Naval History Homepage and Site Search




Part 3 of 3 - 1943-45

HMS Indomitable and Avenger (Maurice Whiteing, click to enlarge)

return to Campaigns of World War 2


Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

(for more ship information,  go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)



JULY 1943


Monthly Loss Summary - 34 U-boats including 7 by US escort carrier groups south and west of the Azores (6 of these by aircraft from "Core", "Santee" or "Bogue")


Invasion of Sicily: Operation 'Husky' - The final plan was approved in mid-May and not much more than a month later the first US troop convoys were heading across the Atlantic for an operation even greater than the French North African landings the previous November. The grand total of 2,590 US and British warships - major and minor were mostly allocated to their own landing sectors, but the Royal Navy total included the covering force against any interference by the Italian fleet. The main group under Vice-Adm Sir A. U. Willis of Force H included battleships "Nelson", "Rodney", "Warspite" and "Valiant" and fleet carriers "Formidable" and "Indomitable". German and Italian aircraft sank and damaged a number of warships and transports in the invasion area including a US destroyer on the 10th. On the 16th carrier "Indomitable" was damaged by Italian torpedo aircraft.



Monthly Loss Summary - 20 U-boats including 6 by aircraft of US escort carriers "Card" and "Core" off the Azores and in mid-Atlantic

Indian & Pacific Oceans

Strategic and Maritime Situation - In May 1943, Allied agreement was reached on an offensive towards the Marshall and Caroline Islands in the Central Pacific to parallel Gen MacArthur's advance along the north coast of New Guinea. At the Quebec Conference, the Gilbert Islands were chosen as the first step in the island-hopping campaign under the overall command of Adm Nimitz, C-in-C, Pacific Fleet.



3rd - Italy Surrenders; Salerno Invaded

Salerno Landings, Operation 'Avalanche' - In addition to the grand total of 586 Allied naval units directly engaged in the landings, most of which were in their respective British or American sectors, Adm Cunningham as C-in-C provided a strong Royal Navy cover force and carrier support group. The cover force was again Force H under Adm Willis with battleships "Nelson", "Rodney", Warspite", "Valiant" and carriers "Formidable" and "Illustrious". Rear-Adm Vian commanded the support carriers with light carrier "Unicorn", escort carriers "Attacker", Battler", "Hunter" and "Stalker", three cruisers and destroyers. Most of the troops were carried to Salerno via Sicily in the landing ships and craft, and, early on the 9th, without any preliminary air or naval bombardment, landed in the face of strong German resistance. By the end of the day, with the support of the covering warships and carrier aircraft, both the British and Americans had established bridgeheads.



Norway - Covered by battleships "Anson" and "Duke of York" and other units of the Home Fleet, US carrier "Ranger" launched air attacks against shipping off Bodo, northern Norway on the 4th. Four ships were sunk and others damaged.

Monthly Loss Summary - 23 U-boats including 6 by US escort carriers "Card", "Core" and "Block Island" off the Azores and in mid-Atlantic.



6th - Capt Walker's Escort Group with escort carrier "Tracker" patrolled east of Newfoundland in support of convoy HX264. "U-226" was sighted by "Tracker's" aircraft and destroyed by sloops "Starling", "Kite" and "Woodcock". Shortly after, "Starling" this time with "Wild Goose", accounted for "U-842".

Monthly Loss Summary -16 U-boats including 1 by aircraft from US escort carrier "Bogue"

Indian & Pacific Oceans

Gilbert Islands, Central Pacific - US forces now started the advance through the Central Pacific with the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. Under the overall command of Adm Nimitz, C-in-C Pacific Fleet, Adm Spruance's Fifth Fleet landed US Marines and Army troops on the atolls of Tarawa and Makin respectively on the 20th. Both were strongly defended but US losses on Tarawa were particularly heavy, although as usual few Japanese survived. Both atolls were secured by the 23rd. Next day, escort carrier "LISCOME BAY" was sunk off Makin by a submarine. The next step would be to the Japanese Marshall Islands lying to the northwest.





Capt Walker's 2nd Escort Group - Capt Walker with sloops "Starling", "Kite", "Magpie", "Wild Goose" and "Woodpecker" accompanied by escort carriers "Activity" and "Nairana" arrived in the waters to the southwest of Ireland. Over the next three weeks the five sloops shared in the sinking of six U-boats operating against the convoys passing through the area. They started on the 31st when "Starling", "Magpie" and "Wild Goose" depth charged "U-592" to destruction.

