The MONAB Story

A history of the mobile airfields of the Royal Navy



Mobile Naval Air Base No. V

 

Assembly and commissioning in the UK

Personnel and equipment for Mobile Naval Air Base V began to assemble on December r 6th 1944 at Royal Naval Air Station Ludham in Norfolk, the headquarters of the Mobile Naval Airfields Organisation (MNAO). The unit began to assemble as a type B (Large) MONAB tasked with supporting up to 100 aircraft, however due to a late policy change it was decided to change its role; the planned Mobile Repair components were withdrawn on January 11th 1945 and the standard Mobile Maintenance and Maintenance Servicing units (part of a type A MONAB) were substituted. In addition, two Maintenance, Storage & Reserve components were attached, the result was a hybrid MONAB, neither a type A nor B but somewhere in between.

MONAB V was allocated the following maintenance components to provide support facilities for the following aircraft types:

Original allocation: -
Mobile Repair Unit No. 1 supporting Corsair Mk. II & IV, Firefly Mk. I, Hellcat Mk. I & II, Seafire Mk. III & L.III
Mobile Repair Unit No. 2 supporting Avenger Mk. I & II, Expeditor Mk. II, Martinet TT. I, Sea Otter Mk. I
These units continued to assemble and were despatched overseas, they were to be attached to MONABs where needed

Substituted components: -
Mobile Maintenance unit (MM) No. 4 supporting Avenger Mk. I & II, Corsair Mk. II & IV, Martinet TT. I
Maintenance Servicing unit (MS) No. 7 supporting Avenger Mk. I & II
Maintenance Servicing unit (MS) No. 8 supporting Corsair Mk. II & IV
Maintenance Storage & Reserve unit (MSR) No. 1* Avenger Mk. I & II, Corsair Mk. II & IV, Hellcat Mk. I & II
Maintenance Storage & Reserve unit (MSR) No. 2* Seafire Mk. III & L.III, Firefly Mk. I
Mobile Air Torpedo Maintenance Unit (MATMU) No. 6
* Detached to operate under MONAB 1 on arrival in Australia Additional components added later in Australia

At the beginning of December 1944, the MONAB formation base was a very crowded place; there were three MONABs already on the station; MONABs II, III and IV. The personnel of MONABs II & III were not due to depart until the 20th and the programme called for MONAB v and Transportable Aircraft Maintenance Yard No. 1 (TAMY 1) to be simultaneously assembled commencing on December 6th. Even after MONABs II & III departed it would still be very crowded; some of the overcrowding was eased by splitting TAMY 1 in a similar fashion to that done for MONAB II; the HQ component was to form at Ludham and the technical components at RANE Riley at Warrington in Lancashire.

The late change to the unit’s component makeup led to considerable re-drafting and many ratings joined only a few days prior to sailing from the UK; drafting leave had to be given top priority, the necessarily large store parties came second and the familiarisation of ratings with their equipment and instruction in tropical hygiene etc came a poor third. MONAB V was no different from its predecessors when it came to shortfalls and inadequacies in equipment and training. In particular the preparation of the vehicles for shipment was impeded by the inadequate servicing facilities and the delivery of many vehicles too late to be properly serviced before embarkation. In some cases, vehicles joined the convoy on route to the port of embarkation. The main consequence of this was that no time was available for checking the spare parts carried by each vehicle. The M/T section suffered considerably because the ratings allowed by complement were not yet available. In addition, the complement of drivers for a typical MONAB was made out for an allowance of 88 prime movers, whereas MONAB V had 122 prime movers allocated to fulfil the new role.

As with the previous four MONABs the full complement of radio vans did not arrive until shortly before moving off and therefore wore not checked or tested before sailing. MONAB Staff found there was insufficient time allowed to familiarise the unit's very junior Telegraphist staff with the equipment supplied, most of them had never seen the ground radio equipment before. Also, insufficient numbers of specially trained and experienced air radio mechanics were drafted, this necessitated many being sent on special short courses, this meant them not being available for checking over their equipment.

Storing difficulties prior to the movement of the unit from the United Kingdom were considerable; it was the practice that as far as possible all stores were sent by depots to Ludham. This vast mass of stores, of which a large proportion were in cases and crates weighing over 4 cwts (203 Kilos), had to be manhandled several times between arrival at the nearest railhead at the village of Potter Heigham and dispatch again by rail to the port of embarkation. Some of the stores despatched from the depots were delivered by road and needed to be uncrated for overseas shipment. Many items together with a considerable quantity of G-1098equipment had to be re-cased or crated after acceptance. Reports on the experiences of earlier MONABs and their formation difficulties were not available for reference by the units currently forming, commanding officers’ reports on proceeding would not be filled by MONABs I – III until they were installed and so had not yet filtered back to the MNAO staff. Consequently, answers to the questions as to how much cash, loan clothing and compo rations etc., should be taken appeared to be left to the guesswork of the supply officer.

