Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, July 26, 2017: Doctor Jekyll and HM’s gunboat
Here we see the Royal Navy Satellite-class barque-rigged, composite-hulled protected sloop (later deemed a corvette) HMS Royalist as she appeared in the late 1880s.
Designed by the noted Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, KCB, the seven ships of the Satellite-class were an amalgam of old sailing era fighting ships and new iron steam vessel. They had an iron keel and frame with wood planking. A steam plant was primary propulsion (up to 13 knots) and they carried enough coal to travel an impressive 6,000nm, but a sail rig was fitted and often used.
Gone were old muzzle-loading cast iron rifles, replaced by new breech-loading 6-inch/100-pounder (81cwt) guns which could fire an 80-pound shell some 7,590 yards and Gardner machine guns (though each of the class carried a different armament pattern and varying engineering suites, making them more half-sisters than anything.). At 200-feet overall, these impressive vessels carried a smattering of armor plate (about an inch) over their sensitive machinery areas, but remained svelte enough to float in less than three fathoms.
Built at Sheerness and Devonport, these ships were soon dispatched to far-flung colonial posts on the Australian Station, the Pacific Station, West Indies and China.
The subject of our tale, the 7th HMS Royalist, commissioned 14 April 1886 then spent some time on station at the Cape of Good Hope and Australia.
Royalist was subsequently sent for a spell to the Gilbert islands, claiming them for the Crown and inspecting the same.
Later, Royalist was sent to Samoa, then a hot topic in the halls of Europe and America.
The “Samoan Question” burned brightly from about 1886 onward, with Germany, the U.S. and Britain all nosing around the islands, and picking sides. This resulted in an eight-year civil war in the archipelago with guns and munitions supplied to Samoan leaders by the powers, all to ultimately claim the land for their growing colonial empires, a struggle that is beyond this blog.
By early March 1899, this low-level tribal conflict had boiled over, with exiled chief Mata’afa Iosefo backed by the Germans and incoming regent Malietoa Tanumafili I backed by the Anglo-Americans, and combat at the offering.
With the balloon going up, the Royalist joined the Alert-class sloop HMS Torch, Archer-class torpedo cruiser HMS Porpoise, and the U.S. Pacific Squadron flag, USS Philadelphia (Cruiser No. 4), in supporting Tanumafili.
British sailors and Royal Marines, joined with U.S. leathernecks and bluejackets to form a force consisting of 26 marines and 88 sailors, reinforced by a company of 136 Samoans loyal to Tanumafili, and set out from Apia toward a plantation at Vailele. The group was led by Lt. Angel H. Freeman, RN, with Lt. Philip V. Lansdale, USN as XO, and carried a Colt-Browning M1895 from Philadelphia just in case.
Another 146 mixed RN/USN landing force, augmented by a single 7-pounder from Royalist and assorted U.S. Marines manning Gatling guns for fire support, surrounded the Tivoli Hotel which was used as a command post and shelter for non-combatants. From there they held off a determined assault from Iosefo loyalists over three days (March 15-17), losing four British and American sailors and marines.
Meanwhile, as Royalist with her big 6-inchers and shallow draft, closed in and shelled two fortified outposts filled with Iosefo supporters– with fire corrected by a pair of Samoan fans in the hands of a signalman on the reef near Fagalii.
However, once the column moved inland to attack Vailele, they were swarmed by 800 of Iosefo’s troops on 1 April while arrayed along the road. Setting up a perimeter supported by the Colt, Freeman was killed and an injured Lansdale took command of the force, only to succumb to his wounds. Also killed in the action were U.S. Navy Seaman Norman E. Edsall, U.S. Ensign John Robert Monaghan (USNA 1879), U.S. Seaman James Butler, RN Leading Seaman Albert Meirs Prout and RN Leading Seaman John Long. Eventually the naval party was able to break contact, covered by Royalist‘s guns, which were once again directed by the fans.
By 25 April, the conflict had settled down with each side agreeing to disagree. The next day, the auxiliary cruiser USS Badger arrived in Apia harbor carrying the Joint High Commission–representatives from Germany, Britain and the U.S. State Department– to begin negotiations on how to carve up the islands more peacefully. By 13 May they had the affair sorted out and a treaty was sent home to be signed by the end of the year.
