Military & Aerospace

1971 War: The Sinking of the Ghazi
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Issue Book Excerpt: Transition to Triumph | Date : 18 Feb , 2017

Lt (TAS) (later Commodore) KP Mathew recalls:

“I clearly recall that I was on watch in the PDHQ. We were all waiting for Mrs Gandhi’s address to the nation. That was delayed by a few minutes. During that delay we received a report from the PWSS, which was located next to the Coast Battery which overlooks Vizag Outer Harbour, that there had been a very strong explosion which rattled the window panes. When they looked out, they could see a big plume of water going up quite high into the sky at a distance from them. Though the report came in very clearly, nothing much was done about it since everybody was keen to hear Mrs Gandhi. But I think it was reported by the PDHQ to the MOR that this report had come in from the PWSS”.

Cdr (E) (later Rear Admiral) GC Thadani was the Staff Officer Engineering in Headquarters Eastern Naval Command in 1971. He recalls:

“I was with the C-in-C in the MOR on the 3rd evening when CO RAJPUT was being briefed by him. As CO RAJPUT was leaving the MOR, he mentioned to me that his ship did not have wooden shores for damage control. I instantly went with him to the Shipwright Shop, gave him some shores and accompanied him to the jetty where RAJPUT was fuelling. I personally saw RAJPUT cast off. Thereafter, I went home which was on a hill which overlooked the sea. The distance from the jetty to my home was a 15 minute drive. After I reached home, whilst I was listening to All India Radio, an announcement was made that the Prime Minister’s speech had been delayed. It was during this delay period that I heard a massive explosion and the windows of my house rattled.

“The next morning at 8 o’ clock I went to the Jetty. The Commander in Chief and the Chief of Staff were talking about the GHAZI. The C-in-C went on board a boat and I went with him. We went to the site of the explosion where, I remember, Lt Sajjan Kumar was diving. He came up and told the C-in-C that he had put his hand on the ships side and felt the letters of GHAZI”.

Capt (later Commodore) KS Subra Manian, was the Indian Navy’s seniormost submariner at that time and Captain of the 8th Submarine Squadron (Capt SM in the Submarine Base at Visakhapatnam. He recalls:

…plain speaking by the FOCINC to me when he had called me to his office on 1st December and told me that RAJPUT mistaken as VIKRANT, would be torpedoed by the Pakistani submarine on outbreak of hostilities.

“The first indication of GHAZI having sunk came in the middle of the night. A muffled but powerful explosion resembling a deep underwater explosion (distinctly different from gunfire) was heard in the naval base during the night of 3/4 Dec. The next morning (4 Dec) fishermen reported finding flotsam. It was only after this discovery that it was appreciated that possibly there had been a sinking off Visakhapatnam. The next morning (5 Dec), we went out to the spot and located the wreck. The Clearance Diving Team from Vizag was ferried across. I was there with them. They found the GHAZI sunk in fairly shallow water.

“On the day before the hostilities actually broke out, she was already in position which perhaps we didn’t anticipate. She had laid mines. One of her own may have blown her up and she sank outside Vizag harbour before she could do any further damage”.

Lt (later Lt Cdr) (Diving) Sajjan Kumar was the Officer-in-Charge Command Clearance Diving Team in 1971. He recalls:

“As far as I can remember, the explosion was in the middle of night of 3rd/4th Dec. I was fast asleep when I heard a very big explosion and my own window panes rattled loudly. I must have been dead tired because I fell asleep again. It was definitely on the 3rd/4th night that there was an explosion. I heard only one explosion, not more than one.

“On 5 December I embarked on board SDB AKSHAY with my Gemini dinghies. We were accompained by a number of catamaran type fishing boats to the site of the wreck. Before sailing, I was briefed to go and locate the object and was told that it may be a submarine.

