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March - May 1942

HM S/M Parthian (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

on to June-October 1942


Second Battle of Sirte Gulf (see March 1942, Mediterranean)



MARCH 1942


German Raiders - Raider "Michel" sailed for the South Atlantic and later Indian and Pacific Oceans.

1st-12th, Russian Convoy PQ12 and Return QP8 - By now German battleship "Tirpitz", the ship that dictated Royal Navy policies in northern waters for so long, had been joined in Norway by pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer". The next Russia-bound and return convoys therefore set out on the same day, the 1st, so they could be covered by the Home Fleet with capital ships Duke of York, Renown, King George V and carrier Victorious. On the 4th, cruiser Sheffield was damaged on a mine off Iceland as she sailed to join the cover force. Convoys PQ12 and QP8 passed to the southwest of Bear Island and with "Tirpitz" reported at sea, the Home Fleet tried to place itself between her and the convoys. There was no contact between the surface ships, but on the 9th, aircraft from "Victorious" attacked but failed to hit "Tirpitz" off the Lofoten Islands. Of the 31 merchantmen in two convoys, only one straggler from QP8 was lost to the German force.

20th March-3rd April, Russian Convoy PQ13 and Return QP9 - The next two convoys set out around the 20th, again covered by the Home Fleet. Off North Cape on the 24th "U-655" was rammed and sunk by minesweeper Sharpshooter escorting QP9. Of the 19 merchantmen in this convoy all reached Iceland in safety. PQ13 and its escort, including cruiser Trinidad and destroyers "Eclipse" and "Fury", were scattered by severe gales and heavily attacked. On the 29th three German destroyers encountered the escort north of Murmansk. "Z-26" was sunk, but in the action "Trinidad" was hit and disabled by one of her own torpedoes. As the cruiser limped towards Kola Inlet an attack by "U-585" failed and she was sunk by "Fury". Five of the 19 ships with PQ13 were lost - two to submarines, two to aircraft, and one by the destroyers. "Trinidad" reached Russia.

27th - UK/Middle East troop convoy WS17 was on passage southwest of Ireland. As "U-587" headed for American waters her sighting report was detected and she was sunk by the convoy escort including destroyers "Aldenham", "Grove", "Leamington"" and "Volunteer". This was the first success using HF/DF - ship-borne, high frequency direction-finding.

Battle of the Atlantic - Losses continued at a high rate in US and West Indian waters with over 40 ships sunk in March, many of them valuable tankers. Over the next few months RN and RCN escorts and a RAF Coastal Command squadron were loaned to the Americans. Ten corvettes were also transferred to the US Navy.

Monthly Loss Summary: 98 British, Allied and neutral ships of 547,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes; 1 German destroyer and 5 U-boats, including 2 by US aircraft off Newfoundland.


Combined Operations - Lord Louis Mountbatten was promoted Vice-Adm and appointed Chief of Combined Operations as planning continued for the raids on St Nazaire and later Dieppe. 28th, Raid on St Nazaire - Concerned about the possibility of battleship "Tirpitz" breaking out into the Atlantic, the decision was made to put out of action the only dry-dock in France capable of taking her - the 'Normandie' at St Nazaire. Ex-US destroyer Campbeltown would be loaded with high explosives and rammed into the lock gates while British commandos, carried over in Royal Navy ML's or motor launches landed to destroy the dry-dock installations. The force sailed from southwest England on the 26th, and by a number of ruses penetrated the heavily defended port early on the 28th. In the face of intense fire, "Campbeltown" was placed exactly in position and many of the commandos got ashore to carry out their mission. Losses in men and coastal forces' craft were heavy, but when "CAMPBELTOWN" did blow up, the lock gates were put out of commission for the rest of the war and many Germans killed. + The Victoria Cross was awarded to three members of the Royal Navy taking part - Cdr Robert Ryder RN, Commanding Officer, Naval Forces sailing with his staff on board "MGB-314", Lt-Cdr Stephen Beattie RN, Commanding Officer, HMS Campbeltown, and posthumously to Able Seaman William Savage, gunner on "MGB-314" for gallantry under heavy fire.

15th - Destroyer "VORTIGERN" escorting Forth/Thames convoy FS749, was torpedoed and sunk by E-boat "S-104" off Cromer on the east coast of England.

Monthly Loss Summary: 8 British, Allied and neutral ships of 15,000 tons in UK waters.


