Diego Suarez

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HM Naval Base, Diego Suarez
HMS Ironclad
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, Diego Suarez usually a Captain or Commander.


Map of RN Bases and Ports Indian Ocean in World War Two. © Gordon Smith https://www.naval-history.net

The bay and city originally used the name Diego-Suarez, named after Diogo Soares, a Portuguese navigator who visited the bay in 1543–44. In the 1880s, the bay was coveted by France, which desired it as a coaling station for steamships. After the first Franco-Hova War, Queen Ranavalona III signed a treaty on December 17, 1885, granting France a protectorate over the bay and surrounding territory, as well as the islands of Nosy-Be and Ste. Marie de Madagascar.

The colony's administration was subsumed into that of Madagascar in 1896. The Second Pacific Squadron of Imperial Russia anchored and was resupplied at Diego-Suarez on its way to the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. In 1942, Diego-Suárez was the primary objective of Operation Ironclad, the starting point of the Allied invasion and capture of Madagascar.

The Allies were concerned that Japan would pressure Vichy France into granting use of Madagascar, as they had with French Indo-China during the previous year, and determined that the island should not be made a base for the interception of Allied shipping. Diego-Suarez, with its superb harbour and a concentration of government officials, was selected as the initial invasion point.

The Japanese responded with an attack by midget submarines on the British naval forces in the harbour, damaging the battleship HMS Ramillies and sinking the oil tanker British Loyalty. France continued to operate a military base in the city following Malagasy independence in 1960. Between 1973 and 1975, French forces were withdrawn.

Naval HQ

Royal Navy and Dominions ships at Diego Suarez harbour 5 May 1942 for the start of Operation Ironclad

Naval Officer-in-Charge, Diego Suarez (1942-1945)

Naval Officer-in-Charge, Diego Suarez
Rank Insig Name Term Notes/Ref
1 Captain RN Captain Rank Insignia.png E.F.B. Law 24 May 1942, December, 1943 [1]
2 Commander RN Commander Rank Insignia.png W. Pennefather January 1944, January, 1945 -

Components under this Command

Air Sections

Royal Naval Air Section, R.A.F. Station Andrakaka.

Unit Native Name Location Active Ref
Royal Naval Air Section, Andrakaka HMS Ironclad Andrakaka, Diego Suarez 24 May 1942 - 16 September 1943 [4]


  1. Admiralty, British. (December 1943) The Navy List Bi Monthly. Flag Officers in Commission. H.M.S.O. London. England. p.2021.
  2. Admiralty, British. (October 1944) The Navy List Quarterly. Flag Officers in Commission. H.M.S.O. London. England. p.2264.
  3. Admiralty, British. (January 1945) The Navy List Quarterly. Flag Officers in Commission. H.M.S.O. London. England. p.2343.
  4. Drury, Tony (2010–2020). "Andrakaka". www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk. T. Drury. Retrieved 27 September 2020.