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The sad and drawn out death of a modern frigate

Unless you have been under a rock, the saga of the Royal Norwegian Navy’s Fridtjof Nansen-class AEGIS frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad (F313), which somehow collided with the Maltese-flagged oil tanker Sola TS last week. The incident, while Ingstad was performing navigational training in the inner Fjords at 0400, left the relatively new 5,300-ton FF fighting for her life.

Foto: Marius Villanger / Forsvaret

That’s not gonna buff out. Foto: Jakob Østheim / Forsvaret

As noted by the Norwegian Navy at the time, she was grounded and started listing:

Due to the damage to the frigate it was moved to a safe place and the crew was evacuated in a professional manner. There are no reports of damages or leaks from the oil tanker and no report of serious injuries, though eight crewmembers are being treated for minor injuries.

Now, after a week of attempting to save her, the list grew and she is all but on the bottom at this point.

Foto: Jakob Østheim / Forsvaret

Foto: Jakob Østheim / Forsvaret

Even if she is raised, it’s unlikely that her expensive AN/SPY-1F 3-D radar and other sensors are going to be up to snuff after weeks, or months, in salt water. The class cost $500 million per ship, with about half of that in weapon systems and electronics, mostly spent with Lockheed-Martin and Kongsberg as well as a host of other European tech companies.

Norway only built five of the Nansen-class frigates, a modification of the Spanish Navy’s Álvaro de Bazán-class vessels. The theory on five was to have four in the rotation for normal deployment with the fifth boat as a “spare” to allow for training, extended dry dock-level maintenance, and overseas operations (the class has been involved in EU counter-piracy ops off Somalia and UN efforts off Syria). That flexibility is now gone.

Ingstad was part of Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) and had just participated in the giant Trident Juncture 2018 meant to be a show of force on display for Moscow. U.S. Navy Adm. James G. Foggo, head of the 6th Fleet, even spent some time on her decks.

So naturally, the Russians are talking much smack about the whole thing on state-owned media. (Google: Kursk, or Admiral Kuznetsov, to see about the whole pot and kettle thing).

The night the lamps came back on across Europe, 100 years ago

William Nicholson – Armistice Night, 1918.

And to remember this nearly forgotten generation who changed the map of the globe forever, here is the roll call of “the last” of the lost, courtesy of Al Nofi.

