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A history of 1836 Naval Air Squadron

 

Formation and work-up

No. 1836 Squadron personnel assembled at the Fleet Air Arm Transit Camp Townhill, Dunfermline on July 1st 1943 for passage to the USA. It officially formed at US Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode island, on August 18th as a single seater fighter squadron, Lt. Cdr (A) C.C. Tomkinson RNVR in command. Initial equipment was 10 Corsair Is. After familiarisation with the aircraft and equipment the squadron began training in earnest to prepare for active service.

After familiarisation, flying training included navigation exercises, low flying, formation flying and combat tactics, Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landing (ADDL) training and night flying. There is only one flying incident recorded for the squadron’s time at Quonset Poin, three days after the squadron formed Sub-Lt W. Knight RNVR overturned Corsair JT193 ('3Q' ) on landing after braking to avoid another aircraft, he was unhurt but the aircraft was a write-off.

U.S. Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine.

The squadron moved to US Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine on September 1st to continue their training. There were two more flying incidents during October; on the 5th during ADDLs Sub-Lt E. Hill in Corsair JT176 ('3C'') stalled from 100ft while on approach causing serious damage to the aircraft, 123on the 24th Sub-Lt V. A. Fancourt RNVR in Corsair JT182 ('3K') ran off the runway after landing and the aircraft tipped on its nose in soft sand. At the start of November the squadron began to receive Corsair Mk.II aircraft and their inventory increased to 18 aircraft.
 

One other discipline that had to be practised and mastered was carrier deck landing. The squadron made a temporary moved to USNAS Norfolk on November 12th for Deck Landing Training (DLT) carried out on the training carrier USS CHARGER in Chesapeake Bay, returning to Brunswick, on the 17th. There is only one DLT incident recorded, on the 13th Sub-Lt M. T. Blair RNVR in Corsair JT220 ("15A') landed to starboard causing the tail to swung violently to port, the aircraft came to rest with the starboard wheel in the catwalk. On December 1st the squadron suffered its first fatal air crash, Sub-Lt J. D. Wallace RNZNVR was killed when the engine his aircraft, Corsair JT289 began to overspeed while in a dive from 25,OOO ft and the aircraft broke up in mid-air while attempting to pull-out.

1836 Squadron Corsair over Brunswick, Maine.

Passage to the UK

On completion of working up at USNAS Brunswick the squadron flew to USNAS Norfolk  on December 18th. Once all the squadron machines had arrived the R.N. Air Section present on the station prepared them for embarking in the Escort Carrier HMS ATHELING. The ship, together with sister carrier AMEER, arrived at US Naval Operating Base on the 18th to load Lend-Lease airframes and stores for ferrying to the UK as both carriers made their maiden Atlantic crossing.
 

The 18-squadron aircraft were loaded first, they were hoisted aboard from the quayside, having been taxied through the streets to the dock from USNAS Norfolk and were stowed in the hangar. A deck cargo of 18 Avenger, 8 Hellcat and 10 Harvard were then loaded; the squadron equipment, stores and personnel also embarked. AMEER loaded a mix of 55 airframes and stores
 

On Completion of loading the ships sailed on the 22nd for Brooklyn, New York to embark passengers, spend Christmas and await an East bound convoy with which to make the Atlantic crossing. ATHELING and AMEER sailed from New York on Wednesday December 29th 1943 as part of the 24-ship fast convoy UT.6 which included 16 troopships and the US navy escort carrier the USS SANTEE. On approaching Ireland ATHELING, AMEER and SANTEE detached from the convoy and proceeded to Belfast, Northern Ireland to unload some of their ferry loads to RNAMY Belfast. ATHELING unleaded her full ferry load and 1836 squadron on January 9th 1944.

 

Preparation to join 47 Wing and HMS VICTORIOUS

The squadron aircraft departed from RNAMY Belfast on January 10th and flew to RNAS Burscough, Lancashire, arriving three the same day. On the 17th they became a part of the new 47th Naval Fighter Wing (47 Wing) along with 1834 Corsair squadron under the leadership of Lt-Cdr F. R. A. Turnbull DSC RN. They were soon on the move again, this time to RNAS Stretton on February 3rd. Here the squadron strength was reduced to 14 aircraft and replacement airframes were received before the squadron flew to RNAS Machrihanish on February 14th to continue working up in preparation for joining the Fleet Carrier HMS VICTORIOUS in March.
 

VICTORIOUS was undergoing repairs in a Liverpool dockyard and did not emerge until March 7th to begin two weeks of working-up before joining the Home Fleet. The Corsairs of 47 wing squadron flew out to join her in the Clyde training area on March 8th. Her work-up and flying training complete the ship arrived at Scapa Flow on March 25th. She was now allocated to participate in Operation TUNGSTEN, a Fleet Air Arm attack on the German battleship TIRPITZ at her base at Kaafjord in the far north of Norway.

The Illustrious Class |Fleet Carrier VICTORIOUS

Operation TUNGSTEN forces left Scapa on March 30th in two groups; Force 1 comprised DUKE OF YORK, ANSON, VICTORIOUS, BELFAST, and 5 destroyers left Scapa early morning and after conducting brief exercises proceeded to a position off Bear Island to cover the passage of the outbound Russian convoy JW58. Force 2 comprised ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers), FURIOUS, SHEFFIELD, JAMAICA, EMPEROR, FENCER, PURSUER, SEARCHER, 2 oilers, and 5 destroyers left Scapa p.m. and preceded west of the Orkneys.
 

Originally planned for April 4th Operation TUNGSTEN was reassessed on April 1st and was Brought forward 24 hours to take advantage of favourable weather forecasts and the lack of German air reconnaissance of Force 1. The two oilers with two destroyers were detached to the oiling position later that day. On April, 2nd ANSON, VICTORIOUS, BELFAST, and 4 destroyers were detached from Force 1 and joined Force 2. The TUNGSTEN force then steered for the flying off position. Flying conditions were perfect when the flying off position was reached at 0400 on the 3rd and the aircraft were flown off according to plan except for the loss of one Barracuda which ditched. 40 Barracudas and 81 fighters took part in the two strikes and a further 25 fighters and 9 Swordfish were kept for the defence of the Fleet.
 

The good weather allowed for the two strike forces to obtain their desired heights and to take the best route over the mountains. No enemy aircraft were seen by the strike aircraft or the Fleet and the flak around the TIRPITZ was much less than anticipated. The attack was carried out by both fighters and bombers; fighters strafing the defences from a low height and bombers pressing home an accurate attack. The losses during the attack were remarkably small. One Barracuda was shot down over the target and another by shore batteries, both after dropping their bombs. A third Barracuda was lost taking off from VICTORIOUS and a Hellcat ditched when unable to land on EMPEROR. Both strikes returned and landed on safely with the exception of the one Hellcat. The question of repeating the attack the next day was considered but owing to fatigue of the air crews and serious damage reported to TIRPITZ this was abandoned and the force withdrew to the westward, arriving back art Scapa on the 6th. The only incident recorded for 1836 is on the 3rd when Sub-Lt A. W. Diroen RNZNVR had a barrier crash landing on returning from a Tirpitz strike, his aircraft JT299 floated overall the wires and entered the barrier.
 

April 3rd 1944: Fighter pilots from 47 Wing who took part in the raid on TIRPITZ, on the right is Lieut Cdr F R A Turnbull, DSC and bar, RN, the Wing leader. © IWM A 22668

Operation PLANET: The squadron was in action again for Operation PLANET, This was a repetition of Operation TUNGSTEN by both forces. ANSON (VA, 2IC Home Fleet), ROYALIST (Rear Admiral Escort Carriers), VICTORIOUS, FURIOUS, EMPEROR, PURSUER, SEARCHER, STRIKER, KENT, JAMAICA, URSA, UNDAUNTED, WAKEFUL, WIZARD, SERAPIS, JAVELIN, VENUS, VIGILANT, SIOUX, ALGONQUIN, PIORUN, SWIFT, KEMPENFELT, and KELVIN sailed from Scapa on Friday April 21st. The attack The target date was 24th April and involved 40 Barracudas with 40 escort fighters, when the forces arrived in the area on the 23rd the weather forecasts were unsuitable and they reversed course for 48 hours. Weather on the following day was equally bad. Both forces proceeded to the flying off position but there was no improvement and the Vice Admiral, Second in Command, abandoned the operation and proceeded to carry out Operation RIDGE ABLE.
 

Operation RIDGE was originally intended to be carried out in two parts – RIDGE ABLE (Attack by Force 7 on the shipping in the Bodo area) and RIDGE BAKER attack by Force 8 on shipping in the Rorvik area). In the event it was decided that both forces should carry out RIDGE ABLE with two strikes, one attacking Bodo harbour and the other sweeping the leads to the southward. The two forces arrived at the flying off position at dawn on April 26th.

Weather conditions were not ideal and were worse inshore and in the end both strikes attacked the same target – an escorted convoy of 4 or 5 merchant ships in approximately 67-06N, 13-57E at about 0600. The convoy was southbound, presumably having left Bodo about an hour previously. Four merchant ships and one escort vessel were claimed to have been hit with bombs. The largest merchant ship was reported beached and burning and two others on fire.
 

Two Barracudas and several fighters succeeded in penetrating Bodo Harbour in spite of the weather and one hit was obtained on a large merchant ship. Two other Barracuda bombed a derelict merchant ship ashore and obtained at least one hit. No German aircraft were seen; light but accurate flak was encountered, particularly at Bodo and the force lost 1 Barracuda, 2 Corsairs, 1 Hellcat, and 1 Wildcat. Another Hellcat crashed when landing on EMPEROR. The 2 corsairs were both from 1836 squadron; JT302 ('8Q') ditched near Skomvaer Light, the pilot Sub-Lt J. W. Mayhead RNZNVR was captured, JT346 ('8G') also ditched and Sub-Lt D. Robertson RNVR was picked up by a fishing vessel and handed over to the authorities; both pilots spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft III, Sagan Belaria Poland.
 

Operations BRAWN and PROTEUS: VICTORIOUS arrived back at Scapa on April 28th and spent the next two weeks exercising in readiness for the next operation. On May 5th Corsair JT281 was written off when its back was broken landing on, the point Sub-Lt T. A. Cutler RNVR was unhurt. On May 12th VICTORIOUS sailed as part of for Force 7 (VICTORIOUS (Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Home Fleet), KENT and DEVONSHIRE screened by MILNE, SAVAGE, MUSKETEER, VENUS, MATCHLESS, MARNE, and ORIBI) for Operation BRAWN a repetition of Operation TUNGSTEN. On reaching the flying off position for Altenfiord it was evident that weather conditions would be unsuitable and the force stood off to the northwest until the following day. By P.m. on May 15th weather conditions were again not favourable but the strike was flown off in the hope of an improvement over the target. Unfortunately the target was covered by a thick bank of cloud with no apparent opening and the strike had no option but to return. Sub-Lt A. J. French RNZNVR entered the barrier in Corsair JT304 on landing.
 

Having lost the advantage of surprise, Vice Admiral, Second in Command, abandoned Operation BRAWN and proceeded to the southward to carry out Operation PROTEUS, a repetition of Operation VERITAS (an armed reconnaissance for a seaborne assault of the Narvik area, as part of the cover plan for Operation NEPTUNE), the following day. By 09:00 on 16th weather conditions had deteriorated sufficiently to prevent any flying operations and Force 7 again withdrew to the northwest. A weather reconnaissance was flown by two Barracudas of 831 Squadron from VICTORIOUS to try and find a suitable break in the weather for Operation PROTEUS. One Barracuda returned and reported bad weather conditions for at least 120 miles to the southwest. The other, Barracuda LS547 ('SG') missed the ship and made a force landing at Stave, Andoya, Norway the three man crew were captured and taken as POWs. Operation PROTEUS was then abandoned and the Force withdrew to Scapa arriving p.m. May 18th; approaching Scapa earlier that day Corsair JT369 drifted landing on and went over side the into the sea, the pilot Sub-Lt J. F. R. Ball RNVR was rescued OK.
 

Operations TIGER CLAW, CAMBRIDGE, and LOMBARD: TIGER CLAW was a repetition of Operation BRAWN, and operation CAMBRIDGE a repetition of Operation PROTEUS. Force 7 (VICTORIOUS (Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Home Fleet), FURIOUS, BERWICK, and DEVONSHIRE screened by WAKEFUL, WAGER, WIZARD, WHELP, and NUBIAN) left Scapa on 28th May and proceeded to the flying off position for Altenfiord. Off the Faroes the force was joined by MILNE, MUSKETEER, MARNE, METEOR, and MATCHLESS who had fuelled at Skaalefiord; when these 5 destroyers joined WHELP and NUBIAN were detached and returned to Scapa, Before reaching the flying off position on 30th a sighting report from an enemy U-boat was intercepted by MILNE and judged to be within 30 miles. In view of this, and the quite unsuitable weather reports of the target area, Vice Admiral, Second in Command, decided to abandon operation TIGER CLAW and CAMBRIDGE and turned southwards to carry out Operation LOMBARD, strikes on enemy shipping in the Aalesund area.

June 1st 1944: Corsairs aircraft of 47 Wing ranged on the flight desk ready for launch for Operation TIGER CLAW. © -IWM-A23831

The flying off position was reached p.m. on June 1st and the weather was favourable. A strike of 6 Barracudas (831 Squadron) and 22 Corsairs (47 Wing) from VICTORIOUS and 10 Barracudas (830 squadron) and 12 Seafires (801 Squadron) from FURIOUS was flown off and to attack a 3 merchant ship convoy, between Kvam Island & Norwegian mainland, reported during the afternoon by an RAF Mosquito, was found and attacked. All three merchant ships were hit by bombs and the escorting flak ships were nearly all hit by the fighters. It is believed that two merchant ships and one escort vessel subsequently sank. No German aircraft were encountered either over the target or the Fleet; one Corsair, Jt389 (1834 sqn) was hit by flak, it crashed off Aalesumd, the pilot Sub-Lt J. F.R. Bell was taken prisoner. One Seafire from FURIOUS, LR648 801 squadron was hit by flak and crashed off Aalesumd killing the pilot Sub-LT K. R. Brown. The striking force had landed on by 23:05 and Force 7 withdrew at high speed to the south westward, arriving back at Scapa p.m. 2 June.
 

Two days later a force comprising VICTORIOUS (Rear Admiral Commanding First Cruiser Squadron), FURIOUS, KENT, JAMAICA, MILNE (Captain (D) Third Destroyer Flotilla) in, METEOR, MUSKETEER, MATCHLESS, WHELP, WIZARD, WAGER, WAKEFUL sailed for Operation KRUSCHEN to destroy shipping off the Norwegian Coast in Leads between Skorpen and Reksten Islands and Reksten and Sogne Sjoen. The targets were a convoy in 60°37;N, 04°;53E steering northwards and another in 61° 41’N, 4°’47E steering southwards but fog was met shortly before the strike was due to fly off, and the operation was postponed until the following day. Weather conditions were even worse on the morning of the 8th and the Rear Admiral, Commanding First Cruiser Squadron abandoned the operation and the force returned to Scapa.
 

Allocated for operations with the the Eastern Fleet

 This was the end of VICTORIOUS’ time with the Home Fleet, she arrived on the Clyde on the 9th to prepare for deployment to the Eastern Fleet. VICTORIOUS in company with INDOMITABLE sailed from the Clyde on June 12th bound for the Mediterranean on passage to Ceylon.

Flying training was conducted on passage. There were two flying incidents involving 47 Wing while in the eastern Mediterranean; on June 20th Sub-Lt P. A. Swift RNVR (1836) ran short of fuel in JT323 and ditched near the carrier. The following day Sub-Lt M.C. Kelly RNVR (1834) was killed when his aircraft, JT386 spun into the sea after suffering a high speed stall during aerobatics.
 

The two carriers arrived at Ceylon on July 5th and the Corsairs of 47 Wing were disembarked to RNS Colombo Racecourse, and the Barracudas of 831 squadron to RNS Katukurunda, on the 7th. On August 14th Major R. C. Hay RM relieved Lt-Cdr Turnbull as Wing Commander. On July 19th the squadrons re-joined the ship in readiness for Operation CRIMSON; 831 squadron had been expanded to 21 Barracudas, while ashore they had absorbed 829 Squadron. The 11 Corsairs of 1838 squadron were also embarked for this operation bringing the aircraft strength embarked in VICTORIOUS to 39 Corsairs and 21 Barracudas.
 

Operation CRIMSON : The fleet carriers ILLUSTRIOUS (1830, 1833, & 1837 Corsair. 810 Barracuda) and VICTORIOUS (1834, 1836 & 1838 Corsair, 831 Barracuda),, battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT and French RICHELIEU, battle-cruiser RENOWN, heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND, light cruisers CEYLON, KENYA, NIGERIA, Free Dutch TROMP and New Zealand GAMBIA, light anti-aircraft cruiser PHOEBE, destroyers QUALITY, QUILLIAM, RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID, RELENTLESS, ROTHERHAM, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and QUICKMATCH, and the submarines TEMPLAR and TANTIVY in the air/sea rescue role sailed om the 22nd for Operation CRIMSON, attacks on airfields near Sabang, Sumatra.
 

At dawn on the 25th 34 Corsair fighter-bombers were launched to attack the nearby airfields, but found few targets. The main tasking for the two carriers was to provide air cover and spotters for the Bombardment force. The heavy warships and the destroyers RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID, RELENTLESS, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and ROTHERHAM carried out a Bombardment at Sabang with 294 15-in, 134 8-in, 324 6-in, about 500 5-in and 123 4.7-in shells directed at targets including shore batteries and a radar station. After this initial strike, the cruiser TROMP and the destroyers QUILLIAM, QUALITY and QUICKMATCH entered the harbour and fired eight torpedoes, 208 6-in, 717 5-in and 668 4.7-in shells at close range. In return, TROMP received four hits and QUALITY and QUILLIAM one hit each from the coastal batteries. Operation CRIMSON inflicted considerable damage on the oil tanks and repair shops of the port, and sank two small vessels (1,500 tons). As the force was withdrawing at 09:30 a Japanese attack by 10 aircraft was intercepted by 13 Corsair fighters (from 1830 & 1833, squadrons ILLUSTRIOUS, and 1838 VICTORIOUS) and 8 were shot down, 7 A6M ‘Zero’ fighters and one Ki21 ‘Sally’ bomber.
 

