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The British Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
(also known after 1944 as the East Indies Fleet and the Far East
Far East
Fleet) was a fleet of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
which existed between 1941 and 1971. In 1904, the British First Sea Lord, Sir John Fisher, ordered that in the event of war the three main commands in the Far East, the East Indies Squadron, the China
China
Squadron, and the Australian Squadron, should all come under one command called the Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
based in Singapore. The Commander-in-Chief on the China Station
China Station
would then take command. During the First World War, the squadrons retained their distinct identities and 'Eastern Fleet' was used only as a general term. The three-squadron structure continued until the Second World War and the beginning of hostilities with the Empire of Japan, when the Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
was formally constituted on 8 December 1941, amalgamating the East Indies Squadron and the China
China
Squadron.[1] During the war, it included many ships and personnel from other navies, including those of the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. With the creation of the British Pacific Fleet in 1944, the Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
became the East Indies Fleet until the end of the war, when it became the Far East
Far East
Fleet and operated in all Far East areas, including parts of the Pacific Ocean.

Contents

1 Background 2 Early war years 3 Singapore 4 Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
retreat 5 Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
strikes 6 Post-war 7 List of ships 8 Commanders-in-Chief

8.1 Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet 8.2 Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Fleet 8.3 Commander-in-Chief, Far East
Far East
Fleet

9 Flag Officers Second-in-Command 10 See also 11 References

11.1 Notes 11.2 Sources

12 External links

Background[edit] Until the Second World War, the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
had been a British "lake". It was ringed by significant British and Commonwealth possessions and much of the strategic supplies needed in peace and war had to pass across it: i.e. Persian oil, Malayan rubber, Indian tea, Australian and New Zealand foodstuffs. Britain also utilised Australian and New Zealand manpower; hence, safe passage for British cargo ships was critical.[2] At the outbreak of war, Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine
Kriegsmarine
used auxiliary cruisers (converted merchant ships) and the "pocket battleship" Admiral Graf Spee to threaten the sea lanes and tie down the Royal Navy. In mid-1940, Italy declared war and their vessels based in Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
posed a threat to the supply routes through the Red Sea. Worse was to come when the Japanese declared war in December 1941 and, after Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse, and the occupation of Malaya, Singapore
Singapore
and the Dutch East Indies, there was an aggressive threat from the east.[3] This threat became a reality during the Indian Ocean raid
Indian Ocean raid
when an overwhelming Japanese naval force operated in the eastern Indian Ocean, sinking an aircraft carrier, other warships and disrupting freight traffic along the Indian east coast. At this stage, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Alan Brooke wrote:[4]

We were hanging by our eyelids! Australia and India were threatened by the Japanese, we had temporarily lost control of the Indian Ocean, the Germans were threatening Iran and our oil, Auchinleck was in precarious straits in the desert, and the submarine sinkings were heavy.

