Monday 2 January 2017

The End is nigh.

Dad’s Demob papers.

At the end of the war there were 5 million in uniform so it can be recognised that the ‘system’ may not have been running as smoothly as it should on paper. As I understand it men and women went to a dispersal centre where their papers were issued, S1587A in Dad’s case. If my theory is correct Dad may well have gone to the dispersal centre at Hilsea which was the centre for Portsmouth. Here all the checks were made on time served etc. They were given a medical and picked up their ‘demob’ clothes. They apparently had a choice of a double breasted pin stripe suit, single breasted jacket with flannel trousers or a three piece suit. To go with this they could have a felt trilby or flat cap, a shirt with two collars, a tie, a pair of shoes, two pairs of socks and a rain coat. Dad took a blue pin stripe suit and in fact got married in it.

Mum tells me that after 12th July Dad’s Mum and Dad were going on holiday somewhere and asked if Dad could go and work at Uncle Cyril and Aunty May’s farm in Preston for the harvest. I assume that this is the time that Mum and Dad got together. Mum was telling me their first date was a trip to Aldborough on Dad’s motorbike. They couldn’t go on the beach as it was still mined and strewn with barbed wire. The bike had a puncture in the rear tyre and Dad said that as he wasn’t pushing it all the way back they rode home on the rim. Mum said her bum ached for ages afterwards. Mum also says that Dad didn’t return to Hollis’s as he felt it was a dead end job and he was just the office boy there. I suppose after being away at war he wanted something better than before.

After the harvest he was asked to join his Uncle down near London in a market gardening enterprise. It seemed that his Uncle and another partner would take him on a for a trial period with a view to making him a partner too. They had bought an ex-army lorry and Dad’s job was to deliver the produce to Spittlefields Market. This meant Dad often working through the night and often sleeping on a camp bed in the market or in the lorry. He didn’t stick it very long and by Christmas was back home. Mum says he was then out of work until around the June 1947. He was too proud to sign on for unemployment benefit and had several ideas of things to do. One was to join the Police Force, another was to make things out of Bakerlite. Things might have been very different! Mum got a job with Fenners and Dad decided that he would try there too. He was taken on and went over to the West Riding to work up from the bottom in the pulley department, and the rest is history.

This wasn’t actually the complete end to Dad’s Naval career as we was still in the reserve and there is a letter dated 8th September 1947 confirming his enrollment as Temporary Sub Lieutenant (SP). The Korean War started on 25th June 1950 and in his records is a note that Dad attended a five day course at HMS Eaglet in Liverpool 15th January 1951.

Dad even got a promotion as he was given the rank of Acting Lieutenant (Sp) in the permanent RNVR on 30th October 1953. The records seem to also show that Dad attended HMS Galatea for cypher duties 12th April to 22nd April 1954. HMS Galatea at this time was the RNVR Base in Hull that was situated on Earles Road, off Hedon Road, which leads down to the area between Alexandra Dock and Victoria Dock. Mind you, at this time Dad and Mum (and David and Robert) were living in Nottingham. However it seems that Dad’s promotion was rescinded and he returned to Sub Lieutenant and left the permanent reserve and back to the Supplementary Reserve on 17th June 1954. I wonder if that was the general run down of the forces after the Korean War ended in July 1953 or Dad was stripped for other reasons, or simply resigned from the RNVR. I haven’t seen anything with regard to this yet.

Dad’s medals from left to right. 1935-45 Star, Atlantic Star with France and Germany clasp, Africa Star with North Africa 1942-43 clasp, Pacific Star, Italy Star, War medal 1939-45. 

The 1939-45 Star was awarded for 6 months Service and at least on voyage through an operational area.

The Atlantic Star was awarded for 6 months service afloat in the Atlantic or Home Waters. The France and Germany Clasp was awarded instead of the France and Germany Star Medal that was awarded for service from D Day onward.

The Africa Star only required one days service between Suez and Gibraltar. The North Africa 1942-43 clasp was for shore service between 15-Feb-42 to 12-Feb-43.

