Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Canadian Navy doesn't need a complete ban on alcohol

English: Graphic identifier of the Royal Canad...
English: Graphic identifier of the Royal Canadian Navy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Canadian Navy doesn't need a complete ban on alcohol - The Globe and Mail

The Royal Canadian Navy has come a long way from the days when sailors received a free, noon-time ration of an eighth of a pint of rum. The rum ration was abolished in 1972, due to concerns that a swig in the middle of the day would hinder sailors’ ability to operate weapons and complex tools. But Canadian sailors are still free to purchase beer or wine when off duty. Now, reports suggest some commanders think the rules should be tightened around alcohol consumption. It looks like an unnecessary move that would accomplish little besides damaging morale.

he idea of banning booze is being floated after a recent spate of alleged misconduct among sailors serving on HMCS Whitehorse. Earlier this week, Navy Vice-Admiral Mark Norman ordered the ship to withdraw from a military exercise in the Pacific and return to port in British Columbia. The alleged breaches of conduct apparently included shoplifting, drunkenness and sexual misconduct. Alcohol may have played a role. The Navy is conducting a review and may draft new rules.
The misconduct on the part of crew members is unfortunate, but it is hardly evidence that prohibition is the answer. The U.S. Navy – which became dry a hundred years ago by order of a teetotaling Navy Secretary – has some of the strictest rules around alcohol. It continues to wage an unreasonable crackdown, introducing randomized testing earlier this year. The regulations may have looked good on paper, but there was almost no evidence that alcohol abuse was actually a problem: Random testing last summer only found just 1.16 per cent of those tested had consumed alcohol. The obsession with the evils of booze on U.S. ships and dry military bases stands in contrast to Canada’s more mature attitude.
Being drunk on duty is already a violation of the laws of military justice. So is criminal behaviour for soldiers on shore leave. The Navy already has tough rules against misconduct. But having a drink when you’re not at work isn’t a crime for anyone else in society. Surgeons are allowed to have a drink when off duty. Ditto pilots, judges and CEOs. The Navy doesn’t need a complete ban on alcohol. Sailors, who serve on ships for weeks, sometimes months at a time, are mature and responsible adults. Off duty, they should at the very least be entitled to a cold beer.
Note: During World War II Sailors would complain that San Diego Police were to aggressive with military arrests with the Chief noting that he did not care for Sailors.  The Canadian Royal Navy has made Liberty Call in San Diego for decades and served with Honor!  Give me a few sea going Sailors any day but banning grog?...//Ed

Charlie May's War: Secret diary of a WWI officer who longed for home

charlie may, world war one, first world war, british officer, british captain, war, germany, great britain, battle of the somme, trench warfareCharlie May was killed in the Battle Of The Somme[HARPER COLLINS]
Captain Charlie May was killed on the morning of July 1, 1916, leading his men into action on the first day of the Battle Of The Somme.
He was 27 years old.
After his death the soldier who carried his body off the battlefield discovered that Captain May had taken a slender notebook into battle.
He discovered six further pocketbooks among the late officer’s possessions, all written in faint pencil in tiny, italic handwriting. 

Before the war Charlie May – born in New Zealand to an English family – had been a poet and journalist.
When he landed in France in November 1915, he could not help documenting all he saw, even though writing diaries was strictly forbidden. 

The seven pocketbooks were sent home to his wife Maude and baby daughter Pauline, together with news of his death.
Charlie’s great-nephew Gerry Harrison has now transcribed this extraordinary uncensored diary after it lay forgotten in an attic for 80 years. It is published this month.

Captain May’s words offer a rare and vivid insight into life in the trenches: of rats and death, and the men’s optimism as they prepared to go into battle.
They also read as a moving love letter to the wife he adored and the little girl he couldn’t wait to be reunited with
first world war, world war one, captain charlie mayCaptain Charlie May with wife Maude and baby daughter Pauline [HARPER COLLINS]
Somewhere in his fatherland there is a little child who called him Dada
Charlie May's diaries
November 28, 1915

I see that last evening I boasted that it would take more than rats to disturb us. I was badly mistaken. They ran over my legs, body, chest and feet. 

