\
 

 

 

Motto:
"FACTA NON VERBA"
Deeds not words

 


Pennant Number:


D90 - R314

 


Battle Honours:


Atlantic 1939-45

Okinawa 1945

 


Specifications: 


Builder:

Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma,

Washington

 

Completed by:

Willamette Iron & Steel, Portland, Oregon

 


Displacement:

15,390 tons


length (Overall):

 494ft 9in


Beam:

 69 ft 6 in


Speed:

 18 knots


Crew Complement:

646


A/C Capacity:

204


Commanding Officers:


A/Capt P.W.Wootten

Oct 43 - Nov 43

 

***

 

Cdr the Hon.

R. Southwell, RN
Nov 43 - Jan 44


***


Capt. U. H. R. James.
Jan 44 - 17 Jul 46

 


Squadrons:


1840

Dec 44 - Apr 45

Hellcat

 

 

Click here to see more photos

 

 

A History of HMS SPEAKER

 

Part 2 - February 1945 - July 1946

 

Left: The Hellcats of 1840 squadron ranged on deck. Right: The Combat Air Patrol return to the ship at dusk. Photos: from the 'History of HMS Speaker'..

 

Operations with the BPF: At Sydney and passage to Manus February 23rd to March 13th 1945
The remaining eight aircraft and their pilots were transferred to HMS INDOMITABLE to bring her air group up to strength. SPEAKER was to retain her squadron, although it was to remain at the reduced strength of 16 aircraft as it had been decided that she would be operated as a CAP (Combat Air Patrol) carrier providing air cover for the replenishment area ships of the Fleet Train.

 

While at Sydney 48 hours' leave was given to each watch, and arrangements where made for a hasty boiler clean and essential repairs to be carried out before the ship began loading stores and personnel for her first voyage with the B|PF. The Commander-in-Chief British Pacific Fleet, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, G.C.B., K.B.E., paid a visit to SPEAKER and explored the hangar and galley and spoke to many officers and men SPEAKER'S Commander, Commander W. C. Hudson was hospitalised during the time in Sydney; he was invalided to shore service, and had to be left behind. This situation left the Commander Flying, Lt. Cdr. Darley and the First Lieutenant Lt. Brereton to share the executive duties for the foreseeable future as no replacement could be provided at such short notice.

 

SPEAKER sailed the Fleet Train on March 9th 1945, bound for Manus in the Admiralty Islands, on board were the advance party of HMS NABARON, Mobile Naval Air Base (MONAB) No.4 comprising of 6 Officers and 57 ratings, together with the second echelon of Maintenance, Storage & Repair unit (M.S.R.) No. 4 which were to be delivered to Ponam Island in the Admiralty Islands [Click here for more info on M.S.R. and MONABs]. Shortly after clearing the Jomard Passage (a 3-mile wide gap in a 300-mile stretch of coral reefs and islands extending eastwards from the tip of New Guinea), which was navigated entirely using the ship's radar due to visibility being down to one mile, the ship intercepted an S.O.S. from the USS ROBERT SYLVESTER, She reported being aground on Vassee Island and pounding badly, giving their latitude and longitude. This information fitted in with a D/F bearing of her signals and was found to be an island about 30 miles ahead on SPEAKER's route, and close to where she was expecting to be joined by an escort consisting of the sloop PHEASANT and frigate PARRETT. On reaching the area two Hellcats were launched to begin an air search while the PARRETT began a search pattern along the edge of the reefs in the area. No trace was found after several hours searching and SPEAKER resumed her passage to Manus that evening leaving the PARRETT to continue searching: The survivors were eventually located ten days later, 75 miles from their estimated position given in the SOS, they had been to the south-east of SPEAKER on the coast of New Guinea instead of the north-west off New Britain.

 

SPEAKER arrived at Ponam on March 13th and the MONAB personnel were disembarked to begin unloading the S.S. CLAN MACAULEY together with 3 months victualling stores which were also awaiting their arrival, which where aboard the Victualling stores carrier S.S. FORT EDMONTON. When unload was finished SPEAKER anchored in Seeadler harbour on the 15th and was allocated to 30 ACS (30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron). Her captain reported to RAFT (Rear-Admiral, Fleet Train) Rear-Admiral D. B. Fisher, C.B., C.B.E. aboard LOTHIAN and Commodore W. P. Carne, commanding 30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron aboard the CVE STRIKER.

