Warthogs and Apache Snow

An Idaho Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II of the 124th Fighter Wing— which has been part of the Treasure Valley since 1946– prepares for takeoff on 9 January 2022 on Gowen Field on the outskirts of Boise.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Mikki Fritz)

On the last trip I took to Idaho, I was told by the outfitter that the snow on the mountains in the Bogus Basin area in summer was of the “Apache” type, as in “a patchy here, a patchy there…”

And thus endeth the Dad joke for this week.

The Coolest Thing I saw at SHOT Show, by far

Harnessing the power of the sun, Holosun had its new SCS – Solar Charging Sight – leading a pack of new items on display at SHOT Show.

The Holosun SCS uses a Grade 5 titanium housing that’s lighter and stronger than aluminum and features a reticle that offers a 2-MOA dot and 32-MOA circle available in either red or green. Oh yeah, and its Solar Failsafe system sucks in ambient light to charge an internal battery. Holosun tells us it can charge rapidly during regular range time and maintenance sessions with the internal battery, which is able to store a 20,000-hour (2.28 year) charge in the total absence of light.

Oh yeah…

More in my column at Guns.com.

Last Sleep of the Brave

Lieutenants Nevill Josiah Aylmer Coghill (aged 26) and Teignmouth Melvill (aged 36) of the 1st Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot, were killed attempting to defend their unit’s Queen’s Colour in the aftermath of the British defeat at Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. They were caught by the Zulus as they attempted to carry the color to safety across the Buffalo River. Their bodies were found on the banks sometime later by follow-on British forces– reports range from 10 days to a fortnight– and the flag retrieved from the river.

“Last Sleep of the Brave,” Isandlwana, Zulu War, 1879. Oleograph after Alphonse de Neuville, 1881. This no-doubt much-romanticized work depicts a patrol from the 17th (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers discovering the bodies of Melvill and Coghill on the banks of the Buffalo River. The depiction of the 17th Lancers as being the unit to recover their remains is incorrect as when the bodies were retrieved the lancers had yet to leave England for South Africa. NAM Accession Number NAM. 1956-02-284-1

The two officers were buried at and interred at Fugitive’s Drift, below Itchiane Hill.

Melvill’s son, Charles, who was four years old at the time of his father’s desk, went on to become a major general in the British Army, leading NZ troops in the Great War. Coghill’s brother, the respected painter Sir Egerton Coghill, named his second son Nevill in honor of his lost brother.

As noted by the National Army Museum, “although 23 Victoria Crosses were won during the Zulu War (1879), Coghill and his fellow officer had to wait until January 1907 to receive their posthumous awards.”

Hard to give VCs in a crushing defeat, but it should be noted that their posthumous awards were some of the first for the VC. Their Crosses are displayed at the Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh in Brecon, Powys, Wales.

Cpl Andy Reid / © MoD Crown Copyright 2019

The medals, and others related to the much more touted stand at Rorke’s Drift, were reviewed by King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu Nation in 2019 on the 140th anniversary of the Anglo-Zulu War.

Of that meeting, Colonel (Retired) Tim Van-Rees, of the Friends of The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, said: “it’s an absolute privilege to welcome him here.”

“Zulu King reveals the display of VCs held temporarily at The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh. A selection of original Victoria Cross medals dating back to the 19 Century have been put on public display for the first time. The eight original 1879 Anglo-Zulu War VCs belong to The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, based in Brecon. The eight original VCs on display are those that were awarded to Lieutenants Teignmouth Melvill, Nevill Coghill and Gonville Bromhead, Corporal William Allen and Privates Frederick Hitch, Henry Hook, Robert Jones, and John Williams.” Cpl Andy Reid / © MoD Crown Copyright 2019

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022: Ozzie Bird Boat

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022: Ozzie Bird Boat

RAN Photo

Here we see something of an ugly duckling, the Royal Australian Navy’s seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross in Hobart around 1930 with five of her six early Supermarine Seagull amphibians aloft. She is considered by many to be the first aircraft carrier of the RAN, sparking a tradition that endures almost a century later.