But when they started on my face I must own that I slavishly surrendered, fell to cursing horribly and finally changed my lying place. I can tell you they are some rats, these. 

November 29, 1915

It has teemed. The trenches are ankle deep – some places calf deep – in mud and the communications trenches are rushing streams of brown water.
The men are wet through but stick the job like Britons and I hope for their sake that the weather lifts with the morning.
The guns have been strafing today, though up till now we have dodged the show. It may be ours again tomorrow though. One never knows. 

December 1, 1915

It is exciting work, sniping. In fact one must curb the tendency lest it should become a fascination.
The Secondin-Command of the E Lancs [East Lancashire Regiment] and myself put in a couple of hours this morning and had quite a bit of fun worrying the Boches in their trenches. 

One fellow was walking across the open – 2,000 yards off – when I spotted him and let go. You never saw a chap move quicker in your life.
He ran for a tree and jumped behind it and I let him have four more there. Whether I got him or not I don’t know but he didn’t move for the next half-hour. 

I know because I waited so anxiously for him.

Last night, or rather at 1.30 this morning, I got outside the barbed wire, and [got] lost.
Three times I had to fling myself down in the wet grass, bury my nose in it and grovel while the [machine guns] went chattering over me. It is remarkable with what speed one learns to “adopt the prone position”. 

January 13, 1916

I long and long to see you, to clasp you in my arms… and I long with all my heart to see my Baby. How I love her. What hopes I have for her, what a sweet girl she will make. 

February 25, 1916

Woke up this morning to find the snow pelting down and covering the ground fully five inches deep.
Also it was freezing hard. Cotton [a fellow officer] came in to breakfast with us.
He brought the little bible which [another soldier] had taken from the body of the dead German.
On the fly-leaf in a child’s handwriting the word Dada. 

War is very sad.
Perhaps the man may have been something to loathe and detest. I do not know.
All I am conscious of is that somewhere in his fatherland there is a little child who called him Dada.
first world war, world war one, charlie mayWife Maude wrote numerous letters to her sweetheart Charlie [HARPER COLLINS]
April 6, 1916

Fritz [German soldiers] strafed our new trenches with heavies and searched round the support with HE [high-explosive] shrapnel and other such obnoxious stuff. 

One shell claimed three NCOs [non commissioned officers] and wounded three men. We all feel wild to get at the beast and hope we may string him up on the wire. I saw the killed go down the line. It was a pitiful sight. 

Poor boys, shell fire is a horrid thing. 

Gresty – a lad who was a sergeant of mine – was the worst, his body full of gaping holes. It was very, very sad. 

Do those at home realise how their boys go out for them? Never can they do enough for their soldiers, never can they repay the debt they owe. 

Not that the men ask any reward… 

but one day we’ll get at him with the bayonet. We’ll take our price then for Gresty and all the other hundred thousand Grestys slain as they were standing at their posts. 

June 17, 1916

I do not want to die… the thought that I may never see you or our darling baby again turns my bowels to water. 

My conscience is clear that I have always tried to make life a joy for you. But it is the thought that our babe may grow up without my knowing her and without her knowing me. I pray God I may do my duty for I know whatever that may entail you would not have it otherwise. 

June 23, 1916

Everything is speeding up no end. 

Ammunition by the hundred wagonload is pouring up. It should certainly 
not be for lack of ammunition if we do not make a huge success of the venture. 

Yet one cannot help feeling a little anxious and worried. So much depends on this great throw. 

June 28, 1916
The moment seems very auspicious for us to strike. Perhaps we will on Friday?

July 1, 1916
We marched up [to the assembly trench] last night. The most exciting march imaginable.
Guns all round us crashed and roared till sometimes it was quite impossible to hear oneself speak. It was, however, a fine sight and one realised from it what gun power really means.
Fritz, of course, strafed back in reply, causing us some uneasiness and a few casualties before even we reached the line. The night passed noisily and with a few more casualties. 

The Hun puts a barrage on us every now and then and generally claims one or two victims.

