Allied Warships

HMS Cumberland (57)

Heavy cruiser of the Kent class


HMS Cumberland in 1945

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeHeavy cruiser
ClassKent 
Pennant57 
Built byVickers Armstrong (Barrow-in-Furness, U.K.) 
Ordered26 Apr 1924 
Laid down18 Oct 1924 
Launched16 Mar 1926 
Commissioned23 Feb 1928 
End service 
History

Upon completion in 1928 HMS Cumberland served on the China Station. In March 1935 Cumberland returned to the U.K. for a refit. After her refit she returned once more to the China Station. In 1938 Cumberland joined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and at the outbreak of war the ship was in the South America Division.

In October 1939 HMS Cumberland was a member of Force G part of the hunting group searching for the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, her allocated search area was along the east coast of South America. December, Whilst still on patrol with cruiser HMS Ajax in an area off the Falkland Islands she intercepted the blockade runner Ussukuma (7,834 tons) however before the cruiser could capture the vessel her crew had her scuttled. On 16 December she arrived off the river Plate estuary and was joined on the 19th by the cruisers HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Shropshire.

During January-February 1940, Cumberland had a refit at Simonstown, South Africa. In May-June, the cruiser was involved in convoy escort duties between Cape Town and Freetown, this being the first of the many Middle East troop convoys, convoy WS-1 arrived in South Africa with about 10,000 troop reinforcements for the Middle East. This was the first and last WS Convoy in which all the so called “Monsters” (Aquitania, Ile De France, Mauretania, Nieuw Amsterdam, Normandie, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary) sailed in company; thereafter they sailed independently relying on speed, zigzagging and evasive routing for A/S protection; not one was torpedoed during the war. Ile de France and Nieuw Amsterdam were largely employed on a shuttle between Durban and the Middle East/India thereby releasing other ships to return to the UK for the next WS Convoy. In July, she was employed in the task of hunting for the German commerce raider Thor before moving to Freetown for operation “Menace” . In company with HMS Cornwall and two sloops they she was summoned from the South Atlantic to proceed to Freetown and on the 16th September whilst patrolling south of Dakar she intercepted and sunk the French merchantman, Poitiers (4,185 tons), which was sailing for the Ivory Coast loaded with ammunition. Later that month she attacked Dakar and French coastal batteries opened fire on the assault fleet. A single 9,4 inch shell penetrated the hull just above the armour belt putting the main machinery out of action due to the loss of feed water to the boilers. Repairs to Cumberland were carried out at the Simonstown dock yard in South Africa until November. In December, Cumberland was once agian tasked to find the merchant raider Thor which had given the armed merchant cruiser HMS Carnavon Castle a severe pounding south east of Rio de Janeiro, the search proved unsuccessful.

From 1941 until 1943 Cumberland served with the Home Fleet, where she was then tasked to escort the Arctic convoys.

By April 1944 Cumberland was back in the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean and there she joined up with the Eastern Fleet. In July she was involved in the bombardment of Sabang. In September she carried out raids of Northern Sumatra. In October the Eastern Fleet was used as a diversion force and attacked the Nicobar Islands, so that the landings on Leyte could take place, unfortunately the diversion did not succeed.

On 7 February 1945, Cumberland was docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa for removal of her rudder, and the following month completed an inclination experiment in the wet dock before sucessfully completing her trials. During April whilst operating in the Indian Ocean the cruiser was involved in the shelling of Sabang. In May she was also responsible for the shelling of Nicobar and Port Blair in the Andaman Islands group was carried out under the command of Vice Admiral Walker (R.N.) On 3 September, under the command of Rear-Admiral Patterson, and in company with the cruiser HMS London they put ashore marine detachments at Sabang in Sumatra after the surrender of Japan the previous day. She arrived at Jakarta on the 15th, in company with one frigate and four Australian minesweepers, because of the disturbances ashore between the Indonesian Nationalists and the Japanese, a British Battalion was not landed on Batavia before September 29th.

