HMS Fencer

HMS Fencer was an Attacker class escort carrier that served with the Home Fleet in 1944, sinking three U-boats at the start of May, before joining the British Pacific Fleet as a ferry carrier during 1945. She was built by Western Pipe & Steel at San Francisco, and was launched in April 1942. Ten months later, in February 1943, she was completed, and by July she was in a British port being modified for service with the Royal Navy.

1943

In October-November 1943 the Fencer accompanies the force that occupied the Azores. Her aircraft provided anti-submarine cover during the trip from the United Kingdom, and during the disembarkation period. She was then forced to remain at the Azores for longer than expected when bad weather trapped the RAF's Lockheed Hudsons at Azores. Once the RAF aircraft arrived the Fencer carried out a series of patrols around the Azores and then returned to the UK.

A period of convoy escort duties followed. On 1 December the Fencer was escorting Convoy OS.60 200 miles to the south-west of Ireland when a Fw 200 was spotted and shot down by two Wildcats.

1944

A Russian officer on HMS Fencer
A Russian officer
on HMS Fencer

On 10 February, while escorting Convoy ON.223 Swordfish from No.842 Squadron on the Fencer sank U-666, just to the north of the site of the fight with the Fw 200.

On 3 April 1944 the Fencer took part in Operation Tungsten, the most successful of a series of Fleet Air Arm attacks on the Tirpitz carried our during 1944. The main strike force came from the fleet carriers Furious and Victorious, while the Fencer acted as an anti-submarine carrier, operating Nos.852 Squadron with a mix of Wildcats and Swordfish. The Tirpitz suffered a number of direct hits and was out of service for three months, while 438 of her crew were killed or wounded.

In late April Fencer escorted an outboard convoy to Russia, and by the start of May was on the return journey. This proved to be a rather profitable time for the carrier, and in two days she sank three U-boats. On 1 May U-277 was sunk south of Bear Island. On 2 May aircraft from No.842 Squadron sank U-674 to the north-east of Jan Mayen Island and U-959 to the north-east of Iceland.

Arctic Convoy seen from HMS Fencer
Arctic Convoy seen
from HMS Fencer

On 19 June Fencer and Striker moved north of the D-Day invasion area, and tried to use bogus W/T traffic to convince Germans that the feared attack on their northern coasts was coming. The limited endurance of the carrier's destroyer escorts meant that the operation had to end before any positive results could be observed. 

At the very end of June No.881 Squadron spent three days onboard Fencer to take part in an anti-shipping operation off Norway.

In July 1944 No.842 Squadron was split, with some of the Swordfish leaving the carrier. The remaining Swordfish and all of the Wildcats stayed onboard to escort a convoy to Gibraltar. The remaining Swordfish left during September, and the Wildcats in October.

On 28 September Trumpeter and Fencer left Scapa flow for three days of anti U-boat patrols in the North Sea, operating in especially bad weather.

On 14-15 October Trumpeter and Fencer were at sea again, this time laying 22 mines in Norwegian waters. During the same operation a grounded medium sized merchant ship was attacked.

1945

At the start of 1945 the Fencer was transferred to the British Pacific Fleet, and by February 1945 was acting as a ferry carrier, bringing new aircraft to the fleet. She continued to operate as a ferry carrier until mid-June when she went to Simonstown for a refit that included the installation of seven single Bofors guns. This refit ended her active wartime career, and she hadn't returned to her station by VJ day.

After the end of the fighting the Fencer returned to the UK with the squadron personnel from Nos.815 and 821 onboard.

The Fencer was returned to the US Navy on 21 May 1946 and sold off as a merchantman.

Squadrons

No.815 NAS

No.815 Squadrons personnel returned to the UK on the Fencer at the end of the war in the Far East.

No.821 NAS

No.821 Squadron returned to the UK from the Far East on Fencer after the end of the war.

No.842 NAS

No.842 Squadron with its Wildcats and Swordfish embarked on the Fencer on 5 August 1943 to take par t in Operation Tungsten. The squadron remained onboard until the summer of 1944.

No.881 NAS

The Wildcats of No.881 Squadron embarked on the Fencer for three days in June 1944 to take part in an anti-shipping operation off Norway.

Displacement (loaded)

10,200t standard
14,170t deep load

Top Speed

18.5kts

Range

 

Length

491ft 7in to 496ft 1in oa

Armaments

18-24 aircraft
Two 4in/50 US Mk 9 guns in one two-gun mounting
Eight 40mm Bofors guns in four two-gun mountings

Crew complement

646

Launched

4 April 1942

Completed

20 February 1943

Returned to US

1946

Fleet Air Arm Carrier Warfare, Kev Darling. A complete history of the Fleet Air Arm's use of aircraft carriers, from the earliest experiments during the First World War, through the Second World War, where the carriers became the most important capital ships in the navy, the Korean War, which saw the Fleet Air Arm involved from the beginning to the end, the Falklands War, which re-emphasised the important of the carrier and right up to the current 'super-carriers'. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 August 2010), HMS Fencer , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Fencer.html

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