Early war years[edit] Until 1941, the main threat to British interests in the region was the presence of German commerce raiders (auxiliary cruisers) and submarines. The fleet had trade protection as its first priority and was required to escort convoys and eliminate the raiders. The Germans had converted merchant ships to act as commerce raiders and allocated supply ships to maintain them. The location and destruction of these German raiders consumed much British naval effort until the last raider – Michel – was sunk in October 1943.[5] On 10 June 1940, the entry of Italy into the war introduced a new threat to the oil supply routes from the Persian Gulf, which passed through the Red Sea
Red Sea
to the Mediterranean. The Italians controlled ports in Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
and Tianjin, China. The Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) presence in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and the western Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
consisted of destroyers, submarines, and a small number of armed merchantmen. The majority of these were based at Massawa
Massawa
in Eritrea
Eritrea
as part of the Italian Red Sea
Red Sea
Flotilla, including seven destroyers and eight submarines. Damage to British destroyers at this time included Kimberley which was crippled by Italian shore batteries.[6] The Italian naval forces in East Africa
East Africa
were caught in a vice. To put to sea invited heavy British reaction, while to stay in ports threatened by British and Commonwealth forces became impossible. In 1941, during the East African Campaign, these ports were captured by the British.[7] Singapore[edit] Before the fall of Singapore, the Eastern Fleet's naval base at Singapore
Singapore
(HM Naval Base) was part of the British Far East
Far East
Command. British defence planning in the area was based on two assumptions. The first was that the United States would remain as an effective ally in the western Pacific Ocean, with a fleet based at Manila, which would be available as a forward base for British warships.[8] Secondly, the technical capabilities and aggression of the Imperial Japanese Navy were underestimated. In these circumstances, with the Japanese fleet engaged by the United States Navy
United States Navy
(USN), the Admiralty
Admiralty
planned to send four obsolescent Revenge-class battleships to Singapore
Singapore
to provide defensive firepower and a British presence. The British assumptions were destroyed on 7 December 1941: the impact of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor denied substantial USN support to the British defence of the "Malay barrier" and made impossible the relief of American garrisons in the Philippines. Furthermore, Japanese capabilities exceeded expectations.[9] After the fall of France in June 1940, Japanese pressure on the Vichy authorities in French Indochina
French Indochina
resulted in the granting of base and transit rights, albeit with significant restrictions. Despite this, in September 1940, the Japanese launched an invasion of that country.[10] The bases thus acquired in Indochina
Indochina
allowed extended Japanese air cover of the invasion forces bound for Malaya and for the Dutch East Indies. In these circumstances, Prince of Wales and Repulse, which were dispatched to intercept the invasion force, were vulnerable to concerted air attacks from the Japanese bases in Indochina
Indochina
and, without their own air cover, they were sunk in December 1941.[11] After the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse, Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton assumed command of the Eastern Fleet. The fleet withdrew first to Java and, following the Fall of Singapore, to Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In March 1942, Admiral Sir James Somerville
James Somerville
arrived in Ceylon and assumed command from Layton.[12] Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
retreat[edit] When Admiral Somerville inspected the base at Trincomalee, its deficiencies were clear to him. He found the port inadequate, vulnerable to a determined attack, and open to spying. An isolated island base with a safe, deep anchorage in a suitably strategic position was required. Addu Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, met the requirements and it was secretly developed as a fleet anchorage.[13] The Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
was divided into two: Force A and Force B. Force A consisted of the battleship Warspite and two fleet aircraft carriers.[14] Force B was based on the slow Revenge-class battleships of the 3rd Battle Squadron, based at the fleet's new operational base at Kilindini
Kilindini
near Mombasa
Mombasa
in Kenya
Kenya
and relatively safe from the Japanese fleet. Neither individually nor together could the two Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
forces challenge a determined Japanese naval assault. Following the Japanese capture of the Andaman Islands, the main elements of the Fleet retreated to Addu Atoll
Addu Atoll
in the Maldives. Following Fleet losses from Chuichi Nagumo's Indian Ocean raid
Indian Ocean raid
in early 1942,[15] the Fleet moved its operational base to Kilindini
Kilindini
near Mombasa
Mombasa
in Kenya, as their more forward fleet anchorages could not be adequately protected from Japanese attack. The fleet in the Indian Ocean was then gradually reduced to little more than a convoy escort force as other commitments called for the more modern, powerful ships. In May 1942, the Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
supported the invasion of Madagascar, Operation Ironclad. It was aimed at thwarting any attempt by Japanese vessels to use naval bases on the Vichy French controlled territory. During the invasion, vessels of the Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
were confronted by vessels of the French Navy
French Navy
and submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy.[16] Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
strikes[edit] After the departure of the main battle forces during February 1942, the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
was left with mostly escort carriers and older battleships as the core of its naval forces. Allied advances in the Mediterranean and northern Europe during 1943 and 1944, however, released naval resources. As a result, more British aircraft carriers entered the area; added to the force were the battlecruiser Renown, the battleships Howe, Queen Elizabeth, Valiant and supporting warships. Preparations were put in hand for a more aggressive stance in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
and for British naval participation in the Pacific theatre. Agreement had been reached, after objections from Admiral Ernest King
Ernest King
USN, but new procedures would need to be learnt by naval crews and Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
(FAA) aircrew. To this end, Operation Diplomat, a training exercise, took place in late March, 1944. The objective was for the fleet to rendezvous with a group of tankers (escorted by the Dutch cruiser HNLMS Tromp) and practice refuelling at sea procedures. The ships then rendezvoused with United States Navy Task Force 58.5, the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga and three destroyers.[17] Admiral King requested that, during April, the Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
should engage Japanese forces in their area and hold them there to reduce the opposition to an American seaborne assault on Hollandia (now Jayapura) and Aitape
Aitape
on the north coast of Netherlands New Guinea. An airborne attack by the Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
(including Task Force 58.5) on Sabang, off Sumatra
Sumatra
was executed (Operation Cockpit).[18] Surprise was achieved: military and oil installations were heavily damaged by the attacks, aggravating Japanese fuel shortages. The American involvement was extended to capitalise on the success with a second attack, this time on Surabaya, eastern Java, on 17 May (Operation Transom). The distances for this operation necessitated replenishment at sea. Again, the defenders were unprepared and significant damage was inflicted on the port and its military and oil infrastructures. Saratoga and her destroyers returned to the Pacific from 18 May after what Admiral Somerville called "a profitable and very happy association of Task Group 58.5 with the Eastern Fleet".[17] At the end of August 1944, Admiral Somerville was relieved as Commander-in-Chief Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
by Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, former Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet.[12] The Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
was greatly augmented by units intended for the Pacific and on 4 January 1945, the carriers Indomitable and Indefatigable carried out an attack on oil refineries at Pangkalan Brandon
Pangkalan Brandon
in Sumatra
Sumatra
(Operation Lentil). The final attacks were flown as Force 63 was en-route for Sydney, Australia to become the British Pacific Fleet. Operation Meridian One and Operation Meridian Two were air attacks upon the oil refineries at Pladjoe, north of Palembang, Java and at Soengei Gerong, Sumatra. Although successful, these were not as smooth as earlier attacks. Three crews [ 9 men] of Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
were captured by the Japanese during the Palembang
Palembang
raid. They were taken to Singapore
Singapore
where they were tortured and imprisoned; finally in August 1945 they were executed by the Japanese military authorities four days after the Japanese surrender.[19] On May 15–16, 1945, the British carried out Operation Dukedom; the 26th Destroyer Flotilla (composed of Saumarez, Venus, Verulam, Vigilant and Virago) sank the Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro in the Malacca Straits using torpedoes.[18] Post-war[edit] After the war, the Fleet was once again based at the Naval Base at Singapore. It took part in the Malayan Emergency
Malayan Emergency
and the Confrontation with Indonesia in the 1960s. By 1964, the fleet on station included Victorious, Centaur, Bulwark, Kent, Hampshire, 17 destroyers and frigates, about ten minesweepers and five submarines.[20] The Flag Officer Second-in-Command Far East
Far East
Fleet, for most of the postwar period a Rear Admiral, was based afloat, and tasked with keeping the fleet "up to the mark operationally". Some also held the appointment of Flag Officer Commanding 5th Cruiser Squadron, probably including Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
E.G.A. Clifford CB, who was flying his flag in HMS Newcastle on 12 November 1953. Meanwhile, the fleet commander, a Vice Admiral, ran the fleet programme and major items of administration 'including all provision for docking and maintenance' from his base in Singapore.[21] The Fleet was disbanded in 1971, and on 31 October 1971, the last day of the validity of the Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement, the last Commander, Far East
Far East
Fleet, Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
Anthony Troup, hauled down his flag.[22] List of ships[edit] Main article: List of Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
ships During World War II, the British Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
included, from time to time, a number of warships from the British Dominions of Australia and New Zealand as well as other Allied nations, such as, France (Free French Navy), the Netherlands, and the United States. Major ships attached to the Eastern Fleet, or where indicated, East Indies Fleet, included:

