Fairey Firefly on HMS Indefatigable, January 1945
A line of Fairey Fireflies of No.1770 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, folding their wings on the deck of HMS Indefatigable after returning from a raid on the oil refinery at Pagkalan Brandan in Sumatra on 4 January 1945.
The Firefly entered service during WWII. Its first flight took place on December 22, 1941, just after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing America into the war. Its first flights, therefore, were at a time of change and escalating conflict.
The Firefly soon proved its worth as a plane. From July 1943, it was the Royal Navy’s primary carrier-borne fighter. It was the first time the British Royal Navy had made significant use of aircraft carriers, making the Firefly an important plane.
Fairey Firefly on HMS Indefatigable, January 1945 - History
A Fairey Firefly F.Mk I of 1772nd Squadron Royal Navy - H.M.S. Indefatigable 1944
Before World War 11 Fairey designed a light bomber, P.4/34, from which evolved the Fulmar naval two-seat fighter to Specification 0.8/38. A total of 600 of these slender carrier-based aircraft served during the war with various equipment and roles. The Firefly followed the same formula, but was much more powerful and useful. Designed to N.5/40 - a merger of N.8139 and N.9139 - it was a clean stressed-skin machine with folding elliptical wings housing the four cannon and with the trailing edge provided with patented Youngman flaps for use at low speeds and in cruise. Unlike the installation on the Barracuda, these flaps could be recessed into the wing.
The pilot sat over the leading edge, with the observer behind the wing. The main wartime version was the Mk 1, widely used from the end of 1 943 in all theatres. Fairey and General Aircraft built 429 F.1s, 376 FR.Is with ASH radar and then 37 NF.2 night fighters. There followed the more powerful Mk Ill, from which derived the redesigned FR.4 with two-stage Griffon and wing-root radiators. There were 160 of these, 40 going to the Netherlands and the rest serving in Korea, with the 352 Mk 5s with folding wings. There were FR, NF and AS (anti-submarine) Mk 5s. and they were followed by the 1 33 specialised AS.6 versions with all role equipment tailored to anti-submarine operations. The 1 51 AS.7s rounded off production, this being a redesigned three-seater, with new tail and wings and distinctive beard radiator. More than 400 Fireflies were rebuilt in the 1950s as two-cockpit T.1 s or armed T.2s, or as various remotely piloted drone versions (U.8, U.9, U.10). Some were converted as target tugs and for other civil duties.
Designed to Admiralty Specification N.5140, calling for a two-seat reconnaissance fighter, the Fairey Firefly represented a considerable advance over the company's earlier Fulmar. A cantilever low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, it had a conventional tail unit, retractable tailwheel landing gear and accommodation for the pilot and navigator/radio-operator in separate enclosed cockpits. Power was provided by a 1,730 hp (1290 kW) Rolls-Royce Griffon IIB engine, but later production Firefly F.Mk 1 aircraft had the 1,990 hp (1484-kW) Griffon XII. The first of four development aircraft was flown on 22 December 1941, and the first production Firefly F.Mk 1 aircraft were delivered in March 1943. A total of 459 of this version was built, 327 by Fairey and 132 by General Aircraft under sub-contract. The addition of ASH radar beneath the engine identified the Firefly FR.Mk 1, of which 236 were built, and a number of Firefly F.Mk Is modified to Firefly FR.MK 1 standard had the designation Firefly F.Mk IA. A Firefly NF.Mk 11 night-fighter version was developed, but when it was realised that its AI Mk 10 radar could be pod mounted beneath the engine, as with the ASH radar of the Firefly FR.MK 1, the planned 328 aircraft programme was cancelled. Instead, 140 Firefly FR.MK Is were modified on the production line to Firefly NF.Mk 1 configuration, the 37 Firefly NF.Mk IIs that had been built being converted back to Mk 1 standard. Post-war Mk 1 conversions included the unarmed dual-control Firefly T.Mk 1 pilot trainer, the cannon armed Firefly T.Mk 2 operational trainer, and the Firefly T.Mk 3 used for training in ASW operations. A few were also converted as Firefly TT.Mk 1 target tugs.
Only a prototype of the Firefly F.Mk Ill with Griffon 61 engine was built, development being concentrated instead on the Firefly F.Mk IV. This had a 2,250 hp (1678 kW) Griffon 74 engine and new outer wing nacelles that could both carry fuel, or an ASH scanner (port) and fuel (starboard). About 160 were built, and the first Firefly FR.Mk 4 delivered in July 1946 some were converted later to Firefly TT.Mk 4 standard. The Firefly Mk 5 and Firefly Mk 6 were similar externally to the Mk 4, the first aircraft of each variant flying in December 1947 and March 1949 respectively. Some 352 Mk 5s were built in versions designated Firefly FR.Mk 5, Firefly NF.Mk 5 and Firefly AS.Mk 5, the last with American sonobuoys and equipment that distinguished it from the British-equipped Firefly AS.Mk 6 of which 133 were built. A few Firefly T.Mk 5 trainers, and Firefly TT.Mk 5 and Firefly TT.Mk 6 target tugs were converted in Australia from Firefly AS.Mk 5s.
The first production Griffon 59-powered Firefly AS.Mk 7 was flown in October 1951, this reintroducing the beard radiator that had caused problems with the sole Mk Ill. Intended as an ASW aircraft accommodating two radar operators, few Fireflys AS.Mk 7s were built as such, the majority being completed as Firefly T.Mk 7 ASW trainers within a Mk 7 production of 151. Later conversions to pilotless target aircraft were carried out by Fairey, these including 34 Firefly U.Mk 8 aircraft converted from Firefly T. Mk 7s, and 40 similar Firefly U.Mk 9 conversions from Mk 4 and Mk 5 aircraft. They were used for missile development, and by the Royal Navy as targets for its Firestreak-armed fighters and Seaslug-carrying ships.
Fireflies entered service first with No. 1770 Squadron at Yeovilton, Somerset, on 1 October 1943. Later embarked on HMS Indefatigable, they were active in operations against the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway during July 1944. They also saw action against Japanese oil refineries in Sumatra, in attacks on the Carolines and against shipping and ground targets in the Japanese home islands. In 1950, after war broke out in Korea, Firefly Mk 5s were operated from Australian and British light fleet carriers, and in 1954 the type was in action in the ground-attack role in Malaya. Just over two years later the Firefly was retired after 13 years of valuable service.
Specifications (Fairey Firefly AS.Mk 5)
Type: Two Seat Naval Reconnaissance Fighter / Anti Submarine Strike Aircraft
Design: Fairey Aviation Design Team
Manufacturer: The Fairey Aviation Company
Powerplant: (AS.Mk 5) One 2,250 hp (1678 kW) Rolls-Royce Griffon 74 12-cylinder Vee piston engine. (Mk I up to No 470) One 1,730 hp (1290 kW) Rolls-Royce Griffon IIB 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled (from No 471) 1,990 hp (1485 kW) Griffon XII. (Mks 4-7) One 2,250 hp (1678 kW) Griffon 74 12-cylinder Vee piston engine.
Performance: (AS.Mk 5) Maximum speed 386 mph (618 km/h) at 14,000 ft (4265 m) cruising speed 220 mph (354 km/h) service ceiling 28,000 ft (8534 m). (Mk I) Maximum speed 316 mph (509km/h) initial climb rate 1,700 ft (518m) per minute service ceiling 28,000 ft (8534 m). (Mk 4) Maximum speed 386 mph (618 km/h) initial climb rate 2,050 ft (625 m) per minute service ceiling 31,000 ft (9450 m).
Range: (AS.Mk 5) 1300 miles (2092 km) on internal fuel. (Mk I) 580 miles (933 km) on internal fuel. (Mk 4) 760 miles (1223 km) on internal fuel.
Weight: (AS.Mk 5) Empty 9,674 lbs (4388 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 16,096 lbs (7301 kg). (Mk I) Empty 9,750 lbs (4422 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 14,020 lbs (6359 kg). (Mk 7) Empty 11,016 lbs (4997 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 13,970 lbs (6337 kg).
Dimensions: (Mk 4 - 6) Span 41 ft 2 in (12.55 m) length 37 ft 11 in (8.51 m) height 14 ft 4 in (4.37 m) wing area 330.0 sq ft (30.66 sq m). (Mk I - III) Span 44 ft 6 in (13.55m) length 37 ft 7 in (11.4 m) height 13 ft 7 in (4.15 m).
Armament: (Mk I) Four fixed 20 mm Hispano cannon in wings and underwing racks for up to two 1,000 lbs (454 kg) of bombs or sixteen 60 lbs (27 kg) rocket projectiles. (Mk 4 and 5) usually similar to 1 in most sub-types. (Mk 6) no guns, but underwing load increased to 3,000 lbs (1362 kg) and varied. (Mk 7) no guns, but underwing load remained at 3,000 lbs (1362 kg) and equipment changed.
Variants: Firefly F.Mk 1, Firefly FR.Mk 1, Firefly F.Mk IA, Firefly NF.Mk 11, Firefly NF.Mk I, Firefly T.Mk 1, Firefly T.Mk 2, Firefly T.Mk 3, Firefly F.Mk III, Firefly F.Mk IV, Firefly FR.Mk 4, Firefly TT.Mk 4, Firefly Mk 5, Firefly Mk 6, Firefly FR.Mk 5, Firefly NF.Mk 5, Firefly AS.Mk 5, Firefly AS.Mk 6, Firefly TT.Mk 5, Firefly TT.Mk 6, Firefly, AS.Mk 7, Firefly T.Mk 7 ASW, Firefly U.Mk 8, Firefly U.Mk 9.
Avionics: AI Mk X radar, ASH Scanner, sonobuoys.
History: First flight 22 December 1941 first production F.1 26 August 1942 production FR.4. 25 May 1945 final delivery of new aircraft May 1955.
The Firefly handled well at low speeds. With limited space on board aircraft carrier decks to take off and land on, it was important the plane operated well at relatively low speeds.
Fairey Fireflies aboard HMS Indefatigable after attacking Pangkalan Brandan, Sumatra.
