KNM Haakon VII - School ship - Auxiliary ship for submarines/seaplanes

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KNM Haakon VII - School ship - Auxiliary ship for submarines/seaplanes

BUILDING SITE: Lake Washington Shipyard, Hughton WA, USA
LAUNCHED: 2 December 1944


  • 1x 127mm Cannon
  • 8x 40mm Bofors L70 AA cannons
    • 1x 1x4 On foredeck
    • 2x 1x2 on each side of the chimney
  • 4x 20mm AA cannons
    • 2x 1x2 on the top deck


  • 1x 127mm Cannon
  • 5x 40mm Bofors L70 AA cannons
    • 1x 40 mm On foredeck
    • 2x 1x2 on each side of the chimney
  • 4x 20mm AA cannons
    • 2x 1x2 on the top deck


Displacement: 2.755 Ton
Hull: Steel
Length: 94.7m
Width: 11.5m
Depth: 3.8m
Crew: 215 men

4x Fairbanks Morse Dieseleignes
Power: 6.080 BHK
Speed:18.5 Knots

1944: Built as a floating depot/tender and served in the Pacific
1958: Borrowed from the US Navy and converted into a training ship with the new name KNM Haakon VII
1961: Trip to Ethiopia and Italy
1964: Cadet trip to Canada and the USA
1968: Purchased from the USA
1973: Command canceled 18 October 1973
1973: Used as a target vessel
1975: Sold for scrapping in Belgium on May 20


HAAKON VII was originally built as a “Seaplane Tender” for the US Navy and first took command on 11 February 1945. In the final phase of World War II, the vessel was active in the Pacific, and it also did military service during the Korean War. In 1958, Norway was loaned the vessel from the US Navy and converted it into a training vessel at Kaarbø Mek Verksted in Harstad. HAAKON VII formally became Norwegian property when, upon signing the “Offer of Acceptance” on 17 May 1968, it was purchased for $85,000. Converted to Norwegian kroner at the then dollar exchange rate, approximately NOK 600,000. The sum represented the vessel’s scrap value.
In the 15 years HAAKON VII sailed as a training vessel, over 3,000 men served on board the vessel. Cadets and cadet aspirants were trained for the Naval Academy and students for the Naval Corps (Commissioner’s School).
As a training vessel, HAAKON VII was also on countless trips abroad.

These were often to distant ports in Ethiopia, the USA or to the West Indies, and in the summer there were trips to the Scandinavian countries in connection with the annual cadet sports meets. But in 1973 it was over. Due to its old age, the vessel was expensive to operate and maintain, and was no longer considered fit for purpose.
On 18 October 1973 at 1300 the command was canceled for the very last time. After decommissioning, HAAKON VII was used as a target vessel for the test firing of Penguin missiles.
The vessel was then designated X-1. On 5 May 1975, the traditional ship was sold to Staubo & Søn A/S in Oslo for a sum of NOK 410,000. The vessel was to be scrapped, and on 20 May HAAKON VII was picked up by a German tug in Haakonsvern, towed to Belgium and scrapped.

USS Gardiners Bay
KNM Haakon VII, which we hereafter simply call H7, was originally built as an American mothership for commercial aircraft. It belonged to the Barnegat class, of which a total of 31 were built from 1939 to 1945. As a general rule, they could support a squadron of 12 seaplanes, normally long-range reconnaissance aircraft. They therefore had to be able to operate in relatively shallow harbors and atolls, which were mooring places for these aircraft. The vessels were therefore both relatively fast (18.2 knots) and did not dive too deep. In addition, they had good self protection, especially against air attacks, and they had special facilities for repairs, supplies and relocation of aircraft and aircrews. They were also equipped with a crane that could hoist the seaplanes on board for repairs. USS Gardiners Bay and several others of these motherships were built at the Lake Washington Shipyard in Houghton, Washington. They were given the type designation AVP. USS Gardiners Bay, AVP 39, was named after a bay off Long Island. It was launched on 2 December 1944 and assumed command on 11 February 1945.

It was then immediately used in the final matches against Japan in the Pacific, where it achieved two honors without itself being damaged. After the surrender, it spent a period on the China coast before returning to the United States. The USA now had a large surplus of this type of vessel and several of them were rebuilt for other purposes. However, USS Gardiners Bay continued to serve as the mother ship for patrol aircraft in the Pacific, and it also participated in the Korean War.

