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This monograph was prepared for Derek Banham to assist him in providing information to the Imperial War Museum in connection with an Exhibition to be held in 1996. It was used by him for this purpose but otherwise I wish to retain the Copyright. In particular it relates to the deployment of ships of this Class and gives details of factors which affected the deployment of RN ships in the Dutch East Indies and on the East Indies Station after the end of hostilities with Japan in August 1945.
An Appendix gives some information about the deployment of LOCH Class Frigates and has been prepared from the research into this type of ship using information held in the Naval Historical Branch, Ministry of Defence and the Public Record Office as well as by correspondence and discussions with those who served in this Class of ship during 1945 and 1946. The opinions expressed are my own.
An understanding of the political situation extant in the Dutch East Indies when the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945 is most important if the activities of British warships in that area are to be fully appreciated. An agreement between the British and US Governments had been made to transfer a large part of this extensive area then commanded by General Macarthur to the British South East Asia Command. As a result Britain had significant extra responsibility which would necessitate large scale amphibious operations to free the rich and very densely populated islands in the Dutch East Indies. The military and naval forces available to Admiral Mountbatten were insufficient to undertake such an operation for many months. Within the area of 55,000 square miles there were known to be at least 60 million Indonesian and Chinese as well as 75,000 military and civilian Japanese occupation forces. More importantly there were also many thousands of allied prisoners of war and about 60,000 Dutch nationals interned by the Japanese in 1942. Many of them were women and children. The terrain within the islands of the Dutch East Indies is largely jungle and communications were thus difficult. Operations to disarm Japanese forces were seen to present many problems. The situation was made more complex during the week immediately before the surrender by a Japanese announcement of ' Indonesian independence' A proclamation signed by the Indonesian leaders, Dr. Soekarno and Dr Hatta on 17 August had declared 'transmission of authorities and so on will be executed accurately and in the shortest possible time.' Within a few days this was followed by the announcement of a 'legalised Constitution for the Republic of Indonesia' and the appointment of Dr Soekarno as President. A 'National Committee' was also established. The directives issued by the newly declared authorities to the population to be 'calm, quiet, well disciplined and good' had little value. The indigenous population were totally determined to do all that they could to prevent any re-establishment of Dutch colonial rule.
The lack of sufficient man-power and ships made impossible the immediate landing of an allied force in Java and Sumatra which could effectively deal with this situation. As a matter of expedience it was therefore necessary to place the responsibility for the maintenance of law and order in the hands of the Japanese commanders. They were also charged with the task of ensuring the safety of prisoners of war and internees. The nationalists were able to obtain vast quantities of Japanese arms and transport and carried out widespread insurrection.
British forces landed in Batavia on 29 September and the British Commander Lieut. General Sir Philip Christiansen declared the next day that he would have talks with Dr. Soekarno with whom the Dutch refused to have any dealings. Within a few days the Republicans had seized control of Sourabaya and Bandoeng on the island of Java. By the end of October bands of hot blooded young Indonesians had ambushed and murdered many small groups of British troops and fighting became more bitter and intense. Months of confrontation passed before discussions between the British and Netherlands Governments took place.
It was in this environment that LOCH Class frigates were required to assist in Repatriation of Prisoners of War and civilian Internees (RAPWI). Basically the two Governments agreed that until law and order was restored any negotiations between the Dutch and the Indonesian leaders would be impossible. In the House of Commons the Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin, reiterated the fact that the only purpose of British forces was to carry out rescue work and nothing else.
Preparation for Foreign Service.
Before sailing for the Far East all ships nominated for service with the East Indies Escort Force underwent a refit. Changes were needed to provide an increased defence against aircraft as they posed the greatest threat, rather than submarines as in the Atlantic. Four 'Oerlikon' or 'Bofors' gun mountings were installed on the quarterdeck to give additional protection. Improvements were also made to ventilation and communications arrangements. This work was done mostly in commercial shipyards and took about six weeks in most cases.
