August 1943 - October 1945
Formation and work-up
No. 1836 Squadron personnel assembled at the Fleet Air Arm
Transit Camp Townhill, Dunfermline on July 1st 1943 for passage to the USA. It officially formed at US Naval Air Station
Quonset Point, Rhode island, on August 18th as a single seater fighter squadron, Lt. Cdr (A) C.C. Tomkinson RNVR in command. Initial equipment was 10 Corsair Is. After familiarisation with the aircraft and equipment the squadron began training in earnest to prepare for active service.
After familiarisation, flying training included navigation exercises, low flying, formation flying and combat tactics, Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landing (ADDL) training and night flying. There is only one flying incident recorded for the squadron’s time at Quonset Point, three days after the squadron formed Sub-Lt W. Knight RNVR overturned Corsair JT193 ('3Q' ) on landing after braking to avoid another aircraft, he was unhurt but the aircraft was a write-off.
The squadron moved to US Naval Air Station
Brunswick, Maine on September 1st to continue their training. There were two more flying incidents during October; on the 5th during ADDLs Sub-Lt E. Hill in Corsair JT176 ('3C'') stalled from 100ft while on approach causing serious damage to the aircraft, 123on the 24th Sub-Lt V. A. Fancourt RNVR in Corsair JT182 ('3K') ran off the runway after landing and the aircraft tipped on its nose in soft sand. At the start of November the squadron began to receive Corsair Mk.II aircraft and their inventory increased to 18 aircraft.
U.S. Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine.
One other discipline that had to be practised and mastered was carrier deck landing. The squadron made a temporary moved to USNAS
on November 12th for Deck Landing Training (DLT) carried out on the training carrier
in Chesapeake Bay, returning to
Brunswick, on the 17th. There is only one DLT incident recorded, on the 13th Sub-Lt M. T. Blair RNVR in Corsair JT220 ("15A') landed to starboard causing the tail to swung violently to port, the aircraft came to rest with the starboard wheel in the catwalk.
On December 1st the squadron suffered its first fatal air crash, Sub-Lt J. D. Wallace RNZNVR was killed when the engine his aircraft, Corsair JT289 began to overspeed while in a dive from 25,OOO ft and the aircraft broke up in mid-air while attempting to pull-out.
1836 Squadron Corsair over Brunswick, Maine.
Passage to the UK
On completion of working up at USNAS
Brunswick the squadron flew to USNAS
on December 18th. Once all the squadron machines had arrived the R.N. Air Section present on the station prepared them for embarking in the Escort Carrier
HMS ATHELING. The ship, together with
AMEER, arrived at US Naval Operating Base on the 18th to load Lend-Lease airframes and stores for ferrying to the UK as both carriers made their maiden Atlantic crossing.
The 18-squadron aircraft were loaded first, they were hoisted aboard from the quayside, having been taxied through the streets to the dock from USNAS
Norfolk and were stowed in the hangar. A deck cargo of 18 Avenger, 8 Hellcat and 10 Harvard were then loaded; the squadron equipment, stores and personnel also embarked.
AMEER loaded a mix of 55 airframes and stores
On Completion of loading the ships sailed on the 22nd for Brooklyn, New York to embark passengers, spend Christmas and await an East bound convoy with which to make the Atlantic crossing.
AMEER sailed from New York on Wednesday December 29th 1943 as part of the 24-ship fast convoy UT.6 which included 16 troopships and the US navy escort carrier the USS SANTEE. On approaching Ireland
AMEER and SANTEE detached from the convoy and proceeded to Belfast, Northern Ireland to unload some of their ferry loads to RNAMY Belfast.
ATHELING unleaded her full ferry load and 1836 squadron on January 9th 1944.
Preparation to join HMS VICTORIOUS
The Illustrious Class |Fleet Carrier VICTORIOUS
The squadron aircraft departed from
RNAMY Belfast on January 10th and flew to
RNAS Burscough, Lancashire, arriving three the same day. On the 17th they became a part of the new 47th Naval Fighter Wing (47 Wing) along with
1834 Corsair squadron under the leadership of Lt-Cdr F. R. A. Turnbull DSC RN. They were soon on the move again, this time to RNAS Stretton on February 3rd. Here the squadron strength was reduced to 14 aircraft and replacement airframes were received before the squadron flew to
RNAS Machrihanish on February 14th to continue working up in preparation for joining the Fleet Carrier HMS VICTORIOUS in March.
VICTORIOUS was undergoing repairs in a Liverpool dockyard and did not emerge until March 7th to begin two weeks of working-up before joining the Home Fleet. The Corsairs of 47 wing squadron flew out to join her in the Clyde training area on March 8th. Her work-up and flying training complete the ship arrived at Scapa Flow on March 25th. She was now allocated to participate in Operation TUNGSTEN, a Fleet Air Arm attack on the German battleship TIRPITZ at her base at Kaafjord in the far north of Norway.
Operation TUNGSTEN forces left Scapa on March 30th in two groups; Force 1 comprised DUKE OF YORK, ANSON, VICTORIOUS, BELFAST, and 5 destroyers left Scapa early morning and after conducting brief exercises proceeded to a position off Bear Island to cover the passage of the outbound Russian convoy JW58. Force 2 comprised ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers), FURIOUS, SHEFFIELD, JAMAICA,
SEARCHER, 2 oilers, and 5 destroyers left Scapa p.m. and preceded west of the Orkneys.
Originally planned for April 4th Operation TUNGSTEN was reassessed on April 1st and was
Brought forward 24 hours to take advantage of favourable weather forecasts and the lack of German air reconnaissance of Force 1. The two oilers with two destroyers were detached to the oiling position later that day. On April, 2nd ANSON, VICTORIOUS, BELFAST, and 4 destroyers were detached from Force 1 and joined Force 2. The TUNGSTEN force then steered for the flying off position. Flying conditions were perfect when the flying off position was reached at 0400 on the 3rd and the aircraft were flown off according to plan except for the loss of one Barracuda which ditched. 40 Barracudas and 81 fighters took part in the two strikes and a further 25 fighters and 9 Swordfish were kept for the defence of the Fleet.
The good weather allowed for the two strike forces to obtain their desired heights and to take the best route over the mountains. No enemy aircraft were seen by the strike aircraft or the Fleet and the flak around the TIRPITZ was much less than anticipated. The attack was carried out by both fighters and bombers; fighters strafing the defences from a low height and bombers pressing home an accurate attack. The losses during the attack were remarkably small. One Barracuda was shot down over the target and another by shore batteries, both after dropping their bombs. A third Barracuda was lost taking off from VICTORIOUS and a Hellcat ditched when unable to land on
EMPEROR. Both strikes returned and landed on safely with the exception of the one Hellcat. The question of repeating the attack the next day was considered but owing to fatigue of the air crews and serious damage reported to TIRPITZ this was abandoned and the force withdrew to the westward, arriving back art Scapa on the 6th. The only incident recorded for 1836 is on the 3rd when Sub-Lt A. W. Diroen RNZNVR had a barrier crash landing on returning from a Tirpitz strike, his aircraft JT299 floated overall the wires and entered the barrier.
3 April 1944: Fighter pilots from 47 Wing who took part in the raid on TIRPITZ, on the right is Lieut Cdr F R A Turnbull, DSC and bar, RN, the Wing leader. © IWM A 22668
Operation PLANET: The squadron was in action again for Operation PLANET, This was a repetition of Operation TUNGSTEN by both forces. ANSON (VA, 2IC Home Fleet), ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers), VICTORIOUS, FURIOUS,
STRIKER, KENT, JAMAICA, URSA, UNDAUNTED, WAKEFUL, WIZARD, SERAPIS, JAVELIN, VENUS, VIGILANT, SIOUX, ALGONQUIN, PIORUN, SWIFT, KEMPENFELT, and KELVIN sailed from Scapa on Friday April 21st. The attack The target date was 24th April and involved 40 Barracudas with 40 escort fighters, when the forces arrived in the area on the 23rd the weather forecasts were unsuitable and they reversed course for 48 hours. Weather on the following day was equally bad. Both forces proceeded to the flying off position but there was no improvement and the Vice Admiral, Second in Command, abandoned the operation and proceeded to carry out Operation RIDGE ABLE.
Operation RIDGE was originally intended to be carried out in two parts – RIDGE ABLE (Attack by Force 7 on the shipping in the Bodo area) and RIDGE BAKER attack by Force 8 on shipping in the Rorvik area). In the event it was decided that both forces should carry out RIDGE ABLE with two strikes, one attacking Bodo harbour and the other sweeping the leads to the southward. The two forces arrived at the flying off position at dawn on April 26th.
Weather conditions were not ideal and were worse inshore and in the end both strikes attacked the same target – an escorted convoy of 4 or 5 merchant ships in approximately 67-06N, 13-57E at about 0600. The convoy was southbound, presumably having left Bodo about an hour previously. Four merchant ships and one escort vessel were claimed to have been hit with bombs. The largest merchant ship was reported beached and burning and two others on fire.
Two Barracudas and several fighters succeeded in penetrating Bodo Harbour in spite of the weather and one hit was obtained on a large merchant ship. Two other Barracuda bombed a derelict merchant ship ashore and obtained at least one hit. No German aircraft were seen; light but accurate flak was encountered, particularly at Bodo and the force lost 1 Barracuda, 2 Corsairs, 1 Hellcat, and 1 Wildcat. Another Hellcat crashed when landing on
EMPEROR. The 2 corsairs were both from 1836 squadron; JT302 ('8Q') ditched near Skomvaer Light, the pilot Sub-Lt J. W. Mayhead RNZNVR was captured, JT346 ('8G') also ditched and Sub-Lt D. Robertson RNVR was picked up by a fishing vessel and handed over to the authorities; both pilots spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft III, Sagan Belaria Poland.
Operations BRAWN and PROTEUS: VICTORIOUS arrived back at Scapa on April 28th and spent the next two weeks exercising in readiness for the next operation. On May 5th Corsair JT281 was written off when its back was broken landing on, the point Sub-Lt T. A. Cutler RNVR was unhurt. On May 12th VICTORIOUS sailed as part of for Force 7 (VICTORIOUS (Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Home Fleet), KENT and DEVONSHIRE screened by MILNE, SAVAGE, MUSKETEER, VENUS, MATCHLESS, MARNE, and ORIBI) for Operation BRAWN a repetition of Operation TUNGSTEN. On reaching the flying off position for Altenfiord it was evident that weather conditions would be unsuitable and the force stood off to the northwest until the following day. By P.m. on May 15th weather conditions were again not favourable but the strike was flown off in the hope of an improvement over the target. Unfortunately the target was covered by a thick bank of cloud with no apparent opening and the strike had no option but to return. Sub-Lt A. J. French RNZNVR entered the barrier in Corsair JT304 on landing.
Having lost the advantage of surprise, Vice Admiral, Second in Command, abandoned Operation BRAWN and proceeded to the southward to carry out Operation PROTEUS, a repetition of Operation VERITAS (an armed reconnaissance for a seaborne assault of the Narvik area, as part of the cover plan for Operation NEPTUNE), the following day. By 09:00 on 16th weather conditions had deteriorated sufficiently to prevent any flying operations and Force 7 again withdrew to the northwest. A weather reconnaissance was flown by two Barracudas of 831 Squadron from VICTORIOUS to try and find a suitable break in the weather for Operation PROTEUS. One Barracuda returned and reported bad weather conditions for at least 120 miles to the southwest. The other, Barracuda LS547 ('SG') missed the ship and made a force landing at Stave, Andoya, Norway the three man crew were captured and taken as POWs. Operation PROTEUS was then abandoned and the Force withdrew to Scapa arriving p.m. May 18th; approaching Scapa earlier that day Corsair JT369 drifted landing on and went over side the into the sea, the pilot Sub-Lt J. F. R. Ball RNVR was rescued OK.
Operations TIGER CLAW, CAMBRIDGE, and LOMBARD: TIGER CLAW was a repetition of Operation BRAWN, and operation CAMBRIDGE a repetition of Operation PROTEUS. Force 7 (VICTORIOUS (Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Home Fleet), FURIOUS, BERWICK, and DEVONSHIRE screened by WAKEFUL, WAGER, WIZARD, WHELP, and NUBIAN) left Scapa on 28th May and proceeded to the flying off position for Altenfiord. Off the Faroes the force was joined by MILNE, MUSKETEER, MARNE, METEOR, and MATCHLESS who had fuelled at Skaalefiord; when these 5 destroyers joined WHELP and NUBIAN were detached and returned to Scapa, Before reaching the flying off position on 30th a sighting report from an enemy U-boat was intercepted by MILNE and judged to be within 30 miles. In view of this, and the quite unsuitable weather reports of the target area, Vice Admiral, Second in Command, decided to abandon operation TIGER CLAW and CAMBRIDGE and turned southwards to carry out Operation LOMBARD, strikes on enemy shipping in the Aalesund area.
1 June 1944: Corsairs aircraft of 47 Wing ranged on the flight desk ready for launch for Operation TIGER CLAW. © -IWM-A23831
The flying off position was reached p.m. on June 1st and the weather was favourable. A strike of 6 Barracudas (831 Squadron) and 22 Corsairs (47 Wing) from VICTORIOUS and 10 Barracudas (830 squadron) and 12 Seafires (801 Squadron) from FURIOUS was flown off and to attack a 3 merchant ship convoy, between Kvam Island & Norwegian mainland, reported during the afternoon by an RAF Mosquito, was found and attacked. All three merchant ships were hit by bombs and the escorting flak ships were nearly all hit by the fighters. It is believed that two merchant ships and one escort vessel subsequently sank. No German aircraft were encountered either over the target or the Fleet; one Corsair from 1834 squadron VICTORIOUS, Jt389 was hit by flak, crashed off Aalesumd, the pilot Sub-Lt J. F.R. Bell was taken prisoner. One Seafire from FURIOUS, LR648 801 squadron was hit by flak and crashed off Aalesumd killing the pilot Sub-LT K. R. Brown. The striking force had landed on by 23:05 and Force 7 withdrew at high speed to the south westward, arriving back at Scapa p.m. 2 June.
Two days later a force comprising VICTORIOUS (Rear Admiral Commanding First Cruiser Squadron), FURIOUS, KENT, JAMAICA, MILNE (Captain (D) Third Destroyer Flotilla) in, METEOR, MUSKETEER, MATCHLESS, WHELP, WIZARD, WAGER, WAKEFUL sailed for Operation KRUSCHEN to destroy shipping off the Norwegian Coast in Leads between Skorpen and Reksten Islands and Reksten and Sogne Sjoen. The targets were a convoy in 60°37;N, 04°;53E steering northwards and another in 61° 41’N, 4°’47E steering southwards but fog was met shortly before the strike was due to fly off, and the operation was postponed until the following day. Weather conditions were even worse on the morning of the 8th and the Rear Admiral, Commanding First Cruiser Squadron abandoned the operation and the force returned to Scapa.
Reallocated to the Eastern Fleet
This was the end of VICTORIOUS’ time with the Home Fleet, she arrived on the Clyde on the 9th to prepare for deployment to the Eastern Fleet. VICTORIOUS in company with INDOMITABLE sailed from the Clyde on June 12th bound for the Mediterranean on passage to Ceylon.
Flying training was conducted on passage. There were two flying incidents involving 47 Wing while in the eastern Mediterranean; on June 20th Sub-Lt P. A. Swift RNVR (1836) ran short of fuel in JT323 and ditched near the carrier. The following day Sub-Lt M.C. Kelly RNVR (1834) was killed when his aircraft, JT386 spun into the sea after suffering a high speed stall during aerobatics.
The two carriers arrived at Ceylon on July 5th and the Corsairs of 47 Wing were disembarked to
RNS Colombo Racecourse, and the Barracudas of 831 squadron to
RNS Katukurunda, on the 7th. On August 14th Major R. C. Hay RM relieved Lt-Cdr Turnbull as Wing Commander. On July 19th
the squadrons re-joined the ship in readiness for Operation CRIMSON; 831 squadron had been expanded to 21 Barracudas, while ashore they had absorbed 829 Squadron. The 11 Corsairs of
1838 squadron were also embarked for this operation bringing the aircraft strength embarked in VICTORIOUS to 39 Corsairs and 21 Barracudas.
Operation CRIMSON : The fleet carriers ILLUSTRIOUS (1830,
1837 Corsair, 810 Barracuda) and VICTORIOUS (1834, 1836 &
1838 Corsair, 831 Barracuda), battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT and French RICHELIEU, battle-cruiser RENOWN, heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND, light cruisers CEYLON, KENYA, NIGERIA, Free Dutch TROMP and New Zealand GAMBIA, light anti-aircraft cruiser PHOEBE, destroyers QUALITY, QUILLIAM, RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID, RELENTLESS, ROTHERHAM, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and QUICKMATCH, and the submarines TEMPLAR and TANTIVY in the air/sea rescue role sailed on the 22nd for Operation CRIMSON, attacks on airfields near Sabang, Sumatra.