The need for a separate Norwegian school vessel
After the war, as is well known, Norway took over a number of vessels from our allies. We got a relatively large navy and consequently a great need for education. However, we did not have any specially adapted training vessels and we therefore had to use the old fighters as training ships for many years. Many people think this was a shame, partly because these were war prepared vessels that were supposed to be part of a standing emergency, but also because they did not have the facilities and educational adaptations that are important for a school vessel. For a while, they considered hiring Christian Radich for this purpose, but nothing came of it at the time. The lack of a suitable training ship was probably not unknown to our American partners either, and under the arms aid program we were offered the use of the USS Gardiners Bay as a loan. As mentioned, the United States had a surplus of this type of vessel after the war, and those that had been retained were now in any case facing an imminent phase out or an upgrade. A Norwegian

delegation led by Admiral Thorleif Pettersen traveled over to the States late in 1957 to inspect the vessel and discuss the matter. It turned out that the Americans had already planned a technical upgrade of the vessel estimated at 1.2 million dollars, which was to be carried out at an American shipyard. The Norwegian delegation believed that, in addition, certain refitting work had to be done in order for the vessel to be optimized for its role as a school ship. The Americans would also like to do these works and they calculated them at 340,000 dollars. However, the delegation succeeded in persuading the Americans to accept that the remodeling work was done in Norway, so that it could be planned for a takeover on 17 May 1958. Underhand, the Storting had been informed that these works could be carried out for only 1.6 million NOK in Norway, and on these conditions the Storting decided to accept the loan. It was basically for a 5 year old period, with the possibility of a 5 year extension. When the loan periods expired in 1968, the vessel could be bought for a symbolic sum of NOK 680,000, which was estimated as the scrap value.

The takeover
The takeover therefore took place as planned on 17 May 1958, at the Treasure Island naval base near San Francisco, where Vice Admiral Jacobsen received the vessel. Already a few months before the takeover, key personnel had traveled over to familiarize themselves with the vessel. The rest of the crew of 75, who were supposed to bring the vessel home, went over just before the takeover. With its first commander, Commander Captain Bruen, the vessel then went to Norway after first visiting Balboe in Panama, San Juan and Ponta Delgada. Here, it just managed to take part in the royal parade on 15 July before it went to the Kaarbø mek workshop, which was to do the biggest conversions. The maximum deployment capacity was increased to 367 men, with the majority to be distributed among seven banjeres. Separate teaching rooms were also created and several of the instruments were doubled up. Somewhat later, the quadruple 40 mm guns in front of the bridge were also replaced with a single 40 mm Bofors L70.

At one point, plans were also made for the vessel to fulfill the role of mother vessel for both submarines and MTBs in an emergency situation, but this was primarily important for planned land supplies.
On each side of the chimney there were twin 40 mm L70 guns and up on the top deck were 2 twin 20 mm guns. All four of these were mainly intended as anti-aircraft.

The service as a school vessel
It is primarily how the school ship KNM H7 became known, both along our own coast and not least abroad. Although other naval vessels were also on their way abroad, it was primarily H7 that “showed the flag” internationally. The attention surrounding these foreign visits, both here at home and in the country in question, was also greater because it was a school vessel and because formal representation and various activities were often linked to the port calls. Not only the traditional cocktail parties, which in themselves were an important part of the training for the future commanders, but also dance performances and various sports events.

Although the sailing pattern varied somewhat, it was normal for the vessel to go on a winter cruise for the first 2-3 months of each year with the first-year students (cadet candidates) at the Naval Academy, and then for a few summer months to go on a cruise with the second-year students (cadets). During these summer trips, H7 was always the base for cadets and other Norwegian students who took part in the annual Nordic cadet conventions which were arranged on a circuit between the countries. During both of these main tours there were also constables from the Naval Corps who received the practical part of their industry training here. In addition, future branch commanders and officers had an important opportunity to make a first acquaintance before entering ordinary service. The cruises, especially the winter cruises, usually started with a few weeks of sailing in home coastal waters, partly to make friends the students to sea life and partly to teach them navigation. During the voyages, they alternated watch on the bridge, with navigation, helm duty, machine telegraph operation, lookout and ordinance, but they also had to take turns in the scrub and other interior duties. In addition, they had frequent, but irregular, “clear ship” drills and war watches where they conducted shooting drills, casualty drills and rescue drills. The purpose was training and evaluation, both in relation to individual skills and collaborative skills. In this respect, the H7 proved to be a suitable platform. The heaviest part of the teaching was tried to be done away with in the first weeks, so that there could be a little more free time when you embarked on the foreign part in the last term. And what trips abroad there were.

