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A history of 887 Naval Air Squadron

 

Formation and work-up

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

Left: Initial equipment, the two-seat Fulmar II. Right: Replaced with the faster single seat fighter the hooked Spitfire Vb.
 

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

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

 

 

Assigned to HMS UNICORN

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

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

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

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

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

 

Operations with the Home Fleet July 1943

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

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

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

 

Detached to the Mediterranean & operation AVALANCHE August - October 1943

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

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

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

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

Force 'V' sailed from Malta on 8th September 1943 and proceeded via the Straits of Messina arriving on station 45 miles south-west of the beachhead early in the morning of the 9th September. The carriers of Task Force 88 operated only Seafire squadrons; ATTACKER (879 & 880, 19 aircraft), BATTLER (807 & 808, 18 aircraft), HUNTER (834 Fighter flight & 899, 20 aircraft), and STALKER (833 Fighter flight & 880, 20 aircraft) UNICORN (809, 887, and 897, 30 aircraft) making a total of 109 Seafires 11 squadrons. The five carriers were to provide fighter cover for the landings. It was intended that a constant presence of naval air cover would be maintained over the landing sites, up to 20 aircraft aloft at a time; the CVEs would carry out the patrols over the beachhead and UNICORN’s aircraft would provide top cover over the force. The first flights were launched at dawn on the 9th. At this time none of the four CVEs were equipped as fighter or assault carriers so fighter direction was provided by the Fighter Direction Ship HMS ULSTER QUEEN.
 

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

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

The fighter shortage grew so acute that fighters from Force ‘H’ were transferred to UNICORN in order to provide continued air cover over the landings. Reinforcements arrived onboard from at 19:15, 6 Seafires and 8 Martlets from FORMIDABLE, and 2 Seafires from ILLUSTRIOUS.. It had been envisaged that one or more enemy airfields would be in allied hands by the end of the first day and so shore based air cover would take over, this was not the case; it was not until the third day that the airfield at Paestum was under Allied control that this became possible. At 13:45 on the 12th as many serviceable fighters as could be mustered were put ashore to operate at Paestum; ATTACKER managed 4,  BATTLER 5, HUNTER 5, and STALKER only 2,  UNICORN supplied 10, six of them belonging to 997 squadron. At approximately 18:30 the Force left the operational area and proceeded to Palermo, arriving at 20:00. At 06:00 on the following morning the Force sailed for Bizerta, arriving there at 1900. 
 

The carriers were back on station by the 16th and the detached aircraft were recovered. During the four days on station the carriers, which all flew Seafires, launched a combined total of 713 sorties, providing more than half the allied air coverage over the beach head, UNICORN’s squadron flew 198 sorties. No RN aircraft were lost to enemy action but 4 were lost through engine failure and 32 were written off in deck landing accidents. [1
 

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


 

No. 24 Naval Fighter Wing

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

Operation ‘MASCOT’ was planned 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. INDEFATIGABLE was part of a force comprising of the Battleship DUKE OF YORK, Carriers FORMIDABLE, INDEFATIGABLE, FURIOUS, Cruisers DEVONSHIRE, KENT, JAMAICA, BELLONA, Destroyers BULLDOG, MILNE, MARNE, MATCHLESS, MUSKETEER, SIOUX, SCOURGE, VERULAM, NUBIAN, VOLAGE, VIRAGO, VIGILANT, ALGONQUIN, Frigates BURGES, INMAN, HOSTE.  The operation 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 [2], 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.
 

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

Operation TURBINE was a fast airs strike to maintain a state of alarm on the Norwegian coast and to destroy enemy shipping in the Leads by aircraft from INDEFATIGABLE and FURIOUS. Force 9. Rear Admiral Commanding, First Cruiser Squadron in INDEFATIGABLE (887-12 Seafire F.III, 894 – 12 Seafire L.III , 17770 -12 Firefly I, 820-12 Barracuda II, & 826-12 Barracuda II), FURIOUS (880-3 Seafire LIIc, 842 Flight-3 Swordfish II & 1840 -20 Hellcat II), Cruisers BERWICK and JAMAICA, Destroyers MUSKETEER, METEOR, MAARNE, SCOURGE, NUBIAN, CAPRICE, and SIOUX (RCN) sailed from Scapa on August 2nd. Low clouds prevented any Barracuda strikes, and two sweeps at 17:15 on 3rd August, dispatched up the Leads between Sogne and Yttercoerne, were also prevented from entering the Leads owing to low cloud. They shot up two wireless stations. A second strike was abandoned owning to poor weather The Force returned to Scapa on the 4th.
 

Operation OFFSPRING was designed to force the enemy out of the Leads by laying mines in Lepsorev and Harhamsfjiord. The carrier elements were provided by INDEFATIGABLE operated with the CVEs NABOB and TRUMPETER as part of Force 4; INDEFATIGABLE (887-12 Seafire F.III, 894 – 12 Seafire L.III , 17770 -12 Firefly I, 820-12 Barracuda II, & 826-12 Barracuda II), NABOB (852 13 Avengers and 6 Wildcats), TRUMPETER (846 12 Avenger & 4 Wildcat), KENT, DEVONSHIRE, MYNGS, VOLAGE, VIGILANT, VERULAM, VIRAGO, ALGONQUIN (RCN), SIOUX (RCN), and SCOURGE Left Scapa on August 8th for the largest aircraft mine laying operation to be undertaken by elements of the Home Fleet, 47 mines were successfully laid by the Avenger crews of 846 and 852 Squadrons (29 in Harhamsfiord and 17 in Lepsorev). ‘OFFSPRING’ also saw fighter aircraft attacking ground targets, a WT station on Vigra Island and Gossen airfield was strafed resulting in 6 Me 110s destroyed and one damaged on the ground with two hangers and some storehouses left burning. Additional targets were hit including 3 radar and 2 wireless stations, a dredger and gun positions, 3 armed ships of which 2 were left burning and an oil tank which was left smoking. Allied losses were 1 Avenger was shot down in flames, 1 Firefly ditched and 3 Seafires of the fighter escort were lost. Force 4 returned to Scapa on the 11th.
 

 Operation GOODWOOD was another attack on the TIRPITZ in the hope of putting her out of action for the remainder of the war and to cover the passage of Arctic convoys JW59 and RA59A against attack by TIRPITZ if she could not be disabled (she had put to sea on July 31st and August 1st to train with her protective destroyers). This dual purpose plan involved three separate Forces; Force 1, Battleship DUKE OF YORK, Fleet Carriers INDEFATIGABLE (887-12 Seafire F.III, 894 – 12 Seafire L.III , 1840 – 12 Hellcat I, 1770 -12 Firefly I, 820 - 12 Barracuda II), FORMIDABLE (1841 – 18 Corsair II, 1842 – 12 Corsair II, 926 – 12 Barracuda II, 828 – 12 Barracuda II), and FURIOUS (801 - - 12 Seafire F.III, 880 - 12 Seafire L.III, 827 - 9 Barracuda II), Cruisers BERWICK and DEVONSHIRE, Destroyers MYNGS, SIOUX (RCN), VERULAM, VIRAGO, VOLAGE, ALGONQUIN (RCN), VIGILANT, SCOURGE, STORD, SCORPION, SERAPIS, CAMBRIAN, WHIRLWIND, and WRANGLER. Force 2, NABOB (852 - 12 Avenger & 4 Wildcat), TRUMPETER (846 - 8 Avenger & 4 Wildcat), Cruiser KENT, Destroyers BICKERTON, AYLMER, BLIGH, KEMPTHORNE, and KEATS. Force 9 (Oiler group), Destroyer NUBIAN, Corvettes POPPY, DIANELLA, and STARWORT, R.F.A. Tankers BLACK RANGER and BLUE RANGER.

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

Home Fleet forces left Scapa on the 18th to protect the outward Convoy JW59, bound for Murmansk which had departed from Loch Ewe, Scotland on 15 August. After an uneventful journey north, the attack forces arrived off Norway on 20 August. Bad weather meant that the first strike was delayed by 24 hours and was undertaken on the 22nd. At 11:00 am a force comprising 32 Barracudas, 24 Corsairs, 11 Fireflies, 9 Hellcats and 8 Seafires was launched from the three fleet carriers.
 

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

Pilots from 887 squadron took part in the operations but some were flying in machines belonging to 894 squadron [3]; one pilot, Sub-Lt I. Sargent failed to return, his aircraft LR863 ('IT' struck the water near Banak, he managed to recover and forced landed his flaming aircraft on a beach. He was taken prisoner. Seafires from 894 Squadron shot down two German Blohm & Voss BV 138 reconnaissance aircraft at 17:15 on the 22nd.
 

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

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

 

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

Reallocated for operations with the British Pacific Fleet

INDEFATIGABLE was now allocated for service with the new British Pacific Fleet which was being assembled in Ceylon for operations against the Japanese. The Carrier underwent a brief refit at her builder's yard between September 28th and November 8th. No. 24 Naval Fighter Wing had disembarked from IMPLACABLE to RNAS Lee-on-Solent  on October 30th and short leave was granted prior to embarking for service overseas. Both squadrons had their equipment strength increased to 24 aircraft in early November and additional aircrew arrived on the station.
 

INDEFATIGABLE arrived in Portsmouth for final repairs and loading of stores after her post refit shake-down and became the flagship of the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron (1 ACS) on November 15th. The following day, King George VI inspected the ship; the ground crews for 820, 887, 894 and 1770 Squadrons embarked later that day.
 

INDEFATIGABLE put to sea on November 19th 1944 and prepared to embark the Seafires of 887 and 894 squadrons and Avengers of 820 and Fireflies of1770 squadrons in the Irish Sea on the 21st. Both squadrons of the 24th NFW were ordered to fly cross-country from Lee-on-Solent to RAF Mona, on Anglesey and to embark from there. On taking off all formed into their respective flights and headed north; this was an ambitious undertaking as many of the new pilots had only recently qualified and the prospect of a mass formation navigating to Anglesey was daunting. When the squadrons reached the midlands they encountered very heavy cloud which dangerously reduced visibility for station keeping. The flights separated and most climbed above the cloud to regroup and continue on. Many made emergency landings at nearby stations and followed on when the weather cleared; Sub-Lt J.V. Brooke RNVR of 887 failed to arrive at RAF Mona, he was killed when he crashed at Netley Hall, nr Donnington, Shropshire in an 894 Squadron Seafire, LR872 ('1W'), on November 20th. The following day Sub-Lt P .D. Norman, RNVR died when embarking in INDEFATIGABLE, his aircraft NN309 stalled into the sea from 300ft. Three aircraft had barrier crashes; on the 20th Sub-Lt C. B. Erl, RNVR landing in NN627 (894 Sqn) bounced on the after lift, and struck barrier, on the 21st Sub-Lt J. Birtle, RNVR (887 Sqn) in NN3232 floated over all the wires and crashed into the barrier, also on the 21st Sub-Lt B. K. Swart, RNVR (894 Sqn) in NN154 missed all the arrestor wires, entered the barrier and the aircraft ended on its node. Not all of the stragglers made it to the ship, the last pilot to attempt to rendezvous with the ship, Sub-Lt C. Miseldine, RNVR (887 Sqn) could not manage to find her, the ships radar and homing beacon were malfunctioning and he eventually abounded his efforts and flew back to Lee-on-Solent; He eventually joined the ship at Port Said. Not all of the stragglers made it to the ship, the last pilot to attempt to rendezvous with the ship, Sub-Lt C. Miseldine RNVR could not manage to find her, the ships radar and homing beacon were malfunctioning and he eventually abounded his efforts and flew back to Lee-on-Solent; He eventually joined the ship at Port Said.
 

Once all aircraft had been embarked the ship took passage to Gibraltar, in company with destroyers GRENVILLE, UNDINE and URANIA, on the first leg of the voyage to Ceylon to assemble with the new British Pacific Fleet (BPF). With calls at Algiers, Port Said and Aden, INDEFATIGABLE and her escorts arrived at Colombo on December 10th and joined HM Aircraft Carriers ILLUSTRIOUS, INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS in 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron, British Pacific Fleet. On reaching the Ceylonese coast 887 and 894 were flown ashore to RNAS Katukurunda on December 10th. While on passage in the Red Sea Sub-Lt J.E. Jones, RNVR (887 Sqn) had to make a forced landing in Eritrea on December 4th after the arrestor hook refused to lower on Seafire LR845. On the same date Sub-Lt B. K. Swart, RNVR (894 Sqn) had a barrier crash in NN351. On approach to the coast of Ceylon on the 10th Sub-Lt Knight ,RNVR (887 Sqn) crashed into the Island structure while landing on in Seafire PP936, the Starboard brake jammed on and the aircraft veered into the Island.


 

Operations with the British Pacific Fleet December 1944 – February 1945

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

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

 Operation LENTIL was a strike against the oil refineries at Pangkalan Brandan, Northern Sumatra. For this operation the force was designated Force 65 and consisted of the Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, BPF, Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, KBE, DSO (857, 1839 and 1844 Naval Air Squadrons – 50 aircraft)) and VICTORIOUS (1834, 1836, and 849 Naval Air Squadrons – 55 aircraft), Cruisers SUFFOLK, CEYLON, ARGONAUT and BLACK PRINCE screened by Destroyers KEMPENFELT, WHELP, GRENVILLE, WAGER, URANIA, UNDAUNTED, UNDINE and URSA. The force left Trincomalee on December 31st for Northern Sumatra.

Left: Seafire H5S of 887 squadron engages the no.1 barrier after failing to arrest; parts of the disintegrated propeller can be clearly seen flying off at high speed. This is possibly during operation LENTIL; the aircraft has East Indies Fleet roundels. Image © IWM (A 27171) Right: Picking up the pieces; the damaged plane is prepared for lifting to clear the deck. Image © IWM (A 27172).

Reaching the launch position near Simalur Island on the morning of January 4th, a fighter strike force (RAMROD) of 16 aircraft - 8 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE and 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS, was launched shortly after dawn at 06:10 with orders to suppress the airfields at Bindjai, Medan, Tandjonpoera and Troemon which were along the approach path to the target. Seafires from 24 Wing flew Combat Air patrols over the Force.