“So we went and the team dived at the site, using the fishing boats as diving platforms. I anchored the fishing boats some distance apart and sent the divers down from the fishing boats. The first diver came up and reported that it is a submarine. The first message sent to the C-in-C was that we have located a submarine. I felt the urge to dive myself but had to postpone it to a more decisive moment because the decompression regime required we could not dive to that depth more than once in a day. After the first diver had reported that it was a submarine, I sent another better diver to find out what type of submarine it was and how big. The second diver came up and said that it was a big submarine. So a second message was then sent that it is a big submarine.

It was during this delay period that I heard a massive explosion and the windows of my house rattled.

“At this stage I decided to dive myself. The visibility underwater was about 10 feet. At the depth of nearly 110 feet, the current was fairly strong, in the sense that it was not possible to swim against the current. But since a line had been snagged, we were able to reach the submarine. I first saw the silhouette from about 10 feet away. I caught hold of the various projections, the gratings, the railings and went round the entire submarine.

“Naval Headquarters had earlier provided us documents which included photos of the GHAZI from various angles, so I knew what GHAZI would look like. After I swam around and saw the various things, I came to the conclusion that this was the GHAZI and I came up. The third signal I sent to C-in-C was that it was GHAZI. After that signal was received in HQENC, they sent a message back to AKSHAY saying “Do not send any more signals.

“After about an hour, Capt Subra Manian and Admiral Krishnan came on board AKSHAY and we had a meeting. I told them what I saw about the submarine, and that there was massive damage in the portion forward of the Conning Tower”.

The submarine rescue vessel INS NISTAR undocked on the evening of 5 December. On 6 December she anchored on top of the GHAZI and commenced diving operations.

Commodore Subra Manian recalls:

“The submarine rescue vessel INS NISTAR, which had just gone into dry dock, was hastily undocked and sent out to the area on 6 Dec. The wreck was located by sonar in about 55 to 58 metres of water. After the NISTAR had moored herself over the wreck and attached a line to it, divers who went down found that the wreck had cracked open at the top forward end of the submarine, but they couldn’t get in. So they had to use plastic explosive to make an opening and enter. They then identified it as the GHAZI and recovered documents and bodies. This took about a day and probably happened on 07 Dec”.

Lieutenant (later Commander) Shafi Syed, a submariner, was embarked on board NISTAR during the diving operations on GHAZI. He recalls:

“I was instructed to embark in INS NISTAR and liaise with the Command Diving Officer to guide the divers on to the GHAZI, which had sunk off the northern side of the entrance channel to Vizag. NISTAR positioned herself on top of the GHAZI, from where we could conduct diving operations. The alignment of GHAZI, as indicated by the divers, showed that it was lying on a heading which was at 90 degrees to the entrance channel. This would be an ideal aspect from which to fire a torpedo salvo at any ship coming in or going out, which would be sunk in the channel and block it. The depth of water where she was lying was around 30 meters. She was within torpedo firing range of the harbour entrance.

“By drawing a sketch of the general construction of the submarine, I explained to the diver going down, the entry point into the conning tower. The diver reported that he had gone around the conning tower and saw that the periscope was in the raised position. He also saw a gyro pelorus, which had on top a binocular of very high magnification which could be swivelled right around. Opening the hatch the next day on 7 December, the diver entered the conning tower. He reported that there were two fully bloated bodies which were stuck in the conning tower. These were removed. Divers were then sent to recover whatever books and equipment could be brought up from the conning tower. The divers reported that there was a small plotting table in the forward end of the conning tower with some charts, GHAZI’s flag and some other flags. Most of the material which was inside the conning tower was recovered”.

Cdr (later Rear Admiral PP Sivamani) who was the Eastern Fleet’s Navigation Officer, recalls:

“A few weeks after the hostilities ended I was called to the Headquarters Eastern Naval Command one day and handed over GHAZI’s track charts, the Navigator’s Note Book and the Log recovered from GHAZI during the diving operation. I was told to analyse the track charts and submit a written report on GHAZI’s movements.

