I’m a little surprised that I’ve not seen this older thread before, since Operation C is the WW2 event of most interest to me. I’m also surprised that the first post in the thread, by Pips, quotes (and in a couple of places, misquotes) an article I wrote which was published in Canadian Military Journal in few years ago, without acknowledging that this was his source. My article is online at http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo7/no4/stuart-eng.asp
for anyone who'd care to read it.
That said, it’s an interesting thread and I like to comment on a few of the posts:
Andy H., you commented that
“One of the most glaring omissions from Somervilles OoB was a viable and effective Submarine force, for both aggresive actions and for Fleet recon etc”.
In fact, the Eastern Fleet had six subs: Truant, Trusty, K-XI, K-XIV, K-XV and O-19. Truant was at sea from 23 March to 12 April and was sent after KdB but could not intercept it. Trusty was under repair during Operation C and did not sail until 13 April. K-XI sailed from Colombo on 8 April but this was too late. O-19 sailed on 31 March for the Eight Degree Channel, probably because the British knew from Singint that a Japanese sub (I-4) was to do a patrol there. The other two Dutch submarines were unservicable.
“mcaryf”, commented on 2 Feb 2010 that
“The Ryujo could carry around 50 planes albeit with a relatively poor capacity to get them on deck but it was not even one of the 6 front line carriers whilst still substantially superior to anything the RN could field.”
In fact Ryujo carried 15 Kates and a few Claudes in April 1942. It was superior to Hermes but inferior to Formidable, which had 33 aircraft, and Indomitable, with 47.
You commented in the same post that
“The coastline of Ceylon was much too long for the forces there in April 1942 to defend.”
The six defending brigades did not have to defend the whole coastline. Ceylon was beyond the range of any Japanese air base, so the Japanese had to seize an intact or nearly intact airfield before KdB had to withdraw. There were actually very few airfields on Ceylon and the defenders would have had pretty good prospects for successfully defending these airfields before KdB withdrew. They could then bring up their reserves without interference from the air and at least contain, if not eliminate, the Japanese lodgements.
You also said that
“They might even have found some sort of welcome from the local populace, there was at least one example of Ceylonese troops being executed by the British for mutiny and parts of the Burmese army had recently gone over to the Japanese. This was also a period when tens of thousands of Indian nationalists were being put into prisons by the British.”
In fact precisely three Ceylonese soldiers were executed, and these executions were after the war. The mutiny happened on Cocos island in May 1942 and involved an isolated party of Ceylonese gunners. The moale of Ceylonese forces on Ceylon was probably a different matter altogether. And the big round up of Indian nationalists you refer to happened months later, after Ghandi launched his “Quit India” campaign.
Glenn, you suggested that, apparently after taking Ceylon,
“The way the Japanese make Egypt fall is to seize air bases at the mouth of the Red Sea and establish a full-strength air army there that prevents British supplies moving up the Red Sea.”
This would mean taking Aden, Djibouti, or some such base in this area. These places are 2,000 NM from Colombo, which would be the nearest Japanese base. KdB would have to be used to provide air support, which means that the landing force would have to take an airfield, and get it back into working order, before KdB had to withdraw. Big risk of failure. And how would you get your 100 aircraft there? 2,000 NM is well over even the ferry range of any single-engined aircraft, so you need more carriers to get them there, and any Betty experiencing engine trouble en route is going to be lost. Furthermore, the Japanese supply line to the mouth of the Red Sea would be at least as vulnerable as their supply line to Guadalcanal proved to be, as there would be several Alied air bases within range of your base and the sea route to it would be flanked by Cochin, Addu Atoll, Karachi, Mogadishu, and any other port were the British could station oilers and depot ships.
As well, there is a flaw in your claim that “
The Japanese merchant marine pool that averaged 2.34 million tons of shipping in 1942 managed to import into Japan 19 million tons of materials – about 8 tons of goods per year for every ton of shipping in the pool. A Japanese expedition of say 40,000 men and 100 aircraft into the Middle East to sever the Allied jugular to Eygpt may have required 25 lbs per man per day and 50 tons per plane per month – 240,000 tons of supply per year. At 8 tons of supply per ton of shipping, that’s a train of 30,000 tons of merchant vessels.”
Your figure of “8 tons of supply per ton of shipping” is an average, and much of the 19 million tons of imports were brought in from Korea and other nearby places, with the ships involved making a lot of quick round trips. It is a 12,000 NM round trip from Japan, where the bombs, torpedos, ammo, spare parts, etc, were made, to Aden and back. No Japanese merchant ship is going to be able to make eight round trips a year over such a distance under wartime conitions (eg, delays due to diversions and convoy assembly) – particularly if it’s sunk or damaged or breaks down on one of these runs. So it will take a lot more than 30,000 tons of shipping to sustain your base.
mcaryf, you commented that
“In the first week of April the IJN found and sank well over 100,000 tons of shipping in the Bay of Bengal. All my requirement needs is for them to put prize crews aboard about 1/3 of these ships rather than sink them. The shipping problem is now solved.”
In fact Ozawa sank 20 ships totalling 93,000 tons. Roskill is wrong when he states in his official history that 23 ships of 112, 312 tons were sunk. (see http://propnturret.com/tully/viewtopic. ... pasa#p5381
.) Of the 20 ships actually sunk, Harpasa and Van Der Capellen were sunk by Ozawa’saircraft, and Dardanus, Bienville, Selma City, Ganges and Sinkiang were disabled or damaged by air attack before being caught by Ozawa’s ships, which leaves 13 ships of about 58,000 tons as candidates for taking as prizes. But seizing these ships was easier said than done. First of all, they are all close to the coast of India, and most of the victims turned for the coast, screaming for help on the radio, and weren’t going to stop unless disabled. There is no point in seizing a disabled ship 30 miles off the enemy coast but 600 miles from the nearest port you control. Second, from the Japanese point of view this was a bad place to stop to lower boats, row a prize crew over and, presumably, escort a gaggle of slow merchantmen. The Japanese overestimated British air strength in the area and would have considered it too risky to hang about. In fact, Ozawa’s northern group (Kumano, Suzuya and Shirakumo), which had no fighter cover, would likely have been attacked by a flight of Wellingtons based at Calcutta had it stayed in the area longer than it did.