Tag Archives: U-boat

1st USS Jacob Jones found

Laid down in Camden, New Jersey in August 1914, the day after the Kaiser’s troops crossed into Belgium, the Tucker-class tin can USS Jacob Jones (Destroyer No. 61) was the first U.S. Navy vessel named in honor of Commodore Jacob Nicholas Jones who, as skipper of the USS Wasp in 1812, was most notable for capturing the Royal Navy sloop of war HMS Frolic after an intense battle.

USS Jacob Jones (Destroyer # 61) underway in 1916, soon after she was completed. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 52123.

Sent to Europe after the U.S. entered the Great War in April 1917, the 1,225-ton four piper was steaming independently from Brest to Queenstown, Ireland on 6 December 1917 when she caught a torpedo in her starboard side three feet below the water line, rupturing her fuel oil tank located below the auxiliary and engine rooms. Shipping water, her stern depth charges went off and just eight minutes after the German fish struck, she went down some 25 miles southeast of Bishop Rock, Scilly Islands.

Kptlt. Hans Rose, commander of the U-51 class submarine SM U-53, had made a record (for the time) hit from over 3,000 yards. A gentleman of the old order, Kplt. Rose surfaced, took two seriously wounded blue jackets aboard, and radioed the approximate location and drift of the survivors to the American base in Queenstown, requesting rescuing ships give him an hour to leave the vicinity.

USS Jacob Jones (Destroyer # 61) Sinking off the Scilly Islands, England, on 6 December 1917, after she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-53. Photographed by Seaman William G. Ellis. Smithsonian Institution Photograph. Catalog #: Smithsonian 72-4509-A

Speaking of the survivors, DD-61‘s XO at the time was one LT Norman (Nicholas) Scott, a fighting salt who as a rear admiral would go on to lead his cruiser-destroyer force to victory at the Battle of Cape Esperance off Guadalcanal in October 1942 then perish under the lackluster command of the inexperienced RADM Daniel J. Callaghan the next month. Rose, at the time, was back in uniform complete with his Kaisarian-awarded Blue Max training officers for Donitz as a recalled Fregattenkapitän in 1. Unterseeboots-Ausbildungsabteilung.

Fast forward to yesterday and a group of divers in England have identified the bones of DD-61 in 400 feet of water 60 miles south of Newlyn, Cornwall.

USS Jacob Jones bell by Rick Ayrton

Ironically, the second USS Jacob Jones (DD-130) was also sunk by a German submarine albeit in WWII off New Jersey. It is possible that the good FKpt. Rose may have had a hand in training the young men who sent that tin can to the bottom.

Warship Wednesday, April 20, 2022: A Member of the Easter Egg Fleet

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, April 20, 2022: A Member of the Easter Egg Fleet

Historic New England Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection negative 13620

Here we see the fine Glasgow designed-and-built steam yacht Christabel steaming offshore on 8 August 1902. While this elegant little schooner doesn’t look very formidable, she would prove herself in the Great War soon enough.

Built for Arthur Challis Kennard, Ironmaster and Justice of the Peace of the Falkirk Iron Works, Falkirk, Christabel was a steel-hulled schooner-rigged steamer some 150 feet overall and 248 grt. Designed by the famed GL Watson firm and built by D & W Henderson & Co. of Meadowside Yard as Yard No. 370, she was completed in October 1893, with her first port of register being Glasgow. Mr. Kennard was a well-known yachtsman, and his name and vessels can be found in numerous yachting and rowing calendars of the day.

From Llyod’s Register of Yachts 1901, see entry #206, with the 248 grt Christabel listed:

Unfortunately, Mr. Kennard would pass in 1903, aged 72, and sold his beautiful Christabel sometime prior, hence appearing in New England waters in the above circa 1902 image.

Christabel 8 September 1906, now with a white scheme, something else that would indicate new owners. Stebbins negative 17648

By 1909, she was listed as being owned by Mr. Walton Ferguson, Sr. of New York City. Ferguson was well known as President of St. John Wood-Working Company as well as Stamford Electric, Vice President of Stamford Trust Company, and a director of Union Carbide, in addition to a longtime Commodore of the Stamford Yacht Club.

From Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts, 1914, listing her as #575 under Mr. Ferguson still as 248 grt with an overall length of 164 feet and waterline length of 140:

By 1916, Christabel was one of at least two large yachts in the fleet of Irving Ter Bush, one of the wealthiest men on the planet and founder of Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, Bush Tower in Manhattan, and Bush House in London.

When the U.S. entered the war with Germany, Mr. Bush sold Christabel to the Navy Department in April 1917– some 105 years ago this month– and after a very short conversion period she was commissioned on 31 May 1917 at the New York Navy Yard, becoming USS Christabel (SP-162). Her skipper was a regular officer, LT Herbert Berhard Riebe (USNA 1906), whose prior experience was in cruisers and destroyers.

Her conversion saw her pick up a speckled gray paint scheme, two 3-inch deck guns, a pair of M1895 potato digger-style machine guns, and some depth charges. More on the depth charges in a minute.

She was in good company, as no less than 40 large steam and auxiliary yachts also designed by G. L. Watson were armed for wartime work– although most were by the Royal Navy.

Christabel is listed on the bottom left, along with her near sisters and cousins

Off to war!

Assigned to Squadron Three, Patrol Force, Atlantic Fleet even before she was commissioned, Christabel was one of eight hastily armed East Coast yachts– including USS Corsair (S. P. 159), Aphrodite (S. P. 135), Harvard (S. P. 209), Sultana (S. P. 134), Kanawha II (S. P. 130), Vedette (S. P. 163), and Noma (S. P. 131)-– being fitted out to go to France for the purpose of coastal convoy and anti-submarine work. Of these eight, Christabel had the dubious distinction of being both the oldest and slowest.

Shoving off to cross the Atlantic on 9 June, Christabel and five other patrol yachts arrived in Brest (via the Azores) appropriately on July 4th, 1917. With CPT (later RADM) William B. Fletcher, U.S.N., as squadron commander, the force made a splash due to their hastily applied camouflaged paint schemes, applied while underway in some cases.

Via “On the Coast of France,” by Joseph Husband, Ensign, USNRF:

Due to the unusually fantastic scheme of camouflage which disguised the ships of the Second Squadron, these yachts were commonly known as the ”Easter Egg Fleet,” every conceivable color having been incorporated in a riotous speckled pattern on their sides.

USS Christabel (SP-162) In port, circa 1918-1919. Taken by Carl A. Stahl, Photographer, USN. NH 300

Although often nursing cranky machinery– Christabel had almost 30 years on her engine and broke down often– she was part of no less than 30 coastal convoys, being particularly useful in the role of bringing up the rear of convoys and policing stragglers and survivors of lost vessels.

First, she saves

Speaking of saving lives, on the night of 17 April 1918, the U.S.-flagged cargo ship SS Florence H. (3,820grt) suddenly erupted in a brilliant fireball while at anchor in Quiberon Bay as her cargo of 2,200 tons of smokeless powder lit off. Several vessels in the harbor rushed to her aid, including Christabel. Although 45 of her complement and Naval Armed Guard perished, 78 men were rescued, although about half of those were extensively burned and injured. For the rescue, one of Christabel’s CPOs earned a DSC.

Chief Pharmacist Mate Louis Zeller, United States Navy. Member of the crew of the USS Christabel while on patrol duty off Brest, France, during World War I, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Admiral Wilson. Zeller dove into the water filled with burning exploding powder boxes from the Florence H., to rescue severely burned seamen, managing to accomplish this within seconds of a severe explosion. NH 63045

Then she attacks

Just a month after saving men from the Florence H., Christabel had a close brush with one of Kaiser Willy’s U-boats and at the time was credited with damaging it enough to put it out of the war.

Via “Account of the Operations of the American Navy in France During the War with Germany,” by VADM Henry Braid Wilson, United States Navy Commander, United States Naval Forces in France: 

On the afternoon of 21 May 1918, the CHRISTABEL, the smallest of the converted yachts operating in French waters, was escorting a slow ship which had dropped behind the north-bound convoy from La Pallice to Quiberon Bay.

