Warship Wednesday, July 26, 2017: Doctor Jekyll and HM’s gunboat

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off 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. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 26, 2017: Doctor Jekyll and HM’s gunboat

Photograph (Q 41101) H. M. S. Royalist. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205275598

Here we see the Royal Navy Satellite-class barque-rigged, composite-hulled protected sloop (later deemed a corvette) HMS Royalist as she appeared in the late 1880s.

Designed by the noted Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, KCB, the seven ships of the Satellite-class were an amalgam of old sailing era fighting ships and new iron steam vessel. They had an iron keel and frame with wood planking. A steam plant was primary propulsion (up to 13 knots) and they carried enough coal to travel an impressive 6,000nm, but a sail rig was fitted and often used.

Gone were old muzzle-loading cast iron rifles, replaced by new breech-loading 6-inch/100-pounder (81cwt) guns which could fire an 80-pound shell some 7,590 yards and Gardner machine guns (though each of the class carried a different armament pattern and varying engineering suites, making them more half-sisters than anything.). At 200-feet overall, these impressive vessels carried a smattering of armor plate (about an inch) over their sensitive machinery areas, but remained svelte enough to float in less than three fathoms.

Built at Sheerness and Devonport, these ships were soon dispatched to far-flung colonial posts on the Australian Station, the Pacific Station, West Indies and China.

The subject of our tale, the 7th HMS Royalist, commissioned 14 April 1886 then spent some time on station at the Cape of Good Hope and Australia.

Sydney, NSW, c. 1890. Portside view of screw corvette HMS Royalist. Note 6-inch guns in ports on her waist. (AWM 302264)

Royalist was subsequently sent for a spell to the Gilbert islands, claiming them for the Crown and inspecting the same.

Annexation of the Gilbert Islands, Hoisting the British Flag at Apamama by HMS Royalist, 27 May 1892, from the Sept. 10 1892 Illustrated London News

Later, Royalist was sent to Samoa, then a hot topic in the halls of Europe and America.

The “Samoan Question” burned brightly from about 1886 onward, with Germany, the U.S. and Britain all nosing around the islands, and picking sides. This resulted in an eight-year civil war in the archipelago with guns and munitions supplied to Samoan leaders by the powers, all to ultimately claim the land for their growing colonial empires, a struggle that is beyond this blog.

By early March 1899, this low-level tribal conflict had boiled over, with exiled chief Mata’afa Iosefo backed by the Germans and incoming regent Malietoa Tanumafili I backed by the Anglo-Americans, and combat at the offering.

H.M.S. ROYALIST; USS PHILADELPHIA (C-4); H.M.S. TORCH; H.M.S. TAURANGA; German cruiser FALKE; and H.M.S. PORPOISE, at Apia, Samoa, April 1899. Catalog #: NH 4

With the balloon going up, the Royalist joined the Alert-class sloop HMS Torch, Archer-class torpedo cruiser HMS Porpoise, and the U.S. Pacific Squadron flag, USS Philadelphia (Cruiser No. 4), in supporting Tanumafili.

British sailors and Royal Marines, joined with U.S. leathernecks and bluejackets to form a force consisting of 26 marines and 88 sailors, reinforced by a company of 136 Samoans loyal to Tanumafili, and set out from Apia toward a plantation at Vailele. The group was led by Lt. Angel H. Freeman, RN, with Lt. Philip V. Lansdale, USN as XO, and carried a Colt-Browning M1895 from Philadelphia just in case.

NH 121036 Angel Hope Freeman, RN

Another 146 mixed RN/USN landing force, augmented by a single 7-pounder from Royalist and assorted U.S. Marines manning Gatling guns for fire support, surrounded the Tivoli Hotel which was used as a command post and shelter for non-combatants. From there they held off a determined assault from Iosefo loyalists over three days (March 15-17), losing four British and American sailors and marines.

Seven Pounder commanding the Tivoli Road – Gunner Gunn of H.M.S. Royalist in charge, Auckland Weekly News (07 April 1899), via Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18990407-5-1.

