RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

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Tom from Cornwall
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RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 25 Jul 2020 09:34

Hi,

I'm taking advantage of the free downloads of RAF ORBs from UK National Archives at the moment and thought I'd pick up some records from the RAF units in Ceylon in April 1942. Disappointingly, however, the 30 Sqn ORB jumps from Mar 42 straight to Apr 43. Has anyone seen more original records from this Hurricane II squadron?

The March 1942 ORB is interesting as from 15 March the squadron took over from 131 Sqn (pencil annotation of "261?") in providing "Readiness and Available" which seems to have consisted of providing a daily dawn patrol and the rest of the squadron at readiness on the airfield. This continued until the end of March 1942 interspersed with exercises with ground AA defences and practice interception of Blenheims. There was also an interesting anti-shipping exercise where the Hurricanes operated in co-operation with Blenheim torpedo aircraft and practiced dive bombing surface ships.

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 26 Jul 2020 18:40

I thought this might be of interest. From AIR8/881 - HMS INDOMITABLE 2nd Trip to Far East.
Air HQ India Signal - 5 Mar 42.GIF
Regards

Tom
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Rob Stuart
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Rob Stuart » 26 Jul 2020 20:01

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
26 Jul 2020 18:40
I thought this might be of interest. From AIR8/881 - HMS INDOMITABLE 2nd Trip to Far East.

Air HQ India Signal - 5 Mar 42.GIF

Regards

Tom
Tom,

I have had a copy of this signal for some time now (from AIR 8/622). On 6 March, the day after it was received in London, the Chiefs of Staff countermanded Air HQ India's order that 24 Hurricanes were to be sent from Ceylon to eastern India. “All repeat all Hurricanes ex INDOMITABLE are to remain in Ceylon.” (Chiefs of Staff No. India 29, in ADM 223/867) This was apparently pursuant to the decision made at a COS meeting, presumably the one on 6 March, that “Forces in Ceylon or in route to it are not to be diverted without reference to the COS.” (C.O.S. 42/74, CAB 79/19/4)

In a follow-up/explanatory signal (AX.544 6/3, in AIR 20/4693) later on 6 March Portal advised Pierse that:

"Chiefs of Staff are agreed that security of Ceylon is vital and therefore ordered in signal India 29 6/3 today retention of all Indomitable Hurricanes in Ceylon.

2. When R.D.F. and Fighter organization thoroughly established withdrawals to Burma might be justified, but loss of Ceylon would clearly mean infinitely more than loss of Rangoon and Lower Burma."

Rob Stuart
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Rob Stuart » 26 Jul 2020 20:45

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
25 Jul 2020 09:34
Hi,

I'm taking advantage of the free downloads of RAF ORBs from UK National Archives at the moment and thought I'd pick up some records from the RAF units in Ceylon in April 1942. Disappointingly, however, the 30 Sqn ORB jumps from Mar 42 straight to Apr 43. Has anyone seen more original records from this Hurricane II squadron?

The March 1942 ORB is interesting as from 15 March the squadron took over from 131 Sqn (pencil annotation of "261?") in providing "Readiness and Available" which seems to have consisted of providing a daily dawn patrol and the rest of the squadron at readiness on the airfield. This continued until the end of March 1942 interspersed with exercises with ground AA defences and practice interception of Blenheims. There was also an interesting anti-shipping exercise where the Hurricanes operated in co-operation with Blenheim torpedo aircraft and practiced dive bombing surface ships.

Regards

Tom
A long list of 30 Squadron ORB files starts at the bottom of the page at http://www.rafcommands.com/database/air ... um=&qdate=. Of possible relevance to March-April 1942 are:

AIR 27/344 No 30 Squadron Appendices 1926-11-01 - 1943-12-31
AIR 27/344/29 No.30 Squadron Summary of Events 1942-03-01 - 1943-03-31

Which file is the one which jumps from March 42 to April 43?

131 Sqn was an ad hoc unit created locally. Its pilots had escaped from Singapore, Sumatra and Java, and its first fighters were eight crated Hurricane IIB's transported by Cefn-Y-Bryn to Karachi, assembled there and flown to Ceylon. They arrived at Ratmalana on 23 February. The ad hoc unit was at first known as "K" Squadron, then as 131 Squadron, and finally as 258 Squadron (re-using the number of the first 258 Squadron, which had been wiped out in the NEI).

If the 30 Sqn ORB refers to an exercise involving "Blenheim torpedo aircraft" then the person compiling it made an error. Blenheims could not carry torpedoes, and when 11 Squadron attacked the Japanese carriers on 9 April their Blenheims were armed with bombs.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 26 Jul 2020 22:15

Hi Rob,

Thanks for the replies. I'm now hooked on this period and theatre! 8O :lol:

Here's what I mean about 30 Sqn records (snip from National Archives Website):
AIR27-344 - missing months.GIF
It's late but tomorrow I'll post up the remark in the ORB re Blenheims and torpedoes. I must admit I had my doubts but wondered if they could have done some local modifications? I'll see if I can look at the 11 Sqn records (that's the right one isn't it?). That might not be for a week or so as I have downloaded too many free COS files - can only download 50 files in 30 days at the moment.

Regards

Tom
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aghart
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by aghart » 27 Jul 2020 06:44

It was likely Blenheims simulating Torpedo attacks as no Beauforts were available.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 27 Jul 2020 09:15

Yes, I think that's probably right. Here are the ORB entries for the anti-shipping practices:
21-23 Mar 42.GIF
23 Mar 42 contd.GIF
It would be interesting to see whether there are naval reports from Royal Sovereign that describe the practice attacks and also whether there was radar assisted interception of the "attacking Blenheim bombers" that the squadron was scrambled to intercept on the afternoon of the 23rd March.

