• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

What if the UK had accepted the US offer to trade the 4 Illustrious' for future Essex production?

bobtdwarf

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
99
Reaction score
136
I came across a reference to the US offering to trade the UK carriers during WW2, the US wanted to bulk up fast to hit back fast. Four CVs now in exchange for four new build Essex later on.

The UK turned down the trade the same month that the US canceled the flight of four after Oriskany.. that does not seem coincidental to me.

Given production schedules and all... this puts the UK taking delivery of them from 1950 on, with all that implies.
 

Archibald

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
3,678
Reaction score
1,226
Now that's would be a bargain for the Royal Navy... as shown by the Victorious quagmire, the Illustrious / Implacable were doomed to obsolescence by their hangars. Constrating with the Essex SBC-125.

Four more Essex (28 instead of 24) is alway a good thing. Whatever the mean to get them in service, RN included.
 

EwenS

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
70
Reaction score
94
This is a tale I’ve not heard before. Can you provide more information? Especially about the timescale.

Thinking about it, the most likely timeframe seems to me to be post Midway when the US was down to 4 carriers in the Pacific. In Dec1941 the first Essex were not expected until early 1944. But due to US industrial effort 7 were delivered by the end of 1943 along with 9 Independence class. So the need evaporates after 1942 or mid 1943 at the latest.

If it had gone through then delivery of the Essex to Britain would have been in the 1944/45 timeframe given the actual completion dates of the Essex ordered in Aug 1942. Build times slowed on the ships completed after Aug 1945 and Oriskany’s build was suspended for several years before being restarted to a modified SCB-27 design.

But there is nothing in this for Britain so no wonder it was quickly rejected. Without these ships Britain is left with Furious and Argus and escort carriers to provide air cover for its fleets in late 1942 and 1943 until the Implacables come along in 1944. And it is mid-1943 before escort carrier deliveries really begin to ramp up.

But I am curious to learn more about the proposal.
 

Volkodav

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Mar 28, 2014
Messages
228
Reaction score
142
I wonder if this is related to the temporary transfer of HMS Victorious to support the USN in the Pacific during 1943?

I suppose the issue is, depending when the request was made, whether the RN had four carriers to spare. There was I believe a UK initiative for the RAN to crew Implacable and Indefatigable, due to man power shortages, at the same time New Zealanders apparently made up a large proportion of the FAA through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (and some went on to serve in the RAN FAA post war), so possibly an ANZAC carrier squadron? Anyway this may also have been part of the proposal, transferring the final pair to the US?
 

EwenS

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
70
Reaction score
94
The request for a loan of a carrier by the USN is supposed to have arisen from a request by Halsey & Nimitz at the end of Oct 1942 following the loss of the Hornet CV-8 on 27th Oct. Everything I've read only refers to a single carrier. Victorious sailed for the US on 20th Dec 1942 to fulfill that request.

The RN never really had 1 fleet carrier to spare let alone 4. Giving up Victorious was a stretch. Even in 1943 they needed 2 in the Med and one in the Home Fleet with Furious. That left the Indian Ocean carrierless. When Indomitable was torpedoed in July she was replaced by Illustrious from the Home Fleet and USS Ranger had to be borrowed to fill the Home Fleet carrier gap as Furious was in refit.

The initiative to get the Dominions to man new ships did not arise, AFAIK, until late 1943/early 1944 when RN manpower shortages became apparent. The proposal for Australia was discussed between Curtin (Australian PM) and Churchill in March 1944 when the former came to London, and related to an unnamed carrier and one or two cruisers plus six destroyers. A few days later, Admiral Cunnningham in further discussions with the Australians considered a Colossus class as the most appropriate and HMS Venerable, due to complete in Dec 1944, was suggested with the loan of an escort carrier in the interim to give the RAN experience. Curtin was not keen on the idea of these transfers and kept deferring a decision until finally dropping it in Jan 1945. The main reason was that Australia, and particularly the RAN, also had manpower issues. This info is from the Australian side. So it is possible that the British had a specific ship in mind before the talks began, such as an Implacable. But in that case why was Cunningham only pitching the Colossus class.

The RCN was much more interested in a naval air arm and began working with the RN to achieve that from late 1942. This resulted in RCN manning of 2 CVE in late 1943/early 1944. Subsequently, in early 1944, the Canadians agreed to man 2 cruisers, 2 light carriers and a destroyer flotilla to serve in the Pacific. With changes over time these were Uganda and MInotaur (HMCS Ontario), Warrior & Magnificent and the Cr destroyer flotilla.

