14 Aug 1945, John Charter's wartime journal

Submitted by HK Bill on Wed, 05/25/2022 - 10:34

We had some more excitement this morning. I was wood cutting when at about 10 o’clock we heard the drone of an aeroplane. Nowadays, one hardly bothers to go and look at a single plane and we did not stop our sawing operations. However, a long burst of machine gun fire quickly made us down tools and run to have a look and there, just beyond Tweed Island and not 50’ above the water was a huge American bomber, and below it was one of the small Japanese patrol-come-pilot boats at which it had opened fire. I did not see the first encounter properly, but I was told the boat returned fire with its machine gun. The boat was evidently engaged on repairing or adjusting the boom defence, as it was stationary beside the boom. The plane went away in a big sweep and we thought it had departed and were about to resume work when the air raid alarm sounded. As we were sheltered from sight from the hill by the ‘A’ blocks we went on with our work, but in a few moments we heard the plane re-approaching and ran out to have another look. A few moments later a volley of rifle shots rang out and they sounded just behind us. We thought the Japs were firing at us for not taking cover and we bolted into the buildings like rabbits into a warren. Actually, the shots were fired from the hill at the plane – nowhere near us! But they sounded mighty close.

By the time we got onto the balcony the plane had again attacked the boat and was climbing up again and circling in a big sweep as if it were flying off. But it came again a third time and this time I saw it swoop right low down, fire with its forward canon, drop a small bomb which seemed to hit the boat amidships and as it passed the rear gunner let fly with his tail gun. It was truly pathetic to see the small and helpless boat, its single gun already silenced, just lying and waiting its end. The plane came round for a fourth and final time and let fly with its guns again jetting the water on either side with scores of small columns of water. The boat must have been like a sieve at the end of the fourth attack. The plane departed after that and the boat began fairly rapidly to settle in the water. The shipping engineers here say that the boat must have had a wooden hull or it would have gone down even more quickly than it did. When it had finally sunk, a fair amount of wreckage and debris was left floating on the surface, but nothing moved; I’m afraid there were no survivors.

The Formosans in the camp had been issued with ammunition and were merrily popping away at the plane. A party of five of them ran down to the hospital from where they best commanded the scene of operations and banged away from there. A couple of them were even standing on the big white cross just in front of the hospital building! Quite a large number of people had gone to the beach that morning and they were rather nearer the scene of the operations than was comfortable: a number of children were pretty well scared poor things.

A persistant rumour has been going round that Russia has declared war on Japan. Earlier on there was news (or rumours) of a meeting of British, American, Russian and Chinese delegates at Potsdam where the conduct of the war against Japan was the matter under discussion. Stalin is said to have branded Japan as the aggressor nation and stated that she is now the only nation standing out against world peace. Russia too is said to have moved large quantities of war material and equipment to the Manchurian front. Well, let’s hope it is all true! There had even been a rumour that peace had been declared, but I guess this attack on the patrol boat knocks that rumour on the head.

Date(s) of events described