Naval History Homepage and Site Search




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

HMS SEARCHER (D 40) - Attacker/Tracker-class Escort Aircraft Carrier
including Convoy Escort Movements

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Chaser, sister-ship  (Navy Photos, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

TRACKER-Class Escort Aircraft Carrier obtained under UK/US Lend-Lease Agreement. The ship was under construction for mercantile use by Seattle-Tacoma SB Corporation at Seattle and had been laid down on 20th February 1942.. The ship was launched  on 20th July 1942 and requisitioned by the US Navy on 27th July 1942 for completion by Willamette Iron and Steel Works at Portland, Oregon as an auxiliary aircraft carrier (CVE22). On 7th April 1943 the day before build was completed the ship was formally transferred to the Royal Navy and commissioned as HMS SEARCHER. in Tacoma. The 2nd Royal Navy warship to carry the name, first used by a 1918 destroyer sold in 1938. She was fitted out for use as an Assault Carrier and intended for support of amphibious landing operations. Royal Navy radar equipment was fitted during build.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


ATLANTIC 1943-44  - AEGEAN 1944 - SOUTH FRANCE 1944 - NORWAY 1944-45


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a field White, a bloodhound’s head erased Red,

collared Gold.

(Note: Approved after WW2.)



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


March                    Contractors trials at Portland.


April                       Moved to Tacoma.

                7th          Commissioned for Royal Navy service as HMS SEARCHER at build yard

                8th          Build completion.

                                Prepared for sea trials

                28th        Passage to Puget Sound to carry out Acceptance Trials.

                29th        Degaussing equipment fitted.

                30th        British Consul visited ship and commenced sea trials



1st           During machinery trials defects in machinery pipe-work required attention and delayed completion.

                                (Note: This ship was built using prefabricated units and welded construction. As she was the first

                                ship of this type to be completed by this shipyard some of the defects may have been due

                                to poor quality control. )

                                On completion of repair checked DG equipment on local Range

                2nd         Passage to Esquimalt for modifications by HM Canadian Dockyard to suit RN use.

                                Docked on arrival for repair by dockyard and ship’s staff.

                5th          Governor General of Canada, Earl of Athlone visited ship.

                7th          Resumed sea trials including gunnery firings.

                8th          Carried out trials of propulsion machinery including speed..

                10th        Carried out AA firings against sleeve target and surface shoot.

                                Flooding damage caused due to firing of 4in armament.

                12th        Under repair to flooding.

                13th        Took passage to Panama.

                24th        Passage in Caribbean to join HX Series convoy prior to Atlantic passage to UK

                27th        Sustained major damage in extreme weather conditions during passage

                                (Note: Further was caused to ship structure and to pipework systems.

                                Diverted to Norfolk, Va for repair.



                1st           Arrived at Norfolk and taken in hand for docking and repair.

                                (Note: Work carried out included repair to propulsion machinery defects during passage to east

                                coast of USA which required removal of decks structure to obtain access to Engine room.

                                for replacement of defective equipment.)

                                On completion of machinery trials took passage to New York..

                30th        Sailed from New York as part of routine Convoy HX246 to Liverpool.

                                (Note: Ship was carrying crated aircraft supplied under Lend-Lease.)



                14th        Detached from HX246 on arrival at Liverpool.

                                Taken in hand for completion of modifications to suit RN use for convoy defence and deployment

                                as a Fighter Carrier..


August                  Under refit




October                  Nominated for service in Western Approaches Command

                                Carried out post refit sea trials.

                                Embarked WILDCAT aircraft and personnel of 882 and 898 Squadrons.

                6th          Commenced work-up in Clyde area.

                                Diverted to provide air cover for passage of convoys in NW Approaches/

                                (Note: Anti-submarine defence patrols were launched for Outward Convoy ON207 and inward

                                Convoy HX262


November              Convoy defence deployment in continuation

                                (Note: Defence was provided for inward Convoy HGX264

                                For details of tactics used in defence of convoys by support groups with air support see

                                THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC by D Macintyre, U-BOAT WAR IN THE

                                ATLANTIC (HMSO) and BUSINESS IN GREAT WATERS by J Terraine.)

                                Passage to Argentia, Newfoundland

                                (Note: Reason for this deployment to be established.)

                12th        Deployed at Argentia.


December              Deployed for Atlantic convoy defence.

                20th        Provided cover for passage of US Tanker Convoy UC8 during Atlantic passage.

                29th        Developed machinery defects during cover operations and escorted by US Destroyer USS HOPPING

                                to New York for repair.


1 9 4 4



                5th          Taken in hand for repair.



                7th          Resumed Atlantic convoy defence duties on completion of post refit trials.

                10th        Took passage to Liverpool from New York.

                                (Note: Provision of air cover for convoy during passage to be confirmed)

                22nd       On arrival at Liverpool deployed for completion of work-up


March                    Nominated for service with Home Fleet for support of operations in defence of Russian convoys

                                and offensive air operations against Norwegian coast shipping.

