Motto:

"EN GARDE"

On Guard


Pennant Number:


D64 - R308

 


Battle Honours:


Atlantic 1943 - 4 Norway 1944

Arctic 1944

Pacific 1945.

 


Specifications: 


Builder:

Western Pipe & Steel, San Francisco California.

 


Displacement:

14,170 tons


length (Overall):

 486ft


Beam:

 69 ft 6 in


Speed:

 18 knots


Crew Complement:

646


A/C Capacity:

20


Commanding Officers:


Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne RN OIC

May - Aug 42

 

***


Capt. E.W. Anstice RN Aug 42 - Dec 43

 

***


Capt. W.W.R. Bentinck

RN

Jan - Jun 44

 

***


A/Lt.Cdr. J.A. Eardley Wilmot DSC RN

Jun 44 - Jul 45

 

***

 

Cdr. A. M. Harris

Jul - Nov 45

 

***


Capt. K. Mackintosh RN

Nov 45 - Apr 46

 


Squadrons:


700W

ept-Nov 43
Swordfish II

 

842

Aug 43-Aug 44
Swordfish II/Seafire I/II


842Q

Nov 43-Nov 44
Wildcat V

 

850 det

Sep -Oct 44
Wildcat V

 

852 det

Sep -Oct 44
Wildcat VI

 

881

June 44
Wildcat V

 

 

 

 

 

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 Francisco.

 

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 Nav 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 convoy.

 

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 6th May.

 

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 Campania 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 613 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 December 11 th1946, 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.

 

The S.S. 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 196t. 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.

 


Content revised: 29 November 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

Poolman, K. (1988) 'Allied Escort Carriers of World War Two in Action' London, Blandford Press

Poolman, K. (1972) 'Escort Carriers 1941 - 1945' Shepperton, Ian Allen Ltd.

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)

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

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

Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies, 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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©2012 www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk

Comments (1)

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Lauren Baker (Cumbernauld, UK) says...
The pilot of the swordfish who sunk the the uboat on 10/2/44 was William H Thomson DSC. That was the only solo sinking of a uboat in the Atlantic during WW2.
24th December 2016 4:04pm
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