Our ship and crew sailed north to the conflict in company of a vast number of other warships on Feb 28 1945. The period of three months involving operation 'Iceberg' which included eight weeks of continual contact with the enemy and lesser periods of involvement, near places like Okinawa 'The big one', on all fools day April 1, Easter Sunday 1945, where American forces landed and other places like Ishigaki, Myako shima and Sakashima gunto.
In my precarious, unenviable action station on the air defence position, I could see Kamikases galore. on many occasions, the brown trouser situation seemed imminent, but I was convinced that I was far too young to die; there were far too many more exciting things for me to achieve before that happened.
After leaving the operational area, we called into the U S A base at Guam in the Marianas. With us Were our escorting destroyers, The HM Ships Troubridge , Tenacious and Termagent. The crews enjoyed the shore recreational facilities and three cans of free beer, one or two beers were usually enough for me.
Lying at anchor close by was the USS Battleship Missouri. The crew of this great ship were surprised that our ship did not carry amenities such as Coca Cola and ice cream, so the American fleet soon rectfied this problem. The Battleship HMS King George V, became the first British warship to have an ice cream machine.
Our ship then sailed for Sydney Australia on the 30 May and arrived Tues June 5; for 3 weeks R and R and replenish our stores and ammunition. The war was soon to end.
Of course I have my own opinion regarding the use of the atomic bombs which decided the end of hostilities, during Operation 'Iceberg' over a quarter of a million civilians and Japanese, American and British Commonwealth servicemen lost their lives, prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is sad that the innocent have to suffer for the immoralities of war.The millions of us who survived ww2 owe our lives to the clear sighted wisdom of the allied leaders in Washington and Whitehall who understood the jungle of problems to be faced and left the moralistic chuntering to those lost in the woods.
Our ship and others returned to the conflict up north June 28 45. Few people knew until much later that on July 16 (my 19th Birthday) the first Atomic test took place in the New Mexico Desert, also on this same date the British Pacific Fleet came under the direct control of the American fleet Commander. I believe this was due to a logistical support problem, the details I am not privy to, a good guess would be that us Brits had sort of 'run out of gas' as we were being refuelled at sea by American tankers.
I must mention here that the last warship of battleship class to fire an angry shot in wartime was HMS King George V in the afternoon of VJ day a few hours after the cease fire.
During the final days of the war against Japan KGV was involved with other ships( mostly American) that were bombarding the coast of Japan. On one particular night, one of our 'B' turret guns malfunctioned and only loaded the full charge without the 17cwt shell, in the confusion the gun fired and the full charge provided the best firework display ever, pieces of burning cordite in the thousands stuck to every one and anything in range burning decks and paintwork, trying to remove the burning cordite from my action overalls it burned through the anti flash gear I was wearing to prevent such burns.
Later on our journey back to Sydney , sailors were employed to Patch up burnt paintwork , the burns on the decks were rubbed down with pumice blocks called holy stones, the larger blocks were called Bibles!!
HMS King GeogeV, was the 2nd British ship to enter Tokyo, there was much dissension when HMS Duke Of York entered first, as it had only just arrived from Sydney where it had been swinging around a bouy for several months and had not fired one angry shot, the senior Admiral Bruce Fraser was the CinC in his nice shiny ship, so our vice Admiral Bernard Rawlings and our crew took second billing. So being a great surviver from other minor conflicts too, and being a gunnery man during my career, I feel it is fair to say the sight of guns and the stink of gunpowder and cordite really fails to turn me on. AVAGDAY ZS.
To advise that Vest (Les Bowyer) passed away this morning. Regards, Chris (Son).
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