KHEDIVE leading ATTACKER, photographed from PURSUER during Operation DRAGOON August 15 1944.
The invasion of Southern France Operation DRAGOON commenced in the early hours of August 15th, TF 88 flying operations commenced at 06:10, the last aircraft landed on at 20:35. Only daylight flying operations were carried out. The assault area, centred on St Tropez, extended some 30 miles along the Cote d'Azur. It was divided into four sectors, code named (from east to west) Camel, Delta, Alpha and Sitka. The assault troops were formed of three American divisions of the VI Corps, reinforced by the French 1st Armoured Division. The 3rd Infantry Division landed on the left at Alpha Beach (Cavalaire-sur-Mer), the 45th Infantry Division landed in the centre at Delta Beach (Saint-Tropez), and the 36th Infantry Division landed on the right at Camel Beach (Saint-Raphaël). A fourth Force, the First Special Service Force, a joint U.S.-Canadian special forces unit was landed on the offshore islands Operation Sitka to neutralise the Hyères Islands, (Porquerolles, Port-Cros, Bagaud, and Levant). By the end of the first day, 60,150 troops and 6,737 vehicles had been put ashore, including the first French armoured contingent.
On ‘D’ Day KHEDIVE and TG 88.1 were at the flying off position at 05:30 and 899 squadron had 26 serviceable aircraft that could be tasked with any of six mission types: Fighter Bomber (F/B), Straffing, Tactical Reconnaissance (TacR), Force Cover, Beach Cover, and Bombardment Spotting. There were 26 pilots and 24 Seafires on board and limited reserves aircraft held ashore at Casabianda airfield in Corsica.
A pre-planned flying programme had been promulgated covering the first 5 days of operations, ‘D’ to ‘D’ + 4. The prepared flying programme for D-Day called for 36 sorties; 24 F/B, 12 Low Force Cover. This however was not fixed, calls for strikes on enemy positions or additional spotting sorties could be passed to the ship throughout the day. At the start of the day 899 had 25 serviceable aircraft and 24 pilots available. KHEDIVE’s first Serials launched at 06:25, 4 F/B aircraft armed with 500 lb bomb loads to attack costal defence batteries. With the exception of Serial 33, which was cancelled, the squadron followed the pre-planned flying programme. The F/B sorties ranged inland attacking coastal Defence Batteries and bombing roads between Guers and Le Muey. The last sortie landed on at 20:30.
During the day 899 flew 32 sorties: 8 Force Cover and 24 F/B. One aircraft was damaged landing on, Sub-Lt E. W. Hunt, RNVR in NF543 floated over all the arrester wires and entered the barrier. Very light winds of 18 knots over the deck meant that aircraft had to utilise the full length of deck for the take-off run and landing was also affected by the higher landing speeds which had the potential to result in deck crashes. Another consequence of the low wind was mist and haze, the coast was not visible and only the smoke of explosions could be seen from the ship.
On D +1 899 had 24 serviceable aircraft and 23 pilots available at dawn. At 06:00 4 F/B were ranged on deck on call but did not launch. The prepared flying programme for D +1 called for 22 sorties; 4 F/B (on call), 12 Low Force Cover, 6 Beach Cover. The first launch of the day was to be at 13:55 - 4 aircraft for Force Cover, followed by 4 more at 15:10 and again at 18:25. Six aircraft for Beach Cover at 18:55. The squadron actually flew 28 sorties.
Aircraft roamed inland attacking motor transport and railway tracks west of Brignoles, and scored one hit on Coastal Battery K.26. This battery was attacked twice; the first time was by an 8 aircraft strike before noon, this encountered heavy and accurate flak, Sub-Lt E. A. Gentry, RNVR was hit and was forced to bale out over the sea, he was safely rescued by the Battleship RAMILLIES. A second strike of 6 aircraft was launched at 19:00 to dive-bomb a costal defence battery and they also encountered the same flak barrage crossing the coast near Toulon.; another Seafire was hit by flak and failed to re-join the flight after the strike at Pointe de Garde de Caigne, Ravina, Toulon, Sub-Lt J. G. Barrett, RNVR was killed. The result of the days F/B sorties was 2 M.T. vehicles destroyed, two boobs hit railway west of Brignoles, but only one bomb hit the coastal defence battery K.26.
During the day 899 flew 28 sorties: 6 Force Cover, 5 Beach Cover and 16 F/B. The Beach cover sorties were a continuation of F/B sorties returning from inland targets. Two aircraft and one pilot were lost to enemy action.
On D +2 899 had 22 serviceable aircraft and 22 pilots available. Wind speeds increased slightly to a maximum of 25 knots across the deck. The prepared flying programme was the same as for D +1, however out of planned 22 sorties only 8 were flown. An Army Co-operation mission was received in the afternoon to assist with a problematic target, a Fort on port Cros Island. This s fort was in dead ground, unreachable by ship's gunfire, and had been attacked by Wildcats from PURSUER and Hellcats from EMPEROR in the morning, led by Lit. Cdr Fell, No.7 Wing leader. In the late afternoon KHEDIVE and ATTACKER launched 8 500 Lb bomb equipped F/B Seafires each, to strike at the fort, the 16 aircraft were led by Lt .Cdr G. C. Baldwin, DSC, RN, No.4 Wing larder . Four direct hits were recorded on buildings within the Fort, 2 were destroyed. KHEDIVE’s Seafires then ranged inland and strafed railway sidings west of Brignoles.
During the day 899 flew 16 sorties: 4 Force Cover, 4 Beach Cover and 8 F/B.
On D +3 899 had 21 serviceable aircraft and 21 pilots available. The prepared flying programme was the same as for D +1 & 2, however out of planned 22 sorties only 6 were flown for Force Cover, together with 8 armed reconnaissance. The armed recon aircraft attacked motor transport on roads in Aix-en-Provence destroying 3 vehicles and damaged 8 more.
During the day 899 flew 14 sorties: 6 Force Cover and 8 armed Recon. The squadron lost one aircraft and its pilot; Sub-Lt D. A. Carey, RCNVR was killed during a low level attack on German motor ehicles, his aircraft NF661 was seen to fly into a hill at Fuveaux. He was pulled from the wreckage seriously injured and was taken on board PURSUER but died from his injuries on August 21st.
On D +4 899 had 21 serviceable aircraft and 21 pilots available. The replanted flying program was the same as the previous two days but was not followed. A significant shift in the wind gave 30 knots over the deck for most of the day. Flying was primarily armed recon attacking road and rail infrastructure and traffic. These sorties resulting in the destruction of 4 cars, and 1 lorry, 3 tanks badly damaged and 3 Lorries carrying 20 infantry strafed. Two Hellcats from EMPEROR were landed on and later launched to return to their parent ship. During the day 899 flew 20 sorties: 4 Force Cover and 16 armed Recon.
The two Task Groups of Force 88 had operated together for the first five days of the operation, but separated late on the 19th; ATTACKER, EMPEROR, PURSUER, and SEARCHER withdrew to Maddalena, Sardinia for a 24 hours replenishment and rest period while KHEDIVE transferred to TG88.2 to bolster that force which remained off the French coast providing air cover. She detached from TG88.1 at 19:36 and escorted by the Destroyer TYRIAN set course at 15 knots to rendezvous with TG88.2 at dawn.
On D +5 899 had 21 serviceable aircraft and 21 pilots available. KHEDIVE and TYRIAN rendezvoused with the Carriers of TG88.2 TULAGI (CTG 88.2), KAZAN BAY, HUNTER and STALKER at 06:30. The good wind conditions continued throughout the day.
Commencing at 09:55 KHEDIVE’s aircraft took over the lion’s share of the day’s Force Cover sorties in addition to launching F/B sorties against enemy ‘E’ & ‘F’ Boats and motor transport the Rhone valley . These sweeps had limited success, only one ‘F’ boat and one vehicle were damaged during 16 sorties.
During the day 899 flew 36 sorties: 20 Force Cover and 16 armed Recon. A replacement Wildcat for PURSUER’s 881 squadron appeared, unaware that the Carrier was not on station and was landed on and retained aboard. Another pilot from 881 squadron arrived on board by boat from the USS HENDERSON.
At 22:00 KHEDIVE escorted by TYRIAN detached from TG 88.2 and proceeded to Maddalena.
A Seafire III of 899 squadron, bombed up ready for action, taking off from KHEDIVE during Operation DRAGOON August 1944. Photo © IWM (A 25493)
D +6 rest day: KHEDIVE and TYRIAN arrived at Maddalena at 11:10 on the morning of the 21st (D+6) and stored ship. After disembarking two damaged Seafires and the 881 Squadron pilot for passage to the advance base at Casabianda aerodrome, Corsica. The two ships sailed at 18:00 to re-join TG88.1.
On D +7 899 had 23 serviceable aircraft and 21 pilots available KHEDIVE re-joined TG88.1 at 08:00, the flying off position was moved to the western side of the Gulf of Lyons in response to information that a German division was believed to be moving across from the Biscay coast. The division, however, moved north instead of east, and targets were hard to find in the new operational area west of the Rhone. Flying commenced at 12:40 with the launch of an 8 aircraft F/B strike; targets were rail and road movements in the Béziers and Narbonne areas but good targets were hard to find and were mainly restricted to road and rail strikes near Avignon. Two similar missions were flown later in the day, results were poor however, and only two hits on goods yard buildings, one vehicle destroyed and the rail line cut by bombs at Avignon. At 13:45 Commander Lewin (British Naval Air Liaison Officer) landed on in a Wildcat and transferred to ROYALIST for a conference, he returned at 17:15 and flew off at 17:30. The 881 Sqn Wildcat accepted on the 20th was flown off to join PURSUER.
