Category Archives: World War One

The Guards Connection

Check out this great image, circa 1901, by Mr. James Russell & Sons of Baker Street, London, fame. The seated gentleman is His Grace, Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, 6th Duke of Richmond, 6th Duke of Lennox, and 1st Duke of Gordon, KG, PC. He is surrounded by three of his grandsons who recently returned to England from campaigning abroad: LT Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, Lord Settrington of the Irish Guards; LT Hon. Esme Gordon-Lennox of the Scots Guards; and LT Hon. Bernard Charles Gordon-Lennox of the Grenadier Guards. All of them are wearing the South African Medal, having just fought the Boer, while Lord Settrington is also wearing a D.S.O.

Bernard would later perish near Ypres in 1914, as a major, and is buried there. Lady Bernard Gordon-Lennox remained a widow until her death in June 1944, during World War II, aged 67, when a V-1 flying bomb hit the Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks and killed her.

Lord Settrington, who would become the Earl of March in 1903 and was a colonel of the Sussex Yeomanry (see= Gallipoli) in the Great War, would have a son that would die in August 1919 of war wounds, seconded from the Irish Guards to the Royal Fusiliers fighting the Bolsheviks in Northern Russia, age 20, and is buried in Archangel.

Brigadier-General Lord Esmé Gordon-Lennox would be the longest living of the above quartet, as he would survive the Great War and enjoy a ripe old age, passing in 1949.

As for Charles, the paterfamilias had previously done his time in the colors with the Horse Guards in the 1840s-50s and was an ADC to Wellington.

The Gordon-Lennox family has continued to serve, often lengthy military careers, in the Guards. 

103 years Ago: I will Hold

Via the National Museum of the Marine Corps:

On 19 July 1918, 1st Lt Clifton Cates, who would later become the 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps, sent this legendary message back to his command during the fighting at Soissons. At the time, his company, No. 79 of the Sixth Marines, was holding the line by its fingernails along with remnants of the regiment’s 2nd battalion, in the face of stiff German opposition. 

Cates, who was Commandant during Korea, would see his Marines involved in the mud once again, albeit 30 years apart. 

Lieutenant Colonel Ray Murray, commanding the 5th Marines, shows a captured percussion fired, black powder wall gun to Commandant of the Marine Corps General Clifton B. Cates, in Korea. From the Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

Warship Wednesday, July 14, 2021: The Edison Bubblehead Connection

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, July 14, 2021: The Edison Bubblehead Connection

U.S. War Department photo 165-WW-338B-30, via the National Archives.

Here we see the early Narwhal/D-class USS D-3 submersible (Submarine No. 19, ex-Salmon) underway off New York City during the October 1912 Naval Review with the fog-shrouded pre-dreadnought battlewagon USS Kearsarge (Battleship No. 5) in the background. Note the Battle Efficiency “E” award displayed proudly on D-3‘s fairwater, her tuna-tower style surface running bridge complete with a life ring, and her submariners wearing no doubt spotless crackerjacks. Although the name “USS D-3” doesn’t inspire, or garner much name recognition to naval history buffs, this humble little boat pulled off a few “firsts” that deserve recognition.

The trio of boats that made up the Navy’s D-class submarine family– Narwhal (D-1, SS-17), Grayling (D-2, SS-18), and Salmon (D-3, SS-19) — were all laid down on the same day, 16 April 1908 by Fore River Shipbuilding Co., Quincy, Mass., under subcontract from the newly-formed Electric Boat Company of, Groton, Connecticut. At the time of ordering, they were reportedly the largest submersibles designed, being 134 feet in length overall and displacing 337 tons. Using port and starboard gasoline (!) engines, theoretically capable of developing 300 horsepower each, they were designed to reach 16 knots surfaced (although this proved to be closer to 13 knots in operation. For submerged operations, they had two 97 kW electric motors fed by two 60-cell batteries enabling a brief (three-hour burst) speed of about 8 knots while underwater. They were short boats. From the tip of the tallest periscope to the outermost layer of paint at the bottom of the keel on a D-class submarine was about 50 feet, meaning they could completely submerge at anything past the 10-fathom line.

Compared to today’s submarines, they had lots of issues. For instance, it took the class a full three minutes to submerge. Further, their torpedo battery, two tubes each on her starboard and port bows, took a solid minute to flood and used small (18-inch) fish without the room to carry reloads– although they were the first U.S. boats to be able to fire a potentially devastating four-torpedo brace all at once.

USS Narwhal (D-1) Torpedo Room. Photo via The US Navy Submarine Force Museum

The torpedo tube doors used muzzle caps that rolled into place, rather than the later door-style system incorporated after the D-class. USS Narwhal (D-1) Under construction. The date of the photo is Feb 7, 1909. Photo via The US Navy Submarine Force Museum via

Bliss-Leavitt Torpedo Mark 3, 1911. A turbine-driven torpedo, designed by M.F.M. Leavitt, an engineer at E.W. Bliss Co., with tweaks from LCDR Gregory Caldwell Davison, USN, (more on him, below.) Alcohol was mixed with super-heated compressed air to provide motive power for the turbine. The Navy adopted this torpedo circa 1904 and used various models of it for the next 22 years. The D-class submarines, for almost all their career, used the larger Bliss-Leavitt Mark 4, a 1,500-pound, 16.4-foot long, 17.7-inch model with a range of about 1,000 yards. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph, NH 82836

However, they did mount some innovative signal gear, amounting to an Allied Signal Bell on the deck (with an air-operated clapper) and a “stethoscope apparatus, permitting transmission of signals with sister ships when submerged at a distance of about one mile.” They also carried a series of both observation and attack periscopes, the latter with range finders, which were cutting edge for 1908.

Remember, Mr. Holland’s first primitive submarine was only placed in service by the U.S. Navy in 1900.

Salmon was commissioned on 8 September 1910. However, the previous July, before she joined the Navy, Electric Boat took her on one hell of a builder’s trials.

Record-setting trip

With her navigator the esteemed LCDR Gregory Caldwell Davison, USN, Ret, and Electric Boat’s VP at the time, PCU Salmon set out from the Fore River bound for Hamilton, Bermuda in a historic “overseas” cruise with a 1,700-mile round trip.

She embarked a mixed 21-man crew made up of four naval enlisted men along with LT D.A Weaver as skipper, and Asst Naval Constructor D.R. Battles as ship’s engineer; 13 builder’s tradesmen under Davison’s control; and one Captain A. Cuevas of the Chilean Navy who was very keen on acquiring submarines. As these 21 souls were shipping out in a boat built to accommodate 14 (and could be run by five!) they landed most of the installed bunks as well as the torpedoes (the tubes cleaned and filled with potable water as there was no desalination equipment) and the ship was crammed with crated spare parts and supplies, with air mattresses directly over the battery deck.

