Here we see a warrant officer in dress whites aboard USS Walke (Destroyer # 34) leaning jauntily on a stanchion-mounted machine gun, circa 1914. This weapon is a .30 caliber U.S. Model 1909 Machine Rifle (Benét-Mercié), a modification of the French Hotchkiss Portative. The gun appears to be on an AAA mount, which is novel for the time.
Walke, an early Paulding-class destroyer, carried as her main battery a half-dozen 18-inch deck-mounted torpedo tubes, intended to poke holes in enemy ships. Her gun armament consisted of five 3-inch guns and a few European-designed machine guns, as shown. Commissioned in 1911, she remained in the fleet until 1934.
Fast forward 105 years…and you still have destroyers with a few .30-caliber European-designed machine guns as well as a half-dozen deck-mounted torpedo tubes, intended to poke holes in enemy ships, albeit of the submarine nature.
So I saw this interesting listing pop up from Milestone Auctions, centered on a cased pair of beautiful (although non-sequential) Colt Model 1878 double action cartridge revolvers.
As you may well remember, the Colt 1871 and follow-up 1873 (aka Peacemaker, aka Single Action Army) brought the iconic wheelgun maker back from bankruptcy and into the cartridge revolver-era, and the 1878 being double action, was essentially the most tactical wheelgun on the market when it was released.
With 5.5-inch barrels and a massive .455/476 Enfield Eley Mark III chambering, these big gate-loading Colts were certainly man-stoppers.
Even more interesting, and the caliber may have given it away. is the fact that these two Colts are English silver plated with bird’s head rosewood grips and are covered with both British proof house marks and Colt’s London address on the barrels.
For sure, these were presentation guns for a special occasion or person. A clue is in the auction listing which reads that one of the guns :
“..appears in the copy of Army & Navy sales ledger as sold in England to Caton Jones, Sup FW on Sept 9, 1885, with no details on guns finish. How they ended up together as a pair and plated while in England is a mystery.”
Going to the Army List for that year, we find one Frederick William Caton Jones, MB (Medicinae Baccalaureus), MRCS (Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons), is listed as commissioned 30 May 1885. He was 25 years old.
Bound for India, our good Dr. Caton Jones later turns up in future listings as a Surgeon assigned in 1891 to the Bombay garrison with the Army in India, where he was still posted as of the 1906 Army List. During that period he rose to Major on 30 May 1897 and to Lt. Colonel on 30 May 1905.
As published in The Western Australian, 24 August 1900, Caton-Jones was mixing it up with the Boers while in Kitchener’s brigade.
Surgeon-Major F. W. Caton Jones, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, writing to his sister, Mrs. Cumming from Newcastle, South Africa, under date July 22, says :–
I am just getting over that Ladysmith business now and can get along all right without taking medicine, but it has taken four months to do it. I have a very nice commando of my own now. Am in charge of the 7th Brigade, Field Hospital and Bearer Company. It is an Indian hospital and a perfect unit.
I have under me one officer, R.A.M.C.; two civil surgeons (in place of R.A.M.C. officers); eight assistant surgeons (Indian Apothecaries); one conductor (Indian army); two civilian conductors, four sergeants, and eight nursing orderlies (British army from India); 42 Indian Army Hospital native corps, 126 Indian dhoolee-bearers, and 50 drivers.
I am equipped for a hundred sick in hospital, and put up double that number at a pinch. I can carry 52 men lying down and 12 sitting in my sick transport, 20 lying in the dhoolies, and 94 sitting in my wheeled ambulances, if I put no lying down cases in the latter; a good deal to be responsible for.
Our brigade, under Brigadier General Kitchener, is at Newcastle, on the lines of communication. Of course, we are very sick at not getting forward, but someone must stay behind. Thank goodness, the grass is burnt round the camp. Veldt fires happen every day. One field hospital was burnt, but luckily no one was injured.
This is a fine country, and very healthy. All colonists say we shall have to be much sterner with the Boers before they will give in. I believe sternness would save very many lives both of, theirs and ours. If the Indian hospitals are sent back to India in September, I may go to China.
