HMS Atheling

HMS Atheling was a Ruler class escort carrier that served alongside HMS Illustrious in the Bay of Bengal for a short period of time in 1944 before being loaned to the US Navy to serve as a ferry carrier in 1945.


The Atheling crossed the Atlantic with No.1836 Squadron and its Corsair Is onboard. The squadron disembarked in the UK in January 1945.


In February 1944 the 45th Naval TBR Wing (Nos.822 and 823 Squadrons) joined the Atheling with their Barracudas. They were joined by the Vought Corsairs of Nos.1837 and 1838 Squadrons. In March the Atheling passed through the Suez Canal, carrying these four squadrons and part of No.845 Squadron out to the Far East, accompanying convoy AJ.2 from Aden to Colombo as she went.

HMS Atheling at Greenock, 1944
HMS Atheling at Greenock, 1944

On arrival the Corsairs transferred to HMS Unicorn, 845 Squadron to the Illustrious and the Barracudas were disembarked at Ulunderpet, where they formed the 11th Naval TBR Wing.

On 13 May the Atheling received her own aircraft when No.889 Squadron embarked with its Seafires (possibly alongside No.890 with its Hellcats).

On 23 June Atheling provided the CAP while Illustrious took on oil, allowing the Illustrious to launch an attack on Port Blair in the Andaman Islands. The CO of No.889 Squadron was killed during this mission, and six days later another accident killed two pilots and three deck crew. With only five aircraft left the Atheling was no longer seen as suitable for the job of supporting Illustrious. Her squadrons were reassigned, and by August 1944 it was expected that the Atheling would become a training carrier for squadrons working up in the Indian Ocean.

During that month she ferried the Corsairs of No.1838 Squadron from Ceylon to South Africa.


At the start of 1945 Atheling was loaned to the US Navy, where it became a ferry carrier transporting US Naval aircraft to the front line, although still manned by her British crew. While the other carriers involved in this scheme came back to British control by July, Atheling was still serving with the US Navy in August.

Between 1 November 1945 and 10 February 1946 the Atheling travelled from Plymouth to Sydney and back, then again from 1 March to 18 May, each time transporting troops back and too from Australia.

The Atheling was returned to US Navy control on 13 December 1946.


No.889 NAS

No.889 Squadron joined the Atheling on 13 May 1944 for operations over the Bay of Bengal. The squadron was disbanded on 11 July after suffering heavy losses.

No.1836 NAS

No.1836 was onboard to cross the Atlantic in December 1943-January 1944.

No.1837 NAS

No.1837 (Corsair II) was onboard for the trip from Britain to Ceylon in March 1944.

No.1838 NAS

No.1838 (Corsair II) also travelled to Ceylon on the Atheling in March 1944, and later returned for a trip from Ceylon to South Africa in August/ September 1944.

Displacement (loaded)

11,400t standard
15,390t deep load

Top Speed



27,500 miles at 11 knots


495ft 3in-496ft 8in oa


18-24 aircraft
Two 5in/38 US Mk 12 in two single mountings
Sixteen 40mm Bofors guns in eight double mountings
Twenty seven to thirty five 20mm cannon

Crew complement



7 September 1942


1 August 1943


6 December 1946

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 July 2010), HMS Atheling ,

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