Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Flags at Sea; ENSIGN

Since time immemorial trading vessels (merchant ships) and ‘men-of-war’ (warships), flags have always been used at sea. William Crampton in his book “The World of Flags” wrote “The use of flags at sea was the beginning of the flags as they are known today, since they were actually flown from masts and staffs rather than merely held in hand”.

The ‘Age of Discovery’ saw the development of heraldic sails, ie, ones painted with armorial devices all over. The armorial devices symbolic of nationality ultimately gave away to modern Flags at Sea.
At sea there has grown up etiquette of how the flags should be used and where they should be hoisted and the occasions when they are used. 
 We will discuss about the Flags at Sea chapters wise, viz. Ensign, Jack, Pennant, Courtesy Flag, House Flag, Flag of Convenience, Signal Flags, Rainbow Fashion, Pirate Flag, Yacht Flag and finally “Flag Customs at Sea” with philatelic illustrations.

The Spanish Ensign (1516 - 1785); The Cross of Burgundy - The Saltire Raguly

Many National Flags of today were in fact created as Ensigns for use at sea.
 The first display of Japanese Ensign was on the occasion of the trip to the US in 1860 of the first diplomatic delegation ever sent abroad. The cruiser Kanrin Maru sailed the Pacific, for this purpose flew the Japanese Flag "Hi No Maru" at the bow for the first time s the symbol of the nation.

The term ‘ENSIGN’ is derived from Greek ‘Semeion’, Latin equivalents ‘Signus’ and ‘Insigne’ is the distinguishing National flag worn by ships at or near the stern. According to Late E. M. C. Barraclough, foremost flag historian, the term 'Ensign' was first used by the British Navy way back in 1574.

White Ensign (War Ship) - Red Ensign (Merchant Ship) - Blue Ensign (Ship on Govt. duty)

Swallow-tailed or Split National Flag is used as Naval Ensign in Scandinavian Countries.

Most commonwealth countries use White Ensign to denote Warship

Italian and Korean Naval Ensigns

Israel's Merchant ship Ensign

Indian Coast Guard's Blue Ensign defaced with Coast Guard's emblem.
In most countries, but not all, Ensign discharges a dual function; it shows the Nationality and the function of the ship, for example a warship, a merchant ship or a ship in government service, namely, Coast Guard, Coastal/River Police, Customs, Private Yachts and so forth. Most countries, particularly within the Commonwealth Member countries have three or more different ensigns – one for the warships (white), one for the merchant ships (Red) and one used by ships in government duties (Blue). Often these ensigns are further differentiated by superimposing (defacing) the ensigns with the ‘badges’ or ‘emblems’ of the particular organization the ship belongs.
The German Imperial Reichskiegsflagge (War Flag; 1903-1921) was based on Naval Ensign of Prussia dating back to Teutonic Knights.

 Readers are cordially welcome to contribute as guest columnist. Send your article along with scanned (JPEG image) illustrations on  “Flag at Sea” for publication here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Battle of the River Plate, WW-II

I am prompted to reproduce here a very informative letter along with some more scans on HMS Achilles that I received from Cdr. U.N.Acharya, IN (Retd), Secretary and Founder Member of Naval Philatelic Society of India and an ardent Naval historian himself.I have discussed with Cdr Acharya that I am publishing his letter for the benefit of all those who may be interested on the captioned subject. Cdr. Acharya also agreed to post regularly in the Society's blog , on historical and other relevant aspects of Foreign Warships acquisitioned by the Indian Navy.
I Quote;
"Dear Sekhar Chakrabarti,
It was a pleasure perusing through your blog on ships. It came as no surprise to me as you collect many themes and the very fact that you are an active member of NPS justifies your starting a blog on ships ..... Since you have posted “Battle of the River Plate” in your blog, I do not intend to post this topic in NPS Blog. I shall pass on the additional information to you ..........

 The Battle of the River Plate
The Battle of the River Plate took place on December 13th 1939. The battle in the South Atlantic was the first major naval battle of World War Two. Ships from the Royal Navy’s South American Division took on the might of Germany’s Graf Spee which was successfully attacking merchant shipping in the South Atlantic.
Great Britain's South American Naval Division was made up of four cruisers. On Saturday, December 2nd, 1939, HMS Ajax, commanded by Captain Woodhouse, was harboured at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Also at Port Stanley was HMS Exeter, commanded by Captain Bell. Two other ships made up the South American Division – HMS Cumberland, commanded by Captain Fallowfield, and HMNZS Achilles, commanded by Captain Parry. The commander of the South American Division was Commodore Harwood.
Harwood knew that the Graf Spee was in the South Atlantic somewhere but he had received no intelligence since November 15th as to her exact position. Harwood came to two conclusions:

Ø The Graf Spee would be tempted to attack the shipping using the route from Argentina/Brazil to Britain

Ø The 25th anniversary of the German defeat at the Battle of the Falkland Islands would be an appropriate date for the Graf Spee to seek revenge by attacking the British South American Division.

There were three neutral countries in South America that allowed ships to use their harbour facilities – Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Under international law, a naval ship could only use a harbour once every three months. However, Harwood had built up a number of contacts in each country and this ‘law’ was given a liberal interpretation by both parties.

On December 2nd, 1939, Harwood received a message that a merchant ship, the ‘Doric Star’ had been attacked by a large German naval vessel just off St. Helena. The next day, Harwood was informed that another ship, the ‘Tairoa’, had also been attacked 170 miles to the south-west of where the ‘Doric Star’ had been attacked. Harwood assumed that it was the 'Graf Spee'. By using the distance covered over 24 hours, Harwood estimated where this German naval ship could be. He worked off of an average speed of 15 knots an hour – in fact, the Graf Spee cruised at 22 knots; 50% faster than that estimated by the British. However, luck also assisted Harwood’s skill. The Graf Spee’s average speed was 22 knots – but it had been reduced as a result of the Graf Spee’s attacks on merchant shipping……to 15 knots, exactly what Harwood had calculated.

Harwood could not split his force of four cruisers so he decided that out of his two obvious choices, the River Plate in Argentina and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, he would place his force at the mouth of the River Plate and wait. Even so, Harwood had to assume that the Graf Spee would go to South America – what if it turned to the West Indies?

On paper, four British cruisers against one German pocket-battleship would have been no contest. In fact, the Graf Spee was potentially an awesome opponent. The Treaty of Versailles had forbidden Germany from making what would have been considered to be classic battleships. To get round the restrictions of Versailles, Germany produced pocket battleships. The Graf Spee was commissioned in 1936. The Graf Spee was fast enough to outrun any battleship but was also armed with sufficient weapons to be a potent enemy. The Graf Spee had six 11 inch guns, numerous anti-aircraft guns and six 21 inch torpedo tubes at her stern. Her broadside range was 30,000 yards. She carried two Arado aircrafts that could be launched by catapult. Her weaponry was superior to any carried by a British heavy cruiser and her armour, at 5.5 inches, was sufficient to resist shells up to 8 inches. Her eight diesel engines gave the ship 56,000 horsepower and a top speed of 26 knots. The engines also allowed the Graf Spee to travel 12,500 miles without refueling - near enough halfway round the world.

In the Battle of the River Plate, the Graf Spee was to be pitted against British cruisers. Though faster than the Graf Spee, they were all outgunned. The Exeter had six 8 inch guns, a top speed of 31 knots but her broadside range was 27,000 yards. Ajax, seen below, and Achilles had a smaller broadside range of 25,000 yards and were equipped with eight 6 inch guns.

The commander of the Graf Spee, Langsdorff, knew that he had range on his side and he could effectively engage the enemy while they could not engage him - as long as the Graf Spee kept its distance. The only threat in terms of distance was the Exeter - if the Graf Spee took the Exeter out of any battle, Langsdorff knew that he was relatively free of trouble. For Harwood, he knew that he had speed on his side and that he could keep out of the range of the Graf Spee but keep up with her, trailing her, until bigger reinforcements arrived.

On December 13th, 1939, the Graf Spee was targeting the route used by merchant ships near the River Plate in Argentina. Harwood had given the Ajax, Achilles and Exeter orders to engage the Graf Spee "at once by night or day" if the ships came across her.

At 05.52, look outs on the Graf Spee saw two tall masts on the horizon. By 06.00, Langsdorff had identified one of the ships seen as being the Exeter. He decided that the ships trailing the were protecting an important merchant convoy and he decided to attack. The engines of the Graf Spee  were put onto a battle footing - their power was greatly increased. This gave out a plume of highly visible black smoke from the funnels of the Graf Spee and the following British cruisers could clearly see her position. The Graf Spee turned to attack and at 06.17 opened fire on the Exeter. The Exeter was hit amidships and the ship sustained damage. A salvo from the Graf Spee did a great deal of damage to the wheelhouse and killed all but three of the officers in it. The captain, Bell, survived and he ordered that the remaining turrets should fire on the Graf Spee. One salvo hit the Graf Spee near its turrets.

The Achilles and Ajax were also involved in this battle but they had stayed away from the Exeter in an attempt to split the fire power. It proved to be a successful ploy. More shells from the Graf Spee'sGraf Spee's 11 inch guns hit the Exeter that continued to take massive damage. However, some of the Exeter's torpedo tubes were undamaged and at 06.31, three torpedoes were fired at the Graf Spee from the Exeter. At that moment, Langsdorff had decided to turn and the three torpedoes missed. His attack on the continued and 11 inch shells hit the cruiser. However, the engine room was not damaged but electricity in the ship was lost and it was this that forced the Exeter out of the battle. Bell planned to ram the Graf Spee but he was ordered out of the battle by Harwood.

Now the Achilles and Ajax took up the battle. They were against a ship that had been hit but had suffered minimal damage at this stage even though Langsdorff had been knocked unconscious in one attack. Both ships were ordered by Harwood to approach the Graf Spee "at the utmost speed". Langsdorff, a torpedo specialist, kept both ships astern to give them the smallest possible target with regards to a torpedo attack.

"My own feelings were that the enemy could do anything he wanted to. He showed no sign of being damaged; his main armament was firing accurately; the Exeter evidently was out of it, and so he had only two small cruisers to prevent him attacking the very valuable River Plate trade."
Captain Parry - commander of the Achilles

What happened next is open to interpretation. Langsdorff went around the Graf Spee to assess the damage. He then told his navigator:

"We must run into port, the ship is not now seaworthy for the North Atlantic."

This decision, according to the Graf Spee's gunnery officer was not well received. The ship had been hit by seventeen shells but junior officers of the Graf Spee later stated that the damage done to the ship was insufficient to cause it to run to a port. At this stage in the battle, the Graf Spee had suffered 37 dead and 57 wounded out of a total complement of 1,100. In comparison, the Exeter was three feet down in the waterline and had lost 61 men killed and could only use a ship's compass for navigation with shouted orders to ensure that those orders were carried out. Harwood ordered her to return to the Falkland Islands.

All the indications pointed to the Graf Spee heading towards the River Plate and Montevideo. In fact the ship's action report states clearly that it was the navigating officer that recommended Montevideo. Langsdorff sent a telegram to Berlin that stated:

"Inspection of direct hits reveals that all galleys except for the Admiral's galley have been badly damaged. Water entering flour store endangers bread supply while a direct hit on the forecastle makes the ship unseaworthy for the North Atlantic in the the ship cannot be made seaworthy for the breakthrough to the homeland with means on board, decided to go into the River Plate at risk of being shut in there."

Whether the Graf Spee was so badly damaged is open to question. The ship had been hit by seventeen shells but one gunnery officer recorded that three of these hits had simply bounced off of the armour and that the others had hit the ship "without causing damage". The authorities in Uruguay, on inspecting the Graf Spee when it reached the River Plate, commented that the largest hit was six feet by six feet but was well above the waterline - as was all of the damage to the ship.

The Graf Spee made for the River Plate - the Plate estuary is a huge bay 120 miles across. The two remaining cruisers, Ajax and Achilles, patrolled the estuary to ensure that the Graf Spee could not slip out back into the Atlantic under the cover of dark. The crews later called this the 'death watch'.

The Graf Spee in Montevideo
The Graf Spee had been forced into Montevideo after the British success at the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939 - the first major naval action of World War Two.

The Graf Spee harboured in Montevideo – much to the surprise of the British naval attaché’s office based there. The damage done to the Graf Spee during the Battle of the River Plate did not appear to be great. Even those on board, according to the ship’s records, were surprised at Langsdorff’s decision to sail to the neutral harbour in Uruguay. The British naval attaché in Montevideo, Henry McCall, and an Intelligence officer, Captain Rex Miller, got into a boat and sailed around the pocket battleship. They both saw little wrong with the ship’s structure and the crew seemed to be working normally as if nothing was wrong. Both British naval officers assumed that the engines were in working order as the ship had sailed at speed to Montevideo to escape the Ajax and Achilles.

“It was all something of a puzzle, and in the circumstances, we concluded that either serious damage to her fire-control system or lack of ammunition could have forced Captain Langsdorff to bring the ship into harbour.”
Admiral Sir Henry McCall.

With so little obvious damage, the British asked the Uruguayans to invoke the rule used internationally for an undamaged warship in a neutral port – that it had 24-hours to leave. Either this, or the crew would be interned. This decision McCall quickly regretted as Commodore Harwood had contacted him from the Ajax to inform him that the Graf Spee was still a formidable fighting ship. However, here was McCall trying to get the Uruguayans to get the ship back into the Atlantic again – a number of days before any British reinforcements could get to the area. With only HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles in the immediate vicinity, such a move would pose a serious threat to them.

One of Langsdorff’s first acts in Montevideo was to release the crews of the merchant ships he had sunk during her most recent voyage. Out of nine merchant ships sunk, none of the crews had been killed. All of those released spoke highly of their treatment and of Langsdorff, who spoke perfect English and lent them English books to pass the time.

Langsdorff had also been busy while the Graf Spee was harboured. He had arranged for the burial of those Germans killed in battle and he had also got the Uruguayan authorities to inspect the damage to the ship so that they might not invoke the 24-hour rule.

On December 16th, the British in Montevideo got a message from Commodore Harwood asking them to do all they could to stop the Graf Spee from sailing. International law again helped the British. If a merchant ship sailed from a neutral harbour, any warship from a combatant nation (in this case the Germans and the British) could not sail for 24 hours – effectively giving a merchant ship a 24-hour start ahead of a warship. The Uruguayans were informed that the ‘SS Ashworth’, a British merchant ship in Montevideo, was sailing on the evening of December 16th and the Uruguayans accepted this. However, a ship like the Graf Spee would easily catch up with any merchant ship even with a 24 hours start. McCall and Miller even contemplated some sort of sabotage to the Graf Spee's rudder (“the means were available”) but decided against it as a great deal of the world’s media was reporting what was happening. Any negative press release would have been damaging to the Royal Navy and would give the Germans an excellent propaganda opportunity.

On December 17th, McCall visited the Ajax and met Harwood. He again told McCall about the importance of keeping the Graf Spee in harbour even though HMS Cumberland had joined the Ajax and Achilles. Reinforcements in the shape of HMS Renown, a battle cruiser, and HMS Ark Royal, an aircraft carrier, were refuelling in Rio de Janeiro – one thousand miles away. Hence there was only Ajax, Achilles and Cumberland between the Graf Spee and the Atlantic, and Harwood was understandably wary after the damage done to the Exeter.

On the same day, the Graf Spee was seen taking on board a great deal of stores from the 'Tacoma', a German merchant vessel in Montevideo. The Uruguayan authorities informed McCall that the ship had announced its intention to sail the following day.

It was then that Miller came up with a plan to convince the Germans that reinforcements had arrived and that even the Graf Spee could not take on three cruisers, one battle cruiser and one aircraft carrier. Extra fuel for the ships was ordered in Argentina and the information was leaked to the Germans via the Argentinean press as the fuel was due to be acquired from the Argentinean naval base at Mar del Plata. The Germans fell for this. The communication below clearly shows that Langsdorff believed that the British force now number five ships including an air craft carrier. Langsdorff had two choices; he could fight the British or scuttle the ship so that it did not fall into the hands of the British.

On the Sunday, crew from the Graf Spee were seen leaving the ship and by midday an estimated 800 men had left. Then the sailed but only with a skeleton crew on board. Just three miles out of Montevideo harbour, the Graf Spee stopped. In the evening a large explosion was seen on board the Graf Spee. The ship was still burning four days later. Langsdorff had scuttled the ship and placed explosives in such a manner that the sinking would set them off after the skeleton crew had got off. A communication between Langsdorff and Berlin shows exactly why the captain of the Graf Spee had taken this decision.

"Strategic position off Montevideo. Besides the cruisers and destroyers, Ark Royal and Renown. Close blockade at night; escape into open sea and break-through to home waters is hopeless....request decision on whether the ship should be scuttled in spite of insufficient depth in the estuary of the Plate, or whether interment is preferred." Langsdorff "
No internment in Uruguay. Attempt effective destruction if ship is scuttled." Berlin

On December 20th Langsdorff shot himself in his hotel room. The rest of the Graf Spee’s crew was interned and many stayed in Uruguay or Argentina even after 1945. Commodore Harwood was promoted to Rear-Admiral almost immediately.© 2000-2009

Thursday, July 8, 2010

British Warships in Indian Navy; INS Mysore, ex HMS Nigeria.

INS Mysore was a British Fiji class cruiser commissioned into the Indian Navy in August 1957. HMS Nigeria (60) previously served in World War II with the Royal Navy. She served in Home waters and off the Scandinavian coast for the early part of the war. In July 1941 HMS Nigeria became the flagship of Force 'K'.On 12 August 1942 she was participating in Operation Pedestal, escorting a convoy bound for Malta. She was the flagship of the close escort group. HMS Nigeria was torpedoed and damaged by the Italian submarine Axum but managed to make it back to Gibraltar escorted by three destroyers. HMS Nigeria survived the war and continued in service with the Royal Navy until 29 August 1957 when she was sold to the Indian Navy.

INS Mysore was the second cruiser to be purchased by India.INS Mysore was decommissioned on August 29, 1985.

The new 2nd. Generation 'INS Mysore' (D-60) is a Delhi-class destroyer of the Indian Navy built by Mazagon Dock Ltd in Bombay (Mumbai), India. Commissioned into  Indian Navy on June 2, 1999. The commissioning CO of INS Mysore was Captain Rajiv Dhamdhere.
The crest for INS Mysore depicted the mythological double-headed eagle Gandaberunda from the coat of arms of the former Mysore state. The ship's motto "Na bibheti kadachana" was taken from the "Taittiriya Upanishad" (Sanskrit for Always Fearless).

"I regret to inform that Rear Admiral Satyandra Singh Jamwal, Chief-of- Staff, Southern Naval Command died in a freak firing when he was engaged in target firing practice at the firing range of the gunnery school, INS Dronacharya at Fort Kochi, in the forenoon hours on 7th July 2010. Rear Admiral Jamwal (51) is survived by Geeta Jamwal (wife) and two children. My heartfelt condolences go with them.  
Capt. S. S. Jamwal was the proud Commissioning Commanding Officer of INS BEAS. And I had personal interactions with him in connection with the commissioning activities of the Frigate at GRSE in Calcutta.

 INS Beas, the guided missile frigate built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata, was commissioned on 11 Jul 05 by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Arun Prakash.INS Beas is named after the River Beas.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

British Warships in Indian Navy: INS Delhi, ex HMS Achilles, ex HMNZ Achilles.

Though Indian Navy traces its history from early 17th. Century, at the time of her independence its fleet consisted of no more than half a dozen small destroyers, some minesweepers and a few auxiliary vessels. This token force of the guardians of India’s coasts became a viable Navy when it was joined by its first Flagship, the battle cruiser HMS Achilles on 5th July 1948 as INS Delhi
 Achilles was originally built for the Royal Navy, and was commissioned as HMS Achilles on 10 October 1933. This 7030-ton, 554 feet long, Leander Class cruiser having a top speed of 32.5 knots, was built by Cammel Laired & Co., in England. The main armament consisted of six 6-inch guns and several anti-aircraft guns, a formidable warship with a compliment of 800 officers and men. She served with the Royal Navy's New Zealand Division from 31 March 1937 up to the creation of the Royal New Zealand Navy, into which she was transferred in September 1941, renamed as HMNZS Achilles (pennant number 70). She became famous for her part in the Battle of the River Plate, first major naval battle of the WW-II alongside HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter.
HMS Achilles was the second of five ships of the Leander class light cruisers, designed as effective follow-ons to the York class. Upgraded to Improved Leander class, she was capable of carrying an aircraft, becoming the first ship to carry a Supermarine Walrus, although both Walruses were lost before WW-II began.

The Supermarine Walrus was a British single-engine amphibious biplane reconnaissance aircraft

“Battle of the River Plate"
On the outbreak of the Second World War, HMS Achilles started patrolling the west coast of South America looking for German merchant ships, but by 22 October 1939 she had arrived at the Falkland Islands, where she was assigned to the South American Division under Commodore Henry Harwood and allocated to Force G (HMS Exeter and Cumberland). In the early morning of 13 December 1939, a force consisting of HMS Achilles, HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter detected smoke off the estuary of the River Plate off the coast of Argentina and Uruguay, which was confirmed to be Admiral Scheer but it was Deutschland class cruiser often known as ‘Pocket Battleship’- Germany’s most formidable Admiral Graf Spee. A fierce battle ensued, at a range of approximately 20 kilometres. Achilles took some damage: four crew were killed, and her Captain, W. E. Parry (later Vice-admiral, C-in-C, Royal Indian Navy), was injured. In the exchange of fire, 36 of Admiral Graf Spee’s crew were killed. And Admiral Graf Spee broke off the engagement to head for the neutral harbour of Montevideo, Uruguay which she entered that night, having been pursued by Achilles and Ajax all day. Graf Spee was forced by international law to leave within 72 hours. Faced with what he believed to be overwhelming odds, the captain of the Admiral Graf Spee, Hans Langsdorff, scuttled his ship rather than risk the lives of his crew.
In 1956, INS Delhi (ex.Achilles) played herself in the film "The Battle of the River Plate".
 A three stamp miniature sheet issued by Uruguay to commemorate 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate

Achilles in Pacific Theatre
Following the Atlantic battle, HMS Achilles returned to Auckland, New Zealand on 23 February 1940, where she was underwent refits until June. After Japan entered the war, she escorted troop convoys, then joined the ANZAC Squadron in the south-west Pacific. While operating off New Georgia Island with U.S. Navy forces, a bomb damaged her X turret on 5 January 1943. Between April 1943 and May 1944, HMNZ Achilles was docked in Portsmouth, England for repairs. Sent back to the New Zealand Fleet, the Achilles next joined the British Pacific Fleet in May 1945 for final operations in the Pacific War.

"HMS Achilles" became "INS Delhi"
After the war, Achilles was returned to the Royal Navy at  Kent, England on 17 September 1946. She was then sold to the Indian Navy and rechristened as INS Delhi on 5 July 1948. India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru took passage in INS Delhi during his historic visit to Indonesia in 1950. Along with INS Ranjit and INS Tir, INS Delhi participated in Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Naval Review in 1953 in the UK and the celebrations in connection with the Independence Day of Mauritius in 1968.
In 1969 INS Delhi paid a goodwill visit to Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.
For the New Zealanders it was the home-coming of an old friend as the ship had served in New Zealand during her commission in the Royal Navy.
 By 1972 this premier combatship was modified to carry out the role of a training ship. INS Delhi remained in service until decommissioned at Bombay on 30 June 1978. As part of the scrapping her Y turret was removed and presented as a gift to the New Zealand government. It is now on display at the entrance of Devonport Naval Base in Auckland

Sea-farers over the centuries have believed that the soul of a ship, like humans, never dies, As such when the occasion arose to christen the newly built indigenous Missile Destroyer at Mazagon Dock Ltd, Bombay on 15th November 1998, the name of INS Delhi was revived, The new INS Delhi (D-61) is a modern warship, a tribute to India’s technological advancement in general, and warship building capability in particular. 

Naval Philatelic Society of India
Collect Stamps on Ships

Saturday, July 3, 2010


The English word ‘NAVIGATION’ has its root in the Sanskrit word ‘NAVIGATI’ and this is perhaps the greatest testimony of the antiquity of India’s Maritime Heritage.

With the discovery of the Lothal port and dock dating back to circa 2400 -1900 B.C. , it became clear that the Indus Vally Civilization did have a Maritime dimention. It is believed that the first tidal dock of the world was built at Lothal during the Harappan Civilization, near the present day Mangrol harbour on the Gujarat coast.
The First Day Cover carries an illustration from the stone sculptures of Borobudur revealing the spirit of adventure of the Indian Mariners who settled in the Javanese islands in the eight century A.D.

The stamp depicts a terracotta model
of a boat excavated from Lothal,
superimposed on an Indus seal
depicting a sailing vessel

The stamp depicts the potshred painting of a boat belonging to Mohanjodaro period.
This was a part of official logo of
The International Fleet Review-2001

Lead coin of Satvahana period (2nd. century A.D.) depicting a
Double-masted sailing vessel. Satavahana Empire was a dynasty which ruled over Southern and Central India from around 230 BCE until around 220 CE (source; Wikipedia Free Library)

Calicut (Kazhikode) on the west coast of India emerged as a major port of Indian Ocean in the middle ages and it was no coincidence that Vasco da Gama landed here on  May 20,1498.

Mohammed Kunjali Marakkar, the first Admiral of Calicut played a heroic part in the Naval wars with the Portuguese. The stamp honours Kunjali Marakkar-400 years and shows the War-paroe, a small craft used by the Kunjalis, which, manned by just 30-40 men each, could be rowed through lagoons and narrow waters.Several of these crafts used to be deployed at strategic points to attack the Portuguese ships and go back into the safety of shallow waters.In these guerrilla raids, the Marakkars had shown remarkable prowess

'Ghurab' of Kanhoji Angre’s fleet as depicted in a circa 1700 A.D. painting. Another brilliant chapter in India’s Maritime history is that of the Maratha Navy under Tukoji Angre fighting the Europeans from 1640 onwards.

The “ PAL ” and “ GALBAT ” two types of ships of the Maratha Navy of the 18 th. century at the port of Ratnagiri. The portrayals are from the paintings of “Ships of the Maratha period ”,circa 18th. century. The ‘PAL’ was a three masted fighter with guns peeping on the broadsides.