The Royal New Zealand Navy
CHAPTER 29 — New Zealanders in the Royal Navy
New Zealanders in the Royal Navy
ABOUT 7000 New Zealand officers and ratings served with the Royal Navy for varying periods during the Second World War. The peak was reached in September 1944 when the total strength of the Royal New Zealand Navy was 10,635, of whom 1242 officers and 3659 ratings, a total of 4901, were serving overseas in ships and establishments of the Royal Navy. New Zealanders saw active service in ships of every type from battleships and aircraft-carriers to submarines, motor-launches, and landing craft and in every sea from Spitzbergen in the Arctic to Cape Horn and from Iceland to the shores of Japan. They took part in every major naval engagement or operation and in countless minor actions, as well as in the ceaseless patrols and sea drudgery that make up so great a part of naval warfare. A majority of them were ‘hostilities only’ men from farm, factory, office or college, and all gave a good account of themselves.
It has been an exceedingly difficult task to compress within the limits of a single chapter even the barest outline of their performance. The most that could be attempted was to indicate by categories of ships something of the wide scope of their varied service in a maritime war that encompassed the world. The story of naval warfare is one of ships rather than of individuals. In any case, the available personal records of New Zealanders who served in the Royal Navy are scanty and incomplete, and the several appeals made to them for details of their service evoked a somewhat meagre response.
To the possible objection that those mentioned in this narrative are mainly those who received decorations, it can be replied that they are truly representative of all who served. In the nature of warfare it is certain that for every man who is awarded a decoration there are scores who equally deserve one. As one authority has said, gallantry in the King's ships in time of war must, from the nature of the case, be rewarded rather differently from that shown in other forces. A ship fights as a unit. Unless she is gravely damaged, or unless there are exceptional circumstances, it is difficult for any individual to distinguish himself personally in an action. Naval decorations are therefore most frequently of a representative nature, except in those cases in which, by reason of detached service, a man is working or fighting alone. It is the ship or unit rather than the man which is recognised by a decoration. A sailor wears his honours not merely page 468 in token of his own bravery or devotion to duty but that of his shipmates.
Many New Zealand officers and ratings of the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve saw much arduous service in minesweepers overseas. The sweeping of mines in the fairways of sea traffic was a ceaseless task which employed 4205 officers and 52,850 men, 63 per cent of whom were of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. More than 20,000 mines were swept during the war by 1533 mine-sweeping vessels, 263 of which were sunk and 74 seriously damaged.
In July 1940, after their arrival in England in company with the Second Echelon, 2 NZEF, fourteen officers of the pre-war RNZNVR were appointed to ten minesweeping and anti-submarine vessels of the Tree class. They were organised as follows:
24th M/S A/S Group: Acacia, Commander R. Newman (senior officer) in command; Lieutenant A. G. Newell, first lieutenant. Birch, Lieutenant-Commander F. G. Tidswell, in command; Lieutenant J. E. Finch, first lieutenant. Deodar, Lieutenant-Commander P. G. Connolly, in command; Lieutenant J. H. Seelye, first lieutenant. Bay, Lieutenant P. Phipps, in command. Pine, Lieutenant C. G. Palmer, in command.
25th M/S A/S Group: Ash, Commander F. E. Taylor (senior officer) in command; Lieutenant J. Lennox King, first lieutenant. Chestnut, Lieutenant-Commander J. A. Smyth, in command. Walnut, Lieutenant-Commander G. Bridson, in command. Blackthorn, Lieutenant J. G. Hilliard, in command. Hickory, Lieutenant R. E. Harding, in command. A number of New Zealand ratings served in these ships, as well as in the anti-aircraft ship Alynbank which frequently accompanied them on convoy escort duties.
The Channel convoys had frequently to run the gauntlet of gunfire from the heavy batteries mounted by the Germans on the French coast. The Deodar and Blackthorn were damaged when their eastbound convoy was shelled in the Strait of Dover on 27 December 1940. The Ash, then commanded by Lieutenant Newell,2 was sunk by a mine in the Thames estuary on 5 June 1941. In nine months the New Zealanders in the Tree sweepers sailed with fifty-two convoys, in which only four merchant ships were lost by striking mines. During that period the Birch and Pine took part in five minesweeping operations. For good service and leadership and gallantry under enemy attack, Commander Newman was awarded the DSO and Lieutenant-Commanders Connolly and Tidswell3 and Lieutenants Phipps, Palmer,4 and Hilliard received the DSC. Newman, Tidswell, Phipps, Hilliard, and Newell were also mentioned in despatches. Telegraphist Leckie,5 who was serving in the Acacia, was awarded the DSM in March 1941. He lost his life in HMS Neptune in December 1941.
In October 1941 Palmer was appointed in command of HMS Cromarty, a unit of the 14th M/S Flotilla which took an important part in the capture of Diego Suarez, a French naval base in Madagascar. They escorted and swept the assault ships into Courrier Bay and accounted for nearly sixty mines, the Cromer and Cromarty being described as the ‘outstanding ships in the gallant 14th Flotilla.’ Palmer was awarded a mention in despatches for his part in the operations. Another New Zealand officer mentioned in despatches was Lieutenant Lennox King,6 gunnery officer of the destroyer Anthony and formerly of the Ash. When the assault on Antsirane was held up, the Anthony made a bold dash into Diego Suarez Bay and landed a party of Royal Marines from HMS Ramillies to create a diversion in the enemy's rear, this being the ‘principal and direct cause of the collapse of the French defence.’ The exploit of the Anthony was the subject of a special Order of the Day by Rear-Admiral E. N. Syfret, commanding the British force.
2 Lieutenant A. G. Newell, VRD, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Portsmouth, England, 18 Nov 1912; warehouseman.
3 Commander F. G. Tidswell, DSC, VRD, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born England, 11 Jan 1905; company director.
5 Leading Telegraphist J. C. Leckie, DSM, RNZNVR; born Dunedin, 14 Apr 1915; killed on active service 19 Dec 1941.
During the next six months the 14th M/S Flotilla was employed with the Eastern Fleet based at Kilindini, East Africa. In September 1942 Palmer in the Cromarty and the New Zealanders in the Illustrious took part in the capture of Majunga and other places which completed the occupation of Madagascar.
In October 1942 the 14th M/S Flotilla entered the Mediterranean and joined the Inshore Squadron, co-operating with the Eighth Army in its victorious advance westward from El Alamein. The flotilla had swept forty-six mines off Mersa Matruh when the Cromer was blown up on 6 November with the loss of her commanding officer and most of the ship's company, including one New Zealander, Leading Telegraphist Leigh,1 of Christchurch. Commander G. Irvine, RNR, formerly of Masterton, took over as senior officer of the flotilla, with Lieutenant-Commander Palmer as second in command. During the next six months the flotilla kept pace with the Army and swept the approaches to ten ports along 1800 miles of the North African coast as far as Sousse, besides escorting convoys of supply ships, including one to Malta. At Tripoli in February 1943 the flotilla was inspected by Mr Churchill and General Montgomery, the latter also making a special visit to congratulate the ships' companies on their performance as a vital link in the chain of operations. For his part, Palmer was awarded a bar to his DSC.
Palmer's division of four sweepers took part in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and swept the approaches to Syracuse, Augusta and Catania, and the Strait of Messina. Off Syracuse on 12 July the division attacked and captured the Italian submarine Bronzo with thirty-six of her crew. For his services Palmer was again mentioned in despatches. At that time Lieutenant L. R. Philpot, RNZNVR, was navigating officer of HMS Poole in Palmer's division and later Lieutenant P. C. Sheffield, RNZNVR, joined her as first lieutenant. In September the division opened the port of Crotone in the southern approach to the Gulf of Taranto, sweeping 100 mines in seven days. While the division was clearing the Strait of Bonifacio between Sardinia and Corsica, the Cromarty struck a mine and sank with the loss of five officers and twenty ratings. A New Zealand rating, Telegraphist Ian Millar, escaped injury, but Lieutenant-Commander Palmer was seriously wounded and spent more than a year in hospital before being invalided back to New Zealand.
As senior officer of 20th Trawler Group (in command of HMS Negro), Lieutenant-Commander Cameron, RNZNVR,1 who had already been mentioned in despatches, was awarded the DSC in October 1943 for good service in minesweeping, mainly in the Gulf of Bone, during the North African campaign. Cameron gained a bar to his DSC for his part in Operation ANTIDOTE – the clearance of a channel two miles wide and 100 miles in length along the coast of Tunisia in May 1943, when nearly 200 mines were swept. In September 1945 he was awarded a second mention in despatches for minesweeping service. Commander A. D. Holden, OBE, RNZNR, who was senior officer of the New Zealand 25th M/S Flotilla from 1940 to 1944, received the DSC for minesweeping service as senior officer 18th M/S Flotilla off the coast of Germany in 1945.
Most of the New Zealanders who were in Far Eastern waters when Japan crashed into the war have unhappy memories of that hard period and its tragic aftermath; but their record is one of stouthearted endurance in the face of hopeless odds and is brightened by many acts of heroism and self-sacrifice. Some forty officers and ratings lost their lives in the dark days following the fall of Hong Kong and Singapore and forty-seven were taken prisoner, of whom ten died in captivity. Of the six serving in the Prince of Wales and Repulse, Chaplain the Rev. W. G. Parker, RN,2 and Joiner Morgan, RNZN,3 of the former ship were among the 840 officers and men who died when those ships were sunk on 10 December 1941.
4 Commander H. M. Montague, OBE, RN (retd); born England, 15 Sep 1888; sheep farmer.
After picking up the survivors of a sunken ship at Singkep Island, ML32, commanded by Lieutenant Herd5 with Lieutenant W. A. Bourke as first lieutenant, went aground when taking cover from Japanese aircraft. She was refloated next day but was taken by a Japanese cruiser and destroyer off Muntok, all on board becoming prisoners of war. Herd was awarded a mention in despatches in December 1945.
5 Lieutenant L. H. Herd, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born England, 12 Jul 1901; barrister and solicitor.