The South African Navy’s ‘elephant in the room’
There is a very big elephant in the room when it comes to the South African Naval fraternity’s commemoration and remembrance undertakings. Very often in the veteran fraternity and South African Navy circles there’s a raging argument – why does the South African Navy and SANDF only commemorate the sinking of the SS Mendi during World War 1 when scant attention is given to the sinking of the SAS President Kruger? It’s ‘political’ is the universal chant of disbelief and failed honour, a travesty of the African National Congress’ (ANC) rhetoric of constantly vanquishing the ‘old’ navy and SADF statutory forces.
But they are ignoring a very big ‘elephant’, something that began as a travesty long before the ANC came to power in 1994. It’s an elephant that sits squarely at the door of the old Apartheid Nationalist government and is entirely their doing. When they came to power they began vanquishing anyone who supported ‘Britain’ during World War 2 as some sort of traitor, made worse because the South African Navy was so intrinsically tied to the Royal Navy via the Simonstown agreement that they never really instituted memorials or commemorations to honour them. To the old Afrikaner nationalists, especially when it came to the Navy, this was ‘Britain’s problem’ to remember any sacrifice prior to 1948 or even prior to 1957 for that matter when the naval base at Simonstown was formally handed over by Britain to South Africa.
As a result the scope of our World War 2 sacrifice barely gets a mention in the ‘Mendi vs. President Kruger’ argument. In fact the scope, the size of this sacrifice will come as a surprise to many South Africans – including our Naval veterans fraternity and current Navy personnel.
The ‘elephant’ of sacrifice
To give you an idea of just how BIG this ‘elephant in the room is, lets cover the Honour Roll – it far outstrips any South African Naval sacrifice in the post world war era. Yet the South African Navy and the current government gives absolutely no attention to it, not at all – not one single official South African Navy (SAN) parade or ceremony. Not even a dedicated Naval memorial is given to these men.
We start with South Africa’s own ship’s lost in World War 2, all of them minesweepers. (Note on the honour roll when reading it SANF means the member was part of the ‘South African Naval Forces’ and MPK means ‘Missing Presumed Killed’).
The first South African ship lost in the Mediterranean near Tobruk was the HMSAS Southern Floe with its remarkable tale of a single survivor (see this link for a full story – click here: The HMSAS Southern Floe was the SA Navy’s first ship loss & it carries with it a remarkable tale of survival.).
The Honour Roll of sacrifice on the HMSAS Southern Floe as follows:
ANDERS, John, Steward, 69637 (SANF), MPK
BOWER, Robert, Stoker 1c, 69935 (SANF), MPK
BRAND, Leslie A, Able Seaman, 69828 (SANF), MPK
CAULFIELD, Patrick, Steward, 69802 (SANF), MPK
CHANDLER, Charles R D, Cook (S), 69613 (SANF), MPK
CHENOWETH, Richard, Stoker 1c, 67420 (SANF), MPK
FAIRLEY, Alexander E, Sub Lieutenant SANF, MPK
FRIEDLANDER, Cecil A, Able Seaman, 114703 (SANF), MPK
GARDINER, Elliott, Able Seaman, 67260 (SANF), MPK
GREENACRE, John H, Leading Seaman, 69677 (SANF), MPK
HEASMAN, Gratwicke E E, Engine Room Artificer 4c, 69784 (SANF), MPK
HOGG, Roy S, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
INNES, Ian Mck, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
LEWIS, John Edward Joseph, :Lieutenant, 70019 (SANF), MPK
MARSH, Reginald H Y, Able Seaman, 69911 (SANF), MPK
MITCHELL, William N, Able Seaman, 69787 (SANF), MPK
NEL, Eloff R, Able Seaman, 69635 (SANF), MPK
NICHOLSON, Douglas O, Able Seaman, 66833 (SANF), MPK
PUGH, John R, Able Seaman, 66877 (SANF), MPK
RYALL, David R, Able Seaman, 69999 (SANF), MPK
SHIMMIN, William, Leading Stoker, 69661 (SANF), MPK
SIENI, Joseph F, Able Seaman, 69788 (SANF), MPK
SNELL, Harold W, Leading Telegraphist, 69827 (SANF), MPK
STANLEY, Gordon J, Able Seaman, 66963 (SANF), MPK
WALTON, Dudley N, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
The second ship lost was the HMSAS Parktown, which went down fighting during the Fall of Tobruk in Libya, with the HMSAS Bever fighting at her side out the port (see this link for a full story – click here: The feisty South African minesweeper that went down fighting – HMSAS Parktown).
The Honour Roll of sacrifice when the HMSAS Parktown sank on 21 June 1942 as follows:
BROCKLEHURST, Peter S, Able Seaman, 70457 (SANF), MPK
COOK, John A, Stoker 1c, 70256 (SANF), MPK
JAGGER, Leslie J, Lieutenant SANF, 70016 (SANF), MPK
MCEWAN, William A, Steward, 69686 (SANF), MPK
TREAMER, Arthur P, Petty Officer, 71109 (SANF), MPK
The third ship to be lost was the HMSAS Parktown’s sister ship, the HMSAS Bever which went down later in the war during the liberation of Greece when it struck a mine, and carries with its story a tale of miraculous survivors (see this link for a full story – click here“Under a hail of shells” Recounting the bravery and loss of HMSAS Bever).
The Honour Roll of sacrifice on 30 November 1944 when the HMSAS Bever sank as follows:
ARMERANTIS, Sideris, Stoker 1c, 282953 V (SANF), MPK
DE PACE, Luigi S, Petty Officer, 66539 V (SANF), MPK
DE REUCK, Leslie B, Telegraphist, 75320 V (SANF), MPK
DREYER, Peter, Leading Cook (S), 585236 V (SANF), MPK
HIGGS, George E, Stoker 1c, 562712 V (SANF), MPK
HUSBAND, Charles A, Stoker 1c, 280098 V (SANF), MPK
KETTLES, John D, Engine Room Artificer 3c, 562458 (SANF), MPK
LAWLOR, Robert J, Act/Chief Motor Mechanic 4c, P/KX 127225, MPK
LINDE, Carl M, Able Seaman, 71194 V (SANF), MPK
LYALL, John D R, Stoker 1c, 562179 V (SANF), MPK
MATTHEWS, William R, Leading Wireman, 562794 V (SANF), killed
PHILLIPSON, Joseph H, Signalman, 181160 V (SANF), MPK
RODDA, Harold J, Stoker 1c, 70451 V (SANF), (served as Harold J Andresen), MPK
SCRIMGEOUR, Quintin, Petty Officer, 69691 (SANF), MPK
TRUSCOTT, E (initial only) W, Able Seaman, 585184 V (SANF), MPK
WHITE, Claude, Leading Seaman, 586420 V (SANF), MPK
WILLIAMS, Desmond, Able Seaman, 70433 V (SANF), killed
The final minesweeper to be lost was the HMSAS Treern, it was tragically lost right at the end of the war with only one single survivor, and it remains the last South African vessel to be lost in action, even to this day, yet hardly anyone is aware of her history (see this link for a full story – click hereThe last South African Navy ship to be lost in action HMSAS Treern).
The Honour Roll of sacrifice on the 12 January 1945 when HMSAS Treern sank follows:
ANDERSON, Robert D, Engine Room Artificer 2c, 71067 V (SANF), MPK
BARKER, Ronald E, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
BLAKE, Robert E, Petty Officer, P 6572 (SANF), MPK
BROWN, Ian H, Able Seaman, 71719 V (SANF), MPK
BYRNE, Patrick, Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
DAVIE, William, Stoker 1c, 70681 V (SANF), MPK
ENGELBEEN, Leslie C, Able Seaman, 562235 V (SANF), MPK
JACOBZ, Frank H, Stoker 1c, 70374 V (SANF), MPK
MATTHEWS, George A, Stoker 1c, 70728 V (SANF), MPK
MCINTYRE, William G, Cook (S), 585360 (SANF), MPK
MCLARTY, William D, Leading Stoker, 562246 V (SANF), MPK
MCLEAN, Godfrey, Able Seaman, 562455 V (SANF), MPK
NILAND, St John E, Able Seaman, 209905 (SANF), MPK
PERRY, Desmond A, Petty Officer, 71211 (SANF), MPK
REID, Kenneth H, Signalman, 562143 V (SANF), MPK
SALCOMBE, Francis R, Stoker 1c, 58589 V (SANF), MPK
STAPELBERG, Willem J, Steward, 562221 V (SANF), MPK
SUTTON, Donald A, Able Seaman, 70426 (SANF), MPK
SUTTON, George A M, Leading Seaman, 586403 V (SANF), MPK
TRAFFORD, William O, Able Seaman, 71222 V (SANF), MPK
VILJOEN, Dennis A, Telegraphist, 70984 V (SANF), MPK
WHITE, Charles W, Petty Officer, 562200 V (SANF), MPK
WULFF, Emil F, Leading Seaman, 562466 V (SANF), MPK
Then there is the loss of Rear Admiral Guy Hallifax, the most senior South African Naval Officer to be lost during World War 2, he counts himself as one of the founders of the modern South African Navy and yet he is hardly remembered at all. (see this link for a full story Guy Hallifax, the most senior African Naval officer lost during WW2). He is recorded here:
Director of South African Forces
HALLIFAX, Guy W, Rear Admiral, SANF, air accident, killed
Then, consider these South African Naval Force casualties on other South Africa ships and in other South African operations during the war:
LUCAS, E W R, Chief Engineman, 66756 (SANF), died 4 October 1939
NICOLSON, Andrew, Cook, 63827 (SANF), died 13 October 1939
BESTER, A T, Leading Stoker, 6640 (SANF), died on the HMSAS Africana
HUGHES, T J, Stoker, 71383 (SANF), died 10 May 1941
CASSON, William, Able Seaman, 252935 V (SANF), died on the HMSAS Tordonn
HOLT, Albert E, Telegraphist, 69576 (SANF), killed on the HMSAS Southern Maid
VAN NOIE, Norman, Able Seaman, CN/72134 (SANF), died 20 September 1941
