Deeds not words


Pennant Number:

D90 - R314


Battle Honours:

Atlantic 1939-45

Okinawa 1945




Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma,



Completed by:

Willamette Iron & Steel, Portland, Oregon



15,390 tons

length (Overall):

 494ft 9in


 69 ft 6 in


 18 knots

Crew Complement:


A/C Capacity:


Commanding Officers:

A/Capt P.W.Wootten

Oct 43 - Nov 43




Cdr the Hon.

R. Southwell, RN
Nov 43 - Jan 44


Capt. U. H. R. James.
Jan 44 - 17 Jul 46




Dec 44 - Apr 45




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A History of HMS SPEAKER


Part 1 - October 1942 - February 19445


HMS SPEAKER at anchor Sydney 1945 Photo: from the 'History of HMS Speaker'..


Laid down 9 October 1942, at Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, Washington, a C3-S-A1 type freighter Maritime Commission hull number 251, Seattle-Tacoma hull number 35; purchased by the US navy, to become DELGADA ACV-40. Whilst still under construction it had been decided that ACV-40 was to be transferred to the Admiralty on loan on her completion as an aircraft carrier. ACV-40 was launched on 20 February 1943 by her sponsor Mrs. James B. Sykes. ACV-40 was assigned to Willamette Iron & Steel, Portland, Oregon, for the completion of her construction as an escort carrier.


Commissioning and transfer ceremony at Portland, Oregon.
Photo: from the History of HMS Speaker..


The USS DELGADA completed fitting out at Willamette Iron & Steel in early November 1943, her USN designation was changed from ACV to CVE on 15 July 1943. CVE-40 was commissioned into the US navy as USS Delgada on November 20th 1943 at a ceremony held on the flight deck attended by the builders and representatives of the U.S. Naval authorities. The ship was accepted on behalf of the US Navy by Captain L. D. Whitgrove USN, Supervisor of Shipbuilding at Portland and after the playing of the American national anthem he delivered her to Commander the Hon. Robert Southwell RN who accepted her on behalf of the Admiralty. Commander Southwell read out the order commissioning her as HMS SPEAKER (pennant number D90) and the White ensign and the Union Jack were hoisted accompanied by the British national anthem; a short church service followed.


Modification and preparation to enter service:
After completing her builder's sea trials and Admiralty acceptance tests HMS SPEAKER sailed from Portland on December 6th 1943 bound for Vancouver, , Canada to be modified to meet Admiralty requirements, receive her full crew compliment (SPEAKER had only a skeleton crew drafted to her at Portland due to manpower shortages), and work up ready for beginning her active service. This work was undertaken by the Burrard Dry Dock Co. Ltd., North Vancouver, British Columbia. SPEAKER was the eighth ship to be modified by Burrards: She was due at Vancouver on November 30th but due to hold ups she arrived on December 7th and anchored in the stream off, Lapointe Pier. At this time sister CVEs EMPRESS, SHAH, NABOB and PREMIER were in the hands of the Burrard's yard and at various stages of modification. During this period the ships company vacating the ship; Officers lived ashore and the crew were accommodated aboard H.M.S. Thane which was acting as an accommodation ship at that time.

Work commenced to de-store the ship and her alteration work began 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.

As work progressed SPEAKER progressed 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. SPEAKER moved into No 4 on December 10th, from there she entered Burrard' s floating dry dock on December 20th for the fitting of additional sea valves and other remedial work and on undocking on the 23rd she was secured alongside in No 3 berth. She returned to No. 4 berth on December 28th, where on January 3rd a replacement Low pressure turbine arrived; all of the class suffered from defective LP rotors and they required re-milling of the gear teeth by the manufacturers to correct the problem. Later ships had the problem resolved at the Seattle-Tacoma yard or in Portland, but SPEAKER and earlier delivered vessels had to be corrected while in Vancouver. She moved into No. 5 berth on January 16th where her alterations were to be completed on January 25th 1944. The engine room work was not completed until the 28th when she was moved to No. 7 berth and her engines were tested. Including holidays, SPEAKER spent 49 days in dockyard hands; she was moved to a mooring in the stream the following day.


Examples of some of the tasks undertaken at the Burrard's dockyard in Vancouver. Right; a CVE in the floating dry dock. Left; the flight deck is being extended to maximise take off run, note a sister carrier undergoing work in another berth. Photos: Ronny Jaques / National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada.


