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EASTERN FLEET - January to April 1944
(May to November 1944 not available)


Transcribed by Don Kindell

HMS Parratt, frigate. Note Hedgehog on forecastle
 (Paul Whiteing, click to enlarge)

on to Eastern Fleet, November/December 1944
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Officer of Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet,
9th February, 1944

V.A.E.F. No. 21/682.
(copy to: Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet.)



15th DECEMBER 1943 to 31st JANUARY 1944.



The Flag of Vice Admiral A.J. Power, CB, CVO, as Vice Admiral Commanding First Battle Squadron and Second in Command Eastern Fleet was hoisted in the RENOWN (Captain C.B. Brooke, RN) at 0800, 15th December 1943. The Flagship was in dock at Rosyth, where she had been since 2nd December when she returned from taking the Prime Minister to the Mediterranean for the North African and Teheran Conferences. Docking and minor alteration to prepare for foreign service were due to complete on 26th December.

2. At noon on 26th December RENOWN undocked from No. 2 Dock Rosyth, and anchored in the stream to complete with oil fuel and stores. At 1200, 27th December she sailed from Rosyth and after carrying out D.G. trials in the Firth of Forth proceeded at 1700, escorted by the VERULAM, to Scapa, where she anchored at 0600, 28th December in the Fleet Anchorage.

3. The two other ships of the First Battle Squadron were at Scapa when the Flagship arrived: VALIANT (Captain G.E.M. O’Donnell, DSO, RN) and QUEEN ELIZABETH (Captain H.G. Norman, CBE, RN)


4. It was the intention that the three capital ships should sail from Scapa on 29th December and that the Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet (Rear Admiral C. Moody) in ILLUSTRIOUS (Captain R.L.B. Cunliffe, RN) and UNICORN (Captain H.L. St. J. Fancourt, DSO, RN) should leave the Clyde the same day.

To assist in maintaining the secrecy of the movement it had been planned that passage of the Straits of Gibraltar should be made by night, and that the capital ships and destroyers should fuel at Gibraltar during dark hours.

5. On 29th December a south westerly gale was blowing at Scapa with the usual heavy sea in the Pentland Firth. It was considered unlikely that the squadron would be able to maintain the necessary speed without causing damage to the destroyers, and, as the weather chart gave promise of an early improvement, it was decided to delay sailing for twenty four hours.

6. RENOWN, VALIANT, and QUEEN ELIZABETH escorted by the TUSCAN, BLACKWOOD, DOMETT, and BERRY sailed from Scapa at 1730, 30th December and proceeded through the Minches to rendezvous with the Carrier Force to the westward of Skerryvore.

In spite of the improvement in the weather, there was still rather a heavy sea in the Pentland Firth, and the TUSCAN sustained damage to her forecastle and breakwater. She continued with the Squadron until off Skerryvore when she was detached to the Clyde for repairs.

7. ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN screened by TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS, and KEMPENFELT had sailed from the Clyde at 2200, 30th December

31st December

Noon Position: 56-15N, 09-03W

8. At 1030, 31st December the force assembled 45 miles to the westward of Skerryvore and was joined by the escort vessels DUCKWORTH and ESSINGTON from the Western Approaches Command, and the frigate PARRATT. The force then consisted of


DUCKWORTH, BLACKWOOD, DOMETT, BERRY, COOKE, ESSINGTON lent from Western Approaches as additional escort to Port Said.

9. Course was shaped to the westward to make good a speed of sixteen knots along a route which had been ordered by the Admiralty and which was expected to enable the force to pass the Straits of Gibraltar on the night of 5th – 6th January.

10. In the afternoon, a signal was received from the Admiralty ordering a change of route, after passing the longitude of 10 degrees west. This diverted the Squadron further to the westward and added about 150 miles to the distance to be covered. Course was altered accordingly.

1st January

Noon Position: 51-50N, 17-13W

11. During the passage a start was made with working up the efficiency, both of the ships and of the squadron, and such drills and exercises as could be carried out without delaying the passage were exercised at every opportunity. The greatly improved weather after the second day enabled flying programmes, aircraft dummy torpedo attacks and barrage firings to be exercised, and some satisfactory progress in training was made.

2nd January

Noon Position: 46-57N, 22-47W

12. Shortly after noon another diversion from the original route was ordered by the Admiralty in order to give a wider berth to a suspected U boat area. This took the squadron as far west as 24-30W, but without adding appreciably to the distance.

13. Whilst carrying out an A/S patrol ahead of the force, a Barracuda aircraft from ILLUSTRIOUS crashed into the sea. 2 members of the crew were picked up by a destroyer, but the pilot was lost. The cause of the accident has not yet been established.

3rd January

Noon Position: 41-03N, 22-20W

4th January

Noon Position: 36-41N, 16-50W

14. Another Barracuda aircraft from ILLUSTRIOUS fell into the sea when taking off for a dawn search on 4th January. An escort vessel was detailed to search with the assistance of aircraft, but no survivors were recovered.

