HMAS Bendigo (J 187)
Minesweeper of the Bathurst class
|Navy||The Royal Australian Navy|
|Built by||Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co. Ltd. (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)|
|Ordered||16 Apr 1940|
|Laid down||12 Aug 1940|
|Launched||1 Mar 1941|
|Commissioned||10 May 1941|
|End service||27 Sep 1946|
HMAS Bendigo was commissioned at Sydney on 10 May 1941 under the command of Lieutenant Commander ~James Alexander Ronald Patrick, RANR(S). She departed Sydney on 4 July 1941 and began her active war career in the Darwin area where she remained for a period of two months. On 22 September she sailed for Singapore to become a unit of the China Squadron. The period remaining before the outbreak of the Pacific War was spent on escort, sweeping and patrol duties in the Singapore area. On 24 November 1941 HMAS Bendigo became a unit of the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla (HMAS Maryborough (Flotilla Leader), HMAS Goulburn, HMAS Burnie and HMAS Bendigo, all 'Bathurst' class ships). January saw HMAS Bendigo operating out of Singapore on sweeping, escort and patrol duties, dawn to Berhala and Banka Strait.
On 30 January she anchored in Singapore Roads and remained there until 6 February. During this time the ship experienced 25 alerts and Japanese bombers were over two or three times a day. On 2 February two near misses caused extensive scarring from shrapnel. HMAS Bendigo made only one move From her anchorage during this period. On 5 February 78 survivors were taken off the burning Empress of Asia at Sultan Shoal.
On 6 February HMAS Bendigo proceeded to no 24 swept channel north of Durian strait, to act as lightship for an outward bound convoy. At 0100 the following day, her sister-ship HMAS Wollongong approached with instructions to proceed in company, as she had Senior Officer, Minesweepers, on board. At daybreak, HMAS Bendigo landed a party in the vicinity of Abang Besair to search for British airmen. Dense undergrowth forced the abandonment of the search. Subsequent signals informed HMAS Bendigo that the original message should have read 'search for survivors from Britsh Airman'. Rejoining HMAS Wollongong, the two minesweepers proceeded to an anchorage off the west coast of Durei Island. At 2300, the two minesweepers sailed to rendezvous with three auxiliary minesweepers. The three auxiliaries were contacted at daybreak on 8 February and all five ships proceeded to Amphitrite Bay. Seventeen Japanese aircraft in one flight were sighted en route. At 1500 the same day the flotilla sailed for Batavia. During the course of the voyage two of the auxiliary sweepers lost contact in the darkness. HMAS Bendigo commenced a search at 0100 on 9 February. Failing to locate the missing ships, she put into Gambie Bay until 1350, when an attempt was begun to locate HMAS Wollongong. The latter vessel was eventually rejoined at 0800 the following day ( 10 February) at Pulo Benu Inlet. The two ships were still missing and had, unknown to Bendigo proceeded independently for Batavia.
At 0659 on 11 February 1942 HMAS Bendigo and HMAS Wollongong entered Palembang Channel, moved up river and anchored off the oil refineries. After fuelling the following day, the minesweepers sailed at 1340, picked up a convoy at the mouth of the Palembang River and proceeded for Batavia. Banka strait was cleared by daybreak the following day (13 February). At 1117, eight Japanese aircraft circled the ships, and 15 minutes later the planes returned and commenced bombing from approximately 10,000 feet. Ignoring the main convoy, the attacking planes singled out the merchant ship Wuchang which had overtaken the convoy and was then about a mile ahead. Many bombs narrowly missed the Wuchang, but she was not hit or damaged. The planes made no attempt to attack the convoy. Bendigo's Captain noted 'they had in fact found a more interesting target in the shape of 7 large tankers some 40 miles to the east' . At 2300 the convoy anchored 20 miles SE of North Watcher Head, where they remained until the following morning. At 0600 the voyage to Batavia continued minus about half the convoy, the masters having elected to remain at anchor for a further period. The balance proceeded with HMAS Wollongong and HMAS Bendigo until 1000 hours when the ships dispersed off Edam Island.
Bendigo anchored in Batavia Roads at 1245 on 14 February 1942 and remained awaiting instructions until 18 February when she moved to the Outer Roads to give anti-submarine protection to incoming ships. On 21 February WOLLONGONG relieved her of this duty and she returned to harbour. The following day she fuelled, took on board eight members of the AIF who had escaped from Singapore, and at 1400 sailed with HMAS Burnie to join the Sunda Strait patrol off Merak. HMAS Bendigo remained at Merak as part of the Sunda Patrol until the night of 27-28 February, when Sunda Strait was abandoned. The only attack from enemy planes mentioned by Bendigo's Captain took place on 27 February. At 1555 three Japanese Army light bombers commenced dive bombing and machine gunning the anchored ships off Merak. Three separate attacks developed, and in all 27 bombs were dropped. An effective anti-aircraft barrage was put up and though the planes attempted to machine gun swimming parties in the water, no hits were scored and there was no damage or casualties.
At daybreak on 28 February HMAS Bendigo sailed from Merak in company with her sister-ships HMAS Maryborough, HMAS Towoomba, HMAS Ballarat, HMAS Goulburn and HMAS Burnie for Tjilatjap. En route, HMAS Bendigo was detached with HMAS Burnie to pick up survivors of the Dutch ship Boero. The Fourth Engineer and 14 of the crew were rescued from the beach. At 1252 on 1 March HMAS Bendigo entered Tjilatjap Harbour. Shortly afterwards she was ordered to proceed to sea in company with HMAS Burnie to search for the Dutch ship Sloterdijk, which had been reported attacked by a Japanese submarine. Unable to locate the merchant ship the mineweepers returned to harbour.
After fuelling and embarking 10 officers from the staff of Commodore John Collins, RAN, commanding British and Australian naval forces, one RAF officer, one civilian and five officers and 72 men from HMS Jupiter, HMAS Bendigo sailed for Fremantle. One plane of undetermined nationality was sighted the following day, and at 1720 USS Asheville was overtaken in 10° 30' S, 110° 10' E. On 3 March at 0840, the ship was circled by a twin engined plane and at 1700 Bendigo encountered USS Phoenix. Fremantle was reached on 8 March with a margin of 23 tons of fuel and one day's supply of food.
On her return to Australian waters HMAS Bendigo was assigned to Australia- New Guinea and coastal convoy escort duties, continuing in this role almost without a break until 1944 when convoys ceased. On 8 March 1943 Bendigo rescued 153 survivors from the Dutch ship F Jacob sunk by Japanese aircraft off Oro Bay whilst under escort by HMAS bendigo and HMAS Kapunda.
On 11 April 1943 she searched unsuccessfully for a Japanese submarine after the sinking of the Yugoslav ship Recina in convoy off the NSW coast with the loss of 32 lives. HMAS Moresby was her companion escorting vessel. In February 1944 Bendigo began escort and patrol duties in the New Guinea area. Excepting for docking periods in Sydney, the remainder of 1944 was spent in New Guinea waters on routine patrols and escort duties.
In March 1945 she arrived in Philippine waters, becoming part of a Task Unit operating with the British Pacific Fleet, to which she remained attached until the end of hostilities. She participated in the operation for the capture of Okinawa ( March-May 1945). From September to November 1945, following the end of hostilities, HMAS Bendigo operated as a minesweeper in the Hong Kong area. She returned to Williamstown on 20 December 1945.
On 4 February 1946 HMAS Bendigo sailed from Sydney, in company with HMAS Ballarat, to reduce to a 'Care and Maintenance' basis. The ship paid off at Sydney on 27 September 1946. since commissioning she had steamed 151, 242 miles . HMAS Bendigo was sold as a sea-going vessel on 5 May 1947 to Ta Hing Co (Hong Kong) and was renamed Cheung Hing. She was later acquired by the Navy of the People's Republic of China, converted from a merchant ship and re-armed for naval service under the name of Loyang.
Commands listed for HMAS Bendigo (J 187)
Please note that we're still working on this section.
|1||Lt.Cdr. James Alexander Ronald Patrick, RANR(S)||20 Mar 1941||11 Jun 1942|
|2||T/Lt. Sidney John Griffith, RANR(S)||12 Jun 1942||31 Mar 1943|
|3||Lt. John Hastie Dowson, RAN||13 Jun 1943||6 Jul 1944|
|4||T/Lt.Cdr. Harold Arthur Litchfield, RANR(S)||7 Jul 1944||26 Jul 1944|
|5||Lt.Cdr. John Hastie Dowson, RAN||27 Jul 1944||29 Oct 1944|
|6||Lt. William Jackson, RANVR||30 Oct 1944||14 Feb 1946|
You can help improve our commands section
Click here to Submit events/comments/updates for this vessel.
Please use this if you spot mistakes or want to improve this ships page.
Notable events involving Bendigo include:
27 Dec 1941
The damaged HrMs K XIII (Lt.Cdr. M.A.J. Derksema, RNN) departs Singapore for Surabaya where she will undergo repairs. As K XIII is unable to dive she is escorted until she is south of Banka Strait by the Australian minesweeper HMAS Bendigo (Lt.Cdr. J.A.R. Patrick, RANR(S)). There the Dutch destroyer HrMs Van Nes (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Lagaay, RNN) takes over the escort. Both ships arrive at Surabaya on 30 December 1941.
23 Mar 1945
The British Pacific Fleet during Operation Iceberg, the landings on Okinawa (1st phase).
The British Pacific Fleet, now known as Task Force 57, departed Ulithi for the operations area near Okinawa.
The task for Task Force 57 is to neutralize airfields in the Sakishima Gunto to the south-west of Okinawa.
Task Force 57 was made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. T.E. Halsey, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.B. Rawlings, KCB, OBE, RN), HMS Howe (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, DSO, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Indomitable (Capt. J.A.S. Eccles, RN, flying the flag of Rear- Admiral P.L. Vian, KCB, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Illustrious (Capt. C.E. Lambe, CB, CVO, RN), HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN) and HMS Indefatigable (Capt. Q.D. Graham, CBE, DSO, RN), light cruisers HMS Swiftsure (Capt. P.V. McLaughlin, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.J.P. Brind, CBE, CB, RN), HMNZS Gambia (Capt. N.J.W. William-Powlett, DSC, RN), HMS Argonaut (Capt. W.P. McCarthy, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. R. Oliver-Bellasis, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral J.H. Edelsten, CB, CBE, RN), HMS Black Prince (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Grenville (Capt. H.P. Henderson, RN), HMS Ulster (Lt.Cdr. R.J. Hanson, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Undaunted (Lt.Cdr. C.E.R. Sharp, RN), HMS Undine (Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Urania (Lt.Cdr. D.H.P. Gardiner, DSC, RN), HMAS Quickmatch (Cdr. O.H. Becher, DSC and Bar, RAN, with Capt. R.G. Onslow, DSO and 2 Bars, RN, on board), HMAS Quiberon (Lt.Cdr. G.F.E. Knox, RAN), HMS Queenborough (Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. the Viscount Jocelyn, RN), HMS Wager (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Watkin, RN) and HMS Whelp (Cdr. G.A.F. Norfolk, RN).
On 25 March the fleet met with the replenishment groups Task Group 112.2.1 and Task Group 112.2.5 and the cruisers and destroyers fuelled throughout the morning and first part of the afternoon. Weather conditions were not suitable and not all ships were able to complete with fuel for 100%.
