HMS Stalker

HMS Stalker was an Attacker class escort carrier that took part in the Salerno landings in 1943, the invasion of the south of France and the liberation of Greece in 1944 and the liberations of Penang, Rangoon and Malaya during 1945.

The Stalker was built by the Western Pipe & Steel Corp, San Francisco. She was launched as USS Hamlin (CVE-15) and completed on 30 December 1942, having originally been laid down as a merchantman.

1943

Early in 1943 the Stalker was used to ferry USAAF aircraft to North Africa. Stalker and Hunter then escorted a convoy to the UK, driving off one Fw 200 on the way. After arriving in the UK she underwent a refit, before in July undergoing intensive training to go to the Mediterranean.

The Stalker took part in Operation Avalanche, the naval part of the Salerno landings, forming part of Force V alongside the escort carriers Attacker, Hunter and Battler and the support carrier Unicorn, while the fleet carriers Illustrious and Formidable formed Force H. The escort carriers reached Gibraltar from the Clyde on 9 August, where they picked up their fighters - in the case of the Battler the Seafires of No.880 Squadron and a flight from No.833 Squadron. The carriers left Gibraltar on 8 September, and spent four days of Salerno, from 9 to 12 September. During this period Force V provided close air support for the landings, suffering heavy losses from accidents to the fragile Seafires. The aircraft moved onshore for operations on 13-14 September, rejoining their carriers after these two days.

After Avalanche the Stalker returned to the UK. Late in the year she was involved in the working up of the 4th Naval Fighter Wing, the fighter wing that operated from the escort carriers during Operation Dragoon and operations in Greece.

1944

On 26 May Stalker, Attacker and Hunter arrived at Gibraltar, prior to taking part in the invasion of southern France. No.809 Squadron and its Seafires embarked on the Stalker prior to departure. During June and July 30% of the three carrier's aircraft were loaned to the Tactical Air Force in Italy to gain operational experience.

In August 1944 the Stalker took part in Operation Dragoon, operating as part of Task Force 88.2 alongside the Hunter, USS Tulagi and USS Kasaan Bay. Emperor, Attacker, Khedive, Pursuer and Searcher formed Task Force 88.1. During this operation the British carriers provided 166 fighters, losing less than 10% to enemy activity between 15-23 August. No.809 Squadron's Seafires operated from the Stalker during this operation.

The escort carriers were released on 28 August and sailed to Alexandria for repairs and replenishment, arriving early in September. They then took part in Operations Outing Cablegram and Contempt, a series of operations designed to isolate the German garrisons in the Aegean and Dodecanese. The Stalker took part in the main series of operations alongside Attacker, Hunter and Emperor.

In October 1944 the Stalker returned to Britain via Gibraltar. One month was spent at Devonport, before she returned to Gibraltar with No.809 Squadron (Seafire). The Stalker underwent a refit at Gibraltar.

1945

The refit was completed by February 1945, and the Stalker sailed through the Suez Canal to join the East Indies Fleet, carrying No.809 Squadron and its Seafires. The Stalker had joined the fleet by the end of May, but at that date hadn't taken part in any operations.

Six British escort carriers were involved in Operations Bishop and Dracula, a long-planned amphibious invasion of Rangoon. Stalker formed part of the escort to the main assault convoy, alongside Hunter, Khedive and Emperor. This convoy left port on 30 April, and made an unopposed landing at the start of May. So little opposition was encountered that the carriers were released on 4 May, and carried out a series of attacks on the Tenasserim coast before bad weather intervened on 6 May.

Ameer, Khedive and Stalker took part in Operation Balsam, which involved photographic reconnaissance of airfields in southern Malaya on 16-20 June, followed by an attack on Medan and Bindjai airfields and Somawe Bay in north-east Sumatra on 20 June. Ameer provided No.809 Squadron, and attacked Lhokseumawe airfield, where its Seafires destroyed a Ki-43 and damaged a Ki-21.

On 17 August Shah, Attacker, Hunter and Stalker formed part of a fleet that left Trincomalee to support the occupation of Penang (Operation Jurist), which was completed without any opposition.

When the war ended the British were close to carrying out a major invasion of Malaya and Singapore, Operation Zipper. It was decided to conduct this operation as if it were an opposed landing, and seven escort carriers were allocated to the attacking force. Stalker formed part of Force 65, with Attacker, Hunter and Begum, while Empress, Emperor and Khedive formed Force 64. The operation began on 10 September and saw 100,000 troops land against minimal resistance, while on 11 September most of the fleet entered Singapore.

The Stalker was returned to the US Navy on 29 December 1945 and sold as a merchantman.

Squadrons

No.809 NAS

No.809 Squadron worked up on the Stalker in home waters in late 1943-early 1944, then embarked properly in May 1944 to move to the Mediterranean, where its Seafires took part in operations in North Africa and Italy. Some were detached to the Desert Air Force. The squadron took part in Operation Dragoon, before leaving the Stalker while she underwent a refit at Gibraltar from November 1944-February 1945. The squadron had a short spell on Attacker before return to Stalker in February/ March 1945 to join the East Indies Fleet. She operated from the carrier for the rest of the war apart from a spell detached to Shah in May 1945.

No.880 NAS

The Seafires of No.880 Squadron were onboard Stalker for Operation Avalanche in September 1943

No.833 NAS

A flight of Seafires from No.833 Squadron were onboard Stalker for Operation Avalanche in September 1943

No.1700 NAS

No.1700 Squadron was formed as an amphibian bomber-reconnaissance equipped with the Walrus and Sea Otter. It travelled to the Far East on Khedive between 8 January and 8 February 1945 and then dispersed onto Stalker, Hunter, Emperor, Ameer, Attacker, Shah and Khedive, performing mine-sweeping and search and rescue duties. It returned to shore bases at the end of the war.

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

5 March 1942

Completed

30 December 1942

Returned to US

December 1945

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 (31 August 2010), HMS Stalker , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Stalker.html

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