‘Target Dwarka’ – Taking the war to the enemy

Usman Ansari

AN Indo-Pak war had been brewing even before it became inevitableafter the Rann of Kutch crisis in early 1965. Having been given a bloody nose and severely embarrassedby being unable to match rhetoric with results, India was determined to teach Pakistan a lesson and fighting in the disputed territory of Kashmir gave her the opportunity. Though Pakistan’s army and especially the PAF snatched the lion’s share of the credit for foiling India’s plans,Pakistan’s navy delivered a humiliating blow toits counterparton its own territory.
Prior to war things looked bleak for Pakistan.India’s navy was larger,generally better-equipped, and had far greater offensive and deterrent capability. India possessed a carrier, two cruisers, and 19 destroyers/frigates compared to Pakistan’s light cruiser, submarine, and seven destroyers/frigates. Additionally, by contemporary standards Pakistan’s navy was dated.In a missile age Pakistan’s navy was largely equipped with ex-British WWII-era all gun warships, mainly acquired via the 1954 US Mutual Defence Assistance Programme. Though Pakistan’s ships had been refurbished and modernised to some extent, India’s ships were generally more modern, with some of the same class/type of contemporary British warships.
These were mainly concentrated against West Pakistan,(only five Indian destroyers/frigates were stationed in the east), potentially enabling India to blockade West Pakistan if not attack or mount an amphibious assault, (erstwhile East Pakistan was essentially unprotected). Therefore Pakistan’s navy aimed to ensure seaward defence of its ports, maintain sea lines of communication, guard against amphibious assault, interdict enemy shipping, and assist the army’s East Pakistan riverine operations. Consequently Pakistan’s surface fleet was mainly deployed in an arc 100 miles from Karachi to concentrate force and enable adequate defence against potential attack. Therefore, any surface offensive action into Indian waters was likely considered improbable by India, with only Pakistan’s submarine, the US-supplied Tench Class Ghazi (ex-Diablo) concerning India and expected to undertake offensive action. Though India possessed modern ASW aircraft and frigates in 1965 circumstances conspired against her, giving Pakistan the opportunity to seize the initiative; what previously seemed improbable now became possible, offensive action into Indian waters.
Though the bulk of Indian forces were in the west, the Indian Majestic Class carrier, Vikrant (ex-Hercules), and one of her cruisers, the Leander Class Delhi (ex-Achilles), were being refitted in Bombay (some sources claim an unusually large number of ten warships were under refit). These refits may have been delayed because of the Rann of Kutch crisis or a final docking period to ensure they were ready for planned action against Pakistan. If so the timing would indicate India’s navy hoped this would be after September/post-monsoon when operations, especially carrier operations, would be easier. It was apparently informed of plans to attack Pakistan on September 3, effectively removing these ships from the war, but still leaving potential danger from India’s second cruiser, the Crown Colony Class Mysore (ex-Nigeria), and remaining destroyers and frigates. Alternatively, some Indian sources claim the government had hoped to restrict the conflict to land, and/or was more concerned with Indonesia’s threat to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Nevertheless, Pakistan had an opportunity, and India’scoastal town of Dwarka was the chosen target. Its radar station featured a high-frequency direction finding radio beacon used to guide Indian Canberra bombers in their missions over Karachi. The operation aimed to, destroy the radar station, lower Indian morale, divert IAF attention south, and provoke heavy elements of the Indian fleet to sail out of Bombay allowing them to be attacked by Ghazi. Ironically, Pakistan’s dated surface fleet was now a bonus as itsgun-armed ships wouldconsequently be able to rapidly deliver a considerable weight of fire and retire than would be likely possible by modern warships equipped withlighter gun armament.
Additionally, as luck would have it, when India attacked across the international border early on September 6, the surface fleet was preparing to sail for its weekly exercise. Fully fuelled, armed, and provisioned, the ships sailed before 0800 for their war positions, and on the afternoon of September 7 the cruiser Babur, destroyers Badr, Khaibar, Alamgir, Jahangir, ShahJahan and frigate TippuSultan were ordered to proceed to attack Dwarka that same night. They were to be on station to carry out a bombardment by midnight, fire 50 rounds per ship, and retire area by 0030 September 8. Only a couple of enemy frigates were expected in the area, in addition to the ever present air threat. The navy’s war had begun in earnest.
