a gorge, scoring many hits. The last mission of operation DRAGOON was launched at 18:05; this was an 8 aircraft dive bombing mission to attack 200 plus mechanised vehicles sighted on the road to Orange. A crossroads at La Motte and road to the North and to the South bombed and hit. The target t column was observed but not attacked on instruction from the strike leader from 879 squadron ATTACKER. Tragedy struck on returning o the carrier, the last aircraft to approach for landing suddenly dived into the sea and sank immediately, taking the pilot Petty Officer McLean with it; he was not recovered.
During the final day of operations 800 squadron flew a total of 32 sorties: 8 armed reconnaissance and 24 dive bombing. They lost 2 aircraft and one pilot was killed. The total for the eight days of operational flying was 252. EMPEROR’s squadron had a total loss of 11 aircraft out of 27 in eight days flying. Total flying hours by 26 pilots amounted to 461 hours. 20 minutes.
TG88.1 left the operational area at 21:00 on August 23rd and anchored in Arcachon Bay, Magdalena at 1:130 on the 24th. After replenishment the force departed for Alexandria, where they arrived on September 2nd.
Operations in the Aegean Sea: September to November 1944
While at Alexandria the seven carriers of Rear Admiral Troubridge’s Escort Carrier Squadron were reallocated for operations in the Aegean, and a new force, Force 120, was constituted on September 2nd and initially comprised HM Ships ROYALIST (FOEC) ATTACKER, HUNTER, EMPEROR, KHEDIVE, PURSUER, SEARCHER, STALKER, TROUBRIDGE (Capt. (D) 24), TYRIAN, TEAZER, TERMAGANT, TERPSICHORE, TUMULT, TUSCAN, TENACIOUS, Greek destroyer HHelMS NAVARINON, and Polish destroyer ORP GARLAND. They were joined on the 24th by the cruisers ORION, AJAX, BLACK PRINCE, ARGONAUT, AURORA, and COLOMBO from Naples.
On September 10th 800 squadron flew ashore to RN Air Station Dekheila, on the outskirts of Alexandria, this was a short stay, they re-joined EMPEROR on the 14th.
Operation OUTING I: EMPEROR, in company with ATTACKER, sailed from Alexandria September 14th for Operation OUTING I ; they were to join the ships of Force 120 (ROYALIST (FOEC), HUNTER, KHEDIVE, PURSUER, and SEARCHER) which had sailed on September 9th tasked with hampering and delaying German troop movements in the Dodecanese Islands, (Leros, Kos, Samos, Rhodes and Levitha). The force was operating off the south coast of Crete where the carriers were to carry out reconnaissance and strikes by day, and provide combat air patrols (CAP) for the force, the Cruisers and Destroyers struck at targets by night.;
EMPEROR and ATTACKER arrived on station on the 15th joining Force A with CVEs HUNTER KHEDIVE, PURSUER, and SEARCHER, Cruisers AJAX, ARGONAUT, AURORA, BLACK PRINCE, COLOMBO, ORION, and ROYALIST; HUNTER withdrew to Alexandria on their arrival.
Air operations began on the 16th. For the first three days of operations the Seafires from ATTACKER and KHEDIVE, and the Wildcats from PURSUER and SEARCHER provided CAP during the daylight hours for the Command Cruiser ROYALIST and her destroyers, and also for a minesweeping force clearing a path for the occupation of Kithira Island, between the western end of Crete and the Peloponnese. Hellcats from EMPEROR carried out armed reconnaissance flights. And dive bombing missions; a regalement Walrus, L2238 had been embarked at Alexandria to operate as ship’s flight and for air sea rescue.
The first phase of the operation was the neutralising of the outer air defence ring formed by the Islands of Crete-Scarpanto-Rhodes. On the 16th Seafire and Wildcat fighter-bombers from PURSUER and SEARCHER attacked vehicles on the roads of Crete and sank four caiques and damaged a further six with bombs.
On the 17th 800 squadron carried out anti-shipping sweeps and reconnaissance flights and participated in air attacks carried out on transport in Crete on the 18th and armed reconnaissance sorties were flown over the islands of Milos and Thia on the 19th.
The force carried out dive-bombing of targets on Rhodes; targets included four airfields, all vessels in its harbours and coastal waters, and all transport on its roads. 68 motor vehicles and two Ju.52 transport aircraft were destroyed. Two Depot ships and five caiques were sunk and a Radio Station and a 1,000 ton merchant ship were damaged. Phase one of Operation OUTING I was completed on the 20th and EMPEROR and other carriers of the force returned to Alexandria for replenishment.
Right: Captain T.J.N. Hilken DSO, with Gunnery Warrant Officer Frank Bulley inspects the landing
party assembled to go ashore to Chios in the Aegean to embark German prisoners of war. Left: Offloading an Avenger to the
quayside using the ship's own 'A' frame derrick.
Photos: Courtesy of Chris Thomas.
Operation OUTING II: EMPEROR, HUNTER and ATTACKER sailed for the Dodecanese Islands on September 27th for the second phase of operations, OUTING II, more anti-shipping sweeps and a strike on the airfield at Maleme in Crete
There were two barrier crashes on the 29th when a number of pilots undertook DLT; Sub-Lt W. D. Vine, RNVR flying in FN333, and Sub-Lt C. A. S. Pain, RNVR in JV232. Both aircraft t were put ashore by lighter on the 30th. Further strikes were made against on shipping near Leros on October 3rd, one pilot failed to return from the bombing attack, Sub-Lt K. F. Wilson, RNVR in JV263 ('EC'). The force returned to Alexandria for a further replenishment of aircraft and stores on October 5th.
EMPEROR sailed again from Alexandria on October 8th, this time in company with the cruiser ROYALIST, for further anti-shipping operations. In addition an attack was made by dive-bombing the Plimiri radar station on Rhodes, which was destroyed. On October 11th one of 800 squadron’s Hellcats, JVI49 ('EG') was shot down is flames by flak while attacking enemy shipping near Khalkis, Greece, the pilot Sub-Lt C. D. Spencer, RNZNVR was killed. ATTACKER again relieved HUNTER on this date; EMPEROR and ROYALIST returned to Alexandria on the 13th for a brief replenishment before putting to sea again only a few hours begin Operation MANNA. Force 120 now comprised of the CVEs ATTACKER, EMPEROR and STALKER, Cruisers AURORA, BLACK PRINCE, AJAX, and ORION, Destroyers TROUBRIDGE, TERMAGANT, TUSCAN, TYRIAN and Polish ORP GARLAND. They were to cover the reoccupation of Piraeus.
Operation MANNA: This was further series of strikes in the Aegean, commencing in the area around the island of Rhodes. On October 19th EMPEROR anchored off the island of Khios to embark 113 German and Italian prisoners of war, while 8 of 800 squadrons Hellcats dive-bombed and destroyed a radar station on Milos. EMPEROR withdrew to Alexandria on the 19th, followed by STALKER on the 20th; the latter being released from Force 120. On passage EMPEROR’s Hellcats attacked radar installations on Milos.
At Alexandria a single Swordfish, HS190, was embarked for bombardment spotting duties and to drop propaganda leaflets during the upcoming Operation CONTEMPT. She sailed again on the 24th and conducted DLT with the Swordfish crew on passage to join the Force B for the operation.
Operation CONTEMPT: This was the landing of 152 Greek troops of the Sacred Band and 30 members of the Special Boat Squadron were landed in three parts of the Island of Milos with the gunfire support from the light cruiser AURORA, destroyers TYRIAN and TETCOTT, with air support from EMPEROR. Operations began at 08:30 on October 26th. EMPEROR's squadron launched the first pair for Comber Air Patrols (CAP) followed by 8 more fighter bombers led aby there CO to fly over the Island while the Swordfish dropped its leaflets aimed at persuading the garrison to surrender. They with anti-aircraft fire and the order to begin ship borne bombardments was given. The Swordfish and Walrus took turns at spotting for the bombardment and the first fighter bomber strike was ordered in; 800 continued flying operations until dusk. The routine of CAP, fighter bomber, straffing and spotting sorties continued until November 5th when the force withdrew; the operation had failed to oust the Germans.
