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May 42 - March 46


Formation and work-up

The personnel for No. 887 Squadron assembled at RNAS Lee-on-Solent in April 1942, and officially formed on May 1st 1942 under the command of Lieutenant (P) G.R. Callingham RN as a Fleet Fighter squadron equipped with six Fulmar IIs. Initially earmarked for service in an escort carrier the squadron moved to RNAS Yeovilton on June 1st to work up. On July 10th the squadron moved to RAF Charlton Horethorne as a lodger unit before moving again to RNAS St Merryn on the 25th for a short period of armament training. It was while operating at St Merryn that the squadron’s first aircraft accident was recorded; while flying in Fulmar DR664 Sub-Lt P.H. Knowler RNVR made an emergency landing after his engine developed an oil leak, the undercarriage collapsed on landing.

At the end of July the squadron moved north to RAF Dyce (14 group), probably for Army Co-operation training. Lieutenant (P) D W. Kirke arrived to take command of the squadron on August 29th. On September 9th Sub-Lt W.G. Coleman RNZNVR got Fulmar BP820 stuck in soft ground taxying during a scramble. In mid-October 1942 the squadron relocated again, this time to Northern Ireland, arriving at RNAS Belfast on the 15th; four days later they arrived at RAF Ballyhalbert for further training, from November 4th they operated from its satellite station at Kirkistown. The squadron suffered its first aircrew fatalities while operating from RAF Kirkistown on November 24th, Sub-Lt J.R. Mathers and Sub-Lt W. Foster where killed when Fulmar BP821 failed to recover from a steep climbing turn at low level and crashed.

Returning to RNAS Lee-on-Solent on December 19th the squadron was re-equipped with six Spitfire Vs on the 21st, pending the arrival of Seafire 1Bs which were received in January 1943. Towards the end of February 1943 the squadron began a series of long flights up and down the country for further training and operational duties, departing from Lee-on-Solent they flew to RNAS Machrihanish in Argyllshire, Scotland, arriving on the 21st, they stayed for only a week before heading south again to RNAS St Merryn in Cornwall to arrive on March 3rd. Here they received Seafire L.IIcs and squadron strength was increased to 9 aircraft. Just under three weeks later the whole squadron flew north again. This time bound for RNAS Hatston in the Orkney Islands, arriving on March 22nd; staying for just less than three weeks they moved again, returning to RNAS Machrihanish on April 9th.



While at Machrihanish the squadron was allocated to operate aboard the new Aircraft Maintenance/Light Fleet Aircraft Carrier HMS UNICORN. The ship was completing her sea trials and working up in the firth of Clyde. Individual aircraft flew out to the ship from the start; Sub-Lt H.A. Foote RNZNVR was one of the first to visit the ship on the 9th, flying in Seafire MB293 his undercarriage collapsed on landing. Other pilots carried out Deck Landing Training (DLT) sorties over the next week, Sub-Lt P.H. Knowler RNVR made a bad landing in MA989 on the 16th, ending up with the undercarriage legs in the Port nets, the aircraft nose out over the sea. The entire squadron flew out to join the ship on April 19th 1943.

HMS UNICORN at anchor, Greenock 24 June 1943. Image© IWM (A 17523)


The ship continued to work up with three squadrons embarked 818 (9 Swordfish II) 824 (6 Swordfish II) and 887 (9 Seafire L.IIc) in preparation for her first operational outing in Mid-May. 887 pilots had another five flying incidents during this period; on April 30th Sub-Lt H.A. Foote RNZNVR stalled MB266 over the deck after a low approach trying to go round again, writing off the aircraft. On May 4th Sub-Lt R.D. Viney in MA989 floated over all the arrestor wires, caught the trickle which caused the arrestor hook to be pulled out. Sub-Lt P.H. Knowler RNVR made a barrier crash in NM914 after missing all the arrestor wires on the 6th, and Sub-Lt W.J.F. Beever flying in MB279 made a heavy landing resulting in damage to his aircraft.

HMS UNICORN sailed from the Clyde on May 19th 1943 to escort a combined convoy KMF.15 (for Algiers)/WS.30 (for Freetown); the two convoys were to split off at Gibraltar for their respective destinations. Swordfish of 818 squadron  operated anti-submarine patrols while Seafires from 887 were launched to intercept German snoopers; on the 25th Sub-Lt P.H. Knowler RNVR in NM917 intercepted a Fw200, scoring a few hits but his cannon jammed after firing only 5 rounds. KMF.15 arrived at Algiers on May 28th and UNICORN joined the escorting force for the return convoy MKF.15 on May 30th, detaching from the convoy on reaching the Western Approaches on June 4th without any incident.

887 remained aboard until June 18th when they flew ashore to RNAS Belfast. In the two weeks prior to this two aircraft were lost overboard; MB262 (Sub-Lt A.D. Hawkins-King RNVR) and MB271 (Sub-Lt W.G. Coleman RNZNVR), both pilots were OK. One heavy landing, MB130 (Sub-Lt W.G. Coleman RNZNVR), and two barrier crashes; MA975 (Sub-Lt I. T. Basley), and LR684 (Sub-Lt W.G. Coleman RNZNVR. UNICORN entered a Belfast dockyard for repairs towards the end of June, re-emerging on July 11th when 887 were re-embarked and she sailed for the Clyde to begin a post repair work-up. The next day Sub-Lt W.G. Coleman RNZNVR hit a pom-pom mount with his starboard wing tip after catching a wire in Seafire MB265. On the 21st Sub-Lt R.D. Viney RNVR floated Seafire MA987 into the barrier.


Operations with the Home Fleet  July 1943

On July 22nd UNICORN sailed with the Cruiser MALAYA for Scapa Flow to operate with the Home Fleet. The ships arrived at Scapa at 18:00 on the 23rd and the carrier began preparations to participate in the up-coming operation GOVERNOR.

Operation GOVERNOR was an attempt to lureTIRPITZ and other German heavy battleships out of harbour by simulating a raid on southern Norway. Admiralty knowledge of German reconnaissance flights was vital since they needed the forces to be spotted and reported. The operation employed five separate forces. Force A: Battleships HMS ANSON and USS ALABAMA, carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, destroyers MILNE, MUSKETEER, METEOR, and MAHRATTA, USS RODMAN, MACOMB, EMMONS, and FITCH; Force B: Battleships DUKE OF YORK and USS SOUTH DAKOTA, carrier UNICORN, cruiser BERMUDA, destroyers ONSLOW, OBDURATE, OBEDIENT, ULSTER, GRENVILLE, MATCHLESS, SAUMAREZ, SCORPION, and IMPULSIVE; Force C:(representing a convoy), destroyers SAVAGE and RIPLEY, trawlers SKY, SWITHA, CEDAR, LARCH, OAK, WILLOW, HAWTHORNE, and LILAC, MLs 252, 286, 442, 473, and 445, LCI (L) 167; Force D: Cruiser BELFAST , destroyers ORWELL and ORIBI; Force E: Cruisers LONDON, KENT, and NORFOLK.

