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Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Robert Gibb

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Robert Gibb

Robert Gibb was as Scottish as they came, born in Laurieston, near Falkirk 28 October 1845, and educated in Edinburgh. He studied at the Royal Scottish Academy and exhibited his first of more than 140 works there in 1867. It should come as no surprise that he was one of the great chroniclers of Highlanders in the field.

His first stab at the military genre came with Comrades in 1878, depicting men of the 42nd Highlanders (The Black Watch) in the Crimea.

The original version of this work was painted by Gibb in 1878 and is currently unlocated. The painting became iconic. While reading a life of Napoleon, the artist made a sketch of the retreat from Moscow. The dominant group of three figures in the foreground was then isolated and adapted to form an independent composition depicting a young soldier whispering his dying message to a comrade who seeks to comfort him in the snowy wastes of the Crimean winter. Photo credit: The Black Watch Castle & Museum

The Thin Red Line, oil on canvas, by Robert Gibb, 1881, showing the stand of a handful of the 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment of Foot at the Battle of Balaclava stopping 2,500 massed Russian cavalry. Currently on display at the National War Museum of Scotland, the venue notes “The Thin Red Line is one of the best known of all Scottish historical paintings and is the classic representation of Highland military heroism as an icon of Scotland.”

Saving the Colours; the Guards at Inkerman (1895 – Naval and Military Club, London)

Alma: Forward the 42nd. This 1888 oil on canvas by Scottish artist, Robert Gibb (1845–1932), depicts the Battle of Alma, in Sebastopol, Crimea on the 20th September 1854. Black Watch, in full review order, are advancing towards enemy guns on heights above, with Field Marshal Sir Colin Campbell (later Lord Clyde) shown giving the historic order from which the painting is titled. In left foreground are two Russians, and in distance stretch of sea with fleet in action. The painting was gifted to Glasgow Museums collection by Lord Woolavington in 1923. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Besides the Crimea, he also portrayed the Scots at Waterloo.

Closing the Gates at Hougoumont, 1815. Men of the Coldstream Guards and the Scots Guards are shown forcing shut the gates of the chateau of Hougoumont against French attack, with Lieutenant-Colonel James MacDonell forcing back the gate to the left. The moment of crisis shown in the painting came when around 30 French soldiers forced the north gate and entered into the chateau grounds. Before others could follow, the gates were forced shut again, and the French soldiers still inside were killed. Wellington himself had said the success of the battle turned upon the closing of the gates at the chateau. Photo credit: National Museums Scotland

Late in his life, he also painted the Highlanders in the Great War.

He produced Backs to the Wall at age 84. In this painting, the artist shows a line of khaki-clad Scottish troops standing defiantly at the critical moment, bayonets fixed– with the specters of fallen comrades behind them.

The work was inspired by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig’s famous Special Order of the Day at the time of the Great German Offensive of April 1918.

There is no other course open to us but to fight it out.  Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement.  With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end.  The safety of our homes and the Freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.

Backs to the Wall, 1918, painted 1929 oil on canvas. Gift from W. J. Webster, 1931 to the Angus Council Museums.

Gibb held the office of King’s painter and limner for Scotland for 25 years and was Keeper of the National Gallery of Scotland from 1895 until 1907.  The artist died at his home in Edinburgh in 1932, and he was given a full military funeral with an honor guard provided by the Black Watch.

Many of his works are on display across the UK and are available online.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Warship Wednesday Mar. 22, 2017: The Cowboy Monitor

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 Mar. 22, 2017: The Cowboy Monitor

NH 99353-KN

Here we see the Arkansas-class monitor USS Wyoming (Monitor # 10) on a postal card published by Edward H. Mitchell, San Francisco, California, featuring a tinted photograph of the vessel taken in her prime, circa 1902-1908. It should be noted that Wyoming was the last seagoing monitor ordered for the U.S. Navy, ending a string of vessels that began in 1861.

John Ericsson’s steam-powered low freeboard ironclad, USS Monitor, with her “cheesebox on a raft” rotating turret design in the early days of the Civil War, led to an entire fleet of river, harbor, coastal and seagoing takes on the same concept that saw some 60~ monitors take to the builders’ yards (though not all were completed) by 1866.

