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In early August 1945, King George V, as part of the British Pacific Fleet, was about 300 miles off the coast of Japan, but it was not until some time later we were told that the Americans had, in fact, dropped two atomic bombs, the first on the city of Hiroshima, and the second a few days later on Nagasaki. Of course, we had no idea what an atomic bomb was, let alone the damage and loss of life it could cause. We later saw photographs of the horrific damage caused. I know that the loss of life was terrible, as most things in war are, but it did end the war very quickly and I, like many of my shipmates, think that it did by months and perhaps years, which saved many more lives being lost.
I joined the Royal Navy in February 1943 undergoing my training at HMS Collingwood before joining HMS Excellent to train as a gunner. It was a very interesting experience for an 18 year old and you really grew up very quickly. King George V, had been involved in many sea battles and my action station was in the working chamber of 14” B Turret when closed-up for bombardments. When closed-up for anti-aircraft fire, I doubled as a loader on No 1 Pom Pom of B Turret some 30 feet above the deck. From there you could see most of what was going on during various actions. We became part of Task Force 57 and by then had been joined by our sister ship HMS Howe. In the opening days of May, our ship, KGV, headed a sizeable British Fleet bombarding Japanese airfields in the Ryuku Islands. During mid-July we were dispatched to join the US Fleet in a prolonged attack on the city of Hitachi followed by other sustained bombardments of Hamamatsu at the end of July, which were known to be targets for aviation factories. We certainly saw some action and we seemed relentless in our bid to shell specific industrial targets.
Within days, we became aware that events were escalating with the dropping of the atomic bombs. I can remember the 15th August very well as on that particular day we were closed up at action stations, as usual, when we received a signal to say that Japan had surrendered. All our pom-pom gun crew came down onto the deck to join the celebrations. We had only been down on deck a couple of minutes when the fleet was attacked by Japanese aircraft, the pilots probably unaware that the war was at an end. We rushed back up to the gun, just in time to receive a signal telling us that all enemy aircraft were to be “shot down in the most friendly way possible”, which we all thought was a very difficult thing to do!
After a couple of weeks or so, we sailed into Tokyo Bay to take part in the Japanese surrender. King George V had been the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings, Second-in-Command of the British Pacific Fleet for many months. As the war came to an end, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, the Commander- in-Chief of the British Pacific Fleet, sailed from Sydney on our sister ship, HMS Duke of York, to take command of the Fleet. On entering Tokyo Bay, the US battleship, Missouri, went in first, followed by the Duke of York, then King George V. I will always remember the sight of going past Mount Fujiyama at the entrance to the bay.
The Unconditional Surrender to the Allies finally took place on board the USS Missouri on 2 September 1945. The document was signed by two Japanese representatives: Mamoru Shigemitsu, the Foreign Minister, and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of Imperial General Headquarters, and witnessed by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitiz, and Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, together with representatives from China, USSR, Australia, Canada, France, Netherlands and New Zealand.
Following this, most ships had landing parties put ashore to find Allied PoWs and to help in repatriation. At the end of September, we set sail for Sydney, our main base, for some well earned leave.
We finally returned to Portsmouth in March 1946 having left Scapa Flow on 27 October 1944.
(by kind permission of Mrs Stella Jenner)
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They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Wartime Newsreel is published four times per year and mostly contains the previously unpublished stories of those who were there. There are many heart rendering accounts from the tragedies of Dunkirk, to major sea battles including confrontations with the Bismarck, Scharnhorst, Prinz Eugen, Tirpitz, Gneisnau, Graf Spee..... There were many battles fought in this list and Wartime News readers were there to the bitter end. Many are still with us today and remember distinctly the actions in which they were involved. The same goes for the aircrews of the RAF and the pilots. Every reader of Wartime News played their part, even a WAAF who is featured in the November edition who plotted the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. These were, and are, extremely brave and talented individuals who tell the story as it was.
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