Hermes – Aircraft carrier, sunk 9 April 1942 Unicorn – Aircraft Carrier/Maintenance Carrier in Eastern Fleet 1944, arriving January 1944 Illustrious – Aircraft Carrier in Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
1944, arriving January 1944 Victorious – Aircraft Carrier in Eastern Fleet, arriving July 1944 Indomitable – Aircraft Carrier in Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
1944, arriving July 1944 Renown – Battlecruiser
Battlecruiser
in Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
1944 Queen Elizabeth – Battleship
Battleship
in Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
1944, East Indies Fleet 1945 Valiant – Battleship
Battleship
in Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
1944 Richelieu – French battleship in Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
1944, East Indies Fleet 1945 Howe – Battleship
Battleship
in Eastern Fleet
Eastern Fleet
August 1944 – November 1944 Submarines: 2nd Flotilla, of approx eight S class and four T class Submarines: 4th Flotilla Prince of Wales – Battleship, sunk 10 December 1941 Repulse – Battlecruiser, sunk 10 December 1941 Electra – Destroyer, sunk 27 February 1942 Express – Destroyer Cornwall – Cruiser, sunk 5 April 1942 Dorsetshire – Cruiser, sunk 5 April 1942 HMAS Vampire – Australian destroyer, sunk 9 April 1942 Adamant – Submarine Depot Ship Maidstone – Submarine Depot Ship USS Saratoga – American aircraft carrier

