In January 1945, I was serving as a Lieutenant RAN, in the 8 inch gunned heavy cruiser HMAS Shropshire, and we were part of the bombardment force to be used to soften up the landing beaches where US troops were to storm ashore on January 6th of that month. We had been subjected to Kamikaze attacks from Japanese aircraft, and had some close calls, but had shot down several of our attackers.
Our Port Pom Pom was an eight barre led 40mm anti aircraft weapon, each barrel capable of firing 120 rounds a minute to a range of about 2000 yards. Leading Seaman Roy Cazaly, the Captain of this gun mounting, was an incredible marksman.
During the last dog watch, at about 18:15, on January the 6th. I was Officer of the Watch on Shropshire's bridge. Looking into the sun I saw an aircraft at about 1,000 feet diving straight for the bridge. We cleared the bridge, and flattened out on the deck of the wing of the bridge. There was a tremendous explosion. I believed we were hit by this Kamikaze, as liquid splashed all around me, I thought it was petrol and expected it to burst into flames at any moment. I reached out my hand to run it across the splash, and licked my fingers, salt water, not petrol after all.
What a relief, Roy Cazaly had quickly seen this attack, swung his Pom Pom around and onto the target, with a devastating burst of fire, he shot thisJapanese aircraft in two, half falling close to our starboard side, where a bomb on board exploded. The bridge is 60 feet above sea level, and the force of the impact and explosion threw a wave of sea water up onto the bridge. The other half of this plane crashed close to our port side, adjacent to the bridge.
I was still in one piece, but it left me shaken but very grateful to the skill of Leading Seaman Roy Cazaly, who was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for his efforts. It was indeed, a close run thing, and but for the Captain of the Port Pom Pom, I would not be alive today.