These two Task Groups had departed Manus on 17 March 1945 and their composition was as follows; Task Group 112.2.1, was made up of the escort carrier HMS Striker (Capt. W.P. Carne, RN) (with replacement aircraft) and the RFA tankers Cedardale (8132 GRT, built 1939), San Ambrosio (7410 GRT, built 1935) and San Adolpho (7365 GRT, built 1935). They were escorted by the destroyer Whirlwind (Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSO, DSC, OBE, RN), sloop HMS Crane (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Jenkins, DSC, RN) and frigate HMS Findhorn (Lt.Cdr. J.C. Dawson, RNR).
Task Group 112.2.5 was made up of the escort carrier HMS Speaker (A/Capt. U.H.R. James, RN) (for Combat Air Patrol duties), destroyer HMS Kempenfelt (Capt. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN) and sloop HMS Pheasant (Lt.Cdr. J.B. Palmer, RN).
HMS Wager, which had bearing trouble joined Task Group 112.2.1 being substituted with HMS Whirlwind (Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSO, DSC, OBE, RN).
HMS Quality, which also had defects, was substituted with HMS Kempenfelt (Capt. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN) from Task Group 112.2.5.
26 March 1945.
Task Force 57 arrived in her operations area.
At 0605I/26, the Combat Air Patrol and A/S patrol were flown off, whilst HMS Argonaut and HMS Kempenfelt were detached to carry out picket duties warning the Fleet in advance of the possible approach of enemy aircraft.
At sunrise, at 0635I/26 strong fighter sweeps were flown off from a position 100 miles 180° from Miyako Jima to attack the enemy airfields at Ishigaki and Miyako. They reported little activity there. At 0850I/26, one aircraft was reported to have ditched 20 miles from Tarima Shima. A Walrus aircraft was flown off and subsequently rescued the pilot.
These fighter sweeps were followed by two escorted bombers strikes and one fighter bomber strike with airfields and associated buildings as targets. Withdrawal was begun at dusk.
At 0940I/26, a Mitsubishi Ki-46 ' Dinah ' was intercepted by the Combat Air Patrol but it managed to escape. It was apparent that the Fleet had been reported but no attacks developed.
After the last aircraft had flown on Task Group 57 disengaged to the south-eastward. The night was fine and the moon bright and an enemy air attack was considered likely.
27 March 1945.
At 0245I/27, a bogey to the eastward was contacted by radar. As it seemed that Task Force 57 was being shadowed course was altered in an attempt to shake off the aircraft.
At 0307I/27, HMS Euryalus was ordered to open out from the screen and fire at the enemy aircraft which then remained at a respectful distance for a time. A Hellcat was then flown off to intercept but the moon became obscured by a cloud and the enemy made good his escape. At 0305I/27 Japanese transmissions had been reported and Task Force 57 commenced jamming.
At sunrise a fighter sweep was sent to Ishigaki only from a flying off position 100 miles 180° from Miyako Jima. No increased acitivity was reported. Two bomber strikes were directed against radio stations, barracks and airfields not covered the previous day. Coasters off the islands were also attacked. The final strike was a small fighter bomber strike. Withdrawal was begun at dusk.
At 1130I/27, HMS Undine escorted by fighters was despatched to the rescue of an aircraft which had ditched 56 miles from the flying off position. At 1750I/27, she rejoined the Fleet having picked up the Avenger crew and also a United States Corsair pilot who was discovered after having been adrift for 48 hours.
The American (rescue) submarine USS Kingfish (T/Lt.Cdr. T.E. Harper, USN) was requisted to keep a good lookout for any of our ditched aircrews, but apparently she had not been fully instructed by the American authorities as she replied that 'she would have to ask her boss first'. The first situation was soon clarified and USS Kingfish was ordered to act as rescue submarine when required. At 1805I/27, USS Kingfish reported that she had rescued the pilot of one of HMS Illustrious's Avengers.
It had been intended that Task Force 57 should continue operating off Sakishimi Gunto, the day's programme to include a bombardment of Ishigaki, but Guam reported a typhoon to the southward whose position and estimated track appeared to threaten the fuelling area. The risk of bad weather completely dislocating fuelling for some time would have precluded Task Force 57 from returning to the operating area during the time of the initial landings on Okinawa. This was not acceptable. The necessity to withdraw to the fuelling area was accentuated by certain ships having been short of fuel at the commencement of the operation.
28 March 1945.
At 0730I/28 made contact with Task Unit 112.2.5 and Task Unit 112.2.1 in area Midge, a rectangle extending 50 miles to the south and 100 miles to the west of 19°55'N, 129°40'E. Fuelling and transfer of replacement aircraft continued throughout the day. The Fleet disengaged from the tanker group for the night.
At 1835I/28, HMS Striker parted company with the Fleet Train to proceed to Leyte escorted by HMS Crane.
29 March 1945.
The fuelling of the Fleet proceeded with constant interruptions and delays caused by hoses parting etc. Aircraft carriers experienced great difficulty in obtaining supplies of Avgas for this reason.
Rear-Admiral J.H. Edelsten transferred his flag from HMS Euryalus to HMS Whirlwind and proceeded in the afternoon with HMS Striker and HMS Crane for Leyte. HMS Quality and HMS Whelp rejoined Task Force 57, HMS Kempenfelt and HMS Whirlwind rejoining Task Unit 112.2.5 and 112.2.1 repectively.
30 March 1945.
At 1430I/30 after many more delays due to leaking hoses fuelling was completed and Task Force 57 departed at 22 knots for the operating area.
31 March 1945.
As usual the Combat Air Patrol and A/S Patrol were flown off around dawn. At 0530I/31, HMS Argonaut and HMS Wager were detached to a position 300°, 30 miles from the Fleet centre to act as pickets to prevent enemy aircraft returning with our own strikes. HMS Argonaut was chosen for this purpose as having the most suitable radar outfit.
At 0630I/31, a fighter sweep was sent in from a flying-off position 23°10'N, 125°23'E and thereafter fighter patrols were maintained over Ishigaki and Miyako. There appeared to be little activity in either island. Two bomber strikes were sent against Ishigaki airfield, installations and barracks. USS Kingfish again did useful service and rescued the crew of an Avenger which had ditched. At dusk the Fleet disengaged to the south-westward. Two fighters were kept at readiness from moonrise but the Fleet was not shadowed.
1 April 1945.
Around dawn HMS Argonaut and HMS Wager were again detached to proceed to their picket positions and at 0640I/1 a fighter sweep was sent in from a flying off position 23°26'N, 125°25'E.
At 0650I/1, bogeys were detected by radar 75 miles to the westward at a height of 8000 feet closing at 210 knots. The fighter sweep was recalled to intercept and additional fighters were flown off.
The raid split up more then 40 miles from the Fleet. The first interception was by Corsairs from HMS Victorious which shot down one enemy. Seafires shot down two more close to the Fleet and a fourth was destroyed by Hellcats recalled from the fighter sweep. At 0705I/1 the Fleet had been alerted to ' Flash Red ' and a few minutes later the enemy planes commenced their attacks.
One enemy single engined aircraft machine-gunned HMS Indomitable in a low attack killing one rating and wounding two officers and four ratings. Still flying very low it made a similar attack on HMS King George V but without causing casualties. Considerable difficulty was experienced in identifying enemy from our own planes who where hard on the enemy heels.
At 0727I/1, an enemy plane dived into the base of HMS Indefatigable's island. Four officers and ten ratings were killed and sixteen of her complement were wounded. The flight deck was put temporarily out of action, but within a remarkale short time, and in a most creditable manner, aircraft were again being operated from this ship athough that day on a reduced scale.
At about 0755I/1, HMS Ulster was near missed by what appeared to be a 500lb. bomb from an aircraft then being chased by one of our fighters. She reported that the bulkhead between the engine-room and the after boiler room had blown, flooding both compardments, but that the ship was floating well. Casualties were two killed and one seriously wounded. She was unable to steam but her armament remained effective. HMAS Quiberon was ordered to stand by her and as soon as the raid was over, HMNZS Gambia was ordered to tow her to Leyte.
At 1215I/1, a bombing strike was sent in against Ishigaki to bomb airfields and runways. No activity was noted. At 1430I/1, reports were received from combat patrols over the islands that more aircraft had been sighted at Hirara and Ishigaki airfields. These were attacked by the fighter patrols and were followed by a fighter sweep. It was estimated that about 14 enemy aircraft were detroyed on the ground during this attack and others damaged.
At 1730I/1, a low flying bogey was detected by radar at a range of 15 miles to the north-westward. Hellcats were sent to intercept this raid which developed into 2 plus but the enemy avoided them in cloid. Soon afterwards the Fleet sighted the enemy and opened fire, sometimes it is regretted, at fiendly fighters. One enemy aircraft dived on HMS Victorious, her swing under full helm was successful and the plane touched its wing only on the flight deck edge spinning harmlessly into the sea where its bomb exploded clear of the ship. The manuscript instructions to the pilot were blown on board HMS Victorious. This interesting document donoting priority of targets for suicide planes, has been translated and the contents forwarded to intelligence centre. It seems certain that Victorious's guns hit this aircraft during its dive.
At dusk the Fleet disengaged to the south-eastward.
2 April 1945.
It was evident from experience the day before that the Japanese had started staging ito the Sakishima airfields and it was therefore decided to cancel the planned bombardment in favour of air operations.
The absence of enemy activity noticed by the first fighter sweep the previous day made it appear likely that enemy might be leaving the airfields at first light. In consequence two aircraft from HMS Indomitable, having been flown off by moonlight, were sent to Ishigaki at 0510I/2. Two other aircraft flown off at the same time and destined for Miyako were unable to proceed owing to radio failures. No activity was reported from Ishigaki.
At 0630I/2, from a flying off position 23°12'N, 126°02'E a fighter Ramrod left to attack all airfields before the Fleet withdrew. Little activity was noticed, but one airborne Zeke (Mitsubishi A6M 'Zero') was shot down over Ishigaki by Hellcats.
After landing on the fighter Ramrod at 1045I/2, the Fleet withdrew to fuelling area Midge, maintaining a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) of 12 aircraft until 1600I/2, and a CAP of 8 aircraft until dark.
It was very disappointing to cancel the bombardment again. Once however enemy aircraft begin staging through or operating from an aerodrome the most profitable means of destroying them is by air and not by guns.
At 1450I/2, HMS Illustrious reported man overboard. Fighters of the CAP and destroyers were sent to search and the Fleet was turned 360° for a period. Unfortunately the man was not recovered.
3 April 1945.
At 0630I/3, there was no sign of the tanker group in rendezvous position Midge One (19°12'N, 128°00'E). Weather was a heavy N.E. swell, wind north force 5. Spread HMS Swiftsure, HMS Argonaut and HMS Euryalus to carry out a search.
At 0900I/3, W/T contact was made with the tanker group.
At 1320I/3, contact was made with Task Units 112.2.5 and 112.2.2. The weather and cross swell were too heavy to attempt fuelling. The Fleet remained in the area throughout the day, but towards the evening, meteorological information suggesting more suitable weather to the westward, the Fleet with tankers turned west towards area Mosquito.
An American Task Group of Task Force 58 had meanwhile been ordered to cover Sakishima Gunto during Task Force 57's underway replenishment.
