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Part 1 of 2 - 1939-1942

HMS Prince of Wales at Singapore in late 1941 (Maritime Quest, click to enlarge)

on to Part 2, Indian Ocean & SE Asia, 1943-45


Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

(for more ship information,  go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)






3rd - Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcasts to announce that Britain was at war with Germany. France, Australia, New Zealand and India (through the Viceroy) declared war the same day. 6th - South Africa declared war.


German Heavy Warships - Pocket battleship "Graf Spee" claimed four more merchant ships in the South Atlantic before heading into the southern Indian Ocean. Seven Allied hunting groups were formed in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean to search for her. In total the Royal and French Navies deployed three capital ships, four aircraft carriers and 16 cruisers.




British Empire Troop Movements - By early 1940 Australian, Indian and New Zealand forces were on their way to Egypt and the Middle East. Troop convoys were always heavily escorted, and the Dominion Navies played an important part in protecting the men as they left their home shores. Australian and New Zealand cruisers were particularly active in the Indian Ocean.

MARCH 1940

German Raiders -Converted from a merchantman and heavily armed, auxiliary cruiser “Atlantis” sailed for the Indian Ocean round the Cape of Good Hope. In 1941 she moved into the South Atlantic, and operations lasted for a total of 20 months until her loss in November 1941. She was the first of nine active raiders, seven of which went out in 1940. Their success was not so much due to their sinkings and captures - a creditable average of 15 ships of 90,000 tons for each raider, but the disruption they caused in every ocean. At a time when the Royal Navy was short of ships, convoys had to be organised and patrols instituted in many areas. The first German raider was not caught until May 1941 - 14 months from now.

Steps to War with Japan - Japan established a Chinese puppet-government in Nanking.

APRIL 1940

German Raiders - “Orion” sailed for the Pacific and Indian Oceans around South America's Cape Horn. She was out for 16 months before returning to France.

MAY 1940

German Raiders - On her way into the Indian Ocean, “Atlantis” laid mines off South Africa.

JUNE 1940

German Raiders - “Pinguin” left for the Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope, later operated in the Antarctic and was finally lost in May 1941.

Italy Declared War - Italy declared war on Britain and France on the 10th. Two weeks later France was out of the war. Still on the 10th, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa declared war on Italy.

Italian East Africa and Red Sea Area - see East Africa & Near East for the complete campaign. However actions taking place in the Indian Ocean as well as operations involving Indian and East/South African forces are included here: 19th - At the southern end of the Red Sea, the Italian “GALILEO GALILEI” on patrol off Aden was captured by armed trawler “Moonstone” following a gun duel. 23rd - Also in the Gulf of Aden, but off French Somaliland, Italian boat “EVANGELISTA TORICELLI” was sunk by destroyers “Kandahar” and “Kingston” with sloop “Shoreham”. During the action, destroyer “KHARTOUM” suffered an internal explosion and sank in shallow water off Perim Island, a total loss. 23rd - Italian submarine “Galvani” sank Indian patrol sloop “PATHAN” in the Indian Ocean. 24th - The following day off the Gulf of Oman, “GALVANI” was accounted for by sloop “Falmouth”.

Mediterranean Merchant Shipping War - Losses in the Mediterranean throughout the war would generally be low as most Allied shipping to and from the Middle East was diverted around the Cape of Good Hope and through the Indian Ocean.

Steps to War with Japan, June/July - With its possession of the Chinese ports, Japan wanted to close the remaining entry points into China. Pressure was put on France to stop the flow of supplies through Indochina, and on Britain to do the same with the Burma Road. Both complied, but Britain did so only until October 1940, when the road was reopened.

JULY 1940

German Raiders - Only 11 months before German attacked Russia, “Komet” sailed for the Pacific through the North East Passage across the top of Siberia with the aid of Russian icebreakers. She operated in the Pacific and Indian Oceans until returning to Germany in November 1941, the last of the first wave of surface raiders to leave Germany.


Steps to War with Japan - Vichy France finally agreed to the stationing of Japanese troops in northern Indochina.


German Surface Warships - Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" sailed from Germany for the Atlantic and later Indian Oceans. She got back home in March 1941.


German Raiders - "Kormoran" was the first of the second wave of raiders to leave for operations. She started in the central Atlantic and later moved to the Indian Ocean, where she was lost in November 1941.

