Motto: None

 


Pennant Number:


D51 - R304


Battle Honours:


Burma, 1945

Malaya 1945


Specifications: 


Builder:

Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, Washington,

 

Completed by:

Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton Washington


Displacement:

15,390 tons


length (Overall):

 494ft 9in


Beam:

 69 ft 6 in


Speed:

 18 knots


Crew Complement:

646


A/C Capacity:

24


Commanding Officers:


Lt Cdr. D.R.C. Hodson RN

Jan -Jun 43

 

***

Capt. R.I. Agnew RCN

Jun 43 - Jun 44

 

***

A/Cdr. H.L. Oliver RN

Jul 44 - Dec 46


Squadrons:


1838

Feb-April 44

Corsair II


889

May-June 44

Seafire L.IIc


890

May-July 44

Wildcat V


1838

Aug -Sept 44

Corsair II

 

Click here to see more photos

 

 

 

 

 

A History of HMS ATHELING
 

 

HMS ATHELING at anchor. Photo: Author's collection

 

Three US maritime Commission hulls were earmarked for transfer to the Royal Navy as escort carriers with the ships' name 'ATHELING':

ATHELING
 (1)

On December 17, 1942, the keel was laid for a type S4-S2-BB5 Maritime Commission hull, hull no. 1095: to become a Casablanca class auxiliary aircraft carrier at the Kaiser Shipyard, Vancouver, Washington, Kaiser hull no. 304. She was launched on May 12, 1943 and was intended to be transferred to the Royal Navy under Lend-Lease arrangements as the HMS ATHELING
. Her sponsor was Mrs. J. Hallett. Before delivery, however, the US Navy decided that she (and other escort carriers building for Britain at that time) would be required for the US war effort and subsequently the first ATHELING
 was delivered to the U. S. Navy on August 31, 1943 and became the USS CORREGIDOR (AVG-58) Captain R. L. Bowman USN in command .She was initially to be named AUGUILLA BAY but this was changed before her commissioning date.

ATHELING
 (2)

On December 28, 1942, the keel was laid for a type S4-S2-BB5 Maritime Commission hull, hull no. 1096: to become a Casablanca class auxiliary aircraft carrier at the Kaiser Shipyard, Vancouver, Washington, Kaiser hull no. 305. Her sponsor was Mrs. James McDonald; she was launched on 26 May 1943 and was intended for transfer to the Royal Navy under Lend-Lease arrangements as the HMS "ATHELING". Before delivery, however, the US Navy decided that she (and other escort carriers building for Britain at that time) would be required for the US war effort and subsequently the second ATHELING was delivered to the U. S. Navy on 13 September 1943 at Astoria, Oregon and commissioned as the USS MISSION BAY, CVE-59 Captain William L. Rees in command.

ATHELING
 (3)

Laid down 9 June 1942, at Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, Washington, as Maritime Commission C3-S-A1 type freighter hull number 244, Seattle-Tacoma hull number 28. She was purchased by the US navy to be the USS GLACIER, ACV-33 (later changed to CVE - 33). She was launched on September 7th 1942 by her sponsor Mrs. Richard P. Luker. Whilst still under construction it had been decided that CVE 33 was to be transferred to the Admiralty on loan on her completion; the hull was towed to the Bremerton Navy Yard, Portland, Oregon, for completion and fitting out as an aircraft carrier. CVE 33 was commissioned as USS GLACIER 12 July 1943, Commander. Ward C. Gilbert USN in command..

CVE 33 was Decommissioned by the USN and transferred to the Royal Navy at Vancouver, Canada on July 31st 1943 and commissioned as HMS ATHELING (D51) on 28 October 1943, Captain Ronald Ian Agnew RCN in command. She was originally to have been named 'Setter' but this was changed before her handover.  While at Vancouver, ATHELING, along with other Lend-Lease carriers, was to be modified to meet Admiralty requirements, receive her full crew compliment, and complete sea trials and work up ready for beginning her active service. This work was undertaken by the Burrard Dry Dock Co. Ltd., North Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

Maiden voyage: Vancouver to Greenock

On completion of her work-up and short crew familiarisation period HMS ATHELING  sailed for the Panama Canal, , arriving at Balboa on December 6th. After clearing the Panama Canal ATHELING proceeded to Norfolk Naval Operating Base in Virginia, arriving there on December 18th to embark stores and aircraft; this including the 18 Corsairs of 1836 squadron, for transit to the UK; these were stowed in the hangar and a deck cargo of 18 Avengers, 8 Hellcats and 10 Harvards was loaded. ATHELING continued on to New York, arriving there on the 22nd to await a UK bound convoy.
 

