f1840
   
 

'Ruler' Class

 Description Shape:
Standard, circular.
Blazon (Heraldic description)
On a red field: The head of the mace of the speaker of the House of Commons, gold.
SPEAKER: The chief officer and highest authority of the House of Commons. This design was originally produced for the Destroyer WHITBY, featuring the mace of her patron John Henry Whitley, Speaker of the House of Commons (1921-1938), but due to a typo the finished name was misspelt as WHITLEY. The design was reused for SPEAKER whose patron was Colonel, the Rt. Hon. Douglas Clifton Brown, the Speaker of the house (1943 – 1951).

For explanations of heraldic terms see the Badges & Honours page.

 

Motto:
"FACTA NON VERBA"
Deeds not words

 

Pennant Numbers:

 

D90 (Atlantic)

R314 & A453 (Pacific)

 


 

Battle Honours:

 

DOVER 1652
KENTISH KNOCK 1652
PORTLAND 1653
GABBARD 1653
SCHEVENINGEN 1653
SANTA CRUZ 1657
ATLANTIC 1944
OKINAWA 1945

 


 

Specifications

Builder: Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, Washington

Completed by: Willamette Iron & Steel, Portland, Oregon

Displacement: 15,390 tons

Length (Overall): 494ft 9in

Beam:  69ft 6in

Flight deck: 450ft x 80ft wood covered mild steel plate

Propulsion: 2 Foster Wheeler boilers; 1 x Allis-Chalmers geared turbine driving 1 shaft

Speed:  16 knots

A/C Capacity: 20

Hangar: 260ft x 62ft x 18ft

A/C lifts: 2, Aft 34ft long x 42ft wide; forward 42ft long x 34ft wide

Arrestor wires: 9 with 3 barriers

Catapult: 1 H4C hydraulic

Armament: 2 single 5in USN Mk 12, 8 twin 40mm Bofors, 14 twin 20rnm Oerlikon, 7 single 20mm Oerlikon

Crew Complement: 646


 

Commanding Officers:

 

Capt P.W.Wootten

Oct 43 - Nov 43

 

Cdr the Hon.

R. Southwell, RN
Nov 43 - Jan 44


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

 


 

Squadrons:

721 (Ferry)

Dec 45 - Jan 46

Vengeance TT

 

767 (DLT)

Nov 44

Barracuda II

 

768 (DLT)

Oct - Nov 44

Swordfish II & Barracuda II

 

1820 (DLT)

Oct 44

Helldiver

 

1840

Dec 44 - Apr 45

Hellcat

 

 


 

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A History of HMS SPEAKER

HMS SPEAKER at anchor Sydney 1945 Photo: from the 'History of HMS Speaker'..

 

Laid down 9 October 1942, at Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. Tacoma, Washington, a C3-S-A1 type freighter Maritime Commission hull number 251, Seattle-Tacoma hull number 35; purchased by the US navy, to become DELGADA ACV-40. Whilst still under construction it had been decided that ACV-40 was to be transferred to the Admiralty on loan on her completion as an aircraft carrier. ACV-40 was launched on 20 February 1943 by her sponsor Mrs. James B. Sykes. ACV-40 was assigned to Willamette Iron & Steel, Portland, Oregon, for the completion of her construction as an escort carrier.

 

Commissioning and transfer ceremony at Portland, Oregon.
Photo: from the History of HMS Speaker..

 

The USS DELGADA completed fitting out at Willamette Iron & Steel in early November 1943, her USN designation was changed from ACV to CVE on 15 July 1943. CVE-40 was commissioned into the US navy as USS Delgada on November 20th 1943 at a ceremony held on the flight deck attended by the builders and representatives of the U.S. Naval authorities. The ship was accepted on behalf of the US Navy by Captain L. D. Whitgrove USN, Supervisor of Shipbuilding at Portland and after the playing of the American national anthem he delivered her to Commander the Hon. Robert Southwell RN who accepted her on behalf of the Admiralty. Commander Southwell read out the order commissioning her as HMS SPEAKER (pennant number D90) and the White ensign and the Union Jack were hoisted accompanied by the British national anthem; a short church service followed.

