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Navy drone expert remembers great uncle on VJ Day

Royal Navy sailor on Pacific carrier
14 August 2020
A Royal Navy sailor in the Fleet Air Arm has spoken of the Second World War service of his great-uncle – who volunteered to serve on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean.

Petty Officer Callum Onions used this year’s 75th anniversary of VJ Day - the end of the war with Imperial Japan – to remember his relative who also served as a naval aircraft engineer in the Royal Navy.

Dennis Clarke, from Harpurhey, Manchester, was 21 years old when he was sent to join the war effort in 1945.

Petty Officer Onions, a training instructor in remotely-piloted air systems with 700X Naval Air Squadron, based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall, said: “He only caught the tail-end of the war – he was too young. As soon as could, he joined the Royal Navy.

“He served on the ship HMS Pioneer for a few months before the end of the war. She was built as a normal aircraft carrier but on completion, she was converted to a maintenance ship. They removed the catapults and made more hangar space.

“They’d take damaged aircraft back to Sydney in Australia and bring back repaired ones to the front-line carriers. They would meet the other aircraft carriers somewhere safe, the other side of the Admiralty Islands, and then they’d crane across all the damaged aircraft.” 

“On completion of the war, my great-uncle joined the merchant navy because he really loved being at sea. He passed away just a couple of years ago, at the age of 92.”

I think it’s important we remember this now. A lot of people don’t really know what went on in the war in the Pacific.

Petty Officer Onions

Petty Officer Onions said his great-uncle always defended the decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan to end the conflict.

“He was always adamant that was the right decision,” he added. “He was not an ardent nationalist – his politics were pretty left-wing to be honest – but he always stood by the fact it would have been much worse if we’d gone into direct conflict on Japanese soil.

“I think it’s important we remember this now. A lot of people don’t really know what went on in the war in the Pacific.”

Petty Officer Onions’ grandfather, Joseph Taylor, was also serving in the war effort, guarding airfields in India.

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