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Canadian whisky in U.S-built FFG recovered in Oz

To replace their aging Adams (Perth)-class DDGs, the Royal Australian Navy in the 1980s ordered a six-pack of Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates. Known as the Adelaide-class in RAN service, the first four vessels were built in the U.S. at Todd in Seattle, while last two were constructed by AMECON of Williamstown, Victoria.

Besides the names of large Australian cities, the vessels carry the names of past RAN vessels including two HMS/HMAS Sydney’s that fought in WWI and WWII, and Oz’s two aircraft carriers.

Canberra and Adelaide were paid off in 2005 and 2008 respectively, then sunk as dive wrecks. Sydney struck in 2015 and began scrapping last month, while Darwin, Melbourne and Newcastle are sticking it out until the new Hobart-class destroyers arrive to replace them by 2019.

One of the Todd-built greyhounds now being dismantled, Sydney, just gave up her mini-bottle of now 41-year-old blended MacNaughton Canadian whisky, which had been wrapped in pipe insulation in the forward starboard leg of the main mast back in April 1982.

The yard got the word from the states that the bottle may still be there, and it was.

Should have been Kentucky bourbon, but hey…

Via the RAN


Big J gets one of her lost 40mm mounts back

"USS New Jersey in Vietnam" Painting, Tempera on Paper; by John Charles Roach; 1969; NHHC Accession #: 88-197-CE Launched in 1942, New Jersey (BB-62) saw service in WWII and Korea before being decommissioned in 1957. In 1968 she was reactivated and outfitted to serve as a heavy bombardment ship in Vietnam. At recommissioning, she was the only active battleship in the U.S. Navy. Between late September 1968 and early April 1969, she participated in Operation Sea Dragon, providing offshore gunfire support against inland and coastal targets. Soon thereafter, the Navy decided to reduce heavy bombardment forces in Southeast Asia. New Jersey was again decommissioned in December 1969.

“USS New Jersey in Vietnam” Painting, Tempera on Paper; by John Charles Roach; 1969; NHHC Accession #: 88-197-CE Launched in 1942, New Jersey (BB-62) saw service in WWII and Korea before being decommissioned in 1957. In 1968 she was reactivated and outfitted to serve as a heavy bombardment ship in Vietnam. At recommissioning, she was the only active battleship in the U.S. Navy. Between late September 1968 and early April 1969, she participated in Operation Sea Dragon, providing offshore gunfire support against inland and coastal targets. Soon thereafter, the Navy decided to reduce heavy bombardment forces in Southeast Asia. New Jersey was again decommissioned in December 1969.

When USS New Jersey (BB-62) was built, the wounds of Pearl Harbor were still fresh in the minds of battleship sailors and the new series of capital ships were stacked deep with 40mm and 20mm cannons, designed to fill the sky around the ship with a hurricane of flak to break up Japanese air attacks. The battlewagon carried no less than 80 40mm/56 cal Bofors cannon, arranged in 20 quad mounts. The ship and her crew earned nine battle stars for her World War II service and four for her service in the Korean War before she was put into mothballs in 1957.

The only battleship called in from “red lead row” for service in Vietnam, in 1968 she was stripped of her Bofors cannon– obsolete against jets– and all were destroyed except for one mount that was left as a display at (the now closed) Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she was built.

Now, as part of a crowd-sourced fundraiser to restore the gun and send it to Camden, New Jersey where the battleship has been as a museum ship since 2001, it has been picked up from Philly and moved to the Mahan Collection museum where it will be restored before reunited with the retired naval warship.

More in my column at 

Warship Wednesday, July 12, 2017: Woodrow’s biggest German

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 12, 2017: Woodrow’s biggest German

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 71

Here we see the armed troop transport USS Leviathan (Shore Patrol vessel #1326) in harbor, with tugs in attendance at her starboard bow, 1918. Note her distinctive dazzle camouflage scheme which she would wear throughout the Great War, in U.S. service anyway. At the time, she was billed as the biggest ship in the World.

Built by Blohm & Voss at Hamburg as SS Vaterland for Germany’s Hamburg America Line (HAPAG), she was the largest passenger ship in the world upon her completion, superseding her near-sister SS Imperator (who was 44 feet shorter), but later being superseded in turn by the last ship of her class, SS Bismarck (who was six feet longer).

How big was she? Some 950-feet overall and 54,000-tons displacement. Capable of carrying 4,234 passengers (908 first class, 592 second, 962 third, and 1,772 steerage), she could make 24+ knots on her eight massive Parsons steam turbines powered by 46 (!) boilers. As such, she required almost 1,200 stokers, stewards, attendants and other crew to keep her running.

Her maiden voyage was on 14 May 1914, just six weeks before the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed and the lights began to go out across Europe.

Caught at sea in the North Atlantic too far away from Hamburg to make it home if the balloon went up, the brand-new ocean liner put into New York, then a neutral safe haven.

S.S. Vaterland, German Passenger Liner, arriving at New York City on 29 July 1914, three days before Germany’s declaration of war on Russia began World War I. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. Collection of Captain Cyrus R. Miller, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 103156

There she sat at Hoboken, N.J until 1 August when, though Vaterland had booked 720 first class, 420 second class, and 2,500 third class and steerage passengers leaving for Germany that day (including many German reservists on the way back home), they were canceled and the ship ordered by HAPAG to stay in port, taking a $500,000 loss in bookings.

Her crew, left largely without funds as the war began, took to moving ashore and taking other jobs in between organizing moonlight excursion trips up the Hudson (turn arounds) and a bazaar in Madison Square Garden where her crew sold handicrafts. Vaterland was reportedly a hotbed of German spy activity as well, and some took leave back to Europe via ships bound for other neutrals such as Spain.

Vaterland was seized by the United States Shipping Board at 4 a.m. on April 6 on the eve of the United States entering World War I, along with 90 other German ships in various ports across the country. Only 300 of her crew were aboard and they gave up the ship without bloodshed, being marched first ashore and then taken to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga for internment. Some 20 freight cars of expensive furnishings and paintings, including $150,000 worth of silver, were removed and stored ashore.

The big liner was placed under guard by 60 officers of the NYPD’s 37th Precinct, who were later relieved by a New Jersey Naval Militia force in July. Reports state that “Several attempts to smuggle small bombs and explosives into the coal chutes from the coal barges alongside were frustrated by the guards.”

