Action of 17 July 1944

Last updated
Action of 17 July 1944
Part of World War II, Pacific War
Date17 July 1944
Result British victory
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan
Commanders and leaders
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Commander Bill King Naval ensign of the Empire of Japan.svg Lieutenant Suwa Koichiro
1 submarine 1 Submarine
Casualties and losses
None 1 Submarine sunk
88 killed

The Action of 17 July 1944 was a submarine engagement of World War II. It resulted in the sinking of the Japanese Navy's Kadai class submarine I-166 in the Strait of Malacca by the British Royal Navy submarine Telemachus. [1]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Imperial Japanese Navy Naval branch of the Empire of Japan

The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1868 until 1945, when it was dissolved following Japan's surrender in World War II. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) was formed after the dissolution of the IJN.

Strait of Malacca Strait between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra

The Strait of Malacca or Straits of Malacca is a narrow, 550 mi (890 km) stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. As the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, it is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world. It is named after the Malacca Sultanate that ruled over the archipelago between 1400 and 1511.

Operating for the first time with the Eastern Fleet at Colombo in Ceylon, Commander Bill King on 13 July had put himself in a position known as One Fathom bank in order to intercept Japanese traffic between Penang and Singapore. They waited until the 17th when submerged, the ASDIC operator alerted King to the sound of propellers, and the watch soon spotted a Japanese submarine; that being I-166. [2]

Colombo Commercial Capital in Western Province, Sri Lanka

Colombo is the commercial capital and largest city of Sri Lanka by population. According to the Brookings Institution, Colombo metropolitan area has a population of 5.6 million, and 752,993 in the city proper. It is the financial centre of the island and a popular tourist destination. It is located on the west coast of the island and adjacent to the Greater Colombo area which includes Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, the legislative capital of Sri Lanka and Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia. Colombo is often referred to as the capital since Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is within the urban area of, and a suburb of, Colombo. It is also the administrative capital of the Western Province and the district capital of Colombo District. Colombo is a busy and vibrant place with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins.

Bill King (Royal Navy officer)

Commander William Donald Aelian King, DSO & Bar, DSC was a British naval officer, yachtsman and author. He was the oldest participant in the first solo non-stop, around-the-world yacht race, the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, and the only person to command a British submarine on both the first and last days of World War II.

Penang State of Malaysia

Penang is a Malaysian state located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, by the Malacca Strait. It has two parts: Penang Island, where the capital city, George Town, is located, and Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula. The second smallest Malaysian state by land mass, Penang is bordered by Kedah to the north and the east, and Perak to the south. Penang Island is connected to the rest of the state by Malaysia's two longest road bridges, the Penang Bridge and the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge; the latter is also as of May 2019 the longest oversea bridge in Southeast Asia.


Despite limited visibility because of mist, Telemachus tracked I-166 for 30 minutes, waited until it was less than a mile distant and reached the firing point beam on. [1] At 07:20 King fired a spread of six Torpex warhead torpedoes at 1,500 yards, and then tried to swing the boat to fire her stern torpedoes. This manoeuvre however, failed and Telemachus lost control and briefly broke surface. Ninety-two seconds after the launch however, one torpedo managed to hit the stern of I-166. [1] The Japanese boat sank immediately and eighty-eight men were killed. Lt Suwa and the navigating officer were blown overboard. Seven hours later they were picked up by Malayan fishermen. [3]

Torpex is a secondary explosive, 50% more powerful than TNT by mass. Torpex comprises 42% RDX, 40% TNT and 18% powdered aluminium. It was used in the Second World War from late 1942, at which time some used the names Torpex and RDX interchangeably, much to the confusion of today's historical researchers. The name is short for torpedo explosive, having been originally developed for use in torpedoes. Torpex proved to be particularly useful in underwater munitions because the aluminium component had the effect of making the explosive pulse last longer, which increased the destructive power. Torpex was used only in critical applications, e.g. torpedoes, depth charges, and the Upkeep, Tallboy, and Grand Slam bombs. It was also used in the Operation Aphrodite drones. Torpex has long been superseded by H6 and PBX compositions. It is therefore regarded as obsolete, so Torpex is unlikely to be encountered except in old munitions or unexploded ordnance.

Soon after the sinking the Japanese attempted to intercept and sink Telemachus but without success. Telemachus returned to Colombo. King was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) on 16 January 1945 "For outstanding courage, skill and determination in one of H.M. Submarines in successful patrols in Far Eastern waters" [4] (specifically the sinking of the I-166). [5]

Distinguished Service Cross (United Kingdom) British medal for act of gallantry

The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is a third level military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 ratings and other ranks, of the British Armed Forces, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and British Merchant Navy, and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries.

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  1. 1 2 3 King p 179-81
  2. King pg 175
  3. Imperial Japanese Navy Page
  4. "No. 36895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 January 1945. p. 417.
  5. British Medal Forum. "Local Hero". British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, South African and all Commonwealth Medals. Retrieved on 7 January 2008.
International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.