Armed yacht

An armed yacht was a yacht that was armed with weapons and was typically in the service of a navy. The word "yacht" ("hunter"; Dutch "jaght";[1] German "jagd",[2] literally meaning "to hunt") was originally applied to small, fast and agile naval vessels suited to piracy and to employment by navies and coast guards against smugglers and pirates. Vessels of this type were adapted to racing by wealthy owners. The origin of civilian yachts as naval vessels, with their speed and maneuverability, made them useful for adaptation to their original function as patrol vessels. In the United States Navy armed yachts were typically private yachts expropriated for government use in times of war. Armed yachts served as patrol vessels during the Spanish–American War and the World Wars. In the latter conflicts, armed yachts were used as patrol vessels, convoy escorts, and in anti-submarine duties. In the United States, yachts were purchased from their owners with the owners given an option to repurchase their yacht at the close of hostilities.

HMS Tuscarora FL20328
The British anti-submarine yacht HMS Tuscarora during World War II. It had been built in 1897 as a luxury steam yacht.


World War I

Before the outbreak of war in Europe, there had been much discussion in the United Kingdom of a wartime role for privately owned motor and steam yachts and smaller power boats. This led to Admiral Sir Frederick Inglefield forming a Motor Boat Reserve Committee in 1912 to consider whether this would be useful and how it could be achieved. In early 1914 the Admiralty created a Motor Boat Reserve with experienced volunteers from various yacht clubs. At the start of the war in August 1914, the reserve was activated under the title Royal Naval Motor Boat Reserve (RNMBR). Eventually, the RNMBR was incorporated into the Auxiliary Patrol and its crews into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).[3] By December 1914, each sea area of the British Isles was allocated a dedicated unit of the Auxiliary Patrol, typically comprising six armed trawlers or drifters and a single armed yacht, together with smaller motor boats, with the roles of harbour defence, mine clearance and anti-submarine patrolling.[4] The crews were augmented by volunteers from all over the British Empire. By 1917, there were 150 patrol units, each led by an armed yacht, usually equipped with radio.[5] In the course of the war, a total of 159 motor yachts were hired by the Admiralty, some serving as far away as the Dardanelles.[6] The British armed yacht HMS Lorna destroyed the German U-boat SM UB-74 with depth charges off Portland Bill in May 1918.[7] A number of motor yachts operated as patrol boats in the waters of British Dominions and colonies, including Nusa, a German yacht which was captured in the Solomon Islands in September 1914 and was later used by the Royal Australian Navy in their home waters.[8]

USS Hauoli (SP-249)
USS Hauoli, a former luxury steam yacht. This patrol vessel served as USS California from December 1917 until February 1918 in the harbor defense role, when she was renamed Hauoli and used for anti-submarine research.

On the entry of the United States into the war in April 1917, a large number of motor yachts were acquired by the US Navy and Coast Guard. In the coastal waters of France, there was a considerable U-boat threat to the shipping required to transport and supply the American Expeditionary Force, and the only available warships were six armed yachts which were formed into the US Patrol Squadron Operating in European Waters. The squadron left New York Navy Yard on 4 June 1917 and crossing via Bermuda and the Azores, arrived in Brest on 4 July. A second and third squadron arrived during the same month, their colourful dazzle camouflage giving rise to the nickname "the Easter egg fleet". Reinforcements of armed trawlers and destroyers arrived in October, however the yachts remained active with the force until the end of the war. Surfaced U-boats were engaged with gunfire in the early months and in 1918, two submarines were claimed to have been destroyed with depth charges, but neither of these claims were supported by post-war research.[9]

World War II

During World War II, the US navy commandeered small vessels, including private yachts, and requisitioned them to patrol US coastal waters and the Gulf of Mexico against German U-boats. In the Gulf, the boats ventured out for 12 miles. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary was formed to man the vessels, but their crews were inexperienced and untrained. They had absolutely no navigation equipment, and, consequently, the crew often had no idea where they were. The boats were equipped with radios, which, in theory, were to be used to report any U-boat sightings. In practice, however, reporting a U-boat's position was impossible due to the crew's lack of bearings. The men on board spent their time scanning the horizon with binoculars, having been given pictures and silhouettes of the different types of U-boats so that they would be able to identify them.[10]

Some of these boats were armed with a .50 caliber machine gun in the bow and four depth charges on racks in the stern, although actually attacking a U-boat was probably suicidal. The lopsided battle would have conceivably ended with the U-boat using its deck guns to blow up the patrol yacht (since scoring a hit with a torpedo was improbable).[11]

The Royal Canadian Navy also commandeered and used armored yachts and other such vessels for anti-submarine patrols, having 12 of them.[12]

Notable armed yachts

HMCS Renard (S13)
The Canadian armed yacht HMCS Renard in World War II. The same yacht had served as USS Winchester in World War I.


