Warship Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023: Diving the New World

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. 4, 2023: Diving the New World

Via Peru’s Dirección de Intereses Marítimos which has a great collection of period images from the submarine’s construction digitized. Image 00631-15

Above we see the early French Creusot-built submarine BAP Teniente Ferré of the Peruvian Navy, nestled inside the transport dock ship Kanguroo in the summer of 1912. The first operational diesel-electric boat in Latin America, she was of an interesting design that just screams “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and, while she never saw overt combat, ushered in a long tradition of submarine operations for Peru– one that has lots of ties to the U.S. Navy.

Peru arguably had one of the first attempts at submarine combat in Latin America. The country started off its involvement with subs back in the 1880s when one Federico Blume y Othon came up with a small hand-cranked Toro Submarino submersible equipped with a cable-laid torpedo (more of a mine) that was neat but not successful, although it was an interesting footnote to the War of the Pacific between Peru, Bolivia and Chile.

Fuente: Museo de la Marina de Guerra del Perú, sección de Submarinistas, via Superunda.

Following the wholesale destruction of the Peruvian Navy in the War of the Pacific, the country went into a slow rebuilding process that, by 1904, brought in a French naval mission led by Commander Paul de Marguerye. The Peruvian Naval Academy was stood back up and new, modern warships were ordered from Europe including the scout cruisers BAP Almirante Grau and BAP Coronel Bolognesi (3,100 tons, 24 knots, 2×6″ guns) from Vickers in Britain, the old French armored cruiser Dupuy de Lome (6,300 tons, 20 knots, 2×7.6in, 6×6.4 in guns, launched 1890) which was intended to be brought into service as BAP Comandante Aguirre, and two submarines from Schneider & Cie Le Creusot.

This brings us to Teniente Ferré and her sister, BAP Teniente Palacios, both named for young naval officers killed heroically at the Battle of Angamos in 1879.

Ordered in early 1909, French naval engineer Maxime Laubeuf designed them—the man who had designed France’s first submarines (the Narval and the Aigrette) and was one of the first pioneers to realize that two different propulsion systems (for surfaced running and submerged) were needed for a submarine to be practical.

At 151 feet overall and with a submerged displacement of 440 tons, the Ferres could make 13 knots on the surface with a pair of Schneider-Carels diesels and eight submerged on two electric motors arranged on two shafts. While not huge craft by today’s standards, they were large compared to contemporaries such as the American Holland class (110 tons, 64 feet) and British A-class (200 tons, 105 feet). Further, no country in Latin America at the time had anything comparable.

BAP Teniente Ferré at builder’s yard in France, April 1909. DIM 00750

BAP Teniente Ferré at builder’s yard in France, Oct 1909. Note her bow and inner hull. DIM 00631-07

BAP Teniente Ferré close to launching, noting flags and her very ship-like bow/hull form. Of interest, the two stacks are a breather and exhaust for her diesels as well as each holding a periscope. The class could therefore snorkel while her decks were awash, albeit dangerously. DIM 00631-06-1

When it came to armament, rather than the confusing Drzewiecki drop collar external trapeze framework favored by the French and the Russians at the time, the Peruvian submarines would carry a brace of four forward 450mm torpedo tubes that, if loaded, could have a further four torpedoes stored for a reload inside the hull. There was no provision for a deck gun.

Capable of diving to 100 feet, they carried enough diesel oil to cruise on the surface for 2,000 nm at 10 knots.

BAP Ferre engine compartment, with César A. Valdivieso and David C. Maurer. DIM 00631-04-1

BAP Teniente Ferré test dives off Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer near Toulon, the summer of 1912. Note the French ensign. DIM 00631-10-scaled

BAP Teniente Ferré test dive off Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer, summer of 1912. DIM 00631-12-scaled

BAP Teniente Ferré test dive off Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer, summer of 1912. DIM 00631-11-scaled

The two submarines were completed by early 1911 and it had been decided that the best way to deliver them was via an innovative transport dock, dubbed the aptly named Kanguroo.

Built to another of Laubeuf’s designs, the curious 305-foot, 2,500-ton monster was a simple hermaphrodite steamship built around a central 120,000 cubic foot floodable well deck with watertight doors on its bow that allowed it to carry loads up to 185 feet in length and weighing as much as 3,700 tons– just perfect to carry a submarine on globe-trotting excursions.

