My father's service in World War 2

My father joined the Royal Navy on the 10 May 1944. Only 6 months before The Royal Navy had been the largest Navy in the world but the American Navy was then expanding at a very fast rate and had overtaken the Royal Navy. On January the 5th 1945 my father joined HMS Berwick in Scapa Flow and slept in hammocks. He took part in the last fleet action in North west Europe to the current day which was operation Winded off the Norwegian coast on 28th January 1945. It was rather inconclusive.

On March 15 1945 at 2 hours’ notice he was transferred to HMS Implacable which was a new Aircraft Carrier and then departing for the Far East to join the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) as flagship. The keel had been laid down in 1938. There was still a high risk from the new German type 21 U-boats but in the event only one type 21 U-boat became operational. HMS Implacable arrived in Sydney on 8 May 1945 (V-E Day). By then the BPF had 100 warships and I have a picture of 4 British Aircraft Carriers in Sydney Harbour. HMS Implacable operated the Fairey Firefly, the Supermarine Seafire and the Grumman Avenger. Meanwhile back here in the UK there was bread rationing.

Initially the British were not altogether welcome with the Americans in the Pacific as this was very much an American effort. However, the Royal Navy had learnt the lessons of Jutland and was much better protected with better deck armour against Japanese suicide fighters which were not anticipated. This meant when a US navy ship was attacked they had to return to Pearl Harbour which was known as ‘Back to Pearl’ whereas the Royal Navy ships could push the remains of the fighter over the side and carry on. At the battle of Okinawa the USN liaison officer on Indefatigable commented: "When a kamikaze hits a US carrier it means 6 months of repair at Pearl [Harbor]. When a kamikaze hits a Limey carrier it's just a case of 'Sweepers, man your brooms’ “.

HMS Implacable’s first operation was against Japanese airfields at Truk in the Caroline Islands. There was said to be 60 miles of American and British warships. At this time my father spent 41 continuously days at sea without air conditioning and in theatre of operations during the summer 1945 which must have been challenging. HMS Implacable was part of the Taskforce which left Manus on Aug 1st 1945 and was heading for Japan to commence the blockade of Japan and eventual invasion. It was probably one of the the biggest Armadas ever assembled with 500 warships including 40 Aircraft Carriers and 5000 aircraft. However, it had a short lifespan. At midday on the 5th of Aug 1945 the Taskforce received the signal to be at least 300 miles south east of Tokyo Bay by 0400 on the 6th of August 1945. The reason given was unspecified American missile testing. On the 6th of Aug the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and a second atomic bomb was dropped 3 days later on Nagasaki. The British crews had no inkling of what would happen when the first atomic was dropped. The Japanese surrendered on the 11th of August 1945.
There was an immediate call to repatriate the many Allied POWs who were appearing all over the Far East. HMS Implacable took American POWs from Singapore to Vancouver. This was a very formative experience as most of the POWs had suffered from severe weight loss and were in very poor physical condition. My father was briefly part of the British occupation force (BCOF) of Kyushu Island after Japan surrendered which at its peak numbered about 40,000 personnel and lasted until 1951. While U.S. forces were responsible for the overall occupation, the BCOF based in Kure was responsible for supervising demilitarization and the disposal of Japan's war industries. It ended on good terms due to the Korean war.

In 1946 my father briefly trained as a Naval Aviator but this was suspended due to cost. The RN shrank by 75% between 1945 and 1947. By September 1945 97% of the world’s active warships were either American or British so a large navy was not required.

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