Most ships proceeded independently to Trincomalee but in a few instances they escorted other vessels including the Monitor HMS ROBERTS and some Motor Minesweepers as described in the Appendix. Ships of this Class which arrived during August 1945 took part in preparatory exercises for Operation ZIPPER, the assault landings on the west coast of Malaya. These exercises included use of an Ex Italian submarine Only one of the South African LOCH's. HMAS NATAL went to the East Indies and was deployed briefly at Singapore for escort and patrol duties in the Malacca Straits.
Ships Nominated for Duty with East Indies Escort Force
The following table lists those LOCH Class frigates deployed to join the East Indies Escort Force after the end of hostilities with Germany in May 1945. It shows the names of the ships in the sequence of their departure for foreign service and indicates date of return to UK to pay off. Two ships remained on the East Indies Station for some years before being relieved by modernised LOCH Class in 1954. See Appendix for details
Date Left UK
Date Left Duty
NATAL (SANF, ex-Loch Cree) *
* SANS NATAL joined the EIEF after return to South Africa in June 1946.
+ indicates ships retained on East Indies Station after April 1946.
After the end the European war there was a considerable lack of enthusiasm by many members of Ship's companies who were serving for 'Hostilities Only' or for whom the Period of Engagement had expired since September 1939.The prospect of a long period of service in the Far East had no attraction especially to those who had already spent several years at sea in the dangerous and most uncomfortable environment of the North Atlantic defending convoys vital to victory over Germany. The majority of the ships companies of LOCH Class frigates, including some RNVR officers fell into this category. The many accounts given indicate without any doubt that the maintenance of morale was one of the most important considerations for Commanding Officers at this time. The Captain of LOCH KILLISPORT graphically describes his particular situation in an article in THE NAVAL REVIEW which he wrote some years after the war. In this case he was able to identify some of the troublemakers and arrange for changes to be made.
The sudden end to hostilities with Japan made the situation more volatile and great efforts were needed by Officers and Senior ratings to take the lead in maintaining a high standard of morale. It was only by example that this situation could be achieved. The 'Release System' to govern demobilisation of personnel had been devised to ensure the basic premise of 'first in - first out' would be followed irrespective of the part of the world in which personnel were serving. However, like most bureaucratically administered schemes it's implementation was not easily achieved and caused further discontent. The transition from a wartime to a peacetime Service was not going to be easy. The introduction of pre-war practices had to be carefully balanced against the actual circumstances facing each ship.
One compensating factor did play a significant part in the adjustment of ships' companies to this situation. They soon became very aware of the fact that they were far better off than those with whom they were to deal during their stay in the Far East. The sight of returning prisoners of war and of civilian women and children who had suffered great deprivations made clear the comparative affluence of those on board ships. However shipboard conditions were far from ideal. Climatic conditions and some problems in maintaining a fully adequate diet made life on board far from pleasant. Vermin were commonplace despite energetic attempts to carry out de-infestation procedures. The changes made in ventilation were shown to be quite inadequate and air-conditioning was an unknown feature in warships at that time.
The extent of the sympathetic consideration by all on board, especially to the returning internees, gives evidence of the effects of good leadership. Commanding Officers were frequently required to make on the spot decisions which did not always satisfy the shore authorities in Singapore no matter how suitable they were to the circumstances. The overall objectives of the Government policy as declared were achieved in many most difficult situations, due largely to the fact that flexibility was shown by those directly involved. The extent of the instability in the Dutch East Indies was such that officers and ratings were required to deal on a daily basis with dangerous and almost insoluble situations. The fact that they did so with much success should always be recognised.
Common features of Service
LOCHS arriving on the Station in August 1945 escorted the assault convoys which landed near Port Swettenham in September. The troops were ashore safely these ships went to Singapore and were later joined by others which arrived on Station well after VJ Day. The Flag Officer Malayan Area (FOMA) had overall command of ships detached for duty at Singapore. The support facilities were limited until the Dockyard had been prepared for use. Any urgent repair work had to be undertaken by local commercial facilities or necessitated return to Ceylon. The RN dockyard and naval base at Singapore were not fully restored for use until 1947. Japanese PoW were extensively employed to assist in the work.
