Campbell Buchanan joined the Navy in 1940 and served on Royal Navy corvettes, minesweepers and submarines until transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy ship Kiwi, launched in Scotland in 1941. The Moa and Tui were also launched at about the same time.
The three ships were worked up under the command of Commodore Gilbert Stephenson, a tough and uncompromising Royal Navy officer, before making the passage to New Zealand, arriving in mid-1942. They were initially intended by the RNZN as training ships but the Japanese were making their way through the Pacific by the time they arrived and they were put into the front line.
They were more minesweepers than corvettes although that was what they were called - and they were crowded with crew and equipment by the time they began their patrols in the 40 degree heat of the Pacific. Most of the action at that time was in search of small units of the "Tokyo Express" - Japanese attempts to reinforce and resupply their troops on Guadalcanal with fast destroyers, submarines and small coastal craft.
Campbell Buchanan was behind a searchlight on the corvette Kiwi at 8.30pm on January 29, 1943, when the Kiwi's crew came upon a Japanese submarine almost twice the 51m length of their ship. They were with their sister ship Moa, which evened the odds a little. The submarine I-1 was headed for Guadalcanal with 6,000 troop rations in landing craft mounted forward of the conning tower in place of a deck gun. The I-1 was about to have a bad night.
The submarine dived and Kiwi moved in to drop depth charges while the Moa stood off, using sonar to maintain contact. Some damage was caused and more charges dropped. The effect of the second attack was crippling - pumps, steering engine and the port propellor shaft were damaged and a switchboard hit by high pressure water, knocking out all lighting. The I-1 began to sink uncontrollably. The sub, with a test depth of 64m, dropped to 180m. Serious leaks started and the forward batteries were flooded, releasing chlorine gas from reaction with the salt water.
At 9pm the Kiwi was about to make a third depth charge attack when the I-1 surfaced and headed towards the shore to beach. Campbell Buchanan put the ship's searchlight on it and the accompanying Moa fired star shells to light up the scene. Kiwi opened fire at point blank range with its 102mm gun and a 20mm cannon, silencing the sub's deck gun and removing those of the crew on deck.
The sub's navigating officer saw the scene on deck and the torpedo officer took over command, seeing the Kiwi approaching. He called hands up to man the deck gun and to repel boarders; officers with their swords and four picked crew with rifles.
At 9.20pm the Kiwi, at 400m range, put on full speed to ram, hitting the submarine portside, aft of the conning tower. The Kiwi backed off, taking fire from the I-1 while doing so. Then the Kiwi rammed again - this time hitting one of the foreplanes. Two of the I-1's officers tried to board the Kiwi but were unsuccessful. The Kiwi then rammed a third time, on the starboard side aft of the sub, holing a ballast tank and wrecking all but one of the sub's bilge pumps. The I-1, now unable to dive, made off to beach, chased by the Moa with more star shells and gun fire. The Kiwi's gun, with barrel overheated, was forced to cease fire.
Campbell Buchanan was hit by fire from the submarine during the second ramming attempt, possibly by one of the four Japanese marksmen given rifles by the Torpedo Officer. He remained at his post until relieved.
Leading-signalman Campbell Buchanan died in hospital on the island of Tulagi two days after being wounded. He was Mentioned in Dispatches by the Royal New Zealand Navy and awarded the Navy Cross by the United States Navy.
The link below has an excellent portrait of him and a good account of the action.
Leading-signalman Campbell Buchanan, whose death is reported on active service, was the second son of Mr and Mrs J. W. Buchanan, of Fox street, Port Chalmers. Educated at the Port Chalmers District High School, he was a keen participant in all school sporting activities, having to his credit some excellent performances at Rugby, swimming, and running. He was also a keen Terra Nova Sea Scout, finally reaching the rank of chief petty officer in the troop.
On leaving school he joined the firm of Cadbury Fry Hudson Ltd., and at the same time became a member of the local R.N.V.R.
At the outbreak of war, although only 18 years of age, he offered his services to, and was accepted by, the Navy for service overseas. He served in several of His Majesty's ships, based somewhere in England, receiving an appointment as leading signalman on one of His Majesty's corvettes. He later returned to New Zealand and the South-west Pacific on patrol duties. Leading-signalman Buchanan was held in very high esteem by all his friends and acquaintances for his honesty of purpose and quiet, unassuming manner. -Evening Star, 11/2/1943.
N.Z. NAVAL PERSONNEL
ENGAGEMENT WITH SUBMARINE
U.S. NAVY CROSS AWARDED PORT CHALMERS SIGNALMAN
(P.A.) WELLINGTON, March 3. The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, has received advice that as a result of the recent successful action between New Zealand naval forces and a Japanese submarine, resulting in the destruction of the submarine, the United States commander in the South Pacific, Admiral Halsey, has, in the name of the President of the United States, made the following awards:
Navy Cross. — Lieutenant-commander G. Bridson, D.S.C., R.N.Z.N.V.R.; Lieutenant-commander P. Phipps D.S.C., R.N.Z.N.V.R.; and Leading-signalman C. H. Buchanan (posthumous), .R.N.Z.N.V.R.
Silver Star Medal. — Temporary-lieutenants J. F. O'Neill and W. A. Laurie R.N.Z.N.V.R.; Mechanician R. E. Harper, R.N.; Able-seamen A. E. Dalton and J. T. Washer, R.N.Z.N.