  • 1993 September 24: Danilo DajkoviÄ, at 98 the last known Montengran veteran.
  • 1995 September 6: Matsuda Chiaki, at 99 the last Japanese veteran of the war, in which he served as a naval cadet and then a junior officer, but did not see combat duty. In later life, he commanded the battleship Yamato and rose to rear admiral.
  • 1998 March 14: Zita of Bourbon-Parma, sometime Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary (1916-1918), 96, the last political figure from the war.
  • 1998 June: Saci Ben Hocine Mahdi, 100, in France, the last surviving tirailleur algerienne
  • 1998 October 11: Abdoulaye N’Diaye, 104, in Senegal, the last surviving tirailleur sénégalais.
  • 1999 April 11: Wallace Pike, 99, last veteran of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who served at the Somme and the last Newfoundlander to have served in the war.
  • 2000 March: Norman Kark, 102, the last South African veteran.
  • 2001 June 22: Bertie Felstead, 106, formerly of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the last known English survivor of the Christmas Truce of 1914.
  • 2002 January 12: Robert Francis Ruttledge, 103, the last British veteran of the Indian Army.
  • 2003 February 12: Bright Williams, 105, the last New Zealand veteran, of the 3rd Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade.
  • 2003 March: George Blackman, 105, in Barbados, the last veteran of the West India Regiment
  • 2003 May 5: José Ladeira, at 107, the last Portuguese veteran.
  • 2003 August 9: Alois Vocásek, 107, the last veteran of the Czechoslovak Legion.
  • 2003 August 9: Charlotte Louise Berry Winters, 109, the last U.S. Navy “Yeomanette” and the last American woman veteran of the war.
  • 2003 October 9: Yod Sangrungruang, 106, the last veteran from Siam.
  • 2004 June 22: Aleksa Radovanović, at 105, the last veteran of the Serbian Army, and apparently the last veteran of the Salonika Front.
  • 2004 September 16: Cyrillus-Camillus Barbary, who died in the U.S. at 105, was the last Belgian veteran.
  • 2005 October 18: William Evan Crawford Allan, at 106, sometime Royal Australian Navy (1914-1948), the last Australian veteran to have seen active service in both world wars.
  • 2005 November 21: Alfred Anderson, 109, a veteran of the Black Watch, he was the last survivor of the Christmas Truce of 1914, the last Scottish veteran of the war, and the oldest man in Scotland.
  • 2006 March 4: August Bischof, 105, the last known veteran of the Austrian Empire.
  • 2007 January 9: Gheorghe Pănculescu, 103, the last Romanian veteran of the Great War, though he did not see frontline service; he later rose to general.
  • 2007 March 29: Lloyd Brown, at 109, the last US Navy veteran.
  • 2008 January 1: Erich Kästner, at 107 the last German veteran of the Great War and the last Central Powers veteran of the Western Front.
  • 2008 January 12: StanisÅ‚aw Wycech, 105, the last veteran of the Polish armed forces.
  • 2008 April 2: Yakup Satar, at 110 the last veteran of the Ottoman Army.
  • 2008 May 7: Franz Künstler, who died at 107 in Germany, was the last veteran from the erstwhile lands of the Crown of Hungary, the last Austro-Hungarian veteran, and last Central Powers veteran of the Great War.
  • 2008 March 12: Lazare Ponticelli, who died in France at 110, was the last French Foreign Legion veteran of the war (1914-1915), the next-to-last Italian veteran (1915-1918) and probably also the last “Boy Soldier” of the war, having enlisted at 16.
  • 2008 October 6: Delfino Borroni, at 110 the last know Italian Great War veteran, the last veteran of the Alpine Front, and at his death the oldest man in Italy.
  • 2008 November 20: Pierre Picault, at 109 the last French veteran of the war, and at his death the oldest man in France.
  • 2008 December 26: Mikhail Efimovich Krichevsky, who died in Ukraine at 111, was the last veteran of the Russian Imperial Army to have served in the war.
  • 2009 July 18: Henry Allingham, 113, the last Jutland veteran, the last veteran of the Royal Naval Air Service, the last original member of the RAF, and the oldest man in the world.
  • 2009 July 25: Henry John “Harry” Patch, at 111 “the Last Fighting Tommy”, the last known veteran of the Western Front, and the oldest man in Europe.
  • 2010 January 18: John Henry Foster “Jack” Babcock, at 109 the last known Canadian veteran of the Great War, though he had not seen combat.
  • 2009 June 3: John Campbell “Jack” Ross, 110, the last Australian to have served during the war, though he had never left the Commonwealth.
  • 2011 May 5: Claude Stanley Choules, who died at 110 in Australia, was the last known combat veteran of the Great War, the last veteran of the Grand Fleet, the last naval veteran of the Great War, and the last veteran to fight in both World Wars.
  • 2011 February 27: Frank Woodruff Buckles, at 110 the last veteran of the American Expeditionary Forces in the First World War, an ambulance driver.
  • 2012 February 4: Florence Patterson Green, who died at 110, was the last veteran of the Women’s RAF, 1918-1919, and the last person known to have served in World War I.

More on the Armistice of Compiègne itself in the below special from France 24, and what became of Foch’s famous railway carriage.

Old Salts

“The Old Navy” (“Spinning a Yarn” aboard USS Mohican, 1888) Description: The Old Navy (Spinning a Yarn aboard USS Mohican, 1888) Oil on canvas, 37 x 49, by Rufus F. Zogbaum (1849-1925). Painting signed and dated by the artist, 1923. It was inspired by the photograph seen in Photo # NH-2889. Painting in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection. Gift of Rear Admiral George C. Reiter, 1924. Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Catalog #: KN-10866

Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet Letterpress reproduction of an oil painting by Frank E. Zuccarelli, depicting a Salty Sailor on board USS Strong (DD-758), while on duty with Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, July 1972. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97953-KN

The below, from Reddit, was taken at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2007 with the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Chafee (DDG-90) getting in on the act. Apparently then-Capt. Robert Tortora liked to take WWII pics every year.

Big up as it is a great pic

 

The Busted Chopin

Here we see the demasted 400-ton, 181-foot Polish brig-rigged schoolship, STS Fryderyk Chopin, as she is towed to Falmouth by the F/V Nova Spiro, a local fishing vessel, Halloween of 2010.

Photo: RNLI Falmouth

Built in 1992 and owned at the time by the European School of Law and Administration, a private university based in Poland, Chopin was on a 100-day cruise from Holland to the Caribbean with 47 souls aboard (including three dozen 14-year-old cadets) when she was struck by a wind of nine gales while about 100 miles southwest of the Isles of Scilly. Although her diesel was online, the ship’s master was unwilling to use it for fear of trailing debris fouling the screw.

The 66-foot trawler Nova Spero answered her Pan/Mayday call and towed her 100 miles to Falmouth Bay over a three-day period.