By 1911, the good doctor was back from his long overseas deployments and stationed in Tidworth Barracks in south-east Wiltshire, England where he remained until 1914.
By 1916, I can find then-Colonel FW Caton-Jones OB, AMS, ADMS (Assistant Director Medical Services), as head of the Medical Board of Officers assembled at No 1 General Hospital, Etretat, in Normandy, serving with the BEF “on the Continent.”
Why the big pistols for a man of medicine, besides the obvious need for a gentleman of the period to have arms while campaigning?
It seems the good Dr. Caton-Jones was a true English gentleman officer while abroad and was something of a noted big game hunter as well as a man of arts, science, and letters.
In 1914, he contributed a chapter to Major-General A.E. Wardrop’s “Modern Pig-Sticking,” a tome about horse-mounted tiger and boar hunting, particularly centered in India.
Caton-Jones was uniquely qualified to write the chapter at the time as he was the 1907 winner of the Nagpur Hunt cup. The Spectator called the volume, “one of the pleasantest books on the sport that we have seen for a long time.”
Caton-Jones had previously written other scholarly works for the Journal of Bombay Natural History (“Some Notes on Wild Dogs and Panthers”) as well as for the British Army’s Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps (“The Sanitation of Standing Camps in India”). He also wrote/co-wrote at least seven papers in the respected The Lancet medical journal. Still other papers appeared in The Medical Press and Circular, and The Journal of the Royal Institute of Public Health.
After moving to the reserve list following the Great War and more than 30 years of military service, Caton-Jones later reappeared in India and Kenya while still submitting articles on both medicine and hunting (see= The Hoghunter’s Annual, Times of India Press, 1930).
At some point, he was made a Companion of the Order of Bath and a fellow of the Royal Institute of Public Health.
Colonel Frederick William Caton Jones, CB, RAMC, Veteran of the Boer Wars, the Great War and assorted Indian campaigns, and scourge of tigers and wild boar, died at his Earlsdale estate on 7 June 1944, aged 83.
No word on if a Mr. Holmes attended his funeral.
Over the weekend I watched 1917, the Great War Western-front epic by British filmmaker Sam Mendes.
Not to spoil too much of the plot, the broad-strokes (which you can get from the preview) is that two humble lance corporals of the fictional 5th Rifles (KRRC)– salty veteran Will Schofield and newcomer Tom Blake– are sent on a last-ditch near-suicide mission to deliver a message to the 2nd Dorsets, the latter of which have broken out and are chasing German troops who they believe are on the run from the Noyon and Bapaume salients.
The reason to stop the Dorsets? The Germans are not running, but are instead evacuating in good order to prepared positions at the massively fortified Siegfriedstellung (aka the Hindenburg Line, from Arras to Soissons) against which the British light infantry, attacking alone, would surely be massacred.
While elements are true (the Hindenburg Line and the relocation from the salients happened as part of the so-called Alberich Maneuver), others were slightly fictionalized. For instance, the 2nd Dorsets never saw France, as they were deployed from India to Egypt and fought in Palestine during the war while the 5th KRRC never stood up in the Great War. The story the film is based was a soldier’s tale passed on by Mendes’s paternal grandfather who served in the KRRC during the conflict, so there is that.
With that being said, I felt there was great attention to detail. For example, the BEF veteran, Schofield, wears older Pattern 08 gear while the newer Tommy, Blake, has elements of modified Pattern 14 leather gear.
Likewise, they use period-correct SMLE Mk III rifles with magazine cutoffs and long P’07 sword bayonets, carry E-tools, wear their puttees correctly, and have Brodie helmets (but, like most actual soldiers, often do not wear said tin caps.)
Further, while threading their way across No Man’s Land, they encounter the most horrific scenes imaginable. One that struck me was the extensive and complex barbed wire entanglements they have to negotiate. Too often in film, barbed wire is shown as a single strand or two, something that could be quickly snipped by a small cutter or a line that an energetic point man could fall across to allow his mates to tread over.
