At Sea in the Great War
By Commander Stephen Surko, USN (Ret.)
via the United States Naval Institute/Naval History Magazine web site
A Coast Guardsman’s photos and letters home provide a ‘from-the-deckplates’ view of patrol service in the Atlantic. Originally published in Naval History Magazine, August 2012, Volume 26, Number 4. In civilian life, Stephen Surko, PE is Chief, Office of Technology Development (OTD, US Bureau of Engraving and Printing. (Reprinted from Naval History with permission; Copyright © 2012 U.S. Naval Institute/www.usni.org)
"You may send my new camera to me, without the tripod, as I am allowed to use it.” So wrote Frederick Richard Foulkes in a letter home on 17 April 1917, just four days after enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard. Seaman Foulkes, the son of a Presbyterian minister, very quickly had acquired the nickname “Parson.”
When the United States declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917, the Coast Guard had been transferred from the Treasury Department to the Navy Department. Veteran crews were augmented with fresh recruits; Foulkes was assigned to the cutter Manning . A small warship by today’s standards, she was 205 feet long and displaced 1,155 tons. Commissioned on 8 January 1898, the Manning was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, one of the last class of U.S. revenue cutters rigged for sail, and the first to carry electric generators.
Powered by one steam engine, she could attain 17 knots and boasted two 3-inch gun mounts and two 6-pounder rapid-fire guns. Filled out to a full complement of 8 officers, 4 warrant officers, and 100 crew, the Manning was deployed to Gibraltar. She escorted her first convoy out through the danger zone, some 215 miles, on 19 September 1917.
Foulkes frequently wrote to his family in Philadelphia and made ample use of the camera he had requested—the result being a rich trove of letters and photographs. The excerpts from his letters reproduced here, along with a sampling of his dozens of photographs, provide an up-close look—nearly a century later—at wartime duty on board a heralded cutter of Squadron 2, Division 6, Atlantic Fleet Patrol Forces.
Read the entire article on the USNI web site here:
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