Indian Ocean Merchant Shipping Losses, April to December 1940
Total 24 British and Allied ships of 173,000 tons lost




German Raiders - Six of the original seven raiders were still at sea including "Atlantis" at the desolate island of Kerguelen in the southern Indian Ocean and "Pinguin" in the Antarctic. All six moved to different areas over the next few months.

East Africa - The British and Dominion campaign started to drive out the Italians from East Africa. Eritrea in the north was invaded from the Sudan by largely Indian forces, while East African and South African troops attacked Italian Somaliland from Kenya to the south.


German Heavy Warships - Heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" and battlecruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" were out in the Atlantic. Meanwhile pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" in the Indian Ocean operated successfully off Madagascar before preparing to return to Germany.

East Africa - In the north the Indian advance into Eritrea was held up for most of February and March by the Battle for Keren. In the south, the Italian Somaliland capital of Mogadishu was captured on the 25th, after which British forces advanced northwest into Ethiopia. The East lndies Command under Vice-Adm R. Leatham continually supported the land campaign. 27th - After breaking out of Massawa, Eritrea's Red Sea port, Italian armed merchant cruiser "RAMB 1" was located off the Indian Ocean Maldive Islands and sunk by New Zealand cruiser "Leander"

MARCH 1941

East Africa - British forces were transported from Aden to Berbera in British Somaliland on the 16th. From there, they advanced southwest into southern Ethiopia. To the north, Keren fell to the attacking Indian troops and the road was opened to the Eritrean capital of Asmara and Red Sea port of Massawa.

APRIL 1941

German Raiders - Pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" got back to Germany after five months in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans credited with 16 ships of 99,000 tons.

Middle East - A pro-German coup in Iraq on the 1st threatened Allied oil supplies. British and Indian units were entering the country through the Persian Gulf by the middle of the month.

East Africa - On the Red Sea coast of Italian East Africa, the capture of Eritrea was completed when Asmara was occupied on the 1st and the port of Massawa on the 8th. Two days earlier, Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, had been taken. Italian resistance continued mainly in the north of the Ethiopia. Four Italian submarines managed to escape from Massawa and eventually reached Bordeaux, France after sailing down the Indian Ocean and round Africa.

Steps to War with Japan - Five Year Neutrality Pact between Japan and Russia benefited both powers. Russia could free troops for Europe and Japan concentrate on her expansion southwards.

MAY 1941

8th - On patrol north of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, heavy cruiser "Cornwall" found and sank German raider "PINGUIN". This was the first raider to be hunted down, having accounted for 28 ships of 136,000 tons.

JULY 1941

Steps to War with Japan - The demand for bases in southern Indochina was now conceded by Vichy France. Britain, Holland and the United States protested and froze Japanese assets, but the troops went in. The Dutch East lndies cancelled oil delivery arrangements and the Americans shortly imposed their own oil embargo. Japan had lost most of its sources of oil.


German Raiders - "Orion" returned to France from the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope. In 16 months she had accounted for 9 1/2 ships of 60,000 tons, some in co-operation with "Komet".

Middle East - The possibility of a pro-Axis coup d'etat led to Anglo-Soviet forces going into Persia on the 25th from points in Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Russia. A cease-fire was announced within four days, but later violations led to Teheran being occupied in the middle of September. The landings in Persia from the Gulf were made from a small force of British, Australian and Indian warships of the East ladies Command.


Steps to War with Japan - Japan and the US continued to negotiate over their differences, but as its oil stocks rapidly declined Japan accelerated preparations for war.


Steps to War with Japan - War Minister Gen Tojo became Japanese Prime Minister.

Also in October, Australia saw the fall of the Country Party of former Prime Minister Robert Menzies who resigned earlier in August. John Curtin and the Labour Party came to power.


3rd - The recently completed fleet carrier "Indomitable" ran aground and was damaged off Kingston, Jamaica. She was due to accompany capital ships "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse" to the Far East as a deterrent to Japanese aggression. Her absence in December may have proved fatal to the two big ships.

19th - Far across the Indian Ocean off Western Australia, the Australian cruiser "Sydney" came across German raider "Kormoran". Apparently caught unawares, "SYDNEY" was mortally damaged and lost without trace. "KORMORAN" also went down. In a cruise lasting 12 months she had sunk or captured 11 other ships of 68,000 tons.

