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Warship Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017: The big Hawaiian Swede

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, Nov. 15, 2017: The big Hawaiian Swede

Photo via Sjöhistorisk Musumet, Göteborg, #Fo49335A Note her “neutral flag” as well and fore and aft blue and yellow racing stripes to help identify her during the war

Here we see the mighty four-masted barque, Abraham Rydberg, a Swedish cargo carrying schoolship (skolskeppet) that trained sailors and officers, as she approached New York in 1940. She managed to survive both World Wars and the end of her era of sea trade while putting in a lot of honest work.

Laid down for the merchant service in the heyday of the fast transcontinental clipper ships, she was ordered in 1892 from the Clyde firm of Charles Connell & Company, Glasgow (Yard #184) by the Hawaiian Construction Co. of San Francisco.

At some 2,400-tons, the big 270-foot four-master was built to run cargo on the cheap and she entered service as the Hawaiian-flagged Hawaiian Isles, operating out of Honolulu on the sugar trade, later inherited by the Planters Line by 1900, which added her to the U.S registry– one of just 24 Hawaiian-flagged vessels to which this was done.

The Matson Navigation Company of San Francisco bought her from Planters in 1906 and used her on a South American run for several years until she was sold once again to the Alaska Packers’ Association for $60,000 in 1910, a stalwart of the West Coast lumber trade alternating between running “100 or more Chinese and Mexican cannery workers to the fishing grounds in the spring and bringing them back in the fall, together with a hold full of canned salmon.”

That California-based company changed her significantly, reduced the rig and leaving her baldheaded as they elongated the poop over 30-feet to better accommodate the severe weather of the Northern Pacific. Sailing as Star of Greenland under the command of one Captain P.H. Peterson, she was a regular along the Pacific Northwest and in the frozen territory for 15 years until laid up at Alameda in 1926, managing to escape German raiders during the Great War (remember the raider Seeadler was active at the time and captured three American-flagged schooners in June-July in the Southeast Pacific, and the raider Wolf had poked her nose into the West Pac).

Her speed likely had her in good graces– she once made the 2,400-mile Unalaska to Golden Gate run for the Packers in just 7 days– a feat that took most of the other slow craft in the business 35 or more.

After three years of hard luck layup on the West Coast, the aging barque was acquired by the Rydbergska Stiftelsen organization from Sweden for a song ($19,000) and, carrying a full new triangular canvas set, made London in 134 days with a cargo of grain and a scratch crew. A number of changes were implemented in the vessel, including construction of a midships bridge deck and adding classroom spaces for up to 70 cadets– which were required by Swedish law to take a full-year of courses before gaining a certificate as a merchant seaman.

Founded in 1850 by an endowment left by Swedish shipping magnate Abraham Rydberg, the maritime school trained youth in practical sailing, in large part by taking them on lengthy cargo hauls from the Baltic to Australia and the Caribbean. Ages of the trainees, which came in many instances from all over Europe, ran from 14-20 and the Rydbergska foundation produced thousands of sailors for the Swedish merchant and naval forces over the course of a century.

Here is first Abraham Rydberg stiftelse schoolship, a 101-foot three master built in 1879. She served the school until replaced by the larger Abraham Rydberg II in 1912.

Here we see 129-foot three-master which served as the second Abraham Rydberg, which our ship replaced. As an aside, this ship was in U.S. waters in WWII as a privately owned yacht and used by the Navy as USS SEVEN SEAS (IX-68), performing a role as a station/training ship at Key West.

Purchased in 1930, the Hawaiian Isles/Star of Greenland became the institute’s third Abraham Rydberg under a Swedish flag, undertaking yearly training excursions on the wheat trade to Australia alongside other such school ships as the Kristiania Schoolship Association’s Christian Radich out of Norway and the Danish East Asiatic Company schoolship København— the latter of which disappeared on such a run.

