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(Note: These are Not War Diaries - please read Introduction)


Transcribed by Don Kindell

HMS Hermes, aircraft carrier, in 1934, Lost in Indian Ocean April 1942
(Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

on to Eastern Fleet, April to June 1942
back to Admiralty War Diaries


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


China, East Indies, Australia & New Zealand Stations September 1939 to March 1942

  Areas of Operations (click to enlarge). Only some locations in text are shown  

Click for Convoy Route Codes, Operation Code Names and Royal Navy  Minelaying




by Don Kindell


The Eastern Fleet War Diary from 1 April to 18 June 1942 and December 1942 to December 1943, inclusive has already been added and follows this page.


The period 19 June to 30 November is NOT covered in my War Diary collection. However, I do have the “REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS” from the Office of the British Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet. You will find much of the information as was given in the War Diaries and in addition valuable insights into the decision making of the Eastern Fleet.


The Report of Proceedings from the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet was made to the Secretary of the Admiralty on an irregular basis ranging from less than a fortnight to six weeks, pending on activities in the Command.


Also included is the War Despatch of Vice Admiral G.S. Arbuthnot of 16th June 1942, covering 1 March to 18 April 1942 and two partial War Diaries for October and November 1942 which only have Part II and the Appendices.


I apologise for missing pages and missing issues. Working with the sources directly it is always dismaying to find pages ripped out of a report or entire issues not being in the bound volume, leaving one to wonder if they had been misfiled, lost, or stolen.


In this regard, the detailed report for Operation STREAM-LINE-JANE is not included in the ROP dated 17th October 1942. I have given the applicable paragraphs from the WAR AT SEA by G.H. Hurford, written in 1945.


 Thank you.




Contents List




29th March to 13th April 1942 

13th April 1942 to 1st May 1942

2nd May to 10th May 1942

10th May to 5th June 1942 - Narrative

5th June to 1st July 1942 - Narrative

1st July to 18th August 1942

18th August to 30th September 1942 - Narrative

10th October to 6th November 1942


War Diary of Eastern Fleet for the Month of October 1942 - Narrative

Appendix I to War Diary, October 1942 Operation Demcat

Appendix II to War Diary October 1942 A/S Operation 30th October – 1st November

Appendix III to War Diary, October 1942 Madagascar Operations


War Diary (November 1942) - Part II Narrative



Operations Stream Line Jane, September 1942

 War Despatch, Colombo, 18th June 1942





Office of the British Naval Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet

18th April 1942


No. 4. S/4682.

The Secretary of the Admiralty

 (copies to: Commander in Chief Ceylon.

               Commander in Chief East Indies







Be pleased to lay before Their Lordships the following report of the operations of the Eastern Fleet from Sunday 29th March to Monday 13th April.


Sunday, 29th March


2. Fleet was disposed as follows;






At Addu Atoll: RESOLUTION (wearing flag of Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Eastern Fleet), RAMILLIES, ROYAL SOVEREIGN, INDOMITABLE (wearing flag of Rear Admiral Boyd), NAPIER, NORMAN, NIZAM, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, GRIFFIN, DECOY, and ISAAC SWEERS


            (n.b. a tear and foldover on page in copying obscured paragraph 3 entirely.)


4. It appears to me the enemy’s probable target was an air attack on Colombo and/or Trincomalee and probably a simultaneous attack on both ports. Possible methods of attack were:


(a). A moonlight attack followed by a moonlight landing on the carriers.


(b). A moonlight attack followed by a dawn landing on the carriers.


(c). A daylight attack.


I considered (b) the most probable as I thought the Japanese would use to advantage the full moon for attacking their easily distinguishable targets in spite of the fact that noon of their previous attacks had been at night. The landing on after dawn would facilitate the recovery of aircraft.


5. The enemy could approach Ceylon from the north-east, from the east, or from the south-east, to a position equidistant 200 miles from Colombo and Trincomalee. I considered an approach from the south-east most probable. This would enable to enemy to fly off aircraft between 0200 and 0400 and, after carrying out bombing attacks on Colombo and Trincomalee, allow the aircraft to return and fly on after the first light (about 0530); forces could then withdraw at high speed to the eastward. I was assuming that the Japanese carrier borne bombers could have approximately the performance of our Albacores.


6. My plan was therefore to concentrate the Battlefleet, carriers, and all available cruisers and destroyers and to rendezvous on the evening of the 31st March in a position from which the fast division (Force A, consisting of WARSPITE, INDOMITABLE, FORMIDABLE, CORNWALL, EMERALD, ENTERPRISE, and 6 destroyers) could intercept the enemy during the night of 31st March/1st April and deliver a night air attack. The remainder (Force B, consisting of RESOLUTION, REVENGE, RAMILLIES, ROYAL SOVEREIGN, HERMES, DRAGON, CALEDON, and destroyers) to form a separate force and to manoeuvre so as to be approximately 20 miles to the westward of Force A. If Force A intercepted a superior force, I intended to withdraw towards Force B.


7. On the supposition that the enemy adopted that I considered to be his most probably plan, it was certain that he would have air reconnaissance out ahead on 31st March. The success of my plan depended on my force not being sighted by enemy air reconnaissance. The selection of a rendezvous was therefore governed by the foregoing consideration and also by the following factors:


a). WARSPITE had to proceed from Trincomalee to Colombo to refuel and embark myself and staff.


b). The necessity to conserve fuel in Force B owing to the low endurance of the R Class. I therefore decided to fix this rendezvous in position 4-40N, 81E at 1600 on 31st March.


8. Although it was considered probable that the enemy would approach Ceylon from a south-easterly direction it was possible for him to do so from any directions between north-east and south-west though south. It was therefore desirable to cover all these possible approaches by long distance air patrols over the whole sector. The number of Catalina aircraft available was 6 plus one reserve; which meant that only 3 Catalinas would be on patrol at a time. This limited the sector which could be covered efficiently and I therefore selected the enemy’s most probable direction of approach, viz. from the south-east.


Patrols were arranged daily from 31st March onward to cover an approach section from 110 degrees to 154 degrees to a depth of 420 miles from Colombo. This could only be maintained for approximately 3 days and would then have to be reduced in view of the limited number of aircraft available. The lack of adequate long distance air reconnaissance in this area – a matter I had stressed before leaving the United Kingdom – was most apparent. I placed little reliance on the land based air striking force in Ceylon. The Blenheims were only armed with bombs and were untrained in overseas operations. The 4 Swordfish available had insufficient range to reach the enemy if he kept his distance.


Monday, 30th March


9. At 1130, I embarked with my staff in WARSPITE (the ship having arrived the previous evening from Trincomalee). The Forces of the Eastern Fleet at Colombo, Trincomalee, and Addu sailed as requisite to rendezvous at 1600 on the following day, Tuesday, 31st March, in the position selected in my paragraph 7 above.


Tuesday, 31st March


10. At 0100 I received information that an enemy submarine was in position on an approximate arc 360 miles from Colombo between 90 degrees and 140 degrees. It appeared to me that this patrol had been established for two purposes.


(i). To provide a reconnaissance


(ii). To serve as a screen through which the Ceylon raiding force would withdraw to the east or south-east on completion of their attack. It is also suggested an approach from the east or a withdrawal due east from a position south of Ceylon.


I therefore ordered an Albacore to be flown ashore from FORMIDABLE with a message requesting the Deputy Command In Chief, Eastern Fleet to provide a Catalina patrol to the northward in addition to those arranged from 31st March, to cover this possible approach to Ceylon from 90 degrees.


11. By 1600 all the forces had rendezvoused in the prearranged position and the fleet shaped a course to the northward. I formed the fleet into two forces,




(b). Battleship supporting force (Force B), consisting of RESOLUTION, REVENGE, RAMILLIES, ROYAL SOVEREIGN, HERMES, DRAGON, CALEDON, HEEMSKERCK, GRIFFIN, DECOY, NORMAN, FORTUNE, ISAAC SWEERS, ARROW, VAMPIRE, and SCOUT under the Vice Admiral, Second in Command.


12. My movements for the night were governed by the following factors:


(i). The necessity to avoid the enemy’s possible daylight air search area until after dark in order to achieve surprise.


(ii). The need to be at a convenient distance from the position which it was considered likely the enemy would select to fly off his aircraft, either for a moonlight attack and moonlight return to the carriers or as was considered probably, a moonlight attack followed by a dawn land on. This position equi-distant from Colombo and Trincomalee was about 5-20N, 82-55E, and was about 120 miles from the fleet’s position at 1800.


13. I decided on the following plan; to take Force A to the northward until dark and then alter to 80 degrees, 15 knots, continue on that course until about 0230 when I should be in the vicinity of the enemy’s established fly off position. At the same time to carry out a continuous night ASV search ahead and to the southward of Force A. If nothing was sighted or located by 0230, to turn back to the southwest and withdraw outside the enemy’s air search area.Force B to act as a supporting force to Force A, keeping 20 miles to the westward and conforming to Force A’s movements throughout the night, rendezvousing at 0800 the following morning.


This procedure was carried out on the night of 31st March/1st April and nothing was seen or located.


Wednesday, 1st April


14. DORSETSHIRE rejoined Force A, p.m., having stopped her refit at Colombo in order to take part in this operation.


For four hours during the day a wide diverging air search was carried out to the east and southeast to supplement the Catalina patrols being carried out from Ceylon. These daylight air searches and all ASV searches ahead of the Fleet were carried out on each succeeding day at sea.


15. No further information having been received as to enemy movements, I decided in accordance with my previous plan to repeat the sweep to the north-east which had been carried out on the previous night.


16. The following factors affected my choice of the actual sweep.


(i). To keep outside the furthest on of enemy air search area until dark.


(ii). To sweep to the north-east to keep clear, as far as possible, of the waters though which I had swept the previous night.


As nothing was sighted by early morning, I withdrew again to the south-west and rendezvoused with Force B at daylight.


Thursday, 2nd April


17. During the day, Forces A and B had manoeuvred in an arc about 50 miles to the westward of those waters in which they steamed in daylight on the two previous days in order to keep clear of any enemy submarines that might have sighted the Forces. Throughout the day, several unconfirmed echoes were reported by destroyers in the screen. Opportunity was taken to oil 5 of the destroyers, 3 from the oiler APPLELEAF which had previously been ordered to the vicinity before I left Colombo; and two from 8” cruisers.


18. My next concern was my future course of action and the following are the main factors, which decided it:


(i). The fleet had now been operating 3 days and 2 nights off the south of Ceylon and probability of location by enemy submarines was increasing.


(ii). No further information had arrived which indicated that an air attack on Ceylon was likely to develop in the immediate future. The possible reasons for this were:


(a) the enemy’s timing had been upset


(b) our deductions of his plans had been incorrect from the start


(c) he had received news of our fleet concentration. This latter reason appeared probable and I considered would influence the enemy in delaying his attack until we were compelled to return to harbour to refuel.


(iii). The R Class battleships were rapidly running out of fresh water. RESOLUTION would soon be compelled to use salt water in her 15” hydraulic system. The Vice Admiral, Second in Command, had informed me at the beginning of the operation that 3 days was the limit of the endurance of R class battleships for this reason. These ships still had ample fuel to remain at sea for a further period and it was unpleasant to me to find that the supply of fresh water was now the factor which limited their endurance at sea. This was in part due to the failure of a water tanker to arrive at Addu Atoll before Force B sailed.


(iv). It was very desirable for me to have an early conference with my Flag and Commanding Officers to explain my police and intentions.


On the above factors, I decided not to repeat the big sweep the north-east for the third time, but to continue my sweep to a much smaller one to the east. As nothing was seen by 2100, I abandoned the operation and shaped course south west to Addu Atoll.


Friday, 3rd April


19. At 0520 I detached FORTUNE to rescue survivors from S.S. GLEN SHEIL, torpedoed in position 00-48S, 78-35E at 0230. FORTUNE picked up 88 survivors and proceeded direct to Addu Atoll where she arrived at 1130 on the 4th April.


20. At this time, I felt convinced that something must have occurred to delay the Japanese attack or alternatively that their objective had been inaccurately appreciated. I therefore detached DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL at 0940 to Colombo. The former to resume her interrupted refit and the latter to act as escort to the Australian troop convoy S U 4. I also detached HERMES with her attendant destroyer VAMPIRE to Trincomalee to prepare for Operation IRONCLAD. I left the decision where she as to land her Swordfish at China Bay to the Commander in Chief, East Indies.


21. During the day, 3 destroyers were oiled from the battleships. At 1820, Force A proceeded ahead at 19 knots for Addu Atoll, Force B following astern at 14 knots.


Saturday, 4th April


22. Air A/S search was carried out over the approaches to Addu Atoll and Force A entered the harbour at 1200. Force B arrived at 1500.


23. At 1630, I received a report from a Catalina southeast of Ceylon that a large enemy force was in position 00-40N, 83-10E at 1605F, course 315 degrees. Shortly afterwards this report was confirmed by a message from 222 Group which gave the course as 330 degrees. This positioned the force 155 degrees from Dondra Head, 360 miles, the distance from Addu Atoll being 85 degrees 600 miles. There was no indication as to the composition of the force.


24. The condition of my fleet at Addu Atoll at this time was as follows: owing to the limited number of oilers available, the vessels comprising Force A had taken about half their fuel and Force B had not yet commenced. In addition, the R Class battleships were very short of water which had to be taken in before they could sail. This meant that Force A (except EMERALD and ENTERPRISE) could proceed to sea immediately. EMERALD and ENTERPRISE would be ready to sail by midnight and Force B could not leave until 0700 on the 5th at the earliest.


25. It appeared that the enemy’s probably plan was as follows: All the evidence supported my original appreciation that the enemy would attack Colombo (and possibly Trincomalee) with carrier borne aircraft either before dawn or shortly afterwards and would return to the carriers in a position about 150 miles south-east to south of Ceylon. On completion, the whole force would then withdraw to the east. The enemy’s reported position made it apparent that this attack was to be made on the morning of Sunday 5th.


26. My possible courses of action were as follows:


(i). Force A, less EMERALD and ENTERPRISE, to proceed immediately at best speed to the area south of Ceylon, to be joined there by DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL from Colombo and attack any enemy force located.


(ii). Delay the sailing of Force A until EMERALD and ENTERPRISE had completed refueling and sail about midnight. Force B to sail on the morning of the 5th and follow astern to act as a supporting force.


(iii). Delay the sailing of Force A until both forces could leave together on the morning of the 5th.


(iv). Forces A and B to remain at Addu Atoll and leave the Air Force to deal with the enemy attack.


27. My choice of plan was governed by the following considerations:


(a). First and foremost, the total defense of the Indian Ocean and its vital lines of communications depend on the existence of the Eastern Fleet. The longer this fleet remains “a fleet in being”, the longer it will limit and check the enemy’s advances against Ceylon and further west. This major policy of retaining “a fleet in being”, already approved by Their Lordships, was, in my opinion paramount.


(b). The only hope of dealing the enemy an effective blow was by means of a carrier borne air striking force preferably at night. To operate the carriers escorted by WARSPITE out of supporting distance of the R Class battleships would offer the enemy an opportunity to cripple our only offensive weapon.. I considered it a cardinal point in any operation that Force A should not proceed outside supporting distance from Force B unless it could be presumed that enemy capital ships would not be encountered.


(c). No matter which course of action I adopted the enemy force could not be intercepted either before or during the air attack on Ceylon on the morning of the 5th. My only hope was that the air striking force from Ceylon might “wing” some of the enemy’s ships which I could attack later, or that the attack on Ceylon might be delayed for 24 hours.


28. I therefore decided to adapt course 26 (ii). I sailed Force A, including EMERALD and ENTERPRISE at midnight and ordered Force B to proceed as early as possible the following morning.


29. I instructed the Deputy Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, to sail DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL to rendezvous with Force A at 1600 on the following day (Sunday 5th), in position 00-58N, 77-36E. This rendezvous was based on their expected time of departure from Colombo and estimated as being the earliest possible time at which they could cross my track, taking into consideration the fact that DORSETSHIRE had resumed her refit and was at extended notice. I considered that the course to be steered by the cruisers would take them well clear of any enemy forces operating in the vicinity. Actually these instructions had been anticipated by the Deputy Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet and these two cruisers, at his direction, sailed at 2300 for Addu Atoll. On receipt of my signal the Deputy Commander in Chief amended his instructions accordingly at 0409/5.


Sunday 5th April


30. Force A sailed at 0015 and proceeded 70 degrees 18 knots towards a position which would bring it 250 miles south of Ceylon by dawn on the 6th.


31. During the night I received reports from the Catalinas on patrol from Ceylon of an enemy destroyers in position 4-59N, 82-20E (n.b. handwritten correction 1-59N vice 4-59N) course 315 degrees, speed 20 knots; 6 enemy destroyers in position 2-54N, 82-10E course 325 degrees, speed 21 knots; and 0702 1 battleship, 2 cruisers, and 4 other ships 195 degrees Dondra Head 110 miles. This latter message was subsequently amplified to the effect that the vessels previously reported were definitely hostile and consisted of 2 battleships, 2 cruisers, and destroyers.


32. At about 0625 an air raid on shipping and harbour facilities at Colombo commenced, some 75 aircraft taking part. There were later reported to be mainly Navy O fighters, armed with one bomb each. This enemy force withdrew from Colombo before 0900 and was seen by several merchant ships south west of Ceylon probably returning to the carriers. In several cases these merchant ships were machine gunner.


33. From 0645, an air A/S patrol was maintained ahead of the Fleet. INDOMITABLE also sent 4 Fulmars to commence a search to the eastward. This search covered the area between the arcs 55 degrees to 105 degrees to a depth of 215 miles. It proved negative except for the sighting of one enemy seaplane at 0855, 76 degrees 150 miles from Force A. This suggested that the enemy was carrying out reconnaissance in a south-westerly direction by means of cruiser aircraft, or a seaplane carrier, in a position 70 miles southwest of the main enemy force. There was no indication that this aircraft sighted any of our surface forces or our air search.


34. Between 0720 and 1145 I received reports of battleships in approximately positions 3-55N, 80-40E steering 290 degrees at 0648, 120 degrees at 07030, and at 1004 in position 4N, 25E, steering 282 degrees. This suggested the battleships were marking time whilst the carriers recovered their aircraft. The estimated position of DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL at this time was 150 mils from the enemy and opening.


35. At 1327 a mutilated “Shad” signal was received from Colombo, subsequently identified at 1406 as from DORSETSHIRE, whose position was estimated as being 37 degrees 90 miles from Force A at 1400, but was not actually established.


36. At 1344 an enemy air formation had been detected by R.D.F. 30 degrees 84 miles from Force A. This had faded after five minutes and it is now clear that this must have been the attack on the 8” cruisers (which it was learnt afterwards occurred at about 1400). Wreckage was reported by reconnaissance aircraft from Force A at 1522 in position 2-08N, 78-08E.


37. A destroyer was detached to search but was recalled when at 1655 a reconnaissance aircraft from Force A reported an enemy force of 5 “unknowns” in position 3-38N, 78-18E at 1600. There was then no indication of the course of speed of this unknown force, but it could be either;


(a). a new force previously unreported, or


(b). the force previously and last reported at 1004.


38. It is unfortunately necessary that no relief shadowers were sent off by the Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers as soon as this report was received and that I omitted to obtain confirmation from Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers that relief shadowers had been sent. (n.b. in text “shadows” pen and ink corrected to “shadowers” in both cases.) At 1700 I received a report from Colombo that there were indications of enemy aircraft carriers steering 230 degrees at 24 knots from an unknown position at 1400.


39. This was thought to be subsequent to the attack on the cruisers and my deductions from this enemy move was as follows.


40. If he held on this course he would be at 0400 in a position to deliver a night air attack on Addu Atoll. This seemed quite a possible course of action. In any case it was necessary for Force A to keep clear to the southward and for Force B (estimated to be 135 miles astern in position 0-12N, 75-15E at 1700) to steer southward so that Forces A and B could close for supporting action at daylight the following morning (6th April). It as also necessary for Force B to steer to southward to keep clear of the enemy carrier force should it be proceeding to attack Addu.


41. At 1726, therefore Force A altered course to 210 degrees at 18 knots and a signal was made to Vice Admiral, 2nd in Command and to DORSETSHIRE to steer south, though by this time I entertained grave fears concerning the fate of the two 8” cruisers. As I had received no signal from them that they were being attacked I felt it was possible they had escaped and were maintaining W/T silence.


42. At 1800 I received a signal from Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, stating that reconnaissance aircraft reported the estimated enemy’s position 20 degrees 120 miles at 1710. This position was very close to the previously reported 1600 signal. The enemy’s course had not been given in either of these reports, but the positions fitted in well with the course received in paragraph 38.


43. At 1817 a further signal was received from Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, adjusting the 1600 position of the enemy force, amplifying it to include 2 carriers and 3 unknown vessels and giving the course as northwest. This was the first indication I had of an enemy course to the northwest.


44. I immediately ordered Force A to alter course to 315 degrees and instructed Vice Admiral, 2nd in Command to conform. These movements had the object of keeping Force A within night air striking distance of the enemy force, trusting to an A.S.V. search to locate the enemy, and to being Force B within supporting distance should it be necessary to retire in that direction. A dawn rendezvous was arranged with Force B in approximate position 3N, 75E.


45. As no news had been received of DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL, the presumption was that they had been sunk.


46. At 1930 a night search with A.S.V. aircraft commenced to cover the section 345 degrees to 030 degrees to a depth of 180 miles. Nothing was located by this search.


Monday 6th April


47. From 2100 to 0600 further A.S.V. searches were carried out to cover the section 20 degrees to 80 degrees to a depth of 200 miles. These searches also failed to make any contact with the enemy but reported that Force B was 220 degrees 25 miles away from Force A at 0400.


48. At 0615 Force A altered course to 135 degrees and sighted Force B ten minutes later. By 0720 the fleet was formed up and course altered to 90 degrees.


49. Whilst no further information had been received regarding the enemy’s movements nothing occurred to diminish the possibility of the enemy’s being in the vicinity of Addu Atoll, either to attack it by air this morning or to await the return of the Eastern Fleet.


50. I intended to keep clear of the superior enemy forces by day; to try to get in a position to attack them by night air striking force on their possible return from the Addu area, and also to rescue the survivors from DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL. I therefore steered east and at 1115 course was altered to southward in the direction of the wreckage reported the previous evening.


51. At 1300, ENTERPRISE with PALADIN and PANTHER were detached to search for survivors in the vicinity of the wreckage position. Air search was provided to assist; further fighter escort was sent to cover the operation. These ships were successful in picking up a total of 1122 survivors and rejoined the fleet at noon the following day in Veimandu Channel. At 1800, when about 50 miles from the wreckage position course was reversed and the fleet retired to the northwest. All round air searches were carried out to a depth of 200 miles; nothing was seen.


52. At about 1400 a signal was received from CinC Ceylon estimating that a strong Japanese fleet was still somewhere between Addu Atoll and Colombo. I therefore decided to keep clear of Addu area, at any rate until after daylight on the 7th.


Tuesday 7th April


53. At 0200 fleet altered to the west, course 270 degrees.


54. At 0428 A.S.V. aircraft located two submarines in positions 2-08N, 75-16E and 2-46N, 75-10E; i.e. to the southward of the course of the fleet. This indicated the possibility of an enemy submarine patrol having been established to cover the eastern approaches to Addu. I therefore decided to pass through the Veimandu Channel to the west of the Maldives and make an unexpected approach to Addu Atoll from the west. At 0700 the course of the fleet was altered to 210 degrees.


55. At 1600 ENTERPRISE, PALADIN, and PANTHER rejoined with survivors from DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL on board, and medical stores were transferred from WARSPITE to PALADIN for treatment of the wounded. ENTERPRISE and PALADIN were detached to proceed direct to Addu.


56. At 2100 course was altered to 160 degrees.


Wednesday 8th April


57. At 0700 aircraft were flown off from the carriers to carry out an all round search to a depth of 175 miles. This proved negative, and at 1100 the fleet arrived at Addu Atoll and entered harbour. Refuelling commenced, Force B being refueled first.


58. I held a conference on board with my Flag and Commanding Officers in the afternoon.


59. Having discussed the situation I decided to send Force B to Kilindini and proceed to Bombay with Force A. This later decision coincided with Their Lordships views as later in the day I received Their Lordships instructions that Force A was not to proceed to Colombo for the present. Further, by proceeding to Bombay I should be afforded an opportunity of meeting with Commander in Chief India and of discussing the situation with him.


Thursday 9th April


60. Force B sailed from Addu Atoll at 0200 for Kilindini where it was due to arrived on 15th April and Force A sailed at 0600 for Bombay shaping course to pass to the westward of the Maldives.


Friday 10th April


61. At 1000 PALADIN closed WARSPITE to transfer Staff Officers for passage to Colombo where they were to inform the Deputy Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet of my views and make preliminary arrangements to transfer my administrative staff and secretariat to Kilindini.


Monday 13th April


62. PALADIN rejoined Force A from Colombo at 0705 being back the Staff Officers who had been transferred to her on the 10th and also Rear Admiral V.H. Danckwerts, CMG (my Chief of Staff ashore)


63. Force A arrived Bombay at 1040, anchored and commenced oiling




                                                                                                            J. F. Somerville







Office of the British Naval Commander-in-Chief,  Eastern Fleet

2nd May 1942


No. 16. S/4682.

The Secretary of the Admiralty

 (copies to: Commander in Chief Ceylon.

                        Commander in Chief East Indies


Areas of operations, click to enlarge




FROM 13TH APRIL 1942 to 1ST MAY 1942



Be pleased to lay before Their Lordships the following report of the operations of the Eastern Fleet from 13th April to 1st May 1942.


2. Force A consisting of WARSPITE (Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), INDOMITABLE (Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet), FORMIDABLE, NEWCASTLE (Rear Admiral Commanding, 4th Cruiser Squadron), EMERALD, ENTERPRISE, HEEMSKERCK, NAPIER, NIZAM, NORMAN, PALADIN, PANTHER, FOXHOUND, and DECOY arrived at Bombay at 1040 on Monday 13th April.


3. At 1630 I proceeded to Government House, Bombay in company with Rear Admirals Boyd, Tennant, and Danckwerts (my Deputy Chief of Staff who had arrived from Colombo in PALADIN) in order to meet General Wavell (Commander in Chief, India), Air Marshall Peirse (Air Officer Commanding in Chief, India) and Lieutenant General Haigh (Commander Southern Army).


4. At Wavell’s request I outlined the present state of the Easter Fleet and the extent to which I was able to contribute to the defence of India and Ceylon against enemy seaborne attack.


5. General Wavell pointed out that after received the Chief of Staff’s message No. C.O.S. (India) 42 he had formed the opinion that the Eastern Fleet would be capable of dealing effectively with any Japanese seaborne threat directed against Southern India and Ceylon. He had, in consequence, disposed the majority of his available forces, i.e. 4 divisions, in the northeast, retaining only one division, and that partially trained and equipped, for the defence of Southern India.


6. This showed very cleared the need for General Wavell to have on his staff a naval officer capable of advising him as to the correct value to be attached to a description of forces as given in the Chiefs of Staff message referred to above. It also suggested that in future, such messages should convey more clearly the effective as opposed to the numerical strength of naval forces operating in this area.


7. Referring to the situation in Burma the General emphasized that lack of air support was responsible to a considerable degree for the loss of morale in our troops in that area. He commented on the unfortunate impression produced by the constant reference in BBC communiqués to “hundreds of bombers attacking targets in Germany” when our troops find themselves without air support. In this connection I must confess that the majority of senior officers in the Eastern Fleet are skeptical of results achieved by these attacks on Germany, who can presumably “take it” as well as the United Kingdom.


8. Air Marshall Peirse stated that one squadron of Beauforts from the Middle East, armed with torpedoes, might be expected to reinforce the Ceylon Striking Force during the next month. I understand however from officers who have recently served in the Eastern Mediterranean that the results achieved by this squadron in that theatre leave a great deal to be desired and that in consequence this reinforcement is more nominal than real.


9. The Air Marshall stressed the need for long range air reconnaissance over the Bay of Bengal. Employment of Catalinas for this purpose was obviously uneconomical since it lay within the capability of long range land based aircraft, whereas Catalinas are essential for reconnaissance in the Indian Ocean.


10. I suggested that if a mere handful of long range bombers were flown out now to India and operated successively from aerodromes between Calcutta and Ceylon, this might well lead the enemy to suppose that we had received substantial air reinforcements and in consequence act as a strong deterrent against raids by surface vessels such as those recently carried out in the Bay of Bengal. The Air Marshall agreed and at a subsequent meeting held on the following day this proposal was incorporated in a message send by the Commander in Chief, India, Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, and Air Officer Commanding in Chief, India, addressed to the Chiefs of Staff Committee.


11. Referring to United States air reinforcements, the Air Marshall stated that these were allotted to China and in any case would not be efficient operationally till August.


12. His Excellency the Governor of Bombay, who also attended this meeting, stated that enemy air attacks were unlikely to promote civil unrest. Failure of labour to continue after bombing was the most immediate threat and could not be controlled locally. It appears that, throughout India, this state of affairs exists.


13. The Commander in Chief, India, and Air Officer Commanding in Chief, India, returned to Delhi after these meetings and on arrival there the Commander in Chief, India sent to the Chiefs of Staff a message embodying the conclusions of the meetings.


14. On the 16th April, I received Message No. 0Z/1915/4th April from the Chiefs of Staff regarding the proposals referred to in my 0314 of 29th March concerning the Naval Strategy we should adopt in the Eastern Theatre. These proposals were to the effect that in order to compel the enemy to draw in his forces we should concentrate a large force of British and United States Carried, 8” and destroyers in the Pacific, leaving our battleships in the background until air supremacy at sea had been won.


15. This proposal had not commended itself to the Chiefs of Staff on the grounds that to undertake offensive strategy, nothing less than a superior balanced fleet of carriers, capital ships, cruisers and destroyers adequate to deal with the Japanese Fleet, would suffice.


16. I forwarded to Their Lordships my views on this matter in my message 1001/18th April in which I pointed out that the Japanese had successfully employed an unbalanced fleet in recent operations off Ceylon. I consider that provided surprise is achieved and we can effect a superior concentration of carriers at the selected moment, inferiority in battleships for a small operation is not necessarily of great consequence.


17. In any case I consider it a pity to pour cold water on this welcome indication of a desire on the part of the United States authorities to act offensively in cooperation with us.


18. On 16th April I also received Chiefs of Staff Message No. C.O.S. (India) 49, regarding the policy to be adapted for the defence of Ceylon and the provision of bases in addition to Colombo for the Eastern Fleet, i.e. Kilindini and a base in the North Arabian Sea. In connection with the latter, I am having Beyt (n.b. handwritten insert “?and? or Salaya”) surveyed as a possible suitable alternative to Elphinstone Inlet.


19. On the 18th April I received the Chief’s of Staff message giving a digest of a telegram from the Prime Minister to President Roosevelt concerning proposed reinforcements to the Eastern Fleet. On the 20th April, General Wavell showed me a copy of the message to him from the Prime Minister giving the actual reinforcements These I note with much regret are considerably less than those proposed by the Prime Minister in his message to President Roosevelt.


20. Force A remained at Bombay for 7 days and opportunity was taken to rest the ships companies after their recent prolonged period at sea and to give as much leave as possible. Leave was given until 2330 for ratings and until 2400 for Chiefs and Petty Officers. Ships boats generally proved inadequate to compete with the number of libertymen and I therefore asked the Commodore, Royal Indian Navy, to hire two tenders with approximate capacity for 400 each for transport of libertymen. These tenders proved of the greatest value. Entertainment was provided for the men at the Services and Town Hall Canteens, organized by the Hospitality Committee under the Chairmanship of Sir John Abercrombie, also at the Prince of Wales Missions to Seaman Canteen run by the Reverend Tanner. Their Excellencies the Governor and Lady Lumley were also most kind and hospital for officers and men. A number of officers dined and slept at Government House on four afternoons. I sent suitable letters of thanks to all concerned for their great kindness to us.


