HMS Bulwark (R08)
Overview
 

The sixth HMS Bulwark of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 was a 22,000 tonne Centaur-class
Centaur class aircraft carrier
The Centaur class of aircraft carriers of the British Royal Navy was the last of the light fleet carrier designs started during the closing years of World War II.-Ships In Class:HMS Centaur...

 light fleet aircraft carrier.
Bulwark was laid down by the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast on 10 May 1945. She was launched on 22 June 1948, but was not commissioned into the Royal Navy until 4 November 1954.
In 1956, Bulwark took part in her first operation, during the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

, she launched up to 600 sorties in what was then known as Operation Musketeer
Operation Musketeer (1956)
Operation Musketeer was the Anglo-French-Israeli plan for the invasion of Egypt to capture the Suez Canal during the Suez Crisis. Israel had the additional objective to open the Straits of Tiran.-The operation:...

.
Encyclopedia

The sixth HMS Bulwark of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 was a 22,000 tonne Centaur-class
Centaur class aircraft carrier
The Centaur class of aircraft carriers of the British Royal Navy was the last of the light fleet carrier designs started during the closing years of World War II.-Ships In Class:HMS Centaur...

 light fleet aircraft carrier.

Construction

Bulwark was laid down by the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast on 10 May 1945. She was launched on 22 June 1948, but was not commissioned into the Royal Navy until 4 November 1954.

1950s

In 1956, Bulwark took part in her first operation, during the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

, she launched up to 600 sorties in what was then known as Operation Musketeer
Operation Musketeer (1956)
Operation Musketeer was the Anglo-French-Israeli plan for the invasion of Egypt to capture the Suez Canal during the Suez Crisis. Israel had the additional objective to open the Straits of Tiran.-The operation:...

. In 1958 she assisted two tankers which had collided in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

. She towed one of the tankers, , to Muscat
Muscat, Oman
Muscat is the capital of Oman. It is also the seat of government and largest city in the Governorate of Muscat. As of 2008, the population of the Muscat metropolitan area was 1,090,797. The metropolitan area spans approximately and includes six provinces called wilayats...

, winning the Boyd Trophy
Boyd Trophy
The Boyd Trophy is a silver model of a Fairey Swordfish, which was presented by the Fairey Aviation Company Limited in 1946, in commemoration of the work for Naval Aviation of Admiral Sir Dennis Boyd, KCB, CBE, DSC RN...

 for her actions.

Final fixed wing complement as embarked in 1957, the Gannet squadron was dropped in 1958.
  • 801 & 898 sqn. 16 Sea Hawk
    Hawker Sea Hawk
    The Hawker Sea Hawk was a British single-seat jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm , the air branch of the Royal Navy , built by Hawker Aircraft and its sister company, Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft. Although its origins stemmed from earlier Hawker piston-engined fighters, the Sea Hawk became the...

     FGA6 Fighter-Attack
  • 891 sqn. 8 Sea Venom FAW21 Night/All Weather Fighter
  • 820 sqn. 6 Gannet
    Fairey Gannet
    The Fairey Gannet was a British carrier-borne anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning aircraft of the post-Second World War era developed for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm by the Fairey Aviation Company...

     AS4 Anti-Submarine Warfare
  • 849 sqn. D flt. 4 Skyraider
    A-1 Skyraider
    The Douglas A-1 Skyraider was an American single-seat attack aircraft that saw service between the late 1940s and early 1980s. It became a piston-powered, propeller-driven anachronism in the jet age, and was nicknamed "Spad", after a French World War I fighter...

     AEW1 Airborne Early Warning
  • 845 sqn. 5 Whirlwind HAS7 Helicopter Anti-Submarine Warfare
  • Ships Flight 1 Dragonfly
    Westland Dragonfly
    |-See also:-External links:* Westland entry in the helis.com database*...

     HR5 Helicopter Search and Rescue


In 1958 she paid off at Portsmouth
Portsmouth
Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island...

 for conversion into a commando carrier. Her sister ship, Albion
HMS Albion (R07)
HMS Albion was a 22,000 ton Centaur-class light fleet carrier of the Royal Navy.-Construction and modifications:She was built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. Her keel was laid down in March 1944 and she was launched in May 1947...

