British and Allied Submarine
Operations in World War II
Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Hezlet KBE CB DSO* DSC

 

 

     
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CHAPTER XXXI

The Final Phase in the Far East: 1945

References
Patrolgram 30 War patrols in the Far East during final phase 1945
Map 57 Final phase in the war with Japan April - Aug 45

IN APRIL 1945, AS THE FINAL PHASE of the submarine campaign in the Far East began, the war in Europe was nearing its conclusion. The Allied armies were overrunning Germany and on 30th April Hitler committed suicide. Finally on 7th May the Germans capitulated unconditionally. In the Pacific, the US forces, supported by the British Pacific Fleet, landed in Okinawa as a preliminary to the assault on Japan itself. In Burma, the Fourteenth Army was driving down the Irrawaddy towards Rangoon, and in the South West Pacific, preparations were being made for the Australians to land in Borneo. The American submarines in the Pacific had practically run out of targets. The Japanese merchant marine had fallen to 2,465,000 tons from the 6,052,000 tons it had been in 1941 and such traffic as put to sea was in the inner zone around Japan. The US still found plenty to do protecting amphibious operations from attack by the remnants of the Japanese Navy, sweeping ahead of carrier forces to sink the enemy reconnaissance picket boats and, above all, doing 'lifeguard' duty, as the Americans called air-searescue. Nevertheless they still sank sixty ships of 220,269 tons in these three months for the loss of four submarines.

The Japanese had now practically lost command of the sea and could only run convoys at great peril. They were desperately short of oil in Japan and, indeed, of everything necessary for their war industries. They were even short of food for the civilian population. The five remaining battleships were lying camouflaged and hidden in creeks and inlets in the Inland Sea with no fuel: a few aircraft carriers were in the same state and without any aircraft. In the southern zone, based on Singapore, Field Marshal Count Terauchi, the Supreme Commander, had already decided to withdraw all his outlying garrisons to Malaya so that he could conduct a fighting withdrawal up the Kra Isthmus into Siam and Indo China. Such Japanese aircraft as were available were to be used as Kamikaze suicide planes but to all except a few fanatics, the end was in sight. Nevertheless the Japanese were expected to make a desperate fight for their homeland. The invasion of Japan was clearly going to be accompanied by very heavy Allied casualties.

This then was the strategic setting into which the considerable force of British submarines in the Far East had now to be fitted. Already decisions had been made for a redistribution of the flotillas and for changes in their composition. These had been fully discussed between the US Commander, Submarines Seventh Fleet, the Cs-in-C of the British Pacific Fleet and of the East Indies, as well as A(S) during his visit in February and March. The first move was of the Fourth Flotilla from Trincomalee to Fremantle. Adamant (Captain HMC Ionides RN) sailed on 1st April and arrived on 11th. Four of her submarines had already left for patrol in the Malacca Strait and were afterwards to follow her to Western Australia1. Four more submarines sailed later2, and three of them made the passage to Fremantle direct and three others, already in the South West Pacific, transferred to the Fourth Flotilla from the Eighth3.The Second Flotilla remained at Trincomalee with the depot ship Wolfe (Captain JE Slaughter DSO RN) with the three short range T-class4 and six of the S-class5. Maidstone (Captain LM Shadwell RN) left Fremantle on 19th April and proceeded by Sydney, Manus and Leyte to Subic Bay in the Philippines, where, on arrival on 20th May, she found two US tenders with their squadrons and Admiral Fife already operating from a headquarters ashore. The Eighth Flotilla submarines underwent considerable change at this time. Storm had already left for the United Kingdom to refit and was followed by Sirdar and Spirit. They were replaced by Stygian, Supreme and Selene from the Second Flotilla, and Solent and Sleuth direct from the United Kingdom. With Seascout and Spark, these boats now formed the Eighth Flotilla and all proceeded to Subic from Fremantle at various dates, patrolling on the way. There were another nine British submarines in the Far East at this time but none of them was operational6.The grand total of British submarines in the Far East at this time was therefore thirty-five, and there were five others on passage and three under repair as well as three Netherlands boats.

Bonaventure (Captain WR Fell OBE RN) and the Fourteenth Submarine Flotilla consisting of XE1-6 had now also arrived in the Pacific. She had left the United Kingdom at the end of February and passed through the Panama Canal to San Diego in California and then to Pearl Harbour. While Bonaventure was crossing the Pacific, the C-in-C of the US Pacific Fleet decided that there was no use for X-craft in the area and the C-in-C British Pacific Fleet reluctantly concurred. She was therefore ordered to proceed to Brisbane to await orders. The obvious targets for the XE-craft were the surviving battleships and aircraft carriers of the Japanese Navy now in the Inland Sea. These ships could, without doubt, have been destroyed by this means using the T-class submarines of the Fourth Flotilla to tow them from the Philippines to Japan. Although in the more recent X-craft attacks on Bergen they had attacked successfully and the crews had been recovered with their craft, in the earlier Tirpitz operation, all the crews who had attacked had been killed or taken prisoner. There is little doubt that the American high command regarded them almost as suicide machines and felt that there was no need at this stage of the war for such sacrifices. It must also be said that the US Navy felt that they should have the honour of finishing off what remained of the Imperial Japanese Navy. They believed that this was due to them as restitution for Pearl Harbour and they were reluctant to allow the Royal Navy to do this for them after the American Navy's long and hard fought campaigns in the Pacific7. It is also probable that the US Navy's carrier forces reckoned that the remains of the Japanese battlefleet were 'their bird'. Although many years later such notions may seem to us almost puerile, they were at the time very understandable. To the X-craft crews of the Fourteenth Flotilla, however, the decision was devastating. Not to put their years of X-craft training and development to the test was a terrible blow to the morale of these brave and skilled officers and men. The real trouble, of course, was that they had arrived too late. If they had been a year earlier an attack on the Japanese Fleet at Lingga would have been quite possible and might have been sanctioned by the American authorities. On 7th April, however, the whole question was rendered somewhat academic by the sinking of the Japanese super battleship Yamato by the US Third Fleet, for she was the prime target for the XE-craft. Plans were therefore made to scrap the six XE-craft in Australia and to use Bonaventure in the Fleet Train of the British Pacific Fleet.

Both the Fourth and Eighth Submarine Flotillas now came under the operational command of the American Commander Submarines Seventh Fleet, who, as we have seen, had moved his headquarters to Subic Bay. Administratively they were part of the British Pacific Fleet and came under its C-in-C. The Fourteenth Flotilla was also under the direct command of C-in-C, British Pacific Fleet, and he was trying hard to find something for it to do. The Second Submarine Flotilla remained under C-in-C, East Indies. It is perhaps surprising that, with this considerable force of submarines east of Suez, no overall British submarine commander, a Commodore (Submarines) perhaps, was appointed for the area and that all worked smoothly without one. At about this time a change was made in the American submarine command. The Commander, Submarines Seventh Fleet was placed directly under the Commander Submarines Pacific, who thereby commanded all submarines in the Pacific.

In April, the submarines continued to try to prevent any Japanese movement by sea whatever. They also carried out special operations and air-sea-rescue duties as before and two new functions were required of them. The first was to patrol in distant support of amphibious operations such as the invasion of North Borneo and the landings at Rangoon and the second was to intercept the Japanese cruisers being used to transport troops from the outlying islands to Singapore. The first success against these cruisers had already been attained by the sinking of Isuzu by the American submarine Charr on 7th April north of Sumbawa. There were four eight-inch gun cruisers at Singapore; Ashigara and Haguro were known to be operational but the state of the Takao and Myoko, damaged at Leyte Gulf, was in doubt. Takao had not moved for six months or so but the dockyard at Singapore might well have repaired her sufficiently to put to sea. Myoko made an attempt to get back to Japan before Christmas 1944, but was torpedoed by the US submarine Bergall and had to return to Singapore. Submarine patrols in April were often distorted by the need to redistribute boats amongst the three flotillas.

