Tag Archives: lewis gun

You Don’t See a Semi-Auto DP-28 Everyday

While at the GDC warehouse last month, I had a chance to run across this bad boy.

Rick Smith’s Texas-based Smith Machine Group has been in the business of breathing life back into historical military guns for well over a decade and their DP series guns have long been one of their primary staples. Their complete DPM semi-automatic rifle is built using a surplus Polish kit with a new receiver, a new chrome-lined barrel, and their own fire-control group.

The semi-auto rifle was built off a Polish Circle 11 marked kit dated 1953 and is chambered in 7.62x54R. Firing from a closed bolt, it still has a gas piston operating system and uses an internal hammer.

While heavy, it has zero recoil when fired from the prone position and due to its 47-round pan magazine has a very low profile when compared to other magazine-fed semi-autos.

More in my column at Guns.com.

100 Years Ago Today: Ishar Singh, VC

Via Under Every Leaf:

War Office, 25th November 1921.

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned: —

No. 1012 Sepoy Ishar Singh, 28th Punjabis, Indian Army

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 10th April, 1921, near Haidari Kach (Waziristan). When the convoy protection troops were attacked, this Sepoy was No. l of a Lewis Gun- Section. Early in the action he received a very severe gunshot wound in the chest, and fell beside his Lewis gun. Hand-to-hand fighting having commenced, the British officer, Indian officer, and all the Havildars of his company were either killed or wounded, and his Lewis gun was seized by the enemy.

Calling up two other men he got up, charged the enemy, recovered the Lewis gun, and, although, bleeding profusely, again got the gun into action.

When his Jemadar arrived he took the gun from Sepoy Ishar Singh, and ordered him to go back and have his wound dressed.

Instead of doing this the Sepoy went to the medical officer, and was of great assistance in pointing out where the wounded were, and in carrying water to them. He made innumerable journeys to the river and back for this purpose. On one occasion, when the enemy fire was very heavy, he took the rifle of a wounded man and helped to keep down the fire. On another occasion he stood in front of the medical officer who was dressing, a wounded man, thus shielding him with his body. It was over three hours before he finally submitted to be evacuated, being then too weak from loss of blood to object.

His gallantry and devotion to duty were beyond praise. His conduct inspired all who saw him.

Lewis, by way of Savage

Savage Arms during the Great War made Lewis guns for the Canadians (in .303), the Tsar of Russia (in 7.62x54R), and the U.S. Army & Navy (in .30-06), the latter in both M1917 (ground) and M1918 (air) variants.

In all, it was a thing of beauty as far as light machine guns went.

Fold-out. Lewis Machine Gun 30-U.S. Government Airplane Model 1918, in Papers on Aeronautics. L’Aerophile Collection, Science, Business and Technology Division, Library of Congress 

Buy another $100 War Bond, quick!

Colonel Lewis’ light machine gun, a pre-WWI design, though snubbed by the Army was well-liked by the Navy and Marines and was still used to one degree or another on a number of U.S. Navy vessels early in WWII. Case in point below:

(Office of Emergency Management Collection. Lot-3474-14. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-USE6-9717)

Original caption, “There goes a $100 war bond. A $100 bond buys 2,000 rounds of steel-jacketed .30 caliber shells for this naval gun. Two-thousand rounds can bring down plenty of Japanese airplanes”

For reference, 2,000 rounds of new Federal 150-grain M2 ball these days goes for about $2300.

Buy bonds!

Hell for leather

The Great War saw the U.S. Army balloon from 100,000 regulars who were spending most of their time in the Philippines and along the border with Mexico, to a modern fighting force of nearly 3 million– and this from a country that had a population less than a third of what we have today.

With so many hardlegs pulled from the fields, factories, police forces and offices, many women stepped forward to do their part for the war effort. While Germany was still an ocean away, very real threats of sabotage by enemy agents and U-boats stalking towns up and down the East Coast led to mobilization of home guards and auxiliary police units.

One of the most interesting is the “Cavalry Corps of the American Woman’s League for Self Defense” in New York City.