At dawn on the 25th 34 Corsair fighter-bombers were launched to attack the nearby airfields, but found few targets. The main tasking for the two carriers was to provide air cover and spotters for the Bombardment force. The heavy warships and the destroyers RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID, RELENTLESS, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and ROTHERHAM carried out a Bombardment at Sabang with 294 15-in, 134 8-in, 324 6-in, about 500 5-in and 123 4.7-in shells directed at targets including shore batteries and a radar station. After this initial strike, the cruiser TROMP and the destroyers QUILLIAM, QUALITY and QUICKMATCH entered the harbour and fired eight torpedoes, 208 6-in, 717 5-in and 668 4.7-in shells at close range. In return, TROMP received four hits and QUALITY and QUILLIAM one hit each from the coastal batteries. Operation CRIMSON inflicted considerable damage on the oil tanks and repair shops of the port, and sank two small vessels (1,500 tons). As the force was withdrawing at 09:30 a Japanese attack by 10 aircraft was intercepted by 13 Corsair fighters (from 1830
1833, squadrons ILLUSTRIOUS, and
1838 VICTORIOUS) and 8 were shot down, 7 A6M ‘Zero’ fighters and one Ki21 ‘Sally’ bomber.
On arrival back at Ceylon 47 Wing disembarked to
RAF Minneriya on July 27th; at the beginning of August No.
1837 squadron became part of the 47th Naval Fighter Wing. This was a short spell ashore as
1834 and 1836 squadrons re-embarked in VICTORIOUS on August 4th,
1837 joining them on the 14th in preparation for Operation BANQUET.
Operation BANQUET: This was a series of strikes against Padang airfield, Emmehaven harbour and the Indaroeng Cement Works at Padang, Sumatra, and Dutch East Indies. This was also intended as a diversion during US operations at Hollandia in New Guinea and to provide air-sea rescue facilities during US air attacks on NW Sumatra on the 23rd (Operation BOOMERANG).
Task Force 64, (Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (1839 &
1844 Hellcat, 815 & 817 Barracuda) and VICTORIOUS (1834, 1836
& 1837 Corsair, 831 Barracuda), Battleship HOWE, Cruisers CEYLON and KENYA, with Destroyers RAPID, RAIDER, REDOUBT, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and ROTHERHAM) left Trincomalee on August 18th. By 0550, August 24, the Force was at its launch position. The sky was clear and the seas were slight but there was nearly no wind at just six knots. The carriers had to steam at 27 knots to generate enough wind-over deck to get their aircraft airborne. Each carrier launched 10 Barracudas, each carrying 500 lbs of bombs. Escorting this strike force were 19 Corsairs from Victorious. At 07.10, a second strike wave was launched. This time it was made up of nine Barracudas from INDOMITABLE and three from VICTORIOUS. The escort was 12 Corsairs, again from VICTORIOUS.
The aircraft arrived over Emmehaven and Padang to discover the ports largely abandoned. The Barracudas nevertheless carried out their strike and one Corsair was lost to light anti-aircraft fire. Two ships totalling 6000 tons were claimed as damaged. The Indaroeng cement works strike was successful; it was put out of action for two months. There are five recorded flying incidents for 47 Wing involved aircraft from
1837 squadron; Sub-Lt T. A. Cutler RNVR (1837
7) was killed when his aircraft Corsair JT322 crashed into the sea during the Padang strike, probably having been hit by flak. He had only recently joined the squadron and was the only member of
1837 to be killed in action. JT330 flown by Sub-Lt J. B. Page RNVR (1837
), struck the rounddown landing on, and JT433 flown by Sub-Lt G. W. Wiley RNZNVR (1837
) made a heavy landing and twisted its fuselage. Lt D. M. MacLeod RCNVR (1834) ditched on take-off in Corsair JT340 at 06:54, he was picked up by ROCKET and Sub-Lt G. A. Rawstron RNZNVR (1834) in Corsair JT414 entered the barrier landing on.
The Force arrived back at Trincomalee on August 27th,
47 Wing flew ashore to RNAS Colombo Racecourse on the 28th. This was 1837 squadrons only operation with 47 Wing and their last as a squadron; a reorganisation of resources saw the squadron disbanded on September 9th 1944, the aircraft and aircrew being absorbed into
1834 and 1836 to enlarge them to 21 aircraft each. The Wing re-embarked in VICTORIOUS on the 14th for Operation LIGHT.
Operation LIGHT: Force 63 (Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (1839 & 1844 Hellcat, 815 & 817 Barracuda) and VICTORIOUS (1934 & 1836 Corsair, 822 Barracuda), Battleship HOWE, Cruisers CUMBERLAND and KENYA, with Destroyers RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID, REDOUBT, RELENTLESS, ROCKET, and ROTHERHAM sailed on September 14th to carry out Operation LIGHT, a two part operation to launch air strikes on Japanese positions in Sigli, Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, and aerial reconnaissance over the Nicobar Islands. Part one (Operation LIGHT A) involved a fighter sweep over Japanese airfields in the area of Medan and Belawan Deli, as well as a photographic survey of Aru Bay, Pangkalan and air strikes on airfields on the 17th but his was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Part two (Operation LIGHT B) was carried out on the 18th with flights over northern Sumatra and strikes on railway facilities at Sigli.
18 September 1944: Above, Corsairs of 47 Wing ranged in preparation for the carrier-borne air attack against the Japanese repair and maintenance centre at Sgli, Sumatra.© IWM A 25750.
Below, Smoke rising in clouds from Japanese railway repair and maintenance centre in Sigli after all bombs had found the target area. © IWM (A 25783)
Each carrier launched 10 Barracudas; escort was eight Hellcats and 16 Corsairs. Form-up of the strike force took 40 minutes; much of the delay was due to INDOMITABLE having ranged too many of her strike aircraft on deck for the wind conditions, a longer take off run was needed when the wind speed across the deck was low so some aircraft had to be returned to the hangar in order to provide sufficient deck space and then ranged again to complete the launch cycle. One of INDOMITABLE’s Barracuda’s (LS522, 817 squadron) ditched on take-off, the crew was picked up by RAIDER. The operation was not a success, the Barracudas were hasty in their attack runs, hitting the main targets but missing several of the secondary objectives. The top-cover Corsairs had also abandoned their escort position to strafe ground targets. INDOMITABLE’s pair of photo-recon Hellcats, were sent on an alternative reconnaissance flight to photograph parts of Northern Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands. Unfortunately they strafed a target of opportunity – the submarine SPIRIT, which was acting as Plane Guard and had surfaced in an attempt to rescue the crew of Barracuda DT818 (817 squadron) which had ditched returning from the strike. There were two landing accidents on VICTORIOUS; Barracuda MD614 (822 squadron) bounced on landing, missed all the wires and entered the barrier. Cora sir JT361 (1834 Squadron) flown by Lt. Cdr P. N. Charlton made an emergency landing with his drop tank still attached, this broke away on landing, ruptured and caught fire causing damaged to the rear fuselage and arrester hook before the aircraft was halted by the First barrier. The force withdrew towards Ceylon on the 19th.
On September 25th 47 Wing was put ashore to
RNAS Colombo Racecourse and VICTORIOUS sailed for Bombay to undergo repairs. They re-embarked on October 11th in preparation for Operation MILLET.
Operation MILLET: This was a naval bombardment and aerial strikes on Japanese positions in the Nicobar Islands, on 17–20 October 1944, it was a distraction timed to coincide with the American invasion of Leyte in the Philippines.
For this operation Force 63 was broken down into three Task Groups, TG 63.1 comprised the Battleship RENOWN, Destroyers QUILLIAM, QUIBERON and QUEENBOROUGH. TG 63.2 comprised Cruisers LONDON, CUMBERLAND and SUFFOLK, Destroyers QUEENBOROUGH, RAIDER, NORMAN (RAN) and Dutch destroyer VAN GALEN. TG 63.3 comprised Carriers INDOMITABLE (1839 &
1844 Hellcat, 815 & 817 Barracuda) and VICTORIOUS (1834 & 1886 Corsair), Cruiser PHOEBE, Destroyers WHELP, WAGER, WESSEX and WAKEFUL.
Force 63 sailed on October 15th and reached to flying off position in early hours of the 17th. At 06:30 hours in approximate position 7-4° 0’N, 92° 30’E Combat Air Patrols (CAP) were launched followed by the first Barracuda strike launched by INDOMITABLE and the first Corsair strike from VICTORIOUS was launched to strafe targets in the Nicobar Islands. The Anti-Aircraft Cruiser PHOEBE provided fighter direction facilities. INDOMITABLE launched 10 Barracudas covered by eight Hellcats to hit Nancowry harbour, 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS provided top cover. VICTORIOUS launched a further 19 Corsairs to suppress activity on nearby airfields and attack targets of opportunity. During their strafing runs over Car Nicobar 4 Corsairs and 2 pilots were lost: At 07:10 Lt J. O. Chandler RNVR (1834 squadron) was killed making a staffing run in JT399 after being hit by AA fire. At 07:50 a second pilot, Sub-Lt E. Hill RNVR (1836 squadron) in JT308 was also killed when he was shot down by AA fire. Two other (unidentified) Corsairs of 47 Wing ditched through enemy action, both pilots were rescued. One Barracuda from 817 squadron was shot down by AA fire killing all three crew members.
Corsairs Mk.II JT565 '7-S' wearing Eastern Fleet
markings flying on Combat Air Ptrol over the Fleet.
Later in the day TG 63.1 and TG 63.2 carried out bombardments against Malacca on Car Nicobar Island and Nancowry harbour on
Nancowry Island., with Hellcats from INDOMITABLE spotting. TG 63.3 withdrew later on the 17th having completed the say’s strike programme; the next round of air strikes was planned for the 19th. On completion of the Bombardments TF 63 withdrew to the west to carry out refuelling on the 18th.
Plans to strike Sabang were called off due to bad weather; however a second bombardment of Car Nicobar targets was carried out during the morning of the 19th together with a repeat of the air strikes. INDOMITABLE’s Action Information Network was offline due to technical issues when a group of unidentified aircraft was detected on radar at 09:30, CAP Corsairs from VICTORIOUS were not in the correct area to intercept, nor were INDOMITABLE’s Hellcats. The CAP finally engaged when the hostile force of 12 bombers, 9 flying at 7000 feet with another 3 at 16,000 feet as top cover, just 12 miles north east of the carrier formation.
From 09:50 to 10:30 the Corsairs, joined by the bombardment force CAP Hellcats fought over the fleet with Seven Ki-43 ‘Oscar’ being claimed as shot down. Four Ki-43 ‘Oscar’ were claimed by pilots from 47 Wing; Lt L. D. Duna RNVR (1834 Squadron) in JT3383 ('7D') got three, two of them shared with Sub-Lt I. L. Grave RNVR (1834 Squadron) in JT403 ('7N'). Sub-Lt. Grave was then hit by enemy fire and was forced to ditch, he was safely rescued. The fourth was destroyed by Lt J.B. Edmundson RNVR (1836 Squadron) in JT410 ('T8H') .Two Ki43 ‘Oscar’ were claimed by Sub-Lt C.T. Wilson SANF(V) (1844 Squadron) in Hellcat FN411). However Sub-Lt D.F. Grinham of
1844 was killed when his aircraft FN369 was shot down into the sea during a dogfight with an enemy fighter, it is possible that this encounter resulted in the seventh Ki-43 ‘Oscar’ being destroyed. The force lost one more aircraft during operations on the 19th; Barracuda P9986('3B') of 817 Squadron ditched on take-off for a strike on Nancowry Island, the crew was picked up OK by WESSEX. Force 63 arrived back at Trincomalee on October 222nd. The next day
47 Wing flew ashore to
RNAS Colombo Racecourse and VICTORIOUS departed for Bombay to undergo further repairs to her steering gear. The Wing briefly relocated to
RNAS Puttalam in early November to make use of the station’s air to ground range. While at Puttalam a pilot from 1834 squadron was killed; during an air to ground strafing exercise with the army and flying in formation, Sub-Lt N. Blears RNVR in Corsair JT435 on the right of the formation suddenly turned left under the flight leader and crashed into the sea 50 yards off shore. The Wing returned to
Colombo Racecourse on the 17th. On November 22nd ILLUSTRIOUS, INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS and their squadrons were transferred to the new British Pacific Fleet (BPF).
VICTORIOUS returned to Ceylon in mid-December 1944 and re-re-embarked her squadrons on the 20th to conduct flying training in preparation for Operation LENTIL planned for January 1945.
Operation LENTIL was a strike against the oil refineries at Pangkalan Brandan, Northern Sumatra. For this operation the force was designated Force 65 and consisted of the Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (flag, Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, British Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, KBE, DSO,), VICTORIOUS, INDEFATIGABLE, Cruisers SUFFOLK, CEYLON, ARGONAUT and BLACK PRINCE screened by Destroyers KEMPENFELT, WHELP, GRENVILLE, WAGER, URANIA, UNDAUNTED, UNDINE and URSA. The force left Trincomalee on December 31st.
On the morning of January 4th, the first strike aircraft were flown off to attack the oil refineries at Pangkalan Brandan: INDOMITABLE launched 16 Avengers & 16 Hellcats, VICTORIOUS 16 Avengers & 11 Corsairs, and INDEFATIGABLE 12 Fireflies. A second, larger round of strikes was launched next, INDOMITABLE launched 20 Avengers & 28 Hellcats, VICTORIOUS 18 Avengers& 30 Corsairs, and INDEFATIGABLE 12 Fireflies, 24 Seafires and 8 PR Hellcats. The operation was successfully completed, the attack aircraft badly damaged the refinery, and the fighters shot down about 12 Japanese aircraft as well as destroying another 20 on the ground. A Photographic reconnaissance was also made of port installations at Belawan Deli, Brandan, and Soesoe. The British lost only one aeroplane, Avenger JZ554 of 849 squadron from VICTORIOUS which suffered an engine failure and ditched, the crew was safely rescued.
Corsairs from VICTORIOUS’ 47 Wing were in action against enemy aircraft with at least 3 destroyed; at 07:45 Sub-Lt L. D. Durno RNVR (1834 Sqn) in ‘T7D’ and Sub-Lt E. J. Haviland-Davis RNVR (1836 Sqn) i n 'T8C' shot down a Ki21 ‘Sally’ bomber which broke up and crashed into the jungle. At 08:50 Sub-Lt H. A. Rhodes RNZNVR (1836 Sqn) in ‘T8U’ engaged a Ki-44 ‘Tojo’ before switching to attack a Ki43 ‘Oscar at 09:00. Sub-Lt D. J. Sheppard RCNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT410 'T8H' shot down a Ki43 ‘Oscar’ at 08:50 before attacking a second at 09:00, this time in company with Sub-Lt C. H. Singicton RNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT365 ('T8J') and Sub-Lt R. H. Burns RNVR (1834 Sqn )in JT311 ('T7B' ). The Ki43 blew up and fell into in sea. This may have also been shared by Sub-Lt Rhodes.
On the return voyage to Ceylon one aircraft was lost and another damaged, both belonging to 1836 Squadron on the 6th: JT98 flown by Lt Edmundson failed to gain flying speed on take-off and ditched, and Sub-Lt J. H. Richards RNZNVR caught the last wire landing in JT405 and entered the barrier.
Passage to Australia and operation MERIDIAN
Once back at Ceylon the fleet began preparing for their final departure and a series of strikes, codenamed Operation MERIDIAN, to be conducted on route to Australia. A full scale rehearsal was conducted at sea off Ceylon on January 13th, a combined strike and escort exercise on Colombo in the morning and fighter sweeps on the airfields at Trincomalee and Sigiriya in the afternoon.
A Tanker force, Force 69, consisting of H.M.S. URCHIN (Senior Officer) and Royal Fleet Auxiliaries (RFA) ECHODALE, WAVE KING and EMPIRE SALVAGE Left Trincomalee at 1530 on Saturday, 13th January to be in position for refuelling the fleet on its arrival in the operational area.
The main body of the BPF, now called Force 63, consisted of INDOMITABLE (Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, British Pacific Fleet), INDEFATIGABLE, VICTORIOUS, ILLUSTRIOUS, KING GEORGE V, BLACK PRINCE, ARGONAUT, EURYALUS, CEYLON, and GRENVILLE (Captain (D) 25th Destroyer Flotilla), UNDINE, URSA , UNDAUNTED, KEMPENFELT (Captain (D), 27th Destroyer Flotilla), WAKEFUL, WHIRLWIND, WAGER, WESSEX and WHELP sailed from Trincomalee on January 16th, with orders to proceed to Fremantle on completion of MERIDIAN operations.
Operation MERIDIAN One was the first of two attacks on Japanese oil supplies in the Palembang area of southern Sumatra. After refuelling from the tankers of Force 69 on the 20th Force 63 approached the flying off position during the night of 21st-22nd January; weather conditions were bad and the Force withdrew, returning the following night with the same result. On the third night conditions were fine and the strike commenced at 06:15 on January 24th. A Total of 48 Avengers, 32 Corsairs, 16 Hellcats and 12 Fireflies were launched from the four carriers. The oil refinery at Pladjoe, north of Palembang, was the main strike target. The Avenger force and their fighter escort were launched first; the Fireflies launched later at around 07:00 and caught up with the Avengers. Two other forces launched around 07:00; Mana Island was attacked by a force of 5 Avengers (854 Sqn) and 4 Hellcats (1844 Sqn) all from INDOMITABLE while 24 Corsairs (12 from ILLUSTRIOUS – Sweep’ X-Ray’ and 12 from VICTORIOUS - sweep ‘Yoke’) made Ramrod sweeps on Palembang and Talangbetoetoe airfields. The Ramrod destroyed 34 aircraft on the ground and damaged many more. INDEFATIGABLE‘s Seafires providing CAP over the ships of Force 63.
