0700. Having waited a somewhat tedious 7 hours in the ward-room of "Dunluce(???) Castle" I was told that "Howe's" drifter was alongside. Calling in at Gibraltar Pier we waited sometime before seeing "Howe" entering the Flow on completion of gunnery excercises. Soon I was climbing up the forward gangway and winding my way to the gunroom. After supper I was told to go and help direct the baggage, which had been brought aft onto the Q.D. In a short time everything was stowed in the appropriate chest-flats. I then drew a hammock and bedding and turned in for the night.
The newly joined midshipmen were ordered to muster in the mid's study. First the sub addressed us, then the First Liutenant and finally the 'Schoolie'. Both the former stressed several useful points, not the least of which was the tact and good behaviour needed when being instructed by a P.O. or rating. We then saw the Gunnery Officer and told him the previous stations we had had in gunnery. The jobs we have been given are pretty useless but owing to the superfluous number of mids. this is inevitable. Nothing much of importance took place as regards the ships. In the morning C.A. ammunitioning was carried out; the red lead on the fore-mast was painted over, greatly improving the ship's appearance.
Hands were called early in the morning and preparations were made for putting to sea. We weighed and proceeded southwards towards our destination, Grenock. Soon the 5.25 armament had closed up and practice firing at winged and sleeve targets commenced. I was not closed up myself and I was able to get a good spectator's view of the proceedings; I was much impressed by the accuracy of the firing which was naturally considerably superior to that of my last ship's owing to more modern equipment. The pom-poms and Oeslious(???) then opened up at similar targets, these shoots were also good but it strikes me that a well-trained man on an open Oerlikon(???) sight can be almost as accurate as a man using the new gyro gun sights. P.V.'s had been stramed and the ship maintained a speed of approximately 20 knots. During the Dogs the Captain addressed all newly-joined midshipmen on the Admiral's bridge. He said that he regarded mids. as officers and not as useful messengers to have around the ship; this, however, could only be applied if they themselves played their part, and behaved as officers. Midshipmen had ample opportunities for influencing the ship's company because they were in closer contact with the men than more senior officers. This was the gyst of his speech, which also included many other interesting points.
"Wakeful" and "Wager" formed our destroyers escort.
Special sea dutymen was piped at 0540, their main job was to prepare derricks etc. ready for immediate use when the numerous drifters started to come alongside.
Very soon we anchored, mail, aircraft parts, mines, and miscellaneous supplies began littering the Upper Deck. I was detailed to keep a tally of all G.P.O mail being stowed in the Captain's quarters; here alone over 800 large bags accumulated. Close range communicating began. After a hard day's work the ship was ready to go to sea with, the Commander informed us later, the first port of call Algiers. At about 2200 we weighed and proceeded down the clyde; this time we were escorted by "LLudin"(???), "LLandunted"(???) and "LLchin". The ship went north abouts leaving Ireland on her port side.
Throughout the day we steamed approximately South-West, well out into the Atlantic; we were doing a large sweep on our way to Gibraltar in order to avoid packs of U-boats based off France. No gunnery excercises were ordered. The armament closed up includes one 5.25 director and turret either side, four Pom-poms (one forward, one aft and one on either beam) and about one third of the total number of Oestlrs(???). This seems to be a more or less permament arrangement under normal circumstances. No aircraft was sighted this day although Radar picked up several contacts and soon identified them as friendly aircraft. By now I was more or less getting used to my job on the A.W.P(???) The communication system confused me most at first, whenever a buzz or howl made itself heard I had not the faintest idea which phone to pick up.
In the afternoon star-shell excercises were carried out in preparation for the night encounter excercise. Hitherto no ship had been allowed to fire star-shell with full-charge but before we left Scapa the Gunnrey Officer was informed that it could be done with perfect safety. This was the reason for these excercidse.
In the afternoon 'Guns' gave a lecture to all Target Selection Officers. He emphasised that it was not just a 'stooge' job but was quite a responsible duty. I was closed up at a Pom-pom during the Night Encounter excercise; the first shoot was very poor and the destroyer was not illuminated; the second shoot was good.
Very little happened on this day as far as I was concerned. I spent some long and tedious hours on the A.D.P. doing practically nothing. Another Night Encounter excercise was ordered; at about 2200, however, the Gunnery Officer made an announcement over the T.I. broadcast. He said that a convoy had been attacked by F.W. 200's whilst in our present position, on the previous night. defence stations were piped. Actually there were very few aircraft in the vicinity that night.
This day the usual star-shell practices were carried out, this time using "Lladaunted"(???) as the target. In the afternoon the Close Range suddenly opened fire at a mine but there was no explosion; this could hardly be exected as the burst was about 200 yards away from the mine! Later our destroyer escort was changed. "Brilliant", "Active" and "Wolverine" replaced the original three; the latter went on to refuel at Gib. As these destroyers closed on us an aircraft was reported by Radar bearing right astern distance 10 miles. This created much consternation on the A.D.P. as it was soon reported at 4 miles and still the look-outs could not see anything. Then we were informed that it was a back echo and the order RELAX was given. A course was set East for Gibraltar.
Tropical kit was ordered but the weather was considerably colder than it had been the previous day. I was on watch during the forenoon but the A.D.O(???) told me I could go down to the A.I.C. for the first hour. It was very interesting but rather complicated; an excercise was being carried out. The F.D.O. was directing imaginary aircraft at imaginary raids; for the purpose of the excercise Carlile was taking the part of pilot in a fighter. He soon reported 'Grand Slam' which I discovered later means 'all enemy aircraft driven away or shot down!' As we were going through the Straits (about midnight) Repel Aircraft Stations were sounded owing to an Air Raid Warning Red. Nothing occured. Blimps were patrolling the Straits.
In the forenoon our original destroyer escort took over again. At about 1900 we had reached Algiers but had to wait until the Harbour authorities decided on our berth. Tugs took over but just as our stern was swinging round to get in line with the jetty a disaster occured. our stern hit the bows of the French battleship "Lorraine". Her cable was cut and some serious damage was done to our port outer screw; divers are now investigating
Signed by Lt.Cdr??Peacell(???) 9.7.44
I spent most of the forenoon writing up my journal as I had rather neglected it at sea. I then went ashore in Algiers and found it much as I had expected. About three of us hitchhiked along the coast to Franco Bay, here we had a very refreshing swin but got uncomfortably sun-burnt in the process. I then returned to the ship and shifted into No 10's; it was the first time I had worn this rig and I found it foully hot about the collar. I had dinner at some Officer's club and sampled some of the local wines. at about midnight I got back and turned in.
The previous day's buzz that we were goint to sea at 1700, was soon confirmed. I was understudying in the launch and we had quite a few trips taking most of the Starboard watch to the other side of the Mole, for bathing. The ship proceded to sea at about 1730; everything went well this time. Soon 'Action Stations' was piped and a successful shoot was carried out. Our destroyer escort also opened fire at the sleeve targets; starting off rather shakily, their fire was soon very accurate and somethimes more accurate that our 5.25's. High speed trials were very successful, it seems that the damage sustained by the port outer screw was practically negligible despite the most fantastic rumours that were spreading round the ship after the first diver had been down! In the evening I went and saw the film; it was not very good but provided some form of entertainment.
I took a sun-run-sun but worked it out wrong; by the time I had done the afternoon & first watches and taken some sleep, there was no point in correcting it as the 24 hour time limit was up. Our 'air cover' comprised 1 Wellington, 2 Baltimores or Beanfighters and either 2 or 4 Spitfires. we had a very energetic time on the A.D.P as these places were constantly being ncleived(???);apart from this the A.D.R frequently wanted information as to where our escorts were. During the afternoon we met a large convoy. I, myself, counted 47 convoy vessels and about 12 corvettes. They literally stretched from horizon to horizon since they were more or less in line ahead. At about 1530 we passed Cape Bon; along the coast we could see many wrecks, proof, if need be, of Rommel's unorganised and hasty retreat last year. The commander announced that our destination was Port Said.
We continued to steam East through the Mediterrannean, there was no land in sight for some time until we passed Benghazi. It was extremely interesting passing these places which had acquired such fame during the libyan campaign. In the evening the Commander informed up that now we had passed Crete, the only remaining danger was opposite Alex (there had been an air-raid there the night before(. We therefore turned back on our tracks in order to mark time. It was a bright moon-light night and would no doubt have proved disastrous had there been any aircraft in the vicinity
We turned East again. I decided that I had better take a sun-sight to stop 'Schoolie' from complaining when we reached Port Said. It was reasonably successful but not very accurate. At about 0200 (the next day) we passed Alexandria. The moon did not appear until 0230 and when it did it was partially obscured by cloud. Nothing occurred during the night but everyone was on 'top-line'.
We were due to reach Port Said about mid-day. I fell in in the starboard waist(???) with the Close Range division and from there watched the proceedings. Our stern was tugged round to port and before it was secured we dropped both anchors and swung round slowly but surely. The operation was carried out very skillfully and soon everything was ready for the lighters to come alongside. I forgot to mention that the Commander had previously announced that a hard day's work was ahead as 350 14" shells had to be transported from "Y" turret to the foc'sle to decrease the draught astern, when we entered the canal. The hard work began. I was detailed to help supervise the shell stowage for'ard. By midnight the job was completed. We were to enter the canl at 0500 the next morning.