By the end of 1943 the US had ordered 26 Essex, with 7 completed and 11 building, with build times of 15-20 months. The 9 Independence class were complete and the first 2, of 4 ordered, Midways were building. So by then they had no need to take over British ships by that stage if not for some time previously.
 

Hood

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2006
Messages
1,712
Reaction score
934
I never heard of this either.
Sounds odd as why would the RN give up the only four modern carriers it had for the promise of four new carriers in the future?

CV-50 to CV-55 were cancelled, but only in March 1945 when it was clear they would not be needed, two Midways (CVB-56 and CVB-57) being cancelled at the same time.
 

EwenS

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
70
Reaction score
94
And CV-50 to CV-55 were part of the FY44 shipbuilding Programme. Which is very late for the USN to be considering such a move.

Oriskany was in the 1942 Programme, but such was the backlog of orders she wasn't laid down until 1 May 1944, the second last of that year's Essex class. Only Reprisal CV-35 and the 3 FY43 ships (CV-45 to CV-47) were laid down later.

The more I think about this, the crazier it seems.
 

bobtdwarf

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
99
Reaction score
136
as I recall I picked this info up from a. footnote on a site about armored carriers, it was quoting Friedman. It would have been made in '43 most likely.. CV-50+ were canceled as Essex builds the same month and the tender totally killed as possible Midways later on as I understand it.

They might have been open to trading one to one for fewer than all..
 

EwenS

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
70
Reaction score
94
I’ve found the quotes on the Armoured Carrier site. They are by D.K. Brown in Nelson to Vanguard (footnote 66 on P56 which I have in my library). https://www.armouredcarriers.com/de...king-slade-and-worths-armoured-carrier-essays

They are way down the page. “There are well known stories of a serious plan to swap the six RN armoured carriers for six Essex class”

Trouble is the author does not provide any reference for his comments nor a timeframe.

And by Anthony Preston in Great Warships where he narrows it down to the “late stages of World war 2”.

Both are quoted in the context of a discussion of the Armoured v unarmoured carrier design. Brown states that his belief was that they were both best suited to the wars they were involved in. With the rise of the BPF in 1945 I can see how something like that might be contemplated. But that is not about the RN giving something up mid-war in exchange for Essex class some years later.

I’d love to find out more about these “well known stories”, preferably with some support from official documents.
 

bobtdwarf

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
99
Reaction score
136
I’ve found the quotes on the Armoured Carrier site. They are by D.K. Brown in Nelson to Vanguard (footnote 66 on P56 which I have in my library). https://www.armouredcarriers.com/de...king-slade-and-worths-armoured-carrier-essays

They are way down the page. “There are well known stories of a serious plan to swap the six RN armoured carriers for six Essex class”

Trouble is the author does not provide any reference for his comments nor a timeframe.

And by Anthony Preston in Great Warships where he narrows it down to the “late stages of World war 2”.

Both are quoted in the context of a discussion of the Armoured v unarmoured carrier design. Brown states that his belief was that they were both best suited to the wars they were involved in. With the rise of the BPF in 1945 I can see how something like that might be contemplated. But that is not about the RN giving something up mid-war in exchange for Essex class some years later.

I’d love to find out more about these “well known stories”, preferably with some support from official documents.
ok my memory is mostly intact... I do recall coming across the reference to the timing of the turning down and all.. stuff sticks in my brain, got the high spots as my dad used to say... and I do recall coming across tying it down to the same month etc.

Would be great to have more information but for the purpose of the exercise we have enough to speculate.

What would be the impact of trading 2 or more 1 for 1 for future Essex production, probably at the end of the run.
 

zen

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
1,798
Reaction score
550
Where would the RN drydock an Essex sized CV....
When we say from the production line, do we mean with standard USN equipment or fitted out with RN standard equipment?
Do we mean with USN standatd boilers and machinery?

Once you dig into this, it looks a complete non starter.
 

bobtdwarf

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
99
Reaction score
136
Where would the RN drydock an Essex sized CV....
When we say from the production line, do we mean with standard USN equipment or fitted out with RN standard equipment?
Do we mean with USN standatd boilers and machinery?

Once you dig into this, it looks a complete non starter.
we can assume most favorable for the UK on fitting, as to docking.... you guys have time to figure that out.
 

zen

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
1,798
Reaction score
550
During the War civilian drydocks, which are long enough.
But afterwards the RN preferred it's own secure drydocks. Only Gladstone in Liverpool would be long enough and even that was tight for Hood, which was slightly shorter.
Floating docks might also be used in the War, but afterwards they were viewed as problematic for carriers.

