Warship Wednesday, Aug.14, 2019: Siamese Sloop Twins

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Aug.14, 2019: Siamese Sloop Twins

U.S. Navy Photo Catalog #: NH 96079

Here we see the pair of Japanese-constructed sloops, Tahchin (Tachin) and Maeklong (Meklong), of the Royal Siamese Navy in Thai coastal waters sometime before World War II. One of these sisters would be sunk during Thailand’s confusing part in the war while the other would go on to live an amazingly long life.

In the mid-to-late 1930s, during the reign of King Rama VIII (who would preside over the change of the country’s name from Siam to Thailand), the military dictatorship of Maj. Gen. Plaek Phibunsongkhram awarded contracts for a number of warships from overseas builders as the writing was on the wall that a major Pacific beef was coming.

From Italy were ordered seven 318-ton Trad-class torpedo boats, a pair of minesweepers (Nos. 1 and 2), as well as Naresuan and Taksin: 6,000-ton (Etna-class) light cruisers with 6-inch guns that were never delivered due to WWII. Meanwhile, from Kawasaki in Japan came the two coastal defense ships Sri Ayudhya and Thonburi (Dhonburi)– downright cute 2,600-ton monitors that packed four 8-inch guns and enough armor plate to stand up to anything up to an enemy cruiser. Add to this were a four-pack of small Machanu-class coastal submarines from Mitsubishi, three 135-ton Japanese Kantan-class torpedo boats and our two showcase sloops.

When combined with the Kawasaki-built royal yacht Angthong, the old British RN R-class destroyer Phra Ruang (ex-HMS Radiant), and the 1,000-ton Vickers-made coastal monitors Sukhodaya and Ratankosindra, the entire 5,000-man Siamese Navy looked something like this going into WWII:

From Jane’s 1946-47

On 13 August 1935, the Siamese admiralty ordered Tahchin and Maeklong, both named after major Thai river systems, to serve as training ships for this growing fleet in peacetime with the wartime mission of coastal patrol and anti-submarine warfare. The amount of the contract to the Uraga Dock Company in Yokosuka for the pair was 1.885 million baht.

Some 1,400-tons standard (2,000 full) the 269-foot-long frigate-like school ships were fairly well-armed, with a quartet of simple 4.7″/45 cal 3-Shiki Type guns in single shielded mounts as well as some smaller weapons. Four 18-inch deck-mounted torpedo tubes, depth charge projectors and the ability to drop 80 sea mines rounded out their armament. Capable of minesweeping as well, they were fitted with standard mechanical sea sweeps.

Each could carry a single small seaplane that was launched and recovered by craning it over the side and the country purchased six Watanabe WS-103 model single-seat floatplanes (Allied reporting name “Slim”) as well as three larger twin-engine flying boats to base at Chalong Bay, Phuket Island to patrol the Andaman Sea.

Capable of making 17-knots at full speed, these two sloops had an economical Kampon merchant-ship style plant that allowed them to range a very respectable 8,000 nautical miles with their bunkers topped off with fuel oil.

Notably, the Japanese Combined Fleet did not field any vessels of a comparable design at the time, either building much more capable fast destroyers or much smaller coastal subchasers and gunboats.

By June 1937, both Tahchin and Maeklong were completed and ready to hand over to the Siamese government. A welcome ceremony and massive celebration were reportedly held when they arrived home on 26 September.

Meanwhile, the neighboring French forces, in possession of colonial Indochina, took a keen interest in the new vessels.

One of the two ships of this class, Tahchin or Maeklong, photographed 17 September 1937 in Vingro Bay by an aircraft of the French 5e Escadrille then based in Indochina. Note the extensive canvas awnings. NH 96100

This, of course, foreshadowed the looming Franco-Thai War that broke out between the two countries in October 1940.

With Metropolitan France already knocked out of the war and the Vichy government in control, Bangkok felt Indochina was ripe for the pickings to reclaim provinces ceded to the French in 1907. This low-intensity pitched border conflict ended the following January in a Japanese-mediated ceasefire negotiated aboard the Nagara-class light cruiser Natori. While the Thais recovered 21,000 sq. miles of their land (and to this day still have most of it), they lost a torpedo boat and the monitor Thonburi in the one-sided Battle of Ko Chang in the Gulf of Thailand. 

This played right into Tokyo’s hand of adding both Indochina and Thailand into Japan’s collection of overseas puppets and Phibunsongkhram, after the Japanese invaded Thailand outright on 8 December 1941, entered the global war by declaring war on Britain and the United States six weeks later. The reward for this, and opening the country to Japanese troops while supplying what was termed the four-division-strong Thai Phayap Army for use against the British and KMT in Burma and China, Thailand received further territorial concessions while the Allies helped foster the Seri Thai (Free Thai Movement) of resistance bands that eventually grew to 90,000 effectives by 1944 and eventually swept Phibunsongkhram from power.