Force ‘A’ sailed from Hvalfiord on the 26th to take up position; Force ‘B’ & ‘D’ sailed from Scapa at 16:00, and Force ‘E’ from Hvalfiord, on July 27th. Force ‘C’ sailed from Sullom Voe on July 27th to make a run as a dummy convoy, arriving back at Sullom Voe on the 29th. The Operation was carried out according to plan and was considered to have been successful. Only one force (Force ‘D’) was shadowed for certain but four BV 138 aircraft were shot down during the operations, two by Martlets from ILLUSTRIOUS and two by Beaufighters from RAF 18 Group; no German battleships were tempted out. 887 saw no action during this operation, UNICORN withdrew to Scapa with Force ‘B’ on the 29th. She sailed for the Clyde the following day escorted by SCORPION and GRENVILLE, arriving on the 31st.

Detached to the Mediterranean & operation AVALANCHE August - October 1943

Early August two additional Seafire squadrons were embarked; 897 on the 4th and 809 on the 7th, each with 10 aircraft making a total of 30 Seafire IIcs/ L.IIcs and 9 Swordfish embarked. Sub-Lt R.D. Viney RNVR caused some serious damage on the 6th when his aircraft Seafire LR684 bounced over the barrier and landed on several aircraft parked forward. UNICORN and ILLUSTRIOUS screened by OBDURATE, OPPORTUNE and OBEDIENT put to sea to carry out anti-submarine air operations in the NW Approaches during the first two weeks of August before returning to the Clyde to prepare for departure for Gibraltar and operation AVALANCHE

The ship left Clyde at 06:00 on August 13th in company with ILLUSTRIOUS and A.A. Cruiser SCYLLA escorted by the Destroyers OPPORTUNE, OBDURATE, OBEDIENT, SAVAGE, and SCORPION for passage to Gibraltar. The group arrived at Gibraltar on the 17th for duty with the Mediterranean Fleet.

UNICORN was to form part of Task Force 88, a part of Force 'V' which comprised UNICORN, HM Escort Aircraft Carriers ATTACKER, BATTLER, HUNTER, STALKER, Cruisers EURYALUS, SCYLLA and CHARYBDIS, Destroyers CLEVELAND, HOLCOMBE, ATHERSTONE, LIDDESDALE, FARNDALE, CALPE, and Polish destroyers ORP SLAZAK and ORP KRAKOWIAK. A second force, Force H comprised the Battleships NELSON, RODNEY, WARSPITE and VALIANT, Fleet Carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE and a screen of 21 destroyers including French, Polish and Greek warships was a covering force for the landings, intended to prevent any interference by Italian surface warships. On the eve of operation AVALANCHE Italy surrendered so the threat had passed, however there was a strong German force in the area.

At Gibraltar the squadrons spent nearly three weeks conducting flying training and exercising with the ship in preparation for the operation. Four flying incidents are recorded during this period; on August 27th Sub-Lt H.A .Foote RNZNVR smashed into the barrier in LR689 after the hook bounced, breaking the aircraft’s back, and Sub-Lt T.D. Lucey RNVR made a heavy landing in LR707. On the 29th he missed all the arrestor wires and floated into the barrier landing in LR632, Sub-Lt A.D. Hawkins-King did the same landing in MB117. On completion of training UNICORN preceded to Malta with other vessels for Force ‘V’, arriving at 07:00 on September 7th.

Task Force 88 sailed from Malta on 8th September 1943 and proceeded via the Straits of Messina arriving on station 45 miles south-west of the beachhead early in the morning of the 9th September. Each CVE in Task Force 88 carried 2 Seafire squadrons, UNICORN 3 (809, 887, and 897) making a total of 109 aircraft in 11 squadrons. The five carriers were to provide fighter cover for the landings. It was intended that a constant presence of naval air cover would be maintained over the landing sites, up to 20 aircraft aloft at a time; the CVEs would carry out the patrols over the beachhead and UNICORN’s aircraft would provide top cover over the force. The first flights were launched at dawn on the 9th. At this time none of the four CVEs were equipped as fighter or assault carriers so fighter direction was provided by the Fighter Direction Ship HMS ULSTER QUEEN.

887 pilots were in action from the start; at 08:00 on September 10th two squadron pilots (Sub-Lt A.D. Hawkins-King RNVR and Sub-Lt H.A. Foote RNZNVR) were flying as part of a flight of 6 Seafires (3 sections of 2, 7A & 7B from 897, and 6A from 887) patrolling at 14,000 feet inland south of the river Sele. Sub-Lt A.D. Hawkins-King spotted two ME109s and 6A section broke formation to pursue them. Sub-Lt Foote saw Sub-Lt Hawkins-King get jumped by Me4109s; having seen two Me.109s pass his nose at fifty yards range, Sub-Lt Hawkins-King broke to starboard and then saw three more on his tail. When he recovered he was heading north and joined up with 7A Section (l Lt. Cdr W.G. Simpson RNVR & Sub-Lt J.A.F. Rankin RNVR). Shortly after joining up six Me.109's passed 6,000 feet below them and up to starboard; Lt. Cdr Simpson led his section in to attack aircraft on their Starboard while 6A section broke to Port to attack a single aircraft; Lt. Cdr Simpson attacked and destroyed 1 enemy aircraft which blew up in flight and damaged two others, one was seen spiralling to earth issuing thick black smoke, Sub-Lt Hawkins-King made a deflection attack on his target scoring several hits and the Me4109 went down in a left hand spin from 5,000 feet, issuing glycol and oil smoke, and disappeared into cloud at 3,000 feet. This is the only enemy action involving 887 squadron during the operation.

Aircraft attrition was high; the ship's Seafires flew 75 sorties on the first day of operations and 60 on the 10th, but the Seafire was not well suited to carrier landings in low wind conditions and many were damaged in landing accidents. 44 sorties were flown on the 11th and only 18 on the 12th, even though Unicorn's mechanics had managed to repair ten Seafires over the previous night.

The fighter shortage grew so acute that fighters from Force ‘H’ were transferred to Unicorn in order to provide continued air cover over the landings, 17 Martlets from 888 & 893 squadrons from-FORMIDABLE and 6 Seafires of 894 from ILLUSTRIOUS arriving on September 1th.. It had been envisaged that one or more enemy airfields would be in allied hands by the end of the first day and so shore based air cover would take over, this was not the case; it was not until the third day that the airfield at Paestum was under Allied control that this became possible. At 13:45 on the 12th as many serviceable fighters as could be mustered were put ashore to operate at Paestum; ATTACKER managed 4, BATTLER 5, HUNTER 5, and STALKER only 2, UNICORN supplied 10, six of them belonging to 997 squadron. At approximately 18:30 the Force left the operational area and proceeded to Palermo [1], arriving at 20:00. At 06:00 on the following morning the Force sailed for Bizerta, arriving there at 1900. 

The carriers were back on station by the 16th and the detached aircraft were recovered. During the four days on station the carriers, which all flew Seafires, launched a combined total of 713 sorties, providing more than half the allied air coverage over the beach head, UNICORN’s squadron flew 198 sorties. No RN aircraft were lost to enemy action but 4 were lost through engine failure and 32 were written off in deck landing accidents. .[2

Force 'V' was to disband on September 20th and UNICORN, ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE sailed for Gibraltar. On October 5th UNICORN with ILLUSTRIOUS, FORMIDABLE, and VALIANT escorted by ONSLOW, MAHRATTA, OBEDIENT, MATCHLESS, VENUS, HARDY, HNorMS STORD, and INGLEFIELD left Gibraltar p.m. for the United Kingdom. 887 squadron left the ship on arrival in the UK and flew ashore to RAF Andover on October 11th; after an overnight stop they continued on to RNAS Machrihanish the following day.

