Merchant aircraft carrier

A merchant aircraft carrier (also known as a MAC) was a limited-purpose aircraft carrier operated under British and Dutch civilian registry during World War II. MACs were adapted by adding a flight deck to a bulk grain ship or oil tanker enabling it to operate anti-submarine aircraft in support of Allied convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Despite their quasi-military function, MACs retained their mercantile status, continued to carry cargo and operated under civilian command. MACs began entering service in May 1943 and although originally intended as an interim measure pending the introduction of escort carriers, they remained operational until the end of the war in Europe.

Mv rapana
M/V Rapana, an oil tanker converted into a merchant aircraft carrier. MACs were introduced to provide air cover for convoys until sufficient escort carriers became available to replace them.

Development

In 1940, Captain M. S. Slattery RN, Director of Air Material at the Admiralty, proposed a scheme for converting merchant ships into aircraft carriers as a follow-up to the CAM ship project.[1][2] Slattery proposed fitting a flight deck equipped with two arrester wires and a safety barrier onto an existing merchant ship hull. The resulting 'auxiliary fighter carrier' would be capable of operating six Hurricane fighters while retaining its cargo-carrying ability. The stumbling block for Slattery's proposal turned out to be objections from the Ministry of Supply that combining the merchant and aircraft carrier roles would be too complicated.[2] While this would turn out to be over-stated, it seems to have had the effect of diverting attention away from the idea of hybrid merchant-warships towards the alternative of converting merchant ships into fully-fledged warships designated 'auxiliary aircraft carriers', the first of which, converted from the captured German cargo ship Hannover, entered service as Empire Audacity (later HMS Audacity) in June 1941.[2][3]

The hybrid concept re-emerged early in 1942 when, in the face of mounting losses from U-boat attacks, it became apparent that escort carriers building in the US could not be delivered quickly enough in the numbers required.[4] Various people have been credited with re-inventing the idea, including Captain B. B. Schofield RN, Director Trade Division, and John Lamb, Marine Technical Manager of the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company.[5][6][7] Sir James Lithgow, Controller of Merchant Shipbuilding and Repair and joint-owner of Lithgows Ltd, the Clyde-based shipbuilders, also helped overcome Admiralty reservations about MACs. Lithgow is said to have sketched a rough design for one on the back of an envelope and offered to convert two ships about to be built at his family's shipyard on condition that "I am not interfered with by the Admiralty".[8] While the timing of Lithgow's possibly apocryphal intervention is uncertain, his deputy, Sir Amos Ayre, the Director of Merchant Shipbuilding, was certainly discussing the requirements for MACs by May 1942.[9] Ayre himself credits Sir Douglas Thomson of Ben Line and the Ministry of War Transport with having first suggested the idea.[6]

There was some initial resistance to the MAC concept, in particular through concerns about operating aircraft from short, relatively slow ships. The Admiralty considered that a flight deck length of 460 feet (140 m) was needed for safe take-offs and landings and a speed of 15 kn. to provide a sufficient margin over convoy speeds and they were especially doubtful that tankers, with their low freeboards and volatile cargoes, could be utilised.[2][10] As the U-boat situation worsened, however, such concerns were out-weighed by the urgent need to provide convoy air support, and once it was accepted that the grain ship variant at least could be made to work, the Admiralty became more enthusiastic about the project.

By September 1942, the Admiralty was asking for 'about 50' MACs to be made available, to allow one to be included in every North Atlantic convoy and in October the requirement was set at 52.[11][12] This ambitious target had been scaled back to 40 by the time the MAC project was formally endorsed by the War Cabinet in October 1942, but it was apparent that even this reduced number could not be produced sufficiently quickly without American help.[10][13] The US was therefore asked to begin construction of 30 MACs to be delivered during the first half of 1943, but a Navy Department committee specially formed to consider the request turned it down because of concerns about the experimental nature of the ships.[14][15] In the event, all the MACs were built and/or converted in British shipyards.

Conversion programme

The first two MACs were ordered in June 1942 from the Burntisland Shipbuilding Company on the Firth of Forth and William Denny & Brothers of Dumbarton. These ships, which were not strictly conversions but brand-new grain ships that had not yet been laid down, would eventually enter service as Empire MacAlpine and Empire MacAndrew respectively.[16] Empire MacAlpine was launched on 23 December 1942 and completed more-or-less on schedule on 21 April 1943. Five more new-build grain ships, Empire MacAndrew, Empire MacRae, Empire MacCallum, Empire MacKendrick and Empire MacDermott followed at approximately two-month intervals, Empire MacDermott entering service in March 1944.

By late September 1942 it was finally agreed that tanker-MACs could be operated safely subject to various limitations about the cargoes they would be allowed to carry. Four new-build tankers were scheduled for conversion but work on these did not start until May 1943. Empire MacKay entered service in October 1943, followed at intervals by Empire MacCabe, Empire MacMahon and Empire MacColl in November 1943. Additional hulls were still needed, however, and it was decided that existing tankers would have to be withdrawn from trade. The most efficient way to approach the task of converting these was to select ships of similar design and, at the beginning of 1943, the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company, which had actively promoted the MAC concept, offered up its entire fleet of British-registered 'Triple Twelve' tankers (sometimes referred to as the Rapana class) for government charter.[17][18][19]