Her plans and documents had been burned by the ship’s officers, but a spare set of drawings was later found in the safe at HAPAG’s New York office.

However, most of the brand-new ship was filled with years of trash and junk, and some machinery was left inoperable. The Germans had sabotaged numerous water lines installed behind the interior paneling of the ship and when the water was first turned on numerous floods were caused throughout the vessel, with the entire forward section of the ship’s officers’ rooms on the starboard side was flooded with about 14 inches of water, for example.

On 25 July 1917, Vaterland was turned over to the Navy Department and regularly commissioned as a Naval vessel and assigned to transport duty under the command of Vice- Admiral Albert Cleaves, U. S. Navy, Commander of the Cruiser and Transport Force, United States Atlantic Fleet. On September 6th the name of the German ship Vaterland was changed by order of the Secretary of the Navy, without ceremony, to USS Leviathan. President Woodrow Wilson reportedly chose the name.

Leviathan was made ready to transport up to 14,000 men on each crossing to Europe, with life rafts for 17,000 added. She was painted in dazzle camouflage, and her appointments drastically changed.

All the staterooms on the lower decks of the ship were ripped out to make room for open iron frame-work beds with canvas bunk bottoms, good enough for troops. The main theater and ball room were converted into a hospital for troops and crew during transatlantic voyages with an isolation ward established in the gymnasium on “A” Deck for contagious cases. The ship’s doctor’s office was used as a sick call station and dispensary for troops and crew. The portholes were painted black and dogged shut.

She was also given a formidable armament including a battery of eight 6″ guns for protection against surface raiders , as well as two “Y” guns which hurled depth bombs loaded with TNT to scare off U-boats, making her an auxiliary cruiser in all but name. A pair of 1-pounders for saluting and another couple of Colt machine guns for pier side protection were added as well. According to reports, she was attacked several times “by the undersea pirates and according to officers of the vessel one attacking sub was sunk by a shell from one of the six-inch guns” though this is perhaps not supported by post-war analysis.

Gun crew preparing to load one of the ship’s six-inch guns, circa 1918. Photographed by Zimmer. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41707

Her crew more than doubled from the German’s 1,200 to some 2,400 in U.S. service, including a young 18-year-old Quartermaster by the name of Humphrey DeForest Bogart.

She was still impressive, despite the warpaint.

Halftone reproduction of a photograph showing the ship moored to a buoy in 1918. She is painted in dazzle camouflage. The original photograph was taken by Enrique Muller, New York. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51396

Halftone reproduction of a photograph of the interior of the ship’s bridge, taken circa 1919. Note engine order telegraphs, chart table and steering wheel. This image was published in 1919 as one of ten photographs in a Souvenir Folder of views concerning USS Leviathan, many of which are detailed below. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 104693

Halftone reproduction of a photograph of the ship’s main dining room, taken circa 1919. Catalog #: NH 104689

Halftone reproduction of a photograph of the troops’ mess hall on board the ship, taken circa 1919. Note the fancy decor of this space, left over from her time as the German passenger liner Vaterland. Catalog #: NH 104690

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in the ship’s sick bay, circa 1919. Note the elegant doorway and windows, left over from her time as the German passenger liner Vaterland. Catalog #: NH 104695

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1919, showing one of the ship’s troop berthing compartments. Catalog #: NH 103201

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1919, showing cooks making chow by the barrel in a galley. Catalog #: NH 103203

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1919, showing the ship’s huge and richly decorated officers’ dining room. Catalog #: NH 103202

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1919, showing the operating board for the ship’s main propulsion steam turbines. Catalog #: NH 103204

At 7.34 A. M., 15 December 1917, Leviathan left her pier in Hoboken for her first trip across the Atlantic, with 7,254 troops and 2,000 sailors on board. Making over 21-knots and outpacing her escorts, her crew spent liberty in Liverpool by Christmas. Operating between Hoboken and Brest/Liverpool, she completed 10 round trips, carrying 119,215 fighting men Eastward before the armistice on 11 November 1918. Of the men of the AEF who made it to Europe, one in 20 went on Leviathan.

The front side of a Troop Billet card used circa 1917-1919, while the ship was transporting service personnel between the United States and Europe. See Photo # NH 104240-A-KN for the reverse side of this card. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2006. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 104240-KN

Pershing himself crossed back to the states on her 19th trip, westbound, along with his famous composite regiment selected from the entire A. E. F. Assistant SECNAV Franklin Roosevelt and his party returned from France on her.

Lot-8836-9: WWI – American Expeditionary Forces. General John J. Pershing on board USS Leviathan (ID 1326). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Her fastest round trip, from the U.S. to Europe and back, was 14 days and 21 hours, though they typically ran 26 days, accounting for loading and unloading of up to 14,300 men and their accompanying supplies and equipment.

As noted by SECNAV “Cup of Joe” Secretary Daniels in the most interesting tome of her WWI career:

“Although the Leviathan did not participate in any great naval engagement, although the battle flags never flew proudly at her mastheads as she swept into the tempest of a modern naval engagement, her achievement in carrying across the sea more than three divisions of American soldiers entitles the gallant ship’s name to a place forever in the hall of American naval fame.”

Tragically, on one crossing in late 1918, 2,000 of her passengers and crew took ill with Spanish Influenza while underway, and she arrived in Brest carrying 96 dead and dying.

Once the war was over, she completed another nine trips home from Europe, bringing the Americans back from “Over There.”

Decommissioned 29 October 1919, she was turned back over to the Shipping Board and she was retained as a war trophy.

Seeing use for her in future conflicts– after all, she could carry a whole division at a time and outrun any submarine– she was reconditioned with a new oil-fired plant and apportionments and put at the disposal of the United States Lines who used her as an ocean liner from 1923 onward.

S.S. Leviathan in drydock at Boston, Massachusetts, in 1923. She is undergoing preparations for her maiden voyage under the United States Lines flag, which commenced on 4 July of that year. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43035

S.S. Leviathan Steaming out of New York Harbor, circa the mid-1920s. The Manhattan skyline is in the background. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43553

S.S. Leviathan photographed from an aircraft, while underway at sea during the 1920s or 1930s. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41867

However, the now 60,000-ton vessel was an expensive giant too big to turn a profit and the line reportedly lost money on every voyage, especially during the dry days of Prohibition, with half of the cabins often empty. Although some 250,000 passengers booked on her in 13 years, the line went bankrupt and, with the agreement of the Shipping Board, she was sold for scrap in 1937. Had it not been for that, she certainly would have been used once more as a “trooper” in WWII.