On 31st March. Seascout (Lieutenant JW Kelly RN) had left Colombo, where she had been in dock, for patrol in the South West Pacific Area. She fuelled in Exmouth Gulf and was sent to the north coast of Sumbawa by the Lombok Strait. She sank a petrol-laden coaster by gunfire on 25th and then, as Maidstone was still on passage to Subic Bay, went back to Fremantle. On 1st April, O19 (Luitenant ter zee 1e Kl JF Drijfhout van Hooff) left Fremantle with a full load of forty mines on board and passed through the Sunda Strait at night on the surface. She first patrolled north of Batavia and on 10th, sank the tanker Hosei Maru of 896 tons by gunfire after missing her with two torpedoes at 400 yards, the torpedoes probably running under. She then passed northwards through the Karimata Strait and on 13th laid her mines in the northern entrance to the Bangka Strait, which was on the inshore route from Batavia to Singapore. Unfortunately one of the mines was a surface failure and almost compromised this field, which consequently did not cause any casualties. O19 then returned to her patrol position north of Batavia where she carried out air-sea-rescue duties on 16th. Next day she sighted Ashigara approaching from the north escorted by a destroyer. Her attack, however, was frustrated by a large alteration of course, which left her out of range. On 18th, she saw the cruiser returning having embarked troops at Batavia. It was a difficult attack with the enemy up sun, but she got away a full salvo of four torpedoes at a range of 6000 yards. They missed however, and fortunately the destroyer for some reason did not counter attack. O19 was now left with only two spare torpedoes to load in her forward tubes and, with such targets about, she needed to have a full salvo ready. That night she transferred the two torpedoes from her rotating deck tubes to her bow tubes, an operation of some danger as it involved opening her fore hatch and rigging torpedo rails through it, which meant that she was unable to dive for some three quarters of an hour. However the night was dark and the transfer was successfully achieved. It was just as well as on 22nd the cruiser was sighted again coming south on another trooping trip. A full salvo of four torpedoes was fired, this time at 5200 yards, and at the time, O19 believed that she had scored a hit. This was not so, however, and although distant depth charges were dropped, she was not subjected to a proper counter attack this time either. O19, however, developed a defect in one of her bow caps and had to bottom in 160 feet for an hour. That night a man was lowered over the side and found a bow shutter broken and, with some skill, cleared away the remains of it in spite of an uncomfortable swell. O19 then left the Java Sea by the Lombok Strait and, on arrival at Fremantle, joined the Fourth Flotilla. O19, however, had many defects and, after strenuous efforts to remedy them, had to be declared unfit for further operations. Her colleague, Zvaardvisch, left Fremantle on 9th April to patrol in the west Java Sea. She fuelled at Exmouth Gulf and entered by the Lombok Strait, doing air-sea-rescue duty on 21st. On 25th, she sank two large hulks, which were carrying coal to Surubaya, by demolition charge and ramming. She had more air-sea-rescue off Surubaya and on 28th, fired six torpedoes in two salvoes of three, at a convoy of small ships but missed at a range of 2000 yards. An escort prevented surfacing for gun action. She then accumulated a number of defects in both main engines and torpedoes and was recalled to Fremantle from where, after a short period in the Fourth Flotilla, she returned to the United Kingdom for refit.

At the same time as O19 and Zvaardvisch were working in the Java Sea, Scythian (Lieutenant CP Thode RNZNVR), Torbay (Lieutenant Commander CP Norman DSO RN) and O24 (Luitenant ter zee 1e Kl PJS de Jong) were operating in the Malacca Strait and off the west coast of Sumatra. Scythian left Trincomalee on 6th April for the northern part of the Strait but was recalled after three days for another operation. Torbay sailed on 7th for special operations landing and recovering beach reconnaissance parties on the west coast of Siam and the north coast of Sumatra. O24 also sailed on 7th to patrol on the west coast of Sumatra on her way to Fremantle. She sank a large junk on 14th and joined the Fourth Flotilla on 28th.

The two new S-class submarines Solent (Lieutenant Commander JD Martin DSC RN) and Sleuth (Lieutenant KH Martin RN) left Fremantle on 14th April, five days before Maidstone, and their patrols were timed to join her on her arrival at Subic Bay. Although both were on their first patrol in the Far East, they were ordered to work together as a 'wolf-pack' in the east Java Sea8. The two submarines fuelled at Exmouth Gulf but met a strong southerly set in the Lombok Strait. Both were also forced to dive by a patrol and only Sleuth was able to get through. Solent had to turn back and wait for another opportunity. While still south of the Strait on 23rd April, Solent sighted a small merchant ship approaching from the eastwards. She was escorted by a whaler and three aircraft. Solent made a submerged attack and fired five torpedoes at a range of 2000 yards, but one of them had a gyro failure and circled overhead and the other four missed, the tracks probably being seen by the air escort. The whaler counter attacked and hunted for an hour dropping twenty-four depth charges but none close enough to cause any damage. Solent successfully transitted the Strait that night and met Sleuth again on 25th April. That evening a landing barge escorted by a trawler was encountered. The trawler, however, detected Solent and counter attacked her. After dark, both submarines manoeuvred to obtain the advantage of the moon and then opened fire with their guns on the escort, destroying Special Minesweeper No3, which blew up and sank. The landing barge was found ashore next day and was also destroyed. Two days later, a coaster was sunk by the guns of both submarines and no less than 90 survivors were picked up before both submarines were forced to dive by aircraft. All except five were subsequently put ashore on the Laurent Islands next night. On 2nd May, a coaster full of oil barrels was sunk by concentrated gunfire and on 8th both submarines were ordered to shift patrol area. They were, however, already short of fuel and had to return to Exmouth Gulf to fill up. Here the Captain of Solent went sick and was relieved by the spare Commanding Officer from Adamant, who was flown up on 11th (Lieutenant JC Ogle DSC RN). Both submarines sailed again on 13th May and were ordered to proceed direct to Subic Bay where they arrived on 26th. These patrols lasted forty-two days, steaming a total of 7180 miles.

On 14th, Thrasher (Lieutenant Commander MFR Ainslie DSO DSC RN) left Trincomalee to land stores and a party in the Nicobar Islands on the night of 18th/19th, returning direct to base. Sturdy (Lieutenant FA Wicker RNVR) left Fremantle on 19th for the United Kingdom to refit. She was to patrol along the north coast of Java on the way, fuelling at Exmouth Gulf. She was to enter by the Lombok Strait and leave by the Sunda Strait for Trincomalee. She too met an adverse current in the Lombok Strait and failed to get through at the first attempt. She got through the next night but otherwise her patrol was uneventful. On 21st April, Supreme (Lieutenant Commander TE Barlow RN) left Fremantle for Subic Bay. She fuelled at Exmouth Gulf and passed northward through the Lombok Strait without trouble. While on passage through the Java Sea, she sighted a convoy consisting of a small passenger vessel and a merchant ship escorted by a torpedo boat, a trawler and two aircraft. It was flat calm but she managed to fire five torpedoes at 4400 yards, but the tracks were seen and the torpedoes were avoided. The counter attack was feeble and only one depth charge was dropped. The convoy then sought safety by anchoring among the Kangean Islands. Attempts that night by Supreme to renew the attack were prevented by the torpedo boat, which forced her to dive. The depth charges dropped, however, did no damage. She then went on her way to the Gulf of Siam, where she had been ordered to patrol, being bombed ineffectively by an aircraft as she passed through the Karimata Strait. After reaching the Gulf on 7th May, she destroyed two coasters and a motor junk by gunfire. Next day she began an attack on a coaster with three escorts in very shallow water. Supreme was, however, detected by a large submarine chaser and she hit the bottom at 55 feet while trying to evade the counter attack. The Subchaser dropped two close patterns causing leaks in the high-pressure air system, putting the asdic out of action and damaging the port propeller and both periscopes. The hunt continued for two hours and then Supreme successfully wriggled into deeper water and got away. The rest of the patrol was spent making a reconnaissance of the area in co-operation with American submarines. She arrived at Subic on 27th May having expended nearly all her fuel and having run 6567 miles. She was docked for repairs that were within the capacity of Maidstone to remedy. During this same period, Stygian, Spark, Selene and Seascout proceeded direct from Fremantle to Subic Bay through the East Indies without any incidents of consequence.

In the Malacca Strait, Thrasher (Lieutenant Commander MFR Ainslie DSO DSC RN) made another short trip to carry out a special operation. This was to land stores and agents on the west coast of Burma from 25th April to 5th May. The main operation at the end of April was, however, to cover the amphibious operation against Rangoon that it had been decided to mount. Subtle (Lieutenant BJB Andrew DSC RN), Statesman (Lieutenant RGP Bulkeley RN) and Scythian (Lieutenant CP Thode RNZNVR) left Trincomalee on 24th and 25th to patrol in the Malacca Strait off the One Fathom Bank and the Aroa Islands to prevent attack by the heavy Japanese cruisers Ashigara and Haguro based at Singapore, and possibly by the Takao and Myoko too if they had been repaired. Their orders were to report first and then attack these ships if they were sighted and so were there principally for reconnaissance. The protection of the Rangoon landing force was to be the responsibility of a covering force of the battleship Queen Elizabeth and aircraft from escort carriers in the Bay of Bengal. Nothing was, however, seen before 9th May, when the object of the patrol was altered. It was now to be to attack the enemy first and then report. This was after Rangoon had been occupied on 3rd May. Nevertheless both Statesman and Scythian had found it necessary, on 1st and 5th May, to sink small craft that had seen them so as to prevent the compromising of their patrol positions. On the afternoon of 12th May, Subtle sighted the cruiser Haguro escorted by a destroyer and two submarine chasers northbound at eighteen knots. She started to attack but just as the sights were coming on, the enemy turned sharply away. Subtle therefore withheld her fire and in trying to remain undetected, hit the bottom with 35 feet on the gauge. Statesman also sighted the upperworks of Haguro but far outside torpedo range. Both submarines were able to surface and make enemy reports by wireless. The covering force for the landings at Rangoon had just returned to Trincomalee and, on receipt of the enemy reports, at once put to sea again in the hope of intercepting Haguro as she returned to Singapore. Queen Elizabeth and her accompanying cruisers, escort carriers and destroyers were, however, sighted by a Japanese reconnaissance plane and Haguro at once reversed course. Early on 12th May she was sighted returning by both Subtle and Statesman. As before, Statesman was out of range but Subtle fired a full salvo of six torpedoes at a range of 2000 yards but the enemy was steaming at 25 knots, the track was late and the sea was calm. The torpedo tracks were seen and the enemy avoided them. The destroyer of the escort made an accurate counter attack and caused widespread minor damage and put Subtle's wireless out of action. Statesman then closed and tried to attack the destroyer but could not get in a shot. Subsequently she was able to make an enemy report. Admiral Walker, commanding the surface covering force, rightly appreciated that Haguro was engaged in evacuating troops from the Andaman Islands and that she was likely to try again. He therefore retired to the southwards where he hoped to avoid detection by Japanese reconnaissance aircraft. Unfortunately Statesman was sent to pick up agents on 13th May near the Dindings in place of Torbay, who had broken down. Subtle contacted Scythian and informed her that her wireless was out of action and these two submarines remained in their patrol positions near the Aroa Islands. Admiral Walker was right; the enemy made a second attempt and passed the submarines northbound on the night of 14th/15th without being seen. At the same time, Admiral Walker made an air reconnaissance from his escort carriers, which sighted Haguro, and he sent the 26th Destroyer Flotilla into the Malacca Strait. On the night of 16th, the destroyers intercepted Haguro and sank her with torpedoes. The submarine patrols were then withdrawn, Scythian sinking a junk as she did so on 19th.

