Diary of Events - Arctic Cruise


The below extract is an account of the Arctic Cruise ('Operation Rusty') provided from the personal diary of a Naval Airman (O) during this exercise between 5th February and 30th March 1949.


Saturday February 5th 1949:  (At Sea)

Underway 09.30 from Portland.  Bound for Arctic.  Flying trials until 16.00.  Weather:  Fair but cold during day - stormy at night.  Spirits high for exciting trip(?)  Prangs:  One Firefly (p.m.)

Sunday February 6th 1949:  (At Sea)

Off Milford Haven 08.00.  West of Cardigan Bay 12.00. South of Isle of Man 16.00.  Flying until 15.15.  Weather: Fair and mild.  Last mail left ship 12.00.

Monday February 7th 1949:  (At Sea)

No flying.  Sea choppy since noon.  Off Roona - uninhabited island, 40 miles South West of Scotland - 19.00.

Tuesday February 8th 1949:  (At Sea)

Off Faroes 08.50.  First signs of snow.  Sea rough all through day, increased swell during evening.  No flying.  Last sight of land for four weeks.

Wednesday February 9th 1949:  (At Sea)

Inside Arctic Circle 05.00.  Temperature not as expected - not uncomfortably cold.  Bofors and Pom poms tested.  No flying.  Sea much calmer since entering 'circle'.  Snow during evening.  Blizzard through night - snow & sleet.

Thursday February 10th 1949:  (At Sea)

Reached experimental area 07.00, but not required temperature (25 of frost).  Flying programme cancelled owing to excessive swell.  Bofors and Pom poms tested.  Decidedly colder.  Morale of ships company still high.  Oiled "Gabbard" (O.47).  "St. Kitts" expected tomorrow noon.

Friday February 11th 1949:  (At Sea)

Joined by "St. Kitts" 09.45.  Mail transferred.  "Gabbard" steamed up to Great Ice Barrier early this morning.  (G.I.B. approx. 400 miles long and 9,000ft. high).  Flying from 13.00 to 14.35.  Join "Gabbard" tomorrow a.m.  Bread transferred to "St. Kitts" (D.18).

Saturday February 12th 1949:  (At Sea)

Joined "Gabbard" during early hours.  39 miles from Great Ice Barrier at 09.00.  800 miles from furthermost point of Scotland at 12.00.  First signs of ice 14.00.  Temperature: 10 below 0 at 14.45.  Flying programme cancelled.  Oiled "St. Kitts".

Sunday February 13th 1949:  (At Sea)

Crossed Meridian of Greenwich 10.10.  1,391 miles North of London.  Ice thicker and more plentiful, ice floes sighted about 10.15. "Loch Arkaig" left Rosyth - expected a.m. Thursday.  Flight deck and aircraft, ice-bound.  Flying programme cancelled.  Temperature still falling.

Monday February 14th 1949:  (At Sea)

Flying cancelled owing to snow, sleet and poor visibility (approx. 20 yds).  Storms throughout the day. Temperature 22F. a.m. and 18F. p.m.  Ice floes left behind - steaming West.

Tuesday February 15th 1949:  (At Sea)

Temperature 10F. (22 below zero) throughout day.  Steamed into pack-ice 12.05.  Flying cancelled due to lack of wind.  Helicopter airborne from 14.35 - 15.45.  Bows holed by ice-berg, damage not excessive.  "Wave Premier" left Rosyth - expected a.m. Saturday.

Wednesday February 16th 1949:  (At Sea)

Snow blizzard throughout day.  Temperature still 22 below.  Flying programme cancelled.  Damaged bows not yet repaired.  30 miles N. West of Jan Mayen Island: 17.25.  "Loch Arkaig" expected during night.

Thursday February 17th 1949:  (At Sea)

Joined by "Lock Arkaig" 04.00.  Mail transferred 08.15.  Sea much calmer. Temperature 24 below, cold intense.  Temporary repairs carried out on damaged bows.  Flying and air firing carried out.

Friday February 18th 1949:  (At Sea)

Flying cancelled except for Sea Otter and Helicopter.  Sea Otter lost, observer saved, pilot (Lt. Elliot) lost.   Sea rough during afternoon, increased swell and snow storms during night.  Still exceedingly cold (26 below).  Frost bite cases surprisingly small.  Oiled "Loch Arkaig" (F.603).

Saturday February 19th 1949:  (At Sea)

Joined by "Wave Premier" a.m.  No flying due to expected provisioning of ship.  Ship not stored due to rough seas and general bad weather.  Mail transferred from oil tanker, to us, via "St. Kitts".  No change in temperature.

