War diary of Chief Petty Officer John (Jack) Charles Evans, Electrical Artificer 2nd Class - 28th August 1939 to 11th February 1941War diary of Chief Petty Officer John (Jack) Charles Evans, Electrical Artificer 2nd Class - 28th August 1939 to 11th February 1941
This remarkable account was hand written on 99 pages of a large notebook. Nearly 70 years later it was typed up by Julia Reynell the daughter of Neptune casualty Lieutenant Humphrey Wright.
H. M.S. NEPTUNE LOG Miles
25.8.39 - 1.9.39 Simonstown Freetown Patrol 3462.4
2.9.39 - 8.9.39 Freetown Dakar “ (SS INN) 2650.1
10.9.39 - 19.9.39 Dakar Freetown Patrol 3494.1
20.9.39 - 25.9.39 Freetown Freetown Convoy 2448.6
26.9.39 - 2.10.39 “ “ Ascension 2880.2
10.39 - 12.10.39 “ “ Convoy 1885.3
14.10.39 - 23.10.39 “ “ Patrol 3750.0
28.10.39 - 6.11.39 “ “ Patrol 3849.1
11.11.39 - 18.11.39 “ “ Patrol 2089.0
18.11.39 - 25.11.39 “ “ Patrol (SS AdolfWoerman) 3188.2
25.11.39 - 3.12.39 “ “ Patrol 3444.4
3.12.39 - 4.12.39 “ Dakar Patrol 524.0
12.39 - 17.12.39 Dakar Rio Patrol 4648.8
18.12.39 - 26.12.39 Rio Freetown Patrol 3957.8
3. 1.40 - 5. 1.40 Freetown Dakar Patrol 578.0
8. 1.40 - 20. 1.40 Dakar Freetown Patrol
From 1600 Aug.25th 1939 (Simonstown) to arrival at Gibraltar 23 April 1940 Neptune steamed 63,627 miles.
In Mediterranean from time we left Gib. To time we arrived at Aden Neptune steamed 17,253 miles.
From Aden to 1600 Aug. 25th 1884 miles
Mileage to Aug 25th 82764 miles
25th Oct.1940 0400. 100,000 miles
H M S Neptune Log 24.8.39
24th Aug.1939 Great unrest in Europe over Danzig question. Usual leave given. Neptune lying alongside the wall at Simonstown. At 2030 all Neptuners recalled from shore. Arrived on board 2330. Everyone busily engaged storing ship, ammunitioning, shipping warheads on torpedoes. Finished somewhere around 0330.
25th Aug. 0730 Neptune puts to sea for unknown destination. War routine started. Working watch and watch is big strain. No sign of any German ships.
1.9.39 Arrived at Freetown, Sierra Leone. Harbour crammed full of merchant shipping. Asdics register presence of U-Boat just outside Freetown (sunk by HMS Hunter two days earlier) Proceeded to Kissi wharf for oiling. HMS Despatch H.class destroyers (1 flotilla) and aircraft carrier Albatross in Harbour. Rear Admiral D’Oyly Lyon C-in-C of S. Atlantic.
2nd Sept. Left Freetown for Dakar in French Senegal.
3rd Sept. Lower Deck cleared. Captain J A V Morse announces War declared.
4th Sept. Plane catapulted twice daily for scouting.
6th Sept. Plane reported German merchant ship. Neptune increases speed. Ship proved to be Innsbruck of Bremen. Crew just too late in trying to disguise name of home port to Amsterdam. Just painting the last letter in when plane spotted her. Crew allowed to take to boats with their belongings.
Amongst passengers was German professor and his wife. Had just done seven years up the Amazon. All his cases of specimens had to be left aboard, but arrived on board with cages of rare birds including toucan. All the old lady could say was “look after my birds” Innsbruck sunk by gunfire went down fiercely and steam escaping everywhere. Crew confined to seamen’s rec. space but soon on friendly terms with everyone. Constantly supplied with cigarettes etc.
18.30 Neptune heads for Dakar.
8th Sept. Arrived at Dakar and anchored in harbour. French warships there including cruiser Algerie. 1000 leave given.
10th Sept. After oiling left 2000 for patrol duties.
11th Sept. a.m. Sighted strange warships in distance. All hands to action stations. False alarm proved to be French cruiser Duguay-Trouin. For next eight days stopped various merchant ships including one flying Japanese flag and passing as Asgo Maru. Proved to be British India boat. Captain thought we were German cruiser and had had hastily painted out G & W of Glasgow, her port, and added Maru.
19th Sept. arrived Freetown. Harbour crowded with shipping including Ark Royal and Renown. Former supposed to have been sunk by German U-Boat in North Sea.
20th Sept. a.m. Proceeded to Kissi oiling jetty for oil. 1800 Prepared for sea and left as escort to three fast merchant ships “Windsor Castle”, Forbes and Sultan Star Proceeded at 16 knots all the way zigzag course. Convoyed past the dangerous area of Cape Verde Islands.
26th Sept. Arrived Freetown, oiled and stored straight away.
27th Sept. Left at 0300 in company with Ark Royal, Renown and destroyers Hardy (Hardy later sunk in Narvik Fiord), Hunter, Hyperion, Hero, Hereward, Havock. Intelligence had reached C-in-C of rendezvous of German raiders and subs. etc. off Ascension Island.
*Our force was spotted by Graf Spee’s plane. Graf Spee passed less than 100 miles of Neptune during this patrol. Captain of Cumberland refused to send up planes owing to rough sea. If he had done so Graf Spee would certainly have been seen.
1st Oct. 0300 hands to breakfast.
04.30 All hands to action stations. Due to make contact with enemy at 0730. Closed up down for’d dynamo room with bread, corned beef and billy can of water.
07.30 HMS Cumberland arrives on scene from west side. The birds had flown. Force K and Cumberland spread out and head for Freetown. Neptune stops several neutral ships including suspicious “Greek” ship flying Greek flag but looking a typical Swedish ship. Boarding party sent aboard and finds all papers correct. Captain suspicious and warns French ships at Dakar.
N.B. Afterwards found that French had stopped ship and found her to be German masquerading as Greek.
Also Dutch ship was stopped. Full up with passengers. Allowed her to proceed but she looked very suspicious.
2nd Oct. Arrived Freetown 1800 Whilst at Freetown destroyer Hunter (later sunk in Narvik Fiord) came alongside to oil. Met old ships aboard. N.B. HMS Hunter did not strike a mine during Spanish patrol but was torpedoed by U-boat (Spanish) in mistake for Spanish destroyer, opinion of Hunter’s crew.
7th Oct. Left Freetown with convoy of 17 ships (average speed 8 knots). Heartbreaking work zigzagging and making them all keep station.
9th Oct. During middle watch great consternation. Spanish merchant ship barges into middle of darkened convoy. Our searchlights proved that she had slightly damaged bows of one ship. Order restored.
12th. Oct. Arrived back in Freetown 1800
14th Oct. Left Freetown 1830 with Ark Royal, Renown and three destroyers scouring South Atlantic for German raider.
During this patrol Neptune picks up S.O.S. from SS Lindsay attacked by two U-Boats. Says she is keep them at bay and has damaged one. Two destroyers Hardy and Hostile sent to investigate. One U-boat sunk.
23rd. Oct. Arrived Freetown oiled and stored. Five days rest in harbour.
28th. Oct. Left Freetown on patrol with Force K. Neptune separates from the rest of the Force. Stopped many merchantmen. Great column of smoke observed 30miles away. Proved to be British tramp skippered by Tynesider. Doing about 6-8 knots. Skipper shouts “Stop making smoke”. Reply in broad Geordie “Gi’e us some better coal.” “Can’t you go faster?” “Yes, if ye gi’e us a tow.” Given up as a bad job. During this patrol Ark Royal captured German oiler Uhenfels, 7000 tons.
