Allied Warships

HMS Fencer (D 64)

Escort Carrier of the Attacker class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeEscort Carrier
ClassAttacker 
PennantD 64 
Built byWestern Pipe & Steel Co. (San Francisco, California, U.S.A.) 
Ordered 
Laid down5 Sep 1941 
Launched4 Apr 1942 
Commissioned20 Feb 1943 
End service 
History

Originally completed as a USS Bouge class carrier, modified by having petrol stowage reduced to 50,000 gallons (ballasted in compensation with about 1,000 tons) and US 4 inch guns instead of the original US 5 inch. In 1943 this vessel was obtained through the United States lend lease programme.

In May 1943 HMS Fencer was tasked to supply air escort for the North Atlantic convoys. In September she was a member of the 8th Search Support Group deployed in escorting a special convoy that was transporting the personnel and installations for number 247 Royal Air Force group on the Azores Islands of Fayal and Terceira. By October she was again in the North Atlantic on convoy duties.

During January – February 1944 Fencer was a member of the 10th Anti Submarine Search Group and was serving on North Atlantic convoy duties. During March – April while on Arctic convoy duties, her aircraft and those of the aircraft carriers HMS Victorious, HMS Furious and the escort carriers HMS Emperor, HMS Pursuer and HMS Searcher were involved on a raid carried out on the German battleship Tirpitz known as operation “Tungsten”, putting the battleship out of action for three months. In May while on Arctic convoy duties, she proceeded to the northern Norwegian coast to carry out another raid on the Tirpitz. Due to adverse weather, flying conditions became impossible, and the task force retreated. During this time her aircraft were involved in sinking three German submarines U-277, U-959 and U-674. In October 1944 HMS Fencer accompanied by the escort carrier HMS Trumpeter, four British and two Canadian destroyers carried out an air mining operation and an air strike on German shipping routes off Norway near Frohavet.

In 1945 Fencer was transferred to the British Pacific Fleet. 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.

On 11 December 1946 Fencer was returned to the US Navy, and was subsequently converted for merchant service and renamed Sydney. In 1968 Sydney was renamed Roma, and later that year resold to become the Galaxy Queen. Sometime after this date she changed owners twice, becoming Lady Dina in 1972 and then Cariba II in 1973. In September 1975 she was sold to be broken up for scrap at La Spezia, Italy.

Her wartime badge can be seen displayed on the side of the Selborne dry dock wall.

 
Former nameUSS Croatan (i)

Commands listed for HMS Fencer (D 64)

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and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

CommanderFromTo
1Capt. Sir Edmund Walter Anstice, RN1 Aug 194219 Jan 1944
2A/Capt. Wolf Walter Rudolf Bentinck, OBE, RN19 Jan 194430 Mar 1945
3A/Lt.Cdr. John Assheton Eardley-Wilmot, DSC, RN30 Mar 194515 Aug 1945
4Cdr. (retired) Rodney Charles Vesey Thomson, DSC, RN15 Aug 194519 Nov 1945

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Notable events involving Fencer include:


23 Sep 1943
HMS Storm (T/Lt. E.P. Young, DSC, RNVR) conducted exercises in the Clyde area. Also night attack exercises were carried out during which HMS Fencer (Capt. Sir E.W. Anstice, RN) and five escorts served as targets. (1)

10 Feb 1944
German U-boat U-666 was sunk in the North Atlantic west of Ireland, in position 53°56'N, 17°16'W, by depth charges from a Swordfish aircraft (842 Sqn FAA/A) of the British escort carrier HMS Fencer.

30 Mar 1944

Operation Tungsten

Air attacks by the FAA against the German battleship Tirpitz

Around 1200A/30, ' Force 1 ', departed Scapa Flow. It was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.H.E. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Admiral B.A. Fraser, GCB, KBE, RN), HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Belfast (Capt. F.R. Parham, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslaught (Cdr. the Hon. A. Pleydell-Bouverie, RN), HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. P.B.N. Lewis, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski), HMCS Algonquin (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Piers, DSC, RCN) and HMCS Sioux (A/Lt.Cdr. E.E.G. Boak, RCN).

Ships of ' Force 1 ' was first to provide cover for Convoy JW 58 for part of it's passage to Northern Russia.

Around 1900A/30, ' Force 2 ' departed Scapa Flow. It was made up of the light cruisers HMS Royalist (Capt. M.H. Evelegh, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.W.la T. Bisset, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.T. Addis, DSO, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J. Hugh-Hallett, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSO, DSC, RN), escort carriers HMS Searcher (Capt. G.O.C. Davies, RN), HMS Pursuer (A/Capt. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Fencer (A/Capt. W.W.R. Bentinck, OBE, RN), HMS Emperor (A/Capt. T.J.N. Hilken, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Swift (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Gower, RN), HMS Verulam (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, DSC, RN), HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Virago (Lt.Cdr. A.J.R. White, RN) and HMS Wakeful (Lt.Cdr. G.D. Pound, DSC, RN).

