Australian Navy Destroyer 

HMAS Vampire 1

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HMAS VAMPIRE I
Technical Details

Type: Destroyer 'V' Class
Displacement: 1,090 tons (standard)
Length: 312 feet 1 inch (overall)
Beam: 29 feet 7 inches
Draught: 9 feet 8 inches (mean deep load)
Completed: 22nd September 1917
Laid Down: 10th October 1916
Launched: 21st May 1917
Armament: 4x4 inch guns
1x2 pdr gun
1x Vickers gun .303
4x Lewis guns .303
6x21 inch torpedo tubes (triple mount)
50 x depth charges
1x12 pdr (embarked 5012 April 41 at Alexandria)
2x2 pdr (embarked 5 Jan 42 at Singapore)
Builders: J. Samuel White & Co Ltd, Cowes
Machinery:

Brown Curtis Turbines (twin screws)

Complement: 127
Commissions (RAN): Commissioned: 11th October 1933
Paid Off: 31st January 1934 Commissioned: 14th July 1936
Paid Off: 18th July 1936
Commissioned: 11th May 1938
Sunk 9th April 1942


VAMPIRE had begun her Mediterranean war service on 21st December 1939 when in company of VOYAGER she departed Port Said escorting a convoy for Malta. Thereafter until 6th March 1940 she was engaged escorting Marseilles-Malta convoys. Conditions during the early part of this period proved very trying for her crew newly arrived from Australia and the heat of Malaya.
On Tuesday, 23rd January at Marseilles, the temperature fell to 11E and the ship's sides became coated with two or three inches of ice. On 14th February at Marseilles the ship was inspected by HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. On 4th March 1940 VAMPIRE began 30 days refit at Malta. At this stage she had steamed 42,000 miles since her last refit and 26,000 miles since the commencement of hostilities. Refit was completed on 5th April 1940. Thereafter, VAMPIRE resumed Malta Marseilles escort duty until 22nd April when she returned to Malta in company of VOYAGER. On 27th April she sailed in company of STUART for Gibraltar but both ships were recalled at 'best possible speed' for VAMPIRE then 28 knots. On 29th April she sailed escorting the Mediterranean Battle Fleet for Alexandria.

Throughout most of May 1940 VAMPIRE was based on Alexandria exercising with Fleet units and on anti submarine patrol duties. On 20th May she sailed as part of the escort for units of the French Fleet en route to Bizerta. She returned to Alexandria (from Malta) on 26th May 1940. The following day (27th May) the 19th Destroyer Division (STUART, VAMPIRE, VOYAGER, VENDETTA and WATERHEN) and the 20th Destroyer Division (DAINTY, DIAMOND, DECOY and DEFENDER) combined to form the 10th Destroyer Flotilla under the command of Commander Waller.

VAMPIRE spent June 1940 based on Alexandria for Mediterranean anti submarine patrols and fleet exercises. Twice she attacked 'contacts' without results, firstly on 13th June in company of WATERHEN and again on 17th June. On 26th June convoy escort duty was resumed. On 29th June VAMPIRE experienced her first bombing attack when Italian aircraft dropped ineffective patterns from high levels, Italy having entered the war on 10th June 1940.

The entry of Italy into the war and the collapse of French resistance on 22nd June completely changed the naval situation in the Mediterranean. Formerly, all coastlines were either Allied or neutral, and the Anglo-French Fleets were in undisputed command of the seas. Now all coasts except those of Egypt, Palestine and Cyprus in the east, Malta in the centre and Gibraltar in the west were closed to the Royal Navy. Moreover, the Allies had lost the support of the French Fleet which had provided seven capital ships and nineteen cruisers and had acquired a new enemy in Italy with her menacing naval potential. Her Fleet boasted five battleships, twenty five cruisers, ninety destroyers and nearly one hundred submarines. It spelt the beginning of a long and bitter struggle for control of the Mediterranean first against the Italian Fleet and Air Force (neither of which proved the menace expected) and later against the much more formidable German Luftwaffe whose dive bombers took grievous toll of British warships before they were finally driven from the skies. For more than a year the 'Scrap Iron Flotilla' took part in the struggle for control of the ancient sea route linking east and west.

