WW1 Third & fourth rank navies
Navies of third and fourth rate in 1914-18
North, West and Eastern Europe, South America, Asia, Middle East...
Third rate navies:
and Swedish Navies
-Western Europe: Dutch
-South America: Brazil
Fourth Rate Navies:
Belgium, Cambodge, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Equador, Egypt, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Persia, Uruguay, Venezuela.
By stating "third rank" we don't intend to offense any nation, but since the Royal Navy could be assimilated as a naval superpower or "first rank navy", there were certainly "second rank" ones, namely all from major naval powers at the time, including USA (soon to be first rank, as well as Japan), France, Germany, Italy and Russia. Austro-Hungary was second rank, but probably leaned towards a third rank one, as well as Turkey. In this new chapter we'll see all these less-known navies, from solid, powerful third rank to very small fleets, more akin hypothetic "fourth rank" ones.
In 1914, Scandinavian countries are in neutrality position. "Third rank" marines were tied to the neutral posture of their countries for the most. Meanwhile, some fell either by choice of force in one or another side: This was the case of the Dutch Fleet, which, far to be negligible in 1914, was one of strongest of the list, although weakened by her geographical split between Europe and the Far East.
Norwegian Draug class destroyers
Turkey much involved to the side of Austro-Hungary and Germany, and despite being Europe's "sick man", the Turkish fleet was in quantity and quality lightyears from what she was earlier in the XIXth Century, especially in the 1870s when she openly rivaled the Russian Navy in the Black Sea and dominated the Eastern Mediterranean, like the old glory days of the Ottoman Empire. But she received an unexpected boost by the arrival of the modern German Cruiser Breslau and Battlecruiser Goeben, following an epic escape (see Admiral Souchon "mad run" to Constantinople).
Unfortunately for the Ottoman Empire, allied might in the Mediterranean was crushing, especially after the arrival of Italy in 1915, added to the Russian and Greek navies, not speaking of the French and British fleets, the latter blocking both gateways to the antique sea, via Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. As a result, the few Turkish successes were attributed to a single minelayer in the Dardanelles.
Rival Greek Navy was Balkan's main naval power. Romania and Bulgaria, as well as Albania possessed a few valuable units, but carefull stayed neutral after the bloodbath of the recent Balkan war. Of the three Scandinavian navies, which strongly stuck to their non-belligerent status, were focused on coastal defense. Crossing fire with the Hochseeflotte was out of question.
From the Iberian Peninsula, Spanish and Portuguese Navies, still counting a few colonies, only had a minimal strength and stayed neutral. Portugal counted six small cruisers, while Spain which had its nose blooded in 1898, against a rising, reborn young US Navy, still possessed five cruisers and one old battleship, but also three brand new Dreadnought commissioned in UK and partly built locally at the Ferrol Shipyard.
Argentinian Rivadvia class Battleships. Brazil, Argentina and Chile competed for naval supremacy with US or UK ordered dreadnoughts.
South American countries
had been well equipped, rival Argentina, Chile and Brazil ordering Dreadnoughts and counting on the extreme smaller units or feeble tonnage. Their naval policy was naturally aligned to the US Navy doctrine and also strayed neutral.
In Asia, young and old Dragons also competed for regional supremacy. Of course Japan was the naval superpower on the rise, blessed by the celebrated Battle of Tsushima ten years ago, inflicting a crushing blow to the Russian Pacific and Black sea fleets. China was no more than a quiet observator, its fleet crippled by her defeat in 1894 at Yalu, again at the masterful hands of the Japanese. Recent events had been merely an appetizer for Nihhon Kaigun indeed, as she will rose to the global third place. China on the other hand, prudently remained neutral, only in situation to guard its waters and patrol the yellow river with a fleet of gunboats. Siam possessed also a diverse aggregate of armed civilian ships, but nonetheless declared war to the central Powers in 1917, a decision of little consequence...