Her Hellcats had flown 238 sorties, the Swordfish and Walrus 21 spotting sorties. Ther wer only two flying incidents during this period, on November 3rd Lt J. G. Pettigrew, RNVR in JV179 ('ES') had suffered aileron damage and entered the barrier on landing, writing off his own aircraft and that of the squadron C0 parked forward, Able Seaman Wyton was knocked overboard, but was safely picked up by TYRIAN. A second, unidentified Hellcat, flown by Sub-Lt S. A. Craig, RNVR was hit by flak and his engine burst into flames on landing, he was unhurt.
EMPEROR was to make one more run to Milos sailing on November 13th, this time in company with the Battleship King George V and the Cruisers AURORA and BLACK PRINCE. This mission was Bombardment only, an opportunity for the Battleship to put its gunnery department through its paces beefier sailing for the Pacific. The shoot took place on the 14th, EMPEROR flew CAP missions of 4 aircraft over the ships and the Swordfish and Walrus again acted as spotters. The results were not good and KING GEORGE V had to reposition, extended the range to shore after coming under fire herself from a shore battery. A raid by Royal Marines to capture a radar site was repelled and the force withdrew on the 16th.
This was EMPEROR’s last operation in the Aegean, during the period September 16th to November 16th her Hellcat had flown 455 sorties, more than double that achieved by any other carrier with Force 120.
Refit and reallocated to the East Indies Fleet
EMPEROR was ordered home to the UK for a refit in a Newport dockyard. She sailed from Alexandria on November 20th, joining convoy MKF.36 (Port Said to Liverpool) and arrived in Newport on the 29th; 800 squadron was put ashore to RAF Long Kesh, Northern Ireland on the same date. While in the dockyard Captain Hilken left the ship for a new appointment as Captain, of HMS BHERUNDA (RN Air Station, Colombo, Ceylon), his replacement as commanding officer was Captain Sir Charles E. Madden, Bt RN who assumed the post on January 17th 1945. Her refit was completed by mid-February and she was ready to re-embark 800 squadron for a short work-up period on February 25th.
EMPEROR was mow allocated to the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron, part of the East Indies Fleet, she on March 1st, on which date she sailed from Newport bound for Ceylon via the Suez Canal. On her arrival at Colombo on March 25th she disembarked 800 squadron to RNAS Colombo Racecourse and began preparation for her first operational outing, Operation SUNFISH.
Operation SUNFISH April 1945:
This operation was to carry out a photographic reconnaissance of Port Swettenham, Malaya and a strike on Emmahaven, Sumatra. EMPEROR sailed from Trincomalee on the afternoon of April 8th and embarked 9 Avengers of 845 squadron (ex EMPRESS), 4 Hellcats of 808 squadron (ex KHEDIVE) and 7 Photo Recon Hellcats of 888 squadron. One of the PR Hellcats had a barrier crash embarking and was out of action.
She was operating as part of Force 63 under the command of Vice Admiral H.C.T. Walker, CB , which was split into two groups; Group 1 comprised the Battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH, Free French Battleship RICHELIEU, Cruiser LONDON and Destroyers SAUMAREZ, VERULAM and VIGILANT. Group 2 included the Carriers EMPEROR (S.O. CS.5) and KHEDIVE (20 Hellcat of 808), Cruiser CUMBERLAND, and Destroyers VENUS and VIRAGO. A tanker force, Force 70 comprised the RFA EASEDALE with the frigate LOSSIE was sailed to support the main Force.
The operation got off to a bad start; while landing on her Hellcats KHEDIVE was pit out of action when CPO Pilot C.E. Gregory was killed when his aircraft crashed into the starboard quarter of the rounddown, burst into flames and was lost overboard. A fire was started on board but was soon put out. Damage to the ship amounted to the virtual destruction of the flight deck steering position and the starboard depth charge racks. Once repairs and a ‘work around’ were devised for emergency steering the two carriers joined up with the remainder of Force 63. The next day a limited amount of flying was carried out and consisted of interception exercises controlled by KHEDIVE and EMPEROR alternately. At 1530 EMPEROR’s catapult broke down and it was estimated to take four days to repair. SUNFISH was planned in two parts; phase one was to carry out a photographic reconnaissance sweep of the area around Port Swettenham, Malaya, beginning on April 12th from a flying off position west of Padang, with secondary anti-shipping strikes. Phase two was the bombardment of Japanese positions on Sabang Island just off the north-western tip of Sumatra Island in the Japanese-occupied Netherlands East Indies. This programme had to be reassessed and the planned Bombardment of Sabang was brought forward, the photographic reconnaissance being postponed in the hope that EMPEROR was serviceable on completion. The repairs to the Catapult were completed in three days and the ship was fully operational by 16:30 on the 12th.
The bombardment phase began at 0645 on the morning of April 11th there was sufficient wind for EMPEROR to launch 4 Hellcats, unaided, for offensive sweeps of the Japanese held airfields at Kotaraja and Lhoknga. KHEDIVE launched four aircraft as Force cover and two for bombardment spotting duty but had to us the ship’s catapult for them all as the ship struggled to achieve the required wind speed over her deck. QUEEN ELIZABETH, RICHELIEU, and LONDON bombarded Sabang, while SAUMAREZ, VIGILANT, and VERULAM bombarded Oleelhoe. No shipping was present at Sabang, but the destroyers damaged a small coaster, which was already beached EMPEROR’s Hellcats landed back on board at 07:45. At 09:55 while the Force was withdrawing they came under attack by a force of 10 enemy aircraft, 2 of which were shot down by Hellcats from KHEDIVE. At 14:30 a single Ki-46 ‘Dinah’ began shadowing the Force and EMPEROR vectored KHEDIVE’s fighters to it location; it was shot down at 16:20. On the 12th the ships met with Force 70 and took on fuel, this replenishment continued into the 13th.
Photographic reconnaissance mission one: Tithe Force was in position to start the recon phase on the 14th. Five P.R. Hellcats were flown off at 07:30 in position 00° 07’ N 97° 35' E to obtain large scale cover of targets In Port Swettenham, Kuala Lumpur, Port Dickson, Maalcca and Seremban areas of Malaya. This was a flight of 300 miles each way in poor weather conditions but four of these aircraft landed on between 1125 and 1140 having completed their missions; the fifth aircraft was forced to ditch 10 miles west of Port Swettenham at approximately 09:10 after its engine cut out, the pilot was captured by the Japanese.
Due to the loss of one aircraft, a camera failure, and poor weather conditions the photo reconnaissance was only partly completed. A second series of flights was planned for the next day. The Force started the day with 18 Hellcat fighters available, 14 in KHEDIVE and 4 in EMPEROR and a CAP of 4 was maintained throughout the day. By mid-morning this number had been reduced to 14 in total; at 09:00 a crash on KHEDIVE put three Hellcats out of action when JW865 missed all the wires, hit the barrier and overturned onto JX760 and damaged another nearby; at 10:40 one of 808 squadron aircraft in EMPEROR crashed on deck and was so badly damaged it was jettisoned overboard. Another of 808’s aircraft was flow over from KHEDIVE to replace it and keep EMPEROR’s fighter strength a t 4 aircraft. The Force was shadowed throughout the day but no attack followed and no interceptions were made.
Photographic reconnaissance's mission two: On the morning of the 15th the second Photo recon mission was launched at 07:00, this time 4 PR Hellcats from a position at 00° 30' N 98° 14’ E in the Pulo Nias North Channel, reducing the distance to be flown by 50 miles each leg, with orders to complete the reconnaissance of the Northern part of the target area and to cover as much as possible of the Southern part. One aircraft returned at 09:00 with engine trouble having failed to reach the retarget area, the reaming three landed on between 1050 and 1100. Although weather conditions over Malaya were fair there was still a shortfall in the results.
At about 13:00 a twin engined aircraft escorted by two ‘Oscar’ fighters were detected and intercepted by Hellcats from KHEDIVE, one ‘Oscar’ was shot down, the other turned and ran, the twin engined aircraft was also damaged, it was seen trailing smoke as it too turned away.
At 15:00 two bombs fell towards EMPEROR thought to have been dropped by two Oscars which had boon shadowing but were not seen or reported by Radar, they landed 500 yards of the starboard bow, only one exploded.
Strike on Emmahaven and Padang: The force passed through the Siberut channel about 05:00 and at 06:00 on the morning of April 16th the Force was in position to the East of Siberut Island. Flying commenced at 06:20 when KHEDIVE launched two Hellcats at first light as reconnaissance for the destroyers intended sweep; fighter strength was down to only 10 serviceable aircraft so CAP was reduced to 2. At the same time 8 of EMPEROR’s Avengers and 4 Hellcats as escort were launched for a strike on Emmahaven port and Padang airfield respectively. At 07:15four PR Hellcats took off to continue their photographic survey; one returned to the ship at 07:35 with a defective camera but launched again twenty-five minutes later after swift repairs.
The Striking Force reached Padang undetected and at 07:36 two Hellcats were detached by the flight leader to strafe the airfield and they set fire to three of the six Ki-46 Dinah seen on the ground. Two Ki-43 Oscar fighters were airborne and both were engaged; one Hellcat, flown by an experienced pilot, engaged Sub-Lt I. S. McNee RNVR obtained several strikes on his machine, fortunately without doing vital damage. Once he managed to disengage Sub-Lt McNee saw another Oscar, and despite the recent damage to his aircraft and partially expended ammunition, he engaged and succeeded in shooting it down.
At 07:43 seven Avengers attacked a 350 foot Merchant ship in Emmahaven Harbour, four direct hits and several near misses were observed. The eighth Avenger attacked the marine workshops; No other targets were seen. Light and inaccurate anti-aircraft fire was experienced both at Padang airfield and Emmahaven. All aircraft had landed on by 08:48, In addition to the one Hellcat damaged by fire from the Oscars encountered, two Avengers suffered slight blast damage from the bomb explosions. Meanwhile the Destroyers VENUS and VIRAGO made a sweep between the outlying islands and the mainland, from Ayerbangis Bay to Natal Road sinking 6 junks. On return of the Photographic Reconnaissance aircraft, the last of which landed at 11:20, the force withdrew to the westward through the Siberut channel.
On the 17th the force met with the tanker EASEDALE to top off the Destroyers. Fighter strength had risen to 14 serviceable at dawn but no operational flying was done; KHEDIVE maintained aircraft at readiness for interception but no enemy aircraft were detected during the day, possibly because the strike on Padang had been so successful. A planned bombardment of Emmahaven by the Battleships and Cruisers was cancelled; with this the operation was completed; the Force withdrew and set course for Ceylon.
KHEDIVE maintained aircraft at stand-by as the force proceeded to Ceylon. The 808 squadron detachment transferred back from EMPEROR on the 18th during passage, one Hellcat remained as it was unserviceable. The detached maintenance personnel flew aboard as passengers in the 8 Avengers of 845 squadron which joined KHEDIVE for the remainder of the passage.
During Operation SUNFISH 88 Squadron flew 13 PR sorties, a total of 34:50 flying hours. 808 squadron on KHEDIVE completed 113 sorties, a total of 203:49 flying hours. The Detachment on EMPEROR flew a total of 52:35 hours. Losses were 4 Hellcats lost through deck crashes 2 pilots killed in deck crashes and 1 pilot POW. Enemy losses were 4 aircraft destroyed in the air, 1 probable and 2 damaged. 5 were damaged on the ground. A Merchant ship was damaged, probably sunk and workshops hit.
The Force arrived off Ceylon on April 20th and the remaining 888 Squadron aircraft flew ashore to RNAS Colombo Racecourse. EMPEROR now prepared to sail for her next operation, the sea borne assault on Rangoon codenamed Operation DRACULA.
After a short resupply at Colombo EMPEROR put to sea the following day and 800 squadron flew out to re-join the carrier, only 22 of the 24 Hellcats arrived, 2 aircraft crashed on take-off from RNAS Colombo Racecourse. Once the aircraft were on-board the ship proceeded to Trincomalee to join the other vessels of the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron, arriving on the 22nd.
EMPEROR sailed from Trincomalee for passage to Akyab, Burma at 15:00 on the 23rd, 2 replacement aircraft were embarked from RNAS Trincomalee. She sailed as part of of 21 ACS - ROYALIST (Flag 21 ACS, Commodore G. N. Oliver, CB, DSO), PHOEBE (Fighter Direction Ship), CVEs EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE, and STALKER screened by Destroyers SAUMAREZ (sailing delayed by defects) , VENUS, VIGILANT, VIRAGO. The carriers conducted flying exercises on passage, the Force arrived at Akyab at mid-day on April 26th, ROYALIST and PHOEBE going to Kyaukpyu. After refuelling the Force awaited further orders.
Assault convoys and passage to Rangoon: The force sailed from Akyab at 11:00 on Sunday the 29th for Kyaukpyu; four Auster Air Observation Post aircraft from No. 656 AOP Squadron RAF flew out to join the force once clear of Akyab, one landing on each carrier. On passage communications for the operation were tested, and radar calibration was carried out. The force anchored off Kyaukpyu at 16:53 joining the vessels of Force ‘W’ for the assault operation.
These ships had already been moved from their bases in India and Ceylon to gather off Akyab and Kyaukpyu. D-Day was set for the second of May and the assault force was sailed in four convoys from Kyaukpyu, the slowest, 'Dog' of 4½ knots, on April 27th followed by 'Easy' on the 28th and `Charlie' and 'Baker' at roughly twenty-four hour intervals thereafter.
The 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron sailed at 06:40 on April 30th to provide daylight air cover for c envoy 'Baker' then leaving Kyaukpyu. This convoy included LARGS (Flag Officer, Force W), PHOEBE as Fighter Direction Ship, 4 Landing Ships Infantry 2 transports, and H.M. Indian sloops CAUVERY and SUTLE. Flying commenced at 10:00; EMPEROR launching a section of 2 Hellcats for convoy cover, being maintained until 16:00. On May 1st EMPEROR repeated its flying programme f a continuous pair on convoy cover. By this time convoy Charlie' was also receiving air cover. Throughout the day the force took on fuel; ROYALIST took on 248 tons from STALKER, SAUMAREZ 70 tons from KHEDIVE, VENUS 120 tons from EMPEROR, VIRAGO 116 tons and VIGILANT 111 tons from HUNTER. Flying ceased at 17:55 and the Squadron retired to the Southeast.
D-Day May 2nd:
The assault convoys arrived at the lowering positions 30 miles off the Yangon River during the night 1st/2nd May and formed into two assault groups; W1 and W2. Group W1 consisted of the Landing Ships (Infantry) PERSIMMON and BARPETA, Landing Craft (Headquarters) 317, 4 Landing Craft (Infantry), 9 Landing Craft (Tank), 3 Landing Craft (Gun), 2 Motor Launches and 4 Harbour Defence Motor Launches. Captain Tyndale Cooper, Senior Officer Assault Group W1, with Brigadier L. V. Hutcheson commanding the 71st Indian Infantry Brigade were embraced in Landing Craft (Headquarters) 317,. Group W2 consisted of the Landing Ships (Infantry) SILVIO, GLENROY and PRINCE ALBERT, Landing Craft (Headquarters) 101, 10 Landing Craft (Infantry), 8 Landing Craft (Tank), 2 Landing Craft (Gun), and an unstated number of Motor Launches and Harbour Defence Motor Launches. Captain Bell Senior Officer Assault Group W2, with Brigadier I. Lauder, commanding the 36th Indian Infantry Brigade, were
Landing Craft (Headquarters) 101.