 

Modification and preparation to enter service:
After completing her builder's sea trials and Admiralty acceptance tests HMS SPEAKER sailed from Portland on December 6th 1943 bound for Vancouver, , Canada to be modified to meet Admiralty requirements, receive her full crew compliment (SPEAKER had only a skeleton crew drafted to her at Portland due to manpower shortages), and work up ready for beginning her active service. This work was undertaken by the Burrard Dry Dock Co. Ltd., North Vancouver, British Columbia. SPEAKER was the eighth ship to be modified by Burrards: She was due at Vancouver on November 30th but due to hold ups she arrived on December 7th and anchored in the stream off, Lapointe Pier. At this time sister CVEs EMPRESS, SHAH, NABOB and PREMIER were in the hands of the Burrard's yard and at various stages of modification. During this period the ships company vacating the ship; Officers lived ashore and the crew were accommodated aboard H.M.S. Thane which was acting as an accommodation ship at that time.


Work commenced to de-store the ship and her alteration work began the following day: this work totalled 150 separate modifications and included lengthening of the flight deck, fitting redesigned flying controls and fighter direction layout, modifications to hangar, accommodation and store rooms, installing extra safety measures including major changes to the aviation fuel stowage and oiling at sea arrangements,, modifying gunnery and other internal communications, adding extra W/T and R/T sets, and improved darken ship arrangements.


As work progressed SPEAKER progressed through the yards various berths; the yard could be working on six different ships at any time with separate aspects of the work carried out at different berths, the ships passing through like a production line, moving from one berth to another until complete. SPEAKER moved into No 4 on December 10th, from there she entered Burrard' s floating dry dock on December 20th for the fitting of additional sea valves and other remedial work and on undocking on the 23rd she was secured alongside in No 3 berth. She returned to No. 4 berth on December 28th, where on January 3rd a replacement Low pressure turbine arrived; all of the class suffered from defective LP rotors and they required re-milling of the gear teeth by the manufacturers to correct the problem. Later ships had the problem resolved at the Seattle-Tacoma yard or in Portland, but SPEAKER and earlier delivered vessels had to be corrected while in Vancouver. She moved into No. 5 berth on January 16th where her alterations were to be completed on January 25th 1944. The engine room work was not completed until the 28th when she was moved to No. 7 berth and her engines were tested. Including holidays, SPEAKER spent 49 days in dockyard hands; she was moved to a mooring in the stream the following day.

 

Examples of some of the tasks undertaken at the Burrard's dockyard in Vancouver. Right; a CVE in the floating dry dock. Left; the flight deck is being extended to maximise take off run, note a sister carrier undergoing work in another berth. Photos: Ronny Jaques / National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada.

 

Although the alteration phase of her work was now complete SPEAKER was still undermanned, during January the crew began to arrive, including the commanding officer Captain U. H. R. James, and Lieutenant Commander `Flying', Lt Cdr H P Allingham RNR, however many key personnel had still to arrive, including engine room staff. SPEAKER was not sufficiently crewed for putting to sea until February 8th. SPEAKER departed Vancouver for the US Naval Yard at Bremerton, Washington on the 10th where she was to take on ammunition between the 11th to the 14th after which she refuelled at Manchester, Washington and anchored there over night. She returned to Vancouver on the 16th to conduct gunnery, radar and other trials and exercises in the Straits of Georgia (between Vancouver Island and the mainland). On February 23rd the ship sailed for Esquimalt, Victoria, North Vancouver to embark Confidential Books and make final preparations to leave for the UK.

 

Speaker reached Balboa on 8th March and passed through the Panama Canal, joining up with another CVE, HMS Empress and other assorted vessels on the Atlantic side; these proceeded to sail in convoy to Norfolk, Virginia on March 18th. The ship spent a week at Norfolk before sailing on to New York, arriving at Staten Island on March 25th.

 

Maiden voyage: Ferry trip to UK: March 17th - April 8th 1944
HMS SPEAKER sailed from Esquimalt as an operational carrier on February 24th 1944, and headed for the Panama Canal, and the Atlantic Ocean. After passing through the Panama she reached Canal on the Atlantic side on March 8th. There she met up with up with the CVEs HMS EMPRESS and USS TULAGI, 2 USN destroyers and 2 RCN corvettes. This group of vessels proceeded to sail on the 11th in convoy to Norfolk, Virginia, arriving there on March 18th. While on rout to Norfolk an Avenger from EMPRESS' 850 squadron operated with SPEAKER giving the ship's flight deck parties and air department their first experience of deck landings and take-offs.