Despite the problems and obstacles encountered during formation, MONAB V commissioned as an independent command on February 1st 1945 bearing the ships name HMS 'NABSWICK', Captain H.G. Dickinson D.S.C. RN in command. TAMY 1 also commissioned on this date as HMS NABSFORD.

Despatch overseas

Both MONAB V and the advance elements of TAMY I were to be despatched together, their personnel and equipment departed for Gladstone docks, Liverpool, overnight by road and rail on February 16th for embarkation. Up to this time, MONAB V had not been allocated an operations site; negotiations with the Australian authorities to secure further airfields on loan were being hampered by labour disputes and delayed completion dates. It was decided to house MONAB V at RAAF Jervis Bay, NSW as soon as it was ready. Upon its arrival in Australia, it was to lodge at Nowra with MONAB I, a few miles to the north of Jervis Bay until it was ready for occupation. TAMY I was to occupy RAAF Archerfield in Brisbane, Queensland.

The personnel embarked in the Troopship STIRLING CASTLE (Transport J.4) for passage to Australia, sailing on February 18th in convoy KMF.40 bound for Gibraltar; MONAB V stores and equipment were to travel in the S.S. DURHAM, which sailed with Convoy UC.58A on the 26th.

After leaving the Gibraltar convoy the STIRLING CASTLE proceeded directly to the Panama Canal, arriving at Balboa on the Pacific end of the Canal on March 8th. Here Captain Dickinson departed for Australia by air to assume command of MONAB I at RNAS Nowra, Commander T.K. Masterman temporarily taking command of MONAB V. After crossing the Pacific unescorted she called at Wellington, New Zealand on March 22nd, then Brisbane on March 26th, finally arriving in Sydney Harbour on March 29th. On disembarking the personnel travelled by train to HMS NABBINGTON, RNAS Nowra.

The DURHAM arrived at Sydney on April 2nd, the stores and equipment were off loaded ready for transport to RNAS Nowra. On inspection It was found that a number of cases had sustained damage due more to the rough handling given them by stevedores than to faulty construction. Also, a number of cases were lost in the general confusion of stores at the docks and some of the N.A.A.F.I. stores had been broken into presumably because the letters "NAAFI" wore painted on the cases. Overall, however, the damage and loss were relatively slight when over 5,000 cases were brought from the United Kingdom.

Once their equipment and vehicles were unloaded both the MSR units were detached to operate under MONAB I. Once collected together at Nowra the personnel of MONAB V began transporting equipment and erecting the various MONAB components at Jervis Bay. At that time the airfield was operating as a tender to RNAS Nowra, and the station was in use for operational flying by MONAB I from March 7th to permit emergency repairs to be carried out on the runways & taxiways at Nowra which were deteriorating due to wet weather and heavy use. During this period the personnel were accommodated at Nowra, there being hardly any permanent buildings or facilities on the airfield at Jervis Bay. Captain H.G. Dickinson had relieved Commander Nunnerley as commanding officer of MONAB I, assuming command on March 9th 1945.

 

Commissioned at RNAS Jervis Bay, New South Wales

Flying operations returned to Nowra on April 28th 1945 and the station was left to MONAB V, three days later the airfield at Jervis Bay was commissioned as HMS NABSWICK on May 1st 1945, Captain Dickinson resuming his command; Captain J.D Harvey assumed command of MONAB I. Of the seven MONABs to be installed in Australia No. V occupied the most basic location; all of the unit’s mobile equipment was needed as only the runways, taxi tracks and hardstandings were complete, but no buildings, hangars nor airfield equipment were present. Accommodation for both MONAB personnel and disembarked squadrons was under canvas; 4 Dorland portable Hangars were erected for aircraft servicing.

RNAS Jervis Bay aerial photo

RNAS Jervis Bay looking South. The MONAB equipment is installed in the Northeast corner of the airfield around the parking area off the 27 half of runway 09/27 (running E/W in this picture) and a parking area off the 33 end of runway3 3/15 (running roughly S/N in this picture). There is a sports ground in the centre of the picture, and the camp area further to the left.