A troop-sized unit of some 20 horse-mounted uniformed women organized by one Ethel May Schiess, the group performed messenger and scouting duties in the city through the end of 1918. If there were serious landings in the NYC area by the Germans, they no doubt would have become a noteworthy irregular partisan unit.

Original Caption: Cavalry corps of the American Women's League for Self Defense. Cavalry Corps of the American Woman's League for Self Defense held its first public drill in the 1st Field Artillery Armory, Broadway and 60th Street, New York. Miss Ethel May Schiess, who is seen in the front, put the 20 prospective scouts and message bearers through their paces, while the 1st Field Artillery band played. Photographer: Kadel and Herbert

Original Caption: Cavalry corps of the American Women’s League for Self Defense. Cavalry Corps of the American Woman’s League for Self Defense held its first public drill in the 1st Field Artillery Armory, Broadway and 60th Street, New York. Miss Ethel May Schiess, who is seen in the front, put the 20 prospective scouts and message bearers through their paces, while the 1st Field Artillery band played. Photographer: Kadel and Herbert

Original Caption: New York's female cavalry drilling in city streets. The American Woman's League for Self Defense who have organized a cavalry troop, started outdoor drilling in the streets adjacent to the 1st Field Artillery at 67th St. & Broadway, New York, where their first lessons were received under the supervision of army officers. Photo shows Captain Ethel Schiess giving orders to the troop. Photographer: Western Newspaper Union

Original Caption: New York’s female cavalry drilling in city streets. The American Woman’s League for Self Defense who have organized a cavalry troop, started outdoor drilling in the streets adjacent to the 1st Field Artillery at 67th St. & Broadway, New York, where their first lessons were received under the supervision of army officers. Photo shows Captain Ethel Schiess giving orders to the troop. Photographer: Western Newspaper Union

For an article I did on the similar and very well-armed women’s machine gun squad police reserves of New York City over at Guns.com, click here.

WRENing it up, WWII Coastal Forces style

The Women’s Royal Naval Service was formed in the last couple years of the Great War, and grew to some 5,000 auxiliarists by Armistice Day. Shortly afterward, the group was disbanded until Hitler came a calling.

Standing back up in 1939, the renewed force grew much larger in their Second World War, swelling to some 75,000 at the corps’s peak in late 1944. (Note, this is twice the current strength of the combined active and reserve members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines)

Besides such misogynistic tasks as administrative, clerical, food service and communication support work, a group of women were known as Quick Ordnance (QO) WRENs. These “QO girls” or “Ordnance Wrens” were gunners mates in all but name, specializing in maintaining small arms up to 3-pounder Hotchkiss mounts and were tasked with cleaning, inspecting and repairing QF 2-pounder (40mm) and QF 1-pounder pom-poms, Lewis and Vickers machine guns, as well as rifles and handguns.

As such, they provided invaluable support to the fleet of thousands of Motor Launch (ML), Coastal Motor Boat (CMB), Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB), Motor Anti-submarine Boat (MASB), Motor Gunboat (MGB), Steam Gunboat (SGB), Fast Patrol Boat (FPB) and Fast Training Boat (FTB) craft of the Coastal Forces.

For the lads behind those guns, battling German U-boats and S-boats up and down the coast and in the Channel, they owed their lived to the Wrens.

WOMEN ON THE HOME FRONT 1939 - 1945 (A 13209) The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS): Wren Armourers, whose jobs included the overhaul, maintenance and serving of guns, pictured testing a Lewis gun at Lee-on-Solent Naval Air Station. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193235

(A 13209) The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS): Wren Armourers, whose jobs included the overhaul, maintenance and serving of guns, pictured testing a Lewis gun at Lee-on-Solent Naval Air Station. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193235