 

Operation 'Iceberg I' replenishment: March 18th to April 23rd
After restoring and fuelling advance elements of the Fleet Train sailed from Manus on March 17th in order to have a Tanker Group in position for the BPF to top up with fuel at the last prudent moment before embarking on the forthcoming strikes against the island of Okinawa 'Operation Iceberg I'. The ships were formed into two Task Units which were to proceed directly to the prearranged rendezvous; TU 112.2.1 consisted of H.M. Ships STRIKER (with replacement aircraft), CRANE, FINDHORN, WHIRLWIND and the Tankers SAN AMBROSIO, CEDARDALE and SAN ADOLPHO and. TU 112.2.5 consisted of H.M. Ships SPEAKER (for CAP duties), PHEASANT and KEMPENFELT.

 

A second convoy of logistic support ships, comprising of LOTHIAN (flag ship Rear-Admiral, Fleet Train), SLINJGER, EMPIRE SPEARHEAD, ARTIFEX, BACCHUS, WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, ARNDALE, DINGLEDALE, FORT COLVILLE, AASE MAERSK, DENBIGHSHIRE, ROBERT MAERSK, THYRA S., HERMELIN, and TYNE, which left Manus on March 19th bound for the Philippines. The convoy arrived at Leyte Gulf on the 26th and anchored in San Pedro Bay.

 

Replenishment aircraft aboard SPEAKER - a Hellcat is beginning its take off run (lightly loaded it did not require the accelerator) and spare Seafires are parked over the side on outriggers to maximise deck space  for flying operations. Photo: from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource.

 

For SPEAKER Flying practice was the order of the day once the anchorage at Manus was behind them but a heavy swell meant that little flying was done due to safety concerns; in fact severe sea states prevailed and prevented any unnecessary flying; four flying accidents had occurred on route to the rendezvous and as 1840 had only 16 Hellcats and would be expected to launch flights of 4 aircraft for each CAP sortie, with an additional fifth aircraft ranged on the catapult ready to launch at all times, the risk of damage or loss of aircraft or aircrew meant minimal flying was carried out until such time as CAP sorties were required. The Fleet made contact with the logistic support group on March 25th and SPEAKER began her CAP duties in earnest and the ships took on fuel and stores.

 

On completion of this topping off of the fleet's tanks the ships of the logistic support group moved to refuelling area MIDGE on the 28th and then on to area MOSQUITO On April 3rd. The three areas used for fuelling were rectangular areas which covered 5000 square miles of ocean east of Luzon, their code names were all called after insects; 'MOSQUITO' -'MIDGE' - 'COOTIE' and the nominated area changed from one replenishment period to the next.

 

They were now joined by the vessels of TU 112.2.3 which had sailed from Leyte on March 29th, there were now five tankers and three CVEs in the Logistic Support Group, SPEAKER providing Combat Air patrols (CAP) for the Fleet Train while STRIKER and SLINGER provided replacement aircraft and aircrews. On the mornings when the fleet returned to rendezvous, SPEAKER had to be ready to fly off the first CAP sortie at first light, and keep four aircraft airborne till dusk, in two-hour sorties. At night the task force left the refuelling area and steam independently at higher speed for safety against submarines, rejoining the logistic support group at dawn for a second day's fuelling. TF57 would usually conduct offensive operations for three or four days before returning for farther refuelling and replenishment.

 

On the mornings of the 4th and 4th the fleet arrived to refuel and replenish, on completion the logistic support group redeployed to are COOTIE on the 7th for a second period of resupply. A third period of refuelling took place in area COOTIE on the 14th and 15th before a further redeployment back to MOSQUITO ONE on the 18th. The fourth replenishment period also stretched over two days, by this time the support group was reduced in size as ships had returned to Leyte to resupply. At 1300 on the 19th the Fleet disengaged and headed for the Sakishima area, leaving KEMPENFELT with 2 tankers, SPEAKER, WOODCOCK and FINDHORN, in the fuelling area with orders to proceed to Leyte at dawn on 21st April.

 

At the end of this first period of replenishment at sea the logistic support group had ferried 56 spare aircraft carried in the replenishment CVEs; SLINGER issued 22 replacements and recovered 2 'flyable duds' 'non-flyable duds were ditched overboard from the fleet carriers after their engines, and any salvageable equipment had been removed as there was no means to transfer them to the replenishment carriers whilst at sea. STRIKER issued 21 airframes and received 17 duds. Demand for replacement Corsairs and aircrew was so high that SLINGER's 1845 squadron was disbanded on the 5th, her aircraft and aircrew were dispersed to HM Ships FORMIDABLE and VICTORIOUS. As the CAP Carrier the flying record of SPEAKER's 16 Hellcat pilots was 217 sorties in 33 days. They had flown a total of 446 flying hours and spent 1,140 pilot-hours in aircraft at launch readiness. Flight deck efficiency was such that four Hellcats could be land on in 77 seconds. There were only 2 deck landing incidents, both were barrier crashes.

Operation 'Iceberg II' replenishment: May 4th to 29th


On completion of phase one of 'Operation Iceberg' the carriers of Task Unit 112.2.3 anchored at Leyte in the Philippines between April 23rd and May 4th; this was a forward anchorage with limited repair facilities, HM ships UNICORN, RESOURCE and ARTIFEX were stationed here to provide maintenance and repair capabilities. During this period SPEAKER assisted with the aircraft maintenance programme before she changed roles from CAP carrier to replenishment carrier. A consequence of this change in tasking was that 1840 squadron was to part Company with SPEAKER at Leyte; the most experienced pilots and 70 maintenance personnel were transferred to 5 Naval Fighter Wing in INDOMITABLE were they were absorbed into 1839 squadron. Her aircraft and the least experienced pilots were transferred to the recently arrived HMS RULER which was to take over CAP duty.

 

Once this readjustment was completed SPEAKER embarked a selection of replacement airframes fin preparation for rejoining TF112 for the next round of replenishments. She sailed from Leyte on May 4th as part of Task Unit 112.2.5 in company with H.M. and H.M.A. Ships CRANE, CHASER, NAPIER, AVON and FIND-HORN, R.F.A.s WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, AASE MAERSK, SAN AMADO, and ROBERT MAERSK for the refuelling area 'Cootie One'.

 

Replenishment at sea - stores and fuel are transferred while underway, stores via light Jackstay (right), fuel via hoses streamed astern. Teams of hands are needed to man handle stores on and off the ship in dangerous conditions as two vessels receive replenishment at the same time (left). Photos: Left History of HMS Speaker, Right from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource.

 

Flying for SPEAKER (and the other replenishment CVEs) was usually restricted to launching and receiving replacements and flyable duds but occasionally the ship was faced by an urgent signal from INDEFATIGABLE to accept back the five aircraft that had just flown off to her as she could not receive them at that time. Simultaneously RULER suffered a crash on deck and asked SPEAKER to take her 5 CAP aircraft 'so the prospect of 10 incoming aircraft occurred just when SPEAKER's flight deck was busy with newly landed 'duds' Luckily all 10 did not arrive together so RULER's Hellcats were recovered while INDEFATIGABLE took time to notify her aircraft of the change in status by spelling out SPEAKER in human letters on her flight deck.

 

SPEAKER issued her first replenishment aircraft on May 10th when six Corsair 'flyable duds' from HMS FORMIDABLE (1841 squadron) were flown aboard, all suffering from salt water contamination; the six pilots collected replacements and returned to FORMIDABLE. On the 14th SPEAKER was detached from the replenishment area and took passage to Leyte to collect more replacement aircraft and to deliver 20 cot cases which were embarked from Formidable and Victorious, victims of the Kamikaze attacks on those ships during the last round of strikes. All were suffering from bad burns, and were later transferred to the hospital ship OXFORDSHIRE, on arrival at Leyte. The ship left Leyte to return to the replenishment area on the 19th; during this second replenishment period, in area COOTIE ONE she issued 1 Avenger to 849 squadron on HMS VICTORIOUS on the 22nd and 3 Fireflies to 1770 squadron on INDEFATIGABLE on the 23rd.

