April 1944 - October 1945
Formation and work-up
No. 1842 Squadron personnel
assembled at the Fleet Air Arm
Transit Camp Townhill, Dunfermline on July 1st 1943 for
passage to the USA. It officially formed in the United States at
Air Station Brunswick, Maine on April 1st 1944 as a single
seat fighter squadron under the command of Lt. Cdr (A) A. McD Garland RNVR. Initial equipment was 18 Corsair
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, and Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landing (ADDL) training.
U.S. Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine.
Night Flying and Carrier Deck Landings
The squadron moved to US Naval Auxiliary Airfield (USNAA) Bar Harbour on May 23rd for one week of day & night Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landing (ADDL) training, returning to Brunswick on the 31st. There were two flying incidents during this period; on the 25th Sub-Lt P. B. Workman RNVR in Corsair JS568 damaged his aircraft making a night landing, the machine bounced, swung to starboard and caused the tail lift and the prop struck the runway. Two days later Sub-Lt R. Wakeling RNVR in JS557 dipped his Starboard wing after landing causing damage to flaps and aileron hinge.
Beginning on June 1st the squadron pilots flew out to the training carrier USS CHARGER operating off the Maine coast to make their required number of landings to qualify as certified for carrier deck landing. On the final day of operations with the carrier there was a mid-air collision on the 7th, corsairs JT169 of 732 squadron at from Brunswick flown by Sub-Lt E. H. Portman and JS559 of 1942 squadron flown by Sub-Lt P. D. Thomson RNZNVR both sin into the sea 11 miles from Monhegan Island, approximately 2 miles off Pemaquid Point Maine killing both plots. Some pilots required more ADDLs and they would fly to USNAA Bar Harbour as required; Sub-Lt Workman in Corsair JS558 damaged his aircraft making a night landing on June 13th, this was almost a repeat of his previous incident the month before; his machine bounced, swung to port this time and caused the tail lift and the prop struck the runway.
Passage to the UK
On completion of working up at
USNAS Brunswick the squadron flew to
USNAS Norfolk on June 27th. 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 RAJAH. She was at Norfolk to embark a ferry load of airframes for delivery to the UK and this included the 18 Corsairs of 1842 and the 12 Avengers of 857 squadron plus their aircrews and personnel.
On the morning of June 29th, the 18 Corsairs and personnel of 1842 Naval Air Squadron, and 12 Avengers and personnel of 857 Naval Air Squadron, embarked in
RAJAH for ferrying to the UK. The aircraft were hoisted aboard from the quayside, having been taxied through the streets to the dock from
USNAS Norfolk. The squadron aircraft were stowed in the hangar in order to leave the flight deck clear for a ferry load of new U.S. built aircraft for delivery to the UK. Once loading was completed
RAJAH sailed for New York later that day. At New York she joined the east bound convoy TCU 30 on July 2nd; this was mainly a troop ship convoy with a few merchant vessels.
RAJAH arrived at Liverpool on July 12th where she unloaded stores and the aircraft of 1842 squadron at Gladstone dock, the aircraft were hoisted off the ship by crane and were towed through the streets to the RN Air Section at RAF Station Speke from where they flew to
RNAS Stretton the following day. At Stretton the 18 Mk.III aircraft were withdrawn and 18 Corsair Mk. II aircraft were issued before the squadron departed on the 21st for
RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland to continue work-up in readiness for joining the Fleet Carrier FORMIDABLE. While at Eglinton Sub-Lt W. D. Wheway was killed on August 2nd when his aircraft, JT603 ('S'), emerged from cloud and dived virticaally into the ground at Doangbrawer Farm, 1 mile west of the airfield.
No. 6 Naval Fighter Wing HMS FORMIDABLE
Already present on the station was
1841 squadron, which had arrived on the 20th, after operating with FORMIDABLE in Operation MASCOT. The two Corsair squadrons were to operate together from this point on, both embarking in FORMIDABLE on August 7th off Belfast. After a short flying training session, she arrived at Scapa on August 11th to prepare for Operation GOODWOOD. on August 14th
1841 and 1842 squadrons were designated the 6th Naval Fighter Wing, Lt-Cdr (A) R. L. Bigg-Wither DSC & Bar, C.O.
1841 squadron, was appointed as Wing leader. On reaching Scapa 1842 squadron disembarked to RNAS Hatston on the 14th; they re-embarked in FORMIDABLE on the 18th when the ship sailed for the operation.
C. August 1944: Corsair JT606 (’T’) about to begin its take-off run on FORMIDABLE, another 1842 aircraft (‘M’), wings folded, is being readied. On August 24th JT606 and its pilot Sub-Lt J. H. French RNVR, failed to return from the first strike of Operation Goodwood. © IWM A 25440
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. 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.
During strikes on the 24th
two squadron aircraft and pilots were lost and 1 damaged: Sub-Lt J. H. French RNVR in JT606 failed to return to the ship, believed killed by enemy action, and Sub-Lt E. W. Thornberry RNVR in JT470 ditched in Aiten Fjord, but was killed when the belly fuel tank exploded. Sub-Lt C. E. Butterworth RCNVR did return to the carrier but flew his damaged aircraft into the barrier on landing.
August 24th: Flight deck parties begin to roll back Corsair JT463 (’S’) flown by Sub-Lt C. E. Butterworth RCNVR, moments after the aircraft has been stopped by the
first crash barrier after landing, one propeller blade is severely bent as a result. © IWM A 25449
The final attack of Operation Goodwood was made on August 29th. The strike force comprised 26 Barracudas, 17 Corsairs (of which two were armed with 1,000-pound bombs), 10 Fireflies and seven 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. Corsairs from FORMIDABLE focused on strafing the destroyer escorts; the squadron lost another pilot during this strike, at t 17:25 Sub-Lt J. G. Walker RNVR was killed when his aircraft JT492 was hit by flack and crashed into Kaafjord.
FORMIDABLE FORMIDABLE to refit for operations with the Brutish pacific Fleet
FORMIDABLE arrived back at Scapa on September 2nd, and was released for Home Fleet duties. She sailed for Rosyth later the same day. Her two squadrons flew ashore to
RNAS Donibristle when She arrived there on the 3rd to enter
dry-dock. The two squadrons re-joined her on the 16th when she sailed to return to Scapa, together with the Avenger TBRs of 848 squadron which had flown up from
RNAS Lee-on-Solent to complete her air group. FORMIDABLE was nominated for service with British Pacific Fleet but would require a refit before joining. After refuelling at Scapa on the 16th she sailed for Gibraltar on the 17th where she was to enter a dockyard for a refit, during which extensive machinery repairs were carried out.
Two aircraft were lost while on passage; on the 19th Corsair JT474 Landed to starboard, its wing hit a gun director and the machine swung over the side and fell in the sea, the pilot, Sub-Lt M. G. R. Railton RNVR was safely rescued. The following day Sub-Lt W. M. Stradwidc was forced to ditch when Corsair JT585 suffered engine failure, he was rescued by the destroyer WRANGLER.
The refit would take four months and during this time 6 Wing was put ashore on September 21st to operate separate from
RNAS North Front. On October 15th part off the Wing departed overland for Colombo, Ceylon; no information is known about when they arrived or when they re-joined the main body of 6 Wing. At the start of November 9 aircraft from each squadron flew to
Egypt to operate there from November 3rd. The 1842
detachment returned to
North Front at the start of January and re-embarked in
FORMIDABLE on January 15th. During this period there were two flying incidents; On November 7th Sub-Lt C. E. Butterworth RCNVR in JT652 was forced to ditch during a Dive-bombing practice session when his engine failed, he was picked up by a rescue launch. Sub-Lt P. A. Clarke had near disaster when his aircraft, JT608 hit flock of birds while low flying, he landed safely. Both are believed to be operating from
FORMIDABLE began her post refit trials in the New Year, individual aircraft visiting ship for DLT; on January 2nd Sub-Lt Morten had a barrier crash in JT553, the same aircraft had another barrier crash on the 5th, this time the pilot was Sub-Lt R. H. Glading RNZNVR. On completion of her post-refit shakedown, 1842 squadron reembarked on January 15th. The following day she sailed for the Eastern Mediterranean to conduct exercises and further flying training off Alexandria.