 

The main strike force comprised of 32 Avengers, INDOMITABLE supplied 16 and VICTORIOUS 16, each with four 500-lb bombs; INDEFATIGABLE laundered 12 Fireflies armed with eight 60-lb rockets each. Among the escorts, top cover was provided by 8 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE, middle cover by 16 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS, and close cover by a further eight Hellcats from INDOMITABLE. This force launched at 07:40. Twelve miles out from the target the Fireflies of 1770 Squadron broke away to launch a rocket and cannon attack at 08:25 to suppress air defences in and around the town of Pangkalan Soe Soe, at 08:31 the Avengers of 857 Squadron hit the main Pangkalan Brandan refinery, 849 Squadron hit the Edeleanu Plant at 08:33. The strike succeeded in causing considerable damage: the attack aircraft badly damaged the refinery, and the fighters shot down about 12 Japanese aircraft as well as destroying another 20 on the ground. One Avenger (849 Sqn VICTORIOUS) and one Firefly (1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE) were lost through ditching but the crews were rescued. Photographic reconnaissance of port installations at Belawan Deli, Brandan, and Soe Soe was also made by aircraft from 888 squadron. The Force returned to Ceylon on January 7th.
 

There were six Seafire incidents during this operation; on the 5th LR809 (887 Sqn machine) piloted by Sub-Lt F. Hockley, RNVR (894 Sqn) had its undercarriage retracted before becoming airborne and pancaked onto the deck, on the 6th NN293 (894  Sqn) flown by Sub-Lt W. G. Gibson, RNVR was damaged in flight when the long range tank hit the underside of the fuselage when jettisoned, NN460 ('H6X' 894 Sqn) flown by Sub-Lt Morgan had a barrier crash returning from a CAP sortie, and PP935 (894 Sqn) also flown by Sub-Lt Morgan was written off when it stalled onto rounddown landing, the arrestor hook jammed up and the aircraft entered the barrier. A second aircraft was a potential write off, NN177 (894  Sqn) flown by Sub-Lt Reynolds caught an arrest or wire but the force resulted in the fuselage being buckled. Sub-Lt J. M. Halliwell, RNVR (887 Sqn) damaged the starboard wing tip of P925 while struck a gun hit director tower while taxying.
 

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

Operation MERIDIAN One

LENTIL, and the earlier operation ROBSON, had been rehearsals for the much larger, two part operation, operation MERIDIAN; the forces involved in ROBSON and LENTIL had returned to Ceylon between strikes to regroup but there would be no respite between the two MERIDIAN strikes which were to be conducted by the British Pacific Fleet while on passage to Australia.
 

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

 

After refuelling from the tankers of Force 69 in poor weather on the 20th Force 63 approached the flying off position during the night of 21st-22nd January; weather conditions were bad and the Force withdrew, returning the following night with the same result. On the third night conditions were fine on reaching the flying off position, approximately 200 miles from the target, Pladjoe refinery. Flying began at 06:15 with the launch of Seafires for Fleet CAP and during the next 45 minutes the strike force of 48 Avengers, 12 from each of the four carriers, each armed with four 500-lb bombs, with 16 Corsairs as top cover, a further 8 Corsairs and 16 Hellcats as middle cover were assembled. Two Avenger were damaged on INDEFATIGABLE before take-off and a further 4 Avengers and 2 Corsairs dropped out of the forming wing for emergency landings. At 07:04, nine minutes late, the strike force of 87 aircraft – 47 Avengers, 24 Corsairs and 16 Hellcats headed for the objective. A Reconnaissance group of 2 PR Hellcats of 1839 squadron were launched at 08:00.

 

The second launch was completed at 07:20 with 24 Corsairs, three flights of eight, assigned to the RAMROD to attack and suppress Lembak, Palembang and Talengbetoetoe airfields in succession, and the 12 Fireflies of 1770 Squadron. There were also 4 Avengers and 4 Hellcats from INDOMITABLE tasked with neutralising Mana airfield on the coast. Three Fireflies suffered mechanical problems leaving only 9 to complete their task of strafing the refineries defences with their 20mm cannons armed with armour-piercing and incendiary ammunition.

 

Enemy fighters did not challenge the Avengers and Fireflies until they were within 15 miles of the target when about 20 fighters began to attack-they were driven off by the fighter escort while the strike force had to navigate heavy A.A. fire and barrage balloons. The Avenger squadrons were divided into two wings. No.1 Wing 857 and 849 Squadrons, while No. 2 had 854 and 820 Squadron; arriving over the target they discovered barrage balloons had been added to the Pladjoe refinery defenses. They deployed for their attack at 08:11 and Wing one began their run at 08:14 followed by Wing two. The strike was over by 08:22 and the Avengers made for their rally point. Several good hits were recorded on the refinery plant and a wireless station north of the town was set alight. Meanwhile the escorting fighters had been engaged in heavy dog fights over the target as enemy fighters had been quick to respond once the alarm had been raised and claimed 13 single and twin engined fighters destroyed, with six probable.

 

The first of the returning aircraft landed on at 09:40 and recovery was completed by 10:25. The small striking force sent to Mana reported little activity there. One aircraft was destroyed on the ground and bombs were dropped on the runway. TF 63 lost 12 aircraft in combat and operational sorties:.6 Corsairs, 1 Hellcat and 2 Avengers failed to return. In addition, one Corsair pilot and one Seafire pilot had to bale out over the fleet; Sub-Lt Gibson of 894 in NF602 suffered a complete undercarriage failure and was ordered to bale out rather than foul the deck, he was picked up by WHIRLWIND. Two other aircraft from 24 Wing were put out of action during the operation; NN213 (887 Sqn) flown by Sub-Lt Birtle caught no.7 wire but broke its back on being arrested, and NN52I (894 Sqn) flown by Sub-Lt F. Hockley, RNVR caught a wire but the force of being arrested buckled the fuselage. TF63 began to withdraw at 10:30 retiring to the south-west at 22 knots towards the refuelling area. The 2 PR Hellcats landed on at 11:30 having photographed 11 airfields, 6 of which were new, and the target.TF63 began to withdraw at 10:30 retiring to the south-west at 22 knots towards the refuelling area. The 2 PR Hellcats landed on at 11:30 having photographed 11 airfields, 6 of which were new, and the target.

NN213 sinks below the water after being jettisoned on January 24th 1945; piloted by Sub-Lt J. Birtle, RNVR the aircraft had caught no.7 wire but broke its back on being arrested and was damaged beyond repair. © IWM (A 27173)

 

Operation MERIDIAN Two TF63 spent the next four days in the replenishment area in preparation for launching phase two of MERIDIAN, a strike on the second Palembang refinery at Soengi Gerong. At 06:00 on January29th TF63 was again at the flying off position but bad weather delayed the first launch until 06:40 with the launch of Seafires for Fleet CAP. As before the strike force comprised of 48 Avengers, 12 from each carrier, Bow cover of 10 Fireflies, Close cover: 12 Corsairs, Top cover 12 Corsairs, Mid cover 16 Hellcats. The RAMROD force to suppress Japanese airfields would now be synchronised to minimise the enemy’s response time to their arrival and prevent too many enemy fighters getting airborne. Two separate RAMROD forces X-Ray and Yoke, each with 12 Corsairs, would attack the two main airfields simultaneously. They would then loiter over the airfields to engage any aircraft that later managed to get off the ground. A Reconnaissance group of 2 PR Hellcats of 1839 squadron and 2 Fireflies were also launched. In addition 4 Hellcats and 8 Corsairs were retained to supplement the CAP; the Seafire was the primary CAP aircraft due to its short range which ruled it out of the strikes but this type was not ideal for deck landing and many were put out of action through deck landing accidents.

 

The CAP Seafires had been in action as early as 09:00 chasing radar contacts and engaging one a small group of attackers at 09:40 one Ki46 'Dinah' was shot down in flames at 09:51 by Sub-Lt J. H. Kernahan, RNVR (887 Sqn) before the rest retreated. The force did not come under attack until 11:50 when a group of 7 Mitsubishi Ki-21 ‘Sally’ Kamikaze bombers approached, the CAP Seafires and Corsairs engaged, 3 Hellcats scrambled from INDOMITABLE when the attackers were in range of her 4.5 inch guns. The bombers, now at 50 feet, appeared to have singled-out ILLUSTRIOUS and INDEFATIGABLE; all were destroyed but two came within yards of the two carriers. The Hellcats claimed 2 kills, the Seafires claimed two kills with four shared; Sub-Lt K. E. Ward, RNVR (894 Sqn) claimed a Ki-21 ‘Sally’ destroyed and shared a second with ship borne gunfire, Lt. Cdr J. Crossman (894Sqn)) shared a Ki-21 ‘Sally’ with a CAP Corsair, Sub-Lt E. Elson, RNVR (894 Sqn) claimed a Ki-21 ‘Sally’ shared with a CAP Hellcat, Sub-Lt J. W. Hayes, RNVR (887 Sqn) shot down another Ki-21 ‘Sally’ but his aircraft NN210 was hit in the engine by return fire after making his attack and he baled out, he was later picked up by the Destroyer UNDINE. The last attacker a Ki48 "Lily" twin-engine light bomber was engaged by Lt. Cdr J. Crossman but it was destroyed by ship borne gunfire, his aircraft was hit by the barrage while engaging the Ki48 damaging his radiator but he managed to land on safely. Sub-Lt T. I. McCartney, RNVR (879 Sqn) had to make a forced landing in NF607 after running dangerously low on petrol. During the attack ILLUSTRIOUS was struck by friendly-fire; two shells fired by a nearby ship [4] hit the flight deck and the Island killing 12 and wounded 21.

 

MERIDIAN operations were completed at 15:30 as TF63 steamed for the replenishment area. During the day TF 63 had lost 9 aircraft in combat and operational sorties. A total of 378 sorties were flown during MERIDIAN One and Two, allied losses were 41 aircraft: 16 were lost in action, 11 ditched and another 14 were lost as a result of deck landing accidents, 30 aircrew were lost.
 

Force 63 refuelled on January 30th and ‘crossed the line’ on the 31st, arriving Fremantle, Western Australia on February 4th; reaching their final destination, Sydney, New South Wales on the 9th. The Seafires of 887 and 894, together with the Fireflies of 1770 squadron were disembarked to RNAS Schofields (Mobile Naval Air Base No.3) the following day. The squadrons made preparations for re-embarking on the 27th ready for operations in the Pacific. While at Schofield Sub-Lt F.C. Hurlock crashed while landing on February 14th, his aircraft PP928, ground looped and the undercarriage collapsed.

 
 

Operations with the British Pacific Fleet March 1945 - January 1946

On their arrival at Sydney the combat vessels of British Pacific Fleet were designated Task force 113, The support vessels of the Fleet Train as Task Force 112, in readiness for operations with the US 5th Fleet.
 

The Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE (Flag 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron (1ACS), 857 Avenger, 839 and 1844 Hellcat), INDEFATIGABLE (820 Avenger, 1770 Firefly, 887 & 894 Seafire), and VICTORIOUS (849 Avenger, 1834 and 1836 Corsair,), escorted by the destroyers QUICKMATCH, QUEENBOROUGH, and QUALITY sailed from Sydney on the 27th for exercises and to fly on aircraft before making their rendezvous with the rest of TF 113 on February 28th. The Force was under the command of Vice Admiral Sir H. Bernard Rawlings, KCB, OBE, and comprised of the 1st Battle Squadron, HMS KING GEORGE V (Flagship V.A.B.P.F.), HMS HOWE, 4th Cruiser Squadron, SWIFTSURE, (Flagship CS 4 Rear Admiral E. J. P. Brind, CB, CBE), GAMBIA), ARGONAUT, BLACK PRINCE, EURYALUS, (Flag of Rear Admiral (D) Rear Admiral J. H. Edelsten, CB, CBE), the 25th Destroyer Flotilla, GRENVILLE (Captain D 25) ULSTER, UNDINE, URSA, URANIA, the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, KEMPENFELT (Captain D 27), WAKEFUL, WHIRLWIND, WHELP, WESSEX, also UNICORN, sailed from Sydney in an easterly gale. ILLUSTRIOUS (854 Avenger, 1830 & 1833 Corsair) had to remain behind as she had developed defects as a result of the friendly-fire incident and had to be docked to remove her centre propeller before re-joining the Fleet.
 

The ships of TF 113 conducted training and exercises on passage and arrived at Manus, the Admiralty Islands March 7th. Flying training continued on passage with several deck landing accidents; on March 1st Sub-Lt A. G. Knight, RNVR crashed when landing in Seafire NN316, the hook pulled out and the port tyre burst. On the 3rd Sub-Lt I. G. Hepworth .RNVR in Seafire NN212 ('112/S'), drifted landing on and his starboard wing hit a gun director aft of the island. Sub-Lt N. T. Quigley, RNVR (894 Sqn) landed heavily in NN83causing a tyre to burst and the prop pecked the deck, on the 5th Sub-Lt L. E. Kverndal, RNVR had a barrier crash landing in Seafire NN250. Sub-Lt Morgan (894 Sqn) landing in NF516 broke the starboard oleo and damaged the prop.
 

After storing and fuelling at Manus the carriers INDOMITABLE, VICTORIOUS, and INDEFATIGABLE with a screen of six destroyers proceeded to sea for independent flying exercises on March 13th. On completion the carriers returned to harbour having flown ashore a proportion of their Squadrons to Pityilu Island; arrangements had been made with U.S. Authorities for this to be done, the carriers landing the necessary personnel, etc. The fleet sailed for Ulithi Atoll on the 14th, arriving there on the 18th. Three flying incidents occurred on passage, all on March 15th; Lt F. C. Hurlock, RNVR broke the tail oleo of Seafire PP925 landing, Sub-Lt J. D. Pywell RNVR in NN209 landed across the deck and was arrested by the barrier, and Sub-Lt Morgan (894  Sqn) also had a barrier rash in NN176. While at Ulithi Sub-Lt A. G. Knight made a wheels up crash landing on the US Navy airfield after his undercarriage failed to lower on March 20th.

 

Task Force 57 & Operation ICEBERG: 26th March – 25th May 1945

After refuelling and taking on ammunition and stores the British pacific Fleet was redesignated Task Force 57 on March 23rd under the operational control of Admiral Raymond Spruance USN, CinC US Fifth Fleet TF 57sailed from Ulithi at 06:30 on March 23rd 1945, for operations.
 

Replenishment period 1, March 25: Task Force 57 met with the Logistic Support Group (LSG) at 06:00 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.

 

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.
 

