Warship sailed half-way around world... backwards

AMERICAN The picture of Portsmouth Harbour showing the old floating bridge and what is now believed to be an Amercian heavy cruiser, either USS New Orleans or USS Tuscaloosa
AMERICAN The picture of Portsmouth Harbour showing the old floating bridge and what is now believed to be an Amercian heavy cruiser, either USS New Orleans or USS Tuscaloosa
HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

RETRO: Watch the last voyage of HMS Illustrious from Portsmouth

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Last week I asked if anyone could identify the warship in Portsmouth Harbour in the picture showing the old floating bridge.

Nigel Baldwin, of Stanley Avenue, Copnor, Portsmouth, was quick of the mark, believing it to be the USS Tuscaloosa, a heavy cruiser of the New Orleans class.

BOW GONE USS New Orleans minus her bow

BOW GONE USS New Orleans minus her bow

Nigel says: ‘The limited definition of the photograph does not give me an idea of whether the vessel carried any radar, so the picture probably dates from 1942, although any radar antenna might have been touched out by the censor.’

He looked up Tuscaloosa’s records which showed she spent much of her time in 1942 in British home waters on convoy escort duties.

She then supported the allied landings in north Africa, known as Operation Torch.

George Millener also responded and he too reckoned it was an American-built cruiser.

The salvage depot Swanmore, March 1987

The salvage depot Swanmore, March 1987

‘I judge this from the funnel shapes and what appear to be triple gun turrets,’ he says. He dates the postcard to the 1930s.

Jim Sanderson agreed with the first two correspondents about her being a heavy cruiser.

However, he says he is confident the card shows USS New Orleans, CA32 which visited Portsmouth in June 1934.

He also supplied the spectacular picture on the facing page.

CRISP The Salvage Depot, Swanmore, near Fareham, in March 1987, when it was chief repair depot for marine salvage equipment and harbour navigational lanterns

CRISP The Salvage Depot, Swanmore, near Fareham, in March 1987, when it was chief repair depot for marine salvage equipment and harbour navigational lanterns

His accompanying words say: ‘The ship visited Portsmouth and several other European ports on her shakedown cruise in 1934.

‘New Orleans went on to serve in the Pacific theatre during the Second World War earning several battle stars.

‘In the later stages of the Pacific campaign she had her entire bow blown off.

‘This reduced the length of the ship by a quarter.

PEACEFUL Another Eddy Amey view of the salvage depot at Swanmore

PEACEFUL Another Eddy Amey view of the salvage depot at Swanmore

‘She had a temporary bow installed and sailed all the way from Sydney to Puget Sound naval yard, Washingston state... backwards.’

• The picturesque wintry scenes from March 1987 here also have a naval connection, believe it or not.

They come from my regular correspondent Eddy Amey who took them at the MoD(N) Salvage Depot, Swanmore, in March 1987.