The desirability of converting foreign-owned tankers was also considered and in January 1943 the Ministry of War Transport asked the Norwegian government-in-exile if the modern Norwegian tanker B.P. Newton could be converted to a MAC under British command. The initial response was not helpful with Norway insisting on financial arrangements that War Transport officials described as "wholly unreasonable as between allies", but although these were later ameliorated, the proposal eventually foundered because the design effort was judged too much for what would have been a one-off conversion.[20][21] At about the same time however, a further three tankers of the same class as the Anglo-Saxon 'Triple Twelves' were identified operating under Dutch registry (Anglo-Saxon Petroleum was a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell). The Netherlands authorities approved the British request but on condition that the ships, as MACs, would fly the Dutch flag and be under Dutch civilian command to which the Admiralty, citing potential language difficulties, only reluctantly agreed.[22][23] In the event, only two of the Dutch ships were taken up as MACs but these, Gadila and Macoma, crewed entirely by Dutch merchant seamen and with aircraft flights drawn from the Royal Netherlands Navy-manned 860 Naval Air Squadron would have the distinction of becoming the Netherlands' first aircraft carriers.[24]

Civilian status

Despite their military appearance and combatant function, MACs were civilian ships that did not appear in the Navy List nor were they commanded by commissioned officers: this unusual status is one of their defining characteristics. The hybrid nature of the MACs raised from the outset the question of whether they would be commissioned warships like the new escort carriers, or if they would operate as merchant ships under the Red Ensign like the earlier CAM ships. The Admiralty's preference was to operate them as regular warships but it soon became clear that there were not enough personnel available to man them to naval standards without causing serious shortfalls in other areas, in particular the large numbers of escort carriers that would soon arrive.[25] The Admiralty and Ministry of War Transport therefore agreed that the MACs would be civilian-manned. Serious reservations about the proposed civilian status were raised, however, by Foreign Office officials, who were concerned that the ships would be de facto warships under international law but, without the protection afforded by the 1907 Hague Convention which applied only to members of the armed forces, their civilian crews would be liable to be treated as unlawful combatants, or francs-tireurs.[26] The potential for such action had been clearly demonstrated by the execution in 1916 of Captain Charles Fryatt, for attempting to ram a U-boat with his cross-Channel ferry. The risk to MAC crews was considered so great that it was explicitly put before the War Cabinet:

"The greater the effect of air action on the U-boat campaign, the more the enemy may be tempted to try to damage the morale of M.A.C. crews by court martialling and shooting any Merchant Service personnel they may capture from such ships."[13]

The War Cabinet ordered a review of the situation but the manning difficulties could not be resolved. The Foreign Office reluctantly agreed that the MACs would have to operate under the Red Ensign, provided that the merchant seamen and their unions were made aware of the risks involved, and that every possible precaution would be taken to ensure that the men did not fall into enemy hands.[27] In the event, there is little to suggest that the MACs' crews were ever formally notified that they might be at special risk. There is evidence, however, that the authorities remained sensitive about the status of MAC ships which were specifically excluded from the publicity that was arranged for other 'special service' merchant ships, e.g. rescue ships.[28] As late as September 1944, masters were reminded to point out to their crews the need to maintain secrecy about the MACs' operations and functions.[29]

Ship details

The new-build grain ship MACs were based on the Ministry of War Transport's standard tramp hull which could just accommodate the Admiralty's revised requirement for a flight deck of not less than 390 feet (120 m) length and 62 feet (19 m) breadth: they were eventually built with flight decks of between 413 and 424 feet (126 and 129 m). The standard design used for the new-build tankers enabled a longer flight deck of approximately 460 feet (140 m) with minor variations between individual ships.[6] An important enhancement was specified for the MACs' machinery. A standard diesel tramp engine developed 2,500 bhp (1,900 kW) to give a service speed of 11 kn. but to provide some margin for flying operations, all the new-build MACs were fitted with engines rated at 3,300 bhp (2,500 kW) which, in the grain ships, produced a speed of about 12 kn. The new-build tankers with their higher displacements were still capable of 11 kn. as were the pre-existing 'Triple Twelves'.[6] The most obvious modification was the flight deck and its supporting structure which was arranged in sections (three on the grain ships; four in the case of tankers) with expansion joints between each.[6] The flight deck was built at the level that would normally have been occupied by the wheelhouse and in the 'Triple Twelves' this entailed removal of the existing wheelhouse and the funnel. The space immediately under the flight deck was utilised for the arrester gear mechanisms, four wires to each MAC with an additional unit fitted to the tankers to operate the trickle wire and safety barrier.[6] A small island structure contained the bridge and wheelhouse and, in the tanker MACs, a chartroom that could be used as a pilots' briefing room. Less apparent modifications included; accommodation for 107 crew (about 50 more than normal); improved internal subdivision; additional ventilation, including exhaust arrangements that could be adjusted to vent to the leeward side; changes to lifeboat positions; and magazines for the safe stowage of bombs, depth charges, ammunition and pyrotechnics.[6] There were minor variations between the types. In the grain MACs, the armament sponsons or 'zarebas' could not project outboard of the moulded line of the hull which necessitated them encroaching onto the flight deck area so that the ship would not be prevented from using commercial berths, but this constraint did not apply to the tankers whose zarebas were extended outboard of the side. One centre cargo tank in each tanker was adapted for the carriage of aircraft fuel (or 'Avgas') but in the grain ships this necessitated a special compartment containing two pressurised fuel tanks, together with a control room and associated piping.[6]