6th. Nov. Arrived Freetown
11th. Nov. Left 1800 steamed north.
15th. Nov. 0700 met depot ship Maidstone escorted by light cruiser Capetown. Maidstone taken over.
17th. Nov. Left Maidstone to carry on to Freetown.
15.00 Neptune put in to Dakar. Draws stores for aircraft ships in Dakar Hermes, Foch, Duguay-Trouin , Algerie. Left Dakar 1530 and proceeded at 28 knots for Freetown.
18th. Nov. Arrived Freetown a.m. Oiled by tanker. Not time to take in canteen stores, spuds, etc. On 1st. watch Lt. Cdr. V der Burgh thought he saw sub on surface. Destroyers investigate. Nothing doing.
20th. Nov. General Quarters steaming S.
21st. Nov. a.m. Destroyers leave us for patrol. At 7 bells forenoon message received. Raise steam for 24 knots and proceed in search of Adolf Woermann, 8,700 tons, 600miles away (merchant vessel Shaw Saville line Waianawa reported that she is shadowing A.W.)
22nd. Nov. 0730 Liner A.W. sighted shadowed by merchant ship. Germans abandoned ship and took to the boats. Ship left in sinking condition. Neptune goes alongside in choppy sea. At great risk liner boarded but found that liner was taking in water fast. Sea cocks spindles sawn off, etc. Impossible to save. A.W. had disguised herself as Portuguese ship Nyassa. Crew would have been prevented from leaving ship if women and children had not been put in each boat. All passengers brought aboard including monkey and white cat. Noon A.W. sunk by gunfire; range 5,000 yds. Went down burning fiercely. What a pity!
23rd. Nov. Looking for Windhoek which left Lobito at the same time as A.W.
24th Nov. a.m. Neptune picks up signal from British merchant ship reporting presence of strange merchant ship resembling Windhoek. Neptune alters course and proceeds at 28 knots. pm. C-in-C recalls Neptune to Freetown immediately.
25th. Nov. Arrive Freetown 0500 Germans shipped to Caernarvon Castle for England. Neptune oils and stores. Mileage on this patrol 6049 miles, average speed 18 knots. 1300 Neptune ordered away again for unknown destination.
26th. Nov. – 2nd. Dec. Still on patrol. Handicapped by defective plane (* if plane had been O.K. we should no doubt have spotted Graf Spee during this patrol.) Wednesday 29th. Nov. a.m. Sighted suspicious looking ship. Sent boarding party aboard. Proved to be Badwind, Norwegian. Last day met oiler and escorting destroyer Hero. Oiled from for’d. During middle watch hose parted after taking in 380 tons. Finished oiling.
3rd. Dec. Arrived in Freetown. Took in oil and stores. Put to sea 1500 for Dakar.
4th. Dec. Arrived at Dakar 1500 Moored alongside wall opposite French flagship Dupleix. All night leave given from 1700 to 50% of ship’s company. Mass exodus. Sore heads next morning. Much amusement at lack of discipline or order on Dupleix.
In harbour Hermes, Duguay-Trouin, Foch and four destroyers.
5th. Dec. Embarked two planes “Sea Foxes”. All night leave given. Another mass exodus.
6th. Dec. Leave given till Midnight Mass. Community singing aboard much appreciated by crew of Dupleix who must have thought we had all gone mad. Exchange of caps and uniforms. Drunks well aboard in various stages.
Thurs 7th Dec 0800 Left Dakar with French force after German raiders. Patrolling S.Atlantic.
Sat 9th Dec Neptune leaves French force 150 miles away.
Monday 11th Dec Off the mouth of the Amazon. Very hot.
Tues 12th Dec Steering 0600
Wed 13th Dec Rendezvous with French force and Hermes. French officer and rating taken aboard Dupleix from Neptune.
pm Dummy torpedo attack planned for 2000.
At 1900 Received signal to proceed on course 0900 for Freetown. News that Exeter has sighted Graf Spee off River Plate. Proceeding at 25 knots with three destroyers.
Thurs 14th Dec Report came through in middle watch of a great fight between Exeter, Ajax and Achilles against Graf Spee. Latter forced to take refuge in Monte Video. Exeter badly damaged. Neptune takes in oil from Oiler Cherryleaf. Destroyers sent ahead at 18 knots. Neptune steams for Rio de Janiero at 23 knots.
Friday 15th Dec Weather fair and warm with occasional showers. News that Graf Spee has had severe hammering.
16th. Dec. Rolling down to Rio. Passed destroyers at noon. Expect to arrive at Rio some time tomorrow. Graf Spee still in Monte Video. Destroyers Hardy, Hereward, Hasty and Hostile put in to Recife to oil.
17th. Dec. Arrived off Rio 1500 Wonderful harbour. Great statue of Redeemer 110 feet high 85 foot span overlooks city. Renown and Ark Royal arrived just before us. Quayside packed with dense throngs. Anchored in harbour until 1800 then went alongside to oil. No shore leave. Crowds on quayside shower us with cigarettes. A decks littered with butt ends (cigarette ends). Ark Royal shoved off 1830. Ships company community singing on quarter deck. News come through that Graf Spee has scuttled herself. The old Graf Spee ain’t what she used to be many long years ago.
18th. Dec. 0545 Renown leaves Rio. Neptune leaves at 1230. Slight drizzle. Steering 085 1800 pinged U-boat. Ship immediately increased speed and dropped five depth charges. No more ‘pings’. Director and aloft look out reports seeing sub. come up and go down. Believed sunk.
19th. Dec. News came through of great exploit of submarine Salmon. Sunk large U-boat cruiser Leipzig and damaged Blucher. Sub.Ursula sank cruiser of Koln class off mouth of Elbe. Our captain J.A.V. Morse hears of his son’s death, Sub.Lieut Morse on board Exeter. Force K carrying out sweep for German oiler Altmark carrying 300 British prisoners capturedby Graf Spee.
20th Dec. Weather fine; sea calm. Neptune surveys two rocky islands El Trinidada scene of action between merchant cruiser Alcantara and German raider July 1940.) Very jagged pile of rocks. Traces of shelters but no sign of U-boats or prisoners. 1845 Course 114 News came through that Captain Hans Langsdorff of Graf Spee
had shot himself. Requiescat in Pace.
21st. Dec. Weather fine, sea smooth. Course 115 Still looking for Altmark
22nd. Dec. Weather fresh and fine. Not far from Tristan da Cunha. No sign of any ship these last two days. Altered course to 3540 & 0000.
23rd. Dec. Course practically due N. Windhoek and three merchant ships said to have left Santos Brazil.
24th. Dec. Off Ascension Island. Skipper signals Xmas greetings to Island 1800.
25th. Dec. Xmas Day. At 0715 sighted ships sea boat. Upon investigation proved to be one of the boats cast adrift when Adolf Woermann was sunk off Lobito on 21st. Nov. Xmas Day very quiet, plenty to eat and bottle of beer per man. Due to arrive at Freetown tomorrow 1800
‘Crossed the line’ today for the 20th time this commission.
26th. Dec. Approaching Freetown 1800 Great convoy of merchant ships leaving. Anchored at 1830 and oiled straight away by Cairndale. Mail on board in huge quantities.
27th. Dec. Very hot. Renown, Ark Royal, destroyers Havock, Hasty and Hero arrived.
29th. Dec. Very hot. Went swimming at Lumley Bay. Alarm gun sounded from shore battery. Something in boom defence nets. All hands to Defence stations in case U-boat had entered harbour. Milford investigates. Nothing Doing.
31st. Dec. C-in-C comes aboard. Praises ship. Says she has done more steaming and covered more mileage than any ship in the navy.
