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Appendix D

This webpage reproduces an appendix in
Esquimalt Naval Base

Frederick V. Longstaff

The Victoria Book & Stationery Company, Ltd.
Victoria, B. C. 1941

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Appendix F

 p164  Appendix "E"

Record of War Service
of H. M. Sloop-of‑war Algerine

The earliest action between any steam vessels on the Pacific Station was in May, 1877, when the Peruvian turret-ship Huascar on the one hand, and the steam frigate Shah and corvette Amethyst on the other, exchanged many shots while under way. None of the vessels suffered any serious damage. The Shah and the Amethyst were not hit, though the Huascar was struck sixty-five times, one shell (a 9‑inch) perforating her armour above the water-line, where it was 3½ inches thick. This killed one man, wounded an officer and two men, but did not affect the ship's fighting qualities. The Shah fired 280 shells.

After the Shah and Amethyst, the little Algerine comes, twenty-three years later, on to the stage of action. She earned greater distinction because some of her crew were wounded. She lost her funnel and her ventilators were pierced, in action in China in 1900, under Commander Johnston Stewart. The Allied Squadron during the action on the Peiho River consisted of ships under the flags of Great Britain, Germany, Japan, France and Russia.

The sloop-of‑war Algerine, sixth of the name, was launched at Devonport in 1895. She was steel with a clipper bow and at first was barque rigged, later became a barquentine, but never had topgallant masts. She was 185 feet in length by 32 feet 6 inches beam and mean draft of 11 feet 3 inches. She displaced 1,050 tons and her twin screw engines of 1,200 horsepower gave her a speed of 12.7 knots.

In 1897 the Algerine was first commissioned at Devonport on 11th of February, for service on the China Station. She was recommissioned at Hong Kong on the 13th of April, 1900, by Commander Robert Hathorn Johnston Stewart (from the Boys Training Ship Impregnable, at Devonport) who was to so gallantly command her in the actions on the Peiho River. The action (according to Admiral Sir Roger Keyes in his Memoirs) began on the evening of 16th June, 1900, by the Chinese garrison in the Taku Forts opening fire, while there  p165 were 350 officers and men sleeping on the upper deck of the Algerine. These were at once sent down to the boats, which were lying alongside the starboard (disengaged) side, ready to land. The bugle for cooks was sounded, and Commander C. Cradock (late Rear-Admiral Sir C. Cradock sunk on Good Hope in 1914), saw that every man had a bowl of hot cocoa before the boats shoved off. They then landed abreast of the Algerine, where the foreign detachments, which had marched from Tongku, joined them about 2 A.M., the total Allied force being 904 officers and men. The German and Japanese senior officers proposed that Commander Cradock direct the attack. Meanwhile the guns of the Algerine had been bombarding the North-West Fort, but as it was impossible to see the enemy's guns, and the Allied guns could only aim at the flashes, fire was checked and only one gun was kept in action. Later the Iltis, (German) joined the Algerine, taking up the Whiting's berth and the Lion (French) took the Fame's. At 2:45 A.M. on 17th, Cradock signalled to say that the assault was about to be launched, and asked the Algerine to cease fire. It had been arranged that half the British force, with the Italians on their left, should be in the firing line; the remainder of the British, the Bermudans, Japanese, Russians and Austrians were to form the supports and reserves. The object of the British force was the West Gate, and it was proposed to scale the walls, or if possible blow in the gate. The force advanced to within a thousand yards of the North-West Fort, but as the rest of the advance would have been made over a sun‑baked mud flat without a vestige of cover, and the fort seemed to be intact with all its guns in action, Cradock halted. After consulting the other senior officers, he decided it best to retire to the cover afforded by a bend in the river until the fort was silenced, and at 3.45 A.M. Cradock signalled this to Stewart. By this time it was daylight, and the Algerine, and Iltis opened fire on the North-West Fort and had silenced it by 4:30 A.M. Johnston Stewart then signalled the assault, and two field guns, formerly silenced on land, were the only pieces to fire on the fort.

At 5 A.M., Johnston Stewart proceeded in Algerine, followed by the foreign ships, down the river, firing on the North Fort with his forecastle guns, and on the South Fort with the remainder of his starboard broadside. The North Fort did not reply and had been deserted by the garrison, but the South Fort was the most heavily armed  p166 and also undamaged by the fire of the Russian and French ships. Keyes (p227) says, "When the Algerine anchored in the new position she was so close to the fort that the guns could not be depressed sufficiently to hit her low‑lying hull, but her rigging was cut, and her upper works were repeatedly hit. The Iltis, being much higher out of the water, with a considerable superstructure forward, suffered much more severely. Every hit but one on her hull would have passed over the Algerine.

"It had been arranged between Lans and Johnston Stewart that Iltis was to anchor just astern of the Algerine, but, much to the latter's annoyance, the Iltis went by, nearly fouling her and masking her bow gun for some time, and anchored with her stern almost touching the Algerine's bow. This was no doubt due to Lans being badly wounded just before she reached her appointed berth. The gallant action of these two ships and their accurate shooting made the fort untenable, and the Chinese evacuated it. The Algerine then sent in her boats to pick up Cradock, who crossed the river with about thirty men and hoisted the British Flag in the South Fort. The losses of the Allies amounted to 35 killed and 137 wounded. The Chinese losses were very heavy."

The "Times", 21st June, gives casualties: wounded, Assistant Paymaster H. J. Hargraves and 12 men. "Times", 23rd June: dangerously wounded, H. W. Wiltshire, O. S., No. 190171; seriously wounded, J. Oliver, A. B., No. 173838; slightly wounded, F. L. Hales 2nd Class P. O., No. 127090. "Times", 26th June: seriously wounded, S. Symons Corber, A. B., No. 163299. The Algerine's funnel was hit and carried away; the cowls of the ventilators were torn and some of these were still marked with patches in June, 1908.

