COCKCHAFER AND APHIS
RETURN TO THE FAR EAST
TARANTO TO SINGAPORE
1 January – 26 April 1946
Len Mell was born in Southport, Merseyside, North West England 30 August 1926. He joined Scarab in Taranto, Italy after the South of France. The ships were tied up, stern to wall. The aircraft carrier H.M.S. Attacker, a minesweeper and corvette, then Scarab, and further along Cockchafer, and Aphis. Scarab was literally ripped apart for rebuilding and a new bridge assembled after sustaining heavy damage in her battle with the two German corvettes.
The crew was relocated to a pavilion outside the dock area with 6 left aboard Scarab for guard duties including Len. Conditions were very rough – full of rats - toilets directly over the stern into the water, no heating to be expected for some time, 1 shilling per day. No one was very happy in the cold conditions. They had to adapt accordingly.
HMS Scarab was deployed in the Adriatic in support of shore operations based at Ancona. Following Victory in Europe she was nominated for service with the British Pacific Fleet against Japan. However, the Pacific War ended before she and her sister ship’s Aphis and Cockchafer left Taranto, Italy bound for Singapore, Malaysia on 1 January 1946.
The following is the Report of Proceedings from H.M.S. Scarab.
It must be remembered that the river gunboats were designed for ‘riverine’ purposes; They were flat-bottomed with a four- foot draught from the water-line. In addition, they were originally built in pieces so that they could be delivered to their service destination via ship or rail and assembled ‘in situ’. They were not designed as ocean-going vessels and were a problem in rough weather. The problems which bedevilled these ships on ocean voyages were present even in their early years See:: A Sea Voyage in a River Gunboat (1927)
So far, we have been unable to find any reference to one of these ships ever having been assembled ‘in situ’. All were launched in the UK.
H.M.S. St Brides Bay
The Royal Indian Navy Revolt (also called the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny) encompassed a total strike and subsequent revolt by Indian
Sailors of the Royal Indian Navy on board ship and shore establishments at Bombay Harbour on 18 February 1946. From the initial flashpoint
in Bombay, the revolt spread and found support throughout British India from Karachi to Calcutta, and ultimately came to involve over
20,000 sailors in 78 ships and shore establishments.
R.F.A. Golgol - Hong Kong Dec 1925
The sailor who was rescued hanging on to the number 11 buoy picked up by H.M.S. Cockchafer was from
Marechal Joffre formerly French built but taken over by the US and renamed USS Rochambeau (AP – 63).
Marechal Joffre was in the Philippines when the United States entered World War II.
She was taken over by a crew of downed US Navy fliers from Patrol Wing 10 and with the help of some of the French sailors who were not supportive of the Vichy government sailed for Balikpapan, whence she proceeded to Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. She arrived at San Francisco with a cargo of wool and zircon sand on 19 April 1942.
The sailor’s story would be quite interesting as he was a German who was conscripted into the French Navy somehow and then thrown overboard by probably French crewmembers who clearly didn’t want questions asked. If he was one of the original crew members is unknown.
Lt. Cdr Pounds’ final comments in his report provide some insight into how he saw these little ships.
He is speaking of the ship’s companies but as he states:
“Now that they have become ‘teams’ it will be very much regretted if the ships are put into Reserve Category B.”
H.M.S. Scarab was “loaned” to Burma (Myanmar) in May 1946,