"I was lucky, many of my guns crew were hurt and killed but it went right past me. And I was occupied tying tourniquets on various seamen, cleaning up walls and floors where bits and pieces of men lay."
We had heard from the aircraft that monitored these things that there was a Japanese battle cruiser and a destroyer escort steaming up from Shanghai [China] and through the channel between the Isle of Sumatra and the Burmese coast, this whole armada set off to put it down but every time we came out, the Japanese turned around and went back. And finally, our battle fleet went back to Trinco [Trincomalee, Sri Lanka] and they detached five of us, five destroyers, to go out and hunt in the islands of the Nicobars [an archipelagic island chain in the eastern Indian Ocean] and the Andovans [Andaman Islands, an archipelagic island chain in the Bay of Bengal], see if we could get the small Japanese boats that were taking supplies to their garrisons and Ramree [Ramree Island] and Rangoon [Burma] and all those small ports there.
We were able to shoot down a number of them and we picked up the survivors. They were very small men, they were wearing only loin cloths, some of them carried small sharpened steel, which they committed harry carry by slashing across their bellies. But we did pick up a few of them. Our men were very belligerent as we pulled these Japs [Japanese] onboard but the minute we saw how small and how they cringed because they were told that we would do all sorts of things to them, instead, the men offered them cigarettes, cold drinks and anything they could think of.
The landings took place, we covered the landings as we did the D-Day operation [the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944] by firing ashore ahead of the troops. And they landed at Rangoon and Ramerie [Ramree] and then down the coast until we cleared them all out of there [during Operation Dracula, an airborne and amphibious attack by British and Indian forces between January and March, 1945]. And then after our fleet had turned back, and the battle cruiser came and it’s escorting destroyers, we encountered them at about midnight. If we had encountered them in the daytime, I wouldn’t be talking to you because their guns were bigger and ranged, they could have blown us out of the water before we could [get] anywhere near them. But midnight and darkness, we were able to come up on her, send torpedoes into her and sink her. She was called the Hagura [a Japanese heavy cruiser] and the destroyer with her was called the Kamakaza.
On the way back, the fleet had come out to meet us and about noon, as we were trying to fill our tanks with oil, we were almost out of it, the Japanese sent as many aircraft as they could muster over us. One of the planes dropped a bomb, I think it was intended for the carrier that was near us but it was diverted to us. I look outside coming, the captain put hard to starboard wheel on it, the bomb didn’t hit us directly, it hit about 20 yards off on our port beam. We were heeled over as we were turning and when the explosion came, it drove all the bits and pieces through our hull below our waterline. Water started to pour in but the engineer officer transferred the oil from that tank, the port tanks into the starboard tanks and kept us over. Our Bos'n had chunks of wood which he and his crew pounded through all these holes. I think there were more than 1,100 of them and we must have looked like a porcupine. But we suffered quite a number of casualties, there were four dead at that time. We buried them at sea. They were sewn into their hammocks and they were covered in the Union Jack [British national flag] and after a short service, were slipped, oh, one of links from the anchor chain was put in at the feet of these men and one by one, they were slid over the side to drop down, down, down into the sea.
I was lucky, many of my guns crew were hurt and killed but it went right past me. And I was occupied tying tourniquets on various seamen, cleaning up walls and floors where bits and pieces of men lay. It was shocking, the sick bay attendant was one killed and I looked down on the desk where he’d been sitting and he had just finished a letter to his wife. That was hard.
At any rate, we got back to Trinko [Trincomalee] early in the morning and to our surprise, they had manned the fleet, and that is turned out all the sailors in uniform at the sides of their ships. And as we steamed in, one by one, they cheered us. And I was pretty proud of that moment, as we stood along the sides of our decks and there were so many bandages around heads and arms in slings and that was a time to be remembered.