Tag Archive | coal fired ironclad

Slow Death of the Nachi, 75 years on

One of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s mighty quartet of Myoko-class heavy cruisers, Nachi was a 13,000-ton brawler built at the Kure Naval Arsenal and commissioned in 1928. Carrying five dual twin turrets each with 8″/50cal 3rd Year Type naval guns, her class was the most heavily-armed cruisers in the world when they were constructed.

Nachi fought in the Java Sea (sharing in the sinking the Dutch cruiser HNLMS Java along with Graf Spee veteran HMS Exeter) and at the Komandorski Islands (where she, in turn, took a beating from the USS Salt Lake City) before she ended up as part of VADM Kiyohide Shima’s terribly utilized cruiser-destroyer force during the Battle of Surigao Strait in October 1944.

Shima, who was later described by one author as “the buffoon of the tragedy” ordered his cruisers to attack two islands he thought were American ships then raised the signal to turn and beat feet after they found the wreckage of the battleship Fuso, a move that left Nachi, the 5th Fleet flagship, damaged in a crackup with the heavy cruiser Mogami, the latter of which had to be left behind for the U.S. Navy to finish off.

Nachi pulled in to Manila Bay, which was still something of a Japanese stronghold on the front line of the Pacific War, for emergency repairs.

Discovered there two weeks after the battle by the Americans, while Shima was ashore at a meeting, Nachi was plastered by carrier SBDs and TBMs flying from USS Lexington and Essex.

In all, she absorbed at least 20 bombs and five torpedos, breaking apart into three large pieces and sinking in about 100-feet of water under the view of Corregidor. The day was 5 November 1944, 75 years ago today.

Nachi maneuvers to avoid bomb and torpedo plane attacks in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Note torpedo tracks intersecting at the bottom, and bomb splashes. Catalog #: 80-G-272728

Nachi under air attack from Task Group 38.3, in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Photographed by a plane from USS ESSEX (CV-9). Catalog #: 80-G-287018

Nachi under air attack from Task Group 38.3, in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Photographed by a plane from USS ESSEX (CV-9). Catalog #: 80-G-287019

Nachi dead in the water after air attacks in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Taken by a USS LEXINGTON plane. Catalog #: 80-G-288866

Nachi dead in the water and sinking, following air attacks by Navy planes, in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. A destroyer of the FUBUKI class is in the background. Taken by a USS LEXINGTON plane. Note: Destroyer is either AKEBOND or USHIO. Catalog #: 80-G-288868

Nachi sinking in Manila Bay, after being bombed and torpedoed by U.S. Navy carrier planes, 5 November 1944. Note that her bow has been blown off, and the main deck is nearly washed away. The photo was taken from a USS LEXINGTON plane. Catalog #: 80-G-288871

Nachi nearly sunk, after U.S. carrier plane bomb and torpedo attacks, in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Air bubbles at right are rising from her midship section, while the stern is still floating, perpendicular to the water. The photo was taken from a USS LEXINGTON plane. Catalog #: 80-G-288873

Although close to shore and with several Japanese destroyers and gunboats at hand, Nachi went down with 80 percent of her crew including her skipper, Capt. Kanooka Enpei.

Also headed to the bottom with the ship were 74 officers of the IJN’s Fifth Fleet’s staff and a treasure trove of intel documents and records, the latter of which was promptly salvaged by the U.S. Navy when they moved into Manila Bay and put to good use. The library brought to the surface by hardhat divers was called “the most completely authentic exposition of current Japanese naval doctrine then in Allied hands, detailed information being included relative to the composition, and command structure of the entire Japanese fleet.”

Even though it was late in the war, Nachi was the first of her class to be lost in action. Within six months, two of her remaining sisters, Ashigara and Haguro, were sunk while Myoko was holed up in crippled condition at Singapore, where the British under Mountbatten would capture her in September. 

Warship Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019: The Everlasting VDG

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019: The Everlasting VDG

“Photo by Simmonds, Portsmouth,” USN NH 94220

Here we see the coastal defense “battleship” (cruzador-couraçado) Vasco da Gama of the Royal Portuguese Navy, June 1895, at the opening of the Kiel Canal, with a German Sachsen-class pre-dreadnought to the right. Da Gama is the only unit of the Portuguese Navy to be described as a capital ship and she outlasted most of her contemporaries, remaining the most powerful vessel in Lisbon’s fleet for six decades.

While Portugal’s naval needs were primarily colonial in the late 19th Century, which was satisfied by a series of lightly armed frigates and sloops, something more regal was needed for sitting around the capital and spending time showing the flag in European ports. Enter VDG, the third such Portuguese naval ship named for the famous explorer, with the two previous vessels being 18th and 19th-century ships-of-war of 70- and 80-guns, respectively.

Built originally as a central battery casemate ironclad with a barquentine rig by Thames Iron Works, Blackwall, this English-designed warship first hit the waves in 1876– just over a decade removed from the Monitor and Merrimack. Originally mounting a pair of Krupp-made 10.35-inch (26cm RKL/20 C/74) black powder breechloader guns in a central raised battery, the 200-foot steamer carried a whopping 9 to 10 inches of iron plate in her side belt and shields. Her steam plant allowed a 10-knot speed, which was adequate for the era.

1888 Brassey’s layout via Wiki commons

Her 10.35-inch Krupp breechloaders, which could be oriented inside her gun house to fire through four different gun ports forward/aft and port/sbd via turntables and tracks. Image is an 1880 print published in the magazine, “O Occidente”

She was a nice-looking ship for her time and often appeared on goodwill voyages around the Med and even into the Baltic.

