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Torpedoes at work, Med edition

In a follow-up to the post on the German Type 212A submarines earlier this week, check out this SINKEX of the former Hellenic Navy transport Evros (A-415)— herself the ex-West German Navy Type 706 replenishment ship Schwarzwald (A1400)— sent to the bottom of the Agean by the Greek Papanikolis- (German Type 214)-class submarine HS Pipinos (S-121) through the use of a warshot SST-4 Mod. 0 Robbe (Seal) torpedo off Karpathos island last month.

The SST-4, introduced by Atlas Elektronik in 1980, is a Cold War-era 533mm heavyweight wire-guided/passive homing torpedo that has been replaced in German service with more modern fiber-optic guided torps. Still, it seems to work well enough to do the job against a stationary target ship, anyway.

In the video below, you can see the fish track all the way on the surface to make a near-perfect hit.

Of note, the Turks, who also operate German-made subs, had a SINKEX, two years ago, with TCG Yıldıray (S-350) using an SST-4 against a retired tanker, TCG Sadettin Gürcan (A 573)– of course putting the Greeks on notice.

Aboard U32, a modern German shark

WELT has recently posted this super interesting 50~ minute English-language doc on the German Type/Klasse 212A Unterseeboot, U32 (S182) “on its journey from the Eckernforde naval base through the difficult-to-navigate Kiel Canal to Plymouth in England,” for a NATO exercise.

I caution you now, when compared to U.S. bubbleheads, the modern crop of Germans are a bit sloppy looking and sport a lot of hair, but then again, that has been pretty common in the past few decades with Western European NATO militaries with the exception of the French, Brits, and Italians. 

Nonetheless, Type 212s are excellent platforms.

Commissioned in 2005, U32 is tiny when compared to U.S. boats, tipping the scales at 1,800-tons (submerged) and having a length of just 183.7-feet.

She carries up to 13 fiber-optic-guided torpedoes in time of war or tension. With her X-tail, she can dive in seas as shallow as 55-feet– making her able to operate almost to the edge of the 10-fathom curve in littoral space– and, using AIP, remain submerged for weeks without poking a snorkel up. Periscope depth is just 44 feet.

On such a compact vessel, everything is a bit cramped and every compartment serves multiple purposes– the boat’s small arms locker is under the skipper’s bunk.

Sister U31. I still think a laughing sawfish would look great on her sail. 

U31

Of note, Germany only has six of these vessels in a single squadron and a total of just about 80 active submariners in four crews, each of about 20~ men (and women).

“There are more Bundesliga footballers than submariners in Germany.”

The German boat also has beer aboard, enough for two cans per sailor per day– stored in empty torpedo tubes.

Donitz is surely rolling in his grave!

Dolphins, Dolphins, Dolphins– NATO edition

On 13 June 1923, CPT (later Fleet Admiral) Ernest J. King, at the time Commander, Submarine Division Three, proposed to the Secretary of the Navy that a distinguishing device for qualified U.S. submariners be adopted.

That initiative led to today’s Submarine Warfare Insignia–best known as “dolphins” or “fish.”

All photos via NATO Submarine Command (COMSUBNATO)

Of course, most other fleets that field submarines also have similar badges, though not always accompanied by marine life.

Here are the NATO ones:

Royal Canadian Navy

French Navy

Deutsche Marine (German Navy)

Hellenic (Greek) Navy

Italian Navy

Netherlands

Norwegian

Polish

Portuguese

Turkish Navy

Royal Spanish Navy

Royal Navy

The more you know…

Meanwhile, the 100th Posiedon has arrived

 

169347 Boeing P-8A Poseidon of USN VP-30 June 13 2019 Eger

BuNo 169347 Boeing P-8A Poseidon of USN VP-30, June 13, 2019, climbs over Biloxi Beach, Mississippi, outbound from Gulfport. Photo by Chris Eger

From NAVAIR:

The Navy’s 100th P-8A “Poseidon” was delivered to Patrol Squadron (VP) 30 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, May 14.

