The end of WWII for 3 Commando Brigade

On the 6th of August 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and three days later another was dropped on Nagasaki. On the same day, Russia declared war on Japan and invaded their puppet state of Manchukuo. By the 10th of August, Japan had offered to surrender on condition that Emperor Hirohito be permitted to remain in power but the offer was rejected by the Allies. Finally, on August the 15th, Japan unconditionally surrendered.

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The burnt-out shells of two small buses or trucks are the only recognisable objects amidst debris following the dropping of the atomic bomb ©IWM (MH 29426)

The Second World War was over. As soon as they heard the news, the men of 3 Commando Brigade celebrated by firing 2-inch mortars and letting off flares since they had nothing else available with which to mark the end of the war. The bar in the Officers’ Mess was opened, even though at that time they would usually have been tucked up and sound asleep in their charpoys, and as the drink flowed, the officers kept running outside and firing their .45 Colts into the night sky. Their Commanding Officer was none too pleased!

The following day, the Brigade left Kharakvasla and reached Ghilpuri railway station at two o’clock in the afternoon. They had arrived with plenty of time to spare as their train to Bombay wasn’t due to leave until four o’clock the following morning. They had been warned that on arrival in Bombay they would be boarding a White Ensign vessel and that they must therefore present themselves looking smart and spruce. The muddy conditions they had left behind at Kharakvasla Camp meant their appearances needed some work to get to the required standard and so they engaged the help of some little boys who washed their boots and gaiters in pools of water at a penny a time.

At Bombay they embarked on HMS Glengyle and set sail for Penang as part of Operation Tiderace with the plan they would accept the formal surrender of the Japanese on the Georgetown racecourse.

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HMS Glengyle ©IWM (FL 22266)

The Glengyle’s Skipper gave the officers access to his Mess and as the ship headed out to sea, a heavy swell caused much seasickness but this didn’t deter them from taking advantage of the drinks provided at Navy prices. Back on shore, a telegram was sent to Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten from the Chiefs of Staff:

It has now become most urgent to get a land force to Hong Kong as quickly as possible. Accordingly you should arrange for earliest despatch of one brigade from forces under your command in order to reach Hong Kong as soon as possible after the arrival there of units of the British Pacific Fleet
(National Archives DEFE 2/1686: Top Secret Cypher Telegram dated 18 August 1945)

On the 19th of August, Mountbatten replied to say that he could make 3 Commando Brigade available and providing he received approval by the 21st of August, they could reach Hong Kong around the 5th of September.

As a result, HMS Glengyle was diverted to Trincomalee and remained moored in the Ceylonese harbour for just over a week. During this time, the Glengyle’s Skipper withdrew the privilege of being able to drink the Navy’s Mess stocks from 3 Commando Brigade’s officers and so they had a whip-round and despatched Captain Balchin and his batman to replenish the stocks of alcohol from the NAAFI onshore instead.

Arrangements were made and briefings given regarding the new destination and eventually, on the last day of August 1945, No. 5 and 44 RM Commando on board HMS Glengyle and No. 1 and 42 RM Commando on board HMIS Llanstephan Castle, set sail for Hong Kong.

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Men of the 3rd Commando Brigade receive their rum ration aboard Landing Ship Tank LST 304. This vessel sailed as part of the first convoy to Hong Kong following the Japanese surrender ©IWM (SE 4945)
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