2nd Jan. 1940 Great fire observed ashore. Thought to be signal to enemy. Hands piped to Defence stations. 2200 All Clear. Duguay-Trouin arrived 1100, left 1700.
3rd Jan. Neptune leaves Freetown for Dakar in company with Ark Royal and two destroyers 2130
4th. Jan. 1700 Ark Royal carries out throw off practice shoot at Neptune.
5th. Jan. Arrived Dakar. Moored opposite French armed merchant cruiser El Mansour. Leave to 0100
8th. Jan. Left Dakar 0900 Course 180 On patrol.
10th. Jan. Meet Renown and three destroyers. Course 180
12th. Jan. Neptune ordered to proceed to Brazilian port where strange cruiser is reported to be lying.
14th. Jan. Neptune still heading west. Awaiting further information.
16th. Jan. During middle watch Neptune ordred to return. Strange cruiser proved to be American warship.
17th. Jan. Neptune joins up with Force K. Two destroyers and Neptune oil at sea. Force K comes in contact with Ajax (less Neptune) 1030 Neptune sights Force K. Lower deck cleared to cheer Ajax (sister ship). Ajax minus her main mast.
18th. Jan. Neptune ordered to alter course 0200 to intercept Portuguese liner Quanza having aboard two Germans evading S.African internment laws.
19th. Jan. Neptune sights Quanza 1030 2nd. Whaler sent over for prisoners. Officers left aboard to trace same. 1430 Neptune meets Quanza. Prisoners are put forward in cells. Our sea plane makes forced landing 18.00 Plane sighted floating helpless and surrounded by sharks.
20th. Jan. arrives Freetown 0900. Ajax and K force already there, also two fresh destroyers Diamond and Dainty.
22nd. Jan. Ajax leaves for England, loudly cheered.
23rd. Jan. Milford leaves for S’town.
24th. Jan. Ark Royal, Renown and three destroyers leave 1800
25th. Jan. 0730 Neptune leaves 1800 Stops suspicious merchantman flying red ensign. Merchantman has given fictitious name and wrong code. Boarding party sent over. Proves bona fide Fleet auxiliary ship.
27th Jan. 0630 Resource sighted escorted by French destroyer. Neptune takes over.
29th Jan. Arrived Freetown. Oiled and stored.
3rd. Feb Force K plus Exeter arrive at Freetown 1030 Clear lower deck to cheer
Exeter. Met several old ships. Shown round by Sid Scammel. Exeter sustained 7 direct hits by 11” shells. One hit on A turret, two on B; extremely lucky. Funnels, Bridge and sides riddled with shrapnel. Although extensive the 11” shells did not do half the damage as was expected, whereas Exeter’s 8” shells created havoc on Graf Spee. Opinion of Exeter’s crew is that they would have been a match for the pocket battleship if she had not sustained two lucky hits on her for’d turrets. It is believed on board Ajax and Exeter that there were 216 German dead on Graf Spee. Ordnance Artificer Jefferies (old shipmate Frogard) had a miraculous escape in B turret. When most of the turret’s crew were wiped out, he did not sustain a scratch.
1800 left Freetown for Bathhurst and Dakar. Bishop of Gambia taking passage.
Exeter cheered as we steamed slowly past her. One “West country” ship to another.
5th. Feb. arrived Dakar. Anchored in the harbour.
6th. Feb. 0900 entered dry dock. Conditions in dock pretty grim. No light, heat or water, etc. Weather cold enough for “blues”. Mild form of influenza sweeping through the ship. All night leave given. For the period we were in dock all night leave given. Over £2000 was changed into francs in the first three days here. During our stay in Dakar several thousand pounds must have changed hands. Cabarets, hotels, etc. must have blessed the Neptune. On the whole, behaviour of ship’s company pretty good.
16th. Feb. 0900 left Dakar to carry out 4” and 6” shoot at towed target. French naval officers invited aboard. Very good shoot. Noon, disembarked French officers and headed for Freetown.
17th. Feb. Sea like a mill pond. News came through that the Altmark had been cornered in a Norwegian fjord. HMS Cossack went in and boarded her, releasing over 300 prisoners.
18th Feb. 0930 arrived at Freetown. Ark Royal and Renown had left for England.
21st. Feb. Very hot. Swimming at Lumley Beach.
22nd. Feb. 1230 Left Freetown for unknown destination. Sudden shout.
23rd. Feb. Presumed to be after million dollar German merchantman which left Brazilian port on 21st.
24th Feb. News came through in middle watch that Norwegian ship had sighted strange, armed merchant ship flying no ensign. Altered course slightly and increased speed to 24 knots. Tomorrow we should be in zone.
25th. Feb. Cruising around zone area off Pernambuco.
26th. & 27th Feb. After thorough search with ship’s aircraft search given up1830 on 27th.
Course set 90 degrees.
28th. Feb. At midnight met a suspicious looking merchantman. Proved to be Brazilian.
29th. Feb. Met two more merchantmen. Credentials satisfactory.
1st. March 1400 met very suspicious ship. Did not reply to challenge. Proved to be Italian.
2nd March 0900 arrived at Freetown. Cumberland and Cornwall already there.
4th. March 0800 proceeded to sea with C-in-C and various RNVR officers. Carried out 4” H A shoot and fired 4 torpedoes at destroyer. Acceleration trial carried out. Exercises based on Ajax’s manoeuvres against Graf Spee. 1300 returned to harbour. Swimming at Lumley Beach.
5th. Mar. a.m. Enemy U-boat spotted outside by plane. Hands closed up cruising stations. Destroyers sent out. No further news.
1500 Neptune leaves Freetown for Simonstown, South Africa.
8th Mar. 1900 Off St Helena. Neptune off shipping routes to avoid recognition.
13th Mar. 0100 arrived Simonstown. Dorsetshire and Shropshire already there.
14th Mar. a.m. First watch depart on 4 days general leave. What a change! During general leave had trips to Somerset West and Strand, Sir Lowry’s Pass and Bain’s Klog and Harmanns etc.
18th March 1730 Returned from leave.
21st Mar. Second watch go on general leave.
25th Mar. Second watch return off leave.
7th April Said goodbye to all friends in S.Africa. Visited Kustenbosch gardens during afternoon.
8th April 0900 HMS Gloucester arrives at S’town. 0100 Neptune leaves S’town for Freetown, Sierra Leone . 2000 Picks up our convoy of two whaling factory ships and five whale catchers. Proceeding along at 10 knots.
9th April Proceeding at 10 knots. News came through of German’s invasion of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
10th April News came through of the attack on five H class destroyers (late Force K S. Atlantic) Hunter sunk, Hardy aground, two others damaged. Five German supply ships sunk and one ammunition ship. Two German destroyers put out of action.
11th April Churchill’s speech.
Renown late Force K engages Scharnhorst and 10,000 ton cruiser of Hipper class. Scharnhorst damaged but both escape in snowstorm. Still proceeding at steady 10 knots with two factory ships and ten whale catchers.
16th April a..m. Neptune leaves whalers and proceeds to Freetown at 24 knots.
18th April 0730 arrives at Freetown. Oils and stores. 1900 C-in-C of S. Atlantic, Vice Admiral D’Oyly Lyon comes aboard to say farewell. Says that we shall proceed to Gibraltar and remain there for a period as Italy’s attitude has begun to be very threatening. 2100 leaves for Gib.
21st April 1800 Stops Norwegian. Find that she has already a French crew aboard
to take her to Dakar.
22nd April Meets destroyers Decoy and Dainty. Carried out night shadowing exercise with them.
23rd April 0730 Moor alongside wall at Gib. Orion and Resource already there. 18.00 Royal Sovereign arrives. Burning question whether we shall proceed N or E on the morrow.