Enemy fighters did not challenge the Avengers and Fireflies until they were within 15 miles of the target when about 20 fighters began to attack-they were driven off by the fighter escort while the strike force had to navigate heavy AA fire and barrage balloons. Several good hits were recorded on the refinery plant and a wireless station north of the town was set alight. The fighter escort claimed 13 single and twin engined fighters destroyed, with six
probable. Six Corsairs, one Hellcat and two Avengers failed to return. In addition, one Corsair pilot and one Seafire pilot had to bale out over the fleet.
Corsairs from VICTORIOUS’ 47 Wing shot down five enemy fighters; Sub-Lt Sheppard (1836 Sqn) in JT410 ‘T8H’ shot down a Ki44 ‘Tojo’ at 06:25, Sub-Lt D. Holland RNZNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT444 'T7P' destroyed another ‘Tojo’ at 08:30. At the same time Sub-Lt J. H. Richarda RNZNVR (1834 Sqn) in JT636 'T7J' also shotdown another ‘Tojo’, the pilot baled out. Sub-Lt French (1836 Sqn) in JT486 'T7B' took down another at 09:35. A fifth ‘Tojo.’ was destroyed by Sub-Lt D. T. Chute RNVR (1836 Sqn) in J7396 'T8K' which dove into the sea off Palembang. Mjr RC Hay RM, wing
leader and Air Co-ordinator for the strike flying in Corsair JT427 coded 'T.RH' was also in the fight, he shot down either a KA4 or Ki43 which broke up in flames and another which crashed in flames at 08:25 over the Tandjoengradja area. One 1836 squadron Corsair and its Piot was lost; Sub-Lt. Blair in JT368 failed to return from the strike, he was last seen in combat with a Japanese fighter over Palembang.
Palembang refinery ablaze after a strike by aircraft from VICTORIOUS © IWM A 29242.
The small striking force sent to Mana reported little activity there. One aircraft was destroyed on the ground and bombs were dropped on the runway. One Hellcat pilot was slightly wounded by A.A. fire. All aircraft were landed on by 10:25 and Force 63 withdrew to the South-West to refuel from Force 69 over the 26th and 27th. This was a slow process made worse by hose breakages and fuel supplies were running low; it had become clear that the fuel situation would allow no more than one further strike at Palembang.
Operation MERIDIAN Two was launched on January 29th, the target on this occasion being the Soengei Gerong refinery on the other side of the river as the previously assaulted Pladjoe installation. The plan called for 48 Avengers, 24 Corsairs, 16 Hellcats and 10 Fireflies to form the main strike force, 12 Corsairs for Fighter Ramrod sweeps at Lembak airfield and 12 Corsairs for Fighter Ramrod sweeps at Talangbetoetoe airfield, and 2 Fireflies for Armed Reconnaissance over Mana airfield. The first range of aircraft launched at 06:40. The strike went well with the targets being hit, as a result of damage from enemy fighters and A.A. fire, nine aircraft of the strike had to ditch; the crews of eight were recovered. The Ramrod fighters found fewer targets to hit but their presence kept enemy aircraft from getting airborne.
All aircraft were back aboard by 11:00 and the fleet withdrew, The Force came under air attack several times and the
bogies were intercepted by the CAP Seafires, which were supplemented by Corsairs and later Hellcats to bolster the air defence. During one attack ILLUSTRIOUS was struck by friendly-fire; two shells fired by a nearby ship  hit the flight deck and the Island killing 12 and wounded 21.
47 Wing shot down 2 enemy aircraft; at 08:40 Sub-Lt A. R. Michie RNVR (1936 Sqn) in JT567 ' T7N' , Sub-Lt Richarda (1834 Sqn) in JT636 'T7J' & Lt-Cdr R. D. B. Hopkins (1834 Sqn) in JT679 'T7A' shared the shooting down of a ' Tojo' . At 08:50 Sub-Lt Sheppard (1936 Sqn) in JT410 'T8H' and Lt. Col R. C. Hay RM, in JT427 ' T.RH' shot down a Ki44 ‘Tojo’ which crashed in flames near Pajakaboeng followed by a Ki43 ‘Oscar’ which crashed in trees at 09:30. Two aircraft
crashed on returning form their sorties, both from
1834; Sub-Lt F. A. Morris RNVR in JT424 '7F' caught a wire but the prop hit the barrier, Sub-Lt R. T. Moore RCNVR in JT696 ' T7M' also caught a wire but entered the barrier.
Two aircraft and their pilots were lost during the day, Sub-Lt S. G. F. Maynard RNVR (1936 Sqn) in JT521 'T8N' failed to return form a CAP mission over Palembang and Sub-Lt Durno
(1834 Sqn) died in JT572 after being hit by flak over Palembang and ditched off the coast.
Over the course of MERIDIAN ONE & TWO allied losses were 41 aircraft: 16 by enemy action, 11 by ditching, and 14 in deck crashes etc. (many of these were Seafires from 24 Wing on the 24th). 38 enemy aircraft were claimed destroyed on the ground, with 30 certainly and 7 probably destroyed in the air. Force 63 refuelled on January 30th and ‘crossed the line’ on the 31st, arriving Fremantle, Western Australia on February 4th before reaching their final destination, Sydney, New South Wales on the 9th. On their arrival at Sydney the combat vessels of British Pacific Fleet were designated Task force 113, the support vessels of the Fleet Train as Task Force 112, in readiness for operations with the US 5th Fleet.
Operations with the British Pacific Fleet February 1945 - January 1946
The Corsairs of
1834 & 1836 squadrons were disembarked to
RNAS Nowra (Mobile Naval Air Base No.1) on February 10th. The squadrons made received replacement aircrew and aircraft and made preparations for re-embarking on the 27th ready for operations in the Pacific.
There had been 2 barrier crashes on the passage from Fremantle, both by 1836 pilots: on the 7th Sub-Lt Holland bonked in the barrier landing in JT444 'T7P' and Sub-Lt H. Griffin RNVR in JT418 'T8F' missed all the arrestor wires and entered the barrier on the 9th. The same pilot had a spectacular crash on deck while practicing his deck landing on board the escort carrier
STRIKER on the 21st, flying in Corsair JT419 'T8G’ he bounced over all the wires and nosed into the deck and overturned; Sub-Lt Griffin suffered head lacerations but was safely removed from the cockpit. There was one other flying accident during the Wing’s time at Nowra, Sub-Lt L S. Leonard (1834 Sqn) was flying from
RNAS Nowra in Corsair JT697 'T7P' on the 24th when he was forced to ditch in St Georges Basin, he was rescued unhurt by an RAAF 107 squadron Kingfisher aircraft which was on a training mission in the area and witnessed the incident.
Corsair JT419 'T8G’ noses over and lands on its back during a Deck Landing Practice session for Sub-Lt Griffin aboard the escort carrier STRIKER.
Note this aircraft is till wearing Eastern Fleet
The BPF sails for Operation Iceberg
The Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (Flag, 1ACS), INDEFATIGABLE, and VICTORIOUS, escorted by the destroyers QUICKMATCH, QUEENBOROUGH, and QUALITY sailed from Sydney on the 27th for exercises and to fly on aircraft before making their rendezvous with the rest of TF 113 on February 28th. The Force was under the command of Vice Admiral Sir H. Bernard Rawlings, KCB, OBE, and comprised of the 1st Battle Squadron, HMS KING GEORGE V (Flagship V.A.B.P.F.), HMS HOWE, 4th Cruiser Squadron, SWIFTSURE, (Flagship CS 4 Rear Admiral E. J. P. Brind, CB, CBE), GAMBIA), ARGONAUT, BLACK PRINCE, EURYALUS, (Flag of Rear Admiral (D) Rear Admiral J. H. Edelsten, CB, CBE), the 25th Destroyer Flotilla, GRENVILLE (Captain D 25) ULSTER, UNDINE, URSA, URANIA, the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, KEMPENFELT (Captain D 27), WAKEFUL, WHIRLWIND, WHELP, WESSEX, also UNICORN, sailed from Sydney in an easterly gale. ILLUSTRIOUS had to remain behind as she had developed defects as a result of the friendly-fire incident and had to be docked to remove her centre propeller before re-joining the Fleet.
The ships of TF 113 conducted training and exercises on passage and arrived at Manus, the Admiralty Islands March 7th. After storing and fuelling at Manus the carriers INDOMITABLE, VICTORIOUS, and INDEFATIGABLE with a screen of six destroyers proceeded to sea for independent flying exercises on March 13th. ILLUSTRIOUS arrived at Manus on the 13th. On completion the carriers returned to harbour having flown ashore a proportion of their Squadrons to Pityilu Island; arrangements had been made with U.S. Authorities for this to be done, the carriers landing the necessary personnel, etc.
Task Force 57 & Operation ICEBERG
phase One: March 26th – April 21st
After refuelling and taking on ammunition and stores the British pacific Fleet was redesignated Task Force 57 on March 23rd and came under the operational control of Admiral Raymond Spruance USN, CinC US Fifth Fleet. TF57 sailed from Ulithi at 06:30 on March 23rd for operations.
Replenishment period 1, March 25: Task Force 57 met with the
Logistic Support Group (LSG) CVEs SPEAKER (CAP) and STRIKER (Replenishment), CRANE, FINDHORN, WHIRLWIND, Tankers CEDARDALE, SAN ADOLPHO and SAN AMBROSIO. for a short replenishment at sea on the 25th which included the issuing of 4 replacement aircraft from
STRIKER and topping off fuel tanks.
TF57 joined US Task Force 58 on the 26th for joint attacks on islands of the Sakishima-Gunto group in support of preparations for US landings on Okinawa. This was the first of 12 strike sorties against Japanese airfields on the Islands of the Sakishima-Gunto group in operation ICEBERG One. Because of the long distances involved between the operational area and the nearest forward base, all replenishment had to be done at sea; TF57 was operating a strike cycle of 2 days on station followed by 2-3 days of replenishment.
Plan showing Miyako Jima and Ishigaki Jima, the two largest islands in the Sakishima Gunto group of islands, the targets for the British Pacific Fleet during Operation ICEBERG. There were 3 airfields on each island: Nobara, Hirara & Sukama on Miyako Jima and Ishigaki, Miyara & Hegina on Ishigaki Jima.
ICEBERG phase one
For the first phase of operation ICEBERG the carriers had embarked 218 aircraft; INDEFATIGABLE 40 Seafire, 20 Avenger, and 9 Firefly, INDOMITABLE 29 Hellcat, and 15 Avenger, ILLUSTRIOUS 36 Corsair, and 16 Avenger, and VICTORIOUS 37 Corsair, 14 Avenger, and 2 Walrus. The carriers were tasked with denying the Japanese use of airfields on two Islands in the Sakishima-Gunto group in a series of 12 strike days conducted in rotating cycles of 2-3 days of strikes and 2 – 3 days of replenishment; when TF57 stood down to replenish the strike task was taken over by USN elements TF58 and later TF52.
Iceberg strike series 1, March 26 - 27: ICEBERG operations began at 06:05 on March 26th when the first CAP and one ASP (Anti-Submarine Patrol) aircraft were flown off. At 06:35 a 48 aircraft strong Hellcat and Corsair RAMROD was flown off from a position 100 miles 180°from Miyako Jima to attack the airfields at Ishigaki and Miyako; they reported little activity there. At 08:50 one aircraft was reported as having ditched 20 miles from Tarima Shirra; this was Sub-Lt Wilson of 1844 squadron, his aircraft (an unidentified 1839 Squadron Hellcat) had been hit in the engine by flak over Ishigaki. He was rescued by a Walrus from VICTORIOUS. The fighter sweeps were followed by two escorted bomber strikes and one fighter bomber strike against airfields and associated buildings.
During this first day of operations the commanding officer of 1836 squadron was killed in action, Lt. Cdr C. C. Tomkinson RNVR was flying in Corsair JT552 'T8A' when he was hit by flak and dived into the sea; the senior pilot, Lt. Cdr J. B. Edmundson DSC RN, assumed command.
Once all aircraft had been recovered the Fleet withdrew to the south eastward. The Fleet had lost 4 aircraft and 4 aircrew in action -1 Firefly from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. 1 Avenger and crew from 854 Sqn ILLUSTRIOUS, 1 Corsair and pilot from 1842 Sqn FORMIDABLE, 1 Hellcat from 1839 Sqn INDOMITABLE. Another 5 aircraft as operational loses - 1 Avenger from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. 1 Avenger from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS, 1 Hellcat from 1839 Sqn INDOMITABLE, 1 Seafire from 887 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE, 1 Seafire from 894 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. Enemy losses were 35 aircraft claimed as destroyed on the ground many of these turned out to be dummies and as few as 12 were real.
At 02:45 in the early morning of March 27th a bogey was detected by radar to the eastward. A Hellcat was then flown off from INDOMITABLE to intercept, but the moon became obscured by a cloud when the pilot was about to open fire and the enemy escaped in the darkness. The fleet was again in position 100 miles south of Myako Jima at sunrise and the CAP and ASP were launched at 06:05 followed by a 24 aircraft strong Hellcat and Corsair RAMROD fighter sweep sent into Ishigaki Jima, they reported little activity. Two bomber strikes, each of 24 Avengers and 4 rocket equipped Fireflies, were directed against radio stations, barracks and airfields not covered the previous day. Coasters off the islands were also attacked. The final mission was a small fighter bomber strike. A typhoon was reported as heading towards the Sakishima-Gunto group so the decision was taken to cancel the air and bombardment programme planned against Ishigaki Jima for the 28th and the Fleet withdrew to the replenishment area east of Luzon, after the second day's strikes had been landed on.
The Fleet had lost 3 aircraft in action - 1 Corsair and pilot from 1834 Sqn VICTORIOUS, 1 Avenger and 2 aircrew from 854 Sqn ILLUSTRIOUS and 1 Avenger from 857 Sqn INDOMITABLE .Another 6 aircraft were written off in accidents. One of the two combat losses was Sub-Lt P. C. M. Spreckley RNVR of
1834 squadron, while making low level bombing attack on Ishigaki airfields, his aircraft, Corsair JT575 was hit by light flak, dived into the ground and blew up.
As a result of the night intercept early that morning it was decided to keep 4 Hellcats at readiness on deck after dusk; although not a Night Fighter variant the Hellcat was considered the ‘safer’ night landing aircraft due to its shorter nose giving better pilot sight--lines on approach.
Replenishment period 2, March 28 - 30: The LSG were waiting at the prearranged rendezvous, in area MIDGE One, a rectangular area which covered 5000 square miles of ocean, at 07:30 on the 28th. TF57 met the Tanker Group and began refuelling.
issued 13 replacement aircraft to the fleet and recovered three flyable, but unserviceable, aircraft; in addition she transferred replacement Avenger aircrew to 854 Squadron in ILLUSTRIOUS. Replenishment was complete by mid-afternoon on March 30th.
Iceberg strike series 2, March 31 – April 2nd:
TF57 was in its flying-off position at 25°N, 125° 23’ E by dawn on March 31st in readiness to resume strike operations. It was vital that TF57 should resume its strikes on the enemy airfields because April 1st was L-Day for the American amphibious assault on the western coast of Okinawa. Pre-dawn CAP and ASP sweeps followed by the Fighter RAMROD launch at sunrise were now standing procedure and the force repeated the attacks of the previous strike days. A fighter TCAP (Target area Combat Air Patrol) of four fighters was now to be maintained over both Ishigaki and Miyako. The RAMROD of 8 Hellcats and 16 Corsairs reported that there appeared to be little activity at either island. Two bomber strikes of 11 Avengers each were flown off at 12:15 and 15:15, to strike Ishigaki airfield, installations and barracks. The Fleet had lost 2 aircraft in action and another 2 in accidents.
At 06:50, on April 1st bogeys were detected by radar to the westward, closing at 210 knots at 8,000 feet. The RAMROD Hellcats and Corsairs were already on their way to Ishigaki and were recalled to intercept, additional fighters were flown off. Corsairs, Hellcats and Seafires engaged the enemy. Four were destroyed but the bulk reached the fleet; one A6M ‘Zero’ was engaged, by Corsairs from 1836 squadron 70 miles S of Sakishima Gunto at 07:30 by Sub-Lt R. Watt RNVR in ' 131/P' and Sub-Lt J. C. Leddy RNVR in '132/P'’ which spun into the sea.
The enemy planes commenced their attacks on the fleet at 07:10. One aircraft machine-gunned INDOMITABLE killing one rating and wounding two officers and four ratings. It made a similar attack on KING GEORGE V but without causing casualties. The fleet’s gunners reported it was difficult to identify enemy planes from our own since they were hard on the enemy heels. At 07:27 the first Kamikaze attack took place; one enemy plane dived into the base of INDEFATIGABLE' s island. Four officers and ten ratings were killed, and sixteen others wounded. The flight deck was temporarily out of action, but later that day aircraft were again being operated from the ship, although at a reduced scale.
