IJN Gunboat SUMA:
Tabular Record of Movement

©2007-2014 Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall

Revision 4

Sunderland, England. Laid down at Sunderland Shipbuilding as an "Insect-class" gunboat to counter Austro-Hungarian monitors on the River Danube.

9 October 1915:
Launched, named and numbered HMS MOTH (T69).

5 January 1916:
Completed and registered in the Royal Navy.

1916-1917: First World War:
HMS MOTH and sister gunboats HMS MANTIS, HMS TARANTULA and HMS GNAT are transported by ship to Abadan, Persia (now Iran), terminus of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s (now BP) pipeline oil refinery, then the largest in the world. From Abadan, the gunboats are sent to reinforce the Royal Navy’s flotilla on the Tigris River near Baghdad during the British Empire's second campaign in Mesopotamia against the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

1918-1919: Russian Revolution:
HMS MOTH participates in actions in Northern Russia with sister ships HMS CRICKET, HMS COCKCHAFER and HMS MANTIS in support of White Russian forces against the Communist Bolsheviks.

17 January 1920:
HMS MOTH departs Chatham, England for China with HMS CRICKET, HMS COCKCHAFER, HMS MANTIS and HMS SCARAB escorted by cruiser HMS COLOMBO and sloops HMS BLUEBELL, HMS CORNFLOWER, HMS MAGNOLIA and probably HMS HOLLYHOCK. The flat-bottomed river gunboats are ill-suited for open sea service and roll in high seas. The escorts provide towing in bad weather and refuel the gunboats on the longer legs of the journey that are beyond the gunboats' fuel capacity. That Spring, after steaming through the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Suez Canal, Indian and Pacific Oceans, the little ships arrive in Hong Kong.

Yangtse River, China. At an unknown date this year, HMS MOTH strikes a submerged rock and is damaged.

17 May 1932 - January 1934:
LtCdr John M. Rodgers' HMS MOTH is in China.

7 July 1937: The Marco Polo Bridge (The"First China Incident") Incident:
Hun River, Lukuokiao (Peking), China. The Japanese discover a soldier missing after night maneuvers at the bridge and assume the Chinese captured him. They demand entry to a Beijing suburb to look for him, but the Chinese refuse. The Japanese then shell the city and an undeclared war begins. [1]

October 1938:
One of HMS MOTH's original 12-lb guns is replaced by a 3-inch/45 HA gun and her Maxim machine guns are replaced by eight Lewis machine guns.

12-21 October 1938:
Ta-Ya (Bias Bay), 35 miles NE of Hong Kong. At dawn, LtGen Furusho Motoo’s 21st Army, supported by the China Area Fleet’s Fifth Fleet and Formosa-based and carrier-based Navy air units, makes a surprise landing. Thereafter, Japanese forces continue their advance with little or no resistance. By 21 October, they capture Canton. The operation isolates Hong Kong and Macao.

10 June 1940:
Lt Cdr H. R. White's HMS MOTH is at Hong Kong under command of the Commodore, Hong Kong. HMS MOTH is assigned to patrol the West River (Si Kiang).

1 January 1941:
Royal Navy Reserve Temporary Lt J. Douglas' HMS MOTH is assigned to patrol the West River.

1 May to 4 June 1941:
Repaired at Hong Kong.

8 December 1941:
The Japanese open their offensive on Hong Kong by moving troops across the frontier of Hong Kong's New Territories. Twelve Tachikawa Ki-36 "Ida" Army bombers of the 45th Sentai escorted by nine Ki-27 "Nate" fighters also attack Kai Tak airport on Kowloon. All five of the token RAF aircraft (2 "Walrus" amphibians and 3 Vickers "Vildebeeste" torpedo bombers) stationed at Kai Tak are quickly either damaged or destroyed as are numerous light trainers and civilian cargo planes. In the harbor, PanAm’s visiting Sikorsky S-42B flying boat "Hong Kong Clipper" is bombed, set afire and sinks.