Our Rydberg, taken from liner S/S Mauretania in seas, 1 April 1934, off Australia. Fo202759

By all accounts, she was a happy ship during this time apart from a collision with the British steamer Koranton (6,695-tons) just off Eddystone. While Rydberg, loaded with 3,200-tons of wheat at the time, lost several plates on the port side and her main top-gallant, she could make for England and repairs.

She was a celebrated Cape Horn windjammer still in operation during an age of steamships and drew a crowd every time she came near shore. As she carried some 35,000sq yds. of canvas and could make 14-knots on it with no sweat, she was a sight, indeed.

   In the Thames:

Her cadets hard at work both on deck and aloft in the below video, with her skipper talking about the great “Grain Races” of the 1930s. Rydberg made seven round trips from Europe to Australia between 1933-38:

When WWII started, Rydberg kept in the dangerous service of merchant shipping under the nominal shield of her country’s flag. Operating on the less-risky Brazil-to-Boston run, a neutral ship between two neutral ports, she made Santos in just 49 days on one trip.

Skolskeppet ABRAHAM RYDBERG off New York, 1940. Note the ship’s name and Swedish flag amidships for the benefit of U-boat periscopes. The two stripes are in blue and yellow, national colors. Her crew participated in the New York World’s Fair that year. # Fo15244A

From astern, again note her flag, stripe, and marking. #Fo148032AF

Immediately following the outbreak of the war, both the Britsh and Germans thought some travel by Swedish merchantmen was good and entered into an odd agreement between the three that Stockholm’s ships going into and out of the Baltic through the two belligerents’ respective naval blockades were fine as long as all three parties agreed to each voyage. In all, some 226 sailings to and 222 sailings from Sweden were cleared in such a manner– though nine ships were lost on these “pre-screened” runs as not everyone got the message. Further, the agreement didn’t apply to Swedish ships outside of Northern Europe, hence Rydberg‘s change to operations from the U.S.

Make no mistake though, the Swedish merchant service suffered during the war (as did the Swedish Navy– the submarine HMSwS Ulven was sunk by the Germans in 1943), neutrality be damned. In all, an estimated 2,000-2,500 Swedish sailors and fishermen were killed during the conflict as no less than 201 unarmed Swedish-flagged merchant ships and 31 fishing vessels were sent to the bottom in attacks from the Germans, Soviets, and British. You can be sure that many men who trained as boys on the Rydberg are on this butcher’s bill.

However, when Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into the war and German U-boats became a regular sight off the East Coast as part of Operation Drumbeat, keeping Rydberg in service was considered too risky and she was laid up in Baltimore harbor, her crew transiting back to Sweden. She had retained a Lloyds 1A classification her entire career with the Swedes, an accomplishment for any merchant vessel pushing 50 years on her keel.

It was then that she was given the dishonor of becoming a diesel-powered freighter when, after she was bought by the Portuguese firm of Julio Ribeiro Campos in 1943 for $265,000, had her masts stepped and a pair of Fairbanks Morse M6s installed at Kensington Shipyard in Philadelphia. Her new name, Fox do Duoro.

As Fox do Duoro, taken in New Orleans, 1949. Note the maimed masts and black hull. Quite a difference from her gleaming white scheme and a sky full of canvas.

Poking around for another decade, she was resold twice more to various concerns in Lisbon until finally being offered for her value in scrap metal to Société Anonyme Bonita, Tangiers, who broke her in 1957.

Sadly, that was also the last year the Abraham Rydbergs group was in operation as a maritime institute, though it still exists as a foundation which provides a scholarship to other schools’ training programs. A fourth Rydberg, the former British yacht Sunbeam II, a 194-foot three-masted schooner built by Lord Runciman, was bought by the school in 1945 and used for a decade before they got out of the schoolship business for good. Incidentally, this final ship is in the service of the Hellenic Navy currently.

Our Rydberg, is, however, widely remembered in maritime art.

Deep Waters, by Montague Dawson, showing Rydberg on the high seas.

