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The Battle of the Malacca Strait, sometimes called the Sinking of the Haguro, and in Japanese sources as the Battle off Penang (ペナン沖海戦), was a naval battle that resulted from the British search and destroy operation in May 1945, called Operation Dukedom, that resulted in the sinking of the Japanese cruiser Haguro. Haguro had been operating as a supply ship for Japanese garrisons in the Dutch East Indies and the Bay of Bengal since 1 May 1945.

Battle[edit | edit source]

On 9 May, Haguro left Singapore, escorted by the destroyer Kamikaze, to re-supply the Port Blair garrison on the Andaman Islands and to evacuate troops back to Singapore. The Royal Navy was alerted to this by a decrypted Japanese naval signal,[3][4] subsequently confirmed by a sighting by the submarines HMS Statesman and Subtle. Force 61 of the Eastern Fleet set sail on 10 May from Trincomalee, Ceylon to intercept the Japanese flotilla. The Japanese were unwilling to risk any battle and, on receipt of an air reconnaissance warning, they returned to Singapore.

On 14 May, Haguro and Kamikaze tried again and left Singapore. The next day, they were spotted by aircraft from Force 61. The subsequent dive bombing attack by Grumman Avenger IIs of 851 Squadron caused only minor damage to Haguro, for the loss of an aircraft whose crew was taken prisoner by the Japanese.

Information was relayed to the Japanese that two British destroyer squadrons had been sighted heading towards them. Again, they reversed course to return to the Malacca Strait. This change had been anticipated, however, and the 26th Destroyer Flotilla (HMS Saumarez, Verulam, Venus, Vigilant, and Virago), commanded by Captain Manley Laurence Power (in Saumarez) steamed to intercept. In heavy rain squalls with lightning, Venus made radar contact at 34 nmi (39 mi; 63 km).[5] The British destroyers arranged themselves in a crescent cordon and allowed the Japanese ships to sail into the trap.

At 01:05, Saumarez's 4.7 in (120 mm) guns commenced fire at a range of 1.8 nmi (2.1 mi; 3.3 km) while closing at 60 kn (69 mph; 110 km/h) and hit Haguro with the second salvo. Saumarez turned sharply right to pass astern of Haguro and raked Kamikaze with her 40 mm guns as the Japanese destroyer appeared off the port bow and swept by at a relative speed of 50 kn (58 mph; 93 km/h). Haguro returned six main battery salvos at Saumarez before being hit at 01:15 by three torpedoes from Saumarez and Verulam. Venus hit Haguro with one torpedo at 01:25, and Virago stopped Haguro with two more torpedo hits two minutes later. Haguro sank at 02:09 after receiving another torpedo from Vigilant, two more from Venus, and nearly an hour of gunfire from the 26th Flotilla.[5] This was the last surface battle of World War II.

Kamikaze was also damaged, but escaped, returning the next day to rescue survivors. About 320 survived, but over 900 died, including the Japanese commanders, Vice-Admiral Hashimoto and Rear-Admiral Sugiura.[6]

Saumarez's main aerial (in British terminology of the time, an aerial was the radio) and a funnel top had been shot away and an 8 in (200 mm) shell nicked the forecastle. Two men were killed and three burned in the boiler room when a 5 in (130 mm) shell severed the main steam pipe. There was no damage to the remainder of the 26th Flotilla.[5]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Hough, HMS Vigilant
  2. 900 were killed on Haguro and 27 on Kamikaze. Hackett and Nevitt, Combinedfleet.com.
  3. Jackson, Ashley (2006). The British Empire and the Second World War. London: Hambledon Continuum. p. 302. ISBN 1-85285-417-0. 
  4. Norman Scott, “Solving Japanese Naval Ciphers 1943 – 45”, Cryptologia, Vol 21(2), April 1997, pp149–157
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Calnan, Dennis, CDR RN. "The Saumarez and the Haguro". United States Naval Institute Proceedings, October 1968.
  6. Expedition 'Operation Dukedom' [1] An expedition report - of a 2010 diver survey of the wreck of HIJMS Haguro - on The Explorers Club web site

References[edit | edit source]

Coordinates: 4°00′00″N 100°00′00″E / 4°N 100°E / 4; 100

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