'SMITER' Class

 Description Shape:
Standard, circular.
Blazon (Heraldic description)
On a white field: The head of a north American Indian chief, couped at the shoulders, proper.
PATROLLER: An individual or a member of a group that patrols an area; The design was suggested by the ship’s officers and possibly depicts Chippewa Indian Brave, reflecting the original name for this ship, the USS KEWEENAW, named for Keweenaw Bay, Michigan where the Chippewa live on the L'Anse Indian Reservation.

For explanations of heraldic terms see the Badges & Honours page.





Pennant Numbers:

D07 (Atlantic)

R322 (Pacific)



Battle Honours:

Atlantic 1944 - 45




Builder: Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, 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 wide

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


Commanding Officers:


Capt. A.J. Robertson, RNR

Oct 43 - Apr 44

Capt. C.D. Arbuthnot, RN

Apr 44 - Sep 45


Capt. J.I. Robertson RN

Sep 1945 - Dec 46





768 (DLT)

Nov - Dec 44

Seafire & Firefly


1843 (DLT)

December 44

Corsair III

1852 (Ferry)

May 45

Corsair III



Click here to see more photos





HMS PATROLLER moored on the Clyde C.1945. Photo: courtesy of Malcolm Rogers

HMS PATROLLER moored on the Clyde C.1945. Photo: courtesy of Malcolm Rogers


HMS PATROLLER was an 'Ruler' class escort carrier; her keel was laid down on November 27th 1942, at Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, Washington, as a C3-S-A1 type freighter Maritime Commission hull number 255, Seattle-Tacoma hull number 39. The hull was purchased by the US navy to be the USS KEWEENAW ACV-44. Whilst still under construction it had been decided that ACV-44 was to be transferred to the Admiralty on loan on her completion as an aircraft carrier. ACV-44 was launched on May 6th 1943 by her sponsor Mrs. R. G. Risley, she was transferred to the United Kingdom under Lend Lease on June 10th 1943.Her designation was changed to CVE-44 on July 15th 1943.

On October 22nd 1943 she successfully completed her sea trials and was she delivered to the US Navy at the Seattle-Tacoma yard; she was accepted on behalf of the US Navy by Captain J. L. McGuigan, USN Supervisor of Shipbuilding at Tacoma and was transferred to the Royal Navy on the same day. She was accepted on behalf of the Admiralty by her commanding officer Captain A.J. Robertson, RNR, and commissioned into RN service as HMS PATROLLER.

Temporary allocation as Eastern Fleet Ferry carrier

It was originally planned that PATROLLER was to proceed to Vancouver, British Colombia, to enter Burrard's shipyard, for modification work like her sister ships, this work was differed in order to meet more pressing needs. Due to a shortage of merchant shipping a shortfall in Lend-Lease aircraft deliveries from the US to India had developed and the Admiralty proposed that three of the newly completed CVEs should be employed in the ferry role rather than become fully operational. Admiralty planning earmarked EMPRESS (CVE 38), PATROLLER (CVE 44) and RANEE (CVE 46) for this duty, EMPRESS was to begin ferry operations as soon as possible, while PATROLLER would follow in November and RANEE in December. This planning was later amended, with THANE (CVE 48) replacing EMPRESS; this may have been due to the fact that EMPRESS was fully operational upon leaving the Seattle-Tacoma shipyard and would be required for combat operations. In the end THANE was not required.

PATROLLER (and RANEE) was to receive the minimum alterations required to bring her to operational status for ferrying purposes, and a reduced crew complement was drawn up with the air department comprising of only an Air Engineering officer and 10 ratings - all that was required for the ferry role. The remainder of her air department, flight deck crews etc would be drafted in when the ship was to begin flight operations. Work on building PATROLLER was completed on the 25th of October and she began a short work-up program in preparation for a ferry voyage to India.

Round trip Ferry run, San Francisco to Cochin, India: December 1943 – March 1944

On completion of her work-up PATROLLER departed from Seattle on November 22nd bound for San Francisco to load a ferry cargo of airframes and stores; she was allocated to the Eastern Fleet as a ferry carrier and sailed on the first leg of her voyage, to cross the South West Pacific on December 3rd 1943. From San Francisco she made for Melbourne. Australia, arriving there on December 22nd; after celebrating Christmas in Melbourne she continued on to Fremantle. Calling there on January 2nd 1944 before crossing the Indian Ocean to dock at Cochin, S. India where her aircraft and stores were disembarked to RNAS Cochin on January 22nd; once unloaded she proceeded to Colombo, Ceylon the following day. At Colombo stores and passengers were loaded for Australia and New Zealand, before she sailed for the return leg via Fremantle, Melbourne and Wellington where she called on February 14th before arriving back in San Francisco on March 7th.

