November 6 This Day During World War ll

November 6, 1942 – The Battle of Madagascar was the British campaign to capture Vichy French-controlled Madagascar during World War II. It began with Operation Ironclad, the seizure of the port of Diego Suarez on the northern tip of the island, on 5 May 1942. A subsequent campaign to secure the entire island, Operation Streamline Jane, was opened on 10 September. Fighting ceased and an armistice was granted on 6 November. Allied commanders decided to launch an amphibious assault on Madagascar. The task was Operation Ironclad and executed by Force 121; it would comprise allied naval, land and air forces and be commanded by Major-General Robert Sturges of the Royal Marines. The British Army landing force comprised 29th Independent Infantry Brigade Group, No 5 (Army) Commando and two brigades of the 5th Infantry Division, the latter en route to India with the remainder of their division. The Allied naval contingent consisted of over 50 vessels, drawn from Force H, the British Home Fleet and the British Eastern Fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral Edward Neville Syfret. The fleet included the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, her sister ship Indomitable and the aging battleship HMS Ramillies to cover the landings. Following many reconnaissance missions by the SAAF, the first wave of the British 29th Infantry Brigade and No. 5 Commando landed in assault craft on 5 May 1942, follow-up waves were by two brigades of the 5th Infantry Division and Royal Marines. All were carried ashore by landing craft to Courrier Bay and Ambararata Bay, just west of the major port of Diego Suarez (later known as Antsiranana), at the northern tip of Madagascar. A diversionary attack was staged to the east. Air cover was provided mainly by Fairey Albacore and Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers which attacked Vichy shipping. They were supported by Grumman Martlets (known by the Americans as the F4F Wildcat) fighters from the Fleet Air Arm. A small number of SAAF planes assisted. The defending Vichy forces, led by Governor General Armand Léon Annet, included about 8,000 troops, of whom about 6,000 were Malagasy. A large proportion of the rest were Senegalese. Between 1,500 and 3,000 Vichy troops were concentrated around Diego Suarez. However, naval and air defences were relatively light and/or obsolete: eight coastal batteries, two armed merchant cruisers, two sloops, five submarines, 17 Morane-Saulnier 406 fighters and 10 Potez 63 bombers. The French defence was highly effective in the beginning and the main Allied force was brought to a halt by the morning of 6 May. The deadlock was broken when the old destroyer HMS Anthony dashed straight past the harbour defences of Diego Suarez and landed 50 Royal Marines amidst the Vichy rear area. The Marines created “disturbance in the town out of all proportion to their numbers” and the Vichy defence was soon broken. Diego Suarez was surrendered on 7 May, although substantial Vichy forces withdrew to the south. The Japanese submarines I-10, I-16 and I-20 arrived three weeks later on 29 May. I-10’s reconnaissance plane spotted HMS Ramillies at anchor in Diego Suarez harbor but the plane was spotted and Ramillies changed her berth. I-20 and I-16 launched two midget submarines, one of which managed to enter the harbor and fired two torpedoes while under depth charge attack from two corvettes. One torpedo seriously damaged Ramillies, while the second sank the 6,993 ton oil tanker British Loyalty (later refloated). Ramillies was later repaired in Durban and Plymouth. The crew of one of the midget submarines, Lieutenant Saburo Akieda and Petty Officer Masami Takemoto, beached their craft (M-20b) at Nosy Antalikely and moved inland towards their pick-up point near Cape Amber. They were informed-upon when they bought food at a village and both were killed in a firefight with Royal Marines three days later. The second midget submarine was lost at sea and the body of one of its crew was found washed ashore a day later. Hostilities continued at a low level for several months. After 19 May two brigades of the 5th Infantry Division were transferred to India. On 8 June, the 22nd (East Africa) Brigade Group arrived on Madagascar The 7th South African Motorized Brigade arrived on 24 June. The 27th (North Rhodesia) Infantry Brigade (including forces from East Africa) landed on 8 August. On 10 September the 29th Brigade and 22nd Brigade Group made an amphibious landing at Majunga, in the northwest, to re-launch Allied offensive operations ahead of the rainy season. Progress was slow for the Allied forces though. In addition to occasional small-scale clashes with enemy forces, they also encountered scores of obstacles erected on the main roads by Vichy soldiers. The Allies eventually captured the capital, Tananarive, without much opposition, and then the town of Ambalavao. The last major action was at Andramanalina on 18 October. An armistice was signed in Ambalavao on 6 November, and Annet surrendered near Ihosy, in the south of the island, on 8 November 1942. The Allies suffered about 500 casualties in the landing at Diego Suarez, and 30 more killed and 90 wounded in the operations which followed on 10 September. Free French General Paul Legentilhomme was appointed High Commissioner for Madagascar. French control of the island was not to last much longer though as, like many colonies, Madagascar sought its independence following the war. In 1947, the island experienced the Malagasy Uprising, a costly revolution that was crushed in 1948. It was not until 26 June 1960, about twelve years later, that the Malagasy Republic successfully proclaimed its independence from France.

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