The RFA oilers Black Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) and Blue Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) were also with ' Force 2 '.

Around 0250A/31, the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, DSO, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Undaunted (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Mackenzie, RD, RNR) and HMS Ursa (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, DSC, RN) joined ' Force 1 ' coming from Skaalefjord, Faeroer Islands.

Around 0340A/31, the original destroyer screen of ' Force 1 ' was detached to Skaalefjord arriving there later the same day.

On 2 April ' Force 1 ' fuelled its destroyers (by the battleships) and proceeded to join ' Force 2 ' coming from Scapa Flow for the upcoming Operation Tungsten. Rendezvous was effected around 1600A/2.

Some regrouping was done and the battleship HMS Duke of York and the destroyers HMS Marne and HMS Matchless parted company to proceed to position 74°00'N, 12°30'E from where they were to provide cover for the operation.

' Force 1 ' was now made up of HMS Anson, HMS Victorious, HMS Furious, HMS Belfast, HMS Jamaica, HMS Milne, HMS Meteor, HMS Swift, HMS Ursa, HMS Undaunted and HMS Virago. This force proceeded to the flying off position for Operation Tungsten which was in approximately 71°30'N, 19°00'E.

' Force 2 ' was now made up of HMS Royalist, HMS Sheffield, HMS Searcher, HMS Pursuer, HMS Fencer, HMS Emperor, HMS Onslaught, HMS Verulam, HMS Vigilant, HMS Wakeful, HMCS Algonquin and HMS Sioux.

And there was also ' Force 7 ' the oiling force made up of the RFA oilers Black Ranger, Blue Ranger escorted by ORP Piorun and HMS Javelin.

In the morning of 3 April, HMS Victorious and HMS Furious launched air strikes against the German battleship Tirpitz in the Altafjord. In two strikes the German battleship was hit by a total of 15 bombs. In total 123 of the crew of the Tirpitz were killed and 329 were wounded for the loss of only four British aircraft.

Course was then set by all units to return to Scapa Flow.

Around 1400A/3, the escort carrier HMS Searcher, which had developed engine trouble, parted company with ' Force 2 '. She was given an escort, made up of the the light cruiser HMS Jamaica and the destroyers HMS Virago and HMS Wakeful.

On 4 April the destroyer HMS Ulysses (Lt.Cdr. R.J. Hanson, DSO, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join ' Force 7 ', the oiling force as additional escort.

HMS Duke of York, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless arrived around 0915A/5.

' Force 1 ' and ' Force 2 ' arrived around 1600A/6.

Around 0115A/7, HMS Searcher, HMS Jamaica, HMS Virago and HMS Wakeful arrived at Scapa Flow.

Around 0330A/7, the fuelling force arrived at Scapa Flow. (2)

3 Apr 1944
HMS Fencer provided cover for Barracuda strike aircraft during Operation "Tungsten", attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway. (3)

13 Apr 1944

Operation Pitchbowl.

The object of this operation was to provide fighter protection to RAF Beaufighters operating in two strikes against shipping in the Norwegian Leads.

The light cruiser HMS Royalist (Capt. M.H. Evelegh, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.W.la T. Bisset, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.T. Addis, DSO, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. N.V. Grace, RN), escort carriers HMS Emperor (A/Capt. T.J.N. Hilken, DSO, RN), HMS Fencer (A/Capt. W.W.R. Bentinck, OBE, RN), HMS Pursuer (A/Capt. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Onslaught (Cdr. the Hon. A. Pleydell-Bouverie, RN), HMCS Sioux (A/Lt.Cdr. E.E.G. Boak, RCN) and ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski) left Scapa Flow to proceed to the flying off position in 62°00'N, 02°30'E.

Visibility was poor throughout the day and no flying was possible. On the following day, the first RAF strike was postponed owing to bad weather conditions and the force reversed its course.

In the afternoon of the 14th there was no improvement in the weather and the second RAF strike was also cancelled. The following day was the weather was the same and the operation was now abandoned. The force then returned to Scapa Flow arriving in the afternoon of the 15th. (4)

1 May 1944
German U-boat U-277 was sunk in the Arctic Ocean south-west of Bear Island, Norway, in position 73°24'N, 15°32'E, by depth charges from a British Swordfish aircraft (Sqdn. 842/C) from the British escort carrier HMS Fencer.

2 May 1944
German U-boat U-674 was sunk in the Norwegian Sea east of Jan Mayen Island, in position 70°32'N, 04°37'E, by rockets from a Swordfish aircraft (842 Sqn FAA/B) of the British escort carrier HMS Fencer.

2 May 1944
German U-boat U-959 was sunk south-east of Jan Mayen, in position 69°20'N, 00°20'W, by depth charges from a British Swordfish aircraft of the escort carrier HMS Fencer (Sqdn 842/K).