 

SPEAKER and EMPRESS spent the next week at Norfolk dockyard for repairs to defects left outstanding from Vancouver and those that had developed on route to be carried out. Once her repairs were completed SPEAKER was allocated to Western Approaches Command for duty as a ferry carrier and preceded to New York, arriving at Staten Island on March 25th to collect a ferry load of aircraft for passage to the UK. A total of 82 airframes, some crated, were embarked together with 54 passengers, these included the wives and children of servicemen, Captain James's wife. SPEAKER, in company with EMPRESS sailed f on March 28th in the Liverpool bound convoy CU 19. On reaching the Irish coast the two carriers split from the convoy, EMPRESS made for Greenock on the Clyde, while SPEAKER headed for Liverpool arriving on April 8th; SPEAKER was berthed at Gladstone Dock to off load her aircraft and passengers. Aircraft were unloaded through the night of the 9th, but the ship had to move out of the dock to an anchorage to complete the task owing to the berth being required.


SPEAKER on ferry duties, her hanger and flight deck crammed with American airframes.  Photo: from the 'History of HMS Speaker.'.

 

Ferry trip Norfolk to UK: 13th April - 17th May 1944
SPEAKER was to be employed in the ferry role for the first part of her operational career. She left Liverpool on April 10th for the Tail of the Bank, Greenock to refuel and store ship and wait to join a west bound convoy for the return voyage to Norfolk, Virginia. She sailed from Greenock with convoy UC19 on April 13th; on nearing the US coast SPEAKER detached from the convoy and made for Norfolk Naval Operating Base to collect a number of British airframes from the Norfolk air station on the 24th before proceeding to Staten Island. While alongside at Norfolk the Captain and Commander took the opportunity to fly out to visit the DLT carrier USS CHARGER operating in Chesapeake Bay, to have a look at what SPEAKER might shortly be expected to be doing.

 

On arriving at Staten Island on the 27th more aircraft and cargo were embarked an the ship was presented with a set of band instruments and gramophone records; these were the kind donations of Mrs. Tenney and Mrs. Baker of New York. After taking on passengers SPEAKER sailed for Liverpool with convoy CU23 which departed New York on May 3rd. The convoy arrived at Liverpool on May 14th, and after disembarking planes and passengers SPEAKER returned to the Clyde and berthed in the Gareloch on 17th to await further orders.

 

Fitting out as assault carrier: May 18th to September 11th 1944
HMS Speaker was one of a number of CVEs selected for conversion into an 'Assault Carrier' one a new type of ship to be used to provide air support for major military landings. The assault CVE would provide air cover until shore base air strips became operation. New orders arrived shortly and SPEAKER sailed for Dundee on May 26th, arriving at the Caledon Shipbuilding Company for her conversion work to commence on 28th.

 

This involved many new pieces of equipment being installed; a new type 277 radar, a new telephone system consisting of over 100 telephones, new a new Briefing Room and `Army Plot' Room and cabins added around the 'Aircraft Direction Room' and numerous other additions such as extra W/T and R/T sets and still further improvements to the bridge. Another important modification was an anti-aircraft armament upgrade; all existing single Oerlikon mounts on the Gallery Deck and foc'sle deck, were to be changed for fourteen powered twin mountings.

 

While at Dundee SPEAKER's crew complement was adjusted, the Admiralty decided that assault carriers should be entirely manned regular RN personnel; engine room and supply department positions were normally filled by T124X personnel and these were drafted to other ships. (SPEAKER was the first and only CVE that this change over was completed). Accordingly Lt. Cdr. (E) Cutlack, R.N.R., and Lt. Cdr. (S) H. R. Newton, R.N.R., joined as "Chief engineer" and "Paymaster" with new staff. Also at that time Surg. Lt. Cdr. J. G. Bryson, R.N.V.R., joined her as P.M.O. and Lt. Cdr. A. Darley as "Commander Flying". The ship was also to receive some army personnel in the form of an Army Liaison Section. 140 extra bunks built in the ship to accommodate the inevitable increase of complement that her new role demanded, together with extra ventilation, racks, hooks and lockers, re-arrangement of and increase in the number of bathrooms and heads. In all the ship received nearly 350 modifications in addition to the 150 done in Canada.

 

During the conversion period Captain James made a visit to the House of Commons to pay his respects to the ship' s patron the Speaker of the house (Col. the Rt. Hon. Douglas Clifton-Brown) to give him news of the ships progress. The Speaker later presented the ship with a gift of a silver cigarette box which was delivered by his Secretary, Sir Ralph Verney, on a reciprocal visit to the ship in Dundee.