4 April 1945.
0630I/4, Task Units 112.2.2 and 112.2.3 joined from Leyte. These were made up of the escort carrier HMS Slinger (Capt. B.L. Moore, RN) (with replacement aircraft) and the tankers Wave King (8159 GRT, built 1944), Wave Monarch (8159 GRT, built 1944), Arndale (8296 GRT, built 1937), Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941) and Aase Maersk (6184 GRT, built 1930). They were escorted by the sloop HMS Woodcock (A/Lt.Cdr. S.J. Parsons, DSC, RN), frigates HMS Avon (Lt.Cdr. P.G.A. King, RD, RNR), HMS Parrett (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) T. Hood, RNR) and the corvettes (minesweepers) HMAS Bendigo (Lt. W. Jackson, RANVR) and HMAS Pirie (A/Cdr. A.J. Travis, RAN).
At 0730I/4, fuelling was commenced as well as stores being transferred and replacement aircraft being flown over. The swell was heavy in position Mosquito One (19°37'N, 124°42'E). Fuelling proceeded throughout the day with many interruptions due to weak oiling gear and especially due to parting Avgas hoses.
At 1920I/4, the Fleet disengaged from the tanker group for the night.
5 April 1945.
At 0630I/5, the Fleet continued to fuel in position Mosquito One, the weather conditions having considerably improved. The transfer of essential stores, correspondence mail and casualties by destroyers and escort vessels seriously weakened the A/S screen and for future replenishment operation additional A/S escorts were requisted.
At 1930I/5, the Fleet disengaged from the tanker group and set course at 20 knots to the operations area. Some ships of the Fleet train also started their return trip to Leyte.
The two battleships had not completed fully with fuel and the aircraft carriers had only been able to embark sufficient Avgas for the forthcoming two days of operation. Staying longer with the tanker group was not possible in order to be back at the time promised to the Americans.
6 April 1945.
At 0450I/6, four fighters were flown off from HMS Indomitable, two each to Miyako and Ishigaki airfields to attack any enemy aircraft taking off at dawn but early reports from these planes indicated little or no activity in the islands. Heavy low cloud over the islands impeded operations, but eight enemy aircraft not previously noticed at Ishigaki were attacked with apparent result.
At 0530I/6, HMS Argonaut and HMS Urania with a CAP patrol were detached to act as picket to the north-westward.
At 0625I/6, CAP (Combat Air Patrol) and ASP (A/S Patrol) for the Fleet were flown off.
At 0635I/6, In position 23°16'N, 125°36'E CAPS were flown off to cover both islands. The craters in the runway at Miyako were observed to be filled in.
At 0650I/6, HMS Argonaut and HMS Urania were ordered to rejoin the Fleet. No being required under the circumstances.
At 0850I/6, the Fleet was detected by an enemy aircraft who escaped in cloud cover.
Hellcats returning from Miyako in the forenoon shot down a Francies after a 30 mile chase.
Avengers bombed and hit Hirara runway and town, and bombed Nobara, Sukhama and Myara airstrips causing fires.
Fighters attacked radio and radar stations, sank two junks and blew up a bowser.
At about 1700I/6, bogeys were detected on the radar screen. Fighters intercepted them and splasged one Judy. One enemy aircraft out of an estimated raid of four broke through in cloud and later dived on HMS Illustrious, who took radical avoiding action. The suicider's wingtip hit the island, spinning the aircraft into the sea where the bomb exploded. Only slight damage and no casualties were caused. The ship probably hit the aircraft during her dive.
One Judy and another unidentified enemy plane flying low were engaged by destroyers one the screen. One being hit by gunfire. Corsairs and Hellcats closed the Judy and shot it down in flames after it had jettisoned its bomb. The other plane was seen in flames on the horizon about five minutes later and is considered to have been destroyed by the destroyers. A second Judy orbiting the Fleet at about 10 miles range was intercepted by Corsairs and Hellcats and splashed.
Unfortunately one Seafire was shot down by gunfire from the Fleet during the raid. The pilot was not recovered.
This raid was preceded by enemy jamming out fighter direction frequencies, its source appearing to be airborne. This disorganised the fighter defence to some extent, but pilots and fighter direction operators and had since become well drilled in shifting from jammed frequencies.
During the day our own losses were the one Seafire shot down by the Fleet, two Corsairs by bomb blast and one Avenger which crashed on taking off. Total enemy losses for the day were estimated as six aircraft destroyed and six damaged. Two junks were sunk.
After the dusk CAP had been flown on, the Fleet disengaged to the south-eastward.
7 April 1945.
A report was received that an enemy surface force had been sighted in the early hours leaving the Inland Sea and steering to the southward.
The plan for the day was to maintain a constant CAP over the enemy airfields during daylight bombing and straffing when targets offered. The weather at dawn was good and the clouds higher the yesterday.
At 0530I/7, HMS Argonaut and HMS Urania were detached to the north-westward to act as picket, with orders to rejoin at 0810I/7.
At 0610I/7, CAP's for the Fleet and Islands and ASP were flown off from position 23°16'N, 125°36'E. The Islands CAP's reported little activity on the islands, but noticed that bomb craters on Ishigaki had been filled in, abd that Hirara and Nobara airfields appeared serviceable. It was therefore decided to send in three bomber strikes during the day to recrater these fields. This was successfully carried out without loss.
In the afternoon HMS Urania escorted by two fighters was despatched to the rescue of a Corsair pilot who had lost his way and landed in the sea abbout 70 miles from the Fleet. An American Privateer having reported him dropped dinghies and remained in the vicinity until relieved by Fireflys. HMS Urania recovered the pilot but he was unfortunately found to be dead. The afternoon strike destroyed oneand damaged other aircraft found on the ground at Nobara.
Enemy search planes were again active early in the day making intelligent use of the 9/10 cloud cover they were not sighted by the fighters sent to intercept.
By the end of the day all runways in the islands were left well cratered and unserviceable. All visible aircraft had been attacked and there was no activity on any airfield.
During the day the enemy lost three aircraft destroyed on the ground and four were damaged. Four fishing vessels and three luggers were also claimed to have been damaged.
Own losses were two aircraft shot down by flak and four lost from other causes.
Task Force 57 then set course to refuel in area Cootie. This was an American area closer to our operating area that areas Midge or Mosquito. In the evening it was also leart that US aircraft of Task Force 58 had dealt with the Japanese surface force that had been reported proceeding towards Okinawa. Reports, indicated that the enemy lost one battleship, one cruiser and four destroyers and two more destroyers reported to be on fire.
American Task Force 52 was ordered to cover Sakishima during the absence of Task Force 57.
8 April 1945.
0600I/8, Task Force 57 made rendezvous with Task Unit 112.2.5 and Task Unit 112.2.1 in position Cootie One (21°12'N, 128°44'E), and commenced to refuel the fleet in excellent weather conditions. By dusk all ships except one battleship and one carrier had fuelled from the five tankers. The light cruiser HMCS Uganda (Capt. E.R. Mainguy, OBE, RCN) and the destroyers HMS Urchin (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Harkness, DSC, OBE, RD, RNR) and HMS Ursa (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, DSC, RN) reinforce Task Force 57 as did the light cruiser HMNZS Gambia which returned from Leyte having towed the damaged destroyer HMS Ulster there.
As structural defects in HMS Illustrious were beginning to increase and her pilots were showing signs of operational fatigue, HMS Kempenfelt was detached a signal ordering HMS Formidable (Capt. P. Ruck-Keene, CBE, RN) from Leyte, to join the Fleet on the next occasion of fuelling. These structural defects in HMS Illustrious, the legacy of past underwater damage, were found on arrival in harbour to be rather more serious than had been thought. HMS Kempenfelt was routed to Leyte to act as additional escort to HMS Formidable.
9 April 1945.
At 0630I/9, Task Force 57 recommenced fuelling, which was completed by 1500I/9. HMS Undaunted from Leyte rejoined Task Unit 112.2.5 and HMS Whirlwind joined Task Force 57 from Task Unit 112.2.5. HMS Whelp, which had a defective Asdic dome was ordered to proceed to Leyte.
1315I/9, HMS Swiftsure, HMNZS Gambia and HMCS Uganda carried out independent exercises until 1615I/9.
At 1530I/9, Task Force 57 proceeded, setting course to carry out final air strikes on Sakishima on 10 and 11 April. It was intended to proceed to Leyte afterwards.
However shortly afterwards signals were received that the Americans would continue to deal with Sakishima Gunto and that Task Force 57 was to attack airfield in northern Formosa.
10 April 1945.
The Fleet was getting into position to launch strikes against Matsuyama and Shinchiku airfields on Formosa on the forenoons of 11th and 12th April from approximate position Samson (196° 30 miles from western tip of Yonaguni Jima flying off at 0700I each day. Then to withdraw to replanish area Cootie for replenishment on 13 April and arrive at Leyte about 16 April.
11 April 1945.
At 0600I/11, Task Force 57 arrived in flying-off position 30 miles 202° from Yonaguni Shima. There was a fresh north-north-east wind and a moderate sea and short swell. Cloud base was about 1000 feet with intermittent rain and drizzle.
Course was reversed and in daylight it was seen apparent that conditions were unlikely to improve in the flying area during the day while weather reports showed that conditions over Natsuyama precluded any hope of attack. It was considered that a small fighter sweep coasting round north Formosa might find Shinchiku, but that their return journey would be a considerable gamble and surprise lost. Conditions were most unsuitable also for air sea rescue. Operations were accordingly postponed 24 hours and the Fleet continued to the south-eastward.
Early in the evening all Task Group commanders were informed by signal that heavy enemy air attacks were to be expected the following day.
Course was reversed during the night so as to be in the flying off position at dawn. Task Force 58 reported being under heavy air attack all afternoon, with the enemy showing a preference to commit suicide by crashing on the decks of radar pickets.
12 April 1945.
The weather had improved considerable during the night.
Enemy reconnaissance aircraft possibly detected the Fleet at 0555I/12 and soon afterwards enemy air activity was detected to the northward. CAP was flown off at 0615I/12 and at 0704 Seafires had an inconclusive encounter with four eastbound Zeke's, one of which was shot down.
The main strikes, each of 24 bombers and 20 fighters were flown off at 0715I/12 from position 23°58'N, 122°46'E and proceeded in company around the coast.
Cloud prevented the strikes going over the mountains. One strike bombed Shinchiku airfields with delay fuzed bombs and attacked dispersals. There was flak but no airborne opposition. Due to cloud conditions over Matsuyama airfield the other strike attacked their alternative target, Kiirun harbour where hits were observed on the chemical plant, dock area and shipping.
One flight investigated Matsuama and found little activity. A rearby railway station and factory were attacked. A bridge over the river south of Matsuama was destroyed and shipping at Tansui shot up.
Two Fireflies which had been sent to rendezvous with Dumbo aircraft at Yonaguni Shima shot down four out of five eastbound Sonias (Mitsubishi Ki-51) and damaged the remaining one at 0920I/12. As these aircraft had not been detected by radar, fighters were thereafter maintained over the island.
Corsairs attacked aircraft which had force landed on Yonagumi Shimi and set fire to a Sally (Mitsubishi Ki-21).
At 1135I/12, a shadowing Dinah (Mitsubishi Ki-46), was chased by Corsairs, which, after releasing their drop tanks, caught and destroyed it.
At 1410I/12, another Dinah escorted by two Oscars (Nakajima Ki-43) escaped from the CAP fighters in a cloud.
At 1430I/12, Hellcats to the north-westward of the Fleet shot down a Zeke.