1842 squadron lost 3 pilots on January 21st, two were killed in a mi-air collision when Sub-Lt M. G. R. Railton RNVR in JT595 flow into JT554 piloted by Lt E. D. Dunkley RNVR during an interception exercise off Alexandria; both baled out but Sub-Lt Railton’s parachute snagged on the aircraft tail and Lt Dunkley’s failed to open. The squadron senior pilot, Lt E. S. A. Chipperfield RNVR was killed landing on Formidable after flying from RNAS Dekhelia in JT703 ('P'), the aircraft struck the rounddown knocking off the undercarriage legs, then went over the side in flames into the sea. The remaining aircraft of 6 Wing re-embarked from
RNAS Dekhelia on January 27th and the ship sailed for the Suez Canal bound for Ceylon. She called at Aden on February 3rd, reaching Ceylon on the 7th.
On arrival off the west coast of Ceylon on February 7th the Corsairs of both
1841 and 1842 were flown ashore to
RNAS Puttalam, the whole Wing arriving the on the 8th. While ashore the Mk.II aircraft were to be replaced with Mk.IV models;
these arrived on the station in several batches from RNAMY Coimbatore, India. The first eight arrived on the 10th the full 18 having been received before the squadron re-joined the ship on February 22nd.
After crossing the equator on February 28th, FORMIDABLE arrived at Freemantle, Australia on March 3rd, sailing the next day for Sydney, arriving there on March 10th. On March 24th she sailed for Leyte escorted by destroyers URCHIN and URSA, conducting intensive flying training and exercises on passage.
March 10th 1945: HMS FORMIDABLE with corsairs parked on the aft end of the flight deck being moved into her berth in Woolloomooloo Bay, Sydney.
Operation ICEBERG phase one
The British Pacific Fleet, had left Sydney on February 28th 1945 and joined Admiral Raymond Spruance's United States Fifth Fleet on 15 March, being redesignated Task Force 57 (TF 57) on this date. They began offensive operations on March 27th as part of operation ICEBERG, the invasion of Okinawa. The British Carrier Force was tasked with denying the Japanese use of airfields on two Islands in the Sakishima-Gunto group, group of islands located at the southernmost end of the Japanese Archipelago, located between the southern border of the East China Sea and north western border of the Philippine Sea. TF 57 was to conduct a series of 12 strike days in rotating cycles of 2 days of strikes and 2 – 3 days of replenishment; when TF 57 stood down to replenish the strike task was taken over by elements of US TF 58 and later TF 52.
FORMIDABLE arrived at San Pedro bay, Leyte Gulf on April 4th but her onward sailing to join TF 57 was to be delayed; she had developed cracks in the bulkhead carrying the stern tube of her centre propellor shaft while on passage from Australia to the operational area. This resulted in flooding of the stern tube compartment. Underwater repair work was done by the ship's own divers, and repairs to the bulkhead were carried out by the Heavy Repair Ship
ARTIFEX. Her repairs complete, she sailed from Leyte escorted by destroyer KEMPENFELT and WESSEX to rendezvous with TF 37 during their next replenishment period.
BPF Replenishment period 5, April 14 - 15: At 05:30 on April 14th the Logistic Support Group (LSG) and FORMIDABLE rendezvoused with TF 57 in replenishment area Cootie (1) at 21° 12' N 128° 44'. E. The Tanker Group consisted of ARNDALE, AASE MAERSK, CEDARDALE, SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO and WAVE KING. The escort carrier
SPEAKER provided CAP (Combat air Patrol) aircraft over the replenishment area. Normally during these replenishment periods, the Fleet Carriers would be issued replacement aircraft from replenishment escort carriers however on this occasion none were available for issue so FORMIDABLE being at full strength was a welcome addition.
FORMIDABLE was on station in time to participate in the final stages of phase one of Operation ICEBERG with the Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (Flag 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron (1ACS), 857 Avenger, 1839 & 1844 Hellcat), INDEFATIGABLE 820 Avenger, 1770 Firefly, 887 & 894 Seafire) and VICTORIOUS (849 Avenger, 1834 & 1836 Corsair) relieving ILLUSTRIOUS (854 Avenger, 1830 & 1833 Corsair) which sailed at 17:55 for Leyte for emergency battle damage repairs before returning to Sydney to enter a dockyard. At dusk the Fleet detached from the Tanker Group for the night. Replenishment continued on the 15th and was completed by 14:00 when the Fleet detached and set course for the operational area.
Plan showing Miyako Jima and Ishigaki Jima, the two largest islands in the Sakishima Gunto group of islands, the targets for the British Pacific Fleet during Operation ICEBERG. There were 3 airfields on each island: Nobara, Hirara & Sukama on Miyako Jima and Ishigaki, Miyara & Hegina on Ishigaki Jima.
ICEBERG 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. The Fleet CAP was flown off and the first strike took off at 06:30 to attack airfields on Ishigaki Island. 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 airfields on Miyako Island; this attack, together with another flown off at 15:33, left all Miyako airfields out of action. Rocket-carrying Fireflies straffed a radar station at Miyako, and ground installations, barracks, and grounded aircraft generally were straffed. There was no airborne opposition over the targets and flak was moderate. The success in subduing the enemy airfields showed, only two enemy aircraft were destroyed; TF 57 lost 3; an Avenger from 857 squadron, a Hellcat from 1844 squadron and a Corsair of 1842 squadron. Lt. Cdr (A) A. McD Garland, the squadron Commanding Officer was flying in Corsair KD630 ('129/X') when he was hit by light flak during a strafmg attack on buildings on Ishigaki airfield, and crashed in the River Kio, Lee Chu Islands.
April 17th; the CAP was flown off at 06:00, at position 23° 34’ N, 125° 38’ E, the first strike taking off at 06:30. Efforts had been made to fill in the runway craters at Miyako but none at Ishigaki so the strike was sent to Miyako. Of the strikes sent to Miyako, the first two left all airfields unserviceable and the third attacked municipal buildings and barracks. TCAPS (Target Combat Air Patrols) were maintained over both islands, but reported no activity on any airfields, all of which remained unserviceable at the end of the day. No operational aircraft could be found on the ground. The final days tally was 3 A6M ‘Zeke’ aircraft destroyed in combat - 2 by Corsairs of 1834 Squadron and 1 by a Hellcat from 1844 Squadron, several small ships damaged. TF 57 lost 1 Avenger from 848 squadron FORMIDABLE. Sub-Lt D. Morten RNVR of 1842 squadron in KD392 suffered hydraulic failure and made a forced landing on VICTORIOUS. The fleet withdrew at 19:45 to proceed overnight to replenishment area Mosquito (1).
Replenishment period 6, April 18 - 19: The fleet began refuelling at 06:30 from the Tanker Group consisted of ARNDALE, AASE MAERSK, DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO and WAVE MONARCH,
SPEAKER again providing CAP fighters. Mails, stores and correspondence were transferred, but no replacement aircraft were issued during this period. Fuelling had been completed by dusk when he force disengaged for the night. They rendezvoused with a smaller Tanker Group at 07:30 to allow destroyers to top off and fuelling was completed by 13:00 when TF 57 set course for Sakishima.
ICEBERG strike series 6, April 20: TF 57 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, 1 Avenger from 848 Squadron FORMIDABLE was shot down, landed in the sea 10 miles south of Ishigaki island, the crew was rescued 27 hours later. At 19:10 the Fleet, set course for Leyte to meet the Fleet Maintenance Group for repairs and a replenishment period.
Repairs and Replenishment at Leyte, April 23 – May 1:
32 days after sailing from Ulithi the Fleet anchored in San Pedro Bay, the Philippines at 12:45 on April 23rd close to the ships of the waiting Fleet Train. Task Force 57 had spent 26 of these days on operations, and had completed 12 strike days. During this period 71 enemy aircraft were destroyed, 33 in the air and 38 on the ground; 52 were damaged, 2 in the air and 50 on the ground. TF 57 lost 19 aircraft to enemy action, 2 to ‘friendly and at least 37 were put out of action through operational incidents. Allied casualties were 16 pilots, 13 aircrew.