From 1947 until 1949 Cumberland was placed in reserve. During 1949-1951 Cumberland was converted to a trials ship with lattice masts new directors and added accommodation. The original armament was entirely removed, but individual light weapons were added from time to time for trials, and the new quick firing 6" MK26 twin automatic turret was tested on B barbette, she also undertook pre wetting trials against radio-active fallout. In April 1955, glass-reinforced plastic, used today for constructing warships of as much as 700 tons made it`s debut, when a new 29 foot general purpose sea-boat made of this material was taken onboard Cumberland for the start of her summer season of tests in the Mediterranean. In August 1956, at the start of the Suez crisis, Cumberland was deployed in trooping in reinforcements to Cyprus. In November 1959, Cumberland left Malta for her birthplace at Barrow-in-Furness at the end of a distinguished career. Very few warships had attained the distinction of being in full commission after 30 years active service. The only breaks were for modernisation in 1935-36 and a short period in reserve 1947-49. Cumberland was broken up at Cashmore, Newport arriving there on 3 November 1959.

The the ships badge can still be seen proudly displayed at the Selborne dry dock wall at Simonstown, South Africa.

 

Commands listed for HMS Cumberland (57)

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CommanderFromTo
1Capt. Walter Herman Gordon Fallowfield, RN15 Feb 193929 Feb 1940
2Capt. the Hon. Guy Herbrand Edward Russell, RN29 Feb 19404 Dec 1941
3Capt. Alexander Henry Maxwell-Hyslop, RN4 Dec 194116 Mar 1942
4Cdr. Robert Syme Denholm Armour, RN16 Mar 194210 Apr 1942
5Cdr. Michael Grant Goodenough, DSO, RN10 Apr 194213 Apr 1942
6Capt. Alexander Henry Maxwell-Hyslop, RN13 Apr 194216 Dec 1943
7Capt. Francis John Butler, RN16 Dec 194323 Dec 1943
8Capt. William York La Roche Beverley, RN23 Dec 194310 Jul 1944
9Capt. Philip King Enright, RN10 Jul 194422 Jun 1946

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Notable events involving Cumberland include:


5 Dec 1939
The German passenger ship Ussukuma (7834 GRT) is intercepted in the South Atlantic off Bahia Blanca, Argentina in position 39°25'S, 57°15'W by the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt W.H.G. Fallowfield, RN) and the British light cruiser HMS Ajax (Capt. C.H.L. Woodhouse, RN). However, before the German ship can be captured she is scuttled by her own crew.

19 Mar 1944

Operation Diplomat

The Dutch light cruiser HrMs Tromp (A/Capt. F. Stam, RNN) departed Trincomalee to escort the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers Arndale (8296 GRT, built 1937), Eaglesdale (8032 GRT, built 1942) and Easedale (8032 GRT, built 1942).

These tankers were to refuel the ships from the Eastern Fleet that were to participate in operation Diplomat. During operation Diplomat the Eastern Fleet proceeded to the south-west of Cocos Island where the US aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (Capt. J.H. Cassady, USN) and the US destroyers USS Cummings (Cdr. P.D. Williams, USN), USS Dunlap (Cdr. C. Iverson, USN) and USS Fanning (Cdr. R.M. MacKinnon, USN).

The ships of the Eastern Fleet that participated in operation Diplomat were; the British battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth (Capt. H.G. Norman, CBE, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. G.E.M. O’Donnell, DSO, RN), the British battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN), the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (Capt. R.L.B. Cunliffe, RN), the British heavy cruisers HMS London (Capt. R.V. Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN), HMS Cumberland (Capt. F.J. Butler, RN), the British light cruiser HMS Ceylon (Capt. G.B. Amery-Parkes, RN), the New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Gambia (Capt. N.J.W. William-Powlett, DSC, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Quilliam (Capt. R.G. Onslow, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, DSO, RN), HMS Queenborough (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO and Bar, MVO, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Lt.Cdr. T.F. Hallifax, RN), the Australian destroyers HMAS Napier (Lt.Cdr. A.H. Green, DSC, RAN), HMAS Nepal (Cdr. F.B. Morris, RAN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.J. Buchanan DSO, RAN), HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN), the Dutch destroyers HrMs Van Galen (Lt.Cdr. F.T. Burghard, RNN) and HrMs Tjerk Hiddes (Lt.Cdr. G.A. Cox, RNN).