Sunday February 20th 1949:  (At Sea)

"Wave premier" alongside a.m. for oiling.  Oiling postponed due to rough seas.  Bread transferred to "St. Kitts".  Much warmer.  Mercury rising.  Memorial service held for late Lt. Elliot.  Searching for calmer seas to carry out oiling and storing of ship.

Monday February 21st 1949:  (At Sea)

Temperatures: Air-32 Sea-31 at 07.00.  Air-36 Sea-34 at noon.  10 miles North of Jan Mayen Island at 07.00.  Oiler alongside p.m., but oiling abandoned owing to continued breaking of pipe lines.  Provisioning also called off.  Submarine "Artful" joined force a.m.  Snowstorms throughout day.

Tuesday February 22nd 1949:  (At Sea)

Temperature 32F. (a.m.)  Oiling and storing ship recommenced p.m.  Rough seas in forenoon.  Occasional snow storms.  Ship cruising around Jan Mayen.  Tempers of ships company becoming frayed.  Bofors tested p.m.

Wednesday February 23rd 1949:  (At Sea)

Temperature 31.5F (a.m.)  Storing and oiling ship completed.  Snow storms during afternoon, rough seas at night.  Steaming North to join rest of force with "Wave Premier".  Clocks retarded one hour.  Steaming West.

Thursday February 24th 1949:  (At Sea)

Joined main force at 08.00 today position being 7N. 15W - 130 miles off Greenland.  Flying cancelled.  Aircraft guns fired over ships side.  Strong N. Westerly wind, snow storms.  Sea still choppy.  Temperature falling.  Temporary repairs on bow collapsed.  Water pouring into forward hold.

Friday February 25th 1949:  (At Sea)

Temperature 25F.  Flying programme cancelled - flight deck and aircraft, ice-bound.  Swell increased since yesterday.  Steaming towards Iceland to find required 25 of frost.

Saturday February 26th 1949:  (At Sea)

More pumps fitted in damaged bows, amount of water increasing.  Flying cancelled owing to excessive swell.  Canteen Flat, Wardroom Flat and forward lift well flooded.  Waves breaking over flight deck.  Continual pitching and rolling.  Assumed a 30 roll.  Course altered three times (p.m.) in efforts to "dodge" rough seas.

Sunday February 27th 1949:  (At Sea)

Swell decreased since 08.30.  Occasional snow and sleet storms.  Pumps still in use in forward hold - repairs being carried out - very slow progress.  No flying promulgated.  Stores passed to "Loch Arkaig" and "St. Kitts" p.m.  Temperature not as low as expected.  Main deck floods cleared.

Monday February 28th 1949:  (At Sea)

Temperature: 20F. (a.m.)  17F. (p.m.)  75 knot blizzard throughout day - snow.  Flying impossible.  Cold intense - clothing issued useless under such conditions.  Aircraft run up for engine tests.  repairs on bows impossible until ship in port.

Tuesday March 1st 1949:  (At Sea)

Temperature 10.5F.  Snow storms.  Steaming West, along Great Ice Barrier.  Oil frozen in pipes as "St. Kitts" attempts oiling from "Wave Premier".  Negative flying.  Aircraft run-up in hangar for experimental tests.

Wednesday March 2nd 1949:  (At Sea)

Stbd. anchor dropped at 11.15, also Stbd. after gangway and Port & Stbd sea-boats lowered.  Three officers swam to dinghy's in "immersion suits" to test same.  Later hoisted inboard by crane.  Ice-bergs numerous.  "Gabbard" alongside for provisions (p.m.)  Aircraft run-up in hangar for engine tests.  No flying except Helicopter.  Temperature 23 below zero.  Sea surprisingly calm, very little wind.  Mail: closed 21.30 - Belayed.  Bofors tested (p.m.).

Thursday March 3rd 1949:  (At Sea)

Temperature 28F. (a.m.)  35F. (p.m.) - strong Westerly wind caused mercury to rise.  Laying off Jan Mayen to transfer bread to "Loch Arkaig" (p.m.)  "St. Kitts" succeeded in oiling - via "astern method" and being close inshore (Jan Mayen).  Attempting oiling tomorrow (a.m.) if calm seas continue!

Friday March 4th 1949:  (At Sea)

Oiler alongside 08.55 - 12.05 oiling completed.  Temperature 32.5F.  Cruising around Jan Mayen.  Captain spoke to ships company over tannoy - "Ship Homeward Bound" a week ahead of schedule due to lack of required weather.  19.00 bound for Rosyth for refit (tough luck!!!!!)  Vengeance took 4,710 gallons of oil aboard from "Wave Premier" during trip.  "Wave Premier" left force immediately on completion of oiling, for Rosyth.  Granted extra two days leave to 'Rusty' Force.

