As I looked for research material on HMS Nigeria I was suprised to discover
that at end of WWII the crew of HMS Nigeria created its own publication
regarding the ship entitled, "HMS Nigeria Magazine". This was a single volume of 64 pages, edited by J.W. Aubrey and
printed by R. I. Severs, Ltd. of Cambridge in 1946. This work was written
by members of the crew and documents the actions of HMS Nigeria during
WWII. It is a soft cover publication and has several photo plates. About
half of the work documents the history of HMS Nigeria which may be viewed
Once I realized that this work existed, I combed the internet for several
months without success and by pure luck a copy came up for sale on ebay.
The work included a letter from the publishers to Mrs. D. E. Britten (of
Chessington, Surrey), dated November 28th, 1960 informing her that any
reprint of the work would be prohibitively expensive as the type had been
broken up long ago. She was provided with the last copy in their possession
which is what I purchased. A copy of the aforementioned letter can be found
|A SHORT HISTORY OF HMS NIGERIA
The following is a short account of the more important events in the history
of H.M.S. Nigeria.
H.M.S. NIGERIA was built by Messrs. Vickers Armstrong Ltd., at Newcastle. A Nigerian chief was invited to christen the ship at her launching, which he did, with due ceremony, and wearing his robes of state. A silver bell, suitably inscribed, was then presented to the ship on behalf of the people of Nigeria. She was commissioned on 3rd September, 1940, by Captain J. G. L. Dundas, Royal Navy, and her trials were completed on 23rd September, 1940.
After working up, NIGERIA became part of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, and was Flagship of the Squadron at various periods. She was based at Plymouth for a short time at the beginning of 1941, acting as part of the force which was operating in the Channel. Other than firing at enemy aircraft at a distance, the ship's first real job came on 28th August, when, in company with four destroyers, she steamed as far north as the ice-belt, to capture an enemy weather-reporting trawler. The operation was successful, and it is believed that this was the first time in this war that ships of the Royal Navy had penetrated so far north. When Spitzbergen had been taken, a thousand Russians were transferred to the troopship, EMPRESS OF CANADA, and escorted by NIGERIA to Archangel. This was followed by a bombardment of Bear Island, where two Norwegians were taken off and the W /T destroyed. NIGERIA carried out several Northern Patrols, twice providing cover for minelaying operations, and she also escorted convoys to Russia, working in co-operation with units of the Russian Fleet. During these many escort duties above the Arctic circle, the convoys as a whole were continuously subjected to bombing and torpedo attacks from enemy aircraft. NIGERIA suffered several near-misses, but sustained no damage.
It is interesting to note that during the ship's initial trip to Spitzbergen, a lecture was given in which it was stated that no British warship had been to Spitzbergen since the days of Nelson.
The ship spent some weeks based on Murmansk and her task was to meet incoming
convoys and escort them through the Kola Inlet. At that time the Russians
were still very suspicious of Great Britain. Some of the ship's officers
decided they would like to ski, but were told that they could not borrow
any skis, as there were insufficient for the Russian Army. It was soon
discovered, however, that the storekeeper would produce as many pairs of
skis as they wanted, was crossed with the magic packet of twenty Player's
cigarettes. Their abortive attempts at ski-ing drew large crowds of spectators
who roared with laughter at their antics. The Russians were soon convinced
that there could not possibly be any guile in these Britishers, and a warm
friendship began. They were entertained on board, and were very pleased
when their choir was asked to sing, which they did-magnificently!
If a lasting friendship with the U.S.S.R. is now an established fact, we
can at least feel that NIGERIA helped to lay the foundations.
There was no doubt about the desire of the Russian authorities to promote
goodwill with Great Britain, as the following story will show. One of the
Russian sentries had been insolent to some of the ship's officers, and
they felt they were justified in lodging a complaint through the liaison
officer on board. They received an assurance that the offender would be
dealt with, and when they next enquired what had happened to him, they
were informed that he had been shot. There were no further complaints on
ENGAGEMENT WITH ENEMY FORCES IN SVAERHOLTHAVET
On the night of September 6th-7th, 1941, H.M.S. NIGERIA wearing the flag of Rear Admiral Philip L. Vian, Commanding Tenth Cruiser Squadron, and H.M.S. AURORA (Captain W. G. Agnew, Royal Navy), on patrol in Northern waters, were searching Svaerholthavet Sound in bad visibility.
At 0133 land was reported and immediately afterwards a ship was seen followed
by others. Amongst them were identified the small German Cruiser BREMSE,
the escort vessels A.03 and L.30, and a trawler. These ships were at once
engaged at point blank range. The action that followed was confused due
to bad visibility and the sudden appearance and disappearance of the targets
in the mist. Hits were observed on L.30 which was believed to have been
sunk, and on the trawler. A.03 was hit and subsequently rammed and sunk
The BREMSE was engaged and she returned the fire; hits were observed on her and subsequently a heavy explosion. Further damage was inflicted on an unidentified enemy vessel. Later it was learned that BREMSE had sunk.
The action was broken off at 0155 when the enemy withdrew to the southward.