The real thing was far from being that simple:
Ultimately, our two Tommies find themselves in abandoned but excellently-constructed German trenches, complete with concrete blockhouses and an extensive underground bomb-proof barracks. This again was correct to form.
Read Storm of Steel by German field-grade officer Ernst Junger, who spent years in such complexes, and he talks about them on virtually every passage. Even relating that he would on occasion sleep through British bombardments, knowing that his batman would come and fetch him should something pressing develop.
Tales of the German “Labyrinth” at Arras, captured by the British in 1917 during the repositioning, highlighted such installations.
It should be remembered that the Kaiser’s men had been in their positions since 1914 in most cases and were determined not to take a step back when they laid them out, hence the extensive fortifications. Some dugouts even had wallpaper and electric lights! The British and French, on the other hand, were always on the assumption their trenches would be only temporary before the “Big Push” came in which they would drive the Jerries/Boche out, so they often would leave their men in muddy holes.
Other scenes in the movie were striking, but I will not cover them as they would be too spoiler-filled.
All in all, for the correctness and “grit” the film does a better job than just about any WWI Western Front movie I have seen prior.
The plot, while slightly far-fetched, is workable enough to move the story along. The Germans are, with the exception of one close-up encounter with a very blonde young man in the middle of the night, faceless and appropriately unseen but no less ominous, and remain deadly even when you think they would not be. The British officers are, for better or worse, very proper English, ala the final season of Blackadder.
I’d watch it again and would recommend it to others. Do yourself a favor and watch it on a big screen rather than a small one should you have an interest.
For a great short work specifically on life in the trenches, check out Eye Deep In Hell by John Ellis. You can often buy used copies for like $3.
As I am this weekend, perhaps these behind-the-scenes “making of” 1917 shorts from the Imperial War Museum, who had a supporting role in the film’s production, may be of interest.
I’ll post my own thoughts on the film next week after I see it.
As a fan of both Russian and naval history, to say that I grew up reading the works of Robert K. Massie is an understatement.
The noted scholar, a man who interviewed Alexander Kerensky while he was still alive in exile, passed away this month at age 90.
Revisit your copy of Dreadnought, Castles of Steel, and Nicholas & Alexandria in his honor.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019: A Dazzling Flivver
Here we see the narrow stern of the Paulding/Drayton/Monaghan-class “flivver” type destroyer USS Fanning (DD-37) filled with “ashcans” as she rests in an Irish port, likely Queenstown in 1917-1918, alongside the larger four-piper Wickes-class destroyer USS Sigourney (DD–81). Note her double ship’s wheel and a trainable twin 18-inch torpedo tube set shoe-horned into the narrow space as well. Don’t let her size fool you, though, Fanning would go on to prove herself well.
The 21-vessel Pauling class, built across four years from 1908 to 1912 were smallish for destroyers, tipping the scales at just 742-tons. Overall, they ran 293-feet long, with a razor-thin 26-foot beam. Using a quartet of then-novel oil-fired Normand boilers (later boats like Fanning used Thornycroft boilers) pushing a trio of Parsons direct-drive steam turbines, they could gin nearly 30-knots when wide open, although they rattled and rolled while doing so. This earned them the “flivver” nickname after the small and shaky Ford Model Ts of the era. Armament was five quick-firing 3″/50 cal guns and a trio of twin 450mm torpedo tubes, to which depth charges would later be added.
Fanning was the first ship named for famous 18th Century American spy, privateer, and naval officer Nathaniel Fanning. A native of Stonington, Connecticut, and son of a sea merchant, Fanning suffered at the hands of the British in 1775, with his home and those of his neighbors bombarded by the Royal Navy and his brothers Gilbert and Thomas, held prisoner on the infamous prison hulk HMS Jersey, where one died. Fanning got his licks in and during the war served on a number of privateers, including commanding the privateers Ranger and Eclipse, and signed on with John Paul Jones as a midshipman aboard Bonhomme Richard in 1779, distinguishing himself in the famous battle with HMS Serapis, charging aboard the British vessel with cutlass and pistol at the head of a boarding party.
