Allied Warships

HMS Premier (D 23)

Escort Carrier of the Ameer class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeEscort Carrier
ClassAmeer 
PennantD 23 
Built bySeattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp. (Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.) 
Ordered 
Laid down31 Oct 1942 
Launched22 Mar 1943 
Commissioned3 Nov 1943 
End service2 Apr 1946 
History

Transferred to the Royal Navy under lend-lease.
Returned to the United States Navy on 2 April 1946.
Stricken by the United States Navy on 21 May 1946.
Sold into merchantile service in 1947 being renamed Rhodesia Star
In 1967 she was renamed Hong Kong Knight.
Scrapped in Taiwan in February 1974.  

Former nameUSS Estero

Commands listed for HMS Premier (D 23)

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and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

CommanderFromTo
1A/Capt. Robert James Gardner, RNNov 19432 Apr 1946

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Notable events involving Premier include:


22 Nov 1944

Operation Provident.

The object of this operation was to achieve any of the following objectives;
a) Bomb and destroyer U-boat depot ships,
b) Mining of Stoff, Meloysund or Ramsoyund,
c) A fighter attack on Bardenfoss airfield,
d) Bombing of the ferry service between Banaasjoen and Rorvik,
e) Attack shipping along the coast between Lodingen and Rorvik.

Forces Taking Part:

Around 1600A/22, two forces departed Scapa Flow for operation Provident. These were;
Force 7: made up of the aircraft carrier Implacable (Capt. C.C. Hughes-Hallett, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, CVO, DSO, RN, Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet), light cruiser HMS Dido (Capt. R.F. Elkins, OBE, RN), destroyers HMS Myngs (Capt. P.G.L. Cazalet, DSC, RN), HMS Scorpion (Cdr. C.W. McMullen, DSC, RN), HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN), HMCS Algonquin (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Piers, DSC, RCN), HMCS Sioux (A/Lt.Cdr. E.E.G. Boak, RCN) and HMS Zephyr (Lt.Cdr. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and 2 Bars, RN).

And Force 8 made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. D.K. Bain, DSO, RN), escort carriers Premier (A/Capt. R.J. Gardner, RN), HMS Pursuer (A/Capt. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Saumarez (Capt. M.L. Power, CBE, DSO, RN), HMS Venus (Cdr. H.G.D. De Chair, DSC with Bar, RN), HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMS Volage (Cdr. L.G. Durlacher, OBE, RN) and HMS Zealous (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN).

Heavy weather was encountered and ' Force 8 ' abandoned the operation and returned to Scapa Flow on 25 November 1944.

On 27 November 1944 shipping was attacked successfully by aircraft from HMS Indefatigable, the German transports Rigel (3828 GRT, built 1924, former Norwegian) and Korsnes (1795 GRT, built 1936) were sunk between Rosoya and Tjotta. Heavy loss of live occured on board the Rigel was was transporting troops and POW's (mostly Soviet). Over 2500 men lost their lives in this sinking. These ships had been in convoy and had departed Bodo on 26 November. They were escorted by the patrol vessels V 6308 and NT 04.

' Force 7 ' returned to Scapa Flow on 29 November 1944. (1)

12 Dec 1944

Operation Lacerate.

The object of this operation was to lay air laid mines in either;
a) Ramsoyund,
b) Aaramsund or
c) Skatestrommen.

Ships taking part in the operation were the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. D.K. Bain, DSO, RN), escort carriers Premier (A/Capt. R.J. Gardner, RN), HMS Trumpeter (A/Capt. K.S. Colquhoun, RN) and the destroyers HMS Zealous (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Zephyr (Lt.Cdr. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and 2 Bars, RN), HMCS Algonquin (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Piers, DSC, RCN) and HMCS Sioux (A/Lt.Cdr. E.E.G. Boak, RCN).

The mines were laid in Ramsoyund on 14 December 1944. Also a number of targets in the area were strafed. Three night counter attacks were made on the force by JU 88 torpedo bombers, one of which was shot down.

The Force returned to Scapa Flow on 16 December 1944. (2)

10 Jan 1945

Operations Spellbinder and Gratis

Operation Spellbinder was carried out in two parts, part I was an anti-shipping raid in the Egersund area and part II was a minelay near Utsira Island.

Operation Gratis was the laying of an air laid minefield in Karm Sund.