Operation ICEBERG Phase One

TF 57 joined US Navy 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. For the first phase of operation ICEBERG the British carriers had embarked 218 aircraft; INDEFATIGABLE 40 Seafire, 20 Avenger, and 9 Firefly, INDOMITABLE 29 Hellcat, and 15 Avenger, ILLUSTRIOUS 36 Corsair, and 16 Avenger, and VICTORIOUS 37 Corsair, 14 Avenger, and 2 Walrus. The carriers were tasked with denying the Japanese use of airfields on two Islands in the Sakishima-Gunto group in a series of 12 strike days conducted in rotating cycles of 2 days of strikes and 2 – 3 days of replenishment. Because of the long distances involved between the operational area and the nearest forward base, all replenishment had to be done at sea when TF 57 stood down to replenish the strike task was taken over by elements of US TF 58 and later TF 52.

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 1, March 26 - 27: ICEBERG operations began at 06:05 on March 26th when the first CAP and ASP aircraft were flown off. INDEFATIGABLE launched her Seafires for CAP over the force in advance of the first strike launch at sunrise; the Seafire still lacked the endurance and range to be used for Ramrod sweeps so it was still restricted to CAP duty. At 06:35 a 48 aircraft strong Hellcat and Corsair RAMROD was flown off from a position 100 miles 180° from Miyako Jima to attack the airfields at Ishigaki and Miyako; there were three airfields on each of the islands. These sweeps were followed by two escorted bomber strikes and one fighter bomber strike with airfields and associated buildings as targets.
 

Once all aircraft had been recovered the Fleet withdrew to the south eastward. The Fleet had lost 10 aircraft. Enemy losses were 35 aircraft destroyed on the ground; Many of these turned out to be dummies and as few as 12 were believed real. Once all aircraft had been recovered the Fleet withdrew to the south eastward.

 

24 Wing had 4 Seafires damaged, 2 of these were written off; LR813 (887 Sqn) piloted by Sub-Lt A. G. Knight, RNVR caught a wire but made a heavy landing causing the starboard undercarriage to collapse damaging the wing. NN447 flown by Sub-Lt R.C. Kay RNVR (894 Sqn) made a fast landing and bounced into the barrier. NN316 (887 Sqn) piloted by Sub-Lt I. G. Hepworth, RNVR missed all the wires and floated into No.2 barrier, damage was so severe and the aircraft was Jettisoned overboard. NN262 (894 Sqn) piloted by Sub-Lt I. H. S. Morgan, RNVR bounced on landing and ended on its nose and its undercarriage collapsed; it too was Jettisoned. 
 

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

 

The Fleet had lost 10 aircraft. INDEFATIGABLE’s 24 Wing had 2 Seafires and their pilots lost on operational sorties and 3 others damaged in crashes; Sub-Lt S. C. Yarde, RNVR (894 Sqn) in NN400 and Sub-Lt A. G. Cooper, RNVR (894 Sqn) in NN146 were killed when their aircraft collided in  mid-air, both aircraft dove into the sea. There were three aircraft put out of action through barrier crashes, NN232 flown by Sub-Lt L. A. Bradbury RNVR, NN208 flown by CPO M. A. C. Levett  and NN290 flown by Sub-Lt A. St Belcher RNVR (894 Sqn).
 

Replenishment period 2, March 28 - 30: The LSG were waiting at the prearranged rendezvous, in area MIDGE One, a rectangular area which covered 5000 square miles of ocean, at 07:30 on the 28th TF57 met the Tanker Group and began refuelling.  STRIKER 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.  Her stock of spare aircraft exhausted STRIKER departed for Leyte in the afternoon of the 29th, escorted by CRANE and WHIRLWIND. Replenishment was complete by mid-afternoon on March 30th.

 

Iceberg strike series 2, March 31 – April 2nd: TF 57 was in its flying-off position for another strike day by dawn on March 31st, in readiness to resume strike operations. It was vital that TF 57 should resume its strikes on the enemy airfields because April 1st was L-Day for the American amphibious assault on the western coast of Okinawa. Pre-dawn CAP and anti-submarine sweeps followed by Fighter Ramrod launch at sunrise were now standing procedure and the force repeated the attacks of the previous strike days. Fighter patrols – Target Combat Air Patrols (TCAP) - were now to be maintained over Ishigaki and Miyako and there appeared to be little activity in either island. Two bomber strikes were sent against Ishigaki airfield, installations and barracks.

 

The Fleet had lost 6 aircraft. Three 24 Wing aircraft were damaged in accidents on deck, Sub-Lt C. M. Miseldine, RNVR ) burst the port tyre landing and his aircraft NN227 pecked the deck, and an unnamed pilot from 887 taxied NN323 into NN284 piloted by ub-Lt Hepworth.
 

At 06:50 on April 1st bogeys were detected by radar to the westward, height 8,000 feet, closing at 210 knots. The fighter sweep was already on their way in to Ishigaki and recalled to intercept and additional fighters were flown off. Corsairs, Hellcats and Seafires engaged the enemy. Four were destroyed, Seafires shot down 2 A6M ‘Zero’ fighters, Sub-Lt Reynolds of 894 Sqn in Seafire PR256 ('146/S') despatched both, but the bulk reached the fleet. The enemy planes commenced their attacks on the fleet at 07:10. One aircraft machine-gunned INDOMITABLE killing one rating and wounding two officers and four ratings. It made a similar attack on KING GEORGE V but without causing casualties. The fleet’s gunners reported it was difficult to in identify enemy planes from our own since they were hard on the enemy heels. At 07:27 the first Kamikaze attack took place; one enemy plane dived into the base of INDEFATIGABLE's island. Four officers and ten ratings were killed, and sixteen others wounded. The flight deck was temporarily out of action, but later that day aircraft were again being operated from the ship, although at a reduced scale.

 

By mid-day the fleet was able to resume flight operations; at 12:15 a bombing strike was sent in against Ishigaki to bomb airfields and runways. No activity was noted. At 14:30 reports were received from combat patrols over the islands that more aircraft had been sighted at Hirara and Ishigaki airfields. These were attacked by the fighter patrols and were followed by a fighter sweep. It was estimated that about 14 enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground during this attack and others damaged.

 

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

 

  The third day of strikes had cost 24 Naval Fighter wing 5 aircraft with 2 enemy aircraft destroyed; 887 had two deck crashes, NN227 flown bt Sub-Lt L J. M. Halliwell, RNVR entered the barrier and NN452 piloted by Sub-Lt M. P. Sutton, RNVR had its port undercarriage collapse landing on. 894 had three; NF660 flown by Sub-Lt J. D. Alexander, RNZNVR (of 887 Sqn)) had its port oleo collapsed on landing, NN297 piloted by Sub-Lt G. W. Hartland, RNVR (of 887 Sqn) caught the trickle wire, and broke its back, NF516 flown by Sub-Lt N. T. Quigley, RNVR attempted an emergency landing but floated through two barriers; the pilot later died from his injuries. Another 894 pilot died on April 1st, Sub-Lt W. G. Gibson, RNVR as a result of the Kamikaze attack on INDEFATIGABLE.
 

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

 

Replenishment period 3, April 3 - 5: There was no sign of the LSG iin Area Midge (1) at 19° 12’ N 128° 00’ E; bad weather hampered the rendezvous which was not made until 12:30. Weather and cross swell were too heavy to attempt fuelling. The Fleet remained in the area throughout the day, but towards the evening meteorological information suggesting more suitable weather to the westward, the Fleet with the tankers turned west to area MOSQUITO.
 

The fleet repositioned overnight on the 4th to position 19° 37’ N 124° 42’ E. At 06:30 Task Unit 112.2.3 with two more Oilers arrived on station making a total of 5 tanker .from which to fuel. TF 57 Commenced refuelling and transferring stores and aircraft at 07:30 in a heavy N.N.E. swell. The Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night at 19:30.

 

Fuelling recommenced at 06:30 on the 5th, the weather conditions for fuelling having considerably improved. The Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group, at 19:30 and set course at 20 knots for the operational area. During this replenishment period SLINGER provided replacement aircraft and aircrews, she issued 22 represent aircraft to the fleet carriers and recovered 2 ‘flyable duds'
 

Iceberg strike series 3, April 6 - 7: TF 57 resumed Strikes on the morning of April 6th, first launch was at 04:50 when four fighters were flown- off INDOMITABLE, two each to Miyako and Ishigaki airfields to attack any enemy aircraft taking off at dawn, and eight aircraft not previously noticed at Ishigaki were attacked. At 06:35 TCAP to cover both islands were launched. The craters in the runway at Miyako airfield were observed to be filled in. Avengers bombed and hit Hirara runway and town, and bombed Nobara, Sukhama and Myara airstrips causing fires. Fighters attacked radio and radar stations, sank two junks and blew up a bowser.


During an enemy attack at about 17:00 four bogeys were engaged and one dived on ILLUSTRIOUS, which took radical avoiding action. The Kamikaze’s wingtip hit the island, spinning the aircraft into the sea where the bomb exploded. Only slight damage and no casualties were caused. One of 894 squadrons Seafires was shot down by gunfire from ILLUSTRIOIUS, during the raid: the pilot Sub-Lt N.V. Heppenstall, RNVR was not recovered.


 The Fleet had lost 6 aircraft including 1 to ‘friendly fire’ – 2 to bomb blast and one ditched on take-off. Enemy aircraft losses were 6 destroyed and 6 damaged, plus 2 junks were sunk. 887 Sqn lost 2 aircraft and had another unserviceable after barrier crashes; NN406 piloted by Lt E. Kverndal, RNVR missed all the wires and flew into barrier sustaining severe damage and was later jettisoned. NN208 piloted by Sub-Lt L. A. Bradbury, RNVR Bounced over all the wires and the barriers and crashed into Deck Park, his aircraft was written off and presumably jettisoned. NN203 piloted by Sub-Lt A. S. Macleod, RNZNVR suffered damage to its tail landing.


The planned programme for April 7th was changed after receipt of intelligence indicating a possible mass attack by enemy forces, a planned bombardment was cancelled and the focus remained on maintaining a constant TCAP over the enemy airfields to deny the Japanese the use of their aircraft. CAPs for the fleet and the Islands were launched at 06:10. Again it was observed that bomb craters on Ishigaki had been filled in, and that Hirara and Nobara airfields appeared serviceable. Three bomber strikes were launched during the day to re-crater these fields. This was successfully carried out without loss. At 19:30 the fleet withdrew for their third replenishment period having successfully disabled all the target airfields.
 

 The Fleet had lost 7 aircraft, 3 in combat and 1 operationally. Another 4 aircraft were lost from other causes. Enemy losses were 3 aircraft destroyed on the ground and 4 damaged. 4 fishing vessels and 3 luggers were damaged. At 19:30 the fleet withdrew having successfully disabled all the target airfields, and proceeded to replenishment area Cootie One for their third replenishment period.
 

Replenishment period 4, April 8 - 9: At 06:00 on the 8th TF57 met the LSG in replenishment area COOTIE One, U.S. Task Group 52.1 having taken over the strike duty. SPEAKERs 1840 squadron Hellcats again provided CAP for the Fleet Train while STRIKER provided replacement aircraft and aircrews;  she issued 13 replacement aircraft and recovered 4 flyable 'duds' and supplied one Avenger crew to 854 squadron. Replenishment was completed by the afternoon of the 9th and TF 57 left Cootie One to return to Sakishima.
 

The strike programme called for further attacks on the 10th and 11th returning to Leyte ton completion; this was changed when Admiral Spruance commanding the U.S. 5th Fleet, requested that TF57 instead strike airfields in Northern Formosa. The U.S had been hard hit by kamikaze attacks originating from Shinchiku and Matsuyama airfields on Formosa; American carriers had wooden flight decks and a kamikaze hit could, and did, cause very serious damage, the British carriers all had armoured flight decks and so the risks of serious damage was far less. Admiral Rawlings agreed to the new tasking and the two strike days for Sakishima were cancelled and TF 57 made for Formosa.
 

Iceberg strike series 4, April 10 - 12: Formosa and ‘ICEBERG OOLONG’ called for strikes on Shinchiku and Matsuyama airfields on Formosa on April 11th & 12th The Fleet arrived in the flying-off position 30 miles South-West from Yonakumi Shima at 06:00 on the 11th but weather conditions were unfavourable and the strike was postponed for 24 hours.
 

TThe weather had improved considerably during the night as the Fleet returned to the flying off position off Formosa. At 05:55 the Fleet was detected by enemy reconnaissance aircraft and soon afterwards enemy air activity was detected to the northward. Sixteen Seafires were flown off at 06:15 for Fleet CAP and at 07:04 one flight of 4 from 887 squadron had an encounter with 4 eastbound enemy fighters, 3 A6M2 ‘Zeke’ and a single Ki-61 ‘Tony’; at 07:19 Sub-Lt J. H. Kernahan, RNVR shot down one ‘Zeke’ into the sea 5-l0 mile north of Yonakuni Shima and claimed the Ki-61 as possibly destroyed. The other two aircraft escaped.
 

wo strikes, each of 24 Avengers and 20 escorting Hellcat and Corsairs, were flown off at 07:15 from position 23°58' N 122°46' E and after forming up these proceeded in company around the coast towards their targets, cloud prevented either strike going over the mountains One strike bombed Shinchiku airfields with delay fused bombs and attacked dispersals. There was flak but no airborne opposition. Due to cloud conditions over Matsuyama airfield the other strike attacked -their alternative target Kiirun harbour where hits were observed on the chemical plant, dock area and shipping. One flight investigated Matsuama and found little activity. A nearby railway station and factory were attacked and one DC-2 ‘Tess’ was destroyed on the ground. A bridge over the river south of Matsuama was destroyed and shipping at Tansui shot up.
 

Two Fireflies which had been sent to rendezvous with the American Dumbo Air Sea Recue aircraft at Yonakuni Shima shot down four out of five eastbound Ki-51 'Sonia' kamikaze dive-bombers at 09:20 and damaged the other. As these aircraft had not been detected by radar, fighters were thereafter maintained over the island. Enemy air attacks were successfully beaten off by Hellcats and Corsairs, The Seafire CAP did not engage.
 

At the end of the days strike a total of 17 enemy aircraft had been destroyed or damaged; 16 shot down and 1, plus 1 probably destroyed, on the ground, 2 damaged in aerial combat. TF 57 lost 5 aircraft. Two Seafire s were written off on returning to the carrier;  Seafire LR802 piloted by Sub-Lt E. W. Cowle, RNVR was stopped by No. l barrier, the tail fell heavily back to the deck causing the fuselage to buckle, and NN137 flown by Sub-Lt S. F. A. Gambles, RNVR (894 Sqn) was written off after it drifted on landing and collided with a barrier stanchion.
 