July 1940 opened with VAMPIRE escorting a convoy for Port Said and thence to Alexandria escorting the French transport PROVIDENCE At Alexandria VAMPIRE joined the Mediterranean Fleet for operations covering the passage of Malta- Alexandria convoys and attacks against the coast of Sicily (Operation MA5). These operations which led to the Battle of Calabria (9th July) began on 7th July when the Fleet sailed from Alexandria, VAMPIRE and VOYAGER forming part of the screen for the battleships and the aircraft carrier EAGLE while the Flotilla leader STUART operated with screening units for the 7th Cruiser Squadron. The following day (8th July) the Fleet was heavily attacked from the air and VAMPIRE began to learn the value of violent evasive tactics.
In spite of the Italian effort (some fifty bombs fell near the battleship WARSPITE, only the cruiser GLOUCESTER was hit.

At 6 AM on 9th July the British Fleet was concentrated 50 miles due west of the south west extremity of Greece. The 7th Cruiser Squadron with HMAS STUART in the van led the fleet eight miles ahead of Admiral Cunningham's flagship WARSPITE and her screen. The 1st Battle Squadron (Royal SOVEREIGN and MALAYA) and EAGLE and their screening destroyers including VAMPIRE brought up the rear, From this time onwards throughout the morning reconnaissance aircraft reported strong Italian forces including two battleships at sea. Cunningham disposed the fleet accordingly in an attempt to force the enemy to action.

At 2.45 PM HMAS SYDNEY (operating as a unit of the 7th Cruiser Squadron) sighted smoke on the port bow. Sixteen minutes later she sighted five enemy ships and seven minutes after that at 3.08 PM, for the first time since the Napoleonic Wars, the sighting of an enemy battle fleet in the Mediterranean was signalled when the cruiser NEPTUNE reported two Italian battleships WSW, 15 miles distant. At this stage, VAMPIRE was engaged in screening the carrier EAGLE acting independently and accompanied by the cruiser GLOUCESTER withdrawn as unfit for action due to her bomb damage suffered the previous day. The engagement began at 3.20 PM and went through, several phases beginning with a brief surface duel between the heavy surface units which ended at 4 PM when the Italian fleet retired under cover of smoke and ending at 6.30 PM when Admiral Cunningham finally broke off the chase of the fleeing Italian ships when some 25 miles off the Calabrian coast. No British ship suffered any damage or casualties but the Italian battleship GIULIO CESARE hit by WARSPITE's 15 inch fire limped into port with six of her boilers out of action and 29 of her crew killed. After sunset, VAMPIRE detached from her task of screening EAGLE and rejoined the battle fleet. From 3 PM onwards for five hours the carrier and her two escorting destroyers had been under air attack.

VAMPIRE spent in all six days at sea during the progress of Operation MA5 screening the Fleet and covering passage of the convoys. Her War Diary recorded that she was under repeated air attack during daylight hours and estimated that 1350 bombs were dropped on ships of the Fleet being screened by VAMPIRE and on VAMPIRE herself. Violent avoiding action prevented any direct hits but the ship suffered considerable damage from splinters and near misses. Mr J.H. Endicott, Gunner (T) died on 12th July as a result of bomb splinter wounds. He was the first casualty in an RAN ship in World War II.