Although the alteration phase of her work was now complete SPEAKER was still undermanned, during January the crew began to arrive, including the commanding officer Captain U. H. R. James, and Lieutenant Commander `Flying', Lt Cdr H P Allingham RNR, however many key personnel had still to arrive, including engine room staff. SPEAKER was not sufficiently crewed for putting to sea until February 8th. SPEAKER departed Vancouver for the US Naval Yard at Bremerton, Washington on the 10th where she was to take on ammunition between the 11th to the 14th after which she refuelled at Manchester, Washington and anchored there over night. She returned to Vancouver on the 16th to conduct gunnery, radar and other trials and exercises in the Straits of Georgia (between Vancouver Island and the mainland). On February 23rd the ship sailed for Esquimalt, Victoria, North Vancouver to embark Confidential Books and make final preparations to leave for the UK.


Speaker reached Balboa on 8th March and passed through the Panama Canal, joining up with another CVE, HMS Empress and other assorted vessels on the Atlantic side; these proceeded to sail in convoy to Norfolk, Virginia on March 18th. The ship spent a week at Norfolk before sailing on to New York, arriving at Staten Island on March 25th.


Maiden voyage: Ferry trip to UK: March 17th - April 8th 1944
HMS SPEAKER sailed from Esquimalt as an operational carrier on February 24th 1944, and headed for the Panama Canal, and the Atlantic Ocean. After passing through the Panama she reached Canal on the Atlantic side on March 8th. There she met up with up with the CVEs HMS EMPRESS and USS TULAGI, 2 USN destroyers and 2 RCN corvettes. This group of vessels proceeded to sail on the 11th in convoy to Norfolk, Virginia, arriving there on March 18th. While on rout to Norfolk an Avenger from EMPRESS' 850 squadron operated with SPEAKER giving the ship's flight deck parties and air department their first experience of deck landings and take-offs.


SPEAKER and EMPRESS spent the next week at Norfolk dockyard for repairs to defects left outstanding from Vancouver and those that had developed on route to be carried out. Once her repairs were completed SPEAKER was allocated to Western Approaches Command for duty as a ferry carrier and preceded to New York, arriving at Staten Island on March 25th to collect a ferry load of aircraft for passage to the UK. A total of 82 airframes, some crated, were embarked together with 54 passengers, these included the wives and children of servicemen, Captain James's wife. SPEAKER, in company with EMPRESS sailed f on March 28th in the Liverpool bound convoy CU 19. On reaching the Irish coast the two carriers split from the convoy, EMPRESS made for Greenock on the Clyde, while SPEAKER headed for Liverpool arriving on April 8th; SPEAKER was berthed at Gladstone Dock to off load her aircraft and passengers. Aircraft were unloaded through the night of the 9th, but the ship had to move out of the dock to an anchorage to complete the task owing to the berth being required.

SPEAKER on ferry duties, her hanger and flight deck crammed with American airframes.  Photo: from the 'History of HMS Speaker.'.


Ferry trip Norfolk to UK: 13th April - 17th May 1944
SPEAKER was to be employed in the ferry role for the first part of her operational career. She left Liverpool on April 10th for the Tail of the Bank, Greenock to refuel and store ship and wait to join a west bound convoy for the return voyage to Norfolk, Virginia. She sailed from Greenock with convoy UC19 on April 13th; on nearing the US coast SPEAKER detached from the convoy and made for Norfolk Naval Operating Base to collect a number of British airframes from the Norfolk air station on the 24th before proceeding to Staten Island. While alongside at Norfolk the Captain and Commander took the opportunity to fly out to visit the DLT carrier USS CHARGER operating in Chesapeake Bay, to have a look at what SPEAKER might shortly be expected to be doing.


On arriving at Staten Island on the 27th more aircraft and cargo were embarked an the ship was presented with a set of band instruments and gramophone records; these were the kind donations of Mrs. Tenney and Mrs. Baker of New York. After taking on passengers SPEAKER sailed for Liverpool with convoy CU23 which departed New York on May 3rd. The convoy arrived at Liverpool on May 14th, and after disembarking planes and passengers SPEAKER returned to the Clyde and berthed in the Gareloch on 17th to await further orders.


Fitting out as assault carrier: May 18th to September 11th 1944
HMS Speaker was one of a number of CVEs selected for conversion into an 'Assault Carrier' one a new type of ship to be used to provide air support for major military landings. The assault CVE would provide air cover until shore base air strips became operation. New orders arrived shortly and SPEAKER sailed for Dundee on May 26th, arriving at the Caledon Shipbuilding Company for her conversion work to commence on 28th.


This involved many new pieces of equipment being installed; a new type 277 radar, a new telephone system consisting of over 100 telephones, new a new Briefing Room and `Army Plot' Room and cabins added around the 'Aircraft Direction Room' and numerous other additions such as extra W/T and R/T sets and still further improvements to the bridge. Another important modification was an anti-aircraft armament upgrade; all existing single Oerlikon mounts on the Gallery Deck and foc'sle deck, were to be changed for fourteen powered twin mountings.


While at Dundee SPEAKER's crew complement was adjusted, the Admiralty decided that assault carriers should be entirely manned regular RN personnel; engine room and supply department positions were normally filled by T124X personnel and these were drafted to other ships. (SPEAKER was the first and only CVE that this change over was completed). Accordingly Lt. Cdr. (E) Cutlack, R.N.R., and Lt. Cdr. (S) H. R. Newton, R.N.R., joined as "Chief engineer" and "Paymaster" with new staff. Also at that time Surg. Lt. Cdr. J. G. Bryson, R.N.V.R., joined her as P.M.O. and Lt. Cdr. A. Darley as "Commander Flying". The ship was also to receive some army personnel in the form of an Army Liaison Section. 140 extra bunks built in the ship to accommodate the inevitable increase of complement that her new role demanded, together with extra ventilation, racks, hooks and lockers, re-arrangement of and increase in the number of bathrooms and heads. In all the ship received nearly 350 modifications in addition to the 150 done in Canada.


During the conversion period Captain James made a visit to the House of Commons to pay his respects to the ship' s patron the Speaker of the house (Col. the Rt. Hon. Douglas Clifton-Brown) to give him news of the ships progress. The Speaker later presented the ship with a gift of a silver cigarette box which was delivered by his Secretary, Sir Ralph Verney, on a reciprocal visit to the ship in Dundee.

Rosyth and DLT duty: 12th September to 14th December 1944
After sixteen weeks at the Caledon yard Speaker left Dundee and went to Rosyth. On arrival there she was back in dockyard hands for the c completion of a few items which Dundee had been unable to finish and once the work was done carry out a post conversion shake-down. On October 16th SPEAKER was ordered to operate as a Deck Landing Training carrier based at Methil in the Firth of Forth for a six week period, to fill in the gap while her own squadron, 840 NAS, completed their work up in the army co-operation role in Northern Ireland.


Practice makes perfect. Left; a Barracuda slips sideways and falls into the walkway and eventually into the sea. Right; a Hellcat perched on it's nose after taking the barrier. Photos: from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource.


Between October 16th and November 28th Swordfish and Barracuda aircraft from 768 Sqdn flew out to the carrier daily to practice deck landings; also Barracudas from 767 Sqdn conduct training during November 3rd to 27th. Speaker was also one of the few carriers to operate the Helldiver aircraft of 1820 Sqdn which carried deck landings on October 29th; the type was not considered as suitable and never used operationally. This period put the ship's air department thoroughly through their paces, in total 1,460 deck landings were made, including 160 in one day alone; there were eleven deck crashes.


Allocation to the British Pacific Fleet: December 1945
On being relieved of DLT duty SPEAKER left Rosyth for Lamlash Bay on December 14th 1944; on this date Commander Viscount Southwell, left the ship, he was relieved by Acting-Commander W. C. Hudson, R.N. The ship arrived off Northern Ireland on the 16th to embark the personnel and 24 Hellcats of 1840 squadron from RNAS Ballyhabert. 1840 was to be assigned to SPEAKER for operations in the Army Co-operation role as well as normal fighter squadron duties. SPEAKER was ordered to join the newly formed British Pacific Fleet in Australia and preparations began for her departure in the New Year.


Embarkation of aircraft was hampered by the bad weather and one of the first to attempt to land on the ship on the 18th (JV204 flown by Sub-Lt. ES Sparring) had its arrestor hook knocked off on the rounddown, and the aircraft crashed into the barrier and fetched up in the walkways. The aircraft was a write off and the incident required some hours of work to get the aircraft inboard before embarkation could continue. On the following day there was a second barrier crash (JV248 flown by Sub-Lt. MG Gatley) when an aircraft missed all the arrestor wires; this incident neither was nor was as serious and flying resumed in short order. The weather remained settled and the squadron was able to fit in five days of deck-landing and flying drill before the ship had to go Greenock on the 23rd, when the Squadron flew ashore to RNAS Abbotsinch. Speaker was to undergo a short period of defect rectification and sailed up the Clyde to Glasgow and entered dock on Xmas Day. Both squadron and ship's company were granted Christmas leave.


On return from leave 1840 squadron moved to RNAS Ayr on New Year's Eve 1944 where the remaining Hellcat Mk.Is were withdrawn and new rocket equipped Mk.IIs were issued, the squadron flew out to rejoin SPEAKER later that day. The next eleven days were spent conducting an intensive work up in preparation for the ships departure to join the British Pacific Fleet. SPEAKER suffered her first fatality on Wednesday, 3 January 1945; D/JX 226824 Leading Seaman Robert Peel went missing, presumed lost overboard.


On passage - Greenock to Colombo: January 11th to February 4th 1945
On January 11th 1945 SPEAKER, in company with the CVEs KHEDIVE and SLINGER (under command of Captain B. L. Moore, Senior Officer) and three escorts sailed from the Clyde bound for Alexandria on the first leg of passage to Australia. The group of ships reached Alexandria on January 22nd, and entered the Suez Canal on the 24th for transit to the Red Sea.


Intensive flying operations had been undertaken during the passage across the Mediterranean, which allowed the squadron more practice since the usual six week squadron work up had not been possible before the ship's departure from the UK. Little was achieved before passing Gibraltar as weather conditions prevented safe flying. Some operational sorties were flown on January 17th by aircraft from SPEAKER and SLINGER to search for a U-boat reported off the North African coast and this would have been an opportunity for the use of the new rocket equipped aircraft; nothing was found however and flying reverted to training sorties (KHEDIVE could not launch aircraft as her flight deck was covered with a ferry load of airframes for delivery to Ceylon).

The small convoy reached Alexandria on the 22nd stopping briefly before continuing on to Port Said the same day. Late on January24th SPEAKER weighed anchor to pass through the Suez Canal and on into the Red Sea; here transit of the canal was broken with a night at anchor in the Bitter Lake, the ships passed by the two Italian battleships, VITTORIO VENETO and ITALIA, who had been anchored there since the Italian surrender.


HMS SPEAKER exiting the Suez Canal (left) and passing Aden on the Red Sea 9Right) aircraft from 1840 squadron are ranged on deck.  Photos: from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource.


After a brief stop at Aden to refuel and store ship on January 28th SPEAKER and company steamed straight across the Indian Ocean to Colombo, arriving there on February 4th. By the time SPEAKER reached Colombo her squadrons intensive flying work up had resulted in 2 lost and 4 damaged aircraft and one pilot had been killed: Aircraft losses were (JW894 flown by Sub-Lt. B Jacques) which spun into the sea while carrying out fighter tactics in the Red on January 25th, killing the pilot, his aircraft vanished before any of the escorts could reach the impact site. A second (JW876 flown by Sub-Lt. JO Boon von Ochaeo RNeN) ditched while returning from RNAS Colombo Racecourse on February 3rd, the pilot was recued. Two aircraft suffered barrier crashes and were badly damaged, two others suffered from deck pecking, the aircraft pitching onto its nose and damaging the propeller. Unserviceable aircraft were exchanged at Colombo to bring the squadron back to strength.


On passage - Colombo to Sydney: February 6th to 23rd 1945
At Colombo the three CVEs were to part company, SPEAKER and SLINGER departed for Sydney on the 6th, while KHEDIVE remained in Ceylon to join the strength of the East Indies fleet. On February 8th the traditional 'crossing the line' ceremony was observed aboard SPEAKER and SLINGER which had crossed the equator at 21:00 hours the day before; the festivities took up most of the day with nearly 800 ' victims' being initiated. The celebrations were soon forgotten though as on February 11th both ships were called to assist in a search for survivors from a torpedoed American troop ship, the S.S. PETER SILVESTER, 1000 miles off the coast of Western Australia.


Aircraft from both carriers conducted aerial searches but after five days no trace was found; SPEAKER continued on to Sydney leaving the area late on the 16th, SLINGER remained to continue searching until the 19th before she too had to break off and proceed to Sydney. Her squadron was to lose to aircraft during the search; on the 14th a Hellcat (JX750 flown by Lt FC Buckley RCN) drifted to port on landing and hit the deck heavily, it was written off and jettison overboard the following day. On the 16th (JW888 flown by Sub-Lt. R.T. Bell) hit the rounddown after making too fast an approach and crashed into the sea; the pilot was rescued. SPEAKER arrived at Sydney on February 23rd, flying off 16 of her remaining Hellcats to RNAS Schofields (MONAB III) before entering the harbour. She was secured at a berth at dolphins, near Taronga Park (the Zoo) in Snails Bay.


part 2 February 1945 - July 1946 >>


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