The Town-class destroyers were a group of destroyers transferred from the United States Navy to the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy in exchange for military bases in the British West Indies and Newfoundland, as outlined in the Destroyers for Bases Agreement between Britain and United States, signed on 2 September 1940. They were known as "four-pipers" or "four-stackers" because they had four smokestacks (funnels). Later classes of destroyers typically had one or two.
|In commission:||1940–47 (RN)|
|Displacement:||1,020 to 1,190 tons|
|Length:||314 ft 4.5 in (95.8 m)|
|Beam:||30 ft 11.25 in (9.4 m)|
|Draught:||9 ft 0 in (2.7 m)|
|Speed:||30–35 knots (56–65 km/h; 35–40 mph)|
|Complement:||146 officers and enlisted|
Some went to the Royal Canadian Navy at the outset. Others went on to the Royal Norwegian Navy, the Royal Netherlands Navy, and the Soviet Navy after serving with the Royal Navy. Although given a set of names by the Commonwealth navies that suggested they were one class they actually came from three classes of destroyer: Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson. "Town class" refers to the Admiralty's practice of renaming these ships after towns common to the United States and the British Commonwealth. Ships initially commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy, however, followed the Canadian practice of giving destroyers the names of Canadian rivers. The rivers selected for the Town class were on the border between Canada and the United States, with the exception of the Nova Scotia river sharing the name of the United States Naval Academy location.
One of the Towns achieved lasting fame: HMS Campbeltown (ex-USS Buchanan). In the Commando raid Operation Chariot, Campbeltown, fitted with a large demolition charge, rammed the Normandie Lock at Saint-Nazaire, France. The charge detonated on 29 March 1942, breaching the drydock and destroying Campbeltown, thus destroying the only drydock on the Atlantic coast capable of accepting the German battleship Tirpitz. This exploit was depicted in the 1950 Trevor Howard film The Gift Horse, which starred HMS Leamington (ex-USS Twiggs) after her return from service in Russia.
Roughly contemporaneous to the British V and W-class destroyers they were not much liked by their new crews. They were uncomfortable and wet, working badly in a seaway. Their hull lines were rather narrow and 'herring-gutted' which gave them a vicious roll. The officers didn't like the way they handled either, since they had been built with propellers that turned the same way (2-screw ships normally have the shafts turning in opposite directions as the direction of rotation has effects on the rudder and the whole ship when manoeuvring, especially when coming alongside), so these were as awkward to handle as single-screw ships. Their turning circle was enormous, as big as most Royal Navy battleships, making them difficult to use in a submarine hunt which demanded tight manoeuvres, compounded by unreliable "chain and cog" steering gear laid across the main deck. They also had fully enclosed bridges which caused problems with reflections in the glass at night. Despite their disadvantages they performed vital duties escorting convoys in the Atlantic at a time when the U-boats, operating from newly acquired bases on the Atlantic coast of France were becoming an increasingly serious threat to British shipping. However, one Royal Canadian Navy corvette captain described them as "the most dubious gift since the Trojan Horse".
The original armament was four 4-inch (102 mm) guns, one 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft gun, and twelve torpedo tubes. On the Wickes class, the 4-inch gun placement was one gun in a shield on the forecastle, one on the quarterdeck and one each side on a platform between the number 2 and number 3 funnels. The Admiralty promptly removed one of the 4-inch guns and six torpedo tubes to improve stability. Twenty-three of the class had further armament reductions for anti-submarine escort of trade convoys. Two of the remaining 4-inch guns and three of the remaining torpedo tubes were removed to allow increased depth charge stowage and installation of Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar system.
Ships by United States Navy class
- USS Conner became HMS Leeds on 23 October 1940. She was scrapped on 19 January 1949.
- USS Craven became HMS Lewes on 23 October 1940. She outlived all of her sisters in British service and was stripped of valuable scrap and scuttled off Sydney, Australia on 25 May 1946.
- USS Stockton became HMS Ludlow on 23 October 1940; stripped and beached as a target for rocket firing aircraft off Fidra Island, United Kingdom.
- USS Aaron Ward became HMS Castleton on 9 September 1940. She was scrapped on 2 January 1948.
- USS Abbot became HMS Charlestown on 23 September 1940. She was scrapped on 3 December 1948.
- USS Buchanan became HMS Campbeltown on 9 September 1940. She was destroyed in Operation Chariot on 29 March 1942.
- USS Claxton became HMS Salisbury on 5 December 1940; she was employed as a special escort for specific convoys, including escorting Wasp during the supply of Spitfires to Malta. She was scrapped in the US in April 1945.
- USS Cowell became HMS Brighton on 23 Sep 1940; transferred to the Soviet Union as Zharki on 16 July 1944; returned to the Royal Navy on 4 March 1949. She was scrapped on 18 May 1949.
