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Guarding the fort

Official Caption: “Dec. 1942: Production. B-17 heavy bomber. An Army sentry guards new B-17F (Flying Fortress) bombers at the airfield of Boeing’s Seattle plant. The ship will be delivered to the Army and the Navy after they have successfully undergone flight tests. The Flying Fortress has performed with great credit in the South Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a four-engine heavy bomber capable of flying at high altitudes.”

Dec. 1942 Production. B-17 heavy bomber Army sentry Boeing's Seattle plant Winchester 12 shotgun riot gun

Photo by Andreas Feininger, Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) LC-USE6- D-008483

The MP is attired in a mix of Doughboy and 1930’s gear with a 10-pouch belt, M1917 Brodie helmet, wool gloves, pre-1938 single-breasted overcoat, class B uniform complete with tie and khaki canvas leggings. His primary arm is a Winchester Model 12 riot gun.

As noted by Bruce Canfield (Complete Guide to U.S. Military Combat Shotguns), factory records indicated that Winchester delivered 61,014 Model 12s to the government between April 1942 and March 1944 in a mix of riot, training (field) and trench variants. These remained in use through Vietnam.

As for the B-17, Boeing would produce 6,981 of the iconic four-engined bombers, slightly over half of the aircraft’s 12,731-frame run. While the Seattle plant would crank out 2,300 early B-17Fs as in the photo above (note the two-piece bombardier’s nose glazing and lack of a chin turret), the majority– 4,035 bombers– would be the legendary B-17G, which bristled with 13 machine guns.

Warship Wednesday, July 31, 2019: “80 Sen,” or a young Yamamoto’s Italian Stallion

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 31, 2019: 80 Sen

NHHC Collection Photo # NH 83034

Here we see a crooked image from the files of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, likely a quick snapshot taken from the deck of a rented junk, showing the coastal defense ship (formerly classified as an armored cruiser, or junjokan) Nisshin of the Imperial Japanese Navy as she sat at a Hong Kong mooring buoy, in October 1920. Note the Emperor’s chrysanthemum marking on the bow, and inquisitive members of her crew on the side– likely wondering just who was in the approaching small boat with the camera. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but this ship had once gone toe-to-toe with a much larger opponent and come out on top, although with the scars to show it.

If you like that photo, how about another two taken the same day, with her crew’s laundry drying and a picturesque junk added for Hong Kong flavor:

NH 83032

NH 83033

Anywho, you didn’t come here for Hong Kong laundry stories.

Built around the turn of the Century by Gio. Ansaldo & C shipbuilders, Genoa, Italy, as an updated version of the Giuseppe Garibaldi armored cruiser class, Nisshin (or Nissin, a name that roughly translates to “Japan”) was designed by Italian naval architect Edoardo Masdea as a vessel only smaller than a 1st-rate (pre-dreadnought) battleship of the era, yet larger and stronger than most cruisers that could oppose it.

The Garibaldi class was innovative (for 1894,) with a 344-foot long/7,200-ton hull capable of making 20-knots and sustaining a range of more than 7,000 nm at 12 when stuffed with enough coal. Although made in Italy, she was almost all-British from her Armstrong batteries to her Bellville boilers, Whitehead torpedoes, and Harvey armor.

Armored with a belt that ran up-to 5.9-inches thick, Garibaldi could take hits from faster cruisers and gunboats while being able to dish out punishment from a pair of Elswick (Armstrong) 10-inch guns that no ship smaller than her could absorb. Capable of outrunning larger ships, she also had a quartet of casemate-mounted torpedo tubes and extensive rapid-fire secondary batteries to make life hard on the enemy’s small ships and merchantmen.