RN Submarine Operations - Another submariner won the Victoria Cross. Shortly after, Royal Navy submarines sank three more Axis submarines, all Italian, in the space of four days. HM Submarine Torbay (Cdr Miers) carried out a difficult attack on shipping off Corfu on the 4th and torpedoed two merchantmen. This was only the latest of a number of successful patrols. Cdr Anthony Miers RN was awarded the Victoria Cross. 14th - The first sinking was "MILLO" off Calabria in the Ionian Sea by "Ultimatum". 17th - The second was "GUGLIELMOTTI" also off Calabria, by "Unbeaten" (Lt-Cdr Woodward). 18th - Finally "TRICHECO" went down off Brindisi in the southern Adriatic, torpedoed by "Upholder" (Lt-Cdr Wanklyn).

11th - Adm Vian's cruiser force returned to Alexandria after searching for Axis shipping and covering the passage of cruiser Cleopatra from Malta. North of Sidi Barrani, flagship NAIAD was torpedoed by "U-565" and went down.

Malta Supply - Carriers Eagle and Argus flew off the first Spitfires for Malta from a position south of the Balearic Islands.

22nd, Second Battle of Sirte (see map above) - Adm Vian sailed on the 20th from Alexandria with four fast supply ships for Malta escorted by cruisers Cleopatra, Dido, Euryalus and Carlisle plus destroyers. Seven 'Hunt' class escort destroyers came from Tobruk and as they carried out anti-submarine sweeps ahead of the convoy, "HEYTHROP" was sunk off Sidi Barrani by "U-652". The remaining six joined the convoy to bring the total number of destroyers to 16. Early on the 22nd, Italian battleship "Littorio" with two heavy and one light cruiser plus destroyers headed for the British force. In the early afternoon the Italians were sighted to the north, just off the Gulf of Sirte. Now joined by Penelope and destroyer "Legion" from Malta, Adm Vian had prepared for their arrival: the supply ships with an escort of five 'Hunts' were to stand off to the south, protected by smoke laid by "Carlisle" and the sixth 'Hunt'. The remaining ships were to split into five divisions and hold off the Italians with guns, torpedoes and smoke.

The four main phases of the battle lasted for a total of four hours. For much of this time the convoy was heavily attacked from the air. Starting around 15.00: (1) The three Italian cruisers were driven off in a long-range gunnery duel with the Royal Navy's 5.25in-gunned "Dido" class cruisers. (2) The Italian cruisers returned, this time with "Littorio". A series of attacks out of the smoke by cruisers and destroyers held them off. (3) Contrary to Adm Vian's expectations, the Italians worked around the smokescreen to the west, suddenly appearing only eight miles away. Torpedo attacks by four destroyers were unsuccessful, and "Havock" was disabled by a 15in shell. Then "Cleopatra" and "Euryalus" came out of the smoke firing their 5.25s and launching more torpedoes. (4) The Italian force continued trying to get round the smoke and, in another destroyer torpedo attack, it was "Kingston's" turn to receive a 15in hit. As the Italians turned north and away, the British cruisers went in one last time. By 19.00 the battle was over. The supply ships escorted by 'Hunts' made their separate ways to Malta, followed by damaged "Havock" and "Kingston". Adm Vian's force returned to Alexandria. Just after the battle, severe storms damaged ships of both sides and on the 23rd two of the returning Italian destroyers foundered east of Sicily. Of the convoy, all four transports including the renowned "Breconshire" were lost to air attack, two off Malta and two in harbour before much of their cargo could be off-loaded. As the Hunt class "SOUTHWOLD" stood by "Breconshire" on the 24th, she hit a mine and sank off the island. And on the 26th the returned destroyer "LEGION" and submarine "P-39" were lost in air-raids.

26th - Destroyer "JAGUAR" and the tanker she was escorting to Tobruk were both sunk by "U-652" off Sidi Barrani.

Loss Summary: 4 British or Allied merchant ships of 20,000 tons.


West, Burma - Rangoon, the entry port for the Burma Road, fell on the 8th. Towards the end of the month the Andaman Island group in the Indian Ocean flanking the south of Burma was occupied.

South, Philippines and Dutch East lndies - As the US and Filipinos struggled to hold on to Bataan, Gen MacArthur was ordered to leave for Australia. There he assumed the post of Supreme Commander, South West Pacific. US Adm Nimitz was to command the rest of the Pacific. The Japanese landings on Java went ahead on the 1st and Batavia, the capital of all the DEI, fell. The Allied surrender was agreed on the 9th. On the 12th, northern Sumatra was occupied and the rest of March spent consolidating the Japanese hold throughout the many islands. Japan's southern perimeter had been secured in less than four months. 2nd - Strong Japanese naval forces patrolled the Indian Ocean, south of Java to stop the escape of Allied shipping. Old destroyer "STRONGHOLD" was sunk in action with 8in cruiser "Maya" and two destroyers. 4th - Two days later Australian sloop "YARRA" and the ships she was escorting were also destroyed.

