Japanese heavy cruiser Takao, damaged by torpedoes from USS Darter (SS-227) on October 23, 1944.
(Photo Courtesy of Imperial War Museum)
Atago Class Heavy Cruiser
Year Completed: 1932
Displacement: 15,781 tons
Dimensions: 661'9" x 68'0" x 20'9"
Speed: 34 knots
Armament: 10 x 8"/50; 8 x 5"/40 DP; up to 66 x 25mm AA; 16 x 24" TT
Crew: 773
Source of name: Takao -- "High Hero," a mountain NW of Kyoto
On July 31, 1945, the XE-1 (British midget submarine) commanded by Lt. J. E. Smart, RNVR, was towed by HMS Sparks, whose commanding officer was Lt. D. G. Kent. XE-3, commanded by Lt. I. E. Fraser, RNE, was towed by HMS Stygian, under the command of Lt. G. S. C. Clarabut. They were sent on a mission up the Straight of Johore, between Malaya and Singapore Island, with the task of blowing up two Japanese heavy cruisers at anchor near the former British naval base there.
Smart and XE-1 were delayed when they encountered enemy surface craft, so they could not approach her designated target, the heavy cruiser Myoko. Instead, they laid XE-1's limpet mines alongside the XE-3's prey, the 15,781 ton Takao, at anchor in shallow water.
XE-3 was successfully maneuvered along the muddy bottom of the Straight to reach her attacking station beneath the Takao. There was not enough depth to open the hatch that allowed the diver to exit with the limpet mines to attach to the Takao's bottom. Nevertheless, the diver, Leading Seaman J. J. Magennis, managed to squeeze his way out of the partially open hatch -- only to find that the thick crust of barnacles made it impossible to attach the limpets to the ship's hull. It took him an exhaustive 45 minutes to scrape a clear space and successfully complete his task. As the XE-3 made her escape down the Straight, the Takao was transformed by the limpet mines into a useless wreck resting on the seabed. Both Fraser and Magennis were awarded the Victoria Cross for their remarkable feats.
(The Above Information is from John G. Mansfield, Jr.'s book, "Cruisers for Breakfast."
Copyright, October, 1997)
Lieutenant Ian Edward Fraser
The King has been Graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross for great valour to Lieutenant Ian Edward Fraser DSc, Royal Naval Reserve.
Lieutenant Fraser commanded His Majesty's Midget Submarine XE-3 in a successful attack on a Japanese heavy cruiser of the Atago class at her moorings in Johore Strait, Singapore, on 31st July, 1945. During the long approach up the Singapore Straits XE-3 deliberately left the believed safe channel and entered the mined waters to avoid suspected hydrophone posts. The target was aground, or nearly aground, both fore and aft, and only under the midships portion was there just sufficient water for XE-3 to place herself under the cruiser. For forty minutes XE-3 pushed her way along the seabed until finally, Lieutenant Fraser managed to force her right under the centre of the cruiser. Here he placed the limpets and dropped his main side charge. Great difficulty was experienced in extricating the craft after the attack had been completed, but finally XE-3 was clear, and commenced her long return journey out to sea. The courage and determination of Lieutenant Fraser are beyond all praise. Any man not possessed of his relentless determination to achieve his objective in full, regardless of all consequences, would have dropped his charge alongside the target instead of persisting until he had forced his submarine right under the cruiser. The approach and withdrawal entailed a passage of 80 miles through water which had been mined by both the enemy and ourselves, past hydrophone positions, over loops and controlled minefields, and through an antisubmarine boom.
Dated 13 November 1945.
Leading Seaman James Joseph Magennis
The King has been Graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross for great valour to Temporary Acting Leading Seaman James Joseph Magennis.
Leading Seaman Magennis served as Diver in His Majesty's Submarine XE-3 for her attack on 31st July, 1945, on a Japanese cruiser of the Atago class. Owing to the fact that XE-3 was tightly jammed under the target, the diver's hatch could not be fully opened, and Magennis had to squeeze himself through the narrow space available. He experienced great difficulty in placing his limpets on the bottom of the cruiser owing to both the foul state of the bottom and to the pronounced slope upon which the limpets would not hold. Before a limpet could be placed therefore Magennis had thoroughly to scrape the area clear of barnacles and in order to secure the limpets he had to tie them in pairs by a line passing under the cruiser's keel. This was very tiring work for a diver and he was moreover handicapped by a steady leakage of oxygen which was ascending in bubbles to the surface. A lesser man would have been content to place a few limpets and then return to the craft. Magennis, however, persisted until he had placed his full outfit before returning to the craft in an exhausted condition. Shortly after withdrawing Lieutenant Fraser endeavoured to jettison his limpet carriers, but one of these would not release itself and fall clear of the craft. Despite his exhaustion, his oxygen leak and the fact that there was every probability of his being sighted, Magennis at once volunteered to leave the craft and free the carrier rather than allow a less experienced diver to undertake the job. After seven minutes of nerve-racking work he succeeded in releasing the carrier. Magennis displayed very great courage and devotion to duty and complete disregard for his own safety.
Dated 13 November 1945.
(Images and Citations Reproduced with Permission of the Submariners Association (Barrow-in-Furness Branch))