The loss of HMS Victoria, 22 June 1893

The loss of Royal Navy battleship HMS Victoria “on this day in history” 22 June 1893 following collision with HMS Camperdown.

Oil on canvas by A. R. D. Ligmore.

Ligmore, A. R. D.; 'HMS Victoria' off Tripoli, Lebanon, 22 June 1896

Victoria’s wreck lays off Tripoli, Lebanon.

Victoria sank in just 13-minutes, slipping into the water bow first.The men in the engine room never received orders to abandon ship and went down with her. Other men in the water were sucked down with the ship. Of her ship’s company, 357 were rescued and 358 lost.

 

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Salvage award of two pounds and five shillings for SS Empire Haven, 1943

On 13 October 1943, German aircraft torpedoed SS Empire Haven (6,603 GRT) in position 36°15′N 02°23′W, north of Oran, Algeria. The merchantman was under contract to the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) and travelling as part of Convoy MKS 21. One of the convoy escorts, the minesweeper HMS Rye, took Empire Haven under tow and brought her into Gibraltar.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, signalled:

I congratulate you, the escort force and convoy MKS 21 on your sturdy defence of convoy against heavy harassing attack. The enemy got a sore head he is likely to remember.

Empire Haven lay there until 1946, awaiting repairs. She was sold to R. Chapman & Son and renamed Clearton.

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SS Empire Haven
Builder: Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering Company of Hong Kong Ltd.
Tonnage: 6,603 GRT.
Launched: 28 April 1941.

So much for wartime events.

Enter my grandfather, SBA aboard HMS Rye, and wondering in a period of postwar austerity whether he was entitled to a share of salvage money for “assistance rendered to” Empire Haven.

I do not have copies of the letters that my grandfather sent to the Admiralty in 1946 and 1947, but I do have the replies sent my the Director of Navy Accounts.

In the first reply, dated 24 December 1946, the Admiralty acknowledges Rye‘s salvage of Empire Haven and states that a “share of the award will be made as early as practicable.”

The reply also rejects a claim for salvage on the Liberty ship SS Francis W. Pettygrove, also damaged during German attacks on Convoy MKS 21.

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The second reply, dated 27 March 1947, acknowledged receipt and return of my grandfather’s S.459 form (certificate of service record in the Royal Navy), stating “a remittance  on this account will be sent you shortly.”

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Here is a snapshot from my grandfather’s updated S.459 showing the payment of £2 5/- (two pounds and five shillings) as his share of salvage for SS Empire Haven.

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Not exactly a princely sum. My grandfather spent his salvage money on a halfway decent hat.

He still had that hat thirty years later in 1977 when he took me on the train from Waterloo down to Portsmouth to see the Queen’s Silver Jubliee Fleet Review. Memorable day for eight year old me: Southern Region breakfast in the dining car, a tour of HMS Victory, carvery lunch at the Keppels Head, miles and miles of grey funnels at the fleet review, heaps of ice cream, and home in time for tea.

I miss you, you silly old bugger.

 

 

Med Patrol (1971)

‘Med Patrol’ features aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (R09), Leander class frigate HMS Galatea (F81), combat stores ship RFA Lyness (A339) and fast fleet tanker RFA Olna (A123).

#OTD 21 May 1941 Royal Navy cruisers intercept German convoy off Crete

HMS Dido, HMS Ajax, and HMS Orion in action off Crete, 21st May 1941. The three cruisers and four destroyers (Janus, Hasty, Hereward, Kimberley) formed “Force D” under Rear-Admiral I.G.Glennie. On the night of 21st May, an Axis convoy of twenty caïques escorted by the Italian destroyer-escort Lupo attempted to land German troops at Maleme.

