Author Archives: laststandonzombieisland

Spanish Guppies

The great shot below is from Cartagena, Spain, late 1970s showing assorted Balao-class Spanish Navy “Guppies” in the foreground to include SPS Narcíso Monturiol (S-35), ex-USS Jallao (SS-368); and SPS Isaac Peral (S-32), ex-USS Ronquil (SS-396). The boat to the far left should be SPS Cosme Garcia (S-34), ex-USS Bang (SS-385), the only other Guppy’d Balao-class smoke boat the Spanish had at the time other than the famous SPS Almirante García de los Reyes (E-1/S-31), ex-USS Kraken (SS-370), which had a different “Fleet Snorkel” sail from an earlier pre-Guppy modification while Bang, Jallao, and Ronquil were all GUPPY IIA conversions.

Also seen to the far right is a new French-made Daphne-class boat SPS Narval (S-64). Within a few years, a four-pack of Daphnes would replace all of the Spanish Guppies.

The Fletcher-class destroyer SPS Alcalá Galiano (D-24), ex-USS Jarvis (DD-799) is in the background as is the domestically-built Oquendo-class destroyer SPS Roger de Lauría (D-42).

Gulfport Harbor views

Just some snaps taken while kayaking around Gulfport harbor down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The above shows the replica Ship Island Lighthouse at Jones Park built in 2011 after the original which was lost to a fire in 1972 (and a replica made by the SeaBees had been lost to Katrina). To the left are the gleaming white 87-foot Bollinger-built Maritime Protector-class cutters USCGC Moray (WPB-87331) and USCGC Tiger Shark (WPB-87359) next to CG Sta Gulfport, where you can see the nose of two 45-foot RB-Ms poking out from the boathouse. You can see Customs “Blue Lighting” interceptors to the far left.

A close-up of USCGC Moray (WPB-87331) and USCGC Tiger Shark (WPB-87359). The “color of the boathouse” in Gulfport is rust, btw.

Also buzzing around for the past couple of weeks, no doubt on summer camp, have been a number of USCG Transportable Port Security Boats, surely of the Kiln-based PSU 308. As noted by the USCG, “TPSBs serve to assist in anti-terrorism force protection and shore-side security capable of supporting port and waterway security anywhere the military operates.”

TPSB #32112, sans its normal M2 .50 cals

Of note, #32112 was formerly deployed to Gitmo with PSU 308 back in 2015.

Welcome, USS John Basilone

Over the weekend, Bath Iron Works in Maine hosted the christening of the USS John Basilone (DDG-122), a late-batch Burke-class destroyer, with Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Troy Black delivering the ceremony’s principal address.

Basilone via General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

The warship was transitioned to launch over a three-day period last week.

Who was Basilone?

Born in Buffalo, New York in November 1916, John (no middle name) Basilone, Roman Catholic, son of Salvatore and Dora Basilone, had done his bit for his country prior to World War II. He had served in the Regular Army from 5 February 1936 to 7 September 1939 and was still in the Army Reserves (3rd Corps) from which he had to petition the force for a discharge to join the Marines, a move that was approved 11 July 1940.

His civilian job listed on intake to the Corps was that of a truck driver.

Via Basilone’s 327-page file at the NARA

His Navy physical, when he joined the Marines, listed in addition to several minor scars and burns, two tattoos on his biceps. On his right, the “bust of a western woman.” On the left, a sword and the words “Death Before Dishonor.”

By September 1940, newly-promoted PFC Basilone was standing tall and would make Corporal the following May before grabbing his third stripe as a Sergent on 23 January 1942, just six weeks after Pearl Harbor.

Less than nine months later, SGT Basilone would become a legend for his actions at Guadalcanal.

Medal of Honor citation:

“For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area. Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines’ defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machine guns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault.

In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone’s sections, with its guncrews, were put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived.

A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”

His battlefield promotion to Platoon Sergent was signed by Lt. Col Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, 1st Bn, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, FMF, in November 1942.

Basilone has long been a Marine Corps icon, and his actions on 24/25 Oct 1942 were recreated in The Pacific.

Basilone could have sat out the war and signed War Bonds and taken pictures for the cameras back home, which he did for a minute, but he voluntarily returned to action at the Battle of Iwo Jima in February of 1945, where he single-handedly destroyed an enemy blockhouse and led a Marine tank under fire safely through a minefield. He was killed in action later that day and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his unwavering devotion and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice.

He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both decorations in World War II.

On June 6, 1948, the John Basilone American Legion Post in Raritan dedicated the life-size statue of Basilone holding a water-cooled M1917 Browning machine gun.

The statue was sculpted by childhood friend Phillip Orlando. (New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs photo by Mark C. Olsen)

This is the second ship to honor Basilone. The first, USS Basilone (DD-824/DE-824), was a Gearing-class destroyer sponsored by his widow, a stern-faced Sergeant Lena Mae Basilone, USMC(WR). That destroyer remained in service from 1945 to 1977.

It is about time the Navy has another USS John Basilone on the Navy List.

China’s 100,000 Ton CATOBAR Carrier hits the water

Delayed twice due to technical issues and COVID shutdowns (and a dash of corruption), the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China’s first Type 003 carrier was christened Fujian (CV 18) at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai on Friday.

