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27th March 1943


13785dt. Steel escort carrier. Built by Sun Shipbuilding Co. USA. Launched 1941. Diesel powered passenger/ cargo ship S. S. Rio De Janeiro. She was sold to the Royal Navy under the lease/lend agreement set up between Britain and the USA. Taken to Brooklyn Naval Yard where by July 1942 she had been converted into the Archer Class Escort Carrier H.M.S Dasher.

She was never a popular ship as the rush to get her into service had left her poorly finished and, many thought, unsafe. In one incident, during her convoy duty near Iceland, the crew below decks were horrified to see a seam on the side of the vessel burst open, almost to the water line. She took part in Operation Torch the successful invasion of North Africa.

On the 27th March 1943 she was back in the Clyde and lying off north east Arran. Her eight hundred officers and crew were busy making  her and her aircraft, two squadrons of Hurricanes and one squadron of Swordfish, ready for sea. It is not entirely clear what happened but, as the Swordfish were being refuelled, there was a huge explosion, resulting in the almost immediate sinking of the Dasher. Only 149 sailors were picked up from the sea by the many vessels that rushed to assist. 

Subsequent enquiries could not discover the exact cause of the disaster, but the American designed aviation gasoline system used to refuel the aircraft on this type of vessel was modified on all other carriers after this incident. One other possible cause that has been given was that one of her pilots misjudged a landing and crashed into a store of aviation fuel drums.  

Due to the security surrounding the numbers, effects on morale, and numbers and movements of shipping during the war, relatives of the unfortunate crewmen killed in the incident only learned the true nature of the accident many months later.


A memorial to those killed has been erected at South Beach Promenade Ardrossan

The wreck lies to the east of Arran at a latitude of  55 37' 45" N   and a longitude of 05 00' 53" W   at a maximum  depth of 170-140 meters  

Gravestones at Ardrossan Cemetery


The Secrets of HMS Dasher

The new book from John & Noreen Steele

March 27th 1943 saw one of the biggest catastrophes in British Naval History as the converted aircraft carrier HMS Dasher blew up and sank in the Firth of Clyde. The World War II loss of 379 lives was second only in home waters to the Royal Oak. An amazing connection has been established with 'The Man who Never Was'.  ORDER


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