Lieutenant Derbidge,1 of Christchurch, left Singapore on 13 February in HMS Li Wo, commanded by Lieutenant T. Wilkinson, RNR, who had a crew of eighty-four men, mostly survivors of sunken ships. The Li Wo mounted one 4-inch gun for which she had only thirteen rounds, and two machine guns. She had survived several air attacks when, near Bangka Island, she sighted a convoy escorted by a heavy cruiser and destroyers. Since escape was impossible, the Li Wo attacked a transport which she set on fire and rammed, but was herself sunk, most of her crew being drowned. Ten survivors were made prisoners, but a few, including Derbidge, escaped by clinging to a badly damaged lifeboat. He and some others landed on Bangka Island, where a fortnight later they were attacked by bandits who wounded Derbidge and three of his companions and took all their food. Finally they were captured by Japanese and Derbidge died while being taken to Muntok. Lieutenant Wilkinson, who went down with his ship, was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross and Derbidge a mention in despatches, awards also being made to eight others.
2 Lieutenant B. Shaw, RNZNVR; born England, 1 Jul 1905; farmer; killed while p.w. 21 Feb 1942.
An officer and several New Zealand ratings in the destroyers Electra and Jupiter were killed on 27 February and eleven ratings in the cruiser Exeter and the destroyer Encounter were taken prisoner on 1 March when their ships were sunk in action in the Java Sea. One of the latter, Signalman I. F. G. Shipman, RNZNVR, of Timaru, while in a prison camp was an eye-witness of the explosion of the second atomic bomb that dropped over Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. Other New Zealand officers and ratings were killed in the destroyer Stronghold, HMS Anking, and other vessels after the evacuation of Java. A few reached Fremantle and Colombo after many adventures.
Many New Zealanders saw service with Arctic Ocean convoys to North Russia. The passage of a Russian convoy was one of the most hazardous and arduous operations of the war at sea. The ships were exposed to attack by U-boats throughout the run and for 1400 miles were within range of German aircraft, with the added risk of forays by the Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and other heavy ships. From 1942 onward the convoys were run mainly during the winter months, when the long hours of darkness reduced the risk of air attack. The task of shepherding a convoy of slow, heavily laden ships through bitter Arctic gales and snowstorms was a grim ordeal. Weather damage was often severe. Several escort aircraft-carriers buckled the fore-end of their flight deck 60 feet above the waterline and one recorded a heavy sea which rolled the whole length of the deck.
From August 1941 to May 1945 more than forty convoys totalling 792 ships were sailed outward and 739 returned; some sailed independently. Sixty-two ships were sunk on outward passages and twenty-eight on the return journey, with a loss of 829 lives. The Royal Navy lost two cruisers and seventeen other ships, with 1840 officers and men. At this great price some four million tons of supplies valued at £428,000,000 were delivered to Russia.
After making temporary repairs, the Trinidad sailed from Murmansk on 13 May, escorted by two destroyers. Next day she was badly damaged and set on fire in an attack by thirty-five German bombers. Three hours later the cruiser had to be abandoned and was sunk by one of her destroyers. Eighty-one lives were lost, but the sixteen New Zealanders were among those saved.
On 30 April 1942 HMS Edinburgh, acting as close cover to a convoy escorted by six destroyers, four corvettes, and a trawler, was hit by two torpedoes from a U-boat about 180 miles north-east from the North Cape of Norway. Her stern was blown off, but she was able to steam at slow speed. Next day the convoy was attacked by three German destroyers, one ship being sunk. Five times the enemy was driven off by the escort destroyers, the senior officer of which in HMS Bulldog was a New Zealander, Commander Maxwell Richmond, OBE, RN,2 who was awarded the DSO and the USSR Order of the Red Banner for this action. Next morning the Germans turned their attention to the Edinburgh, which was being towed by a Russian tug. The tow was slipped and in the ensuing action the crippled cruiser was hit by four torpedoes and had to be abandoned and sunk. Two officers and fifty-six ratings were lost, the New Zealanders being among those saved. One German destroyer was sunk, the others escaping in a damaged condition. In the Home Fleet force which was covering the convoy, the destroyer Punjabi was sunk in collision with the flagship King George V in a dense fog off Iceland on 1 May. Most of the destroyer's company was saved, but one New Zealander, Lieutenant Piggin,3 was lost.
2 Rear-Admiral M. Richmond, DSO, OBE, Croix de Guerre, Order of the Red Banner; born Wellington, 19 Oct 1990; entered RN, 1918; CO HMS Basilisk, evacuation of Dunkirk, 1940; Captain, 1942; Rear-Admiral, 1954.
Two New Zealanders who sailed with several convoys during 1942 were mentioned in despatches. Sub-Lieutenant J. A. Foster,1 who was serving in the corvette Honeysuckle, gained his award for his part in the defence of a convoy which for six days at the end of May was under attack by more than 240 aircraft and several U-boats, seven out of thirty-five ships being lost. The other was Leading Seaman Hudson2 in the destroyer Wheatland, one of the escorts in September of the biggest convoy sailed to Russia. It numbered thirty-nine ships, of which twenty-seven arrived at Archangel after prolonged attacks by German aircraft. Hudson was in charge of a multiple pom-pom which shot down two bombers. His commanding officer reported that though Hudson was ‘officially on the sick list with a sprained ankle, he insisted on manning his gun whenever attack was due and was an inspiration to his gun's crew.’
The successful defence against heavy odds of convoy JW 51B in the darkness and snowstorms of Arctic winter is one of the brightest pages in the proud record of Russian convoys. Fourteen merchant ships escorted by the destroyers Onslow, Captain R. St. V. Sherbrooke (Captain D, 17th Flotilla), Obedient, Obdurate, Orwell, Oribi, and Achates, corvettes Rhododendron and Hyderabad, minesweeper Bramble, and trawlers Vizalma and Northern Gem, sailed from Loch Ewe on 22 December 1942. There were New Zealanders, some of them veterans of the Arctic passage, in several of the escorts and the covering ships.
At 8.30 a.m. on 31 December, when the convoy was about 220 miles north-west from Kola Inlet, three German destroyers were sighted and an hour later the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper3 appeared out of the gloom. Captain Sherbrooke detailed part of his escort force to screen the convoy with smoke and moved out with the Onslow and Orwell to engage the Germans. The enemy destroyers took no active part in the proceedings. The Admiral Hipper, cautious of torpedo attack, kept her distance but was hit several times. At 10.20 she opened up on the Onslow, which was hit three times in rapid succession and badly damaged. Captain Sherbrooke was severely wounded and lost the sight of his left eye, but continued to fight his ships until another hit compelled the Onslow, badly on fire, to withdraw to the head of the convoy.4
4 Captain Sherbrooke was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valorous defence of the convoy.
Although Lieutenant King, a young Reserve Officer, had been first lieutenant in the leader for one month only, he exercised complete control when the ship was seriously damaged by three 8-in. shells. A fire raged as a result of two hits forward; the forward fire and repair party had been wiped out; the ship had to remain at action stations and had suffered a 20 per cent loss in personnel through casualties. Despite these severe handicaps, by personal demonstration he showed his untrained assistants exactly what he required and the serious fires were under control in remarkably short time. Nearly the whole forepart of the ship was on fire at one time or another; nevertheless, after four hours he was able to report to the bridge that all fires were extinguished and a collision mat in place over the hole in the ship's side. He continued unceasingly to attend to the safety of the ship and the welfare of the ship's company. Her safe arrival in harbour 24 hours later is testimony to his sound judgment and untiring efforts. In courage and leadership he set a fine example to his men and that their morale remained as high as ever is a tribute to their first lieutenant.
After disabling the Onslow, the Admiral Hipper concentrated on the Achates and quickly crippled her, killing her captain and some forty others. But, ‘faithful as the fidus Achates of Virgil's epic’, the little ship carried on laying smoke to screen the convoy until she sank about two hours later, eighty-one of her crew being rescued by the Northern Gem.
During the morning the covering cruisers Sheffield (flagship of Rear-Admiral R. L. Burnett) and Jamaica had been working down from the northward, tracking various ships by radar. At 11.30 they sighted and opened fire on the pocket battleship Lutzow2 which was hit several times before she turned away. Next they met two destroyers, one of which was sunk by the Sheffield. Meanwhile the Obedient, Obdurate, and Orwell were holding the Admiral Hipper and her silent destroyers off the convoy, which was briefly shelled by the Lutzow. During the next hour the Sheffield and Jamaica sighted first the Lutzow, then two destroyers, and finally the Admiral Hipper, all of which disappeared in the gloom after a brief exchange of fire.
Admiral Tovey, Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet, summed up this weird battle of the Barents Sea with the understatement ‘that an enemy force of at least one pocket battleship, one heavy cruiser and six destroyers, with all the advantage of surprise and concentration, should be held off for four hours by five destroyers and driven from the area by two 6-inch cruisers without any loss to the convoy is most creditable and satisfactory.’
2 Lutzow, 14,000 tons; six 11-inch, eight 5·9-inch guns; 26 knots. This ship sank the minesweeper Bramble which had been sent to round up stragglers from the convoy.
In his report Rear-Admiral Burnett said his action was fought largely with the use of radar, which enabled his cruisers to track the enemy ships, approach them undetected, and hit them almost immediately. It was this skilful use of radar that earned a DSC for Instructor Lieutenant Hogben, RNZN,1 who was serving in HMS Sheffield. Her commanding officer reported that Hogben ‘displayed great coolness and the highest ability. His duty as officer-in-charge of the plotting office was, in the conditions of visibility, of vital importance, the success of the tactics employed by the force being greatly dependent upon the accuracy and precision of the plot. All this was provided by him in full measure.’
The outward and homeward convoys in December 1943 were covered by two forces of the Home Fleet — Duke of York (flag of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser), Jamaica, and four destroyers, and the cruisers Belfast (flag of Rear-Admiral Burnett), Norfolk, and Sheffield. There were New Zealand officers and ratings in the ships named and in the destroyer Scorpion, as well as in several of those escorting the convoys. On 26 December the German battle-cruiser Scharnhorst, which had put to sea to attack the outward convoy, was intercepted and shadowed by the Belfast's radar, twice engaged by the cruisers, and finally brought to action and sunk by Admiral Fraser's force.
