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Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the most important, and least remembered Canadian cavalry charge

The Battle of Moreuil Wood on March 30, 1918, is captured in the painting “Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron” by Sir Alfred Munnings via the Canadian War Museum:

UNDATED — Undated handout photo of Alfred Munnings’ painting CHARGE OF FLOWERDEWS SQUADRON, held by the Canadian War Museum.

The story behind the charge:

“The Canadian charge at Moreuil Wood occurred at the height of the Kaiserschlacht, the German Spring Offensive of 1918, a massive assault on the Western Front that the German High Command hoped would split apart the Allied armies and drive the British out of Europe.

On the foggy morning of March 30, 1918, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, one of the few Allied units not retreating from the German onslaught, was tasked with recapturing the Moreuil Wood, a forested ridge east of the French city of Amiens, a crucial railway junction that linked the British and French armies…”

There, only C Squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse, under a 33-year-old British Columbian rancher named Lt. Gordon Muriel Flowerdew, made ready to ride into history.

More here in this great piece in the National Post

Warship Wednesday, April 11, 2018: Ms. Lane, of Paraguay, Nashville and Galveston fame

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 11, 2018: Ms. Lane, of Paraguay, Nashville and Galveston fame

LC-USZ62-48021: United States Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane. Wood engraving, 1858. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Here we see the classic steam warship, USRC Harriet Lane of the Revenue Marine Service, and 157 years ago this very day she fired the first shot (at sea) in the Civil War, securing her place in history.

A copper plated side-paddle steamer with an auxiliary schooner rig, Lane was built for the US Treasury Department, by William H. Webb at Bell’s shipyard in New York City in 1857 at a cost of $140,000. She was named in honor of Ms. Harriet Rebecca Lane Johnston, the popular niece of lifelong bachelor President James Buchanan, who served as his first lady since he was unmarried at the time.

Her armament, a pair of old 32-pounders and a quartet of 24-pdr brass howitzers, was deemed sufficient for her work in stopping smugglers and destroying derelicts at sea, but she was constructed with three magazines and open deck space for additional guns should they be needed.

USCG Historian’s Office

And soon, she was loaned to the Navy.

Before Lane was even laid down, the gunboat USS Water Witch, who was busy surveying the Río de la Plata basin in South America in 1855, was fired upon as by a Paraguayan battery at Fort Itapirú. Intended as a warning shot (Water Witch had approval from the Argentines but not Paraguay to survey the river), the ball accidentally hit the gunboat and killed the very unfortunate helmsman Samuel Chaney. A resulting fire-fight saw Water Witch hulled 10 times. Fast forward to October 1858 and a punitive expedition was ordered sent to Paraguay to sort things out, even though Water Witch had returned home in 1856.

This expeditionary force, the largest ever assembled by the U.S. Navy until the Civil War, consisted of 19 ships, which seems like a lot but really isn’t when you look at the list of vessels that went. While the Navy had a half-dozen large ships-of-the-line on the Naval List, all were in ordinary at the time. Of the impressive dozen super-sized frigates, just one, the 50-gun USS St. Lawrence, already in Brazil, could be spared. This left the rest of the fleet to be comprised of smaller sloops and brigs, ships taken up from trade and armed with cannon or two, and the brand new and very modern Harriet Lane. The commander of the task force? Flag Officer (there were no admirals at the time) William B. Shubrick, a War of 1812 veteran who was taken from his warm quiet desk at the Lighthouse Bureau in Washington and given his last seagoing command.

Ships of The Paraguay Squadron underway. Ships are from left to right: USS Water Witch next the flag-ship; USS Sabine; next to USS Fulton; behind Fulton is USS Western Port (later USS Wyandotte); next is USS Harriet Lane; behind Harriet Lane is USS Supply; and next to the bow of USS Memphis. Artist unknown. Image from Harper’s Weekly, New York, 16 October 1858. Description from Navsource.

The force was filled with supplies and Marines (Lane herself shipped a 22-man force of Leathernecks) and set off for Latin America with special commissioner James B. Bowlin in tow. Lane at the time was skippered by Captain John Faunce, a skilled USRM officer since 1841, who would later command her at Fort Sumter– but we are ahead of ourselves.