The most significant difference between the grain ship and tanker MACs was the provision of hangar space within the grain ships. The three after holds were converted to provide a hangar 142 feet (43 m) long, 38 feet (12 m) wide to a height of 24 feet (7.3 m) in which the ship's full complement of four Swordfish aircraft could be stowed with wings folded.[6] An elevator platform could lift a fully loaded aircraft from hangar to deck level in less than a minute.[6] It was impracticable to fit tanker MACs with a hangar as this would have entailed very extensive structural alterations and a significant reduction in cargo capacity. Although capable of operating four aircraft, tanker MACs normally embarked three, which all had to be kept on deck: parked aircraft had to be moved to the forward end when other aircraft were landing on, and a collapsible safety barrier was fitted to prevent collisions. Hinged side screens or 'palisades' were fitted around the aft end of the flight deck to provide weather protection for parked aircraft but with only limited effect.[30]

The net result of the modifications was a reduction in cargo capacity of about 10 per cent in the case of the tankers, but almost 30 per cent for the grain ships, the higher figure on account of the space taken up by the hangar.[6] The modifications themselves were conceptually simple and with standardised designs and extensive use (about 51 per cent by weight of steel) of prefabricated components, the average conversion time was just over five months, but there were significant differences between the average time required to convert new-builds (about 14 weeks) and existing ships (about 27 weeks).[6] There were wide variations within groups; the first 'Triple Twelve', Rapana, was converted in five months while the final one, Macoma, took ten months.[6] Delays arose through a variety of reasons, including labour relations and conflicting priorities in the shipyards, but the supply of arrester gear which was also in high demand for the escort carrier programme was a particular bottleneck that limited the rate at which MACs could be completed.[31][32][33][34]

The 'Triple Twelves' retained their original names, but the new-builds were prefixed "Empire" in accordance with the policy for ships owned by the Ministry of War Transport and names that began with "Mac-", in a reference to their designation as MACs. Empire MacKendrick which was originally to have been named Empire MacKenzie had the unusual distinction of being renamed while still under construction in tribute to HMS Audacity, whose captain, Commander D. W. McKendrick RN, had been killed when she was sunk on convoy escort duty in 1941.[6][35] Eventually, to avoid confusion with ordinary merchant ships, the Admiralty formally directed that MACs should be designated 'MAC Ship' in all correspondence.[36]

Cargo arrangements

Although the most distinctive feature of MACs is their aircraft carrier function, they were conceived at a time when a shortage of shipping capacity threatened to undermine the Allied invasion of North Africa and beyond, and careful planning was needed to maximise their military effectiveness with as little detriment as possible to the carriage of cargo.[37] In their trading role, MACs operated under the aegis of the Ministry of War Transport, with day-to-day management falling to their owners or allotted shipping companies, while control of military aspects fell to the Admiralty, with a new section (the Trade Division DEMS Air Section) specially set up to act as co-ordinating authority.[38] The MACs operated on the North Atlantic route primarily in support of the 'ON' and 'HX' series of convoys. An alternative plan to operate tanker MACs with CU convoys between the United Kingdom and Curaçao was rejected because convoys on that route were too fast.[39] Tankers on the North Atlantic route ordinarily loaded at New York City, but this was undesirable for the MACs because it would have been militarily wasteful to run them between the ON/HX landfall port of Halifax, Nova Scotia and New York, where convoys were already under the umbrella of land-based aircraft. An 'oil pool' was therefore established at Halifax specifically to enable the tanker MACs to load there, while grain MACs were already able to use the port's pre-existing bulk loading facility.[39] The Firth of Clyde was initially designated as the UK terminus for all MAC cargoes because of its superior aviation training facilities.[39] On discovering that it would take more than a week to unload a single ship at the un-modernised facility in Glasgow, it was decided that grain MACs would discharge at Alexandra Dock, Liverpool, where two grain ships could be unloaded simultaneously in thirty-six hours.[40] Tanker MACs normally discharged on the Clyde, with the Mersey as an alternative.

Aviation arrangements

Swordfish Mk2 LS326 1988.jpeg
Fairey Swordfish at an airshow in 1988. This aircraft was assigned to 'L' Flight of 836 NAS on board the MAC ship Rapana during World War II

There were widely differing opinions about the arrangements needed to support the MACs' aviation function. The Director of Trade Division, who had overall responsibility for co-ordination within the Admiralty, envisaged forming a new headquarters organisation to oversee MAC aviation.[41] The Director of Naval Air Organisation disagreed on the basis that MACs were an adjunct to the main escort carrier programme, and said that their aircraft should be provided on an ad hoc basis from the squadrons earmarked for escort carriers, having earlier suggested that there might be few, if any, aircraft and crews available for MACs.[42][43] However, the unfortunate loss of HMS Dasher in March 1943 freed up a squadron's-worth of Swordfish aircraft and in June, just after Empire MacAlpine entered service, it was announced that No. 836 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) was to relocate from Machrihanish to Belfast in Northern Ireland with nine aircraft as a core for the MAC ships, in addition to providing a common pool for the escort carriers.[44] Before this could be put into place, it was decided that 836 NAS would move instead to Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Maydown, near Londonderry (later named HMS Shrike) to become the nucleus squadron for MACs and that the MAC headquarters unit would be formed there.[45] 840 Naval Air Squadron operated briefly from Empire MacAndrew until reorganised as M flight of 836 Squadron in August 1943.[46] Also based at Maydown would be the Royal Netherlands Navy-manned No. 860 Naval Air Squadron, responsible for providing aircraft for the two Dutch MAC ships, Gadila and Macoma

Aircraft

Deck of MV Empire Mackay
Fairey Swordfish landing on the deck of the Empire MacKay in the North Atlantic in 1944

