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Old 13-10-2012, 21:02
ap1 ap1 is offline
Vice-Admiral
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Lancashire; England.
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Default The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

There are some loosely related threads; but I think this one deserves a thread of its own.
A great feat of planning, given the time restraints.

Crown Copyright/MoD (1954).

THE FLEET TRAIN IN THE PACIFIC WAR

BY

VICE-ADMIRAL SIR DOUGLAS B. FISHER, K.C.B., K.B.E.

This paper is reproduced by permission of the Institution of Naval Architects

f1.jpg

Introduction

In the days of sail, no space was needed in H.M. ships for main or auxiliary
machinery nor for storage of fuel ; spaces for the control of weapons did not
exist ; communications consisted solely of a flag locker on deck with some rope
halyards ; and officers and ship's company were confined in very close quarters.
So a large proportion of the internal space in each ship was available for the
stowage of provisions, water, stores, and ammunition. Moreover, officers and
men were content to exist for long periods on crudely preserved foods, and were
accustomed to the inability to send and receive mails.

The result was that our ships were self-contained, and could (and did) keep
the seas, in peace or war, for many months without having to enter harbour.
But modern developments, both in material and in standards of living, began
to change all that, and there arose an increasing need for ships to visit harbour
at frequent intervals to replenish their supplies.

Even in war, this reliance on bases did not unduly hamper our activities prior
to 1939 as our naval wars were, for the most part, fought in the narrow seas and
within reasonable distance of the United Kingdom. Also, air attack did not
prevent our ships from replenishing their supplies, either at their bases, or from
store ships sent from those bases to sheltered harbours further forward.

Our ' pipe line,' therefore, was never very long, and the method of replenishment
of supplies in war differed but little from that in peace.

But the war against Japan called for an entirely new conception of naval
warfare, wherein our naval forces were called upon to take the offensive not
only tens of thousands of miles from the United Kingdom, but thousands of
miles from their nearest base.
It was thus impossible, during the operations, for H.M. ships to replenish
with fuel and stores from their bases, and all sheltered harbours within reasonable
distance of the operational area were in enemy hands.

So it was essential to replenish the fleet periodically at sea, and for this
requirement the Fleet Train was formed.

We were about to engage the Japanese on two fronts, i.e. from the Indian
Ocean, and also from the Pacific, but as in the latter area the distances involved
were considerably greater, the problem of supply was correspondingly more
complicated. In this paper, therefore, only the Pacific Area will be dealt with.

The Fleet Train is Planned

As far back as 1936, a committee was set up in the Admiralty to consider
the methods to be adopted for supporting a fleet at sea far in advance of its
nearest base, and by 1939 we knew what we wanted.

But in the early years of the war no immediate need arose for a Fleet Train,
and as every ship, both afloat and building, was needed to replace sinkings, it
was only with the greatest difficulty that, after the entry of Japan into the war,
a very modest start was made to build up the nucleus for the Fleet Train which
would eventually and inevitably be required for an ocean war.

The first serious step was taken early in 1942 when five liners were taken up
for conversion as repair ships, or as depot ships for destroyers and submarines.
At that time we had lost Hong Kong and Singapore, and the Japanese had
virtual command of the Western Pacific, had emerged into the Indian Ocean,
and were threatening Ceylon and Australia. Our Eastern Fleet, based in
Ceylon but prepared to withdraw temporarily to the west, was then on the
defensive.

By the middle of 1943 we had a nucleus of auxiliaries capable of replenishing
and repairing a small fleet in an advanced base in the eastern theatre without
shore assistance, and towards the end of that year a new branch of the Naval
Staff was formed at the Admiralty to deal solely with administrative planning,
thereby leaving the Plans Division free to concentrate on operational and
strategic planning.

Thus prime responsibility, from then onwards, for the composition and
formation of the Fleet Train in the planning stage fell on the Director of
Plans (Q).
Meanwhile much practical work had been going on in the preparation of
repair ships, in spite of difficulty engendered by other urgent demands on the
Ministry of War Transport.

In the autumn of 1943 the Quebec Conference decided on the broad scale of
operations to be undertaken by the Royal Navy in the Pacific, and it was then
possible for the Admiralty to make a firmer forecast than hitherto possible of
the size and shape of the Fleet Train needed to support our fleet in that area.
The requirements were put before, and approved by, the Defence Committee,
who invited the Minister of War Transport to provide the ships.

f2.jpg

In general, the types of ships asked for included :-

(a) Maintenance and Repair
Repair ships to deal with major and subsidiary repairs.
Floating docks.
Depot ships for destroyers and submarines.
Maintenance ships for escorts, coastal forces, minesweepers, naval
service craft, armament, instruments and radar.
Aircraft repair ships to deal with air frames, engines and auxiliaries.

(b) Supply
Tankers for oil and water.
Store issuing ships for naval, victualling, armament and air stores
Vegetable carriers.
Store carriers.

(c) Administration
Headquarters ships.
Accommodation ships.
Amenity ships.

Naval servicing craft and carriers.
Tugs, lighters and harbour craft.
Hospital ships.

(d) Defence
Seaward defence ships.
Boom and net laying and operating ships.

(e) Air
Replenishment carriers.
Aircraft transports.

It at once became clear that the labour and shipyard berths required to convert
ships for the above purposes were the key to the situation.

The outcome of the many discussions which followed was that as many ships
as possible would be converted in the United Kingdom, preferably during
initial construction. It was also decided that Canada should be asked to convert
suitable ships under construction there, especially where a number of each type
was required, and the United States were asked to provide available types already
under construction in that country.

These requirements for a Fleet Train were, of course, in direct competition
with our vast demands for import of goods into the country and for the worldwide
transportation of men and material.

During the spring of 1944 many discussions took place as to the number of
ships which could be made available from U.K., Canadian, and U.S. resources
for the Pacific Fleet Train-and at the same time it was accepted that the size
of our combatant force in the Pacific depended directly on the size of the Fleet
Train available to support it.

It must be remembered that all this was proceeding at a time of dire
requirement for shipping for the Normandy landings, and for the maintenance
of our ever increasing forces in Europe, in addition to the increasing activity
in the Indian Ocean.

In September 1944 a further Anglo-American conference was held in Quebec
at which the Prime Minister specifically offered a British Main Fleet to take
part, under U.S. Supreme Command, in operations against Japan, and re-stated
that support for that fleet would be provided by a Fleet Train, which would
render the fleet independent of shore bases for a considerable time. This offer
was accepted.

