I am delighted to provide a foreword for this book, but I am afraid that my connection with HMAS Shropshire is very tenuous, to say the least. During the war I was, as the author puts it, ‘an obscure Greek Prince’ who had joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1939. My first appointment as a Midshipman was to the battleship HMS Ramillies in January 1940. I joined her in Colombo as she was on her way to Australia to escort the first contingent of the Australian Expeditionary Force to the Middle East. Greece was still neutral at that time, and as Ramillies was to continue into the Mediterranean, it was considered prudent that I should remain out of the active ‘war zone’ for the time being. Italy invaded Greece a few months later and I was immediately sent to Alexandria to join the battleship Valiant. It was during the ‘time being’ that I first served in HMS Kent and then in HMS Shropshire on the East Indies Station. We spent a lot of time at sea, either searching or escorting, but otherwise things were fairly quiet. The next time I was to see Shropshire was in Tokyo Bay in September 1945. I had come back to Australia with the British Pacific Fleet as First Lieutenant of the Fleet Destroyer HMS Whelp. As luck would have it, Whelp and Wager were chosen to escort Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, the Commander-in-Chief BPF, in his Flagship HMS Duke of York to pay a call on Admiral Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Ocean area, in Guam. It was while we were there that the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. The main Allied Fleets were already at sea and, together with Admiral Halsey in his flagship, USS Missouri, we sailed to join the fleets until the Japanese finally agreed to end hostilities. By another piece of luck it was decided that, as soon as it was known that the Japanese had given in, the two flagships, Missouri and Duke of York escorted by four US and two British destroyers, should go straight to Tokyo in advance of the rest of the fleets. It was a dramatic and deeply moving moment as this small group of ships sailed quietly into the very heart of the Japanese Empire, which had been the all-conquering and apparently invincible enemy for so long. A few days later the Allied fleets sailed into the wide waters of Tokyo Bay to witness the official surrender by the Japanese and the end of the Second World War. This book tells the dramatic story of what happened to Shropshire from soon after I left her in Colombo until I saw her again in Tokyo five years later. It is quite a story.
On the 15th August 2020 it will be the 75th anniversary of VJ Day – Victory in Japan.
A special service of remembrance in partnership with The Royal British Legion will be held at the National Memorial Arboretum, and veterans and their families are invited to attend. Please visit the NMA website for more details.
From the NMA website:
In 2020, in partnership with The Royal British Legion, we will be asking the Nation to remember the impact that leaving, missing and returning home has on service men and women & their loved ones – then and now.
Whilst we may not be able to deliver our original programme of activity around this special date, we are working with the Royal British Legion, the Ministry of Defence and the BBC to produce a live broadcast from the Arboretum.
The best place to see the programme is from your home, however, a limited number of spaces to visit the Arboretum to watch proceedings on a large screen in the Naval Review will be available on a first-come, first-served basis from 30 July.
Veterans and those with family connections, are encouraged to register with The Royal British Legion here. We ask, where possible, that priority is given to veterans and family when watching proceedings on the Naval Review also.
Please note the FEPOW Memorial Building and Far East Area of the Arboretum will be inaccessible to the public from 9am Friday 14 August to 3pm Saturday 15 August.
While HMS Wager and the 27th Destroyer Flotilla were not awarded the Battle Honour NORMANDY 1944 the destroyer, with many other units of the Home Fleet, were at sea in home waters. The Home Fleet was required to be available to intercept any enemy ship interference during the allied landings in Normandy (Operation NEPTUNE).
Some 6,000 ships, from battleships to landing craft and fast patrol boats were involved on D Day, landing some 130,000 troops on the five beaches.
That maritime losses on that day, and in the ensuing weeks, were relatively light is, of course, in part owing to the outer screen provided tens and hundreds of miles away from the Normandy coast.
Let’s remember them today.
In July, HMS Wager sailed for the Far East to play a part in the war with Japan. She was at Gibraltar by early August.
HMS Kempenfelt was the leader of the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, of which HMS Wager was part. This album of photographs belonged to a member of her ship’s company and most were taken, it is thought, in 1944-45. Many certainly enhance the HMS Wager story, and some show sailors at work in a destroyer that was almost exactly the same in size and fittings and operated with the various ships in her flotilla.
The two extracts in the document below are taken from newspapers in Sydney about an accident that happened on HMS Kempenfelt in November 1945.
This article attempts to give an idea of how the ship’s company of a destroyer such as HMS Wager was made up during war time. Names of the men who served are added as we become aware of them, so it is very much a work in progress.
Detailed information about the 27th Destroyer Flotilla, including the ships, officers and chain of command, and a gazetteer of key places and ports. Contains also a brief summary of the second world war along with an explanation of British and American involvement in the Pacific theatre.