15. At 1700 (Zone – one) the force was divided into two groups in order that the capital ships who were to fuel at Gibraltar might go on ahead at a greater speed of advance than the diesel escort vessels could maintain. The first group, consisting of the three capital ships screened by the three Fleet destroyers, and the two turbine driven escort vessels made good 18 knots speed of advance, leaving the two carriers with the other five escorts to follow at 16 ˝ knots.

5th January

Noon Position: 35-30N, 08-39W

16. At 0800, 5th January, the battleship group made a rendezvous with six destroyers from Gibraltar in a position 230 degrees west of the Straits. These destroyers were sent to join the carriers and relieve the slow screen which then proceeded to Gibraltar to fuel.

17. The battleship group with its screen arrived at Gibraltar at 2130, anchored in Gibraltar and commenced fuelling from tankers. Precautions were taken to minimize the risk of the ships being sighted from neutral territory. Meanwhile the carrier group adjusted speed to make the passage of the Straits in darkness, passing Europa Point at 0300, 6th January.

6th January

Noon position: 35-51N, 03-25W

18. The five escort vessels who had been relieved on the screen of the carrier group, arrived at Gibraltar at various times during the Middle Watch, and berthed alongside the Admiralty Harbour for fuel. Some of these vessels had engine defects. This was to be expected as the speed maintained by the squadron had been near the limit of their capabilities. PARRETT required certain essential adjustments to her main engines which had to be taken in hand by Gibraltar Dockyard. She was therefore unable to rejoin the Squadron.

19. At 0415, 6th January, the battleship group with its screen of five ships sailed from Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean, and was well clear of the Straits before daylight. At 0815 the two groups of the force met at a prearranged rendezvous 50 miles to the eastward of Europa Point, and continued to the eastward at a speed of advance of 14 knots.

20. It had been intended that four of the destroyers from Gibraltar should be detached when the rendezvous was made, but, as the frigates could not yet catch up, the four destroyers were retained until the next morning.

21. During the day fighter patrols and A/S air patrols were flown from the carriers, but all the aircraft were landed on before sunset. Shore based fighters provided for the dusk period, and also a night A/S patrol ahead of the force from dusk to daylight, and night fighters patrolled to the north.

7th January

Noon Position: 36-16N, 03-06E

22. At 0800, the six frigates rejoined from Gibraltar, and relieved the four destroyers ISIS, BRILLIANT, ANTHONY, and ACTIVE who were then detached to Gibraltar.

Shortly after parting company, they were diverted to hunt a U boat off Cape de Gata. This U boat had been fixed by D/F bearings and was subsequently sighted by aircraft during the night.

23. The transmission from the U boat had been heard by INGLEFIELD (n.b. left Gibraltar 4 January) and reported as “far”. For a time it was thought that this might have been a report of Group A, but from later information, it seems unlikely that this was so.

8th January

Noon Position: 37-17N, 10-05E

24. Passage of the Tunisian war channel was commenced at first light on 8th January and continued until 1530. When passing Bizerta, INGLEFIELD was detached to Bizerta, and took with her a hospital case from ESSINGTON. At 2359 URCHIN was detached to proceed to Malta.

9th January

Noon Position: 33-29N, 15-35E

25. In the early morning of the 9th January, there was a certain amount of enemy air activity off Cyrenaica, some four hundred miles to the east of Group A, and a convoy off Apollonia reported at about 0100 that it was being attacked.

26. A diversion was ordered in the forenoon to take effect from 1200. This diverted Group A into the Gulf of Sidra, some 60 miles to the southward of the original route. It keep Group A clear of the convoys which were converging on the Benghazi Corner; it added some ninety miles to its distance from enemy radar stations in Crete during the early hours of darkness; and it enabled the force to make most of the passage between Benghazi and Tobruk in daylight.

27. During the night of the 9th – 10th January various unidentified aircraft were detected by the force and one was fired on by ILLUSTRIOUS when it approached within five miles. It is thought that this was the A/S patrol.

10th January

Noon Position: 33-05N, 22-05E

28. Shortly after 2000 a signal was received that Group A and a slow eastbound convoy, which was about 70 miles to the westward of Group A, had probably been sighted by enemy aircraft about 1730.

29. Once again during the night unidentified aircraft were detached and caused ships to open fire. One aircraft which acted suspiciously like a shadower for several hours was eventually identified as friendly about 0100.

11th January

Noon Position: 31-30N, 28-06E

30. Dummy torpedo attacks on the force were carried out by shore based aircraft between 0930 and 1100, and interception by fighters from ILLUSTRIOUS was exercised.

31. At 1615, an aircraft was sighted by RENOWN and reported as a Junkers 88. ILLUSTRIOUS flew off fighters to intercept, but without success. One Corsair crashed on taking off. A signal was later received that the force had been sighted by German aircraft at 1640.

12th January

32. A warning of enemy aircraft in the vicinity was received from shore at 0120. Speed was increased to elude a possible enemy air search and it is thought that no enemy aircraft came within fifteen miles of the force. One enemy aircraft approaching from the southwest was driven off by a Beaufighter.

