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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2006

HMS BEGUM (D 38) - Ruler-class Escort Aircraft Carrier
including Convoy Escort Movements

HMS Begum (Arthur Batty, click to enlarge) return to Contents List    

RULER Class Escort Aircraft Carrier obtained under US/UK Lend Lease Agreement. A mercantile which was under construction by Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation at Seattle and was requisitioned by the US Navy for completion as an auxiliary aircraft carrier (CVE) to be named USS BOLINAS (CVE 36). This ship replaced an earlier selection for transfer but which had been retained by the US Navy as USS NATOMA BAY. In replacement the hull of another C3 mercantile laid down on 3rd August 1942 and launched on 11th November that year was arranged. Her build was completed on 23rd July 1943 and she transferred to the RN as HMS BEGUM on 2nd August 1943. The name had not previously been used for an RN ship. She was fitted with US Navy radar outfits during build and intended to be used as an Escort Aircraft Carrier.  (Note: The name CHASTISER was provisionally allocated for use on transfer to the RN but not used.)


B a t t l e  H o n o u r s




H e r a l d i c  D a t a

Badge: On a Field Blue. a Cobra poised ready to strike.


M o t t o

 'Rise and strike'




D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 9 4 3


August                  Contractors trials.

                3rd          Commissioned for RN service as HMS BEGUM.


September             On completion of Acceptance trials taken In hand at HM Canadian Dockyard, Esquimalt

to                            for modifications to suit RN deployment as an Escort Aircraft Carrier.




                22nd       Dockyard work completed.


December              Passage to New York.


1 9 4 4



                4th          Transit of Panama Canal.

                9th          Sailed from New York

                                (Note: 24 CORSAIR aircraft embarked for transport to UK.

                                These were destined for 1837 and 1838 Squadrons. - see Addenda)

                                Passage to Clyde



                1st           On arrival, disembarked CORSAIR aircraft.

                                Taken in hand by Clyde commercial shipyard for completion of conversion work.

                                (Note: Modification of Petrol distribution system to be confirmed).

                                Nominated for service In Eastern Fleet based at Trincomalee.



                                Embarked 24 BARRACUDA aircraft for transport to Ceylon destined for 815 and

                                817 Squadrons together with 20 HELLCAT aircraft destined for 1839 and 1844 Squadrons.

                                and four WILDCAT aircraft destined for 832 Squadron

                3rd          Took passage from Clyde with HM Escort Aircraft Carriers ATHELING and SHAH to


                                (Note: One source records that ATHELING and SHAH sailed with Convoy KMF29A)

                17th        KMF29A arrived at Port Said.



                2nd         Joined Eastern Fleet.

                26th        Disembarked aircraft in Colombo

                                (Note: Length of time on passage suggests ship may have exercised and worked-up in



May                        Deployed for work-up with Eastern Fleet.

                                (Note: Pennant Number for visual signalling use whilst operating with ships of US Navy

                                changed to R305 from D38 and was painted on ships hull structure.)

                                Nominated for convoy defence in Indian Ocean

                                (Note: Following an increase of mercantile losses in Indian Ocean by submarines

                                the availability of CVE enabled CinC to form two Hurting Groups to provide

                                extensive air cover operations with adequate support by Anti-Submarine frigates

                                and sloops for surface attacks. See WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO)

                                Prepared for anti-submarine operations.


June                        832 Squadron embarked with AVENGER/WILDCAT aircraft.

to                            Anti-submarine patrol duties in continuation,



August                  Deployed with HM Escort Aircraft Carrier SHAH, HM Frigates TAFF, FINDHORN,

                                NADDER, INVER, LOSSIE and PARRET as Force 66 for anti-submarine operations.

                                (Note: See WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO) and THE FORGOTTEN FLEET by J Winton.).

                6th          Carried out search operations In conjunction with aircraft in Chagos area.

                10th        Patrol aircraft from ship sighted submarine In position 4.103 49.50E.

                                Subsequent attack was unsuccessful.

                11th        Redeployed with HMS SHAH and took passage to area in east of Chagos.

                12th        Anti-submarine searches carried out in new area.