Two more submarines left to patrol during April and both sailed on 30th. Seadog (Lieutenant EA Hobson DSC RN) from Trincomalee, visited the west coast of Burma and the Andaman Islands, but saw nothing. On the north coast of Sumatra on 18th May, however, she fired three torpedoes at a range of 3000 yards at a coaster at anchor and hit and sank her. Rorqual (Lieutenant JPH Oakley DSC RN) left Fremantle with a full load of mines and proceeded direct to the Sunda Strait. She laid twelve magnetic ground mines in the Sumatra Channel and then went on and laid forty-four moored contact mines in the Batavia approaches. The original intention of these fields was to catch the German U-boats based at Batavia on their way to and from the Indian Ocean. All the German U-boats had, however, already been recalled to Germany to be fitted with 'schnorchel' and had left the area. These fields failed to trap any other vessels. On 11th May, however, Rorqual sank a coaster by gunfire when returning through the Sunda Strait. She obtained 15 hits out of 21 rounds fired and was only on the surface for five minutes.

EARLY IN MAY C-in-C, British Pacific Fleet discussed the employment of submarines with the Commander Submarines Seventh Fleet and on 2nd, he reported the results to the Admiralty. Maidstone and the Eighth Flotilla of up to ten of the S-class would operate in the South China Sea from Subic Bay, but he warned that already the American submarines in this area were almost exclusively used for air-sea-rescue duties and that such targets as there were would diminish still further. Adamant and the Fourth Flotilla of nine T-class and Rorqual now operating in the Java Sea area where there were still adequate small targets for gun action, should continue to operate from Fremantle and should not, as at present planned, move up to a base in the Philippines. He could see no further case to lay mines from submarines in this area. This situation would probably continue until about September 1945, but would be reviewed at two monthly intervals. In general he could not employ more than the twenty British submarines now under his command in the Pacific. The C-in-C ended his report by saying that he was endeavouring to find a use for Bonaventure and her XE-craft. No formal review of the part of submarines in the East Indies was made at this time but here Wolfe and the Second Flotilla, consisting of the three short range T-class and six S-class were also running short of targets but, with the planned amphibious operations in Malaya, there was a requirement for a number of special operations. As a result of this review, the minelayer Rorqual was sent home9.

In the first few days of May, a group of four T-class submarines left Fremantle independently for the Java Sea. Terrapin (Lieutenant RHH Brunner RN), Trump (Lieutenant AA Catlow RN), Tiptoe (Acting Lieutenant Commander RL Jay) RN) and Tudor (Lieutenant SA Porter DSC RN) all sailed between 3rd and 7th and all fuelled at Exmouth Gulf, passing through the Lombok Strait successfully. Terrapin was sent west to Batavia and the Thousand Islands. Trump was sent to investigate the Sapudi Strait, Tiptoe to the north coast of Sumbawa and the Postillon and Kangean Islands, and Tudor to the Makassar Strait. On arrival in her area, Terrapin had the misfortune to run hard aground on the Arnemuiden Bank in the early morning of 16th. She got off after one and a half hours and jettisoning over 70 tons of oil fuel and two torpedoes. Two days later she sank a motor lugger carrying forty Japanese soldiers, and also a schooner with a cargo of coal, both by gunfire. On 19th, she fired a stern salvo of three torpedoes at 2500 yards at a tanker escorted by a frigate and another small warship and missed. In taking evasive action, Terrapin struck the bottom with 57 feet on the gauge. She was shortly afterwards heavily and accurately counter attacked with two patterns of depth charges as she lay on the bottom causing serious structural damage to the pressure hull forward and a number of leaks. Attacks continued intermittently for five hours and Terrapin stayed where she was without further damage until nightfall. After dark she surfaced and evaded the frigate, which was still in the vicinity, and withdrew at full speed on the surface. When clear, she made a trial dive but there were many leaks. Most of these were repaired by dawn and a second dive was found to be satisfactory. She decided to return to base but her wireless was out of action. Fortunately on 21st she fell in with the US Submarine Cavalla, who reported her plight and escorted her through the Lombok Strait back to Fremantle. Terrapin's damage was so severe that she was, in fact, out of the war. Trump, in the Sapudi Strait, also had an exciting time. On 13th, she damaged and set on fire an armed trawler with her gun but was forced to dive and was counter attacked by another escort vessel. She was stuck in mud on the bottom in 150 feet of water but was undamaged. Later the same day she fired three torpedoes at 800 yards at a submarine chaser and missed because the tracks were sighted. The counter attack was fortunately not serious and she escaped damage. She saw nothing more until 25th, when she sank a junk and, three days later, found a camouflaged coaster inshore and sank her by gunfire. On 31st, she fired two torpedoes at two anchored coasters close inshore at a range of 2000 yards but the torpedoes ran into soft mud before reaching the target. Next day, in Bewleleng Roads, she sank a wooden coaster by gunfire and damaged some sheds and a bridge ashore. On 8th June, she drove a small tanker ashore on the north coast of Bali with her gun but then she ran out of ammunition. She subsequently expended no less than six torpedoes at this same target. The first three torpedoes missed at 3500 yards but the second salvo of three, fired at 2000 yards, secured a hit and blew her stern off. Tiptoe also saw action and, after looking in to a number of anchorages in her area, she sank two coasters by gunfire on 15th and 17th May. On 1st June, after a fortnight's inactivity, she fired three torpedoes from her stern tubes at a range of 800 yards at the escorted 982-ton Tobi Maru near the Laurot Islands and hit and sank her. She was only in 140 feet of water and was heavily counter attacked with thirteen depth charges, which exploded very close. The torpedo tubes were put temporarily out of action as well as her asdic and there was other minor damage. Tiptoe was, in any case, near the end of her patrol and decided to return to base. She dived out through the Sape Strait and arrived at Fremantle on 17th June. Tudor, in the Macassar Strait, had a blank patrol and only sighted some anti-submarine craft in the distance.

During the early part of May, four submarines put to sea from Trincomalee and three of these were for special operations only. Torbay (Lieutenant Commander CP Norman DSO RN) sailed on 8th but broke down and had to return and, as related earlier, Statesman carried out her retrieval of agents near the Dindings in her place. Sibyl (Lieutenant HR Murray RN) also left on 8th and sank five junks by gunfire and demolition charge in the Malacca Strait. She also searched for a suspected minefield with her mine detecting unit. Clyde (Lieutenant RH Bull DSC RN) left on 9th for her last patrol and carried out a special operation on the west coast of Siam but a second special operation had to be abandoned because of defects to her hydroplanes. Thule (Lieutenant Commander ACG Mars DSO DSC RN), on her way to join the Fourth Flotilla at Fremantle, was ordered to carry out one more of her special operations on the east coast of Malaya. She left Trincomalee on 15th without reload torpedoes, but carrying nineteen Royal Marines, four tons of stores and fourteen raiding craft. She passed through the Sunda Strait and landed her party on 30th/31st May on the east coast of Johore, picking up thirty men from an earlier landing party and some US airmen who had been shot down, in exchange. The landing place was five miles from water deep enough for Thule to dive. With ninety-four men on board, she then went on to Fremantle by the Sunda Strait.

One more submarine left Trincomalee right at the end of May and this was Trident (Lieutenant AR Profit DSC RN) with orders to carry out two special operations in the Malacca Strait and on the west coast of Sumatra. Both of these were to contact agents and both failed. Trident, however, sank a junk and two landing craft and also bombarded an aircraft control tower. She then returned but her age was beginning to tell and she had many defects.

