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HMS Shah (D21)
HMS Shah (D21).jpg
HMS Shah in January 1944, en route from Alameda to Cochin via Williamstown, Australia. In addition to her usual complement of aircraft, she ferried Wildcats and Curtiss P-40s on her deck.
Career (USA)
Name: USS Jamaica
Builder: Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation
Laid down: 13 November 1942
Launched: 21 April 1943
Fate: Transferred to Royal Navy 27 September 1943
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Shah
Namesake: Shah of Persia
Commissioned: 27 September 1943
Decommissioned: 7 February 1946
Honours and
Burma 1945
Fate: returned to US ownership. Sold as merchant ship Salta; sold for scrap 1966
Badge: On a Field Blue, a Shah's crown Gold.
General characteristics
Class & type: Ruler class escort carrier
Displacement: 7,800 tons
Length: 495 ft 7 in (151.05 m)
Beam: 69 ft 6 in (21.18 m)
Draught: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 1 shaft, 8,500 shp (6.3 MW)
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h)
Complement: 890 officers and men
Armament: 2 × 4 inch Dual Purpose Anti-Aircraft guns in single mounts
16 x 40 mm Bofors in twin mounts
20 x single 20 mm Oerlikon in single and twin mounts
Aircraft carried: 12-24

The USS Jamaica (CVE-43) (originally AVG-43 then later ACV-43), was an escort aircraft carrier of World War II that served in the British Royal Navy as HMS Shah (D21). Returned to the USA at War's end, she was converted into a merchant vessel and she was sold into civilian service in 1946 as Salta. She was ultimately scrapped in 1966.

Design and description

HMS Shah was a Ruler class escort carrier in the Royal Navy. The ships in this class were all larger and had a greater aircraft capacity than all preceding American-built escort carriers. Their hulls were designed as merchant ships but they were laid down as escort carriers and were not later conversions. All had a complement of 646 men and an overall length of 492 feet 3 inches (150.0 m), a beam of 69 feet 6 inches (21.2 m) and a draught of 25 ft 6 in (7.8 m).[1] Propulsion was provided a steam turbine, two boilers connected to one shaft giving 9,350 brake horsepower (SHP), which could propel the ship at 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph).[2]

Aircraft facilities were a small combined bridge–flight control on the starboard side, two aircraft lifts 43 by 34 feet (13.1 m × 10.4 m), one aircraft catapult and nine arrestor wires.[1] Aircraft could be housed in the 260 by 62 feet (79.2 m × 18.9 m) hangar below the flight deck.[1] Armament comprised: two 4 inch Dual Purpose guns in single mounts, sixteen 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns in twin mounts and twenty 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannons in single mounts.[1] Her operational complement of aircraft carried changed over time, typically being some combination of up to about 18 Grumman Avengers, Grumman Wildcats, Grumman Hellcats, and Supermarine Walrus, plus deck cargo.[3]

Military service as the Shah

MC Hull 254 was laid down 13 November 1942 and launched as Jamaica under contract to the Maritime Commission by Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding[4] at Tacoma, Washington on 21 April 1943 sponsored by Mrs. C. T. Simard. She was reclassified CVE-43 on 15 July 1943 and acquired by the United States Navy. She was transferred to the United Kingdom under lend-lease commissioning on 27 September 1943, as one of a large group of escort carriers suitable for anti-submarine work transferred to the Royal Navy in the Pacific.

Jamaica was renamed Shah, with a RN pennant number of D21. Commanded by William John Yendell,[5] her initial complement was 851 Naval Air Squadron with 12 Grumman Avenger IIs torpedo bombers and a flight of Wildcat fighters.[3]

After sea trials, she was modified in Canada for convoy defence, this being completed at the end of the year. She sailed from Vancouver for San Francisco to take on her complement of operational aircraft, 12 Grumman Avengers and a flight of Grumman Wildcats. However no flying was possible as her decks were also filled with Curtiss P-40s to be ferried to Cochin. From San Francisco she sailed to Williamstown, Melbourne, Australia. After resupplying she continued in this configuration to Cochin and Colombo.

Her duties were chiefly convoy defence and trade protection against German U-boats operating in the Indian Ocean with a shore base at Trincomalee. She took an active part in the war, heading the hunter-killer group which sank U-198 in the Indian Ocean, 12 August 1944. Alerted to the submarine's presence in the area, 851's Avengers located the U-boat and attempted to attack her, and directed the other ships in the group, HMS Begum, the River class frigate HMS Findhorn and the Black Swan class sloop HMIS Godavari to a point where the U-boat was depth-charged resulting in it sinking.

The Shah was transferred to the East Indies Fleet and then refitted in Durban before taking part in the Burma campaign in 1945. Having suffered several aircraft losses on patrol and landing accidents, her complement was augmented around this time by a flight of Hellcats. During April and May 1945 she participated in Operation Bishop, launching patrols and strikes against Nicobar preparatory to the invasion of Rangoon.[3] Soon after, she was tasked with the search for the Japanese cruiser Haguro. Mechanical problems with the catapult resulted in most of 851's Avengers being sent to HMS Emperor in exchange for Hellcats from 800 and 804 Squadron. A serious landing accident by one of those Hellcats effectively removed the Shah from operations on 11 May. Nonetheless 851's Avengers, flying from the Emperor, were able to locate and damage the Haguro, prior to her sinking by the 26th Destroyer Flotilla in the "Operation Dukedom". The Hellcats that survived the earlier landing accident were flown off the Shah and she briefly returned to Ceylon and Bombay for refitting and training. Collecting surviving Avengers from 851 and 845 Squadrons, plus Hellcats and a Walrus for support and recovery during landing operations, in August she sailed to join Operation Zipper on the Malay coast, only to be stood down en route when Japan capitulated.

Disembarking her aircraft at Trincomalee on 26 August, she then sailed to the Clyde naval base via Aden and the Suez canal where she was prepared for return to the USA. Arriving in Norfolk on 16 October, she was formally handed over to the USA on 26 November 1945.[3]

Merchant service as the Salta

She was sold into merchant service to Argentina on 20 June 1947 as the Salta, named after the Argentinian city. The Newport News shipyard did the conversion. In 1963 she was the first ship on scene at the rescue of passengers and crew from the Greek liner Lakonia when it caught fire in the Atlantic. At the time she was under the command of Captain José Barrere, on its way from Genoa, Italy, to Buenos Aires. The Salta rescued 475 people and took aboard most of Lakonia's lifeboats. Salta was scrapped in Buenos Aires in 1966.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Cocker (2008), p.82.
  2. Cocker (2008), p.79.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 A History of HMS Shah, Royal Navy Research Archive
  4. Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding was later known as Todd Pacific
  5. YENDELL, William John (1903-1988), Rear Admiral


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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