On 24 March 1944, the Eastern Fleet met Tromp and the tankers at 0930 hours in position 07°57'S, 82°14'E and during the next three days they experienced good weather. Ships were fuelled as follows;

24 March 1944
Easedale - HMS Renown
Arndale - HMS Valiant and HMS Ceylon
Eaglesdale - HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMNZS Gambia

25 March 1944
Easedale - HMS Quilliam, HMS Queenborough, HMAS Quiberon, HMS Quality and HMS Pathfinder
Arndale - HMS Illustrious and HrMs Tromp
Eaglesdale - HMS London, HMS Cumberland, HMAS Napier, HMAS Nepal and HMAS Norman

26 March 1944
Easedale - HMS Pathfinder, HrMs Van Galen, HMS Quiberon and HMAS Norman
Eaglesdale - HMAS Napier, HMS Quilliam, HMS Queensborough, HMS Quality and HMAS Nepal

Tanker Arndale had been detached after fuelling on the 25th escorted by HrMS Tjerk Hiddes which was suffering from defects. The other two oilers were detached after fuelling on the 26th still escorted by HrMs Tromp. (1)

11 Apr 1944
HrMs Tromp (A/Capt. F. Stam, RNN) conducted A/S exercises together with HMS Taurus (Lt.Cdr. M.R.G. Wingfield, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN).

Later the same day (actually until 0700/12) HrMs Tromp carried out exercises together with the British heavy cruisers HMS London (Capt. R.V. Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN), HMS Cumberland (Capt. F.J. Butler, RN) and the British light cruisers HMS Newcastle (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, DSO, RN), HMS Nigeria (Capt. S.H. Paton, RN) and the New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Gambia (Capt. N.J.W. William-Powlett, DSC, RN). (2)

11 Jul 1944
HrMs Tromp (A/Capt. F. Stam, RNN) conducted exercises off Trincomalee together with the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN). (3)

22 Jul 1944

Operation Crimson,
Carrier raid and surface bombardment against Sabang, Netherlands East Indies by the Eastern Fleet.

On 22 July 1944 the Eastern Fleet put to sea from Trincomalee, Ceylon. The ships that participated in this sortie were; the British battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth (Capt. H.G. Norman, CBE, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. G.E.M. O’Donnell, DSO, RN), the British battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN and flagship of Vice Admiral A.J. Power, KCB, CVO, RN, second in command of the Eastern Fleet), the French battleship Richelieu (Capt. Merveilleux du Vignaux), the British aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious (Capt. C.E. Lambe, RN), HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN), the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN), the British light cruisers HMS Nigeria (Capt. H.A. King, DSO, RN), HMS Kenya (Capt. C.L. Robertson, RN), HMS Ceylon (Capt. G.B. Amery-Parkes, RN), HMS Phoebe (Capt. S.M. Raw, CBE, RN), the New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Gambia (Capt. N.J.W. William-Powlett, DSC, RN), the Dutch light cruiser HrMs Tromp (A/Capt. F. Stam, RNN), the British destroyers HMS Rotherham (Capt. F.S.W. de Winton, RN), HMS Relentless (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Fell, RN), HMS Racehorse (Cdr. J.J. Casement, DSC, RN), HMS Rocket (Lt.Cdr. H.B. Acworth, OBE, RN), HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, DSC, RN), HMS Roebuck (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN), HMS Rapid (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Quilliam (Capt. R.G. Onslow, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. the Viscount Jocelyn, RN) and the Australian destroyer HMAS Quickmatch (Lt.Cdr. O.H. Becher, DSC, RAN).

