An Indo-Pak war had been brewing even before it became inevitable after the Rann of Kutch crisis in 1965. Having been given a bloody nose and severely embarrassed by 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 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 to its counterpart on 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’s coastal 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 somewhat ineffectual 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 its gun-armed ships would consequently be able to rapidly deliver a considerable weight of fire and retire than would be likely possible by modern warships equipped with lighter 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, Shah Jahan and frigate Tippu Sultan 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) was a 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/Overlord whilst facing mines and radio-controlled glide bombs, plus rough seas; with her destroyer escort sinking the German auxiliary Sperrbrecher 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 Shah Jahan (ex-Charity), Alamgir (ex-Creole), and Jahangir.