The only aircraft types to be flown operationally from MACs were the Fairey Swordfish Mks. II and III. The flight deck was not much wider than the Swordfish wing span, and a Swordfish fully loaded with rockets and depth charges might require rocket-assisted take-off gear (RATOG) to launch in unfavourable wind conditions.[47] The normal complement of aircraft was four on grain ships and three on tankers. The tankers were capable of routinely carrying four aircraft and the Dutch MACs Gadila and Macoma did so on a number of occasions, while the only report of four aircraft on board a British tanker related to an emergency diversion.[48][49][50] Lieutenant (later Captain) Eric "Winkle" Brown made a trial landing of a Martlet fighter onto Amastra in October 1943 when the use of MACs in the Pacific was being briefly considered.[51]

MAC crews

MAC crews were substantially larger than ordinary merchant ships of similar types. In addition to the air party, they carried extra Merchant Navy radio officers, engineer officers (to maintain and operate the arrester gear), catering staff and, because the total number of crew would exceed 100, a doctor, as required by the Merchant Shipping Act.[52] In practice, it proved difficult to find civilian doctors and medical officers were normally provided by the Royal Navy.

Air party

The Royal Navy during the Second World War A22094
Members of the air party and two Swordfish aircraft on the snow-covered flight deck of M/V Ancylus.

The air party were responsible for flying and supporting the aircraft. The official manning scale comprised a lieutenant commander RN or RNVR who, as Air Staff Officer, was the master's principal adviser on naval and aviation matters; a pilot, observer and air gunner for each aircraft carried; three signalmen; five communications and armament ratings; and at least seventeen aircraft fitters. A seventeen-strong DEMS team of RN and Royal Artillery personnel looked after the MAC's substantial defensive armament. To comply with the Board of Trade regulations, all naval and military personnel were signed onto the ship's Articles as supernumerary crew members, for which they received a nominal payment of one shilling per month and the more tangible reward of one can of beer per day. They also received a small 'Merchant Navy' badge, which many apparently wore on their uniforms with cheerful disregard for regulations.[30][50]

Operational effectiveness

By the time the MACs entered service the Battle of the Atlantic had already swung permanently in the Allies' favour through a variety of converging factors.[53] From the beginning of 1944 almost every ON and HX convoy contained at least one MAC and frequently more.[4] Although MAC Swordfish made a dozen attacks, no U-boat was ever destroyed by the four thousand sorties flown from the nineteen MACs.[47] Nevertheless, according to the official Naval Staff History:

"Frequently when there were no kills it was the very presence of aircraft, carrier-borne or shore-based, or both which prevented the development of the attack by a concentration of U-boats on the convoy and which allowed it to continue on its way unmolested."[4]

It is sometimes claimed that MACs enjoyed a near-perfect record in preventing U-boat attacks. In fact, a number of ships were lost to U-boats while sailing in convoys protected by MACs, including six merchantmen and three escorts from the combined convoys ONS 18/ON 202, despite the presence of MAC Ship Empire MacAlpine and two merchantmen and an escort from SC 143 protected by Rapana.[7] There can be little doubt, however, that the MACs' contribution to the Battle of the Atlantic was important and highly valued by the seafarers they protected. Merchant ship masters at a pre-convoy conference are said to have cheered when told that a MAC ship would be sailing with the convoy.[6]

Early in 1944 it was agreed that MACs could be used to help clear a backlog of more than 500 aircraft awaiting shipment to the United Kingdom and, as the year progressed, a number of MACs made non-operational ferry crossings with full deck cargoes of aircraft.[54] In September 1944, some MACs were fitted with equipment to refuel escorts by means of a hose streamed over the stern.[55] By this time it was becoming apparent that all nineteen MACs were no longer required to protect Atlantic convoys. The possibility of using them in the Pacific as aircraft carriers or fleet oilers had been considered earlier but rejected on the grounds of cost-effectiveness and in September/October 1944, Acavus, Amastra, Ancylus and Rapana were taken out of service for reinstatement as conventional merchant ships at an estimated cost to the Government of £40,000 each.[56] The remaining MACs were released for reinstatement at the end of May 1945.

MAC Ships

New-build grain carriers

Approximately 8,000 tons deep load, 12 knots, 4 aircraft, crew 107, entered service April 1943 – March 1944. Operated by the Hain Steamship Company except Empire MacAlpine and Empire MacKendrick which were operated by Ben Line Steamers. Equipped with hangar and lift. Armament: 1 x single 4 in (102 mm) QF MK IV, 2 x single 40 mm Bofors, 4 x single 20 mm Oerlikon cannons.[24][57]

New-build oil tankers

Approximately 9,000 tons deep load, 11 knots, 3/4 aircraft, crew 122, entered service October – December 1943. Operated by the British Tanker Company except Empire MacKay which was operated by Anglo Saxon Petroleum. No hangar and lift; aircraft maintained and stored on deck. Armament: 1 x single 4 in (102 mm) QF MK IV, 8 x single 20 mm Oerlikon cannons.[24][57]

'Triple Twelve' oil tankers

8,000 tons standard, 16,000 tons deep load, 12 knots, 3/4 aircraft, crew 118 (64 RN plus 54 MN), entered service (as MACs) July 1943 – May 1944. Operated by Anglo Saxon Petroleum except Gadila and Macoma which were under Dutch registry. No hangar and lift; aircraft maintained and stored on deck. Armament: 1 x single 4 in (102 mm) QF MK IV, 2 x single 40 mm Bofors, 6 x single 20 mm Oerlikon cannons.[24][57] These ships were called Triple Twelves because with a deadweight tonnage of 12,000 each consumed 12 tons of fuel per day at a speed of twelve knots.[19]

Amastra and Ancylus ceased operating Swordfish in late 1944, the empty decks often being used to ferry aircraft from the US to the UK.[57]