Many New Zealand officers of the Fleet Air Arm, as well as radar and telegraphist ratings, served in the escort aircraft-carriers which from 1942 onward sailed with Russian convoys. In March 1944 the aircraft of HMS Chaser sank three U-boats on three successive days. During the homeward passage of a convoy in April, aircraft of the Tracker sank two U-boats and five aircraft were shot down by fighters from the Activity. Lieutenant (A) Wallace,2 of the latter ship, to whose fighter direction this success was due, was awarded a mention in despatches. At the end of the month the Activity and Fencer sailed with another homeward convoy of fortyfive ships which was attacked for three days by a large group of U-boats; but only one ship was lost. The Fencer's Swordfish sank three U-boats in two days. Sub-Lieutenants (A) Gilbert3 and Temm4 of the Activity were mentioned in despatches for their part in attacks on U-boats. Swordfish of 825 Squadron in the Vindex sank U-354 in August and assisted in sinking U-394 ten days later.
1 Lieutenant-Commander G. L. Hogben, DSC, RN, US Bronze Star; born Auckland, 14 Apr 1916; Rhodes Scholar. As an Admiralty meteorologist, he was one of the team which worked out the weather forecasts for the invasion of Normandy in June 1944.
4 Sub-Lieutenant (A) P. E. Temm, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Taupiri, 16 Jun 1920; clerk.
In the New Year honours list 1945, Lieutenant O'Connor1 was awarded the DSC for ‘good service and outstanding devotion to duty’ in HMS Whitehall, in which he had sailed with five Russian convoys. Lieutenant (A) Burgham2 of HMS Nairana was awarded the DSC and Lieutenant (A) O'Shea3 of the Campania a mention in despatches for good service with convoys in December 1944. Burgham took off from the snow-covered deck in failing twilight to intercept an unknown number of enemy aircraft, but was unable to find them and landed on the wildly heaving deck in total darkness. O'Shea showed ‘outstanding skill’ in his control of deck landings in difficult conditions. Swordfish of the Campania's 813 Squadron, which had destroyed U-921 in September, sank U-365 on the December voyage.
For their part in successful attacks in bad weather on numerous torpedo aircraft during the passage of convoys in February 1945, Lieutenant (A) Quigg4 of the Nairana and Sub-Lieutenant (A) Armitage5 of the Campania were awarded the DSC. Quigg's aircraft was badly damaged in one attack, but by good flying he reached the vicinity of his carrier before he force-landed in the sea; he was picked up by a destroyer. Signalman Cragg, RNZN,6 lost his life when the sloop Lapwing escorting a March convoy was torpedoed and sunk off the Kola Inlet. The frigate Loch Shin of the 19th Escort Group sank two U-boats and badly damaged another in that locality on 29 April. Sub-Lieutenant Horspool, RNZNVR,7 was killed when HMS Goodall was torpedoed. Lieutenant Hazard, RNZNVR,8 of HMS Loch Shin, was awarded a mention in despatches for good service as group navigator. From August 1944 until May 1945, when the war with Germany ended, 260 merchant ships sailed in outward convoys to Russia with the loss of only two ships, and 245 sailed homeward, of which seven were lost.
5 Sub-Lieutenant (A) O. K. Armitage, DSC, RNZNVR; born Kawhia, 20 Jun 1920; clerk.
Typical of such service was that of Lieutenant-Commander Holm,1 of Wellington, who, as first lieutenant of HMS Lavender and later commanding officer of the Crocus and the Burdock, spent two and a half years on convoy escort duties, mainly to and from Freetown, Sierra Leone. One task in the Crocus was escorting the tow from the West Indies of a large floating dock which broke its back in heavy weather and had to be sunk by depth-charges. On 6 October 1942 the Crocus fought a spirited action near Freetown with U-333, which she rammed twice and damaged by gunfire and depth-charges. The U-boat was classified as ‘probably sunk’ but actually escaped with the loss of twelve men killed. Lieutenant-Commander Holm was awarded the DSC and Sub-Lieutenant Baylis,2 of Auckland, was mentioned in despatches. Later in the month the Crocus rescued the survivors of the Nagpore, one of twelve ships lost in a convoy of forty-one ships during a four-day attack by a pack of U-boats. She also took part in the rescue of 1500 survivors of the Empress of Canada, which was torpedoed and sunk in the South Atlantic on 13 March 1943. Other New Zealanders who served with Holm in the Crocus and Burdock were Lieutenants C. S. Evans of New Plymouth and J. Harrison of Hastings.
In February 1943 the destroyers Wheatland and Easton made a depth-charge attack on the Italian submarine Asteria in the Mediterranean and forced it to surface. The crew offered surrender, but the submarine sank, forty-six survivors being rescued. Sub-Lieutenant Ryan, RNZNVR,3 anti-submarine control officer in the Wheatland, to whom ‘was due to a large part the credit’ for this successful action, was awarded the DSC. Sub-Lieutenant Wilson,4 who was anti-submarine control officer in the frigate Ness, gained a DSC for his ‘skill and efficiency’ when that ship sank the Italian submarine Da Vinci off the Azores in May 1943. Lieutenant Markwick,5 gunnery officer in the corvette Nasturtium, was awarded a mention in despatches for ‘courage, cheerfulness and untiring devotion to duty’ in more than eighteen months of convoy escort duty in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
A New Zealand officer and Telegraphist E. P. Edgecombe of New Plymouth served in HMS Loch Killin, which joined the Second Escort Group in 1944 and took part in the destruction of four U-boats. The U-333 was sunk by the Loch Killin and Starling near the Scilly Isles on 31 July 1944. This was the first successful use of the ‘squid’, a three-barrelled mortar thrower which discharged its bombs ahead of the attacking ship. In the Bay of Biscay a week later the Loch Killin disposed of U-736 in the second successful ‘squid’ attack. The U-boat surfaced under the frigate and hung there for five minutes before slipping aft and sinking. Three officers, including the captain, and sixteen men were picked up. Sub-Lieutenant Harding, RNZNVR,3 of the Loch Killin, was awarded a mention in despatches for good service as plotting officer. On 10 August the Wren and Loch Killin depth-charged U-608, which had been sunk by a Liberator bomber, and picked up the whole crew. The Loch Killin made another kill on 16 April 1945 when she sank U-1063 off Start Point in the English Channel.
Lieutenant Penty, RNZNVR,4 was officer of the watch in the frigate Bickerton on 25 June 1944 when a U-boat was detected off Start Point. His promptness in ‘initiating the appropriate measures’ was largely responsible for the quick destruction of U-269 by one very accurate depth-charge attack which forced it to surface, mortally damaged. Penty was awarded a mention in despatches.
3 Sub-Lieutenant D. P. B. Harding, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Feilding, 14 Mar 1922; student.
4 Lieutenant E. F. Penty, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Wairoa, 12 Mar 1919; farmer.
On her first operational patrol HMS Loch Glendhu, of the Eighth Escort Group, disposed of U-1024 in a position south of the Isle of Man on 12 April 1945. After a ship in convoy had been torpedoed, the Loch Glendhu made asdic contact with the U-boat, which was forced by depth-charge attacks to surface. When its crew began to abandon ship, a party from the Loch Glendhu under her gunnery officer, Lieutenant Cole, RNZNVR,2 boarded the U-1024, which was taken in tow by the Loch More but sank during the night, the boarding party and thirty-eight prisoners being recovered. Cole was awarded the DSC for his good work.
In about eighteen months' service in the Royal Navy, Lieutenant-Commander Bourke, RNZNR,3 took part in the destruction of a number of U-boats. He was making his first convoy escort as commanding officer of the frigate Bayntun in January 1944 in company with the Canadian corvette Camrose when U-757 was detected by radar and forced by gunfire to dive. It was destroyed after a long hunt and three depth-charge attacks. For his part in this action Bourke was awarded the DSC. In February 1945 the Bayntun and other ships of the Tenth Escort Group patrolling off the Shetland Islands sank U-1279, U-989, and U-1278 within a fortnight, the last-mentioned being destroyed by the Bayntun alone. In each case the U-boats were first detected by the Bayntun whose ‘A/S team displayed really exceptional alertness and skill’. Bourke gained a bar to his DSC and Sub-Lieutenant Webster,4 anti-submarine control officer in the Bayntun, was awarded the DSC. After the end of hostilities in May 1945, the Bayntun was present when the Tenth Escort Group took the surrender of eighteen German U-boats from bases in Norway.
5 Lieutenant A. M. Halliday, RNZNVR; born Somerset, England, 6 Dec 1913; merchant service officer and farmer; killed on active service 9 Mar 1944.
After serving for twelve months on convoy escort duties in the corvette Jasmine, Lieutenant Tattersfield3 spent eighteen months in the battleship Valiant in the Mediterranean. He was awarded a mention in despatches for his skill and devotion to duty as fighter director and air plotting officer while the Valiant was covering the landings in Sicily and at Salerno. During nearly two years' service in the cruiser Bermuda, Lieutenant Newman4 worked up a most efficient fighter direction organisation. In October 1943 he directed from his ship fighters of 19 Group, Coastal Command, which shot down two German bombers and damaged another in the Bay of Biscay. Newman was awarded the DSC in June 1944.