It was then possible for the Naval Staff to work on more definite premises,
since it was known when the various ships allocated to the Fleet Train would
become available, the consequent size of the fleet which the Train would support,
and the approximate state of affairs when our forces would arrive in the Pacific,
could be forecast.

The Fleet Arrives in the Pacific

In January 1945 the first units of the combatant force, consisting of
battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers, began to arrive in
Australian waters.
Sydney became the main point of assembly for the fleet and Fleet Train, and
was the scene of much naval activity.

Command and Organization

It is convenient here to give an outline of the British Naval Command in the
Pacific at that time.
The Commander-in-Chief was in command of all Royal Naval and attached
Dominion Naval Forces in the Pacific with the title of Commander-in-Chief,
British Pacific Fleet, with his headquarters in Sydney. Operationally, however,
the British Fleet was placed under the command of Admiral Nimitz, U.S.N.,
who was Commander-in-Chief, Pacific. At first Admiral Nimitz had his
headquarters at Honolulu, but in the middle of 1945 transferred to Guam, in
the Mariana Islands.

The combatant ships of the British Pacific Fleet were under the command
of Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Rawlings in the Duke of York.
Melbourne was the headquarters of the Vice-Admiral in charge of administration,
who had also carried out the preliminary planning for the whole area.

Rear-Admiral Fleet Train and Staff Arrive in Pacific

The Rear-Admiral Fleet Train arrived in Australia in January 1945 with a
skeleton staff and set up his temporary headquarters near the Commander-in-
Chief at Sydney. From there the R.A.F.T. assembled and organized into a
Fleet Train the various individual ships which were then beginning to arrive in
Australian waters.

f3.jpg

The responsibility of the R.A.F.T. to the Commander-in-Chief was, broadly
speaking, as follows :-

(a) Operational and administrative control of ships of the Fleet Train.
(b) Supplying the fleet from the bases forward.
(c) Maintenance and repair of the fleet, auxiliaries and aircraft, forward of
Australia.
(d) Evacuation of sick and wounded.
(e) Mails and amenities, forward of Australia.
(f) Salvage and towing, forward of Australia and
for the planning of the above requirements to suit each projected operation.

Within the Fleet Train the staff was divided at first into three sections:-
(a) Operations and Supply, under the general supervision of the Chief Staff
Officer.
(b) Repairs, maintenance, personnel, and harbour duties, under the Maintenance
Captain.
(c) Aircraft Supply, Repairs, and Maintenance were decentralized to the
Commanding Officer of the aircraft repair ship H.M.S. Unicorn.

It is not proposed to expand on (a) above in this paper.
As regards (b), the responsibility to the R.A.F.T. for the various categories of
maintenance and repairs, not only of the fleet but of the Fleet Train itself rested
with:-

The Fleet Train Constructor Officer. Supervision of hull repairs and
maintenance, dockings, all constructional work.
The Fleet Train Engineer Officer. Supervision of engine repairs and
maintenance, provision of spare parts.
The Fleet Train Electrical Officer. Supervision of electrical repairs and
maintenance.
The Fleet Train Radio Officer. Radio and radar repairs and maintenance.

Air Logistics in Fleet Train

In regard to air matters affecting the Fleet Train it was apparent from the
start that they were too large to be handled entirely by the then nucleus staff of
the R.A.F.T.
Responsibility for these was therefore delegated to the Commanding Officer
of H.M.S. Unicorn, an aircraft repair ship in the Fleet Train.

Strategic Situation in January, 1945

It had first been expected that the British Pacific Fleet would be required to
begin operations in June of 1945, but by January the United States forces were
pushing the Japanese back with increasing speed, and it was apparent that we
must take our part at a much earlier date. It was therefore decided that the
first British naval operation on a large scale would be begun in March, and
planning was progressed accordingly.
At that time the southern part of the Philippines had been recaptured by the
Americans who were using Leyte harbour as a defended anchorage.

The Fleet Train Moves Forward

At the end of February the first units of the Fleet Train left Australian waters,
and arrived at Manus in the Admiralty Islands in the first week in March.
Manus had by then been in United States naval hands for some time, and a
vast organization had been set up ashore there which was capable of supplying,
maintaining, and repairing a large fleet.

The situation there, in so far as our forces were concerned, was curious, as
the islands were Australian but were occupied and administered by the U.S.
Navy, with a Commodore U.S.N. in charge. We were therefore in the role of
visitors or lodgers in an American port.
But such was the co-operation between the two navies that at no time either
at Manus or at the other American bases which we subsequently used was there
the slightest friction or lack of harmony.

American Support

By the terms of our agreement with the United States, they were to allow us
the use of harbours under their control which did not interfere with the operations
of the U.S. Navy, and they agreed to supply direct to such harbours our entire
requirements for fuel and all kinds of petroleum products (e.g. lubricating oils).
They also agreed to meet, as far as possible, our demands for spare parts for
material made in the United States.
Beyond that the British Pacific Fleet was to be entirely self-supporting. In
effect, when the time came, we received considerable additional assistance from
the U.S. Navy in a variety of matters, and without such assistance our difficulties
would have been far greater than they were.

The Fleet Assembles at Manus and Leaves for First Operations

Shortly after the Fleet Train arrived at Manus, the fleet itself assembled there,
and after a week spent in filling up with fuel and stores from the supply ships
the fleet sailed for the first operation.

The Fleet Train Proceeds to Leyte.


The Fleet Train then proceeded to Leyte in the Philippines, which was to be
an advanced base in the initial stages of the British operations.
At that time the Fleet Train consisted of only the following ships:-

Headquarters ship and flagship of R.A.F.T.
1 destroyer depot ship.
1 escort aircraft carrier.

f4.jpg

2 repair ships (Resource and Artifex).
2 accommodation ships for Fleet Train working parties and drafting pool.
1 aircraft repair ship.
1 netlayer.
9 tankers.
4 naval or victualling store issuing ships.
6 armament store issuing ships in addition to several sloops and escort vessels required for convoying.

Plans for Replenishment of the Fleet at Sea

Before the operations off Okinawa started, detailed plans had been made for
refuelling the fleet in certain refuelling areas in the vicinity of the operations.
The available tankers of the Fleet Train were therefore organized into groups,
it being arranged that each group should be sailed from the advanced base in
use (Manus, Leyte, etc.) so as to reach the refuelling area on a predetermined
date.