These cruisers were designed for power projection on a budget and the Argentine Navy, facing a quiet arms race between Brazil and Chile on each side, needed modern ships. They, therefore, scooped up not only the Garibaldi (commissioned in 1895) but also the follow-on sister-ships General Belgrano and General San Martín (built by Orlando of Livorno in 1896) and Genoa-made Pueyrredón (1898) to make a quartet of powerful cruisers. These ships, coupled with a pair of battleships ordered later in the U.S., helped make the Argentine navy for about two decades the eighth most powerful in the world (after the big five European powers, Japan, and the United States), and the largest in Latin America.

The design was well-liked, with Spain moving to buy two (but only taking delivery of one in the end, the ill-fated Cristóbal Colón, which was sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish American War) and Italy electing to purchase five further examples of the type.

Why all the talk about Argentina and Italy?

Well, because Nisshin and her sistership Kasuga were originally ordered by the Italians in 1900 as Mitra (Yard #130) and Roca (#129), respectively, but then sold while still on the ways to Argentina to further flesh out the fleet of that South American country’s naval forces, who dutifully renamed them Mariano Moreno and Rivadavia.

At some 8,500-tons (full), these final Garibaldis were 364-feet long overall and were roughly the same speed and carried the same armor plan (with Terni plate) as their predecessors.

However, they differed in armament, with Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga carrying a single 10-inch EOC gun forward and twin 8″/45s aft, while Roca/Moreno/Nisshin carried the twin 8-inchers both forward and aft.

Stern 8"/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship's officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during "Great White Fleet" around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

Stern 8″/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship’s officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during “Great White Fleet” around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

[Of note, the same 8-inch EOC guns were also used on other British-built Japanese armored cruisers (Adzuma, Asama, Iwate, Izumo, Tokiwa, and Yakumo) so they weren’t too out of place when Japan took delivery of these ships in 1904 instead of Argentina.]

Both Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga and Roca/Moreno/Nisshin were launched, fitted out and ran builders’ trials in Italy under the Argentine flag.

Armada Argentina crucero acorazado ARA Moreno, at 1903 launch. Note Italian and Argentine flags. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Nisshin Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese NH 58664

Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese. Photo credited to her builder Ansaldo. NH 58665

With the Japanese and Imperial Russia circling each other tensely in late 1903, and Argentina not really wanting to take final delivery of these new cruisers, Buenos Aries shopped them to the Tsar’s kopeck-pinching Admiralty only to be rebuffed over sticker shock, leaving the Tokyo to pick them up for £760,000 each– considered a high price at the time but a bargain that the Russians would likely later regret. The Argentines would later reuse the briefly-issued Moreno and Rivadavia names for their matching pair of Massachusetts-built battleships in 1911

Nisshin photographed at Genoa, Italy in January 1904. This ship was built in Italy by Ansaldo of Genoa and competed on January 17, 1904. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101923

With a scratch British/Italian contract delivery crew, Kasuga and Nisshin (their names are taken from Meiji-period steam warships of the 1860s) set sail immediately for the Far East and were already outbound of Singapore by the time the balloon finally went up between the Russians and Japanese in February 1904. The sisters were soon in the gun line off Russian-held Port Arthur, lending their fine British-made batteries to reducing that fortress, and took part in both the ineffective Battle of the Yellow Sea in August 1904 (where Nisshin was lightly damaged) and the much more epic Battle of Tsushima in May 1905.

Carrying the flag of VADM Baron Misu Sotarō, Nisshin fired something on the order of 180 heavy shells during Tsushima, exchanging heavy damage with the 15,000-ton Russian battleship Oslyabya and others– taking several 12-inch hits to show for it. The Japanese cruiser had three of her four 8-inch guns sliced off and a number of her crew, to include a young Ensign Isoroku Yamamoto, wounded. The future commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II had the index and middle fingers on his left hand shorn off by a splinter, earning him the wardrobe nickname “80 sen” as a manicure cost 10 sen per digit at the time.

