Andaman Islands

Digital map of southern Asia

Relief map of the Andaman Islands

The Andaman Islands lie between Sumatra and Burma and separate the Bay of Bengal from the Indian Ocean.  They are part of the island arc making up most of the Netherlands East Indies, but they were British possessions in 1941.

There are about 200 islands in the group with a total area of about 2500 square miles.  The islands are rugged and jungle-clad, with few inhabitants.  Earthquakes are frequent.  The only significant settlement is Port Blair, which had only primitive facilities in 1941. The islands were defended by a single Gurkha battalion in December 1941, and this was withdrawn shortly after war broke out.

A battalion from 18 Division occupied the Andamans on 23 March 1942, just prior to Nagumo's raid into the Indian Ocean. Forces based on the islands were well-placed both to protect the sea lane from Rangoon to Singapore and to provide reconnaissance into the eastern Indian Ocean.

On 19 January 1943, a force of six British scouts landed on Middle Andaman Island and carried out a daring 32-day reconnaissance, covering 130 miles and mapping the defenses around Port Blair. They reported that Japanese brutality had turned the population against the occupiers and recommended oganizing a guerrilla campaign, but there were no resources for this at the time.

At the Cairo conference in November 1943, the British proposed an operation to retake the Andamans, BUCCANEER, but with assault shipping already committed to the Normandy invasion and operations in the Pacific, the plan was dropped. The islands remained in Japanese hands throughout the war.

The Japanese treated the civilian population of the Andamans with great harshness. In July 1945 about 300 civilians, mostly the elderly, women, and children who could not work, were forcibly transported to Havelock Island (92.988E 11.975516N), an uninhabited island with no significant food suppy, and were left to starve. Only eleven were left to be rescued on 21 September 1945. On 13 August 1945 some 750 civilians were transported to Taimugli Island (92.535E 11.576N) and shot.


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