March 1943 - April 1945
Formation and work-up
No. 1840 squadron was originally planned as a single seater fighter squadron equipped with 10 Wildcat Vs to form on October 15th 1943 in the United Kingdom at Royal Naval Air Station
Eglinton. This was cancelled and instead the squadron formed on March 1st 1944 at RNAS
Burscough as a single seater fighter squadron equipped with 10 Hellcat Is under the command of Lt. Cdr (A) A.R. Richardson RNZNVR. A large proportion of the squadron pilots were Dutch, mainly from the Royal Netherlands Navy Air Service.
Grumman Hellcats of 1840 over Northern Ireland © IWM (A 24533)
After familiarisation with the aircraft and equipment the squadron moved to
RNAS Stretton on March 13th to begin training in earnest to prepare for active service. Training included navigation exercises, low flying, formation flying and combat tactics. Tragedy struck two days later when a mid-air
Collision killed to pilots; Officier-vlieger (Sub-Lt) P.J. Huijer RNetnN in JV161
collided with JV166 flown by Sergeant Vlieger A. J. SMITH during an exercise flight, both were killed.
A month later the squadron moved to
RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland. A second mid-air
Collision saw two more Dutch pilots lose their lives on May 15th; 2e Luitenant Vlieger (Sub-Lt) H. C. de Jager RNetnN in FN376 collided with JV182 flown by Sergeant Vlieger F. C. M. Brogtrop Netherlands Army while on exercise. The cauldron moved again on May 30th to
RNAS Ballyhalbert. On June 9th a fifth Dutch pilot died, sub-Lt T. Limbosch RNetnN flying in FN404 failed to return after a night exercise Southeast of the Isle of Arran.
Beginning on June 15th a detachment of 8 aircraft operated with the CVE
TRUMPETER for Deck Landing Training (DLT), completing on the 25th. On this date the whole squadron joined the Fleet Carrier INDEFATIGABLE to conduct a work-up afloat with the ship in the Clyde training area, disembarking to
RNAS Machrihanish on July 2nd.
with the Home Fleet: July to August 1944
From here they flew north to
RNAS Hatston in the Orkneys arriving there on the 6th in readiness for joining the Fleet Carrier FURIOUS for their first operational outing, Operation MASCOT. They flew out to join the ship on July 9th.
Operation MASCOT was planned as a repeat of the earlier Operation ‘TUNGSTEN’, an attack against the German battleship TIRPITZ at her anchorage in Kaafjord, Norway, carried out in early April 1944; bad weather had prevented repeat attacks from being made. FORMIDABLE was part of a force comprising of the Battleship DUKE OF YORK, Carriers FORMIDABLE, INDEFATIGABLE, FURIOUS, Cruisers DEVONSHIRE, KENT, JAMAICA, BELLONA, Destroyers BULLDOG, MILNE, MARNE, MATCHLESS, MUSKETEER, SIOUX, SCOURGE, VERULAM, NUBIAN, VOLAGE, VIRAGO, VIGILANT, ALGONQUIN, Frigates BURGES, INMAN,
and HOSTE. MASCOT called for a strike by 44 Barracuda bombers and 48 Corsairs, Hellcats and Fireflies with 15 Seafire escorts; FURIOUS (880 - 3 Seafire LIIc, 842 Flight - 3 Swordfish II & 1840 – 20 Hellcat II), FORMIDABLE (1841 - 18 Corsairs, 827-12 Barracudas & 830 - 12 Barracudas) and INDEFATIGABLE (887 - 12 Seafire FIII , 1770 - 12 Firefly, 820 - 12 Barracuda II, & 826 - 12 Barracuda II).
The carrier force left Scapa on the 14th and the strike was delivered on July 17th, but failed to repeat the success of TUNGSTEN. The enemy had warning of the approach of the Barracudas and had time to enshroud the anchorage in smoke, forcing the dive-bombers to release blindly. TIRPITZ was undamaged, but an armed trawler was sunk and the destroyer Z33 suffered superficial damage from strafing Corsairs. One Barracuda and one Corsair were lost to flak. The force arrived back at Scapa on July 19th. 1840 squadron disembarked to
RNAS Hatston the same day.
