Tag Archives: world war 2

Warship Wednesday, July 26, 2022: 146 Miles SSW of Biloxi

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, July 26, 2022: 146 Miles SSW of Biloxi

(Photo: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum / Stiftung Traditionsarchiv Unterseeboote, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch)

Above we see 28-year-old Oberleutnant zur See (=Lieutenant) Hans-Günther Kuhlmann on the running bridge of DKM U-166, a brand new German Type IXC U-boat, circa 1942. The good Oblt. Kuhlmann was U-166‘s sole skipper during WWII and he, his submarine, and all 51 of her hands, have been sleeping along the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico for 80 years as of this week, although how they got there was the subject of contention.

One of the 54 Type IXCs completed during the war, U-166 was laid down at Seebeckwerft A.G. (Yard # 705) in Bremerhaven at the mouth of the Weser River on 6 December 1940 just after the Battle of Britain served up the first German defeat. At some 1,232 tons, she was not a big boat, running just 251 feet overall. However, the class was well designed and capable of 13,450-nm cruises on their economical diesel engines. Able to carry 22 torpedoes and a 4.1-inch deck gun with 180~ shells as well as a Flak armament, they were deadly and efficient killers when it came to stalking Allied merchantmen. While most of these boats could carry as many as 66 mines, all could also carry TMC-type torpedo mines in the place of a fish.

Commissioned on 23 March 1942, she spent the next two months in the 4. Flottille training squadron out of Stettin on the Baltic, then chopped on 1 June to Korvkpt. Günther Kuhnke’s 10. Frontflottille at Lorient in occupied France.

An AGFA video exists of her sea trials.

Arriving on 10 June after a combat sortie from Kristiansand in occupied Norway, her first war patrol was uneventful.

U-166 with her commander, Han-Günther Kuhlmann (bareheaded, top), before her patrol. Image courtesy of the PAST Foundation.

Spending a week in France stocking up and enjoying the local sights, U-166 sailed for her second (and final) war patrol on 17 June 1942.

Making for the Gulf of Mexico via the Florida Straits, U-166 drew her first blood when on 11 July 1942 she shelled and sank the unescorted and unarmed Dominican two-masted schooner Carmen (84 tons), which had been carrying a mixed cargo of maize, mahogany, and cedar, about 8 miles northeast of Gaspar Hernández, DR. The Dominicans had declared war on Germany four days after Pearl Harbor, for reference, and Carmen was one of four Dominican-manned ships sent to the bottom by U-boats during the conflict. While the country never sent troops overseas to help the Allies, at least 100 Dominicans signed up with the U.S. military during the war.

Two days later, U-166 fired her first warshot torpedo, ending the career of the unescorted and unarmed Ford Motor Company’s SS Oneida (2,309 tons), sailing empty from Puerto Rico to Cuba, while steaming about two miles north of Cape Maysi, Cuba. The steamer sank in minutes, but 23 survivors were able to make it safely to shore.

On 16 July, U-166 would claim her third vessel in a week, stopping the Miami Fish & Ice Co’s unarmed trawler Gertrude (16 tons) about 30 miles northeast of Havana, a port to which she was carrying a load of fresh onions. Putting her three-man crew into their motor launch and pointing them towards the shore, Gertrude was sent to the bottom with a scuttling charge or gunfire (reports vary).

Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, U-166 quietly laid nine TMC mines off Port Eads/South Pass, at the southern tip of the Mississippi River on the Louisiana coast. This was considered the boat’s primary mission, as each of these massive 2,400-pound mines could break the back of a merchantman and potentially block the Mississippi– not to mention cause a massive panic as, in typical U.S. Navy fashion, there was nowhere near enough mine countermeasures assets available to safeguard the domestic sea frontier. However, although Kuhlmann’s special mission was successful on its face, in a stroke of luck for mariners in the area, none of the mines ended up making contact and the field was cleared post-War after Allied panels were given access to Kriegsmarine records logging some 43,636 mines sown worldwide in at least 1,360 minefields.

Anyway, after delivering his eggs to the mouth of the Mighty Miss, Kuhlmann & Co. decided to stick around and pursue targets of opportunity for his remaining torpedoes. This brings us to the…

Robert E. Lee

Constructed for “Ice King” banking and shipping magnate Charles Wyman Morse for his Eastern Steamship Lines, the sistership 5,100-ton passenger liners SS George Washington and SS Robert E. Lee were put into service with Eastern’s Old Dominion Line. In 1937-38, they were making four regular sailings weekly between NYC’s Pier 25 to Norfolk’s Pier S at a cost of $12 one way or $16.50 round trip.