Of her 301 documented voyages, just three were under a German flag.

As for her sisters, SS Imperator managed to spend WWI in Hamburg and was taken over by the U.S. Navy 5 May 1919 at Brest. Not really needing a second Leviathan, the Navy used her only briefly as a troop ship (USS Imperator) then sold her to the British Cunard Line who renamed the liner RMS Berengaria. Retired in 1938 in poor condition, she was scrapped after WWII.

The last of the line, SS Bismarck was incomplete at the time of the Great War and was seized by the British. Sailing in turn as RMS Majestic for the White Star Line and then RMS Caledonia under Cunard service, while being used by the Royal Navy as HMS Caledonia she caught fire and sank on 29 September 1939.

As for Leviathan, she is extensively remembered in maritime art.

“When the Leviathan went out” — “Seagate 1918” When the Leviathan went out Seagate 1918 Etching by Bernhardt Wall, 1918, depicting two children building a sand castle, as USS Leviathan (ID # 1326) steams past in the background. Courtesy of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 1924

USS Leviathan (ID # 1326) Water depicting the ship on her maiden Navy voyage from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Liverpool, England, with troops on board, Christmas Eve, 24 December 1917. Courtesy of CWO2 John A. Steel, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51398-KN

“A Fast Convoy” painting by Burnell Poole, depicting USS Allen (Destroyer # 66) escorting USS Leviathan (ID # 1326) in the War Zone, 1918. The original painting measures 60 x 33. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 42690-KN

And in Hamburg, her place of birth and original home port, the Hamburg International Maritime Museum has a great collection of 1-1250 scale models show her as the SS Vaterland (in the back) USS Leviathan (in the middle, with dazzle camouflage painting) and SS Leviathan (in the front) on display.

Then, of course, this guy will live on forever.

Publicity shot for “High Sierra” (Raoul Walsh, 1941), with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. Note the 1911, which would have been standard for the time he was on Leviathan.


USS Leviathan Description: (ID # 1326) Plan of Dazzle camouflage intended for the ship, circa 1918. This design, for Leviathan’s starboard side (and port below), is like, but not the same as the camouflage scheme she received. Note the Office of Naval Intelligence Register Number in the upper left. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51308 and 51389

(As troop ship)
Displacement: 58,000-tons
Length: 950 feet
Beam: 100 feet
Draft: 41 feet, 10 inches “when leaving New York with 10,000 troops”

“Place her on Fifth Avenue and she would spread from 42d Street across 45th Street. Stand her on end alongside the Woolworth Building, and she would overtop the Woolworth Building more than 50 feet.”

Crew: 2,400 including Engineering (12 officers and 950 men) and Commissary (7 officers and 350 men)
Engines: Parsons turbines, 46 boilers, 8,700 tons of coal (burns 900 per day at 26 knots sustained).
Armament: 8×6-inch, 2-1pdr, 2-Y guns, depth charge racks, 2 mg

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Warship Wednesday, July 5, 2017: HMs cruiser bruiser

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 5, 2017: HMs cruiser bruiser

Here we see the Queen Elizabeth-class battleship HMS Valiant as she fires a 15″ broadside, July 1944, against Japanese port and oil facilities on Sabang Island off the northern tip of Sumatra during Operation Crimson. At this stage of her life, the battlewagon was 30~years young and had survived massive fleet actions against the Kaiser’s High Seas Fleet in the Great War and Mussolini’s Regina Marine in WWII. An enforcer at the surrender of both of those fleets, she would be cruelly cheated of attending a third.

A member of the very successful Queen Elizabeth-class of “super-dreadnought,” they were fast for their day (24-knots), well-armored with as much as 13-inches of KC in their belt, tower and turrets; and packed a punch from eight massive BL 15 inch (381mm) Mk I naval guns in four twin turrets.

HMS Valiant firing her BL 15-inch Mk I guns, c.1939.

The Mk I, described by Navweaps as “quite possibly the best large-caliber naval gun ever developed by Britain and it was certainly one of the longest-lived of any nation, with the first ship-board firing taking place in 1915 and the last in 1954,” was a bruiser capable of firing a 1-ton shell out to 33,550 yards and could well-outrange most German naval guns. Some 184 of these guns were made by Armstrong Whitworth, W Beardmore, Vickers, Royal Gun Factory, and Coventry Ordnance Works, serving on just about every subsequent British battleship design. The guns were rotated between ships, having a life of about 200 rounds before requiring relining, and one that served on Valiant during Jutland later wound up being captured by the Japanese at Singapore where it was serving as shore-mounted coastal artillery.

But we are getting far ahead of ourselves.

The hero of our story was the fifth RN vessel named HMS Valiant in a line that included three different 18th/19th Century third-rate 74-gun ships of the line, and a Hector-class ironclad battleship which remained afloat for 90 years.

The American Ship PORCUPINE and the HMS VALIANT, 17 June 1813. On 17 June 1813, the American letter-of-marque, PORCUPINE, of 20 guns and 72 men at daylight found herself under the lee of the British 74-gun ship HMS VALIANT, Captain Robert Dudley Oliver. After a long chase and using every endeavor to escape, PORCUPINE was overtaken and compelled to surrender to the overwhelming force of her opponent. Description: Catalog #: USN 903313

HMS VALIANT (BRITISH BATTLESHIP, 1863) Description: Catalog #: NH 71209

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 74057) HMS Valiant Queen Elizabeth-class battleship and R-class destroyers: HMS Ulysses (F80), HMS Undine (G77) and HMS Sable (G91). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Ordered from Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland), in 1912 at a cost of £2,357,037, HMS Valiant (pennant 02) was commissioned 13 January 1916 and joined the Grand Fleet’s 5th Battle Squadron—under the command of Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas– along with three of her sisters, HMS Barham, HMS Malaya, and HMS Warspite. The quartet, with 32 15-inch and 56 6-inch guns between them, was a force to be reckoned with.