See also

References

  1. ^ The National Archives: Public Record Office (TNA:PRO), ADM 234/383, The Development of British Naval Aviation, Volume I.
  2. ^ a b c d Friedman, Norman (1988). British Carrier Aviation: The Evolution of the Ships and their Aircraft. London, UK: Conway Maritime Press. pp. 179–181. ISBN 0-85177-488-1.
  3. ^ Roskill, Captain S.W. (1954). The War at Sea 1939–1945, Volume I. London, UK: HMSO. p. 477.
  4. ^ a b c TNA:PRO, ADM 234/384, The Development of British Naval Aviation, Volume II.
  5. ^ Schofield, B. B., 'The Defeat of the U-Boats During World War II' in Journal of Contemporary History Vol. 16, No. 1 (January 1981), p. 125.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Lenaghan, J; R. Baker; W. J. Holt; A. J. Sims; A. W. Watson (1983). Selected Papers on British Warship Design in World War II. London, UK: Conway Maritime Press. pp. 43–62. ISBN 0-85177-284-6.
  7. ^ a b Poolman, Kenneth (1972). Escort Carrier 1941-1945: An Account of British Escort carriers in Trade Protection. London, UK: Ian Allan.
  8. ^ Wragg, David (2005). The Escort Carrier in World War II: Combustible, Vulnerable, Expendable!. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Maritime. pp. 12–24. ISBN 1-84415-220-0.
  9. ^ National Maritime Museum (NMM), Ship's Cover 667Y, Escort Carriers Converted from Grain Ships etc.
  10. ^ a b TNA:PRO, MT 59/1966, Minute dated 29 June 1942
  11. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1966, Admiralty to Ministry of War Transport dated 1 September 1942.
  12. ^ NMM, Ship's Cover 667Y, Controller to ACNS(T) dated 1 October 1942.
  13. ^ a b TNA:PRO, FO 371/32584, Construction of Merchant Aircraft Carriers: Joint Memorandum by First Lord of the Admiralty and Minister of War Transport dated 27 October 1942.
  14. ^ TNA:PRO, CAB 65/28.17, War Cabinet Conclusions 147(42) of 29 October 1942.
  15. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1966, BADW to Admiralty dated 27 November 1942.
  16. ^ NMM, Ship's Cover 667Y, DMB to DNC dated 9 June 1942.
  17. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1966, Minute dated 12 November 1942.
  18. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1966, Anglo-Saxon to Ministry of War Transport dated 2 February 1943.
  19. ^ a b Howarth, Stephen (1992). Sea Shell: The Story of Shell's British Tanker Fleets 1892–1992. London, UK: Thomas Reed Publications Limited. pp. 90–91:114–119. ISBN 0-947637-32-X.
  20. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1494, Minute dated 19 January 1943.
  21. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1494, Edelsten to Hurcomb dated 11 February 1943.
  22. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1494, Minute dated 17 February 1943.
  23. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1494, Hurcomb to Moore dated 11 May 1943.
  24. ^ a b c d Mitchell, W H, and Sawyer, L A (1990). The Empire Ships. London, New York, Hamburg, Hong Kong: Lloyd's of London Press Ltd. ISBN 1-85044-275-4.
  25. ^ TNA:PRO, FO 371/32584, Waldock to Steel dated 27 December 1942.
  26. ^ TNA:PRO, FO 371/32584, Construction of Merchant Ship Aircraft Carriers, Steel to Dean dated 29 October 1942.
  27. ^ TNA:PRO, FO 371/32584, Le Rougetel to Waldock dated 12 January 1943.
  28. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/16111, Minute by DTD dated 18 September 1944.
  29. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/16111, Admiralty to the Masters mv Acavus, Amastra, Ancylus, Rapana dated 25 September 1944.
  30. ^ a b Brand, Stanley (2009). Achtung Swordfish!: Merchant Aircraft Carriers. Leeds, UK: Propagator Press. ISBN 9781-86029-805-9.
  31. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/15553, First Lord of the Admiralty to War Cabinet dated 4 May 1943.
  32. ^ University of Glasgow Archive Services (UGAS), DC 035/43, Papers of Sir James Lithgow, 1883–1952; Shipbuilder and Industrialist: Lithgow to Powell dated 25 April 1942.
  33. ^ UGAS, DC 035/66, Lithgow to Wake-Walker dated 14 April 1943.
  34. ^ NMM, Ship's Cover 667Y, Lenaghan to Bartlett dated 6 August 1942
  35. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/15553, MAC Ship Programme dated 5 October 1943.
  36. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1966, Signal from Admiralty dated 22 September 1943.
  37. ^ Redford, Duncan, 'The March 1943 Crisis in the Battle of the Atlantic: Myth and Reality' in History: The Journal of the Historical Association, Vol. 92, No. 305 (January 2007), p. 80.
  38. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/14179, Draft Acquaint and minutes dated 3–18 March 1943.
  39. ^ a b c TNA:PRO, ADM 1/13087, Minute by DTD dated 4 March 1943.
  40. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/13087, Admiralty to Ministry of War Transport dated 7 May 1943.
  41. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/13087, Minutes of Meeting to Consider the Employment of M.A.C. Ships dated 26 January 1943.
  42. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/13523, Merchant Aircraft Carriers for Protection of Convoys, Minute by DNAO dated 5 February 1943.
  43. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/14179, Setting up of Merchant Ship Aircraft Carrier Section in Trade Division, Minute by DNAD dated 14 December 1942.
  44. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/16942, Operation and Administration of Merchant Aircraft Carrier Ships, Message from Admiralty to CinC Western Approaches dated 24 June 1943.
  45. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/13523, Message from CinC Western Approaches to Admiralty dated 30 July 1943.
  46. ^ "840 Squadron". Fleet Air Arm Archive. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  47. ^ a b Winton, John (1977). Air Power at Sea 1939–45. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company. p. 82. ISBN 0-690-01222-5.
  48. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 217/495, Report of Proceedings - M.A.C.Gadila
  49. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 217/544, Report of Proceedings - M.A.C. Macoma
  50. ^ a b Kilbracken, Lord (1980). Bring Back My Stringbag: A Swordfish Pilot at War 1940–45. London, UK: Pan Books. ISBN 0-330-26172-X.
  51. ^ Brown, Captain Eric (2007). Wings on My Sleeve. London, UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7538-2209-8.
  52. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 1/13523, Merchant Aircraft Carriers for Protection of Convoys, Note by DTD dated 30 November 1942.
  53. ^ Terraine, John (1990). Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars 1916–1945. London, UK: Mandarin Paperbacks. p. 756. ISBN 0-330-26172-X.
  54. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1966, British Merchant Shipping Mission Washington to Ministry of War Transport dated 30 December 1943.
  55. ^ TNA:PRO, ADM 217/255, Report of Proceedings - M.A.C. Empire MacRae.
  56. ^ TNA:PRO, MT 59/1966, Note dated 27 October 1943.
  57. ^ a b c d Hobbs, David (1996). Aircraft Carriers of the Royal and Commonwealth Navies: The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia from World War I to the Present. London: Greenhill Books. pp. 231–248. ISBN 1-85367-252-1.