By Adolf Bock

Joe Francis Dowden, watercolor The Abraham Rydberg as she would have appeared in Planter Line Service as Hawaiian Isles in the 1900s


Displacement: 2345 grt
Length: 270 ft.
Beam: 43 ft.
Draft: 23 ft.
Engines (1943) twin Fairbanks M6cyl 14″x17″ 1300bhp, 2-screw, machinery aft
Crew: 40 + up to 70 cadets on a one-year course (1930-42)

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Remember, today is not about how much you can save on bedding

“Infantryman” by Capt. Harry Everett Townsend, American Expeditionary Force to France, 1918, via U.S. Army Museum/CMH

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017: The Real McCoy

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, Nov. 8, 2017: The Real McCoy

Here we see the mighty U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Seneca (CG-17), a warship that served in both World Wars and had a tussle or two while enforcing some unpopular laws.

Classified when constructed as a “derelict destroyer” for the then-U.S. Revenue Marine designed to deep-six semi-submerged vessels on the high seas while towing in those still salvageable, she was built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company in Virginia and commissioned 12 November 1908, named after the storied Native American tribe of the Iroquois confederation formerly living in New York state.

At least four Seneca’s served in the Navy during the Civil War and Great War while a fifth, AT-91/ATF-91, was a 205-foot Navajo-class fleet tug built during WWII and sunk as a target in 2003. However, the Revenue Service cutter that is the subject of this post was the first cutter by that name.

Built at a price of $244,000, she was a follow-on to the five modern cutters ordered at the turn of the Century, that, at 200~ feet and 1,200-tons were decent steel-hulled vessels that could serve their peacetime use as well as be capable modern naval auxiliary gunboats in times of conflict.

Constructed with lessons learned from those craft, the one-off Seneca tipped the scales at 1,259-tons and went 204-feet overall. Able to float in 18-feet of seawater, her twin boiler plant could chug her along at an economical 12-knots. A quartet of 6-pounders (57mm guns) and a supply of naval mines and explosives for scuttling completed her armament.

Early in her career, with black hull and buff stack

Her first “job” was helping to police the massive Hudson-Fulton international naval parade in New York. Her commander during the Hudson-Fulton parade was Captain J. C. Cantwell, USRCS, and she was shown off to both visiting dignitaries and naval personnel.

Seneca immediately went to a harder line of work, in 1909 towing the stricken White Star liner RMS Republic, which sent the first wireless distress signal in history via the then-novel Marconi apparatus after the vessel was mortally wounded in a collision with the steamer Florida off Nantucket.

Then, of course, there was the derelict duty and anti-smuggling work.

Seneca with a derelict in tow

In March 1913, Seneca responded to the first International Ice Patrol, established in the aftermath of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Operating out of Halifax, Nova Scotia and ranging as far as Iceland, Seneca made no less than 10 patrols in the next three years looking for wandering ice, on one occasion saving adrift survivors of the British freighter Columbian.

During this time the Revenue Marine became part of the new Coast Guard, and Seneca changed her title and took part in the increasingly tense neutrality patrol work as the world descended into the Great War.

Upon the U.S. Declaration of War against the Kaiser in April 1917, the new service became part of the Navy. Accordingly, Seneca landed her battery of 6-pounders, picked up a new one of a quartet of 3″/50 cal guns, and for the next 28 months served as a haze gray colored gunboat for the Navy.

Seneca was assigned to Squadron 2, Division 6, of the Atlantic Fleet Patrol forces, heading to Europe along with the other large blue water cutters on convoy escort and general anti-submarine missions. Assigned to Base 9 (Gibraltar), Seneca joined the cutters Algonquin, Manning, Ossipee, Tampa, and Yamacraw.

USCGC Seneca. Description: (Coast Guard Cutter, 1908) Members of the ship’s crew pose on board, circa 1917-1918. The original image is printed on postcard stock. Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2009. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 106709

Venturing into U-boat-infested seas proved dangerous for the small group of cutters. The small Ossipee, 165-feet of rock and roll, escorted an impressive 32 convoys consisting of 596 Allied vessels and made contacts with enemy submarines on at least 8 occasions, on one of these reportedly side-stepping a torpedo by about 15 feet. Tampa was not so lucky, sunk just six weeks before the end of the war by a torpedo hit with all hands; 111 Coast Guardsmen, 4 U.S. Navy personnel, and 16 passengers.

Seneca herself ran 30 convoys and escorted 580 ships, plucking 81 survivors from the torpedoed RN sloop HMS Cowslip in April. 1918 off Gibraltar, and 27 survivors from the stricken British freighter SS Queen in June.

Then came the Wellington.

Part of the 21-ship Convoy OM-99, outbound from Milford Haven to Gibraltar, the 5,600-ton freighter Wellington suffered an explosion that blew the first 30-feet off her bow and Seneca, responding to the scene, chased off a surfaced U-boat with her 3-inchers. Sending over a 20-man crew of volunteers to help keep the coal-laden merchantman from foundering with the hopes of making for Brest, about 350 miles away on the French coast.

While they could slow the flooding, and make 7.5-knots, a storm set in and the act turned hopeless, with 1LT Fletcher W. Brown ordering the boarding crew and remaining Wellington sailors to abandon ship and take their chances in the water.

Coast Guard Cutter SENECA places a damage control crew on board the torpedoed tanker WELLINGTON in an attempt to keep it from sinking September 16, 1918.

However, 11 went down with the freighter and were awarded the Navy Cross for their heroism while Acting Machinist William L. Boyce received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for staying in the engine room until the very end. The final message from Wellington, sent by Electrician 2nd Class Morrill C. Mason, USCG: “We are turning over, you’ve done everything you could. Goodbye.”

In all, Seneca received three letters of commendation from the Admiralty for her service in Europe. She fired upon or dropped depth charges on no less than 21 occasions, often credited with sinking one submarine, though post-war analysis never firmed that up.

USS SENECA (1917-1919) Flying homeward bound pennant. Description Catalog NH 108752

Chopping back to Coast Guard duty in 1919, she picked up her white scheme, but she still had another battle to fight.

Once enforcement of the Volstead Act began in January 1920, it was the Treasury Department that was given the unpopular task of enforcing Prohibition, and “T-men” of the newly formed Bureau of Prohibition (which became ATF in 1930 and was transferred briefly to the Justice Department) became a popular term at the time for those engaged in the act of chasing down bootleggers, speakeasies and those with hidden stills. It should be noted that Elliot Ness and his “Untouchables” were T-men and not G-men of the FBI, as is commonly believed and for every public hero of the force, there were heavy-handed and unprofessional agents such as “Kinky” Thompson who gave the work a black eye– literally.

Nevertheless, as a branch of the Treasury going back to the days of Alexander Hamilton, the Coast Guard became responsible for enforcement on the seas, fighting booze pirates and rum-runners smuggling in territorial waters. The agency was hard-pressed to chase down fast bootlegging boats shagging out to “Rum Row” where British and Canadian merchantmen rested 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 all the FFG7 frigates to the Coast Guard during the “cocaine cowboy” days of the 1980s.

However, Seneca and the other legacy cutters held their own as well.

Seneca, August 4, 1922, Harris & Ewing, photographer, via LOC

One of the more infamous on Rum Row was William “Bill” McCoy, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Nautical School in Philadelphia who went on to sail the seven seas for two decades before he opened a boatyard in Florida. Picking up first one schooner and then another, the 130-foot British-flagged Arethusa which he renamed Tomoka, McCoy specialized in running liquor from the Bahamas and Bermuda as well as from the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (where Arethusa flew a French flag and went by the name Marie Celeste) to New England, reportedly making $300,000 in profit for each trip. His profits were high because he never stepped on his booze and cut it with water, with his whiskey being passed off as “the real McCoy.”

