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USS Celtic (AF-2) circa 1920
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Class: CELTIC (AF-2)
Design Cargo, 1890
Displacement (tons): 6,750 normal
Dimensions (feet): 383.1' oa, 369.7' pp x 44.6' wl x 21.0' mn
Original Armament: None (1898)
Later armaments: 2-6pdr (1900);
4-3"/50 (1914); 4-3"/50 1-3"/50AA (1918)
Complement 169 (1920)
Speed (kts.): 10.5
Propulsion (HP): 2,200
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||14 May 18
||1 Nov 90
||27 May 98
||23 Jun 22
||17 Jan 23
During December 1890 the shipyard of Workman, Clark & Co. at Belfast launched the screw steamer CELTIC KING to the order of William Ross & Co. of London for their Australian and New Zealand trade. The ship was towed to Glasgow to receive triple expansion machinery from John & James Thompson. Built expressly for the overseas carrying trade, CELTIC KING was built as a ship of the well deck class on the three deck rule with deep framing and was spanned amidships by a bridge deck 105 feet in length. She also had a forecastle and a 23-foot long poop. A handsomely furnished saloon for the use of twelve passengers along with the ship's officers was placed aft to suit the requirements of the special trade intended. Two Ellis's patent compound refrigerating machines were fitted, ensuring that freezing might be carried on even if one engine became disabled. In the insulated holds there was stowage capacity for 45,000 frozen sheep. CELTIC KING ran trials on 27 Dec 90, developing 2,200 horsepower and a speed of almost 13 knots. Chartered by the Tyser Company, the ship sailed from London on her first voyage on 6 Feb 91 and arrived at Melbourne on 2 Apr 91. The steamer MAORI KING was reportedly a near sister ship, and other ships owned by Ross included NORSE KING, which in 1898 became USS RAINBOW (see AS-7).
On 12 Mar 98 the Secretary of the Navy appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused mainly on potential auxiliary cruisers and on tugs and yachts, but eventually it and other naval authorities acquired ships of other types including four "supply ships" (CELTIC, CULGOA, SUPPLY, and ZAFIRO) and one "refrigerating ship" (GLACIER). The Navy purchased her in May 1898 from the Federal Line, London, which may have acquired her when the Ross firm was disbanded in around 1895. She was fitted out at the New York Navy Yard.
Between June and September 1898 CELTIC supplied fleet units in Cuban and Floridian waters with medical supplies, fresh provisions, and In October 1898 she departed New York for Cavite, where she arrived at the end of March 1899. Serving as a storeship, she carried stores and passengers between the Philippines and Australian ports until July 1903, when she sailed for the Puget Sound Navy Yard where she decommissioned on 18 Sep 03. She was placed back in service with a Naval Auxiliary Service merchant marine crew on 19 Oct 05 and moved to the East Coast. Decommissioned on 23 Feb 07, she was recommissioned on 23 Oct 08 to carry relief supplies to the earthquake-stricken city of Messina, Italy.
On 23 Apr 10 the Navy Department forwarded to the General Board a memorandum relative to supply ships, which explained why the three supply ships then in the Navy (CELTIC, CULGOA, and GLACIER) were not entirely satisfactory for the purpose for which they were employed. These vessels were originally designed to take on board a cargo of already frozen meat at one port and then transport it, without opening the cold rooms, to another port for discharge. They were never intended to take on board cargo under other conditions or to open the cold room frequently for partial discharges, as was necessary in serving the fleet. Nor were these ships fitted with cooled and ventilated compartments for the storage of fresh vegetables, eggs, and similar provisions. The memo also stated that soon, because of their age, these three ships would become very expensive to keep in service, but with no new supply ships joining the force before the U.S. entered World War I in 1917 the three ships continued to serve.
CELTIC probably replaced her merchant crew with a Navy one on 1 Jul 11. Given an armament of 4-3" guns, she became a key supply ship for the Veracruz operation, lying anchored off the Mexican city for most of the period from June 1914 to July 1915. World War I service included several voyages to Europe plus continued operations in the Caribbean. She was reassigned to the Pacific on 30 Jun 19, was designated AF-2 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. and was assigned duty as cold storage station ship at Apra, Guam, on 22 Mar 21.
CNO on 2 Nov 21 informed the Commandant, 3rd Naval District, that the newly-acquired storeship BOREAS (AF-8) was to be placed in commission at New York and would ultimately relieve CELTIC, then at Guam. When ready BOREAS was to proceed to relieve CELTIC with minimum crew and with equipment reduced to bare necessities for the voyage. BOREAS needed a lot of work, and as of 8 Dec 21 her tentative date of completion at the New York Navy Yard was 1 May 22. On 25 Apr 22 the Navy Department stated that CELTIC was to be sold and ordered that a Board of Survey and Estimate be convened at Mare Island. Around this time, however, the Navy decided not to commission BOREAS and instead place her directly in reserve. On 11 May 22 the Department cancelled its April instructions and ordered that CELTIC be sold on the Asiatic Station. The ship sailed from Guam on 17 May 22 and arrived at Cavite on 26 May 22. Her guns were removed there on 31 May 22 and the ship was decommissioned in June. On 17 Jan 23 the Department authorized CinC Asiatic Fleet to accept the bid of 60,000 pesos from the Robert Dollar Co., San Francisco, Cal., for the ship, which then saw a final six years of merchant service.
||Ex merc. CELTIC KING (completed 18 Jan 91). Merc. CELTIC 1924. Scrapped at Osaka, Japan, in August 1929.
Compiled: 13 Oct 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012