By mid-day the fleet was able to resume flight operations; at 12:15 a strike of 16 Avengers escorted by Corsairs was launched against Ishigaki to bomb airfields and runways. No activity was noted. At 14:30 reports were received from the TCAP over the islands that more aircraft had been sighted at Hirara and Ishigaki airfields. These were attacked by the TCAP and this was followed by a fighter RAMROD sweep. It was estimated that about 14 enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground during this attack and others damaged. One pilot from 47 Wing, Sub-Lt W. H. Roberts RNVR (1834 Sqn) was lost when his aircraft JT582 '113/P' was forced to ditch 18 miles from Ishigaki Jima after his port oil cooler making a low level attack, he was last seen in his dinghy was not recovered.
A second Kamikaze attack of 4 aircraft managed to evade INDOMITABLE’s CAP Hellcats and reached the Fleet at 17:30; one made a dive on VICTORIOUS, the attacker was damaged by the ship’s A.A. fire and the plane touched its wing on the flight deck edge spinning harmlessly into the sea where its bomb exploded clear of the ship. [It is unclear what happened to the other 3 attackers] At dusk the fleet disengaged and steamed south eastwards. The Fleet had lost 1 aircraft in action Sub-Lt W. H. Roberts RNVR in Corsair JT582 (1834 Sqn VICTORIOUS) ditched 18 miles from Ishigaki Jima after flack damage, he was last seen in his dinghy was not recovered. Another 3 were lost in accidents. 1 Avenger from 854 Sqn ILLUSTRIOUS ditched, 2 Firefly from 1771 Sqn IMPLACABLE jettisoned after deck crashes.
At 05:10 on April 2nd INDOMITABLE’s 4 night readiness Hellcats were launched by moonlight to do a pre-dawn sweep for prowling enemy aircraft, 2 were allocated to Ishigaki, the other pair were destined for Miyako but returned to the ship with radio failures. The remaining two pressed on only to find no targets. A Fighter RAMROD of 17 Corsairs and Hellcats left at 06:30 to attack all the airfields; one Zeke was found over Ishigaki and was shot down by Hellcats; 2 aircraft were claimed destroyed on the ground. The RAMROD was recovered by 10:45 and the Fleet withdrew to proceed to fuelling area MIDGE One, maintaining a Fleet CAP of 12 aircraft until dark. The Fleet had lost 1 Corsair in action and another 1 Avenger, JZ487 from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS in a landing accident, it caught No.9 wire on a slippery and pitching deck, coming to rest half over port side, the crew were safely extracted and the aircraft was stripped and jettisoned the next day. Corsair JT540 flown by Sub-Lt Holland (1836 Sqn) also fell foul of the pitching dock, bounced and missed the wires to enter the barrier.
Replenishment period 3, April 3 - 5: There was no sign of the LSG at first light on April 3rd, bad weather hampered the rendezvous which was not made until 12:30. Between the 3rd and the 5th of April, Task Force 57 took on fuel and stores. For this replenishment period there were two CVEs in the LSG,
squadron Hellcats embarked provided CAP for the Fleet Train while SLINGER provided replacement aircraft and aircrews. SLINGER issued 22 replacement aircraft to the fleet carriers and recovered 2 ‘flyable duds'. The fleet repositioned overnight on the 4th to replenishment area MOSQUITO One and refuelling resumed at 06:30; they disengaged at 19:30 and sailed for the operational area.
Iceberg strike series 3, April 6 - 7: TF57 resumed Strikes on the morning of April 6th. First launch was at 04:50 when four Hellcats were flown- off INDOMITABLE, two each to Miyako and Ishigaki airfields to attack any enemy aircraft taking off at dawn; 8 aircraft not previously noticed at Ishigaki were attacked. At 06:35 TCAPs to cover both islands were launched. The craters in the runway at Miyako airfield were observed to be filled in. Despite worsening weather conditions Avengers bombed and hit Hirara runway and town, and bombed Nobara, Sukhama and Myara airstrips causing fires. Fighters attacked radio and radar stations, sank two junks and blew up a bowser. At 12:30 One of
1844 squadron Hellcats returning from Miyako, JW741 ('131/W') flown by Sub-Lt J.R. Northeast, attacked and shot down a P1Y ‘Frances’ into the sea in flames. During an enemy attack at about 17:00 four bogeys were engaged and one dived on ILLUSTRIOUS, which took radical avoiding action. The Kamikaze’s wingtip hit the island, spinning the aircraft into the sea where the bomb exploded. Only slight damage and no casualties were caused. Hellcats from
1844 shot down 2 attackers; a D4Y ‘Judy’ which exploded on hitting the sea at 17:30, this kill was shared by two CAP Corsairs from ILLUSTRIOUS, and a second at 17:45 The Fleet had lost 4 aircraft; 1 to ‘friendly fire’ – 2 to bomb blast and one ditched on take-off. Enemy aircraft losses were 6 destroyed and 6 damaged, plus 2 junks were sunk. On returning from a 4 hour CAP sortie in JT418 'T8F' Sub-Lt Watt (1836 Sqn) caught a late wire and entered the barrier.
The planned programme for April 7th was changed after receipt of intelligence indicating a possible mass attack by enemy forces, a planned bombardment was cancelled and the focus remained on maintaining a constant TCAP over the enemy airfields to deny the Japanese the use of their aircraft. CAPs for the fleet and the Islands were launched at 06:10. Again it was observed that bomb craters on Ishigaki had been filled in, and that Hirara and Nobara airfields appeared serviceable. Three bomber strikes were launched during the day to re-crater these fields. This was successfully carried out without loss. At 19:30 the fleet withdrew for their third replenishment period having successfully disabled all the target airfields.
The Fleet had lost 3 aircraft in combat 1 Avenger from 848 Sqn FORMIDABLE, and 3 Corsairs, 2 from 1833 Sqn ILLUSTRIOUS and 1 from 1836 Sqn VICTORIOUS,
Sub-Lt R. H. Burns RNVR (1936 Sqn) was killed when his
aircraft ditched, his body recovered by URANIA.. Another 4 aircraft were lost from other causes. Enemy losses were 3 aircraft destroyed on the ground and 4 damaged. 4 fishing vessels and 3 luggers were damaged. At 19:30 the fleet withdrew having successfully disabled all the target airfields, and proceeded to replenishment area Cootie One for their third replenishment period.
Replenishment period 4, April 8 - 9: At 06:00 on the 8th TF57 met the LSG in replenishment area COOTIE One, U.S. Task Group 52.1 having taken over the strike duty. SPEAKER’s 1840 squadron again provided CAP for the Fleet Train while
STRIKER provided replacement aircraft and aircrews.
STRIKER issued 13 replacement aircraft and recovered 4 flyable but unserviceable aircraft and provided one Avenger crew to 854 squadron. Replenishment was completed by the afternoon of the 9th and TF 57 left COOTIE One to return to Sakishima.
The strike programme called for further attacks on the 10th and 11th before returning to Leyte on completion; this was changed when Admiral Spruance commanding the U.S. 5th Fleet, requested that TF57 instead strike airfields in Northern Formosa. The U.S. had been hard hit by kamikaze attacks originating from Shinchiku and Matsuyama airfields on Formosa; American carriers had wooden flight decks and a kamikaze hit could, and did, cause very serious damage, the British carriers all had armoured flight decks and so the risks of serious damage was far less. Admiral Rawlings agreed to the new tasking and the two strike days for Sakishima were cancelled and TF57 made for Formosa to conduct Operation ICEBERG OOLONG.
Iceberg strike series 4, April 10 - 12: ICEBERG OOLONG called for strikes on Shinchiku and Matsuyama airfields on Formosa on April 11th & 12th. The Fleet arrived in the flying-off position 30 miles South-West from Yonakumi Shima at 06:00 on the 11th but weather conditions were unfavourable and the strike was postponed for 24 hours. The next day a CAP of 16 Seafires was flown off at 06:15 and at 07:04 one flight of 4 from 887 squadron had an encounter with 3 eastbound ‘Zeke’ and a single ‘Tony’, one ‘Zeke’ was shot down and another damaged, the other two aircraft escaped. Two strikes, each of 24 Avengers and 20 escorting Hellcat and Corsairs, were flown off at 07:15. One strike bombed Shinchiku airfields with delay fused bombs and attacked dispersals. There was flak but no airborne opposition. Due to cloud conditions over Matsuyama airfield the other strike attacked -their alternative target Kiirun harbour where hits were observed on the chemical plant, dock area and shipping. One flight investigated Matsuama and found little activity. A nearby railway station and factory were attacked and one DC-2 ‘Tess’ was destroyed on the ground. A bridge over the river south of Matsuama was destroyed and shipping at Tansui shot up. Enemy air attacks were successfully beaten off by Hellcats and Corsairs, The Seafire CAP did not engage.
At the end of the days strike a total of 17 enemy aircraft had been destroyed, TF57 lost 4 aircraft – 3 in action, 1 Avenger from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS, 1 Corsair from 1830 Sqn ILLUSTRIOUS, 1 Hellcat from 1839 Sqn INDOMITABLE, and 1 Seafire from 887 Sqn written off in a deck crash.
47 Wing accounted for one Ki-46 ‘Dinah’ shot down at 11:45 80 miles East of Formosa, shared by Sub-Lt Moore (1834 Sqn) in JT654 '117/P', Sub-Lt P. G. Jupe RNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT375, and Sub-Lt E. J. Haviland-Davis RNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT696 'l28/P'.
A second round of strikes was planned for the 13th; at 05:50 four Hellcats were flown off, shortly after a raid was made by four D3A ‘Val’ bombers, one bomb narrowly missing INDOMITABLE. One was destroyed by gunfire from the fleet; a second was chased by the Hellcats and was probably hit. One Hellcat, JX814 ('132/W'), of
1844 was hit by friendly-fire while chasing an enemy through the gunnery barrage, the pilot, Lt C.R. Thurstan RCNVR was killed. A second formation was detected an hour later; Corsairs from
1830 Squadron destroyed two ‘Zekes’. The first Seafire CAP flights launched at 06:15. At 06:45 Avenger strikes were flown off to attack Matsuyama and Shinchiku airfields. The weather over Matsuyama was fair, runways, barracks and dispersal points were successfully bombed, and a petrol or ammunition dump blown up. Few aircraft were seen on the airfield. Fighters shot up about 12 aircraft on Giran airfield without apparent result. The other Avenger force bombed Shinchiku airfield through low cloud, hitting runway intersections and installations. No aircraft were lost in either of these strikes and there was no airborne opposition. At 13:00 CAP Hellcats intercepted 3 Zekes about 40 miles north of the Fleet but were unable to close within firing range. CAP Corsairs intercepted a Ki-46 ‘Dinah’ escorted by several ‘Tojos’, all the enemy aircraft escaped into cloud. After the bomber strikes were recovered the Fleet disengaged to the south eastward to refuel. Enemy losses were light, only 3 shot down with 5 destroyed on the ground (earlier claims of 12 turned out to be mainly dummies); TF57 lost 1 Hellcat by friendly-fire.
Replenishment period 5, April 14 - 15: At 05:30 on April 14th the Logistic Support Group (LSG) and FORMIDABLE rendezvoused with TF 57 in replenishment area Cootie (1) at 21° 12' N 128° 44'. E. The Tanker Group consisted of ARNDALE, AASE MAERSK, CEDARDALE, SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO and WAVE KING. The escort carrier
SPEAKER provided CAP aircraft over the replenishment area. The carrier FORMIDABLE, with destroyers KEMPENFELT and WESSEX were waiting and joined Task Force 57 relieving ILLUSTRIOUS which sailed for Leyte at 17:55 screened by URANIA and QUALITY. Replenishment continued on the 15th,
SPEAKERprovided CAP but no replacement aircraft were available during this replenishment period; FORMIDABLE was at full strength however, carrying 848 Squadron’s 18 Avengers along with
1842 Squadrons - each with 18 Corsairs.
Iceberg strike series 5, April 16 - 17: The
Fleet was back on station off Sakishima at position 23° 28’
N, 125° 18’ E in the early hours of April 16th to resume
ICEBERG strikes. At 06:00 Fleet CAP was flown off, at 06:30
-the first strike took off to attack Ishigaki airfields.
This attack, and a further one flown off at 12:30, left all
the runways unserviceable. At 09:30 the second strike took
off to attack Miyako airfields, where previous craters were
found to be filled in; this attack, together with another
flown off at 15:33, left all Miyako airfields out of action.
Rocket-carrying Fireflies strafed a radar station at Miyako,
and ground installations, barracks, and grounded aircraft
generally were strafed. There was no airborne opposition
over the targets and flak was moderate.
At 17:35 two Hellcats from
1844 engaged a C6N ‘Myrt’ 80 miles east of Formosa, and shot it down in flames. The success in subduing the enemy airfields showed, only two enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and 1 in the air: TF 57 lost 3 aircraft and 5 aircrew in combat, 2 from INDOMITABLE - 1 Avenger from 857 Sqn and 1 Hellcat from 1844 Sqn, plus 1 Corsair from 1842 Sqn FORMIDABLE. A further 3 aircraft were lost due to a deck crash on INDEFATIGABLE.
On the morning of April 17th the CAP was flown off at 06:00, at position 23° 34’ N, 125° 38’ E. At 0609 a few bogeys were detected to the north west of the Fleet and a flight of Hellcats were sent to investigate, Sub-Lt D.G. Jenkins RNVR (1839
Sqn) in JX743 ('143/W') shot down one Zeke and a section of corsairs from
squadron, Sub-Lt Watt in Corsair '140/P' and Sub-Lt P Hemmingway RNVR in '145/P' shared one at 06:25 and another at 06:30.
The first strike took off at 06:39. Efforts had been made to fill in the runway craters at Miyako but none at Ishigaki so the strike was sent to Ishigaki. Of the strikes sent to Miyako, the first two left all airfields unserviceable and the third attacked municipal buildings and barracks. TCAPs were maintained over both islands, but reported no activity on any airfields, all of which remained unserviceable at the end of the day. No operational aircraft could be found on the ground. At 16:27 more bogeys were detected 110 miles west of the Fleet, they were intercepted at 55 miles and 2 out of 6 ‘Zekes’ were shot down, the others escaping in cloud.
The days tally was 3 enemy aircraft destroyed in combat and several small ships damaged. TF57 lost 1 Avenger. On completion of flying operations the fleet withdrew and proceeded overnight to replenishment area MOSQUITO One.
Replenishment period 6, April 18 - 19: During the 18th and 19th the fleet refuelled from the LSG,
SPEAKER again providing CAP fighters. No replacement aircraft were issued during this period.
Lt F. A. Marris RNVR was killed during a fleet CAP
sortie in Corsair JT503, circumstances unknown.
Iceberg strike series 6, April 20: TF57 was back on station before dawn to carry out their twelfth and final strike day of ICEBERG phase one. The CAP was flown off at 05:55, at position 23° 33’ N, 125° 02’ E, the pattern followed that of previous strike days, four bomber strikes were carried out and the day ended with all airfields cratered. There were no enemy aircraft encountered by the strike groups or the Fleet, One Avenger from 848 Sqn, FORMIDABLE ditched, the crew was not recovered. At 19:10 the Fleet, set course for Leyte to meet the Fleet Maintenance Group for repairs and a replenishment period.
Repairs and Replenishment at Leyte, April 21 – May 1:
32 days after sailing from Ulithi the Fleet anchored in San Pedro Bay, the Philippines at 12:45 on April 23rd close to the ships of the waiting Fleet Train. Task Force 57 had spent 26 of these days on operations, and had completed 12 strike days. During this period 71 enemy aircraft were destroyed, 33 in the air and 38 on the ground; 52 were damaged, 2 in the air and 50 on the ground. TF57 lost 19 aircraft to enemy action, 2 to ‘friendly fire’ and at least 37 were put out of action through operational incidents. Allied casualties were 16 pilots, 13 aircrew.
Damage repair and defect rectification was a priority; the bomb damage to INDEFATIGABLE’s Island was taken in hand by teams from the repair ship ARTIFEX and were completed in a week The Fleet embarked stores, ammunition, replacement aircraft and squadron aircrews were returned to full strength in readiness for the second phase of ICEBERG operations.
Replacement pilots arrived for 47 Wing, bringing both squadrons back to full strength however. 1834 had lost many of its trained Fighter-Bomber pilots and was now reduced to 4 qualified in this discipline severely reducing the Wings ability to mount Fighter-Bomber strikes.
phase Two: May 1st – 27th
Replenishment period 7, May 3: Task Force 57 sailed from Leyte on at 06:30 on May 1st to return to their operational area off the Sakishima-Gunto group for a second series of 12 strike days. The Fleet refuelled from the LSG in Area MOSQUITO One during the day on the 3rd to top off their tanks before departing for the flying off position.
Nobara airfield on Miyako Jima, operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service it has as an unusual layout with two unconnected runways, giving the appearance to separate airfields.