5th Battle Squadron, Grand Fleet, HMS Warspite, Valiant & Malaya about to open fire. Photo taken from HMS Barham. Colorized Photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter

At the lowest part of the Battle of Jutland for the British, moments after the battlecruisers HMS Indefatigable and Queen Mary had exploded, the 5th Battle Squadron intervened against the German I Scouting Group under Adm. Franz von Hipper and let the 15-inchers do their talking. In very short order, they damaged the battlecruisers SMS Lützow and Seydlitz, and a number of other German warships.

In very short order on 31 May, at 18:13, a 15-inch shell from one of the Queen Elizabeths struck Lützow; two more hits came at 18:25 and 18:30. Between 18:09 and 18:19, Seydlitz was hit by a 15-inch from either Barham or Valiant, striking the face of the port wing turret and disabling the guns. A second 15-inch shell penetrated the already disabled aft super firing turret and detonated the cordite charges that had not already burned. The ship also had two of her 150 mm guns disabled from British gunfire, and the rear turret lost its right-hand gun. Not bad for 20~ minutes work.

Hipper leaving the crippled Lutzow for SMS Moltke at Jutland, by Carl Becker

SMS Seydlitz seeing what hell looks like at Jutland, by Carl Becker

Lutzow eventually sank while Seydlitz limped back to port, her decks nearly awash. While each of the big German battlecruisers took immense damage from other British sluggers besides Valiant and her sisters, Hipper felt their sting.

SMS Seydlitz after the Battle of Jutland, 1916 Colorized Photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter

While a number of her sisters took hits at Jutland, Valiant came through unscathed, having fired 288 15-inch shells over the course of more than eight hours of the engagement. Her very enlightening Captain’s dispatch from the battle is here and is worth reading, as he reports several instances of German salvos coming within 10 yards and a torpedo only missing by 100. Not bad for a ship on her shakedown cruise just a few months before with a “green” crew.

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 74187) Battleship HMS Valiant firing in Scapa Flow. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 75203) Battleship HMS Valiant. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Suffering a collision with Warspite in August 1916, she spent the rest of the year in drydock under repair

THE ROYAL NAVY ON THE HOME FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 18779) HMS Valiant in a dry dock. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

THE ROYAL NAVY ON THE HOME FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 18780) HMS Valiant in a dry dock. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

The Great War spun down when it came to surface naval actions after Jutland, and Valiant only met the Germans again when the High Seas Fleet sortied at the end of the war to be interred at Scapa.

Queen Elizabeth-class super-dreadnought HMS Valiant at Scapa Flow, Scotland, in 1918 – with her German counter SMS Baden in the background.

Assigned to the 1st Battle Squadron, Valiant and her sisters remained in the Atlantic Fleet, then transferred to the Med in 1924.

Valiant June 16, 1924, Scapa From Dan McDonald Collection

Modernized in two extensive periods, one from 1929-30 and another from 1937-39, she bulked up due to anti-torpedo bulges, changed her catapults and several minor topside features, lost her torpedo tubes and a couple of her casemated 6-inch mounts in exchange for 20x 4.5-inch high angles and AAA guns, and had her machinery upgraded to help mitigate the extra tonnage, now over 36,500-tons in full load. Still, even with her new engines, she could only make 23.5 knots when wide open. She also picked up a Type 79Z search radar, one of the first fitted in the fleet.

HMS Valiant Photographed following her 1929-30 refit. She is carrying a Fairey III-F floatplane on her fantail catapult. This catapult was only carried during 1930-33. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command NH 52518

HMS Valiant photographed in late 1939, following modernization. Note her turreted 4.5-inch guns in place of the old casemated 6-inch low angles. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97486

World War II found her still under refit at Devonport, and she was only commissioned 30 November 1939, Captain Henry Bernard Rawlings, OBE, RN, in command.

She was immediately used to help escort the vital convoy TC 3, carrying some 8,000 Canadian soldiers, she sailed from Halifax in January 1940, ensuring the Canucks made it past the threat of German surface raiders.

Through March and into April, Valiant, along with HMS Hood, Rodney and Warspite, escorted the Norwegian convoys ON 17, ON 17A, HN 17, HN 20 and ON 21. On 7 April, Valiant only just missed tangling with SMS Hipper, fresh off ramming the plucky destroyer Glowworm.

Valiant was to spend the next two months in and out of Norwegian waters, providing AAA cover for the fleet, tasking for naval gun fire support at Narvik (suspended at the last minute), and escorting the withdrawing convoys after the defeat there in June.

Then Valiant was attached to Force H, and sent to the Med, where Churchill worried the Vichy French fleet, just pulled out of the war, would be a threat to the RN.

On 3 July, Valiant, along with Hood, Resolution, the carrier Ark Royal, and the light cruisers HMS Arethusa and Enterprise, stood just offshore of Mers-el-Kebir harbor and the battleships fired 36 salvos of 15-inch shells at the French fleet from extreme range, destroying the battleship Bretagne and severely damaging several other French ships including the battleship Dunkerque, flag of Admiral Gensoul. Dubbed Operation Catapult, the controversial one-sided “battle” was to leave 1,300 dead French sailors behind.

Over the next several months, Valiant, as part of Force H and later Force F, helped keep the supply lines open from Portsmouth to Gibraltar to Malta and Alexandria, shuttling convoys and dodging Italian and German planes and warships.

In September 1940, she escorted the carrier HMS Illustrious in her famous raid on the Italian port of Benghazi. The next month, she provided cover for convoy MB-6 to Malta. The saga of the RN’s Mediterranean Fleet in 1940-41.

This came to a head at the three-day Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941 near Crete, then a plump target for the Axis. Adm. Sir Andrew Cunningham’s force, comprising Valiant and her sisters Barham and Warspite, along with the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable and a gaggle of light cruisers and destroyers, faced the Italian force under Adm. Iachino consisting of the sexy new battleship Vittorio Veneto, three very large heavy cruisers, and a force of light cruisers and destroyers.

How big were those Italian stallions? The Zara, Fiume, and Pola were sisterships, built for the Italian Regina Marina in the 1930s to a design that surpassed Naval Treaty limits (14,500-tons, 8x203mm guns, 5.9-inches of armor, 32 knots) and were impressive.

