Tag Archives: dazzle camo

Royal Navy Reboots Dazzle

Through the magic of 50 gallons of paint in “four shades of grey, plus black,” workers at the A&P yard in Falmouth gave the River-class Batch 2 OPV HMS Tamar (P233) what I think is a great upgrade to her scheme during a recent maintenance period. Headed to the Asia-Pacific region for an extended deployment, she is the first Royal Navy warship to receive a “dazzle” style camo since the Battle of the North Atlantic concluded in 1945.

“We’re really proud of our new paint scheme and the historical significance that it comes with,” said LCDR Michael Hutchinson, Tamar’s skipper. “Different styles of dazzle were used by the Royal Navy on ships in various stations throughout the world and were are pleased to have been given an iconic new look before we deploy in the summer.”

The Rivers are the equivalent of 19th Century station ships, based for years at a time in far-flung parts of the empire and Commonwealth such as the Caribbean, Falklands, and West Africa.

The 296-foot/2,000-ton OPVs only mount a 30mm gun and some small arms manned by their 40-person crew, which is fine as they are intended for low-risk constabulary-at-sea duties (anti-piracy, counter-smuggling/drug-trafficking, counter-terrorism, et. al). Capable of operating small UAVs alongside a Merlin-sized helicopter and hosting up to a platoon of Royal Marine Commandos, they are much like an LCS or a blue-water coast guard cutter in concept, only much more affordable and realistic.

Tamar has even been experimenting with using jet suits for boardings, which just looks like the coolest thing ever, although sets up a very real game of shooting skeet in the event of a contested boarding. 

The Admiralty says all five of the Rivers of the Overseas Patrol Squadron will receive similar dazzle patterns.

Notably, two vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy– HMCS Moncton (MM708) and HMCS Regina (FFH 334)– are sporting WWII-style North Atlantic patterns in an ode to that campaign. Perhaps they started a trend…

Photo by CPL Naples, Canadian Forces

Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Moncton (MM708)

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020: Horse Trading and Gun Running

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, Oct. 28, 2020: Horse Trading and Gun Running

Cropped LIFE Archives photo by Carl Mydans

Here we see the Barnegat-class seaplane tender USS Orca (AVP-49) showing off the welcome sign  “Where the occident meets the Orient by accident,” signed by her skipper, CDR Morton K. Fleming, Jr, while in Philippine waters, likely Ormoc Bay, in December 1944.

The 41 Barnegats were 2,500-ton, 311-foot armed auxiliaries with destroyer lines capable of floating in 12 feet of water. They had room for not only seaplane stores but also 150 aviators and aircrew. Their diesel suite wasn’t fast, but they could travel 8,000 miles at 15.6 knots. Originally designed for two 5-inch/38-caliber guns, this could be doubled if needed (and often was) which complemented a decent AAA armament helped by radar and even depth charges and sonar for busting subs. All pretty sweet for an auxiliary.

We’ve covered them in the past to include the former “Queen of the Little White Fleet” USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) and the 60-year career of USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) but don’t worry, they have lots of great stories.

Our armed tender was (kind of) the fourth Orca in the U.S. Navy, as submarine USS K-3 (SS-34) carried the name as a PCU in 1911 but never served as such. The second Orca was an 85-foot steam yacht out of Boston taken into service as SP726 for patrol operations in the 1st Naval District during World War I. The third Orca was to be a Balao-class fleet submarine (SS-381) but, like SS-34, was changed before commissioning, in this case to USS Sand Lance, a boat that subsequently served until 1972, completing five WWII war patrols.

The hero of our study, which was officially named after Orca Bay, Alaska, in line with the naming convention for seaplane tenders to be named after bays and lakes, was laid down 13 July 1942, built by the Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, Washington, and commissioned 23 January 1944.

USS Orca (AVP-49) ready for launch on 4 October 1942. The ship Her builder’s number, Hull 538, is displayed on her bridge. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-44301

USS Orca (AVP-49) being launched at the Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, Washington, on 4 October 1942. 19-N-47209

USS Orca (AVP-49) Off Houghton, Washington, on 6 February 1944, about two weeks after commissioning. She was completed with three 5/38 guns, including an open mount on her fantail. 19-N-61647

USS Orca (AVP-49) from the port side in Puget Sound on February 6, 1944, wearing camouflage 32/2Ax. The vertical colors are dull black, ocean gray, and light gray. Photo source: NARA BS 61646. H/T USN Dazzle

USS Orca (AVP-49) again in Puget Sound this time from the starboard wearing camouflage 32/2Ax on February 6, 1944. Orca was commissioned on January 23, 1944. Photo source: NARA BS 61645. H/T USN Dazzle

After shakedown, she shipped out for the 7th Fleet off Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, arriving there 26 May 1944. There, she would be the floating home to Patrol Bombing Squadron 11 (VPB-11) whose black-painted PBY-5 Catalinas were busy wrecking Japanese shipping and bases in night attacks while clocking in for air-sea rescue during the day.

PBY-5 Catalina of US Navy Patrol Squadron VPB-11 on the Sepik River in Australian New Guinea bringing supplies to a coast-watcher working in the area, Jan 1943. VPB-11 was Orca’s first squadron

Over the course of the war, Orca would go on to support VPB-33 and finally VPB-34, with all three squadrons being so active as to earn Presidential Unit Citations.

In early November, Orca moved into the Leyte Gulf area in the PI, where the next month her Cats proved lifesavers in Ormoc Bay right under the noses of the Japanese as they taxied around the bay for nearly an hour picking up survivors of the Sumner-class destroyer USS Cooper (DD-695), sunk the previous night by Long Lances from the Japanese destroyer Take.

From her 18-page War History, in the National Archives:

A cartoon from VPB-34 of the Cooper rescue

For his role in the Cooper rescue, VPB-34’s Lieutenant Frederick J. Ball, the lead pilot, would receive the Navy Cross.

Orca would then go on to have repeated run-ins with air attacks and later “the kamikaze boys” as her diary states, with her crew sending up reportedly impressive amounts of fire to meet incoming Japanese planes. The report comes from Tokyo Rose, who announced that, following a raid in an area where Orca was the primary ship, “The volume of Ack-Ack which met the previous night’s raid, indicated that a U.S. battleship of the Wisconsin class had been sighted by Japanese planes…” which is certainly something to brag about for a seaplane tender.

