Light Fleet Aircraft Carriers - Centaur Class
HMS Bulwark

  • HMS Bulwark (R08). Laid down in 1945, and built by Harland and Wolf, Belfast. Launched on the 22nd June 1948, but completed six years later on the 4th November 1954. Speed 28 knots; Endurance 6,000 miles at 20 knots.
  • Full compliment was 1800 which included Royal Marines. As an Aircraft Carrier she had 42 aircraft, as a Commando Carrier she carried 30 Helicopters

  • 29th October 1954, Commissioned at Belfast. 7th February 1955, first arrested landing by an Avenger of 703 squadron NAS from RNAS Ford. 1st June 1955, visited Oslo with 800 squadron, 811 squadron flying Sea Hawks, and Avenger from 751 squadron. 6th August 1956 joined the Mediterranean fleet with 804, 897, and 810 squadrons flying Sea Hawks. 1st November 1956, took part in Operation Musketeer (Suez) flying nearly 600 sorties against Egyptian targets. 18th December 1956, returned to Portsmouth for refit.
  • May 1957 returned to the Home Fleet, carrying Gannet AS aircraft of 820 squadron, Sea Venoms of 891 squadron, Skyraider from 849D squadron, and sea Hawks of 801, 898 squadrons. September 1957 while on Nato exercise, Bulwark was the first carrier to use magnetic loop communication systems. 17th January 1958 Bulwark sailed with Home Fleet for the Spring Cruise to the West Indies. Squadrons embarked: 801 Sea Hawks, 891 Sea Venoms, 845 Whirlwind HAS Mk7 and 849D Skyraiders. April 1958 left Gibraltar after dry docking for the Suez Canal and Far East.
  • July 1958, During the Middle East Crisis, ferried Infantry and Vehicles from Kenya to Aden. August 1958 ferried Infantry from Aden to Aqaba at the north east end of the Red Sea. 13th September 1958, Bulwark aircraft assisted two tankers after a collision in the Persian Gulf. HMS Bulwark took one of the tankers, The Melika, in Tow to Muscat and won the Boyd trophy in her part of this salvage. (At the time this operation resulted in the largest ever award of salvage money to the ships involved.) 4th November 1958 Bulwark arrived at Portsmouth to pay off and convert to a Commando Carrier.
  • January 1959 conversion to Commando Carrier starts in earnest. 23rd January 1960 recommissioned at Portsmouth , with 42 Royal Marine Commando and 848 Squadron (Whirlwind helicopters).
  • April 1961. SEATO Exercise "Pony Express". Biggest Exercise in the 6 year existence of SEATO. It involved 60 ships from 6 nations carrying out coastal bombardment followed by an assault from sea and air. 6,000 men were landed under battle conditions on the North Borneo coast. 42 Commando, Australian infantry and US Marines formed the assault force. Attacks on the shipping were made by British and US Submarines, while RAF bombers from Singapore acted as enemy aircraft.
  • 1st July 1961, Operation Vantage, landed 42 Commando during the Kuwait crisis (Iraqi threat to invade Kuwait). Bulwark had sped from Karachi at 30 knots (flat out) having been diverted from an exercise at Sharjah in the Gulf. At the time of the landings - 0600 hours - it was not known if the landings would be opposed or not. 42 Commado was ordered ashore by Harold MacMillan, P.M., despite a refusal by Brigadier Horsford to do so, due to the lack of immediate air support.
  • 1st October 1961, first Carrier to be commissioned away from the UK since World war two, at Singapore. May 1962 Exercise Common Assault 3 - training The Hong Kong Garrison in landing techniques.
  • April 1964 to part in the Borneo Operations against the Indonesians. 845 squadron awarded the Boyd trophy for 1964. March 1965, took part in exercise FOTEX 65, along with HMAS Melbourne, HMS Victorious and HMS Eagle. 18th June 1966 carried out sea trial with the Kestrel which was the forerunner of the Sea Harrier June 1966, embarked Wessex 5 helicopters of 845 Squadron and 42 Royal Marine Commando June 1967 landed 3 Commando Brigade at Kuantan in Eastern Malaysia
  • August 1968 Major refit at Portsmouth. 17th April 1969, Sailed to Plymouth to embark 41 Royal Marine Commando group then sailed to Mediterranean with 845 squadron. April - took part in Exercise Grecian Vase, in Cyprus and Exercise Olympic Express off Salonika. June 1970 took part in Exercise Bersatu Padu which involved ships from The UK, Australia , New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore, over 200 aircraft 50 Ships and 20,000 men. HMS Bulwark landed 40 Royal Marine Commando.
  • 13th January 1972, Sailed for Malta to act as HQ ship for the Operation Exit, planned withdrawal of British Forces form Malta, HMS Bulwark was at Valetta Harbour for 11 weeks 845 squadron carried out over 1,000 landings. March 1972 took part in exercise Rum Punch of Puerto Rico. 17th July 1972 took part in Exercise West Hoe. February 1973 visited Charleston, South Carolina, HMS Bulwark was the largest ship to sail under Cooper bridge. took part in Exercise Rum Punch 73. 25th April 1973, went to Mediterranean to embark 41 Commando from Malta for exercises of Cyprus, then sailed for North Atlantic to take part in Anglo-US exercise in the arctic Circle.
  • 4th September 1973 took part in exercise Deep Furrow 73, major NATO exercise with over 50,000 men and 54 ships from USA, UK, Greece, Turkey and Italy. 16th January 1974 damaged by storms north east of the Azores.
  • 8th March 1974 Devonport for refit, completed on 7th February 1975 . June 1975 exercise Dawn Patrol. 1st September took part in Exercise Deep Express 75. January 1976, Sailed for Caribbean with 848 Squadron and 40 Royal Marines, plus Band of the Royal Green Jackets for exercises of Puerto Rico. May 1976 placed in reserve fleet.
  • 20th March 1978 refitted at Portsmouth. 23rd February 1979 recommissioned in Portsmouth 28th June 1979 took part in exercise Whisky Venture with 820 squadron flying Sea Kings and 45 Royal Marine Commando. 22nd February took part in exercise Safe Pass of US East Coast. 15th March 1980 A1 Boiler room destroyed by fire and was not repaired. 2nd April 1980 returned to Portsmouth. April 1980 embarked 45 Commando for Exercise Dawn patrol in the Mediterranean off Sardinia. August 1980 took part in exercise Teamwork 80 off Norway. 9th November 1980 major fire damaged forward hanger and many mess decks. 27th March 1981 entered Portsmouth for last time. April 1981 made ready for disposal.

  • 1982 Engineer Officers inspect Bulwark (on TV) with a view to recommissioning for the Falklands. 10th April 1984 taken in tow from Portsmouth to breakers yard. 17th April 1984 arrived at Cairnryan for scrapping.
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    The Accidental Death of HMS Bulwark 1914

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