Tag Archives: steel navy

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022: It’s Easy As 1-2-3

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Jan. 19, 2022: It’s Easy As 1-2-3

(Shorter WW this week as I am traveling to Vegas for SHOT. We’ll be back to our regular programming next week).

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 94372

Here we see the Oregon-City class heavy (gun) cruiser USS Albany (CA-123), in her original condition, just off her birthplace as seen in an aerial beam view from the Boston Lightship, 19 January 1947– some 75 years ago today.

And a following three-quarter stern view shot, taken the same day as the above. Note the advanced Curtiss SC Seahawk floatplanes, the last of the Navy’s “slingshot planes.” They were retired in 1949. NH 94373

Albany, the fourth such U.S. Navy warship to carry the name of that Empire State capital city– the fifth is a Los Angeles-class attack submarine (SSN-753) commissioned in 1990 and still in active service– was laid down during WWII at Bethlehem Steel’s Quincy, Massachusetts yard. However, she only commissioned nine months after VJ-Day, joining the fleet on 15 June 1946 in a ceremony at the Boston Navy Yard.

The brand new 13,000-ton warship became something of a Cold War-ear “peace cruiser,” and as far as I can tell, she never fired her mighty 8″/55 (20.3 cm) Mark 12s in anger.

Although in commission during Korea, she spent the 1950s alternating “assignments to the 6th Fleet with operations along the east coast of the United States and in the West Indies and made three cruises to South American ports.”

Decommissioned in 1958 after 12 years of service, she was sent back to the Boston Navy Yard for an extensive reconstruction and conversion to a guided-missile cruiser, landing her 8-inchers for MK 11 (Tartar) and MK 12 (Talos) GMLS missile launchers, only retaining a couple of 5″/38s for special occasions.

In 1962, she emerged with her hull number rightfully changed to CG-10.

She looked dramatically different.

A great period Kodachrome of USS Albany (CG-10), conducting sea trials on October 18, 1962. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Image: 428-GX-KN-4076.

USS Albany (CG-10) became the first ship to fire three guided missiles simultaneously when she launched Tartar and Talos surface-to-air missiles from the forward, aft, and one side of the ship while in an exercise off the Virginia Capes, 20 January 1963. U.S. Navy photo, Boston NHP Collection, NPS Cat. No. 15927

Missing Vietnam, she would continue to make cruises to the Mediterranean, later operating from Gaeta, Italy, where she served as flagship for the Commander, 6th Fleet, for almost four years.

Decommissioned for the last time on 29 August 1980, she was stricken five years later and, when efforts to turn her into a museum never came to fruition, Albany was sold in 1980 for her value in scrap metal.

The USS Albany Association has an extensive amount of relics from the vessel and the NHHC has a nice sampling of photos curated on the lucky warship.


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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.

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Warship Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022: Royal Dutch Shelling

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Jan. 12, 2022: Royal Dutch Shelling

Here we see a sentry of the Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger (KNIL), the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, overlooking the lengthy coastline of what is today Indonesia, in January 1941. While this is a warship blog, and we’ll cover an ill-fated class of minesweepers of the Imperial Japanese Navy in it, the KNIL holds a special place in this week’s post, now 80 years after the fact.

But we’ll get to the Dutch colonial forces in a minute.

First, let’s talk about the Japanese No.13 class minesweepers.

Built at three domestic yards– Fujinagata, Mitsui Bussan, and Hitachi– the four original Project number I3A/No. 13s were small vessels, hitting the 533-ton mark on a 242-foot long hull. Capable of 20 knots on a pair of coal-fired Kampon boilers and triple expansion reciprocating engines, they could either sweep mines via traditional mechanical minesweeping gear (i.e., paravanes) or lay mines, capable of carrying 40 of the latter.

Outfitted as light escorts and sub chasers, they mounted a pair of 4.7″/45 3-Shiki light guns, a pair of heavy machine guns, and three dozen depth charges between racks and throwers.

 

The four units of the class all carried sequential numbers rather than names: W-13 (13-go), W-14 (14-go), W-15 (15-go), and W-16 (16-go).

W-13 scanned from Maru Special, V. 50, via Combined Fleets.

Completed in 1933 and 1934, all four gave quiet peacetime service in Japanese home waters. By June 1941, the quartet was collectively assigned to MineSweepDiv 11 in RADM (later VADM) Hirose Sueto’s 2nd Base Force in VADM Takahashi Ibo’s Third Fleet.

Sent to the Pescadores Islands in early December 1941, they were part of Operation “M,” the Japanese attack on the Philippines where they swept mines, escorted troopships and supported the landings around Luzon and the Lingayen Gulf.

After the New Year, with another invasion convoy loading up for operations further South, the four No. 13s made ready for a rendezvous with history.

Tarakan!

The island port city of Tarakan, on the Northeast corner of Borneo, today is home to more than a quarter-million inhabitants in Indonesia. Dating back over a thousand years to the old Tidong kingdom, the Dutch moved in in the 1860s and, noticing oil, by 1905 had formed Koninklijke Nederlandsche Petroleum Maatschappij— later dubbed Royal Dutch Shell– making Tarakan one of its primary fields.

By the 1920s, Tarakan was producing something like five million barrels of light sour crude oil a year. Something like 13 percent of Japan’s pre-WWII oil imports came from the port alone.

Boortorens op Tarakan, vermoedelijk van de N.V. Tarakan Petroleum Maatschappij, 1930s.

Olietanks van de Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij te Tarakan, 1930s.

Protecting all this was the KNIL.

The late 1930s recruiting posters for the KNIL, showing the pre-1938 uniform and the early WWII uniform, with the latter including a version of the M1936 helmet, complete with leather neck guard.

Formed in 1814, by 1929, the KNIL– a separate organization from the European-based Dutch military– numbered some 38,568 men, with Europeans accounting for about a fifth of that while native troops, heavily recruited from Christian Manadonese and Ambonese minorities, made up the balance.

The banner of the KNIL’s 7th Infantry Battalion (7e bataljon infanterie) that defended the island of Tarakan near Borneo against the Japanese in 1942. Note the M37 uniform with leather equipment, Hembrug Geweer M. 95 6.5mm “Dutch Mannlicher” carbines and distinctive klewang cutlasses that doubled as jungle machetes. The banner of the 7th was decorated in 1849 with the Military William Order. NIMH 2155_022352

As noted by Marc Lohnstein in his Royal Netherlands East Indies Army 1936-1942, besides oil, “The Dutch colony was a global exporter of strategic materials, providing 29 percent of the world’s rubber, 20 percent of its tin, and 97 percent of the anti-malarial drug quinine.”

With Japanese eyes on the colony, it was decided to ramp up the KNIL both in terms of men and equipment. By early 1942, after the fall of European Holland to the Germans, the force stood at some 122,600 men, evenly split between Europeans and Indonesians, with about a third of those being regulars and the remainder more recently joining the colors.

With klewangs and Mannlichers at the ready, KNIL in a hedgehog position in the field, so they can not be surprised from behind, Dutch East Indies (August 1, 1939) The force wore brown bamboo hats, turned up on the side, from 1912-33 when they switched to a more jungle friendly green color that they entered the war with in 1942.

Getting equipment was another challenge.

As the regular Dutch Army was howitzer-poor, the Navy saved the day and provided new (to them) coastal guns for the KNIL. With the disarmament/disposal of a half-dozen assorted “pantserdekschepen” protected cruisers built around the turn of the century, the Dutch Navy gifted the KNIL a stockpile of Krupp-made 5.9″/37cal, 4.7″/37cal, and 3″/40cal guns for use in shore-based coastal artillery (kustartillerie) emplacements. Low angled and slow to reload, they were simple to use, and shells were readily available. Further, as we shall see, they could still be effective.

Practice with a 7.5 cm gun. Probably aboard the minelayer Hr.Ms. Medusa (1911-1964) or Hr.Ms. Hydra (1900-1921). Image dated 1916. NIMH 2204-005-005

7.5 cm naval gun emplaced on Tarakan, early 1942. Note the overhanging tree cover, which made highly effective camouflage. 2158_037834

Rear of 12 Lang 37 kustgeschutdeck (12 cm L37, or 4.7″/37cal) gun, No. 1, aboard the protected cruiser (pantser-dekschip) Hr.Ms. Holland (1898-1920). NIMH 2158_040898

Dutch Army (Koninklijke Landmacht) coast artillery back in the Netherlands with a recycled 4.7″/37cal (12 cm Krupp) naval mount, around 1930. These were also used by the KNIL in the Dutch East Indies. NIMH 2155_007214

An old Krupp 15 Lang 40 kustgeschut (5.9″/37cal) naval mount in KNIL use, circa 1930s. These guns were often extensively camouflaged and emplaced in concrete batteries.

Native soldier of the Coastal and Anti-Aircraft Artillery Corps of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in field uniform. (Inlandse soldaat van het Korps Kust- en Luchtdoelartillerie van het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger in veldtenue.) 1938. NIMH 2155_082314b

Now, with the stage set, let us talk about the…

Battle of Tarakan island

Japan declared war on the Netherlands East Indies on 10 January 1942; and the Japanese invasion force was on the horizon, planning to hit the beaches at numerous places, assisted by parachute landings at strategic points.

The Dutch East Indies campaign, early 1942, with Tarakan, circled.

At Tarakan, KNIL Lt. Col. Simon de Waal had the 7th Battalion augmented by four coastal artillery batteries– two of ex-naval 3″/40s and two of 4.7″/37s. His only air power was a quartet of recently arrived Brewster Buffalos. The Dutch Navy was also on hand with a minelayer, the 1,300-ton Hr.Ms. Prins van Oranje and a few lumbering Dornier Do 24 flying boats. All told, the Dutch had about 1,200 men at Tarakan, not counting the sailors.

Heading their way was Maj. Gen. Shizuo Sakaguchi’s reinforced brigade that had previously taken Mindanao in the Philippines, standing about 6,000-strong– including a battalion of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Special Naval Landing Forces. Escorting the Sakaguchi force (loaded in 14 transports) was RADM Shoji Nishimura’s covering force including the Sendai-class light cruiser Naka, 10 destroyers, a dozen patrol craft/minesweepers (including all four No. 13s), and two large seaplane tenders. The operation was under the overall command of RADM Sueto Hirose, fresh off the success of the invasion of Batan and the Camiguin Islands in the Philippines.

Just after the Japanese declaration of war, a Dutch flying boat spotted the incoming task force over the horizon and De Waal ordered his engineers to set the oil fields alight. This, naturally, put Hirose, Nishimura, and Sakaguchi in a foul mood even before they started sending troops ashore in the predawn hours on 11 January under the illumination of thousands of tons of oil flickering in the red-black sky.

The ground combat was never in real doubt, with the inexperienced Dutch outnumbered 5:1 by better-equipped, combat-tested foot soldiers of the Empire. By noon on 12 January, De Waal had ordered his troops to lay down their arms after 36 hours of maneuvering and artillery duels across beaches, oil fields, and jungles. Sakaguchi only lost seven soldiers. Meanwhile, Prins van Oranje, attempting to withdraw during the night of the 11th, was caught by a patrolling Japanese destroyer and gunboat and sent to the bottom, with heavy casualties.

However…

CDR Yamazumi Wakito’s MineSweepDiv 11’s W-13, W-14, W-15, W-16, along with CDR Kanaoka Kunizo’s MineSweepDiv 30’s W-17 and W-18 (near sisters of the No. 13s) were sent to clear the Mengacu Channel between the island of Tarakan and the coast of Borneo.

What Wakito and Kunizo did not know was that there were still batteries of 3- and 4.7-inch guns on the tip of the island that hadn’t gotten the word that the fight was over, due to cut telegraph lines.

Three of De Waal’s four coastal artillery batteries were located at Peningki and Karoengan on the South West coast of Tarakan Island with Peningki mounting two three-gun 3-inch batteries under CAPT J.W. Storm van Leeuwen while Karoengan had four 4.7-inch guns. It was the latter, under reserve LT Josephus Petrus Aloysius– a South African Boer from Adrichem who volunteered for military service at the Dutch counsel in Pretoria in 1940– who caused the most havoc.

As detailed on Combined Fleets:

Rear Admiral Hirose’s forces are warned that the Dutch coastal artillery battery at the south end of the island may not be aware of the Dutch offer to surrender. Hirose’s force is cautioned that “it would be dangerous to proceed to the Tarakan pier”, but the warning is ignored. Six minesweepers enter the bay and are fired on by the Dutch battery. LT Miyake Tadayoshi’s W-13 and LT Yoshimoto Yoshikuni’s W-14 are hit by 4.7 inch shells and sink with most of their crews.

Besides the two minesweepers sunk, at least one landing craft was also hit by a Dutch shell, killing a total of 156 Japanese sailors in the action– by far the bulk of the losses in the battle for Tarakan.

Sea Battle of Tarakan Island, Japanese propaganda painting by Minoru Tanabe, 1942.

In reprisal for the engagement between the Japanese mine craft and the ancient Dutch batteries, after the final surrender the next day, the deadly accurate crews were executed on 19 January. The body count and story of the condemned men varies widely. 

As detailed by one source:

The Japanese naval commander promised amnesty for the gun crews and based on this promise the Dutch Island Commander managed to persuade the gun crews to surrender. The Japanese Army Commander on the other hand was too brutal to have the prisoners turned over to him. So, he ordered to tie the men into small groups of three. Sometime later they were thrown into the water where all 219 Dutch soldiers drowned.