Though China’s third aircraft carrier, she is the largest and the first in the world–other than the Ford-class supercarriers in the U.S.– to be equipped with electromagnetic (EMALS) catapult technology (give you three guesses where the tech packages came from for that), allowing her to operate larger and more capable aircraft. 

In short, she is the SMS Nassau to HMS Dreadnought. or HMS Warrior to the French ironclad Gloire in terms of naval history.

Fujian could be commissioned as early as 2024, although, with her new and untried EMALS system, it may be a decade or more before she is practically deemed combat-ready. For reference, Ford was delivered to the U.S. Navy on 31 May 2017 and is only slated to go for her first limited deployment– a “service-retained early employment”– later this fall.

Named after mainland China’s southeastern coastal province, Fujian has been under construction since 2015. Using an integrated electric propulsion (IEP) powerplant rather than a nuclear plant like the USN, she is estimated to have an overall length of 1,050 feet at the flight deck, putting her only about 50 feet shorter than Ford/Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

She is also thought to be as much as 30,000 tons heavier than China’s existing 1,000-foot Type 001/002 (modified Russian Kuznetsov-class) STOBAR ski-jump carriers Shandong (CV 17) and Liaoning (CV 16) that they have tinkering around with for the past 25 years.

Chinese carrier family. Note the difference between Fujian (CV18) at the bottom in terms of beam and flight deck size/angle, compared to the slimmer bow-on shots of the existing ski-jump Shandong (CV 17) and Liaoning (CV 16)

When completed in the next few years, Fujian will put the PLAN in the same elite club of CATOBAR operators as the Americans and French, with the latter using a modified U.S. Navy C-13 steam catapult system on their sole 45,000-ton carrier Charles de Gaulle (also the only other nuclear-powered carrier in service outside of the USN). However, another new member of the club is just over the horizon– the Indian Navy’s 65,000-ton Vikrant-class INS Vishal is slated to use a modified American-supplied EMALS system in a CATOBAR format when (if) she becomes operational in the 2030s.

Quiet French Backwater, for now

80 Years Ago Today: Royal Australian Navy Bathurst-class corvette, HMAS Mildura (J-207) steams around the harbor at Noumea, New Caledonia, on 17 June 1942. Note her camouflage design.

Mildura, just 650 tons and 186 feet oal, would spend her career in anti-submarine patrols and convoy duties, ending WWII intact, and be decommissioned on 11 September 1953. (U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-20798)

As noted by James D. Hornfischer in his epic work, Neptune’s Inferno, chronicling the U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, the defeat of the Japanese at Midway in early June 1942 spoiled a planned expansion (Operation FS) of the Empire’s war gains to include not only Fiji and Samoa but the sparsely defended (only a single armed ship, the converted banana freighter Cap des Palmes, was on station) French territory of New Caledonia, which had declared in favor of De Gaulle and the Allies rather than the Vichy government.

As it was, just after getting the word from a British coastwatcher in Guadalcanal that the Japanese were building an airstrip on the largest island in the Solomon chain in July, VADM Robert L. Ghormley would move his headquarters from Pearl Harbor to New Caledonia to oversee Operation Watchtower, the Guadalcanal campaign.

The Last Ride of Jack Frost

Captain John Everitt “Jack” Frost, age 22, climbs into a Hawker Hurricane Mk. II of No. 3 Squadron South African Air Force at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 9 June 1941 after rejoining his unit as “A” Flight commander following an attack of appendicitis. By the time this image was captured, he already had four Fiat CR.42 fighters of the Regia Aeronautica Italiana to his credit, for which he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. Note the “Semper Pugnans” (Always Fighting) boxing wasp insignia on the cowling of his fighter, and its closely arranged port wing quartet of .303 Brownings.

Photo by Clements (Lt), No 1 Army Film & Photographic Section Army Film & Photographic Unit, via IWM E 3410 https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205211980

Frost was the most successful fighter pilot in the SAAF. Having joined up in 1936, after a stint as an instructor he was posted to No. 1 Squadron SAAF in 1939 before making his way to the newly formed No. 3 Squadron the next year for combat in East Africa.

Soon after this image was snapped, he was given command of No. 5 Squadron SAAF, flying P-40 Kittyhawks. Earning at least 16 confirmed victories in his short career, he was killed 80 years ago today while escorting bombers over the El Adem area on 16 June 1942.

He was one month shy of his 24th birthday. 

As noted by SA Military History

On 16 June, whilst escorting Douglas Bostons, Frost and other P-40 pilots encountered Bf 109s from Jagdgeschwader 27 near Bir Hakeim, Egypt. Rod Hojem, one of the South African pilots involved in this combat commented:

“There was one hell of a dogfight, and after it was over I can clearly remember Jack calling up the squadron on the R/T, he said “Form up chaps I am heading North”, and that was the last we heard of him.”

Frost’s aircraft and remains have never been found, and his fate remains unclear. Some sources suggest that Frost fell victim to one of the most prominent German aces, Hans-Joachim Marseille scored six of his 158 victories that same day.