A second round of strikes was planned for the 13th; at 05:50 four fighters were flown off, shortly after a raid was made by 4 enemy D3A ‘Val’ bombers, one bomb narrowly missing INDOMITABLE. A Hellcat was hit by friendly-fire during the gunnery barrage to defend the Fleet, the pilot was killed.
 

TThe first Seafire and Corsair CAP flights launched at 06:15 in position 23° 58.5' N. 122° 46' E. At 06:40 a small group of bogeys was intercepted buy CAP Corsairs 25 miles to the northwest of the Fleet; two A6M2 ‘Zeke’ were splashed and the remainder retired to the- northward.

 

Two Avenger strikes were flown off at 06:45 to attack Matsuyama and Shinchiku airfields. The weather over Matsuyama was fair, runways, barracks and dispersal points were successfully bombed, and a petrol or ammunition dump blown up. Few aircraft were seen on the airfield. Fighters shot up about 12 aircraft on Giran airfield without apparent result. The other Avenger force bombed Shinchiku airfield through low cloud, hitting runway intersections and installations. No aircraft were lost in either of these strikes and there was no airborne opposition.
 

At 13:00 Hellcats intercepted 3 A6M2 ‘Zeke’ about 40 miles north of the Fleet, and Corsairs intercepted a Dinah escorted by Ki-44 ‘Tojo’ fighters. All the enemy aircraft escaped in cloud. The Firefly CAP for the ASR Dumbo attacked the suspected radar station on Yonakuni Shima with rockets and apparently destroyed it. When relieved, they also shot up luggers and small craft in the harbour close to Iriizaki. After these bomber strikes were flown on, the Fleet disengaged to the south eastward to refuel.


. After these bomber strikes were flown on, the Fleet disengaged to the south eastward to refuel. A total of 8 enemy aircraft had been destroyed, 3 shot down with 5 destroyed on the ground; TF 57 lost 2 aircraft.  24 Wing had two Seafires put out of commission; Sub-Lt Hepworth broke the back of LR792 after catching No.8 wire but ended on its nose in No.1 barrier, damaged beyond local repair and probably jettisoned. Sub-Lt Kay (894 Sqn) landed NN186 with the hook up and flew into No.1 barrier.

 

 

Replenishment period 5, April 14 - 15: At 06:30 on April 14th the Fleet made contact with LSG in position Cootie One. The carrier FORMIDABLE, with destroyers KEMPENFELT and WESSEX were waiting and joined Task Force 57 relieving ILLUSTRIOUS which sailed for Leyte at 17:55 screened by URANIA and QUALITY. Replenishment continued on the 15th, SPEAKER provided CAP but no replacement aircraft were available during this replenishment period; FORMIDABLE was at full strength however, carrying 848 Squadron’s 18 Avengers along with 1841 and 1842 Squadrons - each with 18 Corsairs.
 

Iceberg strike series 5, April 16 - 17: The Fleet was back on station off Sakishima at position 23° 28’ N, 125° 18’ E in the early hours of April 16th to resume ICEBERG strikes. At 06:00 Fleet CAP was flown off, at 06:30 -the first strike took off to attack Ishigaki airfields. This attack, and a further one flown off at 12:30, left all the runways unserviceable. At 09:30 the second strike took off to attack Miyako airfields, where previous craters were found to be filled in; this attack, together with another flown off at 15:33, left all Miyako airfields out of action. Rocket-carrying Fireflies straffed a radar station at Miyako, and ground installations, barracks, and grounded aircraft generally were straffed. There was no airborne opposition over the targets and flak was moderate. In the afternoon Seafire NN208 (887 Sqn) bounced on landing, cleared the barriers and crashed. The pilot Sub-Lt L.A. Bradbury was unhurt, but the plane wrecked an Avenger, damaged a Firefly, and knocked two ratings over the side, QUIBERON picked up one, but the other was not recovered. At 17:35 two Hellcats from 1844 engaged a C6N ‘Myrt’ 80 miles east of Formosa, and shot it down in flames.
 

The success in subduing the enemy airfields showed, only two enemy aircraft were destroyed, 1 shot down and 1 destroyed on the ground; TF57 lost 5 aircraft - 3 in combat and 2 operationally.

April 16th 1945: The scene after Seafire NN208 of 887 Squadron bounced over all arrestor wires & barriers to land in the deck park damaging an Avenger and a Firefly. The pilot Sub-Lt L.A. Bradbury RNVR was OK but two crewmen were knocked overboard, one of which was not recovered. Image © IWM (A 29715)

On the morning of April 17th CAP was flown off at 06:00, the first strike taking off at 06:30. Efforts had been made to fill in the runway craters at Miyako but none at Ishigaki so the strike was sent to Ishigaki. Of the strikes sent to Miyako, the first two left all airfields unserviceable and the third attacked municipal buildings and barracks. TCAPs were maintained over both islands, but reported no activity on any airfields, all of which remained unserviceable at the end of the day. No operational aircraft could be found on the ground. The days tally was 3 enemy aircraft destroyed in combat and several small ships damaged. TF57 lost 1 aircraft.

 

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

 

Iceberg strike series 6, April 20: TF 57 was back on station before dawn on April 20th to carry out one their twelfth and final strike day of ICEBERG One, The pattern followed that of previous strike days, and the day ended with all airfields cratered; there were no enemy aircraft encountered by the strike groups or the Fleet.  TF57 lost 1 aircraft. At 19:10 the Fleet, set course for Leyte to meet the Fleet Maintenance Group for repairs and a replenishment period.
 

Repairs and Replenishment at Leyte

32 days after sailing from Ulithi the Fleet anchored in San Pedro Bay, the Philippines at 12:45 on April 23rd close to the ships of the waiting Fleet Train. Task Force 57 had spent 26 of these days on operations, and had completed 12 strike days. During this period 71 enemy aircraft were destroyed, 33 in the air and 38 on the ground; 52 were damaged, 2 in the air and 50 on the ground. TF57 lost 19 aircraft to enemy action 2 to ‘friendly fire’ and at least 37 were put out of action through operational incidents. Allied casualties were 16 pilots and 13 aircrew. The 24th Naval Fighter Wing had lost 12 aircraft; 7 from 887 Sqn and 5 from 894 Sqn, 4 pilots had been killed, 3 in flying incidents, 1 in the Kamikaze attack of April 1st.

 

Damage repair and defect rectification was a priority; the bomb damage to INDEFATIGABLE’s Island was taken in hand by teams from the repair ship ARTIFEX and were completed in a week The Fleet embarked stores, ammunition, replacement aircraft and squadron aircrews were returned to full strength in readiness for the second phase of ICEBERG operations.
 

Operation ICEBERG Two

Task Force 57 sailed from Leyte on at 06:30 on May 1st to return to their operational area off the Sakishima-Gunto group for a second series of 12 strike days.
 

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

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, GAMBIA and UGANDA. On arrival at the flying off position INDEFATIGABLE’s 24 Wing reported 38 serviceable aircraft - 17 Seafire F.III and 21 Seafire L. III, Fleet CAP began launching at 05:40 when 8 Seafires, 4 F.III and 4 L. III launched for the first of six CAP serials planned for the day. Ten minutes later enemy air activity in the vicinity of Sakishima was detected, one small group approached the Fleet, CAP Hellcats intercepted; one ‘Zeke’ was shot down in flames at 07:00 before the others escaped in cloud.
 

Strike ABLE for targets on Miyako Jima and the first TCAP began launching at 06:05 11 Avengers from 849 Sqn and 8 Corsairs from 47 Wing on VICTORIOUS to bomb 3 A.A. gun positions west of Hirara airfield and 9 Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE to attack 3 A.A. troop positions east of the southern end of Hirara airfield. 8 Rocket Projectile (R.p.) armed Fireflies f from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE were also to launch as part of this strike, but one went unserviceable before take-off; they were to split into two groups 4 to escort the Avengers to Miyako Jima the others to Ishigaki Shima with orders to attack any shipping in Hirara and Ishigaki harbours. Several bomb hits were observed at both airfield targets but the Fireflies had a poor result, one group attacked a derelict vessel expending all their rockets and could only strafe targets in Hirara harbour, the other group of 3 found no shipping off Ishigaki so rocket attacked a wireless weather station and Barracks with some success.

 

s Strike BAKER for Ishigaki Shima began launching at 08:15, INDOMITABLE’s 857 Sqn supplied 12 Avengers and 8 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort, they were joined by 12 Avengers from 848 Sqn FORMIDABLE. 857 Sqn were to bomb the runways at Miyara airfield and 848 Sqn to bomb the runways at Ishigaki airfield. Aircraft from Strike ABLE had landed on by 08:30. On reaching Ishigaki Shima Strike BAKER found both Miyara and Ishigaki airfields were serviceable; all enemy A.A. batteries appeared to be operational and opened fire on the strike aircraft. On completion of the strikes both airfields were left well cratered and unusable by aircraft. Aircraft from Strike BAKER had landed on by 10:55.

 

At 10:00 the force split, the bombardment force detaching to take up position for the upcoming shoot. Conditions for bombardment appeared good and it was hoped that artillery fire would be effective in taking out A.A. batteries around the airfields. The bombardment commenced at mid-day, EURYALUS and BLACK PRINCE carried out a simultaneous "air burst" shoot on the A.A. defence area of Nobara airfield. KING GEORGE V and HOWE bombarded Hirara airfield and the A.A. defence area to the north of the airfield, on completion of the "air burst" shoot SWIFTSURE and GAMBIA bombarded Nobara airfield, and UGANDA Sukama air strip. Hellcats from 1844 acted as spotters for the bombardment by KING GEORGE V. The spotting sortie was not a success due to poor radio communication between the aircraft and the Battleship. Two Corsairs from 1842 were tasked with Bombardment spotting and aerial photography for the SWIFTSURE and GAMBIA shot. The shot was not a success because the plan was changed from alternate salvos the simultaneous salvos which made calling shot for Individual ships difficult.
 

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

At 11:42 INDOMITABLE was narrowly missed by another Zeke which dived steeply on her, the close range weapons of the carrier and her escort QUALITY caused the aircraft to burst into flames and it crashed into the sea about 10 yards off the starboard bow of the ship. No damage or casualties were sustained in either of the last two attacks. Her damage control and repair teams had her patched up enough that she was able to land on 13 of her Corsairs by 17:00.
 

The Fleet CAP aircraft were kept busy, early probes proved to be decoy moves but at 11:25 Corsairs engaged the third group of detected bogies, these turned out to be ‘Zekes’, but the Corsairs were only able to shoot down one before losing sight of the remaining three. At 11:15, enemy suicide attacks developed; at 11:20. Sub-Lt . Reynolds in ('141/S') and his No.2 Sub-Lt R. C. KA.Y, RNVR in ('130/S') on CAP duty saw the fleet tum out of wind and open fire to Port, and immediately went to investigate at 1,500 feet. They spotted an A6M2 ‘Zeke 32’ 2 miles away astern of the Fleet and 1,000 feet above them, they climbed to the attack. The Zeke 32 jettisoned its bomb and turned in as the Seafires made their first runs; Sub-Lt. Reynold scored several hits on his first attack and the enemy took violent evasive action, diving to sea level being pursued by Sub-Lt Kay. The two Seafires now attacked together both scoring more hits and at 11:25, the ZEKE 32 burst into flames and crashed into the sea.

 

At 12:50 a division of 3 Seafires led by Sub-Lt Miseldine were vectored onto a bogey which they intercepted seven miles due East of the fleet at 1252. The enemy was recognised as a D3A ‘Val’ and was 1,000 feet below FX. 96216 CPO pilot W. Daniel the flight Number 2 was in a good attacking position and dived on the enemy from dead astern, obtaining many hits. The ‘Val’ smoked slightly, went into a steep spiral to Port and jettisoned 2 bombs. As Sub-Lt Miseldine went in for the kill, 2 crew baled out of the ‘Val’ which he followed down until it crushed into the sea and burst into flames.

 

At 17:20 another raid was detected approaching the fleet from the West and a flight of 3 pilots from 887 Sqn, led by Lt A. S. Macleod, RNZNVR were vectored to intercept. They encountered four A6M5 ‘Zeke 52’ aircraft at 17:25 which were 2.000 feet below them. Simultaneous attacks from astern were made by Lt Macleod in Seafire PR254, Sub-Lt D. T. Challick RNIN in ('131/S') and CPO Pilot I. B. Bird in NN363, destroying one each in a brief engagement in which no resistance or attempt to evade was made. CPO Bird spotted the fourth ‘Zeke’ flying much lower to the sea and gave chase, it climbed and escaped into the cloud. By the end of the day24 Wing’s tally was 5 destroyed.

 

On the debit side 4 Seafires were out of commission; At 12:00 seven Seafires were to land on from a CAP planned to last 2 hours; 30 minutes , a delayed take-off reduced this to 2 hours; 20 minutes. The first 2 aircraft (L.IIIs) landed on time at noon but an enemy engagement delayed the others by 10 minutes. The third aircraft landed at 12:11, the sixth at 12:18. Lt D.T. Keene RNVR in Seafire LR875 missed all the wires, and flew into the barrier. The seventh aircraft NN283 of 894 Sqn ran out of fuel after 2 hours and 40 minutes of flight and the pilot Sub-Lt M. J. H. Davey, RNVR had to bale out, he was safely rescued by the Destroyer QUALITY. This highlighted the limited range of the Seafire and its unsuitability for sorties longer than 2 hours if a margin of safety was to be maintained. 887 had two others put out of commission due to deck crashes; Sub-Lt O. W. Draper in PR193 damaged his rail wheel when it caught on an arrest or wire landing on, and Sub-Lt G. J. Murphy in NN211 made a heavy landing causing the starboard oleo to collapse and damaged the prop. Two of these damaged aircraft were deemed to be beyond the capabilities of the maintenance staff to repair and the machines were stripped and subsequently jettisoned.

 

Seafire operations were below that of ICEBERG One operations; during the replenishment stop at Leyte 18 new pilots joined 24 Wing and their levels of operational fitness were not yet honed. Recovering aircraft on completion of their CAP sorties was slowed by many pilots being waved off to go around again. For many of the new pilots this was only their first or second experience of the ‘Streamed’ landing technique, those waved off disrupted the flow of aircraft landings and created gaps in the circuit. Seven Seafires went unserviceable during the day, most while ranged for take-off which further delayed air operations as replacements were ranged.