Arriving in January 1859, Paraguay signed a commercial treaty with Brown, apologized for the hit on Water Witch with no more shots fired by either side and agreed to pay an indemnity to the family of the long-dead helmsman and the fleet returned home in February after some literal gunboat diplomacy.

Though Lane resumed her Revenue duties, she was soon again in Naval service.

With states dropping out of the Union left and right from December 1860 onward, she transferred to the Navy 30 March 1861 and was assigned to the Northern Blockading Squadron. Detailed to help supply the Fort Sumter garrison, a small U.S. Army post in rebel-held Charleston Harbor under the guns of coastal defense expert and former U.S. Army Maj (bvt) P. G. T. Beauregard, Lane left New York on 8 April headed to the Palmetto State, arriving three days later. The reason an armed ship was sent was because President Buchannan had detailed the unarmed merchant ship Star of the West to do so earlier in the year, an effort that failed when it was fired upon by Beauregard’s shore batteries made up partially of students from the Citadel.

On the morning of 11 April 1861, Harriet Lane arrived ahead of her task force that was following with supplies and 500 soldiers. Taking up a picket location around the island fort, on the morning of April 13, while the installation was under attack, Faunce order a shot from one of her 32-pounders, commanded by Lt. W. D. Thompson, across the bow of the oncoming steamship SS Nashville (1,241t, 215ft) as that vessel tried to enter Charleston Harbor. The reason for the round was because Nashville was flying no identifying flag, meaning she could possibly be a rebel ship.

The Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane forces the merchant steamer Nashville to show its colors during the attack on Fort Sumter, April 13, 1861. “The Cutter Harriet Lane Fires Across the Bow of Nashville” by Coast Guard artist Howard Koslow.

Unarmed and not looking to be sent to the bottom, Nashville raised the U.S. standard, and Harriet Lane broke off. Anticlimactic for sure, but the ole Nash went on to become a Confederate commerce raider armed with a pair of 12-pounders before serving in 1862 as the blockade runner Thomas L. Wragg and finally as the privateer Rattlesnake before she was destroyed by the monitor USS Montauk on the Ogeechee River in Georgia.

But back to our hero.

Fort Sumter fell on April 13, surrendered after a bloodless two-day bombardment that saw 2,000 Confederate shells hit the masonry fort and Lane withdrew. She soon was up-armed and before the end of the year engaged in the efforts against Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras on the outer banks of North Carolina.

80-G-1049444: USS Harriet Lane engaging a battery at Pig’s Point, on the Nansemond River, opposite Newport News. Copied from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 1861.

Then in early 1862 joined David Dixon Porter’s Mortar Flotilla at Key West as flagship, from where she captured the Confederate schooner, Joanna Ward.

With Porter aboard, Lane was there as his flagship when he plastered the rebel Forts Jackson and St. Philip, abreast the Mississippi below New Orleans, then continued to serve through the preliminary stages of the Vicksburg Campaigns.

LC-DIG-PPMSCA-35362: Rear Admiral David G. Farragut and Captain David D. Porter’s mortar fleet entering the Mississippi River, May 17, 1862. Wood engraving shows large squadron of battleships and ironclads entering the Mississippi River near the “Light-house of Southwest Pass”; some are identified as the “Colorado, 40 Guns”, “Pensacola on the Bar”, “Westfield”, “Mississippi on the Bar”, “Porter’s Mortar Fleet”, “Harriet Lane”, “Connecticut, 8 Guns”, “Clifton”, and “Banona“. Harper’s Weekly, V.6, no.281, pg 312-13. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. 2048×1443 big up

On 4 October 1862, in conjunction with the sidewheel steam ferryboat USS Westfield, Unadilla-class gunboat USS Owasco, the paddlewheel gunboat USS Clifton, and the schooner USS Henry Janes, Lane captured Galveston harbor from the Confederates in a show of force that left zero casualties on both sides.

Still in that newly-Union held port in Confederate Texas, Harriet Lane was the subject of an attack on 1 January 1863 that saw the Confederate cottonclad CSS Bayou City and the armed tugboat Neptune engage the bigger cutter. While Lane sank the Neptune and damaged Bayou City, she was captured when the crew of the cottonclad succeeded in storming and overpowering the crew of the Lane with both the cutter’s captain and executive officer killed along with three of her crew in fierce hand-to-hand combat.