On arrival back at Ceylon 47 Wing disembarked to RAF Minneriya on July 27th; at the beginning of August No. 1837 squadron became part of the 47th Naval Fighter Wing. This was a short spell ashore as 1834 and 1836 squadrons re-embarked in VICTORIOUS on August 4th, 1837 joining them on the 14th in preparation for Operation BANQUET.
 

Operation BANQUET: This was a series of strikes against Padang airfield, Emmehaven harbour and the Indaroeng Cement Works at Padang, Sumatra, and Dutch East Indies. This was also intended as a diversion during US operations at Hollandia in New Guinea and to provide air-sea rescue facilities during US air attacks on NW Sumatra on the 23rd (Operation BOOMERANG).
 

Task Force 64, (Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (1839 & 1844 Hellcat, 815 & 817 Barracuda) and VICTORIOUS (1834, 1836 & 1837 Corsair, 831 Barracuda), Battleship HOWE, Cruisers CEYLON and KENYA, with Destroyers RAPID, RAIDER, REDOUBT, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and ROTHERHAM) left Trincomalee on August 18th. By 0550, August 24, the Force was at its launch position. The sky was clear and the seas were slight but there was nearly no wind at just six knots. The carriers had to steam at 27 knots to generate enough wind-over deck to get their aircraft airborne. Each carrier launched 10 Barracudas, each carrying 500 lbs of bombs. Escorting this strike force were 19 Corsairs from Victorious. At 07.10, a second strike wave was launched. This time it was made up of nine Barracudas from INDOMITABLE and three from VICTORIOUS. The escort was 12 Corsairs, again from VICTORIOUS.

The aircraft arrived over Emmehaven and Padang to discover the ports largely abandoned. The Barracudas nevertheless carried out their strike and one Corsair was lost to light anti-aircraft fire. Two ships totalling 6000 tons were claimed as damaged. The Indaroeng cement works strike was successful; it was put out of action for two months. There are five recorded flying incidents for 47 Wing involved aircraft from 1834 & 1837 squadron; Sub-Lt T. A. Cutler RNVR (1837) was killed when his aircraft Corsair JT322 crashed into the sea during the Padang strike, probably having been hit by flak. He had only recently joined the squadron and was the only member of 1837 to be killed in action. JT330 flown by Sub-Lt J. B. Page RNVR (1837), struck the rounddown landing on, and JT433 flown by Sub-Lt G. W. Wiley RNZNVR (1837) made a heavy landing and twisted its fuselage. Lt D. M. MacLeod RCNVR (1834) ditched on take-off in Corsair JT340 at 06:54, he was picked up by ROCKET and Sub-Lt G. A. Rawstron RNZNVR (1834) in Corsair JT414 entered the barrier landing on.
 

The Force arrived back at Trincomalee on August 27th, 47 Wing flew ashore to RNAS Colombo Racecourse on the 28th. This was 1837 squadrons only operation with 47 Wing and their last as a squadron; a reorganisation of resources saw the squadron disbanded on September 9th 1944, the aircraft and aircrew being absorbed into 1834 and 1836 to enlarge them to 21 aircraft each. The Wing re-embarked in VICTORIOUS on the 14th for Operation LIGHT.
 

Operation LIGHT: Force 63 (Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (1839 & 1844 Hellcat, 815 & 817 Barracuda) and VICTORIOUS (1834 & 1836 Corsair, 822 Barracuda), Battleship HOWE, Cruisers CUMBERLAND and KENYA, with Destroyers RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID, REDOUBT, RELENTLESS, ROCKET, and ROTHERHAM sailed on September 14th to carry out Operation LIGHT, a two part operation to launch air strikes on Japanese positions in Sigli, Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, and aerial reconnaissance over the Nicobar Islands. Part one (Operation LIGHT A) involved a fighter sweep over Japanese airfields in the area of Medan and Belawan Deli, as well as a photographic survey of Aru Bay, Pangkalan and air strikes on airfields on the 17th but his was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Part two (Operation LIGHT B) was carried out on the 18th with flights over northern Sumatra and strikes on railway facilities at Sigli.

September 18th 1944: Above, Corsairs of 47 Wing ranged in preparation for the carrier-borne air attack against the Japanese repair and maintenance centre at Sgli, Sumatra.© IWM A 25750. Below, Smoke rising in clouds from Japanese railway repair and maintenance centre in Sigli after all bombs had found the target area. © IWM (A 25783)

Each carrier launched 10 Barracudas; escort was eight Hellcats and 16 Corsairs. Form-up of the strike force took 40 minutes; much of the delay was due to INDOMITABLE having ranged too many of her strike aircraft on deck for the wind conditions, a longer take off run was needed when the wind speed across the deck was low so some aircraft had to be returned to the hangar in order to provide sufficient deck space and then ranged again to complete the launch cycle. One of INDOMITABLE’s Barracuda’s (LS522, 817 squadron) ditched on take-off, the crew was picked up by RAIDER. The operation was not a success, the Barracudas were hasty in their attack runs, hitting the main targets but missing several of the secondary objectives. The top-cover Corsairs had also abandoned their escort position to strafe ground targets. INDOMITABLE’s pair of photo-recon Hellcats, were sent on an alternative reconnaissance flight to photograph parts of Northern Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands. Unfortunately they strafed a target of opportunity – the submarine SPIRIT, which was acting as Plane Guard and had surfaced in an attempt to rescue the crew of Barracuda DT818 (817 squadron) which had ditched returning from the strike. There were two landing accidents on VICTORIOUS; Barracuda MD614 (822 squadron) bounced on landing, missed all the wires and entered the barrier. Corssir JT361 (1834 Squadron) flown by Lt. Cdr P. N. Charlton made an emergency landing with his drop tank still attached, this broke away on landing, ruptured and caught fire causing damaged to the rear fuselage and arrester hook before the aircraft was halted by the First barrier. The force withdrew towards Ceylon on the 19th.

On September 25th 47 Wing was put ashore to RNAS Colombo Racecourse and VICTORIOUS sailed for Bombay to undergo repairs. They re-embarked on October 11th in preparation for Operation MILLET.

Corsair Mk.II JT565 '7-S' wearing Eastern Fleet markings flying on Combat Air Patrol over the Fleet.

Operation MILLET: This was a naval bombardment and aerial strikes on Japanese positions in the Nicobar Islands, on 17–20 October 1944, it was a distraction timed to coincide with the American invasion of Leyte in the Philippines.
 

For this operation Force 63 was broken down into three Task Groups, TG 63.1 comprised the Battleship RENOWN, Destroyers QUILLIAM, QUIBERON and QUEENBOROUGH. TG 63.2 comprised Cruisers LONDON, CUMBERLAND and SUFFOLK, Destroyers QUEENBOROUGH, RAIDER, NORMAN (RAN) and Dutch destroyer VAN GALEN. TG 63.3 comprised Carriers INDOMITABLE (1839 & 1844 Hellcat, 815 & 817 Barracuda) and VICTORIOUS (1834 & 1836 Corsair), Cruiser PHOEBE, Destroyers WHELP, WAGER, WESSEX and WAKEFUL.
 

Force 63 sailed on October 15th and reached to flying off position in early hours of the 17th. At 06:30 hours in approximate position 7-4° 0’N, 92° 30’E Combat Air Patrols (CAP) were launched followed by the first Barracuda strike launched by INDOMITABLE and the first Corsair strike from VICTORIOUS was launched to strafe targets in the Nicobar Islands. The Anti-Aircraft Cruiser PHOEBE provided fighter direction facilities. INDOMITABLE launched 10 Barracudas covered by eight Hellcats to hit Nancowry harbour, 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS provided top cover. VICTORIOUS launched a further 19 Corsairs to suppress activity on nearby airfields and attack targets of opportunity. During their strafing runs over Car Nicobar 4 Corsairs and 2 pilots were lost: At 07:10 Lt J. O. Chandler RNVR (1834 squadron) was killed making a staffing run in JT399 after being hit by AA fire. At 07:50 a second pilot, Sub-Lt E. Hill RNVR (1836 squadron) in JT308 was also killed when he was shot down by AA fire. Two other (unidentified) Corsairs of 47 Wing ditched through enemy action, both pilots were rescued. One Barracuda from 817 squadron was shot down by AA fire killing all three crew members.
 

Later in the day TG 63.1 and TG 63.2 carried out bombardments against Malacca on Car Nicobar Island and Nancowry harbour on Nancowry Island., with Hellcats from INDOMITABLE spotting. TG 63.3 withdrew later on the 17th having completed the say’s strike programme; the next round of air strikes was planned for the 19th. On completion of the Bombardments TF 63 withdrew to the west to carry out refuelling on the 18th.

Plans to strike Sabang were called off due to bad weather; however a second bombardment of Car Nicobar targets was carried out during the morning of the 19th together with a repeat of the air strikes. INDOMITABLE’s Action Information Network was offline due to technical issues when a group of unidentified aircraft was detected on radar at 09:30, CAP Corsairs from VICTORIOUS were not in the correct area to intercept, nor were INDOMITABLE’s Hellcats. The CAP finally engaged when the hostile force of 12 bombers, 9 flying at 7000 feet with another 3 at 16,000 feet as top cover, just 12 miles north east of the carrier formation.
 

From 09:50 to 10:30 the Corsairs, joined by the bombardment force CAP Hellcats fought over the fleet with Seven Ki-43 ‘Oscar’ being claimed as shot down. Four Ki-43 ‘Oscar’ were claimed by pilots from 47 Wing; Lt L. D. Duna RNVR (1834 Squadron) in JT3383 ('7D') got three, two of them shared with Sub-Lt I. L. Grave RNVR (1834 Squadron) in JT403 ('7N'). Sub-Lt. Grave was then hit by enemy fire and was forced to ditch, he was safely rescued. The fourth was destroyed by Lt J.B. Edmundson RNVR (1836 Squadron) in JT410 ('T8H') .Two Ki43 ‘Oscar’ were claimed by Sub-Lt C.T. Wilson SANF(V) (1844 Squadron) in Hellcat FN411). However Sub-Lt D.F. Grinham of 1844 was killed when his aircraft FN369 was shot down into the sea during a dogfight with an enemy fighter, it is possible that this encounter resulted in the seventh Ki-43 ‘Oscar’ being destroyed. The force lost one more aircraft during operations on the 19th; Barracuda P9986('3B') of 817 Squadron ditched on take-off for a strike on Nancowry Island, the crew was picked up OK by WESSEX. Force 63 arrived back at Trincomalee on October 222nd. The next day 47 Wing flew ashore to RNAS Colombo Racecourse and VICTORIOUS departed for Bombay to undergo further repairs to her steering gear. The Wing briefly relocated to RNAS Puttalam in early November to make use of the station’s air to ground range. While at Puttalam a pilot from 1834 squadron was killed; during an air to ground strafing exercise with the army and flying in formation, Sub-Lt N. Blears RNVR in Corsair JT435 on the right of the formation suddenly turned left under the flight leader and crashed into the sea 50 yards off shore. The Wing returned to Colombo Racecourse  on the 17th.

 

Allocated for operations with the British Pacific Fleet

On November 22nd ILLUSTRIOUS, INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS and their squadrons were transferred to the new British Pacific Fleet (BPF). VICTORIOUS returned to Ceylon in mid-December 1944 and re-re-embarked her squadrons on the 20th to conduct flying training in preparation for Operation LENTIL planned for January 1945.
 

Operation LENTIL was a strike against the oil refineries at Pangkalan Brandan, Northern Sumatra. For this operation the force was designated Force 65 and consisted of the Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (flag, Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, British Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, KBE, DSO,), VICTORIOUS, INDEFATIGABLE, Cruisers SUFFOLK, CEYLON, ARGONAUT and BLACK PRINCE screened by Destroyers KEMPENFELT, WHELP, GRENVILLE, WAGER, URANIA, UNDAUNTED, UNDINE and URSA. The force left Trincomalee on December 31st.
 

On the morning of January 4th, the first strike aircraft were flown off to attack the oil refineries at Pangkalan Brandan: INDOMITABLE launched 16 Avengers & 16 Hellcats, VICTORIOUS 16 Avengers & 11 Corsairs, and INDEFATIGABLE 12 Fireflies. A second, larger round of strikes was launched next, INDOMITABLE launched 20 Avengers & 28 Hellcats, VICTORIOUS 18 Avengers& 30 Corsairs, and INDEFATIGABLE 12 Fireflies, 24 Seafires and 8 PR Hellcats. The operation was successfully completed, the attack aircraft badly damaged the refinery, and the fighters shot down about 12 Japanese aircraft as well as destroying another 20 on the ground. A Photographic reconnaissance was also made of port installations at Belawan Deli, Brandan, and Soesoe. The British lost only one aeroplane, Avenger JZ554 of 849 squadron from VICTORIOUS which suffered an engine failure and ditched, the crew was safely rescued.
 

Corsairs from VICTORIOUS’ 47 Wing were in action against enemy aircraft with at least 3 destroyed; at 07:45 Sub-Lt L. D. Durno RNVR (1834 Sqn) in ‘T7D’ and Sub-Lt E. J. Haviland-Davis RNVR (1836 Sqn) i n 'T8C' shot down a Ki21 ‘Sally’ bomber which broke up and crashed into the jungle. At 08:50 Sub-Lt H. A. Rhodes RNZNVR (1836 Sqn) in ‘T8U’ engaged a Ki-44 ‘Tojo’ before switching to attack a Ki43 ‘Oscar at 09:00. Sub-Lt D. J. Sheppard RCNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT410 'T8H' shot down a Ki43 ‘Oscar’ at 08:50 before attacking a second at 09:00, this time in company with Sub-Lt C. H. Singicton RNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT365 ('T8J') and Sub-Lt R. H. Burns RNVR (1834 Sqn )in JT311 ('T7B' ). The Ki43 blew up and fell into in sea. This may have also been shared by Sub-Lt Rhodes.
 

On the return voyage to Ceylon one aircraft was lost and another damaged, both belonging to 1836 Squadron on the 6th: JT98 flown by Lt Edmundson failed to gain flying speed on take-off and ditched, and Sub-Lt J. H. Richards RNZNVR caught the last wire landing in JT405 and entered the barrier.
 

Once back at Ceylon the fleet began preparing for their final departure and a series of strikes, codenamed Operation MERIDIAN, to be conducted on route to Australia. A full scale rehearsal was conducted at sea off Ceylon on January 13th, a combined strike and escort exercise on Colombo in the morning and fighter sweeps on the airfields at Trincomalee and Sigiriya in the afternoon.
 

Designated Task Force 63 the vessels of the BPF sailed from Trincomalee on January 16th 1945 and were expected to spend the next 20 days at sea. TF63 comprised Fleet Carriers INDEFATIGABLE (Flag 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron (1ACS), , Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, KBE, DSO) (820, 887, 894, and 1770 Naval Air Squadrons – 73 aircraft), INDOMITABLE (857, 1839 and 1844 Naval Air Squadrons – 50 aircraft) and VICTORIOUS (1834, 1836, and 849 Naval Air Squadrons – 55 aircraft) and ILLUSTRIOUS (854, 1830, 1833 squadrons + 2 Walrus – 55 aircraft), Battleship KING GEORGE V (Flag Vice Admiral Sir Henry Bernard Rawlings 2iC British Pacific Fleet), cruisers ARGONAUT, BLACK PRINCE, CEYLON and EURYALUS, Destroyers GRENVILLE, KEMPENFELT, UNDAUNTED, UNDINE, URSA, WAGER WAKEFUL, WESSEX, WHIRLWIND, and WHELP. A Replenishment Group, Force 69, comprising the Tankers ECHODALE, WAVE KING, and EMPIRE SALVAGE escorted by the Destroyer URCHIN departed earlier, on January 13th; the cruiser CEYLON detached from TF63 to join the Replenishment Group on the 20th when the two forces first rendezvoused, another Tanker, ARNDALE sailed from Fremantle on the 15th to join TF69.
 

Operation MERIDIAN One was the first of two attacks on Japanese oil supplies in the Palembang area of southern Sumatra. After refuelling from the tankers of Force 69 on the 20th Force 63 approached the flying off position during the night of 21st-22nd January; weather conditions were bad and the Force withdrew, returning the following night with the same result. On the third night conditions were fine and the strike commenced at 06:15 on January 24th. A Total of 48 Avengers, 32 Corsairs, 16 Hellcats and 12 Fireflies were launched from the four carriers. The oil refinery at Pladjoe, north of Palembang, was the main strike target. The Avenger force and their fighter escort were launched first; the Fireflies launched later at around 07:00 and caught up with the Avengers. Two other forces launched around 07:00; Mana Island was attacked by a force of 5 Avengers (854 Sqn) and 4 Hellcats (1844 Sqn) all from INDOMITABLE while 24 Corsairs (12 from ILLUSTRIOUS – Sweep’ X-Ray’ and 12 from VICTORIOUS - sweep ‘Yoke’) made Ramrod sweeps on Palembang and Talangbetoetoe airfields. The Ramrod destroyed 34 aircraft on the ground and damaged many more. INDEFATIGABLE‘s Seafires providing CAP over the ships of Force 63.
 

Enemy fighters did not challenge the Avengers and Fireflies until they were within 15 miles of the target when about 20 fighters began to attack-they were driven off by the fighter escort while the strike force had to navigate heavy AA fire and barrage balloons. Several good hits were recorded on the refinery plant and a wireless station north of the town was set alight. The fighter escort claimed 13 single and twin engined fighters destroyed, with six probable. Six Corsairs, one Hellcat and two Avengers failed to return. In addition, one Corsair pilot and one Seafire pilot had to bale out over the fleet.

Corsairs from VICTORIOUS’ 47 Wing shot down five enemy fighters; Sub-Lt Sheppard (1836 Sqn) in JT410 ‘T8H’ shot down a Ki44 ‘Tojo’ at 06:25, Sub-Lt D. Holland RNZNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT444 'T7P' destroyed another ‘Tojo’ at 08:30. At the same time Sub-Lt J. H. Richarda RNZNVR (1834 Sqn) in JT636 'T7J' also shotdown another ‘Tojo’, the pilot baled out. Sub-Lt French (1836 Sqn) in JT486 'T7B' took down another at 09:35. A fifth ‘Tojo.’ was destroyed by Sub-Lt D. T. Chute RNVR (1836 Sqn) in J7396 'T8K' which dove into the sea off Palembang. Mjr RC Hay RM, wing leader and Air Co-ordinator for the strike flying in Corsair JT427 coded 'T.RH' was also in the fight, he shot down either a KA4 or Ki43 which broke up in flames and another which crashed in flames at 08:25 over the Tandjoengradja area. One 1836 squadron Corsair and its Pilot was lost; Sub-Lt. Blair in JT368 failed to return from the strike, he was last seen in combat with a Japanese fighter over Palembang.
 