At 02: 30 on May 2nd the assault group were formed up on their respective Landing Craft Headquarters ships, once the manoeuvre was completed the two groups set off for the beaches. The Landing craft touched down shortly after 7 o'clock, Assault Group W1 at Kyauktan Creek on the Eastern bank of the Yangon River, Assault Group W2 at Sadinghmut on the Western bank. There was no opposition; the Japanese had left Rangoon.
The Carrier force arrived in the flying off position, south of the mouth of the Yangon River at 0530 on the morning and flying operations began. EMPEROR flew off four fighter bombers at 05:30, each armed with two 500 lb. M.C. bombs. These aircraft joined four Seafires from HUNTER to bomb and strafe light Flak positions at Thakutpin on the west bank of the Rangoon River. All bombs were dropped within the target area but no enemy were soon. The second launch to the day was again four fighters for inshore high patrol and cover of the landing beaches at 05:55. The High Cover of four aircraft was maintained throughout the morning, the next flight took-off at 06:45, the last at 11:25. One patrol was ordered down to strafe snail boats in the chaungs to the north of Thakutpiln but no Japanese were sighted. In all other cases the patrols wore uneventful. From 13:00 a patrol of four aircraft was maintained for force cover until flying ceased at 17:15. The weather deteriorated during the day.
The four carriers flew a total of 100 sorties on D-Day, 12 for Force cover, 72 for Beach Cover, and 16 Fighter bomber sorties. HUNTER flew 24 sorties; 4 F/B and 20 Low Beach Cover. KHEDIVE flew 20 sorties: 4 F/B, 16 Low Beach Cover. STALKER flew 20 sorties: 4 F/B, 16 Low Beach Cover. EMPEROR flew 42 sorties. 4 F/B, 20 High Beach Cover, and 16 Force Cover. At dawn on D-Day 800 Sqn had 23 serviceable Hellcats, at dusk this number was down to 22.
D plus 1:
on returning to the operating area at 05:30 on the 3rd EMPEROR had four Hellcats ready at 05:20 to attack a coastal battery on Nenkey Point, Rangoon City, with four Hellcats Iron KHEDIVE, the weather was extremely bad and as it appeared certain that the enemy evacuated the city, the mission was cancelled. No operational flights were flown during the day. At 17:40 troops entered Rangoon City unopposed. The carriers anchored in the carrier operating area off Rangoon at 18:27. Total sorties flown - nil.
D plus 2: The force weighed at 05:20 and EMPEROR flew off four aircraft at 07:10 for inshore high cover. One aircraft of this patrol returned early with an oil leak; orders were received at 07:35 to bring back the remainder of the patrol, which landed on at 07:5. No more operational flying took place on this day owing to the weather. At 14:15 the Auster AOP
aircraft were launched from the carriers to fly to a prepared strip
inland. On completion of flying operations the carrier force
withdrew and sailed overnight to the next flying off position.
The four carriers flew a total of 16 sorties on D+2; 4 for High Beach Cover, 12 for Low Beach Cover. HUNTER flew 0 sorties. KHEDIVE flew 4 sorties for Low Beach Cover. STALKER flew 8 sorties for Low Beach Cover. EMPEROR flew 4 sorties for High Beach Cover. Each Carrier launch 1 Auster to operate ashore. At dawn on D+2 800 Sqn had 22 serviceable Hellcats, at dusk this number was still 22.
Strikes in the Mergui area Victoria Point areas on the Tenasserim coast:
On May 5th the Carrier Squadron arrived in position 12° 38’ N, 97° 22’ E, approximately 300 miles south of their previous operational area, and flying commenced at 06:45. STALKER launched 2 Seafires for Force Cover at 06:54.
The flying programme called for 9 anti-shipping armed recon missions, 5 employing Hellcats, and four by Seafires. Six Hellcats were launched for each mission. 4 configured as Bombers with 2 fighters providing cover. EMPEROR’ 800 Sqn launched aircraft for 2 missions, KHEDIVE’s 808 Sqn launched aircraft for 3. The Seafire missions were conducted by 4 aircraft configured as Fighter Bombers, HUNTER’s 807 Sqn launched aircraft for 3 missions, and STALKER’s 809 Sqn launched aircraft for 4 missions. In addition to seeking out enemy shipping the Hellcats also ranged inland to strike at Japanese airfields.
Shipping targets were few, most of the vessels encountered were small fishing craft or barges; EMPEROR’s second sweep did find a target, a large camouflaged Junk which was straffed and left burning, they also checked out the Japanese emergency airfield at Turrets which was deserted and had been made unusable by ditches dug across the runway. Hellcats from KHEDIVE attacked a Jetty south of the town at Mergui with bombs and it collapsed. Barges alongside were damaged. A Jetty on the west side of Patit Island was bombed and cut in half, and 4 lighters sunk. Warehouses to the west of the jetty were hit by two bombs. A further 4 lighters between Mergui and Patit Island were straffed. At Turretts Island an 80-foot camouflaged junk was left burning and probably sunk.
Flying ceased at 17:30 and the force withdrew to the Southwest at 1800. The four carriers flew a total of 52 sorties on May 5th; 12 Force Cover, 20 anti-shipping armed recon, 10 Fighter Escort & 4 Fighter intercept. HUNTER flew 14 sorties, 12 anti-shipping armed recon & 2 Force Cover. STALKER flew 8 sorties, 10 Force Cover, 6 anti-shipping armed recon & 4 intercepts. KHEDIVE flew 18 sorties, 12 anti-shipping armed recon& 6 Fighter Escort. EMPEROR flew 12 sorties, 8 anti-shipping armed recon& 4 Fighter Escort.
At dawn on May 5th 800 Sqn had 22 serviceable Hellcats, at dusk this number was still 22.
On May 6th the squadron arrived at position 10°38’ N, 97°10’ E at 06:00. Flying commenced at 06:30 when 12 aircraft were launched for armed reconnaissance over airfields and anti-shipping strikes in the area of Victoria Point, approximately 17 miles further south from Mergui. This strike comprised of 8 Hellcats, 4 from EMPEROR and 4 from KHEDIVE, each carrying two 500 lib bombs and 4 Seafires from STALKER. A Radar installation on Victoria Point was bombed and straffed, 1 barge was sunk and a 150-foot junk was straffed and left blazing. At the airfield North of Victoria Point was observed to be bogged with 3 aircraft on the ground; two of them burnt out and the other probably a dummy. Airfield buildings and a Barracks to the east were strafed by the Seafires. On returning to the ship Sub-Lt J. A. Scott was killed when his aircraft JX803 ditched off the port bow after hit by enemy AA fire over the target.
The last sorties of the operation were 4 Seafires from STALKER taking off at 10:15 for an armed shipping reconnaissance of Go Frah Tang Island area. A thunderstorm forced them to turn back before reaching the Thailand coast and they eventually landed on in difficult conditions.
Flying ceased at 11:20 due to poor weather conditions and the force withdrew to the Southwest at 12:00 and set course for Trincomalee. During the day the four carriers flew a total of 24 sorties on May 6th; 6 Force Cover, 4 anti-shipping armed recon, 8 TacR, 4 Fighter Escort; 2 Recon sorties launched while withdrawing. HUNTER flew 8 sorties, 6 Force Cover and 2 Recon. STALKER flew 8 sorties, 4 anti-shipping armed recon & 4 Fighter Escort. KHEDIVE flew 4 TacR sorties. EMPEROR flew 4 TacR sorties. At dawn on May 6th 800 Sqn had 23 serviceable Hellcats, at dusk this number was still 21.