PCU Salmon’s hybrid Navy/Electric Boat crew on deck while on her trip to Bermuda in 1910 via The US Navy Submarine Force Museum &

It was the first international deployment for a Navy submarine (although she wasn’t commissioned just yet and had shattered the fleet’s previous submarine record (483nm) achieved by the USS Viper (Submarine # 10, later USS B-1) while also besting British (512nm) and French (1,200nm) records as well.

“The new submarine Salmon (SS-19), which will soon be turned over to the government, has broken all records by making, unattended an ocean trip of several hundred miles. She left Provincetown MA, and arrived in Bermuda, making an average speed of eight and one-half miles an hour.” Image and text provided by Washington State Library, Olympia, WA. & Minnesota Historical Society; Saint Paul, MN. Photo from The Tacoma Times. (Tacoma, Wash.) 1903-1949, 03 August 1910, Image 6, & PDF from The Appeal. (Saint Paul, Minn.) 1889-19??, 22 October 1910, Image 1, courtesy of via Navsource.

For more on the cruise to Hamilton, LT Weaver wrote a very detailed article for the Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, Volume 22.

Ready for my close-up, Mr. Edison

Once she was turned over to the Navy and commissioned, she promptly joined the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet at Newport, Rhode Island.

There, this stupendous record-setting submarine chalked up another first: she appeared in a movie.

The Edison Home Kinetoscope small gauge (22mm) process was very durable, and estimates are that upward of 70 percent of his studio’s films are still around in one form or another– as opposed to just 5 percent of other silent period films recorded in other formats.

Of the 2,100 Edison Studios motion pictures made between 1894 and 1919, just one featured a commissioned submarine in action, 1910’s United States Submarine Salmon.

According to the Moving Picture World synopsis:

The film shows the “Salmon” at close range, running on surface, submerging by water ballast, making “porpoise” dives, and running submerged so far that only the top of the periscopes are visible. All the pictures were taken from an accompanying boat and in a fairly rough sea, and it is not going too far to say that the effect is thrilling. To the many thousands of people who are keenly interested in the modern submarine boat, yet who never have had, and never may have, an opportunity to see one, the picture will be a rare treat from a spectacular standpoint, aside from its educational value. Through the courtesy and cooperation of the Holland Electric Boat Company, we are enabled to present it to the motion picture public.

These screen captures provided by the fine folks at Almost Lost Images:


Back to the grind

The remainder of her service was busy but not quite as heady. Salmon/D-2 was part of the forces operating in Mexican waters following the occupation of Vera Cruz in 1914, appeared in a series of naval reviews, and spent two years in Key West as the flagship of Submarine Division 2.

The USS Salmon (D-3) on the surface with her bridge canvas rigged probably on Long Island Sound for exercises. Via Pigboats

USS Salmon (Submarine #19, SS-19, later D-3); USS Grayling (Submarine #18, SS-18, later D-2); USS Tarpon (Submarine #14, later C-3); USS Octopus (Submarine #9, later C-1); USS Bonita (Submarine #15, later C-4); and the battleship, USS Nebraska (Battleship #14). George Grantham Bain Collection, October 31, 1911. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-B2-2335-12

USS Salmon (Submarine # 19) Crew posed on deck, while cruising out of Newport, Rhode Island, in October 1911. William D. Crowell, an architect from St. Louis, Missouri, was on board at the time. He gave this photograph to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in 1944, in reminiscence of the old days. Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN. NH 58514

In November 1911, the Narwhal class lost their fish names, as did the earlier classes of U.S. submarines, and traded them in for alpha-numeric, in this case, D names.

Around 1914-15 she became a favorite subject of a New York City-based commercial photographer, Robert Enrique Muller, Jr., who was an official shutterbug for the Navy Department. He visited D-3 on what looks to be at least two different periods while she was in the Cape Cod area, snapping several photos that appeared in naval publications and as postcards.

USS D-3 (Submarine # 19) Coming to the Surface, prior to World War I. Photographed by N. Moser, New York, and Enrique Muller, Jr. Note the submarine fish flag atop her after periscope and winch for handling torpedoes. She has a “D-3” on her bow, partially submerged, and a “2” for Submarine Squadron Two, on her sail. 165-WW-338B-58 via NARA

USS D-3 (Submarine # 19) Underway submerged, with periscope trained on the camera, prior to World War I. Photographed by N. Moser, New York, and Enrique Muller, Jr. Collection of Christopher H.W. Lloyd. NH 102650

USS D-3 (Submarine # 19) Halftone reproduction of a photograph by N. Moser and Enrique Muller, Jr., showing the submarine underway submerged, circa 1916, with her periscope trained on the camera. Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN(MSC), 1973. NH 77469

USS D-3 (Submarine # 19) Underway, prior to World War I. Photograph by Enrique Muller, printed in the book Our Navy in the War, by Lawrence Perry, 1922. NH 82569

“Handling torpedoes USS D-3” (Submarine # 19), photo listed by Enrique Muller of the “Committee for Public Information” in New York, NY, taken July 1915. Note the varied uniforms of her crew, the stowed boathook to the left, and the boat’s overall low freeboard. War Department photo 165-WW-321C-049 via NARA.


Wartime Service

USS D-2, D-1 & D-3 shown on May 10, 1915 (the bow of the E-2 can be seen to the left) on the upper west side of New York city moored at the 135th Street piers as part of the Presidential Review for President Wilson with the Atlantic Fleet. Via Pigboats

On 18 October 1915, the submarines D-1 (SS-17), D-2 (SS-18), D-3 (SS-19), E-1 (SS-24), G-1 (SS-19 1/2), G-2 (SS-27), and G-4 (SS-26) arrived at the New London Navy Yard in Groton, Connecticut, where they became the first such craft stationed at what is now Naval Submarine Base New London. There, they would spend the next few years alternating training duties for new submarine service volunteers with neutrality patrol and, after April 1917, active combat patrols. During this time, D-3 would have as her commander Lieutenant (j.g.) Robert Henry English (USNA 1911) who would go on to be COMSUBPAC in WWII.