By 1874, ostensibly as part of the “great repairs” the Navy ordered the first “modern” monitor, USS Puritan (M-1), a 6,000-ton beast with a quartet of 12‑inch guns and 14-inches of armor that acquitted herself in service during the Spanish-American War– though she was obsolete at the time.

Puritan shelling Matanzas on the 27 April 1898. She would remain in the fleet until 1922 in one form or another.

However, the Navy still piled on the monitor bandwagon, completing four vessels of the Amphitrite-class, the one-off USS Monterey, and (wait for it) the four-ship swan song of the type: USS Arkansas (M-7), Connecticut/Nevada (M-8), Florida (M-9), and our hero, Wyoming (M-10).

These craft were 255-feet overall and weighed 3,350-tons full load but drew a gentle 12.5-feet of seawater. Armed with a single Mark 4 turret with a dual mounting of 12″/40 caliber Mark 3 guns along with four 4″ singles and some 6-pounders, they were slathered in as much as 11-inches of Harvey steel armor. Four boilers, when new, could push the ships’ steam plant to make these hogs touch 13-kts on trials, which was good for 1898. Not great, but good.

Each of the class was laid down at approximately the same time (the Span-Am War was on at the time and ships were needed, dammit), but in different yards. Arkansas at Newport News, Nevada at Bath in Maine, Florida at Crescent Shipyard, Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Wyoming— the only one on the West Coast– at Union Iron Works, San Francisco. Though technically Nevada was commissioned (as Connecticut at first) on 5 March 1903, Wyoming was the last of the class ordered and was accepted months before, entering service on 8 December 1902.

Her total cost, $1,624,270.59– some $500,000 more than Arkansas yet $200,000 under the price paid for Connecticut/Nevada.

Panoramic view of shipways and outfitting area, 1900. USS Wisconsin (Battleship # 9) is fitting out at left. Ships on the ways are (from left to right): USS Paul Jones (Destroyer # 10); USS Perry (Destroyer # 11); USS Wyoming (Monitor # 10); USS Ohio (Battleship # 12); and the S.S. Californian. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1971. The original print is in the Union Iron Works scrapbook, Volume II, page 157. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 75110 Click to big up

This is not a ship you want to speed in! (Monitor # 10) Making 12.4 knots during trials, off San Francisco, California, in October 1902. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1971. The original print is in the Union Iron Works scrapbook, Volume II, page 166. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 75118

(Monitor # 10) Making 12.4 knots during trials, near San Francisco, California, in October 1902. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1971. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 75117

(Monitor # 10) View on board, looking forward, showing water coming over her bow while she was running trials off San Francisco, California, in October 1902. Note the ship’s twelve-inch gun turret at right. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1971. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 75119

She was a handsome if dated, ship.

(Monitor # 10) Moored off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 12 February 1903. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43870

(Monitor # 10) Moored off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, in February 1903. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 44264

In October 1903 after her shakedown, Wyoming was dispatched to Panamanian waters along with the cruiser Boston, where she landed a few Marines to look after Washington’s interests.

Panama at the time was part of Colombia though separatists, eager to restart the failed French canal effort with U.S. help, wanted to change that. With Wyoming on hand to provide literal gunboat diplomacy of the Teddy Roosevelt era, on November 13 the U.S formally recognized the Republic of Panama and told Colombia about it later. As the biggest Colombian Navy ship in Panama’s Pacific waters was the 600-ton gunboat Bogota (one 14-pounder gun, eight 6-pounders), which the Wyoming vastly outmuscled, the Colombians agreed.

Meanwhile, the gunboat USS Nashville (PG-7), operating on the Carribean coast of Panama, prevented the Colombians in Colon from using the railway to reinforce their forces there, leaving them in an untenable situation. The new Republic of Panama gave the U.S. control of the Canal Zone on 23 February 1904, for $10 million in accordance with the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty.

From DANFS on her Panamanian Vacation:

The monitor accordingly arrived in Panamanian waters on 13 November (1903) and sailed up the Tuira River in company with the protected cruiser Boston, with a company of Marines under Lt. S. A. M. Patterson, USMC, and Lt. C. B. Taylor, USMC, embarked, to land at “Yariza” and observe the movements of Colombian troops.

