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July 13th, 1943 (TUESDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Discussing the invasion of Italy, Churchill asks "Why should we crawl up the leg like a harvest bug from the ankle up? Let us rather strike at the knee."

Destroyer HMCS Assiniboine completed refit at Liverpool.

Light cruiser HMS Ceylon commissioned.

GERMANY: Rastenburg: Hitler confers with Kluge and Manstein (the Army Group Commanders of the Kursk offensive) and orders German operations around Kursk to end, and starts to redeploy forces to Italy. Manstein is upset as he believes that he could still achieve victory. (Glenn A. Steinberg)

U-1276 laid down.

ITALY: Augusta, Sicily is captured by the British 5th Division. The Herman Göring  Panzer division engages British forces near Vizzini.

USAAF Ninth Air Force B-24 Liberators strike the airfields at Crotone.

On the ground in Sicily, the British effort to break out onto Catania Plain by establishing bridgehead over Simeto River near Lentini is firmly opposed. 

In the air during the night of 12/13 July, Northwest African Strategic Air Force Wellingtons hit Caltanissetta, Gerbini Airfield, and Enna. During the day, B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-25 Mitchells, B-26 Marauders, and fighters attack Enna, Milo Airfield, Carcitella landing ground, Randazzo, and targets of opportunity while Ninth Air Force B-24s hit the airfield at Vibo Valentia. Northwest African Tactical Air Force aircraft hit truck convoys, trains, railway stations, troops, and numerous targets of opportunity over wide areas in Sicily. Ninth Air Force B-25s attack the Leonforte road and harbor at Termini while P-40s patrol the Licata area. 

The Northwest African Coastal Air Force continues sea patrols, reconnaissance, and convoy protection and attack ship convoy northeast of Palermo.

Shortly before 2100, HMS Unruly torpedoes and sinks Italian submarine Acciaio off Cape Vaticano near Messina, Sicily.

PACIFIC: USN Task Group 36.1 under Rear Admiral Walden L. Ainsworth engages IJN forces under Rear Admiral Izaki Shunji during the Battle of Kolombangara. The Allied forces consist of the light cruisers HMNZS Leander, USS Honolulu (CL-48) and USS St. Louis (CL-49) and ten destroyers; the Japanese force consists of the light cruiser HIJMS Jintsu and five destroyers.

The battle began at 0110 hours local when the Allied ships opened fire; HIJMS Jintsu is sunk by gunfire and torpedoes and the destroyer HIJMS Yukikaze is damaged. But four Japanese destroyers, waiting for the Allied ships to turn, launch 31 torpedoes at the formation. USS Honolulu, USS St. Louis and the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-433), manoeuvring to bring their main batteries to bear on the enemy, turn right into the path of the deadly "long lance" torpedoes. USS Honolulu is struck by a torpedo on the starboard side at 0211 hours causing hull damage; USS St. Louis took a torpedo which hit well forward and twisted her bow, but caused no serious casualties; and USS Gwin received a torpedo hit amidships in her engine room. USS Gwin is scuttled by another destroyer; 61 men perish on the ship. 

Light cruiser HMNZS LEANDER is also torpedoed and seriously damaged. Her Executive officer is Commander Stephen W. Roskill RN, who later wrote the official history of the Royal navy in the war, "The War at Sea".

The torpedo that struck the Leander blew a huge, jagged hole in her port side amidships and exploded into No. 1 boiler-room, which was badly wrecked by the blast. All those on duty there were killed. The hole was about twenty feet in depth from the lower deck level and thirty feet in length, with distortion of armour and shell plating and frames extending more than fifty feet fore and aft. There were bad cracks in the ship's side and in the lower deck, which was lifted between three and four feet over the main damage area. The explosion threw up a great column of water, most of which fell on the after part of the ship and swept several men overboard. Blast from the explosion vented up a boiler-room fan casing and blew seven members of a 4-inch gun's crew over the side.

Unfortunately, the Leander, which was steaming at high speed when hit, had travelled a considerable distance before it was known that the men had gone. The port quadruple torpedo-tube mounting, situated about fifty feet abaft the seat of the explosion, was lifted bodily aft for several feet, leaving the torpedoes lolling over the ship's side.

The LEANDER took an immediate list of ten degrees to port. Main steam failed to the two after engines (inner shafts) and electric power was cut off everywhere forward of No. 3 boiler- room, plunging the ship into complete darkness and bringing all auxiliary machinery to a dead stop.

Very soon, steam was lost on the port forward engine, due to the enforced evacuation of No. 2 boiler-room because of the intense heat when the air supply fans were disabled by blast. The ship had lost two-thirds of her 72,000 horse-power steaming capacity. The wrecking of the electrical installation caused a complete cut-out of all communications, except the very limited number of sound-powered telephones, and a total failure of all gunnery fire control and radio equipment. The telephone battery was put out of action by a short circuit on its leads. Not only had electric power failed, but the transmitting station, with its superhuman calculating machines which correlated a dozen different sets of data at once for the control and accurate firing of the guns, had been completely flooded and its operators compelled to leave the compartment. The Leander was in no condition to renew the action had the enemy returned, and when daylight came there was every likelihood of air attacks.