Portuguese hermaphrodite ironclad Vasco da Gama, with her canvas aloft, Illustrated London News, July 15, 1876

Couraçado Vasco da Gama, in a print published in the magazine “O Occidente” in 1880

This included being one of the 165 vessels present among the 30 miles of wood, iron, and steel for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Spithead fleet review in 1897. VDG was in good company as the Royal Navy had on hand “53 iron-clads and armoured cruisers, 21 more than the nearest rival, France.”

Vasco da Gama, 1897 Spithead review, from a handout of the event published by The Graphic, which said “”Portugal sent the Vasco da Gama (Captain Bareto de Vascomellos), a small battleship of 2,479 tons, built at Blackwall in 1875. she is armed with two 10.2-inch guns and seven smaller guns.”

The Naval Review at Spithead, 26 June 1897, by Eduardo de Martino via the Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 405260

In the mid-1890s, five modern warships– largely paid for by public subscription– were ordered to give VDG some backup. These ships, all smallish cruisers with long legs for colonial service, included the Rainha Dona Amélia (1683-tons, 4×6-inch guns, built domestically), Dom Carlos I (4250-tons, 4×6-inch, ordered from Armstrong Elswick), São Gabriel and São Rafael (1771-tons, 2×6-inch guns, ordered from Normand Le Havre), and Warship Wednesday alum, Adamastor.

In 1902, with the newer ships on hand, VDG was taken offline and sent to Italy to Orlando where she was completely rebuilt in a move that saw her cut in half and lengthened by 32-feet, fitted with new engines, guns, and machinery. The effect was that, in a decade, Portugal had gone from one elderly ironclad to six relatively effective, if light, cruisers of which VDG was still the largest and remained the flagship of the Navy.

She emerged looking very different, having landed her sail rig, picked up a second stack, and been rearmed with a pair of 8″/39.9cal Pattern P EOC-made naval guns in sponsons. She even had her iron armor replaced by new Terni steel plate. Basically a new ship, her speed had increased and she was capable of 6,000 nm sorties, which enabled her to voyage to Africa in service of the crown, if needed.

Nave da battaglia Vasco Da Gama 1903 (AS Livorno, Archivio storico del Cantiere navale Luigi Orlando)

Navios da Marinha de Guerra Portugueza no alto mar 1903 by Alfredo Roque Gamerio, showing ‘cruzadors” Vasco da Gama, Don Carlos I, S Rafael, Amelia and Adamastor to the far right. Note the black hulls and buff stacks

It was envisioned that VGD would be replaced by two planned 20,000-ton modern battleships (!) on the eve of the Great War, however, that balloon never got enough air to get off the ground due to Portugal’s bankrupt state treasury. Therefore, she soldiered on.

Her 1914 Jane’s Listing.

It was after her refit that she saw a period of action, being involved in assorted revolutions and coup attempts in 1910, 1913 and, along with other Portuguese Navy vessels, in 1915 that included bombarding Lisbon and sending revolting sailors ashore.

Vasco da Gama’s crew in the “Revolta de 14 de Maio de 1915” in Portugal

Nonetheless, during World War I, although Portugal was not involved in the fighting in Europe in the early days of the conflict, VDG escorted troop reinforcements to Portugal’s African colonies in Mozambique and Angola, where the country was allied with British and French efforts to rid the continent of German influence.

In February 1916, her crews helped seize 36 German and Austro-Hungarian ships holed up in Lisbon on the eve of Berlin’s declaration of war on the Iberian country. Once that occurred, she served in coastal defense roles, dodging some very active German U-boats in the process.

VASCO DA GAMA Portuguese Battleship 1915-20, probably at Lisbon, note the Douro class destroyer, NH 93621

Via Ilustracao Portuguesa: Commander Leote do Rego and the French naval attaché on Vasco da Gama 1916, posing with a deck gun which looks to be her 6″/45cal EOC

Once her only shooting war had ended without her actually firing a shot in anger, VGD still served as a ship of state and carried the commanding admiral’s flag.

Via Ilustracao Portuguesa Vasco da Gama tour by Spanish King Alfonso XIII 1922

Finally, in 1935, she was retired and scrapped along with the other five 19th century cruisers than remained. These vessels were all replaced en mass by a shipbuilding program that saw 5 Vouga-class destroyers ordered from Vickers along with a trio of small submarines and six sloops. This replacement fleet would serve the country’s seagoing needs well into the 1960s.

While her hull was broken, VDG’s 1902-era British-made guns were removed and reinstalled in 1936 in a series of coastal defense batteries at Monte da Guia, Espalamaca, Horta Bay and Faial Island in the strategically-located Azores, which remained active through WWII, and then kept ready as a wartime reserve until at least 1970. Some of those emplacements are still relatively preserved.

Further, Vasco da Gama is remembered by maritime art.

Cruzador Couraçado Vasco da Gama. Aguarela de Fernando Lemos Gomes. Museu de Marinha RM2572-492

An excellent scale model of her, as originally built, exists in the Maritime Museum, in Lisbon.

Portuguese ironclad Vasco da Gama (1876), Maritime Museum, Lisbon.

Her name was reissued to a British Bay-class frigate, ex-HMS Mounts Bay, in 1961 which went on to serve as F478 into the 1970s and then to a MEKO 200 type frigate (F330) commissioned in 1991.