Palembang refinery ablaze after a strike by aircraft from VICTORIOUS © IWM A 29242.

The small striking force sent to Mana reported little activity there. One aircraft was destroyed on the ground and bombs were dropped on the runway. One Hellcat pilot was slightly wounded by A.A. fire. All aircraft were landed on by 10:25 and Force 63 withdrew to the South-West to refuel from Force 69 over the 26th and 27th. This was a slow process made worse by hose breakages and fuel supplies were running low; it had become clear that the fuel situation would allow no more than one further strike at Palembang.
 

Operation MERIDIAN Two was launched on January 29th, the target on this occasion being the Soengei Gerong refinery on the other side of the river as the previously assaulted Pladjoe installation. The plan called for 48 Avengers, 24 Corsairs, 16 Hellcats and 10 Fireflies to form the main strike force, 12 Corsairs for Fighter Ramrod sweeps at Lembak airfield and 12 Corsairs for Fighter Ramrod sweeps at Talangbetoetoe airfield, and 2 Fireflies for Armed Reconnaissance over Mana airfield. The first range of aircraft launched at 06:40. The strike went well with the targets being hit, as a result of damage from enemy fighters and A.A. fire, nine aircraft of the strike had to ditch; the crews of eight were recovered. The Ramrod fighters found fewer targets to hit but their presence kept enemy aircraft from getting airborne.
 

All aircraft were back aboard by 11:00 and the fleet withdrew, The Force came under air attack several times and the bogies were intercepted by the CAP Seafires, which were supplemented by Corsairs and later Hellcats to bolster the air defence. During one attack ILLUSTRIOUS was struck by friendly-fire; two shells fired by a nearby ship [5] hit the flight deck and the Island killing 12 and wounded 21.
 

47 Wing shot down 2 enemy aircraft; at 08:40 Sub-Lt A. R. Michie RNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT567 ' T7N' , Sub-Lt Richarda (1834 Sqn) in JT636 'T7J' & Lt-Cdr R. D. B. Hopkins (1834 Sqn) in JT679 'T7A' shared the shooting down of a ' Tojo' . At 08:50 Sub-Lt Sheppard (1936 Sqn) in JT410 'T8H' and Lt. Col R. C. Hay RM, in JT427 ' T.RH' shot down a Ki44 ‘Tojo’ which crashed in flames near Pajakaboeng followed by a Ki43 ‘Oscar’ which crashed in trees at 09:30. Two aircraft crashed on returning form their sorties, both from 1834; Sub-Lt F. A. Morris RNVR in JT424 '7F' caught a wire but the prop hit the barrier, Sub-Lt R. T. Moore RCNVR in JT696 ' T7M' also caught a wire but entered the barrier. Two aircraft and their pilots were lost during the day, Sub-Lt S. G. F. Maynard RNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT521 'T8N' failed to return form a CAP mission over Palembang and Sub-Lt Durno (1834 Sqn) died in JT572 after being hit by flak over Palembang and ditched off the coast.
 

Over the course of MERIDIAN ONE & TWO allied losses were 41 aircraft: 16 by enemy action, 11 by ditching, and 14 in deck crashes etc. (many of these were Seafires from 24 Wing on the 24th). 38 enemy aircraft were claimed destroyed on the ground, with 30 certainly and 7 probably destroyed in the air. Force 63 refuelled on January 30th and ‘crossed the line’ on the 31st, arriving Fremantle, Western Australia on February 4th before reaching their final destination, Sydney, New South Wales on the 9th. On their arrival at Sydney the combat vessels of British Pacific Fleet were designated Task force 113, the support vessels of the Fleet Train as Task Force 112, in readiness for operations with the US 5th Fleet.

 

Operations with the British Pacific Fleet February 1945 - January 1946

The Corsairs of 1834 & 1836 squadrons were disembarked to RNAS Nowra (Mobile Naval Air Base No.1) on February 10th. The squadrons made received replacement aircrew and aircraft and made preparations for re-embarking on the 27th ready for operations in the Pacific.
 

There had been 2 barrier crashes on the passage from Fremantle, both by 1836 pilots: on the 7th Sub-Lt Holland bonked in the barrier landing in JT444 'T7P' and Sub-Lt H. Griffin RNVR in JT418 'T8F' missed all the arrestor wires and entered the barrier on the 9th. The same pilot had a spectacular crash on deck while practicing his deck landing on board the escort carrier STRIKER on the 21st, flying in Corsair JT419 'T8G’ he bounced over all the wires and nosed into the deck and overturned; Sub-Lt Griffin suffered head lacerations but was safely removed from the cockpit. There was one other flying accident during the Wing’s time at Nowra, Sub-Lt L S. Leonard (1834 Sqn) was flying from RNAS Nowra in Corsair JT697 'T7P' on the 24th when he was forced to ditch in St Georges Basin, he was rescued unhurt by an RAAF 107 squadron Kingfisher aircraft.
 

Above & below: Corsair JT419 'T8G’ noses over and lands on its back during a Deck Landing Practice session for Sub-Lt Griffin aboard the escort carrier STRIKER. Note this aircraft is till wearing Eastern Fleet markings

The Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (Flag, 1ACS), INDEFATIGABLE, and VICTORIOUS, escorted by the destroyers QUICKMATCH, QUEENBOROUGH, and QUALITY sailed from Sydney on the 27th for exercises and to fly on aircraft before making their rendezvous with the rest of TF 113 on February 28th. The Force was under the command of Vice Admiral Sir H. Bernard Rawlings, KCB, OBE, and comprised of the 1st Battle Squadron, HMS KING GEORGE V (Flagship V.A.B.P.F.), HMS HOWE, 4th Cruiser Squadron, SWIFTSURE, (Flagship CS 4 Rear Admiral E. J. P. Brind, CB, CBE), GAMBIA), ARGONAUT, BLACK PRINCE, EURYALUS, (Flag of Rear Admiral (D) Rear Admiral J. H. Edelsten, CB, CBE), the 25th Destroyer Flotilla, GRENVILLE (Captain D 25) ULSTER, UNDINE, URSA, URANIA, the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, KEMPENFELT (Captain D 27), WAKEFUL, WHIRLWIND, WHELP, WESSEX, also UNICORN, sailed from Sydney in an easterly gale. ILLUSTRIOUS had to remain behind as she had developed defects as a result of the friendly-fire incident and had to be docked to remove her centre propeller before re-joining the Fleet.
 

The ships of TF 113 conducted training and exercises on passage and arrived at Manus, the Admiralty Islands March 7th. After storing and fuelling at Manus the carriers INDOMITABLE, VICTORIOUS, and INDEFATIGABLE with a screen of six destroyers proceeded to sea for independent flying exercises on March 13th. ILLUSTRIOUS arrived at Manus on the 13th. On completion the carriers returned to harbour having flown ashore a proportion of their Squadrons to Pityilu Island; arrangements had been made with U.S. Authorities for this to be done, the carriers landing the necessary personnel, etc.  Task Force 113 sailed for Ulithi Atoll on the 18th, arriving there on the 19th.
 

On March 23rd the BPF was re-designated Task Force 57 (TF57) when they came under the operational control of Admiral Raymond Spruance USN, CinC US Fifth Fleet.

 

Task Force 57 & ICEBERG phase one: March 26th – April 21st

TF57 sailed from Ulithi atoll at 06:30 on March 23rd for the operational area off Sakishima Gunto, part of the Ryukyu Islands, located at the southernmost end of the Japanese Archipelago.

Replenishment period 1, March 25: TF57 met with the Logistic Support Group LSG  for a short replenishment at sea on the 25th which included the issuing of 4 replacement aircraft from the replenishment CVE STRIKER and topping off fuel tanks.

ICEBERG phase one 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.

For the first phase of operation ICEBERG the carriers had embarked 218 aircraft; INDEFATIGABLE 40 Seafire, 20 Avenger, and 9 Firefly, INDOMITABLE 29 Hellcat, and 15 Avenger, ILLUSTRIOUS 36 Corsair, and 16 Avenger, and VICTORIOUS 37 Corsair, 14 Avenger, and 2 Walrus. The carriers were tasked with denying the Japanese use of airfields on two Islands in the Sakishima-Gunto group in a series of 12 strike days conducted in rotating cycles of 2-3 days of strikes and 2 – 3 days of replenishment; Because of the long distances involved between the operational area and the nearest forward base, all replenishment had to be done at sea. When TF57 stood down to replenish the strike task was taken over by USN elements TF58 and later TF52.

Iceberg strike series 1, March 26 - 27: ICEBERG operations began at 06:05 on March 26th when the first CAP and one ASP (Anti-Submarine Patrol) aircraft were flown off. At 06:35 a 48 aircraft strong Hellcat and Corsair RAMROD was flown off from a position 100 miles 180° from Miyako Jima to attack the airfields at Ishigaki and Miyako; they reported little activity there. At 08:50 one aircraft was reported as having ditched 20 miles from Tarima Shirra; this was Sub-Lt Wilson of 1844 squadron, his aircraft (an unidentified 1839 Squadron Hellcat) had been hit in the engine by flak over Ishigaki. He was rescued by a Walrus from VICTORIOUS. The fighter sweeps were followed by two escorted bomber strikes and one fighter bomber strike against airfields and associated buildings.

 During this first day of operations the commanding officer of 1836 squadron was killed in action, Lt. Cdr C. C. Tomkinson RNVR was flying in Corsair JT552 'T8A' when he was hit by flak and dived into the sea; the senior pilot, Lt. r J. B. Edmundson DSC RN, assumed command and promoted to acting Lt. Cdr.

Once all aircraft had been recovered the Fleet withdrew to the south eastward. The Fleet had lost 11 aircraft 3 Avenger and their crews 1 Corsair and pilot, 1 Hellcat and 1 Firefly as operational losses. Another 5 aircraft in accidents. Enemy losses were 35 aircraft destroyed on the ground; Many of these turned out to be dummies and as few as 12 were believed real.

At 02:45 in the early morning of March 27th a bogey was detected by radar to the eastward. A Hellcat was then flown off from INDOMITABLE to intercept, but the moon became obscured by a cloud when the pilot was about to open fire and the enemy escaped in the darkness. The fleet was again in position 100 miles south of Myako Jima at sunrise and the CAP and ASP were launched at 06:05 followed by a 24 aircraft strong Hellcat and Corsair RAMROD fighter sweep sent into Ishigaki Jima, they reported little activity. Two bomber strikes, each of 24 Avengers and 4 rocket equipped Fireflies, were directed against radio stations, barracks and airfields not covered the previous day. Coasters off the islands were also attacked. The final mission was a small fighter bomber strike. A typhoon was reported as heading towards the Sakishima-Gunto group so the decision was taken to cancel the air and bombardment programme planned against Ishigaki Jima for the 28th and the Fleet withdrew to the replenishment area east of Luzon, after the second day's strikes had been landed on.

The Fleet had lost 13 aircraft, 3 Avengers and 1 crew, 1 Corsair and pilot due to enemy action and 2 Seafire and their pilots as operational losses. Another 6 aircraft were lost in accidents. ILLUSTRIOUS lost 1 Avenger during the strike, JZ251 from 854 Sqn, its port wing was badly damaged by flak, caught fire and broke off on the return journey, into sea inverted; the pilot Lt. Cd F. C. Nottingham. RNVR (Sqn C.O.) baled out but Lt F. W. Squires, RNVR and PO Airman P. H. Firth were killed. One of the combat losses was Sub-Lt P. C. M. Spreckley RNVR, while making low level bombing attack on Ishigaki airfields, his aircraft, Corsair JT575 was hit by light flak, dived into the ground and blew up.

As a result of the night intercept early that morning it was decided that INDOMITABLE should keep 4 Hellcats at readiness on deck after dusk; although not a Night Fighter variant the Hellcat was considered the ‘safer’ night landing aircraft due to its shorter nose giving better pilot sight--lines on approach.

Plan showing Miyako Jima and Ishigaki Jima, the two largest islands in the Sakishima Gunto group of islands, the targets for the British Pacific Fleet during Operation ICEBERG. There were 3 airfields on each island: Nobara, Hirara & Sukama on Miyako Jima and Ishigaki, Miyara & Hegina on Ishigaki Jima.

Replenishment period 2, March 28 - 30: The LSG were waiting at the prearranged rendezvous, in area MIDGE One, a rectangular area which covered 5000 square miles of ocean, at 07:30 on the 28th TF57 met the Tanker Group and began refuelling. STRIKER were waiting at the prearranged rendezvous, in area MIDGE One, a rectangular area which covered 5000 square miles of ocean, at 07:30 on the 28th. TF57 met the Tanker Group and began refuelling. 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. Replenishment was complete by mid-afternoon on March 30th.

Iceberg strike series 2, March 31 – April 2nd: TF57 was in its flying-off position at 25°N, 125°23’ E by dawn on March 31st in readiness to resume strike operations. It was vital that TF57 should resume its strikes on the enemy airfields because April 1st was L-Day for the American amphibious assault on the western coast of Okinawa. Pre-dawn CAP and ASP sweeps followed by the Fighter Ramrod launch at sunrise were now standing procedure and the force repeated the attacks of the previous strike days. A fighter TCAP (Target area Combat Air Patrol) of four fighters was now to be maintained over both Ishigaki and Miyako. The Ramrod of 8 Hellcats and 16 Corsairs reported that there appeared to be little activity at either island. Two bomber strikes of 11 Avengers each were flown off at 12:15 and 15:15, to strike Ishigaki airfield, installations and barracks. The Fleet had lost 4 aircraft 2 Avengers and 1 crew, due to enemy action. 1 Hellcat and 1 Corsair were lost in accidents.

At 06:50, on April 1st bogeys were detected by radar to the westward, closing at 210 knots at 8,000 feet. The RAMROD Hellcats and Corsairs were already on their way to Ishigaki and were recalled to intercept, additional fighters were flown off. Corsairs, Hellcats and Seafires engaged the enemy. Four were destroyed but the bulk reached the fleet; one A6M ‘Zero’ was engaged, by Corsairs from 1836 squadron 70 miles S of Sakishima Gunto at 07:30 by Sub-Lt R. Watt RNVR in ' 131/P' and Sub-Lt J. C. Leddy RNVR in '132/P'’ which spun into the sea..

The enemy planes commenced their attacks on the fleet at 07:10. One aircraft machine-gunned INDOMITABLE killing one rating and wounding two officers and four ratings. It made a similar attack on KING GEORGE V but without causing casualties. The fleet’s gunners reported it was difficult to identify enemy planes from our own since they were hard on the enemy heels. At 07:27 the first Kamikaze attack took place; one enemy plane dived into the base of INDEFATIGABLE' s island. Four officers and ten ratings were killed, and sixteen others wounded. The flight deck was temporarily out of action, but later that day aircraft were again being operated from the ship, although at a reduced scale.

By mid-day the fleet was able to resume flight operations; at 12:15 a strike of 16 Avengers escorted by Corsairs was launched against Ishigaki to bomb airfields and runways. No activity was noted. At 14:30 reports were received from the TCAP over the islands that more aircraft had been sighted at Hirara and Ishigaki airfields. These were attacked by the TCAP and this was followed by a fighter RAMROD sweep. It was estimated that about 14 enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground during this attack and others damaged. One pilot from 47 Wing, Sub-Lt Lt H. J. H. Roberts RNVR (1834 Sqn) was lost when his aircraft JT582 '113/P' was forced to ditch 18 miles from Ishigaki Jima after his port oil cooler making a low level attack, he was last seen in his dinghy was not recovered.

A second Kamikaze attack of 4 aircraft managed to evade INDOMITABLE’s CAP Hellcats and reached the Fleet at 17:30; one made a dive on VICTORIOUS, the attacker was damaged by the ship’s A.A. fire and the plane touched its wing on the flight deck edge spinning harmlessly into the sea where its bomb exploded clear of the ship. [It is unclear what happened to the other 3 attackers] At dusk the fleet disengaged and steamed south eastwards.. The Fleet had lost 4 aircraft 2 Avengers and 1 crew, due to enemy action and 2 Seafire and one pilot as operational losses.

At 05:10 on April 2nd INDOMITABLE’s 4 night readiness Hellcats were launched by moonlight to do a pre-dawn sweep for prowling enemy aircraft, 2 were allocated to Ishigaki, the other pair were destined for Miyako but returned to the ship with radio failures. The remaining two pressed on only to find no targets. A Fighter Ramrod of 17 Corsairs and Hellcats left at 06:30 to attack all the airfields; one Zeke was found over Ishigaki and was shot down by Hellcats; 2 aircraft were claimed destroyed on the ground. The Ramrod was recovered by 10:45 and the Fleet withdrew to proceed to fuelling area MIDGE One, maintaining a Fleet CAP of 12 aircraft until dark.

The Fleet had lost 4 aircraft 1 Avenger, 1 Corsair and its pilot, and 1 Hellcat and its pilot as operational losses. 1 Corsair was lost due to an accident; Corsair JT540 flown by Sub-Lt Holland (1836 Sqn)  fell foul of the pitching dock, bounced and missed all the wires to enter the barrier.

As a result of the night intercept early that morning it was decided that INDOMITABLE should keep 4 Hellcats at readiness on deck after dusk; although not a Night Fighter variant the Hellcat was considered the ‘safer’ night landing aircraft due to its shorter nose giving better pilot sight--lines on approach.

Replenishment period 3, April 3 - 5: There was no sign of the LSG at first light on April 3rd, bad weather hampered the rendezvous which was not made until 12:30. Between the 3rd and the 5th of April, Task Force 57 took on fuel and stores. For this replenishment period there CVEs SPEAKER with 1840 squadron Hellcats embarked provided CAP for the Fleet Train while SLINGER provided replacement aircraft and aircrews. SLINGER issued 22 replacement aircraft to the fleet carriers and recovered 2 ‘flyable duds'. The fleet repositioned overnight on the 4th to replenishment area MOSQUITO One and refuelling resumed at 06:30; they disengaged at 19:30 and sailed for the operational area.