So to choose this means funding expansion of existing drydocks (Rosyth) or building new (Davenport in Plymouth).
However modernisation of the Essex postwar is an attractive proposition. Albeit Admiralty and Naval architects were never that keen on USN levels of hull stress and might well see them as just a wartime expediency. To be disposed of in favour of new less stressed hulls.
However such a modernisation would be more capable than Victorious.

Actually just getting a new large drydock would be a positive consequence of this scenario. Land had been purchased for slips and drydocks at Davenport able to take 1,500ft length.
Just get one built and a 1952 CV or CVA-01 will happen.
 

bobtdwarf

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
99
Reaction score
136
During the War civilian drydocks, which are long enough.
But afterwards the RN preferred it's own secure drydocks. Only Gladstone in Liverpool would be long enough and even that was tight for Hood, which was slightly shorter.
Floating docks might also be used in the War, but afterwards they were viewed as problematic for carriers.

So to choose this means funding expansion of existing drydocks (Rosyth) or building new (Davenport in Plymouth).
However modernisation of the Essex postwar is an attractive proposition. Albeit Admiralty and Naval architects were never that keen on USN levels of hull stress and might well see them as just a wartime expediency. To be disposed of in favour of new less stressed hulls.
However such a modernisation would be more capable than Victorious.

Actually just getting a new large drydock would be a positive consequence of this scenario. Land had been purchased for slips and drydocks at Davenport able to take 1,500ft length.
Just get one built and a 1952 CV or CVA-01 will happen.
and they were looking at Malta' and those were going to need stuff to support them... besides this gets you close to that for the cost of an Illustrious, and there is noway a big carrier was going to cost 3 mil...
 
  • Like
Reactions: zen

EwenS

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
70
Reaction score
94
The issue of docking large carriers was considered in April 1943 when the initial designs for the Malta class were being drawn up (est then was 900ft WL and 950ft OA beam 114-122ft v an Essex at 820ft WL and 888ft OA but only 93ft beam)

Only the following were thought capable of taking them

Southampton King George V Dock
Liverpool Gladstone Dock (but something not much larger than Hood might only be possible due to area available to turn the ship to face the dock gate)
AFD11 at Portsmouth
AFD35 to complete 1945
Singapore (then in Japanese hands)
Cape Town (completed 1945)
Sydney (completed 1945)
Esquimalt
St Johns
Quebec
AFD23 at Trincomalee

But as noted above even during the war the AFDs were deemed not ideal.

In the 1960s there was a plan for a new dock in Portsmouth to take CVA-01 but that came to nothing. The No1 dock at Rosyth had to be lengthened to build theQE and PoW.

The impact on the RN in WW2 of giving up the Armoured carriers mid-war for Essex at some point in the future would be huge. Just look at what these ships were involved in between 1943 and 1945. The Indian Ocean build up in 1944 would be impossible and that means no BPF in 1945. If the war ends as historical, then If the Essex had not been received, would they ever be given Britain’s financial plight? The cost of spares would be in dollars. So maybe a govt might be tempted just to sell them to the US rather than pay to maintain them, or maybe just take the Armoured carriers back as the US probably wouldn’t want them then.
 

kaiserd

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2013
Messages
1,004
Reaction score
327
Any evidence this was ever a real proposal (which appears unlikely) versus a repeated comment likely originating from a rather partisan debater in the the whole “armoured versus unarmored flight deck” debate.
 

zen

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
1,798
Reaction score
550
Any evidence this was ever a real proposal (which appears unlikely) versus a repeated comment likely originating from a rather partisan debater in the the whole “armoured versus unarmored flight deck” debate.
A good point.
Elsewhere in warships1 the same argument over Open verses Armoured Hangers is repetitive, and a constant hijack of other carrier threads. Often by the same people repeating the same lines verbatum.

It would be very disappointing to see that repeated here.
 

Archibald

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
3,678
Reaction score
1,226
It's just like freakkin' DBZ power levels (over nine thousaaaaaaands !)
 

kaiserd

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2013
Messages
1,004
Reaction score
327
Any evidence this was ever a real proposal (which appears unlikely) versus a repeated comment likely originating from a rather partisan debater in the the whole “armoured versus unarmored flight deck” debate.
A good point.
Elsewhere in warships1 the same argument over Open verses Armoured Hangers is repetitive, and a constant hijack of other carrier threads. Often by the same people repeating the same lines verbatum.