No. 24 Naval Fighter Wing

On October 25th 1943 887and 894 squadrons became the 24th Naval Fighter Wing (24 NFW )for service in HMS INDEFATIGABLE; the Wing formed at RNAS Henstridge, 894 having arrived on October 19th but 887 remained at Machrihanish for another two months before moving south to Henstridge, arriving on the station on December 13th 1943 having re-equipped with 12 Seafire F.III & L.III in early December.

The New Year brought a new commanding Officer, Lt. Cdr (A) B.F. Wiggington DSC, RNVR assumed command on January 4th 1944, just before 24 NFW moved to RNAS Burscough on the 8th to continue training. A month later the Wing moved to RAF Ballyhalbert, Northern Ireland on February 6th. During their time at Ballyhalbert the squadron had two minor incidents and suffered one fatality; on February 25th Sub-Lt M. Tolstoy RNVR ran off the perimeter track taxying in LR848 and onto soft ground causing the aircraft to tip onto its nose. Sub-Lt A.D. Hawkins-King RNVR made a one wheel landing in LR839 damaging one wing and flap on the 28th. On March 12th Sub-Lt F.G. Reid RNZNVR was killed during a practice dogfight, his aircraft LR846 dived into the sea from cloud at 6,000ft E of Portavogie, Co. Down.

The two squadrons went separate ways in March, 887 transferred to RNAS Eglinton on the 21st 894 remained at Ballyhalbert. Ultimately both squadrons were to operate from RAF Culmhead, Somerset escorting RAF Typhoons on anti-shipping sorties in the English Channel during April 1944. 887 arrived at RAF Culmhead on April 18th, 894 joined them on the 28th. The squadron was to lose a another pilot towards the end of the detachment with the RAF, this time top enemy action; on May 12th Sub-Lt A.D. Hawkins-King was killed during an attack on ships in St.Malo harbour, his aircraft, LR837, crashed into the sea after being hit by flak.

 24 NFW returned to RAF Ballyhalbert on May 15th to prepare for embarking in the Fleet Carrier HMS INDEFATIGABLE on May 23rd for a week of deck landing training. The Wing disembarked to RNAS Eglinton on the 30th. On June 18th Sub-Lt G.S. Thomson made wheels up forced landing at Eglinton after an engine fire in Seafire NF594.

HMS INDEFATIGABLE and operations with the Home Fleet , July – October 1944

After a further month of training the wing departed Eglinton to join the ship in the Orkneys; each squadron made their way north independently, 887 arrived at RAF Wick on July 4th for a fuelling stop, arriving at RAF Skeabrae for a final refuel on the 6th landing aboard INDEFATIGABLE later that day. During the embarkation Sub-Lt J.W. Saunders, in Seafire LR842, stuck his arrester hook on the rounddown, and was stopped by No.2 barrier.

The Fleet Carrier HMS INDEFATIGABLE. Image © IWM (FL 22353)


Operation ‘MASCOT’ was planned for mid-July 1944 and was to be a repeat of Operation ‘TUNGSTEN’, an attack against the German battleship Tirpitz at her anchorage in Kaafjord, Norway, carried out in early April 1944; bad weather had prevented repeat attacks from being made. INDEFATIGABLE was part of a force comprising of the Battleship DUKE OF YORK, Carriers FORMIDABLE, INDEFATIGABLE, FURIOUS, Cruisers DEVONSHIRE, KENT, JAMAICA, BELLONA, Destroyers BULLDOG, MILNE, MARNE, MATCHLESS, MUSKETEER, SIOUX, SCOURGE, VERULAM, NUBIAN, VOLAGE, VIRAGO, VIGILANT, ALGONQUIN, Frigates BURGES, INMAN, HOSTE

Operation `MASCOT' called for a strike by 44 Barracuda bombers and 48 Corsairs, Hellcats and Fireflies and 15 Seafire escorts; FURIOUS (880-3 Seafire LIIc, 842 Flight-3 Swordfish II & 1840 -20 Hellcat II), FORMIDABLE (1841-t8 Corsairs, 827-12 Barracudas & 830-12 Barracudas) and INDEFATIGABLE (887-12 Seafire FIII [3], 17770 -12 Firefly I, 820-12 Barracuda II, & 826-12 Barracuda II) provided. The carrier force left Scapa on the 14th and the strike was delivered on July 17th, but failed to repeat the success of 'TUNGSTEN'. The enemy had warning of the approach of the Barracudas and had time to enshroud the anchorage in smoke, forcing the dive-bombers to release blindly. Tirpitz was undamaged, but an armed trawler was sunk and the destroyer Z33 suffered superficial damage from strafing Corsairs. One Barracuda and one Corsair were lost to flak. The force arrived back at Scapa on July 19th.

On July 24th 887 squadron was joined by the other half of 24 NFW, 894 squadron flew aboard from RNAS Grimsetter, having arrived there from RNAS Eglinton on the 18th. This now brought Wings strength to 24 Seafires. The Wing carried out flying training from the ship in preparation for the next operation.

Operation TURBINE was a fast airs strike to maintain a state of alarm on the Norwegian coast and to destroy enemy shipping in the Leads by aircraft from INDEFATIGABLE and FURIOUS. Force 9. Rear Admiral Commanding, First Cruiser Squadron in INDEFATIGABLE, FURIOUS, BERWICK, JAMAICA, MUSKETEER, METEOR, MAARNE, SCOURGE, NUBIAN, CAPRICE, SIOUX sailed from Scapa on August 2nd. Low clouds prevented any Barracuda strikes, and two sweeps at 1715 on 3rd August, dispatched up the Leads between Sogne and Yttercoerne, were also prevented from entering the Leads owing to low cloud. They shot up two wireless stations. A second strike was abandoned owning to poor weather The Force returned to Scapa on the 4th.

Operation OFFSPRING was designed to force the enemy out of the Leads by laying mines in Lepsorev and Harhamsfjiord. The carrier elements were provided by INDEFATIGABLE operated with the CVEs NABOB and TRUMPETER as part of Force 4; INDEFATIGABLE, TRUMPETER, NABOB, KENT, DEVONSHIRE, MYNGS, VOLAGE, VIGILANT, VERULAM, VIRAGO, ALGONQUIN, SIOUX, SCOURGE Left Scapa on August 8th for the largest aircraft mine laying operation to be undertaken by elements of the Home Fleet, 47 mines were successfully laid by the Avenger crews of 846 and 852 Squadrons (29 in Harhamsfiord and 17 in Lepsorev). ‘OFFSPRING’ also saw fighter aircraft attacking ground targets, a WT station on Vigra Island and Gossen airfield was strafed resulting in 6 Me 110s destroyed and one damaged on the ground with two hangers and some storehouses left burning. Additional targets were hit including 3 radar and 2 wireless stations, a dredger and gun positions, 3 armed ships of which 2 were left burning and an oil tank which was left smoking. Allied losses were 1 Avenger was shot down in flames, 1 Firefly ditched and 3 Seafires of the fighter escort were lost. Force 4eturned to Scapa on the 11th.