11 December 1941:
Port of Hong Kong. Sometime prior to the outbreak of the war, HMS MOTH had been drydocked in Hong Kong Navy Yard to repair her bottom plating . As most of the yard personnel had been mobilized, the work was never completed. Most of her armament was landed and the crew sent ashore to defend the city. HMS MOTH and auxiliary minesweeper HMS MARGARET probably sink when the drydock they are in is intentionally scuttled.

24 December 1941:
Japanese troops capture the navy yard.

25 December 1941: The Fall of Hong Kong:
MajGen Christopher M. Maltby, British Indian Army, advises Hong Kong's Governor Sir Mark A. Young to surrender the outnumbered British garrison because of lack of food and water. At 1800, in Japanese headquarters set up in the fashionable Peninsula Hotel on Kowloon, Young surrenders the Crown Colony to LtGen Sakai Takashi, CG, 23rd Army. That night, nearly 6,500 British and Commonwealth troops go into Japanese captivity.

Early February 1942:
The hull of HMS MOTH is refloated and attached alongside a pier in navy yard. She undergoes repairs at the IJN's No. 2 Repair Facility in Hong Kong.

Early June 1942:
Lt (Reserve) Haba Akira is appointed acting CO. [2]

30 June 1942:
HMS MOTH's handover ceremony is held at Hong Kong navy yard and attended by the CINC, Second Expeditionary Fleet, Vice Admiral Niimi Masaichi (former CO of MAYA).

1 July 1942:
HMS MOTH is salvaged by the IJN. LtCdr Asahi Tatsuo is appointed the CO. The gunboat begins an extensive rebuild scheduled to be completed on 20 July. The former superstructure is replaced by a partially armored bridge.

14 July 1942:
Registered in the Sasebo Naval District as a gunboat and renamed SUMA. Attached to Admiral (Admiral of the Fleet, posthumously) Koga Mineichi's (34)(former CO of ISE) China Area Fleet’s Second China Expeditionary Fleet’s 15th Squadron.

27 September 1942:
LISBON MARU departs Hong Kong for Shanghai with 1,816 British Commonwealth prisoners of war (POWs) and about 700 Japanese troops aboard.

1 October 1942:
China coast. Six miles from Tung Fusham Island. LtCdr (later Cdr) Rob R. McGregor's (USNA ’29) USS GROUPER (SS-214) fires six Mark XIV torpedoes at LISBON MARU. Five torpedoes miss, but one hits her stern. As the ship slowly settles, the Japanese evacuate their troops, but the guards batten down the holds, trapping the POWs. Some break through the hatches, only to be gunned down. Still, many POWs get off the ship and make it to land, but are soon recaptured. LISBON MARU finally sinks at 29-57N, 122-56N. 820 POWs are lost including at least one former crewman of HMS MOTH.

3 October 1942:
The rebuild is completed.

15 October 1942:
SUMA is reassigned to the Pearl River Basin Guard Fleet. Departs Hong Kong for Lingding Island, stopping at Tsingtao enroute.

16 October 1942:
Departs Lingding. Arrives at Taao to land a 19-strong Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) unit in an attempt to pacify the local guerrillas.

19 October 1942:
Departs Taao for Guangdong, stopping at Humen en route.

20 October 1942:
Arrives at Guangdong, departs soon after arrival.

22 October 1942:
Arrives at Chili. Lands a 47-strong SNLF unit to clear the area of insurgents.

23 October 1942:
Conducts firing exercises at open sea off Chili.

24 October 1942:
Returns to Hong Kong to avoid an incoming storm.

25 October 1942:
After midnight MajGen Claire L. Chennault’s 14th Air Force's North American B-25 "Mitchell" medium bombers attack Hong Kong. SUMA fires at the attacking bombers and receives no damage.

26 October 1942:
Departs Hong Kong for Tsingtao. Soon after her departure, SUMA weathers another air attack and claims shooting down a B-25.