Interception of enemy convoy off Crete, by Rowland Langmaid, collection of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Sea Slug missile trials aboard HMS (ex RFA) Girdle Ness, 1958-61

HMS Girdle Iron entered service in 1945 as a Royal Navy maintenance ship. She was placed in the Reserve Fleet and served as an accommodation ship at Rosyth. In 1953, she was taken in hand by Devonport Dockyard for conversion to a guided missile trials ship. A triple launcher and handling system was installed for the new Sea Slug missile, and a new superstructure supported the fire control and guidance systems. Sea Slug Mark 1 entered service in 1961 on County-class destroyers, each fitted with a twin launcher. After completion of the Sea Slug trials, Girdle Iron returned to Rosyth for service as a depot and accommodation ship. She was sold for breaking up in 1970.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE COLD WAR, 1945-1991
HMS GIRDLE NESS FIRES A SEASLUG MISSILE DURING TESTS, 10 SEPTEMBER 1956.
© IWM (A 33603)

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE POST WAR PERIOD
HMS GIRDLE NESS, THE ROYAL NAVY’S GUDIDED MISSILE TRIALS SHIP, FIRING OF SEA SLUG TEST VEHICLE DURING TRIALS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN, SEPTEMBER
© IWM (A 34097)

HMS GIRDLE NESS. NOVEMBER 1958, ON BOARD THE NAVY'S GUIDED WEAPONS TRIALS SHIP. CONTROL ROOMS AND LOADING SPACES OF HMS GIRDLE NESS.
HMS GIRDLE NESS. NOVEMBER 1958, ON BOARD THE NAVY’S GUIDED WEAPONS TRIALS SHIP. CONTROL ROOMS AND LOADING SPACES OF HMS GIRDLE NESS.© IWM (A 34122)

HMS GIRDLE NESS. NOVEMBER 1958, ON BOARD THE NAVY'S GUIDED WEAPONS TRIALS SHIP. CONTROL ROOMS AND LOADING SPACES OF HMS GIRDLE NESS.
HMS GIRDLE NESS. NOVEMBER 1958, ON BOARD THE NAVY’S GUIDED WEAPONS TRIALS SHIP. CONTROL ROOMS AND LOADING SPACES OF HMS GIRDLE NESS.© IWM (A 34121)

HMS GIRDLE IRON, ROYAL NAVY GUIDED MISSILE TRIALS SHIP. (photo credit: http://www.worldnavalships.com)

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE POST WAR PERIOD
THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE POST WAR PERIOD© IWM (A 34233)

TRANSFER AT SEA OF SEASLUG MISSILE. NOVEMBER 1959, ON BOARD THE GUIDED WEAPONS SHIP HMS GIRDLE NESS, DURING REPLENISHMENT AT SEA TRIALS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN.
TRANSFER AT SEA OF SEA SLUG MISSILE. NOVEMBER 1959, ON BOARD THE GUIDED WEAPONS SHIP HMS GIRDLE NESS, DURING REPLENISHMENT AT SEA TRIALS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN.© IWM (A 34234)

HMS GIRDLE NESS, ROYAL NAVY GUIDED MISSILE TRIALS SHIP, AT MATLA. (photo credit: http://www.rfaaplymouth.org)

HMS GIRDLE IRON, ROYAL NAVY GUIDED MISSILE TRIALS SHIP DURING SEA SLUG TRIALS, 1960. (photo credit: http://www.rfaaplymouth.org/)

CANBERRA AT MALTA FOR GUIDED MISSILE TRIALS. JUNE 1961, ROYAL NAVAL AIR STATION HAL FAR, MALTA.
CANBERRA U MK 10 PILOTLESS DRONE AT MALTA FOR GUIDED MISSILE TRIALS. JUNE 1961, ROYAL NAVAL AIR STATION HAL FAR, MALTA.© IWM (A 34464)

GUIDED WEAPONS TRIAL SHIP HOMEWARD BOUND. DECEMBER 1961, MALTA.
GUIDED WEAPONS TRIAL SHIP HOMEWARD BOUND. DECEMBER 1961, MALTA.© IWM (A 34562)

HMS Vendetta 1917-1933, HMAS Vendetta 1933-1946

HMS/HMAS Vendetta was an Admiralty V-class destroyer that saw service during the First World War and the Second World War. Vendetta served in the Royal Navy from 1917 to 1933 and then transferred to the Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Vendetta in 1933. She was sold for scrap in 1946 and scuttled off Sydney Heads in 1948.

