Allied Warships

HMS Scout (H 51)

Destroyer of the Admiralty S class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassAdmiralty S 
PennantH 51 
Built byJohn Brown Shipbuilding & Engineering Company Ltd. (Clydebank, Scotland) 
OrderedApr 1917 
Laid down25 Oct 1917 
Launched27 Apr 1918 
Commissioned15 Jun 1918 
End service 
History

Scrapped on 2 March 1946.

 

Commands listed for HMS Scout (H 51)

Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. Hugh Crofton Simms, RN15 Sep 193820 Jan 1940
2Lt.Cdr. Cecil Hamilton Holmes, RN20 Jan 194012 Nov 1940
3Lt.Cdr. (retired) Duncan Hamish Harper, RN12 Nov 1940Feb 1941
4Lt.Cdr. (retired) Hedworth Lambton, RNFeb 194123 Dec 1942
5Lt. Robert Graham Woodward, RN23 Dec 1942Dec 1943
6T/Lt. John Cyril Asquin Hammond, RNRDec 1943Jun 1944
7Lt. Peter Vernon James, RNRJun 1944Nov 1944
8T/A/Lt.Cdr. Arthur Charles Cooper, RNVRNov 1944early 1945
9Lt. Peter Vernon James, RNRearly 1945early 1945
10T/Lt. Charles Patrick Kane-White, RANVRearly 1945late 1945

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Notable events involving Scout include:


16 Nov 1939
HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong together with HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, RN). (1)

2 Jan 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out practice attacks off Hongkong on HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (2)

3 Jan 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out practice attacks off Hongkong on HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (2)

4 Jan 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried A/S exercises off Hongkong with HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (2)

31 Jan 1940
HMS Proteus (Lt.Cdr. R.T. Gordon-Duff, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (3)

1 Feb 1940
HMS Proteus (Lt.Cdr. R.T. Gordon-Duff, RN) and HMS Regulus (Cdr. J.M. Money, RN). conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (4)

12 Feb 1940
HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (5)

14 Feb 1940
HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (5)

14 Feb 1940
HMS Regulus (Cdr. J.M. Money, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong together with HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (6)

26 Feb 1940
HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (5)

1 Mar 1940
HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (7)

4 Mar 1940
HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (7)

11 Mar 1940
HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (7)

1 May 1940
HMS Perseus (Lt.Cdr. P.J.H. Bartlett, RN) departed Hong Kong for her 5th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off Vladivostock, Russia to observe naval activity.

Before proceeding on patrol A/S exercises were carried out with HMS Thracian (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN) and HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN).

As no log is available for May 1940 no map can be displayed. (8)

7 Jun 1940
During the night of 7/8 June 1940, HMS Dauntless (Capt. G.D. Moore, RAN), HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN), HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and HMS Thracian (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong. (9)

10 Jun 1940
HMS Dauntless (Capt. G.D. Moore, RAN), HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN), HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Thracian (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN) and MTB's all conducted exercises off Hong Kong. (9)

17 Feb 1942
HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN) is docked at Batavia, Netherlands East Indies. (10)

19 Feb 1942
HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN) is undocked. (10)

26 Feb 1942

Operations by the Western Striking Force during 26/27 February 1942.

The object of the operations was to intercept and engage a reported Japanese invasion force.

Around 2115GH(-7.5)/26, the Western Striking Force, made up of the light cruisers HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.L. Howden, CBE, RAN), HMS Danae (Capt. F.J. Butler, MBE, RN), HMS Dragon (Capt. R.J. Shaw, MBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN) and HMS Tenedos (Lt. R. Dyer, RN) departed Tandjong Priok (Batavia), in accordance with the Commodore Commanding China Force's signal timed 1231Z/26, to intercept and engage, by night, an enemy force consisting of three cruisers, four destroyers and thirty transports which had been reported near Banka Island proceeding southwards. The Western Striking Force therefore proceeded northwards between Arnemuiden Beacon and North Watcher Island to position 04°45'S, 106°41'E where the Force turned to the southward at 0300GH/27 in accordance with the Commodore Commanding China Force's signal timed 1529Z/26.

There was no sign of the enemy during the passage north when, except for a few heavy rain squalls, the visibility was very good. At 0345GH/27, Commodore Commanding China Force's signal timed 1946Z/26 was received, stating that D/F bearings indicated that many Japanese units were in position 04°00'S, 106°30'E. This was 55 nautical miles north of the Western Striking Force's current position. It was decided to continue on southwards as it was not possible to engage the enemy before dawn and also to await the results of the dawn air reconnaissance. Two enemy reconnaissance aircraft were sighted at 0730GH/27. They commenced to shadow. This was reported to the Commodore Commanding China Force.

By 0800GH/27, the Force had reached the latitude of Babi Island, and as no further information had been received, it again turned north until 0900GH/27. Capt. Howden, the Senior Officer, decided that if air reconnaissance reported that the enemy was not overwhelmingly superior he should engage by daylight. If they were superior he would proceed eastwards to join the Eastern Striking Force in the Surabaya area which had been reported to be expected to proceed westwards to Batavia.

At 1000GH/27, the Force was back in the vicinity of Babi Island and in view of the danger of submarine attack Capt. Howden decided it was not wise to remain in the same area for too long, therefore the Force proceeded to the south-east and then northwards towards the South Watcher Island.

The Commodore Commanding China Force stated in his signal timed 0315Z/27 that air reconnaissance had failed to locate any enemy forces south of Banka therefore Capt. Howden decided to return to Batavia informing the Commodore of his intentions.

As the Force was approaching Edam Island around 1200GH/27 enemy aircraft were sighted but they did not attack. Fires were observed on shore so probably they had already expended their bombs.

At 1305GH/27, eight aircraft approached and dropped a large quantity of small calibre bombs. HMAS Hobart sustained some splinter damage and five ratings were wounded.

The Force entered Tandjong Priok around 1420GH/27. (11)

28 Feb 1942

Operations by the Western Striking Force from 28 February 1942 to 5 March 1942.

The initial object of the operations was to intercept and engage a reported Japanese invasion force.

Around 0045GH(-7.5)/28, the Western Striking Force, made up of the made up of the light cruisers HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.L. Howden, CBE, RAN), HMS Danae (Capt. F.J. Butler, MBE, RN), HMS Dragon (Capt. R.J. Shaw, MBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Tenedos (Lt. R. Dyer, RN) and HrMs Evertsen (Lt.Cdr. W.M. de Vries, RNN) departed Tandjong Priok (Batavia), in accordance with the Commodore Commanding China Force's signal timed 1021Z/27. An enemy landing force made up of thirty transports escorted by four cruisers and three destroyers had been reported at 1022GH/27 in position 04°20'S, 106°28'E. The Western Task Force had been unable so sail earlier due to delays in fuelling caused by Japanese air attacks. The destroyer HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN) which had departed earlier for Tjilatjap had been recalled and joined the Western Task Force three miles south of Edam Island.