The British submarines HMS Templar () and HMS Tantalus () were deployed for air/sea rescue duties.

In the early hours of the 25th the carriers, HMS Illustrious and HMS Victorious, separated from the fleet under the escort of HMS Phoebe, HMS Roebuck and HMS Raider, and launched a total of 34 fighter aircraft to attack airfields in the area (18 Corsairs from HMS Illustrious and 16 Corsairs from HMS Victorious). One Corsair fighter was damaged by AA fire from the enemy and crashed into the sea, the pilot was picked up by HMS Nigeria. Five other Corsairs were damaged by AA fire but managed to return to the carriers. Two of these could be repaired on board, the other three were too badly damaged for effective repairs.

The battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Valiant, Richelieu, battlecruiser HMS Renown, heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland, light cruisers HMS Nigeria, HMS Kenya, HMS Ceylon, HMS Phoebe HMNZS Gambia and the destroyers HMS Rotherham, HMS Relentless, HMS Racehorse, HMS Rocket and HMS Rapid then commenced a bombardment of the Sabang area. They fired a total of 294 - 15", 134 - 8", 324 - 6", ca. 500 - 4.7" and 123 - 4" shells.

Then the Dutch cruiser HrMs Tromp entered Sabang Bay, her rightful waters, with the British destroyers HMS Quilliam, HMS Quality and the Australian destroyer HMAS Quickmatch. In all these four ships fired a total of 8 Torpedos and 208 - 6", 717 - 4.'7" and 668 x 4" shells. Japanese shore batteries obtained 4 hits on the Tromp while Quilliam and Quality were both hit once. The hit by what was thought to be a 3” shell on Quilliam caused minor structural damage but killed one petty officer and wounded four ratings. Quality was hit by what is thought to be a 5” shell which hit the tripod foremast and HA director. One war correspondent was killed and one officer and eight retings were wounded, some of them seriously. Tromp was hit by two 5” and two 3” shells but was lucky that none of these exploded !!!, she suffered only minor structural damage and no deaths or even wounded amongst her crew.

Later that day 13 fighters from the carriers intercepted a Japanese counter attack with 10 aircraft. 7 of these were shot down for no losses of their own. (4)

28 Aug 1944
During 28/29 August 1944, HrMs Tromp (A/Capt. F. Stam, RNN), conducted exercises off Trincomalee together with the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN) and the New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Gambia (Capt. N.J.W. William-Powlett, DSC, RN). Later the British battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN) and the British destroyer HMS Quilliam (Capt. R.G. Onslow, DSO and 2 Bars, RN) and the Australian destroyers HMAS Quickmatch (Lt.Cdr. O.H. Becher, DSC, RAN) and HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.J. Buchanan DSO, RAN) also joined. (3)

27 Apr 1945

Operation Bishop,
Carrier raid and surface bombardment of Car Nicobar and Port Blair and to provide cover for Operation Dracula which are amphibious landings off Rangoon, Burma.

On 27 April 1945 ships from the Eastern Fleet put to sea from Trincomalee, Ceylon for operation Bishop. These ships formed Task Force 63. This task force was, at that moment, made up of the following ships;
British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth (Capt. R.M. Ellis, DSO, RN), the French battleship Richelieu (Capt. Merveilleux du Vignaux), the British escort carriers HMS Shah (Capt. W.J. Yendell, RN) and HMS Empress (Capt. J.R.S. Brown, RN), the British heavy cruisers HMS Cumberland (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN), HMS Suffolk (Capt. D. Gilmour, RN), British light cruiser HMS Ceylon (Capt. G.B. Amery-Parkes, RN), the Dutch light cruiser HrMs Tromp (A/Capt. F. Stam, RNN) and the British destroyers HMS Rotherham (Capt. H.W. Biggs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Tartar (Capt. B. Jones, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. A.H. Diack, DSC and Bar, RN). Two more destroyers were sent out to join this task force later; HMS Nubian (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) and HMS Verulam (Lt.Cdr. D.H.R. Bromley, DSC, RN). These two destroyers actually joined on the 29th.