Iceberg strike series 3, April 6 - 7: TF57 resumed Strikes on the morning of April 6th. First launch was at 04:50 when four Hellcats were flown- off INDOMITABLE, two each to Miyako and Ishigaki airfields to attack any enemy aircraft taking off at dawn; 8 aircraft not previously noticed at Ishigaki were attacked. At 06:35 TCAPs to cover both islands were launched. The craters in the runway at Miyako airfield were observed to be filled in. Despite worsening weather conditions Avengers bombed and hit Hirara runway and town, and bombed Nobara, Sukhama and Myara airstrips causing fires. Fighters attacked radio and radar stations, sank two junks and blew up a bowser. At 12:30 One of 1844 squadron Hellcats returning from Miyako attacked and shot down a P1Y ‘Frances’ into the sea in flames. During an enemy attack at about 17:00 four bogeys were engaged and one dived on ILLUSTRIOUS, which took radical avoiding action. The Kamikaze’s wingtip hit the island, spinning the aircraft into the sea where the bomb exploded. Only slight damage and no casualties were caused. Hellcats from 1844 shot down 2 attackers; a D4Y ‘Judy’ which exploded on hitting the sea at 17:30, this kill was shared by a CAP Corsair from ILLUSTRIOUS; 1833 Sqn, JT546 flown by Sub-Lt G. S. P. Salmon, RNVR, and a second at 17:45. On returning from a 4 hour CAP sortie in JT418 'T8F' Sub-Lt Watt (1836 Sqn) caught a late wire and entered the barrier.

The Fleet had lost 5 aircraft 1 Seafire to ‘friendly fire’ and 3 Avengers – 2 to bomb blast damage and 1 ditched on take-off, 1 Seafire due to accident. Enemy aircraft losses were 6 destroyed and 6 damaged, plus 2 junks were sunk.

The planned programme for April 7th was changed after receipt of intelligence indicating a possible mass attack by enemy forces, a planned bombardment was cancelled and the focus remained on maintaining a constant TCAP over the enemy airfields to deny the Japanese the use of their aircraft. CAPs for the fleet and the Islands were launched at 06:10. Again it was observed that bomb craters on Ishigaki had been filled in, and that Hirara and Nobara airfields appeared serviceable. Three bomber strikes were launched during the day to re-crater these fields. At 19:30 the fleet withdrew for their third replenishment period having successfully disabled all the target airfields. The Fleet had lost 7 aircraft, 3 Corsair and 3 pilots in action and another 4 aircraft from other causes. Enemy losses were 3 aircraft destroyed on the ground and 4 damaged, 4 fishing vessels and 3 luggers were damaged. Two of the Corsair pilots killed were from 15 Wings 1833 Sqn; Lt. A. H. Churchill, RNZNVR in JT641 (134/Q') was hit by flack on an airfield attack and crashed into the sea, Sub-Lt H. Marritt, RNVR in JT546 was also hit by flack on an airfield attack and crashed in flames. Sub-Lt R. H. Burns RNVR (1836Sqn) was killed when his aircraft ditched, his body recovered by URANIA..

Replenishment period 4, April 8 - 9: At 06:00 on the 8th TF57 met the LSG in replenishment area COOTIE One, U.S. Task Group 52.1 having taken over the strike duty. SPEAKER’s 1840 squadron again provided CAP for the Fleet Train while STRIKER provided replacement aircraft and aircrews. STRIKER issued 13 replacement aircraft and recovered 4 flyable but unserviceable aircraft and provided one Avenger crew to 854 squadron. On the 8th one of the replacement aircraft, Avenger JZ128 intended for 854 Sqn, suffered engine failure on take-off from STRIKER, and ditched, the pilot Sub-Lt A. H. Reynolds, RNZNVR was rescued OK. Replenishment was completed by the afternoon of the 9th and TF 57 left COOTIE One to return to Sakishima.

The strike programme called for further attacks on the 10th and 11th before returning to Leyte on completion; this was changed when Admiral Spruance commanding the U.S. 5th Fleet, requested that TF57 instead strike airfields in Northern Formosa. The U.S. had been hard hit by kamikaze attacks originating from Shinchiku and Matsuyama airfields on Formosa; American carriers had wooden flight decks and a kamikaze hit could, and did, cause very serious damage, the British carriers all had armoured flight decks and so the risks of serious damage was far less. Admiral Rawlings agreed to the new tasking and the two strike days for Sakishima were cancelled and TF57 made for Formosa to conduct Operation ICEBERG OOLONG.

Iceberg strike series 4, April 10 - 13: ICEBERG OOLONG called for strikes on Shinchiku and Matsuyama airfields on Formosa on April 11th & 12th. The Fleet arrived in the flying-off position 30 miles South-West from Yonakumi Shima at 06:00 on the 11th but weather conditions were unfavourable and the strike was postponed for 24 hours. The next day a CAP of 16 Seafires was flown off at 06:15 and at 07:04 one flight of 4 from 887 squadron had an encounter with 3 eastbound ‘Zeke’ and a single ‘Tony’, one ‘Zeke’ was shot down and another damaged, the other two aircraft escaped. Two strikes, each of 24 Avengers and 20 escorting Hellcat and Corsairs, were flown off at 07:15. One strike bombed Shinchiku airfields with delay fused bombs and attacked dispersals. There was flak but no airborne opposition. Due to cloud conditions over Matsuyama airfield the other strike attacked -their alternative target Kiirun harbour where hits were observed on the chemical plant, dock area and shipping. One flight investigated Matsuama and found little activity. A nearby railway station and factory were attacked and one DC-2 ‘Tess’ was destroyed on the ground. A bridge over the river south of Matsuama was destroyed and shipping at Tansui shot up. Enemy air attacks were successfully beaten off by Hellcats and Corsairs, The Seafire CAP did not engage.

At the end of the days strike a total of 17 enemy aircraft had been destroyed, TF57 lost 4 aircraft and 5 aircrew. 47 Wing accounted for one Ki-46 ‘Dinah’ shot down at 11:45 80 miles East of Formosa, shared by Sub-Lt Moore (1834 Sqn) in JT654 '117/P', Sub-Lt P. G. Jupe RNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT375, and Sub-Lt E. J. Haviland-Davis RNVR (1836 Sqn) in JT696 'l28/P'.

Hirara airfield on Miyako Jima, its runways receiving their daily bombing strikes which leave them cratered and unserviceable.

A second round of strikes was planned for the 13th; at 05:50 four Hellcats were flown off, shortly after a raid was made by four D3A ‘Val’ bombers, one bomb narrowly missing INDOMITABLE. One was destroyed by gunfire from the fleet; a second was chased by the Hellcats and was probably hit. One Hellcat, JX814 ('132/W'), of 1844 was hit by friendly-fire while chasing an enemy through the gunnery barrage, the pilot, Lt C.R. Thurstan RCNVR was killed. A second formation was detected an hour later; Corsairs from 1830 Squadron destroyed two A6M ‘Zekc' one by Sub-Lt J. Baldwin, RNVR flying in JT527 ('124/Q') was shot down into the sea engine on fire near the Fleet 06:30-07:00 and a second by Sub-Lt G. S. P. Salmon, RNVR, in an unidentified Corsair, also shot down into the sea engine on fire at 07:15.. The first Seafire CAP flights launched at 06:15. At 06:45 Avenger strikes were flown off to attack Matsuyama and Shinchiku airfields. The weather over Matsuyama was fair, runways, barracks and dispersal points were successfully bombed, and a petrol or ammunition dump blown up. Few aircraft were seen on the airfield. Fighters shot up about 12 aircraft on Giran airfield without apparent result. The other Avenger force bombed Shinchiku airfield through low cloud, hitting runway intersections and installations. No aircraft were lost in either of these strikes and there was no airborne opposition. At 13:00 CAP Hellcats intercepted 3 Zekes about 40 miles north of the Fleet but were unable to close within firing range. CAP Corsairs intercepted a Ki-46 ‘Dinah’ escorted by several ‘Tojos’, all the enemy aircraft escaped into cloud. After the bomber strikes were recovered the Fleet disengaged to the south eastward to refuel. Enemy losses were light, only 3 shot down with 5 destroyed on the ground (earlier claims of 12 turned out to be mainly dummies); TF57 lost 1 aircraftr a Hellcat to friendly-fire.

Replenishment period 5, April 14 - 15: At 05:30 on April 14th the LSG rendezvoused with TF 57 in replenishment area Cootie (1) at 21°12' N 128°44'. E. he Tanker Group consisted of ARNDALE, AASE MAERSK, CEDARDALE, SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO and WAVE KING. The escort carrier SPEAKER provided CAP aircraft over the replenishment area. The carrier FORMIDABLE, with destroyers KEMPENFELT and WESSEX were waiting and joined Task Force 57 relieving ILLUSTRIOUS which sailed for Leyte at 17:55 screened by URANIA and QUALITY. Replenishment continued on the 15th, SPEAKER provided CAP but no replacement aircraft were available during this replenishment period; FORMIDABLE was at full strength however, carrying 848 Squadron’s 18 Avengers along with 1841 and 1842 Squadrons - each with 18 Corsairs.

Iceberg strike series 5, April 16 - 17: The Fleet was back on station off Sakishima at position 23° 28’ N, 125° 18’ E in the early hours of April 16th to resume ICEBERG strikes. At 06:00 Fleet CAP was flown off, at 06:30 -the first strike took off to attack Ishigaki airfields. This attack, and a further one flown off at 12:30, left all the runways unserviceable. At 09:30 the second strike took off to attack Miyako airfields, where previous craters were found to be filled in; this attack, together with another flown off at 15:33, left all Miyako airfields out of action. Rocket-carrying Fireflies strafed a radar station at Miyako, and ground installations, barracks, and grounded aircraft generally were strafed. There was no airborne opposition over the targets and flak was moderate.
 

At 17:35 two Hellcats from 1844  engaged a C6N ‘Myrt’ 80 miles east of Formosa, and shot it down in flames.  The success in subduing the enemy airfields showed, only two enemy aircraft were destroyed, 1 shot down and 1 destroyed on the ground; TF57 lost 5 aircraft - 3 in combat and 2 operationally.
 

n the morning of April 17th the CAP was flown off at 06:00, at position 23° 34’ N, 125° 38’ E. At 0609 a few bogeys were detected to the north west of the Fleet and a flight of Hellcats were sent to investigate, Sub-Lt D.G. Jenkins RNVR (1839 Sqn) in JX743 ('143/W') shot down one Zeke and a section of corsairs from 1834 squadron, Sub-Lt Watt in Corsair '140/P' and Sub-Lt P Hemmingway RNVR in '145/P' shared one at 06:25 and another at 06:30.
 

The first strike took off at 06:39. Efforts had been made to fill in the runway craters at Miyako but none at Ishigaki so the strike was sent to Ishigaki. Of the strikes sent to Miyako, the first two left all airfields unserviceable and the third attacked municipal buildings and barracks. TCAPs were maintained over both islands, but reported no activity on any airfields, all of which remained unserviceable at the end of the day. No operational aircraft could be found on the ground. At 16:27 more bogeys were detected 110 miles west of the Fleet, they were intercepted at 55 miles and 2 out of 6 ‘Zekes’ were shot down, the others escaping in cloud. TF57 lost 1 aircraft. On completion of flying operations the fleet withdrew and proceeded overnight to replenishment area MOSQUITO One.

 

Replenishment period 6, April 18 - 19: During the 18th and 19th the fleet refuelled from the LSG tanker group, SPEAKER again providing CAP fighters. No replacement aircraft were issued during this period.

 

Iceberg strike series 6, April 20: TF57 was back on station before dawn to carry out their twelfth and final strike day of ICEBERG phase one. The CAP was flown off at 05:55, at position 23° 33’ N, 125° 02’ E, the pattern followed that of previous strike days, four bomber strikes were carried out and the day ended with all airfields cratered. There were no enemy aircraft encountered by the strike groups or the Fleet.  TF57 lost 1 aircraft. 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. 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 and 13 aircrew.
 

 Replacement pilots arrived for 47 Wing, bringing both squadrons back to full strength however. 1834 had lost many of its trained Fighter-Bomber pilots and was now reduced to 4 qualified in this discipline severely reducing the Wings ability to mount Fighter-Bomber strikes. 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 phase Two: May 1st – 27th

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.
 

Replenishment period 7, May 3: Task Force 57 sailed from Leyte on at 06:30 on May 1st to return to their operational area off the Sakishima-Gunto group for a second series of 12 strike days. The Fleet refuelled from the LSG in Area MOSQUITO One during the day on the 3rd to top off their tanks before departing for the flying off position.

Nobara airfield on Miyako Jima, operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service it has as an unusual layout with two unconnected runways, giving the appearance to separate airfields.

Iceberg strike series 7, May 4 - 5: The strike program for the first day included a bombardment of shore targets by the Battleships KING GEORGE V and HOWE and Cruisers BLACK PRINCE, EURYALUS, SWIFTSURE, HMNZS GAMBIA and HMCS UGANDA. Fleet CAP fighters were launched at 05:40 in position 23° 44’ N, 125° 11’ E. At 05:50 enemy air activity was detected in the vicinity of Sakishima, one small group approached the Fleet and CAP Hellcats intercepted; one ‘Zeke’ shot down in flames at 07:00 before the others escaped in cloud.
 

Strike ABLE for Miyako and the first TCAP began launching at 06:05 from VICTORIOUS (11 Avengers and 8 Corsairs, one Avenger ditched on take-off) and INDEFATIGABLE (9 Avengers); this was followed by strike BAKER for Ishigaki at 08:15, INDOMITABLE supplied 12 Avengers and 8 Hellcats and they were joined by 12 Avengers from FORMIDABLE. Strike Able Avengers had landed on by 08:30.
 

At Miyako repair work on the airfields had apparently been proceeding by night since the day strikes by US TF 52. All enemy A.A. batteries appeared to be operational and opened fire on the strike aircraft. Runways at Hirara were well bombed and a direct hit on an A.A. position was observed. At Ishigaki one runway of Miyako airfield was found serviceable and left well cratered. All enemy A.A. batteries appeared to be operational and opened fire on the strike aircraft. Runways at Hirara were well bombed and a direct hit on an A.A. position was observed. At 10:00 the force split, the bombardment force detaching to take up position for the upcoming shoot. Conditions for bombardment appeared good and it was hoped that artillery fire would be effective in taking out A.A. batteries around the airfields. The bombardment commenced at mid-day, EURYALUS and BLACK PRINCE carried out a simultaneous "air burst" shoot on the A.A. defence area of Nobara airfield. KING GEORGE V and HOWE bombarded Hirara airfield and the A.A. defence area to the north of the airfield, on completion of the "air burst" shoot SWIFTSURE and GAMBIA bombarded Nobara airfield, and UGANDA Sukama air strip. Hellcats from 1844 acted as spotters for the bombardment by KING GEORGE V. The spotting sortie was not a success due to poor radio communication between the aircraft and the Battleship. Two Corsairs from 1842 were tasked with Bombardment spotting and aerial photography for the SWIFTSURE and GAMBIA shot. The shot was not a success because the plan was changed from alternate salvos the simultaneous salvos which made calling shot for Individual ships difficult.
 

Meanwhile at about 11:00 the Carrier group came under air attack. Three small groups of bogeys were detected to the westward, and were soon followed up by a fourth, in all 16 to 20 enemy aircraft, some acting as decoys. Fighters engaged one group working round to the southward, but one Kamikaze group penetrated to the carriers and was first detected when at 11:31 when a ‘Zeke’ was seen diving from a great height on to FORMIDABLE. The Kamikaze crashed into the flight deck near-the island causing serious damage; casualties were 8 killed and 47 wounded; 11 Corsair and 10 Avengers were damaged beyond repair, both flight deck barriers were damaged, the forward one was irreparable. The flight deck suffered a 2 foot square hole with an indentation measuring 10 feet square and 2 feet deep at the centre. Splinters from the armoured deck passed through the hangar deck causing damage to various compartments. Four minutes later another ‘Zeke’ was engaged by FORMIDABLE‘s 4.5 inch guns and temporarily disappeared in cloud. It soon reappeared diving steeply at the ship. Extreme evasive manoeuvres were made as the plane approached. It was heavily engaged by close range weapons and set on fire; it flattened out at the last moment, appeared to make a deck landing on the flight deck only to continue on over the side, taking the radar arrays of the port amidships gun director with it. The bomb appeared to explode shortly-after the plane submerged.
 

The Fleet CAP were kept busy, early probes proved to be decoy moves but at 11:20 a Seafire shot down a ‘Hamp’ while at 11:25 Corsairs engaged the third group of detected bogies. These turned out to be ‘Zekes’, but the Corsairs were only able to shoot down one before losing sight of the remaining three. At 11:42 INDOMITABLE was narrowly missed by another ‘Zeke’ which dived steeply on her, the close range weapons of the carrier and her escort QUALITY caused the aircraft to burst into flames and it crashed into the sea about 10 yards off the starboard bow of the ship. No damage or casualties were sustained in either of the last two attacks.
 

At 11:45 a flight of 4 Hellcats from 1844 squadron engaged and shot down a B6N ‘Jill’ bomber and two Seafires from 894 shot down an A6M3 ‘Zero’. This was followed at 12:45 by two Seafires from 887 shooting down a D3A ‘Val’. At 14:00 Lt. Sheppard in JT537 '136/P' of 1836 squadron attacked D4Y ‘Judy’ which broke up and went into the sea. At about 15:15 a flight of Corsairs from VICTORIOUS' intercepted and shot down a 'Judy' to the northward. At 17:15 Corsairs from 1834 squadron shot down a C6N 'Myrt' the kill was shared by Sub-Lieutenants H. W. Marsh in '141/X', M. A. Harrison in 'I 16/P', E. l. Haviland-Davis in '117/P' and H. Pocock in '120/P'. A few minutes later at 17:30 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE intercepted 4 Zekes to the southward, two aircraft from 894 squadron destroyed one each, while a Seafire from 887 got another before the other escaped to the northward. An A6M3 ‘Zero’ was shot down at 18:00 by Sub-Lt F. K. Barlow RNVR (1836 Sqn) flying in JT515 '144/P'.
 