21. On the 15th April WARSPITE dragged at half ebb and was brought up by letting go a second anchor. The weighted and anchored again at slack water. I was informed that the last occasion of a ship of a ship dragging in Bombay Harbour was on a comparatively recent visit of S.S. AQUITANIA and it appears probable that the dragging was due to the deep draft of the vessels concerned. WARSPITE was drawing 35 feet forward and there was very little water under her bottom.


22. On the morning of 16th April, at the request of His Excellency the Governor an air display of fighters and Albacores was given over Bombay.


23. There were considerable delays in fuelling the fleet. Oilers were not allowed to move without pilots, who were obtained with difficulty and no movements took place at night. Further, aviation spirit could not be obtained and it was not till the arrival of BROOMDALE on 18th April that the carriers were able to complete with petrol.


24. During the stay of Force A at Bombay three A/S vessels maintained a patrol in the approaches to the harbour. Air patrols were also maintained during the day. In spite of the protection afforded and the navigational difficulties of the harbour I am by no means satisfied that Bombay can be regarded as safe against submarine attack. Short of very considerable A/S defences being installed it is difficult to suggest that anything that can be done to improve matters in this respect.


25. On Sunday 19th April, General Wavell embarked in WARSPITE at my invitation to take passage to Ceylon. This gave me an opportunity, whilst on passage, to discuss with him our many joint problems.


26. Force A consisting of WARSPITE, INDOMITABLE, FORMIDABLE, NEWCASTLE, EMERALD, ENTERPRISE, HEEMSKERCK, PALADIN, PANTHER, NORMAN, FOXHOUND, and DECOY left Bombay at 0100 on Monday 20th April. NAPIER and NIZAM were left behind for docking and repair (expected dates of completion – NAPIER on 1st May, NIZAM, end of May.


27. During the day air training and gunnery exercises were carried out and a night encounter exercise. In case Force A had been located during the day, an alteration of course was made to the southwest after dark until early morning when course was altered to southeast, and at daylight mean line of advance south was resumed.


28. On Tuesday 21st April course was continued to the south throughout the day so as to pass to the westward of the Laccadives in order to keep clear of coastal shipping and possible submarine areas. Fleet training and exercises continued throughout the day. I decided to proceed southeast through the Channel between Kavaratti and Suhelli Par during the night. Before dark, one aircraft was sent on ahead of the fleet to search this channel area for possible submarines.


29. On Wednesday, 22nd April, fleet training continued and an approach exercise was carried out with the 4th Cruiser Squadron. SCOUT joined during the forenoon from Cochin.


30. Force A arrived off Colombo at daylight on Thursday 23rd April and aircraft, which were to be disembarked in connection with the readjustment of initial equipment aircraft in both carriers, were flown ashore. WARSPITE entered harbour and secured at 0830.


31. At 1000 a conference was held ashore attended by Commander in Chief, India, Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, Air Officer Commanding in Chief, India, Commander in Chief, Ceylon, General Officer Commanding, Ceylon, Air Officer Commanding, Ceylon, and my Deputy Chief of Staff, to consider the defences of Ceylon and other matters of joint concern to all three services.


32. As stated in my 0907/23rd April a difference of opinion arose concerning the allocation of Catalinas for Operation IRONCLAD. It is certainly regrettable that these aircraft which are essential for reconnaissance in the Indian Ocean where land aerodromes are not available should have to be employed in lieu of land based aircraft in Ceylon where aerodromes are available.


33. At subsequent meetings the general organisation and administration of the Eastern Fleet and East Indies Station were discussed and it was agreed that so long as the Indian Ocean remained the main theatre of operations for the Eastern Fleet, it would be appropriate and convenient to make the following changes.


(a). Chief of Staff to Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet to become Deputy Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, headquarters at Kilindini


(b). Commander in Chief, East Indies to be replaced by a Flag Officer at Ceylon


(c). The Title of Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy to be changed to Flag Officer India with a second Flag Officer as Deputy and in charge of operations.


(d). Control of trade on the Indian coast and defence of the Persian Gulf to be taken over by the Flag Officer India.


Proposals to this effect were made in my 1443 and 1728 of 28th April.


34. Other meetings were also held between my staff and that of Commander in Chief, East Indies, to decide a number of administration problems which had arisen consequent on Colombo being no longer suitable as a main base for the Eastern Fleet. Time did not permit of all these matters being so fully considered as I could have wished. No doubt Their Lordships will fully appreciate the difficulties which have arisen as the result of the new situation created in the Indian Ocean where we are forced to temporarily abandon Ceylon as a fleet base and rely on undefended ports in East Africa and in the islands in the West Indian Ocean, none of which have proper administrative staffs. A considerable amount of administration now undertaken by Commander in Chief, East Indies will of necessity, have to be transferred to Kilindini and the building up of a new organisation will be a lengthy process and result in inevitable delays.


35. Thanks to the expeditious arrangements made at Colombo, Force A was refueled by nightfall. I intended to sail Force A and ALAUNIA (with Eastern Fleet secretariat and administrative and Special Intelligence Staffs aboard) for Kilindini before daylight, but owning to very heavy rain, low visibility, and congested berthing arrangements, it was necessary to postpone departure until 0700.


36. Prior to leaving Colombo, WARSPITE landed 400 rifles and bayonets for the use of the military in Ceylon, at the personal request of General Wavell, and at my direction. This has been reported separately.


37. After leaving, Force A shaped course to a rendezvous to the southwest of Colombo, where it was intended to fly on all the new initial equipment aircraft for both carriers (a total of 25 aircraft). Unfortunately, during the forenoon the aircraft failed to locate the carriers owing to bad visibility and heavy rain squalls. They returned to the shore aerodromes and another attempt was made early in the afternoon, but failed again. By this time the shore aerodromes had apparently become unserviceable due to the very heavy rainfall. No further laying was possible and all hope of embarking aircraft on this day was abandoned at 1800. It was decided to steam to the westward and return at daylight to the rendezvous with the intention of embarking the aircraft during the morning.


38. As ALAUNIA’s maximum speed was about 13 ½ knots she was detached, with EMERALD as escort, to proceed ahead of the fleet to Seychelles. It was hoped that Force A, having embarked aircraft, would be able to overtake ALAUNIA in the neighbourhood of the Maldives.


39. During the night the force steamed to the westward and reversed course, and at daylight on Saturday, 25th April approached the aircraft rendezvous. The majority of the aircraft arrive dint he forenoon and finally the last three were flown on at 1300. Course was then shaped to the southwest for the Veimandu Channel at 18 knots.


40. On 26th April some fleet training and exercises were carried out throughout the day. Force A passed through the Veimandu Channel at 1300 and shaped course for the Seychelles. An air search was sent out to the southward to locate EMERALD and ALAUNIA, estimated to have passed through the One and a Half Degree Channel during the forenoon. They were located shortly before dark, 40 miles to the southward. Force A’s course was adjusted to make a rendezvous with EMERALD and ALAUNIA at daylight the following day.


41. At 1830, INDOMITABLE, with PALADIN and PANTHER, was detached to proceed in advance to the Seychelles to refuel and then proceed for Operation IRONCLAD.


42. On 27th April after sending out one aircraft to locate EMERALD and ALAUNIA a rendezvous was effected in the forenoon and the whole force proceeded for the Seychelles; speed of advance 12 ½ knots.


43. During the day air and fleet training was continued.


44. On 28th April, fleet training was continued throughout the day. During the afternoon DECOY was oiled from WARSPITE


45. At times there was insufficient wind for FORMIDABLE to operate owing to her limited speed, due to damage to the starboard engine. After dark special exercises were carried out to investigate the best use of parachute flares dropped from aircraft to illuminate the target on a bright moonlight night.


46. On 29th April Fleet and air training continued throughout the day and in the afternoon WARSPITE carried out a 15” throw off firing at NEWCASTLE.


47. On 30th April, the Force arrived off Seychelles (Dennis Island) at daylight.As it was not possible to refuel all the ships in one day, I decided that in preference to remaining in the anchorage overnight to split the force into two groups and refuel on group on the 30th during daylight and the second group the following day during daylight; group II to make a detour while group I was refuelling.


I also decided that all four destroyers should accompany whichever group was fuelling in order to provide A/S patrols to seaward by two ships throughout the fuelling operations. In addition, arrangements were made to maintain an outer air A/S patrol throughout both fuelling operations.


48. The necessity for providing these anti submarine precautions from units of the fleet in an important fuelling base again emphasizes the necessity for pressing on with the provision of local anti submarine defences at all operational bases.


49. Group II (NEWCASTLE and FORMIDABLE) was detached to the westward to rendezvous with me the following morning off the southern approach, thence to proceed to Port Victoria to oil on the 1st of May. The remainder of the ships forming group I, with all four destroyers, proceeded by the northern passage to Port Victoria, and arrived at 1030. Oiler was commenced from 4 oilers.


50. HEEMSKERCK had developed serious defects to her rudder pintle bearing. Arrangements were made for her to sail independently on 1st May to Durban for repairs to be carried out in South Africa.


51. H.M.S. RANCHI was in port having onboard the military base defence survey part under Lieutenant Colonel Kelly now working on the Seychelles. This party recently completed their survey of Mauritius.


52. I visited His Excellency the Governor in the afternoon.


53. Fuelling was completed by 1800 and Group 1 (less HEEMSKERCK) sailed via the southern exit.


54. Whilst at Port Victoria opportunity was taken to dispatch a number of important outstanding messages by cable. In this connection I had received on the 29th April messages from the First Sea Lord, Commander in Chief, India, Commander in Chief, Ceylon, and Deputy Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, regarding C.O.S. M.E. 261 and M.E. 263, which latter two messages I had not received.

            Immediately prior to sailing C.O.S. M.E. 261 was received and my replies timed 1812/30 and 1905/30 April I was able to send into Port Victoria by destroyer, returning to screen group II, for dispatch by cable.


55. On 1st May NEWCASTLE and FORMIDABLE rendezvoused at daylight and were then detached with all destroyers to proceed to Port Victoria to fuel and rejoin in the evening.


56. During the day, WARSPITE, EMERALD, and ENTERPRISE made a detour to the southwest and returned to the rendezvous at 2100, where NEWCASTLE, FORMIDABLE, and destroyers rejoined.


(n.b. the last page of this issue is missing.)





Office of the British Naval Commander – in – Chief, Eastern Fleet

11th May 1942


No. 27. S/4682.

The Secretary of the Admiralty (two copies)

 (copies to: Commander in Chief Ceylon.

                        Commander in Chief East Indies




FROM 2nd MAY to 10th MAY 1942



 Be pleased to lay before Their Lordships the following report of the operations of the Eastern Fleet from 2nd May to 10th May 1942, when covering Operation IRONCLAD.


2. After leaving the Seychelles area on the 2nd May, Force A, comprising WARSPITE (Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), FORMIDABLE, NEWCASTLE (Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron), EMERALD, ENTERPRISE, NESTOR, NORMAN, FOXHOUND, DECOY reached a position (12S, 59-50E) about 650 east of Diego Suarez at 0900/


3. During the forenoon of 3rd May an air search to a depth of 190 miles was carried out by aircraft from FORMIDABLE over the sector East to South from this position to search the area between Saya de Mlaha Bank and north of Nazareth Bank, for any possible Japanese forces attempting the capture or occupation of Diego Suarez.


4. This search was supplemented by Catalina patrols which had been established as follows:


(a). 30th April-6th May


            Between position 009-05S and 11-40S on longitude 75-20E.


(b). 3rd-9th May


            Between 004-25S and 007-00S on longitude 060-55E.


5. All aircraft from FORMIDABLE returned by 1330 having sighted nothing.


6. The limited number of serviceable Albacores in FORMIDABLE made it necessary to carry out air searches with some degree of economy. The Fulmars which were embarked at Colombo and which should have been available to supplement the Albacores were unserviceable for long distance reconnaissance owing to compasses not having been swung, T/T and beacon receivers not effective, etc.


7. During the day course was shaped to the northwest. At 1700 course was altered to northwest to rendezvous with Force B the following forenoon.


8. During the day four destroyers were oiled from WARSPITE and NEWCASTLE (two each).


9. On the 4th Force B under Vice Admiral 2nd in Command, comprising RESOLUTION, DRAGON, CALEDON, GRIFFIN, HOTSPUR, FORTUNE having fuelled at the Seychelles on the 2nd of May joined Force A as previously arranged in position 111S 56E at 0830. During the forenoon course was shaped to the southeast. An air search was sent out to a maximum depth to cover the sector North-East-South. In the late afternoon, course was altered to northwest, so as to reach a position 220 miles 070 degrees from Diego Suarez by 0700 on 5th May (D1 for Operation IRONCLAD).


10. My entire lack of information concerning the plan on which the operation was to be conducted proved a serious embarrassment and forms the subject of a separate communication to Their Lordships.


11. At 0700 on the 5th May the fleet passed through the pre-arranged position on a southerly course. An air search covered the sector northeast-southeast-southwest, but aircraft were ordered to keep outside 100 miles of the coast of Madagascar in order to avoid appearing on the R.D.F. screens of Force F; this search found nothing.


12. I had instructed by force that Vichy French ships or aircraft might be hostile, but were not to be treated as such unless they committed a hostile act. Any aircraft approaching the fleet was to be ridden off by fighters but not engaged unless it committed a hostile act.


13. Throughout the day I received only four short reports from the Senior Officer Force F. IN addition I intercepted a considerable number of corrupt French wireless messages. This meager information gave me a rough idea of what was occurring but gave me no clear picture of the situation at any time.


14. At 1430 course was altered to the northwest and back to southeast at 0130 so as to reach a position 110 miles 080 degrees from Diego Suarez by daylight the following morning. At 1630 I sent a signal (my 1227Z/5th) to Senior Officer, Force F, repeated to Admiralty, stating my intention to be in position 090 degrees Cape Amber 130 miles (12S, 50 ½ E at 1100 on the 6th and, after carrying out an air search to the eastward, proceed with my whole fleet to Kilindini, provided Senior Officer F had no further requirements for my force. This intention was based on the supposition that Diego Suarez would be available for Force F to enter on the 6th May.


15. However, late at night a report was intercepted which indicated that the port would not be open until 7th May, and I there reconsidered my intention to proceed with my whole force to Kilindini a.m. on the 6th May.


16. During the forenoon of the 6th May course was shaped to the northwest. An air search was sent out to cover the section northeast-southeast to a depth of 105 miles. This search found nothing.


17. At noon I reviewed the situation regarding the future operations of Force A and B. The following factors governed my choice of action.


(a). I had had no reply to my signal 1227Z/5, not had anything further transpired as to when Diego Suarez would be available for Force F to enter. I still presumed it would be the 7th May.


(b). RESOLUTION, EMERALD, ENTERPRISE, DRAGON, and CALEDON and most of the destroyers could not remain at sea more than a further three days without refuelling and certain of these ships also required water, RESOLUTION in particular had only two days water remaining. The remaining ships of Force A had sufficient fuel to remain at sea for a further four days.


18. I therefore detached Force B, with EMERALD and ENTERPRISE, under Vice Admiral, 2nd in Command, to proceed to Kilindini at their best speed, and with WARSPITE, FORMIDABLE, and NEWCASTLE and four destroyers remained in the vicinity to reinforce Force F if required and to continue air searched in the directions of possible approach of Japanese forces.


I informed the Admiralty and Senior Officer, Force F, of this decision in my signal 0800Z/6th.


19. At noon Force A altered course to southeast, and at 1700 course was reversed to the northwest, and reverse again at 0230.


Heavy rain and bad visibility prevented air searches from being carried out in the afternoon.


20. At 0700 on the 7th May Force A was in position 10-50S, 50-20E, course southeast


An air search was sent out at 0700 to cover the sector East to South to a depth of 120 miles, but found nothing.


21. During the night reported had been received from Senior Officer, Force F that the daylights attacks on Antsirana and Oranjia on the 6th had failed, and that a night assault was to be carried out on both objectives, assisted by H.M.S. ANTHONY entering harbour and landing 80 Royal Marines at Antsirana.


22. Intercepted reports received during the forenoon confirmed that the night attack on Antsirana had been successful and that a bombardment of Oranjia and Pentland had been staged for 1000. Later there were indications that the remaining French defences might surrender during the day, that the bombardment would be cancelled and that Force F ships would be able to enter Diego Suarez later today or tomorrow.


23. I decided to remain in the vicinity of 11S, 51E until the position ashore was clarified, and at 1300 another air search was sent out to cover the sector northeast to south to search the lines of approach of a possible Japanese force from the northeast or east. The search returned at 1700, having seen nothing.


24. Intercepted reports received in the forenoon indicated that a submarine, presumably French, had been sunk off Courier Bay. Four, possibly six submarines, were known to be in the Madagascar area of which two had been accounted for.


25. During the early afternoon reports were received from S.O. (F) that the Oranjia stronghold had surrendered and that a protocol was being drawn up with the French authorities. Intercepted reports also indicated that the aerodrome to the south of the harbour had been occupied by our forces and that all resistance had ceased in Diego Suarez


26. There now appeared to be no further object in Force A remaining in the vicinity and at 1700 I decided to proceed to Kilindini and I informed the Admiralty and S.O. Force F of this decision in my signal 1301Z/7


27. On the 8th unsettled weather limited the amount of fleet training and exercise that could be carried out during the day. After dark a night encounter exercise was carried out with NEWCASTLE.


28. A D/F bearing from Aden indicated the presence of a submarine (possibly Japanese) in the Mombasa-Mozambique area.


29. Saturday 9th May – heavy rain squalls and poor visibility throughout the day curtailed fleet and air training.


30. Sunday 10th May – Force A entered Kilindini harbour at 1300.


It was now necessary for ships of Force A to remain in harbour for five days at 8 hours’ notice for steam in order to carry out essential maintenance work.



                                                                                                            J.F. Somerville







Office of the British Naval Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet

12th June 1942


No. 39. S/4682.

The Secretary of the Admiralty (two copies)

 (copies to: Commander in Chief Ceylon.

                        Commander in Chief East Indies




10th MAY to 5th JUNE 1942


Areas of operations, click to enlarge






On arrival on the 10th May the situation at Kilindini was a follows:


Much preliminary work, including berthing arrangements, had been completed by Vice Admiral, Second in Command (Vice Admiral A.U. Willis, CB, DSO) and the Flag Officer East Africa and Zanzibar (Rear Admiral A.D. Read), but available personnel and material were very scarce. The base staff was adequate only for the administration and functioning of a minor base and convoy assembly port.




2. Apart from the existing defence guns (two 6” and two 12 pounders) there were no additional guns yet in position. Sites for future A.A. guns had been selected.


EREBUS had been ordered from Trincomalee and arrived on the 16th May to augment the coast defence of Kilindini


KIRRIEMOOR completed laying the entrance A/B boom on 13th May and thereafter and harbour was closed between sunset and sunrise.


Offices and Accommodation


3. Offices and accommodation had been requisitioned as follows:


Commander in Chief’s and Deputy Commander in Chief’s Headquarters – Indian Girls’ School.


“Y” Organisation – Alladina Visram School


Billets and accommodation in the various hotels had been taken up for officers and men


With my personal staff, I took up residence at Government House, which had been placed at my disposal by His Excellency the Governor in order to be in close touch with my deputy and shore based staff.




 4. W/T communications were still in an elementary stage, all the work being undertaken by H.M. Ships. ADAMANT was remote controlled from my Headquarters by arrangements which have done credit to Mr. Heath Robinson. She proceeded to take over as rapidly as possible all communications. W/T receiving bays were set up at my headquarters.

 Internal communications were almost non existent and there was a serious shortage of telephone instruments and wire.


Water Transport


 5. Other than that supplied by ships no water transport was available. The lack of boats, especially in WARSPITE, and the unsuitability of those that were available imposed a heavy handicap on the business of the fleet.




6. Personnel for all the shore services was quite inadequate, particularly cypherers, coders, telephonists, clerks, and chauffeurs. A large number of men had be to lent from the fleet and a number of women of the F.A.N.Y. obtained for these purposes.




 7. The recreation facilities at Kilindini are very poor. I ordered a committee to be formed to review and report on action required to improve these facilities and also requested an immediate grant of 5,000 pounds to enable an immediate start to be made with certain improvement schemes, such as additional canteen, reading rooms, possibly an open air cinema and provision of additional playing fields. On sailing on May 29th, the Captain of the Fleet remained at Kilindini to take action on these essential matters. In anticipation of Their Lordship’s approval, I gave orders that the work was to be progressed.


Evacuation and Accommodation


8. Evacuation of non essential civilians from Mombasa Island had been ordered when the military situation in the Indian Ocean indicated that this was necessary as a measure of defence and to safeguard the civilian population. This order was subsequently countermanded by the Colonial Office.


The influx of naval and air personnel has now made it necessary to bring into force an evacuation scheme in order to free accommodation and space for naval purposes. I am pressing on local authorities and have asked Admiralty to support proposals to commence evacuation of non essential civilians at an early date.


Visit to His Excellency the Governor of Kenya


9. On the 11th I proceeded to Nairobi by air to visit His Excellency the Governor of Kenya, the General Officer Commanding and certain members of the Legislative Council. I explained to His Excellency and the General Officer Commanding the general naval situation in the Indian Ocean and the need to develop with all dispatch the harbour of Kilindini and the Island of Mombasa as a naval base. I was glad to note a general desire to cooperate to the fullest extent possible.


During my passage to and from Nairobi I was able to observe the majority of animals usually found in Noah’s ark and noted that in his efforts to keep his eyes on the aircraft whilst proceeding at full speed the wildebeests frequently carries out the evolution of A/T.


I returned to Kilindini on the 12th May.


Command of the Base


10. Rear Admiral C.G. Stuart, DSO, DSC, took over from Rear Admiral A.D. Read on the 12th May.


Operations BRUTUS and JULIUS


11. Preparations were put in hand to prepare such ships as were already available for Operation BRUTUS and a plan was drawn up should this operation be ordered.


It soon became evident that the aircraft required for a special loading of carriers would not be available in time for this operation. In fact it was doubtful whether sufficient aircraft would be available to complete the I.E. of fighters.


On May 21st instructions were received that Operation BRUTUS was cancelled and JULIUS would taken place.


Arrangements were made accordingly to sail the force required for this operation to the Mediterranean in two equal groups.


Rear Admiral Commanding 4th Cruiser Squadron, at the special request of the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, sailed with Group 2.


Operation IRONCLAD




(a) On the 17th May I received information in Admiralty’s 2240/16th May that further operations in Madagascar were to be abandoned. This was a disappointment as until the whole of the island is in our hands, it must remain a dangerous and wearing commitment until such time as the Eastern Fleet is in position to dispute Japanese attempts to seize the island.


(b). ON the 21st May I received a signal from the Senior Officer, Force F dispersing his forces in accordance with instructions received from the Admiralty. This left Diego Suarez with RAMILLIES, three L class destroyers, and three corvettes.


(c ). In view of the lack of A/S craft and the number of major units at Kilindini I proposed that two of the corvettes should be sailed for Kilindini, and this was approved by Admiralty message 0844/22nd May.


(d). I had assumed that Operation IRONCLAD would include the provision of the requisite under water defences or failing this I should have received instructions to prepare such defences for laying as soon as the port as occupied. The message received from Senior Officer, Force F, disposing of the force, cast some doubt on whether such defences were in place.


(e). On May 22nd, Senior Officer Force F’s message timed 0911/22nd May confirmed these suspicions that no nets had accompanied the IRONCLAD force.


(f). At that time there were no nets available and it was only with the arrival of S.S. COMLIBANK on the 26th May that indicator nets were forthcoming. There were still components missing for an A/S boom.


(g). GUARDIAN had been ordered to load as soon as COMLIBANK was discharged with the intention of subsequently laying nets at Seychelles, Diego Suarez, and docking at Durban.


(h). Meanwhile arrangements were made for MANCHESTER CITY and JAY to proceed to Diego Suarez to lay a controlled minefield; it was expected they would arrive about 30th May.


(i). After completion of laying nets at Kilindini, Manza, and Seychelles, the KIRRIEMOOR had been ordered to lay nets at Diego Suarez in August.




 13. During the week (18th/22nd May), the Vice Admiral Second in Command took all available forces to sea and carried out a valuable series of exercises. Zanzibar and Manza were visited in the course of these exercises.




14. The organisation of the Commodore, Naval Air Stations, was in the process of forming when I arrived at Kilindini, subsequent to its move from Colombo.


The need for this organisation to function at maximum efficiency is an outstanding request. I therefore made proposals concerning future command and as an immediate measure appointed Captain M.S. Slattery of DANAE as Chief Staff Officer to the Commodore, Naval Air Stations, and transferred Captain H. Nalder from EREBUS to DANAE.


Bases of the Eastern Fleet



(a). On the 9th May I received the Admiralty’s message 1942/8th May requesting my views as regards my proposed policy regarding main fleet bases, assumed that Colombo should be first priority. My reply was contained in my 1313/9, which gave my objections to Colombo as a main fleet base and recommended that Kilindini should be developed for that purpose. I further recommended that Seychelles, Diego Suarez, Salaya, Mauritius, Diego Garcia, and Addu Atoll be developed in that order of priority as refuelling and operating bases.


(b). Admiralty, in their 1419/16th May, indicated that control of the Bay of Bengal could not be exercised from Kilindini and proposed the alternative bases of Trincomalee, Colombo, and Addu Atoll.


(c). In My 0931/20 I recapitulated my fleet policy and the consequent use for bases, in particular with a view to exercising some control over the Eastern Indian Ocean.


(d). On the 24th May a further message from the Admiralty, timed 0053/24th May asked for my remarks on the relative defenses required at Trincomalee and Colombo, in view of the fact that Colombo could not accommodate the whole of Force A satisfactorily.   


(e). I replied in my 1815/24 that Colombo should take priority over Trincomalee since Colombo is less likely to receive a surprise sea borne or land based attack and is less susceptible to air attack. I again made it clear that at Colombo congestion made it undesirable that the whole of force A should be there at one time.


(f). Admiralty message 0144/26th May referred to the desirability of deterring the Japanese from operating in the Bay of Bengal with minor forces and insisted that the berthing of Force A in the Ceylon area was essential.


(g). In a message timed 1345/26 the problem of control of the Bay of Bengal was compared to the situation in northern waters at home at present.


(h). In my 0614/28 I once again recapitulated my fleet policy which amounted to the policy of the maintenance of a “fleet in being”; at the same time using the fleet as opportunity occurred to strike the enemy’s weak points. The base problem was again explained and the comparison with the North Sea analysed.


General Developments


(i) In the meantime the surveying of Salaya proceeds; A/S protection for Kilindini and Manza are under way, and that for Seychilles and Diego Suarez are being prepared.


(ii). Previous approved developments at Mauritius are proceeding and it is my intention on arrival at Colombo to investigate the arrangements required for the rapid development of Addu Atoll when the strength of the Eastern Fleet justifies work being done.


Command and Staff



(a) It was soon apparent, with my untrained fleet and collection of unorganized bases, that if I was to ensure the best possible use being made of our meager resources, the strengthening of my staff, particularly administrative, was imperative, and proposals made in my 1632/17, to which no reply had been received when I left Kilindini.


(b) I feel perhaps it is not fully appreciated at home the enormity of the task of creating bases for and administering this and the future Eastern Fleet.


(c). In the Home and Mediterranean Stations, particularly the former with the Admiralty close at hand, each command and each main base has more amenities and staffs than all the harbours and bases in the Indian Ocean put together.Furthermore, these have been built up over a period of time and I suggest are now out of proportion to the forces they have to operate and administer. To be frank I feel that whilst my brother Commanders in Chief are riding comfortably in their Rolls Royce, I am pushing a broken down Ford with a flat tire.


Force A



(a). On the 20th May I was informed that the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, suggested the possibility of Japanese attacks on the western bases, and requested some diversion in the Eastern Indian Ocean or the detachment of a carrier to the southwest Pacific area.


(b). The Admiralty in the meantime enquired whether I should have sufficient screening destroyers to proceed with part of the fleet to Colombo, to which reply was made that a minimum of five destroyers was required. My views on this operation were given in my 0901/21 May.


(c). Admiralty informed me in their 1146/23rd May that Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, hoped the movement to Colombo would take place. Arrangements were put in hand for the force to sail as soon as destroyers became available, about the 28th May.


(d). Four of these destroyers, DUNCAN, DECOY, ANTHONY, and ACTIVE were in such poor state of repair that it was improbable they could make the passage to Colombo without breaking down. I requested the three L class at Diego Suarez might be put at my disposal, but pointed out that it would be necessary for them to proceed to Seychelles without relief unless the movement of Force A was delayed unduly. To this the Admiralty agreed in their message 1613/25th May.


(e). JAN VAN GALEN, who should have made the fifth destroyer, was, for some reason still unexplained, late in sailing from South Africa.



(i). On 29th May, WARSPITE (Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), ILLUSTRIOUS (Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet), FORMIDABLE, GAMBIA, DUNCAN, and ACTIVE sailed from Kilindini and proceeded eastward at 18 knots, so as to pass 100 miles north of the Seychelles Islands. DECOY and ANTHONY, who should have accompanied Force A were unable to sail owing to defects. VAN GALEN, whose arrived at Kilindini had been delayed, was ordered to proceed to Colombo independently.


(ii). After dark further trials were carried out to investigate the best method of employing parachute flares for illuminating ships sighted at night outside starshell range on moonlight nights. On completion of these exercises, GAMBIA was stated five miles ahead of the main force for the night.


(iii). At 0200 the Senior Officer, Force F signal 2314/20 was received reported an unidentified twin float monoplane had flown over Diego Suarez at 2215 on the 29th May. I appreciated that this aircraft could have been either


(a). French, operating from a Vichy port in Madagascar


(b). from a Japanese submarine


(c). from a German raider.


I considered (a) to be the most probably, but did not inform Senior Officer Force F, to this effect as I assumed that he would take whatever action was possible with the very limited resources at his disposal.


(iv). On 30th May air and gunnery practices were carried out a.m., including a dawn A.L.T. on the Battlefleet.


(v). At noon ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE under the command of the Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, parted company and proceed to the northward for independent air training and exercises against WARSPITE and GAMBIA. The carriers were instructed to rejoin me at daylight on 1st June. Exercises were continued p.m., including a dusk A.L.T. on WARSPITE. A night A.L.T. had been intended but the air striking force failed to locate the Battlefleet.


(vi). At 0030 Senior Officer Force F signal 2038 was received reporting that RAMILLIES had been hit by two torpedoes in Diego Suarez harbour. A further signal (S.O.F.’s 2117/30) was received at 0745, stating that the damage to RAMILLIES including flooding in the lower deck compartments in the neighbourhood of A turret. It was reported that the tanker BRITISH LOYALTY had been torpedoed 40 minutes after RAMILLIES was hit, at 2038.


(vii). The A/S craft at Diego Suarez at the time consisted of two corvettes, GENISTA and THYME. Three L class destroyers LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, and LOOKOUT, the only destroyers at Diego Suarez, had left that port to join Force A to the north of the Seychelles at 0900 on 1st June. Without these destroyers it would have been necessary for Force A to proceed to Colombo unscreened as neither DUNCAN nor ACTIVE were fit to undertake this passage.


Under the circumstance I decided to dispose with the escort and detached DUNCAN and ACTIVE to proceed at once to Diego Suarez. These ships arrived at daylight on the 1st June.


Captain (D) 19th Destroyer Flotilla, in LAFOREY informed me that he had detached LOOKOUT to return to Diego Suarez. I instructed Captain D 19 to recall LOOKOUT as I considered it was undesirable still further to reduce Force A’s escort during the passage eastward of the Seychelles.


(viii). In addition to the arrangements already made for laying a controlled minefield, indicator nets, and anti submarine boom at Diego Suarez (vide paragraph 12), the following action was taken by the Deputy Command in Chief, Eastern Fleet, in consultation with the Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Eastern Fleet, at Kilindini


(a). Fleet Constructor Officer, Captain Pengelly was sent to RAMILLIES by the quickest route.


(b) DECOY with six portable pumps on board was ordered to sail from Kilindini p.m. 31st May for Diego Suarez at best speed.


