‘Navy Yokosuka Guard Unit Ueki Detachment’
A book by Laura Hillenbrand brought the name of Louis Zamperini to the forefront in ‘Unbroken’, this is the story of Basil Willington Aldwell who also knew the misery of the Ofuna Interogation Centre.
Basil Willington Aldwell
Basil was born County Armagh, Ireland in April 1920, to Frederick and Edith Aldwell. He was educated at Dublin University.
In 1940, with the war in Europe into its second year, Basil enlisted into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Promotion came quickly and October the next year Basil was promoted to Temporary Sub-Lieutenant.
His first pilot posting was March 1942 with 788 Squadron assigned to HMS Lanka (RN base, Colombo, Ceylon). Later in the same year he moved to 796 Squadron FAA - HMS Kilele at RN Air Station, Tanga, Tanganyika.
Things were now moving fast for Basil as February 1943 he became a pilot for 803 Squadron FAA - army co-operation in East Africa. This was followed in September 1943 with a posting as a pilot to 797 Squadron FAA - HMS Ukussa (RN Air Station, Katakurunda, Ceylon), when he was made a Temporary Lieutenant.
As a Lieutenant he joined 810 Squadron FAA - HMS Illustrious in February 1944 piloting Barracudas.
During a refit in 1943, the flight deck was extended to 740 feet. Allowing the aircraft to be pushed back until the main wheels were near the edge of the flight deck, this allowed more aircraft to be stored on the deck. The changes increased the number of aircraft aboard her to fifty-seven and the carrier’s crew grew to 1,831 to accommodate the increased capacity.
In preparation for her service against the Japanese in the Pacific, two 40 mm Bofors, Anti Aircraft guns, were fitted. Her boilers were retubed and she was ready for action in 1944.
In February 1944 HMS Illustrious joined the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. In April air strikes on Sabang were launched with USS Saratoga. After refuelling in western Australia in May she joined USS Saratoga in air strikes against harbour and refinery installations in Soerabaya, Java, code named ‘Operation TRANSOM’.
In June air strikes were launched against Sabang as a diversion for the US landings at Marianas, code named ‘Operation FORAGER’. On the return journey HMS Illustrious launched air attacks on Port Blair’s harbour and airfield, code named Operation ‘PEDAL’.
My thanks to Basil’s daughter Penny Grant who gave me permission to use the information she sent me in this Far Eastern Heroes page