FORMIDABLE's damage control and repair teams had her patched up enough that she was able to land on 13 of her Corsairs by 17:00. One of 1844 squadron’s Hellcats was another victim of ‘friendly fire’, Sub-Lt A.R. Thomson RNZNVR returning for an emergency landing at 17:33 in JV310 was mistakenly fired on by FORMIDABLE and hit, he was forced to ditch, but was rescued unhurt by UNDAUNTED. When the Fleet withdrew the tally was 14 enemy aircraft destroyed by fighters, 2 shot down by gunfire, and several small vessels around the islands-were damaged.
 

When the Fleet withdrew only two of the planned strikes had been carried out, the flying programme was abandoned after the Kamikaze attacks. TF 57’s tally was 16 enemy aircraft destroyed; 14 by by fighters, 2 shot down by gunfire, several small vessels around the islands-were damaged. TF57 losses totalled 15 aircraft, only 1 in combat – an Avenger and 2 aircrew from 857 Sqn INDOMITABLE. 14 were lost due to Kamikaze attack.
 

When the Fleet returned to the Islands on May 5th, the first CAP was launched at 05:45 in position 23° 10’ N, 125° 29’ E,; the Hellcat CAP was doubled for the first launch to 8, these launching at 05:50. The now usual round of runway cratering strikes was carried out with 10 Avengers from INDOMITABLE and 7 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE taking off for strike ABLE at 08:45, the next CAP flight of 4 hellcats also launched at this time. At 11:05 both PR Hellcats were launched to conduct SRU flights, 8 more Hellcats were launched on the Wing’s first spell of Target CAP duty just before the Avengers of strike ABLE landed on.
 

Strike BAKER for Ishigaki began launching at 10:18 with 12 avengers from INDEFATIGABLE followed by 6 Avengers and 2 Corsairs (Lt. Col Hay RM, strike leader and is wingman) from VICTORIOUS launched at 10:59.
 

Strike CHARLIE launched at 13:57; aircraft from Strike BAKER landed on at 13:00. . The TCAP Hellcats dropped five 500-lb bombs and staffed Nobara airfield where 2 operational single engined aircraft were attacked but refused to burn. The previous day’s bombardment appeared to have been successful as the strike groups reported that no flak at all was encountered over Miyako. Runways on Miyako and Ishigaki were bombed, and all of them left unserviceable by the end of the day. The day was quiet compared to the previous day. Only 1 enemy aircraft was destroyed in combat, with 3, confirmed and 2 probably destroyed on the ground. TF57 lost 3 aircraft. The last CAP Hellcats landed on at 19:05 and the fleet withdrew at 19:05 and proceeded to replenishment area COOTIE.

Hirara airfield on Miyako Jima, its runways receiving their daily bombing strikes which leave them cratered and unserviceable.

Replenishment period 8, May 6 - 7: At 06:30 on May 6th TF 57 met up with the LSG. US Task Group 52.1 covered Sakishima. During the day STRIKER transferred 15 replacement aircraft to the Fleet and embarked 34 casualties from FORMIDABLE injured by Kamikaze attack on May 4th; STRIKER and the other replenishment carriers were tasked with casualty evacuation in the replenishment areas and STRIKER , as Flagship 30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron had the largest medical staff aboard. She sallied for Leyte at 19:15 in company with KEMPENFELT, detached from TF57 with defects. 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.
 

Iceberg strike series 8, May 8 -9: TF57 relieved US Task Group 52.1 at 05:15 on May 8th and prepared for another day of strikes. CAPs were flown off at 05:45 in position 22° 53’ N, 125° 40’ E. A planned bombardment was cancelled when the weather deteriorated but 4 bomber strikes were still planned, however the fighter TCAPs over Miyako and Ishigaki reported poor visibility and all operations for the day were cancelled. The TCAP Hellcats landed back on at 19:49 and the fleet withdrew. News of Victory in Europe reached the Fleet.
 

At 08:26 INDOMITABLE launched 8 TCAP and 2 SRU Hellcats followed by 11 Avengers for strike ABLE to attack the airfield at Miyako, these were joined by 8 Avengers from FORMIDABLE tasked to attack the airfield at Ishigaki.
 

VICTORIOUS launched 12 Avengers for strike BAKER at 10:46 they were joined by 16 from FORMIDABLE to strike targets on Miyako Shima. Aircraft from Strike ABLE began landing on from 10:57, all had landed on by 11:20. Aircraft from strike BAKER began landing on at 12:47. Aircraft for strike CHARLIE began to take-off at 13:44 and involved 8 Avengers and 8 RP armed Fireflies from FORMIDABLE and another 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE for Miyara airfield on Ishigaki Shima.
 

VICTORIOUS launched 6 Avengers for strike DOG at 15:46, together with 3 fighter-bombers from 1834 to strengthen the TCAP over the islands. The strike was joined by 12 Avengers from FORMIDABLE which launched at 15:50. Strike DOG was to attack Nobara airfield on Miyako Shima. Strike CHARLIE aircraft began to land on from 15:41.
 

Both CAPs and TCAPs of 8 Hellcats was maintained throughout the day, CAPs were reduced to the normal 4 at 15:45 and the last TCAP landed on at 16:30. Again all runways on the target airfields were re-cratered; a direct hit was scored on one aircraft on the ground at Miyako. A motor transport park at Ishigaki was attacked, three vehicles being destroyed.
 

That afternoon the Kamikaze suicide planes struck the Fleet hard and caused significant damage; at 16:45 bogeys were detected very low 22 miles to the westward, coming in fast. Four Seafires intercepted at 15 miles, but allowed themselves to be decoyed away by one aircraft which they shot down. Meanwhile four other enemy planes evaded another patrol of Seafires, and after climbing to about 3,000 feet penetrated the Fleets defences. From 16:50 onwards the Fleet was radically manoeuvred by emergency turns at 22 knots. VICTORIOUS came under attack first; the enemy was hit by close range weapons but crashed onto the flight deck near the forward lift. The resulting fire was quickly brought under control, but the bomb explosion holed the flight deck, put the accelerator out of action, rendered one 4.5 inch gun unserviceable, and damaged one lift hoisting motor.
 

At 16:56 a second Kamikaze made a shallow power glide from astern on VICTORIOUS. Despite being hit by heavy gunfire, and on fire, it hit the flight deck aft a glancing blow, and burning furiously passed over the side. Damage to the ship was confined to one arrester unit out of action, a 40 mm. gun director destroyed, and four Corsairs on deck damaged beyond repair. Casualties from both these attacks were three killed, four seriously injured, and 15 wounded. At 16:57 a third Kamikaze made a pass at VICTORIOUS but then shifted target to the Battleship HOWE further ahead; the attacker was hit at a more reasonable range, and failed to find a target, passing over the Quarterdeck to crash in flames 100 yards beyond HOWE. At 17:05 a fourth Kamikaze approached FORMIDABLE and then INDOMITABLE, being engaged by both ships without apparent result. It then turned and dived into the after deck park of FORMIDABLE. There was a large explosion and fire and a great deal of smoke. Her speed was reduced to 15 knots to aid control of the fire which was extinguished at 17:20. Six Corsairs and one Avenger were destroyed by fire on deck. The explosion blew out a flight deck rivet and thus allowed burning petrol to fall into the hangar which had to be sprayed. As a result a further three Avengers and eight Corsairs were damaged. Eighteen aircraft were put out of action, four Avengers and 14 Corsairs, of which three Avengers and seven Corsairs were flyable duds. Casualties were fortunately light—one killed and a few injured.
 

At 17:55 FORMIDABLE reported being fit to land on aircraft and that during the engagement she had definitely shot down one enemy by gunfire; she had only four bombers and 11 fighters serviceable. VICTORIOUS could operate aircraft at a reduced rate due to the damage to her forward lift. Vice-Admiral Rawlings decided to withdraw to fuel, sort out and make good the damage, and return to strike on the 12th/13th May; dusk CAP landed on at 19:24 and at 19:50 course was set for replenishment area COOTIE.
 

One of 1834 squadron Corsairs failed to return from its Target CAP sortie over Ishigaki Shima; Lt. D. Cameron RNZNVR flying in JT418 was hit by flak and baled out, he was taken prisoner. Two other Corsairs were destroyed as a result of the Kamikaze attack on VICTORIOUS.
 

At 17:55 FORMIDABLE reported being fit to land on aircraft and that during the engagement she had definitely shot down one enemy by gunfire; she had only four bombers and 11 fighters serviceable. VICTORIOUS could operate aircraft at a reduced rate due to the damage to her forward lift. Vice-Admiral Rawlings decided to withdraw to fuel, sort out and make good the damage, and return to strike on the 12th/13th May; at 19:50 course was set for area Cootie. During the day 8 enemy aircraft were destroyed, 2 on the ground, 3 by suicide, 2 by gunfire and 1 by fighters; TF 57 lost 11 aircraft and a further 8 probably damaged beyond repair.
 

Replenishment period 9, May 10 - 11: At 06:10 May 10th TF 57 met the LSG. Six of 1841 squadrons Corsair flyable duds were flown off to SPEAKER from FORMIDABLE and 7 replacements were issued. One replacement Seafire was issued to INDEFATIGABLE. 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; in the afternoon INDEFATIGABLE transferred 6 Avengers from 820 Sqn and their crews to FORMIDABLE to bolster her aircraft complement for the remaining strike days. On completion the Fleet disengaged at 16:40 and departed for the operational area.

 

During this break from operations a review of the suicide bomber tactics was undertaken; the enemy appeared -to have abandoned his previous practice of a high approach in favour of a low one, thereby greatly shortening the warning time for the fleet and making interception by fighters much more difficult. To combat this, it was decided to implement several changes to the fleet’s formation; two radar pickets, each consisting of a 6 in! Cruiser and a destroyer, were to be stationed 12 miles to the North West, and south westward of the Fleet so as to increase the range of detection. Two fighters would be allocated to each picket, and at first contact with the enemy, other fighters would be sent to the threatened sector. To increase A.A. protection for the carriers whenever in the operation area by bringing the 5.25 in. cruisers from the screen and to station them with the main body of the Fleet. Also to station a counter-Kamikaze destroyer astern of each carrier to afford more gun protection in what appeared to b 'the enemy's favourite position for attacking carriers.
 

Iceberg strike series 9, May 12 - 13: On arrival at the flying off position at 23° 40’ N, 126°51’ E at 05:20 the radar pickets and four counter-Kamikaze destroyers took station one close astern of each carrier. Beginning at 05:40 INDOMITABLE launched 11 Avengers for Strike ABLE to target airfields on Ishigaki Island with 4 Hellcats for escort and 4 more for the first island TCAP, all were airborne by 05:46. This force was joined by a further 9 Avengers from FORMIDABLE to target Miyara airfield, INDOMITABLE’S bombers targeted Ishigaki airfield. Strike BAKER launched at 08:00 to bomb Hirara and Nobara airfields on Miyako, and comprised of 12 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE and 10 from VICTORIOUS. Ten of the Avengers from strike ABLE landed on at 09:55; one had ditched 80 miles west of the fleet due to engine failure, two of the escorting Hellcats were ordered to circle their position. The crew were rescued by the guard submarine USS BLUEFISH and the 2 Hellcats landed on at 10:34. At 09:57 one of VICTORIOUS’ Avengers, JZ633 was hit by flack during the attack on Hirara and was forced to ditch 3 miles from the ship, the crew were rescued by KENRENFELT.
 

Five Bomber strikes were planned but Strike CHARLIE, a second strike on Ishigaki, was cancelled owing to weather conditions. Strike DOG took off at 13:50, 8 Avengers from VICTORIOUS, ordered to attack a heavy A.A. position on Miyako Shima and 4 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE to strafe radio and weather stations. Low cloud hampered the attacks and results were poor. Strike DOG began landing on from 15:40. Strike EASY launched at 15:40, also for targets on Miyako Shima, 11 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE and 8 from FORMIDABLE to attack camouflaged building and gun positions. The airfields on both Miyako and Ishigaki islands were again suppressed and runways re-cratered, and A.A. emplacements and dispersal areas were straffed. No enemy aircraft were airborne in the vicinity of the Fleet or islands during the day. At 19:30 the dusk CAP was landed on and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. . TF57 lost 5 aircraft, 2 in combat and 3 operationally; 3 enemy aircraft were probably damaged on the ground and a 200 ton coaster damaged.

 

On May 13th the fleet arrived at the flying off position at 24° 20’ N, 126° 55’ E at 05:20 the radar pickets and four counter-Kamikaze destroyers were deployed. Flying commenced at 05:40 Fleet and Islands CAPS were flown off. An outbreak of Gastroenteritis occurred in the wardroom on INDEFATIGABLE the previous afternoon and this was to significantly affect the ships capabilities for the upcoming strikes; 55 pilots and observers were out sick plus many of the ship’s Fighter Direction team. While all three squadrons had aircrew on the sick list 1770 could 50% of its pilots fit to fly but 12 serviceable aircraft.

 

The island CAPS reported that Ishigaki runways were again serviceable and a thin strip of Miyara runway had been repaired. At Miyako one runway at Hirara and both at Nobara had been made possibly serviceable. Strike ABLE appears to have been cancelled ?; the first strike was Strike BAKER to attack airfields on Miyako Jima which began launching at 08:00, 9 Avengers from 849 Sqn and 8 Corsairs from 47 Wing as escort and TCAP from VICTORIOUS plus 12 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. On reaching the island the two squadrons were briefed on a change of targets and 3 Avengers from 820 joined with those of 849 Sqn to bomb the northeast/southwest runway at Hirara airfield while 820 attacked Nobara airfield, six bombed the east/west runway. The remaining three the north/south one. Stake BAKER had landed on by 10:22.

 

Stake CHARLIE began launching at 10:57, INDOMITABLE launching 8 Avengers from 857 Sqn and 8 Hellcats from 5 Wing, 4 as escort and 4 for TCAP, joined by 8 Avengers from 848 Sqn FORMIDABLE for targets on Ishigaki Shima. One aircraft from 857 Sqn returned to base soon after launch with an oil leak. 857 Sqn was to bomb a storage dump at Ishigaki airfield and a camouflaged dispersal at Miyara airfield, coring several hits on target. 848 Sqn bombed targets in Hiraye Town, including Barracks and store houses.

 

Aircraft for Strike DOG began taking off at 13:40, again for targets on Ishigaki Shima. VICTORIOUS launched 6 Avengers from 849 Sqn and 4 Corsairs from 47 Wing as escort & 6 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. The fireflies attacked the northern radio station at Hirara while the Avengers bombed two groups of camouflaged buildings east of Ishigaki airfield. Aircraft from Stake CHARLIE landed on at 14:13.

 

Strike DOG began landing on at 15:35 and aircraft for Strike E+ASY began taking off at 15:40, 8 Avengers s from 848 Sqn and 4 Corsairs from 6 NFW as escort from FORMIDABLE joined with 11 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE; a twelfth aircraft did not launch as its pilot had also fallen sick. 848 Sqn were to attack Camouflaged dispersals near Hirara airfield and 820 to bomb the runway intersection at Nobara. 820 attacked in two flights, 6 aircraft scored 9 hits on the east/west runway but the other 5 only hit the servicing strip running alongside the north/south runway causing minimal damage. Strike EASY landed by 18:25 and the dusk CAP was landed on at 19:20 when the Fleet withdrew to fuel in area Cootie. The airfields on both Miyako and Ishigaki islands were again suppressed and runways re-cratered. No enemy aircraft were airborne in the vicinity of the Fleet or islands during the day. TF57 lost 1 Seafire operationally; No enemy aircraft were destroyed or damaged on the ground; 9 camouflaged barges and 4 small craft damaged.
 

Replenishment period 10, May 14 - 15: At 06:30 on May 14th TF 57 met the LSG n area Cootie One. A second group comprising STRIKER (Replenishment), NIZAM and 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, including 3 Seafires for 24 Wing, and recovered 1 flyable dud. At 19:10 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night. During the second day of replenishment STRIKER issued a further 6 aircraft and received one flyable dud. At 17:05 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group and departed for the operations area.
 

Iceberg strike series 10, May 16 - 17: The fleet arrived at the flying off position at 23° 40’ N, 126° 51’ E at 05:10 the radar pickets and four counter-Kamikaze destroyers were deployed. At 05:40 Fleet and island CAPs plus the first bomber strike for Miyako were flown off. Five bomber strikes were to be sent to the islands during the day, three to Miyako and two to Ishigaki.
 

Strike ABLE took off f at 05:45, 8 Avengers from VICTORIOUS and 8 FIREFLY from INDEFATIGABLE, led by Lt. Col Hay RM, and escorted by Corsairs from 47 Wing. The Avengers were ordered to bomb the intersection of the runways on Hirara airfield while the Fireflies were to attack a radio station at Hirara airfield and a camouflaged radio station at Nobara airfield. All aircraft had landed on by 07:55. The launch for strike BAKER started at 07:31 with 11 Avengers and 4 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE which formed up with 7 Avengers from FORMIDABLE and another 8 from INDEFATIGABLE. One Avenger returned to INDOMITABLE with hydraulic failure. On reaching Ishigaki airfield INDOMITABLE'S Avengers bombed the intact East-West runway while those from FORMIDABLE bombed a dispersal point while those from INDEFATIGABLE attacked excavations at the North-Eastern end of the main runway. The aircraft from Strike BAKER began landing on at 11:00.
 

Strike CHARLIE began launching at 10:55, 8 Avengers and 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS and 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE led by Lt. Col Hay RM, and escorted by Corsairs from 47 Wing for targets at Nobara airfield on Miyako, each Avenger squadron was split into two fights of 4 and the first attacks were made by 849 squadron at 12:02 and 12:04 bombing the north/south runway at Nobara. At 12:15 one flight from 820 squadron attacked the east/west runway, followed five minutes later by the second section making another bomb run on the north/south runway. The strike began landing on at 13:30. Strike DOG began launching at 13:25, 8 Avengers from FORMIDABLE and 9 from INDOMITABLE tasked with bombing the North-South runway at Miyara airfield.
 