They briefly joined the Fleet Carrier FORMIDABLE for flying training, embarking on July 31st, returning to
RNAS Hatston on August 5th. During this period another mid-air collision cost the lives of two Dutch pilots; during a dummy dive bob attack against the carrier Sub-Lt C. A. D. van Dongen ,RNetnN in Hellcat JV178 collided with Sub-Lt H. Laufer, RNetnN in JV194, both aircraft fell into the sea ahead of the ship in position 58°45'N 3°36'W. Two days later they re-joined INDEFATIGABLE for Operation OFFSPRING as part of Home Fleet Force 4. Rear Admiral Commanding First Cruiser Squadron in INDEFATIGABLE, escort carriers
NABOB, Cruisers KENT and DEVONSHIRE, destroyers MYNGS (Captain (D) 26th Destroyer Flotilla), VOLAGE, VIGILANT, VERULAM, VIRAGO, ALGONQUIN, SIOUX, and SCOURGE.
Operation OFFSPRING was designed to force the enemy out of the Leads by laying mines in Lepsorev and Harhamsfjiord, Norway. In addition to the laying of two minefields between Lepsøy and Haramsa, the Force was to attack the airfield at Gossen and shipping off the coast of German-occupied Norway. The Force sailed from Scapa on August 8th. The operation commenced on the 9th and was successfully concluded. 29 aerial mines were laid in Harhamsfiord and 17 in Lepsorev. In addition 6 Me 110s were destroyed and one damaged on the ground. Two hangers and some storehouses were left burning at Gossen and many subsidiary targets in the Lepsoy area were attacked, including 3 radar and 2 wireless stations, a dredger and gun positions, 3 armed ships of which 2 were left burning and an oil tank which was left smoking Force 4 losses were: 1 Avenger shot down in flames; 1 Firefly ditched. The Force withdrew and arrived back at Scapa on the 11th. 1840 squadron disembarked to
RNAS Hatston on the 14th to prepare for their next outing. Operation GOODWOOD.
Operation GOODWOOD was another attack on the TIRPITZ in the hope of putting her out of action for the remainder of the war and to cover the passage of
Arctic convoys JW59 and RA59A against attack by TIRPITZ if she could not be disabled (she had put to sea on July 31st and August 1st to train with her protective destroyers). This dual-purpose plan involved three separate Forces; Force 1, DUKE OF YORK, INDEFATIGABLE, FORMIDABLE, FURIOUS, BERWICK, DEVONSHIRE, MYNGS, SIOUX, VERULAM, VIRAGO, VOLAGE, ALGONQUIN, VIGILANT, SCOURGE, STORD, SCORPION, SERAPIS, CAMBRIAN, WHIRLWIND, WRANGLER. Force 2,
NABOB, KENT, BICKERTON, AYLMER, BLIGH, KEMPTHORNE, KEATS. Force 9 (Oiler group), NUBIAN, POPPY, DIANELLA, STARWORT, R.F.A.s BLACK RANGER and BLUE RANGER.
Home Fleet forces left Scapa on August 18th to protect the outward Convoy JW59, bound for Murmansk which had departed from Loch Ewe, Scotland on August 15th. After an uneventful journey north, the attack forces arrived off Norway on August 20th. Bad weather meant that the first strike was delayed by 24 hours and was undertaken on the 22nd. At 11:00 am a force comprising 32 Barracudas, 24 Corsairs, 11 Fireflies, 9 Hellcats and 8 Seafires was launched from the three fleet carriers.
Poor visibility meant that the bombers did not reach the target but fighters claimed one hit with a 500 lb bomb. A second small strike later on the same day claimed two more hits. 1840 squadron lost one pilot during the day; at 12:50 Lieutenant W. J. Turner, RNVR in Hellcat JV150 crashed into mountainside awhile attacking an AA position around Tlrpitz shrouded in smoke.
On recovering the strike aircraft, the forces withdrew to refuel; at 17:15 the CVE NABOB was struck by a torpedo fired from U-354. The carrier suffered serious damage and 21 fatalities, NABOB and her sister carrier TRUMPETER, had been detached from the larger force to provide fuel for 3 of the escorting destroyers, a second torpedo was launched which struck HMS BICKERTON at 17:23, she quickly sank. NABOB was non-operational but afloat and was ordered to return to Scapa that evening, escorted by the remaining ships of Force 2; this meant that the planned mine-laying component of GOODWOOD was cancelled.