 

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

The Fleet returned to the Islands on May 5th, 24 Wing reported 33 serviceable aircraft - 15 Seafire F.III and 18 Seafire L. III, the first CAP aircraft were launched at 05:45 in position 23° 10’ N, 125° 29’ E when 8 Seafires, 4 F.III and 4 L. III launched for the first of six CAP serials planned for the day. The now usual round of runway cratering strikes were carried out.

 

Strike ABLE for Miyako Jima began taking off at 08:43, 8 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE joined 10 Avengers from INDOMTABLE’s 857 Sqn and 8 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort to strike targets at Hirara airfield. One Firefly went unserviceable on the deck and no replacement was available, and one Avenger returned to the fleet with engine trouble. The Fireflies were to attack A.A. positions, the Avengers to bomb the runway intersection. Three of the four A.A. positions were successfully hit by the Fireflies but the Avengers only managed to put the NE-SW runway out of action. The previous day’s bombardment appeared to have been successful as the strike groups reported that no flak at all was encountered over Miyako.

 

Strike BAKER for Ishigaki Shima, began launching at 10:18 and comprised of 12 Avengers from 820 Sqn, INDEFATIGABLE to bomb 3 A.A. positions near the main runway at Ishigaki airfield and 6 Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORUIUOS to bomb the east – west runway and dispersal areas. One Avenger from 849 Sqn developed electrical problems and returned to base. All targets were hit and the runway was cratered and unusable. Aircraft from Strike ABLE began lading on at 11:08, Strike BAKER arrived back over the fleet at 13:30.

 

Aircraft for strike CHARLIE began lunching at 13:47, 8 Avengers from 849 Sqn and 7 Corsairs from 47 Wing VICTORUIUOS joined by 8 Avengers from INDOMTABLE’s 857 Sqn to bomb the runways at Nobara and Hirara airfields on Miyako Jima. Could cover made a standard attack impossible, the strike aircraft circled the target and attacked in pairs when gaps opened in the cloud. All runways were left unserviceable. The aircraft began landing on from 15:51.

 

The Fleet withdrew at 19:05 and proceeded to replenishment area Cootie. The day was quiet compared to the previous day. Only 1 enemy aircraft was destroyed in combat, with 3, and 2 probably, destroyed on the ground. TF57 lost 3 aircraft. Three Seafires from 887 squadron were damaged in deck crashes; two were beyond local repair and were later ditched, the third required a mainplane change.[5.] 
 

The ‘Batsman’ guides a returning Seafire to a safe landing. Image: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections via Digital NZ

Replenishment period 8, May 6 - 7: At 06:30 on May 6th TF 57 met up with the LSG. US Task Group 52.1 covered Sakishima. During the day STRIKER transferred 15 replacement aircraft to the Fleet and embarked 34 casualties from FORMIDABLE injured by Kamikaze attack on May 4th; STRIKER and the other replenishment carriers were tasked with casualty evacuation in the replenishment areas and STRIKER , as Flagship 30th Aircraft Carrier Squadron had the largest medical staff aboard. She sallied for Leyte at 19:15 in company with KEMPENFELT, detached from TF57 with defects. At 18:45 the Fleet detached from the Tanker Group for the night. At 06:15 on May 7th fuelling recommenced. Fuelling and exchange of stores, mail and correspondence was completed by 14:00, when the Fleet disengaged from the tankers and took departure for the operations area. During the replenishment period further repairs were made to FORMIDABLE’s bomb damage and she was fully operational when the Fleet left area Cootie.
 

Iceberg strike series 8, May 8 -9: At 05:15 on May 8th TF 57 relieved US Task Group 52.1 and prepared for a third day of strikes. A planned bombardment was cancelled when the weather deteriorated but 4 bomber strikes were still planned; the fighters sent to operate TCAPs over Miyako and Ishigaki reported poor visibility and all operations for the day were cancelled. INDEFATIGABLE launched a CAP of 8 Seafires at 09:10 but this was reduced to a CAP of 4 aircraft from 12:45 which was maintained until 19:05. The last flight to land on did so in very poor weather and failing light but there were no landing accidents during the day. 24 Wing reported 34 serviceable aircraft - 16 Seafire F.III and 18 Seafire L. III at the start of the day and it is presumed this total was still valid when the fleet withdrew. News of Victory in Europe reached the Fleet.

 

May 9th brought better weather. The first CAPs were flown off at 05:45, INDEFATIGABLE launching 6 Seafire and maintained a CAP of this strength until 19:05. 24 Wing reported 34 serviceable aircraft - 16 Seafire F.III and 18 Seafire L. III. Four bomber strikes were planned for the day, two to each island.


Aircraft for Strike ABLE began taking off at 08:26 with INDOMITABLE launching 11 Avengers from 857 Sqn and 8 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort, these were joined by 8 Avengers from 848 Sqn FORMIDABLE tasked to attack the airfield at Ishigaki. One Hellcat had to return to base with engine trouble but the remainder of the strike reached their target. The main runway at Ishigaki was still cratered and unusable but the secondary east – west one was useable and this was bombed by 848 Sqn while 857 bombed dispersed targets around the airfield.

 

Strike BAKER for Miyako Shima, began launching at 10:46, VICTORIOUS launched 12 Avengers from 849 Sqn and 8 Corsairs from 47 Wing as escort, they were joined by 16 Avengers from 820 Sqn, INDEFATIGABLE. The C.O. of 820 Sqn had to return to the ship immediately after take-off, when his aircraft’s undercarriage refused to retract. Targets for 820 Sqn were administration buildings and camouflaged military installations northeast of Hirara airfield, 849 Sqn were to bomb the runway intersection. All targets were hit but results were poor. Aircraft from Strike ABLE began landing on from 10:57, all had landed on by 11:20. Aircraft from strike BAKER had completed landing on by at 13:30.

 

Aircraft for strike CHARLIE began to take-off at 13:44 INDOMITABLE launching 8 Avengers from 857 Sqn and 8 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort, they were joined by 8 RP armed Fireflies from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE for Miyara airfield on Ishigaki Shima. The Fireflies were to attack any aircraft on dispersal areas and gun positions to the seaward of Miyara runway and the Avengers to bomb the intersection of the main and auxiliary runways on the same airfield. The Fireflies found no aircraft on arrival over the target so attacked the alternative targets, including a suspected camouflaged M/T? Park and two covered revetments with rockets. The Avenger bombing was less accurate than usual. Only about four bombs actually hit the target, but these together with previous unfilled craters were sufficient to render both runways unserviceable. Strike CHARLIE aircraft began to land on from 15:41.

 

Aircraft for strike DOG to attack Nobara airfield on Miyako Shima began to take-off at 15:46, VICTORIOUS launched 6 Avengers from 849 Sqn and 8 Corsairs from 47 Wing as escort, they were joined by 12 Avengers from 820 Sqn, INDEFATIGABLE. Both squadrons were to attack the runways, 849 Sqn bombed the North/South runway, 820 Sqn was to split into two flights one bombing the N/S runway the other the East/West one. One of INDEFATIGABLE’s Avengers was forced to abort on reaching the coast, the engine cut out for 2 minutes before restarting to run erratically, after jettisoning their bombs the crew nursed it back to the Fleet and the engine finally cut out as it crossed the rounddown to land at 17:40 Both runways were left unserviceable. Strike DOG aircraft began to land on from 18:20.

 

That afternoon the Kamikaze suicide planes struck the Fleet hard and caused significant damage; at 16:45 bogeys were detected very low 22 miles to the westward, coming in fast. Four Seafires from 894 squadron, Sub-Lt A. W. Bradley, RNVR ('153/S'), Sub-Lt F. Hockley, RNVR ('143/S’), Sub-Lt I. C. Taylor, RNVR (' 137/S') and Sub-Lt K. D. Gall, RNVR ('136/S'), intercepted at 15 miles, but allowed themselves to be decoyed away by one A6M ‘Zero’ which they shot down at 17:15. Meanwhile four other enemy planes evaded another patrol of Seafires, and after climbing to about 3,000 feet penetrated the Fleets defences. From 16:50 onwards the Fleet was radically manoeuvred by emergency turns at 22 knots. VICTORIOUS came under attack first, the enemy was hit by close range weapons but crashed onto the flight deck near the forward lift. The resulting fire was quickly brought under control, but the bomb explosion holed the flight deck, put the accelerator out of action, rendered one 4.5 inch gun unserviceable, and damaged one lift hoisting motor.

 

At 16:56 a second Kamikaze made a shallow power glide from astern on VICTORIOUS. Despite being hit by heavy gunfire, and on fire, it hit the flight deck aft a glancing blow, and burning furiously passed over the side. Damage to the ship was confined to one arrester unit out of action, a 40 mm. gun director destroyed, and four Corsairs on deck damaged beyond repair. Casualties from both these attacks were three killed, four seriously injured, and 15 wounded.

At 16:57 a third Kamikaze made a pass at VICTORIOUS but then shifted target to the Battleship HOWE further ahead; the attacker was hit at a more reasonable range, and failed to find a target, passing over the Quarterdeck to crash in flames 100 yards beyond HOWE. At 17:05 a fourth Kamikaze approached FORMIDABLE and then INDOMITABLE, being engaged by both ships without apparent result. It then turned and dived into the after deck park of FORMIDABLE. There was a large explosion and fire and a great deal of smoke. Her speed was reduced to 15 knots to aid control of the fire which was extinguished at 17:20. Six Corsairs and one Avenger were destroyed by fire on deck.  The explosion blew out a flight deck rivet and thus allowed burning petrol to fall into the hangar which had to be sprayed. As a result a further three Avengers and eight Corsairs were damaged. Eighteen aircraft were put out of action, four Avengers and 14 Corsairs, of which three Avengers and seven Corsairs were flyable duds. Casualties were fortunately light—one killed and a few injured.
 

At 17:05 a fourth Kamikaze approached FORMIDABLE and then INDOMITABLE, being engaged by both ships without apparent result. It then turned and dived into the after deck park of FORMIDABLE. There was a large explosion and fire and a great deal of smoke. Her speed was reduced to 15 knots to aid control of the fire which was extinguished at 17:20. Six Corsairs and one Avenger were destroyed by fire on deck. The explosion blew out a flight deck rivet .and thus allowed burning petrol to fall into the hangar which had to be sprayed. As a result a further three Avengers and eight Corsairs were damaged. Eighteen aircraft were put out of action, four Avengers and 14 Corsairs, of which three Avengers and seven Corsairs .were flyable duds. Casualties were fortunately light—one killed and a few injured.
 

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

Replenishment period 9, May 10 - 11: At 06:10 May 10th TF 57 met the LSG. Six of 1841 squadrons Corsair flyable duds were flown off to SPEAKER from FORMIDABLE and 7 replacements were issued. One replacement Seafire was issued to INDEFATIGABLE. 20 casualties were embarked from FORMIDABLE and VICTORIOUS for passage to the Hospital Ship OXFORDSHIRE at Leyte. At 19:15 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night. Fuelling and storing continued on the 11th; in the afternoon INDEFATIGABLE transferred 6 Avengers from 820 Sqn and their crews to FORMIDABLE to bolster her aircraft complement for the remaining strike days. On completion the Fleet disengaged at 16:40 and departed for the operational area.

 

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

Iceberg strike series 9, May 12 - 13: On arrival at the flying off position at 23° 40’ N, 126°51’ E at 05:20 the radar pickets and four counter-Kamikaze destroyers took station one close astern of each carrier. INDEFATIGABLE’s 24 Wing reported 37 serviceable aircraft - 18 Seafire F.III and 19 Seafire L. III. Flying commenced at 05:40 with the launch of Fleet and island CAPS; 8 Seafire, 4 F.III and 4 L. III launched for the first of six CAP serials planned for the day, one went unserviceable and landed on INDOMITALE before returning to INDEFATIGABLE at 08:15. Fiver bomber strike were for the day, two to attack airfields on Ishigaki Shima and three to Miyako Shima but second strike for Ishigaki Shima, Strike CHARLIE, was cancelled owing to weather conditions.
 

Aircraft for Strike ABLE began taking off at 05:40 INDOMITABLE launching 11 Avengers from 857 Sqn and 4 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort and 4 for TCAP, these were joined by 8 Avengers from 848 Sqn FORMIDABLE tasked to attack airfields on Ishigaki Shima. 857 Sqn were to bomb the East-West runway at Ishigaki airfield and 848 Sqn to bomb the intersection of the runways at Miyara airfield.

 

Strike BAKER launched at 08:00 for Miyako Shima, and comprised of 12 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE and 10 Avengers from 849 Sqn and 7 Corsairs from 47 Wing as escort and TCAP from VICTORIOUS [6]. 820 were to bomb the runways at Nobara airfield while 849 Sqn bomb the runways at Hirara airfield. Several hits were observed at both airfields leaving the runways unserviceable. One Avenger from 820 has a fire break out in a generator while approaching the target, uncertain as to whether the fire was out the pilot requested an emergency landing on reaching the Fleet and was accepted by INDOMITABLE at 10:00, the aircraft re-joined INDEFATIGABLE at 17:30.
 

Strike ABLE began landing on at 08:55, one of the 857 Sqn Avengers had ditched 80 miles west of the fleet due to engine failure, and two of the escorting Hellcats were ordered to circle their position. The crew were rescued by the guard submarine USS BLUEFISH and the 2 Hellcats landed on at 10:34. During the first TCAP the commanding officer of 1844 squadron, Lt. Cdr M.S. Godson RNVR, was killed when his aircraft JV284 (an 1839 machine) was hit by flak during a dive bombing run on the dispersal area at Hirara airfield on Miyako, his aircraft caught fire and went into a shallow dive while turning away for the coast and exploded on hitting the ground.

 

Strike DOG took off at 13:50, 8 Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS with orders to attack a heavy A.A. position at Hirara airfield and 4 Fireflies from1 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE to strafe two radio stations on Miyako Shima. Low cloud hampered the attacks, 1770 attacked in two sections, 2 aircraft launching rockets at the Hirara radio weather station, 16 of the 32 projectiles missed, and the others attacked the northern radio station,. Again the rockets were all near misses causing some damage to the communications buildings The Avengers scored several hits on the target gun position and administration buildings but several bombs failed to explode.

 

Strike EASY launched at 15:45, also for targets on Miyako Shima, 11Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE – the twelfth went unserviceable on the deck - and 8 Avengers from 848 Sqn and 4 Corsairs from 6 NFW as escort from FORMIDABLE. 820 Sqn was tasked with bombing the runway intersection while 848 Sqn attacked camouflaged builds and gun positions at Hirara airfield. Aircraft from Strike DOG began landing on from 16:20, followed by the Avengers from Strike EASY at 18:25.