In the evening the enemy made a sortie from Ishigaki, which was intercepted by fighters, no enemy getting within sight of the Fleet. Hellcats spalshed four Oscars and two Tomies and damaged two more. Corsairs splashed a Val (Aichi D3A) and one Oscar. They also damaged an Oscar. One Hellcat was badly damaged in the engagement the pilot being killed when making a forced landing.
During the day, except for the evening sortie and one shadower, all enemy air traffic appeared to have been between Formosa and Sakishima. Fighter direction of our fighters during the day was well carried out, and some excellend interceptions were made. The score for the day was 17 enemy aircraft destroyer, 16 of which were airborne and 1 on the ground. Two more aircraft were probably destroyed. Two enemy aircraft were claimed to have been damaged. Own losses were 4 aircraft.
After dark an enemy plane carried out an unsuccessful box search for the Fleet which had disengaged to the south-eastward for the night.
It was clear that from signals received that the enemy were engaging in very heavy air attacks on American forces in the Okinawa area, and that Formosa based planes were taking part. Vice-Admiral Rawlings came to the conclusion during the evening that Task Force 57 was to remain operating in this area for a further period, even if they could do little more than occasionally strike at the Sakishima Gunto Task Force 57 should anyhow provide an alternative target to take some of the weight. Rear-Admiral Vian, by himself, had meanwhile come to the same conclusion, and he informed Vice-Admiral Rawlings accordingly. The US Commander of the 5th Fleet was informed of the decision by signal.
13 April 1945.
At 0550I/13, four fighters were flown off. A bogey originally detected at 0540I/13 developed into an ineffective raid by four Vals accomanied by a radar fitted search plane probably performing the dual role of pilot plane and 'Gestapo'. One Val dive bombed, but missed, HMS Indomitable. This aricraft switched on navigation lights and fired an incorrect recognition cartridge. It was engaged but probably not hit. A second Val was shot down by gunfire from the Fleet. Unfortunately gunfire also shot down one Hellcat which failed to clear the Fleet during the attack, and the pilot was killed.
At 0615I/13, the proper CAP was flown off in position 23°58'N, 122°46'E.
At 0640I/13, a small group of bogeys was intercepted 25 miles to the north-west of the Fleet. Two Zekes were splashed by Corsairs and the remainder retired to the northward.
At 0645I/13, Avenger strikes were flown off to attack Matsuyama and Shinchiku airfields on Formosa. The weather over Matsutyama was fair, runways, barracks and dispersal points were successfully bombad and a petrol or ammunition dump was blown up. Few aircraft were seen on the airfield.
The other Avenger force bombed Shinchiku airfield through low cloud, hitting the runway intersections and installations. No aircraft were lost in either of these strikes and there was no airborne opposition.
Fireflies attacked the suspected radar station on Yonakuni Shima with rockets and apparently destroyed it. When relieved, they also shot up luggers and small craft in the harbour close to Iriizaki.
After these bomber strikes were flown on, Task Force 57 disengaged to the south-eastward to refuel.
1300I/13, Hellcats intercepted 3 Zekes about 40 miles north of the Fleet, and Corsairs intercepted a Dinah escorted by Tojo's (Nakajima Ki-44). All the enemy aircraft escaped in the clouds.
Enemy losses were thought to be 8 aircraft destroyed and 1 probably damaged. 1 of our own aircraft was lost in combat.
A signal was received thanking the British for their initiative to stay in the area longer and they were ordered to cover Sakishima on 16 and 17 April unless otherwise directed prior to that time.
14 April 1945.
At 0630I/14, Task Force 57 made contact with task Unit 112.2.5 and the tanker group (five tankers) in position Cootie One (21°12'N, 128°44'E).
The aircraft carrier HMS Formidable and the destroyers HMS Kempenfelt and HMS Wessex (Lt.Cdr. R. Horncastle, RN) joined Task Force 57.
Fuelling was commenced in fine weather and proceeded with less delays then usual.
HMS Illustrious was sailed for Leyte at 1755I/14 escorted by HMS Urania and HMS Quality.
The Fleet disengaged from the tanker force for the night.
15 April 1945.
The Fleet joined the tanker group, now consisting of three tankers, fuelling and general replenishing was completed by 1400I/15 when Task Force 57 disengaged and took departure to cover the Sakishima area again. No supply of new aircraft were available during this replenishment period.
16 April 1945.
No picket cruiser was stationed owing to the shortage of fighter aircraft.
0600I/16, the CAP was flown off in position 23°28'N, 125°18'E, 17 minutes before sunrise and in excellent operating weather.
At 0622I/16, an enemy snooper at 20000 feet escaped before the CAP had time to gain height.
At 0630I/16, the first strike took off to attack Ishigaki aircfields. This attack, and a further one flow off at 1230I/16, left all the runways unserviceable.
At 0930I/16, the second strike took off to attack Miyako airfields where previous craters were found to be filled in and every endeavour had been made to keep the airfields serviceable. This attack, together with another flow off at 1533I/16, left all Miyako airfields out of action.
CAP's were left over both islands during the day. Rocket firing Fireflies staffed a radar station at Miyako and ground installations, barracks and grounded aircraft generally were straffed. These was no airborn opposition over the targets and flack was moderate.
At 0700I/16, bad height estimation was the cause of failure to interceot a bogey which crossed ahead of the Fleet from east to west.
At 1441I/16, two divisions of fighters staggered in height and range get close to an erratic and fast moving bogey but were unable to find any target. More fast moving bogeys were reported during the afternoon. These were thought to be flying bombs launched too far away from the Fleet and exhausting their fuel before reaching the Fleet.
At 1722I/16, Hellcats shot down a Myrt (Nakajima C6N) which was apparently stalking an American Privateer search plane.
A Seafire landing on HMS Indefatigable bounced, cleared the barriers and crashed. The pilot was unhurt but the plane wrecked an Avenger, damaged a Firefly, and knocked two ratings over the side. HMAS Quiberon picked up one but the other was unfortunately not recovered.
In spite of having received no replenishment aircraft since April 9th, and the lack of fighters consequently felt, Rear-Admiral Vian, considered a sixth opertional period possible, if confined to one day of operations. He informed Vice-Admiral Rawlings accordingly.
As the Americans were still under heavy air attacks in the Okinawa area Vice-Admiral Rawlings reported this to the Commander 5th Fleet.
17 April 1945.
At 0600I/17, the CAP was flown off from position 23°34'N, 125°38'E.
In view if the apparent success of yesterday's neutralisation, the number of bombers in the main strikes was reduced, the first strike taking off at 0630I/17. First reports showed that considerable effort had been made to fill in the runway craters at Miyako but none at Ishigaki. Consequently no bombing strike was sent to Ishigaki. Of the three strikes sent to Miyako, the first two left all airfields unservicable and the third attacked municipal buildings and barracks.
In the last attack an Avenger was shot down and one of the crew succeeded in baling out and alighted on the water 1.5 miles from Hirara Town. A Walrus was quickly flow off and rescued the airman, whilst a fighter escort kept down fire which was opened from the town.
CAP's were maintained over both islands, but reported no activity on any airfield, all of which remained unservicable at the end of the day. No operational aircraft could be found on the ground.
At 0609I/17, a few bogeys were detected to the north-west of the Fleet. Fighters sent to investigate splashed one Zeke.
At 1627I/17, bogeys were detected 110 miles west of the Fleet. Fighters intercepted at 55 miles and two out of six Zeke's were shot down. The others escaped into the clouds.
At 1750I/17, close range weapons in HMS King George V suddenly opened fire on what appeared to be a blazing aircraft diving virtically on the ship. It turned out to be a drop tank from a Corsair overhead.
During the day three airborne enemy aircraft were destroyed and several small ship were claimed to have been damaged. One own aircraft was lost in combat.
At 1915I/17, Task Force 57 withdrew to fuel in area Mosquito. It was intended to return to the operations area for on more day, April 20th.
18 April 1945.
At 0630I/18, commenced fuelling in area Mosquito from the tanker group, now made up of five tankers. Four additional destroyers were also with them, HMAS Napier (Capt. H.J. Buchanan, DSO, RAN), HMAS Nepal (Lt.Cdr. C.J. Stephenson, RAN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. J. Plunkett-Cole, RAN) and HMS Undaunted.
Mails, stores and correspondence were transferred but no replenishment aircraft were available. Owing to the extention of operation programme none had been expected.
By dusk the Fleet had completed fuelling and disengaged from the tanker group for the night. Three of the five tankers then set course to return to Leyte escorted by HMS Pheasant.
19 April 1945.
At 0730I/19, the Fleet rejoined the remaining two tankers and the destroyers were then topped off with fuel. This second day in the replenishing area was necessary in order to rest aircrews and for maintenance work on aircraft.
At 1300I/19, the Fleet disengaged and took departure for the Sakishima area, leaving two tankers, HMS Speaker, HMS Kempenfelt, HMS Woodcock and HMS Findhorn in the fuelling area with orders to proceed to Leyte at dawn on 21 April.
20 April 1945.
At 0555I/20, the CAP was flown off in position 23°33'N, 125°02'E. The plan for the day followed generally the pattern of previous strikes, namely to crater the runways on all Myako and Ishigaki airfields and to maintain a CAP over them to prevent repair work, destroying any enemy airborne, and to strafe any grounded planes. In addition two strikes by rocket firing Fireflies were ordered to attack coastal shipping and ground installations.
Four bomber strikes were sent in, and found that most craters had been filled in on runways at both islands. By the end of the day all airfield runways on both islands were left unserviceable, with the exception of these at Hirara (Miyako) which were only partially cratered.
There was no enemy airborne opposition over the islands and none came near the Fleet. The several bogeys detected during the day were all found to be friendly search planes when intercepted. A lugger and some junks were rocketed and left burning, as were a possible radar station and barracks.
One Avenger reported ditching 10 miles south of Ishigaki. The position was searched all the afternoon and evening without success, but the survivors were fortunately rescued the following afternoon by a US seaplane.
One enemy aircraft was damaged on the ground and one own aircraft was lost.
At 1910I/20, Task Force 57 set course for Leyte having completed 12 strike days out of 26 days bwtween first and last strikes.
21 April 1945.
At 0650I/21, HMS Crane was met who had sailed from Leyte to bring out to the Fleet a slightly overdue airmail. She also brought out Commodore Evans-Lombe, Chief Staff officer to the C-in-C, British Pacific Fleet. He was transferred to HMS King George V. HMS Crane was then despatched to overtake the tanker group who were on their way to Leyte, to relieve HMS Kempenfelt who was ordered to proceed at best speed to Leyte.
It was decided that every destroyer was to boiler clear at Leyte and that the battleships and cruisers were to assist them doing so.
22 April 1945.
At 2000I/22, HMS Euryalus, HMNZS Gambia and HMCS Uganda were ordered to proceed ahead of the Fleet to Leyte.
23 April 1945.
At 0700I/23, the Fleet was formed into two groups for proceeding up Leyte Gulf. They were brought to anchor around 1245I/23 in San Pedro Bay. (1)
1 May 1945
The British Pacific Fleet during Operation Iceberg, consolidating the Okinawa area (2nd phase).
The British Pacific Fleet, still known as Task Force 57, departed Leyte for the operations area near Okinawa.