No. 723 Fleet Requirements Unit (FRI) also arrived here from RNAS Bankstown on the 1st; intended as a resident unit at RNAS Nowra it had formed up at Bankstown and had been making training flights to both Nowra and Jervis Bay during March and April before moving to Jervis Bay with its 6 Martinet target tugs and 6 Corsairs to begin operations. The first disembarked squadrons arrived on May 7th when elements of 30 Wing disembarked from HMS IMPLACABLE, this included 1771 (Firefly), 828 (Avenger), 801 & 880 (Seafire) squadrons. There were to be five flying accidents during their stay; the first occurred on the 8th when the starboard undercarriage leg of Firefly MB401, flown by the squadron commanding officer, Lt. Cdr W.R.J. MacWhirter RMVR, collapsed on landing. The other four all involved Seafires, NN458 (880 Sqn) flown by Lt M. Goodfellow RNVR landed with the undercarriage retracted on the 14th, NF597 (880 Sqn) flown by Sub-Lt J.E. Letham swung off the runway, and the prop struck the ground on the 19th, NF583 (801 Sqn) flown by t E. L. Jervis RNVR suffered engine failure on take-off and made a wheels-up forced landing on the 21st, , and finally, also on the 21st, during a period of Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landing practice PP986 (880 Sqn) flown by Sub-Lt F.H. Tucker RNVR stalled over the runway and burst the port tyre causing the aircraft to nose over. First to leave were 1771 & 828 re-joining IMPLACABLE on the 24th, 801 & 880 joining them the following day.

By the end of May the shortcomings of the Dorland hangars became known; they were found to be unsatisfactory due to the insecurity of the attaching straps holding the canvas to the metal framework. In high winds, many of these securing straps broke away from the canvas and was at risk of the whole of the covering becoming detached. Their short-comings aside, the air engineering department would have preferred the number of hangers increased to 8 instead of the standard 4 which were in their scale of issue.

&The station was not to remain quiet for long, 848 (Avenger) Squadron and 1841 & 1842 (Corsair) Squadrons disembarked from HMS FORMIDABLE on June 1st. No. 723 Fleet Requirements Unit, moved to RNAS Nowra on the 4th leaving the airfield to FORMIDABLE's air wing until they too re-embarked on June 22nd. There was one accident during their stay, on the 18th; while taxying back along the runway in Corsair KD727 ('130/X',) Sub-Lt. N Hodgson RNVR of 1842 Sqn, hit KD760.

The next unit to arrive was 1843 (Corsair) squadron which flew in from RNAS Maryborough on July 12th, the squadron was intended for the new No.3 Carrier Air Group (CAG), which was to form at Nowra, but was located at Jervis Bay until room was available at Nowra, the squadron moving there on the 20th. Two days later, 812 (Barracuda) & 1846 (Corsair) squadrons disembarked from HMS COLOSSUS, along with 827 squadron (Barracuda) & 1850 (Corsair) squadrons from HMS VENGEANCE; both of these were Light Fleet Carriers which had just arrived in Sydney to join the BPF. These squadrons were to stay until August 13th when they re-joined their carriers.

 

Victory over Japan and the rundown to closure

On August 15th the Japanese surrendered and VJ Day was celebrated at Nowra by members of both MONABs I & V. This was to mark the beginning of a quiet period at Jervis Bay, a situation which was to continue until September 11th when the 16th CAG comprising of 837 (Barracuda) & 1831 (Corsair) squadrons disembarked from the Light Fleet Carrier HMS GLORY. Flying training continued for 1831 at Jervis Bay with two accidents occurring during the remainder of September; on the 17th Sub-Lt. R. Phillips RNVR in KD565 had both main wheels lock up on landing, the aircraft overturned but he was OK. Sub-Lt. W.R. Hodkinson suffered an engine fire at 500 feet in KD219 and ditched in Jervis Bay on the 21st, he was safely recovered. During October 837 were to re-equip, exchanging their Barracudas for 12 Fireflies. The 16th CAG moved to Nowra on October 29th; the last flying units had now left the station.

RNAS Jervis Bay aerial photo

Senior BPF staff visit the main maintenance area at RNAS Jervis Bay, May 1945. There are three Stinson Reliant communications aircraft under maintenance nearest the camera and five Avengers parked on the apron. Three Seafires belonging to a disembarked squadron can be seen parked on the apron on the far side of the runway. .

