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Bonnie Dick on the scene, 49 years ago today

In a special Warship Wednesday, here we see the (then) 25-year-old Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) underway in the Gulf of Tonkin on 13 June 1969 during her fifth cruise to support operations from Yankee Station off the Vietnam coast. Note the F-8J Crusaders, A-4E/F Skyhawks and distinctive Grumman E-1B Tracer AEW “Stoof with a Roof” aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 5 on deck.

Commissioned in late 1944, “Bonnie Dick” was the first ship in the modern Navy to commemorate the name of John Paul Jones’ famous Revolutionary War frigate– and she got in enough licks in during WWII to earn one battlestar.

Her WWII cruise

She was much more active in Korea, carrying the F9F Panthers and AD-4 Skyraiders of first Carrier Air Group 102 (CVG-102) then CVG-7.

Stretched and given the SCB-125 overhaul in the mid-1950s, BHR was in the thick of the air war off Vietnam from 1964 onward.

USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) with her crew spelling out Hello San Diego, while en route to San Diego on 9 February 1963. She returned to San Diego, her home port, on 11 February, following a Western Pacific cruise that had begun seven months earlier, on 12 July 1962. Aircraft on her flight deck include three E-1, 11 F-8, six F-3, 13 A-4 and nine A-1 types. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97343

Completing her sixth and last deployment to Yankee Station on 12 November 1970 (again with CVW-5), she was decommissioned the next year and, after spending 21 years on red lead row as a source for potential spare parts for the similarly laid-up but slightly younger USS Oriskany (which the Navy saw as a mobilization asset through the Reagan years), she was scrapped in 1992.

However, her name lives on in LHD-6, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship of about the same size, commissioned in 1998.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) Underway in the Gulf of Mexico during builder’s sea trials, circa early 1998 NH 107664-KN

As for CVW-5, they have been flying as of late from USS Ronald Reagan and, when not aboard, cool their heels at Atsugi and Iwakuni, though the Crusaders, Skyhawks, and Tracers have long ago been traded for Hornets, Growlers, and Hawkeyes.

Warship Wednesday, June 6, 2018: The eternal Nordic shark of Sword Beach

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

Warship Wednesday, June 6, 2018: The eternal Nordic shark of Sword Beach

Via the Norwegian military museum (Forsvarets Museer) MMU.941853

Here we see the British-built S-class destroyer (Jageren in Norwegian parlance) His Norwegian Majesty’s Ship KNM (Kongelige Norske Marine) Svenner (RN Pennant G03) of the Free Norwegian Sjøforsvaret in 1944, fresh from the yard and ready to fight. Svenner is deeply associated with today’s date. However, before we can talk about her service, let us discuss the Royal Norwegian Navy in WWII.

The Scandinavian neutral had managed to sit precariously on the fence in the Great War and indeed was a peaceful country who had last seen the elephant during the Napoleonic Wars, skirmishing at first with the British and then the Swedes for independence. Some 130-years of peace behind it, the Norwegian Navy in April 1940 was again an armed neutral, ready to take on all-comers to preserve the homeland. Then came the invasion.

German cruiser Blücher in Drøbak Sound, April 1940 outside of the Norwegian capital Oslo

Two months of tough resistance against German invaders while reluctantly accepting Allied intervention left the Norwegian Navy covered in glory (such as when the tiny 200-ton gunboat KNM Pol III stood alone– briefly– against the mighty heavy cruiser Blücher, the heavy cruiser Lützow, the light cruiser Emden, three torpedo boats and eight minesweepers carrying 2,000 troops to Oslo, or when the ancient and nearly condemned coastal monitors KNM Eidsvold and Norge attempted to stop the Germans at Narvik), but was largely left sunk at the bottom of the fjords they defended.

When the endgame came, a dozen or so small ships and 500 officers and men made it to British waters to carry on the war. These included such Edwardian relics as the destroyer Draug (commissioned in 1908!) and the newer Sleipner, as well as fishery patrol ships such as the Nordkapp, which all soon got to work for the Allies, guarding sea lanes, escorting convoys and protecting the UK and Allied-occupied Iceland from potential Axis invasion.

The mighty KNM Draug, with lines that look right out of the Spanish-American War. MMU.945456

With the small core of exiled prewar Norwegian sailors, an influx of Norwegians living abroad and transfers from the country’s huge merchant fleet, the exiled Free Norwegian Navy was able to rebuild abroad. Soon, the old Draug was in full-time use as a training and support vessel while small trawlers and whalers provided yeoman service as the “Shetland Bus” regularly shuttling spies, SOE operatives and Norwegian resistance agents into occupied Scandinavia and downed Allied aircrew out over the course of some 200 trips. As these operations expanded, the Brits began transferring at first surplus (five ex-Wickes-class tin cans transferred originally to the Brits from the USN under the bases for destroyer deal) and then new-built naval vessels (Flower and Castle-class corvettes, motor torpedo boats, Hunt-class destroyer escorts, and later two S-class destroyers) to the growing Norwegian fleet to perform convoy escort missions.

That’s where Svenner comes in.

