Tag Archives: Tribal class destroyer

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022: Bats, Retiring from the Line

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, Sept. 28, 2022: Bats, Retiring from the Line

Commonwealth of Australia/Royal Australian Navy image.

Above we see the Tribal (Arunta)-class destroyer HMAS Bataan (I91) of the Royal Australian Navy conducting a replenishment at sea in 1951 while dressed in her distinctive “Chicago Blue” scheme. A witness to the Japanese surrender in 1945, “Bats’” Korean War service was extensive, and she set out for home from her second stint off the coast of that peninsula some 70 years ago this week– only to be rewarded with early retirement.

Background on the Tribals

The Tribals were a new type of destroyer designed for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s to experience gained in the Great War and to match the large, modern escorts on the drawing boards of contemporary naval rivals of the time.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Huron (G24), in dazzle camouflage, sailing out to sea during the Second World War during one of her countless trans-Atlantic escorting runs. The Tribal-class destroyer, commissioned on July 28,1943, also served in the Pacific theatre during the Korean War under the new pennant number 216.

These 378-foot vessels could make 36+ knots on a pair of geared steam turbines and a trio of Admiralty three-drum boilers while an impressive battery of up to eight 4.7″/45 (12 cm) QF Mark XII guns in four twin CPXIX mountings gave them the same firepower as early WWI light cruisers (though typically just three turrets were mounted).

Gun crew on Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin cleaning up their 4.7″/45 (12 cm) Mark XII guns after firing at the Normandy Beaches on 7 June 1944. Note that the crewman kneeling in the rear is holding a 4.7″ (12 cm) projectile. Library and Archives Canada Photograph MIKAN no. 3223884

Some 32 Tribals were planned in eight-ship flights: 16 for the RN (named after tribal warriors: HMS Eskimo, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, et. al), eight for the Royal Australian Navy, and eight for the Canadians. Of the Canadian ships, four were to be built by Vickers in the UK and the other four by Halifax shipyards in Nova Scotia. All the Canadian ships were to be named after First Nations tribes (Iroquois, Athabaskan, Huron, Haida, Micmac, Nootka, Cayuga, etc.)

An unidentified Tribal class destroyer in profile

We have discussed the very successful class in prior Warship Wednesdays (e.g., HMS Cossack and HMCS Haida) but relax, they are great ships with amazing histories.

Of the eight Tribals planned for Australia, only three– HMAS Arunta, HMAS Warramunga, and Bataan— were ever completed. All constructed at the Cockatoo (Island) Docks and Engineering Company near Sydney, Arunta and Warramunga joined the war in 1942 while Bataan would follow three years later, and the five others ultimately canceled.

HMAS Bataan was laid down on 18 February 1942 as the last Australian Tribal-class destroyer and was originally going to be named either HMAS Chingilli or HMAS Kurnai, but was renamed in response to the U.S. Navy’s christening in 1943 of the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Canberra (CA-70) in honor of the sunken County-class heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, the latter lost to the Japanese alongside two American cruisers in the disaster at Savo Island the year prior. As such, she was the only Tribal not to be named after a people or nation of the British Empire (RAN Tribals were named for Aboriginal tribes.)

Mrs. Jean Marie MacArthur, the wife of General Douglas MacArthur, was invited to launch her.

Since she was completed three years after Arunta and Warramunga, Bataan was an updated version of her older sisters including a lattice foremast with an American SC pattern radar, and six single 40mm Bofors as close-range armament.

WWII

Following shakedown, Bataan put on a British destroyer pennant and sailed for the Philippines in July 1945 to join Task Force 74 in Subic Bay, then in company with sister Warramunga, made for Okinawa and the Japanese Home Islands with an eye to the sky, wary of kamikaze.

The Royal Australian Navy destroyer HMAS Bataan (I91) anchored off Manila, Philippines, circn August 1945. She wears the British Pacific Fleet pennant number “D09”. Note her American SC radar fit on the foremast, different from most RN Tribals of the time which usually carried a British Type 268 Cheese antenna” set. Photo by Pte. M.V. Gulliver, AWM 134521.

On the morning of 31 August 1945, Bataan and Warramunga were part of the British Pacific Fleet ships that entered Tokyo Bay, screening the cruisers HMS Newfoundland, HMNZS Gambia, HMAS Shropshire, and HMAS Hobart. At 0930 on 2 September, they stood by for the formal surrender ceremony that took place on the battleship USS Missouri, which MacArthur, among others, attended.

Bataan soon got into the business of coming to the rescue of Allied POWs liberated post VJ-Day in addition to occupation and disarmament duties which kept her in Japanese waters until November. Then came a much less tense cruise home.

Crossing the line ceremony, 1945, via the AWM.

Korea

Returning to Japan on occupation duties in September 1946, Bataan would spend 17 months there in four different tours through 1949 and then would return in June 1950 for her fifth post-war cruise to the rebuilding country. As the North Korean Army crossed the 38th Parallel into South Korea on 25 June, Australia, under UN mandate, was soon in another war.

On 29 June 1950, Bataan, along with the River-class frigate HMAS Shoalhaven (K535) and the cruiser HMS Belfast as Task Group 96.8, was placed at the disposal of the British Far East Fleet commanded by RADM William Andrewes. The ships, joined by the RAAF’s No.77 Squadron– a P-51 Mustang squadron based in Japan– were Australia’s first contribution to the conflict.

Following duty escorting troop convoys from Japan to Korea, Bataan was carved off from the British fleet and joined TG 96.5 for the Pohang amphibious operation, screening the cruiser USS Juneau (CL-119), and clocking in with three American tin cans (Coller, Higbee, and Kyes) for NGFS.

