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

HMS FENCER (D 64) - Tracker-class Escort Aircraft Carrier
including Convoy Escort Movements

HMS Fencer (Navy Photos/Mark Teadham, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

TRACKER-Class Escort Aircraft Carrier obtained under US/UK Lend Lease Agreement. The ship was under construction at San Francisco by Western Pipe and Steel Corporation as C3 Class mercantile hull.. She had been laid down on 5th September 1941 after being acquired by the US Navy was launched on 4th April 1942 as USS CROATAN. On 27th February 1943 she was one of ten TRACKER Class transferred to the Royal Navy. Ten other hulls were retained for US Navy service. Design changes were made to the snip based on experience gained with the ARCHER Class and included a longer hangar as well as use of steam turbine propulsion machinery. Improvements were made to command and control facilities in the Operations Roan to suit use as an Escort Carrier. Her build was completed on 20th February 1943 and she was formally transferred to the RN a  week  later as HMS FENCER a name not previously used for a British warship. British radar outfit were fitted in USA.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s  


ATLANTIC 1943-44 - NORWAY  1944 - NORTH SEA  1944 - ARCTIC  1944


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a Field Blue, in  front of  two fencing  foils in Saltire Gold,

a  fencing mask also  gold.

(Note: Introduced  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


February                Contractors trials.

                20th        Build completion

                                Passage to San Francisco.



                1st           Commissioned as HMS FENCER.


April                       Passage to east coast of USA via Panama Canal.



                2nd         Arrived at New York.

                7th          Joined inward Convoy HX238 for passage to Liverpool.

                22nd       Detached from HX238 on arrival and taken in hand for conversion to suit RN requirements

                                for convoy defence deployment in Liverpool commercial shipyard.

                                (Note: Fit of Radar Type 79B for aircraft warning and control and Type 272 for surface

                                warning is recorded as March 1943. This is to be confirmed,)


June                        Under conversion.


July                         Carried out trials on completion of shipyard work.

                31st         Passage to Clyde to commenced work-up for operational service.


August                  Work-up in Clyde area with nine SWORDFISH, six SEAFIRE aircraft and personnel of 842

                                Squadron embarked.


 September            Nominated for service with 8th Escort Group for Atlantic convoy defence.

                30th        Deployed with HM Destroyers INCONSTANT, VISCOUNT, WRESTLER, Polish ORP

                                BURZA and ORP GARLAND of Group in support of passage of convoy from UK to Azores.

                                (Operation ALACRITY).

                                (Note: Allied occupation of the Azores had been agreed in a treaty with Portugal

                                signed on 18th August.)

October                  Deployed in Atlantic for support of ALACRITY convoy and passage of SC145.

                8th          Arrived in Azores and landed aircraft for anti-submarine patrols.

                                Deployed in Azores area for patrol and escort of ALACRITY convoy.

                23rd        Returned to Azores to recover aircraft and took passage to UK.

                24th        Took passage to resume air support of Gibraltar route convoys.


November              Deployed for Atlantic convoy support with Group

                                Passage to Clyde

                5th          On arrival deployed for Atlantic convoy defence

                                Embarked HELLCAT aircraft and additional personnel for 842 Squadron.

                19th        Provided anti-submarine air cover for inward joint convoy SL139/MKS30

                                during passage from Gibraltar to Liverpool

                26th        Provided anti-submarine air cover for outward joint Convoy OS60/KMS34

                                during Atlantic passage from Liverpool to Gibraltar.


December              Deployment with OS60/KMS34 in continuation

                                (Note: During this support embarked SEAFIRE aircraft destroyed an FW200 aircraft and

                                launched continuous SWORDFISH patrols.

                                Detached from OS34/KMS34.

                6th          Provided support for inward joint Convoy SL141/MKS32.

                12th        Supported passage of joint outward Convoy OS61/KMS35.through Bay of Biscay area to

                                Gibraltar with ships of Support Group.

                17th        Supported passage of joint inward Convoy SL142/MKS33.

                24th        Under repair in Clyde shipyard.


1 9 4 4


January                  Under repair.


