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Teddy Rex aboard Mayflower, 115 years ago today

Pres. Roosevelt, Admiral Dewey and Sec. Navy Moody reviewing war fleet from the patrol yacht USS Mayflower (PY-1) at Oyster Bay, Aug. 17, 1903. Flat followed by red-cyan stereo anaglyph to be viewed 3D. Library of Congress images

Built for millionaire real-estate developer Ogden Goelet, he died aboard the 273-foot luxury yacht in 1897– the very year it was built. Sold to the Navy the next year for the Spanish-American War, Mayflower joined the blockade of Cuba out of Key West with six 6-pounders aboard and captured a number of vessels including a Spanish schooner.

Serving as the floating office of Puerto Rico’s first American Governor Charles H. Allen, she soon became a presidential yacht, a role she played until damaged in a fire in 1931 which resulted in her sale on the open market.

Patched back up, the MARAD picked the ship again for military service and she performed as the gunboat USCGC Mayflower (WPE-183) with a Coast Guard crew and some 3-inch guns and depth charges running coastal convoys on the Eastern Seaboard. Decommissioned for a final time after the war, she worked as a sealer and carried Jewish refugees to the promised land in 1948 before dropping off the books.

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018: Florida’s ancient sub-buster

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, Aug. 15, 2018: Florida’s ancient sub-buster

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Photograph

Here we see, behind the striking young lady, is the Argo-class 165-foot (B) submarine chaser/cutter Nemesis (WPC-111) of the U.S. Coast Guard, taken during the 1953 Gasparilla Festival in Tampa. Nemesis was just under 20 at the time and had an interesting life both prior to and after this image was snapped.

The USCG’s two-dozen 165-footers were built during the early-1930s and they proved successful in WWII, with two sinking U-boats. Based on the earlier USCGC Tallapoosa (WPG-52), the 165-foot class of cutters was divided into two groups, the first designed primarily for derelict destruction and SAR, the second for Prohibition bootlegger busting:

The first batch, the six Class A vessels, were named after Native American tribes– Algonquin, Comanche, Escanaba, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Tahoma— and had a 36-foot beam, a 13.5-foot maximum draft, a sedate speed of 13 knots, and a displacement of 1,005 tons. We’ve covered a couple of this class of “beefy” 165s before to include USCGC Mohawk and cannot talk these hardy boats up enough. Tragically, one of these, USCGC Escanaba (WPG-77), was lost after encountering a U-boat or mine in 1943 with only two survivors.

The more beefy 165-foot (A) class cutters (Coast Guard Collection) 

The follow-on 18 WPCs in Class B were named after Greek mythos– Argo, Ariadne, Atalanta, Aurora, Calypso, Cyane, Daphne, Dione, Galatea, Hermes, Icarus, Nemesis, Nike, Pandora, Perseus, Thetis, Triton, and Electra. They were much lighter at 337-tons, narrower with a 25-foot beam, could float in under 10-feet of water (the designed draft was ~7ft.) and, on their suite of direct reversible GM-made Winton diesels, could touch 16 knots while keeping open the possibility of a 6,400nm range if poking around at a much lower speed.

Coast Guard Cutter Icarus, an example of the 165 (B)s, drawn in profile. Note the short, twin stacks. (Coast Guard Collection)

They were built between 1931 and 1934 at a series of five small commercial yards and were designed as patrol vessels. Their normal armament consisted of a dated 3-inch/23 caliber Mk 7 gun and two 37mm Mk. 4 1-pounders. Due to their designed role in busting up Rum Row, their small arms locker included a few Thompson M1921 sub guns, M1911s and a number of Springfield 1903s for good measure.

“Coast Guard planes from the Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Florida, greeting new 165-foot patrol boat PANDORA arrival December 6, 1934, to take station.” Top to bottom Flying Boat ACAMAR, Amphibian SIRIUS and Flying Boat A. As you note, the slimmer twin-funnel 165-foot (B) class sub chasers had a much different profile

The subject of our tale, Nemesis (can you get a better name for a warship?), was ordered for $258,000 from Marietta Manufacturing Co. at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on the Ohio River, alongside her sisters Nike and Triton, in 1931. All three commissioned the same day– 7 July 1934– ironically some six months after Prohibition ended.

Nemesis and her 44-man crew (5 officers, 39 enlisted) set sail for St. Petersburg, Florida, where they would consider home for the rest of her (peacetime) career with the Coast Guard.

USS Trenton postal cover welcoming Nemesis to Ste Pte

With tensions ramping up prior to the U.S entry to WWII, several East Coast 165s, to include Algonquin, Comanche, Galatea, Pandora, Thetis, and Triton, were on duty with the Navy after 1 July 1941 to assist with the Neutrality Patrol. The rest would follow immediately after Pearl Harbor. Armed with hastily-installed depth charge racks and a thrower and given a couple of Lewis guns for added muscle, they went looking for U-boats as the defenders of the Eastern Sea Frontier.

Nemesis’s sister, USCGC Argo on patrol displaying World War II armament and haze gray paint scheme. Note the 3″/50 forward.

As noted by DANFS:

The Gulf Sea Frontier, which included the Florida and Gulf coasts and parts of the Bahamas and Cuba, was defended in only rudimentary fashion during the early months of the war. Initial defenses consisted of the three Coast Guard cutters Nemesis, Nike, and Vigilant, together with nineteen unarmed Coast Guard aircraft and fourteen lightly armed Army aircraft.

In late February 1942 four ships were torpedoed in four days, and in May 41 vessels were sent to the bottom by hostile submarine action off the Florida coast and in the Gulf. As sinkings mounted alarmingly in the Gulf Sea Frontier waters, American defensive strength in the area began to increase rapidly and overwhelmingly.

Sister Icarus (WPC-110) in May 1942 depth-charged U-352, sinking the submarine off the North Carolina coast and taking aboard 33 of her survivors. Thetis (WPC-115) scratched U-157 north of Havana just a few weeks later. Meanwhile, at the same time, Nike (WPC-112) attacked and “likely sank” a surfaced U-boat off Florida’s Jupiter lighthouse then rescued 19 from a torpedoed Panamanian freighter.

Operating in the 7th Naval District on coastal patrol and convoy escort duty throughout the conflict, Nemesis rescued 28 from the Mexican tanker Faja De Oro, torpedoed by U-106 off Key West in May 1942, an attack that helped spark Mexico’s entry into the War against Germany.