While in the Lingayen Gulf, raids were so heavy that she experienced attacks for six nights in a row, bagging a couple aircraft but coming out unscathed. As her diary states, “Fortunately for us, our first attackers appeared to have not been confirmed Lodge members- Kamikaze Local No. 269, for none of them made suicide dives unless actually hit and out of control.”

Then came the, often frustrating, efforts to recover downed Japanese aircrew.

Other rescues by Orca’s Cats and later Mariners while operating in the PI included the 12 crew and passengers of an Army C-47– which included female nurses– a P-51 pilot, five survivors of a downed B-25 from a raid over Formosa, nine Filipino women whose fishing vessel had capsized 20 miles offshore leaving them to cling to wreckage for three days, and the curious case of CDR McPherson B. Williams of Augusta Georgia. Williams, who was Yorktown’s ComAirGrp 3, had been downed and rescued by Filipino guerillas who kept him out of Japanese hands for seven weeks and, in a twist of fate, was picked up by a Mariner piloted by his Annapolis roommate.

More Carly Mydan photos of Orca, with her crew performing maintenance on PBMs

Speaking of Filipino guerillas, Orca would spend much of her time in local waters supporting Gen. Walter Kreuger’s Sixth Army’s effort to arm, support, and equip bands of insurgents behind Japanese lines, running guns, uniforms, radio equipment, and medicine to these plucky freedom fighters.

VJ Day found Orca at sea, having just completed an overhaul at Manus Island in preparation for “the big push” on Tokyo. On 26 September, Orca arrived at Okinawa to assist in the occupation of the Japanese Islands.

USS Orca (AVP-49) Off Mare Island, California, on 8 January 1946 after completion of an overhaul. 19-N-92247

USS Orca (AVP-49) Off Mare Island, California, on 8 January 1946 after completion of an overhaul. Her 40mm quadruple mount had been moved forward replacing one 5/38 mount, but she retained two 5guns, including one in an open mount on her fantail. 19-N-92245

USS Orca (AVP-49) Off Mare Island, California, on 8 January 1946 after completion of an overhaul. Her 40mm quadruple mount had been moved forward replacing one 5/38 mount, but she retained two 5guns, including one in an open mount on her fantail. 19-N-92246

After supporting the Bikini Atoll A-bomb tests, Orca then decommissioned on 31 October 1947 and joined the reserve fleet in San Francisco. According to her War History, 82 percent of her plank owners, the majority of which were green on commissioning, completed the war with the tender.

She had earned three battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for service in the conflict.

The 1950s…

Orca re-commissioned 15 December 1951, as the push was on in Korea, and went on to serve the rest of the decade in a variety of West Pac cruises and training evolutions, including tense China service, with much of her WWII armament landed.

USS Orca (AVP-49) moored at Naval Station San Diego, circa 1950s. Dave Schroeder and John Chiquoine. Via Navsource http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/43/4349.htm

USS Orca (AVP-49) Underway on 4 April 1955. Note the aviation insignia on the bow aft of the hull number. The open 5/38 mount formerly on her fantail was removed between late 1951 and 1955. 80-G-668276

To the Horn of Africa!

Decommissioned in March 1960, at Tongue Point Naval Station, Astoria, Oregon, she was subsequently laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, Columbia River Group. Her second stint in mothballs, however, did not last long and the following year she was towed to SFNSY and reactivated for transfer to the brand-new Imperial Ethiopian Navy in January 1962, named, well, Ethiopia (A01). Along with a group of 95-foot PGMs and some surplus LCMs, they would prove the backbone of the force.

Formed in 1955 with a group of retired British naval personnel served as advisers and training supervisors, Ethiopia’s Navy was not a huge armada, with our repurposed seaplane tender being the fleet’s largest vessel, training ship, and flagship/imperial yacht for three decades. It was from her deck that Emperor Haile Selassie regularly inspected visiting foreign ships for the country’s annual Navy Day each January, an event that often saw a decent turnout.

“Haile Selassie is Host to British, French, theU.S. and Soviet Ships. January 1969, At Massawa, during Ethiopia’s Navy Days. The British frigate HMS Leander took part along with USS Luce, Russian destroyer Gnevy, French frigate Commandant Bory and the Ethiopian flagship, Ethiopia. On the sea day, all ships sailed in company, with Emperor Haile Selassie onboard Ethiopia. Later, the Emperor dined onboard HMS Leander. The international line-up during the Ethiopian Sea Day. Left: HMS Leander (lower) and Gnevy (Above). Right: USS Luce (above), Ethiopia (center) and Commandant Bory (lower).”” IWM A 35201

HMS CHICHESTER AT ETHIOPIA NAVY DAYS. FEBRUARY 1970, MASSAWA. THE FRIGATE HMS CHICHESTER REPRESENTED GREAT BRITAIN AT THE ANNUAL ETHIOPIAN NAVY DAYS. OTHER SHIPS TAKING PART INCLUDED US FLEET ESCORT SHIP FOREST ROYAL, THE FRENCH FRIGATE COMMANDANT BORY, THE SOVIET DESTROYER BLESTIYASCHYJ AND PATROL BOATS OF THE SUDANESE NAVY. INCLUDED IN THE PROGRAMME WAS A GRADUATION PARADE FROM THE ETHIOPIAN NAVAL COLLEGE AT MASSAWA AND A SERIES OF INTERNATIONAL SPORTING EVENTS BETWEEN TEAMS FROM THE VISITING SHIPS. (A 35268) Royal salute from Emperor Haile Sellasie on board his yacht ETHIOPIA as HMS CHICHESTER steams past. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205165107

The 1,300-man Imperial Ethiopian Navy took up –almost– a full page in the 1973 Jane’s, with ex-Orca as the largest vessel.

After Selassie was deposed in 1974, and the socialist regime pivoted towards Moscow and away from the West by 1978, Soviet advisors replaced the Brits, Americans, Dutch, and Norwegians. By the 1980s, the force tripled in size as Petya, Osa and Turya-class fast attack craft arrived as military aid to help with the country’s low-key wars with its Western-backed neighbors.