Monthly Loss Summary - 14 U-boats including 1 by US escort carrier "Guadalcanal" off the Azores

Indian & Pacific Oceans

Indian Ocean Operations - Late in the month the British Eastern Fleet was considerably strengthened by the arrival of capital ships "Queen Elizabeth", "Valiant", "Renown", carriers "Illustrious" and "Unicorn", cruisers and destroyers.



10th - West of Ireland, "U-666" was sunk by Swordfish of 842 Squadron from escort carrier "Fencer" (below - Navy Photos/Mark Teadham) in support of trans-Atlantic convoy ON223.



5th - Escort carrier "Slinger" was mined and damaged in the Thames Estuary off Sheerness.

Indian & Pacific Oceans

Japanese Marshall Islands, Central Pacific - After taking the south-eastern and undefended atoll of Majuro on 31st January, Adm Spruance's Fifth Fleet with its carrier task forces landed US forces half way up the Marshall's group on the huge atoll of Kwajalein the same day. The Japanese defenders resisted stubbornly, but with their wild Banzai charges were soon wiped out. At the western end of the Marshall's, Eniwetok atoll was also taken, starting on the 17th.

The Truk Raid - With the Japanese major fleet base of Truk only 700 miles away in the Caroline Islands, ships and carrier aircraft of Fifth Fleet attacked, and together with patrolling submarines sank three cruisers, four destroyers and much shipping in mid-month.

MARCH 1944


13th - RAF Wellingtons flying from the Azores attacked "U-575" well to the north. She was finally sent to the bottom by the aircraft and ships of the US escort carrier "Bogue" task group and Canadian frigate "Prince Rupert" from nearby convoy ON227.

15th - In mid-Atlantic, Swordfish of 825 Squadron from escort carrier "Vindex" working with 2nd EG's "Starling" and "Wild Goose" sank "U-653" - Capt Walker's 13th kill.

Russian Convoys - The next return convoy from Russia RA57, sailed with the escort of the February JW57 including escort carrier "Chaser" and her rocket-firing Swordfish of 816 Squadron. On the 4th, to the north west of Norway, they damaged "U-472" which was finished off by destroyer "Onslaught". In the next two days, in spite of foul weather, they destroyed "U-366" and "U-973".

Monthly Loss Summary - 17 U-boats including 4 by the aircraft and ships of US escort carrier "Block Island" off the Azores and Cape Verde Islands

APRIL 1944


Russian Convoys - Three days after 2nd EG sank "U-961" off Iceland, Russia-bound JW58 was to the northwest of Norway and the attacking U-boats lost three of their number. On the 1st an Avenger of 846 Squadron from escort carrier "Tracker" damaged "U-355" with rockets and destroyer "Beagle" completed the job. Next day - the 2nd - destroyer "Keppel" sank "U-360" with her ahead-throwing Hedgehog mortar. On the 3rd it was the turn of "U-288", when a Swordfish, Wildcat and Avenger from "Tracker's" 846 and "Activity's" 819 Squadrons sent her to the bottom. Apart from one merchantman that was forced to return, all JW58's remaining 48 ships arrived at Kola on the 5th April.

3rd - Fleet Air Arm Attack on "Tirpitz", Operation 'Tungsten' - The damage inflicted by midget submarines on "Tirpitz" in September 1943 was nearly repaired and the Admiralty decided to launch a Fleet Air Arm attack. On the 30th March, Adm Fraser left Scapa Flow with battleships "Duke of York" and "Anson", fleet carriers "Victorious" and the old "Furious", escort carriers "Emperor", "Fencer", "Pursuer" and "Searcher", cruisers and destroyers, split into two forces, and headed north, partly to cover JW58. By the 2nd the two forces had joined up 120 miles off Altenfiord and early next morning on the 3rd, two waves each of 20 Barracuda bombers with fighter cover surprised "Tirpitz" at anchor. A total of 14 hits were made, but the damage was not serious. However, the battleship was out of action for another three months. Home Fleet was back in Scapa on the 6th. A similar operation was attempted later in the month, but bad weather prevented any attacks. Instead a German convoy was found in the area and three ships sunk. The weather again saved Tirpitz from two sorties in May 1944, but the fleet and escort carrier aircraft did manage to sink several more merchant ships at these and other times during the month.

14th - North of the Azores "U-448" attacked escort carrier "Biter" but was detected by Canadian frigate "Swansea" of the 9th EG and sunk by her and sloop "Pelican" of the 7th.