Specs:
(As built)
Displacement:2,384 t (2,346 long tons; 2,628 short tons)
Length: 200 ft pp
Beam: 40 ft
Draft: 19 ft
Installed power: 3,000 ihp
Sail plan: Barquentine rig
Speed: 10.3 knots
Complement: 232 men
Armor:
Belt: 9 in (230 mm), iron plate
Battery: 10 in (250 mm)
Armament:
2 × Krupp 10.35″/18cal 26cm RKL/20 C/74
1 × Krupp 15cm RKL/25 C/75
4 × 9-pounder guns
(1914)
Displacement: 3200 tons, full load
Length: 234 ft.
Beam: 40 ft
Draft: 18 ft
Installed power: 2 VTE, Yarrow water tube boilers, 6,000 ihp
Speed: 15 knots
Range: 6,000nm on 468 tons coal
Complement: 260 men
Armor: Terni steel; belt: 250 – 100mm, deck: 75mm, shields: 200mm
Armament:
2 x EOC 8″/39.9 Pattern P guns
1 x EOC 6″/45
1 x QF 12-pounder 12-cwt gun (76mm)
8 x QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss 57mm guns

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Warship Wednesday: Oct. 2, 2019, HMs Unlucky Killer No. 13

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday: Oct. 2, 2019, HMs Unlucky Killer No. 13

Click to very much bigup

 

Here we see the Royal Navy’s K-class steam-powered (not a misprint) submarine HMS K22, bottom, compared to a smaller and more typical example of HMs submarine fleet during World War I, the HMS E37. As you can tell, the two boats are very different and, by comparing specs of the 800-ton/2,000shp E27 with the 2630-ton/10,000shp K22, you can see just how different.

A brainchild that sprang from the pipe-dream by Jellicoe and Beatty of creating submarines fast enough to operate with the Grand Fleet, these massive 339-foot submarines were designed on the cusp of World War I and a full 21 were to be built. Whereas other subs around the world were gasoline-electric or diesel-electric, the K-class would be steam-electric with a pair of Yarrow oil-fired boilers (! on a submarine!) for use with turbines on the surface, giving them an impressive 24-knot speed.

K7, showing a good profile of these interesting subs. And yes, those are stacks on her amidships

HMS K7, showing a good profile of these interesting subs. And yes, those are stacks on her amidships

When you keep in mind that the standard British battleship of the time, the brand new Queen Elizabeth-class “fast” battleships had a max speed of 24-knots, you understand the correlation.

The K-class would use their speed to their advantage and, with a heavy armament of eight torpedo tubes and three 3-4-inch deck guns, press their attacks with ease. For all this surface action, they had a proper bridge (with windows!) and even stacks for the boilers.

HMS K2, note the gun deck with her large 4 inchers interspersed between her stacks. Click to big up

HMS K2, note the gun deck with her large 4 inchers interspersed between her stacks. Click to big up

In short, they were really large destroyers that happened to be able to submerge. When using one boiler they could creep along at 10 knots for 12,500 nautical miles– enabling them to cross the Atlantic and back and still have oil left.

When submerged, they could poke around on electric motors. With all this in mind, what could go wrong?

Well, about that…

The K-class soon developed a bad habit of having accidents while underway. This was largely because for such gargantuan ships, they had small and ineffective surface controls, which, when coupled with a very low crush depth and buoyancy issues meant the ships would often hog and be poor to respond under control, along with having issues with dive angles like you can’t believe.

In short, they were all the bad things of a 300-foot long carnival funhouse, afloat.

Further, since the boilers had to be halted to dive (who wants burnt oil exhaust inside a sealed steel tube?) if these submersibles could dive in under five minutes it was due to a well-trained crew. Then, due to all the vents and stacks that had to seal, there were inevitable leaks and failures, which on occasion sent seawater cascading into the vessel once she slipped below the waves.

Of the 21 ordered, only 17 were eventually completed and these ships soon earned a reputation as the Kalamity-class because ships sank at their moorings, suffered uncontrolled descents to the bottom of the sea, ran aground, and disappeared without a trace. This led to improvements such as a large bulbous bow (note the difference in the bow form from early images of these subs to later), though it didn’t really help things all that much.

K4 ran aground on Walney Island in January 1917 and remained stranded there for some time. There are several images in circulation of this curious sight

K4 ran aground on Walney Island on January 1917 and remained stranded there for some time. There are several images in circulation of this curious sight

With all of this, we should double back around to the K22 mentioned above in the very first image. You see, she was completed as HMS K13 at Fairfield Shipbuilders, Glasgow, Scotland.

Launched 11 November 1916, K13 was sailing through Gareloch on 29 January 1917 during her sea trials when Kalimity raised its head.

On board that day were 80 souls– 53 crew, 14 employees of a Govan shipbuilder, five Admiralty officials, a pilot and the captain and engineer of sister submarine K14. While attempting to bring the decks awash, icy Scottish seawater poured into the engine room of the submarine, killing those stokers, enginemen and water tenders working the compartment. A subsequent investigation found that four ventilator tubes for the boilers had not closed properly.

Fifty men were left alive on the stricken ship, which by that time was powerless at the bottom of the loch. The two seniormost present, K13‘s skipper Lieutenant Commander Godfrey Herbert and his K14 counterpart, Commander Francis Goodhart, tasked themselves to make a suicidal break for the surface on a bubble of air released from the otherwise sealed off conning tower to get help– though only Herbert made it alive.