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

                                Deployed with 16th Escort Group,

                                Supported passage of joint outward Convoys ON223 and HX278 with ships of Support


                10th        SWORDFISH aircraft A, 842 Squadron sank U666 in position 60.43N 12.50W,

                                SW of Faeroes. There were no survivors from the submarine.

                                For details see U-BOATS DESTROYED by P Kemp.

                26th        Support passage of joint inward Convoy SL149/MKS40


March                    Joined Home Fleet ships to provide Distant Cover for passage of Convoy JW58 to

                                Kola Inlet and for attacks on German battleship TIRPITZ (Operation TUNGSTEN).

                30th        Sailed from Scapa Flow with HM Battleships ANSON and DUKE OF YORK, HM Aircraft

                                Carrier VICTORIOUS, HM Escort Carriers EMPEROR, SEARCHER and PURSUER, HM

                                Cruisers BELFAST, SHEFFIELD and JAMAICA screened by 14 Home Fleet destroyers to

                                cover JW58 and execute Operation TUNGSTEN.


April                       Embarked 22 WILDCAT aircraft with personnel of 882 Squadron

                2nd         Deployed with the Escort Carriers as Force 8 to provide anti-submarine patrols.

                3rd          Joined HMS FURIOUS to provide additional fighter cover during strike operations.

                                (For details see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C Barnett and

                                Naval Staff History.)

                5th          Return passage to Scapa Flow with TUNGSTEN ships.

                19th        Deployed with HM Escort Aircraft Carrier ACTIVITY to provide air cover during the passage

                                of HM Cruiser DIADEM, 16 Home Fleet destroyers, 4 Canadian frigates and a mercantile NEA

                                HELLAS during passage from Scapa Flow to Kola Inlet.

                                (Note: These ships were required to embark US Navy personnel from USS MILWAUKEE

                                transferred to Soviet Navy and Russian naval personnel to man ships in UK being

                                loaned to Soviet Navy, for passage to UK. In addition the RN ships were to escort

                                empty mercantiles lying in Russian ports.

                                As NEA HELLAS, was intended to embark Soviet Navy personnel, had to return to

                                UK because of defects during passage, the Russians had to be transported in the

                                British warships and the returning mercantiles.

                24th        Planned repeat of TUNGSTEN by same carriers delayed by weather conditions.

                                (Operation PLANET)

                25th        Further delay due to weather made cancellation necessary.

                23rd        Arrived in Kola Inlet.

                28th        Sailed from Kola Inlet with Russian Admiral and Staff.

                                Provided air cover during passage of mercantiles to UK (Convoy RA59)

                                (Note: Details of distribution of personnel in escorting ships and mercantiles

                                are given in CONVOYS TO RUSSIA by RA Ruegg.)



                1st           SWORDFISH aircraft C of 842 Squadron sank U277 in position 73.24N 15.42E, SW of

                                Bear Island in defence of RA59. There were no survivors from the submarine.

                2nd         SWORDFISH aircraft B of 842 Squadron sank U674 in position 70.32N 04.37E, NE of

                                Jan Mayen Island in defence of RA59. There were no survivors from the submarine.

                                SWORDFISH aircraft K of 842 Squadron sank U959 in position 69.20N 00.20W, NE of

                                Iceland in defence of RA59. There were no survivors from the submarine.

                                Bv138C Shadowing aircraft shot down by WILDCAT fighters

                4th          Detached from RA59 with HMS DIADEM, HM Destroyers BOADICEA, ULYSSES,

                                VERULAM, VIRAGO, before arrival of convoy at Loch Ewe and took passage to Scapa Flow.

                                (For details of all Russian Convoy operations see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA, CONVOY ! by P.

                                Kemp, THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS by B Schoefield and ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman.)

                                (Note: Weather conditions during passage were extreme with rough seas and icing.

                                Launches were all maintained with some delay

                5th          Passage to Clyde for repair of storm damage.


June                        On completion of repair deployed with HM Escort Aircraft Carrier STRIKER, HM Cruiser

                                SHEFFIELD and screen of six Home Fleet destroyers in area north of North Norwegian


                                (Operation WANDERERS – Diversionary operation during Allied landings in Normandy

                                to simulate possible landings in Norway and enforce retention of U-Boats in Arctic

                                for attacks on approaching convoy).