The teens were brought ashore and spent the next few nights in a hostel before being sent back home. There were no casualties.

Today, the repaired Chopin is owned by 3OCEANS Sp. z o.o. and serves as the ship of The Blue School, a Polish sail training project. She is currently around Spitsbergen on a summer cruise according to her social media page.

Warship Wednesday, June 20, 2018: The last of the drummers

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, June 20, 2018: The last of the drummers

Bundesarchiv_bild_101ii-mw-4260-37

Here we see the German Type IXB U-boat U-123 of the Kriegsmarine as she is returning from a patrol to the pens at Lorient, 8 June 1941. Of the 14 Type IXB’s completed by DeSchiMAG AG Weser of Bremen, all but this hull was destroyed during the war, and, amazingly, the subject of our tale this hump day also had a skipper who made it out alive and only just sounded his last depth this month, aged 105. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The IXB series, a subset of the mammoth 194 Type IX unterseeboots built for the German Navy, was an improved model with an increased range– capable of traveling some 12,000 nm at 10-knots on their MAN diesel engines when running on the surface. This is up from their half-sister’s 10K range. Not bad for a 1,170-ton boat that just went 251-feet in length. Still, they packed 22 torpedoes inside the hull and a relatively impressive 10.5 cm/45 (4.1″) SK C/32 naval gun just forward of the bow, with 180 rounds stowed for its use.

U-123’s 105mm deck gun crew practicing Jan 1942 Photo by Alwin Tolle Propagandakompanien der Wehrmacht Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-4006-31

U-123 was ordered 15 December 1937 as Werke 955 from the yard, almost two years before WWII started, but was only completed 30 May 1940, while France was teetering on collapse and Europe had been in open conflict for nine months. Her first skipper was Kptlt. Karl-Heinz Moehle, a later Knights Cross winner and U-Boat Ace who would conn her for a full year. Following shake down and training which lasted until September, Moehle took U-123 on 4 patrols (126 days at sea) from her forward base in Lorient on the French Atlantic coast. One proved especially eventful– the attack on convoy OB-244 which sank five ships in five hours.

On 19 May 1941, Kplt. Reinhard Hardegen, formerly of the Type IID boat U-147, assumed command and soon took U-123 on her fifth patrol, off the coast of West Africa, which scratched five Allied ships and extensively damaged the British auxiliary cruiser HMS Aurania. A former pilot/observer who transferred to the submarine corps after a crash left him with chronic injuries, Hardegen seemed to have proved himself with the patrol. Admiral Karl Dönitz, Hitler’s sub boss, detailed the lucky (and long-legged) U-123 and her newly-successful skipper as one of the first five boats to bring the war to America’s Eastern seaboard via Unternehmen Paukenschlag (Operation Drumbeat, or more correctly, “roll on the kettledrums”) just days after Pearl Harbor brought the Great Neutral into the conflict.

Sortieing from Lorient two days before Christmas, 1941, U-123 drew first blood in the Americas when on 12 January 1942 she torpedoed and sank the unescorted British steamship Cyclops, inaugurating Paukenschlag and commencing a “blitz” against coastal shipping between New York Harbor and the Outer Banks.

Four days later the submarine shrugged off an air attack off New York and just three days after that narrowly escaped being rammed by a giant 16,000-ton Norwegian whale factory ship, but in a two-week period sank eight Allied merchant ships– Norness (at 9,577-tons, her biggest prize), the big tanker Coimbra (more on her later), Norvana, City of Atlanta, Culebra, Pan Norway and the freighter Ciltvaira— along a brightly-lit seacoast unprepared for modern war.

The accomplishment earned Hardegen the signal “An den Paukenschläger Hardegen. Bravo! Gut gepaukt. Dönitz” (For the drum-beater Hardegen. Well done! Good beating) from his boss, and a Knights Cross. The patrol ended only because the boat was out of deck gun ammo and torpedoes.

The attack on Coimbra:

The patrol was so epic to the Germans that the tale of U-123 was used in the feature-length UFA-produced propaganda film U-Boote westwärts, with some scenes filmed aboard the vessel and featuring members of the crew.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the new and startling offensive along the Gulf Stream sparked a panic wave of the Navy and Coast Guard arming everything that could float to provide a modicum of coastal escort and sub chasing, and FDR called for an old WWI tactic– that of creating fake tramp steamers who were heavily-armed auxiliary cruisers (Q-boats) intended to draw in a submarine with the disguise and then slaughter it with a sucker punch.