Goula Sub Sighting (of Sorts)

Growing up in Pascagoula as a kid, although it wasn’t a traditional “submarine town” such as Pearl, New London, or Bremerton, we had a lot of submarine tie-ins. After all, the USS Drum (SS-228) museum was just a 40-minute drive over to Mobile Bay (and every kid at school had crawled through her a few times), U-166– the only German submarine sunk in the Gulf of Mexico– was lost about 50 miles to the Southwest with a Coast Guard seaplane from Biloxi often credited with taking part in her demise, CSS Hunley was crafted and tested in Mobile and the tale was often retold in every museum on the coast, and Ingalls had “submarine races” that the locals would turn out for in the 1960s and 70s when eight of the 37 Sturgeon-class attack boats were built there and would conduct trials off The Point. It was no surprise that the brand new Virginia-class boat, USS Mississippi (SSN-782), paid a visit to the Pascagoula a few years back for her commissioning ceremony in the Pascagoula River.

My great grandfather, who served in the USCG Beach Patrol in Pascagoula, had often told of finding empty cans and food wrappers with German markings on them in the sand along the Barrier Islands during the war. Probably a dozen logical explanations for that other than U-boat beach parties, but not in the eyes of an amazed little war nerd like myself.

Speaking of odd events that can’t be explained…

About that UFO…

On a more personal note, I’ve always thought the infamous 1973 Pascagoula UFO incident, one of the few that involved a craft rising from the sea, was actually a Soviet mini-sub and crew visiting the harbor to take notes on the construction at Ingalls– where the whole Spruance-class of destroyers and all of the early LHAs was under construction around that time in addition to the Sturgeons.

The 1973 Pascagoula “alien” and a Soviet-era IDA 59 rebreather, about the closest the Russkis had to Draeger gear.

Pascagoula’s “swimming” UFO, left, compared to a Soviet Project 907 Triton 1M Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV). Some 30 of these were operational in the Soviet Red Banner fleet in the 1970s. The two Pascagoula fishermen encountered the craft while it was directly across from the shipyard. They said after they encountered the “aliens” they were injected and temporarily paralyzed. 

Meet Pharos and Proteus

And after a long break, a submarine of sorts has recently returned to the Pascagoula River, prowling just off Ingalls off The Point in the same waters that Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker claimed they were abducted during the “submarine races” era.

HII’s Pharos prototype platform being towed behind a small craft in the Pascagoula River while recovering HII’s Proteus LDUUV during a demonstration June 8, 2022.

Ballasted down in front of Ingalls’s West Bank, and the UUV deploying

Proteus LDUUV PCU USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125) is in the background as is the outfitting Legend-class National Security Cutter USCGC Calhoun (WMSL-759)

Via Ingalls:

PASCAGOULA, Miss., June 13, 2022 — All-domain defense and technologies partner HII (NYSE:HII) announced today the successful demonstration of capabilities enabling HII-built amphibious warships to launch, operate with and recover HII-built large-diameter unmanned underwater vehicles (LDUUV).

The research and development initiative between HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding and Mission Technologies divisions is among a portfolio of corporate-led and funded internal research and development efforts aimed at advancing mission-critical technology solutions in support of HII’s national security customers.

“HII is committed to advancing the future of distributed maritime operations and demonstrating our capability to support unmanned vehicles on amphibious ships,” said Kari Wilkinson, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, which hosted and partnered in the demonstration. “I am very proud of our team’s initiative to strengthen the flexibility of the ships we build by anticipating the challenges and opportunities that exist for our customers.”

“This is a great example of how HII can leverage expertise across divisions to develop unique solutions for customers,” said Andy Green, president of Mission Technologies. “HII is focused on growing critical enabling technologies, like unmanned systems and AI/ML data analytics, to help further enhance the capabilities of our national security platforms.”

HII-built San Antonio-class amphibious warships have unique well decks that can be flooded to launch and recover various maritime platforms. The U.S. Navy has previously demonstrated the ability to recover spacecraft from the amphibious warship well deck.

HII’s Advanced Technology Group, comprised of employees from across the company, performed the launch and recovery demonstration with a prototype platform called Pharos and HII’s LDUUV Proteus. The demonstration took place in the Pascagoula River.

The demonstration involved having the LDUUV approach and be captured by the Pharos cradle, while Pharos was being towed behind a small craft that simulated an amphibious ship at low speed. Pharos was put in a tow position, then using a remote control, it was ballasted down in the trailing position allowing the LDUUV to navigate into Pharos. Once the unmanned vehicle was captured, Pharos was deballasted back up into a recovery and transport position. The demonstration also included ballasting down to launch the LDUUV after the capture.

Pharos is outfitted with heavy-duty wheels to allow its transport maneuverability within the well deck of an amphibious ship for stowage on the vehicle decks. Pharos can be rolled off the back of an amphibious ship while using the ship’s existing winch capabilities to extend and retract the platform from the well deck. The Pharos design is scalable and reconfigurable to fit various unmanned underwater or unmanned surface vehicles.

The Pharos design was conducted by HII, and three main partners supported the development. The University of New Orleans, in conjunction with the Navy, performed the initial model testing, and the prototype device was fabricated by Metal Shark in Louisiana.

HII is currently exploring modifications for other UUVs and participating in live demonstrations with the fleet within the next year. HII will use results from the Pharos demonstration to further mature concepts and continue to develop innovative national security solutions.

Farewell, Ideal Conceal

Ideal Conceal hit the scenes early in 2016 with its two-round capacity .380 pistol that folded up to look like a smartphone and a tagline that read, “From soccer moms to professionals of every type, this gun allows you the option of not being a victim.”