Strike, EASY began launching at 15:25 with 7 Avengers and 8 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE and 7 Avengers and 4 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS. The Fireflies were tasked with attacking barracks and suicide boat bases, independently of the main strike; One aircraft developed engine trouble approaching the island and returned to the fleet escorted by his wingman, the remaining pressed hoe their attack. The Avengers of 820 squadron bombed barracks and camouflaged buildings northeast of Hirara airfield while those of 849 bombed the east/west runway at Nobara. Strike DOG landed on at 16:28 and Strike EASY at 17:37. The dusk CAP landed on at 19:35 and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. No enemy aircraft were airborne during the day.

All target runways were made unserviceable; four new aircraft which appeared operational were straffed but did not burn, 3 others were damaged; 10 small craft of various classes were damaged, and four of them left in a sinking condition; a large explosion was caused in Ohama town; 5 direct hits with S.A.P. bombs were made on a large cave shelter.
 

TF 57lost 5 aircraft; 3 operationally and 2 in deck crashes.47 Wing lost 2 aircraft and 1 damaged, all from 1836 squadron. While on TCAP over Miyako in JT476 Sub-Lt Chute RNVR was hit in port oil cooler after strafing ground targets and enemy transports, he ditched 1 mile off shore and was picked up by the submarine USS Bluefsh. Sub-Lt H. A. Abodes RNZNVR also ditched in JT694 ('123/X') after his engine failed due to an oil leak, he was safely recovered. On returning to the ship in JT362 Sub-Lt S. Newton RNVR missed all the wires and entered th barrier.

 

On the morning of May 17th Fleet and island CAPs were flown off at 05:40 from a position 85 miles from Miyako. It had been planned to send in four bomber strikes, two to each island, but the second strike to Ishigaki was cancelled owing to damage to VICTORIOUS’ barriers caused by deck crashes, and the very light winds that prevailed throughout the day.
 

The launch for strike BAKER started at 07:39 when the first of 12 Avengers and an escort of 4 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE. They formed up with 8 Avengers from FORMIDABLE and another 8 from INDEFATIGABLE. On reaching Ishigaki airfield INDOMITABLE’s Avengers repeated the previous day’s strike bombing the East-West runway at Ishigaki while FORMIDABLE’s target was the main runway at Miyara, INDEFATIGABLE’s aircraft dropped their bombs on Ohama town.
 

Aircraft for Strike CHARLIE began launching at 11:00 for Miyako Jima and comprise of 6 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE (8 were ranged but two suffered wing spread failure) and 8 from VICTORIOUS and 2 Corsairs (Lt. Col Hay RM, strike leader and his wingman). 820 squadron from INDEFATIGABLE were first to attack. Due to a n error in relaying the stake leaders order 4 aircraft bombed the wrong runway at Nobara, they attacked he north/south one instead of the east/west one, the remaining two aircraft then attacked the correct target. Four Avengers from VICTORIOUS’ 849 squadron attacked the intersection of the runways at Hirara rendering them unserviceable, the remaining aircraft bombed Hirara Town. The strike landed on at 13:40, 4 of 849 aircraft following those of 820 to land on INDEFATIGABLE as VICTORIOUS’ deck was unable to receive aircraft.
 

Commencing at 13:25 aircraft for Strike DOG began launching, 8 Avengers from 848 Sqn and a 4 Corsair fighter escort from FORMIDABLE, 8 Avengers from 857 Sqn INDOMITABLE plus 4 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE for a strike at targets on Miyako Jima. 857 bombed gun positions and dispersal area near Hirara airfield while 848 Sqn bombed 5 camouflaged targets. The Fireflies strafed and rocketed barges and small vessels at Shimo Saki. Strike DOG Fireflies landed on at 15:55, the Angers began landing on at 16:10.
 

By the end of the day all airfields were left unserviceable except Miyara which may not have been sufficiently cratered. Ohama and Hirara towns were bombed, and barges and small craft were well straffed. CAPs were maintained until 19:15 when the Fleet withdrew to fuel. TF 57lost 4 aircraft; Corsair JT548 of 1836 Sqn landed without flaps after flak damage to hydraulics, crashed through all the barriers to hit another Corsair in the deck park and went overboard; the pilot Sub-Lt K. W. Hardiman RNVR and also Lt W. A. L. Banning, hit on the flight deck, died of their injuries. 1836 squadron had two barrier crashes; Sub-Lt G. A. Bowser RNVR Missed wires in JT416, the starboard wing hit a pom-pom mount abaft the Island and Sub-Lt M. A. Harrison RNVR bounced landing in JT522 and entered the barrier. No enemy aircraft were damaged or destroyed.

 

Replenishment period 11, May 18 - 19: At 05:45 on May 18th the Fleet met with the LSG in area COOTIE. At 10:30 a serious fire broke out in FORMIDABLE; the guns of a Corsair in the hangar were accidentally fired into the Avenger parked in front, this exploded starting the fire. It became clear right away that the fire curtains which should have automatically partitioned the hangar were out of action due to earlier Kamikaze attacks. The fire was eventually extinguished by drenching the hangar with sea water; 7 Avengers and 21 Corsairs were damaged, ranging from complete write-offs to flyable duds. By the evening she reported being able to resume limited flying operations.
 

The replenishment carrier CHASER transferred 9 aircraft; 3 Seafires to INDEFATIGABLE, 2 Hellcats to INDOMITABLE, 1 Firefly, 2 Avengers and 1 Corsair; One Firefly ‘flyable dud’ was received. The Tanker Group detached at 18:00 and changed course to arrive at area COOTIE (1) to rendezvous with the Ammunition Carrier ROBERT MAERSK to resume replenishment the following day. The Fleet was now seriously short of bombs and throughout the day Cruisers not involved in exercises were employed to deliver what were available for issue by jackstay transfers; this continued until dusk when TF 57 withdrew for the night.
 

The Tanker group was located at 06:45 on May 19th for the second day of replenishment; the Ammunition Carrier ROBERT MAERSK had arrived on station and immediately began issuing bombs to the Fleet while CHASER received 3 flyable, but unserviceable, Avengers from FORMIDABLE in the morning and issued 1 Firefly to 1770 Sqn. Bad weather and poor visibility closed in by the afternoon and this prevented FORMIDABLE from despatching any further ‘flyable duds’ she had 28 on-board when TF 57 withdrew to return to the operational area. At this time her air group was rescued to 13 Corsairs and 2 Avengers fit to fly. TF 57 detached from the Tanker Group at 19:30 and set course for the operational area.
 

Iceberg strike series 11, May 20 - 21: Approached at the flying off position at 23°39' N 126°40" E the radar pickets and counter-Kamikaze destroyers were deployed at 05:00. At 05:15 the Fleet ran into dense fog. At 05:24 the Destroyer QUILLLAM, endeavouring to form astern of INDOMITABLE as her counter-Kamikaze vessel, collided with her. The impact caused serious damage to the bow of QUILLIAM but only superficial damage to the Carrier; there were no casualties. The Australian Destroyer NORMAN was ordered to take QUILLIAM in tow once clear. The cruiser. BLACK PRINCE was sent to stand by both ships at 06:15 and escort them to area Cootie. NORMAN experienced considerable difficulty in towing QUILLIAM stern first; the wrecked bow hanging in the water acted as a hard over rudder. By 13:00 BLACK PRINCE had taken over the tow, but the same difficulty restricted the towing speed to 3 and later to 51/2 knots. The Commander Logistic Support Group was later ordered by signal to despatch the Rescue Tug WEASEL from area Cootie to take over the tow, and RULER was to provide air cover.
 

By 07:45 the weather had improved slightly and CAPS and the first strike aircraft were flown off. The fleet was effectively operating with 3 Carriers, FORMIDABLE had been unable to exchange her flyable duds because of the weather condition during the replenishment period; she had 28 operationally unserviceable aircraft aboard but only 13 serviceable Corsica’s and 2 Avengers and would only fly CAP sorties.
 

Although 4 bomber strikes were planned, weather conditions had not improved sufficiently and only strike ABLE was successfully carried out. The strike called for 8 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE and 8 Avengers from VICTORIOUS but due to the wind conditions and unserviceability only 7 Fireflies were launched but only three were armed with rockets. The strike reached Miyako with great difficulty and then only bombed Hirara town through a clear patch of cloud while the Fireflies fired rockets at ground installations at Shimo Saki. The strike began landing on at 10:39.
 

Strikes BAKER and CHARLIE were cancelled. Strike DOG was launched at 15:30 for Ishigaki, 8 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE 10 Avengers and an escort of 4 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE but was forced to return by the weather before reaching the coast line; two of the escort were carrying one 500-lb bomb each and these were dropped on a target of opportunity at Miyuguni after failing to reach Miyako airfield. All CAPS had landed on by 19:00 and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. The limited strike resulted in 1 junk and 3 barges damaged.. TF 57lost 3 aircraft ; 1 in combat and 2 operationally. 1836 squadron C.O. Lt. Cdr J.B. Edmundson DSC RN was killed when his aircraft Corsair JT467 was hit by flack during a TCAP causing sudden engine failure and he ditched some distance from the Fleet, he was not recovered.
 

On returning to the area the following day flying-off was planned for 05:40 from a position 85 miles 110° from Miyako. The weather at dawn was similar to the previous day except that the Fleet was clear of fog patches. Flying-off was therefore postponed. Four Hellcats were flown off at 06:00 to investigate the weather within a 30 mile radius. They reported clear weather to east and west, and improving weather to the northward. Based on this information CAPs and the first strike were launched at 06:55.
 

Aircraft for Strike ABLE for Miyako Jima began launching from at 06:55; eight Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS and 8 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE, all armed with R/Ps . 849 Sqn bombed Nobara airfield, splitting into two flights of 4 they dropped 16 bombs each, on the east/west and north/south runways with limited success. The Fireflies were reduced to 6 aircraft on reaching the cost, one developed magneto problems and also reported a fault YE Beacon receiver so another was detailed to escort him back to base. Splitting into two flights, 4 attacked the radio weather station at Hirara while the remaining 2 to attack the camouflaged radio station at Nobara. The results of the rocket attacks were not clear as broken cloud obscured the targets; one aircraft from each flight was hit by flak but all returned to base, one making a wheels-up belly landing at 09:20 after hydraulic failure.

Strike BAKER0 for targets on Ishigaki Jima began launching from 08:59 and comprised of 8 Avengers from INDOMTABLE’s 857 Sqn and 4 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort, joined by 7Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE, the eighth went unserviceable before take-off and another had to return to the ship with defects. Both squadrons were to attack the runways at Ishigaki airfield; 857 Sqn attacked first bombing the east/west runway, followed by 820 Sqn bombing the north-eastern half of the main northeast/southwest runway, Conditions for bombing were difficult with high winds but several hits were observed by both squadrons. The strike aircraft had landed on by 12:20.
 

Aircraft for Stroke CHARLIE for Miyako Jima began launching from 12:10 - ; eight Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS and 4 Corsairs from 47 Wing as escort joined 8 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. Weather conditions were poor and one runway at Nobara was found to be serviceable and bombed, all runways at Hirara were again serviceable and were bombed, however the north/south runway was no sufficiently hit and remained serviceable. Once the airfields had been attacked attention turned to installations in Hirara harbour which were bombed though gaps in the cloud, hits were seen on a boatyard and warehouses near Hirara pier. One 820 Sqn Avenger was hit by flak and after an on-board fire and partial hydraulic failure landed on at 15:20, the remainder of the strike force was landed on by 15:55.
 

The second strike for Ishigaki Jima, Strike DOG, began launching from 14:40 and comprised of 8 Avengers from INDOMTABLE’s 857 Sqn and 4 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort joined by 8 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. 820 Sqn split into two flights to bomb the runways at Miyara airfield through heavy cloud cover with moderate results. The strike leader struggled to locate a target for 857 Sqn as only the northeaster peninsular was clear of cloud, eventually they were ordered to attack any targets of opportunity and dropped their bombs on a cluster of huts on a hill top which may have been an observation post. The aircraft from Strike DOG began landing on at 18:10.
 

Strike EASY, the third for Miyako Jima, began launching at 16:15 and comprised of 6 Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS with 8 Fireflies from 1770 squadron acting as escort to the target then to strike at their own targets. One Firefly went unserviceable before take-off and a second had to return to base before reaching the coast. 849 Sqn divided into two flights, the first scored several hits on the east/west runway at Nobara and the second cratered the intersection of the runways at Hirara airfield. The remaining 6 Fireflies also split into two flights of 3 and once the Avengers had completed their runs revisited earlier targets at both locations; the Hirara Radio Weather Station and the camouflaged Radio Station at Nobara, both were hit by salvos of rockets and 20mm cannon fire. On leaving the area a look out post on the south of the Island was strafed and left smoking and 2 luggers south of Hirara were also attacked. Strike EASY began landing on 18:20. For the second time that day a Firefly was hit by flak but manager to return to base to make a wheels-up belly landing after hydraulic failure. Both these aircraft were later jettisoned overboard.
 

The dusk CAP landed on at 19:00 and the Fleet withdrew and set course for replenishment area Cootie. A single enemy aircraft, a Myrt, was shot down at 14:45 by the Hellcat CAP. The five strikes resulted in all airfields being left unserviceable but no enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged on the ground. Several barges and 2 Luggers were damaged. TF 57lost 3 aircraft; all operationally.

 

Replenishment period 12, May 22 - 23: TF 57 net with the LSG on the morning of May 22nd for the last full replenishment period of the ICEBERG operations, the replenishment carriers CHASER and SPEAKER were to return to Manus on completion. RULER with 885 squadron would remain with the Tanker Group providing CAP and ASP aircraft. During the say CHASER transferred 10 aircraft to the Fleet, SPEAKER issued 1 Avenger to 849 squadron on VICTORIOUS. At 18:00 FORMIDABLE was detached to proceed to Manus and then on to Sydney to expedite the repair of battle damage. She was escorted by KEMPENFELT and WHIRLWIND, both of whom were due for refit. At 1:915 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night.

 

At 07:45 on the 23rd the Fleet reformed on the Tanker Group, and fuelling and' exchange of stores continued. SPEAKER issued 1 2 Seafires and 3 Fireflies to INDEFATIGABLE. No sooner were they airborne than the "leathers in the arrester gear accumulator gave out. One Seafire required an emergency landing and its pilot was unable to work his R/T. SPEAKER accepted both Seafires back, while the Fireflies landed on VICTORIOUS. INDEFATIGABLE was able to receive aircraft by 14:40 and the replacement aircraft took off once more. Two of the Fireflies dev eloped very bad coolant leaks on taking off and required immediate emergency landings. The pilot of one landed on against the instructions of the DCLO, the ship was not steaming into wind and the rudder was over as she made her turn; the pilot came in regardless fearing he could not go round again, forgot to lower his hook and entered the side of no.2 barrier striking the port station wrecking the aircraft without any injuries. Tragically three Hellcat pilots were killed on this day, two after taking off from CHASER with replacement aircraft dove into the sea, neither pilot was recovered [9]. The other was a pilot from 885 Sqn on RULER which took off with the prop in fine pitch and dove into the sea.

 

At 1800 CHASER, SPEAKER and NAPIER were detached for Manus, leaving RULER with the Tanker Group. At 18:15 the Fleet, now operating only 3 carriers, detached from the Tanker Group taking departure for the operations area for one final strike period.

 

Iceberg strike series 12, May 24 - 25: The final two strike days had a modified strike plan, in view of the absence of FORMIDABLE, it was planned to send in only 4 strikes each day, the first and subsequent Strikes retarded by 2 hours later than normal so as to provide late afternoon strikes. Poor weather again intervened; on reaching the flying off position at 23°40' N 126°52' E the first Strike group did not launch until 10:45 and because of the delay only 3 Strikes were despatched on the 24th.

 

Flying commenced at 09:00 when 2 sections of Seafires were launched from INDEFATIGABLE to reconnoitre the weather. They were followed at 90:25 by 4 Hell cats from INDOMITABLLE to assess the weather over the island s. Fleet CAPs and the first strike were launched at 10:45. Strike ABLE or Miyako Jima comprised of 8 Avengers from 857 Sqn joined 8 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn, INDEFATIGABLE to act as escort and then strike at targets on t Miyako. 857 Sqn attacked two targets, 6 aircraft bombed both runways at Nobara, and the remaining two then bombed the runway intersection at Hirara airfield, hits were observed at both sites. The Firefly force only had rockets available for 6 aircraft, the other two flew ‘clean’, but was reduced to 7 aircraft soon after take-off when one of the R/P armed aircraft developed engine problems and returned to base. Splitting into two flights, each with one ‘clean; aircraft, they attacked targets with rockets and cannon fire; the flight of 4 fired 24 rockets at camouflaged buildings and installations in a wood one mile northeast of Hirara airfield, all but two were observed to hit the target. The other flight attacked the radio station north of Yerabu town. One salvo missed but the second hit home. The Strike began landing on from 12:59.

 

Aircraft for Strike BAKER for Ishigaki Jima began launching at 12:50 and comprised of eight Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS and 4 Corsairs from 47 Wing as escort which joined 8 Avengers from 820 Sqn, INDEFATIGABLE. 849 Sqn split into 2 flights ad dropped 16 bombs the runways at Ishigaki, scoring 11 - 12 hits and 16 bombs the runways Miyara scoring 8 hits. The Avengers of 820 Sqn were ordered to bomb an underground storage area off the end of the north-eastern end of the runway at Ishigaki, scoring 8 hits. Strike BAKER land on 16:11.

 

Strike CHARLIE for targets on Miyako Jima began launching from 15:55 and comprised of 6 Avengers from INDOMTABLE’s 857 Sqn and 4 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort, joined by 6Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE, 8 were ordered but two went unserviceable before take-off. Target for the strike was change to Miyako Jima during take-off and this caused some confusion, some on deck were informed by ‘last minute board’ shown to the pilots but those already airborne were informed by radio and the messages became confused. 857 Sqn bombed Hirara Town while 820 bombed a suicide boat base on the northern peninsular of the island. The aircraft began landing on at 17:45. There was no enemy air activity in the vicinity and the last CAP was landed on at 19:07 and radar pickets were recalled. The Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night at 19:40. TF 57 lost no aircraft.

