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SS Arvonian
USS Arvonian
USS Santee in dazzle camouflage at Queenstown, Ireland
Career (UK)
  • SS Rosedale (1905)
  • SS Arvonian (1905-1917)
Owner: Watkin and Owen Williams
Operator: Golden Cross Line, Cardiff
Builder: Richardson, Duck & Co., Stockton-on-Tees, England
Launched: 1 August 1905, as Rosedale
Renamed: Arvonian, 1 September 1905
Identification: Official number: 119973
Fate: Requisitioned by Royal Navy, August 1917
Loaned to U.S. Navy
Career (USA)
  • USS Arvonian (1917)
  • USS Santee (1917-1918)
Acquired: On loan, 27 November 1917
Commissioned: 27 November 1917, as Q-ship USS Arvonian
Decommissioned: 8 April 1918
Renamed: USS Santee, 18 December 1917
Fate: Returned to Royal Navy, April 1918
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Bendish
Acquired: August 1917
Commissioned: 1918
Decommissioned: 1919
Fate: Sold into commercial service, November 1919
Career (UK)
Name: SS Brookvale
Owner: Rhondda Shipping & Coal Exporting Co.
In service: 1919
Out of service: 1928
Fate: Sold, 1928
Career (Latvia)
Name: SS Spīdola
Namesake: Spīdola
In service: 1928
Out of service: 1941
Fate: Captured by Germany, July 1941

SS Arvonian was a 2,794 GRT British freighter built in 1905, with a long and complex history under several names. She served in the British merchant marine, and was commissioned in the United States and British navies during World War I, before returning to merchant service, and eventually being sold to Latvia. In World War II she was taken over by the Soviet Union, then captured by Germany. Post-war she sailed under the Latvian and Costa Rican flags, until finally scrapped in West Germany in 1958.

Service history[edit | edit source]

The ship was built by the Richardson, Duck & Co. shipyard in Stockton-on-Tees, England, and launched on 1 August 1905 as Rosedale. A month later, on 1 September 1905 she was sold to the Golden Cross Line of, and renamed Arvonian.[1]

In August 1917 the Arvonian was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and converted into Q-ship, designed to decoy U-boats into attacking before revealing her concealed weaponry.[1] She was armed with three 4-inch guns, three 12-pounder guns, two .30-calibre machine guns and four 18-inch torpedo tubes.[2]

On 27 November 1917 she was handed over to the United States Navy by the Admiralty "for war purposes", and commissioned as USS Arvonian the same day, with Commander David C. Hanrahan in command. The ship was fitted out at HMNB Devonport and conducted ship's drills in Plymouth Sound with a crew composed of volunteers from American warships in European waters. On 18 December she was renamed USS Santee, and arrived at Queenstown in southern Ireland the next day.[2]

At 16:00 on 27 December, Santee sailed from Queenstown bound for Bantry Bay to carry out exercises. At 20:45 she was south of Kinsale, when she was struck on the port side by a torpedo[2] fired by SM U-61, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Victor Dieckmann.[3] Hanrahan ordered his men to battle stations and sent away the "panic party," a group of sailors who played the role of a crew precipitously abandoning their sinking vessel. They left the ship, as Hanrahan later reported, in "fine panicy [sic] style", in an attempt to lure the enemy to the surface. After two and a half hours fruitlessly waiting for the U-boat to show herself, Hanrahan radioed for help. Destroyers and tugs were sent to her aid, and the ship was towed back to Queenstown, while the destroyers USS Cummings and Sterett rescued the boats of Santee's "panic party." After repairs at Queenstown Santee was towed back to Devonport by 8 February. She was decommissioned on 8 April 1918 and returned to the Admiralty.[2] Commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Bendish, she was sent to Gibraltar for further Q-ship operations.[1] The ship reverted her former name, Arvonian, in July 1919 and in November was sold to the Rhondda Shipping & Coal Exporting Co. Ltd, and re-named Brookvale. In 1928 she was sold to a Latvian shipping company, and renamed Spīdola. She came under Russian control after the occupation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union in June 1940,[1] and was soon transferred to the state-controlled Latvian Shipping Company.[4]

On 27 July 1941 she was captured by the Germans at Liepaja,[4] and re-named Rudau. On 9 October 1944 she was part of a convoy attacked by Beaufighters from No. 404 Squadron RCAF[5] off the southern coast of Norway, and was towed into Bergen for repairs.[1] In 1947 she returned to service under the name Spīdola, and was transferred to the Costa Rican registry in the 1950s.[6] She was eventually sold to the German shipbreaking company Walter Ritscher GmbH, and scrapped at Hamburg in 1958.[1]

References[edit | edit source]

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