Damage repair and defect rectification was a priority; the bomb damage to INDEFATIGABLE 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
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: The Fleet refuelled from the Tanker Group CEDARDALE, SAN ADOLPHO, and SAN AMBROSIO, escorted by AVON, CRANE and WHIMBREL, in Area Mosquito (1) 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. Bomber strikes were flown off at 06:05 for Miyako and at 08:15 for Ishigaki. 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 Miyara airfield was found serviceable and left well cratered. At 10:00 the force split, the bombardment force detaching to take up position for the upcoming shoot. Conditions for bombardment appeared good and it was hoped that artillery fire would be effective in taking out A.A. batteries around the airfields. The bombardment commenced at mid-day, EURYALUS and BLACK PRINCE carried out a simultaneous "air burst" shoot on the A.A. defence area of Nobara airfield. KING GEORGE V and HOWE bombarded Hirara airfield and the A.A. defence area to the north of the airfield, on completion of the "air burst" shoot SWIFTSURE and GAMBIA bombarded Nobara airfield, and UGANDA Sukama air strip.
Two Corsairs from 1842 were tasked with Bombardment spotting and aerial photography for the SWIFTSURE and GAMBIA shot; Lt -Cdr D. G. Parker DSC RNVR, Squadron C.O. was the spotter while Lt. London RNVR flew a photo recon Corsair fitted with F.24 vertical and oblique cameras, they launched at 11:29. 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.
At about 11:00, the first Kamikaze attack began; three small groups of bogeys were detected to the westward, and were soon followed up by a fourth, in all 16 -to 20 enemy aircraft, some acting as decoys. Fighters engaged one group working round to the southward, but one Kamikaze group penetrated to the carriers and was first detected when at 11:31 a Zeke was seen diving from a great height on to FORMIDABLE. The Kamikaze crashed into the flight deck near-the island; She was seriously damaged, casualties were 8 killed and 47 wounded; 1 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. There was to be further
operational flying from FORMIDABLE that day. Aircraft already
in the air, total 18 Corsairs, landed on INDEFATIGABLE and
VICTORIOUS, all but 4 returned later in the day after
temporary repairs had been made to the Flight Deck and
HMS FORMIDABLE after being hit by a Kamikaze
suicider, a fire marks the spot where it impacted
the flight deck forward of the island.
At 11:42 INDOMITABLE was narrowly missed by another Zeke which dived steeply on her, the close-range weapons of the carrier and her escort QUALITY caused the aircraft to burst into flames and it crashed into the sea about 10 yards off the starboard bow of the ship. No damage or casualties were sustained in either of the last two attacks. Her damage control and repair teams had her patched up enough that she was able to land on 13 of her Corsairs by 17:00. 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. TF 57 losses totalled 15, in combat 1 Avenger from 857 Squadron INDOMITABLE. Fourteen were lost due to Kamikaze attack, 10 Avengers and 1 Corsair in FORMIDABLE, 1 Seafire from 894 squadron INDEFATIGABLE, 1 Hellcat from 1844 squadron INDOMITABLE and 1 Avenger from 848 squadron FORMIDABLE.
On May 5th the fleet CAP fighters were launched at 05:00 in position 23° 10’ N, 125° 29’ E, the 6 Wing Corsairs left in ILLUSTRIOUS were launched to conduct a CAP sortie before returning to FORMIDABLE. During this patrol at 09:20, Sub-Lt I. F. Stirling RNVR (1842) and Lt P. A. Clarke RNVR (1841) shot down an A6M at 30,000 feet which broke up in the air, 80 miles from the fleet and 10 miles east of Ishigaki. The now usual round of runway cratering strikes were carried out. The previous day’s bombardment appeared to have been successful as the strike groups reported that no flak at all was encountered over Miyako. Three operational aircraft were found on the ground and destroyed, and a petrol dump was left blazing. The day was quiet compared to the previous day. Only 1 enemy aircraft was destroyed in combat, with 3, confirmed and 2 probably destroyed on the ground. TF 57 lost 3 aircraft, 1 Corsair from 1834 Squadron VICTORIOUS and 2 Seafires from
887 squadron INDEFATIGABLE. The Fleet withdrew at 19:05 and proceeded to replenishment area Cootie.
Replenishment period 8, May 6 - 7: TF 57 met up with the LSG at 06:30, on station were
RULER (885 CAP & ASP (anti-submarine Patrol),
STRIKER (Replenishment), CRANE, NAPIER, - NORMAN, NEPAL, AVON, WHIMBREL, PHEASANT, and
Tamkers WAVE KING, WAVE MONARCH, SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO, and CEDARDALE. US Task Group 52.1 covered Sakishima. During the day STRIKER transferred 15 replacement aircraft to the Fleet and embarked 34 casualties from FORMIDABLE injured by Kamikaze attack on May 4th;
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 sailed for Leyte at 19:15 in company with KEMPENFELT. At 18:45 the Fleet detached from the Tanker Group for the night. On May 7th replenishment resumed at 06:15. 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.
Hirara airfield on Miyako Jima, its runways
receiving their daily bombing strikes which leave
them cratered and unserviceable.
ICEBERG strike series 8, May 8 -9: TF 57 relieved US Task Group 52.1 at 05:15 and prepared for a third 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; the fighters sent to operate CAPs over Miyako and Ishigaki reported poor visibility and all operations for the day were cancelled. News of Victory in Europe reached the Fleet.
May 9th brought better weather; CAPs were flown off at 05:45 in position 22° 06’ N, 126° 00’ E and the weather over the targets was reported as satisfactory but all runways sat Hirara were were serviceable. Four bomber strikes were flown off during the day, two to each island, the first being launched at 08:30 in position 23° 40’ N, 125° 34’ E. All runways were re-cratered, a direct hit was scored on one aircraft on the ground at Miyako. A motor transport park at Ishigaki was attacked, three vehicles being destroyed. Low flying fighters discovered a Val hidden in a cave: Firing through the entrance to the cave they destroyed the enemy in flames.
The repairs to FORMIDABLEs fight deck were good enough to contuse flight operations but landing times were slower due to the forward lift needing to be in the raised position due to the No. 2 barrier being a temporary device with a 15% chance of halting any machine that got past the first.
At 11:45 the Fleet was sighted by a bogey which, approached within 30 miles, CAP fighters drove it off but were unable to catch it. At 16:45 more bogeys were detected coming in fast and very low 22 miles to the westward, Four Seafires intercepted at 15 miles, but allowed themselves to be all decoyed away by one aircraft which they shot down. Meanwhile four other enemy planes evaded another division of Seafires, and after climbing to about 3,000 feet penetrated to the Fleet. This time VICTORIOUS was to their target. From 16:50 onwards the Fleet was radically manoeuvred by emergency turns at 22 knots. One minute after such a turn of 60° to starboard was executed, a Kamikaze made a 10° angle dive onto VICTORIOUS from her. starboard quarter. Despite being hit by close range weapons it 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 and rendered one 4.5 in. gun unserviceable, and damaged one lift hoisting motor. Another Kamikaze made a shallow power glide at 16:56 from astern on VICTORIOUS; again, it managed to survive the barrage of gunfire but on fire, it hit the flight deck a glancing blow aft, and burning furiously passed over, the side. Damage from this attack 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 3 killed, 4 seriously injured, and 15 wounded.
At 16:57 a third Kamikaze began to line up on VICTORIOUS but then shifted target to the Battleship HOWE further ahead, and approached her from the starboard quarter in a long shallow dive. This time the attacker was hit at a more reasonable range, and crashed in flames 100 yards beyond HOWE after passing over her quarterdeck. 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. 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. The total damaged was 4 Avengers and 14 Corsairs, of which 3 Avengers and 7 Corsairs. were flyable duds. Casualties were fortunately light with 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.
The Carriers of TF 57 had been badly mauled and after this last attack FORMIDABLE could operate, but had only 4 bombers and 11 fighters serviceable, and also had two pom-pom mountings o of action. VICTORIOUS could operate a few aircraft at a time, but the damage to the lift seriously reduced her speed of handling. TF 57 withdrew from the operational area at 19:50 for passage area Cootie (1) to fuel, sort out and make good the damage, etc. and return to strike on the I2th/i3th.