Once topside and picked up by another waiting submarine, Herbert helped pull off a what is noted by many as the first true Submarine Rescue which involved dropping airlines to the submarine while the 48 remaining men trapped inside endured a freezing, dark hell for 57 hours until they were able to be brought to the surface as the buoyant end of the submarine, pumped full of air pressure, broached the surface and a hole was cut to remove the survivors while the ship was held by a hawser.

k13 rescue operation

From the Submarine Museum’s dry record of the event:

The crew of E50 witnessing K13’s rapid dive closed in on the area discovering traces of oil and escaping air breaking the surface. The first rescue vessel arrived around midnight. Divers were sent down to inspect the submarine and just after daybreak on the 30th morse signals were exchanged between the divers and the trapped crew. At 1700 an airline was successfully connected, empty air bottles recharged and ballast tanks blown. With the aid of a hawser slung under her bows K13 was brought to within 8 feet of the surface. By midday of the 31st K13’s bow had been raised ten feet above the water. By 2100 the pressure hull had been breached using oxy-acetylene cutting equipment the survivors being transferred to safety

However, K13 slipped below the surface once more, taking her dead back to the bottom with her. Raised two months later, she was repaired, the bodies of 29 lost in her engine room removed as was the fallen skipper of K14 (while one body other was recovered from the loch, the remaining men were never found), and she was recommissioned as K22.

British submarine HMS K22 (ex HMS K13) under way at speed during trial in the Firth of Forth after repair and refit.

British submarine HMS K22 (ex HMS K13) underway at speed during trial in the Firth of Forth after repair and refit Note the change to her bow. Via Tacta Nautica

Seeing some war service with the 13th Submarine Flotilla (again with that number!) K13/22 was involved in a collision at night with sistership K14 in a chain reaction event that left two other sisters, K6 and K17, sunk. In all 105 of HMs submariners were killed in one night in 1918 aboard K-boats without a single German shot fired.

By this time, the “K” had changed from Kalamity to Killer and volunteers assigned to these boats called themselves the “Suicide Club.”

Alongside captured coastal U-boat S.M.S. UB 28 in 1918, note the huge size difference.

Alongside captured coastal U-boat S.M.S. UB 28 in 1918, note the huge size difference.

Soon after the war, the RN divested themselves of the K-class though they were still relatively new, scrapping most of them in the early 1920s.

K13 as K23 late in her brief second life, 1923

K13 as K23 late in her brief second life, 1923

K13/K22 survived until she was sold for scrap in December 1926 in Sunderland.

A memorial to her 32 war dead is at Faslane Cemetery while one to her six civilians killed among her crew is at Glasgow.

A third, erected in 1961, is in Carlingford, New South Wales, Australia, and was paid for by the widow of Charles Freestone, a leading telegraphist on K13 who survived the accident and emigrated down under.

160126-K13-Memorial2

The Submarines Association Australia (SAA) visits and pays their respect to the marker in Oz every January 29 while Sailors from HM Naval Base Clyde and the RN Veteran Submarine Association pay theirs at the markers in Scotland.

160126-K13-Memorial1

“Although technology has revolutionized submarine safety over the past century, the special bravery, ethos, and comradeship of Submariners and the Submarine Service endures,” said Command Warrant Officer of the UK Submarine Service Stefano Mannucci on the 99th Anniversary service in 2016

Last week, Veterans and serving submariners at Helensburgh unveiled a plinth to mark the sinking of the Submarine K13.

“The plinth was commissioned by the West of Scotland Branch of the Submariners Association and before it was unveiled, the Branch President, retired Commander Bob Seaward, OBE explained how the plinth represents a link connecting the town and its residents to the Naval Base and the submarines which have been sailing past the town for over 100 years,” noted the Royal Navy.

K13/22 is also remembered in maritime art.

hms_k22

As for her skipper on that cold January day a century ago, Capt. Godfrey Herbert, DSO with Bar, having served in the Royal Navy through both World Wars, died on dry land in Rhodesia at the ripe old age of 77.

Specs:

Displacement: 1,980 tons surfaced, 2,566 tons dived
Length: 339 ft. (103 m)
Beam: 26 ft. 6 in (8.08 m)
Draught: 20 ft. 11 in (6.38 m)
Propulsion:
Twin 10,500 shp (7,800 kW) oil-fired Yarrow boilers each powering a Brown-Curtis or Parsons geared steam turbines, Twin 3 blade 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) screws
Four 1,440 hp (1,070 kW) electric motors.
One 800 hp (600 kW) Vickers diesel generator for charging batteries on the surface.
Speed:
24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph) surfaced
8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) submerged
Range:
Surface: 800 nautical miles (1,500 km; 920 mi) at maximum speed
12,500 nmi (23,200 km; 14,400 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Submerged: 8 nmi (15 km; 9.2 mi) at 8 kn (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)
Complement: 59 (6 officers and 53 ratings)
Armament:
4 × 18-inch (460 mm) torpedo tubes (beam), four 18-inch (450-mm) bow tubes, plus 8 spare torpedoes
2 × BL 4-inch (101.6 mm) Mk XI guns
1 × 3 in (76 mm) gun
Twin 18-inch deck tubes originally fitted but later removed.

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

Warship Wednesday, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

3 US Navy PT-boats Aleutians in June 1943 eaplane tender GILLIS AVD12 PBY Catalina Higgins boats Mk 19 torpedo tubes.

Official USN Photographs (National Archives) 80-G-K-9454 (Color).

Here we see three, in a beautiful original color photograph, a trio of Higgins-type PT-boats belonging to Motor Torpedo Squadron 13, moored alongside the old seaplane tender destroyer, USS Gillis (AVD12, ex-DD260) in Casco Cove, Massacre Bay, Attu Island, Aleutians, 21  June 1943. Note the PBY-5 Catalina flying-boat astern of our aging tin can.