United Kingdom

United States

See also


  1. ^ Etymology Online: Yacht
  2. ^ Etymology Online: Jager
  3. ^ Davies, Charles (2013). "The Inception and Early Days of the Auxiliary Patrol". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  4. ^ Faulkner, Marcus. The Great War at Sea: A Naval Atlas 1914-1919. Seaforth Publishing. p. 66. ISBN 978-1848321830.
  5. ^ "World War One: New Zealand's War at Sea - Ancillary Forces - Auxiliary Patrol". Torpedo Bay Navy Museum. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  6. ^ Dittmar, F J. "World War 1 at Sea - Ships of the Royal Navy, 1914-1919 - AUXILIARY PATROL VESSELS, Part 1, Yachts to Trawlers". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  7. ^ Gray, Edwin A (1994). The U-Boat War: 1914-1918. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. p. 249. ISBN 978-0850524055.
  8. ^ Dittmar, F J. "World War 1 at Sea - Ships of the Royal Navy, 1914-1919 - SUPPORT and HARBOUR VESSELS". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  9. ^ Husband, Joseph. "World War 1 - Contemporary Accounts - ON THE COAST OF FRANCE: The Story of the United States Naval Forces in French Waters". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
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  12. ^
Action of 21 May 1918

The Action of 21 May 1918 was a naval engagement of World War I fought between an American armed yacht and a German submarine in the Atlantic Ocean off Spain.

Action of 8 May 1918

The Action of 8 May 1918 was a small naval engagement which occurred off Algiers, North Africa during World War I. In the action, an American armed yacht and a British destroyer encountered the German U-boat UB-70. Initially, the engagement was thought to be inconclusive, but later on the allied warships were credited with sinking the German submarine.

Convoy HX 79

HX 79 was an Allied North Atlantic convoy of the HX series which ran during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.

It suffered major losses from a U-boat attack, and, with the attack on convoy SC 7 the previous day, represents the worst two days shipping losses in the entire Atlantic campaign.

HMCS Ambler

HMCS Ambler was an armed yacht that acquired by the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War as a patrol and training vessel. Constructed in 1922, Ambler was under private ownership until 1940 when the vessel was requisitioned for service in the Royal Canadian Navy. Initially used as a patrol vessel, Ambler was used as a training vessel until 1945. Following the war, Ambler was sold to private interests.

HMCS Beaver (S10)

HMCS Beaver was an armed yacht that served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. Originally named Aztec, the yacht was requisitioned for service in the United States Navy during the First World War under the same name. Returned to her owner in 1919, the yacht was laid up in 1931 following her owner's death. The vessel was purchased via a third party for service in the Royal Canadian Navy and after commissioning, Beaver was primarily used as a training ship with limited time as a patrol vessel. Following the war she was sold in 1946 and broken up for scrap in 1956.

HMCS Caribou (S12)

HMCS Caribou was an armed yacht that served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. Originally named Memory III, the vessel was renamed Elfreda while in private use as a personal yacht. After her commissioning and renaming to Caribou, she was used as a patrol and training vessel on the East coast of Canada. Following the war the ship was sold for commercial use until her registry was deleted in 1963.


HMCS Elk was an armed yacht serving with the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. Prior to Canadian service, the ship was named Arcadia. She was used initially as a patrol vessel, but later saw use as a training and guard ship for submarines on the East Coast of Canada. Following the war, Elk was sold for commercial use and returned to her original name. She was renamed Grand Manan III in 1946 and used as a short-haul passenger ferry before being broken up in 1968.

