(WWII) The RNZN and the last shots of the Second World War

Read an excerpt from Petty Officer Wireman R.B. Harvey’s oral history about last shots fired from HMS Gambia.

 

‘Kamaishi was situated, according to the ship at the time, 11 miles up this estuary. Although we were close to the coast we were still bombarding quite a way inland and those British cruisers didn’t carry aircraft at that time and so we had to borrow one I believe of the [USS} Indiana’s  aircraft to spot for us, because each ship had a spotter, This American that spotted for us was pretty good too. He had exceptionally good reports of the firing, accuracy etc, and really and truly it is not hard to hit your target fairly regularly when the target is stationary and you are moving at a slow speed.

Bombardment speed was slow speed for the purpose of accuracy and we [HMNZS Gambia] just cruised up and down off the coast for about two hours. We were getting ready for it from about 11 o’clock because we knew what was coming up. They gave us an early lunch consisting of Tiddy Oggies’ (a large pastie) and they also gave us our tot early. I know this is correct because Jack Haddleton while he was at sea never drank, Well he was very kind because he gave a few to the torpedomen, every one over the age of 20 got a tot that day if I remember rightly. We got it before we had the Tiddy Oggie. We didn’t start bombarding until about half past 12 and it finished about half past two. By the time we finished the sky was black. The smoke started to rise out of the town or the city, Kamaishi, the iron works where they were bombarding. The wind was blowing it out to sea and it went over the top of us and by the time we had finished bombardment it was right over the top, right over to the horizon and vanishing over the horizon, a tremendous lot of smoke, absolutely tremendous.

They say that we fired the last shot against Japan, according to what I have read, the reason was that we had to clear guns, there were some up the spout and we had to get the approval of the Americans to fire the last shots because they had stopped the bombardment. They gave permission and fired them and so we fired the last shot against Japan. That was quite a thrill that bombardment really and what was so thrilling about it and I really mean thrilling too was the fact that here we were, we had been fighting these poor devils, these terrible people for quite a few years, three years or more and there we were off their coast firing shells in the middle of the day firing at this country that was so full of Kamikazes and people who wanted to give their lives away to get rid of you. It made you feel quite important when it happened.’

From Petty Officer Wireman R.B. Harvey’s oral history