Fast die gesamte italienische Flotte im Golf von Neapel zusammengezogen.
Im Golf von Neapel werden jetzt die Einheiten der italienischen Kriegsflotte zu der grossen Parade zusammengezogen, die der Führer während seines Besuches in Italien abnehmen wird. Auf unserem Bild sieht man die drei schweren Kreuzer (10.000 Tonnen) “Fiume”, “Zara” und “Pola”. Scherl Bilderdienst, 19.4.38 Zara, Fiume, and Pola in Naples in 1938. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2008-0214-500

So, were a spaghetti battleship and a three-pack of heavy cruisers enough for a trio of Queen Elizabeth-class dreadnoughts of Jutland vintage?


Pola picked up a mobility kill from a torpedo from a Swordfish torpedo bomber launched by Formidable while Zara and Fiume were detached from the rest of the fleet to protect Pola, and all three and a pair of destroyers were sunk in a close-range night engagement with the battleships Barham, Valiant, and Warspite at a range of just 3,000-yards. Italian casualties were very heavy, with 783 killed aboard Zara, 328 killed aboard Pola, 812 aboard Fiume. The destroyers Vittorio Alfieri and Giosué Carducci also vanished that night. The Brits removed the entire 1a Divisione Incrociatori from the Italian Naval List before breakfast.

Prince Phillip, then a junior officer on Valiant, commanded a searchlight from our subject during the night action. After he had located one target, he said: “At this point, all hell broke loose, as all our eight 15-inch guns, plus those of the flagship and Barham‘s started firing at the stationary cruiser, which disappeared in an explosion and a cloud of smoke.” He was later awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour.

Artist Frank Norton painted this nightime scene of the Battle of Matapan. HMAS Stuart is in the foreground, HMS Havock at left, and two Italian Zara-class destroyers in the background while Valiant illuminates with a spotlight. Radar gave the British the advantage during the night action.

Valiant made it through the battle but picked up two German 500-pound bombs the next month for her trouble off Crete.

Air attack was a constant threat in the Med during the period.

HMS Valiant (nearest to the camera) and HMS Resolution and is most likely taken during an Italian air attack (by SM 79 bombers) against Force H on 9 July 1940. The photograph is taken from HMS Enterprise.

Classmate HMS Barham, who Valiant fought alongside at Jutland and Cape Matapan, was sunk off the Egyptian coast by the German submarine U-331 with the loss of 862 crewmen, approximately two-thirds of her crew, on 25 November 1941.

The tragic sequence of her turning turtle and exploding is well-known.

The Italians would soon get revenge of their own on Valiant and her sister, Queen Elizabeth.

On the night of 18/19 December 1941, six Italian Navy divers of the Decima Flottiglia MAS, working from three chariot-type human torpedoes (termed maiali–pigs– by their users), worked their way past the British defenses at Alexandria and found the two battleships at anchor. Lt. Luigi Durand de la Penne pressed his SLC (maiale nº 221) to Valiant while his swim buddy, Emilio Bianchi, was otherwise out of action with a bad regulator on his rebreather, and placed the Siluro a Lenta Corsa (Slow-running torpedo) just under the old battleship’s hull.

A bit dramatic, but you get the idea

Surfaced, he and Bianchi were captured as they waited by a buoy and taken aboard the targeted ship, placed coincidentally over the ticking mine they had just deposited. Warning the Valiant‘s skipper moments before the human torpedo went off, the frogmen were brought back on deck just in time to see the other mines explode under the Queen Elizabeth, Norwegian tanker Sagona and destroyer HMS Jervis.

A fairly decent dramatization, showing the correct use of a SLC with its 600-pound detachable limpet mine warhead, planted under Valiant‘s A turret.

Valiant and her sister took on water and came very near to rest on the bottom of Alexandria, but did not technically sink and were repaired. Even Jervis eventually went back into action. However, putting the two battlewagons off-line for several months did throw British Naval supremacy in the Med at a crucial time before the U.S. made it to the theater.

When Churchill received news of the attack, he said, “Six Italians, dressed in rather unusual diving suits and equipped with materials of laughably little cost, have swung the military balance of power in the Mediterranean in favor of the Axis.”

Valiant was towed to Admiralty Floating Dock 5 two days later for dewatering and was under repair at Alexandria until April 1942 when she sailed to Durban, South Africa, where she operated with Force B off Africa in exercises for the defense of East Africa and operations against Vichy-held Madagascar.

June 1943 found her back in the Med with Force H, supporting the invasion of Sicily where she bombarded Italian 155mm coastal batteries south of Reggio and covered the landings at Salerno Bay. Fending off Italian and German air attacks, on 9 September Valiant, along with sister Warspite and a force of destroyers and light cruisers were detailed to Operation Gibbon, the surrender of the Italian Navy.

Off Cape de Garde, Algeria they met two battleships, three cruisers and eight destroyers who sailed from La Spezia to be interred and escorted them to Malta. Missing from the Italian battleline was the new battleship Roma, which the Germans had sunk via Fritz-X guided bomb.

Italian Fleet arrives at Malta, 10 September 1943. HMS Valiant leads the line as the Italian fleet steams into Malta, under the terms of the Italian Armistice. The scene is framed by the after 15-inch guns of HMS Warspite. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: SC 188574

Valiant‘s last engagement in Europe was an NGFS mission against the town of Nocera, and a nearby road junction, firing 19 rounds of 15-inch from a range of approximately 28,000 yards on 16 September.

She was then recalled to Scapa to begin working up for the RN’s “pivot to Asia” and she soon shipped for the Indian Ocean where she joined the British Eastern Fleet, built around the carriers HMS Illustrious, USS Saratoga (who along with three U.S. destroyers formed Task Group 58.5), HMS Formidable, battlecruiser HMS Renown, French battleship Richelieu and Valiant‘s sister Queen Elizabeth.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 19832) HMS VALIANT photographed from HMS FORMIDABLE at sea. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 15152) As seen from the flight deck of HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, the battleship HMS VALIANT has a practice shoot for its 15 inch guns during exercises. The planes in the foreground are Fairey Fulmars of 806 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 23483) HMS VALIANT, battleship of the British Eastern Fleet, with FFS RICHELIEU astern. The photograph was taken from the battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH, flagship of Admiral Sir James Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO in the Bay of Bengal during the action against the Japanese at Sabang. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Richelieu, HMS Valiant, and HMS Renown Cruising About the Indian Ocean On 12 May 1944

Getting ready for the continued push East, in August 1944, the venerable battleship was damaged in a drydock accident at Trincomalee, Ceylon, requiring her to return to England for extensive repairs that lasted into 1946, sadly missing out in the last chapter of the conflict.