SS Robert E. Lee and her sister George Washington were simple one-stack, three-decker 373-footers that, besides work-a-day transport of almost 400 passengers on each coastwise trip, could run fresh produce as cargo from Virginia to New York City by the next day and return with garments, furniture, and dry goods from the North.

A June 1924 detail from the Marine Review on SS Robert E. Lee and her sister George Washington, noting they could carry almost 250,000 bales of cargo (1,700 tons) loaded through 10 cargo elevators as well as 322 “white and colored” passengers along with 58 in steerage. Capable of 16 knots, they were fast for their type and time.

Just weeks after Pearl Harbor, Lee and Washington were taken up by the War Shipping Administration under contract by the Alcoa Steamship Co. and converted to carry up to 778 troops, typically on shuttle runs from U.S. East Coast ports to assorted Allied Caribbean bases and Bermuda. This conversion included a dark paint scheme, degaussing equipment to help avid mines and magnetic exploders on torpedoes, lots of Carley floats rigged to break loose topside if needed, and a single 3″/50 DP mount with its accompanying Naval Guard crew.

Sailing from Trinidad on 21 July for Tampa with eight officers, 122 crewmen, six armed guards, and 268 passengers– including 115 waterlogged mariners of the sunk tankers Andrea Brovig (Sunk by U-128 on 23 June), Høegh Giant ( U-126 on 3 June), and Stanvac Palembang (U-203 on 11 July)– along with 47 tons of general cargo and personal effects, Lee was part of Intracoastal Convoy TAW-7. However, just short of Florida, TAW-7 was dispersed, and she was carved out and diverted, escorted by the brand-new (commissioned 15 June) PC-461-class submarine chaser USS PC-566 riding shotgun, for New Orleans.

USS PC-566, via The Ted Stone Collection, Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, VA. She would spend her entire career in the Florida-Caribbean area on patrol and escort duty and as a training ship out of Miami then go on to be sold to Venezuela in June 1961 and serve for another decade.

It was on the late hours of 30 July, about 45 miles southeast of the entrance to the Mississippi River and 146 miles south-by-southwest of the Biloxi lighthouse, that U-166 would see its biggest prize.

Firing a single torpedo, Lee was as unlucky as the men of the three tankers that she carried, and the ship soon sank, taking 25 souls with her.

As detailed by Uboat.net:

Lookouts had spotted the torpedo wake about 200 yards away before it struck just aft of the engine room. The explosion destroyed the #3 hold, vented through the B and C decks, and wrecked the engines, the radio compartment, and the steering gear.

The badly damaged Robert E. Lee first listed to port then to starboard and finally sank by the stern about 15 minutes after the torpedo hit. One officer, nine crewmen, and 15 passengers were lost. The survivors…abandoned the ship in six lifeboats, eight rafts, and five floats and were soon picked up by USS PC-566, USS SC-519, and the tug Underwriter and landed in Venice, Louisiana.

The end of U-166

Immediately after Lee was hit, her escorting 173-foot subchaser PC-566, with her green crew under the command of LT Herbert Gordon Claudius, USNR, dropped five depth charges across a sonar contact, circled back and dropped another five, then proceeded to pick up survivors after the contact disappeared in deep water and a large– reportedly 200 feet wide– oil slick was observed.

PC-566‘s depth charge runs were considered (at the time) ineffective, but U-166 never made it back to Lorient.

As Claudius and his crew had been rushed into service and had not received any formal ASW training yet, his reported “kill” was dismissed as unlikely. The new skipper was stripped of his command, sent to Sonar school to ride a desk, and admonished “for breaking radio silence twice prior to his arrival” and for “not being in the proper patrol station, nor that any proven system of attack was followed.” Further, the Navy said, “it is not considered probable that any except minor damage could have been sustained by the submarine.”

Post-war U.S. Navy analysis of German records chalked up the killer of Oblt. Kuhlmann’s boat as a Coast Guard Grumman J4F-1 Widgeon seaplane (the same type of plane from “Tales of the Golden Monkey”), #V212, from Coast Guard Air Station Biloxi.

