Eleven months aboard HMS INDOMITABLE

 

Able Seaman Gerald A. Hancock

 

This page is formed from wartime diary of Gerald A. Hancock who served on H.M.S Indomitable during the period September 10th 1941 to August 14th 1942. The diary was discovered in January 2012 after it was believed lost by his family, along with a few photographs this was submitted to the Royal Navy Research Archive.


Additional photographs used to illustrate the diary come from the wartime collection of Walter E Gelling who served on the ship during the same time. Others are from the Royal Navy Research Archive collection. By some strange coincidence both the diary and the photo collection were donated to the Archive in the same week.

 

H.M.S. INDOMITABLE

 

Click on small a image to see full screen version

Date

Entry

1941

Sept 10

Joined ship 08.00. Gladstone Dock Seaforth, Liverpool, Ammunitioning.

Sept 27-28

Last week-end leave

Sept 30

Saw Doris ( sister ) in the evening

Oct 1

Left Gladstone 08.00 - one destroyer and spitfire escort.

Oct 2

Lay off Bangor. Co.Down arriving am. Sailed for Greenock 20.00

Oct 3

Arrive Greenock during 1st Dog - no leave piped.

Oct 5

Under way 08.00 - Flying trials and speed trials - night lying off Ardrossan.

Oct 5 - 16

Trials in Firth of Clyde and off Ailsa Craig going in at anight to Ardrossan. Week-end at Greenock - ashore Friday and Sunday - Glasgow and Gurock by train. Three of us spend 45 shillings on food.

Oct 18

Left Greenock 02.00, last mail distributed 07.30.

Oct 19 - 20

In convoy. French liner PASTEUR for Halifax ( Canada ) Destroyer escort. Heavy seas breaking over flight deck. Only at 6 knots.

Oct 22

Left convoy

Oct 25 - 26

Two aircraft lost. Survivors from one picked up after 30 hours search.

 

Whaler crew to the rescue

 

Oct 27

Arrived Bermuda during last Dog. Four leaves during stay

 

Left: Divisions held while in Bermuda note the variations

in uniform ranging from full temperate rig to full tropical

 rig and all points in-between. Right: Captain H. E. Morse, DSO, RN, Commanding Officer.

 

Oct 31

Left Bermuda

Nov 2

18.00 Arrived Jamaica. Ran on reef entering harbour.

Nov 3

02.30 Got off reef. Clocks 6 hours back on B.S.T.

 

Kingston harbour, Jamaica

 

Nov 4

For Norfolk. V.A Max speed during passage 16 knots due to drainage.

Nov 8

Arrived off Norfolk during forenoon. Cold day.

Nov 9 - 10

At Norfolk Naval Air Station. Eight leaves.

Nov 19

In river. Marsh fires caused bad visibility, returned to berth in the evening.

Nov 20

For Jamaica

Nov 24 -

Lying off Jamaica. Kingston harbour. Out all week off Kingston fighting trials.

Nov 29

Back in harbour

Nov 30

Sent for week to H.M.S Buzzard. Palisadoes. F.A.A aerodrome.

Dec 6

Ship back in harbour. Returned to ship.

Dec 6 -12

Leave in Kingston.

 

Kingston, Jamaica

 

Dec 13

For Trinidad.

Dec 15

Sighted Trinidad. Lay off Port of Spain.

Dec 16

Submarine scare - F.A.A Cadets come to sea with us. Bad show. Two landing crashes.

Dec 17

23.00 To sea for Cape Town.

Dec 22

19.00 Crossed the line.

 

Crossing the line ceremony

 

Dec 25

Games and concert. Christmas dinner. Very hot.

Dec 31

Arrived Cape Town during afternoon. Leave in the evening

 

Cape Town, South Africa

 

 1942

Jan 1

Leave in Cape Town.

Jan 2

For Aden.

Jan 10

In the Gulf - met by destroyer escort H.M.A.S NAPIER, NIZAM, NESTOR

 

H.M.A.S. NAPIER

 

Jan 11

Arrive Aden during forenoon - disembarked 2 squadrons. Leave (22,000 miles )

 

Aden

Jan 12

To Port Sudan, escorted.

Jan 14

Arrived Port Sudan. 50 Hurricanes and crews for Singapore. Leave.

 

Port Sudan

 

Jan 15

P.M to sea

Jan 16

Escort sent in to refuel at Aden - passed through Straits under cover of darkness.

Jan 21

P.M at Addu Atoll. Refuelling Pear leaf. [RFA]

Jan 22

Left P.M. for Cocos Islands

Jan 25

Cocos Islands to refuel. Difficulty in refuelling destroyers - one left behind. At sea again following morning.

Jan 27

Joined by third destroyer waiting all day to fly off RAF Hurricanes - 16 got off.

Jan 28

Essential that remainder get off. Destroyers running short of fuel. Swordfish lost. ASDICS pick up submarine, nothing developed. Hurricanes all of safely. Ship having closed the coast of Java which was just in sight. 8.5 hours ahead of GMT.