Still, Orca/Ethiopia endured as the largest ship.

By 1990, Ethiopia had lost its ports as the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front had captured Massawa, prompting the
Ethiopian admiralty to pull stumps and migrate their homeless fleet to nearby Yemen. This situation came to a head when Eritrea gained de jure independence. In 1993, the Yemenis pulled the plug on the Ethiopian nautical squatters and asked them to leave in a bar closing sort of way (you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here…).

However, at that point, Orca/Ethiopia could no longer fire up her engines and, with her ~200 crewmembers interned as refugees, was sold for scrap to pay off delinquent dock fees in 1995.

As for the Ethiopian Navy, over the past couple of years, there has been an effort to reboot it, a curiosity for a land-locked country. The general plan would seem to be for the force to work out of Djibouti. Nonetheless, last year Adm. Foggo, commander of Naval Forces Africa, met with Brig. Gen. Kindu Gezu, Ethiopian Head of Navy in “the first staff to staff talks.”

Here in the U.S., Orca’s ship engineering drawings as well as 30 assorted war diaries and reports are digitized in the National Archives. She is also remembered on the Commemorative Plaque Wall at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington.

As for her sisters, they have all gone on to the breakers or been reefed with the final class member afloat, ex-Chincoteague/Ly Thuong Kiet/Andres Bonifacio scrapped in the Philippines in 2003.

Specs:

Displacement 1,766 t.(lt) 2,800 t.(fl)
Length 310′ 9″
Beam 41′ 2″
Draft 13′ 6″ (limiting)
Speed 18.6kts.
Complement: 73 officers, 294 enlisted (including 152 members of embarked seaplane squadron)
Fuel Capacities: Diesel 1,955 Bbls; Gasoline 71,400 Gals
Propulsion: two Fairbanks Morse Diesel 38D8 1/4 engines, single Fairbanks Morse Main Reduction Gear, two propellers, 6,080shp
Ship’s Service Generators: two Diesel-drive 100Kw 450V A.C., one Diesel-drive 200Kw 450V A.C.
Armament:
3 single 5″/38 cal dual-purpose gun mounts
1 quad Bofors 40mm AA gun mount, 2 twins
4 twin Oerlikon 20mm AA gun mounts
Stern depth charge racks
Changes as a training ship, 1960:
Radars: RCA SPS-12 air search radar, I-band navigation radar, RCA/General Electric Mark 26 I/J-band fire control
Armament:
1 single 5″/38 cal dual-purpose gun mount
1 single Bofors 40mm AA gun mount, 2 twins

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Warship Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017: I’d like to be back on my horse

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, Oct. 11, 2017: I’d like to be back on my horse

USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com via Navsource

Here we see the Balao-class diesel-electric fleet submarine USS Tilefish (SS-307) returning to San Diego on 5 December 1958 for inactivation. You may not recognize her in the photo, but she was always ready for her closeup.

A member of the 128-ship Balao class, she was one of the most mature U.S. Navy diesel designs of the World War Two era, constructed with knowledge gained from the earlier Gato-class. U.S. subs, unlike those of many navies of the day, were ‘fleet’ boats, capable of unsupported operations in deep water far from home.

Able to range 11,000 nautical miles on their reliable diesel engines, they could undertake 75-day patrols that could span the immensity of the Pacific. Carrying 24 (often unreliable) Mk14 Torpedoes, these subs often sank anything short of a 5000-ton Maru or warship by surfacing and using their 4-inch/50 caliber and 40mm/20mm AAA’s. The also served as the firetrucks of the fleet, rescuing downed naval aviators from right under the noses of Japanese warships.

We have covered a number of this class before, such as Rocket Mail slinging USS Barbero, the carrier-sinking USS Archerfish, the long-serving USS Catfish and the frogman Cadillac USS Perch —but don’t complain, they have lots of great stories.

Laid down at Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, California, on 10 Mar 1943, USS Tilefish was the first and only naval vessel named for homely reef fish found in the world’s oceans.

1916 USBOF sheet on the Tilefish, via NARA

Commissioned just nine months later on 28 Dec 1943, Tilefish completed her trials and shakedown off the California coast and made for the Western Pacific in early 1944.

Broadside view of the Tilefish (SS-307) off Mare Island on 2 March 1944. USN photos # 1434-44 through1436-44, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker. Via Navsource

Her first war patrol, off Honshu in Japanese home waters, was short and uneventful.

Her second, in the Luzon Strait, netted a torpedo hit on the 745-ton Japanese corvette Kaibokan 17 south of Formosa on 18 July.

Her third patrol, in the Sea of Okhotsk and off the Kuril Islands, resulted in sinking a sampan in a surface action, as well as two small cargo ships, a larger cargo ship and the 108-ton Japanese guard boat Kyowa Maru No.2. Tilefish also picked up a Russian owl in these frigid waters, which was duly named Boris Hootski with the ship’s log noting, “He is now official ship’s mascot and stands battle stations on top of the tube blow and vent manifold.”

She closed the year with her fourth patrol in the Kurils and Japanese home waters with sinking the Japanese torpedo boat Chidori some 90 miles WSW of Yokosuka.

Early 1945 saw her fifth patrol which sank a small Japanese coaster and effectively knocked the IJN minesweeper W 15 out of the war. She also plucked LT (JG) William J. Hooks from the USS Hancock (CV-19) of VF-80 out of the water after he had to ditch his F6F at sea off Amami Oshima in the Ryukyus.

After refit on the West Coast, Tilefish completed her sixth patrol on lifeguard station off the Ryukyus where she ended the war, being ordered back to California on 7 September.

In all, Tilefish received five battle stars for World War II service. Her tally included 7 vessels for a total of 10,700 claimed tons– though many were disallowed post-war by JANAC. Her six patrols averaged 48 days at sea.

While most of the U.S. submarine fleet was mothballed in the months immediately after WWII, Tilefish remained in service. She even managed a sinkex in August 1947 against the crippled Liberty tanker SS Schuyler Colfax, at 7,200-tons, Tilefish‘s largest prize.

Her war flag represented as a patch from popularpatch.com. Note the 10 vessels claimed and the parachute for Lt. Hooks.

When the Korean War kicked off in 1950, Tilefish made for the region.

