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Attack on Emmahaven

Unit/ Formation: RM Airmen

Location: Padang

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1945

Date/s: 16th April 1945

An airstrike was made on Emmahaven, PADANG; SUMATRA by Force 63 under Vice Admiral HTC Walker in Queen Elizabeth other ships included HMS Cumberland and London with Richlieu (French) D26 destroyers Venus Verulam Verdant and Virago.

Carriers HMS Emperor and Khedive with FAA 808 Squadron (Hellcats)-nine officers and men were given awards for the strike.

RM pilots were involved.

808 NAS was re-equipped with 24 Hellcat Is and IIs in October 1944 having previously operated Supermarine Seafire L.III fighters. Assigned to the British Eastern Fleet in January 1945, it embarked aboard the escort carrier HMS Khedive. While part of the Eastern Fleet, the squadron operated off Malaya and Sumatra, with periods spent flying off HMS Emperor. They covered the re-occupation of Rangoon in Operation Dracula in May, carried out attacks against Japanese airfields in Sumatra in June and covered the re-occupation of Malaya after the Surrender of Japan; the squadron was disbanded at the end of the war. [1]

January1945: KHEDIVE entering Grand Harbour, Malta, while on her outward voyage to join the East Indies Fleet. On her flight deck she is carrying at least 9 Martinet target Tugs (aft), several Seafires and Corsairs. Crated equipment and stores are also on deck. The Hellcats of 808 squadron are stowed in her hangar.

Strikes on Emmahaven and Padang: The force passed through the Siberut channel about 05:00 and at 06:00 on the morning of April 16th the Force was in position to the East of Siberut Island. Flying commenced at 06:20 when KHEDIVE launched two Hellcats at first light as reconnaissance for the destroyers intended sweep; fighter strength was down to only 10 serviceable aircraft so CAP was reduced to 2.

KHEDIVE off Sumatra 12 To 18 April 1945 ranging Hellcats of 808 Squadron, QUEEN ELIZABETH is in company (left). Photo © IWM (A 28885)

At the same time EMPEROR’s Avengers and the Hellcats of the 808 detachment were launched for a strike on Emmahaven port and Padang airfield respectively. At 07:40 four PR Hellcats took off from EMPEROR to continue their photographic survey; one returned to the ship at 07:35 with a defective camera but launched again twenty-five minutes later after swift repairs.

Grumman Hellcat Mk.II of 808 Sqn on HMS Khedive 18 April 1945

The Striking Force reached Padang undetected and at 07:36 two Hellcats were detached by the flight leader to strafe the airfield and they set fire to three of the six Ki-46 Dinah seen on the ground. Two Ki-43 Oscar fighters were airborne and both were engaged; one, flown by an experienced pilot, engaged Sub-Lt I. S. McNee, RNVR and obtained several strikes on his machine, fortunately without doing vital damage. Once he managed to disengage Sub-Lt McNee saw another Oscar, and despite the recent damage to his aircraft and partially expended ammunition, he engaged and succeeded in shooting it down.

Grumman Hellcat aboard HMS Khedive. French battleship Richelieu is in the background April 1945 @IWM

At 07:43 seven Avengers attacked a 350 foot Merchant ship in Emmahaven Harbour, four direct hits and several near misses were observed. The eighth Avenger attacked the marine workshops; No other targets were seen. Light and inaccurate anti-aircraft fire was experienced both at Padang airfield and Emmahaven.

Grumman Hellcat Mk.II C7T JV292 of 808 Sqn on HMS Khedive1945

All aircraft had landed on by 08:48, In addition to the one Hellcat damaged by fire from the Oscars encountered, two Avengers suffered slight blast damage from the bomb explosions. Meanwhile the Destroyers VENUS and VIRAGO made a sweep between the outlying islands and the mainland, from Ayerbangis Bay to Natal Road sinking 6 junks. On return of the Photographic Reconnaissance aircraft the force withdrew to the westward through the Siberut channel.

On the 17th the force met with the tanker EASEDALE to top off the Destroyers. Fighter strength had risen to 14 serviceable at dawn but no operational flying was done; KHEDIVE maintained aircraft at readiness for interception but no enemy aircraft were detected during the day, possibly because the strike on Padang had been so successful. A planned bombardment of Emmahaven by the Battleships and Cruisers was cancelled; with this the operation was completed; the Force withdrew and set course for Ceylon. [2]

[1] Destinations Journey Blog - Hellcats of HMS Kheldive (text and some images)

[2] Royal Navy Research Archive - A History of HMS KHEDIVE

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