Allied Warships

HMS Shoreham (L 32 / U 32)

Sloop of the Shoreham class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantL 32 / U 32 
Built by Chatham Dockyard (Chatham, U.K.): J.S. White & Co. (Cowes, U.K.) 
Ordered23 Sep 1929 
Laid down19 Dec 1929 
Launched22 Nov 1930 
Commissioned2 Nov 1931 
End service 

Sold 4 October 1946.


Commands listed for HMS Shoreham (L 32 / U 32)

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1Capt. Cosmo Moray Graham, RN7 Apr 1939ca.Apr 40
2Lt.Cdr. Francis Duppa Miller, RNca.Apr 4023 Jul 1940
3Cdr. Gilbert Palmer Claridge, RN23 Jul 1940Dec 1941
4Lt.Cdr. Eric Hewitt, RD, RNRDec 1941Dec 1943
5Lt.Cdr. Leslie Mansfield Carter, RNRDec 194324 Nov 1944
6Lt. Richard Joseph Tadhunter, RNR24 Nov 194411 Jan 1946

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Notable events involving Shoreham include:

12 May 1940
Shortly after noon this day (zone -3), troop convoy US 2 (Melbourne - Suez), which was made up of the following transports; Dunera (11162 GRT, built 1937), Ettrick (11279 GRT, built 1938), Neuralia (9182 GRT, built 1912), Nevasa (9213 GRT, built 1913) (joined the convoy at Fremantle) and Strathaird (22281 GRT, built 1932), departed Aden for Suez.

Escort was provided by the battleship HMS Ramillies (Capt. H.T. Baillie-Grohman, OBE, DSO, RN), the French heavy cruiser Suffren (Capt. R.J.M. Dillard), the light cruisers HMS Liverpool (Capt. P.A. Read, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.J.L. Murray, DSO, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, RN) and HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN). The sloop HMS Shoreham (Lt.Cdr. F.D. Miller, RN) apparently joined the escort at sea the next day.

The convoy arrived at Suez on the 17th. (1)

21 Jun 1940
At 0438 hours, an A/S search was commenced over Arab shoal to search for an Italian submarine reported to be in the area. The ships that participated in this search were; HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN), HMS Khartoum (Cdr. D.T. Dowler, RN), HMS Flamingo (Cdr. J.H. Huntley, RN) and HMS Shoreham (Lt.Cdr. F.D. Miller, RN).

At 1115 hours, HMS Khartoum and HMS Kingston, obtained an A/S contact and a submarine hull was seen under water.

At 1130 hours HMS Khartoum fired a depth charge pattern followed 15 minutes later by a second depth charge pattern. Contact was lost after this attack.

At 1421 hours the search sheme had been completed without regaining contact. The destroyers were then ordered to seach the shallow water to the south-east of Marsha Island while the sloops were ordered to search the shallow water to the west of Ras Bir. It was believed that the depth charge attacks by HMS Khartoum had damaged the enemy submarine. The sloops were unable to conduct a search of their assigned area due to a sandstorm which reduced visibility to two cables.

At 1843 hours the destroyers lost touch with HMS Shoreham due to this sandstorm. All ships then proceeded towards the Brothers Islands keeping well clear of the coast. (2)

23 Jun 1940
Continuation of events of 22 June 1940.

At 0210 hours HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN), HMS Khartoum (Cdr. D.T. Dowler, RN) and HMS Shoreham (Lt.Cdr. F.D. Miller, RN) parted company with HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.L. Howden, RAN) after a sweep up the Straits of Bab-el-Mandep had revealed no sign of the ememy submarine nor of enemy surface vessels that were thought to might have come to the submarines aid. HMS Kandahar and HMS Kingston were then joined by HMS Flamingo (Cdr. J.H. Huntley, RN) and HMS Shoreham (Lt.Cdr. F.D. Miller, RN) to search in the Large Perim Strait. HMS Khartoum was detached to search the Small Perim Strait.

At 0410 hours HMS Kingston sighted a submarine on the surface proceeding up the strait and illuminated it with a searchlight. The submarine immediately dived and a search sheme to the eastwards was organised as it was thought that the submarine, knowing it had been sighted, might try to reach the deeper water of the open sea rather then the shallow water of the strait.

At 0530 hours, HMS Kingston sighted the submarine on the surface to the west-north-west. She turned and opened fire with her 4.7" guns soon followed by HMS Kandahar and HMS Kharthoum, the last one meanwhile had rejoined her sister ships. A gun battle then followed. HMS Shoreham meanwhile also closed the submarine and was engaged by the enemy with her deck gun. Two shells fell close ahead of Shoreham.