33. At dawn on 12th January Group A was off Port Said. Arrangements had been made for ships to enter the Canal in the order of draught with the lighter ships first.

The three fleet destroyers therefore led the way followed by UNICORN, ILLUSTRIOUS, RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH, and VALIANT. The latter two ships had to remain for a few hours at Port Said to reduce their draught by discharging fuel – but the remaining ships began the transit of the Canal at once. The six escort vessels from the Western Approaches command parted company at Port Said.

34. RENOWN and the two carriers proceeded as far as the Bitter Lakes and anchored there for the night at about 1700. The three fleet destroyers, TERMAGENT (n.b. as recorded), TENACIOUS, and KEMPENFELT were recalled to Port Said.


13th January and 14th January

35. RENOWN and two carriers continued the passage of the Canal and anchored in Suez Bay during the forenoon of 13th January. They were joined shortly afterwards by the two battleships.

36. It was decided to devote the remaining part of the 13th January and the following day to fuelling all ships and to allow time for making good essential defects. Meetings were held with shore authorities in order to arrange for a programme of exercises for the ships, and for cooperation with R.A.F. shore based aircraft for exercises in the harbour and at sea.

15th January

37. RENOWN, VALIANT, and QUEEN ELIZABETH sailed at 0800 and carried out day and night exercised in the Gulf of Suez returning at harbour at 0200.

16th January

Noon Position: 29-34N, 32-31E

38. At 0800, 16th January, ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN with the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER, and ROCKET sailed from Suez to carry out H.A. firings in the Gulf of Suez before continuing the passage to the East. The three capital ships sailed at 1030. For the remainder of the carrier force was operated by Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, independently of the battleship force, and was ordered to overtake during the night and to be about 20 miles south of the battleships on the morning of 17th January.

17th January

Noon Position: 23-37N, 36-27E

39. In this way considerable progress in training was possible without delaying the passage. Flying training by the carriers, radar tracking by both forces during the night, 15 inch full calibre firing range and inclination exercises by the battleships, and dummy torpedo attacks by aircraft were among the exercises from which great benefit was obtained. The comparative security of the northern half of the Red Sea from enemy air and submarine activity made this training possible by permitting a slight relaxation of preparedness and by allowing a wider dispersion of units than could have been accepted in any other waters through which the force would pass.

18th January

Noon Position: 18-08N, 39-50E

40. The passage of the Red Sea was uneventful. At 1630 on 18th January RENOWN and ILLUSTRIOUS parted company and proceeded ahead of the other ships in order to reach Aden before high water on the afternoon of 19th January. It was not possible for all five heavy ships to be berthed and fuelled simultaneously in Aden harbour, and the draught of QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT restricted their movement in the shallow harbour and approaches to a shore time either side of high water. It was therefore arranged that RENOWN and the two carriers should fuel between the daylight tides of the 19th and 20th January while the battleships remained at sea, and vice versa on the 20th to 21st January.

19th January

Noon Position: 12-24N, 44-50E

41. Captain D 11 in ROTHERHAM with ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE, RAPID, and NORMAN had been sent to Aden to reinforce the escort of Group A for the passage of the Indian Ocean. Captain D in ROTHERHAM with three R class destroyers left Aden at 0700 to meet RENOWN and ILLUSTRIOUS about 1000. ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE, and RAPID were then sent to relieve the battleships’ screen, whilst ROTHERHAM screened RENOWN and ILLUSTRIOUS into Aden. The four destroyers relieved from duty with the battleships were then ordered to escort UNICORN at best speed into Aden.

42. RENOWN and the two carriers with their escorts all berthed in Aden harbour on the afternoon tide of 19th January and started fuelling.

43. Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet, called on the Governor of Aden in the evening.

20th January

44. ILLUSTRIOUS got under way at 1300, 20th January and was followed out of harbour by RENOWN and UNICORN. As soon as they were clear VALIANT and QUEEN ELIZABETH proceeded into harbour to fuel.

RENOWN and the two carriers with a screen of four destroyers stood to the southward until midnight, and then to the north eastward until daylight.

21st January

Noon Position: 11-59N, 45-37E

45. During the day RENOWN and the carriers proceeded on westerly courses in order to be off the approaches to Aden at 1800 to rendezvous with the two battleships and the destroyer screen. The four destroyers which had been screening RENOWN and the carriers were then detached into Aden to fuel with orders to overtake the force the next day.

22nd January

Noon Position: 12-44N, 48-48E

46. The passage across the Indian Ocean was made without any noteworthy incident. The weather continued to be fine throughout and thus there were opportunities every day for continuing the sea training of the ships and squadron. Various new cruising orders were tried out, with particular reference to the best position for the carriers when cruising in company with capital ships.

47. On the forenoon of 22nd January, the four destroyers from Aden overtook the force, which was turned 180 degrees to meet them so that dummy torpedo attacks and destroyer counter attacks could be exercised.