On 1 August, Admiral Andrewes took Belfast and Bataan into the Haeju Man approaches to bombard the shore batteries guarding this potential source of enemy seaborne supply.

HMAS Bataan’s 4.7s in action

She would continue to lend her guns to the fight, supporting mine sweeping and counter-battery fire in the Kunsan approaches in September and covering the amphibious landings at Wonsan in October.

By the end of the year, she was operating in the freezing seas just 12 miles from the entrance of the Yalu under arctic conditions.

British Commonwealth destroyers moored off Yokosuka, Japan, after returning from combat patrols in Korean WatersThe phototo is dated 26 January 1951. The ships are (from left to right): HMAS Warramunga HMAS Charity, and HMAS Bataan. NH 90625

Supporting the fighting withdrawal from the Yalu after the New Year, operating in direct support of the U.S. 8th Army, her first Korean war tour ended on 18 May. During her 11-month deployment, Bataan was underway for more than 4,000 hours on active operations and steamed some 63,292 miles.

Following a seven-month refit and shakedown, Bataan deployed from Sydney in January 1952 for a second Korean tour, relieving HMAS Murchison at Kure the next month.

As noted by the RAN:

It was the familiar pattern on the west coast of Korea, blockade enforcement, shore bombardment and escort duty. The weather, true to the forebodings of old hands in the ship, was bleak and squally with temperatures down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit. On the night of her arrival Bataan was allocated a patrol between Sokto and Chodo, three miles from the enemy held mainland, for harassing fire support.

The patrolling was constant and enemy forces active. On 13 February the destroyer carried out her first air spot bombardment using spotters from HMS Glory to shell enemy troops encamped outside the village of Pungchon. Later the same day as dusk was falling a brief duel began between the ship and 75mm shore batteries, ending with silence from the enemy and a single hit on the captain’s day cabin after 78 rounds of 4.7-inch ammunition had started two fires on the battery positions. The patrol ended on 24 February with a heavy bombardment of enemy positions on the mainland opposite Hodo Island. 543 rounds of 4.7-inch and 75 rounds of 4-inch ammunition had been expended when the ship finally withdrew en route for Sasebo.

Curiously, the U.S. Navy was operating USS Bataan (CVL-29) off Korea while our HMAS Bataan was in the region.

USS Bataan (CVL-29), shown here underway in January 1952 with “Black Sheep” F4U-4B Corsair fighter-bombers of VMF-314 on board, was planned as the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Buffalo (CL-99), she was one of the Clevelands chosen for conversion into Independence-class light carriers and was therefore renamed from her traditional cruiser “city” moniker in honor of the Battle of Bataan. Commissioned on 17 November 1943, the flattop earned six battle stars for WWII and another seven for Korea. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-633888

And, in true naval history fashion, the two even worked together at least twice, in January 1951 and again in March-April 1952.

HMAS Bataan (I91) escorting USS Bataan (CVL-29) off the coast of Korea, April 17th, 1951. NHHC image.

In May 1952, Bataan served as a mothership for inshore daylight guerrilla raids by Wolfpack and Donkey partisan groups while firing 400 4.7-inch shells in close support, bombarding the enemy on eight occasions, leaving her skipper to note that the month was “never a dull moment.” Then came an extended period operating on the screen of the British carrier HMS Ocean.

Korea. Elevated port side view showing detail of the forward part of the destroyer HMAS Bataan (ex-HMAS Kurnai) (D191) as she receives personnel by highline from the aircraft carrier HMS ocean. Note forward twin 4.7-inch Mk XII guns in cp xix mountings, with the breeches of B mounting prominent and the 40 mm Bofors aa gun in the port bridge wing. Behind the bridge are the director control tower and rangefinder tower MK II with a Type 285 fire control radar mounted upon the latter. Note rope stowage in the blast screen forward of B mounting and Carley floats by the forward superstructure with paddles neatly arrayed. The screening destroyer in the background is HMS Consort. (Naval Historical Collection) AWM.

August saw her flirting with Typhoon Karen as she prepared to end her 2nd Korean deployment. On the books were 40,277 steaming miles fothese nine monthsod and arrived back at Sydney on 3 October. In all, she fired 3,462 rounds of 4.7-inch, 549 rounds of 4-inch, 8,891 rounds of 40mm, and 3,240 rounds of 2-pounder pom-pom ammunition in anger in 1950-52. This was only bettered in the war by her sister ship Warramunga.

Operating off the Korean coast, members of HMAS Bataan, load a 4.7 gun for firingin , August 1952. Note the soup bowl helmets but lack of flash gear. Pictured, left to right; Able Seaman A. P. ‘Jock’ Harley, Leading Seaman R. J. ‘Bob’ McArthur, Leading Seaman Hugh M. Currie (rear), and Able Seaman N. B. Cregan. AWM HOBJ3429.

Combat artist Frank Norton was aboard her in Korea and several of his works in which Bataan is at the center are in the AWM collection. On 7 August 1952, Norton was transferred at sea to HMAS Bataan (via helicopter from Ocean to HMS Newcastle than at sea to the destroyer by jackstay) to ride out the rest of the tin can’s last Korean patrol, including Typhoon Karen.

View from the deck of destroyer HMAS Bataan towards unidentified ships at anchor, small craft transferring men to USS Strong (DD-758), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer of Task Force (TF) 77. Strong deployed to Korea from June to October 1952 and served with the United Nations Blockade and Escort Group on the west coast and was at Pusan, Songjin, and Wonsan.

Norton depicts part of RAN destroyer HMAS Bataan, with motor and sail junks manned by members of the Wolfpack irregular forces alongside. The RAN destroyer HMAS Bataan is not to be confused with the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Bataan.