The fleet would withdraw from its attack on or before that date, meet the
fuelling group, refuel, and then return to the attack area.
A typical tanker group at this early stage of the operations consisted of three
tankers, one replenishment aircraft carrier, two or three escort vessels, and two
destroyers. Owing to the shortage of repair and store ships, it was not then
possible to send any forward of the advanced base, so the tankers each carried
about five tons of fresh vegetables, survivors' kits, aircraft de-icing fluid, lubricating
oil, depth charges and some close-range ammunition-these stores being intended
principally for the destroyers in the forward area.

Originally, too, passengers (e.g. reliefs), mails, and urgently required naval
and air stores were carried in the oilers, but it was found preferable to use the
escort vessels for this duty in order to save double handling in the fuelling area,
and also to save the already overworked and undermanned tankers.
A medical officer and sick berth rating took passage in one tanker of each
group in order to look after any small number of casualties sent to the rear.
It was thus of the utmost importance, in order to enable the fleet to carry out
its operations to a fixed programme, that the tanker groups should arrive in the
correct place on the correct day, and that the fuelling should proceed day and
night with the utmost speed.

Refuelling the Fleet at Sea

Considerable organization was therefore necessary in the fuelling area, and
a Captain R.N. was permanently stationed there in a sloop to take charge of
each tanker group as it arrived, and to send it back to the advanced base on
completion.
The first series of refuellings brought out our weaknesses, and our lack of
realistic practice in peace time was at once apparent.
To start with, all our heavy ships oiled from astern of the tankers and
difficulty was experienced in picking up the trailing hoses, in connecting up,
and in keeping station.
The tankers themselves also suffered from the following disabilities:-

(a) Insufficient pumping capacity when under way.
(b) Insufficient derricks and winches for fuelling ships abeam.
(c) Inability to ballast empty tanks while pumping to maintain trim and
manoeuvrability without risk of contaminating the fuel.

With the very bad weather conditions then obtaining, great delays took place
and hoses were continually being parted. Thus the crews of H.M. ships and
particularly tankers, which were still only manned for freighting duties, got
insufficient rest, and the stock of hoses dwindled alarmingly.

In fact the situation nearly arose when it would have been necessary to delay
the operations due to these difficulties. But new hoses were flown out from
Australia, broken ones were repaired, ships became better at station keeping
and handling hoses, and the weather improved. The fleet's operations therefore
continued, but it was a near thing, and the long time spent in refuelling, added
to the shortage of tankers, meant that on their return to harbour to replenish
they had to turn round and sail in 24 hours, often without having time properly
to repair main and pumping machinery and fittings.

Work at Leyte

For the first week or two the work at Leyte consisted primarily of filling our
fleet tankers from the American freighting tankers and sending the former off
in groups on the correct date. But then the first results of the operations began
to be felt, ships began coming back to Leyte for repairs, and the repair ships of
the Fleet Train, which had hitherto been engaged almost entirely on maintenance
of the merchant ships of the Fleet Train itself, were called upon to perform their
primary role.
However, no vast amount of work arose, and repairs were confined mainly
to minor ones and maintenance on destroyers and escorts.
At the end of the first series of operations the fleet came down to Leyte to
fill up with ammunition, stores, and provisions, and the Fleet Train repair staffs
were most actively employed in repairing the deck and superstructure of an
aircraft carrier which had been hit by a suicide bomber.
In the six days available, repairs were effected, enabling the fleet to sail for
its next series of operations which roughly followed the previous pattern.

f5.jpg

During this replenishment period at Leyte, our lack of 'camels' or catamarans
made itself felt most acutely, as it had done earlier at Manus.

Both of these anchorages are subject to a considerable swell, and the greatest
difficulty was found in berthing tankers and supply ships safely alongside the
warships. This was particularly the case with aircraft carriers, as the large
overhang of their flight decks broke the masts and upperworks of the merchant
vessels alongside when any movement of either ship occurred.

In fact on some occasions at Manus the onIy safe way to fuel aircraft carriers
was to anchor the tankers ahead of them, and to fuel as for the ' astern ' method
at sea-a laborious business, especially when the wind changed in the middle,
as then the fuelling had to be stopped, the tanker had to weigh anchor, anchor
in the new position, and run hoses across again. This deficiency was met at
Manus by borrowing from the U.S. Navy camels of requisite width built up
from steel pontoons. The provision of catamarans large enough to berth ships
alongside aircraft carriers in a swell is a serious problem owing to the inevitable
width and the difficulty in transport.

Aircraft Repair and Replacement

During these operations the organization for the supply and repair of aircraft
was being built up. Replacement aircraft were freighted from U.K. in their
' boxed ' state to Australia, where they were transhipped to ' ferry carriers '
for transport to Manus. Ferry carriers were standard escort carriers but
packed tight with boxed aircraft on deck and in the hangar, and therefore not
operational while so employed.

On arrival at Manus as many aircraft as she would take were sent to H.M.S.
Unicorn for assembly and to be made fit for flying, after which they were landed
at the airstrip, flown for tests, and then embarked in ' replacement carriers'
(escort carriers loaded operationally). Those aircraft for which there was no
room in Unicorn were landed direct at the airstrip and assembled there.
From there the replacement carriers brought the aircraft on to Leyte, where
they joined up with the tanker groups sailing for the refuelling area.

On arrival in the refuelling area, the new aircraft would be flown over to the
aircraft carriers of the striking force., ' Flyable duds ' were flown from the
striking force carriers to the replenishment carriers and taken back to the base
for repairs.
' Non-flyable duds ' had their engines removed and were then thrown overboard,
as no means existed for transferring them at sea.

Ship and Machinery Repairs

It is here convenient to remark more closely on the repair facilities and
organization within the Fleet Train.

Maintenance Personnel

To meet the requirements for fully trained repair staffs a body known as
'Special Repair Ratings (Dockyard)' was instituted in 1942 and these men
made up the repair staffs in most of the ships of the Fleet Train. They were
drawn from all classes of trades normally used in ship repairs but not necessarily
from shipyards, and before entry into the Royal Navy were trade tested at a
dockyard as though being entered for employment, being finally rated
according to qualifications. About 10 per cent were from H.M. Dockyards.
The various trades and grades in this organization totalled about 71, the naval
rates varying from E.R.A. 4th Class for tradesmen to Stoker 1st Class for
skilled labourers.

Repair and Maintenance Ships

The various types of repair and maintenance ships have been described in
some detail by Mr. Skinner in his paper, ' Notes on Depot and Repair Ships,'
read before the Institution of Naval Architects in March 1947.