Capt. Howden, the Senior Officer, decided to proceed direct to the vicinity of the northern entrance to the Sunda Strait and then to sweep northward to engage the enemy which he thought to be en-route to Bantam Bay, the most likely place to land.

The Western Task Force arrived in position 05°48'S, 105°56'E at 0420GH/28. Course was then altered to the northward. Except for intermittent rain squalls the visibility was good. As no enemy had been sighted by 0500GH/28, course was altered to the southward. The passage of Sunda Strait was made at the Force's maximum speed of 24 knots. HrMs Evertsen had been lost out of sight in the darkness. She had not been seen after around 0400GH/28.

At 0650GH/28, when in position 06°04'S, 105°48'E, HMS Scout dropped astern to rescue a men she sighted on a raft. A lot of wreckage was sighted during the passage of the Sunda Straits.

In order to conserve fuel, speed was reduced to 22 knots at 0850GH/28, to 19 knots at 1000GH/28 and 18 knots at 1600GH/28.

At 2340GH/28, a signal was received from HMAS Perth that she had sighted a destroyer, later amended to being a cruiser.

At 2359GH/28, when in position 04°30'S, 101°05'E, the destroyers were detached to proceed ahead to fuel at Padang. The cruisers reduced speed to 15 knots. The destroyers were sent ahead in order to reduce the time the cruisers had to wait for the destroyers to rejoin. During the passage of the Seaflower Channel [between Siberut and Sipura island] the cruisers inceased speed again.

The cruisers arrived in position 260° Pandan Light 10 miles at 1740GH/1 and zigzagged between that position and Nyamuk Light. It had been hoped that the destroyers would be able to leave harbour around 1800 hours but this did not materialise. HMS Tenedos was seen passing Pandan Island at 2120GH/1 and at 2140GH/1 she secured alongside HMAS Hobart to transfer 512 evacuees. She reported that HMS Scout had previously left harbour with another load of evacuees but that she had to return due to contaminated oil fuel tanks.

In view of the long delay which would be entained in waiting for HMS Scout, Capt. Howden decided to proceed ahead with HMS Tenedos via Siberut Strait [to the north of Siberut Island] and then pass through position 00.32'S, 97.10'E at 15 knots towards the position where the RFA tanker Appleleaf (5891 GRT, built 1917) should be. HMS Dragon, HMS Danae and HMS Scout were then to overtake. HMAS Hobart and HMS Tenedos therefore parted company with HMS Dragon and HMS Danae at 2207GH/1 by which time the evacuees had been transferred. HMS Dragon, HMS Danae and HMS Scout were able to proceed at 0530GH/2. They were ordered to rejoin during daylight on 3 March.

At 0150G/3, the Commander-in-Chief Eastern Fleet's signal 1635Z/2 was received by HMAS Hobart but it could not be decyphered owing to area tables for the East Indies Station not being held. Capt. Howden reduced speed to 8 knots to allow HMS Dragon, HMS Danae and HMS Scout to join around dawn and all ships were in company at 0751G/3.

HMS Dragon had been able to decypher the signal and it stated that auxiliary patrol ship HMS Kedah (Cdr.(Retd.) J.L. Sinclair, DSO, RD, RNR) was in trouble and that her speed had been reduced to three knots. Her position was 02°10'S, 90°40'E. HMS Dragon was then detached after transferring her 136 evacuees to HMAS Hobart at 1115G/3. She was to complete with fuel from the Appleleaf who was estimated to be 40 to 50 miles ahead and then to proceed to the assistance of HMS Kedah. HMS Danae and the destroyers were ordered to proceed ahead, made contact with the Appleleaf to inform her of the oil requirements of HMS Dragon.

A 1033FG/4, the Commander-in-Chief Eastern Fleet's signal 0305Z/4 was received instructing Capt. Howden to proceed with all his ships to Colombo if sufficient fuel remained. The Force therefore altered course for Colombo at 1100FG/4 when in position 05°32'N, 86°45'E.

At 1000F/5, when in position 05°47'N, 79°56'E, HMAS Hobart parted company with HMS Danae, HMS Scout and HMS Tenedos, to proceed ahead at 28 knots so as to arrive 2 hours and 20 minutes earlier then the other ships so as to avoid congestion in the harbour. En-route HMAS Hobart ran a full power trial for 40 minutes to see if any defects might have developed due to the recent near misses from bombing. The results of the trial very highly satisfactory.

HMAS Hobart arrived at Colombo at 1333F/5.

HMS Danae, HMS Scout and HMS Tenedos arrived at Colombo around 1730F/5.

Around 1030F/7, HMS Dragon arrived with HMS Kedah in tow. She had fuelled from the Appleleaf during the afternoon of the 3rd and then proceeded towards the reported position of HMS Kedah which she sighted at 0229G/5 and had her in tow around 0730G/5.

(12)

29 Mar 1942

Operations by the Eastern Fleet from 29 March to 13 April 1942.
Enemy air attacks on Colombo and later Trincomalee and the loss of HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall on 5 April 1942 and HMS Hermes, HMAS Vampire on 9 April 1942.

Dispositions of the Eastern Fleet on 29 March 1942.

On 29 March 1942 the disposition of the Eastern Fleet was as follows;
At Colombo:
Aircraft Carrier HMS Formidable (Capt. A.W.LaT. Bisset, RN), heavy cruisers HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) (refitting) and HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN), light cruisers HMS Enterprise (Capt. J.C.A. Annesley, DSO, RN), HMS Dragon (Capt. R.J. Shaw, MBE, RN) and HMS Caledon (A/Capt. H.J. Haynes, DSO, DSC, RN), the destroyers HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.D. Pugsley, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, DSO and Bar, RAN), HMS Hotspur (Lt. T.D. Herrick, DSC, RN), HMS Arrow (Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN) and HMS Express (Lt.Cdr. F.J. Cartwright, RN).

At Trincomalee:
The flagship of the Eastern Fleet, the battleship HMS Warspite (Capt. F.E.P. Hutton, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN), the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (Capt. R.F.J. Onslow, DSC, MVO, RN), light cruisers HMS Emerald (Capt. F.C. Flynn, RN) and HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Cdr. E.J. van Holte, RNN), the destroyer HMAS Vampire (Cdr. W.T.A. Moran, RAN). HMS Warspite departed Trincomalee this day and arrived at Colombo in the evening. HMS Hermes and HMAS Vampire also departed Trincomalee on the 29th.

At Addu Atoll;
The battleships HMS Resolution (Capt. A.R. Halfhide, CBE, RN , flying the flag of A/Vice-Admiral A.U. Willis, DSO, RN, second in command Eastern Fleet), HMS Ramillies (Capt. D.N.C. Tufnell, DSC, RN), HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN), HMS Revenge (Capt. L.V. Morgan, CBE, MVO, DSC, RN) the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral D.W. Boyd, CBE, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMAS Napier (Capt. S.H.T. Arliss, DSO, RN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.M. Burrell, RAN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, DSC, RAN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. R.D.H.S. Pankhurst, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Griffin (Capt. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO, RN), HMS Decoy (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. W. Harmsen, RNN).

