|Magnificent put to sea for the first time on 15 April, 1948, and successfully completed acceptance trials of the main machinery.
She then steamed down to Ports-mouth for the rest of her trials and in May began the work for which she had been built. Aviation fuel was embarked at Spithead and the next day aircraft from the Royal Naval Air Station Ford made rendezvous off the Isle of Wight for flying tests.
These were entirely suc-cessful and were enlivened by a visit from the editor of the magazine Aeroplane, who landed on the flight deck in his small Auster aircraft during the proceedings.
Re-turning to Portsmouth, embarkation of ship’s stores and ammunition occupied all hands until the middle of the month when course was shaped for Belfast.
The airport wharf at Sydenham was a scene of great activity after the ship had secured, as the planes of the 19th Carrier Air Group and those of 806 Squadron, Royal Navy, had to be hoisted on board.1
The head of British naval avia-tion, the Fifth Sea Lord,2 visited Magnificent on May 24 and the following day she began the westward voyage to Canada.
In respect to weather the “Glorious First of June” did not live up to its name, low cloud and rain over the Dartmouth air station permitted only two aircraft to be flown off. With the remainder still on board, Magnifi-cent berthed for the first time in her career, alongside in Halifax. All the packed air stores that had been brought from the UK for the naval service were cleared from the hangar and work began to prepare the space for flying operations. A short shake-down cruise for the benefit of the ship’s company was made to St. Ann’s Bay, Cape
Breton, drills exercises and a regatta being carried out. The carrier began flying operations with the 19th CAG in August and a busy ten days ensued, during which time there were 171 deck landings. Haida, acting as plane guard, had to take action on two occasions when aircraft ditched, but no air crew were lost.
After this cruise had ended the Broad Pennant of Commodore DeWolf was struck and Commodore G. R. Miles, OBE, RCN, became the new Commanding Officer of Magnifi-cent.
Haida and Nootka took station on the carrier, once clear of Halifax, on 2 September, and although there had been severe gales on the coast the quiet weather in their wake made it possible for the 19th CAG to get in three days of flying.
One particularly useful exercise was a full-scale reconnaissance of the Magdalen Islands fol-lowed by strikes in which all available aircraft partici-pated.
The day following there were joint manoeuvres with the RCAF and later naval aircraft had to be grounded as a consequence of suspected contamination of the aviation fuel on board.
The ships entered Hudson Strait and Magnificent came to anchor amidst the bleak, rugged surroundings of Wakeham Bay with the destroy-ers berthed on her. This settlement situated in the north-ern part of the Province of Quebec had a population of a priest and about 80 Eskimoes; it had formerly been the site of a Hudson’s Bay trading post, now closed.
Having completed with fuel and provisions the two escorts moved to designated anchorage positions while the car-rier sailed for Halifax. The weather, which had been very foggy, improved as Magnificent drew south and further exercises were carried out with the RCAF before the 19th CAG flew off to Dartmouth. Ground crews dis-embarked and all unserviceable planes were landed at the home port prior to the carrier being placed in dry dock at
Saint John, New Brunswick.
Training exercises with ships of the Royal Navy sta-tioned on the America and West Indies Station were fea-tured on a number of occasions in the history of Mag-nificent, the first being held in 1949.
Manoeuvres with British and Canadian warships, the latter from the Pa-cific command, occupied the carrier in March and April of a year which was also to see her make a ferrying trip to the UK, suffer a grounding and join in the successful search for an American aircraft.
After transporting Firefly Mark IV planes and collect-ing Firefly Mark V and Sea Furies, Magnificent headed back across the Atlantic.
Most of the way gales pounded the ship causing damage forward in spite of the fact that she altered course at one time to avoid the centre of a depression.
The lashing on one of the spare Tribal Class destroyer propellers that were secured on the flight deck for transportation came adrift and, although speed was immediately reduced and the ship’s head brought into the wind, the propeller slid gracefully over the side before any other action could be taken.