Steps to War with Japan - As talks dragged on and the United States demanded the departure of Japan from China as well as French Indochina, the Pearl Harbor Strike Force sailed into the North Pacific. Britain's limited naval deterrent to Japanese expansion, capital ships "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse" met at Colombo, Ceylon on the 28th, en route to Singapore. Without the fleet carrier "Indomitable" they had no ship-borne aircraft support.



Strategic and Naval Background - Indian Ocean

Britain and Dominions - Responsible for defending India, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, northern Borneo, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, the Papua New Guinea/Bismarck Archipelago/Solomon Islands chain, and numerous island groups throughout the Indian Ocean and Central and South Pacific. Few forces could be spared from existing war zones to protect this vast spread of territory and its supply routes. Britain's main base was at Singapore with its two recently arrived big ships. Three old cruisers and some destroyers were in Malayan waters, and a few old destroyers at Hong Kong. By now the surviving seven cruisers and smaller ships of the Royal Australian and New Zealand Navies were back in the area.

Japan went to war with both the strategic and military advantages:

Strategically -

Japan was well placed to occupy the territory needed for the defence perimeter covering the Indian Ocean approaches:


To the Southwest:

Thailand and Malaya would soon fall to the invading forces from Hainan and Indochina. Thereafter the capture of Burma could proceed smoothly. The Burma Road would be cut, India threatened, and that perimeter was secured.

In the South:

Lay the oilfields of the Dutch East Indies and the protection offered by the island chain of Sumatra, Java and Bali through to Timor.


The main island of Java was the target of two massive pincer movements:

Westwards - From Indochina to northern Borneo, and later direct to Sumatra and Java.

Eastwards - From bases in Formosa and the Carolines to the Philippines. From there to southern Borneo, Celebes and Moluccas, and on to Timor and Bali. Then to eastern Java.

Declarations and Outbreak of War - Because of the International Dateline, events that took place on the 7th in Hawaii as far as Washington and London were concerned, were already into the 8th in Hong Kong and Malaya. By the 8th: (1) Japan had declared war on Britain and the US; (2) Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Holland, the United States had declared against Japan; and (3) China declared war against the Axis powers.

South West - Thailand, Malaya, Burma - Japanese forces landed on the Kra Isthmus of Thailand and northeast Malaya on the 8th. From there they drove down the west coast of Malaya towards Singapore, outflanking the defences by land and sea. Follow-up landings took place later in the month and in January 1942. By the 13th December they had crossed from Thailand into the southern tip of Burma, but stayed there for the time being.

10th - Loss of “Repulse” and “Prince of Wales”: the Sinking of Force Z - By the 8th, the battlecruiser and battleship had assembled at Singapore as Force Z under the command of Adm Sir Tom Phillips. That evening they sailed with four destroyers to attack the Japanese landing on the northeast Malay coast. Fighter cover was requested but not readily available. In the evening of the 9th, Force Z was well up into the South China Sea. Japanese aircraft were spotted and Adm Phillips decided to return. Around midnight he received a false report of landings at Kuantan, further down the Malay Peninsular and set course for there. The ships had by now been reported by a submarine, and a naval aircraft strike force was despatched from Indochina. Attacks started around 11.00 on the 10th December, and in less than three hours “PRINCE OF WALES” and “REPULSE” had been hit by a number of torpedoes and sent to the bottom. Nearly a thousand men were lost, but 2,000 were picked up by the destroyers.

Following the Pearl Harbor attack, not one of the Allies' 10 battleships in the Pacific area remained in service.

South - Northern Borneo and Philippines Islands - The first landings in northern Borneo took place in Sarawak and Brunei on the 16th December, and continued through until late January 1942. In the Philippines, the island of Luzon was the main target. Between the 10th and 22nd, landings were made in the north of the island, in the south, and at Lingayen Gulf in the west. The Japanese forces made a combined drive on the capital of Manila, which was declared an open city. They entered on 2nd January 1942 by which time preparations were being made to attack Gen MacArthur's US and Filipino troops now withdrawn into the Bataan Peninsular just to the west of Manila. The southern island of Mindanao was invaded on 20th December 1941.

Indian Ocean Merchant Shipping Losses, January to December 1941
Total 20 British and Allied ships of 73,000 tons lost




Arcadia Conference - In late December and early January, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt with their Chiefs of Staff met in Washington DC. They agreed to the setting up of a Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee and to the defeat of Germany as the first priority, Japan second.

