On 5th April 1942, Japan attacked the Ceylonese naval base at Colombo sinking several ships. Then, four days later on the 9th April, they turned their sights to Trincomalee. The ships which had been in harbour, including HMS Hermes, had received prior warning that there was going to be an attack so had sailed out into open waters. It was on their return to Trincomalee that they were spotted by Japanese reconnaissance aircraft and attacked by over 30 fighters. She received 40 direct hits and sank within ten minutes.
|The HMS Hermes burns after being attacked by Japanese aircraft.|
This photo was taken from a Japanese plane.
|HMS Hermes sinking following her attack by 30 Japanese fighters.|
My 19-year old uncle was one of the many who died on that day. Born and bred in East Finchley, London, he had enlisted in the Royal Marines a month before his 18th birthday. He must have been so eager to join up. Did he feel patriotic? Was he craving adventure in a wider world? His service record states that prior to enlistment he had been a factory hand, so becoming a marine must have offered excitement, a chance to see the world as his father had done in the previous war. And of course, at that age, one feels immortal.
Roy had six months of training at the Royal Marines Depot at Deal in Kent before spending the next four months in Plymouth. Whilst training he was pronounced 'good' at swimming, and qualified in Parade, Tactical Training, Naval Gunnery, Small Arms, Anti-Gas and Seamanship. He became part of the Hermes crew in December 1940.
He was tall, a six-footer like his father, and good-looking. In November 1941, the Hermes underwent a two and a half month refit in Simonstown, South Africa. It was there that Roy met the woman that, according to my father, he became engaged to. Her name was Lorraine and, unfortunately, that's all we know about her. Nonetheless, the one photo we have of them together speaks volumes as it shows two people very much enamoured of each other. It was a romance that was not to end happily as, less than three months after they parted, Roy was dead.
|Roy and Lorraine in South Africa|
This blog is in memory of my Uncle Roy and the other 306 men who died with the HMS Hermes.
|Marine Joseph Roy Stracey 1922-1942|