Photograph of Colombo in 1908

Naval History and Heritage Command #NH 1779

Colombo (79.8614E 6.9381N) was a minor harbor as early as the 12th century, when Arab traders first arrived in the area. The Portuguese founded the present city in 1520, but it was later seized by the Dutch (in 1656) and British (in 1796). The British build a large artificial harbor between 1875 and 1885 that was capable of anchoring 40 ships, transforming Colombo into the most important ports and administrative center in the region. By fall 1941 the port was equipped with SCR270 radar to provide air raid warning, and a new airfield was under construction at Ratmalana (79.886E 6.822N). An airstrip was also hastily constructed at the racecourse (79.864E 6.904N) and so well camoflauged that the Japanese never detected it.

42 Hurricanes were based at the airfields when war broke out.

Colombo was raided by 130 aircraft from Nagumo's carriers during the Japanese raid into the Indian Ocean, 5 April 1942. The British had sufficient warning that the harbor was largely cleared of merchant shipping, which meant that the brunt of the attack fell on the harbor facilities. However, the Japanese had sent a second force into the Bay of Bengal, which sunk 83,000 tons of shipping -- much of it shipping dispersed from Colombo.

Climate Information:

Elevation 24'

Temperatures: Jan 86/72, Apr 88/76, Jul 85/77, Oct 85/75, record 96/59

Rainfall: Jan 7/3.5, Apr 14/9.1, Jul 12/5.3, Oct 19/13.7 == 92.3" per annum


Pearce and Smith (1990)

Richards and Saunders (1954; accessed 2012-9-10)

Willmott (1982)

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