HMS Searcher (D40)
|Builder:||Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation|
|Laid down:||20 February 1942|
|Launched:||20 June 1942|
|Fate:||Transferred to the Royal Navy|
|Commissioned:||7 April 1943|
|Name:||SS Captain Theo|
|Owner:||J & A T Vatis|
|Identification:||IMO number: 6116575|
|Fate:||Sold to Tung Chao Yung in 1966|
|Name:||SS Oriental Banker|
|Owner:||Tung Chao Yung|
|Identification:||IMO number: 6116575|
|Fate:||Scrapped on 21 April 1976 in Taiwan|
|Class and type:|
|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|
HMS Searcher was a Ruler-class escort carrier of the Royal Navy. Built in Seattle in the United States (as a Bogue-class), 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
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. 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). 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).
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. Aircraft could be housed in the 260 feet (79.2 m) by 62 feet (18.9 m) hangar below the flight deck. Her armament consisted of two 4"/50, 5"/38 or 5"/51 Dual Purpose guns in single mounts, sixteen 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns in twin mounts and twenty 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns in single mounts. 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.
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 US, 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.
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. Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers escorted by Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters attacked the U-boat crew barracks ship[MS Black Watch, the submarine tender MS Senja and the floating flak battery Thetis (the former Norwegian coastal defence ship HNoMS Harald Haarfagre). U-711 was alongside Black Watch when she was sunk in position 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, and the final air-raid of the war in Europe.
|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|
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.
The decommissioned escort carrier was sold to J & A T Vatis, a Greek shipping company, and renamed Captain Theo in 1952. In November 1961, she encountered and rescued 11-year-old Terry Jo Duperrault, who had been adrift at sea in a cork raft for four days after surviving a mass murder aboard the Bluebelle and the subsequent scuttling of the ketch by the murderer. She was sold again in 1966 to the Chinese shipping magnate Tung Chao Yung, becoming Oriental Banker.
- "HMS Searcher, Escort Fighter Carrier at the Fleet Air Arm archive". Retrieved 2009-06-22.
- "U-711 at Uboat.net". Retrieved 2009-06-22.
- "6116575". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
- "World Aircraft Carrier List - HMS Searcher". Retrieved 2009-06-22.
- Cocker (2008), p.82.
- 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)