This vessel, the British steamer DANSE, was about eight miles behind the convoy, making about seven and a half knots, with the CHRISTABEL on her port bow. The sea was smooth, weather clear with no wind.

When about two miles outside of Ile de Yeu a well-defined oil slick was sighted on the port bow. The CHRISTABEL cruised around it but saw nothing definite.

At 5 :20 p. m. The Officer-of-the-Deck and the lookout suddenly sighted a wake, about six hundred yards distant on the port quarter, the CHRISTABEL at this time being about 300 yards on the port bow of the DANSE.

The CHRISTABEL headed for it, making all possible speed—about ten and a half knots—whereupon the wake disappeared, and a number of oil slicks were seen.

The Commanding Officer followed this oil as well as he could and at 5:24 p. m., believing that his ship was nearly ahead of the submarine, dropped a depth charge, but no results were obtained although the charge exploded.

At 7:00 p. m. the convoy changed course following the contour of the land and was making about nine knots. The CHRISTABEL was astern, making about eleven knots to catch up.

At 8:52 p. m. the CHRISTABEL sighted a periscope about two hundred yards off the starboard beam. She turned and headed for it, whereupon the periscope disappeared.

At 8:55 p. m. a depth charge was dropped which functioned in ten seconds, followed by a second one a few moments afterwards.

Nothing followed the explosion of the first charge, but following the explosion of the second there was a third very violent explosion which threw up between the stern of the CHRISTABEL and the water column raised by the second charge, an enormous amount of water and debris.

The CHRISTABEL then turned and cruised in the vicinity and noticed a quantity of heavy black oil and splintered pieces of wood, with very large oil bubbles rising to the surface.

Nothing further was heard of this submarine, but, on May 24, 1918, an enemy submarine, the U. C. 56, arrived at Santander, Spain, in a very seriously damaged condition, and from such information as was received, it was believed that this was the vessel attacked by the CHRISTABEL.

German Submarine UC-56 (KptLt/in Wilhelm Kiesewetter). Caption: At Christabel, Spain where she interned herself, 24 May 1918, after injuries received in an encounter with a U.S. Patrol Yacht. The explosion of one of the Yacht’s depth charges was followed by a second detonation after which splinter wood and much heavy oil came to the surface. The UC-56 is primarily a mine-laying submarine, her elaborate camouflage is distinct in the photograph. NH 111101.

Christabel’s skipper, LT Riebe, earned the Navy Cross for the attack and was made an Honorary Commander in the OBE through the offices of the Admiralty. He retired from the Navy in 1938 as a Captain with the Bureau of Navigation, died in 1946, and is buried at Arlington.

Another of Christabel’s officers, Ensign Daniel Augustus Joseph Sullivan, USNRF, came away from the action earning one of just 21 Medals of Honor presented to U.S. Navy personnel in the Great War.

Medal of Honor citation of Ensign Daniel A.J. Sullivan (as printed in the official publication “Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy”, page 125):

For extraordinary heroism as an officer of the U.S.S. Christabel in conflict with an enemy submarine on 21 May 1918. As a result of the explosion of a depth bomb dropped near the submarine, the Christabel was so badly shaken that a number of depth charges which had been set for firing were thrown about the deck and there was imminent danger that they would explode. Ensign Sullivan immediately fell on the depth charges and succeeded in securing them, thus saving the ship from disaster, which would inevitably have caused great loss of life.

Portrait photograph, taken circa 1920. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism while serving in USS Christabel (SP-162) during action with a German submarine on 21 May 1918. He was a Naval Reserve Force Ensign at that time. Note the overseas service chevrons on his uniform sleeve. Sullivan would go on to serve in destroyers, and then in the U.S. Navy headquarters in London at the end of the war and into 1919, leaving the USNRF as an LCDR. He died on 27 January 1941 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. NH 44173

In September, VADM Wilson signaled Christabel she was entitled to carry a white star on her stack, denoting an enemy submarine kill. Only two other American ships in France, USS Fanning (Destroyer No. 37) and the yacht Lydonia (S. P. 700) would join the same club.