Purpose-built for her role at the Cockatoo Docks, she was the size of a small cruiser, weighing some 7,000-tons (full load) on a 444-foot long steel hull. She was the largest ship built in dominion at the time. Powered by a quartet of Yarrow boilers driving a pair of Parsons steam turbines, she could make 22.5 knots which was reasonably fast for the age. She carried four QF 4.7-inch Mk VIII naval guns with two forward and two over her stern as well as a variety of Vickers 40mm pom-poms and .303-caliber machine guns, equivalent to a decently armed destroyer.

However, her primary purpose and armament was her airwing of up to nine (six active, three stowed in reserve) floatplanes or amphibians. These would augment and support the RAN’s two planned new Kent (County) class heavy cruisers, HMAS Australia (I84/D84/C01) and HMAS Canberra (I33/D33), who would also carry the same type of catapult-launched/crane recovered seaplanes as Albatross. In fact, it was felt that Albatross could operate in conjunction with those two cruisers in the Pacific, with the seaplane carrier forward deploying to anticipated areas in advance of the more capable surface ships to screen their operations with her aircraft. Besides, her cruise speed was the same rate as the warships. 

Her aviation facilities included safe stowage of 9,967 gallons of avgas– enough for at least 80 sorties for the planned floatplanes she would carry– a large forward hangar space, a centerline black powder catapult that launched over the bow, and two (later three) large cranes capable of lifting aircraft aboard.

The 1931 Jane’s entry for Albatross.

She was a much-updated revised design of the first seaplane/aircraft carrier, the Great War-era HMS Ark Royal.

Albatross, the only Australian warship ever named for the large and iconic seabird, was laid down in 1926 and commissioned on 23 January 1929.

The launch of the Royal Australian Navy’s first seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross on 23 February 1928 at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00035168

It was originally thought Albatross would carry and operate RAN’s fleet of six Fairey 111D seaplanes, which they had received starting in 1921. One was awarded the Britannia Trophy in 1924 by the Royal Aero Club for circumnavigating Australia in 44 days.

The Fairey III could carry up to 500 pounds of bombs as well as two .303 guns. When used in a pure recon role, sans bombs, they had a 1,500-mile range on 123 gals of gas, which was long legged for the 1920s. Here are IIIFs floatplanes of No. 47 Squadron on the Blue Nile at Khartoum before departing for a series of exploratory flights over Southern Sudan on 8 July 1930. The aircraft pictured are J9796, J9809, and J9802. RAF MOD Image 45163722

However, the Supermarine Seagull III, an amphibian design by Reginald Joseph Mitchell— father of the Spitfire– superseded the Fairy floatplane before Albatross entered the fleet, with nine of the flying boats delivered by 1927. Able to remain aloft for five-hour patrols, the Seagull III was the direct antecedent of the Walrus (Seagull V), one of the best amphibians of WWII. 

As explained by the Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia in reference to the Seagull III:

A total of nine of these aircraft were delivered to the RAAF 101 Fleet Cooperation Flight, who worked closely with the RAN. Of the nine, two were wrecked in (separate) storms whilst at mooring, one crashed after entering a spin during a gunnery spotting exercise (fatal) and six survived for eventual retirement.

Six Seagulls were attached to HMAS Albatross in 1929, but their low freeboard and relatively low powered engine gave poor performance at sea, including the ability to only operate in relatively low sea states.

Wings folded, a Seagull Mk III is lowered onto the foredeck of “Australia’s first aircraft carrier,” the seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross, RAN 1929-1938. Notes on photo: HMAS CERBERUS Museum. It has been kindly made available to the Unofficial RAN Centenary 1911-2011 photo stream courtesy of the Curator, Warrant Officer Martin Grogan RANR. The photo also appears in Topmill Pty Ltd book ‘Aircraft Carriers and Squadrons of the Royal Australian Navy [Topmill, Sydney] edited by Johnathan Nally, p8; also, in Ross Guillett’s book ‘Wings Across the Sea [Aerospace Publications, Canberra 1988] p33.