31 October 1942:
Departs Tsingtao for Hong Kong.

1 December 1942:
Returns to Hong Kong. Undergoes repairs.

6 December 1942:
Departs Hong Kong to patrol with overnight stays at the Qingshan-Taio (now Jingshan) area, Lantau Island.

29 December 1942:
Returns to Hong Kong.

30 December 1942:
Yangtze River. Attacked by aircraft, but only slightly damaged.

5-8 January 1943:
Hong Kong. Undergoes a refit at the No. 2 Repair Facility. Full radio equipment is installed.

9 January 1943:
Departs Hong Kong to patrol nearby.

12 February 1943:
At Nituki port.

1 April 1943:
Reassigned to the Pearl River Basin Guard Fleet.

8 April 1943:
Undergoes repairs and replenishment. While based in Hong Kong, SUMA conducts patrols off Canton.

9-18 May 1943:
Undergoes a refit at No. 2 Repair Facility.

21-31 May 1943:
Follow-up refit at No. 2 Repair Facility.

15-19 July 1943:
Undergoes machinery repairs at the No. 2 Repair Facility.

19-31 July 1943:
SUMA is propped up ashore for hull repairs.

27 July 1943:
Air raid on Hong Kong. SUMA’s repair area is attacked by sixteen B-25 bombers and Curtiss P-40 “Warhawk” fighters.

28 July 1943:
Air raid on Hong Kong. Six bombers attack the area. One dud bomb lands near SUMA.

29 July 1943:
Air raid on Hong Kong. Nine bombers attack the area. During three attacks SUMA fires seventy-eight 40-mm and two hundred and ten 7.7-mm rounds.

1-5 August 1943:
Drydocked at No. 2 Repair Facility for hull plating repairs.

5-12 August 1943:
Undergoes additional refit at No. 2 Repair Facility. A new breakwater is installed and the original anchor windlass replaced.

13 August 1943:
Departs Hong Kong for engine and anchor trials.

15 August 1943:
Departs Hong Kong for Shanghai, stopping at Amoy and the Chusan archipelago to avoid an approaching typhoon.

20 August 1943:
Attached to the China Area Fleet, Lower Yangtze Guard Force.

26 August 1943:
Arrives at Shanghai.

31 August 1943:
Arrives at Shanghai.

1 September 1943:
Undergoes hull repairs and refit at the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works. Additional armor is fitted to the bridge. Her forward (British) 40-mm AA gun is fitted with a splinter shield. Remains at Shanghai all month.

9 October 1943:
Repairs and refit are completed.

12 October 1943:
Departs Shanghai for her new base at Anking, making stops at Chingkiang, Nanking and Yanhu.

17 October 1943:
Arrives at Anking. Until late December continues to patrol the Yangtze, travelling twice a month to Nanking for supplies.

9 November 1943:
Arrives at Hankow.

12 November 1943:
Departs Hankow on patrol.

16 November 1943:
Arrives at Nanking.

21 November 1943:
Departs Nanking on patrol.

19 December 1943:
Arrives at Nanking.

23 December 1943:
Departs Nanking on patrol.

29 December 1943:
Anchored off Anking, SUMA is attacked by three 14th Air Force B-25 medium bombers.

30 December 1943:
Anchored off Anking with ATAMI. At about 0850, both gunboats are twice attacked by two B-25s of the 341st Bomb Group based at Suichuan air base in Jiangxi province. SUMA receives strafing damage to her starboard side, in return expending forty-seven 40-mm and five hundred and sixty eight 13.2-mm rounds. One of the bombers is shot down and crashes killing four American flyers.