An oiling force (Task Force 69), made up of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers Olwen (6470 GRT, built 1917) and Easedale (8032 GRT, built 1942) escorted by the British destroyer HMS Paladin (Lt. H.R. Hewlett, RN) had departed Trinomalee on the 26th. HrMs Tromp and the destroyers were fuelled from this force on the 29th.

At dawn on the 30th air attacks were carried out against Car Nicobar followed by a bombardment of the airfields At 0600/30, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Cumberland opened fire on the southern and northern airfields respectively from a range of 18000 yards Both ships soon found the range and it was not possible for any aircraft to take off after the bombardment. HMS Suffolk and HMS Ceylon then bombarded enemy AA positions. Shortly after sunrise around 0700 hours the destroyers HMS Rotherham, HMS Nubian and HMS Verulam started to bombard the settlement of Malacca. Soon afterwards a large fire, thought to be petrol, was seen near the jetty and another on one the southern airfield. At 0710 hours cease fire was ordered and a fighter strike was then commenced. They dropped bombs on and then strafed the airfields. At 0735 hours, after the fighter strike was over, the battleshios HMS Queen Elizabeth and Richelieu opened fire to crater the runways. They continued to fire on the runways until 0805 and 0809 respectively. Capt. (D) 11th destroyer flotilla on board HMS Rotherham meanwhile reported that the jetty at Malacca had been severly damaged and that two steam coasters and five small vessels had been destroyed.

At 1530/30, Richelieu, HMS Cumberland and HMS Rotherham were sent ahead to bombard Port Blair while on a northerly course. At 1730 hours Richelieu opened fire on the southern airfield and Cumberland on a coastal battery. Both firings were spotted by Hellcat fighters from the escort carriers. Later HMS Rotherham also engaged coastal batteries but from a closer range. Around 1835 hours these ships completed their bombardment but then HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Suffolk, HrMs Tromp, HMS Tartar and HMS Penn took over. Queen Elizabeth engaged the airfields while Suffolk worked over the marine yards with the same aircraft that had spotted for Richelieu and Cumberland. The other three ships engaged shore batteries. By the time the bombardment ceased after about 40 minutes the airfields were well cratered and hits were obtained on a lot of other targets. After the bombardment HrMs Tromp reported that she had seven wounded, two seriously (they both died later) from two near misses, at least that was thought at that moment. Later investigation however showed that the explosion was caused by American manufactured defective ammunition and not by enemy fire. Both bombarding forces then retired to the south an re-joined the escort carriers which had provided them with fighter cover during their bombardments.

During the night all ships proceeded southwards so as to bombard Car Nicobar a second time at dawn. At 0720/1 HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Suffolk opened fire on their target. After cratering the northern airfield Queen Elizabeth shifted target to the southern airfield at 0741 hours and carried out yet another effective shoot. At 0755 hours both ships ceased fire. HMS Cumberland and HMS Ceylon then took over. The French battleship Richelieu however did not participate in the bombardment this time as she had already expended her ammunition allowance. Cumberland enganged targets at/near the northern airfield and HMS Ceylon did the same working over the southern airfield. HMS Tartar was sent ahead to bombard the jetty at and targets in the village of Malacca. At 0915 hours all ships were again in one force and course was set to the north to conduct another bombardment of Port Blair but this time approaching from the north.

At 0800/2 HMS Queen Elizabeth opened fire on the runways of the airports and HMS Suffolk on coastal batteries. Again considerable damage was done to the airports and also a large petrol fire was started at one of them. At 0845 hours Richelieu (firing 6” from her secondary armament at the marine jetty) and HMS Cumberland took over. HMS Rotherham was ordered to take out an AA battery that was firing at the spotter aircraft and in this she succeded.

