Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018: Churchill’s best Boxing Day gift
Here we see the King George V-class dreadnought battleship HMS Duke of York (17) in heavy seas, often captioned as firing her 14-inch guns at the distant German battleship Scharnhorst during the Battle of the North Cape, some 75 years ago today– Boxing Day, 1943. Her broadside of 10 BL 14-inch Mk VII naval guns could throw almost eight tons of shells at once.
Part of a class of five mighty battleships whistled up as Hitler was girding a resurgent Germany, Duke of York was ordered 16 November 1936, just eight months after the Austrian corporal-turned-Fuhrer violated the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact by reoccupying the demilitarized Rhineland. Built at John Brown and Company, Clydebank (all five KGVs were constructed at different yards to speed up their delivery), she commissioned 19 August 1941– as Great Britain remained the only country in Western Europe still fighting the Blitzkrieg. What a difference a few years can make!
Some 42,000-tons, these 745-foot long ships were bruisers. Capable of breaking 28-knots, they were faster than all but a handful of battleships on the drawing board while still sporting nearly 15-inches of armor plate at their thickest. Armed with 10 14-inch and 16 5.25-inch guns, they could slug it out with the biggest of the dreadnoughts of their day, possibly only outclassed by the American fast battleships (Washington, SoDak, Iowa-classes) with their 16-inch guns and the Japanese Yamatos, which carried 18-inchers.
Her first assignment, once she was commissioned, was to carry Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill to the United States in mid-December 1941 to confer with London’s new ally, President Roosevelt.
By March 1942, she was active in the Battle of the Atlantic, sailing from Hvalfjord northwards around Iceland to provide distant cover for convoy PQ 12 against the threat posed by German heavy cruisers (Hipper, Prinz Eugen, Scheer), and battleships (Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau) possibly operating from Norway.
With the planned Torch landings in North Africa, in October 1942, Duke of York was sent to Gibraltar as the new flagship of Force H, from where she would lend her might to the Allied effort in the Med.
From there, she was later involved in the Operation Husky landings in Sicily in July 1943, again as flagship. She would end up escorting the Italian fleet to Alexandria, Egypt after their surrender in September.
With no rest for the weary, Duke of York was then again off Norway, this time screening the carrier Ranger on her raids there— the only time American carrier aircraft would strike Europe during the War.
Remaining on-call for convoy escort, Duke of York would be screening JW 55B on the Russian run past Norway when she would meet her biggest boogeyman.
The German battleship Scharnhorst at the time was the only serious naval asset the Kriegsmarine had at the time as Bismarck had been sunk in May 1941, the pocket battleship Graf Spee run to ground in 1939, Scharnhorst‘s sister Gneisenau crippled by a British air raid in 1942, the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer in Wilhelmshaven for major overhaul, Tirpitz left nearly condemned after a British X-Craft mini-submarine raid in Sept 1943, and the pocket battleship Lutzow in Kiel under repair until after the new year. The two remaining Hipper-class heavy cruisers were likewise deployed to the Baltic in support of operations against the Soviets.
With that, the epic 11-hour running fight that was the Battle of North Cape stretched out between the guardians of JW 55B (Duke of York along with heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk, light cruisers HMS Belfast, HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica, and the destroyers HMS Savage, Scorpion, Saumarez, Opportune, Virago, Musketeer, Matchless, and HNoMS Stord) and the unescorted Scharnhorst.
While the German battlewagon parted Duke of York‘s hair so to speak with her own 11-inch guns– passing shells through her masts, severing wireless aerials– the British battleship, in turn, used her own radar-controlled guns to get deadly serious with 52 salvos on her opponent, straddling her on 31 of them and inflicting terrific damage.
In the end, it was too much for any ship and Scharnhorst, crippled, blind, burning, and outnumbered 13-to-1, was sunk by a brace of 19 torpedoes fired by the British destroyers Opportune, Virago, Musketeer, and Matchless at near point-blank range. Just 36 of her nearly 2,000-man crew was saved. As far as I can tell, it would be the last significant British surface action to involve battleships.
Given a refit for service in the Pacific, Duke of York would sail in April 1945 for the Far East, arriving in Sydney on 29 July.
She would move to Japanese Home waters for the final push and helped screen Allied carrier task forces in the weeks before VJ Day.
In the end, she was one of 10 Allied battleships— eight American and her sister HMS King George V (41)— in Tokyo Bay during the Japanese surrender ceremony, 2 September 1945.
The above photo was immortalised by martime artist Charles David Cobb
Retiring to Hong Kong, she was present there for the reoccupation of the colony from Japanese forces.
Returning to the UK, Duke of York deployed as Home Fleet Flagship until 1949 then became Flagship of the Reserve Fleet for two years until reduced to Reserve status in November 1951.
Laid-up in the Gareloch, she was placed on the Disposal List and sold to BISCO for scrapping, arriving at Faslane on 18 February 1958, less than 22 years after she was ordered. Her three surviving sisters (sister Prince of Wales was sunk by the Japanese in December 1941 in the South China Sea) were likewise disposed of at the same time.