She had laid mines. One of her own may have blown her up and she sank outside Vizag harbour before she could do any further damage.

The salient points which emerged out of the analysis of these records indicated that:

  • GHAZI left Karachi for a post refit trial around November 1971. She came back after a day, apparently to rectify the defects found in the post refit trials. Then she left Karachi on the 14th and set course South for deployment on the East Coast. She stayed between longitude 64 East and 65 East till she passed west of Mangalore and then slowly curving in, she made a landfall fix at Minicoy. She passed close to Minicoy Island and gave a wide berth to Colombo. South of Ceylon she steered East North East and then on a northerly course fetched up off Madras PM 23 November.
  • At snort depth, GHAZI was doing 8 to 9 knots and maybe on surface at night it was building up to 11.5 or 12 knots. That speaks very highly of GHAZI’s performance capabilities at the time. The total distance from Karachi to Madras via Minicoy and south of Ceylon is about 2200 miles. To have traversed this distance, alternating day and night between surface and periscope or snort depth, would mean that she was averaging 10 knots. She must have been making good not less than 8 knots. Whatever be the speed made good, with the current or against the current, the fact remains that GHAZI fetched up off Madras on PM 23 November.
  • “Off Madras she did crossover patrols between the 23rd and the 25th. The tracks were very very clear. She had a series of fixes and she was concentrating exactly at the entrance to Madras, 10 to 15 miles either side, at a distance of 12 to 15 miles.
  • “She then set course for Visakhapatnam where she seems to have arrived on 27 November traversing a distance of about 340 miles. She commenced patrolling off Visakhapatnam on the 27th and did a series of crossover patrols, put out to sea eastward for a short duration, came back towards Visakhapatnam to an area 5 to 10 miles from the Entrance Channel Buoy and hung around there. The last entry made was on the midnight of 2/3 December. The chart was in fairly good condition, but the Log Book and the Navigators Note Book, written in pencil and in pen were smudged and took a little time for me to decipher.
  • “GHAZI’s cross over patrol off Visakhapatnam was confined to a very small area within a radius of about 2 miles centered on a position to the east of the Entrance Channel Buoy at about three to four miles. If a unit keeps on doing cross over patrols in such a small area, it will be very difficult to sift out the fixes or for that matter, translate the entries from the Navigators Note Book on to the chart and vice versa. Maybe she had put some entries or since the Navigator’s yeoman knew the submarine was in the same position, he did not keep on repeating the same position over and over again”.

The Sequence of Events.

The sequence of events after 5 Dec, when AKSHAY started diving operations, appears reasonably clear. As regards events prior to 5 Dec, there are two recollections which state that the explosion occurred on the night of 2/3 December.

Submarine_Ghazi_track_chartIn his book “Surrender at Dacca – Birth of a Nation”, Lt Gen JFR Jacob, who was Chief of Staff Eastern Army Command at Calcutta states:

“We had signal intercepts of the GHAZI, a Pakistani submarine, entering the Bay of Bengal and we had passed on this information to the Indian Navy.

“On the morning of 3 December, Admiral Krishnan, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief of our Eastern Naval Command, telephoned me to say that the wreckage of a Pakistani submarine had been found by fishermen on the approaches to the Visakhapatnam port. Krishnan said that the blowing up of the GHAZI, either on 1 or 2 December whilst laying mines, was an act of God. He said it would permit the Navy greater freedom of action. Next morning on 4 December, Krishnan again telephoned asking me whether we had reported the blowing up of the GHAZI to Delhi. I said that we had not as I presumed that he had done so. Relieved, he thanked me and asked me to forget our previous conversation. The official naval version given out later was that the GHAZI had been sunk by the ships of the Eastern Fleet on 4 December”.