The presence of American armed might there and elsewhere ultimately resulted in independence for the Panamanians. During that time, Wyoming anchored at the Bay of San Miguel on 15 December. The following day, a boat with 11 Marines embarked left for the port of La Palma, under sail. While Boston departed the scene on the 17th, Wyoming shifted to La Palma on the following day. There, Lt. Patterson, USMC, with a detachment of 25 Marines, commandeered the steamer Tuira and took her upriver. While the Marines were gone, a party of evacuated American nationals came out to the monitor in her gig.

Meanwhile, Patterson’s Marines had joined the ship’s landing force at the village of Real to keep an eye on American interests there. Back at La Palma, Wyoming continued to take on board American nationals fleeing from the troubled land and kept up a steady stream of supplies to her landing party of Bluejackets and Marines at Real. Ultimately, when the need for them had passed, the landing party returned to the ship on Christmas Eve.

Wyoming remained in Panamanian waters into the spring of 1904 keeping a figurative eye on local conditions before she departed Panama Bay on 19 April, bound for Acapulco.

After this, Wyoming returned to quiet service off the West Coast and in 1908 was converted from being coal-fired to using oil fuel– the first ship to do so in the fleet.

In 1909, her name was stripped from her to be given to a new battleship and she was dubbed USS Cheyenne. Likewise, at about the same time Arkansas switched her name to USS Ozark, Nevada— renamed for the second time in a decade– to USS Tonopah, and Florida to USS Tallahassee.

By 1910, Wyoming/Cheyenne was on the reserve list and being used by the Washington Naval Militia off Bremerton until late 1913.

USS Cheyenne (Monitor # 10) Moored off Bremerton, Washington, while serving as a training ship for the Washington State Naval Militia, circa 1910-1913. The original is a screened sepia-toned image, printed on a postal card. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 55116-KN

Brought back into regular fleet service, Cheyenne was used as a submarine tender for the 2d SUB Div in Puget Sound, Mare Island, San Francisco, and San Pedro between August 1913-April 1917, only interrupting them for two trips down to rowdy Mexico, then involved in a civil war, to evacuate U.S and foreign nationals trapped in the volatile region.

When the U.S. entered the Great War in April 1917, our rough and ready West Coast monitor continued her service until late in the war she was ordered to the Atlantic for the first time in her service. There, Cheyenne served as a tender for submarines operating in the Gulf of Mexico area, and for nine months in 1919 was again active off Mexico, resting with her quiet guns in Tampico harbor.

(Monitor # 10) With a submarine alongside, circa 1918-1919. The submarine is probably one of the Division 3 boats tended by Cheyenne: K-3, K-4, K-7 or K-8. Location may be Key West, Florida. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 45436

In 1920, Cheyenne was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, then used as a pierside training hulk in Baltimore for Fifth Naval District Naval Reserve Force members until 1926, carrying the hull number IX-4 on the Naval List before she was mothballed at Philadelphia. She was sold for scrapping in April 1939.

Cheyenne (IX-4), inboard at left; S-12 (SS-117), outboard at left; and Dale (DD-290) at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, 14 June 1926, during the National Sesquicentennial exhibit there. The small boat and Sailor, in the foreground, are on life-saving service to protect exhibit visitors. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 55117. Collection of Vice Admiral Dixwell Ketcham, USN.

As such, she was the last monitor on the U.S. Navy’s battle line, surviving all her sisters and cousins by more than 15 years.

Specs:


Displacement:
3,225 long tons (3,277 t) (standard)
3,356 long tons (3,410 t) (full load)
Length:
255 feet 1 inch (77.75 m) (overall)
252 ft. (77 m) (waterline)
Beam: 50 ft. (15 m)
Draft: 12 ft. 6 in (3.81 m) (mean)
Installed power:
4 × Thornycroft boilers
2,400 indicated horsepower (1,800 kW)
1,739 ihp (1,297 kW) (on trials)
Propulsion:
2 × Vertical triple expansion engines
2 × screw propellers
Speed:
12.5 knots (23.2 km/h; 14.4 mph) (design)
12.03 kn (22.28 km/h; 13.84 mph) (on trial)
Complement: 13 officers 209 men
Armament:
2 × 12 in (305 mm)/40 caliber breech-loading rifles (1×2)
4 × 4 in (102 mm)/40 cal guns (4×1)
3 × 6-pounder 57 mm (2.2 in) guns
Armor:
Harvey armor
Side belt: 11–5 in (280–130 mm)
Barbette: 11–9 in (280–230 mm)
Gun turret: 10–9 in (250–230 mm)
Deck: 1.5 in (38 mm)
Conning tower: 8 in (200 mm)

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175 million self-loading military rifles made since 1896– and most are likely still around

AK-47 style rifles accounted for almost half of the global production of self-loading rifles over the past century according to the study. (Graphics: Small Arms Survey)

AK-47 style rifles accounted for almost half of the global production of self-loading rifles over the past century according to the study. (Graphics: Small Arms Survey)

A new study released by the Small Arms Survey found that over half of all autoloading rifles ever made for military use are either AK-type or AR-10/15 type designs.