An illustration of the Harriet Lane’s capture by Confederate forces on 1 January 1863

Her crew was taken into custody.

Lane, repaired and disarmed, was sold by the state of Texas to an enterprising shipper who christened her as the blockade runner Lavinia and, after just two trips carrying cotton abroad and commodities back, she finished the war in Cuban waters.

In 1867, the Revenue Marine sent her old Sumter commander, Faunce, and a crew to recover the battered, worn-out ship from Havana in condemned condition and she was subsequently sold to a Boston merchant.

As noted by DANFS, she was abandoned after a fire during hurricane-force winds off Pernambuco, Brazil, 13 May 1884, while enroute to Buenos Aires.

Relics of her time in Texas are in the collection of The Museum of Southern History, located in Houston.

The Revenue Marine, of course, became the U.S. Coast Guard in 1916 and the service honored the historic vessel by naming a second cutter, USCGC Harriet Lane (WSC-141), a 125-foot patrol craft, in 1926 which gave 20 years of hard service to include WWII and Prohibition.

The third cutter to share the name is the 270-foot Bear (Famous)-class medium endurance cutter USCGC Harriet Lane (WMEC-903). Commissioned in May 1984, she is still in active service and last week commemorated the first Lane’s historic shot in front of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

That 75mm OTO! The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane sails past Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina, April 5, 2018. USCG Photo

She is no lightweight either, recently returned to homeport from a 94-day patrol in drug trafficking zones of the Eastern Pacific, after seizing approximately 17,203 pounds of cocaine from suspected smugglers.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air, February 25, 2018.

Specs:

USCG Historian’s Office

Displacement 539 lt. 619 std, 730 t. fl
Length 175′ 5″
Beam 30′ 5″
Draft 10′ as designed, 13 at full load 1862
Propulsion: steam – double-right angled marine engine with two side paddles, auxiliary sail two-masted schooner rig
Speed 11 anticipated, 13kts on trials
Complement: 8 officers, 74 men (1857) 12 officers, 95 men (1862)
Armament
(As built)
3×32-pounders
4x 24-pounder brass howitzers
(After joining West Gulf Squadron, 1862)
1×4″ Parrott gun as a pivot on forecastle
1×9″ Dahlgren gun on pivot before the first mast
2×8″ Dahlgren Columbiad guns
2×24-pounder brass howitzers
Plus “cutlasses and small arms for 95 men”

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.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, March 28, 2018: Le sabordage!

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, March 28, 2018: Le sabordage!

1500×926

Here we see the French Suffren-class croiseur lourd (heavy cruiser) Colbert in the 1930s when she was among the fastest and most impressive warships of the Republic. She was to have a sad future, but in the end, went out with a bang.

Following the lessons learned from the Great War, where France’s two most significant naval threats– Kaiser Willy’s High Seas Fleet and old Emperor Franz Joseph’s k.u.k. Kriegsmarine— both evaporated at the end of the conflict, the French embarked on a cautious plan to build modern warships in the 1920s, with an eye to keeping overseas colonies in Africa and the Pacific intact from possible encroachment by former WWI allies Italy and Japan. The first major French warships built post-Versailles were the trio of Duguay-Trouin-class light cruisers (9,200-tons, 8×6.1-inch guns, 30 knots) followed by two Duquesne-class heavy cruisers (12,200-ton fl, though “10,000” officially to meet treaty requirements, 8×8-inch guns, 33 kts). Then came the four-pack of Suffren-class cruisers.

Suffren

Ordered in 1926, these were very modern ships for their time. Like the preceding Duquesne-class, they were large (636-feet oa, roughly the same length as battleships of the day and almost 90 feet longer than the Bretagne-class battleships that were France’s largest at the time), fast ships capable of delivering a bit of brutal damage from their eight 203 mm/50 (8″) Model 1924 guns in four twin turrets.

The ships of the class–Suffren, Colbert, Foch, and Dupleix— were all ordered from the naval shipyard at Brest, one year apart between 1926-29 and each was very slightly different from each other. For instance, the first two were completed with eight Guyot du Temple boilers (six oil- and two coal-fired), while the second two just used an easier all-oil plant. Likewise, Suffren was commissioned with a battery of 75mm M1927 secondary guns while all three follow-on ships received 90mm M1926s. There were several other, minor, differences– basically meaning they were more half-sisters than whole.

The Suffren class underway in the Med, 1938

Our ship, Colbert, was named after King Louis XIV’s celebrated 17th Century minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who among other accomplishments, was secretary of the Navy for 15 years. As such, she was the fifth such French naval vessel to carry the name.

Laid down at Brest June 12, 1927, on her trials she proved to be the fastest of her class. On her trio of Rateau-Bretagne geared steam turbines ran up at the maximum power of 105,722 hp allowed her to hit 33.012 kts, which wasn’t bad as the class was designed for just 32.

Aerial view of Colbert, date unknown; seen in US Navy Department Division of Naval Intelligence publication ONI203, Via ww2dbase. Note the two seaplanes.

She was commissioned March 4, 1931, and just a month later was used to carry President Doumergue to Tunisia while still in her shakedown period. It was the first of several diplomatic missions for the shiny new cruiser which included state visits along with her sister ships Foch and Suffren and others to Barcelona in 1933.

French Warships visiting Barcelona, Spain 1933. Photographed by Lucien Roisin, Barcelona. The French ships, tied up together in the middle distance, are (from left to right): four heavy cruisers (Foch, Colbert, Tourville, and Suffren), a Chacal-class destroyer and five 1500-tonne type destroyers. The vessels in the foreground are pleasure craft, including a yacht at right. The title at the bottom center refers to Montjuich hill and castle, seen in the distance, beyond the French ships. The original print came from the Office of Naval Intelligence. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 95293

On 10 October 1934, Colbert, along with the cruiser Duquesne, escorted the proud British-built Royal Yugoslav Navy destroyer Dubrovnik from France back across the Med, bringing back the remains of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, who had been famously assassinated in Marseilles, to that Balkan country.

Between 1936 and 1939, Colbert spent much of her time off the coast of Spain, patrolling that war-torn country during its Civil War.

When the Allies entered WWII in September 1939, Colbert was in Toulon and immediately put to sea to perform surveillance on the sea lanes between metropolitan France and its North African colonies in conjunction with the new cruiser Algeria and her sister Foch.

French cruiser Colbert, date unknown; seen in US Navy Department Division of Naval Intelligence publication ONI203 ww2dbase

By January 1940, Colbert had been dispatched to the key French West African port of Dakar to be on the lookout for German surface raiders, a task she carried out through April. Returning to the Med, she was at Toulon when the Italians entered the war and, on that day, June 10, her gunners fired at some of Il Duce’s bombers that sortied over the French base. As a bit of payback, she was ordered to sea and bombarded the Italian harbor at Genoa on 13 June– her first shots in anger.

Then came the unthinkable.

On Saturday, 22 June, the French signed an armistice with the Germans, near Compiegne, in the same railway car that had been the scene of Foch’s victory in 1918. Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, the celebrated World War I hero of Verdun, became prime minister of the so-called Vichy government of France, co-opted by Fleet Adm. François Darlan. France was out of the war and officially neither a direct ally of either side, though under German influence.

Sister Suffren, stationed in Alexandria, Egypt, with other French warships, was immediately disarmed and interned there by the British. Then came the horror that was the British bombardment of the French fleet in North Africa at Mers-el-Kébir on 3 July.

This event triggered Colbert, Foch, and Dupleix, along with the mighty battleship Strasbourg and the cruiser Algeria, to be formed into the 1st Squadron of the Forces de Haute mer (FHM= High Seas Forces) at Toulon under Vice Adm. Jean de Laborde, the successor of the wartime Force de Raid.

Laborde, center, who would become the fleet’s hatchetman

However, this squadron was largely a farce as the Germans ordered it disarmed– their breechblocks, shells, and powder landed ashore– and the ships defueled. Even with that being said, the French were able to fit their experimental early Sadire radar to Strasbourg, Algeria, and Colbert in early 1942, a sign of how important they saw those three vessels.