Rosyth and DLT duty: 12th September to 14th December 1944
After sixteen weeks at the Caledon yard Speaker left Dundee and went to Rosyth. On arrival there she was back in dockyard hands for the c completion of a few items which Dundee had been unable to finish and once the work was done carry out a post conversion shake-down. On October 16th SPEAKER was ordered to operate as a Deck Landing Training carrier based at Methil in the Firth of Forth for a six week period, to fill in the gap while her own squadron, 840 NAS, completed their work up in the army co-operation role in Northern Ireland.

 

Practice makes perfect. Left; a Barracuda slips sideways and falls into the walkway and eventually into the sea. Right; a Hellcat perched on it's nose after taking the barrier. Photos: from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource.

 

Between October 16th and November 28th Swordfish and Barracuda aircraft from 768 Squadron flew out to the carrier daily to practice deck landings; also Barracudas from 767 Squadron conduct training during November 3rd to 27th. SPEAKER was also one of the few carriers to operate the Helldiver aircraft of 1820 Squadron which carried deck landings on October 29th; the type was not considered as suitable and never used operationally. This period put the ship's air department thoroughly through their paces, in total 1,460 deck landings were made, including 160 in one day alone; there were eleven deck crashes.

 

Allocation to the British Pacific Fleet: December 1945
On being relieved of DLT duty SPEAKER left Rosyth for Lamlash Bay on December 14th 1944; on this date Commander Viscount Southwell, left the ship, he was relieved by Acting-Commander W. C. Hudson, R.N. The ship arrived off Northern Ireland on the 16th to embark the personnel and 24 Hellcats of 1840 squadron from RNAS Ballyhabert. 1840 was to be assigned to SPEAKER for operations in the Army Co-operation role as well as normal fighter squadron duties. SPEAKER was ordered to join the newly formed British Pacific Fleet in Australia and preparations began for her departure in the New Year.

 

Embarkation of aircraft was hampered by the bad weather and one of the first to attempt to land on the ship on the 18th (JV204 flown by Sub-Lt. ES Sparring) had its arrestor hook knocked off on the rounddown, and the aircraft crashed into the barrier and fetched up in the walkways. The aircraft was a write off and the incident required some hours of work to get the aircraft inboard before embarkation could continue. On the following day there was a second barrier crash (JV248 flown by Sub-Lt. MG Gatley) when an aircraft missed all the arrestor wires; this incident neither was nor was as serious and flying resumed in short order. The weather remained settled and the squadron was able to fit in five days of deck-landing and flying drill before the ship had to go Greenock on the 23rd, when the Squadron flew ashore to RNAS Abbotsinch. Speaker was to undergo a short period of defect rectification and sailed up the Clyde to Glasgow and entered dock on Xmas Day. Both squadron and ship's company were granted Christmas leave.

 

On return from leave 1840 squadron moved to RNAS Ayr on New Year's Eve 1944 where the remaining Hellcat Mk.Is were withdrawn and new rocket equipped Mk.IIs were issued, the squadron flew out to rejoin SPEAKER later that day. The next eleven days were spent conducting an intensive work up in preparation for the ships departure to join the British Pacific Fleet. SPEAKER suffered her first fatality on Wednesday, 3 January 1945; D/JX 226824 Leading Seaman Robert Peel went missing, presumed lost overboard.

 

On passage - Greenock to Colombo: January 11th to February 4th 1945
On January 11th 1945 SPEAKER, in company with the CVEs KHEDIVE and SLINGER (under command of Captain B. L. Moore, Senior Officer) and three escorts sailed from the Clyde bound for Alexandria on the first leg of passage to Australia. The group of ships reached Alexandria on January 22nd, and entered the Suez Canal on the 24th for transit to the Red Sea.

 

Intensive flying operations had been undertaken during the passage across the Mediterranean, which allowed the squadron more practice since the usual six week squadron work up had not been possible before the ship's departure from the UK. Little was achieved before passing Gibraltar as weather conditions prevented safe flying. Some operational sorties were flown on January 17th by aircraft from SPEAKER and SLINGER to search for a U-boat reported off the North African coast and this would have been an opportunity for the use of the new rocket equipped aircraft; nothing was found however and flying reverted to training sorties (KHEDIVE could not launch aircraft as her flight deck was covered with a ferry load of airframes for delivery to Ceylon).


The small convoy reached Alexandria on the 22nd stopping briefly before continuing on to Port Said the same day. Late on January24th SPEAKER weighed anchor to pass through the Suez Canal and on into the Red Sea; here transit of the canal was broken with a night at anchor in the Bitter Lake, the ships passed by the two Italian battleships, VITTORIO VENETO and ITALIA, who had been anchored there since the Italian surrender.