 

At 1800hrs on the 23rd H.M. Ships CHASER and SPEAKER, escorted by H.M.A.S. NAPIER, were detached for Manus. On arriving at Manus on the 29th the CVEs transferred unserviceable airframes to the air station on Ponam Island. During 'Operation ICEBERG II; 117 replacement aircraft were carried in the three Replacement Carriers of 30ACS, 78 were transferred to BPF carriers. On completion of unloading SPEAKER sailed the following day for Sydney.

Withdrawal to Sydney for maintenance, June 1945
While on passage SPEAKER encountered an American troopship, USS PONTIUS H. ROSS, carrying Australian troops, who signalled for medical assistance. They required a doctor for a case of acute appendicitis. She was told to steam at nine knots into the wind, and a jackstay was secured to her mizzen-mast, and Surgeon Lt. Commander Bryson was transferred in a canvas bag accompanied by a Neill-Robertson stretcher. In half an hour both doctor and patient were back on board, and the offending appendix was soon removed.

 

SPEAKER arrived off Sydney on June 5th, ahead of the main body of the BPF which was returning to Australia for a period of maintenance and R&R, and thus SPEAKER had the honour of apparently leading them in, to the accompaniment of various well-known bands playing over the loud-hailer. After securing the ship alongside leave was granted to each watch in turn and the ship underwent a self maintenance period in preparation for her return to Leyte.

 

Replenishment operations off Japan: July3rd - August 15th
After a month in Sydney SPEAKER sailed for Manus on July 3rd carrying equipment and stores for the forward area; she arrived at Manus on the 9th where she was to remain until the 15th, anchored of Pityilu Island while embarking her next replenishment load. She sailed from Manus on the 18th heading north in preparation for replenishing the BPF which was to begin operations against mainland Japan.

 

On July 26th SPEAKER in company with CVEs RULER and STRIKER escorted by HM Destroyers NAPIER, NIZAM and NEPAL, HM Sloops PHEASANT and CRANE, HM Frigate BARLE, HM Australian Minesweepers BALLARAT and BURNIE was deployed in the new replenishment area, code named 'British Tizzy', in preparation for delivering replacement and receiving unserviceable aircraft. The Fleet Train was now operating much further north and the tanker mostly force were now base out of Eniwetok and the Air Train of 30ACS now consisted of the replenishment CVEs Striker, Speaker, Chaser and Arbiter, with Ruler carrying out 'C.A.P.' and 'F.R.U.' duties. Two replenishment CVEs were on station at a time so a constant reserve could be maintained afloat, the other two CVEs returning to Manus for resupply.

 

Three aircraft were embarked from HMS STRIKER on the 27th as the replenishment loads were adjusted and replacement airframes were issued on August 1st, on completion of flying operations SPEAKER, in company with HMS QUEENBOROUGH, took passage to Manus for replacement aircraft, embarking Rear-Admiral J. H. Edelsten, C.B., C.B.E. (R.A. (D)) and Rear- Admiral R. M. Servaes, C.B.E. (C.S.2) via by jackstay transfer for passage, with their staffs. The passengers disembarked at Manus and SPEAKER set about exchanging her airframes. SPEAKER sailed on August 13th for her last run to the replenishment area off Japan.

 

Japan surrender, fleet replenishments continue: August 15th - 30th
The ship was on passage to area 'British Tizzy' when the Japanese surrender was announced; by this stage in operations the replenishment CVEs had also been employed in carrying essential stores and provisions for issue to the fleet and for this run SPEAKER carried 350 packages of stores, 237 oil hoses and 15 tons of potatoes all of which were issued by jackstay transfers at sea. Although offensive operations had ceased replenishment work was still necessary, a large part of the stores carried were destined for the hospital ship Tjitjalengka, 246 items of stores were transferred in a two and a half replenishment session in area 'British Tizzy'.

 

HMS SPEAKER enters Tokyo Bay observing  peace-time protocols, members of her crew lining the flight deck in tropical white rig.  Photos: Left History of HMS Speaker, Right from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource.

 

On August 20th signals were received asking how many extra officers and men could be accommodated, and orders to transfer all remaining flyable aircraft over to RULER in order to make more space; rumours suggested that SPEAKER was be an accommodation ship. A final sir craft issue was made when ten Seafires and one Firefly were transferred to INDEFATIGABLE and one of each type were embarked as flyable duds, the remaining serviceable planes were flown off to RULER.