Mr. Fanning went on to serve on the frigate Alliance and later the captured sloop HMS Ariel. Finishing the war intact despite being captured several times by the RN, he later died of yellow fever in 1805 while an officer in the early U.S. Navy.
USS Fanning was laid down at Newport News, 29 April 1911. Her cost, in 1912 dollars, was $639,526.91, which adjusts to $16.5 million in today’s script, on par with an 85-foot Mark VI patrol boat today, a deal by any means. She was commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 21 June 1912 and spent the next five years in a series of drills, exercises, experiments, high profile port calls, gunboat diplomacy, and tense neutrality patrol– where she came face to face with but did not engage German U-boats prowling just off the U.S. coastline as well as the auxiliary cruiser Prinz Eitel Friedrich.
Once the balloon went up in April 1917, Fanning stood to and readied herself for war. By June, she served as part of the escort for the first American Expeditionary Force (AEF) convoy to sail for France, although she did so without depth charges.
By Independence Day 1917 Fanning was in Queenstown, Ireland, where the ship “landed all unnecessary stores,” while workmen fitted her with depth charges “and chutes for releasing the same,” in addition to splinter mattresses, preparing her for operations in European Waters. She began her first anti-submarine patrol on 10 July and proceeded to play cat-and-mouse games with the Kaiser’s U-boats. Just three days in, she rescued survivors of the Greek steamship Charilaos Tricoupis, that had been torpedoed by SM U-58 (Kptlt. Karl Scherb) that morning while en route from Dakar to Sligo, Ireland, with a cargo of corn. They would meet with U-58 again soon enough.
A new U57-type boat, U-58 had commissioned 9 Aug 1916 and would claim some 21 ships in just an 11-month active career across 8 combat patrols, mostly Scandinavian sailing vessels that her crew would send to the bottom with charges or surface gunfire. U-58‘s new skipper on her 8th sortie was Kptlt. Gustav Amberger, formerly of U-80. Amberger and U-58 would leave Germany for the British Isles on Halloween 1917 and take the small schooner Dolly Varden on 14 November.
Then, Fanning and U-58 would meet again.
At 1145 on 17 November 1917, the six American destroyers and two British corvettes that comprised the escort of convoy O.Q. 20, steamed out of Queenstown harbor under the command of the senior officer, Commander Frank D. Barrien, Nicholson’s captain. Throughout the afternoon, the convoy’s eight merchant vessels fell in with the escort and set about forming into four columns arranged abreast. Fanning, under acting commander Lieutenant Arthur “Chips” Carpender, guarded the rear port flank of the convoy as O.Q. 20’s formation slowly took shape. At 1610, seven miles south of Queenstown, the convoy encountered SM U-58.
The battle almost ended before it began. When the sound of propellers announced O.Q 20’s presence, the German commander ordered a torpedo prepared to fire and brought his boat to periscope depth. Soon after surfacing, poor visibility nearly led the submarine to ram Nicholson accidentally, and Amberger had the engines put full back to avert disaster. Nicholson continued, oblivious to the close encounter, and the submarine escaped unnoticed. After avoiding detection, U-58 again raised its periscope to reestablish contact with the target.
Victory in “The Action of 17 November 1917” rested less on a sophisticated new technology or a brilliant tactical maneuver, and more on the eyes of Fanning’s Coxswain David D. Loomis, who was standing watch on the bridge. He was already renowned for his remarkable eyesight, with a Fanning officer later recalling Loomis’s possession of “a most extraordinary set of eyes.” In foggy conditions, Loomis spotted the 1.5-inch-diameter periscope protruding 10 inches out of the water at 400 yards away on the port bow. Although lookouts usually spotted submarine periscopes by the telltale wake, they caused, U-58 was proceeding so slowly at the time of the sighting that it was not producing any noticeable disturbance in the water. After the eagle-eyed Loomis called out the periscope, officer-of-the-deck Lieutenant Walter O. Henry sounded General Quarters as he ordered the rudder hard left and rung up full speed. Through his periscope, Amberger suddenly saw a destroyer emerging from the mist, close aboard, and threatening to ram his boat. The U-boat skipper had no time to react before Fanning was upon him. On the destroyer’s bridge, Lieutenant Carpender, now on deck, ordered Fanning’s rudder right, swinging the ship into the submerged U-boat’s path before dropping a single depth charge off the fantail.