 

HMS SPEAKER exiting the Suez Canal (left) and passing Aden on the Red Sea 9Right) aircraft from 1840 squadron are ranged on deck.  Photos: from the collection of John Bryden Watt, via Navsource.

 

After a brief stop at Aden to refuel and store ship on January 28th SPEAKER and company steamed straight across the Indian Ocean to Colombo, arriving there on February 4th. By the time SPEAKER reached Colombo her squadrons intensive flying work up had resulted in 2 lost and 4 damaged aircraft and one pilot had been killed: Aircraft losses were (JW894 flown by Sub-Lt. B Jacques) which spun into the sea while carrying out fighter tactics in the Red on January 25th, killing the pilot, his aircraft vanished before any of the escorts could reach the impact site. A second (JW876 flown by Sub-Lt. JO Boon von Ochaeo RNeN) ditched while returning from RNAS Colombo Racecourse on February 3rd, the pilot was recued. Two aircraft suffered barrier crashes and were badly damaged, two others suffered from deck pecking, the aircraft pitching onto its nose and damaging the propeller. Unserviceable aircraft were exchanged at Colombo to bring the squadron back to strength.

 

On passage - Colombo to Sydney: February 6th to 23rd 1945
At Colombo the three CVEs were to part company, SPEAKER and SLINGER departed for Sydney on the 6th, while KHEDIVE remained in Ceylon to join the strength of the East Indies fleet. On February 8th the traditional 'crossing the line' ceremony was observed aboard SPEAKER and SLINGER which had crossed the equator at 21:00 hours the day before; the festivities took up most of the day with nearly 800 ' victims' being initiated. The celebrations were soon forgotten though as on February 11th both ships were called to assist in a search for survivors from a torpedoed American troop ship, the S.S. PETER SILVESTER, 1000 miles off the coast of Western Australia.

 

Aircraft from both carriers conducted aerial searches but after five days no trace was found; SPEAKER continued on to Sydney leaving the area late on the 16th, SLINGER remained to continue searching until the 19th before she too had to break off and proceed to Sydney. 1840 squadron was to lose two aircraft during the search; on the 14th a Hellcat (JX750 flown by Lt FC Buckley RCN) drifted to port on landing and hit the deck heavily, it was written off and jettison overboard the following day. On the 16th (JW888 flown by Sub-Lt. R.T. Bell) hit the rounddown after making too fast an approach and crashed into the sea; the pilot was rescued. SPEAKER arrived at Sydney on February 23rd, flying off 16 of her remaining Hellcats to RNAS Schofields (MONAB III) before entering the harbour. She was secured at a berth at dolphins, near Taronga Park (the Zoo) in Snails Bay.

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

SPEAKER arrived at Ponam on March 13th and the MONAB personnel were disembarked to begin unloading the S.S. CLAN MACAULEY together with 3 months victualling stores which were also awaiting their arrival, which where aboard the Victualling stores carrier S.S. FORT EDMONTON. When unload was finished SPEAKER anchored in Seeadler harbour on the 15th and was allocated to 30 ACS (30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron) for operation with the Fleet Train, Task Force 112. Her captain reported to RAFT (Rear-Admiral, Fleet Train) Rear-Admiral D. B. Fisher, C.B., C.B.E. aboard LOTHIAN and Commodore W. P. Carne, commanding 30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron aboard the CVE STRIKER.

 

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

 

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

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

 

Replenishment period 1, March 25: Task Force 57 met with the Logistic Support Group (LSG) at 06:00, Task Units 112.2.1 and 112.2.5, at position ANT, (18° 3o’N 129° 08’E), for a short replenishment at sea on the 25th which included the issuing of 4 replacement aircraft from STRIKER and topping off fuel tanks. SPEAKER began her CAP duties in earnest. Fuelling was completed by 15:30.

 

On completion of this topping off 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.

 

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


 

With the departure of the fleet the ships of the logistic support group moved to refuelling area MIDGE on the 28th. There were three areas used for fuelling, each was a rectangular area which covered 5000 square miles of ocean east of Luzon, their code names were all called after insects; each area was 50 miles to the south and 100 miles west of' the following positions – 'COOTIE' 21° 52’ N 129° 24’ E; 'MIDGE' 19° 55’ N 129° 40’ E; and ‘MOSQUITO' 20° 17’ N 125° 22’ E. The nominated area changed from one replenishment period to the next.