A great image showing much detail of Albatross’s amidships as she lifts a Seagull Mk III aboard. Note the Naval Number 0 five-cross flag flying, and her two deck guns sandwiched among her cranes. Image via State Library of NSW

A Seagull III amphibian moored in calm water via FAAA

Note the 4.7-inch guns, which surely proved a hassle to plane operations. Nonetheless, she would use them for NGFS at Normandy. 

Although she never operated with more than nine aircraft, measurements of her hangar deck allowed for as many as 14 folded Seagulls.

Albatross’s RAN career was not lengthy, with LCDR Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd)’s Naval History Homepage detailing that she completed trials and workups in 1929 to include embarking the Governor-General and wife for a visit to the Australian Mandated Territories in the Pacific then completed a series of local deployments. The next couple of years were spent in a cycle of winter cruises to the New Guinea area, spring cruises in coastal Australian waters, and various fleet exercises.

HMAS Albatross seen at the fleet exercise area in Hervey Bay, Queensland, “we think this image may have been taken around 1931.” Photo: Collection of the late CPO Bill Westwood, courtesy John Westwood, RANR 1965-1967. 

HMAS Albatross craning an amphibian aboard.

HMAS Albatross maneuvering away from Garden Island dockyard (RAN image)

HMAS Albatross. State Library of Victoria – Allan C. Green collection

She was a very beamy ship

Two Supermarine Seagull III amphibians taxi near HMAS Albatross at Hervey Bay, QLD. (RAN image)

In April 1933, her Seagulls were disembarked, and the vessel was reduced to reserve status, used occasionally to tend visiting seaplanes. While in reserve in 1936 she was briefly reactivated for the installation and testing of a new catapult then returned to storage.

In 1937, the Australian government brokered a deal to swap the still very young and low-mileage Albatross to the British Admiralty in partial payment for the recently completed Leander-class light cruiser HMS Apollo, soon to be the HMAS Hobart (D63). The cruiser arrived in Australia at the end of 1938– and went on to earn eight battle honors for her WWII service: “Mediterranean 1941”, “Indian Ocean 1941”, “Coral Sea 1942”, “Savo Island 1942”, “Guadalcanal 1942”, “Pacific 1942–45”, “East Indies 1940”, and “Borneo 1945,” while Albatross, recommissioned 19 April 1938, waved goodbye to Sydney for the last time that July.

HMAS Albatross about 1938, likely on her way to England. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Meet HMS Albatross

Arriving at Portsmouth in September 1938, Albatross was paid off by the Australians and officially transferred to the Royal Navy, a force that promptly put her in reserve with a wartime mission being to provide air surveillance with a force of Walrus amphibians. Her reserve time would be short, as she was fully manned and commissioned as HMS Albatross in June 1939 on the lead-up to Hitler marching into Poland.

Outfitted with six (later nine) Walruses of 710 Naval Air Squadron, she was dispatched in September 1939 to West Africa with a homeport at Freetown– along with visits to Bathurst in the Gambia and French naval base at Dakar– tasked with searching for German blockade runners, U-boats, and commerce raiders plying the South Atlantic.

Artwork, Supermarine Walrus MKI RN FAA 710NAS 9F HMS Albatross W2771. Note the Walrus was a pusher type rather than the Seagull III’s tractor type, and had an enclosed cabin.

HMS ALBATROSS (FL 3052) Underway, coastal waters. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120269

When France fell in June 1940, Albatross carried Jutland veteran RADM George Hamilton D’Oyly Lyon (CiC Africa Station) to Dakar to try and negotiate the neutralization of the French Fleet there, and her aircraft shadowed the incomplete but still dangerous battleship, Richelieu.