The Japanese had been operating in the Indian Ocean in early March and more attacks were expected in this area by the Allies. The most likely target would be the island of Ceylon and the harbours of Colombo and Trincomalee.

30 and 31 March 1942.

Planning

Admiral Somerville therefore planned to concentrate the Eastern Fleet on the late afternoon / early evening of 31 March 1942 in position 04°40’N, 81°00’E. The fleet would then be divided in two groups; Force A (the fast division) was made up of the flagships, battleship HMS Warspite, both fleet carriers, HMS Indomitable and HMS Formidable. They were escorted by the cruisers HMS Cornwall, HMS Enterprise, HMS Emerald and six destroyers; HMAS Napier, HMAS Nestor, HMS Paladin, HMS Panther, HMS Hotspur and HMS Foxhound. This force would try to intercept the enemy and deliver a night air attack on the enemy with their carriers as the main target.

Force A would be covered by the slower Force B which was made up of the battleships HMS Resolution, HMS Ramillies, HMS Royal Sovereign and the light carrier HMS Hermes. Escort to these ships was proviced by the cruisers HMS Dragon, HMS Caledon, HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck and a total of eight destroyers HMS Griffin, HMS Decoy, HMAS Norman, HMS Fortune, HrMs Isaac Sweers, HMS Arrow and one of the old destroyers that had managed to escape from the China station also joined, this was HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN). They were to remain about 20 nautical miles to the west of Force A. If Force A encountered a superior enemy force the would withdraw towards Force B.

At 1400/30 the ships mentioned earlier at the top of this article departed Colombo. HMS Hotspur and HMAS Nestor carried out an A/S sweep of the searched channel before Force A sailed.

By 1600/31 the fleet had made the pre-arranged rendez-vous and formed up. It then proceeded northwards. After dark, to avoid detection from the air by the enemy, Force A altered course to 080° and proceeded at 15 knots until about 0230 hours when it was thought they would be in the estimated position from where the enemy would fly off their aircraft for the expected attack on Ceylon. If nothing was sighted or located by 0230/1, Force A was to turn back to the south-west and to withdraw outside the enemy’s air search area. Force B was to act as a supporting force for Force A, keeping 20 miles to the west of it and confirming to the movements of Force A through the night. This procedure was carried out as planned during the night of 31 March / 1 April but nothing was seen or located.

In the late afternoon / early evening of 31 March HMS Indomitable briefly separated from the fleet for flying operations during which she was escorted by HMS Emerald. From 2100/31 to 0600/1 a search was carried out, to a depth of 120 miles from 050° to 110°, by three A.S.V. fitted Albacores from HMS Formidable. Also two Albacores fitted with long-range tanks were kept standing by for shadowing purposes if required. One of the Albacores crash landed on HMS Formidable upon return at 0340/1.

1 April 1942.

At 0940 hours HMS Decoy reported the breakdown of her main feed pumps. She was detached to Colombo to effect repairs.

Around noon several of the destroyers reported submerged contacts. HMS Scout reported sighting a periscope. The fleet took avoiding action in each case, but nothing further transpired from these contact which are now considered to be non-sub.

At 1400 hours, HMS Scout, one of the oldest destroyers of the Royal Navy with a short enducance, was detached to oil at sea from RFA Appleleaf (5892 GRT, built 1917, Master E. Mills) in position 04°00’N, 80°00’E. Upon completion of oiling HMS Scout was to proceed to position 05°40’N, 81°08’E by 0800/2. RFA Appleleaf and her escort, HMS Shoreham (Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR), were to proceed towards a new waiting position 05°00’N, 80°30’E.

In the afternoon, around 1420 hours, HMS Dorsetshire joined Force A. This cruiser had been refitting at Colombo but this refit was cut short to enable her to take part in this operation. Air searches were carried out from Ceylon as the days before but they sighted nothing of the enemy. Also from 1430/1800 hours a search was carried out by aircraft from HMS Indomitable between 142° to 207° to a depth of 215 miles. Admiral Somerville decided to carry out the same sweep to the north-east as had been done the previous night. Again nothing was seen and Force A made rendez-vous with Force B at daybreak on 2 April 1942.

2 April 1942.

At 0800 hours the destroyers HMS Fortune and HMAS Vampire were detached to fuel from RFA Appleleaf in position 05°00’N, 80°30’E. and an Albacore was ordered to search for HMS Scout and order her to rejoin the fleet. Shortly after noon the fleet sighted RFA Appleleaf, HMS Shoreham, HMS Fortune and HMAS Vampire. The last two ships then rejoined the fleet while the tanker and it’s escort were ordered to proceed towards Colombo at 1200/3.

During the day the Eastern Fleet cruised in an area about 50 miles further to the west then the previous day to avoid being detected by enemy submarines that had been reported. Throughout the day several of the escorting destroyers obtained unconfirmed echoes. Two more destroyers fuelled during the afternoon, HMAS Napier and HMS Arrow took in fuel from HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall.

As the enemy had not shown herself by 2100 hours, Admiral Somerville decided to proceed to Addu Atoll to fuel and to take on fresh water as the R-class battleships were running out of this as they had been unable to top up at Addu Atoll before they sailed.

3 April 1942.

At 0520 hours, the destroyer HMS Fortune was detached to search for survivors from the merchant vessel Glensheil (9415 GRT, built 1924) that had been torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-7 in position 00°48’S, 78°35’E at 0230 hours. HMS Fortune picked up 88 survivors and then proceeded to Addu Atoll where she arrived at 1130/4.

As at this time Admiral Somerville felt confident that something must have held up the Japanese or that their intentions were incorrectly appreciated. At 0940 hours, he sent HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall to Colombo. The former to continue her refit and the latter to act as escort for the Australian troop convoy SU 4. HMS Hermes and the destroyer HMAS Vampire were also detached but to Trincomalee as HMS Hermes was to prepare for the upcoming operation ‘Ironclad’, the attack on Madagascar. HMS Hermes and HMAS Vampire arrived at Trincomalee on the 4th.

Late in the morning three of the destroyers of the screen oiled from the battleships; HMAS Norman from HMS Warspite, HMS Griffin from HMS Revenge and HMS Foxhound from HMS Royal Sovereign.

At 1820 hours Force A proceeded ahead to Addu Atoll at 19 knots followed by Force B at 15 knots. Force A arrived at Addu Atoll at 1200/4. Force B at 1500/4.

4 April 1942.

In the early morning hours, and while approaching Addu Atoll, a simulated air strike was carried out on Force B by aircraft from HMS Indomitable and HMS Formidable. One aircraft crashed into the sea, it’s crew was picked up by the Dutch AA-cruiser Jacob van Heemskerck. A second simulated air attack was made on Force A later in the morning.