The forward gun turret and superstructure of the Japanese armored cruiser Nisshin following the Battle of Tsushima, showing 8-inch guns severed by Russian 12-inch shells

From a different angle

Another view

Aft turret of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Starboard 12-pound gun of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Oslyabya, in turn, was ultimately lost in the course of the battle, taking the Russian Squadron’s second-in-command, Capt. Vladimir Ber, and half of her crew with her to the bottom of the Korea Strait.

Japanese cruiser Nisshin, listed as June 24, 1905, at Kure, which is just a month after Tsushima and may be an incorrect date as she looks almost brand new. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

For both Kasuga and Nisshin, Tsushima was their brightest moment under the Rising Sun.

Greatly modified later with Japanese-made Kampon boilers replacing their Italian ones, along with a host of other improvements, Kasuga went on to serve as a destroyer squadron flagship in World War I looking out for German surface raiders and escorting Allied shipping between Australia and Singapore. She later took Imperial troops to Vladivostok in 1918 as part of the Allied Intervention into the Russian Civil War.

Nisshin during WWI. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

As for Nisshin, she also spent her time as a destroyer squadron leader on the lookout for the Kaiser’s wolves and was later dispatched to the Mediterranean as part of the Japanese 2nd Special Squadron (Suma-class cruiser Akashi, the cruiser Izumo, 8 Kaba-class destroyers and 4 Momo-class destroyers). Deployed in late 1917, the squadron was tasked with riding shotgun over Allied troopships steaming between Malta and Salonica and from Alexandria to Taranto and Marseille.

Photographed at Port Said, Egypt, on October 27, 1917. The early French mixed battery pre-dreadnought Jauréguiberry (1893-1934) can be seen at left background. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101922

In all, the force escorted nearly 800 ships and engaged German and Austrian subs something like 40 times (although without sinking any).
After the Armistice, selected crews from the Squadron marched in the 1919 victory parades in Paris and London.

To close out Japan’s involvement in the Great War, Nisshin returned home with seven captured German U-boats, (U-46, U-55, U-125, UC-90, UC-99, UB-125, and UB-143) after stops in Malta and other friendly ports along the way from England to Yokosuka, arriving there in June 1919. The former German boats went on to an uninteresting life of their own under the Kyokujitsu-ki, used for testing, salvage exercises and floating jetties. While most of these submarines were low-mileage vessels of little notoriety, U-46 (Hillebrand) and U-55 (Blue Max winner Willy Werner) were very successful during the war, accounting for 116 Allied vessels of some 273,000 tons between them.

IJN Nissin at Malta with captured German UC-90 U-boat, via IWM

Nisshin, photographed March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58666

Nisshin, photographed in March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58667

Japanese Cruiser Nisshin U-boats escorting surrendered German submarines allocated to Japan, March 1919, Malta, by Frank Henry Algernon Mason, via the IWM

Disarmed and largely relegated to training tasks, Nisshin and Kasuga were put on the sidelines after the Great War, replaced by much better ships in the Japanese battle line.

Hulked, Nisshin was eventually disposed of as part of a sinkex in the Inland Sea in 1936, then raised by Shentian Maritime Industry Co., Ltd, patched up and sunk a second time in 1942 during WWII by the new super battleship Yamato, whose 18.1″/45cal Type 94 guns likely made quick work of her.

Her immediate sister, Kasuga, used as a floating barracks at Yokosuka, was sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft in July 1945 then later raised and scrapped after the war. Incidentally, the two Japanese Garibaldis outlasted their Italian sisters, all of which were disposed of by the 1930s. Their everlasting Argentine classmates, however, lingered on until as late as 1954 with the last of their kind, ARA Pueyrredon, ironically being towed to Japan for scrapping that year.

Of note, the British 8″/45s EOCs removed from Nisshin, Kasuga and the other Japanese 1900s armored cruisers in the 1920s and 30s were recycled and used as coastal artillery, including four at Tokyo Bay, four at Tarawa (Betio) and another four at Wake Island once it was captured in 1941.

Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops mount a British-made, Vickers eight-inch naval cannon into its turret on Betio before the battle. This film was developed from a Japanese camera found in the ruins while the battle was still on. Via http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-C-Tarawa/index.html

Destruction of one of the four Japanese eight-inch EOC guns on Betio caused by naval gunfire and airstrikes, 1943. Department of Defense photo (USMC) 63618

Nisshin’s name was reused for use on a well-armed seaplane/midget submarine carrier that saw extensive action in WWII during the Guadalcanal campaign, where she was lost.  It has not been reused further.

Specs:

Jane 1914 entry, listing the class as first-class cruisers

Displacement: 7,700 t (7,578 long tons) std, 8,500 full
Length: 366 ft 7 in (o/a), 357 wl
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft: 24 ft 1 in, 25.5 max
Machinery: (1904)
13,500 ihp, 2 vertical triple-expansion steam engines, 8 Ansaldo marine boilers, 2 shafts
Speed: 20 knots at 14,000 shp, although in practice were limited to 18 at full load.
Range: 5,500 nmi at 10 knots on 1316 tons of coal, typically just 650 carried
Complement: 600 as built, 568 in Japanese service.
Armor: (Terni)
Belt: 2.8–5.9 in
Deck: 0.79–1.57 in
Barbette: 3.9–5.9 in
Conning tower: 5.9 in
Armament:
(1904)
2 twin 8″/45 EOC (classified as Type 41 guns by the Japanese)
14 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
10 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
6 single QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns
2 Maxim machine guns
2 landing howitzers
4 × 457 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes in casemates
(1930)
4 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
4 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
1 single 76/40 AAA

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They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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They also served, and not just getting coffee

On this day, 77 years ago– just seven months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the proposal to establish the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) as part of the USNR into effect as Public Law 689. In all, before the service was demobilized after the conflict, over 86,000 female volunteers (including over 8,000 who served in commissioned roles) were accepted into the Navy for the duration of the war.

A number of rates, besides Yeomen, were open to the WAVES

While many simply chalk up the WAVES to performing medical, cleaning, clerical and sundry tasks (there were some assigned as florists), it should be noted that a ton of stateside Crypto work was performed by these intrepid sailors (Via Station Hypo: Many after Boot Camp were sent to radio schools at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio then to Chatham Massachusetts for duty as German naval intercept operators or to Bainbridge Island, Washington, for additional training in Japanese Kata Kana code with follow on assignment as Japanese naval intercept operators. A further 100 worked at Naval Radio Station Skaggs Island, California where they copied Japanese weather broadcast schedules.)

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Aeronautics used some 23,000 WAVES around the country as mechanics, weather forecasters, ATC, gunnery instruction, navigation training, rigging parachutes, and in various other utility roles, keeping naval air stations running like clockwork.

WAVE At War, Ships At Night.NHC Accession #: 45-127-N “WAVES were not eligible for combat duty. Their assignments remained stateside or in the territories of Hawaii and Alaska. But recruiting posters often depicted the contributions of WAVES to combat victories. Here, Falter superimposes a female enlistee over a battle scene, as though she stands for all the WAVES-parachute riggers, machinists’ mates, gunners’ mates, and others who will make this victory possible. This type of image not only brought in new recruits, but it boosted morale among the WAVES, reminding them that their work was directly impacting the war effort and strengthening the might of Navy forces.”

The below rare color photo, shows WAVES aircraft mechanics at Naval Air Station, Oakland, California, working on the port outboard engine (a Pratt & Whitney R-2000) of a Naval Air Transport Service R5D, circa mid-1945. They are (left to right): Seaman 1st Class Gene Reinhold, Seaman 1st Class Lorraine Taylor and Seaman 1st Class Mary Harrison:

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-K-5663

Slowly demobilized throughout 1946, the stand-down was brief as the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act (Public Law 625) was signed into law in 1948, allowing women to serve in the regular Army or Navy on a permanent basis.

