Formidable was part of Task Force 57 carrying out air strikes against the Sakishima Gunto. On 4 May 1945 the battleships and cruisers with six destroyers left the carriers to bombard the airfields on Miyako Island. The four carriers, which were screened by eight destroyers, flew off an additional combat air patrol for the bombarding force, as well as aircraft for spotting its gunfire.
While the battleships and cruisers were away, the carriers were attacked by Kamikaze suicide bombers. There were probably from sixteen to twenty aircraft, some of which acted as decoys. While fighters engaged one group, others made for the ships. At 11.30 a.m. an aircraft was seen diving from a great height on HMS Formidable and engaged by gunfire. The four carriers manoeuvred by successive emergency turns under full helm at high speed. Though reported hit by close-range fire from its target, the Kamikaze crashed on to the flight deck near the island superstructure of the Formidable and started a large fire in the aircraft park.
aircraft burning after the attack
the damaged superstructure
the damaged superstructure
clearing the flight-deck
One Corsair and ten Avengers were damaged beyond repair. A hole about two feet square was blown in the armoured flight deck, which was distorted to a depth of two feet at the centre of an area ten feet in width. A large splinter of steel was blown down through the hangar deck and the centre boiler-room, where a steam-pipe was ruptured, and came to rest in a fuel tank in the ship's double bottom.
The barriers on the flight deck were damaged, one beyond repair, and much of the radar equipment was put out of action. Eight men were killed and 47 wounded.
flight-deck being cleared and indicating the damage below decks
the flight deck shortly after the attack
Two minutes after the Formidable had been hit, two suicide aircraft were shot down in flames by the carriers' fighters, and a third which flew in close to HMS Indomitable disappeared in the clouds. It soon returned and dived steeply on that ship. The carriers were turning to starboard at the time and the Indomitable increased her helm to �hard-over�. The aircraft was heavily engaged by the ship's close-range weapons and set on fire. It flattened out at the last moment, hit the flight deck, and bounced over the side, its bomb exploding as it sank. Eight minutes later another aircraft dived on the Indomitable, whose guns and those of the destroyer Quality hit it hard. The aircraft burst into flames and crashed into the sea about ten yards off the starboard bow of the carrier.
Half an hour later the carriers had to turn into the wind to land their fighters for refuelling, those of HMS Formidable being taken by the other carriers. Two Japanese suicide aircraft were shot down by fighters from the Indomitable and Indefatigable. In the meantime, the fires in the Formidable were got under control and the ship was able to steam at 24 knots. The hole in her flight deck was filled with steel plate and rapid-hardening cement, one aircraft barrier was made workable by hand tackle, and repairs to electrical, radar, and signalling equipment were well advanced. The bombardment force rejoined the carriers at 2.20 p.m. and the fleet withdrew to the southward. By five o'clock the Formidable was able to receive thirteen of her Corsairs.
During the afternoon of 8 May another Kamikaze attack was made on the carriers. As the enemy aircraft approached, the fleet was manoeuvred radically by emergency turns at 22 knots. The ships had barely completed a turn of 60 degrees to starboard when a suicide bomber made a shallow dive on HMS Victorious from her starboard quarter. The aircraft was well hit by close-range weapons and crashed on the flight deck near the forward lift. The resulting fire was quickly got under control, but the bomb explosion blew a hole in the flight deck, put a 4�5-inch gun out of action, and damaged the motor of the lift. Another Kamikaze made a shallow power glide from astern on the Victorious. Hit hard by the guns, and burning fiercely, it struck the flight deck and went overboard. Minor damage was done to the ship, but four Corsairs were smashed beyond repair. Casualties from both attacks were three killed and fifteen injured, four of them seriously so.
Barely a minute later a third suicide bomber made a pass at the Victorious and then swept on HMS Howe, further ahead, in a long shallow dive. The aircraft was hit several times and was well ablaze when it crashed into the sea about 100 yards from the Howe after passing over her quarter-deck.
Yet another suicide bomber was then sighted by the Gambia and engaged by several ships. It appeared to be diving straight for the New Zealand cruiser, which had opened fire from both 4-inch batteries, but turned sharply and dived on to the after-deck park of the Formidable. There was a great explosion and fire, which destroyed six fighters and a bomber. One man was killed and several injured. Speed was reduced to 15 knots to aid control of the fire, which was extinguished in about fifteen minutes. The explosion blew out a rivet in the flight deck; causing burning petrol to leak into the hangar which had to be sprayed with water. Eleven aircraft were damaged.
Formidable on VJ day