During the day 899 flew 24 sortie, sell F/B armed Recon. One aircraft wises lost o enemy action, Sub-Lt G. Steven RNZNVR had to bale out on returning to the ship from his sortie after his rudder jammed as a result of flak damage, on exiting the aircraft his parachute caught on the airframe and tore badly; he he fell into the sea trailing half a chute but was picked up safely by TYRIAN. Five other aircraft were put out of action due to heavy landings.
On D +8 899 had 17 serviceable aircraft and 20 pilots available Again targets were rail and road movements up the Rhone Valley but suitable targets were elusive, practically no motor transport or armour movements were seen. Results after 29 sorties ere poor, 2 hits on railway huts, 1 vehicle destroyed and several railway wagon hit near Avignon.
During the final day of operations 899 squadron flew a total of 29 F/B sorties. Flying operation for TG88.1 ended at 19:45 and the Force left the operational area at 21:00 and set course for Magdalena. The Force anchored in Arcachon Bay, Magdalena at 11:30 on the 24th. The ships of TG88.1 were released from DRAGOON operation on Sunday August 27th and after replenishment KHEDIVE left Maddalena on the 28th to proceed to Alexandria.
KHEDIVE’s squadron had flown a total of 201 sorties over nine days of operational flying; 144 Fighter Bomber, 48 Force cover, 9 Beach Cover. 899 squadron began operations with 26 Seafires, at the end of operations on August 23rd they had 17 serviceable machines, and no replacements had been received. Four aircraft and two pilots were lost, and one aircraft seriously damaged, due to enemy fire. No enemy aircraft were encountered, but 54,503 rounds and 141 500 lb bomb loads were expended against ground targets.
Operations in the Aegean Sea, September 1944
KHEDIVE arrived at Alexandria on September 2nd and disembarked a detachment of 6 aircraft to RNAS Dekheila.
While at Alexandria the seven carriers of Rear Admiral Troubridge’s Escort Carrier Squadron were reallocated for operations in the Aegean, and a new force, Force 120, was constituted on September 2nd. This initially comprised HM Ships ROYALIST (FOEC) ATTACKER, EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE, PURSUER, SEARCHER, STALKER, TROUBRIDGE (Capt. (D) 24), TYRIAN, TEAZER, TERMAGANT, TERPSICHORE, TUMULT, TUSCAN, TENACIOUS, Greek destroyer HHelMS NAVARINON, and Polish destroyer ORP GARLAND. They were joined on the 24th by the cruisers ORION, AJAX, BLACK PRINCE, ARGONAUT, AURORA, and COLOMBO from Naples.
Elements of Force 120 were to operate in the Aegean conducting Operation OUTING, this was to be carried out in five phases; phase 1 was began only a week after the carriers arrived back at Alexandria, the final phase ended at the end of November. KHEDIVE took part in phases 1. She re-embarked the detachment from
RNAS Dekheila on the 6th and prepared to sail for Operation OUTING I.
Operation OUTING I
Force 120 and the Cruisers were to split into two groups, the carriers HUNTER, KHEDIVE, PURSUER, and SEARCHER sailing on September 9th with Force A, their task was to hamper and delay German troop movements in the Dodecanese Islands, (Leros, Kos, Samos, Rhodes and Levitha). Force A sailed from Alexandria on the 9th of September to operate off the south coast of Crete, the carriers to carry out reconnaissance and strikes by day, also to provide CAP for the force while the Cruisers and Destroyers of the force struck at targets by night. The first night targets presented on the 12th/13th when ROYALIST and three destroyers attacked a small convoy on the Candia-Santorin route; the next night drew blank, but on the night of the 14th/15th two German KT ships were destroyed by ROYALIST and the Destroyer TEASER.
Strikes on the Islands of Cos, Crete and Rhodes: the first phase of the operation was the neutralising of the outer air defence ring formed by the Islands of Crete-Scarpanto-Rhodes. On the 16th Seafire and Wildcat fighter-bombers from PURSUER and SEARCHER attacked vehicles on the roads of Crete and sank four caiques and damaged a further six with bombs.
On the 13th KHEDIVE and SEARCHER with escorts TENACIOUS and ORP GARLAND were detached to provided air cover for 6 Minesweepers of the 5th Minesweeping Flotilla and the landing force for Operation APLOMB, a pre-cursor for the later Operation MANNA. The operation commenced on September 14th, this was a landing on the Greek island of Kithera by FOX FORCE, consisting of 9th Commando, 4 patrols of the Special Boat Squadron (SBS), a patrol of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), 1 x 75mm Gun section, a Machine Gun Section and 100 tonnes of equipment carried on board he Landing Ship Infantry (Medium) HMCS PRINCE DAVID escorted by the Destroyers HMS QUANTOCK and WILTON. These were landed at St. Nikolo Bay by 07:00 on the 16th. This force was to recce the Greek islands of Poros, Aiyina, Salamis, Ay Yeoryios, Psittalia and Fleves; and to harass any German still withdrawing and to knock out any coastal defence guns.
ATTACKER and EMPEROR arrived on station on the 15th joining Force A (CVEs HUNTER KHEDIVE, PURSUER, and SEARCHER, Cruisers AJAX, ARGONAUT, AURORA, BLACK PRINCE, COLOMBO, ORION, and ROYALIST); HUNTER withdrew to Alexandria on their arrival. Air operations began on the 16th. For the first three days of operations the Seafires from ATTACKER and KHEDIVE, and the Wildcats from PURSUER and SEARCHER provided CAP during the daylight hours for the Command Cruiser ROYALIST and her destroyers, and also for a minesweeping force clearing a path for the occupation of Kithira Island, between the western end of Crete and the Peloponnese.
The first phase of the operation was the neutralising of the outer air defence ring formed by the Islands of Crete-Scarpanto-Rhodes. On the 16th Wildcat fighter-bombers from PURSUER and SEARCHER attacked vehicles on the roads of Crete and sank four caiques and damaged a further six with bombs. Armed reconnaissance sorties were flown over the islands of Milos and Thia, and on the 19th a strike by 45 aircraft carried out dive-bombing and strafing of targets on Rhodes; targets included four airfields, all vessels in its harbours and coastal waters, and all transport on its roads. 68 motor vehicles and two Ju.52 transport aircraft were destroyed. Two Depot ships and five caiques were sunk and a Radio Station and a 1,000 ton merchant ship were damaged. Phase one of Operation OUTING was completed on the 20th and KHEDIVE and other carriers of the force returned to Alexandria.
Three of 899 Squadron aircraft were damaged during this operation, all on September 18th; Sub-Lt W. J. Long, RNVR managed two barrier crashes, one in Seafire NF544 the other in NF637, in both cases he floated over the arrestor wires and entered the barrier damaging the engine and tail. The third was Sub-Lt G. C. Shelley, RNVR in NN350 which hit the barrier, broke off the undercarriage and came to rest tipped up on its nose.
Captain D. H. Magnay, RN, relieved Captain Haynes as commanding officer on September 25th at Alexandria.
January1945: KHEDIVE entering Grand Harbour, Malta, while on her outward voyage to join the East Indies Fleet. On her flight deck she is carrying at least 9 Martinet target Tugs (aft), several Seafires and Corsairs. Crated equipment and stores are also on deck. The Hellcats of 808 squadron are stowed in her hangar.
On October 1st 1944 KHEDIVE, in company with PURSUER and SEARCHER sailed from Alexandria to return to the UK. They made their way to Gibraltar unescorted, arriving there on the 8th to refuel before joining the convoy MKS.63 which sailed from Gibraltar that day. This convoy rendezvoused with the north-bound SL.172 to form the combined convoy SL.172 /MKS.63 bound for Liverpool. On reaching the cover of the Western Approaches the carriers detached; KHEDIVE proceeded to Belfast, PURSUER and SEARCHER to the Clyde where they arrived on the 12th.
At Belfast the aircraft, stores and personnel of 899 squadron were disembarked for the last time, the squadron going initially to R.N. Air Section Ballyhabert on route to RAF Long Kesh. On completion of de-storing ship KHEDIVE sailed for the Thames on October 20th. She entered a commercial shipyard in London Docks on the 23rd to receive repairs and a refit in preparation for her service with the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron (21 ACS), part of the East Indies Fleet. Emerging in late December she conducted post refit trials before beginning preparations to sail for the Far East.
On January 5th 1945 she embarked the 24 Hellcat aircraft of 808 squadron . The squadron was to be none operational on passage; their aircraft were stowed in the hanger at the end of flying operations. On the 7th she arrived at RNAMY Belfast to embark the stores and personnel of 808 squadron and to load reserve aircraft for delivery to RNAS Cochin, in Southern India. This load comprised mainly of Seafires but included 7 specially modified Avengers for the British Pacific Fleet.