Ships of the East Indies Escort Force were immediately deployed on a variety of tasks in the Forward area. Amongst these were:-
Escort of military convoys from Indian ports to Malaya, Burma and in Java.
Patrol duty in the Malacca Straits during which they acted as position markers since the normal navigation lights were inoperative.
Duty as Examination ships for inspection cargoes and port entry.
Landings on the west coast of Sumatra at Padang to accept the Japanese surrender.
Transport of Embassy Officials and foreign diplomats to and from Rangoon, Saigon and Bangkok.
Surveillance of coastal waters around Sumatra and Java to prevent their use by rebels for transport of arms and personnel.
Guardship at ports in Java and Sumatra to provide communications facilities and if required to provide naval gunfire support to Army units.
Escort of Landing Craft being used to carry RAPWI (Recovered Prisoners of War and Internees) from Indonesian islands to Singapore.
Air Sea Rescue duties in Bay of Bengal and Gulf of Siam to deal with any emergency situation affecting flights to and from UK.
Inspection of Liberty ships used to transport Japanese troops from the island of Morotai back to Japan. (See below)
Some of these ships had individual experiences out of the normal pattern described above and are fully dealt with in the individual Summaries. Notable events were:-
Surrender of the Japanese Garrison on the Island of Bali (LOCH ECK).
Capture of Japanese Submarine Chasers taken by Indonesian rebels. Japanese officers were embarked under guard for this task (LOCH GLENDHU).
Supervision of scuttling of 2 German submarines(Ul8l and U682) operated with Japanese crews and captured at the surrender of Singapore (LOCH GLENDHU and LOCH
Transport of Dutch officials to islands in the Moluccas Islands sited about 500 miles north of Australia. Two Japanese war criminals were taken back to Singapore (LOCH SCAVAIG and LOCH CRAGGIE)
Several thousands of surrendered enemy troops (SEP) were kept under guard by the Australian Army on this island at the northern tip of the Moluccas. A British Guardship was stationed to support the military force. Amongst the duties of the Senior British Naval Liaison Officer (Captain of the the Guardship) was the inspection of US Liberty ships being used to take the prisoners back to Japan. This was aimed at controlling the numbers embarked and establishing whether the facilities including fuel were within the required standards for this purpose. The numbers carried often exceeded the stipulated figure and a total of 4,000 on one ship was not uncommon. Although good swimming was possible (with risks of ear infection) and Banyans were a regular feature of the stay there were few redeeming features of any Guardship duty at Morotai. Invitations to play cricket and tennis with the Australian Garrison and to use their canteen facilities were gratefully accepted but even these diversions did little to offset the inevitable boredom of such a duty. The Australians were most hospitable and provided a 'Jeep' and a Personnel Landing Craft for the use of the Guardship. Contemporary accounts also speak of shooting at bats (Bugis) and of a trip for a CO in a Catalina aircraft of the RAAF. Film shows formed a completely essential form of relaxation. Their importance in maintaining morale is continually emphasised by accounts of life on board at all times these ships were on foreign service. Skin complaints tended to develop because of the climatic conditions and the somewhat below average diet. All in all Morotai was a good place to see disappearing over the horizon.
By the end of 1946 all LOCH Class frigates nominated for transfer to Reserve had returned to UK. Only LOCH QUOICH and LOCH GLENDHU remained on the East Indies Station for deployment in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. These two ships were refitted at Singapore with docking in Colombo when needed. They were never modernised and had no air conditioning in living spaces. In due course the two ships were relieved by modernised LOCH's and then went into Reserve.
SUMMARY OF SERVICE ON EAST INDIES STATION
Details for each ship (excluding HMS Loch Scavaig) are provided in the chronological order of the ship's departure from UK for service in the East Indies.
H.M.S. L O C H C R E E
Launched at Wallsend by Swan Hunter as LOCH CREE but renamed NATAL in January 1945 after her transfer to the South African Naval Forces (SANF).
East Indies Service
Only SANF ship to serve with the East Indies Escort Force. Based at Singapore and deployed on escort and patrol duties in the Straits of Malacca (Sept 1945). Returned to South Africa (Nov 1945).