On May 7th flying exercises commenced at 08:35 on May 7th, later in the afternoon ROYALIST fuelled 114 tons from STALKER, and VIGILANT 114 tons from EMPEROR. On Tuesday May 8th all exercises were cancelled on account of the surrender of German armed forces. Late that afternoon KHEDIVE developed engine defects, at 17:15 she was detached to proceed independently escorted by VIGILANT. The ships of 21 ACS arrived at Trincomalee at 08:50 on Wednesday May 9th.
Operation MITRE and DUKEDOM: May 1945
The victory celebrations were curtailed by the news that the Japanese cruiser HAGURO, one of the last surviving major Japanese warships, escorted by the destroyer KAMIKAZE, were attempting to evacuate troops from the Nicobar and Andaman Islands to Singapore. At 22:30 on the 9th the submarines STATESMAN and SUBTLE, two of three submarines on patrol in the Malacca Straits, both reported sighting one Japanese cruiser of the MYOKO class, with single destroyer escort proceeding north westward. Based on this intelligence the ships of the Third Battle Squadron and all available ships of the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron were ordered to prepare to put to sea to intercept them.
Both these forces had only arrived back in Trincomalee on May 9th, Force 63 (the battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH and Free French RICHELIEU, escort carriers EMPRESS and SHAH, heavy cruisers CUMBERLAND and SUFFOLK, light cruisers CEYLON and Free Dutch TROMP, and destroyers NUBIAN, PENN, ROTHERHAM, TARTAR and VERULAM) having been at sea for Operation BISHOP, the decoy raids intended to cover the DRACULA landings.
The first of three groups of ships which comprised the hastily constituted Force 61, sailed at 06:00 on the morning of May 10th; group two departed first and comprised of the ships of the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron ROYALIST (Flag AC21), EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE, SHAH escorted by destroyers ROTHERHAM (D 11, NUBIAN and PENN. Group one, comprising of the battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH (Flag Vice Admiral H. T. C. Walker, BS3), HMNLS TROMP and the destroyer TARTAR (D10), sailed next. The third and final group comprised of CUMBERLAND (Flag CS5), Free French RICHELIEU, and elements of the 25th Destroyer Flotilla SAUMAREZ (D26), VENUS, VIGILANT, VIRAGO, and VERULAM [sailed late, delayed by defects and joined the force at sea]. Force 70, an oiling force consisting of PALADIN and RFA EASEDALE, sailed from Trincomalee on the same day.
Force 61 was tasked with intercepting the Japanese evacuation ships, later given the codename Operation MITRE, and to hunt for the HAGURO under the codename Operation DUKEDOM. The force set course for the 10 Degree Channel at 16 knots where it was hoped to intercept the cruiser as she headed north on the 12th. The destroyer PENN suffered mechanical problems shortly after sailing and returned to Trincomalee, TARTAR switched groups to replace her.
At 05:00 on the 11th SHAH had to slow down due to what was believed to be fuel contamination, NUBIAN was detailed to stand by her. Later in the morning further difficulties arose due to the lack of wind which required the carriers to constantly change course to operate their aircraft. SHAH had sailed with a defective accelerator and this was still unserviceable when she re-joined the main force. This meant that she could still not launch a fully loaded Avenger and a reshuffle of resources was ordered by Vice Admiral Walker at 14:30. SHAH should attempt to fly off 851 squadron’s Avengers, carrying minimum fuel and no armaments, to operate from EMPEROR while eight Hellcats from 800 squadron were transferred to SHAH to join the detachment of four 804 squadron Hellcats already embarked. During this transfer process one of the Hellcats JX797 of 800 Squadron had a deck landing accident that was to cause damage to 6 aircraft; the arrestor hook had caught on the metal frame of the after lift and the hook pulled out, the aircraft careered through both barriers into Hellcats JV260, JV322, JW777, JW886 & JW890 parked forward.
By 16:00 hours the transfers were complete and Force 61 resumed their south easterly course. By this time the force had been detected by a Japanese plane and their position reported. The delays encountered during the day meant the force would not reach the 10 Degree Channel in time and the Admiral ordered the force to split at 18:00, group 3, consisting of RICHELIEU, CUMBERLAND and the destroyers SAUMAREZ (D26), VENUS, VIGILANT, VIRAGO and VERULAM were detached to proceed ahead to the 6 Degree Channel in the hope of intercepting the Japanese Cruiser.
On the morning of May 12th it was reported that the enemy cruiser and destroyer were retiring south eastward – probably due to the sighting by Japanese aircraft of units of Force 61 to the westward of the Nicobars on the previous day. As a result of this information Force 61 proceeded to a position about 200 miles southwest of Achin Head, North Sumatra, and Force 70 was ordered to rendezvous for refuelling. It was hoped that if Japanese aircraft made no further sightings of the Force, the HAGURO might make a second attempt to reach Port Blair. At 15:00 Group 3 was ordered to return to the main Force and rendezvoused that evening.
Beginning at 06:00 on the 13th Force 61 commenced refuelling, the destroyers being oiled from the escort carriers. This operation was hampered by monsoon weather conditions and took most of the day. Intelligence was received in the morning that the Japanese were planning to launch Kamikaze attacks on the force so Admiral Walker decided to make a pre-emptive strike against Car Nicobar airfield. At 11:30 EMPEROR launched a strike force of four Hellcats to carry out a low level strafing attack on Car Nicobar. One of the Hellcats had to abort the mission and was escorted back to EMPEROR by another one of the strike force. The remaining two Hellcats carried out a successful strike destroying at least one aircraft on the ground. At 12:15 QUEEN ELIZABETH and other units of the Force picked up a radar contact, four Hellcats were flown off EMPEROR at 12:25 to investigate. Another four were ranged on deck at readiness. The interception was aborted almost straightaway and the flight was diverted to land on SHAH. During this incident the force had moved nearly 100 miles South from the position where the two returning Hellcats from the Car Nicobar strike expected them to be; on reaching the position they climbed to 12.000 feet and miraculously picked up EMPEROR’s Homing beacon at 85 miles. They landed on at 16:00.
After steaming northeast through the night the Force passed through the 6 Degree Channel at 04:00 on the morning of the 14th. Having received no news of the HAGURO by 05:15 Admiral Walker gave orders for Group 3 to remain in the area of the 6 Degree Channel while Groups 1 and 2, led by the QUEEN ELIZABETH reversed course and steered southwest to return to the refuelling area southwest of Pulau Bunta to rendezvous with Force 70 at approximately 15:30 hours.
The search for the Japanese relief force, Force Two: Still without reports of the whereabouts of the HAGURO, but intelligence suggesting other shipping movements in a report of one small escorted transport heading South for Sabang expected to arrive on the 15th, Admiral Walker gave orders to implement Operation MITRE at 02:17 on the 15th; this was a specific operation to carry out an air and sea sweep of the Malacca Strait and south Andaman Sea for Japanese auxiliary vessels. The operation was to be jointly carried out by vessels of Walker's Force with RAF Liberators of 222 Group, however DUKEDOM had priority and MITRE could be cancelled at any time. The 26th Destroyer Flotilla, SAUMAREZ (D26), VENUS, VIGILANT, VIRAGO and VERULAM, was detached at 27 knots to lead the sweep, the remainder of the force following in support.
The intelligence was referring to the Japanese relief force, Force Two, the KUROSHIYO MARU No 2 escorted by submarine chaser CH- 57 which had evacuated troops from Nancowry Island in the Nicobars and had been sighted by an RAF Liberator aircraft of 222 Group late in the evening of the 14th heading for Penang. Actually Naval intelligence was unaware that the HAGURO (Vice Admiral Hashimoto) and KAMIKAZE had been waiting off the Permatang Sedepa lighthouse, in position 2°53’ N, 100°59’ E, for news as to whether the British had sighted Force Two, which had sailed from Penang for Nancowry Island, where they arrived on May 13th. Believing the British had failed to detect Force Two Vice Admiral Hashimoto decided to make a dash for Port Blair, so the HAGURO and KAMIKAZE were on passage to Port Blair. However, for various reasons, this time Walker didn't get any sighting reports from the submarines stationed in the Malacca Strait.
