Allied Warships

HMS Alcantara (F 88)

Armed Merchant Cruiser

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeArmed Merchant Cruiser
Class[No specific class] 
PennantF 88 
Built byHarland & Wolff Ltd. (Belfast, Northern Island) 
Laid down 
Launched 1926 
Commissioned20 Dec 1939 
End service29 Jun 1943 

laid down as Amazon, completed as Alcantara.
On 25 September 1939 the passenger ship Alcantara of the Royal Mail Lines Ltd, London was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Conversion was completed on 20 December 1939.

Displacement: 22209 BRT
Armament: 8x 152mm, 2x 76mm
Speed: 19 knots

January 40 - April 43: South Atlantic Station
May 43: West Africa Command

On 29 June 1943 returned and used as troopship by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT).


Commands listed for HMS Alcantara (F 88)

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1Capt. (retired) James Geoffrey Penrose Ingham, DSO, RN12 Sep 193916 Sep 1941
2A/Capt. (retired) John Douglas Harvey, RN16 Sep 1941mid 1943

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Notable events involving Alcantara include:

4 Oct 1939
HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN) and HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN) departed Malta to make rendez-vous with convoy Red 2 which was made up of the troopships Athlone Castle (25564 GRT, built 1936), Empress of Australia (21833 GRT, built 1914) and Franconia (20175 GRT, built 1923). These were on passage to the Far East and were being escorted at that time by the armed merchant cruiser (not outfitted yet) HMS Alcantara (Capt.(Retd.) J.G.P. Ingham, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall A'Deane, RN) and HMS Glowworm (Lt.Cdr. G.B. Roope, RN).

The 'D-class' destroyers joined the convoy the next morning.

20 Feb 1940
HMS Hawkins (Capt. E. Rotherham, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir H. Harwood, KCB, OBE, RN) and HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN), which were still on patrol in the 'Rio de Janeiro area' were joined by HMS Alcantara (Capt.(Retd.) J.G.P. Ingham, DSO, RN). She parted company the next day. (1)

28 Jul 1940
The armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara (Capt.(retd.) J.P.G. Ingham, DSO, RN) had a gun duel with the German auxiliary cruiser Thor in the south Atlantic east of Brazil in position 24°30'S, 31°56'W and was badly damaged, while the German ship escaped.

5 Mar 1941
The battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara (Capt.(Retd.) J.G.P. Ingham, DSO, RN) and the troopships Strathmore (British, 23428 GRT, built 1935) departed Greenock for Gibraltar. They escorted by the destroyers HMCS Ottawa (Cdr. E.R. Mainguy, RCN), HMCS Assiniboine (A/Lt.Cdr. J.H. Stubbs, RCN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN) and HMS Churchill (Cdr.(Retd.) G.R. Cousins, RN).

On the 6th HMS Alcantara was detached as were all the destroyers.

Around 2200/8, the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) joined HMS Repulse, HMS Furious and the Strathmore to escort them to Gibraltar.

HMS Repulse and HMS Furious were however ordered to proceed at high speed to Gibraltar which they did escorted by HMS Foxhound. The other destroyers escorted the Strathmore to Gibraltar.

30 Mar 1941
HMS Severn (Lt.Cdr. A.N.G. Campbell, RN) departed Freetown for her 11th war patrol. She was ordered to participate in a special operation (Operation Grab) in which four Italian submarines coming from the Red Sea and their German supply vessel/tanker were to be intercepted. The British had discovered where these ships were to make rendez-vous though 'Ultra' (code breaking) and decided to spoil 'the party'.

Besides HMS Severn the armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara (Capt. (Retd.) J.G.P. Ingham, DSO, RN) and the sloops HMS Milford (Cdr. (Retd.) the Hon. V.M. Wyndham-Quin, RN) and HMS Bridgewater (A/Cdr. (Retd.) H.F.G. Leftwich, RN) were also involved in this operation. (2)

31 May 1941
Around noon (zone PO = +2.5), HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral F.H. Pegram, DSO, RN) made rendezvous with HMS Alcantara (Capt.(Retd.) J.G.P. Ingham, DSO, RN) south-west of Rio de Janeiro in position 25°33'S, 44°31'W. Shortly afterwards they both proceeded to patrol the area but not in company with each other. (3)

4 Aug 1942
HMS Caradoc (Capt. J.W. Josselyn, DSC, RN) departed Simonstown to make rendezvous with the armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara (A/Capt.(retd.) J.D. Harvey, RN) and take over the escort of the cable laying ship John W. MacKay (British, 4049 GRT, built 1922).

Rendezvous was effected around 1000B/5.

HMS Caradoc and the John W. MacKay arrived at Capetown on August 7th. (4)

28 Nov 1942
HMS Alcantara (A/Capt.(retd.) J.D. Harvey, RN) picks up 18 survivors from the American merchant Jeremiah Wadsworth that was torpedoed and sunk the previous day by German U-boat U-178 about 270 nautical miles south of Cape Agulhas, South Africa in position 39°25'S, 22°23'E.


  1. ADM 53/112032
  2. ADM 173/16980 + ADM 199/1886
  3. ADM 53/113565 + ADM 53/114785
  4. ADM 53/115507

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

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