4-5 December 1940 - Battle Off Manila
By December 1940 Singapore and Burma fell. Antarans naval forces in the Pacific still hadn’t fully mobilised and thus Japan was only countered by the British who couldn’t put up enough of a fight. Antarans first real sortie (excluding the submarine arm) was an evacuation of her army forces stationed in the Philippines. Once it became clear Antara could not hold her possessions in South-East Asia it was decided they would be abandoned to avoid losses.
The Antaran’s second naval encounter with Japan was on 4 December 1940, against their Southern Expeditionary Fleet. One of two fleet elements assisting in the evacuation of remaining Antaran forces in the Philippines was intercepted before arriving south of Manila. At 14:30 the Antaran force was 4km off Manila when visual contact was made with the Japanese squadron North-West of Manila, led by cruisers Takao and Atago, escorted by destroyers Sagiri, Oboro, Akebono, Murasame and Kawakaze.
The flagship of the Antaran force was ARS Speirs under command of Captain McCaine. The destroyer flotilla under his command included Eastwood, Richmond and Lara, all of whom were assigned to protect seven transport ships for Antaran troops awaiting evacuation. IJA land based aircraft had spotted the force hours earlier and thus Takao and Atago were prepared to face them, which allowed them to attain the element of surprise. The Antarans requested support from any surrounding units, which was picked up by cruiser Alexandria and a submarine which was under radio silence. Neither ships was able to assist in time.
The Japanese destroyers screened for their cruisers, being the first to open fire. ARS Richmond created a smoke screen and headed towards North-East Manila, covering the transports who continued along their original course for the port. The other destroyers took course in the opposite direction, west, in hopes to lure the enemy away from the transports. The Japanese force split into two groups, Akebono and Murasame went east after Richmond, while the rest went after Speirs and the two other destroyers. Akebono and Murasame fired in total ten torpedoes towards Richmond, which was still laying a smoke screen. Both IJN destroyers held their fire and turned again to close in on Richmond, their captains thinking that opening fire would cause Richmond to begin maneuvering and thus avoid their torpedoes. Richmond however spotted the torpedoes regardless, but her captain made the mistake of directing the ship east behind her own smokescreen, making the torpedoes impossible to spot. Richmond was hit by a torpedo and her stern was blown off. Richmond sank with her bow facing up at the loss of 62 sailors. Of the 9 torpedoes that continued to sail, one hit a transport ship, while the rest overshot the slow moving vessels.
Unsure of the outcome of the torpedo attack, Akebono and Murasame turned back west to support their allies. At 14:50 the Antarans opened fire on Sagiri who led the Japanese column. Both groups turned and sailed relatively parallel to one another, the Antarans still needing to close into their 8km torpedo range, whilst Sagiri fired her entire set of long lance torpedoes. A shell hit her middle torpedo launcher, but the torpedo tubes were already empty, so the damage was insignificant. The Antaran force turned closer towards the IJN force as soon as their torpedoes were spotted, drawing them into a very uncomfortable range. McCain then ordered his last trailing destroyer, ARS Lara, to turn east towards Manila. The forces were now travelling opposite one another and trading large volumes of shells. The Antarans’ high rate of fire ensured Oboro sustained heavy damage before her boilers exploded, causing her to drift off. Kawakaze turned away to avoid colliding with the now disabled Oboro. Takao and Atago who were 2km way from their screening destroyers turned east, brought their guns to bear and opened fire on Eastwood and Lara. Takao landed three main battery shells on Lara, but it was shells from her 127mm battery that caused hull breaches, which caused her to flood and slowly sink.
[I updated ARS Speirs and redid her camo scheme. Her original was kinda ugly. Her image under the Jinora class has also been updated]
Eastwood succumbed to gunfire from both cruisers and sank with all hands on board. The smoke and fire from Eastwood covered Speirs’ escape, who retreated at a speed of 40 knots unpursued. The disabled Oboro was later torpedoed by a responding submarine. Cruiser Alexandria, escorted by destroyers Urana and Harper, passed by Speirs which retired from the engagement. By 16:00, Manila was blockaded by the Japanese force, but the transport vessels had made it into the bay and continued with the evacuation whilst being harrassed by land based planes. Alexandria, along with her escorts engaged the IJN taskforce at at 16:20. Atago withdrew due to evading torpedoes from Urana, the latter of which ended up getting torpedoed by destroyer Sagiri. Takao and Alexandria engaged in an indecisive gun duel, Takao retreated due to receiving heavy damage from 8" and 5" fire (from Harper), whilst Alexandria's command deck was destroyed. The confusion due to the lack of leadership (the command crew was killed) ended in the cruiser wandering away from the battlefield for nearly an hour. The transports Alexandria was also escorting was guided in by Harper, who in turn provided cover inside the bay while procedures continued well into the night and early morning. Whilst attempting to leave the harbour, ARS Harper was targetted by a G3M and torpedoed.
By 4:30AM additional Antaran forces had arrived for support, which included the destroyers Arden and Corwood, as well as 'light' cruiser Annora (she mounted 8" guns which were supposed to be replaced with 6" rifles). By 5:30AM, twelve of the original seventeen transport ships had escaped the harbour, as the rest had either been sunk by gunfire from IJN cruisers the previous night or had been bombed by aircraft. At 7:20AM, while the Antaran flotilla was withdrawing from the area they were followed by aircraft from the IJN carrier Zuikaku and Shoukaku. Their strikes were moderately successful, one retreating transport was torpedoed and Arden took two bombs which slowed her propulsion down to 8 knots and destroyed her forward battery turrets and somehow caused the gun director to stop working. Arden's captain made a transmission to the flotilla commander, stating they would catch up after they finished repairs. Arden downed two planes during and after the first strike, two D3As, whose surviving pilots were picked up by the vessel's whaleboat. Submarine V-81 (ARS Roseland) came to the assistance of the destroyer at 8:40 and after failing to find a way to get the ship moving after it's engines completely failed, Roseland offered to tow her to Surubaya. While en route to Surubaya via the Makassar Straight, both ships encountered patrolling IJN destroyers Harukaze and Asakaze which were in fact pursuing them after the previous air attacks. While Arden was a vastly superior destroyer to the older IJN boats, the combination of her slow speed (she was still being towed) and her mostly inoperable main battery meant she was unable to effectivly defend herself from the shelling that soon came. Roseland initially detached from Arden and opened fire with her single 100mm gun, but dove to periscope depth soon after. Torpedo attacks were unsuccessful as they were easily avoided by the fast IJN destroyers, who after apparently sinking Arden(reports are murky about what actually happened to the ship after Roseland dived, though it has been obviously concluded she was lost as Arden never returned to port) attempted to depth charge her. Roseland went silent for several hours and managed to evade both ships.
However Harukaze and Asakaze were sunk within a week after the battle, the latter was torpedoed by a PT boat and the former was rather poetically torpedoed by Roseland whilst on war patrol.