Magnificent, somewhat shaken up, berthed in Halifax on 25 February, 1949.
Alongside there was a hectic period of one week, landing ferried aircraft, making good all damage affect-ing sea-going and fighting efficiency and preparing for a cruise to the West Indies.
A new 18th CAG had been formed in November consisting of 828 and 826 Squad-rons, flying Firefly Marks I and V, and this unit was aboard when the carrier shaped course to the southward accompanied by Haida and Nootka.
Two days out deck landing training (DLT) commenced north-west of Ber-muda in a freshening south-easterly wind with occa-sional rain squalls.
After a full session of flying, activi-ties were terminated by a barrier crash and Magnificent anchored in Five Fathom Hole. Task Group 215.8 had to weigh in the evening to gain sea-room as a gale warning had been received; in the process Haida lost her star-board anchor and five shackles of cable. From weather reports it became obvious that the Bermuda area would be unsuitable for flying during the next few days and Magnificent, with Nootka (Haida having been detached to search for her anchor) set out for the Caicos Passage. Off Kingston, Jamaica, flying resumed in co-operation with the authorities at Vernam Field on the Island.
A Firefly I and a Sea Fury IV crashed into the sea when attempting to land on, but Nootka was quickly on the scene to recover both pilots. Using HMS Jamaica, on passage from the Canal Zone to Kingston, as a target, Sea Furies made a successful and realistic search and strike. Fighters located the cruiser at 210 miles and, after refuelling, a strike of nine planes attacked at 162 miles from the carrier.
A National Salute was fired by Magnificent for Task Group 215.8, which had by now been rejoined by Haida, as the ships passed the breakwater at Colon.
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Here Task Group 215.9, comprising HMC Ships Ontario, Athabas-kan and Antigonish, which had transitted the Panama Canal the previous day, was in harbour and the whole squadron became known as Task Force 215 under the command of Commodore Miles. Having held a confer-ence to discuss the forthcoming cruise the force steamed
West Indies Squadron.3 Search aircraft located these ships and carried out a good attack, the while sending back accurate reports of “enemy” movements. On com-pletion of the encounter exercises,4 C-in-C A and WI assumed overall command and the Fleet proceeded to St. John, Antigua, for a two-day lay-over: weather condi-tions had precluded search for HM Submarine Tudor which joined the force later in the island anchorage.
Task Force 73 deployed for further day and night ex-ercises enroute to Guantanamo, Cuba. Aircraft from Magnificent next took part in a convoy drill during 30-31 March, in which the carrier was part of Blue Force under the orders of the Senior Canadian Naval Officer Afloat (SCNOA).
The combined fleet then dispersed but the Canadian ships remained together until the next day. The first of April 1949 saw the accession of Newfound-land as the tenth Province of Canada and the force was dressed overall to mark the occasion. Commodore Miles embarked, in turn, in Antigonish, Athabaskan, and On-tario, returning to Magnificent in the afternoon; Task Group 215.9 was detached for the Panama Canal.
Task Group 215.8 kept up its flying schedule and, after a visit to Bermuda, all serviceable planes took off from the car-rier’s pitching deck on 7 April for Halifax, 225 miles away. Magnificent with her attendant destroyers berthed in HMC Dockyard 24 hours later.
There was the prospect of a busy summer of flying training for Magnificent and, commencing with opera-tions in the local area during May, everything went ac-cording to plan until the last dog-watch of 4 June. Mag-nificent was approaching the entrance to the harbour of Port Mouton where at 1937, local time, she took the ground on the tip of White Point as she was passing through the channel between the Point and White Point Rock. Luckily sea and swell were slight and four hours later, with the assistance of the destroyers, she floated off and made her way slowly back towards Halifax.