The Pacific Star was awarded for any service in the theatre between 2-Dec-41 and 2-Sep-45.

The Italy Star would have been awarded to dad for the Sicily Landings.

The War Medal 1939-45 was given for at least 28 days service during the war. It is sometimes called the Victory medal.

Therefore if you include the France and Germany Star that Dad had as a clasp on his Atlantic Star medal he earned six campaign medals. He certainly got around a bit. The medals sold individually would be worth less than £100. If they were sold together with some corroboration they would get more, but I hope they stay in the family for a long time.

This biography has taken quite a long time to accomplish, mainly due to being easily side tracked when spotting some tit bit of information about other matters. (Such as experiments were made to construct vessels made of ice in the Great Lakes to load with equipment and bring to the UK on a once only use. Apparently the experiments to construct the vessel were successful but all in all were too expensive!). I have tried to stay faithful to the records and give a true account of what he did and what he saw. This was much easier when he was a rating as he went from ship to ship. As an officer it is much more difficult to track him and I have had to make some suppositions as to where he went and what he did. I hope I have made these clear throughout the text.

It shows that from February 1941 to July 1946 Dad was at or near the centre of many of the momentous occasions of the war. It can be entirely understood why he and many of his fellow participants didn’t talk about those years in later life. It is also quite surprising that there wasn’t many more cases of mental problems in the following years. Mum does say that for many years afterwards Dad had nightmares about his friend being decapitated next to him on a ship. I only wish that I had thought to ask him about those days in the later years when he may have been more willing to tell me about it and I could have added more anecdotes and been more certain of the chronology of events.

I hope you have found it interesting and if you have any questions or suggestions please let me know.

Monday 19 December 2016

Homeward bound.

Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser in 1943.

Admiral Fraser joined the Royal Navy in 1902 and was at Galipolli. After the war he volunteered to assist the White Russian Fleet in the Caspian but was arrested in Baku and imprisoned for several months. We had several appointments as gunnery officer so will have been well pleased with the accuracy of the shooting during the battle with the Sharnhorst when he was Commander of the Duke of York when his unit intercepted the German vessel as it tried to destroy an Arctic convoy. Around 75 salvos were fired and around 30 were said to be straddles of hits.

The Duke of York arrived in Hong Kong on June 7th 1946 and Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser boarded the vessel. I have no proof that Dad joined the vessel at this, or any time, but the subsequent dates fit in so well that bit is hard not to draw that conclusion. Mum also recognises the name so maybe it is the route he came home. If this is the case there is another mystery as there are two reports on Dad that were written for the termination of his appointment in Hong Kong and they are dated 6th and 8th March 1946. One was the confidential report that Dad would not see and a short one that was given to the seaman to take to his next posting.

The first, and confidential report, is written by Lieutenant Commander Wilfred John Parker. At this time he had been with Rear Admiral Harcourt as his Signal Officer and went ashore when Harcourt became the military Governor of Hong to ‘free prisoners, keep law and order, re-open hospitals and organise children's parties, dances and cricket matches’, as one of his obituaries puts it. Parker must have been a bit of a ‘go getter’ as he was aboard HMS Edinburgh when she was torpedoed carrying Russian gold to the UK from Murmansk. They fought bravely to return to Murmansk but were torpedoed a second time and the ship sank. After a couple of weeks waiting in port he was posted to HMS Trinidad. They sailed for the UK and straight away suffered a severe air attack. Fires were started by near misses and the strong wind fanned the flames so much that the ship was abandoned and later sunk by their own ships. Latter in the war he was mined on HMS Sheffield and torpedoed on HMS Newfoundland, each time managing to return to port for repairs. He had served with Admiral Cunningham and helped to organise the landings on Sicily and now was the personal assistant to Harcourt in Hong Kong.