Except for a brief refit in Mobile, Alabama, Albatross would maintain her quiet Freetown outpost station for 31 months until, fresh from her Dixie overhaul, she was assigned to the East Indies Station in May 1942 for trade defense against the Japanese and long-ranging German and Italian raiders/submarines.

Notably, she detached one of her planes at Trinidad (Supermarine Walrus W2738 9A ‘Audrey III’), designated 710 NAS ‘Y’ Flight, which proceeded to the Falklands to provide that island chain its sole air defense/patrol asset for the first part of 1942 against the (remote) possibility of a Japanese naval assault on the windswept South Atlantic colony. 

After sailing around the Cape of Good Hope with convoy WS18– and dodging Axis minefields– she was soon part of South African-born RADM Edward Syfret’s Force H for Operation(s) Ironclad/Stream Line Jane, the seizure of the Vichy French colony of Mayotte, the port of Diego-Suarez, and the island of Madagascar, where the Japanese hoped to base long-ranging Kaidai-type submarines.

The extended Madagascar operation was a sideshow, historically significant as it was the first British amphibious assault since the disastrous landings in the Dardanelles in 1915. During the seven-month campaign, Albatross provided care and feeding for her pack of 710 NAS Walruses used in ASW patrols against Japanese RADM Noboru Ishizaki’s 8th Submarine Squadron and five locally-based Vichy subs as Syfret had the large the aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and HMS Indomitable— equipped with a mix of Martlets, Albacores, and Swordfish– for heavy lifting and to cover the landings themselves.

Embarrassingly, the old battleship HMS Ramillies was heavily damaged while in the “protected” Diego-Suarez harbor at the end of May after Japanese midget submarines, launched from IJN I-16 and I-20, penetrated the layered defenses.

USN ONI image of Albatross 1942 with a CVS (carrier, anti-submarine) designation

Post-Madagascar, Albatross would continue her Indian Ocean service as a headquarters and combined operations training ship at Bombay until July 1943 when, as the Japanese threat to the region had receded, she was sent back to European waters. The Walruses of 710 Squadron were put ashore at Kilindini and ferried to Nairobi before the ship sailed without aircraft, the squadron disbanding at RNAS Lee-on-Solent soon after arrival.

Arriving at Devonport in September, Albatross was paid off for conversion from a seaplane tender to a floating repair ship, a change that included the removal of her catapult and forward main armament while her hangar space was converted to workshops. As she would be sent in harm’s way still, a Type 286 air search radar was fitted as was a half dozen Oerlikons.

Assigned to Force S for the upcoming Operation Neptune, the RN’s support of the D-Day landings at Normandy, she was part of the huge invasion fleet on 6 June 1944 on “The Longest Day.” Her role would be to help install and tend the Gooseberry 5 (Sword Beach) breakwater while plying her repair services there for small craft.

She had a busy month, as noted by Mason, logging an air attack from a German Me109, taking shore fire that killed one rating, providing naval gunfire support and AAA defense of the anchorage, surviving the infamously fierce gale of 19 June, and saving 79 craft from total loss while enabling 132 others to resume service off the beachhead.

By July, Albatross was given a short break to resupply and was then back at it, working repairs off Juno Beach. There, in the pre-dawn darkness of 11 August, she was hit by a new type of German long-range/low-speed circling torpedo– a G7e/TIIID Dackel (dachshund) fired by S-boats (S79, S97, and S177 engaged in the attack, with 10 torpedos fired) of out of Le Harve that killed 66 men and left her with a 15-degree list.

Towed to Portsmouth by a “Free Dutch” salvage tug, Albatross spent most of the remainder of the war under repair with the eye to keep her around as a minesweeper tender. However, as the conflict soon wound down, on 3 August 1945 she was paid off to the reserve and laid up at the Isle of Wright.