5 Able Seaman G. J. Lynch, RNZNVR; born Waikino, 5 Sep 1920; printer; accidentally killed 27 Dec 1942.
New Zealand ratings serving in numerous ships of the Mediterranean Fleet during the grim months of 1941–42 took part in the evacuation of British troops, including the 2nd New Zealand Division, from Greece in April and in the battle for Crete in May 1941. Able Seaman Beck,4 who was in the cruiser Phoebe, was awarded the DSM for courage and devotion to duty during the evacuation of Greece. ‘As coxswain of a motor cutter, he handled his boat in difficult circumstances with conspicuous success at Nauplia [Navplion] in bringing off considerable numbers and at Kalamata in placing lights on the breakwaters and running special trips.’ Five weeks later Beck showed like qualities at Sfakia, to which the Phoebe made two runs during the evacuation of Crete. Able Seaman W. D. Diehl,5 who was also serving in the Phoebe, was killed when that ship was torpedoed off Bardia in August 1941 while escorting destroyers and minesweepers carrying troops to relieve an Australian brigade at Tobruk. His brother Able Seaman A. E. Diehl,6 was one of the many New Zealanders lost in HMS Neptune in December 1941. Petty Officer Radio Mechanic W. M. Harray was in the infantry landing ship Glenroy at the evacuation of Greece. She was carrying part of the last reinforcements for Crete when she was badly damaged by German aircraft and ordered back to Alexandria. The Glenroy was taking troops to Tobruk in November 1941 when she was torpedoed and had to be beached off Mersa Matruh.
When the destroyers Kelly and Kashmir were sunk next morning, New Zealanders in the Kipling assisted in the rescue of 279 survivors of the first-mentioned ship, including Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten. Ordinary Seaman Urquhart, RNZN,2 was lost in the Kelly. His chum, Ordinary Seaman John Raymond,3 survived, but was killed when the cruiser Galatea, in which he was then serving, was torpedoed and sunk 30 miles west of Alexandria on 14 December 1941. When the destroyer Gurkha, one of the escorts of a convoy from Alexandria to Malta, was torpedoed by a U-boat off Sidi Barrani in January 1942, Able Seaman William Armstrong, RNZNVR,4 regardless of fiercely burning oil on the water, jumped overboard and secured a line round an injured officer, who was then hauled to safety. For this act of gallantry, Armstrong was awarded the British Empire Medal. Engine-Room Artificer Canning,5 of Lyttelton, was one of eighty men who lost their lives in HMS Naiad, flagship of Rear-Admiral Vian, which was sunk by a U-boat in March 1942 between Sollum and Mersa Matruh.
One of the most brilliant actions of the war was fought in the Mediterranean in March 1942 during the passage of convoy MW 10, the commissioned supply ship Breconshire and three merchant ships, from Alexandria to Malta, escorted by four small cruisers and seventeen destroyers. New Zealand officers and ratings were serving in several of the escorts. On 22 March attacks by some 150 aircraft were successfully fought off. The Italians then made two attempts to cut off the convoy, first by one 8-inch and three 6-inch cruisers, and later by one battleship, two 8-inch and four 6-inch cruisers, and a few destroyers. Both attacks were frustrated by the bold and vigorous tactics of Rear-Admiral Vian. The convoy was screened by smoke and the enemy attacked with torpedoes and gunfire. The battleship was torpedoed and hit by gunfire and set on fire and two cruisers were damaged. Sub-Lieutenant Hardingham2 of the destroyer Southwold (she was sunk by aircraft while screening the Breconshire off Malta next day) was awarded a mention in despatches for having encouraged his gun crews throughout the action ‘by word and his own personal example.’ Leading Seaman Mackenzie3 of the destroyer Beaufort was also mentioned in despatches, his commanding officer reporting that ‘this rating is captain of X gun which on all occasions has been first on the target. This is entirely due to his personal leadership and example ….’
Several New Zealanders took part in a series of destroyer actions in the English Channel between 27 August and 23 October 1943. In one of these actions German E-boats had their biggest success of the year when they sank the cruiser Charybdis and damaged the destroyer Limbourne in the early hours of 23 October. The latter had her bows blown off and, after unsuccessful attempts to tow her, had to be sunk by two torpedoes. Sub-Lieutenant Allen, RNZNVR,4 who was in the Limbourne, was awarded a mention in despatches for good service as plotting officer in action.
5 The so-called glider bomb was released from an aircraft which controlled its flight by means of wireless.
During the night of 1–2 November 1944 the destroyers Avon Vale and Wheatland engaged and sank three German-manned Italian torpedo-boats in Quarnarolo Channel, off the coast of Yugoslavia. Able Seaman William Coulson, RNZNVR,2 who was serving in the Avon Vale, was awarded the DSM for ‘great courage and most outstanding devotion to duty’. His commanding officer reported that Coulson ‘continued to load the bow pom-pom with complete disregard for the enemy's fire and all the other unpleasantness around him, not least of which was the blast from the forward 4-in. twin guns which blew him off the pom-pom more than once. In addition, this rating had to put up with a continual cascade of water over the bows. The fact that he continued to load the gun at all is quite remarkable.’ In the New Year honours list 1944, Electrical Artificer Pitt, RNZN,3 was awarded the DSM for ‘hard work and devotion to duty over a long period’ in HMS Laforey. During 1943 this destroyer took part in many operations in the Mediterranean, including the capture of the islands of Pantellaria and Lampedusa and the landings in Sicily and at Salerno, besides sinking the Italian submarine Ascianghi which had torpedoed the cruiser Newfoundland off Syracuse.
While patrolling in the Gulf of Genoa on the night of 17–18 March 1945 the destroyers Meteor and Lookout intercepted three German-manned Italian torpedo-boats. Two were sunk and the third escaped under cover of smoke. Stoker Petty Officer Sim, RNZN,4 who was in charge of the after boiler-room of the Meteor during the action, was awarded a mention in despatches. A similar award was made to Leading Seaman Fairthorne, RNZN,5 who, during his two years' service in HMS Lewes, kept the electrical installation of that 24-year-old destroyer in good working order.
1 Lieutenant J. S. Rumbold, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Reefton, 5 Mar 1920; barrister.
2 Able Seaman W. Coulson, DSM, RNZNVR; born England, 16 Mar 1921; miner.
In May 1943 the Oribi took part in one of the grimmest convoy actions in the Battle of the Atlantic. An outward-bound convoy of forty-two ships was attacked for several days by a large pack of U-boats which sank thirteen ships. Five U-boats were sunk by the escort vessels and a sixth by a Canadian aircraft. The Oribi rammed and sank U-531. Lieutenant Jervis was awarded the DSC for his skilful work as anti-submarine control officer in holding contact with the U-boat. ‘Despite the losses sustained by the convoy, it was an undoubted victory for the escorts,’ reported the Commander-in-Chief Western Approaches. It marked the end of large-scale attacks by U-boats and proved to be a turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic. Forty-one U-boats were sunk during that month.
Jervis later served in HMS Scarborough which laid channel buoys for the invasion of Normandy and escorted convoys during the great operation. He was first lieutenant in HMS Brissenden which, in company with another destroyer, sank a German tanker and its armed escort off Bordeaux in November 1944, and in HMS Redpole with the British Pacific Fleet.
Of all the New Zealanders in the Royal Navy none served with greater distinction than those in Coastal Forces, the modern counterpart of the small, fast sailing craft that sortied from English ports to harry the enemy in wars of earlier centuries. No fewer than 1560 coastal craft — harbour-defence launches, motor torpedo-boats, motor gunboats, and motor minesweepers — were built during the war. At the peak period of 1944 some 3000 officers and 22,000 ratings were serving in Coastal Forces, which were almost entirely a preserve of RNVR ‘hostilities only’ personnel. A higher proportion of newly commissioned New Zealand Reserve officers from HMS King Alfred chose service in Coastal Forces than in any other branch of the Royal Navy. The greater part of the strength of these little ships was in Home waters and the Mediterranean, but many flotillas also operated from bases in West and South Africa, the West Indies, Iceland, and the Indian Ocean. These little ships fought in countless actions in the Narrow Seas and the Mediterranean and were used as minelayers, minesweepers, anti-submarine escort vessels, and smoke-layers for the protection of convoys. They also found a wide range of duties in combined operations — as headquarters ships, navigational leaders, flank patrols, and ferries for small raiding parties and secret agents.
2 Lieutenant E. Cameron, RNZNVR; born Dipton, 23 Feb 1910; clerk; killed on active service 30 Jun 1944.
6 DEMS: Defensively equipped merchant ship.
Macdonald, then a sub-lieutenant serving as first lieutenant in MTB31, gained his DSC in a successful action in the English Channel on the night of 3–4 March 1942 when a strongly-escorted merchant ship was sunk. MTB31 was attacked by three German E-boats and set on fire forward and in the engine-room. Though his wounded commanding officer gave the order to abandon ship, Macdonald remained by her, fighting the fires and jettisoning depth-charges and the remaining torpedo to lighten her. He also dived overboard to assist the chief motor mechanic who was in difficulties, and he materially helped in the ultimate salvaging of the boat when assistance arrived.
While serving in command of MTB241 and as senior officer of the 21st MTB Flotilla, Macdonald was awarded a bar to his DSC in July 1943, the citation mentioning no fewer than nine actions in four months in which he had taken a leading part. He was promoted acting lieutenant on 14 September 1943 and confirmed in that rank on 1 October, having then turned 22 years of age. A second bar to his DSC was awarded in July 1944 for his ‘brilliant initiative’ as leader of his flotilla in two actions and in seven successful mine-laying expeditions. In one action when his own boat was sunk, he transferred to another and continued the attack ‘in spite of intense fire and an addition to the enemy convoy escort of a further four armed trawlers.’
‘Lieutenant Macdonald is a likeable and fearless young New Zealander who has always been outstanding in action,’ reported the Captain, Coastal Forces, The Nore. ‘Cool and level-headed, he has the knack of making quick decisions and inspiring his flotilla mates with a fine confidence; the result being that they follow him into action with the sure knowledge that they are on top of the job. This attitude of mind is half the battle in these short, fierce. Coastal Forces actions…. His leadership, cool courage and unflagging keenness to get at the enemy after 4 ½ years of war are an inspiration, not only to his flotilla officers and men, but to us all.’