HMS ATHELING underway on 22_December 1943 with her ferry load on route to New York from Norfolk. U.S. Navy photo 80-G-450245 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

 

ATHELING sailed from New York on January 1st 1944, arriving at Belfast, Northern Ireland on January 9th and disembarked aircraft and 1836 squadron to RNAMY Belfast. ATHELING proceeded to the Clyde the next day and entered a shipyard for further modification for use as a fighter carrier.

 

 

The Far East: Ferrying four squadrons to India and Ceylon

On completion of this work ATHELING embarked four squadrons for transit to India and Ceylon. On February 26th the 24 Barracudas of 822 squadron (12 Barracuda IIs) from RNAS Burscough, and 823 squadron (12 Barracuda IIs) from Renfrew were loaded as cargo; the aircrew and maintenance personnel making the passage by troopship. Also on the same day 1837 squadron (14 Corsair IIs) embarked from RNAS Stretton and 1838 squadron (10 Corsair IIs) from RNAS Burscough, accompanied by their aircrews.

 

A Barracuda being attended to after a deck landing accident onboard HMS ATHELING - note the broken off propeller bade - the pilot is surveying the damage from the cockpit (Date unknown . Photo: From the collection of the late John Vallely, Sub Lt. (A) RNVR.

 

HMS ATHELING sailed for Port Said on the first leg of her voyage on March 3rd 1944. After passing through the Suez Canal on the 23rd. ATHELING joined convoy AJ12 from Aden to Colombo, she then sailed with convoy JC34A from Colombo to Madras on April 9th; here 822 & 823 squadrons disembarked for RAF Ulunderpet, S, India  on April 11th and  12th respectively;  1837 and 1838 squadrons disembarked to RAF Minneriya, Ceylon on April 13th. ATHELING  next sailed from Madras for Colombo with convoy CJ23B on the 16th. Upon her arrival back at Colombo ATHELING  joined the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron (21 ACS), part of the East Indies Fleet.

 

HMS ATHELING leaving her berth in Colombo - date unknown. Photo: From the collection of the late John Vallely, Sub Lt. (A) RNVR.

 

 

The East Indies Fleet: Operations with 21 ACS

ATHELING began working up as a fighter carrier from mid May then operated on trade protection duties in the Bay of Bengal. She embarked 889 squadron (10 Seafire F.III) from RNAS Colombo and 890 squadron (10 Wildcat V) from RNAS Puttalam, both on May 13th.

 

ATHELING operated as a spare deck and CAP carrier for the Fleet carrier HMS ILLUSTRIOUS from June 10th as part of operation "COUNCILLOR". This was a diversionary sweep into the Indian Ocean intended to distract Japanese attention from American operations in the Marianas Islands. After only three days ATHELING was found to be too slow for this task, there being a speed difference of 12 Knots between the two ships and ILLUSTRIOUS completed her role in the operation alone from the 14th. On completion of her operations both squadrons were disembarked to RNAS Puttalam; 890 on July 11th, and 889 on July 30th - where both squadrons were disbanded.

 

 

Wildcat JV508 of 890 squadron goes into the barrier, May 15 1944 while ATHELING worked up as a fighter carrier with the East Indies Fleet. Photo: From the collection of the late John Vallely, Sub Lt. (A) RNVR.

 

ATHELING next embarked the Swordfish of 818 squadron on August 23rd for trade protection duties while the ship acted as a ferry carrier between Ceylon and South Africa. On the 25th ATHELING left Trincomalee and re-embarked 1838 squadron from RNAS Colombo, for passage to RNAS Wingfield at Cape Town. On arrival there on September 12th; both squadron disembarked to Wingfield, 1838 was to disband after disembarking. ATHELING loaded Hellcat and Avenger aircraft at Cape Town for ferrying to Ceylon, loading on 17th - 18th September and re-embarked 818 later on the 18th.

