The last two days’ strikes have been very successful. Much shipping, including an escort carrier [Shimane Maru] and 10,000 merchantmen, were severely damaged. Airfields were also attacked by our bombers. United States aircraft concentrated on the remnants of the Japanese fleet at Kure [Naval District]. 10 of our airplanes were lost, but most of the crews have been saved. Enemy planes approached the fleet yesterday evening. Our fighters drove them off, shooting down two. Previously a Japanese reconnaissance plane had been shot down 23000 ft above the fleet.
A 4″ throw off shoot was carried out this forenoon & we met the fleet train (TU112.2).
Today we topped up two destroyers with fuel. The fleet is proceeding towards the strike area, and operations are scheduled to begin at dawn tomorrow. It is believed that Tuesday night’s bombardment targets [Tokyo] were factories & railway yards.
Units of the fleet are still oiling. On Friday we met the fleet train & were joined by [HMS] Indefatigable and [HMS] Barfleur. Three cruisers were sent to refuel from US tankers in the train of the next Task Group. We oiled by “buoyant hose” from San Adolfo [tanker] in 5 hours, taking in less than 1000 tons. US destroyers have been with the fleet over the last two days, and Admiral Halsey, USN has been aboard [HMS] King George V.
We are now on our way back to the replenishment area after two days in the strike area. Tuesday commenced with a narrow escape from collision with [HMS] Quadrant. About 0400 the carriers began flying off the first strike. There was cloud about & visibility was poor. Several aircraft came down in the sea during the day & three were lost on operations. According to signals received, targets successfully attacked included airfield (Niigata), shipping & rail transport. During the afternoon [HMS] King George V and two destroyers were dispatched to take part in a night bombardment of Hitachi. On Wednesday, though the weather was getting worse, airstrikes were continued. [HMS] King George V returned early in the morning, apparently no worse for wear. Defence watches were closed up during daylight hours and hands went to “Repel Aircraft” stations several times without anything eventuating.
Memoirs of Lt A Canham
……in time to take part in a series of unbelievably exciting strikes against the Japanese. All sixteen fleet carriers were flying off bombers escorted by fighters. One of our jobs was to pick up bailed out pilots. We also provided a destroyer to serve as a “delousing station.” The Japanese had a nasty habit of hiding kamikazes among returning British and American aircraft. The destroyer would be stationed between the carriers and the Japanese, and all planes would fly over the “delousing station” to be identified before returning to their carriers.
This morning soon after dawn, US Fleet units were sighted to the north west. These included battleships of the Iowa class. Later on US Helldivers did their stuff over the BPF [British Pacific Fleet] for recognition purposes. We hope to get a preview of some Bearcats & Seahawks in the not-too-distant future. Tomorrow at dawn we commence operations against the enemy.
Today, in a speech to the ship’s company, the captain revealed that, having finished oiling, we would tomorrow meet the US 3rd Fleet comprizing 100 ships, and on Tuesday take part in a combined strike against the Tokyo area.
The fleet train was sighted at dawn on Friday and we took up position & commenced oiling from the “San Amando” [tanker] about 1100. The trough method was used & the operation took 6 hours. During that time [HMNZS] Achilles refuelled by bouyant hose trailed astern of the oiler. Shortly before noon, our two senior mids [midshipmen], complete with baggage, were transferred to a couple of sloops. This “bosun’s chair” transportation must be just about as good as some of the machines at Luna Park, Sydney.
[HMS] Black Prince reported a premature explosion of a VT [Variable Time] fuse in the right gun of its A Turret. Casualties were one died of wounds & several others injured. The turret & remaining gun will apparently be serviceable, although the right is completely out of action.
On Saturday, various ships continued fuelling and today the rest topped up before leaving the fleet train.
Memoir of Lt A Canham
We got all our fuel and supplies from the fleet tankers and supply ships. Watch-keeping at night at 20 knots with no navigation lights and doing a constant zig-zag to avoid submarines kept us on our toes and was very good training for a young officer. There were British supply ships in the fleet train, but we avoided them like the plague. The American ships had much better food and much more of it, but sadly, no rum. We would always go out of our way to get Yankee grub instead of the dried peas sent to us by their Lordships.
After a week’s steaming we are now some 1300 miles east of southern Japan. Tomorrow we meet the fleet train & commence a 2 day refuelling period. Opportunity has been taken during passage to carry out several exercises. Most of these have been concerned with the AA [anti-aircraft] armament and in my new job as AADO [Anti-aircraft Duty Officer] I have had to be on the go a lot of the time. The job is however interesting and I feel that I am at least earning my keep.
HMS Barfleur had to return to Manus as trouble developed with her main armament on the third day out.
Last Saturday we oiled 3 destroyers, giving them about 90 tons each. This went off quite well. On the basis of time taken and fuel passed, [HMNZS] Gambia was judged the most efficient at oiling.
Several floating mines have been sighted. I am rather surprised that no action has been taken to sink them.
At dawn this morning the fleet began leaving harbour, bound for a rendezvous with the US 3rd Fleet off Japan. Our carrier planes will take part in air strikes against the enemy mainland, and we do not expect to see harbour again for six weeks. The fleet at present totals 25 ships – [HMS] KGV [King George V] (Vice Admiral Rawlings), Formidable, Implacable, Victorious, 6 of the 4th CS and the rest destroyers, including [HMS] Barfleur, one of the new battle class.
4″ and close range shoots were carried out with moderate success. Our course is North East.
Entered harbour after an AA [anti-aircraft] shoot yesterday forenoon. All ships were flying the “Stars & Stripes” in honour of the US Independence Day. On arrival, commenced to embark stores & fuel. This continued all today ammunition & water being taken on board in addition. Two of our senior midshipmen left the ship on transfer to sloops. There were also several changes amongst the wardroom officers. Two RNR [Royal Naval Reserve] midshipmen joined us. It looks as if we will soon be leaving harbour for quite a long period, rumour says, over 6 weeks.
Last Sunday at sea, no exercises were carried out. [HMS] Euryalus developed boiler trouble and returned straight to Manus, at 27 knots!
Monday, the fleet carried out main armament throw off shoots at each other. Our victim was [HMCS] Uganda. All went well. A Damage Control exercise took up the afternoon and a night encounter the evening. We did not put up such a good show in this latter, but [HMS] Black Prince’s starshell were very good indeed. On Tuesday we carried out a throw off shoot at a Seafire simulating kamikaze attacks, with indifferent results. This no doubt will be improved on. We hope so anyway.
At 0530 this morning we went into defense (AA [Anti-aircraft]) watches, and at first light [HMS] Implac. began flying off strikes. We turned out to a “repel Aircraft” alarm just after 0600, but no attack developed and it is assumed that the cause was reconnaissance machines. About 0800 another alarm was given & this turned out to be the real thing. After 20 mins or so the attackers withdrew, and we & [HMCS] Uganda continued to our R/V [rendezvous] with [HMNZS] Gambia and Admiral Brind. We carried out an RCX [radar calibration exercise] on the way, meeting them, in company with [HMS] Black Prince & [HMS] Euryalus, before noon.
After lunch, the Admiral and his staff transferred to us by Bosun’s chair. By dusk tonight, ships in company were [HMS] King George V (BS1) [battleship], [HMS] Formidable (AC1) [aircraft carrier], [HMS] Implacable, [HMS] Victorious, 4 Cruisers and nine Destroyers (RAD in [HMS] Barfleur, one of the new Battle-class).