As part of a review of the naval air support in the Pacific theatre the Admiralty announced in October that four Mobile Units were to be disbanded in early November 1945, these were to be MONAB I, III, IV and VII; MONAB II, V & VI plus TAMY I would continue operations in support of fleet operations and the reception and disposal of aircraft arising from the disbandment of squadrons as the BPF began to reduce its size. As part of this downsizing operation MONAB V was to replace MONAB I at Nowra and MONAB VI would replace MONAB III at Schofields. MONAB VII personnel were to be redistributed to other units, many joining TAMY I.

 

Commissioned at RNAS Nowra, New South Wales

MONAB V commissioned RNAS Nowra as HMS NABSWICK on November 15th 1945. HMS NABBINGTON paid off on the same day. RNAS Jervis Bay reverted to the status of a tender to Nowra. At this time 820 & 828 (Avenger), 837 (Firefly_ and 1831(Corsair) Squadrons were present at Nowra; 820 Squadron re-embarked in INDEFATIGABLE on November 23rd. The scaling-down of operations continued apace; 1831 squadron had its strength reduced from 21 to 12 Corsair IVs on November 26th.

The 15th CAG was the next to arrive, 814 (Barracuda) and 1851 (Corsair) squadrons, disembarked from the Light Fleet Carrier VENERABLE on New Year’s Eve. These squadrons were to receive the same reorganisation as those in GLORY’s Air Group; 1851 was reduced in size from 21 to 12 Corsairs while 814 exchanged their Barracudas for 12 Firefly FR.1s. Flying training had continued at Nowra for both the 15th and 16th CAGs and there were three more flying incidents during this period; on January 7th Sub-Lt J, Aston RNVR in Corsair KD736 of 1831, Stalled landing and his wingtip hit the Deck Landing Control Officer (presumably doing Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landings?) , Firefly DK487 of 814 Squadron, flown by Sub-Lt A. Kerry RNVR stalled on approach, and struck rough ground on the 12th, Sub-Lt R.N. Toseland RNVR in Corsair KD915 1 of 1831, dropped his starboard wing after landing in crosswind on the 17th.

GLORY’s Air Group began re-embarking on January 14th 1946 with the departure of 837 squadron, followed by the new, leaner 1831 squadron on the 19th. During this month No. 723 FRU relocated to RNAS Schofields, MONAB VI, on the 21st, they were followed by 814 on the 22nd and 1851 on the 24th. By the end of January 1946, 828 squadron was the last remaining occupant of RNAS Nowra.

 

Paying Off

RNAS Nowra had now begun its run-down to closure, the stock of reserve aircraft held on the station were flown to RNAS Bankstown over the next month. In late February the men of HMS NABSWICK sentimentally marched through the streets of Nowra to say farewell to the town. MONAB V, HMS NABSWICK, paid off at Nowra on March 18th 1946, the station being returned to RAAF control. No. 828 squadron remained at Nowra as a lodger unit with the RAAF until embarking in IMPLACABLE on May 5th 1946 for passage to the UK, leaving their aircraft behind.


 

 

HMS 'NABSWICK'

Blank ship’s badge
No badge issued for this ship

 

 

Function

Support for disembarked front line squadrons.

Aviation support Components

Mobile Maintenance (MM) 4

Maintenance Servicing (MS) 7 & 8

Mobile Air Torpedo Maintenance Unit (MATMU)  6
 

Aircraft type supported

Avenger Mk. I & II

Barracuda Mk. II

Corsair Mk. II & IV

Firefly Mk. I

Martinet TT. I  

Commanding Officers

Captain H. G. Dickinson D.S.C. 01 February to 09 March 1945
Commander T. K. Masterman 09 March to 01 May 1945 (Temp command)
Captain H. G. Dickinson D.S.C. 01 May to 18 November 1945
Captain J.F.H. Sawyer 18 November 1945 to 18 March 1946

 

 

 

 

Related items

R.N.A.S. Nowra History of the airfield and other information - part of the Fleet Air Arm Bases web site

 

 

 

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HM Ships COLOSSUS, GLORY, VENERABLE and VENGEANCE. GLORY did not arrive in Sydney until August 16th.

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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.

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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.

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The reminiscences of Leading Air Fitter (Ordinance) Kenneth Lowe

Kenneth served with MONAB V at Jervis Bay and later at Nowra.

