Lorengau; Manus, Admiralty Islands.
Function: Store depot and communications centre
Captain M. H. Evelegh Feb 45 (N.O.I.C.)
US Navy Receiving Base, Lorengau, Manus, in November 1944
When the British Pacific Fleet arrived in Australia plans were made for an Intermediate Base to be established in the Admiralties, at Manus. Captain H. F. Waight, OBE (Senior British Naval Officer, Manus) arrived in the Admiralty Islands on February 16th 1945, having flown into Momote airfield from Sydney. A British Naval Camp was prepared by American ratings on a high ridge overlooking Lorengau harbour, on the N.E. Coast of Manus Island, three miles from the main U.S. base. The camp was ready for occupation by the time the personnel and stores arrived, by sea, on February 26th aboard the S.S. CITY OF PARIS. She was unloaded alongside one of the two large jetties in the arbour capable of berthing Liberty Ships. All stores and equipment were moved inland with American assistance. Captain M. H. Evelegh was appointed as Naval Officer I Charge, Intermediate Base, on February 28th; at this point the Naval Party had no transport of its own and would depend completely on American help and equipment for many months. Accommodation was in Quonset huts in the British Camp but messing was shared with the Americans. Captain Waight was accommodated in the American Commodore's Mess.
Four days after the ‘Intermediate Base’ was established the Fleet train, under the command of Rear Admiral Fisher in HMS LOTHIAN arrived at Seeadler Harbour on March 2,. On March 7, the British Pacific Fleet arrived, under the command of Vice-Admiral Rawlings, consisting of two battleships, H.M.S. KING GEORGE V (flag of Vice-Admiral Rawlings) and the fleet carriers H.M.S. INDOMITABLE (flag of Vice-Admiral Vian), INDEFATIGABLE, ILLUSTRIOUS and VICTORIOUS. Cruisers H.M.S. SWIFTSURE (flag of Rear Admiral Brind), EURYALIS, BLACK PRINCE, ARGONAUT, GAMBIA, and a number of destroyers, under the command of Rear-Admiral Edelston.
After senior officers for the RN and USN met aboard KING GEORGE V many American facilities were made available for access by the British Pacific Fleet, including Oiling, watering and berthing facilities, the use of shore based training bases and live firing ranges and the Rest & Recreation centre on Pityilu Island, for the big ships, and another on Rara Island, for destroyers.
The warships of the BPF, now Task Force No. 57, sailed for Ulithi Atoll, some 900 miles north of Manus, on March 18th, while elements of the Fleet Train, designated Task Force 112 sailed the following day for Leyte Gulf. During this period the British naval party had mainly acted as liaisons between the fleet and the staff of the US Base, in the coming months they were to establish several key parts of the BPF intermediate base infrastructure.
A fleet mail section was established under Lt. W. Burgess, RNVR,, a G.P.O. expert in civil life, he was given the title of 'Fleet Mail Officer'. A large area of the American Mail Office was taken over and organised to deal with the large quantities of letters and parcels arriving by air from Sydney. These were rapidly sorted and dispatched forward to the combat zone by American aircraft. Agreement was reached to set up a British naval air office at Momote, a large American airfield situated about 15 miles east of the main base at Lorengau. Lt. Coles, RNVR was appointed as British Air Liaison Officer, and he was provided with access to two huts for the receipt of stores, and mails of onward dispatch, part of a hangar for servicing and minor repairs and to accommodation for British officers and ratings en route to the ships in the combat zone was made available in the nearby American Transit Camp. A British communication Centre was set up as soon as possible, initially all W/T communications, teleprints, ciphers, etc, had to be dealt with through the American Communication Centre. The British centre was under the control of Lt. Walsh. RNVR as communications officer.
By the end of May, 1945, power boats and motor transport had arrived from Australia, together with personnel to man them; these were put to good use by Lt-Cdr. Worrell, RNR, berthing officer and second-in-command. This meant more huts for accommodation were required. The original official request was for eight huts; the number had been increased to 30 after some local negotiation but any further expansion of the British Camp would need to be through official channels.
The ships of TF57 withdrew from the forward area on May 25th on completion of ICEBERG operations and proceeded to Manus and Australia for replenishment. The Fleet Train also withdrew to Manus sailing in two convoys, one on the 20th and the second on the 25th. By now more elements of the Fleet Train had arrived at Manus and more equipment and stores were put ashore of the Intermediate Base.
The BPF was granted the facilities at the large American military hospital on Manus, capable of dealing with 1,500 stretcher cases, but it was decided to set up a British Air Casualty Clearance Service to fly patients between Manus and Sydney,. This was established under the direction of the British Camp Medical Officer, Surgeon Lt. Cdr A.D. Mitchell, RNVR; several planes were made available, and six QARNNS (Queen Alexander's Royal Naval Nursing Service) sisters were sent forward from Sydney and accommodated in the Nurse’s quarters at US Naval Base hospital 15, the only place where women served. Casualties arrived at Manus on British Hospital ships and were treated at the US Base Hospital until fit to travel. From there they were taken to the sick quarters at Momote airfield the evening before a flight and were cared for by RN Sick Berth Attendants overnight. One QARNNS sisters and an SBA attended to their needs during the flight. The first stop was Milne Bay to refuel then on to Townsville for an overnight stop, the patients were cared for in an Australian Military Hospital. On to Brisbane and another overnight stop before arriving at Mascot airport in Sydney were the patients were taken to RN Hospital, Herne Bay.
The Fleet Train remained at Manus until early September when many ships sailed for Hong Kong and Singapore to support the reoccupation forces tasked with liberating the former colonies. At this time Captain Waight was appointed as Captain Superintendant (Designate), Hong Kong, and he left Manus aboard the Submarine depot ship HMS MAIDSTONE with an advance party to begin surveying the dockyard and area. It is unclear who replaced him as S.B.N.O. Manus.