23rd January

Noon Position: 13-40N, 55-28E

24th January

Noon Position: 12-02N, 61-46E

48. At first light on 24th January the force was formed into a suitable cruising order for the destroyers to fuel from the battleships. NORMAN fuelled from QUEEN ELIZABETH, PALADIN and PATHFINDER from VALIANT, and PETARD from RENOWN. The other destroyers carrier more fuel and were able to make the passage without oiling at sea.

49. NORMAN sustained slight damage and fouled her propeller when a spring parted during fuelling. She managed to complete the passage but as there was considerable vibration at the speed of the fleet she was stationed astern so that that she could follow at her most suitable speed. On arrival at Colombo, NORMAN was docked for repairs.

25th January

Noon Position: 102-N, 68-08E

50. During the forenoon a signal was received from Commander in Chief making a rendezvous for NIZAM and NAPIER to join the force on the morning of 27th January.

26th January

Noon Position: 08-44N, 73-51E

51. Long range aircraft from Ceylon made contact with the force at midday to start air cooperation exercises which continued until RENOWN arrived at Colombo.

52. At sunset, UNICORN, screened by ROEBUCK and RAPID, was detached and proceeded to Cochin, where she arrived a.m. 27th January.

27th January

Noon Position: 06-38N, 79-23E

53. Long range aircraft shadowed the force all night and made reports on which a striking force of torpedo bombers was led into a dummy torpedo attack on the ships at first light.

54. At 0730 NIZAM and NAPIER joined from the southward.

55. At 0830, RENOWN, screened by ROTHERHAM and NORMAN, parted company and proceeded to Colombo where she arrived at 1400 and entered harbour. The other ships of the force, under the Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet, continued to Trincomalee, arriving there on the forenoon of 28th January.

28th – 31st January

56. By 28th January the passage of Group A to join its station had been completed, and the group having fulfilled its purpose ceased to exist.

The Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet, remained in Colombo in RENOWN for the remaining days of January in order to meet and confer with the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet and other authorities in Colombo.

57. The other two ships of the First Battle Squadron, VALIANT and QUEEN ELIZABETH, remained at Trincomalee and started to clean boilers; this work had been deferred until the end of the passage. It is estimated that boiler cleaning and repair of normal machinery defects will be completed by 11th February. RENOWN left Colombo on 2nd February for Trincomalee and also began boiler cleaning on arrival. It is intended that all three ships of the squadron should continue squadron training at sea on 14th February.


Part II

General Remarks

58. Group A left the United Kingdom with each ship in a different state of incomplete training; there was no opportunity for any exercises at sea as a group before leaving, and no opportunity for harbour drills with all ships in company. The screen was without any experience or training in the work they were to carry out on passage. The group concentrated at sea off Skerryvore on 30th December; this meant that ships had to sail from various ports in Scotland in the middle of a festive season. Fortune was tempted and reacted kingly but a repetition of this experiment is not advocated.

59. The standard of efficiency of the visual and other means of communication was very low indeed whilst the “Sea Sense” of some units in company left much to be desired and necessitated more signaling than is normally required. Improvement was steady, but it was not until a week at sea had passed that normal watchkeepers were able to deal with simple signals themselves and did not feel obliged to call the watch below. Without efficient communications a formation of ships is wide open to attacks, which appear insignificant.

60. The passage of 30 days during which no officer or man went ashore was of the greatest benefit to all and made a large percentage of the young and untrained personnel realise that cinemas and dance halls are not necessary to health and happiness. The exceptionally fine weather throughout the passage added to the enjoyment and health. The engine room personnel stood up extremely well to a long period of steaming with a bit change in climatic conditions.

61. The need to adhere to programme dates and the high speed necessary to do so somewhat limited the amount of training carried out. In the aircraft carriers failures in Barracuda and Corsair aircraft made modifications necessary during the passage, and this curtailed flying training. However, much general sea knowledge and sea sense has been acquired by all and, from the point of view of training, the passage was a success. The Gulf of Suez is an admirable exercise area and could with advantage be more generally used.

62. There has, up to date, little opportunity of assessing the quality of ships companies other than that in RENOWN. As a provisional estimate it is fair to state that there is good material on which to work and, with very, firm leadership, in about 3 months time a satisfactory standard may be reached. At the present time officers and men are rather anaemic and there is an acute shortage of leaders.


 Vice Admiral




 Officer of Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet,
20th March, 1944

V.A.E.F. No. 45/682. 
(copy to: Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet.)



Area of operations, click to enlarge





February 1st

At the beginning of the month the flagship was at Colombo, having arrived from Aden on 27th January. It had been intended to sail for Trincomalee on 31st January but as no escort was available it was necessary to await another day. RENOWN screened by PETARD and NORMAN proceeded at 1600 on 1st February, met UNICORN, QUIBERON, and ROEBUCK, all from Cochin, at 1700 and proceeded in company and coastwise to Trincomalee.