“U.S. Submarines awaiting Orders” Halftone reproduction, printed on a postal card, of a photograph of five submarines nested together prior to World War I. The three boats at right are (from center to right): USS D-2 (Submarine # 18); USS D-1 (Submarine # 17); and USS D-3 (Submarine # 19). The two at left are probably (in no order) USS E-1 (Submarine # 24) and USS E-2 (Submarine # 25). Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN (Medical Service Corps), 1973. NH 78926

USS D-3 (Submarine # 19, ex-Salmon) Alongside a dock with other submarines on an icy day, circa 1918. The location is probably the Submarine Base at Groton, Connecticut. D-3 appears to be wearing pattern camouflage. Other submarines present are (moving outward from D-3: USS D-1 (Submarine # 17); USS G-4 (Submarine # 26); and USS G-3 (Submarine # 31). NH 99157

Postwar, her career was limited as the Navy had several new classes of submarines that were much more advanced. Placed in reserve on 5 September 1919, then in ordinary on 15 July 1921, she was towed to Philadelphia Navy Yard and decommissioned 20 March 1922. Three months later, she was sold for scrap.

More Edison-Navy Connections

Edison had several additional ties to the Navy besides the Salmon film. His early nickel-iron (NiFe) battery was trialed for submarine operations as were other inventions of his.

During the Great War, he lent his status and energy (see what I did there) to help expand the Navy’s brain pool.

As detailed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory:

Thomas Edison, when asked by a New York Times correspondent to comment on the conflict, argued that the Nation should look to science. The Government, he proposed in a published interview, should maintain a great research laboratory…. In this could be developed … all the technique of military and naval progression without any vast expense.

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels seized the opportunity created by Edison’s public comments to enlist Edison’s support. He agreed to serve as the head of a new body of civilian experts — the Naval Consulting Board — to advise the Navy on science and technology. The Board’s most ambitious plan was the creation of a modern research facility for the Navy. Congress allocated $1.5 million for the institution in 1916, but wartime delays and disagreements within the Naval Consulting Board postponed construction until 1920. And so it was that NRL began operations at 11:00 a.m. on July 2, 1923.

Today, NRL’s Edison Program helps develop and retain talented employees.

In 1920, the Navy Department awarded him the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. Then, in 1940, the Navy named the USS Edison (DD-439), a Gleaves class destroyer, in his honor. A second vessel named after the inventor, USS Thomas A. Edison (SSBN-610), a fleet ballistic missile nuclear-powered submarine, was commissioned in 1962.

USS Thomas A Edison (SSBN-610) an Ethan Allen-class ballistic-missile submarine, was ultimately decommissioned in 1983 after 21 years of dedicated service as a Polaris boat. She was also the only U.S. submarine conducting nuclear deterrent patrols to have a full-sized Steinway piano installed. Her motto was Potentia Tenebras Repellendi (Power to Repel the Darkness). NH 82295


The plans and ship drawings for USS Salmon/D-3 are in the National Archives.

There is a commemorative sign to the “Original Salmon” at The US Navy Submarine Force Museum

Muller’s images were often reproduced as color photomechanical print postcards, and many survive today that feature USS D-3.

Of her sisters, USS Grayling (D-2) SS-18, would be the first U.S. submarine to test bow planes, the first to be commanded by a “mustang” officer, LT Owen Hill— one of the original crewmen of the USS Holland (SS-1) — and discovered the Imperial German Navy submarine SM U-53 off Rhode Island in 1916 while on neutrality patrol. Meanwhile, class leader USS Narwhal (D-1) SS-17, in 1911 sensationally documented an encounter with whales as attributed to a young LT Chester Nimtz.

The whale of a tale, attributed to Nimitz by the old New York World, is thought to be fake news today. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Like Salmon/D-2, both her sisters were decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1922.

The Navy, while they never saw the appeal of recycling the name “D-3,” did commission a few later Salmons. The second Salmon, SS-182, was a curious composite diesel-hydraulic and diesel-electric submarine commissioned in 1938. At sea off Luzon on 8 December 1941, she started her first war patrol (of 12!) immediately upon receiving word of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. By 1945, she earned nine battlestars and a Presidential Unit Citation, racking up a tally sheet of Japanese shipping during the conflict.

USS Salmon (SS-182), running speed trials on 29 December 1937. She was scrapped in 1946, less than a decade after she joined the fleet, worn out after extensive wartime service. USN 410380

The third and so far, (as of 2021) final USS Salmon (SSR/SS/AGSS-573) was a Sailfish-class radar picket submarine commissioned in 1956. Later GUPPY-fied, she would become a normal hunter-killer and then an auxiliary research submarine, completing nine West Pac deployments including two with the Seventh Fleet off Vietnam where she conducted special operations. After decommissioning in 1977, she lingered on for another 15 years as a shallow water sonar target hulk, was sunk off Long Island where she continues to clock in as a bottom target.

USS Salmon (SS-573) underway in San Francisco Bay, the early 1970s. Naval Subjects Collection. Catalog #: L45-251.01.01

If you are curious about the D-boats, or any old pre-1940 U.S. Submarine, please visit Pig


Salmon, SS-19, Drawing by Jim Christley. Photo & text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman. Naval Institute Press, via Navsource.

288 long tons (293 t) surfaced
337 long tons (342 t) submerged
Length 134 ft 10 in
Beam 13 ft 11 in
Draft 12 ft 6 in
Installed power
600 bhp (450 kW) (gasoline)
330 hp (250 kW) (electric)
Propulsion, Surfaced; 2 x Craig Shipbuilding Co. 6cyl, 4 cycle gasoline engines = 600 total shp, 2 shafts
Propulsion, Submerged: 2 x Electro Dynamic Co. 97 kW electric motors, 2 shafts
Batteries: 2 x 60-cell Electric Storage Battery Company Model 23-WL, 2,970 amp/hr. capacity each.
Speed: 13 knots, surfaced; 9.5 knots, submerged
Range: 1,179 nm at 9.3 knots on the surface, 24 nm at 8 knots submerged
Test depth: 200 feet
Complement: 1 officer, 14 enlisted
Armament 4 x 18 inch (450 mm) bow torpedo tubes for 17.7-inch torpedoes with no reloads

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The More Things Change, Maschinengewehr Edition

Check out these two circa 1917 images of Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal Army (kaiserlich und königliche Armee or k.u.k.) troops fielding a Schwarzlose M.7 water-cooled general-purpose machine gun from carefully constructed trenches, “somewhere in Eastern Europe.”

Maschinengewehr in Gefechtsstellung, 11.1917. Via Bildarchivaustria

Maschinengewehr in Feuerstellung, 25.09.1917 Via Bildarchivaustria

Now contrast them with these three of a modern MG 74 maschinengewehr emplacement of the Austrian Bundesheer taken earlier this month.