South American Navies
With the complementary table including the Argentine, Brazilian, Chilean and Peruvian navies, we will have an overview of a continent politically divided by a history of wars, revolutions, coups and untimely border rearrangements. Within this picture of very small marines, only one takes the ascendancy over others: The Mexican Navy, but a short head. 5 of these marines have at least one cruiser. Neither, or almost, neutrality and maritime means oblige, took part in the naval operations of the great war.
The Battle of Angamos, 1879, between the Peruvian Huascar and the Chilean Navy
The Colombian Navy:
With the loss of the Panam region to the US, but also an endemic economic crisis, the country was plagued by significant political instability. The latter prevented any plan of magnitude for the navy, although a command of 4 stars was passed to Yarrow yards for the coastguard in 1913. The size of the fleet in 1914 included a light cruiser, the Almirante Lezo, acquired from 1902, the three gunboats of the class Esperanza dating from 1896 and the Bolivar and General Pinzon even older (1870 and 1881). Colombia remained neutral during the war.
The Costa Rican Navy:
Modest if it is, the Navy Costarican had in 1914 only one torpedo torpedo leader of 15 tons, built in Yarrow in 1890. The considerable weight of the American commercial companies (bananas and coffee) made that the country remained neutral during the war.
The Ecuadorian Navy:
With a country in constant threat of war with its neighbors for border disputes, the government did not have an ambitious naval policy and some minor ships were bought, such as the two 800-ton Papin and Inconstant notices dating from 1886, in 1900 , then the Liberator Bolivar torpedo carrier, acquired in 1907 from the Chilean Navy (former name: Almirante Simpson). there was also a small steamer of the coastguard armed with machine guns. Ecuador broke off commercial and diplomatic ties with Germany in 1917.
With a vast territory bordered on one side by the Caribbean Sea and on the other by the Pacific, Honduras had interesting commercial scavengers. Yet this country was one of the US guardhouses that controlled it economically and politically, not hesitating to intervene to hunt or support a political leader with the help of naval companies, and arranging with the Nicaraguan winners in 1907, who had defeated General Amapala. In 1914, the very small local "fleet" consisted of a single armed steamer, the 22 februar, of 13 tons and dating from 1897. In 1919, however, there were two important acquisitions: The gunboat Tatumbla of 200 tons, and the Customs coastguard Mesurado.
Mexican rigged Cruiser Zaragoza
By far the most important of these "micro-fleets", the Mexican navy included in 1914, a cruiser (dating from 1891), the Zaragosa, completely rebuilt in 1910, the four gunboats of the classes Independencia (1874) and Democrata (1875), the Plan de Guadalupe (1892), and the 2 class Tampico (1902), and the 2 class Nicholas Bravo (1903), as well as the Progreso (1907). It also implemented the armed transport General Guerrero (1908). Mexican political life was stable because of the dictator Porfirio Diaz's iron fist who had been in office for almost 40 years.
Economic life took advantage of this armed peace, until 1911. A revolt and a coup changed the game, but the revolution lasted almost until 1920 and saw troubles on land, leaving the navy undisturbed but lacking manpower and resources at times. The navy remained relatively neutral during this period, which was guaranteed by a US naval base at Vera Cruz in April 1914. The US Navy was also very present to safeguard local American interests.
The Nicaraguayan Navy:
A country with a small commercial fleet of 2 steamers and 18 sailboats in 1914, Nicaragua and its 550,000 inhabitants had an army of 40,000 men in wartime. It was also with its fleet superior to that of Honduras that it won its war against the latter country in 1907, safely landing troops at Purto Cortes and Ceiba bordering the Caribbean Sea. In 1910, gunboat USS Paducah landed Marines who, faithful to the policy of American interventionism in the political affairs of the States or its economic interests were important, supported the coup d'etat of the conservative general Estrada against the liberal president Zelaya. Other disturbances and a civil war in 1912 resulted in a US military presence in 1913. The fleet consisted in 1914 of the 400 ton Momotombo gunboat and the armed transport Maximo Jeraz.