It was a night in November 1923 when Seneca came across McCoy and his hooch-laden Arethusa off the New Jersey coast.

From Rum Wars at Sea:

Agents in cooperation with the Coast Guard put into effect without warning the principal of search and seizure beyond the 3-mile limit, realizing the likelihood of legal complications. The cutter Seneca arrived near Tomoka at daybreak and found the schooner riding placidly at anchor. The ship was first boarded by agents, and as soon as they were on board a fist fight developed in which all hands took part. The agents, though badly beaten up, were able to search her and found 200 cases of whiskey remaining from an original cargo of 4,200. Then Tomoka got underway with the agents on board. Seneca ordered her to stop. When she disregarded this, the cutter sent two shots screaming across her bows with the desired result. She was then boarded by a larger group of coast guardsmen from Seneca and seized.

It was the end of McCoy’s rum-running days and he soon headed off to federal prison on an abbreviated sentence, with Arethusa sold at public auction.

Still, Seneca proved a scourge for those who remained in the business.

Aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca, Prohibition agents examine barrels of alcohol confiscated from a rum runner boat. Via LOC

Aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca, Prohibition agents stand amidst cases of scotch whiskey confiscated from a rum runner boat. Via LOC

One of the rum runners against its nemesis: the K-13091 alongside the Coast Guard cutter Seneca at the end of the chase, 1924. Via LOC. Note the 1903s and BAR

Badly worn out, Seneca was placed out of service in 1927-28 for reconstruction and spent the rest of Prohibition stationed in New York, transferring to San Juan in 1932 and Mobile in 1934. Showing her age, she was decommissioned 21 March 1936 and stored at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore to make room for the new 327-foot Treasury-class cutters then under construction.

In September, the 28-year-old disarmed cutter was sold to the Boston Iron and Metal Co., of Baltimore, Maryland for $6,605, who did nothing with her and subsequently resold her to the Texas Refrigeration Steamship Line to turn into a banana boat on the Guatemala to Gulfport run. However, TRSL went bankrupt and Seneca never left Baltimore, leaving her to be reacquired at auction by Boston Iron, who still owned her in 1941 and weren’t doing anything with the old girl.

With another war coming, the Coast Guard took Seneca back into service in 1941. However, she was deemed to be in too poor a condition for escort duty and was instead shuffled to “The Real” McCoy’s alma mater, the Pennsylvania Nautical School in Philadelphia for use as a training vessel. Seneca, renamed Keystone State, replaced the old 1,000-ton gunboat USS Annapolis in September 1942.

During this time, admission requirements at the school were raised to high school graduates between the ages of 17 and 20 years and students were instructed in dead reckoning, the duties of an officer; theoretical and practical marine engineering; and in handling boats. Some 2,000 young men cycled through the school in the war years.

In April 1946, the Maritime Commission made the newly-decommissioned Artemis-class attack cargo ship USS Selinur (AKA-41) available to the school as Keystone State II, and Seneca was returned.

She was scrapped in 1950, one of the last vessels built for the Revenue Marine Service still afloat at the time.

Seneca, however, is well remembered.

In 1928, the U.S. Coast Guard Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, honoring the service’s war dead in general and those lost on Tampa and Seneca during WWI in particular, was dedicated.

The Coast Guard command holds a Veteran's Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Nov. 11, 2012. The area where the Coast Guard World War I memorial, which honors the fallen crew members of the Cutter Seneca and Cutter Tampa, was placed is commonly referred to as Coast Guard Hill. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Timothy Tamargo

The Coast Guard command holds a Veteran’s Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Nov. 11, 2012. The area where the Coast Guard World War I memorial, which honors the fallen crew members of the Cutter Seneca and Cutter Tampa, was placed is commonly referred to as Coast Guard Hill. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Timothy Tamargo

From Arlington:

Architect George Howe and sculptor Gaston Lachaise captured the spirit of the Coast Guard’s legendary steadfastness in the monument’s rock foundation and pyramid design. Above the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus (meaning “Always Ready”), is a bronze seagull with its wings uplifted. The seagull symbolizes the tireless vigil that the U.S Coast Guard maintains over the nation’s maritime territory.