(c). A/S minesweepers CROMER, ROMNEY, and CROMARTY, escorting tug THAMES with four portable pumps onboard, were ordered to sail from Kilindini 31st may for Diego Suarez at best speed.


(d). CYCLAMEN was ordered to sail from Durban p.m. 30th May for Diego Suarez at best speed.


(e). FOXHOUND was ordered to sail from Durban 31st May for Diego Suarez at best speed.


            (ix). During 31st May gunnery and air exercises were continued. The latter included:


(a). fighter escorted air striking from (18 T.S.R.s) which carried out a day A.L.T. on WARSPITE and GAMBIA. This was the first large scale air exercise to be carried out by the Eastern Fleet in which the air striking forces had been escorted by fighters.


(b). Dawn A.L.T.


(c). Night A.L.T. on WARSPITE


(x). On 1st June at 0700, a Walrus was catapulted from WARSPITE to proceed to Seychelles with important despatches for onward transmission.


At 0900 ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE rejoined, and LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, and LOOKOUT rendezvoused with Force A.


During the afternoon GAMBIA opened out to 60 miles to northward to act as a target for air exercises. She was ordered to rejoin at 0900 on the 3rd June.


An air search was carried out p.m. ahead of the fleet to a depth of 120 miles over the sector 75 degrees to 130 degrees. Nothing was seen.


(xi). Whilst listening in to a fighter direction exercise on 2nd June, I noted that Black Leader’s high pitched voice did not lend itself to R/T transmission. I signaled to ILLUSTRIOUS “Consider Black Leader would benefit by some capstan drill.” The promptness with which my attention was at once invited by ILLUSTRIOUS to St. Matthew, Chapter XIX, Verse 12 indicated a knowledge of the Holy Writ which is most commendable. This may (or possibly may not) be of interest to the Chaplain of the Fleet.


(xii). On the 3rd June GAMBIA rejoined Force A at 0900, and course was altered to the northeast of the Kardiva Channel.


(xiii). At daylight on 4th June course was altered to eastward and the force passed through Kardiva Channel at noon.

Air Exercises

(xiv). Prior arrangements had been made with the Commander in Chief, Ceylon, for the Ceylon air force to carry out search, shadow, and striking force attack on Force A during its approach to Colombo from the Kardiva Channel on the 4th and 5th June.


The times of passing through the channel and arrived at Colombo were passed to the Air Officer Commanding.


A Catalina sighted and reported Force A at 1420 on 4th June, but was subsequently engaged by Force A fighters and considered shot down.


One Catalina crossed the Mean Line of Advance of Force A several times during the night (once only 3 ½ miles astern), but never sighted although A.S.V. fitted.


Daylight on the 5th was at 0600, but no Catalina came within sighting distance of Force A. A Catalina W/T report was intercepted reporting the force 30 miles to the northward. This later turned out to have been made by a Catalina sighting a “cruiser” and reporting it as the whole force without first verifying the presence of the remaining ships in it.


No cruiser was in that vicinity and the vessel sighted was probably a merchant ship.


During the forenoon of 5th June the fighter umbrella of Force A was picked up on one of the Ceylon R.D.F. screens when 60 miles away and the approximate position of the Force deduced.


Apart from this however, Force A remained unlocated until proceeding down the swept channel when the Blenheim Squadron after manoeurving without range, passed overhead in close formation. It was not until m y arrival in harbour that I learned that this fly (or as one of my staff put it “totter”) past was intended to represent a medium level bombing attack.


I am informed that these very ineffective results were due to this being an “exercise” as opposed to a “test”. It appears to me however that the training of the Ceylon Air Force has not yet reached the stage when it can be regarded as providing adequate waning and a formidable deterrent to seaborne air attack.


(xv). Force A entered Colombo harbour at 1500 on 5th June.




                                                                                                            J.F. Somerville








Office of the British Naval Commander-in- Chief, Eastern Fleet

2nd July 1942


No. 42. S/4682.


Areas of operations, click to enlarge




5th JUNE to 1st JULY 1942





Force A arrived at Colombo at 1500 on the 5th June 1942. It had been my intention that Force A should remain there for three days only (viz. from the 5th to the 8th). This period had to be extended to seven days since it was found the boilers of all three of the L Class destroyers were overdue to cleaning, LAFOREY required docking, and VAN GALEN had defects to be made good.


2. During this stay at Colombo a number of conferences were held to discuss matters affecting the three services in the Indian Ocean, together with purely Naval Operational and Administrative matters.


3. On 6th June a conference was held, attended by the Commander in Chief, Ceylon, the Commander in Chief, East Indies, the Air Officer Commanding, Ceylon, Rear Admiral Read (designate Flag Officer, Ceylon), Major General Morris (Chief of General Staff, India) and other officers connected with the defence of Ceylon. The following matters were discussed:


(a). Defence of Colombo and Trincomalee against seaborne air attack


(i). I referred to the results of the exercises carried out on the 5th June when the Ceylon air forces failed to attack Force A until after it had entered the swept channel. I felt that until the efficiency of the Ceylon air force, by virtue of more suitable aircraft and extended training, had reached a much higher standard, it would not be possible to ensure that the Fleet would be safeguarded against surprise attack whilst at Colombo or Trincomalee.


(ii). It was explained that as this was an exercise and not a test it did not represent the best that could be achieved and mistakes had been made which would not occur under more realistic conditions. As will be shown subsequently further exercises which were considered as “tests” did not indicate much improvement.


(iii). The Brigadier in charge of A/A defences gave a detailed description of the gun density available at both Colombo and Trincomalee; this appeared to be satisfactory. The situation in regard to the warning system is less satisfactory since it appeared for high targets warning was limited to 40/60 miles and for low targets to 20 miles.


(iv). I explained to the Chief of General Staff, India, my views on the need for land operated aircraft to protect our shipping and to attack enemy surface vessels or aircraft in the Bay of Bengal and to carry out long range reconnaissance over the Bay of Bengal and the Ceylon area. I emphasized strongly the need to release Catalinas as soon as long range land machines are available for their proper role of reconnaissance and shadowing over the large areas of the Indian Ocean in which land machines could not operate owing to lack of aerodromes.


(b). Priority of Bases


(i). The action taken to implement the priority laid down by the Admiralty for the defence of naval bases in the Indian Ocean was discussed. The Pioneer Section of the M.N.B.D.O. was on the point of leaving Colombo for the Seychelles in order to move the existing 6” guns to better counter bombardment sites and also to mount two 4” close range defence guns. As this work would only take about three weeks it was decided that it should proceed and that work should then commence at Addu Atoll, which is now to be given first priority.


(ii). Arrangements were made for work on the aerodrome at Addu to be commenced as soon as possible with labour to be supplied by India. The dilapidation of the booms at Addu due to weather is a matter of concern as little can be done to effect repairs until the monsoon ceases in September.


(iii). The work to be carried out on the proposed fuelling base at Salaya was discussed and it was agreed that this should be reduced to minimum required to render this anchorage safe as a temporary fleet fuelling base.


(c). Y Organisation


(i). The transfer of the remainder of the Y organisation from Colombo to Kilindini was discussed and arrangements made which it was hoped would provide the necessary liaison and intelligence at New Delhi.


(d). Naval Administration


(i). It was decided that when the appointment of Commander in Chief, East Indies, lapses the naval bases would be administered by the following authorities under the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet.


            All bases in Ceylon – Addu Atoll  by the Flag Officer Ceylon


East African Bases. All other bases

            In the West Indian Ocean, including

            Diego Suarez by the Flag Officer, East Africa and Zanzibar


(ii). Command


            The following changes in sub command will also take place.

(a). Flag Officer, Ceylon, to be responsible for:

(i) all naval matters respecting Ceylon and Addu Atoll

(ii). Royal Naval establishments and Royal Naval Air Stations in Ceylon and India

(iii). The Ceylon Escort Group

(iv). Control and routeing of Indian and Ceylon coastal shipping

(v). Liaison with Flag Officer Command, Royal Indian Navy, for matters affecting Ceylon, Addu Atoll and for coastal shipping.

(b). The Flag Officer, East Africa and Zanzibar, to operate and administer the local defence forces at Kilindini

(c ). The Flag Officer Commanding, Royal Indian Navy, to remain as at present

(d). Rear Admiral A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, to take up appointment as Flag Liaison Officer, Delhi. To act as representative and as Naval Adviser to the Viceroy and to the Commander in Chief, India, and to be a member of the Commander in Chief, India’s, Joint Planning Committee.

(e). The Senior Naval Officer, Persian Gulf, to become an independent command and operate and administer all H.M. ships and establishments of the Persian Gulf, referring to me on matters of higher policy. Matters concerning the Government of India, hitherto referred to the Commander in Chief, East Indies, to be referred to the Flag Liaison Officer, Delhi; (vide my 0845/10th June)/

Japanese Raider and Submarine Attacks in the Mozambique – Madagascar Area


4. During the period 5th to 12th June at least three enemy submarines were operating in the Mozambique Channel and two enemy raiders had been concerned in the sinking of S.S. ELYSIA when 400 miles northeast of Durban.


5. These attacks suggested the raiders would endeavour to intercept ships that were diverted from the Mozambique Channel as the result of the submarine operations.


6. In view of the difficulty of controlling this situation from Colombo the Deputy Commander in Chief was ordered to take charge of the area between Durban and the Equator, and to make use of all available ships, together with INDOMITABLE if necessary, in order to deal with the situation.


7. This situation clearly indicated the advisability of shipping control and protection of shipping on the east coast of Africa being exercised from Kilindini, which is well placed for the purpose.


8. Owing to the absence of ten destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, the defects of many of those remaining, and the lack of A/S vessels as escorts it was impracticable even to consider putting trade into convoy for the passage through this area. Signals received from the Deputy Command in Chief indicated that he was taking all possible measures under the circumstances. In order to assist him, I requested the Air Officer, Ceylon to dispatch three Catalinas to Kilindini was soon as possible to operate under the orders of the Deputy Commander in Chief.


9. I was concerned to find that of the 15 British and 9 Dutch Catalinas now in Ceylon only three were available to proceed to Kilindini, owing to 17 being either unserviceable or shortly due to major inspections. The remaining four were required to maintain patrol eastward of Ceylon and patrol when Addu whilst the base was being used by Force A.


10. The dispositions adopted by the Deputy Commander in Chief indicated he strongly suspected the Japanese raiders would move north to attack the dense shipping route between Madagascar and Aden. Although I did not consider this probable, I did not interfere with his dispositions, since the information available was scanty and it was quite possible the Deputy Commander in Chief might be in possession of information which supported his views. I informed the Deputy, however, that it was most desirable INDOMITABLE should complete her repairs as soon as she could be released for this purpose.


11. As S.S. QUEEN MARY was ready to leave Simonstown for Suez on the 10th June with 9000 troops aboard I informed the Deputy Commander in Chief and the Commander in Chief, South Africa, that she should be routed to the eastward of Madagascar and escorted from the Cape area by an 8” or modern 6” cruiser until clear to the northward of the raider danger area, MAURITIUS and subsequently DEVONSHIRE to be used for this purpose. I also informed the Deputy Command in Chief that in addition to an old 6” cruiser and A.M.C. escort, convoy W S 19 should have a modern 6” inch as additional escort.


Diversion of East African coast Trade


12. On the 10th June, the Deputy Commander in Chief pointed out that the present concentrated lines of unescorted shipping in the Mozambique Channel area could not be maintained and he proposed:


(i). To adopt evasive routing over the whole width of the navigable channel.


(ii). To route all escorted troop convoys to the east of Madagascar.


(iii). To route all large fast ships unescorted to the east of Madagascar and accept the raider risk involved.


With these proposals I agreed.


Test of Ceylon Air Defences (12th and 13th June)


13. Force A, comprising WARSPITE (Flag of Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag Rear Admiral Commanding Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet), FORMIDABLE, GAMBIA, LAFOREY (Captain (D) 19th Destroyer Flotilla), LIGHTNING, LOOKOUT, VAN GALEN, and accompanied by SCOUT, proceeded to sea a.m. on the 12th June for reconnaissance of the Chagos Archipelago and the area in that vicinity.


14. When 35 miles west of Colombo Force A was used as a target for attack by Ceylon air forces, fighters from ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE being sent up to intercept these attacks.


15. In the first attack a squadron of Hurricanes in close formation flew over the fleet at a low altitude. This attack had been planned as a low level bombing attack, but the formation, having sighted the fleet through a patch of fog, dived but then found themselves a considerable distance from the fleet; nevertheless they continued their low level approach to their targets. This was the first time this squadron had tried out this method of attack on ships.


16. Secondly, a high level attack by Blenheims was well sychronrised with a torpedo attack by two pairs of Beauforts flying very low. The Beauforts, which were not intercepted by Force A fighters, approached well, but were not steady on release, this also being at too great a range.


17. The Swordfish taking part failed to attack as they considered they had all been intercepted and shot down by Force A fighters.


18. Except in the case of the Swordfish, interception by Force A fighters was not really effective. This was due in part to difficulty in identification owing to failure of I.F.F. and also to prevalence of land echoes which confused all attempts at distant interception. It is clear that out fighter interception technique, especially when dealing with sychronrised attacks and with fighters operating from two or more carriers, still fails to reach the standard required. Reliable I.F.F. is an outstanding requisite.


19. On completion of these attacks course was shaped as requisite for the second exercise due to commence at 0001 on the 13th June, which was intended to be a “test” of the ability of the Ceylon air forces to locate and attack an enemy force and to intercept enemy aircraft before they could attack the harbour at Colombo and other objectives.


20. Ceylon air forces had been informed that Force A would be approximately 90 miles to the westward of Colombo at 0001, steering to the south east. A Catalina sent out to locate and shadow Force A unfortunately found and shadowed two merchant ships, reported these as Force A. As a result the Blenheims and Swordfish striking forces were despatched to the wrong position and failed to attack Force A.


21. Three Beauforts carried out independent searches and two were successful in locating and attacking Force A at 0645. Neither of these Beauforts were intercepted by Force A fighter umbrella, which was directed wrongly on to some of Force A’s own aircraft returning from their attack on Ceylon.


22. Striking forces consisting of 11 Albacores and 14 Swordfish from FORMIDABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS were flown off before daylight at 0500, and carried out dawn attacks on Colombo Harbour and on Ratmalana and Race Course aerodromes. From subsequent reports it appears that none of these striking forces were intercepted by Ceylon fighters until after completing their attacks.


23. At 0610 four Fulmars from ILLUSTRIOUS were flown off to carry out a separate attack on the Seaplane base at Kogalla. This strike was intercepted by one fighter before it reached its objective.


24. The ease with which all the air striking forces were able to reach their objectives and deliver their attacks with practically no air opposition indicated clearly to me that the R.D.F. and fighter interception measures in Ceylon left a great deal to be desired.


25. I subsequently learnt that R.D.F. cover against attack from low flying aircraft in this sector of Ceylon had not then been installed.


26. Force A Albacores and Swordfish formations returning to the carriers failed to comply with the correct recognition procedure of approaching their own fleet in line astern. This matter is of great importance and apparently receives insufficient emphasis in the initial training of Fleet Air Arm Squadrons.


27. At 0715 whilst boosting Martlet aircraft by the American method, ILLUSTRIOUS parted a towing strop and one Martlet was slightly damaged tipping up on its nose. A new strop was fitted , and after one more successful launch, this strop parted and the aircraft taxied over the bow into the sea and sank immediately. It is regretted the pilot Sub-Lieutenant

(A) J. Walker, RNVR, was unable to get clear.


28. On Sunday 14th June, the force continued course to the south and at 0900 on the 15th when in a position about 100 miles to the eastward of Chagos, an air search was carried out over the whole of the Chagos Archipelago for possible enemy supply ships. No ships were found.


29. Course was then altered to northward and Force A arrived at Addu Atoll 0800 on Tuesday 16th June, to refuel.


Defences at Addu


30. The state of defences and general progress of work is as follows:

(i). The recent monsoon weather has damaged and removed most of the indicator nets outside the booms in the southern (Gan) and southeastern (Wilingili) channels, and displaced those inside the two northern entrances (Kudukanda and Mandukanda). The A/S boom in Wilingili is probably intact, but that in Gan Channel requires considerable repair.


(ii). The controlled minefields and their loops in all entrances are, however, in full operation.


(iii). As recent experience at Sydney has shown midget submarines are unlikely to be detected by indicator loops in depths exceeding 10 fathoms (Admiralty Message 1639/13), the controlled minefield laid in all the entrances to Addu cannot be regarded as any safeguard against midget submarines.


(iv). Taking into account the above factors it would be quite possible for midget submarines to enter the anchorage without difficulty through either of the northern entrances (Kudukanda and Mandukanda), or with some difficulty through Gan Channel.


(v). Under these conditions the anchorage is far from secure against underwater attack.


(vi). Work on the A/s defences cannot be restarted until the monsoon weather is over in September, and then, not only must the defences be repaired, but they must be improved as necessary to provide defence against midget submarines. Until then the use of the anchorage must be restricted to short daylight visits for refuelling.


(b). Gan Island Aerodrome


(i). I visited the prospective site of this aerodrome which at present consists of a natural clearing about a mile long and 800 yards wide in the middle of a coconut plantation.


(ii) The only work done on this aerodrome until work was stopped last April was to peg and mark the centre of what is to be the main East/West runway and the shorter Northeast/Southwest runway.


(iii). Although the natural clearing exists there is still a very considerable amount of scrub and undergrowth over the whole area. The sub-soil also appears to be very soft and spongy, which will necessitate special construction of the runways.


(iv). I understand that after the necessary excavators have been landed it will take about 1000 Indian labourers three months to clear and level this space to make it an aerodrome.


(v). There already exists in the island sufficient tentage and dismantled huts which could be used to accommodate the majority of these labourers, but the water supply will have to be augmented by tankers or distilling plant.

(c). Port War Signal Station and 6 inch Battery

During my visit to Gan I also inspected the Port War Signal Station and the 6 inch battery. The guns and mountings have been well maintained but the control appears to be nearly related to the Ming Dynasty.

31. Force A sailed at 1800 on 16th June and shaped course for Colombo.


Test of Ceylon Air Defences (17th and 18th June)


32. On the 17th June an exercise commenced to test out the air defences of Ceylon in their ability.


(i). To attack an enemy carrier force before it could launch its air attack.


(ii). To intercept enemy aircraft before they could attack ships in Colombo harbour and other objectives.


33. Owing to the very limited number of Catalina aircraft available to search for and shadow Force A, unrealistic restriction had to be placed on this exercise.


34. At 1725 a sleeve towing Swordfish from FORMIDABLE had to force land in the sea owing to engine trouble. The crew was saved by GAMBIA.


35. At 1727 a Ceylon Catalina was sighted above the horizon to the southward. Had it not been for the dislocation caused by FORMIDABLE’s Swordfish just having crashed in the sea fighters would normally have been sent up at once from FORMIDABLE to intercept this Catalina.


36. As it was the Catalina remained in sight of the fleet for 14 minutes before withdrawing to the eastward out of sight to make its first sighting report at 1820.


37. At a subsequent conference the Air Officer Commanding, Ceylon, fully agreed that as soon as Catalinas sight an enemy force they should at once withdraw out of sight and then make their report.


38. The Catalina in question again closed at 1915 to about 10 miles. It was not sighted but was picked up on Force A’s R.D.F. screens. Owing to aerial trouble the Catalina was not able to transmit any further reports of Force A and returned to base.


39. At 2002, GAMBIA, whilst on the A/S screen, in position 4-90N, 76-39E (n.b. coordinates as recorded in ROP) reported investigating contact, and at 2032 LAFOREY dropped a depth charge pattern on what appeared a submarine contact. The contact was lost later and it is probable it was a whale.


40. At 0600 on 18th June Force A’s air striking force of 14 Swordfish and 14 Albacores was flown off at first light (as has been the normal Japanese practice) to deliver daylight attacks on Colombo Harbour.


41. For safety reasons the harbour balloon barrage had previously been “dulled.”


42. At 0625 a SWORDFISH returned to the fleet and reported another Swordfish having force landed in the sea eight miles away. LIGHTNING was despatched to the spot and rescued the crew. This rescue was greatly helped by the crew using their marine distress signal from their dinghy.


43. Out of the 26 aircraft attacking Colombo harbour it appears that 10 were definitely intercepted by fighters before delivering their attacks on the harbour, which is an improvement on previous tests.


44. Two Beauforts delivered single handed attacks on Force A, one at 0712 and the other at 0835. These attacks were both made on FORMIDABLE and once again their torpedo release was unsteady and at too long a range, also from bad tactical positions. The approach, however, was excellent.


45. Six Swordfish attacked Force A at 0951. This squadron had expected to sight Force A on an easterly course, but shortly before their attack course had been altered to the west to land on Force A’s striking forces, with the result that the Swordfish were placed astern and down wind. In addition they were intercepted by four Martlets. This attack was therefore unsuccessful.


46. A single Blenheim shadower was intercepted by Force A fighters at 0905 at a distance of 14 miles.


47. The exercise was terminated at 1015 and Force A entered Colombo harbour at 1600.


Second Period at Colombo (18th to 23rd June)

48. Force A remained at Colombo from 18th to 23rd June.


49. At 0800 on the 18th June, Rear Admiral A.D. Read hoisted his flag as Flag Officer, Ceylon, when the East Indies’ Command lapsed. Vice Admiral G.S. Arbuthnot, KCB, DSO, struck his flag as Commander in Chief, East Indies, at sunset and left Colombo for the United Kingdom the following day.


50. From the 18th the control and routing of trade in the East Indies Station was taken over by the Commander in chief, Eastern Fleet, except Indian and Ceylonese coastal trade which is being controlled by the Flag Officer, Ceylon.




51. Examination by divers showed the LOOKOUT’s rudder required immediate repair. This ship was therefore docked and repairs put in hand. This involved her being delayed to an extent which precluded her from accompanying Force A when that Force sailed from Colombo on 23rd June.


Conference with the Commander in Chief, India, Commander in Chief, Ceylon, etc.


52. During the forenoon of 19th June a conference was held on shore at which the following were present:


            Commander in Chief, India

            Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet

            Air Officers Commanding in Chief, India

            General, the Honourable Sir H. Alexander

            Commander in Chief, Ceylon

            General Officer Commanding, Ceylon

            Air Officer Commanding, Ceylon




(i). The Commander in Chief, India, outlined briefly plans for future offensive operations which would entail combined operations, and asked that details of these might be studied by the services concerned. Two plans were under consideration, but neither had advanced sufficiently to make a detailed discussion profitable at present.


(ii). Weather and other fundamental factors were discussed, including the use of seaborne air forces to support military operations. In this connection, I pointed out that recent operations in the Pacific have indicated clearly that aircraft carriers cannot be expected to operate effectively against strong land based air forces. These valuable and useful fleet units must be reserved for their proper role and enemy land base air forces neutralized by out own land based air forces.


(iii). I also stressed the need for a full scale synchronized diversion by U.S.A. forces in order to counter, to some extend, the advantage the Japanese enjoy of operating on interior lines.


(b). Defence of Bay of Bengal


It is agreed that land aircraft operating on the East Coast of India were an urgent requirement. The Air Officer Commanding in Chief, India, stated that is was hoped the necessary aerodromes for these aircraft would be completed in three months. I referred to the present weakness of the Ceylon air reconnaissance and striking forces and the need for these to be augmented and the Warning System improved before the Fleet can be assured of a reasonable degree of protection whilst at Colombo or Trincomalee.


(c). Control of Catalina Squadrons


(i). I expressed the opinion that it was very desirable the operational control of these squadrons should be vested in one authority and that the Air Officer Commanding, Ceylon, who was closely in touch with the general and naval situations, appeared to be the most suitable. The Catalinas were very mobile and should be moved from place to place to meet the needs of the situation.


(ii). Both the Commander in Chief, India, and the Air Officer Commanding in Chief, India, demurred at these Catalinas which are earmarked primarily for Madras, being operated by any authority other than the Air Officer Commanding Chief, India. They admitted, however, it would be wrong to retain Catalinas at Madras when there was no immediate threat in the Bay of Bengal and submarine or raider activity required observation and counter action. Agreement on this point was not reached.


Mining Operations


53. In view of the possibility of offensive operations I decided to cancel MANXMAN’s minelaying programme since it was obvious that these minefields would prove an embarrassment to us. Furthermore, the most recent P.R.U. and submarine reports indicated that the merchant ship movements north of Rangoon are not considerable enough to justify the risk involved and possible disclosure of the special plan for carrying this operation.


Visit of Ceylonese Minister and Commander in Chief, Ceylon, to H.M.S. FORMIDABLE


54. In the afternoon I entertained the Minister and the Speaker of the House of Assembly to tea onboard H.M.S. FORMIDABLE and afterwards took them round the ship. They were accompanied by the Commander in Chief, Ceylon, who informed me subsequently that his visit had been most successful and would undoubtedly stimulate the Ministers to increased war efforts. The ignorance displayed by the Ministers on naval matters was abysmal. Questions were asked whether merchant ships and tugs were cruisers and destroyers, and it was difficult to persuade one of these gentlemen that a lighter propelled by two of his countrymen in loin clothes was not a submarine. The proceedings were enlivened by an air raid warning Red which proved to be false but which afforded excellent opportunity for the display of subsequent heroics.


Meeting with the Air Officer Commanding, Ceylon, regarding recent air exercises


55. On 20th June a meeting was held on shore to discuss in detail the results of the tests and exercises carried out between the Ceylon air forces and Force A. It is gratifying to record that throughout the discussion, it was clear both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy appreciated in full that the object of these tests is to improve the organisation and techniques of attack and defence on both sides and to secure this the fullest degree of cooperation and mutual assistance is essential.


Ceylon Defences


56. In the afternoon I visited the Fighter Direction Station and was favourably impressed with the lay out, organisation, and knowledge displayed by the Squadron Leader in Charge. On the other hand, the R/T communication with fighters appeared to be little better than our own and well before the standard of German R/T which I learned (n.b. pen and ink correction of word “learned” to “heard”) over two years ago at Dover.


57. I also inspected a G.L. II set installed at a A/A/ heavy gun battery manned by Royal Marines. Everything was, as might be expected, in first class order and the Sergeant’s vegetable garden in full production.


Katukurunda Aerodrome


58. In the afternoon I visited Katukurunda Aerodrome which is be turned over to the Royal Navy to accommodate three disembarked squadrons. Work to the extend the runway is in progress but the accommodation will not be completed for another two months. The main objection lies in it distance from Colombo, which precluded squadrons being disembarked unless the Fleet is at 8 hours’ notice or longer, owing to the time taken to recover the personnel, i.e. approximately 80 per squadron. It is most desirable, however, that squadrons should be disembarked when possible as the excessive heat in the carriers hangers has an adverse effect on personnel and to some extent their work.


Operations in the Mediterranean


59. A signal from the Rear Admiral Commanding, 4th Cruiser Squadron, gave me details of the damage sustained by H.M.S. NEWCASTLE and also informed me of the loss of H.M.S. HERMIONE. This fine little ship had served me well in Force H and during her short visit to Kilindini. I was glad to note the spirit of the officers and men under the inspiring leadership of her Captain (Captain G.N. Oliver (n.b. pen and ink correction CBE crossed out), DSO) was as outstanding as ever.


60. I must again refer to the paucity of my information concerning current naval events. Although I had detached two cruisers and ten destroyers to assist with the Eastern Mediterranean convoy my only information concerning the operation was restricted to “Natels” – sometimes corrupt – and the B.B.C. I still have no idea of what really happened, how many of the Western convoy reached Malta or how the enemy attacks were detected and met.


61. In this connexion I would like to point out that the first intimation I received of the retention at Freetown of RODNEY and NELSON was from the Commander in Chief, South Atlantic. On the 20th June, however, I received Their Lordships’ messages informing me of the delay in these two ships joining my Flag and of the temporary withdrawal of INDOMITABLE from the Eastern Fleet.


Requirements of Land Based Aircraft in India and Ceylon


62. On the 21st June, in reply to an enquiry from the Admiralty I gave what I considered to be the minimum requirements of land based aircraft on the East Coast of India and in Ceylon.


Operation SCHOONER


63. In connexion with the movement of two Australian Brigade Groups from Ceylon to Australia (Convoy SCHOONER), I arranged for GAMBIA to escort the convoy from Colombo to 83 degrees East, 20 degrees South. Onward escort to Australian has been arranged by the Australian Commonwealth Board, employing U.S.S. PHOENIX and one of H.M. Australian ships.


Subsequent proceedings of Force A (23rd June to 1st July)


64. Force A, consisting of WARSPITE (Flag of Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), FORMIDABLE, GAMBIA, LAFOREY (Captain (D) 19th Destroyer Flotilla), LIGHTNING, and VAN GALEN sailed at 0900 from Colombo.


65. When 40 miles west of Colombo, a sychronrised attack was carried out by Ceylon air forces on Force A. Two pairs of Beauforts attacked simultaneously, one pair from each side, and at the same time a squadron of Blenheims approached unobserved and carried out a high level bombing attack.


66. Albacores from FORMIDABLE had earlier carried out an A.S.V. exercises on TRUANT to the northward and were returning to their carriers during the approach of the Ceylon striking forces. This caused some confusion on the R.D.F. screen. Nevertheless, the poor results obtained by the R.D.F. in failing to detect the approach of the Ceylon striking forces was not satisfactory, and immediate endeavour is being made to improve matters, particularly to speed up the passing of reports of raids from outlying ships to the Flagship.


67. At 1100 three Sea Hurricanes were flown in FORMIDABLE for passage to Kilindini and for embarkation in INDOMITABLE. A further three were later flown on board ILLUSTRIOUS at 1800.


68. ILLUSTRIOUS had been delayed in harbour by her bottom line having fouled the propeller. It was hoped ILLUSTRIOUS would get clean by 1500 and at 1330 Force A turned towards Colombo until 1600 when ILLUSTRIOUS reported that she would not be ready until after 1700 at the earliest. Force A was then turned to the southeast and course shaped for the One and a Half Degree Channel, and ILLUSTRIOUS instructed to join at dawn the following morning.


69. ILLUSTRIOUS rejoined at 0700 on 24th June. At 0830 one Fulmar crashed on deck landing on ILLUSTRIOUS.


Force A passed through the One and a Half Degree Channel during the night 24/25th June, and course was shaped for the Seychelles.


70. At 1130 on the 25th a Swordfish from ILLUSTRIOUS crashed whilst carrying out dive bombing practice at a towed target. On pulling out of the dive the aircraft’s port main plane appeared to break away and she dived into the sea and sank immediately. It is regretted the crew, consisting of Lieutenant (A) A.S.D. Macaulay, DSC, RN, (pilot), Sub Lieutenant (A) R.A. Bailey, DSC, RN (observer), and E. Roberts, Leading Steward, D/LX 21387 (Passenger), was lost


71. At 1230 despatches were transferred by LIGHTNING from WARSPITE to GAMBIA for transmission on her return to Colombo. GAMBIA was detached at 1400, 50 miles to the northward to act as a target ship for night shadowing air exercises and was instructed to proceed at dawn on 26th back to Colombo, where she was required for escort duty of convoy SCHOONER, due to leave Colombo for Australia about 10th July.


72. On 26th June during air exercises one Martlet from ILLUSTRIOUS forced landed in the sea at 1110. The pilot was saved by LIGHTNING.


Later at 1530 a Fulmar was damaged whilst landing on FORMIDABLE.


73. At 1620 on 27th June ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE under Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, parted company to the northward with orders to rejoin Force A again at 0900 on 29th in position 002-50 South 53 East. WARSPITE and the three destroyers continued on to the Seychelles area where they arrived at Port Victoria at 1100 on 28th June. FOXHOUND was already in port to join Force A.


Refuelling was commenced at once and completed by 1800. Throughout the visit two destroyers and one Walrus aircraft maintained A/S patrols to seaward. A Catalina aircraft also carried out a long range patrol around the islands.