Sure, the uniforms are different, and the MG 74 is much more effective– the Steyr-made MG 42/59 variant has a cyclic rate of fire is 850 rounds per minute while only weighing 23.5-pounds instead of the M.7’s 450rpm rate and 90-pounds– the general concept is remarkably the same, even 104 years apart.

Warship Wednesday, June 23, 2021: The St. Thomas Slugger

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, June 23, 2021: The St. Thomas Slugger

Danish National Library DH030850

Here we see the krydserkorvetten (cruiser corvette) Valkyrien of the Royal Danish Navy in exotic Hong Kong on 8 April 1900 while notably under the command of H.K.H. Prins Valdemar, son of then-King Christian IX. Note the junks, small vessel traffic, and destroyers near the gleaming white Nordic warship, which is firing a salute to the harbor battery. Ushered in just after Denmark suffered twin military humiliations, the relatively mighty vessel– for the Danes– would have a quiet and long-ranging career, making several footnotes in history.

Laid down at Orlogsværftet København for the Danish admiralty 27 October 1888, she was reportedly a close cousin of the Armstrong-built Chilean protected cruiser Esmeralda (2,992 tons, 18.3 kts, 2 x 10″/30, 6 x 6″/26) but had a different armament (Krupp-made: 2 x 8.2″/35, 6 x 6″/32), more economical domestic Burmeister & Wain machinery of a lower horsepower, and thicker armor (up to 2.5-inches rather than 1-inch), factors that dropped her speed to 17 knots.

Chilean cruiser Esmeralda by Edoardo de Martino Tyne & Wear Museums Maritime and Industrial Collection

Using a dramatic ram bow, in vogue after 1866, Valkyrien also had some other tricks up her sleeve to include five above deck torpedo tubes arrayed at various angles from her beam (two bows, one stern, two amidships) and carried a pair of 68-foot Thornycroft-made torpedo boats (Torpedobaad Nos. 10 and 11) which were capable of independent operations.

Orlogsmuseet – Model of the Danish Cruiser Valkyrien. Note her ram bow

VALKYRIEN (Danish Cruiser, 1888) Photographed circa 1890 with 2nd class torpedo boat numbers 10 and 11 embarked. NH 85380

A celebration of the Viking choosers of the slain, the ship carried war shields, swords, and battle-axes on her bow, and wings on her bow in careful ornamentation. 

Note the auxiliary sail rig

Note her stern “stinger” torpedo tube below the winged crest

At the time of her commissioning, Valkyrien far outclassed the other “cruisers” under the Danish ensign, some of which were more appropriately described as armored schooners: Absalon (533 tons, 1 x 60-pounder, 2 x 5.75″), Fylla & Diana (560 tons, 1 x 60-pounder, 3 x 30 pounder), St. Thomas (1,700 tons, 8 x 4.7-inch guns), and Ingoff (1,012 tons, 2 x 6″). Valkyrien held the heavyweight champ title even as the later Hekla-class of light cruisers– Gejser, Hejmdal, and Fyen (1,282 tons, 2 x 4.7″, 4 x 3.5″, 4 x torpedo tubes, 17 knots) — were delivered in the 1890s. When compared to Denmark’s squadron of “bathtub battleships” or kystforsvarsskibIver Hvitfeldt (3,446 tons, 2 x 10″ guns, 8-inches armor), Skjold (2,195 tons, 1 x 9.4″, 10 inches armor), and the three Trolle-class (~3,500 tons, 2 x 9.4″, 4 x 6″, 7 inches armor) vessels– she also compared favorably in size, if not in throw and armor, while being a couple of knots faster.

Danish Navy’s silhouettes of primary vessels, showing how Valkyrien compared in size against the rest of the fleet.

In short, Valkyrien, from the time of her commissioning to her eventual retirement three decades later, was the ideal vessel to show the Danish flag overseas, especially in her territories such as Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the Danish West Indies (Dansk Vestindien). Her 3,900nm range certainly helped with that. Once she joined the fleet, she became very busy.

In the summer of 1893, she escorted the royal ship yacht Dannebrog to England for the marriage of the Duke of York (grandson of the Danish king) and Princess Marie of Teck. She followed that royal visit up three years later to represent Denmark at Prince Carl of Denmark’s marriage to Princess Maud.

Danish protected cruiser Valkyrien, in a very dark scheme, on a visit to England

She met Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen’s returning 1896 polar expedition as his famed ship, Fram, arrived back home.

Fram’s return to Kristiania, 9 September 1896. A large fleet of over a hundred small and large ships met Nansen’s ship. Bottom left five torpedo boats, in the middle the new cruiser Valkyrien with her glad rags out, and closest S. S. Haalogaland who had towed Fram (here partly covered by white smoke). Via the Fridtjof Nansen bildearkiv, National Library of Norway

Valkyrien, dansk krysser, krigsskip, Oslofjorden Norwegian archives HHB-15663

In October 1899, she left on a trip to the Far East under Prince Valdemar. No paper sailor, the son of King Christian IX spent most of his life on active duty with the Danish navy– a tradition for a country known for “sailor kings.” She returned home 10 months later, after calling at more than 30 overseas ports.

Prince Valdemar with King Chulalongkorn of Siam. He also met with the Japanese Emperor on the trip

From 1901 through 1902, she continued her out-of-Europe service with a stint as a station ship in the Danish West Indies.

It was during this detail that she sailed to Martinique after a volcanic eruption there which killed over 30,000 people, and her crew participated with local French authorities in the rescue operation at the town of Le Precheur.

Crew members of the Danish cruiser Valkyrien pose with the Krupp ship gun in front of St. Thomas, Via the Orlosmuseet (War Museum), Copenhagen

After a period in ordinary as the fleet expanded, she returned to service with a Med cruise in 1913-1914 on the eve of the Great War. Once Europe was ablaze in conflict, she donned a wartime scheme and maintained a defensive posture in home waters, serving through 1915 as a barracks and school ship training Sikringsstyrken, or security forces.

Then came a wartime modernization, landing her old 8.2- and 6-inch guns in favor of more modern weapons, albeit of a smaller caliber. Her 8.2s had a rate of fire of one shot every three minutes and the original 6-inchers could achieve one shot per. minute. The new 6-inch guns she mounted in place of her main battery could fire 5-6 rounds per minute, as could her new secondary battery, composed of 3-inch guns.