 

On reaching the flying off position at 23°40' N 126°52' E On the final day of ICEBERG operations four strikes were planned. Weather conditions had improved and flying commenced at 06:00 when 8 Seafires launched for the first of the days planned the radar picket t CAP serials. Strike ABLE for Miyako Jima also began launching at 06:00, the force comprised of 6 Avengers from 857 Sqn INDOMITABLE joined by 8 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn, INDEFATIGABLE, 6 armed with R/Ps and 2 ‘clean’ to act as escort and then strike at targets on t Miyako. The main target for both squadrons was Hirara airfield; the Avengers had to bomb thorough gaps in the cloud cover but scored several hits on both the runways and their intersection, the Fireflies then fired 20 rockets at, and strafed the Hirara administration buildings before firing an further 24 rockets at collaged buildings north of the airfield. On their withdrawal from the area they made cannon attacks on several barges and the military headquarters on Yeradu Jima. The strike force landed on at 08:50.

 

Aircraft for Strike BAKER began taking off at 08:45 for targets on Ishigaki Jima. Eight Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS and 4 Corsairs from 47 Wing as escort joined by 8 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. On reaching the island both squadrons split into two flights, one from each striking the runways at Miyara and Ishigaki. On return to the fleet they passed the outbound aircraft for Strike CHARLIE, finally landing on at 12:10.

 

Strike CHARLIE launched at 11:15 with orders to strike at targets on Ishigaki Jima if possible, if not at Miyako Jima. 7 Avengers from INDOMITABLE'S 857 Sqn and 4 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort, joined by 8 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. Conditions forced the switch of targets to Miyako and 820 was ordered to attack three suicide bases on the island; 4 aircraft bombed the base north of Hirara town, 2 aircraft to the northern base on the west coast of the Miyako peninsular, and two more to attack the base at O Saki. 857 Sqn attacked the runways at Nobara airfield. The strike landed on at 14:55.

 

Strike DOG for Miyako Jima began launching at 14:03 with 7 Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS joined by 8 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn, INDEFATIGABLE, 5 armed with R/Ps and 3 ‘clean’ as escort with strike at targets on t Miyako. On reaching the island both squadrons could not locate their primary targets because of heavy cloud covering so 1770 attacked their secondary target, the suicide boat base at Hirara with rockets and cannon fire, 2 Luggers and several smaller vessels were also strafed and left soldering, The Avengers circled the island but could find no suitable targets, the leader ordered his pilots to attack targets of opportunity but the results were unobserved through the cloud. The Fireflies escorted the Avengers back to the Fleet and all began landing on from 16:38.

 

There was no enemy air activity in the vicinity all day. All aircraft were flown on by 19:10 and the Fleet withdrew. At the end of the last day of strikes TRF 57 had achieved 26 hits observed on Nobara runways which were left unserviceable and 14 hits were made on Hirara runways. The Amphibious Tank Bases, a barracks, and barges at Osaki were attacked. A fire was started at Sukama-town, and the suicide boat base was attacked by rockets. At Ishigaki 8 bomb hits were made on each of the main Ishigaki and Miyara airfield runways. TF 57 had lost 1 aircraft. While returning to VICTORIOUS JT696 'l28/P' (1834 Sqn) flown by Sub-Lt F. K. Bartow suffered engine failure on final approach and ditched, the pilot was OK.

 

Vice-Admiral Rawlings, Commander TF 57, in KING GEORGE V screened by TROUBRIDGE, TENACIOUS and TERMAGENT detached at 22:00 and set course for Guam. The remainder .of the Fleet, under the command of Rear Admiral Vian, Commander AC 1, set course for area Cootie to top off ships with fuel as necessary for them to reach Manus.  During the period March 26th to May 25th BPF aircraft flew 5,335 sorties.
 

Replenishment period 13, May 26th: : On May 26th TF 57 met with the LSG to top off with fuel, only the Tanker Group was present in area Cootie for this period, all the replenishment carriers having been withdrawn to Manus. On completion of fuelling &F 57 set course for Manus.

 

 

Withdrawal to Australia for major replenishment June 1945 and redesignated Task Force 37

On May 27th the British Pacific Fleet came under the control of Admiral William Halsey's United States Third Fleet and was redesignated Task Force 37 (TF37) in readiness for their next round of operations against the Japanese mainland planned for July.
 

On reaching the New South Wales coast on June 5th the Corsairs of 47 Wing flew ashore to RNAS Schofields, outside Sydney, to regroup and re-equip The squadrons re-embarked in VICTORIOUS on June 26th when she put to sea to conduct flying training and exercises prior to the BPF sailing from Sydney to return to the operational area on June 28th. Two days later on June 30th the 47th Naval Fighter Wing was disbanded; the Admiralty had adopted the US system of Carrier Air Groups, where all squadrons permanently allocated to a carrier formed a Carrier Air Group (CAG). VICTORIOUS was allocated No. 1 CAG which comprised 1834, 1836 and 849 squadrons, under the leadership of Commander J. C. N. Shrubsole RN. TF 37 arrived at Manus on July 4th and after refuelling sailed from Manus for the forward area on July 6th.

 

Task Force 37 operations against the Japanese mainland: July - August 1945

The main body of the BPF and the ships of the Fleet Train sailed from Sydney on June 28th to return to Manus, INDEFATIGABLE was experiencing mechanical issues and was unable to sail, she required another week in dockyard hands before she was ready. 887 squadron and the 7th Carrier Air Group embarked in INDEFATIGABLE on July 7th and she sailed in company with Destroyers BARFLEUR, WAKEFUL and WRANGLER to join TF 37. She joined the Fleet on July 20th after their first round of strikes against Japan during first full replenishment period.
 

Replenishment period 14, July 13th: TF 37, now operating only 3 Fleet Carriers, FORMIDABLE (Flag 1ACS, 2nd CAG 848 Avenger, 1841 & 1842 Corsair) IMPLACABLE (8th CAG, 828 Avenger, 1771 Firefly, 801 & 806 Seafire) and VICTORIOUS (1st CAG, 849 Avenger, 1834 & 1836 Corsair, 2 ASR Walrus) met the LSG T on the 13th to top off their fuel reserves. INDEFATIGABLE had been delayed leaving Sidney and would not join until July 20th. in time to sail with the fleet. Meanwhile the Replenishment CVEs STRIKER and ARBITER, escorted by NIZAM, NAPIER and LAUNCESTON had sailed on the 9th for the new replenishment area, codenamed BRITISH TIZZY, off the coast of Japan.
 

Mainland Japan strike series 1, July 17 - 19: TF 37 rendezvoused with US Navy's Fast Carrier Force TF 38 on July 16th to begin joint operations against the Japanese mainland. TF 37 was in action on the 17th with air strikes against airfields and railways on the Island of Honshu. The CAP and first three Ramrod strike were launched at 03:50 in position 37° 10’ N 143° 19’ E.
 

The strike programme was changed for this round of operations, the majority of strikes were carried out by fighter bombers with fewer Avenger missions. Strike series 1 missions were all fighter Ramrods. FORMIDABLE launched 16 Corsairs for strike 1, Ramrod attacks on airfields at Matsushima and Sendai, in northern Honshu and Hasuda just north of Tokyo, each aircraft was armed with two 500 lb bombs. Five aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and 3 damaged, hangars and airfield buildings were hit. IMPLACABLE launched a Ramrod of 7 Fireflies for strike 2, each armed with 28 60 lb Rockets; they destroyed one aircraft on the ground, and attacked Radar and railway installations at Matsushima and Hasuda. The next two Ramrod missions, Strike 3, of 12 Seafires from IMPLACABLE, and Strike 4, of 16 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS launched at 06:20. Both were aborted due to bad weather on arrival over the target area.
 

At 08:50 Strikes 5 & 6 launched to attack Niigata airfield; 10 Corsairs s launched by FORMIDABLE and 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS each armed with one 500 lb bomb. The strike was led by Commander Shrubsole RN VICTORIOUS’ Air Group Leader. Aircraft from FORMIDABLE claimed two enemy aircraft destroyed, 2 damaged, hangars and airfield buildings were also hit. Corsairs from VICTORIOUS claimed one aircraft s destroyed on the ground, and 5 damaged.
 

On withdrawing for the night TF 37 had lost 3 aircraft to enemy action, all from FORMIDABLE, but achieved 9 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground and 11 damaged. 1 Junk sunk. Eleven of the Corsair pilots in VICTORIOUS had joined their respective squadrons during their time at RNAS Schofields and were found to have less than 250 hours solo and barfly a dozen deck landings to their credit at the start of this operation. By the end of the day’s operations VICTORIOUS’ 1 CAG had 3 aircraft out of action due to landing accidents; JT436 (' 139/Q') of 1834 Sqn piloted by Mid A. P. A. Cargill of 1836 Sqn caught No. 9 wire landing on and collided with the starboard pom-pom. Sub-Lt Chute (1834 Sqn) did the same thing when he caught no. 8 wire in JT654 ('I 17/P'), Sub-Lt Marsh (1834 Sqn) bounced landing in JT426 ('112/P') and broke both wheels.

 

On the 18th bad weather delayed the start of operations, the first CAPs launched at 09:30 but he first Ramrod did not get airborne until 11:35 in approximate position 35° 105 N 142° 36’ E. FORMIDABLE launched 16 Corsairs each armed with two 500 lb bombs for Strike 1, a Ramrod mission to airfields at Mobara, Naruto, and Hasuda, in the Tokyo area. At 12:30 IMPLACABLE launched Strike 2, a second Ramrod of 8 Fireflies, each armed with 28 60 lb Rockets for Konoike airfield. Strike 3 was cancelled due to VICTORIOUS having water in her petrol tanks. Strikes 4 & 5 launched at 14:29, IMPLACABLE launched an 11 Seafire Ramrod to Konoike airfield, FORMIDABLE launched a Ramrod of 8 Corsairs to attack Katori, Konoike and Kitaura airfields, claiming 6 planes destroyed on the ground and 3 damaged. Shrike 6, was a 7 Seafire attack on the airfields at Tachikawa and Naruto launched from IMPLACABLE at 17:00, it was believed that all targets engaged here were in fact dummies. The seventh and final Strike was launched from VICTORIOUS and was a 6 Corsair follow-up strike against Naruto and Tachikawa which claimed 5 aircraft destroyed on the ground and 5 damaged.

By 15:30 the weather had again deteriorated but the last strike landed on at 17:00. A dusk CAP was launched at 17:55 they landed on an hour later and the fleet withdrew for the night. TF 37 had lost 2 aircraft again both from FORMIDABLE, but achieved 12 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground and 18 damaged. Several Junks and airfield buildings were also damaged.
 

On the morning of the 19th when the fleet returned for a third day of strikes bad weather was still a problem, a dawn CAP was launched at 04:15 but had returned by 05:28. Conditions ruled out any flying operations and TF 37 detached from the US TF 38 to proceed to the replenishment area at 31°20’ N 150° 31 E. On withdrawing TF 37 aircraft had flown 112 sorties and lost 5 Corsairs, dropped 183 x 500 Lb bombs and fired 56, x 60 lb rocket. 21 aircraft destroyed on the ground; 27 aircraft damaged on the ground.
 

Replenishment period 15, July 20 - 23: On the morning of July 20th TF 37 rendezvoused with the LSG and a Tanker Group. Also present was the Fleet Carrier INDEFATIGABLE (7th CAG, 820 Avenger, 1772 Firefly, 887 & 894 Seafire). Refuelling commenced at 05:45 and replacement aircraft were issued by ARBITER.; replenishment load was typically a mix of 24 aircraft 9 Seafires, 7 Avengers, 6 Corsairs, 1 Hellcat and 1 Firefly, - Corsair loses were higher than projected so extra Corsairs were carried. Four Corsairs were issued to FORMIDABLE, 3 for 1841 and 1 for 1842 squadron.

 

It was discovered that the tankers were 2,400 tons of fuel oil short in order to fuel all the vessels of TF 37 so a request was made to the US TF 38 for assistance in fuelling some of the larger vessels. It was agreed that 3 cruisers, ACHILLES. GAMBIA and UGANDA would detach and rendezvous with US task Group 30.8, the US Logistic Support Group. Fuelling ceased at last light and the Force withdrew.

 

On July 21st fuelling commenced again at 04:30 and continued throughout the day. Having completed issuing replacement airframes and transferring as many as possible to STRIKER, ARBITER was detached for Manus to embark more aircraft and for conversion into an auxiliary oiler. At 19:00 the three tankers were detached to return to Eniwetok Atoll to reload. Because the operational area was now so far north, Leyte was no longer being used as the forward staging area the replenishment carriers now had to return to Manus (2,300 miles south) for reloads and the tankers to the Marshal Islands, 1,700 miles to the south east of the replenishment area. During the 22nd and 23rd smaller vessels were topped up by the Battleship KING GEORGE V and FORMIDABLE and IMPLACABLE while the US Task Groups also continued fuelling.

 

Mainland Japan strike series 2, July 24 - 25: The CAP and first three Ramrod strikes were launched at 04:45 in position 31° 51’ N 133° 11’ E. Strike 1A comprised of 11 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack airfields at Kurashiki, Okayama and Takamatsu; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 12 Seafires to attack airfields at Takamatsu and Tokushima; Strike 1C comprised of 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for attacks on the airfield at Takamatsu and Suta.
 

July 24th 1945 strikes on Shikoku Island, this is Tokushima airfield. © IWM A 29963 .

Strike 2 was launched at 05:45 to attack the airfield at Tokushima and was the first time that Avenger aircraft were in action. The combined force of 19 Avengers from FORMIDABLE & IMPLACABLE, 10 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs. Strike 2C was a Ramrod of 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack targets at Kurashiki, Fukuyama airfield and Suta. Strike 2D was a Ramrod of 12 Seafires launched by INDEFATIGABLE to attack targets at Takamatsu and Kanonji.
 

Strike 3 was a second combined strike led by Commander Shrubsole RN VICTORIOUS’ Air Group Leader, launched at 08:45 this time against shipping off the coast of Shikoku, and included a Japanese escort carrier SHIMANE MARU. It comprised of 10 Avengers and 4 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS and 10 Avengers and 8 Fireflies, plus 8 Seafires as escort from INDEFATIGABLE. Bad weather over the target area caused the force to become split up and only 6 Avengers and 2 Corsairs attacked the Japanese carrier, 5 from 849 Sqn and 1 from 829 Sqn; 2 hits and two near misses were recorded; this was the only time Fleet Air Arm aircraft carried out strikes against a carrier . Strike 3A was an 8 Corsair Ramrod launched from FORMIDABLE and 3B was a 12 Seafire Ramrod launched from IMPLACABLE.

July 24th 1945 the Japanese escort carrier SHIMANE MARU, under attack by aircraft from TF 37. © IWM A2 9959

At 11:45 Strike 4 was launched, a third combined strike led by FORMIDABLE’s Air Group Leader comprising of 16 Avengers from FORMIDABLE & VICTORIOUS, 16 Seafires, 8 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE and 4 Corsairs to attack targets on Takamatsu airfield. Also launched at this time was Strike 4c, an anti-shipping sweep in the Inland Sea by 12 Corsair s from VICTORIOUS.

 

The final launches of the day were for Strike 5 commencing at 14:45, a combined strike by 8 Avengers, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs on shipping in the Inland Sea, plus 5A - 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE also for an anti-shipping sweep in the Inland Sea, Strike 5B, a 7 Seafire force from IMPLACABLE attack on shipping at Suta, and 5D from INDEFATIGABLE, a force of 12 Avengers and 8 Corsairs to make a second attack on the SHIMANE MARU. All strikes had landed on by 17:45. The dusk CAP landed on ay 19:45. TF 37 did not withdraw from the operational area as it usually did between strikes, instead it steamed slowly towards the flying off position for the start of operations on the 25th.

 

During the day the carriers had flown 417 sorties and destroyed 15 aircraft, and probably 2 more, on the ground, 3 hangars at Takamatsu, 1 freighter, a small tanker and numerous Luggers and Junks. They damage at least 31 aircraft on the ground, an aircraft factory, a train factory and shipyard, scored multiple hits on the SHIMANE MARU breaking its back, several destroyers, junks and other craft. TF 37 losses were 9 aircraft; 8 operationally, 1 deck crash. Corsairs from VICTORIOUS’ Air Group fired 32,000 rounds at ground targets during the day’s Ramrod missions, a record for VICTORIOUS. The Corsairs involved in  Strike 2C proceeded directly to Kurashiki airfield where meagre heavy and medium flak vats experienced on the run in. Bombs were dropped and caused damage to airfield buildings and one ‘Betty’. Okayama airfield was visited next, here one Francis was damaged and the dispersal areas and revetments strafed. - The latter were well camouflaged and results could not be observed. At Fukuyama one 4 - engined aircraft was damaged. The strike than proceeded to Suta airfield and damaged four 4 - engined and three single engined aircraft and destroyed one- ‘Mavis’, all by strfing. On returning one Junk was Junk and several others damaged. Temporary Sub Lieutenant (A) P. C. Jupe, RNVR, whose bombs had not been released, executed a perfect high diva attack on a concrete bridge north of Kochi, registering a direct hit.

 

On the 25th the first launch was at 04:30 in position 32° 15’ N 136° 16 E. The first Strike was in 3 sections, 1A comprised 8 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE each carrying two 500 lb bombs for a shipping reconnaissance in the Inland Sea, Strike 1B was 12 Seafires from IMPLACABLE for a shipping reconnaissance in east Shikoku, and Strike 1C was 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS but this was aborted due to bad weather on making landfall.

 

Strike 2 was launched at 05:30, this comprised of a combined strike by 18 Avengers, 11 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs. Together with 2C, 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS and 2D, 12 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE; all three were aborted due to bad weather on making landfall.

 

The first Strike of the day to arrive on target was Strike 3, a combined force of 20 Avengers led by 848 squadron FORMIDABLE, 8 Seafires. 7 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs to attack shipping in the Inland Sea. Strike 3A was to be an 8 Corsair armed shipping reconnaissance flight from FORMIDABLE, only 4 aircraft were launched. 3B was a 12 Seafire strike at targets at Suta and Tajima.

 

The fourth Strike, a combined force of 20 Avengers launched at 11:30, IMPLACABLE launched 1`0 Avengers, 6 Fireflies and 12 Seafires as escort and was joined by another 10 Avengers and 4 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for Tokushima airfield. Despite low cloud several hangars were damaged and the Seafires strafed shipping sinking one tug; one Avenger from 828 Squadron was shot down. Strike 4C was a 12 Corsair anti-shipping strike launched from VICTORIOUS. The weather again began to deteriorate over the target areas and Strike 5, 5A & 5B were cancelled – 5 would have been a combined force lead by 848 from FORMIDABLE, 5A, a Corsair strike from FORMIDABLE, and 5B a Seafire strike from IMPLACABLE. All strikes had landed on by 14:00 and the fleet set course for the refuelling area.
 