A view of typhoon ‘Karen’ from the deck of the Royal Australian Navy destroyer HMAS Bataan on the high seas, with unidentified ships on the horizon. In a letter to the Director of the Memorial in September 1952, Norton recalled ‘The day after joining “Bataan”, all ships on the coast were forced out to sea by Typhoon “Karen” – and rode out – the backlash of the storm. Norton strove to convey a sense of the Korean coastal landscape and weather during patrols. In his letter, he comments on the unpleasant conditions at sea caused by cramped living quarters and tropical weather.

Final hurrah!

Arriving back home from two lengthy Korean deployments, Bataan was selected for conversion to an anti-submarine escort destroyer in late 1952. This saw the deletion of her WWII anti-air suite, the fit of a Squid anti-submarine mortar, and the replacement of the foremast with a lattice structure. She would sail on exercises with RNZN ships and those of other SEATO members in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, roaming as far as Singapore.

In October 1953, sailing in conjunction with the carrier HMS Vengeance, Bataan would suffer an “intense cyclonic depression” that damaged the destroyer.

Patched up but with a wonky bow, six months later she would be part of the Royal escort for Queen Elizabeth II’s state visit to Australia.

HMS Ceylon escorts the Royal yacht SS Gothic along with HMAS Bataan (I91), HMAS Anzac (D59), and HMS Vengeance (R71), in April 1954.

Vengeance made the occasion unique.

As noted by the RAN, “On seeing the image taken of Vengeance, HM is reported to have commented that it was a most original forgery.'” Photo via the Robert Elliston Glasgow Collection – State Library of Western Australia.

Following that handover of Gothic to the cruisers HM Ships Colombo and Newfoundland in the Indian Ocean, on 5 April, during a replenishment at sea between Vengeance and Bataan off Cocos Island, the destroyer became entangled and cracked up in rough seas against the hull of the much larger carrier.

HMAS BATAAN in a terrifying jam – L.M. Hair, HMAS CERBERUS Museum.

HMAS CERBERUS MUSEUM COLLECTION 156 HMAS BATAAN and VENGEANCE photo L.M. Hair.

As detailed by the Naval Historical Society of Australia:

Former Chief Radio Electrician Bill Robertson, who was on board Bataan at the time, believes the collision was caused by a rogue wave which lifted Bataan’s bow and turned the ship towards Vengeance, when there were less than 10 tons of fuel left to transfer.

“The change in heading couldn’t be controlled by the quartermaster in time to avoid a collision,” he said. “The Venturi effect, so dreaded when two moving vessels are so close together, held Bataan’s port side in contact with Vengeance’s starboard side. “There was an imminent danger Bataan would roll over and be sucked under Vengeance.” Mr. Robertson said, as Bataan slowly slid aft, each time Vengeance rolled to starboard, her AA platforms came down on Bataan’s port superstructure. “Then the port side of the PO’s Mess, the ‘B’ gun deck, and the Bofors platform on the port side of the bridge were all crushed,” he said. “I remember thinking the noise sounded like the damage was going to be expensive.”

According to Mr. Robertson, only the quick thinking of CO Bataan CMDR Glenn Fowle saved the ship. “He ordered, ‘hard a’ port, full ahead together’,” he said. “This forced our bow into Vengeance while kicking the stern out. “When Bataan had pushed itself out to about 45 degrees, the CO ordered full astern together, which separated the ships but didn’t do the bow any favors. “At the time of the action I was on the starboard side of the bridge with a lifejacket in one hand and a roll of toilet paper in the other, somewhat unsure which had priority.”

Her bow banged up even further, Bataan paid off at Sydney on 18 October 1954, having steamed 279,395 miles since commissioning. Placed on the Disposal List, she was soon sold to a Japanese shipbreaker for demolition.

Epilogue

Several relics from the destroyer are in the Australian War Memorial collection including a Hinomaru signed by 55 of her crew in indelible purple ink on the occasion of the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Harbor on 2 September 1945.

The AWM also has her RAN Reports of Proceedings on file as well and the Memorial has digitized them. For reference, the Jan. 1950-Jan. 1952 file for Bataan is 231 pages alone.

Meanwhile, there are several markers to Bataan dedicated around Australia.

In 2021, a 1/72 scale model of Bataan, crafted from brass, copper, and aluminum over two years by one of her WWII vets, was put on display at the entrance to the Sea Power Centre – Australia’s Naval History Section in Canberra. 

Said her 95-year-old maker and former destroyerman, “I’m upset, looking at warships today. They are just steel boxes with a sharp end on them. There’s no shape to them, no flares, they’re not romantic, unlike Bataan,” and I cannot agree more.

As for Bataan’s sisters, both Arunta and Warramunga earned honors for WWII and Korea, then were paid off in the 1960s, experiencing a longer life than that seen by Bats. It is no surprise that these two ships topped 357,273 miles as steamed by Arunta and a half million miles steamed by Warramunga.

When it comes to her expanded Tribal-class family, no less than 12 of the 16 members in British service were lost during WWII and the remaining quartet paid off by 1949. All the Tribals in Canadian service were sold to the breakers by 1969 save for Haida who is the only member preserved as a museum ship, all others turned to razor blades.

