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Hubbard I (S.P. 416)


The first Hubbard carried the shortened version of the name (B.H.B. Hubbard) (q.v.) she carried at the time of her acquisition by the Navy. The second Hubbard (DE-211) was named for the late Cmdr. Joseph Charles Hubbard.


(Converted Trawler: displacement 400; length 155'0"; beam 22'0"; draft 8'6" (mean); speed 13 knots; complement 36; armament 2 3-inch, 2 Colt machine guns, 2 Lewis machine guns)

B. H. B. Hubbard, Jr., a wooden-hulled, quarter-deck fishing steamer built by Harlan & Hollingsworth at Wilmington, Del., in 1912 for the Taft Fishing Company of Reedville, Va., was acquired by the Navy on 8 June 1917 from the Taft Fishing Company; designated S.P. 416; name shortened from B. H. B. Hubbard to Hubbard on 28 July 1917 in General Order No. 314; fitted out for “distant service “ at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., and was commissioned there on 10 August 1917, Lt. (j.g.) Edgar S. Husband, USNRF, in command.

Hubbard fitting out at the bustling Norfolk Navy Yard, painted in one example of disruptive camouflage. Note at least two other Menhaden Fishermen in this view, and a collier visible in the distance at right. (Naval History and Heritage Command P...
Caption: Hubbard fitting out at the bustling Norfolk Navy Yard, painted in one example of disruptive camouflage. Note at least two other Menhaden Fishermen in this view, and a collier visible in the distance at right. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 99079)

After fitting out, Hubbard, earmarked for assignment to Squadron 4, Patrol Force, left the familiar reaches of Tidewater Virginia in her wake on 18 August 1917 and headed north in company with Cahill (S.P. 493). Steaming via the Cape Cod Canal, the two ships reached Boston, Mass., early on the morning of the 21st. Two days later, while Hubbard lay alongside a pier in the Boston Navy Yard, the morning watch found the ship to be taking on water in her engine room at an estimated rate of 18 inches per hour. Although pumps, employed immediately, controlled the flooding, the source of the leak eluded discovery. After a drydocking helped isolate the issue, Hubbard shifted to the Richard T. Green Shipyard in nearby Chelsea, Mass., on the afternoon of the 25th. Thus incapacitated, she missed her squadron’s movement to France as it escorted a covey of U.S.-built French 110-foot submarine chasers to Brest.

Instead, Hubbard remained at Chelsea until 10 September 1917 when she returned to the Boston Navy Yard to continue fitting out and to undergo minor repairs. On 15 September, she got underway for New York City in company with the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Tampa, and the two ships reached that port on the morning of the 19th. After operating locally off Tompkinsville, Staten Island, Hubbard set out for Canadian waters on 1 October in company with a mixed group of ships; Tampa, Paducah (Gunboat No. 18), the collier Sterling, and five 110-foot wooden hulled submarine chasers, and reached Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the 3rd. Three days later, the group sailed for the Azores, on the first leg of the transatlantic passage.

Arriving at Ponta Delgada on 17 October 1917, Hubbard was designated as “flotilla commander” for five French submarine chasers on the 22nd. On the 27th, in company with Truxtun (Coast Torpedo Boat No. 14) and Whipple (Coast Torpedo Boat No. 15), Hubbard and her charges set out for France. The armed yacht Wakiva (S.P. 160) later relieved the two coast torpedo boats en route. On 2 November, while the little convoy made its way toward Brest, Hubbard’s lookouts spotted something that they took to be a submarine. She went to general quarters and fired on the suspected U-boat at a range of about 4,000 yards. The results proved meager, however; Squadron 4’s war diary recorded that “The submarine went down stern first, although there was no evidence to show it was hit.”

