Captain: A.D. Torlesse DSO
13th Carrier Air Group Commander: Lieutenant-Commander (P) P.B. Jackson AGC
No.800 Squadron CO: Lieutenant Commander (P) I.M. MacLachlan
No.827 Squadron CO: Lieutenant-Commander (P) B.C. Lyons
When North Korea invaded South Korea on Sunday 25th June 1950, HMS Triumph was on a cruise to Japan, in company with the other ships of the Far East Fleet. Triumph was heading for Kong Kong, and when news reached Triumph of the Korean attack on Monday, a flight of fully armed Seafires were kept on deck, in case of emergencies. Two days later, Triumph, in company with HMS Cossack, fuelled and provisioned at the RAN dockyard at Kure, where they joined HMS Jamaica, and Consort, HMAS Shoalhaven, and the RAF tanker, Wave Conqueror. Triumph docked and unloaded her unserviceable aircraft, four Seafires, and two Fireflies, easing congestion in her hanger. The next day, 29th June, the Admiralty ordered CinCFE to place Royal Navy ships present in Japanese waters, at the disposal of the US Naval Commander for Korean operations, in support of Security Council Resolutions. US Naval forces included USS Juneau, four destroyers, six minesweepers, and a complete amphibious force. The US 7th Fleet was further afield, but within easy steaming distance, under Vice-Admiral A.D. Struble.
The British Commonwealth and Allied Ships, were formed into the West Korean Support Group, (CTG 968), and the US ships into the East Korean Support Group, (CTG 96.5). Rear Admiral Andrewes, was Flag Officer, Second in Command, Far East Fleet, and flew his flag in HMS Belfast, and was joined by HMS Triumph, and HMS Cossack, to reinforce the US 7th Fleet at Okinawa, with HMS Jamaica, and HMS Consort. On passage to Okinawa, Triumph flew anti-submarine patrols. After refuelling at Okinawa, Triumph, Belfast, Cossack, and Consort, headed for the West Korean coast, as the other RN ships headed to the East coast.
The British Element on the West Coast became TG 775, when it joined the US fleet off the coast. No.827 Squadron flew Anti-submarine patrols. The first day of operational flying, was Monday 3rd July 1950, and consisted of 12 Seafires and 9 Fireflies, which flew off at 0615 against Kaishu (Haeju) airfield, where several buildings and hangers hit, but no aircraft or movements were observed. She flew another strike on the next day, during which army bases were strafed, buildings and railway bridges rocketed, and a village fired, and gun positions attacked. She then returned to port for six days, where maintenance was carried out.
The pilots were briefed on bombardment spotting, which was seen as their likely future role. The Seafires were painted with black and white stripes, as they bore a striking resemblance to the Yak-9. Admiral Andrewes moved his headquarters ship to HMS Ladybird, previously the SS Wusueh. Andrewes requested co-ordination from the RAF Sunderland squadron, with his squadron, and Air Commodore Davies, AOC Hong Kong, agreed to base one Sunderland at Iwakuni, where the US Navy concentrated it's flying boats. The British ships were based at Sasebo, which was small, and it's facilities were fully extended, coping with the USN and Royal Navy ships. The Royal Navy's operational area, under Admiral Andrewes, was laid down as South of the 39 degrees 30 minutes North, and up to 128 degrees East.
Triumph sailed on 13th July, and spent half a day flying a small programme, and in the evening, a Sunderland delivered some mail, before returning the next morning. Triumph spent two more days in harbour, which included a briefing on operations on the East coast. Triumph sailed in company with USS Rochester, Valley Forge, Comus, and eight USN destroyers.
Due to the limited range of the Fireflies, they were employed on anti-submarine patrols, while the Seafires flew CAPs over the fleet. The aircraft covering the landings, of the US 1st cavalry Division,at Pohang, due to lack of enemy opposition to the landings.The USS Valley Forge launched 21 aircraft, against the oil refinery at Chosin, and completely destroyed it. During the day, an arrester wire unit, prevented flying for a short time while it was repaired. 18 CAP, and 14 anti-submarine sorties, were flown that day, the 18th July.
