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Geography is destiny.Napoleon

A small mirror can reflect a large distant object. One example is that of telescope mirrors, whichhelp us observe huge distant suns. Similarly, a historian can illustrate great events by showinghow they are reflected in distant places. Few places are as remote as the Chagos Archipelago, acluster of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Their main island, known today as DiegoGarcia, is more than 900 miles from the nearest significant land, the island of Sri Lanka. Formore than five hundred years various powers have fought for control over the Indian Ocean, yetfor much of this time these islands have played little if any part. In general, however, there hasbeen a trend toward their being increasingly important. For while the physical geography of theisland has remained relatively constant, the political and economic geography of the IndianOcean has undergone tectonic shifts. History has demonstrated other cases of small, obscureislands jumping into the headlines. The Falkland Islands are a more modern example. You maynot have heard of Diego Garcia, but you have probably not heard the last of it.

Physically, Diego Garcia and the Chagos Archipelago of which it is part are located near thecenter of the Indian Ocean. Yet, for much of the ocean’s modern history the island has played avery peripheral role. Even the physical centrality of the island yields ambiguity. Somegeographers consider the Chagos Archipelago to be East African Islands. Others think they arean extension from South Asia, a continuation of the Maldives south of India. Such argumentsover the labeling of the island are not merely academic, as controversy over a “Nuclear FreeAfrica” demonstrates.i Thus, as the title of this thesis indicates, Diego Garcia may be at thecenter of the Indian Ocean in terms of physical geography, but it has largely been at the edge ofeverywhere else in terms of its history.

Table 1 lists most of the islands that comprise the Chagos Archipelago. Only the main island ofDiego Garcia and the island of Peros Banhos have had significant permanent settlements. Othershave been occupied by smaller numbers, for limited times, or are not large enough to supportsettlement. The Locations and names are given as known in 1857, when their locations werefairly well known.

Table 1.Locations of the Main Chagos Islands________________________________________________________________________Island Name South LatitudeEast LongitudeDiego Garcia 7 deg 15 min 72 deg 32 min

The Six Islands 6 deg 35 min 71 deg 25 minThree Brothers 6 deg 10 min 71 deg 28 minSalomons Islands 5 deg 23 min 72 deg 35 minPeros Banhos (22 smaller islands) 5 deg 23 min 72 deg 03 minLegour Island 5 deg 39 min 72 deg 32 min_______________________________________________________________________Source: British Public Records Office CO 167/38


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In 1509 the bay of Diu, in what is modern day India, was the site of one of the most importantnaval battles in history. On one side was Viceroy Francisco de Almeida, commanding a force of19 ships and about 1,200 men comprising virtually the entire strength of Portugal in the Indian

Ocean. On the other side was a combined Muslim fleet of Egyptian and Indian ships under thecommand of Amir Hussain. With typical Portuguese audacity, Almeida sailed directly into thenarrow and shallow harbor to attack the numerically superior enemy. What followed was a“bloody hand-to-hand melee of broadsides, grappling, and boarding.” When it was over,however, the Portuguese had destroyed the enemy fleet and become masters of the Indian Ocean.To emphasize this point, Viceroy Almeida had his fleet sail along the coast firing the arms andlegs of prisoners out of cannon and onto the roofs and streets of native towns. ii

Shortly thereafter a visiting Marshall of Portugal, Fernando Coutinho, arrived and appointed hiscousin, Afonso De Alboquerque, in place of Almeida. Coutinho had arrived with 15 ships and3,000 troops and soon led an attack on the important port city of Calicut. During the fighting,however, Coutinho was so intent on prying the ornate gilded doors off a palace that he allowedhimself to get cut off from his troops. He was killed and Alboquerqe, himself wounded by anarrow, had to lead a retreat. iii The manner of Coutinho’s death reflected one school of thoughtamongst the Portuguese. Coutinho has been described as “Falstaffian - Strong of arm, great ofbelly, but weak of brain.”iv His emphasis had been on raiding and plunder, sacking cities andtaking ships in order to acquire wealth that could be spent back in Portugal. Upon his death,however, Alboquerqe would be elevated to the de facto Portuguese ruler in the Indian Ocean,and he was of an entirely different mind.

The government of Portugal, in effect King Manuel, wanted to control the Indian Ocean in orderto milk its commerce. Simple piracy might make a few rich individuals, but only an organizedeffort at control and trade would generate the revenues that would sate an entire kingdom. The

Indian Ocean and its nations, however, would pose challenges to the Portuguese. Unlike in the“new world” of the Americas, the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean region often facedtechnologically advanced and politically sophisticated foes. The Portuguese had proven theirnaval superiority, but had few ships to patrol vast areas. Unlike the Americas, with its plaguewracked and poorly armed natives, many Indian Ocean nations had large armies complete withmodern cannons. Unlike in the Americas, in the Indian Ocean the Portuguese could not carryout a straightforward policy of conquest. More sophisticated strategies would have to beemployed.

Afonso De Alboquerque was a proponent of what could be called a “forward strategy.” SomePortuguese believed that they should establish remote bases at key points located a distance from

their main opponents, and use their naval superiority to project force. De Alboquerque, however,was among those who favored a much closer proximity to potential enemies. Only byestablishing a permanent presence in target lands and playing a direct role in regional politicscould the Portuguese hope to master the huge region. Naval power would be the lynchpin ofPortuguese power, but it would enable Portuguese strategy rather become it.

The Indian subcontinent was the main prize, and with the victory at Diu the Portuguese had wonan agreement with a local ruler to establish a base at Cochin. Cochin was not the most importantport in India, however, and its rulers were not among the most powerful. In addition, the port


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facilities themselves were extremely vulnerable to attack by land armies. The Portuguese couldonly stay there at the sufferance of a second class ruler. This clearly would not do. In a brilliantmove whose details do not concern us, De Alboquerque seized the great port of Goa from theSultan of Bijapur on November 10, 1510.v Goa, nicknamed “Golden Goa,” was the largest porton the western side of the Indian subcontinent and the Sultan of Bijapur was arguably thesubcontinents most powerful ruler. In addition, the port featured a fortified “island” of land cut

off from the mainland by rivers and marshes. It would give the Portuguese security againstattempts to eject them from landward. For several years both the Portuguese and the Sultanwould battle for control of this key city. These battles would lead directly to the discovery of asmall island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and ultimately to this thesis.

On March 25, 1511, the first vessels of a 6-ship armada sailed from Portugal under the commandof Dom Garcia de Noronhavi . Their destination was India, to reinforce De Alboquerque in hisefforts to establish Portuguese control over the Indian Ocean. For a European vessel of that day,the trip “round the horn” of Africa was far from routine. It would take over a year for the shipsof Dom Garcia’s armada to reach their destination. The normal route for Portuguese ships on thetrip would take them along the African east coast once they passed the continents southern tip.They would sail northwards, never too far from land, until they reached the Arabian Sea north ofthe equator. Only then would they turn and sail eastwards toward the Indian subcontinent. ThePortuguese were the greatest seafarers of their day, but the open ocean still held unknowndangers that wise sailors avoided when possible.

One reason to stay close to the coast was the crude navigation of the day. In particular, in thedays before there were accurate chronometers aboard ships, determining the correct longitude ofa vessel was a hit or miss proposition.vii And, as several centuries of shipwrecks and disastersattest, a miss could be deadly. So while the distance of a ship to the north or south of the equatorcould be determined fairly well by a skilled navigator, the distance of a ship east or west wasoften little more than guesswork. Thus, Portuguese vessels sailing to India tried to follow theAfrican coast so that landmarks could give them periodic fixes on their location. In addition,

located to the west of the Indian subcontinent was a chain atolls that are today known as theMaldive Islands.viii Without modern navigation or sensors, or even charts, such island chainswere a grave danger to be avoided if at all possible.

The Portuguese had learned, however, that there was a wide passage through the Maldive andLaccadive islands at nine degrees north latitude. Thus, they could sail northwards along theAfrican coast and, when they reached the correct latitude they would turn eastward and couldsail safely through the Maldives until they reached the coast of India. From there they couldonce again navigate with the assistance of landmarks. It would seem logical that a faster route toIndia would travel straight from the southern tip of Africa northeastward to the subcontinent.Caution, however, usually prevailed over trying such a risky new route. In 1505 vessels under

the command of Pedro Mascarenhas had ventured into the waters east of Madagascar. They haddiscovered several islands, dubbing them the “Mascarene” in honor of their captain. One of theislands, which the Portuguese called Cirne, was home to a strange breed of large, flightless,birds.ix In 1512 Mascarenhas would be tasked with expanding knowledge of this region in anattempt to reach India faster.

In early February of 1512 the six ship armada of Dom Garcia de Noronha reached thePortuguese supply station at Mocambique, on the east coast of Africax. It was here that he heardof De Alboquerque’s struggle to maintain control of Goa. Since it took months for news to reach


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even this far, Dom Garcia could not be certain how desperately De Alboquerque neededassistance, and clearly a faster route to Indian might prove useful. So Dom Garcia split up hissmall armada and sent one portion, under the command of the experienced Mascarenhas, to tryand reach India via a new route. Instead of sailing north along the coast of Africa (the “innerpassage”), Mascarenhas would sail to the east, south of Madagascar, and then northeastwardstoward India.

It was during this voyage that Mascarenhas apparently discovered a remote island and named itDom Garcia after his commander, and then a whole string of small islands, reefs, and shoals,that he dubbed the Chagos archipelago.xi There are no accounts of the Portuguese actuallylanding on any of the islands of the Chagos Archipelago on this trip, but clearly their discoverydid not rate as a major discovery. The islands were all rather small and unpopulated, and did nothave any valuable natural resources (such as gold) to be exploited. They were marked on chartsas accurately as the navigators could determine their location and, for the next 200 years,avoided when possible.

The Portuguese were not great colonizers, and had little use for the remote, unpopulated, islands.Since their ships could refit and get provisions at Africa on the long trip to India, the Chagoswere not very important even as limited supply posts, though some ships may have stopped togather food there. Indeed, the region was to be avoided. As stated earlier, island chains poseddangers to sailors of the era. The many small islands of the Chagos, combined with reefs andlarge shallows and poor navigation, were a ready-made burial ground for ships. Even a hundredyears later, ships making the great voyage to India would tend to sail northwards into the IndianOcean either to the west of the Chagos when headed to the west coast of India, or to the eastwhen headed to the east coast of India. Like a net cast across the route to India the Chagos layready to snare the unwary ship. In less than three decades at least four Portuguese ships wouldwreck themselves on the reefs of Peros Banhos. In 1551 it was the Algarvia, in 1577 the SaoJoao, and already again in 1578 the Sao Pedro.xii

Another vessel was the Portuguese Conceicao. The ship sailed from Lisbon on April 1, 1555,and piled up on the rocks of Peros Banhos in the Chagos when the pilot refused to listen to acartographer who was aboard as well as more experienced seamen. Almost 200 survivors werehuddled together on the shore of this remote, relatively barren, atoll. The captain and a fewchosen officers told the other survivors that they were going offshore to the wreck to salvagemore supplies. They took the best boat and never looked back, sailing off toward Cochin, Indiaon their own.xiii One of the shipwrecked passengers, Dom Alvaro de Castanheda, took chargeand gathered the remaining boats, as well as the arms, jewels, and provisions, and sailed off forIndia with another 40 menxiv.

This left behind 164 desperate souls to survive on the atoll. At the beginning there were more

than 10,000 seabirds on the island. Within a month, however, fewer than one fifth remained.xv

The birds quickly adapted to having predators around, and 164 people can eat a lot of birds.Discipline broke down as there were attempts to ration the birds. Many were eaten “on the sly”and everyone was “fierce and quarrelsome.” The fifth month on the island, 30 people died ofstarvation and a last desperate attempt was made to go for help. From the ship’s wreckage a boatwas constructed and 26 men put to sea. For over a month, the last days without food or water,they drifted until reaching “some” inhabited islands. Their numbers slowly dwindling, thesurvivors then spent a year sailing from one small island to another before a friendly prince sentthe last 12 survivors to Cannanore, India, on his boat. xvi.


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The Portuguese solidified their control over the Indian Ocean. They soon controlled Goa, themain port on the Indian subcontinent, Ormuz, the key to the Persian Gulf, and Malacca, astridethe eastern route to the Orient. Fortified settlements and trading posts known as feitorias ringedthe Indian Ocean from Sofala in southeast Africa to Ternate in the Moluccas. King Manuel ofPortugal could rightly claim his title as “Lord of the conquest, navigation, and commerce of

Ethiopia, India, Arabia, and Persia.” The Portuguese would stretch their reach to Japan, but aseries of naval defeats at the hands of the Chinese thwarted their plans in the far east.xvii.

Yet, despite establishing a maritime empire in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese remaineduninterested in the Chagos islands. Despite their central location, their remoteness wascompounded by the necessity of sailing ships to utilize prevailing winds, which meant thatsailing vessels could not sail directly to and from them at will. In addition, the islands wereunpopulated and did not have valuable natural resources. While a ship that happened to passcould gather some food or spare wood, there was little else to stop for. The islands also lackedgood harbors and anchorages for vessels of the day, a point which will be addressed later on andmight surprise modern readers who think of Diego Garcia as a fine port. Indeed, due tonavigational uncertainties the large, uncharted, archipelago was a danger to be avoided. Thisstate of affairs would continue until well into the 18th century, when a new conflict over controlof the Indian Ocean would make the islands of increasing interest to maritime powers.


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By the year 1600 the English were a rising sea power and were eager to challenge the virtualPortuguese monopoly on trade with and through the Indian Ocean.. It was in 1602, while on a pioneering voyage to the East Indies, that captain James Lancaster would forge an English

association with the Chagos islands that continues to this day. Lancaster had survived an earlier,disastrous attempt by the English to reach the East Indies in 1591. He had reached Sumatrabefore losing his last ship, however, and then the Dutch had made their first successful voyage toJava and Bantam in 1595. Lured by the incredible profits offered by the spice trade, the Englishwere intent on trying again.xviii.

On March 30, 1602, while sailing across the Indian Ocean from west to east in the ship RedDragon, Lancaster was six degrees below the equator when his ship came upon a large ledge ofrocks and water only five fathoms deep. This was a surprise to Lancaster, who expected nothingbut deep water in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Casting about the ship, he found water eightfathoms deep and carefully continued toward the East. A lookout aloft reported seeing lowlaying land five or six leagues to the southeast. The charts Lancaster carried noted an islandcalled “Cardu,” but it was not near his calculated position. After sailing another 14 leagues theship came upon another flat of rocks, so it turned south, and after traveling 12 leagues in thatdirection found yet more rocks.xix

As Lancaster related, in “divers wayes, wee found flats of rockes round us.” In some places thewater was 20 or even 50 fathoms deep between the rocks, but threading a course between themtaxed the ship’s crew dearly. For more than two and half days the ship was in extreme danger,creeping along behind its pinnasse which was sounding out a safe passage. Finally, at 6 degrees43 minutes south, the ship found a channel six fathoms deep and slipped back into deep waterson its way to Nicobar island, which it reached on May 9. xx James Lancaster had survived anencounter with the Chagos Archipelago. While the Portuguese had lost several ships to the

archipelago in the preceding century, the island’s locations were still not well charted. Inaddition, the maritime powers often jealously guarded geographic knowledge. This, combinedwith the accuracy problems of the navigation technology of the day, helped ensure thatknowledge about the Chagos was fragmentary and often wrong.

Interestingly, on this trip Lancaster demonstrated a bit of knowledge that was for some reasonlost, and would not become known again to the English for 170 years. Sailors spending longtimes at sea had a very restricted diet, and various maladies associated with malnutrition plaguedthem. Among the worst was scurvy, caused by a vitamin deficiency that came from a lack offruit and vegetables in the diet. In 1591, on Lancaster’s first voyage to the Indian Ocean,several sailors suffering from scurvy had made quick recoveries when the ship stopped at the

island of St. Helena and the crew got fresh oranges and lemons. So on this trip Lancaster boughtalong a store of lemon juice, and every sailor got three spoonfuls for breakfast, otherwise fastinguntil noon. Using this method he greatly reduced the incidence of scurvy amongst his crew. xxi Itwas not until over a century and a half later during the expeditions of the famed Captain Cookthat the practice of giving fruit juice to crewmen became commonly known and adopted, and theBritish sailor acquired the nickname “Limey.”

As an illustration over the uncertainty of geographers and map makers of the time, the mainisland of the Chagos seems to have gotten its name of “Diego Garcia” by accident. Originally


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Mascarenhas had dubbed the island “Dom Garcia” and early Portuguese maps call it such.Beginning circa 1600, however, English maps called the island “Diego Garcia.” Whilespeculative, it is possible that British map makers assumed the island was named after the well-known Portuguese geographer and navigator Diego Garcia de Palacios, who in reality hadnothing to do with the islands. It also possible that the English had miscopied an abbreviation of“I de D Garcia.” Some early English maps also call the island “Diego Graciosa.” or “Diego

Gracia,” and other variations can be found. At any rate, as Portuguese maritime prowesswithered away and the English grew in influence, the name Diego Garcia stuck.

In December 5, 1604, another Englishman, Sir Edward Michelbourne, would sail across theIndian Ocean in quest of trade and plunder, leaving what is perhaps the earliest usefuldescription of some of the main islands of the Chagos Archipelago. Michelbourne commandedthe diminutive Tigre, a ship of 240 tons, and the accompanying pinnasse Tigres Whelp. xxii Healso had in his service the famed English navigator John Davis, who had been Lancaster’snavigator on his earlier trip across the Indian Ocean. On the 15th of June they sighted the IleDos Banhos (Peros Banhos). Its location, according to Davis, was “sixe degrees and thirtie-sevenminutes to the South-ward and one hundred and nine degrees longitude.” Davis wrote in his logthat the islands were “falsely laid” in most charts too far to the west. xxiii In reality, Davis’navigation was off by miles. Thousands of them, in fact. The true longitude of Peros Banhos isabout 72 degrees. According to Davis they were more than 2,000 miles further east. If that wasthe case, they wouldn’t be in the Indian Ocean at all but rather somewhere in Indonesia. Thiserror, though rather large even for its day, highlighted how even experienced navigators werevexed by the longitude problem.

There were five islands in close proximity, and boats were sent ashore. The islands aboundedwith “Fowle, Fish, and Coco Nuts” but while there was good food there was no good anchorage.The sea bed dropped off rapidly from the island, and thus it was too deep to anchor very farfrom shore. If a ship came close in to anchor, however, it risked being pushed onto sharp rocksand shoals by wind and currents. The Tigre sailed on, and on June 19 it sighted the Ile of Diego

Graciosa (Diego Garcia). According to Davis, “This seemeth to be a very pleasant Iland, and ofgood refreshing if there be any place to come to an anchor.” Alas, a bad wind was forcing theship toward the shore and it did not stay in the area very long. While passing the island,however, it was noted that it was ten or twelve leagues long and abounded with birds and fish, aswell as having “a mightie wood” of nothing but Coco Trees. xxiv.

It is perhaps not coincidental that in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” written during this time, thewitches at the beginning of Act I, scene three, discuss a ship called the Tiger and her fate. Inparticular, the line “a pilot’s thumb / wrack’d, as homeward he did come” might be a referenceto the death of the famed pilot/navigator John Davis, who died during an epic battle withJapanese pirates during this trip.xxv.

The British were forging their way into the Indian Ocean, lured by profits. By 1608, forexample, a trip to India yielded a 234% profit for its investors. By 1612, English captainThomas Best engaged a Portuguese fleet while sailing off Surat, India. xxvi The struggle amongstthe European nations for control over the Indian Ocean had begun in earnest. Over the course ofthe 1600s the British generally gained in strength in the Indian Ocean, while the Portuguese andthe Dutch were relegated to secondary powers. The French, however, would rise to challengeBritish hegemony in the region. This British-French rivalry would lead to a greater interest inthe Diego Garcia and the Chagos Archipelago by the mid 1700s.


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While historical documentation is lacking, it is interesting to speculate about any ties betweenthe Chagos Islands and one of the more fascinating developments in the Indian Ocean in the late17th century, the rise not only of piracy but of a pirate nation. Located at the port of Diego-Suarez on the island of Madagascar, from approximately 1685 to 1730 there existed the nationof “Libertalia.” It existed as a haven for pirates plundering shipping from one end of the Indian

Ocean to the other. The roll call of Indian Ocean pirates over the years was long andmultinational. There were Englishmen such as Read, Teat, Williams, Avery, and Kidd. Irishmenlike Cornelius and Jamaican Plantain plundered alongside Frenchmen like La Vasseur and LaBuse (a.k.a. the buzzard). Later on Americans like Tew, Burgess, and Halsey would ply the age-old trade in the region.xxvii Pirates did not always sail along normal streams of commerce, indeedtheir irregular navigation and desire for private places to rest and replenish may have made theChagos a popular destination.

The 17th century passed almost as quietly as the 16th in the Chagos Archipelago. Even well intothe 1700s the islands would be largely ignored and avoided. Indeed, as one French geographerwould later relate:

The French, in their passage from the Isles of France and Bourbon to India, hadconceived an insuperable dread of the archipelago which extends from the Northto the North-East of Madagascar; nor had any of them attempted to pass throughit, though it would have shortened the voyage upwards of three hundredleagues.xxviii

During the 18th century, however, there would be a growing interest in the island chain.Portugal was no longer the dominant naval power in the Indian Ocean, and the Dutch were alsono longer in contention for the place of preeminence. Instead, the English and the French wereboth expanding their interests, and their rivalry, into the Indian Ocean. This rivalry led to arenewed interest in once neglected locations like the Chagos Archipelago. The “zero sum”

reasoning of great power competition meant that even if a nation was not interested in owningand exploiting some island, its rival might. Thus, both the French and English would begin tolook upon the Chagos, and Diego Garcia in particular, in a new light. In order to carry outstrategy, these nations needed information gathered and analyzed.

The French were among the first to actively investigate Diego Garcia and the other islands of theChagos archipelago. In 1742 the French ships Elisabeth and Charles explored the Chagos regionand more accurately fixed their location. April 15, 1744, would find the Elisabeth surveyingPeros Banhos in the Chagos with a chart maker/geographer aboard.xxix In 1768 the French shipsL’Heure du Berger and Vert Galant visited Diego Garcia. Among the passengers was the Abbe’de Rochon, astronomer to the Navy.xxxA year later the Vert Galant returned, and her commander

Lt. La Fontaine reported “a great number of vessels might anchor there in safety; but theprincipal object is wanting: for though it is covered with woods, it is not provided with freshwater.”xxxi La Fontaine’s analysis was flawed. The island is among the wetter places on earth,with an average annual rainfall of more than 87 inches. The island is very flat, however, andbecause of its shape no point is very far from the ocean. Therefore the rain quickly runs off.There are no rivers nor even streams or creeks on the island. How, then, could a person get freshwater in between periods of rain?

The obvious answer would be to dig a deep well. When this was initially tried on Diego Garcia,


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however, the results were marginal. There was plenty of water, but it was very “brackish,” withsalt and minerals. The problem was twofold. Firstly, the island was made up of coral and waterthat percolated downward through it picked up minerals. Secondly, once the well reached belowsea level (only a few meters at most on the island) then there was also the possibility of seawaterseeping in from the ocean or lagoon. The answer, which was apparently not obvious to LaFontaine, was to not dig deep wells but rather shallow ones. On the island, large volumes of

good fresh water are contained in “lenses” in the ground that are shallow but cover wide areas.Currently, with a major military base on the island, all water is provided by means of a “freshwater catch” system that utilizes these lenses.

The Vert Galant may have visited Diego Garcia once again in 1771 while carrying famed Frenchexplorer Kerguelen. The ship would eventually be destroyed by a cyclone while at Mauritius in1773.xxxii

The British in the Indian Ocean were represented largely by two entities: the Royal Navy andthe East India Company. The East India Company was far more than simply a business. Indeedit operated a navy of its own. From its foundation circa 1600 (it had sponsored Lancaster’svoyage in the Red Dragon) to its eventual demise in 1874 the company played a key role in theBritish presence in the Indian Ocean.xxxiii At times the Company served as the de factogovernment of India and held incredible influence over British government policy in the region.Service to the Company promised great opportunity to ambitious young Brits, and forgenerations the East lured the up and coming as well as those with nowhere else to go. Evenbefore the British settled in the Americas, and long after its colonies there had rebelled, the EastIndia Company was a cornerstone of British strength.


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One of the first British to methodically gather and promulgate information on the Chagos islandswas Alexander Dalrymple. A Scott, born in 1737, Dalrymple went to work in India as a youngman. While there, he became fascinated in the lesser known lands to the East and in the

prospects of doing business with them. In order to try and convince the conservative bosses ofthe British East India Company to back expansion he marshaled all the reports, maps, and datahe could. His enthusiasm and skill led to him becoming Hydrographer to the East IndiaCompany in 1779, and eventually the Royal Navy’s first hydrographer in 1795. At thebeginning of the Napoleonic Wars the British were losing more ships to running aground than toFrench action, and advances in sciences related to cartography were making specialists likeDalrymple extremely valuable.xxxiv

In one publication Dalrymple took up the question of the Chagos Archipelago.xxxv During a lullin the century’s periodic British-French fighting, Dalrymple had been corresponding withFrench map maker M. D’Apres de Mannevillette about reconciling the contradictory informationthat was available about this island chain. Dalrymple had detailed charts from 11 British vesselsthat had visited the region between 1744 and 1776. To this he added D’Apres tracks of sixFrench ships from 1757 to 1777. Finally, Dalrymple looked into journals and accounts of afurther 26 British visits between 1699 and 1780. Dalrymple insisted on calling the main islandChagos, though the French used the name Diego Garcia. By painstaking analysis of the varyingaccounts and charts, Dalrymple laid out the best locations for many islands in the chain anddetermined that the island known as Candy (or Candu) was nonexistent.xxxvi

In May of 1786, Lieutenant Archibald Blair was tasked with conducting a survey of the island ofDiego Garcia in conjunction with a tenuous attempt to settle the island. The East India Companyhad several specific questions it wanted answered. Among them; What dangers and difficultiesdid a ship face upon entering the harbor? What were the precise locations of the three small

islands in the mouth of the harbor, and how safe were their respective channels? Within theharbor, where best to anchor? Finally, Blair was to leave “distinguishing marks” of his surveyfor future reference.xxxvii

In addition to making charts, Blair made several useful observations for future sailors. He sailedaround Diego Garcia and confirmed that ships could not anchor on the seaward side because ofthe steepness with which the island dropped off into the ocean. xxxviii He noted that within theharbor there were patches of rocks and coral and that a ship should use a chain on its anchor, as acable might be quickly ruined. He also took a careful look at the entrance into the harbor, whichwas divided into channels by three small islands. His determination was that the Main Channel,between the ‘middle’ and ‘west’ islands was a good passage with little danger as clear water

exposed potential problems to incoming ships. Between ‘east island’ and ‘middle island’ thewater was very shallow and treacherous, allowing only small craft to pass. And, finally, between“east island” and “east point” the channel was also dangerous for larger vessels, probably noteven allowing a “sloop of war” to pass.xxxix Finally, Blair noted that between May andNovember there appeared to be a constant NW current, which helped explain the wreck of manyships such as the Atlas, which thought it was 5 degrees further eastward when it ran aground onDiego Garcia.xl

The wreck of the East Indiaman Atlas was to produce another hydrographer, one who would


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eventually replace Dalrymple as Hydrographer to the East India Company upon his death. TheFirst Mate of the Atlas was a young Scotsman named James Horsburgh. A conscientiousnavigator, he was surprised when his ship ran aground on Diego Garcia. He determined thatinadequate and incorrect information had lead to the wreck and dedicated himself to the task ofimproving navigation and hydrography. For years, even as he sailed the world on a variety ofships, he kept meticulous notes, studied journals, and corresponded with others. His most

substantial accomplishments were the discovery of the diurnal fluctuation of air pressure overocean areas and the publishing of an encyclopedic book on navigating in waters common to EastIndia Company ships. As noted, he was later in life named Hydrographer to the East IndiaCompany as well as a member of the Royal Society.xli


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As noted, Blair’s surveys were in conjunction with an attempt at settlement. In January of 1786the East India Company officers received orders from London to establish a settlement on DiegoGarcia, as well as another at Nancouvery Harbor in the Nicobar islandsxlii.

To the President and Council of Bombay

We direct that with all possible dispatch, you send two small vessels fromBombay to take possession of and settle the Island Chagos or Diego Gracia,situated in 7 [degrees] 16 [minutes] South, which was visited in the year 1774 bythe Drake Ketch. We rely upon your discretion to chose proper persons to be sentin these Vessels to take an exact Survey of the Harbour and Island, and to give anAccount of its produce and the best means of settling it, to make it a place forRefreshment of Ships, and also what might be necessary to make it tenableagainst Attack, which by the Plan, it appears might be done at a very smallexpence, some of the small vessels from the Bombay Marine should be employedwith Diligent and Intelligent Officers to examine and ascertain the situation ofnumerous Banks and Islands in that part of the Sea, as an accurate knowledge ofthose hitherto much neglected Seas, is essential to the security and navigation ofthe Company’s ships;xliii

By March the expedition was underway, with stores and supplies aboard the Admiral Hughes,which sailed along with the Napier and some other vessels. Two senior servants were in charge,one named Price and the other John Richmond Smyth. Serving under them was CaptainSartorius of the Bombay Engineers. He was to be the chief engineer, surveyor, and commandingofficer of the military detachment. The expedition carried with it a set of “secret orders” to dealwith contingencies, most notably the possibility of other European nations settling or claiming

the islandxliv.

The summer of 1786 was a time of unprecedented activity on Diego Garcia. In conjunction withthe settlement were the Blair survey and visits by various ships including the Drake, Viper, andExperiment as well as a supply visit by the Swift Grab. While details are unclear, field pieces of“European Artillery” were also put on the island, once again probably in the case ofdisagreement over the island’s statusxlv. Indeed, the French government would take offense atthis British move. The French had settled the strategic island of Isle de France (Mauritius) tothe southwest of Diego Garcia and the Chagos. Indeed, there were apparently a few French onthe island of Diego Garcia, though not part of an official or organized settlement attempt. ABritish naval station on Diego Garcia could interfere with French attempts to employ their sea

power from their Southwest Indian Ocean islands toward India. Precisely who legally possessedthe island was open to question, but the British were apparently operating on the assumption thatthe unsettled island was legally Res Nullius (land not yet ‘owned’ by any nation).

A letter from Messrs. Price and Smyth to the “Secret Committee” would outline what the settlersquickly discovered about the island. Potatoes, yams, and many “culinary plants” could be raisedon the island, but importantly grains such as maize and rice did not seem to grow well. Sheepand goats throve, as did hogs and fowl. Cattle, on the other hand, did not do well. CaptainSartorius noted that every building material was found wanting. He also pointed out that the


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island was everywhere flat and level and that the island could be fortified only at “immenseexpense.” When a French brig visited the island its Captain said he had known nothing of theEnglish settlement plans, but predicted they would fail. The French apparently felt that theisland could not support a useful population and that this, combined with its remote location andlack of supplies (such as timber), made settlement purposelessxlvi.

In late November of 1786 the Indian Government sent the Drake and the Morning Star toevacuate the English settlement. The diplomatic waves, though small, continued. In the Springof 1787 the French Governor General in India, Vice Comte de Souillare, sent the Britishgovernment a letter concerning the English on Diego Garcia. It apparently made claims ofmistreatment of the French who had been on the island, for British civil servant Boddamanswered that Smyth and Price, the leaders of the expedition, had “showed signal humanity tothe deserted wretches whom they had found on the island.”xlvii Note that Boddam carefullyclaimed the French on the island had been “deserted,” asserting the British position that theFrench had never truly settled the island and could not claim sovereignty. The French, however,apparently disagreed. The French ship Minerve was sent to investigate the English settlement butfound that it had already been withdrawn, so it left behind a “stone of ownership.” The island’sultimate ownership would not be decided for another 27 years.

Even as the settlement on Diego Garcia was being withdrawn, others within the Britishestablishment were criticizing the attempt. One example was a dispatch sent to the RightHonorable Charles Earl Cornwallis, Governor General and Commander in Chief in Bengal, inDecember of 1786. Only five years earlier Cornwallis had been forced to surrender a Britisharmy to the American rebels at Yorktown. Now he was on the other side of the world attemptingto strengthen the British position in India and the Indian Ocean. Situated at Fort William, theBritish garrison in Calcutta, Cornwallis was receiving reports from across the region. Thisparticular report was from Captain James Scott, who wrote that he had heard of the settlementof Diego Garcia and “It is difficult to form an idea of the motive which has led to thismeasure.”xlviiiCaptain Scott was a friend and business partner of Francis Light, who in August of

1786 had taken possession of Penang from the Sultan Abdullah Kedah on behalf of the EastIndia Company.xlix They were intent on developing Penang into a major port, and apparently didnot want to see rival efforts taking the attention, or the money, of the Company.

Captain Scott laid out the case against investing resources into settling Diego Garcia. To beginwith, the island could never be “an object of commerce.” Its produce was “confined to coconutsand a precocious supply of turtle and fish.” He then explained why, from a sailor’s viewpoint,the island was not as handy as its central geographic position might seem to indicate. To beginwith, the lagoon had “dangerous and narrow openings, of difficult access at all times.” Evenworse were the prevailing winds, which hampered sailing to and from the island and India.Captain Scott laid out several scenarios, noting that strong South East trade winds prevailed

from April to October, and from October to April there were the North West monsoons. If usedas a “port of retreat” for the British fleet in India, for example, it might take more than threemonths for the round trip from India. Added to this were dangers of running aground and the“foul ground” in the lagoon which made the use of anchor chains (vice cable) necessary. l

The Captain then pointed out that as a “port of rendezvous” for the European fleet the island alsohad severe disadvantages. Its location closer to the French islands (Bourbon and Mauritius)necessitated fortification, which would be extremely expensive given the lack of local suppliesand resources. Captain Scott felt that British resources would be better spent building bases and


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settlements elsewhere. After his withering criticism of Diego Garcia he wrote “From a prospectso dreary and from difficulties which good luck only could cope with - Let us turn our eyes toPooloo Penang.”li Penang, which had recently been re christened Prince of Wales Island, was astrategic port located near the Straits of Malacca. Unlike the waters near Diego Garcia, theStraits were a shipping route and served as a natural choke point for blockade.


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The period of escalating British-French rivalry in the Indian Ocean would reach its crescendowith the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic wars. It was during this time that theisland of Diego Garcia got its first permanent settlement. While the French and English

governments had decided that the Chagos were not fit to serve as significant military bases,several enterprising French businessmen on the island of Mauritius saw an opportunity to makesome money off the island of Diego Garcia. By the late 1780s the French administration onMauritius had given concession ( French joissances ) to two men: M Le Normand to harvestcoconuts and M. Dauget to fish. There is no evidence that either actually set up any operationson Diego Garcia, and they may have simply obtained the concessions for resale. lii

By 1794, however, M. Lapotaire was producing coconut oil on the island for export toMauritius. By 1808 he was joined by M. Dauget and M. Cayeux. At the dawn of the 19thcentury oil was a valuable substance, it not only lit lamps but was being used as lubrication foran increasingly mechanized world. This of course was the golden era of whaling, as whale oilwas one main source. But coconuts were another source of oil. Harvested, shelled, dried, andthen pressed, they could provide a valuable, high quality oil. The key to the economic processing of coconuts (which will be described later) was cheap labor, and the French inMauritius had this in the form of slaves. Lapotaire had more than 100 slaves on Diego Garciaproviding for 12 mills while Cayeux had an operation half as large. liii

There were soon complications from both business competition and France’s enemy, England.On the business end, two other men (one a former Cayeux employee) imported 20 slaves and setup a couple of mills of their own. There were disagreements over precisely who had the legalright to do what. Secondly, with open warfare raging in the Indian Ocean, there was concern bythe French owners that the English might be tempted to plunder the island. These problems wereall submitted to Governor Decaen on I’ll de France and he subsequently issued a set of orders.

All the established businesses would get a share of the island, but no one could make finishedcoconut oil on the island. Instead, the island would only produce copra (dried coconut) forexportation to Mauritius and refining there. The idea was that the English would not botherstealing bulk copra but would take the more valuable and handy finished oil. If there were no oilon the island, the English wouldn’t bother the plantations. In addition, Diego Garcia would haveto do the island of I’ll de France a civic favor by accepting for settlement all lepers. liv

The primary base of operations for the French navy during this period would be I’ll de France,the island that was previously known as Mauritius and, confusingly, would be renamed thatagain in the futurelv. During the French Revolution the island of I’ll de France and its occupantswere often a mere afterthought to French authorities on the European continent, and as a result

the island escaped much of the tumult and the terror. With the rise of Napoleon and war with theBritish, however, I’ll de France’s strategic location in the Southwest Indian ocean made itimportant once again. An island of considerable size and population, it served as an excellentplace from which to terrorize British sea routes around Africa to India and the Far East. TheFrench Navy was never strong enough to directly challenge the British in the Indian Ocean sothe primary strategy became one of rue de guerre. French warships, as well as privateers andoutright pirates, would sail from Mauritius to attack British shipping, usually with an eye totaking captured ships and booty back to Mauritius for sale. The island, awash with cut rate goodstaken from the unlucky and incautious (as well as sugar grown locally), quickly attracted profit


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minded merchants from around the world. Among these were merchants from the new UnitedStates of America. Between 1786 and 1810 some 600 U.S. ships would visit Mauritius, and theU.S. would establish a consulate on the island in 1794.lvi

The Viper, Drake, and Experiment, which had all spent a portion of 1786 in and around DiegoGarcia, would all have various adventures during the Napoleonic Wars. On 26 July, 1800, the

14 gun cutter Viper was blockading I’ll de France under the command of a 25-year-old ActingLieutenant, Jeremiah Coghlan. He took a dozen men and a ten-oar boat and rowed in close toshore to try and storm the anchored French gun-brig Cerbere, which was manned with 87 sailorsand 16 soldiers. Twice the dozen or so Englishmen tried to storm the Cerbere, only to be beatenback into their boat. Finally, on the third attempt, an already twice wounded Coghlan would leadhis men to take the vessel, which surrendered when its last officer fell. For this exploit navalregulations were waived and Acting Lieutenant Coghlan was promoted to Lieutenant lvii.