February 2nd

Noon Position: 07-52.5N, 82-04E

2. At 1500 the force arrived in Trincomalee Harbour. The ILLUSTRIOUS flying the flag of Rear Admiral C. Moody, CB, VALIANT, QUEEN ELIZABETH, H.N.M.S. TROMP, WOOLWICH, flying the Broad Pendant of Commodore S.H.T. Arliss, DSO, RN, five destroyers, ADAMANT, and three submarines were present.

3. The heavy ships were cleaning boilers and making good minor defects after the long passage from the United Kingdom.

4. The harbour defences against attack by aircraft and midget submarines were studied. The radar cover did not appear to give adequate warning of attack by low flying aircraft and consequently some precautions were ordered in the fleet to supplement the defences.

February 3rd to 9th

5. While boiler cleaning, every advantage of carrying out harbour exercises and drill was taken.

6. On 6th February, H.M.S. EMERALD arrived from Colombo.

7. On 7th February, hostile aircraft approached the harbour; these were apparently two armed reconnaissance planes. One circled the coast and dropped one bomb near Batticaloa, and other circling near Muletivu. It is possible that these planes intended to reconnoiter Trincomalee, but failed in their task due to faulty navigation.

8. On 9th February, ILLUSTRIOUS carried out flying exercises at sea.

9. At 2200 on 9th February, RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS, and all destroyers were ordered to come to 4 hours notice.

February 10th

10. A conference was held in the shore offices during the forenoon, which was summoned by the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet. The army had requested a short naval bombardment of Ramree Island on the Arakan coast, and possible operations were fully discussed.

11. The Commander in Chief decided to sail RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS, EMERALD, TROMP, and seven destroyers at 1700 on the 10th to proceed to the north eastward making a feint as if to arrive at Ramree at dawn on the 13th, but actually to reverse course shortly after dusk on 11th. W/T silence was ordered to be broken at 1800, on turning at 2100 on 11th February, and by an aircraft at dawn on 12th February in the position in which the fleet would have been had the course not been reversed.

12. The force sailed at 1700/10th in accordance with this plan.

13. The opportunity was taken to try a circular screen to combat air and A/S threat.

February 11th

Noon Position: 13-32N, 82-41E

14. Weather was fair and the visibility continued to be good. A/S patrols were flown from ILLUSTRIOUS and the operation continued according to plan. At about 1930 a radar contact was obtained but this was eventually thought to be a cloud. A turn to the southward was made at 2100.

February 12th

Noon Position: 11-08N, 84-15E

15. The southerly course was continued with the force still undetected by enemy aircraft. Advantage was taken to exercise manoeuvres. NIZAM developed trouble with her distiller pumps but was able to repair this sufficiently to enable her to remain with the force. During the evening, orders were received from the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, that the force should return to Trincomalee passing through a position well to the southward of that harbour. Course was adjusted accordingly.

February 13th

Noon Position: 04-50N, 84-24E

16. The turn to northward was made shortly before noon. Destroyers carried out dummy torpedo attacks in the forenoon and in the dog watches, RENOWN carried out simultaneous throw off firings at single destroyers attacking from either beam. During the first watch, radar tracking exercises were carried out by EMERALD and TROMP.

February 14th

17. It was intended that M.T.B.s from Trincomalee should attack the fleet at dawn, but they failed to make contact. A radar contact was picked up and reported as M.T.B.s proceeded at speed but was actually the oiler EAGLESDALE escorted by TJERK HIDDES – an example of the very real danger which arises when scientific operators wrongly interpret the information obtained from the instruments in order to fit in with an expected situation.

18. At 0700, a torpedo striking force was flown off from ILLUSTRIOUS and 45 minutes later their Corsair escort. These aircraft carried out an A.R.T. attack on the force. Fighters were flown off from the ILLUSTRIOUS to intercept. The attack was well delivered and demonstrated the advance in efficiency which has been made in all pilots as a result of recent training.

19. The force entered harbour at 1000/14th.

February 15th to 21st February

20. The demands made on destroyers were convoy escort duties were heavy and curtailed sea going practices for the heavy ships. Many harbour drills and exercises were carried out but with only sufficient escorts were available for VALIANT and QUEEN ELIZABETH to carry out exercises at sea on Thursday 17th and Friday 18th February.

21. On 20th February, H.M.S. GAMBIA (Captain N.J.W. William-Powlett, DSC, RN) arrived in Trincomalee from the United Kingdom to join the Eastern Fleet. On 21st February, H.N.M.S. TROMP was sailed to Colombo for docking and self refitting.

22nd February

22. H.M.S. ILLUSTRIOUS flying the flag of Rear Admiral C. Moody, CB, escorted by GAMBIA and screened by ROTHERHAM and TJERK HIDDES sailed on a special operation (SLEUTH).

23rd February

23. H.M.S. CEYLON (Captain G.B. Amery-Parkes, RN) arrived after escorting H.M.S. SHAH from Fremantle was far as the equator. During the forenoon, the Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet flew to Colombo to visit the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, returning at 1700. Additional precautions were taken at dark and dawn to combat unexpected air attack.