 

Tokyo Bay and the rescue of POWs: August 30th - September 3rd
The 'logistic support group' maintained station in the replenishment area waiting for orders to move inshore; the first elements of the allied fleets entered Sagami Wan and later advanced into Tokyo Bay on the 27th. The support group received their orders to proceed to Tokyo Bay on the evening of the 28th but the following morning SPEAKER, escorted by DERG, was ordered to proceed to Tokyo Bay with despatch, independent of the other vessels of the support group. On reaching the coast SPEAKER was joined by the  Destroyer USS FRANK KNOX which signalled further instructions, "You are instructed to proceed to Tokyo Bay at earliest time possible and report to Com. 3rd Fleet."

 

SPEAKER entered Tokyo Bay early in the morning of August 30th, she did so in peace time 'dress ship' routine with white line of men fallen in the whole length of the flight deck, and with the ship's "band"playing - she was the first allied ship to do so, all vessels entering before her did so at full action stations. She was the first allied carrier to anchor in Japanese waters. The next day HMS RULER arrived and all of SPEAKER's air maintenance personnel transferred to her to maximise available accommodation space.

 

By this time it had become clear that the ship was being prepared for humanitarian missions and every available bunk, hammock and camp bed was to made available for allied POWs who were being liberated from the camps on the Japanese mainland. Liberated prisoners were taken from camps in the interior to Yokohama where hospital ships, billeting accommodations, and food supplies were available. Instructions as to what to do next were received from the commander of Task Group 30.6 (CTG30.6), a unit of the 3rd Fleet formed to liberate, evacuate, and care for Allied POWs in Japan which arrived in Tokyo Bay on August29th. Speaker was to move to berth 293 and by dusk she was in position and anchored.

 

SPEAKER was now amidst the vessels of the American 'Rescue Group' moored off Yokohama; the hospital ships USAHS MARIGOLD, carrying the 42nd General Hospital and USNHS BENEVOLENCE and the fast transport USS GOSSELIN were among them and they had been processing rescued POWs from the camps in the Tokyo area. Within five minutes of dropping her anchor landing craft from USS GOSSELIN began arriving alongside SPEAKER carrying POWs who were deemed fit enough for travel, a process that was to be repeated throughout the night. These men were mostly British servicemen from all three fighting services and the Merchant Navy, there were also commonwealth servicemen including Africans and Indians; all were dressed in an assortment of donated items of US military clothing, and a large number of the firearms, swords and other war-like trophies also came aboard with the passengers and these had to be taken into custody for the duration of the voyage. By noon the next day (September 1st) 54 officers and 423 other ranks had been accommodated.

 

Rescued POW Stretcher cases were accommodated on the hanger deck as well as in the small sick bay and infirmary. The more mobile 'passengers' were accommodated in crew spaces and anywhere a camp bed could be put up. Photos: Left from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource, Right the History of HMS Speaker.

 

Later that day the ship was moved again to another distant anchorage in order to clear the Yokohama anchorage for the capital ships of the combined Fleet in preparation for the signing of the surrender documents. SPEAKER was still at anchor when the signing ceremony took place on board the USS Missouri on the 2nd, a church service of thanksgiving was held aboard SPEAKER so that crew and passengers could give thanks. Later in the day orders were received from the BPF Flag ship HMS KING GEORGE V ordering her to sail on the afternoon of September 3rd.

 

The evacuation of POWs, Tokyo to Manila: September 3rd - 16th
At 1300 on 3rd September HMS SPEAKER left her mooring, she was the first allied ship to depart the area, all her passengers were fallen in on the fore end of the flight deck and the ship's company abaft them, and prepared to set course for Manila. The passage through Tokyo Bay was 12 miles but every ship in the Bay had cleared lower deck and was standing by to cheer as she steamed by, her 477 passengers cheering and waving back, the ship wove in and out of the mass of ships at anchor, passing as close as the ship's navigator dared to each.

 

Left: The flight deck scene as SPEAKER made her way trough the assembled ship of the allied fleet out of Tokyo Bay as ship's company and rescued POWs cheer and wave to each ship they pass. Right: Disembarking the rescued men onto landing craft for ferrying ashore at Manila. Photos: from the collection of Bernard Stogdem.