In July 2004, the Navy placed its initial order of P-8A aircraft to replace the venerable Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion, which has been in service since 1962. The Maritime Patrol community began the transition to the P-8A in 2012. The delivery of the 100th P-8A coincides with VP-40’s successful completion of the 12th and final active component squadron transition to the Poseidon.

The final transition concluded amidst a global pandemic, which could have halted or delayed the schedule, however, VP-40 remained on track.

“We finished up VP-40’s transition this month, and it has been a challenge. Despite the travel restrictions, the additional required procedures, and the aircraft transfers, VP-30 answered the call. The VP-30.1 detachment at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington was grinding every day to keep the transition on schedule,“ said VP-30 Commanding Officer Capt. T. J. Grady.

More here.

Warship Wednesday, May 13, 2020: Sisu via dugout canoe

Here at LSOZI, we 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, May 13, 2020: Sisu via dugout canoe

Photo via the SA-Kuva archives http://sa-kuva.fi/neo#

Here we see the submarine Vesikko of the Finnish Navy surfacing in the Baltic, 1 August 1941, note her 20mm Madsen cannon, twin periscopes, and net cutter. Built as what could best be described as a demo model with help from a shady low-key U-boat concern, she went on to become Helsinki’s last submarine, an honor proudly held for the past seven decades.

Early Finn submarine efforts

Incorporated into the Tsarist Empire in 1809 as the Grand Duchy of Finland after a relatively one-sided war between Russia and Sweden, the region’s ports and inlets proved vital bases for the Imperial Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet for over a century with the Gulf of Finland essentially a Russian bathtub. As such, many of the Tsar’s small core of professional mariners hailed from the land.

The Tsarist Navy, between 1901 and 1917, fielded around 50 submarines, most in the Baltic, across 10 different classes which included not only domestic production centered in St. Petersburg/Petrograd but also American, German and Italian-made boats as well. Many of these operated from Finnish ports during the Great War with mixed results and six of the seven Russian subs lost during the conflict went down in Baltic waters. Added to this were a bag of nine small British submarines of the C- and E-class which likewise operated from Finnish waters from 1915 onward.

These two facts made it clear that the Finns had a measure of early respect for the submarine, a weapon that had great utility in the cramped Baltic if used properly.

In late 1917, as Imperial Russia was falling apart and the Bolshevik government was actively courting the Germans for a separate peace treaty to exit the Great War, Finland broke away and declared independence. Meanwhile, the Germans made a move to ally themselves with newly-free Helsinki, a flip that led the British to scuttle all nine of their Baltic-deployed boats at the outer roads of the fortress island of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) off Helsinki on 3 April 1918 and evac their crews overland. Three days later, the Russians still in relative possession of four late-model American/Canadian-built Holland 602-type boats (AG-11, AG-12, AG-15, and AG-16) sent their vessels to the bottom of the harbor in Hango, another Finnish port.

This left newly-independent Finland with no less than 13 wrecked submarines in their coastal regions, two of which, AG-12 and AG-16, were deemed to be the least damaged and were raised in 1919 for possible use by the new country. The two boats lingered onshore for a decade while a variety of submarine experts from Britain, Germany, and the U.S. cycled through to evaluate returning them back into service. In the end, the two boats were too far gone and were sent to the breakers by 1929 in favor of new construction.

Guten morgen, Unterseeboot shoppers!

This led to the curious operation from Finland’s Turku-based A/B Crichton-Vulcan Oy shipyard to produce a series of small coastal submarines–the first warships to be built in independent Finland. The boats were designed by the Dutch front company Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw (IvS), which was, in fact, a dummy funded by the German Weimar-era Reichsmarine using design assets from German shipyards AG Vulcan, Krupp-Germaniawerft, and AG Weser to keep Berlin in the sub-making biz while skirting the ban on such activity by the Versailles treaty.

IvS had previously built boats and shared technology to Turkey, Spain, and the Soviet Union before they moved to start making boats in Finland in 1926. Dubbed a “Tarnorganisation” or camouflage organization by German historians, IvS had one of its principal administrators former German Korvettenkapitän Karl Bartenbach, who had been the Kaiser’s submarine training boss during the Great War.