 Operation GOODWOOD was another attack on the TIRPITZ in the hope of putting her out of action for the remainder of the war and to cover the passage of Arctic convoys JW59 and RA59A against attack by TIRPITZ if she could not be disabled (she had put to sea on July 31st and August 1st to train with her protective destroyers). This dual purpose plan involved three separate Forces; Force 1, DUKE OF YORK, INDEFATIGABLE, FORMIDABLE, FURIOUS, BERWICK, DEVONSHIRE, MYNGS, SIOUX, VERULAM, VIRAGO, VOLAGE, ALGONQUIN, VIGILANT, SCOURGE, STORD, SCORPION, SERAPIS, CAMBRIAN, WHIRLWIND, WRANGLER. Force 2, TRUMPETER, NABOB, KENT, BICKERTON, AYLMER, BLIGH, KEMPTHORNE, KEATS. Force 9 (Oiler group), NUBIAN, POPPY, DIANELLA, STARWORT, R.F.A.s BLACK RANGER and BLUE RANGER.

August 1944 Seafires of 24 Naval Fighter Wing warming up on deck before taking off HMS INDEFATIGABLE Image © IWM (A 25081)


Home Fleet forces left Scapa on the 18th to protect the outward Convoy JW59, bound for Murmansk which had departed from Loch Ewe, Scotland on 15 August. After an uneventful journey north, the attack forces arrived off Norway on 20 August. Bad weather meant that the first strike was delayed by 24 hours and was undertaken on the 22nd. At 11:00 am a force comprising 32 Barracudas, 24 Corsairs, 11 Fireflies, 9 Hellcats and 8 Seafires was launched from the three fleet carriers. INDEFATIGABLE had embarked 887 & 894-24 Seafire FIII [24 NFW], 17770 -12 Firefly I, 820-12 Barracuda II, & 840-12 Hellcat II, for this operation.

Poor visibility meant that the bombers did not reach the target but fighters claimed one hit with a 500 lb bomb. A second small strike later on the same day claimed two more hits. On recovering the strike aircraft the forces withdrew to refuel; at 17:15 NABOB was struck by a torpedo fired from U-354. The carrier suffered serious damage and 21 fatalities, NABOB and TRUMPETER, had been detached from the larger force to provide fuel for 3 of the escorting destroyers, a second torpedo was launched which struck HMS BICKERTON at 17:23, she quickly sank. NABOB was non-operational but afloat and was ordered to return to Scapa that evening, escorted by the remaining ships of Force 2; this meant that the planned mine-laying component of GOODWOOD was cancelled.

Pilots from 887 squadron took part in the operations but some were flying in machines belonging to 894 squadron [4]; one pilot, Sub-Lt I. Sargent failed to return, his aircraft LR863 ('IT' struck the water near Banak, he managed to recover and forced landed his flaming aircraft on a beach. He was taken prisoner. Seafires from 894 Squadron shot down two German Blohm & Voss BV 138 reconnaissance aircraft at 17:15 on the 22nd.

 On the 24th another combined strike was flown off. Heavy smoke obscured the target. Three possible hits were claimed. Force 1 fuelled at the Faroes on 26th/27th and FURIOUS was detached to return to Scapa; a final strike was carried out on the 29th. Two near misses and one possible hit were claimed by Corsairs and 887 Squadron's Seafires sank seven seaplanes at the Banak base. Subsidiary attacks on targets at Hammerfest were also carried out. On completion of recovering her aircraft INDEFATIGABLE was detached to return to Scapa and FORMIDABLE followed on the 30th owing to lack of fuel. The remainder of Force 1 switched to cover convoy RA59A, Over the three days of Strikes a grand total of 91 Barracuda, 39 Hellcat and Corsair fighter-bomber, 15 Seafire fighter sweep, and 97 escort and support sorties were flown from the Fleet carriers. INDEFATIGABLE arrived back at Scapa September 1st and began preparations for one final operation with the Home Fleet, Operation DIVAN.

Operation DIVAN called for three separate objectives to be met; first to create a diversion during the passage of convoy JW 60 through the Bear Island Channel, second to accomplish the laying of aerial mines in the Leads at Finnenarennen and Gibostad, and third, to harass German forces and to destroy military installations in the Tromso Area. INDEFATIGABLE was to be the only carrier detailed for this operation, as part of a force comprising of INDEFATIGABLE, SWIFTSURE, CASANDRA, CAPRICE, CAMBRIAN, ZEPHYR, ORIRI, OFFA, ORWELL, ONSLOW, OPPORTUNE, and OBEDIENT. The force sailed from Scapa on September 19th but on reaching the operational area bad weather resulted in the operation being cancelled. Lt. Cdr (A) A.J. Thomson DSC, RNVR assumed command of 887 on this date,, relieving, Lt. Cdr Wiggington; he had served with the squadron since January 1944 as a Lieutenant RNVR before being promoted. Sadly Sub-Lt F.L. Haynes RNVR was killed on the 19th when his aircraft, NN249, stalled at 200ft on approach to land on INDEFATIGABLE and dove into the sea.

Reallocated for operations with the British Pacific Fleet , October – December 1945

The force arrived back at Scapa on the 24th and both 887 and 894 squadrons were flown ashore to RAF Skeabrae on arrival at the Orkney’s; the ship was to proceed to the Clyde the following day for dry-docking to be carried out. The two squadrons remained at Skeabrae until October 16th when they moved briefly to RNAS Grimsetter from here they embarked in HMS IMPLACABLE later that day for passage south.

 No. 24 Naval Fighter Wing was disembarked to RNAS Lee-on-Solent on October 30th and short leave was granted prior to embarking for service overseas. Both squadrons had their equipment strength increased to 24 aircraft in early November and additional aircrew arrived on the station. INDEFATIGABLE underwent a brief refit at her builder's yard between September 28th and November 8th. She arrived in Portsmouth for final repairs and loading of stores after her post refit shake-down and became the flagship of the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron (1 ACS) on 15 November. The following day, King George VI inspected the ship; the ground crews for 820, 887, 894 and 1770 Squadrons embarked later that day

INDEFATIGABLE put to sea on November 19th 1944 and prepared to embark the Seafires of 887 and 894 squadrons and Avengers of 820 and Fireflies of1770 squadrons in the Irish Sea on the 21st. Both squadrons of the 24th NFW were order to fly cross-country from Lee-on-Solent to RAF Mona, on Anglesey and to embark from there. On taking off all formed into their respective flights and headed north; this was an ambitious undertaking as many of the new pilots had only recently qualified and the prospect of a mass formation navigating to Anglesey was daunting. When the squadrons reached the midlands they encountered very heavy cloud which dangerously reduced visibility for station keeping. The flights separated and most climbed above the cloud to regroup and continue on. Many made emergency landings at nearby stations and followed on when the weather cleared; Sub-Lt J.V. Brooke RNVR of 887 failed to arrive at RAF Mona, he was killed when he crashed at Netley Hall, nr Donnington, Shropshire in an 894 Squadron Seafire, LR872 ('1W'), on November 20th. The following day Sub-Lt P.D. Norman RNVR died when embarking in INDEFATIGABLE, his aircraft NN309 stalled into the sea from 300ft. Another aircraft, NN32 floated over all the wires and crashed into the barrier embarking, the pilot Sub-Lt J. Birtle was OK. Not all of the stragglers made it to the ship, the last pilot to attempt to rendezvous with the ship, Sub-Lt C. Miseldine RNVR could not manage to find her, the ships radar and homing beacon were malfunctioning and he eventually abounded his efforts and flew back to Lee-on-Solent; He eventually joined the ship at Port Said.