Pursuit was impossible due to the damage caused to NIGERIA by the collision
; her bows were crushed forward of No. 11 station and the damage extended
aft to No. 22 station. Apart from superficial damage in AURORA, no other
damage was incurred in either ship. There were no casualties. NIGERIA was
repaired at South Shields and returned to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron at
the beginning of 1942, to resume duties as Flagship of Rear Admiral H.
|VISIT OF HIS MAJESTY THE KING, JUNE 6TH-8TH, 1942
On Saturday, June 6th, His Majesty the King arrived to pay a three-day visit to the Home Fleet at Scapa. During that afternoon His Majesty, accompanied by the Commander-in-Chief, (Admiral Sir John Tovey, K.C.B.), visited H.M. Ships LONDON, NORFOLK, NIGERIA and MANCHESTER. The nick-name" Highgate Village," given to the cabin flat in the after superstructure, was changed to "Highgate Regis " after the King had passed through during his inspection.
On the following day His Majesty visited U.S.S. WICHITA and U.S.S. WASHINGTON,
of Task Force 99, attached to the Home Fleet.
On 28th June, 1942 Captain J. G. L. Dundas, Royal Navy was succeeded in
command by Captain S. H. Paton, Royal Navy.
|MALTA CONVOY-OPERATION "PEDESTAL"
On 10th August, 1942, H.M.S. NIGERIA wearing the Flag of Rear Admiral H. M. Burrough, left Gibraltar as part of a large escort for an important convoy to Malta.
The Senior Officer was Vice Admiral E. W. Syfret, who wore his Flag in
H.M.S. NELSON. Other ships in the escort included H. M. Ships RODNEY, ILLUSTRIOUS,
INDOMITABLE, EAGLE, MANCHESTER, KENYA, CAIRO; H. M. Destroyers ASHANTI,
TARTAR, FORESIGHT, PENN, LEDBURY. DERWENT. BICESTER, WILTON and other ships.
On 12th August the air attacks started; NIGERIA at this time was leading the port column of the convoy.
At 1956 on the 12th, a torpedo struck the ship on the port side abreast the forward funnel. A list of 17° developed in a few minutes. The Lower Steering Position was destroyed and for a quarter of an hour the ship was out of control. Casualties were 4 Officers and 48 Ratings killed, and 15 wounded.
The Admiral and his Staff were transferred to H.M.S. ASHANTI. H.M. Destroyers
LEDBURY, BICESTER, WILTON and DERWENT were detailed as a screen (subsequently
augmented) and course set for Gibraltar on one unit at 14 knots. The list
was removed but the ship was trimmed 11 feet by the bow. On the next day
the speed was increased to 16 knots. Gibraltar was reached at 0200 on 15th
August. During this operation H. M. Ships EAGLE, MANCHESTER and CAIRO were
sunk. Four of the convoy of thirteen ships, including the tanker Ohio,
The damage was extensive and all compartments between No. 53 station and
No. 90 station were flooded to the Lower Deck level. This included the
Boys', Stokers', and Marines' Messdecks, the T.S., Main Switchboard and
the Lower Steering Position.
NIGERIA remained at Gibraltar for two months for temporary repairs after
which she proceeded to Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A., for a major
refit. In July, 1943, she returned to England to complete the refit at
Chatham. Finally, on 1st January, 1944, she left Chatham and arrived at
Scapa Flow on 5th January for working up.
NIGERIA'S first operation after working tip was to form part of a powerful task force which accompanied the aircraft carrier H.M.S. FURIOUS, in an attack on Bergen. An air-strike was flown off when we were about 100 miles off the Norwegian coast, but they unfortunately failed to locate the convoy which was supposed to be in the vicinity. They therefore chose their own targets, and before returning, effectively bombed and shot-up three enemy ships. In spite of many Radar warnings, no air attacks developed and we returned to Scapa without incident.
The next job was to be a Russian convoy and the night before we were due
to sail, the Ship's Company were busily reading pamphlets on how to keep
warm in Arctic climates, and inspecting their "Pusser's long-drawers".
It was a surprise next morning to hear that H.M.S. JAMAICA had taken our
place. The Captain cleared lower-deck and told the Ship's Company that
they might write home and say that the ship was going somewhere warm for
a short while. NIGERIA sailed for Greenock next day with everyone in good
heart, thinking that they were to take a convoy out East, and that in a
few months they would be back again in the Home Fleet, and it was not until
the ship arrived at Colombo that we realised we were to be part of the
On 3rd March, 1944, NIGERIA left Greenock to join the Eastern Fleet based
at Trincomalee, and arrived in Ceylon on March 29th. After participating
in an operation against Sabang in April as part of the covering force for
the Carriers who flew off an air strike, the ship missed the Sourabaya
operation owing to trouble with the rudder which necessitated spending
the whole of May at Colombo.
Captain H. A.King, D.S.O., Royal Navy, assumed command on 25th June in
succession to Captain S. H. Paton, Royal Navy.
On 25th July, NIGERIA took part in a bombardment of Sabang by the whole
Fleet. During the bombardment, a fighter pilot who had been "spotting"
over the target area was shot down, and seen to bale out about three miles
away, fine on the starboard bow. Rear Admiral A. D. Read, C.B., who was
now our Admiral, instructed the Captain to complete the run on the starboard
side, and then to search for the pilot. Another aircraft kept flying over
the spot where the plane had crashed into the sea, which was very misleading,
and after a careful search of the area which yielded no results, it was
decided to turn and rejoin the rest of the Fleet at full speed, as they
were by this time some 20 miles away. The pilot was suddenly sighted on
the starboard bow, waving the paddles of his rubber dinghy frantically.
