HMS Douglas was an Admiralty type flotilla leader (also known as the Scott-class) of the British Royal Navy. Built by Cammell Laird, Douglas commissioned in 1918, just before the end of the First World War. During the Second World War, Douglas served with Force H out of Gibraltar and as a convoy escort. She was sold for scrap in March 1945.
|Laid down:||30 June 1917|
|Launched:||20 February 1918|
|Commissioned:||2 September 1918|
|Fate:||Sold 20 March 1945|
|Class and type:||Admiralty type destroyer leader|
|Length:||332 ft 6 in (101.35 m)|
|Beam:||31 ft 9 in (9.68 m)|
|Draught:||12 ft 6 in (3.81 m)|
|Installed power:||40,000 shp (30,000 kW)|
|Speed:||36.5 kn (42.0 mph; 67.6 km/h)|
|Range:||5,000 nmi (5,800 mi; 9,300 km) at 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)|
Design and construction
In December 1916, the British Admiralty placed orders for two large flotilla leaders, HMS Bruce and Douglas from Cammell Laird as a follow on to the prototype of the class, HMS Scott, which had been ordered in April that year. The ship was 320 feet 0 inches (97.54 m) long between perpendiculars and 332 feet 5 inches (101.32 m) overall, with a beam of 31 feet 9 inches (9.68 m) and a draught of 12 feet 6 inches (3.81 m). Design displacement was 1,580 long tons (1,610 t) normal and 2,050 long tons (2,080 t) full load. The ship's machinery consisted of four Yarrow boilers that fed steam at 250 pounds per square inch (1,700 kPa) to two sets of Parsons single-reduction geared-steam turbines, rated at 40,000 shaft horsepower (30,000 kW). This gave a design speed of 36.5 knots (67.6 km/h; 42.0 mph) light, which corresponded to about 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph) at full load.
Douglas' main gun armament consisted of five 4.7 in (120 mm)/45 calibre BL Mark I guns, on CP VI mountings capable of elevating to 30 degrees. These guns could fire a 50-pound (23 kg) shell to 15,800 yards (14,400 m) at a rate of 5–6 rounds per minute per gun. 120 rounds per gun were carried. Anti-aircraft armament consisted of a single 3 inch (76 mm) 20 cwt gun. Torpedo armament consisted of six 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes in two triple mounts.
While Douglas had only limited modifications between the wars, an early change during the Second World War was the replacement of the amidships 4.7-inch gun by two 2-pounder (40 mm) "pom-pom" autocannon, with the aft funnel shortened to improve the field of fire for the 3 inch anti-aircraft gun. Three Oerlikon 20 mm cannon later supplemented the short-range anti-aircraft armament, while a further two Oerlikons finally replaced the 2-pounders. Radar (Type 286, later replaced by Type 290 and Type 271) was fitted during the war, as was HF/DF radio direction-finding gear.
Conversion to a short-range escort involved removal of two more 4.7 inch guns and a bank of torpedo tubes, with the forward gun replaced by a Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar, and the aft gun and tubes removed to allow a heavy depth charge armament of 70 charges.
On commissioning Douglas joined the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Dover Patrol, as leader, and in November that year transferred to the Grand Fleet, joining the 11th Destroyer Flotilla at Scapa Flow. By March 1919, Douglas had moved to the 7th Destroyer Flotilla, but by May 1919, Douglas was in reserve at Rosyth, and was still laid up at Rosyth at the end of 1921.
In July 1936, following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Royal Navy sent ships to Spanish harbours to evacuate British subjects, with Douglas being one of several ships sent to Barcelona. In January 1939, Douglas was attached to the 1st Submarine Flotilla based at Malta as part of the Mediterranean Fleet.
Second World War
In September 1939, at the start of the Second World War, Douglas was a member of the 13th Destroyer Flotilla, based at Gibraltar. On 24 October, Douglas, along with the leader Keppel and the destroyers Watchman and Vidette, set out to hunt the German submarine U-37, which had sunk three merchant ships. Douglas picked up the survivors from one of the ships, the Tafna. A Saro London flying boat from Gibraltar-based No. 202 Squadron RAF alighted in an attempt to rescue survivors, but was unable to take-off again, and was towed back to Gibraltar by Douglas as she returned the survivors to land. On 21 January 1940, Douglas was escorting the Gibraltar bound convoy OG.15F off the coast of Portugal when she spotted a German submarine U-44 and attacked. U-44 sustained only minor damage.
On 8 July 1940, Douglas sortied as part of the escort for Force H, which had left Gibraltar to act as a distraction while the British Mediterranean Fleet escorted two convoys between Malta and Alexandria. While the Mediterranean Fleet clashed briefly with Italian forces at the Battle of Calabria, Force H's movements caused Italian submarines, one of which sank the destroyer Escort, to be redeployed away from the convoy, and attracted heavy air attacks. Later that month, Douglas transferred to the Home Fleet, based at Scapa Flow, carrying out patrol duties, as well as escorting the fleet and minelaying operations. On 2 November, Douglas rescued twelve survivors from the naval trawler Wardour, which had been sunk by a mine on 31 October.
