HMS Reaper

From the "Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships," (1981) Vol. 8, pp.415-416. WINJAH WINJAH (ACV-54)--a PRINCE WILLIAM-class escort carrier--was laid down on 5 June 1943 at Tacoma, Wash., by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co.; assigned to the United Kingdom under lend-lease on 23 June; redesignated CVE-54 on 15 July; launched on 22 November; and delivered to the British on 18 February 1944. Renamed REAPER (D.82), the carrier operated in the Royal Navy for the duration of World War II. After arriving at Norfolk, Va., on 13 May 1946, REAPER was decommissioned on 20 May and returned to the United States Government. Authorized for disposal on 14 June, WINJAH was struck from the Navy list on 8 July and sold to the Waterman Steamship Co., of Mobile, Ala. on 12 February 1947.

H.M.S. Reaper ( D82 )

Ruler Class Ferry Carrier

Laid down: 5 June 1943.
Launched: 22 November 1943.
Completed: 21 February 1944.
Builder: Seattle Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp., Seattle.
Machinery: 1-Shaft Allis Chalmers geared turbine; 2 Foster Wheeler boilers; 8,500 shp=18 knots.
Displacement: 11,400 tons standard 15,390 tons deep load.
Dimensions: 492ft overall x 108ft 6in max. beam x 25ft 5in max. draught.
Gun armament: 2 single 5in US Mk 12 (2); 8 twin 40mm Bofors (16); 14 twin 20mm Oerlikon (28); 7 single 20mm Oerlikon.
Fuel: 3,160 tons FFO.
Endurance: 27,500 miles @ 11 knots.
Complement: 646.
Protection: Splinter protection for bomb room.
Flight Deck: 450ft x 80ft wood covered steel.
Arrester wires: 9 x 19,800 lb @ 55 knots; 3 Barriers.
Hangar: 260ft x 62ft x 18ft.
Catapults: 1 x H4C; 16,000lb @74 knots(tail down method only).
Lifts: fwd 42ft long x 34ft wide; aft 34ft long x 42ft wide; both 14,000lb.
Aircraft: Up to 90 could be ferried; up to 30 could be operated.
Aircraft fuel: 36,000 gallons Avgas.
Air weapons: None carried.
Notes: One of 23 ships of the USN. Prince William Class transferred to the R.N. under lend/lease arrangements and named, in the main after types of 'Ruler'. This ship was built from the outset as a carrier but based on the US C3.
H.M.S. Reaper ferried No.1850 Squadron from New York, USA to Belfast, Northern Ireland from the 23rd November 1944 to 6th December 1944.

H.M.S. Reaper, ferrying a full deck load of Aircraft in April 1945.


Training and Escort Carrier
Ex USS Winjah ACV/AVG-54/CVE-54
Became South Africa Star 1948

HMS Reaper (D-62) was built as a Ruler Class escort carrier in the USA at Seattle-Tacoma and laid down 5 June 1943 as USS Winjah ACV/AVG-54. Launched 22 November 1943, she was transferred to the Royal Navy on 18 February 1944, and commissioned 21 February 1944

The ruler Class was the third group of escort carriers built in the USA for the Royal Navy, and were generally similar to the preceding "Attacker" Class. The modifications carried out to the earlier class after their arrival in the UK were incorporated in the "Ruler" Class during construction. Many of the class were used as amphibious support carriers, taking part in the invasion of Southern France. Others supported Eastern Fleet operations against Burma and Malaya, and some served with the British Pacific Fleet as escorts for the Fleet Train.

HMS Reaper was built as an Assault Carrier for duties in 1944 - 5. She was mainly employed on ferry and transport duties, including convoy escort and training in the Atlantic.

With the collapse of the German forces in 1945, HMS Reaper was called upon to take part in a top secret mission, code named Operation Lusty which started on 22 April 1945. The USAAF Intelligence Service had sent teams to Europe to gain access to enemy aircraft, technical and scientific reports, research facilities, and weapons for study in the US. Operation LUSTY began with the aim of exploiting captured German scientific documents, research facilities, and aircraft, the searchers nicknamed "Whizzers" located nine Me 262 jet aircraft at Lechfeld airfield, and travelled far and wide over Europe by jeep and occasionally by air to find the aircraft on the "Black Lists." Once found, the Royal Navy were willing to loan the aircraft carrier HMS Reaper. The most viable harbour for docking the carrier and loading the various aircraft was at Cherbourg, France. The "Whizzers" flew the Me 262s and other aircraft from Lechfeld to St. Dizier, to Melun, and then to Cherbourg. All the aircraft were cocooned against the salt air and weather, loaded onto the carrier which sailed in July 1945 for the USA, where they were studied by the Air Intelligence groups of both the USAAF and Navy.

The Me 262A, the world's first operational turbojet aircraft, on display at the USAF Museum (USA) was taken to the US from Germany onboard HMS Reaper in July 1945 for flight evaluation.

Reaper was finally returned to the USN by the Royal Navy on 20 May 1946, and became mercantile South Africa Star 1948, scrapped Milhara 1967.
Battle Honours
Atlantic 1944
No information on Captains.
Squadrons and Aircraft
No information
Associations and Reunions
No information

Carrier name HMS Reaper
Built as USS Winjah ACV/AVG-54.
became mercantile South Africa Star 1948 Class Ruler Type Training and Escort Carrier (US built) Ships in Class Ameer, Arbiter, Atheling, Begum, Emperor, Empress, Khedive, Nabob, Patroller, Premier, Puncher, Queen, Rajah, Ranee, Reaper, Ruler, Shah, Slinger, Smiter, Speaker, Thane, Trouncer, Trumpeter Launched Laid down 5 June 1943. Launched 22 November 1943, Transferred 18 February 1944, Commissioned 21 February 1944 Tonnage 8,333 tons, Gross displacement 14,000 tons, Load 5667 tons

Engines 2 x Foster-Wheeler boilers; 2 x Westinghouse geared turbines at 8500 shp, 1 shaft Speed in Knots 18 knots Armament Gun 2 x 1 x 5"/38-cal DP 8 x 2 x 40mm AA 27-35 x 1 x 20mm AA Crew Complement 646 Officers & Ratings including Air Group Range Length (ft/inches) 496 Beam (ft/inches) 69' 6" Draught (ft/inches) 23'3" Flight Deck length (ft/inches) 470' Flight Deck width (ft/inches) 70' Armour Number of aircraft carried 18-24 Fate of carrier scrapped Milhara 1967.