On the 24th another combined strike was flown off, the attacking force comprised 33 Barracudas carrying 1,600-pound armour-piercing bombs, 24 Corsairs (including 5 armed with a 1,000-pound bomb), 9 Hellcats, 10 Fireflies and 8 Seafires. The launch was made at a point further to the south of those used in previous raids, the strike aircraft then flew parallel to the coast, before making landfall and approaching Kaafjord from the south. However the force was detected by a German radar station at 3:41 pm, and TIRPITZ was immediately alerted. On arrival on target Heavy smoke obscured the area. Three possible hits were claimed, in reality only two hit the TIRPITZ. The first was a 500-pound dropped by one og 1840 squadron’s Hellcats which exploded on the roof of her "Bruno" main gun turret. The explosion destroyed the quadruple 20-millimetre anti-aircraft gun mount located on top of the turret, but did not cause any significant damage to the turret itself. The second bomb was a 1,600-pound armour-piercing weapon dropped by a Barracuda; this penetrated through five decks, killed a sailor in a radio room and lodged near an electrical switch room. This bomb failed to explode.
Force 1 fuelled at the Faroes on 26th/27th before returning foronefinal attack on August 29th. The strike force comprised 26 Barracudas, 17 Corsairs (of which two were armed with 1,000-pound bombs), 10 Fireflies and 7 Hellcats. The force was again detected in time to shroud TIRPITZ with smoke to obscure the target area. The Barracudas and Corsairs were forced to blind-bomb Kaafjord, and while no hits were achieved on the battleship, six members of her crew were wounded by bomb fragments from near misses. German ships and gun positions were once again strafed by the fighters, but no significant damage was inflicted. On completion of recovering the strike the Force set course for Scapa.
No. 3 Naval Fighter Wing
and HMS SPEAKER
On arrival off the Orkney’s 1840 left the ship and flew their remaining aircraft ashore to
RNAS Grimsetter on September 1st, in transit to
RNAS Eglinton, arriving there on the 2nd. While at Eglinton 1840 squadron became part of No. 3 Naval Fighter Wing (3 NRW) along with 800, 808, 885 squadrons, all equipped with Hellcats. Squadron strength was also increased to 24 aircraft. On October 16th a mid-air incident caused the loss of another squadron pilot; while flying in box formation Sub-Lt D. A. Hadden, RNVR in Hellcat FN405 collided with the tail of JV214 cutting off its tail section with its prop,the aircraft crashed 2 miles north of Armoy, Co Antrim and burnt out, the pilot, Sub-Lt H. Cockburn was killed. Sub-Lt Hadden landed back at
No. 3 NFW moved to
on October 24th, 1840 moving to RNAS Ayr on November 9th for
an Army Co-operation course, returning to
RNAS Ballyhalbert on the 16th. The squadron was to be assigned to the escort carrier
SPEAKER for operations with the newly formed British Pacific Fleet in Australia. The ship was acting as the duty DLT carrier until she arrived off Northern Ireland on December 16th to begin preparations for her departure in the New Year. Some 1840 pilots flew out to
SPEAKER in the Irish Sea for DLT during early December, including Sub-Lt P. S. N. Chappell RNVR on the 3rd; he taxied his aircraft, JX705 into JW891 on the flight deck damaging his own prop and the starboard wing tip of JW891.
Embarkation of aircraft was hampered by the bad weather and one of the first to attempt to land on the ship December 18th was Sub-Lt. E. S. Sparring RNVR in JV204, had its arrestor hook knocked off on the rounddown, and the aircraft crashed into the barrier and fetched up in the walkways. The aircraft was a write off and the incident required some hours of work to get the aircraft inboard before embarkation could continue. On the following day there was a second barrier crash, Sub-Lt. M. G Gatley RNVR in JV248 missed all the arrestor wires, this incident was not as serious and flying resumed in short order.
Hellcats of 1840 lands on HMS SPEAKER
The weather remained settled and the squadron was able to fit in five days of deck-landing and flying drill before the ship had to go Greenock on the 23rd; the Squadron flew ashore to
SPEAKER was to undergo a short period of defect rectification and sailed up the Clyde to Glasgow and entered dock on Christmas Day. Both squadron and ship's company were granted Christmas leave.
