Allied Warships

HMS Ausonia (F 53)

Armed Merchant Cruiser

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeArmed Merchant Cruiser
Class[No specific class] 
PennantF 53 
Built byW.G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. Ltd. (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, U.K.) 
Laid down 
Launched21 Mar 1921 
Commissioned13 Nov 1939 
End service27 Mar 1942 

On 2 September 1939 the passenger ship Ausonia of the Cunard White Star Ltd, Liverpool was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an armed merchant cruiser. Conversion was completed on 15 November 1939.

Displacement: 13912 BRT
Armament: 8x 152mm, 2x 76mm
Speed: 15 knots

November 39 - May 40: Halifax Escort Force
June 40 - April 41: Bermuda and Halifax Escort Force
May 41 - October 41: North Atlantic Escort Force

On 27 March 1942 she was sold to the Admiralty and converted to a repair ship until 1944. Laid up during 1945. 1958 stationed at Malta for the Mediterranean fleet. In September 1964 decommisioned at Portsmouth and scrapped in August 1965 at Castellon, Spain.


Commands listed for HMS Ausonia (F 53)

Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

1Capt. Charles Thomas Mark Pizey, RN18 Sep 19399 Jun 1940
2Capt. Horace Geoffrey Norman, RN9 Jun 194012 Sep 1940
3Capt. (retired) George Herbert Freyberg, OBE, RN12 Sep 1940

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Notable events involving Ausonia include:

21 Mar 1941

Convoy HX 116.

This convoy departed Halifax on 21 March 1941 for Liverpool where it arrived on 9 April 1941.

Upon departure from Halifax the convoy was made up of the following merchant ships: Anna Knudsen (Norwegian (tanker), 9057 GRT, built 1931), Birgitte (British, 1595 GRT, built 1930), British Dominion (British (tanker), 6983 GRT, built 1928), British Prince (British, 4879 GRT, built 1935), Coulbeg (British, 5237 GRT, built 1940), Duke of Athens (British, 5217 GRT, built 1940), Ferncastle (British (tanker), 9940 GRT, built 1936), Gregalia (British, 5802 GRT, built 1929), Grey County (Norwegian, 5194 GRT, built 1918), Haakon Hauan (Norwegian (tanker), 6582 GRT, built 1935), Hercules (Dutch, 2317 GRT, built 1914), Iddesleigh (British, 5205 GRT, built 1927), Innerton (British, 5276 GRT, built 1919), Kaipara (British, 5882 GRT, built 1938), Lyras (Greek, 5685 GRT, built 1918), Mahout (British, 7921 GRT, built 1925), Mariso (Dutch, 7659 GRT, built 1930), Murena (Dutch (tanker), 8252 GRT, built 1931), Nellie (Greek, 4826 GRT, built 1913), Pacific Shipper (British, 6290 GRT, built 1924), Port Campbell (British, 7851 GRT, built 1924), Richmond Hill (British, 7579 GRT, built 1940), San Arcadio (British (tanker), 7419 GRT, built 1935), San Florentino (British (tanker), 12842 GRT, built 1919), Sovac (British (tanker), 6724 GRT, built 1938), Stanwell (British, 5767 GRT, built 1914), Tetela (British, 5389 GRT, built 1926) and Tornus (British (tanker), 8054 GRT, built 1936).

On departure from Halifax the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Ausonia (Capt.(Retd.) G.H. Freyberg, OBE, RN).

On 23 March the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN) joined the convoy.

On 31 March HMS Royal Sovereign parted company with the convoy.

On 4 March 1941 HMS Ausonia parted company with the convoy after the destroyers HMS Ambuscade (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Fell, RN), HMS Bulldog (Cdr. A.J.B. Cresswell, RN), HMS Vanquisher (Cdr. N.V. Dickinson, DSC, RN) and corvettes HMS Campanula (Lt.Cdr. R.V.E. Case, DSC and Bar, RD, RNR), HMS Freesia (Lt.Cdr. T.P.G. Crick, RN), HMS Heartsease (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Proudfoot, RN), HMS Pimpernel (Lt. F.H. Thornton, RNR) and A/S trawler HMS St. Apollo (T/Lt. R.H. Marchington, RNVR) had joined. The destroyer HMS Winchelsea (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, RN) joined on 5 April. The destroyer HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN) and corvette HMS Orchis (Lt. A.D. White, RNR)both joined on 6 April. HMS Orchis was detached on 7 April.

The convoy arrived at Liverpool on 9 April.

4 Jun 1941

Convoy WS 9A.

This convoy was assembled off Oversay on 4 June 1941.