External links

Alexia

Alexia may refer to:

Alexia (given name)

Alexia (Italian singer) (born 1967)

Alexia (album), a 2002 album by the Italian singer

Alexia (condition) (also known as acquired dyslexia), loss of the ability to read due to cerebral disorder

Pure alexia, a form in which other language skills are unaffected

Alexia Wight, an Australian plant genus, synonym of Alyxia

Index–Alexia Alluminio, an Italian cycling team

MV Alexia, an oil tanker converted into a merchant aircraft carrier

List of aircraft carriers

This list of aircraft carriers contains aircraft carriers listed alphabetically by name. An aircraft carrier is a warship with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft, that serves as a seagoing airbase.

Included in this list are ships which meet the above definition and had an official name (italicized) or designation (non-italicized), regardless of whether they were or were not ordered, laid down, completed, or commissioned.

Not included in this list are the following:

Aircraft cruisers, also known as aviation cruisers, cruiser-carriers, flight deck cruisers, and hybrid battleship-carriers, which combine the characteristics of aircraft carriers and surface warfare ships, because they primarily operated helicopters or floatplanes and did not act as a floating airbase. Examples include the British Tiger-class cruisers, Japanese Hyūga-class helicopter destroyer, French cruiser Jeanne d'Arc, Soviet Moskva-class helicopter cruisers, and Italian Andrea Doria-class cruisers.

Amphibious assault ships, also known as commando carriers, assault carriers, helicopter carriers, landing helicopter assault ships, landing helicopter docks, landing platform docks, and landing platform helicopters. Although they have flight decks and look like aircraft carriers, they primarily operate helicopters and do not act as a floating airbase. Examples include the US Wasp-class assault ships, Brazilian PHM Atlântico (A140), Japanese Akitsu Maru escort carrier, and French Mistral-class.

Catapult aircraft merchantmen, merchant ships which carried cargo and an aircraft catapult (no flight deck).

Escort carriers, usually converted merchant ships, see separate List of escort carriers by country.

"Landing craft carriers" such as USS LST-906, which were modified amphibious landing ships, because they could not recover their aircraft.

Merchant aircraft carriers, cargo-carrying merchant ships with a full flight deck.

Seaplane tenders and seaplane carriers, because they could not land aircraft.

Submarine aircraft carriers, because they had no flight deck and could not land their aircraft."In commission" denotes the period that the ship was officially in commission with the given name for the given country as an aircraft carrier as defined above.

List of aircraft carriers of World War II

This is a list of aircraft carriers of the Second World War.

Aircraft carriers serve as a seagoing airbases, equipped with a flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying and recovering aircraft. Typically, they are the capital ships of a fleet, as they project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for operational support. Aircraft carriers are expensive and are considered critical assets. By the Second World War aircraft carriers had evolved from converted cruisers, to purpose built vessels of many classes and roles. Fleet carriers were the largest type, operating with the main fleet to provided offensive capability. Light aircraft carriers were fast enough to operate with the fleet but smaller and with fewer aircraft.

Escort carriers were smaller and slower, with low numbers of aircraft, and provided defense for convoys. Most of the latter were built from mercantile hulls or, in the case of merchant aircraft carriers, were bulk cargo ships with a flight deck added on top. Catapult aircraft merchant ships, were cargo-carrying merchant ships that could launch (but not retrieve) a single fighter aircraft from a catapult to defend the convoy from long-range German aircraft.

The aircraft carrier dramatically changed naval combat in the war, as air power became a significant factor in warfare. The advent of aircraft as primary weapons was driven by the superior range, flexibility and effectiveness of carrier-launched aircraft. They had higher range and precision than naval guns, making them highly effective. The versatility of the carrier was demonstrated in November 1940 when HMS Illustrious launched a long-range strike on the Italian fleet at their base in Taranto, signalling the beginning of effective and highly mobile aircraft strikes. This operation incapacitated three of the six battleships at a cost of two torpedo bombers.