On return from leave 1840 squadron moved to
on New Year's Eve 1944 where the remaining Hellcat Mk.Is were withdrawn and new rocket equipped Mk.IIs were issued, the squadron flew out to re-join
SPEAKER later that day. The next eleven days were spent conducting an intensive work up in preparation for the ships departure to join the British Pacific Fleet. There were only two incidents during this period; on the 3rd Sub-Lt Chappell had another taxiing incident on the flight deck, this time in JX705, the chocks had been removed and the aircraft ran forward into a parked aircraft. On the 5th Sub-Lt Gatley came in too high in JW766 and entered the barrier.
On passage - Greenock to
to Sydney: January 11th to February 23rd 1945
On January 11th 1945
SPEAKER, in company with the CVEs
KHEDIVE (Carrying 808 Hellcat Sqn, non-operational, plus reserve aircraft ferry load) and
(Captain B. L. Moore, Senior Officer, operating 1845
Corsair Sqn) and three escorts sailed from the Clyde bound
for Alexandria on the first leg of passage to Australia.
Intensive flying operations had been undertaken during the passage across the Mediterranean, which allowed the squadron more practice since the usual six week squadron work up had not been possible before the ship's departure from the UK. Little was achieved before passing Gibraltar as weather conditions prevented safe flying. Some operational sorties were flown on January 17th by aircraft from
SLINGER to search for a U-boat reported off the North African coast and this would have been an opportunity for the use of the new rocket equipped aircraft; nothing was found however and flying reverted to training sorties.
The small convoy reached Alexandria on the 22nd stopping briefly before continuing on to Port Said the same day. Late on January 24th
SPEAKER weighed anchor to pass through the Suez Canal and on into the Red Sea. After a brief stop at Aden to refuel and store ship on January 28th
SPEAKER and company steamed straight across the Arabian Sea to Ceylon, arriving at Colombo on February 4th.
HMS SPEAKER at Aden, Hellcats of 1840 parked on
By the time
SPEAKER reached Colombo her squadrons intensive flying work up had resulted in 2 lost and 4 damaged aircraft and one pilot had been killed: While carrying out fighter tactic exercises in the Red on January 25th Sub-Lt. B. Jacques in JW894 spun into the sea killing the pilot, his aircraft vanished before any of the escorts could reach the impact site. On February 3rd while returning while returning from
RNAS Colombo Racecourse Sub-Lt. J. O. Boon von Ochaeo, RNeN ditched in Hellcat JW876, he was rescued safely. Two aircraft suffered barrier crashes and were badly damaged, JW888 flown by Sub-Lt. A. W. B. Lawson, RNVR caught No.9 wire and entered the barrier on January 25th, the following day JW773 flown by Sub-Lt. P. M. Scott, RNVR caught No.6 wire which pulled out and the aircraft entered the barrier. Two others suffered from deck pecking, the aircraft pitching onto its nose and damaging the propeller; on the 17th Sub-Lt. L. W. Rouse, RNVR tipped on the prop on take-off in JW891 but managed to return to land safely. On the 25th Lieutenant F. C. Buckley RCNVR braked hard in JW887 taxiing and tipped on to the prop. Unserviceable aircraft were exchanged at Colombo to bring the squadron back to strength.
At Colombo the three carriers were to Part Company,
SLINGER departed for Sydney on the 6th, while
KHEDIVE remained in Ceylon to join the strength of the East Indies fleet. On February 8th the traditional 'crossing the line' ceremony was observed aboard
SLINGER which had crossed the equator at 21:00 hours the day before; the festivities took up most of the day with nearly 800 ' victims' being initiated. The celebrations were soon forgotten though as on February 11th both ships were called to assist in a search for survivors from a torpedoed American troop ship, the S.S. PETER SILVESTER, 1000 miles off the coast of Western Australia. Aircraft from both carriers conducted aerial searches but after five days no trace was found;
SPEAKER continued on to Sydney leaving the area late on the 16th,
SLINGER remained to continue searching until the 19th before she too had to break off and proceed to Sydney. 1840 squadron was to lose two aircraft during the search; on the 14th JX750 flown by Lt FC Buckley, RCNVR drifted to port on landing and hit the deck heavily, it was written off and jettison overboard the following day. On the 16th JW888 flown by Sub-Lt. R. T. Bell, RNVR hit the rounddown after making too fast an approach and crashed into the sea; the pilot was rescued.