Loaned to the US Army as a ferry carrier: March - April 1944

PATROLLER secured alongside Berth No.8 at US Naval Air Station Alameda on March 9th undergo voyage repairs carried out the Bethlehem Steel CO. On completion of her repairs she sailed for San Diego to embark a ferry role for the second time, this time she was on loan to the US Army to transport P.40 Warhawk airframes to bases in the South West Pacific, sailing from San Diego on March 15th. She arrived at Pearl Harbour on March 21st. After unloading she sailed on the 24th to return to Alameda for a second load. She arrived at USNAS Alameda on March 31st.

On completion of loading PATROLLER sailed from Alameda on April 6th, arriving at Pearl Harbour early on the 12th. She sailed from Pearl Harbour for Sandi ego on April 16th she called at USNAS Alameda on April 19th before sailing for Esquimalt, British Columbia on the 21st, arriving thereon the 23rd where she reverted to RN control. While at Esquimalt Captain C.D. Arbuthnot, RN relieved Captain Robertson as commanding officer.


A US Navy band entertains crew members of HMS Patroller on her flight deck c. April 1944. She was ferrying US Army P.40 Warhawks. Photo: courtesy of Malcolm Rogers

Modification and preparation to enter service: May – July 1044

On May 1st 1944 she proceeded to Vancouver to enter the Burrard Dry Dock Co. Ltd., North Vancouver yard and begin her delayed modification program. PATROLLER was the eighteenth of nineteen escort carriers to be modified by Burrards, and on arrival at Vancouver she was secured at No 7 berth, Lapointe Pier; at this time sister CVEs ARBITER, PUNCHER, RAJAH, REAPER, SMITER, THANE and TROUNCER were in the hands of the Burrard's yard and at various stages of modification,. Work commenced the following day: this work totalled 150 separate modifications and included lengthening of the flight deck, fitting redesigned flying controls and fighter direction layout, 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. A total of 253.5 tons of pig iron were also added to PATROLLER for ballast.

As work progressed PATROLLER moved through the yards various berths; the yard could be working on six different ships at any time with separate aspects of the work carried out at different berths, the ships passing through like a production line, moving from one berth to another until complete. PATROLLER moved to No 3 on May 9th, then to No 4 on May 23rd and again on June 9th to No 5 Berth. She entered Burrard's floating dry dock on the 18th, spending five days in dock for remedial work before returning to No 5 berth on the June 22nd where her alterations were completed on the 28th . PATROLLER moved to a mooring in the stream on the June 30th and began preparing for her post modification shakedown. Her modifications had taken a total of 55 days to complete. She also made a round trip to the US Naval Yard at Bremerton, Washington to ammunition the ship and then return to the Straits of Georgia (between Vancouver Island and the mainland), for steaming, gunnery, radar and other trials and exercises.

{Note: the last five CVEs to pass through Burrard's dockyard, PATROLLER, PUNCHER, REAPER, RANEE and THANE had a longer modification timetable than the other 14 vessels modified by Burrard's. This was due to the Admiralty decision that the single Oerlikon mounts on the Gallery Deck and foc'sle deck, were to be changed for fourteen powered twin mountings. An extra ten days was allocated for this work to be completed.]

Left: HMS Patroller in no.3 berth at Burrards dockyard, Vancouver, (third week of May 1944). HMS Thane is in the left foreground occupying no. 4 berth with HMS Reaper can just be seen behind her in no. 5 berth. . Right: HMS Patroller (rear left) in no.3 berth at Burrards dockyard, Vancouver, HMS Thane is in the foreground occupying no. 5 berth (note the twin 20mm Oerlikon mounts fitted to the last five vessels). Photos: Ronny Jaques / National Film Board of Canada. Photo: Library and Archives Canada. Thanks to David Weaver for photo interpretation.