U-58’s crew felt the shock of the exploding depth charge, which damaged the U-boat’s stern and disabled its electrical gear. Fanning’s depth charge exploded prematurely in the water, slightly damaging the destroyer as well. Amberger, underestimating the damage to his vessel, attempted to dive and elude his assailant. To his dismay, Fanning’s attack left U-58 unmanageable and leaking badly, with the diving gear, motors, and oil leads all wrecked. The U-boat dangerously sank to between approximately 150 and 250 feet, below its maximum diving depth, before Amberger blew the tanks and surfaced.
On the surface, approximately 500 yards away, sailors aboard Nicholson witnessed Fanning’s attack and Commander Barrien turned his ship toward the spot of the explosion. As the destroyer completed its turn, U-58’s conning tower breached the surface. Nicholson rapidly closed and dropped a depth charge close aboard, scoring another hit on the submarine. The second explosion brought the U-58’s bow up rapidly before it righted itself. Fanning, having turned in Nicholson’s wake, again closed on the submarine. Gun crews on Fanning’s bow and Nicholson’s stern opened fire on the doomed U-boat. After three shots from both destroyers’ guns, the German sailors flung open U-58’s hatches and poured on deck, arms raised in surrender. The battle had lasted approximately 15 minutes.
Fanning made history as she was the first U.S. Navy ship to capture a German submarine and she was photographed extensively after the event, leaving a great record of a dazzle-flauged Great War Paulding.
On 19 November 1917, Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly, RN, Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Ireland, came on board and read a congratulatory cablegram from the Admiralty addressed to the ship. Capt. Joel R. P. Pringle, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Destroyer Flotilla operating in European Waters, also visited, reading similar laudatory cables from Adm. William S. Benson, the Chief of Naval Operations, and Vice Adm. William S. Sims, the Force Commander. Adm. Bayly authorized the Fanning’s crew to paint a coveted star on her forward funnel to proclaim her victory over U-58. For their part in the victory Lt. Carpender received the Distinguished Service Medal, Lt. Henry and Cox. Loomis the Navy Cross.
As for the 36 survivors of U-58, they became celebrities on their own accord, being among the first of the Kaiser’s guests sent back to the States that were captured in combat and not taken into custody from interned vessels. One of their crew, engineering Petty Officer Franz Glinder drowned in the engagement and his body was recovered by Fanning’s crew and later buried at sea with full honors. A second man, first machinist Franz Baden, went down with his ship.
The remaining survivors eventually shipped across the Atlantic on USS Leviathan (formerly the giant Hamburg-American liner Vaterland, which during WWI was helmed by none other than a young Humphrey Bogart) and were put up as guests of President Wilson at the EPW Barracks in Fort McPherson, Georgia.
A group of images from U-58‘s crew’s imprisonment at Fort McPherson, Georgia are in the Library of Congress.
Following the war, the men of U-58 returned home in 1919 with Amberger and Ritgen at least later serving in the Kriegsmarine in WWII, albeit in training capacities.
Back to our destroyer
Just three days after her tangle with U-58, Fanning sailed again on 20 November to escort convoy O.Q. 21 and would spend another year taking part in fighting U-boats and the cold, stopping to rescue survivors and batten the hatches against the heavy seas. She would drop depth charges on numerous further occasions, often resulting in oil slicks.
When the Great War ended, Fanning stood by for the arrival at Brest of President Wilson on 13 December in the troop transport George Washington and passed in review with other U.S. warships.