74. In order to afford some A/S protection to the several tankers now normally kept at Port Victoria, and also ships which call there to refuel, I decided to transfer to Seychelles two A/S trawlers from the 3rd Trawler Group (4 vessels) now at Ceylon, where the A/S defence is not so weak as at Seychelles. The Flag Officer, Ceylon, was directed by signal to arrange according.


75. His Excellency the Governor, Lieutenant Colonel Lukis of M.N.D.B.O. and Lieutenant Colonel Newington (Officer Commanding Troops), and the Naval Officer in Charge, Seychelles, lunched with me onboard.


76. Discussing the prevalence of Venereal Disease in Mahe – about 80% of the inhabitants are affected – Lieutenant Colonel Newington informed me that he had successfully dealt with the situation by classing any of the Mahellas who contacted the disease as untouchables, which ensured ostracism by their fellow tribesman. This is in marked contrast to the “’Ard cheese mate” with which the lower deck greets a new recruit to the C.D.A. mess.


77. In the afternoon I visited the new gun sites on the northeast side of St Anne’s Island where it is intended to remount the existing two, 6 inch fixed defence battery at present in unsuitable sites on Mahe Island.


78. The Royal Marine Pioneer Section of the M.N.B.D.O., under Lieutenant Colonel Lukis, RM, working from the S.S. CLAN FORBES, has only been at Seychelles for a fortnight but in this time, besides mounting an additional gun at Mahe for close range defence of the harbour, they have made excellent progress in the construction of a road over the most difficult country from the beach to the new gun sites at St Anne’s. The rock is so hard that steel drills will only penetrate two inches before blunting. Diamond drills appear to be essential and I hope to obtain some from South Africa. I was most favourably impressed by the resource, initiative, and fine spirit displayed by the Pioneer Section under the able leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Lukis.


79. Providing the work is allowed to proceed the guns should be mounted in six weeks and in view of the importance of affording protection to the tankers stationed at Seychelles, I gave instructions that the work was to proceed. This slight delay involving moving the Pioneers to Addu Atoll will not affect progress at the latter to any material extent.


80. WARSPITE and four destroyers sailed at 1830 on 28th and at 0900 on 29th ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE rejoined at the pre arranged rendezvous. Course was then shaped direct to Kilindini.


81. During this passage full opportunity had been taken to carry out air night search and attack exercises, and frequent fighter direction exercises have resulted in an improvement in this respect.


82. Force A arrived at Kilindini at 1700 on 1st July.




                                                                                                            J.F. Somerville



P.S. Enclosed are photographs which show the congestion of shipping in the small harbour at Colombo. It will be observed that only one battleship and one carrier were in harbour when the photographs were taken. The added congestion when the whole of the reconstituted Force A is berthed there will be apparent. (n.b. these photographs not in my file)





Office of the British Naval Commander – in – Chief, Eastern Fleet

19th August 1942


No. 57S/4682.




1st JULY to 18th AUGUST 1942


Area of operations, click to enlarge



Be pleased to lay before Their Lordships the following report of the proceedings of Force A in the Eastern Fleet from 1st July to 18th August 1942.


Eastern Fleet State


2. The withdrawal of H.M.S. INDOMITABLE and the 19th Destroyer Flotilla on 9th July, and the heavy escort commitments on the Middle East and Indian Ocean supply routes, together with the shortage of destroyers had led me to inform the Admiralty of the weak state of the Eastern Fleet (my message times 1453/3). In effect the striking force available for the Eastern Fleet amounted to H.M.S. WARSPITE, two carriers, one or two cruisers, and possibly five destroyers.


Operation STAB


3. On the 21st July (n.b. see paragraph 4, date should read 12th) a signal was received from the First Sea Lord intimating B.A.D. Washington had been informed by Admiral King that he was anxious for the British Fleet to undertake a diversion in the Indian Ocean to hold down enemy air forces while the American Fleet was operating in the Pacific in early August. In my replay I informed Their Lordships that the only operations which it would be feasible for me to undertake at the end of July or early August were carrier borne raids on Port Blair or Sabang. Admiral Helfrich however has advised that an attack on Sabang was unlikely to be productive as the jungle lends itself to effective dispersal of aircraft. At Port Blair the main target would be flying boats which would best be attacked by fighters involving a very close approach of the carriers to the objective. I therefore suggested that a diversion rather than an actual raid by Force A towards the Andamans would prove more profitable.


4. On the 16th Chiefs of Staff telegraphed in the same sense as the First Sea Lord’s warning telegram of 12th July, but the date was now deferred to approximately 10th August.


5. In this telegram, the Commander in Chief, India, was requested to consider a deception plan in conjunction with myself and I was further requested to consider a diversionary feint in the area Java, Sumatra, or Andamans and to report my intentions, the date to be concerted with Commander in Chief, India. I was furthermore warned that it would not be justifiable to employ Eastern Fleet carriers on an operation in which they would be open to attack by shore based bombers.


6. The Commander in Chief, India in his 1530/16 doubted whether any good plan was possible which would be effective by 10th August, but he signaled suggestions which included simulating an attack on the Burmese coast.


7. After considering Chief Of Staff’s No. C.O.S. (India) 66 (O.Z. 741 – 16/7) I informed the Admiralty that as the operation was to contain enemy air forces I assumed that is was required to synchronise with the American operation unless they wished it otherwise and laid my plans accordingly. These, as set out in my message timed 0926/17, were briefly to suggest a landing in the Andamans by sailing three dummy convoys from Trincomalee, Madras, Vizagapatam, or Calcutta, Force A covering the convoys to the eastward. W/T to be used to ensure that the movement was observed and an endeavour then to be made to suggest postponement of operation due to some accidental cause.


8. The Chiefs of Staff replied to the Commander in Chief, India to the effect that his plan was not worth the risks and efforts involved in the present circumstances and unless he could concert with me in preparing a more satisfactory alternative plan to help the forthcoming Molucca-Pacific operation it would not be worth attempting.


9. Late on the 18th July, I received a personal telegram from the First Sea Lord informing me that he had just seen Admiral King who informed him that the American Solomon operation might commence as early as the 1st August and it would be most useful if the contemplated operation in the Indian Ocean could synchronise with this commencement.


10. In the meantime, all available ships of the Eastern Fleet at Kilindini had been out exercising under the command of the Vice Admiral Second in Command since the 15th July and in view of the previous date, 10th August, being given as commencement of the operation they were still at sea when the telegram was received.


11. Instructions were given for the Fleet to return to Kilindini as soon as possible and they entered harbour on the morning tide of 20th July after completing five days of concentrated practice.


12. Submarine Warfare in the Mozambique Channel


I had under careful analysis the Japanese U boat operations in the Mozambique Channel and the outcome suggested that


(a). attacks were in the nature of waves lasting about ten days with an inactive period in between.


(b). During this inactive period U boats proceeded to the south or south-east of Madagascar and probably replenished.


13. I had had under contemplation two forms of counter-attack


(a). to send a force of cruisers and carriers to an area south of Madagascar during the next replenishment period.


(b). to send a force of destroyers to operate in the Mozambique Channel, in conjunction with Catalina aircraft at the anticipated date of recommencement of attack.


14. I reported this to the Admiralty in my 1945/14th July. In reply the Admiralty in their 2232/17 suggested that the carrier force should be split and that half should be employed in rounding up the possible supply ship and the other half carry out the proposed diversionary operation.


They emphasized that if this could not be done we should be unable to take any action against the supply ship until early in September on Force A’s return.


15. I replied in my 1013/18 that to reduce Force A to below the strength of the already low limit of one battleship, two carriers, two cruisers, and five destroyers would suggest to the Americans that we were no cooperating to the best of our ability. In any case the extent to which the operation could be pressed with so small a force would be greatly restricted. I emphasized in my reply that it was open to question whether the proposed operation would in fact have the desired effect on Japanese air dispositions and if it were possible to forego the diversion we could concentrate on dealing with this serious submarine menace to our Middle East and Indian communications. I appreciated however that for political reasons and in order to be reassured of American reciprocal action if the Indian Ocean was seriously threatened, it would be undesirable to show reluctance in meeting their present request


16. The Admiralty in their 1337/19 subsequently agreed that the whole of Force a should proceed for the diversionary operation in the Bay of Bengal.


17. I decided to carry out the alternative operation in the Mozambique Channel using the only two destroyers that could be made available.


18. This plan was based on destroyers and Catalina aircraft working together from Mayotta Island ready to operate in the threatened area as a combined air and striking force.


19. H.M.S. ALBATROSS was sailed to act as parent ship for four Catalinas and with H.M. ships GRIFFIN and FOXHOUND as the striking force.


Sailing of Force A for Operation STAB


20. Force A, comprising WARSPITE (Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), ILLUSTRIOUS (Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet), FORMIDABLE, BIRMINGHAM (Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron), MAURITIUS, and only four available destroyers (NORMAN, NIZAM, INCONSTANT, and VAN GALEN) sailed at 0800 on 21st July to Colombo via the Seychelles


21. NAPIER (Commodore (D)) had been employed with FOXHOUND escorting H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH from Aden to Kilindini and entered harbour shortly after Force A had sailed. She sailed later the same day and joined me at sea two days later.


22. At noon on 23rd July, the destroyers under Commodore (D) were detached to refuel at the Seychelles. During that night the remainder of Force A stood to the northward, cruisers having been detached to carry out a shadowing exercise on the heavy ships. The destroyers carried out a dummy torpedo attack on the Battlefleet on rejoining at 0700 on 24th July.


23. At 0845 on 25th July a Fulmar crashed in the sea on taking off from FORMIDABLE. The crew was picked up by NIZAM.


24. After Force A had passed through the One and a Half Degree Channel at 0200 on the 27th course was altered for Colombo.


Air Exercises with Ceylon Air Force


25. I had previously informed the Commander in Chief, Ceylon that during the approach from the Maldive Islands to Colombo, Force A would be available as a target for the Royal Air Forces of Ceylon if desired.


26. On the evening of the 27th July at 1950, an R.D.F. contact was made with a shadowing Catalina and a signal from her was intercepted reporting the position, course, and speed of Force A with reasonable accuracy. Apparently the Catalinas A.S.V. then broke down and at 2040 she closed Force A to 8 miles and was sighted before she turned away again.


27. During the remainder of the night the Catalina failed to establish further contact with Force A. There was a bright moon, but also intermittent clouds. From 0440 until full daylight at 0630 two formations approached Force A, but never closer than about 14 miles and returned to base without delivering any attack.


28. At 0650 a formation of six Blenheims closed Force A and was sighted but did not deliver any attack. At 0725 a Squadron of twelve Hurricanes, flying very los, approached Force A and delivered a low bombing attack on the carriers.


29. I regret to report that during this attack one Hurricane flew too low, struck the port forward wireless mast of FORMIDABLE, crashed into the sea, and sank immediately. The pilot was not recovered.


30. No further attacks were made on Force A and the force entered Colombo at 0900F on the 28th July.


31. After arrival in harbour, the Air Officer Commanding Ceylon and his staff officers came on board to discuss the exercise. I was informed that failure to supplement the Catalina search was due to a desire to avoid weakening the striking force by using aircraft for this purpose. I pointed out that this was the third occasion on which no attack had been delivered owing to defective reconnaissance. It is to be hoped that the fundamental principle of ensuring contact even at the expense of striking power will be taken to heart though admittedly that has been stressed by me on all previous exercises.


32. On the following day I discussed with the Air Officer Commanding that arrangements for operational control of the Catalina squadrons in accordance with instructions issued by the Chiefs of Staff Committee.


The Air Officer Commanding appeared to welcome the new organisation which placed these aircraft under my orders since he had experienced difficulty in the past through trying to serve too many masters.


33. I also discussed this matter with the Commander in Chief, Ceylon and explained the necessity for reducing the routine patrols to the eastward of Ceylon in order to release Catalinas for more urgent duties elsewhere. In a letter to General Wavell forwarding a copy of the directive I intend to issue to the Air Officer Commanding Ceylon, I stressed similarly the need to reduce patrols to the eastward of Madras when there were no indications of enemy activity in the Malayan area or Bay of Bengal.


Operation ANAKIM


34. On the 29th and 30th July I had conference with Admiral Palliser and General Winterton (Chief of Staff to General Alexander) and discussed arrangements for the projected Operation ANAKIM (Commander in Chief India’s telegrams 17438/C.23/7 timed 1330 23rd July and 1825 24th July refer).


Operation STAB


35. The general outline of Operation STAB was communicated to Their Lordships in my message 0457Z of 27th July. The operation can be summarized as follows:


(i). Object of Operation


To carry out a feint in the Bay of Bengal in order to contain Japanese air and surface forces.


(ii). Intention


To carry out a diversion in the Bay of Bengal to suggest a seaborne attack on the Andamans by the following means.


36. Three dummy convoys with local escorts to sail in daylight at 0400Z/1st August in the direction of the Andamans from the following ports:

(a). From Vizagapatam

Force V – escort H.M.I.S. JUMNA (Senior Officer Force V) and H.M.S. SCOUT


(b). From Madras

Force M – escort H.M.S. MANXMAN (Senior Officer Force M), H.M.S. ASTER, and H.M.I.S. SONAVATI


(c ). From Trincomalee

Force T – escort H.M.I.S. HINDUSTAN (Senior Officer Force T), and H.M.S. MARGUERITE


37. Convoys to proceed at best speed and reverse their course after dark at 1700Z 1st August and return to their ports at best speed to arrive there before dusk on 2nd August.


38. Force A to sail from Colombo at 0400Z on the 31st July so as to be eastward of Trincomalee by the time Force T was due to sail on the 1st August. Thereafter, Force A to cover Force T from the eastward during the 1st and 2nd August. Subsequent movements of Force A to depend on the situation, the force finally returning to Colombo about the 4th August.


39. Wireless Diversion. During the night of 1st/2nd August whilst forces are at sea, a wireless diversion (Operation SPARK) to be carried out to simulate the following events.


(a). An imaginary collision to occur in Convoy M.


(b). One of the damaged ships to make in plain language W/T signal reported she had been in collision and is unable to proceed on operation. One of the escort to order her to keep silence and later to report to Command in Chief that Force M was unable to proceed. Commander in Chief to postpone the operation and order all forces to return to their ports.


(c ). Shore Wireless Stations to carry out their normal W/T procedure.


I informed Their Lordships of this wireless diversion in my message 0342/30th July.


40. Catalina Patrols were to be established well to the eastward to cover the three convoys during the short period they were at sea and Force A whilst operating in the Bay of Bengal.


41. Convoy Fighter Escorts


Forces V, M, and T to be escorted while within 50 miles of their ports on their journey out of the 1st August and on their return on 2nd August. A/S air patrols also to be provided if available.


(Note: Owing to unserviceability of aerodromes to serve Force V the air escort and long range reconnaissance for this force had to be abandoned.)


42. Preliminary Movements


The preliminary movements of Forces V and M towards their departure ports were well advanced by the time I reached Colombo, but H.M. Ships WELSHMAN and SCOUT had been retained to received my orders. Six ships of Force T sailed from Colombo on the 28th and 29th so that all forces would be ready to leave their departure ports at the prearranged time on 1st August.


43. Enemy reports in the Bay of Bengal


At 2200F on the 30th July, I received the following enemy report from R.N.N. Submarine O 23 on patrol in the Malacca Straits:


“Two cruisers TAKAO class four destroyers 005-32N, 098=50E. Course 340 Speed 14 knots. Torpedoes missed. T.O.O. 2352Z/28”


44. At 2230 I received a QQ report from H.T. BLACKHEATH passage from Madras to Vizagapatam in position 16-22N, 82-32E at 2156F/29. Shortly afterwards an SS report was received from the American merchant ship STEEL TRAVELLER in position 22 miles north Sacramento Shoal (about 35 miles to the northward of BLACKHEATH’s position).


45. It seemed unlikely that the enemy cruiser force, moving northwards close to the Thailand coast, was a sign of enemy reaction to the “planted” rumours in India that seaborne forces wear being prepared to attack the Andamans. A more probable reason to account for this movement was a possible raid on shipping in the northern part of the Bay of Bengal or a visit to Rangoon to coincide with the establishment of the new Burmese puppet government.


46. Force T and M were provided with air cover, both by the long range reconnaissance Catalina patrols and local fighter escort, and in addition would have Force A covering them to the eastward, but Force V would be without air cover and too far away to be covered by Force A. I therefore decided to cancel the sailing of Force V, but that all preparations for its departure were to continue.


47. Submarine Patrols


Submarine O 23 was due to leave patrol in the Malacca Straits on the 31st July and return to Colombo. In view of the enemy forces reported previously by her and the forthcoming Operation STAB, O 23 was ordered to remain on patrol until 3rd August.


48. Shipping the Bay of Bengal


All independent shipping on the east coast of India was ordered to proceed to the nearest ports.


49. Force A


In view of the enemy cruisers reported in the Malacca Straits on 29th July, I decided to proceed with Force A from Colombo on the afternoon of the 30ths. This would enable operational STAB to be carried out on the prearranged date and also admit of intercepting the Japanese force should it venture to the southern part of the Bay of Bengal.


50. The Force comprising WARSPITE (Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), ILLUSTRIOUS (Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet), FORMIDABLE, BIRMINGHAM (Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron, MAURITIUS, HEEMSKERCK, NAPIER (Commodore (D)), NORMAN, NIZAM, INCONSTANT, and VAN GALEN sailed from Colombo at 1700F on 30th July.


51. Course was shaped to keep out of sight of land and to be in a position 35 miles to eastward of Trincomalee by 1000F on 1st August.


52. Two air searches were sent out from Force A on 31st July. The first at 0800 to cover the section 050 degrees to 080 degrees ahead of the fleet to a depth of 150 miles; and the second at 1500 to search the sector 000 degrees to 110 degrees to a depth of 160 miles. Nothing was seen in either search.


53. Since no further information of the enemy cruiser force had been received, I decided at 1100F on the 31st to postpone the sailing of Force M until 4 hours later, i.e. 1400F 1st August and ordered a Catalina patrol to the north eastward of this force whilst at sea so as to give warning of approach of any possible enemy forces.


54. For T sailed from Trincomalee at the prearranged time, 0900F on 1st August. At that time Force A was 40 miles northeast of Trincomalee, course south west. At 1000 course was altered to northeast, parallel to that of Force T, and throughout the day, Force A maintained a covering position to the north east of Force T.An air reconnaissance was flown off at 0830 to cover the section 340 degrees to 000 degrees to 130 degrees to a depth of 150 miles. This search saw nothing.


55. At 1040 on the 1st August when Force A was in position 9N, 21-42E (40 miles northeast of Trincomalee), course northeast, an R.D.F. contact was obtained on an aircraft bearing 100 degrees 73 miles. This was at first through to be one of the reconnaissance aircraft returning, but the absence of I.F.F. indication being the unfortunately the rule rather than the exception. This aircraft was tracked around the fleet and passed astern at 1130 on a bearing 220 degrees 24 miles thence proceeded to the north-westward and finally faded on bearing 060 degrees at 60 miles at 1215. The aircraft was sighted by FORMIDABLE and identified by two officers and an air lookout as a Catalina and reported as such. FORMIDABLE did not send out fighters to investigate. Although the prearranged programme of the Catalina reconnaissance did not suggest one of these aircraft should be acting in this manner, the possibility was accepted in view of the lack of training of many of the newly arrived Catalina crews. Subsequent investigations and a warning of the presence of British forces broadcast from Tokyo established this was an enemy aircraft.


56. At noon a fighter umbrella of two Martlets was maintained by the ILLUSTRIOUS. One Martlet crashed into the barrier on deck landing. The need to economise on the fighter umbrella was governed by the necessity of conserving the Martlets. Had the aircraft referred to in paragraph 55 not been wrongly identified as a Catalina, I am convinced that it could have been intercepted by Martlets that were ranged at readiness in both carriers.


57. A further air search was sent out at 1500 to cover the sector from 000 degrees to 110 degrees to a depth of 150 miles but nothing was seen.


58. At 1800 one of the Fulmar search aircraft made an emergency landing on ILLUSTRIOUS, but crashed on desk due to a fractured oil pipe spraying the pilot’s windscreen, and was badly damaged.


59. At 1830 all the search aircraft except two Fulmars had returned to their carriers. The two missing aircraft reported to FORMIDABLE by wireless that they were lost and requested D/F bearings. I at once ordered wireless silence to be broken to home these aircraft. The fleet was turned at 1840 to close one of the aircraft when bearing had been definitely established by D/F and R.D.F.Searchlights were burned at dusk to assist returning aircraft and at 1920 Very’s lights were sighted to the southwest. A few minutes later one of the aircraft was sighted and closed the carriers. Unfortunately, the aircraft by this time so short of petrol that it had to force land in the sea. The crew were picked up by NORMAN.


60. By 2000 Force A, which had become somewhat dispersed during reversal of course and whilst locating the crew of the aircraft, was reformed and course altered to the north west. Unfortunately nothing further was heard or seen of the other missing Fulmar with the exception of one report that a light had been seen to the eastward. A night search for the survivors of this aircraft was considered, but as they would have left the convoy uncovered to the northeast, I decided it was preferable to return to this area at dawn and carry out a daytime air search. I therefore continued to the north-west and at 0100/2nd August in position 11-30N, 82-15E, course was reversed to the south-east and at daylight course was altered to south.


61. The wireless diversion (Operation SPARK) was carried out as previously arranged during the night at 2300 and appears to have been fully effective.


62. At 0630/2nd August a thorough air search was sent out to look for survivors of the Fulmar which had been lost the previous evening. Whilst this attack was continuing, Force A was manoeuvred in the area in which it was estimated that the survivors might have landed. No survivors were located and it must be presumed with regret that the crew, Sub Lieutenant (A) D.N. Elwood, RNVR, and Sub Lieutenant (A) C. Christelis, RNVR, were lost. Catalinas which would be operating through this area were requested to keep a good lookout for survivors.


63. At 1030 despatches were transferred by NORMAN from WARSPITE to ILLUSTRIOUS and thence sent by aircraft to Trincomalee for onward transmission. At 1100 FORMIDABLE flew off two Martlets as Fighter Umbrella. At 1112 ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE reported R.D.F. contact on an aircraft bearing 055 degrees 55 miles. FORMIDABLE directed two Martlets onto this aircraft. When the fighters sighted the enemy flying boat at 10, 000 feet they first thought it was a Catalina, but on approaching closely identified it as a Japanese flying boat Navy Type 97, and promptly shot it down in approximate position 9-26N, 83-16E. The flying boat, which appeared to be taken completely by surprise, gave no return fire and after the second burst of fire from the Martlets, caught fire, disintegrated and fell in flames. There were no survivors.


64. In the meantime at 1115 a further two Martlets each were flown off by FORMIDABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS. One of these Martlets from FORMIDABLE crashed into the sea on taking off. The pilot was rescued by HEEMSKERCK.


65. A fighter umbrella of two Martlets was maintained for the rest of the day by ILLUSTRIOUS. At 1530 one of these Martlets appeared to have an engine failure and crashed into the sea whilst approaching to land on. The Pilot, Petty Officer (Air) Shaw was lost.


66. At about 1100 I received information from the Flag Officer, Ceylon that Air Headquarters Bengal considered there were indications of naval activity south of the Andamans at 2300 G.M.T. on 31st July, that pointed to the possibility of an attack on Madras at dawn on the 3d April and that the information on which this was based was from a most secret source. Flag Officer, Ceylon, had also informed Admiralty and the Deputy Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet.


67. There was nothing in Air Headquarters Bengal signal to indicate what was the nature of the naval activity which had been reported nor the reliability of the source. I immediately requested Flag Officer, Ceylon to obtain amplification of this report.


Although a dawn attack by this Japanese naval force on Madras on 3rd August was possible, I considered the following factors would make it very improbable.


(a). Force A, probably having been sighted by the Japanese flying boat a.m. 1st August.


(b). Force A, breaking wireless silence to endeavour to recover aircraft on the evening of 1st August.


(c ). The wireless diversion (Operation SPARK), carried out on the night of 1st/2nd August.


Nevertheless I felt that I could not disregard Air Headquarters Bengal report and I therefore decided to proceed at once to Trincomalee and refuel destroyers in preparation for an extension of the present operation. I informed Their Lordships of my intentions in my signal 1215Z/2nd August. Course was altered at 1215 to the westward and speed increased to reach Trincomalee before dark.


66. Force A entered Trincomalee at 1915 and refuelling of destroyers commenced at once and as completed at 2200 when it had been intended that Force A should sail again.


69. Additional Catalina patrols had been arranged to cover the approaches to Madras from the east and south-east, from p.m. 2nd August until daylight 3rd August.


70. I was not until I arrived at Trincomalee at 1900 on 2nd August that I received a message from Air Headquarters India (Flag Officer Ceylon’s 0744/2) stated that they did not agree with the deductions nor authorize the message from Air Headquarters Bengal. After discussion with Rear Admiral Commanding, Aircraft Carriers and Rear Admiral Commanding Fourth Cruiser Squadron, I decided that there was no real basis for this report and in view of FORMIDABLE and BIRMINGHAM being required at an early date to return to Kilindini for Operation STREAMLINE JANE I decided Force A should return to Colombo.


71. I informed Their Lordships of my revised intentions in my message 1649Z/2 in which I also requested ARMINDIA to take steps to ensure that reports such as Air Headquarters Bengal’s, which I obviously could not ignore, are not transmitted in future.


72. Force A sailed accordingly from Trincomalee at 0600/3rd August and shaped course for Colombo keeping out of sight of land.


During the day a safety patrol of one aircraft was maintained 30 miles ahead of the Fleet. This patrol was carried out by Walrus aircraft from cruisers during the afternoon but had to be cancelled owing to rising wind and sea. A fighter umbrella of two Martlets was maintained throughout the day.


73. At 1030 MANXMAN, who was returning from Madras to Colombo, as about 30 miles southwest of Force A. An aircraft was sent to order her to rejoin Force A, which she did at 1300.


74. At 1430 ILLUSTRIOUS obtained as R.D.F. contact on an aircraft bearing 60 degrees and at 1440 WARSPITE obtained a doubtful contact on the same bearing at 50 miles. Both contacts faded ten minutes later. At that time Force A was in position approximately 6-40N, 82-10E. The R.D.F. contact may have been a Japanese flying boat, but more probably an aircraft operating from China Bay as no Catalina were know to be in that area. The uncertainty and short duration of the contacts rendered fighter interception impracticable.


Air Exercise with Ceylon Air Forces


75. Before leaving Trincomalee I had proposed to Air Officer Commanding, Ceylon that opportunity should be taken to exercise that Fighter Direction of shore based fighters from H.M. ships and any other air exercises he might wish to carry out.


76. From 1645 to 1800 successful fighter direction exercise was carried out using two Fulmars from ILLUSTRIOUS as the “enemy raids.” R/T communication was obtained quickly and no difficulty experienced in directing the Hurricanes on to their target. From 1800 till dusk these two Fulmars took over the duties of fighter umbrella.


77. The next air exercise was a night shadowing exercise and a night torpedo and bombing attack on the fleet.


78. At 1850 ILLUSTRIOUS reported an aircraft in sight bearing 190 degrees and directed the fighter umbrella of two Fulmars to investigate. This aircraft which was clearly in sight from WARSPITE was a flying boat just visible above the horizon and though it presented characteristics of a Catalina, it could not definitely be identified as such. ILLUSTRIOUS directed the Fulmars on to the target, a warning being given by R/T that the aircraft was possibly friendly. Unfortunately the designation “Bandit” i.e. enemy aircraft, as opposed to “Bogey” i.e. unidentified aircraft, was employed by the Fighter Directing Officer. For this and other reasons which are being investigated by a Board of Enquiry one of the Fulmars opened fire on this flying boat, which proved to be a Catalina. Fire was ceased directly the pilot realized his mistake but I regret to report that one airman was killed and two injured and the Catalina’s rudder damaged. The Fulmars returned to ILLUSTRIOUS and from subsequent signals it appeared that the Catalina was still airborne and returning to her base. As a safety measure MAURITIUS and MANXMAN were detached to search the area in case the Catalina was forced to land, but were recalled when it was clear from R.D.F. bearings that the Catalina was proceeding to Koggala.


The result of the Board of Enquiry will form the subject of a separate report.


79. During the night of 3rd/4th August the shore based reconnaissance aircraft were unable to locate Force A and in consequence no attacks were delivered. From 0530 to 0645 on the 4th August another fighter direction exercise with shore based aircraft was successfully carried out.


80. Force A entered Colombo at 0900 on 4th August.


81. BIRMINGHAM (Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron), FORMIDABLE, MANXMAN, NORMAN, and NIZAM refueled immediately and sailed again at 1800 for Kilindini, destroyers to refuel on passage at Seychelles. This force was due to Kilindini on the 11th August in order to prepare for Operation STREAMLINE JANE.


82. After the departure of NORMAN and NIZAM with BIRMINGHAM and FORMIDABLE, the remainder of Force A was left with only NAPIER, INCONSTANT, and VAN GALEN, all of which required docking.


FORTUNE and ACTIVE were already at Colombo and due to complete their periodic refit on 7th August.


83. I wished to returned to Kilindini at an early date in order to supervise the planning of Operation STREAMLINE JANE and also because I considered it undesirable to have Force A separated in an area adjacent to possible enemy action.


The 10th August was the earliest date by which four destroyers would be available.


84. On 7th August I received a request from General Hartley (acting on behalf of General Wavell) that I should keep Force A at Colombo during the period of the Congress Meetings at Bombay from 7th to 20th August in case the Japanese staged an offensive operation in the Bay of Bengal with a view to influencing Congress. I informed General Hartley that his proposal was open to the objection that it would afford the enemy an opportunity to attack this small detachment of the Eastern Fleet with superior forces and I intended sailing for Kilindini as soon as my destroyers were ready. I pointed out that the whereabouts of Force A would probably not be known to the Japanese until approximately the 20th August and that I was staging wireless diversions to convey the impression that Force A was still operating in the Ceylon area.


In reply to my message, General Hartley stated that he fully appreciated the situation.


85. On the evening of the 7th August a message was received from Delhi stating that a P.R.U. of the Andamans disclosed a Japanese aircraft carrier of about 10, 000 tons and a small cruiser or destroyer at Port Cornwallis.


Although the composition of the force did not suggest that any offensive operations were meditated, Catalina patrols were organized to cover the approaches to Madras and Ceylon.


86. A further report from Delhi received early a.m. on the 8th August stated the examination of the photographs showed the vessel to be similar to the KAGA MARU and that the aircraft she carried appeared to be fighter float planes, one of the latter being observed taxiing on the water. This clearly indicated defensive as opposed to offensive action and the Catalina patrols were therefore cancelled.


87. This in conjunction with information that an additional bomber squadron had been sent to Sabang suggests that Operation STAB more than achieved its object in containing Japanese forces in the western Malayan barrier.


88. Arising out of the establishment of the Catalina patrols in connection with this incident, both Air Officer Commanding, Ceylon, and I agree it would be of advantage in future if the Air Officer Commanding Ceylon was made responsible for bringing these into effect. I informed Commander in Chief, India, and Air Officer Commanding in Chief, India of these views and in reply the Air Officer Commander in Chief has stated he will send a representative to discuss this matter on my arrival at Kilindini.


89. I have reason to believe that whilst the Commander in Chief, India is somewhat reluctant to forego control of any aircraft operating on the coasts of India, the Air Officer Commanding in Chief appreciates the need for centralized control and proper coordination in order to promote efficient operating coupled with economy of effort.


90. Force A, comprising WARSPITE (Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), ILLUSTRIOUS (Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet), MAURITIUS, NAPIER (Commodore (D)), INCONSTANT, ACTIVE, and FORTUNE at 1000 on 10th August. VAN GALEN remained in dock and followed as soon as her repairs were completed.


91. Before sailing, 250 officers and men of the King’s African Rifles were embarked for passage to Kilindini. This was done at the request of the Commander in Chief, Ceylon, who stated these men had been absent from their wives for a long period, and finding the native ladies of Ceylon inadequate, their condition gave rise to some concern. In view of their high reputation as fighting men I was satisfied that their powers in other aspects could be accepted and merited attention.


