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What my Dad Did for Us in the War

by Mike Stevens

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Contributed by 
Mike Stevens
People in story: 
Samuel Stevens and HMS Indefatigable
Location of story: 
WAR IN THE PACAFIC
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A3834966
Contributed on: 
27 March 2005

Sammy Stevens 1945

WHAT MY DAD DID FOR US IN THE WAR

In the summer of 1942, my Dad Samuel Stevens was in his mid 30’s, had a large family to support, and shared a small terraced house in Chester with his in-laws. So it’s not surprising that he volunteer to join the aemed services. (Much to the disgust of our Mum). However, being able bodied he was accepted immediately by the navy and was posted to HMS GOSLING, Risley, near Warrington in Lancashire.

Sam then commence a basic training programme with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), and after passing out as an Air Mechanic 1st Class, he was posted to Royal Naval Air Station MERLIN, Donibristle, Fife, in Scotland. Sam completed a 12- month shore posting there, which at the time was a secret training establishment for whatever reason. After a spell of leave in September he received orders to join the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) stationed in the Far East.

Sailing under the command of Admiral. Sir C.G.Ramsey. K.C.B. Sam boarded the K.P.M. ex-Dutch Liner NIEUW HOLLAND, which formed part of Convoy K.M.P. 10a. (Code word: 'DONKEY'). Sailing from Liverpool to Cape Town, Durban, The Seychelles, Bombay, and Colombo. Sam and other navy chum’s then joined the Aircraft Carrier HMS INDEFATIGABLE (The Inde) at Sidney Harbour, which was at that time showing the flag in Australian and New Zealand waters. They received a warm welcome in Wellington and Auckland, as the Inde was the first Royal Naval Fleet Carrier to visit the area.

On January 4th, 1945, Sam was aboard the Inde when it took part in Operation "Lentil", a naval air strike on the oil refinery at Pangkalan Brandan, East Sumatra. January 24th saw them taking part in Operation "Meridian", a similar attack in the Palambang area of Southern Sumatra. A third attack then took place on January 29th at the oil refinery of Sungei Gerong, which was the second most important refinery in Sumatra. March 1st, and the Inde sailed for the island of Manus, off the Bismarck Archipelago of the Admiralty Islands, (North of Papua New Guinea) to join up with HMS VICTORIOUS and INDOMITABLE for special sea duties and joint exercises.

After working up at Manus the fleet left for Ulithi, in the Caroline Islands, (situated east of the Philippines and South West of Guam). The whole fleet then headed out to sea as 'Task Force 58' to attack and neutralize enemy airfields in Sakishima, at the southern end of the Ryukyu Islands. This was part of the Royal Navy's contribution to the Allied assault on Japan, and the battle for Okinawa, known as 'Operation Iceberg'.

Iceberg began on April 1st 1945, but L - Day, or Love-day as it was known amongst the crew started badly because at 7:28 that morning, a Japanese suicide aircraft of ‘The Kamikaze’ hit the Inde. The first British ship ever to be hit by this form of attack. Fires and explosions soon followed. Ten men were killed outright, four subsequently died of wounds, and many more were seriously injured. The flight deck was temporarily put out of action. But despite all the damage, Inde was "reasonably operational" by the afternoon of the same day, and was soon back in the area of operations when the Task Force resumed its strike in the Okinawa campaign.

After the fall of Okinawa Sam returned in the Inde to 'Captain Cook Dock’ in Sydney Harbour, along with other ships of the fleet for repairs and maintenance. After a brief rest and replenishment at Sydney. The Inde slipped her moorings on July 12th to join the main Fleet once again and resume its attack on the Japanese mainland. The crew were still fighting the morning the Japanese surrendered. Rumours of surrender had been circulating for days but there was no relaxation or let up on the fighting, and the usual dawn strikes set off to attack seaplane bases in Tokyo Bay. Twelve Japanese fighter aircraft rose in response. All of which were shot down or damaged. The surrender signal was received just as a second strike was about to be carried out. This was followed shortly afterwards by an attack on the carrier by a single Japanese bomber, which suddenly dived out of the clouds and narrowly missed hitting the carrier's stern, but was quickly shot down in flames over the sea.