0553 hours, HMS Kandahar hit the enemy submarine on the forward casing. The enemy then stopped, ceased fire and started to settle in the water. The submarine crew abandoned ship and took to the water. The British ships then closed the submarine and started to pick up survivors at 0606 hours. A total of 53 survivors were picked up, four Italians were dead and two missing presumed killed.

At 0619 hours the enemy submarine sank beneath the waves. She had been scuttled by her crew to prevent capture. The submarine turned out to be the Evangelista Torricelli (Capitano di Corvetta (Lt.Cdr.) Salvatore Pelosi).

0647 hours - The destroyers then made off for the Gulf of Tajura as ordered to search for another enemy submarine but then the Italian Commanding Officer stated that it had been his submarine that had been attacked there the day before. HMS Kandahar and HMS Kingston then set course for Aden to land the survivors (They arrived later the same day) while HMS Kharthoum resumed the Perim patrol. She was lost later the same day (see above).

23 Jun 1940

Convoy BN 1.

This convoy departed Bombay on 23 June 1940 for the Suez where it arrived on 12 July 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Akbar (British, 4043 GRT, built 1924), Alavi (British, 3566 GRT, built 1924), Anna Odland (Norwegian, 4980 GRT, built 1939), Beaconstreet (British, 7467 GRT, built 1927), British Architect (British (tanker), 7388 GRT, built 1922), British Hope (British (tanker), 6951 GRT, built 1928), Svenor (Norwegian (tanker), 7616 GRT, built 1931), Turbo (British, 4781 GRT, built 1912) and William Strachan (Norwegian (tanker), 6157 GRT, built 1931).

On departure from Bombay the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Ceres (Capt. E.G. Abbott, AM, RN) and the armed merchant cruiser HMS Cathay (A/Capt.(Retd.) C.M. Merewether, RN).

HMS Cathay parted company with the convoy on 2 July after the light cruiser HMNZS Leander (Capt. H.E. Horan, RN) and sloops HMIS Hindustan (Cdr. G.V.G. Beamish, RIN) and HMS Shoreham (Cdr. G.P. Claridge, RN) had joined the escort.

HMS Ceres parted company with the convoy on 4 July.

The destroyer HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN) joined the convoy on 5 July 1940. HMIS Hindustan then parted company.

Off Aden the merchant vessels Alavi and Beaconstreet parted company with the convoy. They arrived at Aden on 6 July.

Off Aden the RFA tanker Plumleaf (5916 GRT, built 1917) and the armed boarding vessel HMS Chakdina (Lt.Cdr. W.R. Hickey, RNR) also joined the convoy.

Also off Aden the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN), destroyer HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN) and sloop HMS Flamingo (Cdr. J.H. Huntley, RN) joined the convoy.

On 9 July HMS Carlisle, HMS Kandahar and HMS Kingston parted company with the convoy.

On 10 July HMNZS Leander, HMS Flamingo and HMS Shoreham parted company with the convoy being relieved as escorts by the sloops HMS Clive (Cdr. H.R. Inigo-Jones, RIN) and HMS Grimsby (Cdr. K.J. D'Arcy, RN). (3)

7 Jul 1940

Convoy BS 1.

This convoy departed Suez on 7 July 1940 for the Gulf of Aden where it was to be dispersed on 15 July 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Almenara (British, 1851 GRT, built 1922), Arabistan (British, 5874 GRT, built 1929), Athelmere (British (tanker), 5566 GRT, built 1918), British Colonel (British (tanker), 6999 GRT, built 1921), British Commodore (British (tanker), 6865 GRT, built 1923), Bronxville (Norwegian, 4663 GRT, built 1929), Bullmouth (British (tanker), 7519 GRT, built 1929), Cliftonhall (British, 5063 GRT, built 1938), Egyptian Prince (British, 3490 GRT, built 1922), Ganges (British, 6246 GRT, built 1930), Ganymedes (Dutch, 2682 GRT, built 1917), Gogra (British, 5190 GRT, built 1919), Herstein (Norwegian, 5100 GRT, built 1939), Khandalla (British, 7018 GRT, built 1923), Khosrou (British, 4043 GRT, built 1924), Orwell (Norwegian (tanker), 7920 GRT, built 1905), Ross (British, 4878 GRT, built 1936) and Zamzam (Egyptian, 8299 GRT, built 1909).

On departure from Suez the convoy was escorted by the sloops HMS Clive (Cdr. H.R. Inigo-Jones, RIN) and HMS Grimsby (Cdr. K.J. D'Arcy, RN).