Drawing flak from anti-gun types including Chuck Schumer in record time – even before the guns were shipping– Ideal Conceal’s founder, Kirk Kjellberg, kept plugging away and by 2018 the little gun was in low-rate production.

I caught up with the Ideal Conceal crew at the 2018 SHOT Show in Las Vegas – their first time exhibiting at the industry trade show – where they had some mock-ups on hand to give a feel for the gun, then with an MSRP of $500.

Since then, the guns have increasingly filtered out to the market.

However, in recent days, all the items on the company’s site have been listed as “out of stock” and Kjellberg confirmed to me that a mix of component issues and cash flow problems has spelled the end of the road for the company, leading him to refund orders and close shop.

Always sad when an innovative product in the industry runs out of gas.

See: The Hudson Firearms Company’s H9.

For the record, this was not a factory option from Hudson (Photos: Chris Eger)

Warship Wednesday, June 15, 2022: Torpedoed…Again?

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, June 15, 2022: Torpedoed…Again?

Above we see a tow line to the British Town-class light cruiser HMS Liverpool (C11) during Operation Harpoon, one of the Allied convoys desperately raced in a pincer movement to supply besieged Malta in the Axis-dominated central Mediterranean, now some 80 years ago this week. While the damage to Liverpool, a cruiser that is shown listing and billowing black smoke, looks bad, she had already toughed out worse during the war and would come back to serve again.

In the mid-1930s, the British didn’t have a shortage of cruisers, as for generations they had kept large numbers of the type around to police their global Empire and sea lanes in the event of war. The thing is, in a “modern problems require modern solutions” situation was the appearance of very large “light” cruisers (under 10,000 tons, guns smaller than 8-inch bore) such as the four Japanese Mogami class (“8,500” declared tons, 15×6-inch guns, 5 inches of armor) and their American echo, the nine Brooklyn-class (9,500 tons, 15×6-inch guns, 5.5 inches of armor) cruisers, the Admiralty decided they needed something like Mogami/Brooklyn of their own.

As Richard Worth put it, “Aware of Japanese and American decisions to build large light cruisers, the British reluctantly admitted their ships had begun to look puny. Arethusa [the best Royal Navy light cruiser of the day, at some 5,200-tons and carrying just a half dozen 6-inch guns] had a broadside of 672 pounds while Brookly had one of 1,950 pounds.”

This led to the eight original Southampton or “Town” class light cruisers, all named after large cities (Southampton, Glasgow, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle, Gloucester, Liverpool, and Manchester) in the UK. Designed at 9,100 tons– a figure that would balloon over 12,000 during WWII– and 591-feet long overall, the class was intended to carry a full dozen 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Mark XXIII guns in four triple turrets, allowing a 1,344-pound broadside. To this were added eight 4-inch guns and two triple torpedo tube launchers.

The class’s circa 1939 layout via the 1946 ed of Janes. The class had a 3-to-4-inch side belt, about half that thickness on the turrets, and 4 inches on the CT so, while an answer to the Mogami/Brooklyn, they didn’t have quite as many guns or as much hull structure and steel plate.

Stern Mark XXII turrets on classmate HMS Sheffield after she had sunk the German tanker Friederich Breme in the North Atlantic on 12 June 1941. The cylinders are empty propellant canisters. As noted by Navweaps, Tony DiGiulian describes the 6″/50 Mark XXIII as, “A reliable weapon, although somewhat obsolescent in its use of bag ammunition, manual ramming, and manually-operated breech mechanism.” IWM photograph A 4401.

The latter three of the class– Gloucester, Liverpool, and Manchester— were modified slightly while under construction, adding improved armor protection and fire control systems. Two further half-sisters, Edinburgh, and Belfast, ordered in 1939, continued with the up-armoring trend, adding steel plate to the point that it made up some 18 percent of their displacement, the best British light cruisers in terms of armor. They would need them as the British would use the Towns in much the same role as they did their beefier County-class heavy cruisers which went about 40 feet longer and 2,000 tons heavier.

As with the contemporary light cruisers of the day, the Towns were fitted with extensive aviation facilities and could carry a trio of Supermarine Walrus flying boats.

Supermarine Walrus floatplane being catapulted from a Town Class Light Cruiser, HMS Edinburgh, during a Mediterranean Convoy. Aug 1941

Liverpool, the eighth such ship in the RN to carry the name since 1741, was ordered in March 1935 from Fairfield SB at Govan, Glasgow as part of the 1935 Estimates and laid down on 17 February 1936. The Liverpool immediately prior was a 4,800-ton Great War light cruiser that served off West Africa and in the Adriatic and Aegean during WWI before heading to the breakers in 1921.

NH 59874 HMS LIVERPOOL (British Cruiser, 1909)

Commissioned 2 November 1938, the 9th Liverpool visited her namesake town and shipped out for the East Indies and China stations, joining the 5th Cruiser Squadron at the latter just before WWII broke out.

Her initial taskings included working out of Aden on the hunt for German raiders and blockade runners in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean before moving to Hong Kong just before Christmas 1939 to continue interception duty.