Jan 29 - Feb 1

Returning to Trimcomlee having lost time in refuelling escort at sea.

Feb 2

Arrived Trimcomlee

Feb 4

Orders to proceed to Colombo cancelled due to sub activity.

REVENGE.  ROYAL SOV. EMERALD. ENTERPRISE. VITA (HMHS) HERON. APPLELEAF. PEARLEAF. NAPIER. NESTOR. NIZAM. MANOORA. SUMATRA.

Feb 2 - 16

(32,000 miles) Boiler cleaning. Sub scare delayed sailing for two days.

Feb 16

For Aden

Feb 18

Reconnaissance a/c in search for enemy supply ship off Malidivean Islands.

Feb 22

USS WEST POINT from Singapore. Arrived Aden during forenoon mail - 70 bags - 13 letters, 1 tel : ashore. R.A.A joins ship. Captain H.E. Morse relieved of command by Captain Troubridge.

Feb 23

Left Aden for Port Sudan.

Feb 25

Arrived Port Sudan, took on more Hurricanes and RAF personnel for Far East.

Feb 27

Left P.Sudan. NAPIER NESTOR escorting. New skipper now in command.

Mar 6

40 Hurricanes flown off.

Mar 7

Trimcomlee. Remainder of planes flown off.

 

Trimcomlee, Ceylon.

Photo: RN REsearch Archive

 

Mar 8 and 9

Ashore

RAMILLIES. ROYAL SOV. DORSETSHIRE. VAMPIRE. DECOY. FORTUNE. NAPIER. NESTOR. NIZAM. EREBUS. SUMATRA.

Mar 10

Left Trimco: DECOY and FORTUNE in company. For Aden 07.00

Mar 16

Arrived Aden. 150 bags of mail. Leave. COMMANDANT DOMINE. F.F.S. SS DRONTES (RMC)  CORFU . KIWI (HMS) SS CLANMACTAVISH.

 

Mar 19

Left Aden. Main engines broken down from 13.15 - 22.00. DECOY FORTUNE in company 800. 880. 827. 831 squadrons complete.

Mar 23

Arrived Adhu Atol.

Mar 24

Fleet manoeuvres. RAMMILLIES. ROYAL SOV. REVENGE. RESOLUTION ( flagship ) . Escort - GRIFFIN. FOXHOUND and  FORTUNE. DECOY. ISAAC SWEEN. D.S. NESTOR NAPIER. ?? LIMGAIN ??? NORMAN .

Mar 25

Fleet manoeuvres. Arrived back Adhu Atol Saturday (28th) PM

Mar 29

Left 23.00 Fleet sails for unknown rendezvous.

Mar 31

Joined by HMS WARSPITE. 4 Fulmars lost this week on exercises.

HMS FORMIDABLE. HERMES. CORNWALL. CALEDON. EMERALD. ENTERPRISE. HEEMSKIRK. DORSETSHIRE. PANTHER. PALADIN. VAMPIRE. FOXHOUND. GRIFFIN. ARROW. DRAGON. SCOUT.

Mar 31 - Apr 4

Unsuccessful search carried out, no contacts made with enemy. Returned to Adhu Atol April 4th midday.

April 5

17.00 Reconnaissance a/c make contact. 1 Albacove lost, 1 shot up but returned safely 22.00. Lost contact. COLOMBO raided.

April 6

Search continued, enemy BS's raiding to the N.W. No sign of HMS DORSETSHIRE and HMS CORNWALL having failed to rendezvous.

 

Oct 1st to April 1st  45,986 miles. 31,000 tonnes oil fuel.

Apr 7

HMS DORSETSHIRE and HMS CORNWALL reported sunk. HMS ENTERPRISE and 2 DR's return with approx 1000 survivors, search continued - 7 ships reported sunk yesterday in Bay of Bengal.

Apr 8

Ado Atoll refuelling

April 9

HMS HERMES sunk. To sea for Colombo.

April 13

Arrive Bombay Monday

April 20

01.30 Left Bombay for Colombo among those in company. WARSPITE - flagship . FORMIDABLE. HEEMSKIRK. NEWCASTLE. EMERALD. ENTERPRISE.

April 23

Colombo to take on aircraft. 1 new fulmar squadron.

April 24

Left Colombo with fleet

 

Fleet air arm losses since October:-

6 Fulmars, 1 Swordfish. Several Albacores badly smashed up. 1 lost April 5, Casualties 7 possibly 8. 3 lost April 5 and 1 injured.

Second boiler clean in Bombay

April 29

Arrive Seychelles to refuel. In company. Left Seychelles 19.00.

Transports in Company :-

KEREN, SOBIESKI, ORANSAY, ROYAL ULSTERMAN, DUCHESS OF ATHOLL, WINCHESTER CASTLE. FRANCONIA. KARANJA. Also HMS HERMIONE. ?? lafonmey ?? LIGHTNING, DUNCAN, JAVELIN, INCONSTANT. ANTHONY.