During the day 8 enemy aircraft had been destroyed, 2 on the ground, 3 by suicide, 2 by gunfire and 1 by fighters. Also, 1 on the ground was probably destroyed and 1 probably damaged. TF 57 losses were: in combat 1 Corsair; by bomb damage 10 Corsairs destroyed, 7 Corsairs, 1 Avenger damaged probably beyond repair.
Replenishment period 9, May 10 - 11: TF 57 met and formed on the Tanker Group at 06:10 in position Cootie (1). This consisting of H.M. Ships SPEAKER (replenishment),
RULER (CAP & ASP), NEPAL, CRANE, PHEASANT, WHYALLA, BALLARAT, WOODCOCK, WEASEL (Tug) and Tankers ARNDALE, AASE MAERSK, DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO. The usual fuelling, exchange of mail and stores, and the replenishment of aircraft continued throughout the day; 7 Corsair flyable duds, all suffering from salt water contamination, were received by SPEAKER from FORMIDABLE and 7 replacements were issued; the pilots from FORMIDABLE collected replacements and returned to the carrier. 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. Replenishment resumed at 06:40 on May 11th and all fuelling and transfer of stores, aircraft, and personnel was completed in time for the Fleet to disengage at 16:40 and take departure for the operations area.
ICEBERG strike series 9, May 12 - 13: at 05:20 four destroyers took station one close astern of each carrier, also despatched were two cruiser radar pickets, SWIFTSURE with destroyer KEMPENFELT, and UGANDA with destroyer WESSEX, were stationed 12 miles out at 315° and 225° respectively from the Fleet centre. These deployments were part of new tactic to counter the threat from low flying Kamikaze aircraft.
In overcast weather, the Fleet and island CAPS and the first bomber strike were flown off at 05:40 in position 23° 40’ N, 126° 51’ E, twelve minutes before sunrise. Four bomber strikes were flown off during the day. One attacked Ishigaki and three Miyako; a second strike on Ishigaki had been planned but had to be cancelled owing to weather conditions. At Ishigaki, Miyara and Ishigaki runways, which were found to be serviceable, were again put out of action and A.A. and dispersal areas were straffed. No new aircraft nor activity were found. The squadron leader of 1844 Squadron was killed when his Hellcat was hit by A.A. fire while bombing A.A. positions.
At Miyako, one runway at Hirara and both at Nobara were found to be serviceable. By the end of the first strike this position was reversed, and subsequent strikes attacked A.A. positions and installations. A large oil fire was started, a direct hit made on a 4 in. A.A. Battery, Hirara Barracks was hit, and 3 aircraft found on the ground were probably damaged.
No enemy aircraft were airborne in the vicinity of the Fleet or islands during the day. At 19:15 the radar pickets re-joined. At 19:30 the dusk CAP was landed on and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. Three enemy aircraft were probably damaged on the ground and a 200 ton coaster damaged. TF 57 suffered 5 losses; in combat 1 Hellcat from 1844 INDOMITABLE, 1 Avenger from 849 squadron VICTORIOUS; operationally 1 Avenger, 1 Corsair, 1 Seafire.
Returning to the flying off position on May 13th radar pickets and counter-Kamikaze destroyers were stationed, and at 05:40 Fleet and Islands CAPS were flown off in position 24° 20’ N, 126° 55’ E. 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. Four bomber strikes were flown during the day, three to Miyako and one to Ishigaki. At Miyako all runways were left unserviceable, a, barracks was straffed, 8 barges were hit, and 3 major oil fires started. A new revetted dispersal area was discovered at Hirara and its position was reported, to the Commander 5th Fleet. At Ishigaki camouflaged buildings and storage dumps were hit, as were two radio stations one of which was left in flames.
Again, there was no enemy air activity near the Fleet or islands. At 19:20 the dusk CAP was landed on and the Fleet withdrew to fuel in area Cootie. No enemy aircraft had been sighted during the day, 9 camouflaged barges and a few small craft were damaged. TF 57 loss: operationally 1 Seafire.
Replenishment period 10, May 14 - 15: TF 57 met the Tanker Group at 06:30,
RULER (885 CAP & ASP), CRANE, WOODCOCK, PHEASANT, WEASEL and Tankers ARNDALE and DINGLEDALE in area Cootie. 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.
STRIKER transferred 14 replacement aircraft and recovered 1 flyable dud. At 19:10 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night. A further 6 aircraft were transferred and one flyable dud received by
STRIKER during the second day of replenishment on the 15th. At 17:05 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group and departed for the operations area.
ICEBERG strike series 10, May 16 - 17: Radar pickets and counter-Kamikaze destroyers were stationed, and at 05:40 in position 23° 40’ N, 126° 51’ E, Fleet and Islands CAPS and the first bomber strike for Miyako were flown off. Five bomber strikes were sent to the islands during the day, three to Miyako and two to Ishigaki. As the result of these and the efforts of the CAPS, all runways were made unserviceable; four new aircraft which appeared operational were straffed but did not bum, .3 others were damaged; 10 small craft of various classes were damaged, and four of them left-in a sinking condition; 4 lorry loads of Japanese troops were destroyed; a large explosion was caused in Ohama town; 5 direct hits with Semi-Armour Piercing (S.A.P.) bombs were made on a large cave shelter.
One Avenger from 848 squadron ditched taking- off from FORMIDABLE, the destroyer QUALITY rescued the crew one of whom was injured. A Corsair from VICTORIOUS developed engine trouble at 20,000 feet and was forced to ditch near the Fleet, TENACIOUS rescued the pilot. At 17:35 a second Corsair from VICTORIOUS ditched 3 miles from Miyako, the pilot was rescued by the Lifeguard submarine U.S.S. BLUEFISH. The dusk CAP landed on at 19:35 and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night.
No enemy were airborne in the vicinity during the day but seven enemy aircraft were damaged on the ground. 2 suicide type boats were sunk, 2 small craft were probably sunk, and a large number of assorted types of barge and small craft were damaged, several-being left in flames. TF 57 losses were: in combat 1 Corsair from 1836 VICTORIOUS; operationally 2 Corsairs, 1 Avenger, 1 Seafire.
On returning to the Islands on May 17th radar pickets and counter-Kamikaze destroyers were stationed, and at 05:40 in approximate position 23°40' N 126°00' E, Fleet and Islands CAPS were launched from a position 85 miles from Miyako. The day broke with very light winds of only one or two knots which was to make for a verry challenging flying programme. 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 crash barriers on VICTORIOUS caused by a serious deck crash in the early mornings, and the very light winds; the strain of continuous operations without Boiler cleaning was having an impact on the carriers and achieving enough wind speed over the deck was problematic. Despite these problems 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.
VICTORIOUS was pit out of action at 07: 42 when an 1836 Squadron Corsair made an emergency landing without flaps after flak damaged the hydraulics; the aircraft removed 2 arrester wires, crashed through both barriers, burst into flames and passed over the side. On its way it seriously damaged 2 Corsairs and 1 Avenger in the deck park. One officer and one rating were mortally injured, 2 ratings seriously injured and two others slightly hurt. Temporary repairs and 2 jury rigged barriers were competed by Noon but by 14:00 both had been demolished by deck crashes and as a result 20 of her aircraft had to be accommodated on the other carriers. By 17:15 VICTORIOUS had once again rigged jury barriers and was able to accept some of her aircraft from other carriers. CAPS were maintained until 1915, when radar pickets were recalled, and the- Fleet withdrew to area Cootie to fuel. No enemy aircraft were airborne in the vicinity during the day nor presented as targets on the ground. Many barges and small craft damaged and several left burning. TF 57 losses: in combat 1 Corsair; operationally 1 Hellcat, 1 Corsair, 1 Avenger, 1 Seafire.