It is a glorious morning. We go over in two hours’ time. It seems a long time to wait and I think, whatever happens, we shall all feel relieved once the line is launched.
No Man’s Land is a tangled desert. Unless one could see it, one cannot imagine what a terrible state of disorder it is in.
But we do not yet seem to have stopped the machine guns. These are popping off all along our parapet as I write.
I trust they will not claim too many of our lads before the day is over.

Now I close this old diary down for the next few days since I may not take it into the line. I will keep a record of how things go and enter it up later.
Shortly after Charlie put away his pocketbook and pencil at 6.30am on July 1, the Allied artillery began its bombardment of enemy trenches.

An hour later the barrage ceased and the first wave of officers blew their whistles and led their men up ladders and over the top.
As Charlie climbed into enemy view – leading the men of B Company, 22nd Manchester Pals Battalion into action – his loyal batman, Private Arthur Bunting, was close behind. 

They struggled across No Man’s Land through sheets of rifle and machine-gun fire. Just as they reached the German lines Charlie was hit by shell fire. 

Private Bunting remained with his body for three hours, under heavy fire, before dragging him back to the trenches. 

In the letter Maude wrote to Bunting to thank him for sending back the diaries, she wrote: “I don’t know how I shall go through life without him – the loving care and devotion he showered upon baby and me was greater than I can ever put into words.”

Four years later Maude married Captain Frank Earles, one of Charlie’s comrades from the trenches, whom Charlie had asked to care for Maude and baby Pauline in the event of his death. 

Frank fulfilled his promise and proved to be a loving husband and stepfather. 

To order To Fight Alongside Friends: The First World War Diaries Of Charlie May, edited by Gerry Harrison (William Collins, £16.99), call the Express Bookshop on 01872 562 310; send a cheque/PO payable to The Express Bookshop to Charlie May Offer, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ; or online at 

Boiler Explosion on USS Bennington, 21 July 1905

English: Photo #: NH 89081 USS Bennington (Gun...
English: Photo #: NH 89081 USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4) Removing the dead from the ship, following her boiler explosion at San Diego, California, 21 July 1905. Photographed and published on a stereograph card by C.H. Graves, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The inscription published on the reverse of the original card is provided on Photo #: NH 89081 (extended caption). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Events--Boiler Explosion on USS Bennington, 21 July 1905

Boiler Explosion on USS Bennington, 21 July 1905

At about 10:30 a.m. on 21 July 1905 the gunboat Bennington suffered one of the Navy's worst peacetime disasters. She had arrived at San Diego, California, just two days earlier, after a difficult seventeen-day voyage from the Hawaiian Islands. Though both the ship and her men could have used a rest, they were soon ordered back to sea to assist the monitor Wyoming, which had broken down and needed a tow.

While steam was being raised, much of Bennington's crew, having completing the hard and dirty job of coaling, were cleaning their ship and themselves. Below decks, an improperly closed steam line valve, oily feed water and a malfunctioning safety valve conspired to generate steam pressures far beyond the boilers' tolerance. Suddenly, one of them exploded. Men and equipment were hurled into the air, living compartments and deck space filled with scalding steam, and the ship's hull was opened to the sea. But for quick work by the tug Santa Fe, which beached Bennington in relatively shallow water, the gunboat would probably have sunk. As it was, she was so badly damaged as to be not worth repairing. Even worse, more than sixty of her crew had been killed outright or were so severely injured that they did not long survive.

The number of casualties overhelmed the then-small city of San Diego's hospitals, and badly burned Sailors had to be cared for in improvised facilities largely staffed by volunteers. Local morticians were hard pressed to prepare the Bennington's dead for burial. On the 23rd of July, the great majority were interred at the Army's Fort Rosecrans, located on the Point Loma heights overlooking the entrance to San Diego Harbor and what would, years later, become the North Island Naval Air Station.

Despite the awful death toll, which far exceeded that sustained by the Navy in the Spanish-American War, and sometimes lurid rumors of misconduct on the part of some members of Bennington's engineering force, official investigations concluded that the tragedy had not resulted from negligence. Eleven surviving crewmen were awarded the Medal of Honor for " extraordinary heroism displayed at the time of the explosion". USS Bennington was raised, but remained inactive and unrepaired until sold in 1910.