Replenishment period 2, March 28 - 30: The Logistic Support Group were waiting at the prearranged rendezvous, in area MIDGE at 07:30 on the 28th. TF57 met the Tanker Group and began refuelling. On the mornings when the fleet returned to rendezvous, SPEAKER had to be ready to fly off the first CAP sortie at first light, and keep four aircraft airborne till dusk, in two-hour sorties. At night the task force left the refuelling area and steamed independently at higher speed for safety against submarines, re-joining the logistic support group at dawn for a second day's fuelling. Due to their only being 3 Tankers on station and leaking hoses refuelling continued into a third day, completing at 14:30 on the 30th. During this replenishment period STRIKER 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. There was one flying incident for 1840 squadron, on the 30th Sub-Lt W. Percy, RNZNVR flying in JX792 entered the barrier after his hook was pulled out when it struck the rounddown.

 

Replenishment period 3, April 3 - 5: Bad weather hampered the rendezvous on April 3rd, which was not made until 13:20. 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, SPEAKER with her 1840 CAP Hellcats for the LSG and SLINGER which provided replacement aircraft and aircrews; she 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; a second Tanker group TU112.2.3 also arrived from Leyte bring the total to 5 Tankers on station. The Fleet disengaged at 19:30 for the night. Fuelling resumed at 06:30 on the 5th in better weather, and replenishment was complete by 19:30 when the Fleet disengaged and sailed for the operational area.

 

Replenishment period 4, April 8 - 9: At 06:00 on the 8th TF57 met the LSG in replenishment area COOTIE One. 1840 squadron again provided CAP for the LSG 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 15:50 on the afternoon of the 9th and TF 57 left COOTIE One to return to Sakishima.

 

Replenishment period 5, April 14 - 15: At 05:30 on April 14th the LSG and the Fleet Carrier FORMIDABLE rendezvoused with TF 57 in replenishment area Cootie (1). The Tanker Group consisted of 5 oilers with SPEAKER providing 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, but no replacement aircraft were available during this replenishment period; SLINGER should have been on station but a serious propulsion defect meant she was order to Brisbane for repairs. FORMIDABLE was at full strength however, carrying 848 Squadron’s 18 Avengers along with 1841 and 1842 Squadrons - each with 18 Corsairs. SPEAKER’s squadron had a second barrier crash on the 14th; Sub-Lt D. S. Creabs. RNVR in Hellcat JX770 missed all the wires and entered the barrier.

 

Replenishment period 6, April 18 - 19: During the 18th the fleet met the LSG, in area Mosquito, SPEAKER again providing air cover for the 5 Tankers on station. Fuelling began at 06:30, no replacement aircraft were issued during this period, now were on station as no allowance for the extended strike period had been made. Fuelling ceased at dusk and the fleet withdrew for the night, 3 of the Tankers departed for Leyte. On the 19th TF 57 re-joined the remaining 2 Tankers to finish topping off. This second day in the replenishment area was also necessary in order to rest aircrew and for maintenance work on aircraft. The Fleet disengaged at 13:00 and set course to return to the operational area. The LSG were order to sail for Leyte at dawn on April 21st, TF 57 would be returning to Fleet anchored in San Pedro Bay, the Philippines on completion of their final strike day to undertake an extended replenishment and repair damage.


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 Maintenance and support ships of the 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.
 

At the end of this first period of replenishment at sea the logistic support group had ferried 56 spare aircraft carried in the replenishment CVEs; SLINGER issued 22 replacements and recovered 2 flyable ‘duds’ non-flyable ‘duds’ were ditched overboard from the fleet carriers after their engines, and any salvageable equipment had been removed as there was no means to transfer them to the replenishment carriers whilst at sea. STRIKER issued 21 airframes and received 17 flyable ‘duds’.
 

SPEAKER was to change roles for the next phase of ICEBERG, switching from CAP duty to replenishment carrier. A consequence of this change in tasking was that 1840 squadron was disbanded there on April 27th; the most experienced pilots and 70 maintenance personnel were transferred to 5 Naval Fighter Wing in INDOMITABLE were they were absorbed into 1839 squadron. The squadron aircraft and the least experienced pilots were transferred to the recently arrived HMS RULER which was to take over CAP duty with 885 squadron.