HMCS Husky

HMCS Husky was an armed yacht used for patrol and training purposes during World War II by the Royal Canadian Navy. The ship was constructed as the yacht Wild Duck in 1930 in Bay City, Michigan. Having several owners through the 1930s, the vessel was renamed Xania II. Acquired by the Royal Canadian Navy in 1940 for patrol, escort and training duties in Atlantic Canada, the ship was taken out of service at the end of the war and sold into commercial service. The vessel was purchased by the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana for use as an inspection ship. In 1967 the ship was sold again, renamed Aquarius No. 2 and used as a diving tender based in Honduras. In 1979 the vessel was acquired by American interests who brought the ship back to New Orleans and converted it to a floating restaurant.


HMCS Lynx was an armed yacht in service with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) during World War II. The vessel was built at Newport News Shipbuilding as the yacht Dolphin in 1922. The yacht was sold in 1929, becoming Ramona. In 1940, the RCN acquired the vessel as part of the effort to bolster its patrol forces, armed and renamed the vessel Lynx. However, the vessel suffered a series of mechanical issues and was taken out of service in 1943 and sold for commercial service. Renamed Elena and then Samana Queen the ship was used in the banana boat trade, taking on its final name Rican Star in 1952. The vessel was converted to a fishing trawler in 1959 before sinking on 25 May 1960 off Hummocky Island, Queensland.

HMCS Otter

HMCS Otter was an armed yacht in service with the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. Launched in 1921, the vessel was constructed as Nourmahal for Vincent Astor of New York as a pleasure yacht. He sold the vessel in the late 1920s and it was renamed Conseco. The Royal Canadian Navy, finding a lack of suitable vessels in Canadian ownership to be taken into naval service, sent Canadian yacht owners south to the United States to find those vessels. Conseco was acquired and brought north to Halifax, Nova Scotia where the vessel was converted to an armed yacht in 1940. Renamed Otter the ship participated in the Battle of the Atlantic, escorting convoys and patrolling the Canadian coast. On 26 March 1941, Otter suffered a catastrophic fire aboard that sank the armed yacht. Two officers and seventeen ratings died in the incident.

HMCS Raccoon

HMCS Raccoon was an armed yacht that served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. Purchased by the Royal Canadian Navy in 1940, the ship was originally known as Halonia. She was sunk by the German submarine U-165 in the St. Lawrence River on 7 September 1942. Raccoon was escorting Convoy QS-33 at the time. The entire ship's crew was lost.

HMCS Reindeer

HMCS Reindeer was an armed yacht that served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. She served mainly in local waters, escorting convoys until becoming a training ship at Halifax, Nova Scotia at the end of 1942. The ship remained as such until being paid off to reserve in 1945 and was sold. Constructed as Josephine in 1926 in the United States and renamed Mascotte, the yacht was acquired by the Royal Canadian Navy in 1940. Following the war, the vessel was sold.

HMCS Vision

HMCS Vision was an armed yacht of the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. The vessel was acquired in 1940 for use as a patrol boat and later, as a training ship. In 1946, following the end of the war, Vision was sold into private ownership. The vessel was constructed as Avalon in 1931 by Pusey & Jones of Wilmington, Delaware, United States on behalf of Ogden L. Mills, the Secretary of the United States Treasury. During its service during World War II, Vision participated in the Battle of the Atlantic and the Battle of the St. Lawrence escorting convoys and defending them against German U-boats.

HNoMY Norge

HNoMY Norge (in Norwegian, KS or K/S Norge) is the Royal Yacht of the King of Norway. One of only three remaining Royal Yachts in Europe, the ship's name Norge is Norwegian Bokmål for Norway. The Royal Yacht Norge was the Norwegian people's gift to King Haakon VII in 1947. The yacht is owned by the King but maintained and manned by the Royal Norwegian Navy. Originally built in 1937 in the United Kingdom for Thomas Sopwith, she served in the Royal Navy as an armed yacht during the Second World War.

Peggy of Castletown

Peggy is an armed yacht built in 1789 for George Quayle MHK (1751–1835), a prominent politician and banker (see Isle of Man Bank) on the Isle of Man. She is the oldest surviving Manx craft and is one of only a very few surviving vessels built in the 18th century.