ST CLAIR-WHICKER, Willie H, Able Seaman, 67292 (SANF), died on 21 September 1941
SMITH, P, Able Seaman, CN/72263 (SANF), died 7 April 1942
RUITERS, Walter, Stoker, CN/72081 (SANF), died 21 July 1942
MURPHY, J, Able Seaman, CN/72256 (SANF), died 16 August 1942
FROST, M L, Able Seaman, CN/71804 (SANF), died on the HMSAS Receiffe
PETERSON, W J, Able Seaman, CN/72184 (SANF), died 4 September 1942
REHR, Cecil, Able Seaman, 69877 (SANF), died on the HMSAS Roodepoort
CARLELSE, Frederick, Able Seaman, CN/72004 (SANF), died on the HMSAS Soetvlei
PETERS, Norman, Leading Stoker, 66847 (SANF), died 3 January 1943
DELL, Rodney, Able Seaman, 68866 (SANF), killed 24 March 1943
HENDERSON, Alexander P, Chief Engine Room Artificer, 562099 (SANF), killed at Benghazi, Libya
JAMES, H, Steward, CN/72252 (SANF), died 9 May 1943
ORGILL, C B, Able Seaman, CN/71947 (SANF), died 14 May 1943
LA CHARD, Edwin, Lieutenant Commander, SANF, died 20 May 1943
LUCAS, A W, Able Seaman, 152875 (SANF), died 28 May 1943
BATEMAN, T, Chief Engine Room Artificer, 71627 (SANF), died 30 June 1943
ROBBERTS, Kaspar, Petty Officer, P/5285 (SANF), died 1 July 1943
BOSHOFF, Christofel J, Able Seaman, 70339 (SANF), killed on HMSAS Blaauwberg
LENZ, William, Able Seaman, 69544 (SANF), died on 29 August 1943
BESTEL, Emmanuel A N M, Lieutenant, SANF, died on 21 September 1943
HARLE, Paul A, Petty Officer, 71796 (SANF), died on 3 October 1943
STEELE, Ewen, Able Seaman, 71272 V (SANF), killed on HMSAS Southern Sea
BETTS, Robert, Able Seaman, 68900 (SANF), died 18 November 1943
PAGE, Robert, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, died 29 November 1943
MCLEAN, Richard, Stoker, 562567 (SANF), died 29 November 1943
HARRIS, R H, Telegraphist, 330488 (SANF), died 16 December 1943
NICHOLLS, John, Yeoman of Signals, 66824 V (SANF), died 19 December 1943
FLORENCE, John, Stoker, CN/71982 V (SANF), died 18 January 1944
DANIELS, Adam, Stoker, 72034 (SANF), died 28 January 1944
RAVENS, Albert, Able Seaman, CN/72213 V (SANF), died 31 March 1944
DE KLERK, John, Ordinary Seaman, 585868 V (SANF), died 4 May 1944
BOTHA, Herkulas, Cook, 562093 V (SANF), died 8 May 1944
BISSETT, Alexander, Lieutenant, SANF, died 16 June 1944
JENKINS, Edward G, Engine Room Artificer, 66720 V (SANF), died 14 September 1944
KEMP, Thomas, Able Seaman, CN/71015 V (SANF), died 20 September 1944
WATSON, George, Lieutenant, SANF, died 15 October 1944
BOSWELL, Louis F W, Chief Engine Room Artificer, 69756V (SANF), MPK on the 14 November 1944 on the HMSAS Treern
ABRAHAMS, Henry, Able Seaman, CN/719204 (SANF), died 19 November 1944
BERMAN, Nicholas, Ordinary Seaman, 616728V (SANF), died 22 November 1944
DIXON, Robert, Able Seaman, CN/584276 (SANF), died on 11 January 1945
TREISMAN, Gerald, Steward, 584730 V (SANF), died on 10 February 1945
LAMONT, J, Steward, 71402 (SANF), died 24 February 1945
HORNE, P D, Chief Petty Officer, 66661 V (SANF), died 31 March 1945
POVEY, Leonard, Able Seaman, 71182 V (SANF), died 31 March 1945
PFAFF, C E, Petty Officer Stoker, 562721 V (SANF), died 20 April 1945
CHRISTIAN, J W, Able Seaman, CN/71965 (SANF), died 5 May 1945
SIMON, Frederick, Stoker, CN/72046 V (SANF), died 8 May 1945
VAN AARDT, S, Stoker, CN/721490 (SANF), died 22 May 1945
CLARE, Frederick W, Chief Petty Officer, 69599 V (SANF), died 3 June 1945
KEOWN, R J, Able Seaman, CN/71845 (SANF), died 9 June 1945
WELCOME, J J, Able Seaman, CN/72270 (SANF), died 19 July 1945
VAN WYNGAARDT, F A, Able Seaman, 585610 V (SANF), died 21 July 1945
HEARD, George A, Lieutenant, SANF, died on the HMSAS Good Hope
COOK, W, Leading Stoker, 70527 V (SANF), died 8 August 1945
As if the above loss of South African Navy personnel is not large enough and the lack of recognition by the Navy not bad enough, there is an even bigger ‘elephant in the room’, a key factor completely overlooked by the South African Naval fraternity and the Navy itself, and that’s the South African Navy personnel seconded to the British Royal Navy and lost in the Royal Navy’s ships and shore facilities during the Second World War.
South African Naval personnel were lost on the following significant British vessel losses. Consider this very big ‘elephant in the room’ for a minute, because its getting BIGGER. The losses of these Royal Navy ships carries long lists of South African sacrifice.
We start with all the ships containing South African Naval Forces personnel sunk during the Imperial Japanese Air Force ‘Easter Sunday’ raid on the British fleet in Colombo (this is regarded as the British ‘Peal Harbour’ just off modern day Sri Lanka) and it’s the darkest hour in terms of losses for South African Navy, yet it is neither recognised as such nor is it remembered. (See this link for more depth: The South African Navy’s ‘darkest hour’ is not recognised and not commemorated)
During this attack Japanese airman flying Japanese D3A-1 ‘VAL’ dive bombers flying from the Japanese Imperial fleet, dropped their bombs on the HMS Dorsetshire, who had a very large contingent of South African Naval personnel, she simply blew up when a detonated an ammunition magazine and contributed to her rapid sinking. Click here for a full Observation Post report on her sinking: “They machine gunned us in the water” Recounting South African Sacrifice on the HMS Dorsetshire
The Honour Roll of South African Naval sacrifice on the 5 April 1942 when HMS Dorsetshire sank follows:
BELL, Douglas S, Ty/Act/Leading Stoker, 67243 (SANF), MPK
BRUCE, Alexander M, Stoker 2c, 67907 (SANF), MPK
CONCANON, Harold Bernard, Surgeon Lieutenant (Doctor)
EVENPOEL, Albert, Stoker 2c, 67909 (SANF), MPK
GEFFEN, Sender, Stoker 1c, 68035 (SANF), MPK
HOWE, Horace G, Ordinary Seaman RNVR, 68680 (SANF), MPK
KENDRICK, George, Stoker 2c, 67910 (SANF), MPK
MCINTYRE, Norman G, Able Seaman, 67446 (SANF), MPK
MCLELLAN, Robert, Ordinary Telegraphist, 67897 (SANF), MPK
MILNE, Lawrence Victor, Able Seaman
MORROW, Douglas E, Able Seaman, 67989 (SANF), MPK
ORTON, Charles P, Able Seaman, 68009 (SANF), MPK
REDMAN, Roland A, Leading Stoker, 67406 (SANF), MPK
SCOTT, William J, Able Seaman, 68007 (SANF), MPK
SEVEL, Harry, Stoker 1c, 68100 (SANF), MPK
VAN ZYL, David Isak Stephanus, Stoker 1st Class
WILLETT, Amos A S, Stoker 1c, 67240 (SANF), MPK
WILLIAMSON, Walter N, Able Seaman, 67803 (SANF), MPK
The second British ship in this particular Japanese air attack, on the same day and within range of one another was the HMS Cornwall, also stuffed full of South African Naval personnel seconded to her. The HMS Cornwall was hit eight times by the same dive bombers who sank the Dorsetshire and sank bow first in about ten minutes.
The Honour Roll of South African Naval sacrifice on the 5 April 1942 when HMS Cornwall sank follows:
BESWETHERICK, Hedley C, Ordinary Seaman RNVR, 86671 (SANF), MPK
BOTES, John S, Stoker 2c RNVR, 68924 (SANF), MPK
COMMERFORD, Noel P, Able Seaman RNVR, 66493 (SANF), MPK
CRAWFORD, Cecil E, Act/Engine Room Artificer 4c RNVR, 67922 (SANF), MPK
DU PREEZ, Charles P H, Able Seaman, 68175 (SANF), MPK
DUTTON, Charles C, Stoker 2c RNVR, 68949 (SANF), MPK
HANSLO, Raymond F, Able Seaman RNVR, 68295 (SANF), MPK
KEITH, Kenneth I B, Able Seaman RNVR, 66742 (SANF), MPK
KENYON, Graeme A B, Able Seaman RNVR, 68002 (SANF), MPK
KIRSTEN, Monty G W, Able Seaman RNVR, 68917 (SANF), MPK
LAW, Edward, Act/Engine Room Artificer 4c RNVR, 66760 (SANF), MPK
MCDAVID, William K, Stoker 2c RNVR, 69138 (SANF), MPK
MITCHELL, William A, Stoker 1c RNVR, 68796 (SANF), MPK
PALMER, Walter A, Able Seaman RNVR, 68344 (SANF), (rescued, aboard HMS Enterprise), Died of Wounds
SPENCE, Noel W, Ordinary Seaman RNVR, 68732 (SANF), MPK
SQUIRES, John E, Ordinary Seaman RNVR, 68728 (SANF), MPK
STEPHEN, Eric B, Ordinary Seaman RNVR, 68861 (SANF), MPK
SWANN, Lawrence T, Stoker 1c RNVR, 68710 (SANF), MPK
THORPE, Maurice, Stoker 2c RNVR, 69140 (SANF), MPK
VERSFELD, Peter H S, Able Seaman RNVR, 68859 (SANF), MPK
VINK, Benjamin F, Ordinary Seaman RNVR, 68860 (SANF), MPK
WILLSON, Gerald F, Stoker 2c RNVR, 69006 (SANF), MPK
WRIGHT, Thomas H, Able Seaman RNVR, 68039 (SANF), MPK
In earlier incidents on HMS Cornwall two South Africans lost their lives they are also remembered here:
AINSLIE, Roy, Petty Officer, 66382 (SANF), died on 5 September 1940
HAWKINS, Reginald D, Able Seaman, 66700 (SANF), died of illness 4 March 1942
The Easter Raid later offered a great prize for the Japanese, an aircraft carrier, the HMS Hermes, this massive aircraft carrier was sunk a week later by the Japanese near Colombo (now Sri Lanka), the pride of the British Pacific fleet became an inferno after it was dived bombed a number of times. It too had a long association with South Africa and a very big contingent of South African Naval Personnel. (see this link for a in-depth article on the South African Navy sacrifice abound her “Dante’s Inferno” Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hermes).