1 May 1945.
On departure Task Force 57 was made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. T.E. Halsey, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.B. Rawlings, KCB, OBE, RN), HMS Howe (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, DSO, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Indomitable (Capt. J.A.S. Eccles, RN, flying the flag of Rear- Admiral P.L. Vian, KCB, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Formidable (Capt. P. Ruck-Keene, CBE, RN), HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN) and HMS Indefatigable (Capt. Q.D. Graham, CBE, DSO, RN), light cruisers HMS Swiftsure (Capt. P.V. McLaughlin, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.J.P. Brind, CBE, CB, RN), HMNZS Gambia (Capt. N.J.W. William-Powlett, DSC, RN), HMCS Uganda (Capt. E.R. Mainguy, OBE, RCN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. R. Oliver-Bellasis, RN), the flag of Rear-Admiral J.H. Edelsten, CB, CBE, RN), HMS Black Prince (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Grenville (Capt. H.P. Henderson, RN), HMS Undaunted (Lt.Cdr. C.E.R. Sharp, RN), HMS Undine (Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Urania (Lt.Cdr. D.H.P. Gardiner, DSC, RN), HMS Urchin (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Harkness, DSC, OBE, RD, RNR), HMS Ursa (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, DSC, RN), HMS Kempenfelt (Capt. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN), HMS Wessex (Lt.Cdr. R. Horncastle, RN), HMS Whirlwind (Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSO, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Quilliam (Capt. R.G. Onslow, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. the Viscount Jocelyn, RN), HMS Queenborough (Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC and Bar, RN), HMAS Quiberon (Lt.Cdr. G.F.E. Knox, RAN) and HMAS Quickmatch (Cdr. O.H. Becher, DSC and Bar, RAN).
During the day various exercises were carried out.
2 May 1945.
During the day various exercises were carried out.
3 May 1945.
At 0600I/1, Task Force 57 made rendezvous in position Mosquito One with the logistic support group made up of the RFA tankers Cedardale (8132 GRT, built 1939), San Ambrosio (7410 GRT, built 1935) and San Adolpho (7365 GRT, built 1935). These tankers were escorted by the sloops HMS Crane (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Jenkins, DSC, RN), HMS Whimbrel (Lt.Cdr. N.R. Murch, RN) and the frigate HMS Avon (Lt.Cdr. P.G.A. King, RD, RNR).
All cruisers and destroyers topped up with fuel. While getting clear of a tanker HMCS Uganda fouled a propeller on an oil hose. It was cleared by making the use of shallow water divers.
At 1530I/3, oiling was completed. The Fleet took departure for the operations area and the tanker group for area Cootie.
The plan for the opening operations was: 1) To make airfields of the Sakishima Gunto unserviceable by bombing runways and air installations.
2) To conduct an offensive against flak positions and to assist in cratering runways by ship bombardment.
3) To maintain an offensive CAP over the islands.
The particular plan for the first day was for the bombarding force to bombard Miyako airfields and flak position at about noon, from medium range, with the carrier force about 30 miles to the southward, so that their radar would no be fouled by land.
4 May 1945.
At 0540I/4, the CAP was flown off in position 23°44'N, 125°11'E.
At 0550I/4, enemy air activity in the vicinity of Sakishima was detacted, the general trend of traffic being to the eastward. One small group approached the Fleet and Hellcats shot down one Zeke (Mitsubishi A6M 'Zero') before the others escaped into the clouds.
At 0605I/4, bomber strikes were flown off for Myako and at 0815I/4, for Ishigaki. At Miyako the weather was good and visibility was excellent. All AA batteries opened fire on our aircraft. Conditions for bombardment appeared good. At Ishigaki the runway of Myara airfield was found serviceable and left well cratered. When taking off for the Ishigaki strike, an Avenger crashed into the sea, the crew being rescued by the safety destroyer.
At 0827I/4, an enemy aircraft approached the Force at a great heinght. Out figthers could not get high enough to intercept through lack of oxygen, and the enemy entered the artillery zone. Fire was opened in blind control, but the enemy was never seen and retired to the westward.
Before deciding to disengage from the carriers for bombardment Vice-Admiral Rawlings weighted up the following considerations. 1) The need for bombardment in an endeavour to reduce AA fire ashore. 2) Conditions for bombardment near the target had been reported as excellent. 3) The effect on morale of ships of the bombarding force would be most benificial. To be balanced against this he took into consideration the fact that the Fleet had been sighted. That in itself was nothing strange, and had happened several times before without being followed by any attack on the Fleet.
After discussing the situation with Rear-Admiral Vian, the bombarding force detached at 1000I/4, in position 23°54'N, 125°10'E and closed Miyako at 24 knots. The carriers provided additional CAP for this force as well as aircraft for spotting.
At 1155I/4, the bombarding force passed through position 24°33'5"N, 125°10'E on the bombarding course of 070° at 15 knots. HMS King George V and HMS Howe were in open order line ahead and screened by HMS Euryalus, HMS Black Prince, HMS Grenville, HMS Undaunted, HMS Undine, HMS Urania, HMS Urchin and HMS Ursa. The cruisers occupied the two inshore positions of the screen.
HMS Swiftsure, HMNZS Gambia and HMCS Uganda, in open order line ahead, were stationed 270°, 3 miles, i.e. fire of port quarter of the Fleet flagship. Conditions were ideal.
At 1205I/4 fire was opened. HMS King George V and HMS Howe bombarded Hirara airfield and the AA. defence area to the north of the airfield, respectively.
HMS Euryalus and HMS Black Prince carried out a simultaneous air burst shoot on the AA defence area of Nobara airfield.
On completion of the air burst shoot, HMS Swiftsure and HMNZS Gambia bombarded Nobara airfiel while HMS Uganda bombarded Sukama air strip.
In spite of comparatively close ranges, no form of opposition from the shore was encountered.
Around 1250/4, fire was checked and the bombarding force rejoined the carriers around 1500I/4.
In all 195 round of 14" HE, 598 round of 6" HE and 378 round of 5.25" HE had been fired.
Photographs show that the runways at Nobara and Sukuma were well hit and that all rounds from HMS Howe fell in the target area, but no photographs were obtained to show the results by HMS King George V.
A few minutes after the bombardment was commenced Vice-Admiral Rawlings received a signal from Rear-Admiral Vian that HMS Formidable had been hit and that her speed had been reduced to 18 knots. Vice-Admiral Rawlings accordingly informed the bombarding force and instructed the ships to speed up the bombardment. As signals were corrupt and the situation not quite clear Vice-Admiral Rawlings ordered the cease fire a little earlier than planned and turned the force to the southward to close the carriers at 25 knots.
As soon as the bombarding force had disengaged Rear-Admiral Vian formed the eight destroyers left with him so that two destroyers were equilly speced between each carrier and on the line joining adjacent carriers. This provided the best natural gun support and clear arcs of fire.
At about 1100I/4, three small groups of bogeys were detected to the westward, and were soon followed up by a fourth. Probably 16 to 20 enemy aircraft were employed with some acting as decoys. Fighters engaged one group working round to the southward, but one Kamikaze group penetrated to the carriers and was first detected when a plane was seen diving on the carrier force.
There were no bandits on the screen within 20 miles when at 1131I/4, a Zeke was seen diving from a great height on to HMS Formidable and engaged by gunfire. Rear-Admiral Vian manoeuvred his force under wheel at high speed by successive emergency turns. Though reported hit by close range weapons from his target, the Kamikaze crashed into the flight deck of HMS Formidable rear the island structure and started a large fire in the deck park of aircraft. Rear-Admiral Vian maoeuvred the formation to keep in close touch with the damaged ship, whose speed was temporarily reduced to 18 knots.
The Kamikaze appeared to release his bomb just before the aircraft hit the deck, causing the following damage; caualties 8 killed and 47 wounded. 1 Corsair and 10 Avengers were damaged beyond repair. All Radar, except type 277 put out of action. Both barriers were damaged, the forward one irreparable. The flight deck was holed 2 feet square, indentation 10 feet square and 2 feet deep at the centre. Armoured deck splinter passed through the hangar deck, horizontal partition between down takes, escape hatch which was shut, and so to the centre boiler room where it caused slight damage and loss of steam, and finally pierces the inner bottom.
Two minutes later, at 1133I/4, 2 enemy aircraft crashed in flames ten miles to the southward, the result of the CAP.
At 1134I/4, a Zeke flying from forward to aft off the starboard bow of HMS Indomitable was engaged by her 4.5" guns and temporarily disappeared in cloud. It soon reappeared diving at the ship as steeply as about 60° from the starboard beam. The force was turning to starboard at the time and HMS Indomitable's wheel was increased to hard over. As the plane approached it was heavily engaged by close range weapons from the ship and set on fire, it flattened out at the last moment, deck landed on the flight deck, and bounded over the side, taking the radar arrays of the port midships directions with it. The bomb appeared to explode shortly after the plane submerged.
At 1142I/4, another Zeke dived steeply on HMS Indomitable whose close range weapons and those of HMS Quality hit him hard and often. The aircraft burst into flames and crashed into the sea about 10 yards off the starboard bow of the ship.
No damage nor casualties were sustained in either of these two attacks, apart from that caused to the radar arrays.
Meanwhile the fires in HMS Formidable were soon under control, and by 1254I/4, the ship was capable of 24 knots. It was estimated that one barrier would be in action by 1600I/4 and that the flight deck hole would be patched by then.
At 1215I/4, it became necessary to turn into the wind and land on fighters, although enemy aircraft were known to be still in the vicinity. Aircraft from HMS Formidable were landed on the other carriers.
At 1220I/4, a Jill (Nakajima B6N Tenzan) was shot down by fighters from HMS Indomitable and half an hour later a Val (Aichi D3A) met the same fate by Seafires from HMS Indefatigable. By 1420I/4 the Bombarding Force was being manoeuvred close to the Carrier Force, and the Fleet reformed which was completed at 1450I/4.
As the strike programme planned for the day had been completed, and as cosiderable reorganisation was necessary with the flight deck of HMS Formidable out of action, the Fleet commenced withdrawing to the south-eastward. By 1700I/4, HMS Formidable was able to receive 13 of her Corsairs.
At about 1515I/4, Corsairs from HMS Victorious intercepted and shot down a Judy (Yokosuka D4Y Suisei) to the northward.
Although at various times during the afternoon there were enemy aircraft in the vicinity, it was not until 1720I/4, that development of another attack became evident. This was however broken up very satisfactorily by our fighters.
At 1721I/4, a Judy, believed to be the 'Gestapo' of the group, was shot down from 24000 feet to the eastward by fighters. A few minutes later Seafires from HMS Indefatigable intercepted 4 Zekes to the southwand and shot down 3 before the other escaped to the northward.
At 1732I/4, a Hellcat retuning for an emergency landing was fired on by HMS Formidable and hit. The aircraft crashed but the pilot was rescued unhurt by HMS Undaunted.
At 1820I/4, Corsairs from HMS Victorious were sent to intercept a bogey to the northward. They found and shot down a Zeke.
Durning the day a total of 14 enemy aircraft, all airborne, were destroyed. 11 by fighters, 2 shot down by gunfire and 1 which had been damaged by gunfire which completed its suicide dive on HMS Formidable. Several small vessels around the islands were damaged. Own losses totalled 15 aircraft. In combat only one Avenger was lost. 11 Avengers, 1 Seafire, 1 Hellcat, 1 Corsair were lost from other causes, these included the ones damaged beyond repair on the light deck of HMS Formidable.