H.M.S. L O C H R U T H V E N
Second of three LOCH Class built by Hills at Bristol. Launched in June 1944 by the Duchess of Beaufort.
Refit at Bristol in May 1945 and sailed for Colombo in July.
East Indies Service
Conmanding Officer: Lieut. Commander J A Phillips RN
Operation ZIPPER - Escort of assault convoys from Bombay for Malaya landings (September).
Shipping Control at Penang (Sept 1945).
Patrol and duty 'Lighthouse' Singapore (October). Escort of convoys to Bangkok and other ports (November 1945 and January 1946)
Guardship and aid to military forces at Batavia, Sabang and Palembang (November- December)
Towed MMS19 from Trincomalee to Port Blair, Andaman Islands (February 1946).
Returned to UK to pay off into Reserve at Portsmouth (March).
H.M.S. L O C H L O M O N D
First LOCH built at Dundee by Caledon SB and completed in November 1944.
Refit at Milford Haven (May) and sailed for Colombo (July).
East Indies Service.
Commanding Officer: Lieut. Commander K G Webb RNR
Operation ZIPPER - Port Swettenham landings support (Sept).
Support to military operations in Dutch East Indies. Escort and patrol duties (October).
Patrols off Borneo and escort duties from Kuching and Labuan to Singapore (Nov - Dec).
Guardship duty at Sabang (November).
Indian Ocean escort from Vizgapatan (December).
Escort of Landing Craft from Semarang to Singapore with LOCH CRAGGIE (February 1946).
Escort of Japanese manned German submarine U181 with LOCH GLENDHU for scuttling in Straits of Malacca (February)
Returned to Portsmouth to pay off into Reserve (April 1946).
H.M.S. L O C H K A T R I N E
later as HMNZS Rotoiti (Gerry Wright)
Third LOCH built in Leith by Henry Robb.
Refitted in Londonderry for service with East Indies Escort Force (June - July 1945)
East Indies Service
Commanding Officers: Lieut. Commander Bidwell RNR
Lieut. Commander A C D Leach DSC RN
Took passage with LOCH QUOICH (July 1945).
Escort of assault convoys for Operation ZIPPER (September 1945).
Present at Singapore for re-occupation (September 1945).
Went to Bangkok with Officials (November 1945). Guardship and Patrols from Batavia and Padang (December 1945).
East Coast of India patrol and escort (January 1946).
Air-Sea rescue duty in Indian Ocean. Relieved LOCH ACHRAY (February)
Sailed for UK in company with LOCH TARBERT.
Paid off into Reserve at Portsmouth (April).
H.M.S. L O C H Q U O I C H
Second LOCH completed by Blyth SB and fitted out at Bolckow's Sunderland (November 1944). Embarked party of WRNS during trials in N. Sea.
Refit in Londonderry (May - June 1945)
East Indies Station
Commanding Officer: Lieut. Cdr. J E B Healey RNVR
Sailed for Colombo with LOCH KATRINE (July 1945),
Escorted Operation ZIPPER convoys for Port Swettenham landing . (September).
Patrol and support to military operations in Dutch East Indies (October).
Carried Diplomats to Bangkok (October)
Accompanied Assault Force to Padang for formal surrender of Sumatra (November)
Army units included Lincolnshire Regiment and RM landing craft used. Guardship at Sabang (November).
Escorted Landing Craft carrying RAPWI from Batavian ports and Bali (Nov - Dec).
Rescue trip to Bengkulu (Sumatra) to collect Dutch doctor but had been taken by RAF (December.). Retained on East Indies Station and based at Trincomalee.
Docking in Bombay (Jan.1946).
Air-sea Rescue duties in Indian Ocean off Gwadar with other Frigates (Jan. - March)
H.M.S. L O C H G O R M
Ordered from Harland & Wolff, Belfast. Fitted out at Dalmuir.
Refit at Londonderry for East Indies service (May to July 1945)
East Indies Service
Commanding Officers: Lieut. Commander H Vernon RNR
Lieut. Commander TE Edwards RN
Operation ZIPPER escort duties from Bombay to the Malacca Straits (August).