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE. MAINTENANCE WRENS MAINTAIN SMALL ARMS UP TO 3 POUNDER HOTCHKISS FOR ALL TYPES OF SMALL CRAFT - MTB, MGB, ML, MOS AND MASB. THESE GIRLS KNOWN AS QO (QUICK-FIRING ORDNANCE) WRENS BOARD THE BOATS AS SOON AS THEY COME IN AFTER AN OPERATION, TO STRIP AND CLEAN THE LEWIS AND 0.5 VICKERS MACHINE GUNS. (A 12187) A QO Wren removing a 0.5 Vickers machine gun turret for servicing. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145632

A QO Wren removing a 0.5 Vickers machine gun turret for servicing. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145632

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE. MAINTENANCE WRENS MAINTAIN SMALL ARMS UP TO 3 POUNDER HOTCHKISS FOR ALL TYPES OF SMALL CRAFT - MTB, MGB, ML, MOS AND MASB. THESE GIRLS KNOWN AS QO (QUICK-FIRING ORDNANCE) WRENS BOARD THE BOATS AS SOON AS THEY COME IN AFTER AN OPERATION, TO STRIP AND CLEAN THE LEWIS AND 0.5 VICKERS MACHINE GUNS. (A 12193) A QO Wren stripping and cleaning a Lewis Gun on board a coastal craft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145638

A QO Wren stripping and cleaning a Lewis Gun on board a coastal craft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145638

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE. MAINTENANCE WRENS MAINTAIN SMALL ARMS UP TO 3 POUNDER HOTCHKISS FOR ALL TYPES OF SMALL CRAFT - MTB, MGB, ML, MOS AND MASB. THESE GIRLS KNOWN AS QO (QUICK-FIRING ORDNANCE) WRENS BOARD THE BOATS AS SOON AS THEY COME IN AFTER AN OPERATION, TO STRIP AND CLEAN THE LEWIS AND 0.5 VICKERS MACHINE GUNS. (A 12189) A QO Wren stripping and cleaning Lewis Guns on board a coastal craft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145634

(A 12189) A QO Wren stripping and cleaning Lewis Guns on board a coastal craft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145634

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE. MAINTENANCE WRENS MAINTAIN SMALL ARMS UP TO 3 POUNDER HOTCHKISS FOR ALL TYPES OF SMALL CRAFT - MTB, MGB, ML, MOS AND MASB. THESE GIRLS KNOWN AS QO (QUICK-FIRING ORDNANCE) WRENS BOARD THE BOATS AS SOON AS THEY COME IN AFTER AN OPERATION, TO STRIP AND CLEAN THE LEWIS AND 0.5 VICKERS MACHINE GUNS. (A 12198) Installing the 0.5 Vickers machine gun into the gun turret after servicing it. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145643

(A 12198) Installing the 0.5 Vickers machine gun into the gun turret after servicing it. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145643

WRENS working a pom-pom, and not the cheerleading kind

WRENS working a pom-pom, and not the cheer-leading kind

wrens-rn-20mm-motor-launch

The WRENs were disbanded as a special corps when and integrated into the regular Royal Navy in 1993.

Warship Wednesday May 18, 2016: Spanish gunboats a-go-go

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 May 18, 2016: Spanish gunboats a-go-go

NHC NH 45328

NHC NH 45328

Here we see the General Concha-class cañonero (gunboat) Elcano shortly after she became the USS Elcano (PG-38) because of the activities of one Commodore Dewey. She would go on to serve 44 hard years in total.

Laid down 3 March 1882 by Carraca Arsenal, Cadiz, Spain, Elcano was a small warship, at just 157’11” between perpendiculars (165′ oal), and tipping the scales at just 620-tons with a full load. Slow, she could only make 11-ish knots. However, what she could do was float in just 10 feet of water and carry two 120mm low angle guns, a single 90mm, four Nordenfelt QFs and two Whitehead torpedo tubes around the shallow coastal littoral of the Philippines where the Spanish were having issues with the locals that often involved gunplay.

120mm 25cal Hontoria M1879 (left) in Spanish service. Elcano mounted two of these guns

120mm 25cal Hontoria M1879 (left) in Spanish service. Elcano mounted two of these guns. Note the opulent wheelhouse.