- USS Crowninshield became HMS Chelsea on 9 September 1940; transferred to the Soviet Union as Derzkiy on 16 July 1944; returned to the Royal Navy on 24 June 1949. She was scrapped on 27 July 1949.
- USS Doran became HMS St. Marys on 23 September 1940. She was scrapped in December 1945.
- USS Evans became HMS Mansfield on 23 October 1940; heavily involved in the critical convoy actions of March 1943 with convoy HX-229, landing survivors in the United Kingdom; sold on 24 October 1944 for scrapping.
- USS Fairfax became HMS Richmond on 26 November 1940; transferred to the Soviet Union as Zhivuchi on 16 June 1944; returned to the Royal Navy on 26 June 1949. She was scrapped on 29 June 1949.
- USS Foote became HMS Roxborough on 23 September 1940; while with convoy HX-222 Roxborough met with such heavy weather that the entire bridge structure was crushed, with eleven dead, including the Commanding Officer and 1st Lieutenant; the sole surviving executive officer managed to regain control of the ship, and under hand steering from aft, she made St. John's, Newfoundland; was transferred to the Soviet Union as Doblestnyi on 10 August 1944; returned to the Royal Navy on 7 February 1949. She was scrapped on 14 May 1949.
- USS Hale became HMS Caldwell on 9 September 1940. She was scrapped on 7 June 1945.
- USS Haraden became HMCS Columbia on 24 September 1940. She was scrapped on 7 August 1945.
- USS Hopewell became HMS Bath on 23 September 1940; while escorting convoy OG 71 between Liverpool and Gibraltar, Bath was torpedoed by U-204 on 19 August 1941 and sank rapidly.
- USS Kalk became HMCS Hamilton on 23 September 1940; lost while being towed to Boston for scrapping in 1945.
- USS MacKenzie became HMCS Annapolis on 29 September 1940; towed to Boston for scrapping on 22 June 1945.
- USS Maddox became HMS Georgetown on 23 September 1940; transferred to the Soviet Union as Zhostki in August 1944; returned to the Royal Navy on 9 September 1952. She was scrapped on 16 September 1952.
- USS Philip became HMS Lancaster on 23 October 1940. She was scrapped on 30 May 1947.
- USS Ringgold became HMS Newark on 5 December 1940; consigned for scrapping on 18 February 1947.
- USS Robinson became HMS Newmarket on 5 December 1940. She was scrapped on 21 September 1945.
- USS Sigourney became HMS Newport on 5 December 1940. She was scrapped on 18 February 1947.
- USS Thatcher became HMCS Niagara on 26 September 1940; on 28 August 1941 Niagara was involved in the capture of U-570, which had surrendered to an RAF Hudson the previous day. She was scrapped by the end of 1947.
- USS Thomas became HMS St. Albans on 23 September 1940; while with convoy SL 81, St Albans took part in the sinking of U-401 on 3 August 1941; encountered the Polish submarine Jastrzab, and in company with the minesweeper Seagull, attacked and sank it in early 1942; transferred to the Soviet Union as Dostoinyi on 16 July 1944; returned to the Royal Navy on 28 February 1949; towed for scrapping on 18 May 1949.
- USS Tillman became HMS Wells on 5 December 1940. She was scrapped February 1946.
- USS Twiggs became HMS Leamington on 23 October 1940; during the fighting around convoy SC 42 in the North Atlantic she shared in the sinking of U-207 on 11 September 1941; while covering convoy WS-17 in the UK approaches, sank U-587 on 27 March 1942; transferred to the Soviet Union as Zhguchi on 17 July 1944; returned on 15 November 1950; hired for the film The Gift Horse, the last Town-class destroyer at sea under her own power. She was scrapped on 3 December 1951.
- USS Wickes became HMS Montgomery on 25 October 1940; on convoy escort Montgomery rescued the survivors of Scottish Standard on 21 February 1941 and sank the Italian submarine Marcello the next day. She was scrapped on 10 April 1945.
- USS Williams became HMCS St. Clair on 29 September 1940. She was scrapped on 5 March 1946.
- USS Yarnall became HMS Lincoln on 23 October 1940; transferred to the Soviet Union as Druzhny on 26 August 1944; returned to the Royal Navy on 24 August 1952. She was scrapped on 3 September 1952.
- USS Abel P. Upshur became HMS Clare on 9 September 1940. She was scrapped on 18 February 1947.
- USS Aulick became HMS Burnham on 8 October 1940. She was scrapped on 2 December 1948.
- USS Bailey became HMS Reading on 26 November 1940. She was scrapped on 24 July 1945.
- USS Bancroft became HMCS St. Francis on 24 September 1940. She was wrecked while being towed for scrapping on 14 July 1945.
- USS Branch became HMS Beverley on 8 October 1940; she attacked and sank U-187 on 4 February 1942. Beverley was torpedoed by U-188 on 11 April 1943 and was sunk with the loss of all but four of the ship's company of 152.