According to Lieutenant (later Commander) H Dhingra, who was a qualified Deep Diver serving on board the NISTAR:

“The explosion was heard a little after midnight between 1st and 2 December i.e. prior to the breaking out of war. During the night of 1/2 December itself, I received a message that an explosion had been heard and that at dawn I had to go to the jetty and report to the C-in-C. At dawn on 2 December, I, together with the C-in-C Admiral Krishnan and CO Virbahu/Captain SM8, Captain Subra Manian, we went out of Vizag harbour in the Admiral’s barge. In the barge itself I saw two life jackets which had been picked up earlier by fishermen and handed over to the Navy. We found an oil slick and a lot of flotsam. Immediately thereafter, we were told to start diving. NISTAR was floated out of dock on the 5th evening and brought to the site the next day. By that time the Command Clearance Diving Team’s divers had already gone down from AKSHAY and tied a rope on to the bollard of the sunken submarine”.

The divers reported that there was a small plotting table in the forward end of the conning tower with some charts, GHAZIs flag and some other flags.

Two alternatives therefore present themselves:

  • A loud explosion was heard around midnight 3/4 December just before the Prime Minister’s broadcast to the nation. It was accompanied by a flash of light. The explosion rattled several window panes in buildings near the beach. The PWSS/Naval Battery reported the explosion to the PDHQ who reported it to the Maritime Operations Room. During the night, fishermen who saw the explosion picked up two lifejackets and took them to the Navy. At dawn on 4 December, the FOCINC Admiral Krishnan, the Captain SM 8, Capt Subra Manian and Lt Dhingra personally went to the site of a wreck after which clearance Divers went to the scene in a Gemini dinghy on 4 Dec. The Command Clearance Diving Team dived from the SDB INS AKSHAY on AM 5 December and identified the GHAZI. INS NISTAR started diving operations on 6 Dec. On 7 December, divers gained access into the GHAZI’s conning tower and recovered documents. On 8 December, GHAZI’s artefacts were sent to New Delhi. On 9 December, Naval Headquarters announced that the GHAZI was sunk off Visakhapatnam on night 3/4 December.
  • In view of Gen Jacob’s recollections about Admiral Krishnan’s phone calls on 3 and 4 December, Cdr Dhingra’s recollection that the explosion occurred on night 2/3 December and Rear Admiral Sivamani’s recollection that the last entry made on GHAZI’s track chart was on midnight 2/3 Dec, an alternative sequence of events emerges as follows:

- That GHAZI exploded at midnight on 2/3 December. Debris came to the surface, fisherman picked up and brought lifejackets to the Naval Base, which reached the C-in-C on 3 December. (On 1 December, the C-in-C was in Calcutta with General Jacob and made no mention of the GHAZI).

- At dawn on 3 December, the C-in-C, Captain Subra Manian and Lt Dhingra went to the site of the wreck in the Admiral’s barge. The C-in-C ordered diving operations to start. Clearance divers went to the site on 3 December. The C-in-C rang up General Jacob on 3 December. On the evening of 3 December war broke out.

- On 4 December, everybody was busy coping with the war. The C-in-C rang up General Jacob for the second time. AKSHAY embarked the diving team and its equipment during the 4th and started diving on the 5th. Thereafter the sequence would be the same as in (a) above.

Rear Admiral Thadani is absolutely certain that he personally sent RAJPUT off as she sailed from the jetty on night of 3/4 Dec and soon after reaching home heard the explosion. Available records substantiate INS RAJPUT being sailed out on 2 December, recalled on 3 December and sailed again at midnight 3/4 December. Quite clearly, if GHAZI had sunk prior to night 3/4 December, there would have been no need for RAJPUT to masquerade as VIKRANT. It is reasonable to conclude that GHAZI exploded on night 3/4 December.

