Augustus Willington Shelton Agar VC, DSO, RN

Born  4 Jan 1890Kandy, Ceylon
Died  30 Dec 1968(78)


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Ranks

15 Sep 1906 Mid.
15 Jan 1910 S.Lt.
30 Jun 1912 Lt.
30 Jun 1920 Lt.Cdr.
31 Dec 1925 Cdr.
31 Dec 1933 Capt.

Retired: 12 Jan 1943


Decorations

22 Aug 1919 VC
11 Nov 1919 DSO
8 Sep 1942 Mentioned in Despatches (MID)

Warship Commands listed for Augustus Willington Shelton Agar, RN


ShipRankTypeFromTo
HMS Emerald (D 66)Capt.Light cruiser31 Jul 193918 Jun 1940
HMS Malcolm (D 19)Capt.Destroyer25 Jun 194012 Aug 1940
HMS Dorsetshire (40)Capt.Heavy cruiser18 Aug 19415 Apr 1942

Career information

His Victoria Cross decoration, and his telescope, is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. Other awards and papers are in storage there.

Sources

Wikipedia. Augustus Agar

Events related to this officer

Heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire (40)


28 Aug 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN), which was escorting Convoy WS 10X, arrived at Freetown. (1)

29 Aug 1941
HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN), HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN) departed Freetown to patrol in the mid-Atlantic off St. Paul's Rocks. They were escorted until 1800/30 by the destoyers HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN). HMS Newcastle parted company with HMS Eagle and HMS Dorsetshire around 0430/31.

The RFA oiler Echodale (Master B. Tunnard) also went to sea to fuel HMS Eagle and HMS Dorsetshire at given times while at sea. The Echodale was escorted by the corvette HMS Calendula (Lt.Cdr. A.D. Bruford, RNVR). (2)

29 Aug 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire during the period from 29 August 1941 to 3 October 1941 see the map below.

(3)

17 Sep 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN) and HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) dropped anchor of St. Helena. (4)

18 Sep 1941
HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN) and HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed St. Helena to continue their patrol in the South Atlantic. (4)

21 Sep 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
While trying to land on HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN) the Walrus aircraft from HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) crashed into the sea and sank. There were no casualties. (4)

26 Sep 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN) and HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) dropped anchor of St. Helena. (4)

29 Sep 1941

Convoy WS 12

This convoy departed U.K. ports on 29 / 30 September 1941. Destination for the majority of the convoy was Aden where the convoy arrived on 20 November 1941. It was then dispersed and the remaining ships then proceeded to Suez independently.

The convoy assembled assembled at sea near Oversay on 1 October 1941.

The convoy was made up of the following troop transports / transports; Almanzora (15551 GRT, built 1914), City of Paris (10902 GRT, built 1922), Clan Campbell (7255 GRT, built 1937), Clan Lamont (7250 GRT, built 1939), Dominion Monarch (27155 GRT, built 1939), Duchess of Richmond (20022 GRT, built 1928), Empire Pride (9248 GRT, built 1941), Empire Trust (8143 GRT, built 1941), Empress of Canada (21517 GRT, built 1922), Empress of Russia (16810 GRT, built 1913), Franconia (20175 GRT, built 1923), Highland Brigade (14134 GRT, built 1929), Highland Princess (14133 GRT, built 1930), Prince Badouin (3219 GRT, built 1933), Leopoldville (11509 GRT, built 1929), Mendoza (8233 GRT, built 1919), Narkunda (16632 GRT, built 1920), Ormonde (14982 GRT, built 1917), Perseus (10272 GRT, built 1923), Perthshire (10496 GRT, built 1936), HMS Royal Ulsterman (T/Cdr. H.F. Jackson, RNR) (3244 GRT, built 1936), Samaria (19597 GRT, built 1921), Sarpedon (11321 GRT, built 1923) and Strathaird (22281 GRT, built 1932).

Escort was initially provided by the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, DSC, RN) (from 30 September until 14 October. On 12 October HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) joined HMS Devonshire and escorted the convoy until 14 October when it arrived at Freetown.

The aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN) escorted the convoy from 30 September to 5 October when she was detached to Gibraltar, escorted by three destroyers (see below).