The first three Finnish-built boats, the 500-ton/208-foot Vetehinen (Merman) class subs, were based on the German WWI Type UB III and Type UC III submarines and served as an early prototype for Kreigsmarine’s later Type VII submarines, the most numerous U-boat type of WWII. All three were constructed side-by-side and were operational by 1931, with IvS training their crews. Their names: Vetehinen (builder’s hull CV 702), Vesihiisi (hull CV 703), and Iku-Turso (hull CV 704).

Then came the tiny 115-ton/106-foot submarine minelayer Saukko (Otter), designed to operate on Lake Lagoda– which was shared by the Soviet Union and Finland– built by Hietalahti in Helsinki.

In this period, Bartenbach, still officially furloughed from the German Navy, was serving in the Finnish Navy directly as an advisor.

These early boats had extensive lessons-learned knowledge gleaned by IvS experts who were reserve Reichsmarine officers during trails and shakedown periods.

This brings us to our little Vesikko.

Enter CV 707, err Vesikko.

Originally constructed as IvS hull CV 707, our feature submarine was built slowly between August 1931 and October 1933 in what Jane’s at the time called “private speculation” and “Is actually a German design.” The Finns had first right of refusal on the boat when it came up for sale, open until 1937.

Submarine CV-707 at Crichton-Vulcan shipyard, shortly after sea trial performed by German submarine specialists from IvS, summer 1933. Her unofficial skipper at the time was Werner “Fips” Fürbringer, the Kaiserliche Marine ace who sank 101 ships during the Great War. He was later promoted to the rank of Konteradmiral during World War II.

Some 134-feet long and displacing just 250-tons when surfaced, she only needed a small 16-man crew but carried a trio of 21-inch torpedo tubes with two spare fish stored inside the hull for reloads.

Her trio of torpedo tubes. Finnish caption “Vesikon torpedoa kunnostetaan. Kirkkomaa 1941.07.27” SA-Kuva 29498

While the Germans used her to test their first generation of G-series torpedoes, the Finns would equip their submarines with British T/30 and T/33 type fish.

Capable of floating in 13.5-feet of clear Baltic water, she could submerge in as little as 40 feet. As it wasn’t intended that she would operate outside of the narrow shallow sea, her dive limit of 300 feet wasn’t an issue. Able to make 13 knots on the surface and 7 submerged, her 1,500nm range would enable a war patrol of up to two weeks. Simple, she had an all-welded single hull with no watertight compartments.

A small, somewhat cramped ship, Germans submariners would dub her type as einbaum (dugout canoe).

Submarine Vesikko in Suomenlinna in her Finnish warpaint after 1937, via Submarine Vesikko Museum collections. She started off simply as CV707.

While deadly, her design could also be used in another capacity– training.

CV 707, as a private boat, was at the disposal of IvS submarine crews operating in Finnish waters and, within a year, the updated design was under construction in Germany as the Type IIA coastal submarine, with KMS U-1 officially ordered 2 February 1935 and commissioned four months later.

German submarine U 1 on trials, 1935, the country’s first “official” unterseeboot since 1919. Note the resemblance to CV707, down to the small tower with twin periscopes and serrated net cutter design.

The resemblance to the Finnish boat is striking.

In all, the Germans would construct 50 Type IIs by 1940 and the type would serve a vital training mission for the Kreigsmarine with a half-dozen later broken down and shipped overland to operate against the Soviets in the Black Sea during WWII.

German U-1 type submarines, passing in review in line-ahead (formation) before Grand Admiral Raeder. Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann, 1939. NYPL collection

At the same time, sub expert Bartenbach had been recalled to serve in the newly formed Kriegsmarine in March 1934–after an official 14-year break– and promptly put on the uniform of a Kapitän zur See. Serving in vital submarine development roles, he would retire as a rear admiral in 1938.

With Parliamentary approval, the Finnish Navy purchased the one-off CV707 in January 1936 and dubbed her Vesikko in May, putting her to work as their fifth, and as it would turn out final submarine.

Submarine Vesikko’s entire crew. In Finnish service, she would go to sea with between 16 and 20 men. In German service, the type, filed with trainees, would usually carry 24 to 30

Soon she was involved in a war, the November 1939-March 1940 Winter War with the invading Soviets, during which she patrolled the Gulf of Finland on the lookout for Red warships until iced in by mid-December.

