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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2005

HMS ALBATROSS - Seaplane Carrier
including Convoy Escort Movements and Note on Seagull seaplanes 

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMAS Albatross with Seagull Mk V taxying (main photographs, Bob Geale, Australian Fleet Air Arm Museum, click to enlarge)

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Ordered on 10th June 1925 as part, of an expansion programme  for the Royal Australian Navy including two cruisers  and two submarines which were to be built in UK. This vessel exceptionally was  to be built in. Australia by the RAN  Dockyard  at Cockatoo Island, Sydney which would result in a  saving of £1m and also be politically advantageous.  She was laid down on 16th June  1926 as Yard No 106 and launched by Lady Ethel Stonehaven, wife of the Governor  General on 23rd February 1928 as the 12th RN ship to carry  the name, introduced in 1795 for a Brig Sloop built at  Rochester. It had last been used by  five minor warships hired during WW1 and  which were identified by numeric  suffices I to V inclusive. .Build was completed on 21st December 1928 and the ship was commissioned as HMAS  ALBATROSS. Her RAN  service was short, lived and she paid off  and was placed in Reserve after refit in 1933. In  1939 this ship was transferred to the  Royal Navy as part payment for HM Australian Cruiser HOBART (Ex-HMS APOLLO) being built, in. UK. She is  not shown in the Admiralty record of adoptions by  civil communities after WARSHIP WEEK campaigns in 1941-42.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r  s


ATLANTIC  1939-42 - NORMANDY  1944


H e r a l d i c   D a t a


Badge:   On a Field Barry wavy white and blue

an  Albatross  volant  proper.


see addendum


D e t a i l s    o f   S e r v i c e



1 9 2 8


 November             Builders trials                       

                                Acceptance sea trials.


December              Completion of sea trials.

                21st         Build completion.



with Seagull Mk 3 seaplanes


1 9 2 9


January                  Deployed as Guard-ship at Hobart, Tasmania during Annual Royal Regatta.

to                            On completion took passage to Port Phillip Bay to re-embark RAAF SEAGULL III

March                    seaplanes  (above and following three photographs) and deployed in Jervis Bay area for trials

                                and working up for RAN service.

                                (Note: Limitations of operation this aircraft in anything but calm weather were

                                exposed during the trials.)


April                       Deployed for further trials and exercises in Sydney area.

to                            Embarked Governor General and wife for visit to Australian Mandated Territories

August                  in SW Pacific.


September             Local deployment in continuation.





1 9 3 0    t o    1 9 3 2


                                Deployed at Darwin for reconnaissance flights over approaches to Northern Territories.




1 9 3 3

January                  Local deployment in continuation.




April                       Aircraft disembarked and Paid off.

                                Reduced to Reserve status.


May                        Used as base for visiting seaplanes.






1 9 3 4    t o    1 9 3 5


January                  Reserve service in continuation..


1 9 3 6


                                Under refit during which new catapult was fitted.

                                Re-commissioned to carry out trials on catapult

                                Paid-off into Reserve on completion.


1 9 3 7


                                Returned to Reserve on completion.

                                Discussions with RN relating to transfer in part, payment for build of cruiser for

                                RAN - see above.


1 9 3 8


January                  In Reserve.

to March                Transfer to RN agreed.



                19th        Re-commissioned for passage to UK.


May                        Prepared for passage to UK





                11th        Sailed from Sydney for UK with calls at Singapore, Colombo and Suez.






                8th          Arrived in UK. Paid-off from RAN and transferred to RN.


October                  Held in Reserve and under refit.

to                            One crane removed.



1 9 3 9


January                  In Reserve.

to                            Allocated for deployment at war station to provide air surveillance.



June                        Commissioned as HMS ALBATROSS for service.

                                War Station at Freetown allocated


July                         Carried out harbour and sea trials

to                            Prepared for use at Freetown.

August                  Six WALRUS aircraft embarked.



D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



September             Worked-up for service and took passage to Freetown

to                            Deployed as static base for air operations in Atlantic.

 December             Provided air reconnaissance for trade defence and interception of blockade runners

                                and commerce raiders.

                                (Note: Visits were paid to Bathurst in the Gambia and French naval base at Dakar


1 9 4 0


January                  Freetown deployment in continuation.

to                            Air Operations included anti-submarine patrol.



June                        Deployed with HM Cruiser DEVONSHIRE between Freetown and Dakar.