The 16 S/T-class destroyers were long ships (363-feet) but thin (just 35-feet) giving them a 10:1 length-to-beam ratio, making them a knife on the water. Tipping the scales at just 2,500~ tons, they were slender stilettos made for stabbing through the waves at nearly 37-knots on a pair of Parsons geared turbines. Armed with a quartet of 4.7-inch guns for surface actions, U-boat busting depth charges and an eight-pack of anti-ship torpedo tubes, they were ready for a fight. Class leader HMS Saumarez (G12) was completed in July 1943, right in time for the Battle of the Atlantic, and the 15 ships that followed her were made ready to go into harm’s way as soon as they could leave the builders’ yards. Of those, one, HMS Success, was transferred on completion to the Free Norwegian forces on 26 August 1943 as KNM Stord (G26), and soon got to chasing the Germans, becoming engaged with the sinking of the German battleship Scharnhorst just four months after transfer.

Stord, note her Norwegian jack. MMU.945852

One of Success/Stord‘s sisterships, laid down as HMS Shark, transferred to the Norwegians 11 March 1944 on completion and was named KNM Svenner after a Norwegian island. Her skipper, LCDR Tore Holthe, was a prewar Norwegian surface fleet officer and veteran of Stord‘s action against Scharnhorst.

Svenner’s officers, with Holthe center. MMU.945739

Just weeks after her commissioning, Svenner was attached to Bombardment Force S of the Eastern Task Force of the Normandy invasion fleet assembling off Plymouth. Her mission would be to help smother the German beach defenses during the assault on Sword Beach, where British and Canadian forces would land.

Jageren SVENNER (G03) babord bredside MMU.941527

SVENNER (ex SHARK) (FL 22742) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

On the night of the 5th, Svenner, along with the frigates HMS Rowley and Holmes, helped escort the cruisers HMS Arethusa, Danae, and Frobisher, as well as the Free Polish cruiser ORP Dragon, monitor HMS Roberts and the small craft of the 40th Minesweeping Flotilla from Plymouth across the Channel to Sword Beach, where the famous battleships HMS Ramillies, HMS Warspite and ships of Force D stood by for heavy lifting.

At 0500 on 6 June 1944, Jutland veteran Warspite was the first ship in the entire 4,000-strong Allied fleet on any beach to open fire, hitting a German artillery battery at Villerville from some 13 miles offshore.

Hamilton, John Alan; D-Day Naval Bombardment: HMS ‘Ramillies’, HMS ‘Warspite’ and Monitor HMS ‘Roberts’ Bombard the Beaches; IWM (Imperial War Museums);

As the Svenner, Rowley, and Holmes stood by to allow the minesweepers to clear a channel for the bombardment ships to close with the beach while making smoke to obscure the capital ships, three German torpedo boats out of La Havre– Jaguar, Møwe and T28— appeared at 28-knots to conduct a strike against the force, letting lose some 17 torpedoes in all. It was the only effective Kriegsmarine resistance on D-Day.

The torpedo spread came close to ruining Force D, with steel fish passing within feet of both Ramillies and Warspite. The only victim of the German torps: our brave new Norwegian destroyer, who tried in vain to turn from the spread but came up short.

HNoMS Svenner breaking up & sinking after being struck by two torpedoes

Svenner was hit amidships at 0530 by one or possibly two torpedoes and broke in half, sinking quickly after an explosion under her boiler room. Lost were 32 Norwegian and a British signalman out of her crew of 219. Most of the crew, which included some RN ratings, were rescued by nearby ships and returned to the war in days.

Still, the pair of battleships were saved, and they covered the invasion on Sword with heavy naval gunfire. Warspite fired over 300 shells on June 6 alone before heading back to Portsmouth for more rounds and powder and returning to plaster targets on Utah Beach and Gold Beach. Her sidekick Ramillies heaved an impressive 1,002 15-inch shells in that week, hitting not only defensive strongpoints and batteries but also massing German armor well inland and enemy railway marshaling yards near Caen. The work by those two brawlers on D Day and the hours afterward is well-remembered.

The landing at Sword involved the British Army’s I Corps made up of the 3rd Infantry Division and 79nd Armoured Division along with hardlegs of the 1st Special Service Brigade (which also contained Free French and Belgian Commandos) and No. 41 (Royal Marine) Commando against the German 716th Infantry Division and Caen-based 21st Panzer Div (which launched the only major German counterattack of D-Day.) In all, over 680 Allied troops were killed on Sword alone on 6 June.

SWORD beach – 6 Jun 1944. This image is taken from a Royal Air Force Mustang aircraft of II (Army Cooperation) Squadron. IWM

THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE NORMANDY CAMPAIGN 1944 (B 5191) Three Beach Group troops look out from Queen beach,Sword Beach, littered with beached landing craft and wrecked vehicles and equipment, 7 June 1944. A partially submerged D7 armoured bulldozer can be seen on the right. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Besides Svenner, the Norwegians were well-represented at Normandy, with her sistership Stord present elsewhere on Sword on D-Day, hitting a German battery by Riva Bella with no less that 362 of her 4.7-inch shells.

