New Zealand Embassy Tokyo, Japan

The role of the Fleet Air Arm in Japan

The Fleet Air Arm was the name given to the aircrews who flew from aircraft carriers. From 1940 New Zealand sent volunteer recruits every month to the UK as trainee aircrew. In total 760 New Zealanders qualified as Fleet Air Arm pilots and navigators, about 20% of the total operational aircrew of FAA.

During the carrier-based air attacks on Japanese targets in the final stages of the war, three New Zealand members of the Fleet Air Arm lost their lives in Japanese waters.

In July 1945 there was a concerted Allied strike on naval bases, shipping and other targets in the Inland Sea of Japan. The major objective was the remnants of the Japanese fleet lying in or about Kure following the Battle of Okinawa.

Sub-Lieutenant D.N. Graham was operating from H.M.S. Implacable. He died on 24 July 1945 when his engine failed on the return journey to his carrier. He bailed out at 1000ft but his parachute failed to open and he was lost at sea.

Six days later, Lieutenant J.D. Alexander, operating from H.M.S. Indefatigable, died when hit by intense antiaircraft fire while leading a Seafire fighter sweep in bad weather on shipping in the Inland Sea. Before crashing, he was able to warn other members of his squadron, who broke away and attacked successfully from a different direction and with no further loss of life. For his efforts, Alexander was mentioned in dispatches, posthumously.

In August 1945 H.M.S. Indefatigable moved to the north eastern coast of Honshu to take part in the Allied bombardment of this area. Sub-Lieutenant T.C.G. McBride was operating from this aircraft carrier. He was killed on 10 August 1945 while returning to his ship from an attack on Koriyama airfield in the Kamaishi area.

Because all three pilots were lost at sea they are remembered with honour on the New Zealand Naval Memorial at Devonport, Auckland.

Roll of Honour:

  • ALEXANDER James Douglas, Lieutenant (A), Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, ex H.M.S. Indefatigable. 30 July 1945. Age 25. Son of James Young and Janet Thomson Alexander of Auckland.
  • GRAHAM David Neil, Sub-Lieutenant (A), Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, ex H.M.S. Implacable. 24 July 1945. Age 28. Son of Robert and Mary Amelia Graham, husband of Brenda L. Graham of Christchurch, Canterbury.
  • McBRIDE Thomas Chalmers Glen, Sub-Lieutenant (A), Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, ex H.M.S. Indefatigable. 10 August 1945. Age 27. Son of Peter McLellan and Rachel Margaret McBride of Wellington, husband of Linda Ivy McBride of Wellington.

Researched and written by Margaret Pointer, Tokyo, 2008

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