Known as “Canada’s most-fightingest ship” Haida (DDE 215) is open to the public in Hamilton, Ontario. Like Bataan, she saw combat in both WWII and Korea, decommissioned in October 1963 after 20 years of hard service. (Parks Canada)

Specs:
Displacement:1,959 long tons (1,990 t) tons standard, 2,519 long tons (2,559 t) deep load
Length: 377 ft (114.9 m)
Beam: 37 ft 6 in (11.4 m)
Draught: 13 ft (4.0 m)
Propulsion:
2 shafts; 3-Admiralty 3 drum type boilers
2 × Parsons Marine geared steam turbines, 44,000 shp
Speed: 36.5 knots (maximum), 32 knots (service)
Complement: 259 (14 officers, 245 ratings)

Armament:

3 x 2 4.7-inch (119 mm)/45 QF Mark XII guns in twin Mark XIX mounts
1 x 2 4-inch (102 mm)/45 Mark XVI QF in twin mount
6 x 40mm Bofors
1 quad launcher with Mk.IX torpedoes (4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes)
1 rail + 2 Mk.IV throwers (Mk.VII depth charges)


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Warship Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021: The Navy’s Here

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, Oct. 27, 2021: The Navy’s Here

Imperial War Museum Photo FL 1657

Here we see the Royal Navy Tribal (Afridi)-class destroyer HMS Cossack (L03, F03 & G03) underway just after her completion in the summer of 1938. Today is the 80th anniversary of the vessel’s loss, but she had the heart of a lion and got in some good licks against the Axis in her short WWII career.

Background on the Tribals

The Afridi‘s were a new type of destroyer designed for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s off experience both in the Great War and to match the large, modern escorts on the drawing boards of contemporary naval rivals of the time.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Huron (G24), in dazzle camouflage, sailing out to sea during the Second World War during one of her countless trans-Atlantic escorting runs. The Tribal-class destroyer, commissioned on July 28,1943, also served in the Pacific theatre during the Korean War under the new pennant number 216.

These 378-foot vessels could make 36+ knots on a pair of geared steam turbines and a trio of Admiralty three-drum boilers while an impressive battery of up to eight 4.7″/45 (12 cm) QF Mark XII guns in four twin CPXIX mountings gave them the same firepower as early WWI light cruisers (though typically just three turrets were mounted).

Gun crew on Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin cleaning up their 4.7″/45 (12 cm) Mark XII guns after firing at the Normandy Beaches on 7 June 1944. Note that the crewman kneeling in the rear is holding a 4.7″ (12 cm) projectile. Library and Archives Canada Photograph MIKAN no. 3223884

Some 32 Afridi‘s were planned in eight-ship flights: 16 for the RN (named after tribal warriors: HMS Eskimo, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, et. al), eight for the Royal Australian Navy, and eight for the Canadians. Of the Canadian ships, four were to be built by Vickers in the UK and the other four by Halifax shipyards in Nova Scotia. All the Canadian ships were to be named after First Nations tribes (Iroquois, Athabaskan, Huron, Haida, Micmac, Nootka, Cayuga, etc.)

An unidentified Tribal class destroyer in profile

Meet Cossack

The subject of our tale, HMS Cossack, was laid down at Vickers- Armstrong 9 March 1936– the week Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland– and commissioned 7 June 1938, some three months after his Anschluss annexation of Austria. She was the sixth RN warship to carry the name, which had been introduced in 1806 when the 6th-Rate sloop Pandour was renamed. As such, she carried two previous Battle Honours forward (“Baltic 1835” and “Dover Patrol 1914-19.” Still, as the Royal Navy had fought the Bolsheviks on several fronts during the Russian Civil War only a generation prior, it was an odd choice of name.

Assigned the pennant L03, she became part of the 1st Tribal Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean where she pitched in on the international patrols during the Spanish Civil War in between Fleet exercises.

In April 1939, the Tribal Flotilla was reflagged as the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, resulting in a change of her pennant to F03.

When WWII broke out, she was with the battleship HMS Warspite at Istanbul and was soon part of convoys escorting French colonial troops from North Africa to Marseilles. By October 1939, she and her flotilla were ordered to the British Isles for Home Fleet duties in the North Sea, primarily enforcing the blockade of Germany to prevent that nation’s huge fleet of merchant ships left at sea around the world from returning home with their precious cargo.

This leads us to…

Troßschiff Altmark

One of the five Dithmarschen-class of 20,000-ton specialized tanker/supply ships built at Kiel for naval service between 1937 and 1939, Altmark could carry 7,933 tons of fuel, 972 tons of munitions, 790 tons of supplies, and 100 tons of spare parts for German surface raiders. The class was also well-armed and considered capable of being auxiliary cruisers, carrying three 150mm L48s as well as a variety of 37mm and 20mm flak guns.

Altmark’s sister ship, USS Conecuh (AOR-110), photographed in 1953-1956. She was originally the German navy replenishment oiler KMS Dithmarschen, built in 1938, and turned over as a war prize in 1946. She was stricken from the Naval Register on 1 June 1960. NARA 80-G-678091

On the outbreak of war, Altmark was at sea in the Atlantic and met with the commerce-raiding “pocket battleship” KMS Graf Spee on 1 September to transfer vital fuel stores. Over the next four months, under the control of her skipper, 66-year-old Capt. Heinrich Dau, she would meet Spee nine times at sea and trade supplies for prisoners that the raider had captured under gentlemanly “cruiser rules,” meeting Spee on 6 December for the final time.

After Spee was scuttled in Uruguay on 17 December after being run to ground by a trio of fearless cruisers, Altmark was left alone at sea with 299 captured Commonwealth merchant seamen aboard. Rather than blow her cover and parole them in a neutral port, the huge tanker somehow eluded the Royal Navy and made it back to Northern Europe, threading the needle to appear in the territorial waters of neutral Norway by mid-February 1940.

As Altmark had ditched her larger guns and changed her topside appearance several times, the mystery ship, passing herself at first as the French tanker Chirqueue, was granted grudging Norwegian permission to pass from Trondheim, where she first arrived. Soon the call went out and, after being directed by RAF Hudsons of 220 Squadron that had spotted the German, the British made a move.

