Update: Palembang - The FAA'S finest hour

I've finally had some spare time to tackle one of my remaining pages. This time it's the seminal raids by the fledgling British Pacific Fleet against the oil refineries of Palembang in Operation Meridian.

It's yet another one of the Forgotten Fleet's forgotten actions. Even at the time, British media barely mentioned the fact that four of its fleet carriers had operated in concert to seriously damage two of Japan's largest oil production facilities. 

Like all battles, its impact on the war effort is a matter of eternal debate. While neither refinery was ever fully repaired, Japan was eventually able to increase production elsewhere to make up the shortfall. But, by that time, the lack of tankers meant the much needed aviation and bunker fuel ended up just sitting in its storage tanks.

Henry Adlam argues Palembang was the Royal Navy's greatest achievement of World War II. He also argues that it leaves Taranto in its shadow.
I don't fully agree. But it was certainly the largest, most complex and well-opposed operation the FAA ever engaged in.

Judge for yourselves.

CLICK HERE - Palembang, the FAA's finest hour

Updates: Norfolk Navy Yard pictures of HMS Illustrious

Thanks immensely to 'Researcher at Large' for providing me with scans of Norfolk Navy Yard photos and damage diagrams of HMS Illustrious after her bombing during Operation Excess.

I think it is fair to say that many of these pictures have not been printed or distributed before as researchers have picked over (and often not returned) copies in the British Admiralty Archive.

These pictures have been added (and more will be added) to the Operation Excess and Damage Overview pages.

Update: Operations Councillor to Robson, the British Eastern Fleet

While the British Pacific Fleet is often called the 'Forgoten Fleet', it is the operations that led up to its formation that have truly been lost to history.

Once USS Saratoga departed in early 1944, it was up to HMS Illustrious and her colleagues - freshly arriving from Europe - to re-learn the lost art of RN multi-carrier operations and 'get up to speed' to serve alongside the USN in the Pacific.

It was not a process without incident or hurdle - not least among them having to come to grips with the limitations of the Fairy Barracuda.

Read here

Update: IJN Taiho - Japan's armoured carrier

There isn't a lot of reliable, in-depth information about Japan's armoured carrier, Taiho, floating about in readily accessible publications. Even worse so than Britain's Illustrious class armoured carriers. But fortunately you can scratch about and find a few works which provide a comprehensive account. From these  I've assembled an overview of the doctrine, design and fate of this radical ship.

Fortunately, a comprehensive account can be found in the Polish/English Okretow Wojennych publication by Lars Ahlberg and Hans Lengerer – Taiho, Volumes 1 and 2. These documents go well beyond detailing Taiho's evolution and characteristics. They also spell out in fine detail the Japanese doctrines and practices that shaped her.

IJN Taiho - Japan's armoured carrier

Update: Operation Judgement - the attack on Taranto

I've added a page on the attack on Taranto by HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and 20 of her Swordfish. The results were disproportionately successful - one battleship permanently out of action and two severely damaged, for the loss of two Swordfish.

The details of the attack - which was truly an enormous operation involving pretty much the entire Mediterranean - are often passed over in most general histories. But it is an operation truly deserving of far more attention than it is given. 

This was the attack that proved the strength of fleet carriers, as well as the vulnerability of even heavily defended naval bases to determined torpedo attack aircraft.

CLICK HERE to see read all about Operation Judgement

 

Update: Audacious Class, Indomitable torpedoed

I've put up two new pages in recent weeks.

First is an overview of HMS Indomitable's battle damage sustained during Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, in 1943. Transcribing the original damage report is an ongoing process...

Second is an overview of the ultimate 'armoured box' carrier design - the Audacious Class (Better known as HMS Ark Royal and Eagle). Initiated as a repeat of the Indomitable sub-class, war developments saw a complete re-think of the concept, resulting in a much larger - and more capable - ship.

Update: Joint operations between USS Saratoga and HMS Illustrious

I've added a page pulling together what I can find about the largely overlooked joint operations between USS Saratoga and HMS Illustrious in May-June 1944.

This was intended to be a crash course in the new methods devised for the fast-paced Pacific war. HMS Illustrious, with a new air wing in the process of working up with the only-just introduced Corsair and the problematic Barracuda, had much to learn.

It was certainly a completely different style of war to the defensive operations she and the other armoured carriers had been engaged in for the previous four years.

