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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Wilbert A. Edwards

 

(ScStr: dp. 650; l. 160'0"; b. 23'10"; dr. 10'0" (mean); s. 11.0 k.; cpl. 36; a. 2 3", 2 1-pdrs.)

 

Wilbert A. Edwards—a wooden-hulled fishing boat built in 1911 at Solomons Island, Md., by M. M. Davis for the W. A. Edwards Corp.—was inspected by the Navy for possible use as a patrol vessel on "distant service." Although Navy General Order No. 314 of 28 July 1917 specified that "scout patrol" vessels having compound names would be known by the surname only (hence, Wilbert A. Edwards would become simply Edwards), this ship appears to have retained her name for the duration of her service. Her logs, in fact, carry the name W. A. Edwards, while the Ship's Data, U.S. Naval Vessels 1918 carries the full name Wilbert A. Edwards on the list of naval vessels.

 

The ship's deck logs do not commence until 17 September 1917, a little over a month after the ship was commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., on 10 August. Apparently, Lt. D. C. Kin-dell, USNRF, was the ship's first commanding officer; he was relieved by Lt. Robert Phillips, NNV, on 17 September, while the ship lay at Gravesend Bay, N.Y. Two days later, Wilbert A. Edwards departed Graves-end Bay, bound for Boston; transited the Cape Cod Canal on the morning of the 20th, and arrived at the Boston Navy Yard later that day. After voyage repairs, Wilbert A. Edwards sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 25 September, on what was probably supposed to be the first leg of a voyage to Ponta Delgada in the Azores, to take up patrol duties from that port.

 

However, the next day, the erstwhile fishing craft suffered an engine casualty and notified the nearby Coast Guard cutter Algonquin of her plight. The latter took the disabled ship in tow that afternoon and took her to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they arrived on the 27th. There, Wilbert A. Edwards coaled before getting underway in tow of Algonquin on 1 October. The ships ran into a heavy storm on the afternoon of the first day out of port.

 

Weather conditions had worsened rapidly, and Wilbert A. Edwards rolled and labored heavily, shipping much water. By 0500 on the 2d, the chief engineer on board reported to Lt. Phillips that the ship was taking water and that he was unable to keep the flooding under control. Three hours later, the executive officer, Lt. (jg.) Henry J. Porter, USNRF, and the ship's carpenter examined the steering gear and found the quadrant working loose on the rudder, the stuffing box slack in its bed, and all bolts loose in the woodwork. They tried to repair the damage but could not. Meanwhile, as if problems with the rudder were not enough, the flooding continued below decks as the ship rolled and pitched at an alarming rate. By noon, though, the water in the engine room had not gained on the pumps. At last the ship seemed to be holding her own.

 

Algonquin kept Wilbert A. Edwards in tow as she steamed ahead at slow speed, and the two ships eventually returned to Halifax on 4 October.

 

After ultimately returning to Boston in company with the collier Mars, Wilbert A. Edwards underwent repairs there. However, the Navy concluded that she would not be fit for "distant service" and, on 2 February 1918, assigned the ship duties in the 1st Naval District. Wilbert A. Edwards remained in district service into 1919, spending most of her time under repairs. She was decommissioned at Boston on 21 August 1919 and was struck from the Navy list on 24 September of the same year.

 

Simultaneously sold to her former owners, the W. A. Edwards Corp., Wilbert A. Edwards resumed civilian operations which she continued into the late 1940's.