24th April 0900 Left Gib. And proceed E to Malta. Orion and Resource in company. p.m. Night shadowing with Orion.
25th April Resource left behind. Proceed with Orion at 20 knots.
26th April 0800 arrive in Malta. Anchor in Grand Harbour cruiser billet. Delhi, Capetown and Calypso in harbour, also Terror and Argus
27th April Resource arrives.
29th April Leave to 50% ships company.
30th April a.m. Carried out 4” and 6” firing with Orion. 1400 Neptune returns to Grand Harbour. 1900 Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham C-in-C of Med. Embarks on Neptune for unknown destination. 21.00 Neptune ships and proceeds at 24 knots.
1st May 0800 Neptune narrowly missed running into French minefield. French destroyer warns us just in time. 0900 Anchors off Bizerta, French naval base in Tunisia. C-in-C goes ashore for talk with French Admiral. 1730 Neptune leaves for Malta.
2nd May 0600 Neptune anchors in Grand Harbour.
3rd May 1800 Neptune leaves Malta with C-in-C in company with Orion and three destroyers for Alexandria.
6th May Arrives Alex. 0800 Allied Fleet anchored in Harbour including 6 old French battleships, 3 French cruisers, a flotilla of destroyers. British ships include depot ships Resource and Medway, battleships Malaya and Royal Sovereign, cruisers Delhi and Cape Town and 2 or 3 subs. Later Fleet reinforced by Warspite and light cruiser Dragon.
12th May A dust storm made conditions intolerable. Cleared off towards night.
14th May 0800 Left Alex. For exercises with cruisers and destroyers (French and English). During our stay in Alex. The Fleet spent two or three days at sea doing gunnery and torpedo exercises. Waiting for developments.
10th June 2030 News came over the wireless that Mussolini had declared war on the Allies. All liberty men are being recalled and Neptune is getting ready for sea.
11th June Midnight Neptune and cruisers Orion, Sydney, Liverpool and Gloucester
leave Alexandria for unknown destination. All night action stations.
12th June 0330 Action Stations. Hopes of meeting Italian craft off Benghazi, Libya. Sydney and Orion in company. 15 miles off Benghazi but with crack of dawn no signs of enemy. Gloucester and Liverpool report no enemy at Tobruk. Noon, rendezvous with main Battle Fleet.
13th June Fleet sweeping the Med. until within a few miles of Italian coast. Neptune, Orion and Sydney steam within sight of Libyan coast. At dawn lying off Tobruk. No signs of enemy ships. (Air Force had bombed Tobruk inflicting loss of coastal defence cruiser San Giorgio after 2 subs.
14th June Fleet steams eastwards. 1800 Submarine “pinged”. Destroyers ring her round and drop depth charges. Juno picks up survivors. Midnight anchor in Alexandria harbour.
N.B. During absence of Fleet HMAS Stewart on patrol pinged mine laying subs. Dropped depth charges and accounted for two at least. Stewart finds herself surrounded by mines but by use of asdic gear and steaming slowly managed to get clear. Mines were located and buoyed as she found her way out. Enemy sub. came up alongside HMS Decoy. Guns could not bear so she immediately sheered off and as sub. tried to crash dive blew her conning tower off. HMS Calypso, light cruiser, was torpedoed off Greece. 38 casualties. Ship took hour and a half to sink. Met several survivors ashore.
16th June Six air raid alarms
17th June a.m. Air raid alarm. Three Italian planes over Alex. Routed by our own planes.
18th June Another air raid alarm. Finished degaussing the ship. France asks for peace. Ashore French sailors demonstrate their refusal to give in.
Submarines and surface ships refused to proceed to French ports. Signal was passed to French Fleet to hoist white ensigns if ordered to capitulate to Germany.
20th June 1100 Neptune puts to sea in company with Sydney, Orion, French battleship Lorraine and four destroyers. Make big sweep out to sea.
21st June During the night squadron steams in towards the coast to engage Italian batteries at frontier post called Bardia. Neptune first British ship to open fire at Bardia. There large concentrations of troops had assembled for attacking our own forces. Neptune’s job was to demolish wireless station and barracks within a walled enclosure. Orion had to silence shore batteries in conjunction with Lorraine. Sydney had to demolish fresh water plant and other military objectives. Action stations all night. 0515 day action stations. Aircraft flown off for spotting purposes. 0600 within seven miles of coast Orion opens fire with Lorraine. Neptune opens fire with High Explosive. Aircraft spotting puts us on target. One salvo from Neptune hits petrol storage tanks. Terrific burst of flame and great volumes of black smoke. Italian shore batteries open fire but are soon silenced by Orion and 12” guns of battleship Lorraine. Italian destroyer runs herself aground but one salvo finishes her. Neptune fires 126 rounds of H.E.
0700 Secure. Operations considered to be very satisfactory. One CPO of Lorraine killed and several injured. Lorraine opens fire on three planes which prove to be our own. Luckily no hits. Due to return to Alex. 2130.
22nd June It was ascertained from our spotting aircraft that Neptune’s shoot had been highly successful. Wireless station had been destroyed, barracks blown up and petrol tanks hit. Flames and smoke had been seen 30 miles away. After our bombardment place was entirely untenable and troops just scattered.
At 0115 in the early hours of Sat. morning was awakened by a blinding flash and terrific explosion. A raiding plane had dropped a bomb just astern of us on a coal heap. Harbour was instantly resounding with the din of H.A. guns and sky lit up by searchlight beams. More bombs dropped in the sea and other parts of the town. All hands closed to Defence stations. No sleep for rest of night.
At 0215 another raid by six planes and 0530 raid by two more. No damage done to ships but ashore one person was killed and 23 injured. During the day further air attacks were beaten off. Six air raid alarms.
2130 Fleet puts out to sea but are hurriedly recalled. France is about to sign truce with Germany.
23rd June More air raid alarms but we are getting used to them by now.
27th June 1100 Left Alex. With Orion, Sydney, Gloucester and Liverpool. Covering destroyers Dainty, Decoy, Ilex, and Voyager. Royal Sovereign, Ramillies and aircraft carrier Eagle astern of us. Object to do anti-submarine sweep and cover convoys from the Black Sea and convoy evacuating women and children from Malta. Seas very choppy. Washing down fore and aft.
28th June 1600 News received from British reconnaissance plane that three Italian destroyers steaming South 100 miles away. Cruiser squadron full steam ahead.
18.15 Gloucester steaming on port flank sights destroyers. Hands to action stations.1830 Neptune sights destroyers and draws ahead of Orion 31.5 knots. Gloucester has opened fire. Neptune opens fire at 20,000 yds. Neptune gradually lessens gap. Destroyers set up smoke screen and zigzag. Constantly being straddled. Neptune scores hits on near destroyer. Other hits follow from other cruisers. Destroyers return fire and shots fall around Sydney. By 0745 near destroyer is a blazing wreck. Neptune steams past at 8,000 yds and leaves Sydney to pick up survivors. Darkness rapidly approaching. Two remaining destroyers appear to have been hit but darkness covers their retreat. 2015 Chase abandoned. Up to 2300 cruisers circle around Sydney as she picks up survivors. 45 in number. Italian destroyer went down blazing fiercely but fired her torpedoes before sinking. Neptune fired over 600 rounds.
29th June a.m. Italian flying boat sighted but she rapidly made off. News came through that destroyers have already “bagged” three subs. Names given. Convoy from Dardanelles has been heavily bombed. No news of any damage. Steaming 150 miles S.W. of Greece not far from scene of action. This morning news received from British plane. Had spotted the two Italian destroyers steaming towards Sicily. They had made 180 miles since last night, apparently damaged. It was ascertained from
Sydney that names of destroyers were Ostio, Zefiro, Espiro 1300 tons 39.5 knots. Last named sunk.