 

SPEAKER took passage to Manila in company with her escort HMS DERG and a tanker, RFA WAVE KING. The tanker had to leave the small convoy and divert to Okinawa with machinery problems, leaving SPEAKER and DERG to continue on to reach Manila 0n September 9th. During he voyage each passenger was issued with currency, 5 Australian pounds and 4 American dollars (= 5 Pounds Sterling), so that wherever they fetched up they would money to spend.

 

After safely depositing the passengers at Manila SPEAKER spent the next two days refuelling and storing ship in preparation for a second rescue lift sailing on September 12th escorted by the USS WEEDEN. This time she was ordered to enter the harbour at Nagasaki were she anchored September 16th to collect rescued POWs from Fukuoka prison camps in that area.

 

The evacuation of POWs, Nagasaki to Okinawa: September 16th - 25th
As at Tokyo hospital ships were caring for the most serious cases, the USNHS HAVEN was in Nagasaki harbour and SPEAKER began receiving stretcher cases and other cases fit for onward passage to shore based hospitals in Okinawa. SPEAKER's departure was delayed until the 18th due to a Typhoon which hit the area on the afternoon of the 17th, this blew over quite quickly but no before causing damage and mayhem for the ships riding it out at anchor. The following morning the commander of the Nagasaki Rescue Group, Rear-Admiral F. G. Fahrion USN, visited SPEAKER and was quite surprised to learn that the ship had faired much better than many of the others in the harbour and would be ready to sail that afternoon. By the time she was ready to sail she had a staggering 899 passengers on board; men overflowed into passage ways and some even slept in a magazine which would have been most unsuitable in bad weather.

 

The burial at sea of Staff Sergeant Harry Stogden RAOC, he was laid to rest at 16:35 hours on September 18th 1945 off the Japanese coast. Photos from the collection of Bernard Stogden..

 

Shortly after departing for Okinawa a former POW, Staff Sergeant Harry Stogden of the RAOC, was buried at sea with full honours. He had been cared for aboard the American hospital ship USNHS HAVEN after his rescue from Fukuoka 3-B POW camp but died from Beri Beri, his body was transferred to SPEAKER for a burial at sea.. The ship arrived at Okinawa on the 19th and discharged her passengers at Hagushi Bay.

 

During SPEAKER's second visit to Nagasaki harbour members of the ship's company and some of the more mobile rescued POWs gather on the flight deck< while waiting for more passengers to embark. Photo:: Author's collection

The devastation that was Nagasaki as seen by members of the ship's company on tours through the city on army lorries. Photo:s from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource.

 

After leaving her passengers at medical facilities on Okinawa SPEAKER immediately returned to Nagasaki arriving on the 21st.On this occasion there was time for many of the crew to take the opportunity to see the devastation of the atom bomb before boarding the next batch of passengers. Unknown to these 'sightseers' was the seriously dangerous levels of radiation that remained in the ruined city and surrounding area through which they were ferried in open topped Army trucks. (See photos) For her last run to Okinawa she embarked eight officers and 633 other ranks, and sad sailed on the 23rd, arriving there the following day. This time she left Okinawa for Hong Kong on 25th, arriving 28th.

 

Hong Kong to Sydney via Manila: September 28th - October 15th
On leaving Okinawa on September 25th SPEAKER steamed for Hong Kong where she was to replenish her severely depleted stores and refuel in preparation for a trooping voyage to Sydney via Mania. She arrived in Hong Kong on the 28th and was ready to sail again on the 30th. Arriving at Manila on October 2nd 556 Australian ex-POWs embarked for repatriation; these men had been recuperating onboard Hospital Ships such as the HMHS Tjitjalengka, sand were a much fitter lot. After some delays in embarking the passengers SPEAKER set sail on October 4th and made best speed for the Australian coast.

 

While still at sea off Brisbane on October 14th the captain ordered the ship to be 'spruced up' in preparation for entering Sydney harbour; many of the Australian passengers volunteered to help out and a quick coat of paint was applied to conceal the ravages of three months at sea. SPEAKER entered Sydney harbour on October 15th.and berth at No. 14 Pyrmont at 8.45 a.m. Once unloaded the ship moved to a mooring in mid-stream off .Bradley's Head to begin a planned three week period of defect rectification during which time seven days' leave as granted to each watch.