The Honour Roll of South African Naval sacrifice on the 9 April 1942 when HMS Hermes sank follows:
BRIGGS, Anthony Herbert Lindsay Sub-Lieutenant (Engineer) Royal Navy (South African national), MPK
BRYSON, Neil W, Ordinary Telegraphist, 69147 (SANF), MPK
BURNIE, Ian A, Able Seaman, 67786 (SANF), MPK
CLAYTON, Frederick H, Act/Engine Room Artificer 4c, 68102 (SANF), MPK
DE CASTRO, Alfred T, Stoker 1c, 67914 (SANF), MPK
KEENEY, Frederick W, Able Seaman, 67748 (SANF), MPK
KEYTEL, Roy, Able Seaman, 67296 (SANF), MPK
KIMBLE, Dennis C, Act/Engine Room Artificer 4c, 67600 (SANF), MPK
KRAUSE, Frederick E, Able Seaman, 68321 (SANF), MPK
RAPHAEL, Philip R, Able Seaman, 67841 (SANF), MPK
RICHARDSON, Ronald P, Able Seaman, 67494 (SANF), MPK
RILEY. Harry Air Mechanic 2nd Class, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy (South African national), MPK
TOMS, Ivanhoe S, Able Seaman, 67709 (SANF), MPK
VICKERS, Colin P, Able Seaman, 68296 (SANF), MPK
VORSTER, Jack P, Able Seaman, 67755 (SANF), MPK
WHITE, Edward G, Stoker, 68026 (SANF), MPK
WIBLIN, Eric R, Able Seaman, 67717 (SANF), MPK
YATES, Philip R, Supply Assistant, 67570 (SANF), MPK
Included is also a South African who served with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm on the HMS Hermes.
RILEY, H, Air Mechanic, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Hermes, died 9 April 1942
Next on the list of ships lost during the Easter Raid which contained a high number of South African Naval personnel on board was HMS Hollyhock, sunk on the same day as the HMS Hermes by the same Japanese Dive Bombers on the 9th of April. Click here for a full Observation Post report on her sinking “She immediately blew up” Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hollyhock
The Honour Roll of South African Naval sacrifice on the 9 April 1942 when HMS Hollyhock sank follows:
ANDERSON, Henry G, Able Seaman, 67501 (SANF), MPK
BASTON, Douglas T, Act/Engine Room Artificer 4c, 68600 (SANF), MPK
BUITENDACH, James M, Stoker 2c, 69223 (SANF), MPK
JUBY, Kenneth J, Ordinary Seaman, 69211 (SANF), MPK
LEACH, Peter A D H, Stoker 2c, 69225 (SANF), MPK
It was not just the Japanese Imperial Fleet, the German Navy also took its toll on the Royal Navy, and once again we find South African Naval Personnel seconded to serve on these famous ships sunk during the war.
We start with the HMS Gloucester lost on the 22 May 1941 during action off Crete. They HMS Gloucester, along with HMS Greyhound and HMS Fiji were attacked by German “Stuka” Dive Bombers. The Greyhound was sunk and Gloucester was attacked and sunk while they attempted to rescue Greyhounds survivors in the water (see this link for a full story – click here A “grievous error” Recounting South African Sacrifice on the HMS Gloucester).
The Honour Roll of South African Naval sacrifice on the 22 May 1941 when HMS Gloucester sank follows:
ANGEL, Walter J H, Able Seaman, 67351 (SANF), MPK
AUSTIN-SMITH, John R, Ordinary Seaman, 67336 (SANF), MPK
BAGSHAW-SMITH, Philip R, Ordinary Seaman, 67337 (SANF), MPK
BAGSHAWE-SMITH, Sydney Q, Able Seaman, 68454 (SANF), MPK
BARBER, Edgar F, Able Seaman, 67302 (SANF), MPK
BRUCE, John, Able Seaman, 67355 (SANF), MPK
CARTER, Frederick G, Able Seaman, 67345 (SANF), MPK
CHILTON, Ronald H D, Ordinary Seaman, 67335 (SANF), MPK
EDWARDS, Ronald E, Ordinary Seaman, 67384 (SANF), MPK
ELLIOT, Edward R, Leading Seaman, 66584 (SANF), MPK
GERAGHTY, Herbert C, Able Seaman, 67338 (SANF), MPK
GROGAN, Graham B, Able Seaman, 67343 (SANF), MPK
JAMES, Victor F, Ordinary Seaman, 67303 (SANF), MPK
JENSEN, Niels P, Able Seaman, 67347 (SANF), MPK
MCCARTHY, Henry F, Ordinary Seaman, 67223 (SANF), MPK
MOORE, Albert, Able Seaman, 67416 (SANF), MPK
SLATER, Bryan M, Able Seaman, 67358 (SANF), MPK
SMITH, Matthew S, Able Seaman, 67359 (SANF), MPK
SONDERUP, Arthur W, Able Seaman, 67356 (SANF), MPK
STADLANDER, Rowland C, Stoker 1c, 67400 (SANF), MPK
STOKOE, Cyril A M, Act/Leading Seaman, 67264 V (SANF), MPK
SYMONS, Maurice M, Able Seaman, 68245 (SANF), MPK
THOMPSON, Walter E H, Able Seaman, 67360 (SANF), MPK
VAN DYK, Cecil H, Able Seaman, 67404 (SANF), MPK
WEBBER, Reginald, Able Seaman, 67361 (SANF), MPK
WILLIAMS, Dastrey S, Leading Seaman, 67047 (SANF), MPK
WRIGHT, Gerald V, Act/Ordnance Artificer 4, 67375 (SANF), MPK
The HMS Gloucester was involved in earlier combat on the 8 July 1940 when it was bombed, the South African casualties are remembered here:
ALLISON, Oswald H, Able Seaman RNVR, 67349 (SANF), killed
NOWLAN, Francis C, Able Seaman RNVR, 67409 (SANF), DOW
Tragedy struck the South African Naval Forces seconded to the HMS Barham when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-331, Three torpedoes hit HMS Barham’s port side causing it to list heavily and spread fire towards the ammunition storages. Only 2 and a half minutes passed from the torpedo impact until the ship rolled onto its side and capsized as the aft magazine exploded in an almighty explosion (see this link for a full story – click here “She blew sky high” Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Barham!)
The Honour Roll of South African Naval sacrifice on the 25 November 1941 when HMS Barham sank follows:
BAKER, Dennis E W, Ordinary Seaman, 68617 (SANF)
GLENN, Paul V, Ordinary Seaman, 68906 (SANF)
HAYES, Richard T, Ordinary Seaman, 68499 (SANF)
MORRIS, Cyril D, Ordinary Seaman, 68932 (SANF)
UNSWORTH, Owen P (also known as R K Jevon), Ordinary Seaman, 69089 (SANF)
WHYMARK, Vivian G, Ordinary Seaman, 69024 (SANF)
The Italians also took a toll of British shipping, again with ships with a South African contingent and this is brought to home on the 19 December 1941, when the HMS Neptune, struck four mines, part of a newly laid Italian minefield. Neptune quickly capsized (see this link for a full story – click here South African sacrifice on the HMS Neptune).
The Honour Roll of South African Naval sacrifice on the 19 December 1941 when HMS Neptune sank follows:
ADAMS, Thomas A, Able Seaman, 67953 (SANF), MPK
CALDER, Frank T, Ordinary Seaman, 67971 (SANF), MPK
CAMPBELL, Roy M, Able Seaman, 67318 (SANF), MPK
DIXON, Serfas, Able Seaman, 67743 (SANF), MPK
FEW, Jim, Able Seaman, 67744 (SANF), MPK
HAINES, Eric G, Able Seaman, 67697 (SANF), MPK
HOOK, Aubrey C, Able Seaman, 67862 (SANF), MPK
HOWARD, Harold D, Signalman, 67289 (SANF), MPK
HUBBARD, Wallace S, Able Seaman, 67960 (SANF), MPK
KEMACK, Brian N, Signalman, 67883 (SANF), MPK
MERRYWEATHER, John, Able Seaman, 67952 (SANF), MPK
MEYRICK, Walter, Ordinary Signalman, 68155 (SANF), MPK
MORRIS, Rodney, Ordinary Signalman, 68596 (SANF), MPK
RANKIN, Cecil R, Signalman, 67879 (SANF), MPK
THORP, Edward C, Signalman, 67852 (SANF), MPK
THORPE, Francis D, Able Seaman, 67462 (SANF), MPK
WILD, Ernest A, Able Seaman, 67929 (SANF), MPK
Other South Africans who had enlisted into the Royal Navy were also lost on HMS Neptune, these include (and by no means is this list definitive) the following:
OOSTERBERG, Leslie W, Stoker 1c, D/KX 96383, MPK
TOWNSEND, Henry C, Stoker 1c, D/KX 95146, MPK
On the 30 April 1942, on her return leg from Murmansk, the HMS Edinburgh was escorting Convoy QP 11 when a German Submarine U-456 torpedoed into her. The Edinburgh was carrying gold in payment by the Soviets for war equipment and she is the subject of a remarkable gold salvage after the war. Again, she had a compliment of South African Naval Personnel (see this link for a full story – click here “Gold may shine but it has no true light” South African sacrifice on the HMS Edinburgh).