30th June It was ascertained a.m. that Dardanelles convoy had been bombed four times but no damage was done.
1430. Off the island of Crete passed Dardanelles convoy. 1530 Two reconnaissance aircraft sighted but driven off by gunfire. 1630 Alarm action stations, five Italian bombers sighted, Barrage set up. Bombers attack three in front and two behind. Bombers came up astern and down in a dive. Seven bombs dropped and would have hit us amidships if Captain had not given order “Hard to Port. Full speed both.” Bombs dropped starboard side and upper deck showered with shrapnel. Second attack bombs fell in between us and Sydney. No damage. Third attack after quarter of an hour. Bombs dropped from behind clouds but fell to port. Damage done to us was superficial. Two slight casualties and one (A B Smith) fairly serious due to blast. Neptune had a close shave but next attack we hope to get one or two planes.
2nd July a.m. Closed up at action stations as we expected another bombing attack. p.m. coast clear. 2030 Arrived in Alexandria.
3rd July Rumours of disaffection among French Fleet stationed at Alexandria. They want to return home to France taking their ships with them. C-in-C Admiral Cunningham says “No.” Immediately astern of us lies Douguay-Trouin French 8” cruiser. At 2030 at night hands piped to action stations and guns trained on cruiser. Battleships Malaya, Royal Sovereign, Ramillies and Warspite bows facing French cruisers and battleships. Situation tense but French ships think better of it. Defence stations all night.
4th July 0730 Hands “piped” to action stations. French ships appeared to be preparing for sea. 0740 Air raid alarm immediately followed by bursting bombs dropping from astern of Neptune and on our quarter. One dropped on jetty, setting fire to shed and splinters damaging HMS Protector slightly and another dropped among destroyers. Neptune shaken by explosions but immediately opened fire. Target proved to be five enemy bombers 20,000 feet up.
0930 All clear, enemy had been driven off by British fighters. 1000 Action stations.
Enemy plane spotted by Neptune who immediately opened fire. Plane beat rapid retreat. 1600 News came through that French ships had agreed to our terms. Tension eased.
News came through of the drastic action at Oran. French Fleet including Dunkerque and Strasbourg try to get back to France. Strasbourg driven ashore. Other warships sunk or captured. Dunkerque manages to reach Toulon but in a badly damaged condition. The British Navy is fighting a lone battle but the morale among the men is high.
7th July p.m. air raid by enemy planes. Driven off by gun fire. 2100 another air raid. Planes dropped bombs but no damage done. Driven off by fire from ships and shore.
8th July 0715 Air raids commenced. Off the island of Crete. We had 7 raids during the day and bombs fell all around Neptune but only superficial damage done by shrapnel. Sea Plane had to be catapulted into sea owing to pierced patrol tank.
1800 Witnessed enemy bombing raid on Gloucester and Orion. Line of bombs followed up Gloucester’s wake and the last bomb hit port side of her compass platform. Gloucester immediately turned away. It was later ascertained that Gloucester had 18 killed including her captain, and 9 wounded.
9th July 1330 Air Raid. 1505 Neptune sights smoke on the horizon coming from various ships. Neptune, Orion, Sydney and Liverpool raised speed to 30 knots. Neptune forges ahead. Neptune was first ship in the war with Italy to sight Italian Battle Fleet. Fleet could now be seen to be composed of two battleships, sixteen cruisers, including seven 8” cruisers, and twenty-four destroyers. Neptune turned towards our capital ships consisting of Warspite, Royal Sovereign, Malaya and Eagle. Enemy fleet, who had evidently not seen our ships coming up, immediately steamed towards us and our squadron immediately went in to meet them. Neptune was ahead of squadron and soon came in range of enemy battleships and cruisers. We were straddled almost immediately and all around us the water was churned up by projectiles. At one period the four 6” cruisers engaged the whole of the Italian battle fleet and each ship was being heavily shelled. Neptune seemed to bear a charmed existence but seaplane was hit by shrapnel and had to be catapulted. Neptune’s firing was very good and we had a go at the battleships and cruisers. The Warspite was now coming up ahead of the rest of the fleet and the enemy immediately laid a smoke screen. Neptune scored hits on cruiser as she was turning away (later confirmed by C-in-C.) Warspite now came up with her guns blazing away and scored a hit on a battleship (confirmed by the Italians 29 killed 69 wounded )
The action developed into a chase and our two destroyer flotillas were sent in to carry out a torpedo attack. They steamed into the smoke with guns blazing away but found the enemy ships in full retreat and attack had to be called off. The Italian coast was in full view as the enemy sought shelter of the Messina Straits. We steamed up and down the entrance to the Straits for three and a half hours and were bombed incessantly by bombers from shore bases. They came over in waves of various formations up to ten to fifteen planes. By twisting and turning and rapid 4” gunfire we still kept to our beat and when darkness came we were still there. Every ship in our Fleet was heavily bombed but there were no hits and no casualties. An amazing result. We now steamed southwards towards Malta.
10th July A fairly quiet day. Only three air raids. Our ammunition is getting short. We had fired over 1000 rounds of 4” and nearly the same amount of 6” in yesterday’s battle. We cruised off Malta whilst the destroyers went in to oil. At 2200 Neptune was cruising 40 miles south of Malta when Italian bombers carried out night air raid on the island. From my station on the bridge the sky was criss-crossed with searchlights and planes could be clearly seen caught in the beams. Shells were bursting all around whilst bombs could be seen bursting below.
11th July Steaming eastwards sweeping and guarding Malta convoy. Three air raids at 1430, 1630 and 1830 In the last raid we were attacked by 15 enemy bombers. Bombs fell in our wake and on either side. Neptune opened up with 4” and 6” barrage and brought down one plane. Great rejoicing. The bombers dropped over 100 bombs on the four cruisers but without result.
12th July A fairly quiet morning. Only two air raids. Bombers dropped bombs ahead of us and shrapnel came in board. 1300 Had just got my head down on the upper deck when a line of bombs fell about 50 yds away. Sprayed with shrapnel but lay flat on deck. Bombers had come “down the sun” and caught us napping. 1800 air raid alarm. Guns opened fire on three planes. Proved to be British Blenheim bombers but they had not signalled early enough. Our gun crews open fire at first sight as there is no time for messing around. Expect to arrive at Alexandria first thing tomorrow morning. 1830 Passed Gloucester and Malta convoy.
13th July am. Arrived in Alex. It was ascertained that during our last patrol at sea we had shot down fifteen enemy bombers and the two Gladiator fighters on the Eagle had brought down four. Eagle had very narrow escapes from bombs. One 1000lb. Bomb dropped just ahead of her and sent up a column of water 80 feet high, which even drenched the spotting top.
15th July 1330 Raid by enemy bomber. Dropped two or three bombs just off the breakwater. Soon driven off.
19th July 1000 Left Alex. in company with Orion. News had come through that HMAS Sydney and Destroyer Flotilla (four in no.) had encountered two Italian cruisers (Eight 6” guns) One cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni has been sunk and the other is escaping as fast as she can towards Tobruk. We are steaming westwards at 30 knots in the hopes of intercepting her, but our hopes are slight unless she is hit by British bombers. HMS Havock has picked up 529 survivors but she was bombed and hit. Her second boiler room is flooded but she can still make 24 knots. Neptune and Orion give up the chase and turn back for Alex.
20th July 1000 entered harbour. Sydney and Second Destroyer Flotilla given great reception.
23rd July Air Raid alarm.
24th July 0430 air raid. Four bombs dropped in sea.