In dockyard hands at Sydney: early November to December 26th
The ship was ready to resume her trooping runs to Hong Kong on early November but just prior to sailing a corroded pipe burst Diesel dynamo room and flooded the compartment. This latest defect was to require extensive repair work on the dynamo armatures so the ship remained in dockyard hands while repairs were affected. During this unplanned stay the opportunity was taken to complete the ships' repaint and her peacetime scheme was reapplied the ships' company also held two dances on board, music for dancing was provided by the Royal Marine Band from HMS GOLDEN HIND while guests arrived by naval cutters from the Taronga wharf as she was moored in mid-stream.

 

The repair work was slower that expected because it coincided with a wave of strikes ashore which had Sydney residents being deprived of power for lighting, cooking, transport and entertainments; the strikes also made it difficult for many men to get away on their extra leave. The ship was not ready until Boxing Day, the crew having spent Christmas in and around Sydney but it was now time to resume ferrying passengers and equipment. By this time the 30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron was disbanded and all but SPEAKER and VINDEX remained with the reduced BPF for transport duties, the other vessels of the squadron had been reassigned or returned to the UK. In addition to the squadron disbanding many of the ships' key personnel were leaving to return home under the 'age and Service Act' which was passed in the UK after V-J Day; the act was demobilising the armed forces at an alarming rate at a time when manpower was still desperately needed for the major tasks of reorganising resources and materials needed for the transition from wartime to peacetime.

 

Ferry trip to Hong Kong: December 26th - January 30th
For this, the outward leg of a round trip to Honk Kong SPEAKER's passengers were a mixed bag of service personnel and civilians, including the magician "The Great Levante"and his concert party who had been performing for servicemen in Sydney and were now going to entertain the forces in Hong Kong. Her first port of call was Brisbane to load more passengers, a number of heavy vehicles and the personnel, equipment and 10 Vengeance Target Tug aircraft of 721 naval air squadron on December 28th. This squadron was a Fleet Requirements Unit that had operated at RNAS Ponam in the Admiralty Islands that had been evacuated to the RN Aircraft Maintenance Yard at Archerfield, Brisbane, in October where it regrouped and re-equipped. Also embarked were a ten-ton crane, 4,076 items of stores and 38,400 bottles of beer all of which loaded her to capacity, a large part of the flight deck being taken up with a lorry park.


The concert party soon got busy with rehearsals, using a 7-ton van placed forward on the flight deck, and eventually they were able to put on two shows on a stage erected on the flight deck on the only two nights which the weather permitted. The voyage was to be dogged by foul weather for most of the time and concerns were expressed on several occasions about the safety of the vehicles lashed on deck. The ship called at Manila to refuel on January 7th and to embark more passengers for Hong Kong were embarked, amongst these was Captain B. L. Moore, R.N., the Senior British Naval Liaison Officer, Philippines, and his staff, their job of liaising with the American forces now completed. SPEAKER sailed the following day and reached Hong Kong on January 10th.


After unloading and making good storm damage SPEAKER sailed for the return leg on January 17th with more passengers and proceeded to the Admiralty Islands to embark servicemen and women for passage to Sydney. The call at Manus was brief, only long enough to embark the extra passengers bringing her total for the trip to 459 passengers, most of who were due for release. She arrived in Sydney on January 30th after again suffering monsoon conditions for most of this journey.

 

Surplus and 'beyond repair' airframes were routinely ditched over the side. During hostilities unsalvageable ones were stripped of usable spares first and the carcass ditched (right), after the end of hostilities complete aircraft were ditched in their hundreds. Photos: Right; from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource, Left; from the collection of Bernard Stogden..

 

Ferry trip to Hong Kong: February 12th - 26th 1946
HMS SPEAKER left Sydney for a final round trip to Hong Kong on February 12th and proceeded to Manus where she stopped for three hours to collect passengers on the 18th. She arrived in Hong Kong on February 25th, and was to spend the next seven days loading passengers, stores and surplus airframes from HMS Nabcatcher, the RN Air Station at Kia Tak airfield. SPEAKER sailed for Sydney for the last time on March 4th and five says out from Hong Kong the airframes were ditch overboard; these were mainly American types of aircraft which had been transferred to the Royal Navy under the Lend-Lease agreement between the US and Britain. Under the terms of the agreement once the war was over the equipment would be returned or paid for, operational losses were not expected to be paid for so many hundreds of 'serviceable' aircraft were thrown overboard in the Pacific, neither the US or Britain wanted them back. SPEAKER arrived back in Sydney on March 16th and began preparations' for her return voyage to the UK.