“Remember the 13th of May”, referring to a Mexican oil tanker, Faja De Oro, sunk off the coast of Florida by a German submarine. Nemesis saved her crew. Mexico declared war on the Axis Powers in support of the Allies on 22 May and, along with Brazil, was the only Latin American country to send their sons to fight overseas during World War II– notably the flyers of Escuadrón 201 who took U.S.-supplied P-47s to the Philippines as part of the Fifth Air Force, flying 785 combat sorties.

The next month, Nemesis again had to pluck men from the Florida Straits. This time 27 men from the American-flagged SS Suwied, sank by U-107 on her way from Mobile to British Guyana.

Our cutter did not manage to bag a U-boat on her own, although she reported contacts on several occasions and dropped a spread several times. Between February and August 1942 she launched attacks on submarine contacts on at least five different occasions.

By 1944, Nemesis, like the rest of her class, had their armament replaced by two 3″/50 guns, two 20mm Oerlikons, 2 Mousetrap ASW throwers as well as more advanced depth charges and throwers. Nemesis was also one of just five of her class that carried SF-1 radar and QCN-1 sonar, sensors that the humble 165s were never designed for.

In 1945, the Navy selected six patrol vessels as its “Surrender Group” in the 1st Naval District including the three up-armed 165-foot Coast Guard cutters– Dione, Nemesis, and Argo. These ships helped process the surrender of at least five German submarines, U-234, U-805, U-873, U-1228, and U-858. Notably, U-234 was packed with sensitive cargo to include senior German officers and 1,200 pounds of uranium.

Kodachrome of German Submarine U-805 after surrendering to the U.S. Navy off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 16 May 1945. National Archives. Nemesis was part of the Navy’s “Surrender Group” handling these boats.

Nemesis received one battle star for her World War II service and chopped back to the USCG in 1946.

Postwar, Nemesis picked up her white scheme and, losing some of her depth charges, went back to St. Pete.

Closer to her festival picture at the beginning of the post. Note the extensive awnings. South Fla gets warm about 10 months a year. Also, note the 3″/50

By 1953, most of her class had been decommissioned with only Ariadne, Aurora, Dione, Nemesis, Nike, Pandora, Perseus and Triton still on active duty. On the East Coast, Triton was stationed in Key West and Nemesis was in St. Pete. Nike was in Gulfport, MS.

Decommissioned after a busy 30-year career on 20 November 1964, Nemesis was sold on 9 February 1966 in a public auction, going to Auto Marine Engineers of Miami who parted her out over the years. (One of her masts could be on the late PBS&J Corporation founder Howard Malvern “Budd” Post’s Waterside estate.)

Renamed Livingston’s Landing, her hulk was rebuilt by 1979 to look like a triple-decker African steamer and used as a floating restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, picking up the name Ancient Mariner in 1981 while performing the same job. She was docked just west of where Hyde Park Market used to be, across from jail.

Sadly, “the floating eatery was closed in 1986 by health officials as the source of a massive outbreak of infectious hepatitis” that sickened more than 80.

With nothing else going for her, the once-proud vessel was acquired at public auction, “purchased by the South Florida Divers Club of Hollywood for $6,000 and donated to Broward County’s artificial reef program. In June of 1991, the Nemesis, now called Ancient Mariner, was sunk as an artificial reef off Deerfield Beach.”

She is a popular dive site today resting just 50-70 feet deep. “A large Goliath Grouper guards the wreckage and can usually be found in the wheelhouse.”

Of her sisters, USCGC Ariadne (WPC-101), the last in federal service, was decommissioned 23 Dec. 1968 and sold for scrap the next year. Some went on to overseas service, including USCGC Galatea, Thetis, and Icarus, who remained afloat into the late 1980s with the Dominican Republic’s Navy. At least five of the class were bought by the Circle Line of NYC and converted to local passenger ferry work around the five boroughs. Daphne is thought to be somewhere in Mexican waters as a tug.

Of the 24 various 165s that served in the Coast Guard and Navy across a span of almost a half century, just one, like Nemesis a B-model, remains in some sort of confirmed service.

Commissioned as USCGC Electra (WPC-187) in 1934, she was transferred to the US Navy prior to WWII and renamed USS Potomac (AG-25), serving as FDR’s Presidential Yacht for a decade. Struck from the Navy List in 1946, she was saved in 1980 and is currently open to the public in Oakland.

Ex-USS Potomac (AG-25) moored at her berth, the FDR pier, at Jack London Square, Oakland, CA. in 2008. Still floating in less than 7ft of water, as designed. Photos by Al Riel USS John Rogers.Via Navsource

As for the Coast Guard, they are increasingly recycling the old names of the classic 165s for their new class of 360-foot Offshore Patrol Cutters so it is possible that Nemesis will pop back up. Further, the service retains a number of old bells from the 165s as artifacts, such as from USCGC Comanche, below, which means the bell from Nemesis could very well be ashore somewhere on a Coast Guard base.

Specs:


Displacement:
334 long tons (339 t) trial
1945: 350 tons
Length:
160 ft, 9 in waterline
165 ft. overall
Beam: 23 ft 9 in
Draft: 7 ft 8 in as designed, (1945): 10 ft
Propulsion:
2 × Winton Model 158 6-cylinder diesel engines, 670 hp (500 kW) each
two shafts with 3-bladed screws
Fuel: 7,700 gals of diesel oil
Speed: 16 knots
Range: 3,000 nautical miles at 11 knots; 6,400 @6kts on one diesel.
Complement:
44 officers and men as designed
1945: 75 officers and men
Sensors: (1945) SF-1 radar and QCN-1 sonar
Armament:
Prewar:
1 × 3-inch /23 caliber gun
2 × 37mm one-pounders
Wartime (1945):
2 × 3-inch / 50 cal guns
2 × 20 mm guns
2 × Y-guns
2 × depth charge tracks
2 × Mousetrap anti-submarine rockets

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, Aug. 8, 2018: Giuseppe, how many seaplanes you packing?

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, Aug. 8, 2018: Giuseppe, how many seaplanes you packing?

(1500×1000)

Here we see the Regia Marina’s very proud seaplane carrier, Giuseppe Miraglia, at anchor in the 1930s. A true-life example of what today would be seen as a dieselpunk aesthetic, the Italian navy views her as an important predecessor of their modern pocket carriers– Cavour and Giuseppe Garibaldi— today.