25th to 29th February

24. Owing to the unfortunate lack of destroyers, capital ships were confined to harbour drills and exercises.

25. It had been intended that RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH, and screen should proceed to sea for exercises on 29th February but heavy rain reduced visibility to about half a mile and practices had to be postponed.


Part II – Brief Survey And Appreciation Of Events

26. From the 1st to the 10th February, the heavy ships were cleaning boilers and making good defects after the passage from the United Kingdom. Subsequently exercises at sea were very curtailed by the absence of destroyers on essential escort work.

However, there was much training to be done in harbour and satisfactory if slow, progress has been made. The lack of sea time was made less harmful by the fact that the ships had just completed a strenuous passage from the United Kingdom.

27. There has been a distinct improvement in the general bearing of the officers and men in the heavy ships and, in keeping with this there has been an improvement in the appearance of the ships and their boats.

28. The standard of signaling has improved very greatly as a result of continuous exercise and instructions.

29. Progress during the month can be said to be satisfactory: but the large number of officers without knowledge or officer like qualities, the inexperience of the higher substantive ratings, and the mass of youngsters make the problem of preparing the ships for battle very formidable in 1944.


 Vice Admiral




 Officer of Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet, 
30th May, 1944


V.A.E.F. No. 81/682.
(copy to: Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet.)




Area of operations, click to enlarge



MARCH 1944




Wednesday, 1st March, 1944

RENOWN, wearing the flag of the Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet, QUEEN ELIZABETH and CEYLON, with destroyers, went to sea for exercises. A submarine periscope was reported in the practice area so all exercises at sea were cancelled and ships returned to harbour.

Thursday, 2nd March

The first full calibre H.A. firing from Trincomalee Harbour was carried out by VALIANT.

All available fleet destroyers were sent to hunt a submarine reported to the south westward of Ceylon.

Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th March

The fleet continued harbour training.

Sunday, 5th March

2. The Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet visited Trincomalee and held a meeting of flag and commanding officers in H.M.S. RENOWN concerning future operations.

Monday, 6th March

3. H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH with NIZAM, QUICKMATCH, and QUALITY sailed for Colombo to store to full capacity there. Full calibre and other firing practices were carried out on passage.

In order to augment the coastal batteries in case of seaborne attack, H.M.S. VALIANT and H.M.S. CEYLON practiced 15 inch and 6 inch firings from their berths in harbour at an imaginary target at sea.

Wednesday, 8th March

Noon Position: 8-50N, 81-47E

4. RENOWN (flag of Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet), VALIANT, CEYLON, and EMERALD, screened by ROTHERHAM (Captain (D) 11th Destroyer Flotilla), RELENTLESS, NORMAN, NAPIER, NEPAL, followed by ILLUSTRIOUS (Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers Eastern Fleet), NIZAM, QUICKMATCH, and QUALITY sailed for Operation INITIAL. NIZAM, QUICKMATCH, and QUALITY had returned early in the forenoon from screening QUEEN ELIZABETH in order to fuel before sailing with the Fleet.

In the afternoon, a full programme of practices was carried out, including 15 inch and 6 inch full calibre firings at battle practice target and A.A. firing practices for all types of weapons.

H.M.S. ILLUSTRIOUS flew off No. 847 Squadron (9 Barracuda) to China Bay and embarked No. 1830 Fighter Squadron, making her complement No. 810, 1830, and 1833 Squadrons, a total of 12 Barracudas and 27 Corsairs.

5. At 1630, the fleet was formed as a unit, W/T silence enforced and course set for the northward. The plan of the operation was a sweep into the Bay of Bengal, with the object of a show of force in the area and, at the same time, to afford the fleet a chance for training.

Thursday, 9th March

Noon Position: 12-57N, 83-07E

6. A full programme of exercises was carried out, attention being paid particularly to the range calibration of radar for gunner, and radar height finding for fighter direction purposes.

Performance trials were also carried out with the new fleet torpedo bomber, the Barracuda, with regard to its performance and use as an aircraft for “B” bombing.

Friday, 10th March

Noon Position: 15-26N, 84-04E

7. The fleet reached the most northerly position for the operation, which was off Vizagapatam, and then turned to the southward.

Exercises were continued, including practices to improve the efficiency of night plotting, anti aircraft fire at torpedo bombers and blind fire at night.

Barracuda trials were also continued. An unfortunate accident occurred when one Barracuda failed to pull out of its dive during an A.L.T. and crashed into the sea, disappearing immediately.

Saturday, 11th March

Noon Position: 12-53N, 81-28E

8. Further night exercises were carried out but the date was unfortunately marred by a serious accident on the deck of ILLUSTRIOUS. A Corsair crashed into the port barrier stanchion and almost immediately burst into flames. There was a serious petrol fire in which two officers and two ratings were killed and several others badly burned. The fire took an hour to extinguish and wrecked P.2 pom pom.

Five aircraft that were in the air at the time were sent to land at Madras. H.M.S. QUICKMATCH picked up a badly burned officer from the sea and was sent to Madras with him. Among other practices, 15 inch calibre blind throw off firing was carried out by the RENOWN and VALIANT.