Macdonald was awarded the DSO in September 1944. The citation stated that MTBs 225, 234, and 244 were handled with great courage and skill on the night of 4–5 July 1944 in three gallant attempts to attack a heavily escorted enemy transport until it took refuge in port. On turning homeward the MTBs met a convoy of six ships and, though day had broken, in face of intense fire sank two by torpedoes and damaged two others by gunfire. Macdonald was awarded a mention in despatches for his leadership in a successful page 492 action on the night of 20–21 July 1944 against an enemy patrol off the Dutch coast in which one trawler was sunk and another probably destroyed. Lieutenant Plank,1 who had taken command of MTB 244 that morning, was also mentioned in despatches for his skilful handling of his boat, especially after she had been damaged in this, his first, action. A second mention in despatches came to Macdonald after an attack on an enemy convoy on 14 September 1944 which resulted in the sinking of the larger of two ships guarded by a numerous and well-armed escort. ‘It is not mere chance that casualties under his leadership are small,’ said the citation. ‘Experience, skill and true courage are great assets.’
5 Each torpedo contained 1800 pounds of explosive and was fitted with a delay-action device. They exploded about 36 hours later.
6 Lieutenant R. A. Mitford-Burgess, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Tolaga Bay, 21 Jul 1921; brewer.
There were New Zealanders in several of the destroyers and motor-launches which took part in the raid on Dieppe (Operation Jubilee) on 19 August 1942, when some 6000 troops were landed on the beaches under heavy fire. The naval casualties totalled 643 and more than 3000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing. Lieutenant Nees,2 who commanded ML230 of the 11th ML Flotilla, was awarded a mention in despatches for his part in this operation. He received a second mention in November 1944 and was subsequently awarded the DSC for his able handling of the 150th HDML Group in a variety of operations from the landing in Normandy in June 1944 to the capture of Walcheren in November 1944.
2 Lieutenant-Commander H. M. Nees, DSC, RNZNVR, m.i.d. (2); born Dunedin, 28 Feb 1908; factory manager.
3 MGB: Motor Gunboat.
4 Telegraphist R. N. Mitchell, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Waiau, 14 May 1922; clerk.
As senior officer, 50th ML Flotilla, Lieutenant M. C. Waylen,1 commanding ML103, took part in the first minelaying operation by motor-launches off enemy ports in the English Channel. He was mentioned in despatches in January 1942 and, after completing twenty-four ‘lays’, was awarded the DSC. Lieutenant Mills,2 commanding ML293 in the 5th ML Flotilla, was awarded a mention in despatches for good work in sweeping a minefield in the Dover command in 1943. Able Seaman Horsefall,3 one of many New Zealand ratings in Coastal Forces, was awarded the DSM for good service in action in the Strait of Dover on the night of 12 May 1942. He was a gunner in MGB13 which, with five others, attacked a German raider escorted by four torpedo-boats, eight minesweepers, and ten or more E-boats. Two of the escorts were sunk and the raider was forced to put into Boulogne. Horsefall had been in action against German torpedo-boats the night before. Petty Officer Fraser4 was badly wounded and taken prisoner when MGB78 was sunk in action off the Hook of Holland on 3 October 1942. As first lieutenant, later commanding officer, of ML106 and finally senior officer 51st ML Flotilla, Lieutenant Drake5 had taken part in thirty-four successful minelaying operations in enemy waters in the North Sea when he was awarded the DSC in July 1944. Lieutenant Messenger,6 commanding ML206 of the 1st Minesweeping ML Flotilla, was awarded a mention in despatches for good service in the sweeping of French Channel ports and their approaches in September 1944. A like award was made to Lieutenant Bullock,7 commanding officer of ML217, for efficient work during the Normandy landings and in minesweeping off Ostend, the mouth of the Schelde, and the port of Rotterdam.
An attempt by strong forces of German E-boats to attack a convoy off the East Coast on the night of 21 March 1945 was frustrated in a series of brisk actions by the escort of three destroyers and the corvette Puffin, which was commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Miller8 who was awarded the DSC. Five nights later the Puffin, patrolling off Lowestoft, rammed a German midget submarine, which blew up.
2 Lieutenant E. M. Mills, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Waimate, 13 Mar 1919; student.
In the early hours of 14 February 1944 five MTBs sighted two trawlers and a flak ship off the Dutch coast and Lieutenant Rout,1 commanding MTB455, was detached to make a torpedo attack. He closed to about 600 yards and made two hits on the flak ship. In the ensuing mêlée one of the trawlers was hit repeatedly and MTB444 was badly damaged, her commanding officer and three men being mortally wounded. On their way back the MTBs encountered two forces of E-boats, several of which were damaged in high-speed actions. For his ‘skill, coolness and devotion to duty’ in these affairs Rout was awarded the DSC. Later in the month he led five boats of his flotilla in a night action off the Hook of Holland in which one enemy trawler was destroyed and others damaged. For this action Rout was awarded a mention in despatches. Lieutenant Atkinson,2 as first lieutenant and gunnery control officer of MTB611, was awarded the DSC for ‘skill, coolness and courage’ in several actions in the English Channel during the first half of 1944.
Close to the western entrance to Cherbourg harbour in the early hours of 12 May 1944, four MTBs fought a spirited action with three trawlers escorting two merchant ships. One of the latter was torpedoed and set on fire and two trawlers were damaged. In this action Lieutenant Watson3 was in command of MTB453 and Sub-Lieutenant Natusch4 was first lieutenant of MTB454. When the Oerlikon magazine in his boat caught fire, Natusch threw several pans of ammunition overboard and so prevented a serious explosion, an act for which he was awarded the DSC. On two nights in June during the Normandy landing operations, Watson fought in six separate actions with enemy light forces attempting to raid the supply routes and inflicted severe damage on several E-boats. For this and previous good service he was awarded the DSC. Lieutenant Wright,5 in command of MTB772, took part in numerous actions off the French, Dutch, and Belgian coasts during 1944. He was awarded the DSC for skill and courage in fighting his ship with three others in an engagement on 22 December when two E-boats were sunk and others damaged.
6 Sub-Lieutenant J. W. Gordon, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Taumarunui, 21 Nov 1920; law clerk; killed in action 20 Jul 1944.
From 1942 onward many New Zealanders served in Coastal Forces in the Mediterranean and took part in the landings in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and southern France. After the surrender of Italy they operated against enemy shipping in the Gulf of Genoa, in the Adriatic, where they swept mines and co-operated with Yugoslav partisans, and in the Aegean Sea. One of their first awards was a mention in despatches to Able Seaman Thom,4 serving in ML1028 of the Inshore Squadron, which opened up North African ports for the Eighth Army. Similar awards were made to Sub-Lieutenant Green,5 first lieutenant of ML1146, for resolution and skill in salvaging a Catalina aircraft near Gibraltar in November 1942, and to Sub-Lieutenant Raper,6 commanding MTB375 of the 7th Flotilla, for good service in action with enemy light forces off Viareggio in the Gulf of Venice. Lieutenant Carter,7 commanding officer of ML569, was awarded the DSC for good work in clearing shallow minefields in the Gulf of Frejus during the landings in Southern France in August 1944. When one launch stranded in a minefield, he towed her to safety and carried medical aid to others lost in his area.
8 Lieutenant E. H. G. Lassen, DSC and bar, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Oxford, 26 Dec 1916; farmer.
Lieutenant Newell,2 commanding MTB315, was awarded the DSC and Lieutenant Broad,3 first lieutenant of MTB266, a mention in despatches for their part in a skilful and determined attack on an enemy convoy off Bizerta on 1 April 1943 when two out of three merchant ships were sunk. Newell, in company with three other MTBs on patrol in the Strait of Messina on the night of 17 July 1943, attacked an Italian cruiser making for Taranto. The cruiser sank MTB316 with all hands and was narrowly missed by two torpedoes from MTB315. One hit was claimed by MTB260, but the cruiser got clear away at high speed. Both Newell and Broad, the latter then in command of MTB266, and Telegraphist Cleary4 of MTB315 were subsequently mentioned in despatches for good service in the Aegean. At the time of the German invasion of Leros in November 1943 they destroyed two lighters carrying some 300 troops. Broad was killed in action on 9 March 1944. Sub-Lieutenant Ward,5 commanding ML1154, and his first lieutenant, D. G. Watts,6 were killed when their boat was destroyed by a mine off Bizerta in May 1943.
3 Lieutenant J. N. Broad, RNZNVR, m.i.d. (2); born Dunedin, 22 Dec 1919; draughtsman; killed in action 9 Mar 1944.
Hardly had the German evacuation of the Aegean islands and Greece begun in September 1944 when Coastal Forces flotillas were sent in to sweep the heavily mined approaches to the many harbours. Lieutenant Russell,2 commanding ML580, was awarded the DSC for his courage and good service in leading minesweeping formations on each break-through in opening up the ports in the Gulf of Corinth. Lieutenant Findlay,3 first lieutenant of M1866, who had served at Singapore in 19414 and had taken part in sweeping the ports of Piraeus and Salonika and the approaches to the Dardanelles, was awarded a mention in despatches. Sub-Lieutenant Lamb5 was killed when ML101 was blown up by a mine off Salonika in November 1944. Lieutenant Finch,6 commanding ML577, was awarded a mention in despatches for meritorious service and leadership in operations in heavily mined waters in the northern Adriatic over a period of six months. Lieutenant Bird7 commanded MGB643, which with three others supported destroyers bombarding Lussin Island in the Adriatic and carried out attacks on E-boats and a bridge in a defended harbour. He, too, was awarded a mention in despatches. A like award was made in the case of Lieutenant Hart,8 of HMS Antwerp, who was in charge of an armed party which landed on the island of Kithera, between Crete and Greece, and by his initiative and tact quelled the activities of corruptive elements who were terrorising the loyal inhabitants.
1 Lieutenant R. C. Pearson, DSC, RNZNVR; born Balclutha, 11 Sep 1919; bank officer.
2 Lieutenant G. M. S. Russell, DSC, RNZNVR; born Dunedin, 6 Jan 1914; accountant.
Among those who took part in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 was Lieutenant Chute,2 commanding LCI(L) 128,3 who landed his troops without loss under heavy fire. While backing off the beach his vessel was hit in the wheelhouse and set on fire, the coxswain being killed and six others wounded. Chute and his men fought the fire for some hours and saved the ship, which was towed back to Malta. Chute was awarded the DSC. Lieutenant Donovan4 of LCT549, and Sub-Lieutenants Ballinger5 of LST319 and Holmes-Edge6 of LCT445, were mentioned in despatches for good service in the landings at Salerno on 9 September.
