Thursday, March 4, 2010

Battle of Koh Chang overview

Battle of Koh Chang site on a foggy day

Order of Battle (Royal Thai Navy during French-Thai War)
RTN order no.133/83 Fleet organizing Nov.29,1940.

Naval fighting force would divided to 3 flotilla as following

1st Flotilla, Captain Luang Sangwornyuttakij (Sangworn Suwannacheep) commanding, divided to 2 divisions.
     1st Division,  Lt. Commander Luang Monkol Yuthanavy (Monkol Srivethin) commanding, comprised of 
             HTMS Sri Ayudhya (gunboat),
             CO, Lt. Commander Luang Chamnan Attayut (Uan Kulkrailas),
             on Jan 16,1941 replaced by Commander Sunthorn Chauywongwan.
             HTMS Phuket (torpedo boat),
             CO, Lt. Commander Luang Monkol Yuthanavy (Monkol Srivethin).
             HTMS Pattani (torpedo boat), CO, Lt. Commander Amphan Pamornbutra.
             HTMS Surasdra(Surat) (torpedo boat), CO, Lieutenant Chuan Saengtai.
             HTMS Matchanu (submarine), CO, Lt. Commander Kanok(Sui) Noppakoon.
             HTMS Sinsamut (submarine), CO, Lt. Commander Tasna Kranlert.
     3rd Division, Commander Luang Phromveerapan (Phrom Veerapan) commanding, comprised of 
             HTMS Thonburi (gunboat), CO, Commander Luang Phromveerapan (Phrom Veerapan)
             HTMS Rayong, CO, Lt. Commander Bai Tesanasadab.
             HTMS Songkhla, CO, Lt. Commander Chan Singhachan.
             HTMS Cholburi, CO, Lieutenant Pratin Chaipanya.
             HTMS Bang Rajan

2nd Flotilla, Captain Chalit Kulkamtorn commanding, divided to 2 divisions.
     2nd Division,  comprised of 
             HTMS Tachin (sloop) CO, Lt. Commander Chamroen Kantahirun.
             3 torpedo boats
             HTMS Wirun (submarine)
             HTMS Phlai Chumpon(submarine)
     4th Division,  comprised of 
             HTMS Mae Klong (sloop) CO, Commander Luang Yuttakitpilat (Mee Pattamanavin)
             3 torpedo boats
             HTMS Nongsa-rhai, CO, Lieutenant Daoreung Petchart.

3rd Flotilla,  Commander Luang Prompisut (Pisut Yoopanont) commanding 
            HTMS Sukhothai (gunboat)
            HTMS Chao Phraya (gunboat)
            HTMS Phra Ruang (destroyer)
            6 coastal boats (armed transport)
            3 fishing boats (acted as general purpose ships)
            HTMS Kram ,CO, Lieutenant JG Chet Chulachat.
            HTMS Chang, CO, Lieutenant Sanit Anginant.

HTMS AangThong acted as a RTN flagship.

After Jan.1,1941 There would be some change.

  • HTMS Bang Rajan from 3th Division transfer to 1th Division.
  • HTMS Kram from 3th Flotilla transfered to 3th Division.
  • HTMS Kram from 3th Division again transfered to 1th Division.
  • HTMS Nongsa-rhai from 4th Division transfered to 3th Division.
  • Some switching for torpedo boats in 1st, 2nd and 3rd Division.
The Battle of Koh Chang
Jan. 14, 1941 
2200 3rd Division (HTMS Thonburi, HTMS Songkhla , HTMS Rayong, HTMS Cholburi and HTMS Nongsa-rhai) sailed from Sattahip for switching duty with 1st Division. Captain Sangworn and Commander Phrom were on HTMS Thonburi.

Jan. 15, 1941
0900 3rd Division arrived at Koh Chang and anchored at the southern part near Koh Ngam and relieved 1st Division. Captain Sangworn moved on HTMS Sri Ayudhya, returning to Sattahip with Lt.Commander Chamnan's 1st Division.

Jan. 16, 1941 
1200 HTMS Thonburi received telegraph from RTN that they want to know maximum and minimum flood tide for a week and should install a measuring pole at Koh Ngam.
HTMS Sri Ayudhya's CO, Lt. Commander Chamnan relieved by new CO, Commander Sunthorn. There was a farewell ceremony on board.

1300 Commander Prom Veeraphan made landfall on Koh Ngam for surveying for flooding tide pole installing site. In the evening, he ordered 2 petty officers and 2 sailers who were not on guarding duty to temporarily station on Koh Ngam for recording the flood tide. (One of the petty officer was a turret trainer, so the gunnery officer 'Jongjitt Sanghadul' would have to do it instead when the battle started.) HTMS Thonburi folded the ceiling canvas, took off unneccessary poles and clear any obstacles on deck for preparing the emergency.

