Operation Balsam

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Operation Balsam was a British naval operation in World War II, from June 10–20, 1945,[1] under the command of Commodore Geoffrey Oliver. The third in a string of similar missions, the objectives were the naval bombardment and aerial strikes on Japanese airfields in Sumatra, and Japanese vessels in the Strait of Malacca,[1] and aerial reconnaissance.[2]

Operational detail[edit]

Naval forces involved sailed from Trincomalee on June 14, 1945.[3] Ships involved included the escort carriers HMS Stalker, HMS Khedive, HMS Ameer;[1] cruisers HMS Suffolk and HMS Royalist;[1] and five destroyers, HMS Rotherham, HMS Relentless, HMS Redoubt, HMS Roebuck, and HMS Racehorse.[2] The carriers transported Grumman F6F Hellcats of the 804 Squadron and 808 Squadron, and Supermarine Seafires of the 809 Squadron.[4]

Flights were restricted to photo-reconnaissance over southern Malaya for the first few days of the active operation, on June 18 and 19.[2][4] One account describes how the fighter pilots "were growing restless on a diet of undiluted CAPS, but Commodore Oliver reassured them they would have an opportunity to 'leave their cards'".[4] On June 20, the fighters engaged in their first offensive sorties against the airfields at Lhokseumawe, Medan and Bindjai. The results were reported as follows:

Runways were put out of action, buildings, installations, hangars, locomotives, rolling stock and grounded aircraft strafed. There was no enemy air opposition but one Hellcat was lost to flak over Medan - a particular tragedy for 808 Sq., since the pilot was their CO, Lt. Cdr. O. F. Wheatley, RNVR. His Hellcat was last seen in flames, with its tail shot away. It was his first flight after taking over command of the squadron.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Jürgen Rohwer, Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War II, page 423, 2005.
  2. ^ a b c Edwyn Gray, Operation Pacific: The Royal Navy's War Against Japan, 1941-1945, page 238, 1990.
  3. ^ Admiralty War Diaries of World War 2: Eastern Fleet - January to October 1945.
  4. ^ a b c d John Winton, The Forgotten Fleet: The British Navy in the Pacific, 1944-1945, page 215, 1970.