The zoological name of the bird commonly known as the kingfisher. It is usually crested and brightly colored and has a short tail and a long, stout, sharp bill.
(Yacht: t. 981 (gross); 1. 275'; b. 31'; dr. 16'4" (aft); s. 12 k.; cpl. 94; a. 43", 2 mg.)
Alcedo (SP-166)—a yacht built in 1895 at Glasgow, Scotland, by D. & W. Henderson & Co., Ltd.—was purchased by the Navy on 1 June 1917 from Mr. George W. C. Drexel of Philadelphia, Pa., and commissioned at New York on 28 July 1917, Lt. Comdr. William T. Conn, Jr., in command.
Assigned to the Patrol Force, Alcedo departed Newport, R.I., on 5 August 1917. Steaming via Newfoundland and the Azores, the yacht arrived at Brest, France, on the 30th. During her brief Navy career, the yacht conducted antisubmarine patrols and convoy-escort missions along the French coast. On two occasions, she rescued crew members of torpedoed merchantmen. On 17 October, the little warship picked up 118 men from the steamer SS Antilles. Twelve days later, she saved another 85 survivors from SS Finland.
On the afternoon of 4 November, Alcedo departed Quiberon Bay, France, with Aphrodite (SP-135), Noma (SP-131), and Kanawha II (SP-130) as the escort for a convoy composed of SS Florence Luckenbach, SS Artemis, and SS Newport News bound for Brest. At about 0145 the following morning, while the convoy was steaming some 75 miles west of Belle He, an Alcedo crewman reported sighting a surfaced U-boat. Almost instantaneously with the sounding of the alarm, the German submarine, UC-71, fired a single torpedo in a surface attack. (Some Alcedo records suggest that the U-boat submerged first, but the official German account confirms a surface attack.) Alcedo attempted to change course to evade the torpedo, but she answered her helm sluggishly. The torpedo struck the yacht on the port side well forward, and Alcedo began to settle fast. Soon after the hit, the ship's commanding officer ordered her abandoned; and she went down in eight minutes. The yacht lost one officer and 20 sailors in the action to both wounds and drowning. The remainder of her crew took to the boats in two separate groups. After a long time rowing, one group—which included the commanding officer—was picked up by a French torpedo boat. The other was towed to safety by French fishermen. Alcedo's name was struck from the Navy list on 17 December 1917.
Alcedo, August 1917, before she sailed for the war zone. (NH 57015)