Italy got into the seaplane tender biz in February 1915 when they bought the aging 392-ft./7,100-ton Spanish-built freighter Quarto and, as Europa, converted the vessel to operate a half-dozen or so FBA flying boats. Taking part in the Battle of the Strait of Otranto against the bottled-up Austro-Hungarian fleet in 1917, she was discarded after the war.

Fast forward to the mid-1920s, and Italian rivals Britain and France had newer and more modern seaplane carriers (such as HMAS/HMS Albatross and Commandant Teste, the latter carrying 26 aircraft) on the drawing board. This left the Italian Navy with a need for a warship that could pack a lot of (sea)planes once again.

In 1925, Rome bought the incomplete passenger/mail steamer Citta di Messina and, sending her to the Regio arsenale della Spezia for completion, produced Giuseppe Miraglia.

The vessel was renamed in honor of Tenente di vascello Giuseppe Miraglia, an early Italian naval aviator killed in an accident in 1915 at age 27.

This guy

Early in the war, he made headlines in the country by leading his seaplane squadron over Austrian-held Trieste in a raid that was widely celebrated.

She wasn’t a giant ship, just under 400-feet long with a light draft of 4,500-tons. But Miraglia was fast enough for naval use (21 knots) and with enough room for as many as 20 seaplanes of assorted sizes.

For this, she was well-equipped with two below-deck hangars in what was to be the steamship’s holds, each equipped with catapults and cranes for launching and recovery, respectively. Inside the hangars were room for spare parts including fresh engines, a few spare aircraft in “knocked down” crated condition, tools and handling equipment.

Note her hangar arrangement fore and aft of her stack

Many of the planned staterooms which originally were meant for 1st and 2nd class passengers were completed for aircrew instead. A central ordnance magazine and avfuel storage were accessible from each hangar.

All those Macchis…

The twin hangars could each hold 5-6 Macchi M.18AR seaplanes with their wings folded while additional aircraft “parking” was available topside for a couple extra boats.

A pusher-style biplane flying boat, the M.18AR was one of the more successful “combat” seaplanes of the 1920s and 30s, serving not only with the Italians but with the Spanish Navy‘s early seaplane carrier Dédalo (Dedalus) during the Civil War in that country as well as against Moroccan rebels, but also with the Paraguayan Navy during the Chaco War.

The open cockpit three-seat scout bombers were the staple of the Aviazione per la Regina Marina for much of the interwar period, capable of toting a few small bombs and a 7.7mm machine gun aloft with a 300~ mile combat radius.

A flight of Macchi 18ARs with the Aeronáutica Naval Española, impressive air power for the roaring 20s.

By 1930, the Macchi aircraft were replaced largely with Cantoni 25 AR seaplanes and, after 1937, with the smaller but more modern IMAM Ro.43, which at least had a closed cockpit and two machine guns rather than just one– although carried no bombs.

Recovering an IMAM Ro.43 seaplane, the standard Italian Navy’s floatplane that flew from not only Miraglia but also all her cruisers and battleships from 1937 onward

Miraglia’s topside deck was protected by 50mm of armor to stave off air attacks not scared off by her AAA suite of a dozen Breda machine guns while a quartet of 4-inch guns could take shots at closing destroyers or torpedo boats. She had a side belt of between 70 and 80mm (sources vary).

Miraglia entered service 1 November 1927 and was used in the disgrace that was the Italo-Ethiopian War in the late 1930s to transport aircraft to the theatre.

With six Macchi seaplanes on deck, underway

Note the Macchi ready to cat. The ship carried one Gagnotto-made catapult forward…

…And another aft. Also, note the 4-inch gun under the cat on the aft stdb quarter

Italian ship GIUSEPPE MIRAGLIA. Italy – CVAN. Circa 1935. Note the seaplanes on her hangar decks. NH 111421

When WWII came, she somehow managed to not catch a British torpedo or American bomb while serving in the Mediterranean although she was present in the harbor for the raid on Taranto in 1940. She spent most of the war as a transport and test bed, rather than in operations.

Later in the conflict, the zippy little Reggiane Re.2000 Falco I “Catapultabile” monoplane, which could be catapulted off by not recovered by the vessel, made an appearance on the ship.

The Re.2000 Catapultabile (MM.8281) on a topside catapult of Giuseppe Miraglia ready for take-off, May 1942. Less than a dozen of these variants was used during WWII. The planes were planned for the unfinished 27,000-ton Italian aircraft carrier L’ Aquila but cut their teeth on Miraglia.

Following the shit-canning of Mussolini, Miraglia sailed to Malta in 1943 to be interned under British guns and served the rest of the war as a receiving ship for Italian sailors from smaller vessels.

Meanwhile, Italy’s first planned aircraft carrier– a respectable 772-foot leviathan by the name of L’Aquila (Eagle) converted from an unfinished ocean liner– was left under construction at Genoa. Although it was envisioned she would carry up to 56 aircraft, the Italian eagle was never completed and finally scrapped at La Spezia in 1952. A sistership, Sparviero, never even got that far, making Miraglia the sole Italian aviation ship fielded in WWII.

The unfinished Italian aircraft carrier “Aquila” tied up at La Spezia sometime following Italy’s surrender in WWII.

Following the end of the war, with the general disfavor of seaplanes and seaplane carriers of the time, Miraglia was retained at Taranto as a PT boat tender until 1950 when she was disposed of.

Italian Naval Aviation languished for a full decade following VE-Day, only restarting on a limited scale when a few Bell-Augusta AB-47G helicopters were handed over to the Navy for shipboard service in 1956.

By 1969, Vittorio Veneto, a so-called “helicopter cruiser,” was in service, capable of carrying six SH-3D Sea Kings or larger numbers of smaller whirlybirds.

Vittorio Veneto was all cruiser in the front…

But a party in the back…ITS Vittorio Veneto (C550) view from the stern with raised deck and hangar beneath.

Finally, in 1990 the Italian government placed an order for several AV-8B Harriers for use on the newly completed light aircraft carrier Garibaldi, returning the country’s fleet to a fixed-wing capability that it hadn’t seen since Miraglia steamed for exile in Malta in 1943.

