Naval/Maritime History - 2nd of February - Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History (2023)

Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History
Other Events on 7 December

1696 – Launch of French Mercure, 50 guns (designed and built by Étienne Hubac), at Brest – captured by the English in 1746

1721 - HMS Hind (1711 - 20) wrecked on the Channel Islands top

HMS Hind (1711) was a 20-gun sixth rate launched in 1711 and wrecked in 1721. The ship struck a rock "half a musket shot" off Guernsey castle on 7 December 1721, and 21 hands were lost including the Captain Fuzzard. The loss was attributed to the "ignorance of the pilot". 94 of the ship's company were saved. Amongst those rescued was the ship's surgeon, Mr Forkington, "who was laid up with the gout, but made shift to swim to a rock not far distant, and the cold baths that endangered his life, hath effectively cured his said distemper." The pilot was tried and found guilty, and was sentenced to three years imprisonment and loss of pay.

1775 – Death of Charles Saunders, English admiral and politician (b. 1715)

Admiral Sir Charles Saunders, KB (c. 1715 – 7 December 1775) was a Royal Navy officer. He commanded the fourth-rate HMS Gloucester and led her in action at the Second Battle of Cape Finisterre in October 1747 during the War of the Austrian Succession. After serving as Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief, English Channel in charge of the Western Squadron between October 1758 and May 1759). He took command of the fleet tasked with carrying James Wolfe to Quebec in January 1759 and consolidated the dead general's victory after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in September 1759 by devoting great energy to keeping the British Army, now under the command of Colonel George Townshend, well supplied during the Seven Years' War. He later became Senior Naval Lord and then First Lord of the Admiralty.

1776 - Fire in Portsmouth Dockyard.

Her Majesty's Naval Base, Portsmouth (HMNB Portsmouth) is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the British Royal Navy (the others being HMNB Clyde and HMNB Devonport). Portsmouth Naval Base is part of the city of Portsmouth; it is located on the eastern shore of Portsmouth Harbour, north of the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Until the early 1970s it was officially known as Portsmouth Royal Dockyard (or HM Dockyard, Portsmouth); the shipbuilding, repair and maintenance element of the base was privatized in the late-1990s/early-2000s.

The base is the oldest in the Royal Navy and it has been an important part of the Senior Service's history and the defence of the British Isles for centuries. At one time it was the largest industrial site in the world. Around the year 2000, the designation HMS Nelson (which until then had been specific to Portsmouth's Naval Barracks in Queen Street) was extended to cover the entire base.

1796 - In his Eighth Annual Message to Congress, President George Washington urges Congress to increase naval strength.

1800 - HMS Nile (12), Lt. George Argles, and HMS Lurcher (1781 - 12) captured a 9 ship convoy near St. Gildas.

HMS Lurcher was a 12-gun cutter, originally launched in 1781 as HMS Pigmy. The French captured her in 1781 but the British recaptured her the next year and renamed HMS Lurcher in 1783. She reverted to HMS Pigmy later that year, and was wrecked in 1793. She was wrecked during the night in Bigbury Bay, Devon. When she started to break up Captain A. Pullibank permitted the crew to go ashore via a hawser. Ten of her crew of 60 were lost. The subsequent court martial acquitted her officers and crew of the loss

1810 - HMS Rinaldo (1808 - 10), James Anderson, captured French lugger Maraudeur (14) off Dover.

HMS Rinaldo (1808) was a 10-gun Cherokee-class brig-sloop launched in 1808. She was converted to a packet brig in 1824 and was sold in 1835.

1817 - Death of William Bligh

Vice-Admiral William Bligh FRS (9 September 1754 – 7 December 1817) was an officer of the Royal Navy and a colonial administrator. The Mutiny on the Bounty occurred during his command of HMS Bounty in 1789; after being set adrift in Bounty's launch by the mutineers, Bligh and his loyal men reached Timor, a journey of 3,618 nautical miles (6,701 km; 4,164 mi).

Seventeen years after the Bounty mutiny, on 13 August 1806, he was appointed Governor of New South Wales in Australia, with orders to clean up the corrupt rum trade of the New South Wales Corps. His actions directed against the trade resulted in the so-called Rum Rebellion, during which Bligh was placed under arrest on 26 January 1808 by the New South Wales Corps and deposed from his command, an act which the British Foreign Office later declared to be illegal. He died in Lambeth, London on 7 December 1817.