When some 600 square feet of her structure was blown open to the sea, five compartments were completely floodedthe forward boiler-room, main switchboard room, forward dynamo room, low-power room, and the transmitting station. Five fuel-oil tanks were wrecked and two others badly contaminated with sea water. There were big leaks through a damaged bulkhead into No. 2 boiler-room and the passage on the port side, as well as into the stokers’ mess-deck through the splits in the ship's side and the deck above. Major damage had been done to auxiliary machinery and steam, water, and fuel-oil pipe systems. It was found that the ship could steam at slow speed on the two outer engines, taking steam from No. 3 boiler-room. A south-easterly course was set to return to harbour and the /Leander/ gradually worked up to 12 knots.

Communication was established with the destroyers Radford and Jenkins, which had been detached by Rear- Admiral Ainsworth to stand by the Leander and which acted as anti-submarine and anti-aircraft screen during the passage to Tulagi <>.

When No. 2 boiler-room had to be evacuated because of the stoppage of the air supply fans, it was not possible to close the stop valves of the main steam pipes because of the intense heat. Acting Chief Engine-room Artificer Morris Buckley went back a few minutes later and at great risk in the darkness and escaping steam succeeded in shutting down the valves. Led by Chief Shipwright J. W. Stewart, a damage control party set about the establishment of a flooding boundary. Working in almost total darkness and up to their waists in oil and water, they shored up damaged bulkheads and hatches and plugged holes and cracks. The most immediate danger was the imminent flooding of No. 2 boiler-room. Stoker Petty Officer A. Fickling and Leading Stoker J. R. Haliday volunteered to re-enter the compartment and shore up the damaged bulkhead. Measures were then taken to pump out the boiler-room by means of two portable electric pumps, with a capacity of sixty tons an hour, which kept the water level below the floor plates.

Commander S. W. Roskill had been injured on the leg and nearly swept overboard by the explosion, but for some hours he directed the work of his damage control parties until incapacitated by his wound. ‘The high standard of organisation and training shown by all hands was largely due to his initiative and leadership’, said the captain's report. Regular drills, lectures, and demonstrations had made all officers and men ‘damage control conscious’, and it was for this reason that in spite of severe casualties among the senior ratings of one party, correct action on their own initiative was taken by the survivors. The general reaction was: ‘Well, it was just what we had been told it would be like.’ A seaman boy, Mervyn Kelly, seventeen years of age, was employed as the commander's messenger. He, too, had been blown over and injured by the explosion, but he stuck gamely to his job, and during the period when all telephones were out of action he carried many important verbal messages speedily and accurately. He neither mentioned nor reported his injuries until long after daylight.

The port torpedo-tubes, which were about to be fired when the ship was hit, were dismounted by the explosion and most of their crew became casualties. A young petty officer, Charles A. Patchett, though badly shaken, immediately organised the survivors and the crew of the starboard tubes into repair parties. They rapidly restored power to a number of important circuits, thus greatly assisting Chief Electrical Artificer W. R. J. Jones, <> who had taken charge of all electrical repair parties when he learned that the commissioned electrician and his staff had been killed in the main switchboard compartment. When he heard that there were badly injured men on the stokers’ mess-deck, Norman Craven, the youngest member of the sick berth staff, at once volunteered to go there and assist the first aid parties. Under conditions requiring more than ordinary courage, he attended to wounded men, showing much initiative and a sound knowledge of his duties. Chief Petty Officer Telegraphist C. J. Rosbrook showed great organising and technical ability in rapidly making good all breakdowns in the ship's wireless telegraphy system.

The first casualty arrived at the main dressing station six minutes after the explosion occurred, and almost all the fifteen cases were treated there within the next ten minutes. The seriously injured suffered mainly from a combination of multiple fractures of leg and ankle bones and the effects of blast. All were standing up when they were injured, with the exception of a leading stoker who was seated at a desk. Two ratings standing one on either side of him were killed instantly. The behaviour and morale of the injured men was of a high order both during the action and afterwards, and they were unselfish in their insistence that ‘we should treat the other fellow first’, reported Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander E. S. McPhail. ‘They appeared to be far more concerned with the damage inflicted on the enemy than with their own condition and wounds.’ Electric current failed in the main dressing station and forward first aid post, and emergency lighting had to be used until the repair parties restored power for the lights and sterilisers. The sick berth staff and auxiliary medical parties worked for eighteen hours without a break. Being in battle dress, all were continuously wet through as a result of perspiration from heat and lack of ventilation, but liberal rations of saline tablets and well-sweetened lime juice helped to prevent exhaustion. The condition of the wounded on their discharge to hospital was evidence of the medical staff's sound work.

The customary preparations for feeding the ship's company had been made before the action and proved adequate under most trying and difficult conditions. Approximately three days’ normal supply of bread was already baked. Two sandwiches per man were prepared, coppers were filled with hot soup and cocoa, and a large tub of iced lime juice placed in the galley. The issue room was fully stocked with tinned foods, especially fruits, and emergency supplies were placed in the main store. No damage to galley or bakery was caused by the explosion, but no electric power, steam, or fuel-oil was available for cooking from the time of the action until the afternoon.