Iceberg strike series 7, May 4 - 5: The strike program for the first day included a bombardment of shore targets by the Battleships KING GEORGE V and HOWE and Cruisers BLACK PRINCE, EURYALUS, SWIFTSURE, HMNZS GAMBIA and HMCS UGANDA. Fleet CAP fighters were launched at 05:40 in position 23° 44’ N, 125° 11’ E. At 05:50 enemy air activity was detected in the vicinity of Sakishima, one small group approached the Fleet and CAP Hellcats intercepted; one ‘Zeke’ shot down in flames at 07:00 before the others escaped in cloud.
Strike ABLE for Miyako and the first TCAP began launching at 06:05 from VICTORIOUS (11 Avengers and 8 Corsairs, one Avenger ditched on take-off) and INDEFATIGABLE (9 Avengers); this was followed by strike BAKER for Ishigaki at 08:15, INDOMITABLE supplied 12 Avengers and 8 Hellcats and they were joined by 12 Avengers from FORMIDABLE. Strike Able Avengers had landed on by 08:30.
At Miyako repair work on the airfields had apparently been proceeding by night since the day strikes by US TF 52. All enemy A.A. batteries appeared to be operational and opened fire on the strike aircraft. Runways at Hirara were well bombed and a direct hit on an A.A. position was observed. At Ishigaki one runway of Miyako airfield was found serviceable and left well cratered. All enemy A.A. batteries appeared to be operational and opened fire on the strike aircraft. Runways at Hirara were well bombed and a direct hit on an A.A. position was observed. At 10:00 the force split, the bombardment force detaching to take up position for the upcoming shoot. Conditions for bombardment appeared good and it was hoped that artillery fire would be effective in taking out A.A. batteries around the airfields. The bombardment commenced at mid-day, EURYALUS and BLACK PRINCE carried out a simultaneous "air burst" shoot on the A.A. defence area of Nobara airfield. KING GEORGE V and HOWE bombarded Hirara airfield and the A.A. defence area to the north of the airfield, on completion of the "air burst" shoot SWIFTSURE and GAMBIA bombarded Nobara airfield, and UGANDA Sukama air strip. Hellcats from
1844 acted as spotters for the bombardment by KING GEORGE V. The spotting sortie was not a success due to poor radio communication between the aircraft and the Battleship. Two Corsairs from
1842 were tasked with Bombardment spotting and aerial photography for the SWIFTSURE and GAMBIA shot. The shot was not a success because the plan was changed from alternate salvos the simultaneous salvos which made calling shot for Individual ships difficult.
Meanwhile at about 11:00 the Carrier group came under air attack. Three small groups of bogeys were detected to the westward, and were soon followed up by a fourth, in all 16 to 20 enemy aircraft, some acting as decoys. Fighters engaged one group working round to the southward, but one Kamikaze group penetrated to the carriers and was first detected when at 11:31 when a ‘Zeke’ was seen diving from a great height on to FORMIDABLE. The Kamikaze crashed into the flight deck near-the island causing serious damage; casualties were 8 killed and 47 wounded; 11 Corsair and 10 Avengers were damaged beyond repair, both flight deck barriers were damaged, the forward one was irreparable. The flight deck suffered a 2 foot square hole with an indentation measuring 10 feet square and 2 feet deep at the centre. Splinters from the armoured deck passed through the hangar deck causing damage to various compartments. Four minutes later another ‘Zeke’ was engaged by FORMIDABLE‘s 4.5 inch guns and temporarily disappeared in cloud. It soon reappeared diving steeply at the ship. Extreme evasive manoeuvres were made as the plane approached. It was heavily engaged by close range weapons and set on fire; it flattened out at the last moment, appeared to make a deck landing on the flight deck only to continue on over the side, taking the radar arrays of the port amidships gun director with it. The bomb appeared to explode shortly-after the plane submerged.
The Fleet CAP were kept busy, early probes proved to be decoy moves but at 11:20 a Seafire shot down a ‘Hamp’ while at 11:25 Corsairs engaged the third group of detected bogies. These turned out to be ‘Zekes’, but the Corsairs were only able to shoot down one before losing sight of the remaining three. At 11:42 INDOMITABLE was narrowly missed by another ‘Zeke’ which dived steeply on her, the close range weapons of the carrier and her escort QUALITY caused the aircraft to burst into flames and it crashed into the sea about 10 yards off the starboard bow of the ship. No damage or casualties were sustained in either of the last two attacks.
At 11:45 a flight of 4 Hellcats from
1844 squadron engaged and shot down a B6N ‘Jill’ bomber and two Seafires from 894 shot down an A6M3 ‘Zero’. This was followed at 12:45 by two Seafires from 887 shooting down a D3A ‘Val’. At 14:00 Lt. Sheppard in JT537 '136/P' of 1836 squadron attacked D4Y ‘Judy’ which broke up and went into the sea. At about 15:15 a flight of Corsairs from VICTORIOUS' intercepted and shot down a 'Judy' to the northward. At 17:15 Corsairs from
1834 squadron shot down a C6N 'Myrt' the kill was shared by Sub-Lieutenants H. W. Marsh in '141/X', M. A. Harrison in 'I 16/P', E. l. Haviland-Davis in '117/P' and H. Pocock in '120/P'. A few minutes later at 17:30 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE intercepted 4 Zekes to the southward, two aircraft from 894 squadron destroyed one each, while a Seafire from 887 got another before the other escaped to the northward. An A6M3 ‘Zero’ was shot down at 18:00 by Sub-Lt F. K. Barlow RNVR (1836 Sqn) flying in JT515 '144/P'.
FORMIDABLE's damage control and repair teams had her patched up enough that she was able to land on 13 of her Corsairs by 17:00. One of 1844 squadron’s Hellcats was another victim of ‘friendly fire’, Sub-Lt A.R. Thomson RNZNVR returning for an emergency landing at 17:33 in JV310 was mistakenly fired on by FORMIDABLE and hit, he was forced to ditch, but was rescued unhurt by UNDAUNTED. When the Fleet withdrew the tally was 14 enemy aircraft destroyed by fighters, 2 shot down by gunfire, and several small vessels around the islands-were damaged. TF57 losses totalled 15, only 1 in combat – an Avenger and 2 aircrew from 857 Sqn INDOMITABLE. 14 were lost due to Kamikaze attack; 10 Avengers from 849 Sqn and 1 Corsair in FORMIDABLE, 1 Seafire from 894 squadron INDEFATIGABLE, 1 Hellcat from 1844 squadron INDOMITABLE and 1 Avenger from 848 squadron FORMIDABLE.
When the Fleet returned to the Islands on May 5th, the first CAP was launched at 05:45 in position 23° 10’ N, 125° 29’ E,; the Hellcat CAP was doubled for the first launch to 8, these launching at 05:50. The now usual round of runway cratering strikes was carried out with 10 Avengers from INDOMITABLE and 7 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE taking off for strike ABLE at 08:45, the next CAP flight of 4 hellcats also launched at this time. At 11:05 both PR Hellcats were launched to conduct SRU flights, 8 more Hellcats were launched on the Wing’s first spell of Target CAP duty just before the Avengers of strike ABLE landed on.
Strike BAKER for Ishigaki began launching at 10:18 with 12 avengers from INDEFATIGABLE followed by 6 Avengers and 2 Corsairs (Lt. Col Hay RM, strike leader and is wingman) from VICTORIOUS launched at 10:59.
Strike CHARLIE launched at 13:57; aircraft from Strike BAKER landed on at 13:00. . The TCAP Hellcats dropped five 500-lb bombs and staffed Nobara airfield where 2 operational single engined aircraft were attacked but refused to burn. The previous day’s bombardment appeared to have been successful as the strike groups reported that no flak at all was encountered over Miyako. Runways on Miyako and Ishigaki were bombed, and all of them left unserviceable by the end of the day. The day was quiet compared to the previous day. Only 1 enemy aircraft was destroyed in combat, with 3, confirmed and 2 probably destroyed on the ground. TF 57 lost 3 aircraft, 1 Corsair from
Squadron VICTORIOUS, an unidentified aircraft the burnet out after a barrier crash, and 2 Seafires from 887 squadron INDEFATIGABLE. The last CAP Hellcats landed on at 19:05 and the fleet withdrew at 19:05 and proceeded to replenishment area COOTIE.
Replenishment period 8, May 6 - 7: TF57 met up with the LSG at 06:30 on May 6th in h area COOTIE, US Task Group 52.1 covered Sakishima. During the day
STRIKER transferred 15 replacement aircraft to the Fleet and embarked 34 casualties from FORMIDABLE before sailing for Leyte at 19:15 in company with KEMPENFELT. At 18:45 the Fleet detached from the Tanker Group for the night. At 06:15 on May 7th fuelling recommenced. Fuelling and exchange of stores, mail and correspondence was completed by 14:00, when the Fleet disengaged from the tankers and took departure for the operations area. During the replenishment period further repairs were made to FORMIDABLE’s bomb damage and she was fully operational when the Fleet left
the replenishment area.
Hirara airfield on Miyako Jima, its runways
receiving their daily bombing strikes which leave
them cratered and unserviceable.
Iceberg strike series 8, May 8 -9: TF57 relieved US Task Group 52.1 at 05:15 on May 8th and prepared for another day of strikes. CAPs were flown off at 05:45 in position 22° 53’ N, 125° 40’ E. A planned bombardment was cancelled when the weather deteriorated but 4 bomber strikes were still planned, however the fighter TCAPs over Miyako and Ishigaki reported poor visibility and all operations for the day were cancelled. The TCAP Hellcats landed back on at 19:49 and the fleet withdrew. News of Victory in Europe reached the Fleet.
At 08:26 INDOMITABLE launched 8 TCAP and 2 SRU Hellcats followed by 11 Avengers for strike ABLE to attack the airfield at Miyako, these were joined by 8 Avengers from FORMIDABLE tasked to attack the airfield at Ishigaki.
VICTORIOUS launched 12 Avengers for strike BAKER at 10:46 they were joined by 16 from FORMIDABLE to strike targets on Miyako Shima. Aircraft from Strike ABLE began landing on from 10:57, all had landed on by 11:20. Aircraft from strike BAKER began landing on at 12:47. Aircraft for strike CHARLIE began to take-off at 13:44 and involved 8 Avengers and 8 RP armed Fireflies from FORMIDABLE and another 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE for Miyara airfield on Ishigaki Shima.
VICTORIOUS launched 6 Avengers for strike DOG at 15:46, together with 3 fighter-bombers from
1834 to strengthen the TCAP over the islands. The strike was joined by 12 Avengers from FORMIDABLE which launched at 15:50. Strike DOG was to attack Nobara airfield on Miyako Shima. Strike CHARLIE aircraft began to land on from 15:41.
Both CAPs and TCAPs of 8 Hellcats was maintained throughout the day, CAPs were reduced to the normal 4 at 15:45 and the last TCAP landed on at 16:30. Again all runways on the target airfields were re-cratered; a direct hit was scored on one aircraft on the ground at Miyako. A motor transport park at Ishigaki was attacked, three vehicles being destroyed.
That afternoon the Kamikaze suicide planes struck the Fleet hard and caused significant damage; at 16:45 bogeys were detected very low 22 miles to the westward, coming in fast. Four Seafires intercepted at 15 miles, but allowed themselves to be decoyed away by one aircraft which they shot down. Meanwhile four other enemy planes evaded another patrol of Seafires, and after climbing to about 3,000 feet penetrated the Fleets defences. From 16:50 onwards the Fleet was radically manoeuvred by emergency turns at 22 knots. VICTORIOUS came under attack first; the enemy was hit by close range weapons but crashed onto the flight deck near the forward lift. The resulting fire was quickly brought under control, but the bomb explosion holed the flight deck, put the accelerator out of action, rendered one 4.5 inch gun unserviceable, and damaged one lift hoisting motor.
At 16:56 a second Kamikaze made a shallow power glide from astern on VICTORIOUS. Despite being hit by heavy gunfire, and on fire, it hit the flight deck aft a glancing blow, and burning furiously passed over the side. Damage to the ship was confined to one arrester unit out of action, a 40 mm. gun director destroyed, and four Corsairs on deck damaged beyond repair. Casualties from both these attacks were three killed, four seriously injured, and 15 wounded. At 16:57 a third Kamikaze made a pass at VICTORIOUS but then shifted target to the Battleship HOWE further ahead; the attacker was hit at a more reasonable range, and failed to find a target, passing over the Quarterdeck to crash in flames 100 yards beyond HOWE. At 17:05 a fourth Kamikaze approached FORMIDABLE and then INDOMITABLE, being engaged by both ships without apparent result. It then turned and dived into the after deck park of FORMIDABLE. There was a large explosion and fire and a great deal of smoke. Her speed was reduced to 15 knots to aid control of the fire which was extinguished at 17:20. Six Corsairs and one Avenger were destroyed by fire on deck. The explosion blew out a flight deck rivet and thus allowed burning petrol to fall into the hangar which had to be sprayed. As a result a further three Avengers and eight Corsairs were damaged. Eighteen aircraft were put out of action, four Avengers and 14 Corsairs, of which three Avengers and seven Corsairs were flyable duds. Casualties were fortunately light—one killed and a few injured.
At 17:55 FORMIDABLE reported being fit to land on aircraft and that during the engagement she had definitely shot down one enemy by gunfire; she had only four bombers and 11 fighters serviceable. VICTORIOUS could operate aircraft at a reduced rate due to the damage to her forward lift. Vice-Admiral Rawlings decided to withdraw to fuel, sort out and make good the damage, and return to strike on the 12th/13th May; dusk CAP landed on at 19:24 and at 19:50 course was set for replenishment area COOTIE.
1834 squadron Corsairs failed to return from its Target CAP sortie over Ishigaki Shima; Lt. D. Cameron RNZNVR flying in JT418 was hit by flak and baled out, he was taken prisoner. Two other Corsairs were destroyed as a result of the Kamikaze attack on VICTORIOUS.
Replenishment period 9, May 10 - 11: TF57 met the LSG at 06:10 on May 10th. During the day 6 of 1841 squadrons Corsair flyable duds were flown off from FORMIDABLE to
SPEAKER and 7 replacements were issued; 20 casualties were embarked from FORMIDABLE and VICTORIOUS for passage to the Hospital Ship OXFORDSHIRE at Leyte. At 19:15 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night. Fuelling and storing continued on the 11th and on completion the Fleet disengaged at 16:40 and departed for the operational area.
Iceberg strike series 9, May 12 - 13: Beginning at 05:40 INDOMITABLE launched 11 Avengers for Strike ABLE to target airfields on Ishigaki Island with 4 Hellcats for escort and 4 more for the first island TCAP, all were airborne by 05:46. This force was joined by a further 9 Avengers from FORMIDABLE to target Miyara airfield, INDOMITABLE’S bombers targeted Ishigaki airfield. Strike BAKER launched at 08:00 to bomb Hirara and Nobara airfields on Miyako, and comprised of 12 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE and 10 from VICTORIOUS.
Ten of the Avengers from strike ABLE landed on at 09:55; one had ditched 80 miles west of the fleet due to engine failure, two of the escorting Hellcats were ordered to circle their position. The crew were rescued by the guard submarine USS BLUEFISH and the 2 Hellcats landed on at 10:34. At 09:57 one of VICTORIOUS’ Avengers, JZ633 was hit by flack during the attack on Hirara and was forced to ditch 3 miles from the ship, the crew were rescued by KENRENFELT.
Five Bomber strikes were planned but Strike CHARLIE, a second strike on Ishigaki, was cancelled owing to weather conditions. Strike DOG took off at 13:50, 8 Avengers from VICTORIOUS, ordered to attack a heavy A.A. position on Miyako Shima and 4 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE to strafe radio and weather stations. Low cloud hampered the attacks and results were poor. Strike DOG began landing on from 15:40. Strike EASY launched at 15:40, also for targets on Miyako Shima, 11 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE and 8 from FORMIDABLE to attack camouflaged building and gun positions.
The airfields on both Miyako and Ishigaki islands were again suppressed and runways re-cratered, and A.A. emplacements and dispersal areas were straffed. No enemy aircraft were airborne in the vicinity of the Fleet or islands during the day. At 19:30 the dusk CAP was landed on and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. TF57 lost 5 aircraft, 2 in combat - 1 Avenger from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS, 1 Hellcat and pilot from 1839 Sqn INDOMITABLE and 3 operationally; 3 enemy aircraft were probably damaged on the ground and a 200 ton coaster damaged.
The fleet arrived off the islands on the 13th to launch another five strikes; 8 Hellcats for the island TCAP launched at 05:43, one flight for Miyako the other a recon of Ishigaki, they reported that Ishigaki runways were again serviceable and a thin strip of Miyara runway had been repaired. At Miyako and Hirara one runway, and at Nobara both runways, had been made possibly serviceable. The usual four bomber strikes were flown during the day, three to Miyako and one to Ishigaki.
Strike ABLE took off f at 07:55 with orders to bomb the NE/SW runway at Hirara and Nobara airfields on Miyako Shima. Results at Nobara were poor and the airfield remained serviceable.