As Hardegen and U-123 returned to France for more diesel, schnitzel and ordnance, the U.S. Navy bought the old (1912) 6,000-ton Bull Lines steamer SS Evelyn, installed sound gear, armed her, and commissioned her as the Q-ship USS Asterion (AK-100, a cargo ship identification number to complete the subterfuge) while her sister, SS Carolyn, was given the same treatment as USS Atik (AK-101).

With a blistering speed of just 9-knots, these ships were heavily outfitted with a quartet of concealed 4-inch guns, a battery of .50-caliber machine guns, some WWI-era Lewis guns and some half-dozen depth charge projectors. By early March, the two Yankee Q-ships were ready for war after a conversion that lasted about three weeks.

Caption: Carolyn underway in an undated image. (Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. Photograph, Atik (AK-101) Ship History File, History and Archives Division, Naval History and Heritage Command)

According to the Naval History Command:

At the outset, all connected with the program apparently harbored the view that neither ship “was expected to last longer than a month after commencement of [her] assigned duty.” Atik’s holds were packed with pulpwood, a somewhat mercurial material. If dry, “an explosive condition might well develop” and, if wet, “rot, with resultant fire might well take place.” Despite these disadvantages, pulpwood was selected as the best obtainable material to assure “floatability.”

Enter U-123‘s eight war patrol (fourth under Hardegen) and on 22 March she sank the U.S.-flagged tanker SS Muskogee followed quickly by the British tanker Empire Steel off the coast of Bermuda. Then, on 27 March, the submarine met the Q-Ship Carolyn/Atik, who was just three days into her own first war patrol.

It did not go well.

According to DANFS:

The U-boat, on the surface, began stalking Atik at 2200, and at 0037 on 27 March 1942 fired one torpedo at a range of 700 yards that struck the ship on her port side, under the bridge. Fire broke out immediately, and the ship began to assume a slight list, the crippled “freighter” sending out a terse SOS: “S.S. Carolyn, torpedo attack, burning forward, not bad.” As U-123 proceeded around under her victim’s stern, Kapitänleutnant Hardegen noted one boat being lowered on the starboard side and men abandoning ship.

After U-123 turned to starboard, “Carolyn” gathered steerageway. She steered a course paralleling the enemy’s by turning to starboard as well, then dropped her concealment, opening fire from her main and secondary batteries. The first 4-inch shell splashed short of the U-boat, as she made off presenting a small target; the shots that followed were off in deflection. Heavy .50-caliber machine gun fire, though, ricocheted around the U-boat’s decks as she bent on speed to escape the trap into which Hardegen “like a callow beginner [his own words]” had fallen. One bullet mortally wounded Fähnrich zur See Rudi Holzer, on U-123’s bridge.

Gradually, the U-boat pulled out of range behind the cover of the smoke screen emitted by her straining diesels, and her captain assessed the damage. As Hardegen later recorded, “We had been incredibly lucky.” U-123 submerged and again approached her adversary. At 0229, the U-boat loosed a torpedo into Atik’s machinery spaces. Satisfied that that blow would prove to be the coup de grace, U-123 stood off to await developments as Atik settled by the bow, her single screw now out of the water.

Once again, Atik’s men could be seen embarking in her boats. U-123 surfaced at 0327, to finish off the feisty Q-ship. Suddenly, at 0350, a cataclysmic explosion blew Atik to pieces. Ten minutes later, U-123 buried her only casualty, Fähnrich zur See Holzer, who had died of his wounds. Atik’s entire crew perished, either in the blast that destroyed the ship or during the severe gale that lashed the area soon after the brave ship disintegrated.

The next morning, a USAAF bomber dispatched to Atik’s last reported position found nothing.

Atik‘s sister, Asterion, plied the coastal waters and managed to pick up several survivors from other stricken ships but, on the orders of Adm. King himself, was reclassified in 1944 as a weather service ship (WAK-123), never once being able to mix it up with a U-boat of her own to avenge Atik‘s loss over the course of six Q-ship patrols.

Survivor is brought ashore from USS Broome (DD-210) at Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, on 20 April 1942. Alcoa Guide had been sunk by gunfire of the German submarine U-123 on 16 April. Broome rescued 27 of her survivors on 19 April. The last survivor of the ship was not picked up until 18 May. Six of Alcoa Guide’s crew lost their lives as a result of this attack. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-3882

U-123 went on to sink a further five merchantmen and damage three others on her 8th patrol, including the high-profile attack on the tanker SS Gulfamerica off Jacksonville beach on a breezy April night in front of a packed, and shocked audience.

“Many people watched the flames fill the sky about four miles off shore. Others who didn’t see the explosion flocked to the beach over the weekend to catch a glimpse of the wreckage. The bow of the ship bobbed on the surface for six days before finally sinking below the waves,” noted Jacksonville.com on the 75th anniversary of Gulfamerica‘s loss– the event still reverberating across generations.

