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HMS Relentless (Chapter 1): The End of the Japanese War, 1945icon for Recommended story

by kenneth waterson

Contributed by 
kenneth waterson
People in story: 
Ken Waterson
Location of story: 
Trincomalee, Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
27 January 2004

Written by Kenneth Waterson, telegraphist (trained operator). As observed from the R Class destroyer HMS Relentless, anchored in Trincomalee Harbour Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

The end of the war came suddenly, 14/08/1945. I was on the middle watch and had read the last message, i.e. taken down the Morse signal which then required decoding. First the message had to be decoded from the current 24 hour code in force and then decoded from the underlying six-monthly code. Up to then signals came through non stop and were repeated immediately and at a few hours later. If reception was bad, which was often during monsoon storms and electric storms, one had the chance to re-read the message. Usually the second transmission came during someone else's watch. In one's own watch one got someone else's second transmission. The messages were left for the two coders to decode who worked in shifts of forenoon and afternoon. If one was urgent in the night, one sent for P.O.T.S (petty officer telegraphist) to allocate a coder.

At the start of the watch I read the first message, by reading I mean writing down a series of figures. Most transmissions from the Signal Station Trincomalee were machine transmitted as numbers. Once that first message had cleared, no other signals were sent. All that came through was the top priority grading - OU - which was repeated for the rest of the watch. I could not leave the WT (wireless telegraph) office in case the message whatever it was came through. No-one came by so I had to wait until I was relieved before I had the Petty Officer Telegraphist woken up to tell him of - OU - grading. I don't think he believed me; he told me to "B" off. I think he did go down to the WT (wireless telegraph) office on afterthought. The following forenoon he was in the office and said the Japanese had asked for surrender terms. After some deliberation we were told terms had been offered. I think in fact we offered them terms and they had to have a second A bomb dropped before they accepted.

That night Trincomalee had its celebrations. There were rocket (distress flares) displays, jumping jacks and concerts. The weather was cooler, the oppressive heat had subsided. VJ evening started just before sunset. Ships were dressed, every colour of flag was flown. There were lots of nationalities. The alphabet went down the USA (America) and USSR (Russia), the latter flew the hammer and sickle. All the flags were hauled down at sunset but were then immediately re-hoisted. The dark night showed up illuminated Vs made up of coloured light bulbs. Some of these were in many colours.

When the last shadows had gone, the ship next to us let loose with her siren. It was a horrible noise, worse than a air-raid siren. After an interval of about 15 minutes every ship in the harbour was blowing off a different note. The result was an awful din. In time various Vs could be distinguished on different sirens. Some put in a J after the V making VJ in Morse code; Rockets (distress flares) and Vary lights (bright light flares) were being fired freely by now all over the harbour. Green, red, yellow and white ones. These offset the regular starboard and port navigation lights, green and red. Green and red lights shooting up into the sky and then down into the sea. Rustic VJs on hooters and much cheering completed an unreal atmosphere. Blackout was abandoned.

By 09:00pm the fun increased in tempo. Many were drunk now, where they got spirits and beer from is a mystery. We had none. Early an attempt had been made to mount a concert but the hooters drowned out any attempt to sing. Shooting pretty lights into the air became tame after a while. Ships started firing rockets at each other. Then they all started firing at the aircraft lined up on the upper deck of the aircraft carrier. An urgent signal was sent round the harbour to stop firing rockets. Various petty officers went round their ships to put a stop to the practice. It says something for discipline that the rocket shooting stopped. How it started I know not as I thought all rockets were kept under lock and key.

Instead jumping jacks were fired from rocket launchers. These were fearsome projectiles. They came in various colours and shot from left to right, from front to rear. Shooting down between deck awnings they scattered all and sundry. They were powerful, much stronger than bonfire night jumping jacks. They possibly were Chinese ones but who got them and from where is not known. The awnings were burnt in various place and a fire arose on one of the gun covers.

This led to hoses being turned on to put out all the small fires that had started. Generously ships put out each other's fires by hose. After that the hoses were turned on the other ship's crews. Everybody was wet through. Chaps coming back on board from shore leave were caught in this deluge.

After that things died down; various concert parties were got up impromptu. We were tied up alongside the Woolwich, the destroyer parent ship. We got up a singing party and wheeled our piano out onto the quarter deck so that others could see and hear us. The quarter deck was beautifully decorated with bunting. Out came our players in their costumes and started to sing. The stokers on the Woolwich did not seem to appreciate our singing, they turned a hose pipe on us. The drums were soaked as was the piano, the bunting all bedraggled. They did have the foresight to close the bulkhead that gave us access to their ship. Had we made contact, World War III would have broken out between us. By now a lot of people were drunk, where they got their booze from is not known we had none.

After all this excitement things quietened down, just Vary lights now and then. A "feel good factor" abounded. The only alcohol we had was from the splicing of the main brace (an extra tot of rum).

