Tag Archives: coastal battleship

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019: Italian Mosquitos of the Baltic

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

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019: Italian Mosquitos of the Baltic

Motortorpedbåt T 28 i full fart i skärgården 1943 Fo196168

All photos, Swedish Sjöhistoriska Museet maritime museum unless noted. This one is file no. Fo196168

Here we see HSwMS T 28, a T 21-class motortorpedbåt (motor torpedo boat) of the Svenska Marinen (Royal Swedish Navy) in 1943 as she planes on her stern, her bow completely above the waves. If she looks fast, that’s because she was– like 50 knots fast.

The Swedes in the 1930s had the misfortune of being sandwiched between a resurgent Germany and a newly ambitious Soviet Union, both having come up on the losing side of the Great War and suffered much during the generation immediately following. This fear went into overdrive as World War II began.

With a lot of valuable coast to protect, the Flottan’s plan to do so was the new Tre Kronor (Three Crowns)-class of three fast cruisers (kryssaren) who were to each serve as a flotilla flagship of a squadron of four destroyers and six motor torpedo boats while three  pansarskepps (literally “armored ships”) bathtub battleships would form a strategic reserve.

For the above-mentioned MTBs, Stockholm turned south, shopping with the Baglietto Varazze shipyard in Italy– which is still around as a luxury yacht maker). Baglietto’s “velocissimo” type torpedo boat, MAS 431, had premiered in 1932 and was lighting quick but still packed a punch.

MAS 431, via Baglietto

Just 52.5-feet long overall, MAS 431 was powered by a pair of Fiat gasoline engines, packing 1,500hp in a hull that weighed but 12-tons. The 41-knot vessel carried a pair of forward-oriented 18-inch torpedoes, a couple of light machine guns, six 110-pound depth charges for submarines (she had a hydrophone aboard) and was manned by a crew of seven.

MAS 431 craft proved the basis for the very successful MAS 500 series boats, with more than two dozen completed. These boats used larger Isotta-Fraschini engines which coughed up 2,000hp while they could putter along on a pair of smaller 70hp Alpha Romero cruising motors. The Swedes directly purchased four of these (MAS 506, 508, 511, and 524) which became T 1114 in 1939. These 55-foot MTBs could make 47 knots.

MAS 500 in the Mediterranean 1938, via Regina Marina

However, the Swedes weren’t in love with the wooden hulls of the Italian boats and went to design their own follow-up class of MTBs in 1941. The resulting T 15 class, built locally by Kockums with some support from Italy, went 22-tons in weight due to their welded steel hulls. However, by installing larger Isotta-Fraschini IF 183 series engines, they could still make 40+ knots.

Swedish Motortorpedbåt T 15. 5 Just four of these craft would be built by Kockums. The camo scheme and white “neutral” racing stripe were standard for Sweden’s wartime fleet. Fo101806

Nonetheless, there was still room for improvement. Upgrading to larger 21-inch torpedo tubes and stretching the hull to 65-feet, the T 21 class carried 3,450hp of supercharged 18-cylinder IF 184 engines which allowed a speed listed as high as 50 knots in Swedish journals. They certainly were a seagoing mash-up of Volvo and Ferrari.

T 28 MTB Fo200188

Motortorpedbåten T 28. 1943 Fo88597A

T30. Bild Sjöhistoriska Museet, Stockholm SMM Fo88651AB

Besides the torpedoes, the craft was given a 20mm AAA gun in a semi-enclosed mount behind the pilothouse while weight and space for two pintle-mounted 6.5mm machine guns on either side of the house and one forward was reserved. As many as six depth charges were also carried.

Torpedbåt, motortorpedbåt typ T 21

The T 21s proved more numerous than the past Swedish MTB attempts, with a total of 11 boats produced by 1943. They proved invaluable in what was termed the Neutralitetsvakten (neutrality patrol) during the rest of WWII.

Assorted Swedish splinter boats clustered at Galo Island in Stockholm, 1943. (Motortorpedbåtar vid Gålö år 1943 Fo88679A)

Hkn Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland, who in the 1970s served as heir to his nephew King Carl XVI Gustaf, clocked in on Swedish torpedo boats during the first part of WWII before he was reassigned in 1943 as a naval attaché to London.

HRH Prince Bertil of Sweden aboard a torpedo boat, holding a pair of binoculars Nordiska Museet NMA.0028790

Due to their steel hulls, the craft proved much more durable than comparable plywood American PT-boats or the Italian MAS boats and, while the latter’s days were numbered immediately after WWII, the Swedish T 21s endured until 1959, still keeping the peace on the front yard of the Cold War.

In late 1940s service and throughout the 1950s they carried a more sedate grey scheme.