It would be very disappointing to see that repeated here.
To be clear re:my point it’s quite possible that this “proposal” was mentioned in some form in the associated literature, it’s more that it’s likely it’s root was the limited temporary transfer of HMS Victorious to the Pacific which then got conflated with “ours are better than theirs” sentiments tied up with the “armoured versus unarmored” debate that then emerge as this “proposal”.
It appears highly unlikely to have ever been any remotely plausible overlap in time between when the US would have made any such request versus the UK being in any way being in a position to satisfy such a request (which both parties would have been aware of).
 

JFC Fuller

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2012
Messages
3,352
Reaction score
648
To be clear re:my point it’s quite possible that this “proposal” was mentioned in some form in the associated literature, it’s more that it’s likely it’s root was the limited temporary transfer of HMS Victorious to the Pacific which then got conflated with “ours are better than theirs” sentiments tied up with the “armoured versus unarmored” debate that then emerge as this “proposal”.
It appears highly unlikely to have ever been any remotely plausible overlap in time between when the US would have made any such request versus the UK being in any way being in a position to satisfy such a request (which both parties would have been aware of).
To be clear, such a proposal is mentioned in "the literature" as pointed out in post 9 by EwanS who chose to try and chase down the source of the story rather than just demand evidence of others and make accusations partisanship. EwanS is an asset to the forum.
 
  • Like
Reactions: zen

JFC Fuller

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2012
Messages
3,352
Reaction score
648
The issue of docking large carriers was considered in April 1943 when the initial designs for the Malta class were being drawn up (est then was 900ft WL and 950ft OA beam 114-122ft v an Essex at 820ft WL and 888ft OA but only 93ft beam)

Only the following were thought capable of taking them

Southampton King George V Dock
Liverpool Gladstone Dock (but something not much larger than Hood might only be possible due to area available to turn the ship to face the dock gate)
AFD11 at Portsmouth
AFD35 to complete 1945
Singapore (then in Japanese hands)
Cape Town (completed 1945)
Sydney (completed 1945)
Esquimalt
St Johns
Quebec
AFD23 at Trincomalee

But as noted above even during the war the AFDs were deemed not ideal.

In the 1960s there was a plan for a new dock in Portsmouth to take CVA-01 but that came to nothing. The No1 dock at Rosyth had to be lengthened to build theQE and PoW.
Great post. Also worth noting the 1943-5 plan for multiple new 1,000ft docks at Devonport in a new basin at the Western Mill Lake and one in the south yard. The plans were relatively detailed and the Admiralty acquired a large amount of land around the base for the expansion but ended up slowly handing it back post-war. The plan never seems to have impacted any ship design specifically but between the Audacious, Malta and 1944/45 Lion designs there were nine ships in the programme at the limits of existing infrastructure, the future availability of additional large dry-docks must have been a consideration.

The Rosyth docks were designed with length behind them to allow extension, but No.1 didn't need to be extended for QE and PoW, it had been lengthened at some point post war, it did need a new entrance and floor though.
 
Last edited:

PMN1

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2006
Messages
719
Reaction score
55
The issue of docking large carriers was considered in April 1943 when the initial designs for the Malta class were being drawn up (est then was 900ft WL and 950ft OA beam 114-122ft v an Essex at 820ft WL and 888ft OA but only 93ft beam)

Only the following were thought capable of taking them

Southampton King George V Dock
Liverpool Gladstone Dock (but something not much larger than Hood might only be possible due to area available to turn the ship to face the dock gate)
AFD11 at Portsmouth
AFD35 to complete 1945
Singapore (then in Japanese hands)
Cape Town (completed 1945)
Sydney (completed 1945)
Esquimalt
St Johns
Quebec
AFD23 at Trincomalee

But as noted above even during the war the AFDs were deemed not ideal.

In the 1960s there was a plan for a new dock in Portsmouth to take CVA-01 but that came to nothing. The No1 dock at Rosyth had to be lengthened to build theQE and PoW.
Great post. Also worth noting the 1943-5 plan for multiple new 1,000ft docks at Devonport in a new basin at the Western Mill Lake and one in the south yard. The plans were relatively detailed and the Admiralty acquired a large amount of land around the base for the expansion but ended up slowly handing it back post-war. The plan never seems to have impacted any ship design specifically but between the Audacious, Malta and 1944/45 Lion designs there were nine ships in the programme at the limits of existing infrastructure, the future availability of additional large dry-docks must have been a consideration.