Over the next 29 months, the French fleet, under effective house arrest, languished at anchor in a fate like that of Willy’s interned High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918-1919, and with the same result in the end.

When the Allies launched the Torch Invasion of Morocco on 8 November 1942, Adm. Darlan, then in Casablanca, negotiated a deal with London to keep the French fleet and forces neutral while hinting at maybe a more active alliance, a deal he couldn’t pull off. This triggered the Germans to kick off Case Anton, the military occupation of Vichy France and Corsica, which was pulled off in a fortnight, largely bloodlessly.

I say “largely” bloodlessly because of Toulon. There, a 50,000-strong Vichy army corps stood outside of town and VADM. Laborde, from his flagship Strasbourg, was a wildcard. The Germans had let it be known they would ostensibly leave Toulon unoccupied and the fleet still in being, in hopes of staving off any efforts by the French to bug out for Algeria and make good on Darlan’s unfulfilled promises.

That stage of the operation to seize the fleet, codenamed “Unternehmen Lila” by the Germans, saw elements from the 7. Panzer-Division and SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Das Reich start filtering through the city’s outskirts around 0400 on 27 November. Laborde, his back against the wall without enough fuel to make it to North Africa or the guns to fight off the Germans, really did the only thing he could and at 0525 ordered the fleet to scuttle by signaling “et c’est à vous, marins, soldats, citoyens français que nous transmettons en mourant le Drapeau de la Liberte” (and it is to you, sailors, soldiers, French citizens that we transmit, in dying, the flag of freedom.)

Within minutes, 77 vessels– including 3 battleships, 7 cruisers, 15 destroyers, 13 torpedo boats, 6 avisos (sloops) and 20 submarines– were aflame or settled to the harbor docks, their crews busy wrecking everything they could. The French suffered about 40 casualties. The Germans, only one motorcycle rider wounded.

French fleet scuttles itself! Far left is battleship Strasbourg settling into the water; next to her, burning with giant flames, is our Colbert; under the smoke from her is, Algérie; to the right, Marseillaise. 1942 LOC

The photo above is of the ships to the far left in the diagram.

Internationally, the fleet’s action’s were seen as something of a redemption for going into the disarmament willingly in 1940 as opposed to joining the Free French overseas.

The gesture served as inspiration for the similarly disarmed Royal Danish Navy whose sailors, just nine months later, pulled the plug on their own ships when the Germans sought to take over their vessels. In that action, the Danes succeeded in the scuttling of 32 vessels, while 1 patrol boat, 3 minesweepers an 9 small cutters managed to escape to neutral Swedish waters.

Coastal defense ship Peder Skram of the Royal Danish Navy lies half-sunk at Holmen, scuttled by her crew to thwart a German attempt to seize the Danish fleet, 29th August 1943 

The Danes suffered about 20 casualties and members of the sea service were treated as POWs by the Germans for the rest of the war. Vizeadmiral Hans-Heinrich Wurmbach, commander of the German Kriegsmarine in Denmark and a Great War u-boat commander, told Vice Adm. A H Vedel, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Danish Navy, after that action as, “Wir haben beide unsere Pflicht getan” (We have both done our duty).

Back to our French hero.

Colbert’s’ crew did their job exceptionally well and she was thoroughly wrecked and continued to burn for days.

Le Strasbourg sabordé, derrière lui le croiseur Colbert est en feu

Le Colbert et l’Algérie (27 novembre 1942 – collection Mauro Trevenzoli)

Scuttled French heavy cruiser Colbert, Toulon, France, date unknown ww2dbase 

27 Novembre 1942 Toulon crew of a Panzer IV of 2nd SS Division, Das Reich, watch a burning French warship, cruiser Colbert via Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-027-1451-10 Vennemann, Wolfgang CC-BY-SA Libre de droits

Her sisters Foch and Dupleix were considered salvageable and were raised by the Italians to be repaired for further use by the Regina Marina, which the rapid conclusion of Italy’s involvement in the war in 1943 did not allow.

Foch

Dupleix, via Netmarine.net

Class leader Suffren, interned in Egypt, eventually returned to French service and survived the war. She was converted to a school ship in 1963 and remained in service to the Republic until she was scrapped in 1972.

In the end, Colbert was such a wreck that she was scrapped in place in 1948.

The fallout from the great sabotage at Toulon was short. Both the Allies and the Axis kinda considered it a decent outcome as neither had to worry about who controlled the French fleet. De Gaulle was pissed as he did not get the prestigious force and made sure Laborde paid for his “national unworthiness” (Indignité nationale) by putting him on public trial with a resulting death penalty after the war– although the sentence was commuted, and he was released from jail in 1947. In the end, he died in 1977, aged 98, outliving de Gaulle by almost a decade.

As for Darlan, he only outlasted the fleet at Toulon by a couple weeks. On Christmas Eve 1942, he was fatally shot by 20-year-old Fernand Bonnier de la Chapelle, a young De Gaulle follower and would-be SOE agent, as payback for the admiral’s collaborations with the Germans. Like the loss of the fleet, both the Allies and the Axis kinda considered it a decent outcome and Chapelle was pardoned just after he was put in front of firing squad, saying he acted “in the interest of the liberation of France.”

As recalled after the war by Petain, erasing the bulk of the French Navy in 1942 was the right thing to do:

To answer the question asked about the scuttling of the fleet, in Toulon, November 27, 1942, it is important to go back. The Armistice left the fleet almost untouched but disarmed and put on guard. It remained our property. It was to avoid a violation of the terms of the armistice, both by the Germans and by the English, and to satisfy the commitment made to the latter at Cange, that, from Armistice and were never repealed, the instructions of scuttling. The aggression of Mers-el-Kebir, July 3, 1940, then allowed to obtain from the Axis powers the constitution of an “FHM.” The order of scuttling was maintained.

After the Anglo-Saxon forces landed in Africa, the Germans on 11 November 1942 invaded the free zone. My government succeeded then in raising around the fleet a final rampart by obtaining from the German high command that the defense of the entrenched camp of Toulon was left to the French navy. On the other hand, under the terms of the secret treaty which I had negotiated with Mr. Winston Churchill, it was stipulated that the fleet should scuttle itself rather than falling into the hands of the Germans or the Italians. When, on the 27th of November, a German armored division penetrated into the entrenched camp of Toulon, and sought to seize our fleet, Admiral de Laborde gave the order of scuttling, in accordance with the permanent instruction, to the engagement undertaken. vis-à-vis the English and the code of maritime justice. The French fleet had not fallen into the hands of the Axis powers.

Why did I not order the fleet on November 11 to reach Africa? The order, for technical reasons, was not executable, and the fleet would have been doomed to destruction; therefore, the departure would have brought the same consequences as the scuttling. In addition, this order would have been the signal for the resumption of hostilities against Germany and would have exposed disarmed France to terrible reprisals without any benefit for the Allied cause. Between two evils, the politician must choose the least. It seemed to me less serious that the fleet was scuttling, in accordance with the commitments, rather than send it to its ruin and unleash on France unprecedented violence, including the return to captivity of the 700,000 prisoners I had obtained the liberation, and the substitution to the French government of a “Gauleiter”.

So, I spared the worst and helped the common victory, preventing Germany from increasing its war potential by capturing our fleet. Nevertheless, I consider the inevitable sabotage as a sacrifice and a national mourning. ” Ref- Philippe Pétain, Acts, and Writings, Flammarion, 1974, pp. 582-583.

Petain died in 1951, aged 95, senile and in prison. He was buried in a Marine cemetery at Port-Joinville on the island of Ile-d’Yeu.

As for Colbert, her name was reissued in 1953 for a new anti-aircraft cruiser, C 611, an impressive ship only decommissioned in 1991. She was sent to the breakers in 2016 after a period as a museum ship.