                                (Note: Aircraft from HMS SHAH sighted and attacked U198.

                                Surface attacks were carried out by HM Indian Sloop GODAVARI and HM Frigate


                                U198 was sunk by HM Frigate FINDHORN in position 03.45S 52.38E with no

                                survivors. See U-BOATS DESTROYED by P Kemp.

                                This was the only U-Boat sinking by the Eastern Fleet Hunting Groups.)


September             Anti-submarine deployment in continuation.

                                (Note: German submarines were also known to be operating in lndian Ocean.

                                See WAR WITH JAPAN.)


October                 Deployed with ships of Force 66 and RAF aircraft for anti-submarine operations in Bay of

                                Bengal. Two Japanese submarine were known to active.

                28th        Defect in catapult delayed arrival of ship's aircraft to carry out attacks on a submarine

                                sighted by RAF aircraft which had to return to base.

                                Subsequent searches by Force 66 failed.


November              Bay of Bengal deployment with Force 66 in continuation.

                14th        Search operations terminated and ship returned to harbour.

                23rd        Transferred to East Indies Fleet when British Pacific Fleet was formed.

                                Joined 1st Aircraft Carrier Division with HM Escort Carriers EMPRESS and SHAH.

                                (Note: Eastern Fleet was disbanded and East Indies Fleet formed of ships which were to be

                                retained in Indian Ocean based at Trincomalee. See WAR WITH JAPAN (HMSO)

                                and Naval Staff History.)


December              Resumed anti-submarine operations with Force 66.

                3rd          Despatched with six frigates of Force 66 to carry out air searches following an attack by

                                an RAF LIBERATOR aircraft.

                4th          Arrived in area but search failed.

                                Deployed for further anti-submarine operations in Bay of Bengal.

                6th          Catapult defect prevented air operations but ship remained with Force to conduct

                                search for shipping.

                11th        Arrived at Vizagapatam after continuous searches by attached frigates.

                16th        Resumed anti submarine operations in Bay of Bengal.

                22nd       Returned to Colombo.


1 9 4 5


January                  Nominated for use as the Deck Landing Training Carrier for Eastern Fleet after

                                refit in UK and used for transport of aircraft to BPF.

                16th        Sailed for the UK.


February                On passage in Mediterranean.

                20th        Entered a Clyde yard for refit and conversion to suit use as a ferry carrier.


March                    Under conversion.


April                       Embarked VENGEANCE and SEA OTTER aircraft for use in BPF by 721 and 1701


                17th        Sailed from the Clyde as part of Convoy KMF43 to Gibraltar.

                23rd        Detached from KMF43 on arrival and made independent passage

                                to Suez.


June                        Passage to Sydney.

                5th          Arrived in Sydney.

                                (Note: Pennant Number R305 was allocated for visual signalling purposes to

                                conform with US Navy identity for warships of this type.)

                15th        Arrived at Manus with replacement aircraft for the fleet carriers.

                                Took passage from Manus to Trincomalee.


July                         Nominated for support of landings in Malaya as Reserve Carrier (Operation ZIPPER).

                2nd          Arrived in Trincomalee and deployment as deck landing training carrier in the Ceylon area.


August                   Sailed from Trincomalee for ZIPPER

                4th           Grounded on passage to ZIPPER and withdrawn.

                                 (Note: Some fuel leaks were evident due to hull damage.

                                 See BRITISH INVASION FLEETS by J de Winser..

                                 Took independent return passage to Trincomalee for repair.


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s

(based partly on Addendum)


HMS BEGUM was given temporary repair when a dock became available and permanent repair arranged in Bombay. On completion of repair at Bombay took passage to Greenock 24th October 1945. The ship arrived at Greenock on 10th November and the majority of ships company and all aircraft with personnel left the ship. All RN equipment removed before leaving Clyde. Manned only with a steaming party she went to Southampton to embark US troops for passage to Norfolk, Virginia, leaving on 13th December.. During Atlantic passage in heavy weather the forward part of the Flight Deck came adrift. Ships staff were able to carry out repair to enable passage to be continued and she arrived on 25th December. This CVE was Paid-off and was handed back to the US Navy on 5th January 1946. Sold for use as a mercantile in 1948 she was renamed ss RAKI. After resale in 1966 she became ss I YUNG until sold for demolition by a Taiwanese shipbreaker at Kaohsing in March 1974.






