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.
We are now in a position about 21 S Lat & 400 miles from the Australian coast. Our meeting with the BPF [British Pacific Fleet] tomorrow is intended to begin at dawn with mutual air strikes against one another.
Exercises carried out during the week include firing at smoke bursts by defence watch crews, & repelling dummy air attacks. Also dive bombing of smoke floats, exercising blind fire procedure and the usual radar calibrations and HFX, etc. Yesterday [HMS] Implac. oiled the Destroyers. This morning one of the Carrier’s Seafires failed to come out of a dive during runs at a smoke float. The plane began to fall to pieces & then blew up. The search for the pilot was unsuccessful.
Yesterday Forenoon we were the target of a massed air attack by seafires. To liven up the party, the planes fired their machine-guns & dropped smoke bombs into the water. A Bombardment Communication exercise followed and then torpedo firing at [HMS] Arethusa. After dark carried out a night encounter exercise with [HMS] Active, our star shell being considerably better than last time. Anchored in Mex Roads last night & today continued with exercises. A close range shoot went off very well, one sleeve being shot down & another damaged. During the afternoon, a 6″ full calibre, reduced charge, blind shoot was carried out successfully. The BPT [Battle Practice Target] was straddled several times & it is believed it may have been damaged. Returned to harbour & secured to F2 & F2A Buoys.
Ships in company include [HMS] Orion (F Buoy), Arethusa, Aurora (AFD5), & Ajax (35 Quay).
A very full & comprehensive working-up gunnery program has been laid down for the coming week. This morning, all Midshipmen went, per truck & some very rough roads, to HMS Grebe, a small Fleet Air Arm Station south-west of Alex. Owing to unsettled weather & an unfavourable forecast we were unable to go up in any aircraft, as there was very little activity at all. However, we met some of the pilots who have cooperated with the ship in exercises, it being very interesting to hear their views of what went on, and were shown round some of the drome and the planes. Types on display were Martinet, (target-towing) Swordfish, & Seafire [Sea Spitfire]. There were several others such as Hurricanes, Avengers, & Wildcats on the ground in various stages of overhaul but we didn’t get much to delve into those.
At the drinking session before dinner in the mess, I was very pleased to meet a couple of fellow countrymen [NZers]. After doing some Seafires of a squadron from HMS Attacker, at present refitting in Taranto [Southern Italy], after dinner & inspecting some aerial photos of HMS Newfoundland & [HMS] Nubian, we were returned to 35 Quay, by transport over even rougher roads.
Last Tuesday morning, we left harbour for working up exercises. On completion of the alloted serials, we anchored in “Mex Roads” for the night. The same procedure was followed every day for the rest of the week except yesterday, when we returned to our berth, (F buoy) early in the afternoon.
The exercises included 6″ sub & full calibre shoots at moored targets, 4″ & Close-Range shoots at towed [behind aircraft] sleeve targets (one was shot down), TB [torpedo bomb] attacks by Avenger aircraft, during which opportunity was taken to exercise the 6″ Barrage Units, Massed Air attacks by Corsairs, Seafires & Avengers, MTB [Motor Torpedo Boat] attacks (mainly for plotting exercise) and the highlight of the week was, of course, the night encounter with HMS Active [destroyer] Unfortunately, during this last, & for the other spectacular exercises too, for that matter, hands were closed up at Action Stations, and consequently, only a small proportion of the ship’s company was able to view the show. This seems rather a pity & I think that as many people as possible should be able to watch these fun & games so that when it comes to the real thing, they will have some idea of what is going on. Sitting in an enclosed space, not knowing or being able to guess what is happening above is a very poor sport.
On anchoring at night, seaboats were exercised at recovering lifebuoys. This manoeuvre was well executed. Preparations for oiling [transferring oil from one ship to another] destroyer were also made one forenoon. The official verdict on the week’s work up is apparently “Good Progress”.
HMS Sirius & HMCS Uganda [Canadian] have arrived in Alexandria during the week, the latter bringing very welcome Xmas parcel mail from the UK.