Indian & Pacific Oceans

19th - Carrier Attack on Sabang, Sumatra - Adm Somerville's Eastern Fleet had almost enough strength to start offensive operations although the loan of US carrier "Saratoga" was necessary for the first attack on oil installations at Sabang, together with shipping and airfields. Sailing from Ceylon with "Saratoga" and fleet carrier "Illustrious" were battleships "Queen Elizabeth", "Valiant" and the French "Richelieu", cruisers and destroyers. From a position to the southwest, bombers and fighters flew off from the two carriers for a successful strike on the 19th before returning to Ceylon.

MAY 1944


Russian Convoys - Return Russian convoy RA59 (45 ships) was attacked by U-boats to the northwest of Norway. One ship was lost, but in return the Swordfish of 842 Squadron from "Fencer" sank three with depth charges - on the 1st, "U-277", and next day "U-674" and "U-959". The convoy arrived at Loch Ewe with the rest of the 44 ships on 6th May.

5th/6th - The 2nd and 5th EGs in the North Atlantic detected U-boats by HF/DF after the torpedoing of a US destroyer. "U-473" was found by 2nd EG (Capt Walker) and sunk on the 5th by "Starling", "Wren" and "Wild Goose". Next day it was the 5th EG's turn (Cdr Macintyre). Aircraft of 825 Squadron from escort carrier "Vindex" located "U-765" and frigates "Aylmer", "Bickerton" and "Bligh" shared in her destruction.

6th - The US escort carrier "Block Island" group was again on patrol in the Atlantic off the Canaries and being directed to U-boats by the work of 'Ultra' and the Admiralty Tracking Room. On the 6th her aircraft and accompanying destroyer escorts sank "U-66". Then at the end of the month, the carrier was sunk.

29th - "BLOCK ISLAND" was torpedoed and sunk by "U-549" in the Canaries area, but her task group soon avenged the loss of their leader.

Indian Ocean

17th - Carrier Attack on Surabaya, Java - Eastern Fleet carried out another raid, this time on the oil facilities at Surabaya and with the same ships as the Sabang strike. Afterwards "Saratoga" returned to the US.

JUNE 1944


4th - Off West Africa, "U-505" was captured by the USS Guadalcanal and her task group. Later in the month, tanker "U-490" was sunk in mid-Atlantic by the ships and aircraft of the "Croatan" group and "U-360" in the South Atlantic by aircraft from "Solomons".


6th - Normandy Invasion: Operation 'Overlord' - The Naval Task Forces totalled 672 warships for assault convoy escort, minesweeping, shore bombardment, local defence, etc, and 4,126 major and minor landing ships and craft for initial assault and ferry purposes: a grand total of 4,798. To this could be added a number of other specialist forces including Western Channel Approaches A/S Escort Groups and reserves consisting of three British escort carriers and 55 destroyers and escort vessels. These together with aircraft of RAF Coastal Command were ready for any attempt by U-boats to reach the Normandy ships. Only schnorkel-equipped boats dared try, and the few that did had little success. In June they lost 12 of their number.

Indian & Pacific Oceans

Saipan, Japanese Mariana Islands - With the Solomons campaign virtually over, Adm Halsey transferred from the South to the Central Pacific theatre to share in the command of the vast and ever-growing Pacific Fleet. He and Adm Spruance took turns planning and executing the assaults to come, and the Fleet was renumbered accordingly:

- Third Fleet for Adm Halsey
- Fifth Fleet for Adm Spruance.

Fifth Fleet carried out the Marianas landings. From here, US airpower could strike at the Philippines and Formosa, but most importantly initiate the strategic bombing campaign of Japan using the new B-29 Superfortresses. Over the next year these would devastate Japanese cities and in conjunction with the highly successful submarine offensive against Japan's merchant marine, nearly cripple the country's war production. The island of Saipan was the first target, and after heavy air and sea bombardments, US Marines landed on the 15th. Effective resistance was over by early July, by which time one of the most crucial naval battles of the Pacific war had been fought. At the finish, Japanese naval airpower received a beating from which it would never recover. Battle of the Philippine Sea - The Japanese had prepared for the Marianas landings and from the direction of the Philippines despatched a strong naval force that included nine carriers and five battleships, two of which were the 18.1in-gunned "Musashi" and "Yamato". The carrier aircraft were knocked out of the sky by their better-equipped and trained US counterparts in the 'Great Marianas Turkey Shoot'. On the 19th, US submarines sank carriers "SHOKAKU" and "TAIHO", and next day carrier aircraft destroyed the "HIYO". The loss in pilots was a major defeat for the Japanese, and the Americans were left free to complete the capture of the Marianas. The Philippine's inner shield would then be broken.