Replenishment period 11, May 18 - 19: TF 57 met with the LSG at 05:45 May 18th in area Cootie, present were
RULER (CAP & ASP),
CHASER (Replenishment), CRANE, GRENVILLE, NORMAN, WHIMBREL, BENDIGO, PARRETT, WEASEL and Tankers SAN AMBROSIO, SAN ADOLPHO, and CEDARDALE.
At 11:03 fire broke out FORMIDABLE; the guns of Corsair JT650 ('125/X') of
1841 squadron were accidentally fired in the hangar, the rounds striking an Avenger which exploded. The hangar fire curtains were still out of service due to earlier Kamikaze attacks. It was extinguished by drenching the hangar with sea water, at a cost of 7 Avengers and 21 Corsairs unserviceable in varying conditions from complete write offs to flyable duds. By the evening the Commanding Officer reported that he considered his ship capable of operating with jury lighting in the hangar. Arrangements were therefore made to replace her damaged aircraft as far as possible, and for the ship to continue operations at any rate for the next strike period.
There was no way y to recoup the huge number of aircraft taken out of service by the fire from stocks in
CHASER; the average replenishment load for ICEBERG Two was 3 Seafires, 1 Avenger, 10 Corsairs, 7 Hellcat, and 1 Firefly.
CHASER transferred 3 Seafires, 2 Hellcats, 1 Firefly, 2 Avengers and 1 Corsair to the carriers.
The Tanker Group relocated to
area Cootie (1) overnight to rendezvous with the Ammunition Carrier ROBERT MAERSK the following morning. The carriers embarked bombs throughout the day. Continuous rain and low visibility in the afternoon prevented flying and seriously upset the numbers of replenishment aircraft to be flown in to FORMIDABLE and the flyable duds which were to be flown from her to
CHASER; she received only recovered 2 flyable duds, and issued 3 Avengers and 1 Firefly. At 19:30-the Fleet took departure for the. operations area.
ICEBERG strike series 11, May 20 - 21: on arriving in the operational area weather conditions not favourable, with low cloud and rain. At 05:15 the Fleet ran into dense fog approaching the flying off position at 23° 39’ N, 126° 40’ E; at 05:24 the destroyer QUILLIAM, endeavouring to take up station astern of INDOMITABLE to provide additional A.A fire against Kamikaze attacks, collided with her. Serious damage to the bow of QUILLIAM but only superficial above water damage was caused to the carrier. QUILLIAM was eventually taken in toe by the tug WEASEL for the long tow to Leyte. It was not until 07:45 that the weather had improved enough that CAPS and the first strike could be flown off. Although 4 bomber strikes were planned, weather conditions throughout the day made only one strike possible and seriously hampered its effectiveness. Strike Able, after only finding the island with great difficulty bombed Hirara town in Miyako through a clear patch of cloud, while' Fireflies rocketed ground installations. Strikes Baker, and Charlie had to be cancelled for weather; Strike Dog took off at 15:30 in an attempt to complete the dusk attack on Ishigaki. The weather however was so bad that the strike was unable to get through to the island and had to be brought back to the Fleet.
At 10:00 an 1836 squadron Corsair from VICTORIOUS, heavily hit by flak, ditched returning from CAP duty killing the pilot. At 15:29 Corsair KD342 (' 127/X') of
1841 Squadron suffered engine failure on take-off from FORMIDABLE and ditched near the ship, the pilot, Sub-Lt C. O. Hartshorn RNZNVR was rescued by QUALITY. At 18:45 the radar pickets were recalled and by 19:00 all CAPS had landed on; the Fleet then withdrew to the southward for the night. No enemy aircraft were destroyed or damagedl. TF 57 losses were, in combat 1 Corsair; operationally 1 Corsair; 1 Hellcat, 1 Seafire.
On the morning of May 21st, the first launch had been planned for 05:40 in approximate position 23°40' N 126°00' E, but the weather at dawn was similar to the previous day, but 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, based on their reports of improving conditions the first strike for Miyako was flown off at 06:55.
Five bomber strikes were sent in during the day, three to Miyako and two to Ishigaki. The second Miyako strike was flown off at 12:10 with a third and 16:10. Nobara and Hirara. Runways were well plastered with bombs, 2 fires started in the warehouse area of Hirara town, and a radio weather station was hit, a tented camp was straffed. The first Ishigaki strikes took off at 08:55, the second at 14:40. Both runways at Ishigaki field were left unserviceable and Miyara airfield was hit. Varying low cloud made bombing difficult at both islands.
At 14:23 a high snooper was detected approaching the Fleet from the westward. The enemy, a ‘Myrt’ was intercepted at 14:42 by CAP Hellcats, 36 miles to the south westward at 26,000 feet: it was shot down 4 minutes later by Lt Atkinson and his flight. At 19:30 the dusk CAP were landed on and the Fleet withdrew to area Cootie to refuel. One airborne enemy aircraft was shot down. Several barges were damaged. TF 57 lost 3 aircraft, all operationally, 1 Avenger and 2 Seafires.
Replenishment period 12, May 22 - 23: On the morning of May 22nd TF 57 net with the LSG for the last full replenishment period of the ICEBERG operations, two replenishment carriers were on station,
SPEAKER, During the day
CHASER transferred 10 aircraft to the Fleet,
SPEAKER issued 1 Avenger to 849 squadron on VICTORIOUS. At 18:00
on the 22nd FORMIDABLE was detached to proceed to Manus and then onward to Sydney to expedite repair of her battle damage. She was escorted by KEMPENFELT and WHIRLWIND, both of whom were due for refit.
TF 57 was to carry out two more strike days on the 24th & 25th before withdrawing to return to Australia. On May 27th 1945, while on passage to Manus on completion of ICEBERG operations, the British Pacific Fleet was redesignated Task Force 37 when it transferred from the US Fifth Fleet.to operate as part of Admiral William Halsey's United States Third Fleet. TF 37 arrived at Manus on May 30th and departed for Sydney the following day.
Repairs and Replenishment in Australia, June 1945
HMS FORMIDABLE arrived at Sydney on May 31st, her squadrons were put ashore to
RNAS Jervis Bay
to regroup and receive replacement aircraft. The carrier was immediately taken inland by specialist ship repair ratings that had arrived from the UK on May 23rd to take over the dockyard at Garden Island which was loaned to the Admiralty, including the new the new Captain Cook Dry Dock; this eventually became
HMS WOOLLOOMOOLOO. They were assisted by workers from the Cockatoo Island Dock yard. Repairs were made to Boilers, machinery and electrical systems – particularly in the hangar, replacing flight deck plating and fabricating new crash barriers. On emerging from the dockyard, she was to replace INDOMITABLE as the Flagship 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron and additional accommodation for Admiral Vian and his staff was created.
FORMIDABLE put to sea on June 22nd and her squadrons were re-embarked for post refit shakedown. Both 1941 and 1842 squadrons were now back to full strength with 18 aircraft each and 848 with 12 Avenger IIS. Also joining them was a detachment of 6 Hellcats from
1844 squadron; 4 Hellcat IIs for Dawn and Dusk CAPs, and 2 Hellcat PR.IIs to continue their Strategic reconnaissance sorties, first implemented with great success on May 4th.
After nearly a month in port making repairs and storing, he ships of the BPF (now TF 37), and elements of the Fleet Train (TF 112), sailed from Sydney on June 28th to return to Manus. Also, on this date 6 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). FORMIDABLE was allocated No. 2 CAG which comprised
1841, 1842 and 848 squadrons, under the leadership of Lt-Col P. P. Nelson-Gracie RM.
Operations against the Japanese mainland: July - August 1945
TF 37 arrived at Manus on July 4th and after refuelling sailed from Manus for the forward area on July 6th. They met the Tanker Group DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO, and WAVE EMPEROR, escorted by USK and BARLE on the 13th to top off their fuel reserves. Meanwhile the Replenishment CVEs
ARBITER, escorted by NIZAM, NAPIER and LAUNCESTON had sailed the 9th for the new replenishment area, codenamed BRITISH TIZZY, off the coast of Japan. TF 37 rendezvoused with US Navy's Fast Carrier Force TF 38 on July 16th to begin joint operations against the Japanese mainland.