Sukellusvene Vesikko vauhdissa. Sa-kuva 81184

Allowed to be retained after the tense cease-fire with Moscow, Vesikko again became active in what the Finns have called the Continuation War, their limited involvement against the Soviet Union from June 1941 onward. Vesikko sank the 4,100-ton Soviet transport Vyborg on 3 July 1941 with a single torpedo and survived a resulting depth charge attack to boot. It would be her only significant victory.

Finnish submarine Vesikko with Madsen 20mm cannon 19 July 1941 Sa-Kuva 80467

Vedenalaisen konetykkiä korjataan. Hangon lohko 1941.07.29 SA-Kuva 30398

Restricted from operations during the Baltic winter, she would spend the summers of 1942 and 1943 on patrol and reconnaissance duties but, as the Soviet Navy typically did not venture out of Krondstadt or besieged Leningrad, where they were protected by rings of nets and minefields, Vesikko did not chalk up any more kills. In fact, Vyborg was the only surface ship ever sunk by a Finnish submarine (although in 1942 Vesihiisi sank the Soviet submarine S 7, Iku-Turso sank the Soviet sub Shtsh 320, and Vetehinen accounted for Shtsh 305 though a mixture of torpedos and ramming).

By the summer of 1944, with the war turning against the Finns and their German allies on the Eastern Front, Vesikko was used to shepherd evacuation transports in Karelia as the Red Army surged forward.

In September, as Helsinki worked out a second cease-fire with Stalin in four years, the so-called Moscow Armistice, the Finnish Navy was sidelined and restricted to port, but spared destruction– for awhile at least. In January 1945, the Allied Control Commission ordered Finnish submarines to disarm and Vesikko’s ammunition and torpedoes were landed for what turned out to be the final time.

The 1946-47 Jane’s still listed Finland with five submarines, including our Vesikko.

As part of the multilateral Paris Peace Treaties that were signed in February 1947, Finland had to temporarily hand over control of their port at Porkkala and cede the Barents Sea port of Petsamo (now Pechenga) which had been occupied since 1944 anyway. There were also naval limits, which included eliminating her submarine arm as well as her largest surface ship, the 4,000-ton “lighthouse battleship” Väinämöinen.

While Väinämöinen would be towed to Leningrad and remained in Soviet hands, renamed Vyborg, until her scrapping in 1966, the Finns were allowed to dispose of their submarines themselves, a process, true to their nature of Sisu, they quietly slow-walked.

By 1953, the disarmed Vetehinen, Vesihiiden, Iku-Turso, and Sauko were sold abroad for breaking while Vesikko had been hauled out and stored at Valmet Oy’s shipyard in Helsinki, where she would remain until 1963 as the Finns made overtures to put her back into service.

It was finally decided to retain her as a museum and she was moved to the Suomenlinna fortress and restored to her original 1939 appearance, opening to the public on the anniversary of the Finnish Navy on 9 July 1973 and has since hosted a million visitors.

Here is a great video from the Finnish Defense Forces including wartime footage of Vesikko in service.

Not a bad record for a factory demo model.

Specs:

1946 Janes Vesikko profile

Displacement: 250 tons surfaced, 300 submerged
Length: 134.5 feet
Beam: 13 feet
Draft: 13.5 feet
Machinery: 2 × MWM Diesel 700 PS (690 shp) surface, 2 × Siemens SSW Electric 360 PS (260 kW) submerged
Speed: 13 surfaced, 8 submerged
Range: 1,500 @ 7kts surfaced, 40nm at 4kts submerged
Crew: 16
Armament:
3 x 21-inch tubes, forward with up to five British T/30 and T/33 torpedos carried
1 x 20mm Madsen wet mount
1 x 7.62mm machine gun

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Rap, rap, rapping on the Bastion door

“Three Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers — USS Donald Cook, USS Porter, and USS Roosevelt — are supported by fast combat support ship USNS Supply and joined by the Royal Navy’s HMS Kent to assert freedom of navigation and demonstrate seamless integration among allies,” a U.S. Navy news release said.

