Battleship Campaign in Indian Ocean

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by Kunal Biswas, May 30, 2011.

  1. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Battleship Campaign in Indian Ocean


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    The World War 2 battleship campaign in the Indian Ocean is one of the Least known and Studied, But nevertheless features many key aspects of battleship warfare. Two German Surface raiders visited Indian ocean: The pocket battle Ship GRAF SPEE in October 1939, where she claimed a small tanker of 717tons south –west of Madagascar and than escaped back into the South Atlantic before Anglo-French hunting groups could find her, And the pocket battleship ADMIRAL SCHEER, Which even reached Seychelles in spring of 1941 and lucky to evade the British hunting party. The purpose of these raids was to cause British and allied warships to disperse and to make them introduce the convoy system, which is considered inefficient by Germans. However these raids short lived that they had little effect on the actual distribution and deployment of Allied warship.


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    Until 1942, However, The Indian Ocean remained a relatively safe theater of operations for Royal Navy. Admiral Sir James Somerville, Who had successfully commanded the battleship and Aircraft carrier of H force based at Gibraltar, had sent to command eastern fleet based in Sri Lanka. Somerville formed his fleet in two groups, a fast fleet consists of battleship Warspite and two carriers INDOMITABLE and FORMIDABLE, and a slow group consist of four battleships RESOULTION, RAMILLIES, ROYAL SOVEREIGN & REVANGE, and the carrier HERMAS. Both Colombo and Trincomalee were poorly defended and Somerville made a secret base at Addu Atoll in the Maldives.

    In early April Japanese Navy stuck Indian Ocean. A force of carriers and Cruisers entered the bay of Bengal and sank 23 ships of 113800tons while Japanese Submarines attacked shipping on the west coast of India. Meanwhile a strong carrier group escorted by four fast battleship reached Srilanka. However, the Japanese Admiral Nagumo lost the element of surprise when his force was sighted on 4th April south of Srilanka, Somerville was able to clear his ships out of the ports.



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    Between April 5 and 9th Japanese air attacks were frustrated as only a British destroyer and a merchant ship were caught in harbor, and two heavy cruisers were discovered at sea and sunk. Somerville’s aggressive tactics led him to counter attack in the process he lost two Battleships and carrier Hermes, The Japanese than left Indian Ocean, and Somerville, uncertain of whereabouts of his enemy, retired, sending his low group to east Africa and fast group to Bombay. The Japanese had thus secured their perimeter and reached the high tide of their expansion for little cost in either material or ship.


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    The British were now concentrated about further Japanese advance into Indian ocean and about the neutrality of Madagascar, held by Vichy French. A large force including two carriers and and battleship RAMILLIES was assembled at Durban for operation Ironclad, The occupation of Diego Suarez, a natural harbor at northern end of Madagascar. There a May 30 the Japanese counter-attacked using midget Submarine and Ramillies was severely damaged, needing to towed back to Durban for temporary repairs.

    Thereafter Somerville’s Eastern fleet was reduced to reinforce other theatres, and throughout August he carried out diversionary raids using carrier ILLUSTRIOUS and Battleship WARSPITE and VALIANT. From September to November 1942 the remainder of the island of Madagascar was occupied and Indian Ocean was relatively quiet for next few years, During which Axis Submarines scored some success



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    In January 1944 the British Eastern fleet was strengthened by arrival of Queen Elizabeth, Valiant, Renown and several carriers. This was in preparation for series of strikes against Japanese position on Sumatra beginning on April 19, By which time Eastern Fleet included the free French battleship RICHELIEU. Thereafter the war in the Indian ocean mainly fought with aircraft carriers, And in August Valiant was badly damaged and never repaired successfully, She collapsed over dry dock..

    In November 1944 the British east Indies fleet included the battleship Queen ELIZABETH and RENOWN, and British Pacific fleet based battleship HOWE nad KING GEORGE THE FIFTH, Aircraft carriers, However, Predominated in both fleets as the battle moved out in Indian Ocean. After World war two the Indian Ocean once more became a Naval power vacuumed, Until the growth of Indian Navy in the late 20th Century.



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    Last edited: May 30, 2011
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  3. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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  4. HeinzGud

    HeinzGud Senior Member Senior Member

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    Actually Adm. Sumerville's tactic was to go defensive and protect his eastern fleet from annihilation by Japanese Carrier battle group. He never used aggression or any counter attacking method due to the inability of his own fleet. It was composed of one heavy carrier(Indomitable), one light carrier(Hermes), one heavy battleship(Warspite), four R class Atlantic battleships to increase weight(Resolution, Revenge, Ramillies and Royal Sovereign), two cruisers(Dorsetshire and Cornwall), four light cruisers(Dragon, Caledon, Emerald and Enterprise) plus six destroyers. "My old battle boats are in various state of disrepair" he once said while Eastern fleet berthed in Addu Atoll prior to the battle.