Dads report states ‘ Has worked well both on A.C. 11’s staff and on the staff of the Commander in Chief, Hong Kong, particularly in the latter appointment, where he was working much more on his own. Has plenty of initiative which at times was misdirected, but which was normally used with common sense. He has a lazy manner and appearance, which is against him and which he should correct. Of good physique and health’. I wish I had seen this when he was at us when we were a lot younger! I sense that there must have been at least one incident that caused some of these comments, and would love to know what they were. The report is counter signed by Vice Admiral Cecil Harcourt, Commander in Chief, Hong Kong. Wilfred Parker went on to be a Vice Admiral in 1967 and Knighted in 1969 on his retirement.

The other short report, seen by Dad, states the Dad ‘had conducted himself to my entire satisfaction. A good officer who has worked hard and well’. This one has been signed by Air Commodore Brian V. Reynolds who was actually appointed the Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Hong Kong
10-Oct-45. We was promoted to Air Commodore on the job, 1-Jan-46. Reynolds went on to be Knighted on 1-Jan-55 and promoted to Air Marshall 1-Jan-56. Maybe the report was better as Dad had to see it (it was in Granny P’s records) or maybe as Reynolds had less direct contact with Dad than the Signals Officer Parker.

The mystery is what did Dad do between the end of this appointment in March 1946 and my idea that he got home via the Duke of York in June? Mum seems to think that Dad had been to Singapore for a while but there is no evidence of this so far. Did he commence his journey home some other way? Actually the Duke of York called at Singapore so he could have completed his repatriation on her anyway. For the purposes of the story I will believe that he did sail on the Duke of York as there is no way I will be able to track his route any other way.

Admiral Fraser, The Commander in Chief of the British Pacific Fleet (just in case you had lost track of all the Admirals) hoisted his flag on the Duke of York again and they sailed for Singapore. I believe that Dad was onboard too. They arrived in Singapore on 11th June. Here Admiral Fraser was relieved of Command of the British Pacific Fleet by Admiral Sir Dennis Boyd. 

This is the only time I can find that Dad was in Singapore and I expect that he was there a few days. Mum says that he saw POW’s from Changi camp and was there at the relief of the prison. I suspect that there has been confusion of the story somewhere down the line as he could well have been at the opening up of the Hong Kong prison camps as the inmates stayed where they were until the Navy arrived. When Dad was in Singapore on the Duke of York it was ten months after the surrender. There could have been some severe cases that had been recuperating before transport home that joined the vessel, but I somehow doubt it. The story must have been regarding Hong Kong.

Admiral Fraser remained aboard Duke of York when they sailed for Colombo. They then passed through the Suez Canal and left Port Said 28th June and stopped off in Malta and Gibraltar. They left Gib. On 8th July and arrived in Plymouth 11th July. Dad has in the Portsmouth Division so if my guess is correct he would have travelled to Portsmouth the following day as he received Order For Release From Naval Service (Class A) (Officers) on 12-July-1946. It states that he has been granted leave, none for foreign service leave as this had been completed, (so that accounts for some of the missing time between March and June), 56 days resettlement leave (that everybody had) and 9 days for special overseas service leave. Dad would be free to take civilian employment at any time, may wear civilian clothes but keep his uniform intact in case of recall and that following his release he would remain in the reserve.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Waiting for De-Mob.

Prior to the Japanese Occupation Hong Kong was governed on the usual Empire lines with the expatriate British ruling and using certain ‘classes’ of locals to support them, but a strict segregation was maintained. There were separate clubs, strict segregation of living areas and similar governance as India and Africa. David McDougal as Chief of Civilian Affairs was very forward thinking and he and his team were determined to rebuild the administration on new lines where the local Chinese were given much more say in their own governance and day to day life. The fact that this started under a Military Administration may well have helped enormously as the Foreign and Colonial Office in London, who may well have tried to prevent changes along these lines, were side lined. As it was Admiral Harcourt was also keen to ensure that a new system was introduced and as he and McDougal had the high regard for each other Harcourt was able to rubber stamp many new measures that may not have so easily passed the scrutiny of the Government in London.

