ON THIS day HMAS Vampire, (Commander William Moran, RAN,) (pictured) and HMS Thanet (LCDR Bernard Davies RN) launched a daring night attack on a superior Japanese force landing troops at Endau on the East Coast of Malaya. This followed a very costly attack by the RAAF which lost 27 air crew flying biplanes in daylight bombing attacks.
The two elderly destroyers were all that was left of Force Z and were ordered to attack the Japanese troopships. They attacked and fired torpedoes at the convoy escorts but no hits were recorded and they never found the troopships before they were forced to withdraw.
Vampire was illuminated by Japanese destroyers and extensively fired on but due to her smoke screen no hits were recorded and she escaped the battle. Thanet was hit in the engine room and was dead in the water. The Japanese navy picked up survivors and handed over the 30 of Thanet’s ratings to their troops on Endau the following day. They were never seen again, but are believed to have been executed in retaliation for losses sustained by the Japanese in an ambush by the Australian 2/18th Battalion, which occurred about the same time as the naval action off Endau. LCDR Davies, four other officers, and 61 ratings from Thanet managed to reach shore and walked back to Singapore, together with shot down RAAF aircrew.
Vampire survived to fight another day.