In the end, Germany acquired the western islands (Savai’i and ‘Upolu, plus seven smaller islands) with Iosefo declared chief by the German Samoa colonial powers; while the U.S. acquired the eastern islands (Tutuila and the Manu’a group) and established a base at Pago Pago. The Brits quit the chain altogether in exchange for territorial concessions from the Germans in Tonga and the Solomans.
New Zealand was allowed by Britain to annex the Cook Islands and Niue as something of a consolation prize, though the Kiwis had mustered local troops for war in Samoa, that in the end, were not needed. Nonetheless, they stormed German Samoa in 1914 during the Great War and remained in administration of the islands as the Western Samoa Trust Territory until 1962.
Preceding joint monuments for the Great War, WWII, and Korea, the USN and RN established a marker in Samoa to commemorate their combined war dead from 1899.
Beyond the marker, the U.S. Navy preserved relics from the colonial battle including shrapnel and a fuse from the British ship and the famous fans used as signal flags to correct her fire. Below are the images and it is likely the takeaways are still in a box somewhere in a Navy warehouse.
A storyteller who lived in Samoa since 1890 who was on hand for the struggle was a Scot, one Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson. While his Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are much more commonly read, he did craft A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa, his own nonfiction take on the conflict there, in which he mentions Royalist several times.
While it may seem we are finished with our story here, Royalist remained afloat for another half-century past her Samoan encounter.
Leaving the islands once they were partitioned, she sailed for Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland to be converted to a depot and receiving station for ship crews in Haulbowline.
In 1913, on the eve of the Great War, she was renamed HMS Colleen. While she was still afloat, one of HMs submarines and two cruisers went on to carry the name HMS Royalist.
When the lights went out in Europe, the old corvette-turned-hulk wore the flag of CiC Coast of Ireland and later CiC Western Approaches, and was a welcome sight at Queenstown for ships crossing the Atlantic during the war. It was during the conflict that she served as the mother ship to a series of shifting flotillas of motor launches and armed trawlers of the Auxiliary Patrol, which deployed around the British Isles performing search and rescue and anti-submarine patrolling.
Incoming ships to Queensland with sick or injured crew members, or shipmates being transferred or processing out, would assign their transients to Royalist/Colleen, which means there are dozens of wartime graves around the British Isles with headstones marked HMS Colleen.
Noted Irish polar explorer Tom Crean, member of three major expeditions to Antarctica including Captain Scott’s ill-fated 1911–13 Terra Nova Expedition, served his last few months in the Royal Navy aboard Colleen until he was retired on medical grounds on 24 March 1920.
With Ireland moving out of the British Empire, the aging Colleen was paid off 15 March 1922, just three months before the Irish Free State was proclaimed.
Still a dominion of the British Empire until 1931, HMS Colleen was transferred to the new Irish government 19 February 1923 to support the recently formed Irish Coastal and Marine Service, joining the commandeered 155-foot armed yacht Helga (rechristened Muirchu, or “Seahound”). However, the CMS was soon disbanded, and Colleen was never used as more than a hulk and oil storage barge, though she was retained until at least 1950, some four years after the founding of the current Irish Naval Service (An tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh) was founded.
Her final fate is unknown, though she is thought to have been broken up. What is known, however, is that she outlived all six of her sister ships.
Paid off or hulked in the early 1900s, Heroine, Hyachinth and Pylades went to the breakers by 1906. Satellite and Caroline managed as training vessels until 1947 and 1929, respectively, though one of the latter’s guns endures on display in Hong Kong. Runner up for the longest life of the class was Rapid, who endured as an accommodation ship and coal bunker until she was disposed of at Gibraltar in 1948.
However, there is always Robert Louis Stevenson, the marker on Samoa, the relics somewhere in the NHHC archives and the heroics of Tom Crean, proving Royalist will remain, as a footnote at least, forever.