The Captain turned towards him and realised a life-long ambition when he
rang down "Full Astern Both" from "Full Ahead". The
ship came up all standing and the result was a most beautiful alongside,
which was a wonderful piece of ship-handling when one remembers that the
ship was doing over 30 knots, but some of the Stokers' comments, who had
no idea of what was happening, are quite unprintable! The pilot was so
close that it was possible to throw him a heaving line.
His delight was manifest, and he responded nobly to Commander (S.) Shewell's
request "Smile please", when he was taking a photograph of the
pilot while he was still in his rubber dinghy, before being hauled inboard.
He managed to walk for'ard to the Sick Bay, but there he collapsed from
his wounds. Such injuries in the tropics tend to go septic very quickly,
so the P.M.O. decided to operate immediately and removed the pieces of
shrapnel from his arm, shoulder and legs. The pilot, Lieutenant Retallick,
R.N.V.R., was up before we returned to Trincomalee, and proved to be a
He later came over from VICTORIOUS and delivered a most amusing lecture on his experiences. Among other things, he told the Ship's Company he could not swim, but he assured them he was learning!
A month later the ship sailed for Fremantle, escorting a troop convoy,
and remained there three weeks - greatly to the benefit and enjoyment of
everyone - before starting on a similar escort duty back to Colombo.
After a quiet three months, more activity began at the New Year in connection
with operations on the Arakan coast.
From April to December, 1944, when he transferred to Newcastle, the ship
wore the Flag of Rear Admiral A. D. Read, C.B.
The ship was present at the bloodless capture of Akyab, and then was sent
with KENYA to Bombay to embark 6 L.C.P's(M)'s each. These were transported
to Trincomalee, and later in the month re-embarked and used to land the
Royal Marines of the Fleet (including a troop from NIGERIA) at Cheduba.
During this operation the ship carried out bombardments both of Cheduba
and also neighbouring island of Ramree.
March and April were spent refitting at Simonstown. On the ship's return to Ceylon, Rear Admiral W. R. Patterson, Commanding Fifth Cruiser Squadron, transferred his Flag to NIGERIA and remained until August.
Activities during the summer included covering minesweeping off Car Nicobar
and bombardments in that area; 10 days docking at Bombay and then, when
Japan had given in, forming part of the covering force for the landing
of the Malaya Occupation Force.
The last bit of work NIGERIA did before starting for the United Kingdom was to act as guard ship at Sabang for 31 weeks. During this time a platoon was landed to provide sentries. Much work was done in putting motor vehicles and other machinery into working order, and most important of all, the Hospital was got going, and literally thousands of natives who had had no medical attention for over three years were seen and treated.
On the 5th of January, 1945, as soon as Nigeria had made fast in Trinco
on her return from Akyab, "Mike" troop of Royal Marines was ordered
to land at Cod Bay Camp. When we were "fallen in" on the Quarter
Deck, the ship was again preparing for sea. "Love" troop from
Kenya joined us at the camp and added to the scores of buzzes about possible
Next day we moved to Kinniya, some twelve miles from Trincomalee, where
we found a Lieutenant-Colonel PictonPhilips, R. M. in process of moulding
some 500 Marines from the ships in the fleet into Force "Wellington".
We were told that we were to do ten days intensive training before embarking
on an operation. Everyone set to with a will. In the concentrated tactical
exercises, the troops hurled themselves into the attack, with bullets flying
here, there and everywhere, or frantically dug fox-holes in defence, whilst
the Troop-Sergeant-Major (Colour Sergeant Glover) had a private battle
with piles of "lists". There were masses of them, about every
conceivable thing. And then on the very day we were to embark, the operation
was cancelled. Our objective, Ramree Island, off the Arakan Coast had been
taken by an Army Division. They tried to console us by promising another
stunt very soon, and so our main object was now to keep fit, which Nigeria's
Marines did, by beating up their rivals from Kenya and Newcastle at football,
tug o' war and other more military sports.
A week later we found ourselves on board H.M.S. Kenya our destination the
island of Cheduba, five miles south of Ramree. Every man was confident
that Force "Wellington" could easily cope with 150 Japanese expected
to be in the garrison. Detailed planning had enabled every man to see his
own of objective in photograph and diagram. "D" Day was Friday,
26th January, and no one could but feel exhilarated, as we scrambled down
the nets in to the L.C.A's. The jar of rum which we carried with us was
hardly necessary to maintain the morale of the "Nigerias", though
it was much appreciated as always. In the first wave we crept towards the
beach on which we could see our six-inch shells falling, and the spurts
of sand, ploughed up by the bullets from the supporting aircraft.
"Open Doors-Down Ramp" - The troop rushed ashore, only ankle deep in water. We tore across the beach, paused for a moment to reorganise and then on, without hindrance, through our objectives. The suspicious looking characters we saw turned out to be natives, and our only prisoner, a local boy. He told our Intelligence that there were only six Japs left on the island. The garrison had fled. "Love" Troop earned our derision when a few of their number failed to round up the remaining Japanese who were concealed in a very difficult position. Corporal "Dinger" Bell and the ever confident Lance Corporal Bown lamented - "Wish it had been us. We'd have had a go".