What Caused the Ghazi to Sink

Commodore KS Subra Manian recalls:

“In the course of the diving operation, I interrogated the divers to find out how exactly the damage had happened to the submarine. From what I gathered, it looked to me that there had been an internal explosion. The hull had blown outwards. That could only be attributed to an internal explosion of a mine which was still in the tubes. Again a hydrogen explosion inside could also be the cause. At that time, I put down the cause of the GHAZI’s sinking as a case of internal explosion due to her own mines blowing up or due to hydrogen. Looking back now after the lapse of so many years, it seems to me that the cause of her blowing up was most probably a hydrogen explosion. I base this conclusion on the fact that the hull had blown outwards near the mid section of the submarine and not right forward near the torpedo tubes. Had a mine exploded in the tube or in the forward compartment while being handled, the damage would have been for’d.

“Moreover, if she had already laid some mines, we would have found some sooner or later. To date no mines have been found there. Secondly, a mine is safe until it is laid and arms itself after a twelve hour time delay to enable the laying vessel to clear the area. But in this case, some malfunction of the mine may have taken place inside the submarine, either while she was preparing to lay the mines or, while the mines were lying in the tube, something happened. I do not know what vintage Ghazi’s mines were. Perhaps due to age, perhaps due to lack of maintenance, a mine could have gone off inside the submarine, resulting in this sort of damage. The only reason that I surmised that it was an internal explosion was the fact that the hull was blown outwards. A mine going off underneath the submarine or in its vicinity would not create this sort of damage. That led me to think that due to some malfunction of the safety mechanism, a mine inside had gone off and sunk the submarine. A hydrogen explosion is, as I have said, even more probable.”

But what is surprising is that although the explosion had destroyed the ford end of the submarine, the eggs inside the submarine were totally intact.

Commander Shafi Sayad, the submariner embarked on board NISTAR during the diving operations, recalls:

“The diver reported that the pressure hull had been split open and was jagged. It had opened out into a sharp cut, which ran from right forward towards the conning tower. He could not progress very far ahead of the casing for’d of the conning tower.

“Ingress into the Control Room through the lower lid of the conning tower was also not possible as the diver reported that the whole hatch was a mass of pipes running right across, with jagged edges. It was very difficult to push aside any pipe. Keeping the diver’s safety in mind, ingress through this route was impossible.

“Diving effort then shifted to the aft escape hatch. The diver managed to open it easily and he gained access into the submarine. The compartment was fully flooded and he found the same jagged set of pipes which he had encountered under the lower lid of the conning tower.

“The divers found another small hatch. We slid the diver into the provision room of the GHAZI and the diver sent a good amount of provisions up to the surface. Although considerable damage to steel pipe lines had been seen at the for’d control room end and the aft end, not much damage was noticeable in this compartment probably because of the lagging in the compartment. But what is surprising is that although the explosion had destroyed the for’d end of the submarine, the eggs inside the submarine were totally intact.

“In my view, the likely cause of the explosion which led to the sinking of the GHAZI appears to be hydrogen accumulation, which takes place during normal charging and discharging of submarine batteries. A submarine of the displacement of GHAZI would have something like 350 tonnes of battery. In a 1900 ton submarine having 350 tonnes of battery, a hydrogen explosion can be crippling. The effect on the hull, as described by the diver, was that the hull had split open. It had jagged ends. The split was longitudinal, running along the length of the submarine. The entire submarine, fore to aft, was intact except for the splitting open, for’d of the conning tower. The explosion did not cause the entire hull to completely break up into portions. It was fully intact. The diver described that the for’d section of the casing was unwalkable.

In a 1900 ton submarine having 350 tonnes of battery, a hydrogen explosion can be crippling.

“I rule out the explosion being caused by an external mine because the intensity of the explosion was such that the entire length of the submarine was affected internally. There was no external damage to the submarine casing or the conning tower. If she had gone over a mine, the conning tower, the periscope, the fin area should have completely buckled or shattered. We found that the seventh compartment aft, which was almost a 100 meters away, from end to end, was also affected in a similar manner, all the internal fittings and pipes, everything, had been smashed, ends distorted and contorted and jagged. The possibility of torpedoes exploding was also ruled out, because of the inbuilt safety arming devices. A torpedo does not get fully armed until after it runs out. Torpedoes exploding within the tubes is unlikely because there are so many in built interlocks. Unless the forward caps are open, the torpedo cannot be armed. So many interlocks exist in the configuration of the firing devices, that anything to do with impact can be ruled out. Sympathetic explosions taking place is also ruled out. If the 6 or 8 torpedoes she was carrying in the forward tubes or the torpedoes in the racks had exploded, the entire submarine would have jumped out of the water, nothing would have remained. But here was an intact submarine, lying on the seabed. Something internal had taken place.