Sisters, designed for colonial service, included the General Concha, Magallanes, and General Lezo, they were officially and maybe over ambitiously listed as “Crucero no protegido de 3ª clase” or 3rd class protected cruisers.

Class leader, Cañonero de la Armada Española General Concha, 1897

Class leader, Cañonero de la Armada Española General Concha, 1897

Described as “pot-bellied,” Elcano had a quaint Victorian era ram bow and carried a mixed sailing rig for those times when coal, never plentiful in the PI, was scarce. She was commissioned into the Armada Española in 1884, arriving in Manila late that year. Like most of the 18 or so Spanish ships in the region (to include sister General Lezo), she was commanded by Spanish officers and manned by Filipino crews.

Cañonero español Elcano at commissioning. The Spanish liked dark hulls

Cañonero español Elcano at commissioning. The Spanish liked dark hulls

Her peacetime service was quiet, spending more than a dozen years puttering around the archipelago, waving her flag and showing off her guns. Then came the Spanish-American War.

Just five days after a state of war between the U.S. and Spain existed, on April 26, El Cano came across the U.S.-flagged bark Saranac—under Captain Bartaby—carrying 1,640 short tons (1,490 t) of coal from Newcastle, New South Wales, to Iloilo, in the Philippines for Admiral Dewey’s fleet and captured same with a shot across the bow.

You see the good Capt. Bartaby, sailing in the days without wireless and being at sea for a week had missed the announcement of hostilities and said into Iloilo harbor to the surprise of El Cano’s skipper, who dutifully placed the ship under arrest. Bartaby was able to cheat a Spanish prize court by producing convenient papers that Saranac had been sold for a nominal sum to an English subject just days before her capture, though she had sailed into a Spanish harbor with the Red White and Blue flying. We see what you did there, Bartaby, good show.

Dewey lamented this loss of good Australian coal, which was hard to find in the Asiatic Squadron’s limited stomping grounds after the Brits kicked them out of Hong Kong. Incidentally, the Saranac was the only U.S. ship captured during the war compared with 56 Spanish vessels taken by Yankee surface raiders.

Speaking of which…

The rest of Elcano‘s very short war was uneventful save for being captured during the Battle of Manila Bay 1 May 1898 along with the rest of the Spanish Pacific Squadron under Admiral Patricio Montojo after Dewey battered his way into the harbor.

ELCANO at Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Island Description: Courtesy of D. M. MC Pherson, Corte Madena, California. 1967 Catalog #: NH 54354

ELCANO at Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Island. Note the extensive awnings. Description: Courtesy of D. M. MC Pherson, Corte Madena, California. 1967 Catalog #: NH 54354

Her three sisters all had more final run-ins. General Concha fought at San Juan, Puerto Rico and narrowly escaped capture only to wreck herself on a reef off Morocco in 1913. General Lezo was ruined by a magazine explosion and sank just after Manila Bay. Magallanes, escaping destruction in Cuba, was discarded after sinking at her dock in 1903.

As for Elcano, her Spanish/Filipino crew was quickly paroled ashore at Cavite, and she languished there for six months under guard until being officially taken over by the U.S. Navy on 8 November.

USS ELCANO (PG-38) at Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Island circa 1900, before being refitted for the U.S. Navy. Note she has been white-washed and her awning shown above in Spanish service deleted. Description: Courtesy of LCDR John E. Lewis, 1945. Catalog #: NH 54353

USS ELCANO (PG-38) at Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Island circa 1900, before being refitted for the U.S. Navy. Note she has been white-washed and her awning shown above in Spanish service deleted. You can also make out her starboard torped tube door just above the waterline. Description: Courtesy of LCDR John E. Lewis, 1945. Catalog #: NH 54353

Refitted for use to include swapping out her Spanish armament for American 4″/40cals (and plugging her 14-inch bow tubes), she was commissioned as USS Elcano (Gunboat No. 38) on 20 November 1902– because the Navy had a special task for the shallow water warship.