At dusk a group of Japanese Navy B7A ‘Grace’ torpedo bombers attempted to attack the fleet. They were intercepted by Hellcats of 1844 squadron, the duck CAP from FORMIDABLE; between 19:10 and 19:30 three of them were destroyed and another damaged before the remainder broke away. During the day TF 37 had flown 417 sorties, 155 of them on strikes. They destroyed 2 aircraft and damaged 6 on the ground, several small cargo vessels and junks, luggers and small craft were sunk. Buildings, hangars, a factory, a wireless station and a lighthouse were damaged or destroyed. One large and three medium freighter transports and 13 coasters, including one small oiler and 2 corvettes were damaged. No British aircraft were lost in combat, enemy losses were 3. The force withdrew to the replenishment area overnight.

 

A serious deck crash occurred on INFEFATIGABLE when Sub-Lt Gall (894 Sqn) came in too high & fast with windscreen oiled up against DCLOs wave-off; the aircraft entered No.2 barrier and collide with the island causing the tail to swing to port and the cables of the barrier to slide up the fuselage striking the pilot on the head, he died from his injuries the following day.

 

Replenishment period 16, July 26 – 27: Having rendezvoused with the LSG TF 37 began oiling at 09:00. 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 30.10.1. The fleet 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 the tankers CEDARDALE and EASEDALE consolidated their reserves into CARELIA before detaching for Manus escorted by LAUNCESTON, WHYALLA. WAVE EMPEROR detached for Eniwetok to reload with PLYM and PARRET as escort. TF 37 and TF 38 set course overnight for the next morning’s flying off positrons.

 

Mainland Japan strike series 2, July 28 - 30: The CAP and first three Ramrod strikes were launched at 04:45 in position 31° 56’ N 135° 11’ E. Strike 1A comprised of 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack shipping in the Inland Sea; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 12 Seafires to attack shipping in Kii Suido; Strike 1C comprised of 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack shipping in the Inland Sea.~
 

Strike 2 launched at 05:45 this comprised of three parts; a combined strike of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs to attack Harima shipyard, Strike 2C launched from VICTORIOUS, an 8 Corsair strike for Akashi airfield, and 2D, 8 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE for Sato and Minato airfields. The second strike returned at 08:45 and once landed on Strike 3 was launched; a combined source of 19 Avengers, 8 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for Hadu shipyard, Strike 3A was 8 Corsairs launched from FORMIDABLE for shipping strikes and Fukuyama airfield, and Strike 3B was 10 Seafires form IMPLACABLE for Sato and Minato airfields.
 

Strike 4 launched at 11:45 and was a combine force of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for Harima shipyard and anti-shipping sweep. Strike 4C comprised of 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Sato and Fuge. The fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; a combined force of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for anti-shipping and targets at Fuge, Strike 5A had the same art gets and comprised of 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE, 5C was 8 Fireflies from IMPLACABLE for targets in the Minato area.

 

During the days strikes TF 37 launched 399 aircraft; 260 on offensive operations, 135 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 6 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 14 damaged on the ground. 3 small cargo vessels plus several small ships and junks sunk, with 3 other merchant ships possibly sunk. TF 37 loses were 9 aircraft. One Corsair JT638 (1834 Sqn) suffered engine failure and ditched, the pilot Sub-Lt S. Newton RNVR was safely rescued.

 

On the 29th there was no planned air operations, but elements of TF 37 joined with US TF 38 for bombardment of shore targets.  On the morning of the 30th the CAP and first three Ramrod strikes were launched at 04:45 in position 31° 56’ N 135° 11’ E. The day’s flying programme was the same as for the 28th, only targets were changed. Strike 1A comprised of 10 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack shipping in the Inland Sea; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 12 Seafires to attack shipping but returned to the ship when cloud prevented then form locating the target; Strike 1C comprised of 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack shipping in Kumano harbour.

 

Strike 2 launched at 05:45 this comprised of three parts; a combined strike of 18 Avengers, 8 Seafires. 7 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs, bad weather obscured the target area and all bombs were dropped by radar. Strike 2C launched from VICTORIOUS, an 8 Corsair strike for Akashi airfield, and 2D, 8 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE for anti-shipping in Nagoya Bay.

 

Strike 3 was launched at 08:45; a combined source of 19 Avengers, 4 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for anti-shipping at Maizuru, Strike 3A was 8 Corsairs launched from FORMIDABLE also for shipping strikes at Maizuru, and Strike 3B was 8 Seafires form IMPLACABLE for Akihabara airfield. Strike 4 launched at 11:45 and was a combine force of 18 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 7 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for Yokkaichi and Kuwana harbours. Strike 1C comprised of 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Maizuru and Akashi airfields. The fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; this was a smaller combined force of 16 Corsairs 8 Seafires, 6 Fireflies and for anti-shipping strike and Ramrod in the Maizuru area. On completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force set course for the replenishment area.

 

During the days strikes TF 37 launched 346 aircraft; 212 on offensive operations, 130 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 6 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 6 damaged on the ground. 2 luggers sunk, with 1 destroyer, 1 large transport, small freighter, 2 coasters, 2 luggers and 3 barges possibly sunk. TF 37 loses were 6 aircraftand four pilots. Sub-Lt P. D. Bennett RNVR of 1836 Sqn flying in JT699 was killed after a strafing run over Mahmm, Japan, his aircraft dived into a hillside and burst into flames. Two other aircraft from 1836 Sqn were damaged in deck landing incidents; KD310 flown by Sub-Lt P. W.C. Griffiths RNVR struck the rounddown landing and his tail hook and tail well seared off, it came to rest on hitting hit barrier stanchion. Sub-Lt R. Watt RNVR in JT429 missed all the wires and entered the barrier.
 

 

Replenishment period 17, July 31 – August 2: TF 37 met with the LSG in approximate position 28°4’ N 139°00’ E, and oiling began at 10:00. Fuelling continued through the day and replacement aircraft and pilots were transferred to the carriers. TF 37 disengaged at 18:50 for the night and changed course to the south to avoid the tail of a typhoon due to pass to their north.
 

Fuelling resumed at 05:20 on August 1st in approximate position 27° 15’ N 138° 00’ E. Oiling was hampered by a heavy swell and the typhoon still threatened the ships of TF 37 and TF 38; the US commander ordered a further move south at the end of the day’s replenishment, to rendezvous in area ‘HURRICANE’ at position 25° N, 137° E. On the morning of August 2nd storing and ammunitioning continued, oiling was now down to two tankers, OLNA and Wave KING, CARELIA and WAVE GOVERNOR had to depart in order to reload and be back on station for a later replenishment period. The LSG and the Tanker Group detached at 16:50 to proceed to the next replenishment area at 34° 20’ N, 147° E. During this replenishment CHASER issued 3 Corsairs, 2 of them to 2 CAG in FORMIDABLE and 1 to I CAG in VICTORIOUS.  
 

Mainland Japan strike series 3, delayed: Weather conditions delayed the next round of strikes; initially planned for the 5th then delayed to the 8th. Both fleets were ordered to remain in area ‘HURRICANE’ but when it became clear that the 8th was to be the earliest strike day another replenishment day would be needed on August 6th. Flying training was conducted by the Fleet Carriers in the forenoon on the 5th.
 

Replenishment period 18, August 6 - 7: The new replenishment area was to be at position 33° 36’ N, 147° E, not were previously organised so the Tanker Group and LSG were redirected to the new rendezvous. TF 37 met with the LSG at 09:00 and replenishment commenced at 10:00. Unbeknown to the men of TF 37 the first atomic bomb had been dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima at 08:15, at this time the ships of the BPF were 770 miles west of the explosion. ARBITER issued 10 Seafire, 6 Corsairs, 1 Avenger and 1 Firefly; she received 3 'flyable duds', 1 Avenger and 2 Seafires. CHASER issued 1 Seafire.
 

On the 7th ARBITER and CHASER operated as auxiliary Oilers fuelling vessel of TF 37. All oiling was completed by 11:30. The Fleet set course for the flying off position.

 

Mainland Japan strike series 3, August 8 - 10: On reaching the flying -off position at 04:45 in position 40°00’ N 144°30’ E the weather closed in and the first strike and CAP launch was postponed. The situation did not improve, the planned target areas were shrouded in fog so all flying for the day was cancelled.
 

On the morning of August 9th TF 37 arrived at position 37°43’ N, 144° 51’ E. the first Strike and CAP launched at 04:10. Strike 1A comprised of 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack targets at Shiogama; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 10 Seafires to attack targets at Matsushima; Strike 1C comprised of 10 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack coastal shipping off North Honshu.
 

Strike 2 launched at 05:10 this comprised of three parts; a combined strike of 20 Avengers, 10 Seafires, and 8 Fireflies, to attack targets at Matsushima. Strike 2C launched from VICTORIOUS, 11 Corsairs to attack coastal shipping off North Honshu, and 2D, 9 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE for Kesennuma, Kakuda and Hachinohe airfield. Strike 3 was launched at 06:10; a combined source of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, and 8 Fireflies for targets at Matsushima, Strike 3A was 8 Corsairs launched from FORMIDABLE also for shipping strikes at Onagawa Wan, and Strike 3B was 11 Seafires form IMPLACABLE to attack coastal shipping off North Honshu.
 

Strike 4 launched at 11:10 this was a combined force of 19 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 6 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for strikes at shipping and Kesennuma port. Strike 1C comprised of 16 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Koriyama airfields the fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; this comprised of a combined force of 21 Avengers, 9 Seafires, 7 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for anti-shipping strike; 5A was a 11 Coarser Ramrod against shipping at Onagawa Wan and Koriyama airfield; 5B was a 7 Seafire Ramrod against Matsushima airfield and shipping launched from IMPLACABLE. At 12:02 a second atomic bomb had been dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, at this time the TF 37 were approximately 880 miles to the north east of Nagasaki.
 

During the days strikes TF 37 launched 407 aircraft; 263 on offensive operations, 140 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 44 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 17 probable, 22 damaged on the ground. 2 locomotives and associated freight cars destroyed, 2 luggers sunk, with destroyer, 1 large transport, small freighter, 2 Destroyers, 1 old Destroyer 1 submarine chaser, freighter, 2 coasters, 4 Junks and 2 launches sunk. 2 destroyer escorts and 1 torpedo boat probably sunk. TF 37 loses were 10 aircraft and 5 aircrew in combat. No. 1 CAG lost one pilot; Sub-Lt S. Newton RNVR of 1836 Sqn was last seen over Koriyama airfield doing a photo run after a strafing attack. Another Corsair from 1836 was put out of action ion a landing accident, Sub-Lt A. Jones in JT457 struck the rounddown with his port wheel breaking the oleo and the port wing and prop were badly damaged. On completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force withdrew.
 

August 10th was planned as the final day of strikes before TF 37 was to withdraw to Australia for another maintenance and replenishment period. The first Strike and CAP launched at 04:10 at position 37°43’ N, 144° 51’ E.; the day’s flying programme was a repeat of that of the previous day. Strike 1A comprised of 10 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack targets at Matsushima and Masuda airfields; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 12 Seafires to attack targets at Msuda airfield; Strike 1C comprised of 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack Koriyama airfield. Strike 2 launched at 05:10 this comprised of three parts; a combined strike of 20 Avengers, 10 Seafires, 4 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs, to attack targets at Matsushima and shipping at Onagawa Wan. Strike 2C launched from VICTORIOUS, 8 Corsairs to attack coastal shipping at Onagawa Wan, and 2D, 8 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE for targets in the Msuda area.
 

Strike 3 was launched at 96:10; a combined source of 20 Avengers, 7 Seafires, and 8 Fireflies for targets at Koriyama airfield a, Strike 3A was 8 Corsairs launched from FORMIDABLE also for Matsushima, and Strike 3B was 9 Seafires form IMPLACABLE to attack Koriyama airfield. Strike 4 launched at 11:10, a combined force of 10 Avengers, 11 Seafires, 6 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for strikes at Koriyama airfield; Strike 1C comprised of 6 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Koriyama airfields. The fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; this comprised of a combined force of 20 Avengers, 9 Seafires, 7 Fireflies and 2 Corsairs for anti-shipping strike at Okkaichi and Onagawa Wan; 5A was an 8 Corsair Ramrod against shipping at Komachi; 5B was a 4 Seafire shipping sweep launched from IMPLACABLE.
 

The last strikes landed on at 18:00 and on completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force set course for the replenishment area. During the days strikes TF 37 launched 372 aircraft; 233 on offensive operations, 156 on defensive operations and 3 photo recon flights. One enemy aircraft is recorded as shot down in combat, a B7A ‘Grace’ while 16 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 1 probable and 31 damaged on the ground. 2 locomotives and associated freight cars destroyed, 3 freighter transports, 2 coasters, 8 small craft sunk. 1 freighter and 2 luggers probably sunk. 2 Destroyers, 2 Destroyer escorts, 1 merchantman, 6 coasters and 4 luggers damaged. TF 37 loses were 6 aircraft and 4 pilots. VICTORIOUS’ 1 CAG loss was Corsair JT561 of 1834 Sqn flown by Sub-Lt J. A. H. Stevens who was forced to ditch, he was safely recovered.
 

Replenishment period 19, August 11: TF 37 met with the LSG Tanker Group in approximate position 37° 55’ N 144° 44’ E, and oiling began at 04:40. This was a one day replenishment employing five Tankers and was the last replenishment at sea of the British Pacific Fleet during war-time operations; there were no replenishment carriers present as planning had this as a refuelling only period on completion of this phase of operations when the fleet was to withdraw to Australia.
 

Task Force 37 dissolved: A reduced force redesignated Task Group 38.5

On August 9th Russia had declared war on Japan and the focus of the US Third Fleet Commander altered to support Russian attacks: orders were to attack targets in northern Honshu on Hokkaido, the northern Island of Japan on August 10th, replenish on the 11th and conduct two more strike days on the 12th & 13th. This extension to the programme was problematic for the BPF which was to withdraw for Australia after the strike on August 10th.
 

The LSG and Tanker Groups were already executing the plans Stout to prepare for the upcoming Operation OLYMPIC, the Invasion of Japan, so no Tanker support would be available. The US Logistic Group would not be able to contribute oil as it had done previously so the BPF would not be able to continue offensive operations as TF 37. Vice-Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings, 2 IC, BPF proposed a solution, a token force of 1 Battleship, 1 Fleet Carrier, 2 Cruisers and attendant Destroyers was to remain in the operational area for strikes against Japan with the US Third Fleet; this comprised of KING GEORGE V, INDEFATIGABLE, (7th CAG, 820 Avenger, 1772 Firefly, 887 & 894 Seafire) GAMBIA. NEWFOUNDLAND, TROUBRIDGE, TERMAGANT TENACIOUS, TEAZER, TERPSICHORE, BARFLEUR. NAPIER. NIZAM, WAKEFUL, AND WRANGLER.
 

At 12:00 on August 12th Task Force 37 was dissolved and the bulk of the BPF set course for Manus, and then on to Sydney; the remaining Force were now attached to US Task Force 38 and designated as Task Group 38.5. VICTORIOUS, in company with FORMIDABLE and IMPLACABLE and their escorts were on passage when the Japanese surrender was announced on the 15th, they arrived at Manus on August 18th to refuel, sailing again on the 19th.

August 15th 1945: Members of the ship's company and the Air Group gathered aft on VICTORIOUS to hear news of Japan's surrender.

 

Squadron Disbanded

On reaching the Australian coast on August 23rd No. 1 Carrier Air Group was flown ashore to RNAS Maryborough, Queensland were the Corsairs of 1834 and 1836 squadrons were withdrawn. The Avengers of 849 squadron departed for Mascot airfield, Sydney, the next day. The personnel of 1834 & 1836 squadrons departed for Sydney on the 25th to re-embark in VICTORIOUS for passage home to the UK.

HMS VICTORIOUS arrived back in the UK on October 27th 1945 and both 1 834 and 1836 squadrons were officially disbanded on the 31st.

 

 


 

Content revised: 31 December 2023

 

Primary information sources

Additional sources:

Vice Admiral, Second in Command, British Pacific Fleet report of operations against the Ryukyu Islands and Formosa, /26/345 to 20/4/45 and 4-25/5/45

CTF 37 (British) report of air & surface strikes against the Japanese Empire, preparation for and initial occupation of the Tokyo Bay area, Honshu, Japan, 6/28/45 TO 9/2/45

 

 

 

 


No badge issued for this squadron
 

 

 

Battle Honours

NORWAY 1944
SABANG 1944

PALEMB31° 56’ N 135° 11’ E. >

Aircraft Types

Corsair Mk. I Aug - Nov 43

Corsair Mk. II Oct 43 - Aug 45
Corsair IV Apr - Aug 45

 

Commanding Officers

Lt. Cdr (A) C.C. Tomkinson RNVR 18 Aug 1943

Lt. Cdr J.B. Edmundson DSC RN 27 Mar 1945

Lt. Cdr .JG. Baldwin RN 21 May 1945
Lt. Cdr (A) D.K. Evans RNZNVR 14 Jun 1945

Lt. (A) D.T. Chute RNVR 27 Aug 1945 ;

Squadron disbanded 31 Oct 1945

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reminiscences

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Topic: 1836 Naval Air Squadron
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Neil Turner
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May 2021
Neil Turner (Ivybridge, Devon, UK) says...

My late father, Arthur Turner, CPO air mechanic on HMS Victorious, knew Sub. Lieut. Blair and mentioned in his memoir that he had been talking to him just the day before he was lost. My father was also friendly with a Sub. Lieut. Robinson ("Robbo") of 1836 squadron who survived having to ditch his Corsair off Norway in 1944 but did not return to the ship. My father heard nothing further of him and wondered if he had got home safely. I would be interested to discover his details on this site in due course.

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Anthony Baldock
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Oct 2020
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Anthony Baldock (York, UK) says...

I have compiled a history of my late uncle Matthew Thomas Blair RNVR 1836 Squadron who was a Corsair Pilot, shot down and killed on operation Meridian 1, Palembang. I would be happy to supply this electronically. It documents his training and operational career in 1836 squadron.

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