Ferry trip Norfolk to UK: July - September 1944

PATROLLER sailed for her maiden voyage to the UK on completion of her post modification shakedown, and arrived at San Francisco on July 27th on route to the Panama Canal. Once through the canal she proceeded to the US Navy Operating Base at Norfolk, Virginia to embark her ferry load; she arrived at Norfolk on August 10th 1944. She was now allocated to Western Approaches Command for ferry duties. Loading complete she sailed for New York on August 22nd to embark passengers and await an east bound convoy. PATROLLER, in company with her sister CVE ARBITER sailed for the UK in convoy CU 37, departing New York on August 27th and arriving in the UK on September 7th; ARBITER docking at GLASGOW and PATROLLER at Liverpool.

Ferry trip Norfolk to UK: September - October 1944

After unloading at Gladstone Dock, Liverpool, PATROLLER made a return crossing to Norfolk for a further ferry load, sailing form Liverpool on September 12th with convoy UC 37. On arriving at Norfolk on the 23rd she embarked her second ferry load for the UK. On the 29th she sailed with convoy CU 41 bound for Liverpool; off Ireland she broke away from the convoy and proceeded to the Clyde estuary, arriving at Glasgow on October 9th to unload and undergo a period of defect rectification in a Clyde yard. On leaving the Clyde shipyard it appears that PATROLLER  was used for flying operations; possibly to test her arrestor gear and accelerator and other Flight deck equipment. Aircraft form 768 squadron, RNAS Abbotsinch, operated from her deck on October 31st and November 1st -Seafire MB222 flown by Sub-Lt. LE Garner is recorded as having gone into the barrier, tearing the engine out of its mounting on November 1st.

Ferry trip Norfolk to UK: November - December 1944

PATROLLER sailed for Norfolk again on November 11th as part of convoy UC 044B to collect her third ferry load, arriving at Norfolk on November 22nd. Passengers were embarked at New York, including evacuee children returning home to the UK. She joined convoy CU 49 off New York on December 1st 1944, and arrived in the Clyde to unload and to receive further repair work on December 12th.

On the completion of her repairs PATROLLER operated as a Deck Landing Training carrier in the Clyde training areas from December 21st to the 23rd, embarking 8 Corsairs of 1843 squadron from RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland. PATROLLER was not allocated a new role until late January 1945 when she was loaned to the US Navy.

Loan to US Navy for Pacific ferry duties: January - April 1945

PATROLLER was assigned to the US Navy from January 28th 1945, and she sailed for the Atlantic crossing with convoy UC 54A which departed the following day. On February 8th, a day out from New York she broke off from convoy to rendezvous with the USS UNDERHILL which was to escort her to the Panama Canal Zone. After safely transiting the Canal PATROLLER arrived in San Diego on the February 25th.

She began ferry operations with the US Pacific Fleet on March 4th, departing San Diego on the first leg to Pearl Harbour, from there she continued on to Guam and other forward pacific bases, unloading passengers, stores and airframes ferried from the US and embarking others for return to Hawaii and to San Diego. PATROLLER completed her round trip on April 11th when she arrived back at San Diego. She sailed for Norfolk, Virginia six days later to resume ferry operations under the control of Western Approaches Command.

Ferry trip Norfolk to UK: May 1945

On her arrival at Norfolk on May 1st 1945 PATROLLER began embarking stores and equipment, in addition to a full complement of airframes for delivery to the UK she loaded the personnel and 18 Corsair IV aircraft of 1852 Naval Air Squadron on the 4th. The squadron had formed and worked up at  USNAS Brunswick, Maine, on February 1st 1945 and was taking passage to Northern Ireland to continue training in the UK. PATROLLER sailed for New York the following day where further passengers and stores were embarked before she joined Convoy CU 69 which sailed from New York on May 10th, arriving at Belfast to unload on May 25th.

Refit: June - July 1945

After disembarking 1852squadron to RNAMY Belfast PATROLLER sailed for Liverpool on the May 26th for a refit in preparation for operations with Rosyth Command. (It is not clear when PATROLLER resumed operations or what duties she was employed on until she is earmarked for conversion to a Naval Trooping Vessel in July of 1945).