When the war ended, the following vessels comprised the maintenance
facilities (excluding Air Train) actually in the forward area in the Fleet Train:-

H.M.S. Montclare, fleet train flagship and destroyer repair ship.
H.M.S. Artifex, heavy duty repair ship with her associated accommodation
ship Lancashire.
H.M.S. Tyne, destroyer depot and repair ship.
H.M.S. Resource, fleet repair ship.
H. M.S. Assistance, auxiliary repair ship.
H.M.S. Flamborough Head, escort vessel maintenance ship.
H .M.S. Kelantan, minesweeping maintenance ship.
Admiralty Floating Dock-No. 20.
H.M.S. Springdale, deperming ship.
These represented a small proportion of the planned repair resources.
Floating Docks
Four Admiralty Floating Docks were allocated to the British Pacific Fleet :-
A.F.D.17-transferred from Iceland.
A.F.D. 18-transferred from Oran.
A.F.D.20-transferred from the Clyde.
A.F.D.3 1-under construction in South Africa.

A.F.D.s 17, 18 and 20 were 2,750 ton docks and capable of lifting most of
our destroyers. A.F.D.3 1 was a cruiser dock of 15,500 tons lift. The first of
these docks to get to the forward area was A.F.D.20, which arrived at Manus
early in July. The first vessel to be docked in the dock was H.M.A.S. Nepal on
20th August. At the end of August, A.F.D.18 arrived after having been
delayed en route by weather damage, but by then the war was over.

It was a matter of some regret to the officers concerned that British floating
docks were not available for use in the forward area until after the ending of
the war. This severely limited the usefulness of the repair organization and, in
fact, it was necessary to dock destroyers and escorts on some eleven occasions
in U.S. docks, generally for minor defects. On other occasions it was necessary
to improvise by divers at considerable expense in labour and time in order to
carry out essential work.

Work Done by Fleet Train Repair Ships

Battle Damage.
The only battle damage which was repaired at the forward base was:-

(a) Indefatigable. Damage consequent upon a hit by a suicide bomber at
the base of the island was repaired in one week by Artifex during a
replenishment period at Leyte Gulf, allowing the ship to continue operations
with the fleet as planned, and

(b) Ulster (destroyer) had a large hole blown in her side by a near-miss bomb,
flooding the engine-room and the after boiler-room. Our own docks
had not arrived at this time, and to our disappointment hull repair work
and docking had to be undertaken by the Americans at Leyte Gulf,
although the job was well within the capabilities of our repair ships.
Machinery repairs sufficient to enable the vessel to steam to Australia on
one shaft were carried out by Tyne (destroyer depot ship).

Deperming
At the end of August, facilities were provided by the U.S. Navy for the
ranging of a flotilla of minesweepers on the degaussing range at Manus. As
a result of the tests obtained, several of these ships were depermed by
H.M.S. Springdale.

Defects Undertaken
(c) Formidable (aircraft carrier). Developed cracks in the bulkhead carrying
the stern tube of the centre shaft while on passage from Australia to the
operational area. This resulted in flooding of the stern tube compartment,
and to enable repairs to be carried out, the stern tube was made nearly
watertight by jamming oakum between the shaft and the outboard end of
the shaft tube. This work was done by the ship's own divers at Leyte
Gulf, and repairs to the bulkhead were carried out by Artifex,
allowing the ship to join in the operations as planned.
(d) Achilles (cruiser). Cracks which developed in the outer bottom plating
were repaired by Resource in a U.S. dock at Manus. 'A' bracket bushes
were re-wooded at the same time.
(e) Tumult (destroyer). Grounded entering harbour at Manus and broke
two blades of the port propeller. The propeller was removed in a U.S.
dock to allow the ship to steam to Australia on one shaft.
(f) Glenearn (transport). Modifications were carried out at Leyte to petrol
and ventilation systems by Artifex after a petrol explosion.
(g) Gerusalemme (hospital ship). Was partly repaired at Manus by Artifex
after damage by fire.
(h) Aovangi (submarine spare crew ship). Was converted to Commodore
Fleet Train flagship by Artifex, the necessary offices, telephones, furniture,
etc., being installed. This vessel was also fitted out as a fleet chart depot
and fleet medical store issuing depot.
(i) Eaglesdale and Brown Ranger (tankers). Were docked at Manus in an
American dock for periodical bottom painting and minor defects. Work
was carried out by Fleet Train staff.
(j) Admiralty Floating Dock No. 20 at Manus docked her first vessel
(destroyer Nepal) on 20th August, 1945, the associated repair work being
carried out by H.M.S. Artifex. Subsequently eight dockings were
completed in two months. This dock was shortly afterwards moved to
Singapore as her usefulness at Manus had come to an end.

In addition to the above, which is a typical selection of work, a considerable
amount of miscellaneous maintenance was carried out on vessels of the fleet
and the Fleet Train, work being approximately equally divided between them.
It is highly probable that without this maintenance the miscellaneous vessels of
the Fleet Train would have ceased to run.
A large number of minor alterations were carried out to various ships to
adapt them for their work, e.g. depth charge stowages were fitted to tankers,
and gear for transferring stores at sea was made and supplied to all Fleet
Train vessels.

During the July operations, as a result of earlier experience, it was considered
desirable to have repair staffs in the forward area and a balanced repair party
of 20 men was sent forward with the Logistic Support Group so as to be
available for emergency repairs in the battle area.
It was visualized that in the next series of operations an auxiliary repair ship
would be sent forward with the Logistic Support Group to provide for more
efficient first aid repairs in the forward area.

It will be noted from the above that the amount of battle damage dealt with
by the Fleet Train repair organization was small. Luckily the fleet sustained
very little damage in combat and this enabled our very limited resources to
meet (with American assistance in docking ships) the demands made upon it.
In this connection it is worthy of note that at the end of the war the repair
facilities and staff had built up to only about 30 per cent of their planned strength.

Narrative of Events Continued

It will be seen that the foregoing remarks have carried us further than we had
gone in the narrative of events, but by keeping them together, a clearer outline
is presented of the repair work done with the facilities then available.
In the narrative of events, it will be remembered that after the first series of
operations off Okinawa, the fleet came to Leyte for a week to replenish with
stores, etc., and after a week there the fleet sailed for a second and similar series
of attacks on the islands south of Japan.