5 May 1945.
As the state of affairs on HMS Formidable was not clear, the programme for the day was arrangded on the basis that the ship would keep 8 fighters at readiness to reinforce the CAP if required. At 0420I/5, the ship reported that repairs to her centre boiler room were complete and that full speed was available.
At 0545I/5, the first CAP was flown off from position 23°10'N, 125°29'E.
Runways on Miyako and Ishigaki were well bombed again, and all of them left unserviceable by the end of the day. A CAP was maintained over each island.
Three operational aircraft were found on the ground and destroyer and a petrol dump was left blazing. It was noteworthy that no flack at all was encountered over Miyako and it is hoped that the previous day's bombardment was responsable for this at least temporary change for the airmen.
A high snooper was detected at about 0730I/5 and a long chase of 300 miles followed. This eventually finished at 0920I/5 when Corsairs from HMS Formidable, but operating from HMS Victorious, splashed the Zeke 80 miles from the Fleet and from 30000 feet.
During the day 2 Avengers escorted by fighters were sent to Keramo Retto with press material and Cdr. A. Kimmins, RN.
Enemy losses were 4 aircraft destroyed, 1 in the air and 3 on the ground. Also 2 aircraft were thought to have been damaged on the ground. Own losses were 1 Corsair and 2 Seafires.
At 1905I/5, the Fleet withdew and set course for area Cootie.
6 May 1945.
At 0640I/6, Task Force 57 made rendezvous in area Cootie the Fleet Train made up of the tankers Wave King (8159 GRT, built 1944), Wave Monarch (8159 GRT, built 1944), Cedardale (8132 GRT, built 1939), San Ambrosio (7410 GRT, built 1935) and San Adolpho (7365 GRT, built 1935). Also present were the escort carriers HMS Ruler (Capt. H.P. Currey, OBE, RN) (for fighter protection of the Fleet Train) and HMS Striker (Capt. W.P. Carne, RN) (with replacement aircraft for Task Force 57). The Fleet Train was escorted by the destroyers HMAS Napier (Capt. H.J. Buchanan, DSO, RAN), HMAS Nepal (Lt.Cdr. C.J. Stephenson, RAN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. J. Plunkett-Cole, RAN), sloops HMS Crane, HMS Pheasant (Lt.Cdr. J.B. Palmer, RN), HMS Whimbrel and the frigate HMS Avon.
HMAS Napier joined Task Force 57 to replace HMS Kempenfelt which had reported defects.
Casualties from HMS Formidable were transferred to HMS Striker who in company with HMS Kempenfelt, took departure at 1915I/6 for Leyte.
At 1534I/6, CAP aircraft were sent to investigate a surface radar contact to the north-eastward and identified a north bound US armed merchant vessel in company with a US hospital ship.
At 1845I/6, the Fleet detached from the tanker group for the night.
During the refuelling period of Task Force 57, US Task Group 52.1 covered Sakishima.
7 May 1945.
At 0615I/7, fuelling recommenced.
By 1400I/7, fuelling and exchange of stores, mail and correspondence were completed, when the Fleet disengaged from the tankers.
HMAS Norman was ordered to escort the tankers Wave King and Wave Monarch to Leyte, and HMS Whimbrel and HMS Avon similarly escorted Cedardale, San Ambrosio and San Adolpho.
During the last two days HMS Formidable was busy making good bomb damage and in the end became fully operational again.
At 1400I/7, Task Force 57 took departure to return to the operations area.
8 May 1945.
The plan for the day was to bomb Miyako and Ishigaki, to maintain the usual island CAP's, and also to bombard Ishigaki runways and AA positions with the battleships and 6" cruisers. The carrier squadron, supported by both 5.25" cruisers and 8 destroyers were to close Ishigaki behind the bombarding force until such time as land echoes would just not interfere with air warning.
The weather deteriorated during the night, and at 0400I/8 the forecast gave no hope of improvenemt, the pan to bombard was cancelled in favour of one to carry out four bomber strikes following previous patterns.
At 0600I/8, CAP's for the islands and the Fleet were flown off in position 22°53'N, 125°40'E. The weather was overcast and raining at the time, and the island CAP's soon reported similar conditions with the islands difficult to locate. The first strike was therefore cancelled. It was decided to remain in the operating area to await better weather, but at 1015I/8 the island CAP's reported no improvement and rthe meteorological chart showed Formosa to be shut down by similar weather.
Since it was thus evident that Sakishima could be of no use to the enemy in such conditions, at 1050I/8 the Fleet withdrew to the south-eastward, maintaining a reduced CAP.
Although the weather forecast for the following day promised deterioration rather then improvement, Vice-Admiral Rawlings imformed the Commander 5th Fleet of the withdrawal due to weather and that he intended to strike on 9 and 10 May. Plans for a bombardment on 9 May were abandoned. At 1805I/8, just after the last CAP for the day had been flown off, visibility shut down completely with continuous heavy rain. Course was shaped to the westward in search of better weather. It was with difficulty that fighters were vectored back to the Fleet and searchlights were burned to aid them. At 1905I/8, the fighters at sea level, having sighted the searchlights, reached the Fleet and were flown on.
9 May 1945.
The weather, although showery, was much improved and continued to do so during the day. At 0545I/9, the CAP's were flown off in position 23°06'N, 126°00'E. Weather over the targets was reported as sitisfactory. All runways at Hirara were reported as serviceable.
Four bomber strikes were flown off during the day, two to each island, the first being launched at 0830I/9 in position 23°40'N, 125°34'E. All runways were recratered and a direct hit was scored on one aircraft on the ground at Miyako. A motor transport park at Ishigaki was attacked, three vehicles being destroyed for certain.
Low flying fighters discovered a Val hidden in a cave. Firing through the entance to the cave they destroyed the enemy in flames.
At 1145I/9, the Fleet was sighted by a bogey which approached within 30 miles. Fighters drove it off but were unable to catch it.
At 1645I/9, bogeys were detected very low 22 miles to the westward, coming in fast. Four Seafires intercepted at 15 miles, but allowed themselves to be all decoyed away by one aircraft which they shot down. Meanwhile four other enemy planes evaded another division of Seafires and after climbing to about 3000 feet penetrated to the Fleet.
From 1650I/9, onwards the Fleet was redically manoeuvred by emergency turns at 22 knots. One minute after such a turn of 60° to starboard was executed, a suicider made a 10° angle dive onto HMS Victorious from her starboard quarter. The emeny was well hit by close range weapons but crashed onto the flight deck near the forward lift. The resulting fire was quickly brought under control but the bomb explosion holed the flight deck, put the accelerator out of action, rendered one 4.5" gun unserviceable, and damaged one lift hoisting motor.
At 1656I/9, another Kamikaze made a shallow power glide from astern on HMS Victorious. Though hit hard by gunfire, and well on fire, it hit the flight deck aft a glancing blow, and burning furiously passed over the side. Damage to the ship was confined to one arrester unit out of action, a 40mm gun director destroyer, and four Corsairs on deck damaged beyond repair.
Casualties from both these attacks were 3 killed, 4 seriously injured and 15 wounded.
At 1657I/9, a third suicider made a pass at HMS Victorious but then shifted target to HMS Howe furher ahead, and approached her from the starboard quarter in a long shallow dive. This time the attacker was hit at a more reasonable range, and continued to be so until he crashed in flames 100 yards from HMS Howe after passing over the quarterdeck.
At 1705I/9, a fourth Kamikaze approached HMS Formidable and then HMS Indomitable, being engaged by both ships without apparent result. It then turned and dived into the after deck park of HMS Formidable. There was a large explosion and fire and a great deal of smoke. Speed was reduced to 15 knots to aid control of the fire which was extinguished at 1720I/9. Six Corsairs and one Avenger were destroyed by fire on deck. The explosion blew out a flight deck rivet and thus allowed buring petrol to fall into the hanger which had to be strayed. As a result three further Avengers and eight Corsairs were damaged. The total replacement required were therefore four Avengers and fourteen Corsairs. Casualties were fortunately light, one killed and a few injured.
At 1755I/9, HMS Formidable reported being fit to land on aircraft and that during the engagement she had definately shot down one enemy by gunfire.
The state of the Carrier Squadron was as follows; HMS Formidable and HMS Victorious could operate, but the former had only four bombers and eleven fighters serviceable and had two Pom Poms mountings out of action. HMS Victorious could operate a few aircraft at a time, but the damage to her lift seriously reduced her speed of handling. In the circumstances Vice-Admiral Rawlings concurred with Vice-Admiral (promoted on the 8th) Vian's suggestion that the Fleet should withdraw to fuel, sort out and made good the damage, etc, and then return to strike on 12 and 13 May. The commander 5th Fleet was informed of this intention and at 1950I/9 the Fleet set course for area Cootie.
During the day 8 enemy aircraft were destroyed, 2 on the ground, 3 by suicide, 2 by gunfire and 1 by fighters. Also on the ground 1 was probably destroyed and 1 probably damaged. Own losses were 1 Corsair lost in combat and by bomb damage, 10 Corsairs destroyed, 7 Corsairs and 1 Avenger damaged, probably beyond repair. Several small craft near Ishigaki suicide boat base were damaged, and one was sunk.
10 May 1945.
At 0610I/10, Task Force 57 made rendezvous with the tanker group consisting of the escort carriers HMS Speaker (A/Capt. U.H.R. James, RN) (with replacement aircraft), tankers Arndale (8296 GRT, built 1937), Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941), Aase Maersk (6184 GRT, built 1930) and San Amado (7316 GRT, built 1935) and tug HMS Weazel. They were escorted by the escort carrier HMS Ruler (for CAP and A/S services), destroyer HMAS Nepal, sloops HMS Crane, HMS Pheasant, HMS Woodcock (A/Lt.Cdr. S.J. Parsons, DSC, RN) and the minesweepers/corvettes HMAS Ballarat (Cdr. F.B. Morris, RAN) and HMAS Whyalla (A/Cdr. N.R. Read, RAN).
The usual fuelling, exchange of mail and stores as well as the replenishment of aircraft continued throughout the day. Vice-Admiral Vian visited HMS Formidable and HMS Victorious to inspect the damage and found that temporary repairs being carried out showed that both ships would be sufficiently operational to continue the programme of strikes. Vice-Admiral Vian and Rear-Admiral Brind also visited Vice-Admiral Rawlings for discussions on the operation stratigy.
At 1915I/10 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night.
11 May 1945.
At 0640I/11, the Tanker Group was met again and resupply was completed at 1640I/11. HMS Kempenfelt rejoined the Fleet having made repairs at Leyte. HMAS Nepal also joined the Fleet.
HMS Speaker parted company in the afternoon to return to Leyte. She was escorted by HMS Queenborough which had developed shaft vibration and was to return to Leyte for repairs. Also returning to Leyte were the tankers Aase Maersk and San Amado escorted by HMAS Ballarat and HMAS Whyalla.
American Task Unit 52.1.3 covered Sakishima during 10 and 11 May and reported the result of their neutralising operations there.
12 May 1945.
At 0520I/12, four counter Kamikaze destroyers took station one close astern of each of the four carriers.
The radar pickets, HMS Swiftsure and HMS Kempenfelt and HMCS Uganda and HMS Wessex were stationed 315° and 225° respectively from the Fleet centre. This were measurements taken against the Kamikaze threat.
