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Joined H.M.S. Formidable… Made history by being…

“A little more on ‘Formidable’  from my fathers diary.”

We are fortunate to be able to read this remarkable story, kindly sent by the son of the author after a chat over the phone while he was ordering 2 prints of the painting on page   http://frickers.co.uk/marine-art/formidable_seafires.html.

Fromidable_detail_4.JPGDon’t hesitate to comment on this post below, particularly if you have a connection with Aircraft carriers.

(Gordon’s notes in brackets, abbreviations marked * explained at the end of the text)


A little more on Formidable from my fathers diary.

27th july 1944 joined H.M.S. Formidable* after 7 days flying exercises at ScapaFlow (Scotland).

July 5th left ScapaFlow with the aircraft carriers H.H.S.Furious and H.M.S.Indefatigable and battleship Duke of York for operations against the Tirpitz (sister ship to Bismark).
Out for 9 days lost pilots Lt Dubber S/L Matholie S/L Hewetson.
Returned to Scapa July 15th and given 18 days leave.

August 2nd reported back to Formid for 18 days of operations against Tirpitz.
Following Squadrons involved. 1841 1842 826 827 and 1840. lost S/L Woodward (1840) shot down.

15th Sept Formid leaves for Gibraltar.
(with the war in Europe ending, Formidable was sent to reinforce the American efforts in the Pacific Ocean against the Japanese).
11th Nov left Gib for Alexandria but port of arrival changed mid voyage to Port Said (Egypt).

1st December asked to go to Gambut Aerodrome with others to work on aircraft then ordered back to Formid at Port Said.

20th January 1945 a black day.
Lost 2 pilots in a mid air collision over the ship.
Followed 1 hour later by the death of senior pilot Lt Chipperfield who hit the “rundown” when landing and went over the side in flames.

Jan 27th went through the Suez Canal reaching Aden on 3rd Feb
Left Aden for Ceylon were we arrived on 8th Feb anddisembarked with aircraft for RNAS Bherunda* were we stayed until 21st
21st Feb set sail for Australia.
28th Feb crossed the line “with the full gala that the old naval custom demands”
3rd March arrived Freemantle, Australia.

4th March left Freemantle for Sydney arrived on the 10t24th March left Sydney for Admiralty Islands and then Leyte.

14th April at 0530 rendezvous with the fleet.
Fleet consists of 2 battleships 5 fleet Carriers 6 Cruisers 21 destroyers under Vice Admiral Sir Harry Rawlins flying his flag in King George the V and Vice Admiral Sir Philip Vianas A.C. one with his flag in Indomitable.

After oiling  our target was the Ryuqu Group situated between Okinowa and Formosa our job was to stop the japs interfering with the Yanks on Okinowa.
17th April strikes against Sagishima and Myaako and Ishigarki.
Lost the CO of 1842 shot down and 2 bombers.
5 japs shot down approaching the fleet.
21st April same targets as pilots reported the japs had filled in all ‘drome damage.

May 1945 a black month for Formidable.
4th May escort Battleships and cruisers, leave fleet to carry out bombardment of shore installations and in their absence the Carriers are attacked by Kamikazie’s.

Formidable hit amidships 9 dead, 43 wounded.
Formidable still operational.
(it was notable that the British aircraft carriers were able to absorb Kamikaze strikes and were usually back in action with in 24 hours were as American carriers were usually crippled.
The primary reason was considered the construction of the ships. American carriers had wooden flight decks while the British had steel armoured ).

May 7 and 8 attacked by japs.
May9 Hit by Kamikaze who crashed dived onto flight deck.
Help sweep the debris and the dead japs shattered body over the side.
We lost 1 killed

May 15th big fire in in hanger brought ship to a standstill.
A very very near thing close to Abandoning ship.

23 May after 2 more days of attacks we left for Sydney were we arrived 5th June after a straight 3 months at sea.

28th June left Sydney with the ‘carrier H.M.S. Victorious and destroyers with Vice Admiral Vian flying his flag in Formidable bound for Amiralty islands.

15th July rendezvouswith our sister ship Implacable.

17th July Made history by being the first British Planes to bomb Japan.. .
Sighted the 3rd US fleet under Admiral “Bull” Halsey

18th July attacked Tokyo. Lost 2 Lt Asbridge S/L Stradwick

24th July attacked Honsae and Sakashima area.

25th July busy day with 4 strikes.
1700 hours call to arms jap plane shot down about 5oo yds starboard beam.
1815 Hellcats scrambled; Jap torpedo bombers picked up 34 miles out 3 japs shot down 27th t0 29th July continued to attack despite bad weather

30th July CO downs a jap

5th August Alarm to Arms all day 9th August bad day for 1841 lost L/T “Hammy” Grey and L/T Anderson

10th August  Two strikes but lost S/Lt Maitland one of 1841 originals

11th August Japan accepts  the terms of the Potsdam Conferrence.

12th August Formid, Victorious and Implacable leave for Sydney

Hope this helps Gordon in giving you some information on Formidable,
My fathers details were
John Hartley Simpson from School St Golborne, Lancashire. No FX 106323 Aircraft Fitter
rank Petty Officer discharged 18th Jan 1946 age when discharged 21  joined 15th January 1943 age 18

Best wishes


H.M.S. = His Magesty’s Ship

RNAS = Royal Naval Air Station