Once all aircraft had been embarked the ship took passage to Gibraltar, in company with destroyers GRENVILLE, UNDINE and URANIA, on the first leg of the voyage to Ceylon to assemble with the new British Pacific Fleet (BPF). With calls at Algiers, Port Said and Aden, INDEFATIGABLE and her escorts arrived at Colombo on December 10th and joined HM Aircraft Carriers ILLUSTRIOUS, INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS in 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron, British Pacific Fleet. On reaching the Ceylonese coast 887 and 894 were flown ashore to RNAS Katukurunda on December 10th. While on passage in the Red Sea Sub-Lt J.E. Jones RNVR had to make a forced landing in Eritrea on December 4th after the arrestor hook refused to lower on Seafire LR845. On approach to the coast of Ceylon on the 10th Sub-Lt Knight RNVR crashed into the Island structure while landing on in Seafire PP936, the Starboard brake jammed on and the aircraft veered into the  Island.

Operations with the British Pacific Fleet December 1944 – February 1945

The 24th NFW continued flying training ashore at RNAS Katukurunda for the next two weeks preparing for operations with the fledgling British Pacific Fleet. There were three flying incidents recorded for this time, on December 19th Sub-Lt M. P. Sutton RNVR in PP933 swung off the runway and the undercarriage collapsed; on the 20th some pilots were doing DLT on the carrier, Sub-Lt I.G. Hepworth in Seafire NN205 had a crash on deck when the arrestor wire pulled out breaking the aircrafts back, the pilot was OK, but Sub-Lt H.W. Ostergaard was killed when his aircraft NN230, stalled and spun in while going round again, the aircraft impacted 2 miles North of Katukurunda and burnt out. Seafire LR869 made a wheels-up landing on grass at Katukurunda on the 21st after the undercarriage failed to lower, the pilot Sub-Lt J. Birtle RNVR was OK.

The aircraft of 24 NFW re-embarked in INDEFATIGABLE on Christmas Eve 1944 and the ship and her squadrons began exercising with the BPF in preparation for offensive operations in the New Year. The first outing was to be a strike against Japanese installations on Sumatra.

 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.

Seafire H5S of 887 squadron engages the no.1 barrier after failing to arrest; parts of the disintegrated propeller can be clearly seen flying off at high speed. This is possibly during operation LENTIL; the aircraft has East Indies Fleet roundels. Image © IWM (A 27171)


Picking up the pieces; the damaged plane is prepared for lifting to clear the deck.  Image © IWM (A 27172).


On the morning of 4th January, strike aircraft were flown off to attack the oil refineries at Pangkalan Brandan and successfully completed the operation. Photographic reconnaissance was also made of port installations at Belawan Deli, Brandan, and Soesoe. 887 and 894 squadron aircraft flew Combat Air patrols over the bore. The Force returned to Trincomalee on January 7th.

Once back at Ceylon the fleet began preparing for their final departure and a series of strikes, 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 Auxillaries (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 4 Avengers and 4 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE while 24 Corsairs (12 each from VICTORIOUS and ILLUSTRIOUS) 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 probables. 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 Sub-Lt W.G. Gibson of 894 was picked up by WHIRLWIND). 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 boggies were intercepted by the CAP fighters, which were supplemented by Corsairs and later Hellcats to bolster the air defence. Seafires of 24 NFW claimed four Ki21 'Sally’ shared kills, three by 894 squadron, (Lt. Cdr L/C J. Crossman, Sub-Lts E. Elson and K.E. Ward) and one by 887, Sub-Lt JW Hayes; his aircraft NN210 was hit in the engine by return fire after making his attack and he baled out, he was later picked up by UNDINE. During the attack ILLUSTRIOUS was struck by friendly-fire; two shells fired by a nearby ship [5] hit the flight deck and the Island killing 12 and wounded 21.

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 NFW 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; reaching their final destination, Sydney, New South Wales on the 9th. The Seafires of 887 and 894, together with the Fireflies of 1770 squadron were disembarked to RNAS Schofields (Mobile Naval Air Base No.3) the following day. The squadrons made preparations for re-embarking on the 27th ready for operations in the Pacific. While at Schofield Sub-Lt F.C. Hurlock crashed while landing on February 14th, his aircraft PP928, ground looped and the undercarriage collapsed.

Operations with the British Pacific Fleet March 1945 - January 1946

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.

INDEFATIGABLE, together with INDOMITABLE (Flag, 1ACS) VICTORIOUS, ILLUSTRIOUS, QUICKMATCH, QUEENBOROUGH, and QUALITY sailed from Sydney on the 27th for exercises and to fly on aircraft before making their rendezvous with the rest TF 113 on February 28th. TF 113 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. On passage 887 had three deck landing accidents, on March 1st Sub-Lt A.G. Knight RNVR crashed when landing in Seafire NN316, the hook pulled out and the port tyre burst. On the 3rd Sub-Lt I.G. Hepworth RNVR in Seafire NN212 ('112/S'), drifted landing on and his starboard wing hit a gun director aft of the island. Sub-Lt L.E. Kverndal had a barrier crash landing in Seafire NN250 on the 5th.

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. 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. The fleet sailed for Ulithi Atoll on the 14th, arriving there on the 18th. Two flying incidents occurred on passage, both on March 15th; Lt F.C. Hurlock RNVR broke the tail oleo of Seafire PP925landing and Sub-Lt J.D. Pywell RNVR in NN209 landed across the deck and was arrested by the barrier. While at Ulithi Sub-Lt A.G. Knight made a wheels up crash landing on the US Navy airfield after his undercarriage failed to lower on March 20th.

Task Force 57 and Operation ICEBERG One & Two, 26th March – 25th May 1945

The British Pacific Fleet sailed from Ulithi at 06:30 on March 23rd 1945,as Task Force 57, for operations as part of the U.S. Fifth Fleet under Admiral Raymond Spruance U.S.N. After replenishment at sea on the 25th which included the issuing of replacement aircraft from HMS STRIKER, TF 57 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.

ICEBERG 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 days of strikes and 2 – 35days of replenishment; when TF 57 stood down to replenish the strike task was taken over by elements TF 58 and later TF 52

At 06:05 on the 27th INDEFATIGABLE launched her Seafires for CAP over the force in advance of the first strike launch at sunrise; the Seafire still lacked the endurance and range to be used for Ramrod sweeps so it was still restricted to CAP duty. At 06:35 fighter sweeps, were flown off from a position 100 miles south of Myako Jima to attack the airfields at Ishigaki and Miyako; there were three airfields on each of the islands. These sweeps were followed by two escorted bomber strikes and one fighter bomber strike with airfields and associated buildings as targets.

On the morning of March 27th the fleet was again in position 100 miles south of Myako Jima; at sunrise a fighter sweep was sent into Ishigaki only, they reported little activity. Two bomber strikes were directed against radio stations, barracks and ' airfields not covered the previous day. Coasters off 'the islands were also attacked. The final strike 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 for the next day, and the Fleet withdrew to the replenishment area east of Luzon, after the second day's strikes had been landed on.