Altmark, hiding out in Norway

On 16 February, Cossack– with a task force consisting of the cruiser HMS Arethusa and the destroyers Intrepid, Sikh, Nubian, and Ivanhoe— intercepted Altmark in an attempt to force her out of Norwegian territorial waters, firing a shot across her bow. However, the tanker instead slipped into a narrow inlet in Jossingfiord, effectively trapped.

Meanwhile, the neutral Norwegians only raised protests but did not actively defend Altmark, although the armed torpedo boats HNoMS Skarv and Kjell were on hand.

Following several hours of negotiations with the Norwegians to (kind of) allow a single ship to inspect Altmark and Cossack, under Capt. Philip Louis Vian, was sent in. Creeping close and according to some reports, getting lost in the fjord at night, Cossack drew close to the German tanker and LCDR B.T. Turner led the 32-man (4 officers and 28 ratings) boarding force aboard, armed with rifles and bayonets and at least one cutlass, purportedly the last combat use of that weapon in Royal Navy history.

Wilkinson, Norman; HMS ‘Cossack’ and the Prison Ship ‘Altmark’, 16 February 1940; National Maritime Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/hms-cossack-and-the-prison-ship-altmark-16-february-1940-176104

Altmark tried to fight back, with Capt. Dau ordering spotlights to blind the Cossack’s bridge and engines astern to ram the oncoming destroyer. In a confused action that saw the boarding party leap across the gap between the two ships, and several Germans killed and wounded (reports vary, with the better ones citing from 8 killed and 5 wounded in exchange for no British losses), the tanker was seized and grounded.

A hatch was opened and a call– attributed to Warrant Officer John James Frederick Smith, who won the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 16 February-– was made; “Are there any Englishmen down there?”

Following a loud response, the prisoners were told; “Then come up. The Navy’s here.”

In all, from empty shell rooms, fuel tanks, and storerooms, some 297 British mariners were found while two merchant captains (Brown and Starr) were located in a double cabin aft. The men had been on a bread and water diet and came from at least seven ships. Elsewhere on the ship, “timebombs” were found set to explode as were two concealed “pom-poms,” three 6-inch guns, and four machine guns, none of which were brought into action.

While Cossack suffered slight damage to her bows in closing with the prison ship and her port propeller cracked, Altmark was hard aground and could not be seized as a prize for return to Britain. Instead, her prisoners were liberated, and the German was left in place.

The next day, the released prisoners were landed at Leith with substantial press coverage, a delightful distraction from the “Phony War” then going on in France.

HMS Cossack returns to Leith on 17 February 1940 after rescuing the British prisoners held in Graf Spees’s supply ship Altmark. IWM

Vain earned a DSO, issued 12th April 1940: 
 
Captain Philip Louis Vian, Royal Navy, H.M.S. Cossack;
 
for outstanding ability, determination and resource in the preliminary dispositions which led to the rescue of 300 English prisoners from the German Armed Auxiliary Altmark, and for daring, leadership and masterly handling of his ship in narrow waters so as to bring her alongside and board the enemy, who tried to blind him with the glare of a searchlight, worked his engine full ahead and full astern, tried to ram him and drive him ashore and so threatened the grounding and loss of Cossack

While the Norwegians lodged toothless official protests with London, the Germans later used the Altmark incident as part of their excuse to invade that Scandinavian neutral, saying the Allies had no intent to recognize said neutrality and the country needed some extra Teutonic protection.

Goebbels also launched an over-the-top propaganda broadside over the “Crime against the Altmark,” painting the British tars of the Cossack as bloodthirsty pirates murdering honest and defenseless German mariners with dum-dum bullets while flouting Norwegian sovereignty, all while leaving out the tanker’s own role as a prison ship for a notorious commerce raider.

The German propaganda booklet surpassed a half-million copies in print.

The rest of Cossack’s War

Sent back to Norway in April to blunt the German invasion of that country, Cossack was damaged at the Second Battle of Narvik, running around and suffering serious damage that required two weeks of local repair under enemy pressure. In that destroyer-on-destroyer clash, she suffered 11 killed and 23 of the ship’s company wounded but got licks in on the KMS Eric Giese (Z12) and KMS Diether von Roeder (Z17).

She received eight direct hits and one near miss from German 5-inch guns, keeping afloat due to skilled damage control.

HMS Cossack damage control lessons learned poster after Narvik

On 5 May, while under repair, her pennant shifted to G03.

Rejoining the 4th Flotilla in June 1940 after more permanent repairs that included installing a Type 286 gunnery radar, she stood by for the expected invasion of Britain following the Fall of France.

Once that threat dissipated, Cossack was sent towards Norway again in October with classmates HMS Ashanti, HMS Sikh, and HMS Maori to harass German maritime traffic and received a shell hole in her while attacking a convoy off Egersund.

On Board the Destroyer HMS Cossack during Torpedo and Anti-submarine Exercises. 1940. Captain Vian (in the center) of Altmark fame, on the bridge during exercises. Note the Lewis gun. Photo by Beadell, S J (Lt). IWM A 1595

Pluto the dog, the mascot of HMS Cossack stood on the lap of one of the ship’s company as a group of them pose during torpedo and anti-submarine exercises Photo by Beadell, S J (Lt). IWM A 1598

A view from the other side of the above

Further operations were more mundane until, in late May, she and the rest of the 4th Flotilla were dispatched to join the urgent “Hunt for the Bismarck,” which had its endgame on the 27th when she, along with HMS Maori and Zulu, carried out close torpedo attacks on the feared German battlewagon.