HMS Vendetta, June 1919 (IWM Q73903).

First World War

HMS Vendetta was commissioned in 1917 and assigned to the Thirteenth Destroyer Flotilla which was attached to the Grand Fleet. In October 1917, the flotilla consisted of the light cruiser HMS Champion as flagship, the depot ship HMS Woolwich, two flotilla leaders, twenty-one M-class destroyers, seven R-class destroyers, and six V-class destroyers (including Vendetta). Her first action was against German minesweepers operating in the Kattegat.

On the night of 17th November 1917, Vendetta formed part of the destroyer screen for the First Light Cruiser Squadron at the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight.

In March 1918, the flotilla was transferred to the Battle Cruiser Force (Rear Admiral William Pakenham).

HMS Vendetta, June 1919 (IWM Q73907).

Interwar

Following the First World War, Vendetta was assigned to the Baltic in support of White forces during the Russian Civil War. On 12th December 1918, she rescued 430 crew from HMS Cassandra when the cruiser struck a mine and sank. Vendetta also took part in the capture of the Bolshevik Orfey-class destroyer ‘Spartak’ and the Izyaslav-class destroyer ‘Lennuk’ which were transferred to the Estonian Navy.

Between 1924 and 1933, Vendetta served with First Destroyer Flotilla and the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet.

In 1933, Vendetta was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy. Together with the destroyer leader Stuart and the destroyers Vampire, Voyager, and Waterhen, she departed Chatham on 17th October and arrived in Sydney on 21st December. The 5 ships formed the Australian Destroyer Flotilla, later to become the infamous “Scrap Iron Flotilla.”

HMAS Vendetta ship’s company 1937 (RAN photo).

Second World War

HMAS Vendetta served in the Royal Australian Navy throughout the Second World War. In November 1939, the RAN approved an Admiralty request to transfer Australian destroyers to the Mediterranean Fleets. HMAS Venedtta took passage with Stuart, Voyager, and Waterhen via the Red Sea and Suez, arriving at Malta on 14th December.

During her time in the Mediterranean, Vendetta earned battle honours for the Libya campaign (1940-41), the Battle of Cape Matapan (1941), the Battle of Greece (1941), and Crete (1941). She also served as a convoy escort between Gibraltar, Malta, and Alexandria, and as a member of the famous ‘Tobruk Ferry Service’ ferrying supplies into the besieged city and evacuating wounded. After 2-years continuous service in the Mediterranean, Vendetta was nominated for refit and, after transit of Suez and Bombay, arrived at Sembawang Dockyard, Singapore on 12th November 1941.

HMAS Vendetta, Tobruk Ferry Service, 1941 (RAN photo).

When war with Japan broke out, Vendetta was still under refit at Sembawang. When the Japanese bombed Singapore on 8th December 1941, a stick of bombs fell within 200-yards of the destroyer. There was a further air raid on 31st December, during which time Vendetta‘s anti aircraft armament went into action. During an air raid on 21st January 1942, Vendetta shot down a Japanese bomber with a direct hit on its bomb bay. With Japanese forces approaching Singapore from landward, the stripped-down Vendetta was towed from the dockyard on 2nd February, reaching Batavia on 10th February, Fremantle on 4th March, and Melbourne on 15th April. Her refit recommenced at Williamstown and was finally complete in September 1942.

HMAS Vendetta (RAN photo).

Vendetta‘s refit involved a reduction in main armament and an increase in anti aircraft armament. She would now serve as a well-armed dedicated escort vessel instead of a “workhorse” destroyer. During her service in the Far East, Vendetta earned the battle honours Pacific (1941-43) and New Guinea (1943-44). In September 1945, Vendetta transported Australian representatives to Rabaul to accept the surrender of Japanese forces.

HMAS Vendetta paid off on 17th November 1945 and was placed on the disposal list. The ship was sold for scrapping in 1946 and her hulk was scuttled off Sydney Heads on 2nd July 1948.