This page features, and provides links to, all the views we have concerning the 21 July 1905 boiler explosion on USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4).

For more images related to the USS Bennington boiler explosion and its aftermath, see:

  • Boiler Explosion on USS Bennington, 21 July 1905 -- Part II;

  • USS Bennington Monument, San Diego, California; and

  • USS Bennington Monument, San Diego, California -- Part II.

    For pictures and information concerning the ship's last Commanding Officer, and a sailor who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his conduct at the time of her boiler explosion, see:

  • Rear Admiral Lucien Young, USN, (1852-1912); and

  • Seaman Edward William Boers, USN, (1884-1929).

  • Friday, July 18, 2014

    USS Bennington (PG-4)

    USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4/PG-43) was a member of theYorktown class of steel-hulled, twin-screw gunboats in the United States Navy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was the first U.S. Navy ship named in honor of the town of Bennington, Vermont, site of the Battle of Bennington in the American Revolutionary War.
    The contract to build Bennington was awarded to N. F. Palmer & Co. of Philadelphia in November 1887. Her hull was subcontracted to the Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding & Engine Works which laid down Bennington's keel in June 1888. Bennington was launchedin June 1890. She was just over 244 feet (74 m) long and 36 feet (11 m) abeam and displaced 1,710 long tons (1,740 t). She was equipped with two steam engines which were supplemented with three schooner-rigged masts. The ship's main battery consisted of six 6-inch (15.2 cm) guns and was augmented by an assortment of smaller caliber guns.
    After her June 1891 commissioningBennington was attached to the Squadron of Evolution and for its cruise to South America. The gunboat made two Mediterranean tours between 1892 and 1894, after which she was assigned to the duties in the Pacific. She sailed the Pacific coasts of North and Central America and spent time in the Hawaiian Islands to protect American interests there. On her way to support United States Army operations of thePhilippine–American WarBennington claimed Wake Island for the United States. After two years in the Philippines, she returned to the United States and was decommissioned for 18 months of repairs and refitting. After her March 1903 re-commissioning, most of the next two years were spent patrolling the Pacific coasts of North and South America.
    On 21 July 1905 at San Diego, CaliforniaBennington suffered aboiler explosion, that killed 66 men and injured nearly everyone else on board. Shortly after the explosion, a tug beached the ship to prevent her from sinking. Eleven men were awarded the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism" in the aftermath of the explosion. After Bennington was refloated, the damage was deemed too extensive to repair and the ship was decommissioned in September. The ship was sold for scrap in 1910, but instead served as a water barge for the Matson Line at Honolulu from 1912. In 1924, the former Bennington was scuttled off the coast ofOahu.

    Design and constructionEdit

    The Yorktown class gunboats – unofficially considered third-class cruisers – were the product of a United States Navy design attempt to produce compact ships with good seakeeping abilities and, yet, able to carry a heavy batteryBennington was authorized in the 1888 fiscal year, and the contract for her construction was awarded to N. F. Palmer & Co. of Chester, Pennsylvania. The hull for Bennington was subcontracted to the Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding & Engine Works and built to the Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair design. The mechanical design was patterned after the layout for her oldersister ship Yorktown developed by William Cramp & Sons.[3]
    Bennington'keel was laid down in June 1888,[2] and the ship was launched on 3 June 1890, sponsored by Anne Aston,[4]the daughter of Rear Admiral Ralph Aston, Chief Engineer of the U.S. Navy.[9][10]


    As built, Bennington was 244 feet 5 inches (74.50 m) in length and 36 feet (11 m) abeam. Her steel hull had an average draftof 14 feet (4 m),[5] which was expected to give her the ability to escape from larger ships into shallow water.[6] At the waterline was a turtleback deck of ⅜-inch (9.5 mm) steel that formed a watertight seal over the lower spaces. The deck had a crown at the level of the waterline and curved downwards to 3 feet (0.9 m) below the waterline at the sides of the ship. Below this armored deck were twelve compartments separated by watertight bulkheads; the spaces above were equipped with watertight doors intended to be closed during battle.[6]
    Above the armored deck, Bennington had forecastle and poop decks with an open gun deck that spanned the length of the ship between them. The conning tower was located forward on the forecastle deck and was oval-shaped to deflect shot. It was outfitted with a steam-powered Ship's wheel, an engine order telegraph, and speaking tubes; it was protected by 2 inches (51 mm) of steel armor plate.[6]