Remembering MONAB V

My journey to the assembly point for MONAB V was imprinted on my memory due, in the main to the 550-mile journey I had to make entirely on my own with kitbag/suitcase, hammock/toolbox and gasmask! To appreciate this, you need to know what travelling around our country in WW2 time was like. Standing was the order of the day, even if you boarded a train at its starting point. The seats would invariably be full of Service personnel usually brought to the station in Lorries and may have been there an hour already. Timetables? Don’t laugh! The only one I saw was on the desk in the RTO’s room (Rail Transport Office – I think) which could be found on every mainline station. There was no such thing as a through journey, and I had to get off where I was told to get off and report to the RTO for further orders. This happened on numerous occasions and each time, Catfield was the name on the orders I had to produce, this was a station near Ludham.

We met Commander Masterman (a three ringer, whether he was ‘acting’ or not) and that was on board the ‘Stirling Castle’ (once we got clear of the dreaded Bay of Biscay) he addressed us all on the top deck, spelling out what was in store for us in the next two and a half years, the scheduled length of our commission. We took it all in because he pulled no punches from the outset. “Some of you won’t come back” be said and that was due to the fact that according to the Master Plan for MONABS we were to follow in the wake of the US Marines, as they fought their way north, island by island, in the Pacific. These islands, for the most part, had airstrips, and a MONAB would take over the running of the strip, whilst the next captured island would be serviced by a follow up MONAB, then where and if necessary a ‘leap frogging’ routine, as battles were fought and won, on the way to Japan itself. We were told that 10 MONABs would, as planned, be in operation. This technique seemed practical and feasible to even the youngest amongst us (I was 21) as MONAB V was, in effect, an airbase ship’s company albeit a small one. Apart from the obvious aircraft maintenance crews, we had stokers, seaman branch sailors, cooks (obviously), bunting tossers, etc just as an established base would require.

Anyway, as I said, CDR Masterman was the only senior officer I ever saw during my MONAB service (it lasted incidentally approx 18 months). The day to day work for us, was under the control of a Lt (New Zealand Navy) out on the airfield, and there wasn’t much time for the kind of ceremonials when the Captain was expected to appear – thank goodness.

After HMS Nabswick was de-commissioned or ‘paid off’ whichever is right, we were all sent to ‘Warwick Farm’ a naval barracks in the suburbs of Sydney. It was previously a racecourse and next to a prison camp with its watchtowers, manned and very prominent. This protracted period added to my already waning desire for a service career and convinced me beyond doubt that a life in the navy was not for me. I regarded it, not without regret, but as valuable experience and more mundanely, to be able to say that I had travelled around the world (technically at least as it was a westward/south westward journey of 26.000 miles) before my 23rd birthday

Ponam, the Admiralty Islands

30 years later, having long ago put all that behind me I worked in and around islands in the South Pacific and was there for some time before I was suddenly aware of the link between ‘then and now’ (1976). It was rather sobering and make me realise even more than in 1945 how truly luck I was back then.

There were abandoned American dock workings, ships and paraphernalia, rusty but easily recognisable, plus numerous enemy aircraft here and there; most poignant of all, my colleagues and I walked into a small forest of trees. Beneath these was not undergrowth, as one would expect, but cracked and crumbling concrete. Whist everyone else was enjoying the experience of walking along a Japanese built airstrip, from WW2, my emotions were quite different. Had things not changed, this was the kind of place where I and the rest of the MONAB V would have been working with goodness knows who lurking nearby waiting for an opportunity to come out of hiding and strike a blow for the Emperor! I lived through those long-forgotten sighs of relief, all over again.

 

Kenneth Lowe

 

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Extract from the reminiscences of FX1/06335 Leading Aircraft Mechanic (Airframe's Leslie Meakin

Leslie joined MONAB 5, HMS Nabswick on February 1st 1945 at RNAS Ludham and sailed for Australia aboard the troop ship Sterling Castle. He served with Maintenance, Storage & Repair Unit No.2 (MSR 2) component of MONAB 5 until November 21st 1945.

Remembering MONAB V

When we arrived in Australia at the end of March, we went to the airfield at Nowra, operated by MONAB 1 to wait for our stores and vehicles to arrive during April. RNAS Jervis Bay we discovered was a small airfield surrounded by bush with an Aborigine camp close by. At the time of our arrival the station consisted of about 5 temporary huts, one being the galley and one an office building near the entrance with a flag pole; there were runways but no control tower or any other airfield buildings. The impression was that we must be the first unit there, maybe we weren’t but that was how we felt.

