Tuesday, July 10, 2007

HMS Nabob

Built in the United States at the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. in Tacoma, Washington, the HMS Nabob actually started its life as the USS Edisto (CVE-41). Work on this escort carrier began on 20 October 1942 and it was originally designed to be a merchant ship. But the hull was purchased by the US Navy and the ship was converted into a Bogue class escort carrier to be renamed USS Edisto. The new escort carrier was completed on 7 September 1943. On 7 September the ship was transferred to the Royal Navy and placed under the command of Commander L.R. Romer. At this point, the ship was renamed the HMS Nabob and was sent with a small temporary crew to Vancouver, Canada. Once there, she picked up her permanent crew. Of the 750 men on board the Nabob, 450 were from Canada. On 15 October 1943 the ship was formally handed over to Captain Horatio Nelson Lay, OBE, RCN, who assumed command of the ship.

While in Canada, the Nabob underwent further conversion for duties as an Antisubmarine Warfare carrier. The conversion was completed by 13 January 1943 and the ship left for Esquimalt on 24 January for final working up exercises. However, on 25 January the ship ran aground in Georgia Strait after hitting a silt deposit on the seabed. There was no serious damage to the ship, but it took three days before the Nabob could be pulled free from the silt. On 6 February the Nabob steamed to San Francisco where she picked up her aircraft, a squadron of Grumman TBM Avengers. After a brief working up period off San Francisco, the Nabob transited the Panama Canal and went to New York City, arriving there on 19 March. While in New York City, the Nabob received a number of P-51 Mustang fighters as deck cargo to be ferried to England for the RAF. The Nabob left New York on 23 March and reached Liverpool on 6 April, where she unloaded her cargo of fighters. Although the Nabob was assigned to Western Approaches Command, she was sent to the Clyde shipyard to repair defects that were found throughout the ship. The Nabob did not return to active duty until 26 June 1944.

After another working up period during which her TBM Avengers returned to the ship, the Nabob took part in Operation “Offspring” on 10 August 1944. Aircraft from the Nabob, along with planes from the fleet carrier Indefatigable and the escort carrier Trumpeter, laid aerial mines off Norway. This was the largest mine laying operation attempted by aircraft from the British Home Fleet, of which the Nabob was now a part.

The Nabob went on to take part in Operation “Goodwood,” which was an attack on the German battleship Tirpitz that was also anchored in Norway. During this operation, a torpedo fired by U-354 on 22 August 1944 struck the Nabob. The torpedo struck the starboard side of the ship, causing a 32-foot gash below the waterline and right next to the engine room. Water poured in through the hole and soon the escort carrier settled 15 feet down by the stern. Electrical power was lost throughout the ship and the Nabob sat dead in the water. The initial explosion killed 30 crewmen and 40 others were injured. Another torpedo was fired at the Nabob from U-354, but this one hit the frigate HMS Bickerton, sinking the ship. Crewmembers from the Nabob worked feverishly to save their ship. Damage control parties were eventually able to patch the hole and stop the flooding. After much effort, power was gradually restored and the Nabob was able to start moving at a very slow three knots. She eventually made it to Scapa Flow on 27 August 1944, where she underwent emergency repairs. The ship then steamed to Rosyth where she was dry-docked. After inspecting the ship, the Royal Navy decided that the Nabob was beyond repair and that she was to be laid up for the rest of the war. The ship was beached and decommissioned on 30 September 1944 and stripped for parts for other escort carriers.

What was left of the HMS Nabob was returned to the US Navy on 16 March 1946. Her hulk was sold for scrapping in March 1947 but, in an amazing turn of events, the ship was then resold to German buyers (Norddeutscher Lloyd in Bremen, Germany). The Nabob had her flight deck removed and was then towed from England to Bremen, Germany. The ship was equipped with new British-built steam turbines and was eventually converted into a merchant ship. Even though the ship was totally rebuilt, she kept her old name Nabob. The freighter Nabob remained in German hands for 16 years and was re-sold to new owners in Hong Kong in 1967. At this point the ship was renamed Glory and kept on working as a merchant ship until 1976, when she was sent to Taiwan to be scrapped, ending a very long career. The Nabob showed how much punishment an escort carrier could take and still remain afloat. She also proved that, even though stripped and left as a derelict hulk, some ships still have a lot of life left in them.


Figure 1 (Top): HMS Nabob steaming off the coast of British Columbia shortly after completion. Photo Courtesy of Corvus Publishing Group / Canada's Navy. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2 (Middle, top): The HMS Nabob as she appeared shortly after being torpedoed on August 22, 1944, by U-354. Although the torpedo punched a 32-foot hole below the ship’s waterline, she was eventually able to steam to Scapa Flow under her own power. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3 (Middle, bottom): Another view of the HMS Nabob after she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-354. She clearly can be seen settling by the stern. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4 (Bottom): The German freighter Nabob, ex-HMS Nabob, leaving Bremen, Germany, on a foggy day in March 1965. Photo by Gerhard Mueller-Debus. Click on photograph for larger image.