Maleri av invasjonen i Normandie og jageren STORD MMU.943486

The Norwegian-manned Hunt-class destroyer escort KNM Glaisdale was at Juno Beach and fired more than 400 rounds that day at German positions near St. Aubain while the similarly-crewed corvettes Acanthus, Eglantine and Rose were at Utah Beach. The plucky 130-foot fisheries vessel Nordkapp was there too, as an escort and rescue vessel. Seven Norwegian merchant ships were packed with troops and supplies that day, including some 200 men of the 29th U.S. Infantry Division aboard the SS Lysland off Omaha Beach. Another 43 Norwegian merchant ships were in the follow-on wave starting June 7, including three that gave their last as mole ships.

For more on the vital contribution to the war by the 1,081 ships of the Norwegian merchant service (Nortraship) which saw an incredible 570 vessels sunk and some 3734 men taken down to their last across both the Atlantic and Pacific, please check out the excellent site dedicated to these war-sailors.

The Norwegians went on to purchase Stord from the UK government and kept her in service for another decade, only scrapping her in Belgium in 1959. Of note, she returned Vice Adm. Edvard Danielsen, commander of the Norwegian Navy, home from the UK in 1945. On that occasion, the following signal was sent from RN Adm. Sir Henry Moore:

To: H Nor MS Stord
For Admiral Danielsen

On your return to Norway in H Nor MS Stord I should be grateful if you will convey to Lieutenant Commander Øi and to the officers and ships company my keen appreciation of the honour I feel in having had them under my command in the Home Fleet.

Their efficiency and their fine fighting spirit have been the admiration of us all and although we are glad that they now should be reaping the reward of their contribution to the liberation of Europe we shall miss them in the Home Fleet. We hope that some of us may soon have the pleasure to renew our friendship in Norwegian port. To you personally I send my warm regards and sincere thanks for your helpful cooperation with me at the Admiralty: Good luck and happiness to you all.

By the end of the war, the Royal Norwegian Naval Fleet (outside of Norway) consisted of 52 combatant ships and 7,500 officers, petty officers and men. For more on the Free Norwegian Navy in WWII, click here for an English translation compiled by the Norwegian Naval Museum.

As a footnote, the only other S/T-class destroyer lost during the war was also claimed on Sword Beach. HMS Swift (G46) struck and detonated mine off the beachhead and sank after breaking in two on 24 June with the loss of 52 men.

HMS SWIFT ( G 46) MMU.941445

Other than that, all 14 remaining S/T-class sisters survived the conflict and lead a long life with three going on to transfer in 1946 to the rebuilding Dutch Navy. The last of the class afloat, HMS Troubridge (F09), helped sink U-407 during the war and, converted to a Type 15 frigate, was only decommissioned in 1969, going to the breakers the following year.

In 2003, a French Navy minesweeper discovered the wreckage of Svenner off Sword and salvaged her anchor. It is now preserved as a memorial to the ship some 100 yards inland from the beach at Hermanville-sur-Mer.

The Norwegians remember Svenner with fondness, having recycled her name for a Kobben-class submarine commissioned in 1967 which remained in service until after the Cold War.

Svenner has become part of the country’s military lore.

Via the Norwegian military museum (Forsvarets Museer)

In 2014, King Harald himself helped dedicate the memorial to all Norwegians present at Normandy, accompanied by some of the last of that country’s aging WWII vets.

Today, of course, on the 74th anniversary of Overlord/Neptune and the 156,000 Allied troops that landed across that wide 50-mile front, we remember all the Allies of the Greatest Generation.

1,710 long tons (1,740 t) (standard)
2,530 long tons (2,570 t) (deep load)
Length: 362 ft 9 in (110.6 m) (o/a)
Beam: 35 ft 9 in (10.9 m)
Draught: 14 ft 6 in (4.4 m) (deep)
Installed power:
40,000 shp (30,000 kW)
2 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Propulsion: 2 × shafts; 2 × Parsons geared steam turbines
Speed: 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range: 4,675 nmi (8,658 km; 5,380 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Radar Type 290 air warning
Radar Type 285 ranging & bearing
4 × single 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mark XII dual-purpose guns
1 × twin Bofors 40 mm AA guns
4 × twin QF 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns
2 × quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes
4 × throwers and 2 × racks for 70 depth charges

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

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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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Warship Wednesday, May 16, 2018: Schermerhorn’s contribution to naval history

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

Warship Wednesday, May 16, 2018: Schermerhorn’s contribution to naval history

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 53955

Here we see the pride of the New York Yacht Club, the steam patrol yacht Free Lance, in her newly-applied gray military scheme on duty off New York City, probably in August 1898. The brand-new pleasure craft would, oddly enough, be called upon not once, but twice, to defend her country.

But first, let us speak of that great knickerbocker, Frederick Augustus Schermerhorn.

As a young man, Schermerhorn came from a prominent Empire State family and, after a string of private schools and tutors, was accepted at what was then Columbia College for the Class of 1865. However, as the Civil War evolved, he promptly dropped out of school at the ripe old age of 20 in 1864 and sought an appointment to West Point, which was denied. Not to be outdone, he applied to a series of New York volunteer units and was enrolled to the roster of the newly-formed 185th New York Volunteer Infantry regiment’s C Company in the fall of 1864 and shipped off to the Petersburg Campaign in Northern Virginia.

