HMS Emperor

HMS Emperor was a Ruler class escort carrier that took part in operations off Norway and in the Mediterranean in 1944 and with the East India Fleet during 1945.

1943

In the third quarter of 1943 the Emperor was being fitted out to operate high-performance fighters in support of assault forces in the Far East. In the event she didn't reach the Far East until 1945, instead spending 1944 operating off Norway and then in the Mediterranean.

On 30 October 1943 the 7th Naval Fighter Wing was formed with six squadrons, two each for the Emperor, Pursuer and Searcher.

1944

On 3 April 1944 the Emperor took part in Operation Tungsten, the most successful of a series of Fleet Air Arm attacks on the Tirpitz carried our during 1944. The main strike force came from the fleet carriers Furious and Victorious, while the Emperor acted as a fighter carrier, operating Nos.800 and 804 Squadrons with their Hellcats. The Tirpitz suffered a number of direct hits and was out of service for three months, while 438 of her crew were killed or wounded.

On 26 April the Emperor was part of a force including the Victorious, Furious, Searcher, Pursuer and Striker that attacked a south-bound convoy off Bödö, damaging all four merchant ships and one of the escorts. Five aircraft were lost.

On 6th, 8th, 14th, 15th May and 1 June 1944 aircraft from Victorious, Furious, Searcher, Striker and Emperor took part in a series of naval strikes off the Norwegian coast, sinking or seriously damaging six merchant ships, one escort vessel and two armed trawlers (all five carriers were not involved in all five attacks). Emperor, Searcher and Striker took part in the attack on 8 May, against a northbound convoy off Kristiansund. Emperor and Striker were involved in the attack on 14 May, damaging one ship at Rorvik, north of Trondheim.

These operations off Norway included Operation Potluck, which saw nine officers and men from Emperor, Royalist and Striker win awards and Operation Hoops, which saw seven men from Emperor and Searcher win awards.

In June 1944 Pursuer, Tracker and Emperor provided fighter cover for support groups operating in the south west approaches, protecting the D-Day fleets against the threat of U-boat attack from the French Atlantic ports.

During the period May-July 1944 the Emperor was one of six escort carriers (Vindex, Nairana, Biter, Striker, Emperor and Tracker) that spent a total of 58 days at sea performing normal anti-submarine activities alongside the A/S Escort Groups, which spend much of this period protecting the flanks of the D-Day landings.

On 15 July Khedive, Pursuer, Searcher and Emperor sailed from the UK to join the existing force of escort carriers in the Mediterranean.

Flight deck of HMS Emperor
Flight deck of
HMS Emperor

In August 1944 Emperor formed part of Task Force 88.1, operating alongside Attacker, 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.800 Squadron operated its Hellcats from the Emperor during the operation.

On 28 August the British escort carriers were released, and sailed to Alexandria for repairs and replenishment. All seven escort carriers were then involved in Operations Outing, Cablegram and Contempt, designed to isolate German garrisons in the Aegean and Dodecanese. These operations began on 25 September, and on 13 October Emperor and Attacker were diverted to support Operation Manna, the occupation of Athens. 

On 1 November the Emperor helped support HMS Black Prince during land operations on Milo, having bombarded the island on 25-26 October. A naval party had been landed on the island on 30 October to support existing forces, but German resistance was too stiff, and on 5 November the party was evacuated. Two Dutch naval pilots on the Emperor won awards for their role in the fighting in Greece.

In late November the Emperor left the Mediterranean to return to Newport for a refit.

1945

The Emperor left Newport in March 1945 and sailed to join the East India Fleet, becoming part of No.21 Aircraft Carrier Squadron (along with Attacker, Hunter, Khedive and Stalker. The Emperor reached Ceylon at the end of March, carrying the Hellcats of No.800 Squadron.

Emperor and Khedive were involved in Operation Sunfish during April 1945, providing air support to a fleet that included the battleships Queen Elizabeth and Richelieu. Their aircraft supported a bombardment of Sabang on 11 April, carried out a PR sweep of the area around Port Swettenham, 200 miles north of Singapore, on 14-16 April, before concluding the raid with an attack on Emmahaven (northern Sumatra) and Padang. Nine officers and men from the two carriers won awards for their part in the operation.

Six British escort carriers were involved in Operations Bishop and Dracula, a long-planned amphibious invasion of Rangoon. Emperor formed part of the escort to the main assault convoy, alongside Hunter, Stalker and Khedive. This convoy left port on 30 April, and made an unopposed landing at the start of May. So little opposition was encountered that the carriers were released on 4 May, and carried out a series of attacks on the Tenasserim coast before bad weather intervened on 6 May.

 

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.

From 5-11 July Ameer and Emperor provided fighter cover for a minesweeping operation off Car Nicobar (Operation Collie). During this period aircraft from the carriers made attack on nearby targets, including Nancowry (Nicobar Islands) on 7 July and Kotaraja (Northern Sumatra) and Ldonga on 11 July. Seven aircraft were lost during these attacks, but seven of the pilots were rescued. Three aircrew officers from the Royal Netherlands Navy won awards while attached to the Emperor during this operation.

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.

When the war ended the British were close to carrying out a major invasion of Malaya and Singapore, Operation Zipper. It was decided to conduct this operation as if it were an opposed landing, and seven escort carriers were allocated to the attacking force. Emperor was to form part of Force 64, with Empress and Khedive, while Attacker, Hunter, Stalker and Begum formed Force 65. The operation began on 10 September and saw 100,000 troops land against minimal resistance, while on 11 September most of the fleet entered Singapore.

The Emperor was returned to the US Navy on 12 February 1946 and was scrapped.

Squadrons

No.800 NAS

No.800 Squadron became part of the 7th Naval Fighter Wing on 30 October 1943, along with No.804 Squadron, both equipped with the Grumman Hellcat. The two squadrons operated together on Emperor during Operation Tungsten, the attack on the Tirpitz in April 1944, before in June No.804 was disbanded into No.800. No.800 Squadron took part in Operation Dragoon in August 1944, and remained with the Emperor when she moved to the Far East. The squadron took part in the liberation of Rangoon. It was disbanded in December 1945.

No.804 NAS

No.804 Squadron joined the Emperor with No.800 Squadron, as part of the 7th Naval Fighter Wing. It took part in Operation Tungsten, the attack on Tirpitz, but in June 1944 was disbanded into No.800 Squadron.

No.808 NAS

Six aircraft from No.808 Squadron were detached to the Emperor during operations to support the liberation of Rangoon

No.888 NAS

No.888 Squadron spent part of 1945 operating its PR Hellcats from the Emperor, one of at least five carriers used by the squadron.

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

18kts

Range

27,500 miles at 11 knots

Length

495ft 3in-496ft 8in oa

Armaments

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

646

Launched

7 October 1942

Completed

6 August 1943

To USA

1946

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 (10 August 2010), HMS Emperor , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Emperor.html

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