“I recall that just before the outbreak of hostilities, I heard a BBC news item of an explosion that had taken place in a British submarine, whilst battery charging in harbour. If I recall correctly, the submarine was extensively damaged and she sank within the harbour. In my view, the most likely reason for the sinking of the GHAZI seems to be the explosion of the accumulated hydrogen gas from the batteries”.

Commander Dhingra, the deep diver from NISTAR, recalls:

“The first thing that we observed was that the hull forward of the conning tower was in total debris. The entire thing was shattered. There were jagged ends around the hull. You could walk on the casing up to a certain point. Beyond that there was no way which you could get into the debris. Nothing could be seen for’d of the conning tower. It was not safe for any diver to go down into the debris in case explosives were still there. In fact, nobody dived on the debris as such. We only saw it from the top. The remaining part of the outside of the entire hull was intact.

“I have no doubt that the hull was blown outwards. I think it was due to an explosion from within the submarine. But I cannot say for sure whether it is on account of hydrogen from the batteries or from some other kind of explosion inside the compartments.”

Commodore KP Mathew, who also dived on Ghazi’s wreck, recalls:

“The first time I went down, I saw the submarine lying upright, as if she had bottomed there, with no tilt on either side from the normal straight bottoming position. The submarine was fully intact from the stern right up to the forward portion. In the forward portion, 10 to 15 ft or maybe upto 20 ft, there was hardly anything to see. The whole place was blasted off. The next 15 to 16 ft were split open – you could see the various air bottles and the torpedo launching tubes and all their jagged ends. It was quite clear that something had happened in the forward portion of the GHAZI, in the torpedo tube area. It definitely looked like an internal explosion, either of explosives or maybe caused by an accumulation of hydrogen. I am not sure of that, but it was definitely in the forward portion and it appeared to be an explosion which had sent it down.

“If GHAZI had been damaged from an external explosion, the damage would have been all internal and not of the kind which I saw, of the area totally split and all ripped apart. This can only happen from an explosion taking place next to the damaged portions. This leads to the conclusion that it could only have been an internal explosion that caused the damage to the GHAZI the way it did”.

Lt (later Commodore) Vimal Kumar, also a deep diver embarked in NISTAR during the diving operations, recalls:

“The explosion had taken place in the forward section. All the projections were mostly outwards. I clearly remember that when this picture of the damage to the forward area was being correlated with the mine trials not having been successful, the inference that emerged was that probably the mines inside had exploded, either while laying or something had happened just before ejecting the mines.

“Somehow we were very sure from the GHAZI’s signals that there was something wrong with the mines and therefore we concluded that the explosion could only be because of the mines.

If she had gone over a mine, the conning tower, the periscope, the fin area should have completely buckled or shattered.

“As regards to the explosion being caused by hydrogen, it is a very light gas, it is very soluble in water and it will get dissolved. When hydrogen explodes, it will explode wherever the hydrogen is. But in this case the explosion took place only in the forward area. The compartment having the arrangement for connecting the rescue bell was totally intact and had not exploded. I therefore believe that the explosion took place because of the mines”.

Commander (ND) (later Commodore) CVP Sarathy, who was in NHQ’s War Room during the war, recalls analysing the problem:

“A lot of theories were going around at the time and including one that our own ship had attacked and that it was a delayed action and the GHAZI ultimately blew up. Everybody was trying to claim a little credit for this incident. The fact was that the GHAZI was approaching Visakhapatnam with the intention of attacking any ship coming out of the harbour. If it managed to sink any ship in the channel, it would take some time before the channel could be cleared and till then the naval ships which were inside would be bottled up. If that was the Pakistan Navy’s plan, then I think it was a well conceived plan. The GHAZI came to do that.

