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.
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
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
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
(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 TF88.in 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.
(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