In August 1946, she was relegated to harbor training ship for stoker ratings at Devonport. In this inactive pier side role, she was stripped of her name and took the traditional training establishment title of HMS Imperieuse. However, she would only fulfill this role for about 20 months, for she was sold to BISCO on 19 March 1948 for her value in scrap by the ton. The hard-fighting ship arrived at the Breaker’s yard at Caimryan 12 August and was slowly dismantled over the next year.

Her three remaining sisters, Queen Elizabeth, Warspite, and Malaya, suffered similar fates.

Valiant‘s name was continued in British service by the class-leading nuclear-powered attack submarine HMS Valiant (S102), commissioned 1966 and paid off in 1994 (though still in storage); as well as the 140-foot Border Agency (Customs) cutter HMC Valiant, commissioned in 2004.

Valiant is also remembered in maritime art.

Prince Philip, current Duke of Edinburgh, and long-time consort of Queen Elizabeth II, remains as one of Valiant‘s last remaining crew members at age 96, and is currently Lord High Admiral of the Royal Navy, though he is set to retire from his official duties sometime this fall. As such, he is likely the last WWII battleship sailor anywhere still on the active list.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope and his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, formerly of HMS Valiant. 


THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 12126) The British battleship HMS VALIANT underway at sea. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

32,590 long tons (33,110 t)
33,260 long tons (33,790 t) (Deep load)
Length: 643 ft. 9 in (196.2 m)
Beam: 90 ft. 7 in (27.6 m)
Draught: 33 ft. (10.1 m)
Installed power:
75,000 shp (56,000 kW)
24 Yarrow boilers
4 Shafts
2 Steam turbine sets
Speed: 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Range: 5,000 nmi (9,260 km; 5,750 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
919 (1915)
1,218 (1919)
Radar: Type 273 SR(Surface Radar) on the foremast, a Type SR (Surface Radar) 284 radar on the LA DCT (Low Angle Director Control Tower) and a Type HA (High Angle) 285 on each of the HA DCT’s, a Type 291 AW (Air Warning) on the mastheads and an IFF interrogator.
Aircraft: 2-3 floatplanes
Armament: (as built)
4 × twin 15-inch (381 mm) guns
14 × single 6-inch (152 mm) guns
2 × single 3-inch (76 mm) 20 cwt AA guns
4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Armament (1945)
4 × twin 15-inch (381 mm) guns
10 × twin 4.5 in (114 mm) Dual-purpose guns
4 × octuplet QF 2-pdr (40 mm) AA guns
26 × twin Oerlikon 20 mm (0.8 in) AA guns
4 × quadruple Vickers 0.5 in (12.7 mm) AA machineguns
Armor: Krupp cemented armor (KC)
Waterline belt: 13 in (330 mm)
Deck: 1–3 in (25–76 mm)
Barbettes: 7–10 in (178–254 mm)
Gun turrets: 11–13 in (279–330 mm)
Conning tower: 13 in (330 mm)

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A special Combat Gallery Sunday: The original Fighting Irish, on the eve of the Wheatfield, 154 years ago

Absolution Under Fire, By Paul Wood, via the Snite Museum of Art Notre Dame. Note the drummer boys in distinctive Zouave uniforms and the famous green harp flag. Click to bigup

On July 2nd 1863, minutes before the Irish Brigade would charge the Wheatfield at Gettysburg, Father William Corby gave absolution to the men. Corby would later become President of Notre Dame University and the following quote from Col. St. Clair Mulholland comes from their web page on Corby:

Colonel St. Clair Mulholland was attached with the Irish Brigade and later gave this account of Corby’s famous absolution [Originally published in the Philadelphia Times, reprinted in Scholastic, April 3, 1880, pages 470-471]:

There is yet a few minutes to spare before starting, and the time is occupied in one of the most impressive religious ceremonies I have ever witnessed. The Irish Brigade, which had been commanded formerly by General Thomas Francis Meagher, and whose green flag had been unfurled in every battle in which the Army of the Potomac had been engaged from the first Bull Run to Appomattox, was now commanded by Colonel Patrick Kelly, of the Eighty-eighth New York, and formed a part of this division. The brigade stood in columns of regiments closed in mass. As the large majority of its members were Catholics, the Chaplain of the brigade Rev. William Corby, CSC, proposed to give a general absolution to all the men before going into the fight. While this is customary in the armies of Catholic countries of Europe, it was perhaps the first time it was ever witnessed on this continent… Father Corby stood upon a large rock in front of the brigade, addressing the men; he explained what he was about to do, saying that each one would receive the benefit of the absolution by making a sincere Act of Contrition, and firmly resolving to embrace the first opportunity of confessing his sins, urging them to do their duty well, and reminding them of the high and sacred nature of their trust as soldiers and the noble object for which they fought. The brigade was standing at “Order arms,” and as he closed his address, every man fell on his knees, with head bowed down. Then, stretching his right hand towards the brigade, Father Corby pronounced the words of absolution. The scene was more than impressive, it was awe-inspiring. Near by, stood General Hancock, surrounded by a brilliant throng of officers, who had gathered to witness this very unusual occurrence and while there was profound silence in the ranks of the Second Corps, yet over to the left, out by the peach orchard and Little Round Top, where Weed, and Vincent, and Haslett were dying, the roar of the battle rose and swelled and reechoed through the woods. The act seemed to be in harmony with all the surroundings. I do not think there was a man in the brigade who did not offer up a heartfelt prayer. For some it was their last; they knelt there in their grave-clothes — in less than half an hour many of them were numbered with the dead of July 2.


Warship Wednesday, June 21, 2017: The Tsar’s everlasting musketeer

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, June 21, 2017: The Tsar’s everlasting musketeer

Here we see the Uragan/Bronenosets-class monitor Strelets as she appeared in the heyday of her career in the late 19th Century in the Baltic Fleet of the Tsar’s Imperial Russian Navy. A byproduct of a strange time in Russian-U.S. history, she somehow endures today.

The Misinterpreted Russian Navy Mission in the US Civil War that may have accidentally helped the North win the conflict.