    Bennington was powered by two triple-expansion steam engines which each drove one of the pair of 10.5-foot (3.2 m), three-bladed screw propellers. The cylinders of each engine were 22, 31, and 51 inches (56, 79, and 130 cm) in diameter and had a 30-inch (76 cm) stroke.[6] Each engine was rated at 3,400 indicated horsepower (2,500 kW) and together were designed to move the ship at 16 knots (30 km/h),[6] though the ship exceeded that in her trials, topping out at 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h).[3]
    The engines, situated in separate watertight compartments, were each fed by a pair of coal-fired boilers. Each boiler was horizontally mounted and was 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) in diameter and 17 feet 6 inches (5.33 m) in length with a total grate area of 220 square inches (1,400 cm2). Bennington's coal bunkers could carry up to 400 long tons (410 t) of fuel, and were shielded from "shot and shell". At a near top-speed of 16 knots, the ship could cover 2,800 nautical miles (5,200 km) in 6½ days; at the more economical speed of 8 knots (15 km/h) she could cruiser 12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km) over 62 days.[6]
    To supplement her steam power plant, Bennington was built with three masts that were schooner-rigged. She had a total sail area of 6,300 square feet (590 m2). The steam and sail combination was expected to allow Bennington to remain at sea for months at a time during wartime.[6]


    Bennington's main battery consisted of six 6-inch (15.2 cm)/30 guns,[4][11][Note 1] with each gun weighing in excess of 11,000 pounds (5,000 kg).[11] Two were mounted on the forecastle deck, two on the poop deck, and the other pair amidships on the gun deck. The two guns on the gun deck were mounted 10 feet (3.0 m) above the waterline, while the other four were 18 feet (5.5 m) above.[6] The guns fired 105-pound (48 kg) armor-piercing projectiles with a propellant charge weighing 18.8 pounds (8.5 kg) at 1,950 feet per second (590 m/s). At an elevation of 30.2°, the guns had a range of 18,000 yards (16,000 m).[11]Each gun was shielded with steel plating 3 inches (76 mm) thick.[6]
    Bennington's secondary battery consisted of four 6-pounder (2.7 kg) guns [with a caliber of 57 mm or 2.24 in], and four 1-pounder (0.45 kg) guns [37 mm or 1.46 in].[5] Both were based on designs of the French arms company Hotchkiss.[6]According to a 1902 Bureau of Ordnance publication, an armor-piercing round fired from a 6-pounder gun could penetrate 2 inches (51 mm) of armor at a distance of 1,000 yards (910 m).[12]

    Early careerEdit

    USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 20 June 1891 under the command ofCommander Royal B. Bradford. As one of the first steel-hulled gunboats of the "New Navy", Bennington was assigned to theSquadron of Evolution, a unit made up entirely of "New Navy" ships that was established to test and perfect tactics and doctrine developed at the Naval War College. In addition to operating as the first tactical fleet of the U.S. Navy, the squadron performed the secondary mission of cruising to foreign ports to demonstrate to the world the types of modern ships the United States was capable of building. In that latter role, Bennington and the rest of the squadron departed New York on 19 November 1891 for the unit's cruise to Brazil.[4][13]
    On 5 May 1892, Bennington was transferred to the South Atlantic Squadron and cruised South American waters until 19 July. Setting out from Bahia, Brazil, the gunboat visited Spanish and Italian ports during the 400th anniversary celebration of Columbus' voyage to the western hemisphere. She concluded the European portion of those festivities on 18 February 1893 when she departed Cadiz, with a replica of Columbus’s caravel Pinta in tow for Cuba. After stops in the Canary Islands, theNetherlands West Indies, and Havana, the gunboat arrived back in the United States at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 26 March.[4]
    Following participation in the 1893 International Naval Review at Hampton Roads, Bennington moved north for operations along the coast of New England before beginning preparations for foreign service. To this end, she entered the New York Navy Yard on 24 May and remained there until 6 August. The ship departed New York on the 6th and arrived in Lisbon on the 18th. She cruised the Mediterranean, visiting various ports along its shores, for the next six months. In February 1894, orders arrived sending her to the Pacific. On the 18th, the gunboat transited the Strait of Gibraltar and headed back across the Atlantic. After steaming around Cape Horn and stopping at several Latin American ports, the warship finally arrived at theMare Island Navy Yard on 30 April.[4]