Not a big deal, as such joint operations happen every day somewhere in the maritime domain.

What is a big deal, is that the exercise involved said surface action group chilling out above the Arctic Circle in the Barents Sea, long a “safe” boomer bastion for the Russian Northern Fleet. Further, other than for Norway which is a “local” in the region, the task force was the largest NATO operation in the region in about 25 years.

ARCTIC OCEAN (May 5, 2020) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78), front, the Royal Navy Type-23 Duke-class frigate HMS Kent (F78), the fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) conduct joint operations to ensure maritime security in the Arctic Ocean, May 5, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the Royal Navy by Royal Navy Photographer Dan Rosenbaum/Released)

ADM James Foggo, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and the commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, said there will be more deployments and more exercises in the High North.

“The Russians are operating with state-of-the-art nuclear submarines,” he said. “That said, we still have the competitive advantage. But they’re good, and getting better.”

More on what that means, here.

Pitching Clay, or, the ’41 for Freedom’ can fight surfaced, too

USS Henry Clay (SSBN-625) launches a Polaris A-2 SLBM from the surface of the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Kennedy (Canaveral), Florida on 20 April 1964. The objects flying through the air around the missile are launch adapters designed to detach themselves automatically once the missile has left the tube.

The goal of the Polaris program was to launch a ready missile by 1965, and Clay was one of the last pegs to make it a reality.

Catalog # USN 1094722. Naval History and Heritage Command

This was the first demonstration that Polaris subs can launch missiles from the surface as well as from beneath the surface. 30 minutes earlier the Clay successfully launched an A-2 missile submerged.

Clay’s port list is a standard part of surface launch procedures. The tall mast is a temporary telemetry antenna installed for operations at the Cape only.

Named in honor of founding father Henry Clay, perhaps best known as the “Great Compromiser,” the boomer was part of the Lafayette-class of ballistic missile submarines that were made in the “41 for Freedom” program in the 1960s, all subs named after famous Americans to include the honorary Yank, the Marquis de Lafayette. Clay was commissioned 20 February 1964 and was decommissioned 5 November 1990 for recycling.

Seldom heard from, the boats of the 41 For Freedom program made an incredible 2824 strategic deterrent patrols during their time on earth, each typically about 65 days. This is about 502 patrol years at sea during the Cold War.

For more on the program, check out this 2016 seminar at the National Museum of the United States Navy including archival footage from the Strategic Systems Programs Office. The video is narrated by VADM Ken Malley, former SSP Director.

Green Mountain returns to the Naval List after 100-year hiatus

Below we see USS Vermont, (Battleship # 20), giving her impression of a submarine while underway in heavy seas, circa 1907-1909, possibly during the famous cruise round-the-world sortie of the Great White Fleet.

From the album of Francis Sargent; Courtesy of Commander John Condon, 1986. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 101072

Two historic warships have been named in honor of the Green Mountain State, with the first being a 74-gun warship authorized by Congress in 1816, and the second the above-referenced Connecticut-class pre-dreadnought battleship (BB 20).
Decommissioned in June 1920 after 13 years of service which included not only the Great White Fleet cruise but also the Mexican intervention and the Great War, Battleship No. 20 was stricken and sold for scrap in November 1923 according to the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty.
Now, after a century without a “Vermont” in the fleet, a brand-new Virginia-class attack submarine (SSN 792) was commissioned over the weekend.

On Friday, April 17, Electric Boat delivered Vermont (SSN 792) to the U.S. Navy. Vermont Ship’s manager Tanner Glantz (right) hand s the ceremonial ship’s key to Cmdr. Chas Phillips. (Photo: Electric Boat)

“This warship carries on a proud Vermont legacy in naval warfare and unyielding determination stretching back to the birth of our nation,” VADM Daryl Caudle, commander, Submarine Forces, said. “To her crew, congratulations on completing the arduous readiness training to enter sea trials and prepare this ship for battle. I am proud to serve with each of you! Stand ready to defend our nation wherever we are threatened – honoring your motto – FREEDOM AND UNITY. May God bless our Submarine Force, the people of Vermont, and our families! From the depths, we strike!”

