The classic operational account of the air raid on Ceylon is Tomlinson's THE MOST DANGEROUS MOMENT, the title being a quote from Churchill about the potential strategic threat from a Japanese-held Ceylon to Britain's lifeline to Egypt and Persian Gulf oil. Tomlinson notes the additional British advantages of decoded radio intercepts, a base at Addu totally unknown to the Japanese, armored flight decks, a third carrier (HMS Illustrious) en route, and Catalina search aircraft from Ceylon which regularly located Nagumo's force during the operation.
American operational experience with radar may have been limited early on, but British experience in the Med made them quite adept at using radar defensively, to vector CAP against incoming air strikes and splash search aircraft before they spotted anything. Torpedoing naval targets underway at night is another matter, but based on the accounts of radar-equipped Catalinas in the Solomons campaign, ship wakes are far easier to spot from the air than are attacking aircraft from a ship. The Japanese were certainly highly skilled at night gunnery, but perhaps not so skilled at radical evasive maneuvers against a night attack from torpedo bombers.
What would really make me want to read Boyd's last chapter is an assessment of what Nagumo might have done, had Somerville actually attacked. At Pearl Harbor, Nagumo refused to risk his force in a second strike against an alerted enemy when the American carriers could not be located, and his own force was at the limit of its range. Would he have acted differently at Ceylon against an alerted enemy, having found neither capital ships nor carriers where he expected them to be, again at the limit of his range (he'd already refueled from tankers), if surprised by a night attack from an unexpected direction? Ironically, the one thing that surely would have lured Nagumo into pressing his luck would have been sighting the "useless" R-class battleships of the "slow" Force B.
I credit Somerville for trying to do the Nelsonian thing until he was basically ordered off. The British were used to achieving results out of all proportion to forces committed--
the damage to the Italian battle fleet at Taranto was done by a dozen torpedo-armed Swordfish (the rest of the strike aircraft had bombs and flares. Three dozen Albacore aircraft may not seem like a lot, but coincidentally the same number of dive bombers inflicted the fatal damage at Midway. One wonders what the operational (or psychological) effect of a SINGLE torpedo hit on a Japanese carrier might have been.
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