INDEFATIGABLE lost 9 Seafires during the first two strike days, 4 from 887 and 5 from 894. Seven were involved in landing accidents: on the 26th LR813 flown by Sub-Lt A.G. Knight (887) caught a wire but made a very heavy landing, the starboard undercarriage collapsed damaging the wing. NN316 flown by Sub-Lt I.G. Hepworth (887) floated into No.2 barrier, damage was beyond economical repair and the aircraft was jettisoned overboard. NN262 flown by Sub-Lt I.H.S. Morgan RNVR (894) bounced and ended on its nose before its undercarriage collapsed, the aircraft was jettisoned. NN447 flown by Sub-Lt R.C. Kay RNVR (894) made a fast landing and bounced into the barrier. On the 27th there were three barrier crashes, NN232 flown by Sub-Lt L.A. Bradbury RMVR (887), NN208 flown by CPO M.A.C. Levett (887) and NN290 flown by Sub-Lt A. St Belcher RNVR (894); two pilots from 894 were killed in a mid-air collision, Sub-Lt A.G Cooper RNVR in Seafire NN146 collided with NN400 flown by Sub-Lt S.C. Yarde RNVR, both aircraft dove into the sea.

The two Task Units of the Logistic Support Group were waiting at the prearranged rendezvous; TU 112.2.1 consisted of H.M. Ships STRIKER (with replacement aircraft), CRANE, FINDHORN, WHIRLWIND and the Tankers SAN AMBROSIO, CEDARDALE and SAN ADOLPHO and. TU 112.2.5 consisted of H.M. Ships SPEAKER (for CAP duties), PHEASANT and KEMPENFELT. TF 57 met the Tanker Group in Area Midge One, a rectangular area which covered 5000 square miles of ocean, at 07:30 on the 28th and began refuelling. The replenishment CVE STRIKER issued 13 replacement aircraft 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 and TF 57 was in its flying-off position for another strike day by dawn on March 31st, in readiness to resume strike operations. It was vital that TF 57 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 anti-submarine sweeps followed by Fighter Ramrod launch at sunrise were now standing procedure and the force repeated the attacks of the previous strike days. Fighter patrols were now to be maintained over Ishigaki and Miyako and there appeared to be little activity in either island. Two bomber strikes were sent against Ishigaki airfield, installations and barracks. There were two accidents on deck, Sub-Lt C.M. Miseldine RNVR (887) burst the port tyre landing and his aircraft NN227 pecked the deck, and an unnamed pilot from 887 taxied NN323 into NN284 of 894 squadron.

At 0650, on April 1st bogeys were detected by radar to the westward, height 8,000 feet, closing at 210 knots. The fighter sweep was already on their way in to Ishigaki and recalled to intercept and additional fighters were flown off. Corsairs, Hellcats and Seafires engaged the enemy. Four were destroyed, Seafires shot down two, but the bulk reached the fleet. 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 in 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 bombing strike was sent in against Ishigaki to bomb airfields and runways. No activity was noted. At 14:30 reports were received from combat patrols over the islands that more aircraft had been sighted at Hirara and Ishigaki airfields. These were attacked by the fighter patrols and were followed by a fighter sweep. It was estimated that about 14 enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground during this attack and others damaged.

A second Kamikaze attack was a near miss on VICTORIOUS at 17:30; 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. Sub-Lt R.H. Reynolds RNVR in Seafire PR256 ('146/S'), shot down 2 A6M ‘Zero’ fighters over the Fleet – he was later awarded the DSC for this action. At dusk the fleet disengaged and steamed south eastwards. The third day of trikes had cost 24 Naval Fighter wing 5 aircraft with 2 enemy aircraft destroyed; 887 had two deck crashes, NN227 (Sub-Lt L J.M. Halliwell RNVR) into the barrier and NN452 (Sub-Lt M.P. Sutton RNVR) port undercarriage collapsed landing on. 894 had three; NF660 (Sub-Lt J.D. Alexander RNZNVR of 887) Port oleo collapsed on landing, NN297 (Sub-Lt G.W. Hartland RNVR of 887 Sqn) caught the trickle wire, and broke its back, NF516 (Sub-Lt N.T. Quigley RNVR) attempted an emergency landing, floated through two barriers; the pilot later died from his injuries. Another 894 pilot died on April 1st, Sub-Lt W.G. Gibson RNVR, cause of death is not known.

On April 2nd reconnaissance found little activity on the airfields but at 06:30 a Fighter Ramrod left to attack all the airfields; these were recovered by 10:45 and the Fleet withdrew to fuelling area Midge One, maintaining a CAP of 12 aircraft until dark. At first light on April 3rd there was no sign of Task Units 112.2.5 and 112.2.2., bad weather hampered the rendezvous which was not made until 12:30. At 06:30 on the 4th Task Unit 112.2.3 arrived on station making a total of 5 tankers. Between the 3rd and the 5th of April, Task Force 57 took on fuel and stores from the vessels of the fleet train which had sailed from Leyte, the Philippines on March 29th. For this replenishment period there were two CVEs in the Logistic Support Group, SPEAKER’s 1840 squadron Hellcats provided Combat Air patrols (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.

TF 57 resumed Strikes on the morning of April 6th, first launch was at 04:50 when four fighters were flown- off INDOMITABLE, two each to Miyako and Ishigaki airfields to attack any enemy aircraft taking off at dawn, and eight aircraft not previously noticed at Ishigaki were attacked. At 06:35 CAPS to cover both islands were launched. The craters in the runway at Miyako airfield were observed to be filled in. 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.

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. One of 894 squadrons Seafires was shot down by gunfire from ILLUSTRIOUS, during the raid: the pilot Sub-Lt N.V. Heppenstall was not recovered.

April 7th saw the programme changed again, a planned bombardment was cancelled and focus was on maintaining a constant CAP 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 having successfully disabled all the target airfields, and proceeded to replenishment area Cootie One for their third replenishment period.

At 06:00 on the 8th the Fleet met Task Unit 112.2:5 and Task Tanker group ARNDALE, DINGLEDALE, SAN AMBROSIO, and SAN ADOLPHO, in position Cootie One, US Task Group 52.1 having taken over the strike duty. SPEAKER’s 1840 squadron Hellcats again provided CAP for the Fleet Train while STRIKER provided replacement aircraft and aircrews. STRIKER issued 12 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 returning to Leyte ton 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 TF 57 made for Formosa.

Formosa and ‘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 CAP was flown off at 0615 and at 0704 Seafires had an encounter with four eastbound ‘Zekes’, one Seafire was shot down (identity of aircraft and pilot not known). The main strikes, each of 24 bombers and 20 fighters, were flown off at 0715. One strike bombed Shinchiku airfields with delay fuzed 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 ‘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, TF 57 lost 4.

A second round of strikes was planned for the 13th; at 05:50 four fighters were flown off, shortly after a raid was made by 4 enemy ‘Val’ bombers, one bomb narrowly missing INDOMITABLE. A Hellcat was hit by friendly-fire during the gunnery barrage to defend he Fleet, the pilot was killed. 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. After these bomber strikes were flown on, the Fleet disengaged to the south eastward to refuel. Enemy losses were light, only 3 shot down with 5 destroyed on the ground; TF 57 lost 1 Hellcat.  A further three Seafires from 887 were wrecked in deck crashes during this operation; on the 12th Sub-Lt E.W. Cowle RNVR put LR802 into the barrier and the fuselage was buckled when the aircraft fell back hard onto the deck. On the 13th Sub-Lt I.G. Hepworth RNVR broke the back of LR792 after catching No.8 wire but ended on its nose in No.1 barrier, while Sub-Lt R.C. Kay RNVR landed NN186 with the hook up and flew into No.1 barrier.