Further, the centennial medals issued by the U.S. Mint in 2018 honoring the service’s participation in the Great War depicts a lifeboat from the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca heading out in heavy seas toward the torpedoed steamship Wellington.

Coast Guard Cutter Seneca heading out in heavy seas toward the torpedoed steamship Wellington.

Her name was recycled for the “Famous” class 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter, WMEC-906, was commissioned in 1987 and is homeported in Boston.


Tonnage: 1,259 tons (gross)
Length: 204 ft.
Breadth: 34 ft. Breadth
Draft (or Depth): 17.3 ft. (depth)
Engines: Two Scotch boilers, one triple expansion steam engine, one shaft.
Speed: 11.2 knots
Crew: 9/65 designed, 110 wartime
Armament: (1908) 4- 6pdrs
(1917) 4 3″/50 cal guns, depth charges
(1937) disarmed

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.

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.

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That Key West experience

“Military Men standing by a small gun. Fort Zachary Taylor. Key West. 1918. Monroe County Library”

Looks like a 3-inch gun on a masking parapet mount without the gun shield (which would have gone on the hooks) mounted. Taylor had six of these guns in two batteries (Adair and Dilworth) between 1899-1920 during the installation’s Endicott Period, which would correlate to the uniforms, which curiously are Naval though the fort was an Army Coastal Artillery post. Perhaps they were just checking out the landlubber’s gun…

From the position, it looks like Battery Adair, which mounted four Driggs-Seabury low-angle 3-inchers in M1898MI mounts, emplaced to cover controlled minefields leading up to the fort’s masonry walls. The battery was named after the late 1st Lt. Lewis D. Adair, 22nd U.S. Infantry, who died 5 Oct 1872, of wounds received in action with Sioux Indians at Heart River Crossing, Dakota Territory. Adair, who at the time of his last battle was fifteen miles from Heart Butte, on Heart river, while on duty with his company escorting the Northern Pacific Railroad survey of the area, was reportedly given his death blow by the great Hunkpapa Sioux chief Gall.

According to Fort Wiki, the end of the Great War ended the battery’s usefulness and “On 27 Mar 1920 all four guns were ordered removed and the carriages salvaged. The guns were transferred to Watervliet 17 Sep 1920 and the mounts were scrapped 20 May 1920.”

Prince busters, Philly edition with Niobe tie-in

NH 42252 Explosive Torpedoes Found under the interned German ships Prinz Eitel Friedrich and Kronprinz Wilhelm after they were seized by the United States in April 1917 scuttling charge

Photographed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, 12 April 1919. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 42252 *Click to big up and read the list of items*

“Explosive Torpedoes Found under the interned German ships Prinz Eitel Friedrich and Kronprinz Wilhelm after they were seized by the United States in April 1917. These devices, shown here disassembled with components labeled, were placed by the ships’ German crewmembers in anticipation of the seizure, in hopes of disabling the ships and thus rendering them useless to the U.S. ”

A 16,000-ton passenger liner turned German auxiliary cruiser (Hilfskreuzer) with the help of 14 small deck guns, SMS Prinz Eitel Friedrich had claimed 11 Allied ships over the winter of 1914-15 before she escaped destruction at the hands of the Warship Wednesday alumni, Royal Canadian Naval Service’s HMCS Niobe, by presenting herself to the captain of the port at Hampton Roads. She was later moved to Philadelphia Naval Yard and interned alongside Kronprinz Wilhelm. She was renamed USS DeKalb (ID-3010) and placed in commission on 12 May 1917 to serve as a troopship to carry Doughboys “over there.” She was later used as the liner Mount Clay, scrapping in 1927.