25th July 0400 Another air raid. Numerous flares and incendiary bombs dropped. One little merchant ship, just off our starboard bow, hit on the stern. Ammunition ship was only a few yards away. Fire broke out but was rapidly extinguished by Malaya’s fire-fighting crew. Slight damage ashore.
27th July 0300 Put to sea with Sydney, Warspite, Malaya, Eagle and Royal Sovereign escorted by ten destroyers. Steaming north west towards Crete. Orion and Liverpool already out. Liverpool and Capetown escorting a convoy. 1730 Subjected to concentrated bombing raids. Over 100 bombs dropped but no hits. Neptune fired 87 rounds of 4”.
28th July Neptune scouting ahead of Fleet during night. a.m. Neptune and Sydney despatched at 27 knots to destroy a Greek ship carrying petrol for Italians in Dodecanese. Whilst cruising through the Grecian archipelago spotted by Italian reconnaissance plane. Whilst in the narrow straits called the Thermia Channel both ships subjected to heavy bombing. Bombers came as low as 7,000 feet taking advantage of clouds. Heavy bombs fell just astern of us and on our port bow. Bomb splinters inboard but no damage. Our fire was rapid and close. Probably scored hits. 1730 Steamed towards Gulf of Athens and overtook our quarry. Name Hermione. Her crew abandoned ship and pulled for shore only about 8 miles away. They seemed to be thankful to leave and the skipper hailed us and wished us “Good Luck”. A few rounds of 4” were pumped into her and she went up into a great sheet of flame. Even after she had sunk the water was still burning fiercely.
29th July Steaming towards Alex. So far we seem to have eluded the bombers who are probably bombing the rest of the Fleet. Due to arrive in Alex. noon tomorrow.
30th July Noon Arrived at Alex. Took in ammunition and stores.
31st July 0600 Left Alex. in company with Sydney, Orion and three destroyers Jarvis, Juno and Garland. 1700 Sixty miles off Rhodes. Bombed by three waves of bombers. Bombs dropped very near Sydney. Object of this patrol is to purposely attract the Italian bombers from the Western Med. Argus and Ark Royal are carrying fighter planes to Malta. Up till now Malta has only had two fighter planes to combat enemy bombers and one of these has just crashed.
1st August Expected to be heavily bombed, cruising off Crete. Sea rough. No enemy planes all day but observed reconnaissance plane later on in evening. Heading back for Alex. 2000 arrived at Alex.
12th Aug. 0700 Left Alex. in company with Sydney and destroyers Mohawk, Nubian , Hostile and Imperial. Object, to see if any Italian surface craft are around. Steaming westwards along Libyan coast. 2000 altered course to N.W.
13th Aug. Destroyers left us to carry out submarine sweep south of Crete. Sydney and Neptune carried on round north side of Crete. No sign of enemy aircraft.
14th Aug At midnight two torpedo tracks observed to cross our bows. N.B. Our speed of 27 knots is not effective for use of ‘asdic’ gear. Bright moonlit night.
Passing through Kasa Strait 1030-0330 Hands closed up at action stations to repel expected attack of Italian MTBs. All quiet. 15.00 Two torpedo tracks passed ahead of us, a matter of feet. Nubian and Imperial despatched to hunt submarine. Nubian located sub. and dropped her charges but all were set to “Safe”; a very bad error. Expect to arrive at Alex. 1930. Patrol has been uneventful. Two Greek merchant ships were stopped. First off Suda bound for Santorian islands in North Aegean, and one of Chania, capital of Crete, bound for Athens. Both stopped in middle watch Wednesday.
15th Aug. Oiled and stored ship. 2000 Took in all our spare gear and left Alex and the Med. Station. Destination Aden to hunt for German or Italian raiders in Indian Ocean. Made a wide detour to avoid subs. 27 knots.
16th Aug. 0600 arrived at Port Said. 0800 Proceeded down canal. Furious heat. 1600 arrived at Port Suez. Took in oil. Due to sail at 2000 Delayed sailing until 2200 to take in army stores (blankets) and medical stores.
17th Aug. Furnace heat. Passed several ships during the night. At 2130 Saturday two torpedo tracks were seen to be heading for us. Helm put hard to port and torpedoes went astern. Followed up tracks and dropped 3 depth charges. Could not wait to see results of charges. Speed 27 knots. Bright moonlight.
18th Aug. Heat terrific. 1630 saw wreckage of Italian sea plane go past ship. 2100 Action stations. Proved to be British convoy proceeding up Red Sea. Expect to arrive at Aden about noon tomorrow. Convoy consisted of Leander, Carlisle, Kingston, Parramatta, Kimberley, Grimsby and Auckland and a large fleet of merchantmen.
19th Aug. Noon arrived at Aden. Fairly cool considering its reputation. Warships in port Royal Sovereign, Lucia, Caledon, Ceres, HMAS Hobart and a few destroyers.
20th Aug. Aden filled with troops that had been evacuated from British Somaliland. British had suffered very few losses. Tuesday night went ashore to an Air Force Sergeants’ Mess. Hardly any beer in the messes. 2130 Air raid alarm. Took refuge in shelters hewn out of solid rock. Children etc. all in one shelter.
22nd Aug. 1745 Left Aden en route for Mombasa. Steaming 25 knots. Expect to get there sometime Monday morning.
23 Aug. Steaming around Socotra. Very rough S.W. monsoon weather. Washing down fore and aft.
24th Aug. rough seas continue unabated.
25th Aug. Seas much calmer. Fairly cool. Expect to cross the line 1 am Middle watch.
26th Aug. Sea calmer several tropical storms.
27th Aug. 10.00 arrived in Kilindini harbour. Mombasa, situated on an island, is a very pleasant green spot. HMS Colombo in port. Town consists of one or two good hotels and a variety of shops owned mostly by Indians. A very good service guest house, all run voluntarily.
28th Aug. News came through that British steamer SS British Commander has been attacked by armed raider just south of Madagascar. Ship leaves Mombasa at 1000 steaming south down Mozambique channel at 24 knots. Colombo is steaming around Mauritius and second merchant cruiser is coming up from the south.
29 & 30th Aug. No sign of raider. Stopped several merchant ships. Heavy swell. N.B. Hands go to action stations when any merchant ship is sighted.
31 Aug. Carrying out sweep outside Durban
1st Sept. 1330 Arrived Durban and berthed alongside Lever Bros Soap Factory. Ship had steamed 6000 miles in last sixteen days.
2nd Sept. 0500 Proceeded into dry dock. Leave to 50%.
5th Sept. a.m. proceeded to oiling jetty and oiled. 1700 left Durban for sea.
6th Sept . Heading for Madagascar to search islands off that coast for enemy raider.
8th Sept. Flew off plane to inspect islands south of Madagascar. No sign of anything. Cruising up east coast of Madagascar.
9th Sept. No sign of raider at Fort Dauphin. 1500 News came through that raider was shelling steamer Athelking 1,100 miles from present position. Speed increased to 25 knots in easterly direction. 1800 Eased down to 16 knots. Course 090 Two armed merchant cruisers are taking part in search.
10th Sept. Ship steaming at 16 knots for Mauritius. 0600 stopped SS Clan Mackay 1700 Stopped Yugoslav steamer. News came through that SS Benarty was being bombed by planes from raider about 800 miles east of Mauritius.
11th Sept. 0600 Arrived at Port Louis, Mauritius. Anchored in bay. 0900 Oiler came alongside. 1330 left Port Louis on easterly course.
13th Sept. 0800 Turned round on a westerly course. 2100 news came through that raider was attacking ship 700 miles to the eastward. Turned round again and headed eastwards at 16 knots.
14th Sept. 0400 News came through that last report was false alarm. Turned round again for Mauritius.