The Force now took up a wide defensive perimeter at "Kathleen"
- the Burmese names are hopeless! - where we found the people extremely
friendly, once they had overcome their fear. We ensconced ourselves in
a dry paddy field, and from there operated patrols along the coast. We
also blew several mines on the beaches and then only did we realize that
we had cleared a minefield, as we came in, by a mere foot.
Some of the troop built themselves small shelters, but luckily there was no rain, and our one blanket which came up with our packs, and the fact that we had to sleep clothed, kept us quite warm at night. Barter assisted our compo-ration immeasurably. The Burmese partiality for soap, clothing and cigarettes, was more than equalled by the Marines partiality for chicken and rice. (Viz. the next kit-muster). The Sergeant-Major's roast chicken was deservedly famous, and poor Donald Duck survived only a few days as an honorary member of the Sergeants' Mess on board, before he too met a dismal end in the interests of the culinary art.
Wishing to show their gratitude for their liberation, the villagers put on a Victory Dance for us. The dancers were a very "portly" matron and a very young girl, who performed a wrigglesome version of the "Black Bottom". A more "cultured" native then sang "Yes, we have no bananas". It was difficult to be really appreciative.
On January 30th we prepared to re-embark and held a singsong round a blazing
camp fire. Wets of tea and "neaters" aided the larynx, and all
of us enjoyed this final expression of good comradeship which had helped
us through a period of sweat and excitement, humour and disappointment.
We were back on board NIGERIA next day, and "Mike" Troop which
had now become `X' turret's crew once again, were kept busy adding their
quota of 6" shells to the bombardment of Ramree.
||by: LT. A. J. PARKER, Royal Marines.
During the last days of our refit at Simonstown, it was obvious that the
capitulation of Germany could not be far distant. We all had great hopes
that the end would come while we were still in the Cape, so that we could
join in the festivities ashore, but our luck was out. We had received orders
to proceed forthwith to Ceylon, where we were to become Flagship of the
5th Cruiser Squadron, and when we arrived at Trincomalee, we sailed immediately
after oiling, in order to join in the chase of the Japanese Cruiser which
was discovered steaming up the Malacca Straits. The Flag was transferred
from CUMBERLAND at sea.
So when the news of the surrender of Germany came through, we were oiling at Diego Suarez, and on the day officially appointed as V.E. Day we were once again under way. Our celebrations were naturally curtailed, and we had to content ourselves with splicing the mainbrace and "Big Eats", which would have been worthy of any provided on Christmas Day.
On the 9th of May, however, the Captain cleared lower deck and we held a short Thanksgiving Service on the Quarter Deck. It was made all the more impressive by the fact that we had turned specially down wind and reduced speed to make it possible for us to join in with the rest of the Empire in giving thanks to God for our deliverance. Before the service started the Captain addressed the Ship's Company.
"I have got you all here this morning so that we can give thanks for
the victory in Europe. None of us can fail to feel a deep sense of thankfulness
when we cast our minds back to 1939, when we went to war feeling we weren't
too well prepared, or to 1940, with its threat of invasion and the formation
of the Home Guard, the blitz, and the courage of the civilian population,
which I am convinced (I speak for myself anyhow) made all of us in the
fighting services feel that we mustn't let them down after the magnificent
example they had set us at home in the blitz-our mothers, our fathers,
wives and all our friends in the bombed areas.
I don't have to remind you (after all you will have read recently in the papers at the Cape about concentration camps) what our lot would have been had Germany defeated us.
But we're not out of the wood yet. We still have the Japs to deal with.
Don't let us forget the thousands of prisoners they hold and whom we must
help to get back - many of them, let me remind you, are relatives and friends
of our friends in Australia. Australia herself was in imminent danger of
invasion by the Japanese, and this risk must never be allowed to happen
again. We must make certain of that, for the sake of those that come after
Remember also that the war in Europe could not have been won without American
help, and apart from any other considerations, its up to us to help the
Americans to defeat their principal enemy who attacked them without warning,
Finally, let us not forget the Crown of England and His Majesty the King,
who, together with the Queen, has set us all such a splendid example of
calm courage and cheerfulness throughout the war. In this ship we have
representatives from all over the British Commonwealth - from Canada, New
Zealand, The Union of South Africa, Rhodesia and others and may I remind
you that constitutionally the only thing binding us all together is our
common loyalty to the Crown, that thread which is woven right through our
hundreds of years of history, and which, because of its very permanence,
I am certain is one of the most important factors on which our strength
and unity of purpose, so far in this war, has depended. In my mind, it
is the outward expression of our ancient country "home" to most
of us here, the "old country" to the others rather like some
of our old buildings, Westminster Abbey, Rochester Castle, Durham Cathedral
and Holyrood Palace.
When we sing "God Save The King", therefore, I suggest that you
think of this broader aspect. The King, whoever he is for the time being
(and our present one is one of the finest we've ever had), is a symbol
of something we should otherwise find difficult to express the "something"
which binds all of us in the Empire together. And now let us give thanks
to God for this great victory".
Only Walt Disney with a lavish fantasy in technicolour could do justice
to the scenes in Trincomalee Harbour on V-J night. All the ships were floodlit,
"V" signs in electric lights hung from every masthead, searchlight
beams played across the skies, and rockets and coloured Verey lights made
the kaleidoscopic effect complete. It was a night of great rejoicing, but
there was nothing to compare with the wild frenzy which was displayed in
England. One might explain it by saying that it was difficult to become
deliriously "happy" on one extra tot of rum, but the real reason
was that all of us realised that the road to Victory had been hard and
long, many of our friends had been lost on the way, and that there was
yet work to be done.