The 60-page study was authored for the Geneva, Switzerland-based SAS by N.R. Jenzen-Jones, director of Armament Research Services, an international policy-neutral technical intelligence consulting group.

The effort concentrates primarily on military arms issued as a primary combat weapon and not those built or marketed to the civilian or law enforcement user. As such it includes select-fire and automatic magazine-fed rifles such as the AKM and semi-auto battle rifles such as the M1 Garand made after the advent of smokeless powder. Excluded were crew-served weapons.

Starting with the Danish Navy’s order of 60 Rekylkarabin carbines in 1896 and moving forward, the study concluded some 175 million self-loading rifles have been produced for military use since then, noting this figure was “conservative.”

More in my column at Guns.com.

Making the Doughboy

Infantry Soldier with full equipment (proposed) was adopted as the Model 1910.

infantry-equipment-board_page1_image1

Compare the leggings, web gear and campaign hat differences.

The Infantry Equipment Board convened at Rock Island Arsenal, on April 28, 1909. The purpose of this board was to decide on the number, kind, and weight of articles to be carried by the Infantry Soldier. The board examined samples of infantry and cavalry equipment in use by the U.S. Army and fifteen foreign countries, as well as experimental models submitted to the Chief of Ordnance for consideration. The board made its final report to the Adjutant-General of the US Army on April 5, 1910. Two months later, in June 1910, manufacture of the newly designed equipment began at Rock Island Arsenal.

These images and text are from a copy of the Report of the Infantry Equipment Board in the collection of the Rock Island Arsenal Museum– who still maintain the T&E equipment shown in their collection.

Warship Wednesday Feb.22, 2017: The Kaiser’s Cormorants

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 Feb.22, 2017: The Kaiser’s Cormorants

Noted as “Received from Office of Naval Intelligence”, Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog #: NH 64265 (Click to big up 1200x881)

Noted as “Received from Office of Naval Intelligence”, Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog #: NH 64265 (Click to big up 1200×881)

Here we see the Bussard-class unprotected cruiser SMS (Seiner Majestät Schiff =His Majesty’s Ship) Cormoran of the Kaiserliche Marine as she appeared early in her career (pre-1908) with her three-masted barquentine rig. She floated around the far-flung colonies of Imperial Germany– and even help establish some of them—then went on to serve (in a way) during the Great War.

Germany got into the colonialism thing late in the game and it was only after unification and at the prodding of an anxious Kaiser that the new Empire got took part in the “scramble” by picking up German South-West Africa (current Namibia) and German New Guinea in 1884. The problem with overseas territories is that they are over-seas and Germany had a very small Baltic-centric naval force. This led Prussian Gen. Leo von Caprivi, then head of the Navy, to order two 1,300-ton/13-knot steam “cruisers” (let’s be honest, they were more gunboats than anything else) of the Schwalbe-class in 1886.

Recognizing the shortcomings of these warships, the German Navy upped the ante with the follow-on Bussard-class vessels in 1888.

The six warships of the class could eke out a bit more speed than the Schwalbe‘s (15.5-kts as designed) and, if they packed coal in every nook and cranny, extend their range to 3,610 nm which could further be stretched by their barquentine rig (and were the last German fighting ships to be designed to carry canvas). With a hull of yellow pine, they were sheathed with cupro-lead Muntz metal to prevent fouling.

Armed with eight 4.1-inch 105/32 RK L/35 C/86 rapid-fire singles, they packed a decent punch that was augmented by a pair of 350mm torpedo tubes as well as five 37mm/27cal revolving cannons.

With a full load approaching 1,868-tons, these 271-footers could float in 15 feet of calm water and carried a half-dozen small boats that enabled them to land a company-sized force of armed sailors while keeping enough of a skeleton crew aboard to fire a few guns and keep the boilers warm.