In the Pacific Ocean clashes occurred between aircraft carrier fleets. The 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was a clear illustration of the power projection capability afforded by a large force of modern carriers. Concentrating six carriers in a single unit turned naval history about, as no other nation had fielded anything comparable. However, the vulnerability of carriers compared to traditional battleships when forced into a gun-range encounter was quickly illustrated by the sinking of HMS Glorious by German battleships during the Norwegian campaign in 1940.

This new-found importance of naval aviation forced nations to create a number of carriers, in an effort to provide air superiority for every major fleet. This extensive usage required the construction of several new 'light' carriers. Escort aircraft carriers, such as USS Bogue, were sometimes purpose-built, but most were converted from merchant ships as a stop-gap measure to provide anti-submarine air support for convoys and amphibious invasions. Following this concept, light aircraft carriers built by the US, such as USS Independence, represented a larger and more "militarized" version of the escort carrier. Although with complements similar to escort carriers, they had the advantage of speed from their converted cruiser hulls. The British 1942 Design Light Fleet Carrier was designed for quick construction by civilian shipyards and a short three-year service life. They served the Royal Navy during the war, and their hull design was chosen for nearly all aircraft carrier equipped navies after the war until the 1980s. Emergency situations during the war spurred the creation of highly unconventional aircraft carriers, such as the CAM ships.The List of ships of World War II contains major military vessels of the war, arranged alphabetically and by type. The list includes armed vessels that served during the war and in the immediate aftermath, inclusive of localized ongoing combat operations, garrison surrenders, post-surrender occupation, colony re-occupation, troop and prisoner repatriation, to the end of 1945. For smaller vessels, see also List of World War II ships of less than 1000 tons. Some uncompleted Axis ships are included, out of historic interest. Ships are designated to the country under which they operated for the longest period of World War II, regardless of where they were built or previous service history.

List of ships of World War II (E)

The List of ships of the Second World War contains major military vessels of the war, arranged alphabetically and by type. The list includes armed vessels that served during the war and in the immediate aftermath, inclusive of localized ongoing combat operations, garrison surrenders, post-surrender occupation, colony re-occupation, troop and prisoner repatriation, to the end of 1945. For smaller vessels, see also list of World War II ships of less than 1000 tons. Some uncompleted Axis ships are included, out of historic interest. Ships are designated to the country under which they operated for the longest period of the Second World War, regardless of where they were built or previous service history. Submarines show submerged displacement. Click on headers to sort column alphabetically.

MV Acavus

MV Acavus was one of nine Anglo Saxon Royal Dutch/Shell tankers converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship). The group is collectively called the Rapana Class.

Acavus was built by Workman, Clark and Company and completed in January 1935 as an oil tanker for the Anglo Saxon Royal Dutch/Shell line. She was converted at Falmouth to a MAC ship, entering service in October 1943.As a MAC ship, she had no aircraft hangar, and continued to carry normal cargoes, although operating under Royal Navy control. Only her aircrew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel.At the end of the war Acavus was reconverted to an oil tanker, and renamed Iacra in 1963. She was in service until 1963 when she was scrapped in Italy.

MV Adula

MV Adula was one of nine Royal Dutch/Shell oil tankers converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship). The group is collectively known as the Rapana class.

MV Adula was built at Blytheswood and completed in March, 1937 as an oil tanker for the Royal Dutch/Shell line. She was converted at Falmouth to a MAC ship, entering service in February 1944.As a MAC ship, she had no aircraft hangar, and continued to carry normal cargoes, although operating under Royal Navy control. Only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel.At the end of the war, Adula was reconverted to an oil tanker. She served in this capacity until broken up for scrap at Briton Ferry in May 1953.

MV Alexia

MV Alexia was one of nine Royal Dutch/Shell oil tankers converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship). The group is collectively known as the Rapana class.

MV Alexia was built at Bremer Vulkan and completed in April, 1935 as an oil tanker for the Anglo Saxon Royal Dutch/Shell line. She sustained severe damage in two separate U-boat attacks in 1940 and 1942.

After the second attack was converted to a MAC ship, entering service in December 1943.As a MAC ship, she had no aircraft hangar, and continued to carry normal cargoes, although operating under Royal Navy control. Only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel.At the end of the war, Alexia was reconverted to an oil tanker, and renamed Ianthina in 1951. She served in this capacity until broken up for scrap at Blyth in 1954.

MV Amastra

MV Amastra was one of nine Anglo-Saxon Royal Dutch/Shell oil tankers converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship). The group is collectively known as the Rapana class.

MV Amastra was built at Lithgows and completed in March, 1935 as an oil tanker for the Royal Dutch/Shell line. She was converted at Smiths Dock, North Shields to a MAC ship, entering service in September 1943.As a MAC ship, she had no aircraft hangar, and continued to carry cargo, although operating under Royal Navy control. Only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel.At the end of the war, Amastra was reconverted to an oil tanker, and in 1951 was renamed Idas. She served in this capacity until broken up for scrap at La Spezia in June 1955.

MV Ancylus

MV Ancylus was one of nine Anglo Saxon Royal Dutch/Shell oil tankers converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship). The group is collectively known as the Rapana class.

MV Ancylus was built at Swan Hunter and completed in January, 1935 as an oil tanker for the Anglo Saxon Royal Dutch/Shell line. She was converted to a MAC ship, entering service in October, 1943.As a MAC ship, she had no aircraft hangar, and continued to carry normal cargoes, although operating under Royal Navy control. Only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel.At the end of the war, Ancylus was reconverted to an oil tanker, being renamed Imbricaria in 1952. She served in this capacity until broken up for scrap at La Spezia in December 1954.

