Operation Ironclad Madagascar 1942

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Operation Ironclad Madagascar 1942

Post by almogaver266 » 25 Mar 2006 14:25


I´m interested in this campaign, OOB, battles, etc...

thanks for your help


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David Lehmann
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Post by David Lehmann » 25 Mar 2006 15:40


I can offer various notes I copied once in a word document from Internet or other sources, I don't remember exactly from were though.

Operation Ironclad : Invasion of Madagascar

On 5 May 1942 British Force 121 conducted Operation Ironclad, an amphibious invasion of the Vichy French colony of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.


British ground forces

• British 29th Infantry Brigade (independent) :
• Amphibious landing near Diego Suarez on 5 May 1942 :
2nd South Lancashire Regiment
2nd East Lancashire Regiment
1st Royal Scots Fusiliers
2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers
455th Light Battery (Royal Artillery)
one MG company
six medium tanks
six light tanks

• No. 5 Commando :
Amphibious landing near Diego Suarez on 5 May 1942.

• British 17th Infantry Brigade Group (of 5th Division) :
Landed near Diego Suarez as second wave on 5 May 1942 :
2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers
2nd Northamptonshire Regiment
6th Seaforth Highlanders
9th Field Regiment (Royal Artillery)

• British 13th Infantry Brigade (of 5th Division) :
Landed near Diego Suarez as third wave on 6 May 1942 :
2nd Cameronians
2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
2nd Wiltshire Regiment

British Naval Forces

• Battleships :

• Aircraft Carriers :

• Cruisers :

• Destroyers :

• Corvettes :

• Minesweepers :

• Assault transports :
Winchester Castle
Royal Ulsterman

• "Special" ships :
Derwentdale (for motor landing craft and tanks)
Bachaquero (tank landing ship) (one of the Maracaibo freighters)

• Troop ships :
Duchess of Atholl

• Stores and MT ships:
Empire Kingsley
City of Hong Kong

British air forces

• Aboard Illustrious :
881 Sqdn : 12x Grumman Martlett
882 Sqdn : 8x Grumman Martlett and 1x Fairey Fulmar
810 and 829 Sqdn : together, 20x Fairey Swordfish

• Aboard Indomitable :
800 Sqdn : 8x Fairey Fulmar
806 Sqdn : 4x Fairey Fulmar
880 Sqdn : 6x Hawker Sea Hurricane
827 and 831 Sqdn : together, 24x Fairey Albacore


Ground Forces Order of Battle, July 1942

Note : This OB gives the position of French forces after the fall of Diego Suarez to the British. It is reproduced directly from "La "guérilla" des troupes vichystes à Madasgar en 1942" which looks like a reliable article. However, one point is subject to caution : there were in fact two Régiments Mixtes Malgaches of three battalions rather than one of six battalions as shown below (this is obvioulsy a typo). I haven't yet been able to check which battalions in fact belonged to the 2e RMM.

West Coast
- 2 platoons of reservists and volunteers at Nossi-Bé
- 2 companies of the Régiment Mixte Malgache (RMM - Mixed Madagascar Regiment) at Ambanja
- 1 battalion of the 1er RMM at Majunga

East Coast
- 1 battalion of the 1er RMM at Tamatave
- 1 artillery section (65mm) at Tamatave
- 1 company of the 1er RMM at Brickaville

Center of the island
- 3 battalions of the 1er RMM at Tananarive
- 1 motorised reconnaissance detachment at Tananarive
- Emyrne coastal battery at Tananarive
- 1 artillery section (65mm mountain guns) at Tananarive
- 1 engineer company at Tananarive
- 1 company of the 1er RMM at Mevatanana
- 1 company of the BTM at Fianarantsoa

South of the island
- 1 company of the BTM at Fort dauphin
- 1 company of the BTM at Tuléar

There were a handful old Renault FT17 tanks (at least 1x FT17 BS)

Armée de l'Air Order of Battle, 5 May 1942
Groupe Aérien Mixte (Cne Leonetti)
Unit Aircraft Total Avail. Base Commander
Esc. 565 (17x Morane-Saulnier 406, 11 available). Based in Ivato-Tananarive, commander : Cne Baché
Esc. 555 (6x Potez 63.11, ? available). Based in Ivato-Tananariv, commander : Lt Le Bouedec

Note : A small detachment of MS 406 and Potez 63.11 was permanently stationed at Diégo Arrachart under Lt Rossigneux (its aircraft are included in the numbers above). In addition, there were some Potez 25TOE and Potez 29 used mainly in for casualty evacuation.

