Archer Class (1941) CVE
Archer Class of Escort Carriers were all built by the United States, and
operated by the Royal Navy under Lease-Lend terms. They were approx 10,000
They were known as Escort Carriers by the Royal Navy at the time and CVE by the US Navy, who being the owners were always interested in their operations.
The concept of bare bones escort carriers was proved by Britain with the construction of HMS Audacity built to merchant ship standards. See: British Built CVE (1941).
British shipbuilding yards were working to capacity and the need for aircraft carriers to escort convoys was great. So escort carriers were built by the USA for operation by the Royal Navy. Although small compared to Fleet Carriers they provided invaluable air cover to the convoys they accompanied. Especially as the convoys transited the air gap in the centre of the Atlantic.
For convoy escort they operated in one of two ways.
Either within the convoy usually second ship of the centre column. They would leave that position to steam into the wind for flying operations. After which they would return to their position within the convoy. This was considered to give the most protection to the valuable carrier.
Or operate in the vicinity of the convoy with its own escorting support group of three or more destroyers. This gave complete freedom of manoeuvre and availability for close support when an attack occurred, but was considered more risky to the valuable carrier than when operated from within the convoy.
The US preferred concept of escort carriers were that they be all purpose carriers to concentrate on countering the U-boat menace in the Atlantic. So there were some heated exchanges between the two Navies when later in 1943, the Royal Navy converted some escort carrier to operate only fighter aircraft and operate as assault carriers close to allied beach heads in the Mediterranean.
The concept was for the assault carriers to operate close to the beach head, and provide fighter and ground attack cover to the troops ashore until land based planes could be operated ashore. Meanwhile the larger and more valuable Fleet Carriers would stand well offshore and provide fighter escort cover for the inshore escort carriers.
Under the Lease-Lend terms all ships which survived the war were returned to the US Navy during 1946, and being surplus to US requirements were paid off and scrapped shortly thereafter.
This page last edited -
12 April, 2013.
Copyright © Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.