South East, Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, British Solomons Islands - The Bismarck Sea was secured with two series of landings. To the north the Japanese took Manus and other parts of the Admiralty Islands. In northern New Guinea, they landed in the Huon Peninsula at Lae, Salamaua and Finschhafen. When they occupied the northern island of Bougainville, the scene was set for the fierce Solomons Islands battles to come.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 65 merchant ships of 68,000 tons; Pacific Ocean - 98 merchant ships of 184,000 tons.


APRIL 1942


14th - "U-252" attacked UK/Gibraltar convoy OG82 southwest of Ireland and was sunk by sloop "Stork" and corvette "Vetch" of the 36th EG (Cdr Walker). This was one of the first successful attacks using 10cm Type 271 radar. From now on the new radar and HF/DF played an increasing part in the sinking of U-boats. 14th - The US Navy had its first warship success against U-boats when destroyer "Roper" sank "U-85" off the east coast of America.

Russian Convoys - During the month, Russian convoy PQ14 set out from Iceland with 24 ships. Only seven arrived. One was sunk by a U-boat and 16 had to turn back because of the weather. Return convoy QP10 lost four of its 16 ships around the same time, two each to U-boats and aircraft. Towards the end of the month convoys PQ15 and QP11 sailed. Both had cruisers in close support and PQ15 was covered by units of the Home Fleet including battleships King George V and the American "Washington". On the 30th the QP11 cruiser Edinburgh was torpedoed twice by "U-456" and had to turn back for Murmansk. The story of the PQ15 and QP11 convoys is taken up in May

Monthly Loss Summary: 74 British, Allied and neutral ships of 439,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 1 US destroyer mined off Florida; 2 German U-boats.


Air War - Following a successful RAF attack on the old city of Lubeck in March, the 'Baedeker' raids were carried out at Hitler's orders against historic British cities such as Bath and York.

Eastern Front - The Russian counter-offensive in the North and Centre had come to a halt. Territory had been regained but few cities. The Russians maintained their hold on the Kharkov salient in the South. 

Monthly Loss Summary: 14 British, Allied and neutral ships of 56,000 tons in UK waters. 


Mediterranean Fleet - Adm Cunningham relinquished command of his beloved Mediterranean Fleet, and Adm Sir Henry Harwood shortly took over. Adm Cunningham became the Royal Navy's permanent representative on the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington DC. He returned to his old post in February 1943 after commanding the naval forces for Operation 'Torch', the invasion of French North Africa

1st - Submarine "Urge" sank Italian cruiser "BANDE NERE" north of Sicily. This was a welcome success in a month that saw heavy Royal Navy losses including "Urge" herself.

Malta - By now Malta had almost ceased to be of any value as a base for attacking Rommel's supply lines, and most of his transports were getting through. The German and Italian bombing led to the loss, directly and indirectly, of numerous ships including four destroyers and four submarines. They concentrated on cruiser Penelope in dry dock and destroyers "Havock" and "Kingston" both damaged in the Battle of Sirte.

1st - Submarines "P-36" and "PANDORA" were sunk in Malta and others of the 10th Flotilla damaged. "Pandora" had only recently arrived from Gibraltar on a supply trip. 4th - Greek submarine "GLAVKOS" sunk in Malta. 5th - Destroyer "GALLANT" wrecked in Malta. She was badly damaged in January 1941 and had not been repaired. 6th - A number of ships managed to escape. "HAVOCK" tried to reach Gibraltar but ran aground and was wrecked near Cape Bon, Tunisia, where she was later torpedoed by an Italian submarine. Light cruiser Penelope, by now nicknamed HMS 'Pepperpot', got away on the 8th and reached Gibraltar two days later. 9th - Destroyer "LANCE" in dry dock in Malta was badly damaged and never repaired. 11th - Destroyer "KINGSTON" was bombed and sunk in harbour.

14th - 10th Flotilla lost its most famous boat, "UPHOLDER" (Lt-Cdr Wanklyn Victoria Cross). She attacked a convoy northeast of Tripoli and was presumed sunk in the counter-attack by destroyer escort "Pegaso".