Post-war, she would return to the States while, with other destroyers, shepherding dozens of small submarine chasers from the Azores to Charleston, arriving 3 May 1919. On 24 November her remaining men were transferred to Henley (Destroyer No. 39) and she was decommissioned.
Placed on red lead row, just five years later Fanning was reactivated, although in poor shape, and transferred to the Treasury Department for service with the Coast Guard on 7 June 1924.
As deftly retold in a paper by the USCG Historians Office, the service, then part of the Treasury Department, was hard-pressed to chase down fast bootlegging boats shagging out to “Rum Row” where British and Canadian merchants rested in safe water on the 3-mile limit loaded with cases of good whiskey and rum for sale. This led the agency to borrow 31 relatively new destroyers from the Navy, an act that would have been akin to the USN transferring most of the FFG7 frigates to the Coast Guard during the “cocaine cowboy” days of the 1980s.
From the USCG Historian:
In the end, the rehabilitation of the vessels became a saga in itself because of the exceedingly poor condition of many of these war-weary ships. In many instances, it took nearly a year to bring the vessels up to seaworthiness. Additionally, these were by far the largest and most sophisticated vessels ever operated by the service and trained personnel were nearly nonexistent. As a result, Congress authorized hundreds of new enlistees. It was these inexperienced men that made up the destroyer crews and contributed to the service’s greatest growth prior to World War II.
A total of 31 destroyers served with the Coast Guard’s Destroyer Force. These included three different classes, the 742-ton “flivver-class,” “1,000-ton class”, and the 1,190-ton “Clemson-class” flush-deckers. Capable of over 25 knots, the destroyers had an advantage in chasing large rumrunners. They were, however, easily outmaneuvered by smaller vessels. The destroyers’ mission, therefore, was to picket the larger supply ships (“mother ships”) and prevent them from off-loading their cargo onto smaller, speedier contact boats that ran the liquor into shore.
Still able to make 25-knots on her worn plant, Fanning would patrol extensively from New England to the Caribbean under the Coast Guard ensign on anti-smuggling interdiction duties. However, with little funds to keep her running, by 1929 she was in an exceptionally rundown condition. The Coast Guard decommissioned Fanning at New London on 1 April 1930 and returned her to the Navy Department on 24 November.
Stricken from the Navy list on 28 June 1934 at the age of 22, she was scrapped under the terms of the London Treaty, and her materials sold.
Fanning was celebrated in U.S. military history with a 1921 painting by Edwin Simmons depicting U-58 surrendering. As the first of Uncle Sam’s destroyers to catch one of the Kaiser’s sneaky boots, she was popular in period art.
Once she left the fleet for good in 1934, her name was recycled for a Dunlap (Mahan)-class destroyer, DD-385, sponsored by Miss Cora A. Marsh, the great-great-granddaughter of Nathaniel Fanning; and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., on 8 October 1937. This very active tin can receive four battle stars for her World War II service, taking part in the Doolittle Raid. This, however, did not save her from being scrapped in 1948, surplus to the Navy’s needs.
A third Fanning, FF-1076, a Knox-class frigate, commissioned in 1971 and had deployments in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, participating in Desert Storm. She decommissioned in 1993 and spent another seven years with the Turkish Navy as Adatepe (F-251).
Perhaps the SECNAV will name a new DDG-51 after Nathaniel Fanning to perpetuate the long and distinguished line. I do believe that I have some letters to write!
742 long tons (754 t) normal
887 long tons (901 t) full load
Length: 293 ft 10 in
Beam: 27 ft
Draft: 8 ft 4 in (mean)
Installed power:12,000 ihp
4 × Thornycroft boilers
3 × Parsons Direct Drive Turbines
3 × screws
29.99 kn on Trials
Range: 2175(15) on 225 tons oil
Complement:4 officers 87 enlisted U.S. service. 75 in Coast Guard
5 × 3 in (76 mm)/50 caliber Mark 3 low-angle guns
6 × 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes (3 × 2)
Depth charges, in two stern racks and one Y-gun projector, added in 1917, removed in 1924
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!