The armed merchant cruiser ), HMS Cathay (A/Capt.(Retd.) C.M. Merewether, RN), auxiliary minelayer HMS Agamemnon (Capt.(Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN) and the Canadian destroyers HMCS Assiniboine (A/Lt.Cdr. J.H. Stubbs, RCN), HMCS Saguenay (Lt. P.E. Haddon, RCN) escorted the convoy from 30 September to 4 October 1941 when they were detached and ordered to proceed with Halifax with the Highland Princess whih was then also detached from the convoy.

The destroyer HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) escorted the convoy from 30 September to 5 October when she was detached escorting HMS Argus to Gibraltar together with her sister ships HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) which were met at sea after they had escorted a convoy part of the way from Gibraltar to the U.K. HMS Argus and her three escorting destroyer arrived at Gibraltar on 8 October.

The AA (light) cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. I.R.H. Black, RN) and the destroyers HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN) and ), HMS Verity (Cdr. R.H. Mills, RN) escorted the convoy from 1 to 4 October.

The destroyers HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN), HMS Newark (Lt.Cdr. R.H.W. Atkins, RN) escorted the convoy from 1 to 3 October. HMS Bradford (Lt.Cdr. J.N.K. Knight, RN) was also to be part of this group. She did sail from Londonderry but had to return to that port soon after departure owning to defects.

The destroyer HMS Stanley (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) D.B. Shaw, OBE, RN) escorted the convoy from 1 to 7 October.

The escort destroyer HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSC, RN) escorted the convoy from 1 to 7 October.

The destroyer HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN) escorted to convoy from 2 to 5 October.

The destroyers HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) were to join the convoy on 7 October coming from Gibraltar. HrMs Isaac Sweers joined the convoy around noon but HMS Gurkha failed to find the convoy and only joined the following day.

On 11 October 1941, when approaching Freetown, the convoy was joined by the destroyers HMS Wrestler (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN), HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN) as well as the corvettes HMS Amaranthus (T/Lt. W.S. Thomson, RNR) and HMS Armeria (T/Lt. H.N. Russell, DSC, RNR).

The convoy, minus the Narkunda departed Freetown for South Africa on 19 October. Escort was provided by the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire which joined the convoy early on 20 October after having patrolled south of Freetown since 16 October.

Local A/S escort out of Freetown was provided from 19 to 2 1 October 1941 and consisted of the destroyers HMS Velox, HMS Wrestler and the corvettes HMS Anchusa (Lt. J.E.L. Peters, RNR), HMS Calendula (Lt.Cdr. A.D. Bruford, RNVR) and HMS Mignonette (Lt. H.H. Brown, RNR).

On 21 October 1941, HMS Royal Ulsterman and Ulster Monarch were detached and proceeded to Takoradi. As did Prince Badouin which went on to St. Helena.

On 30 October 1941 the convoy was off Capetown and the following ships of the convoy then split off to proceed into that port; Clan Campbell, Dominion Monach, Empire Pride, Empire Trust, Empress of Canada, Leopoldville, Mendoza, Perthshire, Sarpedon and Strathaird as did HMS Devonshire which went to Simonstown.

The other ships of the convoy; Empress of Russia, Franconia, Highland Brigade, Ormonde, Perseus, Richmond and Samaria then proceeded to Durban where they arrived on 3 November escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Derbyshire (Capt.(Retd.) E.A.B. Stanley, DSO, MVO, RN) which had joined them off Capetown early on 31 October.

On 4 November 1941 the Strathaird departed Capetown for Durban where she arrived on 7 November.

On 5 November 1941 the following ships departed Capetown to continue their passage; Dominion Monarch, Empire Pride, Empire Trust, Empress of Canada, Leopoldville, Mendoza and Perthshire. They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Dunnottar Castle (Capt.(Retd.) C.T.A. Bunbury, RN).