The ‘Intermediate Base’ was carried on the books of HMS GOLDEN HIND in Sydney and although the ship’s name PEPYS had been approved this was not used until after the war; the planned ‘Intermediate Base’ did not materialise. Had the Admiralty proceeded with developing the planned base it would not have been completed until February 1946.
By the end of the war the base had a staff of some thirty officers and five hundred ratings; it commissioned as HMS PEPYS on October 1st 1945, but was closed and paid off on March 6th 1946.
Last modified: 16 June 2020
The Manus Story by Captain H. F. Waight, OBE
Bannister, H.J. (2003) 'Ponam -a base of the Forgotten Fleet' St. Leonards-on-Sea, UPSO Ltd
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HM Ships COLOSSUS, GLORY, VENERABLE and VENGEANCE. GLORY did not arrive in Sydney until August 16th.
At the end of June 1945, the Admiralty implemented a new system of classification for carrier air wings, adopting the American practice one carrier would embark a single Carrier Air Group (CAG) which would encompass all the ships squadrons.
Sturtivant, R & Balance, T. (1994) 'Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm’ list 899 squadron as conducting DLT on the Escort Carrier ARBITER on August 15th. It is possible that the usual three-day evolution was cancelled due to the announcement of the Japanese surrender on this date and was postponed for a month.
Jimmy was drafted to HMS GOLDEN HIND II the Fleet Repair Base at Garden Island, Sydney, Australia. He travelled out on the troopship NEIUW AMSTERDAM sailing from Greenock, Scotland on April 22nd, he returned home on MAS PATROLLER arriving back in the UK on April 19th 1946.
One Sunday morning at six o clock we were put on a train in Chatham dockyard. thirty hours later we were in Greenock, Scotland. We were taken by ferry to a ship called NEIUW AMSTERDAM, a Dutch liner, we were locked in a room about two hundred of us. The next day having had nothing to eat we complained to an American marine captain who thought we were prisoners, he arranged for us to have a feed in a mess hall down below. He asked me to find some men like myself to volunteer as gun crew and we would have the run of the ship and a cabin for nine of us with a shower. That is how I became a gunner on Oerlikon number one on the port side up forward wearing a big badge with’ gun crew’ written on it which entitled us to go anywhere on the ship. One night on watch at two o clock in the morning I heard the war was over in Dutch by our Dutch captain. then an English voice told us the war was over in Europe, we were in the middle of the Indian ocean at the time. So, we the gun crew spliced the main brace on the king’s orders with white rum. I lit a cigarette and was told to put it out as we were still at war with Japan.
Our orders were to fire first unless told otherwise; one day a sub surfaced, the American gunners opened fire and put a shell thru its bows. we were told cease fire and a white flag was raised we thought we had captured a jap sub but it turned out to be American. They asked us to tow them but we did not stop as we were loaded with troops. Next day we arrived at Freemantle and were marched ashore to a big field where we were given cakes and tea. An officer gathered us all together and said the ausies were disappointed at the way we had strolled through the town and asked us to put on a show of real good marching back to the ship. we did as he asked us and the people of Freemantle cheered us all the way back to the ship shouting, we are proud of you. As we left port the next day the American sub came limping in and the American gunners on our ship jeered at them for being so stupid for not signalling us that they were going to surface
We arrived in Sydney and a Chief Petty Officer lined about a hundred of us up and asked if there were any lorry drivers among us, nobody moved. He said I am going to read some names out. he read three names and mine was one of them. I said “I am not a lorry driver.” He said “you drove an ambulance in the civil defence”. How he knew that I will never know. I also entertained the troops while working in the shipyard, I said “why don’t you put me down for ENSA”. He pointed across the water to three lorries parked on the dock, then gave us a map of Sydney and told us to go to Warwick Farm Racecourse which was HMS GOLDEN HIND and bring all hammocks and kitbags with red bands on them back to Woolloomooloo, and do not look for your own first which is exactly what I did.
We lived and slept in the dock sheds at Woolloomooloo for six months. then we were moved to the Domain and army huts, it was called HMS ALERT, the commander was T.E. Robertson the brother of Anna Neagle who later became Dame Anna Neagle the stage and film star. He was a real gentleman and thought the world of Geordies. I became his driver as well as driving the lorry. I once had to fetch him back from a cocktail party, he offered me a cocktail and I had one too many. When we got to the car I said “I am too drunk to drive” and handed him the keys and he drove us back. I had my twenty first birthday on august the ninth 1945 the day that the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the skipper gave me five pounds and my Australian friends give me the first birthday party I had ever had. They were Mr and Mrs Flemming of 16 Jellicoe Ave, Randwick, Sydney and gave me the champagne they were keeping for their daughter Beryl when she was twenty-one.
The day of Japan’s surrender I went into Sydney and all the people were dancing round me. I met up with an aussie airman and two girls who lived in north Sydney so we walked over the harbour bridge to the girls home where we had tea, I did not have a drink of anything stronger that day.
I sailed home in 1946 on an aircraft carrier the HMS PATROLLER. I was made the ships welder. I was over the side in the Indian ocean in a bosun’s chair and a bowline round me when the chap who was holding the rope said I see it is still there, I looked down and I was resting my feet on a hammer head shark about thirty foot long .It was more like a whale. I had been over the side for three days and he never told me! He said “I thought you knew. I was telling all my mates what a brave bloke you were.” The skipper sent for three rifles and said “on the count of three fire” and it just slowly swam away.
when we arrived in England at seven o clock on Good Friday morning it was cold and foggy.
Original source: www.freewebs.com/jimmyfee/stories.htm - now defunked. Material later submitted to BBC people’s war project.