Category Archives: submarines

Warship Wednesday, June 16, 2021: Rig for Red

Here at LSOZI, we will take off every Wednesday to look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and 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 16, 2021: Rig for Red

Called a skalomniscope by American sub wonk Simon Lake, the periscope of sorts was first invented in 1854 by a French guy by the name of Marie Davey, submersibles have had various “sight tubes” ever since. While early boats had a single short scope attached directly to the (single) top hatch (!) by the 1930s it was common for large fleet submarines to have multiple search and attack periscopes in the sail.

Over the years, these devices in U.S. parlance led to the term “periscope liberty” which denoted side use in observing peacetime beaches and pleasure craft with bikini-clad femmes at play and, of course, the old-school “Rig for red” use of red lighting for those who would use the scopes while the boat was at periscope depth at night or was preparing to go topside should the boat to surface in the o-dark-o’clock hours.

Here are some of the cooler periscope shots in the NHHC’s collection, among others.

Vessel sighting mechanism details LC-USZC4-4561 Robert Hudson’s submarine 1806 periscope patent

The eye of the submarine periscope, Gallagher card.

Aircraft carrier Taiho, seen through the periscope of submarine USS Albacore

Japanese destroyer ‘Harusame’, photographed through the periscope of USS Wahoo (SS-238) after she had been torpedoed by the submarine near Wewak, New Guinea, on 24 January 1943

Japanese armed trawler seen through the periscope of USS Albacore (SS-218) during her tenth war patrol. Photo received 17 November 1944 NHHC 80-286279

80-G-13550 Guardfish periscope

Submarine officer sights through a periscope in the submarine’s control room, during training exercises at the Submarine Base, New London, Groton, Connecticut, in August 1943 80-G-K-16013

Periscope death of the destroyer Tade, (1922) Montage of eight photos showing her sinking after being torpedoed by USS Seawolf (SS-197) on 23 April 1943 NH 58329

Shoreline of Makin Island, photographed through a periscope of USS Nautilus (SS-168) on 16 August 1942, the day before U.S. Marine raiders were landed 80-G-11720

Periscope photograph taken from USS Seawolf (SS-197), while she was on patrol in the Philippines-East Indies area in the fall of 1942. 80-G-33184

Periscope photograph made PUFFER SS-268 freighter Teiko Maru (ex-Vichy French steamship D’Artagnan 1943. Torpedo is shown hitting NH 68784

USS Barb 1944 “fiendish antisubmarine weapon bird” blocking Lucky Fluckey’s view on approach. He reportedly sank the Japanese ship with his observation periscope

In January of 1951, the recently GUPPY’d USS Catfish slipped into San Francisco Bay underwater and remained in the harbor for three days taking photos of the Bay Area through their periscope in daylight as part of an authorized mission to see if they could do it with a minimum of civilian reaction. The mission was successful to a degree, as no one called SFPD or the military, as reported by the San Fran Chronicle.

Sighting the target submarine periscope by Georges Schreiber, Navy Art Collection 88-159-ji

USS JOHN HOOD (DD-655) and USS SNOWDEN (DE-246) photographed through a submarine periscope, while underway 1950s USN 1042008

View from the HALIBUT’s periscope of the March 1960 launch of the Regulus missile.

USS Seadragon (SSN 584) crewmembers explore ice pack in the Arctic Ocean through the periscope

President John F. Kennedy through the periscope aboard USS THOMAS EDISON (SSBN-610) 14 April 1962 USN 1112056-F

USS New Jersey (BB-62) seen through the periscope of USS La Jolla SSN-701

Bohol Strait USS Triton spies a local fisherman on April 1 1960

Key West submarines USS Sea Poacher, USS Grenadier, and USS Threadfin wind their way up the Mississippi River toward New Orleans, as seen through the periscope of USS Tirante, Mardi Gras 1963

Periscope view as Captain G.P. Steele searches for an opening in the ice through which to surface, September 1960 USS Sea Dragon SSN-584 USN 1050054

USS Cowpens through the periscope of the nuclear fast attack submarine USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716), Western Pacific, September 1994.

Many modern submarines, including the U.S. Virginia and RN’s Astute class, no longer use traditional periscopes, having long since ditched them in favor of modern telescoping digital optronics masts housing numerous camera and sensor systems with the Navy’s current standard being the AN/BVS-1 photonics mast.

Astute class CM10 Optronic Masts from Thales. periscope

GROTON, Conn. (Dec. 20, 2019) Sailors assigned to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Minnesota (SSN 783) stand topside as they pull into their homeport at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., Dec 20, 2019, following a deployment. Minnesota deployed to execute the chief of naval operation’s maritime strategy in supporting national security interests and maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins/Released)

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Scratch One of Donitz’s Sharks

Original caption: Coast Guard Cutter sinks sub. Heaved up from below by the force of a depth charge, the Nazi U-Boat 175 breaks surface as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER, guns ablaze, bears down on it, full speed ahead. The submarine was sunk on April 17, 1943, in the North Atlantic, as it was approaching inside a convoy of ships ready to attack with torpedoes.

National Archives Identifier: 205574156 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205574156

Original caption: Coast Guard Cutter sinks sub. Coast Guardsmen on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER watch the explosion of a depth charge which blasted a Nazi U-Boat’s hope of breaking into the center of a large convoy. The depth charge tossed from the 327-foot cutter blew the submarine to the surface, where it was engaged by Coast Guardsmen. Ships of the convoy may be seen in the background.

