Louis Le Bailly

Royal Navy admiral (1915-2010)

Louis Le Bailly (18 July 1915 – 3 October 2010) was a British Royal Naval officer who had a lengthy career as an engineer, and later in intelligence work.


  • "The surrender and succeeding jubilation was rightly American but, as Admiral Fraser appreciated, Britain and the Commonwealth had now been at war for six long years less a day. If the forenoon had been American, then the evening would be British. The last sunset ceremony had been carried out on the evening of September 2,1939. Since then the White Ensign had flown in every ship by day and night. Admiral Fraser ordered the resumption of sunset routine as from September 2, 1945 and invited all the senior officers of British ships in Tokyo, and a token number of sailors from each, to witness the ceremony in his flagship. He was dissuaded from firing a sunset gun in case some trigger-happy American or Japanese thought the war had re-started.
"Only Captain Roy Dowling RAN, my old 'Naiad' commander and now the senior Australian afloat, refused. His commander signalled that Dowling had collapsed with glandular fever or dengue. In some extraordinary way Fraser knew that Dowling and I had served together, and also that the latter was likely, as he did, to rise to the top of his own navy, so he felt it essential that Dowling should be present if humanly possible. I was therefore bundled into the C-in-C's temporary barge with a bottle of champagne and told to dose Dowling and get him on his feet or, if he was too ill, to leave the champagne for later with the commander-in-chief's compliments. Dowling had not been told of the invitation, but against the advice of his surgeon commander, and fortified with the champagne, his old humour reasserted itself and we manhandled him on board 'Duke of York'.
"Allied and Commonwealth flags were flying from the fore and main yardarms with the commander-in-chief's flag at the masthead and the White Ensign at the gaff. On X and Y turrets and the after superstructure there was a great river of khaki-clad figures, to the extent that with all the unaccustomed topweight 'Duke of York' developed a slight loll against the background of Fujiyama's snow-tipped peak, turning pink as the sun dropped to the horizon.
"Roy Dowling's bottle of champagne was not the only one cracked that evening, and sunset had to be postponed while our guests carefully climbed up to the quarterdeck. When Admiral Fraser arrived the quartermaster reported, 'Sunset, Sir.' The 'still' sounded. The Royal Marine guard presented arms and the band played 'The day Thou gavet Lord is ended', interspersed with the sunset call as only Royal Marine buglers know how. For the first time in six bitter years the White Ensign came down. Many, perhaps most, had never before savoured the magic of this moment when the busy life of a warship is hushed and the evening comes.
"Others of us, standing at the salute, were in tears as we remembered those who would never again see colours in the morning, or hear the bugles sound sunset at dusk. I thought of all those friends in 'Hood' who had come to see me off, and the many, many, others; and in 'Naiad' of old Stoker Petty Officer West lying on the floor of my cabin (his damage control section HQ), bleeding from a terrible wound and saying as we lifted him onto my bunk, 'I've picked up a little puncture, sir. I don't want to mess up your blankets'; of little Stoker Storey arriving at the bottom of the engine room ladder with the teaboat as the torpedo came in; of Stoker Harrison alone in his dynamo room without the companion who had been with him at action stations, and with no escape to the upper deck; of old Lambkin, immured in his steel box with the steering gear. Had he been let out, or had he died as 'Naiad' slid stern first to the sea floor?
"As the White Ensign came into the hands of our chief yeoman and the 'Carry on' sounded, we realised that on board all the great US ships around us every activity had stopped, their sailors facing toward the British flagship and saluting us. Perhaps the special relationship between our two countries was born that evening."
    • Le Bailly, Louis (1990). The Man Around the Engine: Life Below the Waterline. Emsworth, Hampshire: Kenneth Mason. ISBN 0-85937-354-1. 

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