In the early hours of the 5th Nootka was detached to return to Port Mouton for the recovery of cable and wire. Mag-nificent and Haida berthed at Halifax shortly after noon and strenuous efforts immediately began to prepare the ship for docking at the earliest possible date. Accompa-nied by the tug Riverton, Magnificent departed 14 June and entered stern first the dry dock at Saint John, N.B. four days later, having been held up by fog
The current refit kept Magnificent in dry dock until the middle of October. Shortly after this, wearing the Broad Pennant of Commodore K. F. Adams, RCN, her new Commanding Officer, the carrier entered Halifax to prepare once again for her accustomed role.
During her sojourn at Saint John an alternative Deck Landing Con-trol Officer’s position had been fitted for use with U.S. Navy landing technique, although without the necessary instruments, as instructions had been received that the 18th CAG would use British deck landing drill during the Autumn cruise.
Early on 17 November Magnificent, with Haida and Swansea stationed on her, was steaming into the wind off the Nova Scotia coast as Fireflies Mark I and V started their DLT.
This good work was interrupted by a signal directing Magnificent to carry out an air search for a missing U.S. B-29 aircraft. Bad weather made operat-ing conditions difficult but various areas were covered by planes and Swansea was despatched to a position where a flare had been observed.
The frigate was having trouble with her starboard main circulating pump and from 1242 on the 17th she was ordered to act independ-ently.
A search flight of eight aircraft was landing on after a fruitless period in the air on 19 November when a B-17 plane was seen orbiting on the carrier’s port beam at a distance of 14 miles. Owing to a shortage of fuel Magnificent’s Fireflies had to continue to land but as soon as the last one had touched down, Haida was de-tached to investigate.
Within an hour the destroyer was picking up survivors from three rafts and later the car-rier’s Medical Officer was transferred by motor cutter to attend the airmen. Magnificent and Haida made best speed to Bermuda: Swansea by this time was out of the search, being hove to in foul weather. She was subse-quently detached to Halifax.
After a brief pause at Bermuda to land survivors Task Group 211.1 continued on to Guantanamo where land-fall was made on 24 November. This was only a short stay and three days later the ships were secured along-side in San Juan, Porto Rico. Always a popular port of call the capital lived up to its reputation on this occasion and as a farewell gesture naval aircraft flew over the city when Magnificent left harbour; permission for this flight had been given by the local air traffic control. Five Fire-flies Mark V and one Mark I were flown off to HMCS Shearwater on the same day, 6 December, that the task group arrived back at Halifax. The remainder of the 18th CAG was landed by lighter and the rest of the year was given over to cleaning ship, with time off to enjoy the festive season
On Friday, 13 January, 1950, the 18th CAG aircraft were hoisted on board and the year’s activities started with a cruise to Bermuda. The Fireflies were flown off to Kindley Airfield when Task Group 215.1, consisting of the carrier and Micmac, was some 43 miles distant.
Exercising from the island continued until the last day of the month when Magnificent turned into wind and at full speed of 24 knots in the light breeze blowing, was able to land on the nine aircraft from the shore field before she shaped course for Halifax.
The 18th CAG returned to the air station for 11 days and again met Task Group 215.1 off Halifax on 13 February. The spring cruise was a long one and right from the start the maximum amount of flying was the order of the day, including DLT, cloud
flying, aerobatics, interceptions NAVEX,* contact scouting exercises etc. A Firefly crashed in the sea off the starboard bow during one forenoon and, although Micmac was quickly on the spot to pick up the observer, there was no sign of the pilot. The group navigated the river to Charleston, South Carolina, for a visit and when it left 14 aircraft of the 18th CAG were airborne in a fly-past over the city. At sea insufficient wind for flying curtailed the programme and speed was increased to enter the Mona Passage and reach the area of the North-East Trades. Fourteen aircraft were flown off to carry out a photographic reconnaissance of two small islands, Piedra del Fraile and Alta Vela, off the south coast of Santo Domingo and the next day the ships came to an-chor in Guantanamo Bay. From here they moved to Ha-vana where there was a considerable amount of ceremo-nial.