On 21 January 1940, Liverpool intercepted the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) (Japan Mail Steam Ship Co. Ltd) liner Asama Maru off Japan just 35 miles off Tokyo Bay’s Nozaki Lighthouse, during the liner’s final leg of a scheduled run from San Francisco for Yokohama. Although she would later be requisitioned by the IJN in 1941 and converted to a troopship, at the time Liverpool boarded her, Asama Maru was still a commercial ship under a neutral flag operating in her home waters.

As noted by Combined Fleet:

At 1315, Captain Read sends a boarding party armed with pistols. The British officer in charge explains to Captain Watabe that it will be necessary to take 21 German passengers as prisoners of war. At 1435, the boarding party leaves the ship with the Germans, all former officers or technicians discharged from Standard Oil tankers. At 1440, HMS LIVERPOOL signals “Proceed”. Shortly after nightfall ASAMA MARU arrives at Yokohama. LIVERPOOL takes the Germans to Hong Kong.

The resulting public indignation felt in Japan over the high-handed incident further strained relations between London and Tokyo, which of course would erupt in open warfare the next year.

Transferred to the Red Sea Force by April, Liverpool would work alongside HMAS Hobart and support operations around the Horn of Africa.

The Med!

By June 1940, Liverpool would enter the Med, where things, since the Italians had entered the war, had really gotten interesting. Attached to the 7th Cruiser Squadron, before the month was out she had bombarded the Italians at Tobruk, where she scrapped with shore batteries and sank the minesweeper, Giovanni Berta, then fought a surface action off Zante on the 27th where she sent the Italian Turbine-class destroyer Espero (1,700 tons) to the bottom and damaged two others, catching a 4.7-inch shell hit during the latter fight.

The Italian minesweeper Triglia was later reclassified gunboat and rechristened Giovanni Berta, at La Spezia in 1933; she was the first Italian warship to be sunk in action during WWII at Tobruk, on 12 June 1940, shattered by 6-inch shells from HMS Liverpool.

July 1940 also proved hectic, with Liverpool covering British convoys between Alexandria and Greek Aegean ports, suffering through repeated air attacks from land-based bombers (coming away with damage twice), escaping further damage during the confusing Battle of Calabria, and ending the month assigned to 3rd Cruiser Squadron, under much-needed repair.

Emerging from the dockyard at Alexandria at the end of August, Liverpool was soon back in the thick of it, accompanying the battleships HMS Valiant, Malaya, Ramillies, and Warspite as well as the carriers HMS Illustrious and Eagle in operations ranging from the Dodecanese Rhodes to Malta throughout September and into October.

Who needs a bow?

It was on 14 October, while retiring from screening Illustrious and Eagle during air attacks on the Greek island of Leros (a place Alistair MacLean would use as the loose basis of “The Guns of Navarone”), Liverpool was the subject of an attack by land-based Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 three-engine torpedo bombers.

The Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero wasn’t much to look at– their crews called them il Gobbo maledetto (“damned hunchback”), but they were maneuverable and effective when modified into torpedo bomber roles, sinking or damaging over 270,000 tons of Allied ships in the Med in 1940-43.

The hit caused a leak of aviation fuel which later ignited after the fumes spread. The resulting detonation caused so much damage in her forward frames that it wrecked the cruiser’s “A” turret and caused her bow to fall off while under tow to Alexandria. In all, the cruiser suffered 65 casualties in the incident.

View of ship’s wrecked forecastle, after the cruiser, was taken under tow. Note wreckage of #1 6″ turret. NH 60360

View of ship’s wrecked forecastle, after the cruiser, was taken under tow. Note wreckage of #1 6″ turret. NH 60361

View of ship’s wrecked taken while under tow. NH 60363

Bow breaking off, after the cruiser had been under tow for Alexandria. NH 60368

Ship’s bow breakage off. NH 60369

Ship’s bow sank after breaking off just forward of “A” turret. NH 60370

Stopped in the Med, with crew members inspecting the damage after the ship’s bow had broken off on 15 October. NH 60371

Ship underway again, after the loss of bow. NH 60372

HMS Liverpool arrives at Alexandria, Egypt, on 16 October for emergency repairs, after being torpedoed by Italian aircraft two days prior. NH 60374

Ship at Alexandria, Egypt, after the action. Description: NH 60373

HMS Liverpool at Alexandria, Egypt, after being torpedoed by Italian Aircraft in October 1940. Note wreckage around #1 6″ turret. NH 60378

HMS Liverpool in dry dock at Alexandria, Egypt, for repairs, of damage inflicted by Italian Torpedo Bombers in October 1940. Most wreckage has been removed before the installation of the temporary bow. NH 60376

Liverpool would remain under repair in Egypt for five months until it was arranged for her to steam, under her own plant, and with her abbreviated temporary bow, on a two-month trip through the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and across the Pacific to California. There, in a country still in an uneasy peace, she would be patched up by U.S. Navy workers at the Mare Island Navy Yard with stops at Manila and Pearl Harbor on the way.

She would arrive on 16 June 1941.

HMS Liverpool In dry dock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, 26 June 1941, for the repair of damage received in the Mediterranean Sea the previous October. The false bow had been fitted at Alexandria, Egypt, shortly after the cruiser was torpedoed. NH 60379

Back in the fight

With a new bow and extra batteries of 20mm AAA guns, Liverpool would leave Mare Island on 20 November, arriving back in the UK via the Panama Canal by 5 December– just two days before Pearl Harbor. As for Mare Island, they would have a chance to do lots of repair work in the coming days for “the home team.”