We had not long to wait. Shortly after V-J day the Fleet was sent to sea
with a small force of Royal Marines, in addition to those usually carried
in ships, in the hope that they might be able to effect the occupation
of Penang, while the main forces originally intended for the assault were
still assembling. This assault was planned to take place very soon and
the Japanese were only saved from a crushing defeat by their timely capitulation.
However, the Japanese delay in signing the terms of surrender in Burma
and Malaya, made a landing at Penang, with so small a force, impossible,
and therefore the Fleet was kept steaming up and down off the Nicobars
for what seemed an eternity, before the Japanese eventually signed and
we were able to move in.
The Fleet arrived off Penang, and Commander Sakai, the senior Japanese Staff officer, and Lt. Commander Yamaguchi, representing Rear Admiral Nozumi, who was in command of all forces in Penang, repaired on board the Flagship, H.M.S. Nelson. A guarantee was given that no attack would be made on the British Fleet off Penang. Charts were supplied, as well as information about minefields and swept channels.
On the 6th anniversary of the outbreak of war, the "Princess Beatrix" and "Queen Emma" and two destroyers proceeded to Penang at 0500. In the "Queen Emma" were "7" and "9" Sections of Seamen from "Nigeria", under the command of Mr. Thompson and Midshipman Miller, in addition to "Nigeria's" Royal Marines, who formed part of the Royal Marine task force. They berthed without incident at Swettenham Pier, and on the jetty were about 9 Japanese officers, 60 Japanese ratings and 10 former Malayan officials. The Marines marched ashore and formed a square round the flagstaff in the centre of the pier. The Malayan officials were at the rear of the flagstaff and the Japanese well back at the end of the pier. In the meantime H.M.S. "Volage", wearing the Flag of Vice-Admiral Walker, came alongside, and the Royals were brought to attention and given the order "Slope Arms". The Senior Officer then reported to the Admiral, and turning to the flagstaff, the Admiral gave the order "Break the Union jack". The "Still" was sounded, and Colonel Grant, R.M., gave the order "General Salute, Present Arms". "Ceylon's" band played "The King" and the Admiral then gave the order "Carry on Senior Officer taking charge of the occupation of Penang". The rising sun of the Empire of Nippon had set ingloriously on Penang, and the flag of the Empire, on which the sun never sets, floated proudly in the breeze.
Colonel Grant, R. M., instructed the Area Section Commanders to take charge
of their detachments and to proceed to their various tasks. "Nigeria's"
Royal Marines formed part of the Town section. "7" and "9"
sections now went ashore and commandeered a lorry with a Malayan driver,
and as soon as the lorry got out of the dock gates, it ran into dense crowds
of cheering people, who swarmed on the lorry, giving the 'V' sign, and
taking obvious delight in treating the Japanese guards with contempt, who
were vainly trying to keep the crowds back. When they reached the Seaplane
Base, the base was formally handed over, sentries were posted, and A.B.
Degnan and others set to work to put the 30 cars and 4 lorries which had
been immobilised into commission. They had considerable success, but after
his hard work, it was perhaps a little galling for Degnan as being the
best driver, to be called out at 0200 to drive the Fire Engine with the
"new guard" of Royal Marines who were going to relieve the "old
There was extensive bomb damage in the town, and the native shops appeared to be quite empty, though a few vegetables could be procured at the market. Chickens and eggs were plentiful, and could at first be obtained by trading a few cigarettes, until a glut of cigarettes on the market resulted in the Malayans' offering for sale to our troops "Player's, Duty Free, H.M. Ships Only".
The people were deliriously happy and comparatively well-dressed - the
women in pyjama-like trousers, and the men in shirts and shorts. Their
main problem was food. Conditions during the occupation were terrible,
and the population had been half starved.
The occupation was carried out by about 500 Royal Marines with a few platoons of Seamen. The Japanese forces in Penang numbered about 4,000, so it was a relief when the Japanese agreed to vacate the island. They were allowed to take their arms and equipment as the general surrender terms had not yet been signed at Singapore, but this did not prevent our men from relieving many Japanese officers of their ceremonial swords.
|THE LANDINGS AT PORT SWETTENHAM
Six years and one week after the outbreak of war and exactly two years after the landings at Salerno, the operation to re-occupy Malaya took place. The plans were those which had been drawn up before the Jap surrender and with the same end in view. The whole force consisted of British (U.K. and Indian) personnel and no American troops took part. Rear Admiral B. C. S. Martin, D.S.O., R.N., the ex-lower deck Admiral, was in charge of planning and the execution of the operation.
There were 182 ships altogether, not counting the landing craft of the
Fleet. The marshalling of this immense armada explains the delay at Trincomalee
after 'V-J' Day. The Fleet consisted of Nelson, Richelieu, Ceylon and Nigeria,
together with the destroyers Nubian, Tartar, Paladin, Petard and Relentless.
There were also 3 H.M.I.S. Sloops, 8 landing craft (gun) and 11 landing
craft (rocket), M.L's., and various other support craft, including all
types of L.S.T.s and L.S.I.s.