Portrait of a soldier F. Augustus Schermerhorn standing, via the Massachusetts Digital Commonwealth collection

By the end of the war, the bloodied and decorated 1st Lt had been breveted a captain and was assigned as the aide-de-camp of MG Charles Griffin, the V Corps commander during its final campaign, and was present in the yard when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. In all, Schermerhorn served less than a year, but it was a hell of a year.

MG Charles Griffin and staff officers posed in front of the Cummings House. Our fellow is to the right

Returning to New York after the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, Schermerhorn went back to school, picking up his mining degree from Columbia in 1868, and continued his service with the famed “Blue-Bloods” of the 7th New York Militia regiment for another several decades. By 1877, he was a Columbia trustee and member in most of the clubs and societies in The City that meant anything including the Riding, Knickerbocker, Metropolitan, and Tuxedo clubs. He rose to become a Director of the N. Y. Life Insurance and Trust Co.

The good Mr. Schermerhorn was duly nominated and confirmed by the membership to the New York Yacht Club on 25 March 1886 and by 1897 was elected to a position as a flag officer with that esteemed organization, a post he held through at least 1903. During his time with the NYYC, he was one of the backers of the 1893 (eighth) America’s Cup contender Colonia but was beaten by Nathanael Greene Herreshoff’s Vanderbilt-backed centerboard sloop Vigilant.

Schermerhorn’s Colonia via Detroit Publishing Co, LOC LC-D4-21915

Moving past cutters, Schermerhorn commissioned Mr. Lewis Nixon of Elizabethport, NJ’s Crescent Shipyard to construct him a beautiful screw steam schooner designed by A. Cary Smith for personal use. As noted by the Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers at the time, his new ship, Free Lance, was 108-feet on the waterline and 137 from figurehead to taffrail with a cross-section “different from all other steam yachts” due to its long bow and lapped steel plating. A pair of Almy water tube boilers drove a 600 IHP triple expansion steam engine.

Yacht Free Lance in civilian livery, 11 June 1896, most probably on Long Island Sound. Note her guilt bow scroll and extensive canvas awnings over her twin deck houses. Also note her yacht ensign on the stern, NYYC pennant on her foremast, and Schermerhorn’s Maltese Cross pennant on her after mast. Photo via Detroit Publishing Co. 8×10 glass negative photographed by Charles Edwin Bolles LOC# LC-D4-62113

Her 25 September builder’s trials report made the Oct. 12, 1895 issue of Forest and Stream which noted that with a forced draft and 200-pounds of steam she was able to clear 19 miles in 62 minutes. By the turn of the century, she regualry hit 17 knots in civil use and utilized the novel Thorne-patent ash ejector, which gave steady work for her stokers.

However, the Free Lance only got two seasons in before war came with Spain, and Schermerhorn freely volunteered the services of his yacht to the Navy, which were promptly accepted.

The armed yachts of the Spanish-American War are fascinating reading as they were often very handsome sailing ships such as past Warship Weds alum Peter Arrell Brown Widener’s custom-built schooner-rigged Josephine and Massachusetts textile magnate Matthew Chaloner Durfee’s rakish and very well-appointed steam yacht, Sovereign.

At the time the Navy needed to rapidly expand and among the ships acquired for Spanish-American War service were no less than 29 armed and hastily converted yachts, primarily drawn from wealthy Northeast and New York Yankees such as our very own Mr. Schermerhorn. A baker’s dozen of these former pleasure craft were rather large ships, exceeding 400 tons. With relatively good gun-carrying capacity and sea-keeping capabilities, these bigger craft saw service off Cuba where they were used as auxiliary cruisers, scouting vessels, and dispatch ships.

Others, such as our newly commissioned USS Free Lance, were used in what was termed the Auxiliary Naval Force, keeping a weather eye for Spanish raiders just over the horizon of the increasingly undefended U.S Eastern Seaboard.

USS Free Lance underway off New York City, probably in August 1898. A small sailboat is just astern of Free Lance, and USS New York (Armored Cruiser # 2) is in the background. Also, note that her awnings have been stripped away, she is no longer flying her yachting pennants, and she has guns on her pilot house and stern. NH 53953

Her armament: a pair of .65-caliber Royal Navy contract 1870s-vintage Mark I 10-barrel Gatling guns mounted atop the yacht’s pilothouse and on her stern, reportedly picked up through the offices of local NYC military surplus guru Francis Bannerman.

USS Free Lance (1898-1899), Gatling Gun Crew, 1898. Note the “Free Lance” bands on their flat caps, the .45-70 rounds and Springfield Trapdoor bayonets on their Mills belts, and the gun’s hopper which held 20 rounds. Detroit Publishing Company.

Each Gatling gun weighed 725-pounds, not including the mount and fired a 1,421-grain projectile at 1,427fps. The rate of fire (theoretically) was 1,200 rounds per minute but the gun was limited by the speed that assistant gunners could drop rounds down the beast’s top-mounted Bruce Feed-style chute.