SS Kronprinz Wilhelm in better days

The 24,000-ton liner/hilfskreuzer SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm had much the same story as Friedrich and renamed USS Von Steuben after her seizure in 1917 in honor of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, of Valley Forge fame. She put into Halifax on the afternoon of 6 December 1917 to respond to the terrific explosion at the port– which also damaged HMCS Niobe, giving her and Friedrich another connection.

Postwar, she continued to sail for the U.S. Shipping Board simply as Von Steuben until 1923.

In a final tie-in between the two German liners and Niobe, the Canadian vessel was scrapped in Philadelphia in 1923.

Meet Bridget, she like long walks, and taking shots at the Kaiser’s men across No Man’s Land

The gun that fired the first American shot at Sommerville, near Nancy Oct 23 1917

The 75mm artillery piece that cranked out the first U.S. shot on the Western Front in World War I a century ago last week is still in the Army’s custody.

The M1897 gun, a French-made field gun named “Bridget” is on display today in the Large Weapons Gallery at the U.S. Army Military Academy Museum at West Point but on Oct. 23, 1917, it fired the first shot across “No Man’s Land” by American forces in France.

The gun was sent back to the states in 1918 and is at West Point today, still with the names of the “First Shot” crew who fired it 100 years ago last week.

More in my column at

A bit of desert that will always be Scotland

“The graves of two Scottish soldiers are marked by upturned rifles in the sand, North Africa, 5 November 1942,” some 75 years ago this quiet Sunday.

Photo by No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Smales (Sgt) IWM (E 18952) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

This reminds me of Scottish poet Roderick Watson Kerr‘s piece, From the Line. Kerr himself was invalided out after picking up the MC while a junior officer in the 2nd Royal Tank Corps during the Great War.

From the Line

Have you seen men come from the Line,
Tottering, doddering, as if bad wine
Had drugged their very souls;
Their garments rent with holes
And caked with mud
And streaked with blood
Of others, or their own;
Haggard, weary-limbed and chilled to the bone,
Trudging aimless, hopeless, on
With listless eyes and faces drawn
Taut with woe?

Have you seen them aimless go
Bowed down with muddy pack
And muddy rifle slung on back,
And soaking overcoat,
Staring on with eyes that note
Nothing but the mire
Quenched of every fire?

Have you seen men when they come
From shell-holes filled with scum
Of mud and blood and flesh,
Where there’s nothing fresh
Like grass, or trees, or flowers,
And the numbing year-like hours
Lag on – drag on,
And the hopeless dawn
Brings naught but death, and rain –
The rain a fiend of pain
That scourges without end,
And Death, a smiling friend?

Have you seen men when they come from hell?
If not, – ah, well
Speak not with easy eloquence
That seems like sense
Of ‘War and its Necessity’!
And do not rant, I pray,
On ‘War’s Magnificent Nobility’!

If you’ve seen men come from the Line
You’ll know it’s Peace that is divine !
If you’ve not seen the things I’ve sung –
Let silence bind your tongue,
But, make all wars to cease,
And work, and work for Everlasting Peace !

–from War Daubs (London: John Lane, 1919) via the Scottish Poetry Library

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Make Big Noise

Not Clauswitz

The semi-sprawling adventures of a culturally hegemonic former flat-lander and anti-idiotarian individualist who fled the toxic Smug emitted by self-satisfied lotus-eating low-land Tesla-driving floppy-hat-wearing lizadroid-Leftbat Coastal Elite Califorganic eco-tofuistas ~ with guns, off-road moto, boulevardier-moto, moto-guns, snorkeling, snorkel-guns, and home-improvement stuff.

The Angry Staff Officer

Peddling history, alcohol, defense, and sometimes all three at once

To the Sound of the Guns

Civil War Artillery, Battlefields and Historical Markers

Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

Ethos Live

Naval Special Warfare Command

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