JULY 1944


17th - FAA Attack on "Tirpitz" - Barracuda torpedo bombers from Home Fleet carriers "Formidable", "Indefatigable" and "Furious" attempted to hit "Tirpitz" in Altenfiord on the 17th, but failed, partly because of defensive smokescreens. U-boats were sent to attack the carrier force, but over a period of four days, RAF Coastal Command sank three in the Northern Transit Area.

Monthly Loss Summary - 7 U-boats including one each by task groups of US escort carriers "Wake Island", "Croatan" and "Card" off the Canaries, Madeira and Nova Scotia respectively

Indian & Pacific Oceans

25th - FAA Attack on Sabang, Sumatra - Aircraft from "Illustrious" and "Victorious" attacked Sabang, after which three battleships, cruisers and destroyers bombarded the area. This was the last Eastern Fleet operation under the command of Adm Somerville. He moved on to Washington DC as Adm Fraser took over as C-in-C in August. More carrier raids were carried out on Sumatra in August and September.

Guam (U.S) and Tinian, Japanese Mariana Islands - With Saipan secure and the Japanese fleet in disarray, the Americans went ahead with landings on the US colony of Guam on the 21st and Japanese island of Tinian three days later. Against the usual suicidal resistance, both islands were won by early August, although the last Japanese soldier hid out on Guam until 1972. The Marianas were now in US hands



Attacks on "Tirpitz" and Russian Convoy JW59 - Russian convoy JW59 (33 ships) left Loch Ewe on the 15th with a heavy escort including escort carriers "Striker" and "Vindex" and the 20th and 22nd Escort Groups. Home Fleet, under the command of Adm Moore, sailed in two groups, partly to cover the convoy but mainly to launch further FAA attacks on "Tirpitz" in Altenfiord. One group included "Formidable", "Indefatigable" and "Furious" and battleship "Duke of York"; the second, escort carriers "Trumpeter" and the Canadian-manned "Nabob" together with the 5th EG. Between the 22nd and 29th, three strikes were made, but in two of them the German ship was obscured by smoke; and although a hit was obtained on the 24th, the bomb failed to explode. In the course of these manoeuvres the escort carrier group suffered two casualties: 22nd - "U-354" encountered them to the northwest of North Cape and attacked. Frigate "BICKERTON" of the 5th EG was torpedoed, badly damaged, and finished off by destroyer "Vigilant". Escort carrier "NABOB" was too badly damaged by her torpedo hit to be repaired. The U-boat was shortly sunk. The convoy, JW59 was also subjected to U-boat attack and losses were sustained by both sides including: 25th - "U-354" now prepared for the arrival of return convoy RA59A in the Bear Island area and was destroyed by a rocket-firing Swordfish of 825 Squadron from "Vindex".

Monthly Loss Summary - 3 U-boats including 1 by aircraft of escort carrier "Bogue" off Newfoundland  


15th - South of France Landings: Operation 'Dragoon' - Originally code-named 'Anvil', the South of France invasion was planned to coincide with the Normandy landings. Operation 'Dragoon' used forces withdrawn from US Fifth Army in Italy. No major British units were involved and for the first time in the Mediterranean the Royal Navy was in the minority in both ships and commanders. The warships were allocated across four attack forces and, in addition, over 1,300 mainly assault landing craft took part in the landings. Air cover and support was provided by Rear-Adm Troubridge with seven British and two US escort carriers.

Indian & Pacific Oceans

12th - An escort carrier task group was formed to hunt for German and Japanese submarines operating in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa. "U-198" was located on the 10th and two days later, sunk off the Seychelles by frigate "Findhorn" and Indian sloop "Godavari".



Russian Convoys - Return Russian convoy RA59A (nine ships) was now off northwest Norway when "U-394" was damaged by No 825 Squadron Swordfish from escort carrier "Vindex" and sunk on the 2nd by destroyers "Keppel" and "Whitehall" and sloops "Mermaid" and "Peacock". The convoy arrived safely at Loch Ewe on the 6th. The next convoy returning from Russia, RA60 left Kola on the 28th with 30 ships, but by the time it arrived at Loch Ewe in early October had lost two merchantmen to U-boat attack. While still to the northwest of Norway on the 30th, Swordfish of 813 Squadron from escort carrier "Campania" sank "U-921".