Today, it is thought that the carrier Cavour will carry a squadron of operational Italian F-35Bs by 2023, almost a century after Miraglia was conceived.

Italian aircraft carrier Cavour

Specs:


Displacement, full load: 5.913 t
Length: 397.72 ft.
Beam: 49.18 ft.
Draft: 19 ft.
Propulsion: 8 Yarrow water tube boilers, 2 groups of steam turbines with Parsons type reducer, 2 propellers with three blades, 16,700 HP, 430 tons oil.
Speed: 21 knots
Crew: (196) not counting airwing, as follows:
16 officers
40 NCOs
140 enlisted
Armament:
4 x 102/35 Schneider-Armstrong naval rifles
12 x 13.2 mm Breda machine guns
Airwing:
2 Gagnotto steam catapults in bow and stern
2 aircraft hangars for 5-6 planes with folded wings (total of 11 seaplanes)
2 depots for 3 dismantled aircraft, each
17 Macchi M.18AR seaplanes (1927-30), 20 Cantoni 25 AR seaplanes (1931-36) up to 20 IMAM Ro.43s (1937-43)

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

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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday, July 25, 2018: Tsar Nicky’s lost (crypto) millions?

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, July 25, 2018: Tsar Nicky’s lost (crypto) millions?

Colorized by my good friend Diego Mar of Postales Navales

Here we see the semi-armored frigate (often classified as a cruiser) Dmitriy Donskoy (or, Dmitri Donskoi) of the Tsarist Imperial Navy in her classic black and buff scheme. Note the Romanov double eagle crest in yellow– house colors– on her bow.

She was the last warship claimed by the military fiasco that was the Battle of Tsushima in 1905 and notably has popped back in the news last week with her (re)discovery by a Singapore-based South Korean treasure hunting group, thus:

Via the Shinil Group

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get some context.

In the late 1870s, the Russian navy was fairly powerful, the proud owner of several U.S.-built coastal monitors ready to mix it up with anything sent into their waters, and a reasonable fleet of blue water steam vessels. What they really needed, however, were armored blue water ships capable of ranging far and wide. Enter the armored frigate Minin, some 295-feet overall and 6,100-tons, she was capable of 14-knots and carried a quartet of 8-inch guns and as much as 7-inches of locally made iron armor. Not bad for 1878. At the same time came the Russian cruiser General Admiral, considered the world’s first armored cruiser, combining an armor belt with an armored protective deck in a 285-foot/5,038-ton package capable of making 12 knots.

General Admiral, shown in New York in 1893– but we’ll get to that (LOC photo)

By 1880, the Admiralty ordered the follow-on Dmitriy Donskoy, named after St. Dmitry of the Don who beat the Tartars at the Battle of Kulikovo in the 14th century, one of the largest battles of the Middle Ages and the event that signaled the beginning of the end of the Mongol Yoke over Rus.

The guy on the white horse…

She was the fifth Russian naval ship since 1771 to carry the name– and the last until 2000.

Beefier than General Admiral and about even 10 feet longer and 100-tons heavier (she used heavier steel armor ordered abroad from Cammell Laird to include a belt and armored deck) than Minin, the new armored frigate had more economical engines coupled with larger coal bunkers that gave her three times the range of Minin and a speed of 16-knots (making 16.16 on trials). She could travel for a week at full speed and up to 30 days at a more pedestrian 10-knots. Then, in 1883, came her half-sister, the more refined Vladimir Monomakh, a tweaked 306-foot/6,000-ton vessel to the same layout.

All four of these experimental ships had copper sheathed hulls to cut down on drydocking– and allowing more distant deployments– and were heavily ship-rigged on three wooden masts for extending their range under sail. Their props were originally designed to be lifted to prevent drag while under canvas, but that did not work in practice.

Referred to as armored cruisers by the rest of the world, there was a legit concern (mainly by the British) at the time that these ships would create havoc on sea lanes as commerce raiders in the event of war.

Donskoy spent the first two years of her career with the Mediterranean Sea squadron, then in 1887 transferred to the Pacific, where Russia was eagerly looking to expand.

An 1889 modification saw her wooden masts replaced by lighter steel ones, followed by another tour of the Med, and by 1891 she was back in the Pacific and would sail the world extensively for several years.

She participated in the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 as the flagship of the Russian squadron, sailing up the Hudson along with the already-mentioned General Admiral, gunboat Rynda (c1885/3,537t) and the new and mighty armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov (c1888/8,609t), the latter a Warship Wednesday alum.

Dmitri Donskoi, Russian navy_LOC-D4-21190

Dmitri Donskoi, Russian navy_LOC-D4-21191

Her officers were a hit with the New York social crowd.

Capt. 1st Rank NA Zelenoy, skipper of the Donskoy, in his full uniform, colorized photo from Detriot Post Card company, via LOC

In 1895 she was extensively modified with new engines and boilers, and her armament updated, shipping for the Far East again the next year, carrying a white scheme for a time.

Ironclad IRN Dmitrii Donskoi picture at the opening of the Vladivostok Drydock, October 7th, 1897

She would spend six years in Vladivostok, then the new Russian enclave at Port Arthur (which they basically stole from the Japanese), and her crew formed a naval battalion that participated in the Boxer rebellion.

Russian Sailors Defending A Barricade Before The Peking Legation 1900 in Boxer Rebellion via the London Illustrated News

At the end of 1901, she returned to the Baltic again for another refit and armament swap (honestly, she changed her batteries so much that it is irrelevant to cover each update, check the specs at the bottom for more details).

She was aging, slow for her times, and poorly armed for her size, and a 1900 Jane’s entry characterized her as such.

Early 1904 saw her leaving for the Far East once again with the cruiser Almaz and a group of new destroyers, but they only got as far as the Red Sea before war came with Japan– over Port Arthur– and she was recalled to the Baltic.

With the war going exceptionally bad for the Russians militarily, and the Tsar’s Pacific Squadron largely bottled up behind minefields and Japanese blockade at Port Arthur, the Baltic Fleet suddenly became dubbed the 2nd Pacific Squadron and soon received orders to sail to the Far East and throw down. The epic story is told best by Constantine Pleshakov in his “The Tsar’s Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima.”

It’s a good read…

In the book, Donskoy appears a dozen or more times, derided by Vice Adm. Rozhestvensky as the “cabbie” of the fleet due to her slow speed. First, she caught a broadside from her own fleet in the Baltic (!) during a confusing nighttime skirmish that injured several men and, as British trawlers were harmed, forced the ill-fated warships to sail all the way around the Cape of Good Hope rather than via the London-controlled Suez Canal.

Then, Donskoy became the great fisherman of the fleet in Madagascar– catching some 1,800 pounds of fish in one go via nets but losing a man to a shark. Then came her officers’ rather racy involvement with the nurses of the hospital ship Orel. Anyway, pick up the book, it’s a great read.

The blue line…

Now, in the third act, we have our valiant frigate’s destruction in the Strait of Korea. Part of a four-ship column of cruisers under the flag of the unpopular but politically connected Rear-Admiral Oskar Enkvist– she joined Oleg, Aurora, and her sister Monomakh and were tasked with guarding the auxiliaries in the rear column of the fleet by Rozhdestvensky.

Escaping the carnage of the main fleet action, he ordered the group to make their way as best they could to Vladivostok. The Admiral later caught up to them in the leaking torpedo boat Buiny but during the night of May 27/28, they became separated again. Meanwhile, the Japanese were busy hunting the stragglers. Monomakh was torpedoed by Japanese torpedo boat in the night and surrendered the next day. The Zhemchug, Aurora, and Oleg damaged, managed to make it to Manila to be interned by the Americans under the guns of the old monitor USS Monadnock (BM-3).

By the morning of the 28th, Donskoy, now just accompanied by two torpedo boats– Bedovy and Grozny— found the wounded Rozhdestvensky on his languishing Buiny and transferred him, along with the Donskoy‘s surgeon, to the Bedovy for the final 400-mile run to safety in Vladivostok. Donskoy remained behind to cover the admiral’s retreat and rescue the crew from Buiny then sink her with gunfire. Overall, the ship had more than 300 survivors aboard, mostly from the lost battleship Oslyabya.

Ultimately, Rozhestvensky was captured after his new torpedo boat suffered an engineering casualty later that morning, but Donskoy pressed on alone, filled with survivors she picked up along the way. By 5 p.m. she was sighted by the pursuing Japanese and, some two hours later, was some 30 nautical miles south of Ulleungdo (Dajelet) Island. Over the next two hours, she dueled with the Japanese cruisers Otowa (3,000t) and Niitaka (3,400 tons), together with the destroyers Asagiri, Shirakumo, and Fubuki. It was a hell of a fight by all accounts and the Japanese caught a few rounds in return fire– a rarety in the typical Russo-Japanese exchange.

Zaikin A.Yu. (born 1954) “The last fight of Dmitry Donskoy,” 1995

This left the old Donskoy battered and her skipper, the valiant Capt.1st Rank Ivan Nikolayevich Lebedev, a veteran with some 38 years of service behind him, on his literal last leg, one of some 190 casualties suffered in the final act of Tsushima.

From a Russian memoir of the hellish scene on Donskoy, of her XO, Capt. 2nd rank Konstantin Platonovich Blokhin, being called to the bridge:

The senior officer was on deck when one of the sailors flew up to him and, choking on words, reported:

“Your Honor … the commander asks you.”

Blokhin immediately climbed to the bridge and, peering into the warped and dilapidated cabin, for a moment was dumbfounded. The whole deck shone with fresh blood. Lieutenant Durnovo, leaning against the wall, sat motionless, bent, as if thinking about something, but he and his cap had a skull and horribly pinked frozen brain. The helmsman Quartermaster Polyakov curled up at the binnacle. Lieutenant Giers was lying with his belly open. Above these corpses, gritting his teeth in pain, Lieutenant commander towered alone, barely holding onto the handles of the wheel. He had a through wound in his thigh with a bone fracture.

In addition, his entire body was wounded with small fragments. He stood on one leg and tried to hold the cruiser on the course, himself unaware that the steering gear was broken and that the ship was steadily rolling to the right. Seeing the senior officer, he raised his eyebrows in surprise and said with blue lips:

“I hand over the command…”

“I’ll arrange for you to be transferred, Ivan Nikolayevich, to the dressing station.”

“Do not. I’ll stay here. Try to get to the shade of the island. Do not hand over the ship. Better to scuttle her.”

And with that, Lebedev died and his battered ship limped closer to Ulleungdo Island and was scuttled by her crew in deep water some two miles offshore on the morning of the 29th, sending her survivors ashore where the Japanese took them, prisoner.

Blokhin survived, later becoming a rear admiral. Her mine officer, Lt. Alexander Oskarovich Stark (whose father, Vice Adm. Oskar Viktorovich Stark had ironically been in command of the 1st Pacific Squadron at Port Arthur), went on to command the cruiser Bayan in the Baltic during WWI and died in exile (along with his dad) in Finland in the 1920s.

As for Rozhestvensky, after ducking a death sentence at a court-martial after the war, he lived out the last years of his life in St Petersburg as a recluse and died in 1909 of a bad heart, aged 60. He had lost 4,380 men and 21 vessels– including an amazing seven battleships– over the course of about 24-hours, while another seven of his warships were captured by the Japanese along with a staggering 5,900 men– to include the survivors of Donskoy, of course. The Japanese lost no major ships and suffered about 700 mixed casualties in what could be called the all-time benchmark for a decisive naval victory.

Fast forward a few years, and the stories of the gold started to come out, with the legend going that the vessels were piled high with a mini-fortune to be used to buy coal and supplies aboard as needed due  to the fact that Russia had precisely zero coaling stations between the Baltic and Vladivostok.

In 1933, an author named Garry Berg published a hard-to-find pamphlet, “600 Billion in Water,” holding that four ships of the Rozhestvensky’s 2nd Pacific Squadron sunk at the Battle of Tsushima had a horde of gold, then worth US $5 million, with the largest portions on two cruisers– $2 million carried on Admiral Nakhimov, and another $2 million on Donskoy. In 1980, Japanese salvors located Nakhimov and pulled up an unspecified amount of gold bullion, platinum ingots, and British gold sovereigns– over the howls of the Soviets. The ship reportedly carried 16 platinum bars, 48 gold bars and about 5,000 pounds of British gold coins. The funny thing is– the ingots shown off in 1980 were later found to be made out of lead.

In 2001, a South Korean group said they found Donskoy, which is rumored to hold 5,500 boxes of gold bullion and 200 tons of gold coins aboard her– an incredible cache that today is worth some $130 billion if it is to be believed. The ROK-government-run Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology followed up with a claim on the wreck a few years later.

However, no one has been able to salve it.

Now, the Singapore-based Shinil Group has once again stirred the Donskoy pot, saying they have located her stern (she is nearly broken in two) at N37°-29′.2″ E130°-56′.3″ to be precise.

“The bottom of Donskoy is about 40 degrees on the slope of the seabed with its stern 380 meters below the water level, and its bow is at 430 meters. One-third of the stern is bombarded, and the hull is severely damaged. It is a half-broken situation. However, the upper deck of the wooden hull is almost untouched. The armor on the side of the hull is also well preserved, while the anchors, guns and machine guns remain in place. In addition, all three of the masts and the two chimneys are broken, there was also a partial attacked trail of marking on the sides.”

Now, as reported by the Singapore Straits Times, the group is offering a swing at the “Donskoi International” cryptocurrency exchange providing tokens called Shinil Gold Coins (SGCs), backed apparently by gold futures on the wreck, which makes the whole idea of the 2nd Pacific Squadron’s ridiculous 18,000-mile journey to Valhalla seem like an innovative idea in comparison…

As for the Russians, after spending some 95 years trying to forget Donskoy, they renamed the 20-year-old TK-208, a huge Project 941 Akula (NATO: Typhoon-class) ballistic missile submarine built in 1980, as Dmitriy Donskoy.

She is the largest submarine in the world in regular fleet service, assigned to the Northern Fleet at Severodvinsk, and the last of her class on active duty. Her aging R-39 ballistic missiles were replaced with launchers for the new RSM-56 Bulava SLBM and she has been testing them out over the past several years.

Specs:

Displacement 5800 t, 6200 fl
Length 306 ft.
Width 52.1 ft.
Draft 23 ft.
Machinery: two 3-cylinder compound machines, 8 boilers, 7000 hp nominal (7360 max), 1 screw
Speed 16 knots
Range: 3,300 nautical miles @10kts, 900 tons coal
Crew 515, incl 23 officers when built. 571 in 1902
Armor: 114 to 152 mm belt, 12.7 mm – deck
Armament:
(1886)
2 × 203mm / 30 low angle
14 × 152mm / 28
4 × 87mm / 24
2 × 64mm / 20 Baranovsky on wings
4 × 47mm/ 43 Hotchkiss
4 × 37mm / 23 Hotchkiss
4 wheeled .45/70 Fearington “coffee mill guns”
4 381mm surface torpedo tubes abeam, 1 in bow
(1895)
6 × 152mm / 45 Canet
10 × 120mm / 45 Canet
2 × 64mm / 20 Baranovsky
8 × 47mm / 43 Hotchkiss
10 × 37mm / 23 Hotchkiss
4 381mm surface torpedo tubes abeam, 1 in bow
(1902)
6 × 152mm / 45 Canet
4 × 120mm / 45 Canet
6 × 75mm / 50 Obukhov
2 × 64mm / 20 Baranovsky
8 × 47mm / 43 Hotchkiss
10 × 37mm / 23 Hotchkiss
2 × 7.62mm Maxim Machine Guns

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

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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday, July 18, 2018: The hardest working cheesebox

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, July 18, 2018: The hardest working cheesebox

Courtesy, Digital Commonwealth Collection.

Here we see the single-turreted, coastal monitor USS Passaic, a proud addition to the steam and iron Union Navy during the Civil War that went on to become a staple of U.S. maritime lore for the rest of the century and retire to Florida in her old age. In fact, this image was taken in 1898, as she stood to in Key West to fight the Spanish, if needed.

Designed by famed engineer John Ericsson to be an improved version of original USS Monitor, Passaic was the first of her class of what was to be 10 “cheesebox on a raft” ships that were larger (200-feet oal over 176-ft of the Monitor) included more ventilation, a tweaked topside layout, bigger guns (a 15-inch Dahlgren along with an 11-incher, whereas Monitor just had two of the latter), and marginally better seakeeping.

Line engraving published in Le Monde Illustre 1862, depicting the interior of the Passaic’s gun turret. Passaic was armed with two large Dahlgren smooth-bore guns: one XI-inch and one XV-inch. Note round shot in the foreground, that at right in a hoisting sling, and turning direction marking on the gun carriage.

Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, depicting Passaic trying her large gun at the Palisades, during gunnery trials in the Hudson River on 15 November 1862. The ship was armed with two large Dahlgren smooth-bore guns: one XI-inch and one XV-inch. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 58735

USS Passaic. Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, depicting Passaic as she will appear at sea. She was commissioned on 25 November 1862. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 58736

Subcontracted to six different East Coast yards (there was a war on, after all) our class leader was built by Continental Iron Works, Greenport, New York, which is appropriated for a vessel named for a town in New Jersey possibly best known today as the birthplace of Dick Vitale.

She was commissioned 25 November 1862, just after Grant began his First Vicksburg campaign, and was soon after toured by President Lincoln and members of his cabinet.

Before seeing action, Passaic was being towed by the State of Georgia to Beaufort, North Carolina, deep in Confederate-contested waters, along with Monitor, which was being towed by Rhode Island. On the day after Christmas, the ships ran into severe weather off Cape Hatteras– forcing Passaic‘s crew to take to her pumps to correct leaking (have you seen the freeboard on these?) and was only saved after her crew tossed her shot overboard to help make weight. In the end, she made Beaufort on New Year’s Day, 1863, while Monitor famously went down during the storm.

Similarly, Passaic‘s classmate, USS Weehawken, sank at anchor in just a moderate gale later that year, taking four officers and 27 enlisted men to the bottom with her– half her crew. Monitors were downright dangerous in any sea.

Nonetheless, quickly making a name for herself, Passaic soon captured a blockade runner (the schooner Glide) and attacked strategically important Fort McAllister near Savannah, Georgia, a major Federal objective.

Bombardment of Fort McAllister, Georgia, 3 March 1863. Line engraving, after a sketch by W.T. Crane, published in The Soldier in Our Civil War, Volume II, page 39. It depicts the U.S. Navy monitors Patapsco, Passaic, and Nahant firing on Fort McAllister (at far left) from the Ogeechee River. Other U.S. Navy ships are in the foreground. Montauk is the monitor in this group (farthest from the artist). Firing on the fort from the right foreground are mortar schooners, including C.P. Williams, Norfolk Packet, and Para. Among other U.S. Navy ships involved were gunboats Wissahickon, Seneca and Dawn and tug Dandelion, all screw steamers. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph Catalog #: NH 59287

Bombardment of Fort McAllister, Georgia, 3 March 1863. Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, January-June 1863, page 196, depicting the bombardment of Fort McAllister by the U.S. Navy monitors Passaic, Patapsco, and Nahant. The engraving is based on a sketch by an eye-witness on board USS Montauk, which is in the right center foreground. In the left foreground, firing on the fort, are the mortar schooners C.P. Williams, Norfolk Packet, and Para. Among other U.S. Navy ships involved were gunboats Wissahickon, Seneca and Dawn and tug Dandelion. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 59288

Dupont, with the largest ironclad flotilla ever assembled in the world up to that time– nine vessels to include USS New Ironsides, the double-turret ironclad ram USS Keokuk, and seven single-turret monitors (including Passaic)– went on to conduct what is often labeled as the first attack by an all-ironclad fleet in naval history. By April 1863, Passaic was in action off Charleston (arguably the best defended seaport in the world at the time), where she took several hits to her turret she would carry with her for the rest of her career– and prove photogenic for Brady organization shutterbugs!

Photograph shows a group of Union soldiers standing near the turret of the ironclad USS Passaic. Two soldiers stand above, near the pilot house. Indentations in the turret were caused by cannon fire. Cooley, Sam A., photographer, Tenth Army Corps 1863. LOC 2015648199

Monitor USS Passaic without pilothouse & awning stanchions, note shell pockmarks 1863 via LOC

LC-DIG-PPMSCA-33821: Officers and crew onboard the US Navy monitor USS Passaic at Port Royal, South Carolina, 1863. Note the difference in bores between the 11-inch and 15-inch guns. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

LC-DIG-PPMSCA-33820: Officers and crew onboard the US Navy monitor USS Passaic at Port Royal, South Carolina, 1863

After being patched up in New York, by July Passaic was back on the Union blockade line off Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, carrying the flag of none other than RADM John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren himself for his opening attack on Fort Moultrie– which would take another 18 months to finally break.

In June 1865, the hardy monitor was laid up at Philadelphia Navy Yard just two weeks after Kirby Smith officially surrendered his command– the last major one in the Confederacy– down in Galveston. Passaic was lucky. Classmate USS Patapsco was sunk by a mine on 15 January 1865 in Charleston Harbor. Of the seven others in the class, all were similarly put in ordinary, many lingering at League Island Navy Yard in the Delaware for decades as the Navy that built them simply ran dry of money.

Passaic was the exception to this and she got regular work after a while. Repaired and recommissioned in Hampton Roads, 24 November 1876, she went on to serve first as a receiving ship at the Washington Naval Yard and then a training vessel at Annapolis for young minds, a job she maintained until 1892.

Passaic photographed late in her career after she had been fitted with a light flying deck. The view looks forward from off the port quarter. Note the ship’s propeller well aft, with its cover removed and resting on deck. The exposed tiller and steering cables are also visible, between the propeller well and its cover. Possibly taken during Passaic’s service at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, circa 1883-1892. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43747

Off the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, circa 1887. The Academy’s New Quarters building is at the far left. Tall structure in the left center distance is the Maryland State House. The photograph was taken by E.H. Hart and published in his 1887 book United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. Collection of Rear Admiral Ammen C. Farenholt, USN(MC). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 42802

By 1893, Passaic was on loan to the Massachusetts Naval Militia, then shipped back to Southern waters to do the same for the Georgia Naval Militia.

Her layout in 1896, via Monitors of the U.S. Navy, 1861-1937″, pg 17, by Lt. Richard H. Webber, USNR-R. (LOC) Library of Congress, Catalog Card No. 77-603596, via Navsource

There, in 1898, when war came with Spain, she was dusted off and recommissioned into the Navy proper although her muzzle-loading black powder armament was quaint for the period. Towed from Savannah to Key West, she served as a harbor defense craft with the Naval Auxiliary Force just in case the Spanish got froggy.

Similarly, her old and long-put-to-pasture classmates saw a similar call-up from decades of reserve. USS Montauk, crewed by Maine militia, was assigned to guard the harbor of Portland. Nahant steamed– for the first time since 1865– to New York City for six months along with Sangamon. USS Catskill served off New England. USS Nantucket, manned by North Carolina volunteers, was stationed at Port Royal, South Carolina. On the West Coast, USS Camanche, long used by the California Naval Militia, was tasked to guard the Bay Area.

It was to be the last adventure for these old boats. As for Passaic, she never left Florida. Towed to Pensacola after the Spanish surrendered, she was decommissioned and sold for scrap the following year. By 1904, none of her sisters remained.

Photo #: NH 45896 USS Montauk (1862-1904) – at left, and USS Lehigh (1863-1904) – at right Laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, circa late 1902 or early 1903. Other ships present, at the extreme left and in center beyond Montauk and Lehigh, include three other old monitors and two new destroyers (probably Bainbridge and Chauncey, both in reserve at Philadelphia from November 1902 to February 1903). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

She is remembered in maritime art.

USS Passaic, Wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1898, depicting the ship as she was during the Civil War. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 42803

Chromolithograph by Armstrong & Company, after an 1893 watercolor by Fred S. Cozzens, published in Our Navy Its Growth and Achievements, 1897. Ships depicted are (from left to right): Monadnock class twin-turret monitor; Passaic class single-turret monitor (in foreground); USS Naugatuck; USS Keokuk USS New Ironsides and USS Nantucket. Collection of Captain Glenn Howell, USN, 1974. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 464-KN

Her plans are in the National Archives while her name was recycled in WWII for a Cohoes-class net laying ship, which was later transferred to the Dominican Republic in the 1970s.

Specs:

USS Catskill, Passaic, and USS Montauk, line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, rather crudely depicting the appearance of these ships and others of their class. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 58737

Displacement:1,335 tons std, 1875 Fl
Length: 200 ft overall
Beam: 46 ft
Draught: 10 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 2 Martin boilers, 1-shaft Ericsson vibrating lever engine, 320 ihp
Speed: 7 knots designed, 4-5 actual.
Complement: 75 (1863)
Armament:
1 × 15 in Dahlgren smoothbore, 1 × 11 in Dahlgren smoothbore in a single dual turret.
Armor, iron:
Side: 5 – 3 in
Turret: 11 in
Deck: 1 in

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!

Battlewagon on a lake, 103 years ago today

Here we see the Illinois-class pre-dreadnought type battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-9) drawing 23 feet of water in Gatun Lake, Panama, 16 July 1915.

Obsolete within five years of her commissoning, she served with her two sisteres, Illinois and former Warship Wednesday alumn Alabama on the epic Great White Fleet and then, after a modernization in 1909 that left her looking more haze gray as seen above, she was used for training until 1919 when she was laid up for good and scrapped without ceremony in 1922.

In 1944 another battleship entered the fleet with the same name, which had a rather longer life.

 

Warship Wednesday, July 11, 2018: A big gun in a little boat

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, July 11, 2018: a Big gun in a little boat

From the collections of the Danish National Museum #92-1993

Here we see the Danish kanonbaadene (gunboat) Møen of the Royal Danish Navy, a prime example of the late 19th Century “flat-iron,” or Rendel-type gunboat popular in Europe for coast defense for a generation. Just 112-feet overall, she mounted a very stout Armstrong 10-inch, 18-ton muzzle-loading rifle as her main armament.

Seriously:

Click to big up 2000×1321. Note the two covered 83mm guns on the bridge wings, the accordion player, and bugler. Oh, and the big ass 10-incher in the center. And yes, that is the whole crew.

Named after the lonely but beautiful island of Møn, the hardy vessel was ordered from Orlogsværftet, Copenhagen in 1875 and commissioned 24 August 1876. Based on the British Ant-class (254-tons, 85-ft overall, 1x RML 10-inch 18-ton gun) the 410-ton Møen was the *largest* of a five-ship lot consisting of three 240-ton Oresund-class vessels and her near-sister, the 383-ton Falster, all completed by 1876 and mounting the same giant 10-incher.

British Ant-class. In all, between the 1870s and 80s, some 100 or so Rendel-type gunboats like these were built and used by a dozen navies to include those of Argentina, the Chinese and Japanese. By the 1900s these were largely replaced as an idea that had quickly expired.

Meanwhile, just to the south of Denmark, the German Kaiserliche Marine had ordered 11 similar Wespe-class gunboats mounting an impressive 12-incher forward. It should be remembered that at the time Denmark and Germany were only a decade removed from a sharp war that went kind of bad for Copenhagen.

German Wespe class Rendel gunboats– the opposite of Moen and Falster

Powered by a 500hp steam engine, the proud Møen could make a stately 9-knots on her iron-hull when wide open but could float in just nine feet of water, enabling her to hide in the shallows around Denmark’s coastline and burp out a 400-pound shell to 6,000 yards. In tests, the Danes found that the 10-inch main battery of these five gunboats could penetrate 270mm of wrought iron at 628 meters, which was pretty good for the day.

Joining the fleet by late 1876, the plucky gunboat joined in regular Eskadren (squadron) maneuvers each summer from June to the end of September in the Baltic, assisting with cadet cruises as needed and practicing her gunnery while the Øresund-class ships were gradually removed from service, found to be just too small of the task.

Sister Falster, pre-1903. Note the big 10-inch forward

On 30 September 1901, while anchored in front of Fort Middelgrund between Copenhagen and Malmö, Møen suffered a catastrophic hull breach while testing new (and apparently finicky) incendiary shells for her Armstrong. While her 35-man crew was safe aboard the nearby coastal defense ship Skjold, Moen‘s rifle was fired electrically via a cable from 400m away and on the third shot a fire started aboard that triggered her magazine just seconds later.

The ship “disappeared” and settled on the bottom of Øresund, gratefully without any casualties. Only her masthead was visible over the surface.

The news was widely reported in naval journals of the time.

The sinking of the Moen from the Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, Volume 13

The sinking of the Moen from the Naval Institute Proceedings, Volume 27 1901

Sister Falster, the last Danish Rendel-type gunboat, soon after the accident landed her big gun and she was rearmed with a much safer 57 mm popgun in 1903.

Kanonbaaden Falster sometime between 1903 and 1914, note the much more sedate 57mm L44 M1896 mount forward. Interestingly enough, this model gun remained in maritime service well into the 1990s, only retired by the Icelandic Coast Guard in favor of slightly more up-to-date Bofors 40mm singles.

Retained for another decade, she was listed as having an armament consisting of seven machine guns (likely domestically-produced Madsens) in Janes‘ 1914 edition:

6th down, at the time the oldest armed gunboat in the Danish Navy

During WWI, Falster served as a guard ship between Amager and Saltholm. The highlight of this service was when the British submarine HMS E.13 ran aground near her in 1915, and some of the RN officers were brought aboard until they could be sent ashore to be interned for the duration.

Kanonbåden Falster, stern, as guardship

At the end of hostilities, she was withdrawn, disarmed and was sold in February 1919. As such, Falster was pretty much the swan song of Rendel-type iron gunboats except for the Greek Amvrakia, which mounted an 11-inch gun on a ridiculous 400-ton hull and remained in (nominal) service until 1931.

Converted to a coastal freighter under the name Holger, Falster was lost in 1930 with seven merchantmen aboard in a winter snowstorm north of Djursland with a load of cement.

As for her sister, the Danish Navy salvaged the guns and most of the more valuable equipment in 1902, but the wreck of kanonbåden Møen, in just 19m of sheltered water, is a popular and easy dive.

The two ships were later commemorated by the Danes in the much larger Falster-class minelæggeren (minelayers) which were active from the 1960s through 2004.

As for Denmark, of course, the Royal Danish Navy was an armed neutral in the sharp crossroads between the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet and Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet in the Great War, a semi-active combatant against the Germans in WWII, and, since 1949, has been an important contributor to NATO.

Specs:
Displacement 409 t.
Length: 112.5-feet
Width: 28.8 ft.
Draft: 9 ft.
Engine: 500 hp steam engine, one screw
Speed: 9.0 knots, 20-tons of coal
Crew: 30 to 35
Armament:
Single RML 10-inch 18-ton gun (254mm/18cal) M.1875 Armstrong
Two 83mm/13cal M.1872 Krupp rifled breechloaders (later replaced with 6 37 mm rapid-fire guns).

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!

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