Warship Wednesday, April 17, Bring your Red Cap
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.
– Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, April 17
Here we see that most ignored class of naval warship, the humble minesweeper. This particular one had more of a history that others. With a war coming in 1941, the US Navy designed and ordered built a huge class of auxiliary minesweepers to help keep the harbors, coasts, and sea lanes clear from those infernal devices. Dubbed the YMS-1 (Yard Mine Sweeper) class, they were simple 136-foot long boats with twin GM disels, sweep gear, and a 3″ gun for those special moments. A 32-man crew of bluejackets would man the rails. In all some 481 of these boats would be ordered from 1941-45 from 35 different yacht makers around the country. Eighty YMS minesweepers were ordered from US yards for transfer under lend-lease to the UK as the BYMS-class minesweeper, and one of these is the subject of this article.
The simple wooden hulled ship was ordered in 1941 from Ballard Marine Railway Co., Inc., Seattle, WA. Commissioned as HM J-826 in February 1943, she served in the Royal Navy. Renamed HM BYMS-2026 in 1944, she finished the war in the Med before being decommissioned in 1946 and laid up at Malta. Struck from the Royal Navy Register 10 June 1947, she was returned to U.S. custody 1 August 1947. The US Navy disarmed her and removed her sweeping and communication gear then sold her to a British businessman the same year. I mean Uncle Sam already had hundreds of these wooden boats, why bring back another one?
The businessman named her Calypso and after use as a ferry in the Malta area, leased her to a former French Naval officer named Jacques-Yves Cousteau for one British pound per year in 1950. Over the next 47 years Cousteau made several improvements to the minesweeper including changing the accommodations to include 27 in Captain’s Quarters, Six Staterooms & Crew Quarters, adding Photo & Science Labs, an underwater observation chamber, a small helicopter landing pad (on a 136 foot ship!), a Yumbo 3-ton hydraulic crane, and waterscooter and minisub storage holds.
After decades of wandering the world’s oceans in Cousteau’s real life aquatic, Calypso was sunk in a January 1996 accident in Singapore where she lay on the harbor floor for 8 days before being raised and salvaged. Sadly she has not sailed under her own power since then.
Jacques Cousteau speaking about life on Calypso, the search for on Atlantis and cognac in a great Blank-on-Blank 1978 interview by Roy Leonard on WGN Radio, from the Roy Leonard Audio Archive.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau died on 25 June 1997 and for the past 16 years the Calypso has been in turns neglected and then restored, then neglected again while legal battles over which group owned the ship ensued. Currently it is owned by the Equipe Cousteau Association who is raising money for a restoration and conversion to a museum ship.
The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed. – Jacques Cousteau
Displacement 270 t.
Beam 24′ 6″
Speed 15 kts.
Armament: One 3″/50 dual purpose gun mount, two 20mm mounts and two depth charge projectors (removed in 1947) (Post 1950- Spearguns and swagger)
Propulsion: (as designed) Two 800bhp General Motors 8-268A diesel engines, Snow and Knobstedt single reduction gear, two shafts.
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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.
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