On 8 November the following ships departed Durban and joined the Capetown group at sea; Almanzora, City of Paris, Clan Campbell, Clan Lamont, Duchess of Richmond, Empress of Russia, Franconia, Nieuw Amsterdam (36287 GRT, built 1938), Nova Scotia (6791 GRT, built 1926), Perseus, Samaria and Strathaird. The escort of the Capetown group HMS Dunnottar Castle was relieved by the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN) which escorted the convoy from then on to until 14 November 1941 when she was relieved by the battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. L.V. Morgan, CBE, MVO, DSC, RN) which then escorted the convoy until it arrived off Aden on 20 November. The convoy then dispersed and all ships proceeded to Suez independently.

On 14 November the convoy was joined by the Ascania (13900 GRT, built 1925) which came from Mombasa.

On 17 November 1941, HMS Glasgow (Capt. H. Hickling, DSO, RN) made rendez-vous with convoy WS 12. The Dominion Monarch, Duchess of Richmond, Empress of Canada and Perseus then split off from the convoy and continued on as convoy WS 12J towards Colombo, escorted by HMS Glasgow. This convoy arrived at Colombo on 23 November.

On 24 November the Dominion Monarch and Empress of Canada departed Colombo for Singapore as convoy WS 12V. They were escorted by HMS Glasgow until 26 November when HMS Dragon (Capt. R.W. Shaw, MBE, RN) took over the escort. The convoy arrived at Singapore on 28 November 1941. (5)

3 Oct 1941
HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN) and HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Freetown. (6)

8 Oct 1941
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) and HMS Albatross (Capt. W.A. Dallmeyer, DSO, RN) departed Freetown to patrol in the mid-Atlantic between 06°N and 10°N and 28°W and 31°W. Two corvettes were sent along as escorts, these were HMS Mignonette (Lt. H.H. Brown, RNR) and HMS Woodruff (T/Lt. T. Muir, RNVR). (7)

8 Oct 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire from 8 to 14 October 1941 see the map below.

(8)

11 Oct 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) parted company with HMS Albatross (Capt. W.A. Dallmeyer, DSO, RN) and then proceeded northwards to join the escort of convoy WS 12 which she joined early the next morning. (8)

14 Oct 1941
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Freetown. (8)

16 Oct 1941
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) and HMS Dunedin (Capt. R.S. Lovatt, RN) departed Freetown to provide cover for Convoy SL 90. (8)

16 Oct 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire from 16 to 19 October 1941 see the map below.

(8)

18 Oct 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Early in the afternoon, HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN), set course to return to Freetown. (8)

19 Oct 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Freetown. (8)

25 Oct 1941
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Freetown to patrol in the mid/south Atlantic.

For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire from 25 October 1941 to 9 November 1941 see the map below.

(9)

9 Nov 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Freetown. (9)

10 Nov 1941
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Freetown to patrol in the mid-Atlantic. She is to proceeded northwards and catch up with convoy SL 92 and escort this convoy as it was feared that the Vichy-French at Dakar might want to attack this convoy as a reprisal for the interception of one of their convoys off South Africa.

HMS Dorsetshire joined the convoy on the 12th but already left it the next day.

For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire from 10 to 17 November 1941 see the map below.

(9)

17 Nov 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived back at Freetown. (9)

21 Nov 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Freetown to patrol in the mid/south Atlantic. (9)

25 Nov 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived back at Freetown. (9)

26 Nov 1941
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Freetown to patrol in the south Atlantic.

For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire during the period of 26 November 1941 to 7 December 1941 see the map below.

(9)

1 Dec 1941 (position -27.53, -3.55)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) intercepted the German supply vessel Python (3664 GRT, built 1936) in position 27°53'S, 03°55'W. The German ships was then scuttled by her own crew. HMS Dorsetshire was unable to close to pick up survivors as the German supply ship was in the proces off transferring spplies and fuel to two submarines, U-68 and U-A. U-A fired a total of five torpedoes at the Dorsetshire but none hit. The submarines then picked up survivors but as Python also had survivors on board from the raider Atlantis that had been sunk by the British over a week ago, not all survivors could be taken on board and lifeboats had to be taken in tow. (10)

7 Dec 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Simonstown, South Africa. (10)

13 Dec 1941
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Simonstown to escort convoy WS 12X to Bombay. This convoy was made up of the US troopships (carrying British troops !!!); Wakefield (24289 GRT, built 1931), Mount Vernon (24289 GRT, built 1932), West Point (26454 GRT, built 1940), Leonard Wood (13712 GRT, built 1922), Joseph T. Dickman (13869 GRT, built 1922) and Orizaba (6937 GRT, built 1918).

