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Thread: Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

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    Default Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

    Greetings from Trumplandia (the Washington, DC zoo, I mean metro area),

    My request is specific to the RAF stationed in India, but for broader dissemination, I am posting here.

    This is a long-shot, given the pandemic, but I wonder if someone might check one file, maybe two, at The National Archives in Kew for me. They are not available for downloading, and I do not want to blindly order expensive documents. Taking five digital photos of one of the documents, and then emailing them to me, should do the trick, but there also is a second enticing document, about which I'm curious.

    I am trying to learn when the Germans abandoned Penang, Malaya as a base for U-boat operations in the Indian Ocean, following the legendary mining of Penang's northern and southern approaches by 159 Squadron Liberators in October and November 1944 and then again in January 1945.

    (I say "legendary"…except that two of the standard reference books on the air war in SE Asia don’t get it right. One gives great coverage to the first raid, highly successful, in October 1944. The distinguished author then notes the second weather-affected second mining op in November 1944, but he fails to even mention the highly successful 3rd op of January 1945. Very disappointing. Even worse is a second book by a highly-respected author/researcher which doesn’t mention even one of the three raids! Each was only a 3000-mile round-trip -- roughly London-to-Moscow and back-- averaging over 18 hours in flight per Liberator.)

    Air Commodore Henry Probert’s book, “The Forgotten Air Force”, states:

    …Unfortunately a second attempt, mounted on 26 November, encountered dreadful weather and only three aircraft managed to locate their laying areas. Nevertheless, the two operations had achieved the desired results. While no major shops were sunk by the mines, the Japanese lacked the means of clearing them, their use of the port was disrupted and most important of all the Germans decided to evacuate their base and withdraw to Batavia. [Footnote #23] The U-boat threat in the Indian Ocean had gone.

    Footnote #23 states: Maritime War Narrative, pp 210-214

    The book's helpful Bibliography gives further info. This narrative is The RAF in Maritime War, Vol VII, Part III, Indian Ocean Operations, November 1943-August 1945, AIR 41/75-78.

    Fine-tuning it even further, I found that AIR 41/77 is the document that must contain pp 210-214. From TNA’s online catalog:

    Reference: AIR 41/77
    Description: Volume VII part III: the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia; operations, November 1943-August 1945. With plans and photographs.
    Date: 1962


    TNA is open, with restrictions. A researcher can only visit once per week and must pre-order documents. Details are found here:

    https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/...avirus-update/

    So, then AIR 41/77, pp 210-214, I’m assuming, has what I’m looking for.

    There is one other TNA document, however, that may also have the details:

    Reference: AIR 20/5647
    Description: Operational Research Section India report No. S21: report on mining of Penang harbour approaches by 159 Squadron
    Date: 1944 Nov.-1945 Apr.


    I am curious to learn how many pages comprise this document.

    If a fellow researcher can order these two documents in advance, and then visit Kew, I would be most grateful.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    Default Re: Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

    Reference: AIR 20/5647
    Description: Operational Research Section India report No. S21: report on mining of Penang harbour approaches by 159 Squadron
    Date: 1944 Nov.-1945 Apr.

    I am curious to learn how many pages comprise this document.

    I have some other Operational Research Documents - from AIR20 5680/5682/5691/5725
    The largest had 120 pages, the smallest had just 2 pages..

    the challenge I see with researchers is that they are limited to six items per day and if they are getting paid by the number of pages, it wont be worth their while...

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    Default Re: Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

    Thanks, Jagan. I know it's a long-shot, but one never knows if someone will come forward and accept the challenge...OR maybe I should ask for knowledge on a U-boat forum. Hmm...not a bad idea. Fingers crossed that an RAF Commands Forumite will step up to the plate first. (That an American baseball term...) I don't expect it, but I don't have a good track record with placing bets.

    This is for a sentence in a book I'm editing. Trying to get facts straight isn't always easy, or possible, in the shorter run. but it's a goal worth pursuing.

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    Default Re: Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

    Doesn't exactly answer your question, Matt, but have you seen http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/Germ...ean/index.html ?

    Edit:

    Also http://dubm.de/en/the-shore-leave/

    2nd Edit

    If http://teochiewkia2010.blogspot.com/...1943-1945.html is to be believed it Penang was operational until the German surrender in May 1945. Surviving U-boats were taken over by Japanese forces and the base continued in use until the Japanese surrender - at least I think that is what is implied.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 29th July 2020 at 09:06.

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    Default Re: Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

    Hi, Brian,

    You know (you told me in a PM) that I also posted to Uboat.net, figuring that there are U-boat researchers who have the answer. Nothing received yet, but it hasn't been long.

    There's some great info in your links - thanks for them. Your last-listed source does say this:

    "U-boat base at Georgetown, Penang island ceased to exist as a functional U-boat base after October 1944 when all U-boats transferred to either Djakarta or Soerabaya due to Allied submarine activity off Penang followed by aerial mining."

    I'm a bit wary of believing any one source, as there is so much misinformation on the web. However, this quote is a start. As it stands, my edit of a book-in-progress by 159 Sqn pilot Denis Elliott, who was on all three Penang mining ops, is:

    "...Desired results were achieved [after the first of three mining ops, on 27-28 Oct 1944], although 159 Squadron returned twice again to Penang to drop mines; I was on all three raids. Each of the three ops averaged, per Liberator, a little over eighteen hours aloft, making them the longest RAF bombing or mining ops ever, in terms of time airborne, until Port Stanley was attacked in the Falklands War of 1982. The second Penang mining raid, on the 26th of November 1944, was a bust due to the inclement weather we encountered, but the third, on the 23rd and 24th of January 1945, was another success. No major ships were sunk by our mines, but because the Japanese lacked the means to clear the mines we’d dropped, the harbour’s use was disrupted, as we had hoped. Furthermore, we had achieved a supreme victory by forcing the German U-boats to evacuate Penang for Batavia, thus eliminating the U-boat threat in the Indian Ocean."

    This is vague in not giving a date when the U-boats evacuated Penang. That's OK, but if no other info comes my way, I might add something from that source I quoted above. I'll read more studiously to see if U-boats may have still threatened Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean, despite the move to Batavia; one or more of your links may have mentioned this, but I was not fully awake when I read the info.

    I'm tentatively concluding that as a functioning U-boat base, Penang ceased to exist after late October 1944's RAF mining raid, though it is possible that U-boats returned up to the end of the war and that they still threatened Allied ships in the Indian Ocean. But Penang wasn't a base any longer. I am curious about cold, raw facts, though!

    Cheers,

    Matt
    Last edited by Matt Poole; 29th July 2020 at 19:54. Reason: uboat.net, not uboat.org - changed

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    Default Re: Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

    Matt,

    Two books you might find useful in your researches on U-boats/Penang/sources, are:

    1/. U-Boat Far From Home: The Epic Voyage of U 862 To Australia And New Zealand.
    Stevens,David.
    St Leonards(N.S.W.):Allen & Unwin,1977.

    and ...

    2/. Hitler's Grey Wolves U-Boats In The Indian Ocean.
    Paterson,Lawrence.
    London:Greenhill Books,2004.

    Both books contain excellent bibliographies and sources for further researches. The first ref has Notes and an Index, and is well laid out. Chapter 8, (Penang and Shonan(Singapore), discusses the activities at these two bases. Reference 2 is particularly useful as it is not only indexed, but has a listing of U-boats and their departure/arrival dates from Far Eastern Ports. Paterson is an acknowledged expert on U-boat matters, and has written extensively on the subject.

    you can obtain a reasonably priced copy of Hitler's Grey Wolves from Naval and Military Press in the UK. Use the Air Mail delivery option, the standard delivery takes at least three months!