    Pacific DutyEdit

    Bennington served In the Pacific for a little more than four years. For the most part, her duty consisted of cruising along the west coast protecting American interests in Latin America during the numerous political upheavals that occurred at that time in Central and South America. In addition, she made two extended cruises to the Hawaiian Islands. The first came after a group of pro-royalists attempted in January 1895 to stage a countercoup against the provisional government of the islands.Bennington departed Mare Island on 28 May, arrived at Honolulu on 5 June, and spent the next nine months protecting American interests in the islands. On 5 March 1896, she departed Honolulu, bound for San Francisco where she arrived on 16 March. The following day, the warship entered the Mare Island Navy Yard for five months of repairs.[4]
    On 8 August, she resumed cruises along the west coast. That employment lasted a year and a week. On 14 August 1897, Bennington headed back to Hawaii. She arrived in Lahaina Roads on 27 September and reached Honolulu on the 30th. Except for a six-day cruise back to Lahaina in March 1898, the gunboat remained at Honolulu for just over nine months.[4]
    At the outbreak of the Spanish–American WarBennington was in Hawaiian waters. After spending the first two months of the war in the Hawaiian Islands, she departed Honolulu on 16 June and steamed to the west coast of the United States. The warship arrived in San Francisco on 26 June and patrolled the California coast for the remainder of hostilities.[4] On 18 September, Bennington stood out of San Francisco on her way ultimately to the Philippines. She arrived in Hawaii on 27 September and devoted a little over three months to operations in nearby waters. On 7 January 1899, she resumed her voyage west. Ten days out of Honolulu, she stopped at Wake Island.[4] There Commander Edward D. TaussigBennington's commander, under direct orders from President William McKinley claimed the atoll for the United States, despite protests from Germany (which considered the island group a part of its claim of the Marshall Islands). Wake eventually became an important link in the Honolulu–Manila trans-Pacific cable.[14] Bennington later made a stop at San Luis d'ApraGuam, from 23 January to 15 February where Commander (later Rear AdmiralTaussig accepted the relinquishment of Guam from her Spanish colonial governor. Taussig briefly served as the first naval governor of Guam and established a native ruling council, before continuing on to Manila where Bennington arrived on 22 February.[4]

    Philippine–American WarEdit

    For a little more than two years after her February 1899 arrival, Bennington served in the Philippine Islands in support of the Army's campaigns during the Philippine–American War. For the most part, her service in the islands consisted of patrol and escort duty – preventing rebel movement and stopping the importation of arms, as well as seeing American troops and supplies safely between the islands. Occasionally, Bennington did see action. On 10 September, she shelled a fort nearLegaspi on the southeastern coast of Luzon. Two days later, she captured and destroyed the insurgent vessel Parao. Between 7 and 9 November, the warship supported an Army landing at San Fabian on the shores of Lingayen Gulf in northwestern Luzon. The gunboat began a four-month assignment as station ship at Cebu on 26 November and concluded that duty on 19 March 1900.[4]
    After visiting Cavite on Luzon, the gunboat headed for Japan on 3 April and underwent repairs there from 9 April to 19 May before heading back to the Philippines. The warship arrived at Cavite on 27 May and resumed patrols on 3 June. She spent another seven months conducting patrols in the Philippines and supporting the Army’s operations in the island chain. On 3 January 1901, she departed Cavite and shaped a course for Hong Kong. The gunboat arrived in that British colony on the 6th and began over six months of repairs. At the completion of that work, she departed Hong Kong on 25 June. After a visit to Shanghai, the warship headed back to the United States in July and arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 19 August. She was decommissioned there on 5 September 1901.[4]
    While she was out of commission at Mare Island, Bennington was refitted. A pilothouse that had been added on top of her bridge and a spotlight platform on her bow – both added in 1893–94 – were removed. Bennington'mainmast was also removed, leaving her as a two-mast rig. In addition, two tall ventilation cowls were added immediately behind the bridge.[15]After 18 months of inactivity, Bennington was recommissioned on 2 March 1903 under the command of CommanderChauncey Thomas.[4]
    Over the next 27 months, Bennington cruised in the eastern Pacific along the coasts of North and South America. The warship visited Alaskan ports in the summer of 1903 and the coast of Central America the following fall and winter. In May 1904, she steamed to Hawaii and then proceeded to the Aleutians in June. The winter of 1904 and 1905 saw her voyage south for visits to Pacific ports in Central and South America.[4] In February 1905, she departed San Francisco for a two-month cruise to the Hawaiian Islands, returning to San Diego on 19 July,[4] after a difficult 17-day voyage.[16]