Allied Command - Early in the month, Gen Wavell was appointed to command ABDA (American, British, Dutch, Australian) forces responsible for holding Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.

West - Malaya and Burma - In their drive on Singapore, the Japanese captured Kuala Lumpur on the 11th. To the north they crossed into southern Burma from the Kra Isthmus on the 15th, and on the 20th started the invasion of Burma from central Thailand. Thailand shortly declared war on Britain and the United States. On the last day of January, the retreating British, Australian and Indian troops withdrew into Singapore Island, having been driven down the length of the Malay Peninsula. By then carrier "Indomitable" had flown off 48 Hurricanes for Singapore via Java.

South - Philippines and Dutch East lndies - As the US and Filipinos were slowly pushed into Bataan, the Japanese began the invasion of the Dutch East lndies from southern Philippines. First landings took place on the 11th at Tarakan in Borneo and in the Celebes. More followed later in the month, but which time they had reached the Moluccas in the drive south towards Java.

17th - Japanese submarine "I-60" tried to pass through the Sunda Strait for the Indian Ocean. She was located and sunk by destroyer "Jupiter" escorting a convoy to Singapore.

20th - Submarine "I-124" minelaying off Darwin, northern Australia, was sunk by Australian minesweepers "Deloraine", "Katoomba", "Lithgow" and US destroyer "Edsall".

27th - Two old destroyers, "Thanet" and Australian "Vampire" attack well-protected troop transports off Endau, southeast Malaya. "THANET" was sunk by the 5.5in cruiser "Sendai" and destroyers.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 13 merchant ships of 46,000 tons


West - Malaya, Singapore and Burma - On the 8th, Japanese forces started crossing over to Singapore Island. Heavy fighting took place, but by the 15th Singapore surrendered and over 80,000 mainly Australian, British and Indian troops were doomed to captivity. Many would not survive. The Allies had lost the key to South East Asia and the South West Pacific. In Burma the Japanese pushed on towards Rangoon. 12th - Light cruiser "Durban" was damaged in bombing attacks off Singapore. 14th - Attempting to escape to Batavia, auxiliary patrol ship "LI WO" with a single 4in gun attacked a troop convoy south of Singapore and was soon sunk by a Japanese cruiser. Commanding officer Lt Thomas Wilkinson RNR was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

South - Dutch East lndies - The two-pronged advance on Java continued with airborne landings on Palembang in southern Sumatra on the 14th, followed up by landings from the sea one day later by forces carried from Indochina. A few days later the islands of Bali and Timor were invaded from the Celebes and Moluccas respectively. The scene was set for the conquest of Java.

27th February-1st March - Battles of the Java Sea - ABDA's main naval force was commanded by the Dutch Adm Doorman and consisted of a mixed squadron of cruisers and destroyers for the defence of Java: heavy cruisers "Exeter" and the US "Houston" (above - Maritime Quest), light cruisers "Perth" (Australian), "De Ruyter" and Java" (both Dutch), and destroyers "Electra", "Encounter", "Jupiter", plus two Dutch and four American. They put to sea on the 26th on the news that invasion convoys were approaching. Failing to find them they headed back to Surabaya the next day, but before getting in, more reports arrived and the Allied force went out again towards a position to the northwest. The main battle started on the 27th at around 16.00 against the two heavy, two light cruisers and 14 destroyers covering the Japanese transports. Both Allied heavies opened fire at long range, but "Exeter" was soon hit and her speed reduced. In the resulting confusion one of the Dutch destroyers was torpedoed and sunk. As "Exeter" returned to Surabaya with the second Dutch destroyer, the Royal Navy destroyers went in to attack and "ELECTRA" was sunk by gunfire. Adm Doorman headed back south towards the Java coast and sent off the US destroyers to refuel. He then turned to the north with his remaining four cruisers and two British destroyers. By now it was late evening and "JUPITER" was lost probably on a Dutch mine. "Encounter" picked up survivors from the first Dutch destroyer and shortly followed the Americans to Surabaya. The four cruisers, now without any destroyers, were in action sometime before midnight and both "DE RUYTER" and "JAVA" were blasted apart by the big Japanese torpedoes. "Perth" and "Houston" made for Batavia, further west along the north coast of Java. The next evening, on the 28th, "Perth" and "Houston" left Batavia and sailed west for the Sunda Strait to break through to the Indian Ocean. From Surabaya three of the US destroyers went east and eventually reached safety through the shallow Bali Strait. "Exeter's" draught was too great for this route and the damaged cruiser had to make for the Sunda Strait accompanied by destroyer "Encounter" and US destroyer "Pope".

