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Warship Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019: The Everlasting VDG

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Oct 16, 2019: The Everlasting VDG

“Photo by Simmonds, Portsmouth,” USN NH 94220

Here we see the coastal defense “battleship” (cruzador-couraçado) Vasco da Gama of the Royal Portuguese Navy, June 1895, at the opening of the Kiel Canal, with a German Sachsen-class pre-dreadnought to the right. Da Gama is the only unit of the Portuguese Navy to be described as a capital ship and she outlasted most of her contemporaries, remaining the most powerful vessel in Lisbon’s fleet for six decades.

While Portugal’s naval needs were primarily colonial in the late 19th Century, which was satisfied by a series of lightly armed frigates and sloops, something more regal was needed for sitting around the capital and spending time showing the flag in European ports. Enter VDG, the third such Portuguese naval ship named for the famous explorer, with the two previous vessels being 18th and 19th-century ships-of-war of 70- and 80-guns, respectively.

Built originally as a central battery casemate ironclad with a barquentine rig by Thames Iron Works, Blackwall, this English-designed warship first hit the waves in 1876– just over a decade removed from the Monitor and Merrimack. Originally mounting a pair of Krupp-made 10.35-inch (26cm RKL/20 C/74) black powder breechloader guns in a central raised battery, the 200-foot steamer carried a whopping 9 to 10 inches of iron plate in her side belt and shields. Her steam plant allowed a 10-knot speed, which was adequate for the era.

1888 Brassey’s layout via Wiki commons

Her 10.35-inch Krupp breechloaders, which could be oriented inside her gun house to fire through four different gun ports forward/aft and port/sbd via turntables and tracks. Image is an 1880 print published in the magazine, “O Occidente”

She was a nice-looking ship for her time and often appeared on goodwill voyages around the Med and even into the Baltic.

Portuguese hermaphrodite ironclad Vasco da Gama, with her canvas aloft, Illustrated London News, July 15, 1876

Couraçado Vasco da Gama, in a print published in the magazine “O Occidente” in 1880

This included being one of the 165 vessels present among the 30 miles of wood, iron, and steel for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Spithead fleet review in 1897. VDG was in good company as the Royal Navy had on hand “53 iron-clads and armoured cruisers, 21 more than the nearest rival, France.”

Vasco da Gama, 1897 Spithead review, from a handout of the event published by The Graphic, which said “”Portugal sent the Vasco da Gama (Captain Bareto de Vascomellos), a small battleship of 2,479 tons, built at Blackwall in 1875. she is armed with two 10.2-inch guns and seven smaller guns.”

The Naval Review at Spithead, 26 June 1897, by Eduardo de Martino via the Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 405260

In the mid-1890s, five modern warships– largely paid for by public subscription– were ordered to give VDG some backup. These ships, all smallish cruisers with long legs for colonial service, included the Rainha Dona Amélia (1683-tons, 4×6-inch guns, built domestically), Dom Carlos I (4250-tons, 4×6-inch, ordered from Armstrong Elswick), São Gabriel and São Rafael (1771-tons, 2×6-inch guns, ordered from Normand Le Havre), and Warship Wednesday alum, Adamastor.

In 1902, with the newer ships on hand, VDG was taken offline and sent to Italy to Orlando where she was completely rebuilt in a move that saw her cut in half and lengthened by 32-feet, fitted with new engines, guns, and machinery. The effect was that, in a decade, Portugal had gone from one elderly ironclad to six relatively effective, if light, cruisers of which VDG was still the largest and remained the flagship of the Navy.

She emerged looking very different, having landed her sail rig, picked up a second stack, and been rearmed with a pair of 8″/39.9cal Pattern P EOC-made naval guns in sponsons. She even had her iron armor replaced by new Terni steel plate. Basically a new ship, her speed had increased and she was capable of 6,000 nm sorties, which enabled her to voyage to Africa in service of the crown, if needed.

Nave da battaglia Vasco Da Gama 1903 (AS Livorno, Archivio storico del Cantiere navale Luigi Orlando)

Navios da Marinha de Guerra Portugueza no alto mar 1903 by Alfredo Roque Gamerio, showing ‘cruzadors” Vasco da Gama, Don Carlos I, S Rafael, Amelia and Adamastor to the far right. Note the black hulls and buff stacks

It was envisioned that VGD would be replaced by two planned 20,000-ton modern battleships (!) on the eve of the Great War, however, that balloon never got enough air to get off the ground due to Portugal’s bankrupt state treasury. Therefore, she soldiered on.

Her 1914 Jane’s Listing.

It was after her refit that she saw a period of action, being involved in assorted revolutions and coup attempts in 1910, 1913 and, along with other Portuguese Navy vessels, in 1915 that included bombarding Lisbon and sending revolting sailors ashore.

Vasco da Gama’s crew in the “Revolta de 14 de Maio de 1915” in Portugal

Nonetheless, during World War I, although Portugal was not involved in the fighting in Europe in the early days of the conflict, VDG escorted troop reinforcements to Portugal’s African colonies in Mozambique and Angola, where the country was allied with British and French efforts to rid the continent of German influence.

In February 1916, her crews helped seize 36 German and Austro-Hungarian ships holed up in Lisbon on the eve of Berlin’s declaration of war on the Iberian country. Once that occurred, she served in coastal defense roles, dodging some very active German U-boats in the process.

VASCO DA GAMA Portuguese Battleship 1915-20, probably at Lisbon, note the Douro class destroyer, NH 93621

Via Ilustracao Portuguesa: Commander Leote do Rego and the French naval attaché on Vasco da Gama 1916, posing with a deck gun which looks to be her 6″/45cal EOC

Once her only shooting war had ended without her actually firing a shot in anger, VGD still served as a ship of state and carried the commanding admiral’s flag.

Via Ilustracao Portuguesa Vasco da Gama tour by Spanish King Alfonso XIII 1922

Finally, in 1935, she was retired and scrapped along with the other five 19th century cruisers than remained. These vessels were all replaced en mass by a shipbuilding program that saw 5 Vouga-class destroyers ordered from Vickers along with a trio of small submarines and six sloops. This replacement fleet would serve the country’s seagoing needs well into the 1960s.

