The USN considers that the role of the British East Indies Fleet was support of
Burma and Malaya Campaigns. As the British East Indies Fleet, based in Ceylon, increased with the transfer of units from the winding down Atlantic Ocean war, the British were able to make monthly suppression raids on Japanese from the Indian Ocean side of the Samatra. As the fleet grew in size, and most importantly, with Churchill's desire that Britain be recognized as performing her fair share in the Pacific Theater, the fleet was split for 1945 with establishment of a separate British Pacific Fleet based in Sydney, Australia.
Many in the USN did not feel a need for British assistance -- the number of new construction of US ships and trained crews was reaching the fleet as the Japanese fleet was inexorably (relentlessly) destroyed. The major problem was keeping the giant US fleet supplied
as it moved closer to Japan and further from its previous bases.. Transport had not yet been released from the Atlantic theater nor was there likelihood even when the war in Europe ended as the civilian needs were so great. Also, the USN did not want to share
their victory at the last minute with another navy.
Churchill succeeding in getting FDR to agree to allow Royal Navy participate in the final conquest of Japan -- as a separate task force under overall US direction but with the stipulation that they provide their own supply train of ships, supplies, maintenance, etc. This meant that the British Pacific Fleet had to return to Australia between missions, a long trip. The US offered their facility in Mantus, Admiralties, to reduce the time and the BPF refueled at Ulith before missions.
History 1941 Dec 9 . Prince of Wales and Repulse sunk by Japanese land based bombers.
1942 Feb 15. Singapore lost - alleged home of Eastern Fleet.
British fleet arrives, based in Ceylon, off India..
March 23. Japanese occupy Andaman islands west of Malaya.
April. Two Japanese fleets raid Bay of Bengal. One attacks shipping in the northern
areas and the Mobile fleet with five fleet carriers seeks British Eastern Fleet near Ceylon.
BEF had sortied on word the Japanese had been sited in the Straights of Malacca, but had returned to refuel
when the Japanese arrived to raid Colombo, W. Ceylon. Heavy cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall sailing to rejoin the fleet which had sortied Addu Atoll are sunk
Japanese Mobile fleet raid on Trimcomalee, NE Ceylon, sink carrier Hermes and destroyer.
Japanese Mobile fleet miss main British Fleet at secret base at Addu Atoll at the southern end of the Maldive Islands, SW of Ceylon.
British fleet withdraws to Africa.
May . Operations against Vichy French forces in Madagascar.
1943 There is no British Eastern Fleet -- units withdrawn to Home and Mediterranean fleets.
Victorious served with the US Pacific Fleet from Feb to Aug 1943 while Saratoga was the only US carrier in the South Pacific. [story] 1944 The intent of re-establishing the British Eastern Fleet is to support the re-occupation of Burma from bases in Ceylon. Plans are drawn for the formation of a British Pacific Fleet to assist with the reconquest of the Philippines in the second half of the year. The first never happens and for the second, the USN has taken Siapan, Marianas, and destroyed the Japanese carrier force at the Philippine Sea in June and has moved on to the Philippines before the BPF is formed. A build up of the Eastern Fleet started early in the year with 2 BB, 1 CB, 1 CVL and 2 CVE. See ships. March . When major elements of the Japanese fleet located to Singapore to be near their fuel supplies, the US sent Saratoga (CV-3) and 3 DD to prevent their striking into the Indian Ocean. Train Brits with US aircraft on her large flight deck.
April 19. East Indies Fleet, with Saratoga, make attack on Sabang, north of Sumatra.
May 17. Attack on Java. BEF resupplies in N. Australia and Saratoga returns to the US for upkeep.
June-January. BEF monthly attacks on Sumatra continue.
Nov . British Pacific Fleet to be formed in Sydney, Australia
Dec . HMS Howe (BB), arrives Sydney as flagship of future British Pacific Fleet.
1945 The British Eastern Fleet has now grown enough to think about forming a British Pacific Fleet. However, the plans had called for operating against the Philippines from Australia. By the time the BPF is formed, the USN had defeated the Japanese fleet at Leyte, taken Iwo Jima, and moved
on to Okinawa. The USN had moved forward so fast that keeping the fleet supplied was a limiting factor. When Churchill had gotten FDR permission to enter the Pacific War with a separate fleet, it had been with the insistence they provide there own fleet train for fuel, supply, and maintenance. The fleet train had been planned to support operations against the Philippines from Australia. The distance to Okinawa doubled the sailing time and the few 7-1/2 knot tankers could not completely support the BPF. The British ships were built to fight the submarine war in the Atlantic -- the Pacific was an air war and some guns could not be raised to fire into the air. Operations had to be
designed to take into account the limited British supply train and weak air defenses.
British Pacific Fleet January. Howe shows the flag in Australia and New Zealand.
Jan 24, 29. Major raids on Palembang, Sumatra, while the future Eastern fleet transits to the Pacific.