Warship Wednesday, April 8, 2020: An Unsung Canadian River

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, April 8, 2020: An Unsung Canadian River

Library and Archives, Canada

Here we see a beautiful original Kodachrome, likely snapped from the lookout box on her mast, of the Canadian River-class frigate HMCS Thetford Mines (K459) in 1944-45, with an officer looking down towards her bow. Note the D/F antenna forward. You can see a great view of her main gun, a twin 4″/45 (10.2 cm) QF Mk XVI in an Mk XIX open-rear mount, which she would use to good effect in hanging star shells during a nighttime scrap with a convoy-haunting U-boat. Just ahead of the gun is a Hedgehog ASW mortar system, which would also be used that night. Incidentally, scale modelers should note the various colors used on her two rigged 20-man Carley float lifeboats– which would soon see use on a different U-boat.

While today the Royal Canadian Navy is often seen as a supporting actor in the North Atlantic and an occasional cameo performer elsewhere, by the end of World War II the RCN had grown from having about a dozen small tin cans to being the third-largest fleet in the world— and was comprised almost totally of destroyers, frigates, corvettes, and sloops! The force traded 24 of its warships in combat for a butcher’s bill that was balanced by 69 Axis vessels but had proved decisive in the Battle of the Atlantic.

One of the most important of the above Canadian ships were the River-class frigates. Originally some 1,800-tons and 301-feet in length, they could make 20-knots and carry a twin QF 4-inch gun in a single forward mount as well as a modicum of 20mm AAA guns and a wide array of sub-busting weaponry to include as many as 150 depth charges.

In addition to her twin 4″/45 forward, Thetford Mines also carried six 20mm Oerlikons in two twin mounts — one seen here in another LAC Kodachrome– and two singles. Note the wavy lines on the Canadian lieutenant’s sleeve, denoting his status as a reserve officer. The running joke in Commonwealth Navies that used the practice was so that, when asked by an active officer why the braid was wavy, the reservist would answer, “Oh good heavens, so no one would mistake that this is my real job.”

Produced in five mildly different sub-classes, some 50 of the 150ish Rivers planned were to be made in Canada with others produced for the RCN in the UK. This resulted in a shipbuilding boom in the Land of the Great White North, with these frigates produced at four yards: Canadian Vickers in Montreal, Morton in Quebec City, Yarrow at Esquimalt, and Davie at Lauzon.

River-class frigates fitting out at Vickers Canada, 1944

Canadian River-class frigate HMCS Waskesiu (K330) with a bone in her mouth, 1944. Kodachrome via LAC

Thetford Mines, the first Canadian warship named after the small city in south-central Quebec, was of the later Chebogue-type of River-class frigate and was laid down 7 July 1943. Rapid construction ensured she was completed and commissioned 24 May 1944, an elapsed time of just 322 days. Her wartime skipper was LCDR John Alfred Roberts Allan, DSC, RCNVR/RCN(R). 

HMCS Thetford Mines (K459). Note the false bow wave

Coming into WWII late in the Atlantic war, Thetford Mines was assigned to escort group EG 25 out of Halifax then shifted to Derry in Ireland by November 1944. She served in British waters from then until VE-Day, working out of Londonderry and for a time out of Rosyth, Scotland.

A second Kodachrome snapped from K459’s tower. Note the compass and pelorus atop the wheelhouse. You can see the lip of the lookout’s bucket at the bottom of the frame. LAC WO-A037319

In the closing days of the conflict, the hardy frigate– along with Canadian-manned sisterships HMCS La Hulloise and HMCS Strathadam— came across the snorkeling Type VIIC/41 U-boat U-1302 on the night of 7 March 1945 in St George’s Channel. The German submarine, on her first war patrol under command of Kptlt. Wolfgang Herwartz had already sent one Norwegian and two British steamers of Convoy SC-167 to the bottom.

In a joint action between the three frigates, U-1302 was depth charged and Hedgehogged until her hull was crushed and the unterseeboot took Herwartz and his entire 47-man crew to meet Davy Jones. At dawn the next day, the Canadian ships noted an oil slick and debris floating on the water, with collected correspondence verifying the submarine was U-1302.

