Be pleased to lay before Their Lordships the following letter of proceedings for the period 29th. April to 6th. June, 1943.
2. The Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, Admiral Nimitz, accompanied by Commander, Air Force Pacific, Admiral Towers, visited the ship on April 29th. The Ship’s Company marched past him on the Flight Deck and he gave an encouraging speech which was much appreciated.
3. On the 3rd. and 4th. May, ‘Victorious’ proceeded to sea for flying and gunnery exercises. A “Drone” was again provided but we were unsuccessful in shooting it down this time. ‘Victorious’ returned to harbour on completion, securing alongside the Naval Air Station at Ford Island
4. On the 7th. May, the Squadrons embarked. The aircraft – 16 Tarpons2 and 36 Martlets, were hoisted onboard. Permission was obtained to form a pool to be attached to the Air Group under training at Maui (a Hawaiian Island) in order to keep a reserve of pilots and observers ready to join ‘Victorious’ as necessary. At present 2 pilots and 4 observers are in this pool and will shortly be joined by the 9 reserve fighter pilots who are completing their training at San Diego, California.
5. On the 8th. May, ‘Victorious’ as Commander Task Group 52.2 with U.S.S. ‘North Carolina’ and three destroyers sailed for Noumea.
6. A/ S patrols were flown on passage and the Fighter Squadrons were exercised in firing at a towed sleeve target and at a splash target towed by the ship. ‘North Carolina’ also flew off an aircraft on two occasions to provide a sleeve target for short range firings by ships of the force.
7. ‘Victorious’ crossed the Equator on the 11th. May in longitude 166 ° 49′ West and the crossing of the date line caused May 15th. to be a “dies non”.
8. On May 13th. at 0900 in position 09 ° 01′ – 175 ° 15′ West, our screen of three destroyers was increased by the arrival of U.S.S. ‘Dunlap’ and ‘Case’ from the Fiji’s. This enabled me to fuel the three original destroyers from ‘North Carolina’ with a measure of security. ‘North Carolina’ gave the destroyers about 300 tons of fuel each, oiling two at a time.
9. A few emergency turns, on account of submarine contacts, were made during passage. I was impressed by the efficiency of the T.B.S. on R/ T (loudspeaker reception on the bridge) for these emergency turns, the screen receiving and answering the alter course signals on every occasion.
10. ‘Victorious’ arrived at Noumea at 1500 on May 17th. A/ S patrol had been flown by the ‘Saratoga’ Air
Group during the forenoon, flying from the shore base at Tontouta in New Caledonia. The ship secured to a buoy in the Great Roads inside the boom. U.S.S. ‘Saratoga’ flying the Flag of Vice Admiral Ramsey, ‘Massachusetts’ (Rear Admiral Davis) and ‘Indiana’ were at anchor, also the cruisers ‘San Juan’ and ‘San Diego’ and several destroyers and fleet auxiliaries.
11. On arrival ‘Victorious’ reported for duty to Admiral Ramsey, Commanding Task Force 14, in ‘Saratoga’. I called on both Admiral Halsey and Admiral Ramsey who both gave us a very warm welcome.
12. At 1400 on Thursday 18th. May, the combined Task Forces No. 14 and 10 consisting of ‘Saratoga’ (Admiral Ramsey in Command) with ‘Victorious’, ‘Massachusetts’, ‘Indiana’, ‘San Juan’ and 7 destroyers, proceeded for a sweep in the Coral Sea. This unexpected movement was caused by a report of enemy movements and our presence in the Coral Sea was to cover our lines of communications to the Solomons in the event of a Japanese Task Force turning to the South.
13. During the sweep ‘Victorious’ provided the aircraft for the daily dawn search and A/ S patrols for which nine Tarpons were used, and fighter patrols when directed by the Task Force Commander. The Task Force returned to Noumea on the 24th. May without incident, the last two days having been spent exercising Striking Force and Interception exercises with the ‘Saratoga’s’ Air Group.
14. Co-operation with the ‘Saratoga’ was found to be easy and it is considered that this comparatively sudden introduction to operating at sea in the South Pacific with an American Task Group was the best thing that could have happened to us.
15. During this period, the separation of Carriers into distinct groups in the event of air attack was practised on several occasions and on these occasions I was given command of the group consisting of the ‘North Carolina’, ‘Indiana’ and 4 destroyers. All ships took station on ‘Victorious’ evenly spaced on a 2,000 yards circle and on the air attack developing, they turned together following my motions extremely well, I considered it too hazardous to go from hard port to hard astarboard doing 25 knots, with 2 big ships in such close proximity, even though the turning circles of these ships are smaller than that of ‘Victorious’. I felt the use of an emergency turning flag would be a help and it is now being given a trial.
