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That Indian Ocean raid.

The other night, Australian ABC Tv showed, Shipwreck Detectives.
ABC Quote; In the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Shipwreck Detective Jeremy Green is on his latest mission. He's in pursuit of the wrecks of two ships lost at a critical time of World War II - a time Churchill called the most dangerous moment - the Battle of Ceylon. The ships are the British aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, and her escort, the Australian destroyer HMAS Vampire.

Comment: The Tv show was obviously on a limited budget, but was interesting.
Clips of the Japanese attacks are interspaced with interviews with veterans from both the Hermes and Vampire; these are fitted in with the diving scenes, looking for the wrecks. Unfortunately only that of Hermes could be found, not Vampire. Present day Sri Lanka is in the background.

The Indian Ocean raid was a sortie, by the Fast Carrier Strike Force of the I.J.N., against Allied shipping and bases in the Indian Ocean. (31 March to 10 April 1942).
The Japanese force, commanded by Admiral Nagumo, had six carriers with 350 aircraft supported by battleships, cruisers and destroyers. In contrast the British Fleet, commanded by Admiral Somerville, largely had antiquated warships, while his few carriers had not the aircraft or the tactics to counter the far superior Japanese.
Somerville retired to Addu Attoll, wisely avoiding contact with the Japanese Force, but detached British warships were tracked down then sunk by dive bombers. (Hermes, Vampire, Cornwall, Dorsetshire, also other warships, plus many merchant ships).
Luckily for Hermes & Vampire survivors, the hospital ship �Vita� was nearby; enemy planes located her after the sinkings, then dive bombers circled, investigating the hospital ship.
The Japanese had little regard for the Red Cross, but when nurses, some with blond hair, waved to the gung-ho Jap pilots, they waved back. Possibly through this the ship was spared.
Colombo harbour and airfield were attacked on Easter Sunday, April 5th, then on April 9th the Japanese attacked the harbour and air base at Trincomalee. Extensive damage was caused at the air base which had to be evacuated some weeks later.

The Tv commentary gives the accepted version of the Japanese attacks; that it was just a raid.
However Churchill was greatly concerned about something else, follow-up action by the enemy. Clearly the Japanese faced no effective resistance in the Indian Ocean, and were expected to establish bases which could sever vital Allied shipping routes. (Plans for bases at Trincomalee, also in Northern Madagascar, were discovered after the war).
After the raid, the Strike Force retired to Singapore to re-equip and refuel; staff at China Bay were told the Japs were coming back to invade, and that �They would have to fight to the last man�. However, luckily for the Allies, fate intervened.

As a morale boosting and propaganda exercise, the desperate Americans had organised The Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. The air raid (April 18) by a token force of B.25 bombers did little damage, but created alarm and despondency in the civilian population. To the authorities the raid was an �Insult that could not be allowed to re-occur; the Emperor himself had been insulted since enemy planes flew near the Imperial Palace.
Accordingly, the Strike Force had just completed refueling at Singapore when they were ordered back to defend the Japanese home islands.
From this the great sea battle of Midway would eventuate; in turn the loss of the Fast Carrier Strike Force would now cripple Japan.

Thus Fate determines all.


Lantern Swinger
There's a book written called 'the most dangerous moment', which goes into detail about this raid. There were quite a few naval aviators flying swordfish & RAF in Hurricanes against the Japanese zeros. I believe the results weren't too bad when one considers the advantage the I.J Navy & Army had. I am very surprised they didn't sink the hospital ship, they weren't so forgiving in Hong Kong & Singapore. :roll:

Vesper, Thanks for info on book.
Re Swordfish and Zeroes; look what happened to the 7 Stringbags of 'X' Sqdn. Took off at dawn from China Bay to strike the Jap Carriers off other side of Island.
Had the bad luck to run into the Jap raid on Colombo, so were jumped by flocks of Zeroes.
Most went down in paddy fields, and most crews survived.

Hurricanes generally did a good job, against a superior aircraft (Zero) with
excellent pilots - the cream of the IJN.
Later at China Bay it was Hurris and Fulmars against Zeroes; always feel the figures were fudged because we saw quite a few of our planes going down.

Your not wrong about Jap callousness. The story re Vita was told me in Colombo Naval Hospital and it came from one of those brave nurses.
Regards Como
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