Following bomb damage repairs at Alexandria, VAMPIRE sailed on 23rd July in company of VENDETTA screening the cruiser ORION for a diversionary demonstration off Castelorizo Island. The ships were not sighted from the air and no response came from the defence ashore. The two destroyers reached Port Said on 25th July and sailed the following day escorting the armed boarding vessels CHAKLA and FIONA for a second demonstration. They met ORION on 27th July and that evening proceeded as if to effect a landing on Castelorizo. Again the Italians refused to be provoked. At sea, meanwhile, the Fleet covered convoys moving across the Aegean Sea, trailing its coat at the enemy's front door without response. On 29th July VAMPIRE was back in Alexandria where refit was begun which kept her in dock until 18th August when she resumed convoy escort duties between Alexandria, Port Said and Haifa, returning to Alexandria on 24th July. On 29th August reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet arrived at Gibraltar. They comprised the battleship VALIANT, the new aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS and the cruisers CALCUTTA and COVENTRY, named as Force 'F'. To pass these additions to the Fleet from West to East a large scale operation ('HATS') was prepared which planned cover as far as Sardinia by forces based on Gibraltar followed by junction with the Mediterranean Fleet south of Sicily.

On 30th August, the Fleet (including VAMPIRE) sailed from Alexandria to join Force 'E' and to cover the passage of Alexandria-Malta and Malta-Alexandria convoys. The operation which ended on 4th September with the return of Fleet to Alexandria suffered no surface interference though the Italian battle fleet was sighted by aircraft from EAGLE. In the air enemy reaction was mainly confined to attacks on one of the convoys but only one ship was hit. VAMPIRE recorded that for the first time (2nd September) she experienced dive bomber attacks while screening EAGLE.

On 10th September, following a period of exercises with ILLUSTRIOUS, VAMPIRE resumed convoy escort duty to Port Said and Haifa. On 14th September she passed through the Canal to Port Tewfik where she remained until 23rd September before proceeding to Alexandria. On 26th September Captain Waller joined the ship as Captain (D) 10th Flotilla. October opened with VAMPIRE at Alexandria preparing to join the Battle Fleet at sea on 3rd October for Operation BMQ (a fleet sweep into the NW Mediterranean). The operation proved uneventful except for attacks by VAMPIRE on a 'confirmed' submarine contact on 4th October. The Fleet returned to Alexandria on 6th October sailing again two days later (VAMPIRE in company) to cover the passage of convoys to and from Malta. VAMPIRE reached Malta on 11th October fuelled and rejoined the Fleet. This period which ended for VAMPIRE on 15th October when she returned to Alexandria with the 2nd Division of the Battle Fleet was marked by the usual air attacks and VAMPIRE's new HA AA gun was well tried. It was also the occasion of the first surface engagement since the Battle of Cape Spada in July 1940 when the cruiser AJAX engaged and destroyed the Italian destroyers AIRONE, ARIEL and ARTIGLIERE on 12th October. Following the action VAMPIRE recovered one officer and twenty one ratings from ARTIGLIERE. The destroyer, burning furiously blew up as VAMPIRE collected her prisoners from a Carley float. After fuelling at Alexandria on 15th October VAMPIRE proceeded to sea to escort the crippled cruiser LIVERPOOL torpedoed by aircraft southeast of Crete the previous day.

Ten days in Alexandria ended on 25th October when VAMPIRE proceeded to sea with the Fleet for Operation MAQ2 the passage of a Port Said Dardanelles convoy. Operations included a sweep towards Kaso Strait by the Battle Fleet and the bombing of Maltazana (Stampalia) by aircraft from EAGLE. On 28th October the Italian Army invaded Greece from Albania and it followed that reinforcement of Greece and Crete with British troops involved a further commitment for the Mediterranean Fleet, in bolstering Greek resistance on land and sea. British reaction was immediate. On 29th October a convoy sailed from Alexandria to establish a fuelling base at Suda Bay (Crete). It comprised the net layer PROTECTOR, a minesweeper, two armed boarding vessels and two fleet oilers, covered by the cruisers COVENTRY and CALCUTTA and four destroyers of the 10th Flotilla including VAMPIRE. On arrival the destroyers maintained A/S patrol pending the laying of nets. By evening of 1st November this work was completed despite enemy air attacks and the following day VAMPIRE and WATERHEN sailed escorting the net layer, the armed boarding ships CHAKLA and FIONA' and one of the fleet oilers for Alexandria.

