A History of HMS NAIRANA
Starboard broadside view of HMS NAIRANA.
successful conversion and operation of the first, but short lived,
escort carrier HMS AUDACITY, the Admiralty urgently sought to
convert more merchant vessels but all available shipping was
reserved for the ministry of war transport; however several
incomplete hulls were made available from January 1942.
In January 1942 the
hull of the refrigerated cargo carrier MV EMPIRE ACTIVITY was the
first vessel requisitioned while building at the Caledon
Shipbuilding & Engineering company in Dundee, This was to be a one
off design and she entered service as HMS ACTIVITY. In July 1942 the
Admiralty requisitioned three more merchant gulls, while still on
the stocks, for completion as NAIRANA Class escort carriers.
Two of the ships
chosen were sisters, fast cargo-passenger ship being built for the
Port Line Ltd, of London; the PORT PIRIE by John Brown & Company on
the Clyde was to become HMS NAIRANA, and the PORT SYDNEY at Swan
Hunter on the Tyne was to become HMS VINDEX. The third selection was
a refrigerated cargo ship building for the Shaw Savill Line at
Harland and Wolff’s yard in Belfast, when completed she became HMS
CAMPANIA. All were named after WW1 seaplane carriers. The three
carriers were to be built to the same design, the prototype was
built by John Brown who supplied the other two companies with copies
of the plans, but in reality they were all slightly different.
NAIRANA and VINDEX were only slightly different from each other;
CAMPANIA was sufficiently different and could almost be considered a
one off build rather than part of the class. There was one other
carrier converted in a British yard, HMS PRETORIA CASTLE, a former
passenger liner requisitioned for An Armed Merchant Cruiser in 1939.
Purchased the Admiralty in July 1942 and converted at Swan Hunter,
she commissioned in July 1943 but was used only as a trials and
First of her class
HMS NAIRANA began
life as John Brown Yard No. 577, a fast cargo-passenger vessel
ordered for the Port Line Ltd, London. Her keel was laid on November
7th 1941 but her construction was delayed as dockyard labour was
diverted to work on priority Admiralty work. The incomplete hull was
acquired by the Admiralty on July 9th 1942 for completion as an
Escort Aircraft Carrier.
She was launched on
May 20th 1943. Her crew began to assemble near the shipyard from
July as the ship began to take shape as a carrier. She was
sufficiently complete to commission into RN service on November 26th
1943 as HMS NAIRANA, Captain R.M.T. Taylor RN in command. Her build
was completed on December 12th 1943 and began her acceptance trials.
The first aircraft to visit the ship flew out two days later when
Avenger FN837 from 778 Naval Trials Squadron successfully conducted
deck landing trials.
Work up and 835 squadron embarks
NAIRANA sailed to start her work up on the Clyde on December 17th.
She was allocated 835 Naval Air Squadron as her air group and they
flew out from RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland on New Year’s Eve to
join the ship. This composite squadron operated an anti-submarine
flight of 9 Swordfish Mk. II and a fighter flight of 6 Sea Hurricane
The flying work up
began straight away; this was primarily to work up the ships air
departments since the squadron had been aboard HMS CHASER during
November and early December 1943. One aspect which proved t0 be
problematic was night Deck Landing Training (DLT) with several
aircraft suffering damage, including Swordfish LS272, which suffered
an undercarriage collapse on January 12th, and LS370 which crashed
on landing on the 19th; both flown by Sub-Lt J.P. Supple RNVR. Night
landing casualties was a problem encountered by all the British
On completion of
her work up NAIRANA was allocated to Western Approaches Command on
January 25th for trade protection duties.
Operations with the 2nd Escort Group
NAIRANA sailed from the Clyde on January 29th for operations with
the 2nd Escort Group to provide anti-submarine cover for convoys in
Loaned to the Netherlands as Karel Doorman (QH 1)
and recommissioned 23 March 1946. Returned to RN 28 May 1948 and
immediately sold into merchant service as Port Victor.
Scrapped at Faslane starting 7/1971.
fuller account of this ships history will be added at some time in
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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