For over 100 years following Quayle's death, Peggy was interred within the boathouse he built for her next to Bridge House, in Bridge Street, Castletown, effectively forgotten. Interest in her grew during the 20th century, and after World War II she was given to the people of the Isle of Man to be held in trust by Manx National Heritage. She was removed from her original boathouse (now part of The Nautical Museum in Castletown) in 2015 to a warehouse in Douglas for conservation.

She is clinker-built and was schooner-rigged with a bowsprit. A set of her spars is preserved with her, along with her armament (six cannon and two stern chasers) and the winding gear employed to draw her into the boathouse. She is the oldest surviving schooner in the world and the oldest surviving example of the shallop hull form. She was fitted with sliding keels (progenitors of the modern daggerboard) not long after the invention of the technology by John Schank, and she is the oldest surviving example of such a vessel.

Well-known correspondence between George Quayle and his brother, in the Manx National Archive, describes an expedition in 1796 over sea and land to Windermere, Peggy's victory in a regatta there, and her perilous journey home, aided by her sliding keels.

Peggy has been surveyed three times, first in 1935 by P.J. Oke of the Society for Nautical Research (drawings now residing at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London), then by Richard Cowley of Kirk Michael, Isle of Man, and most recently in 1968 by D. K. Jones at the behest of Manx National Heritage. Basil Greenhill, then Director of the National Maritime Museum, took a keen interest in her around this time. Peggy is now recognised as a vessel of international significance, which is reflected in her citation on the UK National Historic Ships Register (National Historic Fleet). Her well-documented provenance, her fine state of relative preservation, her historic location and her design all contribute to this.

USS Helena I (SP-24)

USS Helena I (SP-24) was an armed yacht that served the United States Navy as a patrol vessel from 1917-1919.

Helena I was built in 1906 by the Van Sant Brothers, Port Republic, New Jersey, as a private motor yacht. The U.S. Navy acquired her from Dr. W. G. Hall of Trenton, New Jersey, in May 1917 for World War I service. Assigned to the 7th Naval District, she was taken to Key West, Florida, and commissioned as the USS Helena I (SP-24) on 7 September 1917. Quartermaster 2nd Class Otis Curry was placed in command.

Helena I operated as a harbor and coastal patrol boat in the vicinity of Key West, until decommissioned and sold on 27 August 1919. Before she could be delivered to her new owner, however, Helena I was among eight former SP boats wrecked on 11 September by the 1919 Florida Keys Hurricane, while anchored in the North Beach Basin, Key West. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 4 October 1919

USS Owera (SP-167)

USS Owera (SP-167), was an armed yacht that served in the United States Navy as a patrol vessel from 1917 to 1919. The vessel, under the name O-We-Ra, was built as a steam yacht in Leith, Scotland in 1907 for Frederick H. Stevens of Buffalo, New York. In 1915 the yacht was sold to United States Senator Peter G. Gerry of Rhode Island and registered in Providence, Rhode Island as Owera.Owera remained under Gerry's ownership through the Navy's free lease and after until sold to George W. C. Drexel of Philadelphia between publication of the United States register of 30 June 1926 and that of 30 June 1927 to become one of his series of yachts named Alcedo. By publication of the 30 June 1928 register the vessel had been sold to British interests as Josephine and left U.S. registry. By 30 June 1930 the vessel was again registered in the U.S. as O-We-Ra under ownership of Edmund S. Burke of New York until sometime before 30 June 1934 when it appears as South Wind owned by the South Wind Corporation, New York until the 1936 register when South Wind is sold into British ownership.

Traces of the vessel, again O-We-Ra, show location in Canada and then becoming an armed yacht with Royal Navy service during World War II with final naval service in Trinidad. After the war the vessel appears to have had a commercial role until it disappears from registries in 1966.

USS Winchester

USS Winchester (SP-156) was an armed yacht that served in the United States Navy as a patrol vessel from 1917 to 1919. Prior to and following World War I, Winchester was a private yacht, later renamed Renard. In World War II, Renard was requisitioned for use in the Royal Canadian Navy as a patrol vessel, keeping her name. She was returned to her owners in 1944.

USS Zircon (PY-16)

USS Zircon (PY-16) was an armed yacht that served in the United States Navy from 1941 to 1946.

Aircraft carriers
Patrol craft
Fast attack craft
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