USS Christabel (SP-162) View of the ship’s smokestack, circa 1919. The star painted on it represents the German submarine she was then credited with having sunk during World War I. Note steam whistle on the forward side of the stack. NH 55162

Epilogue

Completing her war service, the little Christabel left Brest in early December 1918 and headed home. She would celebrate Christmas in Bermuda and arrive in New London, Connecticut on New Year’s Eve.

Placed in reserve at the Marine Basin in Brooklyn on 17 May 1919, she was disposed of the next month, and sold to the Savannah Bar Pilots Association for $22,510.

According to The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2 (June 1934), pp. 145-175, she was renamed for the first time in her life to Savannah and used as a pilot boat well into the 1930s. 

Christabel/Savannah‘s final fate is unknown, but she was apparently disposed of by the pilots before World War II.

Speaking of WWII, post-war research discounted Christabel’s role in damaging SM UC-56, but the minelaying U-boat still missed the rest of the conflict. Surrendered post-Armistice Day, she was turned over to the French and scuttled.

U-boats U-108 and UC-56, in Brest docks in 1918, turned over to the French under armistice terms, UC-56 in the foreground. NARA 45511774

The subject of much controversy, UC-56’s only success of the war was the marked and unarmed HMs Hospital Ship Glenart Castle, which sunk on 26 February 1918 with the loss of 162 including eight female nurses and 99 patients. The submarine reportedly attempted to cover up the action actions by shooting survivors in the water.

The British arrested her commander, KptLt/in Wilhelm Kiesewetter, as he was returning to Germany from Spain and tossed him in the Tower of London as a war criminal before eventually releasing him without trial. Kiesewetter, at age 61, was recalled in 1939 and is cited as the “oldest Kriegsmarine officer to command an operational U–boat,” having been the skipper of UC–1 from November 1940 to May 1941. “This boat was the ex-Norwegian submarine B-5, captured in 1940 and commissioned into the Kriegsmarine on 20 November 1940.”

Specs:

Tonnage: 248 GRT, 103 NRT
Length: 164 ft overall (per DANFS)
Beam: 22 ft
Draft: 9 ft 8 in (12.5 ft depth of hold) (listed as 11 ft. 3 in the draft in 1914 Lloyds
Installed power: 1-screw. T3Cyl. (13, 20 & 33 – 24in) 160lb. 53NHP triple expansion engine
Auxiliary sail rig: two-masted schooner
Speed: 12 knots
Complement (1917) 55 officers and enlisted men
Armament:
2 x 1 3″/23 caliber deck guns
2 x M1895 Marlin/Colt .30-06 machine guns
Depth charges


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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


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Scratching that Unterseeboot itch from the air

While 765 German U-boats were lost by all causes in WWII, one of the leading was due to Allied air attacks, especially after late 1942. Here are a few of the losses that made the photo gallery.

80-G-323977 Operation Torch, November 1942. An aerial attack on a French submarine off the coast of French Morocco. I’m not sure which one of the Vichy subs this is as two were lost during the battle with the Diane-class submarine La Sybille lost at sea on 8 November and the L’Espoire-class submarine Le Tonnant was scuttled off Cadiz 15 November as result of battle damage.

80-G-208592: German U-boat, U-849, attacked and sunk by a U.S. PBY-1 Liberator (navalised B-24) aircraft from VP-107 in the South Atlantic, West of Congo estuary. The pilot shown here is Lieutenant Junior Grade Vance Dawkins, USNR. Incident #5054. U-849, a long-range Type IXD2 U-boat was splashed 25 November 1943, lost with all hands. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

80-G-222832 U-271, a German a Type VIIC, being sunk off Ireland by a Liberator aircraft of VB-103 on 28 January 1944 in the Northwest Atlantic. Incident #5430. While a member of both the Rügen and Hinein Wolfpacks, and a participant in three patrols, U-271 did not achieve any kills.

80-G-222832 U-271, a German a Type VIIC, being sunk off Ireland by a Liberator aircraft of VB-103 on 28 January 1944 in the Northwest Atlantic. Incident #5430. While a member of both the Rügen and Hinein Wolfpacks, and a participant in three patrols, U-271 did not achieve any kills.