Whilst on passage I asked ILLUSTRIOUS if her contingent of 150 could be persuaded to give one of their native dances on her flight deck – the conventional lion hunt with the Captain’s Persian cat was quarry was suggested.. I was informed that this could not be arranged, the reason being explained subsequently. It was to the effect that in these tribal dances it is the practice to chant disparagements of neighbouring tribes, frequent reference being made to a portion of female anatomy. Since the men in ILLUSTRIOUS were of different tribes, a free fight would inevitably have resulted. The fact that a similar form of disparagement is used by the Maltese is of interest and suggests that these great travelers the Phoenicians either had, or else contracted, somewhat bad manners.


92. Exercises with Ceylon Air Forces


Opportunity was again taken to use Force A as a target for squadron training for Swordfish, Blenheims, and Hurricane bombers from the Ceylon Air Forces.


The Blenheims and Hurricanes carried out a well executed and well sychronrised attack. The Beauforts did not take part as they were engaged in torpedo practices off Trincomalee. Subsequently, Force A was shadowed by a Catalina and though the technique of the latter on occasion left something to be desired I was glad to observe a progressive improvement in the overseas work of the Air Forces base on Ceylon.


93. At daylight on 11th August an air search was made of the Kardiva Channel and adjacent atolls, and later that forenoon Force A passed through the channel. Course was then shaped for the Seychelles.


94. Force A arrived at Port Victoria, Seychelles at 0930 on 15th August to refuel destroyers and HEEMSKERCK. Throughout this operation AS surface and air patrols were maintained to seaward. The Force sailed again at 1500 and shaped course to Kilindini


95. By previous arrangement, RESOLUTION (Vice Admiral Commanding, Third Battle Squadron), ROYAL SOVEREIGN, VALIANT (recently arrived from the Cape), DAUNTLESS, and six available destroyers NORMAN, NIZAM, GRIFFIN, FOXHOUND, DECOY, and BLACKMORE under the command of the Vice Admiral Commanding, Third Battle Squadron, Second in Command Eastern Fleet sailed from Kilindini on 16th August for tactical exercises with Force A on 17th August. For these exercises Force A was placed under the charge of Rear Admiral Commanding Aircraft carriers.


96. Exercises were carried out throughout the 17th August and at 0900 on 18th August the combined forces entered Kilindini.           


ILLUSTRIOUS and destroyer escort were detached to land Fleet Air Arm Squadrons at Tanga.




                                                                                                            J.F. Somerville






Office of the British Naval Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet

17th October 1942


No. 1000/E.F./4682.



Area of operations, click to enlarge




FOR 18th AUGUST to 30th SEPTEMBER 1942







After the completion of the exercises at sea with Force B, the combined forces A and B, comprising WARSPITE (Flag of Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), VALIANT, RESOLUTION (Flag of Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Eastern Fleet, ROYAL SOVEREIGN, ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag of Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet), MAURITIUS, HEEMSKERCK, and destroyers NAPIER, NORMAN, NIZAM, GRIFFIN, DECOY, INCONSTANT, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, ACTIVE, and BLACKMORE arrived at Kilindini on the 18th August.


ILLUSTRIOUS with two destroyers proceeded to Tanga to disembark aircraft, and entered Kilindini Harbour the following day.


2. BIRMINGHAM (Flag of Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron), FORMIDABLE, MANXMAN, and other units which were to take part in the forthcoming operations against Madagascar, had arrived in port a week earlier so that preliminary planning and training could proceed.


Reduction of Eastern Fleet Aircraft Carriers


3. On 18th August, I received instructions from Their Lordships to send either FORMIDABLE or ILLUSTRIOUS to the United Kingdom where an additional aircraft carrier was urgently required (Admiralty Message 0327/18/8). I decided to send FORMIDABLE, but as her present Commanding Officer, Rear Admiral A.T. Bisset, was about to be relieved, Their Lordships approval my proposal that Captain A.G. Talbot, DSO from ILLUSTRIOUS and Admiral Bisset should exchange ships.


FORMIDABLE sailed on 24th August so as to reach Freetown by 8th September.


Operations Against Madagascar


4. On 18th August, in accordance with directions contained in Chiefs of Staff No. E A 8 of 11th August, Lieutenant General Sir W. Platt, KCB, DSO, and Command in Chief, Eastern Fleet issued a Joint Direction of the Joint commanders, Rear Admiral W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, and Major General R.G. Sturges, RM for the following operations against Madagascar.


(i). The capture of Majunga (Operation STREAM)


(ii). Advance from Majunga and capture of Antananarivo (Operation LINE)


(iii). Capture of Tamatave (Operation JANE)


5. Training of the naval units and naval aircraft, to take part in the combined operations, proceeded uninterruptedly for the next two weeks.


6. On the 26th August the 29th Brigade in S.S.’s EMPIRE PRIDE, DILWARA, and DUNERA, escorted by DAUNTLESS arrived at Kilindini from Diego Suarez. In addition the followed M.T. and Store ships were assembled at Kilindini, CHARLTON HALL, KOLA, OCEAN VIKING, GASCONY, and ADVISER.


7. East Africa Coast Defence Exercises


To test out the defences of East Africa against seaborne “Japanese” invasion and, also, to provide “cover” and a dress rehearsal for the forthcoming Madagascar operations, a large scale defence exercise (TOUCHSTONE) was arranged by the General Officer Commanding East Africa and myself to take placed between 28th August and 1st September.


8. Besides testing out internal security and civil air defence measures, the exercise included the following operations carried out on the 30th August.


(i). A landing by the 29th Brigade at Kilindini with naval and Fleet Air Arm support (from ILLUSTRIOUS at sea).


(ii). Landings at Tanga, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar by Royal Marines and naval landing parties from a naval force under the command of the Vice Admiral Second in Command, Eastern Fleet, comprising RESOLUTION (Flag of Vice Admiral Second in Command, Eastern Fleet), WARSPITE, VALIANT, GAMBIA, ENTERPRISE, HEEMSKERCK, and destroyers NAPIER, NEPAL, GRIFFIN, DECOY, INCONSTANT, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, VAN GALEN, and TJERK HIDDES.


9. These various exercises provided excellent training for all concerned and gave the forces due to take part in the operations against Madagascar a good opportunity to test out the landing and assault organisation. The 29th Brigade, who had been at Diego Suarez since operation IRONCLAD, were afforded opportunity to refresh their combined operations landing training.


10. I was very favourably impressed with the “sea sense” of the personnel of this brigade. The naval crews of landing craft demonstrated a high degree of skill in the handing of their craft under fair weather conditions.


11. These exercises also afforded “good cover” for the training which had been going on at Kilindini in connection with the Madagascar operations.




12. On 1st September the naval units to take part in these operations commenced to leave Kilindini. MANXMAN left the same day for Diego Suarez.


13. On 3rd September, the slow M.T. convoy of three ships, escorted by EREBUS, INCONSTANT, ACTIVE, and SIGFRA sailed for the rendezvous off Majunga. Later that day another M.T. convoy of six ships escorted by DAUNTLESS, CROMER, CROMARTY, ROMNEY, MASTIFF, and LURCHER sailed for the same rendezvous by a different route.


14. On the 4th September, GAMBIA, FOXHOUND, and HOTSPUR sailed for Diego Suarez to provide escort for the main troop and M.T. convoy which was to take the22nd South African Brigade from Diego Suarez to Majunga.


15. On 5th September, the main troop convoy carrying the 29th Brigade and escorted by ENTERPRISE, ALBATROSS, FORTUNE, ARROW, and BLACKMORE sailed from Kilindini for the Majunga rendezvous.


16. On the 6th September, BIRMINGHAM (Flag of Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron), Senior Officer Force M, ILLUSTRIOUS, HEEMSKERCK, NAPIER, VAN GALEN, and TJERK HIDDES sailed for the Majunga rendezvous.


17. The remaining details of these operations are the subject of a separate report, which includes the arrangements made to promulgate false destinations for the convoys referred to above.




18. The first reliable evidence that Japanese U boats were taking an interest in the Gulf of Aden was received on the 23rd July when a Japanese unit, probably a U boat, was plotted by D/F in position 400 miles East South East of Guardafui. This same unit was again plotted on the following day in position 700 (n.b. “miles”) South East of Guardafui. Both fixes were classed as “reliable”.


19. On the 24th and 25th August, a U boat was reported by shore patrols close inshore off Singara, 20 miles east of Berbera. On the 28th August, strong W/T signals from a Japanese unit, identified as the Senior officer of the 8th Submarine Squadron, was heard by Aden W/T bearing 195 degrees.


20. At 0855Z/1/9, S.S. PALMA sighted a submarine in position 11-23N, 51-31E (30 miles southeast of Cape Guardafui). The U boat attempted to intercept but PALMA increased speed to 10 knots and shook her off. At 2315 what was probably the same submarine torpedoed and sank S.S. GASCON in position 13-01N, 50-41E. As the result of this sinking important shipping bound northbound through the Guardafui Channel was diverted east of Socotra.


21,The shortage of A/S vessels in all areas and the fact that Operation STREAMLINE JANE was running concurrently with this submarine activity prevented any reinforcements of A/S vessels being sent to the Gulf of Aden. A signal was made on the 3rd September asking 222 Group, Ceylon, to send three Catalina aircraft from Ceylon to the Gulf of Aden. These aircraft arrived at Aden on 7th September 1942. It was intended that these aircraft should be employed as A/S escorts to important convoys or ships, or in organized A/S hunts in conjunction with surface A/S forces. It was also decided that three ships of the 14th Minesweeping Flotilla now attached to Operation STREAMLINE JANE should be sailed fro the Gulf of Aden as soon as they could be spared from the Operation. These ships sailed on the 27th September.


22. On the 3rd September, the British tanker BRITISH GENIUS bound for Aden was unsuccessfully attacked at dawn in position 13-34 North, 50-05 East and again at dusk in position 13-00 North, 48-03 East by what appears to have been an extremely persistent U boat.


23. On the 6th September a U boat was sighted and unsuccessfully bombed by an aircraft on patrol in position 14-08 North, 49-46 East. It seemed that this U boat then proceeded East by South and was responsible for the sinking of S.S. HARESFIELD 30 miles north of Socotra on 10th September.


24. On 6th September, Commodore in Charge, Durban, and Commodore in Charge, Aden were informed (Command in Chief, Eastern Fleet’s 1607/6) that provided some air cover could be provided in the locality, it was intended to continue routeing independent ships and probably convoys through the Guardafui Channel, in order to avoid accentuating the corner which would result if all ships from the south were routed east of Socotra and to avoid the consequent bunching which would be bound to occur in an area remote from our patrols.


25. It was suggested that in order to facilitate the work of air and surface patrols numbered routes should be established for important ships and that these routes should differentiate between traffic from the south, traffic from the Persian Gulf, India, and Ceylon and outward bound traffic from the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.


26. The following routes were finally adopted:


Shipping to and from the Persian Gulf, Karachi, and Bombay was confined to a narrow lane close to the northern shore of the Gulf of Aden and over which air cover could be provided from coastal aerodromes.


Shipping to and from Ceylon and the south was confined to a similar lane close to the southern shore and extending to the east point of Socotra.


27. On 16th September the S.S. OCEAN HONOUR was sunk by torpedo and gunfire by a submarine in position 12-48 South, 50-50 East.


28. From all available information it appears probably that three U boats were operating in the Gulf of Aden during September, one of these was identified as of the I / 1-4 class. These U boats appear to have been disposed, one in the jaws of the Gulf of Aden, one in the throat of the Gulf of Aden, and the other off the Arabian coast between 160 degrees north and 220 degrees north. Of these the first was the only one who had any success.




29. On 28th September GERALDTON reported having carried out two attacks on a strong asdic contact off Cape Ras al Hadd.


30. On 29th September, GERALDTON signaled that she had picked up a message from the tanker BARDAPUR to the effect that at 0930Z/29 she “came across a ship down at stern in position 24-50 North, 58-10 East. Lifeboats are in the water.”


GERALDTON closed the position, and having spoken to EMPIRE FORREST who had passed through the position given above and had seen no boats or wreckage, returned to protect her convoy.


31. SEABELLE on passage from Karachi also closed this position from the north east but saw nothing.


32. Although no aircraft were available to an organized search, an aircraft on air escort who was passing close to this position was told to keep a good look out, but saw nothing unusual.


On the 1st and 2nd October, INVESTIGATOR carried out a search in the area, but this was also unsuccessful.


33. P.M. on the 29th, SOLVRA carried out 3 A/S attacks on suspected U boats in position 25-59 North, 56-53 East, reporting clear echoes and hydrophone effects but no visible results of the attack.


34. Such was and still is the slender evidence of commencement of enemy submarine activity in the Persian Gulf.


35. The following immediate action was taken to counter the possible submarine threat.


(a). Independent ships bound for the Persian Gulf who was not already north of latitude 22-30 North or west of longitude 62 East were ordered to pass within 60 miles of Ras al Hadd and within 40 miles of Muscat in order to facilitate the work of air patrols operating from coastal aerodromes. Naval Control Service Officers were ordered to route ships accordingly.


(b) Senior Naval Officer, Persian Gulf, was ordered to cease providing escorts to Aden and to disperse Aden convoys off Ras al Hadd, in order to allow more escorts for Bombay convoys.


(c ). Senior Officer, Persian Gulf, was ordered to press on with the approved convoy plans and to provide air escort when this was possible.


(d). 222 Group Ceylon was asked to have four Catalinas in readiness to proceed to the Persian Gulf should the submarine threat materialize.


36. The BARDAPUR was on passage to Kilindini, E T A 13th October and it is intended to hold a full enquiry on her arrival.




37. During the last week in July it was realized that Japanese submarine activities were not being repeated in the Mozambique for a third cycle and W/T bearings gave indications of units North of the Equator towards Socotra. It then became evident that converted submarine attack might be planned either in the Gulf of Oman or Aden and that in all probability as Axis attack would develop upon our Middle East traffic, notably the oil supplies from Persian Gulf to Middle East.


38. It had always been the intention when forming the Ceylon Escort Group to run convoys between Bombay, Ceylon, and Calcutta until such time as it might be necessary to transfer the organisation bodily to the Arabian Sea area. At the beginning of August it became apparent that this transfer might soon be necessary and although some two or three months remained before the monsoon was ease and allow submarines more fruitful conditions, it was decided that initial stages with attendant difficulties ought to be tackled without delay. Force A was then absent from Kilindini and the Deputy Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet’s 0953/2nd August gave the stages in which it was proposed to effect the measures.


39. Bearing in mind that troop convoys would still take priority and be no fewer in number than hitherto, the following were the proposed stages to be aimed at in the inauguration of the commercial convoys:

Stage I Outward from Persian Gulf only; dispersing when clear and including tankers and other important ships at discretion of the Senior Naval Officer, Persian Gulf.


Stage II Convoys to run throughout distance between Bombay and Persian Gulf. Traffic to Aden and elsewhere dispersing as in Stage I.


Stage III Convoys to be run through to Aden as soon was weather moderated; also tankers and important ships from south to be included in Bombay to Persian Gulf convoys.

40. It was realized that the number of escorts would not, at first, permit a complete convoy system. It was therefore necessary for the system to give as much appearance of being complete as possible, and for the senior officers on the spot to use their initiate and judgment in forming escorting groups or letting ships go unescorted.


41. Attention was immediately drawn to two important features:


(a). Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy pointed out that Bombay could not accommodate the assemblage. Other alternatives such as Gulf of Kutch and Cochin are still under examination.


(b). Senior Naval Officer, Persian Gulf, drew attention to the importance of his Hormuz patrol as a stopper to render the ports and waters inside the Gulf secure.


42. Meanwhile the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet had had opportunity of discussion with the Flag Officer , Ceylon, and approved the plans generally in his 0328/7th August wherein the Commander in Chief directed


(a). No further Bay of Bengal convoys should be run after those in connection with Operation STAB.


(b). 3 A/S craft to be reallocated from Kilindini to Persian Gulf.


(c). Acceptance of Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy’s offer of 3 additional vessels to augment these from Ceylon Escort Group


43. Steps were immediately taken to arrange for the Persian Gulf assembly port facilities and necessary staff to organize the outward bound convoys. TO avoid immobilizing the cruiser used as longstop in the Hormuz patrol scheme it was decided to allocate an Armed Merchant Cruiser until a base ship could be fitted out. H.M.S. ALAUNIA was detailed to go on completion of her escort duties with W S 21 P G and she relieved CAPETOWN 12th September as Senior Naval Officer, Hormuz.


44. 3 A/S whalers left Kilindini 25th August arrived Hormuz about 4th September. HIRIVATI, RAGNAGIRI, and INVESTIGATOR lent by Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy were operation in early September and H.M.S. GERALDTON was allocated to Persian Gulf division arriving Bombay end of August.


45. It was also intended to allocate 3 Cromers to Gulf of Aden. As, however, these ships were to play an important role in Operation STREAMLINE JANE, it was not possible to free them until the third week in September, meanwhile, Commander in Chief Mediterranean sent HERO and TETCOTT.


46. On the 27th August, Senior Naval Officer Persian Gulf reported that Stage I could be started any time after the arrival of whalers.


47. Appearance of submarines in the Gulf of Aden precipitated the plan.


48. The first outward convoy sailed from Hormuz on the 9th September and was a combined Bombay-Aden convoy splitting in 23-07 North, 61-18 East. Stage III was partially anticipated and it was possible to give Aden portion escort throughout (TULIP) as well as Bombay portion. PA PB 2 followed on 13th September also with escorts throughout the PA PB 3 on 20th September.


49. Meanwhile SUTLEJ had been retained for escort of BA 31 to Aden sailing on 29th August. She was thus ready for AP 2 which left Aden on 14th September.


Intermediate AP convoys one (a) and one (b) were sailed on 4th and 10th September comprising miscellaneous tankers and others with local escort in the Gulf of Aden only. BP convoy programmes continued uninterrupted.


50. Bandar Abbas has been used as convoy assembly point protection being afforded by Hormuz patrol. This port was chosen in preference to Elphinstone Inlet on account of greater space, easier access, and less intense heat than at the latter.




51. Convoy commitments, which are shown in detail in Appendix II, were heavy throughout August and September, easing off slightly towards the end of September.


52. DEVONSHIRE sailed from Kilindini on 2nd August to join W S 20 as relief for FROBISHER and to escort the Bombay section to its destination, subsequently sailing from Bombay to Colombo on the 10th August. Whilst at Colombo opportunity was taken to dock and refit. The refit period fixed extended until the 29th August owing to the delays in the sailing of U S 17 with whom DEVONSHIRE had originally expected to rendezvous on about 25th August. DEVONSHIRE sailed from Colombo on 4th September arriving in Durban with U S 17 on 23rd September after 19 days at sea.


53. MAURITIUS. During the early part of August, MAURITIUS was operating with Force A and returned in company to Kilindini on 18th August. She left Kilindini on 26th August to intercept ADMIRAL PIERRE (see Appendix I) and on 4th September left Mauritius to rendezvous with convoy U S 16 on 13th September escorting them to Colombo where it was intended that she should clean boilers and give three days leave to each watch of the ship’s company. Owing to defects in FROBISHER this plan had to be cancelled and MAURITIUS continued to act as escort to Convoy U S 16 to Aden.


54. FROBISHER, with the Aden portion of W S 20 arrived at Aden on the 6th August, leaving that port on the 20th as ocean escort for the first Aden-Persian Gulf convoy. FROBISHER parted company with this convoy before the latter entered the Gulf of Aden , and proceeded to Colombo arriving there on the 29th for docking and refit. Refit was continued throughout September.


55. HAWKINS who had left the Clyde with convoy W S 21 escorted it throughout until relieved by ENTERPRISE north of Madagascar, thence proceeded to Kilindini, where she arrived on the 12th September.


56. GAMBIA escorting STIRLING CASTLE arrived at Mauritius on the 1st August, having fuelled she then proceeded with STIRLING CASTLE towards Australia being relieved by an Australian escort on the 6th August. She then returned to Kilindini via Mauritius, Rodriguez – where she embarked three escapees who had sailed from Jana to Rodriguez in an open boat – and Diego Suarez arriving at Kilindini on 16th August. Subsequent to her arrival at Kilindini she has been employed in connection with operations in Madagascar.


57. CARADOC, after passage from the United Kingdom sailed from Capetown with Cable Ship J.W. MACKAY escorting her to East London on the 14th August, she then proceeded to Durban to act as escort to convoy C M 31 sailing from Durban on 16th August, parting company from the convoy so as to arrived at Diego Suarez a.m. 24th August. She remained at Diego Suarez as Senior Naval Officer afloat until relieved by DAUNTLESS when she returned to Kilindini. CARADOC left Kilindini on 27th September escorting convoy C M 32 B to Bombay, whence she will proceed to the Persian Gulf for relief of CAPETOWN.


58. ENTERPRISE sailed from Kilindini for Durban on 5th August routed through the Mozambique Channel, arriving at Duran on the 9th to form, with ALAUNIA, the escort to W S 21 P G, sailing with that convoy from Durban on the 20th. Owing to her small endurance, ENTERPRISE parted company with the convoy after passing latitude 10 degrees South, and proceeded in company with CYCLAMEN and DUNCAN arriving at Kilindini on the 22nd August.


She was next required to escort convoy K R 3 which left Kilindini in connection with Operation STREAMLINE JANE on the 5th September, arriving at Diego Suarez on the 7th. She relieved HAWKINS as escort of W S 21 north of Madagascar, thence proceeding with the Bombay portion to its destination arriving Bombay on 16th September. She left Bombay on 27th September with convoy B A 32 due to arrive at Aden on the 6th October.


59. RANCHI arrived at Bombay on 8th August with C M 30 leaving on the 13th for Colombo. She sailed from Colombo on the 24th with military personnel on a “round the islands” trip adhering the following programme.

Arrived Port Departed
---- Colombo 24th August
26th August Addu 27th August
28th August Diego Garcia 29th August
1st September Rodriguez 1st September
2nd September Mauritius  ----

RANCHI sailed from Mauritius on the 3rd September and proceeded to Durban to act as escort to C M 32 leaving Durban on the 19th. She was ordered to part company from the convoy to attempt to intercept MARECHAL GALLIENI (this was unsuccessful) and she then returned to Durban, thence proceeding to Capetown leaving that port on the 29th September as escort to W S 22 and will proceed with the Aden portion to its destination.


60. ALAUNIA arrived at Durban on the 6th August in readiness to form, with ENTERPRISE, the escort of W S 21 P G sailing from Durban on the 18th August. She arrived at Bombay with the Bombay portion on the 3rd September and after fitting out she proceeded to Khur Kuwai as the base ship for the Hormuz A/S patrol.


61. CHITRAL arrived Kilindini from Diego Suarez with the R.F.A.s EASEDALE and BACCHUS on 4th August and sailed from Kilindini for Addu Atoll with military personnel on 13th August. She sailed from Addu Atoll on 19th August for Kilindini thence rendezvousing with C M 31 to escort the Aden portion to its destination, arriving at Aden on Monday 31st.


CHITRAL sailed from Kilindini in company with CROMER, CROMARTY, and ROMNEY and S.S. KHEDIVE ISMAIL to rendezvous with C M 32 and proceed with them to Aden. It was subsequently decided that she should part company from this convoy before entering Guardafui Channel, returning to relieve HAWKINS as escort to C M 32 A arriving Aden 7th October.


62. WORCESTERSHIRE on passage with W S 20 was unable to maintain speed of the convoy and was detached to return to Durban, arriving on 5th August. She sailed from Durban on 16th August forming, with CARADOC, the escort to C M 31, continuing with the convoy to Bombay for docking arrival.


WORCESTERSHIRE sailed from Kilindini on the 21st September escorting convoy K R 4, due Colombo on 8th October. She was detached from this convoy arrival of A/S escort provided by the Flag Officer, Ceylon to the westward of the 1 ½ Degree Channel, and was ordered to proceed to Durban in readiness to escort C M 33.


63. CORFU on passage with convoy B A 29 arrived Aden on 6th August sailing on arrival at that port for Kilindini. Arriving on the 11th August, CORFU left Kilindini on the following day for the Cape and United Kingdom.




64. At the end of September the Chief Secretary to the Governor’s Conference was informed of the intention to use an area immediately to the south of Wasin Island (latitude 4-40 South) for bombardment practices. The target area is largely sea, but there are a few small islands or rocks which will be used as gunnery targets; the range is by no means ideal, but it fulfills requirements and can be put into use without preparation. The Chief Secretary had been requested to state, at the earliest moment, if there are any objections.






65. On the departure of Force A from Colombo, arrangements were made for dummy message traffic by W/T to be spread over the next eight days (the period Congress was sitting) in accordance with a plan designed to convey the following impression chronologically:

(1). British naval forces were operating in the Bay of Bengal with the possible object of an attack on Japanese occupied territory.


(2). That Force A after leaving Colombo area was proceeding to Addu Atoll to fuel arriving on Wednesday 12th August.


(3). That after leaving Addu Atoll, Force A was proceeding to an unknown destination.

66. Traffic linking Force A with Madras, Vizagapatam, and Trincomalee suggesting that this might be an attempt to carry out a raid to the East.


            References CINC E.F. 1112/7/8, 1114/7/8,  1116/7/8, 2116/8/8




67. In an endeavour to improve the poor communications to ships in the Mozambique Channel arrangements were concerted with C in C, S.A. to introduce a new W/T service especially to cover that area. To avoid confusion it was decided to delay the inception of the new service until 1st October when Operation STREAMLINE JANE would have been completed, but it was in fact started on 27th September for the benefit of ships taking part in Operation ROSE.





25th August – 6th September: Commander T.P. Wisden, Deputy Chief of Intelligence Staff proceeded to Lourenco Marques to interview personnel in repatriation ships.


4th September: Lieutenant Commander Dawson and Lieutenant J.G. Snow, U.S.N. arrived for duty as U.S. Naval Liaison Officers, Kilindini.


15th September: Major J.G. FIgese arrived Kilindini from New Delhi for duty as Liaison Officer with my staff.


28th September: Lieutenant Colonel J.C. Westall, R.M. relieved Commander C.J.M. Lang, R.N. (retired) as Senior Naval Intelligence Officer, New Delhi.


(j). R.D.F.


69. I.F.F. Trials in Aircraft


The preliminary investigation by the representatives specially sent out, from the Admiralty Signal Establishment and Ministry of Aircraft Production, showed that one of the causes of the failure of Fleet Air Arm I.F.F. to operate was the lack of knowledge of maintenance and correct handling for setting up. This was due largely to lack of instructions and test equipment.


70. Aircraft I.F.F. serials had not been modified when the Mark II N I.F.F. was fitted. Instructions to do so have no been received officially on this station.


71. Trials in H.M.S. ILLUSTRIOUS subsequently showed that the I.F.F. aerials in Naval aircraft are screened from forward when the aircraft is approaching the Interrogator.


72. Comprehensive trials are continuing with each type of aircraft to investigate the best position of the I.F.F. aerials.




73. Colombo:


The following additional defences have been provided: One A/S fixed beam type 134 at both breakwater entrances. One 2 pounder anti tank gun go cover both breakwater entrances.


74. Trincomalee


The laying of moorings in connection with the new mooring plan, the development of the base installations, repair of air raid damage, etc, continued


75. Addu Atoll


Work on the Gan Island aerodrome continues. The indicator net in Gan Channel has now entirely disappeared. Arrangements are now in hand to obtain the services of a Base Hospital Ship to accommodate the M.N.B.D.O. tented hospital unit. Following an change of signals between Admiralty and Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, the following decisions have been arrived at:


(a). Existing defences to be retained.


(b). Wilingili Channel boom to be completed when other commitments allow.


(c). Gan Boom to be retained unless it becomes a danger to navigation.


(d). No further boom defences to be undertaken.


76. Kilindini


The laying of the indicator loops, under the supervision of the Commanding Officer, MANCHESTER CITY, was completed on the 16th August. The performance of the loops appears to be highly satisfactory and no damage has yet been caused by the passage of heavy ships in their vicinity.


The laying of H.D.A.’s was also completed but the performance of the southerly H.D.A. is unsatisfactory and the set was recovered for replacement. During the process of recovery the tripod was damaged and some delay has been caused while a new tripod is being fabricated.


The improvised A/S A/B boom in the Mbyuni vicinity was completed at the end of the month. This boom is fitted with small mesh A/S nets and is considered by the B.D.O. (East Africa) to be fifty per cent proof against entry by midget submarines.


Work on the A/T boom is progressing, some delay has been caused by the breakdowns of B.D.V.’s and the lack of mooring clumps.


It is anticipated that it will be completed early in October. Two lines of nets have been laid, except in the gate which will be kept as a single line until the performance of the gate under the prevailing tidal conditions has been tested.


Unloading of boom equipment from TREVORIAN and the loading of KIRRIEMOOR with equipment required at Diego Suarez continues.


The mounting of searchlights to cover the entrance is completed.


77. Manza Bay


Surveying of the area which is to contain the C.M. control station was completed and it has been agreed that the work should be undertaken by the Army in connection with the erection of accommodation for coast artillery personnel. MANCHESTER CITY and JAY are engaged in laying the controlled minefields. It is expected that the construction of the control station will be completed shortly.


78. Mauritius


The bottom net at Grand Port has been laid by BRITTANY as reported in Naval Officer in Charge, Mauritius’ 0627/16th August.


Local developments, preparation of the Stevenson Dock, and the Plaisance aerodrome are continuing.


Dutch submarine O 24 on passage from South Africa to Colombo was diverted during September to Grand Port to test the controlled minefields, the perturbations of which had been reported as being still unsatisfactory. The report on result of this test has not yet been received.


79. Seychelles


ETHIOPIAN, who is employed in laying the A/T boom in St Anne’s Channel, reports that the moorings are tending to drag on the flat coral bottom. Arrangements have therefore been made for her to return to Kilindini as soon as she has cleared her holds (about October 15th), in order to load additional moorings as well as A/S equipment required for the Cerf Passage boom. BARFOUND, who is required at Kilindini, will accompany her.


80. Diego Garcia


No further developments.


81. Diego Suarez


The visit of the Chief of Staff to Commander in Chief, South Atlantic, provided an opportunity for general discussion on the responsibility of Commander in Chief, South Atlantic vis-a-vis Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet in regard to developments at Diego Suarez. It was agreed that dockyard developments, bringing forward of repair facilities and salvage operations should be the responsibility of the Commodore, Durban, under the direction of Commander in Chief, South Atlantic. Six Civil Engineers from Mauritius were sent to Diego Suarez on 11th August.


Application was made to Admiralty for relief of the officers and personnel who were detailed for the base staff on completion of Operation IRONCLAD.


It is anticipated that BRITTANY will be sent shortly to lay the bottom net in Oringia Pass.


82. Majunga


Following the capture of this town on September 10th, an indicator net was laid by BRITTANY across the harbour in a position due west of Ile Verte. The position of this baffle was determined to a large extent by the fact that they were no more indicator nets available on the station.


83. Port F


Dredging operations and preparation of the aerodrome and other general developments are continuing. The question of using the Gulf of Kutch as a convoy assembly port for Persian Gulf shipping, and making use where possible of the facilities being provided for Port F, is under discussion with Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy.


84. Khor Kuwai


The preparation of a base at Khor Kuwai in connection with the proposed Persian Gulf Convoy System was commenced in August. Application was made to the Admiralty for a Naval Officer in Charge and for his staff and to Port Sea Transport Officer India for an accommodation vessel and supply ship. As a temporary measure, pending the arrival of the base staff and accommodation ship, it is intended to station H.M.S. ALAUNIA at Khor Kuwai to fulfill both these requirements. SS. ADRIA has been taken up as the accommodation ship and S.S. VALENTIJN as the supply ship and both are now being converted in India. Commodore, Royal Indian navy, had reported that the former will not be ready until November.


85. Bandar Abbas


The defence of Bandar Abbas when it comes into use as convoy assembly point for Persian Gulf convoys is under consideration and Admiralty have been asked for their view.




