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CAM Ship

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CAM ships - Catapult Aircraft Merchantmen - were only one of five types of aircraft carrying merchantmen. The first were 5 Royal Navy ships, FCS's - Fighter Catapult Ships - 4 fitted with a bow catapult to launch a Hurricane fighter - nicknamed Hurricats - and a 5th ship, SPRINGBANK with an athwartships catapult. Fulmar aircraft were also tried, but too slow to catch their target German Condors. These were followed by the CAM ships: the 1st, MICHAEL E. with RN pilots and Hurricanes, all the rest of the 35 with RAF a/c and pilots. none of these ships could recover their planes, which had to fly to shore if near enough, or ditch or have the pilot bail out near an escort to be picked up. Later came 19 modified bulk merchantmen, 6 grain ships and 13 tankers, with full flight decks of 424 - 460' over their cargo holds or piping, and carring 4 Fairy Swordfish a/c, all used for U-boat hunting. There were also 2 dummy catapult ships, just added to worry the enemy, the CAPE CLEAR and CITY OF JOHANNESBURG. And finally 2 true Escort Carriers, HMS AUDACITY and PRETORIA CASTLE, the former ex-German HANNOVER, the latter only used for training. All the follow-on Escort Carriers, although on merchant ship-type hulls, were launched as carriers.

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