Corsair KD244 of 1842 Sqn ('135/X’) pictured on the flight deck of the USS SHANGRI-LA during operations. This machine was issued to the squadron as a replacement airframe by RULER on July 20th, it crashed on returning to FORMIDABLE hours after this picture was taken on July 24th 1945, the pilot, Sub-Lt P. G. Duke of 1841 squadron landed to port and crashed into the ship’s port crane.
Replenishment period 14: July 13th: TF 37, now operating only 3 Fleet
Carriers, FORMIDABLE (Flag AC1, 2nd CAG 848 Avenger, 1841 & 1842 Corsair) IMPLACABLE (8th CAG, 828 Avenger, 1771 Firefly, 801 &b 806 Seafire) and VICTORIOUS (1st CAG, 849 Avenger, 1834 & 1836 Corsair, 2 ASR Walrus) met the Tanker Group DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO, and WAVE EMPEROR, escorted by USK and BARLE on the 13th to top off their fuel reserves. INDEFATIGABLE had been delayed leaving Sidney and would not join until July 20th. in time to sail with the fleet. Meanwhile the Replenishment CVEs STRIKER and ARBITER, escorted by NIZAM, NAPIER and LAUNCESTON had sailed the 9th for the new replenishment area, codenamed BRITISH TIZZY, off the coast of Japan.
Mainland Japan strike series 1, July 17 - 19: TF 37 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.
FORMIDABLE began operations with 35 Corsairs, 11 Avengers and 6 Hellcats serviceable. She launched 16 Corsairs for Strike 1, attacks on airfields at Matsushima and Sendai, in northern Honshu and Hasuda just north of Tokyo, each armed with two 500 lb bombs. Five aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and 3 damaged, hangars and airfield buildings were hit. IMPLACABLE launched Strike 2, a Ramrod of 7 Fireflies, each armed with 28 60 lb Rockets; they destroyed one aircraft on the ground, and attacked Radar and railway installations at Matsushima and Hasuda. Strike 3, of 12 Seafires from IMPLACABLE, and Strike 4, of 16 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS launched at 06:209 were both aborted due to bad weather on arrival over the target area. At 08:50 Strikes 5 & 6 launched; 5 was another Ramrod strike of 10 Corsairs was launched by FORMIDABLE to attack Niigata airfield, each armed with one 500 lb bomb. Two aircraft were destroyed, 2 damaged, Hangars and airfield buildings were hit. The sixth and final strike of the day was from VICTORIOUS and involved 12 Corsairs attacking Niigata airfield, one aircraft was destroyed on the ground, and 5 damaged.
By the end of the day’s operations FORMIDABLE’s 2 CAG had lost 4 aircraft, three were combat losses, and one ditched. At 07:00 Sub-Lt P. F. Gunn RNVR (1842 sqn) had to ditch near the cattier after his aircraft was badly shot up over Japan, he was safely rescued by the USS JOHN ROGERS. Lt J. Ross RNVR (1842) ditched after receiving damage during a Ramrod on Matsushima airfield but was safely rescued. Sub-Lt M. J. Connolly RNVR (1841) ditched and was reduced, injured, by a destroyer. A fourth aircraft was lost when the aircraft, corsair ('I 12/X'), flown by Sub-Lt C. R. Cartledge RNVR (1842) cartwheeled into the sea on take-off, he was picked up by a destroyer. Three other aircraft were damaged; Sub-Lt W. T. R. Stradwick RNVR (1842) while landing on caught the last wire and entered the barrier. Sub-Lt E.H. Humphries RNVR (1841) also caught the last wire and entered the barrier. Sub-Lt I. A. Middleton RNVR )1842) had a near disaster when his prop struck the sea, he managed to recover and land back on the ship. On withdrawing for the night TF 37 had lost 3 Corsairs to enemy action, but achieved 9 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground and 11 damaged. 1 Junk sunk.
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 began operations with 31 Corsairs, 11 Avengers and 6 Hellcats serviceable and again 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.
FORMIDABLE lost 2 corsairs to emery action, both pilots missing., presumed killed; Lt. W. B. Asbridge RCNVR (1841) was killed when his aircraft KD723 (' 133/X' of 1842 Sqn) was hit in the belly tank which caught fire during the attack on Mobara airfield, at Tokyo, the aircraft crashed, exploded on impact. Sub-Lt W. T. R. Stradwick
RNVR (1842) was killed when his aircraft KD334 ('126/X' of
1841 Sqn), was shot down during the strike on Katori airfield. On withdrawing for the night TF 37 had lost 2 Corsairs, but achieved 12 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground and 18 damaged. Several Junks and airfield buildings 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 these were 4 Hellcats of 1844 squadron embarked in FORMIDABLE specifically for this task, they landed on an hour later and the fleet withdrew for the night.
On the morning of the 19th bad weather was still a problem, a dawn CAP was launched (again 4 Hellcats from FORMIDABLE) at 04:15 but had returned by 05:28. Conditions ruled out any flying operations and TF 37 detached from the US TF 38 to proceed to the replenishment area at 31°20’ N 150° 31 E. On withdrawing TF 37 aircraft had flown 112 sorties and lost 5 Corsairs, dropped 183 x 500 Lb bombs and fired 56, x 60 lb rocket. 21 aircraft destroyed on the ground; 27 aircraft damaged on the ground.
Replenishment period 15, July 20 - 23: On the morning of of July 20th TF 37 rendezvoused with the LSG and a Tanker Group which comprised of SAN AMBROSIA, SAN ADOLPHO, WAVE MONARCH, VSIS (Victualling Stores Issuing Ship) GLENARTNEY, RULER (CAP & ASP), The LSG included
ARBITER (Replenishment) and
STRIKER (Replenishment) escorted by the Destroyers NAPIER, NIZAM (RAN), Sloops PHEASANT, REDPOLE, WHIMBREL, Frigate FINDHORN and Minesweeper GAWLER (RAN). Also present was the Fleet Carrier INDEFATIGABLE which had been delayed leaving Sidney. Refuelling commenced at 05:45 and replacement aircraft were issued by
ARBITER. Four Corsairs were issued to FORMIDABLE, 3 for
1841 and 1 for 1842 squadron.
It was discovered that the tankers were 2.400 tons of fuel oil short in order to fuel all the vessels of TF 37 so a request was made to the US TF 38 for assistance in fuelling some of the larger vessels. I t 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. FORMIDABLE began operations with 34 Corsairs, 12 Avengers and 6 Hellcats serviceable. 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. One of FORMIDABLE’s Corsairs returned to the ship with engine trouble, another (' 137/X'), was shot down over the target, Sub-Lt B. K. Swart RNethN (1842) was killed.
July 24th 1945 strikes on Shikoku Island airfields: Above, Tokushima airfield, © IWM A 29963 . Below, Takamatsu Airfield © IWM A 29961
Strike 2 was launched at 05:45 to attack the airfield at Tokushima and was the first time that Avenger aircraft were in action. The combined force of 19 Avengers from FORMIDABLE & IMPLACABLE, 10 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs; one of the Avengers from FORMIDABLE’s 848 squadron crashed into the sea on take-off, the pilot Sub-Lt J. Morris RNVR and crew were safely rescued, another was shot down over the target area while attacking a Flack battery, Sub-Lt A. C. Francis RNVR & PO Airman O. C. Rawlinson were both killed. Strike 2C was a Ramrod of 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack targets at Kurashiki, Fukuyama airfield and Suta. Strike 2c was a Ramrod of 12 Seafires launched by INDEFATIGABLE to attack targets at Takamatsu and Kanonji.
Strike 3 was a second combined strike launched at 08:45 this time against shipping off the coast of Shikoku, and included a Japanese escort carrier SHIMANE MARU. It comprised of 20 Avengers, 8 Seafires, & Fireflies and 4 Corsairs. Strike 3A was an 8 corsair Ramrod launched from FORMIDABLE and 3B was a 12 Seafire Ramrod launched from IMPLACABLE.
At 11:45 Strike 4 was launched, a third combined strike comprising of 17 Avengers, 6 Seafires, 8 Fireflies 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, 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.
During the day TF 37 had flown 417 sorties and destroyed 13 aircraft and probably 2 more on the ground, 3 hangars at Takamatsu, 1 freighter, a small tanker and numerous Luggers and Junks. They damage at least 31 aircraft on the ground, an aircraft factory, a train factory and shipyard, scored multiple hits on the SHIMANE MARU breaking its back, several destroyers, junks and other craft. TF 37 losses were 1 Avenger, 1 Corsair, 1 Firefly and 1 Seafire. FORMIDABLE’s 2 CAG lost 1 Corsair and 1 Avenger as combat losses, 1 Corsairs and 1 Avenger ditched, 3 Corsairs were damaged in deck crashes. Two 1842 aircraft ditched on returning to the ship; Sub-Lt D. H. P. McLisky RNZNVR (1841) put KD728 down in the water after running low on fuel and Lt R. Harrison RNZNVR (1841) was forced to ditch in KD695 after his undercarriage failed due to flack damage. Both pilots were safely rescued. Sub-Lt P. G. Duke (1841) pit another 1842 squadron aircraft out of action landing on, KD244 ('135/X') landed to port and crashed into the port crane.
July 24th 1945 the Japanese escort carrier SHIMANE MARU, under attack by aircraft from TF 37. © IWM A2 9959
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. 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, combined force of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 6 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs launched at 11:30 for Tokushima airfield; hangars were damaged and a tug was sunk, one Avenger from 828 Squadron, IMPLACABLE was shot down. 4C was a 12 Corsair anti-shipping strike launched from VICTORIOUS. The weather again began to deteriorate over the target areas and Strike 5 was cancelled – this would have been a combined force lead by 848 from FORMIDABLE, plus 5A, a Corsair strike from FORMIDABLE, and 5B Seafire strike from IMPLACABLE. All strikes had landed on by 14:00 and the fleet set course for the refuelling area.
At dusk aa 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; Sub-Lt R. F. Mackie RCNVR in Hellcat JV778 shot down one while Lt W. H.I Atkinson RCNVR in Hellcat JX772 shot down 2 others and claimed a fourth as a probable kill. These were two of 1844 squadron’s best pilots, Sub-Lt Mackie had 3 and Lt Atkinson 4 confirmed kills in combat. During this encounter Sub-Lt Mackie lost his electrical system and radios; he became disoriented, having lost contact with Lt Atkinson and had no means of locating the carrier which was blacked-out. He was close enough to observe a brief light in the distance as the carrier switched on the landing lights for Lt Atkinson to land on. He flew to where he had seen the light and safely landed back on FORMIDABLE.
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.
Replenishment period 16, July 26 – 27: TF 37 began oiling at 09:00 from the Tanker Group OLNA, CEDARDALE, CARELIA, EASEDALE, and WAVE GOVERNOR. Other ships took on stores from the VSIS GLENARTNEY, ASIS (Armament Store Issuing Ship) ROBERT MAERSK and CORINDA. The LSG comprised of RULER (CAP & ASP), SPEAKER and STRIKER (Replenishment), escorted by light cruiser ARGONAUT, destroyers NORMAN and NEPAL, sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, WOODCOCK and REDPOLE, frigates ODZANI and DERG and minesweeper PIRIE. Fuelling continued through the day and replacement aircraft and pilots were transferred to the carriers. The cruisers ACHILLES and NEWFOUNDLAND were detached to fuel from US TU 30. TF 37 disengaged at 18:50 for the night. Fuelling resumed at 05:15 on the 27th. STRIKER transferred her remaining 3 replacement aircraft to SPEAKER and dethatched for Guam on route to Manus. On completion of fuelling TF 37 and TF 38 set course overnight for the next morning’s flying off positrons.
July 26th 1945 HMS FORMIDABLE being oiled at sea from a tanker while a destroyer is being oiled abeam from the tanker at the same time. Some of her Corsair fighters are parked on the flight deck.
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. Two of 1842 squadron Corsairs were severely damaged after being hit by flak in an attack on a Japanese frigate and had to ditch over Owase Wan; Sub-Lt H. K. Quilter RNVR in KD794 and Sub-Lt I. F. Stirling RNVR in KD742 were picked up by the submarine USS SCABBARDFISH.
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. During Strike 3A corsairs destroyed one aircraft on the ground and damaged a destroyer, one 1842 squadron aircraft KD300 ('140/X') ditched on return from the Ramrod, the pilot Sub-Lt J. C. Wella was rescued safely.
Strike 4 launched at 11:45 and was a combine force of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for Harima shipyard and anti-shipping sweep. Strike
4C comprised of 12 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Sato and Fuge. The fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; a combined force of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 8 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for anti-shipping and targets at Fuge, Strike 5A had the same art gets and comprised of 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE, 5C was 8 Fireflies from IMPLACABLE for targets in the Minato area.
During the days strikes TF 37 launched 399 aircraft; 260 on offensive operations, 135 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 6 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 14 damaged on the ground. 3 small cargo vessels plus several small ships and junks sunk, with 3 other merchant ships possibly sunk. TF 37 loses were 8 aircraft, 1 Firefly lost in combat, 3 Corsairs and 1 Avenger ditched due to flack damage, 1 Firefly ditched low fuel, 1 Corsair engine failed and ditched, 1 Avenger over side afterdeck crash.
On the 29th there was no planned air operations, elements of TF 37 joined with US TF 38 for bombardment of shore targets. On the 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, 8Seafires. 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; 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.
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 destroyer, 1 large transport, small freighter, 2 coasters, 2 luggers and 3 barges possibly sunk. TF 37 loses were 3 aircraft and their pilots in combat, 1 Corsair from VICTORIOUS and 2 Seafires - 1 from IMPLACABLE and 1 from INDEFATIGABLE due to flack. On completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force set course for the replenishment area.
Replenishment period 17, July 31 – August 2: TF 37 met with the Tanker Group OLNA, CARELIA, WAVE GOVERNOR and WAVE KING in approximate position 28° 4’ N 139° 00’ E, and oiling began at 10:00. The LSG comprised of RULER (CAP & ASP), SPEAKER and CHASER (Replenishment), the VSIS GLENARTNEY, ASIS ROBERT MAERSK and CORINDA, and the Radio and Radar Repair Ship ARBUTUS. They were escorted by destroyers NORMAN and QUEENBOROUGH, sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, WOODCOCK and REDPOLE, frigates ODZANI and DERG and minesweeper PIRIE. Fuelling continued through the day and replacement aircraft and pilots were transferred to the carriers. TF 37 disengaged at 18:50 for the night and changed course to the south to avoid the tail of a typhoon due to pass to their north.
Fuelling resumed at 05:20 on August 1st in approximate position 27° 15’ N 138° 00’ E. Oiling was hampered by a heavy swell and the typhoon still threatened the ships of TF 37 and TF 38; the US commander ordered a further move south at the end of the day’s replenishment, to rendezvous in area ‘HURRICANE’ at position 25° N, 137° E. On the morning of August 2nd storing and ammunitioning continued, oiling was now down to two tankers, two had to depart in order to reload and be back on station for the next replenishment period. The LSG and the Tanker Group detached at 16:50 to proceed to the next replenishment area at 34° 20’ N, 147° E. During this replenishment Chaser issued 3 Corsairs, 2 of them to 2 CAG, FORMIDABLE.
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 the August 6th. Flying training was conducted by the Fleet Carriers in the forenoon on the 5th.
Replenishment period 18, August 6 - 7: The new replenishment area was to be at position 33° 36’ N, 147° E, not were previously organised so the Tanker Group and LSG
were redirected to the new rendezvous. The LSG now comprised of the Tankers OLNA, WAVE KING, DINGLEDALE, SAN AMADO, with RULER (CAP & ASP), ARBITER and CHASER (Replenishment), VSIS FORT WRANGELL and GLENARTNEY, and repair ship ARBUTUS. They were escorted by destroyers NORMAN and NIZAM, sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, WOODCOCK and REDPOLE, frigates BARLE and DERG, RAN minesweepers BALLARAT and BURNIE. Unbeknown to the men of TF 37 the first Atomic bomb had been dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima at 08:15. ARBITER issuing 10 Seafire, 6 Corsairs, 1 Avenger and 1 Firefly; she received 3 'flyable duds', 1 Avenger and 2 Seafires. CHASER issued 1 Seafire.