Another report is more graphic but has a lower body count, closely akin to the number of Japanese killed on the minesweepers:

Not long hereafter a Japanese interpreter and lieutenant Colonel Simon de Waal announced to the troops assembled at the Kampong Baru barracks, that the Japanese Army needed approximately 150 men of the POW’s to be transported to the Island of Java where they would be deployed in navigation operations and assisting in the transport of military arms and equipment. Every single POW assembled at the barrack had clearly heard this announcement. Alas, the truth turned out differently which came to light two days later.

After the Dutch officer and the interpreter had finished their announcement, about 150 men of the POW’s (which officially was determined as 168 men later) were horded into Japanese Army trucks, without any registration or identification, and taken to the harbor area. Here they were ordered onto a Japanese naval vessel. This vessel was then directed to the first light buoy, where on the same morning the two Japanese Destroyers [minesweepers] were sunk by the Dutch artillery.

The Japanese then stopped the engine and ordered the POWs to line up at the railing of the vessel. They were then all blindfolded and had both hands tied behind their backs. Subsequently every POW was killed by bayonet and thrust into the sea….

Donald Kehn, in his work, In the Highest Degree Tragic: The Sacrifice of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet in the East Indies during World War II, covers Tarakan in detail and holds that the men of the KNIL selected for reprisal were cast from the deck of the cruiser Naka, Nishimura’s flagship

Naka went on to be sunk west of Truk by three waves of SB2C Helldivers and TBF Avengers from the carrier USS Bunker Hill and TBFs of VT-25 of the carrier Cowpens, 18 February 1944.

While the local Indonesian troops were eventually paroled in an olive branch towards Tokyo’s imperialist Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere which would replace European colonies with those controlled by Japan, the Europeans captured in the Dutch East Indies would spend the rest of the war in a series of internments and mass executions.

Of the 42,000 European POWs taken by the Japanese in the Dutch East Indies in 1942, almost one in five (8,200) would die before liberation. The locals weren’t much better off under their new Emperor with an estimated 2.5 million Indonesians perishing during the war from famine while 200,000 romusha forced laborers were exported out of the colony, with many of those simply disappearing in the process.

Meanwhile, the sinking of W-13 and W-14 was a big boost to the Allies back home, with the New York Times on 14 January running on the center of the front page: 

Tarakan, off Northeastern Borneo, has fallen to a Japanese assault of overwhelming power, but the one prize for which the invader has paid so heavily in ships, planes, and men — the island’s oil -is still many a month out of his grasp, it was announced tonight.

Epilogue

Besides the 4 million barrels of fuel oil and aviation gasoline found in abandoned Allied storage tanks scattered throughout the region, Dutch East Indies crude oil became crucial to the Japanese war effort. According to Robert Goralski and Russell W. Freeburg in their excellent work, Oil & War: How the Deadly Struggle for Fuel in WWII meant Victory or Defeat, “In all, the captured fields could produce 116,000 barrels a day, enough to make Japan self-sufficient in oil.”

In addition to shipping oil to Singapore for use locally by the IJN throughout the Coral Sea and Guadalcanal campaigns, much was sent back to Japan directly, keeping the country in the war. Even as late as the summer of 1943, with the fields under constant air attack from B-24s, mines being sown off the terminals by RAAF PBY Catalina flying boats out of Darwin, and the tankers being sent to the bottom by Allied submarines at an unsustainable rate, Goralski notes that “Despite the shipping difficulties, about 90 percent of the oil consumed in Japan itself, by then 74,000 barrels a day, was coming from Borneo’s fields and refineries.”

Finally, once the vice had constricted this flow to a trickle, Goralski observed that “The crucial campaigns of 1944 were lost by the Japanese primarily because of no fuel.”

Even though the oil was no longer getting out, the Dutch East Indies were still under Japanese occupation. The Borneo Campaign in 1945 led to the eventual liberation of Tarakan. Operation Oboe One saw the Australian 9th Division’s 26th Brigade group– along with the “Free Dutch” the Ambonese 3e Compagnie, Technisch Bataljon, KNIL– totaling a combined 12,000 men, hit the beaches at Tarakan on 1 May 1945. The opposing Japanese force, just 2,200-strong, was outnumbered over 5:1, a familiar ratio to 1942, only reversed. Within three weeks, the principal fighting was over and only 250 Japanese were captured, the rest killed, missing, or gone underground.

The NIMH holdings have some 300+ images relating to “Tarakan” in their files, with most coming from the liberation and its immediate aftermath.

This one is my favorite:

“KNIL troops have been dropped off on the landing beach of Lingkas with some vessels of the invasion fleet and are going inland,” Tarakan, East Borneo, Dutch East Indies, May 1945. NIMH 2155_019811

Meanwhile, the old batteries were captured relatively intact by Australian commandos, still with pre-1940 shells in the ready mag.

“Tarakan Island, 1945-05-27. One of Two 7.5cm Krupp Essen Dutch coastal defense guns made 1913 taken by a patrol comprising members of 8th Section and C Troop Hq, 2/4th Commando Squadron (attached to the Australian 9th Division), which penetrated to the Cape Djoeata Area.” 2/4th CS saw extensive service during the liberation of Tarakan, suffering heavy casualties with 56 men being killed or wounded in the operation– more than half its ranks. AWM photos.

The Japanese also found a use for some of the old 5.9-inch shells.

“Tarakan Island, 1945-05-22. A Japanese booby trap made from a captured 5-inch Dutch naval shell set at the edge of the path on the Elbow Feature. If exploded, it would cause a landslide of a large section of the road.” AWM 108083.

Of the two remaining No. 13s, W-16 was blown apart by a mine at Celebes in 1943 while the last of the class, W-15, caught a torpedo at Kyushu in 1945 from the Balao-class submarine USS Tilefish (SS-307) and never sailed again.

Of the three Japanese officers in primary command at Tarakan, RADM Sueto Hirose ended the war as a vice admiral in charge of the base force at Sabang, surrendered his sword to the British at Malaya, and died in 1968, having escaped war crimes scrutiny. Likewise, the Army commander, Sakaguchi, survived the war as well, and “It is unclear whether Sakaguchi was ever brought to account for this atrocity. The third senior commander at Tarakan in 1942, RADM Nishimura, head of the covering force, was killed in the Surigao Strait in October 1944 when his flagship, the battleship Yamashiro, was sunk after being hit multiple times from the U.S. battleships.

Meanwhile, De Waal emerged from a Japanese POW camp to become known as “The Hero of Tarakan” and became a key figure in the war between the Netherlands and Indonesia that lasted between 1945 and 1949, rising to the rank of major general. When the KNIL was disbanded in 1950, he retired. De Waal was knighted and received the Militaire Willemsorde, the highest Dutch award for valor, for Tarakan. He died in 1970 at the age of 74. 

The Loenen Memorial Cemetery in the Netherlands, formed in 1949, has a monument to 215 men of the KNIL thrown from the Japanese cruiser Naka. The names of the known are listed while 125 unknowns, mostly Indonesians, are lost to history.

The monument was dedicated by the Tarakan Remembrance Association in 2012

In 2019, the Dutch Defense Ministry presented posthumous Mobilization War Crosses to the families of seven who had been identified in recent years.

Finally, while it is very likely the Japanese wrecks were long ago stolen by scrap iron pirates notorious in the region, the Dutch guns of the Tarakan battery, marked “1902 Fried. Krupp” on the breech, are still standing guard, 80 years later.


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

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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022: 15-Star Floating Haberdashery

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Jan. 5, 2022: 15-Star Floating Haberdashery

Courtesy of Naval Institute collection, Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 94444.

Here we see the Sims-class destroyer USS Morris (DD-417), some 80 years ago today, as the tin can sits at the Charleston Navy Yard in South Carolina, on 5 January 1942. According to DANFS, at the time “she was equipped with the first fire control radar to be installed on a destroyer.” She is being refitted before sailing for the Pacific, barely a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, as witnessed by her Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage pattern. While Morris had already been highly active in the tense stand-off that was the Atlantic Neutrality Patrol, her pivot to the Pacific would be much more of a shooting war.

The Sims were handsome 1930s ships, a dozen 2,300-ton (fl), 348-foot greyhounds sandwiched between the smaller Benham-class and the slightly heavier Benson-class which used largely the same hull but a different engineering suite. Speaking of engineering, the Sims-class used a trio of Babcock & Wilcox boilers to push Westinghouse geared turbines at 50,000 shp, capable of making 37-knots, and were the last single-stack destroyers made for the Navy.

Designed around a dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes, they could also carry five 5″/38 DP MK 12 guns in a mix of enclosed and open MK 30 mounts– though in actuality they were completed with a smaller array of eight tubes and four main guns, augmented by increasingly heavy AAA and ASW suites. When you threw early radar sets into the mix– an advantage that opposing Axis destroyers could not boast– and you had a serious little surface combatant.

Built during the immediate lead-up to the U.S. entry into WWII, the 12 ships were ordered from seven yards to speed up completion, and half were commissioned in 1939, the other half in 1940.

Named in honor of Robert Morris, a member of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety and Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Navy had already bestowed Mr. Morris’s name to a pair of Revolutionary War vessels, then the follow-on U.S. Navy, doubling down as a salute to Commodore Charles Morris (who fought at Tripoli in 1805 and stormed the HMS Guerriere from the decks of the USS Constitution in 1812) gave it to two circa 1840s schooners, a Herreshoff-built early Coast Torpedo Boat (TB-14), and a Clemson-class destroyer (DD-271). This made “our” Morris the seventh such ship to carry the name.

The seventh Morris (DD‑417) was laid down at the navy yard, Norfolk, Va., 7 June 1938; launched 1 June 1939; sponsored by Mrs. Charles R. Nutter, great‑granddaughter of the late Commodore Charles Morris; and commissioned 5 March 1940.

Haze grey and big hull numbers: USS Morris (DD-417) circa 1940. Note she has not been fitted with radar yet and has shields on her Nos. 1, 2, and 5 Mark 30 5-inch mounts while her Nos. 3 and 4 5-inch mounts are unshielded Mark 30 Mod 1 variants. Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. NH 94441

Morris, flagship of DESRON 2, followed her shakedown with routine training schedules until the summer of 1941 when she joined the North Atlantic Patrol, keeping the sea lanes open and helping run convoys to U.S.-occupied Iceland, walking the razor-sharp line of neutrality. Keep in mind this was a sort of pseudo war, as the old four-piper destroyer USS Reuben James (DD-245) was sunk by a torpedo from German submarine U-552 near Iceland on Halloween 1941, six weeks before the United States had officially joined the war.

What a difference a year makes! USS Morris (DD-417) At Navy Yard, Boston, Mass, 3 September 1941. Note that she has landed her No. 3 mount and only has four 5-inchers at this point. Also, note the extensive depth charge collection. She had been serving with the North Atlantic Patrol during this period. Description: Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. NH 94443.

USS Morris (DD-417) Convoy to Iceland, view of two of the screens of TF-15, C. 7 September 1941. These are two of the following sisterships: ANDERSON (DD-411), WALKE (DD-416), MORRIS (DD-417), MUSTIN (DD-413), or O’ BRIEN (DD-415). NH 47006.

USS Morris (DD-417) Convoy to Iceland, September 1941. Officers on Bridge of USS TUSCALOOSA (CA-37) look on as two Destroyers, possibly WALKE (DD-416) and MORRIS (DD-417) hunt down a submarine contact, circa 8 September 1941, while en route to Iceland with T.F. 15. NH 47009.

USS Morris (DD-417) In drydock at the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, in January 1942. She is being refitted before sailing for the Pacific. Note signal flags airing, details of her 5/38 gun houses, and her Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage pattern. Identifiable destroyers in the background are USS Tillman (DD-641), commissioned 9 June 1942; probably USS Beatty (DD-640), commissioned 7 May 1942; probably USS Hobson (DD-464), commissioned 22 January 1942; along with Sims-class sisters USS Anderson (DD-411), USS Hammann (DD-412), and USS Mustin (DD-413). Photograph # 19-N-26590 from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

She and several of her sisters with DESRON 2, after they arrived in Hawaii, became part of battleship-and-cruiserman RADM Frank Jack Fletcher’s soon-to-be famed Task Force 17, centered around the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5). As such, Morris guarded Yorktown as her planes struck at enemy shipping in Tulagi Harbor and in the Lousiade Archipelago.

Coral Sea

By early May, Morris was part of the first major sea battle of the Pacific, the Battle of the Coral Sea, downing one attacking Japanese plane and sending another off trailing smoke in the first fleet-to-fleet combat in which the surface vessels involved never saw each other. Proving how deadly the enemy aircraft were, her class-leader and sister, USS Sims, was lost.

It was not the only loss at the Coral Sea, as the huge battlecruiser-turned-flattop USS Lexington (CV-2) was scuttled after a serious fire. Going to the carrier’s assistance, Morris went alongside the blazing and exploding Lexington to rescue some 500 survivors under extremely hazardous conditions, with the smaller ship suffering damage to her superstructure.

Battle of the Coral Sea, May 1942. Smoke rises soon after an explosion amidships on USS Lexington (CV-2), 8 May 1942. This is probably the explosion at 1727 hrs. that took place as the carrier’s abandonment was nearing its end. Ships standing by include the cruiser Minneapolis (CA-36) and Sims-class destroyers Morris (DD-417), Anderson (DD-411), and Hammann (DD-412). 80-G-16669.

USS Lexington (CV-2), Battle of the Coral Sea. View from USS Minneapolis (CA-36) as USS Morris (DD-417) and a second unknown destroyer assist with crew rescue from the stricken carrier. Critically damaged, USS Phelps (DD-360) was ordered to sink “Lady Lex” by torpedoes. Note the Curtiss SOC Seagull floatplane on Minneapolis.

