Tag Archive | vintage warships

Warship Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Service Guarantees Citizenship

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Service Guarantees Citizenship

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 108363

Here we see the Wickes-class tin can USS Roper (Destroyer No. 147) in an undated overhead bow-on shot early in her career. As yesterday was the 113th birthday of her most famous crewmember, it only seemed important to shine some light on this often-overlooked but well-traveled warship.

Roper was one of the iconic first flight of “Four Piper” destroyers that were designed in 1915-16 with input from no less an authority as Captain (later Admiral) W.S. Sims. Beamy ships with a flush-deck, a quartet of boilers (with a smokestack for each) were coupled to a pair of Parsons geared turbines to provide 35.3-knots designed speed– which is still considered fast today, more than a century later. The teeth of these 314-foot, 1250-ton greyhounds were four 4-inch/50 cal MK 9 guns and a full dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes.

They reportedly had short legs and were very wet, which made long-range operations a problem, but they gave a good account of themselves. Originally a class of 50 was authorized in 1916, but once the U.S entered WWI in April 1917, this was soon increased and increased again to some 111 ships built by 1920.

Roper was laid down on 19 March 1918, at the height of the German’s Michel Offensive in France, at the William Cramp & Sons yard in Philadelphia. She was the first ship to carry the name of LCDR Jesse M. Roper (USNA 1872) who, as skipper of the gunboat USS Petrel in 1901, lost his life in a fire attempting to rescue a trapped seaman.

However, USS Roper came too late to join the Great War, commissioned on 15 February 1919. Nonetheless, after shakedown, she crossed the Atlantic and served in the Med and the Black Sea during the tumultuous period that included the breakup of the old Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire coupled with the heartbreak of the Russian Civil War.

Roper, pre-1922. NH 108361

Transferring to the Pacific Fleet, Roper would be placed decommissioned in 1922 and rest in mothballs until 1930 when she was refit and reactivated. In contrast to her quiet time during the 20s, the 1930s would be a time of active participation in a series of fleet problems and maneuvers that ranged from the Eastern seaboard to the Caribbean and Alaska.

An undated overhead image of Roper underway, likely early in her career and after her 1930 reactivation. Note her stern depth charge racks. NH 108364

From the same set, with a good overview of her guns and profile. NH 108362

Enter Mr. Heinlein

With a tradition that his family fought in every American war going back to the days of Bunker Hill, Robert Anson Heinlein, born in Missouri in 1907, entered the U.S. Naval Academy as a Mid in 1925. He had a bit of family support on campus, as his brother Rex had been admitted the previous year, a factor that led Robert to have to pester U.S. Sen. Jimmy Reed to burn another service academy appointment on a Heinlein, reportedly hitting the senator with over 50 letters.

The younger Heinlein, “Bob” to his classmates, was an expert rifleman and a member of the fencing team, winner of the 1927 Epee medal. Academically 5th in his class of 243, he graduated 20th due to demerits with the 1929 class– one that included the future RADM Edward J. O’Donnell, RADM Warner S. Rodimon and VADM James H. Flatley– and has a very entertaining page in that year’s Lucky Bag. Headed to the fleet, the newly minted ensign shipped out for one of the choicest assignments, the brand-new carrier USS Lexington (CV-2).

LEXINGTON at the fleet concentration, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaiian Islands, 16 February 1932. Heinlein would have been aboard her at the time. NH 67634

Lex’s skipper, while Ensign Heinlein was aboard, was the taciturn Ernest J. King, future WWII CNO. This cheerful guy:

Captain Ernest J. King, USN, Commanding officer of USS LEXINGTON (CV-2), is shown the Olympic Cup by Chief Gunner Campbell, on 5 September 1931. The cup had recently been won by LEXINGTON’s runabout crew. 80-G-462576

In 1933, Heinlein left the mighty turbo-electric carrier for the much smaller and almost in comparison “retro” tin can, Roper, where he would serve as gunnery officer until he left the Navy on a medical discharge due to a case of TB.

Robert Heinlein, transitioning from 1929 Mid to 1931 carrier Ensign to 1934 tin can Lieutenant

Of course, Bob would settle for a career as a renowned science fiction author; winner of several Hugo and Nebula Award prizes for groundbreaking science fiction. He was able to loop back around during WWII as an aeronautical engineer at the Navy Aircraft Materials Center at PNSY, bringing fellow sci-fi legends Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp with him to do their part.

Meanwhile, Roper had a war of her own to fight

Off Cape Cod on 7 December 1941, the Great War-era destroyer was soon on convoy duty during the height of what the German U-boat skippers deemed “The Happy Time” of Operation Drumbeat (Paukenschlag) due to the widespread availability of targets in American waters. As such, this included several instances of picking her way through floating wreckage and rescuing lifeboats crammed with U-boat survivors.

USS Roper (DD-147) Escorting a convoy, out of Hampton Roads, Virginia in 1942. Ships of the convoy are visible on the horizon. Roper is wearing Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage. NARA 80-G-K-580

USS ROPER (DD-147) View taken while underway in Hampton Roads, on convoy escort duty, circa 1942. Note camouflage. 80-G-K-467

On the night of 13-14 April 1942, Roper made a weak sonar contact in shallow water off North Carolina’s Bodie Island lighthouse, inside an area dubbed “Torpedo Junction” due to the high rate of submarine actions in the region and began prosecuting it. The contact turned out to be the Type VIIB German U-boat U-85 of 3. Flottille. Realizing he was caught in the shallows with no room to move, the sub’s skipper, Oblt. Eberhard Greger, made for the surface to fight it out, making turns for 17 knots while snapping a torpedo from its aft tube at his pursuer– from just 700 yards away- which only narrowly missed, running down the port side of the oncoming tin can’s hull.

The engagement went down to deck guns at a range of 2,100 yards, with Roper’s forward 3-incher busting the sub’s pressure hull just aft of the conning tower on her third round as one of her .50-caliber Brownings, manned by a Chief Boatswains Mate, kept the Germans from their own guns. The U-boat disappeared below the waves, stern first, before Roper’s torpedo tubes could be brought to bear.

A painting of the destroyer USS Roper (DD-147) engaging the German Type VII submarine U-85, during the night of 13/14 April 1942, near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Artist unknown. Image from the 1967/68 Edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships via Navsource. http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/147.htm

Greger and crew apparently attempted to abandon ship as it was going down but, in a sad fog of war incident, all perished as Roper’s crew, in the dark and fearing another U-boat was in the area due to another, albeit unrelated sonar contact, continued depth charging the area after the sub submerged for the final time. When dawn broke, Roper’s crew recovered 29 bodies, which were later interred at Hampton National Cemetery.

Roper’s attack report is in the National Archives and makes for interesting reading. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/133887377

The wreck and war grave that is U-85 is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and protected as part of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. In just 100 feet of water, she is a popular dive site.

With her “kill” Roper became an inaugural member of the U.S. Navy’s sub-busting club in the Atlantic War, although the milestone of the lonely battle was kept secret until after the war. She was in good company, as her sister ship, USS Ward (DD-139), fired the first U.S. shots of the Pacific War, sinking a Japanese midget submarine outside of Pearl Harbor just before the attack there.

The rest of Roper’s 1942 was spent in less eventful coastal patrol and escort service, shifting to riding shotgun on Caribbean-to-Mediterranean convoys building up Allied forces in North Africa and the 1943 push to Sicily and Italy.

In October, entered Charleston Navy Yard for conversion to her next role, that of a WWII littoral combat ship.

Green Dragon Days

With the changing pace of the new naval war, the Roper, as with most of her class, was converted to other uses, being too small for fleet work. She lost her 4-inch guns, which went on to equip armed merchant ships, as well as her torpedo tubes. Also leaving were half of her boilers, which dropped her speed down to 25-knots. She was given a trio of newer high-angle 3-inch/50 guns, one 40 mm AA gun, and five 20 mm AA guns, and the capability to carry up to 300 Marines or soldiers for a brief period. In this new role, she was re-designated as a high-speed amphibious transport (APD-20). Where her torpedo tubes once were, she now carried four 36-foot LCP landing craft on davits.

Such converted, these ships, usually painted in an all-over alligator green scheme, became known as “Green Dragons.”

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Starboard Quarter. File 11-21-43-4.” Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Bow, Down View. File 11-21-43-6. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Starboard Bow. File 11-21-43-2. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Starboard Bow. File 11-21-43-7. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Stern View. File 11-21-43-5. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

These conversions had a hard war. They transported troops to beachheads, served as escorts for transports and supply vessels, conducted anti-submarine patrols and survey duties, operated with Underwater Demolition Teams and commando units, performed messenger and transport duties, conveyed passengers and mail to and from forward units, and were involved in minesweeping operations.

On 13 April 1944, Roper steamed across the Atlantic to join the massing 8th Fleet at Oran and subsequently landed units of the reformed French Army on the Italian coast at Pianosa on 17 June. By August, she was part of the Dragoon Landings in southern France, landing troops on Levant Island with TF 86/Sitka Force. Her charges were 14 officers and 269 men of the elite “Black Devil” commandos of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, 1st Special Service Force who landed, and subsequently fought the small Battle of Port Cros in which they captured the five forts on the islands from the German Army.

Roper’s report of landing operations on the Ile du Levant with Sitka Force is digitized and in the National Archives. 

Reaping the Devine Wind

With the days of amphibious landings in Europe at an end in 1945, Roper sailed for the Pacific for the first time in WWII. Just three days after arriving at Nakagusuku Bay on the southern coast of Okinawa, she was hit by a Japanese kamikaze, a Zeke that was being pursued by three F4U Corsairs, the latter being a factor that prevented AAA fire from being directed at the incoming suicide plane. The Zeke hit Roper’s forecastle at 0922 on 25 May, starting fires in the CPO and Wardroom country which were extinguished in about an hour but left her forward magazines flooded. Her First Lieutenant, Lt. (JG) Thomas Walsh, was killed on deck via flying debris. Ten of her crew were lightly wounded with seven being evacuated to the hospital ship USS Relief. 

USS ROPER (APD-20) as damaged by a suicide plane attack, 26 May 1945. The plane’s port wing had sheared off and entered the ship’s starboard side, making a 6-foot hole about f-feet above the waterline. The fuselage of the Zeke glanced off the ship’s forecastle and exploded 30 feet off her beam. The plane’s propeller chewed several 3-foot-long gashes in the forecastle’s deck. The pilot’s helmet, jacket, and “pieces of his anatomy” were found hanging from Gun. No. 1. Courtesy of Admiral H.W. Hill. NH 66192

Roper’s kamikaze report is digitized and available in the National Archives. 

Of her class, 13 of her sisters were sunk in WWII, most early in the war while trying to stem the Japanese tide off Guadalcanal or, in the case of two, due to German U-boats in the Atlantic. The famous Ward, similarly, converted to an APD, was sunk off Ormoc in the Philippines on 7 December 1944 by a kamikaze. A similar fate befell sister USS Palmer (DD-161/DMS-5) in the Lingayen Gulf. Likewise, sister USS Dickerson (DD-157/APD-21) was so badly hit by a kamikaze in April 1945 off Iwo Jima that she was scuttled.

As for Roper, ordered back to the States to complete her own kamikaze repairs, she departed the Ryukyus on 6 June and reached San Pedro a month later. With the end of the war, her those repairs were not undertaken, and she was instead decommissioned on 15 September 1945 and scrapped the following year.

Roper earned four battle stars during World War II and the largest part of her currently in existence is an anchor that is on display at an entrance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There has not been a second USS Roper on the Navy List.

Most of Roper’s WWII war diaries, as well as a set of her plans, are in the National Archives. 

Today no Wickes-class tin can survive. The last one afloat, USS Maddox (DD–168), was scrapped in 1952 after serving in the US, then RN, then Canadian, then Soviet navies.

However, one of the class, USS Walker (DD-163), has been given new life in the excellent alternate history series Destroyermen written by Taylor Anderson. It is, um, science-fiction. Go figure.

As for Heinlein, whose wartime work for the Navy ironically included kamikaze detection and defense, died in 1988, aged 80. His body was eventually cremated, and his ashes scattered over the Pacific from the deck of a warship. Before that, he addressed the Mids in 1973 during which he noted:

What you do have here is a tradition of service. Your most important classroom is Memorial Hall. Your most important lesson is the way you feel inside when you walk up those steps and see that shot-torn flag framed in the arch of the door: ‘Don’t Give Up the Ship.’ If you feel nothing, you don’t belong here. But if it gives you goose flesh just to see that old battle flag, then you are going to find that feeling increasing every time you return here over the years… until it reaches a crescendo the day you return and read the list of your own honored dead – classmates, shipmates, friends – read them with grief and pride while you try to keep your tears silent.

In 2001, Virginia Heinlein, who had a long naval history herself and was the prototype of the strong female characters in many of her husband’s novels, endowed the Robert Anson Heinlein Chair in Aerospace Engineering at Annapolis.

Specs:

USS Roper (DD-147): Booklet of General Plans – Inboard Profile / Outboard Profile. National Archives Identifier: 109188795 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/109188795

(As completed)
Displacement: 1,247 long tons (1,267 t)
Length: 314 ft 4 in
Beam: 30 ft 11 in
Draft: 9 ft 10 in
Propulsion: 2 × geared steam turbines, 2 × shafts
Speed: 35 kn
Complement: 231 officers and enlisted
Armament:
4 × 4 in /50 cal guns
2 × 3 in /50 cal anti-aircraft guns
12 × 21 in torpedo tubes (4×3)

(1942)
Speed: 25kn
Complement: 180 officers and enlisted, up to 300 troops for short periods
Armament:
3 x 3inch/50
1 x 40mm Bofors
5 x 20mm Oerlikons

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Admiral Semmes statue to be shuffled to local museum

Facing a $25K-a-day fine from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, the City of Mobile has decided to move the recently toppled statue of the former U.S. Navy CDR/C.S. Navy ADM/C.S. Army B. Gen., Raphael Semmes, to the city’s museum, where it belongs.

Notably, the museum also holds numerous relics of the commerce raider CSS Alabama, which Semmes helmed to 66 naval victories and one crushing defeat, as well as artifacts from the officer’s own life, including an ornate  French-made Houllier-Blanchard revolver I chronicled in the past.

You don’t see these every day. 

Update: It is still gonna cost the city some big bucks to be woke.

Warship Wednesday, April 22, 2020: Freeboard is Overrated, anyway

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 22, 2020: Freeboard is Overrated, anyway

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 45707, courtesy of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN MC

Here we see the armored coast defense vessel USS Monterey (Monitor No. 6) as she opens the brand-new Puget Sound dry dock at Port Orchard, Washington– then the largest dry dock in the U.S. and the third-largest in the world– on this day in April 1896. While you mistake her for a pre-dreadnought battleship above deck, below the waterline she is a more of a “cheesebox on a raft.”

While the U.S. Navy fielded upwards of 60 river, coastal and seagoing monitors in the Civil War era, by the 1870s most these craft, for one reason or another, had been discarded or allowed to decay to a near-condemned state– and rightfully so as late 19th Century naval technology was subject to a version of Moore’s Law.

In 1882, as part of the “Great Repairs” the first New Navy monitor, USS Puritan (BM-1) was launched and at 6,000-tons carried four modern (for the time) 12-inch breechloaders and could make 12.4-knots. Puritan was followed by the four Amphitrite-class monitors, 12-knot vessels of 4,000-tons with four 10″/30 cal guns and up to 11.5-inches of iron armor.

Then came our one-of-a-kind vessel, Monitor No. 6, USS Monterey. At 4,084-tons, the 261-foot-long coastal defense vessel had more modern Harvey nickel steel armor, up to 13-inches of it in her barbettes to be exact, than her predecessors. Slightly slower at 11-knots, she wasn’t built for speed.

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Builder’s model, photographed in 1893. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1972. Copied from the Union Iron Works scrapbook, vol. 2, page 9 NH 75309

With limited deck space, Monterey’s teeth consisted of a pair of 12″/35 caliber Mark 1 breechloading guns protected by 8-inches of steel armor shield– the same mounts that were on the early battleship Texas— which were capable of firing out to 12,000 yards at about one round per minute.

In the end, Monterey was a decently armored ship that could fight in 15 feet of shallow water and deal out 870-pound AP shells at opponents approaching out to sea. You could argue that it was a solid coast defense concept for the era, especially for the money. Hell, cash-strapped non-aligned European powers such as Finland, Sweden, and Norway relied on a similar naval concept into the 1940s.

USS MONTEREY (BM-6), circa 1914. View of the ship’s forward turret, with two 12″ guns, circa 1914. Collection of C.A. Shively, 1978. NH 88539

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Firing her forward 12-inch guns during target practice off Port Angeles, Washington, during the 1890s. Note shell splash in distance, beyond the target. NH 45701

Bringing up the rear, Monterey mounted a pair of slightly smaller 10″/30 Mark 2 guns as used on the Amphitrites, protected by 7.5-inches of armor, in a turret facing aft. These could fire 510-pound shells out to 20,000 yards, a significant range boost over her forward guns.

USS MONTEREY (BM-6), stern, stereopticon photo published by Strohmeyer & Wyman, 1898 NH 45714

To ward off enemy small boats that worked in close enough to threaten the beast, Monterey carried a half dozen 6-pounders, four 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannons, and a pair of 1-pounders in open mounts.

In some ways, Monterey was superior to the follow-on quartet of Arkansas-class monitors which were smaller and less heavily armed, while having the same speed.

The biggest handicap of any monitor is the sea itself, after all, the namesake of the type, USS Monitor, was lost at sea while moving from station to station. While underway, Monterey and the ships of her more modern type suffered from notoriously low freeboard in any seas, making for a series of dramatic photos that have endured over a century.

U.S. Navy monitor, USS Monterey (BM 6), starboard view. Published by Detroit Publishing Company, between 1894-1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress LC-D4-20042

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) in a seaway. NH 45711

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) In a seaway off Santa Barbara, California, on 1 March 1896 while in a passage from Seattle to San Francisco. NH 45708

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) At sea, en route from Seattle to San Francisco in 1896. Note coal stowed on deck. NH 45712

The $1,628,950 contract was signed for Monterey on 14 June 1889 after she was authorized under the Naval Act of 1887 and her first frame was bent at San Francisco’s Union Iron Works on 7 October 1889.

Named for the California city and the 1846 Navy-Marine action that captured it from Mexico during the Mexican War, our monitor was the second U.S. Navy vessel to carry the moniker, the first being a Civil War-period steam tug that provided yeoman service to the Mare Island Navy Yard into 1892

Commissioned 13 February 1893, the new Monterey’s inaugural skipper was Civil War vet Capt. Lewis Kempff (USNA 1861), a man who would go on to become a rear admiral.

A great colorized image of Monterey by Diego Mar, showing her white and buff 1892-98 peacetime scheme.

She had a period of workups and calm, idyllic peacetime duty off the West Coast for the first several years of her career, assigned to the Pacific Squadron. This consisted primarily of slow jaunts from Seattle to San Diego and a short four-month coastline-hugging cruise to Peru and back in 1895 to show the flag

USS Monterey (BM-6) Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, during the 1890s. Copied from the Journal of Naval Cadet C.R. Miller, USN, page 51. NH 45702

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Dressed in flags on the 4th of July 1896, at Tacoma, Washington. NH 45704

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, during the 1890s. Receiving ship USS INDEPENDENCE is in the right background. Also, note how small her stern lettering has to be to fit. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution NH 45703

When war with Spain erupted, Monterey was the strongest U.S. ship on the West Coast save for the battleship USS Oregon (BB-3), which had been dispatched around Cape Horn on a 14,000-mile mission to join the Fleet in the Caribbean. This prompted a change from her peacetime livery to a dark grey.

“War Paint for the Monitors: Stripped of her brilliant coat of white and disguised under a dull lead color, almost a black, the Monterey is as wicked a looking craft as has ever been in the harbor…” Image and text provided by University of California, Riverside. Photo courtesy of The San Francisco Call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, 23 April 1898, Image 5, via chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. Archived at Navsource. http://www.navsource.org/archives/01/monterey.htm

As the conflict wore on, Monterey was ordered to sortie 8,000 miles across the Pacific for the Philippines to provide the Asiatic Squadron with big gun support against possible attack by the powerful Spanish battleship Paleyo (9700-tons, 2×12-inch guns, 2×11-inch guns) as Dewey’s forces consisted solely of cruisers and gunboats.

The fear did have some merit, as Spanish RADM Manuel de la Cámara was dispatched from Cadiz with Paleyo on June 16 along with the brand-new armored cruiser Emperador Carlos V, a force of destroyers and auxiliary cruisers, and 4,000 Spanish Army troops headed for the Philippines to make a fight for the colony.

As Camara was sailing through the Med, bound for the Far East, Monterey had already left San Diego on June 11 in company with collier Brutus for Manila.

Monterey, in her “wicked” scheme, departing Mare Island for the War with Spain, June 1898. Note the coal bags strapped around her turret. Photo via Mare Island Museum

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge wrote to his friend Col. Theodore Roosevelt, the recent Asst. SECNAV, that, “We are not going to lug that monitor across the Pacific for the fun of lugging her back again.”

At the time her skipper was LCDR James W. Carlin (USNA 1868), who as a lieutenant in 1889 was XO of the steam sloop USS Vandalia when the vessel was wrecked in the great Samoan hurricane of that year. During the storm, Carlin had to take command after Vandalia’s skipper was swept away. Mr. Carlin surely had an uneasy sense of dejavu as he shepherded his slow-moving monitor through another Pacific storm on the way to Manila Bay.

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Postcard print of the ship in a typhoon published circa 1907, probably during her crossing of the Pacific in August of 1898 to join Dewey’s fleet. NH 85843

Amazingly, the Monterey and Brutus made Cavite on 13 August and participated in the bloodless effort that same day in which American forces captured the city of Manila in a mock battle with the Spanish. In all, she logged an average of just 125 miles or so a day on her trip across the Pacific!

The other West Coast monitor, the Amphitrite-class USS Monadnock (BM-3), reached Manila Bay three days later on 16 August.

While Monterey and Monadnock were wallowing across the mighty Pacific that summer, Camara had met a brick wall at the Suez Canal where he was refused coaling by the British and returned to Spain, arriving at Cartagena on 23 July without firing a shot in the Spanish-American War.

Spanish battleship Paleyo at Port Said, Egypt, 26 June – 11 July 1898, while serving as flagship of Rear Admiral Manuel de la Camara’s squadron, which had been sent to relieve the Philippines. Copied from Office of Naval Intelligence Album of Foreign Warships. NH 88722

Although Monterey did not actually have a chance to go loud against the Spanish, she did see some action in the PI as events unfolded.

On 18 September 1899, she commenced a week of combat operations in Subic Bay against local insurgents and joined with gunboats Charleston and Concord and supply ship Zafiro, helping to destroy a large gun at the head of the bay on the 25th.

She would remain, along with the Monadnock, in the Far East alternating with service on China station where they seemed particularly suited to gunboat diplomacy along the Yangtze river, her landing forces put to frequent use, and waving the flag from Tokyo to Nanking.

USS MONTEREY at anchor in Nagasaki harbor, Japan, ca. 1899, photo via University of Washington, H. Ambrose Kiehl Photograph Collection

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) “Stack arms” during landing party drill on the ship’s foredeck, about 1898. Single frame photo from a stereo card. Photo published by Strohmeyer and Wyman, New York, 1898. Note Lee rifles; special Lee belts; and long leggings. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, 1967. NH 73619

USS MONTEREY (BM -6) “Morning Drill” on the quarterdeck. This appears to show the crew during landing force exercises. Stereo Photo, copyright 1898 by Strohmeyer & Wyman, New York. Note Navy Battalion Flag, deck lights, portable hatch cover, and captain. The monitor could land a 60-70 man force, backed up by two Colt M1895 “potato digger” machine guns and a 3-inch landing howitzer. NH 94259 -A

In 1900, the forward-deployed monitors would be used to help justify increasing port facilities in Cavite, as they had to make frequent trips to Hong Kong to avail themselves of British yards there.

From a Bureau of Navigation report:

It is important that this Government should construct or acquire on this station a dock of its own for the largest vessels. Under other circumstances foreign docks might not have been available for the Oregon, or being available, might not have been offered for use. The lack of a dock in the Philippines makes it necessary to keep full crews on board such vessels as the Monadnock and Monterey. These vessels are of little use in the present state of the insurrection but are needed in the Philippines as a reserve for strengthening the fleet in case of threat or attack from another power. Each six months, though, they need docking and must then have a crew and convoy besides to get them from Cavite to Hongkong, whereas with a dock in the Philippines they could be put in reserve and docked, as necessary.

While in the Philippines, she apparently carried huge deck awnings covering her guns.

Sailors manning the rails of USS Monterey (BM-6) NHF-154

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) crewmen reading on the fore-deck, under awnings, in Philippine waters, circa 1914. Note 12″ guns. NH 88575

Decommissioned at Olongapo in 1903 for four years’ worth of repairs, she was placed back into service in September 1907, spending more time in places ranging from Foochow to Zamboanga for the next decade.

In November 1917, as the world suffered from the Great War, Monterey was finally relieved from her Asiatic posting after 19 years and recalled to Pearl Harbor. This time she was towed by collier USS Ajax (AC-14) in a 36-day cruise, arriving just before Christmas.

Spending the next several years as a submarine tender– a job many old monitors found themselves pressed into in the 1900s– Monterey finished the Great War as a manned vessel, as her Christmas 1918 menu testifies.

U.S.S. Monterey …Menu… Christmas Day, December 25, 1918 – Soup: Cream of tomato; Relishes Celery, Ripe olives, Green onions; Salads: Fruit, Mayonnaise dressing, Combination; Meats: Roast turkey, Tartar sauce, Baked red snapper, Giblet gravy, Roast loin of pork, Apple sauce; Vegetables: Creamed mashed potatoes, French peas, Buttered asparagus tips; Dessert: Fruit cake, Mincemeat Pie, Rainbow ice cream; Fruits: Oranges, Apples, Bananas, Grapes; Beverages: Grape juice punch, Iced tea, Lemonade; Cigars, Cigarettes – J.H. Kohli, Acting Commissary Steward.

Decommissioned 27 August 1921, she was sold the next February to A. Bercovich Co., Oakland, Calif., and towed across the Pacific for scrapping. It was her first, and last, trip back to CONUS since she left in 1898 to join Dewey.

After she was scrapped, Monterey’s bell went on to live a life of its own, installed on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, from where it witnessed the attack in 1941.

Rear Admiral John D. McDonald, COM 14, and Comdt NOB Pearl Harbor pose with the bell from USS MONTEREY (BM-6) at Pearl Harbor, circa 1924. NH 91356

For years after WWII it was used to ring 8-bells at the golf course and as far as I know, is still there.

The third Monterey (CVL-26) was an Independence-class light carrier built on a cruiser hull during World War II.

USS Monterey (CVL-26) Catapults an F6F Hellcat fighter during operations in the Marianas area, June 1944. Note flight deck numbers, crewmen with catapult bridles, plexiglass bridge windscreen, and pelorus. 80-G-416686

The carrier was perhaps best known as having a navigation officer by the name of Gerald Ford in her complement during the push towards Tokyo.

Photograph of Navigation Officer Gerald Ford Taking a Sextant Reading aboard the USS Monterey, 1944 National Archives Identifier: 6923713

The fourth Monterey (CG-61) is a VLS-equipped Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser that has been with the fleet since 1990 and is still going strong some 30 years later.

U.S. FIFTH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (April 14, 2018) The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) fires a Tomahawk land attack missile in a strike against Syria. (U.S. Navy photo 180414-N-DO281-1123 by Lt. j.g Matthew Daniels/Released)

Specs:

USS MONTEREY (BM-6) Unofficial plans, published in the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1893. NH 70118

Displacement: 4,084 tons
Length: 260 ft 11 in
Beam: 59 ft
Draft: 14 ft
Machinery: VTE engines, 2 single-ended cylindrical and 4 Ward Tubulous boilers, 2 shafts, 5,250 hp
Speed: 11 knots
Complement: 19 Officers and 176 Enlisted as designed, 218 (1898)
Armor, Harvey:
3 inches on deck
5-13 inch belt
11.5-13 inch barbettes
7.5-8 inch turrets
10-inch CT
Armament:
2 x 12/35″ in one dual turret
2 x 10/30″ in one dual turret
6 x 6-pdrs
4 x 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannons
2 x 1-pounders
2 x Colt M1895 machine guns (added 1898)
1 x landing gun

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

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

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

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

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Warship Wednesday, March 11, 2020: Flory’s Battle-scarred Bugle

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, March 11, 2020: Flory’s Battle-scarred Bugle

National Records of Scotland, UCS1/118/Gen 372/2

Here we see a vessel identified as the brand-new light cruiser HMS Castor, at the time the flagship of Royal Navy’s 11th Destroyer Flotilla, passing Clydebank, February 1916. A handsome ship, she would very soon sail into harm’s way.

Laid down at Cammell Laird and Co. Birkenhead three months after the war started, Castor was a member of the Cambrian subclass of the 28-strong “C”-class of oil-fired light cruisers. Sturdy 446-foot ships of 4,000~ tons, their eight-pack of Yarrow boilers trunked through two funnels and pushing a pair of Parsons turbines coughed up 40,000 shp– enough to sprint them at 29-knots.

Comparable in size to a smallish frigate today, they packed four single BL 6-inch Mk XII guns along with a more distributed battery of six or eight QF 4-inch Mk IV guns in addition to a pair of bow-mounted 21-inch torpedo tubes. With up to 6-inches of steel armor (conning tower), they could hold their own against similar cruisers, slaughter destroyers, and gunboats, and run away from larger warships.

After just 11 months on the builder’s ways, Castor was commissioned in November 1915, the fourth of HMs vessels to carry the name one of the Gemini twins since 1781.

A port quarter view of the Cambrian class light cruiser HMS Castor (1915) underway off Scapa Flow. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (N16682)

Castor at commissioning became the flagship of the Grand Fleet’s 11th Destroyer Flotilla, which consisted of 14 Admiralty M (Moon)-class destroyers (HMS Kempenfelt, Magic, Mandate, Manners, Marne, Martial, Michael, Milbrook, Minion, Mons Moon, Morning Star, Mounsey, Mystic, and Ossory) under the overall flag of Castor’s skipper since November 1915, Commodore (F) James Rose Price Hawksley. Hawksley had previously spent much of his 19-year RN career up to then as a destroyerman, so it made sense.

With her paint still fresh and her plankowners just off her shakedown, Castor, along with the rest of the mighty Grand Fleet, crashed into the German High Seas Fleet off Denmark’s North Sea Jutland coast, the largest battleship-cruiser-destroyer surface action in history.

While covering the whole Battle of Jutland goes far beyond the scope of this post, we shall focus on Castor’s role and that of her flotilla on the night of the 31st of May. With the day’s fleet action broken up and the two fleets searching for each other in the darkness, the leading German light cruisers brushed into the British rear-guard starboard wing, that being HMS Castor and her destroyers. The official history states:

“At 20:11 hrs., the 11th Flotilla led by Commodore Hawksley, onboard Castor spotted German Destroyers to his NWN and turned to attack, supported by the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron. They had found not destroyers but the main German battle line.”

Castor’s force was soon spotted by the German ships, who approached in the darkness and mimicked the response to a British challenge signal that they had been confronted with, in turn getting one correct out of three challenges. This meant that they were able to approach much closer than usual.

Then, at a range of just 2,000 yards, the German ships threw on their searchlights and opened fire. Castor returned fire, and she and at least two of her destroyers (Marne and Magic), each snap-shotted one torpedo each at the German ships, with the cruiser aiming at the first German in line and the two lead destroyers on the following. “This was followed by an explosion. It may be taken for certain that it was Magic’s torpedo that struck the second ship in the enemy’s line.”

This confused surface action lasted for about five minutes before both sides heeled away into the safety of the black night. Some of the other destroyers reported that they were unable to see the enemy because of glare from Castor’s guns, while others believed there had been some mistake and the contact was friendly fire. No news of the engagement reached Jellicoe in time for him to react with the main battle line.

While her 14 destroyers came away unscathed, Castor received 10 large caliber shell hits, which set her ablaze, and lost 12 of her Sailors and Marines killed or missing.

A photograph was taken from inside the hull of the light cruiser HMS Castor after the Battle of Jutland showing a large shell hole. IWM photograph Q 61137

The dozen killed included bugler Albert Flory, RMLI, who gave his last full measure at the ripe old age of 16.

Marine Albert Flory, RMLI, Castor’s bugler via Royal Marines Museum

Two others among Castor’s dead carried the rank of “Boy,” one generally reserved for apprentice sailors under the age of 18. At the time, about one in 10 of her complement were such modern powder monkeys.

Her death toll overall:

BAKER, William, Boy 1c, J 39706
BARTRAM, Leslie, Able Seaman, J 14191 (Po)
BROOMHEAD, Alfred, Stoker 1c (RFR B 4446), SS 103448 (Po)
CANDY, William A V, Ordinary Signalman, J 28149 (Po)
CHILD, Frederick T, Stoker Petty Officer, 308828 (Po)
EVANS, Alfred O, Ordinary Signalman, J 27451 (Dev)
FLORY, Albert E, Bugler, RMLI, 18169 (Po)
FOX, John E, Stoker 1c, SS 114531 (Po)
GASSON, Harry, Able Seaman (RFR B 6769), 212007 (Po)
HALLAM, Fred, Boy 1c, J 39695
KILHAMS, Alfred J, Ordinary Telegraphist, J 30359 (Po)
MACGREGOR, Donald N, Chief Yeoman of Signals, 173674 (Po)

Added to the butcher’s bill was 26 seriously and 13 lightly wounded.

“H.M.S. Castor, an operation”

HMS Castor. Wounded Received After the Battle of Jutland, 31st May 1916 painting by Jan (Godfrey Jervis) Gordon. IWM ART 2781 Note from IWM: This scene of British wounded sailors being tended to during the Battle of Jutland is by the artist Jan Gordon. It was one of four paintings completed by Gordon on behalf of the Imperial War Museum’s Royal Navy Medical Section between 1918 and 1919. Gordon’s painting shows the wounded crew members being brought below deck, each bearing a variety of injuries and corresponding treatments.

Castor would spend most of the rest of 1916 and the first part of 1917 undergoing repairs and, as the High Seas Fleet didn’t sortie again until the surrender at Scapa Flow, the remainder of Castor’s war was relatively uneventfully spent on duty in the Home Islands. The most interesting action of this period was when she responded to the sinking armed trawler USS Rehoboth (SP-384) in October 1917, during which the cruiser took on the stricken vessel’s crew and sent the derelict hull to the bottom with shellfire.

On 23 November 1918, she was tasked with counting and watching surrendering German destroyers.

Royal Navy C-class light cruiser HMS Castor, 1918 IWM SP 2750

Hawkesley, Castor’s first skipper, and 11th Flotilla commodore at Jutland would move on to finish the war in command of the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible. He would go on to retire as a Rear Admiral in 1922 in conjunction with the Washington Naval Treaty drawdown, a rank advanced to Vice-Admiral while on the Retired List four years later. He would be replaced on Castor’s bridge by Commodore (F) Hugh Justin Tweedie, a man who would go on to retire as a full admiral in 1935. Sir Hugh would return to service in the early days of WWII, working with the Convoy Pools in his 60s.

Castor, whose 4-inch secondary battery was replaced by a smaller number of AAA guns, is listed as serving in the Black Sea with the British force deployed there for intervention into the broiling Russian Civil War from 1919-20. Such duty could prove deadly. For example, while none of the 28 C-class light cruisers were lost during the Great War– despite several showing up in U-boat periscopes and being present at Jutland and the Heligoland Bight– Castor’s sister Cassandra was sunk by a mine in the Baltic on 5 December 1918 while acting against the Reds.

Castor followed up her Russian stint service on the Irish Patrol in 1922. Then came a spell as the floating Gunnery School at Portsmouth until 1924 when she passed into a period of refit and reserve.

She was recommissioned at Devonport for China Station June 1928, to relieve her sistership Curlew and saw the globe a bit.

HMS Castor at Devonport, where she was commissioned to relieve the Curlew on China Station. NH 61309

HMS Castor, Malta, note her extensive awnings and reduced armament

HMS Castor off New York

HMS Castor, Stockholm

With the times passing and newer cruisers coming on line eating up valuable treaty-limited tonnage, Castor was paid off in May 1935 and sold two months later to Metal Ind, Rosyth, for her value in scrap metal. There has not been a “Castor” on the British naval list since. Most of her early sisters were likewise disposed of in the same manner during this period.

Just half of the class, 14 vessels, made it out of the Depression still in the fleet and most went on to serve in one form or another in the Second World War, despite their advanced age and outdated nature. Of those, six were lost: Curlew, Calcutta, and Coventry to enemy aircraft; Calypso and Cairo to submarines, as well as Curacoa to a collision with the Queen Mary.

Just one C-class cruiser survived past 1948, Jutland veteran Caroline, a past Warship Wednesday alum. Having served as an RNVR drillship in Alexandra Dock, Belfast until 2011, since 2016 she has been a museum ship. She is the last remaining warship that was at Jutland.

Castor’s sister Caroline in Belfast recently, disarmed, decommed, but still proud

When it comes to Castor, a number of relics remain.

Her White Ensign (Length 183 cm, Width 92 cm) is in the IWM collection, although not on display while her (525x 425x30mm) ship’s badge is at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

One of Castor’s unidentified lost souls was finally discovered in 2016, a full century after Jutland.

Able Seaman Harry Gasson‘s body was blown to sea in the engagement and was recovered about two nautical miles off Grey Deep on 25 September 1916– an amazing four months after the battle. With no identification, he was and buried simply as a “British Seaman of the Great War Known unto God” five days later in the Danish town of Esbjerg.

As noted by the MoD:

The local people of Esbjerg maintained the grave for almost 100 years, but it wasn’t until local historians looked into the church records to find it was recorded that the sailor had the name H. Gossom written in his trousers. After work by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and checking naval records, the MOD was able to agree that the identity of this sailor was H. Gasson, and there had been an error in the transcription.

His anonymous headstone was replaced with his correct name in a ceremony attended by two of his descendants along with the ship’s company of the HMS Tyne.

Relatives and representatives from the Royal Navy attend the service on 31 May 2016, for AB Gasson in Denmark (MoD photo)

As for Marine Albert Flory’s shrapnel-riddled bugle, to mark this year’s Bands of HM Royal Marines Mountbatten Festival of Music 2020, the Royal Marine Museum is giving the public the chance to “adopt” it to support the new Royal Marines Museum Campaign.

Flory’s instrument, no doubt close to him when he was struck at Jutland. Via the Royal Marine Museum

Specs:


Displacement: 3,750 tons (designed); 4,320 fl; 4,799 deep load
Length: 446 ft (o/a)
Beam: 41 ft 6 in
Draught: 14 ft 10 in (with Bunkers full, and complete with Provisions, Stores and Water: 16 feet 3 inches mean)
Propulsion: 8 Yarrow Small tube boilers, 2 Parsons steam turbines, 2 shafts, 30,000 shp natural/40,000 Forced Draught
Speed: 28.5 knots max (some hit 29 on trials)
Number of Tons of Oil Fuel Carried: 841
Quantity of Water carried: For Boilers, 70 tons, For Drinking 49.25 tons
Ship’s Company (typical)
Officers: 31
Seamen: 149
Boys: 31
Marines: 36
Engine-room establishment: 88
Other non-executive ratings: 44
Total: 379
Boats:
One motorboat 30 feet
One sailing cutter 30 feet
Two whalers 27 feet, Montague
One gig 30 feet
Two skiff dinghies 16 feet
One motorboat 30 feet for Commodore’s use
Armor:
Waterline belt: 1.5–3 in
Deck: 1 in
Conning tower: 6 in
Armament:
(1915)
4 x single BL 6″/45 Mk XII guns on Forecastle, Forward superstructure, Aft Forward superstructure and Quarterdeck
6 x single QF 4″/40 Mk IV guns
1 x single QF 4 in 13 pounder Mk V anti-aircraft gun
2 x 21-inch (533 mm) submerged torpedo tubes, typically with eight Mark IV Torpedoes
(1919)
4 x single BL 6″/45 Mk XII guns
2 x QF 3-inch 20 cwt IV on Mark IV AAA mounting on foc’sle
2 x QF 2 pole Pom-pom AAA on the aft superstructure
2 x 21-inch (533 mm) submerged torpedo tubes, typically with eight Mark IV Torpedoes

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a member, so should you be!

Battlewagon in the anti-ship missile age, 29 years ago today

While primitive guided bombs and missiles were fielded in WWII (see = the U.S. Navy’s SWOD-9 Bat and the sinking of the Italian battleship Roma in 1943 by an air-launched Fritz X) it wasn’t until the P-15 Termit (NATO: SS-N-2 Styx) was developed by the Soviets in 1958 that a reliable surfaced-launched anti-ship missile was fielded. Soon answered in the West by the Swedish Saab Rb 08 and Israeli Gabriel in the 1960s, then by more advanced platforms such as Exocet and Harpoon, such weapons replaced coastal artillery batteries as well as surfaced-launched torpedos as the principal means for asymmetric forces to effect a “kill” on a capital ship.

Likewise, the age of the dreadnought and large all-gun-armed cruiser was fading at the same time.

The four Iowa-class fast battleships were mothballed in 1958 (but, of course, New Jersey would be brought back for a tour in Vietnam while all four would be returned to service in the 1980s for the Cold War– more on that later) while the British retired HMS Vanguard in 1960 while the Soviets had gotten out of the battlewagon biz in the late 1950s after their Italian trophy ship Novorossiysk (ex-Giulio Cesare) blew up and their circa 1911 Gangut-class “school battleships” finally gave up the ghost. The French held on to Jean Bart until 1970, although she had been in reserve since after the Suez affair in 1956.

With that, it was no surprise that when the quartet of Iowas was reactivated in the 1980s to play a role in Reagan’s 600-ship Navy, they were “modernized” with 32 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from eight funky four-shot armored box launchers as well as 16 Harpoon anti-ship missiles in place of some of their WWII-era retired AAA gun mounts. In a nod to the facts, the missiles all out-ranged the battleships’ gun armament.

Fast forward to the 1st Gulf War and Mighty Mo, USS Missouri (BB-63), chunked 28 Tomahawks and 783 rounds of 16-inch shells at Saddam’s forces while dodging a Persian Gulf filled with naval mines of all flavors– as well as the occasional anti-ship missile counterfire.

16-inch (410 mm) guns fired aboard the battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63) as night shelling of Iraqi targets takes place along the northern Kuwaiti coast during Operation Desert Storm. Date 6 February 1991. Photo by PH3 Dillon. DN-ST-91-09306

As for Missouri, the Iowas were not able to carry Sea Sparrow point defense launchers as they could not be shock-hardened to deal with the vibration from the battleship’s main guns, so they had an air defense provided by soft kill countermeasures such as chaff, decoys, and ducks; along with a quartet of CIWS 20mm Phalanx guns and five Stinger MANPAD stations– meaning a modern anti-ship missile would have to be killed either by an escort or at very close range. Good thing the Iowas had as much as 19.5-inches of armor plate!

While closing in with the enemy-held coastline to let her 16s reach out and touch someone on 23 February 1991, Missouri came in-range of a battery of shore-based Chinese-made CSS-C-2 Silkworm anti-ship missiles. One missed while the second was intercepted by Sea Darts from a nearby screening destroyer, the Type 42-class HMS Gloucester (D96). The intercepted Silkworm splashed down about 700 yards from Missouri.

USS Missouri under Attack by Iraqi Silkworm Painting, Oil on Canvas Board; by John Charles Roach; 1991; Framed Dimensions 28H X 34W Accession #: 92-007-U
Official caption: “While providing gunfire support to harass the Iraqi troops in Kuwait in preparation for a possible amphibious landing, USS Missouri (BB-63) was fired upon by an Iraqi Silkworm anti-ship missile. By the use of infrared flares and chaff, the missile’s guidance was confused. It crossed close astern of Missouri and was engaged and shot down by HMS Gloucester (D-96).”

The AP reported at the time:

Royal Navy Commander John Tighe told reporters two Sea Dart missiles were fired by the Gloucester less than 50 seconds after the ship’s radar detected the incoming Iraqi missiles at about 5 a.m.

Tighe said one Sea Dart scored a direct hit, destroying the Iraqi missile. He said a second missile launched by the Iraqis veered into the sea.

The commander said allied airplanes subsequently attacked the Silkworm missile launch site. He said that while he had not received a battle damage assessment, he was ″fairly confident that site will not be used to launch missiles against the ships again.”

Missouri did take some damage that day, from CIWS rounds fired by the escorting frigate USS Jarrett (FFG-33), which had locked on to one of the battleship’s chaff clouds and opened fire. One sailor was wounded by 20mm DU shrapnel.

Today, battleships left the Naval List for the final time in 1995 and all that made it that far are preserved as museums. The missiles, however, endure.

Boris to save HMS Hermes?

As we have covered in the past few weeks, the former WWII vintage Centaur-class fleet carrier HMS Hermes (61/R12), late of the Indian Navy, recently went up for auction and received zero bids. The former Falklands War conflict flagship, which had her hull laid in 1944, is the last of her kind and gave 59 hard years to the Admiralties of London and New Delhi, and it would be a shame to send her to the breakers.

Now, according to the UK’s Sunday Express, PM Boris Johnson may have reached out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an attempt to bring the ship home.

Downing Street has declined to comment on whether Mr Johnson raised the issue in the conversation which is mostly kept private.

But Mr Campbell Bannerman, who has helped lead the campaign along with Falklands veteran Andy Trish, said: “We believe Boris intervened but haven’t been able to have it confirmed.

“It is good news though that for whatever reason HMS Hermes can still be saved.

“We can raise more money from private backers than the Indian government would receive for turning it into scrap. It is very important that we keep some of our naval heritage and history for future generations to see.”

We will keep you posted.

Warship Wednesday (on a Thursday) Jan 2, 2020: One Tough Russian

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday (on a Thursday) Jan 2, 2020: One Tough Russian

Here we see, under what looks like an albatross circling, the gently listing Petropavlovsk-class battleship Sevastopol of the Imperial Russian Navy in early December 1904. The olive drab warship is terrain masking as best she could in besieged Port Arthur to avoid the Japanese Army’s 11-inch howitzer shells which had sent all the rest of the Tsar’s Pacific battlewagons to the bottom. She would enter 1905 as the sole combat-ready Russian battleship still afloat on that side of the globe– only to fight her last on 2 January, some 115 years ago today.

At 11,500-tons (standard), the trio of Petropavlovsk were essentially improved versions of the previous one-off Sissoi Veliky and Tri Sviatitelia-class battleships.

Russian Petropavlovsk-class battleship Poltava fitting out in Kronstadt, 1900 

Packing four 12″/40 (30.5 cm) Pattern 1895 Obukhov guns in a pair of twin hydraulic turrets forward and aft, which had a two-minute firing cycle between rounds, they also carried a secondary armament of eight 6″/45cal guns in four twin mounts (rather than casemates as commonly seen around the world).

Imperial Russian battleships Poltava and Sevastopol in Kronshtadt, 1899 under construction–note the turrets being constructed

Imperial Russian battleship Sevastopol in Kronshtadt, September 1900

Topping the cake was something on the order of 40 37mm and 47mm anti-torpedo boat guns and a half-dozen torpedo tubes. Armor was an impressive mix that ran up to 16-inches thick. Speed, just 15.3 knots on 16 coal-fired boilers and a pair of VTE engines, was typical of the era.

Russian battleships Poltava and Sevastopol in Kronshtadt, September 1900. Note the myriad of 37mm and 47mm light guns slathered throughout the ship from fighting tops to decks

Petropavlovsk and her sister, Sevastopol, were laid down at the Galerny Island Shipyard in St. Petersburg while the third ship of the class, Poltava, was laid down at the city’s Admiralty Yard at the tail-end of the 19th Century. All were named after famous Russian battles, with our featured ship honoring the epic 11-month Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War.

Commissioned 15 July 1900 after a second set of builder’s trials– during which she made 16.41 knots– Sevastopol was dispatched to join the rest of her class in the Pacific where the Russians were hedging in on Korea and Manchuria, much to the heartburn of the Japanese Empire.

From 1900 to the beginning of 1904 the Petropavlovsk-class vessels carried a Far East scheme that included white sides, turrets, deckhouses, masts, and fans with black-capped yellow stacks and gilded bow and stern decorations. This would later switch during the Russo-Japanese War to an all-over dark olive-green and black.

Sevastopol photographed at Algiers in 1901 while en route to the Russian base at Port Arthur where she was scuttled in 1905. Courtesy of J. Meister, Zurich Switzerland, 1975 NH 81876

Battleships Sevastopol and Petropavlovsk (in the background) in Vladivostok, August 1901

Russian battleships Sevastopol, Poltava, and Petropavlovsk in Port Arthur, 1903

The Balloon Goes Up

When Port Arthur was attacked by the Japanese in the opening act of the war on the night of 8/9 February 1904, the Russians had their fleet in three lines anchored in the outer harbor.

The innermost line included Sevastopol and her sisters Petropavlovsk (fleet flagship) and Poltava along with the two similar 15,000-ton Peresvet-class battleships Peresvet and Pobieda. The middle line included the new battleships Tsarevich and Retvizan as well as several cruisers. In all, seven Russian battlewagons swaying at anchor in a “peacetime” Pacific port. (Similarly, at Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. had seven along Battleship Row as well as the dreadnought Pennsylvania in dry dock.)

Within 20 minutes, three flotillas of Japanese destroyers swept in, delivered their fish, and slipped out to sea, suffering no casualties. The middle line took the worst of it with both Retvizan and Tsarevich taking torpedoes and having to run aground to prevent a total loss.

Japanese Ukiyo-E woodblock art depiction, “Illustration of Our Torpedo Hitting Russian Ship at Great Naval Battle of Port Arthur” by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1904

Japanese Ukiyo-E woodblock art depiction by Toshihide Migita of the torpedo ship attack, Port Arthur

Nonetheless, the undamaged Russian ships stood to the next morning and engaged Japanese Adm. Togo’s squadron in a 40-minute battle that was a tactical draw in the respect that it left the status quo with the Russians in Port Arthur and the Japanese in control of the water outside the range of the base’s coastal guns.

Print shows Japanese battleships bombarding Russian battleships in the surprise initial naval assault on the Russian fleet at Lüshun (Port Arthur) 1904

During the said engagement, Sevastopol fired 10 12-inch and 65 6-inch shells at the Japanese with no reported hits, taking three small hits in return which caused little damage.

Sevastopol. This photograph might possibly have been taken at Port Arthur on the Yellow Sea during the early stages of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, after the opening engagement but before she got her olive drab paint. Courtesy of J. Meister, Zurich Switzerland, 1975 NH 81875

Togo next decided to try and bottle up the Russian fleet in Port Arthur by sinking old merchant ships, manned by volunteer IJN crews, in the approach channel. Said one-way volunteers would be plucked from their doomed ships by accompanying torpedo boats.

The first attempt, with four blockships– Bushu Maru, Buyo Maru, Hokoku Maru, and Jinsen Maru-– took place on the night of 24/25 February and but was unsuccessful after the grounded battleship Retvizan caught the lead ship in her searchlights and plastered it.

Second attempt to block Port Arthur, 27 March 1904 William Lionel Wylie RMG PV0976

The second attempt was in the early morning of 27 March and, like the first, involved four blockships: the Chiyo Maru, Fukui Maru, Yahiko Maru, and Yoneyama Maru. The whole thing fell apart when Fukui Maru was spotted and promptly sunk by the patrolling Russian destroyer Silnyii well short of the outer harbor and the other three condemned steamers scuttled too far out to fill their intended role.

Blockade of Port Arthur by Hannosuke Kuroki 1904

A third attempt was made a few weeks later using a doubled force of eight blockships– but this was also unsuccessful and cost the lives of more than 70 of the volunteers who rode them to the bottom.

It was roughly at this point that Sevastopol’s skipper, Capt. Nikolai Chernyshev, was relieved by the newly-installed squadron commander, Russian Vice Adm. Stephan Makarov, after the battleship had a collision with Peresvet that was ruled Chernyshev’s fault during a rushed inquiry. The career officer was sent back to St. Petersburg on one of the last trains out of the fortress and would be found dead in his apartment the same week the Treaty of Portsmouth formally ended the Russo-Japanese War, aged 48.

Relieving Chernyshev was the commander of the fast cruiser Novik, Capt. Nicholas von Essen, from an esteemed Baltic German family with a long history of service to the Tsar. Although the crack up between the two battleships left one of Sevastopol’s rudders and screws damaged, an ersatz repair was able to semi-fix the warship enough to consider her still fit for service.

Makarov, who was seen by the Russians as essentially their equivalent of Chester Nimitz, led the patched up Russian squadron on a patrol out of Port Arthur on 13 April, with his flag on Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol just to her stern.

However, Petropavlovsk stumbled across as many as three unmarked Russian mines (!) and sank in about a minute with the loss of 646 lives, to include the good admiral and Russian combat artist Vasily Vereshchagin.

A Japanese Ukiyo-E depiction by artist Yasuda Hampō of the sinking of Petropavlovsk. The original caption reads: “Picture of the Eighth Attack on Port Arthur. The Flagship of Russia Was Destroyed by the Torpedo of Our Navy and Admiral Makaroff [sic] Drowned.” Photo via Museum of Fine Art, Boston

“The Russian battleship Petropvavlask sinks as Adm. Makarov stands bravely on deck”

“Faith, Tsar, and Fatherland 1905 Forgotten War” by Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko showing Russian military artist Vasili Verestchagin aboard battleship Petropavlovsk with Admiral Makarov just before it sank. I love the sailors in the background.

Among the 89 survivors from Petropavlask plucked from the water was Lt. Grand Duke Kirill (Cyril) Vladimirovich, the Tsar’s first cousin and the man who would go on to be the pretender to the Romanov throne in exile from 1924 until his death in 1938, a position his granddaughter continues to style today. Kirill would suffer from burns, back injuries, and PTSD for the rest of his life.

Sevastopol, along with the rest of the squadron, was able to return to port after the loss of her sister.

Under newly promoted and deeply fatalistic Rear Adm. Wilgelm Vitgeft (aka Withief), the fleet at Port Arthur was ordered to sortie from the doomed base to the relative safety of Vladivostok to the North, fighting their way through Togo if they had to.

Sailing out on 10 June with six battleships, seven cruisers, and six destroyers, they made it some 20 miles outside of the port before the clashed– briefly– with Togo’s slightly smaller force (four battleships and 12 cruisers) and turned tail.

On re-entering the port, Sevastopol was hit by another unmarked mine and suffered 11 wounded.

Russian naval mines of the 1904 era were not that much more advanced than the black powder Jacobi mines of the Crimean War, a design that predated Farragut’s damnation in the Civil War. Nonetheless, they worked. The Russo-Japanese war experience led the Russkis to develop the M08 mine shortly after, one that is still used extensively today.

Russian naval mines on the beach on the east coast of Heishakow, Port Arthur 1905. In addition to Japanese mines, the loss or the Russian minelayer Yenisei, struck one of her own devices two days after the war began while laying an unmarked minefield, would haunt the Russian fleet. NH 94783

Japanese sailors inspect captured Russian sea mines during the Russo-Japanese War. The IJN lost the battleships Hatsuse and Yashima, the cruisers Miyako, Saien and Takasago; auxiliary cruiser Otagawa Maru, the destroyers Akatsuki and Hayatori, blockship Aikoku Maru, the torpedo boat No. 48, gunboat Heien, transport Maiko Maru, and corvette Kaimon to mines during the conflict. Photo via USNI photo archive

Left with a 12×14-foot hole in her hull and a 5-degree list, Sevastopol went to the port’s naval yard once again for repairs. It was during this period that a few of her 6-inch and most of her light guns (37mm Maxims and 47mm Hotchkiss) were removed to be installed ashore, manned by her gunners. One of her 12-inch guns was cannibalized to repair a similar one that had been damaged on Poltava.

Six-inch naval gun in a Russian hillside battery commander seated at left Port Arthur, LC-DIG-ppmsca-07978

The Beginning of the End

The hourglass was upended on Port Arthur on 1 August when the fortress city was cut off from the rest of Asia on land by the Japanese Army. With no more trains or supply columns, fresh troops or stock coming, and the port blockaded by the Japanese fleet applied against a single point, Port Arthur was withering on the vine for the next 154 days as the world watched.

Sevastopol was ready for action again by the end of July and fell in with the squadron once more for Vitgeft’s second attempt to break out on 10 August. The flag officer, in a meeting with his commanders before the sortie, reportedly told the assembled as they departed, “Gentlemen, we will meet again in the next world.”

Proving himself correct, the mission saw the unlucky admiral killed on the bridge of his battleship Tsarevich and most of the force– except for the battered Tsarevich herself which made for neutral Chinese shelter along with a trio of German-made destroyers— returned to Port Arthur a final time. In that lengthy (10 hours) running fight, known today as the Battle in the Yellow Sea, Sevastopol fired 78 12-inch and 323 6-inch shells and was hit twice by Japanese shells in return, causing 61 casualties.

With the likelihood of breakout evaporating, the fleet then turned to provide extra hands for the shrinking siege lines in the hills to fight off Gen. Baron Nogi Maresuke’s entire Third Japanese Army. Mobilizing nearly half of her crew to serve ashore in an ersatz infantry company, Sevastopol’s bluejackets were given rifles and cartridge belts and sent packing.

Imperial Russian battleship Sevastopol in Port-Arthur, 1904, with her crew sending off a scratch naval battalion armed with Mosin M91 rifles. Note, she now has an olive drab scheme. 

Still, Sevastopol, by then a battered and half-manned floating war engine, shuttled around the harbor and provided direct gunfire support in late August, during which she exchanged fire with the Japanese armored cruisers Nissin and Kasuga. Once again, she struck a mine, which put her in repair until October.

It was while she was the Navy Yard that the Japanese had begun to bombard the base and its defenses with over a dozen Armstrong-designed 11-inch (280mm) L/10 howitzers which had been pulled from the coastal defenses of Tokyo Bay and manhandled to the fortress. Each of the behemoths fired 478-pound AP shells to a range of nearly 5-miles.

Enormous 11-inch shell from Japanese siege gun, beginning its deadly flight into Port Arthur LC-USZ62-67825

Drydock in Port Arthur Navy Yard showing cruiser Bayan, left and Sevastopol, right, under fire from Japanese 11-inch howitzers, likely in October. Courtesy of Mrs. John B. McDonald, September 15, 1966. NH 111897

Hit by five such shells while in repair, Sevastopol’s deck was reinforced with a layer of sandbags and slag under a cover of an inch of plate steel. Such up-armored, the battered Russian was able to clock back in and provide counter-battery fire throughout November.

However, once the Japanese on 3 December seized control of the strategic key to Port Arthur, 203 Meter Hill, which commanded the harbor itself, and with a gunfire support team atop the crest directing fire, it was game over for the Russian fleet.

Destroying Russian ships and town terrific rain of great Japanese shells in Port Arthur, LC-DIG-ppmsca-07969

On 5 December, Sevastopol’s remaining sistership Poltava was hit by plunging howitzer shells and suffered a magazine explosion, sinking her to the mud of Port Arthur.

The Russian pre-dreadnought battleship Poltava sunk at Port Arthur as a result of bombardment by Japanese land-based artillery during the siege of Port Arthur (December 1904). She would later be salvaged and put into service with the Japanese then repatriated to Russia in 1915 and be finally scrapped in the Baltic in the 1920s. 

The next day, Retvizan was pounded to the bottom.

Port Arthur, 1905 Russian battleship Retvizan sunk by Japanese 11-inch howitzers shallow water

On 7 December, Peresvet and Pobeda went.

Russian Peresvet Class Pre-Dreadnought Battleship IRN Pobeda under intense Japanese artillery fire at Port Arthur on December 6th, 1904.

On 8 December, the cruiser Pallada was destroyed.

Destroying a fleet — battleship Pallada struck by a 500 lb. Japanese shell — Port Arthur harbor via LOC LC-USZ62-68822

On the 9th, the cruiser Bayan joined the butcher’s list. The minelayer Amur and gunboat Bobr followed.

Port Arthur from the top of Gold Hill in 1905. From the left wrecks of battleships Peresvet, Poltava, Retvizan, Pobeda and the cruiser Pallada

The Final Act

After the first week or so of December, Sevastopol and a retinue of small ships were all that was left of the once-mighty Russian Pacific force in Port Arthur. Though missing some of her armament and still suffering damage from two mines, a collision, five 11-inch hits and a dozen from smaller 8- and 6-inch naval guns, she was still the only combat-effective Russian capital ship available.

Therefore, Essen, with his ground-fighting sailors repatriated back from the frozen trenches to their floating steel home, fought the last naval battle for Port Arthur from 10 December onward, with the big howitzers firing another 300 rounds indirectly at the theorized location of the Russian ship in a real-life game of Battleship without success, forcing the Japanese navy to tap back into the fight.

A fleet in being, although trapped, the Sevastopol and her escorts pinned down the bulk of the Japanese fleet for the rest of the year.

As described in Richard Connaughton’s Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear: Russia’s War with Japan:

Von Essen, formerly captain of the Novik, placed Sevastopol in the roadstead at the southern end of Tiger’s Tail behind a hill that shielded her from 203 Meter Hill. She was protected by an anti-torpedo boom and a small, hurrying, anxious destroyer flotilla. Wave after wave of Japanese destroyers sped in to release no fewer than 124 torpedoes in six successive attacks against the luckless target. For three weeks, Essen survived…

Sevastopol repulsing a night attack. Painting by A.V. Ganzena

In the series of attacks, the Russian force sank at least two Japanese torpedo boats, No. 53 and No. 42, and damaged as many as 13 other vessels. Meanwhile, the protected cruiser Takasago was sent to the bottom on 13 December when she struck a mine while shepherding the small attack craft, with a loss of 273 of her crew.

Japanese Torpedo boats returning to base after night attack

It was downright embarrassing to Togo that, even after the Army had dismantled the Russian squadron piecemeal, his force still could not shut the lid on its coffin.

Finally, it was all for naught as Gen. Baron Anatoly Stessel (Stoessel), the Russian commander at Port Arthur, moved to surrender his force on New Year’s Day 1905, without consulting his shocked staff. Apparently, while in a tactically bad position, the besieged base could have held out much longer in theory.

From W. Bruce Lincoln’s, In War’s Dark Shadow:

When they entered Port Arthur, the Japanese expected to find a handful of desperate defenders short of weapons, ammunition, and food. Not counting doctors, nurses and noncombatants, they found 13,485 able-bodied men, another 5,809 suffering from scurvy or minor wounds, and 13,856 who were in the hospital or on light duty because of wounds or serious illness. There were over 600 pieces of artillery still in good order, over 200,000 shells still unfired, and about 2.5 million rounds of machine gun and rifle ammunition. There were tons of food and fodder: flour for 27 days, groats for another 23 days, beans and lentils for 34 days, and dried vegetables for 88 days. There were nearly 200 days’ worth of salt and tea. Most amazing of all, perhaps, there was 2,944 horses in the fortress, enough to supply the garrison with fresh meat for many days to come in view of the large quantities of fodder remaining. With their sense of honor that drove them to fight to the death for their Emperor, the Japanese were dumbfounded.

Of note, Stessel was later court marshaled and sentenced to death by a Russian military tribunal, although his sentence was eventually commuted.

Just before the Nogi’s forces moved into Port Arthur on 2 January, the last of the Russian fleet in the harbor pulled a Toulon 1942 and scuttled. These included the Puilki-class destroyers Storozhevoi, Silni, and Razyashchi; the Delfin-class destroyers Bditelni and Boevoi; the gunboats Djigit, Guidamak, Guidamak and Razboinik; and the battered but not broken Sevastopol.

Von Essen, with a crew of 50, moved the ship to the deepest water available to him, 30 fathoms, and opened her seacocks after passing the word to dog closed only the portside watertight doors. This caused the ship to keel over starboard and sink by the stern in about 15 minutes. Notably, while the Japanese were able to raise and ultimately repair all the Russian battleships sunk at Port Arthur (apart from the shattered Petropavlovsk) Sevastopol was declared a loss and not salvaged.

In all, some 507 of Sevastopol’s crew and 31 of her officers, to include Von Essen, were captured by the Japanese, bringing their ship’s battle flag with them.

Russian sailors from the wrecked battleships – surrendered prisoners of war in Port Arthur. LC-USZ62-11832

Stossel and Makarov over Nogi and Togo on the cover of The Sphere, 115 years ago this month. Makarov was, of course, already long dead when this was published while Stossel would live under a commuted death sentence until 1915. As for Nogi, grieving for the loss of more than 14,000 of his men on the costly Port Arthur campaign– including his eldest son– he would commit ritual suicide in 1912 upon the death of the Emperor. Notably, Nogi after the war spent most of his personal wealth on the construction of memorials to both the Russian and Japanese soldiers of the 1904 campaign. Togo, Japan’s most decorated naval officer of all time, died of throat cancer in 1934, aged 86, and is still seen as “The Nelson of the Pacific.”

Essen would go on to be appointed commander of the Baltic Sea fleet during the first part of WWI before he died of pneumonia and today a frigate in the modern Russian Navy carries his name.

The Sevastopol’s Port Arthur St. Andrew’s flag remains in the Russian Navy’s collection to this day, housed in the building of the Naval Cadet Corps.

Via Ocean-Magazine.ru

The name Sevastopol went on to be used both on a Gangut-class battleship that served in both WWI and WWII before going on to be scrapped in 1956 as well as for a Kresta-class cruiser during the Cold War.

Our circa-1904 battlewagon is remembered in maritime art as well.

Battleship Sevastopol by Nikolay Konstantinovich Artseulov

Finally, Combrig released an excellent 1:700 scale model of Sevastopol, #70102.

Specs:

Line drawing via Combrig

Displacement: 11,842 long tons
Length: 376 ft
Beam: 70 ft
Draught: 28 ft 3 in
Machinery: 16 cylindrical boilers, 9368 ihp, 2 shafts, 2 triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 16 knots
Range: 3,750 nm
Complement: 27 officers and 625 sailors as designed
Armor, nickel-steel Harvey type:
Waterline belt: 10–16 in
Gun turrets: 10 in
Secondary turrets: 5 in
Conning tower: 9 in
Deck: 2–3 in
Armament:
2 × twin 12″/40 (305 mm) guns
12 (4 × twins, 4 × single) 6″/45cal (152 mm) guns
12 × single 47mm Hotchkiss guns
28 × single 37mm Maxim guns
4 × 15-inch torpedo tubes, broadside
2 × 18-inch torpedo tubes, below the waterline
50 mines

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Who Wants a Deal on a Historic Coast Guard Cutter?

Robert Morris was an Englishman, born in Liverpool in 1734. Coming to the Pennsylvania colony in his teens, by 1775 he was a wealthy merchant and turned his business acumen into buying arms for the colonial militia. This role grew until Alexander Hamilton described him as the “Financier of the Revolution.” One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and for a time considered the “de facto commander” of the Continental Navy (he even sold the first armed man-of-war to Congress), Morris later turned down the role of the country’s first treasury secretary, suggesting Hamilton for the position instead.

Rather than be remembered on the $10 bill, Morris was honored by four early U.S. Navy vessels that were named after him between 1776 and 1846, and well as a few Coast Guard cutters (which until 1967 was under the Treasury Department).

The first cutter named after Morris was a Baltimore Clipper-style schooner built in 1831 at the New York Navy Yard. Some 73-feet in length and armed with a half-dozen 9-pounders, she was not a commanding vessel but was good enough to bust smugglers and fight pirates. Nonetheless, USRC Morris participated in the Mexican War as part of Capt. John Webster’s nine-cutter squadron and, on her way back to the East Coast, was driven ashore at Key West by a hurricane in 1846.

U.S. Revenue Cutter Morris (1831) by H. A. Roath, painting circa 1855, via Philadelphia Museum 1967-268-3-ov

The second USRC Morris, commissioned in 1848, was a 102-foot topsail schooner constructed of yellow pine, white and live oak, locust, cedar, and mahogany. Armed in 1861 with “1 x 32-pounder pivot-mounted cannon; 1 x brass 12-pound howitzer; 12 Maynard rifles; 12 smoothbore muskets; 12 pistols; 19 cutlasses; 11 boarding pikes and 18 battle axes,” Morris was notably detached to scour the North Atlantic that year in search of the Confederate privateer brig Jefferson Davis.

Revenue Cutter Morris prepares to board the British passenger vessel Benjamin Adams on 16 July 1861 about 200 miles east of New York, by Gil Cohen (Photo: USCG)

She was sold in 1868.

The third– and final U.S. vessel named for Morris– was a 125-foot Active-class Coast Guard cutter built in 1927 at American Brown Boveri Electric Corp., Camden, NJ.

We have profiled the 125s, best known as the “buck-and-a-quarter” class, in several Warship Wednesdays (See: Warship Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019: The Other Tora of Pearl Harbor).

USCGC Morris (WPC-147/WSC-147/WMEC-147) operated first out of New London until 22 November 1928. She then assumed her permanent station at Oakland, California, on 13 January 1929, conducting patrol operations and operating intermittently against rumrunners through 1934. She was then transferred to Seward, Alaska until 1937, before ultimately returning to the West Coast.

Transferring to Navy control 1 November 1941, Morris was designated a subchaser and assigned to patrol and rescue operations out of San Diego during WWII until 1 January 1946. She assumed postwar USCG patrol duties out of San Pedro, which was her permanent station through 1969.

USCGC Morris (WPC-147/WSC-147/WMEC-147) late in her career. Note her 40mm Bofors forward, which was fitted in 1942. (USCG photo)

Decommissioned on 7 August 1970 after 43 years of hard service, she was then transferred to Boy Scouts where she was active with the Sea Scout program in Stockton as SSS Morris until recent years. In the early 2000s, she received $2 million in repairs and restoration paid for by Bob French and was donated in 2015 to the Liberty-Maritime Museum, who has had her for sale since 2016, priced at around $250K.

That asking price was reduced to $195K last year and is now at a comparative fire sale on Craigslist for $90,000. 

The ad for posterity:

1927 125′ Coast Guard Cutter Morris asking $90,000 obo – an amazing vessel for this price! Major overhaul ($2 million approx.) completed in 2010. Cummins KTAs, Northern Lights gen sets, ARPA radars, bow thruster. All wiring and piping replaced. Hull plating, railings, tanks and decks replaced as needed. Operational but due for a haul-out and one prop repair. Anchored near Rio Vista, recently cruised but surplus to our needs. Suitable as an ocean cruising vessel or live-aboard. State of California registration, current insurance.

What more could you ask for?

Hermes gets no bidders

View looking aft down HMS HERMES’ flight deck as she sails from Portsmouth for the South Atlantic. Five Sea Harriers of No 800 Squadron Fleet Air Arm are visible on the crowded flight deck in front of a mass of Sea Kings. At the time of sailing, the crew had not had time to organize the stowing of aircraft or supplies. IWM (FKD 674)

As we have talked about previously, the WWII vintage Centaur-class fleet carrier HMS Hermes (61/R12) spent 28 years in the Royal Navy– including as flagship of the Falklands task force– then went on to give the Indian Navy another 31 years of hard service as INS Viraat (R22) before she was retired in 2017.

As far as I can tell, she was the longest-serving aircraft carrier under any flag, surpassing USS Lexington (CV-16/AVT-16) which clocked in for 48 years in a row– although the last couple of decades of that were as a training ship out of Pensacola– and USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which was a hard charger for 51 years.

While the Indians had tossed around the idea of making Viraat a museum in Mumbai, no cash could be spared and she went to the auction block this week– with no bidders.

She is expected to be relisted, and maybe the Indian government will allow groups outside of the country to place a bid, a prospect that could see her return back home to the UK where veterans groups aim to preserve her there.

We’ll keep you updated.

Hermes everlasting no more

Laid down at Vickers late during WWII, the Centaur-class fleet carrier HMS Hermes (61/R12) languished on the builder’s ways and was only completed post-Suez, joining the Royal Navy in 1959.

Centaur-class aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (R12) bouncing around the North Atlantic with her bow mostly out of the water in 1977.

However, she more than earned her stripes as the elderly flagship of the British task force sent to reclaim the Falklands in 1982 before going on to serve in the Indian Navy as INS Viraat (R22) for another impressive 31 years, only retiring in 2017 after 58 years of service. Sadly, it seems like she is bound for the breakers.

As noted by the HMS Hermes/INS Viraat Museum Ship Appeal, the group planning to bring the historic carrier back home to England:

The Indian Government has put INS Viraat/HMS Hermes up for sale for scrap in an e-auction on the 17th Dec 2019.

We have been attempting to delay the auction in order to put forward a satisfactory bid from the UK however there are clauses in the sale that would need the Indian Government to make some serious changes to the schedule which now appear very unlikely.

Viraat is not for sale outside of India and the vessel is not to be towed out of Indian waters for any reason. The successful (Indian) bidder has to undertake to remove the vessel from her current berthing in Mumbai within 30 days of a successful purchase.

I am really sorry for this news. We are currently campaigning against the schedule but are unlikely to win.

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