I Was There! - We Settled a Jap Cruiser in Malacca Straits
Early in the morning of May 16, 1945, a destroyer flotilla of the East Indies Fleet intercepted a Japanese cruiser in the Malacca Straits and sank her after a spirited engagement. Story of the action is told by Commander H. G. de Chair, D.S.O., R.N., of H.M.S. Venus, the destroyer which delivered the knock-out blow.
We had practised the plan many times, Luck was with us, and our plan and practice achieved success. We first made contact with the enemy shortly after midnight. It was some time later, after a dash through heavy rain squalls, that I could see the Jap cruiser from the bridge through binoculars. She was silhouetted by vivid flashes of tropical lightning.
She turned sharply to the southward to avoid the torpedoes fired by H.M.S. Saumarez, but in vain. There was a bright flash from her stern as they found their mark, and immediately we opened fire with starshell and commenced hitting her with all our guns. We then made our successful torpedo attack. Seven minutes later we received the order “Finish her off!” from Captain Power in the Saumarez. We fired our remaining torpedoes, which reached their target, and the cruiser sank almost immediately.
Searchlights from the Venus switched on to the blazing hulk of the cruiser as she sank. A pinnace had been lowered, full of what were probably high-ranking Japanese officers. The sea was full of survivors, but owing to the likely proximity of enemy aircraft from nearby airfields, it was impossible for survivors to be picked up.
The Venus's Chief Engineer Officer, Lieut. (E.) J. W. Galer, R.N., said:
In the dash to catch up with the cruiser, our bearings reached a temperature of over 600 degrees. At one time during the action I heard a whirring noise above the roar of the engines. Puzzled, I turned to the Engine Room Artificer on the starboard throttle and shouted through the din:
“What do you make of that peculiar noise?”
“That, sir, is a torpedo passing alongside from one of the destroyers on its way to the Jap!” he replied.
A few seconds later a second whirring denoted another “tin-fish” – passing close to the ship's side. Offering a cigarette to Chief Engine Room Artificer Perrett, I noticed that my hand was shaking.
“I think I must be getting nerves, Chief”, I said.
“That's not nerves, sir – just excitement!” he replied, calmly.
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