The object of the operation was to round up, disarm, despoil and tranship back to Japan, all the enemy troops, and occupy Malaya and Singapore. With indifferent roads and only one railway running north from Singapore, it had been decided that this could be accomplished more easily from Port Swettenham and Port Dickson, than from Singapore, whence the huge military force and supplies would require to have been dispatched.
The gallant little Minesweeping craft prepared a channel for the passage through the Malacca Straits. This they marked with Dan buoys at short intervals and so successful was their work that not a single ship was mined, though the Richelieu cut one with her starboard paravane. Nevertheless, the task of our Captain and Navigator, who were on the Bridge most of the night, was by no means an easy one.
Positions were taken up under cover from the warships. In one group the L.S.I.s ready to lower their craft, in another the L.S.T.s, in another the reserve supply group with oil, ammunition, stores, etc. The escort carrier Pursuer gave air cover with her planes. The C. in C. East Indies Station was present, using the Cleopatra as his barge.
At 0645 the first assault force comprising the 25th Indian Division landed on the beaches, flanked during their approach by the L.S.(G)s. They were followed two hours later by the 5th Div. First they had to establish a bridgehead on the beaches. (2) Advance and capture the airfield of Morib and strategic bridges, (3) Capture Swettenham airfield and Port Swettenham. (4) Capture Damsansara and (5) capture Kuala Lampur and Kuala Salunga. Another force of troops from the Punjab and Hyderabad, supported by half a squadron of the 19th Lancers and one troop of the 96th Field Regiment, sailed up the Langat river, established a bridgehead, captured Klang and advanced to meet the other troops at Morib.
The landings were unopposed. One shot was actually fired and caused a minor
flap, but it was discovered that it was quite accidental. The overjoyed
locals gave the information that the Japs had left the coast on 18th August,
three days after `V -J' day. Later it was reported that all Jap forces
had retired 20 miles inland to Kuala Lampur and that everything was going
according to plan.
On the bridge this morning the Captain said to me: "You are probably
watching the last major landing operation in this generation, perhaps in
human history." To that fervent hope, we all echo a hearty Amen.
| by: A. NICOL, Chaplain, R.N.
Sabang is situated on the Island of Pulo We, at the northern tip of Sumatra, from which it is separated by the Malacca Passage about 10 miles wide. The population is about 5,000, the majority of whom are Malays. The Chinese come next and in peace time there were Dutch.
Sabang was a place of some importance being used by the Dutch as an oiling station for Merchant ships trading between the Netherlands East Indies and Europe, South Africa and America, thus avoiding buying oil from foreign sources. As many as 20 merchant ships have been seen in the Harbour at a time.
THE JAP OCCUPATION:
Before the Dutch left, they carried out a policy of destruction which involved the oil tanks, the jetties and other installations. The Japanese arrived on 12th March, 1942, landing at Balonan, the part from which they eventually also evacuated. Troops arrived in Sabang at midnight, but there was no fighting.
Several natives to whom I spoke maintain that the Japanese treated them badly and there were many incidents of slapping and kicking. Slapping across the face seems to have been quite common even when a command was given in Japanese and not understood by the natives.
From one or two sources I have heard of incidents where people tried by the Jap Military Court, were afterwards strung up by the foot and left hanging. There were a number of cases of filling up folks with water until they were abominably distended and in intense pain. Being utterly helpless, they could do nothing for themselves and were then thrown aside by the amused Japs. There was also a Jap Gestapo, and people who were arrested and taken to a Military Court disappeared afterwards and it was not known whether they had been put to death or sent off the Island to labour elsewhere.
Soon after they arrived, the Japs ordered all the men to assemble and one of them harangued them, thanking the people for receiving them and hoping that things would continue as in peace time.
The Japs set about the task of making the Island a little fortress. 3,000 coolies were brought in from Sumatra and they laboured in the construction of gun emplacements, military roads, repairing the aerodrome runways and other damage done by the Dutch before leaving, damage which included the destruction of bridges.
These were well chosen and were all covered with slit trenches containing
light and heavy automatic guns. Each position had a very solidly constructed
magazine dug into the earth and heavily concreted. These positions could
therefore be selfsupporting for long periods.
One of the most interesting of these was a position hewn into the side
of a cliff. It was about 50 feet deep and was well concealed with enormous
over-hanging trees, while the thickness of the shrubbery would absorb a
great deal of the smoke and make it extremely difficult for an invasion
force to see what was hitting them unless they actually saw the flash of
the gun. The gun itself was a British 4.7 placed about 20 yards back from
the face of the cliff, and had a traverse of 10-15 degrees, with a very
limited elevation. It was mounted on concrete and had heavy concrete protection
over and around it, so that only the barrel of the gun protuded through
a small slit hole. The gun commanded an open beach which would have made
an otherwise ideal landing place. In course of erection nearby, was an
observation tower of brick and concrete, built behind the mounting in the
Mines were employed on the beaches and in strategic positions where attempts
might be made' to avoid fire from defending points. A number of British
type Teller mines and a number of Antenna were found on the beaches, while
the Japs also used a converted naval bomb. These would not normally explode
if a single person walked over them but were adjusted to give a warm reception
to anything heavier. One minefield examined revealed that the fuses had
been tampered with and some had trip wires attached.
