HMS Puncher

HMS Puncher was a Ruler class escort carrier that took part in a series of operations off the Norwegian coast early in 1945 before becoming a deck landing training carrier for the rest of the year.

The Puncher was laid down on 21 May 1943 as USS Willapa (CVE-53).


In 1943-44 the Puncher was the subject of a report on how to improve conditions on escort carriers. She crossed the Atlantic at least twice in the late summer and early autumn of 1944. On the first time she accompanied convoy CU38, leaving New York on 4 September and arriving in the UK on 15 September. During this trip No.1845 Squadron and its Corsair IIIs crossed the Atlantic, embarking on 30 August in the US and disembarking on 18 September in the UK. The second crossing was alongside Convoy CU42, leaving New York on 6 October and reaching the UK on 17 October.

In November 1944 No.821 Squadron embarked on the Puncher, and remained onboard to take part in active operations off the Norwegian coast early in 1945.


HMS Puncher from the left
HMS Puncher from the left

On 12 February 1945 Wildcats from the Puncher accompanied by more Wildcats from Premier escorted the Premier's Avengers as they laid 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.

During this period two pilots from No.821 Squadron on Puncher won awards for their part in Operations Groundsheet and Shred - mine laying operations off Norway.

The Puncher took part in two anti-shipping strikes off Norway in March, Operations Prefix and Muscular. One of these saw Queen, Puncher, Searcher and Nairana sail from Scapa Flow on 24 March, and on 26 March their aircraft searched the leads between Trondheim and Kristiansund. Avengers from the Queen attacked a 4,000-5,000 ton tanker and a minesweeper, while fighter aircraft from Search and Puncher provided an escort.

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. During this period No.1791 Squadron embarked on her on 11 June to undertake deck landing training with her Firefly NF.Is. At this point Puncher was Canadian manned, and so in July she crossed the Atlantic to Canada to allow her crew to go on leave, before returning to the UK in August.

During 1944 the commander of the Puncher wrote a report on the operational capabilities of the Firefly night fighter, based on the results of No.1790 Squadron's working up period.

The Puncher was returned to the US Navy on 16 January 1946 and sold off as a merchantman,


No.821 NAS

HMS Puncher at anchor
HMS Puncher at anchor

No.821 Squadron embarked on Puncher in November 1944, using Hatston as a shore-base. The squadron took part in mine-laying operations off the Norwegian coast in February 1945.

No.881 NAS

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

No.1791 NAS

No.1781 Squadron used Puncher for deck training with its Firefly NF.Is from 11 June 1945

No.1845 NAS

No.1845 Squadron and its Corsair IIIs crossed the Atlantic on Puncher in 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



8 November 1943


5 February 1944



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 (9 August 2010), HMS Puncher ,

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