Tag Archives: Sydney

Kamikaze (3)

I was telling you last time how author Robert C Stern had listed in his excellent book about the kamikaze phenomenon, the numbers of men killed and wounded in various US Navy ships:

“……….with 16 killed and 21 wounded, the Colorado with 19 killed and 72 wounded, the Maryland with 31 killed and 30 wounded, the Aulick with 31 killed and 64 wounded, the Mugford with 8 killed and 14 wounded, the Lamson with 25 killed and 54 wounded, the Drayton with 6 killed and 12……”

The USS John Burke apparently blew up as soon as it was touched by a “Zeke” and both the ship and the 107 men on it were instantly vaporised. Not the slightest trace of them was ever found. This is the USS Suwannee, but you probably get the gist:

The worst day, Kamikaze-wise, was January 6th 1945. The Japanese caused damage to 15 American ships and killed 167 men and wounded 502. They lost 30 aircraft and 30 pilots. And in their strange alien world, it was a good return. US Navy policy was to push badly damaged aircraft into the sea. This was the USS Belleau Wood:

Author Robert Stern, explains extremely carefully the techniques used by the kamikazes. They usually came in fairly slowly, low in the sky, just above the horizon, trying not to draw attention to each other, pretending to be one of the many US Navy aircraft which always seemed to be around. Their favourite time was either at dawn or at sunset, with the light or the darkness helping to hide them. Their preferred weather was a clear morning followed by an afternoon which was cloudy with squalls, perhaps even thunderheads, rising high above the ships. Clouds and poor visibility helped the kamikaze to hide from the anti-aircraft fire. Such weather conditions used to be called “kamikaze weather”. In the picture above, note the sailors all standing in the safest place to stand:

A great many good men were killed or seriously injured by kamikaze attacks. 66 ships were sunk, and an unknown number were damaged, some of them so seriously that they only returned to Pacific waters in 1946.

Nobody ever suggested, though, at any point, that the war should be stopped. There was rather a desire to get the job done with the minimum number of casualties. Even so, the kamikazes had “a terrifying psychological value”. How’s this for “terrifying psychological value”..?

Vice Admiral Onishi Takijiro wanted to use this “terrifying psychological value” to force the Allies to postpone or even cancel their attack on the home islands of Japan. He would have wanted a Japanese surrender that was not unconditional, he would have wanted not to have had any Allied soldiers on the sacred soil of Japan, and, fairly unbelievably, for Japan to have kept such overseas colonies as Manchuria.

Some ships were hit by more than one kamikaze either in the same incident or on different days. The most frequently struck ship is usually reckoned to be HMAS Australia. On October 21st 1944 it was hit by a Sonia dive bomber, although this may have been a “jibaku” act, when an already doomed aircraft was plunged into a nearby ship. 29 men were killed and 64 were wounded.

Here’s a “Sonia”:

And here’s HMAS Australia:

On January 5th 1945, a “Zeke” hit the HMAS Australia and killed 25 men and wounded 30. On the 8th, a “Dinah” hit at 0720 hours but caused no damage. At 0739, a second “Dinah” caused lots of serious damage. The ship was forced to list and to have its speed reduced. Many of its guns were put out of action. And then, at 1302 two “Val” dive bombers caused severe damage to the funnel, which rendered the forward fireroom unusable because of the subsequent lack of updraught. At the end of the day, HMAS Australia left Leyte Gulf for repairs, initially at Sydney, then in the USA and finally at Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

Let’s finish with a slideshow. Number one is  “Val”, then there’s a “Dinah”, reckoned to be one of the most beautiful aircraft ever designed, and the last one is a Mitsubishi Zero.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The photograph of the “Dinah”, I took. If only I had had the brains to crouch down and lose the backlighting. What a stupid “Baka” as the Japanese say.

12 Comments

Filed under Aviation, History, Pacific Theatre, the Japanese

Hallowe’en Nights (5) Ghosts in the High School

It is often supposed that in a building as old as the present High School there should be a school ghost.

ray cccccccc

Ray Eastwood, the caretaker, once told me this story, in the early or mid-1980s, although to be honest, I have forgotten the exact date…..