One of the massive fleets of Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, Gillis came too late for the Great War. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

USS Gillis is the only ship named for Commodore John P. Gillis and RADM James Henry Gillis.

Commodore John P. Gillis was a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He fought in the Mexican-American War where he was captured at Tuxpan. Subsequently, between 1853 and 1854, he sailed with Perry to open Japan to the West. Gilles later served in the Civil War by providing support to the Union blockade effort, commanding the warships Seminole, Monticello, and Ossipee, in turn.

RADM James Henry Gillis (USMA 1854), a Pennsylvania native, during the Civil War, commanded Michigan, Franklin, the flagship of the European Squadron, Lackawanna, Minnesota, and Hartford, the flagship of the Pacific Squadron before retiring from the Navy in 1893 “having never lost a man at sea.”

USS Gillis was built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Quincy, Mass. and commissioned 3 September 1919, LCDR Webb Trammell in command– some 100 years ago this month.

Destroyer USS Gillis (DD-260), 29 May 1919, Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts.

Her peacetime service was brief. Gillis sailed from Newport, R.I., 17 December 1919 and moored at San Diego 20 January 1920. She joined the Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force in tactics and maneuvers along the West Coast until decommissioned at San Diego 26 May 1922.

NH 53731

In all, Gillis spent just under two years with the fleet in her first stint on active duty.

Gillis (DD-260) Laid up at San Diego, California, circa 1929 in rusty and crusty condition. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Don P. Moon, USN. Note the ship’s rusty condition. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1973. NH 78286

When the drums of war started beating in Europe and Asia in the late 1930s, Gillis was recommissioned in ordinary 28 June 1940, then soon reclassified as seaplane tender destroyer AVD-12, a mission that importantly saw her fitted with an early radar set. Following conversion, which included swapping out her torpedo tubes for aviation store space and some extra AAA guns and depth charges, she was placed in full commission at San Francisco, 25 March 1941.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) Photograph dated 14 February 1941. The ship appears to be painted in Camouflage Measure One. Catalog #: 80-G-13141

As noted by DANFS:

Gillis was assigned as tender to Patrol Wing 4, Aircraft Scouting Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the following months she performed plane guard patrol between San Diego and Seattle with time out for aircraft tending duties at Sitka, Alaska (14-17 June); Dutch Harbor and Kodiak (15-31 July). After overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard she returned to Kodiak 16 October 1941 to resume tending of amphibious patrol planes in Alaskan waters. She was serving at Kodiak when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Just six months later, she was at rest in Dutch Harbor on the morning of 3 June 1942. Almost simultaneously with their attack on Midway, a strong task force under Japanese RADM Kakuji Kakuta, comprising the carriers Ryujo (10,000 tons) and Jun’yo (25,000 tons) as well as their escorts and a naval landing force, attacked the Aleutians in Alaska.

But Gillis had the upper hand.

In the harbor that morning with the two old flush-deck destroyers King and Talbot, the submarine S-27, Coast Guard cutter Onondaga, and the U.S. Army transports President Fillmore and Morlen, Gillis had the advantage of radar and her operator picked up the incoming Japanese airstrike at 0540. With that, she and the other ships weighed anchor and stood out with all hands at battle stations. Likewise, the Army detachment at nearby Fort Mears was alerted.

Had they been sunk at their moorings and Dutch Harbor more badly damaged, the effort to keep/hold/retake the Aleutians would have surely been a tougher task, diverting key U.S. assets from other theaters– such as Guadalcanal.

Further, the Japanese, in turn, got a bloody nose that morning from the old school 3-inch M1918 AAA guns and .50 cal water-cooled Browning of Arkansas National Guard’s 206th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft), which splashed a few Japanese planes. Meanwhile, a PBY that Gillis was tending stitched up 19-year-old PO Tadayoshi Koga’s Zero (which crashed and was recovered in remarkable condition– an intelligence coup) and a group of Army Col. John Chennault’s P-40s out of Unamak accounted for a few more. The Gillis claimed two planes shot down. No ship was damaged.

Koga’s Zero

Not a bad day’s work for an isolated outpost.

Three days later, while on air-sea rescue patrol, Gillis made three depth charge runs on an underwater sound contact.

DANFS= “A Japanese submarine violently broached the surface revealing its conning tower and propeller, then disappeared. Gillis was unable to regain contact. She was credited with damaging this underseas raider in the combat area off Umak Island.”

Starting on June 9, PBYs of VP-41, operating from Dutch Harbor, initiated what became known as the “Kiska Blitz,” a series of extreme long-range shuttle attack bombing missions by the flying boats of PatWing Four to plaster the Japanese ships at that occupied Aleutian island, using Gillis, which had forward-deployed closer to the action, at Nazan Bay off Atka island. This took amazing 48-hour sorties with the old tender providing fuel, hot meals and extra 250-pound bombs to the Catalinas until she was out of bombs to give. This lasted for several days, with Catalinas of VPB-42 and 43, until a Japanese scout plane discovered the seaplane tender and her position was compromised.

This drawing was made by the intelligence units of the U.S. 11th Air Force, showing a dual Imperial Japanese Navy Type 11 Early Warning Radar site on the captured Alaskan island of Kiska in Oct 1942. It was built by the Japanese in response to the PBY blitz.

On June 13, before retiring from Atka, Gillis was ordered to carry out a “scorched earth” policy, setting fire to all buildings and a local Aleut village to leave nothing of use to the Japanese. She later fought off a sortie from three four-engine Mavis bombers from Kiska while in Kuluk Bay, Adak. To her brood she added the plywood PT-boats of MTBRon 13.

