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

HMS PUNCHER (D 79) - Ruler-class Escort Aircraft Carrier
including Convoy Escort Movements

HMS Puncher  (Navy Photos/Alan for Mr S Vallely, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

RULER-Class Escort Aircraft Carrier obtained under US/UK Lend Lease Agreement. This mercantile with C3 Type hull was under construction by Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation at Seattle when  requisitioned by the US Navy for use as an auxiliary aircraft carrier (CVE53). The ship was  laid down on 21st May 1943 and launched as USS WILLAPA on 8th November that year. Build was completed 5th February 1944 and she was then transferred to the Royal Navy and commissioned as HMS PUNCHER. This name had not previously been used by the RN. US Navy radar outfits were fitted during build.


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 dexter hand clenched couped at the  wrist proper.

(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 4




Contractors trials.




Nominated for service manned by Royal Canadian Navy personnel except for Air Group provided by RN.


5th - Build completion and transfer and commissioned as HMS PUNCHER.


15th - On completion of Sea Trials took passage to Esquimalt. Taken in hand for modifications to suit RN deployment for convoy defence.


March to May


Under modification to suit Atlantic convoy defence with RN escorts.




9th - Took passage from Vancouver to New York. Transit of Panama Canal. (Note: Call at ports on west coast of North America to be confirmed.)




8th - Arrived at New York.


11th - Deployed at Norfolk, Va for repairs and maintenance.


22nd - Nominated for use as a Ferry carrier and to transport US aircraft to Casablanca Embarked US aircraft at Norfolk. Took passage to Hampton Roads, Va.


28th - Sailed from Hampton Roads with US military convoy UGF13. (Note: UGF12 sailed for Naples on 1st July, UGF13 sailed for Naples on 28th.).)




Detached from UGF convoy and took passage to unload aircraft at Casablanca. Passage to return to USA as part of US convoy. Detached from convoy and took passage to Norfolk.


30th - Embarked CORSAIR aircraft at Norfolk for transport to UK




8th - Joined US tanker Convoy CU38 for passage to UK.


15th - Arrived in Clyde.


18th - Landed aircraft in Belfast.


19th - Took passage to New York with US military convoy for further transport duty.


30th - Arrived in New York.




6th - Sailed from New York with US Convoy CU42. (Note: It may be assumed US aircraft were embarked for passage to UK).


On arrival landed aircraft and took passage to Liverpool.


21st - Under modifications in Clyde shipyard. (Note: Petrol distribution system modification may have been carried out consequent on loss of HMS DASHER after arm explosion in March 1943.)




Embarked 12 BARRACUDA aircraft and personnel of 821 Squadron.


11th - Carried out trials with BARRACUDA aircraft. (Note: The were for use to carry out torpedo attacks prior to operational use.)


Sustained major damage in propulsion machinery. Passage to Clyde and disembarked aircraft.


27th - Taken in hand by Clyde shipyard for repair of main gearing.




Under repair. (Note: Repair was carried out by replacement of items from HM Escort Aircraft Carrier NABOB which had been taken out of service.)



1 9 4 5




Under repair. Nominated for service with Home Fleet based at Scapa Flow. On completion of refit embarked WILDCAT and BARRACUDA aircraft and personnel of 861 and 821 Squadrons. Worked up in Clyde for operational service in Home Fleet.




1st - Joined Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.


11th - Sailed as part of Force 2 with HM Escort Carrier PREMIER for attacks on coastal shipping off Norway as part of a joint aircraft minelay and anti-shipping strike off Bud (Operation SELENIUM I and II). (Note: Surface cover was provided by HM Cruiser DEVONSHIRE and HM Destroyers CAVENDISH, CAVALIER, SCOURGE and ZEBRA.) Ship provided fighter cover.


12th - Air search unsuccessful as no targets found. (For details see Naval Staff History (MINING) and CONVOY ! by P Kemp.)


13th - Returned to Scapa Flow with ships of Force 2.


21st - Sailed from Scapa Flow as part of Force 4 for air minelay in Kara Sound, Norway. (Note: Operation GROUNDSHEET. Part of Operation SHRED to clear a shorter passage through British minefield for Home Fleet ships to Norwegian coast. See Naval Staff History.)


22nd - Carried out air minelay for first time and aircraft came under shore fire causing loss of two BARRACUDA aircraft. (Note: Surface cover was provided by HM Cruiser DIDO screened by HM Destroyers SCORPION, MYNGS and CAVALIER.)


23rd - Returned to Scapa Flow with ships of Force 4.


24th - Ship dragged anchor at Scapa Flow during gale. No major damage was sustained.




Deployed at Scapa Flow with Home Fleet.


26th - Deployed with HM Escort Aircraft Carrier NAIRANA to carry out WILDCAT attacks on shipping in Alesund , Norway (Operation PREFIX. Note: The weather conditions were poor during this operation. No shipping was damaged but strikes made on shore targets.)




Embarked 825 Squadron WILDCAT aircraft and personnel.


6th - Deployed with HM Escort Aircraft Carriers QUEEN, SEARCHER and TRUMPETER for air operations off Norway.


Carried out air attack on U-Boat Depot Ships at Kilbotn after delay caused by bad weather conditions (Operation NEWMARKET).


21st - Under repair in Clyde shipyard.




Nominated for service as Training Carrier after VE Day. Under repair.


June to August


Transferred for trooping duties with reduced complement. Deployed for transport of personnel to US and completed one double crossing to Canada and USA.



P o s t    W a r    N o t e


HMS PUNCHER remained in service for trooping duties until December 1945. The ship was returned to he US Navy at Norfolk, Va on 16th January 1946 after de-storing and removal of British equipment. .She was sold  for use as a mercantile in 194 and renamed MUNCASTER CASTLE. Nine years later she was resold and continued mercantile service named ss BARDIC until 1959 when again renamed ss BEN NEVIS. Sold for demolition in 1973 this ship arrived at Kaohsuing, Taiwan for demolition on 11th June that year. This name was re-introduced for RN us when given to HM LST3036 in 1947 and after her sale in 1961 was again used for a Patrol Craft completed by Vosper-Thornycroft in 1988. This craft is still in service and deployed for the training of Royal Naval Reserve personnel in London.







by Don Kindell


This convoy list has not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








GUS 048








(Note on Convoys)



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revised 25/6/11
further editing is required