Shades of Balikpapan

The largest Australian-led amphibious landing and offensive assault in history were the OBOE 2 landings at Balikpapan, Borneo (then the Japanese-held Dutch East Indies) in which some 33,000 troops hit the beach in July 1945. We’ve talked about that operation a couple weeks ago on a Warship Wednesday. 

With the path cleared by UDT-18, 7th Division Australian troops come ashore from landing craft during landing near Balikpapan oil fields in Borneo in July 1945. Some 33,000-strong combined Australian and Royal Netherlands Indies amphibious forces, the largest ever amphibious assault by Australian forces, hit the beach. 

Therefore, it is fitting that this month’s Talisman Saber ’19 exercise saw the largest Australian-led amphibious landing since OBOE with an extended multi-day combined force assault on Langham Beach, near Stanage Bay, Queensland, involving not only the Australians but also U.S. Marines, New Zealand troops, and elements of the British MoD, Japanese Self-Defense Force (ironically) and Canadian Forces.

As part of the exercise scenario, the fictional Pacific nation Kamaria invaded nearby “Legais” island, sparking global outcry and a response from the Blue Forces to liberate the occupied territory. Recon elements were inserted on D-3 with a full-on landing on D-Day with amphibious assault vehicles, landing craft, and helicopters bringing troops to shore.

The imagery was great.

More here. 

VFW Appeal: Give back those identifying NVA/Viet Cong souvenirs, please

Street Scene Vietnam By Kenneth J. Scowcroft, 1967 U.S. Army Art Collection, CMH

Much like the recent trend on repatriating captured Japanese senninbari thousand-stitch belts and yosegaki hinomaru good luck flags brought home by the Greatest Generation that has increasingly passed on, as those personal items are in many cases the final legacy of Imperial soldiers and sailors lost 75 years ago, the VFW is asking Vietnam-era vets to return the property of individuals they may have taken from the battlefield or traded for on the bunker black market.

Now to be clear, this call is not for weapons, gear and unit equipment, and flags, but personal photos, letters, and diaries. Plus, they hold that such gestures can help pave the way for continued cooperation on getting closure on Americans still missing in South East Asia.

From the VFW:

The VFW national commander is asking all Vietnam veterans to search through their closets and footlockers for documents that might help Vietnam to determine the fate of an estimated 300,000 missing Vietnamese, and personal effects that might help bring comfort to their families.

It is important for the Vietnam generation to recognize that the personal connection they have with their memorabilia will not transfer to their descendants, which means such items will either be donated or simply trashed,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. “And even though it’s been over a half-century for most Vietnam veterans, now is still a great time to help solidify our government’s relationship with Vietnam, and to help make a difference in the lives of other families half a world away.”

Lawrence said VFW senior leaders have traveled back to Vietnam every year since 1991 to help U.S. government efforts to account for missing and unaccounted-for servicemen and civilians, a number that currently totals 1,588 Americans (1,246 in Vietnam, 287 in Laos, 48 in Cambodia, and 7 in Chinese territorial waters).

He said it is important for the VFW to maintain a “vet-to-vet” relationship with these countries from a non-bureaucrat, nonpolitician perspective, and he said it was critical for the VFW and military family organizations – specifically the National League of POW/MIA Families – to continue to put a human face on a humanitarian mission that transcends politics.

“This call to action is the result of numerous requests for assistance from Vietnamese veterans organizations,” he stressed. “Being requested are personal effects, such as wallets, family photos, and personal letters, as well as detailed battle maps or burial locations, anything that might help Vietnam to recover its own missing. No weapons, please!”

Such firsthand information has led U.S. investigation and recovery teams to successfully search in locations not previously recorded by military after-action reports.

Vietnam veterans can mail their memorabilia to:

VFW Washington Office
Attention: Public Affairs
200 Maryland Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Items collected by the VFW Washington Office will be turned over to DPAA. 