, would not do so until 1961.

1960s

In 1960, Bulwark was recommissioned with 42 Commando Royal Marines and 848 Squadron attached to the carrier. In 1961, due to an increasing threat of invasion of Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 by Iraq, Bulwark landed 42 Commando in Kuwait. In the same year, she became the first Royal Navy warship since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 to commission outside the UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, commissioning instead in Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

. She also took part in the campaign against Indonesia, during the Indonesian Confrontation. In June 1966 she carried out sea trials with the Kestrel: the forerunner of the Harrier.

In 1967, she again commissioned in Singapore Naval Dockyard
Singapore Naval Base
The Singapore Naval Base , situated in Sembawang at the northern tip of Singapore, was a Royal Navy Shore establishment as well as being a cornerstone of British Defence policy in the Far East between the World Wars.-History:After the Great War, the British government devoted...

 (HMS Sembawang), and following her work up, proceeded to Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

 to cover the withdrawal and relieve Eagle
HMS Eagle (R05)
HMS Eagle was an aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy, in service 1951-1972. With her sister ship , she is one of the two largest British aircraft carriers yet built....

. Bulwark spent three months at sea off the coast of Aden with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines embarked. These were disembarked in Plymouth
Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

 following a visit to Durban
Durban
Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and the third largest city in South Africa. It forms part of the eThekwini metropolitan municipality. Durban is famous for being the busiest port in South Africa. It is also seen as one of the major centres of tourism...

. By this time, Bulwarks nickname "The Rusty B" had become firmly established.

In 1968, after service in the Arctic with 45 Commando embarked for Exercise Polar Express, the ship spent some time in dry dock in Portsmouth Dockyard
HMNB Portsmouth
Her Majesty's Naval Base Portsmouth is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the British Royal Navy...

 for a refit. For the duration of the refit, the ship's company was accommodated in Centaur
HMS Centaur (R06)
HMS Centaur was the first of the four Centaur-class light fleet carriers of the Royal Navy. She was the only ship of her class to retain the original configuration with a straight axial flight deck rather than the angled flight decks of her three sister ships...

.

In Spring 1969, with commanding officer Captain J.A. Templeton-Cotill (who would later become a rear admiral and Flag Officer Malta), Bulwark left for the Mediterranean and Exercise Olympic Express in the Aegean
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

, with visits to Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, Salonica
Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

, Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, Villefranche
Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region on the French Riviera.-Geography:...

, and Toulon
Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

. For the later part of this voyage, a TV crew embarked to shoot a documentary 'Captain R.N.'. She returned to Devonport Dockyard
HMNB Devonport
Her Majesty's Naval Base Devonport , is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the Royal Navy . HMNB Devonport is located in Devonport, in the west of the city of Plymouth in Devon, England...

 for decommissioning in late 1969.

1970s and 1980s

In January 1970, Bulwark recommissioned and sailed to Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 via Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

, and Brunei
Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

. After a minor refit in Singapore Naval Dockyard (to repair damage sustained in Tropical Storm Diane after leaving Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

), the ship sailed for Kobe
Kobe
, pronounced , is the fifth-largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshū, approximately west of Osaka...

, Japan and Perth
Perth, Western Australia
Perth is the capital and largest city of the Australian state of Western Australia and the fourth most populous city in Australia. The Perth metropolitan area has an estimated population of almost 1,700,000....

 Australia before returning to Plymouth.

In September 1971 Bulwark took part in exercises in the eastern Mediterranean with 845 Squadron embarked. While close to the coast of (then) Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 she suffered an engine room fire and limped home on one engine.

In 1972, Bulwark, like her sister ship Albion
HMS Albion (R07)
HMS Albion was a 22,000 ton Centaur-class light fleet carrier of the Royal Navy.-Construction and modifications:She was built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. Her keel was laid down in March 1944 and she was launched in May 1947...

