HMS Empress (Ruler Class)

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HMS Empress was a Ruler class escort carrier that served in the Far East for most of 1945, operating with the East Indies Fleet.

1944

No.850 Squadron embarked on the Empress in February 1944 and crossed the Atlantic on her, disembarking in the UK on 10 April. The carrier then spent most of 1944 in Home Waters, and in November 1944 was used for deck landing training by No.1772 Squadron's Firefly Is.

1945

Early in 1945 the Empress sailed to the Far East to join No.21 Aircraft Carrier Squadron of the East Indies Fleet, a unit that eventually included the carriers Attacker, Emperor, Hunter, Khedive and Stalker. The Empress arrived off Ceylon in February 1945 carrying the Hellcats of No.888 Squadron, a fighter flight from No.804 Squadron, and the Avengers of No.845 Squadron. The PR Hellcats of No.888 Squadron also operated from the Empress from time to time.

On 22 February 1945 Ameer and Empress sailed as the start of Operation Stacey, a photographic reconnaissance mission over the Kra Peninsula, Penang and the north of Sumatra. Seven awards were won by men serving on the two carriers before the fleet returned to port on 4 March. Hellcats operating from the Empress carried out the actual photographic reconnaissance.

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 17 July No.896 Squadron transferred to HMS Empress from Ameer, before Ameer and Empress took part in Operation Livery, providing cover for minesweepers operating off Pkuket Island, as well as providing aircraft for attacks on the Isthmus of Kra. This operation saw the first kamikaze attacks in the Andaman Sea, on 26 July, one of which caused some damage to the Ameer. The cruiser HMS Sussex was damaged and the minesweeper Vestal sunk.

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.

The Empress's final wartime duty was to take part in Operation Zipper, the virtually unopposed re-occupation of the Malay Peninsula.

The Empress was returned to US Navy control on 4 February 1946 and was scrapped.

Squadrons

No.804 NAS

No.804 Squadron provided a fighter flight (Hellcats) to Empress for a short spell in the summer of 1945.

No.845 NAS

No.845 Squadron served on the Empress early in 1945, before transferring to the Khedive later in the year.

No.850 NAS

No.850 Squadron crossed the Atlantic with its Avenger Is on Empress between February 1944 and 10 April 1944.

No.851 NAS

No.851 Squadron's Avengers were detached from Shah to Empress for one week in May 1945.

No.888 NAS

Empress was one of at least five carriers used by the photo reconnaissance Hellcats of No.888 Squadron during 1945.

No.896 NAS

No.896 Squadron joined the Empress on 17 July to cover minesweeping operations off Phuket.

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

30 December 1942

Completed

13 August 1943

To USA

1946

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 August 2010), HMS Empress (Ruler Class) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Empress_ruler_class.html

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