1445 French plane (Loire 130) at Ream send report to Terraux, French Indo-China Navy commander "4 Thai ships anchor at Koh Chang, 1 Armored gunboat, 3 torpedo boats" which was correct. Another Loire 130 scouted at Sattahip also sent report " 1 Armored gunboat, 4 torpedo boats, 2 submarines, 2 light vessels" which is relatively correct because HTMS Sri Ayudhya's 1st Division was at Sattahip.

At evening,  Commander Phrom Veerapan ordered HTMS Rayong to patrol south of Koh Kood.

1915 HTMS Thonburi sailed with HTMS Nongsa-rhai and HTMS Theo Utok from Koh Ngam to Ao(Bay)Salak Kok, arrived with HTMS Theo Utok and her motor boat being moored on her starboard at anchoring. Her right ladder folded and her left ladder hanged with the davits. HTMS Cholburi and HTMS Songkhla anchored at the same place south of Koh Chang near Koh Ngam. HTMS Cholburi's bow bearing 022, HTMS Songkhla's bow bearing 045, about 300 metres apart. 

Jan. 17, 1941
0530 French "7th Task Group" sailed in column at 13 knots bearing 043 toward Koh Klum using this island as cover.

0550 HTMS Thonburi assembled the sailors for morning exercise.

0600 The current weather partial cloud on the horizon, light fog on the surface, SW wind(blow from SW to NE), Seastate-1(no waves), visibility 6 miles, 27 degrees celsius.

0605 Searchlight watchmen on HTMS Thonburi saw French plane (Loire 130), AA battle station was ordered. French plane turned toward Koh Ngam. HTMS Thonburi fold the ceiling canvas, started the main engine, radioed to Chantaburi(Chantaboon) Wing, they did not receive.(Sattahip naval base, almost 100 miles away, received this news and order by two-hand signal flags from HTMS Aang Thong, navy flagship to HTMS Sri Ayudhya "Sri Ayudhya to attack the enemy, Thonburi is engaging" another submarine, Matchanu or Sinsamut was ordered to attack. HTMS Sri Ayudhya cut off her anchor, set sail on full speed to Koh Chang alone with only one submarine separately set sail. The rest of the warships were mysteriously not recorded to engage in any source.) Later Chantaburi(Chantaboon) Wing heard sound of guns. Thonburi heard the rapid guns at Koh Ngam, and see the flak burst (from HTMS Cholburi and Songkhla). Thonburi sailed, watchmen on the bridge saw enemy ship south of Koh Chang between Koh Chang and Koh Maisi Yai  (La Motte Picquet sailed bearing 065) and saw the flash from that ship( firing at HTMS Cholburi and Songkhla).Commander Prom Veerapan order radio message to the navy "La Motte Picquet engaging south of Koh Chang" and signaled two hand flags to HTMS Nong Sa-Rhai not to follow.
Battle of Koh Chang Map, I will improve this map later. The arrows are the line of fire.

0620 (Thonburi's) Anchor weighed, HTMS Thonburi start to sail, at the moment La Motte Picquet went behind Koh Maisi Yai. Thonburi headed SE. Aft turret was not yet ready (turret trainer was at Koh Ngam).Commander Prom ordered left full rudder to stay behind Koh Maisi Yai (from LMP's line of fire).

0640 Both turrets ready, Thonburi went all ahead full bearing SE and prepared on starboard to LMP.

0645 La Motte Picquet emerged east of Koh Maisi Yai and started firing at 12,000-13,000 metres. First French salvos (from LMP) overshot only  300 metres, the second salvos splashed only 50 metres short form Thonburi, the third salvo splashed 150 metres short. Thonburi started firing her main guns on both turrets after French second salvo, setting at 13,000 metres ,Thai first salvo splashed short for 2,000 metres.
 Thonburi's secondary guns (2 x 3 inches) on the starboard started firing by not setting the correct range (gun no.1 fired 15 rounds and gun no.3 fired 11 rounds at 8,000 metres setting), the gunnery officer' assistant were exciting and forgot to change the range.

0648 French fourth salvo straddled Thonburi, a shell hit the parlor under control bridge and exploded to upstairs killing and wounding those officers in control bridge including commander Prom killed. Rudder wheel was disable, the ship caught fires, Thonburi with 14 knots left circled for 4 rounds, navigator survived the hit went to rudder wheel on the aft of the ship, second shell piercing on the port deck near the parlor cutting water tube and explode in PO's room on the starboard tearing the hull and PO's bedclothes caught fire. Manually controlled, Thonburi stopped circling, the third shell hit at 3 inches ammo box on the starboard between secondary gun no.1 and no.3 piercing the deck at gunnery officer's room exploded in commanding room cutting the doctor's leg and wounding several men. The fourth shell hit around waterline on the starboard aft exploding in sailor room 4 , she was taking the water. The fifth shell hit porthole on the starboard aft exploding on the aft turret base, water in sailor room 4 pouring into aft magazine, the splinter cut off a sailor's arm (Shoon Saechua), he was trying to do his job with one arm. The sailor room 4 was full of smoke.

