Operation Esme B

This was the British capture of Nossi Bé island off the north-west coast of the Vichy French island of Madagascar (11 September 1942).

The Royal Marines entrusted with this task were provided by, transported in and supported by the light cruiser Caradoc and cruiser minelayer Manxman.

At 03.00 on September 10, Manxman, carrying naval boarding parties, Royal Marines from Caradoc, and two platoons of the Pretoria Highlanders, entered the harbour at Hellville, Nossi Bé, as the 'Esme A' diversionary operation for the main attack. Mooring head and stern, Manxman bombarded areas known or believed to contain machine guns commanding the pier head, firing 172 rounds of 4-in (102-mm) HE shell at a range of only 500 yards (460 m). The pier was then swept for two minutes with all of the ship’s short-range weapons and military mortars, causing a number of Vichy French casualties.

During these bombardments, boarding parties captured tugs and launches. A diversionary bombardment was then begun, under cover of which the Pretoria Highlanders, pulled by Royal Marines in cutters, landed on the pier head and captured Hellville base, with only one casualty. The British discovered machine guns on the pier, but their crews had either pulled back or were too dazed by the bombardment to operate their weapons.