We weighed anchor early in the morning and the ship began the rather hazardous task of steaming through the Suez Canal. This is the heaviest ship so far to make this passage. Apart from ripping the cables of one or two buyous everything went well for some time; then an unfortunate incident occured. The ship was being conned from the Armoured Conning Tower and not the Lower Steering Position; one of the Q.M.'s crew leant against a button and by so doing changed the steering from electrical to steam. When the time came to round a bend there was much confusion and several people were at fault. We went aground but our stern was soon handed out by the tug 'Atlas'. At about 1600 we passed Ismalia. The place looked reasonably civilised with a few really nice grass lawns; the barren expanse on the port side and Ismalia on the starboard side provided an amazing contrast. We then proceeded to anchor in the Great Bitten Lake and bathing parties were organised over the ship's side. I took a dip and found it too salt to be really enjoyable though it was very refreshing. We heard the news that a great three-gold offensive in Europe had opened up; allied troops in russia, Normandy and Italy were all on the attack. I am looking forward to reading a newspaper again (not to mention mail!)
At 0500 we weighed anchor and entered the Little Bitten (???) Lake. First after 0615 we went aground in the marked channel; although our helm was hard a starboard, our port engines going full ahead and our starboard engines full astern, the port bow wedged itself firmly onto 'terra firma'. A tug astern and a tug ahead managed to clear us. The ship was scheduled to reach Suez by about noon but a few more delays sit in. At 1400 we dropped the hook and boats were hoisted out. I was understudying in the motor cutter; just as it was growing dark we were detailed to take 53 evaporator tube ashore. Our instructions were very vague; we were told to go to Portwall Signal Station to dump these tubes. It was a very difficult trip as we were definitely overloaded with about 6" of feeboard. Mind Ms(???) Griffin fortunately had had much experience in these boats and we made the trip pretty successfully. The difficulty lay in finding Portwall Signal Station; we overstepped the mark by several piese(???) and finally reached some jetty. Unfortunately the place was monopolised by natives who gave us very misleading instructions, directing us to the Egyptian Signal Station. The Coxswain and I went ashore with the intention of signalling to Mw(???)Griffin when we were ata the right Pics(???). After tramping some very smelly streets we reached Portwall Signal Station and signalled numerous ".-."s (pre-arranged signal) out into darkness over the canal. To our great relief we saw the flash of an Aldis lamp. The boata, incidentally, was fitted with no navigation lights. We also managed to contact the man who was to tell us where to put the tubes; he directed us to another jetty and unloading began. We had 10 stokers in the boaats and although each tube had to be handed up separately we did not take long. I took the tiller on the way back and although we had just done the trip inshore I did not find it too easy as there were so many coloured lights flashing that I had some difficulty in keeping in the buoyed channel. We got back onboard at about midnight.
I was on boats until 12.30 but for some reason we had no trips at all. I went ashore during the afternoon and evening. Although Port Suez was a pretty filthy place the natives seemed considerably cleaner than those at Algiers; at least you didn't find them lying around in the gutters! I bought a camera for 200 Piastes(???) having spent about ten minutes knocking the chap down from 500! I then went and saw a film at an open air cinema; it was really extremely pleasant and somehow the sound was very clear indeed. I expect they use some special acoustic apparatus for such cimemas.
The captain addressed the Ship's Company on the Foc'sle at about 1300. He seemed very cheerful and definitely very relieved that the ship had got through the canal safely. The men were congratulated on their good behaviour at Algiers and a special appreciation was given to the shore patrols. Leave was going to be granted to batches of 200 men each day so that "they could find out for themselves that there was really nothing to do in Port Tewfic(???)". He said that we would have to be prepared for a very uncomfortable trip through the Red Sea. During the forenoon the Close Range and 5.25 groups closed up for dummy runs on two Hurricans. The pilots seemed to be really enjoying it and dived at the ship from every conceivable angle. I am T.S.O. on one of the Pom-poms and I had quite an interesting time; it seems a pity that a few more aircraft were not went over us as the practice thereby gained would be far more useful. With two aircraft there is no great difficulty selecting targets. I had a very slack time in the afternoon writing up correspondence. Had I known that the censorship regulations would be relaxed in a few days I would have saved some Air mail letter cards!
The same dummy runs were carried out as on the previous day. I had a go on the joy-stick in the pom-pom gun; fairly easy when the gun is not firing by eye-shooting with clouds of smoke in front of you and a big vibration seems pretty impossible. However, I suppose it can be done as there are still a great many ships in the navy without pom-pom directors.
At the moment I am having a complete rest-cure, doing boats every fourth day. Actually it tends to become rather boring after a time. In the evening I went to a concert which was put on by the Close Range Division. It was quite impromptu but much talent was forthcoming. The sing-songs were the most full-blooded I have ever heard. The presence of the Captain and Commander was much appreciated by all the division.
Further dummy runs were exercised. There is no doubt that, depending of course on the pilots, much useful practice can be had however many times this is excercised. In the afternoon I went out sailing in a whaler, the wind was quite strong enough until we got fairly close inshore. Here the wind completely dropped and we had to start pulling for a while.
When we got back on board a small amount of 5.25 and C.R. ammunition was bing hoisted in. Later in the evening I say a film "Heavenly body" which was very amusing.
Today we heard that an attack had been made on Hitler's life, it was unsuccessful but several German generals were killed. The significance of this attack lies in the fact that it exemplifies the obvious unrest now in Germany. Let us hope this is only the beginning! News of the capture of Leghorn was received. It looks as if the European situation is pretty favourable. We are still waiting fot the evaporators which are being repaired in Suez.
A large gunnery programme was drawn out for today. During the forenoon the ordinary dummy runs on Hurricanes took place. At 1500 the ship prepared to go to sea. 12 spitfires and 6 Beaufighters carried out dummy attacks; several R.A.F. personnel (2 W.A.A.F.S) stayed on board to watch the attack. When this was completed they left the ship in a motor-boat. Then practice firing began on sleeve-targets. The 5.25 brought down one sleeve-target and the C.R. (port side) also brought down one. At 2015 more dummy attacks began. This time Wellingtons dropped flares to illuminate a torpedo attack by Beaufighters. Unfortunately the Beaufighters did not appear although the Wellingtons dropped numerous flares. The ship is now steaming down the Gulf of Suez. I have got to take 2 sights within the next 3 days but at the moment there is too much land to get a proper horizon.
The heat is now becoming pretty intolerable; it is the humidity that makes it so uncomfortable. I am having a slack time at the moment as 'peace-time routine' is being continued and no armament is closed up; I have therefore concentrated on taking quite a number of sights.
The day passed very much as the previous day. We passed several Northbound merchant ships, the largest being the "Duchess of Bedford". This is the first and I hope the last time I'm likely to have to go through the Red Sea in the month of July. During the Last Dog two destroyers were sighted; they were the "Queenborough" and "Quadrant" and wee to form our escort when we approached Aden. They took up screen 2A.
At about noon Aden was in sight; two tugs approached us and soon the pilot was on board. The inner harbour is very small and consequently we had to be moored in the following fashion: (insert pic)
There was quite a strong wind on our starboard beam and it was found necessary to seane 2 4 1/2" wires to the starboard stern buoy. By the time the wind had brought us right round, the 61/2" wire on the port stern buoy was quite slack. An oil pipe was hoisted inboard and oiling commenced. As soon as possible libertymen started to leave the ship; also several ratings taking passage to Aden were put ashore.
It seems that we are going to stay here for a few days because one of the destroyers is carrying out minor repairs to her steering gear. I have not yet been ahsore but those of the gunroom who have say there is practically nothing to do apart from bathing. A fair amount of N.A.A.F.I. stores were brought on board and water boats were alongside during most of the day. C.in.C Aden, Commodore Aylones(???), was piped on board in the afternoon. He was captain of the R.N.College, Dartmouth until quite recently and presumably had only just taken up his appointment. There are quite a number of merchant ships in the harbour; one is noticeably badly damaged and was apparently attacked by a Japanese submarine in the Persian Gulf. Several midshipmen from our escorting destroyers cam on board and paid a visit to the gunroom. Had they known the rought weather we were to encounter in the Arabian sea they would have probably stayed!
We have had quite a rest as regards gunnery recently but I doubt if the will continue for long.
Today visitors swarmed the ship; I was detailed off for showing six R.E.A.F. officers round the ship. They were ver interested in the monstrous 14" turrets; unfortunately I could not tell them very much about it as I have never yet had anything to do with the main armament in a ship. I took them down to the A.I.C. and told them what I knew of the various Radar sets.
A new programme of instruction during the forenoons was announced. Lieut. Aitken gave us an excellent lecture on destroyers and the part they played, and are still playing, in the Battle of the Atlantic. The courage and will-power displayed by these men must have been superb, especially during the very depressing periods when the Hun very nearly gained complete control. Fortunately we now hold the upper hand pretty securely and provided that there is no complacency the Battle of the Atlantic will end in a great victory. A dance was held on board but I was not able to attend, being on duty in boats.
This was the last day spent in Aden harbour; everyone seemed quite pleased that we were leaving on the following day. from the point of view of the libertymen Aden is a very poor town in which to 'have a run ashore'.