! Strike BAKER launched at 08:00, 9 Avengers from VICTORIOUS and 12 from INDEFATIGABLE. The strike was led by Lt. Col Hay RM, and escorted by Corsairs from 47 Wing. On reaching the island the INDEFATIGABLE section bombed Hirara town and nearby supply dumps while VICTORIOUS; 849 squadron bombed runways at Nobara. 3 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE joined the 8 from VICTORIOUS to bomb the northeast/southwest runway at Hirara while the remaining 9 Avengers bombed Nobara airfield, 6 bombing the easy/west runway and the remaining 3 attacked the north/south runway. Strike BAKER began landing on at 10:20. Strike CHARLIE launched at 11:00, 8 Avengers from FORMIDABLE and 8 from INDOMITABLE plus 4 Hellcats as escort for Ishigaki; one of INDOMITABLE‘s Avengers returned to the ship with an oil leak. They attacked dispersal areas, store dumps and Hiraye town. Strike DOG began launching at 13:40, 6 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE to attack radio stations at Hirara and Nobara on Miyako and 6 Avengers from VICTORIOUS launched at 13:45. A fifth strike, EASY was launched at 16:10, 11 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE and 8 from FORMIDABLE tasked with a repeat strike again the runway at Nobara. The aircraft began landing on at 18:25, one Avenger from INDEFATIGABLE made a successful emergency landing on INDOMITABLE at 18:55 after one main wheel failed to lower.
At Miyako all runways were left unserviceable, a barracks was straffed, 8 barges were hit, also 3 major oil fires were started, At Ishigaki camouflaged buildings and storage dumps were hit, as were two radio stations one of which was left in flames. Again there was no enemy air activity near the Fleet or islands. At 19:25 the dusk CAP Hellcats were landed on and the Fleet withdrew to refuel.
Replenishment period 10, May 14 - 15: At 0630 on May 14th TF57 met the first elements of the LSG, a second group was delayed, but were on station by 10:00. The hospital ship TJITJALENGKA arrived at the replenishment area later that afternoon prepared to accept any future casualties when the Fleet withdrew from operations. The replenishment carrier
STRIKER transferred 14 replacement aircraft and recovered one flyable dud. At 19:10 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night. A further 6 aircraft were transferred and one flyable dud received by
STRIKER during the second day of replenishment. At 17:05 on the 15th the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group and departed for the operations area.
Iceberg strike series 10, May 16 - 17: At 05:40 on May 16th Fleet and island CAPs plus the first bomber strike for Miyako were flown off. Five bomber strikes were to be sent to the islands during the day, three to Miyako and two to Ishigaki.
Strike ABLE took off f at 05:45, 8 Avengers from VICTORIOUS and 8 FIREFLY from INDEFATIGABLE, led by Lt. Col Hay RM, and escorted by Corsairs from 47 Wing. The Avengers were ordered to bomb the intersection of the runways on Hirara airfield while the Fireflies were to attack a radio station at Hirara airfield and a camouflaged radio station at Nobara airfield. All aircraft had landed on by 07:55. The launch for strike BAKER started at 07:31 with 11 Avengers and 4 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE which formed up with 7 Avengers from FORMIDABLE and another 8 from INDEFATIGABLE. One Avenger returned to INDOMITABLE with hydraulic failure. On reaching Ishigaki airfield INDOMITABLE’s Avengers bombed the intact East-West runway while those from FORMIDABLE bombed a dispersal point while those from INDEFATIGABLE attacked excavations at the North-Eastern end of the main runway. The aircraft from Strike BAKER began landing on at 11:00.
Strike CHARLIE began launching at 10:55, 8 Avengers and 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS and 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE led by Lt. Col Hay RM, and escorted by Corsairs from 47 Wing for targets at Nobara airfield on Miyako, each Avenger squadron was split into two fights of 4 and the first attacks were made by 849 squadron at 12:02 and 12:04 bombing the north/south runway at Nobara. At 12:15 one flight from 820 squadron attacked the east/west runway, followed five minutes later by the second section making another bomb run on the north/south runway. The strike began landing on at 13:30. Strike DOG began launching at 13:25, 8 Avengers from FORMIDABLE and 9 from INDOMITABLE tasked with bombing the North-South runway at Miyara airfield.
Strike, EASY began launching at 15:25 with 7 Avengers and 8 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE and 7 Avengers and 4 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS. The Fireflies were tasked with attacking barracks and suicide boat bases, independently of the main strike; One aircraft developed engine trouble approaching the island and returned to the fleet escorted by his wingman, the remaining pressed hoe their attack. The Avengers of 820 squadron bombed barracks and camouflaged buildings northeast of Hirara airfield while those of 849 bombed the east/west runway at Nobara. Strike DOG landed on at 16:28 and Strike EASY at 17:37. The dusk CAP landed on at 19:35 and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. No enemy aircraft were airborne during the day.
All target runways were made unserviceable; four new aircraft which appeared operational were straffed but did not burn, 3 others were damaged; 10 small craft of various classes were damaged, and four of them left in a sinking condition; a large explosion was caused in Ohama town; 5 direct hits with S.A.P. bombs were made on a large cave shelter. TF57 lost 5 aircraft, 1 in combat and 4 operationally; 7 enemy aircraft were damaged on the ground.
47 Wing lost 2 aircraft and 1 damaged, all from 1836 squadron. While on TCAP over Miyako in JT476 Sub-Lt Chute RNVR was hit in port oil cooler after strafing ground targets and enemy transports, he ditched 1 mile off shore and was picked up by the submarine USS Bluefsh. Sub-Lt H. A. Abodes RNZNVR also ditched in JT694 ('123/X') after his engine failed due to an oil leak, he was safely recovered. On returning to the ship in JT362 Sub-Lt S. Newton RNVR missed all the wires and entered th barrier.
On the morning of May 17th Fleet and island CAPs were flown off at 05:40 from a position 85 miles from Miyako. It had been planned to send in four bomber strikes, two to each island, but the second strike to Ishigaki was cancelled owing to damage to VICTORIOUS’ barriers caused by deck crashes, and the very light winds that prevailed throughout the day.
The launch for strike BAKER started at 07:39 when the first of 12 Avengers and an escort of 4 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE. They formed up with 8 Avengers from FORMIDABLE and another 8 from INDEFATIGABLE. On reaching Ishigaki airfield INDOMITABLE’s Avengers repeated the previous day’s strike bombing the East-West runway at Ishigaki while FORMIDABLE’s target was the main runway at Miyara, INDEFATIGABLE’s aircraft dropped their bombs on Ohama town.
Aircraft for Strike CHARLIE began launching at 11:00 for Miyako Jima and comprise of 6 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE (8 were ranged but two suffered wing spread failure) and 8 from VICTORIOUS and 2 Corsairs (Lt. Col Hay RM, strike leader and his wingman). 820 squadron from INDEFATIGABLE were first to attack. Due to a n error in relaying the stake leaders order 4 aircraft bombed the wrong runway at Nobara, they attacked he north/south one instead of the east/west one, the remaining two aircraft then attacked the correct target. Four Avengers from VICTORIOUS’ 849 squadron attacked the intersection of the runways at Hirara rendering them unserviceable, the remaining aircraft bombed Hirara Town. The strike landed on at 13:40, 4 of 849 aircraft following those of 820 to land on INDEFATIGABLE as VICTORIOUS’ deck was unable to receive aircraft.
Commencing at 13:25 aircraft for Strike DOG began launching, 8 Avengers from 848 Sqn and a 4 Corsair fighter escort from FORMIDABLE, 8 Avengers from 857 Sqn INDOMITABLE plus 4 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE for a strike at targets on Miyako Jima. 857 bombed gun positions and dispersal area near Hirara airfield while 848 Sqn bombed 5 camouflaged targets. The Fireflies strafed and rocketed barges and small vessels at Shimo Saki. Strike DOG Fireflies landed on at 15:55, the Angers began landing on at 16:10.
By the end of the day all airfields were left unserviceable except Miyara which may not have been sufficiently cratered. Ohama and Hirara towns were bombed, and barges and small craft were well straffed. CAPs were maintained until 19:15 when the Fleet withdrew to fuel. TF57 lost 5 aircraft, 1 as a result of combat, Corsair JT548 of 1836 Sqn landed without flaps after flak damage to hydraulics, crashed through all the barriers to hit another Corsair in the deck park and went overboard; the pilot Sub-Lt K. W. Hardiman RNVR and also Lt W. A. L. Banning, hit on the flight deck, died of their injuries. And another 4 were damaged operationally, 2 Avengers, 2 Corsairs and 1 Hellcat. 1836 squadron had two barrier crashes; Sub-Lt G. A. Bowser RNVR Missed wires in JT416, the starboard wing hit a pom-pom mount abaft the Island and Sub-Lt M. A. Harrison RNVR bounced landing in JT522 and entered the barrier. No enemy aircraft were damaged or destroyed.
Replenishment period 11, May 18 - 19: At 05:45 May 18th the Fleet met with the LSG in area COOTIE One. At 10:30 a serious fire broke out in FORMIDABLE; the guns of a Corsair in the hangar were accidentally fired into the Avenger parked in front, this exploded starting the fire. It became clear right away that the fire curtains which should have automatically partitioned the hangar were out of action due to earlier Kamikaze attacks. The fire was eventually extinguished by drenching the hangar with sea water; 7 Avengers and 21 Corsairs were damaged, ranging from complete write-offs to flyable duds. By the evening she reported being able to resume limited flying operations. The replenishment carrier
CHASER had transferred 3 Seafires, 2 Hellcats, 1 Firefly, 2 Avengers and 1 Corsair to Task Force 57. On the second day of replenishment the Ammunition Carrier ROBERT MAERSK joined the Logistic Support Group and
CHASER recovered 3 flyable, but unserviceable, Avengers and 1 Firefly.
Iceberg strike series 11, May 20 - 21: At 05:15 on the morning of May 20th the Fleet ran into dense fog approaching the flying off position, the weather prevented any flying until 07:45 when CAPS and the first strike were flown off. The fleet was effectively operating with 3 Carriers, FORMIDABLE had been unable to exchange her flyable duds because of the weather condition during the replenishment period; she had 28 operationally unserviceable aircraft aboard but only 13 serviceable Corsica’s and 2 Avengers and would only flew CAP sorties.
Although 4 bomber strikes were planned, weather conditions had not improved sufficiently and only strike ABLE was successfully carried out. The strike called for 8 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE and 8 Avengers from VICTORIOUS but due to the wind conditions and unserviceability only 7 Fireflies were launched but only three were armed with rockets. The strike reached Miyako with great difficulty and then only bombed Hirara town through a clear patch of cloud while the Fireflies fired rockets at ground installations at Shimo Saki. The strike began landing on at 10:39.
Strikes BAKER and CHARLIE were cancelled. Strike DOG was launched at 15:30 for Ishigaki, 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE 10 Avengers and an escort of 4 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE but was forced to return by the weather before reaching the coast line; two of the escort were carrying one 500-lb bomb each and these were dropped on a target of opportunity at Miyuguni after failing to reach Miyako airfield. All CAPS had landed on by 19:00 and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. The limited strike resulted in 1 junk and 3 barges damaged. TF57 lost 4 aircraft; 1 in combat, 18356 squadron C.O. Lt. Cdr J.B. Edmundson DSC RN was killed when his aircraft Corsair JT467 was hit flack during a TCAP causing sudden engine failure and he ditched some distance from Fleet, he was not recovered. Another 3 were lost operationally. 1 Corsair from 1841 Sqn Formidable ditched on take-off t & 2 Seafire in deck cashes.
The following day poor weather was still a concern and the flying off time was delayed, CAPs and the first strike were flown off at 06:55. Five bomber strikes were sent in, three to Miyako and two to Ishigaki.
Strikes ABLE for Miyako were flown off at 06:55, 8 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE, 8 Avengers from VICTORIOUS. Strike ABLE began landing on at 09:47 Strikes BAKER for Ishigaki launched at 08:55, 7 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE and 8 Avengers and 4 Hellcats as escort from INDOMITABLE. Strike BAKER began landing on at 12:17 Strikes CHARLIE for Miyako launched at 12:10, 8 Avengers from VICTORIOUS and 4 Corsairs which included Lt. Col Hay RM, strike leader, 1 Avenger returned to the ship unserviceable. They were joined by another 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE. The island was covered in cloud which delayed the attack; Four Avengers from 849 Sqn were ordered to attack the runways at Nobara, the other 4 to do the same at Hirara. The Avengers of 820 Sqn were ordered to attack targets in and around Hirara harbour; one Avenger was hit by flack but managed to limp back to the fleet. Aircraft from strike CHARLIE began landing on at 14:51.
Strikes DOG for Ishigaki launched at 15:30. 8 Avengers and 4 Hellcats as escort from INDOMITABLE (1 Avenger returned unserviceable), and 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE. 820 Sqn were to bomb Miyara airfield and 857 Sqn bombed targets at Hirae and Hirakubo villages and an amphibious tank base. Strike DOG began landing on at 18:10.
Strikes EASY for Miyako launched at 16:10. 6 Avengers from VICTORIOUS and 7 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE to attack Nobara and Hirara airfields. One firefly had to return unserviceable, the remaining 6 split into two flights of 3, one attacking the radio weather station at Hirara, the other attacked the camouflaged radio station at Nobara. Strike EASY began landing on at 18:29.
During the day Nobara and Hirara runways were well plastered with bombs, 2 fires started in the warehouse area of Hirara town, and a radio weather station was hit along with a tented camp straffed. Both runways at Ishigaki airfield were left unserviceable and Miyara airfield was also hit. At 14:23 a high snooper was detected approaching the Fleet from the westward. The enemy, a ‘Myrt’ was intercepted at 14:42 by CAP Hellcats, 36 miles to the south westward at 26,000 feet: it was shot down 4 minutes later. At 1930 the dusk CAP were landed on and the Fleet withdrew to refuel. TF57 lost 3 aircraft, all operationally, 2 Fireflies and 1 Avenger. No enemy aircraft were damaged or destroyed on the ground but 1 was destroyed in combat.
Replenishment period 12, May 22 - 23: On the morning of May 22nd TF57 net with the LSG for the last full replenishment period of the ICEBERG operations, two replenishment carriers.
SPEAKER, were on station. During the day
CHASER transferred 10 aircraft to the Fleet,
SPEAKER issued 1 Avenger to 849 squadron on VICTORIOUS. At 18:00 FORMIDABLE was detached to proceed to Manus and then onward to Sydney to expedite repair of her battle damage. She was escorted by KEMPENFELT and WHIRLWIND, both of whom were due for refit. At 19:15 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night.
Replenishment continued on the 23rd;
SPEAKER issued 3 Fireflies to 1770 squadron on INDEFATIGABLE and
CHASER transferred 4 more aircraft. During the day 2 Hellcats from
CHASER crashed into the sea: neither pilot was recovered. At 18:00
SPEAKER and NAPIER were detached for Manus, leaving
RULER with the Tanker Group. At 18:15 the Fleet, now operating only 3 carriers, detached from the Tanker Group taking departure for the operations area for one final strike period.
A 47 Wing pilot was killed during the day; Sub-Lt A. C. Ralston RNVR (1834 Sqn) stalled landing on in Corsair KD304, hit the rounddown and the aircraft fell into the sea.
Iceberg strike series 12, May 24 - 25: The final two strike days had a modified strike plan, only four Strikes were to be launched on each of the two days, with the launch time for the first, and subsequent Strikes retarded by 2 hours. This was partly in response to a request from the Americans for a late afternoon strike and partly due to reduced aircraft availability with the departure of FORMIDABLE from the force. Poor weather again intervened, the first Strike group did not launch until 10:45 and because of the delay only 3 Strikes were despatched on the 24th.
Aircraft for strike ABLE began taking off at 10:47 with 8 Avengers, and 4 Hellcats for TCAP from INDOMITABLE escorted by 8 RP armed Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE; the target area for both strikes was airfields on Miyako. 857 Sqn scored 8 hits on the runway at Hirara and 17 hits on the two runways at Nobara; a radio station was rocketed, as were camouflaged buildings in the wooded area near Hirara where one large explosion was observed. The Avengers landed on at 13:20.
Strike BAKER for Ishigaki began launching at 12:47, 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE joined 8 Avengers and 11 Corsairs for CAP and escort, which included Lt. Col Hay RM, strike leader from VICTORIOUS. 820 Avengers were to bomb an underground storage are near the eastern end of the main runway at Ishigaki airfield while 849 bombed the runways. Strike BAKER began landing on at 16:00.
Strike CHARLIE launched at 15:51, INDOMITABLE provided 6 Avengers and the Air Group leader’s escort of 4 Hellcats, they were joined by 6 more Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE. The programmed target was Ishigaki Island but this was changed just prior to launch to Miyako, this was shown to the strike leader by blackboard as he sat in his Avenger just prior to launch but had not passed to the Air Group Leader, Commander Luard, his Hellcat had already taken off and caused some confusion on reaching the target area. Hirara town and Nishibara village were hit by 12 and 4 bombs respectively and the Hellcats straffed soft targets in surrounding villages including a barracks. The strike landed back on board at 17:44. The last Fleet CAP was landed on at 19:07, the Fleet then withdrew to the southward for the night at 19:40.