1820 - HMS Ranger, a Atholl class corvette launched

The Atholl-class corvettes were a series of fourteen Royal Navy sailing sixth-rate post ships built to an 1817 design by the Surveyors of the Navy. A further four ships ordered to this design were cancelled.

Non-standard timber were used in the construction of some; for example, the first pair (Atholl and Niemen) were ordered built of larch and Baltic fir respectively, for comparative evaluation of these materials; the three ships the East India Company built,(Alligator, Termagant and Samarang), were built of teak. Nimrod was built of African timber.

Rattlesnake by Oswald Walters Brierly, 1853

1904 – Comparative fuel trials begin between warships HMS Spiteful and HMS Peterel: Spiteful was the first warship powered solely by fuel oil, and the trials led to the obsolescence of coal in ships of the Royal Navy.

HMS Spiteful was a Spiteful-class torpedo boat destroyer built at Jarrow, England, by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company for the Royal Navy and launched in 1899. Specified to be able to steam at 30 knots, she spent her entire career serving in the seas around the British Isles, and in 1904 became the first warship to be powered solely using fuel oil. In 1913 she was classified as a B-class destroyer. Spiteful was sold and scrapped in 1920.

Fuel oil
In 1904 Spiteful was instrumental in the Royal Navy's adoption of fuel oil as a source of power in place of coal. In July that year the journal Scientific American described her as "the first warship to be so equipped." Her boilers were modified to burn only fuel oil as part of ongoing experiments and, on 7–8 December 1904, "vitally important" comparative trials were carried out near the Isle of Wight with Spiteful's sister ship Peterel burning coal, in which Spiteful performed significantly better. Problems with the production of smoke were surmounted so that using oil produced no more smoke than coal, and it was found that the ship's crew could be reduced, since fewer were required in the boiler rooms. Whereas Peterel required six stokers during the trials, Spiteful required only three boiler-room crew; while Peterel's crew had to dispose of 1.5 tons (1.52 tonnes) of ash and clinker, Spiteful produced no such waste. Further, while Peterel took 1.5 hours to prepare for steaming, Spiteful took 10 minutes. In June 1906 the same journal reported that Spiteful was being used by the Admiralty to train engine-room crews in the operation of oil-burning equipment.

Although the trials of 1904 proved the significant advantages of fuel oil over coal in powering warships, they did not lead to the immediate abandonment of coal as a source of power by the Royal Navy. While Britain's internal supply of coal was plentiful, it had no reserves of oil. William Palmer, who was First Lord of the Admiralty in 1904, regarded a change to oil as "impossible", for reasons of availability. This took time to overcome, but it was achieved through foreign policy and government activity in the oil market, beginning with the Royal Commission on Fuel and Engines of 1912, promoted by Winston Churchill, who by then was First Lord of the Admiralty. The Navy committed itself to change in the same year, when all of the ships that it set out to procure were designed to use fuel oil

HMS Peterel was one of two Spiteful-class destroyers to serve with the Royal Navy. She was built by Palmers, was 215 feet long and the 6,200 H.P. produced by her Reed boilers gave her a top speed of 30 knots. She was armed, as was standard, with a twelve pounder and two torpedo tubes. She served in home waters throughout the Great War and was sold off in 1919.

1944 - The 7th Fleet forces land the 77th Army Infantry Division on the shore of Ormoc Bay. Kamikazes attack the Task Force, damaging several U.S. Navy ships. USS Ward (APD-16) is scuttled after being hit by a kamikaze.

USS Ward (DD-139) was a 1,247-long-ton (1,267 t) Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War I, later APD-16 (see High speed transport) in World War II. She fired the first American shot in World War II, when she engaged a Japanese submarine before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and successfully sank her opponent.

