A History of HMS FENCER
Starboard broadside view of HMS FENCER ACV 14 taken on
March 26th 43 during her builder's sea trials at San
Laid down 5 September 1941, by the Western Pipe and
Steel Co., San Francisco, California as Maritime Commission C3-S-A2 type freighter, hull number 197,
Western Pipe and Steel hull number 77; the hull was purchased by the US navy to be
the USS CROATAN ACV-14, (later changed to CVE-14), she was
launched on April 4th 1942. Whilst still under construction it had been
decided that ACV-14was to be transferred to the Admiralty on loan on
her completion as an aircraft carrier. A Royal Navy commissioning crew
began to arrived in San Francisco from May 1942 under the command of
Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne RN (later promoted to Captain and assumed command of
HMS Dasher in August 1942).
ACV-14 was commissioned in US Navy service on February
20th1943 as USS CROATAN, one week later she was decommissioned and
transferred to Royal Navy on February 27th1943. She commissioned into RN service
on March 1st 1943 as HMS FENCER
(D64), Captain E.W. Anstice RN in command.
Stern view of HMS FENCER ACV 14 taken on March 26th 43
during her builder's sea trials at San Francisco.
Proceeded to New York, arriving there on May 2nd,
then sailed fro the UK with convoy HX239 on the 7th. This
convoy arrived at Liverpool on the 22nd.
After working up and sea trials Fencer was
employed as an ASW carrier on convoy escort duties on the North
Atlantic, Russian and Gibraltar routes,; between October 1943 and
August 1944 she escorted 12 convoys. Fencer embarked 842 naval air
squadron, initially operating 9 Swordfish & 6 Seafire aircraft, on
August 5th 1943.
During September Fencer provided anti-submarine
cover escorting a special convoy to the Azores, transporting the
personnel and equipment for number 247 group Royal Air Force which
was to setup flying operations on the Azores Islands of Fayal and
Terceira. She embarked the aircraft of 700 'W' flight for this
operation, comprising of 6 Walrus and 4 Swordfish to increase her
anti-submarine capabilities. On completion of the Azores operation
700 'W' disembarked to RNAS Machrihanish on November 19th and Fencer
prepared to resume convoy and AS duties. 842 squadron received a
boost in November , on the 17th when 4 Wildcats were added to their
strength, these became 842 'Q' flight, embarking for operations on
the 20th. One of Fencer's new Wildcats successfully shot down a
German patrol aircraft on December 1st whist escorting a Gibraltar
On February 10th 1944 the German submarine U-666
was sunk West of Ireland by Swordfish of 842 Squadron operating from
Fencer in support of trans-.Atlantic convoy ON223 UK - New York.
April 3rd1944 Fencer, in company with
escort carriers Emperor, Pursuer and Searcher
provide anti-submarine cover for operation 'TUNGSTEN', Admiral
Fraser's strike force of the battleships Duke of York and
Anson and fleet carriers
Victorious and Furious launching Barracuda strikes
against the German battleship Tirpitz in Kaa Fjord, Norway..
For this operation 842 was embarked with 12 Swordfish II an 8
Wildcat IV (the Seafires having been gradually replaced, the last
three leaving in March). On completion of operations Fencer sailed
for the Kola Inlet to escort a return 45 ship convoy, RA59. This
convoy left Kola Apr. 28, bound for Loch Ewe, Scotland. U-boats
attack the convoy to the northwest of Norway and one merchant ship
is lost; Swordfish of 842 Squadron from Fencer sink three
U-boats with depth charges - on May 1st, 'U-277', May 2nd 'U-674'
and May 3rd 'U-959'. The convoy arrives at Loch Ewe with 44 ships on
Fencer continued to operate in the
anti-submarine role off Norway in June; temporarily embarking the 20
wildcat VIs of 881 squadron from HMS Pursuer for an
anti-shipping sweep 20 -23rd before they returned to Pursuer.
In early October 1944 HMS Fencer
accompanied by the escort carrier HMS Trumpeter, four British
and two Canadian destroyers carried out an air mining
operations and an air strike on German shipping routes off Norway
near Frohavet. Fencer
embarked additional 8 aircraft for this operation, 4 Wildcats each
from 850 & 852 squadrons supplementing those of 842 'Q' flight. 852
Sqdns aircraft returned to their parent carrier, HMS Trumpeter
on the October 17h; the fighter flight of 850 departed for HMS
on the 18th followed on the 19th by the Wildcats of 842Q flight,
which parted company with Fencer for the last time.
HMS FENCER seen from the flight deck of her sister
CVE HMS STRIKER during operations inthe Atlantic.
Photo: Richard Webb
From late October 1944 Fencer was assigned to operations in
the Far East as a part of the new British East Indies Fleet.
Fencer and her in company with her sister carrier
Striker departed from Greenock bound for Ceylon calling at
Gibraltar, then on to Port Said for transit through the Suez Canal,
and across the Indian Ocean to the naval base at Trincomalee,
Ceylon. After a short stay in Ceylon Fencer and
Striker together with their escorts, sailed for Australia.
Both vessels carried a deck cargo of DeHavilland Mosquito Fighter
Bombers, most were destined for the Royal Australian Air force
but a small number belonged to No. 618 squadron, Royal Air Force.
618's aircraft were equipped to deliver a special 'bouncing'
anti-ship mine developed from the famous dam busting bouncing bomb
designed by Barnes Wallace; these were being ferried to Melbourne,
arriving there on December 23rd 1944.
Alongside at Williamstown, Victoria, FENCER (Left)
&STRIKER (Right) wait to to unload the men and aircraft
of 618 squadron RAF before proceeding on to Sydney were
they were assigned to 30 ACS, as part of the Fleet Train
of the British Pacific Fleet.. Photo: Richard Webb
July 9-11th saw the aircraft carrier docked at
the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa where she was
temporary converted for trooping duties.
HMS Fencer's post-war tasking was to ferry
civilian and military personnel to Mombassa, East Africa and then
sail to Ceylon to pick up personnel for return to the UK and demob.
CVE 14 was returned to USN on November 12th1946,
and was stricken for disposal 28 Jan 1947. She was sold in 1950
(along with the 'ATHELING') to Italian millionaire Achille Lauro of
Naples for the Italy-Australia service. FENCER was moved to
Jacksonville for stripping, and then went to SA Navalmeccanica
Cantieri, Naples, where she was converted to a passenger ship and
renamed SIDNEY. She could accommodate 92 first and 666 tourist class
passengers, her gross tonnage increased to 14.708.
SIDNEY entered service in 1951. she was modernised at Genoa,
during the winter of 1958-1959, increasing her capacity to 119 first
class, 994 tourist class berths. 'SIDNEY' made her last voyage to
Australia in February 1966; in1968 was renamed name, ROMA
after that vessel (ex ATHELING) was scrapped in December
ROMA was employed on cruising until bring laid up in La
Spezia in October 1970. She was sold on in December 1970 to
become the CALAXY QUEEN, jointly owned by Cosmos Tours and
Sovereign Cruises, Cyprus. In 1973 her registry moved under the
Greek Flag, and she was renamed LADY TINA; later became the
Mediterranean cruise liner CARIBIA 2, finally arriving in La
Spezia, Italy in September 1974 to await scrapping. Finally sold for
breaking in September 1975.
The S.S. ROMA (formerly SYDNEY).
A fuller account of this ships history will be
added at some time in the future.
11 June 2020
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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