The next group of three T-boats from Fremantle sailed together on 13th May and proceeded north in company as a 'wolf-pack'. These were Trenchant (Commander AR Hezlet DSO DSC RN), Thorough (Lieutenant AG Chandler RNR) and Taciturn (Lieutenant Commander ET Stanley DSO DSC RN) and they carried out exercises on passage. They were not, however, to stay together for long and on 19th, Thorough was detached to reconnoitre Sape Strait, which she later passed through independently, and was ordered to operate in the Surubaya area. Trenchant and Taciturn made separate reconnaissances along the south coast of Sumbawa and then passed north through the Lombok Strait in company on the night of 23rd. They then went to the north Java coast west of Surubaya. On 25th, Trenchant, in company with Taciturn, sighted a coaster escorted by a minesweeper. Combined gun action was ordered but Taciturn was too far away to intervene. Trenchant engaged the minesweeper and began to hit but then her gun jammed. She fired a single torpedo at 400 yards, which ran under and then, having cleared her gun sank SpecialMinesweeperNo105. The coaster had beached herself but before she could be destroyed, an aircraft appeared and both submarines had to dive. Trenchant was then ordered to patrol north of the Sunda Strait and Taciturn to join Thorough, who, also on 25th off Surabaya, fired five torpedoes at an escorted southbound ship at a range of 1700 yards. She obtained one hit sinking the 1000-ton Nittei Maru. The escort, a frigate, surprisingly made no counter attack. On 29th, Trenchant, north of Batavia, witnessed an attack by the US Submarine Boarfish on a convoy and the subsequent counter attack but was too far away to intervene. Taciturn, west of Surabaya, had been harassed by anti-submarine patrols since 25th and on 28th fired her three stern torpedoes at a subchaser at a range of 700 yards. The torpedoes either missed or ran under, and a sharp counter attack followed in which Taciturn suffered damage to one of her main motors. Taciturn met Thorough on 30th, but only in time to proceed in company by the Karimata Strait to a patrol line north of Singapore to cover the landings in North Borneo scheduled for 10th June. On 31st, Trenchant was also ordered to join the patrol line off Pulau Tengol and while transiting the Karimata Strait was sighted by Thule returning from her special operation on the east coast of Johore.

Stygian (Lieutenant GS Clarabut DSO RN) and Spark (Lieutenant DG Kent RN) sailed from Subic Bay on 29th May in company to take up positions east of Singapore as additional cover for the North Borneo landings. Operations in the area took on a new importance at this time when the US Submarines Blueback and Chubb sighted Ashigara and a destroyer entering Batavia. Ashigara was now the main threat to the North Borneo expedition as the seaworthiness of Takao and Myoko in Singapore was doubtful. Trenchant, who, in any case, was behind schedule and could not reach the Pulau Tengol patrol line by the 3rd June as ordered, now asked permission to patrol at the northern entrance to the Bangka Strait to intercept Ashigara on her way back to Singapore. This was approved by the Commander, Submarines, Seventh Fleet and she altered course accordingly.

Trenchant rounded Bangka Island and closed the north end of the straits on the night of 6th-7th June. Here she encountered Stygian, who had moved down from her patrol position off Lingga with the same objective in mind. After consultation alongside each other, it was decided that Trenchant should patrol in the Bangka Strait inside O19's minefield, and that Stygian should patrol just outside. As soon as it was light, Trenchant dived in between Bangka Island and O19's minefield into a position in the middle of the straits, in about 20 fathoms, where she was within torpedo range of the land on both sides. Stygian took up a position in about 17 fathoms, five miles north of the Frederik Hendrik Klippen shoal. After dark both submarines had plenty of time to re-charge their batteries fully and at 0400 received Blueback's report that the two enemy ships had left Batavia and were heading north. Shortly afterwards, Trenchant sighted a darkened ship approaching from the south and kept bows on. It was soon recognised as a destroyer and she stayed on the surface looking for the cruiser expected to be following. The destroyer passed close ahead, Trenchant keeping bows on and then turning away sharply. At this point she was seen by the destroyer who opened fire with starshell and antiaircraft guns. Trenchant fired a stern torpedo at her and she turned away and contact was soon broken. Trenchant then made a sweep up the straits searching for Ashigara but nothing was seen. Stygian saw the starshell and then received a message from Trenchant reporting the destroyer and that Trenchant had been seen. Eventually the destroyer retired up the straits and the two submarines resumed patrol, waiting for daylight.

Both submarines dived at dawn and at 0955, Trenchant sighted the destroyer coming down the straits operating her asdic. She kept end on and carefully plotted the destroyer's track as it was expected that the cruiser would follow in her wake. The destroyer went on to seawards and was sighted by Stygian who also remained undetected. Seeing no cruiser, she then decided to attack the destroyer when she turned south towards the straits again. She fired two torpedoes at a range of 800 yards but the splash of discharge was seen and they were avoided. The counter attack of 27 depth charges fortunately only caused minor damage, but the destroyer stayed in the area searching for her while Stygian crept towards the straits to keep between her and the cruiser. At 1148, Trenchant sighted Ashigara coming down the straits following the same track as the destroyer on the Sumatra side. She fired a full salvo of eight torpedoes at a range of 4800 yards on a track of 120 degrees. Five of the torpedoes hit, stopping the enemy with a heavy fire forward and a rapidly increasing list.

Control after firing the salvo was regained within three minutes and, as the enemy was still afloat, a turn was begun to bring the stern tubes to bear. The two remaining stern tubes were then fired but the enemy still had way on and they missed. The destroyer then appeared to the northwards and, as she arrived, Ashigara capsized to starboard and sank. She was carrying some 2000 troops and 800 men were drowned.

Trenchant withdrew without delay in order to pass between O19's minefield and Bangka Island in daylight while accurate navigation was possible. Stygian withdrew to the northwards to her patrol position off Lingga where she hoped she might get another shot at the destroyer. Trenchant was clear by dark and after surfacing, reported her success and set course for the Karimata Strait in anticipation of orders to return to Fremantle. She was, however, ordered to the patrol line off Pulau Tengol. Thorough and Taciturn had been on the patrol line since 3rd June. Thorough sank two coasters by gunfire off Pulau Tengol in 5 fathoms of water on 3rd and 5th and on 6th, Taciturn was attacked but missed by torpedo from a Japanese U-boat. Thorough was recalled to Fremantle on 11th and Taciturn on 13th, but after passing through the Karimata Strait, both boats, having plenty of fuel and torpedoes, asked for a week's extension. Extensions were approved and the two boats met off Surubaya on 16th. Next day, Taciturn met a curious convoy consisting of an armed trawler, an old and very rusty ex-Dutch submarine and a large hulk with promenade decks and a roof and towed by Special Submarine Chaser No105. Taciturn closed in water too shallow to dive and engaged with her gun. Most of this strange collection of ships were armed and returned the fire. The rusty submarine was sunk by gunfire, and then three torpedoes were fired at 2000 yards at the hulk, hitting with two of them and sinking her. The submarine chaser was also sunk by gunfire but the armed trawler made off. Taciturn expended 205 rounds of ammunition. Next day the armed trawler was sighted and pursued by Taciturn, but the enemy ran straight into the arms of Thorough who sank her with 17 hits out of 18 rounds fired. Taciturn was now short of ammunition and a rendezvous was arranged to obtain some from Thorough. During the transfer, two schooners carrying coal to Surubaya were sighted and one of them was boarded by Taciturn and sunk by demolition charge. On 13th, Trenchant, who had previously met the US Submarine Puffer off Pulau Tengol, encountered a large tanker in ballast escorted by a destroyer and a minesweeper. They were inside the ten-fathom line and the water was very clear. When attacking, Trenchant began to run into shallower water and, considering it to be suicidal to continue, broke off the attack. On 15th, she was ordered to Subic Bay where she received a great welcome from Admiral Fife and the Maidstone and the Eighth Flotilla. The sinking of Ashigara removed the only remaining heavy Japanese warship from the southern area. All three cruisers used for Field Marshal Terauchi's evacuation policy for a concentration at Singapore had now been destroyed.

Stygian and Spark remained on patrol east of Singapore until nearly the end of June. On 14th, Stygian had returned to the entrance to the Bangka Strait and she engaged a coaster at long range but had to break off the action because of fire from shore batteries. Both submarines were used for air-sea-rescue but Spark's patrol was otherwise uneventful. On her way back to Subic, Stygian investigated anchorages and local craft off the coast of Borneo. There was one other submarine which sailed for patrol at the end of May and that was the newly arrived O24 (Luitenant ter zee 2e Kl PJS de Jong) after refit in the United Kingdom. She sailed from Fremantle on 29th May and carried out a fifty-two day patrol in the Flores Sea with a short break in the middle at Darwin from 18th- 21st June to fuel. She only had one excitement and that was an attack on a Japanese torpedo boat on 12th June. She fired four torpedoes at a range of 3000 yards and missed. She was then subjected to a long but fortunately ineffective counter attack.