Commanders-in-Chief[edit] Commanders-in-Chief have included:[12] Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet[edit]

1941 – 1942 Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton 1942 – 1944 Vice-Admiral Sir James Somerville 1944 Vice-Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser

Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Fleet[edit]

1944 – 1945 Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Power 1945 – 1946 Vice-Admiral Sir Clement Moody 1946 – 1948 Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Palliser 1948 – 1950 Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Woodhouse 1950 – 1952 Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Oliver

Commander-in-Chief, Far East
Far East
Fleet[edit]

1952 – 1953 Vice-Admiral Sir Guy Russell 1953 – 1954 Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Lambe 1954 – 1955 Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Norris 1955 – 1957 Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Scott-Moncrieff 1957 – 1960 Vice-Admiral Sir Gerald Gladstone 1960 – 1962 Vice-Admiral Sir David Luce 1962 – 1965 Vice-Admiral Sir Desmond Dreyer 1965 – 1967 Vice-Admiral Sir Frank Twiss 1967 – 1969 Vice-Admiral Sir William O'Brien 1969 – 1971 Vice-Admiral Sir Derek Empson 1971 Rear-Admiral Sir Anthony Troup

Flag Officers Second-in-Command[edit] Flag Officers Second-in-Command included:

1948 – 1950: Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
Alexander Madden(FO2FEF and Flag Officer Commanding 5th Cruiser Squadron)[23] 17 December 1950 – October 1951 Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
William Andrewes (FO2FEF and Flag Officer Commanding 5th Cruiser Squadron) circa 1953: Rear-Admiral Eric Clifford CB[24] (FO2FEF and Flag Officer Commanding 5th Cruiser Squadron) 1953 – 1955 Rear-Admiral Gerald Gladstone (FO2FEF and Flag Officer Commanding 5th Cruiser Squadron)[25]

From 1957 source for list below is Gulabin.com's Senior Royal Navy Appointments.[26]

1957 – 1958 Rear-Admiral Laurence Durlacher 1958 – 1960 Rear-Admiral Varyl Begg 1960 – 1961 Rear-Admiral Michael Le Fanu 1961 – 1962 Rear-Admiral John Frewen 1962 – 1964 Rear-Admiral Jack Scatchard 1964 – 1966 Rear-Admiral Peter Hill-Norton 1966 – 1967 Rear-Admiral Charles Mills 1967 – 1968 Rear-Admiral Edward Ashmore 1968 – 1969 Rear-Admiral Anthony Griffin 1969 – 1970 Rear-Admiral Terence Lewin 1970 – 1971 Rear-Admiral David Williams

See also[edit]

South-East Asian Theatre of World War II Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
naval campaigns 1942–45 British Pacific Fleet

References[edit] Notes[edit]

^ Jackson, p. 289 ^ "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
and the Maritime Balance of Power in Historical Perspective" (PDF). Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ "Pearl Harbor Attack". Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ "Citizens of London by Lynne Olson". Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ Muggenthaler, p. 282–287 ^ O'Hara, p.103 ^ Hammerton, John (editor) (25 April 1941). "South Africans Won the Race to Addis Ababa". The War Illustrated. London: William Berry (Volume 4, issue no. 86): 424.  access-date= requires url= (help)CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) ^ Jackson, p.290 ^ "The Intelligence Failure At Pearl Harbor". Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ "L'Indochine française pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale". Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ Shores, et al., pp. 120–21 ^ a b c Whitaker's Almanacks 1941 – 1971 ^ "Secret Port T on Addu atoll Maldives
Maldives
1945". Maldives
Maldives
Culture. Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ Royal Navy
Royal Navy
in Pacific and Indian Oceans area ^ Klemen, L. "Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
Campaign 1941–1942. Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ "Battle of Madagascar". Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ a b "Chapter 23 – The New Zealand Cruisers". Royal New Zealand Navy. Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ a b Jackson, p. 303 ^ "Appendix V — Execution By Japanese Of Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
Officers". Royal New Zealand Navy. Retrieved 2 September 2012.  ^ Grove, p. 266 ^ Hill, p. 219 ^ Grove, p. 307 ^ Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives ^ HMAS Sydney
Sydney
Record of Proceedings November 1953 ^ Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives ^ "Senior Royal Navy
Royal Navy
appointments" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 