National Archives Identifier: 205574168 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205574168

USCGC Spencer (WPG-36), a 327-foot Treasury-class cutter, is shown above sinking KMS U-175, in position 47.53N, 22.04W, by depth charges and gunfire some 500 miles SW of Ireland. Assigned to 10. Flottille under skipper Kptlt. Heinrich Bruns, the Type IXC boat had chalked up over 40,000 tons of shipping before Spencer ruined her paint job. Some 41 Germans were picked up from the ocean that day and made POWs for the rest of the war while 13 rode the submarine to the bottom.

Official Caption: “NAZI SUBMARINE SUNK BY THE FAMED CUTTER SPENCER: Effect of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER’S fire are visible in this closeup shot of the U-Boat, taken as the battle raged. The Nazi standing by the stanchion amidships disappeared a moment after this picture was taken by a Coast Guard photographer. The U-Boat had been trying to sneak into the center of the convoy.” Date: 17 April 1943 Photo No.: 1512 Photographer: Jack January? Description: The “Nazi” mentioned in the above caption was probably in fact a member of the Coast Guard boarding team–one of the first Americans to board an enemy man-of-war underway at sea since the War of 1812.

Official Caption: “OFF TO RESCUE THEIR BEATEN FOES: A pulling boat leaves the side of a Coast Guard combat cutter to rescue Nazi seamen struggling in the mid-Atlantic after their U-Boat had been blasted to the bottom by the cutter’s depth charges. Two Coast Guard cutters brought 41 German survivors to a Scottish port.” Date: 17 April 1943 Photo No.: 1516 Photographer: Jack January Description: The men in this pulling boat were in fact a trained boarding team led by LCDR John B. Oren (standing in the stern and wearing the OD helmet) and LT Ross Bullard (directly to Oren’s left). With the assistance of the Royal Navy they had practiced boarding a submarine at sea in order to capture an Enigma coding machine and related intelligence material. They were forced to take a pulling lifeboat when the Spencer’s motor lifeboat was damaged by friendly fire.

As for Spencer, named for President Tyler’s T-secretary, she would survive the war and go on to complete a 40-year career.

(Courtesy USCGC Spencer Association)

Decommissioned 23 January 1974 she was used for a further six years as an Engineering Training School and berthing hulk at the CG Yard in Maryland then fully decommissioned on 15 December 1980 and sold the following year to the North American Smelting Company of Wilmington, Delaware.

Her name is currently carried by a 270-foot Bear-class high endurance cutter (WMEC 905), which has been with the Coast Guard since 1986, a comparatively paltry 35 years.

HMS/m D1 Protected

In 1907, the first of what would be eight D-class submarines built for the Royal Navy was laid down at Vickers Armstrong at Barrow. The boat was basically the Dreadnought equivalent for submarines. Those built before her were smallish, typically with dangerous gasoline motors, capable of just carrying a couple of forward-launched torpedos for the use of protecting anchorages and coastal waters.

HMS D-1 (IWM)

HMS/m D1 was larger, at some 500 tons and 163-feet, and was armed with three 18-inch torpedo tubes, two in the bow and one in the stern, and carried a reload for each. As a key, she also used a diesel/electric plant. She also had provision for a QF 12-pdr (76mm) deck gun, so that she could take warning shots at enemy merchant vessels in compliance with “cruiser rules” for commerce raiding. Basically, she had all of the innovations that would make the Great War-era attack subs so dangerous.

She also proved her worth in the 1910 naval exercises off Colonsay, where, as a “Red” OPFOR boat, she got close enough to mark two “Blue” cruisers hit with her torpedos, an act that should have given the Royal Navy a bellwether for the events of 22 September 1914 where the “Live Bait Squadron” of the armored cruisers HMS Cressy, Hogue, and Aboukir were dispatched in turn by SMS U-9 in the span of an hour.

D1’s performance, noted Commodore Roger Keyes, head of the navy’s submarine service between 1912 and 1915, “opened the eyes of the first sea lord, Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, to the offensive possibilities of submarines, which he had hitherto regarded as defensive vessels.”

British Hydroplane and HMS D1

With that, D1 served as the prototype vessel not only for the rest of her class but also for the 58 E-class boats that served as the backbone of the British submarine fleet through WWI.

As for the boat itself, after active war service, ranging as far as the mouth of the River Ems and earning a mention in dispatches for coming into contact with the enemy during patrol operations in the Heligoland Bight, she had been relegated to training work and was scuttled about 1 nautical mile south-east of the eastern Blackstone, off Dartmouth, in 1918 for use as a known target for the trials of various submarine detection equipment.

Over time, her wreck, although first charted by the UKHO in 1920 at a depth of 50m, was forgotten to history, with most historians feeling it to be either the lost German U-boats UB-113 or UC-49.

This was washed away as explained by Historic England:

Both of these proposed identifications were disproved by the results of the 2018 investigation, as the combination of two forward torpedo tubes, single stern torpedo tube, two propellers and single rudder are not found on UBIII class and the UCII class submarines. The overall dimensions and the shape and position of the conning tower, torpedo tubes and deck fixtures are consistent with the technical plans of HMS/m D1.

Now, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport has granted protection to the wreck.

Warship Wednesday, May 5, 2021: De Gaulle’s Pearl

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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 5, 2021: De Gaulle’s Pearl

BuShips photo 19-LCM-67592 via the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.

Here we see a great surface view of the Free French Saphir-class minelaying submarine (sous-marin mouilleur de mines) Perle (Q-184) while off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, 5 June 1944– the day before the Normandy invasion to begin the liberation of her homeland. Perle, in the above photo, was preparing to sortie from PNSY to continue her already active war, having just completed an overhaul. Sadly, she would never see France again.

The six minelaying boats of the Project “Q6” Saphir-class were ordered across a series of naval programs in the late 1920s. With a double-hull construction, the 216-foot subs were small enough for work in the confined waters of the Mediterranean, displacing less than 1,000 tons when fully loaded and submerged. Using a pair of Normand-Vickers diesels and a matching set of electric motors they were not built for speed, capable of just 12 knots on the surface and less than that while under the waves. However, they could remain at sea for a lengthy 30-day patrol, able to cover 7,000nm without refueling.