1947 Janes entry

Motortorpedbåt T 25. Propagandaturen på Vättern, Juli 1947 Fo88595A

T24, note another of her class forward, with the M40 20mm cannon showing

Swedish torpedo boat Motortorpedbåten T29, 1950 Gota Canal. Note the 20mm cannon, which is now better protected, and the depth charges with two empty racks. The Swedes, then as now, were not squeamish when it came to dropping cans on suspect sonar contacts in their home waters. 

The T 21s were later augmented by the similar although up-gunned (40mm Bofors) T 38 class and finally replaced by the much-improved Spica-class, which remained in use through the 1980s with the same sort of tasking as the craft that preceded them.

At 139-feet oal, the Spicas were more than twice as long as the T 21s and carried a half-dozen torpedoes in addition to a 57mm Bofors gun.

However, that welded steel hull and the mild salinity of the Baltic has meant that at least one of the old T 21s, T 26 to be clear, has been preserved as a working museum ship in her Cold War colors and is still poking around, although she probably could not make her original designed speed at this point.

Fo196168

Update 9/2/2020: Motortorpedbåten T28, which has been in private hands since 1970 and stored ashore, is now undergoing further preservation as a running museum ship in Sweden. 

Specs:

Displacement: 28 tons
Length: 65.66-feet
Beam: 15.75-feet
Draft: Puddle
Engines: 2 Isotta-Fraschini IF184 supercharged gas engines, 3450hp
Speed: 50 knots max
Range:
Crew: 7 to 11
Armament:
2 21-inch torpedo tubes forward
1 20 mm LuftVärnskanon M.40 AAA gun, rear
up to 6 6.5mm machine guns (if using dual mounts on three pintles)
6 depth charges

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Warship Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018: Oscar’s boldest pansarbat

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 their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018: Oscar’s boldest pansarbat

(Photos: Karlskronavarvet/Marinmuseum)

Here we see a colorized photo of the Swedish pansarskepp HSvMS Dristigheten (Swedish= “The Boldness”) passing under the iconic Levensau High Bridge in Germany’s Kiel Canal during a visit to that country, between 1912 and 1927.

Pansarskepps (literally “armored ships”), or pansarbats, were a peculiar design that was popular in the Baltic from about 1900-45. These short, shallow-draft ships could hug the coastline and hide from larger capital ships while carrying big enough guns to be able to brutally bring the pain to any landing ship escorted by a shallow draft light cruiser or destroyer approaching from offshore. Sweden had kept out of wars since Napoleon was around, but she was still very wary of not only Russian and German but also British designs on the Baltic. With her neutrality only as good as the ships that could protect it, the country built a series of 15 coastal defense vessels, or pansarskepps, from 1886-1918.

Sometimes referred to as battleships, or cruisers, these warships were really neither. Nor were they destroyers.

They were pansarskepps.

Sandwiched roughly in the middle of these vessels was Dristigheten, preceded by the trio of Svea-class vessels (3,200-tons, 2×10-inch guns) and a matching threesome of Oden-class ships (3,445-tons, 2×10-inch guns), while she was followed by eight more advanced Aran, Oscar II, and Sverige-class ships.

A standalone vessel, Dristigheten was laid down at Lindholmen, Goteborg in October 1898 just after the world was amazed by the recent steel navy combat that was the Spanish-American War. While most of Sweden’s pocket battleships carried names drawn from Norse mythology or the country’s royal family, Dristigheten is a traditional Swedish warship name going back to the 18th Century where it was carried by a 64-gun ship whose figurehead is preserved to this day.

Some 3,600-tons, she was just 292-feet overall or about the size of small frigate these days. However, she had as much as 247mm (that’s pushing 10-inches) of good (for the time) Harvey nickel-steel armor and a pair of domestically-produced 209mm/43cal M1898 naval rifles.

One of those pretty 209mm/43s. Dristigheten, the first to mount such guns in the Swedish Navy, carried one forward and one aft. She was also the first Swedish naval ship to use water tube boilers.

These 8.3-inch guns, as noted by the 1914 Janes, could fire a 275-pound AP shell on a blend of special Bofors-made nitro-compound that was capable of penetrating 9.5-inches of armor at 3,000 yards. A half-dozen smaller 152mm guns were the secondary battery. A dozen 6-pdr and 1-pdr popguns would ward off torpedo boats. As such, she was the first Swedish capital ship with only quick-fire artillery. A pair of submerged torpedo tubes added to the party favors.

Commissioning 5 September 1901, Dristigheten was a happy ship and was inspected on several occasions by King Oscar II of Sweden, a septuagenarian who had joined his country’s navy at age 11.

The picture shows four Swedish armored ships Göta, Wasa, Äran, Dristigheten (without her later tripod foremast which was fitted in 1912) and collier Stockholm, which anchors during the winter season in Karlskrona’s naval harbor. Ships are flagged for King Oscar II’s birthday on January 21, 1903. The boats frozen solid in the ice and people can be seen moving around on the pack. (2289×1213)

1899 impression of the Swedish fleet with several Swedish pansarbats featured including #2. ODEN (1896) #3. THOR (1898) #4. NIORD (1898) and #5. DRISTIGHETEN (1900), then under construction. Via Karlskronavarvet 11788 (2778×728)

For a quarter-century, Dristigheten steamed around European waters, showing the flag, training naval cadets and visiting friends (Sweden knew nothing but friends, although some were friendlier than others).