Thetford Mines would then come to the aid of Strathadam after the latter had a depth charge explode prematurely.

On 23 March, Thetford Mines got a closer look at her enemy when she recovered 33 survivors from the lost German U-boat U-1003, which had been scuttled off the coast of Ireland after she was mortally damaged by HMCS New Glasgow (another Canadian River). The Jacks aboard Thetford Mines would later solemnly bury at sea two of the German submariners who died of injuries.

Finally, on 11 May, our frigate arrived in Lough Foyle, Northern Ireland, to serve as an escort to eight surrendered U-boats.

The event was a big deal, as it was the first mass U-boat surrender, and as such was attended by ADM Sir Max Horton along with a single Allied submarine-killer from each major fleet made up the van. Thetford Mines represented Canada. USS Robert I. Paine (DE-578), which had been part of the Block Island hunter-killer group that had scratched several U-boats, represented America. HMS Hesperus (H57), credited with four kills including two by ramming, represented the RN.

A row of surrendered Nazi U-boats at Lisahally in Co. Londonderry on 14th May 1945. I believe Thetford Mines is in the background. Photo by Lieutenant CH Parnall. Imperial War Museum Photo: A 28892 (Part of the Admiralty Official Collection).

Thetford Mines, background, escorting surrendered U-boats, May 1945. LAC Kodachrome WO-A037319

Returning to Canada at the end of May 1945, Thetford Mines undoubtedly would have soon picked up more AAA mounts to fight off Japanese kamikaze attacks in the final push against that country’s Home Islands, but it was not to be and was paid off on 18 November at Sydney, Nova Scotia, before being laid up at Shelburne.

HMCS Thetford Mines (K459) at anchor in Bermuda. The photo was taken after VE-day while the frigate was returning to Halifax. They were diverted to Bermuda to ease the congestion at Halifax caused by all the ships returning at the same time. From the collection of John (Jack) Davie Lyon. Via FPS 

Her career had lasted a week shy of 18 months, during which she made contact, sometimes violent, with at least 10 German U-boas in varying ways. Her battle honors included “Gulf of St. Lawrence 1944,” “North Sea 1945,” and “Atlantic 1945.”

As for Thetford Mines, as noted by the Canadian Navy, “In 1947, she was sold to a Honduran buyer who proposed converting her into a refrigerated fruit carrier.”

According to Warlow’s Ships of the Royal Navy, she was in fact converted to a banana boat with the name of Thetis. Her fate is unknown.

What of her sisters?

Of the 90 assorted Canadian River-class frigates ordered, a good number were canceled around the end of WWII. Four (HMCS Chebogue, HMCS Magog, HMCS Teme, and HMCS Valleyfield) were effectively lost to German U-boats during the conflict. Once VJ-Day came and went, those still under St George’s White Ensign soon went into reserve.

Graveyard, Sorel, P.Q Canadian corvettes and frigates laid up, 1945 by Tony Law CWM

Several were subsequently sold for peanuts to overseas Allies looking to upgrade or otherwise build their fleets to include Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Israel, Peru, and India.

Others, like our own Thetford Mines, were de-militarized and sold on the commercial market including one, HMCS Stormont, that became Aristotle Onassis’s famous yacht, Christina O. HMCS St. Lambert became a merchant ship under Panamanian and Greek flags before being lost off Rhodes in 1964. Still others became breakwaters, their hulls used to shelter others.

One, HMCS Stone Town, was disarmed and tasked as a weather ship in the North Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s.

Twenty-one of the best Canadian-owned Rivers still on Ottawa’s naval list was taken from reserve in the early 1950s and converted to what was classified as a Prestonian-class frigate with “FFE” pennant numbers. This conversion included a flush-decked configuration, an enlarged bridge, and a taller funnel. Deleted were the 20mm Oerlikons in favor of some 40mm Bofors. Further, they had their quarterdeck enclosed to accommodate two Squid anti-submarine mortars in place of the myriad of depth charges/Hedgehog. The sensor package was updated as well, to include ECM gear. One, HMCS Buckingham, was even given a helicopter deck.