The next day saw Triumph fly 27 CAPs, and 10 anti-subamrine sorties. On 19th July, Lieutenant P Cane, made the last operational rescue by a Sea Otter, rescuing an American Corsair pilot, who had been forced to ditch, after his aircraft had been hit by light flak. This rescue was carried out in rough sea conditions, far beyond what a Sea Otter was limited to, but the skill of Lieutenant Commander Cane, kept the aircraft together, and they rescued the pilot, sustaining damage to a wingtip float on landing.
On 21st July, Triumph sailed for Sasebo, due to deterioration of the packing in the Starboard stern gland, and arrived the next morning. Here, Triumph replaced damaged aircraft, bringing her Seafire complement to 17, four below complement, and reprovisioned. Triumph and Comus, who had accompanied her back to port, sailed on 25th July, to provide close support for the endangered US 8th Army, and the South Korean Army, who were in danger of being encircled and overrun. Triumph flew 28 CAP sorties, during the day, and moved to the East coast on 26th July, flying Anti-Submarine and CAP sorties again.
The 28th July, was marred by an unfortunate incident, when a flight of Seafires were vectored to investigate a bogey, which turned out to be several B-29 Super Fortresses. One of the B-29s opened fire on the No.3 aircraft, as he passed the B29 at about 300 yards range, the pilot was Mr. White, who rolled his Seafire onto its back, and bailed out, the fuel rank having been hit. The sea was too rough to pick him up with the Sea Otter, and he had an hour's wait before the USS Eversole picked him up.
CAP and anti-subamrine patrols continued, until Triumph arrived at Kure, on 1st July. The next eight days were spent refitting, and two more unserviceable Seafires were disembarked by lighter to Iwakumi. This reduced the number of Seafires to 14. Lieutenant Handley, Senior pilot of No.800 squadron was detached, to brief the Americans on bombardment spotting, and soon found himself giving a practical demonstration, by directing fire from British ships, against communist targets.
Triumph sailed again on 9th August, to Sasebo. Three Seafires were sent to Iwakuni for compass swinging, returning in the evening, and another Seafire was written off, in a badly off-centre landing, reducing Triumph to a Seafire strength of 13. Triumph embarked Admiral Andrewes and his staff, and joined Kenya, Comus, Sioux, and Athabaskan on the West coast of Korea. Due to the numerous islands and inland waterways, aircraft were vital to the task of blockading this part of the Korean coast. Photographic Reconnaissance (PR) sorties were flown by Seafires, over Mokpo and Kunsan, on Sunday 13th August, both, were found to be deserted, showing damage from bombardments earlier in the month. Two small coastal ferries were shot up with 20mm cannon fire, PR later in the day, found Inchon to have been nearly razed, and still smouldering, from USN attacks.
The next day's PR concentrated on Chinnampo, where both heavy, and light anti-aircraft fire was encountered. The reconnaissance revealed three ships at the mouth of the Taedong estuary, which were visited by six Seafires, and six Spitfires, that afternoon, all three being hit by 60 lb rockets. The next day was quiet, with more CAP, and Anti-Submarine sorties. Armed reconnaissance of Inchon and the coast was carried out, but nothing was attacked, Lieutenant Commander MacLachlan did some bombardment spotting for Jamaica, whose target, was a large factory, at Kunsan. Several hits were obtained in the target area, but it was more of a practice bombardment.
The next two days were spent in Sasebo, before the ship returned to the West coast, in the Inchon/Kunsan area, on 18th August, accompanied by various ships. The US 7th Fleet was in the area, and their presence released the Seafires from CAP duties. An Anti-Submarine presence was maintained by a Firefly. Fireflies sunk a 150 ton gunboat with rockets, but no other worthwhile shipping targets were found. The pilots were released to attack military targets in the port areas. MacLachlan's flight did an armed PR as far North as Pyongyang, where heavy flak was encountered. Another 150 ton vessel was claimed by 827 squadron, for 16 rockets, and other targets were attacked, including railway trucks, two small motor coasters, and oil tanks. More reconnaissance was flown North to the Manchurian border, but nothing suspicious was located. On the last patrol of the day, a flak position on the island of Wolmido, was attacked with good results, and Consort carried out a bombardment of a factory at Kunsan, controlled by a Seafire, achieving about 50% hits.