Hubbard reached Brest on 3 November 1917 to find her unit radically altered since it had left her behind. Squadron 4 had been disbanded “almost immediately after arrival” at Brest on 18 September, and its ships parceled out to cover convoys in company with the converted yachts that had arrived earlier in the summer. That all changed, however, after Rehoboth (S.P. 384), another Menhaden Fisherman, foundered in heavy seas off Ushant on 4 October. Fortunately, a nearby British trawler saved all hands, but Rehoboth’s loss graphically illustrated the Menhaden trawler’s unsuitability for conversion to open ocean patrol and escort vessels. The weight added topside by a deckhouse forward, another aft, and a pair of 3-inch guns, could not be counterbalanced adequately by 75 tons of pig-iron ballast, the combination rendered these ships unstable in rough weather. Accordingly, the trawlers of Squadron 4 were withdrawn immediately from escort duties, and the French Ministry of Marine consented to fit them out with French minesweeping gear.

By the time Hubbard arrived at Brest, the squadron had been restored administratively, and the first four ships; McNeal (S.P. 333), Cahill, Anderton (S.P. 530), and Bauman (S.P. 377), had entered the Arsenal at Brest to fit out for their new role. However, a shortage of workmen, the wide diversity in the tasks assigned to the Arsenal, and the lack of adequate facilities to carry on repairs and alterations directly under Commander, Patrol Force, delayed the completion of the necessary modifications. Hubbard, after undergoing voyage repairs, was among the last of the converted trawlers so modified, and she joined the remainder of the squadron at Base 19, Lorient, France, in early January 1918.

For the next few months, Hubbard carried out regular sweeping operations, covering the convoy routes from Penmarch to Buoy des Boeufs and reinforcing the escorts of coastal convoys whenever necessary. In addition, she helped to keep the important sea lanes around Belle Isle, such as the key Teignouse Channel, clear of mines, and, whenever enemy submarines intruded, patrolled the waters near Penmarch with her “sea tubes,” primitive underwater submarine detection gear, in the water to pick up any signs that would betray enemy activity. From time to time, she broke the minesweeping routine for upkeep or overhaul, and the occasional convoy-escort mission also helped relieve the tedium.

On 3 April 1918, Hubbard departed Lorient for Audierne, arriving late that evening. The next day, she anchored near the grounded Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) collier Long Beach (Id. No. 2136) and embarked four boatloads of the vessel’s complement, as well as confidential papers and the crew’s payroll. For the next two weeks, Hubbard participated in the successful salvage of Long Beach, transferring some of the latter’s men to James (S.P. 429) on 8 April, and the remainder to Carola IV (S.P. 812) at Brest on the 12th. She then returned to Audierne from Brest on the 13th and resumed salvage operations on Long Beach the following day, taking off guns and stores.

During the mid watch on 21 April 1918, however, while returning to Lorient, Hubbard almost became a marine casualty herself. At 2:40 a.m., she fouled one of the many shoals that made navigation tricky along that stretch of coastline. She backed off the rocks soon thereafter, however, and an inspection revealed no leaks. She thus continued on to Lorient, reaching Base 19 during the morning watch the same day.

On 8 May 1918, after operating in Quiberon Bay and off La Pallice, Hubbard assisted in bringing the damaged freighter Luckenbach to port. Subsequently, on the 12th, she embarked Capt. Thomas P. Magruder, commander of Squadron 4, and transported him to St. Nazaire. She returned to Lorient with a cargo of supplies for the canteen at Base 19. On 29 May, Hubbard proceeded to Haedik “to examine and report upon the conditions concerning the burial of American seamen” who had perished in the loss of the freighter Florence H, arriving at 6:00 p.m. that day. Hubbard sent a party of men ashore to decorate the three graves that were located in Haedik’s Roman Catholic cemetery on 30 May.

Though the Armistice of 11 November 1918 ended hostilities, the minesweepers’ work continued unabated, since the enemy had continued mining diligently up to the war’s end. From November 1918 through January 1919, Hubbard and Squadron 4 continued to sweep a wide stretch of water to the 100-meter curve to prevent stray mines from endangering the peacetime commerce by then already resuming life.