At 1630 hours, Admiral Somerville received a report that a large enemy force was in position 00°40’N, 83°10’E at 1605/F. Enemy course was 315°. Shortly afterwards this report was confirmed by another report in which they gave an enemy course of 330°. This positioned the enemy in a position 155° from Dondra Head, 360 miles, the distance from Addu Atoll being 085°, 600 miles. There was no indication about the composition of this force.

The condition of the Eastern Fleet at Addu Atoll at that time was as follows; Owning 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 fuelling. 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 could sail immediately, minus HMS Emerald and HMS Enterprise. These cruisers could sail shortly after midnight. Force B could not leave until 0700 hours the following morning at the earliest.

It appeared that the enemy’s probable plan was as follows. All the evidence supported Admiral Somerville’s 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 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 5 April 1942.

Admiral Somerville considered his possible courses of action were as follows: 1) Force A, less HMS Emerald and HMS Enterprise to proceed immediately at best speed to the area to the south of Ceylon and to be joined there by HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall coming from Colombo and attack any enemy force located. 2) Delay the sailing of Force A until HMS Emerald and HMS Enterprise, valuable units with their strong torpedo armament, had completed refuelling and sail about midnight. Force B could sail in the morning of the 5th and follow astern to act as a supporting force. 3) Delay the sailing of Force A until both force could leave together on the morning of the 5th. 4) Force A and Force B would remain at Addu Atoll and leave the RAF to deal with the enemy attack.

The choise Admiral Somerville made was governed by the following considerations: 1) First and foremost the total defence of the Indian Ocean and it’s vital lines of communication depend on the existence of the Eastern Fleet. The longer this fleet remained ‘in being’ the longer it would 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 Admiral Somerville’s opinion, paramount. 2) The only hope of dealing the enemy an affective blow was by means of a carrier borne air striking force preferably at night. To operate both carriers escorted by HMS Warspite out of supporting distance of the ‘R’-class battleships would offer the enemy an opportunity to cripple our only offensive weapon. Admiral Somerville considered it a cardinal point in any operation the Force A should not proceed out of the supporting distance from Force B unless it could be presumed that that enemy capital ships would not be encountered. 3) No matter what course of action Admiral Somerville would take the enemy force could not be intercepted either before or during the attack on Ceylon on the morning of the 5th. The only hope was that the air striking force from Ceylon might inflict damage to the enemy so that the Eastern Fleet could ‘finish them off’, or that the enemy attack on Ceylon would be delayed 24 hours.

Admiral Somerville therefore decided to adopt ‘plan 2’. So he sailed Force A including both E-class cruisers at midnight and ordered Force B to proceed as early as possible the following morning.

Admiral Somerville therefore instructed HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall to sail from Colombo and to make rendez-vous with Force A at 1600/5 in position 00°58’N, 77°36’E. The position of this rendez-vous was based on their expected time of departure from Colombo and estimated as being the earliest possible time at which they could cross the track of Force A, taking into consideration that HMS Dorsetshire had resumed her refit and was at extended notice. Admiral Somerville considered that the course to be steered should 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 discretion, sailed at 2300/4 for Addu Atoll. On receipt of the signal from Admiral Somerville the Deputy Commander-in-Chief amended his instructions accordingly at 0409/5.

5 April 1942.

Force A sailed from Addu Atoll at 0015 hours and proceeded 070° at 18 knots towards a position which would bring it 250 miles south of Ceylon by dawn on the 6th. Shortly before departure the destroyer HMS Hotspur conducted an A/S search of the entrance to Addu Atoll.

During the night Admiral Somerville received reports from the Catalina reconnaissance aircraft on patrol from Ceylon of an enemy destroyer in position 01°59’N, 82°20’E, course 315°, speed 20 knots; six enemy destroyers in position 02°54’N, 82°10’E, course 325°, speed 21 knots; and at 0701 hours a report of one battleship, two cruisers an four other ships in position 195°, Dondra Head, 110 miles. Later this message was subsequently amplified to the effect that the vessels previously reported were definitely hostile and consisted of two battleships, two cruisers and destroyers.

At about 0825 hours an air raid on shipping and harbour facilities at Colombo was commenced in which some 75 aircraft were taking part. These were later reported to be mainly Navy ‘O’ fighters, armed with one bomb each. This enemy force withdrew from Colombo before 0900 hours and was seen by several merchant ships to the south-west of Ceylon probably returning to the carriers. In several cases these merchant were machine gunned.

From 0645 hours an air A/S patrol was maintained ahead of the fleet. HMS Indomitable also sent four Fulmars to commence a search to the eastward. This search covered the area between the arcs 055° to 105° to a depth of 215 miles. It proved negative except for the sighting of an enemy seaplane at 0855 hours, 076°, 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 of the main enemy force. There was no indication that this aircraft sighted any of our surface forces or our air search.

Between 0702 and 1145 hours, Admiral Somerville received reports of battleships in approximate positions 03°55’N, 80°40’E, steering 290° at 0648 hours, steering 120° at 0730 hours, and at 1004 hours in position 04°00’N, 80°25’E steering 282°. This suggested that the battleships were making time while the carriers recovered their aircraft. The estimated position of HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall at this time was 150 miles from the enemy and opening.

At 1327 hours a mutilated ‘Shad’ signal was received from what was thought to be Colombo but was identified half an hour later as coming from HMS Dorsetshire whose position was estimated as being 037°, 90 miles from Force A at 1400 hours. No contact could be established.

At 1344 hours an enemy air formation was detected by RD/F, 030°, 84 miles from Force A. This had faded after five minutes and it later it became clear that this was the enemy attacking the Dorsetshire and Cornwall. At 1552 hours, a reconnaissance aircraft from Force A, reported wreckage in position 02°08’N, 78°08’E.

The destroyer HMS Panther was then detached to search but was recalled about one hour later when a reconnaissance aircraft from Force A reported a force of 5 ‘unknown’ ships in position 03°38’N, 78°18’E at 100 hours. There was no indication of the course or speed of the enemy but it could be either a force previously unreported or the force previously and last reported 1004 hours.

No relief shadowers were however sent off by the Rear-Admiral aircraft carriers as soon s the report was received and Admiral Somerville omitted to obtain confirmation that this had been done. At 1700 hours, Admiral Somerville, received a report from Ceylon that there were indications of enemy aircraft carriers steering 230° at 24 knots from an unknown position at 1400 hours. This was thought to be subsequent to the attack on our 8” cruisers and Admiral Somerville’s deductions from this enemy moves were as follows. If the enemy held on this course they would at 0400 be in a position to deliver a night 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 of Force A) to steer to the southward so that Force A and B could close for supporting action at daylight the following morning (April 6th). It was also necessary for Force B to steer to the southward to keep clear of the enemy carrier force should it be proceeding to attack Addu Atoll.

At 1726 hours, therefore, Force A altered course to 210° at 18 knots and a signal was made to Vice-Admiral second-in-Command and to HMS Dorsetshire to steer south, although at this time Admiral Somerville feared about the fate of the two heavy cruisers. As he had received no signal from them that they had been attacked he thought it possible they had escaped and maintained W/T silence.