In 1863, it looked as if the mighty British Empire may intervene in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. War fever had come to London early in the conflict after the “Trent Affair” while British firms such as Enfield and Whitworth sold tremendous amounts of arms of all kinds to Confederate agents which were in turn often smuggled through the U.S. naval quarantine via British blockade-runners. Confederate raiders including the notorious CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah were constructed in English harbors. British war tourist Colonel (later General Sir) Arthur Fremantle in 1863 had just returned from three months in both the U.S. and Confederate commands fighting the war and loudly pronounced that the Confederates would certainly be victorious.

Relations between the United States and Tsarist Russia were warmer than with many other European nations at the time. Cassius Marcellus Clay, a well-known abolitionist, was ambassador to the court of Tsar Alexander II during the conflict. It was Clay’s report on the Tsar’s Emancipation of 23 million serfs in 1861 that helped pave the way for Lincolns own Emancipation Proclamation of the four million slaves the next year. American engineers and railway organizers were helpful in starting the early Russian railway system. Clay openly encouraged a military alliance and  thought of Russia as a hedge between possible British intervention on the Confederate side.

On 24 September 1863, two separate Russian naval squadrons arrived in U.S. waters unannounced on both the East and West Coasts.

The Russian Atlantic fleet had sailed from the Baltic and arrived at New York under command of RADM Lesovskii with three large frigates and a trio of smaller vessels. The fleet included the new and fearsome 5,100-ton U.S.-built screw frigate Alexander Nevsky with her 51 60-pounder naval guns.

Crew of the Russian Frigate Osliaba – Alexandria, VA, 1863

The Russian Pacific fleet that arrived on the West Coast at San Francisco was under command of RADM Popov and consisted of four small gunboats with a pair of armed merchant cruisers.

The ships were saluted and allowed entry as being on a friendly port call. The American media and political machine immediately interpreted the reason for these naval visits as clear Russian support for Lincoln.

The real reason, however, seems to be something quite different.

Poland, largely occupied by Russia, was in open revolt in the summer of 1863. The crisis that followed included the possibility that Britain and or France would intervene on the side of the insurgent Poles. The Tsar, fearing his isolated Pacific and Atlantic naval squadrons would be seized or destroyed by superior British or French units in the event of war, sent them into neutral U.S. ports to seek refuge. This fact was held from the Americans and the fleets’ Russian officers simply stated that they were in American ports for “not unfriendly purposes.”

The respective admirals of the Russian squadrons had sealed orders to place themselves at the disposal of the U.S. government in the event of a joint British or French intervention on both Russia and the United States. In the event of Russia entering war with the Anglo-French forces alone then the Russian ships were to sortie against the commercial fleets of those vessels as best as they could and then seek internment.

Several historians claim that the British government saw this mysterious visit by the Russians in U.S. waters as an open confirmation of a secret military pact between the two future superpowers. This interpretation further helped deter foreign recognition of the Confederate cause and resulted in the extinguishing of the South’s flame of hope. It can also be claimed that it stalled British intervention in the Tsar’s problems in Poland with the thought that it could result in a U.S. invasion of Canada.

When the Polish crisis abated in April 1864, the Russian fleets were recalled quietly to their respective home waters. The dozen Tsarist warships had conducted port calls and training cruises in U.S. and neighboring waters for almost seven months during the war while managing to avoid the conflict altogether. In the late fall of 1863, with rumors of Confederate raiders lurking on the West Coast, Popov reassured to the governor of California that he and his fleet would indeed protect the coast of their de facto ally if the raiders did appear.

The U.S. Navy, on the cutting edge of ironclad steam warship design, passed along plans and expertise to their Russian colleagues who had no such vessels. By 1865, the Tsar had a fleet of 10 ultra-modern 200-foot long ironclad battleships based on the monitor USS Passaic. These ships, known to the Russians as the Uragan/Bronenosetz class were a match for any European navy of the time– at least in their home waters.

In 1867, Russian Ambassador Baron Stoeckel advised US Secretary Seward that the Russian government would entertain bids for the failing colony of Alaska, which was rapidly accepted. Cassius Clay, still in Russia, helped to conduct the negations from inside the Winter Palace. The Russians even rapidly transferred control of the territory, which was seen by many to be worthless nearly a year before Congress ratified the transfer and in effect, couldn’t give it back.

This odd incident of the Russian fleets’ visit may have prevented what would have certainly been one of the planet’s first and possibly oddest of world wars. The real reasons for the Russian interlude were only uncovered and publicized nearly 50 years later in 1915 by military historian Frank Golder.

But let’s get back to the monitors

These modified Passaic-type ships were low in the water, single turret “cheesebox on a raft” style armored ships that could be fearsome in coastal waters. Their wrought-iron armor, stacked in 1-inch plates, varied between a single plate on deck to 10 inches on the turret, which was filled with a pair of 9-inch smoothbore guns with 100 shells each. The steam-powered turret took 35 seconds to make a full rotation.

A pair of boilers vented through a single stack pushed a 460ihp engine to about 8-knots when wide open, though in actuality they rarely broke 6.

As they had a very low freeboard indeed (just 18 inches above the waterline when fully loaded) the ships were intended for the defense of the Gulf of Finland and St. Petersburg, with memories of the Anglo-French fleet ruling the Baltic during the Crimean War still a recent memory.

Ten vessels were built, all with colorful names: Uragan “Hurricane,” Tifon “Typhon,” Strelets “Sagittarius,” Edinorog “Unicorn,” Bronenosets “Armadillo,” Latnik “Cuirassier,” Koldun “Sorcerer,” Perun (the Slavic god of lightning and thunder), Veshchun “Snake Charmer,” and Lava.

The hero of our story, Strelets, while named for a zodiac symbol for Sagittarius, was the Tsarist terminology for the early corps of musketeers established in the 16th century and retained until Peter the Great decided they were getting too big for their collective britches after a series of palace coups by the Moscow-based units.

“Streltsy” . Sergei Ivanov 1909

Laid down at the Galernyi Island Shipyard, Saint Petersburg on 1 December 1863, just weeks after her plans had been obtained in the U.S., she was commissioned 15 June 1865, built at a cost of 1.1 million rubles alongside sister Edinorog. The pair were the last of the 10 completed.

Sistership Edinorog. Note how low the freeboard was.

Their eight remaining sisters were completed in a series of four other yards, with all joining the fleet by the summer of 1865.