While her hull was broken, VDG’s 1902-era British-made guns were removed and reinstalled in 1936 in a series of coastal defense batteries at Monte da Guia, Espalamaca, Horta Bay and Faial Island in the strategically-located Azores, which remained active through WWII, and then kept ready as a wartime reserve until at least 1970. Some of those emplacements are still relatively preserved.

Further, Vasco da Gama is remembered by maritime art.

Cruzador Couraçado Vasco da Gama. Aguarela de Fernando Lemos Gomes. Museu de Marinha RM2572-492

An excellent scale model of her, as originally built, exists in the Maritime Museum, in Lisbon.

Portuguese ironclad Vasco da Gama (1876), Maritime Museum, Lisbon.

Her name was reissued to a British Bay-class frigate, ex-HMS Mounts Bay, in 1961 which went on to serve as F478 into the 1970s and then to a MEKO 200 type frigate (F330) commissioned in 1991.

Specs:
(As built)
Displacement:2,384 t (2,346 long tons; 2,628 short tons)
Length: 200 ft pp
Beam: 40 ft
Draft: 19 ft
Installed power: 3,000 ihp
Sail plan: Barquentine rig
Speed: 10.3 knots
Complement: 232 men
Armor:
Belt: 9 in (230 mm), iron plate
Battery: 10 in (250 mm)
Armament:
2 × Krupp 10.35″/18cal 26cm RKL/20 C/74
1 × Krupp 15cm RKL/25 C/75
4 × 9-pounder guns
(1914)
Displacement: 3200 tons, full load
Length: 234 ft.
Beam: 40 ft
Draft: 18 ft
Installed power: 2 VTE, Yarrow water tube boilers, 6,000 ihp
Speed: 15 knots
Range: 6,000nm on 468 tons coal
Complement: 260 men
Armor: Terni steel; belt: 250 – 100mm, deck: 75mm, shields: 200mm
Armament:
2 x EOC 8″/39.9 Pattern P guns
1 x EOC 6″/45
1 x QF 12-pounder 12-cwt gun (76mm)
8 x QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss 57mm 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!

53 feet of rock and roll, 119 years on

Here we see Mr. John Philip Holland’s iconic submersible, adopted by the Navy as Submarine Torpedo Boat # 1, partially submerged off the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, in the summer of 1901.

Courtesy of the Clarence Grace Collection. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 63088

Note USS Holland‘s 13-star boat flag, signal mast fitted amidships and commissioning pennant. A monitor is in the left background.

Just over the size of a modern semi-truck trailer, she carried an 8-inch dynamite gun (!) as well as an 18-inch torpedo tube and three torpedoes, making her fairly deadly for her size.

Holland, just 53-feet long, was commissioned 12 October 1900– 119 years ago today– and served only five years before being laid up. The Navy sold the little 74-ton vessel in 1913 and she was on public display until scrapped during the Depression.

Warship Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019: Queen City Admiral Maker

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Oct 9, 2019: Queen City Admiral Maker

Photographed by K. Loeffler. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Here we see schooner-rigged U.S. Navy Cruiser No. 7, the second USS Cincinnati, around 1896. Note her extensive awning, gleaming white scheme, and red-white-and-blue bow shield. She was a classic 19th-century coal-burning ship crafted of steel and would serve as a floating proving ground for some of the most venerated American admirals of the 20th.

The leader of a two-ship class, along with sister USS Raleigh (C-8), of what were termed “protected cruisers,” they were part of a then-huge 1888 Naval Act which sandwiched the Cincinnatis between the 9,000-ton armored cruiser USS New York, the 7,000-ton protected cruiser USS Olympia and the three 2,000-ton unprotected cruisers of the Montgomery class.

Designed with a single 6″/40 caliber Mk IV gun forward and 10 5″/40s Mk IIs arrayed rear and in casemated broadsides, the 305-foot-long Cincinnatis used a 6-pack of Babcock & Wilcox boilers to gin up 19 knots. They were electrically-lit, constructed with 12 longitudinal watertight compartments, and had all the most modern amenities.

Intended for commerce raiding in the event of war, they had very long legs– with a range of 10,000 nm @ 10 knots when carrying a maximum coal load– and carried enough armor to protect them from small shore batteries and gunboats.

USS CINCINNATI (C-7) unofficial plans, published in the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1893. NH 70107

Built for $1.1 million a pop, Cincinnati was laid down at New York Naval Yard while Raleigh was built simultaneously at Norfolk, both commissioning in the Spring of 1894 within 60 days of each other.

“Our Navy, Its Growth and Achievements” 1897 chromolithograph print by Frederick S. Cozzens showing the protected cruiser USS Raleigh (C-8) in her full schooner sail rig, the gunboat USS Castine (PG-6) and the ill-fated armored cruiser USS Maine.”

Cruiser No. 7 carried the legacy of not only the Ohio city but also the first USS Cincinnati, a City-class ironclad stern-wheel casemate gunboat. One of the “Pook Turtles,” the plucky riverboat was sunk and raised twice along the Mississippi in just 12 months. During the second such incident, under the Confederate guns at Vicksburg, her crew earned four Medals of Honor in the act of saving bluejackets that couldn’t swim. She went down that day with her colors defiantly nailed to the mast.

Artwork by Bacon, published in Deeds of Valor, Volume II, page 47, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907. It depicts Landsman Thomas E. Corcoran assisting fellow crewmen of USS Cincinnati as their ship sinks under fire of Confederate batteries at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on 27 May 1863. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at this time. NH 79917

Commissioned 16 June 1894, our brand new Cincinnati would go on to see some hot service of her own, albeit with much more luck.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS Cincinnati (C-7), starboard view. Note, the crew on deck and her early twin mast schooner auxiliary rig. Detroit Publishing Company, 1896-1899.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS Cincinnati (C-7), bow view. Note, the crew on deck, full-color bow shield, 6″/40 main gun on deck, and bow-mounted torpedo tube hatch. Detroit Publishing Company, 1896-1899. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

After enforcing neutrality laws at Tampa and Key West during the Cuban Revolution and a stint in the Med, she soon found herself on the blockade line off Havana, Cuba, during the Spanish American War. In April 1898, she bombarded Matanzas.

“Bombardment of Matanzas” by the armored cruiser USS New York, the protected cruiser USS Cincinnati and monitor USS Puritan, April 27, 1898, by Henry Reuterdahl NH 71838-KN

“Bombardment of Matanzas” with Cincinnati on right by Walter Russell, 1899 via NYPL Collection,

The next month, Cincinnati scouted throughout the West Indies searching for Almirante Cervera’s squadron known to be approaching Cuba from metropolitan Spain. She then finished the war by convoying troops from Guantanamo Bay to Puerto Rico, patrolling off San Juan, and escorting the captured Spanish flagship Infanta Maria Teresa until that crippled cruiser sank.

As for Raleigh, she sailed with Dewey in the Pacific during the conflict and is often credited with firing the first shot of the Battle of Manila Bay.

The USS Raleigh in action in 1898, Manila Bay. NHHC

Post-war brought a two-year refit that saw Cincinnati much changed.

USS Cincinnati (Cruiser No. 7) at the pier in Key West, Circa 1901. Boston Public Library Collection

Painted-over bow shield, USS CINCINNATI, photographed March 1900. This is the cruiser’s original figurehead, which was replaced during her 1899-1901 refit with one commemorating her Span Am War service. O.N.I. photo, NH 115208

Figurehead: USS CINCINNATI, post-1901. Received from Boston Globe, 1937. NH 115225

Dewey’s Olympia was given a very similar bronze and wood Victory figurehead at about the same time during her respective refit.

Protected Cruiser USS Olympia shows off her exquisitely forged figurehead, Boston Navy Yard circa 1902.

Besides her new figurehead, Cincinnati landed her big 6-inch gun, to be replaced by a 5″/40, which brought her battery up to 11 such guns of that caliber. Likewise, her mainmast, auxiliary sail rig, and torpedo tubes were deleted as were her smaller 37mm guns.

Between May 1902 and January 1903, Cincinnati exercised some classic gunboat diplomacy and “protected American citizens and property in the Caribbean during political disturbances at Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Panama, and brought relief supplies to Martinique after the devastating eruption of Mount Pelee,” as noted by DANFS.

The landing of a company-sized force of U.S.N. sailors from the protected cruiser USS Cincinnati (Cruiser #7) at Colon, Panama, September 19, 1902. Note the M1895 Colt “potato digger” machine gun on the carriage, Navy M1895 Lee-pattern rifles, and MIll’s belts. NHHC RG-185-R-2

Cincinnati was something of a kingmaker, with no less than six of her 14 commanders going on to earn stars. Her captain during the 1898 conflict was Capt. (later RADM) Colby Mitchell Chester (USNA 1863), the only naval officer to have actively served in the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and World War I throughout a 50-year career. Chester’s wartime XO, LCDR Edward Buttevant Barry, likewise rose to rear admiral and command of the Pacific Fleet in 1910. Former skippers Hugo Wilson Osterhaus and Frank Hardeman Brumby ended their careers as fleet commanders. Among her junior officers during the 20th Century was a young Ens. Ernest King and Lt. Ray Spruance.

Group portrait taken aboard USS CINCINNATI (C-7) taken circa 1905 at Chefoo, China. Ensign Ernest J. King, USN, is at left. NH 50032

“USS CINCINNATI (1911-1913)” autographed by Admiral Raymond Ames Spruance who served as her as Senior Engineer Officer during that period. The picture is of the cruiser after her 1901 refit, showing her new figurehead and single foremast. NARA 80-G-1034844

A more unsung member of her crew, Loui the monkey, onboard USS CINCINNATI in 1912. Courtesy of Lieutenant Commander R. Wainwright, USN, 1928 NH 52462

After more overseas service in the Mediterranean and with the Asiatic Squadron in the Philippines, Korea, and China, Cincinnati returned home in 1907 to ordinary. Her stint on red lead row abated in 1911 when she was recommissioned and detailed to the Asiatic Station once again, a role she held until the U.S. entered World War I in 1917.

USS CINCINNATI (C-7) dressed in flags, for Washington’s Birthday, February 22, 1915, at Olongapo Naval Station, Philippine Islands. Collection of C.A. Shively. NH 88562

Shipping for the West Coast, she arrived in San Diego 16 December 1917 then convoyed to the East Coast where she served as flagship, American Patrol Detachment, Atlantic Fleet. In that role, she ran shotgun over the Gulf of Mexico, looking out for possible German raiders.

USS CINCINNATI (C-7) at New Orleans, Louisiana, April 1919. Note her dazzle camo and rafts. She is likely off Algiers in the Mississippi River. #: NH 27

Interestingly, the 6″/40s removed from Cincinnati and Raleigh were pooled with other guns removed from old battleships and, once the war was unavoidable, were issued and mounted on U.S.-flagged merchant steamers. Three such guns were on the steamer SS Mongolia when she was attacked by German submarine U.B.40 on 19 April 1917 at 0520— the first armed naval clash between the two countries.

U.S. Navy Armed Guard 6″ (15.2 cm) gun crew on S.S. Mongolia in 1917. Officers are identified as Lieutenant Ware and Captain Emory Rice of the U.S. Naval Reserve Force. Note that the shells are painted “TEXAS” and “TEDDY”. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 781

After the war ended, Cincinnati was found to be too outdated for further service in a Navy that was increasingly faster, oil-burning, and more heavily armed/armored. She was decommissioned at New Orleans on 20 April 1919. Raleigh, who had spent WWI patrolling in Brazilian waters and other points south, was decommissioned the next day. Both ships were sold for scrap in 1921.

Cincinnati’s name was swiftly recycled for the Omaha-class light “peace” cruiser (CL-6) which commissioned 1 January 1924 and served through WWII. The fourth Cincinnati was a Los Angeles-class attack submarine (SSN-693) which served from 1978 to 1996.

The fifth warship named for the Queen City commissioned over the weekend, LCS-20. Ironically, she is almost the same size as the circa-1896 protected cruiser and carries a single main gun forward, although it is a 57mm rather than a big honking 6-inch gun.

Photo: Chris Eger

Specs:

Displacement:
3,183 long tons (3,234 t) (standard)
3,339 long tons (3,393 t) (full load)
Length: 305 ft 10 in
Beam: 42 ft
Draft: 18 ft (mean) 20 ft 2 in (max)
Installed power:
6 × Babcock & Wilcox steam boilers (replaced by 8 boilers in 1901)
2 × vertical triple expansion reciprocating engines 8,000 hp
2 × screws
Auxiliary schooner rig until 1901.
Speed:
19 knots designed (Cincinnati pulled 19.91 on trials, Raleigh did 21.12)
Range: 10,700nm at 10kts with a maximum of 575 tons of coal. Normal coal load 396
Complement: 32 officers 270 enlisted as designed. 313 (1914)
Armor:
Deck: 2.5 in (64 mm) (slope)
1 in (25 mm) (flat)
Conning Tower: 2 in (51 mm)
Gun Sponsons: 4 in (100 mm)
Armament: (as designed)
1 x 6 in (152 mm)/40 caliber MK VI gun
10 x 5 in (127 mm)/40 caliber Mk II guns
8 x 6-pounder (57 mm (2.2 in)) Driggs-Schroeder Mk I/II guns
2 x 1-pounder (37 mm (1.5 in)) Driggs-Schroeder heavy Mk I guns
4 x 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes (1 bow, 2 beam, 1 stern)
1 x carriage-mounted Gatling gun
Armament: (1901)
11 x 5 in (127 mm)/40 caliber Mk II guns
6 x 6-pounder (57 mm (2.2 in)) Driggs-Schroeder Mk I/II guns
1 x M1895 carriage-mounted Colt machine gun

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!

One of the last WWII vets on active duty, stands down

Here we see the beautiful Miguel Malvar-class offshore patrol “corvette” BRP Cebu (PS28) of the Philippine Navy on 3 October 2019, as she gave her last day of military service in a career that began in 1944– giving her a rock-solid 75 years of hard duty under two flags. Not bad for a ship considered at the time of her construction to be disposable.

If she looks familiar, she was originally built as USS PCE-881, a former PCE-842-class Patrol Craft Escort, by the Albina Engine and Machine Works, Portland, Oregon during WWII. She commissioned 31 July 1944 and transferred to the PI in 1948 on loan, only striking from the U.S. Navy Register in 1975.

The “oldest fighting ship of the Philippine Navy,” she gave 71 unbroken years of service to Manila to include a famous SAR operation to save the crew of MV Princess of the Stars of Sulpicio Lines, which capsized off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon at the height of typhoon Frank in 2008.

Derived from the 180-foot Admirable-class minesweeper as a substitute for the much more numerous 173-foot PC-461-class of submarine chasers that were used for coastal ASW, the PCE-842-class was just eight feet longer but a lot heavier (650-tons vs 450-tons), which gave them much longer endurance, although roughly the same armament. They carried a single 3″/50 dual purpose mount, three 40mm Bofors mounts, five Oerlikon 20 mm mounts, two depth charge tracks, four depth charge projectors, and two depth charge projectors (hedgehogs)– making them pretty deadly to subs while giving them enough punch to take on small gunboats/trawlers and low numbers of incoming aircraft.

While the U.S. got rid of their 842s wholesale by the 1970s– scrapping some and sinking others as targets– several continued to serve in overseas Allied navies for decades.

The Philippines has used no less than 11 of these retired PCEs between craft transferred outright from the U.S. and ships taken up from former Vietnamese service, eventually replacing their Glen Miller-era GM 12-567A diesel with more modern GM 12-278As, as well as a host of improvements to their sensors (they now carry the SPS-64 surface search and commercial nav radars, for instance.) Gone are the ASW weapons and sonar, but they do still pack the old 3-incher, long since retired by just about everyone else, as well as a smattering of Bofors and Oerlikon.

The class is being retired in conjunction with the arrival of more capable Pohang-class vessels donated by South Korea.

The country still has three of the class on their Naval List, expected to retire by 2022.

  • BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-19), former USS Brattleboro (PCE(R)-852), ex RVN Ngọc Hồi, in PI Navy since 1975.
  • BRP Magat Salamat (PS-20), former USS Gayety (AM-239), ex RVN MSF-239, since 1975.
  • BRP Pangasinan (PS-31), former USS PCE-891, transferred from the U.S. in 1948.

Warship Wednesday: Oct. 2, 2019, HMs Unlucky Killer No. 13

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 of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday: Oct. 2, 2019, HMs Unlucky Killer No. 13

Click to very much bigup

 

Here we see the Royal Navy’s K-class steam-powered (not a misprint) submarine HMS K22, bottom, compared to a smaller and more typical example of HMs submarine fleet during World War I, the HMS E37. As you can tell, the two boats are very different and, by comparing specs of the 800-ton/2,000shp E27 with the 2630-ton/10,000shp K22, you can see just how different.

A brainchild that sprang from the pipe-dream by Jellicoe and Beatty of creating submarines fast enough to operate with the Grand Fleet, these massive 339-foot submarines were designed on the cusp of World War I and a full 21 were to be built. Whereas other subs around the world were gasoline-electric or diesel-electric, the K-class would be steam-electric with a pair of Yarrow oil-fired boilers (! on a submarine!) for use with turbines on the surface, giving them an impressive 24-knot speed.

K7, showing a good profile of these interesting subs. And yes, those are stacks on her amidships

HMS K7, showing a good profile of these interesting subs. And yes, those are stacks on her amidships

When you keep in mind that the standard British battleship of the time, the brand new Queen Elizabeth-class “fast” battleships had a max speed of 24-knots, you understand the correlation.

The K-class would use their speed to their advantage and, with a heavy armament of eight torpedo tubes and three 3-4-inch deck guns, press their attacks with ease. For all this surface action, they had a proper bridge (with windows!) and even stacks for the boilers.

HMS K2, note the gun deck with her large 4 inchers interspersed between her stacks. Click to big up

HMS K2, note the gun deck with her large 4 inchers interspersed between her stacks. Click to big up

In short, they were really large destroyers that happened to be able to submerge. When using one boiler they could creep along at 10 knots for 12,500 nautical miles– enabling them to cross the Atlantic and back and still have oil left.

When submerged, they could poke around on electric motors. With all this in mind, what could go wrong?

Well, about that…

The K-class soon developed a bad habit of having accidents while underway. This was largely because for such gargantuan ships, they had small and ineffective surface controls, which, when coupled with a very low crush depth and buoyancy issues meant the ships would often hog and be poor to respond under control, along with having issues with dive angles like you can’t believe.

In short, they were all the bad things of a 300-foot long carnival funhouse, afloat.

Further, since the boilers had to be halted to dive (who wants burnt oil exhaust inside a sealed steel tube?) if these submersibles could dive in under five minutes it was due to a well-trained crew. Then, due to all the vents and stacks that had to seal, there were inevitable leaks and failures, which on occasion sent seawater cascading into the vessel once she slipped below the waves.

Of the 21 ordered, only 17 were eventually completed and these ships soon earned a reputation as the Kalamity-class because ships sank at their moorings, suffered uncontrolled descents to the bottom of the sea, ran aground, and disappeared without a trace. This led to improvements such as a large bulbous bow (note the difference in the bow form from early images of these subs to later), though it didn’t really help things all that much.

K4 ran aground on Walney Island in January 1917 and remained stranded there for some time. There are several images in circulation of this curious sight

K4 ran aground on Walney Island on January 1917 and remained stranded there for some time. There are several images in circulation of this curious sight

With all of this, we should double back around to the K22 mentioned above in the very first image. You see, she was completed as HMS K13 at Fairfield Shipbuilders, Glasgow, Scotland.

Launched 11 November 1916, K13 was sailing through Gareloch on 29 January 1917 during her sea trials when Kalimity raised its head.

On board that day were 80 souls– 53 crew, 14 employees of a Govan shipbuilder, five Admiralty officials, a pilot and the captain and engineer of sister submarine K14. While attempting to bring the decks awash, icy Scottish seawater poured into the engine room of the submarine, killing those stokers, enginemen and water tenders working the compartment. A subsequent investigation found that four ventilator tubes for the boilers had not closed properly.

Fifty men were left alive on the stricken ship, which by that time was powerless at the bottom of the loch. The two seniormost present, K13‘s skipper Lieutenant Commander Godfrey Herbert and his K14 counterpart, Commander Francis Goodhart, tasked themselves to make a suicidal break for the surface on a bubble of air released from the otherwise sealed off conning tower to get help– though only Herbert made it alive.

Once topside and picked up by another waiting submarine, Herbert helped pull off a what is noted by many as the first true Submarine Rescue which involved dropping airlines to the submarine while the 48 remaining men trapped inside endured a freezing, dark hell for 57 hours until they were able to be brought to the surface as the buoyant end of the submarine, pumped full of air pressure, broached the surface and a hole was cut to remove the survivors while the ship was held by a hawser.

k13 rescue operation

From the Submarine Museum’s dry record of the event:

The crew of E50 witnessing K13’s rapid dive closed in on the area discovering traces of oil and escaping air breaking the surface. The first rescue vessel arrived around midnight. Divers were sent down to inspect the submarine and just after daybreak on the 30th morse signals were exchanged between the divers and the trapped crew. At 1700 an airline was successfully connected, empty air bottles recharged and ballast tanks blown. With the aid of a hawser slung under her bows K13 was brought to within 8 feet of the surface. By midday of the 31st K13’s bow had been raised ten feet above the water. By 2100 the pressure hull had been breached using oxy-acetylene cutting equipment the survivors being transferred to safety

However, K13 slipped below the surface once more, taking her dead back to the bottom with her. Raised two months later, she was repaired, the bodies of 29 lost in her engine room removed as was the fallen skipper of K14 (while one body other was recovered from the loch, the remaining men were never found), and she was recommissioned as K22.

British submarine HMS K22 (ex HMS K13) under way at speed during trial in the Firth of Forth after repair and refit.

British submarine HMS K22 (ex HMS K13) underway at speed during trial in the Firth of Forth after repair and refit Note the change to her bow. Via Tacta Nautica

Seeing some war service with the 13th Submarine Flotilla (again with that number!) K13/22 was involved in a collision at night with sistership K14 in a chain reaction event that left two other sisters, K6 and K17, sunk. In all 105 of HMs submariners were killed in one night in 1918 aboard K-boats without a single German shot fired.

By this time, the “K” had changed from Kalamity to Killer and volunteers assigned to these boats called themselves the “Suicide Club.”

Alongside captured coastal U-boat S.M.S. UB 28 in 1918, note the huge size difference.

Alongside captured coastal U-boat S.M.S. UB 28 in 1918, note the huge size difference.

Soon after the war, the RN divested themselves of the K-class though they were still relatively new, scrapping most of them in the early 1920s.

K13 as K23 late in her brief second life, 1923

K13 as K23 late in her brief second life, 1923

K13/K22 survived until she was sold for scrap in December 1926 in Sunderland.

A memorial to her 32 war dead is at Faslane Cemetery while one to her six civilians killed among her crew is at Glasgow.

A third, erected in 1961, is in Carlingford, New South Wales, Australia, and was paid for by the widow of Charles Freestone, a leading telegraphist on K13 who survived the accident and emigrated down under.

160126-K13-Memorial2

The Submarines Association Australia (SAA) visits and pays their respect to the marker in Oz every January 29 while Sailors from HM Naval Base Clyde and the RN Veteran Submarine Association pay theirs at the markers in Scotland.

160126-K13-Memorial1

“Although technology has revolutionized submarine safety over the past century, the special bravery, ethos, and comradeship of Submariners and the Submarine Service endures,” said Command Warrant Officer of the UK Submarine Service Stefano Mannucci on the 99th Anniversary service in 2016

Last week, Veterans and serving submariners at Helensburgh unveiled a plinth to mark the sinking of the Submarine K13.

“The plinth was commissioned by the West of Scotland Branch of the Submariners Association and before it was unveiled, the Branch President, retired Commander Bob Seaward, OBE explained how the plinth represents a link connecting the town and its residents to the Naval Base and the submarines which have been sailing past the town for over 100 years,” noted the Royal Navy.

K13/22 is also remembered in maritime art.

hms_k22

As for her skipper on that cold January day a century ago, Capt. Godfrey Herbert, DSO with Bar, having served in the Royal Navy through both World Wars, died on dry land in Rhodesia at the ripe old age of 77.

Specs:

Displacement: 1,980 tons surfaced, 2,566 tons dived
Length: 339 ft. (103 m)
Beam: 26 ft. 6 in (8.08 m)
Draught: 20 ft. 11 in (6.38 m)
Propulsion:
Twin 10,500 shp (7,800 kW) oil-fired Yarrow boilers each powering a Brown-Curtis or Parsons geared steam turbines, Twin 3 blade 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) screws
Four 1,440 hp (1,070 kW) electric motors.
One 800 hp (600 kW) Vickers diesel generator for charging batteries on the surface.
Speed:
24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph) surfaced
8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) submerged
Range:
Surface: 800 nautical miles (1,500 km; 920 mi) at maximum speed
12,500 nmi (23,200 km; 14,400 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Submerged: 8 nmi (15 km; 9.2 mi) at 8 kn (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)
Complement: 59 (6 officers and 53 ratings)
Armament:
4 × 18-inch (460 mm) torpedo tubes (beam), four 18-inch (450-mm) bow tubes, plus 8 spare torpedoes
2 × BL 4-inch (101.6 mm) Mk XI guns
1 × 3 in (76 mm) gun
Twin 18-inch deck tubes originally fitted but later removed.

