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Gunboat Photo Archive

USS Surprise (PG 63)

Surprise call sign:
Nan - Baker - Fox - George

ex-HMS Heliotrope (K 03)

Surprise served the Navies of Great Britain, the United States, Taiwan and The Peoples Republic of China

British Flower Class Corvette/Temptress Class Patrol Gunboat:

  • Laid down 23 October 1939 by John Crown and Sons Ltd., Sunderland, England for the French Navy but taken over by Great Britain with the fall of France
  • Launched 5 June 1940
  • Commissioned HMS Heliotrope (K 03), 12 September 1940
  • Transferred to the U.S. Navy at Hull, England 24 March 1942 and commissioned USS Surprise (PG-63) the same day
  • Rescues survivors of the tanker William Boyce Thompson torpedoed by the German submarine U-185 on 7 July 1943 off the coast of Brazil at 0400'S, 3600'W and on 8 July 1943 takes off the remaining
    crew members and Armed Guard off the freighter Thomas Sinnickson which the U-185 also torpedoed 7 July 1943, then scuttles her
  • Decommissioned 20 August 1945 at Chatham, England
  • Returned to the Royal Navy 26 August 1945
  • Struck from the Navy Register 17 September 1945
  • Served in the British merchant service as Heliolock in 1946
  • Sold to Taiwan in 1947 and renamed Ziang Teh
  • Fell into the hands of the Communist Chinese and renamed Lin I
  • Broken up in 1950.


  • Displacement 1,118 t.
  • Length 205' 2"
  • Beam 33'
  • Draft 14' 7"
  • Speed 16.5 kts.
  • Complement 87
  • Armament: One 4"/50 gun mount, one 3"/50 dual purpose gun mount, two 20mm guns, two depth charge tracks and four depth charge projectors
  • Propulsion: Two 225psi Scotch boilers, one 2,750iph Northeastern Marine Engine Co. vertical triple expansion engine, one shaft.
    Click on thumbnail
    for full size image
    Size Image Description Source
    Flower Class Corvette
    Flower Class Corvette 168k "Escort Vessel (Corvette) - (Flower Class) - With Extended Forecastle, Increased Sheer, & Fuller Lines Fwd." U.S. Navy preliminary design plan, copied from Smith Dock Co., Ltd., Drawing No. 232. This plan, dated April 1941, is for a modification of the British "Flower" class corvette. Scale of the original drawing is not given, but appears to be 1/16" = 1'. The original plan is in the 1939-1944 "Spring Styles Book" held by the Naval Historical Center.
    U.S. Navy photo S-511-30
    Naval Historical Center
    USS Surprise (PG 63)
    Surprise 99k Wearing Measure 16 - Thayer System colors, whose patterns are identical on both sides of the hull.
    National Archives photo 19-N-66637 from "Naval Camouflage 1914-1945: A Complete Visual Reference", by David Williams
    Robert Hurst
    Surprise 520k Surprise emerges after a refit at Charleston Navy Yard, 8 May 1944. Alterations have been circled: they included 20mm guns in the waist, the new SL surface-search radar on alight tripod mast, and the 3"/50 aft. Note the Hedgehog to starboard of the bridge. The box forward of the bridge is a British-style sonar hut
    Photo from U.S. Small Combatants: An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman
    Surprise 383k
    Surprise 455k 8 May 1944
    Wearing Measure 16 camouflage, off Charleston Navy Yard, Charleston, South Carolina
    Photos from National Museum of the U.S. Navy
    Michael Mohl
    Surprise 345k
    Surprise 84k Original photo: 19 May 1944
    Replacement photo: c. May 1944
    Photo from "U.S. Warships of World War II" by Paul H. Silverstone
    Original photo: Hyper War U.S. Navy in WWII
    Replacement photo: Robert Hurst
    Surprise 63k 1 July 1944
    Just before entering a fjord crossing the Arctic Circle in Greenland. George Schoelles, GM3/c is in the lower portion of the photo on the Hedgehog mount.
    George Schoelles

    Commanding Officers
    01LCDR John Jackson, RNR8 August 1940
    Commanding Officers
    01LT Richard Coulter Drum Hunt, Jr., USN24 March 1942 - September 1942
    02LT L. H. Watson, USN1944
    Courtesy Wolfgang Hechler and Ron Reeves

    View the Surprise (PG-63)
    DANFS History entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Website
    Back To The Main Photo Index Back to the Patrol Craft/Gunboat/Submarine Chaser Index Back to the Patrol Gunboat (PG) Photo Index

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