Speaking of reverberations, George Betts, the father of Muskogee‘s skipper, reached out to Hardegen long after the war in 1986 and struck up an unlikely friendship with the U-boat ace of the deep. Hardegen provided the man with a photo of his late father, who he had last seen on a lifeboat. He told Betts that he gave the survivors bottled water, rations and detailed instructions about how to get to the nearest land, but sadly they never made it. Still, Betts reportedly held no grudge, to which the aging German submariner remarked, “This personal contact with men was one of the moments that shows me that this should be the last war.”

U-123 in front of barracks ship in Lorient, Feb 1942. Photo by Dietrich, Propagandakompanien Der Wermacht. Bundesarchiv-Bild 101ii-mw-3

At the end of U-123‘s eighth patrol, Hardegen was relieved and spent the rest of the war in training assignments due to poor health. His famous submarine would go on to complete four further patrols under a new skipper–Oblt. Horst von Schroeter–which accounted for five more Allied merchant ships and the British submarine, HMS P-615 before she was scuttled at Lorient on 19 August 1944 to prevent her use to advancing U.S. forces that had landed in France after D-Day. According to U-boat.net, she accounted for over 200,000 tons of Allied shipping, including two warships.

The scuttling was not too extensive as she was quickly patched up and went on to serve the French Navy as Blaison (Q165) for another 15 years, only scrapping in 1959.

Under French (and NATO) colors

Of the 48 German submarines turned over to the Allied post-war for further use, she and U-510, a Type IXC half-sister renamed Bouan, were the only ones taken over by France.

The other 13 members of U-123‘s class were not so lucky and were largely destroyed at sea in encounters that left their crews lost to the deep. Sisters U-65, U-105, U-107, U-109, and U-124 were lost with all hands. U-104 and U-122 have both been missing since 1940. Documents and Enigma machines famously captured from sister U-110 before she sank with 15 of her crew helped Bletchley Park code-breakers solve Reservehandverfahren, a reserve German hand cipher. The rest were lost with fewer casualties, but scratched off Donitz’s naval list all the same.

Hardegen, who spent more than 18 months in a British POW camp after 1945, went on after the war to become a founder of Bremen’s Christian Democrats party (the same port city where all the Type XIIB’s including U-123 were built) and serve on the city’s diet for over 30 years. During the same period, he became an oil company executive, which is ironic due to his past work in tankers.

He died last week, aged 105, reportedly the last of the U-boat skippers.

There are still reverberations from his Drumbeat.

This week the U.S. Coast Guard announced they have contracted to conduct an underwater assessment of the tanker Coimbra, set to take place in July over concerns that the rusting tanker has a potential to have an environmental impact on the New York coastline.

“We have assembled a team including members of the Navy Supervisor of Salvage, the Coast Guard Academy Science Department, the Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and New York Department of Environmental Conservation to provide consultation for this assessment,” said Capt. Kevin Reed, commander Sector Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. “This assessment will help determine any potential environmental threat the tanker poses. Our top priorities are safety of the public and protection of the marine environment.”

And the drums still beat…

Specs:


Displacement:
1,051 tonnes (1,034 long tons) surfaced
1,178 tonnes (1,159 long tons) submerged
Length:
76.50 m (251 ft) o/a
58.75 m (192 ft 9 in) pressure hull
Beam:
6.76 m (22 ft 2 in) o/a
4.40 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Draught: 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)
Installed power:
4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
Propulsion:
2 shafts
2 × diesel engines
2 × electric motors double-acting electric motors, 1,000 PS (990 shp; 740 kW)
Range:
12,000 nmi (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
64 nmi (119 km; 74 mi)at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 44 enlisted
Armament:
6 × torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern)
22 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedoes
1 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK C/32 deck gun (180 rounds)
1 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 AA gun
1 × twin 2 cm FlaK 30 AA guns

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Warship Wednesday, June 6, 2018: The eternal Nordic shark of Sword Beach

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, June 6, 2018: The eternal Nordic shark of Sword Beach

Via the Norwegian military museum (Forsvarets Museer) MMU.941853

Here we see the British-built S-class destroyer (Jageren in Norwegian parlance) His Norwegian Majesty’s Ship KNM (Kongelige Norske Marine) Svenner (RN Pennant G03) of the Free Norwegian Sjøforsvaret in 1944, fresh from the yard and ready to fight. Svenner is deeply associated with today’s date. However, before we can talk about her service, let us discuss the Royal Norwegian Navy in WWII.