SPEAKER arrived at Sydney on February 23rd, flying off 16 of her remaining Hellcats to
RNAS Schofields (MONAB III) before entering the harbour. She was secured at a berth at dolphins, near Taronga Park (the Zoo) in Snails Bay.
Operations with the British pacific Fleet:
March - May 1945
While ashore the squadron strength was to be reduced to 16 aircraft, 8 aircraft and their pilots were transferred to HMS INDOMITABLE, 4 each going to
1844 squadrons to bring her air group up to strength. 1840 squadron were to remain with
SPEAKER which would be operated as a CAP (Combat Air Patrol) carrier providing air cover for ships of the BPF Fleet Train in the replenishment area.
The squadron flew out to re-join
SPEAKER on March 9th 1945 when she sailed for Manus in the Admiralty Islands; on board were the advance party of
HMS NABARON, Mobile Naval Air Base (MONAB) No.4 comprising of 6 Officers and 57 ratings, together with the second echelon of Maintenance, Storage & Repair unit (M.S.R.) No. 4 which were to be delivered to
Ponam Island in the Admiralty Islands. Shortly after clearing the Jomard Passage the ship intercepted an S.O.S. from the USS ROBERT SYLVESTER, She reported being aground on Vassee Island and pounding badly, giving their latitude and longitude. This information fitted in with a D/F bearing of her signals and was found to be an island about 30 miles ahead on
SPEAKER's route, and close to where she was expecting to be joined by an escort consisting of the sloop PHEASANT and frigate PARRETT. On reaching the area two Hellcats were launched to begin an air search while the PARRETT began a search pattern along the edge of the reefs in the area. No trace was found after several hours searching and
SPEAKER resumed her passage to Manus that evening leaving the PARRETT to continue searching: The survivors were eventually located ten days later, 75 miles from their estimated position given in the SOS, they had been to the south-east of
SPEAKER on the coast of New Guinea instead of the north-west off New Britain.
SPEAKER arrived at
Ponam on March 13th and when unloading was finished she anchored in Seeadler harbour on the 15th and was allocated to 30 ACS (30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron) for operation with the Fleet Train, Task Force 112. Her captain reported to RAFT (Rear-Admiral, Fleet Train) Rear-Admiral D. B. Fisher, C.B., C.B.E. aboard LOTHIAN and Commodore W. P. Carne, commanding 30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron aboard the CVE
Operations with the British pacific Fleet:
March - May 1945
After restoring and fuelling advance elements of the Fleet Train sailed from Manus on March 17th in order to have a Tanker Group in position for the BPF to top up with fuel at the last prudent moment before embarking on the forthcoming strikes against the island of Okinawa 'Operation Iceberg I'. The ships were formed into two Task Units which were to proceed directly to the prearranged rendezvous; TU 112.2.1 consisted of H.M. Ships
STRIKER (with replacement aircraft), CRANE, FINDHORN, WHIRLWIND and the Tankers SAN AMBROSIO, CEDARDALE and SAN ADOLPHO and. TU 112.2.5 consisted of H.M. Ships
SPEAKER (1840 for CAP duties), PHEASANT and KEMPENFELT.
A second convoy of logistic support ships, comprising of LOTHIAN (flag ship Rear-Admiral, Fleet Train),
SLINGER, EMPIRE SPEARHEAD,
BACCHUS, WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, ARNDALE, DINGLEDALE,
FORT COLVILLE, AASE MAERSK, DENBIGHSHIRE, ROBERT MAERSK, THYRA S., HERMELIN, and TYNE, which left Manus on March 19th bound for the Philippines. The convoy arrived at Leyte Gulf on the 26th and anchored in San Pedro Bay.
SPEAKER flying practice was the order of the day once the anchorage at Manus was behind them but a heavy swell meant that little flying was done due to safety concerns; in fact severe sea states prevailed and prevented any unnecessary flying; four flying accidents had occurred on route to the rendezvous and as 1840 had only 16 Hellcats and would be expected to launch flights of 4 aircraft for each CAP sortie, with an additional fifth aircraft ranged on the catapult ready to launch at all times, the risk of damage or loss of aircraft or aircrew meant minimal flying was carried out until such time as CAP sorties were required.
