HMS Premier

HMS Premier was a Ruler class escort carrier that served off the Norwegian coast during the first part of 1945, as well as escorting a convoy to Russia and acting as a deck landing training carrier.

The Premier was laid down on 31 October 1942 as USS Estero (CVE-42).


The Premier spend the spring of 1944 escorting convoys across the Atlantic, starting with Convoy CU17, leaving New York on 10 March and reaching the UK on 19 March. She returned with KMF30, leaving the Clyde on 30 March. Next was CU21, departing New York on 15 April and reaching the UK on 26 April. This was followed by CU25, leaving New York on 21 May and reaching the UK on 1 June.

HMS Premier from the right
HMS Premier from the right

After this period of escort duty the Premier was allocated to the Home Fleet for operations off Norway, and on 13 September 1944 received No.856 Squadron.

On 6-7 November the escort carriers Premier and Trumpeter laid mines off the Norwegian coast, while at the same time the Implacable carried out an anti-shipping sweep.

In late November the carriers Premier, Pursuer and Implacable were to take part in another operation off the Norwegian coast, but fierce winter storms forced the two escort carriers to return to port before the operation began, leaving Implacable to carry out a series of attacks on 27 November alone.

The Premier had more luck in early December, providing Avengers that laid ten mines in Salhuss Trommen on 7 December while escorted by Wildcats from the Trumpeter. Implacable was once again part of the force, carrying out attacks on German shipping on 8 December.


On the night of 11/12 January 1945 Premier and Trumpeter provided aircraft to cover the retreat of a force of cruisers and destroyers that had attacked a Germany convoy attempting to enter Egersund (Operation Spellbinder). On 13 January the Premier was back again, supporting mine laying during Operation Gratis.

On 29 January 1945 Premier, Nairana and Campania attacked shipping between Stadtland and Alesund, attacking four merchant ships.

On 12 February Avengers from Premier, escorted by Wildcats from Premier and Puncher dropped five mines in Salhustrommen. On 21 February Premier and Puncher returned to the same area, providing air cover for a mine sweeping force, before dropping seven more mines at Salhustrommen on 22 February. This time the mines were laid by Barracudas, while the Wildcats attacked the waterfront at Stavanger, destroyed a Dornier Do 24 on the water.

Premier and Vindex were part of the escort forces for the Russian-bound convoy JW66, with forty-two merchant ships. It departed from the UK on 21 April and reached Kola Inlet on 26 April, without loss. The return convoy, RA66, departed from Russian on 29 April, arriving back in the UK on 8 May.

In the summer of 1945 Puncher, Ravager, Battler and Premier acted as deck landing carriers. During the period between May-July 1945 452 pupils qualified in deck landing on the four carriers, and 26 underwent refresher courses.

Premier and Searcher were used for trials of the night fighter Firefly during 1945, and a report and comments were submitted during the year.

The Premier was returned to the US Navy on 12 April 1946 and sold off as a merchantman, although only after shipping troops across the Atlantic to Canada.


No.856 NAS

No.856 Squadron embarked on Premier with its Avenger IIs and Wildcat VIs on 13 September 1944 and remained with her until after VE-Day.

No.881 NAS

No.881 Squadron briefly operated its Wildcat VIs off Puncher during the winter of 1944-45.

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



22 March 1943


3 November 1943



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 (12 August 2010), HMS Premier ,

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