The Honour Roll of South African Naval sacrifice on the 30 April 1942 when HMS Edinburgh sank follows:
DRUMMOND, Valentine W, Able Seaman, 68043 (South African Naval Forces), Missing Presumed Killed
VAN DORDRECHT, William H, Able Seaman, 67851 (South African Naval Forces), Missing Presumed Killed
On the 12 November 1942, the HMS Hecla was torpedoed by a German submarine, U-515 hitting her in the engine room. The U-boat then hit the ship with three coups de grâce sinking the vessel west of Gibraltar. Again there is South African Naval casualty list (see this link for a full story – click here “Every man for himself” … South African sacrifice and the sinking of HMS Hecla).
The Honour Roll of South African Naval sacrifice on the 12 November1942 when HMS Helca sank follows:
BENNETT, John F, Act/Engine Room Artificer 4c, 330351 (SANF), MPK
LLOYD, George H, Act/Engine Room Artificer 4c, 330353 (SANF), MPK
PEERS, Charles V, Able Seaman, 562653 (SANF), MPK
SMITH, Ian R, Electrical Artificer 4c, 68478 (SANF), MPK
And there’s more …. many South Africans served on a variety of Royal Navy ships and many were lost, here’s an indication which just captures South African Naval Forces personnel alone, let alone those who volunteered directly for the Royal Navy, the Honour Roll follows:
ANDERSON, Richard W N, Able Seaman, 86082 (SANF), killed 21 May 1941 on HMS Syvern
WESTON, Grant E, Ordinary Seaman RNVR, 68498 (SANF), killed 27 August 1941 on HMS Phoebe
RASMUSSEN, Victor J S, Leading Telegraphist, 66920 (SANF), MPK 24 November 1941 on HMS Dunedin
ADAMSON, William D, Ordinary Seaman RNVR, 69001 (SANF), MPK 10 December 1941 on HMS Repulse
BECKER, Stanley H, Able Seaman, 67474 (SANF), road accident, killed 5 January 1942 on HMS Carnarvon Castle
DRURY, Frederick, Ordinary Seaman, 68315 (SANF), MPK 29 January 1942 on HMS Sotra
SCOTT, Clifford, Ordinary Telegraphist, 66973 (SANF), MPK 26 March 1942 on HMS Jaguar
BUCHANAN, Alexander, Able Seaman, 67934 (SANF), died 20 April 1942 on HMS Birmingham
COMMERFORD, Terence, Ordinary Seaman, 330258 (SANF), died 21 June 1942 on HMS Express
PRICE, David, Able Seaman RNVR, P/68529 (SANF), MP 6 July 1942 on HMS Niger
TROUT, A (initial only) N, Able Seaman, CN/72133 (SANF), died 4 August 1942 on HMS Stork
JOHNSTONE, Henry N, Lieutenant Commander (E), SANF, 66727, died 18 August 1942 on HMS Birmingham
BAWDEN, Wilfred R, Stoker 2c RNVR, 330425 (SANF), DOWS 16 September 1942 HMS Orion
NIGHTSCALES, Norman, Writer, 68148 (SANF), MPK 30 December 1942 on HMS Fidelity
GITTINS, Victor L, Ordinary Seaman, 69325 (SANF), died 27 January 1943 on HMS Assegai (training base)
PLATT, Ronald M, Petty Officer, 67160 V (SANF), accident, killed 26 February 1943 on HMS President III (shore establishment)
CROSSLEY, Alfred H, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK 7 March 194 on HMS Saunders
DE KOCK, Victor P De C, Ty/Lieutenant, SANF, MPK7 March 194 on HMS Saunders
LOUW, Joseph, Stoker, CN 72175 (SANF), illness, died 2 December 1943 on HMS Stork
ATKIN, William B, Lieutenant SANF, illness, died 26 January 1944 on HMS Northern Duke
SHIELDS, Eric E M, Lieutenant, SANF, died 12 April 1944 on HMS Pembroke IV
HOWDEN, Russell K, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK 4 January 1945 HMS ML 1163, Harbour Defence Motor Launch
CLARKE, Reginald E, Ty/Lieutenant Commander, SANF, air crash, MPK 24 July 1945 on HMS Adamant
LIDDLE, John, Lieutenant, SANF, MPK 8 August 1945 on HMS Barbrake
Then let’s consider the South African Naval Personnel serving in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (the Royal Navy’s own Air Force separate to the Royal Air Force), and here the following South Africans are on the FAA Honour Roll (excluding Air Mechanic Riley from the Fleet Air Arm, recorded on the HMS Hermes loss). For a full story of these South Africans lost in the FAA see this link – click here South African sacrifice in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm
BOSTOCK, R S, Lieutenant, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm 800 Squadron, HMS Ark Royal, died 13 June 1940
BROKENSHA, G W, Lieutenant, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm 888 Squadron, HMS Formidable, died 11 August 1942
CHRISTELIS, C, Sub/Lieutenant, Royal Navy Reserve FAA 803 Squadron, HMS Formidable, died 1 August 1942
JUDD, F E C, Lieutenant Cmdr, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm 880 Squadron, HMS Indomitable, died 12 August 1942
LA GRANGE, Antony M, Sub Lieutenant (A), SANF, Fleet Air Arm (Royal Navy)1772 Sqn HMS Indefatigable, air operations, MPK 28 July 1945
MACWHIRTER, Cecil J, Ty/Sub Lieutenant (A), Fleet Air Arm (Royal Navy) 851 Squadron HMS Shah, air crash, SANF, MPK 14 April 1944
O’BRYEN, W S, Sub/Lt Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm 762 Squadron, HMS Heron, died 26 November 1942
WAKE, Vivian H, Ty/Lieutenant (A), FAA Fleet Air Arm (Royal Navy) 815 Squadron HMS Landrail, air crash, SANF, MPK 28 March 1945
Finally there are South African Naval personnel found in the Merchant Navy, to which they were also seconded and again the Honour Roll lists:
SS Tunisia, ship loss
ADAMS, Douglas E H, Act/Able Seaman RNVR, 66378 (SANF), (President III, O/P), MPK
ST La Carriere, ship loss
DORE, Frank B, Act/Able Seaman RNVR, 67218 (SANF), (President III, O/P), MPK
SS Laconia, ship loss
ROSS, Robert, Stoker 2c, 69119 (SANF), (Victory, O/P), DOWS
SS Llandilo, ship loss
CRAGG, Ronald F, Able Seaman (DEMS), 66488 (SANF), (President III, O/P), MPK
SS Ceramic, ship loss
MOSCOS, John G, Leading Writer, 66786 (SANF), (SANF, O/P), MPK
SS Empress of Canada, ship loss
COCHRANE, Joseph, Engine Room Artificer 3c, P 68947 (SANF), (Pembroke, O/P), MPK
SS Empire Lake, ship loss
FLINT, John M, Act/Able Seaman (DEMS), P 562749 (SANF), (President III, O/P), MPK
Now consider this, we have not even begun to scratch properly at the honour roll, this above list is still highly inaccurate with many names missing. We have no real idea of the thousands of South Africas who volunteered and died whilst serving in The Royal Navy Reserve and the Royal Navy itself, in fact we’ve barely got our heads around it. Fortunately a handful of South Africans are working on it, almost daily, but it’s a mammoth task as these names are found on Royal Navy honour rolls and it’s a matter of investigating the birthplace of each and every British casualty. The records of South African volunteers joining the Royal Navy lost to time really.
The only other ship the South African Navy has lost since the HMSAS Treern at the end of the Second World War in a more modern epoch was the SAS President Kruger, and unlike the Treern, whose loss was in combat, the Kruger’s loss was due to a tragic accident at sea (see “Out of the Storm came Courage” … the tragedy of the PK).
These combat losses were one thing, however the same erasing of history is currently happening with the accidental loss in more recent times of SAS President Kruger (the PK), the ‘old’ SADF were very embarrassed by the loss (in effect by tragedy and circumstance we sank our own flagship) and the SADF never really got around to undertake a National Parade to commemorate and remember it. Also in comparison to the bigger picture the loss of 16 South African Navy personnel on the PK is very small indeed, however no less important – and here’s the inconvenient truth, they were ‘swept under the rug’ by the old SADF and remain conveniently swept under the rug by the new SANDF.
On the World War 2 losses, the incoming ANC government from 1994 have fared no better than the old Nat government – they have merely lumped all the wartime combat losses of the HMSAS Southern Floe, the HMSAS Parktown, the HMSAS Bever and the HMSAS Treern into a ‘colonial’ issue not of their history or time, and as for the SAS President Kruger that was part of the ‘Apartheid’ forces in their minds, and as such to be vanquished.
The net result is the South African Navy simply does not have any national parades to commemorate or recognise any of its major losses at sea. The South African Army at least has the Delville Wood Parade (the South African Army’s biggest singular combat loss, a WW1 incident), the South African Air Force has the Alpine 44 Memorial Parade (the SAAF’s biggest tragedy, a WW2 incident), the South African Navy …. nothing!
Instead the South African Navy (SAN) focuses on the loss of the Mendi as a SAN Maritime loss, even though the Mendi was under commission to the Royal Navy, and rather inconveniently the South Africa Navy did not really exist in World War 1, it was only really created just before World War 2. Then again, the SS Mendi was also carrying South African Army troops in the form of the South African Labour Corps, not South African Navy personnel (the SAN didn’t exist in any event).
The Mendi is a both a wartime and political tragedy, The silence and subsequence recognition is a national healing one (see Let us die like brothers … the silent voices of the SS Mendi finally heard ). As such it’s now a National Memorial Parade, part of ‘Armed Forces Day’ and one for the entire SANDF to commemorate and remember – and rightly so. But is it a SA Navy specific commemoration – not really – no.
In all this the Navy still dogmatically refuses to host its own National Commemoration to its own naval actions and tragedies, it’s just too politically inconvenient, and wouldn’t it be nice if South African Navy can see past it and see its Naval sacrifice on its own ships, and those of SAN personnel on Royal Navy ships and finally just institute an ‘All at Sea’ Naval Memorial Parade in Remembrance or erect a full Naval memorial (similar to the erected by the Royal Navy in Portsmouth)?
