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HMS Hermes Sunk by Dive Bombers

After the raid on Colombo by the Japanese aircraft carriers on 5 April, known as the Easter Sunday Raid, Hermes and Vampire were sent to Trincomalee to prepare for Operation Ironclad, the British invasion of Madagascar, and 814 Squadron was sent ashore. After advance warning of a Japanese air raid on 9 April 1942, they left Trincomalee and sailed south down the Ceylon coast before it arrived.

Hermes and HMS Dorsetshire escorting a convoy in June 1940

They were spotted off Batticaloa, however, by a Japanese reconnaissance plane from the battleship Haruna. The British intercepted the spot report and ordered the ships to return to Trincomalee with the utmost dispatch and attempted to provide fighter cover for them. The Japanese launched 85 Aichi D3A dive bombers, escorted by nine Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, at the two ships.

At least 32 attacked them and sank them in quick order despite the arrival of six Fairey Fulmar II fighters of No. 273 Squadron RAF. Another six Fulmars from 803 and 806 Squadrons arrived after Hermes had already sunk. The rest of the Japanese aircraft attacked other ships further north, sinking the RFA Athelstone of 5,571 gross register tonnage (GRT), her escort, the corvette Hollyhock, the oil tanker SS British Sergeant and the Norwegian ship SS Norviken of 2,924 GRT.

HMS Hermes sinking

Hermes sank at coordinates 7°35′28.392″N 82°05′55.089″ with the loss of 307 men, including Captain Onslow and 28 Royal Marines.

Vampire's captain and seven crewmen were also killed. Most of the survivors of the attack were picked up by the hospital ship Vita. Japanese losses to all causes were four D3As lost and five more damaged, while two Fulmars were shot down.



Under refit at Durban.


On completion resumed convoy defence duties in Indian Ocean.


26th - At Trincomalee and joined Eastern Fleet on formation.

31st - Joined HM Battleships RAMILLIES, REVENGE, RESOLUTION and ROYAL SOVEREIGN in Force B of Eastern Fleet to support HM Battleship WARSPITE, HM Aircraft Carrier INDOMITABLE, HM Cruiser EMERALD and HM Cruiser ENTERPRISE (Force A) during search for Japanese warships in Indian Ocean.


4th - Detached to take passage to Trincomalee and prepare for Madagascar landing operations.

8th - Remained south of Ceylon after Japanese air attacks and had no serviceable aircraft on board.

9th - Under attack by Japanese aircraft off Ceylon and sank after being hit by no fewer than forty 250 lb Bombs. 306 of her ship's company lost their lives. HM Australian Destroyer VAMPIRE was also sunk in these attacks.

Royal Marines Lost:

BARNES, Ronald L, Musician, RMB/X 461:

BELL, Alexander N, Marine, PLY/X 2071:

BRADY, Robert W, Marine, PLY/X 905:

COOMBES, John J, Musician, RMB/X 323:

COOPER, James W A, Marine, PLY/X 2256:

COWIE, Alexander B, Marine, PLY/X 1563:

EASTERBROOK, Reginald F, Marine, PLY/X 2869:

FITZGERALD, Thomas, Band Corporal, RMB/X 533:

GRADY, Ernest L, Marine, PLY/X 3953:

GRIFFITHS, Thomas B, Marine, RFR, PLY/X 316:

HALL, Robert A J, Musician, RMB/X 1131:

HEMMING, Glyn, Musician, RMB/X 846:

HENLY, Harry, Musician, RMB/3025:

HORRILL, John E, Ty/Corporal, RM, PLY/X 1596:

HULL, Henry W B, Marine, PLY/X 3002:

JONES, Thomas N B, Marine, PLY/X 2881:

LAWRENCE, Alfred W, Marine, PLY/X 3929, DOW:

LOMAX, Wilfred, Musician, RMB/X 249:

MARTIN, Frederick W, Musician, RMB/2724:

NEWCOMBE, William J H, Marine, PLY/X 1120:

ROE, Frank C, Bandmaster 1c, RMB/2927:

STRACEY, Joseph R, Marine, PLY/X 3934:

TURNER, Edward T, Marine, CH/X 2449:

WARBURTON, John S, Marine, PO/X 3355:

WATKINS, Ivor, Marine, PLY/X 478:

WEYMOUTH, Ernest M J, Musician, RMB/X 905:

WILLIAMS, Tom I, Corporal, RM, PLY/X 983:

YOUDLE, Gilbert T, Marine, PO/22821

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