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Lieutenant Ian Edward Fraser, Royal Naval Reserve

Ian Fraser was born on 18th Dec 1920. On leaving school he joined the Merchant Service and later joined the Royal Naval Reserve.

After the outbreak of the 2nd World War he was called for service as a Lieutenant, RNR and, on 1st Apr 1942 he was appointed to HMS Dolphin (5th Submarine Flotilla) 'for Submarine HMS Sahib – standing by whilst completing' at the Cammell Laird Shipyard at Birkenhead 'and as the Navigator on commissioning'. After Commissioning and 'Work Up' HMS Sahib was sent to the Mediterranean and joined the 8th Submarine Flotilla based on the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Maidstone at Algiers.

On 21st Jan 1942 HMS Sahib sank the U-Boat U-301 off Corsica and Ian Fraser was awarded the DSC for his part in the attack - see London Gazette dated 6th Apr 1943.

HMS Sahib note the absence of a 'Bandstand' & Oerlikon gun. Deck gun can be seen as can the aft torpedo tube
HMS Sahib note the absence of a 'Bandstand' & Oerlikon gun. Deck gun can be seen as can the aft torpedo tube

On his return home from the Mediterranean he was appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Cyclops (7th Submarine Flotilla) at Rothesay 'for Submarine H44 as the First Lieutenant' on 8th Jul 1943. He served in H44 until 21st Feb 1944 when he was appointed to HMS Varbel (12th Submarine Flotilla) at Port Bannantyne 'for X Craft Duties'.

On 7th Dec 1944 he was appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Bonaventure at Port Bannantyne. HMS Bonaventure was sent to the Far East with a Flotilla of XE Craft – now designated at the 14th Submarine Flotilla and based at Subic Bay.

Ian Fraser was selected as the Commanding Officer of Submarine XE3 and tasked to carry out an attack on the Japanese Cruiser Takao at Singapore. HMS Bonaventure moved to a new base at Labuan Island closer to Singapore before launching the attack.

Leaving at about noon on 26th Jul 1945 Submarine XE3 was towed to her launch point by Submarine HMS Stygian (Lt Guy C Clarabut, DSO, DSC, RN. For the tow XE3 was manned by a Passage Crew led by Sub Lieutenant Frank Ogden, RNVR. With about forty miles to go to the target the 'Passage Crew' was relieved by the 'Operational Crew' and the attack commenced at approximately 1100 on 30th Jul 1945.

The attack is described as follows:

During the long approach up the Singapore Straits XE3 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 XE3 to place herself under the cruiser. For forty minutes XE3 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 XE3 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.

After the attack XE3 successfully met up with HMS Stygian and Fraser and his crew were relieved by the Passage Crew after some 50 hours without sleep.

Ian Fraser was awarded the Victoria Cross, as was his diver Able Seaman James Magennis. His two Officers were awarded the DSO and his Engine Room Artificer was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. After he returned home Ian Fraser was appointed to HMS Dolphin on 16th January 1946.

Ian Fraser's Victoria Cross and other medals are on display in the Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum in London.



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Temporary Acting Leading Seaman James Joseph MagennisLieutenant Norman Douglas Holbrook