At 1800 hours Admiral Somerville received a signal from the Rear-Admiral Aircraft Carriers, stating that a reconnaissance aircraft reported the estimated enemy position as 020°, 120 miles at 1710 hours. This position was very close to the previous position reported at 1600 hours. The course of the enemy had not been given in either of these reports but the positions fitted in well with the course received earlier (230°).

At 1817 hours, a further signal was received from the Rear-Admiral Aircraft Carriers, adjusting the 1600 hours position of the enemy’s force, amplifying it to include two carriers and three unknown vessels and giving the course north-west. This was the first indication Admiral Somerville had of the enemy now proceeding to the north-west. He immediately ordered force A to alter course to 315° and instructed the Vice-Admiral, second-in-Command to conform. These movements had to object of keeping Force A within night air striking distance of the enemy force, trusting to an A.S.V. (airborne surface vessel radar) search to locate the enemy and to bring Force B within supporting distance should it be necessary to retire in that direction. A dawn rendez-vous was arranged with Force B in approximate position 03°00’N, 75°00’E.

As no news had been received of HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall it was assumed they had been sunk.

At 1930 hours a night search with A.S.V. aircraft was commenced to cover the sector 345° to 030° to a depth of 180 nautical miles. Northing was located on this search.

6 April 1942.

From 2100/5 to 0600/6 further A.S.V. searches were carried out to cover the sector 020° to 080° to a depth of 200 miles. These searches also failed to make any contact with the enemy but reported that Force B was 220°, 25 miles from Force A at 0400 hours.

At 0615 hours, Force A altered course to 135° and sighted Force B ten minutes later. By 0720 hours the Fleet was formed up and course was altered to 090°.

Whilst no furher information had been received regarding the enemy’s movements nothing had 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.

Admiral Somerville intended to keep clear of the superior enemy forces by day. It was still his intention to get into a position to attack them with a night air striking force on their possible return from at Addu Atoll area, and also rescue the possible survivors from HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall. He therefore steered east and at 1115 hours course was altered to south-east in the direction of the wreckage that had been reported the previous evening. During the morning reports came in from merchant ships being attacked in the Bay of Bengal. There must be a second Japanese force operating there.

At 1300 hours HMS Enterprise, HMS Paladin and HMS Panther were detached to search for survivors in the vicinity of the wreckage position. Air search was provided to assist and fighter escort was sent to cover the operation. These ships were successful in picking up a total of 1122 survivors from both heavy cruisers. They rejoined the fleet at noon the following day. At 1800/6, when about 50 miles from the wreckage position course was reversed and the fleet retired to the north-west. All-round air searches were carried out to a depth of 200 miles but again nothing was seen.

At about 1400 hours a signal was received from the C-in-C, Ceylon estimating that a strong Japanese force was still somewhere between Addu Atoll and Colombo. Admiral Somerville therefore decided to keep clear of the Addu area until daylight on the 7th.

7 April 1942.

At 0200 hours the Eastern Fleet altered course to the west, 270°.

At 0427 hours, an A.S.V. aircraft located two submarines in position 02°08’N, 75°16’E and 02°46’N, 75°10’E, to the southward of the course of the Eastern Fleet. This indicated that the possibility of an enemy submarine patrol having been established to cover the eastern approaches to Addu Atoll. Admiral Somerville therefore decided to pass through Veimandu Channel to the west of the Maldives and make an unexpected approach to Addu Atoll from the west. At 0700 hours the course of the fleet was altered to 210°.

At 1335 hours, HMS Fortune was detached to investigate a ship contact made by HMS Emerald but no ship was sighted. Fortune only rejoined the fleet at about 0600/8.

At 1600 hours, HMS Enterprise, HMS Paladin and HMS Panther rejoined with the survivors they had picked up and medical stores were transferred from HMS Warspite to HMS Paladin for treatment of the wounded. Enterprise and Paladin were then detached to proceed immediately to Addu Atoll.

At 2100 hours, the Eastern Fleet altered course to 160°.

8 April 1942.

At 0700 hours aircraft were flown off from the carriers to carry out an all-round search to a depth of 175 miles. Again nothing was seen and at 1100 hours the Eastern Fleet entered Addu Atoll. Refuelling commenced immediately, Force B being refuelled first.

Admiral Somerville held a conference on board HMS Warspite with Flag and Commanding Officers in the afternoon.

Having discussed the situation Admiral Somerville decided to sent Force B to Kilindini and to proceed to Bombay with Force A. This later decision coincided with Their Lordships views as later in the day he received Their Lordships instructions that Force A was not to be sent to Colombo for the time being. Further by proceeding to Bombay the could arrange a meeting with the Commander-in-Chief, India and discuss the situation in the Far East with him.

At 1800 hours HMAS Nestor departed Addu Atoll to maintain an A/S patrol in the sector between 090° to 150° to a depth of 35 miles from the Port War Signal Station. One hour earlier HMS Resolution launched her Walrus aircraft for a ‘round the island’ A/S patrol. It returned at dusk.

9 April 1942.

Force B (less HMS Dragon sailed for Kilindini at 0200 hours where it was due to arrive on April 15th. Force A sailed at 0600 hours for Bombay shaping course to pass to the westward of the Maldives.

During the morning Admiral Somerville was informed of further Japanese attacks in the Bay of Bengal and on Trincomalee and the sinking of several ships, including HMS Hermes and HMAS Vampire but nothing could be done about this.

10 April 1942.

At 1000 hours HMS Panther closed HMS Warspite to transfer Staff Officers for passage to Colombo where they were to inform the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet of Admiral Somerville’s views and make preliminary arrangements to transfer Admiral Somerville’s administrative staff and secretariat to Kilindini.

11 April 1942.

At 0705 hours, HMS Paladin rejoined Force A bringing back the Staff Officers who had been transferred to her on 10 April and also Rear-Admiral Danckwerts, Admiral Somerville’s Chief of Staff ashore. Force A arrived at Bombay later that morning (1040 hours) and commenced oiling.

Japanese operation in the Indian Ocean in late March 1942 and April 1942.

On 26 March 1943 the 1st Japanese Carrier Fleet departed Staring Bay, Celebes, Netherlands East Indies for a raid on Ceylon. This Fleet was made up of the aircraft carriers Akagi, Hiryu, Soryu, Zuikaku, Shokaku, battlecruisers Kongo, Haruna, Hiei, Kirishima, heavy cruisers Tone, Chikuma and the destroyers Urakaze, Tanikaze, Isokaze, Hamakaze, Kasumi, Arare, Kagero, Shiranuhi and Akigumo. This force then proceeded west of Timor and to a position to the south of Java where they fuelled from oilers on April 1st.

On 27 March the Japanese submarines I-2, I-3, I-4, I-5, I-6 and I-7 departed Penang to take up positions in the Indian Ocean for the upcoming operation.

