- 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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