At 06:30 on April 14th the Fleet made contact with Task Unit 112.2.5 and a Tanker Group consisting of ARNDALE, DINGLEDALE, SAN AMBROSIO, WAVE KING, and WAVE MONARCH, in position Cootie One. 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, SPEAKER provided CAP but no replacement aircraft were available during this replenishment period; FORMIDABLE was at full strength though.

The Fleet was back on station off Sakishima in the early hours of April 16th 1945 to begin the final round of strikes of ICEBERG ONE. 06:00. The 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 straffed a radar station at Miyako, and ground installations, barracks, and grounded aircraft generally were straffed. There was no airborne opposition over the targets and flak was moderate. In the afternoon Seafire NN208 of 887 squadron, landing on INDEFATIGABLE bounced, cleared the barriers and crashed. The pilot Sub-Lt L.A. Bradbury was unhurt, but the plane wrecked an Avenger, damaged a Firefly, and knocked two ratings over the side, QUIBERON picked up one, but the other was not recovered. The success in subduing the enemy airfields showed, only two enemy aircraft were destroyed, TF 57 lost 3.


April 16th 1945: The scene after Seafire NN208 of 887 Squadron bounced over all arrestor wires & barriers to land in the deck park damaging an Avenger and a Firefly. The pilot Sub-Lt L.A. Bradbury RNVR was OK but two crewmen were knocked overboard, one of which was not recovered. Image

© IWM (A 29715)

The wrecked Seafire NN208 of 887 Squadron is heaved overboard, any aircraft that could not be flown off or repaired on the ship was unceremoniously ditched as they could not be transferred while the Fleet was at sea.

Image © IWM (A 29483).


On the morning of April 17th CAP was flown off at 06:00, the first strike taking off at 06:30. 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. CAPS 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. The final days tally was 3 enemy aircraft destroyed and several small ships damaged. The Fleet lost 1 Avenger. The fleet withdrew to proceed overnight to replenishment area MOSQUITO ONE.

During the 18th and 19th the fleet refuelled from the tanker group, SPEAKER again providing CAP fighters. No replacement aircraft were issued during this period. TF 57 was back on station before dawn on April 20th to carry out one their twelfth and final strike day of ICEBERG One, The pattern followed that of previous strike days, and the day ended with all airfields cratered; there were no enemy aircraft encountered by the strike groups or the Fleet, One Avenger 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

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.

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.

Operation ICEBERG TWO: 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 Tanker Group R.F.A.s SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO and CEDARDALE with RULER (885 CAP & ASP) CRANE, AVON and WHIMBREL in Area Mosquito One during the day on the 3rd to top off their tanks before departing for the flying off position.

The strike program for the first day included a bombardment of shore targets by the Battleships KING GEORGE V and HOWE and Cruisers BJLACK PRINCE, EURYALUS, SWIFTSURE, H.M.N.Z.S. GAMBIA and H.M.C.S. UGANDA. Fleet CAP was launched at 05:40 Bomber strikes were flown off at 0605 for Miyako and at 0815 for Ishigaki. At Miyako repair work on the airfields had apparently been proceeding by night since the day strikes by 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 Miyara airfield was found serviceable and left well cratered. 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.

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 a Zeke was seen diving from a great height on to FORMIDABLE. The Kamikaze crashed into the flightdeck near-the island; She was seriously damaged, casualties were 8 killed and 47 wounded; i1 Corsair 'and 10 Avengers were damaged beyond repair, both flightdeck 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 midships gun director with it. The bomb appeared to explode shortly-after the plane submerged. 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. Her damage control and repair teams had her patched up enough that she was able to land on 13 of her Corsairs by 17:00.

The Fleet Combat Air Patrols of 24 NFW were kept busy, at 11:45 two Seafires from 894, ('130/S') flown by Sub-Lt R.C. Kay RNVR, and ('141/S') by Sub-Lt R.H. Reynolds, shot down an A6M3 ‘Zero’, this was followed at 12:45 by two Seafires from 887, ('123/S') flown by Sub-Lt C.M. Miseldine RNVR, and ('122/S') by CPO W. Daniel, shooting down a D3A ‘Val’ – Sub-Lt Miseldine’s aircraft took some damage; the enemy pilot was seen to bale out. A further three ‘Zeros’ were destroyed later that afternoon; at 17:30 two aircraft from 894 squadron destroyed one each, Lt A.S. Macleod RNZNVR in Seafire PR254 and CPO I.B. Bird (of 887 Sqn) in NN363 while at 17:50 Sub-Lt D.T. Challick RNIN of 887 flying in ('131/S') got another bringing 24 NFWs tally to 5 destroyed on the day.. On the debit side 4 Seafires were out of commission; one was lost, NN283 of 894 when it ran out of fuel and the pilot, Sub-Lt M.J.H. Davey baled out, he was rescued later. 887 had three put out of commission due to deck crashes; Lt D.T. Keene RNVR missed all the wires, and flew into the barrier in Seafire LR875, Sub-Lt O.W, Draper in PR193 damaged his rail wheel when it caught on an arrestor wire landing on, and Sub-Lt G.J. Murphy in NN211 made a heavy landing causing the starboard oleo to collapse and damaged the prop. At 1733 a Hellcat returning for an emergency landing was mistakenly fired on by FORMIDABLE and hit. The aircraft crashed but the pilot was rescued unhurt by UNDAUNTED.

When the Fleet withdrew the tally was 14 enemy aircraft destroyed by fighters, 2 shot down by gunfire, several small vessels around the islands-were damaged. TF57 losses totalled 15, only 1 in combat, an Avenger, 11 lost due to Kamikaze attack, 1 each, Corsair, Seafire, Hellcat and Avenger.

The Fleet returned to the Islands on May 5th, the first CAP was launched at 05:45 and the now usual round of runway cratering strikes were carried out. The previous day’s bombardment appeared to have been successful as the strike groups reported that no flak at all was encountered over Miyako, The Fleet withdrew at 19:05 and proceeded to replenishment area Cootie. The day was quiet compared to the previous day. Only 1 enemy aircraft was destroyed in combat, 3, and 2 probable destroyed on the ground. TF57 lost 3 aircraft, 1 Corsair and 2 Seafires. Both Seafires were from 887 squadron; NN211 flown by Sub-Lt P.F.H. Cowie RNVR bounced into No.2 barrier and NN232 flown by Sub-Lt A.R. McEvoy had the Port oleo collapse landing on.

At 0630 on May 6th TF 57 met up with the Logistic Support Group RULER (885 CAP & ASP) , STRIKER (Replenishment), CRANE, NAPIER, - NORMAN, NEPAL, AVON, WHIMBREL, PHEASANT, and R.F.A.s WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO, and CEDARDALE. 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 in company with KEMPENFELT at 19:15 for Leyte. 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 area Cootie.