Danish protected cruiser Valkyrien 1919, wartime grey scheme

Shoving off for the Danish West Indies in November 1915, she remained in place as a station ship in that far-off territory as the U.S. and others sought to purchase the islands for their own use. Times were tense on the ground, with wartime shortages, labor problems, local unrest, and Great Power spies all on the list of problems. The cruiser’s captain, CDR Henri Konow, became local governor when the vessel arrived.

H. M. S. Valkyrien ved Frederiksteds, 1915. DT133709

Valkyrien i St.Thomas havn 1915 DT130531

Valkyrien Virgin Islands DVS 0062-1236-900-600-80

In October 1916, the islands were slammed by a strong Category 3 hurricane that left the Danish bark Thor wrecked, three steamers grounded, as well as the schooner Irma II and sloop Faith sunk. It was Valkyrien’s officers who sounded the alarm about the oncoming storm, firing her guns and rockets on command of Konow, and her crew that saved dozens of lives in and around St. Thomas while, as telecommunications and electricity were knocked out, her searchlights and signal lamps illuminated the night sky. The ship’s junior surgeon was sent to Saint John to render assistance due there as there was no medical personnel on that nearby island.

Following along that vein, Valkyrien was the muscle on hand representing the Danish government at the transfer of the colony to Uncle Sam on 31 March 1917, just days before the American entry into WWI. Her band played during the ceremony while an armed 24-man honor guard drawn from her crew marched in tandem with a squad of local gendarmes and Yankee bluejackets from the transport USS Hancock (AP-5), who was very lightly armed with only a few 3-inch guns.

Valkyrien crew on Transfer Day March 31st, 1917

Konow and a dozen of his officers looked on, surrounded by consular representatives of foreign nations and the American delegation. It was Konow who had read the public proclamation of the even aloud two weeks prior, an act that notified the locals of the change in management.

Once the flags were exchanged at 1600hrs, Valkyrien and Hancock fired 17-gun salutes across St. Thomas harbor. Notably in the port at the time were the interned German ocean liners Wasgenwald and Calabria of the Hamburg America Line, who watched the events cautiously.

Valkyrien as the Danish flag comes down, Hancock is behind her. DH009717

Valkyrie salute 1917 DH009665

The territory (save for 500-acre Vand or Water Island, which was retained as property of the Danish East Asiatic Company until 1944) became the U.S. Virgin Islands with Hancock’s skipper, LCDR Edwin Taylor Pollock, becoming Acting Governor. Hancock’s crew would take the German steamers into custody just a week later as the U.S. declared war on the Kaiser.

Deprived of a station to serve overseas, Valkyrien returned home, served as a quarantine vessel during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918, and soon got back to her globetrotting once the war ended.

Used as a training vessel for naval cadets as newer cruisers were available for front-line use, she stopped at Egypt and Malta during her 1919 summer cruise to pick up 160 former German POWs of Danish extraction from the British and returned them to Denmark. That winter she performed the same task in visits to Holland, Belgium, and France, repatriating 135 further Danes, most of whom lived in German-controlled Southern Jutland where the Kaiser’s army conscripted over 30,000 Danish-speaking residents into his legions, over the howls of Copenhagen. The Schleswig Plebiscite later returned much of the region, captured by the Prussians in 1864, to Danish control.

Her summer cruise in 1921 carried, besides her cadets, King Christian X, who used the opportunity to pay visits to the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Christian, who had spent four years with the Danish army as a dragoon officer and would later become famous for his daily horseback rides through German-occupied Copenhagen in WWII, proved adept at instructing the boys in close order drill and morning calisthenics.

Christian is the mustachioed officer with carefully parted hair. If your sovereign is behind you doing calisthenics, you are gonna do calisthenics

Laid up in 1923, Valkyrien was sold for scrap the next year.


She is remembered in period maritime art and postcards. Danish maritime artist Christian Benjamin Olsen, who sailed on her several times, painted no less than three handsome portraits of the cruiser.

The Valkyrie Off Tenerife, 1923 Olsen

“The Spanish general visiting the Danish ship of war Valkyrien.” Signed Chr. Benjamin Olsen, Santa Cruz

Cruiser Valkyrien by Christian Benjamin Olsen, 1913 at Royal Danish Naval Museum

A set of plans is in the U.S. National Archives. 

She is probably best known for her Virgin Islands service and is noted there annually on Transfer Day, observed each March. Konow, her skipper during the transfer, later retired as a vice admiral and served the Danish government in the 1920s as Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign Affairs. A holder of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog, he died in 1939 (ironically the same year as Prince Valdemar, another of her famous captains) and is well remembered in Danish history. 


(Jane’s 1914 listing)

Displacement: 3,020 tons
Length: 266.75 ft.
Beam: 43.25 ft.
Draft: 18.25 ft.
Machinery: Burmeister & Wain, 2 VTE, 6 cylindrical boilers, 5,300shp
Speed: 17.4 knots
Range: 3,900nm at 10 knots on 496 tons coal
Crew: 282 to 310
2 x 21 cm/32cal Krupp C/86 L/35 bagladekanoner
6 x 15 cm/32cal Krupp C/88 L/35 bagladekanoner
4 x 57 mm/40cal Hotchkiss kanoner
8 x 37 mm/17cal Hotchkiss kanoner
2 x 8mm machine guns
5 x 381 mm above water torpedoapparater (later reduced to three in 1913, deleted in 1919)

2 x 14.9 cm/32cal L/50 M.06 bagladekanoner (from Peder Skram)
4 x 75 mm/52 L/55 M.12 patronkanoner (increased to six in 1919)
2 x 57 mm/40cal Hotchkiss kanoner
2 x 37 mm/17cal Hotchkiss kanoner

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.

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Learning all about the Anti-submarine …guns

Official caption: A blue jacket aboard Pennsylvania telling two feminine visitors all about the mechanism of the anti-submarine guns, December 1918.

Photo by Underwood & Underwood via the National Archives 165-WW-332D-42

The gun looks to be a low-angle 3-pounders (47mm), common on earlier battleships of the 1900s for use not only against oncoming torpedo boats but also submarines who, more often than not, were encountered awash or surfaced except during their final attacks. By 1918, they were more or less just used as saluting guns, which would jive for how the two above guns are mounted (i.e. side-by-side so that one crew could work both guns to keep up an easy cadence while the close mounting made it next to impossible to traverse or elevate).  

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), commissioned 12 June 1916, was originally completed with four 3-inch high angle guns for use as “balloon busters” and anti-aircraft artillery, her smallest “usable” guns. 