20 Jun 1944

Operation Wanderers.

The object of this operation was to create a diversion in Norwegian waters so that the enemy was tempted to retain his large U-boat force in that area.

The light cruisers HMS Royalist (Capt. M.H. Evelegh, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.W.la T. Bisset, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.T. Addis, DSO, RN), escort carriers HMS Striker (Capt. W.P. Carne, RN), HMS Fencer (A/Capt. W.W.R. Bentinck, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. M. Richmond, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN, HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Musketeer (Cdr. R.L. Fisher, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Wakeful (Lt.Cdr. G.D. Pound, DSC, RN) and WESSEX departed Scapa Flow on 20 June 1944.

No actual U-boats were sighted by the aircraft from the escort carriers.

The Force returned to Scapa Flow on 25 June 1944. (5)

28 Sep 1944

Operation Tenable.

Laying of air laid mines in Ramisoysund, Lepsoyrev, and Harhamsfjord.

The light cruiser HMS Euryalus (Capt. R. Oliver-Bellasis, RN), escort carriers HMS Fencer (A/Capt. W.W.R. Bentinck, OBE, RN), HMS Trumpeter (A/Capt. K.S. Colquhoun, RN) and the destroyers HMS Myngs (Capt. M.L. Power, CBE, RN), HMS Zambesi (Lt.Cdr. W. Scott, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Savage (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Malins, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Cambrian (Lt.Cdr. H.T. Harrel, RN), HMS Caprice (Lt.Cdr. G.W. McKendrick, RN) and HMS Cassandra (Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow on 28 September.

The Force reached the operational area, but the operation had to be abandoned owing to the weather conditions and the force returned to Scapa Flow on 2 October. (6)

13 Oct 1944

Operation Lycidas.

Laying of air laid mines in Lepsoyrev, Ramsoyund and Harhamsfjord.

The light cruiser HMS Euryalus (Capt. R. Oliver-Bellasis, RN), escort carriers HMS Fencer (A/Capt. W.W.R. Bentinck, OBE, RN), HMS Trumpeter (A/Capt. K.S. Colquhoun, RN) and the destroyers HMS Myngs (Capt. M.L. Power, CBE, RN), HMS Zambesi (Lt.Cdr. W. Scott, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Savage (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Malins, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Cambrian (Lt.Cdr. H.T. Harrel, RN), HMS Caprice (Lt.Cdr. G.W. McKendrick, RN) and HMS Cassandra (Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN).

The Force reached the operational area, but just like with operation Tenable (28 September - 2 October) the operation had to be abandoned owing to the weather conditions and the force returned to Scapa Flow on 17 October. (7)

8 Dec 1944
The escort carrier HMS Atheling (A/Cdr. H.L. Oliver, RN) and the destroyer HMS Wager (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Watkin, RN) departed Cochin to proceed to the Colombo area to make rendezvous with the light cruiser HMNZS Achilles (Capt. F.J. Butler, CBE, RN), escort carrier HMS Battler (A/Capt. H. Norman, RN) and the destroyer HMS Whelp (Cdr. G.A.F. Norfolk, RN) which had departed Colombo on the 9th.

Also on the 9th the light cruiser HMS Swiftsure (Capt. R.D. Oliver, CBE, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.J.P. Brind, CBE, CB, RN), escort carriers HMS Fencer (A/Capt. W.W.R. Bentinck, OBE, RN), HMS Striker (Capt. W.P. Carne, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kempenfelt (Capt. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN), HMS Wakeful (Lt.Cdr. G.D. Pound, DSC, RN) and HMS Wessex (Lt.Cdr. R. Horncastle, RN) departed Trincomalee.

In the morning of 10 December 1944, these ships made rendezvous and course was set for Australia.

The destroyers parted company in the early evening of the 11th to return to Ceylon.

In the early evening of the 16th, the cruisers parted company with the carriers to proceed to Fremantle. (8)

Sources

  1. ADM 173/18122
  2. ADM 199/1427
  3. Personal communication
  4. ADM 53/118996 + ADM 53/119343 + ADM 53/119422 + ADM 53/120283 + ADM 53/120421 + ADM 53/120485 + ADM 199/1427
  5. ADM 53/119424 + ADM 53/120423 + ADM 53/120487 + ADM 53/120560 + ADM 199/1427
  6. ADM 53/119415 + ADM 53/119416 + ADM 53/119427 + ADM 53/119428 + ADM 53/120647 + ADM 53/120648 + ADM 199/1426 + ADM 199/1427
  7. ADM 53/119416 + ADM 53/119428 + ADM 53/120648 + ADM 199/1426 + ADM 199/1427
  8. ADM 53/118758 + ADM 53/118910 + ADM 53/118957 + ADM 53/119430 + ADM 53/120566 + ADM 53/120605

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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