The Paraguayan Navy:
This landlocked country, surrounded by powerful neighbors, lost the war of the triple alliance (Lopez War), a quarter of its male population perished and lost important territories. To defend its only port and maritime outlet, it had in 1914 an armed multipurpose steamer, the Triumfo, Constitucion and Independencia.
Schooners in San Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1850
Neighbor of Haiti on the island formerly called hispaniolia, the small republic could count on three gunboats, the Restauracion (1896), Independencia (1894) and presidente (1898). They were removed from the lists in 1916, when the civil war broke out. A Marine Brigade intervened and occupied the country until 1923.
The Uruguayan Navy:
Neighboring the mighty Argentina, Uruguay had one of the most powerful marines among these third nations. She could count on a cruiser, the Montevideo, ex-Dogali bought from the Italians in 1908. She also owned the gunboats Uruguay (1910), 18 de Julio (1909), the armed transport General Flores, and the old gunboat with paddle wheels Rio Branco, as well as the training ship General Suarez (1887). At first neutral, Uruguay declared war on the triple alliance in November 1918 after losing three commercial ships because of U-boats. She took advantage of it to get her hands on eight German steamers who came to swell her commercial fleet.
Difficult for a refusal to settle his foreign trade debts, this country was seized by the German navy one of his gunboats, the Restaurador, which was returned to him after three months of internment. It had in 1914 gunboats Bolivar, Miranda and Jose Felix Ribas, in addition to that already mentioned. All these buildings were old (from 1884 to 1895), and were added to the powerful ex-American ex-Spanish gunboat Isla de Cuba, acquired in 1912, renamed and rearmed under the name of Mariscal Sucre. Venezuela's commercial fleet consisted of 19 ships. She suffered no casualties and remained neutral during the war.
The Cuban Navy:
Since its independence in 1898, this ancient "Pearl of the Spanish Empire", had the economic resources to build a force as important as that of Haiti, not far from there, but not the necessary, because a few cables, the US Navy could intervene on what was then its "preserve", and did not stop doing it... eight times. The port of Havana had become an annex naval base of the US Navy.
In 1911, was launched at the Cramp Yards a 2000 tons sloop, naturally called Cuba
and another small gunboat ordered at the same time, the Patria
. The Cuban government also ordered the two small gunboats of the Diez de Octubre class
at the same site, and built two 80 ton wooden steamers locally (Habana and Pinar del Rio in 1912). These were added to the 8 small steamers (less than 50 tons) used as a guard fishery.
In 1917, Cuban neutrality shifted, always in the bosom of the big neighbor, into an open hostility with Germany. This enabled him to seize in his ports four large German steamers of more than 19 000 GRT, quickly entrusted to the good care of Uncle Sam. The Caribbean sector, with a fairly large traffic, was not directly involved in the England and the U-Bootes did not come to venture there, however, the Cuban gunboats patrolled there in agreement with the US Navy. Four wooden submarine hunters of the "110 feet" type were allocated to his "fleet" in 1918.
The Baire in 1914, its peacetime livery.
The Baire was at the beginning of the century, the only ship of importance in the Cuban "fleet", which also had only a few peach guards. The Baire was paradoxically built in Germany, in Schichau, launched in 1906, and served until late in the years 35-36.
Displacement & Dimensions 500t; 59.74 x 7 x 2.74m
1 propeller, 1 mach. vap. Babcock boiler, 1200 hp. and 14 knots max.
2 x 57 mm, 2 x 47 mm guns.
The Haitian Navy:
Crete a pierot, Haitian gunboat.