Regards

Tom
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EwenS
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by EwenS » 27 Jul 2020 11:27

Royal sons movements are here if you have not already seen them.
https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... ereign.htm

Left Colombo 0730 on 23/3/42 heading for Addu Atoll, but no mention of exercises with RAF. Probably not worthy of mention anywhere other than ships logs.

Rob Stuart
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Rob Stuart » 27 Jul 2020 12:39

aghart wrote:
27 Jul 2020 06:44
It was likely Blenheims simulating Torpedo attacks as no Beauforts were available.
This seems unlikely. 11 Squadron's 14 Blenheim IVs arrived from the Middle East between 28 February and 17 March. They had no experience or training in bombing ships, so the exercises referred to in the 30 Sqn ORB were intended, inter alia, to provide 11 Squadron with an opportunity to practice bombing ships. Launching a simulated torpedo attack (which they did not know how to do in any case) would have been a waste of a precious training opportunity against an actual battleship. Besides, the 30 Sqn ORB refers to 11 Sqn scoring "near misses". There is no such thing as a near miss in a torpedo attack. Either you hit or you miss. To score a near miss (which might inflict some damage) you have to be dropping bombs.

Rob Stuart
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Rob Stuart » 27 Jul 2020 12:43

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
27 Jul 2020 09:15
It would be interesting to see whether there are naval reports from Royal Sovereign that describe the practice attacks and also whether there was radar assisted interception of the "attacking Blenheim bombers" that the squadron was scrambled to intercept on the afternoon of the 23rd March.
Colombo's first radar station, AMES 254, did not become fully operational until 28 March, per its ORB in AIR 29/174.

Addendum: Peter C. Smith's book "Battleship Royal Sovereign", pp. 121-122, says that Royal Sovereign sailed from Colombo at 0724 on 23 March to rendezvous with Ramillies. The two ships met at 1632 and set course for Addu Atoll (600 nm southwest of Ceylon). There is no mention of any exercise being conducted on the 23rd, but this does not mean that there wasn't one. Smith may simply have chosen not to refer to it.
Last edited by Rob Stuart on 27 Jul 2020 13:24, edited 1 time in total.

Rob Stuart
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Rob Stuart » 27 Jul 2020 16:04

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
25 Jul 2020 09:34
I'm taking advantage of the free downloads of RAF ORBs from UK National Archives at the moment and thought I'd pick up some records from the RAF units in Ceylon in April 1942. Disappointingly, however, the 30 Sqn ORB jumps from Mar 42 straight to Apr 43. Has anyone seen more original records from this Hurricane II squadron?
I've now found my copy of the 30 Sqn ORB for April 1942. I obtained it in Ottawa. When the history directorate at National Defence HQ in Ottawa set about writing a history of the RCAF some years ago they went to Kew and photocopied a bunch of files, including the 30 Sqn ORB, given that a number of RCAF personnel served with it. They subsequently made these files accessible to the public, so I visited their offices several years ago and made a photocopy of their photocopy of the 30 Sqn ORB for April 1942. It is marked "AIR 27-344". I do not know if it is still in AIR 27/344 or if it is now in some sub-folder (AIR 27/344/xx).

Kew re-opened a few days ago, as you may know, but fortunately for its Trans-Atlantic fans, they say on their website that "We will continue to provide free downloads of digital records on our website for the time being, as we are initially only able to re-open for a very limited number of researchers. We will keep this, and all of our opening arrangements, under constant review."

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 27 Jul 2020 19:07

Hi Rob,

Thanks, that's interesting and clearly means the ORB did survive - it just looks like a mistake at Kew when they were digitising them. As you can see on the snip from the UKNA Discovery search engine the files go straight from AIR27/344/29 (March 1942) to AIR27/344/30 (March 1943).

I'll just have to got over there when it is more accessible and see if I can still access the microfilms or the original ORB.

Regards

Tom

Eugen Pinak
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Eugen Pinak » 27 Jul 2020 20:06

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
25 Jul 2020 09:34
I'm taking advantage of the free downloads of RAF ORBs from UK National Archives at the moment and thought I'd pick up some records from the RAF units in Ceylon in April 1942. Disappointingly, however, the 30 Sqn ORB jumps from Mar 42 straight to Apr 43. Has anyone seen more original records from this Hurricane II squadron?
It doesn't "jump" anywhere. 30th Sqn ORB for April 1942 is available in AIR27/344/29 (March 1942-March 1943).

Eugen Pinak
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Eugen Pinak » 27 Jul 2020 20:08

BTW, have you seen other online records (besides RAF squadrons' ORBs and UK Cabinet records) in the UK archives about operations around Ceylon in April 1942?

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 27 Jul 2020 22:02

Eugen Pinak wrote:
27 Jul 2020 20:06
It doesn't "jump" anywhere. 30th Sqn ORB for April 1942 is available in AIR27/344/29 (March 1942-March 1943).
8O :lol: :lol: :lol:

Doh, how daft do I feel. I stopped looking at that file once I got to the end of March and now that you've pointed it out I see that there are another 100-odd pages to go. :oops:

Many thanks for pointing that out. :thumbsup:

I don't think there are any more on-line records from UK archives, but I will be going back to Kew at some point to start copying more relevant records.

Regards

Tom

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