FOR EIGHTEEN HOURS the engineers and stokers laboured in heat and semi-darkness to keep the ship afloat and steam her more than 200 miles back to harbour. Two-thirds of her boiler power was damaged and out of service. The only two available boilers, all the main and auxiliary machinery, and all the main and overflow feed water tanks were contaminated by salt water and fuel-oil. It is essential to good steaming and the safety of the plant that the water used to generate the high-pressure, superheated steam must be entirely free from salt and as pure as it is possible to make it. Distilled water is used, losses are made good by evaporators, and frequent tests are made in order to detect and quickly correct any salinity. But in the /Leander/ all the rules of good steaming had been upset by the intricate and extensive damage to her vitals. The boiler feed water quickly became contaminated with salt water and fuel-oil. This caused almost continuous ‘priming’^* <> of both boilers. Both sets of evaporators were put on to make up feed water and the main feed tanks were allowed to overflow continuously. The boilers were blown down every ten minutes in order to reduce the density, which at one time was three degrees. These drastic measures resulted in a reduction of the density, by the time the ship arrived in harbour, to less than one degree. Subsequent examination of the boilers showed that many of the tubes were so badly coated internally with oil residue that burning-out must have been imminent.

Terse but graphic was the account of his experiences written by a young stoker who was on duty in No. 3 boiler-room:

The supply fans roared to the demand for higher air pressure as the engine throttles were eased open for full speed. Stop! Full astern! Full ahead! Stokers whipped off oil sprayers, on sprayers; the ship heeled.

Crash! Crash! Crash! Our boilers pulsated and roared. Furnace flames spat out with every salvo. Dull thuds around us. Bombs? No, enemy shells exploding in the sea, more likely. Loud speakers told us that our force had run into a Japanese cruiser and destroyer squadron. The ship quivered as the salvoes thundered. A crashsudden darkness the ship lurching and heeling overan almost incredible silence. The water tenders flashed their emergency lights, the chief of the watch wrenched his fan throttle closed, the leading stoker slammed to a stop his oil-fuel pump as the needle of the steam-pressure gauge started to creep up. No safety valve lifted. An electrical repair party eventually gave some power and lights. Bilge water crept across the floor plates.

Minutes seemed like hours. Steam and water cut through gland packings, showering us with a scalding spray. Water levels raced from high to low in the gauge glasses, the boilers primed, turbo fans ‘hunted’, the steam pressure danced from high to low. We swung on valves, nursed our pumps and watched salty feed water upsetting all the laws of steady steaming.

With communication lines dead and in semi-darkness we did our best to give steam. Slow ahead! Two sprayers on each boiler, one on each, two, three on each, and so on, hour after hour, steam roaring through leaking glands and blow-down valves open. All day we flogged those boilers.

Nightfall saw us safe in harbour, battered, torn, but not beaten.

American fighter aircraft gave cover to the Leander from daylight on 13 July until her arrival in harbour. She was screened by the destroyers Radford and Jenkins, the latter being relieved by the Taylor at 8 a.m. Two other destroyers joined the escort during the afternoon and the Leander arrived in Tulagi <> harbour at seven o'clock, just after dark. There was a moving scene when the ship's company assembled on the forecastle in the brilliant light of a full tropical moon and the chaplain read prayers for the dead and of thanksgiving for the safety of the ship. The captain, standing by the capstan, read the names of the dead and missing.

(Jack McKillop and Keith Allen and Dave Shirlaw and Daniel Ross)

Title: Leander <> Author: S. D. Waters <> In: Episodes & Studies Volume 2  <> Publication details: Historical Publications Branch  <>, 1950, Wellington  <>

Part of: The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 19391945

The transports, however, still succeed in landing 1,200 Japanese troops.

In the Solomon Islands, 12 US Marine Corps SBD Dauntlesses attack Japanese ground forces within 1,000 yards (914 meters) of US infantry positions on New Georgia Island; this is the first mission of its kind in the Solomons. Japanese air strikes continue and Navy F4F Wildcat pilots shoot down 7 A6M "Zekes" early in the morning.

CANADA: Corvette HMCS Louisburg (II) launched Quebec City, Province of Quebec.

U.S.A.: Baseball!

Escort carrier USS Tripoli launched.

Submarine USS Raton commissioned.

WEST INDIES: Admiral Georges Robert relinquished authority over Martinique and Guadeloupe and the United States Government accepted the appointment of M. Hoppenot as administrator.


U-487 sunk in the central Atlantic by five Avenger and Wildcat aircraft of the American escort carrier USS Core in position 27.15N, 38.05W. 31 dead and 33 survivors. One Wildcat shot down in the action.

U-607 sunk at 0800 in the Bay of Biscay NW of Cape Ortegal, Spain, in position 45.02N, 09.14W, by depth charges from an RAF 228 Sqn Sunderland. 45 dead and 7 survivors.

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