9. During the day, W/T silence was broken, in accordance with the Commander in Chief’s orders, in the hope that the transmissions might be picked up by the enemy, thus indicating that our units were operating in the Bay of Bengal.

Opportunity was taken to exercise manoeuvring by V-H/F R/T which is now being fitted in the Fleet.

In the evening, H.M.S. CEYLON was detached to the Palk Straits to carry out oiling trials by the double trough method with R.F.A. ARNDALE. These trials were unsuccessful.

Sunday, 12th March

The Fleet re-entered Trincomalee.

10. INITIAL was an uneventful operation but provided the Fleet with excellent training.

11. In the afternoon, VALIANT, screened by NIZAM, NEPAL, and NORMAN, sailed for Colombo to complete with stores.

Monday, 13th March

At 2000, H.M.S. PATHFINDER sailed for Madras for escort duties.

Tuesday, 14th March

H.N.M.S. TROMP and destroyers sailed for an exercise. This was the first occasion on which destroyers had been available from escort and other duties to carry out Fleet practices.

In the afternoon, H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH, having completed with stores, arrived from Colombo with NORMAN, NEPAL, and H.N.M.S. TJERK HIDDES.

Wednesday, 15th March

12. The Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet, flew to Colombo with the Captain of the Fleet in order to attend a meeting on the allocation of air squadrons to airfields in Ceylon.

Thursday 16th March to Monday 20th March

Destroyer exercises continued. On Saturday, 18th, H.M. Ships LONDON and CUMBERLAND arrived from the United Kingdom. EMERALD sailed for Colombo before leaving the station and H.M.N.Z.S. GAMBIA arrived on the 20th.

Tuesday, 21st March to Thursday, 30th March
(n.b. hand written 21 – 31.3)

14. The Fleet carried out Operation DIPLOMAT – H.M.S. RENOWN (flag of Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet), QUEEN ELIZABETH, ILLUSTRIOUS (flag of Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet), LONDON, CUMBERLAND, GAMBIA, CEYLON, and destroyers NAPIER (Commodore (D), Eastern Fleet), NORMAN, NEPAL, VAN GALEN, TJERK HIDDES, QUILLIAM (Captain (D) 4th Destroyer Flotilla) and PATHFINDER sailed from Trincomalee. The purpose of this operation was to meet the U.S. Aircraft carrier SARATOGA with destroyers CUMMINS, DUNLAP, and FANNING, in position 13-10S, 83-40E and return with them to Trincomalee.

A full report of this operation was forwarded in V.A.E.F. No. 754/66A of 8th April 1944.

Friday, 31st March

15. During the forenoon, the fleet entered and berthed at Trincomalee. Before entering the harbour, SARATOGA and ILLUSTRIOUS flew off a large percentage of their aircraft to R.N.A.S. China Bay.

This operation – DIPLOMAT – provided excellent opportunities of improving the efficiency of all ships and enabled the American Task Force to shake down with the Eastern Fleet. The Task Force is a very considerable addition to the strength of the Fleet.

16. At 2200, QUILLIAM (Captain (D) 4th Destroyer Flotilla), NORMAN, VAN GALEN, and QUIBERON sailed at short notice for an operation in the vicinity of Addu Atoll.


Part II

Brief Survey And Appreciation Of Events

17. Training has progressed in a satisfactory manner and exercises at sea have proved that harbour training programmes have been successful.

18. The two 8 inch cruisers LONDON and CUMBERLAND, who operated with the Fleet for the first time, each displayed good sea sense and anticipated the requirements of the Vice Admiral and Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet on many occasions. An improvement is necessary in the 6 inch cruisers.

19. A circular cruising formation designed for up to three carriers was tried out. It is considered that it has many advantages and the Commanding Officer, U.S.S. SARATOGA favours circular formations and circular screens.

20. Officers…… (n.b. page concluding BRIEF SURVEY AND APPRECIATION OF EVENTS FOR MARCH 1944 is missing).




 Officer of Vice Admiral, Eastern Fleet, 
5th June, 1944


V.A.E.F. No. 82/682.
(copy to: Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet.)





Area of operations, click to enlarge


APRIL 1944



Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd April 1944

At Trincomalee

The Fleet remained in harbour for boiler cleaning, minor repairs and recreation.

2. This week, the diving school was opened in Orlando Cove, near the old naval cemetery on Great Sober Island.

Monday, 3rd April

3. REDOUBT and QUALITY sailed to rendezvous with H.M.T. MARIPOSA and escort her to Bombay.

4. The Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, visited Trincomalee to exchange calls with the Commanding Officers of U.S.S. SARATOGA (Captain J.H. Cassidy, USN), and of the U.S. destroyers CUMMINGS, DUNLAP, and FANNING, forming Task Group 58.5.

5. H.M.S. NEWCASTLE (flag of Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron) carried out a preliminary firing with “K” shell in Palk Strait, the object being to discover the reason for the large spreads of 6 inch salvoes experienced in cruisers.

