HMS Attacker

HMS Attacker was the name ship for the Attacker class of escort carriers. She took part in the landings at Salerno in 1943 and in the south of France and Greece in 1944, before moving to the Far East in time to take part in the liberation of Penang and the re-occupation of Singapore. She was built by the Western Pipe & Steel Corp of San Francisco between September 1941 and October 1942.


In December 1942 the Attacker was still in California, where she was joined by No.838 Squadron and its Swordfish. She then set sail for Quonset Point, travelling via the Panama Canal.


HMS Attacker at Greenock, 1943
HMS Attacker at Greenock, 1943

The Attacker reached Quonset Point on 1 January 1943 and spent two months there. In April 1943 she escorted the first homeward-bound tanker convoy from Caracas to the UK, arriving without incident. She then underwent a refit, before undergoing intensive training in preparation for a move to the Mediterranean. No.879 Squadron joined on 29 July 1943 with its Seafire L.IIcs.

The Attacker took part in Operation Avalanche, the naval part of the Salerno landings, forming part of Force V alongside the escort carriers Battler, Hunter and Stalker 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 Attacker the Seafires of Nos.879 and 886 Squadrons. The carriers left Gibraltar on 8 September, and spent four days off 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. During this period No.879 Squadron flew seventy five patrols.


Hunter, Stalker and Attacker reached Gibraltar on 26 May, each with a complement of Seafires. 30% of their aircraft joined the Tactical Air Force in Italy for operational experience during June and July.

In August 1944 Attacker formed part of Task Force 88.1, operating alongside Emperor, Khedive, Pursuer and Searcher during Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the south of France. Hunter and Stalker also formed part of Task Force 88, and between them the British carriers provided 166 fighter aircraft, suffering less than ten percent casualties to enemy action during the active period of the operation, which lasted from 15-23 August. No.879 Squadron and its Seafires operated from the Attacker during this operation.

The escort carriers were released on 28 August and sailed to Alexandria for repairs and replenishment, arriving in early 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, starting on 25 September. Attacker provided cover for landing parties on Piskopi on 28 September.

On 13 October Attacker and Emperor were diverted to take part in Operation Manna, the occupation of Athens.

After the end of the operations in Greece the Attacker went to Taranto for a refit, arriving on 7 December, and remaining there into 1945.


HMS Attacker receiving mail off Rhodes, 1944
HMS Attacker receiving mail off Rhodes, 1944

After her refit the Attacker sailed through the Suez Canal to join the East Indies Fleet, reaching Trincomalee on 1 April 1945, where she became part of No.21 Aircraft Carrier Squadron. At this point she was carrying No.879 Squadron with her Seafires.

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. Hunter and Stalker then joined the fleet preparing for the occupation of Singapore, while Attacker remained off Penang, before being ordered to provide air cover for mine-sweeping operations to the north of Singapore. She finally joined the main fleet in Singapore roads on 11 September.

The Attacker was returned to the US Navy on 5 January 1946 and sold off as a merchantman.


No.809 NAS

No.809 Squadron was onboard the Attacker for a short period over the winter of 1944-45 to travel to North Africa, before being based onshore at Dekheila.

No.838 NAS

No.838 Squadron was one of the first squadrons to join the Attacker, embarking in California in December 1942. It stayed onboard for the first convoy escort mission in March 1943 then disembarked.

No.840 NAS

No.840 Squadron embarked early in 1943 with its Swordfish II. It helped escort a convoy across the Atlantic in March 1943 then disembarked.

No.879 NAS

No.879 Squadron spent three separate spells onboard the Attacker. It first embarked with Seafires on 29 July 1943 to take part in Operation Avalanche, and then returned to the UK. It returned, again with Seafires, on 23 July 1944 to take part in Operation Dragoon, disembarking at Dekheila on 11 December. Finally it joined on 14 April 1945, still with Seafires, this time to join No.21 Aircraft Carrier Squadron in the East Indies Fleet.

No.886 NAS

No.886 Squadron embarked with its Seafires and Swordfish on 19 June 1943. Only the Seafires were onboard during Operation Avalanche in September 1943, and in October the entire squadron returned to the UK.

Bridge of HMS Attacker
Bridge of HMS Attacker

No.898 NAS

No.898 Squadron reformed at Cape Town on 1 January 1945. It embarked on Attacker on 23 June with rocket equipped-Hellcat IIs but never got to use them in combat. The squadron returned home on Pursuer.

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





491ft 7in to 496ft 1in oa


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



27 September 1941


10 October 1942

Returned to US


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]
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 August 2010), HMS Attacker ,

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