Midway

Less than a month later, with her superstructure patched up at Pearl Harbor, Morris was front and center for the Battle of Midway. There, Morris shot down her second confirmed Japanese plane but lost another sister, Hammann, with the latter sunk by a Japanese torpedo.

Again, Morris was sent in to save souls from a sinking carrier, with Yorktown sent to the bottom.

Again, she rescued over 500 Sailors.

This produced an almost identical image, a doppelganger scene fit for Dante.

Battle of Midway, June 1942. Two Type 97 shipboard attack aircraft from the Japanese carrier Hiryu fly past USS Yorktown (CV-5), amid heavy anti-aircraft fire, after dropping their torpedoes during the mid-afternoon attack, 4 June 1942. Yorktown appears to be heeling slightly to port and may have already been hit by one torpedo. Photographed from USS Pensacola (CA-24). The destroyer at left, just beyond Yorktown’s bow, is probably USS Morris (DD-417). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. 80-G-32242

Her plankowner skipper, CDR Harry B. “Uncle Beanie” Jarrett (USNA ’22), was given the Navy Cross following the twin carrier rescues. 

USS Morris (DD 417), damage to ship after alongside emergency collisions with carriers at the Coral Sea and Midway, August 9, 1942. 9-LCM-651-8

Santa Cruz

Following a refit at Pearl, Morris was active again in early October, participating in the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai raid and an independent sweep through the Gilbert Islands where she took a large armed merchantman under fire then had to break the engagement after Japanese aircraft came on the scene. Two days later, she rejoined TF17 in time for another sea battle.

The Battle of Santa Cruz, on 25 October 1942, was an especially tough row to hoe for Morris. She was confirmed to have downed six Japanese aircraft during the engagement– at the time setting a record of 8 “kills” among U.S. Navy destroyers in the theater.

Sadly, she would come to the assistance of a third sinking American aircraft carrier, pulling alongside the blazing USS Hornet (CV 8), and “although ammunition aboard the damaged carrier was exploding fiercely and she was being subjected to vicious dive-bombing attacks by enemy planes,” Morris took aboard 550 of her complement before pulling away.

Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942. USS Hornet (CV 8) listing after the Japanese attack assisted by destroyers to bring her fires under control. Photographed from USS Pensacola (CA 24). 80-G-33895.

This was the third time the little escort would stand by to rescue hundreds of fellow Bluejackets from the turbulent, oil and debris-littered, waters. This led to her crew willingly passing on every stitch of clothing they weren’t wearing to the survivors. Such an expenditure of uniforms across two years of combat led her skipper to remark, “It seems safe to say that the turnover in wearing apparel was greater aboard Morris than any other ship then operating or thereafter to operate in the Pacific Ocean.”

From Morris’s War History, addressing the repeated call to duty to tend hundreds of carrier sailors and aircrew plucked from the water.

Her skipper, LCDR Randolph B. Boyer (USNA ’27), would receive the Navy Cross for the action.

LCDR Randolph B. Boyer, Commanding Officer of USS Morris (DD 417), following being awarded the Navy Cross on January 3, 1943, by RADM Frederick C. Sherman for meritorious and heroic action rendered survivors of USS Hornet (CV 8) during the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, October 26, 1942. The ceremony, conducted onboard Morris, honored two officers and four enlisted men for their work in rescuing survivors adrift in the sea and for helping to extinguish “raging fires” on the carrier. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-33892

She closed out the year off Guadalcanal and for eight weeks was engaged in escorting supply units to the Russell Islands. By May 1943, she was detached for the liberation of Attu and Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands, then was sent back to Mare Island for an extensive two-month overhaul that left her looking different.

USS Morris (DD-417) Broadside view of the ship, 21 October 1943 after alterations at Mare Island Navy Yard California. Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. Note her No. 3 5-inch mount has lost its armored shield, but the destroyer still has her 2×4 twin torpedo turnstiles amidships. NH 94445.

USS Morris (DD-417) In San Francisco Bay, 21 October 1943. Look at that big, beautiful SG radar array. At this point, her mainmast stood at 90 feet above her keel. That’s some height on a ship that only runs 348-feet overall. Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. NH 94446.

A Fourth Carrier Tragedy

In November 1943, Morris joined an air support group consisting of a trio of Casablanca-class “jeep carriers,” USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56), USS Coral Sea (CVE-57), and USS Corregidor (CVE-59) in the Gilbert Islands offensive, during which, for a fourth time, our destroyer went to aid a sunk flattop.

On the early morning of 24 November 1943, Liscome Bay’s munitions were detonated by a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-175 and sank in an extremely short amount of time— 20 minutes according to some reports– carrying 644 men including RADM Henry M. Mullinnix and Pearl Harbor Navy Cross earner Doris Miller to the bottom. Only 272 of Liscome Bay’s crew were pulled from the oily water, while the responding destroyers dodged further torpedo wakes from I-175.

Back to work

USS Morris (DD-417) Underway at sea on 6 December 1943. Note her rough paint, especially on the bow, her skyward No.2 5-inch mount, and tarps over her No. 3 5-inch mount. NH 107277

Kicking off 1944, on 30 January 1944 Morris led a column of warships in a shore bombardment mission against Wotje– and was bracketed by Japanese shore batteries for her efforts.

She then provided NGF support off Namur, reportedly wiping out a Japanese counterattack force from an adjacent island. Further 5-inch work was delivered in supporting the western New Guinea landings, the Biak Island operation, pounding enemy guns on Noemfoor Island and then at Cape Sansapor and operations against Halmahera and Morotai on the lead up to the liberation of the Philippines where, as part of 7th Fleet, she fought off kamikazes.

USS Morris (DD-417), with her second stint in camo, this time in the new Measure 32C/2C, seen at Humboldt Bay in October 1944. The destroyer in the background is a Fletcher-class also in Design 2C. NARA photos via USNDazzle.

As part of the 5th Fleet for the push on Okinawa, she arrived off Kerama Retto with TG 51.11. on April Fool’s Day, 1945. Six days later she felt the divine wind.

As detailed in RADM Samuel J. Cox’s H-044-2: “Floating Chrysanthemums”—The Naval Battle of Okinawa:

Destroyer escort Witter was operating with destroyer Gregory (DD-802) on anti-submarine patrol duty off southern Okinawa when they were attacked by two Japanese aircraft at 1612. Gregory shot one down and Witter gunners hit the other, but the burning plane kept coming and hit Witter at the waterline, with the plane’s bomb exploding in the forward fire room, and killing six crewmen and wounding six. Damage control parties got the flooding under control and Witter was steaming on her own power toward Kerama Retto at ten knots, accompanied by Gregory, destroyer Morris (DD-417), Richard P. Leary (DD-664), and the tug Arikara (ATF-98).

Morris detached from the group, but then came under attack by a single Kate torpedo bomber. Although Morris gunners hit the Kate repeatedly, it kept coming and crashed on the port side between 5-inch gun mounts Number 1 and 2, igniting stubborn fires that took two and a half hours to put out. Richard P. Leary arrived to assist and escorted Morris to Kerama Retto. Morris suffered 13 killed and 45 wounded. 

USS Morris (DD-417) was hit by a ‘Kate’ that came in low off the port bow and blew a hole completely through her forecastle between mounts 51 and 52. Morris with a tug alongside is seen at Kerama Retto, on 7 April 1945. Despite the gaping hole that reached almost down to the waterline, it was decided to make her seaworthy again, and work commenced immediately to render her able to steam across the Pacific. Photo via NARA.

USS Morris (DD-417) Damage received from a kamikaze hit off Okinawa, 6 April 1945. 80-G-330101

USS Morris (DD-417) Showing damage inflicted by a Japanese suicide plane while operating off Kerama Retto after much of the debris had been cleared away in early 1945. Courtesy of Naval Institute photo collection. NH 94447.

From her War History on the strike: 

On 22 May, some three weeks after VJ Day she started out across the Pacific and on 18 June entered the Hunters Point Drydock, San Francisco. “Declared neither seaworthy nor habitable, she was decommissioned 9 November; struck from the Naval Register 28 November; stripped and sold to Franklin Shipwrecking 2 August 1947 and then resold to the National Metal & Steel Corp., Terminal Island, Calif., 17 July 1949.”

Epilogue

Morris received 15 battle stars for her action in World War II while pulling almost 2,000 Sailors from sinking ships or the ocean waves. While this battle star figure is outstanding, and one of the highest in the fleet, she was surpassed by her sister Russell (16 stars), a testament to the wringer this class was put through.

The war was especially hard on her class, with Sims sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Hammann sunk at Midway while trying to screen USS Yorktown, O’Brien ultimately sunk by a torpedo she picked up trying to screen the carrier USS Wasp off Guadalcanal, Walke lost in the same campaign, and Buck sunk by a German U-boat. 
 
With the Navy flush with Fletcher and Gearing class destroyers– which were brand new in many cases and much more capable– the rest of the Sims were on the chopping block. Russell and Roe, undergoing lengthy refits like Mustin‘s when the war ended, never saw service again and were instead sold for scrap.
 
The four still-mobile Sims left in active service by early 1946: Mustin, Hughes, Anderson, and Wainwright joined 13 other tin cans from two other classes at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands to take part in the Operation Crossroads atomic tests.

Joint Task Force One press release chart depicting scrap costs of Operation Crossroads. (U.S. Naval Institute)

The ships were stripped of useful equipment as well as ceremonial items such as bells, nameplates, and commemorative plaques. At Bikini, without crews or ordnance but with a sampling of goats and chickens aboard, the fleet touched the sun.

CDR Harry Bean Jarrett, Morris’s first c/o and the man who was in charge of the destroyer for both the Coral Sea and Midway (along with the corresponding rescues from the doomed aircraft carriers Yorktown and Lexington), ended the war in charge of nine Fletchers in the famed DESRON 53, who aggressively covered the landings across the Marshall and Marianans Islands. He retired in 1954 as a Vice Admiral and commander of Commander Carrier Division Four, and passed in 1974, aged 75. He is buried at the USNA’s Cemetery, and the Perry-class frigate USS Jarrett (FFG-33) was named in his honor.

Sadly, her skipper for the Hornet rescue, Capt. Randolph Boyer, was lost post-war on August 16, 1947, when the converted B-17 he was aboard along with Ambassador George C. Atcheson, crashed while en route from Hawaii to Japan.

The Commissioning Pennant that Morris had fluttering in the breeze above Tack Force 17 at the Battle of the Coral Sea and at Midway, where Morris attended to the broken carriers Lexington and Yorktown in tandem, is preserved in the NHHC collection.

The esteemed destroyer’s 12-page War History and most of her monthly war diaries are digitized in the National Archives.

She has a Memorial Wall plaque at the National Museum of the Pacific War, in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Location: East Wall, Courtyard. Row: 2. Section: Past 19C.

A small group of Vets and families associated with the destroyer noted in May 2021 that, “Les Wawner has passed away at 100. To our knowledge, he was the last of our USS Morris DD-417 sailors.”

She is also remembered in maritime art.

January 30, 1944, 0630 hours, “Destroyer Morris under fire from Japanese shore batteries on Wotje Island in the Marshall Islands.” Painting by Frank McCarthy.

Unfortunately, the Navy has not (*seriously) reissued the name, so the 7th Morris is, as of 2022 at least, the last on the Naval List to carry it. Certainly, it would be befitting for an as-yet-to-be-named Burke.

*A 173-foot PC-461-class submarine chaser, USS PC-1179, was renamed as the eighth USS Morris in 1956 while she was in mothballs at Astoria, and never served in commission with the name, scrapped just five years later.

Specs:

USS Morris (DD-417) Booklet of General Plans – Outboard Profile, as updated at Mare Island 10.24.43, with SG radar installed.


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Warship Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021: Taking a Nap

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 29, 2021: Taking a Nap

“Sleeping In.” A Sailor occupies his hammock in the broadside gun casemate of a large U.S. Navy warship, circa the mid-1910s. The original image, copyrighted by E. Muller Jr., from N. Moser, New York, is printed on postcard (AZO) stock. Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2008. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 106268

With this week closing out the year, we are taking a break from the normal WW coverage and, in a salute to the sleepy final days of 2021, are looking briefly at hammocks in naval use.

Apparently picked up by sailors after Columbus came to the New World and saw Awawak Indians lounging in the easy-going beds slung between trees, the Royal Navy began using hammocks as early as the 1590s, making them standard across the fleet by 1629, an upgrade from sleeping on a plank or sea chest.

Sailors stowed their hammocks when not needed in a way that they offered a modicum of protection from shrapnel in combat and would easily break free and serve as flotation devices should the ship be lost.

Man swimming with hammock, 1879

The disposition of the crew’s sleeping spaces aboard HMS Bedford, a 74 gun ship of the line, in 1775. Sailors’ hammocks are in blue, the Marines are in red– closer to the officer’s berthing and captain’s cabin. Via the Royal Museums Greenwich.

As detailed in “Living Conditions in the 19th Century U.S. Navy,” March 17, 1869: 

Enlisted personnel which included petty officers slept in canvas hammocks slung on the berth deck. When suspended, this canvas formed a receptacle for a mattress and blanket; when not in use, the canvas was wrapped tightly around the bedding and bound with a lashing and stowed in the nettings in clear weather and below when for any reason, such as rain, they could not be taken on deck. During his first year (Regs. of 1818) a man was allowed one mattress and two blankets.

From the 1800s through WWII, this meant the average Sailor learned the “Lash Up” that included carrying their hammock along with their seabag, taking the assigned netting with them when transferred ashore, or being sent to the infirmary or sickbay. Their issued hammock even remained their property in death as it served as a funeral shroud for their burial at sea, if required.

Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois. Recruits learning how to lash up a hammock, circa the World War I era. Color tinted postcard, published by S. Gold, Naval Station Photographer, North Chicago, Illinois. A facsimile of the reverse of the original postcard is filed with this image. Description: Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN(Ret), 1983. NH 101219-KN

Sailors in barracks 1917. Note the lashed up hammocks to the right

The use of hammocks even gave rise to the term “Trice Up,” in nautical lore, meaning to make your rack as the hammocks had a trice or hook to secure it to the bulkhead or wall. Hence the term “All hands heave out and trice up.” Or jump out of your rack and make it, allowing compartment cleaners to sweep and swab. The term endured even after canvas racks replaced swinging hammocks.

1899 USS Olympia crew three sailors relaxing in their quarters, one man is in a hammock Frances Benjamin Johnson photo LOC 2015647057

Airing hammocks (U.S.S. New York)

Siesta on the Focsle 1909 snoozing sailors on the OLYMPIA’s focsle during the Naval Academy summer cruises. At right, Hammocks and blankets are being aired on the lifelines.

USS New Hampshire (built as a ship of the line, then became a storeship, later renamed Granite State in 1904 to free her name up for Battleship #25), sailors below deck in hammocks. Photographed by Detroit Publishing Company, probably 1904. LC-DIG-DET-4a30637

USS Maine (ACR-1): Arrangement of Hammocks Berth Deck Plan. National Archives Identifier: 167817728

USS Maine (ACR-1): Stowage of Hammocks – Main Deck. National Archives Identifier: 100382280

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS San Francisco (C 5), stowing hammocks. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

USS Maine (BB-10). Packing hammocks, August 1916. George C. Bain Collection, Lot-10391. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-B2-3944-13

U.S.S. New York, taking a nap over gun 1897 hammock

U.S.S. Brooklyn, hammocks on deck

U.S.S. Massachusetts, on the berth deck hammocks

U.S.S. Brooklyn, good-night hammocks note there was little to no segregation below decks

Hammock and bedding inspection sailors Delaware class battleship, USS Florida

Hammocks even came to the aid of a drifting submarine, with the early “pig boat” USS R-14 (SS-91) having to literally sail home in 1921 after the sub ran out of fuel during a SAR mission, leaving the salty crew to craft a sail out of canvas battery covers, hammocks, officer’s bed frames, and their radio mast to make it back to Hawaii.

The use of hammocks was very much “old-school” Navy. 

Steve McQueen as Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles toting his seabag, lashed with hammock.

Starting in 1924 with the retrofitting of the crew’s berthing spaces on the recently-completed battleship USS California (BB-44), hammocks started phasing out in favor of triple-decker folding sleeping racks made from rope laced canvas on a pipe frame with each topped with a 3-inch mattress supported by chains attached to the bulkhead. Such bunks had been standard on several early submarine classes such as the K-class, which served in the Great War.

This luxury was slow to expand to the rest of the fleet. For instance, it wasn’t until about 1940 that the Great War-era battleship USS Texas (BB-35) ditched hammocks for racks and reportedly the USS Tennessee (BB-43) never got the upgrade, still having hammocks at Pearl Harbor and continuing to use them through VJ Day despite the fact the old battlewagon received a nearly year-long modernization in 1942.

This meant that many Bluejackets went to WWII still swaying from hammocks at sea. The art of “clewing,” packing, and stowing a hammock was essential knowledge. 

Hammock layout for inspection onboard USS Saratoga (CV 3), April 24, 1933. Note the name tapes on each item. Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-221144

Naval Air Station, Seattle, Washington. Lashing a hammock for duty, in Barracks 184, 26 April 1944. Men are (left to right): Coxswain Third Class William Howard Trice; Seaman Second Class James Armstrong; Coxswain Third Class LeRoy Young, Master at Arms; Seaman First Class Clifford Summers. Note Young’s rating badge and Master at Arms shield. 80-G-233270

Even new construction continued the trend, with circa 1937-40 constructed Sims-class destroyers and 1936-39 Benham-class tin cans still including a few hammocks in their berthing although almost all enlisted had rack. The preceding  Bagley-class destroyers, completed in 1937, had 32 hammocks in mess spaces to augment 183 crew berths. 
 

USS Rhind (DD-404), a Benham-class destroyer commissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 10 November 1939, still showing nine hammocks in her pre-war final book of plans before she would add 100 Sailors to her crew to man increased AAA and ASW suites for the upcoming conflict. The ship earned four battle stars during World War II and was scuttled off Kwajalein, 22 March 1948 following the Crossroads Atomic bomb tests. National Archives Identifier:167818528

It was only with ALNAV 278-45, (Navy Department Bulletin, 30 Sept. 45-1283), effective 15 October 1945, that mattresses and hammocks were decreed to be the property of the shore establishment or ship, rather than the Sailor issued them. Hammocks themselves had stopped being issued to new recruits the year before.

ALNAV 278-45, via the Nov 1945 issue of “All Hands”

By the end of 1947, with ancient war wagons like Tennessee mothballed, hammocks were quietly removed from inventory. It should be noted, however, that the Coast Guard continued to use them well into the 1950s, with New London underclassmen sailing on the training ship USCGC Eagle, still swinging from hammocks while on their annual Mids summer cruise. 

Meanwhile, the British continued to use the devices for a stretch longer, with the training ship HMS Fife (D20), a repurposed County-class destroyer, rigging hammocks for embarked cadets in one of the mess areas as late as a 1986 cruise and “may have been the last men of the Royal Navy to sleep in that fashion.” 

New Zealand sailors learning how to sling hammocks in HMS Philomel c1938.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR. On board the submarine HMS TRIBUNE at Scapa Flow. The forward torpedo compartment. Around the stowed torpedoes some of the crew’s hammocks and kit bags can be seen. The men that work in this compartment also sleep here ready to respond to any emergency. Four of the eight forward tubes can be seen through the bulkhead. Creator: Priest, L C (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer Source: © IWM (A 10909)

Sailor at his hammock aboard HMS Rodney, 1940

Convoy, cruiser HMS Hermione (74)’s ship’s cat, sleeps in a hammock whilst members of the crew look on

Hammocks rigged on Dido class cruiser for accommodations on HMNZS Royalist, c1958

Still, that is not to say that the devices remained in limited use in the U.S. Navy for the past few generations since Truman dropped the A-bombs. The practice unofficially continued on submarines through the early 2000s on the old Sturgeon-class submarines, with some junior enlisted bubbleheads preferring to “rig nets” in out-of-the-way compartments rather than hot bunk in racks.

For more on the early life of sailors at sea and their personal gear, check out What’s in Your Seabag by James L. Leuci, MCPO, USN(Ret.)  as well as the 175-page thesis Hammocks: A Maritime Tool by Michele Panico.

Donation of the Montana Historical Society. Collection of Philip Barbour, Jr., 1958. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 86250 click to big up 1000×787

Back to our regular Warship Wednesday format next week.


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

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Basswood of the Pacific

Here we see the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Basswood (WAGL-388, later WLB-388) underway during World War II. Marianas Section, off Victor Wharf, Agana Heights, Guam, late 1945.

Library of Congress photo HAER GU-3-1.

Commissioned on 12 January 1944, Basswood was one of 39 180-foot Balsam-class seagoing buoy tenders built from 1942–1944, specifically being one of the 20 improved Class C (Iris) subvariants. She is fairly well armed to tend navigational aids, with her 3″/50 gun visible pointing over her stern while” Y-gun” depth charge throwers are clearly visible on her starboard side. If you look to her stack– under her mast with an SL1 radar system– you can see two 20mm Oerlikons mounted. Unseen are two Mousetrap ASW rocket systems as well as a QBE-3A sonar suite. Several former Warship Wednesday alumni from the same class got to use those weapons during the war.

Capable of a blistering 13-knots, Basswood would go on to have a long career in the Western Pacific, supporting nuclear weapons testing during Operations Greenhouse (1951), Castle (1954), and Redwing (1956). She also completed three deployments to Vietnam in 1967, 1971, and 1972, earning a trio of both Vietnam Service Medals and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medals.

The Coast Guard Cutter Basswood works a buoy as busy Vietnamese fishermen travel to open sea and their fishing grounds from Vung Tau harbor during her 1967 deployment. The cutter battled monsoon weather for a 30-day tour to establish and reservice sea aids-to-navigation dotting the 1,000-mile South Vietnamese coastline. USCG Historian’s Office photo

Decommissioned 4 September 1998 after 54 years of service, she was disposed of in 2000, eventually scrapped.

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021: Hard Luck Flattop

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 22, 2021: Hard Luck Flattop

Photo via the Fleet Air Arm Museum

Here we see German-built Norddeutscher Lloyd freighter Hannover, during the second part of her WWII service, as the Condor-killing Royal Navy auxiliary aircraft carrier (aka escort carrier) HMS Audacity (D10), the first of her type put into service. That short run ended 80 years ago this week, after an abbreviated six-month roll in the barrel.

Completed for the Bremen-based shipping company by Bremer Vulkan, Vegesack in early 1939, the 5,600-ton steamer was built for the “Banana Boat” route through Central America and the Caribbean, carrying a mix of cargo and third-class passengers. She was the third “Hannover” built for NDL, with the first, built in 1869, scrapped in 1894, and the second, a 7,300-ton vessel constructed in 1899, ceded to Britain as war reparation after Versailles then repurchased by NGL in 1922, returning to Bremen – New York crossings until she was laid up in 1926 then scrapped during the global depression in 1933.

Via Lloyds, 1939 edition, showing NDL’s third, and final, Hannover, just under the Danish-flagged Hans Broge.

At sea in Latin American waters when the war started, Hannover crept around neutral areas– primarily in Curacao– to remain ahead of Allied warships and eventually make it through the blockade back to Germany.

Her luck ran out after seven months while passing through the West Indies in the deep waters of the Mona Passage off the Dominican Republic. There, on 8 March 1940, the Canadian River-class destroyer HMCS Assiniboine (I 18) and the British light cruiser HMS Dunedin (D 93)— the latter fresh off of intercepting the German motor merchant Heidelberg (6530 grt) the week before which was scuttled by her crew west of the Windward passage to avoid capture– came across Hannover and, making the case that it was violating Pan-American Neutrality although it was still very near the Dominican Republic, moved in to capture the vessel.

Despite the German mariners’ efforts to set the ship ablaze and open her sea cocks, a crew from Assiniboine boarded the flaming and listing vessel and managed to save her.

SS Hannover as seen from HMCS ASSINIBOINE – 6 March 1940

Via The Naval and Military Museum, CFB Esquimalt: 

Immediately on being intercepted, Hannover’s crew, in the best tradition of blockade-runners, had set fire to the ship and completely wrecked the ship’s steering gear; some took to a boat and pulled for the shore.

Two hours after receiving the summons, Assiniboine was on the scene. She found the Hannover belching smoke and flames from her fore and after hatches, and the cruiser Dunedin close alongside with hoses pouring sea water into the stricken ship. At the gaff of the mainmast, the White Ensign flew above the Swastika and the Hannover’s Master and First Officer stood glumly on the bridge covered by an armed guard.

In a freshening on-shore wind, aside from the fire, the critical problem was the fact that the German was being rapidly carried close to the territorial waters of San Domingo, a neutral area. Although Hannover had by now a sharp list to starboard, Assiniboine secured on that side with a view to heading the burning ship seaward. However, the sea was such that the destroyer was threatened with serious damage, so a wire was passed and Assiniboine took her in tow, bow to bow, while Dunedin continued with much difficulty to keep close enough to make her hose lines effective.

Later that morning, Dunedin took over the tow while Assiniboine fire parties, still dressed in tropical whites, boarded the Hannover to bring the fire to closer quarters. While the burning ship swung and yawed, Assiniboine clung tenaciously to her side. Soon, Nature came to the assistance of the dogged firefighters in the form of a sudden tropical rain-storm.

The struggle went on for four days. As often happens with seamen, a humorous incident occurred 12 March that relieved for a moment the gravity of the salvage problem. From Dunedin to Assiniboine: “Close with all dispatch. Man overboard. Man is German attempting suicide.” Cdr. Mainguy wrote:

1425 – Sighted man swimming strongly.
1426 – Lowered whaler.
1430 – Whaler picked up man who requested the coxswain to shoot him. Coxswain regretted he had no gun.”
1500 – Evolution completed.

The Canadian towed the smoky, water-logged vessel into Kingston, Jamaica, turning her over to the port captain there on 13 March.

Welcome to the RN

Found to still be sound, the prize was requisitioned by the Admiralty and in November 1940 was converted to one of 20 or so “Ocean Boarding Vessels,” a type of lightly-armed auxiliary cruiser tasked to enforce the blockade and release HMs destroyers and cruisers from such work. In this, she was dubbed HMS Sinbad. Her main fixed armament was a Great War-era 4″/45 QF Mark V, backed up by an even older 6-pounder Hotchkiss, and a mix of 40mm (Vickers) and 20mm (Oerlikon) AAA guns to ward off long-reaching German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor maritime patrol aircraft.

However, this service was short-lived and, in January 1941 she was selected for deployment as the first merchant ship to be converted for use as an escort carrier.

After a four-month conversion at Blyth Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company (Cowpen Quay), Northumberland, which saw her superstructure removed and covered over by a flat deck sans any sort of traditional aircraft carrier “island” or bridge structure, she became HMS Empire Audacity on 17 June 1941 for service in Western Approaches for convoy defense.

Audacity, 1941. IWM 1203

With no hangar deck, she didn’t need any elevators and it was thought she could support as many as eight single-engined aircraft, be they Swordfish torpedo/strike planes or fighters. She was also fitted with one of the first early Type 79 radars.