 

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

Once this readjustment was completed SPEAKER embarked a selection of replacement airframes in preparation for re-joining TF112 for the next round of replenishments. The replenishment loads for ICEBERG Two were adjusted due to an acute shortage of Seafires; the average load was 3 Seafires, 1 Avenger, 10 Corsairs, 7 Hellcat, and 1 Firefly, this was due to a shortage in Seafires being assembled and sent forward from Australia. She sailed from Leyte on May 4th as part of Task Unit 112.2.5 in company with CRANE, CHASER, NAPIER, AVON and FIND-HORN, Tankers WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, AASE MAERSK, SAN AMADO, and ROBERT MAERSK for the refuelling area 'COOTIE One'. There were now three replenishment carriers operating out of Leyte, CHASER had joined SPEAKER and STRIKER so potentially each carrier would make two sorties to the replenishment area during ICEBERG II operations.

 

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

 

Replenishment period 9, May 10 - 11: TF 57 met and formed on the Tanker Group at 06:10 in position Cootie (1). This consisting of RULER (CAP & ASP), SPEAKER (replenishment), BALLARAT, CRANE, NEPAL, PHEASANT, WEASEL (Tug), WHYALLA, WOODCOCK, and Tankers ARNDALE, AASE MAERSK, DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO. The usual fuelling, exchange of mail and stores, and the replenishment of aircraft continued throughout the day; 6 Corsair flyable duds, all suffering from salt water contamination, were received by SPEAKER from FORMIDABLE and 6 replacements were issued; the pilots from FORMIDABLE collected replacements and returned to the carrier. One Seafire was issued to INDEFATIGABLE. Twenty 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. Replenishment resumed at 06:40 on May 11th and all fuelling and transfer of stores, aircraft, and personnel was completed in time for the Fleet to disengage at 16:40 and take departure for the operations area. SPEAKER was detached and took passage to Leyte, escorted by QUEENBOROUGH, to collect more replacement aircraft and to deliver the casualties. Tankers AASE MAERSK and SAN AMADO, escorted by BALLARAT and WHYALLA, also detached for Leyte.
 

 

Replenishment period 12, May 22 - 23: On the morning of May 22nd TF 57 net with the LSG in area COOTIE (1) for the last full replenishment period of the ICEBERG operations, two replenishment carriers were on station, CHASER joining SPEAKER. During the day CHASER transferred 10 aircraft to the Fleet, SPEAKER issued 1 Avenger to 849 squadron on VICTORIOUS. The Fleet disengaged for the night at 19:15. Refuelling resumed at 07:45 on the 23rd, in the forenoon two Seafire and 3 Fireflies were launched as replacements for INDEFATIGABLE. Flying for SPEAKER (and the other replenishment CVEs) was usually restricted to launching replacements and receiving flyable duds but occasionally the ship was pressed into service to receive other aircraft in an emergency. Just after launching these 5 aircraft INDEFATIGABLE reported her arrestor gear went unserviceable, simultaneously RULER suffered a crash on deck and asked SPEAKER to accept her 5 CAP aircraft that were due to land. The prospect of 10 incoming aircraft occurred just when SPEAKER's flight deck was busy with newly landed on flyable ‘duds’. Luckily all 10 did not arrive; RULER's Hellcats were safely recovered as well as the 2 Seafires, INDEFATIGABLE took time to notify her aircRULERraft of the change in status by spelling out SPEAKER in human letters on her flight deck. The Fireflies were accepted by VICTORIOUS. Repairs completed the Seafires launched again at around 14:45.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Replenishment operations off Japan: July3rd - August 20th
After a month in Sydney SPEAKER sailed for Manus on July 3rd carrying equipment and stores for the forward area. She arrived at Manus on the 9th where she was to remain until the 15th, anchored of Pityilu Island while embarking her next replenishment load. She sailed from Manus on the 18th heading north in preparation for replenishing the BPF which was to begin operations against mainland Japan. By this time the BPF had been redesignated as TF 37 on being transferred from the US Fifth Fleet to operate as part of Admiral William Halsey's United States Third Fleet.After a month in Sydney SPEAKER sailed for Manus on July 3rd carrying equipment and stores for the forward area. She arrived at Manus on the 9th where she was to remain until the 15th, anchored of Pityilu Island while embarking her next replenishment load. She sailed from Manus on the 18th heading north in preparation for replenishing the BPF which was to begin operations against mainland Japan. By this time the BPF had been redesignated as TF 37 on being transferred from the US Fifth Fleet to operate as part of Admiral William Halsey's United States Third Fleet.