Feb 4 . Eastern Fleet arrives Freemantle to resupply. Major units detached to Pacific Fleet. (See Ships) March. BPF assembles and trains off Manus, a US base in the British Admirality Islands.
March 18. Depart Manus for Ulithi, the US fleet anchorage in the Caroline Islands.
March 26. The British Pacific Fleet, TF-57, sees first action was the left flank defense for the US invasion of Okinawa. Four carriers : Indomitable, Victorious, Indefagable, and Illustrious with 142 fighters and 65 bombers operated between Okinawa and the large Japanese garrison on Formosa. Operations are two days of airfield interdiction followed by two days of replenishment.
April 20. On its maiden mission, 96 enemy planes were destroyed for 98 lost to operations.
April 21. After a month at sea and combat, BPF departs to replenish at Leyte, P.I.
May 4 . Return to interdict air operations at Sakishima Gunto.
May 26. Depart for Manus, Admiralties, and to Sydney, Australia to refit.
June 12. New units arriving from home waters need experience. Depart Manus to raid Truk.
June 13-14. Surface and air attacks on Truk by Implacable (CV), Ruler (CVE), four light cruisers and five destroyers.
June 17. BPF begins to reassemble at Manus.
July 1 . Capital ships arrive. One battleship had been forced to refit in Durban, So.Africa.
July 16. The BPF joins up with the US Third Fleet at Ulithi and, as TF-37, sails for Japan.
July 18. Begins air attack across Honshu and Shikoku and surface attacks on coastal factories of the mainland.
Aug 3 . Fleet operators canceled and ordered to steer clear of the area.
Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Air operations against Japan resume.
Aug 15. After the early morning flight, further offensive operations are canceled.
Japan has surrendered.
British Fleet breaks up into squadrons sailing to accept surrender of former colonies.
Points of Interest. Armored flight deck . Americans used wooden decks with armor being only the ship under the hanger deck. Wood was more easily penetrated and damage from hits more severe. The British raised the armored hull to enclose the hanger deck, thus the armored flight deck could resist light attack. However, the armor reduced number of aircraft that could be carried.
British Eastern Fleet (Indian Ocean)
Jan 1945. HMS Victorious took part in the strikes against Pankalan Brandan, Sumatra, with HMS Indefatigable on 4 Jan45, and then strikes against Palembang with HMS Illustrious and HMS Indefatigable on 24 and 29 Jan45.
16 May 1945. Avengers from British escort carrier HMS Emperor sight and attack Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro heading into Malacca Strait; subsequently, British destroyers HMS Saumarez, Venus, Verulam, Vigilant, and Virago sink Haguro 55 nautical miles west-southwest of Penang, Malaya, as the enemy ship, in company with destroyer Kamikaze (which is damaged in the engagement) is evacuating troops from Port Blair to Singapore.
HMS Victorious was loaned to the US fleet after being repaired at Norfolk and served with the US Pacific Fleet from Feb to Aug 1943 as the USS Robin. Neither name shows up in USN reports of the period, only that two carriers, 2 AA light cruisers and 4 DD were a task group for the invasion of New Georgia. The following is derived from British accounts and USN ship histories.
After the invasion of North Africa, HMS Victorious refitted at Norfolk Navy Yard, USA, 20 Nov 1942 - 30 Jan 1943, after which she was loaned to the US Pacific Fleet . The only American fleet carrier available in the South Pacific was USS Saratoga . HMS Victorious sailed to Pearl Harbor to refit from 9 March-8 April 1943 then sailed to join the Saratoga's Task Group. She arrived and took up duties under Task Force 14 in the the Southwest Pacific on 17 May 1943. Renamed the USS Robin, she embarked US aircraft and aircrew, and with Saratoga swept the Solomon Islands.
In May-June 1943, at Noumea, New Caledonia, HMS Victorious. joined USS Saratoga, and the light cruiser USS San Diego. During this period Victorious operated 60 British and American Wildcat fighters for air cover. The two carriers sailed on 27th June in support of the invasion of Munda, New Georgia. The carriers took up position and in the next few days put up 600 sorties against little opposition. The aircraft were reassigned to their parent carriers on 24 July, and the force reached Noumea the next day.
With the arrival of four new carriers in the Pacific, -- the first three Princeton class light carriers and Essex (CV-9) -- Victorious resumed her former name and returned to the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow 1 September 1943.
Ship Histories mention HMS Victorious.
Saratoga was providing air cover for minor operations and protecting American forces in the Eastern Solomons. Between 17 May and 31 July 1943, Saratoga was reinforced by the British carrier, Victorious. At Noumea, New Caledonia, the light cruiser San Diego (CLaa-53) joined Saratoga, the only American carrier available in the South Pacific, and HMS Victorious in support of the invasion of Munda, New Georgia.
At the end of June 1943, during the occupation of
New Georgia, San Juan's (CLaa-54) carrier group patrolled the Coral
Sea for 26 days to prevent enemy interference. Late in
July, the force made a quick stop at Noumea.