On the 7th 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
Mainland Japan strike series 3, August 8 - 11: On reaching the flying -off position at 04:45 in position 40° 0’ N 144° 30’ E the weather closed in and the first strike and CAP launch was postponed. The situation did not improve, the planned target areas were shrouded in fog so all flying for the day was cancelled.
On the morning of the 9th TF 37 arrived at position 37°43’ N, 144° 51’ E. the first Strike and CAP launched at 04:10. Strike 1A comprised of 12 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack targets at Shiogama; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 10 Seafires to attack targets at Matsushima; Strike 1C comprised of 10 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack coastal shipping off North Honshu.
Strike 2 launched at 05:10 this comprised of three parts; a combined strike of 20 Avengers, 10 Seafires, and 8 Fireflies, to attack targets at Matsushima. Strike 2C launched from VICTORIOUS, 11 Corsairs to attack coastal shipping off North Honshu, and 2D, 9 Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE for Kesennuma, Kakuda and Hachinohe airfield.
Strike 3 was launched at 96:10; a combined source of 20 Avengers, 12 Seafires, and 8 Fireflies for targets at Matsushima, Strike 3A was 8 Corsairs launched from FORMIDABLE also for shipping strikes at Onagawa Wan, and Strike 3B was 11 Seafires form IMPLACABLE to attack coastal shipping off North Honshu.
Strike 4 launched at 11:10, 8 minutes after the second atomic bomb had exploded over Nagasaki. This was a combined force of 19 Avengers, 12 Seafires, 6 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for strikes at shipping and Kesennuma port. Strike 1C comprised of 16 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS for targets at Koriyama airfields the fifth and final strike of the day launched at 14:45; this comprised of a combined force of 21 Avengers, 9 Seafires, 7 Fireflies and 4 Corsairs for anti-shipping strike ; 5A was a 11 Corser Ramrod against shipping at Onagawa Wan and Koriyama airfield; 5B was a 7 Seafire Ramrod against Matsushima airfield and shipping launched from IMPLACABLE.
During the days strikes TF 37 launched 407 aircraft; 263 on offensive operations, 140 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 44 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 17 probable, 22 damaged on the ground. 2 locomotives and associated freight cars destroyed, 2 luggers sunk, with destroyer, 1 large transport, small freighter, 2 Destroyers, 1 old Destroyer 1 submarine chaser, freighter, 2 coasters, 4 Junks and 2 launches sunk. 2 destroyer escorts and 1 torpedo boat probably sunk. TF 37 loses were 7 aircraft and 5 pilots in combat, 1 Corsair and 1 Avenger from VICTORIOUS and 3 Seafires from IMPLACABLE, two Corsairs from FORMIDABLE. On completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force withdrew. . Two Seafires from IMPLACABLE ditched but their pilots were rescued.
The two pilots from FORMIDABLE’s 2 CAG where on Strike 3A for shipping strikes at Onagawa Wan; Lt. R. H. Gray DSC, MID, RCNVR (1841 senior pilot) flying in KD658 ('I 151X') led the attack on a Japanese Destroyer and was met by furious anti-aircraft fire, he hit and sank his target but failed to return to the ship, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the mission. Sub-Lt G. A. Anderson RCNVR in KD546 was killed on returning the ship, he cut the throttle through lack of fuel but hit the rounddown and crashed into sea.
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 Corser Ramrod against shipping at Komachi; 5B was a 4 Seafire shipping sweep launched from IMPLACABLE.
The last strikes landed on at 18:00 and on completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force set course for the replenishment area. This was the last day of combat operations for the 2nd Carrier Air Group. During the days strikes TF 37 launched 372 aircraft; 233 on offensive operations, 156 on defensive operations and 3 photo recon flights. One enemy aircraft is recorded as shot down in combat, a B7A ‘Grace’ shared by Sub-Lts J. H. Bennett RNVR and J.R. Crosland RNVR, both from
[!] 16 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 1 probable, 31 damaged on the ground. 2 locomotives and associated freight cars destroyed, 3 freighter transports, 2 coasters, 8 small craft sunk. 1 freighter and 2 luggers probably sunk. 2 Destroyers, 2 Destroyer escorts, 1 merchantman, 6 coasters and 4 luggers damaged. TF 37 loses were 6 aircraft and 4 pilots; as a result of combat 1 Corsair from FORMIDABLE LE, 1 Corsair from VICTORIOUS, 2 Fireflies from INDEFATIGABLE (1 crew PoW), 1 Avenger from IMPLACABLE (crew PoW); operational loses 1 Corsair from FORMIDABLE ditched on take-off.
FORMIDABLE’s 2 CAG lost two aircraft, Sub-Lt Mitchell RNVR (1842) in KD889 ('122/X'), crashed into the sea on take-off, he was safely rescued. Sub-Lt L. A. Mitchel was killed when his aircraft KD729 (' 1321X'), was shot down after attacking Koriyama airfield.
Replenishment period 19, August 11: TF 37 began fuelling at 04:40, the Tanker group consisted of OLNA, SAN ADOLPHO, SAN AMADO, SAN AMBROSIO, and WAVE EMPEROR together with RULER (CAP & ASP), and VSIS FORT WRANGELL. They were escorted by sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, FINDHORN, frigates BARLE and USK, RAN minesweepers BALLARAT, BURNIE, GERALDTON, IPSWICH and HMHS TJITJALENGKA. This was the last replenishment of British Pacific Fleet during war operations; there were no replenishment carriers present as planning had this as a refuelling only period on completion of this phase of operations when the fleet was to withdraw to Australia.
Task Force 37 dissolved, August 12th 1945
The focus of the US Third Fleet Commander had received orders to attack targets in both northern Honshu on Hokkaido, the northern Island of Japan on August 10th, replenish on the 11th and conduct two more strike days on the 12th & 13th. This extension to the programme was problematic for the BPF which was to withdraw for Australia after the strike on August 10th. The LSG and Tanker Groups were already executing the plans Set out to prepare for the upcoming Operation OLYMPIC, the Invasion of Japan, so no Tanker support would be available. The US Logistic Group would not be able to contribute oil as it had done previously so the BPF would not be able to continue offensive operations as TF 37. Vice-Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings, 2 IC, BPF proposed a solution, a token force of 1 Battleship, 1 Fleet Carrier, 2 Cruisers and attendant Destroyers was to remain in the operational area for strikes against Japan with the US Third Fleet; this comprised of KING GEORGE V, INDEFATIGABLE, GAMBIA. NEWFOUNDLAND, TROUBRIDGE, TERMAGANT TENACIOUS, TEAZER, TERPSICHORE, BARFLEUR. NAPIER. NIZAM, WAKEFUL, AND WRANGLER.
At 12:00 on August 12th Task Force 37 was dissolved and the bulk of the BPF set course for Manus, and then on to Sydney; the remaining Force were now attached to US Task Force 38 and designated as Task Group 38.5. FORMIDABLE, in company with IMPLACABLE and VICTORIOUS and their escorts were on passage when the Japanese surrender was announced on the 15th, they arrived at Manus on August 18th,
1841 disembarked to
RNAS Ponam, re-embarking he next day when the fleet sailed for Australia. Both
1841 and 1842 squadrons were flown ashore to
RNAS Nowra on reaching the New South Wales coast on August 23rd.
Return to the UK to disband
The aircraft of both squadrons were withdrawn at Nowra and the squadron personnel were given leave. They embarked in VICTORIOUS as passengers on September 23rd for passage to the UK. Both squadrons and the 2nd Carrier Air Group disbanded on arrival on October 31st.
First-Line squadrons menu |
go to the top
26 September 2021
Primary information sources
Vice Admiral, Second in Command, British Pacific Fleet report of operations against the Ryukyu Islands and Formosa, /26/345 to 20/4/45 and 4-25/5/45
CTF 37 (British) report of air & surface strikes against the Japanese Empire, preparation for and initial occupation of the Tokyo Bay area, Honshu, Japan, 6/28/45 TO 9/2/45