Warship Wednesday, July 10, 2019: The Slayer of Victoria

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, July 10, 2019: The Slayer of Victoria

Starboard bow HMS Camperdown The Engineer 1893
Here we see the Royal Navy’s Admiral-class early barbette-type pre-dreadnought ironclad battleship HMS Camperdown via The Engineer in 1893. A very modern ship when she was designed, she did, in fact, quickly and easily send another period battlewagon to Neptune’s cold embrace– just not as you would think.

Britain’s first barbette ships, a class that would provide the basic format for all the Victorian and Edwardian battleships right up until HMS Dreadnought broke the mold in 1906, the so-called Admiral-class vessels were, in actuality, six fairly different vessels.

While all six had roughly the same hull, running about 330 feet in length with a 68-foot beam (although even this varied a few feet between sisters), the class weighed in between 9,500 and 10,600 tons. Armor at its thickest was an impressive 18-inches of iron plate backed by another 20-inches of timber. Each had two centerline funnels and a deep (27+ foot) draft with a relatively low freeboard, a facet common on front-line capital ships of the age. Speed was 16 to 17 knots depending on the ship, which made their ram bows, popular ever since the 1866 Battle of Lissa, deadly at close quarters (more on this later!)

Each had their main armament split fore and aft with secondary and tertiary batteries arranged along the waterline in broadside while five early torpedo tubes were also carried.

French ironclad Océan & British ironclad HMS Devastation Middle Italian battleship Italia and HMS Collingwood LowerGerman battleship Sachsen and French battleship Amiral Duperré.

A German scheme showing typical international battleships of the 1880s, with Collingwood, the nominal Admiral-class leader, shown second from the bottom right.

When it came to armament, things got wild.

Collingwood mounted two pair of 12″/25cal BL Mk V rifles

Benbow, the final ship of the class, meanwhile, mounted two single Armstrong 16.25″/30cal BL Mk I guns

Benbow, note her huge forward 16.25-incher. That’s 413mm of bore.

As for the middle four ships– Anson, Rodney, Camperdown, and Howe— they mounted four 13.5″/30 caliber (34.3 cm) Mark I “67-ton” guns, often regarded England’s first successful large breechloading naval rifle.

13.5″/30 caliber guns in barbettes of HMS ANSON, colorized by Diego Mar of Postales Navales

Capable of firing a 1,200-pound Palliser shell to 12,260 yards when at a maximum elevation of 13 degrees (!) these guns could switch to AP shells and penetrate up to 11-inches of Krupp steel at 3,000 yards or a whopping 28-inches of vertical iron plate at point blank distances.

Admiral Class Pre-Dreadnought Battleship HMS Rodney pictured in 1890 with her BL 13.5-inch naval guns. Note the 47mm/40cal 3pdr Hotchkiss Mk I anti-torpedo boat gun in the foreground.

As a negative, the ship’s magazines were shallow, carrying just 81 (20 AP, 12 Palliser, 39 common and 10 shrapnel) shells per gun while a trained crew could only keep up a rate of fire of about one round every other minute. Additionally, the open barbette construction gave said crew about 30 seconds of life expectancy when exposed to a naval engagement against an opponent firing more than just spitballs and coconuts.

H.M.S. Camperdown firing big guns, William Lionel Wyllie National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection

While all six of Admirals carried a half-dozen BL 6″/26cal BL Mk IV guns as secondaries, their small batteries often varied, with Camperdown and Anson at least toting 12 57mm (6pdr) Hotchkiss Mk Is and a further 10 47mm (3pdr) Hotchkiss anti-boat guns.

Gun drill aboard Camperdown with the QF 6-pounder Nordenfelt guns

Colorized image of HMS Camperdown gunners taking cover on deck with a 6″/26 to the left and 57mm Hotchkiss to the right.