The hero of our tale, SMS Cormoran, was built to a modified design which was capable of 16.9-knots on a quartet of coal-fired boilers and mounted slightly upgraded 105/32 SK L/35 C/91 guns. Laid down at Danzig Kaiserliche Werft in 1890, she commissioned 25 July 1893, Korvettenkapitän Robert Wachenhusen in command.

Following sea trials, Cormoran headed for East Africa, where she remained as a station ship in Portuguese Mozambique for seven months before transferring to East Asian waters in Sept. 1895.

After helping the stranded gunboat SMS Iltis, Cormoran steamed up the Yangtze where her shallow draft made her quite useful. She was still there when, on 1 November 1897, the Big Sword Society slaughtered two German Roman Catholic priests of the Steyler Mission in southern Shandong.

Ordered by Admiral von Diederichs to join his cruisers there for a punitive expedition-turned-land-grab, Cormoran showed up in Kiautschou Bay on 13 November and at 0600 the next morning steamed into the inner harbor of Tsingtao with 717 German sailors in small boats from the larger cruisers SMS Kaiser and Prinzess Wilhelm to land at the dole and proceed into the city.

Schutzgebiet Kiautschou Besitznahme von Kiautschou am 14. Nov. 1897 durch Kaiserl. Marineeinheiten

Schutzgebiet Kiautschou, Besitznahme von Kiautschou am 14. Nov. 1897 durch Kaiserl. Marineeinheiten

Reinforced by a battalion of Marines sent from Germany the next January, the Chinese granted a 99-year lease to the port in April. Germany had her Hong Kong at the point of Cormoran‘s guns.

When the Americans and Spanish began to scrap in the PI during the Span-Am War in 1898, Cormoran was sent to poke around Cavite but was rebuffed by Dewey with the cruiser USS Raliegh closing danger close on the German.

Following this, she became a persistent presence in Samoan waters, adding to the tension there as Britain, Germany and the U.S. hashed out just who owned which rock.

USS ABARENDA, right and SMS CORMORAN saluting the Naval Station. Description: Copied from Amerika Samoa by Capt. J. A. C. Gray, MC, USN, (following page 108); Catalog #: NH 117548

USS ABARENDA, right and SMS CORMORAN saluting the Naval Station. Description: Copied from Amerika Samoa by Capt. J. A. C. Gray, MC, USN, (following page 108); Catalog #: NH 117548

Over the next several years Cormoran continued her colonial work among the islands, landing sailors to disarm locals, enforce German laws, and arrest those breaking them while conducting survey work in the uncharted archipelagos the Kaiser now counted as his own.

It should be remembered the German flag flew at the time over the Solomon Islands (Buka, Bougainville, and several smaller islands), the Carolines, Palau, the Marianas (except for Guam), the Marshall Islands, and Nauru.

German forces being trained in New Guinea via Australian War Memorial

German forces being trained in New Guinea via Australian War Memorial. Cormoran would ship these local police troops all over the colonies.

In 1908, Cormoran returned to Germany and was rebuilt and re-rigged as a topsail schooner, landing her quaint revolving cannon.

Compare to her appearance with three masts above

Compare to her appearance with three masts above

Cormoran (ship) moored opposite the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane after 1909. Note her two-mast rig

Cormoran (ship) moored opposite the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane after 1909. Note her two-mast rig and extensive awnings. SMS Cormoran was well known in Brisbane where she had regular refits and the squadron as a whole had been active in policing the colonies

She returned the Pacific in time to help put down the very messy Sokehs Rebellion of 1910-11 in the Caroline Islands at the hands of Polizei-Soldaten commander Karl Kammerich and his 160~ locally recruited constabulary troops. In early 1913, Korvettenkapitän Adalbert Zuckschwerdt arrived aboard and commanded the ship and her crew in putting down a disturbance on Bougainville.

p011_0_00_1By 1914, the Bussard class was showing their age. Sisterships Seeadler and Condor were that year converted to mine storage hulks in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, respectively. Bussard and Falke had already been stricken from the Naval List in 1912 and sold to the breakers. Only SMS Geier (Vulture), the youngest of the class, was serving actively in East Africa while Cormoran was hobbled in Tsingtao with bad engines.

The SMS Cormoran in the waters of Tsingtao, 1914. Photo from the Herbert T. Ward collection courtesy of the Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC).

