"We down the Malaka Straits, bombing targets down through there. But the British fleet only had some pretty ancient old aircraft - barracudas and this sort of thing."
I joined up in 1943, and joined the Navy. Then went to training camps in the UK, and finished up on an old Battleship - the Revenge - to do my basic training. And then D-Day came, and we were all hustled on to a troop ship and headed for... a troop ship called the Athlone Castle. And a lot of the troops and equipment and everything was being shipped to the Pacific, as the war in Europe was mostly taking place on the continent.
Then, when we took off on the Athalone Castle, we went through to Bombay, and then down to Ceylon, which was the basis of the British Navy. The navy was bringing in ships as they were being released from the European theatre. They were bringing them into a place called Trincomalee, on the eastern side of Ceylon. The fleet had been devasted by the Japanese when the Japanese started the war out there. And they had to start from scratch and build the fleet up.
Now, the war in the Pacific, the Americans were really the big fighters there. They really didn't want too many... they wanted to really do most of the fighting in the Pacific themselves. And the British Army with the Indian regiments and that were fighting down through Burma into Malaysia, and they were trying to get back to Singapore which they had lost at the start of the war. It was very heavy fighting. And the fleet... the British fleet, I was on some excursions. We down the Malacca Straits, bombing targets down through there. But the British fleet only had some pretty ancient old aircraft - barracudas and this sort of thing. And then Churchill decided that he wanted to establish a British Pacific fleet, that was in the Pacific itself. Don't forget, all this action was taking place in the Indian Ocean.
They went down into Indonesia, what was then Dutch West Indies, and we bombed targets in Sumatra - oil fields and that sort of thing. We lost quite a few men down there, unfortunately. And meanwhile, the Americans were fighting... they were just getting ready to attack Iwo Jima - one of the last two big islands in the Pacific. And the Americans really wanted this show to be theirs - the last of that. They were really anxious to be... because they had fought some pretty terrible battles, I'll admit. From Midway right up through Solomon Islands - the whole of the Pacific. So the British fleet assembled in Sidney, part of it, and they moved up past New Guinea up to Manus, in the Admiralty Islands. And there the whole fleet assembled. It's a massive undertaking, because you had to have all your supply ships, your tankers... and these were mostly in Europe. And some of the carriers were still in Europe. They were trying to destroy the Tirpitz - you know, the last of the big German battleships. And they were scared the Tirpitz was going to break out into the Atlantic and sink a lot of ships. So the... two of the carriers were engaged - I think it was the Formidable and the Illustrious - were engaged in damaging the Tirpitz, or sinking her in one of the Norweigan fjords. So she wouldn't be able to run loose. And then they came out of the Pacific to join six freight carriers - four other fleet carriers - and make up the Pacific fleet, along with battleships and cruisers and destroyers and all the rest of it.