- Name: Ian Edward FRASER
- D.O.B: 18th Dec, 1920
- D.O.A: 31st Jul, 1945
- D.O.D: 1st Sep, 2008
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Lieutenant, HM Submarine XE3, Royal Naval Reserve
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
The Second World War 1945
By the beginning of 1945 the war was in its last stages and at the Yalta Conferencebetween 4 and 11 February 1945 Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin began to map outthe post-war administration of Europe. Victory, however, had still to be achieved.The desperate last German offensive, the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ in the Ardennes, which hadopened on 16 December 1944, was routed in January 1945. It left Hitler with no further militaryreserves and confronted by seven Allied armies along Germany’s West Wall, while theRussians advanced inexorably from the east. However, the German Army, now called on todefend its homeland, was in no mood for surrender.On 20 January 1945 the Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower, divided theforthcoming campaign into three phases, the destruction of all enemy forces west of theRhine, the establishment of bridgeheads across the Rhine and the advance into Germany.In fact, the first phase had already begun and by 10 March 1945 the Allies had reachedthe Rhine. Despite their losses the Germans had withdrawn in good order, destroying allbridges behind them except those at Remagen and Oppenheim. The Allies now crossed theRhine but a dispute arose between them over priorities. The British were eager to make adash for Berlin. However, by 31 March the nearest western Allies were still 275 miles westof the German capital, while a Russian army, one million strong, was only 40 miles east ofit. Roosevelt supported Eisenhower’s decision that the Russians should be allowed to takeBerlin, while the Americans headed for the River Elbe and Leipzig and the British on theirleft flank aimed for Bremen and Lübeck.Meanwhile, the German army in Northern Italy was being rolled back. Despite the transferof manpower from this theatre, which had precluded a faster conclusion to the campaign,the Allies had maintained pressure on the Germans’ Gothic Line and their winter objectivefor 1944 had been a line from La Spezia on the west, through Bologna to Ravenna in theeast. Given the Germans’ determination to hold on to the North Italian Plain, this had provedoptimistic though Ravenna had been captured on 4 December 1944. The Allied 1945 SpringOffensive in Italy opened on 9 April 1945. In the east Eighth Army crossed the River Senioand by 17 April V Corps had taken Argenta and the Argenta Gap. There were now no furtherrivers between them and the Po. On 21 April American and Polish forces captured Bologna.Two days later, on 23 April, the Allies crossed the River Po. On 25 April, Mantua, Parmaand Verona were liberated. In the west, Fifth Army took La Spezia, with its naval base, on 24April and on the 27th entered Genoa.The complete destruction of the Axis powers in the west had now been accomplished. On29 April in a meeting at Allied Headquarters, Caserta, General Vietinghoff, agreed the surrenderterms for the one million German troops under his command in Italy, to take effectfrom 2 May. The day before Mussolini had been caught by Italian Partisans and shot. By 25April the Russians had encircled Berlin. Hitler committed suicide on 30 April and the cityfell on 2 May. On 4 May 1945, at Montgomery’s headquarters on Luneburg Heath, Germanenvoys signed the unconditional surrender of all forces in Northern Germany. On 7 May, atEisenhower’s Headquarters in Rheims, in the presence of representatives of the USA, GreatBritain, France and the USSR, General Jodl and Admiral Friedeburg signed the surrender ofall German forces. VE Day, Victory in Europe, was celebrated on 8 May.Though victory was now equally certain in South East Asia and the Far East, the wardragged on there for several months. In Burma Arakan had been largely cleared of theenemy. The port of Akyab was recaptured on 4 January 1945 while the Battle of Kangaw atthe end of the month and the actions that followed had aimed with mixed success to preventJapanese forces retreating across the Arakan Yomas into the Irrawaddy valley. However, thesecuring of the forward airfields at Akyab and Ramree helped make possible the advance ofFourteenth Army towards Rangoon. The British crossed to the east bank of the Irrawaddy inFebruary. The attack on Mandalay began on 8 March, while Meiktila eventually fell on 20March 1945. The British now began moving south down both the Irrawaddy and the mainrailway from Meiktila, destroying a Japanese blocking force at Pyawbwe in April. They werenow within striking distance of Rangoon when on 2 May the Monsoon began. Fortunately,fearing that they might be delayed, Mountbatten had already set in train Operation Dracula,an amphibious assault on the city. On 1 May, 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, dropped fromthirty-eight Dakotas, knocked out the Japanese coastal guns protecting Rangoon. Next day,the British made an unopposed seaborne landing and liberated Rangoon. This left 100,000scattered Japanese troops in the country trying to retreat east of the Sittang estuary and withdrawinto Thailand.In the Pacific also the Japanese were being driven back on all fronts. On Bougainville,they were forced into three small pockets on the island. In New Guinea the Australiansadvanced east along the North Coast from Aitape towards Wewak, which fell in May. Theremaining Japanese were penned into the Prince Alexander Mountains. In April 1945, withAmerican help, the Australians began an offensive to recapture the Netherlands East Indies,while the Americans were busy with their own reconquest of The Philippines. On 1 May theAustralians landed in Borneo.At this stage, it was still thought the war might continue to mid-1946 or even 1947. Malayaremained in enemy hands and the conquest of Japan itself presented a formidable challenge.An amphibious assault on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu was planned for November 1945,and on the main island, Honshu, near Tokyo, for spring 1946. Hostilities were, however, dramaticallycut short when the Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima on 6 August1945 and on Nagasaki on 9 August. The Japanese agreed to a ceasefire on 15 August, VJDay, though this decision took time to reach all their forces. In Burma some fighting continuedeast of the River Sittang until the signing of the preliminary surrender agreement on28 August 1945. On 2 September, General MacArthur accepted the Japanese unconditionalsurrender aboard the USS Missouri. The Second World War was over. It had lasted six years.
Lieutenant Fraser commanded His Majesty’s Midget Submarine XE-3 in a successful attack on a Japanese heavy cruiser of the Atago class at her moorings in Johore Strait, Singapore, on 31st July, 1945. During the long approach up the Singapore Straits XE-3 deliberately left the believed safe channel and entered mined waters to avoid suspected hydrophone posts. The target was aground, or nearly aground, both fore and aft, and only under the midship portion was there just sufficient water for XE-3 to place herself under the cruiser. For forty minutes XE-3 pushed her way along the seabed until finally Lieutenant Fraser managed to force her right under the centre of the cruiser. Here he placed the limpets and dropped his main side charge. Great difficulty was experienced in extricating the craft after the attack had been completed, but finally XE-3 was clear, and commenced her long return journey out to sea. The courage and determination of Lieutenant Fraser are beyond all praise. Any man not possessed of his relentless determination to achieve his object in full, regardless of all consequences, would have dropped his side charge alongside the target instead of persisting until he had forced his submarine right under the cruiser. The approach and withdrawal entailed a passage of 80 miles through water which had been mined by both the enemy and ourselves, past hydrophone positions, over loops and controlled minefields, and through an anti-submarine boom.