Awnings had been spread whilst in harbour and owing to the great care and trouble taken in rigging them, they looked very smart indeed.
At 1040 the ship weighed and slipped. The task of manoevoring her out of the inner harbour was successfully completed. We weighed for a short time before finally putting to sea. "Mizan"(???) joined "Queenborough" and "Quadrant" as our destroyer escort. Routine Action Stations were piped and the guns were lined up and checked, and communications were tested. It seems that the trip to Colombo will take about six days as our speed will not be more than 18 knots, in order to ensure that our escorts do not fun out of fuel on the way. The ordinary zig-zag was re-commenced.
The sea rose gradually during the day and weather reports became worse and worse. The packing cases (Flood IV, whatever that may mean) on the Q.D. were lashed down more securely and general preparations for bad weather were made. By the evening the South-West wind was sending water right over the quarter-deck. We, however, were very confortably off compared with the destroyers who were already beginning to pitch and roll considerably.
A new routing for midshipment was ordered owing to the fact that no H.A. armament was closed up. I was detailed off for keeping watches in the engine room; although I did not enjoy it much owing to the heat I learnt quite a lot and now have some idea of the conditions under which the Engineer Department are working in these climates. It must have been sheer hell for them when we came through the Red Sea.
The weather was about at its worst during the morning watch and then it gradually began to improve although there was still a considerable swell. The destroyer "Quadrant" reported that her foc'sle had been damaged; apparently their Chiefs and P.O.'s mess started to flood. The net outcome was that we decreased speed to 12 knots.
The most spectacular news this week comes from the Russian Front. In the north they have brokein through into the Baltic coast. They are now within artillary range of both Riga and Warsaw. Further south Stanisaslov has been captured, thus opeining the way to the Carpathians. At Lvov alone over 17,000 prisoner have been taken. At this rate it should not be very long before Berlin is being sieged but I trust that the Allied troops from the west will be in 'at the kill'.
We continued on our course for Colombo. In the forenoon Lt Cdr Curzon gave us a lecture on Japanese aircraft recognition. A large number of these aircraft are very similar, and sometimes identical, to American planes. This will, I think, make things rather confusing. Later we were given a Damage Control lecture by Lt Cdr Martin.
In the afternoon the Dutch destroyer 'Van Galen' had been ordered to relieve the 'Mizan'(???). Unfortunatley she had great difficulty in finding us. The 277 picked her up and then the Queenborough was sent to find the 'Van Galen'. She did this successfully.
We are now nearing Colombo. At 1800 Defense Watches of 5.25 and Cruising Watches of Close Range were closed up. There were quite a number of Catalinas(???) in sight although I'm not sure from where they were based.
News was received that the Germans were burning Warsaw; this seems a sure sign that the Germans realise that the situation there is hopeless.
Signed by (???)Peacock Lt Cdr 5.8.44
Today we arrived at Colombo and became a unit of the Eastern Fleet. After we had secured with both anchors for'ard and a stern buoy it was announced that C in C James Somerville was coming on board to address the ship's company. clear lower deck was piped and the captain spoke a few words before the C in C arrived. I did not know he had been out here for over two years; it seems rather unfortunate that he is being relieved just we are aobut to take the offensive. However, I suppose it may be for reasons of health.
In company with us were the free French battleship "Richelieu", the cruisers "Ceylon" and "Caradoc"(???), the aircraft carrier "Unicorn" and a number of smaller ships including destroyers, minesweepers, sloops and corvettes. Most of these small ships were manned by the R.I.A.(???). The latter seem extremely efficient judging by their smart appearance and bearing.
I spent the forenoon doing instruction and the rest of the day on boats. We had a great many trips as the O.O.W. had some mistaken idea that we were duty boat!
Colombo is a completely artificial harbour and is therefore farly small. The most difficult trip is at 2130 when the Passenger's jetty is congested with boats bringing off liberymen. It does not look as if we are going to stay long here so I have decided to try and get ashore tomorrow. This afternoon Noel Coward comae on board and was received by the Captain
Ordinary routine was carried out in the morning. We were given a lecture on Radar by Lieutenant Doull(???). He explained it very well without using too many technical terms. I went ashore in the afternoon with 39 rupees (£3) and a camera and arrived back in the evening with 20 cents and no camera. The customs took my camera and told me I would have to get a special permit from the Naval Security Officer before it was released. I went to the Security Office but unfortunately the officer, a certain Major Kelly R.(???), was not at home. The prices in Colombo are ridiculously high, taxi fares being quite outragious. I had dinner at Galle Fare(???) Hotel; it was very pleasant but also extremely expensive. On the whole I was not very impressed with the place but most of these towns seem to develop into a profiteering racket during the war. Colombo, at any rate, is no exception.
The buzz that we were to leave for Trincomalee on monday was spread round the ship. I got ashore and tried to retrieve my camera but I had no luck, much to my annoyance. This was a very uneventful day as far as I was concerned.
Early in the morning "Richelieu" left the harbour to carry out D.G. tests. Preparations were made on board for going to sea and at 1040 we proceeded and also carried out D.G. tests. We then set course for Trincomalee in company with "Richelieu" and "Unicorn" and with the destroyers "Queenborough", "Mizan"(???), "Raider", "Racehorse" and "Van Galen" as our escort. The "Unicorn" sent off several Swordfish as patrol and when they returned every ship had to turn into the wind. On one occasion when altering back to the mean course every ship but the "Howe" turned to port. Apparently we were correct although there was a very small margin (about 15 degrees) between which way was the shortest to turn onto our mean course.
I spent the morning watch on the A.D.P. There were several aircraft around, mostly Catalinas and Seafires. By 1400 we were safely secured in Trincomalee harbour. Trincomalee is an excellent natural harbour, capable, as far as I can see, of harbouring any number of vessels likely to be out this way. I did not go ashore as I was busy understudying in the launch, getting in as much practice as possible so as to try and pass out in it on the next day.
We had two lectures in the forenoon; one on 'Recognition' and on on 'Boatwork'. The former was very interesting especially the methods of obtaining the various recognition signals in force. In the dogs I passed out in the launch under the supervision of Lt cdr Peacock.
The news still seems pretty good. The Americans are entering the outskirts of Nantes, on the Loire. The British and Canadian troops are also advancing against rather stiffer opposition. Their main job, however, appears to be containing the main German reserves while the Yanks do the more spectacular work. Nantes is a focal point of road and railway communication, linking Paris with the Atlantic coast. From rumours the "Valiant" has been pretty badly damaged. we arrived in Trincomalee on the very night that the floating dock broke its back. I happened to be in boats at the time and got a good grand-stand view. "Valiant's" quarter-deck was very nearly awash for some time but they finally managed to get her on an even keel. It was certainly a very unfortunate occurrence. I presume she will soon go and dock either at Durban or Bombay.
By now everyone is beginning to get used to the heat. It looks as though we will spend most of our time here.
I am beginning to learn my way around the harbour. At first the numerous baffles, which keep opening and closing, are very confusing. The most dangerous part of the harbour as far as boats are concerned are the Powder Rocks. To reach Pepperpot Pier, where libertymen are put ashore, it is neccessary to pass through Powder rock Passage. In daytime it is easy enough but in the dark it is a different matter. I intend drawing a sketch of the harbour if I can get the data.
The motor-cutter is now being used as a crash-boat, standing by with medical and ire-fighting equipment, while these super-fortresses are returning from their raids. There is a large aerodrome near Trincomalee and also a flying-boat anchorage.
In company with us now are:
Also in the harbour are several destroyers and numerous M.T.B.s. There are three depot ships and two hospital ships. I went ashore in the afternoon and had an excellent bathe. The place is pretty barren but at my rate there is nothing on which to wast money. Tropical routing is now in force. Divisions and evening quarters are held every day now. I would have thought it better to concentrate on getting the ship really clean and when its up to a good standard, then continue with this 'Tropical routine'. As it is at the moment the hands are , in any opinioun, wasting time falling in on the quarter-deck and clearing(???) into 'whites'. Below decks the ship needs a thorough 'clean up' and what with painting etc there is more than enough to do. When there is less to do by all means return to 'battleship' routing. Today H.M.S "Ceylon" entered the harbour.
Divisions were held in the morning; everyone fell in looking extremely smart but today the Captain did not inspect the ranks. Instead of this he addressed them and read out an announcement from Vice Admiral of the Eastern Fleet. The main gyst of it was that despite difficult conditions the morale of the fleet had to be kept up. Heat and boredom coud easily lower morale and if this happened the fighting efficiency would automatically be lowered. It was therefore the duty of every officer and man to 'keep his chin up'. The captain concluded by saying that we would probably be going for a 'club run' in the not so distant future.
I went ashore in the afternoon and had an excellent bathe at Sandy Bay. I met two other midshipment from the "London" who were in the same term as me at Dartmouth.
The hands are still working very hard; only one part of the watch goes ashore now and work continues till 1900. I was running the launch the whole day except for the forenoon in which I did instruction. The L.C.M. (Landing Craft Mechanical) greatly helps the boat situation as it deals with the main bulk of liberymen. In the evening the Close Range, the division to which I am attached, gave a concert which I was told was a great success. Unfortunately I was on duty and was not able to attend. The whole show was put on and produced by a certain Able Seaman Batteridge, which I think is a pretty creditable effort. The close Range division is, in my opinion, far more enterprising and keen than the others. I think the main reason for this is because they have a first-class selection of Petty Officers, especially the Captain of Topi(???) P.O. Haynes. I know the latter pretty well as I am on watch with him on the A.D.P., for crusing. He is very good at dealing with H.O. ratings and consequently gets the best out of them.
