HMS Searcher (D40)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Searcher.
HMS Searcher (D40)
Career (USA)
Name: USS AVG-22[1]
Builder: Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation
Laid down: 20 February 1942[2]
Launched: 20 June 1942[3][4]
Fate: Transferred to the Royal Navy
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Searcher
Commissioned: 7 April 1943
Fate: Returned to the US Navy in 1945
Listed for disposal on 7 February 1946
Sold to J & A T Vatis in 1952
Career (Greece)
Name: SS Captain Theo
Owner: J & A T Vatis
Acquired: 1952
Identification: IMO number: 6116575[3]
Fate: Sold to Tung Chao Yung in 1966
Career (Taiwan)
Name: SS Oriental Banker
Owner: Tung Chao Yung
Acquired: 1966
Identification: IMO number: 6116575[3]
Fate: Scrapped on 21 April 1976 in Taiwan
General characteristics
Class & type: Ruler-class escort carrier
Displacement: As Searcher: 14,400 tons
As Captain Theo: 7129 tons
As Oriental Banker: 10542 tons[3]
Length: 491 ft 6 in (149.81 m)
Beam: 69 ft 6 in (21.18 m)
Draught: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Installed power: 8,500 shp (6.3 MW)
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 1 shaft
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h)
Complement: 646 officers and men
Armament: 2 × 4 in (102 mm) guns
4 x twin 40 mm Bofors
20 x single 20 mm Oerlikon
Aircraft carried: 20

HMS Searcher was an Ruler-class escort carrier escort carrier of the Royal Navy. Built in Seattle in the United States she was transferred to the United Kingdom under Lend-Lease. Launched in 1942 she served until 29 November 1945. She was sold into merchant service and renamed Captain Theo. In 1966 she was renamed again to Oriental Banker and was finally scrapped in Taiwan in 1976.

Design and description[edit]

These ships were all larger and had a greater aircraft capacity than all the preceding American built escort carriers. They were also all laid down as escort carriers and not converted merchant ships.[5] All the ships had a complement of 646 men and an overall length of 492 feet 3 inches (150.0 m), a beam of 69 feet 6 inches (21.2 m) and a draught of 25 ft 6 in (7.8 m).[5] Propulsion was provided by one shaft, two boilers and a steam turbine giving 9,350 shaft horsepower, which could propel the ship at 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph).[6]

Aircraft facilities were a small combined bridge–flight control on the starboard side, two aircraft lifts 43 feet (13.1 m) by 34 feet (10.4 m), one aircraft catapult and nine arrestor wires.[5] Aircraft could be housed in the 260 feet (79.2 m) by 62 feet (18.9 m) hangar below the flight deck.[5] Armament comprised: two 4 inch Dual Purpose guns in single mounts, sixteen 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns in twin mounts and twenty 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannons in single mounts.[5] They had a maximum aircraft capacity of twenty-four aircraft which could be a mixture of Grumman Martlet, Vought F4U Corsair or Hawker Sea Hurricane fighter aircraft and Fairey Swordfish or Grumman Avenger anti-submarine aircraft.[5]

Wartime Service[edit]

From 1943 Searcher operated mainly around the UK as a Fighter Carrier. In late December 1943 she provided Atlantic convoy escort, escorting ships to the USA, and arriving at Norfolk on 2 January 1944. She participated in the attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz as part of the Home Fleet Strike force of Operation Tungsten, during which her role was to provide fighter cover. In August 1944 she took part in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France.[1]

On 4 May 1945 aircraft from the escort carriers Searcher, Queen, and Trumpeter, taking part in Operation Judgement, sank the German submarine U-711 in Kilbotn harbour in the Arctic near Harstad, Norway.[2] Avenger torpedo bombers escorted by Wildcat fighters attacked the submarine tender Black Watch, the supply ship Senja and the former Norwegian coastal defence ship HNoMS Harald Haarfagre, which had been rebuilt by the Germans as the Flak ship Thetis. U-711 was alongside Black Watch when she was sunk in position 68°43.717′N 16°34.600′E / 68.728617°N 16.576667°E / 68.728617; 16.576667 by bombs aimed at Black Watch. Black Watch and Senja were also sunk. This was the last sinking of a U-Boat by the Fleet Air Arm,[1] and the final air-raid of the war in Europe.

Searcher was sent to the Far East as part of the British Pacific Fleet but arrived in mid-August as the war ended.[1]

Commanding officers[edit]

From Until Captain[2]
15 February 1943 23 January 1945 Captain Gerrard Oulton Colthurst Davies Royal Navy
23 January 1945 October 1945 Captain John William Grant DSO Royal Navy

Return to the US Navy[edit]

Searcher was returned to the US Navy under the terms of the Lend-Lease arrangement on 29 November 1945 and was listed for disposal on 7 February 1946.[4]

Merchant Service[edit]

The decommissioned escort carrier was sold to J & A T Vatis, a Greek shipping company, and renamed Captain Theo in 1952. She was sold again in 1966 to the Chinese shipping magnate Tung Chao Yung, becoming Oriental Banker.[4]

Fate[edit]

Oriental Banker was scrapped at Kaohsiung[3] in Taiwan, commencing on 21 April 1976.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "HMS Searcher, Escort Fighter Carrier at the Fleet Air Arm archive". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  2. ^ a b c "U-711 at Uboat.net". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "6116575". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 21 June 2009. (subscription required)
  4. ^ a b c d "World Aircraft Carrier List - HMS Searcher". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Cocker (2008), p.82.
  6. ^ Cocker (2008), p.79.
  • Cocker, Maurice (2008). Aircraft-Carrying Ships of the Royal Navy. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-4633-2. 
  • The Attack on 'Black Watch' (Harald Isachsen, Harstad, 2009, ISBN 978-82-998024-2-0 - in Norwegian)