In overcast weather the Fleet and Island CAP's and the first bomber strike were flown off at 0540I/12, twelve minutes before sunrise, from position 23°40'N, 126°51'E.
Four bomber strikes were flown off during the day. One attacked Ishigaki and three Miyako. A second strike on Ishigaki had been planned but had to be cancelled owing to weather conditions. At Ishigaki and Myara runways were found to be serviceable, were again put out of action and AA and dispersal areas were straffed. No new aircraft nor activity were found. The Squadron Leader of 1844 Squadron was unfortunately lost in his Hellcat to AA fire when bombing AA positions.
At Miyako, one runway at Hirara and both at Nobara were found to be serviceable. By the end of the first strike this position was reversed, and subsequent strikes attacked AA positions and installations. A large oil fire was started, a direct hit made on a 4" AA battery, Hirara barracks hit, and three aircraft found on the ground were probably damaged.
An Avenger with engine trouble ditched 75 miles west of the Fleet at 0805I/12. The submarine USS Bluefish proceeded to the position and at 1515I/12 rescued the crew. A CAP of four Corsairs was sent to cover the submarine.
At 0937I/12, another Avenger was forced to ditch, giving a position 100 miles in error from the actual position. The helio flashing of the crew at 1540I/12 was fortunately seen by Fireflies returning to the Fleet, and HMS Kempenfelt was led to the spot and rescued them.
No enemy aircraft were airborne in the vicinity of the Fleet or islands during the day.
At 1915I/12 the radar pickets rejoined. At 1930I/12 the dusk CAP was landed on an the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night.
The score for the day was, 3 enemy aircraft probably damaged on the ground. 65.5 tons of bombs and 32 rockets were directed at targets. A 200 ton coaster was claimed to have been damaged. Own losses were 1 Hellcat, 2 Avengers, 1 Corsair and 1 Seafire.
13 May 1945.
Radar pickets and counter Kamikaze destroyers were stationed and at 0540I/13, Fleet and island CAP's were flown off in position 24°20'N, 126°55'E in fine weather.
The island CAP's reported that Ishigaki runwatts were again serviceable and a thin strip of Miyara runway had been repaired. At Miyako one runway at Hirara and both at Nobara had been made possibly serviceable.
Four bomber strikes were flown during the day, three to Miyako and one to Ishigaki.
At Miyako all runways were left unserviceable, a barracks was straffed, 8 barges were hit, and 3 major oil fires started.
The position of a new, revetted dispersal area discovered at Hirara was reported to the Commander 5th Fleet and other interested US Authorities.
At Ishigaki camouflaged buildings and storage dumps were hit, as were two radio stations one of which was left in flames.
At 0948I/13, a possible S/M contact was obtained close to the Fleet in position 24°20'N, 126°48'E. Three destroyers were detached with a CAP of 4 Corsairs.
At 1203I/13, a possible contact was attacked with depth charges and 2 Avengers were flown off for Fleet ASP and another armed with depth charges was sent to assist the hunt. The possible contact was later reported as stationary, and although the hunt was continued throughout the afternoon no submarine contact was found, nor is it afterwards considered that a submarine was ever present.
An Avenger returning to land on HMS Formidable was unable to lower flaps and one wheel. As it was undesirable to risk damage to the only remaining barrier in HMS Formidable the aircraft was ordered to land on HMS Indomitable. This the pilot did with skipp and judgement and with very minor damage to his aircraft.
Again there was no enemy air activity near the Fleet or islands.
At 1920I/13 the dusk CAP was landed on and the Fleet withdrew to fuel in area Cootie.
The score for the day was no enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged. 62.25 tons of bombs were dropped on targets as well as 34 rockets. 9 camouflaged barges and a few small craft were damaged. One own Seafire was lost.
14 May 1945.
At 0630I/14, in area Cootie the RFA tankers Arndale, Dingledale and tug HMS Weazel were met and fuelling commenced. These two tankers were escorted by HMS Ruler, HMS Crane, HMS Pheasant and HMS Woodcock
The incoming Tanker Group was late at the rendezvous. They were found by search aircraft from the CAP and directed to the Fleet and consisted of the RFA tankers Wave King and Wave Monarch as well as HMS Striker with replacement aircraft. They were escorted by the destroyer HMAS Nizam (A/Lt.Cdr. W.F. Cook, RAN). They were in station at 1100I/14.
Fourty tons of bombs were transferred by HMS Black Prince from HMS Formidable to HMS Indefatigable. This was necessary because the dimensions of American boms supplied to the ships at Leyte had prevented the full number required being stowed in HMS Indefatigable.
During the forenoon, search aircraft were sent to direct the hospital ship Tjitjalenka (Dutch, 10972 GRT, built 1939) to the Fleet. This ship had been sent as requisted by Vice-Admiral Rawlings to remain at call within 30 miles of a position 85 miles to the eastward of the normal dawn position of the Fleet in the fuelling area. Casualties by now fit to be moved were transferred to the hospital ship by destroyer in the afternoon.
During the day Sakishima was covered by US Task Unit 52.1.3.
At 1910I/14, the Fleet disengaged from the tanker group for the night.
15 May 1945.
The Fleet reformed on the Tanker Group at 0630I/15 and fuelling and exchange of stores, aircraft and correspondence was continued. This was completed at 1700I/15.
Two destroyers joined Task Force 57, these were HMS Troubridge (Capt. G.F. Burghard, RN) and HMS Tenacious (Lt.Cdr. D.F. Townsend, RN). HMAS Nepal from the Tanker Force also joined Task Force 57. HMS Grenville then joined the Tanker Group.
In the afternoon HMS Striker was detached to Leyte escorted by HMAS Napier. As were the Wave King and Wave Monarch escorted by HMAS Nizam and the Arndale and Dingledale escorted by HMS Pheasant and HMS Woodcock.
It had been hoped that HMAS Nizam would join Task Force 57 for the next two strike periods, but she was not fit for operations owing to a small number of cases of Ingantile Paralysis, for which she remained in quarantine.
American Task Unit 52.1.3 again covered Sakishima on this day.
16 May 1945.
At 0510I/16, radar pickets were sent out and counter Kamikaze destroyers closed their carriers to take up their stations behind each of the four carriers.
At 0540I/16, in position 23°40'N, 126°51'E the Fleet and island CAP's and the first bomber strike for Miyako were flown off.
Five bomber strikes were sent to the islands during the day. Three to Miyako and two to Ishigaki. As the result of these and the efforts of the CAP's, all runways were made unserviceable. Four new aircraft which appeared operational were straffed but did not burn, three others were damaged. Ten small craft of various classes were damaged and four of the were left in a sinking condition. Four lorry loads of Japanese troops were exterminated. A large explosion was caused in Ohama town. Five direct hits with SAP bombs were made on a large cave shelter.
Several of the British planes were damaged by flak. One Avenger taking off from HMS Formidable ditched, HMS Quality rescued the crew one of whom was injured. A Corsair from HMS Victorious developed engine trouble at 20000 feet and was forced to ditch near the fleet. HMS Tenacious rescued the pilot.
At 1735I/16, a Corsair from HMS Victorious ditched 3 miles from Miyako. The lifeguard submarine USS Bluefish was informed and made another skilful rescue by picking up this pilot during the night. An aircraft carried out a search for this pilot the next morning as Vice-Admiral Vian had been unaware of the rescue.
Owing to the shortage of bombs in the foward area, bombers strikes were partly armed with SAP bombs to conserve other types. The Rear-Admiral commanding the Fleet Train had been requised to sent two transports with 2000 bombs to the fuelling area, but this signal had been delayed in transit. The Rear-Admiral answered that only one transport with 477 bombs could be sent as this was all that were available.
The dusk CAP landed on at 1935I/16 and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. No enemy had been airborne in the vicinity during the day.
A total of 7 enemy aircraft had been damaged on the ground. 77.25 tons of bombs and 112 rockets were expended on targets. 2 suicide type boats were sunk, 2 small craft were probably sunk, and a large numer of assorted types of barge and small craft were damaged several being left in flames. Own losses were 3 Corsairs, 1 Avenger and 1 Seafire.
17 May 1945.
At 0510I/17, the usual picket and counter kamikaze destroyers were stationed. The day broke with very light winds of one one or two knots a state of affairs which persisted and proved a handicap throughout the day. The state of boiler brickwork in several ships, and the defective centre stern tube bush in HMS Indomitable made high speeds most undesirable. Without high speed, little safety margin was left for operating aircraft.
At 0540I/17, the Fleet and island CAP's were flown off from a position 85 miles 110° from Miyako. It had been planned to send in four bomber strikes, two to each island, but the second strike to Ishigaki was cencelled owing to damage to HMS Victorious barriers by deck crashes, and the very light winds accentuating the defective stern bush in HMS Indomitable. All airfields were left unserviceable except Myara which may not have been sufficiently cratered. Ohama and Hirara towns were bombed, and barges and small craft were well straffed. A number of Japanese soldiers were discovered, and taken 'care' off.
At 0742I/17, a Corsair making an emergency landing on HMS Victorious remover two arrester wires, crashed through both barriers, burst into flames and passed over the side. On its way it seriously damaged two Corsairs and an Avenger in the deck park. One officer and one rating were mortally injured, two ratings seriously injured and two others slighty hurt.
HMS Victorious reported that 2 jury barriers would be rigged but that it would take some time to do so. It became necessary therefore to distribute the ship's airborne aircraft to other carriers.
At 1145I/17, HMS Victorious reported that the two jury barriers were ready, and arrangements were therefore made to land on her aircraft. Though the first landed on safely, the second aircraft bounced om the gap left by the removal of the 2 arrester wires and demolished one of the jury barriers. The second jury barrier was remover 2 hours later by a similar cause.
As a result 20 aircraft from the ship had to be accomodated in other carriers, causing congestion and offering three attractive targets of dock parked aircraft to any Kamikaze. Fortunately enemy aircraft were conspicuous by their absence throughout the day.
At 1200I/17, a Hellcat from HMS Indomitable was ordered to bale out just ahead of the Fleet as the pilot was unable to release an armed bomb. The pilot was picked up by HMS Troubridge.
At 1715I/17, HMS Victorious had once again rigged jury barriers and was able to accept some of her aircraft from other carriers.
CAP's were maintained until 1915I/17, when radar pickets were recalled and the Fleet withdrew to area Cootie to fuel.
No enemy aircraft were destroyed on this day. 56 tons of bombs and 30 rockets were expended on targets. Many barges a and small craft were damaged and several were left burning. Own losses were 2 Corsairs, 1 Hellcat, 1 Avenger and 1 Seafire.
18 May 1945.
At 0545I/18, the Fleet Train was met in area Cootie. It was made up of the escort carrier HMS Chaser (Capt. R.G. Poole, RN) (with replacement aircraft) and the RFA tankers Cedardale, San Ambrosio and San Adolpho. Tug HMS Weazel was still present. Escort was provided by the escort carrier HMS Ruler (for CAP and ASP purposes), destroyers HMS Grenville, HMAS Norman, sloops HMS Crane, HMS Whimbrel, frigate HMS Parrett (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) T. Hood, RNR) and the minesweeper/corvette HMAS Bendigo (Lt. W. Jackson, RANVR). After forming up fuellinh and exchange of aircraft and stores commenced.
HMS Black Prince transferred bombs from HMS Formidable to HMS Indefatigable.