Around 2200A/10, ' Force 1 ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. J.G.Y. Loveband, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, CB, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Bellona (Capt. C.F.W. Norris, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Onslaught (Cdr. the Hon. A. Pleydell-Bouverie, RN) and HMS Orwell (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Gower, DSC, RN) and ' Force 2 ', made up of the fast minelayer HMS Apollo (Capt. J.A. Grindle, CBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Zealous (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Carron (Lt.Cdr. J.V. Wilkinson, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow for operation Spellbinder.

They proceeded in company until 1100A/11 when they split up to the north of the Shetlands. ' Force 2 ' remained in that vicinity until 1508A/11 when course and speed were adjusted so as to arrive in the laying position at midnight. ' Force 1 ' set course for the Egersund area, aiming to arrive off the coast at about 2215A/11.

HMS Apollo, HMS Zealous and HMS Carron approached the Norwegian coast from the north-westward at 30 knots, in fine clear weather, making use of the beam of the enemy consol beacon situated in position 58°37'5"N, 05°37'8"E. Course was altered to 090° at 2336A/11 and Utsira light was seen shortly afterwards.

Starshell from ' Force 1 ', engaged 100 miles to the southward, was observed at 2343A/11. Five minutes later ' Force 2 ' reduced speed to 20 knots and HMS Zealous and HMS Carron proceeded ahead to make a smokescreen between the laying position and them mainland.

Between 2357A/11 and 0020A/12, HMS Apollo laid 156 mines in three lines as follows;
Line 1 of 52 mines - Between 59°15'00"N, 05°01'06"E and 59°15'00"N, 05°04'21"E.
Line 2 of 55 mines - Between 59°14'51"N, 05°06'06"E and 59°13'39"N, 05°00'00"E.
Line 3 of 49 mines - Between 59°13'15"N, 05°07'54"E and 59°12'51"N, 05°04'48"E.
The mines were laid at a depth of 30 feet and flooders were set to operate on 19 February 1945.

On completion of this unobserved lay ' Force 2 ' retired at high speed to the northward and then set course to return to Scapa Flow where they arrived around 1450A/12.

' Force 1 ' had picked up Utsira Island by radar at 1940A/11 and an hour later course was altered to close the convoy route south of Stavanger. The ships were positioned in line ahead.

At 2215A/11, ' Force 1 ' altered course to starboard to run down the coast, keeping 10 miles to seaward and parallel to the shipping route. At the same time they were picked up and held by enemy shore radar.

At 2312A/11, when opposite Egersund, radar contact was made with a convoy close inshore and apparently making for Egersund. Course was altered towards the target and fire was opened with starshell at 2341A/11. The appearance of a radar echo on the starboard bow, which was classified as a U-boat, somewhat complicated the movements of ' Force 1 '.

During the ensuing engagement the enemy shore batteries joined in, but although they registered several straddles and near misses they achieved no hits. Rear-Admiral McGrigor reported that out of eight ships which made up the convoy, including escorts, one, probably an escort, escaped into Egersund after being hit. Of the remaining seven, one large merchant vessel was sunk and another one was left blazing to the waterline. One small merchant vessel, or escort, was seen to turn turtle. One M-class minesweeper blew up after running itself ashore in flames. The other three ships were left on fire of which one was seen to blow up when ' Force 1 ' was retiring.

' Force 1 ' withdrew to the west at 0027A/12, altering to the northward when well clear of enemy radar. They made rendezvous with ' Force 3 ' at 0800A/12. At 0910A/12, a shadowing JU 88 was shot down by fighters from HMS Trumpeter. One of the fighters was damaged and had to ditch the pilot being recovered by HMS Zodiac. The Combat Air Patrol was kept busy during the forenoon investigating bogeys, but no enemy attack developed and at 1400A/12, ' Force 3 ' was detached for operation Gratis. ' Force 1 ' then headed for Scapa Flow, passing east of the Shetlands, and arrived at 2205A/12.

' Force 3 ', made up of the light cruiser HMS Dido (Capt. R.F. Elkins, OBE, RN), escort carriers Premier (A/Capt. R.J. Gardner, RN), HMS Trumpeter (Cdr. K.S. Colquhoun, RN) and the destroyers HMS Opportune (Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN), HMS Zest (Lt.Cdr. R.B.N. Hicks, DSO, RN), HMS Zodiac (Lt.Cdr. H.R. Rycroft, DSC, RN) and HMS Cavendish (Cdr. R.H. Maurice, DSO, RN), had departed Scapa Flow at 1130A/11, to rendezvous with ' Force 1 ', and, having been detached on the 12th, proceeded west-about round the Shetlands and through Fair Isle Channel for the flying off position in 59°15'N, 01°10'E.