Very small ‘All at Sea’ commemorations are done by the odd South Africa Legion branch and odd MOTH Shellhole, on a very local basis – driven by a tiny group of individuals. Nobel in their undertakings no doubt, but these remain very small private initiatives attended by only a handful and is it really enough?
As demonstrated, The South African Navy’s honour roll for World War 2 is a staggering and very long list – it’s an elephant, a very big one at that and it’s a growing elephant, even to this day. It’s well time we seriously look at ourselves, examine our values as to what constitutes sacrifice for the greater good of man and acknowledge it properly.
Written and Researched by Peter Dickens. The honour roll extracted from ‘Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies, World War 2’ by Don Kindell. Additional names gleaned from honour rolls published by Col Graham Du Toit (retired).
The Fairey Firefly was a two seat carrier borne fighter and anti-submarine aircraft. Designed and built by the Fairey Aviation Company the Firefly entered service with the Royal Navy in late 1943 and saw active service in both the European and Pacific theatres. Following the creation of the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm in 1948 fifty Firefly’s were acquired and operated by 816 and 817 Squadrons embarked in the new aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney.
Sydney arrived in Australia, from the United Kingdom, in May 1949 and the squadrons were based at the Naval Air Station – Nowra when not embarked in the carrier. Ultimately the RAN would acquire a total of 108 Firefly aircraft with further batches delivered in December 1950 and March 1953. The Firefly were equipped with four 20mm Hispano cannon, could carry 500 lb bombs and were known to be a sturdy aircraft capable of long range and well suited to carrier operations. It was powered by a Rolls-Royce Griffon liquid-cooled piston engine with a three-bladed propeller . The pilot’s cockpit was over the leading edge of the wing and the observer/radio-operator sat aft of the wing trailing edge – positions which gave better visibility for operating and landing.
In mid-1951 the RAN was advised that Sydney would deploy to Korean waters to support United Nations operations in the Korean War. 817 Squadron was embarked in Sydney along with the two Sea Fury squadrons and sailed from Australia in late August 1951. The RAN aircraft flew their first sortie on 4 October 1951 and over the next four months 2366 sorties were flown from the carrier. A total of four Fireflys were lost, or damaged beyond repair, on operations in Korea before the last sortie was flown on 25 January 1952. One of the Firefly’s was lost overboard in October, during Typhoon Ruth, and the dramatic loss of WB393, shot down on 26 October 1951 near Chaeryong, North Korea saw her two man crew rescued by Sydney’s helicopter while under enemy fire and flown to Kimpo Airfield in failing light and low fuel. No Firefly aircrew were lost during Sydney’s deployment to Korea.
Following Sydney’s return from Korea 817 Squadron returned to Nowra for recuperation and then commenced working up again for possible return to Korea. The aircraft carrier HMS Vengeance was loaned to the RAN in November 1952 and 816 Squadron was embarked. 817 Squadron embarked in Sydney for the voyage to the United Kingdom for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Following the signing of the Armistice, on 27 July 1953, hostilities ceased on the Korean Peninsula but post-Armistice maritime patrols were required to ensure that peace was maintained. Sydney deployed to Korean waters again with Fireflys from 816 Squadron embarked from November 1953 until June 1954. No Fireflys were lost during this deployment.
The Firefly was phased out of service in 1955 as the Fairey Gannet came into use and both 816 and 817 Squadron was decommissioned at Nowra on 27 April 1955. Four Fireflys were converted to dual cockpit aircraft for pilot training and another two to target towing aircraft for fleet support duties and operated variously by 723, 724 and 725 Squadrons. The last recorded Fairey Firefly flight was on 1 March 1966.
Click on the aeroplane image to view a larger version.
|Top Speed||Range||Service Ceiling||Armament|
|Firefly Mk I||316 mph||1,300 miles||28,000 ft||four 20mm cannons|
and either two 1,000lb or
eight 60lb rocket projectiles
|Firefly Mk II||Thirty seven built as NF.IIs, but majority were converted back to NF.I.|
|Firefly Mk III||Was to be powered by the Rolls-Royce Griffon 61, but none were produced.|
|Firefly Mk IV||386 mph||1,300 miles||31,900 ft||four 20mm cannons|
and either two 1,000lb or
eight 60lb rocket projectiles
|Firefly Mk 5||386 mph||760 miles||31,900 ft||four 20mm cannons|
and either two 2,000lb bombs or
sixteen 60lb rocket projectiles
|Firefly Mk 6||386 mph||760 miles||31,900 ft||either two 2,000lb bombs or|
sixteen 60lb rocket projectiles
|Firefly Mk 7||300 mph||860 miles||25,500 ft||none|
|Firefly Mk 8||Target drone.|
|Firefly Mk 9||Target drone.|
Användning [ redigera | redigera wikitext ]
Ett av de första uppdragen som utfördes av Fireflies var anfallen mot det tyska slagskeppet Tirpitz i juli och augusti 1944 (operation Mascot och operation Goodwood). Fireflies från HMS Indefatigable fortsatte att anfalla mål längs den norska kusten fram till slutet av september då fartyget förflyttades till Stilla havet. I januari 1945 utförde Fireflies sina första uppdrag i Stilla havet genom att anfalla japanska mål på Sumatra och i mars förstörde de flygfältet och flera flygplan på marken på Sakishimaöarna. I mars anlände ytterligare en division Fireflies till Australien för att förstärka den brittiska flygstyrkan i fjärran östern. De sattes in i anfallet mot hamnen i Chilung på Taiwan i april. I juni sattes de in mot Truk i Karolinerna och i juli mot det japanska fastlandet. Det sista anfallet genomfördes mot flygfältet i Kizarazu 15 augusti. Direkt efter krigsslutet användes de för att spana efter krigsfångeläger och släppa ner förnödenheter till fångarna. I september drogs divisionerna tillbaka till Australien där de avrustades.
I samband med att brittiska Palestinamandatet upphörde i maj 1948 patrullerade Fireflies baserade på HMS Ocean och HMS Triumph området för att skydda det brittiska tillbakadragandet. Strax efter att Storbritannien lämnat Palestina utbröt 1948 års arabisk-israeliska krig.
När Koreakriget bröt ut i juni 1950 hade HMS Triumph precis lämnat Japan och var på väg tillbaka till Storbritannien. I stället för att återvända hem fick hon order att ansluta sig till de amerikanska styrkorna vid Okinawa. Det första anfallet i Korea skedde 3 juli när Fireflies och Seafires anföll flygfältet i Haeju. Det ökade hotet från fientligt jaktflyg gjorde att Fireflies därefter huvudsakligen opererade till havs för att upprätthålla FN:s blockad och för att spana efter ubåtar. De deltog dock tillsammans med de Seafires som fanns kvar i luftskyddet av landstigningen vid Inchon. När HMS Triumph avlöstes av HMS Theseus i oktober ersattes Seafires med nya Sea Furies. Med dessa som eskort kunde Fireflies återigen sättas in i anfall mot markmål i Korea, något som FN-trupperna var i desperat behov av sedan Kina ingripit i Kriget och pressat tillbaka frontlinjen till Pusan. Även Australien använde Fireflies i Koreakriget från HMAS Sydney.
Samtidigt som Storbritannien deltog i Koreakriget bekämpade man även kommunistisk gerilla i Brittiska Malaya under Malayakrisen. Flyganfall mot gerillan genomfördes av Fireflies från hangarfartyg på väg till och från Korea eller från Singapore.
Fairey Firefly on HMS Indefatigable, January 1945 - History
Firefly F Mk I 'Lucy Quipment' of the 1771 Sqd, HMS Implacable, 1945.
Camouflage created by cerbera15 | Download here
The Fairey Firefly was the Royal Navy's last wartime Carrier-borne two seat fighter designed to serve in the Fleet Air Arm. It was proficient in the fighter-bomber, ground strike, anti-shipping and anti-submarine roles. A true multirole aircraft in every sense of the word, from its early variants the Firefly would go on to even see combat service in the Korean War of the 1950s.
In War Thunder:
X-ray view of the Firefly F Mk I
Within War Thunder the Firefly F Mk I is a Tier III aircraft situated early on in the Fleet Air Arm line. The distinctive feature of the Firefly Mk I is its characteristic chin radiator that supports the powerful Rolls Royce Griffon engine, later variants of which can also be seen on the late model Spitfire and Seafires. The aircraft is one of the first examples of a 4 cannon fighter aircraft available to pilots and boasts an impressive array of external weaponry to complement this. Despite its 4 x 20mm Hispano Mk II cannons, its biggest weakness as a fighter is its incredibly scarce ammunition supply of just 240 rounds for all 4 cannons. This requires pilots of the Firefly to be extremely conservative with their trigger discipline should they operate this aircraft solely as a fighter in combat. Alternatively the Firefly can mount 2 x 250lb, 2 x 500lb or 2 x 1000lb bombs with one under each wing. The final weapon upgrade, HRC Mk 8, allows for the instillation of 8 x 76mm RP-3 rockets, further boosting its ground attack capabilities.
Mk 1 Firefly skin, made by
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The Firefly often struggles in initial climbing due to the heavy weight and large size of the aircraft. Once engaged however, the Firefly&rsquos &ldquoAce&rdquo combat advantage is its exceptional two stage combat flaps. Unlike most aircraft where the flap simply deploys from the wing, the Firefly&rsquos flaps actually swing back to enlarge the wing surface as a whole and create much more lift.
This allows it to turn exceptionally well at low speeds without external ordnance attached and makes landings very simple to perform even on carriers. Coupled with a wide track and durable undercarriage, the Firefly rounds off to be a very forgiving aircraft to fly.
Firefly F Mk I equipped with rockets awaiting takeoff.