As noted by DANFS:

“From 28 September 1950 through 24 March 1951, the submarine operated out of Japanese ports conducting patrols in Korean waters in support of the United Nations campaign in Korea. She made reconnaissance patrols of La Perouse Strait to keep the Commander, Naval Forces Far East, informed of Soviet seaborne activity in that area.”

Tilefish received one battle star for Korean service.

Hula dancers Kuulei Jesse, Gigi White and Dancette Poepoe (left to right) welcome the submarine, as she docks at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base after a Korean War tour. Crewmen placing the flower lei around Tilefish’s bow are Engineman 3rd Class Donald E. Dunlevy, USN, (left – still wearing E-3 stripes) and Torpedoman’s Mate 1st Class Gordon F. Sudduth, USNR. This photograph was released by Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, on 26 March 1951. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the All Hands collection at the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97068

The next nine years saw her conducting regular peacetime operations and exercises including a goodwill visit to Acapulco; a survey mission with four civilian geophysicists on board from the Hydrographic Office of Eniwetok, Wake, and Midway; and other ops.

USS TILEFISH (SS-307) Caption: Photographed during the 1950s. Description: Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN (MSC), 1974. Catalog #: NH 78988

These “other ops” included filming some scenes for the 1958 Glen Ford WWII submarine flick Torpedo Run, which were extensively augmented by scale models, and more extensive shoots for Up Periscope, a film in which James Garner, a Korean war Army vet and Hollywood cowboy, plays a frogman ordered to photograph a codebook at an isolated Japanese radio station.

The film was an adaption of LCDR Robb White’s book of the same name.

Garner was not impressed by the Tilefish.

James Garner as Lieutenant Kenneth M. Braden in Up Periscope

As related by a Warren Oaks biographer, Garner, bobbing along on the old submarine offshore at 9-kts in groundswells, said, “You know something? I’d like to be back on my horse.”

After her brief movie career and service in two wars, Tilefish was given a rebuild at the San Francisco Navy Yard and was decommissioned in May 1960.

Tilefish was then sold to Venezuela, which renamed her ARV Carite (S-11). As such, she was the first modern submarine in that force. She arrived in that country on 23 July 1960, setting the small navy up to be the fifth in Latin America with subs.

ARV S-11 Carite El 4 de mayo de 1960

As noted by El Snorkel (great name), a Latin American submarine resource, Tilefish/Carite was very active indeed, making 7,287 dives with the Venezuelan Navy over the next 17 years. She participated in the Argentine/Dominican Republic/Venezuelan -U.S. Quarantine Task Force 137 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and intercepted the Soviet tug Gromoboi in 1968.

In 1966, she was part of the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) conversion program and (along with 20 other boats), was given the very basic Fleet Snorkel package which provided most ofthe bells and whistles found on the German late-WWII Type XXI U-boats– which would later prove ironic. This gave her expanded battery capacity, steamlined her sail conning tower fairwater into a so-called “Northern or North Atlantic sail”– a steel framework surrounded by thick fiberglass– added a snorkel, higher capacity air-conditioning system, and a more powerful electrical system and increased her submerged speed to 15 knots while removing her auxillary diesel. A small topside sonar dome appeared.

ex-Tilefish (SS-307), taken 12 Oct. 1966 after transfer to Venezuela as ARV Carite (S-11). Note the GUPPY series conversion, the so-called very basic “Fleet Snorkel” mod.

However, during this time, her most enduring exposure was in helping film Murphy’s War, in which a German U-boat (U-482) hides out in the Orinoco River in Venezuela after sinking British merchant steamer Mount Kyle, leaving Peter O’Toole as the lone survivor on a hunt to bag the German shark. The thing is, she looked too modern for the film after her recent conversion.

For her role, Carite was given a far-out grey-white-black dazzle camo scheme and, to make her more U-boat-ish, was fitted with a faux cigarette deck after her tower complete with a Boffin 40mm (!) and a twin Oerlikon mount (!!). Her bow was fitted with similarly faked submarine net cutting teeth.

Her “crew” was a mix of U.S. Peace Corps kids working in the area (to get the proper blonde Germanic look) with Venezuelan tars at the controls.

The movie, filmed in decadent Panavision color, shows lots of footage of the old Tilefish including a dramatic ramming sequence with a bone in her teeth and what could be the last and best images of a Balao-class submarine with her decks awash.

That bone!

Ballasting down– note the very un U-boat like sonar dome. I believe that is a QHB-1 transducer dome to starboard with a BQR-3 hydrophone behind it on port

By the mid-1970s, Tilefish/Carite was showing her age. In 1972, the Venezuelans picked up more two more advanced GUPPY II conversions, her Balao-class sister USS Cubera (SS-347), renaming her ARV Tiburon (S-12) and the Tench-class USS Grenadier (SS-525) which followed as ARV Picua (S-13) in 1973.

The Venezuelan submarine ARV Carite (S-11) demonstrates an emergency surfacing during the UNITAS XI exercise, in 1970. via All Hands magazine

Once the two “new” boats were integrated into the Venezuelan Navy, Tilefish/Carite was decommissioned on 28 January 1977 and slowly cannibalized for spare parts, enabling Cubera and Grenadier to remain in service until 1989 when they were replaced by new-built German Type 209-class SSKs, which still serve to one degree or another.

According to a Polish submarine page, some artifacts from Tilefish including a torpedo tube remain in Venezuela.

Although she is no longer afloat, eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country.

Please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:

-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which may not be there much longer)
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is also on borrowed time)
USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

However, Tilefish will endure wherever submarine films are enjoyed.

Specs:

Displacement, surfaced: 1,526 t., Submerged: 2,424 t.
Length 311′ 10″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 15′ 3″
Speed surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts
Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10kts; Submerged Endurance, 48 hours at 2kts
Operating Depth Limit, 400 ft.
Patrol Endurance 75 days
Propulsion: diesels-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks-Morse main generator engines., 5,400 hp, four Elliot Motor Co., main motors with 2,740 hp, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
Fuel Capacity: 94,400 gal.
Complement 6 Officers 60 Enlisted
Armament:
(As built)
10 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes,
one 4″/50 caliber deck gun,
one 40mm gun,
two .50 cal. machine guns
(By 1966)
10 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes,

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!