Two MTB's from Lerwick had been detailed to rendezvous with ' Force 3 ', to act as Air Sea Rescue craft in the event of a ditching to the east the flying off position. They made rendezvous at 0915A/13, just short of the flying off position. In view of the good weather conditions, flying off commenced immediately and by 0930A/13, the strike, made up of six Avengers from 846 Squadron and eight Wildcats from HMS Trumpeter and six Avengers from 856 Squadron and eight Wildcats from HMS Premier, was airborne. Departure was taken at 0938A/13 and a good landfall was made on Utsira Island. At about 1130A/13 the 12 Avengers laid their mines in the channel between Salhus light and a position 500 yards to the northward. Only light flack was encountered and all aircraft returned safely to the carriers being landed on by 1150A/13. ' Force 3 ' then returned to Scapa Flow arriving there at 2100A/13.

The German convoy attacked by ' Force 1 ' was made up of the transports Bahia Camarones (8551 GRT, built 1918), Charlotte (4404 GRT, built 1908) and Wesermarsch (1923 GRT, built 1943). They were escorted by the minesweepers M-456, M-436, M-306, M-273 and M-253. The submarine U-427 was also with the convoy and she fired torpedoes at ' Force 1 ' but all mised. The Bahia Camarones, Charlotte and M-273 were sunk.

10 Feb 1945

Operation Selenium.

This operation had two objects, the first object was to destroy enemy shipping between Bud and Kvatholm. The second object was to lay air mines at Skateströmmen (near Maloy).

At 2300A/10, ' Force 1 ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. J.G.Y. Loveband, RN), light cruiser HMS Dido (Capt. R.F. Elkins, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Myngs (Capt. P.G.L. Cazalet, DSC, RN), HMS Scorpion (Cdr. C.W. McMullen, DSC, RN) and HMS Savage (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Malins, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), departed Scapa Flow and proceeded east of the Orkneys and the Shetlands, aiming to reach their operation area for the first part of the operation after dark on the 11th.

at 0900A/11, ' Force 2 ', made up of the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN), escort carriers HMS Premier (A/Capt. R.J. Gardner, RN), HMS Puncher (Capt. R.E.S. Bidwell, RCN) and the destroyers HMS Cavendish (Cdr. R.H. Maurice, DSO, RN), HMS Cavalier (Lt.Cdr. D.T. McBarnet, RN), HMS Zebra (Lt.Cdr. E.C. Peake, RN) and HMS Scourge (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN), departed Scapa Flow. They followed the same route as ' Force 1 ', adjusting course and speed so as to make rendezvous with ' Force 1 ' after their anti-shipping sweep in position 62°23'N, 02°00' between 0500A/12 and 0700A/12, when the forces were to join under air cover from the escort carriers. Rendezvous was effected at 0700A/12 and the Commanding Officer of HMS Devonshire assumed overall command. ' Force 1 ' had encountered no enemy vessels during their anti-shipping sweep during the night of 11/12 February. At 1000A/12 the air strike was flown off in ideal weather conditions.

The air laid lay was planned for eight mines, but only seven Avengers of 856 Squadron on board HMS Premier were serviceable, and these, together with four Wildcats from the same escort carrier and a further twelve from HMS Puncher, took departure at 1017A/12 from position 62°16'N, 01°48'E. Shortly afterwards one of the Avengers was forced to return with a heavy oil leak, but the remainder made landfall on Vaagso Island and, continuing up Faa Fjord, laid five mines in the channel at Skatestrommen. One aircraft was unable to release its mine and jettisoned it later at ' safe '. Little opposition was encountered and all aircraft returned to the escort carriers, being landed on by 1151A/12. One Wildcat from HMS Premier was found to have been hit by flak and two from HMS Puncher fired two short bursts from its guns in the process by accident, causing five casualties and damaging a Barracuda parked on the starboard side of the flight deck.

When all aircraft of the strike had been recovered the combines fores retired to Scapa Flow, using the same route as on the outwards passage. HMS Norfolk and HMS Dido were detached at 1735A/12 to return at high speed unescorted. They arrived at Scapa Flow at 0330A/13. The remaining ships arrived around 1050A/13. (3)

Sources

  1. ADM 199/1427
  2. ADM 53/119257 + ADM 53/120291 + ADM 53/120650 + ADM 199/1427
  3. ADM 53/121216 + ADM/53121929 + ADM 53/121239 + ADM 53/122003 + ADM 53/122036 + ADM 199/1440 + ADM 234/560 + ADM 234/561

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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