On 1 April the Japanese Mayala Force departed Mergui for operations in the Bay of Bengal. This force was made up of the heavy cruisers Chokai, Kumano, Mikuma, Mogami, Suzuya, aircraft carrier Ryujo, light cruiser Yura, and the destroyers Fubuki, Shirayuki, Hatsuyuki and Murakumo. On 4 April the estroyers were substituted for four other destroyers; Amagiri, Asagiri, Shirakumo and Yugiri.

On 5 April the Japanse 1st Carrier Fleet launched their air attack on Colombo. 53 bombers, 38 dive bombers and 36 fighters were launched. They destroyed 19 Hurricane fighters, 1 Fulmar fighter and 6 Swordfish torpedo bombers. At Colombo the harbour facilities were heavily damaged and the armed merchant cruiser HMS Hector and destroyer HMS Tenedos were sunk.

Then around noon a reconnaissance aircraft from the Tone sighted the heavy cruisers HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall. The 1st Carrier Fleet immediately launched an attack force of 53 dive bombers that sank both cruisers with the loss of 424 members of their crews (Dorsetshire 234 and Cornwall 190). The Japanese then retired to the south-east.

In the evening of 5 April the Japanese Malaya-Force was ordered to commence attacking Allied shipping along the Indian east coast. On 6 April the northern group (Kumano, Suzuya and Shirakumo destroyed 9 ships off Puri (Orissa). The central group (Chokai, Yura, Asagiri and Yugiri) sank 4 ships. The southern group (Mikuma, Mogami and Amagiri sank 3 ships and damaged 2 more. Meanwhile aircraft from the carrier Ryuju, which operated with the central group, sank 4 more ships and damaged 1 more. In all about 92000 GRT of shipping was sunk.

On 8 April 1942 a Catalina aircraft spotted the Japanese 1st Carrier Fleet proceeding for an attack on Trincomalee but the Eastern Fleet was approaching Addu Atoll to refuel and could do nothing. Shipping at Trincomalee was ordered to leave port and proceed to the southward. In the morning of the following day 91 Japanese bombers and 41 fighters attacked Trincomalee. They destoyed 9 Hurricane and Fulmar fighters and 14 aircraft on the ground. The harbour most mostly empty but they sank a merchant vessel and 4 aircraft it had on board and not unloaded yet. Also the British monitor HMS Erebus (Capt. H.F. Nalder, RN) was damged. The Japanese 1st Carrier Fleet was then attacked by 9 Blenheim bombers but they inflicted no damage for 5 of their own lost to Japanese fighter cover. Then Japanese reconnaissance aircraft from the Haruna sighted ships escaping southwards. 85 Dive bombers and 3 fighters were then launched which sank HMS Hermes and HMAS Vampire as well as the corvette HMS Hollyhock (Lt.Cdr. T.E. Davies, OBE, RNR), two tankers and a merchant ship.

By mid-April 1942 all Japanese forces had returned to their bases. (13)

23 Apr 1942
HMS Warspite (Capt. F.E.P. Hutton, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN), HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral D.W. Boyd, CBE, DSC, RN), HMS Formidable (Capt. A.W.LaT. Bisset, RN), HMS Newcastle (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Emerald (Capt. F.C. Flynn, RN), HMS Enterprise (Capt. J.C.A. Annesley, DSO, RN), HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Cdr. E.J. van Holte, RNN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.D. Pugsley, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, DSO and Bar, RAN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.M. Burrell, RAN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) HMS Decoy (Lt.Cdr. G.I.M. Balfour, RN) and HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN) arrived at Colombo. This last destroyer had joined the previous day coming from Cochin. (14)

13 May 1942
HrMs O 19 (Lt.Cdr. H.F. Bach Kolling, RNN(R)) departed Colombo for Bombay together with the Dutch submarine tender HrMs Colombia (Capt. J.L.K. Hoeke, RNN) and the Dutch submarine HrMs O 23 (Lt.Cdr. A.M. Valkenburg, RNN). They were escorted by the British destroyer HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN). (15)

30 Jul 1942

Operation Stab.

Diversionary operation in the Bay of Bengal.

The object of this diversionary operation in which landings on the Andaman Islands simulated was to distract Japanese naval forces in conjunction with American operations in the Solomons.

To simulate landing forces three convoys were to leave India and Ceylon. These were;
' Force V ', sailing from Vizagapatam.
Tansports Blackheath (British, 4637 GRT, built 1936), Cranfield (British, 5332 GRT, built 1919) and Mahout (British, 7921 GRT, built 1925). These ships were escorted by the sloop HMIS Jumna (Cdr. J.E.N. Coope, RIN, Senior Officer) and the destroyer HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN).

' Force M ', sailing from Madras
Transports Clan McIver (British, 4606 GRT, built 1921), Custodian (British, 5881 GRT, built 1928), Hoperange (British, 5177 GRT, built 1939), Tasmania (British, 6405 GRT, built 1935) and Yuen Sang (British, 3229 GRT, built 1923). These ships were escorted by the fast minelayer HMS Manxman (Capt. R.K. Dickson, RN, Senior Officer), corvette HMS Aster (Lt. W.L. Smith, RNR) and patrol vessel HMIS Sonavati (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.F. Smith, RINR).

' Force T ', sailing from Trincomalee
Transport (RAF Tender) Shengking (British, 2999 GRT, built 1931) and the tankers Marit Maersk (Danish, 1894 GRT, built 1938), Appleleaf (Royal Fleet Auxiliary, 5892 GRT, built 1917) and Broomdale (Royal Fleet Auxiliary, 8334 GRT, built 1937). These ships were escorted by the sloop HMIS Hindustan (A/Cdr. I.B.W Heanly, RIN, Senior Officer) and the corvette HMS Marguerite (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Blundell, RNR).

These forces were to proceed at best speed and reverse their course after dark at 1700Z/1 and return to their ports at best speed to arrive there before dusk on 2 August 1942.

' Force A ' of the Eastern Fleet was to sail from Colombo at 0400Z/31 so as to be eastward of Trincomalee by the time ' Force T ' was due to sail on the 1st August. Thereafter, ' Force A ' was to cover ' Force T ' from the eastward during the 1st and 2nd August. Subsequent movements of ' Force A ' were to depend on the situation, the force finally returning to Colombo about the 4th August.

During the night of 1/2 August, whilst forces are at sea, a wireless diversion (called Operation Spark) was to be carried out to simulate the following events.
1.) An imaginary collision was to occur in ' Force M '.
2.) One of the damaged ships was to make a plain language W/T signal reporting she had been in collision and is unable to proceed on the operation. One of the escort was to order her to keep silence and later to report to the Commander-in-Chief that ' Force M ' was unable to proceed. The Commander-in-Chief was then to postpone the operation and order all forces to return to their ports.
3.) Shore Wireless Stations were to carry out their normal W/T procedure.

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.