Therefore there were only 11 French fighters facing 83 British aircrafts and a whole fleet.

1) The main landings went in on landing craft around Courrier Bay and Ambararata Bay (across the peninsula from Diego Suarez) on 5 May 1942. These landings were unopposed.

2) Meanwhile, a diversionary "simulated" bombardment and landing took place to the east, and dummy paratroops were dropped. Carrier-based aircraft bombed Vichy shipping in the harbor.

3) By mid-morning the invaders had run into French defences. Advance was hampered by difficulty in finding a suitable beach for Bachaquero to land artillery (although tanks were already ashore). A frontal assault next morning against the French position defending Antsirane finally succeeded, and additional shelling by British warships convinced the local Vichy commander to hoist the white flag. Surrender documents signed on 7 May.

4) French defences consisted of few coastal batteries, trenches, two armed merchant cruisers, two sloops and five submarines operating in the area, 11 Morane 406 fighters, 6 Potez 63 reconnaissance aircrafts, 1500-3000 troops in the Diego Suarez area, about 8000 troops on the island as a whole (approx 75% native).

5) British losses in the Diego Suarez operations amounted to 105 KIA and 283 WIA. Vichy lost about 150 KIA and 500 WIA.

6) To quote the British official history: "Ironclad was the first large amphibious assault made by British forces since the attempt to storm the Dardanelles in the First World War."

7) Vichy French (predominantly native) troops in the area were quickly withdrawn to the south and a protracted campaign ensued at a low level of intensity.

Further units involved :

As 5th Division was required for the defence of India (and in fact had been en route there prior to the Madagascar diversion), 13th Brigade was withdrawn on 20 May and 17th Brigade on 10 June 1942. This left, however, only the northern end of the island occupied by the Allies and a state of hostilities still in effect.

British 29th Brigade remained behind and reinforcements arrived for further operations:

22nd East African Brigade Group: Arrived 8 June 1943; departed 23 January 1944. OB as of June 1942:
1/1st Kings African Rifles
5th (Kenya) Kings African Rifles
1/6th Kings African Rifles
56th (Uganda) Field Battery
9th Field Regiment (Royal Artillery)

South African 7th Motorized Brigade: Arrived 24 June 1942; departed 7 December 1942:
1st City Regiment
The Pretoria Regiment
Pretoria Highlanders

Northern Rhodesia 27th Infantry Brigade: Arrived 8 August 1942; departed 29 June 1944. OB as of August 1942:
2nd Northern Rhodesia Regiment
3rd Northern Rhodesia Regiment
4th Northern Rhodesia Regiment
55th (Tanganyika) Light Battery
57th (East African) Field Battery

The 29th and 22nd Brigades conducted another amphibious landing at Majunga on 10 September 1942, with the latter taking the lead in advancing toward Tananarive and then Ambalavao before the island finally surrendered on 6 November 1942. British 29th Brigade, meanwhile, had departed Madagascar on 16 October.


La "guérilla" des troupes vichystes à Madasgar en 1942, Eric NATIVEL, Revue Historique des Armées magazine 1998/1 for the ground forces orbat.

L'aviation de Vichy au Combat, les Campagnes Oubliées, vol.1, Christian-Jacques EHRENGARDT and Christopher SHORES, Paris : Lavauzelle, 1983, for the Armée de l'Air orbat.


Buckley, Christopher. FIVE VENTURES. London: HMSO, 1954.

Joslen, H. F. ORDERS OF BATTLE. London: HMSO, 1960.

Martin, H. J. and Neil D. Orpen. SOUTH AFRICAN FORCES WORLD WAR II, volume VII: SOUTH AFRICA AT WAR. Cape Town: Purnell, 1979.