The beds inside the huts were double tiered and thankfully covered by mosquito nets; anybody who was there during that time will no doubt remember the plague of flies which nearly drove us insane! The toilet facilities could not have been more primitive a visit to the ‘Heads’ on a dark night, thinking of snakes, could be more daunting than the thought of meeting a Jap Soldier... One of the tasks we performed early on was to erect a canvas hanger in an area not too far from the runway. As there were no bunting ratings (Signalmen) on the station for some reason I was ordered to raise the flag, being given duty adds to the memory of my service there.

A notable incident that I remember from my time with No. 2 Maintenance Storage & Reserve unit was when a Corsair aircraft had to be transported by road from Jervis Bay to Nowra for repairs. The wings were taken off and a tractor was attached to tow it; another tractor was also to be used if necessary, on hills. Pop Dunne was in the cockpit to apply the brakes if told by me (sat on stub plane), I in turn receiving orders from the petty officer driving the tractor. When going down one hill the plane’s weight began pushing the tractor and our speed increased, - the driver was unable to give the ’apply brakes signal’ because he had his hands full so I told Pop to brake. He answered that he’d already put them full on but they had no effect! Next thing the tow bar broke and the tractor turned at right angles to the road pushed by the impetus of the plane; never mind orders, it was time for me to ‘abandon aircraft’ - it was a hell of a jump off a moving plane! Another vehicle following behind us winched the plane and tractor off the road and the tractor driver was taken to hospital. Pop and I found ourselves lumbered with guarding the aircraft until we could be relieved.

For leisure time there was a section of the sea in Jervis Bay cordoned off by a shark net where people could swim, there was also a small cinema which the aboriginals also used. V.E and V.J. Day was celebrated by ‘splicing the main brace’, we queued up to receive a double tot of rum: these should have been days of rejoicing but we were stuck out in the bush thinking of merriment and fantastic celebrations taking place in the U.K where we all longed to be at that time, plus the fact the beer supply soon ran out! Our celebrations were somewhat subdued. Our unit was selected to take part in the victory parade through the town of Nowra; personal smartness was a high priority and a great deal of time was spent boot cleaning and generally getting ready in order to present our best appearance to the public and dignitaries taking the salute, and not to let the reputation of the Fleet Air Arm down. This was where our marching drill which we received at H.M.S Gosling paid off. I also received my promotion to Leading Hand while with MONAB 5 at Jervis Bay.

RNAS Nowra

When the war was over things began to change, MONAB 5 replaced MONAB 1 at RNAS Nowra in November 1945 when that unit was disbanded; one week later on November 22nd 1945 I left HMS Nabswick and was sent to HMS Golden Hind, RN Barracks Sydney before I was drafted to 706 squadron on December 10th. Would you believe it, this squadron was based at RNAAS Nowra so back to HMS Nabswick I went

During January I was given some leave; the Australian authorities organised lists of people who would be willing to host British sailors while on leave and these lists were prominently displayed where British sailors d could read them. I was lucky enough to spend my leave at the farm owned by the Dawes family in Kiama, on the New South Wales coast. While I was there, I received a telegram ordering me to report back to RNAS Nowra immediately. However it was my 21st Birthday and a party had been arranged for me; I was persuaded not to go back until after the party as a great deal of preparation had been made by the family “it’s your party you should stay” (it was wonderful, a party, one to be remembered).

When I eventually arrival back at camp my station card could not be found, the hut previously occupied by myself and others of the unit was empty, on asking again for my station card my name jogged a memory that on my return I was to be put in cells .So the night of my 21st Birthday I spent in cells - how’s that for a birthday to remember! The following morning I had to go ‘at the double’ to stand in front of an angry Master at Arms who would not believe my explanation - “What telegram was that then..?” and he ordered me to be on a truck going to Jervis Bay to re-join my squadron within the next 10 minutes. I was to give the Regulating staff there a sealed message which he gave me to deliver. I don’t think the regulating staff were on site when I arrived so there was no-one to give the Nowra Jaunty’s chit to, I was simply directed to a hut, given a bottom bunk with my oppo AM (O) Young in the top bunk. From the time reporting to Jervis Bay there were no charges, no jankers or, cells; it makes me think of the naval song “Oh I wonder yes I wonder did the jaunty make a blunder when he made this draft chit out for me…” (I cannot remember the rest).

Coming home

The squadron was only there temporarily though and we moved to RNAS Schofields, MONAB 6, HMS Nabstock later the same month and I remained there until March 22nd when I was drafted back to Golden Hind for return home to the UK. I took passage home on board the transport ship USS Winchester Victory.

 

Leslie Meakin

 

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Extract from the s of Aircraft Artificer 4th Class (Ordinance) Maurice Ayling

 Maurice was part of 1843 Squadron, working up in Australia as a part of the reserve No. 3 Carrier Air Group. HMS Nabswick 16th - 28th July 1945.