But the veteran Saratoga taught the old-dog new tricks: Which she would in turn pass on to HMS Victorious, Indomitable and Indefatigable during the many 'Club Runs' against Japanese Indian Ocean installations during the remainder of the year.

Thanks to the generosity of David Anderson in the US, I've been able to transcribe two USN documents relating to this operation: A Liaison Officer's report, and the debriefing interview with VF-12's Commander Clifton.  

Update: New original documents added

Two documents relating to "USS Robin" - the Captain's Report from HMS Victorious and the USN Liaison Report - have been transcribed and added to page.

The original "Staff Requirement" drawn up in 1936 to initiated the detailed design of the Illustrious Class has been added.

A transcript of an account of one of the Seafire pilots who crash-landed aboard USS Essex in 1945 is also now available: Another interesting cross-service insight.

New article: USS Robin - The ship that never was

I've pulled together as detailed an account as I can concerning the transfer of HMS Victorious to the USN in 1943 from a variety of sources. The most useful, however, was Micahel Apps' "Send her Victorious". This book was compiled from the carriers' wardroom scuttlebut during the 1960s and interviews with crew who had served on the carrier during World War II.

Also now attached are original documents including the Captain's Report from Captain Mackintosh, and an Air Technical Analysis Division interview with USN Liaison Commander Mitchell

Click here: USS Robin - The ship that never was.


Review: The Design and Construction of British Warships

This book has just landed on my doorstep. I will be integrating any fresh tidbits, comments and insights to the Design / Development pages over the next few days.

 

The Design and Construction of British Warships, 1939-1945

Assembled essays from the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, Edited by D.K. Brown

At the end of the Second World War the Director of Naval Construction ordered the various design teams of his department to record their wartime activities - from designing the biggest fleet carrier down to the humblest tugboat, summarising their reasoning and the integration of lessons from combat. These essays were much later assembled by Deputy Chief Naval Architect D.K. Brown into this set of three books. It is full of useful tidbits of information and reasoning, offering rare insight into the mind of those responsible for designing and building ships such as the Illustrious, Implacable and Audacious types. It's always good to get such a perspective from the people actually involved: It bypasses the decades worth of revision (not always for the best), second-guessing, eagle-eyed hindsight and chest-beating often applied in other summaries.Very Good. 

Question: Letting in water is the objective of the enemy...

I know I've read it in several sources: I've not noted where as it has usually been in the context of Ark Royal which is outside the scope of these pages.

But when the RN went to war in 1939 it had a standing order not to counter-flood as part of the damage control process.

The reason given: Letting in water was the objective of the enemy.

It's a classic example the kind of ideological, politik think that infects all military services - and is often only painfully beaten out of them in first contact with the enemy.

I'll try and find the sources: But it may take a while, I'm quite sure it was in several narratives from people writing personal accounts of their early war service. 

If anyone else knows anything about this order (was there a quote from Churchill? I seem to remember one) please let me know.

Commemoration: May 25, 1941, HMS Formidable and MAQ3

On May 25, on Facebook and Twitter, I'll broadcast the story of HMS FORMIDABLE and Operation MAQ3 in an attempt to help set the record straight:

#FORMIDABLE

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009190403137

https://twitter.com/ArmouredCarrier

The story appears to have been accidentally distorted in Friedman's otherwise excellent British Carrier Aviation - where a tight one paragraph summary of MAQ3 was merged and cut into a tight one-paragraph summary of the Operation Iceberg kamikaze attacks.

Regrettably, almost every work on World War II carrier operations since - both major and minor - has repeated this error almost verbatum.

It's a shame as it demonstrates how this early experiment in carrier air power has been ignored and forgotten.

Time to set the record straight.

 

Update: HMS Unicorn - the missing link

I've put up a page detailing the 'forgotten carrier', HMS Unicorn. She emerged from the same frenzy of inspiration as the Illustrious class armoured carriers. In fact, she was essentially the armoured carrier's "other half" ... designed to give a force of three of them the same extended operational capacity US carriers took for granted. 

Unicorn also had her own armoured flight deck!

The page can be found HERE

Update: HMS Illustrious Gunnery Report for January 10th-19th, 1941

Thanks to the donation of a document by Duncan Munro, I have been able to transcribe and reproduce here a copy of the Captain's official gunnery report for HMS Illustrious in relation to the Operation Excess action.

It makes particularly fascinating reading given the context that this was one of the first - certainly the first large-scale - dive bombing attacks on a warship in World War II. It was also the most intense anti-aircraft action of the war to that point.

READ THE REPORT HERE