Operation Bishop (ii)

This was a British naval decoy plan and cover for ‘Dracula’ (ii) to prevent any Japanese naval interference (27 April/6 May 1945).

For this undertaking Vice Admiral H. T. C. Walker’s Task Force 63 of Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Power’s East Indies Fleet comprised the battleships Queen Elizabeth and Free French Richelieu, escort carriers Empress and Shah, heavy cruisers Cumberland and Suffolk, light cruisers Ceylon and Free Dutch Tromp, and a destroyer flotilla including Nubian, Penn, Rotherham, Tartar and Verulam. Underway replenishment was provided by TF62, comprising the oilers Easedale and Olwen escorted by the destroyer Paladin.

The cover for ‘Dracula’ (ii) was provided by air attacks and gunfire bombardments on Car Nicobar, the northernmost of the Nicobar islands group, and the harbour at Port Blair in the Andaman islands group.

The destroyers Roebuck, Racehorse and Redoubt undertook a gunfire bombardment of Martaban on the eastern side of the Gulf of Martaban during 30 April and Car Nicobar on 1 May. In the process, a nine-ship convoy evacuating Japanese forces from Rangoon was wholly destroyed on 30 April.

There were attacks on Car Nicobar and Fort Blair on 30 April, with a second bombardment of airstrips at Car Nicobar on the morning of 1 May, and at Port Blair on 2 May. The ships of Force 63 then proceeded to their position to cover 'Dracula' (ii) in the North Andaman Sea.

Carrierborne aircraft bombed and drove ashore an 80-ton coasting vessel in the Tavoy river on 3 May, and on 4 May strafed the airfields at Mergui and Victoria Point. On 5/6 May aircraft of the two escort carriers raided Japanese bases between Mergui and Victoria Point in southern Burma. On 6 May, after a short bombardment of the Japanese anti-aircraft defences, aircraft from Empress and Shah, which were part of the 21st Carrier Squadron and escorted by the destroyers Virago, Tartar and Nubian, attacked shipping in the harbour of Port Blair, setting on fire two 100-ft (30.5-m) vessels, one tug, one junk and one jetty were set on fire for the loss of one Grumman Hellcat fighter-bomber.

Supported by the cruisers and the destroyers Rotherham, Saumarez, Venus, Vigilant and Verulam, Queen Elizabeth carried out a gunfire bombardment of a Japanese 6-in (152-mm) gun position at Stewart Sound on the afternoon of 6 May, four hits being observed.

Throughout 'Bishop' (ii), no Japanese air opposition was met, and the ships of Force 63 arrived back at Trincomalee on 9 May.