The Scandinavian neutral had managed to sit precariously on the fence in the Great War and indeed was a peaceful country who had last seen the elephant during the Napoleonic Wars, skirmishing at first with the British and then the Swedes for independence. Some 130-years of peace behind it, the Norwegian Navy in April 1940 was again an armed neutral, ready to take on all-comers to preserve the homeland. Then came the invasion.

German cruiser Blücher in Drøbak Sound, April 1940 outside of the Norwegian capital Oslo

Two months of tough resistance against German invaders while reluctantly accepting Allied intervention left the Norwegian Navy covered in glory (such as when the tiny 200-ton gunboat KNM Pol III stood alone– briefly– against the mighty heavy cruiser Blücher, the heavy cruiser Lützow, the light cruiser Emden, three torpedo boats and eight minesweepers carrying 2,000 troops to Oslo, or when the ancient and nearly condemned coastal monitors KNM Eidsvold and Norge attempted to stop the Germans at Narvik), but was largely left sunk at the bottom of the fjords they defended.

When the endgame came, a dozen or so small ships and 500 officers and men made it to British waters to carry on the war. These included such Edwardian relics as the destroyer Draug (commissioned in 1908!) and the newer Sleipner, as well as fishery patrol ships such as the Nordkapp, which all soon got to work for the Allies, guarding sea lanes, escorting convoys and protecting the UK and Allied-occupied Iceland from potential Axis invasion.

The mighty KNM Draug, with lines that look right out of the Spanish-American War. MMU.945456

With the small core of exiled prewar Norwegian sailors, an influx of Norwegians living abroad and transfers from the country’s huge merchant fleet, the exiled Free Norwegian Navy was able to rebuild abroad.

“Norway Fights On” USA, 1942

Soon, the old Draug was in full-time use as a training and support vessel while small trawlers and whalers provided yeoman service as the “Shetland Bus” regularly shuttling spies, SOE operatives and Norwegian resistance agents into occupied Scandinavia and downed Allied aircrew out over the course of some 200 trips.

As these operations expanded, the Brits began transferring at first surplus (five ex-Wickes-class tin cans transferred originally to the Brits from the USN under the bases for destroyer deal) and then new-built naval vessels (Flower and Castle-class corvettes, motor torpedo boats, Hunt-class destroyer escorts, and later two S-class destroyers) to the growing Norwegian fleet to perform convoy escort missions.

That’s where Svenner comes in.

The 16 S/T-class destroyers were long ships (363-feet) but thin (just 35-feet) giving them a 10:1 length-to-beam ratio, making them a knife on the water. Tipping the scales at just 2,500~ tons, they were slender stilettos made for stabbing through the waves at nearly 37-knots on a pair of Parsons geared turbines. Armed with a quartet of 4.7-inch guns for surface actions, U-boat busting depth charges and an eight-pack of anti-ship torpedo tubes, they were ready for a fight. Class leader HMS Saumarez (G12) was completed in July 1943, right in time for the Battle of the Atlantic, and the 15 ships that followed her were made ready to go into harm’s way as soon as they could leave the builders’ yards. Of those, one, HMS Success, was transferred on completion to the Free Norwegian forces on 26 August 1943 as KNM Stord (G26), and soon got to chasing the Germans, becoming engaged with the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst just four months after transfer.

Stord, note her Norwegian jack. MMU.945852

One of Success/Stord‘s sisterships, laid down as HMS Shark, transferred to the Norwegians 11 March 1944 on completion and was named KNM Svenner after a Norwegian island. Her skipper, LCDR Tore Holthe, was a prewar Norwegian surface fleet officer and veteran of Stord‘s action against Scharnhorst.

Svenner’s officers, with Holthe center. MMU.945739

Just weeks after her commissioning, Svenner was attached to Bombardment Force S of the Eastern Task Force of the Normandy invasion fleet assembling off Plymouth. Her mission would be to help smother the German beach defenses during the assault on Sword Beach, where British and Canadian forces would land.

Jageren SVENNER (G03) babord bredside MMU.941527

SVENNER (ex SHARK) (FL 22742) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205174978

On the night of the 5th, Svenner, along with the frigates HMS Rowley and Holmes, helped escort the cruisers HMS Arethusa, Danae, and Frobisher, as well as the Free Polish cruiser ORP Dragon, monitor HMS Roberts and the small craft of the 40th Minesweeping Flotilla from Plymouth across the Channel to Sword Beach, where the famous battleships HMS Ramillies, HMS Warspite and ships of Force D stood by for heavy lifting.