The British pacific Fleet, Task Force 113 comprising of Fleet Carriers INDEFATIGABLE ((Flag, 1ACS) (820 - 20 Avenger,
887 & 894 - 40 Seafire, and 1770 - 9 Firefly), INDOMITABLE (857 - 15 Avenger,
1844 -29 Hellcat), ILLUSTRIOUS (854 - 16 Avengers,
1833 - 36 Corsair), and VICTORIOUS (849 - 14 Avengers,
1836 - 37 Corsair, and 2 Walrus.) Battleships KING GEORGE V (Flags, VABPF), and HOWE, 4th Cruiser Squadron, SWIFTSURE, (Flag, CS 4), GAMBIA, ARGONAUT, BLACK PRINCE, EURYALUS, (Flag, RA (D)) plus screening destroyers had sailed from Manus for Ulithi Atoll on March 18th, arriving there on the 19th. On March 23rd they were re-designated Task Force 57 (TF57 ) when they came under the operational control of Admiral Raymond Spruance USN, CinC US Fifth Fleet. 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: Task Force 57 met with the Logistic Support Group (LSG) at 06:00, Task Units 112.2.1 and 112.2.5, at position ANT, (18° 3o’N 129° 08’E), for a short replenishment at sea on the 25th which included the issuing of 4 replacement aircraft from
STRIKER and topping off fuel tanks.
SPEAKER began her CAP duties in earnest. Fuelling was completed by 15:30..
On completion of this topping off TF57 joined US Task Force 58 on the 26th for joint attacks on islands of the Sakishima-Gunto group in support of preparations for US landings on Okinawa. This was the first of 12 strike sorties against Japanese airfields on the Islands of the Sakishima-Gunto group in operation ICEBERG One. Because of the long distances involved between the operational area and the nearest forward base, all replenishment had to be done at sea; TF57 was operating a strike cycle of 2 days on station followed by 2-3 days of replenishment.
With the departure of the fleet the ships of the logistic support group moved to refuelling area MIDGE on the 28th. There were three areas used for fuelling, each was a rectangular area which covered 5000 square miles of ocean east of Luzon, their code names were all called after insects; each area was 50 miles to the south and 100 miles west of' the following positions – 'COOTIE' 21° 52’ N 129° 24’ E; 'MIDGE' 19° 55’ N 129° 40’ E; and ‘MOSQUITO' 20° 17’ N 125° 22’ E. The nominated area changed from one replenishment period to the next.
Map showing the three replenishment areas ‘GNAT’, ‘MIDGE’, & ‘MOSQUITO’ where the logistic support group (LSG) could rendezvous with the ships of TF 57 to refuel and take on stores and replacement aircraft. Inset shows 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 Logistic
Support Group were waiting at the prearranged rendezvous, in
area MIDGE at 07:30 on the 28th. TF57 met the Tanker Group
and began refuelling. On the mornings when the fleet
returned to rendezvous,
SPEAKER had to be ready to fly off the first CAP sortie at first light, and keep four aircraft airborne till dusk, in two-hour sorties. At night the task force left the refuelling area and steamed independently at higher speed for safety against submarines, re-joining the logistic support group at dawn for a second day's fuelling. Due to their only being 3 Tankers on station and leaking hoses refuelling continued into a third day, completing at 14:30 on the 30th. During this replenishment period
STRIKER issued 13 replacement aircraft to the fleet and recovered three flyable, but unserviceable, aircraft; in addition she transferred replacement Avenger aircrew to 854 Squadron in ILLUSTRIOUS. There was one flying incident for 1840 squadron, on the 30th Sub-Lt W. Percy, RNZNVR flying in JX792 entered the barrier after his hook was pulled out when it struck the rounddown.
Replenishment period 3, April 3 - 5: Bad weather hampered the rendezvous on April 3rd, which was not made until 13:20. Between the 3rd and the 5th of April, Task Force 57 took on fuel and stores. For this replenishment period there were two CVEs in the LSG,
SPEAKER with her 1840 CAP Hellcats for the LSG and
SLINGER which provided replacement aircraft and aircrews; she issued 22 replacement aircraft to the fleet carriers and recovered 2 ‘flyable duds'. The fleet repositioned overnight on the 4th to replenishment area MOSQUITO One and refuelling resumed at 06:30; a second Tanker group TU112.2.3 also arrived from Leyte bring the total to 5 Tankers on station. The Fleet disengaged at 19:30 for the night. Fuelling resumed at 06:30 on the 5th in better weather, and replenishment was complete by 19:30 when the Fleet disengaged and sailed for the operational area.