Warship Wednesday (on a Thursday!): The dazzling President of the Royal Navy

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

Warship Wednesday (on a Thursday!): The dazzling President of the Royal Navy

IWM SP 1650

IWM SP 1650

Here we see a “warship-Q” of the World War I Royal Navy, the Flower/Anchusa-class sloop HMS Saxifrage masquerading as a seemingly innocent British merchantman in dazzle camouflage, circa 1918. Should one of the Kaiser’s U-boats come close enough to get a good look, two matching sets of QF 4.7 inch and 12-pounder guns would plaster the poor bugger, sucker punch style.

With Kaiser Willy’s unterseeboot armada strangling the British Isles in the Great War, the RN needed a set of convoy escorts that were cheap to make and could relieve regular warships for duty with the fleet.

This led to a class of some 120 supped-up freighters which, when given a triple hull to allow them to soak up mines and torpedoes and equipped with a battery of 4 or 4.7-inch main guns and 3 or 12 pounder secondaries augmented with depth charges, could bust a submarine when needed. Just 1,200-tons and 267-feet overall, they could blend in with the rest of the “merchies” in which they were charged with protecting. Classified as sloops of war, they could make 17 knots with both boilers glowing, making them fast enough to keep up.

Built to merchant specs, they could be made in a variety of commercial yards very quickly, and were all named after various flowers, which brought them the class nickname of “cabbage boats.” Ordered under the Emergency War Programme for the Royal Navy, class leader HMS Acacia ordered in January 1915 and delivered just five months later.

The hero of our story, HMS Saxifrage, was named after a pretty little perennial plant also known as a rockfoil or London Pride.

saxifrage

Laid down by Lobnitz & Co Limited, Renfrew, Scotland, who specialized in dredges, trawlers and tugs and endures as a marine engineering company, she was completed 29 January 1918 as a Q-ship– a job that the last 40 of her class were designed to perform.

The concept, the Q-ship (their codename referred to the vessels’ homeport, Queenstown, in Ireland) was to have a lone merchantman plod along until a German U-boat approached, and, due to the small size of the prize, sent over a demo team to blow her bottom out or assembled her deck gun crew to poke holes in her waterline. At that point, the “merchantman” which was actually a warship equipped with a few deck guns hidden behind fake bulkheads and filled with “unsinkable” cargo such as pine boards to help keep her afloat if holed, would smoke said U-boat.

In all the Brits used 366 Q-ships, of which 61 were lost in action while they only took down 14 U-boats, a rather unsuccessful showing. One storied slayer, Mary B Mitchell, claimed 2-3 U-boats sunk and her crew was even granted the DSO, but post-war analysis quashed her record back down to zero.

As for Saxifrage, commissioned with just nine months and change left in the war, did not see a lot of hot action, escorting convoys around British waters. While she reported nine U-boat contacts, she was never able to bag one.

Soon after the Great War ended, the Flower-class vessels were liquidated, with 18 being lost during the conflict (as well as Gentian and Myrtle lost in the Baltic to mines in 1919). The Royal Navy underwent a great constriction inside of a year. At the date of the Armistice, the fleet enumerated 415,162 officers and men. By the following November, 162,000, a figure less than when the war began in 1914, though the Empire had grown significantly after picking up a number of German and Ottoman colonies.

Saxifrage was one of the few ships of her class retained.

THE ROYAL NAVY IN BRITAIN, 1919-1939 (Q 20478) Cadets of HMS PRESIDENT cheering the boats as they pass down the Thames in the naval pageant, 4th August 1919. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205261231

THE ROYAL NAVY IN BRITAIN, 1919-1939 (Q 20478) Cadets of HMS PRESIDENT cheering the boats as they pass down the Thames in the naval pageant, 4th August 1919. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205261231

Her engines removed, she was tapped to become the training establishment HMS President (replacing the former HMS Buzzard, a Nymphe-class composite screw sloop, shown above) when her sistership Marjoram, originally intended for that task, was wrecked in January 1921 off Flintstone Head while en route to fit out at Hawlbowline.

Moored on the River Thames, Saxifrage by 1922 became used as a drill ship by Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Alterations to her physical fabric included fitting square windows on the lower decks and adding a top deck for parade, drilling, and small arms gunnery practice. After her change of use to a training vessel, she boasted four decks, with internal spaces including the Captain’s Quarters, Drill Hall and adjacent Gunroom, Quarter Deck and Ward Room.

HMS President moored on the Thames at high tide in 1929. Photograph Planet News Archive.

HMS President moored on the Thames at high tide in 1929. Photograph Planet News Archive.

By the time WWII came, just a handful of Flower-class sloops remained afloat.

HMS Laburnum, like her a RNVR drill ship, was lost to the Japanese at Singapore then later raised and scrapped.

HMS Cornflower, a drill ship at Hong Kong, suffered a similar fate.

HMS Chrysanthemum, used as a target-towing vessel in Home Waters, was transferred to the RNVR 1938 and stationed on the Embankment in London next to President where she would remain until scrapped in 1995.

HMS Foxglove served on China station and returned to Britain, later becoming a guard ship at Londonderry in Northern Ireland before being scrapped in 1946.

Ex-HMS Buttercup, ironically serving in the Italian Navy as Teseo, was sunk at Trapani 11 April 1943.

Two of the class, ex- HMS Jonquil and ex- HMS Gladiolus, remained in service in the Portuguese Navy classified as the cruisers (!) Carvalho Araújo and Republic, respectively, until as late as 1961.

Saxifrage/President continued her role as a stationary training ship. One of President‘s main roles during the war was to train men of the Maritime Royal Artillery, soldiers sent to sea and serve with naval ratings as gunners on board defensively equipped merchant ships (DEMS).