Letters of Commendation. — Sub-lieutenant D. H. Graham, Petty-officer A. M. Finlayson, Leading-seamen F. K. Knox, W. I. Steele, and H. H. Triplow, Able-seamen E. R. Bartlett. H. J. Robertson, S. K. Hitchcock, L. S. Hunt, and K. C. McVinnie, Acting Leading-signalman J. L. Salter, all R.N.Z.N.V.R.; Leading seaman T. W. Gray, Able-seamen J. Scobie, M. R. Meddings, and J. W. Kroening, Ordinary-seaman I. A. Fraser, all R.N.Z.N.; Able-seaman G. Butterfield, Engineroom Artificer W. N. Southward, Acting Chief Mechanician S. E. Anstiss, Stoker Petty-officer J. McCall, Stoker (first class) W. C. Lacy, Officers' Steward E. Barton, all R.N.; and Leading-steward W. J. Watkins. R.N.Z.N.
Leading-signalman C. H. Buchanan, R.N.Z.N.V.R., to whom the posthumous award of the American Navy Cross has been made, was the second son of Mr and Mrs J. W. Buchanan, of 14 Fox street, Port Chalmers. The first New Zealander to be promoted to the rank of leading signalman while serving abroad in the present war, he was reported killed recently following the announcement of the sinking of a Japanese submarine.
At the age of 12, Signalman Buchanan became one of the first members of the Terra Nova Sea Scouts, the pioneer Sea Scout troop in New Zealand. He actively assisted in the erection of the Scouts' boatshed at Carey's Bay, and at 18 years of age, when he joined the R.N.V.R., he was troop boatswain. At that time he held all the awards which could be gained in the New Zealand Sea Scouts. His experience in connection with signalling led to his acceptance for signalling duties in the R.N.Z.N.V.R. for duty both in New Zealand and overseas. In 1940 he went to Britain, and he served on mine sweepers, in submarines, and at submarine bases. -Evening Star, 4/3/1943.
LATE SIGNALMAN BUCHANAN
BRITISH AND AMERICAN AWARDS
At Wellington recently Mr and Mrs J. W. Buchanan, of Fox street, Port Chalmers, were presented with the American Navy Cross which was posthumously awarded to their son, Leading Signalman C. H. Buchanan, Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, who was mortally wounded in the successful engagement between two New Zealand corvettes and a Japanese submarine off Guadalcanal on the night of January 29-30. The citation, the original of which was also presented to Mr and Mrs Buchanan, read:—
"South Pacific Force of the United States Pacific Fleet. Headquarters of the Commander. — In the name of the President of the United States, the Commander South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force takes pleasure in awarding the Navy Cross, posthumous, to Leading Signalman C. Buchanan, Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, for service as set forth in the following citation:- For extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving on board a corvette which participated in the action against a Japanese submarine near Guadalcanal Island on the night of January 29-30, 1943. Leading Signalman Buchanan, although mortally wounded, courageously remained at his battle station during the action. He skilfully trained a searchlight on the submarine and kept the target illuminated for the guns of his ship. During the engagement the submarine, after being forced to surface by depth charges, was rammed twice and hit several times by the gunfire from his ship. His valorous action, taken with complete disregard for his own safety, contributed materially to the destruction of the enemy, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service. — (Signed) W. F. Halsey, Admiral, U.S. Navy."
Mrs Buchanan has since received the following letter from the Navy Office, Wellington:- "I have been requested by the Minister of Defence to advise you that your son, the late Leading Signalman Campbell Howard Buchanan, has been mentioned in despatches (posthumously) in recognition of his gallantry in the action which resulted in the destruction of a Japanese submarine early this year. I also desire to advise you that the posthumous award of mentioned in despatches for gallantry in action is a very high honour and comes next to the Victoria Cross, these being the only posthumous awards which are conferred by His Majesty for such gallantry. — Yours faithfully (signed) Naval Secretary." -Evening Star, 12/6/1943.
PORT CHALMERS NEWS
BOY SCOUT HONOURED
At the Terra Nova Sea Scouts’ boat shed at Port Chalmers on Friday evening a plaque to the memory of Campbell Buchanan, presented to the troop by his parents, was unveiled. Leading Signalman Campbell Buchanan was first a Boy Scout and later a member of the R.N.Z.N.V.R., and in this service lost his life at the early age of 22 years at Guadalcanal. He was mentioned in despatches by the Admiralty, and was also awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest American naval award. The citation stated: “While mortally wounded he courageously remained at his battle station during the entire action, contributing materially to the destruction of the enemy. His action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service."
The chairman of the Parents’ Committee (Mr J. M. Mathews) introduced the Mayor (Mr H. S. Watson), the Dominion commissioner of Sea Scouts (Mr A. J. Black), the district commissioner (Mr P. J. Wilson), and Warrant Officer S. D. Wardrop, U.S.N., who unveiled the plaque and gave an interesting talk on the engagement at Guadalcanal. The Rev. J. Ewen Simpson performed the dedication ceremony. -Otago Daily Times, 15/9/1943.
For the Empire's Cause.
BUCHANAN.— In memory of Leading Signalman Campbell Buchanan, killed in ecraon off Guadalcanal, January 29, 1943.
— Inserted by his parents and sisters.
BUCHANAN.— In memory of Leading-signalman Campbell Buchanan, killed in action, January 29, 1943. — Inserted by his brother Tom.
BUCHANAN.— In loving memory of our dear friend, Leading-signalman Campbell Howard (Buck) Buchanan, died of wounds, January 30, 1943.
We think of you in silence, We often speak your name;
would we give to clasp your hand, And see you smile again.
— Inserted by Mr and Mrs Wheeler, Rona, Audrey, and Glenroy (overseas). -Evening Star, 29/1/1944.