End of the Mediterranean U-boats - The last U-boat in the Mediterranean was lost to sea attack. On the 19th schnorkel-equipped "U-407" was sunk north of Crete by destroyers "Terpischore", "Troubridge" and the Polish "Garland" of Adm Troubridge's escort carrier and cruiser force.



27th - During Home Fleet operations against German shipping off Norway, aircraft of 1771 Squadron from fleet carrier "Implacable" drove "U-1060" ashore near Namsos. She was finished off two days later by aircraft of Nos 311 (Czech) and 502 Squadrons RAF.

Indian & Pacific Oceans

Nicobar Islands - Between the 17th and 19th ships and carrier aircraft of the British Eastern Fleet attacked the Japanese-held islands to divert attention from the US landings on Leyte in the Philippines.

Leyte, Central Philippines - Because of faster-than-planned progress, the Americans decided to by-pass the southern Philippines island of Mindanao and go straight for Leyte. On the 20th Gen MacArthur returned to the Philippines with four Army divisions. Less than two and a half years earlier, he had made his famous "I would return!" statement. In preparation for the landings, Task Force 38 (Adm Mitscher) of Adm Halsey's Third Fleet (1) with a total of 17 fleet and light carriers had roamed the Philippine Sea, hitting the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa and the Philippines themselves. Now with six modern battleships, it was off Leyte covering the landings, throughout which Adm Halsey reported direct to Adm Nimitz in Pearl Harbor rather than Gen MacArthur, a separation of command which contained the seeds of potential disaster in the coming Battles of Leyte Gulf. Directly under Gen MacArthur, Vice-Adm Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet (2) carried out the invasion and provided close support. Including ships loaned from Third Fleet; he had 18 escort carriers and six old battleships. The US fleets totalled well over 800 ships.

Battles of Leyte Gulf - The Japanese had prepared their response to the Leyte landings. A Northern Decoy Force [1] with four carriers and two converted battleship/carriers sailed south from Japan to lure away Adm Halsey's Third Fleet fast carriers (1). From west of the Philippines, a Centre Strike Force [2] of five battleships and 12 cruisers approached Leyte Gulf from the northwest through the San Bernadino Strait. From the southwest via the Surigao Strait, a smaller Southern Strike Force [3] in two parts with a total of two battleships and four cruisers also headed for Leyte Gulf. The resulting pincer movement should have been powerful enough to destroy Gen MacArthur's transports and savage the Seventh Fleet (2) now that Third Fleet's support (1) had been lured away. In fact the Japanese were about to lose three battleships, four carriers (admittedly with few aircraft on board), 10 cruisers and nine destroyers in the battles and actions known collectively as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The American transports were saved, but warship losses amounted to one light and two escort carriers, three destroyer types and one submarine with other vessels damaged. The Americans could have lost far more:

Battle of Sibuyan Sea - On the 24th the same Centre Force [2] was heavily attacked by Third Fleet (1) carrier aircraft as it neared the San Bernadino Strait. The giant battleship "MUSASHI" was sunk and the surviving ships appeared to turn back. As this happened, US carrier "PRINCETON" off Luzon in the Philippine Sea was lost to land-based aircraft attack. Now the Northern Decoy Force [1] did its job and Third Fleet (1) hurried north, leaving the San Bernadino Strait unguarded. Adm Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet (2) was left with only escort carriers and old battleships to protect the Leyte Gulf beachhead.

Battle of Surigao Strait - As the Southern Strike Force [3] tried to pass through from the southwest on the night of the 24th/25th, it was ambushed by Seventh Fleet's (2) Adm Oldendorf with the six old battleships, cruisers and destroyers, including the Australian "Shropshire" and destroyer "Arunta". In the last battleship action ever fought, the Japanese battleships "FUSO" and "YAMASHIRO" and a heavy cruiser were sunk.

Battle of Samar - Back to the north, early on the 25th, the threat was still great as the main Centre Strike Force [2] with four surviving battleships and eight cruisers sailed through the San Bernadino Strait to attack the escort carriers and accompanying destroyers of Seventh Fleet (2). The escort ships and carrier aircraft fought back bravely, but the heavy ships sank escort carrier "GAMBIER BAY" and three destroyers. Kamikaze aircraft also sank escort carrier "ST LO" and damaged others. In return, three of the Japanese cruisers were lost to escort carrier aircraft attack. Then just when Centre Force [2] could have got in among the transports, it retreated back the way it came.