The pattern of these second operations largely followed the first in so far as
the Fleet Train was concerned, and at the end of about three weeks the fleet
and Fleet Train returned to Australian waters for major replenishment and
repairs.
This would not have been necessary had the Fleet Train been completed by
then to its planned strength. But this was far from being the case, with the
result that the supply ships were emptied, and the tankers needed time off to
repair their main and pumping machinery and equipment.


f6.jpg

Opportunity was taken during this period to carry out considerable work on
ships of the Fleet Train.
In addition to running repairs to the tankers, most of them had to be altered
to allow of fuelling ships abeam, which method was in use by the Americans and
was proved far quicker in any but very bad weather.
During this time, too, certain victualling store and armament store issuing
ships were fitted to allow them to transfer stores at sea, and a corvette was
fitted out as a radio and radar first-aid ship.
However, after a few weeks' absence, the fleet and Fleet Train came forward
again and a new series of operations was begun with the mainland of Japan as
the target.

For many reasons (including the prevalence of typhoons in that season) it
was decided not to use Leyte as the advanced base for this operation. The
Fleet Train therefore used Manus as its base, which, however, had the
disadvantage of great distance (2,300 miles) from the refuelling area off Japan.
This meant that the round trip for the tanker groups took about three weeks
from Manus back to Manus, and with our still woefully inadequate number of
tankers and their low speed, the most careful planning was necessary in order
that the fleet could operate against Japan and withdraw to fuel on pre-selected
dates.

To shorten the distance from the advanced base to the refuelling area, some
of our tankers used Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands to replenish cargoes,
which reduced their double journey by some 1,500 miles.
During this third series of operations the service which the Fleet Train was
capable of giving to the fleet became progressively better consequent on the
improvement in the resources available.

As a result of alterations during the replenishment period in Australia and to
practice at sea afterwards, a victualling store issuing ship was kept in the
refuelling area, being joined later by an armament store issuing ship-these
ships being relieved when nearing exhaustion.
It should be mentioned that although the armament store issuing ship carried
replacements for every nature of ammunition likely to be used, the only
requirements they were called upon to supply were A.A. ammunition and
500 lb bombs.

The radio and radar repair ship was also sent forward, in addition to the only
tug available, the latter in case any small ship needed assisting back to harbour.
(Unfortunately the tug was too small and unsuitable for ocean work and in
fact had herself to be towed back to Manus by a destroyer.)
During the third series of operations, the weather was infinitely better than
it had been at the outset, and this, combined with the practice obtained by both
H.M. ships, tankers, and supply ships, enabled the operations of refuelling and
transferring stores at sea to proceed on each occasion without delay or damage.
In mid-August 1945 the Japanese surrendered and the work of the Fleet
Train as such came to an end.

Remarks on Other Matters

Before concluding, I would like to add a few remarks on matters of possible
interest which occurred.
In spite of a vast amount of intelligent planning, unforeseen difficulties were
bound to arise. As was stressed earlier in this paper, the conditions were
entirely novel ; moreover, we were using bases of which we had but little
information, and our resources were of the slenderest.

It was, however, somewhat of a surprise that, in an area of extremely heavy
rainfall, our first really major difficulty was lack of fresh water.
H.M. ships are capable of self-maintenance in that respect as long as they have
fuel, and as this was abundant no problem arose in their case. But the merchant
vessels forming the Fleet Train were in a very different state, and many of them
having no distilling plant needed water at frequent intervals. It is true that this
had been foreseen to some extent, and distilling ships were included in the
requirements for the Fleet Train-but at first we had none.

We did have some small water carriers, and while we were at Manus we were
able to make use of the American facilities and ferry it off from their pipe line
ashore, though this was slow, as the Americans needed water themselves and
a lot of queuing for it was necessary.
But at Leyte, no water supply was accessible and improvisation had very
hurriedly to be made. So we were forced to clean out and convert a couple of
our precious tankers; a 10,000-ton one was used to ferry water from Manus,
1,200 miles away, and the smaller one of 1,500 tons fetched water from a
waterfall about 60 miles from the base.

This just, and only just, kept us going, and we eagerly awaited the first
distilling ship. She arrived during the second series of operations, but our
hopes were dimmed when it was found that, with the high sea-water temperature
and some recurring defects in the plant, she could only supply a very small
proportion of our needs. She used coal at an alarming rate when distilling
(being the only coal burner in the Fleet Train), so our only collier was berthed
alongside her, and a small party of sailors was employed fairly continuously on
transferring coal from one to the other. But the collier (oil-fired) used a
prodigious amount of fresh water as her boiler leaked badly, so the result was
that these two ships spent most of their time furiously maintaining each other.
The incident was not amusing at the time.

Internal Organization of the Fleet Train

After a couple of months' experience, it was found that the original
organization did not meet requirements, due principally to the increased variety
and magnitude of the duties required of the Fleet Train as compared with what
had been foreseen.

It was apparent that the air side alone called for a separate organization of
its own, so a Commodore Air Train and staff were formed with headquarters
in H.M.S. Pioneer. The Commodore Air Train (CQMAT) was given the
responsibility, within R.A.F.T.s command, for the supply of replacement
aircraft and spares from the rear base to the fleet, for aircraft repairs, for
replacement of personnel, administration of the aircraft repair-and store
ships-in fact, for all matters between the rear base and the fleet.

Another matter which grew rapidly in importance as the war progressed was
the drafting of ratings to and from the fleet and for administration of the
officers and men attached to the Fleet Train for working parties, etc. So a
Commodore and staff was appointed for this purpose to work under the R.A.F.T.,
his duties being in charge of matters affecting R.N. and Reserve personnel,
e.g. drafting, administration, and administration of accommodation ships.

From the beginning, the day-to-day work of running the Fleet Train itself
proved a problem far greater than had been foreseen, and it was soon found
that this work was liable to occupy the staff of R.A.F.T. to the exclusion of their
primary duty of servicing the fleet. Various schemes were set up to deal with
this matter-and eventually it was found that the only effective organization for
dealing with it was to put all of the Fleet Train administration under one officer
on R.A.F.T.s staff. For this a Commodore Fleet Train (COFT) and small staff
were appointed, but had not commenced to function before the sudden end of
the war. COFT was to have responsibility for replenishment and repair of the
fleet in harbour, and for administration of ships of the Fleet Train.

In the first month or two of operations, the tanker groups in the fuelling area
consisted of only three or four tankers, the same number of escorts, and a
replacement aircraft carrier. These tanker groups grew both in size and
complexity-more tankers were used-store issuing ships, rescue tugs, and a
radar repair ship were included-repair ships were about to be included also
but for the end of the war-and the number of escorts of these groups had to be
strengthened correspondingly. Thus arose the necessity for Captain Logistic
Support Group (CLSG), who from the very beginning was stationed in an escort
vessel permanently in the fuelling area, and in fact this officer and his staff had
one of the busiest jobs in the British Pacific Fleet.