Post War career

Placed on the Disposal List in 1946, she was sold to the South Western Steam Navigation Company for continued merchant use. Initially named SS Pride of Torquay in line with a plan to convert her to a floating casino by the Chatham Dockyards, in October 1948 she was bought at auction by the Greek-owned China Hellenic Lines, and she soon became SS Hellenic Prince, ostensibly to recognize the birth of Prince Charles in November, himself the son of Greek nobility, WWII-naval veteran Prince Phillip. Her bread and butter would be to carry World War II refugees to new lives abroad.

SS Hellenic Prince

Reuben Goossens, who details the lives of classic 20th Century liners, has an interesting page covering Hellenic Prince’s short career with the CHL and Pacific Salvage Co. Ltd, which included turning “migrant voyages into a living hell” from Europe to Australia that included allegations of mutiny and a stint as a troopship taking Commonwealth ground forces to Kenya to fight the Mau Mau.

He notes this about the vessel:

The completed 6.558 GRT (Gross Registered Tons) SS Hellenic Prince was certainly no luxury liner, was able to accommodate up 1,200 persons in 200 cabins and dormitories with up to 20 persons, as well some eight and some 4 bunk cabins all having the most basic of facilities, yet all accommodations were fully air-conditioned. The spacious Dining Room seated 560 persons and this venue at certain times also was used as a lounge area, for there were no formal lounges, but there were two Cinemas for entertainment. In the three bays of her hangar deck there were three separate Hospitals – one for men, one for women, and an isolation Ward for sick children who would most likely have come out of one of the concentration camps of post-war Europe.

SS Hellenic Prince (former HMAS Albatross), in rough condition, between 1949 and 1951. State Library of Victoria.

Sold to a British Ship-breaker in 1954, ex-HMAS/HMS Albatross was broken up in Hong Kong where she arrived in tow on 12th August 1954. As far as I can tell, there is little that remains of her in terms of relics.

A Portuguese sister?

Portuguese Navy Capt. Artur de Sacadura Freire Cabral was famed for the first flight across the South Atlantic Ocean in 1922– a 5,200nm trip from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro that took 79 days to log 62 hours of flight time! His aircraft was dubbed Lusitania, a Fairey III-D seaplane specifically outfitted for the journey and, if you remember, the same type of aircraft the Australians intended to operate from HMAS Albatross.

Portugal this month celebrated the centennial of that feat. 

Sadly, Cabral would disappear two years later while flying over the foggy English Channel and never be recovered.

In a salute to him, the Portuguese Navy in 1931 planned the acquisition of a seaplane tender based on Albatross to be constructed at an Italian yard. To be built at Cantieri Riunii dell Adriatico at Trieste as part of an extensive naval shipbuilding program, funding was never realized and all we have is the 1931 Jane’s entry for the vessel.

Sacadura Cabral, based on HMAS Albatross, per Janes.

Epilogue

Albatross is remembered in Australia via a variety of maritime art.

HMAS Albatross operating her Sea Gull III amphibian aircraft. Painting by Phil Belbin. (RAN Naval Heritage Collection)

HMAS Albatross watercolor by John Alcott. AWM ART28074

The Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, including four squadrons of helicopters (723, 725, 808, and 816) along with one of UAVs (822X Squadron), and the Fleet Air Arm Museum, are located at a shore establishment near Nowra, New South Wales. The base, originally formed in 1942 by the Royal Australian Air Force as RAAF Nowra, was transferred to the RAN in 1944 and commissioned in 1948 as HMAS Albatross, recognizing the name of the old seaplane carrier.

RAN MH-60R crew with 725 Squadron at HMAS Albatross

Further, the RAN would revisit aircraft carrier operations with the Colossus-class light aircraft carrier HMS Vengeance (as HMAS Vengeance, from 1952 to 1955) along with the Majestic-class light aircraft carriers HMS Majestic (as HMAS Melbourne, from 1955 to 1982) and HMS Terrible (as HMAS Sydney from 1948 to 1973), spanning a solid 34 years of running fixed-wing flattops.