Remembering  RNAS Jervis Bay

...Our next move [from Maryborough] was ordered for July 15th...

This time we flew, to Jervis Bay, courtesy of the newly formed Transport Command of the R.A.A.F and its Dakotas. This was a major exercise, requiring packaging such as we had never before experienced. The Dakota, in which I flew, with a load of squadron ground equipment and personal baggage, had "City of Portsmouth" painted on its nose. It turned out to be a rather unusual experience. It was very hot when we emplaned, and we were in shorts and shirt sleeves. Not long after take-off, a Flight Sgt. told us that there was bad weather ahead and that the pilot had decided to fly above it. It was later asserted that we had been to 12,000ft; however high we did go, as the Dakota was unlined and un-pressurised, hoar frost formed on the inside skin.

We were sitting in un-cushioned, tin paratroop seats, and were absolutely frozen. The weather was bad all the way to Jervis Bay, but as we descended, so the frost melted and dripped all over us. It became obvious that we were approaching landing through the clag, but suddenly the throttles opened up again and the aeroplane climbed. The pilot had made a close approach to a gravel extraction site, mistaking it for the runway on which we eventually landed, wet enough before piling out into pouring rain. Although I believe that "Nabswick" moved to Jervis Bay in May, there was little evidence of it on our part of the airfield. There were no buildings but I suppose the MONAB equipment was scattered around the place..

I seem to recall some assistance from the Australian Army. We were divided into batches of half a dozen or so, each batch being given a tent to erect. We could all pull a Corsair to pieces and re-assemble it again, but a tent was beyond most of us. I am sure it was soldiers who assisted in this operation, but it was a terribly soggy caper. There were camp beds and duck boards and it appeared utterly incongruous to me to have my kit bag, hammock, green case, and tool box among them. There cannot have been many sailors who had their complete hammock clews, nettles, lashing, mattress, pillow, and blanket, stretched out on a canvas camp bed! MONAB personnel had their Army type mess traps, but the Sqdn lads had only their knife, fork, spoon, and mug.

I forget now just how we fed, but there was a field kitchen type of arrangement at which we queued in the rain, taking the offering to our tents and eating it sitting on our beds. However, in local parlance, it was 'bonza tucker'.

I am afraid that all I can remember about "Nabswick" was the squalor, and that we thought it to be an out station of Nowra for which we were destined. In retrospect, we were probably using "Nabswick" as a MONAB was meant to be used. Although all other MONABS used by the Squadron were recorded on my Service Certificate, there is no record of "Nabswick", it being recorded as part of my "Nabbington" time. We never even saw Jervis Bay!

We moved out, by road, about ten or fifteen miles to Nowra, also in the rain.

 

Maurice Ayling

X

The reminiscences of Petty Officer Radio Mechanic Charles Davidson

Charles remembers his time ashore with 812 Squadron, HMS VENGEANCE, ashore at RNAS Jervis Bay. 22nd July - 13th August 1845.

Remembering  RNAS Jervis Bay

...We disembarked at Jervis Bay south of Sydney and had our first sight of Australia other than from the sea. We looked with interest at the scattered village we passed through going from the shore to the camp. When nightfall came, we stared at street and house lighting amongst strange vegetation of gum and eucalyptus trees, where the leaves stayed on and the bark came off. The bush crowded around the airfield where we checked in the aircraft. There were lights everywhere. We had had years of blackout.

The sleeping quarters were simple corrugated iron huts after the relative comfort of Ceylon, but the food, in freshness and quantity, was unbelievable after rationed Britain and the iron tight rations in the Navy. I could not get over the fruit juices and fruit which were available as and when wanted. By night the warm day was replaced by clear star bright nights which, as time passed the air cooled and became frosty. We felt that this is what peacetime, with no blackout and food galore, must be like. We felt we were in an American Californian film especially when we heard the distant Yankee like wail of a train passing Jervis Bay.

One incident sums up Australia to me and it is a warm recollection. After the afternoon tea break at the PO’s Mess on the day we landed I was walking past the Guardhouse to pick up my gear landed from ship when a voice of an old acquaintance from my UK RAF Airfield days called out “ Hey Jock What are you doing here?” “Just landed from the Carrier this afternoon” I replied with a grin to which he said “Can’t stop' Want to go to a dance tonight. Be here 6’oclock and we’ll swap news OK?”. He was attached to a MONAB that is Mobile Operational Naval Air Base.