USS Free Lance (1898-1899), Petty Officers 1898. Detroit Publishing Company

With her unconventional armament and small relative size, she was used as a harbor patrol craft during the conflict, commissioned as USS Free Lance, 12 May 1898.

USS Free Lance at anchor off New York City, probably in August 1898. Note the small sailboats in the left background and Free Lance’s pilot house-mounted Gatling gun. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 53954

Her term of service was short, decommissioning on 24 August 1898 after just 14 weeks on active duty.

Returned to her owner, when WWI came the aging Schermerhorn once more contributed his love to the Navy, with the yacht leased for $1 on 19 July 1917 and commissioned as USS Freelance (SP-830) with no space between the two words. This was because from 1905 on, her name was spelled “Freelance.”

Freelance Underway, prior to World War I. This yacht served as USS Free Lance in 1898 and as USS Freelance (SP-830) in 1917-1918. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 102819

Under command of Ensign J. B. Nevins, USNRF, and armed with a pair of recycled 3-pounder guns (Gatling’s were reserved for museums by 1917) she was once more put in service patrolling in the New York area. Her DANFS record is slim.

USS Freelance (SP-830) In port during the World War I era. The original print is in National Archives’ Record Group 19-LCM. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 101720

Freelance was decommissioned on Christmas Eve 1918 and returned to her owner the same day. Schermerhorn passed in March 1919, age 74, during a speech he was giving before the Union Club and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

His epitaph is Psalm 37:37: “Mark the perfect man and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.”

Schermerhorn’s 1915 portrait by August Franzen is in the Smithsonian‘s National Portrait Gallery.

I cannot find what became of his cherished Free Lance, but I would like to think she is still in Gotham somewhere, perhaps on the bottom of the Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard, which in a way would be fitting.

Displacement 132 t.
Length 137 feet overall
Beam 20′ 8″
Draft 7′ 6″
Propulsion: One 600ihp steam engine (3cyl, 11,17&29×20 Crescent), one shaft. Two Almy WT boilers
Speed 14 knots in naval service, almost 19 on trials
Complement 18 (military service)
Armament: Two .65-caliber Gatling guns (1898)
Two 3-pounders (1917)

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, April 25, 2018: Big Vincent and the seagoing pyro party

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 25, 2018: Big Vincent and the seagoing pyro party

Watercolor by William Lionel Wylie in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection (PAF1774)

Here we see the last of the Royal Navy’s Arrogant-class cruisers, HMS Vindictive (P.4C), going through just over an hour’s time at the center of hell along the Mole in the German-occupied Belgian port city of Zeebrugge on St. George’s Day, 100 years ago this week.

The four-pack of Arrogant-class 2nd class protected cruisers were approved under the 1895/96 Programme and designed for fleet use rather than in protecting trade from enemy auxiliary cruisers in wartime (at the time thought most likely to be Russian) and policing colonies. As such, they were a bit beamier than the nine preceding Eclipse-class cruisers (5,700 tons, 350x53ft, 18.5kts, 5x QF 6″ guns) while being faster. The subsequent Arrogants went 5,840-tons with a 320-foot overall length while having a 57-foot beam and a ram bow.

A group of 18 Belleville water-tube boilers (the first installed on a British cruiser of the size) and pair of 3-cyl VTE engines on twin screws enabled these ships to be considered “20-knot” ships (on forced draught) while a battery of four 6″/40cal QF Mk II singles and six 4.7-inch guns gave them comparable muscle to the Eclipses. The first two vessels of the class, Arrogant and Furious, were built at Devonport, while the third, Gladiator, was laid down at Portsmouth.

Our hero, the fourth and last of the family, Vindictive, was laid down at Chatham Dock Yard in Kent on 27 Jan. 1896, carrying the name of a hard-luck Napoleonic War-era 74-gun third-rate ship of the line that was only broken up two decades before.

HMS Vindictive, from Navy and Army Illustrated, 1900, via Wiki

Commissioned on the 4th of July in 1900, she was a happy peacetime ship that served in the British Mediterranean Squadron for a decade before she was considered obsolete in the rapidly advancing days of post-Dreadnought naval technology.

In ordinary for two years from 1909-10, her armament was revamped, and she was modernized. Gone were the old MkII guns and 4.7s, replaced by a homogenous group of 10 new MkVII 6″/45cal breechloaders, among the snazziest British guns of the era.

Here is her diagram from the 1914 Janes.

In the above, note that she is the only one of her class left listed in the naval almanac. This is because Gladiator sank after a collision with the American liner (and Warship Wednesday alumni) SS Saint Paul in a heavy snowstorm off the Isle of Wight in 1908, Arrogant had become a depot ship in 1911 and Furious had likewise been hulked, leaving Vindictive as the sole member of the group still with the fleet by the time the Great War began– and even that was as a tender to the Home Squadrons.

When the Kaiser marched into Belgium in August 1914,  she was at sea off Plymouth but soon started searching the waters for enemy vessels, capturing four of them inside of a month.

On August 6:
0630: N.D.L. (Norddeutscher Lloyd) S.S. Schlesien boarded by Lieutenant Sayle R.N.R. and Fleet Paymaster G.A. Miller. Lat 46 02 N, Long 7 37 W. Reported carrying general cargo to Antwerp. Lieutenant Sayle and an armed guard of 13 men proceeded in the ship to Plymouth by order of Rear Admiral.
3.20 pm: Fired shot ahead of Austrian S.S. Alfa; Austrian steamer S.S. Alfa boarded by Lieutenant Pope R.N.R. and Fleet Paymaster Miller in Lat 45 24 N, Long 7 56 W. Reported carrying a cargo of grain. Ship ordered to report herself at Falmouth. Boarding Party returned.
8.30 pm: Atlantea S.N. Co. S.S. Polnay under Austrian Flag boarded by Lieutenant Pope and Fleet Paymaster G.A. Miller in Lat 44 57 W, Long 8 05 W. Reported carrying grain consigned to order at Rotterdam. Ship ordered to report herself at Falmouth. Boarding party returned.

Sept 8:
German collier Slawentzitz boarded by Commander Grayson, Lieutenant Sayle R.N.R. and Fleet Paymaster Miller. 5044 tons of coal consigned to Haiffa Syria. Lieutenant Sayle and prize crew of 13 men placed on board and ship sent to Gibraltar.

Following this, Vindictive was sent to warm Equatorial waters along the Abrolhos Rocks off Brazil and spent the next 18 months on the lookout for German surface raiders and submarines, boarding passing ships but largely having no reportable results.

Then, in June 1916, she was recalled to Britain for a change of pace that saw her deploy in October to Romanov (Murmansk) in the frozen wastes of the White Sea to protect the growing stockpile of Allied war material in that isolated Arctic backwater. She shuttled from there to Arkhangelsk and conducted drills with the locals and other visiting Allied ships until she was recalled to Plymouth once more in October 1917– just before Russia really went to crap in the Revolution.

Chilling back in England with the war at its fiercest, the old cruiser without a mission was to pull one heck of a job.

It was decided that she would be part of the big push to block the Belgian port at Zeebrugge, home to flotillas of German patrol boats and squadrons of U-boats. The task was three-fold, with (1) Vindictive and two converted Mersey ferries– Iris and Daffodil— coming alongside the mile-long Mole so they could discharge a battalion of sailors and Marines to go ashore and jack up the port while (2) a group of old cruisers–HMS Thetis, HMS Intrepid, and HMS Iphigenia— sank themselves as blockships in the Bruges Canal and (3) an old submarine blew the Mole itself.

Vindictive would be commanded during the raid by Capt. Alfred Francis Blakeney Carpenter, an RN veteran with service that dated back to the Boxer Rebellion.

The raid in a 2-minute nutshell:

To carry out her job as a landing ship (held to the Mole by a ship pushing bow on her starboard), the portside of Vindictive was fitted with a fly deck with 18 gangways handled by derricks, to allow rapid disembarkation of the landing force, made up of most of the 4th RMLI battalion and two companies of armed Jacks.

To provide more protection than her thin Harvey armor could on her exposed topside, splinter mats were installed liberally. Besides the mats, two Mk I 7.5-inch howitzers were mounted to go along with her four remaining 6-inch BL guns and as many Vickers Maxim guns as could be found. The Marine Storming Party, as it was termed, was equipped with 16 81mm Stokes trench mortars, one 11-inch howitzer (mounted aft), five 1-pounder (37mm) quick-firing Vickers Mark 1 pom-pom guns, and 16 Lewis guns which both added to Vindictive‘s armament and provided some mobile artillery to be taken ashore during the raid.

Photograph (Q 46476) Model of HMS Vindictive with extra armament, landing planks, and mats installed for Zeebrugge. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

The foretop of HMS VINDICTIVE armed with two pom-pom guns and six Lewis guns. Note the use of splinter mats. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

THE ZEEBRUGGE RAID, 23-24 APRIL 1918 (Q 55568) HMS VINDICTIVE after returning to Dover following the Zeebrugge Raid, showing one of the two 7.5-inch howitzers and a brace of four Stokes mortars specially fitted out for the raid to provide fire support for the landing parties in the planned assault on the German gun battery at the seaward end of the mole at Zeebrugge. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Going along with the Marines were 34 engineers, all volunteers of the Royal Naval Air Service Experimental Party, or Pyrotechnic Party, led by Lt. Graham S. Hewett, R.N.V.R., with Lt. A. L. Eastlake, R.E., second-in-command, armed with a variety of demolition charges, “fixed and portable flame-throwers, phosphorus grenades, etc.” Among these were a “telescopic” fixed flamethrower capable of sending a jet 90m– made by the J Morriss & Sons Ltd, an engineering company from Manchester that normally made fire hoses– as well as two very large five-man weapons fixed to a steel A-frame, these latter guns were called “Vincents” after Vindictive.

Demonstration of large crew-served Vincent flamethrower that was used by HMS Vindictive during the Zeebrugge raid. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

The group’s portable flame weapons consisted of the scuba-tank like Hay Flame Gun, created by Captain P. S. Hay of the Ministry of Munitions in December of 1917. It was the only portable British-made flamethrower used in WWI.

As described in The Flamethrower by Chris McNab, via The Great War website:

The operator slung the Hay Flame Gun from a shoulder strap so that it hung in front of his chest. He pressed a button on a dry-cell battery mounted on the lance, which ignited a pilot light under the nozzle. He then squeezed the oil-release valve at the base of the lance, which was identical to the brake handle on automobiles of the era.

The oil was pressurized with deoxygenated air pumped directly into the tank. When the operator ran or jumped, the propellant gas mixed with the oil and produced a foam, which greatly limited the range. For this reason, other flamethrowers had either separate internal propellant chambers or bottles attached externally to the oil tank.

The Hay Flame Gun was 35 inches tall by 5.5 inches in diameter. It carried 2.6 gallons of oil, which gave it a laden weight of 66 lbs. It had a range of about 66 feet and a duration of 15 seconds. A total of 36 where ordered by the Admiralty for use at Zeebrugge of which about 15 Hay Flame Guns were used in the raid in the raid In April 1918. The Flamethrowers were used to engulf the Mole parapet with liquid fire to clear any opposition before the storming parties went ashore.

Members of the crew of HMS PRINCE EUGENE cleaning the upper deck of HMS VINDICTIVE after her return to Dover following the Zeebrugge Raid. One sailor holds a Hay Flame Gun type flamethrower of the type used on the mole by members of the Royal Naval Air Service Experimental Party in support of the Royal Marine and naval landing parties. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


Flamethrowers and Stores mortars used by a landing party on the Mole at Zeebrugge. Also shown in the photograph; a piece of the Mole brought back by HMS Vindictive after an attack on 23rd April 1918, a rum measure and an alarm gong from the Jetty. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Vindictive hit the Mole on schedule and was the center of the German fury during the raid. It was her illumination rockets that the Marines and sailors fought by, her smoke screen, flame and fire they were covered by, and her collision sirens that they retired to at the end of the operation.

As noted in the after-action report on the raid by Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, everything involving Vindictive came off as planned:

According to the time-table, the hour at which the “Vindictive” (Captain Alfred F. B. Carpenter) should have been laid alongside the Zeebrugge Mole was midnight. She reached her station one minute after midnight, closely followed by the “Daffodil” (Lieutenant Harold Campbell) and “Iris II” (Commander Valentine Gibbs). A few minutes later the landing of the storming and demolition parties began. By 1.10 a.m. the “Vindictive” had taken off the survivors, who had meanwhile done their work upon the Mole, and by 1.15 a.m. she and her consorts were clear of the Mole.

In the 75 minutes she spent on the Mole, Vindictive took a terrible beating, but she made it back to Dover under her own steam.

THE ZEEBRUGGE RAID, 22-23 APRIL 1918 (Q 55566) HMS VINDICTIVE at Dover following the Zeebrugge Raid showing the damage done by German gunfire to the ship’s bridge, foretop, and forward armored flamethrower hut. Note the mattresses used to protect exposed parts of the ship’s superstructure from bullets and shell splinters. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

HMS Vindictive damaged via Underwood & Underwood – Popular Science Magazine July 1918

PW1862: ‘HMS ‘Vindictive’ returning from the Zeebrugge Raid, 24 April 1918′ by William Lionel Willie circa 1918. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection

“Vindictive after Zeebrugge” 1918 May 23, Bain News Service print via LOC

German propaganda photo of the above

Besides Carpenter, who received the VC from the King as well as the Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor from France, several officers received lesser awards while 18 of Vindictive‘s crew picked up Distinguished Service Medals:

Ch. Air Mech. Clifford Armitage, R.N.A.S., O.N. F6981.
E.R.A., 4th Cl., Norman Carroll, O.N. M17679 (Ch.).
E.R.A., 3rd Cl., Herbert Cavanagh, O.N. M1111 (Po.).
Sto., 1st Cl., William Crawford, O.N. K34438 (Ch.).
M.A.A. Charles George Dunkason, O.N. 191301 (Po.).
Arm. Arthur William Evans, O.N. M7148 (Ch.).
Ldg. Sig. Albert James Gamby, O.N. J11326 (Ch.).
A.B. Arthur Geddes, O.N. J30822 (Ch.).
E.R.A., 5th Cl., Herbert Alfred Harris, O.N. M6218 (Po.).
Sto. P.O. Thomas Haw, O.N. 306429 (Po.).
Sto., 1st Cl., James Lewis Hayman, O.N. K35627 (Dev.).
P.O. Herbert Jackson, O.N. 213767 (Ch.).
A.B. Richard Ellis Makey, O.N. 219228 (Po.).
S.B.S. Arthur Ernest Page, O.N. M960 (Ch.).
Ch. Sto. Alfred Edward Sage, O.N. 281683 (Ch.).
Sto., 1st Cl., Joseph Smith, O.N. K24538 (Dev.).
E.R.A., 4th Cl., Alan Thomas, O.N. M16493 (Dev.).
P.O. Thomas Wood, O.N. 171903 (Ch.)

The next month, the battered and beaten but still afloat Vindictive had one more mission. Two hundred tons of cement was put into her after magazines and upper bunkers on both sides– which was all her draught would permit her to carry– and she was sunk as a blockship in the approaches to Ostend Harbor on 10 May 1918.

THE SECOND OSTEND RAID, MAY 1918 (Q 24025) Wrecked deck of HMS Vindictive in the Ostend Harbour, May 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

THE SECOND OSTEND RAID, MAY 1918 (Q 24031) Wrecked HMS Vindictive in the Ostend Harbour, May 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

After the war, she was raised and broken up in 1920, with her bow saved and put on public display at Ostend, where it remains today.

Two of her sisters, Furious and Arrogant, was broken up just after her– though they had seen no action during the war. As for Vindictive‘s skipper, Carpenter, he went on to command a series of capital ships before moving to the retired list as a Rear Admiral in 1929, though he did return to service in WWII to command a Home Guard district. All good men must do their part, you know. His VC is in the IWM.

A number of relics from Vindictive, to include her shot-up binnacle, a rum draw with a shrapnel wound, her J Morriss & Sons Ltd telescopic flamethrower, one of her 7.5cm howitzers, her voice tube, a piece of concrete from the Mole found on her deck after she returned to Dover and portions of her splinter mattresses are all in the collections of the IWM.

She is, of course, also remembered in maritime art such as the piece at the beginning of the post and this one on display at the Britannia Royal Naval College by Charles De Lacey, showing HMS ‘Vindictive’ at Zeebrugge, 23 April 1918, on loan from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

This week, the RN and RMs celebrated the 100th anniversary of the great raid. On Saturday, Belgium held a special service attended by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines with HRH The Princess Royal representing Her Majesty the Queen. A similar event was held in Dover on Monday with dignitaries from Belgium and Germany as well as the Senior Service.


HMS Order No 77 – HMS Vindictive [Port] (Art.IWM DAZ 0056 2) whole: a schematic drawing for Dazzle camouflage, featuring a hand-drawn and hand-painted port view of a warship. Three superstructure details are placed to the left of the main design. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Displacement: 5,750 long tons (5,840 t)
Length: 320 ft (97.5 m) (p/p), 342 ft (104.2 m) (o/a)
Beam: 57 ft 6 in (17.5 m)
Draught: 20 ft (6.1 m)
Installed power: 10,000 shp (7,460 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shafts
2 vertical triple-expansion steam engines
18 Belleville water-tube boilers
Speed: 19 knots (35.2 km/h; 21.9 mph)
Complement: 331 as designed:
Officers, 17
Seamen, 114
Marines, 25
Engine-room establishment, 128
Other non-executive ratings, 35
(1914) 480 assorted
4 × QF 6-inch (152 mm) guns
6 × 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns
8 × 12-pounder (3-inch, 76 mm) guns
3 × 3-pounder (47 mm) guns
2 submerged 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes, one deck
10 × QF 6-inch MkVII
8 × 12-pounder (3-inch, 76 mm) guns
3 × 3-pounder (47 mm) guns
2x Vickers .303 machine guns
2 submerged 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes, 1 deck
4x QF 6-inch MkVII
5x Vickers .303 machine guns
1x 11-inch howitzer
4x QF 6-inch MkVII
2x Mk I 7.5-inch howitzers
16 81mm Stokes trench mortars,
5×1-pounder (37mm) quick firing Vickers Mark 1 pom-pom guns
16 Lewis guns
5 (+) Vickers .303 machine guns
Deck: 1.5–3 in (38–76 mm)
Conning tower: 9 in (229 mm)

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One very cold cruiser, 75 years ago today

Here we see the USS San Francisco (CA-38) silhouetted against a snowy mountain in Kulak Bay, Adak, Aleutian Islands, 25 April 1943.

NHHC 80-G-72059

A New Orleans-class cruiser, “Frisco Maru” received an amazing 17 battle stars during WWII. Decommissioned 10 February 1946 on her 12th birthday, she was kept in mothballs for another 12 then sold for scrap.

Happy Birthday, Yorktown

First off, this is a Kodachrome original, not a colorized photo. It shows the crew of the brand-new U.S. Navy Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10) at attention as the National Ensign is raised, during her commissioning ceremonies at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, on 15 April 1943– some 75 years ago today.

Official U.S. Navy photo 80-G-K-15555 photographed by Lieutenant Charles Kerlee, USNR. From the U.S. Navy Naval

For the record, Yorktown is freshly painted in Camouflage Measure 21. Two steel-hull submarine chasers (PC) are at right, on the other side of the pier.

The fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name of the famous Revolutionary War siege, she was initially to have been named Bonhomme Richard, but this was switched to Yorktown while under construction to commemorate the loss at Midway of the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5).

After earning 11 battlestars in WWII (along with a Presidental Unit Citation), and five more stars in Vietnam, she decommissioned 27 June 1970 after 37 years of service. Since 1975 she has been a museum ship at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

Please visit her should you have the chance.

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.


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)
(As built)
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”

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They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

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

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

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