O P E R A T I O N     S E A H O R S E

Final Preparations and the Voyage Home

As luck would have it, Anspach was in for another wild ride a week later. This time, he was ferrying one of the two-seaters (#555 <../planes/555.htm>) to Cherbourg:

On 6 July 1945, I departed Melun at 1000 hours ... the trip was uneventful until the landing approach was initiated. Upon lowering the landing gear, I received indication of the main- gear extending but no panel light that the nose gear was down. I activated the emergency gear-down switch, which was a compressed air cylinder, but still did not receive a gear-down indication.

I had earlier received a green light from the tower to land so I continued on the approach expecting a red light if the nose gear was not fully extended. I thought the gear was extended and that the down-indicator was unreliable. Inasmuch as I received no red light from the tower I continued my approach, and touched down normally on the main gear, holding the nose off the ground as long as possible. After rolling approximately 1/3 the length of the runway, I slowly lowered the nose and found I did not have gear extension.

The aircraft slid for 800 to 1000 feet straight ahead on the nose section, engine nacelles and main gear before stopping. I was surprised to find very little damage had been inflicted to the aircraft.

All that was required to make it flyable was to replace the nose section and the front portion of each engine nacelle. I took several mechanics and flew to Lechfeld in a C-47.

We removed the needed components from another Me 262 . The damaged sections of the the trainer were replaced and the aircraft loaded on board the aircraft carrier.

Once all of the aircraft had arrived at the port, Army Lieutenant Colonel "Bud" Seashore supervised the load out sequence. He happened to be an old friend of Bob Strobell's from his days at the 1st Tactical Air Force headquarters.

The latter had once been assigned to fly Seashore all over the continent in a search for suitable chateaux, resorts and other "relaxation centers" which could be contracted to serve war weary troops. It had been an especially memorable mission for Strobell, and he was greatly amused to learn that his old friend was now living aboard a well-appointed crane barge in the harbor.

Strobell made arrangements to retrieve his personal gear prior to the trip, and was in Mannheim on the 4th of July. It was to prove a fateful day for him: he was assigned a war-weary P-47 for his trip, and on takeoff the manifold blew, spraying atomized fuel into the cockpit. It quickly ignited, engulfing Strobell in flames.

Though he successfully bailed out of the plane, third degree burns landed him in the hospital for several weeks. As a result of this incident, he missed the Reaper's departure date, and was not able to remain with the program. (He also lost hundreds of project documents and some 25 rolls of undeveloped film in the fire.)

The H.M.S Reaper loading at Cherbourg.  Credit-Brown


During the Reaper's load out, each of the aircraft was given a protective "shrink wrap" to protect it from the sea spray. A shipping control number was assigned, and the planes were then placed on powered barges known as "Rhinos." Once the Rhinos were in position, the aircraft were hoisted onto the deck of the carrier. This was repeated for nearly 40 aircraft of various types.

All of the planes were finally inventoried, loaded and lashed to the deck of the H.M.S. Reaper, and the officers and men settled in for the long trip home. The carrier departed Cherbourg on the 19th of July 1945, bound for Newark.

Once at sea, there was little to do but relax and enjoy the voyage. The men of the Royal Navy proved to be gracious hosts, and between the ship's stores and a few cases of Cognac the American officers had intended to bring home with them, there were frequent causes for celebration. Ken Holt observed later that it was a wonder that the Reaper reached the States at all, as the ship's navigator was rarely ever sober enough to carry out his duties.

While the officers relaxed by throwing empty bottles overboard, the crew chiefs played cards with the British sailors. Two of the American sergeants won several thousand dollars in the process, and later had to devise creative ways of clearing customs. There was little news from home except for word that a B-25 bomber had crashed into the Empire State building. For the first time since the war's end, the men were headed home.

HMS Reaper empty of planes.

Planes Ferried to US
(10 Me 262, 5 Fw 190F, 4 Fw 190D, 1 Ta 152H, 4 Ar 234B, 3 He219, 3 Bf 109, 2 Do 335, 2 Bu 181, Helicopter WNF 342, 2 Fl 282 helicopters, 1 Ju 88G, 1 Ju 388, 1 Bf 108 and 1 US F-6(P-51)  Source: "War Prizes" by Phil Butler


Me 262B-1a/U1



He 219A-0



He 219A-2


USA 11

Ta 152H-0


USA 21

Ju 88G-6


WW 444

Me 262B-1a


WW 666
FE-4011 (?)

Me 262A-1a?U3


WW 888

Me 262A-1a


WW 999

Me 262B-1a/U1



Ta 152H-0



Fw 190F



Fw 190D-13



Fw 190D-9



Fw 190D-9



Fw 190D-9



Bf 109G-10.U4



Bf 109K-4



Bf 109G-14






Me 262A-1a/U3



Bu 181 Bestmann



Bu 181 Bestmann



Doblhoff WN342V-4


HMS Reaper to dock at Port of New York. 
Planes sent by barge to Newark and unloaded on dock.

Page last revised 06/25/2014