HMS Dorsetshire made rendez-vous at sea with the convoy that had departed Capetown earlier that day and was at that time escorted by the US destroyers USS Wainwright, USS Moffett, USS McDougal, USS Winslow, USS Mayrant and USS Rowan. These destroyers parted company with the convoy at 1600C/14 (C = time zone -3). (10)

13 Dec 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire during the period of 13 December 1941 to 10 January 1942 see the map below.

(11)

21 Dec 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
In the morning, the US transport Orizaba (6937 GRT, built 1918) parted company with convoy WS 12X and set course for Mombasa. She was escorted by the British light cruiser HMS Ceres (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H.W.V. Stephenson, RN) which had made rendez-vous with convoy WS 12X and its escort, the British light cruiser HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN). (10)

23 Dec 1941
In the morning, the US troop transport Mount Vernon (24289 GRT, built 1932) was detached to meet with the Britsh light cruiser HMS Colombo (Capt. C.C.A. Allen, RN) and then to proceed to Aden. The cruiser however failed to show up on the rendez-vous and the Mount Vernon then proceeded to Mombasa.

HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) and the remaining four ships of convoy WS 12X continued on towards Bombay. (10)

27 Dec 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) and convoy WS 12X arrived at Bombay. (10)

2 Jan 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Bombay for Durban. (12)

10 Jan 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Durban. (12)

10 Jan 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Colombo to escort convoy JS 2. This convoy was actually made up of only one ship, the troopship Orcades (23456 GRT, built 1937) that was to proceed to Singapore. (13)

13 Jan 1942
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Durban escorting convoy CM 25 which was made up of the troopships Athlone Castle (25564 GRT, built 1936), Durban Castle (17388 GRT, built 1938), Ile de France (43450 GRT, built 1926), Mauretania (35739 GRT, built 1939), Orcades (23456 GRT, built 1937), Reina del Pacifico (17702 GRT, built 1931) and Strathallan (23722 GRT, built 1938).

For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire during the period of 13 January to 8 February 1942 see the map below.

(14)

21 Jan 1942
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) parted company with the convoy she was escorting, CM 25, and proceeded to Aden to refuel where she arrived later the same day.

The convoy was also split in two parts, CM 25A, went to Aden and was made up of the troopships Ile de France (43450 GRT, built 1926), Mauretania (35739 GRT, built 1939) and Orcades (23456 GRT, built 1937).

Convoy CM 25B was to proceed to Bombay the next day after HMS Dorsetshire had rejoined from Aden. This convoy was made up of the troopships Athlone Castle (25564 GRT, built 1936), Durban Castle (17388 GRT, built 1938), Reina del Pacifico (17702 GRT, built 1931) and Strathallan (23722 GRT, built 1938). While HMS Dorsetshire was absent, these ships were escorted by HMS Shoreham (Lt.Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR). HMS Dorsetshire rejoined this part of the convoy early in the afternoon of the next day and it then set course for Bombay. (12)

26 Jan 1942
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) and convoy CM 25B arrived at Bombay. (12)

5 Feb 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Bombay for Colombo. (13)

8 Feb 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Colombo. (13)

10 Feb 1942
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Colombo as escort convoy JS 2 which was made up of only the British troopship Orcades (23456 GRT, built 1937) that was to proceed to Singapore.

For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire during the period of 10 to 19 February 1942 see the map below.

(13)

12 Feb 1942

Convoy SJ 1

This convoy departed Batavia, Netherlands East Indies on 12 February 1942. Destination for the majority of the convoy was Colombo where the convoy arrived on 21 February 1942

The convoy was made up of the following ships; British; Anglo Indian (5609 GRT, built 1938), City of Canterbury (8331 GRT, built 1922), City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937), Clan Alpine (5442 GRT, built 1918), Halizones (3298 GRT, built 1920), Madura (9032 GRT, built 1921), Malancha (8124 GRT, built 1937), Yuen Sang (3229 GRT, built 1923), Dutch; Batavia (1279 GRT, built 1938), Van der Capellen (2073 GRT, built 1940) and Van Swoll (2147 GRT, built 1930).