Today, the RAN’s pair of Canberra-class LHDs, big ships of some 27,500-tons and 757-feet overall length, can carry as many as 18 helicopters and it is thought they could eventually operate F-35B models, continuing the legacy the humble Albatross began a century ago.

September 2021, HMAS Sirius (AO-266) conducts a dual replenishment at sea with HMAS Canberra (LHD-2) and USCGC Munro (WMSL-755), during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021. (RAN Photo by LSIS Leo Baumgartner)

Specs:

As seaplane tender/carrier
Displacement: 4,800 tons (standard), 7,000 full
Length 443 ft 7 in
Beam: 58 ft molded, 77.75 ft at sponsons
Draft:
1930: 16 ft 11.5 in
1936: 17.25 ft
Propulsion: 4 × Yarrow boilers, 2 x Parsons Turbines, 12,000 shp, 2 shafts
Speed: 22 knots
Range:
4,280 nm at 22 knots; 7,900 nm at 10 knots on 942 tons of oil
Complement: 29 RAN officers, 375 RAN sailors, 8 RAAF officers, 38 RAAF enlisted
Armament:
4 x 120/40 QF Mk VIII guns
2 x single 2-pounder (40-mm) pom-poms (later replaced by quadruple pom-poms in 1943)
4 x 47/40 3pdr Hotchkiss Mk I saluting guns
Aircraft carried: 9 aircraft (six actives, three reserves)

As Hellenic Prince (1949-54, Lloyd’s specs)
Tonnage: 6.558 GRT.
Length: 443.7 ft
Width: 61ft
Draught: 17.25 ft
Propulsion: 4 × Yarrow boilers, Parsons Turbines, 12,000 SHP
Speed: 17 knots service speed, 22 maximum.
Passengers: around 1,000, but up to 1,200 maximum in Steerage.
Crew: 250


If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Ulster Bofors Work

Official caption: “British Sergeant instructs U.S. gunners. A British Sergeant taking some of the U.S. troops in Northern Ireland through a course of light A.A. gun drill.”

Library of Congress, LC-USE6- D-008293.

Note the Yanks’ soon-to-be-replaced M1917 Brodie helmets, especially the camo-painted specimen used by the coverall-clad gunner. In the distance are two early M3 half-tracks. The gun is, of course, a British single-barreled Q.F. 40 mm Mk. 1 (L60 Bofors) mount, likely made in Canada and recently shipped over when this image was taken.

The first American troops, largely Midwestern National Guardsmen of the 34th “Red Bull” Division, under Maj. Gen. Russell P. Hartle, arrived in Uster on 26 January 1942– 80 years ago this week– fresh from the Louisiana Maneuvers. They were deployed as part of Operation Magnet just days after the U.S. entry into WWII as a result of Pearl Harbor– although advanced elements would arrive as early as 19 January. In all, over 30,000 Americans would be in Northern Ireland by summer.

They would soon begin training arm-in-arm with the Brits, including Hartle’s ADC, Capt. William Orlando Darby, who, along with 281 other volunteers from the 34th, would soon start running about with the Commandos. But that is another story.

SHOT Hints the 5.7mm Trend may de here to Stay

Building on a spate of recent new firearm releases chambered for the once-exotic FN 5.7 round, the aisles at SHOT Show this month seemed to reinforce that the caliber is here to stay.

While the 5.7×28 was originally just designed for FN’s PDW program– which led to the P90/PS90 and the Five-seveN series pistol– the now-NATO standardized cartridge caught a boost from Ruger in late 2019 with the Ruger 57 pistol followed soon after at SHOT Show 2020 by the prototype Diamondback DBX large-format pistol. Since then, KelTec has brought its P50 pistol to market, the CMMG Mk57 has appeared, and the DBX has started to appear on dealer’s shelves. In the meantime, FN updated the Five-seveN with new features and colors.