At 07:00 a second British force, Force 62 comprising the cruiser NIGERIA with the 11th Destroyer Flotilla, (ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE, ROCKET and REDOUBT) rendezvoused with Force 61, having sailed from Trincomalee on the 13th to reinforce Walker’s force. The combined Force then set course to support the Destroyers of Group 3. At 07:30 in approximate position 4°30’ N, 93°30’ E, EMPEROR launched a reconnaissance/strike flight of four Avengers, each armed with four 500lb bombs, to search ahead of the force; the aircraft were given the call signs “Duty” Able, Baker, Charlie and Dog. Their instructions were to fly to a point, designated BB, which was in approximate position 6°20’’ N, 94°35’ E, then to diverge and fly a search pattern. The pilots had been briefed that on sighting the enemy convoy, (Force Two) they were to shadow and report.
At 09:37 in approximate position 6°44’ N, 97°3’’ E, Avenger “Duty” Charlie (JZ137), piloted by Sub-Lt J. G. V. Burns, RNVR, sighted Force Two en route to Penang and made an immediate sighting report. He shadowed the ships until 09:50 expecting others in the flight to join him, when none had arrived he decided to attack; being at the extreme edge of their search radius dropping the bombs would extend their time over the target. His first run was with two bombs, one failed to drop, the other missed. Burns then attacked again dropping a single bomb, but without success, and while climbing away from his second pass he was joined by “Duty” Baker (JZ203, flown by Sub-Lt W. R. P. Bowden, RNVR)), which immediately attacked the Japanese force, missing with all four bombs. While diving on the KUROSHIYO MARU for their third run “Duty” Charlie was hit in the engine just as the bombs were released. The damage was severe but Sub-Lt Burns managed to pull up and turn onto a course for the fleet. Sub-Lt Bowden in “Duty” Baker formed up on Charlie as it began to lose height and prepared to ditch, which it did soon after. With some difficulty Sub-Lt Burn and his crew, Sub-Lt G. H. Robinson and P.O. (A). A. R. Murley, managed, to evacuate the aircraft and eventually to get into the life raft before their aircraft sank. “Duty” Baker reported the ditching and remained in the area, circling in the hope of pointing out the position to any rescuers, but none came before he had to head back to the ship.
At 10:04, almost exactly the time of “Duty” Charlie’s ditching, EMPEROR launched a further strike of four Avengers, with the call signs “Duty” Fox, George, Jig, and Hotel. The squadron C.O. Lt. Cdr M. T. Fuller RNVR was first to launch in “Duty” George, the next, “Duty” Hotel, reported his engine overheating while on the catapult but was launched to clear the deck and 10 minutes later landed on HUNTER. A fifth aircraft “Duty” King had been brought up from the hangar to replace Hotel. The report of “Duty” Charlie‘s ditching had just reached ROYALIST and the Avengers were ordered to remain over Force 61 to await orders, due to communication problems only “Duty” Fox (Sub-Lt J. A. Eedle) received the order and remained circling for an hour and a half before jettisoning his bombs and returning to EMPEROR only to crash into the barrier on landing. George, Jig and King continued on their search pattern, but were now looking for the life raft of Sub-Lt Burn and his crew.
The first of the early morning flight, “Duty” Dog (Sub-Lt Rowe-Evans, RNVR), landed on at 11;55, “Duty” Able (Lt K. Crompton, RNVR) had reached the position given by “Duty” Charlie but saw nothing and returned to the ship to land on at 12:15. On reaching the expected position of the carriers “Duty” Baker found there were no ships in sight; reversing course he attempted to contact the destroyers he had seen earlier but with no success. Eventually Avengers “Duty” Jig and King appeared and “Duty” Jig escorted him towards the fleet; after 4 hours and 50 minutes in the air “Duty” Baker ran out of fuel at 121:0 and ditched 30 miles from the carriers, the crew were rescued by the 1700 squadron Walrus from HUNTER. Despite efforts to locate them, the crew of “Duty” Charlie were not rescued, their raft eventually made landfall in Burma but they were later taken prisoner. There had been some confusion over the use of the word ‘Convoy’ used in the briefing; to these aircrew a convoy would be made up of many vessels, not two, Sub-Lt Bowden had actually seen Force Two five minutes before Sub-Lt Burns but discounted it and moved on.
Just before ditching “Duty” Baker transmitted a fuller version of their earlier message of 10:03 giving the description of the ‘convoy’ as motor vessels not exceeding 2000 tons and their unsuccessful attack. This was received by Captain Powers in SAUMAREZ almost at the same time as another signal cancelling MITRE. Decisions were being made by the C-in-C in Colombo based on Nava intelligence reports and the cancel order was at odds with the intelligence just received. He decided to seek clarification and slowed his advance.
By this time only “Duty” George was still conducting a search, Jig and King had loitered over a group of unidentified (British) destroyers for 35 minutes before giving up trying to identify them, and so wasted valuable fuel. They split when “Duty “Jig joined up with “Duty” Baker to escort him home. “Duty” King did not reach the position of “Duty” Charlie’s ditching and returned to the fleet short of fuel only to discover it had moved again. After conducting a square search for 15 minutes he picked up SHAH’s homing beacon and landed on her deck at 11:45 with 40 gallons of fuel still in the tank, approximately 17 minutes flying time.
At 10:44 Lt. Cdr Fuller, in in “Duty” George sighted and reported the Japanese Force Two. Shortly after sending off his sighting report a second force was sighted, two further ships about 15 miles ahead of Force Two; these turned out to be the HAGURO and KAMIKAZE. At 10:50 a second signal reporting enemy cruiser and destroyer in position 06°55’ N, 96°50’ E, and retiring south eastward. The HAGURO had been found almost by accident and the result of errors and failures in communication; while “Duty” George was aloft a revised search area had been calculated taking into account currents and wind over the time since the ditching and this was transmitted but not received by the four Avengers. So Lt. Cdr Fuller and his crew were in the wrong place at the right time to stumble upon both targets. Sadly they did not locate the life raft they were looking for, unknown to the crew they passed within 400 yards of them after dropping their bomb load to extend their time on station. “Duty” George remained shadowing the Cruiser until 12:50 when they made a final course and speed report before heading back.
Air strike against the HAGURO: Following Lt. Cdr Fuller’s signals and updates a further strike force of three Avengers was ranged on deck, fuelled and armed by 13:50. These aircraft were given the call signs “Duty” Peter (flight leader, Lt Crompton), Queen (Sub-Lt Rowe-Evans) and Roger (Sub-Lt Eedle), all making their second sortie of the day. Their mission was to attack the HAGURO with 500lb bombs; ideally this should have been a torpedo attack but none of the Escort Carriers operating with the East Indies Fleet carried torpedoes. They were launched from a position 110 miles due west of Sabang and were to fly a dog-leg course to avoid the nearby enemy airfields.
Lt. Cdr Fuller in “Duty” George arrived back at the estimated rendezvous point at 14:32, this was where the fleet was expected to be calculated using the MLA, (Mean Line of Advance) but no ships were sighted. Eleven minutes later he switched his I.F.F. to “Distress” mode and a course to steer was radioed to them, he was then joined by two Seafires from HUNTER’s CAP flight which escorted him back to EMPEROR; he landed on at 15:15 after 5 hours and 11 minutes in the air.
