Allied Warships

HMS Puncher (D 79)

Escort Carrier of the Ameer class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeEscort Carrier
PennantD 79 
Built bySeattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp. (Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.) 
Laid down21 May 1943 
Launched8 Nov 1943 
Commissioned5 Feb 1944 
End service16 Jan 1946 

Transferred to the Royal Navy under lend-lease.
Altough she was Canadian manned she was not commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy.
Returned to the United States Navy on 16 January 1946.
Stricken by the United States Navy on 12 March 1946.
Sold into merchantile service being renamed Muncaster Castle.
Renamed Bardic in 1954.
Renamed Bennevis in 1959.
Scrapped in Taiwan in June 1973.

Former nameUSS Willapa

Commands listed for HMS Puncher (D 79)

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

1Cdr. Frederick Avery Price, RCNVR17 Jan 194410 Apr 1944
2Capt. Roger Edward Shelford Bidwell, RCN10 Apr 194416 Jan 1946

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Notable events involving Puncher include:

10 Feb 1945

Operation Selenium.

This operation had two objects, the first object was to destroy enemy shipping between Bud and Kvatholm. The second object was to lay air mines at Skateströmmen (near Maloy).

At 2300A/10, ' Force 1 ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. J.G.Y. Loveband, RN), light cruiser HMS Dido (Capt. R.F. Elkins, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Myngs (Capt. P.G.L. Cazalet, DSC, RN), HMS Scorpion (Cdr. C.W. McMullen, DSC, RN) and HMS Savage (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Malins, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), departed Scapa Flow and proceeded east of the Orkneys and the Shetlands, aiming to reach their operation area for the first part of the operation after dark on the 11th.

at 0900A/11, ' Force 2 ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN), escort carriers HMS Premier (A/Capt. R.J. Gardner, RN), HMS Puncher (Capt. R.E.S. Bidwell, RCN) and the destroyers HMS Cavendish (Cdr. R.H. Maurice, DSO, RN), HMS Cavalier (Lt.Cdr. D.T. McBarnet, RN), HMS Zebra (Lt.Cdr. E.C. Peake, RN) and HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN), departed Scapa Flow. They followed the same route as ' Force 1 ', adjusting course and speed so as to make rendezvous with ' Force 1 ' after their anti-shipping sweep in position 62°23'N, 02°00' between 0500A/12 and 0700A/12, when the forces were to join under air cover from the escort carriers. Rendezvous was effected at 0700A/12 and the Commanding Officer of HMS Devonshire assumed overall command. ' Force 1 ' had encountered no enemy vessels during their anti-shipping sweep during the night of 11/12 February. At 1000A/12 the air strike was flown off in ideal weather conditions.

The air laid lay was planned for eight mines, but only seven Avengers of 856 Squadron on board HMS Premier were serviceable, and these, together with four Wildcats from the same escort carrier and a further twelve from HMS Puncher, took departure at 1017A/12 from position 62°16'N, 01°48'E. Shortly afterwards one of the Avengers was forced to return with a heavy oil leak, but the remainder made landfall on Vaagso Island and, continuing up Faa Fjord, laid five mines in the channel at Skatestrommen. One aircraft was unable to release its mine and jettisoned it later at ' safe '. Little opposition was encountered and all aircraft returned to the escort carriers, being landed on by 1151A/12. One Wildcat from HMS Premier was found to have been hit by flak and two from HMS Puncher fired two short bursts from its guns in the process by accident, causing five casualties and damaging a Barracuda parked on the starboard side of the flight deck.

When all aircraft of the strike had been recovered the combines fores retired to Scapa Flow, using the same route as on the outwards passage. HMS Norfolk and HMS Dido were detached at 1735A/12 to return at high speed unescorted. They arrived at Scapa Flow at 0330A/13. The remaining ships arrived around 1050A/13. (1)

6 Apr 1945

Operation Newmarket.

Air attacks on German submarine tenders at Kilbotn, Norway.

The escort carriers HMS Searcher (Capt. J.W. Grant, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Puncher (Capt. R.E.S. Bidwell, RCN), HMS Queen (A/Capt. K.J. D'Arcy, DSO, RN), HMS Trumpeter (A/Capt. K.S. Colquhoun, RN), light cruisers HMS Birmingham (Capt. H.W. Williams, RN), HMS Bellona (Capt. G.S. Tuck, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Offa (Lt.Cdr. E.M. Thorpe, DSO, RN), HMS Scorpion (Cdr. C.W. McMullen, DSC, RN), HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. C.G.H. Brown, DSC, RN), HMS Zambesi (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Palmer, RN), HMS Zealous (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Zest (Lt.Cdr. R.B.N. Hicks, DSO, RN) and HMS Carysfort (Lt.Cdr. L.St.G. Rich, DSO and Bar, RN) departed Scapa Flow around 0700B/6, to conduct air strikes against German submarine tenders off Kilbotn, Norway.

The operation however had to be cancelled due to the weather conditions rendering flying impossible. The ships remained in the area for about three days but weather did not improve.

The ships returned to Scapa Flow around 2130B/12. (2)


  1. ADM 53/121216 + ADM/53121929 + ADM 53/121239 + ADM 53/122003 + ADM 53/122036 + ADM 199/1440 + ADM 234/560 + ADM 234/561
  2. ADM 199/1440

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

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