We had instruction as usual in the forenoon. Mr(???) Renyard gave us a very interesting lecture on 'rigging'. I did not realise until then how little I know about it. There seems to be such a lot I'll have to learn that I hardly know where to begin!
The five Canadian midshipmen are now working hard for their exam, which is fast approaching. It seems that they will be leaving some time next month.
Today we heard the news that the Allies had invaded Southern France. The landing places were to the east of the great naval base of Toulon. Presumably Toulon will be one of the first objectives. heavy cruisers were bombarding, including H.M.S. Mauritius which wears the lag of Rear Admiral Patterson. It also stated that H.M.S."Rodney" had been bombarding ports in the Channel Islands. The Germans now have to contend with four fronts: the Russian front, the Italian front, the Norther France and Souther France fronts. I do not see how the German war can last very much longer.
Today the colony class cruiser "Gaubie"(???) entered the harbour. Most of the fleet is in Trincomalee now.
The hands are still hard at work; they applied the primary coat of paint to the hull.
Early in the morning the "Renown" left the harbour, accompanied by the cruisers "Ceylon", "Kenya", "Gambia", "Nigeria" and a destroyer escort. Apparently "Renown" was going to Colombo. The ship is now painted in accordance with the Eastern Fleet regulations, except for the superstructure and 5.25 turrets which remain to be done.
In the afternoon "Ceylon" and "Gambia" returned to the harbour; the buzz that we would be goint to sea on saturday began to spread round the ship. It later proved to be correct.
Signed by (???)Peacock Lt Cdr 18.8.44
We proceeded out of Tricomalee at 1030 immediately behind "Indomitable" (R.A.A.) and the destroyers "Rotherham" (Capt D.), "Raider", "Rapid", "Redoubt" and "Rocket". Behind us came the "Victorius" and the two Colony class cruisers "Ceylon" and "Gambia". Screen diagram 5A was taken up and we set a mean course of 140 degrees. The Commander spoke over the S.R.E. but merely announced that we were on a 'definite operation' and that he could give us no further information for three days, in case the operation was cancelled or indefinitely posponed. Our force is numbered 64 and the operation is called "Banquet". The R.A.A. in "Indomitable" is referred to as 'Barman'(???) and each unit in the force is referred to by some alcoholic drink eg "Howe" - "Cocktail" etc.
There has been a general reshuffle in Midshipmen's Action and Cruising stations. The three seniour R.(???).R. midshipmen left the ship just before we sailed and apart this the Canadians, who will be leaving shortly, have got understudies to their various jobs. I am still keeping watches on the A.D.P. in cruising but my action stations have been changed. Previously I had been stan-by T.S.O. on the Pom-pom gundecks, in case the directors broke down. This was a pretty 'gash' job and I was pleased to see that I had been transferred to T.S.O. on Punch(???) director. At routine Action Stations the leading seaman in charge gave me a good idea of how everything worked. This, however, was not to last for long as when I came down to the gunroom I found another notice informing me that I was now Commander's Doggie. I would certainly like some set job; at the moment wherever I go I seem to be completely 'gash'. In cruising on the A.D.P. Lt (G) informs me that I am 'gash' but am to make myself useful. Consequently I find it difficult to learn much and at the same time feel a complete 'outsider'. If, for instance, I had some 5.2" or 14" gunnery station I would presumably be a member of the officers Gunnery School and would go on learning more and more. When the captain spoke to us he said that in normal circumstances midshipmen would be doing a great deal on instruction (presumably navigation etc) but the latter would be neccessarily curtailed owing to the fact that they now are used to help 'fight the ship'. I do neither and consequently learn nothing.
Many wild guesses are being made as to where we are going and what are going to do. It seems pretty obvious that we are here to escort the carrirs and that we will not be doing any bombardment. The "Indomitable" carries Barracudas and Hellcats while the "Victorious" carries Barracudas and Corsairs. All of these planes are well up to date. The Hellcat is the latest Grumman(???) naval fighter and is a considerable improvement on the Martlet. The Barracuda has already achieved fame owing to the successful attacks on the Tirpitz. Sunday passed fairly uneventfully. In the morning several Corsairs were flown off from the Victorious and practiced high level bombing runs.
The news in Europe is progressing well. Airborne troops have been landed east of the river Seing, presumably with the object of extablishing a bridgehead on that river. We are now steaming 135 degrees, 17 knots in the following formation
In the morning watch the destroyers picked up an echo and proceeded to make a depth charge attack. The force then made an emergency turn to starboard. No more attacks were made so presumably it was a false alarm. Again, in the afternoon, Barracudas and Corsairs were flown off and the Close Range practiced dummy low level bomber attacks and dive-bomber attacks. At 0900 we crossed the equator. From 1600 - 1915 we kept on a course of 050 degrees. Everything s very vague as far as I am concerned but this recent change of course indicates an attack on Sumatra
Halfway through the morning watch we rendez-voused the Dutch cruiser "Troup"(???), escorting the "Eksdale"(???), a fleet oiler. The whole of our destroyer escrt left us and began oiling. In the dog-watches the cruisers oiled.
The stike was to have taken place today but there has been a twenty-four hour delay. This, apparently was due to the fact that an air-sea rescue submaring had not yet taken up position. At supper the captain spoke to the Ship's Company. He said that an air attack was being made on Pedang at dawn on the next morning. The Barracudas had finished bombing up. There were to be two separate stikes; the first was to consist of twenty Barracudas and twenty Corsairs and the second of twelve Barracudas and twelve Hellcats. "Howe" would not take any part in the proceedings. Our role was to safeguard the carriers against possible surface attack. This was neccessary for two reasons ; we would firstly be operating in enemy cntrolled waters and secondly our knowledge of the movements of the Japanese was extremely limited. At dawn we would take up a position some thirty miles to the East of a chain of islands off Sumatra from these islands to Pedang was a distance of another 100 miles. He then went on to explain the strategic importance of this strike. Singapore was our ultimate objective but before this is reached Sumatra, which is situated directly in the way, must be 'softened up'. Sabang(???), in the north, had already been attacked by air and from the sea. This operation was all part of the same plan. Besides this it had the combined effect of keeping the Japanese 'on the hop' and also keeping our own hand in. No fleet, he said, could maintain a high standard of fighting efficiency if it spent all its tim in harbour. He hoped that, as the late C in C E.7 epxressed it with reference to the recent attack on Satang(???) we would catch the sons of "Nippon with their komonos up".
After his speech everyone was rather disgruntled because we were not taking a more active part in the attack. Some also thought the attack was too light to justify the undeniably large amount of fuel which the forc were consuming. However, this was merely 'armchair strategy'.
Great news has reached us over the wireless. Paris has been liberated by the forces of the Interior(???). General (???) with 50,000 armed men, assisted by vast numbers of ordinary Parisians, have swept the Germans out of Paris and are now in posession of all public buildings in the city. To the South East of the city the Americans have captured Sers(???). Only 240 miles to the south, Grenoble has been captured. At this rate the forces from the South will soon be joining up with the forces from the North.
At dawn the first flight of 20 bombers and 20 fighters took off. There was very little wind and the fleet had to increase speed; even then on Corsair from the "Victorious" was not able to gain height in time and it crashed into the sea. Fortunately the pilot was picked by the destroyer "Rocket" which had been detailed off for such purposes. About an hour later the second flight (12 bombers and an equal number of fighters) proceeded and then the first flight returned - intact. Only one plane (Corsair) was destroyed by enemy action although one Barracuda, which crashed just before landing on the "Indomitable" was believed to have been damaged by the light flak. The two aforementioned losses were part of the second strike. Unfortunately the crew of the Barracuda was not picked up. The force proceeded westwards immediately the last plane was landed. From dawn to dusk an air umbrella of four Hellcats and four Corsairs was kept. They had to be relieved about every two hours and as there was a following wind, we consequently lost much "ground". At dusk our air umbrella was 'closed' and for this reason Repel aircraft Stations was sounded. It was also considered the most probable time for the enemy to attack. First before moonset we relaxed into 3rd degree of readiness. I had spent a rather tedious time in the after Conning position, merely watching the moon gradually descend! Action messing was tested and proved very satisfactory.
This was an uneventful day. The captain gave us some information about the attack. He said it had been very successful according to all reports from the F.A.A. personnel. The large cement factory, which was the principle target, was effectively bombed. Clouds of smoke and dust soon obliterated the target. In addition to this two medium-sized merchant-ships in Emmahaven (???) (the port of Pedang) were hit and left ablaze. These can be considered sank or damaged beyond repair.
Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser has now taken over from Admiral Somerville as Commander-in-Chief Eastern Fleet. I have been told that he is wearing his flag in "Renown". The latter will very probably be in Trincomalee when we return. Admiral Sir James Sommerville has sent the following message to the fleet: "on hauling down my flag I wish to thank the flag officers, commanding officers, officers and men, both afloat and ashore, for the unfailing support they have given me throughtout my period in command of the Eastern fleet". His 'period in command' has been no easy one; it started just after the fall of Singaporte!