2 Lieutenant K. T. I. Chute, DSC, RNZNVR; born Barry, Wales, 16 Feb 1908; farmer.
3 Landing craft were of many types. LCI(S), Landing Craft (Small); LCI(L), Landing Craft (Large); LST, Landing Ship, Tank – a twin-screw vessel fitted with doors and a ramp in the bows; LCA(HR), Landing Craft, Assault (Hedgerow), the ‘hedgerow’ being a battery of mortars firing rocket bombs; LCM, Landing Craft, Mechanised.
4 Lieutenant L. K. Donovan, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Ngapara, 31 Oct 1914; store manager.
5 Lieutenant M. A. Ballinger, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Woodend, 22 Mar 1919; clerk.
6 Lieutenant L. S. Holmes-Edge, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Dunedin, 11 Jun 1919; clerk.
7 Lieutenant D. J. M. Glover, DSC, RNZNVR; born Dunedin, 9 Dec 1912; printer and publisher.
Lieutenant Cramond,1 who fought on shore with a Royal Navy beach commando, was awarded a mention in despatches and the French Croix de Guerre. He led his men with ‘great zeal till he was wounded.’ Sub-Lieutenant Ingham,2 in command of LCI(L) 110, gained the DSC for landing troops on the beach under heavy fire. His craft was hit several times and damaged by near misses and underwater obstructions. Ingham had done good work in command of LCI302 in Sicily and Italy, and his LCI110 was ‘one of the hardest working and best run ships in her squadron.’
After twenty-four hours in his small craft under tow, Sub-Lieutenant Gibbs,3 of LCA(HR)708 of the 590th Flotilla, reached his firing position and discharged his bombs successfully. Lieutenant Prebble4 was in command of LCI(L) 243, one of seven craft which landed the Black Watch and Gordon Highlanders near Courselles. His cool and skilful handling of his ship got his 203 soldiers ashore in good heart and dry. His craft lost kedge and ramps and was damaged by beach obstructions, but he got off and later made seven trips in the build-up operations. He had previously commanded LCI(L) 101 in the Mediterranean, and when that craft was lost on the Calabrian coast in Italy be kept his crew together in the hills until they were picked up some weeks later. Lieutenant Buchanan5 was a watchkeeping officer in LCI(L) 243 on D Day, and during the subsequent build-up ‘his coolness and excellent spirit under fire were a fine example to all on board and his good seamanship and resource did much to minimise damage to 243 when she was bumping among a group of wrecked vessels in the swell.’ Gibbs, Prebble, and Buchanan were each mentioned in despatches.
3 Sub-Lieutenant G. G. G. Gibbs, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Stratford, 1 Jul 1920; draughtsman.
4 Lieutenant N. S. Prebble, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Marton, 11 Oct 1913; farmer.
Two ratings, Signalmen H. M. Lambert, of Hastings, and W. G. Mack, served eleven months in HMS Northway,5 one of seven large vessels known as Landing Ships, Dock. From D Day till the end of February 1945 the Northway made forty-seven voyages to the Continent and carried 3240 passengers and 1027 landing craft of various types. She then went out to the Eastern Fleet, based at Trincomalee. One rating, Electrical Artificer C. D. Turner, of Auckland, spent a month preparing scuttling charges in HMS Centurion, an old battleship of the First World War, which was one of fifty-three obsolete ships sunk to form a breakwater outside the artificial harbours (‘Mulberries’) off the Normandy beaches. Ten New Zealand ratings6 lost their lives off the Normandy beaches on the night of 20 July when the destroyer Isis was sunk, either by a mine or a ‘human torpedo’. The ship was at anchor at the time and her loss was not known till next morning, when twenty survivors were picked up by a minesweeper.
2 Sub-Lieutenant T. M. Sunderland, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Havelock North, 6 Aug 1920; shepherd.
5 LSD Northway; length, 458 ft; breadth, 72 ft; load displacement, 7700 tons; twin-screw turbine drive; speed, 15 knots. These ships were virtually mobile floating docks and carried numbers of loaded landing craft or amphibious vehicles, embarking and unloading them by flooding tanks.
6 These ratings were Able Seamen C. E. Robson and A. I. Wasley, of Palmerston; Ordinary Seamen T. J. Brandon and A. K. Jordan (Auckland), M. E. Johnston (Otahuhu), G. C. C. Munro (Wanganui), T. E. Brand (Clive), D. A. Nunn (Wellington), and R. D. Dyer (Dunedin); Petty Officer Radio Mechanic M. A. Williams (Auckland).
A check of the sparse records available indicates that approximately two hundred New Zealanders served as volunteers in submarines during the war. Many of them were ratings – seamen, stokers, and telegraphists – but a fair number of officers commissioned under Scheme ‘B’ served as first lieutenants and navigators in submarines and one achieved command. They took part in many war patrols off the coast of Norway, in the Mediterranean, and in Eastern waters. At the time of the Japanese invasion of Malaya in December 1941, Sub-Lieutenants H. C. Robjohns, A. L. Cato, C. E. Fisher, and P. W. Smith had arrived to serve as liaison officers in Dutch submarines in the Netherlands East Indies. Smith,1 who lost his life on 28 February 1942 when HMS Anking was sunk by the Japanese after the evacuation of Java, was awarded a posthumous mention in despatches for his gallantry in swimming away, badly wounded, from a crowded raft to make room for another man. Robjohns, who was also in the Anking, was one of several New Zealanders picked up by a small Dutch ship. He subsequently served in the Dutch submarine O-19 and in British submarines. Cato2 was killed in HMS Jupiter in the Battle of the Java Sea.
Able Seaman Spencer,3 of Nelson, lost his life in the Tetrarch which, after a successful commission in the Mediterranean, disappeared with all hands between Malta and Gibraltar while on passage to England. Leading Seaman Thurlow, RNZNVR, who served for twelve months in the Mediterranean as a gunlayer in the Otus, Una, and Unison, was one of the survivors of the submarine depot ship Medway when she was torpedoed and sunk by a U-boat between Alexandria and Haifa on 30 June 1942. Able Seaman Speed,4 of Wellington, who saw some exciting patrols in the Mediterranean, was accidentally killed in October 1942 while serving in the Parthian, which was lost off Sicily in August 1943.
1 Sub-Lieutenant P. W. Smith, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Wairoa, 5 Dec 1915; dairy factory worker; killed on active service 28 Feb 1942.
4 Able Seaman F. A. Speed, RNZNVR; born Reefton, 13 Mar 1921; electrical fitter; accidentally killed 13 Oct 1942.
To Lieutenant-Commander Thode,1 of Auckland, fell the distinction of being the only RNZNVR officer to attain command of a submarine during the war. In October 1941 he was appointed navigating officer in the Proteus, in which he served for six months under Lieutenant-Commander P. S. Francis, DSO, RN, who handled her with ‘dash and distinction’. On six patrols in the Aegean Sea, off the west coast of Greece and in the Gulf of Taranto, the Proteus sank three troopships, a tanker, and a supply ship. On her fifth patrol off the coast of Greece, the Proteus attacked an Italian destroyer which she had mistaken for a submarine. When the destroyer attempted to ram her, the Proteus turned towards the enemy and the two ships collided head-on. A large hole was torn in the destroyer's bow, and the port forward hydroplane of the Proteus was sheared off and other gear distorted and she was forced to return to Alexandria. For his part in these patrols Thode was awarded a mention in despatches.
At the end of July 1943 there were only four submarines, three Dutch and one British, on the East Indies Station, but seven released from duty in the Mediterranean were on their way there. The Admiralty then decided that all new submarines and all except a few of those in service should join the Eastern Fleet. Thus it came about that many New Zealand submariners, officers and ratings, found themselves in Eastern waters during 1944–45. From November 1944 to 20 August 1945, the thirty-one British submarines operating from Ceylon and Fremantle made fifty-four war patrols of an average duration of thirty-three days. In the first months of 1944 the Tally Ho sank the Japanese cruiser Kuma and two U-boats. During the last nine months of the war British submarines sank eleven Japanese warships and 112 merchant vessels and laid a number of minefields.
A few New Zealanders saw service in midget submarines, which were known officially as X craft. One was Lieutenant Westmacott, DSC, RN,1 who in September 1944 was detailed to destroy a large floating dock at Bergen, in Norway. He was then in command of X24, with Sub-Lieutenant Derek Purdy, RNZNVR,2 as his first lieutenant, a diver and an engine-room artificer being the other members of the crew. X24 was towed from the Shetland Islands to Norwegian waters by the submarine Sceptre. Very bad weather was experienced on passage and Purdy was swept overboard and drowned. After slipping the tow and passing through some 30 miles of narrow fjords, X24 arrived at Bergen on 11 September. Two delay-action charges were placed under the dock and X24 got away unmolested to rejoin the Sceptre that night. The dock was badly damaged and broken in two by the explosions.
At the end of July 1945 the midget XE5 commanded by Westmacott made a gallant attempt to cut the Hong Kong–Singapore cable. The craft spent three and a half days in the strongly defended waters of Hong Kong and made four passages between the harbour and the open sea. Westmacott was awarded a bar to his DSC – he had received the DSO for his Bergen exploit. In the meantime XE4, commanded by Lieutenant M. H. Shean, RANVR, had succeeded in cutting the Hong Kong–Saigon and Singapore–Saigon cables, one foot of each being brought back. Shean was awarded a bar to the DSO he had gained for his attack in X24 on the Bergen dock in April 1944.