Malta Supply continued - As the bombing reached a peak, King George VI awarded the island a unique George Cross on the 16th April. President Roosevelt lent US carrier "Wasp" to ferry nearly 50 Spitfires to the Island. Escort was provided by battlecruiser Renown, cruisers Cairo and Charybdis and six destroyers including two American. Sadly most of the aircraft were destroyed by bombing attacks soon after landing on the 20th. 27th - By this time the 10th Submarine Flotilla had been ordered to leave Malta. "URGE" sailed for Alexandria on the 27th, but failed to arrive.

Monthly Loss Summary: 6 British or Allied merchant ships of 13,000 tons.


5th-9th, Japanese Carrier Attacks on Ceylon - A new Eastern Fleet had been assembled under the command of Adm Sir James Somerville, recently of Force H. The variety of ships were split into two groups. A fast group included battleship Warspite, carriers Indomitable and Formidable, heavy cruisers Cornwall and Dorsetshire, two light cruisers plus destroyers. In the slower group were four 'R' class battleships, old carrier Hermes and some cruisers and destroyers. Two Australian destroyers accompanied each group. As the Ceylon bases of Colombo and Trincomalee were poorly defended and too far forward, Adm Somerville was operating out of the secret base of Addu Atoll in the Maldive Islands, SW of Ceylon. Early in April, two Japanese forces headed into the Indian Ocean. One under Adm Ozawa with carrier "Ryujo" and six cruisers made for the Bay of Bengal and east coast of India. In a matter of days 23 ships of 112,000 tons were sunk. Japanese submarines sank a further five off the Indian west coast. Bad as this threat was, the real one came from the carrier strike force of Adm Nagumo with five Pearl Harbor carriers - "Akagi", "Hiryu", "Soryu", "Shokaku" and "Zuikaku" - plus four battleships and three cruisers.

The Japanese fleet was first sighted on the 4th south of Ceylon, and shipping cleared from the ports. In the morning of the 5th a heavy raid on Colombo sank destroyer "TENEDOS" and armed merchant cruiser "HECTOR". Heavy cruisers CORNWALL and DORSETSHIRE were to the southwest, sailing from Colombo to rejoin the Royal Navy's fast group. Found at noon they soon went to the bottom under a series of aircraft attacks. But Adm Nagumo had not yet finished. As Adm Somerville's two groups searched for the Japanese from a position between Addu Atoll and Ceylon, they circled round to the east. From there, on the 9th, Japanese aircraft found the shipping cleared from Trincomalee and back on its way in. Carrier HERMES, Australian destroyer "VAMPIRE" and corvette HOLLYHOCK were amongst those that soon went down. The Japanese ships left the Indian Ocean, never to return again in force. Not knowing this, the surviving ships of the Royal Navy withdrew - the slow group to Kilindini in East Africa and the fast to the Bombay area.

6th - Indian sloop "INDUS" was bombed and sunk off Akyab on the Arakan coast of Burma.

Philippines, Conclusion - Japanese units made their final push on Bataan and on the 9th, the Americans and Filipinos surrendered. The island fortress of Corregidor held out until the 6th May. Some resistance continued on other Philippines islands. The infamous "Bataan March" of American and Filipino POW's followed.

The Doolittle Raid - American B-25 bombers under the command of Col Doolittle took off from US carrier "Hornet" for the first ever raid on Japan on the 18th. Damage was slight, but the strategic implications were to prove fatal to the Japanese.  

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 31 merchant ships of 154,000 tons; Pacific Ocean - 7 merchant ships of 14,000 tons


Strategic and Maritime Situation - Indian and Pacific Oceans

To the West and South the Japanese had secured their perimeter to plan. They would also do so in the Southwest as the British, together with the Chinese in the northeast, were steadily driven out of Burma. The debate was now whether or not to push out to the Southeast towards Australia and New Zealand, and Eastwards to the United States. Japanese gains had been at little cost, not least on the naval side as can be seen from the losses up to end of April from all causes:

Warship types











2 + 6*






































* 6 battleships sunk at their moorings or damaged.

Now it was the Allies' turn to establish a defence perimeter running from the Hawaiian Islands around to Australia and New Zealand. With most of the ANZAC forces in North Africa, it was left to the Americans to garrison many of the islands needed to protect the supply routes from the US to the two Dominions. By now they were occupying the Line Islands south of Hawaii as well as Samoa, Tonga, New Hebrides and New Caledonia. The Australians were reinforcing Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and New Zealanders landing in Fiji. The "Doolittle Raid" made a decisive impact on Japanese strategy.