 

HMS ATHELING proceeded from Cape Town to Southern India where she disembarked 818 squadron to RNAS Cochin on October 6th. ATHELING arrived back at Trincomalee on October 10th and was allocated to the role of East Indies Fleet ferry carrier. Shortly after she was loaned to the US Navy for duty as a ferry carrier. On December 9th 1944 ATHELING sailed in company with the CVE BATTLER, the cruiser HMNZS ACHILLES, Destroyers WAGER and WHELP for Australia, the following day they were joined by HMS SWIFTSURE (flagship of Rear-Admiral E. J. P. Brind, CB, CBE, commanding Fourth Cruiser Squadron) and their escort, the destroyers KEMPENFELT (Captain D, 4th Destroyer Flotilla, WESSEX, and WAKEFUL, to proceed in convoy to Australia. Most of the destroyers returned to Trincomalee on the 11th and on the 16th the cruisers SWIFTSURE and ACHILLES parted company with the carriers and went on ahead to Fremantle.

 

 

HMS ATHELING
 wearing her later colour scheme and her and deck identification letter. Photo: Author's collection.

 

On loan to the USN as a ferry carrier

On her arrival in Sydney ATHELING unloaded her ferry load and sailed from Sydney bound for Pearl Harbour via Manus in the Admiralty Islands, calling there on February 4th 1945, and arriving at Pearl Harbour on the 14th.

 

ATHELINGs duties with the US Navy involved ferrying aircraft and personal from San Diego California to Guam in the Mariana Islands, via Pearl Harbour. On her return passage to San Diego she carried passengers and evacuated injured US personnel. She was to operate in this role until August 1945. Her RN designation changed from D51 - R304 for service in the Pacific but this may not have been worn.

 

HMS ATHELING was returned to RN operations in September 1945; she called at Norfolk Naval Operating Base, Virginia on August 23rd 1945 before sailing for Plymouth, via Trinidad, calling there on September 3rd to collect passengers and stores for passage to the UK. She arrived at Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth, on September 16th to undergo conversion for trooping duties.

 

Loading US Navy aircraft for return to the US Photos: Courtesy of Charles Kelly

 

Operation as a troop ship

During this conversion period almost all of the ship's company changed. The work consisted of converting the hangar deck into accommodation spaces; about 600 bunks were installed along with additional mess decks and heads. The work was completed by mid November, and ATHELING sailed for Colombo on November 15th 1945, arriving there on December 3rd. After embarking passengers she sailed for Wellington, New Zealand on the 5th. ATHELING arrived in Wellington on December 23rd, where she celebrated Christmas before sailing for Sydney on the 27th and then began the return leg to the UK via Fremantle and Aden. ATHELING arrived back at Plymouth on February 10th 1946. HMS ATHELING continued to operate on trooping duties until November 1946 when she was de-stored for return to the US Navy.

 

HMS ATHELING  at Portsmouth in 1946 completing a trooping voyage; she is carrying Seafire and Firefly aircraft on her flight deck.. Photo: Author's collection

 

CVE 33 was returned to US Navy charge at Norfolk Virginia, on December 6th 1946. Her name was stricken from the US Navy List February 7th 1947 and she was out up for disposal. Sold to National Bulk Carriers, Inc., November 26th 1947, and at some point named 'ROMA'. She was scrapped in Italy starting November 2nd 1967.

 

The S.S. ROMA


Content revised: 01 October 2016

Sources used in compiling this account:

Brown, D. (1974) 'Carrier Operations in World War 2 - vol 1 the Royal Navy' Shepperton, Ian Allen Ltd.

Hobbs, D. (2003) 'Royal Navy Escort Carriers' Liskeard, Maritime Books

Smith,P.C., (12001) 'Task Force 57: The British Pacific Fleet, 1944 - 45' Bristol, Crecy Books

Sturtivant, R. & Burrows, M. (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)

Sturtivant, R & Balance, T., (1994) 'Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)

Weaver, D. (2004) 'The History of HMS Queen - A World War II Lend Lease Escort Aircraft Carrier' Hong Kong, D.G. Weaver.

Winton, J. (1969) 'The forgotten Fleet', London, Michael Joseph Ltd.

 

British and Commonwealth officers serving in British units. Part of WWII Unit Histories and Officers web site.

Casualty List Davie 1922-present A comprehensive resource listing service details of men and women killed in RN and RM service.

Convoy Web A comprehensive resource listing WW2 convoys and ships .

War Sailors Ships in Atlantic and miscellaneous convoys during WW2.

 

On-line archive 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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