28th/1st March - BattIe of the Sunda Strait - Late that evening "PERTH" and "HOUSTON" ran into the Japanese invasion fleet in the Strait and attacked the transports. They were soon overwhelmed by the gunfire and torpedoes of the covering cruisers and destroyers and sank in the opening minutes of the 1st March. A Dutch destroyer following astern suffered the same fate.

Later on the morning of the 1st March "EXETER", "ENCOUNTER" and "POPE" fought a lengthy action with a cruiser force to the northwest of Surabaya before they too succumbed.

Of the entire Allied force, only three old US destroyers managed to get away.

Australia - Aircraft from four of the Pearl Harbor Strike carriers raided Darwin, Northern Territories on the 19th. One American destroyer and a number of valuable transports were lost.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 18 merchant ships of 38,000 tons

MARCH 1942

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

West - Burma - Rangoon, the entry port for the Burma Road, fell to the Japanese 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 Java landings 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 was 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 the 8in cruiser "Maya" and two destroyers. 4th - Two days later Australian sloop "YARRA" and the ships she was escorting were also destroyed.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 65 merchant ships of 68,000 tons

APRIL 1942

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 other 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 continues on other Philippines islands. The infamous "Bataan March" of American and Filipino POW's followed.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 31 merchant ships of 154,000 tons

Strategic and Maritime Situation - Indian and Pacific Oceans

To the west and south the Japanese had secured their perimeter to plan. They also did 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 coan 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.

MAY 1942

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 submarines for 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 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.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 4 merchant ships of 22,000 tons

JUNE 1942

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 18 merchant ships of 90,000 tons

JULY 1942

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 9 merchant ships of 47,000 tons


Indian Ocean - Adm Somerville's Eastern Fleet carried out diversionary moves in the Indian Ocean at the time of the Guadalcanal landings by the US Marine Corps in the Pacific. But he was continually losing ships to other theatres and by month's end was down to battleships "Warspite", "Valiant", carrier "Illustrious" and a few cruisers and destroyers. There were also few escorts.

Merchant Shipping War - By this time Japanese submarines were appearing in the Indian Ocean and taking a steady toll of Allied shipping, sometimes accompanied by atrocities against ship's survivors. Until the end of 1944 they were joined for various periods by German U-boats, sometimes direct from Europe and at other times operating out of Penang on the west coast of Malaya.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 1 merchant ship of 5,000 tons


Madagascar - Britain decided to occupy the rest of the Vichy French island. Starting on the 10th, British, East African and South African troops were landed through the month at points in the northwest, east and southwest. By the 23rd the capital, Tananarive, was captured but fighting continued into October. The Vichy French did not surrender until early November, by which time they had been driven down into the extreme southeast corner of the large island.

23rd - Australian troops were carried to the occupied island of Timor by Australian destroyer "VOYAGER" to strengthen the Sparrow Force guerrilla unit. She ran aground on the south coast, bombed by the Japanese and had to be destroyed.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 6 merchant ships of 30,000 tons


Burma - In the First Arakan Campaign a limited offensive was launched from India to take Akyab. By year's end the British and Indian forces were still short of their objective.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean - 11 merchant ships of 64,000 tons


11th - Action of the "Bengal" and "Ondina" - Two Japanese raiders armed with 6in guns attacked the Dutch tanker "Ondina" (one 4in gun) and her escort, the Royal Indian navy minesweeper "Bengal" (single 12pdr) commanded by Lt-Cdr W. J. Wilson RINR to the southwest of the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. "Bengal" hit "HOKOKU MARU" which shortly blew up. The other raider soon disappeared. Both Allied ships were damaged and separated, but reached port safely after this small ship action which ranked with the sinking of the "Stier" by the "Stephen Hopkins" just two months earlier.

Merchant Shipping War - A few Japanese submarines continued to operate in the Indian Ocean and were now joined by a number of German U-boats on patrol off the east coast of South Africa.

Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean only - 23 merchant ships of 131,000 tons


Monthly Loss Summary: Indian Ocean only - 6 merchant ships of 29,000 tons


on to Part 2, Indian Ocean & SE Asia, 1943-45
to Campaigns of World War 2

revised 8/7/11