At 2200F/30, the Commander-in-Chief received the following enemy report from the Dutch submarine HrMs O 23 (Lt.Cdr. A.M. Valkenburg, RNN) which was on patrol in the Malacca Straits: ' Two cruisers of the Takao-class and four destroyers in position 05°32'N, 98°50'E. Course 340°. Speed 14 knots. Torpedoes missed. Time of Origin of the signal of HrMs O 23 was 2352Z/28.

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 Andaman Island. 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.

HrMs 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, she was ordered to remain on patrol until 3rd August.

Forces ' T ' and ' M ' were provided with air cover (this was not possible for ' Force V '), 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 '. The Commander-in-Chief therefore decided to cancel the sailing of ' Force V ', but that all preparations for its departure were to continue.

In view of the enemy cruisers reported in the Malacca Straits on 29th July, The Commander-in-Chief decided to proceed with ' Force A ' from Colombo in the afternoon of 30 July. This would enable operation 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.

' Force A ', comprising the battleship HMS Warspite (Capt. F.E.P. Hutton, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral D.W. Boyd, CBE, DSC, RN), HMS Formidable (Capt. A.W.LaT. Bisset, RN), light cruisers HMS Birmingham (Capt. H.B. Crane, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Mauritius (Capt. W.D. Stephens, RN), AA cruiser HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Cdr. E.J. van Holte, RNN) and the destroyers HMAS Napier (Capt. S.H.T. Arliss, DSO, RN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.M. Burrell, RAN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr M.J. Clark, DSC, RAN), HrMs Van Galen (Lt.Cdr. F.T. Burghard, RNN) and HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) sailed from Colombo at 1700F/30.

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

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

Since no further information of the enemy cruiser force had been received, the Commander-in-Chief decided at 1100F/31 to postpone the sailing of ' Force M ' until 4 hours later 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.

' Force T ' sailed from Trincomalee at the prearranged time, 0900F/1. At that time ' Force A ' was 40 miles north-east of Trincomalee, course south-west. At 1000F/1 course was altered to north-east, 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 0830F/1 to cover the section 340° to 000° to 130° to a depth of 150 nautical miles. This search saw nothing.

At 1040F/1, when ' Force A ' was in position 09°00'N, 21°42'E, 40 nautical miles north-east of Trincomalee, course northeast, an RDF contact was obtained on an aircraft bearing 100° range 73 miles. This was at first through to be one of the reconnaissance aircraft returning, but the absence of IFF indication being the unfortunately the rule rather than the exception. This aircraft was tracked around the fleet and passed astern at 1130F/1 on a bearing 220°, range 24 miles thence proceeded to the north-westward and finally faded on bearing 060° at 60 miles at 1215F/1. The aircraft was sighted by HMS Formidable and identified by two officers and an air lookout as a Catalina and reported as such. HMS 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.

At noon a fighter umbrella of two Martlets was maintained by HMS 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 earlier not been wrongly identified as a Catalina, The Commander-in-Chief was convinced that it could have been intercepted by Martlets that were ranged at readiness in both aircraft carriers.

A further air search was sent out at 1500F/1 to cover the sector from 000° to 110° to a depth of 150 miles but nothing was seen.

At 1800F/1, one of the Fulmar search aircraft made an emergency landing on HMS Illustrious, but crashed on desk due to a fractured oil pipe spraying the pilot’s windscreen, and was badly damaged.

At 1830F/1, all the search aircraft except two Fulmars had returned to their carriers. The two missing aircraft reported to HMS Formidable by wireless that they were lost and requested D/F bearings. The Commander-in-Chief at once ordered wireless silence to be broken to home these aircraft. The fleet was turned at 1840F/1 to close one of the aircraft when bearing had been definitely established by D/F and RDF. Searchlights were burned at dusk to assist returning aircraft and at 1920F/1 Very’s lights were sighted to the south-west. 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 HMAS Norman.

By 2000F/1. ' 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, The Commander-in-Chief decided it was preferable to return to this area at dawn and carry out a daytime air search. The Commander-in-Chief therefore continued to the north-west and at 0100F/2 in position 11°30'N, 82°15'E, course was reversed to the south-east and at daylight course was altered to south.

The wireless diversion (Operation Spark) was carried out as previously arranged during the night at 2300F/1 and appears to have been fully effective.

At 0630F/2, 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 of two was lost. Catalinas which would be operating through this area were requested to keep a good lookout for survivors.

At 1030F/2, despatches were transferred by HMAS Norman from HMS Warspite to HMS Illustrious and thence sent by aircraft to Trincomalee for onward transmission. At 1100F/2, HMS Formidable flew off two Martlets as fighter umbrella. At 1112F/2, both carriers reported RDF contact on an aircraft bearing 055°, range 55 miles. HMS Formidable directed two Martlets onto this aircraft. When the fighters sighted the enemy flying boat at 10000 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 09°26'N, 83°16'E. 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. No survivors were seen.

In the meantime at 111F/2 a further two Martlets each were flown off by the carriers. One of these Martlets from HMS Formidable crashed into the sea on taking off. The pilot was rescued by HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck.

A fighter umbrella of two Martlets was maintained for the rest of the day by HMS Illustrious. At 1530F/2 one of these Martlets appeared to have an engine failure and crashed into the sea whilst approaching to land on. The pilot was lost.

At about 1100F/2, the Commander-in-Chief had received information from the Flag Officer, Ceylon that Air Headquarters Bengal considered there were indications of naval activity south of the Andamans at 2300Z/31, that pointed to the possibility of an attack on Madras at dawn on the 3rd August 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.

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. The Commander-in-Chief 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, The Commander-in-Chief considered the following factors would make it very improbable.
1.) ' Force A ', probably having been sighted by the Japanese flying boat A.M. 1st August.
2.) ' Force A ', breaking wireless silence to endeavour to recover aircraft on the evening of 1st August. 3.) The wireless diversion (Operation Spark), carried out on the night of 1st/2nd August.

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

' Force A ' entered Trincomalee at 1915F/2 and refuelling of destroyers commenced at once and as completed at 2200F/2 when it had been intended that ' Force A ' should sail again.

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.

It was not until ' Force A ' arrived at Trincomalee at 1900F/2 that the Commander-in-Chief 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, the Commander-in-Chief decided that there was no real basis for this report and in view of HMS Formidable and HMS Birmingham being required at an early date to return to Kilindini for Operation Streamline Jane, the Commander-in-Chief decided the ' Force A ' should return to Colombo.

The Commander-in-Chief informed Their Lordships of his revised intentions in his message 1649Z/2.

' Force A ' sailed accordingly from Trincomalee at 0600F/3 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.

At 1030F/3, HMS Manxman, who was returning from Madras to Colombo, as about 30 miles south-west of ' Force A '. An aircraft was sent to order her to join ' Force A ', which she did at 1300F/3.

At 1430F/3, HMS Illustrious obtained an RDF contact on an aircraft bearing 60° and at 1440F/3, HMS Warspite obtained a doubtful contact on the same bearing at a range of 50 miles. Both contacts faded ten minutes later. At that time ' Force A ' was in position approximately 06°40'N, 82°10'E. The RDF 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.