You see, once the U.S. moved into the PI, they used a series of captured and still-floating near-flat bottomed former Spanish gunboats (USS Elcano, Villalobos, Quiros, Pampanga and Callao) to protect American interests in Chinese waters. These boats, immortalized in the book and film the Sand Pebbles, were known as the Yangtze Patrol (COMYANGPAT), after the huge river system they commonly haunted. The first modern patrol, started in 1903, was with the five Spaniards while two more gunboats, USS Palos and Monocacy, built at Mare Island in California in 1913, would later be shipped across the Pacific to join them while USS Isabel (PY-10) would join the gang in 1921.

Elcano was based at Shanghai from February 1903, her mission to protect American citizens and property, and promote friendly relations with the Chinese– sometime promoting the hell out of them when it was needed. She kept this up until 20 October 1907 when she was sent back to Cavite for a three-year refit.

During this time, she served as a tender to 1st Submarine Division, Asiatic Torpedo Fleet, with the small subs of the day having their crews live aboard the much larger (dry-docked) gunboat.

USS Shark (Submarine # 8) In the Dewey Drydock, Olongapo Naval Station, Philippines, circa 1910. The gunboat Elcano is also in the drydock, in the right background. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1978. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 86963

USS Shark (Submarine # 8) In the Dewey Drydock, Olongapo Naval Station, Philippines, circa 1910. The gunboat Elcano is also in the drydock, in the right background. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1978. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 86963

Recommissioned 5 December 1910, Elcano took up station at Amony in China, and resumed the monotony of river cruises in China’s decidedly strife-ridden countryside that included bar fights with British gunboat crews, welcoming visiting warlords with an open hand (and a cocked 1911 under the table), sending naval parties ashore to rescue random Westerners caught in riots and unrest, besting other USN ships’ baseball teams to the amusement of the locals, and just generally enjoying the regional color (though libo groups were ordered to always go ashore in uniform and with canteens).

In August 1911, Elcano and the rest of the patrol boats were joined by the cruisers USS New Orleans and Germany’s SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Hankow for the unrest that came along with the anti-monarchist putsch that ended the Manchu dynasty.

There, Elcano participated in an impromptu naval review along with other arriving vessels from Austro-Hungary, Japan, France, Russia and a six-ship task force dispatched by the British. The ceremony’s true purpose: keep an eye on the nearly one dozen semi-modern Chinese warships in the harbor to make sure a repeat of the Boxer Rebellion didn’t spark. During this period, Elcano‘s men joined others in the International Brigade, sending 30 bluejackets with their Colt machine guns in tow to help guard the Japanese consulate. They were relieved ashore later in the year by a company of the British Yorkshire Light Infantry and a half-regiment of Siberian Cossacks shipped in for the task.

While on the Yangtze River Patrol, circa 1917. Description: Courtesy of Arthur B. Furnas, Corte Madera, California, 1969. Catalog #: NH 69694

While on the Yangtze River Patrol, circa 1917. Description: Courtesy of Arthur B. Furnas, Corte Madera, California, 1969. Catalog #: NH 69694

During the Christmas season, circa December 1917, while in the Philippines. Note the Christmas tree on the bow and the other decorations aboard the ship. Description: Courtesy of Arthur B. Furnas, Corte Madera, California, 1969 Catalog #: NH 69697

During the Christmas season, circa December 1917, while in the Philippines. Note the Christmas tree on the bow and the other decorations aboard the ship.  She would keep up this tradition for years. Description: Courtesy of Arthur B. Furnas, Corte Madera, California, 1969 Catalog #: NH 69697

Elcano would get a short break from Chinese waters when the U.S. entered WWI, being recalled to Manila Bay to serve as a harbor gunboat, patrolling around Corregidor from April 1917-Nov. 1918, just in case a German somehow popped up. Then, it was back to the Yangpat.