An American Gatling gun and crew and part of the defenses of the British Consulate, Apia, Samoa, 1899. Courtesy of Captain T.T. Craven, USN. Catalog #: NH 1448

Meanwhile, as Royalist with her big 6-inchers and shallow draft, closed in and shelled two fortified outposts filled with Iosefo supporters– with fire corrected by a pair of Samoan fans in the hands of a signalman on the reef near Fagalii.

However, once the column moved inland to attack Vailele, they were swarmed by 800 of Iosefo’s troops on 1 April while arrayed along the road. Setting up a perimeter supported by the Colt, Freeman was killed and an injured Lansdale took command of the force, only to succumb to his wounds. Also killed in the action were U.S. Navy Seaman Norman E. Edsall, U.S. Ensign John Robert Monaghan (USNA 1879), U.S. Seaman James Butler, RN Leading Seaman Albert Meirs Prout and RN Leading Seaman John Long. Eventually the naval party was able to break contact, covered by Royalist‘s guns, which were once again directed by the fans.

Two Marines, Sgt. Michael J. McNally, and Pvt. Henry L. Hulbert, received the Medal of Honor for their heroism during the battle. Iosefo is believed to have suffered 100 casualties.

By 25 April, the conflict had settled down with each side agreeing to disagree. The next day, the auxiliary cruiser USS Badger arrived in Apia harbor carrying the Joint High Commission–representatives from Germany, Britain and the U.S. State Department– to begin negotiations on how to carve up the islands more peacefully. By 13 May they had the affair sorted out and a treaty was sent home to be signed by the end of the year.

In the end, Germany acquired the western islands (Savai’i and ‘Upolu, plus seven smaller islands) with Iosefo declared chief by the German Samoa colonial powers; while the U.S. acquired the eastern islands (Tutuila and the Manu’a group) and established a base at Pago Pago. The Brits quit the chain altogether in exchange for territorial concessions from the Germans in Tonga and the Solomans.

New Zealand was allowed by Britain to annex the Cook Islands and Niue as something of a consolation prize, though the Kiwis had mustered local troops for war in Samoa, that in the end, were not needed. Nonetheless, they stormed German Samoa in 1914 during the Great War and remained in administration of the islands as the Western Samoa Trust Territory until 1962.

Preceding joint monuments for the Great War, WWII, and Korea, the USN and RN established a marker in Samoa to commemorate their combined war dead from 1899.

Tablet on Monument in Samoa. Caption: “Erected by Americans and British in memory of the Brave American and British Sailors who fought and fell together at the Samoan Islands in March and April 1899.” Angel Hope Freeman, Philip Vanhorne Lansdale, John R. Monaghan, James Butler, Norman Eckley Edsall, Albert Meirs Prout, John Long, Edmund Halloran, Montague Rogers, Thomas Holloway, Andrew Henry J. Thornberry, John Edward Mudge. All Officers and men of the American Navy were attached to the U.S.F.S. PHILADELPHIA and those of the British Navy to H.M.S. ROYALIST. Description: Collection of Captain T.T. Craven, USN. Catalog #: NH 2177

Beyond the marker, the U.S. Navy preserved relics from the colonial battle including shrapnel and a fuse from the British ship and the famous fans used as signal flags to correct her fire. Below are the images and it is likely the takeaways are still in a box somewhere in a Navy warehouse.

On left, a piece of shrapnel thrown by HMS ROYALIST after the battle of 1 April 1899, Apia, Samoa. On right, fuse of 6″ shell fired from the British ship ROYALIST after striking a coconut tree and exploding on 1 April 1899, Apia, Samoa. Catalog #: NH 1666

Samoan fans taken from a chief’s hut in the village of Mataafa. This chief led the revolution against the British-American authority in the Samoan Islands 6 March to 22 May 1899. The fans were used to signal the British ship ROYALIST to fire over the defeated Anglo-American columns on the reef near Fagalii, Upolu, Samoa, on 1 April 1899. From the ROYALIST held the hostilities back until the survivors of the ambush were rescued Catalog #: USN 901315

A storyteller who lived in Samoa since 1890 who was on hand for the struggle was a Scot, one Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson. While his Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are much more commonly read, he did craft A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa, his own nonfiction take on the conflict there, in which he mentions Royalist several times.