Other New Zealand-born officers of the Royal Navy in the submarine arm were Lieutenant P. R. H. Allen, a son of Sir Stephen Allen, of Morrinsville, who died when the Upholder, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander M. D. Wanklyn, VC, DSO, DSC, was lost in the Mediterranean in April 1942, and Lieutenant A. O. Baker, who died in the Turbulent, commanded by Commander J. W. Linton, DSO, DSC, and sunk off Sardinia in March 1943. Lieutenant-Commander L. E. Herrick, DSC, RN, of Hastings, served in submarines throughout the war. He gained his DSC in the Tigris, ‘one of the most redoubtable submarines’ that operated in the Bay of Biscay in 1940–41. He subsequently served in P34 of the 5th Flotilla and the Uproar of the 10th Flotilla, based at Malta. Two brothers from Timaru, Lieutenant A. G. Tait, RN, and Lieutenant J. F. Tait, RNZNVR, also saw much service in submarines. The latter had previously served in the cruiser Arethusa and the destroyer Ithuriel escorting convoys to Malta. During the passage of the August 1942 convoy the Ithuriel rammed and sank an Italian submarine.
The prospect of active service in the air as well as at sea drew more than a thousand young New Zealanders into the air branch of the RNZNVR, of whom 738 achieved commissioned rank before the war ended. New Zealand naval airmen numbered more than 10 per cent of the officers of the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. In the big carriers of the British Pacific Fleet their proportion was much higher. They served with distinction in every one of the fifty-odd aircraft-carriers commissioned during the war and in all the Royal Navy air stations, including those in the West Indies. Besides the airmen, many New Zealand ratings served in the carriers as seamen, telegraphists, and radar operators and mechanics.
In proportion to their total strength, the losses of New Zealanders in the Fleet Air Arm were heavy: 152 were killed and many wounded. Their awards for gallantry and outstanding performance included one DSO, thirty-nine Distinguished Service Crosses and two bars, one DFC, three MBEs, forty-eight mentions in despatches, and page 507 two letters of commendation. But their awards and decorations measured but a small part of their achievement and standing in the service. That was summed up by Admiral Sir Philip Vian, who commanded the aircraft-carriers of the British Pacific Fleet, when he informed the New Zealand Naval Board: ‘I consider the pilots from New Zealand second to none and to have ever excelled in the offensive spirit.’
First of the many New Zealanders who served in HMS Victorious was Lieutenant(A) Napper, DSC.1 He joined her as an air engineer officer in February 1941, when she commissioned at her builders' yard on the Tyne, and was with her for an eventful two years and eight months. The Victorious had barely completed her trials in May 1941 when she took part in the chase of the German battleship Bismarck, which was hit by a torpedo from one of the carrier's aircraft. There were New Zealanders in other ships engaged in the hunt. One was Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant Stanley Watkinson, RNZN,2 who died when HMS Hood was sunk in action with the Bismarck, with the loss of all but three of her ship's company. Some New Zealand ‘Scheme B’ ratings were serving in the Sikh and other destroyers which shadowed and attacked the Bismarck the night before she was sunk. At the beginning of September 1941 the Victorious and other ships of the Home Fleet covered the passage of the first convoy taking supplies to North Russia. After service at the Admiralty and in Melbourne, Napper was appointed to HMS Pioneer in 1945 as air engineer on the staff of the Rear-Admiral, Fleet Train, British Pacific Fleet.
Another of the first New Zealanders commissioned in the Fleet Air Arm was Lieutenant (A) Holden,3 who left New Zealand in 1939. He joined HMS Repulse in August 1941 as pilot of a Walrus amphibian (700 Squadron) and was one of the 796 survivors of her company of 1309 when she and the Prince of Wales were sunk by Japanese aircraft off Malaya on 10 December 1941. After that, Holden spent thirteen months in the cruiser Enterprise on convoy escort duty in the Indian Ocean. Sub-Lieutenant (A) Elwood,4 of 803 Squadron, HMS Formidable, one of the first New Zealanders to serve in that carrier, was lost on 1 August 1942 in the course of a sweep by the Eastern Fleet in the Bay of Bengal.
The second of the type, HMS Avenger, was the first to sail with a Russian convoy, that of September 1942. In ten days, often in fog and snow squalls, her fighters shot down eight German aircraft and damaged fourteen, and thrice attacked U-boats. Two of the New Zealand pilots serving in the Avenger at that time, Lieutenants (A) Cowper1 and Latter,2 lost their lives when the ship was sunk during the invasion of North Africa in November 1942.
During the first half of 1942 New Zealand airmen in the Victorious took part in a sweep down the coast of Norway, an attack on the battleship Tirpitz, and the covering of two convoys to Russia. Others in the carriers Eagle and Argus covered the flying of reinforcements of Spitfires and the passage of a supply convoy to Malta in June, when four out of six ships were sunk. A number of New Zealanders were serving in squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm which, under continuous enemy attack, shared with the Royal Air Force in the defence of Malta, as well as making frequent strikes at enemy shipping and airfields. Sub-Lieutenant (A) Cramp,3 of 830 Squadron, was awarded the DSC for ‘gallantry in circumstances of extreme hazard.’ At a critical stage in the passage of the June 1942 convoy, he led from Malta a flight of four Albacores in a strike on an Italian force of two cruisers and five destroyers and hit one of the cruisers. Sub-Lieutenant (A) Morrison4 of 828 Squadron gained a DSC for ‘great bravery, skill and determination’ in torpedo and dive-bombing attacks on enemy shipping. He had taken part in more than twenty operations from Malta up to June 1942.
1 Lieutenant (A) V. H. G. Cowper, RNZNVR; born Havelock, 15 Sep 1917; store manager; killed on active service 15 Nov 1942.
New Zealand was also well represented in the Fleet Air Arm squadrons which patrolled and fought over the Western Desert and the Mediterranean during the North African campaigns. The squadrons were attached to HMS Grebe, the naval air station at Dekheila, near Alexandria. Sub-Lieutenant (A) Brunt3 of 826 Squadron, a ‘most determined fighter’, was awarded the DSC for his part in a close-range attack under heavy fire on an enemy convoy in July 1942: his aircraft was thrice damaged by flak that month. Lieutenant (A) P. Fell, RNVR, who served with 806 Squadron in the Western Desert, was one of the first New Zealanders to join the Fleet Air Arm in 1939 and one of the first pilots to fly fighters from Takoradi, on the Gold Coast, across Africa to Egypt. He was a ‘founder’ member of 1839 Squadron in HMS Indomitable. His brother served as an observer in the Fleet Air Arm.
5 Lieutenant (A) R. M. Richardson, DSC, RNZNVR; born Johnsonville, 25 Mar 1922; clerk.
6 Lieutenant (A) A. S. Long, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Dunedin, 25 Apr 1918; boat-builder.
After taking part with other carriers in the invasion of North Africa in November 1942, the Victorious went out to Pearl Harbour early in 1943 for duty with the United States Pacific Fleet. For most of her six months in the South Pacific she was in company with the USS Saratoga, and the British and American squadrons operated from each other's carriers. In one operation in which the New Zealand airmen took part, most of the torpedo and dive-bombers were in the Saratoga and most of the fighters in the Victorious. In the two years ended 15 May 1943, the Victorious steamed nearly 118,000 miles and her aircraft made 5505 deck landings and completed 7715 flying hours. She returned to England at the end of September 1943.
From the end of 1942 onward many New Zealanders served in the escort carriers with Atlantic and Russian convoys. The convoys were guarded by more numerous and formidable surface escorts than ever before and support groups of carriers, corvettes, and frigates were able to seek out and destroy the U-boats wherever they were found – 237 of them were sunk in 1943 – and merchant ship losses decreased by 59 per cent compared with those for 1942.
While on convoy duty in the North Atlantic, aircraft of the escort carriers Biter, Archer, Vindex, Campania, and Nairana took part in the destruction of six or seven U-boats. In February 1944 two New Zealand pilots in the Biter, Lieutenants (A) Erikson1 and Dimes,2 took off in heavy weather and made a skilful attack on a large four-engined bomber which was shot down in flames by the former. Both pilots landed on their carrier under difficult conditions. Erikson was awarded the DSC and Dimes a mention in despatches. Lieutenant (A) Martin,3 second in command of 896 Squadron in the Pursuer, and Sub-Lieutenant (A) A. R. Burgham,4 senior pilot of 835 Squadron in the Nairana, were also mentioned in despatches for shooting down German bombers. Leading Airman Ferguson,5 air gunner in a Swordfish of the Nairana, was killed with his pilot when their aircraft crashed while landing on in March 1944.
New Zealanders who served in naval air stations on the coasts of the United Kingdom took an active part in anti-submarine patrols and, particularly on the East Coast and in the English Channel, in the constant offensive against German E-boats. Lieutenant (A) Fisher,6 senior officer of 841 Squadron based at Dover, was awarded the DSC in November 1943 for skill and determination in attacks on E-boats, of which he had sunk three and damaged at least six others.
Of the many New Zealanders with the naval forces at the Allied landings at Salerno in Italy in September 1943, more than sixty were Fleet Air Arm pilots in the seven aircraft-carriers engaged. As the landings were made beyond effective fighter range from the nearest Allied airfields, air cover over the beaches was provided by a force commanded by Rear-Admiral Vian, consisting of the carriers Unicorn, Hunter, Attacker, Stalker, and Battler, escorted by the cruisers Euryalus, Scylla, and Charybdis, and ten destroyers. This force was itself covered by fighters from the Formidable and Illustrious. Owing to delays in making captured airfields operational, Admiral Vian's carriers had to give cover for three and a half days instead of the twenty-four hours originally planned.
Lieutenant-Commander (A) F. A. J. Pennington, formerly of the Victorious, who was in command of 834 Squadron in the Hunter, gained a bar to his DSC for his ‘outstanding leadership’ in sorties from the ship and later from a captured airfield. The six pilots of his squadron completed fifty-one sorties without damage to their aircraft. Pennington subsequently served in the Hunter in the Indian Ocean and was killed in an aircraft accident near Colombo in April 1944. Lieutenant (A) Bisman,3 of Invercargill, who was in Pennington's squadron at that time, was accidentally killed two months later.