On the final day of ICEBERG operations four strikes were carried out, Aircraft for strike ABLE for Miyako began taking off at 06:00 with 8 Avengers, and 4 Hellcats for TCAP from INDOMITABLE escorted by 8 RP armed Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE. 857 Sqn bombed the runways at Hirara when gaps appeared in the cloud cover. Going down in pairs or singly as opportunity arose. The Fireflies attacked the administration building at Hirara and camouflaged building on a ridge north of the airfield. Strike ABLE landed on at 08:50.
Strike BAKER for Ishigaki began launching at 08:44, nine Avengers and 13 Corsairs for CAP and escort, which included Lt. Col Hay RM, strike leader from VICTORIOUS were joined by 8 more Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE. Each squadron operated in flights of 4, one flight from each bombed the runway at Myara and Hirara. Strike BAKER began landing on at 12:14.
Beginning at 11:35 8 Avengers and 4 Hellcats were launched for strike CHARLIE, one avenger returned to the ship with hydraulic failure. They rendezvoused with 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE and set course for Miyako. INDOMITABLE’s Avengers bombed the runways at Nobara airfield while those from INDEFATIGABLE attacked the suicide boat base north of Hirara and a Barge base at Osaki. a fire was started at Sukama town. The escort Hellcats flowed behind making strafing runs. The aircraft from strike CHARLIE began landing on at 14:03.
All aircraft were recovered by 19:10 and the Fleet withdrew.
At 22:00 Vice-Admiral Rawlings, Commander TF57, in the Battleship KING GEORGE V screened by TROUBRIDGE, TENACIOUS and TERMAGANT had detached and set course for Guam.
Replenishment period 13,May 26th: The remainder of the Fleet, under the command of Rear Admiral Vian, Commander AC 1, set course for area COOTIE and rendezvous with the Tanker group AASE MAERSK, SAN AMADO, WAVE KING, and WAVE MONARCH escorted by
RULER (885, CAP & ASP), AVON ,CRANE, and FINDHORN to top off the ships with fuel as necessary for them to reach Manus. During the period March 26th to May 25th the BPF had flown 5,335 sorties.
On May 27th 1945 the BPF became Task Force 37 (TF37) when it transferred to the control of Admiral William Halsey's United States Third Fleet. TF37 arrived at Manus on May 30th and departed for Sydney the following day.
On reaching the New South Wales coast on June 5th the Corsairs of 47 Wing flew ashore to RNAS Schofields, outside Sydney, to regroup and re-equip.
Operations against the Japanese mainland: July - August 1945
The squadrons re-embarked in VICTORIOUS on June 26th when she put to sea to conduct flying training and exercises prior to the BPF sailing from Sydney to return to the operational area on June 28th. Two days later on June 30th the 47th Naval Fighter Wing was disbanded; the Admiralty had adopted the US system of Carrier Air Groups, where all squadrons permanently allocated to a carrier formed a Carrier Air Group (CAG). VICTORIOUS was allocated No. 1 CAG which comprised 1834, 1836 and 849 squadrons, under the leadership of Commander J. C. N. Shrubsole RN. TF 37 arrived at Manus on July 4th and after refuelling sailed from Manus for the forward area on July 6th.
Replenishment period 14, July 13th: TF 37, now operating only 3 Fleet Carriers, FORMIDABLE (Flag 1ACS, 2nd CAG 848 Avenger, 1841 & 1842 Corsair) IMPLACABLE (8th CAG, 828 Avenger, 1771 Firefly, 801 & 806 Seafire) and VICTORIOUS (1st CAG, 849 Avenger, 1834 & 1836 Corsair, 2 ASR Walrus) met the Tanker Group DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO, and WAVE EMPEROR, escorted by USK and BARLE on the 13th to top off their fuel reserves. INDEFATIGABLE had been delayed leaving Sidney and would not join until July 20th. in time to sail with the fleet. Meanwhile the Replenishment CVEs
ARBITER, escorted by NIZAM, NAPIER and LAUNCESTON had sailed the 9th for the new replenishment area, codenamed BRITISH TIZZY, off the coast of Japan.
Mainland Japan strike series 1, July 17 - 19:
TF 37 rendezvoused with US Navy's Fast Carrier Force TF 38 on July 16th to begin joint operations against the Japanese mainland. TF 37 was in action on the 17th with air strikes against airfields and railways on the Island of Honshu. The CAP and first three Ramrod strike were launched at 03:50 in position 37° 10’ N 143° 19’ E.
The strike programme was changed for this round of operations, the majority of strikes were carried out by fighter bombers with fewer Avenger missions. Strike series 1 missions were all fighter Ramrods. FORMIDABLE launched 16 Corsairs for strike 1, Ramrod attacks on airfields at Matsushima and Sendai, in northern Honshu and Hasuda just north of Tokyo, each aircraft was armed with two 500 lb bombs. Five aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and 3 damaged, hangars and airfield buildings were hit. IMPLACABLE launched a Ramrod of 7 Fireflies for strike 2, each armed with 28 60 lb Rockets; they destroyed one aircraft on the ground, and attacked Radar and railway installations at Matsushima and Hasuda. The next two Ramrod missions, Strike 3, of 12 Seafires from IMPLACABLE, and Strike 4, of 16 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS launched at 06:20. Both were aborted due to bad weather on arrival over the target area.
At 08:50 Strikes 5 & 6 launched to attack Niigata airfield; 10 Corsairs s launched by FORMIDABLE and 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS each armed with one 500 lb bomb. The strike was led by Commander Shrubsole RN VICTORIOUS’ Air Group Leader. Aircraft from FORMIDABLE claimed two enemy aircraft destroyed, 2 damaged, hangars and airfield buildings were also hit. Corsairs from VICTORIOUS claimed one aircraft s destroyed on the ground, and 5 damaged.
On withdrawing for the night TF 37 had lost 3 Corsairs to enemy action, all from FORMIDABLE, but achieved 9 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground and 11 damaged. 1 Junk sunk. Eleven of the Corsair pilots in VICTORIOUS had joined their respective squadrons during their time at RNAS Schofields and were found to have less than 250 hours solo and barfly a dozen deck landings to their credit at the start of this operation. By the end of the day’s operations VICTORIOUS’ 1 CAG had 3 aircraft out of action due to landing accidents; JT436 (' 139/Q') of 1834 Sqn piloted by Mid A. P. A. Cargill of 1836 Sqn caught No. 9 wire landing on and collided with the starboard pom-pom. Sub-Lt Chute (1834 Sqn) did the same thing when he caught no. 8 wire in JT654 ('I 17/P'), Sub-Lt Marsh (1834 Sqn) bounced landing in JT426 ('112/P') and broke both wheels.
On the 18th bad weather delayed the start of operations, the first CAPs launched at 09:30 but he first Ramrod did not get airborne until 11:35 in approximate position 35° 105 N 142° 36’ E. FORMIDABLE launched 16 Corsairs each armed with two 500 lb bombs for Strike 1, a Ramrod mission to airfields at Mobara, Naruto, and Hasuda, in the Tokyo area. At 12:30 IMPLACABLE launched Strike 2, a second Ramrod of 8 Fireflies, each armed with 28 60 lb Rockets for Konoike airfield. Strike 3 was cancelled due to VICTORIOUS having water in her petrol tanks. Strikes 4 & 5 launched at 14:29, IMPLACABLE launched an 11 Seafire Ramrod to Konoike airfield, FORMIDABLE launched a Ramrod of 8 Corsairs to attack Katori, Konoike and Kitaura airfields, claiming 6 planes destroyed on the ground and 3 damaged. Shrike 6, was a 7 Seafire attack on the airfields at Tachikawa and Naruto launched from IMPLACABLE at 17:00, it was believed that all targets engaged here were in fact dummies. The seventh and final Strike was launched from VICTORIOUS and was a 6 Corsair follow-up strike against Naruto and Tachikawa which claimed 5 aircraft destroyed on the ground and 5 damaged.
By 15:30 the weather had again deteriorated but the last strike landed on at 17:00. A dusk CAP was launched at 17:55 they landed on an hour later and the fleet withdrew for the night. TF 37 had lost 2 Corsairs, again both from FORMIDABLE, but achieved 12 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground and 18 damaged. Several Junks and airfield buildings were also damaged.
On the morning of the 19th when the fleet returned for a third day of strikes bad weather was still a problem, a dawn CAP was launched at 04:15 but had returned by 05:28. Conditions ruled out any flying operations and TF 37 detached from the US TF 38 to proceed to the replenishment area at 31°20’ N 150° 31 E. On withdrawing TF 37 aircraft had flown 112 sorties and lost 5 Corsairs, dropped 183 x 500 Lb bombs and fired 56, x 60 lb rocket. 21 aircraft destroyed on the ground; 27 aircraft damaged on the ground.
Replenishment period 15, July 20 - 23: On the morning of of July 20th TF 37 rendezvoused with the LSG and a Tanker Group which comprised of SAN AMBROSIA, SAN ADOLPHO, WAVE MONARCH, VSIS (Victualling Stores Issuing Ship) GLENARTNEY,
RULER (CAP & ASP), The LSG included
ARBITER (Replenishment) and
STRIKER (Replenishment) escorted by the Destroyers NAPIER, NIZAM (RAN), Sloops PHEASANT, REDPOLE, WHIMBREL, Frigate FINDHORN and Minesweeper GAWLER (RAN). Also present was the Fleet Carrier INDEFATIGABLE (7th CAG, 820 Avenger, 1772 Firefly, 887 & 894 Seafire) which had been delayed leaving Sidney. Refuelling commenced at 05:45 and replacement aircraft were issued by
ARBITER. Four Corsairs were issued to FORMIDABLE, 3 for 1841 and 1 for 1842 squadron.
It was discovered that the tankers were 2.400 tons of fuel oil short in order to fuel all the vessels of TF 37 so a request was made to the US TF 38 for assistance in fuelling some of the larger vessels. It was agreed that 3 cruisers, ACHILLES. GAMBIA and UGANDA would detach and rendezvous with US task Group 30.8, the US Logistic Support Group. Fuelling ceased at last light and the Force withdrew.
On July 21st fuelling commenced again at 04:30 and continued throughout the day. Having completed issuing replacement airframes and transferring as many as possible to
ARBITER was detached for Manus to embark more aircraft and for conversion into an auxiliary oiler. At 19:00 the three tankers were detached to return to Eniwetok Atoll to reload. Because the operational area was now so far north, Leyte was no longer being used as the forward staging area the replenishment carriers now had to return to Manus (2,300 miles south) for reloads and the tankers to the Marshal Islands, 1,700 miles to the south east of the replenishment area.
During the 22nd and 23rd smaller vessels were topped up by the Battleship KING GEORGE V and FORMIDABLE and IMPLACABLE while the US Task Groups also continued fuelling.
Mainland Japan strike series 2, July 24 - 25:
The CAP and first three Ramrod strikes were launched at 04:45 in position 31° 51’ N 133° 11’ E. Strike 1A comprised of 11 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack airfields at Kurashiki, Okayama and Takamatsu; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 12 Seafires to attack airfields at Takamatsu and Tokushima; Strike 1C comprised of 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for attacks on the airfield at Takamatsu and Suta.
July 24th 1945 strikes on Shikoku Island airfields: Above, Tokushima airfield, © IWM A 29963 . Below, Takamatsu Airfield © IWM A 29961
Strike 2 was launched at 05:45 to attack the airfield at Tokushima and was the first time that Avenger aircraft were in action. The combined force of 19 Avengers from FORMIDABLE & IMPLACABLE, 10 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs. Strike 2C was a Ramrod of 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS led by Lt. Cdr .J. G. Baldwin RN commanding officer of 1834 squadron, to attack targets at Kurashiki, Fukuyama airfield and Suta. Strike 2D was a Ramrod of 12 Seafires launched by INDEFATIGABLE to attack targets at Takamatsu and Kanonji.
Strike 3 was a second combined strike led by Commander Shrubsole RN VICTORIOUS’ Air Group Leader, launched at 08:45 this time against shipping off the coast of Shikoku, and included a Japanese escort carrier SHIMANE MARU. It comprised of 10 Avengers and 4 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS and 10 Avengers and 8 Fireflies, plus 8 Seafires as escort from INDEFATIGABLE. Bad weather over the target area caused the force to become split up and only 6 Avengers and 2 Corsairs attacked the Japanese carrier, 5 from 849 Sqn and 1 from 829 Sqn; 2 hits and two near misses were recorded; this was the only time Fleet Air Arm aircraft carried out strikes against a carrier . Strike 3A was an 8 Corsair Ramrod launched from FORMIDABLE and 3B was a 12 Seafire Ramrod launched from IMPLACABLE.
At 11:45 Strike 4 was launched, a third combined strike led by FORMIDABLE’s Air Group Leader comprising of 16 Avengers from FORMIDABLE & VICTORIOUS, 16 Seafires, 8 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE and 4 Corsairs to attack targets on Takamatsu airfield. Also launched at this time was Strike 4c, an anti-shipping sweep in the Inland Sea by 12 Corsair s from VICTORIOUS.
The final launches of the day were for Strike 5 commencing at 14:45, a combined strike by 8 Avengers, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs on shipping in the Inland Sea, plus 5A - 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE also for an anti-shipping sweep in the Inland Sea, Strike 5B, a 7 Seafire force from IMPLACABLE attack on shipping at Suta, and 5D from INDEFATIGABLE, a force of 12 Avengers and 8 Corsairs to make a second attack on the SHIMANE MARU. All strikes had landed on by 17:45. The dusk CAP landed on ay 19:45. TF 37 did not withdraw from the operational area as it usually did between strikes, instead it steamed slowly towards the flying off position for the start of operations on the 25th.
During the day the carriers had flown 417 sorties and destroyed 15 aircraft, and probably 2 more, on the ground, 3 hangars at Takamatsu, 1 freighter, a small tanker and numerous Luggers and Junks. They damage at least 31 aircraft on the ground, an aircraft factory, a train factory and shipyard, scored multiple hits on the SHIMANE MARU breaking its back, several destroyers, junks and other craft. TF 37 losses were 1 Avenger, 1 Corsair, 1 Firefly and 1 Seafire. Corsairs from VICTORIOUS’ Air Group fired 32,000 rounds at ground targets during the day’s Ramrod missions, a record for VICTORIOUS.
July 24th 1945 the Japanese escort carrier SHIMANE MARU, under attack by aircraft from TF 37. © IWM A2 9959
On the 25th the first launch was at 04:30 in position 32° 15’ N 136° 16 E. The first Strike was in 3 sections, 1A comprised 8 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE each carrying two 500 lb bombs for a shipping reconnaissance in the Inland Sea, Strike 1B was 12 Seafires from IMPLACABLE for a shipping reconnaissance in east Shikoku, and Strike 1C was 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS but this was aborted due to bad weather on making landfall.
Strike 2 was launched at 05:30, this comprised of a combined strike by 18 Avengers, 11 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs. Together with 2C, 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS and 2D, 12 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE; all three were aborted due to bad weather on making landfall.
The first Strike of the day to arrive on target was Strike 3, a combined force of 20 Avengers led by 848 squadron FORMIDABLE, 8 Seafires. 7 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs to attack shipping in the Inland Sea. Strike 3A was to be an 8 Corsair armed shipping reconnaissance flight from FORMIDABLE, only 4 aircraft were launched. 3B was a 12 Seafire strike at targets at Suta and Tajima.
The fourth Strike, a combined force of 20 Avengers launched at 11:30, IMPLACABLE launched 1`0 Avengers, 6 Fireflies and 12 Seafires as escort and was joined by another 10 Avengers and 4 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for Tokushima airfield. Despite low cloud several hangars were damaged and the Seafires strafed shipping sinking one tug; one Avenger from 828 Squadron was shot down. Strike 4C was a 12 Corsair anti-shipping strike launched from VICTORIOUS. The weather again began to deteriorate over the target areas and Strike 5, 5A & 5B were cancelled – 5 would have been a combined force lead by 848 from FORMIDABLE, 5A, a Corsair strike from FORMIDABLE, and 5B a Seafire strike from IMPLACABLE. All strikes had landed on by 14:00 and the fleet set course for the refuelling area.
At dusk a group of Japanese Navy B7A ‘Grace’ torpedo bombers attempted to attack the fleet. They were intercepted by Hellcats of 1844 squadron, the duck CAP from FORMIDABLE; between 19:10 and 19:30 three of them were destroyed and another damaged before the remainder broke away. During the day TF 37 had flown 417 sorties, 155 of them on strikes. They destroyed 2 aircraft and damaged 6 on the ground, several small cargo vessels and junks, luggers and small craft were sunk. Buildings, hangars, a factory, a wireless station and a lighthouse were damaged or destroyed. One large and three medium freighter transports and 13 coasters, including one small oiler and 2 corvettes were damaged. No British aircraft were lost in combat, enemy losses were 3. The force withdrew to the replenishment area overnight.
Replenishment period 16, July 26 – 27: TF 37 began oiling at 09:00 from the Tanker Group OLNA, CEDARDALE, CARELIA, EASEDALE, and WAVE GOVERNOR. Other ships took on stores from the VSIS GLENARTNEY, ASIS (Armament Store Issuing Ship) ROBERT MAERSK and CORINDA. The LSG comprised of
RULER (CAP & ASP),
STRIKER (Replenishment), escorted by light cruiser ARGONAUT, destroyers NORMAN and NEPAL, sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, WOODCOCK and REDPOLE, frigates ODZANI and DERG and minesweeper PIRIE. Fuelling continued through the day and replacement aircraft and pilots were transferred to the carriers. The cruisers ACHILLES and NEWFOUNDLAND were detached to fuel from US TU 30. TF 37 disengaged at 18:50 for the night.