Plan and drawing of Kanguroo. Via the 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering.

More on the details of Kanguroo. Via the 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering. “Besides serving for the transport of submarine boats, the main object for which she was built, the Kanguroo is to be utilized also for carrying heavy and bulky loads such as turbines, boilers, and so forth, which can be lowered into the hold amidships after lifting off the movable deck panels which cover it.

Kanguroo was launched by Forges et Chantiers de la Gironde on 12 April 1912 then began loading Ferre on 28 June at Saint-Mandrier-Sur-Mer and departed for Callao with the boat aboard on 30 July.

BAP Teniente Ferré in Kanguroo 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering a

BAP Teniente Ferré in Kanguroo 19 July 1912 issue of Engineering 

Note the cradle to hold Ferre inside Kanguroo. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

The bow of Kanguroo had to be disassembled to load and unload floating cargo, a process that took the better part of a week and needed good weather in a sheltered harbor. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Ferre approaching Kanguroo. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Entering Kanguroo’s flooded well deck. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

A Johan and the whale moment. Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

Via the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF)

She arrived in Peru on 19 October, via São Vicente, Cape Verde, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo, and it took ten full days to disgorge the submarine, as Kanguroo’s bow had to be disassembled for the process.

Freed from her marsupial mothership, Ferre made her first dive in Peruvian waters on 5 November 1912.

BAP Teniente Ferré, including On deck, the engineer David C. Maurer, 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Caballero y Lastres, César A. Valdivieso, and J. Besnard. DIM 00631-03-1

Sobre cubierta el Teniente 2° Daniel Caballero y Lastres y Enrique Mazuré.

Kanguroo would go on to deliver Ferre’s sister ship, Palacios, in 1913, along with the Italian Fiat-built submarine F1 (300 tons, 150 feet oal, 2x450mm TT) to the Brazilian Navy. Ironically, the three Brazilian Fiats were ordered in direct response to the Peruvian boats, which were the first modern submarines operated by a Latin American fleet.

BAP Palacios DIM 00632-01

BAP Palacios DIM 00632-02

Peru BAP Ferre class, 1914 Janes. Note the image is from French trials off Toulon.

Palacios made her first dive in Peruvian waters on 5 November 1913, the first anniversary of Ferre’s inaugural plunge.

With both of Peru’s new subs delivered and operational in home waters, the Great War caught up to them and the French military mission was recalled to take part in the conflict. Likewise, this cut off the supply of spare parts, batteries, and specialized equipment to keep Ferre and her sister working, greatly reducing their time underway throughout the war.

In related news, the old cruiser Dupuy de Lome/BAP Comandante Aguirre would spend the war in French waters and would never actually make it to Peru. Her planned advance crew sailed home on a freighter. 

The most interesting footnote to Ferre’s service was an October 1915 collision with the interned German four-master cargo ship Omega (ex-Drumcliff). While the submarine would limp home with her scopes ripped nearly horizontal for extensive repairs, and Omega was later taken into service with the Peruvian Navy as a training ship, it was as close as Ferre would come to combat. 

Omega as Drumcliff, circa late 1880s. She would go on to be operated by Reederei Hamburger AG under a German flag until 1918 when the Peruvian Navy seized her to serve as a schoolship. Sold in 1926 to the Compañía Administradora del Guano in Callao, she would operate until 1958 when she was wrecked– at the time, the last tall ship in the guano trade. State Library of Victoria image SLV H99.220-2845

Ferre and Palacios would linger in their limited service until 1921 when they were ordered disarmed and subsequently disposed of. 


Ferre and Palacios would be remembered in a series of maritime art and postage stamps in their home country throughout the years. 

As for Kanguroo, the submarine-carrying dock ship, requisitioned by the French Navy at the outbreak of the Great War, she was torpedoed and sank at Madeira’s Funchal Roads on 3 December 1916 alongside the French gunboat Surprise (680 tons) and the elderly British cable layer SS Dacia (1,850 tons), by the famed U-boat ace Max Valentiner aboard U-38, who then leisurely bombarded the city’s submarine cable station and the electricity generators for two hours.