The Seafires were reduced to an available nine, two aircraft having reached their wrinkling limit, and a third was over-stressed due to an off-centre landing, on the last day of the patrol. Unicorn had only seven replacement left, so, the total available in the Far East, was only sixteen. On 23rd August, Triumph entered Sasebo to join the other two UN fleet carriers, Valley Forge, and Philippine Sea. While they were in harbour, the North Korean Air Force paid a call to HMS Comus, which was attacked by two IL-10 Sturmovik aircraft, about 85 miles West of Kunsan. She was holed on the port side, one rating being killed, and another injured. The damaged ship was escorted back to Kure by Consort, and covered by aircraft from Sicily. The CAPs were stepped up, although it is doubtful that the North Koreans could have mounted such an attack, against an aircraft carrier.
Admiral Andrewes, flying his flag in Triumph, sailed from Sasebo at 0900 on 26th August, for four days of operations, off the West coast of Korea. CAPs were stepped up, and another aircraft was written off, the three new pilots recently come aboard, were taken out of the flying programme, until they had one more deck landing ashore. The Fireflies took over the armed reconnaissances from the Spitfires, which were needed for the CAPS, they found little, and sunk two motor cruisers of about 100 tons each with rockets near Antung, as well as various small motor craft and junks . Some pontoons were also sunk and another damaged.
On 29th August, a Firefly landed without an arrester hook, and entered the barrier. A large part of one blade of the propeller broke off, and glanced off the lower surface of the Flying Control position, broke the glass in the Operations Room, entered the room, and struck Lieutenant Commander I.M. McLachlan, Commanding Officer of 800 Squadron, causing injuries, from which he died. He was buried at sea that evening, off the coast of South Korea, with Full Naval Honours.
On the 30th August, Unicorn met Triumph at Sasebo, where Triumph embarked Unicorn's last 14 aircraft; six Seafires, and eight Fireflies. Unicorn and Ceylon had arrived earlier, and disembarked the British 27th Brigade, which they had transported from Hong Kong. On 3rd September, the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment joined them, and the force became the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade.
Triumph sailed from Sasebo on 3rd September, for the West coast, another Seafire was written off on 4th September, when the aircraft's fuel drop-tank came adrift, and badly ripped the bottom skin of the fuselage. The usual CAP and reconnaissance resulted in two 0-ton motor junks being shot up at Kunsan. The Fireflies spotted for bombardments of Inchon by Jamacia and Charity, on the 5th, and on the 6th, 800 Squadron spotted for Jamacia at Kunsan, where a railway station and a building on the airfield were bombarded.
After the 6th, Triumph, with Athabaskan, HMAS Warramunga, and HMAS Bataan, sailed for the East coast, to relieve the US 7th Fleet carriers, so they could reprovision and undergo maintenance. Dawn on the 8th September, found the fleet 50 miles off Wonsan, the main North Korean port on the east coast, 100 miles North of the 38th parallel. The first strikes of 6 Fireflies, escorted by 6 Seafires, rocketed and strafed road and rail communications, to the South, damaging a tunnel, and blowing up the engine of a train in Shikuogi station, with a direct hit, from a 60 lb rocket launched from a Firefly. The afternoon saw a concentration of 80 boxcars in the goods yards at Kowon, and another 40 were found and attacked at Yonghung. The Fireflies' rockets were moreeffective against this kind of target, than the 20mm cannon of the Seafires. Three aircraft were written off during the day. 800 Squadron was now reduced to 10 aircraft.
Bad weather on the 9th, reduced flying to only eight sorties in one event in the afternoon, when four aircraft did considerable damage to Koryo airfield, with rockets and cannon. 800 Squadron suffered another blow, when four more aircraft were written off,due to skin wrinkling. Triumph sailed to Sasebo, tying up at 1000 hours on Sunday 10th September. On 4th September, North Korean mines, were first spotted by USS Mackean, at the entrance to Chinnampo, laid by North Korean junks, or any reasonably sized vessel, which presented a great danger, but, no Commonwealth ship ever fell to a mine.