Learning the ropes. Two of the members of the Maritime Royal Artillery study the information board describing how to form bends and hitches. IWM A 16786. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205149661

Learning the ropes. Two of the members of the Maritime Royal Artillery study the information board describing how to form bends and hitches. IWM A 16786. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205149661

Britain's sea soldiers in training. Men of the Maritime Royal Artillery are now being given elementary training in seamanship at HMS PRESIDENT, the DEMS base on the Thames. Here a number of men are being initiated into the mysteries of "Bends and Hitches" (knots) by Leading Seaman W J Bateman, Enfield, Middlesex. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205149660

Britain’s sea soldiers in training. Men of the Maritime Royal Artillery are now being given elementary training in seamanship at HMS PRESIDENT, the DEMS base on the Thames. Here a number of men are being initiated into the mysteries of “Bends and Hitches” (knots) by Leading Seaman W J Bateman, Enfield, Middlesex. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205149660

"Boat pulling" part of their elementary training. Many of the Maritime Royal Artillery have been torpedoed and have had to take to open boats. Training in the whaler makes them useful members of a boat's crew. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205149662

“Boat pulling” part of their elementary training. Many of the Maritime Royal Artillery have been torpedoed and have had to take to open boats. Training in the whaler makes them useful members of a boat’s crew. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205149662

Moored in the Thames, President was also popular in hosting events and visitors.

THE DUCHESS OF KENT VISITS HMS PRESIDENT. 15 MARCH 1943, WEARING THE UNIFORM OF COMMANDANT OF THE WRNS, THE DUCHESS OF KENT PAID AN INFORMAL VISIT TO HMS PRESIDENT. (A 15047) On extreme left is Captain R D Binney, CBE, RN, The Duchess of Kent, Admiral Sir Martin R Dunbar Nasmith, and Commander H C C Clarke, DSO, RN. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205148173

THE DUCHESS OF KENT VISITS HMS PRESIDENT. 15 MARCH 1943, WEARING THE UNIFORM OF COMMANDANT OF THE WRNS, THE DUCHESS OF KENT PAID AN INFORMAL VISIT TO HMS PRESIDENT. (A 15047) On extreme left is Captain R D Binney, CBE, RN, The Duchess of Kent, Admiral Sir Martin R Dunbar Nasmith, and Commander H C C Clarke, DSO, RN. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205148173

ADMIRAL'S FAREWELL DINNER TO ADMIRAL STARK AT GREENWICH. 13 AUGUST 1945, ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE, GREENWICH, DURING THE FAREWELL DINNER TO ADMIRAL H R STARK, USN, BY THE BOARD OF ADMIRALTY. (A 30003) Saluting HMS PRESIDENT en route to Greenwich, left to right: Mr A V Alexander; Admiral Stark; and Rear Admiral C B Barry, DSO, Naval Secretary. Other members of the party including Mr G H Hall can also be seen. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161196

ADMIRAL’S FAREWELL DINNER TO ADMIRAL STARK AT GREENWICH. 13 AUGUST 1945, ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE, GREENWICH, DURING THE FAREWELL DINNER TO ADMIRAL H R STARK, USN, BY THE BOARD OF ADMIRALTY. (A 30003) Saluting HMS PRESIDENT en route to Greenwich, left to right: Mr A V Alexander; Admiral Stark; and Rear Admiral C B Barry, DSO, Naval Secretary. Other members of the party including Mr G H Hall can also be seen. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161196

After the war, President was the last of her class in British service and reverted to her role as HQ of the RNVR London Division, which she held until 1987, remaining the whole time at her traditional mooring next to Blackfriars Bridge.

The name HMS President is retained as a “stone frigate” or shore establishment of the Royal Naval Reserve, based on the northern bank of the River Thames near Tower Bridge in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

In 1987, the old girl was donated to the HMS President (London) Limited non-profit who has extensively refitted her for use in hosting private parties, weddings, receptions, etc. while somewhat restoring her appearance.

img_9058 meeting_spaces_london-1024x617 m-president-24-1024x682

In 2014, as part of the First World War commemorations, her hull was covered once more in a distinctive ‘dazzle’ design, courtesy of artist Tobias Rehberger.

hms-president-jan-2015-s

Today President is on the National Register of Historic Vessels, is the last Q-ship, last of her class and last RN ship to have fought as an anti-submarine vessel in the Great War.

She is nothing if not historic.

However, due to the upcoming construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel to tackle sewage discharges into the River Thames, President had to leave Blackfriars Bridge this February.

© Rob Powell. 11/02/2016. HMS President has arrived in Chatham after leaving the Victoria Embankment last week. The historic vessel in a Dazzleship livery left her moorings on the Thames on the 5th February because of work taking place on the Thames Tideway sewage tunnel. Her journey down the river was initially held because of bad conditions as she moored at Erith until setting off again today. The vessel was tasked with finding U Baots in WW1 and has been moored on the Thames since 1922 where she has fulfilled a number of roles including protecting St Paul's during WWII and more recently as an events space. Credit : Rob Powell

© Rob Powell. 11/02/2016. HMS President has arrived in Chatham after leaving the Victoria Embankment last week. The historic vessel in a Dazzleship livery left her moorings on the Thames on the 5th February because of work taking place on the Thames Tideway sewage tunnel. Her journey down the river was initially held because of bad conditions as she moored at Erith until setting off again today. The vessel was tasked with finding U Baots in WW1 and has been moored on the Thames since 1922 where she has fulfilled a number of roles including protecting St Paul’s during WWII and more recently as an events space. Credit : Rob Powell

Her funnel and deckhouse was removed for the tow downriver and she is in limbo, with the current management team trying to raise money to secure a new mooring along the Thames but without much luck.

From the group’s website:

The HMS President, one of the UK’s last remaining WWI ships, has been unsuccessful in its bid to secure Libor funding in today’s Autumn Statement from the Chancellor.

The funding bid that had seen support in national newspapers and a parliamentary motion, with more than 20 signatories, has failed to secure vital restoration funding – this could now see the country’s last remaining submarine hunter of the Atlantic campaign scrapped.

Paul Williams, Director of the HMS President Preservation Trust, said; “The lack of recognition for this worthy cause if hugely disappointing. The HMS President Preservation Trust, and our friends in Parliament and elsewhere, has been working extremely hard to secure the future of this wonderful war heritage site.

“Her hull is only a few millimetres thick now in some places. Therefore, if restoration funding is not found soon she will be consigned to the scrap heap – as her sister ship the HMS Chrysanthemum was in 1995. As we mark the centenary commemorations of WWI it seems an absolute travesty that we will potentially be saying goodbye to one of only three remaining warships from that era. What a loss to our heritage that will be.”

