SHIPS-IN-CLASS (1): HMS Engadine (Pre-War: SS Engadine / Post-War: SS Corregidor)
OPERATORS: United Kingdom
PROPULSION: 6 x Water tube boilers feeding 3 x Steam turbines and developing 13,800 horsepower to 3 x shafts.
Detailing the development and operational history of the HMS Engadine Seaplane Tender / Transport Vessel.
Entry last updated on 12/17/2016.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Like many of the early aircraft carriers in military naval history, HMS Engadine began her career as a freight transport under the name of SS Engadine and was only converted to the carrier role when pressed. When Britain entered World War 1 following the global events of mid-1914, all manner of war-making instruments were sought and civilian-market-minded vessels like Engadine were taken on. Originally built by William Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton, Scotland and launched on September 23rd, 1911, she was leased to the British Royal Navy on August 11th, 1914 to begin her career. For the role of seaplane tender, she was converted by having three hangars added which drastically changed her aft profile. She managed a career throughout the whole of World War 1 at a time when aircraft carriers were just becoming viable battlefield instruments - laying the groundwork of what would become commonplace in the naval actions witnessed throughout the Second World War (1939-1945).
Seaplane tenders were, as their name suggests, vessels used to support seaplane-type aircraft - that is those fitted with floats to land and take-off on water. Their primary missions would be over-water and range was a critical quality of these birds. For the period, biplanes were still the aircraft of choice and naval powers were pushing for ever-expanded use of their kind in warfare - though through much trial and error.
HMS Engadine inherited her previous role's propulsion scheme - six water-tube boilers feeding three steam turbines driving three shafts under-stern through 13,800 horsepower. Maximum speed in ideal conditions could reach just over 21 knots with a range out to 1,440 miles. Her crew complement numbered about 200 personnel and structural dimensions included a running length of 323 feet, a beam of 41 feet and a draught of 13.7 feet. Displacement was 2,600 tons under load.
Upon completion of her modifications, HMS Engadine was officially commissioned on September 1st, 1914. Her original hangars were really only temporary housing measures meant to cover no more than three seaplanes and was made of simple heavy canvas. Two of these structures were erected aft and one forward. Unlike traditional aircraft carriers, which featured flight decks for the landing and taking off of their aircraft, HMS Engadine instead operated her seaplanes "over the side" - supporting arms (called "derricks") lowering aircraft onto the sea or raising them during recovery actions.
Her air arm's first recorded wartime actions were as part of the Cuxhaven Raids of Christmas Day, 1914. The bombing sortie was entirely ship-based and targeted German airship housing structures at Cuxhaven and, despite only minor damage to enemy targets being noted, the mission proved a victory of sorts for the Royal Navy - especially in the use of offshore aerial strikes which added another tool in the warplanner's toolbox.
In February of 1915 the vessel now lay under the complete ownership of the Royal Navy (she was purchased outright that month) and underwent more formal military-minded modifications to her design. This meant that her temporary three-aircraft hangar was now replaced with a solid, permanent structure able to house four total warplanes. The derricks were given up in favor of two heavy-duty multi-use cranes for aircraft recovery and setup. Additionally she was outfitted with Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns in the form of 4 x 12-pounder 12 cwt guns and 2 x 3-pounder QF guns. With these changes HMS Engadine was officially made into a bonafide warship.
As part of the Battlecruiser Fleet (from late 1915 onwards), her next wartime participation saw her at the famous Battle of Jutland (May 31st to June 1st, 1916). The battle involved a combined force of British, Australian and Canadian ships against the German Fleet and represented the war's largest naval confrontation (and the largest to feature battleships). While a strategic victory for the Allies, the battle was regarded as tactically inconclusive for both sides. For her part in the Battle, HMS Engadine conducted the first "heavier-than-air" reconnaissance flight over a naval battle. Surviving this engagement, Engadine was then transferred to the Mediterranean in early 1918 and used in the anti-submarine role until the Armistice of November which officially ended World War 1.
In December of 1919, the vessel, stripped of its military value, was sold into private service and eventually fell to the Southern Railway in 1923. In 1933 she was sold once again, this time to American-based Fernandez Hermanos, Incorporated to operate in the Philippines where she served under the name of SS Corregidor. It was during this phase of her career that the vessel met her untimely end - she was sunk by a naval mine in Manila Bay on December 17th, 1941 during what became the early phases of World War 2 in the Pacific Theater. Because of her civilian-minded transport role, she may have carried as many as 1,500 souls of which fewer than 300 were saved in the subsequent rescue operation.