Saturday March 5th 1949:  (At Sea)

Lowest recorded temperature during trip: 5F. (27 of frost). Temperatures today: Air 36F.  Sea 35.5F. (a.m.)  Air 35F. noon.  Passed "Wave Premier" 04.45.  Average speed - 15 knots.  Gales.  Rain during night.  Rough seas.  Clocks forward one hour.

Sunday March 6th 1949:  (At Sea)

Aircraft run-up on flight deck.  preparations made for de-ammunitioning ship.  E.T.A. in Rosyth - a.m. Tuesday 8th.  Mail closed 22.00.

Monday March 7th 1949:  (At Sea)

Off Lossiemouth 09.10.  Parted from remainder of force ("St. Kitts - "Gabbard") to fly off 15th Carrier Air Group.  Last aircraft of 15th C.A.G. flown off at 14.45.  Helicopter still aboard, airborne 14.45 to 15.10.  Sea "choppy".

Tuesday March 8th 1949:  (In Harbour)

Passed under Firth Bridge 07.55.  Anchored off Rosyth 08.10.  Snow storms during night.  Rather cold.  Mail aboard - seven letters.  Shore leave from 17.30.  Repairs carried out on damaged bows. (Temporary).

Wednesday March 9th 1949:  (In Harbour)

Continuing preparations for de-ammunitioning ship.  Snow storms throughout day.  "Lighter" for ammo, should have been alongside a.m., but was "adrift" - expected tomorrow.  Shore leave.

Thursday March 10th 1949:  (In Harbour)

Ammunition Lighter alongside a.m.  De-ammunitioning ship commenced 10.15.  Intermittent snow and strong winds.  De-ammo-ing well under way - should be completed tomorrow.  Parties working during "dogs".  Shore leave.

Friday March 11th 1949:  (In Harbour)

Ammo Lighters alongside a.m.  De-ammunitioning completed - 17.55. less time taken than expected.  Biting wind during forenoon.  Bitterly cold.  Shore leave.

Saturday March 12th 1949:  (In Harbour)

Not as cold as yesterday, but wind still strong.  Make-and-Mend p.m.  Shore leave.

Sunday March 13th 1949:  (In Harbour)

Sea choppy.  No shore leave.  M.F.V.'s unable to come alongside owing to swell.  Weather: rather cold and windy.  Watch - forenoon. (good-o!!)

Monday March 14th 1949:  (In Harbour)

Dis-embarked unwanted stores - a.m.  Sea calmer, but still cold and windy.  Shore leave.

Tuesday March 15th 1949:  (In Harbour)

Sea - Calm.  Shore leave until 07.45 - ship under sailing orders.  Watch - 1st Dog & Middle. (Tough!!!)  Not exceptionally cold.

Wednesday March 16th 1949:  (In Harbour a.m.  At Sea p.m.)

Petrol Lighter alongside - 09.20.  All aircraft fuel clear of ship - 16.40  NO SMOKING.  Put to sea 17.10 to wash out fuel tanks (A - 17.08).  Calm seas.  Visibility 5 -10 miles.  Little or no wind (Westerly).  Weather  - fair to cloudy, scattered showers. (B - 17.35).

Thursday March 17th 1949:  (At Sea)

Sea - reasonably calm.  Not to cold.  Make & Mend.  Fuel tanks filled with sea water, cleaned and emptied.

Friday March 18th 1949:

Passed under Firth Bridge - 10.13.  Anchored off Rosyth - 10.29.  Mail aboard 12.00 (NIL!!!).  Shore leave.

Saturday March 19th 1949:

Day fair, cold during evening.  Make & Mend with leave.

Sunday March 20th 1949:

Warm but windy.  Shore leave until 23.00 owing to procedure of first leave-men tomorrow.

Monday March 21st 1949:

first leave-men proceeded 06.45.  Pranged Firefly removed from hangar to flight deck. (aloft crane, stbd side).  Shore leave until 23.00 due to movement of ship, into basin, tomorrow forenoon.

Tuesday March 22nd 1949:

In Basin - 08.22.  Alongside wall 08.40.  Pranged aircraft taken ashore - a.m.

Wednesday March 23rd 1949:  to  Tuesday March 29th 1949:

Preparations for Refit.

Wednesday March 30th 1949:

Left wall - 09.45.  In Dry-Dock - 10.50. (No.2).  Water drained out of dock and ship "spragged" by 16.20.

Thursday March 31st 1949:



Additional Link to: