The Battle of Madagascar

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by spidge, Nov 3, 2006.

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  1. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    The Battle of Madagascar 5th May 1942.

    In early 1942, Allied leaders feared that ports on the island might be used by Japan, a view shared by the German Kriegsmarine. Following their conquest of South East Asia, east of Burma by the end of February 1942, the Japanese high command was able to contemplate moves westward. Imperial Japanese Navy submarines were moving freely throughout the Indian Ocean, and in March aircraft carriers conducted the Indian Ocean raid, which drove the British Eastern Fleet out of the north-east Indian Ocean, to a new base at Kilindini (at Mombasa), in Kenya.
    The move laid the fleet open to a new angle of attack: the possibility of Japanese naval forces using forward bases in Madagascar had to be addressed. The potential use of these facilities threatened Allied merchant shipping, the supply route to the British Eighth Army and also the Eastern Fleet.
    Japanese submarines had the longest ranges of any at the time — more than 10,000 miles (16,000km) in some cases. Had they been able to utilise the bases, it would have affected Allied lines of communications in a region stretching from the Pacific and Australia, to the Middle East and South Atlantic.

    Operation Ironclad

    Allied commanders decided to launch an amphibious assault on Madagascar. The plan was known as Operation Ironclad and Allied forces, centred initially on the British Army and the Royal Navy were commanded by Major-General Robert Sturges. The fleet consisted of over 50 vessels of many types, drawn from Force H, the British Home Fleet and the British Eastern Fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral (later Admiral Sir) Edward Neville Syfret aircraft carriers. The fleet included HMS Illustrious, her sister ship HMS Indomitable and the ageing battleship HMS Ramillies to cover the landings.

    The landings

    Following many reconnaissance missions by the South African Air Force, the British 5th Infantry Division's 17th Infantry Brigade Group and 13th Infantry Brigade, as well as the British 29th Infantry Brigade, and 5 Commando, Royal Marines were carried ashore by landing craft to Courrier Bay and Ambararata Bay, just west of the major port of Diego Suarez (later known as Antsiranana), at the northern tip of Madagascar. A diversionary attack was staged to the east. Air cover was provided mainly by Fairey Albacores, Grumman Martlets and Fairey Swordfish from the Fleet Air Arm, which attacked Vichy shipping. A small number of SAAF planes assisted.
    The Vichy forces, led by Governor General Armand Léon Annet, included about 8,000 troops, of whom about 6,000 were Madagascan. A large proportion of the others were Senegalese. Between 1,500 and 3,000 Vichy troops were concentrated around Diego Suarez. However, naval and air defences were relatively light and/or obsolete: eight coastal batteries, two armed merchant cruisers, two sloops, five submarines, 17 Morane-Saulnier 406 fighters and 10 Potez 63 bombers.
    Following a major assault, Diego Suarez was surrendered on May 7, although substantial Vichy forces withdrew to the south. Vichy forces resisted more than expected and reinforcements were sent by both sides.
    The Japanese submarines I-10, I-16 and I-20 arrived on May 29. I-10's reconnaissance plane spotted the Ramillies at anchor in Diego Suarez harbour but, the plane was seen and Ramillies changed her berth. I-20 and I-16 launched two midget submarines, one of which managed to enter the harbour and fired two torpedoes, while under depth charge attack from two corvettes. One torpedo seriously damaged Ramillies, while the second sank an oil tanker (British Loyalty, later refloated). Ramillies was later repaired in Durban and Plymouth.
    Lieutenant Saburo Akieda and Petty Officer Masami Takemoto beached their submarine (M-20b) at Nosy Antalikely and moved inland towards their pick-up point near Cape Amber. They were informed upon when they bought food at a village and both were killed in a firefight with Royal Marines three days later. The second midget submarine was lost at sea and the body of one its crew was washed ashore a day later.

    The land campaign

    Hostilities continued at a low level for several months. The British 5th Division was transferred to India, and in June the 22nd East African Brigade Group arrived. The South African 7th Motorized Brigade and the RhodesianEast Africa) were landed in the following weeks. 27th Infantry Brigade (including forces from
    The 29th Brigade and 22nd Brigade Group carried out an amphibious landing on September 10 at Majunga, in the north-west, to re-launch Allied offensive operations ahead of the rainy season. Progress was slow for the Allied forces; in addition to occasional small scale clashes with enemy forces, they also encountered scores of obstacles erected on the main roads by Vichy soldiers. The Allies eventually captured the capital, Tananarive without much opposition and the town of Ambalavao. The last major action was at Andriamanalina on October 18. Annet surrendered near Ilhosy, in the south of the island on November 5.
    The Allies suffered about 500 casualties in the landing at Diego Suarez, and 30 killed and 90 wounded in the operations which followed September 10.

    Naval order of battle


    Allied (Royal Navy)<sup>[1]</sup>


    Vichy France

    • Two armed merchant cruisers
    • Two sloops
    • Five submarines including Beveziers, Le Heros, Monge

    Japan

    • Submarines I-10 (with reconnaisance aircraft), I-16, I-18 (damaged by heavy seas and arrived late), I-20
    • Midget submarines M-16b, M-20b
     
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  2. ourbill

    ourbill Senior Member

    Thanks for an interesting post.
    The taking of Madagascar was on the cards for some sort of action from December 1941 and came to a head when Singapore fell and the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse.

    From Alanbrooke's diary:
    10 Dec 1941: Then de Gaulle to draw my attention to value of Madagascar base under new situation.
    18 Dec 1941: Long COS meeting this morning to consider the desirability of seizing North Madagascar to stop Japs getting it. Full of complications--means abandoning temporary scheme for taking Atlantic Islands in event of loss of Gibraltar unless we can get Americans to take on the job. Further complications due to de Gaulle wishing to cooperate with the Madagascar operations. His support is more likely to be an encumbrance.

    And at the eleventh hour when I would imagine most of the plans and arrangements were in place:
    23 April 1942: A very difficult COS connected with the proposed operations against Madagascar. The Admiralty who were the original supporters of the necessity for such an attack are now adopting a different attitude and doubting the necessity! I cannot see that the desirability of carrying out the operation (if it ever existed!) has in any way altered, but the change of government in France and the arrival of Laval puts a new complexion on the enterprise. The repercussions are more likely and may be more serious, we have to take into account the possibility of Bizerta being handed over to the Axis powers, or possibly the French fleet, or Gibraltar heavily bombed and the flow of aircraft interfered with, or Dakar falling into Axis hands. All the above would have a serious adverse effect on our power to prosecute the war.
    01 May 1942: sent for by the PM in the evening to discuss Wavell's latest wire. He is protesting strongly at the fact that land, sea, and air forces for defence of India are not being built up quicker. This is partly due to the Madagascar operation. Personally I wish we were not carrying it out. We do not stand to gain much by it, as it is very doubtful whether Japs would ever go there. On the other hand, with Laval government we may suffer a great deal from the reaction.

    IMHO I think the whole operations involving Madagascar was just another joint effort by Churchill and de Gaulle. One would have thought they should have learned from the fiasco off Dakar 1940.

    Have you seen the following book that was published in 2000.
    A Submariners' War. The Indian Ocean 1939-45. By Michael Wilson. There are some excellent photographs and a chapter ' The French and Madagascar'. 'Madagascar was by far the most important French colony in the Indian Ocean and was destined to play a vital role in the course of the war.'
     
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  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I have the War Diary for 2 Wilts if anyone wants to know what they did in Madagascar.
    Also in one book is a lovely photo of the future VC winner Sgt Rogers with a local family.
     
  4. BulgarianSoldier

    BulgarianSoldier Senior Member

    Loool i never know that some one fight on Madagaskar.I only heart that the gemrans wanted to make this islend a cons. camp for the jews.
     
  5. ourbill

    ourbill Senior Member

    Loool i never know that some one fight on Madagaskar.I only heart that the gemrans wanted to make this islend a cons. camp for the jews.


    That's a new one.

    Where did you get that from?
     
  6. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

  7. ourbill

    ourbill Senior Member

    Thanks for that Spidge.

    Verry interesting, but not up my street though!
     
  8. adrian roberts

    adrian roberts Senior Member

    Very interesting. This must have given the British some much-needed confidence at the time. Not very serious opposition but a major logistical challenge.
    How many British/Commonwealth troops would have landed - you say three Brigades plus a RM Commando - would that be about 8000?

    Adrian
     
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Here is extract from Kenrick's The Wiltshire Regiment.
     

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  10. bushfighter

    bushfighter Junior Member

    Last year a paperback book came out on the campaign:

    "The Forgotten Invasion" by John Grehan.
    Published by Historic Military Press.
    ISBN 1-901313-22-2

    "Five Ventures" by Christopher Buckley. HMSO.
    In paperback. ISBN 0 11 772196 4
    devotes a section to Madagascar 1942.