Duncan Macintosh and his civilian team had done such a good job of setting Hong Kong on its new road that on 1st May 1946 the Military governance of Hong Kong was ceased and control handed to a civilian governor. The new man was Sir Mark Young. He had been the governor at the fall of Hong Kong and had been detained in the prison camps on the island. After the Japanese surrender he had returned to the UK to recuperate, and then eventually come back to take over from Admiral Sir Harcourt. Young was also in the mould of Macintosh and wanted reform. He had tried to have the Territory ruled by a 30 man council with no Governor veto. This was finally quashed when there was fear of Communist insurrection after he had left the post in 1947.

Hong Kong Waterfront 1945.(From photos Dad brought back with him).

Hong Kong street scene 1945/46. (From photos brought back by Dad).

Demobilisation of the British Armed Services actually started 18th June 1945. The first men to return to civilian life where those with talents that were required quickly at home to help win the new peace. These men were designated as Class B. The vast majority of men, 90%, were Class A and to make things as fair and visible and open to all the plan had been published well before it had commenced. The criteria were basically your age and the length of your service. You entered a table with these values and you could read off where you were in the pecking order. Dad would have been in group 37 which is just about half way as the groups went from 1 to 75. Mind you there was no dates attached to this and the plan ran as and when it was possible. In the Far East the priority for transportation had been to return prisoners of war and other displaced people. Obviously there was a shortage of ships to move large numbers of personnel about and actually the aircraft carriers that had fought the Kamikazes were pressed into acting as troop ships. I can find no indication of how Dad got from Hong Kong to home as there are no troop ships listed as sailing at the appropriate time with a credible arrival in the UK. However it turns out that Dad may well have travelled home in a war ship, HMS Duke of York.

HMS Duke of York was the flag ship of Admiral Sir Bruce Austin Fraser who was the Commander in Chief of the British Pacific Fleet from December 1944. This was a shore based job from Australia but in August 1945, the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, he joined the Duke of York that had just joined the fleet. Admiral was no stranger to the Duke of York as he had carried his flag on her when the Scharnhorst was sunk on Boxing Day 1943 off the North Cape of Norway. This duel between the Battleships Duke of York and Scharnhorst was the last ever between capital ships. For this action Admiral Fraser was honoured and was honoured with the Order of the Bath.

HMS Duke of York at anchor in Tokyo Bay 2nd September 1945 for the signing of the official Japanese Surrender.

The Duke of York was built at Clydebank launched in February 1940 and commissioned in November 1941. She was 745’ long, 103’ beam and depth of 29’. She was driven by 4 steam turbines driving 4 shafts and with 8 3 drum oil fired admiralty boilers. This gave her a top speed of 28 kts. In wartime her crew was 1511. She could steam for 2540’ at 27 kts. She had 10 x 14” guns that had a range of almost 22 miles, 16 x 5.25” guns (13.2’ range), 32 x 1.5” guns (2.8’), 16 x 0.5” machine guns (800 yds) and three aircraft.

Monday 21 November 2016

HMS Tamar.

HMS TAMAR     1st October 1945 to

HMS Tamar had been an iron screw troop ship built in 1863. She had visited Hong Kong a couple of times with reliefs and stores for the garrison in 1878 and 1886. On her last trip she arrived on 11th April 1897 and was made the base vessel. She remained afloat in Hong Kong until December 1941 when she was scuttled before the Japanese took over the City on Christmas Day 1941. She was finally raised in December 1947 and scrapped.

HMS Tamar in Hong Kong 1930’s.

After the Japanese surrendered a River Class Frigate was temporarily made base ship for Hong Kong  March 6th 1946 until 20th November 1946 when it was condemned. It had its name changed from HMS Aire to HMS Tamar. It was lost on Bombay Shoal in the South China Sea as it was been taken to scrap.

By this time things were getting back to normal and the Army no longer required Wellington Barracks in Hong Kong and they were taken over by the Royal Navy and became the ‘new’ HMS Tamar. Wellington Barracks were built in the 1850’s on the site of an old military hospital that was destroyed in 1841.

HMS Tamar 1949. Ex Wellington Barracks.