Meanwhile in China, as the putsch of 1911 turned into open revolution and then Civil War, Elcano and her compatriots in the Yangpat were ever more involved in fights ashore, landing troops in Nanking in 1916 along with other nations during riots there, in Chungking in 1918 to protect lives during a political crisis, and again in March 1920 at Kiukiang (now Jiujiang on the southern shores of the Yangtze), where Elcano‘s sailors acted alone, and then at Ichang where she landed a company of Marines for the task and remained as station ship and floating headquarters until September 1922.

Some of the ships of the U.S. Navy's Yangtze River Patrol at Hangchow during the 1920s, with several local junks and sampans also present. U.S. Navy ships are (from left to right): USS Isabel (PY-10); USS Villalobos (PG-42); and USS Elcano (PG-38). Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 67127

Some of the ships of the U.S. Navy’s Yangtze River Patrol at Hangchow during the 1920s, with several local junks and sampans also present. U.S. Navy ships are (from left to right): USS Isabel (PY-10); USS Villalobos (PG-42); and USS Elcano (PG-38). Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 67127

Chinese general visiting Elcano. The commanding officer of Elcano is seen waiting to greet him at the top of the gangway, Ichang, China, circa 1920's. Also note how they have to walk right into the muzzle of the 4-incher when coming aboard-- very subtle. Look up: Gunboat diplomacy. Description: Catalog #: NH 68976

Chinese general visiting Elcano. The commanding officer of Elcano is seen waiting to greet him at the top of the gangway, Ichang, China, circa 1920’s. Also note how they have to walk right into the muzzle of the 4-incher when coming aboard– very subtle. Look up: Gunboat diplomacy. Catalog #: NH 68976

Ship's baseball team going ashore, in China, during the early 1920s. Description: Courtesy of Frederick Cornman, Valois, New York, 1971. Catalog #: NH 77142

Ship’s baseball team going ashore, in China, during the early 1920s. Courtesy of Frederick Cornman, Valois, New York, 1971. Catalog #: NH 77142

Rare today is a bluejacket who was a member of the Noble and Exclusive Order of the Brotherhood of Mighty River Rats of the Yangtze c.1903-1941. Photo via The Real Sand Pebbles.

Rare today is a bluejacket who was a member of the Noble and Exclusive Order of the Brotherhood of Mighty River Rats of the Yangtze c.1903-1941. Photo via The Real Sand Pebbles.

These two letters from Elcano sailors from the 1920 volume of Our Navy, the Standard Publication of the U.S. Navy. Note the mention of the ship’s baseball team, hooch at $1.20 a quart, and the retelling of how 60 bluejackets cleared the streets of Kiukiang by bayonet point:

elcano lettersDuring this service, Elcano proved a foundry for future naval leaders. Stars rained upon her deck, as no less than six of her former skippers went on to become admirals including Mississippian later Vice Adm. Aaron Stanton “Tip” Merrill, who picked up the Navy Cross at the Battle of Blackett Strait in 1943 by smashing the Japanese destroyers Murasame and Minegumo without a single casualty.

Airing her sails in Chinese waters during the 1920s. She was undoubtedly one of the last warships with canvas in the fleet. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Donald M. McPherson, Corte Madera, California, 1972. Catalog #: NH 75577

Airing her sails in Chinese waters during the 1920s. She was undoubtedly one of the last warships with canvas in the fleet. Courtesy of Mr. Donald M. McPherson, Corte Madera, California, 1972. Catalog #: NH 75577

In dry dock at Shanghai, China, circa early 1920's note the 4"/.40 caliber gun (lower) and the 3-pounder (above) Description: Courtesy of Mr. Donald M. McPherson, Corte Madera, California, 1969 Catalog #: NH 68978

In dry dock at Shanghai, China, circa early 1920’s note the 4″/.40 caliber gun (lower) and the 3-pounder (above) Courtesy of Mr. Donald M. McPherson, Corte Madera, California, 1969 Catalog #: NH 68978

In dry dock, at Shanghai, China, during the early 1920s. Note 4"/40 gun. Description: Courtesy of Frederick Cornman, Valois, New York, 1971. Catalog #: NH 77143

In dry dock, at Shanghai, China, during the early 1920s. Note stern 4″/40 gun. Courtesy of Frederick Cornman, Valois, New York, 1971. Catalog #: NH 77143

Between 1923-25, armed landing teams from Elcano went ashore and stayed ashore almost a half-dozen times in two extended periods in Shanghai during unrest and street fights between rival factions.

Armed guard, photographed in Chinese waters, during the early 1920s. Note Lewis machine guns. Description: Courtesy of Frederick Cornman, Valois, New York, 1971. Catalog #: NH 77144

Armed guard from Elcano, photographed in Chinese waters, during the early 1920s. Note Lewis machine guns. Courtesy of Frederick Cornman, Valois, New York, 1971. Catalog #: NH 77144

In March 1927, Elcano along with the destroyers USS William P. Preston, USS Noa, and the RN’s HMS Emerald took a “mob of undisciplined Nationalist soldiers” under intense naval gunfire outside of Nanking when the American Consul General John C. Davis and 166 others were besieged at the Standard Oil compound on Socony Hill.

It would be Elcano‘s last whiff of cordite.

By 1926, the seven veteran river gunboats were all worn out and the navy went shopping for replacements. With dollars always short in the Navy budget, it just made sense to build these new boats in China, to save construction and shipping costs. These new ships consisted of two large 500-ton, 210-foot gunboats (USS Luzon and Mindanao); two medium-sized 450-ton, 191-foot boats (USS Oahu and Panay) and two small 350-ton, 159-foot boats (USS Guam and Tutuila).

Once the new gunboats started construction, the five old Yangtze Patrol ships’ days were numbered. In November 1927, Elcano became a barracks ship in Shanghai for the newly arriving crews of the PCUs and by 30 June 1928, she was decommissioned after some 14 years of service to Spain and another three decades to Uncle Sam.

At Ichang China. Note trees on mastheads Description: Courtesy of Lt. Commander Merrill, USN, 1928. Catalog #: NH 54352

At Ichang China. Note trees on mastheads. Courtesy of Lt. Commander Merrill, USN, 1927. Catalog #: NH 54352

Elcano was stripped of all useful material, some of which went to help equip the new Yangpat boats, then towed off the coast and disposed of in a Sinkex by gunfire on 4 October 1928. Two of her former companions in arms suffered the same fate. Villalobos (PG-42), model for Richard McKenna’s San Pebbles, was likewise sunk by naval gunfire 9 October 1928, and joined by the ex-Spanish then-USS Pampanga (PG-39) on 21 November. The days of Dewey’s prizes had come and gone, with the Navy getting a good 30 years out of this final batch.

Of the other Spanish armada vessels pressed into U.S. Navy service, Quiros (PG-40) was previously sunk as a target in 1923, and Callo (YFB-11) was sold at Manila the same year where she remained in use as a civilian ferry for some time.

The website, Sand Pebbles.com, keeps the memory of the Yangpat and her vessels alive while scrapbooks and uniforms are preserved in the hands of private collectors.

However, in Nanjing, on an unidentified monument there, is a series of Navy graffiti left by those Yankee river rats, if you look closely, you can just make out USS Elcano under USS Chattanooga.

USS_Chattanooga_Nanjing graffitti I recently found inscribed upon a Chinese monument in Nanjing (Former Yangtze river capital 'Nanking')

They were there.

Group of crewmembers visit a joss house, in China, during the early 1920s. Description: Courtesy of Frederick Cornman, Valois, New York, 1971. Catalog #: NH 77147

Group of Elcano crewmembers visit a joss house, in China, during the early 1920s. Courtesy of Frederick Cornman, Valois, New York, 1971. Catalog #: NH 77147

Specs:

Displacement: 620 long tons (630 t)
Length: 165 ft. 6 in (50.44 m)
Beam: 26 ft. (7.9 m)
Draft: 10 ft. (3.0 m)
Installed power: 1,200 ihp (890 kW)
Propulsion:
2 × vertical compound steam engines
2 × single-ended Scotch boilers
2 × screws
Rig: Schooner
Speed: 11 kn (13 mph; 20 km/h)
Complement:
Spanish Navy: 115
U.S. Navy: 99-103
Armament:
As commissioned:
2×1 120mm/25cal Hontoria M1879
1x 90/25 Hontoria M1879
4×1 25/42 Nordenfelt
2x 356mm TT (bow)
1902:
4×1 4″/40
4×1 3pdr (37mm) guns
2x Colt machine guns
1x 3-inch Field gun for landing party along with Lewis guns and rifles, handguns and cutlasses

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Photo source © IWM A 6312 taken by Lt. L C Priest. Colourised by Joshua Barrett from the UK.

Photo source © IWM A 6312 taken by Lt. L C Priest. Colourised by Joshua Barrett from the UK.

Commander Lionel James Spencer Ede DSO RN, Commander of Minesweeping and Patrol, Dover, testing a rarely seen stripped Lewis Machine Gun probably on board HMS ML 297  1941. These guns usually have their water jackets wrapped around the barrel and forend. The dated armament was common on the launches.

ML297 was a Fairmile B-class motor launch, the 112-foot workhorse of the RN of which a staggering 650 were completed during the War.

Originally tasked as anti-invasion gunboats in the dark days of 1940, they were to slaughter German landing craft near shore with WWI surplus QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss (47mm / L40) cannon and similarly vintage machine guns.

Once Hitler called off Operation Sea Lion, the Brits found use for the launches as subchasers crammed full of depth charges, minesweepers with a few basic trawls, and then finally as rescue motor launches, beach control and ambulances during the subsequent Allied amphibious landings in Europe.

Hampton, J A (Lt) Royal Navy official photographer - Imperial War Museum Collections Search A 23877 Caption: "With the motor launch ML 303 in the foreground, a large number of landing craft approach the beaches during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Several other large ships can be seen in the distance."

Hampton, J A (Lt) Royal Navy official photographer – Imperial War Museum Collections Search A 23877 Caption: “With the motor launch ML 303 in the foreground, a large number of landing craft approach the beaches during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Several other large ships can be seen in the distance.”

As for the good Lt. Cdr. Spencer, he retired from the RN 10 Oct 1953 at the end of 28 years service after holding several wartime commands including HMS Salamander, Blyth and Rhyl.

The Belgian Rattlesnake: Curious case of the iconic Lewis Gun

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Isaac Newton Lewis took a failed design and ran with it, producing one of the best light machine guns the world saw in the first half of the 20th Century.

The Buffalo Arms Company or Buffalo, New York in 1910 was high and dry. They owned a series of patents to rather forward-thinking gun designs, to include a 37mm auto cannon and a huge tripod-mounted, gas-operated, water-cooled machine gun in .30-40 Krag, both of which were produced by one Samuel MacLean. Unable to get these off the drawing board and into production, BAC approached Lewis and asked him to moonlight.

At the time Lewis was the director of the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery School at Fort Monroe and known as something of an inventor and accomplished engineer in his own right, having designed the Depression Position Finder– the Army’s fire control device to aim artillery over distance, as well as electric lighting systems, modern electric windmill generators, and chart plotting systems.

The gun he came up with, while based on MacLean’s original patents, was altogether different.

Fully Transferrable Class III BSA Lewis Mark II Medium Machine Gun, (sold at auction in 2014 for $11k)

Fully Transferrable Class III BSA Lewis Mark II Medium Machine Gun, (sold at auction in 2014 for $11k)

Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk

Well used Lewis gun

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Click to bigup

 

61-65-A MACHINE GUN CAL 30, US, LEWIS
Accession: 61-65-A
Machine Gun, Cal 30, US, Lewis, Relic (note cooling jacket, magazine pan and butt-stock gone)
Machine gun is from the USS Peary DD-226. The Peary was a Clemson-class Destroyer sunk on the 19th of February 1942 after a Japanese air attack. Peary lost 80 men in the attack and the ship is now located in Darwin Bay Australia.

Photo from the Collection of Curator Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command