Higgins 78-foot torpedo boats of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 13 (MTBRon 13) moored in Attu, Alaska, Jul 1943. Note PT-75 and PT-78 nested outboard of their squadron-mate and a PBY Catalina patrol plane taking off. 80-G-475727

After that, joined by four other tenders, Gillis formed the mothership backbone of Patrol Squadrons 41, 43, 51, 62; consisting of 11 PBY flying boats and 20 PBY-5As. By October 1943, however, the other tenders were withdrawn, and she was the only one in operative condition forward deployed to the Aleutians.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) leaving ARD-6 Dutch Harbor, Alaska 80-G-386650

With the theatre dying down, by April 1944 Gillis departed Dutch Harbor for the West Coast where she was given an overhaul and served as a plane guard off San Diego. She was then ordered forward into the Pacific to rejoin the shooting war.

She then sailed with RADM M. L. Deyo’s Gunfire and Covering Force, en route via the Marshalls, Marianas, and Ulithi for the Invasion of Okinawa, arriving off Kerama Retto 25 March 1945. There, Gillis guarded minesweepers and stood by UDT teams clearing approaches to the western beaches of Okinawa. After invasion forces stormed ashore 1 April, she tended observation and patrol planes at Kerama Retto and performed air-sea rescue patrol.

USS Relief -AH-1 In a Western Pacific Harbor, probably at the time of the Okinawa Campaign, circa April 1945. USS Gillis -AVD-12- is in the left background Catalog #: 80-G-K-3707

On 28 April, Gillis departed Okinawa in the screen of USS Makassar Strait, bound via Guam to San Pedro Bay, Philippine Islands. She returned by the same route in the escort screen of Wake Island (CVE-65). That carrier launched planes 29 June to land bases on Okinawa and Gillis helped escort her back to Guam 3 July 1945.

Gillis won two battle stars, for escort and antisubmarine operations in the American area (1941-44) and Okinawa.

Gillis departed Guam for home 8 July 1945. She arrived at San Pedro, Calif., 28 July and decommissioned there 15 October 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy List 1 November 1945. She was sold to NASSCO, Treasure Island, CA, for scrapping 29 January 1946.

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war. Those four-pipers not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield (DD-231) decommissioned 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the Navy.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

Specs:

USS Gillis (DD-260/AVD-12): Outboard profile from Booklet of General Plans (NARA) 117877196

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4 x 4?/50cal guns
1 x 3″/23AA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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

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

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A bell lost, a bell found, a bell talked about, a bell returned

On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we highlighted the lost Operation Neptune minesweeper USS Osprey, which went down in the early morning of 6 June 1944, clearing a way for the invasion fleet.

In that Warship Wednesday, we covered that her bell had apparently been recovered sometime around 2007 and gave a lead to the dive op that may know more about it.

Well, one thing led to another and, after the post was shared, the NHHC got involved and, as noted by the BBC:

The US authorities contacted the UK coastguard when pictures of the ship’s bell appeared on the internet.

An investigation was launched by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency when it was established the bell had not been reported to the receiver of wreck.

Acting receiver Heloise Warner said the agency “put the word about” that it was searching for the bell and it was subsequently left anonymously at an undisclosed location last month.

“It’s absolutely fantastic that such a poignant part of our history is back in our possession,” she added.

Osprey’s bell via MCA

It is expected the NHHC will soon take possession of the recovered bell.

Bravo Zulu, guys, and, as always, thanks for sharing! Let’s continue to save history together.

A hearty toast to those lost on Osprey, who will never be forgotten so long as their names are still written:

  • Lieutenant Van Hamilton
  • Seaman 2nd Class John Medvic
  • Fireman 1st class Walter O’Bryan
  • Quartermaster 2nd Class Emery Parichy
  • Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Joseph Vanasky, Jr
  • Motor Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Cleo Whitschell

Warship Wednesday, July 31, 2019: “80 Sen,” or a young Yamamoto’s Italian Stallion

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 31, 2019: 80 Sen

NHHC Collection Photo # NH 83034

Here we see a crooked image from the files of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, likely a quick snapshot taken from the deck of a rented junk, showing the coastal defense ship (formerly classified as an armored cruiser, or junjokan) Nisshin of the Imperial Japanese Navy as she sat at a Hong Kong mooring buoy, in October 1920. Note the Emperor’s chrysanthemum marking on the bow, and inquisitive members of her crew on the side– likely wondering just who was in the approaching small boat with the camera. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but this ship had once gone toe-to-toe with a much larger opponent and come out on top, although with the scars to show it.

If you like that photo, how about another two taken the same day, with her crew’s laundry drying and a picturesque junk added for Hong Kong flavor:

NH 83032

NH 83033

Anywho, you didn’t come here for Hong Kong laundry stories.

Built around the turn of the Century by Gio. Ansaldo & C shipbuilders, Genoa, Italy, as an updated version of the Giuseppe Garibaldi armored cruiser class, Nisshin (or Nissin, a name that roughly translates to “Japan”) was designed by Italian naval architect Edoardo Masdea as a vessel only smaller than a 1st-rate (pre-dreadnought) battleship of the era, yet larger and stronger than most cruisers that could oppose it.

The Garibaldi class was innovative (for 1894,) with a 344-foot long/7,200-ton hull capable of making 20-knots and sustaining a range of more than 7,000 nm at 12 when stuffed with enough coal. Although made in Italy, she was almost all-British from her Armstrong batteries to her Bellville boilers, Whitehead torpedoes, and Harvey armor.

