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The last British Naval Battle of the War

by StanleyHough

Contributed by 
People in story: 
D 26 Destroyer Flotilla
Location of story: 
Malacca Strait
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
21 May 2005

The Last British Naval Battle of the War. Sinking the Japanese Battle Cruiser Haguro. 1945.
26th Destroyer Flotilla. H.M.S. Saumarez, Venus, Virago, Verulam, Vigilant.
H.M.S. Vigilant.
May 10 Storing ship all night 0700 Left Trinco with most of the ships based there. Battleships, Queen Elizabeth and Richelieu, Cruisers Cumberland, Royalist and Dutch Cruiser Von Tromp. Destroyers, Saumarez, Virago, Venus, Verulam. Two Tribal class and one P class Destroyers. Aircraft Carriers, Sharn, Emperor, Stalker and Khedive. Divided into two forces. Carriers with Royalist, "P" and Tribal Destroyers. Other force with 26th Flotilla.
May 11 Rather hot today. Tribal destroyer Eskimo sent ahead as decoy. Reports of Jap Cruiser in Andaman sea. Think that is what we are going after.
May 12 Passing between Sumatra and Great Nicobar Island. With Richelieu and Cumberland, with 26th Flotilla Destroyers. Other ships well behind. liberators of RAF on reconnaissance. Two of our Submarines here too.
May 13 Destroyers and Cruisers oiling from Carriers all day. 2400 Went to two watch defence stations.
May 15 0800, About to oil from Oiler which joined the Fleet last night, when we received warning that a Jap Cruiser of the Nati Class, 10,000 Tons, with an escort of two Destroyers and Frigates, was moving through the Andaman Sea and down the Malacca Strait's, in the direction of Penang at 16 knots. The five V Destroyers of our flotilla headed after them at 27 knots. Saumarez, Venus, Virago, Verulam, and Vigilant. I understand Captain "D" volunteered.
1000, Action Stations. Sea very calm.
1300, Enemy 100 miles away, being bombed by planes from Aircraft Carrier Shar. Three planes and no hits observed on enemy.
1600, Enemy 60 miles away, If we don't reach them by midnight, we will have to turn back because we will not have enough oil to last us until we reach the Fleet.
1800, Passed through quite a lot of wreckage which looks as if a ship has gone down recently, a merchant ship by the look of the amount of wood in the wreckage. No enemy planes about. Vigilant has led the other Destroyers all day, and we are now in line ahead, five miles between each ship, which makes it so that we cannot see the last three.
2335, Echo from RADAR. went to investigate but nothing there . Another echo, 16 miles away. It is the Cruiser and escort. V Destroyers converge on target.
May 16 0100, Began to attack. All ships firing Star Shell Flares to light up the enemy. Cruiser unaware of our presence until now. Saumarez going in to fire torpedoes. Other destroyers surround Cruiser. Saumarez fired torpedoes and a second later is hit by a salvo of 8" shells from the Cruiser. One hit in number one boiler room, one hit in Wheel house lobby, and one hit on top of the funnel. Three hits on Cruiser with Saumarez torpedoes. Venus and Verulam attack, and hits observed on Cruiser with Torpedoes, and a Jap Destroyer explodes with a big flash, sinking at once. (This was the impression at the time, but the Destroyer Kamikaze escaped) Virago attacks and scores two hits with torpedoes. Then Vigilant fires torpedoes, but torpedo officer left it too late despite repeated attempts to tell him he was going past the target, by the operators of the torpedo tubes. One hit claimed, then Vigilant goes in close and fires 4 ' 7" guns, hits nearly every time, and Cruiser nearly down. One shell must have hit the magazine as she blew up, turned over and sank. Her small guns firing until the last minute. None hit us, although plenty of shrapnel coming down. Other Jap ships have gone away. Not enough oil left to chase them. Saumarez orders stop for ten minutes to pick up survivors of the Cruiser, but enemy planes over head bombed her as soon as she put searchlights on, with no hits. No survivors picked up and we leave at once.
It was over in 40 minutes. Our position was thirty miles from Penang and two hundred from Singapore. We are the first surface vessels to come as far down the Malacca Strait's of the Allied Fleet since 1942. Casualties on the Saumarez are two killed, and four badly wounded.
Elliott, Harry Philip. Leading Stoker, RN. H.M.S. Saumarez, age 21, Date of death 16-5-1945, Service No. D/KX 155812, Son of Mr & Mrs C. D. Elliott of Bicton, Devon. Commonwealth War Dead, Memorial Panel 94, Column 3 Plymouth Naval Memorial.
Daniel Hendry, 1st Class Stoker, RN. H.M.S. Saumarez, aged 36, Date of death 16-5-1945, Service No. D/KX 599390. Son of Daniel & Margaret Hendry of Troon, Ayrshire, Husband of Martha Hendry, of Troon. Commonwealth War Dead, Memorial Panel 94, Column 3 Plymouth Naval Memorial.
The memorial is situated on the Hoe.
Both were buried at sea when out of the danger zone.