The Allies must be kept away from the homeland, so Japanese conquests had to be extended both to the Southeast and East. Landings would be made at Port Moresby to bring Australia within bomber range, the southern Solomons and beyond taken to cut US-Australia supply lines, and Midway Island and the Aleutians occupied to isolate Pearl Harbor. Each of these three moves led to three famous battles - Coral Sea, Guadalcanal, and Midway. Thereafter the Japanese were on the defensive.


MAY 1942


Mexico - On the 22nd, Mexico joined most of the Central American and Caribbean republics in declaring war on the Axis powers.

26th April-7th May, Russian Convoy PQ15 and Return QP11 - PQ15 sailing for Russia suffered misfortune twice, On the 1st, battleship King George V rammed "PUNJABI" one of the escorting destroyers and was then damaged by the latter's depth charges as she went down with heavy loss of life. On the 2nd, minesweeper Seagull and Norwegian destroyer "St Albans" sank Polish submarine "JASTRZAB" in error. Three of the convoy's merchant ships were lost to torpedo aircraft but the remaining 22 reached Murmansk by the 5th. QP11 departed Russia on the 28th April and on the 30th cruiser "Edinburgh" was torpedoed twice by U-boat. As she limped back to Russia, three German destroyers attacked QP11, but only managed to sink a straggler. They found the cruiser on the 2nd. In a series of confused fights amidst snow showers and smokescreens, "Edinburgh" disabled the "Hermann Schoemann" by gunfire, but was then torpedoed for a third time by either "Z-24" or "Z-25". Escorting destroyers "Forester" and "Foresight" were also damaged. Both EDINBURGH and "HERMANN SCHOEMANN" were scuttled on the 2nd. The surviving 12 merchantmen of QP11 got through to Reykjavik, Iceland on the 7th.

14th/15th - Cruiser "Trinidad" (right - NavyPhotos) had been damaged escorting PQ13 in March, and patched up at Murmansk ready for the homeward journey. Escort was now provided by four destroyers and cover by more cruisers, but on the 14th she was heavily attacked from the air and hit by a Ju88 bomber. Fires got out of control and TRINIDAD was scuttled next day in the cold waters north of Norway's North Cape.

German Surface Warships - In addition to aircraft and U-boats, the Germans now had "Tirpitz", "Admiral Scheer", "Lutzow", "Hipper" and nearly a dozen big destroyers at Narvik and Trondheim. With by now continuous daylight throughout the journey, the Admiralty pressed for the convoys to be discontinued until the days shortened. For political reasons they went ahead. Convoys PQ16 and QP12 passed through in May. PQ16 started out for Russian with 35 ships but one returned, six were lost to heavy aircraft attack and one to U-boats. QP12 had one return ship but the other 14 reach Iceland.

Battle of the Atlantic - U-boat strength approached 300 with over 100 operational. A fairly complete convoy system was being introduced off the US east coast from Florida north, but the submarines were now concentrating in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. They could now spend more time on station assisted by 'Milchcow' supply boats. The result was that Allied losses continued at a high rate, especially among tankers. In the North Atlantic, convoy ONS92 lost seven ships in one night to a pack attack.

Monthly Loss Summary: 122 British, Allied and neutral ships of 585,000 tons in the Atlantic from all causes, 2 cruisers, 1 destroyer and 1 submarine; 1 German destroyer, 1 U-boat by US Coast Guard off east coast of America.


13th - German raider “Stier” left Rotterdam for the Channel and operations in the South Atlantic. Off Boulogne she was attacked by RN coastal forces. One MTB was lost, but escorting German torpedo boats “ILTIS” and “SEEADLER” were torpedoed and sunk. “Stier” was free for four months until her eventual sinking.

Eastern Front - In the South, Russian forces attacked from the salient below the Ukrainian city of Kharkov and made some progress, but the Germans counter-attacked and soon encircled and captured the Russians. The Germans pushed on beyond Kharkov ready for the main Spring offensive.

Air War - On the last night of the month, RAF Bomber Command scraped together enough aircraft for its first 1,000-bomber raid. Cologne was the target. Essen and Bremen followed in June.

Monthly Loss Summary: 14 British, Allied and neutral ships of 59,000 tons in UK waters.


2nd - Two U-boats were lost to the Royal Navy at opposite ends of the Med. On the 2nd, east of Gibraltar, "U-74" was sunk by destroyers "Wishart" and "Wrestler" and RAF aircraft of No 202 Squadron. 28th - "U-568" attacked Tobruk supply traffic, was hunted down and sunk by destroyer "Hero", and escort destroyers "Eridge" and "Hurworth".