Two damaged British warships were towed by two of the merchant vessels of the convoy. Both these warships had been damaged in 1941 while in action in the Mediterranean and had been sent to Singapore for repairs and refit. These were not completed when the Japanese attacked. Both ships had been towed from Singapore to Batavia. The warships were the destroyer HMS Isis (Lt. L.R.P. Lawford, DSC, RN) and the submarine HMS Rover (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Reynolds, RN). They were towed by the Malancha and the City of Pretoria respectively.

Escort was provided by the destroyer HMS Express (Lt.Cdr. F.J. Cartwright, RN) and the sloop HMIS Sutlej (Capt. P.A. Mare, RIN). On 14 February 1942 the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSC, RN) joined until the 17th when she parted company with the convoy. On the 20th the convoy was joined by sloop HMS Falmouth (Cdr. U.H.R. James, RN). The Malancha with HMS Isis in tow and the City of Pretoria with HMS Rover in tow then parted company with the convoy and proceeded to Trincomalee where they arrived on 21 February 1942 escorted by HMIS Sutlej. The remained of the convoy arrived at Colombo, also on the 21th, they were escorted by HMS Express and HMS Falmouth. HMS Express had suffered from a fire in the no.1 boiler room which could not be repaired at Singapore / Batavia / Surabaya so the was sent to Colombo for repairs.

13 Feb 1942
In the afternoon HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) gave over the escort of the British troopship Orcades (23456 GRT, built 1937) to HMS Dragon (Capt. R.J. Shaw, MBE, RN). Orcades was diverted to Oosthaven, Sumatra, Netherlands East Indies upon the capitulation of Singapore.

HMS Dorsetshire then proceeded to a position east of the Sunda Strait where she was to rendez-vous with convoy JS 1 and then escort it to Colombo. (13)

14 Feb 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) joined convoy SJ 1 east of the Sunda Strait.

[More on this convoy from Batavia to Colombo see the event for 10 February 1942, convoy SJ 1]. (13)

17 Feb 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
At noon, HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN), parted company with convoy SJ 1. She then proceeded to Colombo. (13)

19 Feb 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Colombo. (13)

21 Feb 1942
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Colombo to bolster the escort of the combined convoy JS 3 / BM 13 that was en-route to the Dutch East Indies. Dorsetshire joined the convoy briefly on 23 February, in position 04°15'N, 87°45'E, but as the combined convoy was ordered to return to Colombo, HMS Dorsetshire separated from it and set course for Trincomalee.

This convoy was made up of the following ships;
From convoy BM 13 (Bombay - Singapore);
City of London (8875 GRT, built 1907), Eastern Prince (10926 GRT, built 1929), Egra (5109 GRT, built 1911), Esperance Bay (13837 GRT, built 1922), City of Paris (10902 GRT, built 1922) and Kosciuszko (6598 GRT, built 1915). This convoy had left Bombay on 13 February 1942 escorted by HMS Caledon (A/Capt. H.J. Haynes, DSO, DSC, RN) until it joined up with convoy JS 3.

From convoy JS 3 (Colombo - Batavia);
Penrith Castle (6369 GRT, built 1929), Silverteak (6770 GRT, built 1930), Silverwillow (6373 GRT, built 1930), Madras City (9040 GRT, built 1940) and Empire Glade (7006 GRT, built 1941).
This convoy had left Colombo on 16 February 1942 escorted by HMS Glasgow (Capt. H. Hickling, DSO, RN), HMS Falmouth (Cdr. U.H.R. James, RN) and HMAS Bathurst (Lt.Cdr. A.V. Bunyan, RANR(S)). They met with convoy BM 13 on 17 February in position 05°52'N, 77°18'E and then proceeded together towards the Sunda Strait. On 21 February the combined convoy was ordered to steer northwards. HMAS Bathurst had to return to Colombo with engine defects. The entire convoy returned to Colombo on 25 February 1942. (15)

21 Feb 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
For the daily positions of HMS Dorsetshire from 21 February 1942 to 5 March 1942 see the map below.