Amenities

No account of the operations of the British Pacific Fleet would be complete
without mention of the amenity ship for this area. This was planned with the
object of providing those units of the fleet which had perforce to remain for long
periods continuously in and around the Pacific Islands with at least some of the
creature comforts which are normally available, even in the more remote shore
bases.

This amenity ship was provided with a stage (complete with concert party)
and cinema, buffets and recreation space, barbers, tailors, and shoe repair
shops, library, and last but not least, a brewery whose endeavour was to brew
the best of British beers from distilled water. The amenity ship did not arrive
on the station until the war was over, but even then she provided welcome relief
to the naval (and other) forces, particularly those on Japanese stations.
Unfortunately, demands for shipping at home were such that she had to be
withdrawn after a short tour of duty, but not before proof had been given of
her value in sustaining morale in the forward areas had the duration of war
been extended.

The Human Element

One of the characteristics of the Fleet Train was the variety of the types of
naval personnel, and the number of races and nationalities among the merchant
seamen-a mixture which presented many problems of administration.

Among the naval personnel were included representatives of the Dominion
Navies and Reserves, uniformed civilian officers, D.E.M.S. and Maritime Royal
Artillery for manning the guns of merchant vessels, S.R.R.(D)s, etc.

The merchant ships of the Fleet Train included ships registered in and
manned by officers and men of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand,
Holland, Denmark, Norway, and Belgium-and many of the crews included
Lascars, Goanese, and Chinese, while one ship was manned by Papuans.
Thus a variety of charter parties, articles of agreement, customs and habits,
and food, had to be dealt with-the greatest complication occurring of course
when several races were serving in one ship.

It is doubtful whether the Royal and Merchant Navies have ever before been
actively employed so closely together in one administrative and operational
body, and it is impossible to overstress the spirit and goodwill with which they
pulled together and, in extremely trying climatic conditions and absence of
shore amenities, they overcame the difficulties and hardships confronting them.

Conclusion

Those of us who served in the Fleet Train in the Pacific War were essentially
in the position of ' middlemen' between the fleet as customers and the
Admiralty and their representatives in Australia as producers and wholesalers.

It was inevitable therefore that we should bear the brunt of the fleet's demands
for supply and maintenance, and feel acutely the lack of facilities to satisfy
these.
Moreover, as we could not be in full possession of the knowledge of
events at home or in other parts of the world, it was not at the time apparent
to us why our insistent demands for more and more ships, stores, and general
facilities could not be met at the rate we hoped for.
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OLD SHIPS: VANGUARD, CHAPLET, VIGILANT, ROEBUCK, PALLISER (x2), DIANA, TIGER, CENTAUR, EAGLE, BELFAST,
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Old 14-10-2012, 01:15
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Brian Wentzell Brian Wentzell is offline
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Default Re: The FLEET TRAIN in the Pacific War.

Andy: The need for adequate logistics is talked about but rarely seen from the logisticians perspective. Your contribution starts that discussion very well. It would be interesting to see contributions from post World War 2 conflicts and then see how experience and technology have changed things.

Brian
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Old 11-11-2013, 12:13
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

The British Pacific Fleet Train has been acerbically described by an eminent naval historian as "resembling a maritime version of the motley procession of hired carts,sutler's wagons and camp followers that trailed behind eighteenth century armies". Under command of R/Adm.D B Fisher were vessels wearing the White or Blue Ensign of the RFA,converted merchantmen wearing the Red Ensign and other merchantmen belonging to Allied countries wearing a colourful variety of national ensigns.
The ships themselves varied greatly in speed and so further complicating Admiral Fisher's polyglot command.Mainly he lacked fast, purpose built tankers,with adequate replenishment equipment to keep up with the Battle Fleet;what we did have was quite unsatisfactory according to Admiral Vian,the Carrier Group Commander.

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Old 11-11-2013, 19:48
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

The logistics train was set up as time progressed and further vessels/services could be provided. Commentators can say what they like, but the fact remains that hard work and splendid co-operation saved the day. It was the human factor which took all the shortages in their stride, thought and saught alternatives and got the job done. It may have been a 'Mickey Mouse' setup but it worked by the will and determination of the staff.

The use of HMNZS Arbutus, the last of the 'Flower' class corvettes as a radar servicing and repair ship is a good example . She performed this duty in the Fleet Train until the end of September 1945. She was present at the Japanese surrender in Hong Kong 16 September. When she finally returned to Auckland on 6 October, the Arbutus had steamed more than 20,000 miles in 77 days since leaving Sydney. Just one of the extraordinary measures to meet the needs of the BPF.

Brian
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Old 11-11-2013, 20:02
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Andy,


Re; the following two excerpts from your opening post.

---------------------------------------------

H.M.S. Springdale, deperming ship

Deperming
At the end of August, facilities were provided by the U.S. Navy for the
ranging of a flotilla of minesweepers on the degaussing range at Manus. As
a result of the tests obtained, several of these ships were depermed by
H.M.S. Springdale

---------------------------------------------

Deperming/Wiping and Degaussing


Confounded by the description of 'deperming ship' given for the Springdale (above), I needed to search out what was meant by 'deperming', only to find that though similar, both produce the same result although the procedures were not exactly the same. There was yet another description for the deperming, that being known as 'wiping'.

I found that this link provided me with a simple yet easily understood description of the respective procedures.

Opening the link one can read that credit for the pioneering work on both the degaussing and deperming procedures is attributed to one Charles Goodeve, a Canadian.


Thanks for yet another good paper.


Little h
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Old 11-11-2013, 21:51
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Thanks for that interesting link, Harry.
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OLD SHIPS: VANGUARD, CHAPLET, VIGILANT, ROEBUCK, PALLISER (x2), DIANA, TIGER, CENTAUR, EAGLE, BELFAST,
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Old 11-11-2013, 22:02
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jainso31 View Post
The British Pacific Fleet Train has been acerbically described by an eminent naval historian as "resembling a maritime version of the motley procession of hired carts,sutler's wagons and camp followers that trailed behind eighteenth century armies". .

jainso31
Do you know what this eminent chap's role was there, Jim?..
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(A proper Old Stoker.)