HMS Liverpool Underway 28 February 1942 IWM FL 004984

HMS Liverpool wearing camouflage, likely in early 1942

After further outfitting with radar (Type 273 surface warning, Type 281 aircraft warning, Types 284/285 fire control), Liverpool would sail for Scapa Flow on 6 February 1942 for work-ups. By the next month, she would be patrolling the Barents Sea on the lookout for German surface raiders (Tirpitz, anyone) in conjunction with Convoy PQ12 to Murmansk. She would also help screen returning Convoys QP10 and QP12 from Russia and help provide cover for outbound PQ16 into May.

Then, in early June, she was sent back to the Med for a second tour.

SM.79, Part II

In a plan to split German/Italian efforts to interdict British convoys to Malta, the Admiralty in June 1942 hit on the idea to send two at once– from different vectors. This included the Harpoon convoy which would sail West from Gibraltar and the Vigorous convoy which would make the run from Alexandria in the East.

Liverpool would be part of the Force W distant cover group for Harpoon, which had a lot of muscle including the Great War battleship HMS Malaya and the equally old carriers HMS Eagle and Argus, the latter with few aircraft. Rounding out Force W was the cruisers HMS Kenya and Charybdis as well as eight destroyers. Meanwhile, the close escort group, Force X, was made up of the cruiser HMS Cairo and 18 small combatants of which almost half were motor launches.

Departing the Clyde for Gibraltar on 6 June, Harpoon left “The Rock” for Malta on the morning of the 12th, headed eastward at a stately 12 knots in two loose columns, with Liverpool leading the starboard and Kenya the port.

Shadowed immediately by German and Italian aircraft, the pucker factor for the route would be the Skerki Channel in the Sicily-Tunis Narrows, and the first attacks started at 1030 on the 14th. Shortly after, Liverpool would have a chance to do more damage control.

Italian photograph of Town-class cruiser LIVERPOOL falling victim to a torpedo from an SM.79, roughly amidships

As detailed by Uboat.net: 

A much more serious attack followed half an hour later when 28 132º Gruppo SM.79 Savoia torpedo aircraft escorted by 20 Macchi fighters conducted a combined attack with 10 Cant. high level bombers. The Savoia approached from the northward in two waves of equal strength. The first wave came in at 1110 hours and the second soon afterwards. The first wave passed through the destroyer screen at 500 feet above the water, rounded the rear of the convoy, and attacked from the starboard side, splitting into groups before firing. They dropped their torpedoes from a height of 100 feet at a range of 2000 yards. They hit HMS Liverpool, which was leading the starboard column, when she was turning to meet the attack. Also, the Dutch merchant Tanimbar was hit in the rear, and she sank within a few minutes in position 36°58’N, 07°30’E.

HMS Liverpool was hit in the engine room and severely damaged. She could only make 3 to 4 knots on one shaft. She was ordered to return to Gibraltar being towed by the A-class destroyer HMS Antelope (H36) and screened by the destroyer HMS Westcott (D47). A long voyage during which the first 24 hours she was attacked from the air.

At 1640 hours, five CR. 42 fighter-bombers attacked from astern out of the sun, luckily without hitting, though one or two bombs fell close enough to increase the ships list. At 1800 hours, the tow having parted, there was a harmless attempt by eleven high-level bombers followed by an equally harmless attempt by seven torpedo aircraft which were heavily escorted by fighters. The Liverpool and Westcott each claimed to have destroyed a torpedo plane.

At 2015 hours, now once more in tow, fife high-level bombers attacked but their bombs fell wide.

At 2230 hours, six torpedo bombers made a twilight attack from very long range only to lose one of their number to the barrage HMS Liverpool put up.

At 1420 hours on 15 June, three torpedo aircraft made a final unsuccessful attempt to attack HMS Liverpool after which she, HMS Antelope and HMS Westcott were not again molested. That afternoon the tug HMRT Salvonia arrived from Gibraltar, and they took over the tow. Antelope then joined Westcott as A/S screen. With Salvonia also came the A/S trawler HMS Lady Hogarth. HMS Liverpool and her escorts safely arrived at Gibraltar late in the afternoon of the 17th.

Liverpool in dry dock at Gibraltar showing the point of impact of the Italian torpedo

Seriously damaged, Liverpool managed to mount a fighting retreat– by tow– while her crew saved the ship. It proved an example of damage control for the rest of the fleet, one that would come in handy later in the war such as in the Pacific in 1945.

Sidelines

Speaking of the war, Liverpool was so badly smashed up and repair assets so limited that, after temporary patches at Gibraltar, she was sent to HM Dockyard, Rosyth in early August 1942 and would languish there for the next two years as she was slowly rebuilt, a modernization that saw her radars upgraded and her stern “X” turret removed to accommodate more AAA batteries.

The County-class heavy cruiser HMS Berwick, forward, and HMS Liverpool, in dock Liverpool, 1943.

Although she probably could have been sent back to the lines in time to take part in the Normandy or Dragoon landings in France, the Royal Navy was short-staffed, and Liverpool remained in ordinary essentially for the rest of the war in Europe. She was used briefly as a cruise ship, with a skeleton crew, to take the Allied Tripartite Commission to occupied Germany in June 1945 and would only be brought back to full service in October 1945, a month after VJ Day.