Fuelling resumed at 05:15 on the 27th.
STRIKER transferred her remaining 3 replacement aircraft to
SPEAKER and dethatched for Guam on route to Manus. On completion of fuelling TF 37 and TF 38 set course overnight for the next morning’s flying off positrons.
Mainland Japan strike series 2, July 28 - 30: The CAP and first three Ramrod strikes were launched at 04:45 in position 31° 56’ N 135° 11’ E. Strike 1A comprised of 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack shipping in the Inland Sea; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 12 Seafires to attack shipping in Kii Suido; Strike 1C comprised of 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack shipping in the Inland Sea.
Strike 2 launched at 05:45 this comprised of three parts; a combined strike of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs to attack Harima shipyard, Strike 2C launched from VICTORIOUS, an 8 Corsair strike for Akashi airfield, and 2D, 8 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE for Sato and Minato airfields. The second strike returned at 08:45 and once landed on Strike 3 was launched; a combined source of 19 Avengers, 8 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for Hadu shipyard, Strike 3A was 8 Corsairs launched from FORMIDABLE for shipping strikes and Fukuyama airfield, and Strike 3B was 10 Seafires form IMPLACABLE for Sato and Minato airfields.
Strike 4 launched at 11:45 and was a combine force of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for Harima shipyard and anti-shipping sweep. Strike 4C comprised of 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Sato and Fuge. The fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; a combined force of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for anti-shipping and targets at Fuge, Strike 5A had the same art gets and comprised of 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE, 5C was 8 Fireflies from IMPLACABLE for targets in the Minato area.
During the days strikes TF 37 launched 399 aircraft; 260 on offensive operations, 135 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 6 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 14 damaged on the ground. 3 small cargo vessels plus several small ships and junks sunk, with 3 other merchant ships possibly sunk. TF 37 loses were 8 aircraft, 1 Firefly lost in combat, 3 Corsairs and 1 Avenger ditched due to flack damage, 1 Firefly ditched low fuel, 1 Avenger over side afterdeck crash, and 1 Corsair JT638 (1834 Sqn) engine failed and ditched, the pilot Sub-Lt S. Newton RNVR was safely rescued.
On the 29th there was no planned air operations, elements of TF 37 joined with US TF 38 for bombardment of shore targets. On the morning of the 30th the CAP and first three Ramrod strikes were launched at 04:45 in position 31° 56’ N 135° 11’ E. The day’s flying programme was the same as for the 28th, only targets were changed. Strike 1A comprised of 10 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack shipping in the Inland Sea; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 12 Seafires to attack shipping but returned to the ship when cloud prevented then form locating the target; Strike 1C comprised of 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack shipping in Kumano harbour.
Strike 2 launched at 05:45 this comprised of three parts; a combined strike of 18 Avengers, 8 Seafires. 7 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs, bad weather obscured the target area and all bombs were dropped by radar. Strike 2C launched from VICTORIOUS, an 8 Corsair strike for Akashi airfield, and 2D, 8 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE for anti-shipping in Nagoya Bay.
Strike 3 was launched at 08:45; a combined source of 19 Avengers, 4 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for anti-shipping at Maizuru, Strike 3A was 8 Corsairs launched from FORMIDABLE also for shipping strikes at Maizuru, and Strike 3B was 8 Seafires form IMPLACABLE for Akihabara airfield. Strike 4 launched at 11:45 and was a combine force of 18 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 7 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for Yokkaichi and Kuwana harbours. Strike 1C comprised of 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Maizuru and Akashi airfields. The fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; this was a smaller combined force of 16 Corsairs 8 Seafires, 6 Fireflies and for anti-shipping strike and Ramrod in the Maizuru
area. On completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force set
course for the replenishment area.
During the days strikes TF 37 launched 346 aircraft; 212 on offensive operations, 130 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 6 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 6 damaged on the ground. 2 luggers sunk, with 1 destroyer, 1 large transport, small freighter, 2 coasters, 2 luggers and 3 barges possibly sunk. TF 37 loses were 3 aircraft and their pilots in combat, 2 Seafires - 1 from IMPLACABLE and 1 from INDEFATIGABLE due to flack, and 1 Corsair from VICTORIOUS. Sub-Lt P. D. Bennett RNVR of 1836 Sqn flying in JT699 was killed after a strafing run over Mahmm, Japan, his aircraft dived into a hillside and burst into flames. Two other aircraft from 1836 Sqn were damaged in deck landing incidents; KD310 flown by Sub-Lt P. W.C.
Griffiths RNVR struck the rounddown landing and his tail hook and tail well seared off, it came to rest on hitting hit barrier stanchion. Sub-Lt R. Watt RNVR in JT429 missed all the wires and entered the barrier.
Replenishment period 17, July 31 – August 2: TF 37 met with the Tanker Group OLNA, CARELIA, WAVE GOVERNOR and WAVE KING in approximate position 28° 4’ N 139° 00’ E, and oiling began at 10:00. The LSG comprised of
RULER (CAP & ASP), SPEAKER and
CHASER (Replenishment), the VSIS GLENARTNEY, ASIS ROBERT MAERSK and CORINDA, and the Radio and Radar Repair Ship ARBUTUS. They were escorted by destroyers NORMAN and QUEENBOROUGH, sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, WOODCOCK and REDPOLE, frigates ODZANI and DERG and minesweeper PIRIE. Fuelling continued through the day and replacement aircraft and pilots were transferred to the carriers. TF 37 disengaged at 18:50 for the night and changed course to the south to avoid the tail of a typhoon due to pass to their north.
Fuelling resumed at 05:20 on August 1st in approximate position 27° 15’ N 138° 00’ E. Oiling was hampered by a heavy swell and the typhoon still threatened the ships of TF 37 and TF 38; the US commander ordered a further move south at the end of the day’s replenishment, to rendezvous in area ‘HURRICANE’ at position 25° N, 137° E. On the morning of August 2nd storing and ammunitioning continued, oiling was now down to two tankers, two had to depart in order to reload and be back on station for the next replenishment period. The LSG and the Tanker Group detached at 16:50 to proceed to the next replenishment area at 34° 20’ N, 147° E. During this replenishment
CHASER issued 3 Corsairs, 2 of them to 2 CAG, FORMIDABLE. And 1 to I CAG VICTORIOUS.
Mainland Japan strike series 3, delayed: Weather conditions delayed the next round of strikes; initially planned for the 5th then delayed to the 8th. Both fleets were ordered to remain in area ‘HURRICANE’ but when it became clear that the 8th was to be the earliest strike day another replenishment day would be needed on August 6th. Flying training was conducted by the Fleet Carriers in the forenoon on the 5th.
Replenishment period 18, August 6 - 7: The new replenishment area was to be at position 33° 36’ N, 147° E, not were previously organised so the Tanker Group and LSG were redirected to the new rendezvous. The LSG now comprised of the Tankers OLNA, WAVE KING, DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO, with
RULER (CAP & ASP),
CHASER (Replenishment), VSIS FORT WRANGELL and GLENARTNEY, and repair ship ARBUTUS. They were escorted by destroyers NORMAN and NIZAM, sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, WOODCOCK and REDPOLE, frigates BARLE and DERG, RAN minesweepers BALLARAT and BURNIE. Unbeknown to the men of TF 37 the first atomic bomb had been dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima at 08:15.
ARBITER issuing 10 Seafire, 6 Corsairs, 1 Avenger and 1 Firefly; she received 3 'flyable duds', 1 Avenger and 2 Seafires.
CHASER issued 1 Seafire.
On the 7th
CHASER operated as auxiliary Oilers fuelling vessel of TF 37. All oiling was completed by 11:30. The Fleet set course for the flying off position.
Mainland Japan strike series 3, August 8 - 10: On reaching the flying -off position at 04:45 in position 40° 0’ N 144° 30’ E the weather closed in and the first strike and CAP launch was postponed. The situation did not improve, the planned target areas were shrouded in fog so all flying for the day was cancelled.
On the morning of the 9th TF 37 arrived at position 37°43’ N, 144° 51’ E. the first Strike and CAP launched at 04:10. Strike 1A comprised of 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack targets at Shiogama; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 10 Seafires to attack targets at Matsushima; Strike 1C comprised of 10 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack coastal shipping off North Honshu.
Strike 2 launched at 05:10 this comprised of three parts; a combined strike of 20 Avengers, 10 Seafires, and 8 Fireflies, to attack targets at Matsushima. Strike 2C launched from VICTORIOUS, 11 Corsairs to attack coastal shipping off North Honshu, and 2D, 9 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE for Kesennuma, Kakuda and Hachinohe airfield.
Strike 3 was launched at 96:10; a combined source of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, and 8 Fireflies for targets at Matsushima, Strike 3A was 8 Corsairs launched from FORMIDABLE also for shipping strikes at Onagawa Wan, and Strike 3B was 11 Seafires form IMPLACABLE to attack coastal shipping off North Honshu.
Strike 4 launched at 11:10, 8 minutes after the second atomic bomb had exploded over Nagasaki. This was a combined force of 19 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 6 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for strikes at shipping and Kesennuma port. Strike 1C comprised of 16 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Koriyama airfields the fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; this comprised of a combined force of 21 Avengers, 9 Seafires, 7 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for anti-shipping strike ; 5A was a 11 Corser Ramrod against shipping at Onagawa Wan and Koriyama airfield; 5B was a 7 Seafire Ramrod against Matsushima airfield and shipping launched from IMPLACABLE.
During the days strikes TF 37 launched 407 aircraft; 263 on offensive operations, 140 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 44 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 17 probable, 22 damaged on the ground. 2 locomotives and associated freight cars destroyed, 2 luggers sunk, with destroyer, 1 large transport, small freighter, 2 Destroyers, 1 old Destroyer 1 submarine chaser, freighter, 2 coasters, 4 Junks and 2 launches sunk. 2 destroyer escorts and 1 torpedo boat probably sunk. TF 37 loses were 7 aircraft and 5 pilots in combat, 3 Seafires from IMPLACABLE, 2 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE, 1 Corsair and 1 Avenger from VICTORIOUS; Sub-Lt S. Newton RNVR of 1836 Sqn was last seen over Koriyama airfield doing photo run after a strafing attack. Another Corsair from 1836 was put out of action ion a landing accident, Sub-Lt A. Jones in JT457 struck the rounddown with his port wheel breaking the oleo and the port wing and prop were badly damaged. On completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force withdrew. Two Seafires from IMPLACABLE ditched but their pilots were rescued.
August 10th was planned as the final day of strikes before TF 37 was to withdraw to Australia for another maintenance and replenishment period. The first Strike and CAP launched at 04:10 at position 37°43’ N, 144° 51’ E.; the day’s flying programme was a repeat of that of the previous day. Strike 1A comprised of 10 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack targets at Matsushima and Masuda airfields; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 12 Seafires to attack targets at Msuda airfield; Strike 1C comprised of 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack Koriyama airfield. Strike 2 launched at 05:10 this comprised of three parts; a combined strike of 20 Avengers, 10 Seafires, 4 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs, to attack targets at Matsushima and shipping at Onagawa Wan. Strike 2C launched from VICTORIOUS, 8 Corsairs to attack coastal shipping at Onagawa Wan, and 2D, 8 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE for targets in the Msuda area.
Strike 3 was launched at 96:10; a combined source of 20 Avengers, 7 Seafires, and 8 Fireflies for targets at Koriyama airfield a, Strike 3A was 8 Corsairs launched from FORMIDABLE also for Matsushima, and Strike 3B was 9 Seafires form IMPLACABLE to attack Koriyama airfield. Strike 4 launched at 11:10, a combined force of 10 Avengers, 11 Seafires, 6 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for strikes at Koriyama airfield; Strike 1C comprised of 6 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Koriyama airfields. The fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; this comprised of a combined force of 20 Avengers, 9 Seafires, 7 Fireflies and 2 Corsairs for anti-shipping strike at Okkaichi and Onagawa Wan; 5A was an 8 Corsair Ramrod against shipping at Komachi; 5B was a 4 Seafire shipping sweep launched from IMPLACABLE.
The last strikes landed on at 18:00 and on completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force set course for the replenishment area. This was the last day of combat operations for the 1st Carrier Air Group. During the days strikes TF 37 launched 372 aircraft; 233 on offensive operations, 156 on defensive operations and 3 photo recon flights. One enemy aircraft is recorded as shot down in combat, a B7A ‘Grace’ while 16 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 1 probable and 31 damaged on the ground. 2 locomotives and associated freight cars destroyed, 3 freighter transports, 2 coasters, 8 small craft sunk. 1 freighter and 2 luggers probably sunk. 2 Destroyers, 2 Destroyer escorts, 1 merchantman, 6 coasters and 4 luggers damaged. TF 37 loses were 6 aircraft and 4 pilots; as a result of combat 1 Corsair from FORMIDABLE LE, 1 Corsair from VICTORIOUS, 2 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE (1 crew PoW), 1 Avenger from IMPLACABLE (crew PoW); operational loses 1 Corsair from FORMIDABLE ditched on take-off. VICTORIOUS’ 1 CAG loss was Corsair JT561 of 1834 Sqn flown by Sub-Lt J. A. H. Stevens who was forced to ditch, he was safely recovered.
Replenishment period 19, August 11: TF 37 began fuelling at 04:40, the Tanker group consisted of OLNA, SAN ADOLPHO, SAN AMADO, SAN AMBROSIO, and WAVE EMPEROR together with
RULER (CAP & ASP), and VSIS FORT WRANGELL. They were escorted by sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, FINDHORN, frigates BARLE and USK, RAN minesweepers BALLARAT, BURNIE, GERALDTON, IPSWICH and HMHS TJITJALENGKA. This was the last replenishment of British Pacific Fleet during war operations; there were no replenishment carriers present as planning had this as a refuelling only period on completion of this phase of operations when the fleet was to withdraw to Australia.
Task Force 37 dissolved
The focus of the US Third Fleet Commander had received orders to attack targets in both northern Honshu on Hokkaido, the northern Island of Japan on August 10th, replenish on the 11th and conduct two more strike days on the 12th & 13th. This extension to the programme was problematic for the BPF which was to withdraw for Australia after the strike on August 10th. The LSG and Tanker Groups were already executing the plans Stout to prepare for the upcoming Operation OLYMPIC, the Invasion of Japan, so no Tanker support would be available. The US Logistic Group would not be able to contribute oil as it had done previously so the BPF would not be able to continue offensive operations as TF 37. Vice-Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings, 2 IC, BPF proposed a solution, a token force of 1 Battleship, 1 Fleet Carrier, 2 Cruisers and attendant Destroyers was to remain in the operational area for strikes against Japan with the US Third Fleet; this comprised of KING GEORGE V, INDEFATIGABLE, GAMBIA. NEWFOUNDLAND, TROUBRIDGE, TERMAGANT TENACIOUS, TEAZER, TERPSICHORE, BARFLEUR. NAPIER. NIZAM, WAKEFUL, AND WRANGLER.
At 12:00 on August 12th Task Force 37 was dissolved and the bulk of the BPF set course for Manus, and then on to Sydney; the remaining Force were now attached to US Task Force 38 and designated as Task Group 38.5. VICTORIOUS, in company with FORMIDABLE and IMPLACABLE and their escorts were on passage when the Japanese surrender was announced on the 15th, they arrived at Manus on August 18th to refuel, sailing again on the 19th.
August 15th 1945: Members of the ship's company and the Air
Group gathered aft on VICTORIOUS to hear news of Japan's surrender.
Preparations to return to the UK to disband
On reaching the Australian coast on August 23rd No. 1 Carrier Air Group was flown ashore to
RNAS Maryborough, Queensland were the Corsairs of 1834 and 1836 squadrons were withdrawn. The Avengers of 849 squadron departed for Mascot airfield, Sydney, the next day. The personnel of 1834 & 1836 squadrons departed for Sydney on the 25th to re-embark in VICTORIOUS for passage home to the UK.
HMS VICTORIOUS arrived back in the UK on October 27th 1945 and both 1 834 and 1836 squadrons were
officially disbanded on the 31st.
! The main narrative states ‘The first strike took off at
0755, with orders to attack the NE/SW runway at Hirara and
Nobara airfield. Alternate targets were entrances to
underground works and dispersal areas.’ However there are no
records of the force involved in Strike ABLE in the
individual carrier reports; only BAKER through EASY.
Following the, now, routine mission format this should have
involved aircraft from FORMIDABLE and INDOMITABLE and may
have been fighter ‘Ramrods’.
First-Line squadrons menu |
go to the top
16 November 2021
Primary information sources
Vice Admiral, Second in Command, British Pacific Fleet report of operations against the Ryukyu Islands and Formosa, /26/345 to 20/4/45 and 4-25/5/45
CTF 37 (British) report of air & surface strikes against the Japanese Empire, preparation for and initial occupation of the Tokyo Bay area, Honshu, Japan, 6/28/45 TO 9/2/45