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph MPs and Peers, including the Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Boyce, and Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, Dr Julian Lewis MP, had called for the ship to be rescued. The parliamentarians had urged the Chancellor to look favourably on the bid, or risk losing her forever, stating “This would be an irreplaceable loss to our war heritage, and a sorry way to mark the country’s First World War centenary commemorations.”

Hopefully she will be saved, as she is literally one of a kind.

Other that, she is preserved in maritime art.

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Specs:

Dazzle Painted Ship Model Sloop Saxifrage/Tamarisk 203 & 204 (MOD 2250) Small dazzle ship model. It is hand-painted blue and black on a white background. The number 203 is inscribed on a piece of paper and attached to the mast on the model. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30019301

Dazzle Painted Ship Model Sloop Saxifrage/Tamarisk 203 & 204 (MOD 2250) Small dazzle ship model. It is hand-painted blue and black on a white background. The number 203 is inscribed on a piece of paper and attached to the mast on the model. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30019301

1,290 long tons (1,311 t)
Length:
250 ft. (76.2 m) p/p
262 ft. 3 in (79.93 m) o/a
Beam:     35 ft. (10.7 m)
Draught:
11 ft. 6 in (3.51 m) mean
12 ft. 6 in (3.81 m) – 13 ft. 8 in (4.17 m) deep
Propulsion:     4-cylinder triple expansion engine, 2 boilers, 2,500 hp (1,864 kW), 1 screw
Speed:     16 knots (29.6 km/h; 18.4 mph)
Range:     Coal: 260 tons
Complement: 93
Armament:
Designed to mount :
2 × 12-pounder gun
1 × 7.5 inch howitzer or 1 × 200 lb. stick-bomb howitzer
4 × Depth charge throwers
As built:
2 × 4 in (102 mm) guns
1 or 2 × 12-pounder guns
Depth charge throwers

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Warship Wednesday April 1, 2015: Lucky Georgios, the last man standing

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

Warship Wednesday, April 1, 2015: Lucky Georgios, the last man standing

RHS Azeroff 1913. Click to big up

Click to big up

Here we see the Italian-made Pisa-class armored cruiser Georgios Averof of the Royal Hellenic Navy as she appeared in 1913, shortly after almost single-handedly routing the entire Ottoman fleet the year before.

In the early 20th Century, Southeastern Europe, popularly known as the Balkans, was a powder keg of a number of upstart countries living in the shadow of the “sick man of Europe”– the Ottoman Empire. With more than a century of low-key warfare between the Greeks, Romanians, Serbs, Bulgars, Croats and so on to try to break free from the Sultan and his court, by about 1900 the lines had been drawn between the Turks and the Greco-Slavic nations. Combined, the Balkan countries could cough up nearly a million men under arms– more the enough to take on the Turks. However, they could not match the Turkish Navy in either the ancient Adriatic, Aegean, Ionian, Med, and Black Seas.

That’s where Greece, who had a small army but an excellent naval tradition, stood alone against the Turks.

Between 1879 and 1914, the Royal Hellenic Navy was transformed into a modern force, picking up battleships and destroyers from Italy, France, the UK, and the U.S.

However, their French-built pre-dreadnoughts: Hydra, Spetsai, and Psara, were exceptionally small at just 5,300-tons and were lightly armed (3x 10-inch guns) and slow (16 knots). After winning the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, the Greeks went shopping for a new mega-ship with a 2.5 million gold franc donation from Greek philanthropist George M. Averoff.

George M. Averoff, the man. He left the Greek government a fortune in his will and they went warship shopping

George M. Averoff, the man. He left the Greek government a fortune in his will and they went warship shopping

Across the Adriatic, they inspected the Italian (by no less of a naval engineer than Giuseppe Orlando) Pisa-class “second-class battleship” and fell in love. These 10,000-ton ships, technically armored cruisers, could break 23-knots through the power of 22 Belleville boilers and carried a quartet of 10″/45 cal guns backed up by eight 7.5-inchers in four twin turrets on the centerline and more than a dozen smaller anti-torpedo boat pieces. Sheathed in up to 7-inches of steel plate, they could fight off ships their own size and outrun most that were larger.

The Italian cruiser Pisa or the Regina Marina, the sister of the Greek Averoff. (Click to big up)

The Italian cruiser Pisa or the Regina Marina, the sister of the Greek Averoff. (Click to big up)

Although they only needed a crew of about 700, they also could accommodate a battalion of naval infantry if needed for amphibious landings which is key in the far-flung and disputed islands that the Greeks cruised in. Not perfect when compared to British and German ships of the day, certainly, these cruisers were still better than anything the Turks had at the time. Better yet, the Italian Navy had the third Pisa that they had ordered but were going to cancel– talk about timing.

Swapping out the 10″/45 cal guns for a set of much more modern British-made 9.2″/47 (23.4 cm) Mark X breechloaders, (which had been the standard at the time of the Royal Navy’s armored cruisers), the Greek “battleship” Georgios Averof was laid down at Orlando, Livorno in 1910. With tensions between the Balkan countries and the Turks ramping up (the Italians themselves went to war with the Ottomans in 1911 over Libya), construction progressed rapidly and just 15 months later the Averof was commissioned on May 16, 1911, and was made fleet flagship.

Postcard of her

Postcard of her as completed. Note the very Italian scheme

When war came the very next year, the Averof led the older French battleships to first blockade and then engage the Turkish fleet off the Dardanelles. There, on 16 December 1912, the four Greek capital ships met four elderly Ottoman battleships and the largest battleship fight to take place not involving “Great Powers” occurred.

Elli naval battle, painting by Vasiileios Chatzis. Charging ahead to reach cut off the Ottoman line

Elli naval battle, painting by Vasiileios Chatzis. Charging ahead to cut off the Ottoman line

Borrowing a page from Admiral Togo’s 1905 Battle of the Tsushima Straits, the Averof raced ahead all alone at over 20-knots and crossed the Turkish T, taking on each of the enemy ships single file.

While the casualties were minimal, the Turks ran after Averof‘s big British 9-inchers hammered the flagship Barbaros Hayreddin (the old German SMS Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm) enough to where they figured that it was either shook and jive or sink. This sharp scrap is remembered in Greece as the Battle of Elli.