Lt Crompton’s flight of three had reached the estimated position of HAGURO at 15:16, 16 minutes later than planned but she was not in sight, they then began a square-search with 15 mile legs. At 15:41 Lt Crompton sighted the Cruiser and her escort near the end of the third leg and began shadowing her until the other two re-joined. They attacked from astern starting their dive at 10,000 feet, Peter and Roger together, Queen a few seconds behind. Anti-aircraft fire was intense, on hit was scored on Peter’s wing and Queen was peppered with shrapnel splinters. All release their payloads; Peter and Roger pulled out at 3,000 feet and turned away at full speed, Queen continued on down to 300 feet and fled out to sea on the HAGURO’s starboard bow, reforming at 14:15 they set course for the fleet. They thought at least one of the 12 bombs hit and one a near-miss, but in reality they all missed. All three arrived back at EMPEROR at 18:30 and landed on; Sub-Lt Eedle in “Duty” Queen (JZ233) misjudged his landing and made his second barrier crash of the day. “Duty” Peter, Queen, and Roger had complete a 530 mile round trip flight to strike the HAGURO, the longest attacking round trip flight of any Fleet Air Arm aircraft. They had accomplished the first and only Dive-bombing attack by 851 squadron; this was also the first such attack on a major warship since the sinking of the KONIGSBERG in April 1940.
Sinking of the HAGURO: To the surprise of the squadron aircrew no further strikes were ordered, possibly because the target was believed to have passed the maximum range for another strike. Instead the chase was handed over to the 26th Destroyer Flotilla to engage the two ships. Captain Powers had been ordered to resume his original course at 27 Knots at 12:10 (then looking for Force Two), at 12:30 CUMBERLAND and RICHELIEU were ordered to re-join the destroyers, at best speed, to give them support. Captain Powers planned to make a night attack employing the single ship ‘Star-attack’ opening with a salvo of torpedoes. By the early hours of the 16th they were in radar contact, and positioned ahead of the Japanese ships and closing the gap. At 00:50 the HAGURO detected the 26th Destroyer Flotilla in front of her at 17,500 yards; Captain Power’s trap had been spring. The HAGURO made an immediate turn to starboard and increased speed to 30 knots, heading North, away from Singapore for Penang, and the Destroyer attack began. The first torpedoes were fired by SAUMAREZ at 01:13 and the last were fired by VENUS at 02:02 and the HAGURO having been hit by six torpedoes and nearly an hour of gunfire from the 5 Destroyers, sank at 02:06 in position 4°49’ N, 99°42’ E.. The KAMIKAZE escaped to the west, returning later to pick up survivors. The only British vessel to suffer damage was the SAUMAREZ, she was hit in her No 1 Boiler Room by one of the HAGURO’s 5 inch shells, the shell only partially exploded but it killed two and put No 1 boiler out of action. Having fought the last major surface gun and torpedo action of World War II the flotilla formed up at 02:10 and steered north westerly to re-join the CUMBERLAND and RICHELIEU, still some 50 miles away.
Air strikes on the Andaman Islands: At 07;00 on the 16th EMPEROR launched 4 Hellcats, each armed with eight 60lb rockets, to search for and strike the KUROSHIYO MARU, and two Avengers to continue searching for the crew of “Duty” Charlie. A further 6 Hellcats from KHEDIVE's 808 squadron were launched to strike the airfield at Lhokseumawe in Northern Sumatra; two turned back with radio failure while the remaining four strafed the airfield damaging one fighter on the ground and a nearby locomotive. From 08:00 the fleet came under almost constant air attack and HUNTER’s Seafire CAP aircraft were kept busy chasing down radar contacts; while none were shot down, at least four Ki-43 ‘Oscars’ were believed to have been damaged in aerial combat. The searches for both the KUROSHIYO MARU and the life raft came up empty and the aircraft returned safely. At 17:25 two A6M3 ‘Haps’ were caught off guard by a flight of four Hellcats from 800 squadron led by Lt de Witt but managed to escape into cloud cover. The last attack of the day came at dusk when HUNTER was about to refuel VIRAGO, the operation had been aborted when the Destroyer came under attack by a single ‘Oscar’. Heavy anti-aircraft fire from VIRAGO and HUNTER seemed to deter the Japanese pilot who released his fragmentation bomb and veered away. The bomb fell into the sea 30 yards off VIRAGOs port quarter and the shrapnel from the blast killed 4 crewmen outright and wounded 8 more.
At 08:00 on the 17th the force was split again, ROYALIST, KHEDIVE, SHAH and Force 62 detached and set course for Trincomalee, arriving on the 19th. The remainder of the fleet arrived aback off Ceylon on the 21st. EMPEROR now proceeded to Cochin, southern India, 800 squadron was disembarked to the RN Air Section at RAF Cochin on May 23rd.
Maintenance and training in preparation for Operation COLLIE
It is unclear what duties EMPEROR performed while her squadron was ashore at Cochin, possibly a period of self-maintenance while her squadron regrouped. She was at sea on June 8th for flying operation, possibly DLT for replacement pilots; Sub-Lt S. A. Craig, RNVR caught No.6 wire landing in JX766 and entered the barrier. The whole squadron re-embarked on the 9th, Sub-Lt R. E. Watkins, RNVR landed to starboard in JW869, caught No.6 wire and hit the island. Once all aircraft were aboard EMPEROR sailed for Colombo, putting the squadron ashore at RNAS Colombo Racecourse on the 11th.
One week later on the 18th EMPEROR sailed for flying training operations, 800 re-joining her once at sea. Again, one aircraft had landing mishap joining the ship; Sub-Lt M Rudge, RNVR made a flapless approach in JV269, stalled over the deck and made a heavy landing. On the 20th EMPEROR provided the deck for a DLT session for pilots from 896 squadron Hellcats.
Beginning on June 24th EMPEROR took part in a Brigade Landing exercise at Cocanda on the east coast of India operating with ROYALIST (AC 21), HUNTER, LARGS, RACEHORSE, and ROEBUCK. A detachment of 8 Hellcats from 800 squadron transferred to SHAH on this date. The E=exercise completed on the 26th and EMPEROR returned to Trincomalee.
The Hellcat detachment from SHAH rejoined on July 1st to bring squadron strength back to 24 aircraft; the following day a Walrus from 1700 squadron joined the ship as she sailed for Operation COLLIE.
Operation COLLIE: July 2 – 13 1945/p>
EMPEROR sailed as part of Force 61 - Cruiser NIGERIA (Flag of Rear Admiral CS.5), CVEs AMEER (896 Squadron Hellcats), and EMPEROR (800 Squadron Hellcats), Destroyers ROEBUCK, ESKIMO, and VIGILANT for Operation COLLIE. This operation was in preparation for Malayan coast landings and included screening operations conducted by Force 62 - the Sixth Minesweeping Flotilla, MELITA (SO), GOZO, ELNNOX, PELORUS, PERSIAN, POSTILLION, and LIGHTFOOT, with IMMERSAY and LINGAY as danlayers, for the clearance of mines in the approaches to the Malacca Straits and the bombardment of Car Nicobar. Force 62 carried out minesweeping operations between the 5th - 10th while NIGERIA carried out 8 bombardments between the 5th - 9th.
Hellcats from AMEER and EMPEROR carried out air strikes against targets on Car Nicobar and Nancowry. Flying operations on the 5th got off to a tragic start; One of 896 squadron’s pilots, Sub-Lt W. Stewart, RNVR was killed when his Hellcat swung to starboard during a dawn take-off from AMEER, the aircraft went over the side and sank immediately; Sub-Lt L W. Lobban. RNVR (800 Sqn) bounced landing in JW890, entered the barrier and struck the island. The next day Sub-Lt M. L. Wright, RNVR (896 Sqn)was forced to bale out of JX729 flew through trees while low level flying and damaged the airframe, believed rescued by EMPEROR’s Walrus; Lt R. J. Wemyss. RNVR (800 Sqn) dropped a wing landing, caught No.7 wire and continued into barrier in JW783. Another pilot from 896 Sqn was killed on the 8th; the squadron CO, Lt. Cdr R. M. Norris, RNVR was flying in JX680 on an anti-shipping strike when he was hit by flak, his aircraft dived into the sea on fire. EMPEROR had two more Hellcats put out of action on the 8th; Sub-Lt L. Lobban had his second landing accident of the operation, he bounced heavily and distorted the fuselage of JW783, Sub-Lt P. D. Handscombe, RNVR Caught No.7 wire landing in JX855 and hit the barrier.