 

On July 26th SPEAKER in company with CVEs RULER and STRIKER escorted by Destroyers NAPIER, NIZAM and NEPAL, Sloops PHEASANT and CRANE, Frigate BARLE, Australian Minesweepers BALLARAT and BURNIE, was deployed in the new replenishment area, code named 'British Tizzy' approximately 460 miles south of Tokyo. The Fleet Train was now operating much further north, the tanker force was now based out of Eniwetok and the Air Train now consisted of the replenishment CVEs STRIKER, SPEAKER, CHASER and ARBITER, with RULER carrying out CAP & ASP duties. Two replenishment CVEs were now on station at a time so a constant reserve could be maintained afloat. The Logistic Support Group was no longer operating out of Leyte, the Replenishment carriers sailed from Manus to the new replenishment areas, now much further north off the Japanese mainland, a round trip of approximately 4,500 miles.
 

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

 

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, Armament Store Issuing Ships ROBERT MAERSK and CORINDA. The LSG comprised of RULER (CAP & ASP), SPEAKER and 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 set course overnight for the next morning’s flying off positions.

 

Replenishment period 17, July 31 – August 2: TF 37 met with the Tanker Group OLNA, CARELIA, WAVE GOVERNOR and WAVE KING in replenishment area British Tizzy, 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.

 

On completion of flying operations SPEAKER, in company with HMS QUEENBOROUGH, took passage to Manus for replacement aircraft, embarking Rear-Admiral J. H. Edelsten, C.B., C.B.E. (R.A. (D)) and Rear- Admiral R. M. Servaes, C.B.E. (C.S.2) via by jackstay transfer for passage, with their staffs. The passengers disembarked at Manus on August 7th and SPEAKER set about exchanging her airframes. SPEAKER sailed on August 14th for her last run to the replenishment area off Japan.

 

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

 

The British pacific Fleet participation in offensive operations against mainland Japan had been revised; the focus of the US Third Fleet Commander was 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 planned to withdraw for Australia after the strike on August 10th. The LSG was scheduled to make one final replenishment on August 11th after which the LSG and Tanker Groups were executing the plans set out to prepare for the upcoming Operation OLYMPIC, the Invasion of Japan, so no Tanker support would be available and the US Logistic Group was already fully committed.

 

Vice-Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings, 2 IC, BPF proposed a solution, a token force comprised of KING GEORGE V, INDEFATIGABLE, GAMBIA. NEWFOUNDLAND, TROUBRIDGE, TERMAGANT TENACIOUS, TEAZER, TERPSICHORE, BARFLEUR. NAPIER. NIZAM, WAKEFUL, AND WRANGLER was to remain in the operational area for strikes against Japan with the US Third Fleet. 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.

 

INDEFATIGABLE launched her last air strike against targets in the Tokyo area at 04:00 on the morning of August 15th, the order to suspend offensive operations was given at 07:00 when it was clear that Japan had surrendered.

 

Replenishment period 20, August 18 -20: TG 38.5 met the LSG in area ‘British Drink’ on the morning of August 18th and fuelling commenced from the Tanker group SAN ADOLPHO, SAN AMBROSIO and WAVE GOVERNOR, it continued throughout the day, the Fleet disengaging at 17:00 when SAN ADOLPHO and SAN AMBROSIO escorted by USK detached for Leyte. Fuelling continued from WAVE GOVERNOR on the 19th. SPEAKER, escorted by QUEENBOROUGH, arrived on station on the 20th and was ordered to transfer as many aircraft as possible to INDEFATIGABLE and RULER. Ten Seafires and one Firefly were transferred to INDEFATIGABLE and one of each type were embarked as flyable duds, the remaining serviceable planes were flown off to RULER. Signals were received asking how many extra officers and men could be accommodated, having transferred the majority of her aircraft in order to make more space; SPEAKER was to be an accommodation ship for the evacuation of POWs from camps on mainland Japan.

 

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

 

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

 

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


 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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


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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


 

 

Content revised: 03 November 2021

 

Sources used in compiling this account:

Click here for a list of Primary sources

 

Additional sources:

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

 

Fold3.com various documents including;

Admiralty War Diaries

US Naval Station, Seattle, Washington

US Naval Station,  Manchester, Washington

Puget Sound  Navy Yard War Diaries

US Thirteenth Naval District War Diaries

Norfolk Navy Yard War Diaries

Mew York Navy Yard War Diaries

Miscellaneous documents

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


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Topic: A History of H.M.S. SPEAKER
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laurence gregory
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Nov 2020
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laurence gregory (Wetherby, Angus, UK) says...

Hi does anyone have any info/photos of Arthur Gregory?

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