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Naval battle at Mormugão harbour
On the morning of 18 December, the Portuguese sloop Afonso de Albuquerque was anchored off Mormugão Harbour. Three Portuguese patrol boats were also present at Goa and Daman and Diu. Besides engaging Indian naval units, the Afonso de Albuquerque was also tasked with providing a coastal artillery battery for the defence of the harbour and adjoining beaches, as well as providing vital radio communications with Lisbon after on-shore radio facilities had been destroyed in Indian airstrikes.
At 09:00, three Indian frigates led by the INS Betwa took up position off the Harbour, awaiting orders to attack the NRP Afonso and secure sea access to the port. At 11:00, Indian planes bombed Mormugão harbor. At 12:00, upon receiving clearance from HQ, the INS Betwa, accompanied by the INS Beas entered the harbour and opened fire on the NRP Afonso with their 4.5-inch guns while transmitting requests to surrender in morse code between shots. In response, the NRP Afonso lifted anchor, headed out towards the enemy and returned fire with its 120 mm guns.
Besides being outnumbered by the Indians, the Afonso was also at a severe disadvantage since it was in a confined position that restricted its maneuverability, and also because its four 120 mm guns were capable of only two rounds a minute, as compared to the 60 rounds per minute cadence of the guns aboard the Indian frigates. A few minutes into the exchange of fire, at 1215, the Afonso took a direct hit in its control tower, injuring its weapons officer. At 12:25, an anti-personnel shrapnel bomb fired from an Indian vessel exploded directly over the ship, killing its radio officer and severely injuring its commander, Captain António da Cunha Aragão, after which the First Officer Pinto da Cruz took command of the vessel. The ships propulsion system was also badly damaged in this attack.
At 12:35, the NRP Afonso swerved 180 degrees and was run aground against Bambolim beach. At that time, against the commander's orders, a white flag was hoisted under instructions from the sergeant in charge of signals. But the flag coiled itself around the mast and as a result was not spotted by the Indians, who continued their barrage. The flag was immediately lowered.
Eventually at 12:50, after having fired nearly 400 rounds at the Indians, hitting two of the Indian vessels, and having taken severe damage, the order was given to initiate the abandonment of the ship. Under heavy fire, directed both at the ship as well as at the coast, non-essential crew including weapons staff left the ship and made their way to the shore. They were followed at 13:10 by the rest of the crew, who along with their injured commander, disembarked directly onto the beach after setting fire to the ship. Following this, the commander was transferred by car to the hospital at Panaji.
In all, the NRP Afonso lost 5 dead and 13 wounded in the battle.
The sloop's crew formally surrendered with the remaining Portuguese forces on 19 December 1961 at 2030 hrs.
As a gesture of goodwill, the commanders of the INS Betwa and the INS Beas later visited Captain Aragão as he lay recuperating in bed in Panaji.
The Afonso - having been renamed as Saravastri by the Indian Navy - lay grounded at the beach near Dona Paula, until 1962 when it was towed to Bombay and sold for scrap. Parts of the ship were recovered and are on display at the Naval Museum in Bombay.