After the surrender of Japan, the Inde was among the ships of the Fleet under Admiral Fraser, which on The 27th August anchored in the Japanese waters of Sagami Bay, which is the approach to Tokyo Bay. On September 1st, her aircraft patrolled over Tokyo Bay during the signing of the Japanese instrument of surrender.

Her aircraft flew many miles searching for Japanese prisoner of war camps, and dropping food to the inmates awaiting release. One secrete and unexpected discovery was CAMP YOKKACHI situated in Southern Honshu, where British, American and Dutch prisoners received parachute drops of food, tobacco, soap, reading material, and many things they had been denied for so long. Later that month, the Inde assisted HMS 'SPEAKER' in the evacuation of British and Commonwealth prisoners of war to Australia. At about this time, Dad clamed that he and some of his chums were deliberately sent into Nagasaki to be used as guinea pigs in an experiment, to see if the dirty ‘A’ bomb effected Europeans in the same way as other races. However, I did not find any evidence or documentation to support this statement, as the medical records and some parts of his service papers were unaccounted for, i.e. missing.

During the final stages of the war The Inde had been at sea for fifty-five days non stop. So on her return to Australia, most of the officers and men (including my Dad) took part in the Victory Parade through the streets of Sidney, followed by a Special Dinner Night in the mess. The Governor of New South Wales was the Guest of Honour that night.

For the remainder of 1945 and during 1946, Sam and the Inde were engaged in ferrying troops to and from the Far East. On May 4th Sam was sent to HMS DAEDALUS, RN Air Station, Lee on Solent, and was released from service on June 4th 1946.

On leaving the service Sam returned to his old job as a fitter with Williams and Williams Engineering Ltd. of Chester. He enjoyed playing football for a local Sunday League, and Supported Chester City F.C. whenever possable. Four and a half years after leaving the Navy Sam was diagnosed with cancer and later died aged 42.

SAMS’ SERVICE HONOURS:
According to service records, Sam was issued with the Pacific Star and War Medal.
Awarded on May 15th 1950:

However, unlike the Americans, there was no official British award for individual battles in Okinawa or Japan during WW2. The Pacific Star was the only official medal struck for that theatre of action.

TECHINICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER
HMS INDEFATIGABLE:

A Fleet Aircraft Carrier of: 28,700 Tonnage, 148,000 Horse Power, and 16 4-5-inch Guns. Built and engined by: John Brown and Co. Ltd. Clyde bank, and was laid down on 3rd November 1939. Launched on 8th December, 1942, and completed on 3rd May, 1944. First two months were spent with Western Approach Command. November 1944 allocated to British Pacific Fleet Australia. December 1946 reduced to reserve at Portsmouth. In 1949 she was allocated to the Training Squadron, Home Fleet, Relieved from the Home Fleet in 1954. She was finally handed over to the British Iron and Steel Corporation for disposal in November 1956. H.M.S. INDEFATIGABLE was awarded the following Battle Honours: - Palembang 1945, Okinawa 1945, and Japan 1945.

THE K.P.M. LINER NIEUW HOLLAND:

K.P.M. (Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij) or Royal Packet Company was a large Dutch shipping company connecting all the ports of the Dutch East Indies.
The Nieuw Holland Registered as an 18,150 tons displacement, and was built in Amsterdam by the Netherlands Shipbuilding Company, the keel was laid down on April 2nd 1927. She was launched on December 17th 1927. Completed and handed over to K.P.M. on April 20th 1928.

THE BATTLE OF OKINAWA:

As the Allied military ring of steel closed inexorably around Japan in 1945, preparations were being made to secure the last major hurdle for launching air strikes against Japan. Okinawa is the largest of the Ryukyu Island group lying some 350 miles southwest of Honshu, and represented the final bastion of Japanese outer defences. Once Okinawa had been taken, the way to Japan was wide open, the island being ideally placed to serve as a staging point when the sea borne invasion of Japan inevitably came around. For all these reasons, mastery of Okinawa was absolutely essential for the allies and would be bitterly contested.