Displacement: 1,420 tons
Length: 200 ft. (61 m)
Beam: 38 ft. (12 m)
Draught: 15.7 ft. (4.8 m)
Maudslay, Sons and Field horizontal compound expansion steam engine, 1510hp
Maximum speed: 13 knots
Endurance: 6,000 nm at 10 kts on 400 tons coal
Sail plan: Barque-rigged
Range: Approximately 6,000 nmi (11,000 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h)
Two 6″/26 (15.2 cm) BL Mark II guns
Ten BL 5-inch (127.0 mm) 50-pounder (38cwt) guns
One light gun
Four machine guns
Eight 6″/26 (15.2 cm) BL Mark II guns
1 7-pdr landing gun
4x .45 cal Gardner machine guns
Armor: Internal steel deck, 19-25mmm thick, over machinery and magazines
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While the huge carrier task forces get all the attention at Midway, there was also an unsung fleet of plywood boats who took part in the battle as well.
As part of the local defenses at Midway were 11 early model PT boats (Elco 77′ PT’s 20-31) of the 1st Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron. Dispatched to Midway from Pearl Harbor in May, the nearly 1,400nm trip is often regarded as the longest open-water PT boat sortie of the war (though they did rendezvous with seaplane tenders for gas twice on the trip).
On June 4, as some 60 Japanese Navy planes attacked Sand Island (part of Midway) the PT boats were ready to meet them. MTB RON 1 had already had a bit of experience shooting at Japanese planes– at Pearl Harbor six months prior.
As the dive bombers pulled out over the lagoon, the PT’s opened with all their guns. PT’s 21 and 22 concentrated their fire on a low-flying Zero, which crashed in the trees on Sand Island. Another Zero came out of a steep dive to strafe PT 25. The 25 took 30 small-caliber hits above the waterline; 1 officer and 2 men were slightly wounded by shrapnel. Several times planes started to dive on other boats, but swerved off as soon as the PT’s opened fire.
After the raid they picked up five USMC Marine pilots and two enlisted who had bailed out and returned them to shore.
They also made the epitaph to the great naval battle out to sea on the 5th .
At 1930 all 11 PT’s got underway to search for damaged Japanese carriers reported 170 miles to the northwest. The weather was squally, with poor visibility. These conditions, excellent for PT attack, also made it difficult to find targets. Unable to find anything by dawn, the PT’s turned back to Midway. On the way, PT’s 20 and 21 sighted a column of smoke 50 miles to the west. They sped toward it at 40 knots, but when they arrived all they could see was a large expanse of fuel oil and floating wreckage, apparently Japanese. Probably no Japanese carriers were left afloat.
On the 6th, they put to sea with flag draped coffins of Marines and Japanese killed in the raid two days prior.
Descendants of Col. Robert Gould Shaw, killed leading the 54th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War, recently stumbled across his sword.
Last week the Massachusetts Historical Society announced they had acquired a collection of Shaw’s papers, photographs, and relics, to include his engraved Wilkinson sword, which he was carrying when he was killed.
“To have located ‘the holy grail of Civil War swords’ is a remarkable discovery,” said MHS President Dennis Fiori in a statement. “Through an amazing research effort, our curator and staff were able to put together a detailed timeline to authenticate the sword.”
The sword, a Wilkinson given to him by his uncle when the 25-year-old was promoted to full colonel of volunteers just weeks before the grim frontal attack that claimed his life, was found in an attic by descendants of his sister.
Gould’s actions, and the 54th, would be retold in 1989’s Glory.
If you are a Francophile, or just plain old French or Creole (here’s to you, Ben and Aaron!), then consider this Happy Bastille Day.
In honor of the ceremony in Paris, 190 troops from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will march alongside thousands of French servicemen and women in the Friday parade, and U.S. military planes will contribute to the grand flypast.
The select honor guard leading the American contingent for the parade are patch-wearing members of The Big Red One– 1st U.S. Infantry Division– who will be marching with M1903 Springfields, cartridge belts, and M1917 Brodie style helmets, while some officers will be carrying M1902 pattern swords of the same sort carried by Pershing when he walked off the deck onto French soil.