CAPTAIN(S/m) FOURTEEN in Bonaventure, under orders to turn over his XE-craft for scrap in Australia and for Bonaventure to join the Pacific Fleet train, had never ceased to look for an operational role for his flotilla. At a staff meeting in June, he heard of a requirement to cut the telegraph cables between Singapore, Saigon and Hong Kong. At this time the Allies were able to decrypt practically every message sent by radio by the Japanese. Messages sent by cable, however, could not be intercepted and so could not be decrypted. If the cables could be cut, then all traffic would have to be sent by radio and it would be possible to read it. Captain Fell was confident that XE-craft would be able to cut the cables and was given permission by the C-in-C, British Pacific Fleet to fly to the Philippines to discuss the matter with the Commander of the Seventh Fleet and Admiral Fife. After trials off Brisbane in the Great Barrier Reef, it was shown that XE-craft could locate and cut cables, the proposal was accepted by the US Navy and plans were made to mount the operation towards the end of July. The Fourteenth Flotilla was therefore reprieved from an ignominious end and given a chance to show what it could do operationally.

During June, the Eighth Flotilla at Subic got away five submarines on patrol. Selene (Lieutenant Commander HRB Newton DSC RN) on 7th, Seascout (Lieutenant JW Kelly RN) on 16th and Supreme (Lieutenant TE Barlow RN) on 22nd, sailed for the Gulf of Siam. Solent (Lieutenant Commander JD Martin DSC RN) and Sleuth (Lieutenant KH Martin RN), acting as a 'wolf-pack', left for the Bangka Strait and Singapore approaches on 17th. Patrols in the Gulf of Siam were co-ordinated by the senior of two US submarines in the area. Most of the targets were attacked by gunfire and only two torpedo attacks were made. On 24th, Selene fired two torpedoes at one of two coasters at anchor at a range of 3000 yards but one torpedo probably hit the bottom before it reached the target, and the other stuck in the mud just clear of the submarine's bow and then circled. On 30th, Supreme, having been put on to a convoy by the US Submarine Charr, fired six torpedoes at two small tankers escorted by two subchasers at 800 yards but they missed or ran under. This convoy turned back to seek shelter and although Supreme tried hard to get at them with her gun, she was unsuccessful. Selene sank a total of three coasters, a junk and a schooner by gunfire and damaged another coaster. Seascout sank a tug, two schooners, a coaster, five barges and two junks and Supreme a lugger, a tug towing a lighter and three coasters, all by gunfire. Both Selene and Supreme were short of fuel by the end of heir patrols, Selene having run 5138 miles. Solent and Sleuth found two landing craft on the north coast of Bangka. Solent sank one and badly damaged the other, while Sleuth kept guard to seawards. Sleuth boarded a junk on 2nd July but let it go as it was not in the service of the Japanese. On 5th, both submarines joined the US Submarine Blower for a sweep thirty miles east of Singapore, and next morning Sleuth sighted a Japanese U-boat. She fired six torpedoes in a night attack at 4000 yards from the quarter. The U-boat, however, saw the tracks and avoided them. The next night, two patrol vessels were detected by radar. Sleuth was forced to dive, but Solent fired a full salvo of six torpedoes at a range of 1200 yards but they probably ran under in the swell.

No submarines left Fremantle to patrol during the month of June but Trenchant of the Fourth Flotilla, after six days in harbour at Subic Bay, set off back to Fremantle on 26th with orders to patrol on the way. She was first to go to the Salayer Strait and then to make a reconnaissance of the Gulf of Boni in Celebes. From 7th-9th July, she waited in the Salayer Strait for a Japanese torpedo boat, which was expected to pass that way. Nothing was seen and she went on to the Gulf of Boni. This was more of a navigational problem than anything else, the area being poorly charted with many reefs. On 13th, she boarded a schooner, which was found to be carrying kapok but also had three Japanese soldiers on board, who fired at the boarding party through the hatches. She was therefore sunk with gunfire as she was technically a troopship. The Gulf of Boni was found to have little traffic and the navigation was not as difficult as had been feared, as the reefs could be seen under water. On her return voyage to Fremantle, Trenchant sank a small motor launch by gunfire in Kombal Bay in the Lombok Strait, and also destroyed a tug and a landing barge, which had beached themselves during the action. She arrived at Fremantle on 24th July with no defects after being at sea for 82 out of the last 95 days and having run over 15,000 miles. She found that, since her departure from Fremantle on 13th May, Captain HMC Ionides had been relieved in command of Adamant and the Fourth Submarine Flotilla by Captain B Bryant DSO** DSC RN.

During June in the East Indies, five submarines left Trincomalee for operations. Seadog (Lieutenant EA Hobson DSC RN) sailed on 2nd for the southern end of the Malacca Strait to land a party for a beach reconnaissance. Two canoes were lost but what happened to them is not known. Vivid (Lieutenant JC Varley DSC RN) left on 11th June to carry out air-sea-rescue duties in the Malacca Strait. She had to leave patrol early because of a generator defect. Vivid was a veteran of the Aegean campaign, but had been sent to the Far East for anti-submarine training duties. She showed in this patrol of just over three weeks, that the V-class had sufficient endurance to work in the Malacca Strait. Thrasher (Lieutenant Commander MFR Ainslie DSO DSC RN) went to the west coast of Siam for a special operation on 14th, and had time to sink three junks by gunfire and was attacked by an aircraft for her pains but fortunately suffered no damage. Statesman (Lieutenant RM Seaburne May DSC RN) sailed on 17th for the north coast of Sumatra. She sank two junks and fired one torpedo at a beached coaster at a range of 3800 yards and missed. She was then hunted by anti-submarine craft when reconnoitring Sabang. Finally Torbay (Lieutenant Commander CP Norman DSO RN) went to the Malacca Strait where she sank a coaster and two junks by gunfire and demolition charge. She landed a party and stores in Sumatra between 2nd and 6th July.

By early July, the Fourteenth Submarine Flotilla had worked up its X-craft on an old disused cable in the Brisbane area and they were ready for action. Bonaventure then sailed with her XE-craft on board and arrived at Subic Bay on 20th July. Here the operations to cut the cables between Hong Kong and Saigon to the south were planned in detail with the enthusiastic support of Admiral Fife and his staff. It will be recalled that T-class submarines of the Fourth Flotilla were equipped to tow the XE-craft but they were far away at Fremantle. The auxiliary towing arrangements were therefore adapted for use by S-class submarines of the Eighth Flotilla at Subic. By this time it had been decided to add two additional targets to the operation. These were the Japanese cruisers Takao and Myoko lying in the Johore Strait at Singapore. These ships had not moved for some months. It was not known whether they were operational or whether any progress had been made with repairs. Nevertheless they remained a threat, especially to the British landings in Malaya planned for September, and it would be prudent to put them out of action for good.

Meanwhile ordinary submarine patrols were continued by all three flotillas. Five submarines left Trincomalee for patrol during the month. Sibyl (Lieutenant HR Murray RN) sailed on 2nd for the southern part of the Malacca Strait and sank a coaster and eight junks and damaged a tug and a schooner, all by gunfire. She left patrol early because of a sick officer. Vigorous (Lieutenant NR Wood DSC RN), the second V- class to do so, made a three-week patrol on the north coast of Sumatra sailing also on 2nd. She destroyed a beached coaster but did not see any other targets. Thrasher (Lieutenant Commander MFR Ainslie DSO DSC RN) left on 15th July to patrol the northern part of the Malacca Strait and sank four small coasters and two junks with her gun. A new 'wolf-pack' consisting of Shalimar (Lieutenant Commander WG Meeke MBE DSC RN) and Seadog (Lieutenant EA Hobson DSC RN), both on their fourth patrol, then put to sea on 18th to take Sibyl's place in the southern part of the Malacca Strait. They caused havoc among the small craft in this area, sinking, in spite of considerable air activity, jointly a tank landing craft, a coaster, a tug, a junk and a lighter. In addition, Shalimar by herself sank another coaster, a tug, a lighter and four junks and Seadog another five junks. Finally Subtle (Lieutenant BJB Andrew DSC RN) sailed from Trincomalee for the Andaman Sea to report the weather for the widespread air operations in the area.

The Fourth Flotilla in Fremantle, which had practically had a sabbatical in sailings for patrol in June, got nine boats to sea during July, but one of these was a relief for the Eighth Flotilla and went on to Subic. Thule (Lieutenant Commander ACG Mars DSO DSC RN), who had been employed a great deal for special operations, sailed on 5th July for a normal patrol on the north coast of Java. She fuelled at Onslow and passed northward through the Lombok Strait submerged, which was unusual. On 14th, she drove an armed coaster ashore and she was bombed, the missile fortunately missing 50 feet astern, as she dived into a mud bottom. She destroyed three coasters and bombarded a slipway on the north coast of Java but was then, on 20th, recalled, as C-in-C East Indies had asked for her back to carry out another special operation in Johore in which she had become the undoubted expert. She therefore left patrol by the Sunda Strait and returned to Fremantle. The special operation was, however, later cancelled. O21 (Luitenant ter zee 2e Kl FJ Kroesen), on her first patrol since refit in the United Kingdom, sailed on 7th July for the south coast of Java, which she searched, and then passed through the Sunda Strait. On 29th she unsuccessfully attacked two coasters with her gun but it jammed and they got away. O21 was recalled through the Sunda Strait at the end of July and sank a Japanese fishing boat off southwest Java on her way back to Fremantle. It had been intended to send Sidon (Lieutenant HC Gowan RN) direct from Trincomalee to Subic to join the Eighth Flotilla, but battery trouble necessitated a visit to Fremantle. She subsequently left for Subic on 7th July and to patrol east of Singapore Strait on the way. She fuelled at Onslow and passed through the Lombok and Karimata Strait and was then ordered to proceed direct to Subic. Later she was diverted to search for the crew of an American Liberator, which had come down off Saigon. She rescued a Second Lieutenant of the US Air Force after five days some 287 miles from the position in which his aircraft had crashed. Three more days were spent searching for other members of the crew without success, before going on to Subic Bay.

