Addu Atoll

From Naval History Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search
HM Naval Base, Addu Atoll
HMS Haitan (1942-44) HMS Maraga (1944-45)
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
CountryFlag of France 1794 to 1815 and 1830 to 1958.png Diego Suarez, French Madagascar
AllegianceFlag United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.gif United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
TypeNaval Base & Station
Garrison/HQRN Base, Diego Suarez, Madagascar

Diego Suarez was a naval base command of the British Royal Navy and Royal Indian Navy, it was first established during world war two from 1942 to 1945. At various times it encompassed a shore base, naval formations and other ships not attached to other formations.

The commanding officer was called Naval Officer-in-Charge Addu Atoll usually a Captain or Commander.


Map of RN Bases and Ports Indian Ocean in World War Two. © Gordon Smith

Addu Atoll, also known as Seenu Atoll, is the southernmost atoll of modern day Maldives. Unlike other atolls of the Maldives, Addu Atoll has a lagoon that is a natural anchorage, accessible through four natural channels. This results in a natural harbor that is very calm and safe for sea vessels at all times and is not affected by seasonal changes.

During the Second World War Addu atoll was the site of a secret Royal Navy base called HMS Haitan, to take advantage of the deep anchorage and sheltered natural harbour there. Oil tanks and storage facilities were built on Gan island, together with an airstrip and a flying boat base. The base remained unknown to the Axis throughout the early years of the war. In 1941, during the Second World War, the Royal Navy established a base ("Port T"). An isolated island base with a safe, deep anchorage in a suitably strategic position was required, and Addu met the requirements. Once available, its facilities were used extensively by the Fleet.

Royal Navy engineers landed in August 1941 from HMS Guardian to clear and construct airstrips on Gan for the Fleet Air Arm. In the interim, Catalina and Sunderland flying boats operated from jetties on the northern, sheltered side of Gan. Large oil tanks were built on Gan, and on Hitaddu Island on the western edge of the atoll; vital elements for a naval base. These were visible from a long distances at sea, but this was unavoidable, given the atoll's low profile.

Ship's supplies for the fleet were provided from a pair of Australian refrigerated ships, Changte and Taiping that included Addu in a number of bases that they serviced regularly. Three times these ships replenished forty or more ships of the Eastern Fleet. Several large Australian Imperial Force troop convoys also refueled at Addu on their way from Aden to Fremantle, Western Australia.

The six major islands were garrisoned by the 1st Royal Marine Coast Defence Regiment, manning shore batteries and anti-aircraft guns. To facilitate the defence, causeways were built connecting the western islands of Gan, Eyehook (Abuhera), Maradhoo and Hithadhoo and, much later in the war, they were linked by a light railway. Addu was an unpopular posting due to the hot, humid climate, lack of recreational facilities and lack of socialising with the local population.

The Japanese remained unaware of the base’s existence until their plans for expansion in South-east Asia had come to nothing, even during their carrier raids in the Indian Ocean in April 1942. Later in the war, submarine reconnaissance established the base’s existence. Despite openings into the lagoon being permanently closed by anti-submarine nets, the German U-boat U-183 torpedoed the tanker British Loyalty in March 1944 (she had been previously torpedoed and sunk at Diego Suarez in May 1942, but was raised and towed to Addu for use as an oil storage vessel); this was a long-range shot from outside the atoll through a gap in the anti-torpedo nets. Although seriously damaged, the tanker did not sink. She was not fully repaired but kept as a Ministry of War Transport Oil Fuel Storage Vessel. There was significant oil pollution after this incident and British personnel were used to clean the lagoon, but they were only partially successful.

On 5 January 1946, British Loyalty was scuttled southeast of Hithadhoo Island in the Addu Atoll lagoon. Despite the fact that she is still leaking oil, she has become a popular diving location. In 1957, the naval base was transferred to the Royal Air Force. From 1957, during the Cold War, it was used as an outpost as RAF Gan. The base remained in intermittent service until 1976, when British Forces withdrew.

In Command

Naval Officer-in-Charge Addu Atoll (1942-1944)

Naval Officer-in-Charge Addu Atoll
Rank Insig Name Term Notes/Ref
1 Lieutenant Commander RN Lieutenant Commander Rank Insignia.png Herbert Victor Creer 1942
2 Commander RN Commander Rank Insignia.png Edward Arthur Codrington Ball 14 October 1943, 30 January, 1944 (acting).[1]

Associated Naval Establishments

Royal Naval Air Station, Addu Atoll

Commanding Officer, Royal Naval Air Station, Addu Atoll

Commanding Officer, Royal Naval Air Station, Addu Atoll
Rank Insig Name Term Notes/Ref
1 Commander (A) RN Commander Rank Insignia.png H. L. McCulloch December,1942 - June 1944. [2]


  1. Houterman, Hans; Koppes, Jeroen. "Royal Navy (RN) Officers 1939-1945  --  B". Netherlands: Houterman and Koppes. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  2. Drury, Tony (2008–2020). "Addu Atoll". T. Drury. Retrieved 15 September 2020.