It appears that the ship will have to be completely repainted since the paint on the hull was not sufficiently dry before we put to sea.
The Gunnery Officer drew out quite a large programme for the day; the main item was to be a 14" sub. calibre shoot during the Dog watches. In the forenoon we supplied smoke-burst targets for the destroyers and we carried out divers forms of plotting excercises. For the sub-calibre shoot I was detailed off by Mr (???) Messton to keep a line record. This went fairly successfully though at times I found it rather difficult. The destroyer was towing a splash target which at times was not very distinguishable from her wake and the small 'choppy' waves. In addition to this "Indomitable" was opening up at it with her pom-poms and I had to pick out our own splashes from the rest. The results of the shoot were quite satifsfactory and it was quite a valuable practice.
Today we heard the news that the great naval arsenal of Toulon had been liberated. The French forces of the Interior (Margins) are proving themselves immensely useful to the Allied cause. In the East, Russia is pressing forward now aided by Rommania. The Ploesti(???) oilfields will soon be in Russian hands and the main source of oil supply to Germany is about to be cut off.
At 1100 we reached Trincomalee and proceeded to moor in the same berth as before. The anchor was catted (???) and we secured to a buoy for'ard, with the cable. We heaved in to a stern buoy with a 71/2" manilla and when we had secured with the 61/2" wire hawser, the manilla was slipped.
Trincomalee looks much the same as when we left it. The "Queen Elisabeth" is in company and also the county class cruiser "Cumberland". "Valiant" has moved from examination anchorage to a berth just ahead of the "Richeliew".
Today a rather unfortunate accident occured. An officer form the Adamant, the submaring depot ship, was inspecting torpedoes in H.M. S/M "Severn". For some reason, which I have not yet discovered, a torpedo was fired and it hit the oiler "Broomdale" in the bows. The range was about 400 yards. The harbour is now covered with a thin film of oil. This of course, makes it almost impossible for keeping boats really clean and also makes it highly unpleasant for bathing. The damage to the oiler is not as bad as might be expected; she was hit above the water-line
We heard further news and details of the last operation as a result of a meeting in the "Indomitable". The air sea rescue submarine was originally the "Severn", but was changed aafter we sailed for the "Sea Rover". It was because of the inablility of the "Sea Rover" to reach the position in time, that the operation was postponed by twenty four hours.
The Japanese rely on two cement works for their supply; one at Bangkok and one at Pedang. The R.A.F. have already been to Bangkok. The importance of the one we dealt with was stressed by the captain of the "Tramp"(???) who told the C-in-C to what pains the Dutch went to destroy it before evacuating Sumatra. In all 58 bombs were dropped out of a total of 62 carried; the remaining 4 failed to release. The Victorious, deriqued for 36 aircraft, was actually operating 52.
In the afternoon, about 1600, the "Renown" entered harbour wearing the flag of the new C-in-C Eastern Fleet. Every ship cleared lower deck for the occassion. V.A.E.7. Vice Admiral Power transferred his flag to "Valiant". The "Valiant" has just painted ship and is looking extremely smart but unfortunatley she is hardly in a battle-worthy condition. Divers have been going down everyday since the floating dock sank.
Rouen has now been captured and the allies have got several bridgeheads on the Seine. The advance is continuing extremely fast and I should imagine our communications must be strtched almost to a breaking point; for this reason I wouldd not be surprised if there was a slow-down or lull in the near future.
I heard on the news that "Warspite" the ship I was in before I joined this ship, has been bombarding Brest. Naval bombardment seems to be becoming increasingly important, especially when troops are bing landed at the same time. The advantage of warships over aircraft is that they are permamently based off the coast and can quickly answer a 'call for fire' if the army are meeting some unexpected opposition. "Rodney" has fired over 1000 16" shells and "Ramillies" about the number of 15".
Painting ship is progressing well; most of the superstructure has been completed and the hull is now receiving attention.
Today is Queen Wilhelmina's birthday; every ship is flying the Dutch national flag (flag 4 upside down!) and one Dutch merchantman is fully dressed in the real peace-time manner.
I was running boats most of the day; we had to take some evaporator tubes to the engineering depot ship "Resource" and as there were several other boats using her cranes we took nearly three hours and consequently everyone missed his breakfast! Very little occured today.
Signed Lt Cdr Peacock 5.9.44
I have been reading the new W.I.R; in it there is one article which, though rather lengthy, I feel is worth quoting. It is an extract from the German paper 'Militarische Korrespondenz', paying tribute to the effectiveness of naval gunfire at the Second Front. It runs as follows: "The fire curtain provided by their Navy's guns has so far proved one of the Anglo U.S. invasion armies' best trump cards. It may be that the fleet's part was more decisive than that of the Air Force's because it was better aimed and, unlike the bomber formations, it did not have to confine itself to short bursts of fire... It would be utterly wrong to underestimate the fire power of warships, even of smaller vessels... Of particular advantaage to the invasion troops was the great mobility of the vessels, by which artilliary concentrations could be achieved at any point along the coast and the place could be changed according to the exigencies fo the situation. The attackers have made the best possible use of this opportunity. Strong formations of warships and cruisers were repeatedly used against single coastal batteries thus bringing an extraordinarily superior fire power to bear on them. Moreover, time and again they put up an umbrella of fire over the defenders at the focal points of the fighting, compared with which heavy waves of air attacks have only a moderate effect. It would be no exaggeration to say that the cooperation of the heavy naval guns played a decisive part in enabling the Allies to establish a bridghead in Normandy. At present, however fighting at many places has been taking place for several days in the periphery of the range of heavy and very heavy naval guns..."
It seems to me that in the Pacific naval bombardment will be thrown even more into the forefront. :laces being invaded may easily be hundreds of miles from our shore-based aircraft. Carrier-based aircraft can supply an efficient fighter-cover but their bombing power is not comparable with that of big naval guns.
The ship now looks exceedingly smart; the painting is completed except for the after funnel.
I went ashore in the afternoon and after a good bathe I walked into Trincomalee itself and had a look round the 'stores'; they are remarkably well stocked with almost anything one could want, but the prices are absolutely outrageous. The natives must be making fortunes off the unfortunate British matelot.
Today is the fifth anniversary of the second World War. It also marks a definite turning point; Germany is being defeated and soon all our resources will be free to deal with Japan.
I was on boats during the evening and I was kept extremely busy as the L.C.M. had broken down. The Boat routine is not running very smoothly; this, I think, is because the majority of Officers of the Watch do not know where they are sending their boats. To explain what I mean I will illustrate by an example. The other day the launch was called away and the O.O.W. told me that we were called away five minutes early because he wanted us to go to the 'Dunregan' on the way to Pepperpot Pier (for libertymen). 'On the way' was a slight misnomer because it involved a trip taking at least twenty minutes longer than the normal routine trip. In consequence we took off libertymen very late and upheld our reputation with the Patrol on Pepperpt Pier that 'Howe's boats are never on time'.
News has been received that the British Second Army is making a lightning seep through Belgium. Brussels has just been captured and Antwerp is being evacuated by the German forces. The Pas de Calais area has been bye-passed but it is completely cut off and the Canadians are closing in. When the flying bomb sites are all captured, air-raids of any form, over England will be a thing of the past.
The Gunnery Officer has informed us that we will be going out for excercises on Friday. The whole fleet will take part except the Valiant.
All midshipment of my seniority have been having a number of Torpedo control lectures from Lieutenant Chitty and Mr Townshend. Today a visit to the 'Gambia' and the destroyers 'Raider' and 'Redoubt' was arranged. Unfortunately I missed this as I was on boats and merely had the job of taking them over to the destroyers in the launch.
Every morning now a party of 50 marines are taken ashore to the R.M.E. Pier where they go on route marches in the forenoons. These are extremely necessary as it is almost impossible to keep fit on board. Whether or not marines from warships would ever partake in a landing, I do not know. Marines carried in sea-going ships nowadays seem merely to perform seaman's duties and their primary duties of taking part in combined operations are forgotten. This, I suppose, is inevitable now that landing-craft and paratroopers have become so mobile.
Our stay in this harbour is already becoming rather tedious; 'keeping up the morale' is no easy matter.
Today Midshipmen Ozzard and MacBrien went over to H.M. S/M "Tradewind". She went out for trials prior to going on a patrol. There are about then submarines in the harbour, supplied by the depot ships "Wolfe" and "Adamant".
Our sheet anchor has now been landed. This saves the trouble of catting anchor every time we make fast to a buoy. In any case a sheet anchor is hardly ever used and I believe no more ships are being built with sheet hause pipes.
Clear Lower Deck was piped at 1045. The French battleship "Richelieu" is leaving harbour and returning home, presumably to Toulon. Although this weakens the Eastern Fleet it is only fair on the crew who have not seen their native land for over four years. The Eastern Fleet, however, is not large enough to carry out any major operation and until it is considerably re-inforced small operations, such as this one we have jsut completed, will continue. "King George V" is the next on the list, and she is very probably on her way. the "Auson"(???) is now having a re-fit and will no doubt be following later.
I am now closed up on the A.D.P. for action stations, as sight operator. I was therefore pretty busy and by the end of the day my eyes felt very tired. Early in the afternoon the 14" shoot took place; it was a throw-off against the "Queen Elizabeth". Astern of the Q.E. were four imaginary Japanese battleships. These were the 'targets'. From all accounts this shoot turned out very well. At 1630 all Repel Aircraft Stations personnel closed up; this excercise was mostly for the benefit of the Target Indication Unit and the Air Defence Position. A number of shore-based aircraft came in sight but very few came within 500 yards. As it was a form of "night encounter" this was the maximum distance of visibility. There was no firing and in my opinion the excercise was not very beneficial. Just after sunset another night encounter excercise was carried out; two 5.25" turrets were switched to starshell and the 14" practiced bling-firing. The "enemy", the cruisers 'Cumberland', 'London' and 'Gambia' never closed the range enough to fire a starshell. Early in the morning watch "Hands to night Actions" was piped. The Gunnery Officer was not satisfied with the time taken in closing up. Yet another night encounter excercise was completed; this time starshell was fired and we illuminated a destroyer which undortunately had closed to a very short range before it was noticed.
After a few hours sleep Air Defence personnel again closed up. By now 'Indomitable' had joined company and was making ready to fly off aircraft. Soon 14 Barracudas and 8 Hellcats were in the air. The forces(???) were to represent the enemy; they dissappeared out of sight and an 'attack' was expected any time during the next two hours. A few shadowers came in but they were soon intersepted by our air escort (Hellcats). The main body did not 'attack' for a long time, during which the H.A. armament was kept at the 'stand-to' position. Everyone was becoming rather annoyed at the delay but, as the Gunnery Officer announced over the broadcast, the ability to keep alert during long and tedious hours is almost bound to be needed in action.
At last the 'enemy' appeared; they werre picked up in plenty of time and were dealt with efficiently. This would not have been possible had everyone been at the 'relax' state.
A competitive Low Angle throw-off shoot between the four groups of 5.25" armament then commenced. The target was the destroyer "Quillian"(???). Green and Blue groups did excellent shoots but Red and Brown were not so successful. Brown had a large but curious error which was difficult to account for. Their shots fell 24 degrees from the target. The Gunnery Officer thought that this was a fault in the Convergence box but apparently it had been checked a very short ime beforehand.
In the afternoon we were oiled by the 'Echodale'. The Buoyant hose method was used. It is a comparatively easy method but it definitely needs practising; I intend making a diagram to explain it. Ninety tons of oil was taken in. Soon after we had slipped the hose, the close range closed up for a sleeve target shoot. The intention was that each Pom-pom shoud have a run of its own with one Oerlikou(???) from each group. Finally, on the last run, everything that could bear was to open up. Unfortunately, after several runs in which two sleeves were brought down, the aircraft were recalled to their base owing to an approaching thunderstorm.
In the Last Dog we entered harbour and secured to our old berth. 'Renown', 'Cumberland', 'Queen Elisabeth' and 'Gambia' had returned earlier.
Once again we are back in harbour routine. We have not been doing much instruction this week as Lt.Cdr Britton is busy with the five Canadian midshipmen who have started their exams.
Lt Almond is now giving us a series of talks on the electical systems in ships, with particular reference to this class.
Recreation is rather limited here; a certain amount of football and hockey takes place in the afternoons but it really only touches the ship's teams. Bathing over the side is somewhat restricted owing to the large amount of oil still floating round the harbour. Deck hockey is also on rather too small a scale.
I personally think more should be done in this line; life on board is definitely not a healthy one and in order to counter-act this I think that the maximum amount of physical recreation is called for.
On Wednesday H.M.S. 'Achilles' entered harbour and berthed just astern of the 'Q.E.'. I was running boats today; the other day the picket-boat severely damaged her canopies and bridge; the engines have failed on one motor-boat and consequently there are only twoo boats now running, the launch and the other motor-boat. To add to these set-backs the L.C.M. again failed to put in an appearance. In the evening the remaining motor-boat damaged itself and also ran out of fuel. For some reason she could not be started again until morning.
On the Thursday morning the launch was required for taking the Captain over to the 'Renown'. The boat has not been running at all well lately and the buckets stick badly when going from ahead to astern. For this reason I was rather over-cautious and came alongside ver slowly in case I was not able to get her astern in time. Otherwises everything went very well but the launch must have looked somewhat incongrous witha ll the other 'tiddly' little motorboats waiting to pick up their respective captains!
During the forenoon preparations were made for putting to sea; we slipped at 1130 and proceeded out of the harbour in company with the two aircraft carriers "Indomitable" and "Victorious". Our destroyer escort was comprised of H.M.ships "Rotherham" (Capt D), "Raider", "Redoubt", "Relentless", "Rocket", "Rapid" and "Racehorse". Also in company are the cruisers "Kenya" and "Cumberland". The name of this operation is 'Light'. Two strikes are indicated; both against the North of Sumatra. We are now on a course of 128 degrees with zig-zag no 12 in force. Screening diagram is no 6.
The Battle of Germany has now commenced; heavy fighting is taking place in the outskirts of the important railway centre of Aachen. Further north the British have crossed the Dutch border in several places.
Everyone has to take two sights on this trip; this is very difficult as the weather has been constantly against us. If the weather does not improve soon it seems possible that the operation will be either postponed or cancelled. The first strike is to be against two airfields, one at Medan(???) and the other at B. The second is to be against the railway centre of Sighi(???), on the Western coast of Sumatra.
Excellent news comes from Western Europe; large numbers of paratroopers have been landed in Holland, ahead of our present lines. It is hoped that our land forces which are pressing forward across the border will soon link up with the airborne troops.
We have altered course to 095 degrees; all going well, the first strike will commence at dawn tomorrow, the weather, however, has shown little signs of improvement. I nthe forenoon a 14" sub-calibre shoot was carried out; this went fairly successfully but "B" turret made a bad mistake by engaging the target (splash-tartet towed by a destroyer) without the order from the P.C.O. As it happened the target was bearing five on the bow and the slightest error would have resulted in a direct hit on the destroyer
In the afternoon the force spent some time practising various turns and formations which would be used on the morrow. Carrier Cruising Order number 23 was carried out; in this 'Howe' is guide of the fleet until the carriers announce that they are ready to fly off aircraft and turn into the wind.
The commander spoke over the S.A.E. and gave us some more details of the following operation.
I had the middle watch on the A.D.P. and it was raining hard most of the time; it was pretty cler to everyone that the first strike would have to be cancelled. On waking up in the morning I was informed that ith had been cancelled.
Later in the forenoon "Indomitable" managed to send up an air-cover of 4 Hellcats as we retired from our position 50 miles west of Sumatra.
More good news is coming in from the European theatre. The British Second Army has joined forces with the advanced airborne troops. Landings have also been made on the Dutch coast where several bridgeheads have been secured. In a few places the Rhine has been crossed.
At dawn we were in position to fly off the second strike - against railway installations at Sigli. At 0600 20 Barracudas, 19 Corsairs and 5 Hellcats took off from the carriers; one Barracuda crashed into the sea soon after taking off; one Corsair fount it neccessary to return to the "Victorious" and she made a crash landing. Her petrol tank burst into flames but I gather there was not very much damage done as the fire was quickly extinguished. An escort of 4 other Hellcats was airborne. At 0830 the aircraft returned; only on, a Barracuda, was missing. From all accounts the raid was successful.
The force then retired westwards with an air umbrella of 4 fighters which 'kept watch' for two hours at a time. In the First Dog an enemy aircraft was picked up by radar at a range of 45 miles. The fighters went off and managed to get within sight of this Jap fighter. The latter raced off quickly but owing to lack of fuel our fighters had to return to the carriers without a Japanese 'plane to their credit'.
At 1830, as the last fighter had touched down, "Hands to Routine repel aircraft Stations" was piped. This was to be prepared against any form of dusk air attack. The night passed without incidence.
Several A.A.C.E.s and Torpedo Bomber Excercises were carried out today. We continued on a course for Trincomalee.
At 1045 we entered harbour and secured to no 10 berth
Marked as Good and signed by Captain H.W.U. McCall R.N. Commanding Officer H.M.S. Howe. Also signed by Lt Cdr Peacock 22.9.44
I had managed to take a sun-run-sun hand bearing sight in the fornoon and spent most fo the afternoon working it out. Instructor Lt Cdr makes us work pretty hard at navigation but I think it is as well because in this climate it is very hard to do any 'voluntary' work. I do not relish the idea of doing my exams out here.
Our present berth is extremely convenient as regards boat-running; it is practically in the centre of the harbour.
In the forenoon the 'Queen Elizabeth' left the harbour for Durban. There, I gather, she will go into dock and have her bottom scraped; I expect she will return before the Eastern Fleet begins a proper offensive.
An unfortunate accident occurred when we were last at sea; a rating slipped while climbing down to the asdic(???) room and fractured his skull very badly. He has now been taken to the Vasua(???).
The war news now consists mostly of the fight our airbourne troops are putting up in Holland; they were landed behind the enemy lines some days ago. Unless the British Second Army comes to their rescue it seems they will be defeated, because they are fighting against very heavy odds. I have just read Mr Churchill's speech which he made on August 2nd. It is an excellent review of the war on every front. About the most interesting thing he reveals is the success of the immnense American air highway acting, in lieu of the Burma road. He states.. "Broadly speaking, it may be said that at Quebec last year we planned advances into Northern Burma with the object of giving greater security to the immense American air highway into China. I may mention that the American highway carries far more tonnage than was ever delivered, or likely to be delivered, in a measurable time over the Burma road..." This seems excellent news since no other country, except perhaps Russia, has quite such limitless manpower as China, given modern equipment on a large scale, the Japanese war cn doubtless be brought to a far hastier conclusion.
Able seaman Rowlands dies on the Vasua(???) and his funeral, with full naval honours, is taking place this afternoon. The launch had the job of carrying the coffin ashore. I did not go to the funeral but I was told it was very impressive.
Sunday divisions took place as usual this morning but among other things the Captain made an inspection of the gunroom. The general condition of the mess has been steadily getting worse ever since we left England. The captain was naturally annoyed and told the 1st Lieutenant that he would make another inspection three days later. Much hard work was called for and on the whole a great deal was accomplished. everthing from dect to deckhead was cleaned up.
At midday Emergency Stations were excercised; this was very beneficial as however clearly orders are written on paper no efficiency can be obtained without putting the thing into practice.
We are still continuing lectures on torpedoes; Lt Almond is giving us a series of talks on electricity, both High and Low Power systems.
During the day the cruisers "Suffolk" and "Achilles" entered the harbour. The latter is, of course, manned by the New Zealand navy, she was one of the three cruisers under Admiral Sir Henry Harwood, which acquitted themselves so well at the Battle of the River Plate.
In the evening the Canadian midshipmen held a farewell party. Many senior officers were present including the Captain.
Little of note occurred today; everyone in the gunroom is very busy cleaning and painting. The gunroom is to be inspected by the captain tomorrow.
A performance of 'Bandwaggon' starring H.M.S. "Howe's" dance band, was shown tonight. Vice-Admiral Power was present; he concluded the show by making an excellent and very amusing speech. He agreed that Trincomalee, for a big naval base, is hopelessly inadequate as regards facilities for entertainment ashore. Something, however, was being done. In the first place an Officers's Club and a Canteen for the men were going to be opened in the near future. Secondly many E.N.S.A. artists were on their way out here. He cracked some jokes abuot the new demobilisation system, telling us that his demobilisation age had been worked out as 85.
The captain inspected the gunroom and was pleased with the improvement.
After 'Stand Easy' Mr Townsend conducted a tour of the ship visiting every important place in connection with electricity switch boards, Low Power Rooms and Dynamo rooms all took their turns. Personally I do not find electricity at all interesting but it is so important that one cannot neglect learning something about it.
H.M.S."Valiant" left the harbour in the forenoon to do speed trials prior to returning to England for a general refit. Numerous tugs gathered round her and until she was well outside the harbour she did not use her own steam.
The news from S.H.A.E.F has not been so good recently. Opposition is increasing and our advance is nearly at a standstill. Out of the 8,000 paratroopers landed behind the enemy lines only 2,000 have escaped. They had put up an heroic fight against superior numbers and an infinitely superior weight of armour.
Although they have been defeated their efforts have been by no means fruitless. They have undoubtedly saved the line of the British Second Army outside Arnheim. At first glance this action seems a tactical blunder with the fatal mistake of making light forces, whose only advantage is mobility, fight heavy armour in a limited area. However I think the real was to create a suicidal diversion in order to let the Second Army continue its advance.
We slipped early this morning and proceeded out of the harbour for extensive gunnery excercises. In company were H.M.ships "Renown", "Cumberland", "Suffolk", "London", "Phoebe", "Wakeful", "wager", "Whelp", "Quail", "Quilliam" and "Quickmatch".
The first excercise was a Torpedo lineraft Attack carried out by Barracudas. Unfortunately the pilots devoted most of their attention to "Renown" and in consequence our gunners got little practice. This was followed by various 5.25 shoots including a throw-off against a single aircraft and ending up with a blind barrage. Several mistakes in drill were made and in that respect the excercise was very beneficial. During the forenoon a full-scale Damage Control Excercise was carried out, it waas so realistic that a list of 8 degrees was achieved. 5.25 firings at a Battle Practice Target then commenced. It was rapid firing and the turrets put out an excellent rate of fire but again several mistakes were made and much benefit was derived from the excercises.
Next on the list was a Night Encounter excercise. We were in company with the "Renown" and two destroyers; the "Renown" was acting as a crippled capital ship with a maximum speed of 10 knots. The "enemy" consisted of four cruisers and four destroyers; it was their duty to intercept us and prevent us from reaching our objective. The "enemy" took an extremely long time to develop his attack and when he did it was somewhat half hearted.
A quiet day as far as I was concerned. Divisions took place as usual and a fairly high standard of smartness was attained. I cannot help thinking that for an ordinary every day rig whites are highly unsuitable. It is almost impossible to keep whites looking clean and smart when doing any kind of work other than office and perhaps Quarter Deck staff. By all means have a set of whites for 'state ocassions' but for an every day rig I think that khaki would be 100% more suitable. I noticed that the ship's company of the Achilles all wor khaki and appeared extremely smart; in my opinion, solely for that reason.
The forenoon was spent provisioning ship.
A game of soccer was arranged in the forenoon between the Gunroom and the Close Range division. We had an excellent game but the only drawback was the ground; it was almost like cement and I was unfortunate enough to fall on it rather heavily consequently damaging my knee quite badly. The Close Range won 4-2.
I was running boats in the afternoon. I like running the launch but at times it is extremely hard work doing de(???) on day-off in this climate. The heat encourages laziness to a very large extent.
Today we had news that the Americans had landed in the Palau group of islands. This seems merely a stepping stone to the Philippines which are about three hundred miles further west.
It is difficult to speculate when the war against Japan will be over. At the moment there seems to be rather a wave of optimism; personally I cannot agree with those who think that the defeat of Japan will follow close on to the defeat of Germany. I think that there will be an interval of at least a year.
We went to sea this morning for excercises. The main item on the bill was a Main Armament Control Bombardment excercise. Lieutenant Huntingford stayed ashore as Forward Observer Bombardment officer. The target was a small island just to the north of Koddihan Bay. On the whole everything went very sommothly and we proved ourselves able to act efficiently in the capacity of bombarding.
The Close Range then carried out sleeve firings; the shoot was a great improvement on their last effort. Then a Range and Inclination Excercise took place with "Achille".
We then returned to harbour after quite a succussful day.
The "Valiant", having completed her speed trials and presumably satisfied the officials that she is sufficiently seaworth, left for the United Kingdom. I should think they will be sending some more old 15" battleships out here. They are extremely useful for bombardment purposes and if, by ill luck, one does get sunk it is not a major calamity to the fleet. [Ramilles, Warspite, Malaya]
Today it was announced that we would be probably going to Colombo next week. Presumably quite a number of the Ship's Company will be able to get up to Diyatelawa rest camp. The climate there, I'm told, is very healthy; it should do everyone a lot of good especially those with such irritating skin diseases as heat-rash, prickly heat etc.
In the afternoon the destroyer "Wessex" came alongside and made fast. The five Canadian midshipmen are now finally leaving as the two destroyers to which they have been appointed, "Quiberon" and "Relentless", have entered harbour.
In the forenoon divisions took place as usual. I was running boats so did not attend. Afterwards I was told that the Captain gave some details about the eagerly awaited leave. About one third of the Ships Company would be able to get four days leave up country; the rest would be able to get leave in Colombo, every other day, from 1300-1100 (the next day).
In the meantime the 5.25 guns will be dismantled and new ones put in their place. They have been used a great deal during the working-up period and just recently and it is not surprising that they are worn out.
Today the large hospital ship Tjijilenka(???) entered the harbour and went alongside the oiling jetties. The Vasua then left her berth and came alongside the Tjijilenka to transfer her sick. The Tjijilenka is a Dutch ship manned by Chines, officered by Dutch with a British medical staff! She is considerably larger than either the Vasua or the Vita.
Various lists have been posted up in the gunroom concerning leave. All the midshipmen have put down for 'staying with planters'. I going to try and make private arrangements as my father was a planter and had quite a number of friends ou here. The Padre left the ship yesterday to go to Colombo and make numerous arrangements.
We left the harbour early this morning; nothing was up on the Daily Orders about going to sea; some even suggested that we were going on an operation!
A large gunnery programme appeared. The excercises proceeded quite succwssfuly; the only mishap was when Sargeant Lamport was hit by a piece of shrapnel. A round from an Oerlikon caused a shell from Yorker to explode. Fortunately he was not seriously injured.
We arrived in Colombo harbout and moored very successfuly although we had to turn through 150 degrees before we could make the stern fast.
Apparently all the ships in the harbour will soon be turned to meet the North-East monsoon which will be breaking shortly. I was running the launch during the evening and it was very unpleasant owing to the rain. The unfortunate libertymen were almost always drenched before we event reached the jetty.
In the forenoon the 5.25 guns were being hoisted on board and on the port side dismantling began. There is a great deal of merchant shipping in the harbour but very few warships. The small carrier "Ameer" is on our starboard side, with numbers of Wildcats on her flight deck.
After a very enjoyable leave I returned to the ship. On the 17th October we got news of a full-scale American landing on Leyte Island, in the Philippines. The opposition they encountered was comparatively weak. it was also announced that a large Japanese fleet was lying of Formosa. The latter was bombed recently by the Super-Fortresses.
The Eastern fleet has just completed an attack of the northernmost island of the Nicobars - Can(???) Nicobar. It was a combined sea and air bombardment; again there was very little opposition although a few enemy aircraft were sighted and engaged and 8 were destroyed.
On board they have been hoisting 5.25 guns for the starbord turrets; they will not be changed until we reach Trincomalee. On the port side everything is completed.
Most of the ships in the harbour have been swung round to meet the North-Eastmonsoon. We have not moved as we will be leaving very shortly.
A very quiet day as far as I was concerned.
Further news has come of an American-Japanese naval action off the Philippines(???red underline). Admiral Nimitz(???) claims the following: Sunk. 1 aircraft carrier. 4 cruisers. Heavily damaged, probably sunk. 2 Battleships 1 aircraft carrier. Damaged. 5 battleships. 2 heavy cruisers and several destroyers. The Japs themselves admit the loss of one battleship.
The Americans have announced that during these engagement the carrier "Princeton" was sunk.
By 1000 we had passed the Pilot station and were on our way back to Trincomalee. The twenty four hours ahead of us was chock-full of gunnery excercises; over and above this every midshipman was ordered to take a sight. I got mine done fairly quickly as I have no watchkeeping to do. The midshipmen doing bridge watchkeeping do not have much time in which to complete their sights so I volunteered to help them out. Had I known that I had been put down for the Middle Watch I wold not have been so keen!
Our destroyer escort comprised the "Whelp", "Wager" and "Wakeful". They formed Screening diagram 3A.
The middle watch passed fairly peacefully. At about 0300, when 60 miles south of Batticaloa, we sighted a light which we discovered could not possibly be a shore light. It turned out to be a hospital ship, presumable the Vasua, brilliantly lit up.
In the morning at about 0730 a Close Range shoot was carried out. It was very successful and the Gunnery Officer was very pleased as they have now proved themselves to have regained their former efficiency.
In the forenoon we entered harbour and secured to our old berth, no 10.
We have just missed the last Eastern fleet 'club run' so I expect we will spend most of the next month in harbour.
The Eastern Fleet now consists of:
The past three weeks have proved rather dull and tedious as far as the British Far Eastern Fleet are concerned. Not even a 'club run' has broken the monotony of the normal Trincomalee harbour routine.
However in order to defeat this boredom everything possible has been done to entertain the troops; the Howe's Third Annual regatta took place; the ship's football team are now in the finals of the "Eastern Fleet Football League"; a charity match (Howe v R.M.E.) was arranged and a large number of spectators were present; the Fleet canteen and United Services Officers club have been opened; the "Renown's" variety show 'All the Fun of the Fair' has been shown to numberous audiences and our own show 'Bandwaggon' has been performed to equally numerous audiences.
In short there has been an all-out campaign to keep up morale during this present period of inactivity
"Victorious" is now in Colombo where, I am told, she is changing all her Barracudas for Avengers. The "Indomitable" will apparently do the same at a later date. It seems a pity that we have not been able to devise any first class carrier-borne planes. The American Corsairs, Hellcats and Avengers are undoubtedly superior to any carrier-borne planes we have. In ordinary land based aircraft, however, such planes as the latest Mark 21 Spitfire, Mosquito and Lancaster hold their own with anything the Yanks have to offer.
Unfortunately our inactivity here is rather outlined by events in other parts of the world. In Eastern France the Americans are pressing on despite considerable German opposition. Further north the British Second Army and the Canadian Army (now fighting independently) are progressing well. Brussels has now been liberated. all along the coastline from Bordeaux to Wilhelmshaven there has been much naval activity - mainly bombardment and minor engagements with enemy frigates, sloops etc.
The successful landings on the Dutch coast was supported by the customary heavy artillary of naval gunfire. Given their present overwhelming air superiority the Allies cannot fail to bring a hasty victory despite the surprising doggedness that the German defenders have so far shown.
In the Pacific the Americans are enthusiastically proving to the world their determination ot avenge Pearl Harbour. The attack on the Philippines is singularly spectacular owing to the very situation of these islands. In allied hands they would cut off supplies to all the Japanese conquests in the East Indies (Borneo, Celebes, New Guinea and Java). The enemy fully recognised this danger and went so far as to risk his fleet in an attempt to prevent these landings. He began, however, by suffering severe set backs and soon retreated when he realised the strength of the American Task Force under Admiral Nimitz. The war in the Pacific is essentially a naval war of communications; the Americans have now launched their first serious attack on Japanese lines of supply.
On November 5th a number of Super-Fortresses were seen returning from a raid on Singapore. Every ship had to stand by with a crash-boat, this somewhat complicated the boat-routine. Apart from this it was considered possible that reprisal raids might take place. A reprisal raid on Calcutta increased this likelihood and in consequence 5.25 Defence and Close Range Cruising watches closed up at dawn. In "Renown" they went so far as to sound off Repel Aircraft Stations. However no such air attack was made.
We have been out for two gunnery excercises during the past three weeks. The first was on November 2nd and its primary object was to give the 14" control practice in bombarding. The target area was a strip of land just south of Foul Point. There was a considerable delay but when wireless communication was set up between the spotting plane and ourselves the shoot proceeded succwssfully. There was also an Forward Observer Bombardment ashore. His job is to inform the ship as to what target he wants destroyed and to pass on information he receives from the spotting aircraft. If the spotting aircraft fails he sends in spotting corrections as he observes them. In the afternoon 5.25 and Close range shoots took place; the latter showed considerable improvement but unfortunately the shoot was curtailed owing to the fact that the planes were re-called to base. The reason, as we soon discovered, was a fast approaching rain storm. We returned at 1700 in a heavy monsoon, and of course, the visibility was extremely poor.
Our next gunnery excercise was carried out in company with the cruisers "Nigeria", "Kenya" and "Phoebe". Our destroyer escort consisted of "Quadrant", "Quilliam" and "Relentless".
In the forenoon we completed a 14" shoot at a Battle Practice Target. The shoot was very accurate especially as regards range. Six straddles were obtained, two in line.
5.25 throw-off (L.A.) then commenced. All groups were good; some better than others. Next on the programme was the Close Range who put up a really excellent show, definitely their best performance since we've been out East.
At 2000 Action Stations were sounded off and we closed up for the usual Night Encounter excercise. It was raining hard and the visibility was extremely poor. Consequently we got very close to the cruisers before either we illuminated them or they illuminated us. In fact we actually passed ahead of the Kenya and astern of the Nigeria while they were in line ahead. This involved a risk of collision and all the ships were compelled to switch on their navigational lights, thus putting an end to the excercise. Throughout the night the cruisers shadowed us but they never closed in as our starshell fire was very effective. At dawn the close Range carried out shoots against a sleeve-target. The first two runs were of excellent value owing to the half-light in which the Rangers badly needed practice. Next on the programme was a 5.25 throw-off on torpedo bombers. Then special shell firing commenced. No fuse is set on these shells but if they pass within 50 feet of the target they will explode. At the moment they are in the experimental stages but I gather they have been successful and will soon be widely used.
In addition to the numerous gunnery excercises we carried out the evolution of oiling by double-buoyant hose method. The first hose was shackled on very quickly but there was rather a time lag before the second one was secured. This oiling at sea is very important out here owing to the enormous stretches of sea that have to be covered. (From Colombo to Rangoon is 1,300 miles and of course, the distances involved in the Pacific are far greater)
We returned to harbour at 1400 on November 3rd
On the next day 'Clear Lower Deck' was sounded off and the Captain addressed the ship's company. He gave us the excellent news that we were leaving the Eastern Fleet for the Pacific. We would be the first large ship in the newly founded British Pacific Fleet. At Sydney we would go into dry dock as were well over due. That night the gunroom mess invited the Captain to dinner; he accepted and "a good time was had by all". In a short speech he said that it was probable that eight midshipmen would be drafted before the ship left Ceylon. This was rather disappointing news.
The rest of the week sas spent changing 5.25 gun barrels on the starboard side. These guns wear out rather quickly as they are used a great deal during gunnery excercises and are often controlled by the 14" director and T.S. in order to save or rather preserve the 14" guns themselves.
On Thursday 23rd I was told that I would be joining the Cumberland on the next day. In some ways I was rather annoyed especially as it will mean settling down in another ship - the thire in just over six months. However the prospect of a cruiser as opposed to a battle-ship is definitely pleasing
In the evening we had a very interesting lecture by a Pilot Officer on "The Part Played by the Royal Air Force in the Burma Campaign". The function of the fighters, apart from dealing with any enemy air opposition, was to support the army by strafing gun emplacements, transport columns etc. The 'heavies', consisting mostly of Dakotas and Liberators were used to supply isolated forces such as General Wingate's on the Eastern side of the Chindoria(???) river. The facts that (a) the Japanese have never made any headway into India and (b) that they have now been driven southwards from the Imphal(???) valley and Tiddia(???), reflect great credit on the close cooperation of R.A.F. and army.
The Navy's job or rather the function of the present Eastern Fleet has been to keep sea-lanes open so that supplies and reinforcements continue to reach the front line.