- NHSA Webmaster
- History - WW2
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2000 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In August 1945 HMS Urania had been at sea for 36 days. We were part of Task Force 37, commanded by Admiral Rawlings RN, the strike component of the British Pacific Fleet.
Fifty nautical miles to the west was the Japanese island of Kyushu which had been under heavy bombardment and air strikes from the battleships and aircraft carriers of the Task Force. Just out of sight on the disengaged side lay the twenty merchant ships of the Fleet Train, escorted by their own carriers and destroyers. They were laden with the vital fuel, ammunition, stores and nourishment that enabled us to stay at sea right on the enemy coast.
On the 6th and 9th of August Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been devastated by the American Air Force; but of atomic bombs we knew nothing.
On the 15th August Urania was one of a dozen destroyers screening ahead of the heavy ships; our sonar `pinging’ to warn of enemy submarines, the guns crews alert for a surprise ‘kamikaze’ attack. Instead, broadcast from the Flagship, came the incredible news that the Japanese Emperor had agreed to the surrender terms. On Urania’s bridge we stood in stunned silence, each immersed in our own thoughts. It was difficult to believe that after six years of fighting the War was over. There must be a catch to it somewhere. Later that day the Chief Yeoman of Signals, that imperturbable pillar of strength, read a signal from the Admiralty.
“It is the King’s command that all ships Splice the Mainbrace.”
Well that settled it…if the Treasury was game to pay for a tot of rum for all hands the war must be over! The Coxswain and his assistants filled the rum tub, diluted the fiery Queensland spirit to half strength and served it out. We drank a toast to peace and to our loved ones.
Note: In the days of the sailing Navy the yards were trimmed to the wind by braces. If the Mainbrace was shot away or damaged it was especially heavy and skilful work to splice or replace it and often this work was rewarded with a tot of rum.
This article will remind readers of the days when rum was a valued part of a sailor’s day. The few teetotalers were rewarded with a not very generous threepence (3d) in lieu.
The rum was stored in oak barrels, as was the Salt Horse (beef), the lime juice and other provisions.
The barrels were such an important part of the ship’s economy that big ships (cruisers and above) carried a special `Cooper’ rating to look after them.