HMS Shah

HMS Shah was a Ruler class escort carrier that served in the Far East, spending most of 1944 on anti-submarine patrols and general escort duties, before taking part in several major operations during 1945. The Shah was laid down on 13 May 1942 as USS Jamaica (CVE-43).


Early in 1944 the carriers Formidable, Indomitable and Victorious were promised to the East Indies Fleet, but events elsewhere meant that they were unable to sail east until much later. Shah, Begum and Unicorn were sent east instead in an attempt to provide extra carrier strength until the fleet carriers could arrive. The Shah reached Katukurunda by April 1944, where No.851 received Wildcats to work alongside its Avengers. Over the next few months the Shah took part in anti-U-boat and general escort duties, attacking three U-boats in August.  The

On 10 and 12 August Begum and Shah, as part of Force 66, sighted and attacked an enemy submarine. This was part of a wider hunt that lasted for eight days, ended in the destruction of the submarine, and saw personnel from HMS Findhorn, HMS Shah, HMS Begum, HMS Taff and HMIS Godavari win awards.

The Shah remained in the Indian Ocean area for the rest of the year, first attached to the Eastern Fleet, and then to the East Indies Fleet.


In April-May 1945 the British launched Operation Dracula - the liberation of Rangoon. The carriers Shah and Empress, along with the battleship Queen Elizabeth took part in Operation Bishop, intended to prevent any Japanese surface ships based further south from interfering. The fleet left Trincomalee on 27 April, and between 30 April and 7 May carried out a series of air attacks and bombardments of targets on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and on the Tenasserim coast. Nine officers and men from Shah, Empress and Queen Elizabeth won awards during the fighting.

While returning from Operation Bishop a destroyer accompanying the Shah and Empress detected radio messages from the Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro. These transmissions ended before any strike could be launched, and on 9 May the carriers returned to port.

While this close encounter was underway Japanese signals were intercepted and broken. This revealed that the cruiser Haguro would be returning to sea to travel to Port Blair on the Andaman Islands to cover the evacuation fo the garrison, staying there for the night of 12-13 May and then returning to Singapore. Shah, Empress, Khedive and Hunter put back to sea as Force 61 in an attempt to intercept the cruiser (Operation Dukedom). This time the Japanese were caught. Aircraft from No.851 Squadron attacked the cruiser on 15 May, although without inflicting any insignificant damage. On the following day the destroyers of Force 63 caught the cruiser and hit her with a number of torpedoes. The Haguro apparently escaped from the trap, but sank on the following day.

On 10 August a fleet including the escort carriers Ameer, Emperor, Empress, Khedive and Shah left Trincomalee to attack airfields and shipping in the Penang and Medan areas. The Japanese surrender came before the attack was carried out, and the fleet returned to harbour on 15 August.

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.

Shah returned to the UK in September 1945 bringing with her the personnel from Nos.845 and 851 Squadrons.

The Shah was returned to the US Navy on 6 December 1945 and sold off as a merchantman.


No.804 NAS

One flight of Hellcats from No.804 Squadron was onboard for Operation Dukedom in May 1945

No.809 NAS

The Seafires of No.809 Squadron transferred from the Stalker for Operation Dukedom.

No.845 NAS

A detachment of four Avengers from No.845 Squadron joined Shah in the summer of 1945, followed by the entire squadron, in preparation for the invasion of Sumatra. The end of the war came first and the squadron's personnel were shipped back to the UK on the Shah.

No.851 NAS

No.851 Squadron embarked on Shah with Avengers in January 1944 and operated from the carrier and a selection for shore bases for the rest of the war (apart from one week spend on Emperor). Wildcats were added in April 1944. The squadron returned to the UK on the Shah at the end of the war.

No.888 NAS

No.888 Squadron was a photo-reconnaissance squadron equipped with PR Hellcats. During 1945 it operated on at least five carriers, including Shah.

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)

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



21 April 1943


27 September 1943


December 1945

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 August 2010), HMS Shah,

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