Painting made in 1942 by artist Walter Zeeden depicting Captain Vian’s destroyer, Cossack, engaged by the Bismarck during the night of 26-27 May 1941. Via KBismarck

Supposedly, in a great sea story, her crew managed to recover a black and white cat found afloat in the Bismarck’s wreckage. Unaware of what the stray name of said Katze had been on Bismarck, the crew of Cossack termed their new mascot “Oscar” after the term for the dummy used in man overboard drills.

Then came coastal convoy protection from German E-boats operating from occupied France and, in October 1941, an assignment with her flotilla sisters to join Operation Substance, the reinforcement of Malta’s embattled garrison.

While just out of Gibraltar as part of convoy HG 075 on 23 October, Cossack was hit by a torpedo from the Type VIIC U-boat U-563 (Oblt. Klaus Bargsten), which was operating with Wolfpack Breslau. With massive flooding and the loss of 158 men, the destroyer was abandoned. However, the battered tin can remained afloat and, reoccupied by a 27-strong salvage crew, she was taken under tow by HM Tug Thames under escort from the corvette Jonquil.

Sadly, the damage proved too much and four days later, still short of Gibraltar, she foundered in rough weather. While her salvage crew was taken off safely, Cossack went to the bottom at 1043 on 27 October in position 35.12N 08.17W.

Her death was avenged in May 1943 when U-563 was sent to the bottom with all hands by RAF and RAAF Halifax and Sutherland aircraft off Spain. 

Epilogue

Cossack is remembered primarily for her role in the Altmark incident, an engagement that has been retold in maritime art several times.

HMS Cossack, by Anthony Cowland.

HMS Cossack comic by Jim Watson. Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant cover, dated 13 August 1977.

Cossack at Narvik April 1940 by Rudenko

She has also been reproduced in model format off and on over the past several decades.

Her skipper during the Altmark incident also survived the war, later rising to become the commander in charge of air operations of the British Pacific Fleet in the final push against Japan, and went on to become Fifth Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Philip Louis Vian GCB, KBE, DSO & Two Bars. Among the foreign decorations held by the “Fighting Admiral” was St. Olav’s Medal With Oak Branch, given to him by the Norwegians after the war to show there were no hard feelings. He died in 1968 on dry land at his home in Berkshire, aged 73.

Sir Philip Louis Vian by Walter Stoneman, bromide print, December 1942. NPG x76877

Speaking of Altmark, she was renamed Uckermark and returned to Kriegsmarine service including supporting Operation Berlin, the early 1941 anti-shipping sortie of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and being assigned twice (unsuccessfully) to back up Graf Spee’s sistership, the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. Sent to the Far East with “Raider H,” the auxiliary cruiser HSK Michel— the last operative German raider of World War II– Altmark/Uckermark ended in a column of smoke in an unexplained explosion in Yokohama in November 1942.

During her Indo-Pacific deployment in November 2021, an honor guard from the German frigate Bayern went ashore at Yokohama to lay a wreath and flag at the memorial for the Uckermark’s lost crew, killed in the 1942 explosion.

Another famed German survivor, the seasick cat Oscar was supposedly rescued when Cossack was initially abandoned off Gibraltar and picked up on a Carley Float with a handful of her crew by the L-class destroyer HMS Legion and all were later transferred to the carrier HMS Ark Royal. Amazingly, Ark Royal was sunk just two weeks later off Malta but Oscar, renamed “Unsinkable Sam,” somehow escaped meeting Davy Jones for the third time and was retired to shoreside service in Gibraltar and, postwar, to the old sailor’s home in Belfast where he reportedly passed in 1955, a German cat with lots of tales to tell, no doubt.

Oscar/Sam’s legend, which is likely more sea yarn than anything else, nonetheless resulted in a portrait that is now hung at Greenwich for the believe it or not crowd.

Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat by Georgina Shaw-Baker National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

Greenwich also sells prints of Cossack’s plans. 

The Royal Navy used Cossack’s name for a sixth time, issuing it to a C-class destroyer (D57) that became leader of the 8th Destroyer Squadron in 1945, fought in close actions in Korea, and was broken up in 1961 after a career in the Far East.

For more details on Cossack, visit the HMS Cossack Association, which has a range of information about the famous ships that have carried the name.

As for our Cossack’s Tribal-class sisters, no less than 12 of the 16 Tribals in British service were lost during WWII and the remaining quartet were all paid off by 1949. All the Tribals in Canadian service were sold to the breakers by 1969. The three Australian ships that were completed (five were canceled) likewise were turned to razor blades.

The only Tribal that remains afloat is HMCS Haida which was preserved and opened as a museum ship in 1965. Please visit her if you get a chance.

Haida (Parks Canada)

Specs


Displacement:
1,891 long tons (1,921 t) (standard)
2,519 long tons (2,559 t) (deep load)
Length: 377 ft (114.9 m) (o/a)
Beam: 36 ft 6 in (11.13 m)
Draught: 11 ft 3 in (3.43 m)
Installed power:
3 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers
44,000 shp (33,000 kW)
Propulsion 2 × shafts; 2 × geared steam turbines
Speed 36 knots
Range 5,700 nmi at 15 knots
Complement: 190
Sensors: (1941) ASDIC, Type 268M radar
Armament:
4 × twin 4.7 in (120 mm) guns
1 × quadruple 2-pdr AA guns
2 × quadruple .50 cal Vickers anti-aircraft machineguns
1 × quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes
20-50 depth charges, 1 × rack, 2 × throwers


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Warship Wednesday, March 7, 2018: The ‘most fightingest ship’ of the Great North

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

Warship Wednesday, March 7, 2018: The ‘most fightingest ship’ of the Great North

Here we see the British-built Tribal (Afridi)-class destroyer Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Haida (G63) of the Royal Canadian Navy, as she appeared during WWII. One of Canada’s most celebrated vessels, this “little tin can that could” has an impressive record and is still around today taking the “Queen’s shilling” so to speak.

The Afridi‘s were a new type of destroyer designed for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s off experience both in the Great War and to match the large, modern escorts on the drawing boards of contemporary naval rivals of the time.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Huron (G24), in dazzle camouflage, sailing out to sea during the Second World War during one of her countless trans-Atlantic escorting runs. The Tribal-class destroyer, commissioned on July 28,1943, also served in the Pacific theatre during the Korean War under the new pennant number 216.

These 378-foot vessels could make 36+ knots on a pair of geared steam turbines and a trio of Admiralty three-drum boilers while an impressive battery of up to eight 4.7″/45 (12 cm) QF Mark XII guns in four twin CPXIX mountings gave them the same firepower as early WWI light cruisers (though typically just three turrets were mounted).

Gun crew on Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Algonquin cleaning up their 4.7″/45 (12 cm) Mark XII guns after firing at the Normandy Beaches on 7 June 1944. Note that the crewman kneeling in the rear is holding a 4.7″ (12 cm) projectile. Library and Archives Canada Photograph MIKAN no. 3223884

Some 32 Afridi‘s were planned in eight-ship flights: 16 for the RN (named after tribal warriors: HMS Cossack, HMS Eskimo, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, et. al), eight for the Royal Australian Navy, and eight for the Canadians. Of the Canadian ships, four were to be built by Vickers in the UK and the other four by Halifax shipyards in Nova Scotia. All the Canadian ships were to be named after First Nations tribes (Iroquois, Athabaskan, Huron, Haida, Micmac, Nootka, Cayuga, etc.)

An unidentified Tribal class destroyer in profile

The subject of our tale, HMCS Haida, was the last of the Canadian Tribals built in the UK, laid down at Vickers 29 September 1941. She commissioned during the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, on 18 September 1943.

HMCS Haida

As noted by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net, Haida immediately began working up with the Home Fleet based at Scapa Flow and just a scant two weeks later was operational, heading on a mission to reinforce the icy Spitzbergen garrison and provide a covering force for Lend-Lease minesweepers headed to the Soviets past heavily defended German-occupied Norway.

Then between Nov. 1943 and Jan 1944, Haida would be part of no less than five dangerous runs through U-boat and Scharnhorst-infested waters between the UK and Kola Pen, shepherding freighters to fuel Uncle Joe’s war machine. Speaking of Scharnhorst, Haida was present just over the horizon at the Battle of North Cape when the mighty German capital ship was sent to the bottom.

Next, she was assigned to escort a raiding force to Norwegian waters consisting of the Free French battleship Richelieu, the battlewagon HMS Anson and several fast cruisers. Once that went off uneventfully, Haida was tasked to Operation Neptune, the Normandy Landings, and transferred to the English Channel.

Filling her time escorting forays into mine and E/S-boat infested coastal waters along the French coast, Haida traded naval gunfire and torpedoes with German shore batteries and torpedo boats, coming away unscathed but leaving the Elbing-class torpedo boat T29 dead in the water in a sharp nighttime action in April 1944. One of her sisters, HMCS Athabaskan, was not so lucky and sank in the same action.

When the D-Day balloon went up, she spent her time on the patrol line between Ile de Bas and Ile de Vierge and, on 9 June, with three of her sisterships, engaged four German T-boats and destroyers. The action left one German sunk, another hard aground, and the final pair limping away to lick their wounds.

On 24 June 1944, Haida racked up a confirmed kill on the German U-971 (ObrLt. Zeplien) off Brest in conjunction with the RN destroyer (and sistership) HMS Eskimo and a B-24 Liberator flown by the Free Czechs (Sqdn. 311). The event, as chronicled by Haida, included nine attacks by the destroyers and ended with a surface action in the English Channel as the stricken sub crashed to the surface and men started to abandon ship.

From Haida‘s report:

It was decided to attack without waiting for ESKIMO to regain contact and pattern “G” had been ordered when at 1921 the submarine surfaced about 800 yards ahead at an inclination of about 100 left. Fire was opened from “B” gun and a hit obtained on the conning tower, with the second salvo. High Explosive was used and penetrated the conning tower, starting a fire, the flames being clearly visible through the hole made. No further hits were obtained with main armament and fire was checked as soon as it was apparent that the enemy did not intend to fight. Close range weapons were used during the same period.

Lost was one German submariner, while Haida and Eskimo picked up 52 survivors (including six were injured, three seriously) and brought them to Falmouth in the predawn hours of 25 June.

U-BOAT KILLER’S MASCOT. 26 JUNE 1944, PLYMOUTH, ON BOARD THE CANADIAN DESTROYER HMCS HAIDA, WHICH WITH HMS ESKIMO DESTROYED A U-BOAT IN THE CHANNEL. (A 24385) Dead-eyed Jock Macgregor who was the first to open fire with his Oerlikon on the U-boat destroyed by the HAIDA and HMS ESKIMO. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205156267

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 24384) Seaman Jock MacGregor of HMCS HAIDA holds ‘Muncher’ the ship’s pet rabbit by the Oerlikon 20 mm gun Platform. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119874

August saw Haida maul a convoy of small German coasters off Ile d’Yeu. In a single wild action on the night of 9 August 1944, she is credited with assisting in the sinking of at least nine Axis ships including two destroyers, two T-boats, a U-boat, a minesweeper, patrol boat, and two armed trawlers.

Canadian Tribal-class destroyers in action, 6 August 1944 against German convoy, 9 enemy ships sunk by RCN CDR Anthony Law, 1946, showing HMCS Haida, HMCS Iroquois and HMS Bellona in their famous night action. Canadian War Museum Photo 19710261-4057

Canadian Tribal-class destroyers in action, 6 August 1944 against German convoy, 9 enemy ships sunk by RCN CDR Anthony Law, 1946, showing HMCS Haida, HMCS Iroquois and HMS Bellona in their famous night action. Canadian War Museum Photo 19710261-4057

By September, the Canadian war baby headed for her home country for the first time, to get a badly needed refit at Halifax. Early 1945 saw her sortie back to Europe where she was engaged off Norway again, escorted some more convoys to Russia, and was among the first Allied ships to enter the key Norwegian port of Trondheim post-VE-Day. Returning to Canada, she was to be made ready to fight in the Pacific against the Japanese but never made it that far before the A-bombs ended the war unexpectedly.

Laid up in reserve, by 1947 she was reactivated and soon put to effective use.

In November 1949, Haida again showed her worth to an ally by standing seaward and plucking the surviving crew of a USAF Boeing B-29 Superfortress of the 2nd BS, 27th BG on its way to RAF Sculthorpe. The aircraft, 42-65289, flew as Dina Midget in WWII over Japan and went down some 385 miles North East of Hamilton, Bermuda. Following the accident, 18 crewmen took refuge in dinghies while two others were drowned. Spotted by SAR aircraft, Haida picked the men up after 76 hours adrift.

HMCS Haida in November 1949 after rescuing 18 members of the crew of a USAF B-29 bomber that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean From the LIFE Magazine Archives – Michael Rougier Photographer

By 1950, she served off Korea as part of the Canadian contribution to the UN forces in that conflict, completing two tours in those far-off waters.

In 1952, an extensive refit saw her reconfigured as a destroyer-escort (pennant DDE-215) which saw her WWII sensors replaced by a more modern SPS-6C air search radar and SQS-10 sonar. Her main armament, those six beautiful 4.7-inch rapid fires, was swapped out for a more conservative pair of twin 4-inch Mk16s. Her depth charges replaced with a Squid ASW mortar. This would be her final configuration for her last decade in active service, and the one she would carry into her later days.

This photo shows the ship’s company in Hong Kong in 1953 (Parks Canada)

Rescued from the streets of Japan, Pom Pom served as Haida’s mascot during the ship’s first tour of duty in Korea (Parks Canada)

A 1930s design in the jet age, Haida was decommissioned in October 1963 after 20 years of hard service.

HMCS HAIDA (DDE215) makes her way towards Lock 4 on the Welland Canal during her farewell Great Lakes tour in 1963

Overall, when compared to her sisters, she was a lucky ship and outlived her family. No less than 12 of the 16 Tribals in British service were lost during WWII and the remaining quartet were all paid off by 1949. All the Tribals in Canadian service were sold to the breakers by 1969. The three Australian ships that were completed (five were canceled) likewise were turned to razor blades.

Tribal-class sister HMCS Huron (DDE-216), port bow view while off Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives 80-G-646914:

Haida was the last of her class remaining in any ocean and, after an effort by concerned citizens, she was towed to Toronto and opened as a museum ship in 1965. Over the next three decades, she still hosted sea cadet camps and Canadian Forces events in addition to her work a floating memorial, known as “Canada’s most fightingest ship”.

In 2003, she was moved to Hamilton, Ontario where she had been a National Historic Site ever since, operated by Parks Canada on a seasonal basis.

(Parks Canada)

Earlier this year, she was named ceremonial Flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy with an honorary commanding officer chosen from the Navy, is authorized to fly the Canadian Naval Ensign, and the ship will observe traditional sunrise and sunset ceremonies as well as arrival announcements on the gangway.

(Parks Canada)

Specs:

Displacement:1,959 long tons (1,990 t) tons standard, 2,519 long tons (2,559 t) deep load
Length: 377 ft (114.9 m)
Beam: 37 ft 6 in (11.4 m)
Draught: 13 ft (4.0 m)
Propulsion:
2 shafts; 3-Admiralty 3 drum type boilers
2 × Parsons Marine geared steam turbines, 44,000 shp (33,000 kW);
Speed: 36.5 knots (67.6 km/h; 42.0 mph) (maximum), 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph) (service)
Complement: 259 (14 officers, 245 ratings)
Sensors and processing systems:
As G63 (1943–1952):
1 type 268 radar
1 type 271 radar
1 type 291 radar
1 × Mk.III fire control director with Type 285 fire control radar
1 type 144 sonar
1 type 144Q sonar
1 type 147F sonar

As DDE 215 (1952–1963):
1 SPS-6C air search radar
1 Sperry Mk.2 navigation radar
1 × Mk.63 fire control director with SPG-34 fire control radar
1 type 164B sonar
1 type 162 (SQS 501) sonar
SQS 10 sonar

Armament:

As G63 (1943–1952):
3 × 4.7-inch (119 mm)/45 Mk.XII twin guns
1 × 4-inch (102 mm)/45 Mk.16 twin guns
1 × quadruple mount 40 mm/39 2-pounder gun
6 × 20 mm Oerlikon cannons
1 quad launcher with Mk.IX torpedoes (4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes)
1 rail + 2 Mk.IV throwers (Mk.VII depth charges)

As DDE 215 (1952–1963):
2 × 4-inch/45 Mk.16 twin guns
1 × 3-inch (76 mm)/50 Mk.33 twin guns
4 × 40 mm/56 Bofors guns
1 quad launcher with Mk.IX torpedoes (4 × 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes)
2 × Squid ASW mortars

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!