Laid down at HMs Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth on 18 December 1882, Camperdown was the only member of the class constructed there with the other five being built at Pembroke, Chatham, and Blackwall. She was, of course, the third such British warship named after the epic sea clash at Camperdown in 1797 off the coast of the Netherlands in which Admiral Adam Duncan bested the Dutch fleet under Vice Adm. Jan de Winter.

"Action off Camperdown" Stipple engraving by J. Greig after R. Dodd. Published in The Naval Chronicle, September 1800, by Bunney & Gold, London. View representing the situation shortly before the action ended the Dutch Flagship is seen at center engaged with HMS VENERABLE, while the Dutch 64 gun ship HERCULES drifts afire across these ships' bows. on the left is HMS MONARCH with her prize, The JUPITER NH 66179

“Action off Camperdown” Stipple engraving by J. Greig after R. Dodd. Published in The Naval Chronicle, September 1800, by Bunney & Gold, London. A view representing the situation shortly before the action ended the Dutch Flagship is seen at center engaged with HMS VENERABLE, while the Dutch 64 gun ship HERCULES drifts afire across these ships’ bows. on the left is HMS MONARCH with her prize, The JUPITER NH 66179

While not very well known outside of the UK or Holland, the engagement was one of the largest of the Napoleonic era prior to Trafalgar and is a key point in British naval history.

Camperdown compared to Trafalgar and Jutland

Camperdown compared to Trafalgar and Jutland

Completed in May 1889, HMS Camperdown served first as the flag of the RN’s Mediterranean Fleet and then the Channel Fleet while passing in and out of reserve status for the first several years of her life.

By all accounts, she was a happy and proud ship during this time.

Gathering around the rum tub

Then came a fateful day in the summer of 1893.

THE TWIN-SCREW FIRST-CLASS BATTLESHIPS H.M.S CAMPERDOWN AND H.M.S. VICTORIA, from the Graphic

While in the Med on summer exercises under the eye of the Ottoman Turks, Camperdown was in close maneuvers with the rest of the line and struck the brand-new battleship HMS Victoria in broad daylight. In short, Victoria sank following a bizarre order from Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon– a career officer with some 45 years at sea under his belt– to perform a difficult turning order at close range to Camperdown which brought his flagship in collision to Camperdown, the latter of which flew the flag of Tyron’s second-in-command, Rear Admiral Sir Albert Markham.

HMS Camperdown ramming HMS Victoria, Thursday, June 22nd, 1893 off Tripoli. The image shows HMS Victoria (1888) in a collision with the Admiral Class battleship, HMS Camperdown (1885) during close maneuvers on the 22nd June 1893 off the coast at Tripoli in Lebanon by Reginald Graham Gregory. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

The sinking of HMS Victoria by HMS Camperdown after Victoria was rammed during a fleet exercise.

The collision of the HMS Victoria and HMS Camperdown 8 July 1893 Le Petit Journal

The collision of the HMS Victoria and HMS Camperdown 8 July 1893 Le Petit Journal

Tyron was last seen on the bridge of Victoria, as she sank with the loss of over 350 men in something like 13 minutes, largely due to the fact that most of the ship’s hatches were open on the hot summer day in the Med. Tyron’s last words were said to be, “It is entirely my fault.” An RN inquiry into the affair was happy to let Tyron carry the blame.

In true Victorian gothic fashion, the good Admiral’s ghost is said to have appeared that night, to friends attending a party thrown by his wife back in London.

As for Camperdown, her bow ram was almost pulled completely off when she backed out of the sinking Victoria just before that stricken ship capsized, only narrowly missing joining her on the seafloor.

Damaged HMS Camperdown’s bow after collision with HMS Victoria, via Wiki

Camperdown diver suits up for hull checks, from the Army and Navy Illustrated, May 1896. Several images of this diver in harbor operations were immortalized in a series of collectible Tuck Cards

After extensive repairs, Camperdown returned to the Med where she was part of the six-power International Squadron in 1897 that was involved in what was termed the “Cretan Intervention” which ultimately led to the semi-independent Cretan State (before that island was annexed by Greece), separated from Ottoman rule.