 

H.M.S. LIGHTNING alongside INDOMITABLE in the Indian Ocean, a man is being ferried between the two ships by light jackstay transfer.

 

May 3

Join up with 8 transports. HMS ILLUSTRIOUS. RAMMILLIES. DEVONSHIRE 2 D.F'S - bound for Diego Suarez Madagascar.

May 5

Attack at dawn on town and aerodrome of Diego Suarez

May 8

French surrended. Our casualties about 500.

May 9

Fleet enters harbour. 08.00 French sub fires 1 torpedo at Indom. Missed us by about 20 yards.

 

Diego Suarez Madagascar

 

Two views of the wreck of the Vichy French Sloop FS D'ENTRECASTEAUX, crippled by bombs and torpedoes from aircraft flying from INDOMITABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS  during 'Operation IRONCLAD'

 

May 19

Left for Mombasa with ILLUSTRIOUS.

May 22

Arrive Mombasa as home to C in C's office

May 26

In hospital

June 12

To Nairobi hospital.

June 15

Left Nairobi

June 16

Arrive Mombasa, sent to ?? Lihoni Camp. 7 days excused duty. Indom arrives back from patrol.

July 4

Return to ship

July 9

For Durban ?? LAFONEY ?? LIGHTNING. LOOKOUT. ISLE DE FRANCE. BRITTANNIC in Durban.

 

 

July 13

Arrive Durban

July 14

Leave for Cape Town.

July 17

Arrive Cape Town.

 

July 18

Leave for Freetown.

July 28

Arrive Freetown forenoon. PHOEBE. UNION. VINDICTIVE. In harbour.

Aug 1

Left Freetown to rendezvous with VICTORIOUS and EAGLE off North-West Africa

Aug 6

Rendezvous AM with a EAGLE. VICTORIOUS. ARGUS about 300 miles off Gib.

Aug 8

In Gib to oil - not successful. Left 04.45 ( 27 Knots )

Aug 9

JOINED CONVOY FOR MALTA pm.  NELSON. RODNEY. KENYA. FURIOUS. MANCHESTER. NIGERIA. SIRIUS. etc Through straits during dark hours. Refuel ourselves in Gibraltar Bay ( 1000 tons )

 

MALTA CONVOY :- 4 AIRCRAFT CARRIERS, 2 BATTLESHIPS, 9 CRUISERS, 15 MERCHANT SHIPS about 60 ships in all with Destroyer screen - oilers and tugs.

Aug 10

'DI' Overtake convoy pm. Proceeding 12 knots due east, reduced visibility - sea choppy , no incidents.

Aug 11

'DI' Action stations 05.40. - no incidents. Shadowers all forenoon.

13.00 Submarine attack - EAGLE hit and sunk - several torpedos fired at us - obviously more than one submarine - doubtful whether any were sunk - Pompoms opened up on periscope - EAGLE sank approx 13.24.

Action stations on and off all afternoon - convoy intact proceeding at about 12 knots.

20.00 Action stations - Dusk - torpedo bombers, attack all guns opened up - no hits secure about 22.15.

Aug 12

'DI' (Action stations all day). Between the straits of Sardinia and African coast, no incidents.

10.30 approx - JU 88'S terrific barrage - no hits - several raids reported coming in, small formations not more than 20 at a time - C.O 880 sqdn shot down and lost. Afternoon- torpedo attack on convoy. HMS NELSON and RODNEY open up with 16 inch flack.

16.00 - 18.15 Quiet and peaceful - none of the convoy lost out of 15 ships.

18.30 J.U. 87 dive bomber and torpedo attack.

18.45 Attack on Indom. Three hits - forward aft and mid ships prt side. Malta fighters overdue hence inadequate fighter protection.

19.15 approx. Turned due west - 12 knots

19.45 approx. Steaming due west. 20 knots. NELSON RODNEY VICTORIOUS and screen in company - HMS MANCHESTER. NIGERIA KENYA and CAIRO etc proceed with convoy. More gunfire heard in the distance. Damage considerable but above the waterline.

22.00 approx. Darken ship. Security from the night - next operation abandoned.

 Aug 13

No incidents. 2 dud action stations.

21.30 approx. VICTORIOUS and NELSON turn east to cover returning ships and light convoy out of Malta. Speed 18 knots - due in Gibraltar tomorrow.

We accounted for 28 a/c.

Aug 14

Arrive Gibraltar 18.00

Dry dock for temporary repairs.

 

 

 

Thanks to Mr. Tim Hancock for submitting a digital copy of his father's diary and pictures covering his time with the ship and to Mr. John Gelling for the donation of photographs belonging to his father, Walter Gelling, who served as a Petty Officer in fleet air arm.

 

 

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Copyright  Tony Drury 2005 - 2012


 

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