Russian monitor Veshchun as completed. She was built from sections at the Cockerill yard in Seraing, Belgium. Courtesy J. Meister Collection, 1976. Catalog #: NH 84753

Russian monitor Lava as completed. She was built at the Nevsky factory. Courtesy J. Meister Collection, 1976. Catalog #: NH 84754

Monitors at Kronstadt. Watercolor by A. A. Tronya

By 1868, the 9-inch smoothbores were replaced by 15-inch Dahlgren-style guns built to U.S. plans at the Aleksandrovsk gun factory, for which just 50 shells could be carried in her magazine.

However, these guns were soon obsolete and were in turn replaced by Krupp-designed, Obukhov-made M1867 229/14 breechloaders. One of these guns was the subject of an explosion near the breech in 1876 that claimed the lives of five.

Diagram showing the location of sailors in the tower of the monitor Sagittarius at the time of the breakthrough of the powder gases on August 10, 1876

This led to another armament replacement in 1878 with 229/19 M1877 rifles augmented by a pair of 45-mm rapid-fire guns on an increasingly cluttered deck to which 5-barreled 37/17 Hotchkiss revolving cannon were also later added.

Rapidly obsolete in the twilight of the 19th Century, on 1 February 1892 Strelets and the rest of her class were deemed “coastal defense ships” and by 1900 all 10 sisters were withdrawn from service and disarmed.

While many were soon scrapped, Strelets was reclassified as a floating workshop at Kronstadt on 22 February 1901 and was retained by the fleet until Christmas Eve 1955.

As such, she witnessed the Baltic Fleet sail away to destruction in the Russo-Japanese War in (1904-05), supported operations against the Germans (1914-1917) in the Great War, witnessed the Red Fleet rise in the Revolution, withstood the British in the Russian Civil War, survived the storming of Kronstadt by the Reds in 1921, lent her shops to the Red Banner Fleet against the Finns (1939-40) then the Germans again (1941-45)– in all spending over 90 years on the rolls in one form or another.

After leaving naval service she was retained in a variety of roles in and around Leningrad/St. Petersburg and in 2015 was found in floating condition, her internals still showing off those classic Civil War lines.

She has since been recovered by a group terming itself “The Foundation for Historic Boats” who, together with the Russian Central Military History Museum, are attempting to restore her to a more monitor-like condition. She could very well be the oldest monitor remaining afloat.

At rest near the cruiser Aurora

For more information in that, click here.


Displacement: 1,500–1,600 long tons (1,524–1,626 t)
Length: 201 ft. (61.3 m)
Beam: 46 ft. (14.0 m)
Draft: 10.16–10.84 ft. (3.1–3.3 m)
Installed power:
460hp 2-cylinder direct-acting steam engine, 1 shaft, 1 4-lop. screw
2 rectangular Morton boilers, 1 stack
Speed: 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph)
Range: 1,440 nmi (2,670 km; 1,660 mi) at 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph) with 100 tons coal
Complement: 1865: 96 (8); 1877: 110 (10); 1900, assigned support personnel
1865: 2 × 9 in (229 mm) smoothbore guns
1868: 2 × 15 in (381 mm) smoothbore Rodman guns
1873: 2 × 9 in (229 mm) rifled guns, 2x45mm guns
1890: 2 × 9 in (229 mm) rifled guns, 2x 47/40, 2x 5-barreled 37/17 Hotchkiss revolving cannon
1900: Disarmed
Armor: wrought Izhora iron
Hull: 5 in (127 mm)
Gun turret: 11 in (279 mm)
Funnel base: 6 in (152 mm)
Conning tower: 8 in (203 mm)

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.

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.

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Of pikes, cutlass and bearskin caps

Some 202 years ago this week, a 10-ship squadron of the newly established U.S. Navy under the command of Commodore Stephen Decatur was taking the fight to the Barbary Coast pirates.

Sailing from New York in May, on 18 June they captured the Algerian frigate Mashuda of 46 guns, then the next day bagged the 22-gun brig Estedio.

The below uniform plate shows seamen and officers as they appeared in the most peculiar ship-to-ship fighting attire of the campaign.

From the NHHC:

Although the uniform instructions of 1813 had provided for the dress of officers of the United States Navy, no provisions were included for clothing the enlisted personnel. However, the dress of the men was reasonably standard, for all ships carried clothing in “slop stores” under control of the purser. Clothing was procured under contract at the Navy Yards, stored and issued to the vessels. The invitations to bid on clothing contracts listed blue and white trousers, shirts, vests, jackets and glazed hats. This clothing is shown in paintings and sketches of the period and was very much like that worn by the Royal Navy.

The standard arms of seamen were the pike and cutlass shown in the painting. The weapons were stored aboard ship in racks on deck so they were readily available to the men in time of combat. The pike corresponded basically to the musket and bayonet of the Marines attached to the ship for close fighting. The boarding helmets are typical of the period which were described in Samuel Leech’s Thirty Years from Home, or a Voice from the Main Deck, published in Boston in 1843. Leech was a British seaman, captured on board the Macedonian in 1812, who later enlisted in the United States Navy. When he signed on the brig Syren June 1813, he noted that all hands were supplied with “stout leather caps, something like those used by firemen. These were crossed by two strips of iron, covered with bearskins, and were designed to defend the head, in boarding an enemy’s ship, from the stroke of a cutlass. Strips of bearskin were likewise used to fasten them on, serving the purpose of false whiskers, and causing us to look as fierce as hungry wolves.”

The officer shown is a warrant, wearing the short blue coat, with a rolling collar, prescribed for boatswains, gunners, carpenters and sailmakers under the 1813 uniform order. The straw hat is the warm weather version of the black round hat specified for the forward warrant officers in full dress. The round hat was also worn by commissioned officers in undress and many contemporary portraits of the War of 1812 show this headgear along with the short jacket. This was a more suitable garb for shipboard duty than the undress coat of the 1813 order which was a tail coat like that of full dress, but with a rolling cape or turndown collar instead of the formal standing one. While commissioned officers were directed to wear white trousers in full dress, the warrants wore blue trousers. However, it had been the practice for some time to wear white trousers in undress or service dress in tropical climates even though they were not covered by the regulations.

Under Every Leaf.

A Site for the British Empire 1860-1913


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