 

At 19:30 the dusk CAP was landed on and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. The airfields on both Miyako and Ishigaki islands were again suppressed and runways re-cratered, and A.A. emplacements and dispersal areas were strafed. No enemy aircraft were airborne in the vicinity of the Fleet or islands during the day. TF57 lost 5 aircraft, 2 in combat and 3 operationally; 3 enemy aircraft were probably damaged on the ground and a 200 ton coaster damaged.

 

On May 13th the fleet arrived at the flying off position at 24° 20’ N, 126° 55’ E at 05:20 the radar pickets and four counter-Kamikaze destroyers were deployed. Flying commenced at 05:40 Fleet and Islands CAPS were flown off, INDEFATIGABLE’s 24 Wing reported 32 serviceable aircraft - 15 Seafire F.III and 17 Seafire L. III with 21 pilots fit to fly. An outbreak of Gastroenteritis occurred in the wardroom on INDEFATIGABLE the previous afternoon and this was to significantly affect the ships capabilities for the upcoming strikes; 55 pilots and observers were out sick plus many of the ship’s Fighter Direction team. While all three squadrons had aircrew on the sick list 1770 could 50% of its pilots fit to fly but 12 serviceable aircraft.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Replenishment period 10, May 14 - 15: At 06:30 on May 14th TF 57 met the LSG n area Cootie One. A second group comprising STRIKER (Replenishment), NIZAM and Tankers WAVE KING and WAVE MONARCH were delayed, but were on station by 10:00. The hospital, ship TJITJALENGKA arrived at the replenishment area later that afternoon prepared to accept any future casualties when the Fleet withdrew from operations. The replenishment carrier STRIKER transferred 14 replacement aircraft, including 3 Seafires for 24 Wing, and recovered 1 flyable dud. At 19:10 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group for the night. During the second day of replenishment STRIKER issued a further 6 aircraft and received one flyable dud. At 17:05 the Fleet disengaged from the Tanker Group and departed for the operations area.
 

Iceberg strike series 10, May 16 - 17: The fleet arrived at the flying off position at 23° 40’ N, 126° 51’ E at 05:10 the radar pickets and four counter-Kamikaze destroyers were deployed. INDEFATIGABLE’s 24 Wing reported 39 serviceable aircraft - 20 Seafire F.III and 19 Seafire L. III. Flying commenced at 05:40 Fleet and Islands CAPS were launched. The flying programme called for five bomber strikes, three to Miyako Jima and two to Ishigaki. Jima.
 

The launch of aircraft for Strike ABLE commenced 05:47, 8 Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS and 8 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. Avengers of 849 Sqn attacked first, splitting into fights of 2 aircraft they bombed the runways at Hirara airfield; 50% of their bombs hit the runway intersection. The Fireflies attacked in two flights, one firing their topcoats at buildings at northern radio station at Hirara and the other attacked a camouflaged Radio station a.t Nobara; all rockets missed at both targets.

 

Aircraft for Strike BAKER began launching at 07:45 and would comprise of 25 Avengers from three Carriers for targets on Ishigaki Jima; 10 Avengers from 857 Sqn and 4 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort from INDOMITABLE, 7 Avengers from 848 Sqn from FORMIDABLE and 8 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. 857 Sqn were ordered to bomb the east/west runway at Ishigaki airfield. 848 Sqn was to target the dispersal in-between Ohama village and the main runway. Both these targets were accurately bombed. 820 Sqn was to bomb construction work on the north-eastern end of the main runway, a suspected underground dispersal or storage are; littles damage was observed. Strike ABLE had landed on by 08:39 followed by Strike BAKER by 10:00.

 

Aircraft for Strike CHARLIE began taking off at 10:15: 8 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE and 7 Avengers 849 Sqn from VICTORIOUS for Miyako Jima. Both squadrons were to attack the runways at Nobara airfield; 820 Sqn bombing the east/west runway and 849 Sqn the north/south runway.

 

Aircraft for Strike DOG began taking off at 13:25; 8 Avengers from 848 Sqn from FORMIDABLE and Avengers from 857 Sqn INDOMITABLE for targets on Ishigaki Jima. 848 Sqn dropped bombs on Miyara north/south runway scoring 31 hits while 857 Sqn bonded camouflaged buildings in a wooded area west of the airfield, 21 bombs fell on target. Strike CHARLIE laded on by13:36. At13:40 an unidentified Seafire from 24 Wig made a successful wheels up belly landing on INDEFATIGABLE after the pilot discovered the undercarriage would not operate.

 

Seafire belly landing © IWM A 29485 .

Strike EASY began launching at 15:30 for targets on Miyako Jima; 8 Avengers 849 Sqn from VICTORIOUS plus 7 Avengers from 820 Sqn and 8 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. The Avengers of 820 Sqn were ordered to bomb camouflaged builds and installations on the ridge to the northeast of Hirara airfield. 849 Sqn bombed a Hirara camouflaged dispersal at Hirara. 1770 Sqn was reduced to 6 Fireflies on reaching the coast, one aircraft developed engine trouble and was ordered to return to base escorted by his no.2. The remaining 6 were to separate into three flights to seek out tragets of opportunity along the coast line, operating independently of the main strike. They attack a Barracks at Karamata, launching ramps and camouflaged vessels, believed to be suicide boats, 2 barges and a lugger near Shimozaki, in the Yerabu area another 3 Luggers and a large motor boat were attacked. The strike aircraft began landing on from 17:45.

 

The dusk CAP landed on at 19:35 and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. No enemy aircraft were airborne during the day. All runways were made unserviceable; four new aircraft which appeared operational were strafed but did not burn, 3 others were damaged; 10 small craft of various classes were damaged, and four of them left-in a sinking condition; a large explosion was caused in Ohama town;' 5 direct hits with S.A.P. bombs were made on a large cave shelter. TF 57lost 5 aircraft; 3 operationally and 2 in deck crashes.

 

On May 17th the fleet arrived at the flying off position at a position 85 miles 110° from Miyako at 05:20 the radar pickets and four counter-Kamikaze destroyers were deployed. Flying commenced at 05:40 Fleet and Islands CAPS were flown off, INDEFATIGABL’s 24 Wing reported 36 serviceable aircraft - 18 Seafire F.III and 18 Seafire L. III. 8 Seafires, 4 F.III and 4 L. III launched for the first of the day’s planned seven Fleet CAP serials and this strength was to be maintained until dusk.
 

It had been planned to send in four bomber strikes, two to each island, but the second strike to Ishigaki was cancelled. Very light winds which prevailed throughout the day would require the Carriers to steam at full speed to launch aircraft, however INDOMITABLE had reported a defective stern bush which restricted her speed to below that for flying operations. At 07:42 a Corsair making an emergency landing on VICTORIOUS removed 2 arrestor 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 par, One officer and ono rating were mortally injured, 2 ratings seriously injured and two others slightly hurt. All 20 of her airborne aircraft had to be landed on the other Carriers while jury rigged barriers were established; this was done by 11:45 and her aircraft began returning. The first landed on safely, the second airsoft bounced in the gap left by the two missing arrestor wires and demolished the first jury rigged barrier; the second was removed at 12:45 by another deck crash. It would be 17:15 before she could resume flight operations.
 

The subsequent reorganised flying programme for the day saw Strike BAKER for targets on Ishigaki Jima commenced launching at 07:40 when 8 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE 8 Avengers from 848 Sqn FORMIDABLE and 12 Avengers from 857 Sqn and 4 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort from INDOMITABLE set out for targets on Ishigaki Jima. 857 Sqn Avengers bombed the East/ West runway on I Ishigaki, 848 Sqn Avengers bombed the main runway at Miyara, and 820 Sqn Avengers bombed targets in Ohama village.
 

Strike CHARLIE for Miyako Jima began launching at11:02 and comprised of 8 Avengers from 849 Sqn VICTORIOUS [7] and 6 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE (8oredereed but two failed to spread wings on range). 849 Sqn bonded Hirara a runways and Hirara town while 820 attacked runways at Nobara airfield. Strike BAKER began landing on at 11:07.

 

Strike DOG for Miyako Jima began launching at13:25 and comprised of 8 Avengers from 848 Sqn FORMIDABLE, 8 Avengers from 857 Sqn INDOMITABLE and 4 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn INDEFATIGABLE. 848 Sqn aircraft bombed on camouflaged dispersal area and underground stores scoring several good hits, 857 Sqn bombed camouflaged buildings, gun positions and dispersal areas near Hirara airfield. Strike CHARLIE landed on at 1`3.40, 4 avengers from 849 Sqn were also accepted by INDEFECTIBLE since VICTORIOUS was still unable to receive aircraft. Strike DOG aircraft began landing on from 16:10.
 

The dusk CAP landed on at 19:15 and the Fleet withdrew to the southward and set course for replenishment area Cootie to refuel. No enemy aircraft were airborne during the day. All airfields had been left unserviceable except Miyara which may not have been sufficiently cratered. Ohama and Hirara towns were bombed, and barges and small craft were well strafed. TF 57lost 4 aircraft; 1 operationally and 3 in deck crashes. One of these was an unidentified Seafire from 47Wing which was jettisoned after a serious barrier crash.

 

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

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

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

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

By 07:45 the weather had improved slightly and the Fleet and Islands CAPS were flown off., INDEFATIGABLE’s 24 Wing reported 39 serviceable aircraft - 19 Seafire F.III and 20 Seafire L. III. 8 Seafires, 4 F.III and 4 L. III launched for the first of the day’s planned Fleet CAP serials. Although 4 bomber strikes were planned, weather conditions throughout the day saw two being cancelled and one abandoned.
 

Aircraft for Strike ABLE for Miyako Jima began launching from 07:50; eight Fireflies from 1770 squadron were ranged in front of the deck park and in this exposed position and prevailing wind only 4 could be armed with rockets. One R/P armed aircraft went unserviceable before take-off. Also launched were 3 Avengers from VICTORIOUS’s 849 Sqn which had remained aboard and were to join with 5 others launched from VICTORIOUS. A forth 849 Sqn Avenger was boosted to return to base as unserviceable to join the Strike. 849 Sqn was to bomb Hirara town but this was 9 tenths cloud cover and bombs were dropped when gaps appeared in the clod, greatly reducing their accuracy. 1770 Sqn split into two flights on reaching the Island, one of 4 with 2 R/P armed were to attack the camouflaged Radio Station at Nobara while thee flight 3, one armed with R/Ps attacked a Radar Station at Hienna Saki. Eight R/P hits were observed on the communication centre at Nobara which was also strafed with 20mm cannon fire and left ablaze; on reaching the Hienna Saki radar site the flight found it derelict and deserted, the site had been attacked by the squadron on April 16th and the accommodations buildings were still uninhabitable, the radar itself was gone, only its concrete base remained. When the two flights joined up to take departure from the fleet a camouflaged construction was seen 220 yards to the southeast and all 7 Fireflies attacked with 8 R/Ps and cannon fire before setting course for home. 1770 began landing on at 10:00.
 

The poor weather resulted in Strike BAKER and CHARLIE being cancelled; aircraft for Strike DOG began launching at 15:30 for Ishigaki Jima, 8 Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGFABLE joined 10 Avengers from INDOMTABLE’s 857 Sqn and 4 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort. On approaching the Island cloud cover completely covered the area and there was no possibility of finding any targets as the coverage was blanket cloud; the strike was aborted and the force returned to the Fleet and began landing on from 18:10. Seafire CAPS landed on at 17:40 having maintained 8 aircraft aloft throughout the day. There were two Seafire deck crashes; at 13:50 Sub-Lt I.C. Taylor, RNVR (894 Sqn) bounced into the barrier in NF449, the pilot was OK but the aircraft was subsequently ditched overboard. A second 894 Sqn pilot, Sub-Lt G.W. Draper, RNVR in NF660, stalled onto the rounddown putting the aircraft unserviceable.
 

The dusk CAP landed on at 19:00 and the Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night. No enemy aircraft were airborne during the day. The limited strike and poor weather resulted in no enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged on the ground and only 1 junk and 3 barges damaged. TF 57lost 3 aircraft ; 1 in combat and 2 operationally.
 

On returning to the area the following day flying-off was planned for 05:40 from a position 85 miles 110° from Miyako. The weather at dawn was similar to the previous day except that the Fleet was clear of fog patches. Flying-off was therefore postponed. Four Hellcats were flown off at 06:00 to investigate the weather within a 30 mile radius. They reported clear weather to east and west, and improving weather to the northward. Based on this information CAPs and the first strike were launched at 06:55. INDEFATIGABLE’s 24 Wing reported 35 serviceable aircraft - 17 Seafire F.III and 18 Seafire L. III. 8 Seafires, 4 F.III and 4 L. III launched for the first of the day’s planned Fleet CAP serials. Five bomber strikes were planned, three to Miyako and two to Ishigaki.
 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The wings are being unfolded on a Seafire being prepared for flight operations. Image: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections via Digital NZ

 

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

 

Flying commenced at 09:00 when 2 sections of Seafires were launched from INDEFATIGABLE to reconnoitre the weather. They were followed at 90:25 by 4 Hell cats from INDOMITABLLE to assess the weather over the island s. Fleet CAPs and the first strike were launched at 10:45. INDEFATIGABLE’s 24 Wing reported 38 serviceable aircraft - 19 Seafire F.III and 19 Seafire L. III. 8 Seafires, 4 F.III and 4 L. III launched for the first of the day’s planned Fleet CAP serials at 11:00.

 

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

 

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

 

Strike CHARLIE for targets on Miyako Jima began launching from 15:55 and comprised of 6 Avengers from INDOMTABLE’s 857 Sqn and 4 Hellcats from 5 Wing as escort, joined by 6Avengers from 820 Sqn INDEFATIGFABLE, 8 were ordered but two went unserviceable before take-off. Target for the strike was change to Miyako Jima during take-off and this caused some confusion, some on deck were informed by ‘last minute board’ shown to the pilots but those already airborne were informed by radio and the messages became confused. 857 Sqn bombed Hirara Town while 820 bombed a suicide boat base on the northern peninsular of the island. The aircraft began landing on at 17:45.

 

There was no enemy air activity in the vicinity and the last CAP was landed on at 19:07 and radar pickets were recalled. The Fleet withdrew to the southward for the night at 19:40. TF 57 lost no aircraft. One Seafire was damaged in a deck landing crash, Sub-Lt E.O. Atkin RNVR of 887, in NN228, had the starboard undercarriage collapse landing on.