Armored with a belt that ran up-to 5.9-inches thick, Garibaldi could take hits from faster cruisers and gunboats while being able to dish out punishment from a pair of Elswick (Armstrong) 10-inch guns that no ship smaller than her could absorb. Capable of outrunning larger ships, she also had a quartet of casemate-mounted torpedo tubes and extensive rapid-fire secondary batteries to make life hard on the enemy’s small ships and merchantmen.

These cruisers were designed for power projection on a budget and the Argentine Navy, facing a quiet arms race between Brazil and Chile on each side, needed modern ships. They, therefore, scooped up not only the Garibaldi (commissioned in 1895) but also the follow-on sister-ships General Belgrano and General San Martín (built by Orlando of Livorno in 1896) and Genoa-made Pueyrredón (1898) to make a quartet of powerful cruisers. These ships, coupled with a pair of battleships ordered later in the U.S., helped make the Argentine navy for about two decades the eighth most powerful in the world (after the big five European powers, Japan, and the United States), and the largest in Latin America.

The design was well-liked, with Spain moving to buy two (but only taking delivery of one in the end, the ill-fated Cristóbal Colón, which was sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish American War) and Italy electing to purchase five further examples of the type.

Why all the talk about Argentina and Italy?

Well, because Nisshin and her sistership Kasuga were originally ordered by the Italians in 1900 as Mitra (Yard #130) and Roca (#129), respectively, but then sold while still on the ways to Argentina to further flesh out the fleet of that South American country’s naval forces, who dutifully renamed them Mariano Moreno and Rivadavia.

At some 8,500-tons (full), these final Garibaldis were 364-feet long overall and were roughly the same speed and carried the same armor plan (with Terni plate) as their predecessors.

However, they differed in armament, with Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga carrying a single 10-inch EOC gun forward and twin 8″/45s aft, while Roca/Moreno/Nisshin carried the twin 8-inchers both forward and aft.

Stern 8"/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship's officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during "Great White Fleet" around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

Stern 8″/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship’s officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during “Great White Fleet” around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

[Of note, the same 8-inch EOC guns were also used on other British-built Japanese armored cruisers (Adzuma, Asama, Iwate, Izumo, Tokiwa, and Yakumo) so they weren’t too out of place when Japan took delivery of these ships in 1904 instead of Argentina.]

Both Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga and Roca/Moreno/Nisshin were launched, fitted out and ran builders’ trials in Italy under the Argentine flag.

Armada Argentina crucero acorazado ARA Moreno, at 1903 launch. Note Italian and Argentine flags. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Nisshin Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese NH 58664

Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese. Photo credited to her builder Ansaldo. NH 58665

With the Japanese and Imperial Russia circling each other tensely in late 1903, and Argentina not really wanting to take final delivery of these new cruisers, Buenos Aries shopped them to the Tsar’s kopeck-pinching Admiralty only to be rebuffed over sticker shock, leaving the Tokyo to pick them up for £760,000 each– considered a high price at the time but a bargain that the Russians would likely later regret. The Argentines would later reuse the briefly-issued Moreno and Rivadavia names for their matching pair of Massachusetts-built battleships in 1911

Nisshin photographed at Genoa, Italy in January 1904. This ship was built in Italy by Ansaldo of Genoa and competed on January 17, 1904. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101923

With a scratch British/Italian contract delivery crew, Kasuga and Nisshin (their names are taken from Meiji-period steam warships of the 1860s) set sail immediately for the Far East and were already outbound of Singapore by the time the balloon finally went up between the Russians and Japanese in February 1904. The sisters were soon in the gun line off Russian-held Port Arthur, lending their fine British-made batteries to reducing that fortress, and took part in both the ineffective Battle of the Yellow Sea in August 1904 (where Nisshin was lightly damaged) and the much more epic Battle of Tsushima in May 1905.

Carrying the flag of VADM Baron Misu Sotarō, Nisshin fired something on the order of 180 heavy shells during Tsushima, exchanging heavy damage with the 15,000-ton Russian battleship Oslyabya and others– taking several 12-inch hits to show for it. The Japanese cruiser had three of her four 8-inch guns sliced off and a number of her crew, to include a young Ensign Isoroku Yamamoto, wounded. The future commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II had the index and middle fingers on his left hand shorn off by a splinter, earning him the wardrobe nickname “80 sen” as a manicure cost 10 sen per digit at the time.

The forward gun turret and superstructure of the Japanese armored cruiser Nisshin following the Battle of Tsushima, showing 8-inch guns severed by Russian 12-inch shells

From a different angle

Another view

Aft turret of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Starboard 12-pound gun of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Oslyabya, in turn, was ultimately lost in the course of the battle, taking the Russian Squadron’s second-in-command, Capt. Vladimir Ber, and half of her crew with her to the bottom of the Korea Strait.

Japanese cruiser Nisshin, listed as June 24, 1905, at Kure, which is just a month after Tsushima and may be an incorrect date as she looks almost brand new. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

For both Kasuga and Nisshin, Tsushima was their brightest moment under the Rising Sun.

Greatly modified later with Japanese-made Kampon boilers replacing their Italian ones, along with a host of other improvements, Kasuga went on to serve as a destroyer squadron flagship in World War I looking out for German surface raiders and escorting Allied shipping between Australia and Singapore. She later took Imperial troops to Vladivostok in 1918 as part of the Allied Intervention into the Russian Civil War.

