A lesson in using radio intelligence…
21st February 1943
MAGIC passes on a radio message intercepted the previous day to Eastern command, Royal Navy, Colombo, Ceylon.
9/4th Division is loaded on DD Shinonome moving to Port Blair.
22nd February 1943
SS-KX, patrolling the waters off Rangoon is ordered to make its way to Port Blair to scout out and engage any enemy ships approaching the Island.
23rd February 1943
Task Force G (Cpt Manwaring commanding, CA Cornwall, CA Exeter, CL Dauntless, DD Inconstant, DD Van Galen, DD Tjerk Hiddes, DD Foxound, DD Isaac Sweers) leaves Colombo and steams SE into the Bay of Bengal.
SS-KX spots four enemy destroyers making a nocturnal high speed run into Port Blair. LCDR de Back orders his boat engage as per his orders, Two torpedoes are fired and both miss. His submarine is able to avoid enemy attempts to seek and engage despite the shallow waters. (Notice name of highlighted ship in screenie!!!)
Message sent to Colombo that then resends to Task Force G. Captain Manwaring orders flank speed to reach a position 230 miles due West of the Andaman Islands by sundown 24th February 1943. SS-KX reports more enemy ships approaching and unloading at Port Blair.
Manwaring orders a flank speed approach to Port Blair for the early hours of the 25th February 1943. Inconstant,Foxhound and Tjerk Hiddes lead the vanguard while Dauntless leads in the Exeter and the Cornwall that in turn are flanked by the Isaac Sweers and the Van Galen. As the sun sets the combined Anglo-Dutch force raises steam and heads into battle.
25th February 1943
Initial contact is made by the Foxhound that reports ‘enemy ships straight ahead’ and asks permission to fire torpedoes, Manwaring gives the order to fire and both the Foxhound and the Tjerk Hiddes release their fish, the latter scoring two devasting hits on the Horai Maru that sinks a bare three minutes after being hit. With 75% moonlight the Japanese ships are clearly seen to have been caught in the middle of unloading troops into Port Blair. Two APD’s immediately turn and begin to charge the appraoching Allied ships but the APD Nadakze soon stops three direct hits from the Cornwall’s main 8 inch batteries that leave her ablaze and slow in the water. The Dauntless and the Exeter meanwhile take up the challange of the second APD, the Okikaze, scoring several devastating hits than soon cause the Japanese ship to first stop then gradually list and roll over to sink beneath the waves. The flank destroyers then speed up to bring their guns to bear on a second enemy troop carrier, the Kongo Maru, which is hit numerous times and soon set alight, Enemy soldiers were seen jumping overboard in the glare of the flames. Despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered the last enemy escort, the Yomogi, charges straight at the light cruiser Dauntless, fire spitting from its forward 12cm gun. Yet in such an unfair contest there can only be one winner as the 6 inchers on the Dauntless soon pound the Yomogi so much that she breaks in two under the pummeling it received. She is recorded as sinking at 02:34, 17 minutes into the action. Fire is now brought upon the remaining two Japanese transports and both are left aflame and lisiting. Wary of retaliation from aircraft once the sun rises, Manwaring reluctantly orders his ships to disengage and to make a course North West into the Bay of Bengal. He is aware that the remaining to enemy ships are still afloat, if only just barely, but he needs to get his ships away from torpedo bombers that can hunt him from Rangoon, Victoria Point or Port Blair itself. Not a single hit was received but any of his ships and intelligence later estimated that over 1,000 casualties were inflicted on the enemy, and if the initial MAGIC intercept was to be believed the 4th Infantry Division in particular!
Night Time Surface Combat, near Port Blair at 46,58, Range 5,000 Yards
APD Okikaze, Shell hits 32, and is sunk
APD Nadakaze, Shell hits 13, and is sunk
E Yomogi, Shell hits 8, and is sunk
xAK Syokyu Maru, Shell hits 6, heavy fires
xAP Horai Maru, Shell hits 4, Torpedo hits 2, and is sunk
xAP Kongo Maru, Shell hits 13, heavy fires, heavy damage
DD Isaac Sweers
DD Van Galen
DD Tjerk Hiddes
Japanese ground losses:
1278 casualties reported
Squads: 28 destroyed, 33 disabled
Non Combat: 44 destroyed, 28 disabled
Engineers: 0 destroyed, 0 disabled