Reginald WheelerAble Seaman C/JX 230181HMS Avenger (D-14), Royal NavyJanuary 1, 1923Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova ScotiaNovember 15, 194219Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent, EnglandPanel 65, 1Commemorated on Page 203 of the Newfoundland Book of RemembranceDisplayed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa on April 12, July 30 and November 10Reginald was the son of William James Wheeler (1882–1925) and Delilah (Samms) Wheeler (1884-1961), of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Reginald had four brothers; William, Albert, Frank, and Stanley, and three sisters; Gertrude, Rita and Sophie Elizabeth.After the death of the father, the family lived in Corner Brook West, Newfoundland. In 1935, the two older boys, William and Albert, were employed as bakers and Gertrude was employed as a sale clerk.Reginald, aged twelve, was attending school.During World War II, Reginald served as an Able Seaman aboard the British escort carrier HMS Avenger(D-14). The ship was laid down as the US merchant ship Rio-Hudson in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1939. Launched November 27, 1940, the ship was converted to an escort carrier and transferred from the United States to the British Royal Navy under the lend lease agreement. Commissioned as HMS Avenger on March 2, 1942, the ship could carry a maximum of 15 aircraft. In September 1942, HMS Avenger took part in what was the largest and most successful Russian convoy to that date (Convoy PQ 18). Returning to port, Avenger's Captain drew up recommendations for future escort carrier design, having observed a number of design faults.The ship departed Scapa for Greenock, Scotland with HMS Biter, and HMS Victorious on October 16, 1942. Avenger still had the two Sea Hurricane squadrons on board, with two new aircraft armed with 20 mm cannon. In November 1942, HMS Avenger took part in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. Avenger was tasked with providing air cover for one of the convoys carrying the British assault force for the operation. Once off North Africa the ship would join the covering force for the landings, with HMS Argus, three cruisers, and five destroyers. On arrival on November 8, the Supermarine Seafires from Argus and Avenger's Sea Hurricanes provided air cover for the landings. Between November 8 and 10, 60 fighter missions were flown from HMS Avenger.The ship suffered engine problems and was laid up in Gibraltar from November 10 to 12, 1942. Nine hours after departing North Africa to start the journey home to England, HMS Avenger was sunk by the German submarine U-155 on November 15, 1942 with a heavy loss of life among her crew.At 4:14 am, U-155 fired a spread of four torpedoes at convoy MKF-1Y about 120 miles northwest of Gibraltar. The Ettrick and HMS Avenger were sunk, and USS Almaack (AK 27) was damaged.HMS Avenger, captained by Commander A.P. Colthurst, was hit by one torpedo, which ignited the bomb load and blew out the centre section of the ship. It sank within two minutes with the loss of 516 crew. Twelve survivors were rescued by HMS Glaisdale (L 44), commanded by Lieutenant Commander T. Horve. Further search for more survivors proved fruitless. The casualties of HMS Avenger are listed on the Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent, England.
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