19 January 1944:
Arrives at Nanking.

24 January 1944:
Departs Nanking on patrol.

9 March 1944:
Departs Anking on patrol.

13 March 1944:
Arrives at Nanking.

15 March 1944:
Departs Nanking.

16 March 1944:
Arrives at Anking.

5 April 1944:
Departs Anking on patrol.

6 April 1944:
Arrives at Nanking.

11 April 1944:
Departs Nanking on patrol.

18 April 1944:
Breaks off patrol and heads for Shanghai.

22 April 1944:
Shanghai. Undergoes an AA upgrade and remodeling construction at Mitsubishi Yangshupu Shipyard. One 6-inch gun is replaced by a 3-inch AA gun. Both 40-mm AA guns forward and aft are replaced by Type 96 25-mm AA guns. The 40-mm AA guns and new Type 93 13.2-mm machine guns are resited to the bridge wings. SUMA's foremast is reduced in height.

27 May 1944:
Completes repairs. Departs Shanghai for Nanking.

3 June 1944:
Departs Shanghai.

4 June 1944:
Arrive at Chinkiang.

6 June 1944:
Departs Chinkiang and later that day arrives at Nanking.

8 June 1944:
Departs Nanking.

10 June 1944:
Arrives at Anking.

11 June 1944:
Anking is attacked by Lockheed P-38 "Lightning“ fighters. SUMA claims downing two of the attackers.

18 June 1944:
Anking. After 1255, gunboats SUMA, ATAMI, NARUMI and TATARA are attacked by three B-25s escorted by twelve P-38s. SUMA and TATARA receive ten near misses. [3]

29 June 1944:
Arrives at Wuhu.

2 July 1944:
Departs Anking and later that day arrives at Nanking.

6 July 1944:
Departs Nanking on patrol. Undertakes patrol and guard duties for rest of month in the area.

26 December 1944:
In the evening, Anking is attacked by North American P-51D "Mustang“ fighters, seven of which target SUMA. One bomb hit demolishes the aft 25-mm AA twin mount and nearby vegetable locker. Sixteen AA gunners are killed in the explosion and six are wounded. Of the wounded, two more Japanese die in No. 1 Naval Hospital.

28 December 1944:
Arrives at Yanhu for temporary repairs. Receives a new 25-mm twin mount from repair ship HAYASE.

30 December 1944:
Repairs are completed.

1 January 1945:
Returns to Anking.

11 January 1945:
Arrives at Nanking.

14 January 1945:
Returns to Anking.

10 February 1945:
Departs Anking for Shanghai.

11 February 1945:
Enroute to Shanghai, SUMA is attacked by seven P-51 fighters. SUMA claims downing one. Latewr stops at nanking.

15 February 1944:
Departs Nanking.

17 February to 12 March 1945:
Repaired at Mitsubishi's Yangshupu Shipyard, Shanghai. After 9 March, embarks supplies and stores.

12 March 1945:
At 1000 departs Yangshupu for Kiangnan shipyard to refuel.

14 March 1945:
At 0800, departs Shanghai for Anking with gunboat NARUMI. In the evening stops at Kiangyin to repair the starboard engine.

18 March 1945:
In the evening departs Kiangyin with NARUMI, but has to return after the daybreak when freshly-laid mines are detected en route.

19 March 1945:
Yangtze River. At 0814 returns to Kiangyin to wait until the river is swept for mines. At 1435, SUMA and NARUMI depart Kiangyin. At 1526, 51 miles above Kiangyin neat Tienshenchiao, SUMA grazes a mine laid by 14th Air Force planes on 4 Mar ‘45. An explosion amidships under her port boiler room causes a heavy leak, demolishing most of the upper works. A list to port side begins, increasing until the gunboat finally sinks at 32-00N, 120-00E.

In a three-hour rescue operation, NARUMI evacuates 40 wounded and 36 survivors. Eight sailors are killed.

20 March 1945:
NARUMI returns to Shanghai, where the wounded are sent to No. 1 Naval Hospital.

10 May 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:
[1] "Lukuokiao" and "Beijing" are examples of different romanization systems. Following the older convention, we used the city name "Peking".

[2] Lt Haba Akira’s name can also be read as Haneba Naoshi.

[3] The bombers were probably 75-mm cannon-equipped B-25Gs, since they left several unusually large craters behind.

Thanks for assistance go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan and Mr. Gilbert Casse of France.

-Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall

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