In February 1944 the first of a long series of strikes on German shipping in the leads through the numberless islands off the coast of Norway was made by aircraft from the Furious, which was covered by the battleships Anson and Richelieu (French), two cruisers, and seven destroyers. Lieutenant (A) Durrant,4 one of nine or ten New Zealanders who took part in this operation, was awarded the DSC for skill and determination in attacks by his squadron on superior numbers of enemy aircraft, one of which he shot down.
4 Lieutenant (A) R. W. Durrant, DSC, RNZNVR; born Feilding, 5 Oct 1919; clerk.
Three weeks later the same carrier force, in which the Striker had replaced the Fencer, struck at a convoy of five German merchant ships and five escort vessels off Bodo, sinking two of the former and damaging the others and one of the escorts. One torpedo-bomber, piloted by Sub-Lieutenant (A) Herrold, and four fighters were lost. Two aircraft from the Victorious, one piloted by Sub-Lieutenant (A) Farrer3 of 831 Squadron and the other navigated by Sub-Lieutenant (A) Ryan,4 an observer of 829 Squadron, found their way in extremely bad weather into Bodo harbour and successfully bombed two merchant ships. Farrer's aircraft was badly damaged by flak but he got back to his ship. He had previously served in 826 Squadron in the Western Desert and was accidentally killed while on a course in England in August 1945. Later in the day six Corsairs from the Victorious carried out a reconnaissance over the Narvik area and two of them set fire to a tanker in Vaags Fjord. For their part in these operations and in the attack on the Tirpitz, Lieutenant (A) Gledhill5 and Sub-Lieutenant Farrer of the Victorious and Lieutenant (A) Armitage,6 senior observer of 830 Squadron in the Furious, were awarded the DSC; Lieutenant (A) Emerson,7 senior pilot of 827 Squadron, Sub-Lieutenant L. J. Ryan of the Victorious, and Sub-Lieutenant (A) Perrett8 of the Pursuer were mentioned in despatches.
The New Zealanders in the Indefatigable, Formidable, and Furious, as well as others in the escorting cruisers and destroyers, took part in a second attack on the Tirpitz on 17 July 1944. Because of a dense smoke screen which filled the fjord up to 800 feet, bombing was ‘blind’ through the smoke where the heaviest flak indicated the position of the ship. In the last week of August aircraft from the same carriers made four attacks on the Tirpitz, while others from the Trumpeter and Nabob in the supporting force carried out diversionary sweeps. Four certain and four probable hits and two near misses on the battleship were reported, a U-boat and nineteen ships were damaged, seven enemy aircraft destroyed, and much damage was done to airfields and shore stations. Eight aircraft were lost in these attacks, in which the New Zealanders of the several carriers played a notable part.
2 Lieutenant (A) C. St. George, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Taranaki, 19 May 1921; clerk.
6 Lieutenant (A) M. Rivett, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born England, 24 Oct 1919; shepherd.
8 Lieutenant (A) D. E. Rowe, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Queenstown, 30 Oct 1919; accountant.
From then on till the end of hostilities against Germany, New Zealanders continued to take part in the frequent air strikes against shipping in the Norwegian leads, which they mined from time to time to force the convoys out into the open sea. Those who had served in the Furious in many operations left her with regret when she paid off into reserve in September 1944 after more than twenty-five years of service as an aircraft-carrier. Lieutenant (A) Shaw,4 of 1771 Squadron, HMS Implacable, was killed on 26 October 1944 in the first of three strikes by that newly-commissioned ship. Lieutenant (A) Duff5 and Sub-Lieutenant (A) Canter,6 both of 882 Squadron, HMS Searcher, were awarded the DSC for skill and daring as fighter escorts for bombers in five operations off the coast of Norway. Lieutenant (A) Hugh Morrison,7 senior pilot of 882 Squadron, was killed on 5 May 1945 in the last offensive naval operation (code name JUDGMENT) in the war against Germany. Aircraft from the Searcher, Queen, and Trumpeter, which were supported by the cruisers Norfolk and Diadem and five destroyers, attacked the U-boat base at Kilbotn, north-west of Narvik. The enemy's depot ship Black Watch was blown up and a tanker was also destroyed. Morrison, who was shot down by flak, was awarded a posthumous mention in despatches.
5 Lieutenant (A) A. R. Duff, DSC, RNZNVR; born Dunedin, 31 Jul 1919; clerk.
6 Lieutenant (A) P. J. M. Canter, DSC, RNZNVR; born Prebbleton, 16 Dec 1921; civil servant.
Many New Zealanders served in the 300 British warships that took part in the landings of American and French troops in the south of France (Operation DRAGOON) on 15 August 1944. There were some fifty New Zealand airmen in the escort carriers Emperor, Khedive, Attacker, Hunter, Pursuer, Searcher, and Stalker which provided fighter cover for the operation. Lieutenant-Commander (A) Reece,2 who commanded 807 Squadron in the Hunter, Lieutenant (A) Gowan,3 a flight leader of 879 Squadron in the Attacker, and Lieutenant (A) Jellie,4 of 800 Squadron in the Emperor, were awarded the DSC for skill and leadership in dive-bombing and strafing missions. Gowan, who was injured in a flight-deck accident, had not long before been shot down in Italy. He baled out and landed behind the enemy lines, but, ‘by the exercise of initiative and common sense’, made his escape within a week. The award of mention in despatches was made to Lieutenant (A) T. H. Hoare, DSC, senior pilot of 800 Squadron in the Emperor, Lieutenant (A) N. Perrett of the Pursuer, and Sub-Lieutenants (A) Howden,5 a section leader of 879 Squadron in the Attacker, Graham,6 a flight leader of 807 Squadron in the Hunter, Moore,7 of 809 Squadron in the Stalker, and Steven,8 of 899 Squadron in the Khedive.
4 Lieutenant (A) J. H. Jellie, DSC, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Southport, England, 6 Nov 1920; clerk.
6 Sub-Lieutenant (A) L. D. Graham, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Matiere, 21 Dec 1921; butcher.
At the beginning of 1945 these and other escort carriers moved into the Indian Ocean. From April, after the Victorious and other fleet carriers had passed into the British Pacific Fleet, the escort carriers of the East Indies Fleet took part in air strikes on Sumatra and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as well as in the capture of Rangoon and the sinking of the Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro in Malacca Strait. Sub-Lieutenant (A) Foxley,2 of 808 Squadron, HMS Khedive, was awarded the DSC for his skilful and successful leadership in combat with Japanese aircraft during a strike on airfields in Sumatra.
Of Lieutenant (A) J. R. Cowan,3 who was awarded the MBE in June 1945, it was recorded that ‘exceptionally outstanding as an instructor in the School of Naval Air Warfare, he has contributed in a marked degree to its success. He has experimented with and produced modifications for the gyro gunsight and its camera…. In addition, he is a pilot of more than average ability who practises and demonstrates in the air what he preaches on the ground.’
As a counter to the German menace in Persia troops were landed in August 1941 and secured the oil refineries at Abadan, the naval base at Khorramshar, and the railway terminal at Banda Shahpur. The British naval force captured eight enemy merchant ships at the last-mentioned port. Paymaster Lieutenant Campbell,1 of Wellington, who was serving in the Australian merchant cruiser Kanimbla, was awarded the MBE for his services on this occasion. Telegraphist M. J. Rutherford, of Lyttelton, spent twelve months in HMAS Gawler, one of eight Australian corvettes in the Mediterranean. Other New Zealand ratings served as signalmen in Dutch and Greek destroyers.
New Zealand radar officers and ratings saw considerable service in ships of the Home and Mediterranean Fleets and, more numerously, in those of the Eastern and British Pacific Fleets. From 1943 onward, many did duty as port radar officers round the Indian Ocean from Fremantle to Kilindini and Durban. Others were stationed at Addu atoll in the Maldive Islands, in the Persian Gulf, and at Simonstown and Freetown. Wherever they served, they achieved a sound record of efficiency.
Lieutenant McNaught2 was radar officer in the anti-aircraft cruiser Cairo which sailed with two convoys to Malta in 1942. She was twice in action with two Italian cruisers and four destroyers during the passage of the June convoy in which four out of six ships were sunk. The Cairo was sunk in August when nine out of fourteen ships of the convoy were lost. McNaught served for thirteen months in 1944–45 in HMS Norfolk, flagship of Rear-Admiral R. McGrigor, First Cruiser Squadron, and was awarded a mention in despatches for good service in an action in Norwegian waters in January 1945, when a convoy of eight German ships was destroyed.
While serving as port radar officer at Kilindini, Lieutenant Lissant-Clayton3 was mentioned in despatches for salvaging valuable radar equipment under difficult and dangerous conditions from the German submarine U-852. This U-boat had been attacked by aircraft of the Aden command and driven ashore about 50 miles south of Cape Guardafui on 2 May 1944. Five officers, including the captain, and 39 ratings were taken prisoner.4
2 Lieutenant R. S. McNaught, RNZNVR, m.i.d.; born Hastings, 23 Jul 1918; clerk.
4 U-852 was the submarine which on 13 March 1944 sank the Greek steamer Peleus near Ascension Island in the Atlantic. Nothing was known of the steamer's loss until three survivors of her crew of 35 were picked up 25 days later. They reported that U-852 rammed the rafts and wreckage deliberately to drown the crew, who were also machine-gunned in the water. In October 1945 Heinz Eck, commander of U-852, three other officers, and one rating were tried by a military court at Hamburg on charges of murder. Eck and two officers were sentenced to death and shot, the fourth officer to life-imprisonment, and the rating to 15 years' imprisonment.
Those who have been mentioned in this narrative were in no way different from the thousands of other New Zealanders who served at sea. Obviously it was not possible to mention all who served in the Royal Navy, and there seemed to be no other way to give some account of their service in all kinds of ships in many seas. Most of the work of the Navy is done by ships and men that are never in the news. Of New Zealanders who fought at sea, including those in the Royal New Zealand Navy, it can be said: ‘Their memory is linked for ever with the Royal Navy whose child they were, of whose traditions they were so proud and whose long annals, rich with romantic and splendid feats of arms, contains no brighter page than theirs’.