HMS Empress (D 42)
Escort Carrier of the Ameer class
|Navy||The Royal Navy|
|Built by||Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp. (Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.)|
|Laid down||9 Sep 1942|
|Launched||31 Dec 1942|
|Commissioned||9 Aug 1943|
|End service||4 Feb 1946|
Transferred to the Royal Navy under lend-lease.
|Former name||USS Carnegie|
Commands listed for HMS Empress (D 42)
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|1||Cdr. Thomas Neville Masterman, RN||Aug 1943||Nov 1943|
|2||A/Capt. Henry Austin Traill, OBE, RN||Nov 1943||10 Apr 1945|
|3||Capt. John Ronald Stewart Brown, RN||10 Apr 1945||9 Jan 1946|
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Notable events involving Empress include:
At 1615FG/13, HMS Queen Elizabeth entered Colombo harbour, the destroyers having parted company off the harbour entrance to return to Trincomalee.
22 Feb 1945
Photographic reconnaissance of Penang and the Kra Isthmus between latitudes 7°N and 10°N, and of Northern Sumatra.
On 22 February 1945, ' Force 62 ', made up of the escort carriers HMS Empress (Capt. H.A. Traill, OBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.T.C. Walker, CB, RN), HMS Ameer (A/Capt. J.H. Lewes, OBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. C.L. Robertson, RN), destroyers HMS Volage (Cdr. L.G. Durlacher, OBE, RN), HMS Virago (Lt.Cdr. A.J.R. White, RN), HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN) and the frigates HMS Spey (T/Lt.Cdr. A. Harrison, RNR), HMS Plym (T/A/Lt.Cdr. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Swale (A/Lt.Cdr. P.V. Collings, DSC, RNR).
The escorts were refuelled in the morning / early afternoon of February 24th. HMS Volage and HMS Vigilant were fuelled by HMS Kenya. fuelled HMS Virago and HMS Plym. HMS Ameer fuelled HMS Spey
A tanker force was also deployed, ' Force 61 ', which was made up of the RFA tanker Echodale (8150 GRT, built 1941) escorted by the frigate HMS Trent (T/A/Lt.Cdr. J.G. Rankin, DSC, RNR). They departed Trincomalee on 26 February 1945.
In the evening of 26 February HMS Spey was detached with defects. She joined the refuelling force.
Photographic reconnaissance of the Kra Isthmus and Penang was carried out successfully between 26th and 28th February. Three enemy aircraft were shot down by Allied fighters without loss.
Force 62 proceeded to rendezvous with the oiling force on 2 March 1945 and continue the operation.
Force 62 then proceeded to a flying off position north west of Simalur Island. On 4 March 1945 a successful photographic reconnaissance was made of the northeast coast of Sumatra, and of Niass, Simalur, and Banjak Islands.
Force 62 arrived at Trincomalee on 7 March 1945. (3)
27 Apr 1945
Carrier raid and surface bombardment of Car Nicobar and Port Blair and to provide cover for Operation Dracula which are amphibious landings off Rangoon, Burma.
On 27 April 1945 ships from the Eastern Fleet put to sea from Trincomalee, Ceylon for operation Bishop. These ships formed Task ' Force 63 '. This task force was, at that moment, made up of the following ships: battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth (Capt. R.M. Ellis, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice Admiral H.C.T. Walker, CB, RN), Richelieu (Capt. G.M.J. Merveilleux du Vignaux), escort carriers HMS Shah (Capt. W.J. Yendell, RN), HMS Empress (Capt. J.R.S. Brown, RN), heavy cruisers HMS Cumberland (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN), HMS Suffolk (Capt. D. Gilmour, RN), light cruisers HMS Ceylon (Capt. G.B. Amery-Parkes, RN), HrMs Tromp (A/Capt. F. Stam, RNN) and the destroyers HMS Rotherham (Capt. H.W. Biggs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Tartar (Capt. B. Jones, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. A.H. Diack, DSC and Bar, RN). Two more destroyers were sent out to join this task force later; HMS Nubian (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) and HMS Verulam (Lt.Cdr. D.H.R. Bromley, DSC, RN). These two destroyers actually joined on the 29th.
An oiling force (Task Force 69), made up of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers Olwen (6470 GRT, built 1917) and Easedale (8032 GRT, built 1942) escorted by the destroyer HMS Paladin (Lt. H.R. Hewlett, RN) had departed Trinomalee on the 26th. HrMs Tromp and the destroyers were fuelled from this force on the 29th.
At dawn on the 30th air attacks were carried out against Car Nicobar followed by a bombardment of the airfields At 0600/30, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Cumberland opened fire on the southern and northern airfields respectively from a range of 18000 yards Both ships soon found the range and it was not possible for any aircraft to take off after the bombardment. HMS Suffolk and HMS Ceylon then bombarded enemy AA positions. Shortly after sunrise around 0700 hours the destroyers HMS Rotherham, HMS Nubian and HMS Verulam started to bombard the settlement of Malacca. Soon afterwards a large fire, thought to be petrol, was seen near the jetty and another on one the southern airfield. At 0710 hours cease fire was ordered and a fighter strike was then commenced. They dropped bombs on and then strafed the airfields. At 0735 hours, after the fighter strike was over, the battleshios HMS Queen Elizabeth and Richelieu opened fire to crater the runways. They continued to fire on the runways until 0805 and 0809 respectively. Capt. (D) 11th destroyer flotilla on board HMS Rotherham meanwhile reported that the jetty at Malacca had been severly damaged and that two steam coasters and five small vessels had been destroyed.
At 1530/30, Richelieu, HMS Cumberland and HMS Rotherham were sent ahead to bombard Port Blair while on a northerly course. At 1730 hours Richelieu opened fire on the southern airfield and Cumberland on a coastal battery. Both firings were spotted by Hellcat fighters from the escort carriers. Later HMS Rotherham also engaged coastal batteries but from a closer range. Around 1835 hours these ships completed their bombardment but then HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Suffolk, HrMs Tromp, HMS Tartar and HMS Penn took over. Queen Elizabeth engaged the airfields while Suffolk worked over the marine yards with the same aircraft that had spotted for Richelieu and Cumberland. The other three ships engaged shore batteries. By the time the bombardment ceased after about 40 minutes the airfields were well cratered and hits were obtained on a lot of other targets. After the bombardment HrMs Tromp reported that she had seven wounded, two seriously (they both died later) from two near misses, at least that was thought at that moment. Later investigation however showed that the explosion was caused by American manufactured defective ammunition and not by enemy fire. Both bombarding forces then retired to the south an re-joined the escort carriers which had provided them with fighter cover during their bombardments.
During the night all ships proceeded southwards so as to bombard Car Nicobar a second time at dawn. At 0720/1 HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Suffolk opened fire on their target. After cratering the northern airfield Queen Elizabeth shifted target to the southern airfield at 0741 hours and carried out yet another effective shoot. At 0755 hours both ships ceased fire. HMS Cumberland and HMS Ceylon then took over. The French battleship Richelieu however did not participate in the bombardment this time as she had already expended her ammunition allowance. Cumberland enganged targets at/near the northern airfield and HMS Ceylon did the same working over the southern airfield. HMS Tartar was sent ahead to bombard the jetty at and targets in the village of Malacca. At 0915 hours all ships were again in one force and course was set to the north to conduct another bombardment of Port Blair but this time approaching from the north.
At 0800/2 HMS Queen Elizabeth opened fire on the runways of the airports and HMS Suffolk on coastal batteries. Again considerable damage was done to the airports and also a large petrol fire was started at one of them. At 0845 hours Richelieu (firing 6” from her secondary armament at the marine jetty) and HMS Cumberland took over. HMS Rotherham was ordered to take out an AA battery that was firing at the spotter aircraft and in this she succeded.
In the afternoon a signal was received that the landing off Rangoon had been successful and without opposition. The force now retired to the north-east for her cover position during operation Dracula.
On 4 May rendes-vous was again made with the oiling force and all ships were fueled by the Olwen. HMS Penn then remained with the Olwen while HMS Paladin joined Task Force 64.
On 6 May bombardments and air strikes were again carried out in the Port Blair area. As of 0700/6 HMS Empress started to launch fourteen Hellcats while HMS Shah launched eight Avengers and four Hellcats. At 0800 hours, HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Suffolk, HrMs Tromp and HMS Paladin opened fire on AA and coastal batteries in the vicinity of Phoenix Harbour, Hopetown Island and Ross Island in order to neutralise these defences for the air strike. At 0814 hours the air strike leaded ordered cease fire and a few minutes later the aircraft started attacking shipping inside Port Blair harbour. One aircraft was hit by enemy AA fire and failed to return to it’s carrier. HMS Tartar made a search for it but was unable to locate the aircraft or it’s pilot.
At 1730/6 HMS Queen Elizabeth bombarded a 6” gun known to be at Stewart Sound. The bombardment was completed at 1809 hours. HMS Suffolk meanwhile bombarded a pillbox on Sound Island with her 4” armament and appeared to have set the target on fire.
On 7 May another air attack was made on Car Nicobar by the carriers with a total of 10 Hellcats. With this air attack over course was set to return to Trincomalee.
A part of Task Force 63 returned to Trincomalee on 7 May, these were Richelieu, HMS Cumberland, HMS Ceylon, most likely escorted by HMS Rotherham, HMS Verulam and HMS Penn.
The other ships returned on 9 May. (5)
19 Jul 1945
Sweeping of mines off Phuket; bombardment and air strikes directed against appropriate targets.
'Force 63' departed Trincomalee on 19 July 1945. It was made up of the following warships; battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. C. Caslon, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice Admiral H.C.T. Walker, CB, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Sussex (Capt. A.F. de Salis, DSO, RN), escort carriers HMS Ameer (Cdr. P.D.H.R. Pelly, DSO, RN), HMS Empress (Capt. J.R.S. Brown, RN), destroyers HMS Rotherham (Capt. H.W. Biggs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Racehorse (Cdr. J.J. Casement, DSC, RN), HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Lt. H.R. Hewlett, RN) and the minesweepers HMS Pincher (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.B. Blake, RNVR), HMS Plucky (T/A/Lt.Cdr. G. Wallis, RNVR), HMS Squirrel (Lt. M. Buist, RN), HMS Rifleman (Lt. C.L. Carroll, DSC, RNR), HMS Vestal (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Porter, DSC, RN), HMIS Punjab(Lt. A.V. Baker, RIN) and HMS Deccan as attached danlayers.
The force passed through Sombrero Channel during the night of 22/23 July 1945 and arrived off Phuket in the morning of 24 July.
The area which had been given first priority was cleared of mines of as a result of operations carried out of 24th, 25th, and 26th July. A total of 24 mines were swept.
During the minesweeping operations HMS Squirrel was mined and damaged forward. Two and a half hours after hitting the mine she took a heavy list and therefore had to be sunk by our own forces. Seven ratings were lost with the ship.
In strikes against targets on the Kraa Isthumus, our aircraft achieved commendable results. Three small ships were destroyed and eleven others strafed in the Singora area, while fifteen locomotives were put out of action and rolling stock strafed on the railway system between Bandon and Dhungsong. A camp at Huatsei was bombed. One Sungei Patani airfield six grounded aircraft were destroyed, three left burning and two others hit. In all these operations only one Hellcat fighter was lost.
On 26 July 1945 attacks by enemy suicide aircraft were launched against units of 'Force 63'. One of these aircraft was shot down in flames by HMS Ameer and two were shot down by HMS Sussex. HMS Vestal was hit by a suicide aircraft, caught fire and had to be sunk by our own forces. Fifteen ratings were lost with the ship. Another enemy suicide aircraft bounced on the water and hit the side of HMS Sussex which sustained some hull damage above the waterline, but remained fully operational.
'Force 63' left the area of operation p.m. on 26 July and returned to Trincomalee where it arrived on 30 July. (3)
- ADM 53/122069
- ADM 53/121328 + ADM 53/121583
- ADM 199/1457
- ADM 53/121329 + ADM 53/122070
- Files 2.12.03.6854 and 188.8.131.52 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands) and WO 203 / 4778 and ADM 199 / 193 (British National Archives, Kew, London)
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.