    In the battle with Japanese only two cruisers and Hermes were lost both due to late leaves from ports. Japaneses didn't know about the Addu Atoll and they came searching Eastern Fleet in Sri Lankan harbors. Finally after two unsuccessful attempts to find the Eastern fleet they left Indian ocean. Adm. Somerville send the four R class Battleships to aid in Op. Ironclad conducted in Madagascar.
     
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  5. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Adm. Sumerville was a very aggressive tactician, Here some info i found abt the incident..



    After this Brits were defensive until Majority of IJN Fleet was Destroyed in Pacific..
     
  6. HeinzGud

    HeinzGud Senior Member Senior Member

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    Maybe.... but in Indian ocean he was forced to go defensive. Many critics in London blamed him of not acting sufficient enough in the said battle but Sommerville knew if he was to engage Japaneses it was to be at daylight (due to Japs superior night fighting abilities) and Jap naval air arm would soon annihilate him.

    This above quote is misreading. I have book about the Battle for Indian Ocean referred to as "The Most Dangerous Moment" By Michael Tomlinson first published by William Kimber & Co. Ltd. in 1976. Michael was a RAF officer stationed in Trinco in 1942. The book contains intreviwed data form RAF, RAN as well as IJN officers like Mitsuo Fuchida.

    It was Vampire that escorted Hermes to Trinco. Dorsetshire and Conrwall were sent to Colombo for some refittings for boilers. Hermes was sent to Trinco to deliver it's arm of Swordfish torpedo bombers to China Bay aerodrome to engage Jap surface fleet once they get the chance.

    Albacore's are not nighttime bombers rather they are torpedo bombers all of the aircraft in the wing of Hermes perished in fighting in Trinco without yielding any results.It was Blenheims that attacked the IJN Carrier fleet. Launched from Colombo they bombed the fleet without yielding any results at all only few returned. Those were all broad day light attacks!
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2011
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  7. indian_sukhoi

    indian_sukhoi Regular Member

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    Great topic,.....Thanks for posting!!!

    Never knew that RN had actually deployed such a large fleet to defend its sea routes in IN region.


    It took a single Japanese aircraft carrier to sink most of the Royal Navy Eastern fleet!!

    Wonder how did Japanese aircrafts sneak into Colombo port without being detected. Werent there any radars kept at that time?



    What happen to the carrier aircrafts?

    How can they wernt any aircrafts on board in middle of a battle. It seems RN wasnt even ready or wanted to fight against Jap Navy. In that case, Ordering his carrier fleet to sail towards Bombay or madagascar would had saved their ships to fight another day

    Atleat he succeeded in saving their other two carriers in the end.
     
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  8. HeinzGud

    HeinzGud Senior Member Senior Member

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    Even though it was a large fleet it mainly composed of impotent warships against Japs except for Warspite and Indomitable and the two cruisers.

    Actually there were five Jap carries in Nagumo's first carrier strike fleet. It consisted of Akagi (flagship), Shokaku, Zuikaku, Hiryu and Soryu. Only five ships were sunk of the entire Eastern fleet.

    Actually radar did detected the Jap movements and Brits were at full alert at the time of the bombing thanks to the heroic effort of the Sqd. Ldr. Birchall whos Catalina was shot down while giving the locations of the Jap fleet on the 4th of April. The main reason for the Japs to go with less causality was that Brits lacked latest aircraft and defense measures.


    The carrier aircraft were sent to reinforce the existing fighters at China Bay aerodrome at Trincomalee. Though the aircraft were Albacore bi plane torpedo bombers.

    Hermes were sent to Trinco well before the sighting reports were received about the second Jap attack, when the reports were in Hermes was steaming for Addu Atoll near Eastern Sri Lankan seaboard. However upon hearing the sighting reports Hermes's Cpt. ordered a full retreat towards Trinco but later cancelled that order and tried to steam back to the former course. There fore losing vital few hours.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2012
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  9. indian_sukhoi

    indian_sukhoi Regular Member

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    Bi planes!!!!

    Heinz,
    Any idea what kind of aircrafts thus the other RN carriers used to carry?
    What kind of carrier aircrafts thus Royal Navy operate?. dont they have anything comparable to Zeros or USN aircraft!!
     
  10. HeinzGud

    HeinzGud Senior Member Senior Member

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    Correction.... the bi planes were swordfishes not albacores..

    swordfishes were the primary torpedo bomber for the RN during WW2

    Aircraft Carrier database of the Fleet Air Arm Archive

    Royal Naval aircraft database of the Fleet Air Arm Archive 1939-1945 Contents Page
     
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