On 10 July 1940, HMIS Clive and HMS Grimsby parted company with the convoy as escort was taken over by the light cruiser HMNZS Leander (Capt. H.E. Horan, RN), AA-cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN), destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN) and the sloops HMS Shoreham (Cdr. G.P. Claridge, RN) and HMS Flamingo (Cdr. J.H. Huntley, RN).

The merchant vessel Khosrou parted company (on the 10th ?) to proceed to Port Sudan arriving there on the 11th. (3)

17 Jul 1940

Convoy BN 2.

This convoy departed Bombay on 17 July 1940 for the Suez where it arrived on 5 August 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; British Consul (British (tanker), 6940 GRT, built 1924), Clydefield (British (tanker), 7365 GRT, built 1928), Cornwall (British, 10605 GRT, built 1920), Daviken (Norwegian, 2922 GRT, built 1926), Ellenga (British, 5196 GRT, built 1911), Germa (Norwegian, 5282 GRT, built 1920), Grena (Norwegian (tanker), 8117 GRT, built 1934), Hoegh Hood (Norwegian (tanker), 9351 GRT, built 1936), Jalarashimi (British, 4449 GRT, built 1918), Jehangir (British, 3566 GRT, built 1924),Longwood (British (tanker), 9463 GRT, built 1930), Nawab (British, 5430 GRT, built 1915), Olivia (Dutch (tanker), 6307 GRT, built 1939), Ranee (British, 5060 GRT, built 1928) and Varsova (British, 4701 GRT, built 1914).

On departure from Bombay the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Ceres (Capt. E.G. Abbott, AM, RN) and the armed merchant cruisers HMS Cathay (A/Capt.(Retd.) C.M. Merewether, RN) and HMAS Westralia (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN).

On 20 July two of the merchant ships parted company with the convoy to proceed to other destinations, these were the tankers British Consul (to Trincomalee) and Clydefield (to Colombo).

On 26 July the armed merchant cruisers HMS Cathay and HMAS Westralia parted company with the convoy while the light cruiser HMNZS Leander (Capt. H.E. Horan, RN) joined the convoy.

On 27 July the sloops HMIS Hindustan (Cdr. G.V.G. Beamish, RIN) and HMS Shoreham (Cdr. G.P. Claridge, RN) joined the convoy to provided A/S escort while the convoy was approaching Aden.

On the 29th the merchant vessels Jerhangir and Varsova split off from the convoy and proceeded to Aden escorted by HMS Ceres.

The following merchant ships joined the convoy at Aden; Beaconstreet (British, 7467 GRT, built 1927), British Judge (British (tanker), 6735 GRT, built 1921), Marija Petrinovic (Yugoslavian, 5684 GRT, built 1918), Mathura (British, 8890 GRT, built 1920), Ozarda (British, 6985 GRT, built 1940) and Peshawur (British, 7934 GRT, built 1919).

On 30 July the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN), destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN), HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN) and the sloop HMS Flamingo (Cdr. J.H. Huntley, RN) joined the convoy to escort it partly through the Red Sea. HMIS Hindustan and HMS Shoreham parted company with the convoy on 30 July.

On 3 August the following merchant vessels split off to proceed to Port Sudan; Daviken, Grena, Marija Petrinovic and Ozarda. They were escorted to there by HMS Kimberley.

Also on 3 August 1940 HMS Leander, HMS Carlisle, HMS Kandahar and HMS Flamingo parted company with the convoy, while the sloop HMS Clive (Cdr. H.R. Inigo-Jones, RIN) joined the convoy to escort it on it's last leg to Suez.

16 Aug 1940
From 16 to 19 August 1940, Allied troops from Berbera, Italian Somaliland, were evacuated to Aden.

The troops were evacatuated by the transports Akbar (4043 GRT, built 1924), Laomedon (6491 GRT, built 1912), the hospital ship Vita (4691 GRT, built 1914) as well as the armed boarding vessels HMS Chakdina (Lt.Cdr. W.R. Hickey, RNR) and HMS Chantala (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) C.E.I. Gibbs, RN).

Cover for the evacuation was provided by the light cruisers HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.L. Howden, RAN), HMS Caledon (Capt. C.P. Clarke, RN), HMS Ceres (Capt. E.G. Abbott, AM, RN), AA -cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN), destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN), HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN), sloops HMS Auckland (Cdr. J.G. Hewitt, DSO, RN), HMS Shoreham (Cdr. G.P. Claridge, RN), HMAS Parramatta (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Walker, MVO, RAN), HMS Indus (Cdr. Cdr. E.G.G. Hunt, RIN), HMIS Hindustan (Cdr. G.V.G. Beamish, RIN), minesweeper HMS Derby (Lt.Cdr. F.C.V. Brightman, RN) and the netlayer HMS Protector (Capt. W.Y la L. Beverley, RN).

