Please report any broken links or trouble you might come across to the Webmaster. Please take a moment to let us know so that we can correct any problems and make your visit as enjoyable and as informative as possible.

NavSource Online: Escort Carrier Photo Archive


Contributed by Tommy Trampp

Battle Honours

Atlantic 1944

Displacement 7,800 Tons, Dimensions, 495' 8" (oa) x 69' 6" x 26' (Max)
Armament 2 x 5"/51 4 x 40mm, 10 x 20mm, 28 Aircraft.
Machinery, 8,500 SHP; Allis-Chambers, Geared Turbines, 1 screw
Speed, 17.5 Knots, Crew 890.

Operational and Building Data

Built by Seattle-Tacoma. Laid down 21 May 1943, launched 8 Nov 1943. Transferred to RN and commissioned in RN service as HMS Puncher (D79) 5 February 1944. Designation changed from AVG to ACV 20 August 1942; changed from ACV to CVE 15 July 1943, both prior to commissioning.

Initially outfitted as a transport carrier by Burrards at Vancouver, Canada, but refitted as a strike/CAP carrier in the UK. Canadian manned. Served mostly as an Atlantic ASW carrier and as a training carrier. Main reduction gears destroyed 27 November 1944; replaced by gearing from Nabob.

Used as a troopship immediately postwar. Returned to USN 16 Jan 1946, stricken for disposal 12 March 1946 (Navy Dept. Bulletin, 46-525, p. 27). Converted to a cargo ship, with an altered superstructure that was originally built for a Liberty Ship and renamed Muncaster Castle (British flag), 1948. Renamed Bardic in 1954, Bennevis (Ben Line Ltd., Leith) in 1959. Scrapped at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, starting June 1973.

Click On Image 
For Full Size Image
Size Image Description Contributed
By And/Or Copyright
Willapa Bay

ACV-53 (later CVE-53) was initially named Willapa for a bay off southwestern Washington state, adjacent to Pacific County (NS0310911).

Transferred under Lend-Lease to the Royal Navy, 5 February 1944, to be manned by a Canadian crew, she was renamed and served as HMCS Puncher. A "Puncher" is one who packs a punch. The original design of the ship's badge, submitted by the ship's officers, had the fist smashing upward through a bar (in some versions, a submarine).

(Map NS0310911 courtesy of Badge courtesy of Tommy Trampp. Partial text courtesy of Tony Drury.)


HMS Puncher (D79)


"CVE-53, Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier, Booklet of General Plans," Willapa, HMS Puncher.

Courtesy of Ed Zajkowski & the Historic Naval Ships Association

108k Willapa (CVE-53) seen here as HMS Puncher (D79). ©Joe Radigan
Willapa / HMS Puncher

HMS Puncher at Valletta (La Valetta) Harbour, Malta, carrying Seafires. Date unknown. The fleet carrier HMS Formidable (67) is visible in the background.

Photo P.A. Vicary.

Robert Hurst
Jaume Cifré Sánchez
Willapa / HMS Puncher
164k HMS Puncher underway, date and location unknown. Robert Hurst
Jaume Cifré Sánchez


HMS Puncher (D79) underway at Greenock, Scotland. Date unknown.

Source: Imperial War Museums Admiralty Official Collection by Coote, R.G.G. (Lt), Photo No. © IWM(A 25712).

Mike Green

71k HMS Puncher moored in Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver between 12–27 Feb 1944 waiting on being taken in hand for modification by Burrard’s Dry Dock CO, LTD. Moved to no. 8 berth, LaPointe Pier on the 28th. (Note no radar Bofors mounts fitted — she had just arrived from Tacoma on completion of Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co builder’s trials). Courtesy of Tony Drury, Royal Navy Escort Carriers

71k HMS Puncher underway in June 1944, with a Blackburn Shark on the aft flight deck, location unknown. Robert Hurst


HMS Puncher (D79), ex-Willapa (CVE-53), underway on 27 August 1944, while off the Chesapeake Bay en route to Norfolk, Virginia, from Casablanca, Morocco.

Note: This image was originally filed in 1944, apparently on the basis of the number painted on the ship's bow, as USS Ommaney Bay (CVE-79). Her general configuration, pattern camouflage and bow number confirm the ship's identity as Puncher.

Official U.S. Navy photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command (# NH 106583).

Robert Hurst


HMS Puncher (D79) at Greenock, Scotland, 21 September 1944.

Imperial War Museums, Admiralty Official Collection, by Coote, R.G.G. (Lt), photo # ©IWM (A 25714).

Mike Green


Barracudas of 821 Squadron ranged on deck off Norwegian coast, with Force 2, during Operation Shred, February 21, 1945. The cruiser HMS Dido is astern.

Courtesy of Tony Drury, Royal Navy Escort Carriers


HMS Puncher (D79), ex-Willapa (CVE-53), at anchor, April 1945, location unknown. Photo taken by an unknown Royal Navy official photographer. Imperial War Museum, photo No. FL 17755.

Robert Hurst


Port side view of HMS Puncher (D79) at sea, May–June 1945.

Source: Imperial War Museums, Admiralty Official Collection, Photo No. ©IWM (A 29604).

Mike Green
The Crew


"On the far left [...] is a photo of my father, Caven Carmichael. (I have no idea who the other two men are.) He was a member of the Canadian Navy during WWII and part of the crew of the HMS Puncher."

If you know who the other men are, please contact us.

Nancy MacDonald (nee Carmichael).


"Officers and Crew of HMS Puncher at San Francisco, [June] 1944."

If you can identify any of them, please contact us.

Stephen J. Arnold.


"Photograph of my late father, Walter Raddings (far left), annotation on rear states HMS Puncher 1944."

Walter was born in May 1925, joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1942 and left in 1946. He also served aboard HMS Slinger in the Far East.

Trevor Raddings,
son of Walter Raddings.
Commercial Service

117k Ex-Willapa, ex-HMS Puncher, as Bennevis (British flag), in the Malacca Straits. Original photo by Airfoto Malacca. Submitted by Gerhard Mueller-Debus

60k Ex-Willapa, ex-HMS Puncher, as Bennevis, Ben Line cargo ship. Tommy Trampp

The Ben Line cargo steamer SS Bennevis (Ex-HMS Puncher) underway at Southampton in August 1964. Photo courtesy of Nick Robins.

Image taken from Wartime Standard Ships, by Nick Robins. Pub. by Seaforth Publishing, a division of Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 47 Church Street, Barnsley S70 2AS. ISBN 9781848323766.

Robert Hurst

70k Ex-Willapa, ex-HMS Puncher, as Bennevis (British flag), in Hamburg, Germany, July 1968. This ship was scrapped in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in 1973. Photos by Gerhard Mueller-Debus


Read the
WILLAPA (CVE-53) / HMS PUNCHER (D79) DANFS History entry

Crew Contact And Reunion Information

Not Applicable To This Ship

Additional Resources
Hazegray & Underway World Aircraft Carrier Pages By Andrew Toppan.
Photo Index
Escort Carrier
Photo Index Page

Comments, Suggestions or Image submissions, E-mail Carrier Information
Problems and site related matters, E-mail Webmaster

This page was created by Paul Yarnall and is maintained by Fabio Peña
All pages copyright NavSource Naval History

Last update: 30 July 2023