At 1103I/18, HMS Formidable was observed to be on fire, caused by a Corsair in the hangar accidentally firing her guns into an Avenger, the latter exploded. Fighting this serious fire was difficult by the fact that the fire curtains were out of action due to earlier enemy suicide attacks. It was extinguished by drenching the hangar, but at a cost of 7 Avengers and 21 Corsairs in coditions varying from complete loss to flyable duds. By the evening the Commanding Officer reported tht he consudered his ship capable of operating this jury lighting in the hangar. Arrangements were therefore made to replace her damaged aircraft as far as possible, and for the ship to continue operations at any rate for the next strike period. As the repaired barriers in HMS Victorious could not be guaranteed to to stand up to further barrier crashes or enemy damage the availability of HMS Formidable's flight deck was an important factor, and in any case, it would only lower her morale were she unable to continue in the Fleet.
Owing to very light winds, HMS Ruler was unable to fly off aircraft until the afternoon. At 1800I/18, the Tanker Group reversed course to enable them to rendezvous with the ammunition ship Robert Maersk (2290 GRT, built 1937) expected in position Cootie One at 0600I/19. Meanwhile the transfer of bombs by HMS Black Prince continued on until dark. HMS Whimbrel was detached with mails to Leyte.
In the meantime US Task Group 52.1 covered Sakishima.
19 May 1945.
At 0645I/19, the Fleet again formed on the Tanker Group which now indeed included the Robert Maersk with supplies of bombs. She had been escorted from Leyte by the minesweeper/corvette HMAS Cairns (T/Lt. N.G. Weber, RANR(S)). The transfer of bombs, fuel and stores was continued. HMS Victorious and later HMS Indomitable went alongside the Robert Maersk and embarked bombs by whip and inhaul method. The rate of transfer being about 75 bombs an hour.
Continous rain and low visibility in the afternoon prevented flying seriously upset the numbers of replenishment aircraft to be flown in to HMS Formidable and the flyable duds which were to be flown from her to HMS Chaser.
Hospital ship Tjitjalenka was contacted by aircraft and directed to the Fleet. She then embarked a few sick and casualties.
HMAS Norman joined Task Force 57 replacing HMAS Nepal
At 1800I/19, the tankers Cedardale, San Adolpho and San Ambrosio were detached to proceed to Manus escorted by HMAS Bendigo and HMAS Cairns. HMS Parrett was with them until dusk on 21 May when she was to detach to proceed to Leyte.
At 1930I/19, HMS Nepal was detached to proceed direct to Leyte. The Fleet also took departure for the operations area to take over from US Task Force 52.1 which was still in the area.
20 May 1945.
The flying off position for the day was to be 23°39'N, 126°40'E. First light was at 0548I/20 when clouds were low but the horizon was clear.
At 0500I/20, the four counter Kamikaze destroyers left the screen to take up their positions behind the four carriers.
At 0515I/20, the Fleet ran into dense fog and at 0524I/20, HMS Quilliam, endeavouring to form astern of HMS Indomitable, collided with her. Fortunately no casualties were sustained, but superficial above water damage was caused to HMS Indomitable and serious damage to the bow of HMS Quilliam. As soon as the damaged destroyer was clear of the screen, HMAS Norman was ordered to take her in tow. At 0615I/20, HMS Black Prince was sent to stand by both ships and escort them to area Cootie. The tug HMS Weazel was ordered to tow and HMS Ruler was ordered to provide air cover. HMAS Norman experienced considerable difficulty in towing HMS Quilliam stern first, as the wrecked bow hanging in the water acted as a formidable hard over rudder. By 1300I/20, HMS Black Prince had taken over the tow, but the same difficulty restricting the towing speed to 3 and later to 5.5 knots.
As the weather remained unsuitable for flying the Fleet was manoeuvred until 0745I/20 so as to cover the damaged destroyer.
At 1210I/20, two bogeys were detected 50 miles to the westward tracking 040°. Fighters sent to intercept found both aircraft to be friendly bombers. Neither was showing IFF and no information on their presence nor mission was known.
At 1000I/20, A Corsair of HMS Victorious, heavily hit by flak, was reported to have ditched. Fellow Corsairs searched without success for the pilot which they consider could not have survived. At 1529I/20, a Corsair ditched on taking off from HMS Formidable. The pilot was recovered unhurt by her attendant destroyer.
At 1845I/20, the usual radar pickets were recalled and by 1900I/20 all capts had landed on. The Fleet then withdrew to the southward for the night.
At 2100I/20, the Fleet passed close to HMS Black Prince which reported that HMS Quilliam was satisfactory in tow.
No enemy aircraft were destroyed on this day. 1 Junk and 3 barges were damaged. Own losses were 2 Corsairs, 1 Hellcat and a Seafire.
21 May 1945.
Flying off had been planned for 0540I/21 from a position 85 miles 110° from Miyako. The weather at dawn was similar to the previous day except that the Fleet was clear of fog patches. Flying off was therefore postponed. Four Hellcats were flown off at 0600I/21 to investigate the weather within a 30 miles radius. They reported clear weather to the Northward. Acting on this information the first strike was flown off at 0655I/21.
Five bomber strikes were sent in three to Miyako and two to Ishigaki.
Strikes for Miyako were flown off at 0655I/21, 1210I/21 and 1610I/21. Nobara and Hirara runways were well plastered with bombs. Two fires were started in the warehouse area of Hirara town, and a radio weather station was hit. A tented camp was straffed.
The Ishigaki strikes took off at 0855I/21 and 1440I/21. Both runways at Ishigaki airfield were left unserviceable and Myara airfield was also hit. Low cloud made bombing difficult at both islands.
At 1423I/21, a high snooper was detected approaching the Fleet from the westward. Fighters were ordered to 30000 feet and at 1442I/21 intercepted 36 miles to the southwestward at 26000 feet. The enemy, a Myrt (Nakajima C6N), was shot down 4 minutes later by Hellcats from HMS Indomitable.
The total of the day was one airborne enemy aircraft was shot down and several barges damaged. A total of 55.25 tons of bombs plus 95 rockets had been dropped / fired at targets. Own losses were 1 Avenger and 2 Seafires.
22 May 1945.
At 0700I/22, in position Cootie One the following ships were met; a) tug HMS Weazel towing the damaged destroyer HMS Quilliam and escorted by the escort carrier HMS Ruler (for CAP and A/S patrol purposes, light cruiser HMS Black Prince and the destroyers HMS Grenville and HMAS Norman. b) Escort carriers HMS Chaser, HMS Speaker (with replacement aircraft), RFA tankers Wave King, Wave Monarch, Aase Maersk, San Amado, ammunition ship Robert Maersk. They were escorted by the destroyer HMAS Napier, sloop HMS Crane and the frigates HMS Avon and HMS Findhorn (T/A/Lt.Cdr. J.P. Burnett, RNVR).
Also HMS Grenville rejoined Task Force 57 being substituted by HMS Wessex.
Fuelling, exchange of aircraft, stores and bombs were carried out throughout the day.
After receiving mails and and discharging excess complement, the damaged HMS Quilliam proceeded in tow of HMS Weazel to Leyte. HMAS Norman acted as escort. The American tug USS Turkey was sent out from Leyte to assist. They arrived at Leyte on 28 May 1945.
At 1800I/22, HMS Formidable was detached to proceed to Manus and then on to Sydney. She was escorted by HMS Kempenfelt and HMS Whirlwind which were both due for refit.
During the refuelling period Task Force 57 was replaced in the Sakishima area by the American Task Unit 52.1.3.
At 1915I/22, Task Force 57 disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night.
23 May 1945.
At 0745I/23, Task Force 57 reformed on the Tanker Group and fuelling and exchange of stores were continued.
The newly arrived light cruiser HMNZS Achilles (Capt. F.J. Butler, MBE, RN) joined Task Force 57.
During the day 2 Hellcats from HMS Chaser crashed into the sea. Neither pilot was recovered.
At 1800I/23, HMS Chaser, HMS Speaker were detached to proceed to Manus escorted by HMAS Napier.
At 1815I/23, the Fleet detached from the Tanker Group taking departure for the operations area with only 3 carriers in company now.
24 May 1945.
In view of the absence of HMS Formidable it was planned to send in only 4 strikes each day, the first to be flown off 2 hours later then normal so as to provide late afternoon strikes as desired by the Commander Task Force 51.
At dawn visibility was low, the sky overcast with rain and drizzle. Flying off was postponed. At 0900I/24, four fighters flown off reported weather improving slowly in the vicinity and at 1000I/24 it was decided to make 3 strikes during the day. The flying off position being 23°40'N, 126°52'E.
Strikes on Miyako were flown off at 1045I/24 and 1515I/24. Nobara runways were left unserviceable and Hirara runways were also hit. Hirara town and Hishibara were hit by 12 and 4 bombs respectively. A radio station was rocketed, as were camouflaged buildings in the wooded area near Hirara where on large explosion was observed.
The Ishigaki strike took off at 1245I/24. All runways at Ishigaki airfield were left unserviceable. Three hits with 1600lb bombs were observed on a suspected aircraft storage in a low cliff on the north side of Ishigaki east-west runway. The CAP over Ishigaki found on the ground and probably damaged 2 aircraft believed to be operational.
After a day with no enemy air activity om the vicinity the last CAP was landed on at 1907I/24 and radar pickets were recalled. The Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night.
Total total for the day was 2 enemy aircraft probably damaged on the ground. A total of 31 tons of bombs and 40 rockets were fired at targets. No own aircraft were lost on this day.
25 May 1945.
At dawn weather was very much like the previous day, however it soon cleared and the first strike was able to be flown off at 0600I/25 in position 23°40'N, 126°52'E.
Three strikes were sent to Miyako, flying off at 0600I/25, 1115I/25 and 1400I/25. Results of the last strike could not be observed owing to low cloud. 26 hits were observed on Nobara runways which were left unserviceable and 14 hits were made on Hirara runways. The amphibious tank bases, a barracks and barges at Osaki were attacked. A fire was started at Sukama town and the suicide boat base was rocketed.
At Ishigaki 8 bomb hits were made on each of the main Ishigaki and Miyara airfield runways.
It was observed tat progress was being made in levelling a new airstrip near Hegina airfield. Details of this strip were forwarded to the American authorities concerned.
The returning strike from Ishigaki made contact with HMS Bluefish which reported that during the previous night lights had been observed on Ishigaki airfield. The Commanding Officer of the submarine therefore had bombarded the airfield.
At about 1700I/25, a Corsair returning to the Fleet ditched near her carrier. The pilot was picked up by her attendent destroyer.
There was no enemy air activity in the vicinity all day. All aircraft were flown on by 1910I/25 and the Fleet withdrew for the night.
At 2200I/25, Vice-Admiral Rawlings in HMS King George V parted company to proceed to Guam escorted by HMS Troubridge, HMS Tenacious and HMS Termagent. They arrived at Guam in the morning of May 28th.
24 Jun 1945
HMS Voracious (Lt. D.R. Wilson, DSC, RANVR) conducted A/S exercises off Brisbane with HMAS Maryborough (Lt.Cdr. (Emgy.) M.W. Lancaster, RAN), HMAS Bendigo (Lt. W. Jackson, RANVR), HMAS Kalgoorlie (T/Lt.Cdr. John Smyth McBryde, RANR(S)) and another vessel [unable to read the name in the log of HMS Voracious]. (2)
- ADM 234/368
- ADM 173/20343
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.