“One year, a small number of boys were expelled from the school because of their appalling behaviour. They made threats that they would return, and either vandalise, or even set fire to the school. Because of this, my colleague Tony Hatcher and myself were asked to sleep in the school to forestall any problems. In actual fact, we borrowed a German Shepherd dog from a security firm that I had connections with, and all three of us moved with our camp beds into one of the rooms at the front of the school, underneath Reception, on the ground floor.

One morning, around 6.15 a.m., Tony and myself were sitting up in our beds having a cup of tea and a cigarette, when we clearly heard footsteps in the corridor above. They seemed to start near the staffroom, and then to proceed around the corner, past the staff toilets, and along the corridor towards the offices, directly above us. We both of us thought that these must be the footsteps of somebody who had broken into the school, and we rushed out of our temporary accommodation. We grabbed the dog, and threw him up the stairs to pursue the presumed miscreants. The poor animal wanted none of it, and he slunk off back into the room to his basket, his tail between his legs. We ourselves went on, rushed up the stairs and charged into the area around Reception. We could find absolutely nobody. We explored all around. All the windows were secure. All the doors that should have been locked were locked. There was no explanation whatsoever of what we had heard. There was certainly nobody there.”

In actual fact, Ray did offer me an explanation….He thought that the footsteps that both Ray and he had so clearly heard were those of Eric Oldham, a caretaker who had worked at the High School until some eight or ten years previously. One sunny Saturday evening at the end of that blistering hot August of 1976, after many years of faithful and steadfast service, poor Eric had collapsed and died as he made his rounds to lock up the school. He was found by his poor wife, lying on the sandstone paving slabs just inside the Main Gates. In the School Magazine, Mr.Oldham was described as “one of the school’s most devoted servants and a warm hearted friend”.

P1470416 cccccc

When Eric used to unlock the many various rooms inside the school every morning, he invariably followed the same route at the same time of day. Eric would have been walking along those same corridors, in the very same direction as the mysterious footsteps we so clearly heard, at the same early hour of the morning. Perhaps it was him, reluctant still to pass the school into anyone else’s care.

Shortly after the idea of a school ghost was first mooted, it later emerged that there had already been another claimant to the position. This phantom was in the then Preparatory School which educated boys aged between eight and eleven years of age.

Quite a number of reports had emerged that as boys walked down a particular set of stairs towards the Waverley Street end of the building, they repeatedly had felt what could only be described as invisible fingers grabbing at the bottoms of their trousers, as if somebody was trying to clutch at their ankles as they went past. This story was told to me quite a few times in the Main School by a number of boys of varying ages, so it must have been fairly well known at the time, although it was unclear whether any of the teachers in the Preparatory School were aware of it. At least one member of the Main School staff knew of it, however.
I have an explanation for this although it does require a certain “leap of faith”. The new building of the Preparatory School was constructed on the site of a magnificent Victorian house. It was still used for Sixth Form lessons for a short period during the early years of my time at the High School, and may well have been the Sixth Form Centre, although I am no longer totally certain of this. Originally, the house had belonged to Dr.Dixon, Headmaster of the school from 1868-1884. On May 29th 1876, his wife, Ada, died “of the effects of a chill”, leaving her husband with five children, who were, according to “The Forester”, “Robert, Charles, Harold, Sydney and one daughter to bring up, four sons and a daughter”.

My best guess is that the clutching fingers belonged to Ada, who, as a spirit, was unwilling to leave her children, as she could see that her husband was struggling with the job of looking after them. It may well be that the staircase in the modern Preparatory School occupied the same three dimensional space as a long forgotten room in the now demolished Victorian house.

Interestingly, neither of the two ghosts, if indeed they were ghosts, has persisted. The stories in the Preparatory School disappeared after just a couple of years at most, and as regards the tale of the footsteps in the corridor, both Ray and Tony were denying vehemently that anything had ever happened within weeks of originally talking about the event. Why that was, I never did discover, although it is always nice to have a School Conspiracy Theory.

Next time……The School Werewolf and how to apply for the job

wolf xxxxxx

Periods of work……only a few days every full moon

werewflopcddddaef fgbb

Paid holidays…….once in a blue moon

If you are interested in the ghosts of Nottinghamshire, there are at least two lists of reported hauntings.

Wooooooo

Hooooooo

 

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School