On the 6th September, Commander Johnston Stewart in the Algerine was relieved by Commander Edward D. Hunt, and continued on the China Station. On May 1st, 1902, Commander Rowland Nugent (later Admiral, retired, living in Crofton, B. C.) was appointed to the command of the sloop, and recommissioned her on May 15th, 1903. After this she was on the sale list from 1905 till March 5th, 1908, when she was commissioned by Commander Edwin Harold Edwards for Sealing Patrol duties in the Bering Sea, and to be based on Esquimalt. It is interesting to note that her first Lieut., Cecil Hendy  p167 Hulton Sams, had served in her as Midshipman at the time of the action with the Taku Forts. She left Hong Kong on May 2nd, 1908, and arrived at Esquimalt on Thursday, June 25th, being 26 days from Yokohama. On arrival the Algerine went alongside the coaling wharf, where that old Esquimalt photographer, the late Mr. J. W. Jones, took a fine picture of her showing her sails dropped for drying, and this appeared in the "Colonist" of June 26th. She found the Shearwater at Esquimalt and at once proceeded to Bering Sea on the Sealing Patrol, one of the main objects for which she was called to Esquimalt. The annual routine was the Bering Sea Patrol, and in winter a cruise to Mexico and Panama. She was next recommissioned at Esquimalt in 1910, on February 22nd, by Commander Alexander Keith Jones. Two years later, Commander Francis Gerard St. George Brooker recommissioned her at Esquimalt on May 6th, 1912, the new crew coming from England overland by the C. P. R.

The Algerine was recommissioned for the last time (in the Royal Navy) at Esquimalt in December, 1913, but this time by an officer of higher rank, namely Captain Robert Gwynne Corbett (seniority, June 1912), who thus became the Senior Naval Officer West Coast of America, and who was also the first Captain to be so appointed since the departure on February 28th, 1905, of Commodore James Edward Clifford Goodrich (in 1913, was Admiral Sir J. F. C. Goodrich, K. C. V. O., retired list) from Victoria on the occasion of the reduction of the ships on the Pacific Station. There had thus been an interval of seven years during which time the Senior Officer only held the rank of Commander. Evidently, in 1913, the Lords of the Admiralty considered that the increased duties for the ships on the Station required the attention of a Captain.

About Christmas, 1913, the Algerine broke one tail shaft while off Cape Flattery, and after a survey at Esquimalt it was decided that the work would get the best attention at the Moran Shipbuilding Company at Seattle. This engineering company made and fitted a new tail shaft at a reasonable cost and to the complete satisfaction of the local representative of the Admiralty.

At the end of July, 1914, there was an International Squadron in Mazatlan Harbour, where Rear-Admiral Howard, U. S. N., with his flag in the cruiser California, was  p168 looking after the interests of foreigners during one of the periodical revolutions in Mexico. The Squadron consisted of the sloops-of‑war Algerine and Shearwater (British), the protected cruiser Albany, armoured cruiser California (U. S. A.), the armoured cruiser Idzumo (Japan) and the protected cruiser Leipzig (German) which had just arrived from Tsing‑tau and relieved the protected cruiser Nurnberg. At this time the Mexican rebels cut the shore cable and the telegraph systems, while "atmospherics" for some days prevented long distance wireless instruments from working.

According to the Official History of the War, the Algerine received the first news of the declaration of war with Germany on August 3rd, through the courtesy of Rear Admiral Howard, while she was off the coast and at once set her course for the north, and the Straits of Fuca.

On August 5th, at 6 A.M., Commander W. Hose, R. C. N., commanding H. M. C. S. Rainbow, while at sea received instructions via wireless to proceed and protect the Algerine and Shearwater, which were both steering north from San Diego. On August 7th, at 9:30 A.M., the Rainbow anchored in the harbour of San Francisco. On August 13th, at 3.30 A.M., Rainbow met Shearwater in the Straits of Fuca and returned to Esquimalt at 6.30 A.M., escorting the sloop-of‑war whose white hull had been at sea daubed over with war grey paint and much of the removable woodwork had been put over the side. At 5.30 P.M., on the same day the old cruiser again left Esquimalt and sighted the Algerine on the next day, August 14th, at 3 P.M., to the south of Cape Flattery and also escorted her to the Naval Base, arriving there at 5.15 A.M., on 15th. The crews of both the sloops-of‑war were at once landed and took a steamer for Vancouver, whence they proceeded overland to Halifax under Captain Corbett.

The Algerine was handed over to the Canadian Naval Service at once, and commissioned as the Depot ship for Esquimalt Base. The Algerine carried on this duty as Depot ship all through the Great War, and in 1919, on March 10th, she was sold to the Pacific Salvage Company, and on July 21st following, she was put on the Canadian Register as belonging to that company. The forward part of her waist was covered over by extending the forecastle aft and a large wheel house was built forward. This  p169 made extra stowage space for lumber and salvage gear. Towing bitts were built on the poop, and a thick stump mainmast was shipped and fitted with derricks. She became a familiar sight lying alongside the Island Tug and Barge Company's wharf in Victoria Harbour. In 1923, her career came to an end, for on October 13th, at 5.30 P.M., she went ashore on Brodie Rock in Principe Channel, inside Banks Island. This occurred whilst proceeding to the aid of the motor vessel Kennecott, which was ashore on Hunter Point, Graham Island. The Algerine was floated on the 14th and towed to Victoria by the C. P. R. tugboat Nanoose, where she was drydocked for survey. It was decided to sell her for junk and this was carried out at the end of January, 1924. It is interesting to note, that her successor the Salvage King arrived at Victoria in July, 1925.

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Page updated: 23 Jun 17