Tudor (Lieutenant Commander SA Porter DSC RN) sailed on 9th July to patrol in the west Java Sea and, after passing through the Lombok Strait, took up a position west of Surubaya. On 27th, she attacked a convoy but was driven off by the escort. She later sank four small coasters with her gun. She carried out air-sea-rescue duties south of Lombok on her way back to Fremantle. Stubborn (Lieutenant Commander AG Davies RN) arrived in Fremantle after service in Home waters and a refit. She was originally intended for the Eighth Flotilla but it was decided to keep her in the Fourth Flotilla as the Eighth, in early July, was already up to full strength. She was sent on her first patrol to the east Java Sea and, after fuelling at Onslow, passed through the Lombok Strait. On 25th she sighted an eastbound destroyer north of Bali and was able to fire four torpedoes at a range of 3000 yards at this difficult zigzagging target. She hit with two of them and sank Japanese Patrol Boat No2, which was the elderly ex destroyer Nadakaze of 750 tons. This was the last Japanese warship to be sunk by torpedo by a British submarine during the Second World War. Two days later, Stubborn met the US Submarine Cabrilla and together they reconnoitred Suleh Bay in Sumbawa forcing a small vessel to jettison its cargo and sinking another. Sadly an officer was lost boarding a junk. On 30th, Stubborn bombarded Bewlelang Roads in northern Bali damaging slipways and landing craft. She was forced to break off this action by shore batteries and an aircraft. On her way back to Fremantle, she contacted Taciturn to take off an injured man and also carried out air-sea-rescue duties.

Finally in July, two T-boat 'wolf-packs' left Fremantle for the west Java Sea. The first of these consisted of Trump (Lieutenant Commander AA Catlow RN) and Tiptoe (Lieutenant Commander RL Jay RN) who sailed on the 16th of the month. They first made a thorough investigation of the south coast of Java from the Lombok Strait to the Sunda Strait, which they passed through in company. Tiptoe damaged a coaster on the last day of the month, being forced to let her go on the arrival of a subchaser with an aircraft. On 2nd August, they sank two coasters with combined gunfire and next day, Trump off Batavia, sighted a substantial convoy consisting of four large ships, one of which was a tanker, escorted by a destroyer, two smaller escorts and aircraft. She fired five torpedoes at the tanker, which was of 6000 tons, at a range of 6500 yards and hit with two of them. The target was seen to catch fire and sink. Tiptoe, four miles away, received an enemy report from Trump and intercepted the convoy in very shallow water and a calm sea. She fired four torpedoes at a range of 3500 yards and one hit was obtained, sinking a merchant ship of 4000 tons. Tiptoe was practically aground at periscope depth on firing, but extricated herself before a counter attack developed which was, in any case, ineffective.

On 9th the combined gunfire of both submarines sank a coastal tanker north of the Sunda Strait. Both submarines returned to Fremantle by the Lombok Strait. The second 'wolf-pack' consisted of Taciturn (Lieutenant Commander ET Stanley DSO DSC RN) and Thorough (Lieutenant Commander AG Chandler RNR) who left Fremantle on 25th July. They entered the Java Sea by the Lombok Strait in company at the end of the month and sank two schooners by demolition charge north of Bali on 1st August. They then surfaced in Bewlelang Roads and while Thorough sank a coaster and a landing craft, and damaged the waterfront, Taciturn kept the shore battery busy. Thorough sank a schooner that night and another on the next day, but she was slightly damaged by a bomb from an aircraft as she dived. On 5th, the 'wolf-pack' closed the Kangean Islands near where a coaster had been reported by an American submarine. The coaster had an air escort and Taciturn surfaced to attract its attention and then dived. This ruse had to be repeated before the aircraft expended its bombs, but when Taciturn surfaced to engage the coaster, she was forced to dive by another aircraft. Thorough sank two coasters on 4th and 12th by gunfire and on 14th sighted two large coasters with five anti-submarine vessels and three aircraft escorting them. Shallow water prevented a submerged attack. Thorough was missed by bombs from two aircraft when withdrawing through the Lombok Strait.

ADMIRAL FIFE, having planned the attacks to be made by the X-craft of the Fourteenth Flotilla, embarked in Bonaventure where he hoisted his flag and sailed from Subic Bay to Brunei Bay in North Borneo, which was now in Allied hands. There he met Spark, Stygian, Spearhead and Selene of the Eighth Flotilla, which were to be the towing submarines for the operation. Preliminary exercises and towing trials had been carried out before leaving Subic Bay. On 26th July, Spark (Lieutenant DG Kent RN) towing XE1 (Lieutenant JE Smart MBE RNVR) and Stygian (Lieutenant GS Clarabut DSO RN) towing XE3 (Lieutenant IE Fraser DSC RNR), sailed for Singapore to attack Takao and Myoko. Spearhead (Lieutenant Commander RE Youngman DSC RNR) towing XE4 (Lieutenant MH Shean DSO RANVR) sailed the same day to cut the Saigon cables while Selene (Lieutenant Commander HRB Newton DSC RN) with XE5 (Lieutenant HP Westmacott DSO DSC RN) left on 27th to cut the Hong Kong cables. All four submarines slipped their X-craft on the night of 30th/31st July, on time and in the right places. XE3 penetrated the Johore Strait and found Takao without difficulty. She laid a side charge underneath her and placed limpets as well, some difficulty being experienced as there was little room between the cruiser's hull and the bottom. The second side charge failed to release and had to be cut, or rather bludgeoned free by a diver. XE3, her mission accomplished, then withdrew. XE1, after being slipped, was delayed by adverse tides and by patrol craft and instead of preceding XE3 up the Johore Straits, was astern of her. Her target was Myoko, lying higher up the Straits than Takao, and calculations showed that XE3's charges under Takao would explode before she could get out past her again. Lieutenant Smart decided that it would be better to ensure Takao's destruction rather than take the risk of passing her after attacking Myoko at a time when XE3's charges were likely to explode. If he waited above her, not only would he be too close to his own charges under Myoko but he would almost certainly be trapped by the consequent counter measures including the closing of the boom across the Straits, which, it seems, was normally left open. XE1 therefore attacked Takao too but the shallow water prevented her charges being placed underneath her and so had to be laid close alongside. Both XE1 and XE3 withdrew successfully and were picked up by Spark and Stygian and towed back to Brunei Bay. The explosions caused Takao to subside onto the bottom but it was too shallow for her to sink altogether.

Spearhead towed XE4 to a position 14 miles from Cape St Jacques off Saigon where she was slipped. XE4 successfully grappled both the cables to Hong Kong and Singapore and cut them, bringing back a one-foot length of each. XE4 made a rendezvous with and was also towed back to Brunei Bay. Selene with XE5, slipped her off Hong Kong to cut the Hong Kong-Singapore cable west of Lamma Island. It was, however, laid in deep mud and she had the greatest difficulty in locating and cutting it, spending three and a half days in the attempt. On 3rd August, further attempts were abandoned and XE5 was towed back to Brunei Bay. In fact her efforts were later found to have so damaged the cable that it was put out of action. These operations, although confirming that X-craft were a very useful weapon in war, cannot be claimed to have hastened the defeat of Japan. Takao was out of action anyway and the Allies captured the cables and could have put them to good use within weeks. Nevertheless the operations were carried out with great skill and bravery, and without casualties either of personnel or material. The sinking of Takao was perhaps some slight compensation to the British, whose carrier fleet at this time had not been allowed by Admiral Halsey any share in destroying the remnants of the Japanese battle fleet. which were sunk by the US Third Fleet. No targets were, however, found for XE2 and XE6, whose crews had to be satisfied with their being available to take the place of the others had it been necessary.

In July, there were two serious accidents in which one submarine was lost and another put out of action for the rest of the war. O19 (Luitenant ter zee 1e Kl JF Drijfhout van Hooff) had had her defects remedied at Fremantle during June but, being a minelayer, was not required operationally any longer15. At the time, however, Maidstone was seriously short of certain spares and stores for her submarines and a requirement arose for some purpose or other for dummy mines. O19 was therefore despatched from Fremantle with a load of dummy mines and stores, to Subic Bay. She transitted the Lombok and Karimata Straits but in the South China Sea, due to a navigational error, ran ashore on the edge of the Ladd Reef. The US Submarine Cod was sent to her assistance but, after two days hard work, it was found to be impossible to refloat her. She had, therefore, to be blown up and her ship's company were taken to Subic Bay. After a stay in Maidstone, they were sent south to Fremantle. The other accident was to the newly arrived Seanymph alongside Maidstone. On 13th July she caught fire due to a mistake in disconnecting charging leads from the depot ship. She had to be abandoned and shut down, but with the assistance of an American salvage vessel the fire was eventually extinguished. The damage done was so extensive that a dockyard refit would be necessary to put it right. Even repairs to make it possible for her to return to the United Kingdom were beyond Maidstone's capacity. The work, however, was undertaken by the American repair ship Anthedon. With a hundred men working twenty-four hours a day the work was done within a week. On 31st July, Seanymph sailed for home calling at Manus and Darwin.