The Coast Guard flew some 25 Widgeons, numbers V197 through V221 from 1941 to 1950, purchased from Grumman for $75,000 each. V203 is pictured here. Equipped with twin inverted Ranger L-440 engines, the J4F-1 was a high wing all-metal monoplane with a range of 750 miles at a pokey 135 miles per hour. It was modified to carry a crew of two and a single 325-pound depth charge under the inboard right wing. Alternatively, a bomb, raft, or droppable SAR gear could be carried in that position.

Piloted by Chief Aviation Pilot Henry C. White with RM1 George H. Boggs as a crewmember, V212 was forward deployed from an outlying grass field at Houma, Louisiana owned by Texaco, and reported depth charging a surfaced German U-boat on 1 August, two days after Robert E. Lee was lost and about 100 miles away from that killing field.

As detailed by CG Aviation History:

They were at 1,500 feet at the base of a broken cloud deck 100 miles south of the Houma base. Through the open windows of their twin-engine Grumman J4F-1 Widgeon amphibian, they could see about 10 miles across the hazy gulf sea. White had just turned to the northeast to set up a ladder search for the assigned area and moments later they saw a surfaced German submarine. White started to maneuver the Widgeon behind the sub for a stern attack, but it immediately became obvious that as soon as White and Boggs had seen the sub, the sub had seen them, and the U-boat began to slide underwater in a crash dive. White banked sharply to starboard and from a half mile away began his dive towards the sub fully aware that he had only a sole depth charge under his wing and that he would have but one try.

At an altitude of 250 feet, the single depth charge was released. Boggs stuck his head out of the window and watched the depth charge fall into the Gulf waters, its fuse set to explode 25 feet below the surface. He estimated it entered the water 20 feet from the submarine on the starboard side. Boggs saw a large geyser of water rise from the explosion. White later wrote that the submarine was visible during the entire approach being just under the water and still clearly visible when the depth charge was released. When they circled back around, they saw only a medium oil slick. German records obtained after the war verified that the U-166 had been sunk in that area at the beginning of August. White and Boggs were given credit for the sinking.

Coast Guard Air Station Biloxi was an 18-acre seaplane base founded at Point Cadet on Back Bay in 1934 and remained in service until 1966 when the land and its 12,000 square-foot hangar and barracks were turned over to the city.

The above image is from 1941. In the far back of the hangar pictured above is a twin-engine PH-2 Hall Aluminum Flying Boat, either V-166 or V-170. Next to it is the single-engine JF-2 Grumman Amphibian V-143. A brand new twin-engine JFR-2 Grumman Amphibian, V-184, pokes its nose into the sunshine.

Biloxi Coast Guard Air Station would become the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum. The structure was destroyed in Katrina

A stylized 1940s postcard made from composite photographs showing two J2F Ducks, three airborne J4F-1 Widgeons, and an RD-4 Dolphin at USCG Air Sta Biloxi at Point Cadet. After 1966, the old hangar was used by the city for concerts and festivals until it was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina

The destruction of U-166 by V212 went down in Coast Guard (and Grumman) history and was celebrated for the rest of the 20th Century. This led V212– which had been sold on the commercial market in 1948 when the USCG got out of the Widgeon game and later flown as a commercial airliner (N212ST) in Alaska– to be acquired by the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola in 1988 and preserved, reverted to her WWII USCG livery.

In all, from 1942 into 1943, no less than 24 German U-boats patrolled the Gulf of Mexico– the American Sea– sinking 56 Allied vessels of which 39 are in the coastal waters of Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. U-166 has the distinction of being the only German submarine lost in the Gulf.

Epilogue

In 1986, Shell Offshore found two likely shipwrecks on a deep tow survey in one of their leased oil fields due south of the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 5,000 feet of water. It was thought that one was possibly the remains of the bauxite freighter SS Alcoa Puritan, another World War II casualty lost in the same rough area as Robert E. Lee, sunk by U-507 about 15 miles off the entrance to the Mississippi River in May 1942.

In 2001, deep water HUGIN 3000 AUVs of C&C Technologies working pipeline survey along the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico’s Mississippi Canyon for BP and Shell (the Mississippi Canyon is home to well MC 252, the infamous Deepwater Horizon well), found a single-stack ocean liner and, less than a mile away, a broken submarine.

This was the first time U-166 was reported found.

In 2003, a more extensive search in conjunction with NOAA extensively documented the sites.