With Vista’s ammo brands (Federal, Speer, etc.) pumping out new 5.7 rounds as fast as they can to keep up with the trend, even more 5.7-chambered guns are inbound.

More in my column at Guns.com.

So long, Tyr, King of the Cod Wars

The mighty Landhelgisgæslan (Icelandic Coast Guard) cutter Tyr, with a bone in her teeth. She was the bane of many British Tars in the frigate force in the 1970s.

Named for the Norse god “concerned with the formalities of war—especially treaties—and also, appropriately, of justice,” the modified Icelandic Coast Guard Ægir-class offshore patrol vessel Tyr was built at Aarhus Flydedok A/S in Denmark in 1974-75, at a time when the smallest (by population) member of NATO was fighting some of the strongest members of the Alliance, over fish.

The two-vessel Ægir-class were humble little gunboats, some 233-feet overall on a reinforced ice-strengthened steel hull. Weighing in at a slight 1,500-tons (at their largest), their West German-made diesel suite sipped gas and gave them an impressive 9,000nm range at 17 knots, enabling their 22-man crew to stay at sea virtually as long as the groceries held out.

Their sensors were commercial. Their original armament was an old 57mm low-angle Hotchkiss-style gun built under license at the Royal Danish Arsenal in Kopenhagen in the 1890s. The shells for the guns were pre-WWII dated. They had helicopter decks that could accommodate the country’s three small helicopters, a commercial Sikorsky S-62A variant (TF-GNA) and two U.S. surplus Bell 47Gs (TF-HUG and TF-MUN, named after Odin’s two ravens)

Tyr was more robust than her half-sister Ægir, and was the largest vessel in the ICG until 2011, carrying the fleet’s flagship position for most of her career.

The reason Iceland, which had no official military, needed such vessels was to chase off interloping European trawlers inside the country’s 50-mile limit, reaping the bounty of Icelands cod fisheries. The ICG, in turn, fought off the West Germans (1972-75) and, much more spectacularly, the British in what was termed the First (1958-59) Second (1972-1973) and Third (1975-76) “Cod Wars.”

The Icelanders got aggressive with the British anglers, cutting their nets with specially-made devices.

This brought in the support of the RN, and the ICG and a host of British frigates spent most of the early 70s trying to ram and avoid ramming each other.

The UK frigate HMS Mermaid collides with the Icelandic Coast Guard Vessel Thor in March 1976, in one of the incidents in the Cod Wars between the two countries.

The principal RN frigates sent to fight in the Second and Third Cod Wars

 

Ægir specifically cracked hulls with HMS Scylla (7 June 1973) and HMS Lincoln (22 September 1973) while the late-arriving Tyr counted coup on HMS Salisbury and HMS Tartar (1 April 1976) as well as HMS Falmouth (6 May 1976).

Icelandic patrol boat Ægir circles around for a run at HMS Scylla

 

Tyr and Salisbury

HMS Falmouth rams Icelandic Coast Guard Tyr May 6, 1976, almost rolling the smaller gunboat, taken from the Tribal Class Frigate HMS Tartar (F133)

In time, Iceland and the UK patched things up and most of the ICG’s older vessels were retired but Tyr and her sister Ægir continued in service for another 40 years, participating in NATO maritime operations, being very active in EOD removal along Iceland’s coastline, and helping old “mother” Denmark police and secure the sovereignty of the Faeroes and Greenland.

She also had run-ins with the whale hippies over Iceland’s traditional harvest.

Tyr rammed by Greenpeace.

They were given extensive modernizations in 1997 and 2005 that upgraded the ships, replaced the old 57mm hood ornament with a more modern 1960s 40mm Bofors, and other improvements.

Once the Cold War thawed, there were other missions, and the class was sent to the Med to help in the EU’s counter-migrant operations there, with Tyr saving over 400 souls in one 2015 incident alone off the South East Coast of Italy.

Icelandic Coast Guard Tyr on EU fisheries duty in the Med

Class leader Ægir was retired in 2012, after a new construction OPV, Thor, was commissioned.

