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USS Ajax (AC-14 or AG-15) circa mid-1924
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Class: SCINDIA (later AJAX) (AC-14)
Design Cargo, 1890
Displacement (tons): 4,535 gross, 9,250 normal
Dimensions (feet): 387.5' oa, 375.3' pp x 46.5' x 24.7
Original Armament: 2-6pdr fwd, 2-3pdr field aft (1898)
Later armaments: 4-6pdr (1900); 1-6pdr (1902); none (ca. 1907);
4-6pdr (1916/17); none (1921)
Complement: 98 (1899)
Speed (kts.): 10
Propulsion (HP): 3,000
Machinery: Vert. 3-exp., 1 screw
||12 May 98
||D. & W. Henderson
||19 Jun 90
||21 May 98
||8 Jul 25
||8 Jul 25
||14 Aug 25
In June 1890 the cargo and passenger ship SCINDIA was launched by D. & W. Henderson & Co. at Glasgow (Meadowside), Scotland. A sister, ALGERIA, followed in 1891. SCINDIA, named for an Indian ruling family, was built for the Indian service of Henderson Bros., and in August 1890 she began her maiden voyage from Glasgow and Liverpool to Calcutta. Rated at 12 knots, she had accommodations for 20 first class passengers and 1,125 third class (steerage) passengers, the latter presumably in the holds. In 1896 she shifted to a route from Venice, Trieste, and Catania to New York and helped bring Italian immigrants to America. On 12 Mar 98 the U.S. Secretary of the Navy appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select and purchase civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused on potential auxiliary cruisers and on tugs and yachts, but in early April the Navy Department ordered it to secure additions to the Navy's fleet of colliers. Between 2 Apr 98 (SATURN) and 30 Jun 98 (NERO) the Navy acquired twenty cargo ships for use as colliers. SCINDIA was in New York at this time and the Navy bought her. Henderson Bros., renamed the Anchor Line, replaced her with a larger SCINDIA in 1900.
SCINDIA was fitted out as a collier with a cargo coal capacity of 4,550 tons (in 1899) and commissioned on 21 May 98 at the New York Navy Yard. She was commended in 1899 because she carried a large cargo and had plenty of facilities for an efficient collier. After carrying a load of coal to Guantanamo Bay in June 1898 she departed New York in October via Cape Horn for the Pacific. After a period out of commission at Mare Island for repairs in 1899 she continued westward and concluded her circumnavigation at Norfolk on 1 Mar 01. During the voyage she was given the more suitable name of AJAX on 1 Jan 01. Two more circumnavigations and some service in the Asiatic Fleet followed before the ship was placed out of service on 4 Nov 05. She was placed back in service with a merchant complement of 55 men on 23 Jan 07 and between December 1907 and February 1909 accompanied the Great White Fleet on its cruise around the world. In 1912 she was ordered to the Far East where she spent the rest of her career. She departed Hampton Roads in December 1912 with the submarines B-2 and B-3 on deck, delivered them at Manila in April 1913, and then began an active career shuttling coal throughout the Orient. She was probably again manned by a Navy crew (of about 106 men) around May 1917 and soon afterwards towed from Samoa to Honolulu the seized German cargo ship ELSASS, one of whose sisters later became USS RAPPAHANNOCK (AF-6). During the postwar American intervention in Siberia she made deliveries to Vladivostok. She was designated AC-14 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. The collier was laid up at the Cavite Navy Yard on 20 Apr 21.
AJAX was recommissioned on 17 Oct 21 as the receiving ship at Cavite. She served briefly in 1923 as a tender to the Asiatic Fleet submarines at Chefoo, China, and after resuming her receiving ship duties at Cavite in September 1923 became the tender for the Asiatic Fleet's first aircraft squadron, VT-20, when its six aircraft arrived on board USS VEGA (AK-17) in February 1924. The now decrepit ship was ordered north to Chefoo for the summer with the rest of the fleet, and while there she was reclassified a miscellaneous auxiliary (AG-15) on 1 Jul 24. After riding out a typhoon on her way back to Manila the ship was inspected by an Insurv board which reported on 4 Dec 24 that she was worth $30,000 and needed $100,000 of repairs. The Navy Department ordered on 9 Mar 25 that she be sold, and after her relief as aircraft tender, JASON (AC-12), arrived in May she was decommissioned and stricken in July. She was sold in August to S. R. Paterno, who had previously purchased ABARENDA (AC-13). The ship was operated by the Manila firm of Madrigal & Co. as CONSUELO until she was sold to a Chinese firm and renamed HUA TONG in 1930. She was scrapped in China in November 1933.
||Ex merc. SCINDIA (completed Jul 90). Renamed AJAX 1 Jan 01. To AC-14 17 Jul 20 and to AG-15 1 Jul 24. Merc. CONSUELO 1925, HUA TONG 1930, scrapped in China 1933.
Compiled: 11 Aug 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012