On 4th November convoys departed Port Said and Alexandria for Greece and Crete. On 5th November the cruisers SYDNEY and AJAX left Port Said with artillery and administrative troops for Suda Bay while at the same time a convoy sailed from Malta. The Fleet was at sea to cover these and other movements and to meet further Mediterranean reinforcements comprising the battleship BARHAM, the cruisers BERWICK and GLASGOW and three destroyers. VAMPIRE assigned as escort to the Malta convoy (MW3) sailed from Alexandria on 5th November returning on 13th November with the eastbound convoy after an uneventful voyage.

On 15th November the military reinforcement of Greece began with a fast convoy (CLAN MACARTHUR, IMPERIAL STAR, NIEUW ZEEIAND and JOHAN DE WITT) to Piraeus escorted by the cruisers COVENTRY, VAMPIRE and WATERHEN. It arrived safely and the two Australian destroyers with NUBIAN in company proceeded for Alexandria the next evening carrying out an A/S sweep in the Aegean and a search of Kaso Strait en route' Meanwhile the Battle Fleet was preparing to cover the passage of further Malta convoys (Operation MB9) both east and west bound. It included the first through Mediterranean convoy of merchant ships. Italian attempts to prevent its passage failed as usual but the half hearted sortie against the east bound convoy south of Sardinia led to the brief engagement with the Italian fleet off Cape Spartivento on 27th November which like Calabria developed into a chase of the fleeing Italians making at best speed for the safety of their base.

As a unit of the large British forces at sea during these operations VAMPIRE departed Alexandria on 23rd November as part of the escort of the west bound convoy MW4 to Malta. The following day Italian torpedo aircraft attacked but so intense was the A/A fire that only one succeeded in firing its torpedo which passed harmlessly 500 yards ahead of VENDETTA. The convoy arrived at Malta unharmed on 26th November and the same day VAMPIRE sailed escorting the east bound ~3, which reached Alexandria (less Port Said section) on 30th November The first nine days of December VAMPIRE spent boiler cleaning at Alexandria followed by three days at sea with the Fleet sailing on 10th December. On the previous day the British Army under General Wavell began its offensive in the Western Desert. The immediate object of the operations ashore was the destruction of enemy forces Nibeiwa-Twamae area followed by a northward drive to Sidi Barrani on the coast thus isolating Maktila Camp which was then the Italians most advanced camp in Egypt. The naval role during the initial stage was to provide harassing bombardment against Maktila and Sidi Barrani and this was begun on the night of 8th 9th December using the monitor TERROR supported by two gunboats and three destroyers.

On 10th December the Battle Fleet sailed from Alexandria (BARHAM, VALIANT, YORE and ILLUSTRIOUS) to bombard Bardia, but were prevented from shelling the Italian positions by bad weather which also stopped a projected attack on Ell Adam airfield by aircraft from ILLUSTRIOUS. On 14th December VAMPIRE joined the Inshore Squadron screening TERROR the two following days during the bombardment of Bardia. Shore batteries kept up a continuous fire, most of the shells falling short but both VENDETTA and VOYAGER were straddled and one man was wounded in VOYAGER. At twilight on 16th December two torpedo aircraft attacked but were driven off after firing four torpedoes one of which missed VAMPIRE by 50 yards. On 17th December she returned to Alexandria to refuel.

Ashore the military operations proved a complete success. Sollum and Fort Capuzzo were captured on 16th December and when VAMPIRE rejoined the Inshore Squadron off Sollum on 18th December the Italian forces appeared to be rapidly degenerating into a rabble. With the capture of Sollum the first phase ended and the role of the Navy turned temporarily from offensive action to one of supply to the British forces ashore. For the remainder of December 1940 the work of the Australian and Royal Navy destroyers of the 10th Flotilla supporting the Campaign in the Western Desert (VAMPIRE, VOYAGER, VENDETTA, WATERHEN, DIAMOND and WRYNECK) was confined to patrol and escort duty. On 26th December, WATERHEN captured a schooner and on 29th December VOYAGER intercepted a vessel engaged in transporting British POWs from Bardia to Tobruk. DAINTY also captured two schooners. On 20th December VAMPIRE withdrew to escort PROTECTOR to Alexandria. En route she stripped her starboard turbine necessitating repairs which kept her in Alexandria until 8th January 1941.

On 27th December at Alexandria Captain (D) 10 transferred to VOYAGER to take over duties of SNO (afloat) at Sollum and sailed to rejoin the Inshore Squadron supporting TERROR in the bombardment of Bardia on 28th December. VAMPIRE rejoined the Inshore Squadron on 9th January 1941 too late to witness the capture of Bardia by the Australian troops on 4th January. Off Sollum she embarked Captain Waller for passage to Alexandria where on 10th January he rejoined STUART. Defeated in the desert the Italians were faring no better on the other side of the Mediterranean in their attempts to subjugate the Greeks. Everywhere on sea and land Italian arms were at a discount. The Germans, alarmed, decided to intervene in an effort to bolster the Axis position. This they sought to accomplish by the only means available at short notice the transfer of German squadrons to the Mediterranean. The arrival of the Luftwaffe particularly its dive bombers to reinforce the Italian squadrons operating from Sicilian airfields was a serious matter for the Mediterranean Fleet, curtailing its freedom of movement and weakening its hitherto undisputed control of the central Mediterranean.

The German pilots, trained in a harder school, soon made their presence felt and in the first encounter during the passage of Greece bound and Malta convoys sank the cruiser SOUTHAMPTON and severely damaged the carrier ILLUSTRIOUS. This operation ('EXCESS') had as its object the passage of a convoy from Gibraltar through the Mediterranean to Greece and Malta and the simultaneous movement of fast convoys from Alexandria to Malta and east bound to Alexandria with a fourth slow convoy from Malta to Port Said. The entire movement entailed the passage of fourteen ships, but its protection employed almost the entire British naval strength namely Force 'd' from Gibraltar under Vice Admiral Sir James Somerville and the bulk of the Mediterranean Fleet under Admiral Cunningham.

As part of these operations it was intended that BARHAM and EAGLE (Admiral Rawlings) should join the Fleet on 12th January for Operation M~6, an attack on the Italian shipping routes while the convoy were at sea. The disabling of ILLUSTRIOUS put an end to this plan and Admiral Rawlings' group was eventually frustrated by bad weather. VAMPIRE sailed on 11th January screening BARHAM and EAGLE detached to Piraeus after carrying out an A/A sweep of Kaso Strait and eventually returned to Alexandria on 18th January. On 21st January she rejoined the Inshore Squadron to assist in preventing the escape of the Italian cruiser SAN GIORGIO from Tobruk. Off Tobruk on the following day she captured the Italian schooner DIEGO. She remained with the Inshore Squadron until the close of January and on 27th January anchored in Tobruk harbour the town having been captured by the British forces five days previously (22nd January). A large bronze plaque was taken as a trophy from the burnt out wreck of the SAN GIORGIO.

On 1st February VAMPIRE rejoined the Battle Fleet for screening duties during further convoy movements. She spent three days with the Fleet before proceeding to Suda Bay to act as escort for an Alexandria bound convoy. On 8th February she rejoined the Inshore Squadron at Tobruk for Western Desert patrol and screening TERROR to Benghazi. Support of the Campaign ashore continued until 21st February when VAMPIRE left to join the 1st Battle Squadron and EAGLE en route for Alexandria before proceeding to Port Said to act as part of the escort for the Greece bound convoy ANF16. Meanwhile, the German plans in the Balkans were beginning to take shape and on 1st March, Bulgaria joined the Axis powers. Britain decided to send strong military aid to Greece.

The movement of the troops and their equipment in the face of an ever increasing scale of air attack strained all the resources of the available naval strength to the utmost. It began on 5th March 1941 with the first flight of 'Lustre Force' as it was known and continued until 24th April when 58,000 troops with all their stores and fighting equipment had been transported from Egypt to Greece. The passage to the Piraeus virtually the only port available for disembarkation led past enemy bases in the Dodecanese from which he was able to launch his attack against the British line of communication. In spite of his advantageous strategic position, however, he failed to halt the steady flow of men and material and excepting a few bomb splinter casualties in one ship all arrived safely. The losses sustained (six ships) were all vessels proceeding in the convoys but not part of the 'Lustre' movement or vessels returning empty to Egypt. All the Australian destroyers and HMAS PERTH played a part in support of the movement. VAMPIRE in dock at Piraeus during the early stages sailed escorting empty ships (Convoy GA2) on 9th March for Alexandria. Before the close of the month she assisted in the safe passage of four Greece bound convoys broken by the task of embarking the ex Prime Minister of Yugoslavia from the yacht CALANTHE in the Gulf of Athens for passage to Alexandria. On 28th March when her Flotilla leader STUART was distinguishing herself at the Battle of Matapan and Cunningham was teaching the Italians a lesson that kept them out of the ring for the rest of the year' VAMPIRE was engaged in escorting Convoy AG9 to Greece.

In April VAMPIRE continued her escort duties with the Greek convoys. On 17th April when escorting AN27 four German Junkers attacked; VAMPIRE drove them off hitting one in the port motor and when only three returned twenty minutes later the missing plane was hailed as evidence of her gunner's success. On 24th April VAMPIRE sailed from Alexandria to join AG14. On this as on all the other runs, the usual air attacks developed forcing the abandonment of the damaged SCOTTISH PRINCE by her crew but urged on by the crew of VAMPIRE and HMS GRIMSBY they reboarded the listing vessel and brought her into Suda Bay. At this stage the Greek campaign was a lost cause and in the face of a chaotic military situation the British Government ordered evacuation to begin. The operation ('DEMON') began on the night of 24th 25th April and it involved the use of all the light forces of the Mediterranean Fleet except the cruiser GLOUCESTER and four destroyers of the Malta Force. Active in carrying out the rescue operations were six cruisers, nineteen destroyers and numerous small vessels. Three 'Clan' ships equipped with landing craft were also used.

In the entire operation in which PERTH and all the Australian destroyers took part 50,672 troops were evacuated being about 80 per cent of the original forces landed. kill but about 500 lost in the transport SLAMAT were safely landed in Crete. But it cost the 10 Flotilla two ships, DIAMOND and WRYNECK. VAMPIRE's part was confined to escort duty at sea and she took no part in the evacuation. In May VAMPIRE continued escort duty between Egypt and Crete until 12th May when she returned to Alexandria from Suda Bay escorting Convoy AS30.

At this stage British military fortunes in the Western Desert had sunk to a low ebb and almost all the gains of the January offensive had been lost. Weakened by the Greek campaign the Army of the Nile fell back when German armoured forces under General Rommel struck at the beginning of April. Benghazi fell on 3rd April, Bardia on 9th April with Capuzzo and Sollum also falling into enemy hands. On 13th April the British forces were back on the frontier of Egypt. Only Tobruk held by Australian troops held out and continued to remain as a thorn in the new German General's side in spite of all his efforts to dislodge the defenders.

The task of supplying the beleaguered garrison, fell to the Navy. It was dangerous work that was to cost the Royal Australian Navy two ships WATERHEN and PARRAMATTA) before it ended. On 13th May VAMPIRE was assigned to the 'Tobruk Ferry' as the shuttle service was soon named. Two days later she sailed from Alexandria carrying stores and 102 troops returning two days later with 180 wounded. On 21st May she sailed again but returned to Alexandria a tired ship with defects mounting daily. Vibrations above 16 knots made it impossible to maintain the fast runs the work demanded. It was reluctantly decided to withdraw her from the Mediterranean and send her to Singapore for extensive refit.