                                Embarked ten additional WILDCAT aircraft and personnel for 881 Squadron.

                                (Note: Not deployed in direct support of allied landings in Normandy.

                                (Operation NEPTUNE)

                20th        Anti-submarine operations carried out and aircraft launched for strikes on shore targets

                                On release landed WILDCAT aircraft and personnel of 881 Squadron.


July                         Resumed Atlantic convoy defence duties.

                13th        Provided anti-submarine cover for defence of outward joint Convoy OS83/KMS57

                22nd       Provided support for inward joint Convoy SL164/MKS55


August                  Deployed for anti-submarine operations in NW Approaches.

                8th          Carried out anti-submarine sweep with Force 32 ships in NW Approaches

                                (Operation CX)

                                (Note: U-Boats were known to be regularly using Faeroes/Iceland passage on passage

                                to and from Atlantic deployments.)


September             Deployed with Home Fleet

                                Embarked four WILDCAT aircraft and additional personnel for 842 Squadron.

                                (Note: Transfer of four more WILDCAT from HMS NABOB to be confirmed

                                HMS NABOB was seriously damaged on 22nd September.)

                28th        Carried out anti-submarine patrols in support of Home Fleet strikes in Norwegian



October                  Deployment with Home Fleet for cover of anti-shipping strikes and air minelays

                                off Norway in continuation..

                14th        Sailed from Scapa Flow with HM Cruiser EURYALUS and HM Escort Aircraft Carrier

                                HMS TRUMPETER screened by HM Destroyers MYNGS, VOLAGE, SERAPIS,

                                ALGONQUIN (RCN) and SIOUX (RCN) for air minelay (Operation LYCIDAS).

                15th        Embarked aircraft carried out minelay off Sado and Aaramsund in error

                                (Note: This was due to poor identification on land.).

                16th        Minelay carried out successfully. and took return passage to Scapa Flow with ships

                                of Force 9.

                31st         Nominated for aircraft transport duties ii SW Pacific.


November              Took passage to Trincomalee

                11th        Arrived at Trincomalee

                                Embarked aircraft for transport to BPF.


December              Passage to Australia.

                23rd        Arrived at Sydney and disembarked aircraft.


1 9 4 5


January                  Deployed for aircraft transport between Ceylon and Australia in continuation

to                            Allocated for service with British Fleet Train –Task Force 112.



March                    Passage to Sydney from Ceylon with aircraft

                31st         Sailed from Sydney with aircraft to BPF Forward Base at Manus, Admiralty Is.


April                       TF112 service in continuation for transport of aircraft to and from Manus.




June                        Nominated for repair in South Africa before transfer to 39th Aircraft Carrier

                                Squadron in East Indies Fleet based in Ceylon.

                13th        Took passage to Simons Town,

                                Taken in hand by HM Dockyard, Simons Town.


July                         Under repair


August                  On completion of post repair trials took passage to join Squadron at Colombo.


September             Nominated for return to UK for conversion to suit use as a troop transport.

                4th          Sailed for UK

                25th        Arrived in Clyde.

                                Conversion arranged in London commercial shipyard

                                Passage to Thames

                30th        Taken in hand for conversion.

                                Paid-off from operational service.


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS FENCER was deployed for trooping of personnel from Ceylon on completion of conversion  in December 1945. The ship made one round trip and returned to UK in February 1946. Repair work delayed return to US Navy until October and she took passage to Norfolk, Va  in November after de-storing. Formal return was carried out on 21st October 1946. In 1947 this ship was sold for use as a mercantile and was renamed ss SYDNEY. In 1967 she was again sold and sailed as ss ROMA for three years. Further mercantile service. under the names GALAXY QUEEN 1970, LADY DINA (1971) and  CARIBA (1973). She was sold for demolition by an Italian shipbreaker in 1975. This name was re-introduced into the Royal  Navy in 1983, when given to a Patrol craft of the ATTACKER Class and used  for Royal Naval Reserve Training.







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








UA 003





SC 145





OS 060KM





SL 141MK





OS 061KM





ON 223





HX 278





KMF 029





SL 149MK





RA 059





OS 083KM





SL 164MK








(Note on Convoys)



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revised 15/10/10
further editing and formatting is required