In 2010, U-166 was briefly revisited during the Lophelia II study, where archaeologists collected additional ROV videos, still photos, core samples, and biological samples and re-examined the test platforms that had been deployed on site since 2003.

Finally, in 2014, as part of a National Geographic Explorer-funded effort that was turned into a one-hour special, Robert G. Ballard surveyed the U-boat and suggested that one of PC-566’s depth charges had wrecked the bow and likely detonated several torpedo warheads.

Further analysis by the Naval History and Heritage Command agreed. It turned out PC-566 was the only one of the 343 PC-461 class submarine chasers to be credited with sinking a U-boat.

The Navy (posthumously) awarded Capt. Claudius, USNR (ret), the Legion of Merit Medal with a combat “V” for sinking U-166.

This also brought some closure to Kuhlmann’s widow. Following the film crew documenting the discovery of the U-boat, she donated an ample collection of images from Kuhlmann’s service to The National WWII Museum in New Orleans through the PAST Foundation, where it is preserved as part of the story.

Some personal images of Kuhlmann in the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Down the coast in Biloxi, U-166 has always had a special place in the city’s lore, as for years it was celebrated as the base where V212, the long-thought dispatcher of the boat, was assigned. The City’s Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum— located on the grounds of the old Coast Guard Air Station at Point Cadet– has exhibits on the base, its aircraft, and history, as well as the barrack’s tower, saved after Hurricane Katrina.

(Photo: Chris Eger)

Since 2005, the Seafood Industry Museum has been in the possession of a 45-foot U-boat model, constructed for the film U-571, that has been dedicated to U-166 (although it depicts a German Type VII U-boat) after a rework in 2008 from volunteers of the Tullibee Base Submarine Veterans and those of Seabee Base Gulfport.

The U-571 model next to the old tower from the USCG Air Sta Biloxi barracks. (Photo: Chris Eger)

As for V212, the NHHC revised the record book and cited that the Coast Guard seaplane likely had attacked but failed to sink U-171, a Type IXC sistership of U-166 that was operating in the same area at the time and reported being bombed by a “Flugboot” (flying boat) on 1 August with slight damage. U-171 went on to sink the tanker R. M. Parker Jr. (6,779 tons) two weeks later off the Louisiana coast, then was herself lost just short of Lorient when she struck a mine just miles short of the end of her maiden war patrol.

Speaking of losses, of U-166’s sister boats, 50 of 54 were lost, almost all to Allied ASW efforts. Only four survived the war and a single example, U-505, is the only one of two of her class (U-534 was sunk in 1945 and then salvaged by the British in 1993) preserved. Of all places, U-505 is in Chicago.

4 June 1944 Tug USS Abnaki (ATF-96) tows U-505 photo from USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) Note the large U.S. Ensign flying from U-505’s periscope. 80-G-324351

And finally, Robert E. Lee’s sister, George Washington, survived the war and lived a second life in the Pacific until the mid-1950s.

George Washington’s entry in “U.S. Troopships of WWII.” After the war, she was acquired by the Alaska Transport Company (ATCo.) to run between Seattle and Alaska until ATCo went bankrupt in 1948. A French company named CGT bought her in 1949, renamed her SS Gascogne (Gascoigne), ran her in the Caribbean for a while, then in 1952 sold her to Messageries-Maritimes, who operated her in Indochina until she was scrapped in Hong Kong in 1955.

Specs:

Displacement:
1,144 t (1,126 long tons) surfaced
1,257 t (1,237 long tons) submerged
Length:
251 ft 10 in o/a
192 ft 9 in. pressure hull
Beam:
22 ft 6 in o/a
14 ft 7 in pressure hull
Height: 31 ft 6 in
Draught: 15 ft 4 in
Installed power:
4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
Propulsion:
2 shafts
2 × diesel engines
2 × electric motors
Range:
13,850 nmi at 10 knots surfaced
63 nmi at 4 knots submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 44 enlisted
Armament:
6 × torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern)
22 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedoes
1 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK C/32 deck gun (180 rounds)
1 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 AA gun
1 × twin 2 cm FlaK 30 AA guns


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 am a member, so should you be!

All Quiet in the Ardennes

American engineers emerge from the woods and move out of defensive positions after fighting in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium, in December 1944. Note the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine and M9 Bazookas, along with a liberal sprinkling of grenades and spare ammo. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Today is the 75th Anniversary of the last great German offensive of WWII. Launched through the densely forested Ardennes region near the intersection of the eastern borders of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, some 200,000 Germans fell on less than 80,000 unsuspecting American troops, many of which were recovering from the summer and Fall push through France and the Lowlands.