18th Sept. Still patrolling south of Madagascar and Mozambique channel. News came through that 10,000ton French steamer Comissaire Ramel had been fired at by warship. Position 1000 miles eastwards.
22nd Sept. 0730 Arrived at Port Louis for oil Run out of cigarettes and canteen stock. 1800 left Mauritius for further patrol.
15th Sept. Still patrolling south end of Madagascar. No sign of any shipping. News came through from Simonstown that strange signals had been intercepted.
27th Sept. 1700 arrived at Durban. Stored and oiled. Leave to 50%.
30th Sept. Left Durban 1330 for S’town. Arrived S’town 2nd October. Whilst at Simonstown all our port holes were blocked and protective plates fitted to tubes and guard rails.
7th Oct. 1100 left S’town to investigate Prince Edward Islands, Crozets, Kerguelen Islands, and New Amsterdam Islands in the Southern Ocean.
8th Oct. Sighted and stopped Norwegian tanker Pan Europe bound for Cape Town from Singapore. At first she was thought to be Italian tanker Tuscania.
9th Oct. Entered the region of the “Roaring Forties”, a belt of westerly winds blowing around the Southern Ocean. Getting cold. Ship rolling heavily.
10th Oct. Sharp cold. Myriads of sea birds.
11th Oct. Intensely cold 32 degrees F. Ship rolling heavily.
12th Oct. 1300 Off Prince Edward Island. Very bleak and barren. Top of island wreathed in mist. No signs of occupation except for seals and penguins. Marion Island alongside a mass of rocky pinnacles. Inspected islands and sailed for Crozet group.
13th Oct. Very foggy and biting raw cold. 1700 off Crozets but visibility so bad we could not survey them. 1830 Closed up for usual night action. Rating on S1 4” gun reported a light off our starb’d bow. Seen a few minutes later on bridge by Gunnery Officer and by 6” Director. Neptune increased speed but nothing could be seen. Very mysterious. Captain surmises it may have been spark from funnel or star shining through mist.
14th Oct. On way to Kerguelen Island 4 degrees F below freezing point. Ship rolling and pitching heavily. Biting winds. Watch keeping on bridge an ordeal.
15th Oct. Still rolling and pitching heavily. Decks awash.
16th Oct. 8 degrees F below freezing point.
17th Oct. arrived off Kerguelen at dawn. Plane sent in to reconnoitre northern inlets. Island rocky and mountainous. 70 miles long and same broad mountains snow covered, with running waterfalls. Ship steams up Royal Sound but no sign of enemy. Ship anchors for 2 hours whilst plane spies out the islands. No sign of human habitation. Seals, penguins, sea lions all remarkably tame. Island covered with Kerguelen cabbage, an edible vegetable. Temp. 25 degrees F. Ship left Kerguelen 1400 en route for St Paul’s Island.
20th Oct. 0400 Arrived at St Paul’s Island which consists of top of volcano. Crater Lake has an outlet to sea 20 feet deep at mouth. Water in crater 2.5 to 3.0 fathoms. Huts were found ashore containing stores, books, etc. and radio transmitting set. Everything left as if in a hurry. Well of fresh water had caved in and water was spoilt bysulphur deposit. The surrounding waters were teeming with fish. Enough were caught by ship’s company for several meals. Largest scaled 70lbs, average weight about 8 lbs. 1700 left island for New Amsterdam 60 miles away.
21st Oct. Dawn arrived off New Amsterdam. Plane sent off reported no visible signs of life except a herd of wild cattle browsing on plateau. Top of island shrouded in white “table cloth”. Rain. 1300 Left New Amsterdam for Mauritius.
23rd Oct. Temperature much warmer, about 70 degrees F
25th Oct. 0406 Neptune completes 100,000 miles steaming since war began getting hot.
26th Oct. Arrived at Mauritius having steamed 6,000 miles since leaving S’town and meeting only one ship.
27th Oct. Oiled Three hours leave given for Chief Petty Officers.
28th Oct. 0900 Left Mauritius for S’town. 1530 Passed island of Reunion. Peak 10,000 high. 20 Knots.
1st Nov. 0200 Passed north bound convoy escorted by Dorsetshire and Cumberland.
2nd Nov. 0700 arrived off Cape Town 1100 proceeded alongside. Repairs to oil fuel tanks started.
5th Nov. News came through that pocket battleship Admiral Scheer had attacked convoy in North Atlantic. SS Rangitiki and SS Cornish Prince reported being shelled. AMC Jervis Bay reported to have been lost.
7th Nov. 1600 Neptune leaves Cape Town en route for Freetown and U.K.
13th Nov. News came through in Middle Watch that Neptune was to proceed to Lagos to act as flagship to Vice Admiral Cunningham (V.A. 1st. C.S.) replacing Devonshire. Latter is protecting trade routes in case Admiral Scheer comes down this way. Neptune to operate in conjunction with General de Gaulle and Free French forces. News came over wireless of three A.A. attack on enemy warships in Taranto harbour, and epic fight of Jervis Bay.
15th Nov. a.m.arrived Lagos. Anchored alongside jetty. Milford and Devonshire in harbour. Neptune hoists flag at sunset.
16th Nov. Devonshire leaves for Freetown. Milford was hit by torpedo from French submarine but “fish” did not explode. Sub.had torpedo jam in tube so had to surface. Milford opened fire upon which crew scuttled sub. And gave themselves up. Lagos extremely hot and sticky.
19th Nov. 1100 Neptune leaves Lagos for Cameroons. Delhi arrives off patrol.
20th Nov. 0700 Passed island of Fernando Po (Spanish). Great peak of ‘Pic de Santa Isabella’ rises to 9150 feet. Inshore was an Italian liner taking refuge. She has been there since Italy declared war. 0800 arrived off mouth of Cameroons River. The Admiral proceeded in barge 14 miles up river to Duala to confer with Free French officials. Cameroon Mountain over 14,000 feet seen occasionally through mists.
21st Nov. 0800 Neptune leaves for Victoria (Nigeria) 47 miles distant. 1200 arrives Port Victoria. Small port, surrounded by luxurious vegetation. We embark thousands of bananas, gift of Nigerian government. General Hawkins, General in command of Nigerian forces disembarks. This morning we passed steamer full of French Foreign Legionnaires who had helped in the taking of Libreville. 1600 Neptune leaves for patrol. Due to arrive at Point Noire a.m. Saturday. N.B. There is a submarine operating in this vicinity. Has already sunk two ships.
23rd Nov. a.m. arrived Pointe Noire. Admiral interviews Free French officials. 1700 Leaves Pointe Noire.
24th Nov. News was received from British Consul in St Paul de Luanda (Angola, Portuguese) of mysterious signals between ship and shore for two nights in succession. 2100 Neptune arrives off Luanda and patrols unnoticed right inshore. Look out kept for an hour but no signs of signals. Neptune carries out sweep to the north.
25th Nov. 1100 Rendezvous with HMS Delhi carries out throw off shoots. 1200 Part company.
27th Nov. 1100 arrives at Lagos. Oils in mid stream then ties up alongside jetty 1700.
2nd Dec. 1600 Neptune leaves Lagos on patrol.
4th Dec. 0800 Neptune and Milford steam up Cameroon River just off Douala. Cameroons Mountain (14500 feet) dimly seen through mist.
5th Dec. 0800 Left Cameroons and proceed to Port Victoria 47 miles north. 1200 arrived Victoria, embarked bananas. 1600 left Victoria for Port Gentil (Gabon).
6th Dec. Passed rocky islands of St Thomas and Princess Island (Port.)
7th Dec. 1000 arrived at Port Gentil. The French sloop Savorgnan de Brazza already there. She had sunk Vichy sloop Bougainville anchored in bay. 1600 left for Mayoumba Bay 275 miles south. N.B. Several of ship’s company down with malaria and dysentery.