The Prestonian-class frigate HMCS Swansea (FFE 306) in formation with other ocean escorts, 1964 via The Crow’s Nest

These upgraded Rivers/Prestonians served in the widening Cold War, with three soon transferred to the Royal Norwegian Navy.

Most of the remaining Canadian ships were discarded in 1965-66 as the new St. Laurent– and Restigouche-class destroyers joined the fleet.

Two endured in auxiliary roles for a few more years: HMCS St. Catharines as a Canadian Coast Guard ship until 1968 and HMCS Victoriaville/Granby as a diving tender until 1973.

In the end, two Canadian Rivers still exist, HMCS Stormont/yacht Christina O, and HMCS Hallowell/SLNS Gajabahu, with the latter a training ship in the Sri Lankan Navy until about 2016.

Starting life in WWII as a Canadian Vickers-built River-class frigate HMCS Stormont, Christina O was purchased in 1954 by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who transformed her into the most luxurious private yacht of her time. She went on to host a wealth of illustrious guests, ranging from Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra to JFK and Winston Churchill.

Canadian River-class frigate, ex-HMCS Strathadam, built 1944 by Yarrow, Esquimalt. Sold 1947 to the Israeli Navy and renamed Misgav. Subsequently sold to the Royal Ceylon Navy as HMCyS Gajabahu. Photo via Shipspotting, 2007.

As far as I can tell, there has not been a second Thetford Mines in the RCN. A series of posterity websites exist to honor the frigate’s crew.

For more information on the RCN in WWII, please check out Marc Milner’s North Atlantic Run: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Battle for the Convoys.

Specs: (RCN late-batch Rivers: Antigonish, Glace Bay, Hallowell, Joliette, Kirkland Lake, Kokanee, Lauzon, Longueuil, Orkney, Poundmaker, Sea Cliff, Thetford Mines)

River Class – Booklet of General Plans, 1942, profile

HMCS Poundmaker (K675), port, for reference, via LAC

HMCS St. Lambert (K343). LAC

Displacement:
1,445 long tons, 2,110 long tons deep load
Length: 301.25 ft o/a
Beam: 36.5 ft
Draught: 9 ft; 13 ft (3.96 m) (deep load)
Propulsion:
2 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 VTE, twin shafts 5,500 ihp
Speed: 20 knots
Range: 646 tons oil fuel= 7,500 nautical miles at 15 knots
Complement: 140 to 157
Sensors: SU radar, Type 144 sonar
Armament:
2 x QF 4 inch/45cal Mk. XVI on a twin mount
1 x QF 12 pdr (3 inch) 12 cwt /40 Mk. V
4 x 20mm Oerlikon AAA on two twin mounts
2 x 20mm Oerlikon AAA on singles
1 x Hedgehog 24-spigot ASWRL
8 x Depth Charge throwers
2 x Depth Charge racks
Up to 150 depth charges

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

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

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I’m a member, so should you be!

Mighty D Rejoins the Fleet, after a 97-year hiatus

To comply with the limits imposed under the Five-Power Washington Naval Treaty, the low-mileage 22,000-ton early 12-inch-gunned dreadnought USS Delaware (Battleship No. 28), was decommissioned 10 November 1923 and promptly sold for scrap, just 13 years after she joined the fleet. Her crew was hot-transferred to the brand-new 33,000-ton/16-inch-gunned super-dreadnought, USS Colorado (BB-45).

Ex-USS Delaware (BB-28) in dry dock at the South Boston Annex, Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts, on 30 January 1924. The ship has been stripped in preparation for scrapping. Note propellers, rudder, armor belt and heavy fouling on her underwater hull. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 54675

Fast forward nearly a full century and the Navy has a new Delaware for the first time since that dark winter of 1923/24.

The U.S. Navy commissioned USS Delaware (SSN 791), the 18th Virginia-class attack submarine, on Saturday, in a low-key ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is the 7th Delaware in the Navy’s history.

190830-N-N0101-155 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 30, 2019) The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Delaware (SSN 791) transits the Atlantic Ocean after departing Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding division during sea trials in August 2019. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of HII by Ashley Cowan/Released)

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