Mum says that when they had been to Hong Kong Dad wanted to find the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building as that was where he was based after the war. I wonder if this is where he worked?  His appointment was to HMS Tamar as staff Cypher Officer to the Commander in Chief, Hong Kong, so maybe he lived at HMS Tamar and worked at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building.

Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building, Hong Kong. Completed 1936.

 Armed guard from HMS Indomitable on 15th September for the official surrender. The photograph states that this is Governement House but is in fact the HSBC Building.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank was where Admiral Harcourt had his Military Administration Headquarters. This was soon amalgamated with the Civilian Administration. The Administration of Hong Kong was under Military Rule but in fact Admiral Harcourt trusted the civilian administration that was quickly put in place and mainly left them to get on with it. On 7th September David McDougal was appointed the Chief of Civilian Affairs. He quickly got on with the job and electricity was restored to Urban areas on 10th September. From September to December the colony only had about 10 days supply of food at any one time. These problems were exacerbated by the fact that the population swelled from 600,000 (reduced due to the forced repatriation of Chinese to the mainland to make administration and feeding Hong Kong easier for the Japanese) to 1,000,000 in December. At first the Territories were mainly policed by the Japanese. As these troops were repatriated locals were used to assist the armed forces personnel. These also included some Guerrilla groups that had been formed against the Japanese Occupation. As they were well armed negotiations with them took a long time when they were no longer required to assist, and in many cases large amounts of money were paid to disarm them and bring stability to the area. It took time for the Hong Kong Police Force took to reorganise and train up as many of the expatriate officers had been interred during the occupation and were suffering ill health. Many of the Chinese officers had fled to China and returned in drips and drabs. It was only with the appointment of Duncan Macintosh in 1946 that the real job of recreating a very efficient police force and civilian administration was started. 

Thursday 10 November 2016

The Relief of Hong Kong.

Rear Admiral Harcourt transferred from HMS Vengence to HMS Swiftsure. The fleet anchored in the Bay but the Royal Canadian Navy Prince Robert, after carefully scanning the Kowloon jetties, went alongside Holt’s Wharf, the only vessel to do so. They were to provide a shore party to bring order to the process of taking over the administration of the Colony.

Prior to the event there had been much political debate about what would happen in the event of surrender, that was becoming inevitable, about the role of the British Government in Hong Kong and who should accept the surrender. At this stage the leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party KMT or Kuomintang was Chiang Kei Shek. He was trying to exert authority over China but within a few years the resumption of the Chinese Civil War was to drive him to Taiwan. In the end it was the British Admiral (later Sir) Cecil Harcourt who took the surrender on behalf of Britain and the Commonwealth and the Chinese on board HMS Anson. On 1st September Hong Kong was declared a Military Administration and Admiral Harcourt was the Governor.

When the fleet arrived the Japanese were still free and were trying to keep order. There had been much looting despite the Japanese efforts. The shore party from HMCS Prince Robert were among the first ashore and immediately came across a troop of Japanese soldiers emptying a godown (warehouse) in to a small coaster. The Canadians only had 6 bullets each and they had no idea what the situation was ashore. There was a face off resulting in the Japanese laying down their weapons and going to leave the jetty in some vehicles. It was made clear to them that they could not take the vehicles and so they left with out them. There was no plan of what to do with them so they could not be taken in custody at that stage.
It was to be a week or so before all the Japanese had been rounded up, and longer out in the New Territories. A pilot from carrier HMS Vengeance recalls that once in custody some of them were still committing ritual suicide rather than admit defeat. All Japanese gear had to be searched several times to find weapons and despite this some found inventive ways of ending their lives. The only people available for policing the Colony were the Marines and men from the naval ships and a team of RAF airfield repair guys who had been on the way to Okinawa to build an airfield for the British to bomb Japan from.

There are other reports from this time that there were regular sounds of shooting etc. I have found no reports of Japanese resistance but it could have been trying to prevent looting. It seems that the locals did a great job of clearing out unoccupied premises stripping every wooden item and taking the wiring too. Very slowly over the first few days more food became available and life started to get back to normal in Hong Kong. There was a curfew at 2100 every evening. This was extended to 2200 on 7th September. The curfew was dropped altogether on 16th September.