Saphir

Besides the capability to carry and efficiently deploy 32 Sautter-Harlé HS 4 2,500-pound contact mines double-loaded vertically into a series of 16 Normand-Fenaux chutes built into the hull on either side of the sail, the class had three 550mm torpedo tubes and two smaller 400mm tubes (but only stowage for six spare torpedos) as well as some modest deck guns.

Drawing of a Saphir-class submarine. The black circles are the vertical mine launchers, which worked on compressed air to eject their mines. You can also note her 75mm deck gun forward and twin 13.2mm MG mount, aft. She also carried a pair of 8mm Hotchkiss MGs that could be mounted on her tower. Via К.Е.Сергеев/Wikimedia

Our Perle was something like the 18th warship used by the French to carry the name of the jewel of the ocean-going back to a circa 1663 34-gun ship of the line. Of note, the 17th Perle was also a submarine, a tiny (70-ton/77-foot) Naïade-class boat of the Great War era, complete with Russian-style Drzewiecki drop collar torpedoes.

Laid down in 1931 at the Arsenal de Toulon as the final member of her class, our Perle was commissioned 1 March 1937 and was assigned to the 21ème Division des Sous-Marins (DSM) at Toulon.

The Phony War

When the war kicked off against Germany in 1939, the French Mediterranean fleet was left where-is/how-is just in case the Italians decided to enter the game. When Mussolini obliged on 10 June 1940, Perle was dispatched to sow a defensive minefield off the Corsican port of Bastìa and patrol alongside sistership Diamant.

Vichy Boat

The general French ceasefire on the 22nd ended Perle’s initial involvement in the war. However, after the British plastered the Vichy battleline at Oran two weeks later, she and three other submarines were ordered to head to Gibraltar for a bit of revenge that was called off at the last minute.

Then came deployment to the strategic West African port of Dakar, which was under pressure from the British and De Gaulle’s nascent Free French movement. There, Perle joined the 16ème DSM, which consisted of several smaller submarines, to prepare for a second Allied assault on Senegal that never came. Instead, once the Torch Landings in North Africa triggered the German dismantling of the Vichy French republic and the order to scuttle those ships still in European French waters, Dakar came over to De Gaulle and Perle switched sides by default.

Working for the Liberation

By early 1943, Perle had been integrated into Allied efforts in the Med and was in Oran and was soon running patrols off Cannes and Marseille in between landing operatives and agents where needed, helping no doubt to spread the deception at play across the region as to where the Allies would strike next.

From December 1942 (Operation Pearl Harbour) through November 1943, the “Algerian Group” Free French submarines to include Perle, Casabianca, Marsouin, and Arethuse were heavily involved in running “Le Tube” along the Riveria. Run by intelligence officer Colonel Paul Paillole, the subs made regular runs to Southern France and Corsica, dropping off OSS, SIS, and French resistance agents and supplies ranging from STEN guns to suitcase transmitters. In many of these cases, the submarines would have selected shore party members sent through abbreviated commando training, just in case. 

On one of these missions, in late October 1943, Perle landed Guy Jousselin Chagrain de Saint-Hilaire, who used the nomme de guerre “Marco” in the hills outside of Cavalaire sur Mer in Southern France along with two radio operators and their equipment. Saint-Hilaire would set up the Marco Polo network which played a key role in the liberation in 1944.

Those landed ran the gamut from small groups of operatives, such as Marco and his common guys, to teams of exiled field-grade French Army officers complete with regimental banners that had been spirited out of France in 1940, eager to reform units to spring into action for the liberation. The trips, coordinated with local Resistance cells, would also pick up Allied agents and downed pilots looking to exfiltrate from Nazi-occupied France and carry back important dispatches, reports, objects of intelligence, and film.

In short order, Perle, along with the other Algerian Group subs, conveyed shadowy individuals to Barcelona (where she planted Deuxième Bureau Capt. D’Hoffelize on the beach), Cap Camarat in Corsica, and elsewhere.

Speaking of Corsica, Perle was used to deliver 30 operators of the Bataillon de Choc near Ajaccio on 13 September to help pave the way for the Firebrand landings. The larger Casabianca would land 109 commandos of the same unit– so many that she carried them across the Med while surfaced!

Free French soldiers from the Bataillon de Choc, a commando unit created in Algeria in early 1943. The Bataillon was decisive in the liberation of Corsica and Elba. This picture, with a recently repurposed camouflaged German 7.5cm Pak 40, was taken after they landed in Provence during Operation Dragoon, during the fight to free Toulon, August 1944. Note the mix of gear including British watch caps, American M1903 rifles, boots, uniforms, and gaiters; and Italian Beretta MAB 38sub guns. Also, note the open 75mm shell crate with two rounds ready, no doubt fixing to get back into service against its former owners.

The French commandos, meeting no opposition, soon linked up with Corsican partisans, some 20,000-strong, who had been in open revolt against the German occupation force. Perle’s skipper at the time was able to twist the arm enough of the Toulon-Ajaccio ferry captain to sail to Algiers and come over to the Free French side of things. The submarine also landed three tons of flour on 16 September– more important than guns when it came to winning hearts and minds. The submarine Arethuse arrived two days later to bring five tons of munitions from North Africa to help put those minds to use. 

The campaign evolved rapidly and De Gaulle, on his arrival in Ajaccio on the 8 October 1943, declared Corsica to be the first part of Metropolitan France to be liberated – eight months before Overlord.