Replenishment period 4, April 8 - 9: At 06:00 on the 8th TF57 met the LSG in replenishment area COOTIE One. 1840 squadron again provided CAP for the LSG while
STRIKER provided replacement aircraft and aircrews.
STRIKER issued 13 replacement aircraft and recovered 4 flyable but unserviceable aircraft and provided one Avenger crew to 854 squadron. Replenishment was completed by 15:50 on the afternoon of the 9th and TF 57 left COOTIE One to return to Sakishima.
Replenishment period 5, April 14 - 15: At 05:30 on April 14th the LSG and the Fleet Carrier FORMIDABLE rendezvoused with TF 57 in replenishment area Cootie (1). The Tanker Group consisted of 5 oilers with
SPEAKER providing CAP aircraft over the replenishment area. The carrier FORMIDABLE, with destroyers KEMPENFELT and WESSEX were waiting and joined Task Force 57, relieving ILLUSTRIOUS which sailed for Leyte at 17:55 screened by URANIA and QUALITY. Replenishment continued on the 15th, but no replacement aircraft were available during this replenishment period;
SLINGER should have been on station but a serious propulsion defect meant she was order to Brisbane for repairs. FORMIDABLE was at full strength however, carrying 848 Squadron’s 18 Avengers along with 1841 and 1842 Squadrons - each with 18 Corsairs.
SPEAKER’s squadron had a second barrier crash on the 14th; Sub-Lt D. S. Creabs. RNVR in Hellcat JX770 missed all the wires and entered the barrier.
Replenishment period 6, April 18 - 19: During the 18th the fleet met the LSG, in area Mosquito,
SPEAKER again providing air cover for the 5 Tankers on station. Fuelling began at 06:30, no replacement aircraft were issued during this period, now were on station as no allowance for the extended strike period had been made. Fuelling ceased at dusk and the fleet withdrew for the night, 3 of the Tankers departed for Leyte. On the 19th TF 57 re-joined the remaining 2 Tankers to finish topping off. This second day in the replenishment area was also necessary in order to rest aircrew and for maintenance work on aircraft. The Fleet disengaged at 13:00 and set course to return to the operational area.
The LSG were order to sail for Leyte at dawn on April 21st, TF 57 would be returning to Fleet anchored in San Pedro Bay, the Philippines on completion of their final strike day to undertake an extended replenishment and repair damage.
Repairs and Replenishment at Leyte, April 21 – May 1: 32 days after sailing from Ulithi the Fleet anchored in San Pedro Bay, the Philippines at 12:45 on April 23rd close to the ships of the waiting Maintenance and support ships of the Fleet Train. Task Force 57 had spent 26 of these days on operations, and had completed 12 strike days. During this period 71 enemy aircraft were destroyed, 33 in the air and 38 on the ground; 52 were damaged, 2 in the air and 50 on the ground. TF57 lost 19 aircraft to enemy action, 2 to ‘friendly fire’ and at least 37 were put out of action through operational incidents. Allied casualties were 16 pilots, 13 aircrew.
At the end of this first period of replenishment at sea the logistic support group had ferried 56 spare aircraft carried in the replenishment CVEs;
SLINGER issued 22 replacements and recovered 2 flyable ‘duds’ non-flyable ‘duds’ were ditched overboard from the fleet carriers after their engines, and any salvageable equipment had been removed as there was no means to transfer them to the replenishment carriers whilst at sea.
STRIKER issued 21 airframes and received 17 flyable ‘duds’.
SPEAKER was to change roles for the next phase of ICEBERG, switching from CAP duty to replenishment carrier. A consequence of this change in tasking was that 1840 squadron was disbanded there on April 27th; the most experienced pilots and 70 maintenance personnel were transferred to 5 Naval Fighter Wing in INDOMITABLE were they were absorbed into 1839 squadron. The squadron aircraft and the least experienced pilots were transferred to the recently arrived HMS
RULER which was to take over CAP duty with 885 squadron.
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03 November 2021
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