                                (Note: This was part of precautionary moves after French collapse.


July                         Freetown deployment in continuation.

to                            (Note: NOT actively part of Operation MENACE for occupation of Dakar by

December              Free French in September. During this operation Free French troops

                                were supported by ships detached from the Home Fleet and Force H at

                                Gibraltar. lt was a disastrous failure. See MENACE by A Marder.)



Christmas Card, possibly 1940 (or 1941), courtesy John Phillips,


detail from card


1 9 4 1


January                  Freetown deployment in continuation


February                Passage to Simonstown for essential repair


March                    On completion returned to Freetown.


April                       Deployed at Freetown

to                            Nominated for refit at Mobile, Alabama, USA.

October                  Disembarked aircraft


November              Passage to Alabama

to                            Prepared for refit.



1 9 4 2


January                  Under refit at Mobile.




April                       Post refit trials and passage to Freetown.

                                Nominated for support of planned operations in Indian Ocean.


May                        Transferred to East Indies Station.

                3rd          Took passage from Freetown as part of Ocean Escort for military convoy WS18

                                with HM Cruiser GAMBIA and HM Destroyer TETCOTT.

                15th        Detached from W518 of Cape of Good Hope.

                                (Note: This convoy ran into minefield off Cape of Good Hope. HM Depot Ship HECLA

                                was damaged.)

                19th        Rejoined WS19 with HM Cruiser FROBISHER as Ocean Escort for passage in the

                                Indian Ocean.

                23rd        Detached from WS18 to refuel and rejoined on 24th May.

                                (Note: HM Battleship RESOLUTION Joined as Ocean Escort)

                30th        Detached from WS18 with HMS RESOLUTION.


June                        Deployed in Indian Ocean for trade defence.


July                         Deployed with HM Destroyers GRIFFIN and FOXHOUND to establish forward base

                                at Ile Mayote in Mozambique Channel, north west of Madagascar.

                                (Operation THROAT)

                                (Note: Base was to be established for anti-submarine patrols using four CATALINA

                                aircraft consequent on increase in U-Boat activity in Mozambique Channel.

                                See WAR WITH JAPAN Volume III (HMSO).

                                This project was not implemented as enemy offensive ceased.)

                                Returned to Kilindini.


August                  Indian Ocean deployment in continuation.

                                Nominated for support of landings in Madagascar (Operation STREAM).

                                (Note: This was to occupy the whole island following partial occupation in May

                                1942 (Operation IRONCLAD) - See Naval Staff History and THE WATERY

                                MAZE by B Fergusson.)



                10th        Deployed with HM Fleet Aircraft Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS to provide air cover for the

                                landings of British troops in Madagascar.

                                (Note: Ships deployed, identified as Force M, included HM Cruisers CARADOC,

                                GAMBIA, BIRMINGHAM, MANXMAN and DAUNTLESS, HM Monitor

                                EREBUS and twelve destroyers. See above reference.)


October                  Resumed support of air surveillance in Indian Ocean for trade defence.


November              Nominated for refit.

                                Aircraft disembarked for shore based service

                19th        Sailed to Durban for refit.


December              Under refit at Durban


1 9 4 3


January                  Under refit


February                Completion of refit arranged at Bombay

                                Passage to Bombay with calls at Kilindini


March                    Under repair and refit by HM Dockyard, Bombay

to                            (Note: Leave granted at rest camps.)



July                         Nominated for return to UK.

                15th        Took passage to Devonport with calls at Durban. Simonstown, Point Noire and



August                  On passage


September             Arrived at Devonport.

                                Paid-off and withdrawn from service as an aircraft base ship.


October                  Nominated for conversion as a Repair Ship

                                Taken in hand for conversion


November              Under conversion.

to                            Extensive changes made Included removal of catapult and forward main armament.

December              Workshop facilities provided in former hangar area.

                                Radar Type 286 was fitted on a new tripod foremast and close range AA defence was

                                supplemented by six extra 20mm Oerlikon weapons.


1 9 4 4


January                  Under conversion

to                            Selected for support of allied landings in France on completion.

April                       Allocated for duty with Force S on completion of refit.

                                Re-commissioned as HMS ALBATROSS and prepared for support duties in

                                Operation NEPTUNE.

                                (Note: To be designated as Landing Ship (Engineering - LSE).