In the afternoon a signal was received that the landing off Rangoon had been successful and without opposition. The force now retired to the north-east for her cover position during operation Dracula.

On 4 May rendes-vous was again made with the oiling force and all ships were fueled by the Olwen. HMS Penn then remained with the Olwen while HMS Paladin joined Task Force 64.

On 6 May bombardments and air strikes were again carried out in the Port Blair area. As of 0700/6 Empress started to launch fourteen Hellcats while Shah launched eight Avengers and four Hellcats. At 0800 hours, HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Suffolk, HrMs Tromp and HMS Paladin opened fire on AA and coastal batteries in the vicinity of Phoenix Harbour, Hopetown Island and Ross Island in order to neutralise these defences for the air strike. At 0814 hours the air strike leaded ordered cease fire and a few minutes later the aircraft started attacking shipping inside Port Blair harbour. One aircraft was hit by enemy AA fire and failed to return to it’s carrier. HMS Tartar made a search for it but was unable to locate the aircraft or it’s pilot.

At 1730/6 HMS Queen Elizabeth bombarded a 6” gun known to be at Stewart Sound. The bombardment was completed at 1809 hours. HMS Suffolk meanwhile bombarded a pillbox on Sound Island with her 4” armament and appeared to have set the target on fire.

On 7 May another air attack was made on Car Nicobar by the carriers with a total of 10 Hellcats. With this air attack over course was set to return to Trincomalee.

Task Force 63 returned to Trincomalee on 9 May. (5)

10 May 1945

Operation Dukedom,
Intercepting Japanese surface ships trying to evacuate troops from the Andaman Islands.

On 8 May 1945 a report was received from two British submarines on patrol in the Malacca Strait (HMS Statesman (Lt. R.G.P. Bulkeley, RN) and HMS Subtle (Lt. B.J.B. Andrew, DSC, RN) that they had sighted a Japanese heavy cruiser and a destroyer proceeding to the north-west. The Eastern Fleet was already on alert due to intelligence and ships from the Eastern Fleet immediately (around 0700 hours) put to sea from Trincomalee, Ceylon for operation Dukedom. These ships formed Task Force 61. This task force was, at that moment, made up of the following ships;
British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth (Capt. R.M. Ellis, DSO, RN), the French battleship Richelieu (Capt. Merveilleux du Vignaux), the British escort carriers HMS Hunter (Capt. A.D. Torlesse, RN), HMS Khedive (A/Capt. D.H. Magnay, RN), HMS Shah (Capt. W.J. Yendell, RN), HMS Emperor (Capt. Sir C. Madden, RN), the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN), the British light cruiser HMS Royalist (Capt. W.G. Brittain, CBE, RN), the Dutch light cruiser HrMs Tromp (A/Capt. F. Stam, RNN) and the British destroyers HMS Saumarez (Capt. M.L. Power, CBE, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Venus (Cdr. H.G.D. De Chair, DSC with Bar, RN), HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, DSC, RN), HMS Virago (Lt.Cdr. A.J.R. White, DSC, RN), HMS Rotherham (Capt. H.W. Biggs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Nubian (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) and HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. A.H. Diack, DSC and Bar, RN). This latter destroyer however had to return due to defects.

The British destroyer HMS Verulam (Lt.Cdr. D.H.R. Bromley, DSC, RN) sailed at 1700 hours to overtake and then join the Task Force. She was joined by HMS Tartar (Capt. B. Jones, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) as substitute for HMS Penn whose defects could not be repaired in time. Verulam and Tartar eventually joined the Task Force at 1505/11.

Most ships of the Task Force had only returned from the previous operation the day before and for instance HMS Queen Elizabeth had only 50% ammunition for her 15” guns on board. Also HMS Emperor and HMS Khedive were not fully fueled.

The same day the tanker Easedale (8032 GRT, built 1942) departed Trincomalee escorted by the British destroyer HMS Paladin (Lt. H.R. Hewlett, RN) (Force 70) to provide fuel for the smaller ships of Force 61.