RADM Henry T. Mayo’s flagship in 1917, the battleship cooled her heels off the Atlantic coast during the Great War, only heading to France in early December 1918 to escort Mr. Wilson to Paris. She then escorted the coal-fired dreadnoughts of Battleship Divisions Nine and Six back to New York, which had served with the British, arriving back home on Christmas night to a big celebration.

Her Second World War would be much more exciting.

Warship Wednesday, May 19, 2021: One Tired Fox

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, May 19, 2021: One Tired Fox

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 61060

Here we see just a great wheelhouse shot of the Astraea-class 2nd class protected cruiser, HMS Fox, likely around the early 1900s, with her wheels covered in battle honor from the 14 previous Royal Navy vessels that carried the name. A slight ship, she had stamina and would range the globe, pushing up rivers in Africa, fighting pirates, surviving ice floes, storming Dervish forts, duking it out with Germans, sparking Arab revolts, and mixing it up with Bolsheviks across her career.

The eight ships of the Astraea class were slow for what you typically think of for cruisers, capable of making just over 19 knots in peak condition under a forced draft, but they were economical, able to steam for 7,000 nm at 10 knots to overseas deployments across the Empire’s vast colonial assets– which of course was their intended purpose. Just 4,300-tons and 339-feet long, they carried a mixed battery of two 6″/40 (15.2 cm) QF Mark Is arranged fore and aft, eight 4.7-inch (12 cm) QF Mark Is arranged port and starboard, eight Ordnance QF Hotchkiss 6 pounders for torpedo boat defense, and a few smaller 3 pounders and early Maxim machine guns. For offensive use, they had three 18-inch torpedo tubes.

HMS FOX British Cruiser, 1893 Caption: Deck scene, looking forward from the stern. Gun is one of her two 6″/40s. NH 61059

The arrangement of this myriad of weapons gave the Astraeas a very bristly appearance, seen here is the 1897 Brassey’s. Note her three torpedo tubes superimposed along the waterline port, starboard, and a stern stinger

The eight cruisers of the class were built almost concurrently, sliding down the ways at five different yards within 18 months of each other across mid-1894 to early 1896. Our subject was at least the 15th HMS Fox to serve in the Royal Navy since 1656 and was launched 15 June 1893, commissioning three years later at a cost of £256,042.

HMS Fox being launched in 1893. IWM Q38906

Serving on the Cape and West African stations, she was tapped for the “expedition against the Sierra Leone Insurgents” in 1898-9, best known today as the Hut Tax War, where the British were running the same old game since 1775. During the colonial dust up there, Fox, along with the paddlewheel gunboat HMS Alecto and scout cruiser HMS Blonde, would land a 280-strong “naval brigade” to fight Bai Bureh’s rebels. She would also be engaged in some NGFS against targets on the Mano River.

For the action, men aboard her were entitled to wear the Ashantee Medal with the “Sierra Leone” clasp.

Fitted with a Marconi wireless device in October 1901, Fox left Portsmouth, off for the East Indies Station for the next three years in a trip that is very well documented in a 271-page journal of Yeoman F.E. Nobbs and Stoker W.T. Berger, with outbound stops in Malta, Port Said (“Sand is not preferable to green slopes and the foliage is very scarce”), Seychelles, in Aden and Muscat (where a detail applied her name to the famous rock there), India (“During our first week’s stay in Bombay, 850 deaths were reported, not a very cheering record for a health resort”), and Colombo on the way.

Just after New Year’s day 1902, Fox took aboard nine field guns and ammunition for shore service to answer a call to help put down disorder in the Persian Gulf at Koweit (Kuwait), where 120 bluejackets helped support the regime of Sheikh Jabar.

Fox was called to patrol the Somaliland coast, and send her tars and field guns ashore once again in the campaign against the Mad Mullah (Mohammed Abdullah Hassan), joining troops of the East African Rifles, Bombay Sappers & Miners, the Uganda Rifles, and a unit of Boers, setting off on a flying column from Obbia (Hobyo) consisting of “1,000 men and 500 camels” to fight the Dervish rebellion.

Then came cruises and visits in the Pacific, including stops in Singapore, only for Fox to be recalled to Somaliland.

Seizing Illing 

Fox in her pre-WWI scheme. NH 61058

On 21 April 1904, working in conjunction with the torpedo cruiser HMS Mohawk and her sistership HMS Hyacinth as well as the Italian gunboat Volturno, they took 125 Tommys of the 1st Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment (under Maj. S.F. Jackson, DSO) aboard, tasked with reducing and capturing the Mahdi’s stronghold at Illing under the orders of Maj. Gen Sir Charles Egerton.

The Hampshires had already been some 10 months campaigning on the Horn of Africa as camel-mounted infantry and had been delayed from an England-bound transport for the operation. “It was a sight to see them, sunburnt and weather-beaten, in the very much worn khaki trousers and old grey backs, standing on the deck of our vessel,” notes the journal.

With each bluejacket sent ashore issued a rifle and 120 rounds of ammunition, they were assembled and sent with the ship’s field guns and Maxims along with stretchers, water cans, rations, and anything else that could be needed.

Between the landing parties of sailors and Royal Marines from the four warships and the Hampshires, 540 men were mustered for the task, equipped with five Maxims in the vanguard. With whaleboats beginning to embark at 0400, the battalion was ashore on a deserted wadi three miles south from Illing by 0730. The expedition then crept towards the port along the beach. By 0830, combat kicked off at a range of 600 yards against fortified blockhouses where the locals were firing through loopholes and supported by a trio of “ancient” 3-pounder muzzleloading carronades firing “bits of old iron” commenced.

Fox answered by shelling the old forts and caves there from a range of 6,300 yards with her 4.7-inch guns, firing 20 rounds of lyddite, shrapnel, and field-pointed common shells to cover the landings. It was all over half an hour of heavy skirmishing with mop-up work commencing the rest of the morning.

The fighting, done at bayonet point, was sharp, with one of Fox’s stokers killed, shot through the lungs, and two more of her crew seriously wounded. In all, the British suffered three killed and 11 wounded, almost all seamen. They captured “sixty corpses and a few prisoners.”

After spending five days ashore razing the works and sorting out souvenirs, the force left by the morning of 26 April. “Illiing had ceased to exist. The walls were flat as those of Jericho, the village had been destroyed, and the fourteen surf boats had been burnt.”

Fox arrived back at Portsmouth in October 1904, flying a 450-foot paying-off pennant, and having steamed more than 60,000 miles in 36 months, putting landing forces ashore on at least three different occasions.

After a period in ordinary, she was dispatched again to the East Indies in June 1908, where she would remain for the better part of 10 years.

On this extended deployment, she would capture slave traders and pirates from stateless dhows off the Arabian Peninsula and be involved in the so-called Dubai Incident or Hyacinth Incident in 1910 that would start with a Christmas Eve party and end up in a “running gun battle, a naval bombardment and numerous deaths” after the RN moved to confiscate a stockpile of “illegal” guns. When the smoke cleared, the Sheikh of Dubai ended up having to hand over to the British some 400 serviceable rifles and pay a fine of 50,000 rupees.

Fox was photographed with some of the Martinis and other breechloaders that were handed in.

Official caption: Arms traffic. The disaster at Dibai. The surrendered rifles on the quarter deck of the HMS Fox, via the Bain News Service collection at the LOC LC-USZ62-104788

Great War

While Fox was overseas in the East, her sisterships were trimmed. Forte had been sold for scrap, Cambrian and Flora were stricken and in line to be disposed of, and Bonaventure was disarmed and converted to a submarine depot. Even with the halving of the Astraea class, the Admiralty was far from hurting for cruisers, with the 1914/15 Jane’s/Brassey’s cataloging no less than 60 light cruisers still active in the Royal Navy heading into the Guns of August.

The active Astraea-class cruisers, Brassey’s 1915, at which point they were old and obsolete, especially for fleet actions.

HMS Fox, Great War era

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 75397) Protected cruiser HMS Fox. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

When the shooting started, Fox put to sea in search of Germans to fight. This soon led to her hailing and impounding the German merchantmen Australia of the Dutch Australian Lloyd Line (on 10 August 1914), and Hansa Line steamer Holtenfels the next day, both off Colombo.

Then came the search for the missing German light cruiser SMS Königsberg.

Had the two vessels met at sea, it would have been a hard contest with the newer German ship being faster and more maneuverable in addition to being equipped with faster guns, but Fox having an arguably better armor scheme and a heavier battery. Further, Königsberg’s crew were bloodied, having already fought the old Pelorus-class cruiser HMS Pegasus, sinking the 2,700-ton vessel in a surprise attack in Zanzibar harbor, 20 September 1914.

Sailing for Zanzibar and Mombasa the same month, Fox was soon engaged against the Kaiser’s possessions in Africa.

After securing German POWs from the tug Adjutant in October, she joined an expedition to the German colony of Tanzania the next month, filled with troops of 13th Rajputs, 61st Pioneers, 2nd Kashmir Rifles, and 2nd Loyal North Lancashires. Supporting the landings at the key Tanzanian port of Tanga in the first week of November, Fox would fire 10 6-inch and 120 4.7-inch shells during the failed operation known to history as the Battle of the Bees where 1,000 mixed Schutztruppe under then-unknown Lt. Col. Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck bested the British force, capturing much of their equipment.

Fox then raided Dar Es Salaam in German East Africa on 28 November, during which one of her steam launches came close enough to shore to be taken under rifle fire, suffering one killed, three wounded and five counted among the missing (including one who was captured),

Once Königsberg had holed up in the Rufiji River, Fox spent some time there in December on the blockade should the German sortie out then escorted a force to occupy Mafia Island off Tanzania in January 1915. Bombarding the German positions there on 10 January, the cruiser’s skipper impounded a local dhow and, arming it with two Maxim guns and manning it with a junior officer and six ratings, pressed it into active service during the operation.

After Königsberg was neutralized, Fox was released to patrol the Red Sea, where the Ottomans held nominal control of Arabia and threatened the Suez. With that, she spent most of the next three years either sitting in Port Sudan or running her searchlights and cutters across the Great Bitter Lake, with breaks to run to Aden and Bombay as needed and to conduct drills and target practice.

Oh yeah, and help with the Arab Revolt.

With Lawrence & Co.

On 21 March 1916, Fox and the cruiser HMS Suva destroyed the Turkish forts at Umlejh and Wejh in the Hejaz district, which was key in influencing the wavering Arabs to come out against the Ottomans. On 15 June, along with the auxiliary cruiser HMS Perth, Fox steamed into the inner harbor at Jeddah, the port for Mecca, and bombarded the Turkish troops manning the city walls in conjunction with the local insurgents who captured the city the next day.

The Red Sea Patrol, with Fox in the forefront, seized Qunfundah in July on behalf of the Arab cause and a small force from our cruiser garrisoned the town. In that action, Fox fired the warning shot on the town, an event that ended up with some 200 Turkish prisoners who were eager to stop fighting. In January 1917, Fox would move in and garrison Wejh just after the Ottomans quit the town.

Against the Reds

The Armistice cut Fox free of her extended 10-year mission in Asia and Africa and she returned to England. However, her post-war drawdown was cut short, as she was dispatched to join the British Intervention forces in Northern Russia, sent there originally in late 1918 to protect the stockpiles of war stores there from German capture.

Literally cooling her heels in Archangel and Murmansk, her crew was dispatched to put down mutinous Russians on former Tsarist vessels in those harbors.

British Astraea-class cruiser HMS Fox and the old Russian battleship *Chesma at Archangel, 1919. IWM Q 16952

[*Built originally as the Petropavlovsk-class Poltava, the Tsarist battlewagon was lost during the siege of Port Arthur in December 1904, then raised by the Japanese and put into service as the guardship Tango, complete with Miyabara boilers and British-pattern guns from the Kure Arsenal. After participating in the capture of the German treaty port of Tsingtao in 1914, she was later graciously repatriated with the best wishes of the Emperor to the Russian Navy in 1916, serving alongside the British and French in the Med before sailing to Archangel just before the Russian Revolution. With her mutinous crew relieved of their home by the British in 1918, the Interventionists and local Whites used the derelict vessel as a prison hulk until they withdrew in March 1920. The Reds never put her back to use and she was scrapped in 1924.]

It was while in Archangel that Fox found herself bound in an ice floe for six days. Ironically, at the time, her crew included Ireland’s greatest Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean, who earned three Polar Medals while a member of the expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

A portrait of Tom Crean, February 1915 smoking a pipe. By 1919, he was freezing on Fox while in Russia. A familiar feeling, for sure

Sadly, it was on Fox that Crean suffered a serious fall, causing a head injury that led to the end of his 27-year naval career.

Other than that, Fox’s primary task in Northern Russia was to act as a tender for monitors and gunboats, with her bakers providing bread and her engineers and stokers supplying water and coal. A hub of activity, she was apparently the clearinghouse for small arms such as Lewis guns, as well as mail for the British forces pushing down the Northern Dvina in the summer of 1919, and securing Russian prisoners brought back.

Fox with French troops aboard, 1919

Finally, with the Western Allies growing tired of their involvement in the Russian Civil War, Fox sailed for home in late September.

Paid off, she was sold 14 June 1920 to Cardiff Marine Stores for scrapping.


Fox’s remaining sisters, while seeing wartime service, were far from being as active in the conflict. By 1923, all were sold for scrap except for HMS Hermione which lingered on into 1940 as a training hulk for the Marine Society charity.

Most of Fox’s logbooks from 1913 through 1919 have been digitized and along with assorted letters and make good reading.

Fox is also remembered in maritime art and period postcards.

HMS Fox by Henry J. Morgan, Portsmouth Museums and Records Service collection/ Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Meanwhile the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich offers several prints of her.

There has only been one further HMS Fox in the Royal Navy since 1920, a Bulldog-class survey ship (A320) that was active in the Cold War.

As for our cruiser, her name, left behind by her crew, is still visible on the rock at Muscat in Oman and outside of Diyatalawa in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) above the old port at Trincomalee, which is known today as Fox Hill, for a reason.



1914 Jane’s listing for the class

Displacement: 4,360 tons
Length: 320 feet
Beam: 49.5 feet
Draft: 19 feet (21 full load)
Machinery: 2 shaft, 3 cycle TE, 8-cylinder boilers; 7,500 shp (9,500 shp forced)
Speed: 19.5 knots trials on forced draft, 18 max while operational
Range: 7,000 nm @10kts on 1,000 tons of coal (typical coal load: 400 tons)
Complement: 312 officers and men
Decks- 2 inches
Engine hatches- 5 inches
Conning tower- 3 inches
Splinter shields on main guns
2 x QF 6″/40
8 x QG 4.7″
8 x 6-pounder (57mm) Hotchkiss guns
1 x 3-pounder (47mm) Hotchkiss
4 x Maxim water-cooled machine guns
3 x Above-water 18-inch torpedo tubes.

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.

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HMS/m D1 Protected

In 1907, the first of what would be eight D-class submarines built for the Royal Navy was laid down at Vickers Armstrong at Barrow. The boat was basically the Dreadnought equivalent for submarines. Those built before her were smallish, typically with dangerous gasoline motors, capable of just carrying a couple of forward-launched torpedos for the use of protecting anchorages and coastal waters.


HMS/m D1 was larger, at some 500 tons and 163-feet, and was armed with three 18-inch torpedo tubes, two in the bow and one in the stern, and carried a reload for each. As a key, she also used a diesel/electric plant. She also had provision for a QF 12-pdr (76mm) deck gun, so that she could take warning shots at enemy merchant vessels in compliance with “cruiser rules” for commerce raiding. Basically, she had all of the innovations that would make the Great War-era attack subs so dangerous.

She also proved her worth in the 1910 naval exercises off Colonsay, where, as a “Red” OPFOR boat, she got close enough to mark two “Blue” cruisers hit with her torpedos, an act that should have given the Royal Navy a bellwether for the events of 22 September 1914 where the “Live Bait Squadron” of the armored cruisers HMS Cressy, Hogue, and Aboukir were dispatched in turn by SMS U-9 in the span of an hour.

D1’s performance, noted Commodore Roger Keyes, head of the navy’s submarine service between 1912 and 1915, “opened the eyes of the first sea lord, Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, to the offensive possibilities of submarines, which he had hitherto regarded as defensive vessels.”

British Hydroplane and HMS D1

With that, D1 served as the prototype vessel not only for the rest of her class but also for the 58 E-class boats that served as the backbone of the British submarine fleet through WWI.

As for the boat itself, after active war service, ranging as far as the mouth of the River Ems and earning a mention in dispatches for coming into contact with the enemy during patrol operations in the Heligoland Bight, she had been relegated to training work and was scuttled about 1 nautical mile south-east of the eastern Blackstone, off Dartmouth, in 1918 for use as a known target for the trials of various submarine detection equipment.

Over time, her wreck, although first charted by the UKHO in 1920 at a depth of 50m, was forgotten to history, with most historians feeling it to be either the lost German U-boats UB-113 or UC-49.

This was washed away as explained by Historic England:

Both of these proposed identifications were disproved by the results of the 2018 investigation, as the combination of two forward torpedo tubes, single stern torpedo tube, two propellers and single rudder are not found on UBIII class and the UCII class submarines. The overall dimensions and the shape and position of the conning tower, torpedo tubes and deck fixtures are consistent with the technical plans of HMS/m D1.

Now, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport has granted protection to the wreck.

The Dogs of War

Happy German Shepherd Day, courtesy of Roxie, my Jeep defense system and loyal hiking companion for the past 12 years.

Meet Roxie.

Don’t let her fool you, the only thing she would ever bite is a hunk of BBQ chicken.

With GSD Day in mind, did you know that the Germans had 6,000 Sanitätshunde mercy (aka casualty or ambulance) dogs at the start of the Great War? The dogs had been used by the Kaiser’s troops going back to at least 1894, fielding the specially-trained canines down to the battalion level.


For more on the practice, check this site out, and be sure to pet your local woofer today.

A look at the ‘Mad Minute’

A typical Tommy of the BEF’s original 1914, “The Old Contemptibles.” Not to be trifled with.

While slow, aimed, and deliberate fire was preferred– early SMLEs had magazine cut-off switches to leave the 10-rounds in the magazine as a sort of emergency reserve, forcing users to hand-feed single cartridges into the chamber as they went– the average “Tommy” was trained to deliver rapid-fire when needed, topped off by 5-shot charging clips.

As described in the British musketry regulations of the day, a trained rifleman should be able to lay down between 12 and 15 rounds in a minute, accurately.

In practice, the “Mad Minute” drill on the range became a standard of Commonwealth infantry for almost a half-century, with Australian troops still documented as carrying it out in the 1950s just before the Enfield was replaced with inch-pattern semi-auto FN FALs. Surpassing the 12-15 round minimum mark, some were able to squeeze in over 20 rounds in the same allotted time. One riflery instructor, Sergeant Alfred Snoxall, was credited with being able to deliver an amazing 38 hits on target with his Enfield in a one-minute period.

You see the Sergeant on the left, with an eye peeled for cockups? He will make sure your musketry is correct and by the book.

More in my column at

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