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Warship Wednesday, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

3 US Navy PT-boats Aleutians in June 1943 eaplane tender GILLIS AVD12 PBY Catalina Higgins boats Mk 19 torpedo tubes.

Official USN Photographs (National Archives) 80-G-K-9454 (Color).

Here we see three, in a beautiful original color photograph, a trio of Higgins-type PT-boats belonging to Motor Torpedo Squadron 13, moored alongside the old seaplane tender destroyer, USS Gillis (AVD12, ex-DD260) in Casco Cove, Massacre Bay, Attu Island, Aleutians, 21  June 1943. Note the PBY-5 Catalina flying-boat astern of our aging tin can.

One of the massive fleets of Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, Gillis came too late for the Great War. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

USS Gillis is the only ship named for Commodore John P. Gillis and RADM James Henry Gillis.

Commodore John P. Gillis was a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He fought in the Mexican-American War where he was captured at Tuxpan. Subsequently, between 1853 and 1854, he sailed with Perry to open Japan to the West. Gilles later served in the Civil War by providing support to the Union blockade effort, commanding the warships Seminole, Monticello, and Ossipee, in turn.

RADM James Henry Gillis (USMA 1854), a Pennsylvania native, during the Civil War, commanded Michigan, Franklin, the flagship of the European Squadron, Lackawanna, Minnesota, and Hartford, the flagship of the Pacific Squadron before retiring from the Navy in 1893 “having never lost a man at sea.”

USS Gillis was built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Quincy, Mass. and commissioned 3 September 1919, LCDR Webb Trammell in command– some 100 years ago this month.

Destroyer USS Gillis (DD-260), 29 May 1919, Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts.

Her peacetime service was brief. Gillis sailed from Newport, R.I., 17 December 1919 and moored at San Diego 20 January 1920. She joined the Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force in tactics and maneuvers along the West Coast until decommissioned at San Diego 26 May 1922.

NH 53731

In all, Gillis spent just under two years with the fleet in her first stint on active duty.

Gillis (DD-260) Laid up at San Diego, California, circa 1929 in rusty and crusty condition. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Don P. Moon, USN. Note the ship’s rusty condition. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1973. NH 78286

When the drums of war started beating in Europe and Asia in the late 1930s, Gillis was recommissioned in ordinary 28 June 1940, then soon reclassified as seaplane tender destroyer AVD-12, a mission that importantly saw her fitted with an early radar set. Following conversion, which included swapping out her torpedo tubes for aviation store space and some extra AAA guns and depth charges, she was placed in full commission at San Francisco, 25 March 1941.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) Photograph dated 14 February 1941. The ship appears to be painted in Camouflage Measure One. Catalog #: 80-G-13141

As noted by DANFS:

Gillis was assigned as tender to Patrol Wing 4, Aircraft Scouting Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the following months she performed plane guard patrol between San Diego and Seattle with time out for aircraft tending duties at Sitka, Alaska (14-17 June); Dutch Harbor and Kodiak (15-31 July). After overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard she returned to Kodiak 16 October 1941 to resume tending of amphibious patrol planes in Alaskan waters. She was serving at Kodiak when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Just six months later, she was at rest in Dutch Harbor on the morning of 3 June 1942. Almost simultaneously with their attack on Midway, a strong task force under Japanese RADM Kakuji Kakuta, comprising the carriers Ryujo (10,000 tons) and Jun’yo (25,000 tons) as well as their escorts and a naval landing force, attacked the Aleutians in Alaska.

But Gillis had the upper hand.

In the harbor that morning with the two old flush-deck destroyers King and Talbot, the submarine S-27, Coast Guard cutter Onondaga, and the U.S. Army transports President Fillmore and Morlen, Gillis had the advantage of radar and her operator picked up the incoming Japanese airstrike at 0540. With that, she and the other ships weighed anchor and stood out with all hands at battle stations. Likewise, the Army detachment at nearby Fort Mears was alerted.

Had they been sunk at their moorings and Dutch Harbor more badly damaged, the effort to keep/hold/retake the Aleutians would have surely been a tougher task, diverting key U.S. assets from other theaters– such as Guadalcanal.

Further, the Japanese, in turn, got a bloody nose that morning from the old school 3-inch M1918 AAA guns and .50 cal water-cooled Browning of Arkansas National Guard’s 206th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft), which splashed a few Japanese planes. Meanwhile, a PBY that Gillis was tending stitched up 19-year-old PO Tadayoshi Koga’s Zero (which crashed and was recovered in remarkable condition– an intelligence coup) and a group of Army Col. John Chennault’s P-40s out of Unamak accounted for a few more. The Gillis claimed two planes shot down. No ship was damaged.

Koga’s Zero

Not a bad day’s work for an isolated outpost.

Three days later, while on air-sea rescue patrol, Gillis made three depth charge runs on an underwater sound contact.

DANFS= “A Japanese submarine violently broached the surface revealing its conning tower and propeller, then disappeared. Gillis was unable to regain contact. She was credited with damaging this underseas raider in the combat area off Umak Island.”

Starting on June 9, PBYs of VP-41, operating from Dutch Harbor, initiated what became known as the “Kiska Blitz,” a series of extreme long-range shuttle attack bombing missions by the flying boats of PatWing Four to plaster the Japanese ships at that occupied Aleutian island, using Gillis, which had forward-deployed closer to the action, at Nazan Bay off Atka island. This took amazing 48-hour sorties with the old tender providing fuel, hot meals and extra 250-pound bombs to the Catalinas until she was out of bombs to give. This lasted for several days, with Catalinas of VPB-42 and 43, until a Japanese scout plane discovered the seaplane tender and her position was compromised.

This drawing was made by the intelligence units of the U.S. 11th Air Force, showing a dual Imperial Japanese Navy Type 11 Early Warning Radar site on the captured Alaskan island of Kiska in Oct 1942. It was built by the Japanese in response to the PBY blitz.

On June 13, before retiring from Atka, Gillis was ordered to carry out a “scorched earth” policy, setting fire to all buildings and a local Aleut village to leave nothing of use to the Japanese. She later fought off a sortie from three four-engine Mavis bombers from Kiska while in Kuluk Bay, Adak. To her brood she added the plywood PT-boats of MTBRon 13.

Higgins 78-foot torpedo boats of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 13 (MTBRon 13) moored in Attu, Alaska, Jul 1943. Note PT-75 and PT-78 nested outboard of their squadron-mate and a PBY Catalina patrol plane taking off. 80-G-475727

After that, joined by four other tenders, Gillis formed the mothership backbone of Patrol Squadrons 41, 43, 51, 62; consisting of 11 PBY flying boats and 20 PBY-5As. By October 1943, however, the other tenders were withdrawn, and she was the only one in operative condition forward deployed to the Aleutians.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) leaving ARD-6 Dutch Harbor, Alaska 80-G-386650

With the theatre dying down, by April 1944 Gillis departed Dutch Harbor for the West Coast where she was given an overhaul and served as a plane guard off San Diego. She was then ordered forward into the Pacific to rejoin the shooting war.

She then sailed with RADM M. L. Deyo’s Gunfire and Covering Force, en route via the Marshalls, Marianas, and Ulithi for the Invasion of Okinawa, arriving off Kerama Retto 25 March 1945. There, Gillis guarded minesweepers and stood by UDT teams clearing approaches to the western beaches of Okinawa. After invasion forces stormed ashore 1 April, she tended observation and patrol planes at Kerama Retto and performed air-sea rescue patrol.

USS Relief -AH-1 In a Western Pacific Harbor, probably at the time of the Okinawa Campaign, circa April 1945. USS Gillis -AVD-12- is in the left background Catalog #: 80-G-K-3707

On 28 April, Gillis departed Okinawa in the screen of USS Makassar Strait, bound via Guam to San Pedro Bay, Philippine Islands. She returned by the same route in the escort screen of Wake Island (CVE-65). That carrier launched planes 29 June to land bases on Okinawa and Gillis helped escort her back to Guam 3 July 1945.

Gillis won two battle stars, for escort and antisubmarine operations in the American area (1941-44) and Okinawa.

Gillis departed Guam for home 8 July 1945. She arrived at San Pedro, Calif., 28 July and decommissioned there 15 October 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy List 1 November 1945. She was sold to NASSCO, Treasure Island, CA, for scrapping 29 January 1946.

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war. Those four-pipers not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield (DD-231) decommissioned 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the Navy.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

Specs:

USS Gillis (DD-260/AVD-12): Outboard profile from Booklet of General Plans (NARA) 117877196

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4 x 4?/50cal guns
1 x 3″/23AA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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, Sep 18, 2019: The Red-Shirted Scourge of the Ottomans

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Sep 18, 2019: The Red-Shirted Scourge of the Ottomans

Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Here we see the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) armored cruiser (incrociatore corazzato), Giuseppe Garibaldi around 1904. She had a curious, if brief career, and could be taken as a bridge between 19th and 20th Century naval warfare, as she tangled with both Civil War-era ironclads and deadly U-boats.

Garibaldi came from a large and interesting class of cruiser designed by Edoardo Masdea, with good speed for the 1900s (19 knots), decent armor (up to 6-inches in sections) and a hybrid armament of one 10-inch gun forward and two 8-inch guns aft, along with a varied mix of casemate guns of all types, a quartet of torpedo tubes, and a ram bow.

They were handsome ships, with orders quickly made within a decade from Argentina, Italy, Spain and Japan (who picked up two from Argentina’s contract). As a twist of fate, the first delivered was to Argentina, who named their new cruiser, ARA Garibaldi, after the famous Italian red-shirt-wearing patriot. This has the twist that, at the same time in the 1900s, Rome and Buenos Aries both operated sisterships with the same name.

The class-leading Argentine ARA Garibaldi, Photographed by A. Noack of Genoa, probably at Naples or Genoa before her departure for Argentina. Note that the ship does not appear to be flying any flags at all. Description: Catalog #: NH 88672 Colourised by Diego Mar

Further, the first Italian-service Garibaldi was sold before entering the fleet to the Spanish, who were eager for new warships to unsuccessfully defend their overseas Empire from Uncle Sam in 1897, thus making our subject Garibaldi the third such ship of the same class to carry the name.

To help visualize the mess, here is the fortune-cookie-sized-overview of name, country, chronological order year, with our feature ship *asterisked to keep her straight:

-ARA Garibaldi ordered from Argentina 1895
-ARA General Belgrano from Argentina 1895
-ARA Pueyrredón from Argentina 1895
-ARA San Martín from Argentina 1895
-Giuseppe Garibaldi for Regia Marina 1895, sold to Spain as Cristóbal Colón 1897 (sunk 1898)
-Pedro de Aragon, ordered for Spain 1897, canceled 1898
-*Giuseppe Garibaldi for Regia Marina 1898
-Varese for Regia Marina 1898
-Francesco Ferruccio for Regia Marina 1899
-ARA Bernardino Rivadavia from Argentina 1901, sold to Japan as Kasuga 1903
-ARA Mariano Moreno from Argentina 1901, sold to Japan as Nisshin 1903

Our vessel was constructed at Gio. Ansaldo & C., Genoa, and commissioned 1 January 1901 and, soon joined by her two twin sisters in Italian service, Varese and Ferruccio, were a common sight in the deep-water ports of the Mediterranean from Alexandria to Gibraltar and back, often serving as division flagships.

Garibaldi in her original scheme, by late 1901 she carried a more muted grey scheme

It was while carrying the flag of RADM (later Grand Admiral/Naval Minister) Thaon di Revel, that Garibaldi joined in the naval bombardment of Ottoman-held Tripoli just four days into the Italo-Turkish War in October 1911. She sent a company-sized landing force ashore, one of the first modern Italian marine ops, to disable the Turkish big guns at Fort Hamidiye. It was part of a much larger assault, one of the most unsung in amphibious warfare history, and would leave the Italians in control of Libya until 1943.

Italian Navy landing companies landing on the beach of Tripoli, October 1911 under the guns of Garibaldi and the rest of the fleet. The naval battalions would be followed by a Bersaglieri regiment, and ultimately the Italians would put a corps-sized force of 30,000 ashore that month. Source Garyounis University, ” The Martyr Omar al-Mukhtar Festival: Catalogue of Exhibition”, Arabic-English version, Benghazi, 1979, P.23. via Wiki Commons

Still under Revel, Garibaldi and her two sisters would go on to give the Turks grief off Tobruk, in Syria, and the Dardanelles, as well as in the Aegean and the Levant. The biggest tangle of these would be in Ottoman-held Beirut. On 24 February 1912, Garibaldi and Ferruccio sailed into the Lebanese harbor and engaged a Turkish torpedo boat Ankara and the old ironclad Avnillah.

Italian cruisers Ferruccio and Garibaldi, bombarding Gunboat Avnillah & Torpedo boat Angora/Ankara in Beirut Harbour, Feb. 24, 1912

Built in England in 1869, the 2,300-ton central battery gunboat had fought in the Russo-Turkish War some 35 years previously and, while her original black powder muzzleloaders had been replaced with modern German Krupp 5.9-inchers, she still retained her legacy engineering suite which meant that she had been virtually stationary in the harbor for more than a decade.

Avnillah, in better days.

In the end, it was no contest and Garibaldi started the engagement with her 10- and 8-inch guns at 6,000 yards then moved in to finish off the old ironclad with a brace of Whitehead torpedoes at close range. Avnillah, settled on the harbor floor, ablaze, losing half her crew.

Turkish ironclad Avnillah, sunk in Beirut in 1912

Ferruccio, meanwhile, accounted for Ankara. During the fracas, several civilian craft were also damaged while hundreds of the city’s residents were killed or injured. The Italians suffered no injuries and sailed away to leave the locals to pick up the pieces.

Avnillah’s hulk was still visible inside the harbor mole four years later when the Royal Navy raided Beirut during the Great War.

Beirut, Lebanon. A seaplane of the R.N.A.S. Port Said Squadron obtaining hits with two 60-pound bombs during World War I. The wreck in the harbor is the Turkish Ironclad AVN-I ILAH, sunk on February 24, 1912, by the Italian Cruisers GARIBALDI and VARESE. NH 42779

NH 42780

Speaking of WWI, Italy was officially an Austro-German ally on paper as part of the so-called Triple Alliance but entered the conflict tardy and on the other side, which gave both Vienna and Berlin a bit of heartburn. On 23 May 1915, nine months into the war, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary followed by declarations of war on the Turks that August, Bulgaria in October, and Germany in 1916.

Just three weeks into Italy’s war against the Austrians, on 17 July 1915 a group of warships under the command of RADM Trifari, whose flag flew from Garibaldi, sailed from Brindisi on a mission to interdict the railway line between Sarajevo and Herceg Novi by shelling the railroads at Dubrovnik.

While offshore of the Croatian coast near Molunat, the task force was discovered in the early morning of 18 July by the Germaniawerft-made U-3-class submarine SM U-4, commanded by Linienschiffleutnant Rudolf von Singule of the K.u.K. Kriegsmarine. Singule, who had previously managed to put a fish into the British RN cruiser HMS Dublin without sinking her, was luckier when he pumped a torpedo into Garibaldi and she sank reportedly in minutes, taking 53 of her crew with her.

Her sinking became memorialized in the maritime art of the era.

The Sinking of the Italian Cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi, Painting, Gouache on Paper; By Charles Malfroy; 1915; Unframed NHHC Accession #: 70-671-D

Austrian propaganda painting of her loss, via Wiki Commons

Garibaldi’s flag was saved, as were 90 percent of her crew, and has for generations been a treasured relic of the Italian navy. Today it is held on public display at the Sacrario delle Bandiere del Vittoriano in Rome.

Via Wiki Commons

Of Singule, the Austrian who slew the mighty Italian flagship, he chalked up 22,000 tons of shipping while in the K.u.K and was recalled to serve in the German Kriegsmarine in WWII in a training role. He was reportedly “killed attempting to protect a woman from drunken Soviet soldiers on a street in Brünn (Brno, Czech Republic) five days before the German surrender,” in 1945.

Today, Garibaldi is at 122m just off the coast of Croatia, making her an advanced but reachable dive.

As for her 10 sisters, the Spanish Pedro de Aragon was never built while Cristóbal Colón was sunk by the Americans in the Spanish-American War. The Americans likewise sunk the Japanese Kasuga in 1945, which had long been turned into a training hulk, while the IJN Nisshin was expended in the 1930s as a test target. Of the Italian sisters, both survived WWI and served as training ships for naval cadets until they were replaced by the purpose-built sail training ships Amerigo Vespucci and Cristoforo Colombo. The original four Argentine sisters endured in one form or another through the 1930s with ARA Pueyrredón even remaining in the fleet till 1954, at which point she was pushing 60.

ARA Pueyrredon in Dublin in 1951. At this point, this pre-SpanAm War era vet was pushing her into her sixth decade at sea.

The name “Garibaldi,” naturally, was reissued to the downright lucky WWII-era Duca degli Abruzzi-class light cruiser Garibaldi (551), and, since 1985, to the 14,000-ton harrier carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi (C-551), both of which also served as fleet flagships.

Italian Navy ITS Giuseppe Garibaldi (C-551) with nine AV-8B Harrier II and one Sea King in the flight deck carrier

Specs:


Displacement: 7,350 tons, full load 8,100 tons
Length: 366 ft
Beam: 59 ft
Draft: 24 ft.
Engine 2 triple vertical expansion steam engines, 24 Niclausse cylindrical boilers, 14,713 ihp (trials), 2 propellers
Speed: 19.7 knots
Range 5,500 miles at 10 knots on 1,200 tons of coal
Crew: 555
Armament:
1×1 254 mm/40 caliber
1×2 203 mm/45 caliber
14 152 mm/40 caliber
10 76 mm/40 caliber
6 Hotchkiss Mk I 47mm/50 caliber 3-pdrs
2 Maxim MG
4 17.7-inch torpedo tubes
Armor, hardened steel, Harvey system:
bridge from 38 to 50 mm.
belt from 50 to 150 mm.
50 mm batteries.
turrets from 100 to 150 mm.
tower from 50 to 150 mm

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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