At 1940/11 a fast attack force, made up of Richelieu, HMS Cumberland and the destroyer of the 26th Destroyer Flotilla; HMS Saumarez, HMS Venus, HMS Verlulam, HMS Viliglant and HMS Virago were ordered to proceed ahead to about 50 miles from the Task Force to be in a better position to intercept the reported Japanese heavy cruiser.

In the early afternoon of the 12th an air strike with four Hellcats was carried out against airfields on Car Nicobar Island. One Japanese aircraft was seen to go up in flames.

Also on the 12th submarine HMS Statesman reported that the Japanese cruiser and it's escort were returning to Singapore most likely to Force 61 being sighted the previous day by a Japanese aircraft.

During the 13th all destroyers of the Task Force fueled from HMS Emperor, HMS Hunter and HMS Shah. Besides that Task Force 62 was sent out from Trincomalee. This Task Force was made up of the British light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. H.A. King, DSO, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Roebuck (Cdr. C.D. Bonham-Carter, RN), HMS Racehorse (Cdr. J.J. Casement, DSC, RN) and HMS Redoubt (Lt.Cdr. F.W.M. Carter, DSC, RN). HMS Rocket (Lt.Cdr. H.B. Acworth, OBE, RN), which was escorting a convoy, was ordered to leave her convoy and then join this Task Force. Also sailed was Task Force 67, made up of Royal Fleet Auxiliary oiler Olwen escorted by HMS Penn, which by now had completed repairs on her defects.

On the 14th HrMs Tromp was sent ahead to fuel from Task Force 70. Late in the evening the remainder of Task Force 61 arrived at the rendez-vous with Task Force 70.

On the 15th the enemy cruiser and destroyer were sighted by an aircraft from HMS Shah. They were again proceeding to the south-east. Shortly afterwards the enemy was also sighted by a patrolling Liberator aircraft which began shadowing the enemy. At 1500 hours three Avenger aircraft attacked the cruiser.

The 26th destroyer flottila, made up of HMS Saumarez, HMS Venus, HMS Verulam, HMS Vigilant and HMS Vigaro were ordered to intercept the enemy after dark. At 1500 hours they were 85 miles from the position of the enemy.

Around midnight the destroyers made radar contact on the cruiser. They then attacked from all directions with torpedoes. About eight hits were scored and the cruiser was sunk. During the attack HMS Saumarez was hit three times with 8" shells. Two ratings were killed on one boiler room was put out of action. The destroyers rejoined the task force at 1000/16. HMS Virago had only 17% fuel left, the other destroyers between that and 30%. HMS Virago and HMS Venus had to fuel from the escort carriers as they could not make it to the oiling force without doing so.

In the evening of the 16th the Task Force was attacked by Japanese aircraft. HMS Virago was near missed and suffered four ratings killed, five ratings severely wounded and thirteen other casualties. She was also listing slightly due to splinter damage.

At 1000/17 the following ships were detached to return to Trincomalee; Richelieu, HMS Nigeria, HMS Royalist, HrMs Tromp, HMS Khedive, HMS Shah and HMS Racehorce.

1740 hours, the 26th Destroyer Flotilla was also detached to return to Trincomalee. By this time all the destroyers of this flotilla had fueled from Force 70.

The remaining ships were ordered to return to Trincomalee at 2130/19. (6)

Sources

  1. Files 2.12.03.6853, 2.12.27.121 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands) and ADM 199/1388
  2. File 2.12.03.6853 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  3. File 2.12.03.6854 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  4. Files 2.12.03.6854 and 2.12.27.121 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands) and WO 203 / 4622 (British National Archives, Kew, London)
  5. Files 2.12.03.6854 and 2.12.27.121 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands) and WO 203 / 4778 and ADM 199 / 193 (British National Archives, Kew, London)
  6. Files 2.12.03.6854 and 2.12.27.121 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands) and WO 203 / 4630 (British National Archives, Kew, London)

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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