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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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Battler


AVG-6 was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 160) on 15 April 1941 at Pascagoula, Miss., by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp.; named Altamaha from 7 January 1942 to 17 March 1942 when the name was cancelled; launched on 4 April 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Marguerite M. Seymour; redesignated ACV-6 on 20 August 1942; acquired by the Navy and turned over to the British under Lend Lease on 31 October 1942; renamed Battler and commissioned in the Royal Navy that same day, Capt. Frank M. R. Stephenson, RN, in command.

Three weeks later, after fitting out, Battler sailed for the British Isles. The ship's air group--apparently brought on board after she reached home waters--consisted of six Fairey "Swordfish" biplanes, former torpedo planes given a new lease on life as an antisubmarine aircraft, of the Fleet Air Arm's No. 835 Squadron and four Supermarine "Seafires," navy versions of the famous "Spitfire," of No. 808 (FAA) Squadron.

Departing Belfast, Ireland, on 4 June 1943, Battler served in the screen of Gibraltar bound convoy OS.49. Throughout the voyage, her aircraft conducted antisubmarine patrols, enabling the convoy to reach its destination unscathed on 14 June. Underway for the British Isles eight days later, as part of the escort for convoys KMS.16 and XK.9, Battler launched two "Seafires" at 2230 on 24 June to deal with a four engined Focke Wulf FW 200 "Condor" which was shadowing the convoy. Within 12 minutes, the pilots reported triumphantly that the "Condor" had been shot down. Reaching Greenock on 28 June, Battler had proved herself efficient on her maiden convoy escort venture.

Battler entered the Mediterranean later that summer and served as part of the Escort Carrier Force covering Operation "Avalanche," the invasion of Salerno, Italy. By this point equipped with newer "Seafire" III's--a version of the plane much improved over her initial Mk.II's)--Battler launched part of the 265 sorties flown on D Day, 9 September 1943 and, following flight deck damage to sister ship HMS Stalker (D.91), took on board part of that ship's air group in addition to her own.

Soon thereafter, she left the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal and arrived in Bombay, India, in October 1943 as part of a move to step up the antisubmarine warfare effort against increased Axis submarine activity in the Indian Ocean. In the aftermath of highly successful Allied operations against the U boats in the Atlantic in the critical spring of 1943, the latter had shifted their sights to the comparatively defenseless Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean. Japanese submarines sank nine ships in the last two months of 1943, while German U boats in the area were replenishing at Penang, Malaya. This development increased Allied interest in air cover for convoys traversing the Indian Ocean.

Battler's operations on the Bombay to Aden convoy route took her to the Seychelles; to Aden; to Durban, South Africa; and to Mauritius and Colombo, Ceylon, hunting for U boats, their supply ships, and armed merchant raiders. She also searched in vain for a German blockade runner in the Indian Ocean in the optimistically named Operation "Thwart" between 22 and 20 January 1944.

Efforts to find the enemy's victualling ship, however, ultimately came to fruition on 12 March, when a Battler "Swordfish" sighted the tanker Brake in company with three U boats 900 miles southeast of Mauritius and steaming to the southwest through heavy seas. To conceal the carrier's presence, the plane resisted the temptation to attack and instead guided a destroyer, HMS Roebuck (H.95) to the enemy. At noon that day, Roebuck made contact and commenced firing, causing Brake to scuttle. That same evening, when the presence of one of the hungry U boats was detected in the vicinity of the carrier, a "Swordfish" drove her off, and Battler went ummolested for the remainder of her cruise.

Utlimately, Battler arrived at Norfolk, Va., on 31 January 1946 and was decommissioned there on 12 February 1946 and simultaneously returned to U.S. Navy custody. Declared “not essential to the defense of the United States” on 6 March, Battler was struck from the Navy list on 28 March 1946. Delivered to the Patapsco Scrap Co. on 12 June 1946, the ship was subsequently broken up for scrap.

Robert J. Cressman



28 February 2006