80-G-222857: Two PBY’s, from VP-63, piloted by Lieutenant Junior Grade T.R. Wooley and Lieutenant R. J. Baker aided by two Royal Navy destroyers HMS Anthony (R-40) and HMS Wishant (I-67) sank German U-boat, U-761, in the Strait of Gibraltar on 24 February 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

80-G-222857: Two PBY’s, from VP-63, piloted by Lieutenant Junior Grade T.R. Wooley and Lieutenant R. J. Baker aided by two Royal Navy destroyers HMS Anthony (R-40) and HMS Wishant (I-67) sank German U-boat, U-761, in the Strait of Gibraltar on 24 February 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

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

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

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

IWM SP 1650

IWM SP 1650

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

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

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

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

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

saxifrage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hms-president-jan-2015-s

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

She is nothing if not historic.

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

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

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

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

From the group’s website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other that, she is preserved in maritime art.

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Specs:

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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday Aug 19, 2015: The first of the bucking ‘165s

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

Warship Wednesday Aug 19, 2015: The first of the bucking ‘165s

Here we see a great color photo the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tallapoosa (WPG-52) at rear just before World War II while still in her gleaming white and buff scheme. She may not look like much, but she was the forerunner of a class of ships that did much of the heavy lifting for the Coasties through Prohibition and two world wars.

In 1914 the Revenue Cutter Service was looking to replace the 25~ year old 148-foot steel-hulled cutter Winona.

uscgc winonaThe aging Winnie was the galloping ghost of the Gulf Coast and roamed from Galveston to Key West pulling duty busting smugglers, responding to hurricanes, operating with the Fleet when needed and, of course, saving lives at sea. Armed with a single 6-pounder to give warning shots across the bow, Winona patrolled the East Coast during the Spanish American War but by the opening of the Great War was a bit long in the tooth.

This led the service to design a new vessel to replace her.

In November 1914, the government ordered at a cost of $225,000 ($5.3 million in today’s figures) from Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia hull number CG27. This ship was based on lessons learned from Winona and was a bit longer at 165-feet, 10-inches and gave 912 tons displacement. A pair of oil-fired (most of the fleet was coal at the time, so this was advanced stuff here) Babcock & Wilcox boilers fed through a single center stack powered a triple-expansion steam engine that gave the little gunboat a 12 knot maximum speed. A 51,000-gallon load of fuel oil gave her a range of 6,000 miles, which is impressive for such a small vessel.

Tallapoosa, note the similarity to Winona

Tallapoosa, note the similarity to Winona, only longer. Also note the DF gear and crows-nest, both of which were used often. USCG photo.

She was one of the first ice-strengthened ships in any maritime force and was heavily armed for a cutter of the time, given literally four times the deck guns that Winona had before her.

USCGC_Tallapoosa_in_dry_dock,_early_1920's

One fat screw and a 1:5 length to beam ratio led these early 165s to hog in high seas

Able to float in just 11.9 feet of seawater, the new ship, named Tallapoosa, was launched on May Day 1915. She was commissioned on 12 August with Winona placed out of commission at Mobile, Alabama on 12 July and sold for $12,697 to a Mr. W. M. Evans of Mobile. Much of Winona‘s 39-man crew went to Virginia by train to operate the replacement vessel.

Sister USCGC Ossipee at launch, note the hull shape

Sister USCGC Ossipee at launch, note the hull shape

A sistership to Tallapoosa, USCGC Ossipee, was laid down just afterward and built side by side with the new cutter and was commissioned 28 July 1915 at the Coast Guard Depot, Arundel, MD. Curiously, she was classified as a river gunboat though I can’t find where she operated on any.

As for Tallapoosa, she arrived at Mobile on 18 August, taking Winona‘s old dock at the L&N Railroad landing near Government Street and was assigned to patrol from Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana to Tampa, Florida.

Tallapoosa soon rode out the epic July 4, 1916 Hurricane in Mobile Bay, narrowly avoiding three different collisions with ships that had broken their moorings in 104 mph winds then responded to check on Forts Morgan and Gains at the mouth of the Bay where U.S. Army Coastal Artillery units were stationed and cut off from commo.

Over the next few days, she ranged the Gulf looking for hurricane survivors and ships in need of assistance. As noted from a very interesting 17 page after action report filed at the time she assisted the schooner Henry W. Cramp, unnamed Russian and Norwegian barks, an unnamed British steamer, the three-master Laguna, the demasted schooner City of Baltimore, and the three-master Albert D. Mills, many of which were thrown high and dry on the barrier islands.

She then found the schooner Carrie Strong some 65 miles south of Mobile Bay, turned turtle but still afloat. After trying to sink the vessel with mines (!) which was unsuccessful due to the ship’s wooden construction and cargo of pine boards, Tallapoosa towed her to shore where the derelict was beached. While no survivors of Strong were found, the Tallapoosa‘s skipper did note that:

In light of recent news reports it may be of interest that when found, at least a dozen large sharks were found around this wreck and they were so bold that when the first boat was lowered they came alongside and struck the oars. A number were caught and killed while work was in progress.

When the U.S. entered WWI, Tallapoosa, now part of the Coast Guard, was assigned to the Naval Department on 6 April 1917. She landed her battery of 6-pounders, picked up a new one of a quartet of 3″/23 cal guns and for the next 28 months served as a haze gray colored gunboat for the Navy assigned to Halifax, N.S. (remember, she and her sister had their plating doubled around the bow and a steel waterline belt to enable them for light icebreaking, which surely came in handy in the Gulf of Mexico) as a coastal escort and search and rescue platform until 28 August 1919.

Tallapoosa‘s war record was quiet, as few U-boats popped up around Halifax, but sister Ossippee deployed to Gibraltar on 15 August 1917 and before the end of the war escorted 32 convoys consisting of 596 Allied vessels and made contacts with enemy submarines on at least 8 occasions, on one of these reportedly side-stepping a torpedo by about 15 feet.

While in open seas, they tended to roll and be generally uncomfortable, but nonetheless made great coastal boats and were generally used as such.

In 1919, both Tallapoosa and Ossipee traded their gray scheme and 3-inchers for more familiar white/buff and 6-pounders.

Tallapoosa 1924 via Janes via Navsource

Tallapoosa 1924 via Janes via Navsource. Note the hot weather awnings for Gulf service and the lookout post has been deleted from the foremast

During Prohibition, Tallapoosa was back in the Gulf trying to stop rum-runners from Cuba while her sister was assigned to Portland, Maine and did the same for ships running good Canadian whiskey to thirsty mouths in New England and New York.

In 1930, they landed half their 6-pounders for a pair of new 3″/50s.

USCGC_Tallapoosa 1935 In Alaskan waters

USCGC_Tallapoosa 1935 In Alaskan waters. USCG photo

These two ships, with the lifesaving, war, and bootlegger busting service proved so useful that a follow on class of 24 ships based on their design with some improvements were ordered in the 1930s to modernize the Coast Guard.

165 plan

The follow-on 165s, note two stacks and twin screws for better seakeeping

The first of these new “165s,” USCGC Algonquin (WPG-75) was laid down 14 Oct. 1933 and the last was commissioned by the end of 1934– certainly some kind of peacetime shipbuilding record. Funded by PWA dollars, these ships carried slightly less oil but due to a better engine could make 12.5 knots instead of the slow 12 knots of their older sisters.

Note the 165 at bottom, with a slightly different layout from Tallapoosa/Osippee

Note the 165 at bottom, with a slightly different layout from Tallapoosa/Osippee, showing two stacks and shorter masts

In the next world war, these 24 cutters proved their worth, splashing a number of German U-boats while escorting convoys, and performing yeoman service in polar areas. We’ve covered a couple of these later 165s before to include USCGC Mohawk and cannot talk these hardy boats up enough.

Tragically, one of these, USCGC Escanaba (WPG-77), was lost after encountering a U-boat or mine in 1943 with only two survivors.

Tallapoosa during WWII, note her extra armament and haze gray. USCG photo

Tallapoosa during WWII, note her extra armament and haze gray. USCG photo. Dig the early radar

Speaking of WWII, both Tallapoosa and Ossipee, along with their new kid sisters, chopped over to Navy service in November 1941– even before Pearl Harbor. Equipped with depth charges Tallapoosa was used as a convoy escort along the East Coast while Ossipee served her time on the Great Lakes as a plane guard for U.S. Navy carrier training operations while busting ice when able.

By 1943 the little Tallapoosa carried a SF-1 Radar, WEA-2A sonar, 2 Mousetrap ASW devices, 4 K-guns and 2 20mm Oerlikons besides her 3-inchers, with her crew doubling to over 100. She made at least two contacts on suspected U-boats but did not get credit for any kills despite dropping a number of depth charges that resulted in oil slicks.

However, with the war winding down, these older and smaller cutters became surplus with Tallapoosa decommissioning 8 November 1945 then was sold for her value as scrap the next July. She was bought by a banana boat company that specialized in shipping fruit from Central America to New Orleans and her ultimate fate is unknown, which means she very well maybe in some port in Honduras somewhere.

As far as Ossipee, she was scrapped in 1946 while the 23 remaining newer 165s were whittled down until the last in U.S. service, USCGC Ariadne (WPC-101), was decommissioned 23 Dec. 1968 and sold for scrap the next year.

Some went on to overseas service, including USCGC Thetis and Icarus, both of whom accounted for a German sub during the war and remained afloat into the late 1980s with the Dominican Republic’s Navy.

Two were briefly museum ships to include Comanche (WPG-76) who was at Patriot’s Point, South Carolina before being sunk as an artificial reef and Mohawk (WPG-78) in Key West, Florida before meeting her end as a reef in July 2012.

Mohawk in poor condition before being reefed

Mohawk in poor condition before being reefed. If you see a banana boat in Central America that looks like this, check to see if its the now-100 year old Tallapoosa.

Of the 26 various 165s that served in the Coast Guard and Navy from 1915-1968, a span of over a half century, just one remains in some sort of service.

Commissioned as USCGC Electra (WPC-187) in 1934, she was transferred to the US Navy prior to WWII and renamed USS Potomac (AG-25), serving as FDR’s Presidential Yacht. She was saved in 1980 and is currently open to the public in Oakland.

Ex-USS Potomac (AG-25) moored at her berth, the FDR pier, at Jack London Square, Oakland, CA. in 2008. Photos by Al Riel USS John Rogers.Via Navsource

Ex-USS Potomac (AG-25) moored at her berth, the FDR pier, at Jack London Square, Oakland, CA. in 2008. Photos by Al Riel USS John Rogers.Via Navsource

Tallapoosa‘s bell is maintained in a place of honor in downtown Tallapoosa, Georgia while her christening board is on display at her longtime home port of Mobile at the City Museum.

tallapoosa bell launching plate cutter tallapoosa
Specs:

Profile of the 165 A class Cutter Escanaba, who was based on Tallapoosa and Ossipee. Image by Shipbucket http://www.shipbucket.com/images.php?dir=Real%20Designs/United%20States%20of%20America/WPG-77%20Escanaba.png

Profile of the 165 A class Cutter Escanaba, who was based on Tallapoosa and Ossipee. Image by Shipbucket

Displacement (tons): 912
Length: 165′ 10″ overall
Beam: 32′
Draft: 11′ 9″
Machinery: Triple-expansion steam, 17″, 27″, and 44″ diameter x 30″ stroke, 2 x Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 1,000 shp; 12 knots maximum degraded to 10 by WWII.
Complement 5 officers, 56 as commissioned
9 officers, 63 enlisted, 1930
100~ by 1945
Armament: 4 x 6-pounders (1915);
2 x 6-pdrs; 2 x 3″ 50-cal (single-mounts) (as of 1930);
2 x 3″/50 (single-mounts); 1 x 3″/23; 2 x depth charge tracks (as of 1941);
2 x 3″/50 (single-mounts); 2 x 20mm/80 (single-mounts); 2 x Mousetraps; 4 x K-guns; 2 x depth charge tracks (as of 1945).
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