IRISH WRECK LEGISLATION

Wrecks over 100 years old and archaeological objects found underwater are protected under the National Monuments (Amendment) Acts 1987 and 1994.  Significant wrecks less that 100 years old can be designated by Underwater Heritage Order (UHO) on account of their historical, archaeological or artistic importance as is the case with the wreck of the RMS Lusitania lost off the Old Head of Kinsale in 1915.  UHOs can also be used to designate areas of seabed or land covered by water to more clearly define and protect wreck sites and archaeological objects . https://www.archaeology.ie/underwater-archaeology

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USS Benham (DD49)
(Aylwin Class, 1914)


USS Benham, after collision with HMS Zinna, August 1917.

Moored  in Cork Harbour, alongside USS Ericsson, DD56.

On the 24th of May, 1917, USS Benham arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh) in the south of Ireland.  Queenstown was the centre for anti-submarine forces, on the Western Approaches, under the command of Admiral Lewis Bayley, Commander in Chief , Coast of Ireland. The Benham commenced operations on the 28th  of May, 1917.


Initially there was uncertainty as to the most effective use of  destroyers. At first they were given patrol areas which they would scout, singly or in pairs. Any stray incoming merchantmen seen, were to be escorted to near their destinations. This was a most ineffective use of the force, as the chances of coming across, and destroying a lone submarine in the vastness of the Western Approaches was virtually nil.

By Summer 1917, under the urging of commanders such as Admiral Sims, Commander of US Naval Forces in Europe, the convoy system was initiated. Groups of merchantmen were escorted through the war zone by flanking destroyer screens. This had the dual effect of reducing the amount of targets for German u-boats, and allowing destroyers and sloops to attack the harassing submarines.  The priorities of the destroyers were to:

Destroy Submarines.

Protect and escort Merchantmen.

Save the crews and passengers of torpedoed ships.

Anti-submarine patrols did continue also for the duration of the war, especially in the Irish Sea and close to the coast of France, where u-boats would try to sink merchantmen as the convoys dispersed.  In 1918, any destroyer in the Irish Sea, which was not actively convoying, came under the orders of The Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla, under the command of Captain Gordon Campbell VC based in Holyhead, Wales.  US destroyers  were also used to patrol the west coast of Ireland to hunt suspected gun-running ships, for Irish Republicans.

The destroyers , initially, were ill-equipped to fight submerged submarines. When they arrived in Europe they were armed with guns and torpedoes. The only undersea weapons supplied were single hand-launched 50lb depth charges which were particularly ineffective. It was the later fitting of dual depth charge racks on the sterns of the ships, Thornycroft depth charge throwers, and Y shaped charge throwers that turned them into a dangerous force. These were capable of dropping and firing a continuous patterned barrage  of 200lb, charges around a submarine's suspected position. Most of the retro-fitting of these armaments was done at Cammel Laird in Birkenhead, England.

In the week of the 9th of June 1917, USS Conyngham, Benham, Ericsson and Cummings safely escorted HMS Olympic to Liverpool.

On the 11th of June, 1917, USS Benham was 8 miles off the Skelligs, escorting the, steamers Lundy and Glenmorag. At 1pm the periscope of a submarine was sighted, followed shortly after by the view of a conning tower, as the submarine porpoised. Benham proceeded to the spot, and circled, but nothing further was seen. At 10.50pm, Benham was relieved by USS Patterson.

On the 19th of June,1917, in pos 8 miles south of Fastnet Rock, SS Batoum was torpedoed and sunk, while under convoy. 31 survivors were rescued by USS Benham and landed at Queenstown.  

On the 13th of July, 1917, USS Benham was escorting SS Penewyn. When 10 miles south of Kinsale, Penewyn sighted periscope off port bow. Benham warned convoy which altered to starboard. Submarine fired two torpedoes which missed. Benham claimed that 3rd torpedo was fired by another sub which also missed. Benham headed for this and dropped depth charge. No result seen.  

On the week of the 27th of July, 1917 four ships containing valuable stores for the United States Army were met and safely escorted to their destination by USS Wilkes, Benham, Jarvis, Paulding, Ammen, and Perkins.  

On the 30th of July, 1917, USS Benham sighted enemy submarine and engaged her with gunfire and depth charges.  

On the 20th of August, 1917, in position 51.19N, 08.51W, HMS Zinnia and USS Benham collided. Benham was badly damaged but was towed safely into Queenstown by Zinnia. HMS Crocus and USS Sterrett stood by.

On the 16th of December 1917, in pos 50.2N, 04.35W SS Foylemore was sunk. Forty survivors were picked up and landed in Falmouth, by US Ships Drayton and Benham.

On the 28th of December, 1917, in pos,,49.30N, 05.38W, USS Benham was missed by torpedo. Dropped depth charge.  

On the 16th of January, 1918, in pos 51.14N, 07.02W, USS Benham sighted periscope of enemy submarine. Dropped two depth charges. No result observed.  

On the 20th of February, 1918,USS Benham,  and  Shaw, escorted HMS Mantua from Liverpool westward to 48.00N, 15.00W.  On successful completion,  Benham, and Shaw, returned  with SS New York, from 48.00N, 15.00W, to Liverpool.  

On the 7th of June, 1918, in pos 53.54N, 5.55W, USS Benham sighted oil slick. Dropped five depth charges. More oil came to the surface.

From June, 1918. Benham was tranferred to the port of Brest, in France. She was based there for the remainder of World War One. She departed Brest, for the USA, in December 1918.

Notes:


Commanding Officer, Commander J.B.May, 1917,

Commanding Officer, Lieut Commander D.Lyons, 1917,

Commanding Officer,Lieut Commander F.J.Fletcher,  1918