The final “Tube” mission was one of Perle’s. On 29 November, she appeared at the designated point and time off the French coast and sent her shore party to the beach only to run across a German patrol, resulting in two prisoners and one killed on both sides.

The results of the covert efforts in Southern France were evident in the Dragoon landings the next year, where it seemed that well-organized FFI units were everywhere. 

Free French Resistance meeting Allied troops on the beach at Saint Tropez, Aug.1944 During Dragoon (Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-212383 via NARA)

Refit

At this point, Perle was in dire need of an overhaul and made for Philadelphia, one of numerous Free French vessels to do so at the time. There, arriving just before Christmas 1943 by way of Bermuda, she would land her 13.2mm machine guns for a set of American-made 20mm Oerlikons, as well as undergo general modification for continued work with the Allied fleets.

A great series of photos exist of her from this time in the states. 

Cleared to return to the war, she sailed in late June 1944 for Holy Loch via Newfoundland in the company of the destroyer escort USS Cockrill (DE-398). Leaving St. Johns with the Flower-class corvette HMCS Chicoutimi (K156) on 3 July.

Five days later, while some 1,000 miles out into the Atlantic, Perle came close to the outbound 94-ship convoy ONM243, sailing from Halifax to Clyde, while it was roughly between Greenland and Iceland. The convoy was protected by a pair of merchant aircraft carrier (MAC) ships, MV Empire MacColl and MV Empire MacCallum who, tragically, were not notified of the possible presence of the Free French submarine until it was too late.

In the early afternoon of 8 July, a Fairey Swordfish Mark II torpedo bomber flown from Empire MacCallum by a Free Dutch Navy pilot of 836 Squadron FAA, was flying ahead of the convoy performing routine a sweep and spotted the mysterious submarine, and subsequently executed a textbook attack that proved successful.

From an article by Dr. Alec Douglas, a former Canadian Forces Director General of History, in the Autumn 2001 Canadian Military Journal:

The pilot, Lieutenant Francoix Otterveanger of the Royal Netherlands Navy, assumed that the submarine, surfaced and on a northeasterly course, was a U-boat, as did the senior officer of the Canadian Escort Group C5 in HMCS Dunver [a River-class frigate]. That officer, Acting Commander George Stephen, the colorful and widely respected Senior Officer Escorts (SOE), is reputed to have exclaimed “Sink the bastard!”, as he ordered the two MAC ships in company to get all available aircraft up.

The ‘string bag’, a slow old biplane, had to give a wide berth to U-boat flak. Lieutenant Otterveanger put his Swordfish into a position upwind between the sun and the target. He waited for the other aircraft from Empire MacCallum and Empire MacColl to join him, and then held off for another ten minutes or so while the six Swordfish (four from Empire MacCallum and two from Empire MacColl) formed up, flying clockwise around the submarine, to carry out a series of attacking runs.

It was just about then, at 1358Z, an hour and five minutes after receiving the sighting report at 1253Z, that Commander Stephen suddenly passed a voice message to the MAC ships: “Have aircraft been informed that submarine ‘La Perle’ might be in our vicinity?”

The bewildered air staff officer in Empire MacCallum knew nothing about La Perle, nor exactly what to do about the message, but tried to alert the aircraft with a belated warning: “Look out for recognition signals in case the sub is friendly. If not, attack.” Only one aircraft heard him over the RT (radiotelephone) traffic that filled the air, and asked in vain for a repetition, just as Lieutenant Otterveanger was beginning his attacking run between 1404 and 1408Z, about an hour and fifteen minutes after the first sighting.

When Otterveanger saw a series of “L’s”, the correct identification for the day, flashing from the conning tower of La Perle, and not having heard the last-minute caution, he concluded it was simply a ruse de guerre and fired four pairs of rockets at the target. All the other aircraft followed up with rocket attacks and (now running into light machine gun fire from the submarine), in the last instance, with two depth charges on the order of Lieutenant Otterveanger, “who had conducted operations in a most proper manner from the start”.

So effective was the operation that the air staff officer in Empire MacCallum was moved to comment, in a more triumphal tone than probably was intended: “The attack was extremely well coordinated and was over in the space of a minute. At least eight hits were scored on the submarine which sank within four minutes of the attack.”

By the time escorts from Convoy ONM-243 reached the scene, only one man out of a crew of sixty men, a Chief Petty Officer machinist [Émile Cloarec, rescued by HMCS Hesperler], was still alive.

A board of inquiry into the loss pointed a lot of fingers, largely at Acting CDR Stephen, and exonerated Ottervaenger.

She was not the only Free French submarine to be lost during the war. The mighty cruiser submarine Surcouf would vanish on her way to Panama in 1942, taking 130 men down with her.

Epilogue

Documents on “the French submarine Le Perle” including her PSNY repair log and the report of her sinking by a Swordfish aircraft are on file in the U.S. National Archives.

Of her five sisters, Nautilus, Saphir, and Turquoise were captured by the Axis in North Africa in 1942 who tried to put them to use but instead scuttled them. Diamant was likewise sunk at Toulon by her own countrymen.

Rubis, like Perle, would join the Allied effort, escaping the Fall of France in 1940 by nature of already working out of Scotland with the Royal Navy at the time. She would carry out an impressive 28 war patrols including almost two dozen mining operations off Norway, sowing deadly seeds that could claim at least 15 Axis vessels.

French submarine Rubis as seen from the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curacoa in the North Atlantic. Photo via the Dundee Submarine Memorial

Rubis would have a stacked Jolly Roger by the end of 1944.

What is left of the 6-submarine Saphir class in the 1946 edition of Jane’s.

One of a handful of submarines in the immediate post-war French Navy, Rubis would retire in 1949. She was scuttled as a sonar target in 1958 off Cape Camarat. Her wreck is in 135 feet of water between Cavalaire and Saint-Tropez and is a popular dive spot.