    "Dust Clouds in the Middle East" by Christopher Shores.
    Grub Street 1996. ISBN 1 898697 37 X
    covers the air side of the invasion.

    Harry
     
  11. Bodston

    Bodston Little Willy

    I only know of this campaign because of the rare use of the Light Tank Mk. VII or Tetrarch. This from 'Armour in Profile No.11' by Chamberlain & Ellis. The first employment of the Light Mk. VII in offensive operations was in Operation "Ironclad" - the invasion of Madagascar - on 5th May 1942 when 12 vehicles manned by "B" Special Service Squadron (an ad hoc unit formed for the purpose) landed under command of 29th Independent Brigade Group in Ambararata Bay. Little opposition was met from the Vichy French in the drive on Antisarane and the tanks were hardly tested in action. Choice of the Light Mk. VII for this operation was almost certainly dictated by its light weight and small size, as all equipment carried by the invasion force had to be ferried to shore from the troop transports which brought them from Durban.
     
  12. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The "revisionist historians" make much of the "Madagascar Plan" and some tend to deny on the basis of it , ignoring the time line and the changing events which rendered it dead in the water , as it had been for a very long time.

    Although I do not know the battle for the Island in detail I understand that it was hard fought and the ground which had to be moved over was far from ideal , easy going it was not.

    Thank you for the details on the Japanese submarines which attacked British units , one of those regions in which the IJN and Kgm were both active at various times.
     
  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I wonder if there was any plan for the Japanese to use it as a step off point into Kenya and head North to link up with Germany ?
     
  14. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    The Battle of Madagascar 5th May 1942.

    Following a major assault, Diego Suarez was surrendered on May 7, although substantial Vichy forces withdrew to the south. Vichy forces resisted more than expected and reinforcements were sent by both sides.
    The Japanese submarines I-10, I-16 and I-20 arrived on May 29. I-10's reconnaissance plane spotted the Ramillies at anchor in Diego Suarez harbour but, the plane was seen and Ramillies changed her berth. I-20 and I-16 launched two midget submarines, one of which managed to enter the harbour and fired two torpedoes, while under depth charge attack from two corvettes. One torpedo seriously damaged Ramillies, while the second sank an oil tanker (British Loyalty, later refloated). Ramillies was later repaired in Durban and Plymouth.
    Lieutenant Saburo Akieda and Petty Officer Masami Takemoto beached their submarine (M-20b) at Nosy Antalikely and moved inland towards their pick-up point near Cape Amber. They were informed upon when they bought food at a village and both were killed in a firefight with Royal Marines three days later. The second midget submarine was lost at sea and the body of one its crew was washed ashore a day later.

    I did not know Nips got involved in this fight...
     
  15. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Drew5233
    I wonder if there was any plan for the Japanese to use it as a step off point into Kenya and head North to link up with Germany ?
    Reminds me of the possibility of the Germans emerging from Russia to invade the middle east to link up with Rommel.
    On paper it looked a threat but in reality - beyond resources
     
  16. Passchendaele_Baby

    Passchendaele_Baby Grandads Little Girl

    But Madagascar is cool!!!
     
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    But Madagascar is cool!!!

    Actually its quite hot ;)
     
  18. Macca

    Macca Member

    I have an excellent book about the campaign 'The Blood Red Island' by Rupert Croft-Cooke. He was a member of British Field Security which gave him carte blanche to do almost anything he wanted so after the initial battles he set off virtually alone to find out where the French were hiding in the interior. In his own words he was looking for a 'Boys Own Adventure' and he found plenty. It's a rollicking read and I'm glad I bought it.
     
  19. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Senior Member

    Some years ago on one of my many military forums, I encountered a quite vitriolic American who raved about the British refusal to provide at least one RN Aircraft Carrier to assist the USN at the time of the Midway Battle.

    I was forced to do some research, and finally found about this operation on Madagaskar, and later of the sheer incompatability of RN replenishment/refueling equipment etc at the time. The demands of Madagaskar meant that the RN had NIL carriers available

    Even a rendition of this information was not enough for him, he had spent years seething about the hated British and their pefidy at that critical time, and he was not about to accept the facts.

    I gave up on him.


    John.
     
  20. Passchendaele_Baby

    Passchendaele_Baby Grandads Little Girl

    :)Actually its quite hot ;)

    Oh, ha ha... You know what I mean ;)
     

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