Dutch East Indies support and Guardship duties in Sourabaya (November).
Transport of RAPWI from Dutch East Indies ports to Singapore.
Minor collision with LOCH LOMOND at Colombo (December).
Visits to Bangkok and Karachi on escort duties (February 1946).
Carried New Governor of Malaya to visit Christmas Island and Cocos Group.
Grounded temporarily on reef and damaged propeller.
Guardship at Batavia (March).
Anti-piracy patrols in Malacca Strait (March).
Sailed for UK to reduce to Reserve at Devonport (May)
H.M.S. L O C H M O R E
Second LOCH built by Caledon SB at Dundee.
Work-up at Tobernory (March 1945).
Refitted on the Clyde and sailed for Trincomalee on 17 July 1946.
East Indies Service
Commanding Officer: Lieut. Commander J Raban-Williams RN
Escort duties and aid to military operations ashore.
Bangkok convoy and returned with LOCH SCAVAIG as escort to QUEEN EMMA (October 1945)
Guardship at Sourabaya (November).
Visited Bangkok with stores (January 1946).
Sent to Bombay after RIN Mutiny with GLASGOW (21 February 1946).
Returned to Singapore (March 1946).
Passage to UK to pay off into Reserve (July 1946).
H.M.S. L O C H G L E N D H U
Third of the Class built by Bumtisland in a build time of 270 days.
Refit at Troon and sailed to join East Indies Escort Force (July 1945).
East Indies Station
Commanding Officer: Commander HL Hayes OBE RN
Escorted Fighter Direction Ship PALOMARES in tow of tug EARNER from Massawa to Aden after
fire damage (August 1945).
Operation ZIPPER convoy defence (September).
Protection of Landing Craft carrying RAPWI to Singapore (October - December).
Guardship duty at Morotai in the Moluccas Group (January 1946).
Sinking of U189 (I501) and U862 operated by Japan and surrendered at the end of Japanese War.
Towed from Singapore by tugs and scuttled in Malacca Straits (February).
H.M.S. L O C H C R A G G I E
First LOCH built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast. Fitted out at Clydebank.
Refit at Cardiff for foreign service.
Emergency docking after collision with tug (June 1945).
Passage to Station (July)
East Indies Station
Commanding Officers: Lieut. Commander C S Battersby RN
Lieut. Commander Davies RNVR
Oerlikon mountings fitted at Alexandria (August 1945).
Operation ZIPPER convoy escort for Malayan coast landings (September 1945.).
Patrol and escort duty in Malacca Straits.
Carriage of goods and personnel in area.
Air Sea Rescue duty in Gulf of Siam.
Guardship duty in Batavia (January 1946).
Repair at Trincomalee (February).
Relieved LOCH SCAVAIG at Morotai (June).
Sailed for UK with LOCH ECK (July 1946)
H.M.S. L O C H T A R B E R T
First of the two LOCH Class completed by Ailsa SB.
Delayed by defects.
Refitted in Liverpool for foreign service and sailed for Colombo in July 1945.
East Indies Station
Commanding Officer: Lieut. Commander WS Thomson OBE RNR.
Deployed at Singapore with East Indies Escort Force (September 1945)
Escort and Patrol duty Support of shore military operations in Java.
Commanding Officer Lieut. Commander M E Impey DSO, DSC RN
Christmas in the Cocos Islands.
Returned to Trincomalee (January 1946).
Dutch East Indies Patrol and Support (February - March).
Sailed from Ceylon to pay off and reduce to Reserve at Portsmouth (April).
H.M.S. L O C H F Y N E
Second of three LOCH Class completed by Bumtisland SB.
Hull stiffening in December 1944.
Refit at Pembroke Dock (June - August).
East Indies Station.
Commanding Officer: Lieut. Commander R F J Moberley RNR
Joined East Indies Escort Force (September).
Indian Ocean Patrol and Air Sea Rescue (October 1945 - February 1946).