0655 La Motte Picquet turnabout right on bearing 230 degree to avoid shallow water and pulled out of the firing range.

0700 After finishing with 2 Thai torpedo boats 4 French ships attached west of Koh Laoya Nai and sailed south past Koh Laoya Nok then turn left to go between Koh Wai and Hin Look Wai Nok took bearing about 100. After saw Thonburi between Koh Ngam and Koh Maisi Yai, 4 French ships concentrated on her.

After LMP got behind Koh Maisi Yai taking SW, Thonburi changed target to Amiral Charner.

La Motte Picquet closed to Koh Chan and turned right to bearing 260 degree reached Koh Bitang, turning right to 10 degree, then turned right again to go between Koh Chan and Koh Bitang passing Koh Chan then turned left to 045 degree. LMT signaled to other 4 sloops to follow her but they couldn't catch up. All 4 sloops as one division taking 230 degree outside firing range.

Looking between Koh Maisi Yai and Koh Maisi Lek, LMP saw Thonburi as she was on fire and taking list on the starboard, she was still firing at LMP.

0751  La Motte Picquet was firing on port side and released 3 torpedoes at Thonburi, no hit. Captain Berenger decided to disengage, thought Thonburi would be definitely sunk.

0801 La Motte Picquet turned right to 230 degree and signaled other 4 ships to attach in formation, passing Koh Bitang, change to 270 degree to open sea.

0830 Thonburi was moving to Lam Nam, fires dispersed all over the passage, couldn't be put out. With ship aft sinking and slightly listing on starboard, her XO (Lieutenant Thong-yoo Sawangnetr) carried her to Lam Ngob. The fires increased as sailing.

0950 Thonburi stopped, HTMS Chang tried to put out fires from her starboard side, HTMS Chang could only put the fires on the deck out. Fire in the passage and control room could not be put out.
HTMS Chang towed Thonburi by the side toward Ngob cape and evacuated the wounded as HTMS Thiew Utok towed Thonburi on the port side.

1000 HTMS Nongh Sarhai arrived and turned to rescue HTMS Cholburi and Songkhla survivors at Tian Cape, Salakpet Bay
Thonburi still ablazed, heavily listed on the starboard, her deck reached the water. HTMS Chang untowed. Later, HTMS Chang towed her again to run her aground at Ngob cape.

1050 HTMS Chang and Thonburi reached Ngob cape at the 6 metres depth, untowed. Thonburi was left there.

1100 Thonburi's XO ordered abandon ship.

1600-1700 Too late, HTMS Sri Ayudhya with her new CO, Commander Sunthorn and Flotilla CO, Captain Sangworn, went beyond Chantaburi and arrived alone at the vicinity of Koh Chang. Her guard saw the smoke dead ahead. 30 minutes later, she saw her sister, Thonburi capsized showing red hull, with 1 torpedo boats aside (HTMS Rayong). HTMS Rayong crew didn't see or know the French Fleet position, only know as there were 5 French vessels. The Chantaburi(Chantaboon) wing also lost contact with the French Fleet.

1740 Thonburi capsized by starboard and get stucked at the ground, her hull was upside down.

HTMS Songkla (torpedo boat) was on fire before sinking, HTMS Cholburi seen in the background.Even Thai artist got it wrong, both ships' number were erased during Franco-Siamese Conflict.

HTMS Songkla was on fire.

Both Thai torpedo boats about to sink as seen from French ship, Tahure. The island on the left should be Koh Chang and the one on the right Koh Ngam. HTMS Thonburi was behind Koh Chang .

HTMS Thonburi was in flames. Her crew trying to put out fires while French Fleet disengaging, this picture took from HTMS Chang.

The fires being controlled on HTMS Thonburi taking picture from HTMS Chang , commanding officer later decide to beach her near Laem(Cape) Ngob because of flooding. After beaching, She started to capsize.

HTMS Thonburi capsizing to starboard. Courtesy elder brother "Nyenava" from

 Capsized HTMS Thonburi, picture taken by Thai Corsair(V93 S) Aircraft near Ngob cape. Later raised and repaired at Thonburi naval dockyard, Bangkok, used as training ship.

HTMS Thonburi refloated and towed to Thonburi naval dockyard,Bangkok around 1941.

HTMS Thonburi at drydock, December 1941, picture taken by Japanese.

HTMS Thonburi was repaired in Bangkok, Thailand with Japanese aid.With her condition after repairing, she was used as a training ship. The allied mistook that she was towed to Japan for repair.

Prime Minister "Phiboon" decorated HTMS Thonburi's jack, image courtesy "Nyenava" of

 Thonburi's officer

Thonburi's medal recipients.
Seaman Chun Saechua lost his arm by AP shell as loading ammo from aft turret magazine, with one arm left,  he continued loading. (From book "Thonburi fights")

Lamotte-Picquet's Armor Piercing Shell that hit HTMS Thonburi now displaying at Royal Thai navy Museum.

(to be continued)

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