MV Empire MacAlpine

MV Empire MacAlpine was a grain ship converted to become the first Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship).

The Burntisland Shipbuilding Company, Fife, Scotland, built her under order from the Ministry of War Transport and was delivered on 14 April 1943. As a MAC ship, only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel. She was operated by William Thomson & Co (the Ben Line).After the war she was converted to a grain carrier. She was scrapped in Hong Kong in 1970.

MV Empire MacAndrew

MV Empire MacAndrew was a grain ship converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier or MAC ship.

MV Empire MacKendrick was built at William Denny and Brothers Dumbarton Scotland under order from the Ministry of War Transport. As a MAC ship, only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel and she was operated by The Hain Steamship Company Ltd, St Ives, Cornwall.After the war, the ship was converted back to a grain carrier, and eventually scrapped in China in 1970.

MV Empire MacCallum

MV Empire MacCallum was a grain ship converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier or MAC ship.

MV Empire MacColl

MV Empire MacColl was an oil tanker converted to a merchant aircraft carrier (MAC) ship.

MV Empire MacColl was built by Laird, Son & Co., Birkenhead under order from the Ministry of War Transport. She entered service as a MAC ship in November 1943, however only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel. She was operated by the British Tanker Company.She returned to merchant service as an oil tanker in 1946 and was eventually scrapped in Faslane in 1962.

MV Empire MacKay

MV Empire MacKay was an oil tanker constructed with rudimentary aircraft handling facilities as a merchant aircraft carrier (MAC ship).

MV Empire MacKay was built by Harland and Wolff, Govan under order from the Ministry of War Transport. She entered service as a MAC ship in October 1943, however only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel. She was operated by the British Tanker Company.She returned to merchant service as an oil tanker in 1946 as British Swordfish and she was eventually scrapped in Rotterdam in 1959.

MV Empire MacMahon

MV Empire MacMahon was an oil tanker converted to a merchant aircraft carrier or MAC ship.

MV Empire MacMahon was built by Swan Hunter, Wallsend under order from the Ministry of War Transport. She entered service as a MAC ship in December 1943; however, only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel. She was operated by Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co.She returned to merchant service as an oil tanker in 1946 and renamed Naninia and was eventually scrapped in Hong Kong in 1960.

MV Empire MacRae

MV Empire MacRae was a grain ship converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier or MAC ship.

MV Empire MacRae was built at Lithgows shipyard, Glasgow, Scotland, under order from the Ministry of War Transport. As a MAC ship, only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel and she was operated by Hain Steam Ship Co Ltd of St Ives.After the war, the ship was converted to a grain carrier, and eventually scrapped at Kaohsiung in 1971.

MV Gadila

MV Gadila was one of nine Anglo Saxon Royal Dutch/Shell oil tankers converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship). The group is sometimes collectively known as the Rapana class.

MV Gadila was built at the Howaldtswerke, Kiel, Germany and completed 11 April 1935 as an oil tanker for the Royal Dutch/Shell line. She was converted at Smith's Dock, North Shields between April 1943 and 1 February 1944. She entered service as a MAC ship in March 1944, and operated under the Netherlands Mercantile Marine flag.As a MAC ship, she had no aircraft hangar, and continued to carry normal cargoes with a mercantile ship's crew, although operating under British Royal Navy control. Only her air crew and the aviation support staff were Naval personnel. In the case of the Gadila, these were provided by the Royal Netherlands Navy and served as elements of Fleet Air Arm 860 (Dutch) Naval Air Squadron.

The Gadila and her sister MV Macoma were the first aircraft carrying vessels with a flight deck to be operated under the flag of the Netherlands.At the end of the war, Gadila was reconverted to an entirely mercantile oil tanker and served in this capacity until broken up for scrap in Hong Kong in 1958.

MV Macoma

MV Macoma was one of nine Anglo Saxon Royal Dutch/Shell oil tankers converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship). The group is sometimes collectively known as the Rapana Class.

Macoma was launched on 31 December 1935 at Nederlandse Scheepsbouw Mij, Amsterdam as an oil tanker and entered service the following year. She was converted to a MAC ship from late 1943 to April 1944, and commissioned 1 April 1944.As a MAC ship, she had no aircraft hangar, and continued to carry normal cargoes, although operating under Royal Navy control. Only her air crew and aviation support staff were naval personnel. In the case of the Macoma, these were provided by the Royal Netherlands Navy including the Dutch Fleet Air Arm 860 and 861 squadrons.

The Macoma and her sister MV Gadila were the first aircraft carrying vessels with a flight deck to be operated under the flag of the Netherlands.After the war, MV Macoma was reconverted and returned to merchant service as an oil tanker and served in that role until scrapped in Hong Kong in 1959.

MV Rapana

MV Rapana was one of nine Anglo Saxon Royal Dutch/Shell oil tankers converted to become a Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship). The group is collectively known as the Rapana class.

Rapana was launched in March 1935 at Wilton-Fijenoord, Schiedam, Netherlands as an oil tanker and completed in April 1935. She was converted to a MAC ship by Smiths Dock, North Shields, completing in July 1943.As a MAC ship, she had no aircraft hangar, and continued to carry normal cargoes, although operating under Royal Navy control. Only her air crew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel. Amongst the aircraft that served on Rapana was Fairey Swordfish Mk II LS326. The aircraft was later transferred to Empire MacCallum. As of November 2010, it is airworthy with the Royal Navy Historic Flight.After the war, MV Rapana was reconverted and returned to merchant service as an oil tanker and served in that role until scrapped in Osaka in 1958. She was renamed Rotula in 1950.

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