Sources[edit]

Grove, Eric (1987). Vanguard to Trident: British Naval Policy Since World War II. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0870215520.  Heathcote, Tony (2002). The British Admirals of the Fleet 1734 – 1995. Pen & Sword Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-835-6.  Hill, Richard (2000). Lewin of Greenwich. Weidenfeld Military. ISBN 978-0-304-35329-3.  Jackson, Ashley (2006). The British Empire and the Second World War. London: Hambledon Continuum. ISBN 1-85285-417-0.  Muggenthaler, August Karl (1980). German Raiders of World War II. London Pan. ISBN 0-330-26204-1.  O'Hara, Vincent (2009). Struggle for the Middle Sea: the great navies at war in the Mediterranean theater, 1940–1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1591146488.  Shores, Christopher; Cull, Brian; Izawa, Yasuho (1992). Bloody Shambles: The Drift to War to the Fall of Singapore. I. London: Grub Street. ISBN 0-948817-50-X. 

External links[edit]

Royal Navy
Royal Navy
in Pacific and Indian Oceans The Royal New Zealand Navy, Chapter 23 "The New Zealand Cruisers", Sydney
Sydney
David Waters, Historical Publications Branch, Wellington (Part of: The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945) HMS Ceylon Details of Far East
Far East
Fleet Composition in the 1960s Leading Air Mechanic Maurice Whiteing and his photographic record of HMS Indomitable with the Eastern Fleet

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Civil Administration

Department of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Department of the Additional Civil Lord of the Admiralty

Departments under Civil Administration

Accountant-General's Department Contract and Purchase Department Department of the Director of Contract Labour Department of the Surveyor of Buildings Director of Works' Department Greenwich Hospital Department Works Loan Department

Legal

Judicial Department

Legal under Judicial Department

Admiralty
Admiralty
court High Court of Admiralty Office of the Judge of the High Court of Admiralty High Court of Justice Office of the Judge Advocate of the Fleet Office of the Chief Naval Judge Advocate Office of the Marshall High Court of the Admiralty Office of the Admiralty
Admiralty
Advocate Office of the Admiralty
Admiralty
Proctor Office of the Receiver of Droits High Court of Admiralty Office of the Registrar High Court of the Admiralty Office of the Solicitor for the Affairs of the Admiralty Office of the Solicitor to the Admiralty
Admiralty
and Navy Office of the Counsel to the Admiralty Court of Admiralty
Admiralty
for the Cinque Ports King's Bench Division (Admiralty) Queens's Bench Division (Admiralty) Probate, Divorce and Admiralty
Admiralty
Division Vice Admiralty
Admiralty
courts Colonial Courts of Admiralty

v t e

Historic fleets and naval commands of the Royal Navy

1st Fleet 2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet Atlantic Fleet Australia Battle Cruiser Fleet Caspian Flotilla Channel Fleet Coast of Ireland Coast of Scotland China Dover Downs East Indies East Indies and China
China
Station Eastern Fleet Far East
Far East
Fleet Good Hope Grand Fleet Home Fleet Jamaica Station Lisbon Leeward Islands Mediterranean Fleet Newfoundland Station New Zealand New Zealand Naval Forces Nore North Sea North America Station North America and West Indies North Atlantic Orkneys and Shetlands Pacific Fleet Pacific Station Plymouth Portsmouth Rosyth Reserve Fleet South Atlantic South Atlantic and Pacific South Atlantic and South America South East Coast of America West Africa Squadron West Africa Station West Coast of Africa Western Approaches Wester

.