As for Maeklong and Tahchin, upgraded with more Japanese-supplied anti-aircraft guns, they repeatedly fired at Allied bombers during raids over the country. This too proved one-sided.

Note their Japanese lines and bow crests

On 1 June 1945 Tahchin was hit by a 1,000-pound bomb in Sattahip Bay during an attack by 23 British B-24 Liberators of No. 99 Squadron and No. 159 Squadron, flying from Digri, on the anchored Thai fleet. The hit flooded her engine room and caused 53 casualties. Severely damaged, she was knocked out of the war and never repaired. Also sunk in the raid was the royal yacht HTMS Angthong and the formerly British-flagged freighter Suddhadib, which was operating as HTMS Hardeep.

Following the Japanese surrender in August, Thailand was semi-occupied by the Allies until January 1946, but what was left of the Thai fleet remained largely intact, although in poor material condition. While some older and harder to support ships (such as the four Machanu-class coastal submarines) were soon laid up and discarded, Maeklong lingered on.

Over the next several decades, she trained virtually every naval officer of the Royal Thai Naval Academy at one point or another.

She also served as something of a replacement royal yacht. In 1949, the training sloop traveled to England to bring the ashes of the exiled late King Prajadhipok (Rama VII), along with the still very much alive Queen Ramphaiphanni, back to Thailand. In 1951, Maeklong returned to Europe to bring King Rama IX back home after he was completing his degree in Switzerland. Rama IX later used the ship as his host for naval reviews.

Maeklong at Bangkok during fall 1953. NH 96091

Maeklong underway in November 1960 or spring 1961 NH 96108

Thai Maeklong Photographed at Bangkok, date unknown but about the 1960s NH 96109-A

Jane’s 1973 listing

The 1980s. Note her ornate bow crest, certainly one of the few still used on an active warship at the time.

From 30 January to 20 March 1995, Maeklong served as a sea training ship for the last time as she took the first, second, and third-year naval cadets of the academic year 1994 on their sea cruise around the Western Pacific. At the time, she had been ordered some 60 years previously and was likely the last pre-WWII Japanese-built warship still in service.

Decommissioned later that year, she was the subject of a 17.8-million-baht campaign to move her to a land-based display as a museum ship along the Fort Chulachomklao Royal Dockyard in Samutprakarn. There, she remains remarkably preserved and open to the public today.

HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Kasom SKULTAB circa 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Kasom SKULTAB circa 2012, via Wikimedia Commons

HTMS Maeklong, note her bow figurehead, via Wikimedia Commons

Bow view towards the bridge, HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Andreas Hörstemeier, circa 2005, via Wikimedia Commons

Stern, HTMS Maeklong, Chulachomklao Fort Museum by Kasom SKULTAB, circa 2012. Note the depth charge projectors and sea mines. via Wikimedia Commons

As for Tachin, her name would be reused by the Thai Navy. In 1951, the low-mileage USCG-manned Tacoma-class patrol frigate USS Glendale (PF-36) would be transferred to Thailand and become the new HTMS Tachin.

USS Glendale (PF-36) and USS Gallup (PF-47) fly the flags of Thailand, during transfer ceremonies at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, 29 October 1951. Both ships are still wearing their U.S. Navy numbers. Glendale became the Thai Navy ship Tachin. Gallup became the Thai Navy ship Prasae. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the “All Hands” collection at the Naval History and Heritage Command. NH 97102.

Decommissioned 22 June 2000, Glendale/ Tachin has been preserved onshore as a memorial at Sattahip Naval Base.

HTMS Tachin (PF-1) Former Tacoma-class patrol frigate USS Glendale (PF-36)

Last December, the Thai Navy took possession of a new 4,600-ton DW3000H type frigate at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) Okpo-Dong shipyard in the ROK. Her name: HTMS Tachin (FFG-471).

Specs:

Jane’s 1946 listing

Displacement: 1,400 long tons, std; 2,000 full load
Length: 269 ft
Beam: 34 ft
Draft: 10 ft 4 in
Propulsion: 2 × reciprocating steam engines, 2,500 hp, 2 Kampon boilers
Speed: 17 knots max
Range: 8,000 nm at 12 knots with 487 tons fuel oil
Complement: 13 commissioned officers, 9 chief petty officers, 85 petty officers and 66 seamen (173); 155 as a training ship
Aircraft carried:1 × Watanabe WS-103S floatplane (1937-46)
Armament:
(1937)
4 x 4.7″/45cal Japanese 3-Shiki Type guns
2 x 20 mm AA guns (some sources say, Italian Breda, some Danish Madsen)
2 x 7.7mm machine guns
4 x 18-inch torpedo tubes (2 × 2), removed 1942
depth charge racks
Up to 80 sea mines
(1954)
4 x 4.7″/45cal Japanese 3-Shiki Type guns
3 x 40mm/62cal Type 91 “HI” Japanese anti-aircraft guns (fitted 1942)
3 x 20-mm machine guns
6 x depth-charge projectors
Up to 80 sea mines

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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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