“As regards how it blew up, the fact is that she had primed her torpedoes, and was cruising along just above the surface to the sea bed. There is a little ridge which runs out along the coast. It is slightly to the North of Vizag harbour. The theory is that the GHAZI did not know of the existence of this ridge and that while cruising along, she actually bumped into it and the collision triggered off the torpedoes which were already armed. One of them blew up and then subsequently all the others blew up along with it causing the GHAZI to go down. This seemed to be the theory we all ultimately believed when we were in NHQ at that time”.

Rear Admiral Sivamani recalls:

“My own view is that she must have been apparently trying to shift the torpedo tubes into a weapon mode of mines or vice versa and an explosion took place resulting in her sinking. The explosion, if I remember right, having questioned some of the divers at that point in time, seems to have been from inside out, not from any external object. It could be that as the mine was being thrown out of the tube, (as you know, intelligence indicated that GHAZI was fitted with some sort of facility to spit out mines from one of her tubes) it must have hit somewhere and then exploded. The other theory was that it was a battery explosion. If a battery explosion had taken place, it could have happened only in the forward battery compartment. This possibility also certainly cannot be ruled out”.

I have no doubt that the hull was blown outwards. I think it was due to an explosion from within the submarine

Lt Cdr Sajjan Kumar recalls:

“I personally think that the explosion was caused by build up of hydrogen gas within the submarine. In this, I am supported by a number of signals that we read in the message logs of GHAZI which said very explicitly that they have this major problem of hydrogen building up in the submarine. Probably when the build up of hydrogen was beyond limits, the explosion took place and at the same time, whatever ordnance she was carrying – mines, torpedoes everything – went off all together and that was the big bang”.

Cdr (TAS) Utful Dabir, the Commanding Officer of INS GULDAR which was in Visakhapatnam in early December, recalls:

“Apparently an explosion was heard by local fishermen just off the beach, but they were not paid heed to by anyone from the Port Trust and the Coast Battery. The second explosion, a short while later (probably GHAZI’s blowing up) too was not paid heed to until local fishermen found some pieces in their nets. It was only then that HQENC realised the possibility of a submarine having sunk near the channel.

If GHAZI had been damaged from an external explosion, the damage would have been all internal and not of the kind which I saw, of the area totally split and all ripped apart.

“Both mines and torpedoes have fairly good safety devices to prevent their getting armed whilst inside the torpedo tubes of a submarine. Since one explosion is known to have occurred in shallow waters near the beach, the only correct surmise is that it was caused by a torpedo which missed its intended target. The approximate positions of the explosion place near Outer Channel Buoy and the location of the sunken submarine, makes it appear that the target ship must have just crossed the Outer Channel Buoy before the torpedo began its run of set range around 3000 to 4000 yards. The submarine at that point may have just been able to maintain periscope depth, making it very difficult to avoid any oncoming ship. It is likely that a second torpedo too was about to be launched and hence on impact with the sea-bottom, it got launched without the intentional firing taking place or the launch was made while the submarine was in a steep dive.

“I had heard that GHAZI was carrying eight mines. I also heard that there were only two torpedoes in the forward tubes. Thus GHAZI hitting her own mine, launched deliberately or accidentally, is a distinct possibility. If there were mines or torpedoes in an unarmed state, either on the front recks or in the rear tubes, these would most probably have remained intact unexploded. If these could have been counted/inspected by divers, it would have helped in arriving at a more probable cause.

“From what I remember, available evidence led to a conclusion that one torpedo from the forward tube was fired and a second one too appeared to have been launched and it is this second one which appears to have exploded, either inside the tube or just outside, after completing its set run without actually running linearly. These two fired tubes could have had mines instead of torpedoes, but it is highly unlikely for a mine to explode immediately on launching because of the much longer arming delay normally set on the clock.