Displacement:42,076 long tons (42,751 t) deep load
745 ft 1 in (overall) 740 ft 1 in (waterline), Beam: 103 ft 2 in
Draught: 34 ft 4 in
Installed power: 110,000 shp (82,000 kW)
8 Admiralty 3-drum small-tube boilers
4 sets Parsons geared turbines
Speed: 28.3 knots
Range: 15,600 nmi at 10 knots
Complement: 1,556 (1945)
1 x Type 273/M/P Surface search
1 x Type 281 Long range air warning
6 x Type 282 Pom-pom directors
1 x Type 284/M/P Main armament director
4 x Type 285/M/P/Q HA directors
( Radars added between 1944–1945)
2 × Types 277, 282 and 293 radars added.
10 × BL 14 in (360 mm) Mark VII guns
16 × QF 5.25 in (133 mm) Mk. I DP guns
48 × QF 2 pdr 40 mm (1.6 in) Mk.VIII AA guns
6 × 20 mm (0.8 in) Oerlikon AA guns
Main Belt: 14.7 inches
Lower belt: 5.4 inches
Deck: 5–6 inches
Main turrets: 12.75 inches
Barbettes: 12.75 inches
Bulkheads: 10–12 inches
Conning tower: 3–4 inches
Aircraft carried: 4 × Supermarine Walrus seaplanes, 1 catapult
If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International
They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm
The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.
With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.
PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.
Built in 1765 for the French East India Company as an armed merchantman the 152-foot Duc de Duras was placed at the disposal of one John Paul Jones of the American Continental Navy on 4 February 1779, by King Louis XVI of France by an agreement with French shipping boss Jacques-Donatien Le Ray. Less than eight months later the 42-gun frigate, under the name Bonhomme Richard, had taken 16 British merchant ships and was in turn practically destroyed by the 44-gun fifth-rate ship HMS Serapis off Flamborough Head, Yorkshire.
As for Jones, he transferred his flag to the battered and captured Serapis, which he sailed to the Netherlands and handed over to the French– who commissioned her as a privateer. Serapis was lost under a French flag off Madagascar in 1781 to a fire and her remains were discovered there in 1999.
Speaking of remains, there has been a multinational effort to find Bonhomme Richard for decades and it has finally turned up the storied wreck off the English coast.
(18 Dec. 1965) — Astronaut James A. Lovell Jr., the pilot of the Gemini-7 spaceflight, is hoisted from the water by a recovery helicopter from the Aircraft Carrier USS Wasp. Astronaut Frank Borman, command pilot, waits in the raft to be hoisted aboard the helicopter.
The helicopter is Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King (HSS-2/S-61) BuNo #149006 (Sikorsky #61-080) of
“The Dragonslayers” the “Sub Seekers” (thanks, Fabio!) of Helicopter Squadron 11 (HS-11). Contrary to popular belief, most astronaut scoopers were regular fleet ASW helicopters and crews.
The SH-3A, only 245 of which were made before the line was upgraded, when it was introduced in 1961 set new speed records for helicopters over a 3 km sea level course (198.8 mph) and a 25 km course (210.6 mph), making them literally the fastest production whirlybird in the world at the time. From Scott Carpenter’s Mercury mission in May 1962 to the end of the Apollo lunar program in December 1972, every NASA spacecraft crew retrieved by helicopter was recovered by a Sikorsky Sea King.
The particular airframe shown above was later upgraded to SH-3H standard and was retired by the Navy in 2005, now preserved in her later white livery at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum at McMinnville, Oregon (home of the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the Spruce Goose)– but a very close sister #149003, is still in long-term storage at AMARC where it has been since 1992.
As for HS-11? They are still around, assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 out of NAS Norfolk, but they fly MH-60S’s now as HSC-11, The Dragonslayers.
The loss of the Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) in 1945 is often cited as the worst disaster in U.S. Naval history. Now, Congress had approved a special medal for the ship.
S. 2101: USS Indianapolis Congressional Gold Medal Act, had 70 co-sponsors in the Senate this session Passed by Congress last week, it goes to the President next.
The medal once struck next year, will be presented to the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hopefully, surviving Indy vets and their survivors can also claim one of their own.
The findings of the bill:
(1) The Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis received 10 battle stars between February 1942 and April 1945 while participating in major battles of World War II from the Aleutian Islands to Okinawa.
(2) The USS Indianapolis, commanded by Captain Charles Butler McVay III, carried 1,195 personnel when it set sail for the island of Tinian on July 16, 1945, to deliver components of the atomic bomb “Little Boy”. The USS Indianapolis set a speed record during the portion of the trip from California to Pearl Harbor and successfully delivered the cargo on July 26, 1945. The USS Indianapolis then traveled to Guam and received further orders to join Task Group 95.7 in the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines for training. During the length of the trip, the USS Indianapolis went unescorted.
