R.N. Intermediate Base

No badge issued for this ship

Battle Honours

None.

 

Specifications

Location:
Lorengau; Manus, Admiralty Islands.

Function:
Store depot and  communications centre

Commanding Officers:
Captain M. H. Evelegh Feb 45  (N.O.I.C.)


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H.M.S. PEPYS

 

US Navy Receiving Base, Lorengau; Manus , in November 1944

Establishment of an Intermediate Base

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.
 

Expansion

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.
 

British Air Casualty Clearance Service

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.
 

Post War

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.
 



Primary information sources

Additional Sources:

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
 

Last modified: 02 August 2016