Collecting Japanese weapons after the surrender. Japanese troops were used for this task as there were very few Allied troops available.

On 14th September Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser arrived. He was the CinC of the British Pacific Fleet and he had his flag aboard the Battleship HMS Duke of York. Admiral Harcourt had been the Commander of this vessel earlier in the war. On 16th September the official surrender of the Japanese in Hong Kong took place at Government House. Admiral Harcourt as the CinC and Military Governor of Hong Kong signed the document and Admiral Fraser as CinC BPF was an observer. Admiral Harcourt accepted two samurai swords at the surrender, one from Vice Admiral Fujita Ruitaro and one from Major General Okada Umekichi.

Dad remains on the Indomitable until 30th September. This would fit in with the fact that it would have taken them about a month to set up headquarters communications etc that were on a par with the ship. Great strides were made with the civil administration with the trams and ferries running and a new Hong Kong currency reintroduced by 14th September. The Yen was compulsory during the Japanese occupation. The new currency was cleverly introduced by partly paying the 40000 Chinese who had been taken on to clean up the city with it and also with goods and food. Dad is down as on the staff of A.C. II which I think is Aircraft Carrier 11th Group. Up until this time Dad had been on the staff of Admiral Sir Cecil Harcourt as Flag Officer Commanding the 11th Aircraft Squadron which included the carriers Colossus, Venerable, Vengeance and Glory. After this he was employed on the Staff of the Commander in Chief Hong Kong, which was still Admiral Sir Cecil Harcourt but now ashore as the Military Ruler and Governor of Hong Kong.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

The Last Action.


When the Japanese Emperor had surrendered on 15th August the Senior British Government Official in Stanley Prison Camp in Hong Kong was Franklin Gimson. He had been the Colonial Secretary prior to the war. He went straight to the Commandant of the Camp and told him that he would be taking over the administration of Hong Kong and asked that they be provided with suitable accommodation from which to run the colony. He also demanded that Japanese troops continue to keep order there. The Commandant agreed. By 23rd official word reached Gimson via Hong Kong Guerrilla forces that the UK Government also wanted him to set up a government there. He got the old Chief Justice still in the camp to swear him in. He was therefore Governor of Hong Kong before The BPF arrived in Hong Kong.

On 27th August the Fleet left Subic Bay and now the Task Group 111.2 consisted of aircraft carriers Indomitable and Vengeance, cruisers Euryalus, Swiftsure, Black Prince, and RCN A/A cruiser Prince Robert, destroyers Kempenfelt, Ursa, Quadrant and Whirlwind. There were eight RAN corvettes, Mildura, Castlemaine, Bathurst, Broome, Freemantle, Strahan, Wagga and Stawell.  There was the 8th Submarine Flotilla and depot ship Maidstone. There were several minesweepers of the Australian Navy that were to clear the channels ahead of the main force. When they arrived at a position off the Islands they were also met by the battleship Anson and aircraft carrier Vengeance. The Fleet waited about twelve miles off shore, around Kam Tan Island, for the minesweepers to clear the channels. At this time boats brought out representatives of the Imperial Japanese Army to discuss the peaceful handover of power to the British Fleet.

At 1200 on 30th August 1945 the Fleet assembled and as word had been received of possible suicide attacks by explosive motor boats, all the ships were at Action Station and commenced their passage into Hong Kong Harbour. Some motor boats were spotted crossing the channel and as the entire fleet were in an extremely vulnerable position the Admiral ordered the aircraft from Indomitable and Vengeance to fly off and intercept. The Avenger torpedo bombers and Hellcat fighters bombed and strafed the boats and their base on Lamma Island and most of the boats were destroyed and several Japanese were killed two weeks after the surrender of the Japanese forces.
Dad has a copy of a signal from the Commander of the Task Group 111.2, Rear Admiral Harcourt, at 1510Z on 30th August, stating that;
2.   ‘A large number of suicide boats were observed in Picnic Bay. Three of these were seen to leave the bay and attacked by aircraft with score of one sunk, one beached and one returned to harbour. These boats were then well bombed and most of them are now ashore.