The Firefly originated as a replacement for both the Blackburn Skua and Fairey Fulmar designs. The tried and tested concept of having two crew, a pilot and an observer, proved to be effective for long range missions where the aircraft would be airborne for an extended period of time. However, the origins of this crew composition were far less well thought out as some of its other features the late interwar period saw the British Admiralty insist on two crewmembers for any naval aircraft other than those intended for point defense, as it was felt that the complexities of over-sea navigation were too complicated for a pilot to carry out whilst simultaneously controlling the aircraft. This would however limit the performance of the aircraft due to the extra weight and size. First taking to the skies in 1941, the Firefly had an impressive 4 x 20mm cannons a massive improvement over the Fulmar&rsquos 8 x 0.303 inch (7.7mm) Browning Machine guns. The first model was to use a Rolls Royce Griffon IIB engine that was a significant boost over the Fulmar&rsquos Rolls Royce Merlin.
A Firefly on board HMS
Indefatigable, January 1945.
Early on, the Firefly had a rough start before finally reaching naval squadrons in 1943 and becoming fully operational in 1944. As well as taking part on the Tirpitz attacks - providing cover and support - the aircraft mainly served with the British Pacific Fleet. Proving its worth in this theatre of operation, the Firefly continued in service and was refined in later models to greatly improve the performance. Fireflies of the Royal Navy&rsquos Fleet Air Arm would once again see service over the skies of Korea in 1950 alongside Seafires and Sea Furies before finally being retired in 1956 after a lengthy career. The Firefly would also serve with several other navies including the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Netherlands Navy and Royal Australian Navy to name only a few. The Firefly would ultimately bow out of service well into the age of jets only to be replaced with this new breed of naval aircraft and another Fairey designed aircraft, the Gannet.
THE FORGOTTEN FLEET II
The British never seemed to have the problems the US Navy did about taking the Corsair to sea. The FAA “circular approach” for a carrier landing allowed the pilot to keep the deck in sight over the long nose right up to landing, and was eventually adopted by the US Navy when Corsairs finally joined the fleet in 1945. Even the F4U-1 “birdcage” Corsair Is were regularly flown off British escort carriers during initial training in 1943 while the US Navy claimed the aircraft was incapable of operating off an Essex-class fleet carrier, and the FAA did so without the modifications to the oleo strut air pressure and the starboard wing spoiler for stall warning, though these modifications did show up with the widely-used Corsair II, the first version to go into combat. Additionally, the British Corsairs after the Corsair I had eight inches clipped from each wingtip to enable them to be stowed with wings folded aboard British fleet carriers with their smaller hangar compartments this resulted in a higher roll rate and lessened the airplane’s tendency to float on landing. The first carrier combat missions were flown by Corsairs of 1834 and 1836 squadrons of Victorious’ 47 Naval Fighter Wing in Operation Tungsten, the Home Fleet strikes against the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway in April 1944. The Far East debut of Corsair carrier combat operations came a week later when Illustrious’ 1830 and 1833 squadrons of 15 Naval Fighter Wing attacked Sabang.
Second to the Corsair in terms of widespread first line service was the Grumman F6F Hellcat, originally named “Gannet” after a large North Atlantic seabird. Universally known to its pilots regardless as the Hellcat, the British fighters took the name officially in March 1944 when the FAA adopted the official US Navy names for their US aircraft. Beginning in May 1943, 252 F6F-3s were supplied to the Fleet Air Arm as the Gannet I under lend-lease, with an additional 930 F6F-5s delivered after August 1944 as the Hellcat II some 100 were delivered as the Hellcat PR II, modified similarly to the F6F-5P for photo reconnaissance, while a further 80 radar-equipped F6F-5Ns were delivered as the Hellcat NF II.
800 Squadron was the first FAA unit to operate the Hellcat, taking delivery of its first aircraft in July 1943 and flying the first antishipping strikes off the Norwegian coast from the escort carrier HMS Emperor in December in company with 804 Squadron, the second unit to re-equip with the Hellcat. The squadrons flew escort for the first strikes against the Tirpitz on April 3, 1944. Over Norway on May 8, 1944, 800 and 804 squadrons came across a formation of Bf-109Gs and Fw-190As from the Luftwaffe’s Jagdgeschwader 5. The Hellcats shot down two Bf-109s while Lt Blyth Ritchie, a Mediterranean Sea Hurricane veteran who had previously scored 3.5 victories in 1942, bagged a Fw-190. Six days later, on May 14, Ritchie became the first FAA Hellcat pilot to “make ace” when he shot down a He-115 seaplane and shared a second with 804 squadron commander LCDR Stanley Orr. These were the only Hellcat victories scored by the FAA in the European theater.
800 and 804 squadrons participated in Operation Dragoon, the Allied landings in the south of France in August 1944. This turned out to be the final FAA Hellcat operation of the European Theater. The next month, the two squadrons were combined as 800 Squadron Emperor and her Hellcats transited the Suez Canal and joined the Far Eastern Fleet. During October and November, 888 Squadron joined 800 aboard Emperor, flying Hellcat FR II photo recon fighters, and the two squadrons flew strikes against Japanese positions along the Burmese and Malayan coasts and the Andaman Islands. FAA Hellcats had already gone to war in the Indian Ocean that August, when HMS Indomitable arrived with the Hellcat-equipped 1839 and 1844 squadrons of 5 Naval Fighter Wing.
The final American aircraft on the decks of the British Pacific Fleet’s carriers was the Grumman TBF Avenger. The FAA had quickly seen the Avenger’s value as a strike aircraft and deliveries under lend-lease began in late 1942. Initially named “Tarpon” for the large Atlantic fish, the name was changed to Avenger in January 1944. Grumman built 402 TBF-1Bs, which were actually the TBF-1 and the TBF-1C sub-types, without further differentiation as the Tarpon I 334 Eastern Aircraft-built TBM-1Cs were taken on as the Avenger II, with 222 TBM-3s as Avenger IIIs. The FAA learned to differentiate their Avengers by production source, as they did with the Corsair, after discovering that the “same aircraft” built by different manufacturers was not really the “same aircraft.” While the US Navy re-equipped its units completely with ever-newer versions of the Avenger, all the British Avengers were used throughout the war, with squadrons operating both Avenger Is and Avenger IIs simultaneously, distinguished only by their different camouflage schemes (Grumman-built Avenger Is used the correct FAA-approved camouflage colors of dark slate gray, extra-dark sea gray and sky, while the Eastern Aircraft-built Avenger IIs were painted in US “equivalent colors” of olive drab, neutral gray and sky gray, respectively).
While the American aircraft were the majority of the fleet’s air arm, there were also three British designs on the fleet’s flight decks.
The Fairey Barracuda was an ungainly-looking shoulder-wing monoplane used as both a dive and torpedo bomber. The Barracuda was Fairey Aviation’s second attempt to create a modern replacement for the venerable Swordfish torpedo bomber that gained fame attacking the Italian fleet at Taranto in November 1940 and damaging the German battleship Bismarck sufficiently that the battleships of the Home Fleet could catch their German opponent and sink her in May 1941. The open-cockpit biplane Swordfish was obsolete when it entered service in 1934, but went on to be one of five British aircraft in front-line service in 1939 that were still serving in 1945 as it flew off the smallest escort carriers, in weather so appalling other aircraft were chained to their decks.
Fairey submitted the design in response to Air Ministry Specification S.24/37 for a three-seat torpedo and dive-bomber aircraft. The first prototype flew on December 7, 1940.
The aircraft used Fairey-Youngman trailing-edge flaps to come aboard at a safe speed. Lowering these large flaps to reduce speed in a dive-bombing attack disturbed the airflow over the rear of the airframe, which necessitated the strange high-set tailplane. The most important sub-type was the Barracuda Mk.II, powered by a 1,640hp Merlin 32 1,688 rolled off production lines at Fairey, Blackburn, Boulton-Paul and Westland line between 1942 and 1945.
On April 3, 1944, 42 Barracudas took part in Operation Tungsten, their first combat operation. The bombers arrived over Alten Fjord, Norway, at the very moment Tirpitz was about to depart her anchorage for sea trials. Their dive-bombing attacks scored 24 direct hits, damaging the battleship so badly it was out of action for several months for repairs. Other attacks in the summer of 1944 were less successful. The Barracuda arrived in the Far East with 810 and 847 squadrons aboard Illustrious.
Victorious operated a Barracuda squadron and all three units took part in the oil strike operations that began in August 1944.
The Fairey Firefly I continued the design philosophy of the preceding Fulmar in having a dedicated navigator-radioman as a second crewman. The design was the result of FAA Specification N8/39, which called for a two-seater armed with either four 20mm cannon or eight .30-caliber machine guns using the then-new and untried Rolls-Royce Griffon, issued in July 1939 while the Fulmar prototype was still under construction. Fairey’s response was a somewhat smaller, Fulmar-type aircraft with 20mm cannon and an empty weight barely less than the Fulmar’s loaded weight. Specification N5/40 was written around the mock-up after it was inspected and approved on June 6, 1940. The first Firefly I flew on December 22, 1941. The aircraft used the Fairey-patented area-increasing Youngman flaps, which gave the necessary maneuverability in air combat and lowered the heavy aircraft’s landing speed for carrier operation. The first production aircraft was delivered on March 4, 1943, which was a very respectable timetable for wartime aircraft development. Every other British-designed carrier aircraft ordered in the same timeframe ran into development difficulties and none flew before the end of the war. The Firefly was thus the only British-designed modern high- performance carrier aircraft to operate off British carriers in the war it was designed for.
Unfortunately, the Firefly lacked the performance to operate in its designed role of fleet defense fighter, even with the 1,735 horsepower of the Griffon IIB. The greatest fault in the design lay with the choice of placing the radiator in a large cowling directly beneath the engine, resulting in a high-drag configuration, and the requirement for a second crew member, which added weight. With a top speed of only 319mph and a climb rate under 2,000 fpm, though it had a useful range of 774 miles on internal fuel, the Firefly I was used as a strike and tactical reconnaissance aircraft, a mission for which it was more than capable. A Firefly I tested at the US Navy test center at NAS Patuxent River in 1944 more than held its own in air combat maneuvering against the F6F Hellcat those flaps worked.
1770 Squadron was first to be formed on the Firefly in October 1943, followed in February 1944 by 1771 Squadron. 1770 went aboard HMS Indefatigable and gave the type its baptism of fire in Operation Mascot, the failed attack against Tirpitz on July 17, 1944. That November, Indefatigable and 1770 Squadron, led by Major Vernon “Cheese” Cheesman, joined the British Pacific Fleet.