8th Dec. 1400 arrived at Mayoumba Bay. No good anchorage so carried on northward sweep.
9th Dec. Passed island of Annobon (Span.) Smallest of islands in Gulf of Guinea but most healthy. Very green and luxuriant. Inhabitants mostly Negroes and one or two Europeans.
10th Dec. a.m. Exercising with HMS Delhi. p.m.leave Delhi and proceed to Lagos.
11th Dec. a.m. arrives Lagos.
14th Dec. 1800 Leaves Lagos for Freetown.
15th Dec. 1000 Called in at Takoradi for mail. Expect to arrive Freetown a.m.Tuesday.
17th Dec. a.m. arrived Freetown. Albatross only naval ship there.
18th Dec. a.m. Dorsetshire arrives. 1400 Neptune ordered to sea as soon as possible. SS Duquesa reported that she was being shelled by enemy warship, probably pocket battleship, 700 miles S>W> Freetown. 1600 Neptune and Dorsetshire leave Freetown.
20th Dec. a.m. closed up at action stations hoping to meet enemy coming north. 1830 Just on sunset Dorsetshire spotted ship. All hands action stations. Ship refused to answer challenge so Dorsetshire sent shot across her bows. Ship fired back with her 4” stern gun. Both ships opened up to 31 knots. Proved to be British merchantman bound from Rio to Freetown.
22nd Dec. aircraft inspected St Paul’s rocks. Nothing doing.
23rd Dec. Heading back towards Freetown. Stopped American merchant ship.
24th Dec. Altered course to S.E. Carrying out sweep. Accidentally fired torpedo at night action stations.
25th Dec. Xmas Day News came through that HMS Berwick had sighted raider (probably 8” cruiser Hipper) p.m. Berwick loses contact with raider which escapes in mist westwards. (* Berwick had damage to X Turret. 5 killed. Raider hit amidships) 2000 Neptune and Dorsetshire ordered to increase speed to 26 knots and proceed to Freetown, oil, and join in search.
26th Dec. Boxing Day. 1800 arrived Freetown and oiled.
27th Dec. Vice Admiral Cunningham leaves ship to go to Admiralty as 4th Sea Lord.
28th Dec. 1600 Neptune leaves Freetown.
30th Dec. 1430 Neptune meets with convoy of two passenger ships carrying French foreign legionnaires destined for Sudan, escorted by Delhi and Milford. Neptune acting as anti-submarine screen. Speed 10 knots.
31st. Dec. During Middle Watch speed reduced to 6 knots due to temporary breakdown of Passenger’s engines. Temp. S W 105 degrees F.
2nd Jan. 1941 Neptune due to arrive Freetown 0900. During Middle Watch S.O.S. picked up from ship being shelled by raider 300miles south. Neptune ordered to turn about and proceed to the scene. 0230 Neptune nearly collided with darkened tanker. Full Speed Astern just in time. Hawkins left Freetown and AMC left St Helena. Convoy carries on to Freetown. 1800 Open boat sighted probably belonged to some sunken merchantman.
3rd Jan. Nothing seen or sighted by aircraft.
7th Jan. a.m. Neptune arrives in Lagos. Oiler comes alongside. 1800 Neptune leaves Lagos for Tacoradi.
9th Jan. Neptune rendezvous with Furious and destroyers Isis and Encounter. HMS Delhi patrolling the vicinity. Furious has cargo of aircraft including 40 RAF Hurricanes. Aircraft flown from Furious to Lagos then across French Equatorial Africa to the Sudan via Lake Chad. Thence to Libyan front.
10th Jan. Destroyers Encounter and Isis refuel from Neptune, also provision.
11th Jan. 1400 Neptune carries out practice firing at target towed by Fleet Tanker Rapidol. Furious also carries out shoot. 1600 Neptune, Furious, destroyers and Delhi arrive Freetown. HMS Vindictive also there.
12th Jan. Port Watch go ashore first time for 6 weeks. Come off in the cutter fighting and singing. Unprecedented scenes.
15th Jan. 0800 Neptune leaves Freetown with Furious and destroyers, presumably bound for England. Who knows? News came over the wireless of the loss of HMS Southampton and bombing of Illustrious.
19th Jan. High seas running. Getting colder.
20th Jan. Gale blowing. Due to have met destroyers Fury, Fearless and Duncan at dawn. 1800 meet destroyers. Twelve hours adrift due to high seas.
21st Jan At 0001, 100 miles from Gib. Gale still blowing. 1500 off Gib but unable to enter due to high wind making it dangerous for Furious to enter harbour. Fury, Fearless and Duncan enter harbour whilst we cruise outside riding the gale. (Tobruk taken).
23rd Jan. 0830 Furious and Neptune enter harbour. Ships in harbour Resolution, Sheffield, Ark Royal, Malaya (dock), destroyers and two corvettes. Whilst in Gib. Aircraft defences in action against reconnaissance planes every day. Supposed to be French planes. Gib. Very heavily defended and blasting is still being carried out for air raid shelters.
27th Jan. 1800 Neptune and Sheffield leave Gib. Object, to escort north bound convoy past Casablanca (Vichy French Morocco). Amongst convoy are four captured French ships laden with supplies for the enemy. In Casablanca are two 6” cruisers and battleship Jean Bart.
28th Jan Uneventful. Illustrious arrives safely in Alex. Escort of light forces heavily bombed. No hits. Expect to arrive back at Gib. Tomorrow.
29th Jan. 0800 arrived Gib. Oiled alongside jetty. 1800 Neptune and Furious leave Gib. Northward bound
1st Feb. Heavy weather encountered. Speed slowed down.
3rd Feb. 1000 rendezvous with 5 destroyers Jackal and Canadian Skeena, Ottawa, St Laurent and Restigouche west of “Bloody Foreland” N. Ireland.
4th Feb. Terrific gale blowing. Skeena loses a man swept off her bridge by heavy seas. During Middle Watch, ship torpedoed by U-boat 15 miles away. Distress flares seen from ship. Two destroyers detached to pick up survivors and hunt U-boat. Furious and her escort leave.
5th Feb. Terrific seas running. 2nd motor boat, gig and 2nd whaler swept overboard. Plane heavily damaged. Guard rails washed away. 1600 arrived at Scapa. Big fleet assembled there including Nelson and Repulse. Scapa thick with balloons. Very strongly fortified.
6th Feb. Carried out degaussing trials. Satisfactory. HMS King George V arrives from America. American naval officers take passage aboard us.
7th Feb. a.m. Commander in Chief, Home Fleet, Admiral Tovey (in command of our squadron out in Med.) comes aboard to wish us farewell. Midnight Neptune leaves for Sheerness.
8th Feb. Proceeding down Scottish coast. Visibility bad. 1400 off Berwick on Tweed.
9th Feb. Neptune picks up with large convoy. 1000 Bomber attack on convoy. Junkers bomber shot down by three Hurricanes when attacking Neptune. Junkers bomber flies out of sun, makes recognition signal so our guns hold fire. Drops three large bombs which burst off ship’s side. No damage. Deck is sprayed by machine gun fire. A few minutes after another attack but three Spitfires follow her up and shoot the bomber down. Apparently there seems to be a big air raid off Southend. Bombs and gunfire can be heard 14.30 arrive Sheerness and prepare to de-ammunition. Wrecks were strewn in a wide lane from the Norfolk coast downwards.
It was ascertained from the Admiralty that bomber that attacked us was brought down by our 4” guns. Owing to visibility it was impossible to see if we had hit her. Bomber came down in middle of convoy.
9th Feb Proceeded up harbour.
12th Feb. First Watch proceed on 3 weeks leave.
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