Escort Carrier
Ex USS Willapa ACV-53 - AVG-53
Became Muncaster Castle 1949,
Bardic 1954, Ben Nevis 1959


HMS Puncher (D-79) was built in the USA at Seattle-Tacoma as USS Willapa ACV/AVG-53. Laid down 21 May 1943. Launched 8 Nov 1943. Transferred to RN 5 Feb 1944 and Commissioned.

Puncher was a member of the "Ruler" Class, which was the third group of escort carriers built in the USA for the Royal Navy, and were generally similar to the preceding "Attacker" Class. The modifications carried out to the earlier class after their arrival in the UK were incorporated in the "Ruler" Class during construction. HMS Patroller on completion was fitted as an assault carrier but employed as a transport ferry. Many of the class were used as amphibious support carriers, taking part in the invasion of Southern France. Others supported Eastern Fleet operations against Burma and Malaya, and some served with the British Pacific Fleet as escorts for the Fleet Train.

HMS Puncher's wartime service was as an escort carrier manned by RCN officers and crew in the Atlantic and Mediterranean for the duration of hostilities, mainly in a training role and for convoy escort duties.  She was initially outfitted as a transport carrier by Burrards at Vancouver, Canada, but refitted as a strike/CAP carrier in the UK.

HMS Puncher was the sister ship of HMS Nabob.  They were intended to serve together, but due to Nabob's torpedo strike in 1944 she was put out of action only seven months after the commissioning of Puncher.

Puncher conducted strikes against Norwegian targets, providing air cover for aerial minelaying strikes, and attacks on enemy shipping and U-Boat depots. Her main reduction gears were destroyed on 27 November 1944, and were replaced by gearing from the crippled sister-ship HMS Nabob. She also acted as a troop ship and aircraft ferry.

HMS Puncher

Following VE Day she was used for several months for deck landing training. In September of 1945 she was converted to a troop transport to bring Canadian soldiers back home from Great Britain.

HMS Puncher in Halifax harbour, 1946,  ferrying Seafires and Fireflies from UK for deployment on the new carrier HMCS Warrior.

In 1946 she left Halifax for Norfolk, Virginia and was paid off there and returned to the USN on 16 January 1946, then became mercantile Muncaster Castle 1949, Bardic 1954 and Ben Nevis 1959. She was scrapped at Kaohsiung 1973.

Battle Honours
Atlantic 1944 , Arctic 1944


Captain Roger E.S. Bidwell
April 44 - January 1946

Squadrons and Aircraft

FAA squadrons embarked Dates Aircraft type
821 Nov 1944-April 1945 Barracuda II
881 Feb 1945 Wildcat VI

Associations and Reunions
Parade of Veterans - Seaman Ronald Roderick MacNeill RCNVR
Obituary DOUGLAS - William Wallace died 1 January, 2001. wireless operator HMS Puncher

Carrier name HMS Puncher (manned by RCN crew)
Ex USS Willapa ACV/AVG-53. 
became mercantile Muncaster Castle 1949, Bardic 1954 and Ben Nevis 1959
Class Ruler
Type Escort Carrier (US built)
Ships in Class Ameer, Arbiter, Atheling, Begum, Emperor, Empress, Khedive, Nabob, Patroller, Premier, Puncher, Queen, Rajah, Ranee, Reaper, Ruler, Shah, Slinger, Smiter, Speaker, Thane, Trouncer, Trumpeter
Launched Laid down 21 May 1943. Launched 8 Nov 1943. Transferred 5 Feb 1944, Commissioned 2 May 1943 (??)
Tonnage 8,333 tons

Gross displacement 14,000 tons

Load 5667 tons

Engines 2 x Foster-Wheeler boilers; 2 x Westinghouse geared turbines at 8500 shp, 1 shaft
Speed in Knots 18 knots 
Armament Gun 2 x 1 x 5"/38-cal DP 8 x 2 x 40mm AA 27-35 x 1 x 20mm AA 
Crew Complement 646 Officers & Ratings including Air Group
Length (ft/inches) 496
Beam (ft/inches) 69' 6"
Draught (ft/inches) 23'3"
Flight Deck length (ft/inches) 470'
Flight Deck width (ft/inches) 70'
Number of aircraft carried 18-24
Fate of carrier Scrapped at Kaohsiung 1973.

Canadian Aircraft Carriers website  
Canadian History of the Carrier
Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS Aircraft Profiles including FAIREY BARRACUDA T.B. Mk.II, 821 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Puncher, March 1944, GENERAL MOTORS WILDCAT Mk.VI, 881 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Puncher, March 1945
NavSource Online: Escort Carrier Photo Archive- CVE-53 HMS PUNCHER (Ex- CVE-53 WILLAPA) CLASS - BOGUE 
Fairey Barracuda Mk.II In Service Aboard HMS Puncher 821 squadron stationed aboard HMS Puncher Nov. 26th 1944 till Apr. 12th, 1945
World Aircraft Carrier Lists and Photo Gallery - from 1913 to 2000. Naval History Information Center, Haze Gray & Underway
Sturtivant, R & Ballance, T  (1994). 'The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1994 ISBN: 0 85130 223 8

The World’s Warships 1941 by Francis E. McMurtrie (1944). Janes London 1941 1st ed. 

Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II by Francis E. McMurtrie (Editor)(1984). 320 pages. Crescent Books; ISBN: 0517679639

        Last Modified: 23-2-2001


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