Swedish coast defense ship DRISTIGHETEN, note the early single foremast she carried from 1900-1912

Postcard of the Swedish battleship HMS Dristigheten in Algiers, 1906

Dristigheten, 1920, Bordeaux. Note the tripod foremast, added in 1912.

The non-colorised version of the Kiel photo (Marinmuseum Fo113541A)

While the Baltic would freeze over, she would traditionally voyage on a long-haul winter cruise (in times of peace) to the Mediterranean, visiting Southern Europe and North Africa. Malta, Tangier, Vigo, Salonika, Suda Bay, Toulon, Bizerte, and Smyrna all saw the big Swede on a semi-regular basis.

Janes listed her as a “battleship” in 1902, 1914, and 1919. A 3,600-ton battleship.

During WWI, she, along with the rest of the pansarbats, kept a cautious neutrality in Swedish waters between the warring Allies (composed of the Tsar’s Baltic fleet and the occasional British submarine) and German surface and untersee units.

Once the war ended, the days of these plucky ships were numbered, with the goal of bringing more modern cruisers and destroyers online while keeping a few of the newer pansarbats around as a strategic reserve.

As such, in 1927 Dristigheten was refitted as a seaplane carrier (flygmoderfaryget.) With this conversion, she lost her big guns and torpedo tubes, trading them in for a few smaller caliber AAAs and the capability to handle a few floatplanes as well as tend small craft such as patrol boats and coastal gunboats. Also gone was her aft mast. Her magazine space was largely converted to avgas bunkerage.

The Swedish Navy’s Marinens Flygväsende (MFV) at the time flew a host of early Friedrichshafen and Hansa models with Dristigheten lifting these recon seaplanes from her deck to take off on the water and retrieving them from the drink on their return. In her later years, she carried Heinkel HD 16/19s

She continued her service as a seaplane tender through WWII, during which she was augmented with a dozen additional AAAs and served as a key mothership for coastal patrol/artillery units.

Dristigheten in Karlskrona WWII note camo. Note the 40mm Bofors mounts under weather protection.

Decommissioning 13 June 1947 after a solid half-century on the King’s naval list, Dristigheten was converted to a training hulk and target ship, continuing to serve for another 13 years, testing Sweden’s new weapons, keeping the fleet’s existing guns in action, and teaching fresh classes of sailors in damage control.

In 1960, the testing reached a tipping point and she sank.

Raised, she was scrapped in 1961, outliving most of her contemporaries.

Shown in the Oscarsdockan in Karlskrona

As for her contemporaries, she outlived almost all of them. For the record, the last of the pansarskepp-era mini-battleships, HSvMS Gustav V, was used as a training hulk and pier side until 1970 when she was scrapped.

Dristigheten is remembered extensively in maritime art.

Herman Gustav af Sillen Swedish, (1857–1908) “Dristigheten under stridsskjutning 1903.”

Pansarbat Dristigheten by Axel A. Fahlkrantz

Specs:

Displacement: 3,600 tons
Length: 292 ft overall
Beam: 48 ft 6 in
Draught: 16 ft 0
Propulsion: Steam triple-expansion engines, 2 screws, 8 Yarrow boilers, 5,570 shp
Speed: 16.8 kn
Range: 2,040 nmi at 10 kn on 310 tons coal. 400 tons maximum coal would allow for “6 days at full speed.”
Complement: 262 (1901) up to 400 as tender
Armament:
(1900)
2 x 209 mm/44cal. Bofors 21 cm M/98
6 x 152 mm/44cal. Bofors M/98
10 x 57 mm/55cal. Ssk. M/89B 6-pdrs (Janes also lists a pair of 1-pdrs)
2 × 457 mm submerged torpedo tubes. Whitehead torpedoes (1901-1917) Karlskrona torpedoes (1917-22)
(1922)
2 x 210 mm/44cal. Bofors M/1898
6 x 152 mm/44cal. Bofors M/98
8 x 57 mm/55cal. Ssk. M/89B 6-pdrs
1 x 57 mm/21,3cal. Bofors lvk M/16
1 x 57 mm/21,3cal. Bofors lvk M/19
(1927)
4 x 75mm/60cal. Bofors lvk M/26-28 AAA
2 x 40mm/56cal. Bofors lvk M/36 AAA
4 x 8 mm/75,8cal. lvksp M/36 MGs
Armor: Harvey Nickel: 247mm in the conning tower, 6-8 inches main belt, barbettes, and turrets; 4-inches casemates, 2-inches deck.
Aircraft carried (1927-47) : 2-4

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!