At 0500 on 6 June 1944, Jutland veteran Warspite was the first ship in the entire 4,000-strong Allied fleet on any beach to open fire, hitting a German artillery battery at Villerville from some 13 miles offshore.

Hamilton, John Alan; D-Day Naval Bombardment: HMS ‘Ramillies’, HMS ‘Warspite’ and Monitor HMS ‘Roberts’ Bombard the Beaches; IWM (Imperial War Museums); http://www.artuk.org/artworks/d-day-naval-bombardment-hms-ramillies-hms-warspite-and-monitor-hms-roberts-bombard-the-beaches-7683

As the Svenner, Rowley, and Holmes stood by to allow the minesweepers to clear a channel for the bombardment ships to close with the beach while making smoke to obscure the capital ships, three German torpedo boats out of La Havre– Jaguar, Møwe and T28— appeared at 28-knots to conduct a strike against the force, letting lose some 17 torpedoes in all. It was the only effective Kriegsmarine resistance on D-Day.

The torpedo spread came close to ruining Force D, with steel fish passing within feet of both Ramillies and Warspite. The only victim of the German torps: our brave new Norwegian destroyer, who tried in vain to turn from the spread but came up short.

HNoMS Svenner breaking up & sinking after being struck by two torpedoes

Svenner was hit amidships at 0530 by one or possibly two torpedoes and broke in half, sinking quickly after an explosion under her boiler room. Lost were 32 Norwegian and a British signalman out of her crew of 219. Most of the crew, which included some RN ratings, were rescued by nearby ships and returned to the war in days.

Still, the pair of battleships were saved, and they covered the invasion on Sword with heavy naval gunfire. Warspite fired over 300 shells on June 6 alone before heading back to Portsmouth for more rounds and powder and returning to plaster targets on Utah Beach and Gold Beach. Her sidekick Ramillies heaved an impressive 1,002 15-inch shells in that week, hitting not only defensive strongpoints and batteries but also massing German armor well inland and enemy railway marshaling yards near Caen. The work by those two brawlers on D Day and the hours afterward is well-remembered.

The landing at Sword involved the British Army’s I Corps made up of the 3rd Infantry Division and 79nd Armoured Division along with hardlegs of the 1st Special Service Brigade (which also contained Free French and Belgian Commandos) and No. 41 (Royal Marine) Commando against the German 716th Infantry Division and Caen-based 21st Panzer Div (which launched the only major German counterattack of D-Day.) In all, over 680 Allied troops were killed on Sword alone on 6 June.

SWORD beach – 6 Jun 1944. This image is taken from a Royal Air Force Mustang aircraft of II (Army Cooperation) Squadron. IWM

THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE NORMANDY CAMPAIGN 1944 (B 5191) Three Beach Group troops look out from Queen beach,Sword Beach, littered with beached landing craft and wrecked vehicles and equipment, 7 June 1944. A partially submerged D7 armoured bulldozer can be seen on the right. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205205835

Besides Svenner, the Norwegians were well-represented at Normandy, with her sistership Stord present elsewhere on Sword on D-Day, hitting a German battery by Riva Bella with no less that 362 of her 4.7-inch shells.

Maleri av invasjonen i Normandie og jageren STORD MMU.943486

The Norwegian-manned Hunt-class destroyer escort KNM Glaisdale was at Juno Beach and fired more than 400 rounds that day at German positions near St. Aubain while the similarly-crewed corvettes Acanthus, Eglantine and Rose were at Utah Beach. The plucky 130-foot fisheries vessel Nordkapp was there too, as an escort and rescue vessel. Seven Norwegian merchant ships were packed with troops and supplies that day, including some 200 men of the 29th U.S. Infantry Division aboard the SS Lysland off Omaha Beach. Another 43 Norwegian merchant ships were in the follow-on wave starting June 7, including three that gave their last as mole ships.

For more on the vital contribution to the war by the 1,081 ships of the Norwegian merchant service (Nortraship) which saw an incredible 570 vessels sunk and some 3734 men taken down to their last across both the Atlantic and Pacific, please check out the excellent site dedicated to these war-sailors.

The Norwegians went on to purchase Stord from the UK government and kept her in service for another decade, only scrapping her in Belgium in 1959. Of note, she returned Vice Adm. Edvard Danielsen, commander of the Norwegian Navy, home from the UK in 1945. On that occasion, the following signal was sent from RN Adm. Sir Henry Moore:

To: H Nor MS Stord
From: C-in-C HF AFLOAT CONFIDENTIAL BASEGRAM
For Admiral Danielsen

On your return to Norway in H Nor MS Stord I should be grateful if you will convey to Lieutenant Commander Øi and to the officers and ships company my keen appreciation of the honour I feel in having had them under my command in the Home Fleet.

