Friday, 26 November 2010

2: Air Attack at Sea - Part 2.

It was now three and a half hours since the first air raid had begun and Singapore was well behind us. We kept watch and waited, prepared for another attack, wondering if the Jap's would give up, leaving us still afloat. Our answer came soon enough, as another alarm sounded. We had obviously moved out of range of the previous aircraft as now, high in the sky was a formation of large twin engine bombers.

Now, after the noise and commotion of the low level flying and the continuous firing of the smaller guns, it seemed uncannily quiet, only the larger guns went into action and were firing at what seem longer intervals, there were only two on our ship that could reach the altitude required. The planes were keeping high and continued flying towards us with no apparent damage to them from our gunfire. As I watched I saw some bombs glint in the sun as they left the aircraft and as they whistled through the air, it looked as if they might hit us.

There was silence on board except for the guns which kept up their fire, then, as the sailor and I stood gazing up, we heard course alterations being shouted out from the deck above, the ship immediately heeled over onto a new direction as four bombs crashed into the sea where we would have been.

The ship felt and sounded as if a giant had hit us with a very large hammer, there were four rapid blows as large geysers of water with bright orange centres went skyward.

I wondered how much of this can a ship take before the riveted steel plates sprang and began to leak water. My sailor friend was quite happy, he had been through it all before and had great confidence in his Captain who, he explained was lying on the above deck keeping watch on the planes through binoculars, waiting for the bombs to leave the aircraft, deciding where they were likely to fall, then taking what evasive action was necessary. He was quite rightly, proud of his Captain, also, regarding the closeness of the bombs, the ship's hull could stand plenty of that treatment. There might be some joints that leak steam and light bulbs may be broken in the engine room where most of the damage would occur.

The raid continued with the aircraft using their bomb  singularly. They had no doubt observed our Captain's actions, as with the next attack, as one plane dropped his bombs, the ship changed course, turning to the right, another plane dropped his bombs into the area we were turning into. Our Captain had no choice but to turn back in the hope we would be between the two sticks of bombs. Those to the left of us exploded first only yards away. The noise was deafening as the ship seem to stop dead before plunging on into the next concussing noise of the bombs to our right. This time there was damage in the engine room with burst pipes, but the ship still moved forward and we were all alive.

It was almost 1:00 p.m. when the last planes departed. We had endured and survived four and a half hours of attacks.

The 'Empire Star' had been hit twice and suffered casualties as had the cruiser 'Durban'. We maintained our position at the rear as we continued on our way and now at half speed due to the damage inflicted on the ship during the bombing. The rest of the convoy gradually sailed out of sight as we gradually made our way to Batavia, now know as Jakarta on the Island of Java.

1 comment:

  1. The detail about the captain's maneuvering the ship is fascinating. But what an experience this must have been!