Battle of Cape Engano - While the US escort carriers were struggling to survive, Adm Halsey's Third Fleet (1) aircraft sank all four carriers of the Northern Decoy Force [1] on the 25th - "CHITOSE", "CHIYODA", "ZUIHO" and "ZUIKAKU" - although by this time their sacrifice had served no purpose as Centre Force [2] failed to press home its attack on Leyte Gulf. As Centre Force retreated, the returning Third Fleet (1) was too late to stop it escaping through the San Bernadino Strait.

By any measure the US Navy and its carrier aircraft had struck the Japanese Navy a blow from which it could never recover.


Indian & Pacific Oceans

Leyte, Central Philippines - Although the Japanese managed to reinforce Leyte, and fought back with a fierceness that came as no surprise, they were too late to stop US forces from pushing forward throughout the island. A second landing at Ormoc Bay on the west coast took place in early December, and by the end of that month organised resistance was over. All this time the US Navy suffered increasing damage in Philippine waters from kamikaze attack.

US Submarine Operations - By the end of the war, Japan's merchant marine almost ceased to exist, a significant factor in eventual defeat. US submarines accounted for 60 percent of sinkings as well as a third of warships. In November alone they sank battleship "KONGO" off Formosa, giant carrier "SHINANO" (built on a 'Yamato' hull) off Tokyo only days after her completion, and small carrier "SHINYO" off Shanghai.



Russian Convoys - Return Russian convoy RA62 (28 ships) prepared to leave Kola Inlet on the 10th with the escort of JW62. As the convoy passed Jan Mayen Island on the 13th, "U-365" was sent to the bottom by Swordfish of 813 Squadron flying from escort carrier "Campania" (later better known for her association with the 1951 Festival of Britain). All merchantmen reached Loch Ewe on the 19th.

Indian & Pacific Oceans

British Pacific Fleet - The Royal Navy prepared to return in force to the Pacific, but even then as a junior partner to the vast US fleets. At the end of November the Eastern Fleet was dissolved and Vice-Adm Sir Arthur Power appointed C-in-C of the newly formed East lndies Fleet. He took over some of the ships of the old Eastern Fleet from Adm Fraser including capital ships "Queen Elizabeth" and "Renown", four escort carriers and nine cruisers. Now as the last U-boats headed back for Europe, Adm Power had sufficient convoy escort strength for Indian Ocean operations.

Adm Fraser became C-in-C, British Pacific Fleet (BPF) and early in the month flew to Sydney, his planned main base, and then on to Pearl Harbor to discuss with Adm Nimitz how the Fleet would be employed. By the end of the year, fleet carriers "Illustrious", "Indefatigable", "Indomitable" and "Victorious", battleships "Howe" and "King George V", and seven cruisers including the New Zealand "Achilles" and "Gambia" had been allocated to BPF. Adm Fraser's greatest challenges were to equip and train his aircrews to US Navy standards of operation and assemble a balanced fleet train. This would enable him to supply and support the fleet so it could operate alongside but independent of the Americans in the vast stretches of the Pacific. Even at the end he would lack many of the ships needed, especially fast tankers. Rear-Adm Sir Philip Vian took command of the BPF carriers and led "Indomitable" and "Illustrious" on an attack against Belawan Deli, northern Sumatra in mid-month. More raids took place on Sumatra in January 1945.





British Isles Inshore Campaign - As the campaign continued, there were losses on both sides. These include: 15th/16th - Off the Clyde, Scotland on the 15th, "U-482" torpedoed a merchantman and badly damaged escort carrier "THANE" (not repaired and laid up) ferrying aircraft from Northern Ireland. After a long hunt the U-boat was sunk next day by frigate "Loch Craggie" and sloops "Amethyst", "Hart", "Peacock" and "Starling" of the 22nd EG.

Indian & Pacific Oceans

Landings at Akyab & Ramree Island - Early on the 3rd, British and Indian forces landed at Akyab, Burma from destroyers and smaller vessels of the Royal, Australian and Indian Navies to find the Japanese had gone. On the 21st more British and Indians were landed on Ramree Island with support and cover partly provided by battleship "Queen Elizabeth" and escort carrier "Ameer". The few Japanese resisted in their usual manner into February.

