03 September 2008

RIP: Ian Edward Fraser VC

Ian Edward Fraser VC DSC RD*
18 Dec 1920 – 1 Sep 2008

ZUI this article from the Liverpool Echo:
ONE OF Merseyside’s most decorated war heroes died yesterday, his family have confirmed.

Lieutenant Commander Ian Fraser won the Victoria Cross after a death-defying raid on a Japanese ship during World War II.

The 87-year-old passed away at Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral, on Monday after a three week illness.


Commanding a midget submarine off the Singapore coast, in broad daylight in May 1945, Lt Cmdr Fraser steered a course through 80 miles of mined water, past hydrophonic listening posts, over loops and controlled minefields, and through an anti-submarine boom.

But after 24 hours submerged they reached their target: the Japanese vessel Takeo in the Jahore Strait.

His leading seaman left the craft to attach explosives to the hull of the ship but by the time he returned the falling tide had left the XE3 midget submarine wedged between the Takeo - now a ticking time bomb - and the seabed. It took Lt Cmdr Fraser 50 nerve-shredding minutes to manoeuvre his craft out from under the ship.


He is survived by his wife Melba, five of six children, 13 grand children and 7 great grand children.

ZUI also this article from The Telegraph:
Lieutenant-Commander Ian Fraser, who died on Monday aged 87, won the Victoria Cross as captain of the midget submarine XE3 in Operation Struggle, a daring attack on the Japanese 10,000-ton heavy cruiser Takao in the Johore Straits, off Singapore Dockyard, just before the end of the Second World War.


Ian Edward Fraser was born on December 18 1920, and was taken at a few months old to Kuala Lumpur, where his father was working as a marine engineer. He went to the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, and then HMS Conway, the training ship in the Mersey.

In 1938 he joined the Blue Funnel Line and went to sea as a cadet in Tuscan Star and Sydney Star. After joining the battleship Royal Oak as a midshipman, RNR, for what he thought was to be four months’ training, he was aboard for the Fleet Review in Weymouth Bay, Dorset, in July 1939.

When war broke out, Fraser served in the destroyer Keith. He was in the destroyer Montrose at Dunkirk, and in another destroyer, Malcolm, when she and other escorts sank U-651 in the Atlantic on June 29 1941.

Then — “for no valid reason which I can now recall” — he volunteered for submarines. He served in P35 and H43 before joining Sahib in the “Fighting Tenth” submarine squadron in the Mediterranean.

He won a DSC in April 1943 after Sahib, west of Corsica on January 21 1943, sank U-301 as well as several Axis supply ships. At a post-patrol party aboard a depot ship, somebody threw a heavy brass ashtray which broke a bone in Fraser’s foot. As a result he was not on Sahib’s next patrol, in which the sub was lost and all but one of its crew became PoWs.


Fraser remained in the RNR rank until he retired as a lieutenant- commander in 1966. He was awarded the Reserve Decoration with Long Service Bar, became a JP and vice-president of the Merseyside Branch of the Submarine Old Comrades’ Association.

In addition he was a Younger Brother of Trinity House and, since 2002, had been United Kingdom vice-chairman of the VC/GC Association. His memoirs, Frogman VC, were published in 1957.

For more on Takao, see here.

Fraser was the last surviving member of the Royal Navy to hold the Victoria Cross. There are now ten surviving VC holders:
Lt Col Eric C T Wilson VC, East Surrey Regiment - Somaliland, 1940
WO Tul Bahadur Pun VC, 6th Gurkha Rifles - Burma, 1944
Flt Lt John A Cruickshank VC, RAFVR - North Atlantic, 1944
Hav Lachhiman Gurung VC, 8th Gurkha Rifles - Burma, 1945
Pte Edward Kenna VC, Australian Imperial Force - New Guinea, 1945
Sgt William Speakman VC, The Black Watch - Korea, 1951
Capt Ram Bahadur Limbu VC MVO, 10th Gurkha Rifles - Borneo, 1965
WO Keith Payne VC OAM, Australian Army - Vietnam, 1969
Pte Johnson G Beharry VC, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment - Iraq, 2004
Cpl Bill H Apiata VC, New Zealand SAS - Afghanistan, 2004

******* *** *******


Lieutenant, Royal Naval Reserve; commanding HM Midget Submarine XE-3

Born: 18 December 1920, Ealing, London
Died: 1 September 2008, Wirral, Merseyside

Citation: Lieutenant Fraser commanded His Majesty's Midget Submarine XE-3 in a successful attack on a Japanese heavy cruiser of the Atago class at her moorings in Johore Strait, Singapore, on 31st July, 1945. During the long approach up the Singapore Straits XE-3 deliberately left the believed safe channel and entered the mined waters to avoid suspected hydrophone posts. The target was aground, or nearly aground, both fore and aft, and only under the midships portion was there just sufficient water for XE-3 to place herself under the cruiser. For forty minutes XE-3 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 XE-3 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 objective 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 antisubmarine boom.

(London Gazette Issue 37346 dated 13 Nov 1945, published 9 Nov 1945.)

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