by Don Kindell


These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








CJ 023B








(Note on Convoys)




from Mark Mudge

"HMS BEGUM sailed from New York on 18 Jan !944 as part of Convoy UT.7, having onboard 36 Corsair  and 24 Avenger aircraft, 68 tons of stores and 194 service and 45 civilian passengers. The Atlantic crossing was without incident and was made in good time. Split from convoy off Oversay Island, Scotland  on 28 January and anchored in Liverpool Bay on 29 Jan 1944. Disembarked passengers, stores and 36 aircraft during the weekend.  Sailed for the Clyde on 31 Jan 1944 and anchored in Rothesay Bay on 1 February." (From National Archives) HMS Trumpeter was also in this convoy.




by Paul Thompson (23/03/10)


My Great uncle Stanley Clifford Rawlings joined Begum as a Naval rating (2nd Class) as part of 1844 squadron in Belfast and during the journey he kept a journal. This contains some dates which will help identify where the ship was during the passage. According to the Journal, the ship did not stay in the Mediterranean, but sailed straight through to the Red Sea and made an earlier stop at Colombo before going on to Madras. - Link to his Diary (large file)


The summary is as below:

By 19th March 1944         in Port Taufiq (Suez)
23rd March                         Sailed into Red Sea
27th March                         Arrived at Port Avon
28th March                         Left Port Avon (submarine alert)
                                              Left Red Sea
29th March                         Entered Indian Ocean
3rd April                              Arrived in Colombo, Ceylon
9th April                              Left Colombo
11th April                            Entered Madras Harbour
14th April                            Disembarks

At this point, I assume the ship sails back to Colombo, which is where your history picks it up again. Stanley did not return to the ship and his diary does not say where he went on to when he disembarked. His Naval record says that on February 26th 1944, he was assigned to HMS Garuda; an RN Aircraft Repair yard at Coimbatore, India, before returning to Ceylon in June 1944. Sadly, he suffered a cerebral abscess and, while attached to HMS DAEDALUS, died in Oxford Military hospital on June 25th, 1945 so I never knew him. I was not born for another 20 years.



as told to Mark Chandler by Arthur Batty


A close friend of mine, ex-AB Arthur Batty, (right, as an Ordinary Seaman, HMS Raleigh in October 1942)  D/JX 368714, Torpedoman, spent his entire naval service aboard HMS BEGUM and noted that you wished confirmation that she ran aground on 4th August 1945. To the best he can recall:


"From Manus, BEGUM took passage to Sydney. Leaving there, we steamed back to Trincomalee, the intention being that we would be part of a Force going to Singapore. Proceeding out of Trinco, we somehow made contact with some submerged rocks and this gashed the hull rather badly. Singapore was now out of the question and we lay offshore, leaking oil. Eventually, we got back into Trinco, where we were forced to wait while a dock became available for repairs to be effected. In the event, we sailed for Bombay where repairs were eventually carried out.


"From Bombay, we took passage for Greenock and home! Later, with just a steaming crew, including myself, aboard, we went down to Southampton and embarked many US troops for their journey home. Then, on 13th December 1945, we set sail for Norfolk, Virginia. During this voyage, north of the Azores, we encountered the worst Atlantic storm for some time. The continual pounding of the seas, as we dipped into troughs, eventually caused the forward part of the flight deck to come adrift and start to bend backwards! The call went out for a welder and an American soldier stepped forward. This gentleman, with a little help from Jack, made good temporary repairs and we arrived at Norfolk on 25th December 1945 without further incident. HMS BEGUM then paid off, and, with not a little sadness, I said goodbye to her forever. She was a Happy Ship."


Arthur is now 85 (2008) and appreciates that memory can play tricks! He does hope that the foregoing may be of some help and is correct to the best of his knowledge. (All photographs are courtesy of Arthur.)


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revised 15/10/10
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