Fleet Air Arm Attack on Palembang - As the British Pacific Fleet transferred from Ceylon to Fremantle en route to Sydney, Australia, successful strikes were made by aircraft from carriers "Indomitable", "Illustrious", "Indefatigable" and "Victorious" on oil installations around Palembang, southern Sumatra on the 24th and 29th. Adm Vian was in command.

Luzon, Northern Philippines - Three years after the Japanese landed at Lingayen Gulf on the northwest coast of Luzon, Gen MacArthur's Sixth Army went ashore early on the 9th, supported as usual by Seventh Fleet. Kamikaze attacks continued to inflict heavy losses throughout the region, mainly in ships damaged, but on the 4th escort carrier "OMMANEY BAY" on passage to Lingayen was sunk off Mindoro.


Indian & Pacific Oceans

British Pacific Fleet - Early in the month, the BPF arrived in Sydney for replenishment. Adm Fraser stayed ashore as C-in-C and his number two, Vice-Adm Sir Bernard Rawlings in battleship "King George V", commanded the Fleet. Rear-Adm Vian was Flag Officer, First Aircraft Carrier Squadron. By this time nearly 60 ships of a diversity of types and flags were ready for the Fleet Train under Rear-Adm D. B. Fisher. BPF had been allocated Manus in the Admiralty Islands as its intermediate base, which Adm Rawlings reached by mid-March.

Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands - With Adm Spruance now back in command of Fifth Fleet, the next assault was on the tiny island of Iwo Jima, south of Japan, needed as an air base to support the USAAF strategic bombing campaign. Landings took place on the 19th, but before this eight square mile volcanic island was secured in mid-March, 6,000 US Marines and most of the 21,000 defenders were dead. On the 21st, escort carrier "BISMARCK SEA" was sunk by kamikaze attack offshore.

MARCH 1945

Indian & Pacific Oceans

British Pacific Fleet - On the 15th, Adm Rawlings signalled from Manus to Adm Nimitz that the British Pacific Fleet was ready to join Adm Spruance's Fifth Fleet. Now known as Task Force 57, battleships "King George V" and "Howe", carriers "Illustrious", "Indefatigable", "Indomitable" and "Victorious", five cruisers including the New Zealand "Gambia" and 11 destroyers, two Australian sailed for Ulithi to refuel. On the 26th they were on station off the Sakishima Islands in the Ryukyu group. Their mission was to prevent the islands being used as staging posts for Japanese reinforcements flying from Formosa to Okinawa. BPF's main weapon was of course not the battleships, but the Seafires and American-made Avengers, Hellcats and Corsairs of the carriers' strike squadrons. They started their attacks that day.

APRIL 1945


Russia/UK Convoy RA66, the Last Convoy Battle of the War - Kola Inlet bound convoy JW66 (22 ships) arrived safely on the 25th with escort carriers "Premier" and "Vindex", cruiser "Diadem", Home Fleet destroyers and the 8th and 19th EGs all under the command of Rear-Adm A. E. Cunninghame-Graham.

Indian & Pacific Oceans

Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands - Okinawa was the main island in the Ryukyu group and half way between Formosa and Kyushu. It was needed as a major base for the coming, bloodiest invasion of all - mainland Japan. The Japanese were committed to defending Okinawa for as long as possible and with maximum use of kamikaze attack. Under Adm Spruance and Fifth Fleet, the greatest amphibious operation of the Pacific war started on the 1st with US Tenth Army including both Marines and Army forces landing on the west side of the island. There was little opposition to start, but by the time they had taken the northern five-sixths of the island on the 13th, bitter fighting was raging in the south, continuing through April, May and into June. Air and sea kamikaze missions led to heavy losses on both sides. The British Pacific Fleet did not escape: 1st - Operating off the Sakishimas, "Indefatigable" was hit by a suicide aircraft but saved from serious damage by the armoured flight deck. 6th - Japanese launched the first of 10 'kikusui' (floating chrysanthemum) mass kamikaze attacks which carried on until June. US losses in men and ships sunk and damaged were severe. On the 6th, British carrier "Illustrious" was hit. Damage was slight and she continued in service, but this much-battered ship was shortly relieved by "Formidable". BPF continued attacking the Sakishima Islands as well as airfields in northern Formosa, with short breaks for refuelling. The Fleet sailed for Leyte on the 20th to replenish.