                18th        Passage to Scapa Flow on completion of work-up

                30th        Deployed with HM Escort Carriers EMPEROR, PURSUER and FENCER and ships of Home

                                Fleet to provide cover for passage of Russian Convoy JW58 and to carry out attack on the

                                German battleship TIRPITZ in Altenfjord, Norway (Operation TUNGSTEN)

                                (Note: Home Fleet ships included HM Battleship ANSON, HM Aircraft Carriers FURIOUS

                                and VICTORIOUS, HM Cruisers BELFAST, ROYALIST, SHEFFIELD and JAMAICA

                                with screen of 14 Fleet Destroyers.

                                (For details of all Russian Convoys with names of ships involved see CONVOYS TO

                                RUSSIA by RA Ruegg, THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS by B Schoefield, CONVOY ! by P

                                Kemp and ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman.)



                3rd          Deployed for support of air attacks on German battleship TIRPITZ in Altenfjord and cover

                                with cover from ships of Home Fleet.

                                Returned to Scapa Flow and prepared for planned air strikes on Norwegian coast shipping

                9th          Part of Home Fleet force covering transit of Russian Convoy RA58 to UK from Kola Inlet.

                14th        Returned to Scapa Flow with Home Fleet ships after arrival of RA58.

                21st         Joined HMS FURIOUS, HM Escort Carriers STRIKER, PURSUER and EMPEROR for further

                                air attacks on TIRPITZ covered by HM Battleships ANSON and DUKE OF YORK, cruisers

                                and destroyers of the Home Fleet.

                24th        Operation delayed by weather conditions.

                25th        Operation cancelled after flying prevented by continued bad weather.

                26th        Carried out air attacks on shipping in Bodo and Rorvik areas off coast of Norway.

                                (Operations RIDGE ABLE and RIDGE BAKER.)

                                (Note: Three ships were sunk off Bodo, but RIDGE BAKER off Bodo was abandoned due to

                                weather conditions.)


May                        Nominated for planned air operations against Norwegian coast shipping

                6th          Deployed with HMS FURIOUS and HM Cruiser BERWICK, HM Destroyers SAVAGE, WIZARD,

                                WAKEFUL, ALGONQUIN (RCN), Polish ORP PIORUN and Polish ORP BLYSKAWICA

                                (Operation CROQUET)

                                (Note: One mercantile ss ALMOR was sunk, ss SAARBURG and three smaller mercantiles were

                                damaged for the loss of two aircraft from other carriers. Two Bv138 were shot down.)

                8th          Deployed with HM Escort Carriers STRIKER and EMPEROR for attack on convoy off

                                Kristiansund North and strikes against shore targets (Operation HOOPS).

                                (Note: Five enemy aircraft were destroyed with loss of two HELLCAT aircraft from other carriers.)

                                After return to Scapa Flow took passage to Rosyth for routine maintenance and repair prior to

                                resuming convoy defence service in Western Approaches.

                31st         Passage to Clyde for convoy defence duties.


June                        Deployed to provide anti-submarine air cover for convoys in NW Approaches.

                11th        Provided cover for outward joint Convoy OS80/KMS54..

                22nd       Provided cover for inward joint Convoy SL161/MKS52 during passage to Liverpool.


July                         Nominated for service with Force H at Gibraltar in support of planned allied landings in South

                                France (Operation DRAGOON, formerly ANVIL).

                1st           Detached from SL161/KMS and returned to Clyde.

                5th          898 Squadron amalgamated with 882 Squadron.

                15th        Sailed for Malta to join HM Escort Aircraft Carriers ATTACKER, EMPEROR, KHEDIVE,

                                HUNTER, PURSUER , US Navy escort carriers USS TULAGI and KASAAN BAY in Task

                                Force 88 under overall US Navy command.

                25th        Joined Malta

                                Transferred to Task Group 88.1 which comprised

                                Joined HM Escort Carriers ATTACKER, EMPEROR, KHEDIVE, PURSUER, HM Cruisers

                                ROYALIST, DELHI, HM Destroyers TROUBRIDGE, TUSCAN, TYRIAN, TEAZER, TUMULT,

                                WHEATLAND and Greek NAVARINON in Task Group 88.1.


August                  Carried out preparatory exercises with Task Group.

                12th        Sailed from Malta with ships of TF88.1

                                (Note Passage made via Tunisian War Channel and Convoy Route 2)

                15th        Provided air cover, bombardment spotting, strafing and shore strikes during landings as

                to            required by US Air Task Force Commander.

                18th        (Note: For details see LANDINGS IN SOUTH FRANCE (HMSO), ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE

                                CLOSELY, ROYAL NAVY ESCORT CARRIERS by D Hobbs and the Naval Staff History).

                                Details of number and types of sorties made and losses to enemy action and by deck landing


                19th        Passage to Maddalena with TG88.1 to replenish and for R&R.

                21st         Resumed duties off beach head with TG88.1.

                to            Attacks made on retreating German troops in Rhone valley.

                23rd        (Note: Slight damage caused due to accidental firing of aircraft guns when in

                                hangar. During the operation there were 40 deck landing accidents.)

                24th        Returned to Maddalena with TG88.1

                27th        Released from DRAGOON when TG88.1 disbanded and took passage to Malta.