The SMS Cormoran in the waters of Tsingtao, 1914. Photo from the Herbert T. Ward collection courtesy of the Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC).

By this time our elderly cruiser was done for and was looking for a new ride.

Zuckschwerdt had her crew strip everything useful from Cormoran and move it aboard the captured 3,400-ton Russian freighter SS Ryazan— which had been seized at sea by the German raider SMS Emden on the first day of the Great War and brought to Tsingtao on 4 August as a prize. The Ryazan was a fast ship for a merchantman (17 knots) and had been built in Germany at the Schichau shipyard in Elbing just five years before which meant her engineering suite was at least marked in the right language.

Hilfskreuzer S.M.S. CORORAN II im Jahre 1916 im Hafen von Apra, Guam (Fotograf unbekannt, Marineschule Mürwik)

Hilfskreuzer S.M.S. CORORAN II im Jahre 1916 im Hafen von Apra, Guam (Fotograf unbekannt, Marineschule Mürwik)

On 10 August, at the Imperial Dockyard at Tsingtao, with the crew of the (old) SMS Cormoran on board as well as the warship’s 8x105mm guns, 1,200 shells and stores crammed in every room, the (new) hilfskreuzer SMS Cormoran II was commissioned in her place. As she was a much larger vessel, the crews of the scuttled gunboats SMS Vaterland and Iltis were piled aboard to be used as prize crews for captured merchantmen the new raider was sure to take on the high seas.

A comparison of the old Cormoran, right, and new one

A comparison of the old Cormoran, right, and new one, from the 1915/16 New Year card made by the crew.

The former Russian freighter turned auxiliary cruiser left the Chinese coastline the same day she was commissioned, stalked by the still nominally neutral Japanese navy.

On 15 August 1914, two weeks after the outbreak of World War I in Europe, British-allied Japan delivered an ultimatum to Germany demanding that it relinquish control of the disputed territory of Kiaoutschou/Tsingtao and when they didn’t Japan declared war on 23 August.

The stripped and crewless (old) SMS Cormoran was scuttled on the night of 28–29 September 1914 by dockyard workers to prevent her capture and Tsingtao fell to the Japanese on 7 November after a siege and blockade that cost the lives of over 1,000. Her wreck was salvaged by the Japanese in 1917.

A Japanese lithograph, showing the Japanese fighting German troops during the conquest of the German colony Tsingtao (today Qingdao) in China between 13 September and 7 November 1914. Via National Archives.

A Japanese lithograph, showing the Japanese fighting German troops during the conquest of the German colony Tsingtao (today Qingdao) in China between 13 September and 7 November 1914. Via National Archives.

As for the (new) Cormoran, she had left China dangerously low on coal and spent 127 days at sea on the run and only narrowly remained uncaught.

Map of SMS Cormoran travels before reaching Guam on 14 December 1914. Courtesy of Tony “Malia” Ramirez. Guampedia Foundation

Map of SMS Cormoran travels before reaching Guam on 14 December 1914. As you can see, she shuttled between Yap and German New Guinea extensively and poked around the nuetral Dutch East Indies. Courtesy of Tony “Malia” Ramirez. Guampedia Foundation

On 23 September, she came within 200 meters of Warship Wednesday alumni, the Challenger-class protected cruiser HMAS Encounter (5,800-tons/11 × 6-inch guns/21kts) on a moonless night and avoided sure destruction.

In October, Cormoran took on 98 officers and men of the stricken survey ship SMS Planet at Yap, one of the last German-held islands in the Pacific.

The German radio station at Yap Island. Cormoran called here while on the run and left with the crew of the scuttled SMS Planet

The German radio station at Yap Island. Cormoran called here while on the run and left with the crew of the scuttled SMS Planet

For a time, she hid in the lagoon of sparsely populated Lamotrek atoll in the Carolines and Zuckschwerdt considered scuttling her there, ala HMS Bounty-style, and going native but in the end decided against it.

Out of coal, low on rations save for coconuts and without being able to take any prizes, the overfilled (355 men, 22 officers aboard) Cormoran put into the U.S. territory at Guam on 14 December with British, French and Japanese ships combing the waters for her. She was ordered to moor within range of the three 7″/45cal naval guns mounted ashore at Fort San Felipe del Morro.

USS Supply, Guam's station ship, left, with SMS Cormoran in the center

USS Supply, Guam’s station ship, left, with SMS Cormoran in the center. She would stay in place for over two years.