In February 1941, Douglas was transferred from the Home Fleet to Western Approaches Command, joining the 2nd Escort Group. On 28 April, Convoy HX 121 came under heavy U-boat attack, and the 2nd Escort Group, including Douglas, was detached from Convoy OB 314 to reinforce HX 121. On approaching the convoy, Douglas rescued 18 survivors from the tanker Capulet, which had been torpedoed by U-552, but failed in an attempt to sink Capulet's abandoned wreck with gunfire. Douglas then depth-charged and sunk the submarine U-65. In all four ships were lost from HX 121, with one U-Boat being sunk. On 11 September, the 2nd Escort Group, led by Commander W. E. Banks aboard Douglas, left Convoy ON 13F to reinforce Convoy SC 42 under heavy attack off the east coast of Greenland from the U-boats of the wolfpack Markgraf, which had sunk 15 ships from the convoy already. Banks took charge of the convoy's defence, ordering the destroyers Leamington and Veteran to investigate a sighting by an aircraft of a submarine ahead of the Convoy, which resulted in the two destroyers sinking U-207, and managing to drive off several attacking U-Boats over the next few days.
On 15 January 1942, Douglas was part of the escort of Convoy ON 55 off Iceland in a severe storm (described as the worst seen in Iceland for 15 years), when the American destroyer Mayo, part of an American escort group attempting to relieve the 2nd Escort Group, collided with Douglas, badly damaging both ships, with one seaman lost from Douglas. After returning to the United Kingdom from Iceland, it was decided to convert Douglas to a Short-Range Escort while she was under repair. This involved reducing the ship's gun and torpedo armament to accommodate better anti-submarine weaponry.
Douglas was under repair and refit until April 1942, joining the Home Fleet in May. Douglas formed part of the ill-fated Arctic Convoy Convoy PQ 17, but left the convoy to join Convoy QP-13, which was returning from the Soviet Union at the same time as PQ 17 was sailing to the Soviet Union, on 2 July 1942, before PQ 17 had come under serious attack. The ship continued in escort operations, and in November 1942, rescued 29 survivors from the merchant ship Louise Moller, sunk by U-172 on 13 November south-east of Durban. On 11 July 1943, Douglas, together with the destroyer HMCS Iroquois and the frigate Moyola, were escorting a convoy consisting of the troopships California and Duchess of York and the munitions ship Port Fairy, when the convoy was attacked by three Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors of Kampfgeschwader 40 300 miles (480 km) off Vigo. Both California and Duchess of York were badly hit, with 46 killed aboard California and 27 aboard Duchess of York, and the blazing ships were sunk by the convoy's escorts early the next day after the survivors were rescued, in order to avoid the attentions of U-Boats.
On 31 October 1943, the naval trawler Imperialist depth-charged the German submarine U-732 west of Gibraltar, forcing the submarine to the surface, and scored several gun hits before U-732 managed to submerge, which resulted in Imperialist subjecting U-732 to another heavy depth-charging. After dark, U-732 attempted to escape on the surface but was spotted by an aircraft. On being spotted, the commanding officer of U-732 ordered that the submarine be scuttled, but before the submarine sank, Douglas attacked with 10 more depth charges. Eighteen of U-732's crew were rescued, eight by Douglas, with 31 killed. Imperialist and Douglas were jointly credited with the sinking of U-732.
Douglas continued in use as a convoy escort until February 1945 when she was paid off into reserve. She was sold for scrap on 20 March 1945 to the British Iron & Steel Corporation (BISCO) who passed the ship on to TW Ward.
- In British practice, BL (Breech Loading) indicated that the a separate, bagged charge was used.
- Friedman states that Douglas was launched on 20 February 1918 and completed on 2 September 1918.
- The hulk of Capulet was sunk by U-201 on 2 May.
- The sinking of U-65 was originally attributed to the corvette Gladiolus in an attack on 29 April, but credit for the sinking was reassigned to Douglas following postwar research.
- states that Duchess of York was scuttled by Douglas's torpedoes, while states that the wrecks of both troopships were sunk by Douglas.
- Gardiner and Gray 1985, p. 83.
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- Ruegg and Hague 1993, pp. 39, 41.
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- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-Boats: Louise Moller". uboat.net. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Rohwer and Hümmelchen 1992, p. 222.
- "SS California (+1943)". www.wrecksite.eu. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- "SS Duchess Of York (+1943)". www.wrecksite.eu. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Blair Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunted 1942–1945 2000, pp. 455–456.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-732". u-boat.net. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Preston 1971, p. 271.
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