On 29th May she passed through the Suez Canal en route for Malaya. On 20th June she entered Singapore Dockyard. During July, August and September VAMPIRE remained in dockyard hands at Singapore. Commander W.T.A. Moran, RAN, assumed command of VAMPIRE at Singapore on 16th October 1941. Many of her crew were newly drafted from Australia. Refit was completed on 15th November 1941 but a collision in Keppel Harbour with the steamer PERAK delayed operational readiness until late November final trials ending on 26th November. On this day VAMPIRE sailed for Sarawak (Borneo) transporting the GOO Malaya, General Percival and some of his staff. On 1st December she was back in Singapore.

The battleships PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE arrived at Singapore on 2nd December and when the latter sailed for Darwin VAMPIRE sailed as her escort but after twenty four hours at sea the ships were recalled and as stated in VAMPIRE's diary 'in the middle watch on December 8th at Singapore Naval Base, many of us saw our first air attack when Japan commenced hostilities'. In the afternoon of 8th December 1941 VAMPIRE sailed from Singapore escorting PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE on their ill fated attempt to interrupt the Japanese invasion of Malaya.

Following the sinking of both capital ships by Japanese torpedo aircraft VAMPIRE, EXPRESS and ELECTRA (the three escorting destroyers) rescued 132 officers and 1,949 ratings out of a total complement of 2,921 in both ships. VAMPIRE landed 9 officers, 215 ratings and 1 civilian at Singapore. Throughout the remainder of December VAMPIRE was kept busy escorting inward and outward convoys to Malaya and giving protection to HMS TEVIOT BANK during mine laying operations in the South China Sea. The first three weeks of January 1942 saw VAMPIRE continuing to shepherd shipping in and out of Singapore and Batavia.

On 24th January she arrived at Singapore as part of the escort of a troop convoy of six strips o The next two days were spent at the Naval Base when on 26th January she was ordered to proceed with the destroyer THANET to attack Japanese transports reported to be lying off Endau some 80 miles north of Singapore. They had arrived that day and comprised in fact two transports escorted by the light cruiser SENDAI destroyers of the 3rd Destroyer Squadron and some smaller craft. VAMPIRE and THANET sailed in the afternoon of 26th January ant arrived off End au after moonset shortly before 2 AM the following morning. The two ships steamed in, VAMPIRE leading at 15 knots into what was a veritable hornet's nest. In addition to the cruiser SENDAI there were covering the transport, six destroyers, HAISUYUKI, SHIRAYUKI FUBUKI, YOGIRI, ASAGIRI and AMAGIRI.

At 2.37 AM the dim shape of what Commander Moran took to be a destroyer appeared on VAMPIRE's starboard bow. Seeking the transports he continued in towards End au and soon sighted a second 'destroyer' 'right ahead and close'. VAMPIRE swung to port and fired two torpedoes without result. This ship which was in fact a minesweeper patrolling outside the anchorage sighted VAMPIRE and gave the alarm. The two British destroyers continued their course towards Endau until shortly after 3 AM when not sighting the expected concentration they turned SE by E and increased to best speed. At 3.18 AM their luck ran out. A destroyer appeared on VAMPIRE's port bow and she fired her remaining torpedo. Again she missed while THANET altering course to starboard fired all her torpedoes but they too sped harmlessly past the target. The Japanese destroyer opened fire and the cruiser SENDAI joined in the confused melee that followed. Hopelessly outnumbered VAMPIRE and THANET retired SE by E at top speed returning the Japanese fire in the unequal engagement.

THANET was hit and at about 4 AM Moran saw 'great clouds of black smoke issuing from her'. He tried to cover her withdrawal with a smoke screen but she was doomed and was last seen from VAMPIRE stopped and listing heavily to starboard. She sank shortly afterwards at about 4.15 AM on 27th January. VAMPIRE, unscathed, made good her escape and entered Singapore Harbour at 10 AM that morning. The action off Endau brought VAMPIRE's service in the Malayan theatre almost to a close. On 28th January 1942 she sailed in company of HMAS YARRA escorting a convoy to Sunda Strait.