8th - Submarine "OLYMPUS" sailed from Malta for Gibraltar with many passengers including the crews of bombed boats "P-36" and "P-39". Just off Grand Harbour she hit a mine laid by German E-boats and went down with heavy loss of life.

Malta - USS Wasp and the "Eagle" flew off a further 60 Spitfires to Malta on the 9th. More were ferried in by "Eagle" and "Argus" a week or so later. This time they were kept safe on arrival.

11th/12th - Destroyers "Jackal", "Jervis", "Kipling" and "Lively" left Alexandria to search for reported Axis shipping bound for Benghazi. There was no fighter cover. On being sighted they turned back, but north of Sidi Barrani (yet again) were attacked by a specially trained anti-shipping group of German Ju88s. "KIPLING" and "LIVELY" were sent to the bottom that evening, and "JACKAL" scuttled on the 12th. Only "Jervis" with 630 survivors reached Alexandria.

North Africa - From Gazala, Gen Rommel started the second phase of his advance towards Egypt on the 26th with a main attack around Bir Hakeim. Shortly afterwards, heavy fighting broke out between there and Gazala around the areas known as the 'Cauldron' and 'Knightsbridge'.

29th - In a series of attacks on convoys bound for North Africa, submarine "Turbulent" (Cdr Linton) sank three transports in May and on the 29th torpedoed and sank escorting Italian destroyer "PESSAGNO" northwest of Benghazi.

Monthly Loss Summary: 6 British or Allied merchant ships of 21,000 tons.


8th, Landings at Diego Saurez, Madagascar: Operation 'Ironclad' - Concerned about the Japanese carrier sorties into the Indian Ocean and the vulnerability of the Cape of Good Hope/Middle East convoy routes, Britain decided to take Diego Saurez at the north end of Vichy French Madagascar. Under the command of Rear-Adm E. N. Syfret (recently appointed to Force H), a large force of ships including battleship Ramillies and carriers Indomitable and Illustrious assembled at Durban, South Africa towards the end of April. The assault took place on 5th May in Courrier Bay to the west of Diego Saurez. As usual the Vichy French forces resisted strongly. Submarine "BEVEZIERS" was sunk, but the only Royal Navy casualty was corvette "AURICULA" mined on the 5th. The advance on Diego Saurez was held up and next day a Royal Marine unit stormed the town from the sea. By the 7th the fighting was over and the important anchorage was in British hands. On the 7th and 8th, French submarines "LE HEROS" and "MONGE" were sunk by joint air and sea attacks. On the night of the 30th, Japanese submarines "I-16" and "I-20" launched midget submarine attacks on Diego Saurez. Ramillies was torpedoed and badly damaged, and a tanker sunk. By September the complete occupation of Madagascar became necessary.

Burma - On 29th April, Lashio was captured by the Japanese and the Burma Road cut in the north. Supplies for China now had to be flown over high mountains known as the 'Hump' for nearly three years until a new road was finally completed in early 1945. Mandalay fell on the 1st and by mid-month the retreating British Army was crossing the border into India. Chinese forces were also back in China as well as India. With the conquest of Burma, Japan's western defence line was in place.

Papua New Guinea and British Solomon Islands - Sailing from Rabaul, a Japanese invasion force headed for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea covered by light carrier "Shoho" and cruisers. Distant cover was given by a carrier strike force of two fleet carriers. From the Coral Sea, aircraft of US carriers "Lexington" and "Yorktown", with a support group including Australian cruisers Australia and Hobart searched for them. First success in the Battle of the Coral Sea went to the Americans on the 7th when their planes sank "SHOHO" off the eastern tip of New Guinea. Next day, on the 8th, more aircraft strikes put fleet carrier "Shokaku" out of action on one side and sank "LEXINGTON" and damaged "Yorktown" on the other. A draw in naval terms, the battle was a strategic defeat for the Japanese as the invasion ships turned back, leaving Port Moresby, so close to the north tip of Australia, safe for now. Throughout the battle, neither side's ships sighted each other - the first time in naval history such a major action had taken place. Before the battle started, the Japanese took the opportunity to occupy a small island called Tulagi in the southern Solomons, close to a larger island known as Guadalcanal.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 4 merchant ships of 22,000 tons; Pacific Ocean - 5 merchant ships of 17,000 tons


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