The event made the papers in the States, front page news.

16 December 1914, Sacramento Union:

cormoran-1914

Zuckschwerdt and the Americans eyed each other cautiously over the next 28 months as the ship was disarmed and interned but kept up good spirits.

The re-purposed Russian steamer carried the crews not only from Cormoran but two German gunboats, a survey ship and several colonials

The re-purposed Russian steamer carried the crews not only from Cormoran but two German gunboats, a survey ship and several colonials

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Swim call in Apra harbor

Swim call in Apra harbor

By June 1916 some of the crew were reportedly “driven mad by isolation.”

When the U.S. declared war on Germany on 7 April 1917, American officials attempted to seize the Cormoran and fired at least one warning shot into the air. The hopelessly outgunned station ship at Guam, USS Supply (3,100-tons/6x6pdrs) put a prize crew of 32 men afloat to board the German ship, though the Germans outnumbered them 11:1.

Zuckschwerdt was cordial and told Supply‘s captain, LCDR William P. Cronan, he could surrender his men but not the cruiser and as soon as the bulk of the men orderly jumped ship, blew her hull out at her mooring in the harbor and she sank in 120 feet of water, tragically taking nine of her crew with her.

From an August 1931 Proceedings article:

“The stricken ship settled by the stern, slowly listing heavily to starboard. For a moment the port half of the deck was exposed to view, the ship lying almost horizontally on her starboard beam ends. Then, as one blinked an eye there was nothing but a small column of water hanging suspended, a bubbling seething area of surface disturbance, a bit of flotsam shooting up like a fish jumping and falling back with a splash, two or three laden boats, and heads, hundreds of heads, bobbing here and there.

“Men clinging to bits of wreckage, oars, life preservers, chests, were swimming toward the shore in all directions; pigeons, apparently carriers released from the ship, hovered over the water, circled, and were gone; men clinging to bits of flotsam with one arm, put bottles to their lips and drank from brown bottles, square colorless bottles; the black men of New Guinea, some carrying bundles dry on their heads, some pushing small chests, paddled off businesslike toward the nearest land. And then a voice was lifted, a strong true deep voice singing Deutschland über alles, and the chorus went up from many a throat.

The crew was rescued by USS Supply, with Cronan noting his German counterpart as “a large, well-formed man, with jet black mustache and Vandyke [beard], always spotlessly attired, spoke English with the elegantness of the educated foreigner, was a gifted conversationalist, possessed a rare charm of manner, and, incidentally, must have been an able disciplinarian to have maintained the high morale evident in his personnel during their long sojourn in Guam.”

As noted by the NPS, “U.S. Marine Corporal Michael B. Chockie fired a shot across the bow of the Cormoran‘s supply launch in an attempt to stop the fleeing launch. Chockie’s shot was the first one fired by an American in the Great War–later known as World War I.”

The dead were buried at the naval cemetery at Agana and are remembered today.

19409792_137955832318

“Die Toten von SMS Cormoran“—”the Dead of the SMS Cormoran”—April 7, 1917.

As for Zuckschwerdt and the rest of his crew, they were the first German POWs in America and were only repatriated in 1919 with the non-German individuals from China and German New Guinea separated.

The good Korvettenkapitän returned to post-Versailles Germany where he was given a position in the drastically smaller Reichsmarine. Continuing to serve, he was a Konteradmiral in the Kriegsmarine in WWII where he commanded coastal fortifications along the French coast until his retirement in May 1944– just before D-Day. When the Brits occupied his hometown in April 1945, he was arrested and put into a POW camp again where he died in July 1945 near Hövelhof, aged 71.

The last of her sisters afloat, SMS Geier, was interned at Hawaii in October 1914, seized 7 April 1917 and pressed into service as USS Schurz. She was sunk off the North Carolina coast 21 June 1918 after a collision with the steamer Florida.

SMS Geier's crew under arrest by Army regulars in Hawaii, 7 Aprl 1917.

SMS Geier’s crew under arrest by Army regulars in Hawaii, 7 April 1917.

As for (new) Cormoran, she is still in Agana harbor, with the wreck of the 8,300-ton Japanese freighter Tokai Maru— sank by U.S. submarines in 1944– atop her and is a popular dive spot.

