100 years ago in Ukraine, after four years of the Great War and two of Civil War:
Only the Greybeards Left. When the principal men of the Cossack village of Prochnookopskara, South Russia, were called together to meet the representative of the American Red Cross there were none of the fighting age left. Only the old warriors, whose scars gave a good account of their former days but whose bodies had no longer enough vigor to fight under the fearful campaigning conditions of the struggle against the Bolshevists, met in the market place and doffed their astrakhan hats in honor of the visitor who brought help. The American officer at the left of the center surrounded by hetman in huge white caps is Prince Ourousow
Sadly, once the Reds won the Civil War in South Russia in November 1920, just months after the above photo was snapped, commissars began a state campaign of Raskazachivaniye (decossackization) that was genocide by any other name. Many of the old greybeards shown here soon likely found themselves labeled as “kulaks” or “money bags” (bogatei) for owning a few acres of land and were deported to Siberia in chains or stood up against a wall. The lucky ones just lost their land, horses, and guns and were allowed to join the local collective.
Although the Don and Kuban Cossacks were deemed “counter-revolutionaries” by Moscow and targeted for special treatment, it should be noted that at least one-fifth of all of the men in arms from the stanistas (about 30,000) did so under Red banners, with a full division, the First Don, being composed primarily of Cossacks. As such, many of the young men who rode with Budyonny’s Red Cavalry (Konarmiya) returned home to the farm in 1921 to be shown the light of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Paradise.
Babel didn’t cover that.
Steve1989, who runs a crazy MRE/ration testing channel on YouTube, laid hands on a Dec. 1906-born-on U.S. Army Emergency Ration. About the size of a large can of soup, it weighs 20-ounces and consists of bread, pemmican, and chocolate totaling about 2,000 calories if everything but the tin and paper packaging is wolfed down.
And, yes, he tastes it, and it seems to hold up to a degree. I mean for a century-old ration, anyway.
This would be the standard ration for the first part of the 20th Century and would be what the boys used in the Philipines, Pershing’s Punitive Expedition would lug around Mexico, and the earlier Doughboys take “Over There.”
In my own naval-heavy military history salute to Pi-Day (3/14), we take a look at the peculiar exhibition that was U.S. Navy pie eating contests.
Apparently, these were a regular occurrence at “steel beach” type gatherings on Uncle’s warships from the 1900s through WWII, especially on larger ships with well-equipped gallies.
I guess BBQ and pizza replaced it after that.
Also, Marines like pie, too.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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, March 11, 2020: Flory’s Battle-scarred Bugle
Here we see a vessel identified as the brand-new light cruiser HMS Castor, at the time the flagship of Royal Navy’s 11th Destroyer Flotilla, passing Clydebank, February 1916. A handsome ship, she would very soon sail into harm’s way.
Laid down at Cammell Laird and Co. Birkenhead three months after the war started, Castor was a member of the Cambrian subclass of the 28-strong “C”-class of oil-fired light cruisers. Sturdy 446-foot ships of 4,000~ tons, their eight-pack of Yarrow boilers trunked through two funnels and pushing a pair of Parsons turbines coughed up 40,000 shp– enough to sprint them at 29-knots.
Comparable in size to a smallish frigate today, they packed four single BL 6-inch Mk XII guns along with a more distributed battery of six or eight QF 4-inch Mk IV guns in addition to a pair of bow-mounted 21-inch torpedo tubes. With up to 6-inches of steel armor (conning tower), they could hold their own against similar cruisers, slaughter destroyers, and gunboats, and run away from larger warships.
After just 11 months on the builder’s ways, Castor was commissioned in November 1915, the fourth of HMs vessels to carry the name one of the Gemini twins since 1781.
Castor at commissioning became the flagship of the Grand Fleet’s 11th Destroyer Flotilla, which consisted of 14 Admiralty M (Moon)-class destroyers (HMS Kempenfelt, Magic, Mandate, Manners, Marne, Martial, Michael, Milbrook, Minion, Mons Moon, Morning Star, Mounsey, Mystic, and Ossory) under the overall flag of Castor’s skipper since November 1915, Commodore (F) James Rose Price Hawksley. Hawksley had previously spent much of his 19-year RN career up to then as a destroyerman, so it made sense.
With her paint still fresh and her plankowners just off her shakedown, Castor, along with the rest of the mighty Grand Fleet, crashed into the German High Seas Fleet off Denmark’s North Sea Jutland coast, the largest battleship-cruiser-destroyer surface action in history.
While covering the whole Battle of Jutland goes far beyond the scope of this post, we shall focus on Castor’s role and that of her flotilla on the night of the 31st of May. With the day’s fleet action broken up and the two fleets searching for each other in the darkness, the leading German light cruisers brushed into the British rear-guard starboard wing, that being HMS Castor and her destroyers. The official history states:
“At 20:11 hrs., the 11th Flotilla led by Commodore Hawksley, onboard Castor spotted German Destroyers to his NWN and turned to attack, supported by the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron. They had found not destroyers but the main German battle line.”
Castor’s force was soon spotted by the German ships, who approached in the darkness and mimicked the response to a British challenge signal that they had been confronted with, in turn getting one correct out of three challenges. This meant that they were able to approach much closer than usual.
Then, at a range of just 2,000 yards, the German ships threw on their searchlights and opened fire. Castor returned fire, and she and at least two of her destroyers (Marne and Magic), each snap-shotted one torpedo each at the German ships, with the cruiser aiming at the first German in line and the two lead destroyers on the following. “This was followed by an explosion. It may be taken for certain that it was Magic’s torpedo that struck the second ship in the enemy’s line.”
This confused surface action lasted for about five minutes before both sides heeled away into the safety of the black night. Some of the other destroyers reported that they were unable to see the enemy because of glare from Castor’s guns, while others believed there had been some mistake and the contact was friendly fire. No news of the engagement reached Jellicoe in time for him to react with the main battle line.
While her 14 destroyers came away unscathed, Castor received 10 large caliber shell hits, which set her ablaze, and lost 12 of her Sailors and Marines killed or missing.
The dozen killed included bugler Albert Flory, RMLI, who gave his last full measure at the ripe old age of 16.
Two others among Castor’s dead carried the rank of “Boy,” one generally reserved for apprentice sailors under the age of 18. At the time, about one in 10 of her complement were such modern powder monkeys.
Her death toll overall:
BAKER, William, Boy 1c, J 39706
BARTRAM, Leslie, Able Seaman, J 14191 (Po)
BROOMHEAD, Alfred, Stoker 1c (RFR B 4446), SS 103448 (Po)
CANDY, William A V, Ordinary Signalman, J 28149 (Po)
CHILD, Frederick T, Stoker Petty Officer, 308828 (Po)
EVANS, Alfred O, Ordinary Signalman, J 27451 (Dev)
FLORY, Albert E, Bugler, RMLI, 18169 (Po)
FOX, John E, Stoker 1c, SS 114531 (Po)
GASSON, Harry, Able Seaman (RFR B 6769), 212007 (Po)
HALLAM, Fred, Boy 1c, J 39695
KILHAMS, Alfred J, Ordinary Telegraphist, J 30359 (Po)
MACGREGOR, Donald N, Chief Yeoman of Signals, 173674 (Po)
Added to the butcher’s bill was 26 seriously and 13 lightly wounded.
Castor would spend most of the rest of 1916 and the first part of 1917 undergoing repairs and, as the High Seas Fleet didn’t sortie again until the surrender at Scapa Flow, the remainder of Castor’s war was relatively uneventfully spent on duty in the Home Islands. The most interesting action of this period was when she responded to the sinking armed trawler USS Rehoboth (SP-384) in October 1917, during which the cruiser took on the stricken vessel’s crew and sent the derelict hull to the bottom with shellfire.
On 23 November 1918, she was tasked with counting and watching surrendering German destroyers.
Hawkesley, Castor’s first skipper, and 11th Flotilla commodore at Jutland would move on to finish the war in command of the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible. He would go on to retire as a Rear Admiral in 1922 in conjunction with the Washington Naval Treaty drawdown, a rank advanced to Vice-Admiral while on the Retired List four years later. He would be replaced on Castor’s bridge by Commodore (F) Hugh Justin Tweedie, a man who would go on to retire as a full admiral in 1935. Sir Hugh would return to service in the early days of WWII, working with the Convoy Pools in his 60s.
Castor, whose 4-inch secondary battery was replaced by a smaller number of AAA guns, is listed as serving in the Black Sea with the British force deployed there for intervention into the broiling Russian Civil War from 1919-20. Such duty could prove deadly. For example, while none of the 28 C-class light cruisers were lost during the Great War– despite several showing up in U-boat periscopes and being present at Jutland and the Heligoland Bight– Castor’s sister Cassandra was sunk by a mine in the Baltic on 5 December 1918 while acting against the Reds.
Castor followed up her Russian stint service on the Irish Patrol in 1922. Then came a spell as the floating Gunnery School at Portsmouth until 1924 when she passed into a period of refit and reserve.
She was recommissioned at Devonport for China Station June 1928, to relieve her sistership Curlew and saw the globe a bit.
With the times passing and newer cruisers coming on line eating up valuable treaty-limited tonnage, Castor was paid off in May 1935 and sold two months later to Metal Ind, Rosyth, for her value in scrap metal. There has not been a “Castor” on the British naval list since. Most of her early sisters were likewise disposed of in the same manner during this period.
Just half of the class, 14 vessels, made it out of the Depression still in the fleet and most went on to serve in one form or another in the Second World War, despite their advanced age and outdated nature. Of those, six were lost: Curlew, Calcutta, and Coventry to enemy aircraft; Calypso and Cairo to submarines, as well as Curacoa to a collision with the Queen Mary.
Just one C-class cruiser survived past 1948, Jutland veteran Caroline, a past Warship Wednesday alum. Having served as an RNVR drillship in Alexandra Dock, Belfast until 2011, since 2016 she has been a museum ship. She is the last remaining warship that was at Jutland.
When it comes to Castor, a number of relics remain.
Her White Ensign (Length 183 cm, Width 92 cm) is in the IWM collection, although not on display while her (525x 425x30mm) ship’s badge is at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
One of Castor’s unidentified lost souls was finally discovered in 2016, a full century after Jutland.
Able Seaman Harry Gasson‘s body was blown to sea in the engagement and was recovered about two nautical miles off Grey Deep on 25 September 1916– an amazing four months after the battle. With no identification, he was and buried simply as a “British Seaman of the Great War Known unto God” five days later in the Danish town of Esbjerg.
As noted by the MoD:
The local people of Esbjerg maintained the grave for almost 100 years, but it wasn’t until local historians looked into the church records to find it was recorded that the sailor had the name H. Gossom written in his trousers. After work by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and checking naval records, the MOD was able to agree that the identity of this sailor was H. Gasson, and there had been an error in the transcription.
His anonymous headstone was replaced with his correct name in a ceremony attended by two of his descendants along with the ship’s company of the HMS Tyne.
As for Marine Albert Flory’s shrapnel-riddled bugle, to mark this year’s Bands of HM Royal Marines Mountbatten Festival of Music 2020, the Royal Marine Museum is giving the public the chance to “adopt” it to support the new Royal Marines Museum Campaign.
Displacement: 3,750 tons (designed); 4,320 fl; 4,799 deep load
Length: 446 ft (o/a)
Beam: 41 ft 6 in
Draught: 14 ft 10 in (with Bunkers full, and complete with Provisions, Stores and Water: 16 feet 3 inches mean)
Propulsion: 8 Yarrow Small tube boilers, 2 Parsons steam turbines, 2 shafts, 30,000 shp natural/40,000 Forced Draught
Speed: 28.5 knots max (some hit 29 on trials)
Number of Tons of Oil Fuel Carried: 841
Quantity of Water carried: For Boilers, 70 tons, For Drinking 49.25 tons
Ship’s Company (typical)
Engine-room establishment: 88
Other non-executive ratings: 44
One motorboat 30 feet
One sailing cutter 30 feet
Two whalers 27 feet, Montague
One gig 30 feet
Two skiff dinghies 16 feet
One motorboat 30 feet for Commodore’s use
Waterline belt: 1.5–3 in
Deck: 1 in
Conning tower: 6 in
4 x single BL 6″/45 Mk XII guns on Forecastle, Forward superstructure, Aft Forward superstructure and Quarterdeck
6 x single QF 4″/40 Mk IV guns
1 x single QF 4 in 13 pounder Mk V anti-aircraft gun
2 x 21-inch (533 mm) submerged torpedo tubes, typically with eight Mark IV Torpedoes
4 x single BL 6″/45 Mk XII guns
2 x QF 3-inch 20 cwt IV on Mark IV AAA mounting on foc’sle
2 x QF 2 pole Pom-pom AAA on the aft superstructure
2 x 21-inch (533 mm) submerged torpedo tubes, typically with eight Mark IV Torpedoes
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With today being International Women’s Day, there is no better time to point out a forgotten story in the U.S. Navy’s Great War experience, one that would echo across future conflicts.
While the role of female Navy nurses and the wartime Yeomen (F) program of WWI often get a lot of play— and for good reason– there were other women suiting up to do hard work for Uncle during 1917-19 that weren’t changing bandages or pushing paper.
Following in the wake of the one-two punch that was conscription for the great new Army of the U.S. and rapid expansion of U.S. factories for war production, able-bodied young women stepped forward and went to work.
In Connecticut alone– home to giant firearms concerns like Colt, Marlin and High Standard– no less than 86,991 women joined the workforce by 1918.
The Navy also was no shirker when it came to signing up female factory workers to help kick the Kaiser.
So while, yes, nurses and yeomen helped in the war effort for Mr. Wilson, the weapons, accessories, aircraft and ships produced by American women likely endured in many cases on to the next World War and beyond. For example, there are still WWI-era M1911s in the Army’s stockpiles in Anniston.
Remember that whenever someone says that they just don’t make them like they used to.
On the early morning of 16 December 1914, the heavy cruiser Blucher, along with the battlecruisers Seydlitz and Moltke of Kaiser Wilhem’s High Seas Fleet closed offshore of the English seaside towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, and West Hartlepool, firing at least 1,150 shells over a 40-minute period, killing 130 people and injuring over 500, almost all civilians.
It was the most significant attack on the British Home Isles since the Spanish Armada.
Fast forward to 2018, and a local historian stumbled upon something cool.
Mark Simmons, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Museums Curator, bought a box full of broken cameras and lenses for £20 at Tynemouth Market in 2018, thinking they might be useful for his personal projects.
“On getting home, I just took out a few useful pieces and put the rest in storage. It was only later that I got around to sorting through the entire contents. In the bottom of the box, wrapped in sheets of old grease-proof paper, was an old film reel and the title card on the first frames – The Attack on the Hartlepools – was just visible,” said Mark.
“The film is mostly a previously unseen version of the newsreel footage of the bombardment originally made by the Gaumont Company,” said Mark. “It is the best quality of any of the bombardment damage films but, crucially, contains a number of sections that have never been seen before, namely footage of Cleveland Street and the damage to houses at Carlton Terrace including a close up of local women and children.”
Simmons donated the film to the North East Film Archive (NEFA) who worked with the British Film Institute (BFI) to have the fragile Edwardian nitrate film digitized before being properly preserved and stored.
The full film, nearly six minutes in length, is on their website.
After a two year effort by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and his assistant, a young New Yorker named Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Navy Reserves were officially established 3 March 1915, as the Naval Reserve Force, fundamentally (but not totally) replacing the patchwork series of state naval militias of part-time bluejackets who trained on loaned surplus U.S. Navy warships.
The USNR’s history has been impressive ever since, including more than 3.5 million officers and Sailors on the service’s rolls during WWII (84 percent of the Navy as a whole) to count five future U.S. presidents.