, was involved in withdrawals across the declining empire. In 1972 she was HQ ship for Operation Exit, the withdrawal from Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, an emotional withdrawal for the Royal Navy. Bulwark lay in Grand Harbour for 11 weeks and flew more than 1,000 missions.

Later in 1972 she took part in exercises in the Caribbean and visited Florida with 845 Squadron embarked.

Under the command of Captain Derek Bazalgette, she saw service in the Mediterranean in 1973 visiting Malta, Piraeus
Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

, Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

, Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 and, in December 1973, Travemünde
Travemünde
Travemünde is a borough of Lübeck, Germany, located at the mouth of the river Trave in Lübeck Bay. It began life as a fortress built by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, in the 12th century to guard the mouth of the Trave, and the Danes subsequently strengthened it. It became a town in 1317 and in...

, the port of Lübeck
Lübeck
The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

. Owing to a delayed start date for refit, she embarked a company of Royal Netherlands Marines and spent early 1974 in the Dutch Caribbean, also visiting Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena de Indias , is a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of Bolívar Department...

; she suffered damage during the storms of January 1974 in the eastern Atlantic. The 1974 refit was undertaken in Devonport Dockyard, during which time command transferred to Captain Johnnie R C Johnston. In 1975 she returned to the Mediterranean, visiting Gibraltar, Villefranche
Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region on the French Riviera.-Geography:...

 and Malta before returning to her home port of Plymouth in July.

In March 1976, Bulwark was withdrawn from service and placed in Reserve. Also during this year the Ministry of Defence offered the Bulwark to the Peruvian Navy
Peruvian Navy
The Peruvian Navy is the branch of the Peruvian Armed Forces tasked with surveillance, patrol and defense on lakes, rivers and the Pacific Ocean up to 200 nautical miles from the Peruvian littoral...

. After two years of negotiations finally the Royal Navy decided to keep the ship. Furthermore, she underwent a refit at Portsmouth in 1978, and was recommissioned as an anti-submarine warfare carrier on 23 February 1979, due to delays with Invincible
HMS Invincible (R05)
HMS Invincible was a British light aircraft carrier, the lead ship of three in her class in the Royal Navy. She was launched on 3 May 1977 and is the seventh ship to carry the name. She saw action in the Falklands War when she was deployed with , she took over as flagship of the British fleet when...

.

On 28 June 1979, Bulwark was involved in exercise Whiskey Venture, with 820 Squadron
820 Naval Air Squadron
820 Naval Air Squadron is a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm carrier based squadron formed in April 1933 with the transferral of the Fairey III aircraft from 405 Flight Royal Air Force to the Fleet Air Arm...

 (flying Sea Kings) and 45 Royal Marine Commando embarked. Also during 1979, Bulwark was involved in trials of the Sea Harrier. At the start of 1980, Bulwark visited the United States of America; participating in Exercise Safe Passage off the east coast of the United States in late February. On 15 March, while alongside in Philadelphia, a fire destroyed one boiler. The carrier returned to Portsmouth on 2 April, and on 15 April embarked 45 Commando
45 Commando
45 Commando Royal Marines is a battalion sized unit of the British Royal Marines and subordinate unit within 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, the principal Commando formation, under the Operational Command of Commander in Chief Fleet....

 for Exercise Dawn Patrol off Sardinia
Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

. In August, Bulwark was involved in Exercise Teamwork 80 off Norway. On 9 November, a major fire damaged the forward hangar and some messdecks.

Nonetheless, the carrier remained intact for over a year, and during the early stages of the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 it was announced that Bulwark would be reactivated. However, a rapid ship survey had determined she had deteriorated too much for this to be practical. The carrier was eventually scrapped in 1984.

Decommissioning and fate

On 27 March 1981, Bulwark returned to Portsmouth for the final time in her career. She was decommissioned and declared for disposal in April. The carrier was towed from Portsmouth to Cairnryan
Cairnryan
Cairnryan is a small Scottish village in Dumfries and Galloway on the eastern shore of Loch Ryan. The village has been of vital importance in maritime history.-Ferry Port:...

to be scrapped in April 1984.

External links

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