HMS Bulwark

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HMS Bulwark RO8 Commando Carrier. Completed in November 1948 Harland and Wolff Belfast. She served in the Royal Navy from 1948 until 1981. Originally built as a light fleet carrier, HMS Bulwark had an amazing record in action and in peace time exercises, a brief history of which is shown below.

HMS Bulwark, March 1968.

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HMS Bulwark, April 1969.

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HMS Bulwark.

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HMS Bulwark

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HMS Bulwark at Mayport, Florida, 1972.

Contributed by Gerald Goodwin Ex Electrical Mechanic R.N.

HMS Bulwark at Malta, March 1973.

Contributed by Gerald Goodwin Ex Electrical Mechanic R.N.

HMS Bulwark, Caribbean, 1972.

Contributed by Gerald Goodwin Ex Electrical Mechanic R.N.

Harrier trials on HMS Bulwark, North Atlantic, 1972.

Contributed by Gerald Goodwin Ex Electrical Mechanic R.N.

HMS Bulwark in Aden

The following history is courtesy of Robert Ford who served on board the Bulwark from 29th October 1967 until 17th September 1969.

We spent weeks at sea off Aden.  Loaded down with Royal Marine Commando`s,  Royal Artillery and Wessex helicopter squadron (s).  But there is no mention of this in her history. I do recall,  as the boy I was then,  asking my superior officer "Will we get a medal for this ?"  his reply "No, we are not supposed to be here."   How very strange.

At the time I was a very junior member of the operations room (radar) team and I did compile a detailed chart of the ships movements during this period.   Dates,  times,  rendezvous with other RN vessels etc.   However when my superior officer became aware of this it was confiscated,  the reason ?   "We are not supposed to be here."

I recall that this gap in her history was from October 1967 to April 1968,  7 months ?   Not a long time you may think,  but we were based in Singapore and Aden was a long way to travel by ship for nothing,  especially when we were loaded to the gunwhales with fighting troops!

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. 
  • 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 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. (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 an convert to 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)   
  • 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. (SEE THE PAINTING BY IVAN BERRYMAN BELOW)  
  • 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.

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 a Aircraft Carrier it had 42 aircraft , as a Commando Carrier it carried 30 Helicopters.

Items marked * were contributed by Chris Howat.