I was there at the guardhouse, for the last dance I had been at was Greens Playhouse in Glasgow. I climbed into a lorry driven by a marine private with perhaps 8 or 10 other ratings. As we drove and chatted I looked out of the back of the lorry to the strange new countryside of dry dusty roads, dark green pasture with timber and wire fencing and corrugated and wood homesteads and I jumped as we clattered across a loosely timbered wooden bridge over a dry creek. "You’ll get used to these Jock - we’ve plenty to cross”. “How far away is the dance” I asked, “Sixty miles” was the reply to which I began to realise the size and distances of settlement in NSW. We eventually pulled up on the Main Street of a dusty straggling township, well inland from the sea and got out and stood in No 1 Naval uniform to the puzzled stares of some local townsfolk.

“Where’s the dance?” said a seaman to the nearest local. “You’re a week out. There’s no dance until next week” We stared at each other in dismay, then sighed - for in the Navy you counted on nothing, unless it had happened. “Hey, there’s a dance at------” and he named another town. I can’t remember the name of the place but it sounded something like ‘Woolumba gee’! “Lets go, its only 40 or so miles away” said a matelot. “Wait a minute” said the marine driver” My Sheila’s here. I’m not going there”. “There’s a train through here stopping there in 20 minutes” commented our Aussie friend and the marine agreed to pick us up there at 4am! A group of locals led us to the station and explained to the train driver and guard of our situation. They refused to take money from poor Pommy sailors and we boarded the train which stopped at “W” where an incredulous population looked at this strange invasion of sailors in the depth of the NSW bush but welcomed us with open arms.

We had a whale of a night and I danced with ages from 8 to 80. The second dance they told us would not be known to us for this area had had an influx of immigrants from Northern Ireland and they announced a “Gypsy Tap Step” to which we grinned and said no bother, we learned it at Donagadee in County Down when we were waiting to join the Vengeance. At the end of the dance the whole town/ village waited with us at the crossroads under the clear brilliant cold southern sky until the marine picked us up and we drove the 70-80 miles back to Jervis Bay in time for breakfast and a day of flying exercises.

We were granted a week’s leave in Sydney and boarded the train decked out in our No 1’s with a hand held steamer bag with clean clothes etc. At sea you were not given your full pay when you marched forward to the desk with the Writer with his Squadron Pay book and the officiating Paymaster. You held your hat with your open Identity/Pay book on top and the cash was counted out onto the hat and your Pay book marked. None of us ever worked out how much we should have got with basic pay, acting rating, clothes allowance, sea and ‘Hard Lying Allowance’ for eastern service etc. less money paid home to dependants. We just took what was set in the hat, saluted and pocketed the cash. There was little to spend money on aboard for we had our rum ration our ‘tickler’ [tobacco] allowance in either 1/2 lb. tins of shag to roll for a cigarette, or whole leaves to soak in rum and lashup with fine cord in linen to make what was called ‘Pursers Prick’ for pipe smoking.

There was a NAAFI but there was precious little to buy other than tea and stale biscuits unless we had been into port for fresh supplies. So I was taken aback when we were issued with back pay and I had the unbelievable sum of over £20 Aussie before boarding the train. A seaman was paid 2/6 [12 new pence]. On the train the some of the matelots started to play cards and as I watched in a few minutes one of them gambled all his back pay. I got such a shock that I never played cards again for years.

Sydney was like a dream. It was like life in an American film, which was the 'wider world' of young people known only through the cinema. It was the "Bright Lights", plenty of food, fresh fruits, girls in light dresses in the sun, swimming in Bondi Beach. The Aussies were marvellous and very welcoming with Servicemen's clubs with free grub and invitations to spend our few days leave with local families or on outback farms and so on.

I felt that I should see the city with its parks Zoo, Botanical gardens and the night life at the dance halls where we met, unbelievable to us after the Med. and India, white girls to dance with and talk and forget the bleak sea days. I spent some of my pay on smart untanned boots and light cotton trousers and enjoyed Sydney and the taste of forgotten peace time. Too soon we were back to Jervis Bay, for a week or so while the Vengeance was fitted out in Sydney.

I do recall wakening up in the corrugated iron huts in the camp, bewildered that I thought I heard a drunken woman cackling outside, until I realised it was a Kookaburra Bird. That morning the 'buzz' [rumour] that an atom bomb had been dropped in Japan. We didn't pay much attention for flying went on and we re-embarked soon after and sailed north.

 

Charles Davidson