On assembly the convoy was made up of the transports; Aagtekerk (Dutch, 6811 GRT, built 1934), Capetown Castle (British, 27000 GRT, built 1938), Durban Castle (British, 17388 GRT, built 1938), Eastern Prince (British, 10926 GRT, built 1929), Empire Condor (British, 7773 GRT, built 1940), Empire Curlew (British, 7101 GRT, built 1941), Empire Egret (British, 7169 GRT, built 1939), Empire Widgeon (British, 6737 GRT, built 1940), Empress of Japan (British, 26032 GRT, built 1930), Franconia (British, 20175 GRT, built 1923), Highland Brigade (British, 14134 GRT, built 1929), Llangibby Castle (British, 11951 GRT, built 1929), Mendoza (British, 8233 GRT, built 1919), Mooltan (British, 20952 GRT, built 1923), Orbita (British, 15495 GRT, built 1915) and Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921).

On assembly of the convoy it was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN), AA cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. I.R.H. Black, RN), armed merchant cruisers HMS Ausonia (Capt.(Retd.) G.H. Freyberg, OBE, RN), HMS Dunnottar Castle (Capt.(Retd.) C.T.A. Bunbury, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN), HMCS Ottawa (Cdr. E.R. Mainguy, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Cdr. H.N. Lay, RCN), HMS Vanquisher (Cdr. N.V. Dickinson, DSC, RN), HMS Winchelsea (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Ramsey (Lt.Cdr. R.B. Stannard, VC, RNR) and HMS Richmond (Lt.Cdr. A.F.L. Evans, RN).

At 0130Z/7, HMS Vanquisher and HMS Winchelsea parted company with the convoy.

At 0700Z/7, HMS Ausonia, HMS Cairo and all remaining destroyer parted company with the convoy.

In the afternoon of the 14th the destroyers HMS Highlander (Cdr. S. Boucher, RN), HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill Crichton, DSC, RN) and HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) joined the convoy escort.

HMS Highland was however soon detached for other duties.

In the morning of the 15th the destroyer HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) joined the convoy escort.

The convoy arrived at Freetown on 16 June 1941.


The convoy departed Freetown for South Africa on 20 June 1941.

The composition of the convoy was the same in which it had arrived with the addition of the transports Bergensfjord (Norwegian, 11015 GRT, built 1913) and Christiaan Huygens (Dutch, 16287 GRT, built 1927).

On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Birmingham and the destroyers HMS Boreas, HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN), HMS Velox and HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN).

At 0700ZA(-0.5)/23, the destroyers parted company with the convoy.

In the morning of July 1st, the transports Capetown Castle, Durban Castle, Eastern Prince, Empire Widgeon, Empress of Japan and Llangibby Castle parted company with the convoy and proceeded to Capetown.

At 1400AB(-1.5)/2, HMS Birmingham parted company with the convoy after the escort had been taken over by the heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins (Capt. H.P.K. Oram, RN) which came from Mauritius. HMS Birmingham then proceeded to Simonstown.

The Eastern Prince departed Capetown on 2 July to proceeded independently to Durban.

The remainder of the convoy arrived at Durban on 4 July 1941.


On 5 July 1941, the ships of the Capetown section (minus Eastern Prince, see above) departed there escorted by HMS Birmingham which had come from Simonstown.

On 8 July 1941, the transports Aagtekerk, Aronda (British, 9031 GRT, built 1941), Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Egret and Thysville (Belgian, 8351 GRT, built 1922) and their escort HMS Hawkins departed Durban to make rendezvous with the Capetown section the following day.

On making rendezvous, HMS Birmingham was detached to return to Simonstown.

At 1415D, the transports Capetown Castle, Durban Castle and Empress of Japan parted company with the convoy to proceed to Bombay. This was known as Convoy WS 9AX. They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Hector (Capt.(Retd.) F. Howard, DSC, RN) which had just made rendezvous with the convoy. They arrived at Bombay at 24 July.

The remainder of the ships continued on to the vicinity of Aden escorted by HMS Hawkins. The convoy was dispersed on 21 July 1941. (1)

4 Apr 1942
Around 1015A/4, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carthage (Capt.(Retd.) B.O. Bell-Salter, RN) departed Greenock for Southampton where she was to refit.

Around 1430A/4, she was joined by the AA ship HMS Tynwald (A/Capt.(Retd.) F.T. Peters, DSO, DSC, RN).

Around 2000A/5, in position 49°56'N, 04°47'W, they were joined by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Ausonia (Capt.(Retd.) G.H. Freyberg, OBE, RN) which was to proceed to Portsmouth. She had departed Plymouth around 1700A/5.

They entered The Solent around 0930A/5. (2)


  1. ADM 199/1138
  2. ADM 53/115414 + ADM 53/115547

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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