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Forgotten fleets remembered
THE Royal Navy’s
the United States – representing
‘Forgotten Fleets’ were
the huge diversity in ships and
once again remembered
sailors that went to make up the
two Fleets.
for the sacrifices they made They joined survivors and war
during World War 2 at an
veterans, led by Lt Gerry Purnell
event which was officially
RN (rtd), to commemorate the
billed as their ‘last hurrah’.
memory of their shipmates and
comrades who gave their lives in
More than 100 Royal Navy
the fight against the Japanese.
veterans were welcomed back to
One veteran said: “I am very
Singapore for a final memorial proud to be here today and to
service to commemorate their have served with the men standing
fallen comrades from the
with me.”
British Pacific Fleet (BPF)
In true Naval tradition, he also
and East Indies Fleet (EIF)
had other concerns, enquiring of
PO Steve Simpson at what time
Both Fleets ultimately witnessed
the rum ration was to be handed
the Japanese surrender 65 years
After the service the veterans
The trip was made possible by
continued their pilgrimage to
a generous grant from the Big
Changi to pay tribute to the
Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2
“Palembang Nine”, Fleet Air
programme, which helps veterans
Arm aviators who were shot
make commemorative journeys.
down during an attack on the
The final service of remembrance
local refinery and subsequently
for the veterans was arranged by
beheaded by ceremonial swords
Naval Party 1022, a team of four
after the Japanese surrender.
Royal Naval personnel under the
The BPF was created in
command of Cdr Paul Haycock.
November 1944, and combined
NP 1022 supports the Royal
with the restructured EIF it
Navy’s commitment to the Five
proved to be a formidable fighting
Powers Defence Arrangement in
force – the largest Commonwealth
Singapore and the wider South
Fleet in history, with participants
East Asia region by managing
from Australia, Canada, Denmark,
the day-to-day running of the
France, India, Netherlands,
Sembawang Naval Wharves,
New Zealand and South Africa,
totalling more than 500 ships.
The Battle for Singapore in
This was also the most powerful
December 1941 saw the loss of
conventional fleet ever assembled
840 sailors on board HM ships
by the Navy and included eight
Prince of Wales and Repulse, and
battleships, 34 aircraft carriers
the memorial at Sembawang Naval
and 24 cruisers plus many smaller Pictures: Nicola Payne
● Forgotten Fleets veteran Gerry Purnell salutes at the Last Post
Wharf which honours the memory
warships and support vessels.
of these men was the focal point The RN fleet operated alongside Japanese kamikaze. carrier it’s ‘Sweepers, man your surrender in 1945, witnessing ladies in the lavatory”, according to
for the ceremony. the US Fifth and Third fleets, both Indefatigable more than brooms!’” the liberation of Hong Kong, one attendee – nobody knew they
A prominent role was played by in the Pacific and Indian Ocean in proved herself with their resistant With support from the Allies Shanghai and finally Singapore were there, yet they continued their
the British High Commissioner, order to put an early end to the armoured steel decks as opposed to
and Americans the BPF and EIF on the way. humanitarian and reconstruction
Paul Madden, who was supported war against Japan. the vulnerable US fleet’s wooden
relentlessly attacked the enemy After they repatriated many duties before fading into history
by high commissioners, Lt Purnell served as part of decks – a US Navy liaison officer
by air and sea until the Japanese POWs the fleets were “like the old as the ‘Forgotten Fleets’.
ambassadors and defence advisers the BPF on the carrier HMS commented “when a kamikaze
from Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Indefatigable, the first British hits a US carrier, it’s curtains, or
Netherlands, New Zealand and ship to come under attack by a six months in dock. In a Limey
Collectors’ Corner
Build an exciting and interesting collection of B&W and coloured postcard
sized photographs of ships and aircraft of the Royal Navy and RFA’s.
Only £12.50 UK £14.50 Overseas
Which includes ONE NEW postcard sized photograph
● Veterans, guests and dignitaries at the Singapore memorial service in Sembawang
of our featured vessel each month.
Photographs can also be purchased individually for £1.20 each (minimum of three).
Send Cheque/P.O. together with name and address of subscriber to
Anne Young at…
Navy News, HMS Nelson, Queen Street, Portsmouth PO1 3HH
Or phone on – 023 9272 6284
Cheques payable to: Navy News
For orders outside of the UK, payment is to be made by cheque/International Money Order in £ Sterling
(Older photographs will be in Black & White)
● Three veterans from the West Midlands – Desmond Jones, Douglas Heath and George Treadwell
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