Before leaving Trincomalee the Commander-in-Chief had proposed to Air Officer Commanding, Ceylon that opportunity should be taken to exercise that Fighter Direction of shore based fighters from HM ships and any other air exercises he might wish to carry out.

From 1645F/3 to 1800F/3, successful fighter direction exercise was carried out using two Fulmars from HMS Illustrious as the enemy. R/T communication was obtained quickly and no difficulty experienced in directing the Hurricanes on to their target. From 1800F/3 till dusk these two Fulmars took over the duties of fighter umbrella.

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

At 1850F/3, HMS Illustrious reported an aircraft in sight bearing 190° and directed the fighter umbrella of two Fulmars to investigate. This aircraft which was clearly in sight from HMS 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. HMS 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 the Commander-in-Chief regret to report that one airman was killed and two injured and the Catalina’s rudder damaged. The Fulmars returned to HMS Illustrious and from subsequent signals it appeared that the Catalina was still airborne and returning to her base. As a safety measure HMS Mauritius and HMS Manxman were detached to search the area in case the Catalina was forced to land, but were recalled when it was clear from RDF bearings that the Catalina was proceeding to Koggala.

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 0530F/4 to 0645F/4 another fighter direction exercise with shore based aircraft was successfully carried out.

' Force A ' arrived at Colombo at 0900F/4. (13)

23 Aug 1942

Convoys US 16 and US 17.

Convoy US 16.

Convoy US 16 departed Sydney on 23 August 1942.

It was made up of the following (troop) transports; Aronda (British, 9031 GRT, built 1941) and Devonshire (British, 11275 GRT, built 1939).

The convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Kanimbla (A/Capt. W.L.G. Adams, RN).

The transport Rajula (British, 8478 GRT, built 1926) joined the convoy PM on the 27th in position 18°40'S, 140°40'E.

The convoy was joined by the light cruiser HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) at 0845H/2.

The convoy arrived at Fremantle on 3 September 1942.

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Convoy US 17.

Convoy US 17 departed Sydney on 24 August 1942.

It was made up of the following (troop) transports; Ekma (British, 5108 GRT, built 1911), Felix Roussel (British, 17083 GRT, built 1930), Lilian Luckenbach (American, 6339 GRT, built 1919), Westernland (Dutch, 16479 GRT, built 1918).

The convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMAS Manoora (A/Capt. J.M. Armstrong, RAN).

At 1415K/28, the convoy was joined by the light cruiser HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) coming from Melbourne.

The convoy arrived at Fremantle on 4 September 1942.

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The now combined convoy US 16 / US 17 departed Fremantle on 7 September. It was now escorted by the light cruisers HMAS Adelaide, HrMs Tromp, armed merchant cruisers HMS Kanimbla, HMAS Manoora and the destroyer HMAS Voyager (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Robison DSC, RAN).

Around 0700H/8, HMAS Voyager was detached to return to Fremantle.

Around 1000FG/11, the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, CBE, DSC, RN) joined the convoy coming from Colombo. HMAS Adelaide and HrMs Tromp then parted company to return to Fremantle.

Around 0930FG/14, the light cruiser HMS Mauritius (Capt. W.D. Stephens, RN) joined the convoy which was then split up. HMS Mauritius and HMS Kanimbla proceeded to Colombo with convoy US 16. HMS Devonshire proceeded to Durban with convoy US 17. HMAS Manoora returned to Fremantle.

Convoy US 16 was joined by the destroyer HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H. Lambton, RN) around 0900FG/19. Later the same day HMS Scout developed rudder problems and had to be steered by her engines. She and HMS Kanimbla were then detached to proceed to Colombo in company while HMS Mauritius remained with the convoy. Both the convoy escorted by HMS Mauritius and HMS Scout in company with HMS Kanimbla arrived at Colombo on 23 September 1942.

Convoy US 16 departed Colombo for Aden on 24 September 1942 now escorted by the light cruiser HMS Mauritius, sloop HMS Shoreham (Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR) and the minelayer HrMs Willem van der Zaan (Lt.Cdr. G.P. Küller, RNN).

Around 2000F/26, HrMs Willem van der Zaan parted company with convoy US 16 to return to Colombo where she arrived on 29 September 1942.

Around 0800F/28, HMS Shoreham parted company with convoy US 16 to proceed to Bombay where she arrived on 1 October 1942.

Convoy US 16 arrived at Aden on 2 October 1942.

Convoy US 17 meanwhile had arrived at Durban on 23 September 1942.

1 Mar 1943
Around 0720FG/1, HMS Devonshire (Capt. D. Young-Jamieson, RN) turned over the escort for the US troopship USS Monticello (Cdr. B.B. Lanier, USNR) (25661 GRT, built 1928, former Italian liner Conte Grande) to the destroyer HMS Scout (Lt. R.G. Woodward, RN).

HMS Devonshire then entered Colombo harbour while the US troopship continued on to Bombay escorted by HMS Scout. (16)

13 Mar 1943
HrMs O 23 (Lt.Cdr. A.M. Valkenburg, RNN) conducted exercises off Colombo with HMS Scout (Lt. R.G. Woodward, RN). (17)

3 Apr 1943
HrMs O 23 (Lt.Cdr. A.M. Valkenburg, RNN) conducted exercises off Colombo with HMS Scout (Lt. R.G. Woodward, RN) and HMAS Lismore (T/Lt. L.C.G. Lever, RANR(S)). (17)

3 Oct 1943

Convoy KR 7

This convoy departed Kilindini on 3 October 1943 and arrived at Colombo on 12 October 1943.

The convoy was made up of the following (troop)transports; Ascania (British, GRT, built ), Circassia (British, 11136 GRT, built 1937) and Winchester Castle (British, 20012 GRT, built 1930).

On departure from Kilindini the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. C.L. Robertson, RN) and the destroyers HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, DSO, RN) and HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN).

At 0605E/7, HMS Quality and HMAS Quiberon parted company with the convoy to return to Kilindini where they arrived on the 9th.

Around 1200F/10, the minesweeper HMIS Rajputana (Lt W.G. Coltham, RIN) joined the convoy escort.

Around 1730F/10, the destroyer HMS Scout (Lt. R.G. Woodward, RN) joined the convoy escort.

The convoy arrived at Colombo in the afternoon of October 12th. (18)

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. ADM 173/15892
  2. ADM 173/16453
  3. ADM 173/16442
  4. ADM 173/16443
  5. ADM 173/16396
  6. ADM 173/16473
  7. ADM 173/16397
  8. ADM 199/1832
  9. ADM 53/111937
  10. ADM 53/115715
  11. Report of proceedings of HMAS Hobart for February 1942
  12. Report of proceedings of HMAS Hobart for February/March 1942
  13. ADM 199/1389
  14. ADM 199/426
  15. File 2.12.27.139 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  16. ADM 53/117367
  17. File 2.12.03.6427 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  18. ADM 53/117710

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


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