(16)

24 Feb 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Trincomalee. (13)

26 Feb 1942
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) departed Trincomalee to join convoy MR 5 at sea which she did around 0830F/27 (zone -6).

This convoy had departed Madras, India the same day for Rangoon, Burma and was made up of the British merchants Erinpura (5143 GRT, built 1911), Ethiopia (5574 GRT, built 1922), Karoa (7009 GRT, built 1915) and Varsova (4701 GRT, built 1914). They were escorted by HMIS Ramdas (Lt. G.M. Hart, RINR) and HMIS Travancore (T/Lt. A. Taylor, RINR). These escorts returned when HMS Dorsetshire took over the escort from position 12°40'N, 82°30'E. (13)

3 Mar 1942
At 0110 hours (zone F, -6), HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN), parted company with convoy MR 5 at 95°E. The four ships of this convoy safely put into Rangoon on the 5th. (17)

5 Mar 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Trincomalee. (17)

24 Mar 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) and HMS Emerald (Capt. F.C. Flynn, RN) conducted exercises off Trincomalee. Upon completion of these exercises HMS Dorsetshire set course to Colombo where she was to undergo a (short) refit and much needed docking. (17)

25 Mar 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) arrived at Colombo. (17)

27 Mar 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) is docked at Colombo. (17)

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. Sommerville, 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.

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), 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. 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 Sommerville 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. Dhe 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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.

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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville’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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville’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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville omitted to obtain confirmation that this had been done. At 1700 hours, Admiral Sommerville, 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 Sommerville’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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville held a conference on board HMS Warspite with Flag and Commanding Officers in the afternoon.

Having discussed the situation Admiral Sommerville 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 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 Sommerville 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 Sommerville’s views and make preliminary arrangements to transfer Admiral Sommerville’s administrative staff and secretariat to Kilindini.

13 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 Sommerville’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. (18)

30 Mar 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
The refit work on HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) was suspended and the ship was made ready for undocking as soon as possible due to Japanese warships that were reported to be operating in the Indian Ocean. (17)

31 Mar 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) was undocked. She departed Colombo later the same day to join 'Force A' of the Eastern Fleet to the south of Ceylon which she did the next day around 1430F hours (zone F, -6). (19)

3 Apr 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
In the morning, HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) and HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN), parted company with Force A and proceeded towards Colombo. (18)

4 Apr 1942
At 1000/F, HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) and HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN) arrived at Colombo. HMS Cornwall was to be used for upcoming escort duties, HMS Dorsetshire continued her refit. She had three major engine room defects. It was very desirable, although not essential, to correct these. She was therefore ordered to be on long notice to have these defects corrected.

However soon after the arrival of the heavy cruisers a Catalina reconnaissance aircraft reported an enemy force. Nothing further was heard of this aircraft and it was thought to have been shot down before further reports could be sent. As a Japanese air attack on Colombo was now expected for the following morning. It was then decided to sent the cruisers back to sea where they were to join Force A again.

Both cruisers then departed Colombo in company at 1600/F. The next morning, at 0657 hours on the 5th, HMS Dorsetshire reported that they were being shadowed by an enemy reconnaissance aircraft. A large Japanese air group then sank both cruisers before they could join Force A. (20)

Sources

  1. ADM 53/114136
  2. ADM 53/114137 + ADM 53/114193 + ADM 53/114789 + ADM 199/395
  3. ADM 53/114136 + ADM 53/114137 + ADM 53/114138
  4. ADM 53/114138 + ADM 53/114194
  5. ADM 199/1138
  6. ADM 53/114138 + ADM 53/114195
  7. ADM 53/113558 + ADM 53/114138 + ADM 199/395
  8. ADM 53/114138
  9. ADM 53/114139
  10. ADM 53/114140
  11. ADM 53/114140 + ADM 53/115814
  12. ADM 53/115814
  13. ADM 53/115815
  14. ADM 53/115814 + ADM 53/115815
  15. ADM 53/115815 + ADM 199/426
  16. ADM 53/115815 + ADM 53/115816
  17. ADM 53/115816
  18. ADM 199/1389
  19. ADM 53/115816 + ADM 53/116762
  20. ADM 199/426

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


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