In April 1805, off the coast of southern Africa the east Indiaman Experiment with her 20 gunswould be captured by the French 30 gun Napoleon commanded by Captain Malo le Nouvel. Shewas carrying a cargo of tea from India, and was taken to I’ll de France to be sold lviii. During theinvasion of I’ll de France in 1810 the British ship Pitt carried 430 troops of the 59th regiment,2nd Brigade, under Lt. Colonel Gibbslix. The Drake fought a particularly tough battle with theFrench Piemontaise commanded by Captain Louis Jacques Epron, while escorting a batch ofEast Indiamenlx. Ultimately, the British prevailed in the Indian Ocean, invading I’ll de France in1810 and eventually taking permanent legal sovereignty over the island with the signing of theTreaty of Paris of 1814. By taking possession of I’ll de France (which they quickly renamedMauritius) the British sought to ensure that the French would never again be in a position tochallenge British hegemony in the Indian Ocean. Along with the title to Mauritius, the Britishtook possession of sundry miscellaneous small islands, rocks, banks, and chains. Among themwere the Chagos Islands and Diego Garcia, which were now officially declared British territory.

Though the British now had sovereignty over Mauritius, the island remained very much

culturally attached to France. Its citizens continued to speak French and carry on Frenchtraditions, one of which conflicted with the policies of its new masters in England: slavery.Mauritius, in addition to its role as a French maritime center, was dependant on a plantationeconomy consisting primarily of growing sugar. During the French Revolution the island’sleadership had taken a dim view toward extending “fraternity and equality” to the slave class,and it continued to resist British efforts to end the practice. Following a bitter and complicatedprocess, all slavery was officially ended in Mauritius in 1835, with slaves having their statuschanged to that of indentured servants. At this time, most of the residents of Diego Garcia wereindeed former slaves. Many had come from Africa via slave trading centers on Madagascar andat Mozambique. At least officially some had been converted to the Roman Catholic faith, thoughwith a strain of tribal syncretism that would continue through the 20th century. They generally

spoke Mauritian French Creole, though over time the language of the Ilois (i.e., “Islanders”)would become more distinctly different.

The ‘Ilois’ (who would eventually call themselves “Chagossians”) have very little in the way ofa written history, particularly from this era. Most of them were illiterate, and they lived arelatively simple life as laborers and craftsman on Diego Garcia. One can only speculate whenthe ‘Ilois’ emerged as a distinct ethnic group, as opposed to just being Mauritian slaves (or slavedescendants) on another island. To the extent that records exist, most deal with the concerns ofplantation managers and owners as well as governments. The scientific expeditions that visited


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Diego Garcia, for example, did not consider the Ilois as meriting scientific study. Business andgovernment records note births and deaths and administrative details, but there is virtuallynothing about the “culture” of the Ilois, their traditions, their beliefs, etc. The history of the Iloisis largely a lost one.

To the extent that there is historical data from the early days of the Chagos, much of it seems

due to serendipity. In 1819 the Dutch ship Admiraal Evertzen wrecked on the reefs of DiegoGarcia. The ship was named after the famous Dutch admiral who captured New York during the3rd Anglo-Dutch war in 1673, putting ashore 600 men near the spot where the World TradeCenter would later stand, and fall. His namesake ship was homeward bound after traveling toBatavia when it met its fate. The first officer of the ship, Quirijn Maurits Rudolph Ver Huell,made drawings of scenes from the crews time on the island. The stranded sailors were eventuallypicked up by the US merchant vessel Pickering, which was on its way to Mauritius.lxi Thedrawings highlighted the natural features of the island: coconut trees, jungle, the ocean, birds,and an apparently primitive lifestyle. The natives shown appear to be fairly light skinned Creoleswearing little more than loincloths. At the time of the drawings (1820) they may very well havebeen slaves, as slavery was not finally abolished in all of Mauritius and the lesser dependenciesuntil 1835.lxii One drawing appears to show the ship’s crewmen operating a coconut mill, whichleads one to wonder if they had to work to earn their keep.


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In the 1820s and 1830s the British were setting the stage for yet another extension of theirworldwide maritime dominance. Ever since the Portuguese had first entered the Indian Ocean,the Red Sea had been a bastion of Muslim piracy and treacherous waters. Europeans had

dreamed of being able to safely sail up the Red Sea to transfer goods from the East the shortdistance across the Isthmus of Suez. But the navigable waters were often relatively narrow, theocean was poorly charted, and the prevailing winds made sailing difficult. Added to this was theproximity of the land enclosing the Sea, which meant many potential pirates who did not needsophisticated sailing skills in order to snare unwary ships. Finally, the Ottoman Empire hadtraditionally protected this ocean and much of its surrounding area. The British, like thePortuguese centuries earlier, would first try to establish a base on the island of Socotra near themouth of the Red Sea, but would by 1839 decide to take the port of Aden on the Southeast tip ofthe Saudi Peninsula instead.

In 1829 the British Thetis, with 10 guns and under the command of Commander RobertMoresby, escorted the first coal ship up the Red Sea. The age of steam was approaching, and theeventual shift to coal fueled ships would impact even remote Diego Garcia. The British neededinformation about this new region, and soon Moresby was overseeing two vessels, the Palinurusand the Benares, surveying the Red Sea. Not only did the ships and their crews gather nauticaldata, but some crew members also traveled ashore and wrote descriptions of the Saudi Peninsula.As an indication of how difficult this task was, the Benares ran aground no less than 42 timesduring the endeavor. A person no less esteemed than the famed explorer Richard F. Burtonwould explain, “Robert Moresby, the genius of the Red Sea, conducted also the survey of theMaldive Islands and groups known as the Chagos Archipelago.” This survey, published in 1837,would update the work of Lt. Blair’s survey from almost 60 years earlier. Conditions weredifficult working in the tropics in that era, “ . . . death was busy amongst them for months and soparalyzed by disease were the living, that the anchors could scarcely be raised for a retreat to the

coast of India.” In the end, however, the maps produced were of such high quality that theywarranted a special viewing by the Queen of England. lxiii

As an interesting side note, one of the things Moresby found on Diego Garcia was litter. OnSeptember 18, 1837, he found a bottle with a note in it on the shore. It was signed by F.C.Montgomery, 4th Regiment and also mentioned Captain Twopenny of the 73rd Highlanders.They had been aboard a ship traveling from Plymouth, England to Ceylon when they threw theirmessage in a bottle overboard, at a point more than 1,300 miles from Diego Garcia and twoyears earlier.lxiv

In 1849 an article on the Chagos Islands appeared in The United Service Journal and Naval and

Military Magazine.lxv

It took a very dim view toward the progress of the islands, whoseproprietors “do not themselves reside in these Islands, but live in opulence where they like,deputing the management of the affairs of the Chagos to a number of registrars, or overseers.” lxviThe article does not paint a very nice picture of life on the islands, but allowances have to bemade for the British sensibilities of the authors. There is dismay that the laborers “resemble thetribes of Africa, from whom they took their origin” and that “No idea of a Supreme Beingappears to exist in the Chagos Archipelago.”lxvii After all, the article points out, the proprietorsare of “French descent.” One senses that the authors expect little more from this combination ofAfrican and French influences. Interestingly, this account seems somewhat contrary to accounts


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of Roman Catholicism (if of a syncretic nature) being well established on the island.

Most of the islanders lived on huts set on posts 3 feet above the ground, the space below “beinginvariably occupied by pigs,” which abound and produced a “stench.” Sheep and cows were alsoto be found on the island, and poultry was “exceedingly plentiful.” There were turtles, bothgreen and hawksbill, and the laborers were rewarded with “a piece of blue cloth worth seven or

eight shillings” if they found a particularly fine example. It was noted that by this time seals andwalrus were almost entirely gone from the island. This was probably largely due to humanhunting, but may also have come from the introduction of dogs.lxviii

Dogs were raised on the island and their sale resulted in “considerable revenue.” The articlenotes a “valuable breed of pointers” being raised. The article is not too clear about when it wasreferring to Diego Garcia in particular or another of the Chagos Chain. It described an islandcalled “Home of Dogs,” however, that could be one of the small islets in the mouth of DiegoGarcia’s lagoon. A large number of dogs were raised there, tended only by “one Negro -generally a leper.” The dogs were reportedly fond of human attention, and at low tides somewould swim across to “neighboring islands.”lxix

The islands were also hosts to two introduced insect species. Wasps had been imported fromMauritius to kill insects that infested the coconut trees. They thrived, much to the discomfort ofthe laborers. In addition, honeybees had been introduced and beeswax and honey were beingexported. They made hives in hollow trunks of cocoa trees. The entire island ecology wasreportedly fueled by the Bois Mapan, also known as the roose-tree. A native of the Maldives, itgrew very fast and died just as quickly, its remains eventually forming the basis of the soil thatcould be found. lxx

The Chagos Archipelago produced more than just coconut oil. It also produced an even morevaluable kind of oil: whale oil. Whaling ships routinely whaled in the warm waters of theChagos, perhaps as an antidote to their time in the richer grounds in the Antarctic south. For

example, the whaler Harrison out of New Bedford, Connecticut, stopped in Diego Garcia duringa three-year whaling voyage beginning in 1854.lxxi Over time, however, the whale population inthe central Indian Ocean would become depleted just as one of the worlds largest oil consumers,the United States, discovered oil on its own territory in Pennsylvania. Like sea lions and seals,whales would become a rarity near the island.

The year 1859 found the United States on the verge of civil war. Though the island of DiegoGarcia had ended slavery decades before, a less violent kind of war was being waged: A war forsouls. As stated earlier, the island of Mauritius (and therefore Diego Garcia) was largely of theRoman Catholic faith in accordance with its French heritage. When the British had takensovereignty over Mauritius from the French, however, they had bought with them the Anglican

Church. Vincent W. Ryan, D.D., the Bishop of Mauritius, visited Diego Garcia and other remoteislands in 1859 in an effort to counter the baleful influence of the “romans.” He left Mauritiusaboard Her Majesty’s despatch gunboat Lynx and on June 15 he went ashore at the Minni-Minniplantation on Diego Garcia, where the manager (appropriately named Mr. Mainguy) greeted himwith the gift of “a fine pig” and a basket of oranges and lemons. The Managers of Point MariaAnn (Mr. Barry) and South East Point (Mr. Regnaud) were also there. lxxii

Bishop Ryan uttered a lament that would be repeated by future missionaries when he said“Several causes tend to produce a bad state of morals among the labourers, though as far as


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physical comfort and supply went, they seemed to be remarkably well off.” The next day, whileon a 3-mile walk to the South East Point Estate, he met an “old Bombay Malabar” who hadspent 13 years in Mauritius as palefrenier (stable boy) and knew of the Bishop. He asked that theBishop send someone who could show them “the right way,” this repeated phrase apparentlybeing the means by which the Anglicans distinguished their religion from the Catholics. TheBishop then spent some time at the “spacious house” of Monsieur and Madame Regnaud and

their four children, which was located near the plantation’s busy coconut mills. He noted that theisland had many “Malabars” (descendants from the Indian Subcontinent) and wrote “I spoke toseveral in Creole, chiefly Madrassess,” expounding on the folly of idolatry. After baptizing achild he gave some literature to a local woman named Eugenic. lxxiii

On his last day on the island, the Bishop visited Point Maria Anna. He asked an “old Negro” onthe beach if anyone there know “the right way” to heaven. The man pointed the Bishop to 12-year-old Pelagie Figaro. She had until recently been living on Mauritius under Anglican tutelageand was apparently a very good reader and student. Finally, the day was ended with a ceremonythat involved much singing, blowing on shells, and recitation from the gospel about LakeTiberias.lxxiv


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Diego Garcia continued to exist in relative obscurity. The island’s plantations main export wascoconut oil, though whole coconuts were shipped out as well. The island also produced smallamounts of various products for export: dried and salted fish, turtles and turtle shells, coconut

fiber and cordage coir, etc. All products were exported to Mauritius via routine visits fromsupply vessels. Table 2 lists government statistics on some exports from Diego Garcia in themiddle 1850s.

Table 2.Selected exports from Diego Garcia, 1850s________________________________________________________________________Item 1854 1855 1856 (partial)coconuts 10,000 45,000 8,000oil of coconut 1,619 casks 1,579 casks 634 casks________________________________________________________________________Source: British Public Records Office FO 167/288, 1859

A decade later, in 1864, the output of coconut oil from the three plantations on Diego Garciawas 34,000 veltes for East Point, twenty thousand for Marianne, and twelve thousand for Mini-Mini.lxxv

The work of harvesting and processing coconuts did not change much until the end of theplantations almost 100 years later. First, coconuts would be collected and stacked, with a workerexpected to collect 1,500 per day. Then each pair of huskers would husk 4,500 coconuts per day.Finally, those who sorted the nuts from the husks would be expected to collect 1, 500 nuts perperson per day. The nuts, having been husked and separated, would be broken and laid flesh-upin blocks 24 feet square, each one holding about 3,000 nuts. After about three days in the sun the

flesh would curl from the shell, and women used knives to extract the flesh. It would then be fedinto the mills, which were essentially large pestle-and-mortar arrangements driven by harnessedmules circling the mill (though in slavery days slaves may have done it). On a typical day, withabout 6-8 hours of milling, 404 pounds of copra could be turned into 17 veltes of coconut oil, orabout 28 gallons.lxxvi

The advent of the steam ship was to have a significant impact on Diego Garcia. On December10, 1825, the steamer Enterprise left Falmouth in England for a 115-day passage to India. In1830 Captain John Wilson led the first Bombay-Suez steamer trip aboard the Hugh Lindsay. lxxviiAs noted, surveyors such as Moresby were laying the groundwork for new shipping routes intothe Red Sea and up to the Suez Isthmus. Unlike sailing vessels, steamships were not at the mercy

of the various prevailing winds and monsoons of the region. Ships would no longer travel insweeping arcs as they attempted to harness the wind on their long voyages. Instead, shippingwould become more directly point-to-point. In addition, steam power normally meant moremaneuverable vessels, and the constant advances in the arts of navigation and hydrography weremaking travel in and near the Chagos less dangerous. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869led to even more marked changes in Indian Ocean navigation.

Finally, some 350 years after having been discovered, the geographic centrality of Diego Garciawould be a factor. Ships sailing back and forth between Europe and rapidly growing Australia,


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for example, no longer had to sail far to the South of Diego Garcia and around the Horn ofAfrica. Instead, they could travel through the Suez canal, and Diego Garcia was near the directroute between the entrance of the Red Sea and Cape Leeuwin, Australia. In addition, these shipswould need coal to fire their steam engines. This would lead to a brief period that could becalled Diego Garcia’s “coal boom.”

The Royal Navy assisted in surveying Diego Garcia for steam navigation with a visit from theHMS Eclipse in 1881 under the command of Captain Garforth. lxxviii The same year the OrientSteam Navigation Company closed its coaling station in Aden. Following an inspection by oneCaptain Slader it opened up a coaling station on Diego Garcia in 1882. At the time the OrientCompany had 12 ships running the England-Australia route via the Suez Canal, including thetransports Austral and Lusitania. In addition, the London-based firm of Lund and Company setup its own coaling business on Diego Garcia. Lund only operated two ships on runs that wouldutilize Diego Garcia, but they contracted with another 50 ships to provide coal on a contingencybasis.lxxix

With this business boom came attendant problems. At first the Orient Company imported 40Somali workers for their coaling station, as coaling in that day required a great deal of manuallabor. The Somalis proved to be very troublesome, however, and they were replaced withMauritian workers. They suffered from very poor morale, however, and consideration was beinggiven to importing Chinese laborers before events overtook the stations. The Lund company,which was coaling fewer ships, hired local labor on an “as needed” basis for its coalingoperations. Normally the imported workers lived separately from the natives on the plantations.They had worse conditions, and generally were not allowed to bring their families to DiegoGarcia. This, combined with poor pay and alternating periods of idleness and backbreakinglabor, made for much trouble.lxxx

The lives of the coaling stations were to be short lived, but their existence helped highlight aproblem for the British authorities on Mauritius. The problems with coal laborers, as well as a

general rise in the island’s population, led the British authorities to establish a police post on theisland. The cost of maintaining empire was a constant concern, however, and in 1888 a reportfrom the Auditor General recommended a paring of the island’s police force, which consisted ofone officer, six constables, and a laborer. The report stated that law and order needed to bemaintained, even if the Orient Steam Navigation Company was closing its operation. It alsonoted that in accordance with Ordinance 13 of 1884 the police on Diego Garcia were“temporary” and could be called back by the governor of Mauritius. It suggested these specificmanpower changes, along with their attendant costs in Indian Rupees, the common currency ofthe island.


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Table 3.Costs of policing Diego Garcia circa 1888_______________________________________________________________________Present Proposed1 Police Officer 3,400 1 Sergeant 7201 Constable 480 1 Constable 480

2 @ 420 840 2 @ 420 8403 @ 320 960 Accommodations 3181 Laborer 240 Supplies/Stores 1,000Accommodations 449Supplies/Stores 2,400

---------------- ------------------Totals Rs. 8,469 Rs. 3,358note: Rs = Indian Rupees________________________________________________________________________Source: British Public Records Office CO 167/638, 1888

Even with the proposed savings, the authorities on Mauritius were not happy to be spendingmoney on policing Diego Garcia. The island, in their opinions, should be able to pay for its ownpolicing. One suggestion was taxing coal sold on Diego Garcia 1 rupee per ton, which given thecontemporary sales levels would have raised about 6,000 rupees. The auditor warned, however,that such a tax would “practically stop the industry,” but that a tax of 1/4 rupee per ton might befeasible. Another suggestion was a tax of one rupee per hectoliter of coconut oil. Diego Garcia,having exported 3,630 hectoliters to Mauritius in 1886, could thereby pay for its own police. lxxxi

The report which requested the new plan from the auditor general made clear the pressuresMauritian authorities were under to economize. Its author wrote that “enemies” of the colonywanted it to balance receipts and expenditures. It then forwarded the argument that Diego Garciashould be an “imperial” instead of a “colonial” burden. This was a key distinction. Colonies

were expected to more or less pay for themselves as if they were businesses. But imperial assets(such as strategic military bases) were paid for by the British Empire as a whole. Diego Garciawas economically insignificant, even to the small colony of Mauritius. “The only advantagewhich the dependency offers is a coaling-station in time of necessity for Her Majesty’s ships-of-war.” The island, the Mauritian authorities claimed, was a military asset that they should not beexpected to pay for.lxxxii

A tax on oil would be strongly opposed by the council on Mauritius, as the owners of the DiegoGarcia plantations had friends there. There was no point in taxing miscellaneous items unless acustoms launch was purchased, and at 4,000 rupees that did not seem likely. And, as the auditorwould note, a tax on coal would be moot as it appeared that the coaling operations would be

shutting down even before an added tax made them even more uneconomical.lxxxiii

Thisassessment raises an interesting question: Why was the Diego Garcia “coal boom” so shortlived?