The French Navy has carried on the legacy of both of the hardworking WWII Saphirs with the Rubis-class attack boat SNA Pearl (S606) commissioned in 1993. She is currently under extensive repair and refurbishment at Cherbourg-en-Cotentin following a fire last summer.

Rubis-class SSN Perle (S606) surfacing. Just as the previous Perle was the sixth and final boat of the Saphir-class in the 1930s, the current boat is the sixth and last of the Rubis series.

Specs:

A scale model of the Saphir class with a net cutter forward and no 13.2 twin mount. If you look close, you can see the doors to the mine chutes. Via Wikimedia Commons

Displacement: 761 tonnes (surfaced), 925 tonnes (submerged)
Length: 216.5 ft.
Beam: 23.3 ft.
Draft: 14 ft.
Machinery: 2 Normand Vickers diesels of 650 hp ea., 2 Schneider electric motors of 410 kW ea., 144 batteries
Speed: 12 knots (surface), 9 knots (submerged)
Range: On 75 tons diesel oil- 4000nm @12 knots, 7000nm @7.5 knots surfaced; 80nm @4 knots submerged. 30 days endurance
Hull: 13mm shell, 80-meter operating depth
Crew: 3 officers, 10 petty officers, 30 enlisted
Armament:
2 550mm bow tubes with four torpedoes.
1 trainable 550mm tube
2 400mm tubes with four torpedoes
1 x 75mm/35cal M1928
1 x Twin 13.2mm Hotchkiss M1929 machine gun mount
2 x 8mm Hotchkiss M1914 machine guns
32 Sauter-Harlé HS4 mines (2,400lbs each with 704 pounds of explosives)

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Hoping for the 53 Souls on KRI Nanggala

The Indonesian Navy reportedly has about 72 hours worth of oxygen left to rescue the 53 crew members of the Type 209/1300 submarine KRI Nanggala (402), which went missing in deep waters during a torpedo drill north of Bali on Wednesday.

A half-dozen warships, a helicopter, and 400 people are involved in the search while Singapore and Malaysia have dispatched additional assets, and the US, Australia, France, and Germany have offered assistance. The Indian Navy has dispatched their DSRV.

A 40-year-old boat, the German-made SSK underwent a refit in South Korea in 2012. In somber news, Nanggala disappeared in 2,300 feet of water (Type 209/1300s have a test depth of 800 feet) and an oil slick was observed shortly after.

150808-N-UN259-193 JAVA SEA (Aug. 8, 2015) The Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala (402) participates in a photo exercise during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Indonesia 2015. In its 21st year, CARAT is an annual, bilateral exercise series with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the armed forces of nine partner nations including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alonzo M. Archer/Released)

Remembering Thresher

Via the U.S. Naval Institute

On this day in 1963, 129 men were lost when the USS Thresher (SSN-593) sank during deep-dive tests in the Atlantic Ocean. After hearing about the disaster, the young son of skipper CDR John Harvey made this crayon drawing of the sub lying on the ocean floor.

The drawing is now in the collection of the U.S. Navy Museum in Washington, D.C.

57-Year Old SSBN Finally Retires

Long the last remaining boat of her class still afloat, the Moored Training Ship Sam Rayburn (MTS 635) was originally commissioned 2 December 1964 as SSBN-635, part of the James Madison-class of Cold War-era fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarines.

USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635) c. 1964, with her missile hatches showing their “billiard ball” livery

A member of the famed “41 for Freedom” boats rushed into service to be the big stick of mutually assured destruction against the Soviets, Rayburn was named for the quiet but determined WWII/Korea War speaker of the House, Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn.

After carrying Polaris SLBMs on a rotating series of deterrent patrols from the East Coast and Rota, Spain, Rayburn had her missile compartment removed in 1985 as part of the SALT II treaty and decommissioned, transitioning to her role as an MTS.In the meantime, all of her sisters were disposed of through recycling by 2000, leaving Rayburn to linger on in her training role. Similarly, MTS Daniel Webster (MTS-626), originally a Lafayette-class FBM decommissioned in 1990, has been in the same tasking.

However, all things eventually end. As the MTS role is now transitioning to a pair of recently sidelined 1970s-construction Los Angeles-class attack boats– La Jolla (SSN/MTS 701) and San Francisco (SSN/MTS 711)Webster and Rayburn are ready for razorblades.

Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) recently welcomed the Rayburn in advance of her inactivation, from where she will be towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for recycling

Navy Photo 210405-N-XX785-003 by Danny De Angelis

USS Sam Rayburn has proudly served the U.S. Submarine Force and Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program since 1964, and we now welcome it to America’s Shipyard,” said Shipyard Commander Captain Dianna Wolfson. “Performing the first inactivation of a Moored Training Ship will develop another important facet in our service to the Fleet, and we look forward to excelling in our mission as one team.”

Turn of the Century Sub Designs

So I’ve been spending a lot of time browsing the USPTO files on early (pre-WWI) submarines from the 1900s and came across some really groovy maritime art, all worthy of gracing a pulp fiction novel of the age.

Check some of these out:

John Hays Hammond 1913 “long-range remote control torpedo” US1641165

Edward Lasius Peacock, Lake Submarine co, patent US1067371

Check out the torpedo tube arrangement on the Peacock design

Now that is a lot of torpedos

You have to admit that the Peacock design looks like a forerunner of Gene Rodenberry’s Enterprise. 

Could you imagine the Peacock boat in service?

Sloan Danenhower, torpedo pilot boat, patent, 1912 US1111139 b

The Danenhower patent in turn looks very similar to the German Molch type midget sub of WWII. 

