HMS Bulwark 

 Fleet Carrier/Comando Carrier


HMS Bulwark was built by Harland & Wolff, being laid down 10 May 1945 and launched 22 June 1948. She was completed 4 November 1954.
Bulwark Service History

29th October 1954, Commissioned at Belfast, 

7th of February 1955, First arrested landing by an Avenger of 703 squadron NAS from RNAS Ford. 
1st of June 1955, visited Oslo with 800 squadron, 811 squadron flying Sea Hawks, and Avenger from 751 squadron. 

6th of August 1956 joined the Mediterranean fleet with 804, 897, and 810 squadrons flying Sea Hawks.
1st November 1956, took part in Operation Musketeer (The Suez Landings,) 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 squadron. 
September 1957 while on Nato exercise, Bulwark was the first carrier to use magnetic loop communication systems. 

July  1958,  During the Middle East Crisis, ferried Infantry and Vehicles from Kenya to Aden.
August 1958 ferried Infantry from Aden to Aqaba in Japan. 
13th September 1958, Bulwark aircraft  assisted to 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. 

January 1959 entered Portsmouth for conversion to Commando Carrier. 

23rd January 1960  recommissioned at Portsmouth , with 42 Royal marine Commando and 848 Squadron (Whirlwind helicopters) 

1st July 1961, Operation Vantage, Landed 42 Commando during the Kuwait crisis  (Iraqi threat to invade Kuwait) 
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 refit . 

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 Whiskey 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. 
10th April taken in tow from Portsmouth to breakers yard. 
17th April arrived at Cairn Ryan for scrapping.

Bulwark and her sister ship Albion took part in the Suez attacks on Egypt in 1956, but were then converted to helicopter carriers in 1959-60 and 1961-62, respectively. Carrying 700-900 Royal Marines and embarking 16 Westland Wessex helicopters, they served off Aden and during the crisis with Indonesia in 1966. Albion was scrapped in 1972 and Bulwark placed in reserve in 1976. However, she was recommissioned in 1979 as an anti-submarine helicopter carrier, releasing HMS Hermes from an amphibious warfare role. Bulwark paid off at Portsmouth on 27 March 1981. She was de-stored and prepared for disposal April 1981, once Invincible was operational.

Plans were made for reactivation during 1982 due to the Falklands war but were later abandoned, when surveyed to be in too poor a state of repair to be recommissioned. Scrapped at Cairn Ryan from 17 April 1984.

Battle Honours
None in WWII.

None in WWII.

Squadrons and Aircraft
None in WWII.

Associations and Reunions
HMS Bulwark, Albion and Centaur Association
Contact: Email:

Chairman: Frank Jones
Secretary: John Truscott
49 Padnell Avenue, Cowplain, Waterlooville, Hants. PO8 8DT. Tel. 02392 431150 (Email:

Newsletter "R08"
Email Editor:

also see the

Notice Board for naval enthusiasts and ex ships company of HMS Bulwark

Carrier name HMS Bulwark
Class Centaur
Type Light Fleet Aircraft Carrier
Ships in Class Albion, Centaur, Hermes, Bulwark, Elephant, Monmouth, Arrogant & Polyphemus
Launched Built by Harland & Wolff. Laid down 10 May 1945. Launched 22 June 1948. Completed 4 November 1954. 
Tonnage Displacement: 20,260 tons standard ; 26,200 tons full load
Engines Propulsion: 4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 shafts, Parsons geared turbines, 76,000 shp
Speed in Knots Speed: 28 knots
Armament Armament: 2 sextuple Bofors 40 mm AA ; 8 twin Bofors 40 mm ; 4 single Bofors 40 mm ; 4 single 3 pdr saluting guns
Crew Complement Complement: 1390 (including air group)
Range  Range: 5,040 nmiles at 20 knots ; 3,500 tons fuel oil
Length (ft/inches) Dimensions: 737.75 oa x 120.5 x 27.8 feet
Beam (ft/inches)  
Draught (ft/inches)  
Flight Deck length (ft/inches)  
Flight Deck width (ft/inches)  
Armour Armour: 1 to 2 inch flight deck
Number of aircraft carried Aircraft: up to 42
Fate of carrier De-stored April 1981. Plans for reactivation 1982 Falklands war but abandoned. Scrapped from April 1984. 
Notes Eight ships of the Centaur class were ordered during the second world war as enlarged follow-ons to the Majestics, with more powerful machinery allowing fleet speeds. Four ships (Hermes, Monmouth, Arrogant & Polyphemus) were cancelled in October 1945, the first two of which had been laid down and were broken up on the slipway. To maintain the famous carrier name, one of the ships to be completed, Elephant, was renamed Hermes. Of the four ships completed only the first, Centaur, was completed to the original design with an axial flight deck although a small extension was soon added to allow an angled landing area. 

The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm HMS Bulwark 1958 NAM 1 A/E Jim Cowell 849 Squadron, 'D' Flight AEW.1 (AD-4W)
HMS Bulwark 1948-1984 Ken Burns, Mike Critchley, Maritime Books Liskeard 1986.  A distillation of her 10 commissions with excellent photographs, a chapter on her construction and her finale in 1979-1981. 
HMS Bulwark, Notice Board  Page for naval enthusiasts and ex ships company of HMS Bulwark
Welcome to H.M.S BULWARK 1969-72 THE RUSTY "B" in Stories and tales of a Matelot Welcome to my site about Her Majesty's Warships on which I have served. 
World Aircraft Carrier Lists and Photo Gallery - from 1913 to 2000. Naval History Information Center, Haze Gray & Underway
Sturtivant, R & Ballance, T  (1994). 'The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1994 ISBN: 0 85130 223 8

The World’s Warships 1941 by Francis E. McMurtrie (1944). Jane's London 1941 1st ed. 

Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II by Francis E. McMurtrie (Editor)(1984). 320 pages. Crescent Books; ISBN: 0517679639

      Last Modified: 21-9-2001


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