Troop Ship Conversion: August - November 1945

HMS PATROLLER was one of six RN CVEs (along with ATHELING, FENCER, RAJAH, RANEE, and QUEEN) selected for conversion for Naval Trooping, these ships were to be employed bringing military personnel from the Far East back to the UK and some commonwealth countries. PATROLLER went upstream to a Clyde shipyard on August 15th for her conversion to a troop ship; during this period almost all of the ship's company were drafted off the ship and a scaled down complement arrived to man her. The carrying capacity of a CVE with temporary accommodation added in the hangar was approximately 60 officers and 1,000 ratings in addition to a crew of about 250. The work consisted of converting the hangar deck into accommodation spaces; about 600 bunks were installed along with additional mess decks and heads. Extra fresh water storage was achieved by converting the aviation fuel tanks, and extra storage for food stuffs and galley capacity was installed. Additionally Corticene flooring was laid in all gangways, in all berthing spaces and new dining hall area in the hanger. When the work was completed in early November and PATROLLER moved downstream to a buoy off Rosneath Patch where she was to store ship, and carry out post conversion trials. While in the hands of the dockyard PATROLLER received a new commanding officer, Captain J.I. Robertson RN replaced Captain Arbuthnot on October 27th 1945.

Trooping voyages: November 1945 - November 1946

After embarking stores and some passengers PATROLLER sailed for Devonport Dockyard where she arrived on November 13th to embark more passengers and naval drafts (crewmen for other ships and establishments taking passage en mass). She set out for her first round trip trooping voyage to Colombo on November 19th, calling at Gibraltar, Port Said and Aden on route. She arrived in Colombo on December 15th 1945. PATROLLER remained at Colombo only long enough to disembark her passengers store and fuel ship before embarking personnel for the return leg to the UK; she sailed for Devonport 6 days later. She arrived back at Devonport on January 6th 1946 having celebrated Christmas while at sea.


HMS PATROLLER at Devonport January 28th 1946. Photo: courtesy Paul James Newton

She was to make three other trooping voyages to the Far East and Australia during 1946: she sailed on her second run on January 20th bound for Colombo and Freemantle, arriving back in the UK in mid April. Her third run was a round trip to Sydney, departing on May 15th returning home in June. Her final round trip was to Hong Kong, sailing from the UK on August 7th and arriving back at Devonport in late October.


HMS Patroller moored behind HMS Queen in Colombo harbour March 31st 1946; Queen is embarking surplus airframes for disposal at sea while Patroller is loading stores and passengers ready for the next leg of her trooping voyage.  Photo: courtesy of Mrs. Kay Morgan, Thanks to David Weaver for photo interpretation.

HMS Patroller moored behind HMS Queen in Colombo harbour March 31st 1946; Queen is embarking surplus airframes for disposal at sea while Patroller is loading stores and passengers ready for the next leg of her trooping voyage. Photo: courtesy of Mrs. Kay Morgan, Thanks to David Weaver for photo interpretation.


Disposal: Return to US Custody

Once all passengers had been disembarked PATROLLER began de-storing in preparation for her return to US custody. During early November all admiralty equipment was removed and the majority of her ship's company were drafted to other billets, leaving a steaming party aboard for her final Atlantic crossing. HMS PATROLLER made her final voyage from the UK on November 27th 1946 bound for Norfolk, Virginia via Bermuda; her passengers included GI Brides and their children for passage to the US, and a draft of RN personnel which disembarked at Bermuda.

She arrived at Norfolk Naval Base, on December 9th and was decommissioned. CVE-44 was returned to US Naval custody December 13th 1946, she was the last of the Lend-Lease carriers to be handed back. CVE-44 was stricken for disposal on February 7th 1947 and was sold for conversion into a merchant cargo ship on August 26th 1947. On completion of her conversion she was operated  by the United Dutch Shipping as the S.S. ALMKERK. She was sold in 1969 to the Thai Hwa Navigation Corp., Panama and renamed PACIFIC ALLIANCE. She was sold for scrap in 1974 and was broken up in Taiwan beginning in February of that year.


HMS PATROLLER on her return to the UK in October 1946 flying her paying off pennant with members of the crew line the flight deck in the traditional act of ‘dressing ship’ for entering harbour. Photo: Author’s collection.

HMS PATROLLER on her return to the UK in October 1946 flying her paying off pennant with members of the crew line the flight deck in the traditional act of 'dressing ship' for entering harbour. Photo: Author's collection.




Content revised: 23 June 2022


Sources used in compiling this account:

Click here for a list of Primary sources


Additional sources:

Fold3.com various documents including;

Admiralty War Diaries

Norfolk Navy Yard War Diaries

Mew York Navy Yard War Diaries

Miscellaneous documents

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