Dwarka was approximately 200 nautical miles away, but a south-westerly monsoon made for overcast skies and moderately rough seas, slowing things somewhat. Babur (ex-Diadem) wasa Dido Class light cruiser of the Bellona sub-group, armed with eight 5.25inch dual purpose guns in four turrets. Commissioned in 1944 Diadem had taken part in raids against the German battleship Tirpitz; participated in the gruelling Arctic convoys; been part of ‘Force E’ covering Juno Beach during Operation Neptune/Overlordwhilst facing mines and radio-controlled glide bombs, plus rough seas; with her destroyer escort sinking the German auxiliarySperrbrecher 7 off La Rochelle; interdicting a German supply ship off Norway and when undertaking offensive sweeps in the area with the cruiser Mauritiuson January 28 1945 engaging three German destroyers; and finishing her war by taking over the German ‘pocket battleship’ Prinz Eugen in Copenhagen harbour in May 1945. Battle Cass destroyers Badr (ex-Gabbard) and Khaibar (ex-Cadiz),and C Class destroyers ShahJahan (ex-Charity), Alamgir (ex-Creole), and Jahangir (ex-Crispin) had missed the war, and their 4.5 inch guns would be firing in anger for the first time.
The O Class destroyer Tippu Sultan (ex-Onslow) however, had been commissioned in 1941 notably serving in the Atlantic protecting convoys from prowling U-boats; Operation Harpoon to resupply Malta; the Battle of the Barents Sea successfully seeing off a hugely superior German force centred around the cruiser Admiral Hipper during which Onslow was badly damaged winning her captain the Victoria Cross; helping sink U589while escorting convoy PQ-18 to Russia in September 1942; the Battle of the North Cape in 1943; Exercise Tiger the disastrous rehearsal for D-Day and later Operation Neptune/Overlord subsequently accompanying Diadem in sinking Sperrbrecher 7. Having fought a hard war she was decommissioned in 1947, but purchased by Pakistan in 1949. Converted into a Type 16 ASW frigate over1957-59 two four inch guns replacing the earlier 4.7 inch armament. The Pakistani ships sailing for Dwarka were therefore a mix of battle-tested and capable ships, manned by eager, well-trained crews.
Conditions made station keeping and navigation difficult, but the Pakistani ships persevered, only encountering a merchant ship and perhaps one other small vessel. The action itself was very brief. The ships arrived in the target area roughly on time shortly after midnight and at 0018 began to steam towards Dwarka led by Alamgir, with Jahangir, Khaibar, Babur, Badr, Shah Jahan, and Tippu Sultan following in column. Dwarka was enforcing a blackout and only identifiable by radar, but the lighthouse provided a very good point of reference in terms of positioning for the task force. At 0024 the ships opened fire from a distance of 5.5 to 6.3 miles still closing the range. Few minutes was all it took to fire the allocated number of shells, and quickly alter course to exit the area.
Baburhowever, picked up aircraft on her powerful 281B radar (an early warning radar fitted to some British carriers), and the ships prepared themselves for an expected air attack adopting a circular formation with Babur in the centre with orders to fire on any aircraft within range. Though some ships did fire on suspected aircraft, they sped away unscathed into the night at 26knots. The Pakistani fleet arrived back in home waters by 06:35,assumed their patrol stations 100 miles off Karachi, and ready for a possible Indian response, which though possible radar contacts were observed, never materialised. The sole Indian warship in the area, the Whitby Class frigate Talwar, had been undergoing repairs to her condensers in Okha, and had not challenged the raid, (something she was later castigated for). On checking damage at Dwarkathe next day she reportedly found the radar station destroyed, the naval air station’s runway damaged and a nearby cement factory also damaged. India tried to downplay the attack and gave various reasons for not contesting or retaliating to it.
They claimed there was no real damage to the facilities and it was little more than nuisance raid.However, othersources admit the radar station was destroyed and other facilities damaged. Nevertheless, Indian air raids on Karachi ceased, implying the radar station was knocked out. Much heavier damage could have been caused had the town itself been targeted, having a larger psychological impact and increased pressure on the Indian navy to respond. However, it would have caused many civilian casualties and have been immoral. Pakistan’s navy was right to restrict itself to targeting military infrastructure in a short engagement, and Indian sources admit considerable psychological damage was done, with frustrated demands for retaliation made by the general public, Indian politicians, and navy. However, the Indian navy weathered the humiliation in port (with Mysore believed to have remained in Cochin) rather than venture out and face attackbyGhazi, but were mindful of another such raid taking place for the rest of the war. The Pakistan navy’s raid on Dwarka had been a stunning success.

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