Triumph at Inchon
On 12th September, Triumph, in company with Warramunga, Concord, Charity, and Cockade, sailed for the West coast of Korea from Sasebo, although the ships' companies did not know it, to cover the landings at Inchon.
Admiral Andrewes was assigned the command of the blockade and Covering Force of Commonwealth ships as CTF 91, they were assigned the tasks of:
To conduct special reconnaissance and covering mission prior to D-Day.
To perform cover for units of the attack force en route to the Inchon area.
To perform interdiction missions on D-day, and thereafter; and air spotting for Jamaica and Kenya.
To maintain a blockade of the West coast South of latitude 39 degrees 35 minutes North.
Andrewes divided his ships into the larger Northern Group, with Triumph, Ceylon, Warramunga, Bataan, Charity, Cockade, and Concord. The smaller Southern group, consisted of Cayuga, Athabaskan, and Sioux. Republic of Korea (RoK) forces, provided a coastal element, and RAF tankers were attached to the US Mobile Logistic Service Group.
Triumph provided air cover to the attack force on D-2 and D-1, as it rounded the South-West corner of Korea, to 36 degrees North, and from D-day onwards, operated as an anti-submarine screen, in concert with her own escort to the West of Inchon. The strong air patrols in the vicinity, supplied by the US 7th Fleets' carrier, enabled Triumph's aircraft to be available for interdiction, and spotting. A typhoon warning was received from Japan, during the passage from Sasebo, and the aircraft were rigged with typhoon lashings, but, nothing came of it. HMAS Bataan joined the screen on 13th September, and the Fireflies provided cover for several large convoys, as they moved around the corner of Korea. As the landings approached, the USN and USMC carriers raked every known Communist airfield within 150 miles of Inchon, and wide-ranging strikes against various targets, as well as armed reconnaissance sorties, were undertaken, to divert the enemies' attention from the forthcoming landings. The island of Wolmi-do was raked by US fighters on 10th September, they also struck at Inchon and Kimpo, on the same day.
On D-1, Admiral Andrewes informed the aircrew of their targets, and the invasion. Kenya carried out bombardment of Inchon, and was fired on by NKPA guns, but suffered no hits, the guns being silenced by a USMC strike. Kenya and Jamaica carried out bombardments on the 13th, spotted by Corsairs, floating mines, seen to the West, were sunk by gunfire. Whitesand Bay, had carried out a diversionary operation, when she landed US, and Royal Marines, near Kunsan on the night of 12/13th, they shot up a machine gun post and re-embarked without loss.
At first light on 13th September, HMS Triumph was 60 miles from Wolmi-do, and flew off her first pair of Fireflies, fitted with 45 gallon overload fuel tanks for the operations, with these, they could spend two hours over the target, spotting for Jamaica, and Kenya, good results were obtained by these bombardments, especially by Jamaica, who hit a hidden store of explosives, and destroyed the whole top of a hill, when it exploded, leaving a column of smoke, rising to 8,000 feet. Both of Triumph's squadrons were involved in spotting, being engaged by a flak position, which was later attacked with rocket and cannon fire. Another Seafire was written off, in a heavy landing.
At the end of the day's operations, General MacArthur signalled to Admiral Andrewes, "My heartiest felicitations on the splendid conduct of the Fleet units under your command. They have added another glamorous page to the long and brilliant histories of the Navies of the British Commonwealth."