HMS Vendetta / HMAS Vendetta Details
Admiralty V and W-class destroyer.
Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, Govan.
Laid down November 1916.
Launched 3rd September 1917.
Completed 17th October 1917.
Sold for scrap, scuttled off Sydney 1948.

HMS Vendetta / HMAS Vendetta Specifications
Displacement: 1,090t
Length: 312ft o/a
Beam: 29ft 6in
Draught: 14ft 8in
Machinery: 3 Yarrow boilers, 2 Brown-Curtis turbines, 29,417 SHP, 2 shafts
Speed: 35kn
Complement: 6 officers and 133 ratings
Armament:
as built: 4 QF 4-inch Mk V guns, 1 QF 2-pounder Mk II, 2 triple 21-inch torpedo tubes
added later: 2 depth charge rails, 4 depth charge throwers
post-1942 refit: 2 4-inch guns, 2 pom-poms, 4 Oerlikon guns, 7 .303-inch guns, depth charges

HMS Vendetta, January 1919 (IWM ART1657).

Links

Official reports, Decatur burns USS Philadelphia at Tripoli, 16 February 1804

From the “Statement of the circumstances attending the destruction of the frigate Philadelphia, with the names of the officers and the number of men employed on the occasion, as laid before the President by the Secretary of the Navy, November 13, 1804.”:

On the 31st January, 1804, Commodore Preble, lying with his squadron in the harbor of Syracuse, gave orders to Lieutenant Charles Stewart, commanding the brig Syren, of 16 guns, and to Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, jr., commanding the ketch Intrepid, of 4 guns and 75 men, to proceed to Tripoli, and to destroy the frigate Philadelphia of 44 guns, then lying in the harbor of Tripoli. Lieutenant Decatur had orders to enter the harbor in the night, board and set fire to the Philadelphia; and Lieut. Stewart was ordered to take the best possible position, without the harbor, to cover the retreat.

Under these orders, they proceeded immediately to the coast of Tripoli; but, owing to the very heavy gales of wind that usually prevail there in the winter season, the enterprise could not be undertaken until the 16th of February, when Lieutenant Stewart, having taken the best possible position to effect the object of his instructions, Lieutenant Decatur, at seven o’clock in the night, entered the harbor of Tripoli, boarded, and took possession of the Philadelphia.

This frigate, at the time she was boarded, had all her guns mounted and charged, and was lying within half gun shot of the Bashaw’s castle, and of his principal battery. Two Tripolitan cruisers were lying within two cables length on the starboard quarter, and several gun boats within half gun-shot on the starboard bow, and all the batteries on shore were opened upon the assailants. About twenty men in the Philadelphia were killed, a large boat full got off, and one man was made prisoner.

After having gained possession of the frigate, Lieut. Decatur set fire to her store rooms, gun room, cock pit, and birth deck; and with a firmness highly honorable to him, his officers and men, they remained on board until the flames had issued from the ports of the gun deck and the hatchways of the spar deck, and they continued in the ketch, along side the frigate, until the fire had communicated to her rigging and tops.

Lieutenant Decatur did not lose a man, and had but one slightly wounded.

From Edward Preble’s orders to Stephen Decatur, 31 January 1804:

UNITED STATES’ FRIGATE CONSTITUTION,

Syracuse Harbor, January 31, 1804.

Sir: You are herby ordered to take command of the prize ketch, which I have named the Intrepid, and prepare her with all possible, despatch for a cruise of thirty days, with full allowance of water, provision, &c., for seventy-five men. I shall send you five midshipmen from the Constitution, and you will take seventy men, including officers, from the Enterprise, if that number can be found ready to volunteer their services for boarding and burning the Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli; if not, report to me, and I will furnish you with men to complete your complement. It is expected you will be ready to sail to-morrow evening, or some hours sooner, if the signal is made for that purpose.