15888574968_c250914e93_b

In July 1974, the SMS Cormoran II was listed on the Guam Register of Historic Places, and a year later, the vessel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In April 2007, Guam commemorated the 90th anniversary of the scuttling of the SMS Cormoran II. The festivities included wreath-laying ceremonies at Apra Harbor and the US Naval Cemetery in Hagåtña, and a series of lectures and an exhibit. Surviving descendants of the original crew and other German representatives were invited to participate. The graves continued to be visited and honored.

The Guampedia Foundation has kept the ship and her crew’s memory alive and have compiled crew lists, oral histories and accounts.

They have a great gallery of images of the Cormoran online

SMS Cormoran II

The country of Palau, a former German colony, commemorated both versions of Cormoran with recent postage stamps and German Imperial post cancellations.

palau-navire-allemand palau-sms-cormoran-1914

Specs:

Drawing via Wiki

Drawing via Wiki

Displacement: 1,864 t (1,835 long tons; 2,055 short tons)
Length: 82.6 m (271 ft. 0 in)
Beam: 12.7 m (41 ft. 8 in)
Draft: 4.42 m (14 ft. 6 in)
Propulsion: 2 × 3-cylinder triple expansion engines, 2 screws
Sailing rig: 3-mast bark with 9,440 sq. ft. canvas as built, 2-mast schooner after 1908
Speed: 15.5 knots (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph), 16.9 kts
Range: 2,950 nmi (5,460 km) at 9 knots (17 km/h) with standard 315t coal load.
Complement:
9 officers
152 enlisted men
Armament:
8 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/35 rapid fire guns, 1200 shells
5 × revolver cannon (deleted in 1908)
2 × 35 cm (14 in) torpedo tubes, five torpedoes
Bronze ram bow

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The travels of Springfield M1903 SN#1

With the recommendation of Brig. Gen. William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance,  then-Secretary of War William H. Taft on 19 June 1903 adopted U.S. Rifle Model 1903 .30 as the standard infantry rifle of the Army.

The very first production rifle, SN#1 left the assembly line at Springfield Armory in November of the same year (100 prototype rifles never saw service outside of tests).

springfield-m1903-sn1-3 springfield-m1903-sn1

The first year’s production saw 30,503 rifles produced in just two months, with Springfield suspending production for good in 1940 with SN#1,592,563, switching to the M1 Garand exclusively while Remington and Smith Corona spent the rest of WWII making M1903A3/A4 variants.

Good ole SN#1 floated around for about 14 years, was modified in 1905, rebarreled in 1909 (it carries the mark SA/bomb/4-09), and then issued in WWI.

The man who received it, according to legend, was Frank C. Lynaugh, of Haverhill, Ma., who carried the weapon while attached to the E Company of the 49th Infantry Regiment.

From Springfield:

Mr. Lynaugh claimed the weapon was issued to him in troop camp while in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1917 still packed in cosmoline. He carried the weapon with him to France. But while training with a Signal Unit in France, the weapon was taken away from him. Mr. Lynaugh was issued an M1917 Enfield. “I hated the darn Enfields,” said Lynaugh, “and wished I had my Springfield back.”

Fifty-six years later, while visiting the Springfield Armory, Mr. Lynaugh got his wish. He told the curator, Tom Wallace, that he carried the first M1903 rifle made. Wallace went to the storage area and retrieved the weapon. “Yes sir, that’s my old gun. I got old, but it looks the same,” said Lynaugh.

As you may have guessed, the gun was found with troops in France and shipped back to the states, where it likely sat in arsenal storage for several more years before it was transferred to the Springfield Armory from the Ordnance Office, Washington, D.C. on 8 July 1925. It is believed the original stock was probably damaged in museum fire and has since been restocked, but has been in the museum’s collection ever since.

springfield-m1903-sn1-a

Just hanging out around Surrey, waiting to cross the Channel

(Photo/text via Range Days in France)

(Photo/text via Range Days in France)

Scots Guardsman circa 1914/5 at Caterham depot. It shows some great detail. He is armed with an SMLE Mk I with its associated P1907 curved Quillion bayonet. He is wearing a set of P1908 webbing in early war marching order. Of note are the “Carriers, cartridge, 75 rounds, left, Mark II (3rd Issue)” with the added retaining straps, a late 1914 modification to prevent full .303 chargers falling out, when leaning on the trench parapets.

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