On paper his fleet appeared impressive: five battleships, three carriers, plus cruisers and destroyers.
But the battleships included his flagship, Warspite, and four of the old Revenge-class battleships, Resolution, Ramillies, Royal Sovereign and Revenge—all dating from the First World War. They were slow and their fifteen-inch guns were no match against their Japanese opponents.
The carriers were Formidable, Indomitable and the older and smaller Hermes. Almost all of their aircraft were obsolete—no match for the Japanese carrier-borne planes.
Heading for Colombo was Japanese admiral Chuichi Nagumo, intent on repeating his triumph at Pearl Harbour. His fleet comprised the battleships Kongo, Haruna, Hiei and Kirishima, and aircraft carriers Akagi, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku and Zuikaku, with attendant cruisers and destroyers. He attacked Colombo on 5 April but found that his prey had gone.
Nagumo had command of the sea while Somerville lay low. In the end, cruisers Cornwall and Dorsetshire and the aircraft carrier Hermes were sunk, but the rest of the fleet was saved. Nagumo eventually withdrew. His ships were needed elsewhere.
The Eastern Fleet survived and continued to fulfil its role of protecting the eastern coast of Africa and communications with the Middle East.