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - HMS RELENTLESS(WW2) Trincomalee. VJ NIGHT

Posted on: 28 March 2005 by SID BROWNE

I was in Trinco.on VJ Night. Stationed in RN Dockyard. (L/SBA Dockyard Surgery.)I remember the occasion very well and the account brought back memories of that night 14th/15th August 1945. I still have have a photograph of the flares and searchlights of the ships in the harbour. I don't know why it is, but the end of WW2 is now known as VP Day. It was always called VJ Day!
Sid Browne. Australia.


Message 2 - HMS RELENTLESS(WW2) Trincomalee. VJ NIGHT

Posted on: 22 June 2005 by navykenwaterson2

Dear Sid Browne,

Thanks for your meesage of 28/03/2005.I attach a copy of an E mail to Julia Adamson of the BBC for your perusal.Can you send copies of the photographs you took at Trincomalee please.My E mail address is (


Kem Waterson.

Dear Julia,

Attached is a copy of a message from Sid Browne re Trincomalee for your perusal.


Ken Waterson.

Julia Adamson <> wrote:
Thank you - that's very helpful.
-----Original Message-----
From: kenneth waterson []
Sent: 21 June 2005 14:59
To: Julia Adamson
Subject: RE: Request from BBC Radio Four

Dear Julia

The night was 14th/15th August 1945


Ken waterson

Julia Adamson <> wrote:
Dear Mr Waterson
Many thanks. I hope to speak to you soon.
Kind Regards
-----Original Message-----
From: kenneth waterson []
Sent: 13 June 2005 11:10
To: Julia Adamson
Subject: Re: Request from BBC Radio Four

Dear Julia Adamson

Thanks for your E mail dated 09.06 05.You can call me on my home telephone number 01785/253343 any morning between 9am & 11am except Fridays.Alternatively any evening between 7pm & 9pm.I could be available in the afterernoons between 3pm & 5pm but I might be out some.Give me a ring to fix a time!

I served in the Far Eastern Fleet which operated in the Indian Ocean.Our ship HMS Relentless was stood by in the "The Roads" of Malacca during the Japanese surrender there.Then we covered the landings at Port Dixon and Port Swettenham.After that we escorted HMS Nelson and the French Batttleship Richelieu to Singpore.

Ken waterson

Julia Adamson <> wrote:
Dear Mr Waterson

I am researching a new series for BBC Radio Four about the end of the war in the Far East and the events of early August 1945 - primarily the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the surrender of Japan. Having read with great interest your account of VJ day celebrations in Trincomalee, I wondered whether I could ask you a little more about your memories of the end of the war.

I'd be extremely grateful for the chance to talk to you. If you'd be happy for me to call you, perhaps you could suggest a time when I might telephone and a number on which to do so.

Yours with many thanks

Julia Adamson
Series Researcher
BBC Radio Documentaries
0207 765 4766


Message 3 - HMS RELENTLESS(WW2) Trincomalee. VJ NIGHT

Posted on: 29 August 2005 by John Green

I understand that it is called VP - Victory in the Pacific Day in Australia, but to me, my father and his fellow Chindits and POWs it could only be VJ day.


Message 4 - HMS RELENTLESS(WW2) Trincomalee. VJ NIGHT

Posted on: 01 September 2005 by navyken

I was in Trinco on VJ night and I also have photo's of rockets etc:. taken from the deck of the Aircraft Carrier I was on ,Hms Empress an Escort Carrier with Hellcat planes on board. We had just arrived back at Trinco after being in action around The Nicobar Islands., Ken. Fisher. Leading Air Mechanic.


Message 5 - HMS RELENTLESS(WW2) Trincomalee. VJ NIGHT

Posted on: 03 September 2005 by navyken



Message 6 - HMS RELENTLESS(WW2) Trincomalee. VJ NIGHT

Posted on: 25 October 2005 by kenneth waterson

Sid Browne
Date reported to the BBC and printed in their book THE DAY THE WAR ENDED.


Message 7 - HMS RELENTLESS(WW2) Trincomalee. VJ NIGHT

Posted on: 27 October 2005 by kennethwaterson



Message 8 - HMS RELENTLESS(WW2) Trincomalee. VJ NIGHT

Posted on: 27 October 2005 by kennethwaterson

At last I have found a way to say thanks. My previous attempt was stopped by the BBC because it broke the rules.
I sent you a note yesterday which needs a correction. It was my article at A2237591 and not the book THE DAY THE WAR ENDED that was amended.
Was the picture on page 255 of the book yours. I did pass your message of 28/03/05 to the BBC and wondered if they contacted you.


Message 9 - HMS RELENTLESS(WW2) Trincomalee. VJ NIGHT

Posted on: 27 October 2005 by kennethwaterson

I think the Relentless escoted you on one strike.

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