First light on 14th September, saw USMC Corsairs attacking Wolmi-do, supported by cruisers and destroyers, bombarding the island, three rocket ships firing 1,000 rockets each, half an hour later onto the landing beaches and slopes of the island. In less than 3 hours, the island was secured. At about 1000 hours, one of No.800 squadron's Seafires reported seeing the Stars and Stripes flying from the flagstaff at the top of the island. Near panic reigned in Seoul among the NKPA, who were totally, and utterly surprised, in spite of early and accurate warning, from Inchon. The capture of Womi-do, enabled minesweepers to comb the approaches to the two landing beaches at 1730, and the assault craft went in. Jamaica and Kenya dropped 6-inch shells, on the rear of Blue Beach, South of Inchon, while US cruisers worked over the beaches with 5-inch shells. RN FAA spotters were used where possible, as they were thoroughly versed in spotting, following some problems a couple of days earlier, caused by muddled communications between ships and pilots, who were supposedly fully trained, but apparently unfamiliar, with the procedure of spotting for bombardments.
The second assaults at Inchon were successful, and the bridgehead was secured. By the end of D-Day, 13,000 troops, and their weapons and equipment were ashore. The five days following the landings, saw Triumph's few remaining aircraft engaged in armed reconnaissance sorties, North and South of Inchon, and in bombardment spotting for the cruisers. On the 16th September, a section of Seafires attacked gun positions on an airfield in the Haeju area, and another, attacked two junks, reported by Charity as suspected minelayers, one was destroyed, and the other damaged.
The Gunfire Support Group fired on targets of opportunity on the 16th, but Kenya and Jamaica were not called on, Kenya re-ammunitioning from a US auxiliary, loaded with British shells. Early on the 17th, two North Korean Air Force aircraft bombed the USS Rochester, before raking the Jamaica, with machine-gun and cannon-fire, killing one and wounding two members of the ship's company. Pom-pom fire accounted for the Stormovick. After this, the Jamaica shifted her berth further out. The two Cruisers carried out a short bombardment on enemy troops, and later that night, bombarded an area thought to contain enemy formations, without the advantage of spotting. During the same day, Triumph's CAP was scrambled twice, as a result of the NKAF attack, both of which, were false alarms. Charity and the Fireflies, co-operated in the bombardment of some coastal guns near Haeju.
The next day, saw the usual armed reconnaissance by Seafires, a 500 ton ship was damaged, another smaller one, damaged on the slipway, and a floating crane set on fire, a flak position was also attacked. Three Seafires were launched, to deal with some junks reported by Concord, in the Haeju area that evening, two were found, and attacked, after a long search. The Fireflies spotted for Ceylon, when she proceeded inshore to join the bombarding force.
On 20th September, the Triumphs' aircraft were in bad shape, badly reduced in numbers, and the previous day, the two British Cruisers had left. Triumph departed for the United Kingdom on 20th September, as Theseus was due, in about a week.
The Commonwealth and American ships, formed a cordon around Inchon, with RoK vessels forming the inner layer. Mounts Bay, Whitesand Bay, Morecambe Bay, HMNZS Tutira and HMNZS Pukaki were all involved in the covering task element. Mounts Bay, was the only vessel who came into contact with the enemy, firing 118 four-inch shells, at a party of Koreans, constructing gun emplacements, on the South shore. She grounded for 20 seconds on a mudbank, fortunately, no damage was sustained. The Screen continued until 14th October.
Triumph entered Sasebo on 21st September, where she entered drydock, for two days of temporary repairs to her starboard stern gland. Triumph sailed for Hong Kong on 25th September 1950.
Lieutenant Commander (P) I.M. MacLachlan No.800 Squadron, 29th August 1950
Captain Arthur David Torlesse, Mention in Despatches, and Legion of
Commander (P) Martin Bruce, Mention in Despatches
Lieutenant Commander (P) Thomas Denley Handley, Mention in Despatches
Lieutenant Commander (P) Ian Murray MacLachlan, Mention in Despatches
Lieutenant (P) Peter Melville Lamb, DSC
Lieutenant (P) Peter Crane, Air Medal (USA)
Aircrewman 1 Kenneth Alwyn Creer, DSM
Aircrewman 1 Gilbert Charles Edward O'Nion, Mention in Despatches
Chief Aircraft Artificer Christopher Turner, BEM
Chief Petty officer (tel) Edward George Leonard Nash, Mention in Despatches
Petty Officer Airman Arthur Jack Prior, Mention in Despatches