Merchant aircraft carriers entered service in mid-1943 to provide air cover for convoys over an area in mid-Atlantic beyond the range of shore-based aircraft. Their presence within the convoy considerably increased the effectiveness of the existing strategy.
These dual-purpose vessels were unique, having the facility to operate aircraft from a carrier deck ghilst carrying a full commercial cargo . Two types of merchant ship were selected for conversion: grain ships fitted with a flight deck and hangar which could house four Swordfish aircraft, and tankers fitted with a flight deck, but no hangar, and carrying three Swordfish aircraft. Grain ships were loaded with bulk grain whilst the tankers carried fuel oil.
The thesis concludes that the original concept of MAC ships, and the determination of the Admiralty to proceed with their construction and operation, was inspired by the realisation that the development of naval air support was of vital importance in perfecting different strategies for convoy protection. Before final instructions were given for the construction of MAC ships to proceed, the Admiralty had to overcome scepticism and misgiving amongst naval air staff based on an old philosophy and a
reluctance to co-operate with civilian departments normally outside the sphere of Admiralty activities. The project had a direct effect in changing Admiralty thought and concentrating minds on technical development which would lead eventually to more radical aircraft carrier design.
|Date of Award||May 2004|