Of course, none of them ever took to the water that I know of, but that doesn’t make them any less fantastic.

Ice Station Zebra, Russian 2021 Edition

As part of Russian wargames in the Arctic, three Russki submarines just surfaced from under the ice, a pretty decent show of force for the region and a nice ICE-EX for any nation.

From the Russian Ministry of Defense:

Today, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, listened via video conference call to the report of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, on the ongoing Umka-21 complex Arctic expedition. Admiral Nikolay Evmenov reported that since March 20, 2021, in the area of ​​the Franz Josef Land archipelago, Alexandra Land island and the adjacent water area covered with continuous ice, under the leadership of the Main Command of the Navy, a comprehensive Arctic expedition “Umka-2021” is being conducted with the participation of the Russian Geographical Society … “For the first time, according to a single concept and plan, a complex of combat training, research and practical measures of various directions is being carried out in the circumpolar regions,” the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy emphasized.

During the expedition, according to Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, 43 events are envisaged, of which 35 have been completed to date, including 10 jointly with the Russian Geographical Society. All activities of the expedition are carried out as planned. The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy said that more than 600 military and civilian personnel and about 200 models of weapons, military and special equipment were involved in the expedition. All planned activities take place in harsh climatic conditions: in the area of ​​the expedition, the average temperature is minus 25-30 degrees Celsius, the thickness of the ice cover is up to 1.5 meters, the wind in gusts reaches 32 meters per second.

Admiral Nikolai Evmenov reported to Vladimir Putin that within the framework of the Arctic expedition, for the first time in the history of the Russian Navy, three nuclear submarines surfaced from under the ice in a limited area with a radius of 300 meters; flight to the polar region with refueling in the air of a pair of MiG-31 fighters with the passage of the geographic point of the North Pole; practical torpedo firing by a nuclear submarine from under the ice, followed by equipping a hole at the torpedo’s ascent point and lifting it to the surface; tactical exercise with a subdivision of the arctic motorized rifle brigade in adverse weather conditions.

“Based on the results of the measures taken, the samples of weapons, military and special equipment participating in military-technical experiments have generally confirmed their tactical and technical characteristics in conditions of high latitudes and low temperatures,” said the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy. Admiral Nikolai Evmenov also added that the Arctic expeditions of the Navy will continue in the future.

As noted by The Drive, the three subs are all top-shelf boomers: 

[T]wo sails belonging to Delta IV class submarines, also known as Project 667BDRM Delfins. It’s possible that the third boat could be either a member of the Borei class, or the lone Borei-A class submarine presently in service, the Knyaz Vladimir. The Borei and Borei-A designs are Russia’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines.

Warship Wednesday, March 24, 2021: Nicky’s Dangerous Dolphin

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, March 24, 2021: Nicky’s Dangerous Dolphin

Here we see the primitive one-of-a-kind submarine, Delfin of the Imperial Russian Navy cruising around the Krondstadt roadstead in August 1903, proudly flying the St. Andrew’s ensign. A sometimes-cranky little boat in perhaps the world’s most unlucky fleet, she would nonetheless leave a huge mark on naval history.

On 19 December 1900, Lt. Gen Nikolai Kuteinikov, head of shipbuilding for the Russian Admiralty, authorized a commission to begin work towards a submersible torpednyy kater, or torpedo cutter. While negotiations with Irish engineer John Philip Holland’s concern in American to purchase one of his submarine boats proved fruitless as Holland wanted a 10-unit package deal for a whopping $1.9 million, the Russians decided to roll their own. After all, how hard could it be?

Assigned this task was a team under promising young naval architect Ivan Bubnov. Bubnov, just 28 at the time, was fresh from the construction of the new battleship Poltava. As it would turn out, he would end up as Tsarist Russia’s Simon Lake.

Laid down on 5 July 1901 at the Baltic Shipbuilding & Mechanical Plant on Vasilevskiy Island– today’s historic 165-year-old OJSC Baltic Shipyard– the subject of our story was at first dubbed Torpednyy Kater No. 113, then later switching her pennant to Minonosets (destroyer) No. 150 before leaving the slipways.

The design was simple. Made in two symmetrical halves of rounded 8mm nickel steel then riveted and forge welded together over an internal framework, the submersible was just 64 feet long– the same size as USS Holland (SS-1).

Using flat iron plating on the vessel’s top decks for added strength, her fixed periscope-equipped conning tower/wheelhouse doubled as a hatch. Just 113 tons, she had ballast tanks on each end and could take on nine tons of seawater (in 15 minutes) to submerge to a maximum depth of about 150 feet. Obukhov was contracted for the blow system, which included a small electric air compressor that took four hours to refill completely empty air tanks.

Longitudinal section of submarine “Dolphin” via Ivan Grigorievich Bubnov’s Russian submarines: The history of creation and use of, 1834-1923.

He (Russian warships are never referred to as being female) used a French-made Soter-Garle electric motor and 64 Fullmen lead-acid batteries to achieve 7.5-knots submerged for short periods, and a German-made 300hp Daimler gasoline engine to reach 8.5 knots on the surface. Control was through a series of six rudders.

In short, he has been described as “like the USS Holland (SS-1) but worse.”

By September 1902, he was launched, and the following Spring was undergoing trials under the command of Capt. (3rd Rank) Mikhail Beklemishev, a 44-year-old torpedo tactics instructor on the submarine commission who had learned his trade on destroyers in the 1890s. During the construction of the Russian submarine under his command, he had traveled to the U.S. and met with Mr. Holland ostensibly on a shopping trip, and both observed and went to sea on Holland’s early Type 7 submarines at Electric Boat in Groton. Ironic considering Delfin’s description.

All the plankowners were volunteers recruited by Beklemishev.