                                For details of naval activities prior to and during NEPTUNE see OPERATION

                                NEPTUNE by K Edwards and LANDINGS IN NORMANDY, June 1944


                                LANDINGS IN NORMANDY does not include allocated to an Assault



May                        Joined Force S based at Portsmouth.

                                Allocated for repair of Landing Craft in GOOSEBERRY 5 to be established NE

                                of Ouistreham, Normandy and to take passage after Assault Phase.

                                See above references.


June                        Deployed for deception operation.

                                Sailed from Portsmouth and joined convoy for passage to Southend through

                                Dover Straits

                                Deployed in Nore Command area for deception operation.

                8th          Took passage passage from Thames estuary to GOOSEBERRY 5 location.

                9th          Ran aground on Goodwin Sands but refloated after 24 hours with assistance.

                                Came under air attack by single Me109 aircraft without serious damage.)

                10th        Deployed for repair duties on arrival at Beachhead.

                                Provided naval gunfire support and supplemented AA defence of anchorage.

                                Under shore fire during which one rating was killed.

                19th        Onset of extreme north easterly gale which caused extensive damage to many

                to            ships engaged in NEPTUNE. See above references.

                23rd        (Note: During this period repair parties from ship saved 79 craft from total loss

                                and enabled 132 others to resume service off the beachhead.)

                27th        Retained off beachhead for continuation of repair task when NEPTUNE



July                         Passage to Portsmouth to replenish and give leave,

                                Resumed Repair Ship duty off JUNO Beach.

                                (Note: This included completion of work on craft damaged in gale.)


August                  Normandy deployment in continuation.

                11th        Hit by torpedo and sustained major structural damage with many casualties;

                                66 of ships company lost their lives

                                (Note: Post war assessments suggest the weapon used was a new design

                                'circling' torpedo which searched for possible targets.)

                                Withdrawn from service and taken in tow by Dutch tug ZWARTE ZEE to



September             Under repair by HM Dockyard Portsmouth.

to                            (Note: In view of urgent need for repair of other ships it may be assumed that

December              the work involved would be given a low priority.)


1 9 4 5


January                  Repair in continuation.

to                            Nominated for service as depot ship in support of minesweepers



April                       Depot Ships deployment in continuation.

to                            Nominated for reduction to Reserve.




                3rd          Paid-off and reduced to Reserve status

                                Laid-up at Plymouth pending disposal.


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS ALBATROSS was placed on the Disposal List in 1946 and sold to South Western Steam Navigation Company for use as a mercantile on 19th August 1946. Initially named PRIDE OF TORQUAY but later renamed HELLENIC PRINCE. The ship was used for transport of immigrants between Naples and Australia. She continued mercantile use until sold  to a British Ship-breaker in 1954.and broken up in Hong Kong where she arrived in tow on 12th August 1954.






Convoy Escort Movements of HMS ALBATROSS

by Don Kindell


Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








WS 018F





WS 018C





BA 046





MKF 024




(Note on Convoys)




from John Phillips


I had a number of relatives, both close and distant who served on various ships. One Great Uncle died in submarine G8 during WW1, and another perished on the SS RIVER AFTON lost in Russian Convoy Q17 in July 1942. Also my uncle (mother's brother) was on HMS ALBATROSS, and I have worked out that he was on board from 1940 to the end of 1941,when she was sent to Alabama for a refit. He was then posted to other duties, some shore-based, when he was taken seriously ill with spinal meningitis. This quirk of fate saved his life as otherwise he would have been another casualty lost on HMS HOOD. Attached is a drawing of HMS ALBATROSS which was used as a Christmas Card.  Looking at the ship's crest, I assume the five stars represent the Australian flag and her time in Australian service.



from Bob ‘Windy’ Geale, Australian Fleet Air Arm Museum

Most of the photographs are of the Seagull Mark III, a ‘puller’ except for the Seagull V, a ‘pusher’. The RAN bought 24 Supermarine Seagull Mark V in 1933, incidentally designed by R J Mitchell of Spitfire fame. They were used for flying off cruisers and Armed Merchant Cruisers and only one ever flew off HMAS ALBATROSS  in  the RAN and that was when the catapult  was tested. Later, when the Royal Navy saw the Seagull V and realised it was what they needed, they placed an order  in 1935  and the Walrus was born. The only differences between the Seagull V and Walrus are small and only recognized by those who had flown both. The RAN later acquired 24 Walrus and flew them until 1945.


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