                                Nominated for service at Alexandria with British Aegean Force.

                30th        Passage to Alexandria for support of planned re-occupation operations.



                9th          Deployed with HM Escort Carriers HUNTER, KHEDIVE and PURSUER to carry out air

                                strikes on enemy shipping and on occupied islands in the Aegean

                                (Operation OUTING I )

                                (Note: Other ships involved included Escort Carriers released from TF88.1 and HM Cruisers

                                ORION, AJAX, ROYALIST, BLACK PRINCE, ARGONAUT. AURORA,

                                COLOMBO with destroyers of 24th and HUNT Class Escorts based at Alexandria.


October                  Aegean support operations in continuation.

                15th        Provided air cover for minesweeping operations in Kithera Channel



                17th        Air support operations in continuation in Aegean.



                21st         Returned to Alexandria.

                                Released from Mediterranean service and nominated for return to UK for refit



                1st           Took passage to UK from Alexandria.

                8th          Sailed from Gibraltar to Belfast

                12th        Disembarked aircraft and Squadron personnel.

                13th        Took passage from Belfast to Green for refit in Clyde commercial shipyard.

                15th        Under refit


December              Under refit.


 1 9 4 5


January                  Nominated for service in Home Fleet on completion of post refit trials

                29th        Refit work competed and re-embarked 882 Squadron aircraft and personnel.


February                Worked up for operational service in Clyde Exercise Area.


March                    On completion of work-up took passage to rejoin Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.

                4th          Resumed Fleet service on arrival.

                                Embarked two FIREFLY aircraft of 746 Squadron.

                                Nominated for planned air minelay and shipping attacks (Operation CUPOLA)

                20th        Carried out last joint air minelay and shipping attacks off Norway with HM Escort

                                Carriers PREMIER and QUEEN, covered by HM Cruiser BELLONA screened by HM

                                Destroyers ONSLOW, ZEST, SERAPIS, HAIDA (RCN) and IROQUOIS (RCN).

                                (Note: The minelaying operation started in August 1944. See Naval Staff History (MINING).)

                26th        Carried out shipping strikes off Trondheim with HMS QUEEN (Operation PREFIX)

                                (Note: No ship targets were found but 882 Squadron Fighters shot down three Me109 and

                                damaged two others.


April                       Home Fleet deployment in continuation

                                Nominated for air operations with HM Escort Aircraft Carriers PUNCHER, QUEEN and

                                TRUMPETER against U-boat Base at Kilbotn near Narvik (Operation NEWMARKET).

                                Sailed with strike force for planned attacks.

                6th          NEWMARKET aborted due to adverse weather conditions and ships returned to Scapa Flow.


May                        Deployed with HM Escort Carriers QUEEN and TRUMPETER for shipping strikes west

                                of Narvik and attacks on U-Boat base at Kilbotn covered by HM Cruisers DIADEM and

                                NORFOLK with HM Destroyers CARYSFORT, OPPORTUNE, SAVAGE, SCOURGE and

                                ZAMBESI and were later joined by HM Destroyers OBEDIENT and ORWELL.

                                (Operation JUDGEMENT - The Codeword previously used for the attack on Taranto

                                in November 1940.)

                4th          During attacks at Kilbotn near Harstad by AVENGER aircraft from carriers the German

                                Submarine Depot Ship BLACK WATCH and U711 which lying alongside the tender,

                                (Note: U711 was the last U-Boat to be sunk by an aircraft during hostilities.)

                9th          Deployed with Home Fleet units at Copenhagen for surrender of German warships.

                                (Operation CLEAVER)

                                (Note: During passage to Copenhagen on 6th some Ju88 aircraft were intercepted by air

                                patrol and allowed to fly unmolested.)

                10th        Took return passage from Copenhagen to Scapa Flow.

                                Nominated for refit prior to service in the East Indies Fleet

                                Passage to Clyde.

                15th        Taken in hand for refit


June                        Under refit

                                Nominated for service in 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron based at Trincomalee.


July                         On completion of post refit trials embarked 24 WILDCAT aircraft for transports to East Indies


                                Took passage to Trincomalee


August                  Passage to Cochin and disembarked aircraft

                                Passage to Trincomalee with call at Colombo


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS SEARCHER was not deployed operationally after arrival and returned to UK to Pay-off on 19th September 1945. On arrival in Clyde on 9th October embarked aircraft were landed and ship Paid-off. After de-storing and removal of British equipment she sailed for USA with Steaming Party on 14th November. Returned to the US Navy at Norfolk Navy  Yard on 29th of that month this vessel was sold for use as a mercantile and renamed CAPTAIN THEO in 1947. She was  sold for further use in trade and again renamed in 1964 when she became ORIENTAL BANKER until  sold for demolition in Taiwan during 1967. The RN name was  re-introduced in 1947 when given to HM Landing Ship (Tank) 3508 which was  scrapped in June 1949.







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








OS 080KM





SL 161MK








(Note on Convoys)



back to Contents List
or Naval-History.Net

revised 18/10/10
further editing and formatting is required


if any ads offend, please contact Naval-History.Net