Photograph of Robert Louis Stevenson (seated) and family, Vailima, on the island of Upolu in Samoa. Via Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

While it may seem we are finished with our story here, Royalist remained afloat for another half-century past her Samoan encounter.

Leaving the islands once they were partitioned, she sailed for Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland to be converted to a depot and receiving station for ship crews in Haulbowline.

Photograph (Q 40999) H. M. S. Royalist. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205275497

In 1913, on the eve of the Great War, she was renamed HMS Colleen. While she was still afloat, one of HMs submarines and two cruisers went on to carry the name HMS Royalist.

When the lights went out in Europe, the old corvette-turned-hulk wore the flag of CiC Coast of Ireland and later CiC Western Approaches, and was a welcome sight at Queenstown for ships crossing the Atlantic during the war. It was during the conflict that she served as the mother ship to a series of shifting flotillas of motor launches and armed trawlers of the Auxiliary Patrol, which deployed around the British Isles performing search and rescue and anti-submarine patrolling.

Incoming ships to Queensland with sick or injured crew members, or shipmates being transferred or processing out, would assign their transients to Royalist/Colleen, which means there are dozens of wartime graves around the British Isles with headstones marked HMS Colleen.

Noted Irish polar explorer Tom Crean, member of three major expeditions to Antarctica including Captain Scott’s ill-fated 1911–13 Terra Nova Expedition, served his last few months in the Royal Navy aboard Colleen until he was retired on medical grounds on 24 March 1920.

With Ireland moving out of the British Empire, the aging Colleen was paid off 15 March 1922, just three months before the Irish Free State was proclaimed.

Still a dominion of the British Empire until 1931, HMS Colleen was transferred to the new Irish government 19 February 1923 to support the recently formed Irish Coastal and Marine Service, joining the commandeered 155-foot armed yacht Helga (rechristened Muirchu, or “Seahound”). However, the CMS was soon disbanded, and Colleen was never used as more than a hulk and oil storage barge, though she was retained until at least 1950, some four years after the founding of the current Irish Naval Service (An tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh) was founded.

Her final fate is unknown, though she is thought to have been broken up. What is known, however, is that she outlived all six of her sister ships.

Paid off or hulked in the early 1900s, Heroine, Hyachinth and Pylades went to the breakers by 1906. Satellite and Caroline managed as training vessels until 1947 and 1929, respectively, though one of the latter’s guns endures on display in Hong Kong. Runner up for the longest life of the class was Rapid, who endured as an accommodation ship and coal bunker until she was disposed of at Gibraltar in 1948.

However, there is always Robert Louis Stevenson, the marker on Samoa, the relics somewhere in the NHHC archives and the heroics of Tom Crean, proving Royalist will remain, as a footnote at least, forever.

Specs:

Displacement: 1,420 tons
Length: 200 ft. (61 m)
Beam: 38 ft. (12 m)
Draught: 15.7 ft. (4.8 m)
Propulsion:
Cylindrical boilers,
Maudslay, Sons and Field horizontal compound expansion steam engine, 1510hp
Single screw
Maximum speed: 13 knots
Endurance: 6,000 nm at 10 kts on 400 tons coal
Sail plan: Barque-rigged
Range: Approximately 6,000 nmi (11,000 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h)
Complement: 170-200
Armament:
(As designed)
Two 6″/26 (15.2 cm) BL Mark II guns
Ten BL 5-inch (127.0 mm) 50-pounder (38cwt) guns
One light gun
Four machine guns
(As completed)
Eight 6″/26 (15.2 cm) BL Mark II guns
1 7-pdr landing gun
4x .45 cal Gardner machine guns
Armor: Internal steel deck, 19-25mmm thick, over machinery and magazines

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.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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