(3) On July 30, 1945, minutes after midnight, the USS Indianapolis was hit by 2 torpedoes fired by the I–58, a Japanese submarine. The resulting explosions severed the bow of the ship, sinking the ship in about 12 minutes. Of 1,195 personnel, about 900 made it into the water. While a few life rafts were deployed, most men were stranded in the water with only a kapok life jacket.
(4) At 10:25 a.m. on August 2, 1945, 4 days after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn was piloting a PV–1 Ventura bomber and accidentally noticed men in the water who were later determined to be survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Lieutenant Gwinn alerted a PBY aircraft, under the command of Lieutenant Adrian Marks, about the disaster. Lieutenant Marks made a dangerous open-sea landing to begin rescuing the men before any surface vessels arrived. The USS Cecil J. Doyle was the first surface ship to arrive on the scene and took considerable risk in using a searchlight as a beacon, which gave hope to survivors in the water and encouraged them to make it through another night. The rescue mission continued well into August 3, 1945, and was well-coordinated and responsive once launched. The individuals who participated in the rescue mission conducted a thorough search, saved lives, and undertook the difficult job of identifying the remains of, and providing a proper burial for, those individuals who had died.
(5) Only 316 men survived the ordeal and the survivors had to deal with severe burns, exposure to the elements, extreme dehydration, and shark attacks.
(6) During World War II, the USS Indianapolis frequently served as the flagship for the commander of the Fifth Fleet, Admiral Raymond Spruance, survived a bomb released during a kamikaze attack (which badly damaged the ship and killed 9 members of the crew), earned a total of 10 battle stars, and accomplished a top secret mission that was critical to ending the war. The sacrifice, perseverance, and bravery of the crew of the USS Indianapolis should never be forgotten.
Regardless of the medal. A lasting legacy of Indianapolis is at Great Lakes, and every budding bluejacket learns about her story first hand.
“The Japanese Sneak Attack on Pearl Harbor”. Charcoal and chalk by Commander Griffith Bailey Coale, USNR, Official U.S. Navy Combat Artist, 1944.
This artwork shows the destruction wrought on ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet attacked in their berths by scores of enemy torpedo planes, horizontal and dive bombers on December 7, 1941.
At the extreme left is the stern of the cruiser Helena, while the battleship Nevada steams past and three geysers, caused by near bomb misses, surround her. In the immediate foreground is the capsizing minelayer Oglala.
The battleship to the rear of the Oglala is the California, which has already settled. At the right, the hull of the capzized Oklahoma can be seen in front of the Maryland; the West Virginia in front of the Tennessee; and the Arizona settling astern of the Vestal …, seen at the extreme right.
The artist put this whole scene together for the first time in the early summer of 1944, from 1010 Dock, in Pearl Harbor, where he was ordered for this duty. Coale worked under the guidance of Admiral William R. Furlong, Commandant of the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, who stepped from his flagship, the Oglala, as she capsized.” (quoted from the original Combat Art description).
Over the weekend I took a break from my typical kayaking, prop-comic research, napping, beer, and bingo to pitch in at the annual wreath-laying at Biloxi National Cemetery.
There were enough volunteers to honor all 20,000 graves in just an hour of work, which is great. The crowd to pick up the wreaths after Christmas will typically be smaller, but just as hard working.
Check with your local National Cemetery on how you can volunteer as needed. There are 136 of them across the country, and they are constantly expanding.
Just over a year after the German-made Type TR-1700 SSK ARA San Juan (S-42) went missing with 44 souls aboard, she has been found.
The sad news from Ocean Infinity:
Ocean Infinity, the seabed exploration company, confirms that it has found ARA San Juan, the Argentine Navy submarine which was lost on 15 November 2017.
In the early hours of 17 November, after two months of seabed search, Ocean Infinity located what has now been confirmed as the wreckage of the ARA San Juan. The submarine was found in a ravine in 920m of water, approximately 600 km east of Comodoro Rivadavia in the Atlantic Ocean.
Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s CEO, said:
“Our thoughts are with the many families affected by this terrible tragedy. We sincerely hope that locating the resting place of the ARA San Juan will be of some comfort to them at what must be a profoundly difficult time. Furthermore, we hope our work will lead to their questions being answered and lessons learned which help to prevent anything similar from happening again.
We have received a huge amount of help from many parties who we would like to thank. We are particularly grateful to the Argentinian Navy whose constant support and encouragement was invaluable. In addition, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, via the UK Ambassador in Buenos Aires, made a very significant contribution. Numerous others, including the US Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, have supported us with expert opinion and analysis. Finally, I would like to extend a special thank you to the whole Ocean Infinity team, especially those offshore as well as our project leaders Andy Sherrell and Nick Lambert, who have all worked tirelessly for this result.”
Ocean Infinity used five Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to carry out the search, which was conducted by a team of approximately 60 crew members on board Seabed Constructor. In addition, three officers of the Argentine Navy and four family members of the crew of the ARA San Juan joined Seabed Constructor to observe the search operation
For the San Juan: Eternal Father, Strong to Save, as performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and chorus.