Martin, William George Adams, Leading Stoker, RN. H.M.S. Saumarez, age 27, Date of death 21-5-1945, Service No. D/KX93487, Son of Caroline Martin of Torquay, Devon. Commonwealth War Dead, Grave, 1 A. 2. Trincomalee War Cemetery.

0800, Secured Action Stations after 22 hours of it.
0900, Enemy aircraft about, Action stations for half an hour, when Carrier planes drove enemy off. Two watch defence stations until 1230.
1100, Joined Fleet, which has an additional Cruiser, H.M.S. Nigeria. Action stations, enemy aircraft over fleet, and one shot down with gun fire.
1215, Secured Action stations.
1530, Action stations, enemy aircraft nine miles away. Driven off by Carrier planes. Speed after joining Fleet, 15 knots. Ammunition used = 50 rounds of 4 ' 7", and some Bofors and Oerlikon.
1615 Secured action stations. 1830 Action stations. Enemy aircraft heading toward us. Planes from Carriers took off but had to land again almost at once owing to dusk... One enemy plane over the Fleet. All ships open fire. Virago dive bombed and shrapnel bomb exploded over her decks. All the after repair party on deck, not expecting the plane, and heavy casualties reported.
2200, Virago casualties = 4 killed, 12 seriously wounded, and 30 slightly wounded.
Crowther Joseph, Leading Steward, C/lX23800. h. m. s. Virago, R. N. 16-5-1945, age 25. Son of Fred & Mary Crowther, Husband of Ann Crowther, of Pudsey, Yorks. Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent. Panel 81..3.
James Frederick, Assistant Cook, (S) C/MX701945. H. M. S. Virago, R. N. 16-5-1945, Son of Frederick W. & Rosalie James, of Camden, Essex. Chathem Naval Memorial, Kent. Panel 81. 3.
Page, Ernest Charles, Steward, C/LX26581, H.M.S. Virago, R. N. 16-5-1845. Age 30, Son of Robert & Kate Page, of Clacton On Sea, Essex. Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent. Panel 81, 3.
Styles, John Albert, Able Seaman. C/JX658452. H.M.S. Virago. R. N.. 16-5-1945. Aged 18. Son of John & Ellen Styles, of Ilford, Essex. Chatham Naval Memorial. Panel 81. 1.
Tittering ton, Robert. Sick Berth Attendant. C/MX82444. H. M. S. Virago. R. N. 16-5-1945. Age 39. Son of Robert & Ada Titterington, Husband on Mary Ann Titterington, of Ilkley, Yorks. Chatham Naval Memorial. Panel 81. 3.
There are two more deaths on Virago, as follows.
Hatt, Alfred John, Petty Officer Stoker, C/KX114546. H. M. S. Virago, R. N.. 20-1-1945. Age 39. Chathem Naval Memorial. Panel 81. 2.
Apap, Saviour, Steward, E/LX747253. H. M. S. Virago. R. N. 22-4-1947. Age 21. Son of Joseph & Mary Apap, of Valetta Malta, G. C. V. Panel F. 4.
May 17 1400, Met Oiler, All Destroyers oiled and at 1800 left Fleet for Trinco at 18 knots. Japs say on the wireless that they have won a great naval victory near Singapore.
May 18 Sea slightly rough today. Sun hot, and no rain. B.B.C. announce that the Japs say that there were two of our Cruisers and three Destroyers to sink their Cruiser.
May 19. B.B.C. Announced the action with the names of the ships. 0630, Arrived Trinco, Oiled, Distance covered on journey 3340 miles. Took eight new torpedoes aboard. Admiral Powell, C in C of East Indies Fleet came aboard to speak to ships company. Congratulated us on the sinking of the Cruiser. Said we were the first ships to go so far down the Malacca strait's since 1942, when Singapore was captured, and it was one of the largest naval victories of the war out here, the first Destroyers to sink an enemy cruiser, especially of the heaviest type. He then read out congratulations from the First Sea Lord, Sir Andrew Cunningham, and the Supreme Commander of South East Asia, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Every ship in the harbour here cheered us when we came in this morning.
In September 2005, we hope to be laying a wreath on the site of the sinking with Japanese survivors.

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