It is my orders that you proceed to Tripoli, in company with the Syren, lieutenant Stewart, enter that harbor in the night, board the Philadelphia, burn her, and make good your retreat, with the Intrepid, if possible, unless you can make her the means of destroying the enemy’s vessels in the harbor, by converting her into a fireship, for that purpose, and retreating in your boats and those of the Syren. You must take fixed ammunition and apparatus for the frigate’s 18-pounders, and if you can, without risking too much, you may endeavor to make them the instruments of destruction to the shipping and Bashaw’s castle. You will provide all the necessary combustibles for burning and destroying ships. The destruction of the Philadelphia is an object of great importance, and I rely with confidence on your intrepidity and enterprise to effect it. Lieutenant Stewart will support you with the boats of the Syren, and cover your retreat with that vessel. Be sure and set fire in the gun-room births, cock-pit, store-rooms forward, and births on the birth-deck.

After the ship is well on fire, point two of the 18-pounders, shotted, down the main hatch, and blow her bottom out. I enclose you a memorandum of the articles, arms, ammunition, fire-works, &c., necessary, and which you are to take with you. Return to this place as soon as possible, and report to me your proceedings. On boarding the frigate, it is probable you may meet with resistance-it will be well, in order to prevent alarm, to carry all by the sword. May God prosper and succeed you in this enterprise.

I have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient serv’t,

EDWARD PREBLE.

From Stephen Decatur’s report to Edward Preble, 17 February 1804:

Lieut. Commandant S. Decatur’s Report to Com. Preble.

On Board the Ketch Intrepid, at Sea ,
February 17, 1804.

Sir: I have the honor to inform you, that in pursuance to your orders of the 31st ultimo, to proceed with this ketch off the harbor of Tripoli, there to endeavor to effect the destruction of the late United States’ frigate Philadelphia, I arrived there in company with the United States’ brig Syren, lieutenant commandant Stewart, on the 7th, but owing to the badness of the weather, was unable to effect any thing until last evening, when we had a light breeze from the N.E. At 7 o’clock I entered the harbor with the Intrepid, the Syren having gained her station without the harbor, in a situation to support us in our retreat. At half past 9 o’clock, laid her alongside of the Philadelphia, boarded, and after a short contest, carried her. I immediately fired her in the store-rooms, gun-room, cock-pit, and birth-deck, and remained on board until the flames had issued from the spar-deck, hatchways, and ports, and before I had got from alongside, the fire had communicated to the rigging and tops. Previous to our boarding, they had got their tompions out, and hailed several times, but not a gun fired.

The noise occasioned by boarding and contending for possession, although no fire-arms were used, gave a general alarm on shore, and on board their cruisers, which lay about a cable and a half’s length from us, and many boats filled with men lay around, but from whom we received no annoyance. They commenced a fire on us from all their batteries on shore, but with no other effect than one shot passing through our top-gallant sail.

The frigate was moored within half-gunshot of the Bashaw’s castle, and of their principal battery-two of their cruisers lay within two cables’ length on the starboard quarter, and their gunboats within half gunshot of the starboard bow. She had all her guns mounted and loaded, which, as they became hot went off. As she lay with her broadside to the town, I have no doubt but some damage has been done by them. Before I got out of the harbor, her cables had burnt off, and she drifted in under the castle, where she was consumed. I can form no judgment as to the number of men on board, but there were twenty killed. A large boat full got off, and many leapt into the sea. We have made one prisoner, and I fear from the number of bad wounds he has received he will not recover, although every assistance and comfort has been given him.

I boarded with sixty men and officers, leaving a guard on board the ketch for her defence, and it is the greatest pleasure I inform you, I had not a man killed in this affair, and but one slightly wounded. Every support that could be given I received from my officers, and as each of their conduct was highly meritorious, I beg leave to enclose you a list of their names. Permit me also, sir, to speak of the brave fellows I have the honor to command, whose coolness and intrepidity was such as I trust will ever characterise the American tars.

It would be injustice in me, were I to pass over the important services rendered by Mr. Salvadore, the pilot, on whose good conduct the success of the enterprise in the greatest degree depended. He gave me entire satisfaction.

I have the honor to be, sir, &c.,

STEPHEN DECATUR.