As the Pacific War moved closer to Japan, Ward was assigned to assist with operations to recover the Philippine Islands. On 17 October 1944, she put troops ashore on Dinagat Island during the opening phase of the Leyte invasion. After spending the rest of October and November escorting ships to and from Leyte, in early December, Ward transported Army personnel during the landings at Ormoc Bay, Leyte. On the morning of 7 December, three years to the day after she fired the opening shot of the US involvement in the war, while patrolling off the invasion area, she came under attack by several Japanese kamikazes. One bomber hit her hull amidships, bringing her to a dead stop. When the resulting fires could not be controlled, Ward's crew was ordered to abandon ship, and she was sunk by gunfire from O'Brien, whose commanding officer, William W. Outerbridge, had been in command of Ward during her action off Pearl Harbor three years before.

In early December 2017, Ward's wreckage was located by RV Petrel in 686 ft (209 m) of water.

Ward, after being hit by a kamikaze

In the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, Ward was portrayed by USS Finch.

1944 - USS Mahan: Sank after three kamikaze hits off Leyte on 7 December 1944.

USS Mahan (DD-364) was the lead ship of the United States Navy's Mahan-class destroyers. The ship was named for Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, a 19th-century naval historian and strategic theorist. Her design ushered in major advances over traditional destroyers. Among them were a third set of quadruple torpedo tubes, protective gun shelters, and emergency diesel generators. Along with a steam propulsion system that was simpler and more efficient to operate.

Mahan began her service in 1936. She was first assigned to the US Atlantic Fleet and then transferred to Pearl Harbor in 1937. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Mahan was at sea with Task Force 12. The task force's mission to Midway Island was aborted to participate in the post-attack search for the enemy strike force. Unable to locate it, the task force returned to Pearl Harbor.

Early in World War II, Mahan took part in raids on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. In the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Admirals Chester Nimitz and William Halsey commended the destroyer group (of which Mahan was a member) for a stellar effort in screening the aircraft carriers Hornet and Enterprise against heavy odds. During the New Guinea campaign to take the northeast coast from the Japanese, Mahan was engaged in the amphibious landings at Salamaua, Lae, and Finschhafen. She participated in landings at Arawe and Borgen Bay (near Cape Gloucester), New Britain, and provided support for the troop landing at Los Negros Island in the Admiralty Islands.

South Dakota, Prometheus, Mahan,and Lamson after South Dakota-Mahan collision following the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands

Late in the Pacific War, the Japanese kamikaze relentlessly plagued US Naval operations. On 7 December 1944, a group of suicide aircraft overwhelmed and disabled Mahan at Ormoc Bay, Leyte, in the Philippine Islands. On fire and exploding, the ship was abandoned, and a US destroyer sank her with torpedoes and gunfire.

In November 1944, bad weather and hostile terrain bogged down the ground campaign to seize Leyte from the Japanese. The chief impediment to retaking Leyte was the Japanese ability to reinforce and resupply its headquarters at Ormoc City, on the west side of Leyte, and the Americans' inability to counter this advantage. Thus, the unavoidable decision was made for an amphibious attack on Ormoc.

Naval/Maritime History - 2nd of February - Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History (9)
Mahan at Mare Island Naval shipyard in 1944, before returning to the South Pacific

On the morning of 7 December 1944, three years to the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, troops of the US 77th Infantry Division landed south of Ormoc City. At the same time, Mahan was patrolling the channel between Leyte and Ponson Island.The amphibious strike by the infantry met with little opposition, but nine Japanese bombers and four escort fighters converged on Mahan. In Kamikaze (1997), Raymond Lamont-Brown wrote: "Observers were to record of this, one of the most unusual and devastating of kamikaze assaults of 1944, that the Japanese aircraft used torpedo-launching tactics, but when they had been hit ... they switched to kamikaze attacks, diving on Mahan". During the assault, US Army fighters downed three Japanese aircraft and damaged two more. Mahan shot down four but took three direct kamikaze hits, as David Sears observed in At War With the Wind (2008), "... the most calamitous [being] a direct hit to the superstructure near the No. 2 gun."

Exploding and awash in flames, Mahan was turned by Commander E. G. Campbell toward the picket line in a last hope to save her before issuing the order to abandon ship. The destroyers Lamson and Walke rescued the survivors; one officer and five men were missing, and thirteen seriously wounded (including burns). A US destroyer sank Mahan with torpedoes and gunfire because she was not salvageable.

Mahan’s captain praised the performance of his crew during the ordeal. He described their response as disciplined and courageous.

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