Tuesday, 4th April

6. H.M.S. NEWCASTLE carried out a 20 rounds per gun 6 inch firing with S.A.P. “K” shell at a battle practice target, this being the second part of the previous day’s firing.

7. The Commander in Chief held a meeting of flag and commanding officers at naval Headquarters, Trincomalee, during the forenoon.

8. NEPAL and TJERK HIDDES carried out exercises in the practice areas, and on completion, NEPAL sailed for Colombo. TJERK HIDDES was also to sail, but broke down and returned to Trincomalee.

Wednesday, 5th April

9. H.M.S. SHAH, escort carrier, with screen of U.S. destroyers, sailed for deck landing training and gunnery practices. Owing to the light winds at this time of year, and SHAH’s low maximum speed, deck landing was found impracticable.

10. A club was opened in the Commander in Chief’s bungalow at Plaintain Point for U.S. Naval Officers.

Thursday 6th April to 9th April (Easter Sunday)

11. H.M.S. UNICORN, escorted by NIZAM, NEPAL, and QUIBERON, arrived on 6th April; these destroyers acted as a screen for ILLUSTRIOUS while exercising the next day.

12. The small floating dock, AFD 26, was used for docking a destroyer for the first time on 7th April. On the 8th, the centre portion of the large floating dock, AFD 23, arrived from Bombay, having been towed at an average speed of 4 knots by four tugs.

Monday, 10th April – Saturday, 15th April

13. F.S. RICHELIEU arrived at Trincomalee on 10th April from the United Kingdom. Practices were carried out at sea by all units of the Fleet, including U.S.S. SARATOGA and F.S. RICHELIEU. Night exercises to improve efficiency in night fighting and bombardment firings, using the bombardment range at Foul Point, were carried out during this period.

The 16th M.T.B. Flotilla, representing E boats, carried out dawn and night attacks on the Fleet units.

The 1st Battle Squadron painted ship to the new camouflage design adopted for the Eastern Fleet.

14. On 15th April, U.S.S. CUMMINGS reported sighting a periscope outside the harbour. A full destroyer and aircraft search was instituted for the next 24 hours without result.

Sunday, 16th April - Friday, 21st April

15. H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH hoisted the Flag of the Commander in Chief and the fleet sailed during the forenoon for Operation COCKPIT.

16. A report of the operation, the object of which was an air strike on Sabang, was forwarded separately in V.A.E.F. No. 754/83A of 26th April 1944, to the Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet.

17. During the approach and retirement, exercises were carried out when clear of enemy air attack. These included 15 inch throw off firings by the battleships.

18. The fleet returned to Trincomalee a.m. 21st April and the Command in Chief held a meeting of Flag and Commanding Officers on board H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH in the afternoon.

19. At 1700, H.M.S. ILLUSTRIOUS, screened by QUILLIAM, QUEENBOROUGH, and QUALITY sailed for Colombo for storing, recreation of the ship’s company, and in order to prepare for the next operation.

Sunday, 23rd April

20. At 0900, H.M. S/M TACTICIAN (Lieut-Cdr A.F. Collett, DSC, RN) arrived with the pilot of the U.S.S. SARATOGA’s aircraft which had been shot down over Sabang.

21. The Flag of Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron, was transferred from NEWCASTLE to NIGERIA and NEWCASTLE sailed for a refit at Simonstown.

Monday, 24th April

22. At 1000, Task Group 58.5 sailed for Colombo.

NIGERIA, GAMBIA, LONDON, and TROMP sailed for exercises for 24 hours. Fuelling at sea from oilers by double trough method was practiced.

Thursday, 27th – Saturday, 29th April

23. NAPIER was absent on a special operation from 27th – 28th. CEYLON, QUILLIAM, QUEENBOROUGH, QUADRANT, RACEHORSE, and NEPAL were at sea for exercises.

CEYLON exercised oiling by double trough method from R.F.A. ARNDALE but this was unsuccessful and superficial damage was caused to the oiler.

24. On the 27th, NIGERIA, wearing the Flag of the Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron, sailed to Colombo to dock and for repairs.

25. On the 29th, UNICORN, with PENN and PETARD as screen, sailed for deck landing training off Colombo.

Sunday, 30th April

26. At 1100, Task Force 67, consisting of R.F.A.s EAGLEDALE, ECHODALE, ARNDALE, APPLELEAF, PEALEAF (n.b. PEARLEAF), and BACCHUS, escorted by LONDON (Senior Officer, Captain .V. Symonds-Taylor, DSC, RN), ROTHERHAM and VAN GALEN sailed for Operation TRANSOM. FINDHORN joined the force off the harbour entrance.

27. Destroyers in harbour went alongside battleships so that they could be assisting in fitting T.B.S. (V H/F R/T).




See Part II of V.A.E.F. No. 81/682 of 30th May



on to Eastern Fleet, November/December 1944
back to Admiralty War Diaries

revised 15/7/11