At 05:15 on May 8th TF 57 relieved US Task Group 52.1 and prepared for a third day of strikes. A planned bombardment was cancelled when the weather deteriorated but 4 bomber strikes were still planned; the fighters sent to operate CAPs over Miyako and Ishigaki reported poor visibility and all operations for the day were cancelled. News of Victory in Europe reached the Fleet. The next day brought better weather, CAPs were flown off at 05:45 and four bomber strikes were flown off during the day, two to each island, the first being launched at 0830. All runways 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 cause 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 bel 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 1650 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 12th/13th May; at 19:50 course was set for area Cootie.

At 06:10 May 10th TF 57 met the Tanker Group consisting of SPEAKER (Replenishment), RULER (885 CAP & ASP), NEPAL, CRANE, PHEASANT, WHYALLA, BALLARAT, WOODCOCK, WEASEL (Tug) and R.F.A.s ARNDALE, AASE MAERSK, DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO. Six of 1841 squadrons Corsair flyable duds were flown off to SPEAKER from FORMIDABLE 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.

On the fifth strike day the Fleet and island CAPS together with the first bomber strike were flown off at 05:40. Again four Bomber strikes were launched through the day. One attacked Ishigaki and three Miyako; a second strike on Ishigaki had been planned but had to be cancelled owing to weather conditions. The airfields were again suppressed and runways re-cratered. 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. TF 57 lost 5 aircraft 1 Hellcat (to A.A. fire), 2 Avenger, 1 Corsair, and 1 Seafire (no details known).

On arriving over the islands on the 13th the island CAPS 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. At Miyako all runways were left unserviceable, a barracks was straffed, 8 barges were hit, and 3 major oil fires started, A new revetted dispersal area was observed at Hirara and its location was reported. 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 19:20 the dusk CAP was landed on and the Fleet withdrew to fuel in area Cootie.

At 0630 on May 14th TF 57 met RULER (885 CAP & ASP), CRANE, WOODCOCK, PHEASANT,
WEASEL and R.F.A. Tankers ARNDALE and DINGLEDALE in area Cootie One. A second group comprising STRIKER (Replenishment), NIZAM and R.F.A. Tankers WAVE KING and WAVE MONARCH were 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 to Task Force 57 and recovered 1 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 on the 15th. At 17:05 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group and departed for the operations area.

At 05:40 on May 16th the Fleet was back at the launching point and the Fleet and island CAPS plus the first bomber strike for Miyako were flown off. On this occasion five bomber strikes were sent to the islands during the day, three to Miyako and two to Ishigaki. All 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. 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. Losses were: 3 Corsairs, 1 Avenger, 1 Seafire (no details known).

The next morning the 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. 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 area Cootie to fuel. Losses were 1 .Hellcat, 2 Corsair, 1 Avenger, 1 Seafire (no details known).

At 05:45 May 18th the Fleet met with the Logistic Support Group in area Cootie One, present were RULER (CAP), CHASER (Replenishment), CRANE, GRENVILLE, NORMAN, WHIMBREL, BENDIGO, PARRETT, .WEASEL and R.F.A.s SAN AMBROSIO, ,SAN ADOLPHO, and CEDARDALE. CHASER Transferred 3 Seafires, 2 Hellcats, 1 Firefly, 2 Avengers and 1 Corsair to Task Force 57 [6].



Page under construction


[1] Some commentators state Palermo, others Bizerta
[2] Despite a high number of deck crashes during the operation and one known instance of combat there are no records showing any incidents for 887 during September 1943. The combat report is from the report of proceedings for operation AVALANCHE submitted by the commanding officer of HMS UNICORN.
[3] This squadron is incorrectly listed as being 894 on page 32 of ‘Carrier Operations in World War II: Volume One - The Royal Navy’ by Brown, J.D. (1968). 894 did not arrive in Orkney until July 18th, after operation MASCOT had been completed and the force was withdrawing to Scapa, as recorded on page 327 in 'Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' by Sturtevant, R & Balance, T., (1994).
[4] Under the Wing system the component squadrons were under the command of a Wing Leader; because the equipment was the same for each squadron, machines were often flown by pilots from other squadrons in the Wing.
[5] Accounts of which ship fired the shells differ; David Brown, 'Carrier Operations in World War 2 - vol 1 the Royal Navy' attributes them to KING GEORGE KING GEORGE while John Winton, 'The forgotten Fleet' list it as being EURYALUS.
[6] Seafire replacements were scarce during ICEBERG Two operations; the standard replacement aircraft load carried by the replenishment carriers during ICEBERG One was 9 Seafires, 7 Avengers, 6 Corsairs, 1 Hellcat, and 1 Firefly. The average load for ICEBERG Two was 3 Seafires, 1 Avengers, 10 Corsairs, 7 Hellcat, and 1 Firefly , this was due to a shortage in Seafires being assembled and sent forward from Australia (see account of Transportable Aircraft Maintenance Yard 1 for more info).



Content revised: 22 October 2020

Sources used in compiling this account:

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

Eadon. S., (1991) 'KAMIKAZE - the story of the British Pacific Fleet' Worcester, Square One Publications.

Eadon. S., (1991) '(1995) ‘Sakishima and Back’ Bristol, Crecy Books.

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

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

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

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

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

Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday, 3rd April, 1951 - ‘The Carrier-Borne Aircraft Attacks on Oil Refineries in the Palembang (Sumatra) Area in January, 1945’

Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday, June 1st 1948 - ‘The contribution of the British Pacific Fleet to the assault on Okinawa, 1945’

 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. From accessed 29 October 2016

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Unofficial Motto:

Nec Temere, Nec Timide

(Neither rashly nor timidly)

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Battle Honours

Atlantic 1943

Salerno 1943

Norway 1944

Palembang 1945

Okinawa 1945

Japan 1945


Aircraft Types

Fulmar I II May 42 - Dec 42

Spitfire V Dec 42 - Jan 43

Seafire Ib, Jan - Mar 1943 Seafire IIc'L.IIc Mar 43 - Dec 43

Seafire F.III & L.III Dec 43 - Mar 46


Commanding Officers

Lt G.R. Callingham RN 1 May 42

Lt. Cdr D.W. Kirke RN 29 Aug 42

Lt. Cdr (A) B.F. Wiggington DSC, RNVR 4 Jan 44

Lt. Cdr (A) A.J. Thomson DSC, RNVR 19Aug 44

Lt. Cdr N.G. Hallett DSC & Bar RN 14 May 45

Lt. Cdr (A) G. Dennison RNVR 27Sep 45

Squadron disbanded 15 Mar 46


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Topic: 887 Naval Air Squadron
0/5 (0)
Rob Haywood
Aug 2019
Rob Haywood (Hull) says...
Is there any knowledge of RAF personnel still being employed aboard carriers in the latter stages of the war. I have information of an RAF engine fitter/mechanic, joined RAF c.1937, who served on carriers throughout the war, EAGLE, INDEFATIGABLE, demobbed in 1946, rejoined the RAF later and retired in c.1962 as a flight sergeant. Was he the only one, or were there more RAF men aboard. Incredible career.
Feb 2018
JJ says...
Strange that there is no mention of Kernahan's combats on the 29th Jan 1945 and 12th April 1945. Both are clearly noted in Browns Seafire and in Sturtivant, R. & Burrows, M. (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945.'
Oct 2016
First Poster
TB says...
Great piece! What was your source for connecting photos A 29715 and A 29483 from the IWM to Sub-Lt L.A. Bradbury's crash landing?
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