Further air strikes were launched on the 11th when AMEER and EMPEROR launched a total of 24 aircraft to attack airfields at Kota Raja and Lho Nga in northwest Sumatra. No enemy aircraft were seen on either of these airfields, but the runways and buildings were bombed and strafed. After being hit by anti-aircraft fire, one of 896 squadron’s Hellcats ditched in the sea, the pilot Sub-Lt H. C. N. Goodhart, RNVR was picked up by the destroyer VIGILANT. A single Japanese aircraft approached the force and was shot down.
On completion of Operation COLLIE Force 61 withdrew on July 14th and returned to Trincomalee. There was one final landing incident on EMPEROR on this date, the ASR Walrus WB038 flown by Sub-Lt A. B. Edgar, RNVR struck the rounddown. EMPEROR arrived back off the west coast of Ceylon on July 19th and 800 NAS was disembarked to Royal Naval Air Station Katukurunda.
Operation CARSON: August 1945
After restoring and replacing damaged airframes EMPEROR was allocated to
Force 61 for operation CARSON, to conduct attacks on shipping and airfields
in Penang and Medan areas. She re-embarked her squadron on August 7th.
Force 61, consisted of the Cruiser ROYALIST (Flag 21 ACS, Commodore G. N.
Oliver, CB, DSO), CVEs AMEER, EMPEROR, EMPRESS, KHEDIVE, and SHAH,
Destroyers TARTAR (Captain (D), Tenth Destroyer Flotilla), PENN, VIGILANT,
and VERULAM. The Force sailed from Trincomalee on August 10th, to carry out
the planned strikes on August 14th and 15th.
On August 11th the force was ordered to hold west of 90 degrees east and await further orders; the operation was eventually cancelled in light of the news of Japan's announced willingness to accept the Allies surrender terms. The Force subsequently returned to Trincomalee, arriving on August 15th when the Station General Message 'SUSPEND OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS AGAINST JAPANESE FORCES' was made to all ships and allied forces.
HMS EMPEROR celebrated V-J Day in Trincomalee, her squadron flying ashore to RNAS Trincomalee. Plans to accept the surrender of Singapore were put into action; originally this was part of Operation ZIPPER but political constraints meant that no landing could take place until after the signing of the main surrender in Tokyo on September 2nd, 1945. The carriers of 21 ACS remained in Ceylon until a revised reoccupation plan was organised.
EMPEROR was at sea for a DLT session on the 24th, Sub-Lt 0. Walsh, RNVR in JW861 caught No.8 wire and entered the barrier. The squadron re-joined the ship on September 4th.
Scenes of the celebrations in Trincomalee harbour on V-J
day as seen from the flight deck of HMS EMPEROR.
Photos: Courtesy of Chris Thomas.
The reoccupation of Malaya, Operation ZIPPER; September 1945
All plans were now to change; the reoccupation of Malaya would take place in three phases. Phase one would be the recapture of Penang Island (Operation JURIST). Phase two would be the recapture of Singapore (Operation TIDERACE). Phase three would be the sea borne assault of North West Malaya in the Port Dickson, Port Swettenham area with landings near Morib with the 25th Indian Division and the 37th brigade of the 23rd Indian Division ( modified Operation ZIPPER), carried out as planned and rehearsed, but the covering air and sea bombardment had been cancelled.
The forces participating in these three operations were escorted by Force 61 which comprised of the Battleships NELSON (Flag Vice Admiral H. T. C. Walker, BS.3), and RICHELIEU, the cruisers NIGERIA, CLEOPATRA, and CEYLON, with air cover from the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron, comprising of ROYALIST (Rear Admiral G. N. Oliver, CB, DSO, AC21), AMEER, BEGUM, EMPEROR, EMPRESS, HUNTER, KHEDIVE, PURSUER, STALKER, and TRUMPETER (Ferrying RAF Spitfires) escorted by fifteen destroyers.
EMPEROR sailed from Trincomalee on September 4th in company with the CVEs AMEER, BEGUM, EMPRESS, KHEDIVE, and STALKER to rendezvous with assault convoy JME1F on the 6th and provide air cover during passage of the Malacca Straight on the 8th and 9th, they were joined by HUNTER while at sea, she had sailed from Penang on the 7th. BEGUM ran aground on leaving the harbour and was withdrawn from the operation, EMPRESS suffered a catastrophic catapult failure on the 8th and returned to Trincomalee.
Modified Operation ZIPPER landings began at first light on the 9th: the carriers of 21 ACS provided air cover during the landings near Port Swettenham. No resistance was experienced on any of the beaches and Force 61 (now comprising NELSON (BS3), RICHELIEU, ROYALIST, (AC 21), EMPEROR, KHEDIVE, CEYLON, SAUMAREZ (D 26), RELENTLESS, TARTAR (D 10), PALADIN, MYNGS (D 2), BLACKMORE and FARNDALE) was released from ZIPPER on the 10th and preceded on to Singapore.
The ships of Force 61 anchored in Singapore Roads between 0930 and 1030 on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th, 1945 and waited for instructions. Later the order was given for part of the force to proceed into the harbour; EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE and STALKER anchored in Keppel Harbour. The CVEs AMEER and ATTACKER were among 90 ships (including 70 RN and RIN warships, 3 Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, 3 hospital ships and 14 merchant vessels) present in Singapore Roads for the ceremony in which the Japanese forces in South East Asia surrendered on September 12th. At 1600 on the 13th ROYALIST with EMPEROR, KHEDIVE, HUNTER, STALKER, and the Indian sloop GODAVARI sailed for Trincomalee.
HMS EMPEROR enters Singapore harbour with the Hellcats
of 800 squadron neatly ranged on her flight deck and the
ship's company dressing the ship - a peace time
procedure, Photo: Courtesy of Chris Thomas.
Post War employment and return to the UK
On returning to Ceylon 800 squadron were flown ashore to RNAS Coimbatore, Southern India, on September 18th; the aircraft were to remain at Coimbatore as the squadron was stood down from active duties, the aircrew travelling independently to RNAS Trincomalee. It is unclear what duties EMPEROR was given after her squadron had departed; it is assumed that she was employed ferrying aircraft and personnel in the Southern India and Ceylon area.
After returning to Ceylon EMPEROR began loading stores and passengers in preparation for her return to the UK. She sailed from Trincomalee on October 30th for Colombo were the personnel of 800 squadron embarked as passengers. On completion of embarking stores and passengers she sailed for Bombay on November 13th on the first leg of her passage home to the UK. EMPEROR arrived on the Clyde on December 4th to unload her passengers and stores; 800 squadron officially disbanded upon leaving the ship the next day. No longer required for service in the Royal Navy the majority of her crew were drafted to RN Barracks; a steaming crew was left aboard to handle the ship on her final Atlantic crossing.
Disposal: Return to US Custody
As soon as her passengers had left work began de-storing her before she proceeded to Plymouth for the removal of specialist equipment and other stores beginning on January 8th 1946. On completion of this work she departed from the UK for the last time on January 23rd and set a course for Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia.
HMS EMPEROR was de-commissioned, and CVE 34 returned to t U.S. Navy custody on February 12th 1946 at Norfolk. She was struck from the US Naval Vessel Register on March 28th 1946 and was sold to the Patapsco Scrap Corp, Baltimore on May 14th 1946 for breaking.
21 May 2022
Sources used in compiling this account:
Click here for a list of
Fold3.com various documents including;
Admiralty War Diaries
Norfolk Navy Yard War Diaries
Mew York Navy Yard War Diaries
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