These exploits earned KptLt Valentiner the Blue Max, only the sixth U-boat commander awarded the Pour le Mérite.

Kanguroo (foreground) sinking, 3 December 1916, via the Museu de Fotografia da Maderia

Meanwhile, Ferre and Palacios would be far from the last Peruvian submarines.

To replace the two cranky French boats, the country ordered a quartet of gently larger U.S.-made vessels, sparking a long run of close U.S-Peruvian submarine partnerships. Those four 187-foot R-class submarines— BAP Islay (R-1), BAP Casma (R-2), BAP Pacocha (R-3), and BAP Arica (R-4)— were ordered from the Electric Boat Company in Connecticut, and delivered in the mid-1920s.

The four Peruvian R-class subs. Built during Prohibition in Connecticut, they remained with the fleet until 1960

Carrying four torpedo tubes, these diesel-electric subs were involved in both the Colombian-Peruvian War and Peruvian-Ecuadorian War before being upgraded back at Groton to extend their life after WWII, at which point they were probably the last 1920s-era diesel boats still in front-line service. 

The crew of the Peruvian submarine R-2 in Newport, Rhode Island on October 26, 1926.

Peruvian submarine R-1 in Newport, RI, United States, in 1926.

Peru R class submarines BAP R-4, BAP R-3, BAP R-2, and BAP R-1. The photograph was taken before 1950 at the Callao Naval Base

Of note, the U.S. Navy used some 27 R-class boats of their own.

R-1 Class (Peruvian Submarine) Caption: Two of four ships, R-1 to R-4, were built in the U.S. in 1926-28 and scrapped in 1960. Probably photographed in the 1950s. Description: Courtesy Dr. R. L. Scheina. Catalog #: NH 87842

To replace these were four more Electric Boat-produced modified U.S. Mackerel-class submarines ordered in 1953. Termed the Abtao-class in service, the quartet– BAP Lobo/Dos de Mayo (SS-41, BAP Tiburon/Abato (SS-42), BAP Atun/Angamos (SS-43), and BAP Merlin/Iquique (SS-44)— remained operational in one form or another into 1998.

Peru then picked up a pair of aging U.S. Balao-class diesel boats in 1974–  BAP Pabellón de Pica/La Pedrera (SS-49), ex-USS Sea Poacher (SS/AGSS-406) and BAP Pacocha (SS-48), ex- USS Atule (SS-403)— which they kept in service as late as 1995.

BAP Dos de Mayo, Peruvian submarine

Peru has since acquired six German-built Type 209 (1100 and 1200 series) boats, commissioned starting in 1974:

BAP Angamos (SS-31)
BAP Antofagasta (SS-32)
BAP Arica (SS-36)
BAP Chipana (SS-34)
BAP Islay (SS-35)
BAP Pisagua (SS-33)

The evolution looks like this, including the domestic design, two French boats, 10 American boats, and six German boats, spanning from 1880:

And have effectively been the U.S. Navy’s designated West Coast SSK OPFOR team for the past twenty years. 

Peruvian Type 209s have deployed to Naval Base Point Loma as part of the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) program no less than 18 times since 2001, typically a 2-3 month deployment that sees the submarino both serve as a “target” for ASW forces and work alongside surface assets to better interoperate in multi-national task forces.

“Each year, Submarine Squadron 11 looks forward to DESI and we are thrilled this year to be working with our Peruvian counterpart,” said Capt. Patrick Friedman, CSS-11 in 2019. “By having an SSK operate and train with us, it allows us to practice on a platform that has a similar signature to our adversaries. Not to mention, there is a great deal of diplomatic goodwill that is fostered through these engagements.”

140923-N-ZF498-067 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sep. 23, 2014) Peruvian submarine BAP Islay (SS-35) pulls alongside the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Islay participated in a maneuvering exercise with Theodore Roosevelt, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), and USS Farragut (DDG 99). Theodore Roosevelt is currently out to sea preparing for future deployments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 1, 2019) An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the Magicians of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 conducts a hoist exercise with the Peruvian navy submarine BAP Angamos (SS-31) off the coast of San Clemente Island. HSM-35 is conducting antisubmarine warfare training to maintain readiness by utilizing a live submarine. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick W. Menah Jr./Released)

Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a

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