The cruises
The first cruise was the summer cruise in 1959. Then they stuck to the Mediterranean and the Channel and gained experience with the new vessel. 1960, on the other hand, was a very eventful year. The 1960 winter expedition, with 45 constables, went via the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal to the Ethiopian port city of Massawa. The background was that from 1958 Norway had promised Emperor Haile Selassie to assist with the building up of an Ethiopian navy and an educational system. The visit therefore received a lot of official attention from both countries. When H7 left Massawa five days later, there were also 16 Ethiopian ensigns on board, who were supposed to go to Norway. During the summer cruise, H7 represented Norway for the first time during the big sailing festival Kielerwoche, before crossing the North Atlantic to Halifax in Canada later in the summer 1962 was also a particularly eventful year. The summer cruise went to Shetland, Rotterdam, Bermuda and Norfolk in Virginia. The mission here was special and attracted a lot of attention on both sides of the “pond”. In 1891, the barque Dictator from Moss sank just off Virginia Beach. Eight of the crew of 15 were saved by people who came to the vessel’s aid, but the captain’s wife and son perished. This story stuck with people and when the galleon figure from Dictator drifted ashore, it was set up as a memorial on the beach called “the Norwegian Lady”. After 60 years, the figurehead was so popular that it was moved indoors. but somehow it got lost. It triggered a fundraising campaign in Norway for a new figurehead. Moss municipality and Erik Bye were central, and funds were obtained for not just one, but two bronze replica figures of over two metres. One was left in Moss while the other was sent with H7 to Virginia Beach, where it was unveiled with great festivity on 22 September 1962.

This is how H7 continued its service as a training ship. Up and down the Norwegian coast, every year to the Mediterranean or Northern Europe, and some years on overseas trips. In 1964, it was the first naval vessel to go up the St. Lawrence Canal to Lake Superior. Here it visited the sister cities of Duluth and Superior in Minnesota, where there was a large concentration of Norwegian-Americans. The following year, the trip went to Murmansk, then with the war hero Admiral Tore Holte as force commander. In 1967, the trip went again to the USA and a visit to New York. In 1969 the cruise went all the way to the Caribbean with stops both in Bridgetown and in Charlotte Amalie on the old Danish/Norwegian colony of St. Thomas. They also booked a trip to Martinique, where some climbed Mount Pelée, known for the volcanic eruption in 1902. Another Norwegian training ship, the Ellida, had arrived here as one of the first after the volcanic eruption, and the ship’s doctor took with him the two skulls we day has at the museum. In 1971, the winter tour went all the way to Rio de Janeiro. On passing the equator, the old naval traditions were maintained and all “first-time passers-by” were solemnly baptized by King Neptune with his herald and royal retinue, and they were shaved.

Last bit
Despite the upgrade, the H7 eventually became an “old lady” and after another trip to the West Indies in 1973 it was over. An estimated 3,000 men had then shared sorrows and joys and gained both basic and international seafaring experience on board. After first being used as a target vessel for the new Penguin missiles until early 1975, the vessel was put up for sale for scrapping. Through the company Staubo & Søn, it went on to Belgium to become nails. On 20 May 1975, it was picked up by the German tug Johan Peters for its last journey, and it must have been a bit sad for those who were present.

There was no specially adapted compensation. The minesweepers were already used for training purposes before 1973, but eventually it was the corvettes Sleipner and Æger that were used as school vessels. They were far from equally adapted to the task and their sailing monster was in no way as exotic either. In fact, it is only in recent years, when Minister Lehmkuhl and Christian Radich have been put into use, that they have again received school vessels that are in some respects specially adapted to the school vessel function.



haakon vii — ImgBB



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I managed to find a video of the vessel!
i cut out the scene and here it is, might show some details as well