 

On reaching the flying off position at 23°40' N 126°52' E on the morning other 25th INDEFATIGABLE’s 24 Wing reported 35 serviceable aircraft - 16 Seafire F.III and 19 Seafire L. III. Weather conditions had improved and flying commenced at 06:00 when 8 Seafires, 4 F.III and 4 L. III launched for the first of the days planned the radar picket t CAP serials.

 

Strike ABLE for Miyako Jima also began launching at 06:00, the force comprised of 6 Avengers from 857 Sqn INDOMTABLE’ joined by 8 Fireflies from 1770 Sqn, INDEFATIGABLE, 6 armed with R/Ps and 2 ‘clean’ to act as escort and then strike at targets on t Miyako. The main target for both squadrons was Hirara airfield; the Avengers had to bomb thorough gaps in the cloud cover but scored several hits on both the runways and their intersection, the Fireflies then fired 20 rockets at, and strafed the Hirara administration buildings before firing an further 24 rockets at collaged buildings north of the airfield. On their withdrawal from the area they made cannon attacks on several barges and the military headquarters on Yeradu Jima. The strike force landed on at 08:50.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

There was no enemy air activity in the vicinity all day. All aircraft were flown on by 19:10 and the Fleet withdrew. At the end of the last day of strikes TRF 57 had achieved 26 hits observed on Nobara runways which were left unserviceable and 14 hits were made on Hirara runways. The Amphibious Tank Bases, a barracks, and barges at Osaki were attacked. A fire was started at Sukama-town, and the suicide boat base was attacked by rockets. At Ishigaki 8 bomb hits were made on each of the main Ishigaki and Miyara airfield runways.

 

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

During the period March 26th to May 25th the BPF flew 5,335 sorties 1,800 of them by INDEFATIGABLE’s aircraft. The Seafires of 24 Wing shot down 7 enemy aircraft during ICERBERG phase 1 and 6 during phase 2. From May 12th, Iceberg strike series 9, Seafires from 24 Wing were tasked with providing CAP over the radar picket cruisers deployed to the northeast and southwest screen the fleet; eight Seafires were launched for this duty. 4 L.III & 4 F.III – the L.IIIs split into 2 sections and remained over the Cruisers while the F.IIIIs patrolled the area between the two cruisers. This CAP was maintained from deployment of the pickets till dusk, 8 Seafires launching every two hours, typically 56 sorties in 7 serials.
 

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

 

 

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

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

 INDEFATIGABLE was no longer the only BPF Carrier to operate an air group equipped with Seafires; IMPLACABLE had arrived at Manus on May 29th from Sydney carrying 801 and 880 Seafire Squadrons, the 30th Naval Fighter Wing, along with 828 Avenger squadron and 1771 Firefly squadron. She was to take part in strikes against targets in the Turk Islands during June and would change how the Seafire was utilised by the fleet by the time INDEFATIGABLE and the rest of the Fleet returned to the operational area. TF37 arrived at Manus the next day and departed for Sydney on May 31st.

On reaching the New South Wales coast on June 5th the Carriers disembarked their squadrons to Naval Air Stations in the area to regroup and re-equip as necessary while the ships of the BPF took on stores and underwent repairs. 887 squadron and 24 Wing disembarked to RNAS Schofields. Sub-Lt J. C. Taylor, RNVR(894 Sqn) was killed shortly after taking off to fly ashore, suffering engine problems, he requested an emergency landing but could not be received before his engine failed and his aircraft NN183 ditched, he was not recovered. Another aircraft, PP928 of 887 Sqn flown by Sub-Lt. M.J Brown, RNVR crashed landing at RNAS Bankstown later that day, the port oleo collapsed.

Seafire (‘127/S') is manhandled out of the soft ground at the end of the runway at RNAS Schofields. The squadron's tented accommodation cane be seen on the other side of the runway.

On June 30th the 24th 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). INDEFATIGABLE was allocated No. 7 CAG under the leadership of Lt. Cdr N. G. Hallett DSC & Bar RN. This still comprised of two Safire squadrons 887 & 894, one Avenger squadron 820, and one Firefly squadron, 1772 replacing 1770.

 

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

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

The Seafire finally unleashed: The addition of the US 89 gallon drop tank, seen attached to the centreline hard point between the undercarriage legs, gave the fighter the increased range and endurance needed to conduct strike missions over enemy territory.

By this time the Seafire was upgraded due to the fitting of US 89 gallon drop tank designed for the American P-40 Warhawk sourced and tested by IMPLACABLES’s 30 Wing (now part of 8 CAG). With these the Seafire had an extended range of 200 nautical miles, and patrol endurance on station up to over three hours allowing their employment in the BPF to be extended outside of just CAP sorties. The aerodynamics of the US drop tanks actually improved the fighter’s deck approach and landing characteristics. The first use of the Seafire in a non-CAP role came on July 17th when 16 Seafires of 801 Sqn, IMPALACABLE launched for a RAMROD mission over mainland Japan, to strike at airfields at Mobara, Naruto, and Hasuda, in the Tokyo area. Although they crossed the coast, so becoming the first Seafires to fly over Japan the mission was aborted due to bad weather on arrival over the target area.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

During the day the carriers had flown 417 sorties and destroyed 15 aircraft, and probably 2 more, on the ground, 3 hangars at Takamatsu, 1 freighter, a small tanker and numerous Luggers and Junks. They damage at least 31 aircraft on the ground, an aircraft factory, a train factory and shipyard, scored multiple hits on the SHIMANE MARU breaking its back, several destroyers, junks and other craft. TF 37 losses were 9 aircraft; 8 operationally, 1 deck crash.
 

INDEFATIGABLE’s Seafires were in action in the ground attack role for the first time on this date, 12 Seafires launching for a Ramrod mission attack targets at Takamatsu and Kanonji. In this role they carried 2 x 250 lb bombs: one under each wing plus the new drop tanks were still a work in progress however, two aircraft experience difficulties with the ‘jury rigged’ attachment points; two 887 Sqn aircraft were affected; Sub-Lt J. Birtle, RNVR had problems with his tank soon after take-off and returned to the ship to find no deck available and was ordered to ditch alongside. Lt D. T. Challick, RNethN had his long range tank fall off while strafing an airfield on Shokuku, he too had to ditch on the return leg but was picked up safely by HMAS QUIBERON. A third Seafire was written off when Sub-Lt G. T. Murphy, RNVR (894 Sqn) could not lower his undercarriage and made a belly landing.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Replenishment period 16, July 26 – 27: Having rendezvoused with the LSG TF 37 began oiling at 09:00. Fuelling continued through the day and replacement aircraft and pilots were transferred to the carriers. The cruisers ACHILLES and NEWFOUNDLAND were detached to fuel from US TU 30.10.1. The fleet disengaged at 18:50 for the night.

 

Fuelling resumed at 05:15 on the 27th. STRIKER transferred her remaining 3 replacement aircraft to SPEAKER and dethatched for Guam on route to Manus. On completion of fuelling the tankers CEDARDALE and EASEDALE consolidated their reserves into CARELIA before detaching for Manus escorted by LAUNCESTON, WHYALLA. WAVE EMPEROR detached for Eniwetok to reload with PLYM and PARRET as escort. TF 37 and TF 38 set course overnight for the next morning’s flying off positrons.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

During the days strikes TF 37 launched 399 aircraft; 260 on offensive operations, 135 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 6 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 14 damaged on the ground. 3 small cargo vessels plus several small ships and junks sunk, with 3 other merchant ships possibly sunk. TF 37 loses were 9 aircraft. One Seafire from 7 CAG was damaged in a deck crash, Sub-Lt I. A. Marriott of 887 Sqn in NN507 (an 894 Sqn machine) had its port undercarriage brake off on landing.

 

On the 29th there was no planned air operations, elements of TF 37 joined with US TF 38 for bombardment of shore targets. A Seafire from 894 Sqn was written off when Sub-Lt Gambles bounced on landing, hit the island then No.3 barrier where the aircraft, NF642, disintegrated, the pilot was OK.


On the morning of the 30th the CAP and first three Ramrod strikes were launched at 04:45 in position 31° 56’ N 135° 11’ E. The day’s flying programme was the same as for the 28th, only targets were changed. Strike 1A comprised of 10 Corsairs from FORMIDABLE to attack shipping in the Inland Sea; Strike 1B was launched from IMPLACABLE and comprised of 12 Seafires to attack shipping but returned to the ship when cloud prevented then form locating the target; Strike 1C comprised of 8 Corsairs from VICTORIOUS to attack shipping in Kumano harbour.

 

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

 

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

 

During the days strikes TF 37 launched 346 aircraft; 212 on offensive operations, 130 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 6 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 6 damaged on the ground. 2 luggers sunk, with 1 destroyer, 1 large transport, small freighter, 2 coasters, 2 luggers and 3 barges possibly sunk. TF 37 loses were 6 aircraftand four pilots. One Seafire from 7 CAG was lost and its pilot killed; Sub-Lt J. D. Alexander RNZNVR of 894 Sqn in NN599 was hit by flak at Toba, north of Nagdya Bay, Japan and crashed.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

During the days strikes TF 37 launched 407 aircraft; 263 on offensive operations, 140 on defensive operations and 4 photo recon flights. 44 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 17 probable, 22 damaged on the ground. 2 locomotives and associated freight cars destroyed, 2 luggers sunk, with destroyer, 1 large transport, small freighter, 2 Destroyers, 1 old Destroyer 1 submarine chaser, freighter, 2 coasters, 4 Junks and 2 launches sunk. 2 destroyer escorts and 1 torpedo boat probably sunk. TF 37 loses were 10 aircraft and 5 aircrew in combat. On completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force withdrew. Two Seafires from IMPLACABLE ditched but their pilots were rescued.
 

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

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

The last strikes landed on at 18:00 and on completion of landing on the dusk CAP the force set course for the replenishment area. During the days strikes TF 37 launched 372 aircraft; 233 on offensive operations, 156 on defensive operations and 3 photo recon flights. One enemy aircraft is recorded as shot down in combat, a B7A ‘Grace’ while 16 enemy aircraft were destroyed and 1 probable and 31 damaged on the ground. 2 locomotives and associated freight cars destroyed, 3 freighter transports, 2 coasters, 8 small craft sunk. 1 freighter and 2 luggers probably sunk. 2 Destroyers, 2 Destroyer escorts, 1 merchantman, 6 coasters and 4 luggers damaged. TF 37 loses were 6 aircraft and 4 pilots.
 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mainland Japan strike series 3, August 13: Task Group 38.5 formed the northerly group of the Third Fleet and operated under the direct orders of Admiral McCain; the fleet arrived at the flying off position at approximately 35°30’ N 143°-26’ E, and flying operations began at 04:oo. INDEFATIGABLE launched Seafires for CAP duties before launching aircraft for the first strike of the day at 08:45 for airfields and air installations in the Tokyo area, and as far north as the Sendai area.. A second strike was launched at 13:15 but was aborted on reaching the coast due to the targets being obscured by poor weather. All aircraft had landed on by 18:15 and the Fleet withdrew at 18:30 for the US replenishment area in position 31°45; N, 144°.
 

Aircraft from 7 CAG sank 4 Luggers and damaged building, rolling stock and locomotives during the only successful strike of the day. They lost 1 aircraft; while landing on in an unidentified Seafire Lt M. L. deC Stratton, RNVR was killed when the long range tank broke free of its mounts and prevented the arrestor hook from engaging a wire, the aircraft entered the barrier and burst into flames.

 

Replenishment period 20, August 14: Task Group 38.5 was refuelled by the US Oiling Group. Fuelling was completed by 17:00 and TG 38.5 and other units of TF 38 set course to return to the flying off position for the next days planned strikes.
 

Mainland Japan strike series 4, August 15: Flying combed at 04:15, from approximate position 34° N 142° E, Task Force 38 commenced launching air strikes at targets in the Tokyo area.
 

INDEFATIGABLE launched a force of 4 Fireflies and 6 Avengers, escorted by 8 Seafires for the first strike but found the target, Kisarazu airfield, obscured by bad weather, an alternative target, a camouflaged factory at Odaki Bay was sighted and bombed. At 05:40the Strike Force was intercepted by a dozen enemy aircraft, four J2M3 ‘Raiden’ and eight A6M ‘Zeke’ fighters which were engaged by the Seafires; 4 were e shot down, 4 more believed shot down and the remainder damaged and driven off. At 05:45 Sub-Lt V. S. Lowden, RNVR in LR866 led a flight of 3 887 Sqn aircraft to attack 4 A6M over Odaki Bay, 2 were shot down in flames, one being shared with Sub-Lt W. I. Williams, RNVR, and another seen to go down smoking, the pilot baled out . Sub-Lt L G. J. Murphy, RNVR in NN212 shot one down with smoke and flames from its engine and a second went down in flames and rolled over on back. Sub-Lt D. N. Duncan, RNVR (894 Sqn) in PR206 attacked 2, 1 went down burning almost vertically and another was probably destroyed, Sub-Lt R. C. Kay, RNVR (894 Sqn) in NN584 shot tail off one A6M and damaged another; on returning to the ship he burst a tyre landing and his aircraft tipped on its nose. Sub-Lt R. A. Gorvin, RNVR (894 Sqn) in PR263 suffered damage from the encounter with the A6Ms over Odaki Bay bit managed to land safely, Sub-Lt F. Hockley, RNVR (894 Sqn) was hit by flak over Tokyo, he baled out and landed on Chiba Peninsula, E of Tokyo where he was captured; he was executed later that day, after surrender orders had been received by homeland forces. One of the 820 Sqn Avengers on the strike was also badly damaged, JZ492 was attacked by 4 A6Ms diving out of sun, suffering rear fuselage and tail damage, Petty Officer Air Gunner A. Simpson shot 1 down smoking with flames under engine. The Observer, Sub-Lt J. F.J. A. Boom, RNVR was wounded and baled out over the sea in Tokyo area but killed. The aircraft eventually ditched but he pilot Sub-Lt L. Baldwin, RNVR and PO Simpson were rescued safely.
 

This was the last British air combat of the war; at 07:00 orders were received to "SUSPEND ATTACK AIR OPERATIONS X ACKNOWIEDGE"- no reason was given but tall offensive operations were cancelled. CAP aircraft remained airborne At 11:00 news was received that Japan had accepted the Allied terms of surrender and war was over. However the order to the Japanese to cease operations was not so clear; at 11:20 a D4Y "Judy" dive bomber managed to approach and drop 2 bombs next to INDEFATIGABLE, it was destroyed by Corsairs of the US CAP.
 

