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The Royal Naval Patrol Service - A Very Special Service Indeed
Alf Forshaw
Alf Forshaw When this story was first submitted back in 2000, Alf Forshaw was the then Secretary of the Mersyside RNPSA. In this account Alf gives a little insight into some of the duties carried out by the RNPS in the Far East and his experiences on board BYMS 2008. At the time he was with the 152nd Minesweeping Flotilla attached to the British Pacific and East Indies Fleet.
Sweeping the Japanese Magnetic mines
  BYMS ( British Yard Minesweeper) During WW2 these vessels were deployed in many war zones and opperations all over the world.

While on a rest period in Calcutta, in October 1943, I took a leave party of twenty ratings and myself for two weeks leave to Darjeeling. On our return in November, and after a refit, we were back on operations. Sweeping, towing landing craft, etc. we got through:
"Operation Lightning". (Ramree Island Assault).

"Operation Pungent" (Myebon, to cut the Arakan Coast road).

"Operation Matador" (Ramree Island Assault).

Kangsaw Assault. (A Riverine Operation).

Operation Sankey. (Cheduba Island assault).

Ruywa assault. (To block the Japanese escape from the Arakan).

Operation Turret. (Letpan assault. To cut the Prome-Taungup Road.)

Operation Block. (This latter was known to the flotilla as "Cha ung Hopping"). The Cha ungs, being the narrow rivers of Burma.

We sailed for Colombo, Sri Lanka, dry docked in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, for inspection of the hull, rudder and propellers. We then did a major overhaul of the main propulsion engines. This then in preparation for "Operation Bishop", which was sweeping and bombardment of SEAC fleet, of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as a feint before "Operation Dracula". (The invasion and assault of Rangoon.) We topped up with fuel, with extra 45-gallon drums diesel lashed securely on deck. Our entire water supply would be for cooking purposes only. Anybody found with a clean shave would be on a charge, as it was seawater only for washing purposes.

We sailed in an arc across the widest part of the Bay of Bengal, escorted by a couple of destroyers, to put off any Japanese observers. We eventually arrived at the natural deep anchorage off the Nicobar Islands. We were by then completely out of food, water and fuel. Besides the presence of the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth in the anchorage was Royal Naval Auxiliary supply ships. The 2008 being the then flotilla leader, lead the approach to the Auxiliaries, to replenish with food, water and fuel. But the Auxiliaries refused to take our lines, saying that the supplies were for Royal Naval ships only, even though we drew their attention to the fact that we were flying the white ensign. Our "Skipper" consulted the crew that we wanted the "OK" for him to use a little fresh water so that, so that he could wash and shave, as he was going to board HMS Queen Elizabeth, which by the way carried an Admiral (Walker). This he did and put forward our difficulties to the "Top Brass". In double short time, signals were being flashed to tankers and supply ships and so we did eventually get our supplies. Coming alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth, we must have lived up to our name as "Churchill's Pirates". The "Tidily" matelots on the "Big One" looked down to a ship full of unshaven, fierce looking crewmen, with a wealth of coloured bandannas on their heads. I wonder if they thought that they were going to be "Boarded"!

Afterwards it was a quick passage to the Gulf of Martaban for Operation Dracula. (The invasion of Rangoon.)

We had no idea what was waiting for us there. On the voyage from the Nicobars and Andaman Islands, then to the Gulf of Martaban, our Skipper (Lieutenant George Draper. RNR DSC) has us all on deck to announce that we would be heading the flotilla up the Irrawaddy River to Rangoon and that anything that was going to be "thrown" would probably be at us, the leading ship. Naturally, the "Big Boy's" (Battleships, Cruisers, etc) would keep well out of harms way as it was known that the Irrawaddy River was well mined.

We had no idea then, that the Gurkha Parachute Battalion had dropped onto the Japanese Artillery on Elephant Island and silenced their guns. We steamed up the Irrawaddy line astern. I had just come on deck from the main engine room and watched the Para's landing on either bank. We exchanged waves to each other, and then as we turned a bend in the river I saw a spectacular sight, that I temporarily forgot about the invasion and just stared at the truly beautiful Shwe Dagon Pagoda which was situated on the East bank of the Irrawaddy River. With its magnificent spire, covered with gold leaf, shimmering in the sunshine. I was told that inside even the walls were encrusted with precious stones. The Buddhist Monks in their saffron robes walking about as if nothing was happening, but we pressed on up to Rangoon.
Shwe Dagon Pagoda
  The most notable building in Yangon is the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, a great cone-shaped Buddhist monument that crowns a hill about one mile north of the Cantonment. The pagoda itself is a solid brick stupa (Buddhist reliquary) that is completely covered with gold. It rises 326 feet (99 m) on a hill 168 feet (51 m) above the city.

On reaching Singapore, (Safely) which had just been retaken, it was more minesweeping.

Then, after regrouping we were sent to sweep out the Mekong Delta and the Mekong River up to Saigon. These waters were absolutely saturated with Japanese Magnetic mines, all of which had to be systematically cleared.

After we had finished this task, an urgent call from Bangkok to the Admiralty for minesweepers to clear the approaches to, and the Port of Bangkok as they were desperate for supplies as no shipping was able to enter port. Again, because of the Japanese Magnetic Mine saturation. The Siamese had been utilising barges with Electro-magnets on them, towed by tugs, but all of these had been blown up by the magnetic mines, which they were attempting to clear.

Our flotilla at Saigon being the nearest to Bangkok received orders to proceed with all haste to clear the Bight of Bangkok and into the Port of Bangkok. We did manage to do this difficult task successfully and again without loss. Once again, it was saturation of Japanese Magnetic mines causing the trouble. For this difficult tour of duty, our flotilla received a personal letter of thanks from the then King of Siam. (And I don't mean Yul Brynner!).

Alf forshaw 2000

In memory of Alf Forshaw who crossed the bar 15th September 2002