 

Homeward Bound, Sydney to Greenock: March 26th - May 24th 1946
HMS SPEAKER said farewell to Sydney on March 26th 1946 and began the long voyage home to Britain. Amongst her stores she carried 2,500 cases of jam from the Food for Britain Fund for free distribution to the people of Great Britain. The ship's Canteen Committee donated 125 to the fund. The first leg of her voyage was back to Hong Kong calling at Brisbane on the 29th and Moratai on April 4th, spending only a few hours at these ports. She docked in Hong Kong on April 9th and was to spend eleven days there exchanging personnel and stores; on the 19th she embarked a Japanese one man suicide torpedo for passage to the UK for further study, she sailed the following day bound for Colombo.

 

Hoisting a Japanese one man suicide torpedo aboard at Hong Kong. Photo: From the collection of William T. Sallows, via Navsource.

 

 

SPEAKER passed Singapore and entered the Malacca Straits April 25th, arriving at Colombo 30th. The ship took on stores, fuel and more passengers before continuing on for Aden, her next refuel stop on the 8th. After transiting the Suez Canal SPEAKER arrived at Port Said on the May 14th, she was to spend only 4 hours in the port before entering the Mediterranean and setting course for Gibraltar where she was to make an even briefer call on the 20th. HMS SPEAKER arrived on the Clyde on May 24thand after unloading her passengers was moored at Greenock.

 

Disposal: Return to US Custody
After Greenock SPEAKER was to be destored and many items Admiralty equipment was removed in proration for her return to the US authorities, her role with the Royal Navy having come to an end. She sailed from Greenock for the last time on July 6th 1946 bound for the US Naval Dockyard at Norfolk, Virginia but had to call into the in RN Dockyard Bermuda to carry out boiler repairs before continuing on to Norfolk where she docked on July 17th and was paid off as a Royal Navy vessel.

 

CVE-40 was returned to US Navy custody 27 July 1946 and no longer required for service by the US Navy she was placed on the disposal list September 25th 1946, She was sold to Dodero Navigation company on April 22nd 1947 and converted to merchantman LANCERO by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock co. and was delivered February 9yh 1948, In 1965 she was sold to the Philippine President Lines and renamed PRESIDENT OSMENA; she was sold for breaking in 1971 and bore the name LUCKY THREE for her delivery voyage to the breaker. She was scrapped at Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 1972.

 

"Swords into ploughshares " HMS SPEAKER post war as the mercantile vessel  S.S. LANCERO Photo: Gerhard Mueller-Debus via Navsource

 

 


Content revised: March 2010

Sources used in compiling this account:

Brown, D. (1974) 'Carrier Operations in World War 2 'vol 1 the Royal Navy' Shepperton, Ian Allen Ltd.

Hobbs, D. (2003) 'Royal Navy Escort Carriers' Liskeard, Maritime Books

HMS Speaker, (1946) 'History of HMS Speaker' Sydney, The Pinnicle Press

Poolman, K. (1988) 'Allied Escort Carriers of World War Two in Action'London, Blandford Press

Smith,P.C., (12001) 'Task Force 57: The British Pacific Fleet, 1944 - 45' Bristol, Crecy Books

Sturtivant, R. & Burrows, M. (1995) ' Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)

Sturtivant, R & Balance, T., (1994) ' Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)

Weaver, D. (2004) 'The History of HMS Queen 'A World War II Lend Lease Escort Aircraft Carrier' Hong Kong, D.G. Weaver.

Winton, J. (1969) 'The forgotten Fleet', London, Michael Joseph Ltd.

British officers (including Commonwealth officers serving in British units) Part of WWII Unit Histories and Officers web site.

Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies, 1922-present A comprehensive resource listing service details of men and women killed in RN and RM service.

Convoy Web A comprehensive resource listing WW2 convoys and ships .

War Sailors Ships in Atlantic and miscellaneous convoys during WW2.

Special thanks to Fabio Peña, Manager, Aircraft Carriers & Escort Carriers Archives at NavSource.org for his assistance with contacts and resources.

 

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