HMAS Cairns (J 183)
Minesweeper of the Bathurst class
|Navy||The Royal Australian Navy|
|Built by||Walkers Ltd. (Maryborough, Queensland, Australia)|
|Ordered||24 Sep 1940|
|Laid down||31 Mar 1941|
|Launched||5 Jul 1941|
|Commissioned||11 May 1942|
|End service||17 Jan 1946|
Decommissioned and transferred to the Dutch Navy on 17 January 1946 being renamed Ambon.
Commands listed for HMAS Cairns (J 183)
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|1||T/Lt. Edward MacMillan, RANR(S)||20 Apr 1942||15 Dec 1943|
|2||T/Lt. Frank Willshaw Roberts, RANR(S)||16 Dec 1943||18 Jun 1944|
|3||T/Lt. Norman Grant Weber, RANR(S)||19 Jun 1944||5 Aug 1945|
|4||Lt. Christopher Mervyn Callow, RANVR||6 Aug 1945||10 Sep 1945|
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Notable events involving Cairns include:
26 Jan 1945
Ships belonging to the Fleet Train of the British Pacific Fleet departed Trincomalee for Fremantle. These were the destroyer deport ship Tyne (Capt. S. Boucher, RN), repairs ships HMS Resource (Capt.(Retd.) D.B. O’Connell, RN), Artifex (A/Capt.(Retd.) C.C. Flemming, RN) and the target ship HMS Lewes (T/Lt. M.H. Grylls, SANF(V)). The tanker Battle Rock (American, 10448 GRT, built 1944) was also in company with these ships.
Escort was provided by the heavy cruiser London and the minesweepers HMAS Cairns (T/Lt. N.G. Weber, RANR(S)), HMAS Cessnock (Lt. A.G. Chapman, RANR(S)), HMAS Gawler (Lt.Cdr. J.H.P. Dixon, RANR(S)), HMAS Geraldton (Cdr. J.K. Walton, RAN), HMAS Ipswich (T/Lt. R.H. Creasey, RANR(S)), HMAS Tamworth (T/Lt. D.B. Lloyd-Jones, RANR(S)) and HMAS Wollongong (T/Lt. J. Hare, RANR(S)).
They arrived at Fremantle on 9 February 1945. (2)
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.
- File 2.12.03.6050 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
- ADM 199/1457
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.