Little flying appears to have been done after the cease-fire order was received, only Seafire CAP were required, the Avengers and Fireflies being stowed in the hangar.

 

Replenishment period 21, August 18th – 2oth: The ships of the BPF met with the Logistic Support Group in area ‘British DRINK’ position 31° N, 144° E, and replenishment commenced at daylight on the 18th with three Tankers on station SAN ADOLPHO, SAN AMBROSIO and WAVE GOVERNOR, but SAN ADOLPHO and AN AMBROSIO were detached at 17:00 on the 18th escorted by USK and BURNIE to reload. . TU 112.2.91 the Hospital Ship TJITJALENGKA escorted by CRANE was also in the area.
 

Refuelling continued on the 19th from WAVE GOVERNOR and TU 112.2.28, the Tanker CARELIA escorted by RAN Corvettes PIRIE and CESSNOCK joined the LSG on the morning of the 20th ; the replenishment CVE SPEAKER, escorted by QUEENBOROUGH, also arrived on station on the 20th and was ordered to transfer as many aircraft as possible to INDEFATIGABLE and RULER. By this stage in operations the replenishment CVEs had also been employed in carrying essential stores and provisions for issue to the fleet and for this run SPEAKER carried 350 packages of stores, 237 oil hoses and 15 tons of potatoes all of which were issued by jackstay transfers at sea. Although offensive operations had ceased replenishment work was still necessary, a large part of the stores carried were destined for the hospital ship TJITJALENGKA, 246 items of stores were transferred in a two and a half hour replenishment session.

Task Group 38.5 had to disengage at dusk and relocate southwards due to a typhoon warning; the LSG did not follow but remained in the vicinity of ‘British DRINK’ to await further orders.

 

Task Group 38.5 dissolved

On August 20th Task Group 38.5 was dissolved and INDEFATIGABLE with escort destroyers BARFLEUR, WAKEFUL, WRANGLER, TROUBRIDGE, TERPSICHORE, TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS, and TEAZER joined the American Carrier Force TU38.3.1 (USS RANDOLPH, USS WASP, USS TICONDEROGA, USS MONTERRAY, and USSS BATTAAN). The Battleships KING GEORGE V and DUKE OF YORK, Cruisers GAMBIA and NEWFOUNDLAND, with Destroyers NAPIER. NIZAM, WHELP and WAGEER joined TG 38.4 as TU 38.4.6.
 

The US Task Groups also relocated to the southeast overnight on the 20th/21st to continue replenishment. Seafires from INDEFATIGABLE began flight operations on the 22ndt as part of the ongoing operation “FLY FLY” with aircraft from RANDOLPH and WASP which had commenced on August 16th. The programme called for 9 serials of 8 Seafires each sortie lasting 2¾ hours; 7 serials for low CAP over the Task Group and two airfield patrol sorties over Honshu. The carriers operated in area ‘STRIPES’ to conduct day searches for P.O.W. camps, airfield patrols, and present a show of force in Japanese homeland operating areas west of Tokyo; area STRIPES was subdivided divided into eight areas GEOTIGE , ITEM, JIG, KING, LCVE, MIKE, NAN and OBOE.
 

The program for the first day called for all available aircraft to be airborne for "Operation Tintype” a photographic event to capture the massed air power of the Task Group with photographers on board surface ships taking the pictures. The weather deteriorated through the morning but good images were achieved and all aircraft had landed on by early afternoon. There was no flying on the 23rd and only 12 CAP sorties flown on the 24th.
 

A fuller programme was achieved on the 25th with the Task Group launching 36 Cap, 48 Picket CAP and 16 recon/photo sorties commencing at 08:25. Another \Typhoon caused the Force to alter course again and withdraw from the operating area for “FLY FLY” to return on the 27th.

Flying commenced at05:00 0n the 27th the Task Group launching 60 Cap, 12 Picket CAP and 69 recon/photo sorties. On the 28th there was a significant increase in the number of sorties flown; flying commenced at 04:55 with 70 Cap, 84 Picket CAP and 76 recon/photo sorties, this was also the first day that food, clothing and medical supplies were air dropped by US aircraft to POW camps discovered by reconnaissance in the Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya, and Kur areas. Aircraft from INDEFATIGABLE located a P.O.W. Camp at the Yokkaichi oil refinery on this date.

 

The P.O.W. Camp at the Yokkaichi oil refinery located by Seafires and Avengers from INDEFATIGABLE on August 28th 1945. Seen from a pair of Avengers on the 29th possibly dropping dropping supplies to the freed prisoners who can be seen o the beach. The letters PW are painted on the roof of a hut for aerial identification.  Air Force Museum of New Zealand Creative Commons 2010-344.37.jpg

Between August 16th and September 3nd aircraft from TG 38.3.1 located 14 P.O.W .camps, and between August 28th and September 3nd 121 supply drops were made. Seafires from 7 CAG had a good flying safety record during their time with the Task Group, only y one barrier crash is recorded on August 29th, Sub-Lt I. G. Hepworth, RNVR (887 Sqn) caught a wire but engaged the barrier in PR263. On completion of operations INDEFATIGABLE anchored in Salami Bay at 16:30 on September 5th.

 

 

Return to Australia

INDEFATIGABLE was released from duty with TG 38.3 at 09:00 on September 10th with orders to proceed to Tokyo Bay and report to Commander TF 111. She was ordered to sail for Australia and arrived Manus September 12th, and sailed following day for Sydney. On reaching the New South Wales coast she disembarked her squadrons before entering harbour; 887, 894 and 1772 going to RNAS Schofield, 820 to RNAS Nowra where it was reduced to 12 aircraft.
 

While ashore squadron personnel were snit on leave; A number of replacement airframes were received and flying triaging being conducted during October by both Seafires squadrons. There were three flying incidents during October, the first on the 11th when PP93 ('122/S'), flown by Sub-Lt J. H. Miller, RNVR lost power in flight and had to make a forced landing, The next day Sub-Lt E. O. Atkin. RNVR (887 Sqn) landing in NN330 8 (' 116/S') overran the runway and nosed over in soft ground. The third incident was on the 25th when Sub-Lt R. A. Gorvin, RNVR (894 Sqn) Swung landing in PR206 causing the port oleo to collapse damaging the port wing and prop which dug in the ground. INDEFATIGABLE was at sea early in November exercising and new squadron pilots flew out to make the necessary number of deck landings to qualify for ship borne operations; Sub-Lt Atkin is one example, flying in PP927 ('120/S') on November 6th he caught No.2 wire but, bounced heavily on contract with the deck. There were two more incidents ashore at RNAS Schofields; on the 1oth Lt A. H. Brydon, RAN suffered a part oleo collapse landing in PRII8, the aircraft slewed off the runway causing damage to the prop. Finally on the 13th Sub-Lt R. F. M. Darlington, RNVR had the tail wheel oleo collapse when landing on in PR205.
 

INDEFATIGABLE began re-embarking her squadrons for flying training from mid-November, 887 being embarked first on the 15th, the 1772 squadron followed them on the 18th and 894 and 820 on the 23rd.

 

Good will visit to New Zealand

Once her Air Group was embarked INDEFATIGABLE (Flag, AC 1, Vice Admiral Sir Philip Vian) sailed from Sydney in company with Destroyers URCHIN and WIZARD for a goodwill visit to New Zealand On arriving off Wellington at the southern tip of the North Island on Tuesday November 27h aircraft were launched fora mass fly past over the city; on recovering her aircraft the Carrier entered harbour. The ships were opened to visitors from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
 

Leaving Wellington December 4th INDEFATIGABLE sailed for Queen Charlotte Sound, to conduct exercises. On the 6th a number of aircraft flew over the city of Picton on the northern end of the South Island dropping leaflets bearing a farewell messag3e from Admiral Vian. On the 7th detachments of 8 aircraft from each squadron in her air group were flown ashore to RNZAF Station Ardmore where a flying display was carried out at on Saturday December 8th. This 2representative squadron then began making a good will tour of other RNZAF Stations. INDEFATIGABLE sailed for Auckland on December 10th. During the time in Queen Charlotte Sound there were two Seafire flying incidents, both on the 6th; Sub-Lt Atkin made a heavy landing in PP927 ('120/S') causing wrinkling of the fuselage skin, and Sub-Lt C. B. Ratcliffe, RNVR (894 Sqn) floated over all the wires landing in PR331 , struck the island and overturned.

Left: Seafires ranged on deck as INDEFATIGABLE enters Auckland harbour. Right: Seafire PR295 (‘127/S’) operating from RNZAF Station Ardmore on December 8th 1945. Images: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections via Digital NZ

INDEFATIGABLE arrived Auckland on December 12th and was moored alongside at Prince's Wharf and again was open to the public. There were several deck crashes on passage; on the day she left Wellington there were two. Sub-Lt R. A.H. Beaton, RNVR hit the rounddown lining in NN298, the aircraft entered the barrier tearing off the tail unit and bending the arrestor hook, while Sub-Lt Atkin in NN625 suffered a starboard undercarriage collapse. On the 11th Sub-Lt H Atack (894 Sqn) had to make a belly landing in PR285 after the undercarriage failed to lower.
 

She sailed for Sydney on the 18th and arrived there on the 22nd. No.s 887, 894 and 1772 to flew ashore to RNAS Schofields before the ship entered harbour; 820 remained aboard until the 31st when it too went ashore to RNAS Schofields. There was one deck crash on the 22nd, Mid W. A. Armstrong, RNVR landing on in PP952 missed all the wires and entered the barrier.

 

Good will visit to Melbourne on route to the UK to pay off

After spending Christmas ashore in Sydney INDEFATIGABLE (Flag, AC 1, Vice Admiral Sir Philip Vian) re-embarked her Air Group on January 20th 1946 and sailed for Melbourne where she was to make another God Will visit in company with the Fleet Carrier IMPLACABLE and the new Light Fleet Carriers GLORY. There was a barrier crash on the 22nd; Mid Armstrong floated into the barrier in NN212 ('112/S').
 

On arrival off the port on January 23rd a fly past of 75 aircraft was launched from all three carriers, once all aircraft had landed on they were moored alongside at Station Pier, Port Melbourne, and the accompanying destroyers, HMS TUSCAN and ARMADA, at South Wharf. On the 25th one thousand members of the ships' companies will March through Melbourne. The Carriers were open to the public 11::00 -21:00 26th & 27th. Vice Admiral Sir Philip Vian transferred his flag to IMPLACABLE on the 30th, INDEFATIGABLE was to sail for the UK via Fremantle and Cape Town on the 31st but IMPLACABLE and GLORY were to remain on station, sailing for Jervis Bay for exercises.
 

HMS INDEFATIGABLE escorted by HMS UNDAUNTED sailed from Melbourne for Fremantle on January 31st lying a 400ft paying-off pennant. While on passage a Seafire fly past was launched on February 4th to the city of Albany.26 aircraft were launched 90 miles out from Albany nut only 21 actually managed to be in the formation on reaching the city, 5 had developed problems in flight and were diverted to land at RNZAF Albany; of these three re-joined the ship later that morning but the remaining two required additional support and an RNZAF Avro Anson flew from Perth with a technical staff which gave what assistance was needed, and the aircraft re-joined the carrier late on the 5th.
 

INDEFATIGABLE and her escort arrived at Fremantle on February 9th, staying overnight before sailing for Cape Town on the 10th. Flying training continued on passage; tragically the last recorded flying accident occurred on February 18th when Sub-Lt Hatton was killed landing in PR328, he made a low approach and his port wheel dropped over deck edge and the aircraft caught fire before falling overboard into Algoa Bay, South Africa.

 

After a brief stop at Cape Town INDEFATIGABLE sailed into the South Atlantic bound for the UK via St. Helena, Ascension Island and Gibraltar. She arrived in the Solent on March 15th, 887 and the other squadrons of the 7th Carrier Air Group were disembarked to RNAS Gosport were they were officially disbanded.

 

 


 

 

Content revised: 28 December 2023

 

Primary information sources

Additional sources:

Newspaper articles accessed on TROVE – digital access to Australian libraries, universities, museums, galleries and archives.

Newspaper articles and images accessed on DigitalNZ -- digital access to New Zealand libraries, universities, museums, galleries and archives.

Documents below accessed from Fold3.com:

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

U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Third Fleet, War Diary July 1st - 31st, August 1st – 31st 1945 & September 1st – 30th 1945

U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Carrier Division Four, War Diary August 1st – 31st 1945 & September 1st – 30th 1945

 

 

 

Unofficial Motto:

Nec Temere, Nec Timide

(Neither rashly nor timidly)
 

 

 

 

Battle Honours

ATLANTIC 1943

SALERNO 1943
NORWAY 1944

PALEMBANG 1945

OKINAWA 1945

JAPAN 1945


Aircraft Types

Fulmar I II May 42 - Dec 42

Spitfire V Dec 42 - Jan 43

Seafire Ib, Jan - Mar 1943

Seafire IIc & L.IIc Mar 43 - Dec 43

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


Identification Markings

Fulmar Unknown

Seafire

1A+ and 2A +

P5A+ by 6.44

H5A+ by 12.44

111/S+ by 8.45

 

Commanding Officers

Lt G. R. Callingham RN 1 May 42

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

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

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

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

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

Squadron disbanded 15 Mar 46

 

 

 

 

Related items

Aircrew and squadron personnel

Seafire operations with the BPF, including HMS Indefatigable

 

 

 

 

Reminiscences

None

 

 

Gallery


none
 
 

 



 

 

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Topic: 887 Naval Air Squadron
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Rob Haywood
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Aug 2019
Rob Haywood (Hull) says...
Is there any knowledge of RAF personnel still being employed aboard carriers in the latter stages of the war. I have information of an RAF engine fitter/mechanic, joined RAF c.1937, who served on carriers throughout the war, EAGLE, INDEFATIGABLE, demobbed in 1946, rejoined the RAF later and retired in c.1962 as a flight sergeant. Was he the only one, or were there more RAF men aboard. Incredible career.
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JJ
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Feb 2018
JJ says...
Strange that there is no mention of Kernahan's combats on the 29th Jan 1945 and 12th April 1945. Both are clearly noted in Browns Seafire and in Sturtivant, R. & Burrows, M. (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945.'
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TB
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2
Oct 2016
First Poster
TB says...
Great piece! What was your source for connecting photos A 29715 and A 29483 from the IWM to Sub-Lt L.A. Bradbury's crash landing?
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