86. REVENGE continued at Durban throughout the whole period under review.


ROYAL SOVEREIGN left Kilindini on the 1st September for her repair yard in the U.S.A. It was decided to dock her at Durban to improve considerably her speed and endurance; this was done between 7th and 14th September.




87. On receipt of Admiralty approval for docking destroyers in the United Kingdom, A.M. 1740/10th August, it was decided to send DUNCAN, DECOY, ANTHONY, and GRIFFIN at once and to send ARROW and ACTIVE on after completion of the Madagascar operations if they were still required. Accordingly, DUNCAN, DECOY, and GRIFFIN were sailed from Kilindini on the 1st of September escorting ROYAL SOVEREIGN to southward and ANTHONY who had been repairing at the Cape, was retained at Durban.


88. From September 5th onwards all destroyers except EXPRESS and CATTERICK were employed with the operations in Madagascar. EXPRESS had been completing repairs until 11th September when she sailed for Durban where she was retained to act as escort for C M 32 which sailed on 19th September. The ship had 10 days at sea escorting a slow convoy and arrived at Kilindini with 100 tons of fuel remaining. This was done with cruising turbines at a speed of 12 knots which represents a distance of 2880 miles steamed through the water at 1.3 tons per hour.


89. CATTERICK arrived with convoy W S 21 and, after boiler cleaning at Durban, sailed for Kilindini on the 9th escorting V.S.S. HONG SIANG.


90. ARROW and ACTIVE were released from Madagascar on 22nd September and sailed for the Cape and Freetown where ROYAL SOVEREIGN was waiting to onward escort across the Atlantic. They boiler cleaned at Durban and East London, respectively.


91. NIZAM and HOTSPUR acted as escort for ILLUSTRIOUS who proceeded to Durban for docking on her release from Madagascar operations on the 19th of September.


(n). D/G


92. The following degaussing ranges were in operation at the beginning of August.


Place                                        Deep                             Shallow

Bombay                                        1                                  1

Colombo                                       1                                  1

Durban (now being Laid)                 1                                  1

At Trincomalee the positions for deep and shallow ranges had been selected and given Admiralty Approval but the project was abandoned.

A proportion of the gear for these ranges was on the station and Admiralty Approval was given for its diversion to Kilindini. The remaining gear for Kilindini was to be sent out from the United Kingdom.

93. H.M.S. BUSHWOOD after disembarking deep and shallow ranges at Durban had on board two ranges and recording stations which could be laid together or at separate places, and as either deep of shallow ranges.


94. The German advance in Libya and, to a lesser extent, that in South Russia, could both result in a magnetic mining attack on the head of the Persian Gulf traffic both against the supply routes and the Middle East Armies. If such an attack developed the minesweeping flotillas in the Persian Gulf would have to be considerably increased, and , in order to achieve the degree of immunity from the magnetic mine these minesweepers would have to be constantly ranged.


95. It was decided therefore that a shallow degaussing range should be laid at the head of the Persian Gulf where it would be meet the needs of the minesweeping forces.


96. A proposal to lay this shallow range in the Shatt al Arab for Khoorsamshar was sent to the Admiralty. This proposal was approved and BUSHWOOD was sailed from Kilindini on 12th August for the Persian Gulf to carry out this work.


97. The degaussing gear which will remain on completion of the work in the Persian Gulf will be shipped to Trincomalee in due course.






Office of the British Naval Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet

7th November 1942


No. 66. S/4682.



10th OCTOBER to 6th NOVEMBER 1942


Area of operations, click to enlarge



The following report of proceedings of the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet for the period 10th October to 6th November is forwarded for Their Lordship’s information.


2. This report is supplementary to the War Diary covering the Eastern Fleet and East Indies Station which is forwarded monthly from my shore headquarters.


3. Operation CANNIBAL


At the end of September, Rear Admiral A.F.E. Palliser, DSC (Flag Liaison Officer, Delhi) visited Kilindini to discuss the situation in connexion with the proposed Operation CANNIBAL.


4. U Boat Activity off Capetown


Commencing on the 7th October, there was an outbreak of U boat activity to the westward of Capetown, during which 13 ships were sunk.


5. At that time the disposition of the sixteen Eastern Fleet destroyers was as follows:

4 at Simonstown:

          ARROW and ACTIVE about to sail for Freetown

NIZAM and FOXHOUND due to commence refits. Both ships well overdue to boiler clean, and NIZAM limited to 22 knots by shaft defects.

3 at Durban:

HOTSPUR refit completed. NORMAN with boiler defects until 16th October, DERWENT in dock with ILLUSTRIOUS, due to undock 14th October.

Two of these destroyers were required to leave Durban on 15th October to escort ILLUSTRIOUS to Kilindini.

3 at Madagascar:

NAPIER, INCONSTANT, and BLACKMORE. All required for escort duties in connection with departure of 29th Brigade; and all well overdue to boiler clean.

6 at Kilindini:

CATTERICK and EXPRESS employed on capital ship escort duties in that area.

FORTUNE and NEPAL ready to leave Kilindini 11th October to escort WARSPITE to Durban to dock. FORTUNE well overdue to boiler clean.

VAN GALEN and TJERK HIDDES about to sail to Australia.

6. On 10th October, I informed Their Lordships that the refits of FOXHOUND and NIZAM could be deferred and that HOTSPUR could be spared to proceed to the Cape at once. (my 0835/10th October). This I followed with a proposal that if the continued immobilization of Force A could be accepted, a further five destroyers (EXPRESS, CATTERICK, NEPAL, and later FORTUNE and INCONSTANT after boiler cleaning) could be sent to the Cape (my 1309/10th October). This was approved on 13th October (Admiralty message 0026/13) and EXPRESS and CATTERICK sailed accordingly.


7. Visit to Diego Suarez


On 11th October I sailed from Kilindini in WARSPITE escorted by NEPAL and FORTUNE and arrived at Diego Suarez p.m. 13th October.


8. After arrival, I was visited by Captain E.F.B. Law, RN, the Naval Officer in Charge and later by the General Officer Commanding in Chief, East African Command, Lieutenant General Sir William Platt, KCB, DSO, and Brigadier W.A. Ebsworth who remained to dinner.


9. The General Officer Commanding referred to the steps being taken to occupy the remainder of Madagascar, and the irritating number of road blocks and obstructions erected by the French who it was clear had no intention of fighting. He hoped that, within a short period, resistance would disintegrate. Apparently the object of the French officers in continuing any apparent resistance to our occupation is to ensure continuance of their pensions which would be forfeit by surrendering except in face of heavy odds.


10. Referring to the landing of the 22nd August at Majunga during Operation STREAM, the General Officer Commanding emphasized the need for better organisation, forethought and initiative in dealing with the landing and deployment of troops following up the assault. The governing factor in selecting beaches and piers was easy access to a main road. There must be complete understanding on this point between the Naval officers responsible for landing men and equipment above the high water mark and the Military officers responsible for the transfer from the beach to the nearest high road.


11. On the 14th October I landed at 0630 in company with my Chief of Staff and other officers and was conducted around the dockyard, civil machine shops, dry dock and oil fuel tanks by the Naval Officer in Charge. It was satisfactory to see the good progress that had been made in restoring and adding to these facilities, but both dockyard and machine shops suffered from looting of tools, etc on first occupation by the Navy and Army in Operation IRONCLAD.


12. At the dry dock which should be ready for service by the beginning of November, the smell of burning hides in the German ship WARTENFELS was most offensive. It is hoped that the residue will be dealt with in the course of the next few days.


13. The steps taken to repair damaged and sabotaged dockyard machines, pumps, and generators appeared to be effective and original, and reflect credit on those concerned. Captain Law, the Naval Officer in Charge, appeared to be competent and undeterred by difficulties. He is ably assisted by Lieutenant Command T.H.B. Pounds, RN, the Captain of the Dockyard.


14. Later in the forenoon I visited the battlefield of Operation IRONCLAD in company with Brigadier R.E. Hobday, DSO, and the Brigade Major. From a description of what occurred I gather the impression that although the initial landing and assault were carried out with excellent judgment and technique, the subsequent advance did not reach so high a standard; in fact it seems that the 29th Brigade were admirable amphibians, but only average mixed infantry with armour and light artillery.


15. The special intelligence party appear to have achieved very little and it is difficult to understand how the French intention to fight was not appreciated more accurately. Had this been done I feel sure that surprise after the landing had taken place would not have been comprised by the dispatch of a captured French officer to the Fortress Commander with a request for capitulation.


Failure to obtain any precise information concerning the Joffre Line seems quite inexplicable in view of the years that this had been constructed.


16. Satisfactory features of this operation were undoubtedly the penetration of the heavily mined Courier Bay, surprise achieved by the assault forces at the beaches, ANTHONY’s dramatic dash into the harbour and the excellent work of the Marine Detachment from RAMILLIES which ANTHONY landed.


17. Opportunity was given to a large number of the King’s African Rifles to visit WARSPITE. This was much appreciated.


18. Diego Suarez at this time of year is burnt up and, owing to the strong South East Trade which blows continuously, enveloped in red dust. This continuous high wind is a serious handicap to communication afloat and coupled with the entire lack of amenities ashore makes this harbour unsuitable for prolonged used by a fleet or squadron. I understand that service at Diego Suarez was regarded by the French as punishment and I am not surprised.


Shipment of Landing Craft to India and Embarkation of 29th Brigade from Madagascar


19. After the completion of Operations STREAM – LINE – JANE all merchant shipping used in those operations had been released except ships required to transport the 29th Brigade to Indian and the 5th Commando to Durban. The majority of the landing craft had been shipped to Durban and Kilindini for onward shipment to Bombay and the balance shipped direct from Madagascar.


20. Arrangements were in hand to completion the embarkation of the 29th Brigade (three personnel ships) and the 5th Commando (one ship) at Tamatave on 18th October and have A/S and ocean escorts available.


21. On 13th October I received General Officer Commanding in Chief, East Africa signal (1100/12th October) to the War Office proposing that instead of going to India direct, the 29th Brigade should go to Durban for two months to recuperate from malaria.


22. In reply to an enquiry from Their Lordships I stated that I did not consider it desirable for this convoy to proceed to Kilindini without A/S escort (Admiral Message 1348 of 14th October and my 1714 of 14th October). On 15th October instructions were received (Admiralty Message 1407/15) that the 29th Brigade was to be sent to Durban.


Visit to Durban


23. I sailed from Diego Suarez in WARSPITE p.m. 14th October escorted by NEPAL and FORTUNE for Durban via the Mozambique Channel and arrived at Durban at noon on the 18th.


On the 19th October I exchanged calls with local military and civil authorities.


Visit to Pretoria


24. On the 20th October, accompanied by my Chief of Staff (Commodore R.A.B. Edwards) and two staff officers, I flew to Pretoria.


I stayed for two days with the British High Commissioner, the Right Honourable Lord Harlech, GCMG, and during that time met a number of South African Ministers and Authorities including the following.


            The Honourable F.C. Sturrock, M.P. (Minister of Railways and Harbours)

            Colonel the Honourable D. Reits, M.P. (Minister for Native Affairs)

            The Honourable J.H. Hofmeyer, M.P. (Minster of Finance)

            Major the Honourable P.V.G. van der Byl, M.C., M.P. (Minister without Portfolio)

            Lieutenant General Sir Pierre van Ryenweld, KBE, DSO, M.C. (Chief of the General Staff)

            Mr. Louis Esselin.


25. I spent the whole of one forenoon explaining to General Ryneweld the policy which had governed the movements and dispositions of the Eastern Fleet since March and in particular all the circumstances attending the loss of DORSETSHIRE, CORNWALL, and HERMES. They expressed their appreciation and said that my statement would be of value to them in countering the action of opposition parties directed against out war effort. According to the General, one third of the population in the Union dislike the British and one third of that one third are actually hostile and would welcome our defeat.


26. I informed Mr. Sturrock, who is acting Minister of Defence, and the General of my intention to discuss with the Commander in Chief, South Atlantic matters concerning the gun defences at Durban and the organisation of local South African air forces to admit of quick reinforcement of areas threatened by submarine attack. I feel both were most receptive and anxious to profit by any advise tendered to them on matters on which they lacked experience. The General is entirely loyal to Field Marshall Smuts, but is credited with being critical of the British. He can also be abrupt and off hand. On this occasion however, nothing of this nature could be observed and he was most cordial and friendly on all occasions.


27. Mr. Sturrock was evidently the most impressed by the reception accorded him during his recent visit to the United Kingdom. Although he was friendly and cooperative when I first me him in March at Capetown I noted a marked increase in his appreciation of what the Navy has done and was doing to win the war. He recognized most fully the vital importance of Durban to the Eastern Fleet and never hesitated to transfer skilled labour from the railway workshops to the docks in order to meet our requirements. The association of ports and railways has certainly provided a flexible organisation of great value in war time and in a country where ships repairs are normally a minor consideration. Mr. Sturrock particularly appreciated the interviews he had with the First Lord of the Admiralty and made frequent reference to these meetings. This appears to dispose of the contention that the men of Somerset and Scotland are unable to exchange view without the aid of a interpreter.


28. I ascertained that the move of the 29th Brigade from Madagascar without prior advice from the Union Government had caused some irritation. The South African authorities are very willing to cooperate but they like to be asked such movements as a matter of form and are inclined to be touchy if this appeared to be ignored or if too much is taken for granted.


29. Mr. Louis Esselin appears to occupy a curious position. His apparently acts as the Field Marshal’s watch dog and from what I could gather the Ministers take good care to keep him fully informed. If they do not he finds out for himself and then there is trouble. Nevertheless I could find nowhere any suggestion that he abuses his position or takes advantage of it in any way. His one aim in life appears to be service to Smuts.


30. Mrs. Smuts was ill in bed and unable to see me when I called at “Irene” which bears little resemblance to Chequers. The mixture of dilapidated early Victorian furniture and Royal photographs slung at all angles on the walls was completed by a dust covered illuminated address from the City of London peeping out under an ancient torn and dog eared copy of the Illustrated London News. It looked a real home and they all go to bed at 2130.


31. Lord Harlech, my Chief of Staff, and I were entertained at tea by the Governor General and Lady Duncan at Government House. Sir Patrick seems to be a very sick man and I doubt he will be able to continue in Office much longer. Lady Duncan escorted us round the really beautiful gardens and provoked lively memories of Miss Ruth Draper. It is an odd fact that that a garden always was, or will be, so much better than it is at the time of inspection.


Visit to Capetown


32. I left Pretoria, accompanied by two staff officers (my Chief of Staff having returned to Durban) in the General’s Ventura which he had placed at my disposal. These are fine aircraft in my respects but for A/S patrols have too high a cruising speed. The additional tanks fitted for the Trans-Atlantic passage are not suitable for normal operations and are being replaced. With extra tankage the radius of the Ventura approaches that of the Catalina, but at the expense of bomb or depth charge load. The landing speed is higher and not less than 1200 yards clear run is required.


33. During my stay at the Cape from 22nd to 27th October, I had numerous conferences with the Commander in Chief, South Atlantic and the staff of the combined headquarters at Capetown. I also visited ships of the Eastern Fleet undergoing refit at Simonstown.


Catalina Bases in South Africa


34. Shortly after the U boat attack commenced off Capetown on the 7th October, I ordered 3 Catalinas to be sent to Durban and then onwards to Saldanha Bay as soon as arrangements could be made to operate them from there.


35. I visited Saldanha with Admiral Tait and inspected the Catalina arrangements. Two Catalinas had already arrived and a third was expected shortly. One conclusion was that 3 Catalinas could be operated from Saldanha normally and 5 in emergency, and that 2 Catalinas should be send to Durban in order to keep the number of operational aircraft at Saldanha to 3. I made arrangements accordingly to be done.


36. The shore staff for one of the additional Catalina squadrons allocated to the Indian Ocean was due to arrived at Durban during the first week of November. When this squadron organisation is set up, the maintenance of Catalina in South Africa will be greatly facilitated. Up till now there have been no Royal Air Force maintenance facilities for Catalinas on that station. The Catalinas for this Durban squadron were expected to arrive by the end of November.


37. Return to Durban


On the 27th November (n.b. should read October), accompanied by my two staff officers, I left Capetown by air and flew to Johannesburg where I entrained and arrived at Durban the following day. Weather conditions were unsuitable for flying to Durban.


38. Docking of WARSPITE


WARSPITE docked on the 24th October and undocked on the 31st October. During the period the flagship was at Durban useful and instructive conferences were held by my staff with the Commodore Durban on general matters connected with the Eastern Fleet and with the Captain Superintendent and dockyard officers on docking and refits, stores and general supply questions.


39. I should like to take the opportunity of bringing to the notice of Their Lordships the extremely good work of the Superintending Naval Store Officer at Durban, Mr. R. Henderson. This officer, after almost three years at Singapore, from which he escaped shortly before the capitulation, had reach Freetown on his way home when he was sent back to Durban to organize a supply base for the Eastern Fleet. He started from scratch with an inadequate staff and in six months has produced a most efficient working organisation. It is apparent that he had not spared himself and that he is personally responsible for the excellent work achieved.


40. I also wish to refer to the whole hearted cooperation displayed by the Harbour and Dock Authorities. I have already mentioned the interest displayed by the Minister Mr. Sturrock, but wish to include the name of Colonel Cheadle, the Director of the Port, whose determination to ensure everything possible is done to assist our war effort is beyond all praise.




41. In accordance with the arrangements already made and communicated to Their Lordships (my 1309 of 10th October), 8 out of the 12 Eastern Fleet destroyers had already been lent to the Commander in Chief, South Africa. Of these two had now commenced refit at Simonstown leaving six for operational use. Information now pointed to the U boat menace probably moving from the Capetown area to the Durban – Mozambique area.


At that time, there were at Durban the remaining 4 Eastern Fleet destroyers (NAPIER, HOTSPUR, BLACKMORE, and DERWENT – the last names lent from the Mediterranean Fleet) and in view of the exceptionally heavy requirements to escort monsters, semi monsters and W E 23 in and out of Durban early November, I lent a further two destroyers (DERWENT and BLACKMORE) to the Commander in Chief, South Atlantic until W S 23 had left Durban. The result of this further loan will be to delay the departure of REVENGE from Durban to Kilindini until about mid November. This I communicated to Their Lordships in my signal 1235 of 29th October. In addition, on the 2nd of November, the JASMINE was sailed from Kilindini to reinforce the A/S force at Durban.


42. On 31st October and 1st November two ships were sunk about 80 to 100 miles East and North East of Durban.


43. On 1st November BIRMINGHAM arrived from Simonstown. On 2nd November, I sailed from Durban in WARSPITE with BIRMINGHAM in company and escorted by NAPIER and HOTSPUR. As soon as clear of the harbour, this force proceeded at high speed close inshore up the coast with outer and inner air escort. When clear of the Durban area, course was altered away from land and set for Kilindini through the Mozambique Channel.


44. During the forenoon of 6th November, the force passed through the Pemba Channel where the disembarked squadrons from ILLUSTRIOUS at Tanga carried out A.R.T., dive bombing, and fighter attacks on the ships of the force.


45. WARSPITE and the destroyers arrived at Kilindini at 1500 and BIRMINGHAM at 1730, she having remained outside to carry out a 6: sub caliber firing.




                                                                                                            J.F. Somerville



P.S. Enclosed are extracts from a Durban newspaper consequent on the recent announcement of the composition of the Eastern Fleet. (n.b. Extracts are not included in my file)
















1. Gulf of Aden


Several reports were received that U boats had been sighted in the Gulf of Aden and along the Arabian coast, but no ships were attacked, although convoys passed within 20 miles of the positions reported, and it must be considered unlikely that any U boats were in fact present.


2. Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman


Two reports, one from the S.S. EMPIRE BOWMAN off Ras al Hadd on the 18th October, who reported two dull blows amidships which might have been caused by torpedoes which failed to explode; and one from the Norwegian tanker HAVFRU, also off Ras al Hadd, who reported being hit by a torpedo which failed to exploded and being missed by a second, indicating that U boats might be operating in the vicinity.


Definite confirmation came on the 22nd October when the S.S. OCEAN VINTAGE was torpedoed in the same area.


3. Arabian Sea


M.V. GLENAFRIC reported being unsuccessfully attacked by a U boat 240 miles south west by south of Karachi on 4th October. This may possibly have been the same U boat which attacked S.S. ERNEBANK west of Bombay on the 27th September.


4. Indian Ocean


S.S. CABERITA reported being shelled by U boat 300 miles west of Addu Atoll on the 11th October. She sustained no damage and was eventually able to shake off her pursuer.


5. Colombo area


S.S. CAMILA was attacked at close range by gun fire and was set on fire. The ship was abandoned and finally drifted ashore in the vicinity of Cape Comorin.


6. Trincomalee area


S.S. POINT CLEAR was unsuccessfully attacked on the 1st October in position 07-32 North, 76-11 East. The U boat was seen from the air on the 11th October and on the 13th she torpedoed, but failed to sink the S.S. MARTABAN close to the Little Basses.


7. Bay of Bengal


S.S. MIKOYAN was torpedoed and sunk off Gopalpore on the 3rd October and S.S. MANON 100 miles north of Madras on the 8th October.


8. East African Coast


Four sighting reports were received during the course of the month, but no ships were attacked, and it is not considered that U boats were operating off this coast.




German U-boat, thought to number 6, opened a severe offensive against Merchant Shipping off the Cape. Between the 7th and 13th October, some 15 ships totaling 100,000 tons were sunk. Further attacks occurred during the fourth week of the month. To counter this offensive, the Eastern Fleet destroyers ARROW and ACTIVE already on their way to the Atlantic to assist in the escort of ROYAL SOVEREIGN from Freetown to the United States, were held at Capetown. They were joined at once by NIZAM and FOXHOUND who arrived at the Cape on 6th October to commence refit at Simonstown on the 7th. Subsequent further destroyers were sent to reinforce Commander in Chief, South Atlantic, as they became available.


EXPRESS and CATTERICK left Kilindini on 13th October and arrived at Simonstown on the 20th where they came under the orders of Commander in Chief, South Atlantic.


NEPAL and FORTUNE escorted WARSPITE to Diego Suarez and thence to Durban where they arrived on 18th October. NEPAL was at once sailed for the Cape, but FORTUNE was taken in hand for boiler cleaning before becoming available.


NAPIER, BLACKMORE, and INCONSTANT left Tamatave, Madagascar on 18th October escorting MD 1 to Durban. On arrival at Durban all ships so far as defects would permit operated under the orders of Commander in Chief South Atlantic.


HOTSPUR and DERWENT operated from Durban in the early part of the month but left on 15th escorting ILLUSTRIOUS to Kilindini where they arrived on 20th. On 24th these ships escorted RESOLUTION to Durban arriving a.m. 29th and again becoming available to A/S operations.


On 23rd October, Commander in Chief, South Atlantic formed the South Atlantic Escort Force consisting of 8 Eastern Fleet destroyers, 2 corvette, and one Free French minesweeper.




10. Northern Indian Ocean


During the month, 24 convoys were run in the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf made up as follows:


From Bombay to Persian Gulf                  6

From Aden to Persian Gulf                       7

From Persian Gulf outwards                    11


Escorts for these convoys were drawn from Persian Gulf division now consisting of 9 escort vessels assisted by vessels from Ceylon Escort Group and Aden force augmented by 2 Hunt class destroyers from Mediterranean.


12. Total number of ships convoyed in Arabian Sea and on West Coast of India but excluding those to and from Persian Gulf was 12 only. No B A convoys were run. Normal West Coast of India sailing continued with air escort and part time surface A/S escort in focal areas.


13. Figures in paragraph 11 show that about 50% of trade entered Persian Gulf is still unescorted through lack of suitable assembly port to which ships from overseas can be directed. The question of using the head of the Gulf of Kutch as an assembly port has been under discussion with Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy, and has been and has been agreed to accepting its total lack of defences.


14. Bandar Abbas in the Gulf of Hormuz continues as assembly port for outgoing traffic from Persian Gulf; the largest convoy to sail contained 21 ships. The possibility of using some other port, such as Bahrein or Sitrah, further up the Gulf and consequently less accessible to the enemy has again been under discussion, and discarded chiefly on the grounds of bad weather and hazardous navigation.


15. Remainder of Indian Ocean


W S 22 (14 ships) passed through the station escorted from Durban by H.M.S. DEVONSHIRE and H.M.S. RANCHI to latitude of Seychelles whence Mid East section (6 ships) continued with H.M.S. RANCHI as escort to Aden. H.M.S. HAWKINS relieved H.M.S. DEVONSHIRE escorting Indian section (8 ships) to Bombay. Convoy was routed east of Madagascar and west of Seychelles.


C M 33 left Durban 21st October with troops transshipped from W S convoys for Mid East. Escort was provided throughout to Aden by H.M.S. WORCESTERSHIRE who herself carried her full capacity of naval personnel to Suez. Convoy passed through Mozambique Channel.


AQUITANIA and NIEUW AMSTERDAM passed through the station from Cape to Suez with troops. Ships were unescorted and passed east of Madagascar. ILE DE FRANCE left Durban 21st October proceeding direct to Australia.




18. The sleeve towing service at Colombo is again working after being held up by lack of wire.


19. A site for the A.A. Dome Teacher has been selected at Kilindini and work on building has started.


(d). AIR


20. Persian Gulf


A detachment of three Catalinas from Ceylon and Madras carried out A/S operations and convoy escorts in the Gulf of Hormuz during the month. The necessary reliefs were provided from Ceylon


21. East and South Africa


A detachment of three Catalinas from Mombasa was ordered to Durban to be at the disposal of Commander in Chief South Atlantic. The first aircraft force landed in Portuguese territory 55 miles North East of Lourenco Marques on 13th October. Two additional aircraft were flown from Mombasa to Durban on 14th October and 15th October.   A third aircraft was flown from Pamanzi to Durban on 18th October.


This detachment of three aircraft was later moved from Durban to Saldahna Bay and are now operating there.


To maintain the Saldahna Bay detachment at full strength, it is intended to establish a detachment of two Catalinas at Durban to provide reliefs. The first of these aircraft is now on passage to Durban and is due there on 5th November.


22. Ceylon


All available Catalinas in East Africa having been moved to South Africa, a detachment of 3 Catalinas from Ceylon was moved to Mombasa on 13th October. These aircraft took part in Operation DEMCAT, operating from the Seychelles. They were recalled to Ceylon from the Seychelles on 31st October.


To replace this detachment with A.S.V. fitted Catalinas, a further three aircraft were ordered from Ceylon to Mombasa.


On passage, they were diverted to a submarine hunt near Addu Atoll. During operations from Addu Atoll, one aircraft was damaged, the other two were ordered to Mombasa on conclusion of the hunt, the first one arriving 3rd November, the second aircraft being due Mombasa 5th November.


Additional Catalinas from Ceylon also took part in the submarine hunt near Addu Atoll; but no details of further operations in the vicinity of Ceylon are available.




23. Kilindini


W/T Stations now fully equipped and base ship for W/T duties is not longer necessary.


24. Cables


Cable ship RECORDER relayed existing cables from Kilindini Harbour to new site at Fort Jesus.New cable station at Post Officer now 90% complete and will be operating by end of November.


Cable ship RECORDER also tested and repaired:


(i). Mombasa – Zanzibar Cable at 5-11S, 39-23E


(ii). Zanzibar Dar es Salaam cable


(iii). Zanzibar – Durban cable (position not yet located)


25. Madagascar


STREAM LINE JANE. At very short notice and with very limited supplies available of both material and personnel it was necessary to equip the communication organisation from Kilindini. H.M.S. ALBATROSS was converted to Headquarters Ship of the Senior Naval Officer (L) with very primitive arrangements. Results during STREAM LINE JANE were very satisfactory and reflects credit on W/T staff of ALBATROSS and others who assisted with the planning.


On conclusion of STREAM LINE JANE, Base W/T ships were left at Majunga and Tamatave. By making use of French equipment ashore and increasing the equipment at Diego Suarez, it is no longer necessary to retain a ship at any port in Madagascar for W/T duties.


26. Persian Gulf


A breakdown in communications in the Persian Gulf was reported on 21st September 1942. This break down was investigated at a court of enquiry and the Board’s findings reveals that the R/T apparatus was both old, over worked, and badly maintained. Communications will soon be improved when new transmitters for Plan R are installed.


27. General Communications


Preliminary survey for Plan R are now in hand and work has already commenced at Aden and Persian Gulf Stations.


(f). R.D.F.


28. I.F.F. trials in aircraft have been completed and improved results have been obtained. 80% efficiency expected. Report is being forwarded.




29. Colombo


Local developments are continuing


30. Trincomalee


Mine loops M 1, M 2, and M 3 were damaged and are out of action, leaving only M 4 in working order.


Minor modifications to the Capital Ship berthing plan were agreed upon in order to provide a taking off and alighting area for Catalina aircraft.


31. Addu Atoll


Cable ship JOHN MACKEY commenced the diversion of the Seychelles, Colombo cable. Difficulty is being experienced in the laying the shore end.


Aerodrome and other developments continue.


32. Kilindini


A/T boom completed and a third H.D.A. laid


Exercises to test the detecting devices and local defence organisation are being carried out.


33. Manza Bay


Controlled minefield completed and navigational beacons erected.


34. Mauritius


Local developments at Grand Port and Port Louis were continued.


35. Seychelles


H.M.S. ETHIOPIAN having partially completed the A/T Boom, is now at Kilindini loading the A/S Boom for Cerf Passage.


36. Diego Garcia


No further development


37. PORT F


Future policy in regard to the use of Port F as an operational base and Gulf of Kutch as a convoy assembly point is under discussion.


Development of aerodrome is progressing.


38. Diego Suarez


Three mines from the controlled minefield were accidently cut by WARSPITE’s paravanes on 14th October.


B.D.O. East Africa visited Diego Suarez during the month to investigate storage of boom equipment, etc.


Salvage of BRITISH LOYALTY and French Warships and submarines sunk during Operation IRONCLAD is in hand.


39. Majunga


Following a decision to use Tamatave as a main supply port for Madagascar, the base staff at Majunga had been removed and naval interests are now watched by a Resident Naval Officer.


40. Tamatave


B.D.O. East Africa visited Tamatave during the month, and has advised on the proposed Boom Defences. Recommendations have been signaled to the Admiralty.




41. Paymaster Lieutenant Commander W.R. Michell, RN, Mr. E.T. Biggs, Mr. D.J. Cheke ex Tokyo arrived Kilindini 12th October for duty with Chief of Intelligence Staff.


42. Lieutenant R. Hawkins, RNVR (Sp) arrived Kilindini 21st October prior to taking up duties as Staff Officer (Intelligence) Diego Suarez.


43. A plot of ground, with house, at Nyali, was taken over on 20th October for C.S.D.i.C. Camp, and is in the process of being cleared by the military.




44. There has been no enemy minelaying


45. The following LL S/A M/S Vessels have arrived on their respective stations:

SUNBURST, MOONSHINE, HATSUSE, DUSK, 171st M/S Group at Kilindini from United Kingdom.


EARL KITCHENER part of the 170th Group at Colombo from United Kingdom


KARMOY and OKSOY part of the 177th Group at Khorrsmshahr from Bombay, where they were fitted out as LL S/A sweepers.

46. Arrangements have been made for units of the Sixth Trawler Group, stationed at Diego Suarez, to refit at Mauritius.SLUNA had been refitted and returned to her station. HILDASAY is now refitting at Mauritius, due to complete about November 20th.


47. The following Bathursts have arrived on the East Indies Station.







And the following are on passage from Fremantle.











1. At 2100 G M T 31st October (n.b. pen and ink correction to 21st October), S.S. KARAGOLA reported sighting a suspicious vessel of 20,000 tons, apparently almost stationary, 9 miles distant. Identification was difficult owing to the presence of rain squalls, but from the description it appeared she was similar to the NIPPON YUSEN KAISHA Pacific passenger ships. The Merchant shipping plot did not show any large allied ships in this area.