A highly indebted country, he built himself a relatively powerful navy for his low income, and his buildings had the opportunity to fight against his debtors, especially Germans. In 1903, for example, the gunboat Panther sank as a result of a commitment Crete to Pierot. In 1914, Haiti was neutral and was not interested in anyone. His forces included a cruiser, the ex-Umbria Ferrier, acquired in 1911 from Italy, but the latter sank in 1913 due to the inexperience of his crew. She had 4 gunboats, Dessalines (1883), Toussaint-Louverture (1886), and 2 Capois Death (1893). In 1915, US Marines landed in Haiti when the lack of funds government disintegrated and it was chaos. The latter remained there until 1934. All gunboats were sold to scrap metal and the Haitian navy disappeared. This did not prevent the new government under guardianship from declaring war on Germany in July 1918.
Small European Navies WW1
Baron Dhanis, Belgian gunboat converted from Lake Tanganyika
Some disparate countries will be studied here: It should not be forgotten that many European nations were created or resurrected (outside of Belgium) at the end of the war with the fall of the great empires: In Europe especially, Yugoslavia, Poland, the three Baltic States, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Yugoslavia, and Albania. For the rest, Haiti, the French-speaking Black Republic of Hispaniolia, neighbor of St Dominic had to ensure its defense by some valuable units, Cambodia, French protectorate just like Morocco, Persia and Egypt, recovering territories after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
The Belgian Navy:
In 1914 the Belgian Naval Force did not include any squadron of the high seas but a handful of rapid gunshields employed by the government and often unarmed (a dozen will be at the beginning of hostilities), and the old City of Antwerp ( 1864), the only specialized fishery guard. On Lake Tanganyika, during the war, she will also have the torpedo boat at Spar Netta (1915), a patrol boat on Lake Kiru, the gunboat Paul Renkin who operated in the Congo, and the torpedo boat Vankerhoven on the Nile. It was not until the occupation of flanders by the Germans and the establishment of efficient and well-protected naval bases that the government became aware of the usefulness of a small coastal naval force, which it developed at from 1919 thanks to allies with disparate ships.
Small Asian Navies WW1
The Cambodian Navy:
Protectorate French since 1863, she defended with a semblance of navy constituted by the old gunboat Lutin dating from 1874 and also used as a royal yacht, and two other gunboats (civilian steam of 80 tons), armed with a single light gun as well as three other armed vapors assisted by about thirty armed junks. In case of attempted invasion, France had a squadron on site.
Small Middle Eastern Navies WW1
The Egyptian Navy:
Egyptian gunboat Melik
Apart from some old yachts of armed servitude on the nile (Dahabieh in particular), the "flotilla" of caliph Ismail I included only three gunboats dating from 1863 to 1865. From 1882, the British seized the Egypt to control the Suez Canal, although the country remained under Ottoman jurisdiction. The effective control of the British made Egypt officially warring against the central empires. his fleet was not a necessity in view of the forces deployed locally by the triple agreement. Numbers: Gunboats Karthoum, Dongola and Jeafferieh (1862-65), retired from service at the end of 1914, 6 coastguards, Noor el Bahr, Nesim, Marda, Zarif, Saria and Abbas, dating from 1884 to 1891. The last was torpedoed by the U35 in Bay of Solloum in Nov. 1915. Armed Yachts Mahroussa, Emirighain, and Abdul Monaym (1865-1902). There were also 10 gunboats on the Nile, 4 of the Tamai class (1884), 3 of the El Zafir class (1896) and 3 of the Sultan class (1896).
The Persian navy:
Rare photo of Persian Persepolis gunboat 1886 (hippostcard.com)
In 1886 the Persepolis gunboat was acquired as was the German Susa river patrol boat, constituting the nucleus of a naval force. Due to the lack of competent local personnel, German sailors and officers employed them. But lack of maintenance funds the ships were neglected and were quickly in poor condition. The crews returned to France and the ships rotted at the dock, a fate comparable to the Turkish navy. Muzaffer gunboat and the Royal Selika yacht were added in 1899. The Persians remained neutral, but their ships were occasionally used by the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean.