Category Archives: World War One

Hull Pals Toughing it Out

And you thought you were cold!

9 January 1918, “a soldier of the 12th Battalion [aka Hull Sportsmen, or 3rd Hull Pals], East Yorkshire Regiment, on sentry duty on the firestep of a snow-covered trench in the Arleux sector near Roclincourt, France.”

Photo by 2nd LT Thomas Keith Aitken, IWM (Q 10620).

Part of Kitchener’s Pals Battalions of the “New Armies,” the Hull Sportsmen picked up its nickname easy enough as it was originally a service battalion formed at Hull on 2 September 1914– during the Battle of the Marne– by Lord Nunburnholme and the East Riding TF Association. Also known as the Hull Tradesmen’s Battalion, it joined the 10th Battalion, East Yorkshire under orders of 92nd Brigade, 31st Division, and shipped out for Egypt in late 1915, just missing the joy that was Gallipoli.

More needed on the Western Front than in the push against the Ottomans in Palestine, it moved to France in March 1916 and took part in the butchery that was the Somme followed by the Arras Offensive in 1917.

The Medical Officer (of the Royal Army Medical Corps attached to the 12th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment (92nd Brigade, 31st Division)) bandaging the face wound of a man of his battalion in the line in the Arleux sector near Roclincourt[Arras], 9 January 1918. Imperial War Museum image Q11545

Suffering extremely heavy casualties, the Hull Sportsmen were disbanded on 8 February 1918, roughly a month after the above image was snapped. Its survivors who could still serve were folded into other units as replacements while those that couldn’t were sent back home.

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021: Taking a Nap

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 29, 2021: Taking a Nap

“Sleeping In.” A Sailor occupies his hammock in the broadside gun casemate of a large U.S. Navy warship, circa the mid-1910s. The original image, copyrighted by E. Muller Jr., from N. Moser, New York, is printed on postcard (AZO) stock. Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2008. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 106268

With this week closing out the year, we are taking a break from the normal WW coverage and, in a salute to the sleepy final days of 2021, are looking briefly at hammocks in naval use.

Apparently picked up by sailors after Columbus came to the New World and saw Awawak Indians lounging in the easy-going beds slung between trees, the Royal Navy began using hammocks as early as the 1590s, making them standard across the fleet by 1629, an upgrade from sleeping on a plank or sea chest.

Sailors stowed their hammocks when not needed in a way that they offered a modicum of protection from shrapnel in combat and would easily break free and serve as flotation devices should the ship be lost.

Man swimming with hammock, 1879

The disposition of the crew’s sleeping spaces aboard HMS Bedford, a 74 gun ship of the line, in 1775. Sailors’ hammocks are in blue, the Marines are in red– closer to the officer’s berthing and captain’s cabin. Via the Royal Museums Greenwich.

As detailed in “Living Conditions in the 19th Century U.S. Navy,” March 17, 1869: 

Enlisted personnel which included petty officers slept in canvas hammocks slung on the berth deck. When suspended, this canvas formed a receptacle for a mattress and blanket; when not in use, the canvas was wrapped tightly around the bedding and bound with a lashing and stowed in the nettings in clear weather and below when for any reason, such as rain, they could not be taken on deck. During his first year (Regs. of 1818) a man was allowed one mattress and two blankets.

From the 1800s through WWII, this meant the average Sailor learned the “Lash Up” that included carrying their hammock along with their seabag, taking the assigned netting with them when transferred ashore, or being sent to the infirmary or sickbay. Their issued hammock even remained their property in death as it served as a funeral shroud for their burial at sea, if required.

Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois. Recruits learning how to lash up a hammock, circa the World War I era. Color tinted postcard, published by S. Gold, Naval Station Photographer, North Chicago, Illinois. A facsimile of the reverse of the original postcard is filed with this image. Description: Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN(Ret), 1983. NH 101219-KN

Sailors in barracks 1917. Note the lashed up hammocks to the right

The use of hammocks even gave rise to the term “Trice Up,” in nautical lore, meaning to make your rack as the hammocks had a trice or hook to secure it to the bulkhead or wall. Hence the term “All hands heave out and trice up.” Or jump out of your rack and make it, allowing compartment cleaners to sweep and swab. The term endured even after canvas racks replaced swinging hammocks.

1899 USS Olympia crew three sailors relaxing in their quarters, one man is in a hammock Frances Benjamin Johnson photo LOC 2015647057

Airing hammocks (U.S.S. New York)

Siesta on the Focsle 1909 snoozing sailors on the OLYMPIA’s focsle during the Naval Academy summer cruises. At right, Hammocks and blankets are being aired on the lifelines.

USS New Hampshire (built as a ship of the line, then became a storeship, later renamed Granite State in 1904 to free her name up for Battleship #25), sailors below deck in hammocks. Photographed by Detroit Publishing Company, probably 1904. LC-DIG-DET-4a30637

USS Maine (ACR-1): Arrangement of Hammocks Berth Deck Plan. National Archives Identifier: 167817728

USS Maine (ACR-1): Stowage of Hammocks – Main Deck. National Archives Identifier: 100382280

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS San Francisco (C 5), stowing hammocks. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

USS Maine (BB-10). Packing hammocks, August 1916. George C. Bain Collection, Lot-10391. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-B2-3944-13

U.S.S. New York, taking a nap over gun 1897 hammock

U.S.S. Brooklyn, hammocks on deck

U.S.S. Massachusetts, on the berth deck hammocks

U.S.S. Brooklyn, good-night hammocks note there was little to no segregation below decks

Hammock and bedding inspection sailors Delaware class battleship, USS Florida

Hammocks even came to the aid of a drifting submarine, with the early “pig boat” USS R-14 (SS-91) having to literally sail home in 1921 after the sub ran out of fuel during a SAR mission, leaving the salty crew to craft a sail out of canvas battery covers, hammocks, officer’s bed frames, and their radio mast to make it back to Hawaii.

The use of hammocks was very much “old-school” Navy. 

Steve McQueen as Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles toting his seabag, lashed with hammock.

Starting in 1924 with the retrofitting of the crew’s berthing spaces on the recently-completed battleship USS California (BB-44), hammocks started phasing out in favor of triple-decker folding sleeping racks made from rope laced canvas on a pipe frame with each topped with a 3-inch mattress supported by chains attached to the bulkhead. Such bunks had been standard on several early submarine classes such as the K-class, which served in the Great War.

This luxury was slow to expand to the rest of the fleet. For instance, it wasn’t until about 1940 that the Great War-era battleship USS Texas (BB-35) ditched hammocks for racks and reportedly the USS Tennessee (BB-43) never got the upgrade, still having hammocks at Pearl Harbor and continuing to use them through VJ Day despite the fact the old battlewagon received a nearly year-long modernization in 1942.

This meant that many Bluejackets went to WWII still swaying from hammocks at sea. The art of “clewing,” packing, and stowing a hammock was essential knowledge. 

Hammock layout for inspection onboard USS Saratoga (CV 3), April 24, 1933. Note the name tapes on each item. Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-221144

Naval Air Station, Seattle, Washington. Lashing a hammock for duty, in Barracks 184, 26 April 1944. Men are (left to right): Coxswain Third Class William Howard Trice; Seaman Second Class James Armstrong; Coxswain Third Class LeRoy Young, Master at Arms; Seaman First Class Clifford Summers. Note Young’s rating badge and Master at Arms shield. 80-G-233270

Even new construction continued the trend, with circa 1937-40 constructed Sims-class destroyers and 1936-39 Benham-class tin cans still including a few hammocks in their berthing although almost all enlisted had rack. The preceding  Bagley-class destroyers, completed in 1937, had 32 hammocks in mess spaces to augment 183 crew berths. 
 

USS Rhind (DD-404), a Benham-class destroyer commissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 10 November 1939, still showing nine hammocks in her pre-war final book of plans before she would add 100 Sailors to her crew to man increased AAA and ASW suites for the upcoming conflict. The ship earned four battle stars during World War II and was scuttled off Kwajalein, 22 March 1948 following the Crossroads Atomic bomb tests. National Archives Identifier:167818528

It was only with ALNAV 278-45, (Navy Department Bulletin, 30 Sept. 45-1283), effective 15 October 1945, that mattresses and hammocks were decreed to be the property of the shore establishment or ship, rather than the Sailor issued them. Hammocks themselves had stopped being issued to new recruits the year before.

ALNAV 278-45, via the Nov 1945 issue of “All Hands”

By the end of 1947, with ancient war wagons like Tennessee mothballed, hammocks were quietly removed from inventory. It should be noted, however, that the Coast Guard continued to use them well into the 1950s, with New London underclassmen sailing on the training ship USCGC Eagle, still swinging from hammocks while on their annual Mids summer cruise. 

Meanwhile, the British continued to use the devices for a stretch longer, with the training ship HMS Fife (D20), a repurposed County-class destroyer, rigging hammocks for embarked cadets in one of the mess areas as late as a 1986 cruise and “may have been the last men of the Royal Navy to sleep in that fashion.” 

New Zealand sailors learning how to sling hammocks in HMS Philomel c1938.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR. On board the submarine HMS TRIBUNE at Scapa Flow. The forward torpedo compartment. Around the stowed torpedoes some of the crew’s hammocks and kit bags can be seen. The men that work in this compartment also sleep here ready to respond to any emergency. Four of the eight forward tubes can be seen through the bulkhead. Creator: Priest, L C (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer Source: © IWM (A 10909)

Sailor at his hammock aboard HMS Rodney, 1940

Convoy, cruiser HMS Hermione (74)’s ship’s cat, sleeps in a hammock whilst members of the crew look on

Hammocks rigged on Dido class cruiser for accommodations on HMNZS Royalist, c1958

Still, that is not to say that the devices remained in limited use in the U.S. Navy for the past few generations since Truman dropped the A-bombs. The practice unofficially continued on submarines through the early 2000s on the old Sturgeon-class submarines, with some junior enlisted bubbleheads preferring to “rig nets” in out-of-the-way compartments rather than hot bunk in racks.

For more on the early life of sailors at sea and their personal gear, check out What’s in Your Seabag by James L. Leuci, MCPO, USN(Ret.)  as well as the 175-page thesis Hammocks: A Maritime Tool by Michele Panico.

Donation of the Montana Historical Society. Collection of Philip Barbour, Jr., 1958. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 86250 click to big up 1000×787

Back to our regular Warship Wednesday format next week.


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!

Vacancies Exist!

Just five months prior to the Great War:

Recruiting poster for British Army shows four Army units, Hussars, Highlanders, Infantry, and the Army Service Corps. Of note, the Highlanders are carrying the latest Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifles. Drawings of soldiers in uniform by Ernest Ibbetson and John McNeill. Published by Gale & Polden, Ltd, Printers, Aldershot, March 1914.

Library of Congress. LC-USZC4-11973 https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004666199/

The ‘Christmas Truce’ at 107

Merry Christmas, gentlemen.

Official caption: “British and German officers meeting in No-Man’s Land during the unofficial ‘Christmas truce,’ Dec. 25, 1914. British troops from the Northumberland Yeomanry (Hussars), 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector.”

Photo by (Hon.) Harold Burge Robson, IWM Q 50721

A fairly decent doc on the encounter, below.

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021: Sir Walter

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 15, 2021: Sir Walter

City of Vancouver Archives, Photo Credit W.J. Moore

Here we see, some 100 years ago this month, the fine early Royal Navy heavy cruiser and “commerce raider hunter” of the Hawkins class, HMS Raleigh, visiting Vancouver, British Columbia. As a scholar of naval history– or else, why would you ever be on this page– you’d think you would have heard and seen much more of this beautiful warship before this post. Well, there is a good reason for that as Raleigh would have a short career indeed.

The five cruisers of the Hawkins class were large for any era, pushing over 12,500 tons (full) on a 605-foot long hull with a 65-foot beam, giving them a slender 1:9.3 length-to-beam ratio. Generating 60,000 shp on four geared steam turbines fed by 10 coal-fired/oil-boosted boilers, they were rated for 30 knots, still a respectable speed these days. Their armor scheme was light, running just 3-inches at its thickest, while their armament was fairly impressive, made up of seven BL 7.5-inch Mk VI singles and a battery of torpedo tubes along with secondary and supporting guns.

Intended for anti-merchant cruiser and trade protection roles, they were ordered in 1915, at a time when the Royal Navy was still smarting after chasing down wily German vessels like the light cruisers SMS Emden and SMS Königsberg and commerce-raiding converted freighters such as SMS Möwe and SMS Meteor. The light armor, fast speed, and long legs of the Hawkins class made sense against such a foe. After all, they were a good eight knots faster than the comparatively-sized armored cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau— the most heavily armed ships the Royal Navy fought in the Great War outside of European waters– which had a much better armor scheme than Hawkins and slightly heavier guns (21 cm SK L/40s) albeit with a shorter range (10.1 mi at +30° for the German guns vs 12 mi on the British guns at the same elevation).

While four of the five were completed just after the end of the Great War, in a period where German surface raiders were extinct, the class was still an influencer on future cruiser design.

As noted by Richard Worth in his Fleets of World War II:

The construction of these ships had far-reaching repercussions. They were the direct cause of Britain’s endorsing the 10,000-ton, 8-inch treaty cruiser, a new type of warship that ultimately proved something of a failure. The Hawkins provided the basis for the “County” classes and thus gave the British a head start in the development of the heavy cruiser.

The ships of the class are sometimes called the “Elizabethans” as they were named for famed English naval commanders, courtiers, privateers, and explorers of that period (Sir John Hawkins, Sir William Cavendish, Lord Howard of Effingham, Sir Martin Frobisher, and Sir Walter Raleigh) whose names were often better remembered in the New World than the old. Speaking of which, the first warship named after Raleigh, the first to attempt the establishment of an English settlement in North America, was actually American: a 131-foot 32-gun fifth-rate that was one of the original 13 fighting ships authorized by the Continental Congress on 13 December 1775.

Sail Plan of the Frigate Raleigh built at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1776. Copyright 1929 by C.G. Davis. Copied from drawing in book “Ships of the Past.” NH 2020

Commanded during the Revolutionary War by the famed John Barry, an Irishman who was No. 7 on the first list of captains begun by Congress, Raleigh was engaged in a nine-hour running fight with three Royal Navy ships in 1778 and, abandoned by her crew after she was run ashore, was refloated by the British and commissioned as HMS Raleigh, serving up the curious twist of being the first ship with that name in the Royal Navy. Of further curiosity, the colonial frigate endures on the flag and seal of the state of New Hampshire.

The second HMS Raleigh was an 18-gun Cruizer-class brig-sloop active from 1806 to 1839 while the third was a 50-gun fourth-rate that had her short career ended in 1857 when she was reefed.

The new 50-gun fourth-rate HMS Raleigh, circa 1850 off Portsmouth, by artist Robert Strickland Thomas (1787–1853). The old hulk of Britannia is visible inside the harbor. Photo credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London http://www.artuk.org/artworks/hms-raleigh-175747

The fourth HMS Raliegh was never completed while the fifth, a “sheathed” iron-hulled screw frigate with a hermaphrodite sailing rig and gave lots of detached colonial service in the last quarter of the 19th century. Here, her figurehead with Sir Walter depicted, via the collection of the RMG.

This leaves our HMS Raleigh as the sixth such vessel in the Royal Navy.

Meet the cruiser Raleigh

Laid down in Scotland at William Beardmore & Company, Dalmuir on 4 October 1916, as the flower of Britain’s youth was drowning in the Somme, HMSRaleigh‘s construction was slow-rolled, only launching in 1919 and commissioned in July 1921.

Built to a modified design, Raleigh carried 12 boilers rather than 10 and Brown-Curtis turbines rather than the Parsons installed on Hawkins, boosting her shp from 60K to 70K, making her capable of clocking 31 knots.

The spanking new cruiser was soon designated the flagship of VADM Sir William Christopher Pakenham, head of North America and West Indies Station. Commander of the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron at Jutland, ironically his great-great-uncle was Edward Pakenham, the highest-ranking British officer ever killed in military service in North America, felled at the Battle of New Orleans.

With that, HMS Raleigh was off to her first duty station, making extensive visits throughout the Americas in late 1921 through most of 1922. Her first landfall in the Americas was on 11 August 1921, in Bermuda.

HMS Raleigh, likely along the Canadian coast, 1921

December 1921, at Vancouver. According to her logs, she was at the Canadian port from 27 December 1921- 9 January 1922. City of Vancouver Archives, Photo Credit W.J. Moore

Operation of Panama Canal HMS Raleigh in Upper West Chamber, Gatun Locks Feb 18, 1922. “In both number of ships and amount of tolls collected,” a record was set in the Canal by Raleigh that day, with the cruiser and 18 merchant vessels clearing with tolls of $79,808.50 paid. Panama Canal Company photo via the National Archives. National Archives Identifier: 100996554

Raleigh at the Washington Navy Yard, Note the detail on her 7.5-inch turrets, Carley floats, and her gunnery clock on the mast. Harris & Ewing, photographer, taken 29 May 1922. According to her log, she hosted the British Ambassador, Lord Geddes, and President Harding during her visit to D.C. Of interest, Geddes was a primary negotiator of the Washington Navy Limits Treaty that was signed that year. LOC LC-DIG-hec-31715

Same photographer, day as the above, LC-DIG-hec-42320

Rowing crew of the battleship USS Delaware racing a crew from HMS Raleigh, Washington Navy Yard, 3 June 1922. Via LOC.

On 8 August 1922, Raleigh, in heavy fog, ran aground at L’Anse Amour, Newfoundland, with the high winds pushing her into the rocks and eventually tearing a 260-foot gash in her hull.

Her last log entries:

3.24pm: Altered course 360º. Ran into fog. Commenced sounding
3.37pm: Land ahead & on Port bow. Reduced to eight knots
3.38pm: Sighted breakers on Starboard bow. Full speed astern. Hard a-starboard. Sounded Collision Stations
3.39pm: Grounded
3.40pm: Stopped engines. Ship bumping heavily
3.41pm: Hard a port. Ship’s stern swinging to Eastward. Full astern starboard
3.43pm: Stop Starboard Full ahead Port. Engines as requisite to prevent stern swinging on rocks
3.49pm: Finally stopped engines. Position 262º – 4.8 cables from Amour Point Light. Heading 292º. Hard aground on starboard bilge and bumping heavily
4.07pm: Let go Port anchor. Cutter & crew washed ashore on rocks
4.15pm: Two lines ashore by Coston gun. Commenced abandoning ship by lines & Carley Floats
8.00pm: Ship abandoned

Sadly, during the evacuation of her crew to shore, 11 Tars perished in the cold water.

BASHFORD, Herbert, Stoker 1c, SS 123275
EFFARD, Edward P, Stoker Petty Officer, 303078
FIELD, Silas, Stoker 1c, K 59500
FISHER, George, Stoker 1c, SS 120369
LLOYD, John E, Stoker Petty Officer, 306551
PETTET, Pat, Able Seaman, J 42323
SOWDEN, William J, Leading Stoker, K 20564
THORNHILL, George M, Stoker 1c, SS 122759
TRIPP, Sydney G, Leading Stoker, K 14053
TYLER, Reuben, Leading Stoker, K 18030
WEAVER, James, Able Seaman, 213937
WHITTON, William R, Able Seaman, J 34371

Her career had lasted just 13 months and she never fired a shot in anger.

HMS Raleigh aground at Point Amour Labrador, August 1922

Wreck of H.M.S. Raleigh, Forteau, Labrador. Donald Baxter MacMillan collection via the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum Accession Number: 3000.3.274

H.M.S. Raleigh on Rocks, Forteau, Labrador. Donald Baxter MacMillan collection via the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum Accession Number: 3000.33.2652

Epilogue

Embarrassed by the still very recognizable hulk of a brand new cruiser hard aground on the rocks with a hull too shattered to refloat, the Royal Navy was ordered to salvage what they could from Raleigh and break apart the vessel with depth charges in September 1922.

After helping wreck their once-proud ship, the crew of HMS Raleigh arrived at Liverpool on the liner SS Montrose.

As for her skipper and navigator, their career was over. Via The Dreadnought Project: 

On 3 October Commander Arthur Bromley left Quebec for Britain on the liner Empress of France. Commander Leslie C Bott, O.B.E., his second-in-command, was tried by Court-martial on 26 October and severely reprimanded and dismissed H.M.S. Victory. Bromley was tried on the following day by a Court presided over by Rear-Admiral Hugh F. P. Sinclair, charged with negligently or by default stranding and losing his ship. In his defense Bromley argued that had the charts he had been supplied with been accurate then his ship would not have stranded. The Court found the charge proved, and he was severely reprimanded and dismissed his ship. He was placed on the Retired List, at his own request, dated 7 November.

Aboard Raleigh as a midshipman cadet on that fateful day off Newfoundland and Labrador was the future VADM Sir Stephen Hope Carlill, who went on to command a series of destroyers during WWII and serve as the last British Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. In 1982, an extensive diary entry from the wreck was published in the Naval Review (Vol 70, pgs. 165-173) which makes interesting reading. 

Much of the vessel remains and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) has conducted extensive recovery operations on the wreck over the past two decades to recover live UXO from her bones although there is still as much as 80 tons of unstable explosives aboard. 

Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) Port Inspection diver LS Dan Babich enters the water to place C4 explosives on unexploded ammunition at L’Anse-Amour on 25 May 2017 during Operation RALEIGH to remove unexploded ordnance in the area of the shipwreck of HMS RALEIGH that ran aground and sank in 1922. Photo: Master Seaman Peter Reed, Formation Imaging Services Halifax

Shells destroyed in place by RCN clearance divers. Photo by Jeffery Gallant, RCN, via the Diving Almanac.

As for Raleigh‘s sisterships, only one, Cavendish, was completed during the Great War, albeit as one of the Royal Navy’s first aircraft carriers, HMS Vindictive.

Ex-Cavendish as circa 1918 carrier HMS Vindictive, capable of carrying about a dozen light aircraft. Reconverted back into a cruiser after the war, she was demilitarized per the terms of the London Naval Treaty and converted to a training ship in 1936. She spent WWII as a repair ship and was paid off in 1945. IWM SP 669

Jane’s 1946 entry for the class, with Hawkins and Frobisher being the last ones standing. The entry was the final one for the class as well as the last entry under “British Cruisers” in the 1946 edition.

The other three ships of the class, Hawkins (D86), Frobisher (D81/C81), and Effingham (D98) had uneventful interwar service and, like Vindictive, landed their guns in the mid-1930s. They then were rearmed and clocked in for WWII with Effingham wrecked in May 1940 during the Norway campaign. Hawkins, along with Frobisher, won battle honors at Normandy. Both were disposed of soon after VE Day.

Interestingly, just 44 BL 7.5-inch Mk VI naval guns were manufactured– exclusively for the Hawkins class– and, as they were landed in the 1930s and few remounted, at least 17 were recycled into coast defense batteries during WWII. As noted by Tony DiGiulain at Navweaps:

Three were at South Shields between July 1941 to August 1943, seven went to the Dutch West Indies, three to Canada, and five to Mozambique. However, two of the guns intended for Mozambique were lost in transit in 1943. These were replaced by transferring two guns from South Shields.

Dutch 7.5s in their distinctive turrets. Via Lago Colony As Raleigh’s guns were recovered from the stricken cruiser, some of these could have come from her.

Rather than name a seventh ship to continue the name in the Royal Navy, the Admiralty bestowed the moniker HMS Raleigh to a shore establishment on the River Lynher at Torpoint on 9 January 1940. Authorized under the Military Training Act of 1938, during WWII some 300 new enlistees arrived at the base each week for 11 weeks of training and the base in 1944 became a major D-Day embarkation center for U.S. forces headed to Utah and Omaha beaches.

The site became a new entry training establishment for all types of Ratings in 1959 and continues its role to this day as the home of the Royal Navy School of Seamanship with an average of 2,200 personnel on-site on any given day.

Specs: 

Displacement:
9,750 long tons (9,910 t) (standard)
12,190 long tons (12,390 t) (deep load)
Length: 605 ft (o/a)
Beam: 65 ft
Draught: 19 ft 3 in (deep load)
Installed power
12 × Yarrow boilers 70,000 shp, 4 × Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines, 4 shafts
Speed: 31 knots
Range 5,640 nmi at 10 knots with 1480 tons oil and 860 tons of coal
Complement: 690 (712 counting flag staff)
Armor
Belt: 1.5–3 in
Deck: 1–1.5 in
Gun shields: 1 in
Armament
7 × single 190/45 BL Mk VI
4 × single 76/45 20cwt QF Mk I AA guns
2 × single 2-pdr 40/39 QF Mk II AA guns
6 × 21-inch torpedo tubes on the beam


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, Dec. 1, 2021: The Great White Fleet’s Beautiful Accidental Groupie

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 1, 2021: The Great White Fleet’s Beautiful Accidental Groupie

Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034742

Here we see the Chilean Naval corbeta (corvette) General Baquedano departing Sydney, Australia in late July 1931. A throwback to another era, this steel-hulled single-screw steamer would have a career that spanned over a half-century.

The Chilean Navy in the 1890s found themselves in need of a new buque escuela, or school ship. The role up until then had been shared by the old 2,100-ton corvette Abtao and the battered 600-ton gunboat Pilcomayo, the first the British-built steamer CSS Texas which had never been delivered to the Confederacy and the second built for Peru in Blackwall then captured as a prize after a lopsided naval battle with the Chileans in 1879. Abato, by far, was in the better material condition but was still so worn that an 1884 tender for her sale was not awarded because the offers were so low, forcing the Chileans to keep her in service.

The new training corvette was be ordered in early 1897 as Yard # 675 from the Tyne shipbuilder of Armstrong, Whitworth & Co, Elswick where the first-class armored cruiser O’Higgins was also being built for the government of Chile at the time.

As Baquedano’s career would take her into Antarctic waters occasionally, her hull was made of steel, sheathed in copper, and lined with wood 3.5-inches thick up to three feet above the waterline. Some 240-feet overall, she displaced 2,300-tons. Her armament was Armstrong-made, consisting of four modern breechloading 4.7-inch QFs, assorted 12- and 6-pounders, two water-cooled Maxim machine guns, and a single above-deck torpedo tube for 18-inch Whitehead models, making her a decent little gunboat.

Baquedano with her original black hull as commissioned, is likely seen during speed trials. Via Tyne & Wear Museums

Rigged as a barque, she used Belleville boilers and had a capacity of 300 tons of coal and open stokeholds. Her twin six-crank T3cyl (30, 50 & 81.5 x 48ins) engines were constructed by R & W Hawthorn Leslie, Newcastle, and turned a single centerline screw, with a designed speed of 12 knots. From the below May 1900 edition of The Engineers Gazette, which has much more detail on her powerplant, the Chilean warship would clock 13.75 knots across six hours on her full power builder’s speed trials. Not bad for a barque.

The new corvette was named for the commander of the Chilean forces during the 1879-84 War of the Pacific, Manuel Jesús Baquedano González. Having learned his trade in the circa 1838 War of the Confederacy, the old general spent almost 50 years in uniform and is credited with reorganizing the Chilean military and promoting the formation of both the War Academy and the General Staff, institutions that survive today.

Baquedano and his warhorse Diamante (c. 1881), and in full uniform (c. 1881).

The strongman, who repeatedly turned down roles as Presidente, died in 1897 at age 74.

Career

General Baquedano (Chilean training ship, 1898) burning the dirtiest coal known to man, apparently. NH 49892

Delivered to the Government of Chile in the presence of the country’s charge d’affaires, Aurelio Bascuñán, on 22 August 1899, the new vessel arrived “home” in March 1900 under the command of Captain Ricardo Beaugency.

She left on her first Midshipman and Grumete (cabin boy) cruise just five weeks later, bound for points West Pac via Easter Island, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Honolulu, cycling the Pacific Rim to make calls at Yokohama, Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia, and Sydney, returning to Valparaíso 10 months later in February 1901.

Baquedano would continue such long-reaching annual cruises into 1935– other than gaps from 1911 to 1917 due to economic reasons and the Great War and another during a 1922-26 refit– visiting over 100 ports on six continents.

Her 1903-1905 circumnavigation, for reference.

Baquedano in Chinese waters, 1904. She notably observed several aspects of the Russo-Japanese war firsthand. Repositorio Digital del Archivo y Biblioteca Histórica de la Armada

On her 1906-07 cruise, a delegation was received by Queen Alexandra at Portsmouth, hosted King of Spain Alfonso XIII and his wife Queen Victoria while calling at San Sebastián, circled the Med, and attended the Jamestown Exposition in Portsmouth.

“General Bocordona” one of a set of commemorative Jamestown Exposition souvenir postcards.

Notably, the armada of modern American battleships assembled in Hampton Roads for the exposition became Teddy Roosevelt’s famed Great White Fleet under RADM Robley Dunglison Evans, which toured the globe as evidence of the young nation’s international military might.

In 1908, Baquedano had the curious instance of running into the GWF “on the road” at least two more times, some 8,000 miles apart.

In mid-February, she embarked Chilean President Pedro Montt to review the visiting American warships in Valparaiso, with her Mids aloft and all her glad rags flying.

General Baquedano (Chilean Training Ship, 1899) manning her yards while moored at Valparaiso, Chile, in mid-February 1908, when the U.S. Great White Fleet steamed past the city. General Baquedano is dressed in flags and has Chilean President Pedro Montt embarked. The Chilean destroyer Capitan Thompson is astern. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 45327

General Baquedano (Chilean Training Ship, 1899) at Valparaiso, Chile, with Chilean President Pedro Montt on board, during the U.S. in mid-February 1908, when the U.S. Great White Fleet steamed past the city. General Baquedano is dressed in flags and her crew is manning her yards in honor of the occasion. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold. NH 101484

Then, on 11 September 1908 at the small Western Australian port of Albany, she stood near the British Edgar-class cruiser HMS Gibraltar and the Princess Royal Fortress as USS Connecticut (Battleship No. 18), flagship of GWF commander RADM Charles S. Sperry, along with 14 other Yankee battleships dropped anchor at the outer anchorage of King George Sound. While Gibraltar was there on station, Baquedano under Captain Agustín Fontaine Calvo, had only arrived two days before to take on coal at the end of a six-month Pacific cruise.

“Great White Fleet” World Cruise. Six Atlantic Fleet battleships at Albany, Western Australia for coaling, circa mid-September 1908. The three ships with black hulls (one of which is directly alongside a battleship) are probably colliers. The white-hulled ship at the right is USS Glacier (Storeship, 1898-1922). Also present is a grey British cruiser, probably HMS Gibraltar. Baquedano is likely off-camera to the right with the other half of the GWF or had just left. Collection of Lieutenant Commander Richard Wainwright, 1928. NH 41678

After dutifully exchanging salutes and sending around the appropriate visiting teams for a couple of days, Baquedano would shove off for Talcahuano, arriving back in Chile on Christmas Eve 1908. Meanwhile, the GWF was bound for the East across the Indian Ocean, arriving at Suez, Egypt at roughly the same time. Of note, Teddy’s fleet traveled some 14,556 nautical miles around the world, making the fact that Baquedano met them both at the beginning and rough halfway point, some six months apart, remarkably interesting.

War!

Baquedano listed as a well-armed “surveying ship” in the 1914 Jane’s

During the Great War, the pro-German Chilean government showed a bit of favoritism to Von Spee’s German Pacific Squadron, allowing his ships to take on coal, use their wireless in territorial waters, and often overstay their 24-hour limits without being interned alongside a raft of German merchant vessels who were allowed to sit out the conflict at Valparaiso.

Valparaiso, Chile. November 1914. The German Navy Pacific Squadron at anchor in the harbor. Via Deutsche Reichsarchiv and AWM.

November 4, 1914. Valparaiso, Chile. The flagship of the German East Asia Squadron, armored cruiser Scharnhorst 3 days after the Battle of Coronel.

To be sure, though, the country also allowed the British and their allies to do much the same in the interest of neutrality.

Valparaiso, Chile, 26-27 December 1914. “German merchant ships interned in the Chilean port, as seen from the foredeck of HMAS Australia. This German colony was a base for naval staff and the supply of coal to German vessels. After searching in vain for enemy vessels on its way across the Pacific, the Australian flagship was taking the long route to Jamaica around South America, due to the closure of the Panama Canal to heavy traffic.” AWM EN0076

The Battle of Coronel was fought just off Chile’s coast and, after Von Spee was sent to the bottom of the South Atlantic in the Battle of the Falklands, the sole survivor of his squadron, the exhausted German cruiser SMS Dresden, took refuge in Chilean waters at Más a Tierra– where it was destroyed on 14 March 1915 as a Chilean gunboat stood by and protested via signal flags. 

The Chileans interned 315 survivors of Dresden’s crew, although some to include future Abwehr spymaster Wilhelm Canaris released themselves on their own recognizance and made it back to Germany during the conflict.

Corbeta general Baquedano, de la Armada de Chile, circa 1915. Via Chile al día. Tomo I.

Banquedano’s role in the war was limited, serving as a guardship for the interned German merchantmen and her sidelined crew aiding with a bit of muscle ashore as needed.

Late in the war, after the U.S. entered the conflict and, with traditional enemies Bolivia and Peru trying to curry favor with Washington, Chile seized the inactive German-owned nitrate plants in the country and began shipping caliche from the Atacama Desert to the allies.

In 1918, with the war confined at that point to Europe and the Middle East, Baquedano, under the command of Capitán de fragata Manuel Montalva Barrientos set off on her first training cruise since 1910. After visiting Honolulu, Yokohama, Kobe, Itsukushima, Moji, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia, Melbourne, and Wellington, she returned to the port of Valparaíso after the Armistice. Importantly, she inspected Easter Island at least twice during this cruise, an island made important again during the war as the seized French trading schooner Lutece, captured at Mopelia Island by five shipwrecked crew members of the reefed German commerce raider Seeadler, had arrived there in October 1917 and been interned by the local Chilean authorities.

Interwar

Between December 1922 and March 1926, with her unique engines giving up the ghost, Baquedano was overhauled and received a new engineering suite as part of an extensive rebuild. Her armament was also modified, landing her elderly torpedo tube and some of her smaller mounts. 

Corbeta Baquedano Buque-escuela fondeado en el puerto de Antofagasta.

Her 10-month 1927 midshipman cruise spanned the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Her 1928-29 cruise went even further, visiting throughout the Med and Baltic Seas before calling at Philadelphia and New York on the way back home.

Training ship, corvette General Baquedano crossing the Kiel canal, Germany, during her 1928-1929 instructional voyage. Note she now has an enclosed deckhouse. In this cruise, the frigate captain Julio Pinto Allard commanded the vessel. Repositorio Digital del Archivo y Biblioteca Histórica de la Armada

Her 1929-30 cruise swapped back to the Pacific, traveling as far up the coast as San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver.

Chilean training ship [at C.P.R. pier] [General Baquedano], 1929. Vancouver City Archives. AM1535-: CVA 99-2388

Taking on coal, 1929. Photo by Walter Frost. Vancouver City Archives. AM1506-S3-2-: CVA 447-2233.1

Her 1931 West Pac cruise was extensively cataloged when she called at Sydney’s East Circular Quay on 16 July 1931 and spent two weeks in the city. The visit apparently attracted a lot of local interest, and the daily activities of the Chileans were reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. This included playing a soccer match against members of the cruiser HMAS Canberra, presenting a wreath at the Martin Place Cenotaph— which had just been completed in 1926– and the crew displaying their rigging skills while aloft and open to receive visitors from the curious public.

Procession of Chilean sailors alongside their ship Corbeta general Baquedano, at East Circular Quay, 24 July 1931. The wreath is likely the one presented at the Martin Place cenotaph. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034748

Working with a hardhat diver over the side and a manual compressor. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034747

Cadets aloft showing off their skills. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034750.

The epic young bluejacket pose. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00035047

Visitors of the best type when dockside in Sydney. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034744

The time in Australia was among her last great overseas cruises, sticking closer to home for a few years save for trips to Easter Island. Even this ended after 1935 when it was decided the almost 40-year-old sailing ship would be of better use as a pierside trainer for the Arturo Prat Naval School and the Alejandro Navarrete Cisterna School of Grumetes. Her sailing was limited to day runs and coastal trips, almost always under power rather than sail.

WWII

Jane’s entry, 1946.

Chile, as in the Great War, was pro-German in 1939 and maintained Berlin-tilted neutrality for the first part of the conflict. The Chilean Navy in 1941 took over the interned F. Laeisz Hamburg’s four-masted steel-hulled barque Priwall, largely with a crew drawn from Baquedano and her service academies, and sailed her as the nitrate-carrying training ship Lautaro until the latter was lost by accidental fire at sea in 1945. By that stage of the war, Chile had cast her lot with the Allies, her Navy contributing to the defense of the Pacific end of the Panama Canal and patrolling from Easter Island.

By 1951, it was decided to replace the old corvette with a surplus and ideal schooner brig that was languishing on the builder’s ways in cash-strapped post-war Europe. Ordered originally for the Spanish Navy from Echevarria and Larrinaga shipyards of Cádiz in 1946 as Juan de Austria but never completed, the 3,750-ton school ship was baptized Esmeralda, delivered in June 1954, and arrived in Valparaíso on 1 September of that year.

Esmeralda (BE-43) was built in Spain and acquired by Chile in 1952. She made her first instructional cruise in 1955. Known as the La Dama Blanca (The White Lady), she is in active service today, although much less well-armed than Baquedano, carrying only saluting cannons and a small arms locker. Original photograph via the Armada de Chile.

With a new tall ship picking up the torch, Baquedano was decommissioned 5 June 1954– the same week Esmeralda was delivered– and sold for scrapping to the Pacific Steel Company in 1959.

Epilogue

Baquedano is remembered in period artwork, primarily postcards.

Chilean novelist and short fiction writer Francisco Coloane Cárdenas, part of Chile’s famed Generación del 38 art movement, although a Communist later in life, was born the son of a whaler skipper and served in the Chilean Navy as a quartermaster in the late 1920s and 30s. This included a stint on our subject school ship in 1933 that served as inspiration for his coming of age novel El último grumete de la Baquedano (The Last Cabin Boy of Baquedano).

Published in 1941, El último grumete de la Baquedano is considered a national treasure in Chile and is part of the compulsory reading list maintained by the country’s Ministry of Education.

In continuous publication for 80 years, the sailing novel was made into a movie of the same name in 1983, filmed aboard Esmeralda.

Three units of the Chilean Navy have been christened with Baquedano’s name besides our training corvette to include a brown water gunboat for the Amazon, a River-class frigate, formerly HMCS Glace Bay (K414), which served in the 1950s and 60s; and a Broad Beam Leander-class frigate, formerly HMS Ariadne (F72), which was active in the 1990s.

Baquedano’s name will surely sail again.

Specs:
Displacement: 2500 t
Length 240 ft
Draft 18 ft
Engines: 2 x T3cyl (30, 50 & 81.5 x 48ins) 1500ihp, 1 x Screw, (refitted in 1920s)
Speed: 12 knots practical, 13.75 on trials; also rigged as a Barque
Crew: 333 men, with 2/3rds of those cadets and boys
Armament: (As built)
4 x 4.7-inch QF
2 x 12pdr (3-inch)
2 x 6 pdr (57mm) guns
2 x machine guns
1 x 18-inch torpedo tube


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Philippines flexing over demands they unreef their ancient LST

We’ve talked in the past about the 2,000-tons of tetanus shots that is the mighty BRP Sierra Madre (L-57), formerly the ex-USS Harnett County LST-821, which has been grounded on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Reef) in the South China Sea since 1999, serving as a forward base for a squad-sized group of PI Marines and a Navy radioman. The move came as a counterstroke to China’s controversial, and likely unlawful, armed occupation of Mischief Reef— barely 200 kilometers from the Philippine island of Palawan– in 1995.

Well, in recent weeks, the Chinese have aggressively prevented resupply and rotation of the guard force on the Sierra Madre, warning off civilian vessels approaching the condemned LST with water cannons.

Finally, on 22 November, two civilian boats, Unaizah May 1 and Unaizah May 3, were able to tie up next to the Sierra Madre and unload, while a Chinese coast guard ship in the vicinity sent a RIB with three persons to closely shadow the effort, taking photos and videos, acts the Philipines described as “a form of intimidation and harassment.”

To this, China says Ayungin Shoal is “part of China’s Nansha Qundao (Spratly Islands)” and has told the PI to quit the reef and scrap the rusty outpost.

From Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana on China’s demand to remove BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal:

Ayungin Shoal lies within our EEZ where we have sovereign rights. Our EEZ was awarded to us by the 1982 UNCLOS which China ratified. China should abide by its international obligations that it is part of. 

Furthermore, the 2016 Arbitral award ruled that the territorial claim of China has no historic nor legal basis. Ergo, we can do whatever we want there and it is they who are actually trespassing.

With that, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, Lt. Gen. Andres Centino, on Monday said that his leadership would ensure better living conditions of the troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre, refurbishing the vessel in place as a permanent government post. 

Mic drop.

107 Years Ago Today: Winchester Goes ‘Over There’

24 November 1914: the draft document between Winchester and the British government is knocked out for 200,000 “Cal. 303 Enfield rifles with sword bayonet and scabbard” at a cost of $32.50 each, FOB to the docks in New York.

The P14 Enfield contract draft document, via Winchester

Winchester ultimately produced 250,000 Enfield Pattern Number 14 (P14) bolt-action rifles for the British Army in caliber .303 at roughly the same time its factories cranked out 300,000 Model 1895 Muskets in 7.62x54R for the Tsarist Imperial Russian Army.

By April 1917, Winchester was cranking out over 2,000 P14s a day without breaking a sweat, although the contract for the Brits was winding down. Keep in mind that at the same time, the entire U.S. production capacity of the M1903 model .30-06 rifle was just a maximum of 1,400 per day (1,000 at Springfield Armory and 400 at Rock Island Armory).

It was a no-brainer that Winchester was soon building the modified U.S. Rifle, caliber .30 M1917, essentially a P14 chambered in .30-06, dubbed by factory workers (incorrectly) as the P17. The first Winchester M1917 came off the assembly line in August 1917. Winchester finally ceased production in April of 1919, at which point they had produced 580,000 rifles for Uncle Sam. Even a century later, some of these rifles remain in the U.S. Army’s inventory, loaned out  to assorted Veterans groups such as the VFW and American Legion where they are used for honor guard services.

Added together between the British and Russian contracts, without even mentioning the assorted contracts with Britian, France, Russia, and the U.S, for 3,400~ Winchester Model 1907 semi-autos in .351SL, and Winny produced an easy 1 million rifles for the push against the Kaiser.

The British kept the P-14 Rifles in their inventory until the end of WWII, although re-designated as the Rifle No. 3 Mark I* in 1926. The asterisk indicates a 1916 modification to the P-14s slightly lengthening the left locking lug.

P14 was renamed the ‘Rifle, No.3’ in 1926, via the Royal Armouries

The British utilized several models as sniper weapons throughout their service life due to their extreme accuracy compared to their SMLE Rifles.

Pte. John Michaud sniper from Quebec P14 target sights coveralls for training 1945. LAC MIKAN 4232750, original Kodachrome

Lost Battalion Actual

Other than Sgt. York, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Pershing himself, perhaps the best-known American Soldier of the Great War was a bookish lawyer from New York City, Charles Whittlesey.

The bespectacled 33-year-old unassuming Harvard-grad– a reformed Socialist of all things– took leave from his succesful Manhattan law firm partnership (Pruyn & Whittlesey) and joined the forming National Army for the great push against the Kaiser in May 1917.

Within a few months, with no prior military service, Whittlesey was a captain and then a major, placed in command of 1st Battalion, 308th Infantry Regiment, a unit with no prior lineage and few veterans. The battalion shipped out for Europe as part of the 77th “Liberty” Division, so-called due to the Statue of Liberty patch it carried, a reference to the fact that its men hailed largely from NYC and its boroughs and trained on Long Island in the summer and winter of 1917. Because of this, it was often referred to as “The Metropolitan Division and “The Times Square Division.”

Receiving additional training from British cadres in France, the 308th entered the trenches in the dreaded Baccarat Sector in July 1918.

After moves to the Vesle front and a subsequent shift to the Argonne Forest to participate in the Oise-Aisne campaign, the regiment was embroiled in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive where, overextended with no flank support, nine companies– mostly of 1-308 with other elements of the 77th– under Whittlesey and Captain George McMurtry found themselves encircled in a ravine by at least two enemy regiments (IR122 and IR254) behind German lines following a counterattack.

Holding out for five days under hellish conditions in the pocket before they were finally relieved, the group became known to history as “The Lost Battalion,” later the subject of at least two films of the same name.

“Our Famous ‘Lost Battalion’ in the Argonne Forest. Seven hundred of our boys were surrounded by thousands of Huns. For thirty-six hours they had had no food. Death seemed inevitable. In answer to the enemy’s messenger with an offer to spare them if they would surrender, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Whittlesey roared his historic “Go to Hell!” –which was at once “refusal, malediction, and prophecy.” By Frank Schoonover.

For much more detail on The Lost Battalion, see the extensive piece over at the WWI Centennial’s site.

Hailed for their five days against all odds and refusal to surrender, Whittlesey and McMurtry received the Medal of Honor, feted as “Heroes of the Charlevaux Ravine.”

Whittlesey’s citation:

Although cut off for five days from the remainder of his division, Major Whittlesey maintained his position, which he had reached under orders received for an advance, and held his command, consisting originally of 46 officers and men of the 308th Infantry and of Company K of the 307th Infantry, together in the face of superior numbers of the enemy during the five days. Major Whittlesey and his command were thus cut off, and no rations or other supplies reached him, in spite of determined efforts which were made by his division. On the 4th day Major Whittlesey received from the enemy a written proposition to surrender, which he treated with contempt, although he was at the time out of rations and had suffered a loss of about 50 percent in killed and wounded of his command and was surrounded by the enemy.

When it came to adjusting back to the breakout of peace following the Armistice, Whittlesey became something of a hounded rock star of the day on his return to the City. Constantly hunted down to appear at events and engagements, he worked with the Red Cross and was installed as a colonel of the 108th Infantry Regiment in the NYANG. He was likewise a lightning rod for the demobilized veterans of the 77th who found themselves cast off by the Army with no support in a slack post-war economy.

He told a confidant in 1919 that, “Not a day goes by but I hear from some of my old outfit, usually about some sorrow or misfortune. I cannot bear it much more.” To another, following a Red Cross dinner in which he made the now-expected speech about his experience with the Lost Battalion, “Raking over the ashes like this revives all the horrible memories. I can’t remember when I had a good night’s sleep.”

The final straw, it seems, was serving as a pallbearer for the Unknown Soldier at Arlington on Armistice Day 1921.

He was haunted by the thought that the nameless Soldier in the casket could have been one of the 63 members of his command that disappeared in the Charlevaux Ravine, telling McMurtry, who was also at the ceremony, “George, I should not have come here. I cannot help but wonder if that may not be one of my men from the Pocket. I shall have nightmares tonight and hear the wounded screaming once again.”

With that, just 13 days after the interment, the most eligible bachelor in Manhattan got his affairs in order and, on 24 November 1921– 100 years ago today– boarded the banana boat SS Toloa, bound for Cuba. He had told no one of his sudden trip to the Caribbean, only mentioning to his housekeeper that he would be gone for a few days over the Thanksgiving weekend. 

Two days later, he disappeared after dinner, joining the missing of the Great War in a very real sense. 

As noted by Arlington National Cemetery: 

In Whittlesey’s stateroom, crew members found a letter to the captain requesting that his belongings be thrown into the sea. They also found nine letters addressed to relatives and friends. The letters had not been written on the ship’s stationary, suggesting that the colonel had composed them prior to his trip. After an investigation, the U.S. consul in Havana determined that Charles Whittlesey had “drown[ed] at sea by own intent,” with “no remains found.”

The Lost Battalion marker by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission. 

High Flyer

Original caption: “An alert Coast Guardsman leaps into action as he covers his patrol. On the anti-saboteur patrolmen of the Coast Guard also protect vital cargoes on the piers awaiting shipment to the far-flung battle lines.”

Note the shore duty leggings, M1903 Springfield, and its attached 20-inch M1905 bayonet. USCG photo 26-G-89-049, via the National Archives.

Formed from scratch in 1942, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol employed about 24,000 men, aged 17 to 73, protecting 3,700 miles of coastline from potential enemy invasion during World War II. More on the subject in this excellent 124-page period chronicle.

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