Passage to UK (March - April).
Reduced to Reserve at Portsmouth on arrival.
H.M.S. L O C H K I L L I S P O R T
Fourth of Class built at Belfast and fitted out at Dalmuir.
Sailed For East Indies (August 1945).
East Indies Station.
Commanding Officer: Lieut. Commander C C Anderson RN
Escorted MFV's from Aden to Colombo on passage (September 1945).
Collected RAPWI from Batavia and other ports for repatriation (October - November).
Support of operations ashore. Visits and Guardship duties included Bangkok, Batavia,
Semarang, Sourabaya and Johore Baru - see Note. (December 1945 - March 1946).
Rescue of Dutch official and family at Grissee near Sourabaya.
Star shell fired to prevent any reprisal action by Indonesian nationalists (January 1946).
Returned to Trincomalee (March).
Passage to Devonport to pay off (March 1946).
H.M.S. L O C H I N S H
Second LOCH completed at Leith by Robb's.
Refitted by ROBB's at Leith.
Joined East Indies Escort Force in August 1945
East Indies Station
Commanding Officer: Lieut. Commander E M Skinner RN
Provided support for military operations ashore in Java and escort duties in Dutch East Indies.
Relieved by LOCH QUOICH.
Returned to UK via East African ports (May 1946).
Reduced to Reserve at Devonport (June 1946).
H.M.S. L O C H E C K
Built by Smith's Dock at Middlesbrough in November
Refitted at Bristol for service with East Indies Escort Force.
Sailed for Colombo (Aug. 1945)
East Indies Station
Escort of landing craft carrying RAPWI from the Dutch East Indies to Singapore.
Support of military operations ashore (October)
Commanding Officer: Lieut. Commander P J H Hoare RN.
Relieved LOCH SCAVAIG as Guardship at Sourabaya (February 1946).
Acceptance of surrender of Japanese forces at Bali. The senior British representative was Colonel P Kemp, Royal Hussars.
Went to Benoa and Lambuk with Mission from Sourabaya (March)
Collision with Ex USN Coastguard Cutter LANDGUARD at Trincomalee (May).
Returned to UK with LOCH CRAGGIE and LOCH DUNVEGAN (July).
H.M.S. L O C H A C H R A Y
Second and last LOCH built by Smiths Dock, Middlesbrough.
Completed in February 1945.
Refitted for foreign service on the Clyde.
East Indies Service.
Commanding Officers: Lieut. Commander CJ Aldridge RNR
Lieut. Commander H G Chesterman DSC RNR
Lieut. Commander C C Anderson RN (Later Rear Admiral, CB)
Passage to join East Indies Station (Sept-Oct 1945).
Deployed at Padang and in Malacca Straits (Nov-Dec) .
Trincomalee for Xmas.
Dutch East Indies support (Jan 1946).
Air Sea Rescue duty in Indian Ocean for trooping flights (February).
Relieved LOCH GORM off Gwada.
Replaced by LOCH KATRINE Malacca Straits patrol (March).
Returned to Trincomalee (April).
Andamans visit (June) .
Visited Rangoon, Cochin and Penang Batavia.
Collision with LOCH SCAVAIG.
Passage to UK to Pay off (July).
Port Blair visit as reported by Captain.
Note: Visit to Port Blair in the Andamans with formal ceremony which provided a chance to accustom a largely 'Hostilities Only' complement to the nicety of requirements. The newly installed District Commissioner was given the full treatment. On completion the captain decided to take advantage of the chance to stretch his legs on a neighbouring island. As he described later in an article this proved to be more than memorable. He was unaware that this island had been chosen as place of custody for Eurasian women provided as 'comforts' for the Japanese occupation forces. Initially he encountered two serenading naked ladies anxious to resume their activities. They were rapidly joined by many others and his subsequent retreat was made with little concern for dignity or for opportunity. His narrative defies imagination. The ship sailed quickly since it was doubtful whether the ship's company would be quite as circumspect. Subsequent weeks of the commission as Guardship and when carrying out patrol work in Javanese and Sumatran ports presented no similar chances for them.