Rohwer, J. and G. Hummelchen. CHRONOLOGY OF THE WAR AT SEA, 1939-1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1992

Shores, Christopher. DUST CLOUDS IN THE MIDDLE EAST. London: Grub Street, 1996



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Post by almogaver266 » 25 Mar 2006 17:25


Many thanks David :D

Purple fang
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Post by Purple fang » 25 Mar 2006 22:28

Britich feared Japanese invasion of Madagascar.


& it was considered a place for sending Jews by the germans.


& Japanese midget sub attack is covered here.

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French website covering this operation

Post by asiaticus » 29 Mar 2006 19:52

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David Lehmann
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Post by David Lehmann » 29 Mar 2006 21:32


I have an article about the operation that was published in the "39-45 magazine" but it is of course in French only. Contact me if you feel interested.



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Re: Operation Ironclad Madagascar 1942

Post by Wilhelm_Klave » 11 Apr 2011 13:27

Well, the OOB for the French in the previous posts in this thread was for July, after they lost some 30-40% of their forces when the British took Diego Suarez in May.

Thus I think its worthwhile to state the French OOB just before the British invasion in May.


- 1er Régiment Mixte Malgaches
- 2e Régiment Mixte Malgaches (both regiments had 3 battalions, 1/3rd of the personnel was white, the rest Malagache or recruits from french Africa)
- Bataillon de Tirailleurs Malgaches
- 42 Bataillon de mitrailleurs d'infanterie coloniale

- 21 Regiment artillerie legére coloniale mixte malgache
- 23 Regiment artillerie legére coloniale mixte malgache
- 32 Regiment artillerie legére coloniale mixte malgache (each such regiment had thirty six 75mm guns and about a dozen 37mm and/or 25mm AT guns)

- 221 Regiment artillerie lourde coloniale mixte malgache
- 282 Regiment artillerie lourde coloniale mixte malgache (each such regiment was to have tvelve 105mm guns and tvelve 155mm guns, though Dyskant says its unprobable that the units on Madagascar had any 155 guns. He even expressess doubt if there were any 105mm guns at the time of the invasion, suggesting that they might have been evacuated earlier)

- Groupe autonome d'artillerie coloniale "Emyrne"
- Groupe autonome d'artillerie coloniale "Diego Suarez" (According to Dyskant, both such groups had eight 75mm guns, four 37mm guns and four 65mm guns).

- One Engineer company stationed at Tannanarive. Formal name of the unit uknown.
- 1 motorised reconnaissance detachment at Tananarive. Unit composition unknown (According to Dyskant, the unit likely had a communication and light recon role, with no real combat ability)
- Companie autonome de chars de combat - 21 vintage FT-17 tanks (armed with 37mm guns). Formal name of the armored unit is unknown, its also uncertain how many of them were fully operational.

TOE of a colonial battalion, such as those used by the Mixte Malgaches regiments:
- 20 officers, 850 enlisted men.
- Two 37mm guns. (Vintage WWI Puteaux)
- Two 81mm mortars
- Three 60mm mortars
- Eight W14 Hotchkiss machine guns.
- Twenty six LMGs, (Three types were uded on Madagascar: The W15 Chauchat, the 1924/1929 Chatellerault and the 1915 Lewis).


- 565 Escadrille de Chasse (had seventeen MS 406 C1 fighters)
- 555 Escadrille de Reconnaissance (had ten Potez 63-11 planes)
- Ensemble autonome d'Aerienne (five MS 406 C1 fighters, two Potez 63-11 planes, all at Diego Suarez)
- Some two dozens of old Potez 25 TOE and Caudron C4 planes at Tannanarive. Mostly used for training, unsure how many were operational.

An auxiliary cruiser "Bougainville" (Not to be mistaken for a colonial Aviso of the same name)
Two colonial Avisos: "D'Entrecasteaux" and "D'Iberville".
Four redoutable class submarines: "Monge", "Le Glorieux", "Le Héros", "Bévéziers".

Coastal Defence at Diego Suarez had four 305 mm guns, four 240mm guns, four 138mm guns, and some six-tvelve 75mm AA guns.

My main sources are:
- J.W Dyskant's "Madagascar 1942"
- E.Nativel's, "La "guérilla" des troupes vichystes à Madasgar en 1942" In Revue Historique des Armées magazine 1998/1

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