Nisshin during WWI. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

As for Nisshin, she also spent her time as a destroyer squadron leader on the lookout for the Kaiser’s wolves and was later dispatched to the Mediterranean as part of the Japanese 2nd Special Squadron (Suma-class cruiser Akashi, the cruiser Izumo, 8 Kaba-class destroyers and 4 Momo-class destroyers). Deployed in late 1917, the squadron was tasked with riding shotgun over Allied troopships steaming between Malta and Salonica and from Alexandria to Taranto and Marseille.

Photographed at Port Said, Egypt, on October 27, 1917. The early French mixed battery pre-dreadnought Jauréguiberry (1893-1934) can be seen at left background. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101922

In all, the force escorted nearly 800 ships and engaged German and Austrian subs something like 40 times (although without sinking any).
After the Armistice, selected crews from the Squadron marched in the 1919 victory parades in Paris and London.

To close out Japan’s involvement in the Great War, Nisshin returned home with seven captured German U-boats, (U-46, U-55, U-125, UC-90, UC-99, UB-125, and UB-143) after stops in Malta and other friendly ports along the way from England to Yokosuka, arriving there in June 1919. The former German boats went on to an uninteresting life of their own under the Kyokujitsu-ki, used for testing, salvage exercises and floating jetties. While most of these submarines were low-mileage vessels of little notoriety, U-46 (Hillebrand) and U-55 (Blue Max winner Willy Werner) were very successful during the war, accounting for 116 Allied vessels of some 273,000 tons between them.

IJN Nissin at Malta with captured German UC-90 U-boat, via IWM

Nisshin, photographed March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58666

Nisshin, photographed in March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58667

Japanese Cruiser Nisshin U-boats escorting surrendered German submarines allocated to Japan, March 1919, Malta, by Frank Henry Algernon Mason, via the IWM

Disarmed and largely relegated to training tasks, Nisshin and Kasuga were put on the sidelines after the Great War, replaced by much better ships in the Japanese battle line.

Hulked, Nisshin was eventually disposed of as part of a sinkex in the Inland Sea in 1936, then raised by Shentian Maritime Industry Co., Ltd, patched up and sunk a second time in 1942 during WWII by the new super battleship Yamato, whose 18.1″/45cal Type 94 guns likely made quick work of her.

Her immediate sister, Kasuga, used as a floating barracks at Yokosuka, was sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft in July 1945 then later raised and scrapped after the war. Incidentally, the two Japanese Garibaldis outlasted their Italian sisters, all of which were disposed of by the 1930s. Their everlasting Argentine classmates, however, lingered on until as late as 1954 with the last of their kind, ARA Pueyrredon, ironically being towed to Japan for scrapping that year.

Of note, the British 8″/45s EOCs removed from Nisshin, Kasuga and the other Japanese 1900s armored cruisers in the 1920s and 30s were recycled and used as coastal artillery, including four at Tokyo Bay, four at Tarawa (Betio) and another four at Wake Island once it was captured in 1941.

Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops mount a British-made, Vickers eight-inch naval cannon into its turret on Betio before the battle. This film was developed from a Japanese camera found in the ruins while the battle was still on. Via http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-C-Tarawa/index.html

Destruction of one of the four Japanese eight-inch EOC guns on Betio caused by naval gunfire and airstrikes, 1943. Department of Defense photo (USMC) 63618

Nisshin’s name was reused for use on a well-armed seaplane/midget submarine carrier that saw extensive action in WWII during the Guadalcanal campaign, where she was lost.  It has not been reused further.

Specs:

Jane 1914 entry, listing the class as first-class cruisers

Displacement: 7,700 t (7,578 long tons) std, 8,500 full
Length: 366 ft 7 in (o/a), 357 wl
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft: 24 ft 1 in, 25.5 max
Machinery: (1904)
13,500 ihp, 2 vertical triple-expansion steam engines, 8 Ansaldo marine boilers, 2 shafts
Speed: 20 knots at 14,000 shp, although in practice were limited to 18 at full load.
Range: 5,500 nmi at 10 knots on 1316 tons of coal, typically just 650 carried
Complement: 600 as built, 568 in Japanese service.
Armor: (Terni)
Belt: 2.8–5.9 in
Deck: 0.79–1.57 in
Barbette: 3.9–5.9 in
Conning tower: 5.9 in
Armament:
(1904)
2 twin 8″/45 EOC (classified as Type 41 guns by the Japanese)
14 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
10 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
6 single QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns
2 Maxim machine guns
2 landing howitzers
4 × 457 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes in casemates
(1930)
4 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
4 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
1 single 76/40 AAA

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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

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

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

A 1.2 million mile Sapphire

The French Marine Nationale has long been a fan of naming submarines after gemstones. One of these, Saphir, has been exceptionally popular.

The first French sous-marin Saphir was an Émeraude-class submarine launched in 1908 and was famously scuttled after running aground while trying to force the Turkish Straits in 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign.

Émeraude-class submarine Saphir in port in Toulon, circa 1910

The second Saphir was the lead ship of her class of six submarines built for the French Navy in the mid-1930s. Captured by the Germans in 1942 and transferred to the Italians, she too was later scuttled to avoid capture.

The third Saphir was the successful WWII British RN submarine S-class submarine, HMS Satyr (P214) which was loaned to the French from 1952 to 62.

The fourth Saphir, and thus far most successful, is a Rubis-class nuclear attack submarine (sous-marin nucléaire d’attaque) commissioned on 6 July 1984. After deployments around the world, SNA Saphir (S602) has traveled 1.2 million miles and spent some 120,000 hours submerged. She decommissioned 6 July 2019– her 35th birthday– and the French Navy has released an amazing series of photos of her.

Enjoy, and Vive la France!

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