2. Although, owing to weather conditions pertaining to the time of sighting, the reliability of this report was doubted, it was decided that, as three cruisers were then at Kilindini with no immediate task, they should be send to search for this suspicious vessel and for enemy supply ships or raiders who might use the area for refuelling submarines engaged in operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Oman.


3. Force D, comprising H.M. ships DEVONSHIRE, ENTERPRISE, and MAURITIUS, were sailed accordingly to carry out a search, in cooperation with R.A.F. flying boats, of a rectangular area lying between the Equator and Lat. 6-40 North and between meridians 59-10 East and 67-00 East. The four quarters of this rectangular to be searched.


27th October     southwest quarter in conjunction with two Catalinas base at Seychelles

28th October     northeast quarter in conjunction with two Catalinas based at Addu Atoll

29th October     northwest quarter in conjunction with two Catalinas based at Seychelles

30th October     southwest quarter in conjunction with two Catalinas base at Addu Atoll


4. The cruisers were spaced 65 miles apart and were ordered to carry out a parallel track search, commencing at 0800 daily. Catalinas commenced creeping line ahead search at dawn daily to prudent limit of endurance. Thereafter the cruisers were free to employ their own aircraft to assist the search as they thought expedient


5. DEVONSHIRE and MAURITIUS sailed from Kilindini Saturday, 24th October, direct to their initial positions for the search. H.M.S. ENTERPRISE, in view of her low endurance, was sailed first to the Seychelles to fuel and then to her initial position for the search. No suspicious vessels were encountered until the 30th October when a Catalina aircraft reported sighting an enemy submarine on the surface at 0210/30 in position 1-36 North, 67-39 East. The submarine submerged shortly after being sighted.


6. The Catalina was ordered to carry out a square search for submarine in area of 30 miles radius from position 1-35 North, 67-30 East to prudent limit of endurance. The subsequent hunt for this U boat is described in Appendix II.


7. The cruisers concluded operations at P.M. 30th October, H.M.S. DEVONSHIRE proceeding directly to Kilindini, H.M.S. ENTERPRISE and H.M.S. MAURITIUS proceeding to Seychelles for fuelling and thence to Kilindini.


8. In order to assist in the quick identification of suspicious shipping, the following procedure was brought into force for this operation.


“When no information is held of a ship met or the identification procedure has not been successful, W/T silence can be broken to ask the shore plot for corroboration, the following system of checkmate signals is to be used.:




Makes a quick signal in Naval Code prefixed Emergency and consisting of the word “Check” only.



             To: C in C EF From: DEVONSHIRE


             (Naval Code). T.O.O.


This signal should be followed by another giving in the highest grade Cypher the name of the ship under suspicion, her position, course she was steering when first sighted and details of what she purports to be doing.


The first signal will give the necessary warning to enable all required information to be prepared for the expected question.


Shore Plot.


Replies to the second signal from the Warship with the word “MATE” followed by one of the following indications:


(a). “CORRECT” (ship named can be in your area)


(b). “UNKNOWN” (no information held whatever)


(c ). “ELSEWHERE (ship named know to be elsewhere).


This system has since been promulgated by signal Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet 1004Z/15/10








1. At 0210Z/30 Catalina engaged in Operation DEMCAT sighted a submarine on the surface in position 1-36 North, 67-39 East. This submarine dived shortly after being sighted. It was considered that this submarine was the same as had been bombed and reported possibly damaged by aircraft of Ras al Hadd at 0530 on 25th October and which had been fixed by D.F. on 27th October in position 15 deg. North, 62 deg. East and again on 28th October in position 12 deg. North, 64 deg. East.


2. If this was indeed the same submarine, there appeared to be a chance of intercepting her as she passed eastwards between the Maldive Island and the Chagos Archipelago.


3. Commander in Chief Eastern Fleet instructed Flag Officer, Ceylon, that A.S.V. Catalinas then on passage from Ceylon to Mombasa and any available A/S at or near Addu Atoll, were to be used to make an organized hunt for this U boat, instructions for which hunt being issued by Flag Officer, Ceylon.


4. FRITILLARY and HOXA then at Addu Atoll were ordered to raise steam with all dispatch. CAIRNS then on passage from Diego Garcia to Seychelles was placed under orders of Flag Officer, Ceylon and diverted towards Addu Atoll. LISMORE, acting as A/S escort for HAWKINS and KUTSANG, on passage from Colombo to Addu Atoll was ordered to be detached at dusk on the 30th October to join in the hunt. KUTSANG and HAWKINS proceeding to Addu Atoll where they were ordered to remain until the submarine had been destroyers or was reckoned to be clear of the area.


5. HOXA was ordered to proceed to maintain a patrol in the 1 ½ Degree Channel. FRITILLARY, LISMORE, and CAIRNS were ordered to form a patrol covering as far as possible the probably line of advance of the submarine to the south westward of Addu Atoll, from which positions they would be suitably placed to hunt the submarine should she be detected by Catalinas’ cross over patrols further to the westward of them. Catalina and surface patrols were adjusted daily to conform with the estimated advance of the U boat. The search proved unsuccessful and was abandoned at 1130Z on the 1st November. The chances of intercepting and destroying the U boat were materially reduced by the inability to provide high percentage A.S.V. patrols on the nights of 30th and 31st October. This, combined with the poor visibility encountered gives good reason by the U boat may have passed through the Addu-Chagos passage unobserved.


6. HAWKINS and KUTSANG, with LISMORE as local escort, were sailed from Addu to Seychelles on Monday, 2nd November.







Early in the month, the Army were firmly established in Madagascar, their Ports and communications were secure, and the majority part of the Naval task had been completed. There was little to be done beyond escorting the relieving East African troops from Kilindini. Senior Officer, Force M (Rear Admiral W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO) accordingly turned over his duties as Naval Senior Officer to Commodore S.H.T. Arliss, RN (whose broad pennant was flying in NAPIER), and sailed in BIRMINGHAM on the 5th October to Kilindini. GAMBIA also returned to Kilindini in company with BIRMINGHAM. She was required to act as ocean escort the convoy conveying East African troops to Tamatave. MANXMAN left Diego Suarez on the 4th October and returned to East Africa to prepare for a special operation. The Naval forces remaining at Madagascar then consisted of:


(a). EREBUS and two A/S whalers at Majunga


(b). ALBATROSS at Tamatave with one corvette and one A/S trawler


(c ). DAUNTLESS as guardship at Diego Suarez.


(d). NAPIER, INCONSTANT, and BLACKMORE providing A/S escort for important ships wherever required.


2. On October 11th, EMPIRE PRIDE and EASTERN PRINCE, escorted by GAMBIA, sailed from Kilindini with the 3rd/4th K.A.R.’s and certain reinforcements for the Diego Suarez garrison. HEEMSKERCK, VAN GALAN, and TJERK HIDDES provided additional escort from Kilindini during daylight of the first day. On the arrival of the East African troops at Tamatave, the 29th Independent Brigade and the 5th Commando were to embark in the transports already at Madagascar, the former to India and the latter to return to the United Kingdom. The health of the 29th Brigade had, however, seriously deteriorate during the operations on the unhealthy malarial coast, and it was necessary to consider the postponement of their arrival in India to enable them to have a period for recuperation in South Africa. As many as 55 new malarial cases were being reported daily. It was decided to send the troops to Durban, but their M.T. and landing craft to India. Accordingly convoy M D 1 consisting of DUNERA, DILWARA, and EMPIRE PRIDE, was formed and loaded at Tamatave. EASTERN PRINCE was excluded owing to engine room defects. This convoy escorted by DAUNTLESS, NAPIER, INCONSTANT, and BLACKMORE left Tamatave on 18th October. BLACKMORE (a Hunt Class Destroyer) was so overdue to boiler cleaning, that her endurance was seriously impaired, and it was considered necessary to oil her on the way to Durban. Accordingly, BRITISH ENERGY was sailed from Diego Suarez to Tulear, and BLACKMORE was detached from the convoy was necessary.


3. All the M.T. and Store ships used to transport the Military Force to Madagascar in September had been released to trade before the end of the month, with the exception of GASCONY and OCEAN VIKING (who were required to carry M.T. for the 29th Brigade to India), and ADVISER who was engaged in carrying military stores from Majunga to Tamatave. The last named ship was finally released to trade at the end of October when she embarked the first commercial cargo for export from Madagascar ports since the inception of the blockade.


4. With the departure of M D 1, the Naval Forces remaining in Madagascan waters consisted of EREBUS at Majunga, ALBATROSS at Tamatave (but due to proceed to Diego Suarez to take over duties of guardship and Senior Naval Officer (Afloat) and eight corvettes, whalers, or trawlers for A/S purposed, one of which was docking at Mauritius. These forces were further reduced towards the end of the month when EREBUS sailed for Durban and the A/S trawler LURCHER sailed for Kilindini to make good defects.







Area of operations, click to enlarge








1. Special Operations (Encounter between BENGAL and Japanese raiders (see Appendix I)




F.S. LEOPARD, acting under the orders of the French National Committee, was diverted whilst on passage from the Cape to Australia to Reunion Island to rally inhabitants to the Fighting French Cause. After refuelling at Port Louis, Mauritius, she proceeded to St Denis, where it was intended to land Marines to capture the Island. The landing took place on the 28th November, but the Governor retired to the mountains with a force of 400 men. After occupying the northern portion of the Island, LEOPARD was faced with the problems of dealing with these local defence forces and asked for British assistance. This, however, was unnecessary when, on the morning of the 30th, the Island authorities accepted the Fighting French terms.       


H.M.S. HAWKINS had been diverted to Diego Suarez to be available to transfer troops from Madagascar to Reunion. She was due to Diego Suarez on the 1st December.




All naval forces, excepting those required for local defence, were withdrawn from Madagascar early in the month. FREESIA left on the 2nd November to return to Kilindini and ALBATROSS, after exchanging the garrison at Mayotta, proceed to Tamatave and there embarked the group personnel of 795 and 796 Squadrons who had been detached to cooperate with the Military during the Madagascar Campaign. Aircraft of 795 and 796 Squadrons flew back to East Africa, arriving at Tanga on the 10th. ALBATROSS reached Tanga on the 13th.




In addition to the destroyers, SONDRA and 209 Flying Boat Squadron who had been lent to the South Atlantic Station in October, the following A/S forces joined Commander in Chief, South Atlantic from the Eastern Fleet:


(a). NIGELLA on completion of her refit at East London on the 1st November.


(b). JASMINE who had sailed from Kilindini on the 2nd November and arrived at Durban on the 8th November.


(c ). FREESIA, who left Kilindini, escorted RESOURCE on the 23rd November was due at Durban on the 1st December.


(d). One Catalina who was flown from Mombasa on the 5th November to Durban was to be available as replacement for aircraft then operating from Saldahna Bay.




On the 2nd November, EREBUS arrived at Durban where she came under the administration of Rear Admiral Training Establishments. She is intended to act as Turret Drill Ship in South Africa, and will be maintained at three weeks’ notice for operations.




The docking and repairs of heavy ships continued at Durban throughout the month:


(a). WARSPITE completed a week’s docking on the 2nd November.


(b). REVENGE completed three months’ repairs on the 13th November.


(c ). RESOLUTION completed a short refit and docking on the 20th November.


Movements of heavy ships were controlled by the availability of the few destroyers remaining in the Eastern Fleet. They returned to Kilindini as soon as possible after the completion of docking and refits at Durban


Throughout the month there was very little opportunity for exercises at sea in the vicinity of Kilindini owing to the lack of destroyer escorts. ILLUSTRIOUS went out on two occasions and WARSPITE, VALIANT, and REVENGE once each. On passage from Durban each ship had intensive exercises when approaching Kilindini, the programme for each were arranged to improve weapon training, and also to give aircraft disembarked from ILLUSTRIOUS exercise in searching, tracking, and attacking. Runner Torpedo practices dropped from aircraft were a feature of this month.




CERES on completion of three months’ repairs at Simonstown on 14th November proceeded to Durban and thence to Kilindini.


DRAGON, who left Durban on the 31st October, proceeded to the United Kingdom for re construction.


DURBAN, who had an escorted convoy, W S 33 from the United Kingdom, arrived at Durban on the 6th November with defects to condensers and boiler room fans. Through the remainder of the month, she was undergoing repairs.


FROBISHER completed five weeks’ work on her turbines on the 21st November. This work was necessary owing to certain blades on all L P turbines having stripped during passage from Colombo to Kilindini. Subsequent speed trials were satisfactory.




The following minesweepers left Australia to join the Eastern Fleet:


(a). MARYBOROUGH and IPSWICH on the 3rd November


(b). BENGAL on the 5th November


(c ). TOOWOOMBA and CESSNOCK on the 21st November.


In each case, these vessels accompanied an oiler as far as Diego Garcia.




SPRINGTIDE left Colombo on 16th November for Kilindini, where she was required to be available for the deperming of Eastern Fleet ships. Her arrival coincided with the laying of the D/G range at Kilindini.




HILDASAY left Mauritius on the 20th November, having completed a month’s refit. Her place was taken by PLADDA.






Apart from one doubtful sighting report of a U boat and a report from S.S. NIZAM that she had been missed by a torpedo, there have been no signs of U boat activity in the Gulf of Aden. It is probable that the NIZAM was misled by fish.




Strong rumours have been reported of a U boat landing arms and agents in the vicinity of Jask in the last week of September or in October. Although no confirmation has been received, the possibility of this being true was strengthened by various other reports of light signals having been seen in the area. Arrangements have been made for strengthening the internal security ashore and the area is being patrolled from the sea as frequently as practicable.


A U/B was sighted by aircraft in the vicinity of Ras el Hadd on the 25th and 29th November, but no attacks have been made on shipping.




Two reports have been received of U/B sightings. One by a ferry pilot near Karachi and one off Kadibandar. Both these reports were discounted as being improbable.


S.S. CHANFIELD was torpedoed and sunk off Allepy on 23rd November.




A Japanese unit, probably a U/B, was plotted by D/F to be some 570 miles S.W. of Ceylon on 23rd November.


S.S. TILAWA was torpedoed and sunk on the night 22nd/23rd November in position 07-36N, 61-08E. H.M.S. BIRMINGHAM, on passage from Bombay to Kilindini, was diverted to search for survivors. She rescued 670 and returned to Bombay. H.M.S. CARTHAGE was ordered to the position to search for the 280 still unaccounted, but only succeeded in rescuing 4. H.M.S. CARTHAGE was ordered to return to Kilindini.


A Japanese unit, using the o/m frequency, was plotted by D/F to be in position 9 degrees S and 97 degrees E on the 29th October.




S.S. HILDA MOLLER reported having been missed by a torpedo in position about 60 miles south of Ceylon on 13th November.


On 23rd and 25th November Japanese units (probably U/Bs) were plotted by D/F to be somewhere in the vicinity.




The S.S. EMPIRE DEFIANCE reported being missed by 2 torpedoes on 11th November in the vicinity of Madras.


On 16th November a patrol vessel sighted a U boat off Madras but was unable to keep in contact with it and failed to regain contact in subsequent searches.


The S.S. EMPIRE MIST reported sighting a U/boat on the 18th November in a position 100 miles to the northward of Trincomalee.


A Japanese unit, possibly a U Boat, was fixed by D/F to be in approximately 9 degrees N , 95 degrees E on the 18th November.




No Japanese U boats were reported in the area during the month.


The S.S. LOUISE MOLLER was sunk on the 13th November and the S.S. PIERCE BUTLER on the 20th both to the eastward of Durban, just on the station boundary. It is considered that the U Boat or boats were German.






After acting as Base Ship for Khor Kuwai since 16th September 1942, ALAUNIA sailed on 4th November as ocean escort to convoy P B 10 to Bombay to give leave to ship’s company and to embark stores. She sailed from Bombay on 22nd November to arrived in Bandar Abbas on 25th November to take over the duties of the Base Ship as before.



Arrived from the United Kingdom as escort to convoy W S 23, arriving at Durban on 5th November. After four days at Durban, she sailed direct with the Aden portion of W S 23, arriving at Aden on 23rd November. She was then ordered to return to Kilindini but the journey was diverted to assist in the search for survivors from the torpedoed TILAWA. Search was abandoned on 27th November and CARTHAGE reached Kilindini on 1st December.



Since the beginning of November, CHITRAL had been docking and boiler cleaning at Bombay. On 18th November she was sailed to Durban, arriving on 29th November preparatory to acting as ocean escort to Convoy W S 24 (Slow) on 4th December.



Having left Madagascar on the 18th October as ocean escort for convoy M D 1, DAUNTLESS arrived at Durban on 9th November and sailed four days later as escort for W S 23. She was relieved by H.M.S. HAWKINS four days out and returned to Durban to act as escort for C M 35 (Slow) which sailed on 21st November.

DAUNTLESS was relieved on C M 35 by A.M.C. RANPURA when north of Madagascar and proceeded to Kilindini with DUNERA and SONTAY in company, arriving at the latter port on 23rd November. She subsequently sailed with SONTAY and Greek destroyer KANARIS on 27th November for Aden where she should arrive on 6th December.


Returned to Kilindini from Operation DEMCAT arriving on 3rd November. She was next required to rendezvous with MAURETANIA on passage from Suez to Fremantle and to Sydney, and sailed from Kilindini on 16th November arriving Colombo in company with MAURETANIA on 23rd November, leaving again on 25th, and expecting to arrived at Fremantle on 3rd December.



On completion of Operation DEMCAT, ENTERPRISE proceeded to Seychelles arriving on 1st November. She left again on the following day and arrived Kilindini on 4th November. Three days later she was required to escort convoy M C 1 consisting of ALAMANZORA and ORDUNA to Diego Suarez and thence to Durban. ENTERPRISE and convoy arrived Durban on 16th November and on 21st November, ENTERPRISE sailed for Simonstown and the United Kingdom.



During the month of November, FROBISHER had been at Kilindini carrying out repairs to her turbines. After completion of successful trials FROBISHER sailed from Kilindini on 30th November for Durban where she will remain until 4th December when she will be required to act as escort for W S 24 (fast section) to a latitude of Diego Suarez.



Until 13th November, GAMBIA was at Bombay boiler cleaning and docking. On 13th November, she sailed for Colombo arriving 16th November and sailing on 24th November to rendezvous with convoy O W 1 on 29th November in position 22-30 South, 95-05 East. She will escort this convoy to the vicinity of Addu Atoll where she will be relieved by two vessels from the Ceylon escort group. GAMBIA will proceed to Addu Atoll to refuel and probably sailed direct to Kilindini.



Left Kilindini acting escort to the KUTSANG on 28th October and proceeded thence with KUTSANG to Addu Atoll, Seychilles. Arrived 6th. Sailed from Seychelles on the 7th for Mauritius arriving on the 9th and having fuelled left the same day to R/v with and take over escort of W S 23 from DAUNTLESS. On 16th, she was relieved as escort to W S 23 by MAURITIUS and arrived Kilindini 18th leaving again for Bombay on the 30th.



On conclusion of Operation DEMCAT, MAURITIUS returned to Seychelles to fuel, sailing for Kilindini from the Pemba Channel on 1st November arriving Kilindini on the 4th. MAURITIUS sailed from Kilindini on 14th November to rendezvous with W S 23 and escort the Bombay section to its destination. After arrival at Bombay on 3rd December, she will be required to act as ocean escort to B A 34 to the longitude of %%(?) degrees East returning thence to Diego Suarez preparatory to relieving FROBISHER as escort to W S 24 (Fast).



Arrived Kilindini from the Northward on 3rd November and remained there until 14th November when she was required to sail as ocean escort for Convoy K A 4 SALWEEN and TAKLIWA, to Aden arriving Aden 20th November where she will remain until required to escort personnel and Convoy A B 4 Bombay about 2nd December



Completed boiler cleaning at Bombay on 6th November and sailed with B A 33 to Aden on that day. After turning over the convoy to local escorts, RANPURA proceeded to Kilindini arriving on the 20th November. She sailed again from Kilindini with C M 35 with personnel from Middle East and arrived at Aden on 29th November. She will remain at Aden until required as escort to M C 2 which convoy has not yet been constituted.



Arrived Aden on 3rd November with convoy C M 33 and sailed the same day for Suez with naval personnel. She returned to Aden on 12th November and sailed the following day for Kilindini arriving at the latter port on 18th November. She sailed from Kilindini on 26th November as ocean escort to C M 35 (B) and should arrived Bombay on 4th December.




17. Sleeve target facilities are now available at Durban


18. MAURITIUS carried out the first bombardment on the Wasin Island range on 11th November. No major difficulties were encountered.


(e). AIR




5th November - One Catalina flown from Mombasa to Durban as relief for the detachment of 3 Catalinas operating from Saldanha Bay. This aircraft was brought into operational use at Durban in view of the spread northwards of the submarine campaign.


15th November - The 3 Catalinas from Saldanha Bay were flown to Durban as a result of the intensification of the submarine campaign in the Durban area and the slacking off in the Cape area.


24th November - Air Headquarters, East Africa formed at Nairobi absorbing207 Group


1-30th November - The two Catalinas flown from Ceylon to Mombasa to replaced the aircraft send to South Africa, stood by as a strike and standby striking force at Mombasa, but did not carry out any operational flying.


1-30th November - A detachment of 3 Catalinas from Ceylon was maintained in the Persian Gulf, operating from Bahrein.




ILLUSTRIOUS squadrons were shore based for most of the month, 810 and 806 at R.N.A.S. Tanga for torpedo attack and reconnaissance training respectively and 881 at Mackinnon Road.


Some Martlets of 881 Squadron were sent to Nakuru and Naruki for a week’s exercises with the R.A.F. The exercise proved of value to both Fleet Air Arm and R.A.F.


(f). BASES




Local developments are continuing. The layout of the Indicator loops and H.D.A.’s at Trincomalee are under consideration.




Work has now reached a stage when the skilled labour of the M.N.B.D.O. can be dispensed with. The unit is therefore to be replaced as soon as less skilled labour is available.


WUSUEH, which was earmarked for Addu Atoll as a hospital carrier, has been diverted to other uses as required by Armindia. OPHIR will take her place temporarily.


The laying of the shore end of the diversion of the Colombo Seychelles cable has been abandoned for the time being.




Unloading of TREVORIAN, and loading of ETHIOPIAN continued. This was much delayed by various caused, including a fracture of TREVORIAN’s foremast.


ETHIOPIAN sailed fro Seychelles 29th November


DEVON CITY arrived 11th and sailed for Diego Suarez 25th.




Works and developments are continuing.




ETHIOPIAN sailed from Kilindini on 29th November for Seychelles with A/S Boom for Cerf Passage and extra moorings for St Anne’s Boom.




No further development. The indicator nets have nearly disappeared.




Developments continue


Three H.D.A.’s were landed by DEVON CITY. It has been approved to site these in Oranjia Pass.


Proposals for anchorage and A/T baffles have been approved by the Admiralty


28. PORT F


Development is progressing.


When present works are complete, it is not intended that Port F shall remain in instant readiness for use, but in a state from which it can be brought into use without undue delay if required.


The notice at which Gulf of Kutch shall be kept as a convoy assembly port is at present under discussion with Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy.




29. Captain H.R. Sandwith arrived Kilindini 26th November on a Y Intelligence visit.


30. Paymaster Lieutenant Commander W.R. Michell proceeded to Cairo 7th November for instruction in interrogation of Prisoners of War.


31. Major J.S. Figess (Army Liaison Officer (I) to Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet) proceeded to Delhi 26th November.




32. There has been no enemy minelaying.


33. M.H.T. TEWERA, the third vessel of the 170th M/S Group at Colombo has arrived on station from the United Kingdom. MAGNOLIA, the fourth of the group, is on passage from the united Kingdom.


34. During November the following BATHURSTs have arrived on their respective stations from Australia:


            H.M.A.S. MARYBOROUGH                                at Colombo

            H.M.A.S. IPSWICH                                            at Kilindini

            H.M.A.S. CAIRNS                                              at Kilindini


35. The following BATHURSTs are on passage from Australia to join the Eastern Fleet







            (N.B. both minesweeping and communications are assigned “H” for their paragraphs)




V/S - New signal tower at Base has been completed and is in operation, but flashing facilities are not yet complete due to lack of transformers.


W/T - High speed equipment has been installed and now high speed traffic is exchanged between Admiralty, Simonstown, and Colombo. All apparatus is ex- tempore and station still awaits proper equipment for U.K. Admiralty have signaled part if already shipped.


Considerable increase of traffic has been taken on the Admiralty fixed service which is intended for C.O.I.S. Arrangements have been made to C.O.I.S. traffic to be passed over cable and wireless link to Nairobi and forward by train to Kilindini. As yet this route has not been used.

CABLES - Cable ship RECORDER has reacquired Durban-Zanzibar cable in the vicinity of Lourenco Marques, and now moved north to make two repairs off Mozambique. She should be completed by mid December.




MAJUNGA - Has been reduced to the status of a Resident Naval Officer, and accordingly only one W/T rating remains. Type 52 E.R.T. has been left for emergency communications.


TAMATAVE - Trials have been carried out with the high power L/F transmitter on 20 k.c.’s Good reception by a submarine on the surface at a distance of 3000 miles has been reported. Further trials are taking placed with a view of providing a high power L/F broadcast to cover the Indian Ocean. British Joint Communication Board have agreed that this transmitter is available for naval use.




W/T and L/F breakdowns are still being reported. Cable ships JOHN W. MACKAY and STORE NORDISKE have been sailed for Muscat to lay new cables and effect repairs.


New W/T transmitters have been shipped to the Persian Gulf and improvements should be effected early in January.




Cable ship JOHN W. MACKAY laid the diversion cable from Addu Atoll to the north (152 miles). Northern end has been anchored, southern end has been buoyed. Many difficulties have been reported in connection with the proposed diversion on the Seychelles – Colombo cable, and Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet signaled that in view of the revised function of Addu Atoll, that it was considered that the diversion should be abandoned.




During Operation DEMCAT (in approximate position 6 degrees North, 60 degrees East) three cruisers were operating and an analysis of signals read from Rugby was made. It is of interest to note that modern Cruiser with up to date receivers experiences little difficulty in receiving Rugby throughout the 24 hours, a County Class cruisers received about 60% and an old Class Cruiser with poor receivers has considerable difficulty in receiving Rugby. Steps are being taken to provide all Cruisers with a really good receiver for reception of Rugby.




Trials have been carried out between Kilindini – Simonstown – Durban and the Consul General at Lourenco Marques. To date only Durban and Lourenco Marques have established communication.


Further trials are in progress.




W.R.N.S. personnel are now arriving at Kilindini and relieving ratings, but due to lack of accommodations, numbers released are as yet few.




V/S and W/T instruction is now being carried out in class room ashore. Plans have been made to build a small school to train fleet personnel and ratings awaiting passage.


44. PLAN R


Preliminary survey of Aden and Persian Gulf has been completed and all proposals have been forwarded to the Admiralty.


Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet has approved for the work to be put in hand.









Taken from the WAR AT SEA, Volume III, January-December 1942

Historical Section, Tactical and Staff Duties Division

Naval Staff, Admiralty




(Paragraph) 892 : Operations in Madagascar (September 1942).


When Diego Suarez was occupied May (paras. 676-685) certain Allied leaders, including Field Marshall Smits, favoured the immediate extension of our hold upon the island of Madagascar. Complete occupation, was, however, deferred for various reasons, among which was the hope that after the fall of Diego Suarez the French authorities in the rest of the island might adhere voluntarily to the Allies This hope was not realized, and operations for complete occupation were carried out in September, the authority of the Chiefs of Staff to proceed having been given on August 3 (C.O.S. No. (EA) 6, 1300Z/3/8). Our forces landed at three points on the west coast early on September 10 – at Nossi Be Island, at Majunga, and at Morondava. At the same time, units of the military forces at Diego Suarez began an advance southwards, but were much delayed by damaged bridges. Progress elsewhere was rapid, and on September 16 the Vichy Governor General, M. Annet, asked for armistice terms. Next day the Vichy delegation refused these terms, and fighting continued. On September 18, Tamatave surrendered to a naval force; on the 21st, Brickaville was occupied, and on the 23rd, British forces entered Tannarive, capital of Madagascar. On the 29th the occupation of Tulear and Fort Dauphin deprived the Vichy forces of the control of the last ports in the island.


Rear Admiral, 4th Cruiser Squadron, Rear Admiral W.G. Tennant, as Senior Officer, Force M, was in charge of the operations under the direction of the C in C, Eastern Fleet, Admiral Sir James Somerville. Three convoys sailed separately from Kilindini and one from Diego Suarez, making rendezvous with the Rear Admiral, in the cruiser BIRMINGHAM, the aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, and the Dutch cruiser HEEMSKERCK with destroyer escort about 90 miles south of Mayotte Island at noon on September 9.


893. Assault on Majunga (Operation STREAM) (September 10)


The main objective was Majunga. Landings were made at Red Beach, west of Ampajoni Village and Green Beach, south of Majunga town. The former operation captured the airfield and reported the coast road clear by 0605C/ on September 10. The latter operation after come opposition from Sengalese troops, captured the barracks at 0633C and received the surrender of the Commandant. The post office, bank, and wireless station were in our hands by 0722C and an hour later the Red and Green Beach battalions had made contact. One company landed at Katsepe Point at 0570C with opposition and were unable to find any gun positions. A section of commandos were also landed at Montego Bay beach. By 0900C, the inner harbour had been swept and entered, and destroyers were ordered in to oil. At 1600C H.M.S. BRITTANY started laying indicator nets. By 1100C, the landing armoured cars of the 22nd East African Brigade had left the beach, and by 1330C, were 50 miles along the road to Tananarive (Antanarino).


894. Capture of Nossi Bi (Operation ESME) September 10)


At 0300C on September 10, the fast minelayer MANXMAN with Naval boarding parties, Royal Marines from the CARADOC, and two platoons of the Pretorian Highlanders, entered the harbour at Hellville, Nossi Be Island, as a diversionary operation (ESME) to the main attack. Mooring head and stern, the MANXMAN bombarded areas known or believed to contain machine guns commanding the pier head, firing 172 rounds of 4” high explosives at 500 yards. The pier was then swept for two minutes with all short range weapons and military mortars and there were some enemy casualties. During these bombardments, boarding parties captured tugs and power boats. A diversionary bombardment was then begun, under cover of which the Pretoria Highlanders, pulled by Royal Marines in cutters, landed on the pier head and captured Hellville base, with only one casualty. Machine guns were found on the pier, but their crews had either retired or were dazed by the bombardment.


895. Diversion at Morondava (Operation TAMPER) (September 10)


Another diversionary operation (TAMPER) was carried out at Morondava, 20-17S, 44-17E, about 380 miles south of Majunga, by commandoes landed from the destroyer NAPIER. The landing was here was delayed until daylight, about 0700C, owing to heavy surf, but despite this there was no opposition and all objectives were soon in our possession, the French administrator was captured and the commando forces proceeded inland.


The campaign thus opened with somewhat surprising ease and celerity, but in view of the General Officer Commanding in Chief, East Africa, it was only the overwhelming speed and efficiency of the landing which prevented heavy casualties. The General expressed the grateful appreciation of all ranks for the “efficiency with which the Royal Navy brought the landing parties to the right place at the right time.”


896. Landing at Tamatave (Operation JANE) (September 18)


Following the rejection of the armistice terms on September 17, Tamatave, the principal port of Madagascar, was taken by seaborne expedition on September 18. Force M, anchored there at 0500. The Governor was called upon to surrender; he refused, and fired at a boat carrying out envoys. A minimum naval bombardment was therefore carried out before landing, cruisers and destroyers opening fire at 0751 with 4 in. and short range armament on military objectives. The French did not reply and hoisted the white flag at 0754. No air bombardment was carried out and no damage or casualties were apparently inflicted. By midday the town was under Allied control. Most of the garrison had left on the 17th for Tananarive. By the afternoon of the 18th the airfield was ready for use, and harbour obstructions had been removed. Most cranes, however, had been immobilized by the French some time before. Military companies moved off to attack Brickaville, 50 miles south of Tamatave, which was occupied on the 21st.