“It is certain that the explosion was inside the GHAZI because the hull was splayed outward and upward. Apparently the lower side of the hull showed little damage. Whilst the mines and torpedoes would have been safe in stowage, there is the greatest possibility of a mine or a torpedo being completely readied for launch in the tube and GHAZI hitting the rocky bottom just as the weapon was about to be launched or actually launched but could not go out because the outer doors of the tubes had jammed hard against a cliff like structure. The post-launch safety devices can run out if the tubes are flooded and the holding lever is released/withdrawn. Such accidents have been recorded in the past. Torpedoes completing their entire run in the tube were not uncommon in the older submarines.

“Hydrogen explosion is unlikely to have been the cause, as the bodies and papers would have been charred badly by the almost instantaneous combustion of hydrogen and the raising of internal temperatures to charring level. Also, hydrogen explosion could have affected only one or two compartments and not the personnel in all other compartments.

“It is not possible to be comprehensive or definitive about what led to the explosion in the forward section. As far as I know, the incident was not studied in a comprehensive manner while the required evidence was still fresh”.

Afterword

GHAZI’s Mines

Intelligence gained after the war indicated that:

The Americans offered to raise the submarine to the surface at their own expense. The Soviets made a similar offer.

  • It was unclear whether GHAZI carried the new accoustic influence mines acquired from France with the Daphne class submarines or the much older American magnetic/accoustic mines acquired during her refit in Turkey.
  • Till mid 1971, GHAZI’s torpedo tubes had not been modified to carry French mines and after April 1971, GHAZI was mostly at sea.
  • Neither GHAZI nor the Daphnes had carried out minelaying exercises with any degree of success.
  • If at all GHAZI had mines in her torpedo tubes, they were more likely to have been the older American mines.

Salvaging the GHAZI

Captain (later Vice Admiral) MK Roy, was the Director Naval Intelligence in 1971. In his book, “War in the Indian Ocean”, he states: (Page 206)

“The Americans offered to raise the submarine to the surface at their own expense. The Soviets made a similar offer. The Government of India however deliberately allowed the submarine to sink into the mud off the Fairway Buoy of Visakhapatnam and marked the hazard by a buoy (which has since been removed) and where it still rests buried under the mud”.

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3 thoughts on “1971 War: The Sinking of the Ghazi

  1. I joined the Merchant Navy in August 1971 as a Cadet on board the M. V. MAHAVIKRAM. We sailed out from Bombay sometime late November under instructions from the Navy about courses to take and to maintain radio silence. The order stated to keep at least 10 NM from the coast of Sri Lanka for our next port of call Madras. We arrived Madras well after sundown and found that INS VIKRANT was already berthed, but next morning we found that she had sailed out.

    A few days later we sailed for Calcutta again as per Naval instructions. We were two Cadets on board and were sitting in our boiler suit on the cargo hold hatch at about 10.30 sipping our regulation lime juice and observing the sea when we spotted a few black objects and at least bodies badly charred floating face down with skin peeled off their back and bottom not far from the ship as it sailed past. We dashed to the bridge to inform the Officer-of-the-Watch and found the Captain was already there having been informed by the OOW.

    Arrival Calcutta the Captain must have reported the sightings with position co-ordinates to NOIC. We later came to know that PNS GHAZI was sunk. After loading in Calcutta we sailed for the Port of Chittagong and found it in a shambles with sunken Pakistani ships, collapsed jetties and severely damaged quayside sheds with 1 inch bullet holes on the tin roof, probably the result of staffing by Indian Air Force jets. There was destruction all around; the gallant and precise work of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. It was a clear message then and for eternity to unrepentant Pakistan not to mess with India.

  2. This is all very interesting especially since there is a different narrative also. I wonder given the much better availability of R & R facilities to the PNS we are equally well prepared for an attack in the East

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