OLD SHIPS: VANGUARD, CHAPLET, VIGILANT, ROEBUCK, PALLISER (x2), DIANA, TIGER, CENTAUR, EAGLE, BELFAST,
GANGES, RALEIGH, COCHRANE, SULTAN, TERROR, INSKIP, ROYAL ARTHUR, VICTORY, AMPHIBIOUS TRAINING UNIT, ROYAL MARINES. (Poole.)
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Old 12-11-2013, 08:40
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Andy
He was born in 1927-therefore too young to serve in WW2; but did serve in Palestine !945-48- as a sergeant in the Intelligence Corps.
His treatise on the Pacific Fleet Train comes from archival records and statements from high ranking officers who did serve with the BPF ,notably Admiral Sir Philip Vian and Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser,the latter remarking on the willingness of the Americans to make good our shortcomings during the campaign.
The weakness of the Fleet Train was down to the overwhelming urgency that the British COS thrust a quite unready BPF on to the Americans-we did not have a fully developed FT,such as the Americans had; because we clung to the past and outmoded professional habits for replenishment of our warships via fixed naval bases,coupled of course; with pre war lack of funds.
I did not deride the herculean efforts of the FT crews who did the very best with what they had; but IMHO- the whole concept of a BPF was flawed from the start-the idea germinated in 1943 and rushed into being in 1944-it was jinxed from the start.The main problem lay in the polyglot array of tankers,of varying sizes and speeds; added to which was the archaic mode of replenishment at sea, via trailing inflatable hoses behind them ,which often burst and was far too slow.

jainso31
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Old 12-11-2013, 09:45
PhilipG PhilipG is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Jim
There are a number of books and other sources that suggest the BPF's Fleet Train was not very good.

Having just read David Hobbs' book "The British Pacific Fleet" I think that I would take issue with some of these statements.

To move a fleet from home waters to the Pacific in the time that the RN did was a good effort. The establishment of the MONABS in Australia and other places to supply the fleet with aircraft was an amazing logistical achievement.

There is no doubt that the practice of refueling astern was not as efficient as refueling side by side, the RN was learning from the USN as the USN had learnt from the RN about carrier aircraft control when Victorious was helping in the Pacific as Robin, before the Essex Class carriers arrived.

I feel that given time the RN Fleet Train, in essence a new concept for the RN, that was more used to having strategically placed coaling stations etc, would have become more fit for purpose.

Luckily due to the use of the A bombs, this was never put to the final test.
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Old 12-11-2013, 10:23
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Hi Philip-it's been quite a while since we locked horns and I will confine my reply to the confines of the concept,provision and operation of the Pacific Fleet Train/MONAB.The concept was hurriedly brought home to the powers that be at the time that a fighting fleet that came into being in late 1944 had to kept replenished.

The MONAB concept was born in 1942,my father joined one of the first ancillary units of a MONAB-a MATMU (Mobile Advanced Torpedo Maintenance Unit) ie No4-for some reason or another the MONAB idea did not progress; and he and his unit remained in the UK until 1944 acting as a training unit for the FAA-two full years-until sent overseas to Ceylon to Service the Eastern fleet's aircraft torpedoes and there they became "a maid of all work" Like the Fleet Train MONABS were suddenly on the agenda,having been dormant for two years and they were hurriedly got together with all sorts of people including aircrews time expired and sent to Australia in 1945-too late and not much use.My father's unit stayed with the Eastern Fleet in Ceylon until the end of the war

Coming to the BPF Fleet Train-this too was cobbled together in 1944 from what was available and Churchill decided on that issue-feeding the UK took precedence.So no purpose built ships just a polyglot fleet of all sorts totalling 293.000tons, not the million tons required-not really fit for purpose-due to differing sizes,speeds and modus operandi. Hence my earlier posts.

Do please rebut any of my thoughts as you see fit

jainso31

Last edited by jainso31 : 12-11-2013 at 11:39.
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Old 12-11-2013, 13:40
PhilipG PhilipG is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Jim
As you say we have not debated for a while. I hear what you say about the more civilian part of the Fleet Train being not fit for purpose, slow tankers etc, we do know why this is the case, the RN was not used to working at such distances, normally returning to port to refuel, think of KGV when chasing the Bismark, it had to break off the pursuit due to fuel.

If one looks at the RN parts of the Fleet Train, the Air Train besides having the MONABS that as you allude to had been thought about two years before deployment, had Pioneer, Unicorn, Deer Sound, Beauly Firth, Moray Firth, Cuillin Sound and Holm Sound as RN manned ships and Forts Colville and Langley as Air Stores Issuing ships, RFA or MN manned.

As part of the actual Fleet Train there were RN manned among others 2 Destroyer Depot ships, 3 Submarine depot ships, 2 Heavy repair ships, Springdale and Arbutrus as noted above and many others including 3 salvage vessels.

The RFA or MN manned train included such important things as the Fleet Entertainment Ship, Menetheus, two distilling ships, two water carriers as well as 6 Hospital Ships, Tankers, Armament ships, victualling ships and of course a collier.

Not all of these ships could if asked I grant you proceed with the fleet on exercise at an appropriate rate of advance, that was not their role, their role was to ensure that food, ammunition, stores of any variety were available to the fleet so that it could undertake its primary role which was to defeat the Japanese.

You are of course correct that the BPF's fleet oilers have been described in less than glowing terms by many authors, I am not aware though of any major fleet units being withdrawn from combat due to a lack of spares, yes ships were sent for refit in Sydney, where the Garden Island Dock's construction had resulted in Garden Island no longer being an Island.

I do feel that if the campaign had progressed as initially thought there would have been a possibility of purchasing US made fast fleet tankers from West Coast US yards to bring the BPF's oiling up to standard.

In overall terms I do feel that the BPF with in the main rather older design ships, from the pre war era thinking of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty and the London Naval Treaty of 1930 stood up well and performed well, if you think that the USS Essex was laid down in April 1941, the month before Victorious had been in action against the Bismark. One can make similar comments about the KGV battleships mostly being in commission before all of the Iowas were laid down.

The BPF was wanted by the on the scene US Navy Admirals, it had not been designed to operate in the open waters of the Pacific as the USN ships had, it did however achieve the tasks it was given, using by and large its own Fleet Train. Recall that as part of the Washington Treaty that the British and the Americans were not allowed to establish fortifications or Naval Bases in the Western Pacific

For sure the forward Fleet Bases at Manus etc were thanks to the USN as was some of the bunker oil, as for the necessary spare parts for the Fleet and its aircraft, much of it was not in the US inventory.

There was overlap with lease lend planes I am aware, there was as far as I am aware no occasions when due to lack of simple parts or ammunition that Fleet Elements were unable to perform.

That is my view of the situation...
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Old 12-11-2013, 14:45
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Thank you Philip-you have made some excellent points -especially making mention of something that I have never heard of-the Air train-perhaps you could expand on that subject??