On 30th January her position as escort was taken over by HMS SUTLEJ and she proceeded to Batavia. She sailed on 1st February as part of the escort to the American transports WESTPOINT and MANHATTAN through Sunda Strait returning to Batavia on 3rd February. Two days later (5th February) she sailed escorting two merchant ships for Colombo where on 11th February VAMPIRE joined the East Indies Station.

The remainder of February was spent on escort duties and screening the aircraft carrier HERMES. At the close of the month her War Diary recorded that VAMPIRE had been underway on 69 out of 83 days since the outbreak of the Pacific War. In March 1942 VAMPIRE continued operating from Ceylon as a part of the Eastern Fleet. At the beginning of April 1942 the overwhelming success of Japanese operations on land and sea made it abundantly clear to the British naval command that Ceylon was untenable as a base for operations. The enemy had complete control of the Bay of Bengal and at his will was in a position to control the waters south and south west of Colombo. On 28th March 1942 Admiral Somerville (C in C Eastern Fleet) received warning of a pending air attack on Ceylon on or about 1st April. He decided to concentrate his Fleet which comprised five battleships (WARSPITE, RESOLUTION, RAMILLIES, ROYAL SOVEREIGN and REVENGE); three aircraft carriers (INDOMITABLE, FORMIDABLE and HERMES); six cruisers (CORNWALL, EMERALD, ENTERPRISE, CALEDON, DRAGON and DORSETSHIRE) and fourteen destroyers including VAMPIRE on the night of 31st March in a position from which he could launch an air attack during the night.

For three days and three nights the Fleet operated south of Ceylon without anything happening so that in the evening on 2nd April with the old 'R' Class battleships running short of water Admiral Somerville shaped course for Addu Atoll the then British operational base in the Maldive Islands. Before doing so, however, he detached the cruisers DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL to Colombo and HERMES escorted by VAMPIRE to TRINCOMALEE~ the last named two ships to prepare for operations pending against Madagascar.

Meanwhile, powerful Japanese forces under the command of Vice Admiral Nagumo had sailed from Starling Bay in the Celebes on 26th March to attack Ceylon. It comprised five fast carriers (AKAGI. SORYU, HIRYU, SHOKAKO and ZUIKAKU); four battleships (KIRISHIMA, HIYEI HARUNA and KONGO) supported by two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser = eleven destroyers the entire group being fuelled at sea by six fleet tankers. Late in the afternoon of the 4th April a patrolling Catalina flying boat sighted Nagumo's force but was shot down before it could report its strength. The Eastern Fleet put to sea but far too late to intervene in Nagumo's plan to attack on the morning of Easter Sunday the 5th April.

In Colombo the Deputy C in C began to clear the harbour of shipping and ordered DORSETSHIRE and CORNWALL to sea. Both were intercepted by Japanese aircraft and sunk in less than fifteen minutes. HERMES (Captain R. F. Onslow) and VAMPIRE ordered to get clear of Trincomalee before an expected follow up attack developed on the port, sailed on the night of 8th 9th April and proceeded southward. Next morning (9th April) 54 bombers from Nagumo's carriers inflicted severe damage on the dockyard and airfields. The raid ended, HERMES and VAMPIRE set course to return to Trincomalee. At 10.35 AM (9th April) off Batticaloa (Ceylon) aircraft were sighted from HERMES on the starboard quarter diving out of the sun at about 10,000 feet. HERMES opened fire with every gun that would bear (she was carrying no aircraft) but in the face of the Japanese dive bomber attack pressed home so relentlessly she was helpless.

The end came suddenly twenty minutes later and she went down with one 4 inch gun still firing. Immediately the carrier vanished the dive bombers turned their attention to VAMPIRE; fighting back she shot down at least one of the Japanese aircraft before she broke in half and sank in less than ten minutes.

Nineteen officers and 288 ratings of HERMES and the Commanding Officer and 8 ratings of VAMPIRE were lost or died of wounds.

Some 600 were rescued by the hospital ship VITA, others were picked up by local craft and a few swam ashore.

 

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