Their efficiency and their fine fighting spirit have been the admiration of us all and although we are glad that they now should be reaping the reward of their contribution to the liberation of Europe we shall miss them in the Home Fleet. We hope that some of us may soon have the pleasure to renew our friendship in Norwegian port. To you personally I send my warm regards and sincere thanks for your helpful cooperation with me at the Admiralty: Good luck and happiness to you all.

By the end of the war, the Royal Norwegian Naval Fleet (outside of Norway) consisted of 52 combatant ships and 7,500 officers, petty officers and men. For more on the Free Norwegian Navy in WWII, click here for an English translation compiled by the Norwegian Naval Museum.

As a footnote, the only other S/T-class destroyer lost during the war was also claimed on Sword Beach. HMS Swift (G46) struck and detonated mine off the beachhead and sank after breaking in two on 24 June with the loss of 52 men.

HMS SWIFT ( G 46) MMU.941445

Other than that, all 14 remaining S/T-class sisters survived the conflict and lead a long life with three going on to transfer in 1946 to the rebuilding Dutch Navy. The last of the class afloat, HMS Troubridge (F09), helped sink U-407 during the war and, converted to a Type 15 frigate, was only decommissioned in 1969, going to the breakers the following year.

In 2003, a French Navy minesweeper discovered the wreckage of Svenner off Sword and salvaged her anchor. It is now preserved as a memorial to the ship some 100 yards inland from the beach at Hermanville-sur-Mer.

The Norwegians remember Svenner with fondness, having recycled her name for a Kobben-class submarine commissioned in 1967 which remained in service until after the Cold War.

Svenner has become part of the country’s military lore.

Via the Norwegian military museum (Forsvarets Museer) http://forsvaretsmuseer.no/Marinemuseet/70-aar-siden-senkningen-av-Svenner

In 2014, King Harald himself helped dedicate the memorial to all Norwegians present at Normandy, accompanied by some of the last of that country’s aging WWII vets.

Today, of course, on the 74th anniversary of Overlord/Neptune and the 156,000 Allied troops that landed across that wide 50-mile front, we remember all the Allies of the Greatest Generation.

Specs:
Displacement:
1,710 long tons (1,740 t) (standard)
2,530 long tons (2,570 t) (deep load)
Length: 362 ft 9 in (110.6 m) (o/a)
Beam: 35 ft 9 in (10.9 m)
Draught: 14 ft 6 in (4.4 m) (deep)
Installed power:
40,000 shp (30,000 kW)
2 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Propulsion: 2 × shafts; 2 × Parsons geared steam turbines
Speed: 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range: 4,675 nmi (8,658 km; 5,380 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Sensors:
Radar Type 290 air warning
Radar Type 285 ranging & bearing
Armament:
4 × single 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mark XII dual-purpose guns
1 × twin Bofors 40 mm AA guns
4 × twin QF 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns
2 × quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes
4 × throwers and 2 × racks for 70 depth charges

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.

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Combat Gallery Sunday: War and Peace, as seen 76 years ago…

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: War and Peace

As a diversion to Midway, a fairly strong task force under Japanese Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta, comprising the carriers Ryūjō (10,000 tons) and Jun’yō (25,000 tons) as well as their escorts and a naval landing force, attacked the Aleutians in Alaska.

One engagement, where Katutka sent his 80~ strong combined airwing to plaster the only significant American base in the region, socked the base and port facility over the course of two raids on 3-4 June, sinking the barracks ship Northwestern, destroying a few USAAF bombers and USN PBYs, and killing 78 Americans.

The Japanese in turn got a bloody nose from the old school 3-inch M1918s and .50 cal water-cooled Browning of Arkansas National Guard’s 206th Coast Artillery (Anti Aircraft), which splashed a few Japanese planes, a PBY stitched up 19-year-old PO Tadayoshi Koga’s Zero (which crashed and was recovered in remarkable condition– an intelligence coup) and a group of Army Col. John Chennault’s P-40s out of Unamak accounted for a few more.

Below is a great representation of the 206th’s 50cals in action, a bit of martial art by Navy war artist William Draper, done in 1942, entitled “War and Peace”

Painting, Oil on Board; by William F. Draper; 1942; Framed Dimensions 23H X 28W Accession #: 88-189-AS. The peace of an Aleut grave, marked by a Russian Orthodox Cross, is shattered by the staccato barking of a 50-caliber gun as it unleashes a barrage of bullets at attacking Japanese planes.

Thank you for your work, sir.

yokosukasasebojapan.wordpress.com/

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