Felt mat for Royal typewriter : Able Seaman C R Howard and Leading Seaman T R Howie, HMAS Nizam, RAN

Place Asia: Japan, Tokyo Bay
Accession Number REL40067.002
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Felt
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1940 - 1950
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Thick dark blue square felt mat.

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History / Summary

Related to the service of Thomas 'Tom' Robert Howie, born Brighton, England on 11 November 1919, a resident of Burnside, South Australia. Howie enlisted in the RAN on 9 September 1941 with the rank of Ordinary Seaman, service number PA2308. After initial training in Seamanship and Gunnery at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria he transferred to the RAN's London Depot in late March, preparing to crew the new N Class destroyer HMAS Nepal back to Australia.

Nepal was one of eight N Class destroyers built by the British from 1939, of which Nepal, Nizam, Norman, Nestor and Napier were transferred to the RAN. The Nepal, commissioned on 11 May 1942, served with the Royal Navy's Home Fleet until July 1942. After involvement in the Madagascar campaign against the Vichy French and patrol and escort duties, Nepal sailed for Australia, where a refit was undertaken in Sydney over April and May 1943.

Howie left the ship upon arrival in Sydney, and undertook further training at HMAS Penguin, attaining the rank of Leading Seaman on 30 June 1943. He then joined Nizam, which had spent the previous two years in the Mediterranean supporting the Western Desert, Crete and Malta campaigns, as well as involvement in the Madagascar and South Atlantic operations. Due for a refit, Nizam arrived in Geraldton, WA on 13 August and continued on to Melbourne. Here, Howie joined the ship remaining with it until mid 1945.

The ship returned to duties in the Indian Ocean, narrowly missing being torpedoed by a U-Boat on 17 October, then rejoined the Eastern Fleet before finishing 1943 on convoy duties to Aden in Egypt. The new year saw HMAS Nizam rejoin the Eastern Fleet. She took part in the March operations in the Bay of Bengal, the strike on Japanese port facilities at Sabang (Sumatra, 19 April), as well as general escort duties. After another refit at Melbourne from November 1944 to 31 January 1945, HMAS Nizam was returning to Fremantle in gale conditions when a freak wave rolled the ship almost 80 degrees resulting in 10 sailors being swept overboard and lost. The damage caused kept Nizam in dock at Fremantle until early March, when she proceeded to Sydney to join the remaining N Class destroyers heading for Manus Island; Nizam and Norman then joined the British Pacific Fleet at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines on 13 April, operating with them until Nizam returned to Sydney in early June.

Here, Leading Seaman Howie applied for leave to attend a sub-lieutenant's course at HMAS Cerberus, completing his course in mid September 1945, before being transferred to the Auxiliary Patrol Vessel HMAS St Giles. Meanwhile, HMAS Nizam had remained involved in operations with the British and American Pacific Fleets, eventually patrolling and supporting strikes off the coast of Japan. Upon news of Japan's impending surrender Nizam was acting as escort to HMS Indefatigable. On 20 August, a landing force, including two officers and 19 ratings from Nizam, transferred to USS Sims and moved into Tokyo Harbour.

Among this landing team were two good friends of Tom Howie's: Able Seamen Cliff Howard and Bob Skinner. They searched and cleared Yokasuka Naval Base and in the process souvenired this Royal Typewriter from an office. It is claimed it was used to type the Surrender Instrument, although this remains unsubstantiated. Cliff Howard then typed a letter wrote to Howie, noting 'I was the fourth Australian to step onto the Japanese mainland... Bob is assisting the Australian War Photographer to get his scoops [Department of Information Photographer Jim Fitzpatrick].'

Upon their return to Australia, Cliff Howard gave the typewriter to Tom Howie as a souvenir of those first few days in Tokyo and as compensation for missing the Surrender Ceremony. Demobbed on 27 July 1946, Howie subsequently joined the South Australian Police Force, eventually retiring as Assistant Commissioner. He used the typewriter throughout his career. His wife Kathleen embroidered a cover for it using his initials.