Now, with the South Korean-built Freyja joining the Icelandic fleet late last year, Tyr has recently hung it up as well.

Icelandic Coast Guard Tyr, 2021

Perhaps she will be saved as a museum. One could only hope.

Fab Flattop Five! 365K tons of Good Times

What do you get when you take two 105,000-ton supercarriers, add two chunky 42,000-ton Goula-built LHD/LHAs, and a 20,000-ton Japanese “helicopter destroyer” along with their five principal surface warfare escorts in one big photo-ex? 

This: 

PHILIPPINE SEA (Jan. 22, 2022) Aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 and CVW 9 fly over the Philippine Sea, Jan. 22, 2022. Operating as part of U.S. Pacific Fleet, units assigned to the Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Groups, Essex and America Amphibious Ready Groups, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force are conducting training to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Haydn N. Smith)

PHILIPPINE SEA (Jan. 22, 2022) Aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, CVW 9, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) fly over the Philippine Sea as Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), JMSDF Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181), America-class amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), Wasp-class landing helicopter dock USS Essex (LHD 2), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111), USS Chafe (DDG 90), and USS Gridley (DDG 101) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea Jan. 22, 2022.

“Operating as part of U.S. Pacific Fleet, units assigned to Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Groups, America and Essex Amphibious Ready Groups alongside Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, are conducting training to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

(U.S. Navy video)

Is EAA closer to what the Hi-Power folks want?

As I previously passed on, FN pulled a Kevorkian on the elderly Browning Hi-Power in 2017 then last week announced a “we have the technology” FN High Power (note the extended spelling) that kinda uses some BHP DNA but is a totally new gun with a lot of the same styling but none of the reverse compatibility and support.

As a counter, EAA is working with Girsan in Turkey to produce the P35– a play on the fact that the original BHP was the Grande Puissance 35 when introduced just prior to WWII. Taking the MK II/MK III model of the Hi-Power as a starting point, they met with success last year with EAA telling me at SHOT last week that they have seen remarkable interest in the new, $500ish BHP clone.

Speaking of EAA at SHOT, they also had some modernized prototypes on hand that include an extended beavertail grip on the frame, a straight trigger, adjustable fiber optic sights, G10 grips, a built-in flared mag well, and an option for an accessory rail. 

More in my column at Guns.com.

About Herr Kruger

Eberhard August Franz Ewald Krüger was born in Berlin in 1928 and, as the son of ardent party officials, was active in the HJ. Then, at age 15, he appeared in a propaganda film (Junge Adler) and by March 1945 was a foot soldier in the cobbled-together last-ditch SS-Grenadier-Division “Nibelungen,” thrown into the meatgrinder with the Germans burning the last of the seed corn. Deserting and hiding out in Austria at the end of the war, he later joined the anti-far-right Amadeu Antonio Stiftung group late in life and decried fascism and assorted right-wing parties.

However, most do not know Kruger for his war record or anti-Nazi activism. No, “Hardy” Kruger was for years Hollywood’s prototypical blonde Prussian officer and/or South African hard case.

After a string of West German rom-coms in the late 1940s and 1950s, he made his big splash over here in 1962’s Academy Award-nominated (losing to Lawrence of Arabia) Hatari! as retired German race car driver Kurt Müller, following that up in The Flight of the Phoenix as the arrogant but brilliant German aeronautical engineer Heinrich Dorfmann opposite actual WWII B-17 bomber pilot Jimmy Stewart.

Then came stints as a German officer in The Battle of Neretva, A Bridge Too Far, and others.

In Kubrick’s oft-overlooked period epic Barry Lyndon, when the eponymous character spends his miserable time in the army of Fredrick the Great, it was at the hands of Kruger’s Captain Potzdorf.

Then, of course, his appearance as an unreformed South African merc in The Wild Geese.

Kruger, a Good German, died last week in Palm Springs, aged 93.

« Older Entries