Battle of the East China Sea - Giant battleship "Yamato", a cruiser and destroyers sailed on a one-way mission for Okinawa. Overwhelmed by carrier aircraft of Fifth Fleet on the 7th, "YAMATO", the cruiser and four destroyers were sent to the bottom southwest of Nagasaki.

MAY 1945


4th - A Royal Navy task force consisting of escort carriers "Queen", "Searcher" and "Trumpeter" with cruisers and destroyers and under the command of Vice-Adm R. R. McGrigor returning from Murmansk, launched strikes against shipping off Norway, and "U-711" was sunk near Narvik.

Indian & Pacific Oceans

2nd - Landings Near Rangoon, Operation 'Dracula' - Under the naval command of Rear-Adm B. C. S. Martin, an Indian division was carried from Ramree island in landing ships and craft and put ashore at Rangoon, covered by escort carriers, cruisers and destroyers (Cdre G. N. Oliver). At the same time, diversionary attacks were made on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by Vice-Adm H. T. C. Walker with battleships "Queen Elizabeth" and the French "Richelieu" and aircraft from two escort carriers. Rangoon was entered on the 3rd by the Indian landing force to find the Japanese gone. On the 6th they met up with 14th Army units just a few miles to the north. The rest of the war was spent mopping up the Japanese unable to escape to Thailand.

Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands - As the struggle for Okinawa continued, US Fifth Fleet was hit by four 'kikusui' attacks in May. By the 4th, BPF was back off the Sakishimas and also under fire: 4th - "Formidable" and "Indomitable" were hit by one aircraft each. 9th - "Victorious" was damaged and "Formidable" hit again by a suicide aircraft. In all cases the carriers' armoured deck allowed them to resume flight operations in a remarkably fast time. On the 25th the RN ships headed first for Manus to prepare for the next stage of the attack on Japan. In two months the aircraft of BPF had flown over 5,000 sorties.

JUNE 1945

Pacific Ocean

British Pacific Fleet - The main body of the Fleet prepared to leave Sydney to join the US fleet, now the Third under Adm Halsey. As they did, newly arrived fleet carrier "Implacable" with an escort carrier and cruisers in support, launched raids on the by-passed island of Truk in the Carolines on the 14th and 15th.

Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands - The fighting finally came to an end on the 22nd after one of the bitterest of campaigns. More than 7,000 men of the US Army and Marine Corps had been killed - and nearly 5,000 men of the US Navy, mainly from kamikaze attacks. The Japanese lost well over 100,000 killed. USN losses in ships included five carriers badly damaged and 32 destroyer types, many on radar picket duty, sunk or never repaired. Over 7,000 Japanese aircraft were lost from all causes.

JULY 1945

Pacific Ocean

British Pacific Fleet - Adm Rawlings, now with "King George V", Formidable", "Implacable", "Victorious" and six cruisers including the Canadian "Uganda" and New Zealand "Achilles" and "Gambia" joined Third Fleet in mid-month to bombard Japan by sea and air through into August.

Japan - During the attacks on Japan the US Navy reserved the right to finish off the Imperial Japanese Navy and in massed carrier aircraft strikes on Kure destroyed battleship "HARUNA", battleship/carriers "ISE" and "HYUGA", carrier "AMAGI" and several carriers under construction.


Pacific Ocean

Japan - As US Third Fleet and the British Pacific Fleet continued to bombard Japan, the Royal and Dominion Navies won their last Victoria Cross of World War 2. Lt Robert Gray RCNVR, Corsair fighter-bomber pilot with "Formidable's" 1841 Squadron pressed home an attack on shipping in Onagawa harbour, north-eastern Honshu on the 9th. Under heavy fire, he sank his target before crashing in flames and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

27th - Ships of Third Fleet under Adm Halsey started to arrive in Tokyo Bay and anchored within sight of Mount Fuji. Representative ships of the British Pacific Fleet and Dominion Navies included "Duke of York" (flying the flag of Adm Fraser), "King George V", carrier "Indefatigable", cruisers "Newfoundland" and New Zealand "Gambia" and two Australian destroyers.


Indian & Pacific Oceans

Royal Navy - As ships of the Royal and Dominion Navies repatriated Allied prisoners of war and transported food and supplies throughout South East Asia, other surrenders followed during the next few days. 6th - On board light carrier "Glory" off the by-passed Japanese stronghold of Rabaul, Australian Gen Sturdee took the surrender of the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Local surrenders in the area took place on Australian warships.


back to Campaigns of World War 2
or Naval-History.Net

revised 8/7/11