Accommodations for the 13-member crew were cramped– remember the boat was shorter than a mobile home today and most of the spaces were taken up by machinery. Berthing was via hammocks and seabags strung over the wooden deck in the bow covering the batteries. A small stove for heating canned food and a novel electric samovar provided tea made up the galley. Fresh water amounted to about 40 gallons and the head consisted of a sand-lined closet. Officers’ quarters in the middle of the boat for the skipper and XO amounted to two stuffed sofas and a small dining table, all bolted to the deck around their own O-club cistern. Workstations had wooden stools similarly affixed to the deck.

He was armed with a pair of 1898 pattern 15-inch Whitehead torpedoes held outside of the submarine in a trapeze arrangement designed by Polish engineer Dr. Stefan Drzewiecki. Termed a “drop collar,” Drzewiecki’s girder launching system would become standard on Tsarist submarines through 1918 as well as a few French classes.

French submarine Espadon seen at Cherbourg, France. Note the 17.7-inch torpedo in the Drzewiecki drop collar external launching system on her deck. Also, note her very Delfin-like main hatch with a periscope on top.

They could launch their steel fish with the submarine either submerged or surfaced and were operated via a hellbox inside the sub. The total price of the new submersible was 388,000 gold rubles.

In two rounds of sea trials in the Gulf of Finland during the summer of 1903, Beklemishev and crew were able to spend several days in a row on the ocean and found the craft to perform satisfactorily, both on the surface and submerged.

The occasion of her launch for sea trials. Note the two Whitehead torpedoes in Drzewiecki drop collars at her stern. Also, Beklemishev is the goateed officer on deck.

The same day, with a better view of the Whiteheads. 

On 16 August, Tsar Nicholas II, aboard his yacht Alexander and with the battleship Slava in escort, reviewed the little submersible torpedo boat and received the details of his trials directly from Beklemishev.

The well-known image of the Tsar (second from center, hands on sword) receiving the report from Beklemishev (far left) aboard Minonosets No. 150 on 16 Aug 1903. Bubnov stands behind the emperor and looks like he is waiting for Beklemishev to say something crazy.

Laid up during the annual Baltic Sea freeze over, Minonosets No. 150 was given several modifications to correct errors observed during her sea trials to include a second periscope as well as redesigned rudders and diving planes.

Lessons learned in her construction and operation were used by Bubnov to create a larger, 100-foot submarine from the Minonosets No. 150 design– the six-boat kerosene/electric Kasatka (killer whale) class– which had four drop collared torpedoes. To compare with foreign types, the Admiralty purchased six 137-ton boats with bottoming wheels from Simon Lake (Osetr-class), three 209-ton subs from Krupp in Germany (Karp, Karas, and Kambala), a gifted midget sub from Krupp (the trailerable 40-foot Forel) and seven 105-ton boats from Mr. Holland (Som-class). Beklemishev was pulled from command and placed in charge of what was effectively the first Russian submariner school. Whereas the Russians only had their sole domestic-made boat in 1903, within a year they had more than two dozen soon on the way from multiple sources.

On May 31, 1904, all Russian destroyer submarines were given names by order of the Tsar, and “Minonosets No. 150” was christened Delfin.

When the ice melted, Delfin was ready for fleet operations but looked slightly different.

Note the second periscope

During regular operations in a rapidly expanding specialty branch, Delfin was used increasingly as a training boat, and on a practice dive while at the shipyard in June 1904, she went to the bottom under the command of LT. Anatoly Cherkasov along with 37 men and, tragically, remained there due to an issue with an improperly closed hatch, filling the sub’s interior with seawater except for a two-foot air bubble at the top of the boat. When finally rescued, Cherkasov and 23 of his crew had perished with the young officer voluntarily giving up his place to allow others to survive on the increasingly fetid air.

The first Russian submariners to be buried as heroes, they would not be the last. Amazingly, the survivors all elected to remain in the branch.

The grievous loss led the Russians to develop some of the world’s first submarine rescue tactics and vessels, including the rescue ship Volkhov, ordered in 1911 (which still, amazingly, endures as the Kommuna in Black Sea Fleet today.)

Raised and repaired, Delfin fired test torpedoes at a target hulk in October and, along with seven other small submarines, were hauled out of the water, fitted to railcars, and shipped via the single track Trans-Siberian Railway some 4,060 miles to the Siberian Flotilla’s base in Vladivostok as a pitched war was on with the Japanese in the Pacific.

Russian submarines on railcars to Vladivostok, 1904. The closest to the photo is Nalim/Burbot, a Kasatka-class boat. Four Kasatkas, notably just larger refinements to the Delfin’s design, were sent to the Pacific along with Delfin and two Holland-produced Som-class boats. 

The trip included a break at Lake Baikal where, as the spur around the world’s deepest freshwater body of water was not complete, they had to be transferred to a ferry to cross to the other side. The sight of submarines on a ferry crossing a lake in Siberia must have been a sight.

By 23 December 1904, Delfin arrived at Vladivostok and, once put in the water through a hole chopped in the iced-in harbor, made a test dive in the Pacific on 12 February. Two days later, along with the Holland-produced Som, he made a cautious combat patrol under the ice to the sea and soon was venturing further out to as far as 120 miles offshore, later operating with Kasatka as well.

Imperial Russian Submarines Delfin and Kasatka prepared to go out to sea for a patrol against the Japanese.

In all, by May, he spent 17 days at sea including eight on patrol. Together, Delfin, Som, and Kasatka reportedly came across two blockading Japanese destroyers 70 miles out and, attempted to get close enough to fire a torpedo volley– the Whiteheads only had a range of 1,500 yards– but were unable to due to the disparity in speed.