ON THE 1ST AUGUST 1945, few members of the Allied forces fighting the Japanese in the Pacific had the remotest knowledge of the existence of the Atom Bomb, or that its use was a matter of weeks away. Nearly all believed that total victory would not come until Japan had been invaded and that this would take a considerable time and much hard fighting. In South East Asia the plan was still to land in Malaya between Port Swettenham and Port Dickson and preparations were at an advanced stage. British submarine operations therefore continued much as before. The 'wolf-pack' consisting of Solent (Lieutenant Commander JD Martin DSC RN) and Sleuth (Lieutenant Commander KH Martin RN) had left Subic to operate in the Gulf of Siam on 31st July. There was little left in this area except junks and the two submarines sank fifteen of them as well as a small Japanese patrol vessel. The crews of the junks were all saved. Seascout (Lieutenant Commander JW Kelly RN) left Subic on 8th August to join Solent and Sleuth in the Gulf of Siam. From Trincomalee the newly arrived Spur (Lieutenant PS Beale RN) left for her first patrol at the southern end of the Malacca Strait. She sank eleven junks by gunfire and demolition charges. Torbay (Lieutenant Commander CP Norman DSO RN) set off on 7th to land Dutch military personnel and stores in Sumatra and Trident (Lieutenant AR Profit DSC RN) sailed next day to relieve Subtle in weather reporting duty in the Andaman Sea. Finally Statesman (Lieutenant Commander RGP Bulkeley RN) left Trincomalee on 9th August for the Malacca Strait and sank five junks by gunfire and finished off a derelict coaster with a torpedo, the last to be fired by a British submarine during the Second World War.

On 6th August, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and on 9th, the second was exploded over Nagasaki and it was obvious that the whole war situation had completely changed. On 15th August the Japanese government surrendered and that day all British submarines in the Pacific were recalled from Patrol: those in the East Indies were recalled on 18th except for Trident on weather reporting duty in the Andaman Sea. She remained there until 31st August. On 15th, there were eight British submarines at sea in the Pacific and five in the East Indies. In the Pacific, there were three 'wolf-packs' operating: Solent and Sleuth were in the Gulf of Siam; Tiptoe and Trump were on their way back to Fremantle by the Lombok Strait and Taciturn and Thorough were actually pursuing a convoy in the west Java Sea. Seascout was by herself, also in the Gulf of Siam and Spearhead was on air-sea-rescue duty east of Singapore. In the East Indies, Spur and Statesman were on patrol in the Malacca Strait. Trident had just relieved Subtle on weather reporting duties and Torbay was landing Dutch military personnel in Sumatra. There were five S-class submarines in harbour at Subic Bay16. was on her way back to the United Kingdom in a damaged state; six T, S and Netherlands submarines were at Fremantle17, and seven assorted boats were at Trincomalee18.

Scorcher was sent out on weather reporting duties on 23rd August to relieve Trident and remained in position until 13th September. The Eighth Flotilla at Subic Bay reverted to national operational control before the end of August and was ordered to join Rear Admiral Harcourt's force for the re-occupation of Hong Kong. Maidstone arrived there with eight S-class submarines on 29th August. On 30th, Maidstone berthed at the dockyard and the submarines entered the basin and at once began to supply electricity to the city, whose power stations had no fuel. Apart from this, the requirement for submarines in the Far East had ceased. The available naval and military forces were used to re-occupy territory and take the surrender of the Japanese garrisons; submarines could not help much with these tasks. Maidstone was in need of refit and in poor shape. On 17th September, she was sailed for Fremantle to adjust complement with Adamant and then left for the United Kingdom round the Cape, reaching Portsmouth in December. By October, the Admiralty had issued orders for the submarines of the Eighth Flotilla and also Wolfe and the Second Flotilla, to return to the United Kingdom too, which they did via the Mediterranean. Adamant and the Fourth Flotilla received orders to remain in the Far East as part of the post war fleet. Adamant and three T-and one S-class20 sailed for Hong Kong accordingly. Trenchant, Thorough, Tudor and Thule returned to the United Kingdom and O21 and O24 returned to national control.

SO ENDED THE BRITISH SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN in the Far East, the third major campaign which they had fought during the Second World War. In its last year, it had a greater number of submarines operating than in the Mediterranean campaign of 1940-43 or the Norwegian campaign of 1940. It is, however, doubtful if they exerted as great a strategic effect as in the other two campaigns. As discussed in Chapter XII, the original purpose of sending British submarines to the Far East after the First World War, was to 'hold the fort' against the Japanese until a battle fleet could arrive from Europe. Not only, when the time came, were no submarines available for this task but no battle fleet was to hand either. In the next phase in 1942, after Admiral Nagumo's raid into the Indian Ocean and the retreat of the Eastern Fleet to Kilindini, there was a pressing need for submarines in the Far East. They were needed not only to give warning of Japanese raids but also because they were the only naval force capable of operating at all in an area in which we had lost command of the sea. The question was considered by the Admiralty after calls for submarines from C-in-C Ceylon and C-in-C, Eastern Fleet. In the end it was decided to keep the submarines in the Mediterranean, which was the only place from which they could be sent. A small force of Netherlands submarines with British support was all that was allocated. That we survived without further disasters was due entirely to the victory of the US Navy at Midway and the Coral Sea and their campaign in the Solomons, which kept the Japanese too busy to spare any forces for the Indian Ocean. When, after the Italian surrender, submarines did become available for the Far East, surface ships also became available to build up an Eastern Fleet and the strategic purpose of submarines changed again. It was now not only to satisfy the local needs in the Indian Ocean such as reconnaissance for the Eastern Fleet, attrition of the German and Japanese U-boats operating in the area and attack on the sea communications of the Japanese army in Burma, but also to join the American submarines in the Pacific in their general campaign against Japanese shipping wherever it could be found.

The American submarine campaign in the Pacific, after a slow start during its withdrawal from the Philippines to Australia and, with trouble with their torpedoes, was a major plank in their strategy. It proved equal in importance to the operation of their aircraft carriers and to those of the amphibious forces. The main campaign was their direct attack on Japanese shipping and, in the three and a half years that it lasted, they made 4112 attacks firing 14,748 torpedoes sinking 1152 ships totalling 4,861,317 tons. This not only cut the communications of the Japanese forces occupying the territories they had invaded, but deprived their industry of most of the raw materials required for war production. Fuel was desperately short and the population was even deprived of food. Although this success did not, by itself, bring about a capitulation, it so weakened the Japanese war effort, that it made the invasion of Japan a possibility. The American submarines also had great success against the Imperial Japanese Navy. They sank the battleship Kongo, the aircraft carriers Taiho, Shokaku, Shinano and Unryu and four smaller escort carriers, fourteen cruisers, forty-five destroyers, twenty-five submarines, sixty-two frigates and small minelayers and thirty-four submarine chasers and minesweepers21. Against these figures, the performance of the British and Netherlands submarines over the same period, seems very small. British submarines made 191 attacks firing a total of 718 torpedoes sinking thirty-five ships of 85,379 tons. They also sank the cruisers Ashigara and Kuma and four German and Japanese U-boats, an old destroyer and ten minecraft and subchasers. British submarines also laid a total of 558 mines. The Netherlands submarines sank eleven ships of 44,700 tons, the minelayer Itsukushima, the destroyer Sagiri, the German U168 and also laid eighty mines. The mining campaign by British and Netherlands submarines in the Malacca Strait and East Indies did not prove very successful. A total of thirty-two fields were laid but only sank two small warships and five ships totalling 7864 tons. Although every effort was made to lay the mines close inshore, they had to be in very shallow water to be effective and this meant laying them on the surface at night in water in which the submarines could not dive. Many of the small vessels were built of wood and the magnetic pistols of the ground mines would not be actuated by them in any case.

The very great success of the American submarine campaign in the Pacific was due to a number of factors. Not least was the order, issued soon after Pearl Harbour, to wage unrestricted submarine warfare against Japan and there were no restrictions or sink at sight zones. The long endurance of the US fleet type submarine which enabled them to operate deep into Japanese waters from bases as far away as Pearl Harbour and Australia was also important. The directive to use pack tactics at night proved of even greater value to them than to the German U-boats because the submarines had a higher speed and, above all, ten centimetric radar and VHF voice radio. This meant that they won the battles round the convoys. This does not mean that the opposition was weak or ineffective. The US Navy lost fifty submarines in the Pacific22. Of these, nine were nothing to do with the Japanese, two being by accident and four wrecked by running ashore while on patrol, two more were sunk by their own circling torpedoes and one in error by US forces. By far the greatest number sunk by the enemy was by surface anti-submarine vessels of some type, which disposed of twenty boats by depth charge and sometimes by gunfire. In six of these sinkings, aircraft had a part and seven of them occurred when attacking convoys. One submarine was sunk in harbour by bombing and four were destroyed by aircraft at sea. Five almost certainly struck mines and one was sunk by a Japanese submarine and another by the fire from a shore battery. The fate of the remaining nine is unknown even with the assistance of Japanese records. An interesting fact is that, although twenty American submarines were sunk by Japanese anti-submarine vessels of some kind, the US submarines sank a total of 141 destroyers, frigates, subchasers and similar small warships, an exchange rate of seven to one.