3.  Venerable is remaining at sea for the present and keeping continuous air patrol over Hong Kong.

4.  Japanese appear quite docile and Chinese populace are beginning to handle them rather roughly. Japanese state they have no mail from Japan for six months.

5.  Am meeting Japanese Commander tomorrow to discuss arrangements for maintaining law and order and eventual surrender.

6.  Gimson and Administration Council appear to have the situation well in hand except for the ability to maintain law and order and the shortage of supplies. Japanese are still endeavouring to remove food and other stores but this is being stopped.

7.  This afternoon I visited all the Prisoner of War and Internment camps and also British Hospitals. We received a tumultuous welcome and it was magnificent to see the high state of morale despite the obvious effects of malnutrition. Altogether a most moving afternoon.

8.  Hope to start transference of patients to Hospital Ship Oxfordshire tomorrow.’

The Explosive Motor Boats EMB’s were called Shinyo by the Japanese which meant ‘Sea Quake’. They were suicide boats in essence. The first few were built of steel but in 1944 the shortage of materials meant they were all wooden from then. The Type 1 was an 18m single man boat. They were capable of 23kts, which is not that fast and the speed reduced to 18kts when the warhead was loaded in the bow. The idea was that they directed the boat to the target and either jumped at the last minute or drove it straight in to the target.

Shinyo Type 1 Explosive Motor Boat (EMB).

The Type 5 boat was two man and fitted with twin automobile engines and 13.2 heavy machine guns and RT radio. They were used as command vessels. Both Type 1 and 5 were fitted with two 120mm rockets. These were intended to increase the speed of the boat on the final run in and to give some power if the main engine(s) should fail. Approximately 6200 were constructed. Most were retained for use in the defence of the homeland but of those sent abroad most went to the Philippines and Okinawa. The ‘pilots’ were mainly flying cadets about 17 years old. As the war had progressed there were no aircraft for them to fly so 400 of them were transferred. They were given the choice to train for conventional torpedo boats, special attack boats (Shinyo’s) or to be suicide frogmen. About 150 chose to train for the Shinyo. The official three month course for them started in October/November 1944. The Imperial Japanese Navy hoped that a success rate of 10% was a good target. In effect they did not achieve close to this rate. They claimed a handful of landing craft sunk and damaged and no major assets were lost to them.

Type 5 Shinyo EMB.

On the 30th August Sub Lieutenant Awamura of the 35th Special Attack Shinyo Squadron based on Lamma Island set out from there to the travel to the Imperial Japanese Navy HQ to inform them that all the warheads had been removed form the EMB’s. The only transport available was one of the attack boats, minus it explosives. He was spotted crossing the channel and this sparked the alert. The Sub Lieutenant’s boat was destroyed and the base was put out of action for good.

 Type 1 Shinyo EMB’s in Picnic Bay Lamma Island 1945.

Saturday 15 October 2016

War is over, for some.

HMS INDOMITABLE            12th AUGUST 45    to    30th SEPTEMBER 45
Indomitable was an aircraft carrier built by Vickers Armstrong in Barrow in Furness. She was supposed to be the fourth of the ‘Invincible Class’ but she was heightened by 14’ to fit in another hanger deck. The flight deck was also lengthened. This along with other changes allowed her to carry 56 planes. She retained the 3” armour plate on the flight deck. She was launched 26-Mar-40 and completed and commissioned 10-Oct-41. She was 754’ (230m) long. 95.5’ (29.2m) beam and 29’ (8.8m) depth. She was driven by Parsons geared steam turbines supplied with steam by 6 boilers and turning three shafts and propellers with 111000 shaft horse power. This gave her a speed of 30.5kts. She had a complement of 1392 that was increased to 2100.
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HMS Indomitable 21-Nov-41. Norfolk ship yard USA for repair.