Yes all our capital ships were about 3 knots slower than their American counterparts and therefore could NOT operate with them ie. we had to be deployed separately.

Unfortunately Manus was, in itself; too far away to be of much use to the BPF as the battle moved towards the Japanese mainland.

I have no doubt that had the war progressed ie not brought to a halt by the A bomb-the Fleet Train may well have improved some; but not without a completely new standard tanker fleet- supplied by America.The existing method of replenishment was taking about six hours longer than it ought and Carriers had to steam at full speed all night to make the fly off point for next day operations

You make mention of a number of Depot Ship Units-when were they introduced-they were not extant at the outset in early 1945---???

jainso31
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Old 12-11-2013, 15:19
PhilipG PhilipG is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Jim

The air train had the vessels I mentioned or nearly all of them as well as some Jeep Carriers that were used to transport aircraft to the MONABS, an integral part of the Air Train, as well as to transport the aircraft from Australia to the fleet. The FAA had in essence its own supply lines. The needs of a Seafire are slightly different to those of a KGV Battleship.

As for Manus, of course when the action moved the fleet moved, there is a good photo of 6 fleet carriers in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf being serviced by the fleet train. As there are pictures of the USN Fast Carrier Fleets at rest in atols being re-provisioned.

The point about the depot ships, repair ships etc was that you cannot just click your fingers and deploy these units they have to be built, crewed, trained etc, the RN had been looking at the Pacific War for some time as is shown by the MONABs etc being started up two years earlier.

Fleet Carriers and Battleships with all due respect were not the units of choice to escort convoys to Murmansk or across the Atlantic. Yes Unicorn had been used at Salerno as a carrier not a repair ship, she was built as a repair ship.

For an organisation so out of its comfort zone as the RN was operating so far from the industrial base that had developed it, covering so much more distance between friendly ports etc, having to learn so many new skills including how to communicate efficiently and effectively with the USN, I personally feel that the BPF did an amazing job.
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Old 12-11-2013, 15:52
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Absolutely no argument whatever about the operations of the Battle Fleet but by the the very fact that they were Washington Treaty warships, they had to be deployed separately.As far as comfort zones are concerned- none of our ships had air conditioning plants

The photo of our six Fleet Carriers in San Pedro Bay,Leyte Gulf must have been post war perhaps.similarly HMS Anson did not arrive until 25 July 1945.

I also accept that late on our escort carriers were often used as transports and as you said things were slowly improving from the abyssmal set up at the outset.

POSTSCRIPT: The British Fleet was about to return to Sydney at the end of it's second tour of duty and no extra tankers were available to keep them on station in Japanese waters.For the want of three fast oilers Admiral Fraser had no alternative but to order the main body of his Fleet back south; so missing the ceremony of Tokyo bay-what an anticlimax!!
A final irony in this sombre tale of the The British Fleet Train


jainso31

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Old 12-11-2013, 17:24
PhilipG PhilipG is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

The Replenishment in Leyte Gulf was after Iceberg 1 and before Iceberg ll, thus April 1945, before the end of the war. At this time Illustrious left the fleet due to cracking of plates and frames below the waterline.

The Jeep / Escort Carriers had many roles it seems, providing CAP for the Fleet Train, this included the fleet when it was replenishing, Slinger and Speaker were replenishment carriers in Jan 45 to be joined by 4 others by August. In August there were 3 Ferry Carriers as well as the Air Train carriers.

I was not alluding to air conditioning as a comfort zone, I meant that the RN was doing things that it was not normal for it to do.

I do not understand your comment about speed and the Washington Treaty, there are pictures of USN Battleships refueling next to a RN KGV, yes from a USN fast fleet oiler.
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Old 12-11-2013, 17:40
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Philip-As I said in the post just previous -being Washington Treaty capital ships they were some three knots slower than their USN counterparts and therefore were operationally deployed seperatley when with 3rd Fleet.
The fact that the RN and USN ships oiled side by side from a US oiler comes as no surprise and has nothing to do with operational deployment.
I could not see what discomfort there would be- apart from air conditioning-they had been dive bombed and therefore the Kamikaze would not overly trouble them.

jainso31
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Old 29-11-2013, 13:25
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

The Fleet Train was seen to be the go between the Sharp end -the BPF and the Admiralty.; but as the Admiralty was in London-just how did all the necessary supplies required by the British Fleet Train for the BPF- get to Australia???Did the Fleet Train itself ply between UK and the BPF???I would hardly think so/!
Up to time of writing I have seen nothing (in writing) as to how this was organised-I have searched Convoy Net and found no tangible evidence relating to the movement of supply ships from the UK to Australia. Can anyone enlighten me/point me in the right direction- regarding this matter???
NB I do know that the entire British contingent more than doubled in size from May7 to VJ Day.
jainso31

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Old 30-11-2013, 10:18
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

Producing the required number of supply ships of all descriptions to supply the Fleet Train- 12,000 miles from the UK-was near impossible.The Admiralty estimate of 95 ships giving about one million tons of cargo to supply the BPF was at a time when Britain's annual imports were about their lowest at 24,000.000 tons.On 9th April Churchill minuted:-
"The priorities are as follows:-
a)24 million tons of domestic imports this year and next
b)The Fleet Train permissible only on this basis
c)The fighting Fleet that can be carried by the said Fleet Train.

This meant that the Admiralty was only going to receive 293,000 tons of shipping for its Fleet Train; instead of it's original bid of one million tons.
I can find no mention as to how the Admiralty actually dispatched the ships it was allocated eg. Convoys Series and Routes.
PS-I did find Series WO=Indian port to Australia
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Last edited by jainso31 : 30-11-2013 at 11:07.
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Old 02-12-2013, 10:07
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

One of the idiosyncracies in the logistics of the ships to supply the British Fleet Train was that it The Fleet Train; had more ships ie. 134 transports incl oilers +65 cargo ships + 36 High Speed destroyer transports; than the number allocated to supply it=93 at April 1945. Source Roskill;s The War at Sea vol 4 (new edition)

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Last edited by jainso31 : 02-12-2013 at 10:58.
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Old 04-12-2013, 12:00
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: The Fleet Train in the Pacific War.

To sum up this whole truly disheartening issue-the Fleet Train was cobbled together in time to attempt keeping the BPF at sea and in the fight in May 1945; and may therefore be looked upon as a feat of British resourcefulness; but nevertheless it represents a sad falling off from the standards of operational professionalism epitomised by the Royal Navy in the the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.It finally demonstrates anew that Britain was now only a poor relation,striving to hold it's head up.

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