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Happy Watermelon Day

August 3rd is National Watermelon Day, which recognizes the refreshing summertime treat enjoyed at picnics and fairs. With that, enjoy this image of the ersatz Great War-era patrol boat USS Uncas (SP-689) showing bluejackets munching said melon amidships, circa summer 1917.

Collection of Robert S. Waters. Donated by Mrs. Alice W. Thomas, 1972. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 98352

The gun appears to be a rather elderly circa 1880s 3-pounder, which is what you would expect for a 60-foot wooden-hulled powerboat taken up from civilian service.

The Emperor’s Chambermaids: Happy 305th

Hayes, Michael Angelo, “The 14th. (or The King’s) Light Dragoons. Heavy marching order” (1840). Prints, Drawings, and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. 

Formed 22 July 1715 in southern England during the Jacobite rebellion by newly-appointed Brig. Gen. (later Lt.Gen) James Dormer as (surprise, surprise) Dormer’s Dragoons, the unit was baptized in fire at the Battle of Preston the same year, part of Dormer’s brigade, and went on to provide service in Ireland for 27 years before returning to Scotland in the ’45 Rebellion.

Redesignated the 14th Dragoons in 1751 (a decade after Dormer’s death), then the 14th Light Dragoons in 1776, by 1794 the regiment was saddle-deep in the various French Revolutionary/Napoleanic Wars that raged around the world for the next 21 years. At one point, the regiment was reduced to just 25 men. This saw the 14th fight in Haiti, Flanders, Germany, and Spain.

It was in the latter that the regiment, during the Battle of Vitoria in June 1813, the Dragoons captured a French baggage train that included such booty (wait for it) as a very nice silver chamberpot belonging to Joseph Bonaparte, brother Napoleon.

The relic, retained by the regiment, earned the regiment the wagging nickname of “The Emperor’s Chambermaids.” Photo via the KRH Trust 

Nonetheless, the unit continued to serve around the globe, getting licked by the Americans in the swamps of Chalmette outside of New Orleans in 1815, enduring extended service in India and Persia (after which they became the 14th Hussars), scrap in the Boer Wars where they helped relieve Ladysmith, then chase the Ottomans across Mesopotamia in the Great War, marching through Baghdad.

Following the shake-up in the British Army that came about after Ireland– where the 14th had served off and on over the years– became a Free State in 1922, the regiment was amalgamated with the younger (formed in 1858) 20th Hussars and became the 14th/20th Hussars, shifting back to Indian garrison.

Last mounted parade of the 14th/20th King’s Hussars, Lucknow, 1938. “In 1928 the 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars became the first cavalry regiment to mechanize, receiving Rolls-Royce and Lanchester armored cars. The other British cavalry regiments followed their lead and all were eventually mechanized by 1941.” Photo via National Army Museum NAM. 1963-09-106-1

Losing their horses in the 1930s, the regiment served during WWII in Iraq and Persia– where they had already fought at least twice before– and ended the war in Italy before being used to garrison the British occupation sector of Germany, where they had also been once upon a time.

Eventually becoming part of the British Army of the Rhine off and on during the Cold War– while dispatching units to Cyprus, Malaysia, Aden, and Northern Ireland. The 14th/20th paraded their tanks in Berlin in 1989 before redeploying back to the UK.

How about that digital pattern on the Hussar’s Chieftains?

After service in the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, the unit was amalgamated with The Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own) to become the King’s Royal Hussars, going on to serve in Bosnia in 1996 and 1997, Kosovo in 1999, go back to Iraq for like the 6th and 7th time in 2005 (Telic 6) and 2007 (Telic 10), and sent detachments to Afghanistan (Operation Herrick) in 2009 and 2012.

While in Bosnia, members of the King’s Royal Hussars patrolled on horseback, as shown by this shot of Hussars on very Dragoon-like mounted patrol alongside their Challenger tanks, Mrkonjic Grad, Bosnia, 1997. Photo by Richard Strickland, NAM. 2018-01-70-7

Today, despite a half dozen name changes and seeing the elephant in America, Africa, Asia and Europe dozens of times over the course of the past three centuries, the King’s Royal Hussars still have that damned Bonaparte chamberpot, dubbed “The Emperor” and even use it in regimental ceremonies.

“Today, the Commanding Officer traditionally asks officers to drink from the Emperor on Mess nights. It remains the most treasured piece of silver possessed by the Regiment,” notes the KRH Trust.

Speaking of their drinking habits, the Hussars made an epic troll video this month on how to have a nice brew-up while in a Challenger, in salute to U.S. Independence Day (leaving that old Battle of New Orleans thing unsaid).

The KRH, set to switch from Challengers to Ajax AFVs this year, is based at Tidworth Garrison.

Warship Wednesday, July 15, 2020: 3 Names, 5 Flags, 6 Wars

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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 15, 2020: 3 Names, 5 Flags, 6 Wars

Here we see Avtroil, a humble member of the Izyaslav-subclass of the Imperial Russian Navy’s Novik-class of fast destroyers, afloat in the Baltic around 1917. He (Russian ships are addressed as male, not female) would go on to have a complicated life.

Built for the Tsar

Ordered as part of the 1913 enhanced shipbuilding program– the Tsar had a whole fleet to rebuild after the twin disasters of Port Arthur and Tshuma after all– the Izyaslavs were part of an envisioned 35-ship destroyer build that never got that big. Nonetheless, at 1,440-tons with five 4-inch guns and nine 450mm Whitehead torpedo tubes in three batteries, these 325-foot greyhounds were plenty tough for their time. Speaking of which, capable of 35-knots on their turbine suite, built with the help of the French Augustin Normand company, they were about the fastest thing on the ocean. Hell, fast forward a century and they would still be considered fast today.

Class leader Izyaslav. He would later wear the name “Karl Marx” after the Revolution, because why not?.

In the end, only three Izyaslavs would be finished to include Avtroil and Pryamislav, before the Russians moved on to more improved Noviks to include the Gogland, Fidonisni and Ushakovskaya subclasses. They were curious ships outfitted by a multinational conglomerate, as the Russian Imperial Navy’s purchasing agents seemed to have loved variety. They had Vickers-made Swiss-designed Brown-Boveri steam turbines, Norman boilers, and British/Italian armament produced under license at Obukhov.

Laid down in 1913 at Becker & Co JSC, Revel, while Russia was under the Romanov flag, he was completed in August 1917 as the property of the Russian Provisional Government, which was still nominally in the Great War, in effect changing flags between his christening and commissioning.

His new crew sortied with the battleship Slava to fight in the Battle of Moon Sound (Moonsund) in October, one of the Kaiser’s fleet’s last surface action. While Slava didn’t make it out alive, Avtroil did, although he exchanged enough licks with the Germans to carry away three 88mm shell holes in him.

Fighting for the Reds

When the Russian Baltic Fleet raised the red flag in November to side with Lenin’s mob, Avtroil followed suit as he sat in fortified Helsingfors (Helsinki), hiding from the Germans.

To keep one step ahead of said Teutons, he joined the great “Ice Cruise” in February 1918 to Kronstadt, the last bastion of the Russian fleet in the Baltic.

Painting of the famed icebreaker Yermak opening a way to other ships on the Ice Cruise, seen as the chrysalis moment for the Red Navy. The fleet withdrew six battleships, five cruisers, 59 destroyers and torpedo boats, and a dozen submarines from former Russian bases in Estonia and Finland, eventually back to Kronstadt.

When the Great War ended and the Russian Civil War began, the British moved in to intervene on the side of the newly formed Baltic republics and the anti-Bolshevik White Russians. On 24 November 1918, RADM Sir Edwin Alexander Sinclair was dispatched to the Baltic with the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron (five C-class light cruisers) of which HMS Cardiff was his flagship, the 13th Destroyer Flotilla (nine V and W-class destroyers) and, because the Baltic in WWI was a mine war at a level no one had seen before, the 3rd Minesweeping Flotilla (seven minesweepers) as well as two minelayers and three tankers. Sinclair also brought newly surplus military aid– to include 100 Lewis guns, 50 Madsen LMGs 5,000 P14 Enfields, and 6.7 million rounds of ammunition– as a gift to bolster the locals against the Reds.

This put the Red Fleet, the most reliable unit in the Soviet military, on the front line of a new war in the Baltic.

Avtroil was assigned to a special task force consisting of the 7,000-ton Bogatyr-class protected cruiser Oleg and his Novik/Ilyin-class destroyer half-brother Spartak (Sparticus, ex-Kapitan Kingsbergen, ex-Kapitan Miklukho-Maklay).

While scouting close to Estonian waters to assess the British disposition near Aegna and Naissaar on the night of 26 December, Spartak bumped into five Royal Navy destroyers. Attempting to escape, the Russian destroyer ran aground at Kuradimuna, and, surrendering, was towed to Tallinn (recently renamed Revel).

The next morning, Avtroil was sent to look for the overdue Spartak. Acting on tips from shore stations who sent sightings of the Russian destroyer to Tallinn, the British destroyers HMS Vendetta and HMS Vortigern are dispatched to intercept. Seeing these on the horizon, Avtroil attempted to beat feet to the East and the safety of Korndstadt but, after a 35-minute chase, ran into a returning patrol of the cruisers HMS Calypso and HMS Caradoc, accompanied by the destroyer HMS Wakeful. The crew of Avtroil struck their red flag near Mohni Island.

They didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter, as the hapless crews of the Russian ships couldn’t coax more than 15 knots out of their speedy destroyers. You have to keep in mind that the most radicalized Red sailors came from the harshly-treated stokers and engineering space guys, many of whom volunteered for Naval Red Guard units who fought on land during the Civil War. This left the Russian Baltic Fleet poorly manned in technical ratings, poorly led (the crews shot their officers and senior NCOs wholesale in 1917, replacing them with 850 assorted Sailors’ Committees), and poorly maintained. No wonder a small British squadron ran rampant over the Gulf of Finland in 1918-19!

Oleg managed to slip through the net only to be sunk six months later by British torpedo boats at anchor.

AVTROIL, right, surrendering to a British destroyer in the Baltic, possibly HMS Wakeful (H88). Naval History and Heritage Command NH 47620

AVTROIL, left, photographed in the Baltic Sea, captured by a British destroyer, right, most likely Wakeful. Wakeful would later be sunk off Dunkirk, torpedoed by the German submarine U-30 on 29 May 1940, taking 638 soldiers and 85 members of the Ship’s Company with her. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983. NH 94210

Welcome to Estonia!

The British towed their second prize in as many days to Revel, the former Russian naval base turned Tallinn, the new Estonian capital. There, the Soviet crews were interned. Those captured Russians who wanted to return home were later exchanged with the Reds for 17 British servicemembers, nine who participated in the raid June 1919 raid on Kronstadt, and eight downed aircrewmen lost in the August/September floatplane raids on the Bolshevik fortress.

Adm. Sinclair arrived in Tallinn on 28 December 1918 for the inspection of the captured destroyers.

THE BRITISH NAVAL CAMPAIGN IN THE BALTIC, 1918-1919 (Q 19334) A sentry aboard the Royal Navy cruiser HMS CARADOC at Reval (Tallinn), showing ice-covered decks. December 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205253750

The captured vessels were soon turned over to the nascent Estonian Navy. On 2 January 1919, RN Capt. Bertram Sackville Thesiger, the skipper of Calypso, met with the brand-new Commander of the Estonian Navy, Capt. Johan Pitka, onboard the uncrewed Avtroil to discuss the transfer. Avtroil would be renamed EML Lennuk while Spartak would become EML Wambola on 4 January 1919.

Destroyer Avtroil in Estonian waters

Estonian destroyer Wambola (ex-Spartak) on the dock at Tallinn. While of a similar design, layout, and armament to Avtroil, he had German-made Vulkan boilers and AEG turbines

Repaired and under a new flag– Avtroil’s third for those keeping track at home– they would sail against the Reds later that summer until Moscow recognized Estonia’s independence the next year.

Eventually, cash-strapped Estonia– which had suffered through the Great War, German occupation, their own short but brutal campaign for independence and following reconstruction– looked at their surplus Russian destroyers and decided to pass them on for more than what they had in them.

From the frozen Baltic to the steaming Amazon

Laid up since 1920, they were sold to Peru in April 1933 for $820,000, leaving the Estonian Navy with only a single surface warfare ship, the Sulev— which was the once-scuttled former German torpedo boat A32. The tiny republic used the money, along with some public subscription, to order two small, but modern, coastal minelaying submarines from Britain.  

Spartak/Wambola became BAP Almirante Villar while Avtroil/Lennuk would become BAP Almirante Guise, ironically named after a British-born Peruvian naval hero that had fought at Trafalgar.

The reason for the Peruvian destroyer purchase was that Lima was gearing up for a border conflict with Colombia that never really got much past the skirmish stage. Nonetheless, they did serve in a wary blockade of the Colombian coast and exchanged fire with a group of mercenaries squatting on what was deemed to be part of Peru, by the Peruvians, anyway.

ALMIRANTE GUISE Peruvian DD, 1915 Caption: In Colon Harbor, Panama, 26 June 1934, transiting to the Pacific.. She was formerly the Estonian DD LENNUK and Russian DD AVTROIL NARA 80-G-455951

Same as above, different view. 80-G-455952

Same, stern. Note mine-laying stern, range clocks, men on deck. 80-G-455949

Once in the Pacific, the destroyers were modernized, mounting some Italian-made Breda 20mm AAA guns. Apparently, the Peruvians were also able to get 4-inch shells and torpedoes from the Italians as well. Peru at the time only had a small (~3,000-ton) pair of old protected cruisers, making the repurposed Russian tin cans their most valuable naval assets.

Callao, Peru during the division of Cruiser Division 7 under Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN, May 26 to 31, 1939. Ships from left to right are Peruvian Cruisers CORONEL BOLOGNESI (1906-1958) and ALMIRANTE GRAU (1906-1958), behind BOLOGNESI), destroyers ALMIRANTE, VILLAR (1915-c1954), ex Estonian VAMBOLA ex Russian SPARTAK) and ALMIRANTE GUISE (1915-c1947), ex Estonian LENNUK, ex Russian AVTROIL, and USS TUSCALOOSA (CA-37), SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), and QUINCY (CA-39). NH 42782

Cruiser BAP Almirante Grau (3,100t, circa 1907, 2x6inch guns), destroyers of BAP Villar and BAP Guise, and an R-class submarine of the Peruvian Navy during naval maneuvers in 1940. The floatplanes are two of six Fairey Fox Mk IVs bought by the Peruvian Air Force in 1933 along with four Curtis F-8 Falcons during tensions with Colombia. The Peruvian Navy operated three Douglas DTB torpedo bomber floatplanes and at least one Vought O2U Corsair. Colorized by Diego Mar/Postales Navales

The low-mileage pre-owned tin cans were put to more effective use in the “Guerra del 41,” the Ecuadorian–Peruvian War. Almirante Guise carried out patrols in front of the Jambelí channel, bombarded Punta Jambelí and Puerto Bolívar, and supported the Peruvian advance on El Oro. Meanwhile, his near-brother Almirante Villar was on convoy duty and fought a one-sided surface action against the elderly Ecuadorian gunboat BAE Abdón Calderón (300t, c1884, 2x76mm guns).

Once the conflict with Ecuador died down, another one was just kicking off. Under U.S. pressure, Peru broke off relations with the Axis powers in January 1942 and, while friendly to the Allies and increasingly hostile to the Axis, only declared war against Germany and Japan in February 1945. The Peruvian Navy was the only force “active” in the conflict, engaging in armed neutrality patrols throughout 1942-43. For those keeping score, WWII would be the Russian destroyers sixth-ish conflict following the Great War, the Russian Civil War, Estonian Independence, the Colombian skirmishes, and the Guerra del 41.

In the 1946 Jane’s, the two Russo-Estonian brothers were listed as Peru’s only destroyers.

Meanwhile, Avtroil’s two brothers back in the Motherland would not have such a sedate Second World War. Izyaslav, naturally renamed Karl Marx, was sunk by a German air raid in August 1941. Pryamislav, renamed Kalinin after Stalin’s favorite yes man, was lost in a German minefield the same month near the island of Mokhni in the Gulf of Finland. Ironically, it was Mokhni where the British had captured Avtroil two decades prior.

The last of his kind, Avtroil, and his half-brother Almirante Villar, would endure for another decade.

Almirante Guise via the Dirección de Intereses Marítimos-Archivo Histórico de Marina

Decommissioned in 1949, they were slowly scrapped above the waterline through 1954. Their hulks reportedly remain off Peru’s Isla de San Lorenzo naval base/penal colony. Their names were later recycled for a pair of Fletcher-class destroyers, USS Benham (DD-796) and USS Isherwood (DD-520), acquired in the 1960s and used into the 1980s.

Avtroil/Guise is remembered both in Russian maritime art and Peruvian postal stamps.

The British also have a souvenir or three. His Soviet flag is in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich while other objects are in the IWM.

Specs:


Displacement: 1,350 long tons, 1,440 full. (Listed as 2,200 late in career)
Length: 325 ft 2 in (listed as 344.5 in 1945)
Beam: 30 ft 10 in (listed as 31.5 in 1945)
Draft: 9 ft 10 in (listed as 11.8 in 1945)
Propulsion: 2 Brown-Boveri steam turbines driving 2 shafts, 5 Norman boilers, 32,700 shp
Speed: 35 knots max (on trials). Listed as 30 knots even late in career.
Oil: 450 tons, 2,400 nm at 15 knots
Complement: 142
Armor: 38mm shields on some of the 4-inch guns
Armament:
(as of 1918)
5 x 1 102mm L/60 Pattern 1911 Vickers-Obukhov guns
1 x 1 76mm AA mount M1914/15
3 x 3 450mm Whitehead torpedo tubes
2 x Maxim machine guns
80 Model 1912 naval mines.
(1945)
5 x 1 102mm L/60 Pattern 1911 Vickers-Obukhov guns
2 x 20 mm/70cal Breda AA guns
3 x machine guns

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Warship Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Service Guarantees Citizenship

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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 8, 2020: Service Guarantees Citizenship

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 108363

Here we see the Wickes-class tin can USS Roper (Destroyer No. 147) in an undated overhead bow-on shot early in her career. As yesterday was the 113th birthday of her most famous crewmember, it only seemed important to shine some light on this often-overlooked but well-traveled warship.

Roper was one of the iconic first flight of “Four Piper” destroyers that were designed in 1915-16 with input from no less an authority as Captain (later Admiral) W.S. Sims. Beamy ships with a flush-deck, a quartet of boilers (with a smokestack for each) were coupled to a pair of Parsons geared turbines to provide 35.3-knots designed speed– which is still considered fast today, more than a century later. The teeth of these 314-foot, 1250-ton greyhounds were four 4-inch/50 cal MK 9 guns and a full dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes.

They reportedly had short legs and were very wet, which made long-range operations a problem, but they gave a good account of themselves. Originally a class of 50 was authorized in 1916, but once the U.S entered WWI in April 1917, this was soon increased and increased again to some 111 ships built by 1920.

Roper was laid down on 19 March 1918, at the height of the German’s Michel Offensive in France, at the William Cramp & Sons yard in Philadelphia. She was the first ship to carry the name of LCDR Jesse M. Roper (USNA 1872) who, as skipper of the gunboat USS Petrel in 1901, lost his life in a fire attempting to rescue a trapped seaman.

However, USS Roper came too late to join the Great War, commissioned on 15 February 1919. Nonetheless, after shakedown, she crossed the Atlantic and served in the Med and the Black Sea during the tumultuous period that included the breakup of the old Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire coupled with the heartbreak of the Russian Civil War.

Roper, pre-1922. NH 108361

Transferring to the Pacific Fleet, Roper would be placed decommissioned in 1922 and rest in mothballs until 1930 when she was refit and reactivated. In contrast to her quiet time during the 20s, the 1930s would be a time of active participation in a series of fleet problems and maneuvers that ranged from the Eastern seaboard to the Caribbean and Alaska.

An undated overhead image of Roper underway, likely early in her career and after her 1930 reactivation. Note her stern depth charge racks. NH 108364

From the same set, with a good overview of her guns and profile. NH 108362

Enter Mr. Heinlein

With a tradition that his family fought in every American war going back to the days of Bunker Hill, Robert Anson Heinlein, born in Missouri in 1907, entered the U.S. Naval Academy as a Mid in 1925. He had a bit of family support on campus, as his brother Rex had been admitted the previous year, a factor that led Robert to have to pester U.S. Sen. Jimmy Reed to burn another service academy appointment on a Heinlein, reportedly hitting the senator with over 50 letters.

The younger Heinlein, “Bob” to his classmates, was an expert rifleman and a member of the fencing team, winner of the 1927 Epee medal. Academically 5th in his class of 243, he graduated 20th due to demerits with the 1929 class– one that included the future RADM Edward J. O’Donnell, RADM Warner S. Rodimon and VADM James H. Flatley– and has a very entertaining page in that year’s Lucky Bag. Headed to the fleet, the newly minted ensign shipped out for one of the choicest assignments, the brand-new carrier USS Lexington (CV-2).

LEXINGTON at the fleet concentration, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaiian Islands, 16 February 1932. Heinlein would have been aboard her at the time. NH 67634

Lex’s skipper, while Ensign Heinlein was aboard, was the taciturn Ernest J. King, future WWII CNO. This cheerful guy:

Captain Ernest J. King, USN, Commanding officer of USS LEXINGTON (CV-2), is shown the Olympic Cup by Chief Gunner Campbell, on 5 September 1931. The cup had recently been won by LEXINGTON’s runabout crew. 80-G-462576

In 1933, Heinlein left the mighty turbo-electric carrier for the much smaller and almost in comparison “retro” tin can, Roper, where he would serve as gunnery officer until he left the Navy on a medical discharge due to a case of TB.

Over the course of 46 novels and dozens of short stories, Robert Heinlein was always flanked by what he learned and remembered from his days as an Annapolis Mid and as a young line officer in the fleet.

Of course, Bob would settle for a career as a renowned science fiction author; winner of several Hugo Award prizes for groundbreaking science fiction. He was able to loop back around during WWII as an aeronautical engineer at the Navy Aircraft Materials Center at PNSY, bringing fellow sci-fi legends Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp with him to do their part.

Meanwhile, Roper had a war of her own to fight

Off Cape Cod on 7 December 1941, the Great War-era destroyer was soon on convoy duty during the height of what the German U-boat skippers deemed “The Happy Time” of Operation Drumbeat (Paukenschlag) due to the widespread availability of targets in American waters. As such, this included several instances of picking her way through floating wreckage and rescuing lifeboats crammed with U-boat survivors.

USS Roper (DD-147) Escorting a convoy, out of Hampton Roads, Virginia in 1942. Ships of the convoy are visible on the horizon. Roper is wearing Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage. NARA 80-G-K-580

USS ROPER (DD-147) View taken while underway in Hampton Roads, on convoy escort duty, circa 1942. Note camouflage. 80-G-K-467

On the night of 13-14 April 1942, Roper made a weak sonar contact in shallow water off North Carolina’s Bodie Island lighthouse, inside an area dubbed “Torpedo Junction” due to the high rate of submarine actions in the region and began prosecuting it. The contact turned out to be the Type VIIB German U-boat U-85 of 3. Flottille. Realizing he was caught in the shallows with no room to move, the sub’s skipper, Oblt. Eberhard Greger, made for the surface to fight it out, making turns for 17 knots while snapping a torpedo from its aft tube at his pursuer– from just 700 yards away- which only narrowly missed, running down the port side of the oncoming tin can’s hull.

The engagement went down to deck guns at a range of 2,100 yards, with Roper’s forward 3-incher busting the sub’s pressure hull just aft of the conning tower on her third round as one of her .50-caliber Brownings, manned by a Chief Boatswains Mate, kept the Germans from their own guns. The U-boat disappeared below the waves, stern first, before Roper’s torpedo tubes could be brought to bear.

A painting of the destroyer USS Roper (DD-147) engaging the German Type VII submarine U-85, during the night of 13/14 April 1942, near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Artist unknown. Image from the 1967/68 Edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships via Navsource. http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/147.htm

Greger and crew apparently attempted to abandon ship as it was going down but, in a sad fog of war incident, all perished as Roper’s crew, in the dark and fearing another U-boat was in the area due to another, albeit unrelated sonar contact, continued depth charging the area after the sub submerged for the final time. When dawn broke, Roper’s crew recovered 29 bodies, which were later interred at Hampton National Cemetery.

Roper’s attack report is in the National Archives and makes for interesting reading. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/133887377

The wreck and war grave that is U-85 is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and protected as part of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. In just 100 feet of water, she is a popular dive site.

With her “kill” Roper became an inaugural member of the U.S. Navy’s sub-busting club in the Atlantic War, although the milestone of the lonely battle was kept secret until after the war. She was in good company, as her sister ship, USS Ward (DD-139), fired the first U.S. shots of the Pacific War, sinking a Japanese midget submarine outside of Pearl Harbor just before the attack there.

The rest of Roper’s 1942 was spent in less eventful coastal patrol and escort service, shifting to riding shotgun on Caribbean-to-Mediterranean convoys building up Allied forces in North Africa and the 1943 push to Sicily and Italy.

In October, entered Charleston Navy Yard for conversion to her next role, that of a WWII littoral combat ship.

Green Dragon Days

With the changing pace of the new naval war, the Roper, as with most of her class, was converted to other uses, being too small for fleet work. She lost her 4-inch guns, which went on to equip armed merchant ships, as well as her torpedo tubes. Also leaving were half of her boilers, which dropped her speed down to 25-knots. She was given a trio of newer high-angle 3-inch/50 guns, one 40 mm AA gun, and five 20 mm AA guns, and the capability to carry up to 300 Marines or soldiers for a brief period. In this new role, she was re-designated as a high-speed amphibious transport (APD-20). Where her torpedo tubes once were, she now carried four 36-foot LCP landing craft on davits.

Such converted, these ships, usually painted in an all-over alligator green scheme, became known as “Green Dragons.”

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Starboard Quarter. File 11-21-43-4.” Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Bow, Down View. File 11-21-43-6. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Starboard Bow. File 11-21-43-2. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Starboard Bow. File 11-21-43-7. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Stern View. File 11-21-43-5. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

These conversions had a hard war. They transported troops to beachheads, served as escorts for transports and supply vessels, conducted anti-submarine patrols and survey duties, operated with Underwater Demolition Teams and commando units, performed messenger and transport duties, conveyed passengers and mail to and from forward units, and were involved in minesweeping operations.

On 13 April 1944, Roper steamed across the Atlantic to join the massing 8th Fleet at Oran and subsequently landed units of the reformed French Army on the Italian coast at Pianosa on 17 June. By August, she was part of the Dragoon Landings in southern France, landing troops on Levant Island with TF 86/Sitka Force. Her charges were 14 officers and 269 men of the elite “Black Devil” commandos of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, 1st Special Service Force who landed, and subsequently fought the small Battle of Port Cros in which they captured the five forts on the islands from the German Army.

Roper’s report of landing operations on the Ile du Levant with Sitka Force is digitized and in the National Archives. 

Reaping the Devine Wind

With the days of amphibious landings in Europe at an end in 1945, Roper sailed for the Pacific for the first time in WWII. Just three days after arriving at Nakagusuku Bay on the southern coast of Okinawa, she was hit by a Japanese kamikaze, a Zeke that was being pursued by three F4U Corsairs, the latter being a factor that prevented AAA fire from being directed at the incoming suicide plane. The Zeke hit Roper’s forecastle at 0922 on 25 May, starting fires in the CPO and Wardroom country which were extinguished in about an hour but left her forward magazines flooded. Her First Lieutenant, Lt. (JG) Thomas Walsh, was killed on deck via flying debris. Ten of her crew were lightly wounded with seven being evacuated to the hospital ship USS Relief. 

USS ROPER (APD-20) as damaged by a suicide plane attack, 26 May 1945. The plane’s port wing had sheared off and entered the ship’s starboard side, making a 6-foot hole about f-feet above the waterline. The fuselage of the Zeke glanced off the ship’s forecastle and exploded 30 feet off her beam. The plane’s propeller chewed several 3-foot-long gashes in the forecastle’s deck. The pilot’s helmet, jacket, and “pieces of his anatomy” were found hanging from Gun. No. 1. Courtesy of Admiral H.W. Hill. NH 66192

Roper’s kamikaze report is digitized and available in the National Archives. 

Of her class, 13 of her sisters were sunk in WWII, most early in the war while trying to stem the Japanese tide off Guadalcanal or, in the case of two, due to German U-boats in the Atlantic. The famous Ward, similarly, converted to an APD, was sunk off Ormoc in the Philippines on 7 December 1944 by a kamikaze. A similar fate befell sister USS Palmer (DD-161/DMS-5) in the Lingayen Gulf. Likewise, sister USS Dickerson (DD-157/APD-21) was so badly hit by a kamikaze in April 1945 off Iwo Jima that she was scuttled.

As for Roper, ordered back to the States to complete her own kamikaze repairs, she departed the Ryukyus on 6 June and reached San Pedro a month later. With the end of the war, her those repairs were not undertaken, and she was instead decommissioned on 15 September 1945 and scrapped the following year.

Roper earned four battle stars during World War II and the largest part of her currently in existence is an anchor that is on display at an entrance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There has not been a second USS Roper on the Navy List.

Most of Roper’s WWII war diaries, as well as a set of her plans, are in the National Archives. 

Today no Wickes-class tin can survive. The last one afloat, USS Maddox (DD–168), was scrapped in 1952 after serving in the US, then RN, then Canadian, then Soviet navies.

However, one of the class, USS Walker (DD-163), has been given new life in the excellent alternate history series Destroyermen written by Taylor Anderson. It is, um, science-fiction. Go figure.

As for Heinlein, whose wartime work for the Navy ironically included kamikaze detection and defense, died in 1988, aged 80. His body was eventually cremated, and his ashes scattered over the Pacific from the deck of a warship. Before that, he addressed the Mids in 1973 during which he noted:

What you do have here is a tradition of service. Your most important classroom is Memorial Hall. Your most important lesson is the way you feel inside when you walk up those steps and see that shot-torn flag framed in the arch of the door: ‘Don’t Give Up the Ship.’ If you feel nothing, you don’t belong here. But if it gives you goose flesh just to see that old battle flag, then you are going to find that feeling increasing every time you return here over the years… until it reaches a crescendo the day you return and read the list of your own honored dead – classmates, shipmates, friends – read them with grief and pride while you try to keep your tears silent.

In 2001, Virginia Heinlein, who had a long naval history herself and was the prototype of the strong female characters in many of her husband’s novels, endowed the Robert Anson Heinlein Chair in Aerospace Engineering at Annapolis.

Specs:

USS Roper (DD-147): Booklet of General Plans – Inboard Profile / Outboard Profile. National Archives Identifier: 109188795 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/109188795

(As completed)
Displacement: 1,247 long tons (1,267 t)
Length: 314 ft 4 in
Beam: 30 ft 11 in
Draft: 9 ft 10 in
Propulsion: 2 × geared steam turbines, 2 × shafts
Speed: 35 kn
Complement: 231 officers and enlisted
Armament:
4 × 4 in /50 cal guns
2 × 3 in /50 cal anti-aircraft guns
12 × 21 in torpedo tubes (4×3)

(1943, APD conversion)
Speed: 25kn
Complement: 180 officers and enlisted, up to 300 troops for short periods
Armament:
3 x 3inch/50
1 x 40mm Bofors
5 x 20mm Oerlikons

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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Come get that Army History Magazine

The Army History Magazine Summer 2020 edition (No.116) is available for free download and the 60-page journal includes a great article on Merrill’s Marauders in Burma as well as the U.S. and Allied Military Relations in World War I.

Click to access AH116.pdf

Army History Magazine is published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History and they have all of their past issues, going back to 1983, online in pdf format.

Enjoy!

Happy first day of Summer: King Armored Cars in the Caribbean

While the Marines are quickly shedding most of their heavy armor, it should be pointed out that they intend to still keep some lighter stuff like Amtracs and LAVs, at least for now.

With that, and with a hat-tip to the fact that today is the first day of summer, there is no better time than to mention the Marine armored unit that was deployed downrange 100 years ago.

Meet the King Armored Car (USMC Photo)

1st Armored Car Squadron was organized in 1917 and equipped with five Armored Motor Car Company (AMC)-produced King armored cars.

The King wasn’t particularly fearsome, but you had to keep in mind that for Great War-era armor it wasn’t that bad, mounting a single Lewis gun or M1895 Potato Digger, it had enough armor to protect it from small arms fire– the Marines even tested it by reportedly popping the side of one with a .45ACP without penetrating.

Attached to the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Base Brigade in 1919, they served in the Dominican Republic until deactivated in 1921. The unit left most of their Kings behind in Hispanola where the locals used them in one form or another until the 1930s.

King Armored Cars, Dominican Republic, 1919 (USMC Photo)

The sole Marine King armored car is on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia, and it has a .45ACP-sized dimple in the side.

Rifle Shooting a lost art…in 1913

Sailors and Marines from the ship’s crew at the rifle range, Auckland, New Zealand, circa 1904-1906. Copied from the USS Baltimore album, page 47. NH 101377

A full-page feature in the May 18, 1913 edition of the New York Sun, entitled, “Rifle Shooting Becoming a Lost Art in America” decried the poor state of American marksmanship just less than 15 months before the start of the Great War and slightly under four years from U.S. involvement in said conflict. The lack of American riflemen at the time seemed apparent, despite the best efforts of the nascent Department of Civilian Marksmanship, today’s CMP, established by the Army in 1903.

From the article:

Records of the War Department show that in 1910, 29,230 members of the regular army, exclusive of those in the Philippines, received rifle Instruction, of whom 17,473 failed to make the qualifying score. In the organized militia, 51,749 received rifle Instruction, of whom 20,630 failed to qualify as marksmen.

There were also 40,000 National Guardsmen who were not even taken to a range. Out of the 25,320 students of colleges and universities supporting military departments only 7,710 received instruction In rifle practice, during the year. Including 39,400 sailors and marine sand 3,000 members of civilian rifle clubs, the aggregate number of men between the ages of 18 and 45 who practiced with the service arm during one year was 131,089, out of a male population within the enlistment ages of 16,000,000, or less than 1 percent.

I wonder what the author would think today?

Warship Wednesday, June 17, 2020: Mohican Motorboat

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, June 17, 2020: Mohican Motorboat

Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN (Medical Service Corps), 1974. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 78973

Here we see the future section patrol craft, USS Chingachgook (SP-35), described in the 1916 photo as a “Submarine Chaser,” flying a Yachting Ensign but with a pair of deck guns installed, presumably as part of the popular civilian preparedness movement, in preparation for service with the new Naval Coast Defense Reserve.

The tradition of the Navy quickly acquiring commercial or consumer vessels in times of war and, after a quick retrofit with a few guns and, perhaps, a coat of paint, placing them back into service as a patrol craft or armed dispatch boat, dates back to the Revolutionary War. The tactic remained through the Civil War and saw a huge resurgence in the brief conflict with Spain in 1898. During the latter fashionable little war, whole squadrons of yachts, readily made available by scions of Wall Street, became plucky auxiliary patrol boats sent willingly into harms’ way.

Fast forward to the Great War and the terrifyingly incremental lead up to America’s involvement in that terrible conflict, and the Navy Department took steps in that period of armed neutrality to expand their reach.

Under provisions of the “Big Navy” Act of August 29, 1916, which established the Naval Reserve Force to be composed of six classes:

First. The Fleet Naval Reserve.
Second. The Naval Reserve
Third. The Naval Auxiliary Reserve
Fourth. The Naval Coast Defense Reserve
Fifth. The Volunteer Naval Reserve
Sixth. Naval Reserve Flying Corps.

The Naval Coast Defense Reserve was to be composed of:

“Members of the Naval Reserve Force who may be capable of performing special useful service in the Navy or in connection with the Navy in defense of the coast shall be eligible for membership in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve.”

The NCDRF, seen today as opening the door for women to serve in the Navy, also started cataloging in at first hundreds and then later thousands of craft like the Chingachgook for future inclusion in the fleet.

Dubbed “Section Patrol” craft, these boats were given SP hull numbers that they typically did not carry while they retained their pre-war civilian names. Reporting to the Naval Districts they were mobilized in, they would be responsible for keeping an eye peeled for spies, saboteurs, submarines, and assorted other strange goings-on. Keep in mind the Black Tom Island explosion had occurred on July 30, just under a month before the Act was put into effect and German cells were active along both coasts to one degree or another. 

As for Chingachgook, she was built by the Greenport Basin & Construction Co. of Long Island— best known for fishing craft, tugs, and yachts– in 1916, not as a civilian craft, but in hopes of offering her as a prototype sub-buster along motor yacht lines to the U.S. Government. Some 60-feet long, she could make a reported 40 knots on her two 300hp Sterling gasoline engines.

The below 23 January 1917 image shows Chingachgook, not yet in Navy service, lifted out of the waters of New York’s East River and placed on a truck for transport to the Motor Boat Show at Grand Central Palace. Note her stern gun, “10” pennant number on her pilothouse, and twin screws/rudders. Keep in mind that Bannerman’s military surplus, located in Manhattan, would sell both vintage and modern artillery pieces of all kinds, cash and carry, as the NFA of 1934 was still decades away.

War Department image 165-WW-338A-19, LOC ARC Identifier: 45513537

Our hearty little craft, of course, borrows her name from the supporting character of Chingachgook, the fictional Native American warrior featured in four of James Fenimore Cooper’s five Leatherstocking Tales, including his 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans.

Chingachgook was purchased by the Navy 25 May 1917 from Theodore W. Brigham of Greenport– six weeks after the U.S. entered the war– and placed in service on 6 June 1917, assigned to the 3rd Naval District (New York) for patrol duty. At least nine other dissimilar Greenport-built motorboats went on to become SP craft including USS Ardent (SP-680), USS Atlantis (SP-40), USS Beluga (SP-536), USS Perfecto (SP-86), USS Quest (SP-171), USS Sea Gull (SP-544), USS Uncas (SP-689), USS Vitesse (SP-1192), and USS Whippet (SP-89).

Chingachgook underway at high speed, October 1916. Like the first image in the post, she is flying yachting flags but is armed with a Colt M1895 “potato digger” machine gun forward and a small (1-pounder) cannon aft, probably for service with the pre-World War I Coast Defense Reserve. Note, while the mate up front is in naval-style crackerjacks, the two men in her wheelhouse are wearing boaters and bespoke suits. Photographed by Edwin Levick, of New York City. NH 101040

Chingachgook’s wartime service ended just two months later.

As noted by DANFS: “On 31 July 1917 her gasoline tank exploded, injuring members of the crew and igniting the ship. A survey of 13 October found her hull worthless and beyond repair, and she was subsequently disposed of by burning.”

She was struck from the Navy Register 19 February 1918.

A one-off design, the Navy went much bigger on their 110-foot sub chaser designs which, like the smaller Chingachgook that preceded them, were wooden-hulled gasoline-engined vessels developed by yacht makers that were intended to be mass-produced in small boatyards. The subsequent “splinter fleet” of SCs grew into the hundreds by 1919.

Later, in WWII, the Navy also used hundreds of small trawlers, yachts, drifters, former Coast Guard Cutters and the like in the same role as the Great War’s myriad Section Patrol craft, but typically designated them as Patrol Yachts (PYc), Patrol Craft (PC), Civilian Vessels (ID), or Yard Patrol Craft (YP) which were, perhaps, more descriptive terms, some of which continue to this day.

As for the Greenport Yacht & Shipbuilding Company, which is still in business, they went on to build coastal minesweepers, subchasers, and LCM landing craft in WWII.

Specs:
Displacement: 13 tons
Length: 60 feet
Beam: 10 feet
Draft: 3 feet
Propulsion: Two 300hp Sterling gasoline engine, two shafts.
Speed: 40 knots (although listed as “22 mph” by some sources)
Armament: One 1-pounder (37mm) and one Colt 30.06 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!

Warship Wednesday, June 10, 2020: Yes, but these go to 17 inches

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, June 10, 2020: Yes, but these go to 17 inches

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 88710

Here we see the gleaming white late 19th-century Italian turret “ironclad” (corazzata) Caio Duilio (also sometimes seen as “Gaius Duilius”) at the La Spezia Navy Yard, around the time of her completion in 1880. Important to naval history as she was the first blue-water battlewagon on Earth rigged only with a military mast rather than a sail rig, carried only stupidly enormous guns, and likewise was the first two-shaft capital ships in the Italian Navy, Duilio also had the neatest stern-launched torpedo boat– but we’ll get into that in a minute.

The Regia Marina was one of the newest navies in the world in the 1870s, having just formed in the previous decade via an amalgamation of the old Sardinian, Partenopea, Sicilian, Tuscany and Pontifical fleets. In the driver’s seat across much of three decades off and on during this early period as Naval Minister was Benedetto Brin with the blessing of Sardinian ADM Simone Antonio Saint-Bon– Italy’s Tirpitz. A trained naval engineer, Brin sought to build not only the King’s fleet but also to the infrastructure to domestically produce all the things needed for a steel navy from shipyards and engine works to armor and gun factories.

Saint-Bon and Brin’s first large scale effort was the colossal Caio Duilio and her near-sister Enrico Dandolo.

Some 12,000-tons full load, these beasts were iron-hulled with a heavy layer of French-made Creusot steel plates stacked as thick as 21.6-inches in places and backed by twice that amount of timber. With a hull separated into 83 watertight compartments, they were built to absorb damage and they had a 15-foot submerged bow wedge that served as a ram. Equipped with eight boilers driving a pair of vertical compound engines, these ships were designed to make 15 knots.

Then there were the guns.

Throughout their design and construction several armament schemes were brainstormed until it was decided to fit these leviathans with a quartet of 17.7″ (450mm) /20 calibers “100 Ton” muzzleloading rifles made by Elswick/Armstrong in England, making them the most powerful battleships of the time. These immense pieces actually weighed 103 tons but fired a 2,000-pound shell which, in its AP format, could smash through 21-inches of the steel plate of the day. On the downside, they had a short-range (6,000 yards) and an abysmal rate of fire (four rounds per hour).

Originally designed by EOC with the Royal Navy in mind, the Admiralty turned the guns down for being too heavy and cumbersome, leaving Italy as the other fleet that mounted these giant toms on a warship. In British Army, however, did later acquire six of these pieces for installation in coastal artillery batteries at Gibraltar and Malta, ironically as a direct result of the Italian purchase should they ever come to blows with the Duilio-class ships.

As Italy was at the time allied with Imperial Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, her navy’s natural enemy was seen as France and in the early 1880s the two Duilio-class ships, with their eight 17.7-inch guns, were considered capable of keeping in check the entire French Mediterranean fleet.

The transport of these huge rifles from England to Italy and their subsequent testing was avidly followed by the Italian press of the era.

100 ton 17.72-inch rifled Armstrong gun being loaded onto the Italian transport ship Europa at Newcastle England bound for Italy. One of eight such guns sold to Italy to arm the Duilio-class battleships.

In October 1876 the first 100-ton gun for the Italian Duilio-class battleships was taken over in Newcastle, named “Margherita” and shipped to Italy on the steamer Europa. This illustration shows its arrival in La Spezia later in October. The L’Illustrazione Italiana No. 54 from November 5, 1876, had an article on page 363 and this picture on page 364. The illustrator is not mentioned, but the signature says something like “Cenni”. Note the inset with the shell compared to an Italian tar. Via Wikimedia Commons

In November 1876 the first 100-ton gun for the Italian Duilio-class battleships was tested at Muggiano near La Spezia. This illustration of the gun named “Margherita” was featured in the November 12, 1876 issue of the L’Illustrazione Italiana. This picture was on page 373, with an article on page 374. The illustrator is not mentioned, but there is both a set of initials and a signature that reads something like “Canedi”. Via Wikimedia Commons

The tests of the 100-ton gun at La Specia continued to capture the Italian public. The experiments apparently also included putting a man into the belly of the beast, plus entertaining the numerous guests who wanted a first-hand look at what was arguably the most potent gun in the world at the time. This illustration of the gun Margherita was featured in the November 26, 1876 issue of the L’Illustrazione Italiana. This picture was on page 405, with an article on page 407-410. The illustrator is referred to as “Signore A. P.” Via Wikimedia Commons

The guns were arranged in two twin turrets, offset from each other.

Which required an interesting loading process since they were front-stuffers. Keep in mind that the rate of fire on these pieces was one round every quarter-hour.

In addition to their main guns, the battleships carried another recent invention in the form of a trio of submerged torpedo tubes for 14-inch Whitehead torpedos. These early devices could make 20.7-knots, had a range of 833 yards, and packed a 94-pound warhead. Italy would order an initial batch of 34 these tin fish, produced at Fiume, in 1879-80, then continue to buy small batches until they moved to larger diameter torpedoes in the 1890s.

One other surprise that just Duilio was outfitted for was the carry of a stern-launched steam torpedo boat, the 76-foot, 26-ton Clio. The vessel was housed, combat-ready, in an 82x13x13-foot well deck, something that was really unheard of in the 1870s.

Constructed in England by Thornycroft to a design by Italian engineer Luigi Borghi, Clio was equipped with a pair of stern-dropped 14-inch Whitehead torpedoes– the same used by the battleship’s own submerged tubes– and a 37mm deck gun. She could make 18 knots on her coal-fired locomotive boiler but was a day-runner with no accommodation for her 10-man crew. Model at the Museo Storico Navale, photos by Emil Petrinic.

Clio’s stack and mast folded to allow her to enter the battleship’s well deck.

Both ships also carried four 39-foot steam launches on their stern deck that could mount a 37mm gun and could deploy mines.

Construction 

When it came to construction, both ships were laid down on the same day, 1 June 1873, with Duilio, named after Roman naval hero Gaius Duilius, having her keel laid at Regio Cantiere di Castellammare di Stabia (which today is Fincantieri) and her sister Dandolo at R. Arsenale di La Spezia with the lead ship completed in 1880 and Dandolo tarrying until 1882.

The launch of the Italian battleship Caio Duilio in Castellamare in 1876. Illustrator’s name quoted as “Piteco” via the L’Illustrazione italiana, May 28, 1876.

Detail view was taken on the ship’s starboard side amidships, looking forward sometime after 1890 as they have 37mm anti-torpedo boat guns mounted atop the turrets. Both of the ship’s twin 450mm (17.72-inch) main battery gun turrets, mounted en echelon amidships, can be seen in this view. Note the details of the opened turret port covers; the hammocks stowed around the turrets, and the “flying deck” running overhead. NH 88685

DANDOLO Photographed on the ways at the Royal Navy Yard, La Spezia, not too long before launch on 10 July 1878. Note the large opening in the hull amidships for installation of the 45 meters long, 550mm thick iron armor belt. The hull was built of iron, with wood backing for the armor. NH 88759

DANDOLO Photographed at the Royal Navy Yard, La Spezia, not too long before being launched on July 10, 1878. Here you can really see the 15-foot submerged bow. Note that the ship’s short midships armor belt-550mm thick iron 45 meters long-was not yet installed at this time. Thick wooden backing supported the armor, explaining the very deep gap in the ship’s side that can be seen here. Note the submerged bow tube for Whitehead torpedoes. NH 88684

Service

Caio Duilio on trials. Via the Italian weekly L’Illustrazione Italiana, June 1, 1879 edition, Wikicommons

DANDOLO Probably photographed soon after completion in 1882. These ships were completed in an all-white scheme and then after 1889 changed to a black and buff. NH 88711

DANDOLO, likely in the late 1880s. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington DC Catalog #: NH 74828

While huge, impressive ships, they were something of white elephants (see what I did there?) as naval technology soon past them by, and Italy, except for mixed results in North Africa, had nothing in the way of colonial enterprises to protect. Therefore, their entire career took place in the central and Eastern Mediterranean and was spent in peacetime training exercises, regional port visits, and the like.

In 1890, the ships would receive three 4.7″/40cal, two 3-inch, eight 57mm, and 22 37mm guns to defend against small torpedo boats.

Colorized photo of the crew of the Battleship Duilio (Italia) posed in front of one of her 17.7-inch turrets sometime in the 1890s. Note the small-caliber guns, 37mm 1-pounders, atop the turret.

Postcard of Duilio in the 1890s. Note her two 3″ stingers over the stern and two of her four 40-foot steam launches shown stowed.

DANDOLO underway in the Canal at Taranto, Italy, on 24 February 1894, bristling with small guns. Farenholt Collection. NH 66131

Italian ironclad battleship, Caio Duilio, of the Regia Marina, in Venice around 1900. By Steve Given via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/69559277@N04/16575211845

Duilio was increasingly sidelined and was withdrawn from fleet use in 1900, lingering on for a few years as the school ship Timonieri e Marò and a floating coastal defense battery until she was disarmed in 1906. Clio, her parisite torpedo boat, would be disposed of in 1903. Struck from the naval list in 1909, her superstructure was demolished and she would later be converted to a coal and oil storage hulk, dubbed GM40, and fade into history.

Her sister Dandolo would be rebuilt in 1898-1900 with new engines and be fitted with breechloading 10-inch guns in place of her massive 100-ton muzzleloaders. She would also pick up a wide array of smaller guns, seal off her bow torpedo tubes, and gain four deck-mounted 450mm tubes arranged bow, beam, and stern. She would continue in this manner through 1918, serving as a coastal defense ship during the Great War, until she was finally disposed of in January 1920.

The monicker Duilio by then had been recycled for an Andrea Doria-class battleship that served in both World Wars and was scrapped in 1957. The third Duilio was an Andrea Doria-class helicopter cruiser (C 554) that served throughout the Cold War. The fourth and current Italian warship to bear the name of Rome’s famous admiral is an Orizzonte-class destroyer (D 554) commissioned in 2008.

The original vessel endures in various series of popular period maritime art.

Duilio, Italian Navy, trade card from the “Naval Vessels of the World” series (N226), issued in 1889 to promote Kinney Tobacco Company. Via The Met

And, as already shown off in the above details of her parasite torpedo boat, there are some very nice scale models on public display.

This impressive model of the armored ship Duilio was built by Jürgen Eichardt on a scale of 1:100. It is displayed in the Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg’s exhibition on the history of the modern navies, on deck 9 of the museum.

Specs:

Longitudinal Section of the Warship Duilio Italian battleship. This view shows inboard (internal) features of the ship, including half the ship’s 8 oval boilers, the hull framing outboard of the starboard (forward) twin 450mm (17.72inch) gun turret, and the large open compartment aft used to carry a small torpedo boar. This space measured 25 x 4 x 4m in size. Via Ocean Steamships 1891

Displacement: Standard 11,138 tons; full load 12,265 tons
Length: 358 ft oa over ram, 339 pp
Beam: 64 ft.
Draft: 29 ft.
Machinery: 2 double-expansion vertical steam engines, 8 oval-section boilers, 8,045 shp, 2 propellers
Speed: 15 knots designed
Range: 2,875 mn at 13 knots; 3,760 nm at 10 knots on 1,000 tons coal
Crew: 26 officers + 397 enlisted (1880) 515 (1890)
Armor:
Belt 550 mm.
Bridge 50 mm.
Turrets 250 mm.
Tower 350 mm.
Armament:
(1880)
2 x 2 450mm/20 caliber Armstrong
3 bow 350mm torpedo tubes
(Added 1890)
3 x 120 mm
2 x 75 mm
8 x 57 mm
22 x 37 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!

Redlegs on Gypse Hill

19 November 1917: “Camouflaged French 75’s being used by the American 6th Field Artillery, 1st Division. Gypse Hill, near Einville, Meurthe et Moselle, France.”

Photo by Capt. PD Miller, Signal Corps. 111-SC-67137

Note the detail which shows these redlegs, including two NCOs, in a mixture of emotion towards themselves and the camera, belaying the fact that it is a candid shot rather than posed. Further note their M1911s on cavalry-style M1912 holsters.

Constituted in 1798 and later became the first horse artillery in the Army, the 6th Field Artillery was assigned 8 June 1917 to the 1st Expeditionary Division (later the Big Red One) and would go on to earn honors for actions at Montdidier-Noyon, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Lorraine, and Picardy.

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JULESWINGS

Military wings and things

Meccanica Mekaniikka Mecanică

The Mechanix of Auto, Aviation, Military...pert near anything I feel relates to mechanical things, places, events or whatever I happen to like. Even non-mechanical artsy-fartsy stuff.

Eatgrueldog

Where misinformation stops and you are force fed the truth III

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