She was well armed by the end of the war with 16 x 4.5”, 48 x 2lb’ers, 36 x 20mm and various other calibre anti aircraft guns. During the final stage of the war she had American Hellcat and Avenger aircraft squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm aboard.

Dad had seen her during Operation Ironclad, the invasion of Madagascar, and Operation Pedestal, the resupply of Malta (The Ohio convoy). During this operation she was hit by bombs with several near misses. Although still operational she was sent to the USA for repair. On completion she was back in company with Dad at Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. How ever she was bombed and torpedoed and again withdrew to the USA for repair.

Following this she was moved to the Eastern Fleet and based in Sri Lanka. After the end of the war in Europe, for political reasons, Britain was keen to participate in the war against Japan. The Americans were a bit resentful, as by now they were the senior partner in the Allies and most definitely in the Pacific. There was friction in the US Navy too as some felt that they had done the hard miles all but alone and now Britain was trying to get in at the kill. However it was agreed that the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) would be created early in 1944. After several years of hard fighting Britain was not able to supply all the ships required herself so heavy demands was placed on the Empire and other Allies to help. Australia was engaged in heavily supporting the American effort and again much effort was expended to convince them to supply bases and logistics to support the BPF. A further problem was that British equipment was not largely equivalent to US standards and as the US Navy were pretty well stretched with their supply lines anyway the BFP had to ensure they could supply their own equipment using their own ships. In the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean the British Navy had utilised bases for resupply. The distances involved in the Pacific meant that this was not practical so the Fleet Train came into being. Around fifty merchant Navy ships were able to keep the Navy supplied with all they required through out the remainder of the war.

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HMS Indomitable leaving Captain Cook Drydock Sydney 18th July 1945.

Eventually the BPF was taken under control of Admiral Nimitz as Task force 57. Their first task was Operation Iceberg, the landings on Okinawa, which began 26th March 1945. Here the Indomitable’s aircraft attacked airbases on the islands in the chain, shipping, and provided airborne cover for the fleet of vessels. During this operation many kamikaze attacks occurred and most of the larger ships were hit at least once. The American carriers were rendered useless following a successful attack as they had wooden flight decks. With their armoured flight decks the British carriers, although hit, never had to leave the line and were ready for flight operations with in three hours. They were directed to attack Japanese bases on Formosa (Taiwan) to try to stem the flow of attacks and these raids were very successful. During Operation Iceberg the BPF had been on operations for 32 days which had been the longest continuous period on operations since the days of sail. Indomitable was hit three times by kamikaze attacks. One crashed on the deck at a shallow angle and luckily slid right over the side. Indomitable was also involved in a collision with destroyer HMS Quilliam in fog. Quilliam was quite badly damaged and took no further part in the war. In June Indomitable was replaced by Implacable and sailed to Sydney to make good repairs. The effort of the BPF at Okinawa had won the respect of the US Navy and if the invasion of Japan had taken place a greater understanding between the fleets would have been guaranteed. As it was they had overcome the difficulties of different codes, methods, tactics etc to become an effective unit of the US 5th Fleet.

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HMS Indomitable following kamikaze attack 1st April 1945 off Okinawa. The vessel was back in action in 1 hour. (Identification may indicate that this was actually HMS Formidable).

Indomitable was relieved by HMS Implacable in June and returned to Sydney for repairs. On completion she remained in Sydney through out as the plans for the invasion of the Japanese mainland were finalised. Dad joined Indomitable six days after the ‘Little Boy’ atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima on 6th August, and only three days after the ‘Fat Man’ bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki on 9th August. On 15th August the Emperor of Japan made a broadcast announcing the unconditional surrender of Japan. The same day the American control of the Indomitable and other members of the task force were relinquished and passed back to Britain.  She immediately sailed to Subic Bay in the Philippines along with aircraft carrier Venerable, cruisers Euryalus and Swiftsure and 3 destroyers. Other ships were arriving and plans were being drawn up for the re-occupation of Hong Kong