    Boiler explosionEdit

    Bennington after the explosion on 21 July 1905 which killed 66 in San Diego

    Removing the dead from the ship, following her boiler explosion
    On the morning of 21 July 1905, Bennington's crew was preparing her to sail to the aid of the monitor Wyoming which had broken down and was in need of a tow.[17] After her crew had finished the difficult task of coaling the ship that morning, most of them were belowdecks cleaning themselves from the dirty job. Unbeknownst to anyone on board, three problems with one of Bennington's boilers – oily feed water, an improperly closed steam valve, and a faulty steam gauge – were conspiring against them. At about 10:30, excessive steam pressure in the boiler resulted in a boiler explosion that rocked the ship, sending men and equipment flying into the air. The escaping steam sprayed through the living compartments and decks. The explosion opened Bennington's hull to the sea, and she began to list to starboard.[16] Quick actions by the tugSanta Fe — taking Bennington under tow and beaching her – almost certainly saved the gunboat from sinking.[16][17]
    The combination of the explosion and the scalding steam killed a number of men outright and left others mortally wounded;[16] the final death toll was one officer and sixty-five men,[4] making it one of the U.S. Navy's worst peacetime disasters.[16] Nearly all of the forty-six who survived had an injury of some sort;[4] eleven of the survivors were awarded theMedal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism displayed at the time of the explosion".[16] One of the survivors was John Henry Turpin, who had also survived the explosion of Maine in Havana in February 1898 and was, reportedly, the only man to survive both explosions.[18] The sheer number of casualties – the death toll exceeded the U.S. Navy's death toll for the entirety of the Spanish–American War – overwhelmed San Diego's medical facilities, and many burn victims had to be cared for in makeshift facilities tended by volunteers.[16][17]
    The number of dead also taxed the morticians in San Diego, who were hard-pressed to prepare all of the victims for burial. On 23 July, two days after the explosion, the majority of those killed were buried in the cemetery at Fort Rosecrans.[19][20] The victims are commemorated by the USS Bennington Monument, a 60-foot (18 m) granite obelisk dedicated in the cemetery on 7 January 1908.[17][21]
    In spite of rumors of misconduct by Bennington's engineering crewmen, an official investigation concluded that the explosion was not due to negligence on the part of the crew.[16]

    Sectional view of the gunboat Bennington – Boston Daily Globe, 23 July 1905

    List of Medal of Honor recipients from explosion

    The USS Bennington Monument in San Diego commemorates the 66 killed in the 21 July 1905 boiler explosion.
    The eleven men who were awarded the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism displayed at the time of the explosion" were:[16][22]


    After the explosion, Bennington was refloated and towed to the Mare Island Navy Yard.[20] Because of the extent of the damages and the age of the ship, Bennington was not repaired but was instead decommissioned on 31 October 1905. After five years of inactivity, Bennington was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 10 September 1910 and sold for scrap on 14 November.[4] Bennington was not scrapped, however, and ended up as a water barge for the Matson Line.[3] She was towed to Honolulu and remained in use there from 1912 until 1924, when she was scuttled off Oahu.[3][23]


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