16. Since joining the United States Fleet I have come round to the opinion that the American practice of separating the Carriers, each with her own close screen, is on the whole an advantage if the separation is not greater than 10 miles. Manoeuvrability is preserved and the more efficient and powerful H.A. Armament on all screening U.S. Vessels, including destroyers, enables them to put up a good cone of fire against dive bombers and also by their physical obstruction and fire power, a deterrent to torpedo bombers. (The new U.S. Destroyers have 5 remote power controlled 5″ H.A. Guns, 8– 40mm., and 8– 20 mm.) The stationing of battleships on the screen when manoeuvring at 25 knots, even in submarine waters, is a risk the U.S. Fleet is prepared to accept when air attack is imminent and is considered the greater menace.
17. From the 27th to 30th. May, U.S.S. ‘Saratoga’ was at sea for exercises. On the invitation of Admiral Ramsey I took this opportunity with 12 of my staff officers and 5 ratings, to visit a U.S. Carrier and watch their flying operations.
18. A considerable swell was running which caused ‘Saratoga’ to roll and pitch and which on the 28th. interfered with flying operations (I do not think ‘Victorious’ would have moved so much under these circumstances). On the 29th. however, a full scale air group attack was carried out with the group landing on afterwards. Although there was still a good deal of motion on the ship, 67 aircraft landed on at an average interval of 42 seconds, including a turn out of wind for seven minutes to avoid a convoy, the only mishap being one burst tyre. Their normal average landing interval is about 35 seconds. I was impressed by the rigid drill and landing skill displayed.
19. Generally speaking I consider U.S. Aircraft Carriers are much better equipped and more highly trained in operating aircraft than our present ships. Their dive bombing technique and accuracy is most impressive and has proved most effective against Japanese Carriers. From experience of their dummy attacks I consider they would be most difficult to counter with A.A. fire. Their new pilots have considerably more training than ours before going to a first line Squadron. The Wildcat fighter1 is superior to the Martlet in speed, high ceiling, and reliability of engine, and the Wildcats are shortly being replaced by Hellcats which are infinitely superior. On the other hand I think our torpedo attack training and our torpedo is superior and that their Fighter Direction methods are not as up to date as ours, because of our 4 channel R/ T set, better organisation of internal and intership R.D.F. reporting and control and the main filter plot and interception plot exercises.
20. From the 1st. to 3rd. June, ‘Victorious’ proceeded to sea for exercises. Admiral Ramsey, Captain Mullinix (‘ Saratoga’) and ten officers and ratings accompanied us to watch the air operations and gunnery exercises. Firing in these practices was on a free for all principal [sic], and owing to the accuracy of the destroyers on the screen in shooting down the sleeve before it was in range of ‘Victorious’ guns, they had to be asked to cease fire to give ‘Victorious’ a chance.
21. On June 3rd, a combined strike of ‘Victorious’ and ‘Saratoga’s’ aircraft was carried out, with 26 Martlets from ‘Victorious’ intercepting successfully.
22. ‘Victorious’ returned to Noumea at noon on the 3rd. June, having previously disembarked her squadrons to the aerodrome at Tontouta which lies 32 miles to the North West of Noumea.
23. ‘Victorious’ has now completed just over 2 years at sea, having left Rosyth to join the Home Fleet on 15th. May, 1941, and the following figures for this period may be of interest:–
Total distance steamed between 15th. May, 1941 and 15th. May 1943 – 117,718 miles. an average of 4,905 miles a month. The ship has operated in the North Sea, Arctic, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Pacific and Coral Sea.
24. At present ‘Victorious’ is 6 Martlets short of complement, but 7 more have been sent from Pearl Harbor and should arrive at Noumea shortly. This will leave ‘Victorious’ with only 1 reserve fighter, and so far as is known, only 4 more are available when these have been expended. (These 4 are at present being used for training pilots at San Diego, California). The situation has been represented to the United States Authorities and approval has been given for Wildcats to be lent to ‘Victorious’ on a temporary loan basis to provide replacements if necessary until a decision has been reached regarding the supply of fighters to ‘Victorious’. The shortage of Wildcats precludes ‘Victorious’s’ Squadrons being completely re-equipped with Wildcats at present.
25. It is submitted that a stock of rum shall be kept both in America and Pearl Harbor. Since ‘Victorious’s’ departure from the United Kingdom in December, 1942, great efforts have been made to replenish our dwindling supplies but only 490 gallons have been received since then (290 gallons at Norfolk and 200 gallons at Pearl Harbor), and on the 20th. May, 1943., ‘Victorious’ ran out of rum for the second time. It is hoped that further supplies will be made available by the Australian Navy Board.
26. Recreational and leave facilities are few and far between in Noumea. 15% of the Ship’s Company are allowed ashore each day, 5% are allowed to go to the Town and the other 10% for recreational purposes, 5% at a time. The conditions in the town are such that the quota is not always filled.
27. On arrival in the South Pacific the usual high degree of friendliness and co-operation which we have previously experienced was noticeable and I cannot speak too highly of the kindness shown to us by the United States Fleet.