Sailor’s wartime diary recounts dying days of the Japanese Empire
- Credit: Archant
He bore witness to the dying days of the Japanese Empire in the final year of the Second World War.
And now a fascinating account by a Royal Navy Reserve midshipman is to go under the hammer at a Diss auction house.
TW Gaze Auction Rooms is to find a new owner for the journal of John G Pike, as well as his wartime medals and a photograph.
Deemed to be of great historical interest, the lot is being sold by Mr Pike's family from north Suffolk, where he lived out his later years.
The journal, written while Mr Pike served on light cruisers HMS Newcastle and HMS Gambia, covers March 1944 to the Japanese surrender in August 1945 and includes hand-drawn maps and diagrams.
Dive bomber attack
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The journal depicts Mr Pike's service in the Pacific, New Zealand, India, attacks on the Japanese island of Honshu and the bombardment of Kamaishi.
One entry, from August 15, 1945 recounts an attack on his ship by a Yokosuka D4Y dive bomber - nicknamed a 'Judy' - shortly after news of the surrender came through.
It reads: 'At 1129 a message was received from CTF which read 'CEASE HOSTILITIES AGAINST JAPAN'. At that same moment a Judy appeared dead astern flying straight at us firing her machine guns.
'There were a large crowd of men standing on the quarterdeck and soon as the plane was spotted, everyone immediately ran for their respective stations. No alarm was given.
'However two Seafires were close on its tail and the plane was blown to pieces over our foremast. It all happened in about one minute and after the shock we found that five men had been killed by machine gun bullets and 11 wounded. Among the dead was my very close friend Midshipman Joe O'Keefe R.N.R. The only officer on the Gambia that was killed in action.
'It seems impossible that the war is over after six long horrible years.'
Freeing fellow fighters
The diary concludes with an entry about the collection of British prisoners-of-war.
It reads: 'Our duties at Yokosuka were the occupation of the dockyard area, to make an inventory of all supplies… a large body of Japanese troops in the area and be at 'stand to' in case of attempted suicide attacks by disgruntled Japanese.
'Today I accompanied Lt. Comm. Davis-Goff by con… to Ofuna a few miles to the North West of Yokosuka to a prisoner-of-war camp where air force prisoners were imprisoned.
'On our arrival we were greeted by a large throng of prisoners some in a severe state of emaciation and others looking surprisingly cheerful and healthy.
'I was later informed that the healthy ones were the 'new boys' shot down recent to the war's end.'
The setting sun
Another fascinating entry is an account of the surrender of the Japanese fleet at Sagami Bay.
It reads: 'It was fitting that the fleet anchored as the sun set behind Fujiyama which symbolised the last sunset of the once powerful Japanese Empire beaten to her knees in defeat now.'
Mr Pike, who was British, but born in Port Shepston, South Africa in 1927, lied about his age to join the war effort at 16.
Before that, he had gone to Simonstown Naval College as a cadet when he was about 14.
One of Mr Pike's responsibilities was to report prisoners'-of-war comments and claims after they landed in Japan.
Mr Pike told his family that sailors were not allowed to keep their logs, and they believe this was the only one he succeeded in retaining.
The medals in the lot include a Burma Star with Pacific clasp, Africa Service medal, New Zealand medal and Colonial Special Constabulary medal. As well as the photograph, there is also a silver medallion.
-The lot will be auctioned at TW Gaze's biannual 'militaria' auction on Saturday, May 20, starting at 10am. For more information about the items, email E.Taxil-Webber@twgaze.co.uk or call 01379 650306.
CORRECTION: Due to a transcription error, this article originally quoted Mr Pike as having seen two Sea Furies, instead of Seafires.