On January 11th 1945 KHEDIVE together with CVEs SPEAKER and SLINGER, and a destroyer escort of VOLAGE, VENUS, ESKIMO, WOLVERINE and WHITEHALL sailed from the Clyde bound for Gibraltar on the first leg of passage to Ceylon, the group was under the command of Captain B L Moore, C.O. HMS SPEAKER,. The group of ships called briefly at Gibraltar on the 16th, then Valletta Harbour Malta on the 19th before arriving at Alexandria on January 22nd, entering the Suez Canal on the 24th for transit to the Red Sea. After a brief stop at Aden to refuel and store ship on January 28th the convoy steamed straight across the Indian Ocean, KHEDIVE bound for Cochin arriving on February 3rd, SPEAKER and SLINGER to Colombo, arriving there on February 4th.
After unloading her cargo of reserve aircraft to RNAS Cochin the ship’s Hellcats were returned to operational status and the squadron disembarked to RNAS Katukurunda, Ceylon on the 7th while the ship steamed round the Island to Trincomalee to report for duty with 21 ACS on the 11th.
It is not clear what duties KHEDIVE performed once attached to 21 ACS, she was possibly employed for one or more ferry trips to Cochin before working-up with her new squadron and aircraft type. It had been planned that a 10 day work-up was to be done in the UK, but when it looked like she would not have time between leaving the dockyard and her planned sailing date it was postponed and she was to work-up in the Mediterranean on the passage out . This was further revised when it was decided to send a ferry load of reserve aircraft with her, making the flight deck inaccessible. Her work up was therefore postponed until she arrived on station.
April 1945 at Colombo ‘Flying Flossie’ – a test dead weight, is launched during a catapult test. Photo © IWM (A 28699)
Aircraft from 808 squadron began flying out to operate with the ship for DLT sessions off the West coast of Ceylon in early March. There were two barrier crashes during this period: one on the 9th JV282 flown by Sub-Lt J. E. Jackson, RNVR and on the 11th Midshipman B. P. Andrew, RNVR in JV321. The squadron re-joined the ship from RNAS Katukurunda on March 16th and the ship’s work-up got under way. There were two further barrier crashes during this period, both after catching No.7 wire, Sub-Lt B. C. White, RNZNVR in JW871, and Sub-Lt G. O. Eiger, RNVR in JV180 on the 18th. Training continued in preparation for operations against shipping and shore targets. KHEDIVE was next allocated to Force 63 for Operation SUNFISH. A detachment of 7 aircraft was briefly disembarked to RNAS Trincomalee on April 5th to collect replacement aircraft; damaged aircraft were put ashore by lighter.
For operation SUNFISH Force 63 was split into two groups; Group 1 comprised the Battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH, Free French Battleship RICHELIEU, Cruiser LONDON and Destroyers SAUMAREZ, VERULAM and VIGILANT. Group 2 included HM Escort Aircraft Carriers EMPEROR (9 Avengers of 845 ex EMPRESS, 4 Hellcat of 808 ex KHEDIVE, plus 888 squadron with 7 photographic reconnaissance Hellcats) and KHEDIVE (20 Hellcat of 808), Cruiser CUMBERLAND, and Destroyers VENUS and VIRAGO. A Tanker Force, Force 70, comprised of HM frigate LOSSIE and RFA EASEDALE was sailed to support the main Force.
At 14:20 on Sunday April 8th KHEDIVE slipped from her berth and proceeded out of harbour in company with EMPEROR (S.O. C.S.5), VENUS and VIRAGO. The 7 Hellcats of 808 Squadron at R.NAS Trincomalee were to be flown on once clear of the harbour, 3 returning to KHEDIVE and 4 to join EMPEROR. The landings on KHEDIVE were disastrous; two of the three aircraft were put out of action and one pilot was killed. Lt J. P. Rowbottom, RNVR put JV309 into the barrier but CPO Pilot C. E. Gregory was killed when his aircraft crashed into the starboard quarter of the rounddown, burst into flames and was lost overboard. A fire was started on board but was soon put out. Damage to the ship amounted to the virtual destruction of the flight deck steering position and the starboard depth charge racks. Once repairs and a ‘work around’ were devised for emergency steering the two carriers joined up with the remainder of Force 63. On April 9th a limited amount of flying was carried out and consisted of interception exercises controlled by KHEDIVE and EMPEROR alternately. At 15:30 EMPEROR’s catapult broke down and it was estimated to take four days to repair. A member of the ship’s company, FAA/FX 94816, LAM(E) J.A.C. Dyer, died on board from illness.
SUNFISH was planned in two parts; phase one was to carry out a photographic reconnaissance sweep of the area around Port Swettenham, Malaya, beginning on April 12th from a flying off position west of Padang, with secondary anti-shipping strikes. Phase two was the bombardment of Japanese positions on Sabang Island just off the north-western tip of Sumatra Island in the Japanese-occupied Netherlands East Indies. This programme had to be reassessed and the planned Bombardment of Sabang was brought forward, the photographic reconnaissance being postponed in the hope that EMPEROR was serviceable on completion.
A rehearsal of the flying programme for D day was arranged on the 10th and KHEDIVE launched 5 aircraft. The day was again marked by tragedy when Hellcat JV144 ('K6G') landing on at 08:38, crashed through the barriers and went over the bow, taking with it JV298 which was in the park and depositing a third, JW719 (‘K6S’) on the Forecastle head. Lt P. A. Sherry, RNVR, the pilot of the machine that crashed was lost with his aircraft, but the pilot of the machine that ended on the forecastle, Sub-Lt J. E. Jackson, RNVR who was still in his cockpit, got away with a severe shaking. In addition D/X 9533B, Leading Seaman, J. Johnson, RNR, of the flight deck handling party was killed outright and two mechanics FAA/FX 580487 LRM(AW) A. Catherall, and FAA/FX 101836, AM(E) W.B. McClory who were tending to aircraft in the park were lost overboard. Neither man was recovered. The ship was immediately turned out of the wind, partly to swing the screw clear of the men in the water and partly because it was expected the forecastle would go up in flames at any moment. Fortunately it did not and landing on was resumed at 09:00 when the barrier had been repaired.
Bombardment of Sabang: At 06:45 on the morning of April 11th there was sufficient wind for EMPEROR to launch 4 Hellcats, unaided, for offensive sweeps of the Japanese held airfields at Kotaraja and Lhoknga. KHEDIVE launched four aircraft as Force cover and two for bombardment spotting duty but had to use the ship’s catapult for them all as the ship struggled to achieve the required wind speed over her deck. Her commanding officer reported that she had lost a half to one knot off her maximum speed since arriving on station.
During the day QUEEN ELIZABETH, RICHELIEU, and LONDON carried out a bombardment of Sabang, while SAUMAREZ, VIGILANT, and VERULAM bombarded Oleelhoe. No shipping was present at Sabang, but the destroyers damaged a small coaster, which was already beached. A CAP of four aircraft was maintained in the air throughout the day, each sortie lasted 2 hours with reliefs launching half an hour before the preceding patrol was due to land on. The first incoming enemy raid was detected at 09:45 while withdrawing from Sabang; the force cover intercepted them at 40 miles. The raid consisted of 5 Oscars (Ki-43) carrying bombs and 2 Oscars as top cover. They were engaged by 4 Hellcats led by Sub-Lt R. J. Foxley, RNZNVR and a dogfight ensued during which hits were scored on both sides, but the enemy jettisoned his bombs and retired. On disengaging Sub-Lt Foxley noticed he was being followed by an Oscar, he pulled away from the enemy, and when the latter turned back he turned after him, pursued and destroyed him. Another Oscar was badly damaged by fire from Sub-Lt J. P. West-Taylor, RNVR and Sub-Lt A. l. Bedding, RNVR.
During the afternoon a number of radar echoes were detected, probably of shadowing aircraft, but no interception was made until one Dinah (Ki-46) which had been a nuisance for about an hour. The aircraft sent to intercept had to break off pursuit due to oxygen failure and another 4 Hellcats were launched. The Dinah was caught after a long stern chase, and destroyed at 16:20 120 miles West of Sabang by Sub-Lt S. C. Richardson, RNVR in JW705. During the afternoon QUEEN ELIZABETH fired several rounds apparently at a pair of Hellcats acting as force cover. The Force withdrew to the West and South after the bombardment and flying ceased at 19:23. The Force was subsequently attacked by a force of 10 enemy aircraft, 2 of which were shot down by Force cover fighters.
Refuelling: The ships of Force 63 withdrew further North on the 12th to begin refuelling from Force 70. HMS LONDON was detached to proceed to Simons Town to refit. KHEDIVE kept four fighters at readiness all day while the force oiled. The only flying was the return of one Hellcat who had landed temporarily in EMPEROR. Refuelling continued into the 13th and when complete the Force proceeded to a position off the west coast of Sumatra to prepare for the first photographic reconnaissance mission: no flying took place but fighters were held at readiness.
Photographic reconnaissance mission one: The Force entered Pulo Nias channel in the early morning of the 14th. KHEDIVE launched CAP fighters while EMPEROR launched five P.R. Hellcats at 07:30 to obtain large scale cover of targets in Port Swettenham, Kuala Lumpur, Port Dickson, Mallcca and Serembie areas of Malaya. The number of serviceable fighter aircraft at the start of the day was 14 in KHEDIVE and four in EMPEROR. These were seriously reduced when Sub-Lt I. H. T. Walker, RNVR while landing on from a CAP sortie in Hellcat JW865 at 08:58 missed all the wires, crashed through the barriers, overturned, and fell onto two other aircraft rendering all three unserviceable. No-one was seriously injured but the overturned aircraft took a long time to clear since one wing was broken. The deck was reported clear for flying by 10:45, which was almost precisely the time a deck crash occurred in EMPEROR when Sub-Lt S. J. K. Edwards, RNVR in Hellcat JW864 struck the barrier and overturned; badly damaged it was subsequently ditched overboard and a replacement was flown off from KHEDIVE to keep the detachment at four aircraft. After a flight of 300 miles each way in extremely bad weather conditions the reconnaissance aircraft landed on between 11:25 and 11:40 having completed their missions. The Force withdrew to the West once the PR Hellcats had landed on. Shadowers followed the fleet during the afternoon but no interceptions were made. The force was believed to have been reported about 15:45 so the Force cover was increased to 6 airborne and 4 at readiness as air attacks were thought imminent. None materialised.
Due to a camera failure and poor weather conditions the photographic results were estimated as 40 out of 75 miles planned beach cover, 360 out of 1290 square miles surveyed, and 17 out of 28 special targets. During this operation 888 squadron’s Sub-Lt W. J. W. Thomlinson, RNVR was forced to abandon his aircraft over the sea after engine failure 10 miles west of Port Dickson. [He was taken prisoner and was beheaded by the Japanese on July 20th].
KHEDIVE off Sumatra 12 To 18 April 1945 ranging Hellcats of 808 Squadron, QUEEN ELIZABETH is in company (left). Photo © IWM (A 28885)
Photographic reconnaissance mission two: A second Photo recon mission was ordered for the 15th, and in order to reduce the distance to be flown by the P.R. aircraft by about 50 rules each way the force entered the Pulo Nias North Channel, at 07:00 and four P.R. aircraft were flown off to complete the reconnaissance of the Northern part of the target area and to cover as much as possible of the Southern part. At 09:50 one aircraft returned with engine trouble without having reached the target area. Between 10:50 and 11:00 the remaining three PR Hellcats landed on having completed their missions, the weather was fair over the target and the results were assessed as 45 out of 50 miles planned beach cover, 300 out of 700 square miles survey, and 13 out of 19 special targets achieved.
Meanwhile KHEDIVE, now down to 12 serviceable aircraft, had been maintaining Force cover and about 13:15 what appeared to be 2 raids were detected: one Ki-43 Oscar fighter, escorting a Ki-48 Lily twin enginemen light bomber, was intercepted 150m NW of Padang and shot down smoking by Sub-Lt J. P. West-Taylor, RNVR in JV255 (‘K6K') and Sub-Lt A. J. Bedding, RNVR in JX776. Sub-Lt Bedding also succeeded in damaging the Lily in the group which made off into the cloud and appeared unlikely to reach its base. On returning to the ship Sub-Lt West-Taylor crashed on deck, overturning his aircraft. At 14:45 another interception was missed largely through oxygen failure in the force cover. A scramble of two more was delayed by both aircraft going unserviceable on the accelerator.
At 15:00 while three aircraft were being landed on, one or two hostile aircraft passed over the fleet at about 8,000 feet and dropped bombs. A jettison tank was also dropped on KHEDIVE’s port quarter. It appeared to be a plain cylinder with no streamlining. Two small bombs fell 500 yards from EMPEROR’s starboard bow, only one exploded. Although several aircraft were in the air no interceptions were made; those under KHEDIVE’s direction were orbiting 5 miles astern of the fleet to try a visual detection, the enemy aircraft, however, got away in the clouds. KHEDIVE’s own guns did not fire on the enemy, partly because of landing on operations and partly because the enemy aircraft was not in effective range of her weapons. Once all aircraft had been recovered the force withdrew through the Pula Nias channel to the South-west for the night.
Strikes on Emmahaven and Padang: The force passed through the Siberut channel about 05:00 and at 06:00 on the morning of April16th the Force was in position to the East of Siberut Island. Flying commenced at 06:20 when KHEDIVE launched two Hellcats at first light as reconnaissance for the destroyers intended sweep; fighter strength was down to only 10 serviceable aircraft so CAP was reduced to 2. At the same time EMPEROR’s Avengers and the Hellcats of the 808 detachment were launched for a strike on Emmahaven port and Padang airfield respectively. At 07:40 four PR Hellcats took off from EMPEROR to continue their photographic survey; one returned to the ship at 07:35 with a defective camera but launched again twenty-five minutes later after swift repairs.
The Striking Force reached Padang undetected and at 07:36 two Hellcats were detached by the flight leader to strafe the airfield and they set fire to three of the six Ki-46 Dinah seen on the ground. Two Ki-43 Oscar fighters were airborne and both were engaged; one, flown by an experienced pilot, engaged Sub-Lt I. S. McNee, RNVR and obtained several strikes on his machine, fortunately without doing vital damage. Once he managed to disengage Sub-Lt McNee saw another Oscar, and despite the recent damage to his aircraft and partially expended ammunition, he engaged and succeeded in shooting it down.
At 07:43 seven Avengers attacked a 350 foot Merchant ship in Emmahaven Harbour, four direct hits and several near misses were observed. The eighth Avenger attacked the marine workshops; No other targets were seen. Light and inaccurate anti-aircraft fire was experienced both at Padang airfield and Emmahaven. All aircraft had landed on by 08:48, In addition to the one Hellcat damaged by fire from the Oscars encountered, two Avengers suffered slight blast damage from the bomb explosions. Meanwhile the Destroyers VENUS and VIRAGO made a sweep between the outlying islands and the mainland, from Ayerbangis Bay to Natal Road sinking 6 junks. On return of the Photographic Reconnaissance aircraft the force withdrew to the westward through the Siberut channel.
On the 17th the force met with the tanker EASEDALE to top off the Destroyers. Fighter strength had risen to 14 serviceable at dawn but no operational flying was done; KHEDIVE maintained aircraft at readiness for interception but no enemy aircraft were detected during the day, possibly because the strike on Padang had been so successful. A planned bombardment of Emmahaven by the Battleships and Cruisers was cancelled; with this the operation was completed; the Force withdrew and set course for Ceylon.
KHEDIVE maintained aircraft at stand-by as the force proceeded to Ceylon. The 808 squadron detachment transferred back from EMPEROR on the 18th during passage, one Hellcat remained as it was unserviceable. The detached maintenance personnel flew aboard as passengers in the 8 Avengers of 845 squadron which joined KHEDIVE for the remainder of the passage.
During Operation SUNFISH 808 squadron on KHEDIVE completed 113 sorties, 82 of which were accelerated, a total of 203:49 flying hours. The Detachment on EMPEROR flew a total of 52:35 hours. Squadron losses were 4 Hellcats lost through deck crashes 2 pilots killed in deck crashes. Enemy losses were 4 destroyed in the air, 1 probable and 2 damaged. 5 were damaged on the ground.
The Force arrived off Ceylon on April 20th and 845 Avengers disembarked to
RNAS Colombo Racecourse; 808 joined them the following day. This was to be a short stay ashore however, having received replacement aircraft and pilots the squadron re-embarked on the 23rd as the ship prepared for her second operation with 21 ACS, the sea borne assault on Rangoon codenamed Operation DRACULA.
Captain Magnay addressing members of the ship's company of HMS KHEDIVE before going into action in the Rangoon Landings. Photo courtesy David Collinge
KHEDIVE sailed from Trincomalee for passage to Akyab, Burma at 15:00 on the 23rd, replacement aircraft were embarked from RNAS Trincomalee once at sea. She sailed in company with the Battleships HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, and Free French Ship RICHELIEU, Cruisers CUMBERLAND, PHOEBE (Fighter Direction Ship), ROYALIST (Flag 21 ACS, Commodore G.N. Oliver, CB, DSO), SUFFOLK and CEYLON, Netherlands cruiser TROMP and ships of 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron EMPEROR, HUNTER, and STALKER screened by Destroyers SAUMAREZ, TARTAR, ROTHERHAM, VENUS, VERULAM, VIGILANT, VIRAGO, NUBIAN and PENN. The carriers and destroyers of 21 ACS arrived at Akyab at mid-day on April 26th, ROYALIST and PHOEBE going to Kyaukpyu. After refuelling the Force awaited further orders. .
Assault convoys and passage to Rangoon: The force sailed from Akyab at 11:00 on Sunday the 29th for Kyaukpyu; four Auster Air Observation Post (AOP) aircraft from No. 656 AOP Squadron RAF flew out to join the force once clear of Akyab, one landing on each carrier. On passage communications for the operation were tested, and radar calibration was carried out. The force anchored off Kyaukpyu at 16:53 joining the vessels of Force ‘W’ for the assault operation. These ships had already been moved from their bases in India and Ceylon to gather off Akyab and Kyaukpyu. D-Day was set for the second of May and the assault force was sailed in four convoys from Kyaukpyu, the slowest, 'Dog' of 4½ knots, on April 27th followed by 'Easy' on the 28th and `Charlie' and 'Baker' at roughly twenty-four hour intervals thereafter.
The 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron sailed at 06:40 on April 30th to provide daylight air cover for c envoy 'Baker' then leaving Kyaukpyu. This convoy included LARGS (Flag Officer, Force W), PHOEBE as Fighter Direction Ship, 4 Landing Ships Infantry 2 transports, and H.M. Indian sloops CAUVERY and SUTLE. Flying commenced at 110:00 with 4 Force Cover sorties provided by KHEDIVE and 16 Convoy Cover sorties being flown; flying operations ceased at 18:05. On May 1st flying intensified with 20 Force Cover sorties and 32 Convoy Cover sorties being flown, KHEDIVE launched a total of 10 sorties for Force cover. By this time convoy Charlie' was also receiving air cover. Throughout the day the force took on fuel; ROYALIST took on 248 tons from STALKER, SAUMAREZ 70 tons from KHEDIVE, VENUS 120 tons from EMPEROR, VIRAGO 116 tons and VIGILANT 111 tons from HUNTER. Flying ceased at 17:55 and the Squadron retired to the Southeast.
D-Day May 2nd: The assault convoys arrived at the lowering positions 30 miles off the Yangon River during the night 1st/2nd May and formed into two assault groups; W1 and W2. Group W1 consisted of the Landing Ships (Infantry) PERSIMMON and BARPETA, Landing Craft (Headquarters) 317, 4 Landing Craft (Infantry), 9 Landing Craft (Tank), 3 Landing Craft (Gun), 2 Motor Launches and 4 Harbour Defence Motor Launches. Captain Tyndale Cooper, Senior Officer Assault Group W1, with Brigadier L. V. Hutcheson commanding the 71st Indian Infantry Brigade were embraced in Landing Craft (Headquarters) 317,. Group W2 consisted of the Landing Ships (Infantry) SILVIO, GLENROY and PRINCE ALBERT, Landing Craft (Headquarters) 101, 10 Landing Craft (Infantry), 8 Landing Craft (Tank), 2 Landing Craft (Gun), and an unstated number of Motor Launches and Harbour Defence Motor Launches. Captain Bell Senior Officer Assault Group W2, with Brigadier I. Lauder, commanding the 36th Indian Infantry Brigade, were embraced in Landing Craft (Headquarters) 101.
At 02:30 on May 2nd the assault group were formed up on their respective Landing Craft Headquarters ships, once the manoeuvre was completed the two groups set off for the beaches. The Landing craft touched down shortly after 7 o'clock, Assault Group W1 at Kyauktan Creek on the Eastern bank of the Yangon River, Assault Group W2 at Sadinghmut on the Western bank. There was no opposition; the Japanese had left Rangoon.
The Carrier force arrived in the flying off position, south of the mouth of the Yangon River at 05:30 on the morning and flying operations began. The carriers flew a total of 100 sorties on D-Day, 12 for Force cover, 72 for Beach Cover, and 16 Fighter bomber sorties. KHEDIVE’s main tasking was to provide 16 Beach Cover sorties and one flight of four Hellcats for a strike mission. EMPEROR flew off four Hellcats at 05:30, each armed with two 500 lb M.C. bombs. These aircraft joined four Seafires from HUNTER to bomb and strafe light anti-aircraft positions at Thakutpin on the west bank of the Rangoon River. The bombs were dropped within the target area; no enemy were seen. At 16:40 the carrier squadron withdrew to the southwest for the night.
D +1 on returning to the operating area at 05:30 on the 3rd the weather was poor and flying was cancelled. One Hellcat from 808 was launched however to fly to EMPEROR and return delivering a spare armature. Between 10:15 and 13:00 KHEDIVE transferred 185 tons of fuel to ROYALIST, The first troops landed in Rangoon Town at 17:00.
D +2 brought better weather conditions and flying resumed. The carriers flew 16 Beach Cover sorties, 4 by 808 from KHEDIVE. Between 08:45 and 10:45 KHEDIVE refuelled one of her escorting Destroyers, HMS VIRAGO, transferring 123 tons of oil. While disengaging from the evolution at 10:45 VIRAGO was in collision with KHEDIVE, her bow impacted on KHEDIVE’s Port side aft, between her sponsons. Minor above the waterline damage was done to both ships. At 14:15 the Auster AOP aircraft were launched from the carriers to fly to a prepared strip inland, Captain R.J. Hutt, Royal Artillery taking off from KHEDIVE. Operation DRACULA flying operations were completed at 17:15 and the Squadron withdrew Southward in preparation for further air operations in the Mergui area.
May 4th 1945, HMS VIRAGO in collision with KHEDIVE at 1045 while disengaging after refueling from the carrier in heavy seas. Photo courtesy David Collinge
Strikes in the Mergui area Victoria Point areas on the Tenasserim coast: On May 5th the Squadron arrived in position 12° 38’ N, 97° 22’ E, approximately 300 miles south of their previous operational area, and flying commenced at 06:55, the programme called for strikes at enemy targets ashore and a total of 48 Fighter Bomber sorties were launched. 18 aircraft were tasked with Force Cover sorties; KHEDIVE provided 12 Fighter Bombers and 6 escorting fighters for air operations over the Mergui area. A Jetty at south of the town at Mergui was bombed and collapsed. Barges alongside were damaged. A Jetty on the west side of Patit Island was bombed and cut in half, and 4 lighters sunk. Warehouses to the west of the jetty were hit by two bombs. A further 4 lighters between Mergui and Patit Island were strafed. At Turretts Island an 80-foot camouflaged junk was left burning and probably sunk. Returning to the ship, Lt T. D. P. Helps, RNVR in JX920 caught the last wire and entered the barrier. Flying ceased at 17:30 and the force withdrew to the Southwest at 18:00.
May 6th was to be the last day of operations against targets on the Burma coast. The squadron returned to position 10° 38’ N, 97° 10’ E at 06:00. Flying commenced at 06:30 when 12 aircraft were launched for armed reconnaissance over airfields and anti-shipping strikes in the area of Victoria Point, approximately 17 miles further south from Mergui. This strike comprised of 8 Hellcats, 4 from EMPEROR and 4 from KHEDIVE, each carrying two 500 lib bombs and 4 Seafires from STALKER. A Radar installation on Victoria Point was bombed and strafed, 1 barge was sunk and a150-foot junk was strafed and left blazing. At the airfield North of Victoria Point was observed to be bogged with 3 aircraft on the ground; two of them burnt out and the other probably a dummy. Airfield buildings and a Barracks to the east were strafed by the Seafires. The last sorties of the day were 4 Seafires from STALKER taking off at 10:15 for an armed shipping reconnaissance of Go Frah Tang Island area. A thunderstorm forced them to turn back before reaching the Thailand coast and they eventually landed on in difficult conditions. At 12:00 the Carrier squadron withdrew and set a course for Trincomalee.
In the Period April 25th to May 6th KHEDIVE’s 808 squadron flew 75 sorties, a total of 110:35 flying hours, 32 were launched using the ship’s accelerator, Squadron Losses were 1 pilot killed and 3 Hellcats destroyed, all on the 25th.
May 7th was a day of flying exercises which commenced at 08:35 , later in the afternoon ROYALIST fuelled 114 tons from STALKER, and VIGILANT 114 tons from EMPEROR. On Tuesday May 8th all exercises were cancelled on account of the surrender of German armed forces. Late afternoon KHEDIVE, developed engine defects, at 17:15 she was detached to proceed independently escorted by VIGILANT. The ships of 21 ACS arrived at Trincomalee at 08:50 on Wednesday May 9th.
The victory celebrations were curtailed by the news that the Japanese cruiser HAGURO, one of the last surviving major Japanese warships, escorted by the destroyer KAMIKAZE, were attempting to evacuate troops from the Nicobar and Andaman Islands to Singapore. At 2230 on the 9th the submarines STATESMAN and SUBTLE, two of three submarines on patrol in the Malacca Straits, both reported sighting one Japanese cruiser of the NACHI class, with single destroyer escort proceeding north westward. Based on this intelligence the ships of the Third Battle Squadron and all available ships of the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron were ordered to prepare to put to sea to intercept them.
Both these forces had only arrived back in Trincomalee on May 9th, Force 63 (the battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH and Free French RICHELIEU, escort carriers EMPRESS and SHAH, heavy cruisers CUMBERLAND and SUFFOLK, light cruisers CEYLON and Free Dutch TROMP, and destroyers NUBIAN, PENN, ROTHERHAM, TARTAR and VERULAM) having been at sea for Operation BISHOP, the decoy raids intended to cover the DRACULA landings.
The first of three groups of ships which comprised the hastily constituted Force 61, sailed at 06:00 on the morning of May 10th; group two departed first and comprised of the ships of the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron ROYALIST (Flag AC21), EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE, SHAH escorted by destroyers ROTHERHAM (D 11, NUBIAN and PENN. Group one, comprising of the battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH (Flag Vice Admiral H. T. C. Walker, BS3), HMNLS TROMP and the destroyer TARTAR (D10), sailed next. The third and final group comprised of CUMBERLAND (Flag CS5), Free French RICHELIEU, and elements of the 25th Destroyer Flotilla SAUMAREZ (D26), VENUS, VIGILANT, VIRAGO, and VERULAM [sailed late, delayed by defects and joined the force at sea]. Force 70, an oiling force consisting of PALADIN and RFA EASEDALE, sailed from Trincomalee on the same day.
Force 61 was tasked with intercepting the Japanese evacuation ships, later given the codename Operation MITRE, and to hunt for the HAGURO under the codename Operation DUKEDOM. The force set course for the 10 Degree Channel at 16 knots where it was hoped to intercept the cruiser as she headed north on the 12th. The destroyer PENN suffered mechanical problems shortly after sailing and returned to Trincomalee, TARTAR switched groups to replace her.
At 05:00 on the 11th SHAH had to slow down due to what was believed to be fuel contamination, NUBIAN was detailed to stand by her. Later in the morning further difficulties arose due to the lack of wind which required the carriers to constantly change course to operate their aircraft. SHAH had sailed with a defective accelerator and this was still unserviceable when she re-joined the main force. This meant that she could still not launch a fully loaded Avenger and a reshuffle of resources was ordered by Vice Admiral Walker at 14:30. SHAH should attempt to fly off 851 squadron’s Avengers, carrying minimum fuel and no armaments, to operate from EMPEROR while eight Hellcats from 800 squadron were transferred to SHAH to join the detachment of four 804 squadron Hellcats already embarked. During this transfer process one of the Hellcats JX797 of 800 Squadron had a deck landing accident that was to cause damage to 6 aircraft; the arrestor hook had caught on the metal frame of the after lift and the hook pulled out, the aircraft careered through both barriers into Hellcats parked forward.
By 16:00 hours the transfers were complete and Force 61 resumed their south easterly course. By this time the force had been detected by a Japanese plane and their position reported. The delays encountered during the day meant the force would not reach the 10 Degree Channel in time and the Admiral ordered the force to split at 18:00, group 3, consisting of RICHELIEU, CUMBERLAND and the destroyers SAUMAREZ (D26), VENUS, VIGILANT, VIRAGO and VERULAM were detached to proceed ahead to the 6 Degree Channel in the hope of intercepting the Japanese Cruiser.
On the morning of May 12th it was reported that the enemy cruiser and destroyer were retiring south eastward – probably due to the sighting by Japanese aircraft of units of Force 61 to the westward of the Nicobars on the previous day. As a result of this information Force 61 proceeded to a position about 200 miles southwest of Achin Head, North Sumatra, and Force 70 was ordered to rendezvous for refuelling. It was hoped that if Japanese aircraft made no further sightings of the Force, the HAGURO might make a second attempt to reach Port Blair. At 15:00 Group 3 was ordered to return to the main Force and rendezvoused that evening.
Beginning at 06:00 on the 13th Force 61 commenced refuelling, the destroyers being oiled from the escort carriers. This operation was hampered by monsoon weather conditions and took most of the day. Intelligence was received in the morning that the Japanese were planning to launch Kamikaze attacks on the force so Admiral Walker decided to make a pre-emptive strike against Car Nicobar airfield. At 11:30 EMPEROR launched a strike force of four Hellcats to carry out a low level strafing attack on Car Nicobar. One of the Hellcats had to abort the mission and was escorted back to EMPEROR by another one of the strike force. The remaining two Hellcats carried out a successful strike destroying at least one aircraft on the ground. At 12:15 QUEEN ELIZABETH and other units of the Force picked up a radar contact, four Hellcats were flown off EMPEROR at 12:25 to investigate. Another four were ranged on deck at readiness. The interception was aborted almost straightaway and the flight was diverted to land on SHAH. During this incident the force had moved nearly 100 miles South from the position where the two returning Hellcats from the Car Nicobar strike expected them to be; on reaching the position they climbed to 12.000 feet and miraculously picked up EMPEROR’s Homing beacon at 85 miles. They landed on at 16:00.
After steaming northeast through the night the Force passed through the 6 Degree Channel at 04:00 on the morning of the 14th. Having received no news of the HAGURO by 05:15 Admiral Walker gave orders for Group 3 to remain in the area of the 6 Degree Channel while Groups 1 and 2, led by the QUEEN ELIZABETH reversed course and steered southwest to return to the refuelling area southwest of Pulau Bunta to rendezvous with Force 70 at approximately 15:30 hours.
Armourers loading 60lb rockets onto Hellcat K-6J. Photo courtesy David Collinge
The search for the Japanese relief force, Force Two: Still without reports of the whereabouts of the HAGURO, but intelligence suggesting other shipping movements in a report of one small escorted transport heading South for Sabang expected to arrive on the 15th, Admiral Walker gave orders to implement Operation MITRE at 02:17 on the 15th; this was a specific operation to carry out an air and sea sweep of the Malacca Strait and south Andaman Sea for Japanese auxiliary vessels. The operation was to be jointly carried out by vessels of Walker's Force with RAF Liberators of 222 Group, however DUKEDOM had priority and MITRE could be cancelled at any time. The 26th Destroyer Flotilla, SAUMAREZ (D26), VENUS, VIGILANT, VIRAGO and VERULAM, was detached at 27 knots to lead the sweep, the remainder of the force following in support.
The intelligence was referring to the Japanese relief force, Force Two, the KUROSHIYO MARU No 2 escorted by submarine chaser CH- 57 which had evacuated troops from Nancowry Island in the Nicobars and had been sighted by an RAF Liberator aircraft of 222 Group late in the evening of the 14th heading for Penang. Actually Naval intelligence was unaware that the HAGURO (Vice Admiral Hashimoto) and KAMIKAZE had been waiting off the Permatang Sedepa lighthouse, in position 2°53’ N, 100°59’ E, for news as to whether the British had sighted Force Two, which had sailed from Penang for Nancowry Island, where they arrived on May 13th. Believing the British had failed to detect Force Two Vice Admiral Hashimoto decided to make a dash for Port Blair, so the HAGURO and KAMIKAZE were on passage to Port Blair. However, for various reasons, this time Walker didn't get any sighting reports from the submarines stationed in the Malacca Strait.
At 07:00 a second British force, Force 62 comprising the cruiser NIGERIA with the 11th Destroyer Flotilla, (ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE, ROCKET and REDOUBT) rendezvoused with Force 61, having sailed from Trincomalee on the 13th to reinforce Walker’s force. The combined Force then set course to support the Destroyers of Group 3. At 07:30 in approximate position 4°30’ N, 93°30’ E, EMPEROR launched a reconnaissance/strike flight of four Avengers, each armed with four 500 lb bombs, to search ahead of the force; the aircraft were given the call signs “Duty” Able, Baker, Charlie and Dog. Their instructions were to fly to a point, designated BB, which was in approximate position 6°20’’ N, 94°35’ E, then to diverge and fly a search pattern. The pilots had been briefed that on sighting the enemy convoy, (Force Two) they were to shadow and report.
At 09:37 in approximate position 6°44’ N, 97°3’’ E, Avenger “Duty” Charlie sighted Force Two en route to Penang and made an immediate sighting report. Shadowing the ships until 09:50, none of the others in the flight had joined so the pilot decided to attack reasoning that being at the extreme edge of their search radius dropping the bombs would extend their time over the target. The first run was with two bombs, one failed to drop, the other missed. A second attack was made dropping a single bomb, but without success. “Duty” Baker now arrived and immediately attacked the Japanese force, missing with all four bombs. While diving on the KUROSHIYO MARU for their third run “Duty” Charlie was hit in the engine just as the bombs were released. The damage was severe but the pilot, Sub-Lt Burns, RNVR managed to pull up and turn onto a course for the fleet. “Duty” Baker formed up on Charlie as it began to lose height and prepared to ditch, which it did soon after.
At 10:04, almost exactly the time of “Duty” Charlie’s ditching, EMPEROR launched a further strike of four Avengers, with the call signs “Duty” Fox, George, Jig, and Hotel. The squadron C.O. Lt. Cdr M. T. Fuller RNVR was first to launch in “Duty” George, the next, “Duty” Hotel, reported his engine overheating while on the catapult but was launched to clear the deck and 10 minutes later landed on HUNTER. A fifth aircraft “Duty” King had been brought up from the hangar to replace Hotel. The report of “Duty” Charlie‘s ditching had just reached ROYALIST and the Avengers were ordered to remain over Force 61 to await orders, due to communication problems only “Duty” Fox received the order and remained circling for an hour and a half before jettisoning his bombs and returning to EMPEROR only to crash into the barrier on landing. George, Jig and King continued on their search pattern, but were now looking for the life raft of Sub-Lt Burn and his crew.
The first of the early morning flight, “Duty” Dog (Sub-Lt Rowe-Evans, RNVR), landed on at 11;55, “Duty” Able (Lt K. Crompton, RNVR) had reached the position given by “Duty” Charlie but saw nothing and returned to the ship to land on at 12:15. On reaching the expected position of the carriers “Duty” Baker found there were no ships in sight; reversing course he attempted to contact the destroyers he had seen earlier but with no success. Eventually Avengers “Duty” Jig and King appeared and “Duty” Jig escorted him towards the fleet; after 4 hours and 50 minutes in the air “Duty” Baker ran out of fuel at 121:0 and ditched 30 miles from the carriers, the crew were rescued by the 1700 squadron Walrus from HUNTER. Despite efforts to locate them, the crew of “Duty” Charlie were not rescued, their raft eventually made landfall in Burma but they were later taken prisoner. There had been some confusion over the use of the word ‘Convoy’ used in the briefing; to these aircrew a convoy would be made up of many vessels, not two, Sub-Lt Bowden had actually seen Force Two five minutes before Sub-Lt Burns but discounted it and moved on.
Just before ditching “Duty” Baker transmitted a fuller version of their earlier message of 10:03 giving the description of the ‘convoy’ as motor vessels not exceeding 2000 tons and their unsuccessful attack. This was received by Captain Powers in SAUMAREZ almost at the same time as another signal cancelling MITRE. Decisions were being made by the C-in-C in Colombo based on Nava intelligence reports and the cancel order was at odds with the intelligence just received. He decided to seek clarification and slowed his advance.
By this time only “Duty” George was still conducting a search, Jig and King had loitered over a group of unidentified (British) destroyers for 35 minutes before giving up trying to identify them, and so wasted valuable fuel. They split when “Duty “Jig joined up with “Duty” Baker to escort him home. “Duty” King did not reach the position of “Duty” Charlie’s ditching and returned to the fleet short of fuel only to discover it had moved again. After conducting a square search for 15 minutes he picked up SHAH’s homing beacon and landed on her deck at 11:45 with 40 gallons of fuel still in the tank, approximately 17 minutes flying time.
At 10:44 Lt. Cdr Fuller, in in “Duty” George sighted and reported the Japanese Force Two. Shortly after sending off his sighting report a second force was sighted, two further ships about 15 miles ahead of Force Two; these turned out to be the HAGURO and KAMIKAZE. At 10:50 a second signal reporting enemy cruiser and destroyer in position 06°55’ N, 96°50’ E, and retiring south eastward. The HAGURO had been found almost by accident and the result of errors and failures in communication; while “Duty” George was aloft a revised search area had been calculated taking into account currents and wind over the time since the ditching and this was transmitted but not received by the four Avengers. So Lt. Cdr Fuller and his crew were in the wrong place at the right time to stumble upon both targets. Sadly they did not locate the life raft they were looking for, unknown to the crew they passed within 400 yards of them after dropping their bomb load to extend their time on station. “Duty” George remained shadowing the Cruiser until 12:50 when they made a final course and speed report before heading back.
Air strike against the HAGURO:
Following Lt. Cdr Fuller’s signals and updates a further strike force of three Avengers was ranged on deck, fuelled and armed by 13:50. These aircraft were given the call signs “Duty” Peter (flight leader, Lt Crompton), Queen (Sub-Lt Rowe-Evans) and Roger (Sub-Lt Eedle), all making their second sortie of the day. Their mission was to attack the HAGURO with 500lb bombs; ideally this should have been a torpedo attack but none of the Escort Carriers operating with the East Indies Fleet carried torpedoes. They were launched from a position 110 miles due west of Sabang and were to fly a dog-leg course to avoid the nearby enemy airfields.
Lt. Cdr Fuller in “Duty” George arrived back at the estimated rendezvous point at 14:32, this was where the fleet was expected to be calculated using the MLA, (Mean Line of Advance) but no ships were sighted. Eleven minutes later he switched his I.F.F. to “Distress” mode and a course to steer was radioed to them, he was then joined by two Seafires from HUNTER’s CAP flight which escorted him back to EMPEROR; he landed on at 15:15 after 5 hours and 11 minutes in the air.
Lt Crompton’s flight of three had reached the estimated position of HAGURO at 15:16, 16 minutes later than planned but she was not in sight, they then began a square-search with 15 mile legs. At 15:41 Lt Crompton sighted the Cruiser and her escort near the end of the third leg and began shadowing her until the other two re-joined. They attacked from astern starting their dive at 10,000 feet, Peter and Roger together, Queen a few seconds behind. Anti-aircraft fire was intense, on hit was scored on Peter’s wing and Queen was peppered with shrapnel splinters. All release their payloads; Peter and Roger pulled out at 3,000 feet and turned away at full speed, Queen continued on down to 300 feet and fled out to sea on the HAGURO’s starboard bow, reforming at 14:15 they set course for the fleet. They thought at least one of the 12 bombs hit and one a near-miss, but in reality they all missed. All three arrived back at EMPEROR at 18:30 and landed on; Sub-Lt Eedle in “Duty” Queen (JZ233) misjudged his landing and made his second barrier crash of the day.
“Duty” Peter, Queen, and Roger had complete a 530 mile round trip flight to strike the HAGURO, the longest attacking round trip flight of any Fleet Air Arm aircraft. They had accomplished the first and only Dive-bombing attack by 851 squadron; this was also the first such attack on a major warship since the sinking of the KONIGSBERG in April 1940.
Sinking of the HAGURO: To the surprise of the squadron aircrew no further strikes were ordered, possibly because the target was believed to have passed the maximum range for another strike. Instead the chase was handed over to the 26th Destroyer Flotilla to engage the two ships.
Captain Powers had been ordered to resume his original course at 27 Knots at 12:10 (then looking for Force Two), at 12:30 CUMBERLAND and RICHELIEU were ordered to re-join the destroyers, at best speed, to give them support. Captain Powers planned to make a night attack employing the single ship ‘Star-attack’ opening with a salvo of torpedoes. By the early hours of the 16th they were in radar contact, and positioned ahead of the Japanese ships and closing the gap. At 00:50 the HAGURO detected the 26th Destroyer Flotilla in front of her at 17,500 yards; Captain Power’s trap had been spring. The HAGURO made an immediate turn to starboard and increased speed to 30 knots, heading North, away from Singapore for Penang, and the Destroyer attack began. The first torpedoes were fired by SAUMAREZ at 01:13 and the last were fired by VENUS at 02:02 and the HAGURO having been hit by six torpedoes and nearly an hour of gunfire from the 5 Destroyers, sank at 02:06 in position 4°49’ N, 99°42’ E.. The KAMIKAZE escaped to the west, returning later to pick up survivors. The only British vessel to suffer damage was the SAUMAREZ, she was hit in her No 1 Boiler Room by one of the HAGURO’s 5 inch shells, the shell only partially exploded but it killed two and put No 1 boiler out of action. Having fought the last major surface gun and torpedo action of World War II the flotilla formed up at 02:10 and steered north westerly to re-join the CUMBERLAND and RICHELIEU, still some 50 miles away.
Air strikes on the Andaman Islands: At 07:00 on the 16th EMPEROR launched 4 Hellcats, each armed with eight 60lb rockets, to search for and strike the KUROSHIYO MARU, and two Avengers to continue searching for the crew of “Duty” Charlie. A further 6 Hellcats from KHEDIVE's 808 squadron were launched to strike the airfield at Lhokseumawe in Northern Sumatra; two turned back with radio failure while the remaining four strafed the airfield damaging one fighter on the ground and a nearby locomotive. From 08:00 the fleet came under almost constant air attack and HUNTER’s Seafire CAP aircraft were kept busy chasing down radar contacts; while none were shot down, at least four Ki-43 ‘Oscars’ were believed to have been damaged in aerial combat. The searches for both the KUROSHIYO MARU and the life raft came up empty and the aircraft returned safely. One of 808 squadron pilots, Lt R. B. Mancus, RNVR flying in Hellcat JW868, had a lucky escape when his port wing struck the sea; he managed to recover and remained airborne. At 17:25 two A6M3 ‘Haps’ were caught off guard by a flight of four Hellcats from 800 squadron led by Lt de Witt but managed to escape into cloud cover. The last attack of the day came at dusk when HUNTER was about to refuel VIRAGO, the operation had been aborted when the Destroyer came under attack by a single ‘Oscar’. Heavy anti-aircraft fire from VIRAGO and HUNTER seemed to deter the Japanese pilot who released his fragmentation bomb and veered away. The bomb fell into the sea 30 yards off VIRAGOs port quarter and the shrapnel from the blast killed 4 crewmen outright and wounded 8 more.
was KHEDIVE’s last flying operation as part of Force 61, at 0800 on
the 17th the force was split again, ROYALIST, KHEDIVE,
Force 62 detached and set course for Trincomalee, arriving on the
19th 808 squadron was flown ashore to
RNAS Colombo Racecourse.
KHEDIVE in dry dock at Colombo c. June 1945.. Photo courtesy David Collinge
It is believed that KHEDIVE undertook a short period of defect rectification; including a spell in dry-dock at Colombo. On putting back to sea in early June she exercised with aircraft flying out from RNAS Colombo Racecourse. One such aircraft, Hellcat JW891 flown by Sub-Lt K. W. Whetton, RNVR suffered a very bad crash when landing on the 12th, his arrester hook broke off and his aircraft broke through both barriers, his starboard wingtip was cut off on the ship’s D/F mast. The squadron re-embarked early on June 14th in readiness for Operation BALSAM.
Operation BALSAM was another Photographic Reconnaissance of Southern Malaya and further strikes against Sumatran airfields carried out by Force 63, which for this operation comprised of ROYALIST (AC 21), SUFFOLK, STALKER (809 Seafire), KHEDIVE (808 Hellcat), AMEER (804 & 888 Hellcat), ROTHERHAM (D 11), RACEHORSE, REDOUBT, RELENTLESS, and ROEBUCK. The Force sailed from Trincomalee on the 14th of June.
From the flying off position in the northern approaches to the Malacca Straits, the 6 Photographic Reconnaissance Hellcats took off to begin photographic reconnaissance flights over southern Malaya on the 18th, 19th, and 20th of June. 888 squadron was down one aircraft after the first sortie as Sub Lt. E. C. Godden, RNVR in Hellcat JV228, caught a late wire and hit the barrier on AMEER on the 18th. On completion of the photographic reconnaissance portion of the operation fighter strikes were made against the airfields at Lhoksemawe, Medan, and Binjai on the 20th by Seafires from 809, and Hellcats from 804, and 808 Squadrons. Runways were put out of action with 5o0 lb bombs at Medan and Binjai. Attacks on grounded enemy aircraft resulted in 3 being destroyed, 7 left burning and probably destroyed and 9 damaged. Aerodrome buildings, locomotives, and rolling stock were also effectively strafed. Off Medan 2 junks, - one carrying oil – were attacked and set on fire. Force 63 was apparently not detected throughout the operation. There was only one casualty, Lt. Cdr O .F. Whatley, RNVR of 808 squadron was killed when his aircraft, Hellcat JW868 had its tail shot off by flak over Medan airfield and crashed in flames. On completion of the air strikes Force 63 withdrew and set course for Trincomalee, arriving off the coast on the 23rd and KHEDIVE disembarked her squadron to RNAS Trincomalee.
During the remainder of June and early July aircraft of 808 squadron flew out to the ship for flying training and exercises in preparation for their next outing. The day before the squadron re-embarked on July 11th Sub-Lt O. C. Owen, RNVR, put his aircraft JW714 into the barrier after the arrester hook bounced over No.6 wire, caught No.8 wire but failed to stop. The only other incident during this period was on the 18th when the prop of JW715 flown by Sub-Lt I. H. T. Walker, RNVR, hit the deck while landing on. The squadron flew ashore to RNAS Puttalam on the 21st.
This was a series of anti-shipping and airfield disruption strikes in the Penang and Medan areas to be carried out by Force 61, consisting of the Cruiser ROYALIST (Flag 21 ACS, Commodore G. N. Oliver, CB, DSO), CVEs AMEER, EMPEROR, EMPRESS, KHEDIVE, and SHAH, Destroyers TARTAR (Captain (D), Tenth Destroyer Flotilla), PENN, VIGILANT, and VERULAM. 808 squadron re-embarked on August 5th and the Force sailed from Trincomalee on August 10th, the intention being to carry out the planned attacks on August 14th and 15th.
On August 11th the force was ordered to hold west of 90 degrees east and await further orders; the operation was eventually cancelled in light of the news of Japan’s announced willingness to accept the Allies’ surrender terms. The Force subsequently returned to Trincomalee, arriving on August 15th when the Station General Message “SUSPEND OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS AGAINST JAPANESE FORCES” was made to all ships and allied forces. Force 61 returned to Trincomalee.
HMS KHEDIVE celebrated V-J Day at Trincomalee before continuing flying exercises with her squadron during the remainder of August; there were two deck crashes during this period during DLT flights; on the 23rd Sub-Lt C. A. A. Corp, RNVR hit the rounddown landing on in JW715 (C7Z), the impact smashed the rear fuselage and tore off the tail wheel and port main wheel; the aircraft broke through the barrier and damaged the tail of JV324 parked forward. The following day Sub-Lt J. M. Greenfield, RNVR flying in JX736 broke off his arrester hook on the rounddown, went into the barrier and overturned, landing on its back on the forward lift. Captain A. R. Pedder, RN arrived on board while the ship was at Trincomalee to relive Captain Magnay as commanding officer.
August 1945: Sub-Lt C.A.A. Corp, RNVR in Hellcat JW715 (C-7Z) enters the barrier after hitting his tail on the rounddown smashing the rear fuselage, tail wheel and the port main wheel. The aircraft broke through the barrier and damaged the tail of JV324 parked forward. Photo courtesy David Collinge
reoccupation of Malaya, Operation ZIPPER; September 1945
After the Japanese surrender, plans to accept the surrender of Singapore were put into action; originally this was part of Operation ZIPPER but political constraints meant that no landing could take place until after the signing of the main surrender in Tokyo on September 2nd, 1945. The delays meant that all plans were now to change; thus, the reoccupation of Malaya would take place in three phases.
Phase one would be the recapture of Penang Island (Operation JURIST). Phase two would be the recapture of Singapore (Operation TIDERACE). Phase three would be the sea borne assault of North West Malaya in the Port Dickson, Port Swettenham area with landings near Morib with the 25th Indian Division and the 37th brigade of the 23rd Indian Division ( modified Operation ZIPPER), carried out as planned and rehearsed, but the covering air and sea bombardment had been cancelled.
The forces participating in these three operations were escorted by Force 61 which comprised of the Battleships NELSON (Flag Vice Admiral H. T. C. Walker, BS.3), and RICHELIEU, the cruisers NIGERIA, CLEOPATRA, and CEYLON, with air cover from the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron, comprising of ROYALIST (Rear Admiral G. N. Oliver, CB, DSO, AC21), AMEER, BEGUM, EMPEROR, EMPRESS, HUNTER, KHEDIVE, PURSUER,, STALKER, and TRUMPETER (Ferrying RAF Spitfires) escorted by fifteen destroyers.
KHEDIVE sailed from Trincomalee on September 4th in company with the CVEs AMEER, BEGUM, EMPRESS, EMPEROR, and STALKER to rendezvous with assault convoy JME1F on the 6th and provide air cover during passage of the Malacca Straight on the 8th and 9th, they were joined by HUNTER while at sea, she had sailed from Penang on the 7th. BEGUM ran aground on leaving the harbour and was withdrawn from the operation, EMPRESS suffered a catastrophic catapult failure on the 8th and returned to Trincomalee.
The ZIPPER assault convoys converged on the Malayan coast off Port Swettenham. Once assembled at first light on September 9th the ships of the assault convoys formed into two assault groups’ code named W 1 & W 2. The carriers of 21 ACS provided air cover during the landings. The landings were not a success, numerous factors and mistakes made by the need to revise the plans several times resulted in stranded vehicles and ships; the beach survey was wrong, the sand was not suitable for heavy machinery which bogged down and blocked the beaches. The assault was actual an hour lite in its execution, Force W was operating on Ceylon time, not Burma time so the expected high tide had in fact ebbed.
STALKER and HUNTER lead KHEDIVE and EMPEROR in Keppel Harbour, Singapore on September 11th 1945. ROYALIST is already at anchor in the distance on the right. . Photo courtesy David Collinge
The ships of Force 61 anchored in Singapore Roads between 09:30 and 10:30 on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th, 1945 and waited for instructions. Later the order was given for part of the force to proceed into the harbour; EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE and STALKER anchored in Keppel Harbour. The CVEs AMEER and ATTACKER were among 90 ships (including 70 RN and RIN warships, 3 Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, 3 hospital ships and 14 merchant vessels) present in Singapore Roads for the ceremony in which the Japanese forces in South East Asia surrendered on September 12th. At 1600 on the 13th ROYALIST with EMPEROR, KHEDIVE, HUNTER, STALKER, and the Indian sloop GODAVARI sailed for Trincomalee. On reaching Ceylon 808 squadron were flown ashore to RNAS Coimbatore, Southern India, on September 18th; the aircraft were to remain at Coimbatore as the squadron was stood down from active duties, the aircrew travelling independently to Colombo.
It is unclear what duties KHEDIVE was given after her squadron had departed; it is assumed that she was employed ferrying aircraft and personnel in the Southern India and Ceylon area until she made a round trip voyage to Durban, South Africa arriving there on October 17th. On her return to Colombo harbour the personnel of 808 squadron embarked in KHEDIVE as passengers on November 8th their aircraft having been withdrawn at Coimbatore. The ship was to sail for the UK on completion of loading passengers and stores, she sailed on November 13th.
HMS KHEDIVE arrived back In Belfast on December 5th 1945 and unloaded aircraft and stores before continuing on to the Clyde where her passengers were disembarked. 808 squadron was officially disbanded on arrival on the Clyde on December 12th.
No longer required for service in the Royal Navy the majority of KHEDIVE was stood down and most of her crew were drafted to RN Barracks; a steaming crew was left aboard to handle the ship on her final Atlantic crossing. As soon as her passengers had left work began to prepare her for her return to the custody of the US Navy, this involved de-storing her and removing Admiralty equipment.
HMS KHEDIVE sailed from the UK for the last time on January 4th 1946 and set a course for Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia via Halifax Nova Scotia where she and disembarked passengers returning home from Europe. She secured alongside at Norfolk Navy Yard on January 26th and was paid off.
She was sold to the Waterman Steamship Corp., Mobile, Alabama on January 23rd 1947 and moved to Gulf Shipbuilding Corp shipyard, Mobile, Alabama for conversion into a general cargo freighter. The new freighter was purchased in December 1947 by the Dutch Government the vessel was transferred to the ownership of the he Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland (SMN). She was commissioned on January 15th 1948 as the SS REMPANG after the island of Rempang in the Dutch East Indies. Beginning in February 1948 she operated with the Silver-Java-Pacific-Line. From 1955 to 1963 she was chartered for service with the VNS - United Netherlands Navigation Co. In March 1968 she was sold to Atlas Enterprises Inc., Panama and renamed SS DAPHNE She was sold again in 1970 to Comaran / Africa Line, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa; the ship retained the same name. At the start of 1976 she was sold for breaking by Hierros Ardes S.A., Gandia, Spain, work beginning January 20th 1976.
Content revised: 09 May 2022
Sources used in compiling this account:
Click here for a list of Primary sources
Winton, J. (1978) ‘Sink the Haguro! The Last Destroyer Action of the Second World War’, London. Sheley, Serviceds & Co., Ltd.
Fold3.com various documents including;
Admiralty War Diaries
Norfolk Navy Yard War Diaries
Mew York Navy Yard War Diaries
Topic: A History of H.M.S. KHEDIVE
Page 1 of 1