She earned four battle honors for WWII service: Mediterranean 1940, Calabria 1940, Arctic 1942, and Malta Convoys 1942.

Post-War Victory Lap

Liverpool’s swan song in 1945 was assigned to the restructured 15th Cruiser Squadron, as part of the rapidly shrinking Mediterranean Fleet. There she would remain, usually in flagship roles with an admiral or commodore aboard, for the next seven years.

Liverpool, post-war, at Malta. Note her aircraft handling gear has been deleted.

This included a lot of tense early Cold War moments, especially in Greek and Egyptian waters, but these never came to blows.

VISIT TO NORTH AFRICAN PORTS BY C IN C MEDITERRANEAN IN HMS LIVERPOOL. JANUARY 1946, ALGIERS, ADMIRAL SIR JOHN CUNNINGHAM, C IN C MEDITERRANEAN, FLYING HIS FLAG IN HMS LIVERPOOL AND ACCOMPANIED BY HMS MUSKETEER AND HMS MARNE, VISITED TANGIER FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SEVEN YEARS. (A 31070) HMS LIVERPOOL and HM destroyers MUSKETEER and MARNE at Algiers during a visit by Admiral Sir John Cunningham. HMS SCOUT is lying between the destroyers and the cruiser. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162120

HMS LIVERPOOL, BRITISH SOUTHAMPTON CLASS CRUISER. OCTOBER 1949, MALTA. (A 31583) HMS LIVERPOOL, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Earl Mountbatten of Burma, returning to Malta after the Second Summer Cruise. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162567

HMS LIVERPOOL ACTED AS A FLOATING SHIPPING OFFICE AT PORT SAID. DECEMBER 1951, ON BOARD HMS CORUNNA. (A 32035) HMS LIVERPOOL (Captain J D Luce, DSO, OBE) lying off Navy House, Port Said. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162964

MARSHAL TITO’S VISIT TO HMS LIVERPOOL. 1951?, ON BOARD THE CRUISER HMS LIVERPOOL WHEN SHE VISITED SPLIT, YUGOSLAVIA. IT WAS TITO’S FIRST VISIT TO A BRITISH WARSHIP. (A 31977) Marshal Tito inspecting a Royal Marine Guard of Honour on board HMS LIVERPOOL. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162916

Liverpool remained in commission until 1952 when she was reduced to Reserve status before her name appeared on the Disposal List in 1957. She was sold to BISCO for demolition by P&W MacLellan at Bo’ness, arriving at the breakers on 2 July 1958.

Epilogue

Few remnants of Liverpool exist today, but her bell is on display at Tobruk, where she fired her guns in anger in June 1940.

She is also remembered in maritime art.

Of Liverpool’s sisters, HMS Gloucester, Manchester, Southampton, and Edinburgh were all lost during the war, three of the four in the Med. Five other sisters, like Liverpool, saw limited Cold War service with HMS Birmingham, Belfast, and Newcastle seeing action again against North Korean gun batteries in the 1950s– and the latter sister even pounding Malayan Communist targets in 1955 and again in 1957.

HMS Newcastle firing at Korean enemy batteries, Chuinnapo Estuary, 1953. IWM A 32585

Belfast was the last of the Town-class cruisers afloat, serving as an accommodation ship into 1970 when she was marked for disposal and saved as a museum ship on the Queen’s Walk in London, a task she has performed admirably since Trafalgar Day 1971.

Please visit HMS Belfast if ever in London, it is well worth it.

Meanwhile, the 9th Liverpool, a Type 42 Batch 2 destroyer, has come and gone, ordered in 1977 and scrapped in 2014 after spending a solid 30 years in active service that spanned stints on Falkland patrol, Persian Gulf operations, time in the naval blockade of Libya that included 200 rounds of 4.5-inch delivered in NGFS in 2011, and your general Cold War/Post-Cold War sea ops.

The British destroyer HMS Liverpool (D-92) pulls alongside the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) for an underway replenishment during NATO exercise Northern Wedding ’86. DN-ST-87-09368 via NARA

It is time for a 10th Liverpool.

 


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The Refuse of War, 40 Years on

On 14 June 1982, the two-brigade-sized British Army and Marine force secured the final defeat of a reinforced division-sized Argentine military element in the Falkland Islands.

Original telex message from Major-General Sir Jeremy Moore to London announcing the recapture of the Falkland Islands, 14 June 1982. The signal, marking the end of the Falklands War (1982), is based in part on a similar surrender signal sent to Winston Churchill by Field Marshal Montgomery from North West Europe in May 1945. NAM. 2013-11-17-1

As the Argentines were quickly repatriated, sans equipment and arms (except for being able to march off with their unit flags while the officers, in an ode to chivalry, kept their sidearms) the invaders left behind a lot of gear that became the property of the Crown.

A rubber-booted SAS man, armed with an M16, inspects captured Argentine weapons in the Falklands. In his hands is an American-made M3 Grease Gun SMG. The pile includes a 90mm M20 “Super bazooka,” assorted FN FAL rifles, and other items, now all “property of the Queen.”  

