Allied Warships

HMS Unicorn (D 72)

Aircraft Carrier of the Unicorn class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeAircraft Carrier
PennantD 72 
Built byHarland & Wolff Ltd. (Belfast, Northern Ireland) 
Ordered14 Apr 1939 
Laid down29 Jun 1939 
Launched20 Nov 1941 
Commissioned12 Mar 1943 
End service 

On 24 March 1943, aircraft embarked in HMS Unicorn for deck landing training in the Clyde and A/S operations around UK waters. Later HMS Unicorn was attached to the Home Fleet and carried out a sweep to the north of Norway with HMS Illustrious.

In late August 1943, Unicorn was part of Force H, provided support and air cover along with the carriers HMS Illustrious and HMS Formidable in the Salerno Allied landings on mainland Italy.

HMS Unicorn then reverted to supply and repair duties, for aircraft repair and transport, and fleet backup and support. By early 1944, HMS Unicorn was in the Far East, still doubling as operational carrier pending the delayed arrival of the HMS Victorious.

When she returned home from Australia after the war she was stuffed with food.

Laid up for several years after the war, she was reactivated for the Korean War. Between June 1950 and October 1953, HMS Unicorn filled a vital support role to the Royal Navy and Commonwealth Aircraft carriers in Korean waters and on several occassions accompanied the operational carrier to the forward area, flying her own aircraft and acting as a spare deck. On one occasion she engaged enemy positions in North Korea with her own 4inch guns, thereby becoming more closely engaged than any of the other carriers.

HMS Unicorn was sold for scrap on 15 June 1959, and was stripped at Dalmuir and hull broken up at Troon from March 1960.


Commands listed for HMS Unicorn (D 72)

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1Capt. Quintin Dick Graham, RN30 Nov 19427 Oct 1943
2Capt. Henry Lockhart St. John Fancourt, DSO, RN7 Oct 194323 Dec 1944
3A/Capt. (retired) Christopher McCabe Merewether, RN7 Oct 19441 Feb 1946

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Notable events involving Unicorn include:

28 May 1943

Convoy MKF 15.

This convoy departed Algiers on 28 May 1943 for the U.K.

On departure from Algiers the convoy was made up of the following ships; Antenor (British, 11174 GRT, built 1925), Arawa (British, 14462 GRT, built 1922), Boissevain (Dutch, 14134 GRT, built 1937), California (British, 16792 GRT, built 1923), Duchess of York (British, 20021 GRT, built 1929), Felix Roussel (French, 17083 GRT, built 1930), Franconia (British, 20175 GRT, built 1923), Indrapoera (Dutch, 10825 GRT, built 1925), Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (Dutch, 19429 GRT, built 1930), Letitia (British, 13595 GRT, built 1925), Mooltan (British, 20952 GRT, built 1923), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917), Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921) and Santa Rosa (American, 9135 GRT, built 1932).

The convoy was escorted by the British sloop HMS Weston (Cdr. L.F. Durnford-Slater, RN), HMS Wellington (Lt.Cdr. J.T. Jones, RD, RNR), HMS Lowestoft (A/Cdr.(Retd.) L.H. Phillips, RN), HMS Gorleston (Cdr.(Retd.) R.W. Keymer, RN), HMS Totland (Lt.Cdr. L.E. Woodhouse, RN) and the frigates HMS Exe (A/Cdr. M.A.O. Biddulph, DSC, RN) and HMS Ness (Lt.Cdr. T.G.P. Crick, DSC, RN).

On 29 May, off Oran, the convoy was joined by the following ships; Cristobal (American, 10021 GRT, built 1939), Dartmouth (American, 9879 GRT, built 1943), Examiner (American, 6736 GRT, built 1942), General George W. Goethals (American, 12093 GRT, built 1942), J.W. McAndrew (American, 7997 GRT, built 1940), John Ericson (American, 16552 GRT, built 1928), Nea Hellas (British, 16991 GRT, built 1922), Seafrain Lakehurst (American, 8108 GRT, built 1940), Staffordhire (British, 10683 GRT, built 1929) and Stirling Castle (British, 25550 GRT, built 1936).

On 30 May the convoy was off Gibraltar. There two more ships joined the convoy, these were; Maloja (British, 20914 GRT, built 1923) and Scythia (British, 19761 GRT, built 1920). Also six ships were detached to Gibraltar, these were the; Arawa, Dartmouth, Examiner, Seafrain Lakehurst, Staffordshire and Stirling Castle.

The following warships joined the escort of the convoy off Gibraltar; aircraft carrier HMS Unicorn (Capt. Q.D. Graham, CBE, DSO, RN), ecort carrier HMS Tracker (A/Capt. G.C. Dickins, RN) and the destroyers HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Alliston, DSC, RN) and HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, DSO, DSC, RN).

The sloop HMS Totland was detached to proceed to Gibraltar for repairs as she had defects.

On 1 June 1943, the Scythia was detached.

At 1200 hours on 4 June, HMS Unicorn, HMS Tracker, HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin parted company with the convoy and proceeded ahead of it to the Clyde (HMS Tracker to Belfast).

30 May 1943
HMS Unicorn (Capt. Q.D. Graham, CBE, DSO, RN), ecort carrier HMS Tracker (A/Capt. G.C. Dickins, RN) and the destroyers HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Alliston, DSC, RN) and HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, DSO, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar to join the escort of convoy MKF 15. (1)

4 Jun 1943
HMS Unicorn (Capt. Q.D. Graham, CBE, DSO, RN), ecort carrier HMS Tracker (A/Capt. G.C. Dickins, RN) and the destroyers HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Alliston, DSC, RN) and HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, DSO, DSC, RN) were detached at 1200 hours from the escort of convoy MKF 15. Around 1400 hours HMS Tracker was detached to Belfast. The other three ships arrived at Greenock early in the evening. (1)

22 Jul 1943
The battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. G.E.M. O’Donnell, DSO, RN) and the aircraft carrier HMS Unicorn (Capt. Q.D. Graham, CBE, DSO, RN) departed Greenock for Scapa Flow.

They were escorted by HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.C.A. Ingram, DSC, RN), HMS Obedient (Lt.Cdr. H. Unwin, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, DSO, RN).

They arrived at Scapa Flow on 23 July 1943. (2)

13 Dec 1943
HMS Tradewind (Lt.Cdr. S.L.C. Maydon, DSO and Bar, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area with aircraft from HMS Unicorn (Capt. H.L.St.J. Fancourt, DSO, RN). Upon completion of these exercises HMS Tradewind proceeded to Rosneath for wiping. (3)


  1. ADM 199/639
  2. ADM 53/117882 + ADM 199/632
  3. ADM 173/18251

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

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