This was very well constructed, lying on an excellent plateau on the `roof' of the island. There were two main runways, but a circular road ran right round the airfield and was constructed of concrete, so that in an emergency planes could take off from it. The air-raid shelters were very well hidden and strongly constructed. One which looked like a little knoll with trees on it, was found to have a cover of 20-30 feet of palm trunks and concrete, while the sides were of bricks and concrete. There were no paths leading to the shelters and all were covered with jungle growth. Some dummy batteries of A.A. guns were found and the wrecks of three machines, one of which was certainly unserviceable, having no engine, but which was dolled up as a target decoy. A twinengined bomber looked as if it had crashed on landing, as it had been shot up by machine-gun fire and had the port undercarriage missing, while the starboard was buckled under it. The Control Tower was a simple affair, but from its elevated position, it commanded a wide view across land and sea.
STORES AND EQUIPMENT:
A wide dispersal principle governed these. Bombs, unfused and for future
use, lay in heaps by the roadsides on the edge of the jungle. Large stacks
of drums of fuel were in similar positions, but were unmarked, though there
seemed to be "something of everything" in each dump-lubricating
oil, high and low octane spirit, etc. A large number of British rifles
were found, with new short shoulder butts fixed and the bayonet standards
altered to take Jap ones. Large quantities of gelignite were found in many
places, indicating that resistance was to be a "last man" affair
and that they would then destroy themselves.
Tunnels were constructed on a considerable scale, to store food, ammunition
and equipment. In one place, these were driven right through a hill and
had an exit at the opposite end. The construction of these certainly indicated
that they were intended to be permanent structures and that the Japs thought
they were "there for keeps".
Food was stored according to a well thought out plan and was widely distributed.
It would indicate that the island was divided into areas, with separate
stores of food and ammunition, so that if communication was severed, each
could exist on its own resources for a considerable time.
All their actions seem to have been based on this principle, namely that the Co-Prosperity Sphere had already been extended under the leadership of the Empire of Nippon, and that that "New Order" must be defended against all comers. In one place, Headquarters were being built underground, between the beaches and the gun positions, so that maximum co-ordination in defence could be obtained.
The troops and others seem to have been making "suicide" bombs as a sort of local industry. All over the island there were large quantities of picric acid which was being filled into containers. These were probably to be fitted with fuses and could then have been used either as booby traps or as self destroying weapons.
The Japanese soldiers were accomodated in barracks built everywhere and
these also looked as if they were not meant to be temporary. They were
not just " pushed up " but were well and solidly built and some
of the woodwork was excellent.
When their troops first arrived, there were incidents of women and girls
being attacked. This seems to have ceased when a contingent of "Comfort
Girls" arrived and were housed in brothels just below the Hospital.
On their "make and mend" the troops were paraded as a unit, so
that their pleasures were organised on a system of rotation. One report
says that 10 of these "comfort girls" gave birth to infants.
LIFE IN SABANG:
At the beginning of the occupation, life went on as usual, the shops remained open, but their stocks dwindled and were not replenished. The people were ordered to hand over their good clothing to the Japs and this order was enforced, though most people succeeded in concealing quite an amount which they brought out after we took over. I was informed that the Chinese population refused to do any work for the Japs.
Before the Japanese occupation, there were Football and Badminton clubs and sometimes Swimming Galas at the Swimming Pool. Tennis does not seem to have been played a great deal in view of the high cost of racquets and balls, but Shuttlecocks, made in India, were very cheap. There was a Cinema, and American, British and Dutch `Talkies' were shown, and to a lesser extent German and Chinese, while occasionally there was an Indian film. When stocks of these were exhausted, Japanese films were shown.
The ration of rice was reduced to 3 kilogrammes per month plus 3 kilos of ersatz powder called Sagu. Since the British landed, this has been increased to 10 kilos of rice per month. When the people were finally ordered to vacate their houses and go to the Plantations, they were compelled to cultivate ground and grow rice.
The Japs printed paper money, but the Dutch currency remained in circulation,
though most people hid it away. The new notes were equal in value with
the old, the Japanese guilder being equal to a Dutch. Eventually there
was nothing to buy, no clothing, no soap or any of the ordinary features
of daily life.
The Japanese did not use the Hospital except for their own men, but a Clinic opened for three hours a week to attend to the local inhabitants. I learn that a prohibitive price was charged for each dressing, so that to all intents and purposes there was no medical service. The Japanese took no anti-malarial precautions, and almost everyone in the island had malaria to a greater or lesser degree.
In striking contrast, the P.M.O. and his staff did a magnificent job. The
doctors saw 1,100 cases and over 2,500 went through the out-patients' dressing
department. Two amputations - a leg and an arm - were done in the theatre
and four babies were born during our time at Sabang. Two small wards bore
the crests of the destroyers Rocket and Penn, and the larger wards, those
of the London, Phoebe and Nigeria. One women's ward, two men's wards and
one for Marines were opened. The language difficulty was overcome by two
men who acted as interpreters. Many who had previously worked at the hospital
returned, and there was a Dispenser, a laboratory attendant, a nurse, several
men and women watchers and other helpers. Three Chinese girls came in to
assist in the dressing department and did excellent work.
The Malays spoke their own language, and the Chinese used their language as it is spoken in Canton, as distinguished from the Mandarin Chinese of the films.