897. Tamatave Occupied (Operation LINE) (September 23)


The advance of the military forces on Tananarive, the capital was not seriously opposed but was delayed by damaged bridges and road blocks. In the north, a small military force was landed by the MANXMAN at Maromandia on the morning of September 14, and the town was captured at noon next day by a Royal Marine detachment landed upriver south of the town.


British forces entered Tananarive on September 23 (Operation LINE). No serious opposition was encountered, the Vichy plan being apparently to withdraw and continue resistance in the south.


898. Landing at Tulear (Operation ROSE) (September 29)


On September 29, Tulear, on the southwest coast, was occupied without opposition. Force M appeared off the port in the early morning, the local commander accepted wireless ultimatum, and the ships did not bombard. At 0624/29, the C in C, Eastern Fleet, informed the Admiralty that occupation was then taking place. The landing was made by one company of the Pretoria Regiment and a detachment of Royal Marines. Within an hour, the wireless station was taken intact, and within two hours the town and barracks were occupied. One officer and 34 other ranks were made prisoners. No other troops were found in the neighbourhood.


The S.S. MARECHAL GALLIENI had left on September 10, and was intercepted on September 23 by the destroyer NIZAM (after sighting by the South African Air Force) about 130 miles from Lourenco Marques, and taken to Durban, where she was requisitioned by the Union Government. On September 29, the NIZAM, patrolled off Lourenco Marques, intercepted the S.S. AMIRAL PIERRE after sighting by the South African Air Force. The crew scuttled their ship after first sighting and she sank on the morning of the 30th in 26-04S, 34-54E. She was formerly the Greek S.S. YIANNIS and had been seized by the Vichy Authorities in Madagascar.


Fort Dauphin was reconnoitered at dawn on September 29 by the fast minelayer MANXMAN. Civilian officials were friendly and the naval landing party experienced no opposition. The ship left the same day after reembarking the party.


Military operations in Madagascar continued until November 5, when armistice terms were agreed upon.







Colombo, 18th June 1942


No. 804/E.I. 260






I have the honour to request you to lay before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty the following report on general matters of interest concerning activities in my late command. The period covered is from my last dispatch of the 28th February 1942, No. 297/E.I. 260, up to this morning, when my flag was hauled down on the lapsing of my appointment as Commander in Chief, East Indies Station.


2. During the period under review affairs on the station were dominate by the advance of the Japanese forces. Singapore having capitulated on the 15th February, Java and Sumatra fell early in March and Burma was overrun in May. The Andaman Islands were occupied by the enemy, unopposed, in March. There were sporadic attacks on Allied shipping by Japanese surface ships, submarines, and aircraft, and by the latter on the ports of Colombo, Trincomalee, and Vizagapatam.




3. Information was received early in March that Vice Admiral Sir James F. Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO, had been appointed as Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet and that Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton, KCB, DSO, was appointed Commander in Chief, Ceylon in supreme command of the Island’s defences and of the civil government as from the 5th March. It was proposed that I should assume the temporary command of the Eastern Fleet pending Admiral Somerville’s arrival, but in view of the short period that would elapse and to avoid a double transfer, it was agreed that Admiral Layton should retain command of the Eastern Fleet as well as being the Commander in Chief, Ceylon. Admiral Somerville assumed command of the Eastern Fleet on the 26th March.


The organisation then envisaged was, that the ships of the East Indies Squadron (except for those employed on escort duties and as local defence craft) would be absorbed into the Eastern Fleet; the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, would be afloat, with headquarters at Colombo, and I , while retaining command of the Station – that is, the shore bases and their Naval defences – and controlling shipping on the station, would also act as Deputy Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, at Colombo.


However, after the events of early April that are dealt with below, Admiral Somerville considered it necessary to move his headquarters from Colombo to Kilindini; and as this made it impossible to me to continue as Deputy Commander in Chief and as the diminished East Indies Command no longer justified the appointment of a Commander in Chief Admiral Somerville and I joined in proposing to Their Lordships the termination of my appointment. This was approved in Admiralty message 2028 of the 6th May.




4. I was informed at the beginning of February that the Japanese were effected a considerable infiltration to the northward along the west coast of Burma by small parties of troops moving in sampans through the numerous creeks. Such local naval defence vessels as were in Burma were of too deep draught to effectively to counter these moves, and it was necessary to play the enemy at his own game. By reason of their training by far the most suitable men for this employment were those of the Mobile Naval Base contingent then in Ceylon, recuperating from their work on the defences off Addu Atoll. I therefore sent 100 Marines from this force to Burma, to operate under the orders of General Officer Commanding, informing Their Lordships of my intention to do so in my signal 1516 of the 2nd February.


All that I have heard points to the valuable work done by this small force (known as Force Viper) under the command of Acting Major D. Johnson, Royal Marines.


The survivors returned to Colombo at the end of May.


5. At the same time that I decided to send the Royal Marine detachment to Burma, I formed the opinion that is was essential the local Naval operations should be under the direct command of a Naval Officer of skill, resolution, and enterprise. Very opportunely, Captain C.F. Hammill, R.N. was already well on his way to relieve Commodore C.M. Graham, C.B., as Senior Naval Officer, Persian Gulf.; and knowing that Commodore Graham possessed the desired qualities in a high degree, I informed Their Lordships in the same signal of my intention to send Commodore Graham by air to Burma forthwith; and His Excellency the Governor of Burma concurring. I appointed him Commodore Burma Coast. Captain P.N. WALTER, R.N., HMS CENTURION, assumed the duties Senior Naval Officer Persian Gulf temporarily until Captain Hammill’s arrival, which was not long delayed.


6. Commodore Graham’s detailed report as been forwarded to Their Lordships over my minute No. 775/E.I. 152 of the 17th June. The brief story is one of retreat before an enemy superior in numbers and weapons and vastly superior in air power. Rangoon was early endangered, and troop convoys destined thither were some time backing and filling between Calcutta and Rangoon according to whether the General Officer Commanding in Burma considered the ships could be received or not. On the 22nd February I was informed that the Commander in Chief, India, had assumed command in Burma and on the 27th March I was informed by General Wavell of his intention to hold Rangoon as long as possible. The convoys therefore disembarked at Rangoon, which nevertheless had to be evacuated a few days later. The next port to be attacked as Akyab. This also General Wavell intended to hold as long as possible, but in view of the complete command of the air possessed by the Japanese and the possibility of a seaborne attack in force, he offered to accept the immediate withdrawal of the two R.I.N. sloops INDUS and SUTLEJ, from the anti infiltration patrol if I considered it advisable (signal times 1005 of 25th March). I replied in a signal 0030 of the 26th March to the effect that while I appreciated the offer, if the Army intended to hold Akyab, it must be my policy to render all possible assistance.; and that as the INDUS and SUTLEJ were indispensible to an effective anti infiltration patrol, I desired that both should remain, subject to withdrawal at the discretion of the Commodore, Burma Coast, if the air attack became so intensive as to make their further retention equivalent to their loss.


I regret that on the 6th April, during a heavy air raid, H.M.I.S. INDUS received three direct hits while under way in Akyab Harbour and sank in 35 minutes. Fortunately, there was no loss of life.


The evacuation of Akyab was finally ordered on the 3rd May and the remaining units of the Burma R.N.V.R. withdrew to Calcutta where they were re organized for further service as a separate unit under the operational and administrative control of the Flag Officer, Royal Indian Navy.


The appointment of Commodore, Burma Coast, lapsed on the 31st May.


7. The almost total lack of support that the Navy had been able to render throughout the Burma campaign has been of a matter of deep concern to me. Commodore Graham did everything in his power with the meager forces at his disposal, but nothing effective could have been done unless we had sufficient submarines seriously to interrupt the enemy’s lines of sea communications. It was certainly out of the question to attempt to use surface vessels for the purpose.




8. In order of importance of the various bases on the Station changed from time to time according to the shifts in the situation.


9. Addu Atoll. As stated in my previous dispatch, Addu Atoll had been brought to the stage where an Indian Army garrison was installed and the base was in operation as a defended port. Further instructions were then received from Their Lordships, very materially increasing the scale of the defences, and I was directed in a signal from Their Lordships 0243 of the 18th March, that work was to be pressed on with, so that Addu Atoll might be used as the Main Fleet Base as soon as possible. But a combined reconnaissance had shown that these further developments (without which, in the then state of affairs, the base was too open to attack for prolonged use by the Fleet) would be attended by very serious difficulties and would necessarily have to be regard as “long term projects.” I therefore formed the opinion, which I represented to Their Lordships and the Commanders in Chief, Eastern Fleet and Ceylon, that since both material and labour were limited, it would be better to use them to complete the Ceylon defences before embarking on the second stage of the development of Addu Atoll. The later withdrawal of the Eastern Fleet to East Africa strengthened the argument for a “go slow” policy, since Addu Atoll was dangerously open to occupation and use by the Japanese. The Naval Officer in Charge and Defence Commander were therefore directed that further developments were to cease and that they were to concentrate on maintaining the existing defences and on improving the general health and recreational conditions (Admiralty message 1414 of the 16th April). The Naval Officer in Charge was also told to prepare a denial scheme in case of need.


Finally, following a conference between the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, representatives of the Commander in Chief, India, Air Officer Commanding in Chief, India, and myself, it was agreed that India should commence the construction of piers, roads, bridges, and an aerodrome on Gan Island (all of which should, it is estimated to be completed by September 1942) and that anti motor boat defences and anti torpedo nets should be provided as soon as practicable.


I take this opportunity of acknowledging the unfailing assistance given by His Highness the Sultan and his Government. His Highness placed all the resources of the Maldives, in men and material, at our disposal and refused to accept payment. A request that the island of Gan might be evacuated was acceded to without demur. His Highness also gave generous assistance to the crew of the torpedoed United States S.S. WASHINGTONIAN, landed at Male.


10. Diego Garcia


By March, the defences of Diego Garcia had reached a stage at which the coastal defences had been installed by the Mobile Naval Base units and an indicator net laid in the harbour entrance. A survey carried out by H.M.I.S. CLIVE has shown that the anchorage cannot be used by heavy ships and further work has been undertaken.


The coast defences are manned by Mauritian troops whose equipment, training, and physique have each left much to be desired.


11. Mauritius


A combined reconnaissance has been completed but the report has not yet been received. Controlled minefields have been laid at Grand Port by H.M.S. MANCHESTER CITY and certain constructional projects (water supply by pipe line to Grand Port, etc) have been put in hand. Further development of this base is not at present contemplated.


12. Seychelles


Work has proceeded on the improvement of oiling facilities and the installation of coast defences.


13. Diego Suarez


Pending Their Lordships’ final decision as to its use, Diego Suarez is to be used as a repair base to the limit of the existing facilities and as a port for fuel, refuge, and convoy assembly.


14. Salaya


It was desired by the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, to have a base for operations in the North Arabian Sea. The area around Salaya, Beyt and Okha seemed the most promising, and the report of a reconnaissance party sent to examine these three ports showed Salaya to be the best. Work is in hand on an extension of the railway, the construction of a road, and a certain amount of dredging, but it is not intended to go beyond the essentials for an operating base.


15. Ceylon


Developments in Ceylon were markedly affected by our impaired naval position and by the air raids on Colombo and Trincomalee. The former led the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, to abandon temporarily the use of either Colombo or Trincomalee as a Fleet base, the latter had a restricted and temporary effect only at Colombo, but Trincomalee, apart from material damage done to the buildings and the loss by fire of one oil tank, there was a serious defection of labour, which has at no time since returned in any numbers to the Dockyard area.


Labour battalions are being imported into the area, and it is hoped that it will be possible with their aid to press forward the development of Trincomalee as a Main Fleet Base (Admiralty Signal of the 11th June.


16. Kilindini


In view of the vulnerability of Ceylon, the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, decided to adopt Kilindini as a temporary Main Fleet base and repair base for the Eastern Fleet. H.M. Ships GUARDIAN and KIRRIEMOOR have therefore been withdrawn from Addu Atoll and are now engaged in laying underwater defences there. Improvised defences have been laid at Kilindini and in the entrance to Manza Bay.


Naval Air Arm


17. Naval air stores and personnel intended for Malaya arrived in Ceylon. As I had previously urged on Their Lordships that the storage and repair bases should be in Ceylon and south India instead of in Malaya, so, now that Ceylon was in the front line, I considered the storage and repair bases should be in East Africa and small stations for I.R. aircraft only established in Ceylon and South India.


Commodore F. Elliott, OBE, who had been appointed Commodore in Charge of Air Stations, Eastern Theatre, transferred from Ceylon to Kilindini with most of his personnel and stores. 


Stations for I.R. aircraft have been established in Ceylon and at Cochin and Coimbatore, in South India.


18. Arrangements had been urged with the Government of India for the Hindustan Aircraft Company of Bangalore to undertake Naval work as their first priority; but in May I was surprised to receive a letter from the Air Officer, Commanding in Chief, India, stating that it had been decided by the Government of India that no Naval work could be done by this Company. It was fortunate that I had already found that the Company’s output was so small that this arbitrary decision really meant very little loss.


19. Disembarked and reserved Naval Aircraft under R.A.F. operational control, played their part in the defence of Ceylon against the Japanese air strikes, though with loss to themselves. Fulmars were lost in action on both the 5th and 9th April; and on the former day, six Swordfish on passage from China Bay to Ratmalana were caught by the Japanese and all shot done.




20. Vast quantities of Naval stores intended for both Ceylon and Malaya were received in Ceylon. Their Lordships directed in Their Message 1209 of 14th April, the transfer of stores to East Africa and this was taken in hand at once, priority being given to stores special to the older and slower units of the Fleet (Force B) and items most difficult to replace. Considerable quantities necessarily remain in Ceylon and the maximum dispersal has been given to these.


21,The difficulties of handling these quantities of stores were materially increased by the lack of information about them. Ships carrying stores were often necessarily diverted and off loaded at the most convenient port, not the port of destination, and quantities of stores remain at ports such as Karachi, waiting to be identified and removed. This is in hand.




22. Survivors from H.M. Ships PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE and other ships, personnel evacuated from Malaya, drafts for Malaya, and drafts for the East Indies all arrived in Ceylon together, and their accommodation formed a considerable problem. When the numbers had been reduced to more manageable proportions, I approved the requisitioning of two schools for conversion to barracks, St Joseph’s College for men and St Thomas’s for officers. The presence in Ceylon turned out fortunately, as when native labour decamped after the air raids of the 5th and 9th April, Naval ratings were available to man tugs and lighters in Colombo Harbour, while at Trincomalee they took over practically all the duties in the Dockyard and port. Had they not been available all work in Colombo harbour would have been stopped for weeks and Trincomalee Dockyard would still be out of commission.


In view of the certainty that native labour will disperse after any further attack, it is considered that the number of Naval ratings in Ceylon must be maintained at a level which will enable the Navy to take over essential harbour craft in emergency.


23. A less satisfactory aspect was the low state of discipline of many of the men. For various reasons the vast majority were young, half trained ratings; under proper leadership they would have done well enough, but practically the only officers were R.N.R. (T 124) or Straits Settlements R.N.V.R. and Petty Officers were lacking. Every effort was made to get these young men to sea, as reliefs, to complete complements, or, in some cases in exchange for men who would benefit by a spell on shore, and the numbers were gradually reduced. However, from the first to last they caused me much concern.


24. The Commander in Chief, Ceylon issued an order on the 14th March, directing the evacuation from Ceylon of all non residents (this included all Service wives) and advising the evacuation of other European women and children. The order excepted those on essential war work.




25. When Singapore fell and Java was attacked, Colombo became the terminal port for Eastern trade and the focal point for all convoys in the Eastern Theatre. The port facilities were naturally quite inadequate for this unexpected aggregation of shipping and I was caused much anxiety by the slow turn around of the ships and the vulnerable target presented by the crowded port and examination anchorage. (There were regularly between 100 and 110 ships in a harbour whose official berthing capacity was 45). Fortunately the Japanese abstained from submarine attack and sufficient warning was received of the aircraft attack which developed to allow of a highly successful dispersal.


26. I have mentioned the anxiety I felt about the slow turn around. At first, the Ministry of War Transport’s representative at Colombo was a local business man, a Mr. D. Doig. The control of shipping at Colombo, however, had grown beyond the capacity of a part time representative with local ties and little authority; it called for the unremitting attention of first class man, preferably from outside Ceylon, who would stand no nonsense: and I considered, for a linking of the harbour services with land transport, as had been found necessary at home. I had some correspondence on the subject with Sir Thomas Ainscough, the Ministry of War Transport’s representative in India, who later visited Colombo when I had a full discussion with him. I think Sir Thomas agreed with me in the main, and though he was not willing to go as far as I wished, a full time independent representative (Mr. Maclellan) was appointed. The Port Commission was also strengthened by some fresh appointments. I am satisfied that all concerned are doing their best to speed up the turn round of shipping in the port, but I hope that better results will be achieved in the near future.


27. In February, March, and the first week of April, there were submarine attacks on our shipping in an area bounded roughly by the Equator, 12 degrees North, 68 degrees East and 82 degrees East. Early in April, strong Japanese naval forces attacked shipping in the Bay of Bengal with carrier borne aircraft and gunfire, sinking 23 ships and raiding the port of Vizagapatam, Colombo, and Trincomalee. As a result of this (and the threat to Calcutta from Japanese aircraft operating from Burma, which had already led to a limitation to 30 of the number of ships allowed at Calcutta at any one time.), movements of shipping in the Bay of Bengal practically ceased for a time, being confined to essential colliers, tankers, and ships with war stores. Escorted convoys between Bombay and Colombo were instituted and outward bound shipping from Bombay and Colombo was (whenever possible) escorted for 300 or 400 miles before dispersal. By the end of May, the position in the Bay of Bengal seemed more secure, and up to 18 ships at a time were allowed to be at sea in that area. This allowed the number of ships using Calcutta to be increased to 50 a month.


28. The increased commitments for convoy escorts referred to above were a heavy drain on my small resources, and I was obliged to ask the Flag Officer Commanding, Royal Indian Navy, for the use of H.M.I.S. SONAVATI, a Local Naval Defence Ship with a good speed and endurance. I believe there are political objections to the use of requisitioned Indian owned ships outside Indian waters, and I am grateful to the Flag Officer Commanding for agreeing that I might have this useful ship, which I kept fully employed.


29. Early in June there were a number of successful attacks, by raiders and submarines, on our shipping in the Mozambique Channel. This I had expected, my view (which I expressed to the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet) being that we must expect attacks on shipping so long as our objective in the Madagascar operations was confined to capturing Diego Suarez. I found it somewhat difficult to control shipping in the Mozambique Channel from Colombo, and requested Vice Admiral Danckwerts, at Kilindini, to assume control, which he did.


Air Raids on Ceylon


30. Towards the end of March evidence was received of a probable enemy attack on Ceylon, and on the 30th March a dispersal of shipping was effected, all ships which had no immediate prospect of working cargo being sent to various anchorages around the south coast of India, to be recalled when the threat was less imminent. On the afternoon of the 4th April, an early attack being expected, a further 25 ships were sailed from Colombo to the westward, with orders to return the following afternoon. H.N.M.S. COLOMBIA with three Dutch submarines which were unfit for operational service was also sailed to Mannar, on the northwest coast of Ceylon.


The attack duly developed on the morning of Sunday, 5th April, when Colombo was raided by some 70 Japanese carrier borne aircraft, mostly two seater dive bombers. A heavy and accurate attack was directed on the harbour and examination anchorage, and there can be no doubt that the policy of dispersal saved what would have been a serious loss of tonnage, and in all probability, the loss of Colombo as a port until the wrecks had been removed. H.M.S. HECTOR, then in the process of conversion back to trade, was hit, set on fire, and is probably a total loss. H.M.S. TENEDOS – unable to move from defects – was hit and sunk but may be salvable. H.M.S. LUCIA was hit, but the hole was patched up locally: a permanent repair has since been effected at Bombay. The only merchant ship hit was the S.S. BENLEDI, which was set on fire. As the BENLEDI was laden with explosives, this might have been disastrous; fortunately the fire was extinguished by gallant work on the part of the ship’s officers and officers from the nearby tanker BRITISH SERGEANT. In this attack (a full report on which has been forwarded to Their Lordships in my submission No. 663/E.I. 2705 of the 20th April 1942) a satisfactory number of Japanese aircraft were knocked down.


31. H.M. Ships DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL which had been sailed from Colombo on the 4th April to rejoin the Eastern Fleet, were sighted by a Japanese fighter, attacked by dive bombers, and sunk on the 5th April, 230 miles southwest of Dondra Head.


32. On the morning of the 9th April an attack was launched on Trincomalee. This also had been expected and shipping dispersed. The enemy’s bombing was accurate and a considerable amount of structural damage was done to the Dockyard; a quantity of Naval Air Stores was also lost at the R.A.F. Station, China Bay. H.M.S. EREBUS was hit, but no seriously, and the S.S. SAGAING was hit, set on fire, and had to be beached. One Japanese aircraft crashed into an oil tank, setting it afire. The Armament Depot had some narrow escapes but suffered no damage.


33. Most unfortunately, two Japanese aircraft which had been reconnoitering Colombo, on their return flight sighted and reported H.M. Ships HERMES and HOLLYHOCK and H.M.A.S. VAMPIRE which, with tankers BRITISH SERGEANT and ATHELSTANE had been sailed from Trincomalee before the attack and were then 70 miles south of it. The enemy’s sighting report was intercepted and H.M.S. HERMES ordered to return to Trincomalee immediately. The R.A.F. were asked to send immediate fighter support from China Bay and available fighter support were despatched from Ratmalana. For various reasons – air raid damage to communications and a false RED alarm at Trincomalee – no aircraft arrived in time to help HERMES, which had to face alone a most determined attack by some 60 or 70 aircraft and was sunk after a 15 minute engagement. The enemy then turned on to the other ships, the HOLLYHOCK, VAMPIRE, and the two tankers, sinking them also. The Hospital ship VITA, on passage from Trincomalee to Colombo, was in the vicinity and was able to save over 600 officers and men. Others were rescued by local craft or swam ashore, receiving great assistance (which I acknowledged to the Government Agent) from locally organized relief parties.


A report on the loss of these ships was forwarded to the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, in my letter of 22nd April, No. E.I. 3181. The circumstances under which the HOLLYHOCK was at sea without her full H.A. armament have been reported separately. I have also written to Their Lordships ‘ favourable notice the gallant conduct of Surgeon Lieutenant J.A. Smart, MB, BC, RNVR of H.M.S. HERMES


34. As the enemy carriers were 180 to 200 miles from the HERMES it is deduced that the Japanese had held a complete strike force in reserve. Time would hardly have allowed for bombing up and refuelling the force which had attacked Trincomalee. However, although our fighters were not in time to assist the HERMES, the comparative handful which was all we had could not have availed much against the numbers employed by the Japanese.


35. The other ships which had been dispersed from Trincomalee (including H.M.S. TEVIOTBANK, R.F.A. PEARLEAF, and loaded Armament Store Issuing Ships) were not detected.


Effects of the Raids


35. These events had a marked effect both on the local situation and the general Naval Strategy.


(a). Locally, there was a general exodus of labour from Colombo and Trincomalee, severely hampering all work in the harbours. Trincomalee suffered particularly severely, all domestic labour leaving and both the food supply and sanitary services breaking down. At the time of writing labour has not returned to the Dockyard area at Trincomalee, and although other areas are less affected, the general return of Indian labour to India has set a difficult problem since the Ceylonese themselves do not as a race engage in manual labour. In an attempt at a solution, labour battalions are being formed in Ceylon and others drafted from India.


At Colombo, the difficulties in the harbour were acute for a time. As already stated, sufficient Naval personnel were available to take over essential harbour craft. A Docks Operating Company arrived from Rangoon, and this, with a battalion of Australian stevedores and a partial return of native labour, gradually enabled the harbour to get into full operation again.


The Navy was able to make a particularly useful contribution in the form of motor landing craft, eight of which I ordered to be towed from Colombo from Addu Atoll by the Boom Defence Vessels BARONIA, BARSTOKE, GRAAF VLANDEREN, and PRINCE DE LIEGE. It was a somewhat risking proceeding, but the monsoon had not broken and I through it well worth trying. One motor landing craft sank in tow, with, I regret with the loss of a life. The others arrived safely, and the addition to the harbour’s resources of seven self propelled, weight carrying craft, with crews was of incalculable benefit.


It is regrettable that both seaman and soldiers employed in the harbour were guilty of looting on a considerable scale. There were not the only offenders, but I was sorry to see really good work so marred.  


(b). On the naval side, the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, decided that, in view of the Naval superiority possessed by the Japanese (and, in particular, their superiority, both in numbers and performance, in Naval aircraft), Ceylon must be abandoned as a Fleet base until sufficient shore based aircraft were available to replete an attack. He therefore signaled his intention (signal timed 0716 of the 8th April) to divide the Fleet into two forces, of which Force B, consisting of the R class battleships, C and D class cruisers, and six destroyers would operated on the West African coast, and Force A, the (faster) remainder of the Fleet, would operate in the western Indian Ocean. Their Lordships, in a signal timed 1414 of the 16th April, confirmed that the Government’s policy was to defend Ceylon but agreed that the primary object was to maintain The Eastern Fleet in being. They added that Colombo was to be the main Fleet base as soon as Ceylon was secure.


37. In addition, the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, suggested (signal 1023 of 9th and 0320 of 10th April) that I should move to Bombay. I had myself less fear of a Japanese invasion, and in view of the completion confusion into which merchant shipping would be thrown during and after an unprepared move of my headquarters and the disastrous effect such a move would have on Ceylonese morale, I thought it would better from all aspects that I should remain in Ceylon. At the same time, I agreed that it would be wise to prepare for a move should it become necessary. I also gave it as my opinion that the alternative headquarters should not be in Bombay owing to the danger of civil disorder if the Japanese landed in India: Kilindini , I suggested would be better. Admiral Somerville agreed and directed (signal times 0415 of the 14th April) that his staff at Colombo should be transferred to Kilindini as soon as convenient.


Somerville arrived at Colombo with Force A on the 23rd April, when we discussed the matter with the result related in paragraph 3.


Arrangements were therefore made for the gradual transfer to Kilindini of Rear Admiral V.H. Danckwerts, CMG, Chief of Staff (Ashore) to the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, and the Eastern Fleet Staff and of my operational Staff and the warship and merchant plots.


Admiral Danckwerts assumed duty as Deputy Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, on the 27th May and the control of shipping on the station passed into his hands at 1200 GMT on the 14th June. (As stated in paragraph 29, he had already taken over in the Mozambique Channel area).


Rear Admiral A.D. Read had come from the United Kingdom to take up an Appointment as Flag Officer in Charge Addu Atoll, which had not materialized. He had acted temporarily as Flag Officer in Charge, East Africa and Zanzibar and had just been relieved by Rear Admiral G.G. Stuart, DSO, DSC. He was then available for and was appointed as Flag Officer, Ceylon, taking over certain of my responsibilities (under the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet) and the bulk of my administrative and clerical staff.


Persian Gulf


38. There is little about which to inform Their Lordships regarding the Persian Gulf. The supercession of Commodore Graham by Commodore Hammill had been referred to before. I remained very conscious of the weaknesses in the defences of this vital area, but I was forced to agree that in the circumstances obtaining a marked increase in the numbers of aircraft could hardly be hoped for. However, steps have been taken to prepare landing grounds so that aircraft may operate without delay when the time comes. I have obtained a promise from the Commander in Chief, Middle East to station a battalion at Bahrain, for the protection of the refinery there from airborne or submarine borne commando raids. The Naval forces in the Gulf were strengthened by the dispatch there of H.M.S. DANAE (later relived by H.M.S. CERES) and I also sent the Senior Naval Officer H.N.M.S. SOEMBA and H.M.S. PANGKOR, an asdic fitted auxiliary. I had intended sending a second auxiliary warship, H.M.S. KEDAH, but she has been delayed by defects.


The Andaman islands


39. H.M.S. ABDIEL had been sent at the end of January to mine Port Blair and other anchorages in the Andaman Islands. The fact was published in the usual way, but in March, H.M.I.S. SOPHIE MARIE attempting to use a close channel was mined and sank. The circumstance were investigated by the Flag Officer Commanding, Royal Indian Navy.


40. It had been my view, and that of Admiral Layton that the Andamans should not be evacuated: their strategic importance was too great, and we felt that the Japanese should at least be made to fight for them. The Commander in Chief, India, however, considered that the only garrison he could spare was too weak to offer ay real opposition and could be better employed elsewhere, and the Andamans were therefore evacuated and in due course occupied by the Japanese who lost on time in basing Naval Forces and aircraft there. Shipping was not available to evacuate the civil population.


South Preparis Channel


41. The South Preparis Channel was mined in March by H.M.S. TEVIOTBANK.




42. There were continual alarms from Marmagoa of the movements of mysterious submarines and of behavior by German ships interned there suggestive of an early departure, but nothing concrete developed.


A proposal was mooted at one time, that the Navy should “cut out” these enemy ships. I was strongly opposed to this, considering that any such attempt must be a combined operation, by the Navy against the ships and by the Army against the town, to cut off the retreat of the crews.


Cocos Islands


43. The Cocos Islands remained in our hands – rather to my surprise – forming a valuable communications link and halting place for aircraft on passage between Australia and Ceylon. Maintenance was of some complexity and I had on occasion to supply a warship to take stores for the garrison of Ceylon Garrison Artillery, the Cable Company’s staff, and the civil population.


At the beginning of May a section of the garrison staged an armed mutiny which was suppressed. I provided H.M.I.S. SUTLEJ to take a relief part and bring back the mutineers for trial.


Diego Suarez


44. Diego Suarez was attacked by our forces on the 5th May and capitulated on the 7th May.


H.M.S. Centurion


45. I received in Admiralty message times 0050 of the 6th May Their Lordships’ directions to prepare H.M.S. CENTURION for service in the Mediterranean. Sufficient officers and men to complete her complement were available at Bombay, and she sailed from Bombay for the Mediterranean on the 19th May.


Appointments in Ceylon


46. Until recent months, on officer had filled the appointment of Captain in Charge, Ceylon combining the charge of the ports of Colombo and Trincomalee with the duties of Captain Superintendent of Admiralty establishments. I had for some time felt this was too much for only one man: the enormous increase in the importance of Ceylon after the loss of our Far Eastern Bases made this quite plain’ and I took the first opportunity to divide the appointment into three. Thus, on H.M.S. HECTOR paying off, I obtained Their Lordships’ approval for her Commanding Officer, Acting Captain F. Howard, DSC, RN (retired), to be appointed Captain Superintendent. Captain Howard had previous experience of this type of appointment and the effect was at once noticeable. Captain P.H.G. James, RN, whose ship (H.M.S. CAPETOWN) was refitting at Bombay, was brought to Ceylon as Naval Officer in Charge, Trincomalee, temporarily and Their Lordships appointed Captain J.O.N. Wood, RN (retired) to succeed him. Rear Admiral A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, was later appointed as Flag Officer in Charge, Trincomalee, and Fortress Commander; and on Admiral Palliser’s reappointment as Liaison Flag Officer at Delhi, Captain F.S. Bell, CB, RN, succeeded him as Naval Officer in Charge.


From 5th April, therefore, Acting Captain C.A. Merriman, RN (retired), formerly Captain in Charge, Ceylon


(n.b. page 16 of this report is missing)




50. The period covered in the above narrative has been one of adversity for British arms, both by land, sea, and air. Lack of power to strike back has on occasion produced a certain feeling of frustration, but the right spirit prevails in the naval forces which it has been my privilege to command. Given the ships, I have every confidence that the Eastern Fleet under Sir James Somerville will be ready to seize the golden moment when it comes, as it most surely will.


51. I attach as an appendix the names of certain officers and others – other than those who have been reported in connection with particular operations and incidents – whom I wish to commend to the special notice of Their Lordships.


                                                                        I have the honor to be, Sir,

                                                                        Your obedient servant.




                                                                        G.S. ARBUTHNOT, Vice Admiral   



on to Eastern Fleet, April to June 1942
back to Admiralty War Diaries

revised 14/7/11