During that time, Hubbard carried out yet another rescue and salvage mission for a ship in distress. Early in the mid watch on 28 December 1918, the troop transport Tenadores grounded off the fog-shrouded north coast of the Ile D’Yeu during the approach to the French coast. Efforts to refloat the vessel failed, and her commanding officer ordered her passengers and part of her crew off the ship. McNeal, one of several ships that responded to Tenadores’ distress signal, took off some of the first increment of men.

The next morning, Hubbard (along with Lewes (S.P. 383), Courtney (S.P. 375), and James) proceeded to the stranded transport’s aid, arriving the same day and remaining in the vicinity until 31 December. On the morning of the 29th, Hubbard made fast to Tenadores’ side and took off 45 men, transferring them to James soon thereafter. Efforts to save the ship continued, but even the removal of some 80 tons of cargo availed nought.

Hubbard again tied up to the transport on the morning of 30 December 1918, that time transferring pumps from the salvage vessel Favorite (S.P. 1385) in an attempt to battle the water rising below decks. Ultimately, though, Hubbard took off the 100 men and 13 officers of Tenadores’ crew who had remained on board the doomed transport on the 31st and sailed for St. Nazaire. Reaching her destination later that evening, she disembarked her passengers. The trawler returned to the Ile D’Yeu on 2 January 1919 in an attempt to resume salvage operations, but found Tenadores at the mercy of the sea. The transport lay on her starboard side, battered by the waves pounding her hull. Thwarted by the high seas and noting Tenadores beginning to break in two aft, near the mainmast, she reluctantly gave up the task as hopeless and quit the area.

Over the next few months, the minesweepers wrapped up their task in French waters and prepared for the voyage home. At 6:15 a.m. on 27 April 1919, Hubbard stood out of Brest, bound for the Azores in a convoy consisting of the converted yacht Rambler (S.P. 211), Marietta (Gunboat No. 15), Macdonough (Coast Torpedo Destroyer No. 9), the NOTS cargo vessel (Army Account) Teresa, and Anderton, McNeal, James, Courtney, Lewes, Hinton (S.P. 485), and Douglas (S.P. 313), seven of the remaining Menhaden Fishermen. The American ships soon found themselves beset by bad weather. Rambler dropped out of formation at 1:03 p.m. and lost a man overboard at 1:15 p.m. Hubbard and Anderton dropped back to search for the missing sailor. At 2:25 p.m., Hubbard received orders to return to Brest in view of the worsening weather.

Sadly, the directive arrived too late; the convoy was already in extremis. Courtney experienced difficulties, and Anderton took her in tow. The assistance proved futile, and Courtney sank at 7:30 p.m. By that time, James and Douglas were issuing plaintive calls for help. Hubbard received orders to stand by McNeal, already in tow of Hinton. Darkness settled around the little convoy as it battled the tempest. Douglas failed to weather the storm, sinking that day; while James, under tow of the newly arrived tug Penobscot (S.P. 982), made it through the night only to sink six miles offshore the next morning. Hubbard reached safety at 2:20 a.m. on the 28th, gaining the shelter afforded by the breakwater at Brest while a northwesterly gale whipped about snow and hail squalls.

Over the next five months, Hubbard remained inactive at Brest, her crew depleted by stateside transfers and demobilization, until she was decommissioned there on 18 October 1919. The fate of Courtney, Douglas, and James had prompted the Navy to decide against bringing the Menhaden Fishermen back to the United States and sold them abroad, largely to foreign purchasers.

Hubbard, however, attracted the interest of her prewar owners, and she was sold to that firm on 25 October 1919. The sturdy Menhaden Fisherman thus returned to piscatory pursuits, resuming her original name, B. H. B. Hubbard, Jr. She operated first for the Taft Fishing Company and then for Menhaden Products, Inc. Ultimately, she was abandoned due to “age and deterioration,” in 1961.

Robert J. Cressman
6 October 2020

Published: Wed Oct 28 06:59:10 EDT 2020