On 17 August, HMS Ceres bombarded Italian Army targets which temporarily halted the Italian advance.

On 18 August, HMS Caledon and HMS Kandahar bombarded enemy units on the Bulhar-Berbera road.

The evacuation was completed on the 18th. Over 7000 men had been evacuated.

The last men were taken off by HMAS Hobart which Berbera early on the 19th for Aden with the last of the Army personnel and the demolition parties which had demolished the harbour facilities. HMS Indus proceeded along the coast to pick up stragglers. (3)

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. (4)

22 Mar 1942
HMS Truant (Lt.Cdr. E.F. Balston, DSO, RN) carries out exercises off Colombo together with HMS Express (Lt.Cdr. F.J. Cartwright, RN), HMS Shoreham (Cdr. G.P. Claridge, RN) and HMS Aster (Lt. W.L. Smith, RNR). (5)

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.

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.


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.

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 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.

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 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. (6)

14 Jul 1942
HrMs O 23 (Lt.Cdr. A.M. Valkenburg, RNN) carries out an A/S exercises off Colombo with the British sloops HMS Falmouth (Cdr. U.H.R. James, RN) and HMS Shoreham (Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR). (7)

15 Jul 1942
HrMs O 23 (Lt.Cdr. A.M. Valkenburg, RNN) carries out an A/S exercises off Colombo with the British sloops HMS Falmouth (Cdr. U.H.R. James, RN) and HMS Shoreham (Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR). (7)

15 May 1943

Convoy MW 28 (+ convoy XT 14)

This convoy departed Alexandria on 15 May 1943 and arrived at Malta on 21 May 1943.

Several ships of the convoy split off on 20 May 1943 forming convoy XT 14 destined for Tripoli where they arrived later on the same day.

On departure from Alexandria this combined convoy was made up of the following ships; Benreoch (British, 5818 GRT, built 1921), Benrinnes (British, 5410 GRT, built 1921), City of Keelung (British, 5186 GRT, built 1919), Darien II (British, 459 GRT, built 1892), David Stone (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Dunkeld (British, 4944 GRT, built 1937), Empire Conrad (British, 7009 GRT, built 1942), Empire Patrol (British, 3334 GRT, built 1928), Erinna (Dutch (tanker), 6233 GRT, built 1936), Fort Tadoussac (British, 7129 GRT, built 1941), Francis Drake (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Greystoke Castle (British, 5853 GRT, built 1928), Hermelin (Norwegian, 1683 GRT, built 1940), John Hart (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Neuralia (British, 9182 GRT, built 1912), Ovula (Dutch (tanker), GRT, built ), Ozarda (British, 9685 GRT, built 1940), Princess Kathleen (Canadian, 5875 GRT, built 1925), Romney (British, 5840 GRT, built 1929) and Vacport (British, 6774 GRT, built 1930). The Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Green Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941) was also part of the convoy.

On departure from Alexandria the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Alliston, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, DSO, DSC, RN), FFS Leopard and the escort destroyers HMS Croome (Lt. H.D.M. Slater, RN), HMS Hurworth (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN), HMS Rockwood (Lt. S.R. Le H. Lombard-Hobson, RN) and RHS Adrias.

The sloop HMS Shoreham (Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR) departed Tobruk on the 15th and joined the escort.

HMS Rockwood arrived back at Alexandria on 19 May 1943 having been detached from the escort earlier.

On the 16th, the escort destroyers HMS Aldenham (Lt.Cdr. H.A. Stuart-Menteth, RN) and HMS Hursley (Lt.Cdr. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN) departed Tobruk to join the escort.

On the 18th, the escort destroyer HMS Easton (Lt. C.W. Malins, DSC and Bar, RN) departed Tripoli to join the convoy.

HMS Kelvin arrived at Tripoli on 19 May and departed again on the 20th to rejoin the convoy.

On 20 May 1943 the convoy split up and the following ships proceeded to Tripoli arriving later the same day; Benreoch, Benrinnes, City of Keelung, Darien II, Empire Patrol, Fort Tadoussac, Francis Drake, Hermelin, John Hart, Neuralia and Romney.

The remainder of the convoy continued on to Malta arriving on 21 May 1943.


  1. ADM 53/112609 + ADM 199/382
  2. ADM 199/136
  3. ADM 199/383
  4. ADM 53/115814
  5. ADM 173/17660
  6. ADM 199/1389
  7. File (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)

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

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