The Americans will lead the Military Parade on Bastille Day, July 14, 2017, along the famous Champs-Elysées in Paris in commemoration of the U.S. entry into WWI.
“France stood with us during the American Revolution and that strategic partnership endures today,” said General Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander, U.S. European Command. “On behalf of the 60,000 service members standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the French to ensure Europe is whole, free and at peace, we are honored to lead the Bastille Day Parade and help celebrate the French independence.”
On July 4, 1917, U.S. Army regular, Lt. Col. Charles Egbert Stanton–nephew of Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, SpanAm War vet and chief disbursing officer and aide to Pershing– visited the tomb of French Revolution and American Revolution hero Marquis de La Fayette and was famously attributed as saying, “Lafayette, we are here!”
It should be noted that this occurred after the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, (then part of the Big Red One) paraded through the streets of Paris.
The unit went on to suffer the first American casualties of the war in the Trenches just weeks later. On 4 October 1918, the 16th was the only regiment in the entire First Army to take its regimental objectives in the opening attacks in the Meuse-Argonne. Today the 16th carries the French Fourragère, awarded after Normandy in 1944, and while the 2nd Battalion inactivated in 2015, 1-16 is still part of the 1st ID, and the battalion colors are in the color guard at the head of the parade.
Meanwhile, in the air, the Thunderbirds have been practicing for the flypast.
On July 12, 1965, Lt. Frank Reasoner of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, led by U.S.M.C. became the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for action in Vietnam. Reasoner repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire, killed two Viet Cong, single-handedly wiped out an enemy machine gun emplacement, and raced through enemy fire to rescue his injured radio operator. Trying to rally his men, Reasoner was hit by enemy machine gun fire and was killed instantly. For this action, Reasoner was nominated for America’s highest award for valor.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Commanding Officer, Company A, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, 3d Marine Division in action against hostile Viet Cong forces near Danang, Vietnam on 12 July 1965. The reconnaissance patrol led by First Lieutenant Reasoner had deeply penetrated heavily controlled enemy territory when it came under extremely heavy fire from an estimated 50 to 100 Viet Cong insurgents. Accompanying the advance party and the point that consisted of five men, he immediately deployed his men for an assault after the Viet Cong had opened fire from numerous concealed positions. Boldly shouting encouragement, and virtually isolated from the main body, he organized a base of fire for an assault on the enemy positions. The slashing fury of the Viet Cong machine gun and automatic weapons fire made it impossible for the main body to move forward. Repeatedly exposing himself to the devastating attack he skillfully provided covering fire, killing at least two Viet Cong and effectively silencing an automatic weapons position in a valiant attempt to effect evacuation of a wounded man. As casualties began to mount his radio operator was wounded and First Lieutenant Reasoner immediately moved to his side and tended his wounds. When the radio operator was hit a second time while attempting to reach a covered position, First Lieutenant Reasoner courageously running to his aid through the grazing machine gun fire fell mortally wounded. His indomitable fighting spirit, valiant leadership and unflinching devotion to duty provided the inspiration that was to enable the patrol to complete its mission without further casualties. In the face of almost certain death, he gallantly gave his life in the service of his country. His actions upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Thank you for your service, Lt. Reasoner.
Our nation’s founders declared in a unified voice that the American people would forevermore be a united and independent people. Most Americans know the famous lines in the second paragraph, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But the final line of the Declaration of Independence is a line that should strike a chord — “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Never forget the honor, something that is sadly lacking these days.
No one under 20 years of age has experienced a day without NASA at Mars.
The Pathfinder mission, carrying the Sojourner rover, landed on Mars on this day in 1997.
In the 20 years since Pathfinder’s touchdown, eight other NASA landers and orbiters have arrived successfully, and not a day has passed without the United States having at least one active robot on, or in orbit around, the fourth rock from the Sun.
The longest operational mission is the Mars Odyssey orbiter, circling the planet’s polar regions. Taking up the post on 24 October 2001, it is expected to keep sending imagery and telemetry until 2025.
All told, there have been more than 40 missions to the red planet since 1960, from all nations.