International Squadron bombarding Chania, 21 February 1897. B. F. Gribble, from a sketch by a British officer published in The Graphic via Wiki.

International Squadron bombarding Chania, 21 February 1897. B. F. Gribble, from a sketch by a British officer published in The Graphic via Wikimedia Commons

The squadron included not only British ships but those sent by the Kaisers of Austro-Hungary and Germany as well as the French Republic, Royal Italian Navy and units sent by the Tsar. Camperdown, as well as other vessels of the task force, engaged insurgents ashore and landed armed tars and Royal Marines to mop up.

The gunboat diplomacy was to be Camperdown‘s swan song.

Camperdown June 1898 still in her white scheme, just before she would enter the reserve

After but 10 years with the fleet, by September 1899 she was in reserve and would spend the next decade alternating between mothballs and service as a coast guard vessel and submarine tender at Harwick. During this period, she carried a haze gray scheme, her days as a flagship long gone. Notably, she also carried a second mast.

Camperdown is shown with a flotilla of early C-class boats between 1908 and 1911 with, C5 (inboard aft), C2 and C6 in the after trot with C7, C8, and C9 in the forward trot. HM submarine C2, the middle boat in the after trot, bears the number C32 Via Pbenyon http://www.pbenyon.plus.com/RN/Photos/Camperdown_and_C-class_boats.html

She would be sold in 1911 for her value in scrap, a fate shared by all five of her sisters before her. Camperdown was just 22 years old but was hopelessly obsolete.

Her name would be reissued to HMS Camperdown (D32), a Battle-class destroyer commissioned on 18 June 1945.

HMS CAMPERDOWN, BRITISH BATTLE CLASS DESTROYER. MAY AND JUNE 1945. IWM (A 29620)

HMS CAMPERDOWN, BRITISH BATTLE CLASS DESTROYER. MAY AND JUNE 1945. (A 29620) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016213

In a twist of fate, in 1953, at Plymouth, this subsequent Camperdown was accidentally rammed by the former Flower-class corvette HMS Coreopsis (K32), the latter of which was owned by Ealing Studios at the time and was being used as a floating set for the British WWII film “The Cruel Sea.” Unlike the 1889 crack-up, both Camperdown and Coreopsis survived the encounter.

Since D32 was sold for scrap in 1970, the RN has not issued the “Camperdown” name to any other vessel.

As for the original Camperdown‘s tragic victim, HMS Victoria stands famously upright off the Lebanon coast today, with her bow stuck in the seafloor. She is a very popular wreck for skin divers.

Specs:


Displacement: 10,600 long tons
Length: 330 ft
Beam: 68 ft 6 in
Draught: 27 ft 10 in
Propulsion:
2 3-cyl Maudslay coal-fired steam engines, 12 cylindrical boilers, twin screws
11,500 indicated horsepower at a forced draught
Speed:
17.4-knots, maximum
Range: 7,000nm at 10 knots with 1,200 tons coal
Complement: 530
Armament:
4 x 13.5″/30 caliber (34.3 cm) Mark I “67-ton” guns
6 x BL 6″/26cal BL Mk IV guns
12 x 6-pounder (57 mm) Hotchkiss guns
10 x 3-pounder (47 mm) Hotchkiss guns
5 × 356mm tubes for Whitehead 14-inch torpedos
1 x very deadly bow ram
Armour:
Compound Belt: 18–8 in (457–203 mm) with 178mm timber backing
Bulkheads: 16–7 in (406–178 mm)
Barbettes: 11.5–10 in (292–254 mm)
Conning Tower: 12–2 in (305–51 mm)
Deck: 3–2 in (76–51 mm)

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