The Rosyth docks were designed with length behind them to allow extension, but No.1 didn't need to be extended for QE and PoW, it had been lengthened at some point post war, it did need a new entrance and floor though.
Seemed to have learned the lesson from the past as well and allowed space for lengthening.


Proposed 1943 Devonport Western Mill Lake Basin.jpg

Proposed 1943 Devonport Gun Wharf Graving Dock.jpg


The earlier Rosyth 1926 plan is very interesting

Rosyth 1926 plan.jpg
 

kaiserd

I really should change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2013
Messages
1,004
Reaction score
327
To be clear re:my point it’s quite possible that this “proposal” was mentioned in some form in the associated literature, it’s more that it’s likely it’s root was the limited temporary transfer of HMS Victorious to the Pacific which then got conflated with “ours are better than theirs” sentiments tied up with the “armoured versus unarmored” debate that then emerge as this “proposal”.
It appears highly unlikely to have ever been any remotely plausible overlap in time between when the US would have made any such request versus the UK being in any way being in a position to satisfy such a request (which both parties would have been aware of).
To be clear, such a proposal is mentioned in "the literature" as pointed out in post 9 by EwanS who chose to try and chase down the source of the story rather than just demand evidence of others and make accusations partisanship. EwanS is an asset to the forum.
To be clear to EwanS I wasn’t referring to EwanS are being the likely “partisan” party.
 

bobtdwarf

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
99
Reaction score
136
gentlemen there are a myriad of reasons why thing happened the way they did.. the question IS what if it had not gone that way?

What would be the overall impact of trading part or all of the Illustrious'... more the "part" part.

Lets say 3.
 

Volkodav

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Mar 28, 2014
Messages
228
Reaction score
142
The concept of transfer of Armoured Fleet Carriers to the USN (be it temporary or permanent) makes sense in terms of them being larger and more capable than the Independence Class CVLs that filled the interim requirement pre the availability of sufficient Essex class. It also makes sense in terms of the greater survivability of the RN type carriers, or more to the point their greater resistance to being temporarily put out of action by air attack or landing accident, i.e. they could be a very valuable addition to a strike fleet providing a more resilient fighter and dive bomber carrier for task force defence, leaving the larger capacity Essex for strike oriented air groups.

This is all well and good for the USN but what does the RN do while waiting for the promised Essex? It could be argued that CVEs provided sufficient capability for areas of operation other than the Pacific. Could the proposal also have been linked to the RN forming an integral part of USN pacific operations, as the RAN did, instead of the BPF being formed?
 

Volkodav

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Mar 28, 2014
Messages
228
Reaction score
142
gentlemen there are a myriad of reasons why thing happened the way they did.. the question IS what if it had not gone that way?

What would be the overall impact of trading part or all of the Illustrious'... more the "part" part.

Lets say 3.
It all depends on the when.

Once Italy was taken out of the war the Med became a safer area of operations for unarmoured and even escort carriers, allied air superiority over and around the UK also permitting the effective use of CVEs. Maybe increasing numbers of CVEs could have done the job during the gap between the transfer of the Illustrious class and the delivery of the Essex?
 

EwenS

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
70
Reaction score
94
Could the proposal also have been linked to the RN forming an integral part of USN pacific operations, as the RAN did, instead of the BPF being formed?
Well that would have happened over Adm King's dead body!
 

Hood

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2006
Messages
1,712
Reaction score
934
Of course we haven't considered the obvious - the swap might just have meant a swap of units - six USN carriers being sent to Orkney and all six HMS I's being attached to the USN in the Pacific, retaining their original ship's companies but perhaps with a swap of airgroups (the RN already had catapult spool conversions for lend-lease aircraft and CVEs - not sure above vice versa). This would have gotten around the training problem, doesn't quite solve the logistics issues but with a tender or two sent with them it might have been doable.
 

EwenS

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
70
Reaction score
94
There might be a few compatibility issues at least until 1944 especially re catapults/accelerators.

When Vic was in the Pacific 832 sqn used US spec Avengers and after a crash causing some damage they transferred to Saratoga. They were noted as not being entirely suitable.

The British BH.III was designed to use a trolley to raise the aircraft to a flying position before launch. That needed modifications to US built aircraft. There were differences between the model fitted to the first Illustrious class on the one hand and the subsequent Implacables and Colossus class. Tail down launches of US types were possible on the latter. I’m not sure about the former (tailwheels likely to hit the shuttle in the single track). Also not as powerful as the US types.

British preference seems to have been to use them only rarely.

Not sure which US types got catapult spools for compatibility with the BH.III. Early Martlets certainly did.
 
Top