It would, however, be wrong to assume that the apparent poor showing of the British and Netherlands submarines, compared with the Americans, was because of technical inferiority. It is true that after the loss of Singapore and Surabaya, they had not got the endurance to reach Japanese waters from Australia or Ceylon and so could never have achieved as much as their American colleagues. Nevertheless it would be truer to describe their characteristics as 'different' rather than as 'inferior'. There is little doubt that for European waters off Norway, in the Bay of Biscay and in the Mediterranean, they were better than the American type, which were too big and unhandy. The performance of Subron in European waters in 1942-3, far from showing them to be superior to British types, indicated that, in confined waters, they were not so effective. The speed of the American submarines was only a few knots faster than the British, but it made all the difference in being able to overhaul convoys on the surface at night. The British A-class were designed to overcome the deficiences in speed and endurance of the T and S-classes but Amphion, the first of the class, was only just doing her trials and they were too late for the war. The British and Netherlands submarines all had radar as well as the Americans. The British radar, the type 291, however, was a general purpose set designed to detect both ships and aircraft and worked on a frequency in the metre band. The American radar, the type SJ in the centimetric band, was designed to detect ships and could do so at far greater distances than the type 291. It was also fitted with a planned position indicator rather than an A-scope, and was greatly superior tactically for attacking convoys at night. The type 291 was, however, far better for detecting aircraft. The Americans had a separate set, Type SD, for this purpose, which was omnidirectional and greatly inferior. The Royal Navy had always been behind the US Navy in the development of voice radio and had no suitable set for submarines or for that matter, for ships either. By the end of the Pacific war, however, sets were being fitted in submarines to facilitate wolf-pack tactics. The American submarines also had a sophisticated torpedo control system with all round angling of torpedoes, which made it impossible to 'miss the DA' and the submarine did not have to be pointed in the direction in which torpedoes had to be fired. Surprisingly this did not achieve any better hitting rate than the British with their primitive system but made up for the comparative unmanoeuvrability of the large US submarines23.The British submarines, nevertheless, had two substantial advantages over the Americans. The first was that they were smaller and more manoeuvrable and could operate in shallower water24. The main difference was, however, one of tactics. While British submarines were prepared to operate to their limits in shallow water, the Americans were uneasy in depths of less than 100 fathoms and felt vulnerable in under 30 fathoms. In a number of cases British submarines ran aground at periscope depth when attacking and many attacks, such as that on Ashigara were in under 20 fathoms. When Japanese large merchant ships became scarce, they resorted to mass-produced coasters and the use of local craft, operating in shallow water where it was difficult for the large American submarines to get at them. The mounting of guns in British submarines, with their quick manning hatches and, in the larger classes, rotating breastworks, was undoubtedly superior to the Americans. For operations in shallow water and with the gun, they were actually superior to the US Fleet type and were of the greatest value working with them and complementing their operations. While it is incontestable that the Americans could not have secured the results they did in the Pacific if they had had British type submarines, it is certain too that the British would not have done so well in Norway and in the Mediterranean as they did if they had had American Fleet type submarines.

The above comments, except to point out that British submarines unlike those of the US Navy, could not reach Japanese waters after the fall of Singapore, do not explain the huge difference in the sinkings. There were two other reasons for this. The first was the number of British compared with American submarines operating in the Pacific and the second was that until 1944, the British were restricted to the Malacca Strait. At the outbreak of war with Japan, the British had no operational submarines in the Far East at all. The two that were then sent from the Mediterranean only arrived as Singapore fell. The Dutch had at first eleven and the Americans sixty-seven in the Pacific. Soon after the end of 1942, the two British submarines departed for refit, leaving three Netherlands boats on the station. American strength by the end of 1942 rose to eighty and a year later it was one hundred and twenty-three. British submarines did not return to the Pacific until the Italian collapse in the late summer of 1943 and their strength was at first slow to increase. By the end of 1943, there were still only seven boats on the station. Thereafter reinforcement was fairly rapid and by the end of March 1944, they reached a total of nearly thirty and this strength was maintained until the end of the war. By the end of 1944 the Americans had one hundred and fifty-six submarines in the Pacific and their strength was kept at this level until hostilities ceased. After 1943, the Dutch had about three submarines in the Far East. Roughly, therefore, the British only deployed just over ten per cent of Allied submarine strength in the Far East over the whole period and the Netherlands about 2.5%. With the restrictions on the area of operations, partly brought about by lack of endurance and partly by the division of responsibilities between the Allies, it is not altogether surprising that the sinkings by British and Dutch submarines only amounted to some two per cent of the total. In general the British submarines were not available for the Far East when they were really required in the early stages, and when the Eastern Fleet had retired to Kilindini; and were in abundance after the US Submarines had virtually destroyed the Japanese merchant fleet.

Much greater results were expected when the British submarines moved from the East Indies to the Pacific. However hopes were not realised as, by the time they got there, targets were as short as in the Malacca Strait. As has already been pointed out, the distance to most of the important patrol areas was no shorter by sending British submarines to Fremantle and the same areas could have been reached as easily from Trincomalee especially if an advanced fuelling base had been organised in the Cocos Islands. Better results could probably have been obtained if the Gulf of Siam, the waters east of Singapore and the Sunda Strait area had been included in the South East Asia Area from its inception and the whole British submarine force operated from Trincomalee throughout without sending any boats to Australia. Strategically the blockade of Burma, in which the South East Asia Command was mainly concerned, as well as the isolation by sea of Singapore could have been better co-ordinated in this way.

The British submarines in the Pacific, although operating in the shadow of the victorious American Submarine Force of the Pacific Fleet, had done well. They had arrived too late to partake in the destruction of the Japanese merchant fleet but had helped substantially in the final stages. Not only had they prevented the Japanese Army in Burma using the sea in the Malacca Strait and the port of Rangoon for their supplies but after joining the American submarines in Fremantle were able to assist them with attacks in shallow water and on small craft with their guns which kept up the pressure of the blockade. It was British forces which were mainly responsible for frustrating Count Terauchi's strategy of concentrating his armies in Malaya by sinking Haguro and Ashigara which would have been of increased importance had the Japanese surrender not come early as a result of the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The low tonnage sunk by the British submarines in the Far East was balanced by extraordinarily low casualties. Whereas we had lost forty-five submarines in the Mediterranean and fifteen in Norway, during the whole period of the war against the Japanese, we only lost three boats. Furthermore, of these, only one was definitely attributable to the Japanese Navy and the fate of the other two is unknown. It is, however, true that another six submarines were seriously damaged and were lucky to survive. The low casualties were certainly not because risks were not taken. The British submarines operated in very shallow waters and there were a number of attacks in which submarines ran aground just before or after firing, which illustrates this point. Credit must go to the toughness of the submarines themselves and to the excellent training and battle worthiness of their crews, hardened in the Mediterranean and Norway. The Netherlands submarines, although every bit as good as the British, were not so lucky. They lost a total of nine boats but most of these were sunk in the early stages of the conflict in attempting to stop the first Japanese onrush. Four of the submarines were lost in Surabaya. In fact only one Netherlands submarine was lost during the last three years of the war and that was nothing to do with the Japanese25.

The highest decorations for this final period of the war went to the X-craft personnel for the sinking of Takao and the cutting of the telephone cables. For the sinking of Takao, Lieutenant Fraser of XE3 and his diver, Leading Seaman Magennis, received the Victoria Cross and the other two members of his crew the DSO and CGM. Lieutenant Smart of XE1 received the DSO with suitable awards for his crew. Lieutenant Shean of XE4 received a bar to his DSO for cutting the Saigon cables and Lieutenant Westmacott of XE5 a bar to his DSC for his three-day attempt to cut the Hong Kong cable. Later Captain Fell commanding the Fourteenth Flotilla received the CBE.

Awards to the large submarine Commanding Officers reflected the paucity of targets in the area at this time. A bar to his DSO went to Commander Hezlet of Trenchant for sinking Ashigara and a DSO to Luitenant ter zee Drijfhout van Hooff of O19 for his gallant attempts to achieve the same goal earlier in the year. Ten other Commanding Officers received bars to their DSCs26 and another eleven the Distinguished Service Cross27. Seven other Commanding Officers were Mentioned in Despatches28. The chariot attack on Phuket was recognised by the award of the DSC to Sub Lieutenant Eldridge RNVR and a DSM to Petty Officer Smith and the two crew members. Finally in the New Year's Honours of 1945, Captain Ionides, commanding the Fourth Submarine Flotilla, was awarded the CBE.

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