Indefatigable’s 24 Naval Fighter Wing operated the legendary Supermarine Seafire. The navalized Spitfire first joined the Royal Navy in late 1942 and entered combat in the summer of 1943, providing the primary air defense for the Allied fleet at Salerno that September. The Mk I and Mk II sub-types were minimal conversions of land-based Spitfires equipped with an A-frame arrestor hook under the rear fuselage and catapult spools. Without folding wings, these Seafires could not be struck below on a carrier all maintenance at sea took place on the open flight deck.
The F. Mk III was the first fully-navalized Seafire, first flown in November 1943. Cunliffe-Owen, the company responsible for modifying the Seafire I and Seafire II, developed a folding wing for the Seafire III, which allowed below deck stowage. The L. Mk III, powered by the Merlin 55M engine with a cropped impeller to give maximum performance below 5,000 feet, quickly replaced the original F. Mk III. At low altitude, the Seafire III outperformed the A6M5 Zero when tested against each other. The aircraft had a superior low-altitude climb rate and acceleration to either the Hellcat or Corsair, which made it the best low-altitude short-range fleet interceptor available in the Pacific. 887 and 894 squadrons, the most-experienced Seafire units in the Royal Navy, went to the Pacific aboard HMS Indefatigable.
The Royal Navy’s carriers had been developed for a different kind of war than had those of the US Navy. The British ships were designed for operation in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, where they did not need the range and sea-keeping ability of the American carriers. Since their opponents would be land-based aircraft that were expected to outperform the defending carrier fighters, the ships were designed with an armored flight deck, and with much more armor throughout the ship than was the case with the Essex-class ships. The result for the British was that their hangars did not open on the sides as with the Essex carriers, which meant that aircraft could not be run up on the hangar deck to speed up the launch of multiple strikes. A British naval air group numbered only some 45–50 aircraft, as opposed to the 90-aircraft force on an Essex-class carrier. The Americans initially derided the British carriers with their heavy armor and reduced capacity, but when the kamikazes became the primary threat, the ability of a British carrier to shrug off a hit that would have heavily damaged if not sunk outright an American carrier rightly impressed the Americans, who adopted this feature in their postwar carrier designs.
On January 1, 1945, the BPF carriers left Trincomalee to undertake their last strike from the old base, Operation Lentil. HMS Indomitable, Victorious and Indefatigable, escorted by the cruisers HMS Suffolk, HMS Ceylon, HMS Argonaut and HMS Black Prince, launched an attack on January 4, 1945 against the former Royal Dutch Shell refinery at Pangkalan Brandan in northern Sumatra. Ninety-two Avengers and Fireflies, escorted by Hellcats of Indomitable’s 1839 and 1844 squadrons and Corsairs from Victorious’ 1834 and 1836 squadrons, targeted the installation.
Sixteen fighters sent ahead as a “Ramrod” attacked the airfields at Medan and Tanjong Poera. 1834 Squadron’s Leslie Durno spotted a Ki.46 Dinah twin-engine reconnaissance plane with wheels and flaps down for landing at Medan Airfield. Durno and his wingman attacked the Dinah and damaged it, then Durno turned in astern of the enemy plane and fired a five-second burst that staggered the Dinah before it blew up at the edge of the runway. Minutes later, he spotted a Ki.21 Sally bomber, which he set afire with an eight-second burst. This victory made Durno both the first FAA Corsair ace and the first FAA pilot to score five Japanese victories.
The strike force was launched 90 minutes after the fighter sweep, with 32 Avengers and 12 rocket-firing Fireflies escorted by 12 1836 Squadron Corsairs to bomb the refinery. Several Oscars attacked the strike force at 0850 hours. Sub-Lieutenant D. J. Sheppard, RCNVR, of 1836 Squadron, Number 3 in Wing Leader Ronnie Hay’s flight, was able to latch onto an Oscar in the swirling dogfight and shoot it down. He later reported, “The Jap’s cockpit seemed to glow as I hit him with a long burst, and I could see the bullets striking the engine and cockpit. He leveled out at 300 feet and then went into a climbing right turn. I fired again and the pilot baled out as the aircraft rolled over and went into the sea.” Ten minutes later he spotted a second Oscar and closed in before opening fire. The Oscar blew up under the weight of his fire. Sheppard had scored two in his first combat.
The strike force inflicted heavy damage on the refinery and oil storage tanks, while a small tanker was set on fire and two locomotives were hit. Two aircraft were lost to antiaircraft fire, but the crews were rescued.
Following the fleet’s return to Trincomalee, the British Pacific Fleet weighed anchor and headed east-southeast into the Indian Ocean on January 16 on the first leg of its transfer to the Pacific theater of operations. The slow and awkward Barracudas were gone from the strike squadrons, replaced with Grumman Avengers. Admiral Vian’s Task Force 63 planned a final strike against the Indonesian oil refineries during their passage to Australia, called Operation Meridian One. The targets were the Palembang refineries at Pladjoe and Songei Gerong. Bad weather over the Indian Ocean delayed the strike from January 22 to 24.
Illustrious, Victorious, Indomitable and Indefatigable began launching their strike aircraft at 0600 hours on January 24, 1945: 43 Avengers and 12 Fireflies, escorted by 48 Hellcats, Corsairs and Seafires, headed for the Pladjoe refinery while 24 Corsairs were assigned to sweep the airfields at Lembak and Tanglangbetoetoe. Victorious’ Major Ronnie Hay was assigned as the strike coordinator leading a top cover of 12 Corsairs. 12 Fireflies of 1770 Squadron were assigned as close escort for the Avengers, led by Major Cheesman, each armed with eight 60lb rockets for flak suppression. Eight Corsairs from 1830 Squadron formed the middle cover, while eight Corsairs from 1833 brought up the rear.
Japanese radar picked up the strike force over Sumatra. Lieutenant Hideyaki Onayama led twelve Ki.44 Tojos from the 87th Sentai (regiment) to intercept the strike force some 20 miles west of the refinery. Hay scored his first Pacific victory when he spotted a Tojo approaching from out of the sun. The Tojo flashed past and Hay dived after it. “After a five-minute chase I caught up with him at nought feet and 250 knots. I gave him a two-second burst which hit his engine and he crashed but did not burn.” Hay climbed back to altitude to coordinate the strike, and ran across another Tojo and shot it down. Sub-Lieutenant Sheppard also shot down a Tojo. More Oscars joined in the fight, while Japanese antiaircraft batteries below opened fire as the attackers neared the target.
Just before the first Tojos struck, Major Cheesman’s engine began running rough and he was forced to pass leadership of the 1770 Squadron Fireflies to Lieutenant Dennis Levitt and return to Indefatigable. Moments later, the Fireflies came under attack by Oscars of the 26th Sentai. They turned into the enemy fighters and Levitt shot down the first enemy aircraft to fall to the Firefly, while Sub-Lieutenant Phil Stott shared a second with his wingman, Sub-Lieutenant Redding.
Hellcat pilot Sub-Lieutenant Edward Taylor shot down a Tojo during the fight. When added to his previous victories in the Mediterranean, he became the only South African Navy ace. Minutes later, he shared the destruction of a Ki.45 Nick twin-engine fighter from the 21st Sentai with his wingman.
The fierceness of the air battle is shown by claims for 14 Japanese aircraft shot down and six probable kills. The Corsairs that struck the airfield destroyed 34 enemy aircraft and damaged a further 25 on the ground. Despite the presence of protective barrage balloons that forced the Avengers to drop their bombs from 3,000 feet, the refinery was successfully hit. Fleet air losses were heavier than previous raids: seven aircraft were shot down over the target and 25 aircraft – many damaged from antiaircraft fire – were lost in crash landings back aboard the carriers. The attack cut output at the refinery by 50 percent for three months, with most of the refined oil in the storage tanks destroyed by fire.
The fleet rendezvoused with the tankers again over January 26–27. Owing to poor weather and inexperience, the tankers suffered damage as ships being refueled failed to keep station and hoses parted, greatly delaying the operation.
On January 29, the carriers returned for Operation Meridian Two, a strike against the refinery at Songei Gerong, Sumatra. Poor weather gave low visibility and the strike force launch was delayed for 25 minutes by a rain squall. Once again, Ronnie Hay acted as strike coordinator.
Defensive aerial opposition was strong pilots claimed 30 shot down with another 38 destroyed on the ground, for the loss of 16 British aircraft. Just after the Avengers made their bombing runs, Hay was attacked by a Tojo he quickly downed, then an Oscar that tried to latch onto his tail as the Tojo fell burning.
Hay’s element leader, Don Sheppard, also claimed two in this fight to become the second Corsair ace and the only one to score all his victories in the F4U.
The fleet came under attack from the “Shichisi Mitate” Special Attack Corps. Major Hitoyuki Kato led seven Ki.21 Sally and Ki.48 Lily bombers in low-level suicide attacks. New Zealander Sub-Lieutenant Keith McLennan, who manned the alert Hellcat of 1844 Squadron aboard Indomitable, was launched to intercept the kamikazes. Within minutes of retracting his landing gear, McLennan was in the middle of the enemy bombers and shot down two in quick succession, then shared a third with Seafire pilot Sub-Lieutenant Elson of 894 Squadron. With a total of 3.5 victories, McLennan was the most successful New Zealand Navy pilot of the war.
Meridian Two stopped all production at the Songei Gerong Refinery for two months, and, over the rest of the war, production was never more than a quarter of pre-attack levels. For the loss of 25 aircraft in the three January operations, production of aviation gasoline on Sumatra was cut to 35 percent of its pre-attack level. The shortage would have a dramatic effect on the Burma campaign in the final six months of war. These strikes, coming as they did in coordination with Halsey’s South China Sea strikes, meant Japan was now almost completely cut off from petroleum supplies, the control of which were the major reason why Japan had gone to war in 1941.
The British Pacific Fleet arrived in Sydney, Australia, in mid-February and began preparations to join the US Navy in the coming invasion of Okinawa.