HMS Audacity underway in coastal waters, 1941. IWM FL 1204

After acceptance and trials in the Clyde area, she marked her first deck landing with a Grumman Martlet (F4F-4 Wildcat) of 802 Squadron on 10 July. Formed in 1933 from 408 and 409 Fleet Fighter Flights, the squadron had just been reformed after being lost at sea aboard the carrier HMS Glorious on 8 June 1940 during the evacuation of Norway.

Martlet MkII British Fleet Air Arm (F4F Wildcat) of No. 888 Squadron, parked at La Senia airbase, Oran, Algeria, 14 December 1942. Some 1,123 Fleet Air Arm Martlets operated in all theatres of war including Norway, the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Far East. USN photo

Her name was shortened to Audacity at the end of the month, dropping the “Empire.”

Joining five sloops and corvettes, the brand-new baby carrier became part of Convoy OG74 for passage to Gibraltar between 13 and 27 September, with six Martlets of 804 Squadron aboard. During the passage, U-124 and U-201 sank five of the 22 merchantmen, leaving Audacity to house 88 survivors. However, her fighters were able to draw blood, downing an Fw 200 Condor of KG40 during the trip.

Returning to Liverpool from Gibraltar with inward Convoy HG74, she made another run in November back to “The Rock” with OG76 in November, carrying six Martlets of 802 Squadron. 

That trip also saw a Wildcat vs Condor encounter.

From My Unofficial FAA History Page

8 November 1941 Lt Cdr J.M. Wintour (CO 802 NAS HMS Audacity) escorting Convoy OG76 to Gibraltar, shot down and killed while engaging a German Fw200 Condor. His wingman Sub Lt(A) D.A. Hutchison RN (pictured) took over the attack and the Condor crashed in flames.

Later that afternoon another Condor appeared. 802 NAS had one serviceable aircraft and another with a bent propeller. Hutchison took off again while Sub Lt(A) E.M. ‘Winkle’ Brown RNVR volunteered to fly the second aircraft, but the two got separated in cloud.

Brown intercepted two Fw200s and made four passes, including a head-on attack. The German bomber spun into the sea from a height of 10,000ft. The convoy reached Gibraltar without loss.

Sub-Lieutenant Eric M.Brown, R.N.V.R., Fleet Air Arm, with a Grumman Martlet Mk. I, circa 1941, during a time when he was assigned to Audacity

The Seerauber Gauntlet

Then came the homeward-bound HG76 Convoy, with 32 merchants headed from Gibraltar back to the Home Isles, escorted by a formidable force of 12 destroyers, sloops, and corvettes along with Audacity.

Audacity via Fleet Air Arm Museum, note the Martlets on her deck

Reported by German spies, 10 U-boats of reinforced Wolfpack Seerauber were waiting for the kill, sinking three small merchant ships of the convoy between the 19th and 21st of December. However, the British made them pay for it.

HG76 proved hairy for our little flattop, with Sub. Lt (A) Graham R.P. Fletcher RNVR, flying a Martlet of 802 NAS from the ship, becoming the first Fleet Air Arm aviator to be shot down by a submarine, when a damaged and surfaced U-131, her batteries leaking chlorine gas, was strafed by Fletcher and in turn downed by AAA fire from the U-boat’s 20mm and 37mm flak guns. Just 20 minutes later, U-131 went to the bottom and 47 of her crew were recovered. The Bittern-class sloop HMS Stork (L81) recovered fletcher’s body, and he was buried at sea the following morning– just before U-434 (Kptlt Heyda) was sunk by escorting destroyers.

On 19 December, as U-574 (Oblt Gengelbach) was rammed and sunk by the avenging Stork, Audacity’s aircrew managed to bag two further Condors.

By 21 December, Audacity’s luck ran out after the vessel’s Martlets chased off a second wave of Condors but, just after nightfall, was hit by a torpedo from U-751 (Kptlt. Gerhard Bigalk) that disabled her steering. While her crew was able to rush to control the damage, the dead in the water carrier proved too tempting a target for Bigalk not to take another bite, and he fired two more torpedoes into the vessel in a second run. These hit aviation fuel storage tanks and caused a massive explosion forward, which sent the carrier to the bottom.

Michael Turner’s illustration for Winkle Brown’s book sinking of the escort carrier HMS Audacity

She suffered at least 73 of her complement and embarked aircrew dead or missing, with the survivors picked up after over four hours fighting hypothermia in the freezing water. Of 802 Squadron, just two members were pulled from the water, including “Winkle” Brown. The squadron was disbanded for the *second time in two years.

Epilogue

U-751 would herself be sunk just seven months later, by depth charges from a British Whitley (502 Sqn RAF/H) and a Lancaster aircraft (61 Sqn RAF/F) taking all hands, including Bigalk, to the bottom.

The British would convert a few other, smaller, freighters to a similar layout as Audacity, with the four-vessel Avenger-class having a 190×47-foot below deck half hangar doubling their airwing to 15 single-engine fighters and strike aircraft (Swordfish and Avenger). Two of the four ships in the class were lost during the war with HMS Avenger (D14) sunk by U-155 off Gibraltar on 15 November 1942 and HMS Dasher (D37) lost in a mysterious explosion while in the Firth of Clyde.

HMS Avenger (D14) (converted 9,000-ton American type C3 Liberty ship SS Rio Hudson) underway in rough seas, date, and location unknown. Note the unusual camouflage scheme on her flight deck. Six Sea Hurricane IIC fighters are lined-up on the centerline. This image is often mistaken as one of Audacity. IWM FL 1268

*Of note, 802 Squadron, FAA, which had been lost almost to a man with Audacity, was re-formed at Yeovilton in February 1942 with Hawker Sea Hurricane Ibs, before embarking on Avenger for escorting Arctic Convoy PQ 18 in September– during which time five enemy aircraft were shot down and 17 damaged, in conjunction with 883 Squadron. The squadron was disbanded a third time after Avenger was lost two months later, certainly a tragic record of having been completely destroyed three times in three years. The squadron lay dormant till May 1945 when it was reformed at Arbroath with Supermarine Seafire L.IIIs and escaped further WWII service though it did see combat in Korea with “Hoagy” Carmichael famously downing a Nork MiG-15 with his Hawker Sea Fury.

Likewise, the Americans built their first escort carrier, USS Long Island (initially designated APV-1, but redesignated and commissioned as AVG-1, then later as Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier ACV-1 and finally CVE-1), between March and June 1941. A converted C3 Liberty, she looked a lot like the Avengers and Audacity

USS Long Island (AVG-1) underway on 8 July 1941, with two F2A Brewster Buffalo fighters parked at the forward end of her flight deck. Note flight deck markings: LI. The ship is painted in Measure 1 camouflage, with heavy weathering of paint evident on the hull side. 80-G-26567

No matter if you call them “jeep carriers,” or “Combustible, Vulnerable, and Expendable,” the escort carrier concept is one we have covered a few times in the past several years on WW. Besides one-off training carriers and prototype ships, four large classes of U.S.-built CVEs (Bogue, Sangamon, Casablanca, Commencement Bay) were cranked out during WWII, approaching 150~ hulls planned or completed for Uncle Sam and his Allies. And Audacity just beat Long Island to the punch, completing just a few days before the USN’s inaugural model although Long Island was the first to handle aircraft, having been underway with operational test aircraft only days before Audacity launched her first Martlet.

In Sept. 1981, a commemorative stamp was issued celebrating the 40th anniversary of the downing of Audacity’s first Condor via Martlet.

Speaking of Martlets, Captain Eric Melrose “Winkle” Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS, RN, who claimed his first kill while flying one of the chunky Grumman fighters from Audacity’s deck in November 1941, went on to be dubbed the “world’s greatest test pilot,” a title he earned after flying a whopping 487 types (a record verified by Guinness) over his career, interrogating Goering, becoming the only Allied pilot to fly both the rocket-powered Me 163 and more advanced Me 262, and making 2,407 carrier traps while testing the arrestor wires on more than 20 British flattops.

On 4 December 1945, he made the world’s first carrier landing by a jet, bringing the second prototype De Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk.10, No. LZ551, aboard HMS Ocean.

De Havilland Sea Vampire Mk.10 LZ551G catches the arresting wire aboard HMS Ocean, 3 December 1945.

“Winkle” Brown died at Redhill, Surrey, England, on 21 February 2016, at the age of 97 years.

Captain Eric M. Brown with the De Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk.10, LZ551, at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset, England. (Nigel Cheffers-Heard, Fleet Air Arm Museum)

As for Hannover’s former owners, during World War II, NDL lost their entire fleet and restarted in the late 1940s with chartered ships. In 1970 the company amalgamated with Hamburg America Line to become HAPAG-Lloyd.

Specs: 

(Hannover, Sinbad)
Tonnage 5,600 GRT
Length: 434 ft 9 in
Beam: 56 ft 1 in
Draft: 27 ft 7 in
Machinery: Two 7 cyl. 2S.C.DA oil engines built by Vulkan Vegesack, 5,200 hp
Speed: 17 knots

(Changes as Empire Audacity/Audacity)

Displacement: 11,000 long tons (11,000 t)
Length: 467 ft 3 in
Beam: 56 ft 3 in
Draft: 27 ft 6 in
Speed 14.5 knots
Complement: 298 officers and men including 24 airwing personnel
Radar: Type 79B air warning radar
Armament
1 × 4″/45 QF Mark V gun
1 × 57/40 6-pounder Hotchkiss Mk I
4 × 40/39 2-pounder Vickers QF Mk II anti-aircraft guns
4 × 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannons
Aviation facilities: Up to eight aircraft stowage spots on the deck, typically just embarked six


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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021: Sir Walter

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 15, 2021: Sir Walter

City of Vancouver Archives, Photo Credit W.J. Moore

Here we see, some 100 years ago this month, the fine early Royal Navy heavy cruiser and “commerce raider hunter” of the Hawkins class, HMS Raleigh, visiting Vancouver, British Columbia. As a scholar of naval history– or else, why would you ever be on this page– you’d think you would have heard and seen much more of this beautiful warship before this post. Well, there is a good reason for that as Raleigh would have a short career indeed.

The five cruisers of the Hawkins class were large for any era, pushing over 12,500 tons (full) on a 605-foot long hull with a 65-foot beam, giving them a slender 1:9.3 length-to-beam ratio. Generating 60,000 shp on four geared steam turbines fed by 10 coal-fired/oil-boosted boilers, they were rated for 30 knots, still a respectable speed these days. Their armor scheme was light, running just 3-inches at its thickest, while their armament was fairly impressive, made up of seven BL 7.5-inch Mk VI singles and a battery of torpedo tubes along with secondary and supporting guns.

Intended for anti-merchant cruiser and trade protection roles, they were ordered in 1915, at a time when the Royal Navy was still smarting after chasing down wily German vessels like the light cruisers SMS Emden and SMS Königsberg and commerce-raiding converted freighters such as SMS Möwe and SMS Meteor. The light armor, fast speed, and long legs of the Hawkins class made sense against such a foe. After all, they were a good eight knots faster than the comparatively-sized armored cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau— the most heavily armed ships the Royal Navy fought in the Great War outside of European waters– which had a much better armor scheme than Hawkins and slightly heavier guns (21 cm SK L/40s) albeit with a shorter range (10.1 mi at +30° for the German guns vs 12 mi on the British guns at the same elevation).

While four of the five were completed just after the end of the Great War, in a period where German surface raiders were extinct, the class was still an influencer on future cruiser design.

As noted by Richard Worth in his Fleets of World War II:

The construction of these ships had far-reaching repercussions. They were the direct cause of Britain’s endorsing the 10,000-ton, 8-inch treaty cruiser, a new type of warship that ultimately proved something of a failure. The Hawkins provided the basis for the “County” classes and thus gave the British a head start in the development of the heavy cruiser.

The ships of the class are sometimes called the “Elizabethans” as they were named for famed English naval commanders, courtiers, privateers, and explorers of that period (Sir John Hawkins, Sir William Cavendish, Lord Howard of Effingham, Sir Martin Frobisher, and Sir Walter Raleigh) whose names were often better remembered in the New World than the old. Speaking of which, the first warship named after Raleigh, the first to attempt the establishment of an English settlement in North America, was actually American: a 131-foot 32-gun fifth-rate that was one of the original 13 fighting ships authorized by the Continental Congress on 13 December 1775.

Sail Plan of the Frigate Raleigh built at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1776. Copyright 1929 by C.G. Davis. Copied from drawing in book “Ships of the Past.” NH 2020

Commanded during the Revolutionary War by the famed John Barry, an Irishman who was No. 7 on the first list of captains begun by Congress, Raleigh was engaged in a nine-hour running fight with three Royal Navy ships in 1778 and, abandoned by her crew after she was run ashore, was refloated by the British and commissioned as HMS Raleigh, serving up the curious twist of being the first ship with that name in the Royal Navy. Of further curiosity, the colonial frigate endures on the flag and seal of the state of New Hampshire.

The second HMS Raleigh was an 18-gun Cruizer-class brig-sloop active from 1806 to 1839 while the third was a 50-gun fourth-rate that had her short career ended in 1857 when she was reefed.

The new 50-gun fourth-rate HMS Raleigh, circa 1850 off Portsmouth, by artist Robert Strickland Thomas (1787–1853). The old hulk of Britannia is visible inside the harbor. Photo credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London http://www.artuk.org/artworks/hms-raleigh-175747

The fourth HMS Raliegh was never completed while the fifth, a “sheathed” iron-hulled screw frigate with a hermaphrodite sailing rig and gave lots of detached colonial service in the last quarter of the 19th century. Here, her figurehead with Sir Walter depicted, via the collection of the RMG.

This leaves our HMS Raleigh as the sixth such vessel in the Royal Navy.

Meet the cruiser Raleigh

Laid down in Scotland at William Beardmore & Company, Dalmuir on 4 October 1916, as the flower of Britain’s youth was drowning in the Somme, HMSRaleigh‘s construction was slow-rolled, only launching in 1919 and commissioned in July 1921.

Built to a modified design, Raleigh carried 12 boilers rather than 10 and Brown-Curtis turbines rather than the Parsons installed on Hawkins, boosting her shp from 60K to 70K, making her capable of clocking 31 knots.

The spanking new cruiser was soon designated the flagship of VADM Sir William Christopher Pakenham, head of North America and West Indies Station. Commander of the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron at Jutland, ironically his great-great-uncle was Edward Pakenham, the highest-ranking British officer ever killed in military service in North America, felled at the Battle of New Orleans.

With that, HMS Raleigh was off to her first duty station, making extensive visits throughout the Americas in late 1921 through most of 1922. Her first landfall in the Americas was on 11 August 1921, in Bermuda.

HMS Raleigh, likely along the Canadian coast, 1921

December 1921, at Vancouver. According to her logs, she was at the Canadian port from 27 December 1921- 9 January 1922. City of Vancouver Archives, Photo Credit W.J. Moore

Operation of Panama Canal HMS Raleigh in Upper West Chamber, Gatun Locks Feb 18, 1922. “In both number of ships and amount of tolls collected,” a record was set in the Canal by Raleigh that day, with the cruiser and 18 merchant vessels clearing with tolls of $79,808.50 paid. Panama Canal Company photo via the National Archives. National Archives Identifier: 100996554

Raleigh at the Washington Navy Yard, Note the detail on her 7.5-inch turrets, Carley floats, and her gunnery clock on the mast. Harris & Ewing, photographer, taken 29 May 1922. According to her log, she hosted the British Ambassador, Lord Geddes, and President Harding during her visit to D.C. Of interest, Geddes was a primary negotiator of the Washington Navy Limits Treaty that was signed that year. LOC LC-DIG-hec-31715

Same photographer, day as the above, LC-DIG-hec-42320

Rowing crew of the battleship USS Delaware racing a crew from HMS Raleigh, Washington Navy Yard, 3 June 1922. Via LOC.

On 8 August 1922, Raleigh, in heavy fog, ran aground at L’Anse Amour, Newfoundland, with the high winds pushing her into the rocks and eventually tearing a 260-foot gash in her hull.

Her last log entries:

3.24pm: Altered course 360º. Ran into fog. Commenced sounding
3.37pm: Land ahead & on Port bow. Reduced to eight knots
3.38pm: Sighted breakers on Starboard bow. Full speed astern. Hard a-starboard. Sounded Collision Stations
3.39pm: Grounded
3.40pm: Stopped engines. Ship bumping heavily
3.41pm: Hard a port. Ship’s stern swinging to Eastward. Full astern starboard
3.43pm: Stop Starboard Full ahead Port. Engines as requisite to prevent stern swinging on rocks
3.49pm: Finally stopped engines. Position 262º – 4.8 cables from Amour Point Light. Heading 292º. Hard aground on starboard bilge and bumping heavily
4.07pm: Let go Port anchor. Cutter & crew washed ashore on rocks
4.15pm: Two lines ashore by Coston gun. Commenced abandoning ship by lines & Carley Floats
8.00pm: Ship abandoned

Sadly, during the evacuation of her crew to shore, 11 Tars perished in the cold water.

BASHFORD, Herbert, Stoker 1c, SS 123275
EFFARD, Edward P, Stoker Petty Officer, 303078
FIELD, Silas, Stoker 1c, K 59500
FISHER, George, Stoker 1c, SS 120369
LLOYD, John E, Stoker Petty Officer, 306551
PETTET, Pat, Able Seaman, J 42323
SOWDEN, William J, Leading Stoker, K 20564
THORNHILL, George M, Stoker 1c, SS 122759
TRIPP, Sydney G, Leading Stoker, K 14053
TYLER, Reuben, Leading Stoker, K 18030
WEAVER, James, Able Seaman, 213937
WHITTON, William R, Able Seaman, J 34371

Her career had lasted just 13 months and she never fired a shot in anger.

HMS Raleigh aground at Point Amour Labrador, August 1922

Wreck of H.M.S. Raleigh, Forteau, Labrador. Donald Baxter MacMillan collection via the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum Accession Number: 3000.3.274

H.M.S. Raleigh on Rocks, Forteau, Labrador. Donald Baxter MacMillan collection via the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum Accession Number: 3000.33.2652

Epilogue

Embarrassed by the still very recognizable hulk of a brand new cruiser hard aground on the rocks with a hull too shattered to refloat, the Royal Navy was ordered to salvage what they could from Raleigh and break apart the vessel with depth charges in September 1922.

After helping wreck their once-proud ship, the crew of HMS Raleigh arrived at Liverpool on the liner SS Montrose.

As for her skipper and navigator, their career was over. Via The Dreadnought Project: 

On 3 October Commander Arthur Bromley left Quebec for Britain on the liner Empress of France. Commander Leslie C Bott, O.B.E., his second-in-command, was tried by Court-martial on 26 October and severely reprimanded and dismissed H.M.S. Victory. Bromley was tried on the following day by a Court presided over by Rear-Admiral Hugh F. P. Sinclair, charged with negligently or by default stranding and losing his ship. In his defense Bromley argued that had the charts he had been supplied with been accurate then his ship would not have stranded. The Court found the charge proved, and he was severely reprimanded and dismissed his ship. He was placed on the Retired List, at his own request, dated 7 November.

Aboard Raleigh as a midshipman cadet on that fateful day off Newfoundland and Labrador was the future VADM Sir Stephen Hope Carlill, who went on to command a series of destroyers during WWII and serve as the last British Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. In 1982, an extensive diary entry from the wreck was published in the Naval Review (Vol 70, pgs. 165-173) which makes interesting reading. 

Much of the vessel remains and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) has conducted extensive recovery operations on the wreck over the past two decades to recover live UXO from her bones although there is still as much as 80 tons of unstable explosives aboard. 

Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) Port Inspection diver LS Dan Babich enters the water to place C4 explosives on unexploded ammunition at L’Anse-Amour on 25 May 2017 during Operation RALEIGH to remove unexploded ordnance in the area of the shipwreck of HMS RALEIGH that ran aground and sank in 1922. Photo: Master Seaman Peter Reed, Formation Imaging Services Halifax

Shells destroyed in place by RCN clearance divers. Photo by Jeffery Gallant, RCN, via the Diving Almanac.

As for Raleigh‘s sisterships, only one, Cavendish, was completed during the Great War, albeit as one of the Royal Navy’s first aircraft carriers, HMS Vindictive.

Ex-Cavendish as circa 1918 carrier HMS Vindictive, capable of carrying about a dozen light aircraft. Reconverted back into a cruiser after the war, she was demilitarized per the terms of the London Naval Treaty and converted to a training ship in 1936. She spent WWII as a repair ship and was paid off in 1945. IWM SP 669

Jane’s 1946 entry for the class, with Hawkins and Frobisher being the last ones standing. The entry was the final one for the class as well as the last entry under “British Cruisers” in the 1946 edition.

The other three ships of the class, Hawkins (D86), Frobisher (D81/C81), and Effingham (D98) had uneventful interwar service and, like Vindictive, landed their guns in the mid-1930s. They then were rearmed and clocked in for WWII with Effingham wrecked in May 1940 during the Norway campaign. Hawkins, along with Frobisher, won battle honors at Normandy. Both were disposed of soon after VE Day.

Interestingly, just 44 BL 7.5-inch Mk VI naval guns were manufactured– exclusively for the Hawkins class– and, as they were landed in the 1930s and few remounted, at least 17 were recycled into coast defense batteries during WWII. As noted by Tony DiGiulain at Navweaps:

Three were at South Shields between July 1941 to August 1943, seven went to the Dutch West Indies, three to Canada, and five to Mozambique. However, two of the guns intended for Mozambique were lost in transit in 1943. These were replaced by transferring two guns from South Shields.

Dutch 7.5s in their distinctive turrets. Via Lago Colony As Raleigh’s guns were recovered from the stricken cruiser, some of these could have come from her.

Rather than name a seventh ship to continue the name in the Royal Navy, the Admiralty bestowed the moniker HMS Raleigh to a shore establishment on the River Lynher at Torpoint on 9 January 1940. Authorized under the Military Training Act of 1938, during WWII some 300 new enlistees arrived at the base each week for 11 weeks of training and the base in 1944 became a major D-Day embarkation center for U.S. forces headed to Utah and Omaha beaches.

The site became a new entry training establishment for all types of Ratings in 1959 and continues its role to this day as the home of the Royal Navy School of Seamanship with an average of 2,200 personnel on-site on any given day.

Specs: 

Displacement:
9,750 long tons (9,910 t) (standard)
12,190 long tons (12,390 t) (deep load)
Length: 605 ft (o/a)
Beam: 65 ft
Draught: 19 ft 3 in (deep load)
Installed power
12 × Yarrow boilers 70,000 shp, 4 × Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines, 4 shafts
Speed: 31 knots
Range 5,640 nmi at 10 knots with 1480 tons oil and 860 tons of coal
Complement: 690 (712 counting flag staff)
Armor
Belt: 1.5–3 in
Deck: 1–1.5 in
Gun shields: 1 in
Armament
7 × single 190/45 BL Mk VI
4 × single 76/45 20cwt QF Mk I AA guns
2 × single 2-pdr 40/39 QF Mk II AA guns
6 × 21-inch torpedo tubes on the beam


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

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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday (on a Tuesday), Dec. 7, 2021: Of RADM Helm & PO1c Hirano

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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 (on a Tuesday), Dec. 7, 2021: Of RADM Helm & PO1c Hirano

Official U.S. Navy Photograph 116-19, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. NH 97450

Here we see the Bagley-class destroyer USS Helm (DD-388) as she comes alongside the escort carrier USS Makin Island (CVE-93) during the Iwo Jima operation, 24 February 1945. The little tin can had been in the fight since the very beginning, firing shots at multiple incoming Japanese aircraft at Pearl Harbor, some 80 years ago today. In all, she spent the entire Pacific War in a combat zone save for two months. 

The eight vessels of the Bagley class (including Blue, Henley, Mugford, Patterson, Ralph Talbot, and Jarvis besides Helm) were ordered as part of FDR’s 1934 “New Deal” program and laid down near-simultaneously the next year at four different Naval Shipyards, two on the East Coast (Boston and Norfolk) and two on the West (Puget Sound and Mare Island). Some 341-feet overall, they were 1,500-tonners in design to comply with the assorted naval limitation treaties of the era. However, they had a very impressive torpedo tube battery (16 tubes in four quadruple platforms) as well as four 5″38s and could make 36 knots with ease.

Compared to the previous classes, they had less powerful machinery but stronger hulls and better stability. Unlike many pre-WWII destroyer classes, the Bagleys uncharacteristically kept all their torpedo tubes and 5-inch guns for the entire war, whereas other classes usually traded such armament for more AAA guns. Instead, the Bagley’s just piled it on, reaching well over 2,245-tons by 1943.

Laid down by Norfolk Navy Yard 25 September 1935 alongside sistership USS Blue (DD-387), the subject of our tale was named for James Meredith Helm (USNA 1875).

USS Helm keel-laying. From the Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Helm commanded the stately gunboat USS Hornet (formerly the yacht Alicia) during the Spanish-American War, capturing a Spanish steamer and three contraband schooners as well as playing a key role in the Battle of Manzanillo. Promoted to Rear Admiral Helm during the Great War, he commanded the 4th Naval District headquartered at League Island Navy Yard in Philadelphia. Helm was moved to the retired list in 1919 after 44 years of service and died in 1927, just eight years before the only warship to bear his name was laid down. A Navy Cross winner, he is buried in Arlington

USS Blue (DD-387), left, and USS Helm (DD-388) ready for christening, in Drydock # Two at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 27 May 1937. Note that the drydock is already partially flooded. Blue appears to have her guns and torpedo tubes installed, and both ships’ Mark 33 main battery gun directors are in place atop their forward superstructures. NH 61903

Helm commissioned 16 October 1937, LCDR P. H. Talbot in command.

USS Helm (DD-388) photographed circa 1937-39. Note the dark paint on her forward 5/38 gun mounts. Also note her two forward guns are in turrets while the aft mounts are open, as with the rest of the class. NH 61888

By 1939, she was stationed on the West Coast and, along with her seven sisters, was at Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941.

Pearl Harbor

Of the 30 destroyers inside Pearl Harbor when the Japanese first wave came at 0755, eight were Bagleys. While her classmates were all tied up or moored, Helm was underway from berth X-7 for deperming buoys at West Loch some 30 minutes before the attack. Since deperming could affect the ship’s compasses, two whaleboats containing every magnetic compass and chronometer issued to the ship were left behind– not the best way to start a war.

Helm’s location during the attack, steaming at the bottom left past Hospital Point to the West Loch Channel. Via SW Maps

As detailed in her after-action report, Helm spotted the first enemy plane at 0759, with a bomb dropping and hitting a hanger at Ford Island. By 0805, her aft pair of water-cooled .50-caliber machine guns had opened up and soon her 5-inchers would join the fight.

Just five minutes later, at 0810, they drew blood.

From her report:

In main channel steaming toward entrance. Fire from port after machine gun, manned by HUFF, W.C., GM.2c, 337 00 90, hit plane approaching from south. Plane veered sharply, caught fire, and crashed behind trees near Hickam Field. Ordered all boilers lighted off.

More on this plane later.

Over the next hour, Helm had a very hectic time of it, spotting an unusual submarine conning tower at 0817 and again at 0819, then duly firing on said tower off Tripod Reef until it submerged. Shortly afterward, the men on after guns and amidships observed a torpedo pass close under the stern on a northwesterly course.

It is unknown which of the nine suspected Japanese midget subs this was, or if it was damaged. However, most scholars believe it was the Type A Kō-hyōteki-class midget HA. 19. Crewed by Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki and CWO Kiyoshi Inagaki, the hapless and damaged craft eventually was scuttled after which Inagaki drowned and Sakamaki was captured, the only Japanese POW from the Pearl Harbor attack and the first of the war. 

Japanese Type A midget submarine HA.19 Beached on Oahu after it went aground following attempts to enter Pearl Harbor during the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack. The photograph was taken on or shortly after 8 December 1941. 80-G-17016

By 0830, Helm reached the harbor entrance and spent the next hour “Steaming on various courses and speeds off harbor entrance, steering by hand, firing intermittently at enemy planes, and searching for submarines, numerous large splashes being observed close at hand.” At 0915, a bomber from the Japanese second wave landed some near misses on the destroyer which popped seams and sheared rivets, so not only did she not have any magnetic nav gear, but she also had to contend with flooding and engineering casualties.

In all, she fired 90 rounds of 5-inch and 350 of .50 caliber during the attack

Once the smoke cleared, Helm was reunited with her two whaleboats and the seven men who manned them– they had withstood Japanese strafing runs and then later assisted in transporting casualties from Ford Island to the hospital landing. The destroyer had fired at numerous Japanese aircraft and is generally credited with downing the one seen smoking out at 0810. The plane, a Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero Model 21 fighter (c/n 5289), tail code AI-154, flown by PO1c Takeshi Hirano from the carrier Akagi, ultimately clipped coconut palm trees and crashed into the ordnance maintenance shop at Fort Kamehameha. It is one of the most photographed of the Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor. 

Interior of the cockpit of a Zero which crashed into Building 52 at Fort Kamehameha, Oahu, during the 7 December 1941 raid on Pearl Harbor. The pilot, who was killed, was NAP1/c Takeshi Hirano. The plane’s tail code was AI-154. Note the U.S. manufactured Fairchild Radio Compass in the upper center (Compass Model RC-4, Serial # 484). It was tuned in on 760 KC. 80-G-22158

Listed as “Japanese aviator—identity unknown” Hirano was interred at Schofield Barracks Cemetery two days later as his Zero, partially stripped by souvenir hunters, was hauled off to the Hawaiian Air Depot hangar for inspection. AI-154 was shipped the next year to Wright Field in Ohio for more study and its final disposition is unclear, although pieces of it have popped up on eBay over the years. 

After the war, 25 Japanese aviators and three submariners who had been interred around Pearl Harbor were repatriated home.

Back to Helm

Soon after the attack on Pearl, Helm assisted the carrier USS Saratoga as a plane guard then was dispatched to retrieve some very isolated Department of the Interior workers from Howland and Baker Islands, retrieving a total of six men via whaleboat in late January 1942 and fighting off a Japanese Yokosuka H5Y (Cherry) flying boat in the process. Helm reported that it wasn’t necessary to destroy the installations left behind on the islands as the Japanese had already done so.

USS Helm (DD-388) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 26 February 1942, just two weeks after her solo rescue mission to the Pheonix Islands. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. #19-N-28728

Helm then went further West, escorting convoys to the New Hebrides and New Caledonia.

USS Helm (DD-388) at Noumea, New Caledonia, on 6 April 1942. Photographed by USS Tangier (AV-8). 80-G-266840

She rescued 13 survivors from the cargo ship SS John Adams (7,100 tons) on 9 May, adrift after the Liberty ship was sunk by I-21. Helm then picked up four men from the fleet oiler USS Neosho (AO-23), sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea on 17 May. These men were taken to Brisbane, Australia, where Helm joined British Rear Admiral Crutchley’s Task Force 44 on 19 May.

Survivors from SS John Adams, sunk by a Japanese submarine about 125 miles southwest of Noumea, New Caledonia, on May 5, 1942. Rescue made by USS Helm (DD 388). Photographed May 9, 1942. 80-G-32126

She transitioned to the horrific naval fighting off Guadalcanal and participated in the Tulagi operation, shielding the landing on Blue Beach, and firing 103 5-inch shells at Hill 281 during naval gunfire support.

Ships maneuvering during the Japanese torpedo plane attack on the Tulagi invasion force, 8 August 1942. Several Japanese Navy Type 1 land attack planes (Betty) are faintly visible at left, center, and right, among the anti-aircraft shell bursts. The destroyer in the foreground appears to be USS Bagley (DD-386) or USS Helm (DD-388). A New Orleans class heavy cruiser is in the left distance, with a large splash beside it. The column of smoke in the left-center is probably from a crashed plane. NH 97751

During the nightmare that was the Battle of Salvo Island, Helm stood by the wrecked cruiser USS Astoria, and brought 175 survivors from USS Vincennes and USS Quincy to transports off Guadalcanal and withdrew with the remainder of the force to Noumea on 13 August.

On 29 November 1943, along with sistership Ralph Talbot and two Australian destroyers, she bombarded the Japanese positions during a night raid on Gasmata, New Britain, ripping off 403 5-inch shells. The next month she supported the landings by the 1st Marine Division on Borhen Bay.

On the night of 9 July 1944, with the cruiser USS Oakland, she fired 225 rounds of 5-inch on Japanese positions on occupied Guam.

September saw her extremely active off Iwo Jima, alternating hitting shore targets with NGF with neutralizing enemy shipping, sinking a small Maru on the morning of 2 September with 95 rounds then bagging another that afternoon with a further 78 rounds.

Helm engaged a suspected Japanese submarine on 28 October while screening RADM Davison’s carrier Task Group 38.4 in the Leyte Gulf, resulting in a “B” assessment. It is likely that Helm, with USS Gridley in support, sent the Emperor’s Type B3 submarine I-54 to the bottom, presumed lost with all 107 hands. Others think it may have been I-46, also reported missing in the same place and time. 

Helm was credited with shooting down a Japanese Oscar on 5 January 1945 while off Manila and six men were wounded when the doomed aircraft slammed into the searchlight platform.

Kamikaze attack on USS Helm (DD 388). The plane was shot down and crashed into the sea. Portside of the ship, off Luzon, Philippines, approximately 17:15. Photograph by USS Wake Island, released January 5, 1945. 80-G-273082

A Japanese plane makes a suicide attack on a Bagley class destroyer, west of the Philippines on 5 January 1945. The ship is probably USS Helm (DD-388), which was slightly damaged by a Kamikaze on that date. Note anti-aircraft shell bursts in the vicinity. Photographed by USS Steamer Bay (CVE-87). 80-G-273114

By the end of the war, Helm counted an impressive 11 battle stars for Pearl Harbor, Tulagi, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Bismarck, Marianas, Carolines, Iwo Jima, Leyte, Luzon, and Okinawa.

She returned to the United States on 19 November 1945, then sailed back to Pearl Harbor where she decommissioned on 26 June 1946.

The destroyer was used that summer as a target ship during the Crossroads atomic tests in the Pacific along with sisterships Mugford and Ralph Talbot. While the latter two were radioactive after the tests and scuttled in deep water off Kwajalein, Helm was clean enough to allow her hulk was sold to Moore Dry Dock Co., Oakland, Calif., in October 1947 for scrapping.

Epilogue

Most of Helm’s war diaries and reports, along with her 12-page war history are digitized in the National Archives. 

Of her sisters, Jarvis, Blue, and Henley were lost in combat while the rest of the class was either expended in post-war tests or scrapped by 1948, no longer needed.

Few pieces of Helm remain, with her commissioning plaque on display at Hampton Roads Naval Museum. 

While Hirono’s Zero may have largely vanished, there is still a larger trophy of Helm’s Pearl Harbor experience around. HA-19 is today on display at The National Museum of the Pacific War.

The HA-19, also known as Japanese Midget Submarine “C” by the US Navy, a historic Imperial Japanese Navy Type A Ko-hyoteki-class midget submarine displayed at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas

A tribute plaque to Helm is located near HA.19 at the National Museum of the Pacific War.

Specs:

Camouflage Measure 32, Design 1D. Drawing prepared circa 1944 by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for destroyers of the DD-380 (Gridley) class. Ships known to have worn this pattern included USS Bagley (DD-386), USS Helm (DD-388), USS Mugford (DD-389), and USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390). 80-G-150620/21

Displacement “1,500 tons” 2,245 tons (full)
Length: 341′ 4″ (oa)
Beam: 35′ 6″
Draft: 12′ 10″ (Max)
Machinery: 49,000 SHP; 2 sets General Electric geared steam turbines, 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 2 screws
Speed: 38.5 Knots
Range: 6500 NM@ 12 Knots on 337 tons of fuel oil
Crew: 158.
Sonar: QCA fitted 1942
Radar: SC, SG, Mk 12.22 added after 1945
Armament:
(1937)
4 x 5″/38AA DP Mk 12
4 x .50 cal water-cooled MG
16 x 21-inch torpedo tubes (4×4)
2 x Stern depth charge racks (20 dcs)
(1945)
4 x 5″/38AA DP
2 x 2 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 Bofors
6 x 20mm/70 Mk 4 Oerlikons
16 x 21-inch torpedo tubes (4×4)
4 x K-gun style depth charge throwers (44 dcs)


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

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

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Warship Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021: The Great White Fleet’s Beautiful Accidental Groupie

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Dec. 1, 2021: The Great White Fleet’s Beautiful Accidental Groupie

Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034742

Here we see the Chilean Naval corbeta (corvette) General Baquedano departing Sydney, Australia in late July 1931. A throwback to another era, this steel-hulled single-screw steamer would have a career that spanned over a half-century.

The Chilean Navy in the 1890s found themselves in need of a new buque escuela, or school ship. The role up until then had been shared by the old 2,100-ton corvette Abtao and the battered 600-ton gunboat Pilcomayo, the first the British-built steamer CSS Texas which had never been delivered to the Confederacy and the second built for Peru in Blackwall then captured as a prize after a lopsided naval battle with the Chileans in 1879. Abato, by far, was in the better material condition but was still so worn that an 1884 tender for her sale was not awarded because the offers were so low, forcing the Chileans to keep her in service.

The new training corvette was be ordered in early 1897 as Yard # 675 from the Tyne shipbuilder of Armstrong, Whitworth & Co, Elswick where the first-class armored cruiser O’Higgins was also being built for the government of Chile at the time.

As Baquedano’s career would take her into Antarctic waters occasionally, her hull was made of steel, sheathed in copper, and lined with wood 3.5-inches thick up to three feet above the waterline. Some 240-feet overall, she displaced 2,300-tons. Her armament was Armstrong-made, consisting of four modern breechloading 4.7-inch QFs, assorted 12- and 6-pounders, two water-cooled Maxim machine guns, and a single above-deck torpedo tube for 18-inch Whitehead models, making her a decent little gunboat.

Baquedano with her original black hull as commissioned, is likely seen during speed trials. Via Tyne & Wear Museums

Rigged as a barque, she used Belleville boilers and had a capacity of 300 tons of coal and open stokeholds. Her twin six-crank T3cyl (30, 50 & 81.5 x 48ins) engines were constructed by R & W Hawthorn Leslie, Newcastle, and turned a single centerline screw, with a designed speed of 12 knots. From the below May 1900 edition of The Engineers Gazette, which has much more detail on her powerplant, the Chilean warship would clock 13.75 knots across six hours on her full power builder’s speed trials. Not bad for a barque.

The new corvette was named for the commander of the Chilean forces during the 1879-84 War of the Pacific, Manuel Jesús Baquedano González. Having learned his trade in the circa 1838 War of the Confederacy, the old general spent almost 50 years in uniform and is credited with reorganizing the Chilean military and promoting the formation of both the War Academy and the General Staff, institutions that survive today.

Baquedano and his warhorse Diamante (c. 1881), and in full uniform (c. 1881).

The strongman, who repeatedly turned down roles as Presidente, died in 1897 at age 74.

Career

General Baquedano (Chilean training ship, 1898) burning the dirtiest coal known to man, apparently. NH 49892

Delivered to the Government of Chile in the presence of the country’s charge d’affaires, Aurelio Bascuñán, on 22 August 1899, the new vessel arrived “home” in March 1900 under the command of Captain Ricardo Beaugency.

She left on her first Midshipman and Grumete (cabin boy) cruise just five weeks later, bound for points West Pac via Easter Island, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Honolulu, cycling the Pacific Rim to make calls at Yokohama, Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia, and Sydney, returning to Valparaíso 10 months later in February 1901.

Baquedano would continue such long-reaching annual cruises into 1935– other than gaps from 1911 to 1917 due to economic reasons and the Great War and another during a 1922-26 refit– visiting over 100 ports on six continents.

Her 1903-1905 circumnavigation, for reference.

Baquedano in Chinese waters, 1904. She notably observed several aspects of the Russo-Japanese war firsthand. Repositorio Digital del Archivo y Biblioteca Histórica de la Armada

On her 1906-07 cruise, a delegation was received by Queen Alexandra at Portsmouth, hosted King of Spain Alfonso XIII and his wife Queen Victoria while calling at San Sebastián, circled the Med, and attended the Jamestown Exposition in Portsmouth.

“General Bocordona” one of a set of commemorative Jamestown Exposition souvenir postcards.

Notably, the armada of modern American battleships assembled in Hampton Roads for the exposition became Teddy Roosevelt’s famed Great White Fleet under RADM Robley Dunglison Evans, which toured the globe as evidence of the young nation’s international military might.

In 1908, Baquedano had the curious instance of running into the GWF “on the road” at least two more times, some 8,000 miles apart.

In mid-February, she embarked Chilean President Pedro Montt to review the visiting American warships in Valparaiso, with her Mids aloft and all her glad rags flying.

General Baquedano (Chilean Training Ship, 1899) manning her yards while moored at Valparaiso, Chile, in mid-February 1908, when the U.S. Great White Fleet steamed past the city. General Baquedano is dressed in flags and has Chilean President Pedro Montt embarked. The Chilean destroyer Capitan Thompson is astern. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 45327

General Baquedano (Chilean Training Ship, 1899) at Valparaiso, Chile, with Chilean President Pedro Montt on board, during the U.S. in mid-February 1908, when the U.S. Great White Fleet steamed past the city. General Baquedano is dressed in flags and her crew is manning her yards in honor of the occasion. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold. NH 101484

Then, on 11 September 1908 at the small Western Australian port of Albany, she stood near the British Edgar-class cruiser HMS Gibraltar and the Princess Royal Fortress as USS Connecticut (Battleship No. 18), flagship of GWF commander RADM Charles S. Sperry, along with 14 other Yankee battleships dropped anchor at the outer anchorage of King George Sound. While Gibraltar was there on station, Baquedano under Captain Agustín Fontaine Calvo, had only arrived two days before to take on coal at the end of a six-month Pacific cruise.

“Great White Fleet” World Cruise. Six Atlantic Fleet battleships at Albany, Western Australia for coaling, circa mid-September 1908. The three ships with black hulls (one of which is directly alongside a battleship) are probably colliers. The white-hulled ship at the right is USS Glacier (Storeship, 1898-1922). Also present is a grey British cruiser, probably HMS Gibraltar. Baquedano is likely off-camera to the right with the other half of the GWF or had just left. Collection of Lieutenant Commander Richard Wainwright, 1928. NH 41678

After dutifully exchanging salutes and sending around the appropriate visiting teams for a couple of days, Baquedano would shove off for Talcahuano, arriving back in Chile on Christmas Eve 1908. Meanwhile, the GWF was bound for the East across the Indian Ocean, arriving at Suez, Egypt at roughly the same time. Of note, Teddy’s fleet traveled some 14,556 nautical miles around the world, making the fact that Baquedano met them both at the beginning and rough halfway point, some six months apart, remarkably interesting.

War!

Baquedano listed as a well-armed “surveying ship” in the 1914 Jane’s

During the Great War, the pro-German Chilean government showed a bit of favoritism to Von Spee’s German Pacific Squadron, allowing his ships to take on coal, use their wireless in territorial waters, and often overstay their 24-hour limits without being interned alongside a raft of German merchant vessels who were allowed to sit out the conflict at Valparaiso.

Valparaiso, Chile. November 1914. The German Navy Pacific Squadron at anchor in the harbor. Via Deutsche Reichsarchiv and AWM.

November 4, 1914. Valparaiso, Chile. The flagship of the German East Asia Squadron, armored cruiser Scharnhorst 3 days after the Battle of Coronel.

To be sure, though, the country also allowed the British and their allies to do much the same in the interest of neutrality.

Valparaiso, Chile, 26-27 December 1914. “German merchant ships interned in the Chilean port, as seen from the foredeck of HMAS Australia. This German colony was a base for naval staff and the supply of coal to German vessels. After searching in vain for enemy vessels on its way across the Pacific, the Australian flagship was taking the long route to Jamaica around South America, due to the closure of the Panama Canal to heavy traffic.” AWM EN0076

The Battle of Coronel was fought just off Chile’s coast and, after Von Spee was sent to the bottom of the South Atlantic in the Battle of the Falklands, the sole survivor of his squadron, the exhausted German cruiser SMS Dresden, took refuge in Chilean waters at Más a Tierra– where it was destroyed on 14 March 1915 as a Chilean gunboat stood by and protested via signal flags. 

The Chileans interned 315 survivors of Dresden’s crew, although some to include future Abwehr spymaster Wilhelm Canaris released themselves on their own recognizance and made it back to Germany during the conflict.

Corbeta general Baquedano, de la Armada de Chile, circa 1915. Via Chile al día. Tomo I.

Banquedano’s role in the war was limited, serving as a guardship for the interned German merchantmen and her sidelined crew aiding with a bit of muscle ashore as needed.

Late in the war, after the U.S. entered the conflict and, with traditional enemies Bolivia and Peru trying to curry favor with Washington, Chile seized the inactive German-owned nitrate plants in the country and began shipping caliche from the Atacama Desert to the allies.

In 1918, with the war confined at that point to Europe and the Middle East, Baquedano, under the command of Capitán de fragata Manuel Montalva Barrientos set off on her first training cruise since 1910. After visiting Honolulu, Yokohama, Kobe, Itsukushima, Moji, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia, Melbourne, and Wellington, she returned to the port of Valparaíso after the Armistice. Importantly, she inspected Easter Island at least twice during this cruise, an island made important again during the war as the seized French trading schooner Lutece, captured at Mopelia Island by five shipwrecked crew members of the reefed German commerce raider Seeadler, had arrived there in October 1917 and been interned by the local Chilean authorities.

Interwar

Between December 1922 and March 1926, with her unique engines giving up the ghost, Baquedano was overhauled and received a new engineering suite as part of an extensive rebuild. Her armament was also modified, landing her elderly torpedo tube and some of her smaller mounts. 

Corbeta Baquedano Buque-escuela fondeado en el puerto de Antofagasta.

Her 10-month 1927 midshipman cruise spanned the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Her 1928-29 cruise went even further, visiting throughout the Med and Baltic Seas before calling at Philadelphia and New York on the way back home.

Training ship, corvette General Baquedano crossing the Kiel canal, Germany, during her 1928-1929 instructional voyage. Note she now has an enclosed deckhouse. In this cruise, the frigate captain Julio Pinto Allard commanded the vessel. Repositorio Digital del Archivo y Biblioteca Histórica de la Armada

Her 1929-30 cruise swapped back to the Pacific, traveling as far up the coast as San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver.

Chilean training ship [at C.P.R. pier] [General Baquedano], 1929. Vancouver City Archives. AM1535-: CVA 99-2388

Taking on coal, 1929. Photo by Walter Frost. Vancouver City Archives. AM1506-S3-2-: CVA 447-2233.1

Her 1931 West Pac cruise was extensively cataloged when she called at Sydney’s East Circular Quay on 16 July 1931 and spent two weeks in the city. The visit apparently attracted a lot of local interest, and the daily activities of the Chileans were reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. This included playing a soccer match against members of the cruiser HMAS Canberra, presenting a wreath at the Martin Place Cenotaph— which had just been completed in 1926– and the crew displaying their rigging skills while aloft and open to receive visitors from the curious public.

Procession of Chilean sailors alongside their ship Corbeta general Baquedano, at East Circular Quay, 24 July 1931. The wreath is likely the one presented at the Martin Place cenotaph. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034748

Working with a hardhat diver over the side and a manual compressor. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034747

Cadets aloft showing off their skills. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034750.

The epic young bluejacket pose. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00035047

Visitors of the best type when dockside in Sydney. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00034744

The time in Australia was among her last great overseas cruises, sticking closer to home for a few years save for trips to Easter Island. Even this ended after 1935 when it was decided the almost 40-year-old sailing ship would be of better use as a pierside trainer for the Arturo Prat Naval School and the Alejandro Navarrete Cisterna School of Grumetes. Her sailing was limited to day runs and coastal trips, almost always under power rather than sail.

WWII

Jane’s entry, 1946.

Chile, as in the Great War, was pro-German in 1939 and maintained Berlin-tilted neutrality for the first part of the conflict. The Chilean Navy in 1941 took over the interned F. Laeisz Hamburg’s four-masted steel-hulled barque Priwall, largely with a crew drawn from Baquedano and her service academies, and sailed her as the nitrate-carrying training ship Lautaro until the latter was lost by accidental fire at sea in 1945. By that stage of the war, Chile had cast her lot with the Allies, her Navy contributing to the defense of the Pacific end of the Panama Canal and patrolling from Easter Island.

By 1951, it was decided to replace the old corvette with a surplus and ideal schooner brig that was languishing on the builder’s ways in cash-strapped post-war Europe. Ordered originally for the Spanish Navy from Echevarria and Larrinaga shipyards of Cádiz in 1946 as Juan de Austria but never completed, the 3,750-ton school ship was baptized Esmeralda, delivered in June 1954, and arrived in Valparaíso on 1 September of that year.

Esmeralda (BE-43) was built in Spain and acquired by Chile in 1952. She made her first instructional cruise in 1955. Known as the La Dama Blanca (The White Lady), she is in active service today, although much less well-armed than Baquedano, carrying only saluting cannons and a small arms locker. Original photograph via the Armada de Chile.

With a new tall ship picking up the torch, Baquedano was decommissioned 5 June 1954– the same week Esmeralda was delivered– and sold for scrapping to the Pacific Steel Company in 1959.

Epilogue

Baquedano is remembered in period artwork, primarily postcards.

Chilean novelist and short fiction writer Francisco Coloane Cárdenas, part of Chile’s famed Generación del 38 art movement, although a Communist later in life, was born the son of a whaler skipper and served in the Chilean Navy as a quartermaster in the late 1920s and 30s. This included a stint on our subject school ship in 1933 that served as inspiration for his coming of age novel El último grumete de la Baquedano (The Last Cabin Boy of Baquedano).

Published in 1941, El último grumete de la Baquedano is considered a national treasure in Chile and is part of the compulsory reading list maintained by the country’s Ministry of Education.

In continuous publication for 80 years, the sailing novel was made into a movie of the same name in 1983, filmed aboard Esmeralda.

Three units of the Chilean Navy have been christened with Baquedano’s name besides our training corvette to include a brown water gunboat for the Amazon, a River-class frigate, formerly HMCS Glace Bay (K414), which served in the 1950s and 60s; and a Broad Beam Leander-class frigate, formerly HMS Ariadne (F72), which was active in the 1990s.

Baquedano’s name will surely sail again.

Specs:
Displacement: 2500 t
Length 240 ft
Draft 18 ft
Engines: 2 x T3cyl (30, 50 & 81.5 x 48ins) 1500ihp, 1 x Screw, (refitted in 1920s)
Speed: 12 knots practical, 13.75 on trials; also rigged as a Barque
Crew: 333 men, with 2/3rds of those cadets and boys
Armament: (As built)
4 x 4.7-inch QF
2 x 12pdr (3-inch)
2 x 6 pdr (57mm) guns
2 x machine guns
1 x 18-inch torpedo tube


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

They are 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 am a member, so should you be!

The Mighty B Comes Home for a Visit

Official caption: “The Almirante Didiez Burgos (PA-301), a Dominican Republic navy’s Cutter, sails into Museum Park Marina in Miami, Florida, Nov. 10, 2021. The Dominican Republic’s navy visited Miami to enable the next generation of Dominican commissioned officers to learn about U.S. Coast Guard.”

Not too shabby for being 78 years in service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Estrada)

If you are a fan of WWII USCG vessels, Burgos is immediately recognizable as a 180-foot seagoing buoy tender of the Balsam/Mesquite-class.

We’ve covered them before in past Warship Wednesdays and they gave lots of service during not only the war but well into the 1990s. 

Built as USCGC Buttonwood (WAGL-306/WLB-306) in Duluth, Minnesota on the Great Lakes, she commissioned 24 September 1943– heading almost immediately for the Pacific.

USCGC Buttonwood tied up after her commissioning- 27 September 1943. Her wartime armament included a 3″/50, two Oerlikons, depth charge tracks, two Mousetraps, four Y-guns, an SL-2 radar, and WEA-2 sonar. Not bad for a 900-ton auxiliary that had a top speed of 13 knots. USCG Historian’s Office photo

She arrived at Guadalcanal in May 1944 and alternated her aids-to-navigation duty with salvage and survey work, often under fire as she moved forward with the fleet. “Mighty B” endured a reported 269 attacks by Japanese aircraft, including 11 air raids in one day, being credited with downing two enemy aircraft with her AAA guns.

On Christmas 1944, she went to the assistance of the burning Dutch troopship Sommeisdijk, which had been hit by a Japanese torpedo, and rescued 182 men.

M.V. SOMMELSDIJK. Built for the Holland America Line and used as a Troopship, the SOMMELSDIJK is shown arriving at San Francisco, California, about 1943. After the war, she returned to commercial service for the line until her scrapping in 1965. Description: Catalog #: NH 89834

Other than her WWII service, Buttonwood had a very active Cold War– providing aids to navigation for military tests sites throughout the Pacific– and the War on Drugs.

USCGC Buttonwood underway in 1960. Note she still has her 3″/50 over the stern but now has a black hull, a common feature of ATON ships in USCG service even today. USCG Historian’s Office photo

For instance, during Korea:

At the outbreak of the Korean War, Buttonwood was re-equipped with sonar gear, guns, and depth charges. Though she was never directly involved with combat, Buttonwood was prepared and trained with the Navy by participating in “war games”. These games often seemed like “cat and mouse” where Buttonwood was tracked by Navy submarines and she, in turn, tried to detect the submarines with sonar equipment. The K-guns and depth charges were subsequently removed in the mid-1950s.

Buttonwood served with the Coast Guard until 2001, and was extensively surveyed for posterity before she was turned over to the Dominicans, who seem to have taken good care of her over the past two decades.

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