Speaking of the first submarine war in the Pacific, the Japanese ordered five of Mr. Holland’s boats in the summer of 1904, and quietly– so as not to flout American neutrality too much– they were constructed, dismantled, shipped from Connecticut to Seattle by rail and then, under the supervision of Arthur Leopold Busch, shipped to Japan for reassembly at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal. However, the Japanese Holland boats weren’t ready for combat until after the end of the war.

Holland-built No 1 Class Submarine No.2 pictured at Yokosuka Naval Arsenal on May 1st 1905

Delfin’s war was cut short when, on 5 May, he suffered a gasoline explosion in port that singed crewmembers and popped 29 rivets. The smokey submariners were able to escape before he sank (for the second time in two years). Raised, he needed three months of repairs ashore before she was able to take to the water again.

Imperial Russian Submarine Delfin raised after sinking On May the 5th 1905,

The next Spring, on 11 March 1906, acting on behalf of the Tsar, the Minister of the Sea, Admiral Alexei Birilev decreed that Russia’s submersible “destroyers” were actually submarines and finally listed on the naval rolls as such.

Delfin would spend the next decade in the Far East, becoming the granddaddy of the Pacific Submarine Division. There she underwent a regular cycle of summertime cruises followed by winter lay-ups sans batteries and to keep the hull out of the ice. Each spring, she would receive additional equipment and improvements, making her much less spartan and much more survivable. Notably, she would suffer at least two other fires in her service they were quickly contained. In 1910, he performed a role of a torpedo testing craft, firing no less than 43 fish that summer while submerged.

Russian Siberian Military Flotilla, Ulysses Bay 1908, submarine Delfin (far left) along with submarines Kasatka, Skat, Nalim, Sheremetev, Osyotr, Kefal, Paltus, Bychok or Plotva, with the destroyer Grozovoy offshore. 

In August 1914, with the Great War upon the world, Delfin would take on war shot torpedoes and, along with the other subs of the Siberian Flotilla, would undertake fruitless combat patrols with a weather eye peeled for German and Austrian vessels.

Deflin’s 1914 Jane’s listing as part of the Russian Siberian Flotilla. Note the “Bubnoff” reference. The Russians entered the Great War with over 40 submarines, one of the world’s largest users

In March 1916, with the Kaiser’s wolves long cleared from the Far East except for the occasional surface raider, it was decided to ship Delfin from frozen Vladivostok to equally frigid Archangel in the White Sea, to be used in the defense of Kola Bay. Packed on railcars as far as Kotlas, he was transferred to barges on the Dvina River in June to take up to Archangel. Damaged in transport, he was not repaired and successfully placed in the water at her new homeport until September.

Badly damaged in a storm in April 1917, the commander of the Northern Fleet sidelined Delfin in favor of a new American-built Amerikanskiy Golland (Holland)-class submarine that was soon to arrive in port. Used briefly for training, Delfin was stricken from the fleet’s list in August 1917.

Later transferred to the local White Sea merchant fleet, he would be repurposed to a shift-lifting pontoon for salvage work, and then, on 16 March 1932, it was ordered by the Council of Labor and Defense Commissars that she be scrapped.

Epilogue

Delfin today is remembered in several pieces of maritime art.

As for his fathers, submarine designer Bubnov would design no less than 32 subs for the Tsar including the successful Akula and Bars classes, with the latter seeing service in both world wars. He would also lend his expertise to the Gangut-class battleships, which would cover themselves in glory and endure into the 1950s.

I.G. Bubnov near to submarine Akula on the dock of Baltic factory

Made a Major General, Bubnov was ushered out of the design bureau with the fall of the Tsar but never left St. Petersburg, dying in the city’s Typhus epidemic in 1919 during the Civil War at the ripe old age of 47. The Soviets later named two merchant ships after him in the 1970s and 80s.

Beklemishev, Delfin’s first and most successful skipper, remained with the fleet until 1910, retiring as a Major General in charge of diving and submarine training. After teaching at various universities in the capital, he was appointed to the shipbuilding commission during the Great War, a position he was surprisingly able to keep for a while even after the Reds took over, even though he was arrested several times. Comrade Beklemishev retired for good in 1931 and passed away five years later in St. Petersburg, err Leningrad, and his grave was lost during the siege of the city in WWII. Both his son and grandson would go on to be Soviet merchant officers of some renowned, with the latter having a rescue tug named in his honor.

Speaking of honors and rescues, the grave of Delfin’s lost 24 submariners remain at Smolensk Orthodox Cemetery on Vasilevskiy Island in St. Petersburg, not too far away from that of Bubnov, who is celebrated today and has his likeness on several stamps and institutions.

Since 1996, a new holiday, the “Day of the Submariner” has been a national occasion. Implemented by order No. 253 of Admiral of the Fleet Felix Nikolayevich Gromov the “Day of the Submariner” is celebrated annually on 19 March, citing the 1906 order given by Adm. Birilev adding the term to the fleet and changing the submersible “destroyers” into official submarines, of which the Russians have had several hundred since then.

Last week, on the 115th anniversary of Birilev’s order, the Russian Navy, submarine vets, and their families held services across the country, including at the graves of the Delfin’s crew and the monument for the lost submariners of the Kursk, a more recent disaster.

Specs:

Via ‘“Submarines of the Tsarist Navy” (Spassky, I. D., Semyonov, V. P., Polmar, Norman), an excellent English primer to early Russian subs. 

Displacement: 113 tons surfaced; 126 tons submerged
Length: 64 ft
Beam: 11 ft
Draught: 9 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 1 shaft petrol / electric, 300 hp/120 hp
Speed:
10 knots surfaced; 6 knots submerged after 1910.
Complement: 22 officers and men after 1910
Armament:
2 external 15 in torpedoes in Drzewiecki drop collars.

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