Trench Mortars for Guadalcanal
Port Nouméa, New Caledonia, November 4th, 1942.

On the 4th of November Lansdowne received orders to load 90 tons of 81mm trench-mortars. Then proceed to Guadalcanal and deliver them to the First Marine Division who needed them desperately, then under directions of the Commanding General, bombard enemy positions.

At 0800 on November 5th, Lansdowne got underway at 25 knots, loaded with the 90 tons of 81mm ammunition.

At 0617, the morning of November 7th, she anchored 2300 yards off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, and commenced unloading ammunition into Higgins boats. A Marine Major and a Captain with a photographer came aboard to aid in the bombardment when we finished the unloading.

At 0800 the USS Majabe anchored 500 yards off from Lansdowne. Her escort, the Destroyer USS Woodworth, DD 460 maintained anti submarine patrol.

At 0927 The intercom blurted out the warning of a periscope on the starboard quarter. The sub was so close, about 800 yards, there was no way he could miss Lansdowne with a torpedo. General Quarters was sounded.

Suddenly there was a heavy thump and a large explosion. The Majabe had been hit amidships with a torpedo and men were jumping over the side. Majabe’s cargo was bombs for the aircraft at Henderson Field. Luckily the Majabe was hit in her engine room. Forward or aft, the Majabe and probably Lansdowne would have gone up like Mt Vesuvius.

Eyewitnesses observed the conning tower of the sub breaking the surface due to the shallowness of the water and the lightening of the load when it fired two torpedoes at five-second intervals. It was reported that the two torpedoes originally seemed to be headed for Lansdowne but shortly one curved and headed for Majabe. That one found its mark. The other one missed Lansdowne because she had slipped her anchor by letting the anchor chain run over the side.

Captain Smedberg then ordered right full rudder, while backing on the starboard engine, and emergency full ahead on the port engine, thus gaining some movement of the ship that enabled it to avoid the torpedo that missed her stern by a very slim margin.

Lansdowne and Woodworth both took turns dropping patterns of depth charges but, there was no evidence that any of them were successful. Reports indicate the periscope was visible for at least thirty seconds before the torpedoes were fired. Almost all observers reported that when the sub broke the surface, that it appeared to be a Midget submarine. After the depth charge attacks Lansdowne returned to unload the rest of the ammunition. This time she did not anchor but kept her screws turning over, thus the ship kept some kind of headway. Majabe had been beached and her cargo was being salvaged. Upon our completion of the unloading of the ammunition, we took station to bombard enemy positions under the direction of Marine spotters.