Humble beginnings

The first escort carrier was the British built HMS Audacity, entering service on June 17th 1941. She was the first escort carrier to operate as a convoy escort sailing with convoy, OG74 on September 13th 1941. Although she had only a brief active career before being sunk, she had shown that the concept worked. The idea of converting merchant hulls into vessels capable of operating naval aircraft, was to be taken forward by the US Navy who began utilising merchant 'C3' type freighter hulls for conversions into escort carriers. The first US conversion was the USS Long Island which was commissioned on June 2nd 1941.

 

Lend lease batch 1

Under the terms of the Lend Lease agreement between the US and Britain 39 US built escort carriers were transferred to the control of the Admiralty. Of the first five escort carrier conversions completed for the RN (Archer, Avenger, Biter, Charger, and Dasher) were essentially copies of the 'Long Island' design. Charger was the first to be handed over, commissioning as HMS Charger on October 2nd 1941; however, the USN reclaimed her two days later for duty as a training carrier. The second carrier Archer was a fairly rudimentary conversation and she saw little active service before machinery problems saw her laid up for a considerable time. Avenger and Dasher were both sunk, Biter being the only one of the initial batch to see continuous active service until the end of the war.

 

Lend lease Batches 2 and 3

The U-Boat treat was increasingly claiming merchant and military vessels on vital convoys; the need for more escort carriers was to become a priority. Orders were placed for two further batches of US CVEs whilst the Admiralty undertook to complete a further five. Batch 2 was 11 'Bogue' class CVEs, although some 'Casablanca' class vessels were initially earmarked for transfer, but these were diverted to the US navy. Batch 3 was a repeat order for a further 23 Bogue class vessels.

By the end of 1942 the RN had received 8 US escort carriers and completed two conversions in British shipyards. During 1943 it was to gain a further 30; 27 lend lease and 3 more British conversions. This was to be the height of escort carrier production for the RN, the final four US built vessels and the final British conversion had all arrived by the end of February 1944.

"Full protection could not be afforded to the convoys until it was possible to provide air escort for the whole of the Atlantic passage; and for some time there was a gap of some 600 miles in mid-Atlantic which land-based air forces could not reach. That was finally bridged partly by the provision of the ‘V.L.R.’ (very long range) aircraft, but even more effectively by the provision of escort carriers which could accompany each convoy."

Rear-Admiral H. G. Thursfield

"Failure of the U-Boat Campaign." Illustrated London News January 22, 1944

 

 

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The ships

The escort carrier was designed as a solution to the shortage of naval air power for convoy protection by repurposing merchant hulls into pocket sized aircraft carriers. By the end of WW2 Britain had operated 45 escort carriers, in the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian and Pacific oceans: 6 of these were British built 39 were US built.


BOLD links are completed pages, normal links are pages with content but are works in progress. denotes that a gallery of images is available for this ship. * = recently added or updated

 

Alternative ship menus listed by:  UK built by commissioned date | US built by commissioned date | US built by USN designation

 

Ship name

Gallery Date Commissioned Paid Off*/Returned to US custody

ACTIVITY

* 29 Sept 1942  20 Oct 1945

AMEER *

* 20 Jul 1043 17 Jan 1946

ARBITER

  31 Sec 1943 3 Mar 1946

ARCHER 

    17 Nov 1941 9 Jan 1946

ATHELING *

* 31 Jul 1943 13 Dec 1946

ATTACKER *

* 7 Oct 1942 5 Jan 1946

AUDACITY

    17 Jun 1941 Sunk

21 Dec 194

AVENGER

    2 Mar 1942 Sunk

15 Nov 1942

BATTLER *

* 31 Oct 1942 12 Feb 1946

BEGUM

* 2 Aug 1943 4 Jan 1946

BITER *

    6 May 1942 9 Apr 1945

CAMPANIA

    9 Feb 1944  

CHARGER

    2 Oct 1941 Retained by USN

CHASER

  9 Apr 1943 12 May 1846

DASHER 

    2 Jul 1942 Sank

27 Mar 1943

EMPEROR

  6 Aug 1943 12 Feb 1946

EMPRESS

  12 Aug 1943 4 Feb 1946

FENCER

    1 Mar 1943 12 Nov 1946

HUNTER

    9 Jan 1943 29 Dec 1945

KHEDIVE

    23 Aug 1943 26 Jan 1946

NABOB

  7 Sep 1943 10 Oct 1944*

NAIRANA

    26 Nov 1943  

PATROLLER

  22 Oct 1043 13 Dec 1943

PREMIER *

    3 Nov 1943 2 Apr 1946

PRETORIA CASTLE

    29 Jul 1943 21 Feb 1946

PUNCHER

    5 Feb 1944 18 Jan 1946

PURSUER *

  14 Jun 1943 12 Feb 1946

QUEEN 

    7 Dec 1943 31 Oct 1946

RAJAH

    17 Jan 1944 13 Dec 1946

RANEE

  8 Nov 1943 21 Nov 1946

RAVAGER

  25 Apr 1943 27 Feb 1946

REAPER

    21 Feb 1944 20 May 1946

RULER

    22 Dec 1943 29 Jan 1946

SEARCHER

    7 Apr 1943 29 May 1946

SHAH

  27 Sep 1943 6 Dec 1945

SLINGER

  11 Aug 1843 27 Feb 1946

SMITER *

  20 Jan 1944 6 Apr 1946

SPEAKER 

  20 Nov 1943 27 Jul 1946

STALKER

    30 Dee 1942 29 Dec 1945

STRIKER  *

  18 May 1943 12 Feb 1946

THANE

  19 Nov 1943 15 Dec 1945

TRACKER

    31 Jan 1943 29 Nov 1945

TROUNCER

    31 Jan 1944 2 mar 1946

TRUMPETER

    4 Aug 1943 6 Apr 1946

VINDEX

    3 Dec 1943  

 

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