Just a month later, the two fleets again met with similar outcome off Lemnos Island.

Averof entering the port of Lemnos after a patrol, guns point towards the camera. April 10, 1913.

Between the two battles, the lucky Averof was hit a total of four times by Turkish shells and suffered just three casualties. It was her guns that by large part helped win the First Balkan War.

Averof 1916 during WWI

Averof 1916 during WWI

Averof color

Averof color

Although Greece eventually joined the Allies in World War I, she saw little service. However, across the Adriatic, her sistership, the Italian cruiser Amalfi, was torpedoed by the Austria-Hungarian submarine U-26 and sank in 1915.

Painting of the Greek Battleship Averof in Bosporus, Hagia Sophia in the background, in 1919

Painting of the Greek Battleship Averof in Bosporus, Hagia Sophia in the background, in 1919

After the war, she became the first Greek warship to enter Constantinople as part of the Allied victory mission to that town and– soon enough — was back in the fight against the Turks in 1919 during the Greco-Turkish War where she was used to help evacuate a defeated Greek Army.

In addition, she helped safeguard the withdrawal of the White Russian exiles after the Russian Civil War, reportedly exchanging a few rounds with the Reds.

In the 1920s, as one of the last armored cruisers around (most had been mothballed, replaced by more modern designs), she was upgraded in France where she lost her obsolete torpedo tubes and half of her low-angle 3-inch guns in exchange for a decent battery of high-angle AAA weapons. At about the same time her final sistership, the Italian cruiser Pisa, was relegated to a training status in 1921 and was eventually scrapped by the Depression.

After that, Averof was the sole remaining member of her class afloat.

Averof after her refit

Averof after her refit

By WWII, she had been downgraded to the third most powerful Greek ship, after President Wilson had sold the Greeks the battleships USS Mississippi and Idaho (who served as the Kilkis and Lemnos respectively). Those American ships, though unwanted by the U.S. Navy, at 13,000-tons and with a quartet of 12″/45 and sixteen 7 and 8-inch guns, were a good deal better armed.

Averoff with RHSKilkis (ex-USS Mississippi) and RHS Lemnos (ex-USS Idaho) pre-WWII

Averoff outside with RHS Kilkis (ex-USS Mississippi) and RHS Lemnos (ex-USS Idaho) taken pre-WWII. Note the size difference and the very 1914-ish lattice masts of the former U.S. battle wagons.

Nevertheless, when the next world war came to Greece, both the Kilkis and Limnos were sunk by Hitler’s Luftwaffe while at anchor yet the 30-year old Averof was able to beat feet across the Med with three destroyers and five submarines to the join up with the British Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria.

Georgios Averof at anchor at Port Said, Egypt, 23rd February 1943 via IWM

Georgios Averof at anchor at Port Said, Egypt, 23rd February 1943 via IWM. Note, no camo

Averof1-1.jpg~original

Averoff in WWII under British orders, 1944 note typical RN camo scheme

Georgios Averof, Free Hellenic Navy armored cruiser, dressed up in dazzle camo, WWII

She spent the rest of the war, which if you are keeping count was at least her fifth, in Royal Navy service escorting convoys in the Indian Ocean and hiding from both Japanese and German submarines. In 1944, she carried the Greek government in exile home from London.

Armored cruiser GEORGIOS AVEROF at Piraeus Oct.1944, returning the Free Greek government after three and half year in the exile due to the occupation of the state by the Axis forces

As in the first World War, she came out of the Second unscathed and without losing a single man.

Averoff in WWII under British orders, note typical RN camo scheme

Averoff in WWII under British orders, note typical RN camo scheme

After 41 years at sea, she was the last pre-WWI era armored cruiser in active service in any fleet when she was finally decommissioned August 1, 1952. Held in mothballs for three decades, in 1984 she was overhauled, disarmed, and emplaced as a historical museum ship at Palaio Faliro where she is a popular tourist attraction.

Averof today

Averof today

Averof is her latest dry dock

Averof is her latest dry dock. Note the rearward facing 7.5-inch turret to the port side. Averof has four of these mounting a total of 8 guns, which is a significant battery all its own.

Now, still officially on the Greek Navy’s list and with an active duty (if greatly reduced) crew assigned, she will celebrate her 114th birthday under the flag of the Hellenic Navy in May.

Averof is the last armored cruiser in existence above the water. The only two comparable pre-WWI steel blue water ships to her still around, Dewey’s protected cruiser USS Olympia at Philadelphia, and Togo’s pre-dreadnought battleship Mikasa preserved at Yokosuka.

Specs

800px-Averof1Displacement: Full load 10,200 tons
Standard 9,956 tons
Length: 140.13 m (459.7 ft.)
Beam: 21 m (69 ft.)
Draft: 7.18 m (23.6 ft.)
Propulsion: Boilers: 22 Belleville water tube type, Engines: 2 four cylinder reciprocating steam engines, Shafts: 2 (twin screw ship), Power: 19,000 shp (14.2 MW)
Speed: 23.5 knots (43.5 km/h; 27.0 mph) maximum
20 knots operational
Range: 2,480 nautical miles (4,590 km) at 17.5 knots (32 km/h)
Complement: 670
Maximum capacity: 1200
Armor: Belt: 200 mm (7.9 in) midships, 80 mm (3.15 in) at ends
Deck: up to 40 mm (1.6 in)
Turrets: 200 mm (7.9 in) at 234mm turrets, 175 mm (6.9 in) at 190mm turrets
Barbettes: up to 180 mm (7.1 in)
Conning tower: up to 180 mm (7.1 in)
Armament: Original configuration:

4 × 234mm (9.2in) guns (2 × 2)
8 × 190mm (7.5in) guns (4 × 2)
16 × 76mm (3in) guns
4 × 47 mm (1.85in) guns
3 × 430mm (17in) torpedo tubes
After 1927 refit:
4 × 234mm (9.2in) guns (2 × 2)
8 × 190mm (7.5in) guns (4 × 2)
8 × 76mm (3in) guns
4 × 76 mm (3in) A/A guns
6 × 36mm (1.42in) A/A guns

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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.

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