Specs:


Displacement: 10,000 tonnes (standard) 13,103 tonnes (full load)
Length: 194.2 m (637 ft)
Beam: 20 m (66 ft)
Draught: 7.3 m (24 ft)
Propulsion: 3-shaft Rateau-Bretagne SR geared turbines, 8 Guyot boilers, 100,000 shp (75,000 kW)
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)
Fuel: Oil 1700 tons, coal 640 tons
Range: 4600 at 15 knots
Sensors: Sadire radar added early 1942
Complement: 602
Armament:
8 × 203mm/50 Modèle 1924 guns (4 × 2)
8 × 90 mm (3.5 in) 55-calibre M1926 anti-aircraft guns (8 × 1)
8 × 37 mm (1.5 in) M1925 anti-aircraft guns (4 × 2)
12 × 13.2 mm (0.52 in) AA (4 × 3), later augmented in 1940s by several 8mm machine guns
6 × 550 mm (22 in) torpedo tubes (2 × 3)
Armour:
Belt 50 mm (2.0 in)
Deck 25 mm (0.98 in)
Turrets and conning tower 30 mm (1.2 in)
Aircraft carried: 3 early FBA.17 (designed) or later CAMS 37 flying boats, 2 catapults

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.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

75 years ago today: Have a smoke and a smile

A wounded German POW of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division offers a light to one of his captors; a wounded British Army soldier of the 6th Durham Light Infantry, 50th Infantry Division, XXX Corps. March 23rd, 1943

A wounded German POW of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division offers a light to one of his captors; a wounded British Army soldier of the 6th Durham Light Infantry, 50th Infantry Division, XXX Corps. March 23rd, 1943

Keeping up the search for the lost, but never forgotten

A recovery team aboard U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command’s USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) completed an excavation, on Feb. 25, of multiple aircraft losses shot down in 1944 near Ngerekebesang Island, Republic of Palau.

Although remains potentially associated with the losses were recovered by the team, the identity of those remains will not be released until a complete and thorough analysis can confirm positive identification and the service casualty office conducts next of kin notification.

The project was headed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which deployed an Underwater Recovery Team (URT) comprised of U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force service members and Department of Defense civilians that were embarked aboard the USNS Salvor.

“It’s very labor intensive work and they’ve had a large amount of bottom time making this operation successful,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tim Emge, 7th Fleet Salvage Officer. “The Mobile Diving and Salvage Company 1-6 divers for this job have been pulling more than 12-hour-days for the past two months. The URT spent weeks excavating the area using a variety of archeological tools and meticulously inspecting the bottom sediment in their search and recovery of the missing personnel from World War II.”

More here.

Happy International Women’s Day

Photographer Catherine Leroy about to jump with the 173rd Airborne during operation "Junction City", Vietnam, 1967 Photograph taken by a GI and sent recently to Catherine Leroy

Photographer Catherine Leroy about to jump with the 173rd Airborne during operation “Junction City”, Vietnam, 1967 (Photograph taken by a GI and sent recently to Catherine Leroy)

Catherine Leroy was just 21 when she arrived in Vietnam with little more than a Leica and $100 to her name. She went on to take some of the conflict’s most striking photographs. Born in Paris in 1945, her childhood had been permeated by the reports from France’s war in Indochina and, when the war again escalated with American intervention, she decided to travel to Vietnam, arriving in 1966.

Speaking little English she managed to meet Horst Faas, the Associated Press’ bureau chief in Saigon; he offered her $15 a picture. She would spend the next decade periodically covering the war in Vietnam until the fall of Saigon in 1975. Under five feet tall and sporting blonde pigtails she didn’t fit the conventional image of a war correspondent.

Leroy, however, was determined to capture the human aspect of the war. A qualified parachutist, Leroy became the first female war correspondent to take part in a combat jump with the 173rd Airborne Brigade when they launched Operation Junction City in February 1967.

Catherine Leroy 2
(More on Leroy at Historical Firearms)

How to make friends and incinerate people, 100 years ago today

American soldiers wearing captured German “donut” flame throwers, Ménil-la-Tour, France, 6 March 1918, described as “liquid fire machines” recovered from No Man’s Land.

Front view…

The device, dubbed the Wechselapparat M1917 or Wex in German service, was a small, portable flame device, replacing the troublesome Kleinflammenwerfer M.16 (“Kleif”), and was reintroduced in German service in the late 1930s.

This advanced flamer was captured by all of the Allies in the latter stages of the war, and the British cloned it and put it in service in WWII as “Flame-Thower, Portable, No. 2 Mk I” in 1941, commonly just referred to as the “Lifebuoy” or “Sombrero.”

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