Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) 1939-1960, Armed Merchant Cruisers (Prince Class)

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) 1939-1960,

Armed Merchant Cruisers (Prince Class)

Data current to 6 June 2020.

Armed Merchant Cruisers

HMCS Prince David (F89) (Prince-class); HMCS Prince Henry (F70) (Prince-class); HMCS Prince Robert (F56) (Prince-class)

HMCS Prince David (F89)

 (RCN Photo)

HMCS Prince David (F89).

HMCS Prince David (F89) was one of three Canadian National Steamships passenger liners  that were converted for the RCN, first to armed merchant cruisers at the beginning of the Second World War, then to Infantry Landing Ships (medium), ISL (M) or to an anti-aircraft escort.  For three years, they were the largest ships in the RCN.

The three 'Prince' ships were a unique part of Canada's war effort: taken out of mercantile service, converted to armed merchant cruisers, two of them (Prince David and Prince Henry) were reconfigured to infantry landing ships and one (Prince Robert) to an anti-aircraft escort; all three ships were paid off at war's end and then returned to mercantile service.

In the early part of the war, as armed merchant cruisers equipped with antique guns and very little armour, Prince David and her sisters were sent to hunt enemy submarines and surface ships, tasks better suited to warships.  As the needs of the RCN changed, the 'Prince' ships adapted to new roles.  Their flexibility offered the RCN greater scope and balance in its operations.   Prince David and her sisters, each with two separate employments, roamed most of the navigable world.

(RCN Photo)

HMCS Prince David (F89).

 (RCN Photo)

HMCS Prince David (F89) with landing craft.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA-131501)

Landing craft with infantrymen preparing to go ashore from HMCS Prince David off Bernières-sur-Mer, France, 6 June 1944.

 (DND Photo)

HMCS Prince David (F89), 1942.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3394410)

HMCS Prince David (F89), Oerlikon 20-mm Anti-Aircraft Gun, Kithera, Greece, 16 Sep 1944.  She was armed with four 6-inch/45 cal Mk. VII guns in two single mounts forward and two aft (as an AMC); four 4-inch Mk. XVI HA/LA guns in two twin mounts (as an LSI (M)); two 3-inch HA guns in two single mounts (as an AMC), two 40-mm Bofors AA guns (as an LSI (M)), several Vickers .303-inch twin Machine-guns, ten 20-mm Oerlikon cannon Mk. 5 in single mounts after her refit in April 1942; and two stern-munted depth charge chutes for Mk. VIII 300-lb canister depth charges (as an AMC).

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3394502)

6-inch QF Guns awaiting installation in HMCS Prince David, RCN, 19 Aug 1940.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821078)

HMCS Prince David (F59)Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950948)

HMCS Prince David (F59)Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950950)

HMCS Prince David (F59), Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950947)

HMCS Prince David (F59), Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950951)

HMCS Prince David (F59), Armed Merchant Cruiser, ca 1944.

HMCS Prince Henry (F70) 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3612526)

HMCS Prince Henry (F70).

HMCS Prince Henry was an armed merchant cruiser and Infantry Landing Ship (ILS) in service with the RCN during the Second World War.  The ship began service as the ocean liner SS Prince Henry for the Canadian National Steamship Company servicing ports along the BC coast and cities in the northwest USA.  In 1937, the vessel was renamed SS North Star for service with the Clarke Steamship Company. The RCN acquired the vessel on the outbreak of the Second World War, and remaned it HMCS Prince Henry.

HMCS Prince Henry was converted to an armed merchant cruiser, and ordered to patrol along the west coast of South America to intercept German merchant vessels trying to break a British blockade in order to return to Germany.  HMCS Prince Henry took part in the apprehension of two German merchant vessels.  The armed merchant cruiser escorted convoys in the Aleutian Islands campaign against the Japanese, before returning to Canada to undergo conversion to a Landing Ship Infantry (LSI).  Following its conversion, HMCS Prince Henry was sent to the United Kingdom to take part in the invasion of Normandy.  HMCS Prince Henry landed troops on Juno Beach on D-day and then spent the next two months supporting the beachhead.  The vessel was then sent to the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France.  HMCS Prince Henry was the flagship of one of the advance forces clearing coastal islands prior to the main invasion.  HMCS Prince Henry continued service in the Mediterranean, landing Allied troops at Piraeus during the liberation of Greece from the Axis powers.  Following this service, HMCS Prince Henry returned to the United Kingdom where the ship was paid off by the Royal Canadian Navy and loaned to the Royal Navy.  The vessel was taken out of service in 1961 and sold to be broken up for scrap at La Spezia, Italy in 1962.

She was armed with four 6-inch/45 cal Mk. VII guns in two single mounts forward and two aft (as an AMC); four 4-inch Mk. XVI HA/LA guns in two twin mounts (as an LSI (M)); two 3-inch HA guns in two single mounts (as an AMC), and a variety of machine guns.  After the conversion, HMCS Prince Henry was of similar strength to the destroyers in service with the RCN, but with greater range.  As a warship, the vessel's compliment was 31 officers and 386 ratings.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191678)

LCAs leaving HMCS Prince Henry (F70), during a training exercise, May 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3612507)

HMCS Prince Henry (F70), Ordnance QF 40mm Bofors AA Gun.

HMCS Prince Robert (F56)

  (RCN Photo)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56).  She was the first of three refrigerated passenger and cargo ships constructed at Birkenheaad for Canadian National for service along the BC coast during the 1930s. On the outbreak of the Second World War, the RCN acquired the vessel for use as an armed merchant cruiser for protection of the western coast of Canada.  Upon completion, HMCS Prince Robert and her sister ships were the most powerful ships in service with the RCN until the arrival of larger cruisers later in the war.  She was converted at Esquimalt, BC, and commissioned into the RCN in Sep 1941.  HMCS Prince Robert saw her first action along the Mexican coast, capturing the German freighter Weser later that month.  HMCS Prince Robert then continued patrolling along the Pacific coast of North America, and then being sent to Australia to escort troop convoys across the Pacific.

Following the entry of the United States into the war in 1941, HMCS Prince Robert took part in the naval operations in Alaska alongside her sister ships HMCS Prince Henry and HMCS Prince David.  In 1943, HMCS Prince Robert was converted into an anti-aircraft cruiser.  HMCS Prince Robert returned to service later that year and escorted convoyes in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea between the United Kingdom and Naples, Italy, protecting them from air attack.  In 1944, the ship was transferred to the Pacific once again and was at Sydney, Australia when Japan surrendered.  HMCS Prince Robert was ordered to Hong Kong to repatriate Canadian prisoners of war, and to assist in control of the island.  The ship returned to Canada on 20 October 1945 and was paid off on 10 December and transferred to the War Assets Corporation for disposal.

The ship was sold to private buyers who returned to the vessel to the cargo/passenger trade as Charlton Sovereign in 1948.  Charlton Sovereign transported displaced persons and refugees from Europe to locations in Central and South America.  In 1951, the ship was sold again and renamed Lucania.  Lucania was used a passenger ship between Italy and Venezuela until 1962, when the vessel was sold for scrap.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233654)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56), Esquimalt, British Columbia.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950890)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56), 4-inch Mk. XVI anti-aircraft guns and crew, during convoy escort in March, 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950889)

HMCS Prince Robert (F56), 20-mm Oerlikon AA Gun crew, 1944..