There was a Roman Catholic Chapel, but the Priest had been removed - no
one knows where - soon after the Japanese arrived. I visited the chapel
and found it ruinous, with images smashed and an atmosphere of sadness
The Malays are mainly Mohammedans and usually wear the fez. There was,
in the town, a Chinese Temple of the ordinary variety, and behind the candles
and furniture, there was a "doll" or wooden idol. When I asked
what they called this, I was told that it could be translated "grandfather"
in English. Further enquiries established that they indulged in Ancestor
Worship, a very ancient faith which the Chinese, 700 years before Christ,
took with them to Japan. This ultimately led to the "ancestor worship"
of the dead Mikado and the attribution of divinity to the Emperor of Japan
- "The Son of Heaven".
After the departure of the Japanese life was slowly but surely returning
to normal. Most of the people had returned from the hills to their houses
and when adequate food and supplies are available the shops will all re-open.
But what the future of the Netherlands East Indies possessions will be,
no one can yet say.
| by: A. NICOL, C.of S. Chaplain, R.N.
WESTERN AUSTRALIAN AND SOUTH AFRICAN HOSPITALITY
We found it very difficult to try and express our gratitude for the kindness which we received from the people of Western Australia and South Africa. The heat of the tropics, the long periods of inactivity and the lack of amenities in Trincomalee were guaranteed to make anyone "Chokker - TWO BLOCKS", and so these visits to more civilised lands and more temporate climes were indeed welcome. But none of us expected to have such a good time as we did.
When we arrived at Fremantle, Mr. Murray of the Western Australian Comforts
Fund, was waiting on the quayside with 50 crates of apples which were hoisted
on board by the crane and distributed to the Ship's Company before we had
finished securing. We had not seen an apple for over a year! The Reverend
J. W. Clift, the Chaplain of the Mission to Seamen, had already arranged
leave for everyone in a private home and so we were all able to spend a
most delightful six days in a very friendly home atmosphere. It was spring
time and the days were crisp and sunny and the country side was looking
very beautiful, especially the wild flowers for which Western Australia
is famed. What a change from Trincomalee! When walking down the street,
the men of the Ship's Company were stopped by the townsfolk who asked the
inevitable question "Are you a Pommie?" When they answered that
they were, the conversation went something like this: - "My father
is a Pommie too. He came from Southampton. Got anywhere to stay? Come and
spend your evenings with us." The Mayor and his Committee gave the
ship tickets for dances and made the men honorary members of the servicemen's
Clubs. The British Sailors' Society gave us a new library. The Comforts
Fund gave us footballs, jerseys, tennis racquets and gramophone records,
books and indoor games, etc., and, before we came away, crates and crates
of oranges and apples, not only for ourselves, but also for our less fortunate
companions who had been left behind in Trincomalee. None of us will ever
forget their wonderful hospitality and we were very disappointed that we
were unable to renew our acquaintance over a "schooner" before
we left the Eastern Fleet.
The people of South Africa had been set a high standard but they certainly maintained it. We were put into touch with the S.A.W.A.S. (local equivalent of the W.V.S.) our first morning in Simonstown. The Chaplain was asked to visit the head office that afternoon where he found Mrs. Scaiffe, Mrs. Brunt, Mrs. Roscoe and Mrs. Campbell, who informed him of the arrangements which could be made for the Ship's Company leave and, as regards other amenities, he had only to ask and he would receive. The Ship would provide railway warrants up to 500 miles and their organisation would pay the extra where necessary and so the foundations were laid for a really enjoyable visit. The actual arrangements for getting the Ship's Company into homes throughout the region of South Africa were done by another Officer of the S.A.W.A.S. - Mrs. Money. It was amazing how she managed to find time to do it, as she was assistant editor of the Cape Argus, which, in itself, is a full time job. But it is always the really busy person who manages to get things done and she had everyone fixed up in a few days and remained cheerful even when inconsiderate people changed their minds at the last moment. Some chose to go to Johannesburg, some to the more remote districts in the veldt, some to the seaside towns, and others to stay in the vicinity of Cape Town, but all returned with glowing tales of the wonderful time they had had, and of the great kindness of their hosts and hostesses.
A few of us stayed with Mrs. Carleton Jones, the President of the Navy War Fund. While we were there she asked us whether we wanted anything for the ship and we naturally replied in the affirmative. But when she asked us what we wanted, it was difficult to say as we had no idea how much the Navy War Fund could afford. Mrs. Carleton Jones then sensed our embarrassment and put us at ease by telling us not to worry about cost and asked if about £500 would be all right. We had expected £35! So when we were choosing indoor games, we merely had to state how many messes and they wrote down "56 Uckers" or "56 Chinese Checkers", and for the purchase of library books we were packed off with a cheque for £200, and told to choose our own. In a few days crates of indoor games, sports gear and library books arrived and also a beautiful piano, which was a personal gift to the Wardroom. Almost unbelievable generosity! The Chinese Checkers were specially appreciated by the Ship's Company, as they soon discovered that the coloured marbles were in reality aniseed balls!
For those who were not on leave and could not go "up homers" there was an excellent canteen in the Dockyard where the Big Eats were provided by Mrs. Young and her team of volunteer helpers. The "Good Companions" used to come down on certain nights of the week and act as partners at the Canteen Dances and even paid their own train fares. Everyone was most kind and helpful, and it was with bitter regret that we sailed at the end of the refit to rejoin the East Indies Fleet in the "glamorous" tropics.
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