Captured Argentinian firearms following their surrender. Note the FALs and FN MAG 58s

A Royal Marine Commando very happy with his second-hand Argentine M20 3.5-inch Super Bazooka, of U.S. origins

The haul included:

100 Mercedes-Benz MB 1112/13/14 trucks (Which the Argentines bought on credit and did not pay West Germany for)
20 Unimogs
20 Mercedes-Benz G-Class jeeps
12 French Panhard ERV 90mm armored cars
1 SAM Roland launcher
4 SAM Tigercat launchers
1 Improvised shore-based Exocet ASM launcher with four missiles
3 CITER 155mm L33 Guns
10 Oto Melara Mod 56 105mm pack guns along with 11,000 shells
15 120mm RCLs with rockets
15 Oerlikon twin 35mm GDF and Rheinmetall twin 20mm air defense cannons
1 AN/TPS-43 3D mobile air search radar
10 Skyguard, Super Fledermaus, ELTA, and RASIT AAA fire control radars
Over 90 (British-made!) Blowpipe MANPAD SAMs
Assorted Soviet-made SA-7 MANPADs (120 supplied to Buenos Aries in late May by Gaddafi’s Libya)
11 FMA IA 58 Pucará COIN aircraft, formerly of the Argentine Air Force, many destroyed on the ground by SAS
2 former Army Agusta A109
7 former Army Bell UH-1H Iroquois
1 Army CH-47C Chinook
1 Aérospatiale Puma SA330L in Argentine Coast Guard markings
3 Argentine Navy Aermacchi MB.339A trainers
11,000 small arms, mostly FN FAL variants, as well as assorted M1911 and Browning Hi-Power clones
Over 500 assorted machine guns, usually FN MAG 58 variants but also some M2 .50 cals
4 million 7.62 NATO rounds
The Argentine Coast Guard Z-28-class patrol boat Islas Malvinas (GC82)
Plus lots of interesting night vision goggles, thermal imagers, portable radars, EW, and commo equipment

As the FALs were select-fire metric variants rather than UK-standard L1A1 inch-pattern semi-autos, they did not mesh with the British supply train and were mostly discarded– dumped at sea in the deepwater offshore.

The horror…

Some rumors persist that at least a few container loads were clandestinely given away to needy anti-communist guerillas in Third World stomping grounds but, of course, those are just rumors until such action is declassified. What is known is that at least some were transferred to the Sierra Leone government as military aid for their security forces.

Plus, the MOD was totally against any trophies being brought back home, as had occurred in the World Wars and Korea.

Warning from Captain Seymour, RFA Resource, regarding Argentinian equipment

But what of the larger stuff?

Some 90 Blowpipes were discovered among the Argentine equipment

Argentia’s occupation force included 12 of these Panhard AML-90 armored cars. Due to the terrain on the islands, they were restricted to the roads around Port Stanley and saw very little fighting. They were all captured more or less intact and the two best examples were brought to the UK. One is at the Household Cavalry barracks in Bulford, and one is in The Tank Museum collection.

AML 90 Argentine Panhard circa 1966 production captured in Falklands 1982 on display at Bovington

AML-90s in Port Stanley

One of the two CITER 155s brought back to the UK, is currently at the Marine Museum in Norfolk

The ammunition and Blowpipes, however, were absorbed and fired off by the MOD in training. No word on what happened to the SA-7s, but if you told me they made it to the muj in Afghanistan who were then fighting the Soviets, as often hinted at, I would not scoff.

Libyan-supplied SA-7s recovered in the Falklands

Likewise, the vehicles were kept in the Falklands and used by the follow-on garrison with some of the Unimogs surviving into the 1990s.

One of the captured Argentine Panhards has long been on display at the Bovington Tank Museum while most ended up as hard targets for the British Falklands garrison.

Perhaps the most useful of the kit, the Skyguard radars, and Oerlikon flak guns, were used by the RAF Regiment, protecting airbases in the UK, against the Russians until the end of the Cold War.

Men of 1/7th Gurkhas (Duke of Edinburgh’s Own) just before Stanley with a captured Argie 20mm AAA gun

Captured Argentine Oerlikon 35 mm twin Cannon

Cañon bitubo Oerlikon de 35 mm en Puerto Argentino

The British inherited some advanced Swiss and German AAA guns, gently-used

The aircraft and artillery pieces were typically just used as museum pieces except for the damaged Chinook, which was mated with other parts and returned to service with the RAF.

RAF Harrier GR3 at RAF Stanley with several Pucara wrecks in the background. Notice the matting on the ground.

22 SAS D squadron commander Cedric Delves Pebble Island Pucara, after the surrender in June 1982, looking at their work handiwork. Note the M-16s, which the SAS and SBS used almost exclusively

A Boeing Chinook (k Bravo Juliet off Atlantic Contender) hauls the wreck of an Argentinian Pucara away. The Pucara is a ground attack aircraft but had little impact on the battle. A captured Pucara is in storage at the RAF Museum.

A Pucara wreck. Some were brought to Britain for tests but most wrecks stayed on the islands for several months, proving popular with incoming garrisons looking for a photo op

As for the 90-foot patrol boat Islas Malvinas, she was renamed HMS Tiger Bay and used until 1986 when she was sold for scrap which is a pity as she would have made an interesting little museum ship that would have required little in the way of maintenance.

HMS Tiger Bay as PNA Islas Malvinas (GC-82)

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