There would appear to be several reasons. In the first place, increases in the size of ships,combined with improved technology, were allowing steam vessels to sail very long distanceswithout re-coaling. Stops in mid-ocean would not be necessary. Since ships did not have to stopin mid-ocean to coal, the question then became “why should they?” It was expensive to haulcoal to remote Diego Garcia, unload and store it, and then transfer it back onto ships. This made


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coal sold on the island more expensive. In addition, coal transfer relied on manual labor andthere was more (and cheaper) manpower at major ports where ships could save time by re-coaling and loading cargo at the same time. Finally, while more shipping was traveling nearDiego Garcia, it was still far from a “major” route. Seen in retrospect coal was to be supplantedby fuel oil anyway.


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Since Diego Garcia was the only inhabited land for almost a thousand miles, it sometimes servedas destination of desperation. In October, 1881, the Dutch steamer Koning der Nederlanden washeaded from Batavia to Amsterdam when it broke a shaft and foundered while several hundred

miles from Diego Garcia. One hundred seventy five crew and passengers, in six boats, attemptedto make it to the island. As the boats straggled along passing steamships picked up a few ofthem. One boat made it all the way to Ceylon with twenty nine survivors aboard. But none everreached Diego Garcia and 90 passengers and crew were never to be heard from again. The islandwas a small speck indeed in a very large ocean. lxxxiv

On August 27, 1883, Diego Garcia had its breakfast interrupted by the sound of explosions, lowbut powerful. Thinking that the sounds were from a vessel in distress, islanders were dispatchedto various points on the island to scan the horizon, but could find nothing. The steamer EvaJoshua was moving from Point de l’Est to anchor near Point Marianne when its crew heard theominous noises. Men were sent aloft, but like the islanders could not see any cause for thesounds. Only later would the islanders find that the alarming noises had come from theexplosion of the volcano at Krakatoa, Indonesia, more than 2,200 miles distant. lxxxv

In 1888 the Orient Steam Navigation Company ceased its operations on Diego Garcia afteroffering the British government an opportunity to take over. The land the company leasedreverted to the government. In short order, Lund and Company was shut down as well. lxxxviDuring this time, in 1885, the British government had sent yet another survey team to the island.This may have been an indication that the Admiralty at least considered taking a more activerole in the island’s future. The H.M.S. Rambler, under the command of the Honorable F.C.P.Vereker, made the most accurate charts of the island to date. The island would once againretreat to its raison de etre, coconuts, but by the end of the century there was an omen of eventsto come. An 1898 German expedition to do deep sea research left Hamburg for a 9-month

voyage aboard the Valdivia and operated near the Chagos.lxxxvii The residents of the island weresurprised in 1899 by the visit of a warship from this strange nation. The Furst Bismarck, aGerman armored cruiser, and the Marie, were showing the German flag in a hitherto Britishocean.lxxxviii It would be almost 15 years before the islanders would see another German ship.

The Chagos would gain a small measure of world attention a few years later during the Russo-Japanese War. The Russians, in an effort to counter Japan’s naval supremacy in the far East,sent parts of the their Baltic fleet on an epic voyage to the Pacific. The hastily assembledRussian 2nd Pacific Squadron split up and headed towards the Indian Ocean on two routes, oneacross the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, the other around the Horn of Africa. There wasspeculation that the two Russian groups would merge in or near the Chagos. The British had

declared neutrality, so the use of Diego Garcia itself seemed ruled out. The Russians, however,might attempt to use some of the smaller, unpopulated, islands for re-coaling and repairs. Inaddition, there was the possibility that the Japanese would send ships into the region to meet theRussians. In the end, however, the Russians fused their fleets near Madagascar, and althoughthey then sailed Northeast and near the Chagos, there were no Japanese ships waiting for them asthey sailed on to their fate at the battle of the Tsushima Straits.lxxxix The Russian cruiser Aurorawould survive the trip, going on to a famous role during the later Russian Revolution and istoday a museum ship in St. Petersburg.


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That same year, 1905, Diego Garcia and the other Chagos islands were again visited by ascientific expedition. This one, sponsored by the Percy Sladen Trust, was undertaken aboard theHMS Sealark, a survey vessel on loan from the Royal Navy. The ship visited various islands inthe Chagos, anchoring at Diego Garcia July 7 to the 13. The expedition gathered muchinteresting scientific information about the region and its findings were widely reported.xc

In the early morning hours of October 9, 1914, two ships sailed into the lagoon at Diego Garcia.Upon anchoring an assistant manager from one of the island’s plantations climbed aboard andwas surprised to see a portrait of the Kaiser hanging. He had simply assumed the ships wereBritish. The Captain of the ship quickly explained that it was the German Emden, sailing withthe British collier Buresk. When the plantation manager, Mr. Spender, came aboard, the Captainexplained that the ships had been participating in joint maneuvers and damaged in a storm. Heasked if the islanders would help with some needed maintenance. A bout of heavy drinking mayhave eased any doubts Mr. Spender had about the new guests. It turned out that the island wasonly visited by a supply schooner every three months and hadn’t heard from the outside worldsince July. The German Captain, Muller, told the manager that Pope Pius X had died, but failedto mention one other very significant piece of world news.xci

The next day Mr. Spender provided the Emden with the gift of a live pig as well as boatload offruit and fish. Captain Muller gave cigars and whiskey in return, and cordial relations werecemented. The Germans fixed the motor on a launch for the islanders. In return, islanders helpedthe Germans with the task of scraping their hull. The hull of the Emden was encrusted withbarnacles. In order to clean them off the ship was careened afloat by alternatively floodingeither port or starboard storage tanks, heeling the ship and giving cleaners access. In addition theship was repainted in grey. After a busy day and night of work and trading the Emden and theBuresk sailed out of the lagoon at 11 A.M.. The islanders watched the ships head Northwestinto the Indian Ocean.xcii

Five days later Diego Garcia was visited by two more ships. This time one stayed at sea just

outside the lagoon while another entered. The ship pulling into the harbor was the HMSHampshire and its mate was the Empress of Russia. These were indeed British ships, andCaptain Grant of the Hampshire informed the surprised islanders that the world was at war andthat he was looking for a German raider that was loose in the Indian Ocean terrorizing Britishshipping. The islanders, unaware that a war had started, had unwittingly given aid and comfortto the enemy. The British Buresk, which had been accompanying the Emden, had been capturedby the Germans while hauling coal to the British fleet in Hong Kong. It may have been just aswell that the islanders did not know about the war, for they had no defenses at all and theEmden could have easily shelled the island and taken what it wanted with shore parties. Thesuccess of the German raiders was embarrassing to the Royal Navy, and this particular episodewould make British headlines as “High Comedy on the High Seas.”xciii

During her three months of operations the Emden steamed 33,000 miles and sank or captured 23merchant ships, one cruiser, and one destroyer. More than 80 allied ships were involved inrunning her to ground, which was accomplished at Keeling Island in the Cocos group when shewas intentionally run aground after being crippled by the HMAS Sydney.xciv The HMSHampshire, which had come to Diego Garcia seeking the Emden, sank in 1916 after hitting amine while on a mission to Russia. More than 640 sailors lost their lives in that disaster, as wellas the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, Lord Kitchener, who was headed to Russia fornegotiations. The HMS Empress of Russia would survive the war and be returned to civil use,


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only to be recalled and used as a troopship during World War II. Her navigator during her tripto Diego Garcia, Geoffrey Miles, would eventually lead the British military mission to Moscowduring World War II..xcv

Diego Garcia’s involvement in World War I, as fleeting and humorous as it might have been,was a sign of the potential importance of the island. Wars between major powers were now

being fought in even the most obscure and faraway places, as the naval engagement of theFalkland Islands would further demonstrate. Diego Garcia’s central location may not haveyielded an economic bonanza (as related, the coaling business had not thrived), but from itscentral location one could strike out against shipping lanes in many directions. It was a greatspot for raiders, much the same way it may have been for pirates in earlier centuries, and wouldtherefore have to be watched by the British if only to ensure its enemies did not utilize it.Within 25 years the island would be heavily utilized in an even more intensive battle against notonly the Germans but also the Japanese and Italians.


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The period between the world wars would pass relatively uneventfully for Diego Garcia. Thecoconut plantations continued to be the pillars of the island’s economy. Table 4, with datarecovered from a variety of visiting magistrates reports, will give some idea of the typical

volume of exports from the islandxcvi

Table 4.Sample exports from Diego Garcia in the inter war period._______________________________________________________________________Item Sep ‘26 - June ‘27 1929 May ‘31 - May ‘32coconut oil veltes 10,739 4,094 7,361copra tons 250 150 711coconuts 272,778 169,500 225,087tortoise shells kilos 60 124 158_______________________________________________________________________Source: British Public Records Office CO 167/879/4, CO 167/861/10, CO 167/869/13

One note of excitement would be the assignment of a new manager in the mid 1920s. Soon therewere complaints that “labourers are being roughly handled and ill treated by the new managerMr. Edouard D’Argent” and that the islanders were living in a state of fear.xcviiIn May 1926, Mr.Henry Bigara died shortly after a person named Fidelia had committed suicide. Police sergeantLeMeme quickly figured out that an islander variously called Besage or Catawon had murderedBigara at the instigation of the manager D’Argent. They were both sent to Mauritius to standtrial for the death of Bigara (Fidelia’s death could not be pinned on them). Catawon was quicklyconvicted but the jury hung on D’Argent’s guilt. He had many friends in Mauritius and the localpress supported him. In addition there were rumors of jury tampering. A second trial convictedD’Argent, however, and he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in “penal servitude” on

Mauritius. He died shortly thereafter.xcviii

British authorities on Mauritius noted the difficulties of policing the remote Chagos islands, aswell as the fact that sometimes the people sent to manage the plantations were less than ideal forthe task. D’Argent, for example, was called a “brute and a bully” who was unfit to manage.Conditions on the islands would not “give rise to a public scandal if they were fullyinvestigated,” but nonetheless a close watch would be kept.xcix One continuing problem was thatthe owners of the plantation resided on Mauritius and they saw Diego Garcia and the otherChagos Islands as little more than some easy income. There was a perennial shortage of capitalfor investment and many ambitious plans for development were wrecked on the shoals of fiscalausterity. Mauritian colonial authorities felt that the owners should pay for needed services and

upkeep while the owners in turn felt that such costs were the obligation of the colonialauthorities. Compounding the geographic isolation of Diego Garcia was the complex socialhierarchy of Mauritius. Not only were the native Diego Garcian’s largely uneducated laborers,but they were also of “dark” mixed-race descent.

One example of the lack of investment was the failure to provide the island with even a radio. In1930, for example, a visiting magistrate argued that a wireless transmitter/receiver should beinstalled.c In 1936 a different visiting magistrate would make the same suggestion, pointing outthat a wireless would allow the islanders to hear “emergency broadcasts” from Nairobi, Bombay,


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and Colombo. As he correctly predicted, however, the owners would not pay for the wireless setand neither would the colonial authorities.ci The island would not get a radio until 1941, whenthe RAF began using the island as a base. Suggestions for more significant reforms were shelvedas well. For example, in one message to the Colonial Office it was suggested that the Chagosshould be administered not from Mauritius but from the Seychelles islands, and that goods forthe islands should be shipped to Colombo instead of Mauritius. The author noted, however, that

Diego Garcia and the Chagos were a Mauritian “family business” and that any attempt to changethe status quo would be opposed.cii

Table 5 gives an idea of the population of Diego Garcia through this time.

Table 5.Diego Garcia population in the inter war period_______________________________________________________________________year Men Women Children1927 151 124 1361930 150 135 1501935 103 169 1981937 166 164 185______________________________________________________________________Source: British Public Records Office CO 167/861/10, 167/867/13, 167/893/4, 167/896/16

The figures should be taken with a grain of salt. The visiting magistrates sometimes broke downthe population by plantation and sometimes didn’t and occasionally a wild variation inpopulation was reported with no explanatory comment. For example, a 1928 report listed only18 “lads and lasses” as the apparent child population, and there was no reason given for thefluctuation of about 50 men listed in 1935.ciii During this time some of the other Chagos Islandswere also inhabited. Peros Banhos, for example, typically had about 100 men, 80 women, and100 children living on it. A few other islands had even smaller and more transient populations.

In 1933 yet another scientific expedition would find its way to the Chagos. The John MurrayExpedition was undertaken on the smallish vessel Mahabiss. The primary goal of the expeditionwas to investigate the possibility that a continent once connected Africa to India. One of themembers was Lieut.-Commander Farquharson, R.N. He not only made magnetic observationsbut also kept the echo-sounder running continuously for more than 22,000 miles of sailing. civ

During these decades the Chagos Islands were only intermittently visited. Perhaps three or fourtimes a year a large steamer from Mauritius would make a visit to Diego Garcia, dropping offsupplies for the island and picking up its exports, mainly coconut related. In 1929, for example,a visiting magistrate would visit the island aboard the SS Surcouf.cv In the mid 1930s these

supply runs were made by the SS Zambezia. The islands would also be visited on a regular ifinfrequent basis by smaller vessels, often delivering limited supplies as well as mail and people.One ship used in the early 1930s was the S.V. Diego, a barque of approximately 150 feet length,380 tons, and built about a half-century earlier in England. The loss of the Diego, wrecked onthe shoals of Eagle Island in the Chagos while on a supply run, was nearly a disaster for itpassengers, one of whom was a missionary priest.cvi

Roger Dussercle was a French priest with a missionary bent. He had served earlier as a chaplainto the French army in Morocco and then eventually been assigned to by the Catholic Church to


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work on Mauritius. Mauritius was already predominately Catholic, and well served withchurches and priest. The outlying islands however, the “lesser dependencies” including DiegoGarcia and the Chagos, had no assigned priests and often went years without religious guidance.Dussercle not only made it a point to visit the islands, but he also wrote books about hisadventures. On June 20, 1935, he would have an adventure indeed. cvii

Eagle Island was being abandoned, and the Diego was shuttling workers and stores to otherislands in the Chagos (such as Diego Garcia). The 19th of June finds it near Eagle Island when asurprise storm begins and the winds shift, indicating a very early monsoon season and startlingthe crew. The ship was in danger of being run aground and dropped two anchors, but theysimply dragged. The third anchor was dropped and briefly held before the line parted. The crewand passenger donned life vests as the situation worsened. The crew raised the anchors and triedto maneuver out of danger, but the rudder didn’t respond to commands. The captain walked offthe bridge and calmly informed his second mate of the situation.cviii

There were confusion and terror as the ship went up on the rocks amidst the storm. The ship waslying on its port side at a 60-degree list on the rocks. Three of the four lifeboats were sweptaway empty. The crew could not launch the last. Father Dussercle found his services as a priestin high demand as the entire crew and passengers crowded on the bridge for what appeared to becertain death. The ship’s distress had been noted ashore, however, and an island resident namedArthur Tallant came to the rescue. He was a ploughman by trade, but apparently could handle asmall boat as well. He made at least thirty trips to the ship, saving everyone at only a few peopleper trip. Everyone was saved, but the Island didn’t have enough supplies to feed everyone and itmight take months for anyone on Mauritius to notice the loss of the Diego. There was only oneseaworthy boat on the Island, and it was eventually taken by Second Mate Berenger to PerosBanhos to alert authorities of the shipwreck, despite continued bad weather.cix In 1939 theisland of Diego Garcia received what appears to be its first visit by an aircraft. The British hadbeen considering a trans-Indian Ocean air route to improve communications with the far East,particularly in view of the tense world situation. A PBY-2 flying boat, nicknamed the “Guba 2",

was piloted from Australia to Mombasa by Capt. P.G. Taylor. The aircraft surveyed one possibleroute and took aerial photographs of stops including Diego Garcia. It is possible the flight wascoordinated with a visit to the island by the HMS Liverpool. The flight was an example of theever greater reach of aircraft, and the PBY-2 would be the basic design of the “Catalina” flyingboat that would be heavily used by the allies during World War II. Diego Garcia would seemany more such aircraft in the near future.cx


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World War II was indeed a “world” war, and the Indian Ocean would play a secondary butnonetheless an important role even though the region is largely overlooked.cxi The Indian Oceanwas an important area for the British. With the Germans and Italians in North Africa and

ravaging shipping across the Mediterranean the British position in Egypt and the Middle Eastdepended largely on supplies coming from the East. In addition, the British homelands neededsupplies from India and Australia, and especially fuel from the Middle East and Southeast Asia(prior to the Japanese entry into the war). The huge British refinery at Abadan, Iran, forexample, became a key source of vital 100 octane aviation fuel for the allies .cxii

During the war 385 British, Allied, and Neutral ships would be sunk in the Indian Ocean, 250 ofthose by submarines. This amounted to 1,789,870 tons of shipping, with the worst months beingMarch and April of 1942. Beginning in 1939 German surface raiders were the primary threat.Then it was Italian ships and submarines that had been caught in Ethiopia. With the Japaneseentry into the war there was the danger of major enemy fleets raiding into the ocean, which theJapanese did. Even as the raider threat subsided and the Japanese were forced to turn from theIndian Ocean toward the encroaching U.S., submarine forces began taking an ever heavier toll.Both German submarines, notably the “Monsoon” group operating out of Penang, and Japanesesubmarines were a danger in the Indian Ocean.cxiii

Diego Garcia would find itself involved in the war from early on. Even prior to the war, astensions in Europe mounted, the HMS Liverpool called on Diego Garcia to show the flag in Mayof 1939.cxiv The British, recalling their experience with the Emden in World War I, kept a muchcloser watch on the islands once the war began. No German raiders would attempt to pull intoDiego Garcia. Indeed, mindful of the possibility that the British would use the island as aforward anchorage or seaplane base, the German raiders studiously avoided coming too close.During an operation to prevent Vichy French shipping from crossing the Indian Ocean, for

example, the British made aerial reconnaissances of the Chagos islands. The HMS Hermes,Enterprise, and Mauritius searched around the island, and two Catalina flying boats used theisland to fly 12 hour missions in support.cxvIn late 1940 the German raiders Atlantis and Pinguin were both operating in the Indian Ocean.The Atlantis and the accompanying Speybank met up with the Vichy ship Lot and the JapaneseAfrican Maru in the general vicinity of the Chagoscxvi. Indeed, the Axis had a rendezvous pointViechen (Violet) at 14 degrees South by 73 degrees East, several hundred miles south of DiegoGarcia, which was the nearest inhabited land. The potential utility of Diego Garcia as a centralbase of operation was highlighted on May 17, 1941, when the British got a good radio direction-finding fix on the German raider Kormoran only 200 miles from the island. The nearest shipswere the HMS Cornwall and Glasgow in distant Mauritius, which were sent in pursuit. By the

time they arrived, however, the raider had slipped away.cxvii

In January of 1941 an MNBDO (Marine Naval Base Defense Organization) force was sent fromPort ‘T’ (Addu, Maldives) to Diego Garcia, escorted by the HMS Glasgow. At the same time,the steamer Zambezia was sent to Diego Garcia from Mauritius with supplies. The British werestretched thin, and plans were made for an Indian infantry company to garrison the island whileartillerymen from Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery regiments manned the coastaldefense batteries.cxviiiOne of those traveling to Diego Garcia was a British Marine named James Alan Thompson


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aboard the Clan Forbes. Thompson would later write several books in which he would discusshis time spent on the island, most notably “Only the Sun Remembers.” Thompson hadoriginally been in charge of an anti-aircraft detachment during the ill-fated British defense ofNorway. He escaped Norway as a straggler aboard one of the last British ships out and was sentto the Middle East and ultimately to help with the construction of a secret naval base (base ‘T’)at Addu Atoll in the Maldive Islands north of the Chagos island chain.cxix When initial

construction was finished at Addu his unit was sent south to Diego Garcia.

Thompson’s experience in Diego Garcia was far from enjoyable. The islands had always beenhot, isolated, and relatively primitive. Now, under the pressures of wartime, ill-fed troops andworkers would struggle to build the military facilities to fight off a potential Japanese attack.Particularly damaging to morale was the lack of contact with the outside world. Thompsonwrites about getting a pre-Christmas letter from his wife in late March. He put it:

I was never so near the sun, so near the elemental, so fearful or so overwhelmed;East or West along the Equator Line, degrees North or South, the sun burnednearer to the earth in Chagos..... Trapped, imprisoned by thousands of miles ofocean to every point on the polished brass compass, by-passed by ship trail andsky path; feebly fastened to life by the haphazard supply ship coming fromMauritius, once, twice, three time each long year. Until the temporary installationof a RAF wireless station at East Point, completely devoid of contact with thedistant world; at one time unaware of the world’s new war.cxx

The troops and laborers were at the distant end of a long and tenuous supply chain. The islanddid not produce enough vegetables and fruit for the new population and many of the troopsbegan to suffer maladies of malnutrition like scurvy and even beriberi. Even without combat thework could be dangerous. A young sergeant died a “lingering death” after falling overboard andstriking his head on an adjacent landing craft. While moving one of the old 6 inch guns out ofthe Clan Forbes the teeth in a winch slipped and the barrel fell 8 feet. The winch handle spun off

and hit a man square in the forehead. He survived, albeit with a “terrible dented scar on hisbrow.” Thompson explained:But the anchorage had to be given the surface defence of two old six-inch guns, ultimatelymanned by a wretched, ill-disciplined, spiritless battery raised in Mauritius, transported to DiegoGarcia, and literally flung ashore without semblance of tentage, equipment, proper rations anddevoid of the knowledge or will to provide in any way for their own future existence. cxxi

The island did have one redeeming feature, however: Diego Garcia is the fisherman’s paradise;the incredible Valhalla where all lies come true, where two exaggerating arms cannot span thefish caught; where there is neither doubt nor hope but only the certainty of catching fish until hisarm is tired or the line snaps. Until there is no longer room to move in the boat, until there are

sufficient fish to feed a ship full of hungry men. Fishing in paradise, in the kind waters of greedyand ignorant fish; dream fish, fish weighing ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred pounds. The onesport of Chagos; in which to indulge our small excitement until the sun burned our bodies andthe revolting stench of the dead sharks became unbearable.cxxii

In July of 1941 the British were facing the prospect of fighting the Japanese in the East inaddition to the Germans. There was disagreement over the precise course the British should take,but clearly defenses in the Indian Ocean needed to be shored up. A British planning estimateforecast that the Japanese would attack the Soviet Union and take its Maritime Provinces in the


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far East before turning Southwards to attack British interests.cxxiii This would give the British a“breathing space” in which to prepare. The role envisioned for Diego Garcia was as a cruiserfueling base with some gun and boom (anti-torpedo) defenses.

The same month, the Navy’s Director of Plans had made a slightly more pessimistic assessment.This report considered the possibility that Singapore might not be useable as a fleet base due to

Japanese air attack, and emphasized that in this case the British could not ensure that Japanesesurface forces would not enter the Indian Ocean. With Singapore out of the picture, it envisionedthe British falling back on a “line” running from Durban to Mauritius to Diego Garcia to theNicobar Islands. This would protect the most vital Northwest Indian Ocean sea lanes. It furthernoted that Port ‘T’ was centrally located behind this line and was a logical choice as the mainfleet base. Port ‘T’ was the secret British port in the Maldive Islands, being hurriedly built. Inaddition, while Diego Garcia was centrally located and forward, Port ‘T’ was already surveyed,had a better harbor, and was closer to vital specialist building resources.cxxiv As is often the casein war, a “strategic” choice (Diego Garcia) was beat out by real limitations in vital resourcessuch as survey, construction, and engineering unit locations.

By August the British navy realized that it did not have enough information about Diego Garcia.In particular, the surveys on file were not up to modern standards. If necessary, could DiegoGarcia be used by deep draft capital ships like battleships? After a flurry of messageshighlighting the shortage of specialist vessels, the HMIS Clive, of the Indian Navy, was taskedwith conducting a survey. Ultimately, it was decided that Diego Garcia was indeed suitable foraircraft carriers and cruisers, but ships with deeper drafts (battleships and very large merchantvessels) could not use the anchorage.cxxv

In October of 1941, following a reconnaissance by the Indian Army, the Commander in Chief ofthe East Indies commented on the development of the Diego Garcia base. Only two guns wereallotted for the shore battery, a symptom of just how far stretched British resources in the IndianOcean were. They would both be sited near Eclipse Point, where they could cover the main

channel into the lagoon. In addition, there would be a battery observation post and a port warsignal station located on Eclipse Point. The base would also get W/T (wireless telegraphy,British for radio) and a Mauritian garrison expected to be ready by February of 1942. cxxvi

In October of 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and US entry into the War,the British War Cabinet issued top level plans for Diego Garcia. The first plan, ‘A’, was to bestarted immediately and foresaw three major tasks for Diego Garcia: As a fueling and minoroperational base, an advanced flying boat base, and an aerodrome (i.e., an airfield). The backupplan, ‘B’, was in case there was a need for Diego Garcia to become a major operation base andcalled for a much larger logistical and support presence as well as added defenses. When it waslater decided that Diego Garcia was not suitable for large draft vessels plan ‘B’ was dropped.

The plans foresaw the island suffering possible day and night torpedo and bomb attacks from upto 100 carrier-based aircraft. In addition, bombardment from 12" cruiser guns was a possibility,as well as attacks by motor torpedo boats and submarines (outside the lagoon). As a worst casescenario, there was the possibility of the Japanese landing up to one brigade of troops. On thebright side, none of the attacks was likely to be sustained. The Japanese were expected to hit andleave, not try and take the island permanently.cxxvii

An aerodrome was to be built on the land Southwest of Eclipse Point. If the Japanese severed


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communications from Australia to the US West coast it might be necessary to ferry aircraft “thelong way around,” via Africa and Diego Garcia. The island was also to get a fighter squadronand a combined ground reconnaissance and torpedo bomber squadron. For air defense the islandwould get 16 heavy and 16 light anti-aircraft guns. In addition, controlled minefields andindicator nets would protect the channel into the lagoon. A small garrison of troops would serveas a last ditch defense. According to British projections, at least 54 officers and 404 ratings

would be needed by the navy alone to man the base and the underwater defenses, includingmany “afloat” in local defense and harbor craft. cxxviii If plan ‘B’ had been fully implemented,there could have been as many as 4,000 troops and auxiliaries on the island. As a furtherindicator of British shortages, the island was to get one radio transmitter and power supply fromthe UK, but a second medium-power set would have to be taken from a pool being gathered inthe region. The radio station was initially to be manned by a leading signalman, three signalmen,and three coders. Looking to the future, however, possible sites for HF/DF (high frequencydirection finding) and radar antennas were considered near East Point and near Eclipse Point. cxxix

The military bureaucracy shifted into high gear, but the plans for the island were never fulfilled.In the earlier parts of the war there was a serious lack of resources, and by the later periods theperceived need for the base diminished. In particular, the US victory at Midway Island in mid1942 helped ensure that the Japanese could never again muster a major threat to the IndianOcean. Ultimately, the aerodrome and most of the other planned facilities were never built. Themain military activity that did take place was the establishment of Advanced Flying Boat BaseNo. 29, which flew Catalina flying-boats on reconnaissance and antisubmarine warfare patrol.Additionally, the two 6" guns were placed and the island housed a small garrison and someweather and communications personnel.

The two guns were placed at Kerry Point, which is today known as Cannon Point, and theyremain as reminders of the war along with the concrete bunkers and ammo boxes of the “fort.”The two guns were already more than 40 years old when they were put on Diego Garcia, yetanother indication of how strapped the British were for equipment at the time. They were

installed by the MNBDO in December of 1941 and manned by Royal Marines until relieved byX Mauritian Battery in January of 1942. They, in turn, were relieved by the 12th Indian CoastBattery of the Indian Army in September of 1942. It was not until October of 1942 thatconstruction of the shelters and magazines began.cxxx

The guns themselves were 6" Mark VII guns, one (piece 1264) manufactured by Vickers and theother (piece 1417) by the Royal Gun Factory. The former was installed on cradle 798 andpedestal 1067, while the later was installed on cradle 1067 and pedestal 798, the cradle/pedestalsets apparently getting switched during installation. The guns had a range of approximately14,000 yards with a nominal muzzle velocity of 2,500 feet per second. There were 99 feet and a276.5 degree bearing from gun number one to number two. A 2-meter Barr & Stroud F.T.29rangefinder (number 22119) was used on a Type M.T. 1454 modified mount (number 2219). A

Vickers clock and naval Dumaresq were used for fire control.cxxxi

While the aerodrome was never built, the island did, as noted, serve as a flying boat base. Thefacility was rather small and quite Spartan, with normally at most three flying boats present atany time. Though small in numbers, these aircraft played an important role in the surveillance ofthe central Indian Ocean. While they did not sink any enemy submarines, their presencecomplicated enemy operations and they also carried out the less glamorous task of reporting ongeneral shipping. The air operations were centered in the lagoon adjacent to the East Pointplantation, and they left a landmark that exists to this day: the remains of the Catalina flying boat


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named “Katie.”cxxxii

On September 16, 1944, RAF Officer Pilot James Park took off from Madras, India, in aCatalina named “Katie” after the squadron letter ‘K’. The aircraft flew more than eight hours toKelai in the Maldive Islands where it was supposed to refuel, but a storm prevented this. So itcontinued to Diego Garcia which was over another 10 hours away. The Catalina was a very slow

aircraft, but it could fly very long distances. Even so, the aircraft was running almost literally onfumes when it landed in the lagoon at Diego Garcia. Refueling was a grueling task. Four gallonGerry cans would be filled with fuel ashore and wheeled to the pier, where they would be loadedonto rowboats. The rowboats would then be rowed out to the aircraft and the fuel cans would behoisted up and poured into the aircraft.cxxxiii

Since another aircraft already at Diego Garcia took precedence for refueling, the pilot Park wentto bed with ‘Katie’ bobbing lightly on the water with a crewman on board. An unusually strongstorm soon blew up and tore the “Katie” from its mooring. Normally the crewman aboard wouldhave started the engines and taxied to keep the aircraft from blowing ashore but it was out offuel. The aircraft ended up on the beach, wrecked. Useful parts were salvaged, leaving a hulkthat remains an island landmark to this day.cxxxiv

The British had no plans to utilize the native plantation workers. One report stated that the 450or so natives were used to “easy living” and “will be of no use whatsoever.” cxxxv Another saidthat “people less likely to be able to do work of any kind can scarcely be imagined.”cxxxvi TheBritish government arranged to compensate the Diego Garcia company for any loss of plantationrevenues caused by the military buildup. Though most of the natives did not need to berelocated, the presence of the military was distorting the economy. The managers felt theworkers would be “spoilt” by the occupation. Workers would find it easier to catch and sell fishor do odd labor for the troops rather than harvest coconuts. An additional symptom was rapidinflation as the natives sold food to hungry troops that were suffering from a substandard dietout of tin cans.cxxxvii

While Diego Garcia was never the sight of any major battles like Midway or Guadalcanal, thearea was still dangerous for sailors right up until the end of the war. Two cases in particularstand out. On September 19, 1943, the Fort Longueuil was torpedoed and sank Southwest ofDiego Garcia. Victims of the German submarine U-532, two Indian crewmen survived theordeal. First they survived four and ½ months at sea on a life raft. And then, upon finallyreaching shore (in Indonesia) they were captured by the Japanese and imprisoned for 18months.cxxxviii On July 2, 1944, the Liberty ship Jean Nicolet was torpedoed by the Japanesesubmarine I-8. The blazing ship was abandoned, and the Japanese submarine picked upapproximately 100 survivors. A few were taken below, then for the next three hours the restwere subject to shootings, beatings, and stabbing. Many were forced to run a gauntlet of

Japanese crewmen with pipes and knives. The ordeal only stopped when the I-8 detected anaircraft, submerging while leaving more than 30 bound men on deck. Amazingly, some of themmanaged to swim back to the still burning Jean Nicolet and launch rafts cxxxix. It is quite possiblethat the aircraft in question was a Catalina flying boat from Diego Garcia.

The island holds the graves of 9 World War II service members, aside from those who were buried at sea. They were either members of the Mauritius Regiment or the Royal IndianArtillery, and are all buried at the Pt. Marianne Cemetery as per Table 6.


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Table 6.Allied WWII casualties buried on Diego Garcia__________________________________________________________________________Name Rank Service # Unit Date of Death AgeAppado, G.D. Private MR/1298 Mauritius Reg. 20/07/1942


Atchia, AHM Corporal MR/368 Mauritius Reg. 28/02/1942??

Buta Kahn Gunner 44606 Royal Indian Arty. 26/02/194320

Hardy, LP Private MR/284 Mauritius Reg. 17/07/1942??

Mehdi Kan Gunner AAA/25239 Royal Indian Arty. 08/04/194328

Montocchio,F Gunner MR/1038 Mauritius Reg.12/07/1942 ??

Muhammad Latif Sha Gunner 25214 Royal Indian Arty. 08/04/1943??

Pierre-Louise, I Private R/MTF/61 Mauritius Reg. 05/07/1942??

Samundar Kham Cook CA/1541 Royal Indian Arty. 16/06/1943 32__________________________________________________________________________Source: British Commonwealth War Graves Commission


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The end of the war saw Diego Garcia once again left to its own devices. Although there were

some changes, such as the installation of a permanent radio set and the opening of a school forthe children, life returned to the normalcy of coconut harvesting and fishing. The militarysimply packed up and left, taking whatever could be carried. The military might have been gone,but the island was not forgotten. In 1953, as the British considered the increasingly tenuousposition of their empire, they decided to investigate the possibility of maintaining control of theIndian Ocean from bases on remote and isolated islands, instead of from large nations like India.The Far East Air Forces conducted Operation Concubine, which included a survey of variousIndian Ocean islands for potential use as air bases. One of those surveyed was Diego Garcia.cxlA few years later a new Mauritian governor, Sir Robert Scott, would take an interest in theisolated atoll and pay it a visit. He traveled aboard the H.M.S. Loch Killisport instead the usualinter-island steamer, the old, slow, steamship M.V. Jules. His report of that trip paints a portraitof the island before it suffered from yet another intrusion of history.cxli

Scott reported that the island’s population was “markedly African with few signs of mixedancestry.” In addition he “was surprised to find that a relatively high proportion of the residentsregard the islands as their permanent home and they have their characteristic way of life.” Heestimated that 80% of the population were “natives” with most of the rest being Seychellois whowere indeed only temporarily living on the island.cxlii It is telling that the Governor of Mauritius(and by extension the “lesser dependencies” including Diego Garcia) was surprised by theexistence of a native population with its own culture. Since basically the only employment onthe island was the plantations, and they hired workers on a contract basis, the island’s residentswere often referred to as “contract laborers.” This gave readers of government reports the ideathat the island’s residents were a transient and temporary population whose true home was

elsewhere. This oversight would lead to controversy and complications that endure to the presentday.

As far as culture, Scott noted that Diego Garcia had “a society which is notably partial toalcoholic refreshment and broad minded with regards to marriage.” Attempts to replace thenotorious Sega dances failed, and on other islands attempts at changing local mores had provenless than successful. On Agalega island, for example, records were played on a grammaphoneinstead but “Satan found much mischief still.” Likewise, on Salomon the introduction ofvolleyball failed because the fishermen found the nets “too great a temptation.”cxliii

There were other changes for the better, however. One of the islands longstanding health

menaces, ankylostomiasiscxliv

, had been almost eliminated but even improved sanitation could notstop flies from being a nuisance. The islander’s workload was considered “fair,” and spare timewas often spent fishing. The school at East Point had 33 students though there were attendanceproblems. Many parents apparently considered school a “newfangled superfluity.” There were258 men, 198 women, 107 boys, and 93 girls, largely split between the two main settlements ofPointe de l’Est (East Point) and Pointe Marianne.cxlv

Governor Scott had hopes for continued development of the island. One of the companiesoperating a plantation on the island, Diego Ltd., had ambitious plans. One of the economic


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problems was that the traditional product, coconut oil, was facing keen competition from newmethods of processing vegetable oils. A Mauritian company, Inova Ltd., was considering theconstruction of new plants to produce a much higher quality of coconut oil that could competeon world markets. The age-old method of pressing with donkey-driven mills would come to an

end. In addition, another 1,500 acres of Diego Garcia would be added to coconut cultivation,with another 80 Seychellois workers imported to increase the workforce. The cost of clearingland for plantations led to consideration of mechanization to assist traditional manual and animallabor. Diego Ltd. estimated selling 1,300 tons of guano per year as fertilizer.cxlvi

Diego Ltd. also planned on hiring better managers and supervisors by offering better pay andbenefits. More fruit tress, particularly citrus and breadfruit, would be planted to enhance thelocal diet. And while commercial pork production was not feasible more “free range” pigs would be raised to likewise improve the sustenance of workers. These plans were not withoutdifficulties, however. It was noted that the slow and infrequent steamship communicationsbetween Diego Garcia and Mauritius hampered economic development. In addition, Diego Ltd.foresaw the need for acquiring an estimated 750,000 rupees in capital for the improvements.Governor Scott predicted that the company would seek government assistance and had doubtsthey could raise it.cxlvii

As the British slowly withdrew from their empire, other nations were expanding into it. Inparticular the United States was taking an increasing interest in the Indian Ocean. The growingimportance of Persian Gulf oil being shipped through the Indian Ocean was recognized by USstrategists. In addition, the U.S. was increasingly taking the lead in regional political issuesunder the mantle of anti communism. In 1954 the US Chief of Naval Operations, AdmiralRobert B. Carney, established what would become the Long Range Objectives Group in theoffice of the CNO. The group was designed to provide the Navy with strategic guidance, a sortof “grand strategy” by which operational leaders could steer. One of the staffers, Stuart Barber,

originated what would become the “strategic islands” strategy.cxlviii

The basic idea of a naval power operating from isolated bases was hardly new. As related in thisthesis the idea had been a recurring one in the history of Diego Garcia. Now, however, the ideawas dusted off and modern exigencies were taken into account. Barber foresaw a need for a ringof strategic island bases (mainly in the Southern hemisphere) circling the globe. Such islandswould be relatively cheap and easy to acquire in both monetary and political terms, and wouldbe immune from the trend toward greater third world independence that threatened establishedbases. Barber scoured maps and atlases looking for candidate islands. Diego Garcia headed hislist as having the potential to be such a base.cxlix In 1957 Admiral Jerauld Wright, Commander inChief of the US Atlantic Fleet, “inspected” Diego Garcia from a U.S. ship.cl

In May of 1960 Admiral Horacio Rivero, the director of the Long Range Objectives Group,proposed that the British be asked to “detach” Diego Garcia from Mauritius when that colonywas given independence. The new Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Arleigh Burke, agreedand informal contacts with the British were stepped up.cli In early 1959 Fred Hadsel, who wasliaison for African Affairs at the US embassy in London, had contacted the British with aproposal. The US Navy, he indicated, was studying the possibility of a U.S. naval task forceoperating in the Western Indian Ocean. In order to further planning, he proposed that a teamvisit and survey British ports that might function as logistics bases. The team would be small and


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travel in civilian clothes, and he suggested Mombasa and Mauritius as two possible places toinvestigate.clii

The British Foreign Office welcomed the US interest. They noted the importance of protecting

the oil routes as well as the potential benefits of having the US dependant on the British. Thepolitical situation in Kenya was “complicated,” however, and therefore Mombasa was not anideal choice. Similarly, Mauritius was likely to get self-government in the near future and theBritish could not make a long-term commitment there. It was suggested that the US team visitthe Seychelles on their tour.cliii Governor Scott of Mauritius added his apprehension at thepossibility of the US Navy establishing itself on Mauritius. “While paying due tribute to our debtto the Americans, the prospect of opening up Mauritius to the ‘American Way of Life’ fills mewith misgiving.” He cited the bad experiences of Pacific Islands and said there were “too manyopportunities for tactlessness in the political and social fields.” Governor Scott did notabsolutely rule out any US presence, however, noting that money was an effective salve and thatsomething of a “limited scope” might be arranged.cliv

The British may have been concerned that the US would turn to France for support in such aventure. The French maintained a strong presence in the Red Sea port of Djibouti, and theBritish noted growing US interest in that port as well. A large dry dock was being constructed asa joint French-Ethiopian venture, the Ethiopian portion of funding being US foreign aid toEthiopia. In addition, a large tanker dock was planned and NATO funding (via France) was alsobeing used to upgrade the port. According to the Egyptians the US wanted a base in Djibouti inpart to help support Israel.clv

Following a flurry of telegraphs and reports, London sent a message emphasizing that the U.S.was looking merely for a depot for use in case of an emergency that called for the deployment ofa task force. There was no truth, according to London, to rumors that the U.S. was going to

station an aircraft carrier permanently in the Indian Ocean. London was also trying to ensurethat it kept the colonies and remote officers from overstepping their authority in the quest forpossibly lucrative US development money. In particular it was noted that Sir. E. Baring was“most anxious to involve the Americans in East Africa,” but that all officials should benoncommittal to US proposals.clvi Talks were in the exploratory stages, and London reserved thefinal say on any agreement.

June 12, 1959, the Admiralty sent out a message announcing that Her Majesty’s Governmenthad given permission for the US CINCNELM to send a small, low profile, survey team incivilian clothes. The team members would be Captain H.K. Rock, Cdr. E. Hook, Jr.,and Cdr. LRLarson, C.E.C. Their itinerary would have them leaving Nairobi for a couple of days visiting in

Mombasa and Mauritius before returning to London on Air France flight 288 on July 3. TheAdmiralty emphasized that it was uncommitted and that local officials should likewise remainnoncommittal.clvii

Meanwhile, the Air Ministry was expressing its concern over numerous U.S. requests to usefacilities in British territories around the world. The British were uncertain as to U.S. intentions.Were these requests all part of a coordinated effort? While the British naturally wanted to behelpful, the Air Ministry pointed out, great care was needed to ensure that the Americans did nottake advantage of British kindness. In particular, the “awkward” arrangements concerning


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Ascension Island in the Atlantic were cited as demonstrations for the need for “carefulcoordination” within the British government and caution about the terms of anyarrangements.clviii

Almost on cue, the U.S. CinCPacFlt (Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet) invited the Chief ofStaff of the British Far East Fleet and four other officers to visit Pearl Harbor. Among thesubjects to be discussed was a general concept of operations for the Indian Ocean and theproblems the Pacific Fleet faced in staging forces into the ocean. In light of the need for USbases information was requested on the possible use of the R.A.F. base on Gan (in the Maldives)to support U.S. Indian Ocean forces.clix

The survey team led by Captain Rock made its inspections. In discussions with British officials,they noted the various difficulties with the sites being surveyed. They also surprised theirBritish hosts by bringing up several more possible locations for support facilities. One of thesewas the remote island of Diego Garcia. The British were not able to arrange for the team to visitDiego Garcia given the time constraints and the limited communications to the island. Theywere, however, pleased that the U.S. was considering new options. The British felt that it wasbest if the US did not get involved in Mombasa, and spent some time carefully explaining thepotential problems of the U.S. use of facilities on Mauritius.clx

In late July of 1959 the Admiralty released a comprehensive report on “U.S. Navy Interests inthe Indian Ocean.” Marked “for UK eyes only,” it outlined the Admiralty’s appreciation of thesituation. The report noted that the US embassy in London had initiated discussions about thepossibility of the U.S. operating a fleet in the Western Indian Ocean. The U.S. “might wish tosay” that such a deployment would only be made in an emergency, and that it did not want“bases” but only a “depot.” Indeed, the stated U.S. preference was for a civilian manned supplydepot somewhere on British territory.clxi The Seychelles, Diego Garcia, and Gan in the Maldives

were all possibilities being investigated. In addition, the US wanted oil storage in Singapore andthe use of a W/T (i.e., radio) station in Mauritius, if necessary building an American extensiononto the British building.clxii U.S. requirements for fuel storage in the Western Indian Oceanwere along the lines of fifty-eight thousand tons of fuel oil, forty-five hundred tons of diesel oil,and over two thousand tons of aviation gas.

The British emphasized that the US did not want a permanent Indian Ocean presence but wasonly preparing for emergency deployments of 15 to 35 ships. The US also wanted to minimizecapital investment in procurement or refurbishment needed for the facilities. In addition, the UShad made clear that it wanted to minimize any political opposition to the U.S. facilities. clxiii The“political opposition” the US Navy had in mind may well have been domestic as well as foreign,

and minimizing costs would help to avoid involving the US Congress in any decision.

The British were particularly eager to assist the U.S. since they were considering shutting downtheir own operations at Aden. They remained leery of involving the U.S. in Kenya, butMombasa looked like it was the best candidate to fulfil U.S. needs. The British felt thatMauritius and Gan would lead to too many political problems. Diego Garcia was remote andundeveloped, and would “entail heavy capital investment” which the U.S. was trying to avoid.On the other hand, the British felt that there would be “no appreciable political repercussions” toallowing the U.S. to use Diego Garcia. The report, apparently operating under the same


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assumptions as Governor Scott before his visit, said the island was “undeveloped and populatedvery thinly by imported estate labor.”clxiv At this very early point officials did not seem to know(or to care) that the island had a “native” population with a distinct culture.

The British sent word that they were confused by the numerous U.S. enquiries, and later in theyear the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Arleigh Burke, sent a message to the British First SeaLord. He stated that he understood British concerns and that the U.S. was grappling with itspotential role in the Indian Ocean. He said that a “small but flexible force” for emergencyoperations in the Indian Ocean was being considered, but pointed out the difficult logistics problems such operations would pose. In order to simplify planning and negotiation heestablished CINCNELM as the single point of contact on potential Indian Ocean facilities.clxvThe British Ministry of Defense then circulated a clarifying message that U.S. explanations“enable us to dismiss, once and for all, the idea that the Americans might be intending to deploya task force permanently in the Indian Ocean.”clxvi The U.S. only wanted “facilities” and not“bases,” and would only operate in the region during emergencies.

It appears that the British took these intentions at face value, but at certain points one can sensesome British feeling that these “facilities” would only be the proverbial camel’s nose under thetent. Governor Scott in Mauritius, for example, asked openly if the U.S. would be replacing theBritish in the Indian Ocean. In the short term, however, progress on U.S. plans was predicted tobe stymied by the fact that the developed facilities (such as at Addu and Singapore) came withpolitical complications. Developing new facilities (at Diego Garcia, for example) would take“substantial expenditure.”clxvii

In the spring of 1961 the British First Sea Lord prepared to table a paper for the Chiefs of Staffon the subject of U.S. facilities in the Indian Ocean. The Admiralty noted that the U.S.continued to be interested in using British facilities at Gan and Aden as well as possibly adding

on U.S. sections to existing British facilities. In addition, the U.S. was also continuing toconsider undeveloped places like Diego Garcia, Socotra, Ile de Roches, and St. Annes Island. Itwas stressed that the talks with the U.S. navy were “informal and confidential in nature” andwarned of “the importance of not mentioning it to American officials.”clxviii The talks weresensitive to both parties for domestic as well as international political reasons. The British weregrappling with the end of the empire and the question of pulling out “East of the Suez.” TheU.S. was beginning to get drawn into Vietnam, and military expansion into the Indian Oceanwould raise the specter of increased costs as well as overstretch. The executive branches of bothgovernments were intent on coming to terms with one another with minimal interference fromlegislators and the general public.

By the fall of 1961 the U.S. was ready to make another overture. The U.S. Naval Attache inLondon, Rear-Admiral Gayler, asked that an official from the Colonial Office meet withProfessor Reitzel, who was on the staff of the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations. During WorldWar II Reitzel had been a liaison officer to British Admiral Cunningham in the Mediterraneantheater. Professor Reitzel was an early practitioner of what would become known as “areastudies,” using a multi-disciplinary approach to provide regional commanders with advice.

Reitzel informed his host that he had been personally appointed by the CNO, Admiral ArleighBurke, to carry out “special evaluation studies.” He was using his experience in Mediterranean


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studies to analyze the political, military, and logistical considerations for stationing U.S. forcesin the Indian Ocean. He then pointedly asked what the British were going to do as they lost theirmain Indian Ocean bases, and suggested that it was a situation the British and Americans shouldstudy together. He was advised that the CNO should contact Admiral Crawford before writing

the First Sea Lord.clxix

Meanwhile, the US Navy was formulating a formal proposal that was set before the Joint Chiefsof Staff in 1962. The JCS agreed in principle with the tentative navy plan, and soon planningpicked up steam. Following communications problems during the Cuban Missile Crisis the U.S.military had implemented a large scale study of its global communications system. It noted thatthere were huge “blackout” areas in the Indian Ocean where U.S. Navy ships were out of contactwith higher command. The Missile Crisis had reinforced the need to maintain close contact with(and control over) tactical units in distant regions. Therefore, a need was felt for a newcommunications station to keep contact with ships in the Indian Ocean. Project KATHYconsidered Diego Garcia as a candidate.clxx

In late 1963 President John F. Kennedy was asking about the possibility of the U.S. 7th Fleetoperating in the Indian Ocean as a countermeasure to perceived communist Chineseexpansionism.clxxi In January of 1964 Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze declared that there was a“power vacuum” in the Indian Ocean. In April of 1964 a U.S. aircraft carrier task groupventured into the Indian Ocean.clxxii In July of that year, as talks with the British intensified, yetanother survey team was sent to Diego Garcia. The team, led by Commander Harry Hart of theoffice of the Chief of Naval Operations, flew from the U.S. to England where it picked up moremembers, including British representatives. Ultimately, it flew to Gan in the Maldive islands andtransferred to the HMS Dampier for the final leg to Diego Garcia.clxxiii

It might be significant that one of the members of the survey team was Mr. Vance Vaughn, who

was from the U.S. Navy Communications Annex at Nebraska Avenue in Washington, D.C.Nebraska Avenue was the headquarters of Naval Security Group, the arm of the navy taskedwith signals intelligence. More overtly, the team included two enlisted men who were taskedwith setting up a radio unit for tests. Master Chief Electronics Technician Richard M. Young andRadioman Chief M.J. Meriji used a 25-watt skid-mounted generator to power their radio, and a20-foot dipole antenna to transmit. Using the call sign WOLF WOMAN they tested the islands“hearability” by contacting various other radio stations, particularly ships at sea.clxxiv

During a subsequent meeting CNO Admiral Rivero would state “I want this island.” He was notalone. The USAF, alerted to Navy plans, expressed an interest in using Diego Garcia as a basefor B-52 bombers. The Navy was leery, however. In the first place, the Navy had only

envisioned a short and crude airstrip. The planned runway would have to be significantlylengthened and thickened to handle the big bombers, and this would cost money. Secondly, theNavy and State Department had been insisting that the “facility” on Diego Garcia would be verysmall and limited. Adding a base for nuclear bombers (the mission envisioned at the time) couldstiffen political opposition to the base. Plans for bombers were shelved, at least publicly, forseveral years.clxxv

The Central Intelligence Agency was also interested in Diego Garcia. In particular, it wasthought that the People’s Republic of China would test its ICBMs by firing them into the Indian


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Ocean.clxxvi There was also a growing awareness in the intelligence community that a number ofestablished intelligence posts were being endangered by the evolving world situation. The U.S.Army had a significant facility at Kagnew, Ethiopia, which was threatened by politicalinstability. Likewise, overt U.S. facilities in Pakistan might not be welcome for long. The 1964

Military Construction Bill originally contained funding for a “classified communicationsproject” in the Indian Ocean. This was to be on Diego Garcia, but the funding was cut. Beforefunding was in place, the U.S. wanted to ensure that it could indeed have the island, free ofinterference, for a long time.


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By this time the British government was deeply involved in negotiations over Mauritian

independence. Arguments over the terms of independence were highly charged amongst thevarious Mauritian political factions.clxxvii The British used this to their advantage. As a laterMauritian government report stated, the British handling of the Chagos issue were “part of adefinite and long term strategy on the part of the UK government.”clxxviii Few Mauritians knewmuch about Diego Garcia or the rest of the Chagos Archipelago and the Mauritians negotiatingtheir independence apparently did not think them of great importance. This may have been apolitical miscalculation on their part, as the “excision” of the island (as the Mauritians termed it) became a controversial subject. There is still some uncertainty over certain details of thenegotiations, and subsequent political wrangling has not cleared up this cloudy subject. SirSeewoosagur Ramgoolam, the chief Mauritian negotiator, has said that negotiators had to choosebetween Mauritian independence or giving up the Chagos. Yet, he refused to term the Britishdemands for excision of the islands as “blackmail.”clxxix

On November 8, 1965, the British issued the first BIOT order. This order established for the firsttime a political entity known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), comprising of DiegoGarcia and the rest of the Chagos as well as a few other Indian Ocean Islands. clxxx The BIOTorder was issued by the Queen of England as an “Order in Council” under the authority of theColonial Boundaries Act of 1895. Parliament was not consulted. Such use of what British lawterms “Royal Prerogative” is a demonstration that the Monarchy continues to be more than just aceremonial post. Two days later, on November 10, 1965, the British publicly announced thecreation of the BIOT. The announcement was intentionally low key, as the British were tryingto avoid political and legal complications, particularly from the United Nations.

Close on the heels of the creation of the BIOT came an exchange of notes with the United Statesregarding joint use of “Indian Ocean Islands” for defense purposes. clxxxi An “exchange of notes”is technically not a treaty. Therefore, the U.S. president does not have to have it ratified by theU.S. Senate. Indeed, congress (like the parliament) was kept very much in the dark about plansfor Diego Garcia. In addition, a secret attachment to the agreement would be even morecontroversial. The United States agreed to pay the British for detaching Diego Garcia, with thesum not to exceed 14 million dollars. United States law requires that spending be approved bythe Congress, but in this case no congressional scrutiny was wanted so a new method of paymentwas created.clxxxii

The British were buying the Polaris missile to arm their strategic missile submarines, and were

paying various fees in accordance with prior agreements. Secretary of Defense McNamaraagreed to waive a 5 percent research and development surcharge on the project in order to paythe British. This was carried out with a series of accounting measures that, arguably, were legalsince the executive branch didn’t “spend” money but rather simply didn’t collect money owed.This methodology generated much criticism when it was later discovered. The GeneralAccounting Office found that without an actual judicial ruling (i.e. a lawsuit) it could not saywith certainty that the transfer was illegal, but it “was clearly a circumvention of thecongressional oversight role.”clxxxiii


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The question of funding was central to controversy over the arrangements to use Diego Garcia asa base. To begin with, the executive branches in both Britain and the U.S. were trying toestablish the base with a minimum of legislative involvement (or even notification). This meantthat costs had to be kept low to keep the project under the radar of budgeting authorities. In

addition, even within the governments different agencies and bureaus were engaged in the ageold practice of maximizing their own gain while shifting costs onto others. In the publicannouncement made by the British with the establishment of the BIOT, they had stated that theywould pay three million British pounds to Mauritius, one million pounds to the plantationcompany, and would assist with “resettlement.”clxxxiv In general, the British were planning onpaying out about as much money as they were secretly getting from the United States, whenrelated compensation to the Seychelles was taken into account. This plan ran into problemsimmediately. In the first place, the Mauritians considered the three million pounds to becompensation for “loss of sovereignty” or in effect payment for real estate. Resettlementassistance had not been specified, but the Mauritians were clearly thinking that additionalconsiderable funds would be coming. The British, on the other hand, interpreted “assistance” tomean things like providing advice.

To make matters worse, part of the British agreement with the Seychelles involved upgradingthe airport at Mahe and the project was going way over budget. In a classic bureaucratic sleightof hand the British Ministry of Defense had gotten the Treasury to agree to pay excess costs forthe establishment of the BIOT. The Treasury thought that it was simply going to apply the USmoney to the Indian Ocean projects and that everything would balance. When it becameapparent that the budget would not be met the Ministry of Defense refused to transfer money toTreasury. Treasury was now faced with an escalating bill for a project that was for anotherdepartment. Clearly, additional money for resettlement would not be forthcoming. It appears thatthe British may have hinted that further U.S. funds would be appreciated. In a joint State-Defense message to the U.S. embassy in London in late 1970, for example, it was stated that the

U.S. position was that “we recognize the British problem” but that the costs were “clearlyenvisioned to be the United Kingdoms responsibility.”clxxxv

During all of this there was a notable lack of consultation, by any party, with the people livingon the island of Diego Garcia or the other Chagos islands. The people on the island hadcoexisted with military facilities before, and no one told them that they were all to be evictedfrom the Chagos in its entirety. The British government was intent on satisfying U.S. demandsfor an unpopulated island, however, and it was not going to be deterred. The British began aquiet policy to reduce the population on the islands. As the Chagos were remote and primitive,many people who lived there would travel to Mauritius and the Seychelles for healthcare,schooling, visiting relatives, marriage, and other sundry reasons. The British began to simply

deny people who left the island passage back, often leaving them stranded away from what theyconsidered their home. The British kept this practice as secret as possible, and would later carryout the final mass expulsion by surprise.

The British had caught themselves in a legal and political trap, and hoped that secrecy couldkeep it from being sprung on them. The British had detached the BIOT from Mauritius and thengiven Mauritius its independence. This meant that the British were not simply “resettling” theIlois. They were exiling them. As citizens of a British Colony there was no legal means to forcethem to move to what was now another nation. In theory, if they could not remain on the islands


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then they should have been allowed to settle elsewhere in Britain. The British governmentclearly did not want that, for political as well as fiscal reasons. Fortunately for the officials ofthe day, it would take years for the legal issues to come to court.

In 1966 the plans for project KATHY, an “austere communications facility,” were replaced withREST STOP, plans for a more significant support facility.clxxxvi In 1967 yet another survey teamvisited Diego Garcia, this time on the HMS Vidal.clxxxvii The late 1960s also saw a series ofBritish withdrawals from “East of the Suez.” As the British were closing bases and ports likeAden, Yemen, the Soviet Union was now beginning to take an active interest in the IndianOcean. Now that significant sums were required to start construction the Congress could nolonger be left out. The 1970 Appropriations Act however, did not ultimately contain any fundingfor Diego Garcia. As expected there was intense congressional scrutiny over plans to expand theU.S. role in the Indian Ocean. In the midst of trying to extricate the U.S. from Vietnam manycongressmen were leery of this expansion. Ultimately, it was suggested that the military dropplans for a support facility and go back to original plans for an “austere communicationsfacility” to replace Kagnew Station as the Ethiopian situation was rapidly deteriorating.clxxxviii

On 15 Dec, 1970, the Nixon administration announced its intent to go ahead and construct ajoint military facility on Diego Garcia. The planned communications station was now calledProject REINDEER, and an intelligence collection role was added. An additional 50 peoplewould be stationed on the island to meet these “Project Charlie” requirements. clxxxix Meanwhile,plans for an expanded base and mission were underway. The military considered using DiegoGarcia if the use of facilities in Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf, were denied. In addition, the U.S.was preparing contingency plans for the possible operation of Polaris strategic missilesubmarines in the Indian Ocean. All of this was undertaken against a backdrop of generalinternational opposition. For example, a U.N. resolution called for the Indian Ocean to be a“zone of peace.”cxc Despite the desires of the regional nations, however, both the U.S. and the

Soviet Union were escalating the Cold War in the Indian Ocean.

In 1971 the first major contingent of U.S. Navy “sea bees” arrived to begin construction of thefacility. It had been decided that the U.S. military (with contractor support) would carry out thetask. The BIOT was legally run by a commissioner, who was appointed by the Queen inaccordance with the original BIOT Order. He issued the Immigration Ordinance of 1971, whichin effect allowed the expulsion of any person from the island and only allowed entry with thecommissioner’s permission. Forced expulsions could now be carried out under the force of law.

In September of 1971 the island’s normal supply ship, the MV Nordvaer, arrived at DiegoGarcia from Mauritius. The remaining Ilois and other plantation workers were told that the ship

was not going to resupply the island, but rather would be carrying them off the island. OnSeptember 28 the last 35 people carried their own baggage aboard the overcrowded vessel,forced to leave behind their most valuable possessions: their animals,cxci or at least those animalsthat had not been killed. For example, by order of the British more than 1,000 pets (mainly dogs)had been slaughtered in an ad hoc gas chamber with exhaust fumes. cxcii The evicted islanderswere dumped in Mauritius, most of them headed for life in urban slums.

Construction now began in earnest. By Christmas time of 1972 a runway long enough toaccommodate the C-141 aircraft was built. This allowed for a visit to the military workers by


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entertainer Bob Hope.cxciii A small flotilla of U.S. amphibious and supply ships carried personneland supplies to the island during this time. Some of the vessels included the tank landing shipVernon County (LST-1161), the attack cargo ship Charleston (LKA-113), the dock landing shipsMonticello (LSD-35) and Anchorage (LSD-36), as well as the chartered American


Trees were felled and the initial airstrip was made of compacted coral which wasblasted from the island’s reef at low tide.

Meanwhile, pressure was building to expand the “facilities” beyond a mere communications andintelligence station into a more sizeable support facility. For example, ships moving into theIndian Ocean from the Atlantic fleet had traditionally used ports in South Africa for logistics aswell as rest and relaxation. South Africa demanded strict adherence to its apartheid laws,however, and the US Navy was grappling with racial problems within the ranks. The Navy couldnot abide by apartheid while working to better integrate itself, so South African ports became offlimits. This greatly lengthened the supply chain from the Atlantic. In addition, the U.S. Navysaw signs of an impending Soviet takeover everywhere. The CIA believed that the Navy wasoverstating the maritime threat from the USSR in the Indian Ocean, but as during much of theCold War the more alarming predictions were the most believed.cxcv Regional conflicts such asthose between India and Pakistan simply underscored the volatility of the region.

During the early 1970s Diego Garcia would serve as a starting point for disagreements over theUS role in the Indian Ocean, which were closely tied to growing Soviet naval and politicalactivity in the region. In the aftermath of Vietnam many in congress were leery of expanding theU.S. military presence into the Indian Ocean. At the same time, however, others were moreconvinced than ever that the Soviets posed a major threat and that the U.S. needed todemonstrate resolve. There was pressure from congress to examine the possibility of reachingsome sort of agreement with the Soviets regarding the Indian Ocean region, but once again therewas a countervailing view that negotiations would be futile and be perceived as a sign of

weakness. In addition, the U.S. military was making extraordinary claims about Soviet strengthin the Indian Ocean. While the CIA projections were much more modest, they were also mutedby secrecy.cxcvi

On August 28, 1974, President Ford said during a press conference that “The Soviet Unionalready has three major naval operating bases in the Indian Ocean.” This statement surprisedmany analysts, and when pressed the Department of Defense said that the President had beenreferring to Berbera, Somalia, Umm Qasr, Iraq, and Aden, Yemen. During subsequent testimonybefore congress the CIA Director, Colby, contradicted the president by emphasizing how smalland limited these facilities were. When pressed by a senator during hearings over Diego Garciaone administration spokesman issued a classic defense: “I think the discrepancy is apparent

rather than real. It is a question of how one defines a base.”cxcvii

Defenders of an expandedIndian Ocean presence also indicated that the U.S. had its own growing interests in the regioneven without a Soviet stimulus. The Arab Oil Embargo and subsequent U.S. contingency plansfor seizing control of Saudi Arabia were also fueling the desire for a more sizeable presence inthe region. During congressional testimony administration officials scoffed at the very notionthat the U.S. might intervene militarily in the Middle East, yet it is now known that the U.S.approached the British about just such a plan.cxcviii

Work continued on Diego Garcia. In October of 1972 the U.S. and Britain signed a formal


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agreement to establish a joint “limited communication facility” on the island. By March of 1973the Naval Communications Station opened for business with about 200 assigned personnel. TheNavy established that assigned service members would serve a 12-month tour on the islandunaccompanied by dependents. While the base was officially a “joint” endeavor with the British,

there were only a few British assigned to the island. It was almost entirely American.cxcix

The1973 Arab-Israeli war and subsequent oil embargo had a major impact on U.S. policy andstrategy. In addition, the Navy feared that the reopening of the Suez Canal would allow for moreSoviet ships to stage from the Black Sea and Mediterranean fleets. Plans for an expandedfacility, which had always been around but on the back burner, were moved front and center.

Meanwhile, the resettled Ilois were languishing on Mauritius. The government of Mauritius hada resettlement plan, but as of 1972 it had not yet been put into effect. Much of the problem waslocal politics. The Ilois were an unpopular minority and the government feared that giving themassistance would upset other Mauritians for whom aid was not funded. Cyclone Gervaise had leftmore than 90,000 Mauritians homeless and unemployment during the period was running atabout 20%, leading to political instability. Meanwhile, those few remaining Ilois on islands otherthan Diego Garcia (which had been depopulated in 1971) were shipped to Mauritius by the endof 1973. Now no islands of the Chagos Archipelago would be peopled with a native population.In 1973 the British government agreed to give Mauritius an additional 650,000 British Poundsfor a “full and final” settlement of resettlement costs.cc Many of the Ilois were induced to signwaivers of further legal action under questionable circ*mstances. Some, however, refused, andsoon the Ilois were investigating legal action.

In 1974 the Ilois signed a petition decrying their expulsion and impoverished standard of living,delivering copies to Mauritian Prime Minister Ramgoolam and the British and U.S. embassies inMauritius. They wrote “Our ancestors were slaves on those islands [ Chagos ], but we know thatwe are the heirs of those islands. Although we were poor there, we were not dying of hunger.

We were living free.”cci Naturally, the British told the petitioners that they should take theirproblems to the Mauritian government. The U.S. position would later be enunciated by a StateDepartment official: “these people originally were a British responsibility and are now aMauritian responsibility.”ccii The petition and subsequent public revelations about the horribleconditions of the Ilois created a stir in the U.S. congress. Up until this time, administrationofficials had told congress that the islands were unpopulated. The administration defended itsearlier testimony in part by explaining that it had relied on British reports, implying that it wasunaware of the problems. In response, senator John Culver led an effort to delay funding for theexpansion of the island’s facilities and a number of congressionally stimulated investigationswere begun.cciii


By 1974 the plans for the expansion of Diego Garcia beyond an austere communications facilitywere set. The lagoon was to be dredged to provide an anchorage capable of handling a 6-shipcarrier task force. Petroleum storage was increased tenfold and facilities for loading a 180,000ton tanker within 24 hours were planned. The runway would be lengthened from 8,000 to 12,000feet and additional apron space and facilities would be built for aircraft including P-3 Orion


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antisubmarine warfare aircraft. Finally, personnel facilities would be added for more than 600people.cciv These plans were controversial, however, and held up by opposition to the base andrevelations of the eviction of the Ilois. By 1976 the opposition had been overcome and the Navywas ready to begin construction of the expanded facilities. On February 25 the British Indian

Ocean Territory Agreement of 1976 was signed, formally permitting the U.S. to upgrade itscommunications facility to a support facility.

A less publicized part of the upgrade was to be the establishment of a ground station for a newgeneration of intelligence gathering satellites. The United States navy had built and operatedsuch spacecraft since 1961 under conditions of extreme secrecy. Many of the navy’s early“SolRad” satellites, which had the publicized mission of studying solar radiation, carried asecondary payload called GRAB (Galactic RAdiation Background experiment). Its mission wasto covertly monitor electronic emissions (such as radar).ccv By the early 1970s these systems hadevolved into Project SISS ZULU, which had ground stations around the world operated by allthree military services and the CIA. In 1976 the Navy was to begin operation of a newgeneration system under the codename CLASSIC WIZARD. The station on Diego Garcia wouldeffectively replace a SISS ZULU facility that had been located near Peshawar, Pakistan, beforethat nation had refused to renew a base agreement.

Events in 1979 and 1980 would cement the role of Diego Garcia in U.S. military strategy andlead to yet further expansion. A series of shocks in the Middle East and Southwest Asiaincluding the fall of the Shah of Iran, the Hostage Crisis, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,would lead President Carter to enunciate the “Carter Doctrine.” Basically, it publicly announcedthat the United States would fight to maintain security over Middle East oil supplies. The policywas primarily a warning to the Soviet Union, but it set the stage for large scale U.S. interventionfollowing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait a decade later. Diego Garcia would become the home fora small fleet of ships carrying pre positioned equipment for the newly formed Rapid Deployment

Joint Task Force.ccvi The Diego Garcia lagoon would be home to about a dozen large merchantships packed with the equipment and supplies to support an expeditionary force whose personnelwould be flown to meet their gear.

In effect, Diego Garcia’s mission expanded as presidential doctrines evolved. The NixonDoctrine emphasized limited direct U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts, and the base wasoriginally created by emphasizing its limited role as a communications facility and that it wasnot the signal of a permanent, major, U.S. presence.ccvii The Ford administration began publiclyexploring the idea of expanding the U.S. naval mission in the Indian Ocean.ccviii With the CarterDoctrine, Diego Garcia would not only be a significant support facility for a nearly continuousmajor U.S. naval presence, it would also be a “jumping off point” for direct intervention into

regional wars.

It is interesting to note, however, that plans for these various Diego Garcia expansions weremade prior to presidential doctrines or foreign policy announcements. This could lead one tospeculate about cause and effect in terms of U.S. foreign policy. Public acknowledgment, anddebate, about mission expansion seemed to take place only after the executive bureaucracy hadalready formulated the plans which would inevitably (if messily) be carried out. Both the U.S.and British executive branches took action to ensure that legislative oversight became insteadlegislative hindsight, looking into actions already carried out instead of debating and helping to


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formulate future actions.

The Reagan administration continued the policy of developing Diego Garcia. One of the mostnotable changes was the upgrading of the runway and airfield facilities to permit B-52 bombers

to operate from the island. The United States kept this capability low key for internationalpolitical reasons, but during the Gulf War of 1991 a provisional bomb wing would operate fromthe island, bombing targets in Iraq. An antisubmarine warfare operations center (ASWOC) wasestablished on the island. A USAF optical space tracking facility was built as well as a spaceoperations facility. Logistics facilities were upgraded. At the end of the Gulf War of 1991,Diego Garcia was firmly established as a major U.S. base of operations. Its importance hasgrown in inverse proportion to the permanent U.S. presence in several regional nations. Inparticular, the U.S. military withdrawal from the Philippines has greatly increased reliance onDiego Garcia. In this sense Diego Garcia is a vindication for the “Strategic Islands” strategyadopted so long ago. The U.S. might leave or be evicted from some nations (Iran, thePhilippines). Some facilities might be vulnerable to attack (Yemen to boat bombs and Bahrain toSCUD missiles). But Diego Garcia is safe and isolated, both physically and politically.

Today Diego Garcia is a major U.S. base supporting military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.At the time of the establishment of the base few could have predicted the tumultuous path ofhistory. The Soviet Union, the bases’ raison de etre, no longer exists. The advent ofcommunications satellites has ended the Indian Ocean communications “dead zone” that worriedKennedy era strategists. Iran has gone from ally to enemy and the U.S. has ended up invadingnot Saudi Arabia but Iraq. Twice. The island has become even more important as its original,limited, missions recede into the past. Diego Garcia is still geographically remote, but theexpanding reach of technology has allowed it to serve not only as a “support” facility but as acombat base. B-52 bombers, many older than the base itself, fly round-trip bombing missionsover Iraq. During the last invasion of Iraq B-2 bombers taking off from Missouri landed on the

island in order to swap crews for the return flight home. It took the aircraft more than 40 hoursto reach Diego Garcia via their bombing points after take off, and the return flight from DiegoGarcia was 30 hours.ccix

The U.S. military is more firmly entrenched on the island than ever, and it vigorously opposesresettlement of any of the Chagos islands. Years of legal wrangling have ended in furtherdisappointment for the Chagossians, as they now call themselves since ‘Ilois’ has taken on pejorative overtones in Mauritius. In November of 2000 two British judges handed down astunning decision which declared that the British government had “no sources of lawfulauthority” to justify the removal of the natives, and instructed that they be allowed to move backto at least some of the islands. The British government stalled, calling for the inevitable studies

of the situation. The British government argued, among other things, that the islands mayeventually be submerged by global warming and that therefore they should not be resettled. Itthen resorted to yet another “Orders in Council” to effectively overrule the court’s orders withthe Queen’s prerogative. Regardless, no one would be allowed to return to the islands. ccx

The Chagossians’ hopes for monetary compensation were dashed in October of 2003 when ajudge at the High Court in London threw out their case. He ruled that their claims were “staleand time-barred,” a vindication of the stalling tactics of the British government. The judge ruledthat even though some of the Chagossians had been subject to “shameful” treatment, they had no


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prospect of success since exile as a legal wrong was “not arguable.” He also accused some of thePlaintiffs of lying and failing to address past litigation (such as a 1982 agreement signed bymany Chagossians). Likewise, a longshot suit filed in the United States against a plethora ofdefendants was summarily dismissed.ccxi


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Diego Garcia has long been at the center of maps of the Indian Ocean but on the periphery of the

regions history. As time goes on, however, its role in the region is beginning to match thecentrality of its location. Ignored by the first “western” superpower in the Indian Ocean, theisland is now the key base of operations for the latest superpower in the region. The islands ofthe Chagos were first chronicled by Portuguese sailors who stumbled across them while sailingfor other destination. For centuries they were little known and served as little more than anavigation hazard. As sailing technology and knowledge improved the islands became moreaccessible. While the islands of the Chagos were not suitable as military bases during theNapoleonic era, colonial entrepreneurs would permanently settle the islands and begin theindustry that would be at the center of the islands economy for over a century: coconutharvesting and processing. The introduction of steam power in ships would further erode DiegoGarcia’s isolation and at the beginning of the 20th century formerly alien powers, like Germany,would show an interest in the area. The two world wars would make even the remote Chagosinto a battle zone, and the introduction of aircraft would allow the island to dominate the centralIndian Ocean as it never had before.

If the French and British conflict around 1800 helped lead to the island’s settlement, the U.S.and Soviet conflict in the 1960s helped lead to the island’s depopulation. Unfortunately, many ofthe island’s residents, whose ancestors were slaves, had become attached to what they thoughtwas their island. Unprepared for the termination of their primitive island lifestyle, they foundthemselves an impoverished and unwanted minority in Mauritius. As in so many cases, thenecessity of the powerful becomes the destiny of the weak. Despite the evaporation of itsoriginal justifications, the island base has expanded and is considered more important than everby the United States. The seemingly inevitable expansion of U.S. power in the Indian Ocean in

the face of claims to not want such power brings to mind many historical parallels.ccxiiHegemonic patterns, however, are beyond the scope of this thesis.

If the importance of Diego Garcia to its “owners” was marked on a graph, it would grow rapidlyas the modern day is approached. Inversely, if one were to graph the nominal isolation of theisland (physical, cultural, etc.) a rapidly decreasing line would be seen. As distance means lessand less the islands physical centrality becomes ever more important. The ocean buffers DiegoGarcia from enemies both physical and political, but the United States has the means to strikeout over this “defensive” barrier into adjoining regions. The island may be entering an era ofunprecedented utility as air power, fast sea lift, and modern communications allow facilities andunits on the island to directly intervene over the entire Indian Ocean littoral. As other nations

gain capabilities for striking effectively over distance, however, the need for increased defensivemeasures could sap the island’s offensive utility. As an example, India is on the verge of beingable to field tactical ballistic missiles that could threaten Diego Garcia from Southern India, andis upgrading its aircraft to longer range models.

As the importance of the base on Diego Garcia increases it is likely that the U.S. presence willbecome increasingly controversial in the political arena. It is conceivable that some day DiegoGarcia may become not just an adjunct to wars but the central issue of one, like the Falklands.Diego Garcia itself may soon be making history instead of just enduring it.


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ii. The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (The Treaty of Pelindaba) was modified atUS insistence to obscure its authority over the Chagos Islands. A footnote to Annex I indicatesthat Diego Garcia “appears without prejudice to the question of sovereignty.” The U.S. hasinterpreted this to mean that the treaty does not apply to Diego Garcia. U.S. Department ofState, “African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (The Treaty of Pelindaba),”Http://www.state.gov/t/ac/trt/4699.htm (Accessed May 01, 2005)

ii.Bailey Diffie and George D. Winius, Foundations of Portuguese Empire: 1415-1580(Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1977), 240-241.

iii.Ibid., 247.


v.C.R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire: 1415-1825 (New York : Alfred Knopf, 1969),46.

vi.Afonso Albuquerqe, The commentaries of the great Afonso Dalboqueurque, second viceroyof India. Translated from the Portuguese edition of 1774, trans. Walter de Gray Birch (NewYork : Lennox Hill Hakluyt Society First series 62), Chronology xliiv. ;

Armada de India, British Museum Add. MS. 20902, f. 14:-vii. The problem of longitude, which will show up several times in this thesis, was eventuallysolved. For a very readable account see:

Dava Sobel, Longitude: The true story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest ScientificProblem of His Time (New York : Penguin Books, 1996)

viii.The word “atoll” is apparently derived from the original natives words for these types ofisland, “atollons.” The Maldives stretch from just south of the equator to northwards of sevendegrees latitude.

Albuquerqe, 202.

ix. The island would eventually become known as Mauritius, and the bird was the soon to beextinct Dodo. Aguste Toussaint, History of Mauritius, trans. W.E.F. Ward (London andBasingstoke : Macmillan, 1977), 16.


xi. “apparently” discovered because this author has been unable to find any source documents,or footnoted secondary ones, that discuss the discovery. A search for source documents fromthe voyage, or even firsthand accounts, has so far turned up nothing. There is apparently muchconfusion over early exploration in the region. For example, the island now known as Mauritiuswas discovered by Mascarenhas in 1505, yet many sources list its discovery date as 1512,during this voyage. Part of this confusion is probably because of Portuguese attempts to keepgeographic and navigational data secret from their competitors. Discoveries were often treated

as secrets of state, and knowledge of them only became public slowly.

xii.The three ships are in my notes but the source is temporarily misplaced

xiii.James Duffy, Shipwreck and Empire, (Cambridge Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1955),69.

xiv.Ibid., 76.

xv.Ibid., 152.

xvi.Ibid., 29.

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xvii.Boxer, 47-48.

xviii.Jean Sutton, Lords of the East - The East India Company and its Ships (London : ConwayMaritimes Press, 1981), 8-9.

xix.Clements R.Markham, ed., The Voyages of Sir James Lancaster (New York : BurtFranklin, 1970), 70.

xx.Ibid.xxi.Giles Milton, Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, or, The true and incredible adventures of the spice traderwho changed the course of history ( New York : Hodder & Stoughton, 1999), 79.

xxii.Ibid., 114.

xxiii. Albert Hastings Markham, ed. The Voyages and Works of John Davis the Navigator(New York : Burt Franklin, 1970), 166.

xxiv.Ibid., 167.

xxv.Claire Jowitt, “Pirates and Pieces of Eight: Recent Trends in Pirate Studies,”http://www.literature-compass.com/viewpoint.asp?section=2&ref=393&type=full (accessed

November 24, 2004)xxvi.Sutton, 9.

xxvii. Auguste Toussaint, History of the Indian Ocean. (Chicago : University of Chicago Press,1966), 144.

xxviii.Robert Scott,. Limuria: the Lesser Dependencies of Mauritius (London : OxfordUniversity Press, 1961), 52 .

xxix.Ibid., 59-60.

xxx.Ibid., 68.

xxxixxxi. Ibid.

xxxii. Ibid.

xxxiii.Sutton, 16.

xxxiv.David Andrew Lanegran, “Alexander Dalrymple, hydrographer.” (diss. University ofMinnesota, 1979).

xxxv.Alexander Dalrymple, Memoir concerning the Chagos and Adjacent Islands (London :George Bigg, 1786).


xxxvii. Lieutenant Archibald Blair, Remarks and Observations in a survey of the ChagosArchipelago (London : George Bigg, 1788).

xxxviii.Blair, 13.

xxxix. Blair, 4-5.

xl.Blair, 9.

xli.James Horsburgh, Memoirs: comprising the navigation to and from China, by the ChinaSea, and through the various straits and channels in the Indian archipelago; also, the navigationof Bombary Harbour (London : For the author by C Mercier and Co., 1805).

xlii. Minutes, Secret Court of Directors of the East India Company. Sep 15, 1785

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xliii. PRO FO 148/6, “Letter written by a British Official about the Island of Diego Garcia”1785

xliv. British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections, IOR/H/605-608, “Notes relative tothe affairs of Native and foreign European States...1784-1788" pp. 5-15.



xlviii. British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections, IOR/G/34/2, “Bombay govtsettlement on Diego Garcia compared to Penang...” by James Scott, Penang 25 Sep.1786

xlix.Harold Parker Clodd, Malaya’s first British pioneer; the life of Francis Light (London :Luzac), 1948.

l.James Scott, IOR/G/34/2, “Bombay govt. settlement...”


lii.Robert Scott, Limuria. (London : Oxford Press, 1961), 96.



lv. The island was originally settled by the Dutch in 1638 and named Mauritius. Theyabandoned their settlement in 1710 and in 1715 the French East India Company settled theisland and renamed it I’ll de France, and it prospered. Following the British invasion in 1810and subsequent cession to the British the island was renamed Mauritius.

lvi.Library of Congress Federal Research Division, “A Country Study: Mauritius,”http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/ds/mutoc.html (Accessed 10 June 2005)

lvii. Harold Cholmley Mansfield Austen, Sea fights and corsairs of the Indian Ocean: being the

naval history of Mauritius from 1715 to 1810 (Port Louis, Mauritius : R.W. Brooks governmentprinter, 1935).

lviii.Austen, 100.

lix.Austen, 161.

lx.Austen, 95. It should be noted that in some cases ship identifications are difficult, as shipswere often named and renamed with little central coordination and records didn’t alwaysdistinguish between similarly (or identically) named ships, particularly smaller vessels.

lxi. Informal translations of portions of the following works in Dutch were used:

H.P.N. Hooft, “Journal gehouden door H.P.N. ‘t Hooft aan boord van de Amerikaans brik

Pickering” 1819 , Nederlands Scheepvaart Museum Amsterdam A0573(06) ; Quirijn MauritsRudolph Ver Huell,Herinneringen van eene reis naar do Oost-Indien (Harlem : VincentLoosjes, 1835-36).

lxii.pictures P-2161-91, 92, 93, 94, 95 Maritime Museum Rotterdam

lxiii.SirRichard F. Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa., http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/6886preface (accessed 15 Jan 2005); Jessup Hulton, South Arabia: The ‘Palinurus’ Journals, ed.W.A. Hulton ( privately printed 1844, reset and reprinted Oleander Press, 2003); Lieut. J. R.Wellsted, Travels in Arabia ( London : John Murray , 1838).

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lxiv.”The Chagos Islands 1849," The United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine(London : reprint by Henry Colburn), 6.

lxv. Ibid.

lxvi.Ibid., 2.

lxvii.Ibid., 7.

lxviii.Ibid., 3-4.

lxix.Ibid., 4.

lxx.Ibid., 5.

lxxi.Bedford Whaling Museum, Log 0261, Harrison (ship) New Bedford, 1854-1857

lxxii.Vincent W. Ryan., D.D. Bishop of Mauritius, Journals of an Eight Years Residence in theDiocese of Mauritius and of a Visit to Madagascar ( London : Sheeley, Jackson, and Halliday,1864), chapter III.



lxxv.Scott, Limuria... 157.

lxxvi.Scott, Limuria... 145. The book specifically uses Agalega island as an example, butprocedures were believed to be very similar there and on Diego Garcia

lxxvii. Sutton, 123.

lxxviii.Frederick J.O. Evans, “Report on Admiralty Surveys for the Year 1881," Proceedings ofthe Royal Geographic Society and Monthly Record of Geography Vol. 4, No. 9 (Sep., 1882) :556

lxxix.Scott, Limuria... 169-171.


lxxxii.PRO CO 167/638, “to Right Honorable Holland-Bart” 1888 ; PRO CO 167/638, “Noteson: Police Establishment at Diego Garcia” 1888 Feb 28


lxxxiv.Charles Hocking, Dictionary of Disasters at sea during the age of steam (London :Lloyd’s register of shipping, 1969), entry forKoning der Nederlander.;New York Times, Oct21, 1881: 1.

lxxxv.H.M. Paul, “Krakatoa,” Science (Aug. 15, 1884) : 135-136.

lxxxvi.PRO CO 167/640, 1 June 1888

lxxxvii. ”The German Deep-Sea Expedition,” The American Naturalist(Jan 1, 1899) : 87-88.

lxxxviiilxxxviii. Dan van der Vat, Gentleman of War. (New York : William and Morrow,1984).

lxxxix.”Russian Fleet to use Chagos on way to Tsushima” New York Times(1857-current file);March 29, 1905; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-200) pg. 3

xc.(attributed to L.A.B.), “The Percy Sladen Trust Expedition to the Indian Ocean in 1905,

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under the Leadership of Mr. J. Stanley Gardiner,” The Geographical Journal(Nov., 1909) :566-567.

xci.Keith Yates, Graf Spee’s Raiders: Challenge to the Royal Navy 1914-1915. (Annapolis:Naval Institute Press, 1995).


xciii.van der Vatxciv.15 Jan 2005 <http://www.spruso.com/emden.htm>

xcv.King’s College London, Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, service biography forSir Geoffrey Miles, http://www.kcl.ac.uk/lhcma/locreg/MILES1.html (Accessed 15 Jan 2005).Miles was head of the military mission, but the chief diplomat was Sir Stafford Cripps.

xcvi. Figures are approximate, records often utilized different measures and often coveredvarying time spans( due to the paucity of shipping). In particular it appears that the 1929 figuremay not have included goods carried on the ship carrying the magistrate.

xcvii.PRO CO 167/879/4

xcviii.PRO CO 167/879/4PRO CO 167/861/10


c.PRO CO 167/893/4

ci.PRO CO 167/867/13

cii.PRO CO 167/879/4

ciii.PRO CO 167/862/8

civ. “The John Murray Expedition to the Indian Ocean,” The Geographical Journal(Aug.,1934) : 154-156.

cv. In this case this would be the Steam Ship (SS) named Surcouf, not related to a later famousFrench submarine (SS) called the Surcouf.

cvi.Clicanoo: The journal of the island of Reunion, [article, in French, on the wreck]Http://archives.clicanoo.com/article.php3?id_article=7052 (Accessed 5 July 2005) ; RogerDussercle, Archipel de Chagos: en mission, Diego, Six Iles, Peros, septembre-novembre 1934(Port Louis : General Printing and Stationery Co., 1935).




cx115. PRO AVIA 2/2826, “Trans-Indian Ocean Survey Flight from Australia to Mombassa,East Africa report of Capt. P.G. Taylor,” 1939 ; For background, see: PRO CO 323/1457/44,“Empire Air Service: Australia to East Africa across the Indian Ocean: routes, facilities, andstrategic questions,” 1937 ; DO 35/522/4, “Air route across the Indian Ocean,” 1939-40

cxi. As an example, Samuel Elliot Morrison’s The Two Ocean War doesn’t even include theIndian Ocean in the index. In addition to the Atlantic and Pacific, the war was indeed fought inthe Indian Ocean.

cxii.PRO POWE 33/590, “Sources of Supply: proposal to increase production of 100 octane

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fuel at Abadan, fourth extension of refinery,” 1943

cxiii.Ashley Jackson, War & Empire in Mauritius and the Indian Ocean (Houndmills,Basingstoke, Hampshire : Palgrave, 2001), 44.


cxv. Ibid. ;

PRO ADM 223/523, “Operation RATION/SNIP,” 1941

cxvi.August Karl Muggenthaler,. German Raiders of WWII (Englewood Cliffs, NJ : PrenticeHall Inc., 1977), 98.

cxvii.Muggenthaler, 169.

cxviii.Jackson, 44.

cxix.James Allen Thompson, Only the Sun Remembers (London : A. Dakers, 1950)

cxx. Ibid.



cxxiii.PRO ADM 1/ 26876, “Naval Fuelling Anchorages in the Indian Ocean and Far East,”July 19, 1941

cxxiv.PRO ADM 1/ 26876, “Director of Plans, register LD02445/41,” July 11, 1941

cxxv.PRO ADM 1/ 26876, “Survey of Diego Garcia,” Aug 12, 1941 ;

PRO ADM 1/ 26876, “The re-survey of Diego Garcia is essential,” Aug 16, 1941

cxxvi.PRO ADM 1/ 26876, “C. In C. East Indies,” October 11, 1941 ;

PRO ADM 1/ 26876, “from Admiralty,” Oct 24, 1941

cxxvii.PRO ADM 1/ 26876, “Defence Place for Diego Garcia” War Cabinet Ad HocSubcommittee on Indian Ocean Defense February 15, 1942


cxxix.PRO WO 106/3719, “Report of an RDF Survey of Diego Garcia”

cxxx.PRO WO 192/36A, “Eclipse Point Garrison Kerry Point Battery Fort Record Book”


cxxxii.Ted Morris, “The Story of ‘Katie’ Jim Park’s PBY Catalina,”http://www.zianet.com/tedmorris/dg/pby.html (Accessed May 1, 2005)



cxxxv.PRO WO 106/3719, “Engineer Appreciation”,

cxxxvi.PRO WO 106/3719,” Report of the Siting, Description, Construction, and Requirementsof Flying Strips at Diego Garcia”

cxxxvii.PRO WO 106/3719, “Suggestions for terms to be arranged with the Diego Garcia”

cxxxviii.Fort Ships of WWII, ”SS Fort Longueuil”,http://fortships.tripod.com/fort_longueuil.htm (Accessed Jan 15, 2005)

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cxxxix.Naval Historical Center, “Naval Armed Guard Service: Japanese Atrocities Against,”http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq104-5.htm (Accessed Jan 15, 2005)

cxl.PRO AIR 20/10220, “Operation Concubine” 1953 ;

PRO AIR 23/8712, “FEAF HQ: Operation Concubine; island strategy “ 1953

cxli. PRO CO 1036/138, “Report No. 3 f rom Robert Scott” 16 Jan 1956

cxlii. Ibid.

cxliii. Ibid.

cxliv.Ankylostomiasis is an intestinal infection of hookworms that can lead to anaemia amongother symptoms.

cxlv. PRO CO 1036/138, “Report No. 3 from Robert Scott” 16 Jan 1956

cxlvi.PRO CO 1036/138, “Mauritius Despatch No. 339 from Robert Scott” 24 Apr 1956


cxlviii.Vytautus B. Bandjunis, Diego Garcia: Creation of the Indian Ocean Base (Writer’sShowcase, 2001), 1-2.


cl.Ibid. I have not been able to find any reference to this visit in British records. Bandjunisdoes not specify if the Admiral set foot on the island or simply observed from offshore.


clii.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From JHA Watson(FO) to CEF Gough(MoD)” April 1, 1959


cliv.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From Robert Scott to Hall” April 27, 1959

clv.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From Station Intel Officer Arabian Seas and PG To Naval Intelligence

Division, Admiralty “ 10 May 1959

clvi.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From C.W. Wright to Sir Richard Powell via Mr. Gough” 4 June1959

clvii.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From Admiralty” June 12, 1959

clviii.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From Mr. F. Cooper Head of S.6, Air Ministry” 26 June, 1959

clix.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From CinC F.E.S. To Admiralty” 1 July 1959

clx.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From K. M. Wilford (FO)” 29 June 1959

clxi.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “Admiralty ‘U.S. Navy Interest in the Indian Ocean’“ 20 July 1959




clxv.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From Arleigh Burke To Sir. Charles E. Lambe” 5 Sept. 1959

clxvi.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From P. Melens To C.E. Wright (MoD)” 15 Feb 1960


clxviii.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “From A.A. Pritchard To J.A. Sankey (CO)” 3 May 1961

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clxix.PRO DEFE 7/1652, “Message From H.P. Hall of Colonial Office” 20 Oct 1961

clxx.Bandjunis, 3-4.


clxxii.Bandjunis, 9.


clxxiv182. Bandjunis, 13.

clxxv. Bandjunis, 14.

clxxvi.Bandjunis, 9.

clxxvii.Jean Houbert, “Mauritius: Independence and Dependence,” The Journal of ModernAfrican Studies (March 1981) : 75-105.

clxxviii.Report of the Select Committee on the Excision of the Chagos Archipelago(Port Louis,Mauritius : published by L. Carl Achille, Government Printer)

clxxix.Ibid, p. 22 and 36 Apparently, Ramgoolam didn’t want to risk holding up independencebut also did not want to admit to giving in to “blackmail.” Hence, his explanations often tend tosuggest coercion, yet he shies away from actually saying so.

clxxx.British Indian Ocean Territory Order 1965 (SI 1965 No 1920)

clxxxi.1966 British Indian Ocean Territory Agreement TIAS 6196

clxxxii.Bandjunis, 27.


clxxxiv.Report of the Select Committee..., 4.

clxxxv.Bandjunis, 46.

clxxxvi.Ibid., 17.

clxxxvii.Ibid., 28.

clxxxviii.Ibid., 37. ; Richard Lobban, “The Eritrean War: Issues and Implications,” CanadianJournal of African Studies (Vol. 10, No. 2 1976) : 335-346.

clxxxix.Bandjunis, 40-43.

cxc.UN resolution 2832 (XXVI) December, 1971

cxci. Diego Garcia 1975: The Debate Over the Base and the Island’s Former Inhabitants SuDocY 4.IN 8/16:D 56G/975 p.97

cxcii.John Pilger, ”Diego Garcia - How the Brits deported a nation,” Z Magazine, 22 Oct 2004.

cxciii. Ted Morris, “Bob Hope’s 1972 Diego Garcia Tour,”http://www.zianet.com/tedmorris/dg/bobhope72.html (Accessed July 5, 2005)

cxciv.Bandjunis, 48.

cxcv.Diego Garcia 1975..., Prepared statement of the Hon. George S. Vest

cxcvi.Ibid., in its entirety deals with these issues

cxcvii.Ibid., 9.

cxcviii.Ibid., 17. as contrasted to recently declassified British documents. See “U.S. Mulled

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Seizing Arab Oil Fields in ‘73" Glenn Frankel, Washington PostJanuary 1, 2004.

cxcix.Diego Garcia 1975..., 60.

cc.Bandjunis, 64.

cci.Ibid., 126.

ccii.Ibid., 132. Quoting George Churchill, Director of the Office of International Security

Operations of the State Department

cciii.Ibid., 128.

cciv.Ibid., 104.

ccv.Naval Research Laboratory PAO News Release, “Galactic Radiation And Background(GRAB) Satellite Declassified,” Washington, D.C. June 17, 1998.

ccvi.Dr. Lawrence E. Grinter, “Avoiding the Burden: the Carter Doctrine in perspective,”AirUniversity Review (Jan-Feb 1983)

ccvii.Maj. HA Stanly, “The Nixon Doctrine - A New Era in Foreign Policy?”Air UniversityReview (Sept-Oct 1973)

ccviii.There does not appear to be a generally accepted “Ford Doctrine,” highlighting thereputation of the Ford administration as more of a caretaker presidency.

ccix.Ted Morris,”B-2 Spirit Operations,” http://www.zianet.com/tedmorris/dg/bombers3.html

ccx.Robert Verkaik, “Judge rejects islanders’ lawsuit over military base at Diego Garcia,” TheIndependent, Oct. 10, 2003.


ccxii.My thoughts have been focused on this by a recent reading of Raj: The Making andUnmaking of British India by Lawrence James.

Dg Thesis Forsberg - [PDF Document] (2024)


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