'Operation Iceberg' also saw the involvement of the British Pacific Fleet, alias 'Task Force 58'. On November 22, 1943 when the fleet came under the operational command of Vice- Adm. Sir Bernard Rawlings, second in command to Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, who took considerable pride in his small force being given such elevated status. With the Fleet carriers Illustrious, Indefatigable, Indomitable, and Victorious capable of launching a total of 244 aircraft. Task Force 58 also comprised: 2 battleships, cruisers, and destroyers.

The British TF-58 guarded the flank of the main "Iceberg" operation by pounding the shoreline of the Sakishima Islands lying some 150 miles southwest of Okinawa. A sizable force of Kamikazes was based in the islands and, as expected, RN ships became legitimate "Devine Wind" targets. However, the British carriers were tougher than they looked. The Japanese suicide pilots were either ignorant of, or unable to distinguish, the fact that the British carriers had armoured steel flight decks, unlike the US Navy carriers, which only had conventional wooden decking. Kamikazes scored hits on all the fleet carriers on station at one time or another. Although no RN ships of the line were fatally damaged, they non-the less had to return to there home base in Sidney for repairs. It was an outstanding period of operations for the ships of the Royal Navy in which Indefatigable had the honour of being the last British Pacific Fleet carrier on station with the American's In Tokyo Bay on VJ-Day.

JAPANESE KAMIKAZE:
C-in-C. Japanese First Fleet, Admiral Toyoda, launched his terrifying 'Operation Ten-Ge', on 6th - 20th June 1945 with massed kamikaze attacks called: Kikusui which means floating chrysanthemums).

THE MANHATTAN PROJECT:
The first discovery of nuclear fission was suggested in Germany in December 1938. British research then showed that the manufacture of a nuclear weapon was almost certainly possible; with the combined help of American technological, scientific, and industrial effort, the Manhattan Project was born.
The first nuclear bomb test was exploded at Alamogordo in the wastes of the New Mexico desert on July 16th 1945, announcing that the nuclear age, for better or worse, had arrived. At 02:45 hours, August 6th 1945 (local time), the super fortress 'Enola Gray' lifted off the runway at North Fields, Tinian, bound for Japan. She carried a crew of nine, and four passengers, all of which were scientists, and a solitary bomb, which bore the incongruous code name of 'Little Boy'. At seventeen seconds past 08:15 hours, the bomb bay doors opened, and little boy fell out from a Height of nearly six miles. As the B-29 streaked away, fifty seconds later, Little Boy exploded at 1,850 feet over the city of Hiroshima.
Anticipating an immediate response to the devastation of Hiroshima, the U.S. government was amazed that no word was received from Tokyo; to ram home this point, the second strike against Nagasaki was ordered for August 8th. Again a named B-29 'Bock's Car' made the long climb out of Tinian with its deadly cargo. This second bomb, shaped more conventionally than the Hiroshima weapon, was named Fat Man. Although pilot Major Charles Sweeney encountered some haze over the target, conditions were clear enough for him to bomb. The effect was much the same as over Hiroshima. Even as the characteristic mushroom cloud over Nagasaki dispersed, the war continued. In the mean time the third and forth atomic bombs were being readied for use. Finally, in what turned out to be a grand finale, over 800 B-29s were launched against eight different targets on the night of August 14/15. Before the last participating crews had returned to the Marianas, Truman had announced the unconditional surrender of Japan.

References:
Unfortunately, many World War Two servicemen's records are incomplete. This is due to the demands of the war when those who would normally have recorded details of a service records were called away to be more intimately engaged in the war. The information gathered for this research was obtained from the Ministry of Defence, the Public Records Office, (National Archives) and Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency.
AFPAA Centurion, Gosport. AFPAA(C)NPP1E. and AFPAA (C)/NPP1F/2827/01/SC.
Public Records Office, Surrey, ADM 53/ 121 547 - 554
Naval Historical Branch, Ministry of Defence, London, D/NHB/22/1.
Ministry of Defence, Admiralty Library, London, D/NHB/22/1

Research by Mike Stevens
Sam’s only Son

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