    https://www.naval-military-press.com...-indian-ocean/

    Keep in mind that these authors are not as well-versed as your good self in aviation matters in this area. Their primary aim is tell the story of the U-boats, not chronicle aerial operations. eg:

    The increasing pressure on German and Japanese forces applied by the seemingly miraculous presence of enemy submarines so close to Penang rendered the port untenable by the middle of November (1944). Discussions had been taking place between the German and Japanese authorities as early as 26 October, 1944 the Japanese had concurred with the German reluctance to use Penang as a permanent U-boat station, although they were unwilling to relinquish the port completely:

    "After going into the question thoroughly with the Japanese Navy, consulting stations in the Southern Area, I advise against giving up Penang. For the present, however, in view of the Nicobar Islands operations and the fact that the defences of Penang cannot be strengthened, boats should only put into Penang for the present in urgent cases, and they should approach and leave the other ports via the Sunda or Lombok Straits [at the northern and southern tips of Java]. Preparations are being made to transfer the main radio stations in the Southern Area from Penang to Jakarta."*

    To reinforce the perilous situation facing Penang, British Liberator bombers from No.159 Squadron, based at Kharagpur, India, laid 60 mines in the approach channels to the port during the night of 27 October, with only ineffective Japanese minesweeping forces available, it had become apparent to the Germans that the time to withdraw from Penang had come. The Kriegsmarine pilots took their two Arados and the Reisui floatplane to the new station in Jakarta during November 1944. U-boats also withdrew to Jakarta and Surabaya, at which latter port they joined the small number of Japanese I-boats still located regionally. Penang became the object of further unwelcome attention on 5 November, when five Allied photo-reconnaissance missions overflew the city. The Japanese controlled local newspaper "Penang Shimbum" reported them 'driven away', although this appears to have been little more than propagandist wishful thinking.

    * BdU KTB, 26 October 1944. Message from IJN Naval War Staff (4th Division), Va.

    See:
    Hitler's Grey Wolves U-Boats in the Indian Ocean.
    Paterson,Lawrence.
    London:Greenhill Books,2004.
    pp.245-6 & 258.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 30th July 2020 at 08:40.

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    Default Re: Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

    Col, by golly, you've done it again, man!

    I can't thank you enough for taking the time to transcribe for me, and to give me the details on that book. I'll look into purchasing a copy, though your thorough information, I think, gives me enough to suitably tweak the first edit of the book passage. The book isn't going to go into great lengths to expand on details of the U-boat operations, only because of time constraints. Philip Martin, who is Denis Elliott's caregiver, is the catalyst behind this book project, and because Denis is now 96 the goal is to finish the book a) as soon as possible, and b) before a certain date (I forget) when UK COVID-19 supplements are supposed to stop.

    I may be getting the details of b) wrong, but I'm under the impression that unless there is a Round 2 of government stipends handed out, people who now have some money from the UK government to tide them over during these difficult times will suddenly be without much-needed funds. Thus, the purchase of a book will be out of the question for many. Well, that's the way I think it was explained to me.

    So, then, I'll have to come up with a reworking of my first edit, but your info, Col, is spectacular! Many thanks, mate! Mind you, I'm surprised not one reply has been left on the uboat.net forum...yet, to either Brian's (Lyffe's) post or mine. I'd better hold off on editing my edit, just in case someone does reply with even more info. I don't want to do an edit of my edit of the edit...

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    Default Re: Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

    According to a scan of the book in the link U-843 was the last U-boat to leave Penang on Dec 1st, 1944

    https://www.singapore-boxing.org/ebo...s%20Gunton.pdf

    A
    RAF Armoured Car Companies 1920-45 http://www.rafacciraq.com/

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    Default Re: Researcher needed for a simple Kew visit

    Amrit,

    Many thanks for that very informative document. I now have far more than I need to tweak the raw book draft in the editing process. Spectacular.

    Thanks for all the help, gents.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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