While the German offensive gained ground at first, eventually reinforcements– including Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army–were rushed to the scene and counterattacked.

However, for the men trapped inside the 75-mile “bulged” salient from St. Vith to the week-long Siege of Bastogne, it was a white hell of exploding trees and an onslaught from 1,000 German panzers that those who survived never forgot.

The U.S. Army suffered over 89,000 casualties in the six-week-long Battle of the Bulge, making it one of the largest and bloodiest battles fought by the nation’s servicemen.

U.S. Army infantrymen of the 290th Regiment, 75th Infantry Division, fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, Jan. 4, 1945. Note the M3 Grease Gun to the right and M1 Carbine to the left. (Photo: U.S. Army)

For a more detailed look at the men, firepower, and background of the battle, check out the (free) 685-page U.S. Army Center of Military History reference, “The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge” by Hugh M. Cole, as well as the vast records available through the National Archives. For more information about commemorating the battle Bastogne and other events, visit Bastogne 75 and Belgium Remembers 44-45.

The story of how Remington helped win the air war

On the skeet range at N.A.S. Saint Louis, Missouri, 29 April 1944. Gunner is Lieutenant Junior Grade Rothschild, instructed by Martin. Shotgun is a Remington Model 11, 12 gauge semiautomatic, on a shotgun mount assembly Mk. 1 Mod. 0 consisting of gun mount adapter Mk. 12 mod.2 and .30 caliber stand Mk.23 Mod.0. Note boxes of Peters “Victor” brand skeet cartridges. Description: Catalog #: 80-G-237387

Rapid sight alignment when leading a flying target was a skill quickly taught to aerial gunners in World War II with the help of more than 70,000 training shotguns.

The Model 11 was the first auto loading shotgun made in the USA. Patterned after the old Browning square back shotguns, this shotgun is reliable and effective. There were approximately 850,000 of these shotguns made from 1905 until 1947, and they are still considered classics.

It’s a simple concept, with a shotgun being easier and cheaper to cut a trainee’s teeth on “wing shooting” than a full-sized machine gun. Accordingly, the Army and Navy bought 59,961 Remington Model 11 semi-auto (the company’s version of the Browning A5) and 8,992 Model 31 pump-action shotguns as well as 204 million clay targets and got to work.

U.S. gunner with a training weapon, a or Remington Model 11 set up to emulate flexible-mount .50 caliber M2 Browning. The most common version was the Remington 11-A Standard Version with a 29-inch Barrel and a built in Cutts compensator.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Another 14,000 of these Remington Sportsman guns were delivered with the smaller 20-inch barrel and different stock from the Remington 11-R version (Riot special-made for the Police market) for issue to military police, penal units and base guard forces, but that’s another story.

‘Low-mileage’ U-boat free to good home in Washington

Apparently, there were several (at least three) very nice scale models made of U.S. S-class submarines and German Type VII U-boats produced for the forgettable Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel U-571 flick made in 2000.

Lot of plot holes in that movie…

We have one at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi that is about 40 feet long and has since been made up to mimic U-166, which is sunk about 50 miles south of there as the crow flies. It used to be RC and capable of floating. I call it Model #1.

The Biloxi-based model. An image I took in 2008. It was recently refirbed by local volunteer Seebees and submarine vets

A very near to scale floating set is still in Grand Harbor, Malta (Google Earth N 35 52’46.00/ E 14 29’49.92). I call it Model #2.

Formerly used as the USS S-33 in the film U-571, she has since been used at least twice since then as U.S. and Brit boats

At least two TV movies, one in 2001 about the USS Sailfish, and another “Ghostboat” a 2006 British horror film about a lost HM submarine popping back up sans crew have been made using U-571‘s models and sets.

Well, a guy in Granite Falls, just outside of Seattle is trying to give away (!) a 40-foot model from U-571 that actually submerges (!) for free (!). I call it, Model #3.

From the listing:

This is a 1/5th scale Type VIIc German WWII U-boat model Submarine. It is a movie effects miniature from the movie U-571. It was made as a functioning model with working ballast tanks so it could really dive and surface. It is approx 40 feet long and weighs several tons.

The outer skin is fiberglass and inside it has a metal frame and tanks for compressed air and ballast. What you see in the pictures is everything I have for it. there is no conning tower or deck plates etc.

It is mounted on a metal frame that has wheels but has sat for so long it has sank into the dirt a bit. It’s going to take a fair effort to get it rolling and move it so make sure you are prepared for that.

With a little dressing up it could be a great business promo or just cool yard art. I would hate to see it go to scrap.

I am offering it for free but I do expect that it be picked up immediately and professionally.

Sadly no conning tower

The interesting part of this rig is that is submerges– note the ballast tanks

Now that’s not something you see every day

I emailed the Naval Undersea Museum in Washington to make them aware this is out there, so maybe it will get put on public display sometime soon. It’s a shame to let it go to waste.

Plumber’s Dream, Nazi Nightmare : The STEN gun

When the chips were down in World War II, the British Army needed a reliable submachine gun that could be mass-produced without tying down vital munitions factories that were already overstretched. This led to a gun, designed as an emergency weapon, which has become a classic of modern firearms design.

When Hitler invaded Poland in Sept. 1939, that country’s allies, Britain and France reluctantly declared war on Nazi Germany. Fast forward nine months and the Germans had defeated and occupied not only Poland, but also Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, and France, leaving the Brits to face Hitler’s immense military machine alone.

Worse, in the evacuation of the British Army from France at Dunkirk, the Tommies had lost much of their pre-war armament.

This left the country in dire need of firearms to equip not only the regular forces, but also a rapidly growing Home Guard ready, as Winston Churchill promieed at the time that, “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

But they needed a good, cheap gun, and lots of them.

sten gun assembly girl
Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk.com

Fest FMP-1, the remote weapons mount circa 1944

Here’s an odd one from Nazi Germany – a remotely-controlled submachine gun based on the Schmeisser MP-28/II. No-one is certain exactly what the Fest submachine gun was designed for but it was probably deployed in small numbers on the fortified Siegfried Line, or “Western Wall”. It is marked with FMP-1, or “Fest Maschinenpistole”, but there are no markings indicating the place of manufacture. It is a curious weapon that probably saw very little, if any, usage in battle.

H/T Firearms Curiosa

fest fmp1 reomote controlled machinegun

Warship Wednesday July 2 Helen’s daughter

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 July 2 Helen’s daughter

INF3_1488

Here we see the British Dido-class light cruiser HMS Hermione (Pennant 74) of the Royal Navy slicing through the Italian coastal submarine Tembien like butter on 2 August 1941, west of Malta. The (gouache on board) artwork is entitled, “A British cruiser ramming an Italian submarine” by Marc Stone. It is in the collection of the UK National Archives.

The 16 ships of the Dido-class, built to a prewar design, were some of the most modern fleet escorts in the Royal Navy and found themselves at the sharp end of the spear throughout World War Two. Originally designed to be a svelte 5700 tons, with a 1:10 length to beam ration (512-feet oal, 50-foot abeam), they were fast (33-knots) but lightly armored ships capable of swatting away aircraft, light combatants, and submarines from the fleet proper. Armed with ten rapid-fire 5.25-inch (133mm) guns in five dual-mounted turrets, as well as two sets of triple torpedo tubes, they were basically just really big destroyers– with a little bit of armor.

Where they had an advantage was in a 4000-nm cruising range of 16-knots, which enabled them to cross the Atlantic at a fair clip. This made them perfect for escorting convoys to places like Malta, Cyprus, or across the big pond.

hms_hermione

The Dido‘s were all named after classical history and legend (e.g Black Prince, Bonaventure, Charybdis, Naiad, Spartan, et al) which made cruiser number 74’s name after Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus and Helen in Greek mythology, logical. As such, she was the Royal Navy’s third ship to carry that moniker, the first a Napoleonic war 32-gun frigate, and the second being a WWI-era Astraea-class protected cruiser, both with somewhat unlucky histories. The frigate’s crew had mutinied and surrendered to the Spanish while the old cruiser had grounded herself at least twice and was too obsolete to take an active part in the Great War.

HMS_Hermione_1942_IWM_A_7736

The third would be the unluckiest of all.

Laid down at Alexander Stephen and Sons in Glasgow, Scotland in 1937, the war started before Hermione was commissioned on 25 March 1941. With just a few weeks in service, she was part of the Bismarck hunt, and served on the Northern Patrol in the Atlantic for two months. Rushed to the Med where the Royal Navy was fighting for its very life alone against the Italian, Vichy French and German forces there, she joined 1st Cruiser Squadron Force H, protecting the lifeline convoys running from Gibraltar to Malta and back, then convoys from Malta to Alexandria.

Dido-class sisters, The cruisers HMS Edinburgh, HMS Hermione (center), and HMS Euryalus, steaming in line abreast whilst they escort a convoy as part of Operation Halberd, at the time the largest resupply effort to Malta, to which the entire Italian navy sortied to attempt to stop.

The (Town class) cruisers HMS Edinburgh, along with the Dido-class sisters HMS Hermione (center), and HMS Euryalus, steaming in line abreast whilst they escort a convoy as part of Operation Halberd, at the time the largest resupply effort to Malta, to which the entire Italian navy sortied to attempt to stop.

These runs carried fighters to Malta, oil and supplies to Montgomery’s troops fighting Rommel in North Africa, and other valuable commodities. As such, Hermione shot down attacking dive bombers, endured endless hours on alert for U-boats and fast attack craft, and had her ‘turn in the barrel’ everyday for over a year running this gauntlet.

The ship's good luck charm "Convoy", Hermione's ship's cat, sleeps in his own hammock whilst members of the crew look on

The ship’s good luck charm “Convoy“, Hermione‘s ship’s cat, sleeps in his own hammock whilst members of the crew look on

On the night of Aug 2, 1941 Hermione encountered the Italian Adua-class submarine Tembien on the surface preparing to send a brace of torpedoes into the precious carrier HMS Ark Royal. Had the Ark been sunk, British naval power in the Med would have changed for the worse. It was on that evening the daughter of Menelaus sliced the Roman shark in two, sending her to the bottom.

*Sidebar on the unlucky Adua-class boats of the Regia Marina: These plucky 800-ton, 200-foot long vessels were well-designed but their crews were unprepared for war against the Royal Navy, which had a long tradition of killing submarines operating close to their ships. Of the 17 Adula’s operational during World War II, 16 were lost, almost all to the RN. The class did not chalk up many kills for all of their reckless bravado.*

H.M.S. Hermione

For her role in sinking the Italian submarine, the cruiser Hermione was immortalized in wartime martial art, which was soon turned into war propaganda posters. Tragically, the cruiser had already met her own fate before the ink was dry on these posters.

Assigned to the 15th Cruiser squadron in the eastern Med, she came face to face with a boat who had already tried to sink her once the previous winter. On 16 June 1942, she was sunk after being torpedoed just off Alexandria by the German U-boat U-205 with a loss of some 85 of her crew.

hrmnebat3b

Commanded by Kptlt. Franz-Georg Reschke, U-205 herself the subject of a blood vendetta by the Royal Navy, who sent her to the bottom near the coast of Libya 17 Feb, 1943, with the destroyer HMS Paladin finishing her off.

The Hermione‘s name was issued to a Leander-class frigate (F58) in 1967, a ship that by all accounts had a lucky and safe thirty-year life and whose crew share a reunion and remembrance association with that of the lost WWII cruiser.
Specs:

hmsdido

Displacement: 5,600 tons standard
6,850 tons full load, wartime overload, 7700-tons.
Length: 485 ft (148 m) pp
512 ft (156 m) oa
Beam: 50.5 ft (15.4 m)
Draught: 14 ft (4.3 m)
Propulsion: Parsons geared turbines
Four shafts
Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers
62,000 shp (46 MW)
Speed: 32.25 knots (60 km/h)
Range: 1,500 nautical miles (2,780 km) at 30 knots
4,240 nautical miles (7,850 km) at 16 knots
1,100 tons fuel oil
Complement: 480 (more added in 1941 to man additional AAA guns)
Armament:
Original configuration:

10 x 5.25 in (133 mm) guns,
2 x 0.5 in MG quadruple guns,
3 x 2 pdr (37 mm/40 mm) pom-pom quad guns,
6 x 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (2×3).

1941 – 1943 configuration:

10 x 5.25 in (133 mm) dual-purpose guns (5×2),
5 x 20 mm (0.8 in) single guns,
8 x 2 pdr (37 mm/40 mm) pom-pom guns (2×4),
6 x 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (2×3).

Armour:
Belt: 3 inch,
Deck: 1 inch,
Magazines: 2 inch,
Bulkheads: 1 inch.

 

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/

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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!