- USS Edwards became HMS Buxton on 8 October 1940. She was scrapped on 21 March 1946.
- USS Herndon became HMS Churchill on 9 September 1940; transferred to the Soviet Union as Dyatelnyi on 30 May 1944; torpedoed and sunk by U-956 on 16 January 1945 while escorting a White Sea convoy; the last war loss of the class and the only one of the destroyers transferred to the Soviet Union to be lost.
- USS Hunt became HMS Broadway on 8 October 1940; while escorting convoy OB 318, Broadway took part in the attack on U-110 on 9 May 1941; abandoned by its crew, U-110 was boarded and taken in tow. Escorting convoy HX 237, Broadway located and sank U-89 in the North Atlantic on 14 May 1943; allocated for scrapping in March 1948.
- USS Laub became HMS Burwell on 8 October 1940; one of the ships involved in the recovery of U-570 after its surrender to an RAF aircraft; consigned for scrapping in March 1947.
- USS Mason became HMS Broadwater on 2 October 1940; escorting convoy SC 48 between St. John's, Newfoundland and Iceland, Broadwater was torpedoed by U-101 and sunk on 19 October 1941.
- USS McCalla became HMS Stanley on 23 October 1940; escorting convoy HG 76 from Gibraltar, Stanley and accompanying vessels sank U-131 on 17 December 1941 and U-434 on the following day; Stanley was sunk by U-574 on 19 December 1941 with the loss of all but 25 of her crew.
- USS McCook became HMCS St. Croix on 24 September 1940; escorting convoy ON 113 she attacked and sank U-90 on 27 July 1942; escorting convoy KMS-10, St Croix and HMCS Shediac sank U-87; while escorting the combined convoys ONS 18/ON 202, St Croix was twice torpedoed by U-305 and sunk on 20 September 1943; survivors were taken aboard the frigate HMS Itchen, which was sunk on 22 September with very heavy loss of life; only one of St Croix's crew of 147 survived.
- USS McLanahan became HMS Bradford on 8 October 1940; consigned for scrapping in August 1946.
- USS Meade became HMS Ramsey on 26 November 1940. She was scrapped July 1947.
- USS Rodgers became HMS Sherwood on 23 October 1940; stripped of usable parts, Sherwood was beached on 3 October 1943 as a target for RAF rocket-equipped Beaufighters.
- USS Satterlee became HMS Belmont on 8 October 1940; while escorting troop convoy NA-2 from St. John's, Newfoundland, Belmont was torpedoed by U-82 on 31 January 1942 and sank with the loss of her entire ship's company.
- USS Shubrick became HMS Ripley on 26 November 1940; consigned for scrapping on 10 March 1945.
- USS Swasey became HMS Rockingham on 26 November 1940; while returning to Aberdeen on 27 September 1944, poor navigation brought her into the defensive minefields off the east coast of the United Kingdom, and after striking a mine Rockingham was abandoned and sank with the loss of one life.
- USS Welborn C. Wood became HMS Chesterfield on 9 September 1940. She was scrapped on 3 December 1948.
- USS Welles became HMS Cameron on 9 September 1940; Cameron never reached operational service; hit and set on fire by an air raid in Portsmouth on 5 December 1940, she was considered by the U.S. Navy as the worst damaged but surviving destroyer available and was extensively studied for explosive effects and damage control; consigned for scrapping on 1 December 1944.
Ships by World War II navy
- Annapolis (ex-USS MacKenzie)
- Buxton (ex-HMS Buxton)
- Columbia (ex-USS Haraden)
- Hamilton (ex-USS Kalk)
- Niagara (ex-USS Thatcher)
- St. Clair (ex-USS Williams)
- St. Croix (ex-USS McCook; lost on 20 September 1943)
- St. Francis (ex-USS Bancroft)
(RCN: loaned from the Royal Navy)
- Chelsea (ex-HMS Chelsea)
- Georgetown (ex-HMS Georgetown)
- Leamington (ex-HMS Leamington)
- Lincoln (ex-HMS Lincoln)
- Mansfield (ex-HMS Mansfield)
- Montgomery (ex-HMS Montgomery)
- Richmond (ex-HMS Richmond)
- Salisbury (ex-HMS Salisbury)
- Bath (ex-USS Hopewell; to Norway as Bath)
- Belmont (ex-USS Satterlee; lost on 31 January 1942)
- Beverley (ex-USS Branch; lost on 11 April 1943)
- Bradford (ex-USS McLanahan)
- Brighton (ex-USS Cowell; to the Soviet Union as Zarkij)
- Broadwater (ex-USS Mason; lost on 18 October 1941)
- Broadway (ex-USS Hunt)
- Burnham (ex-USS Aulick)
- Burwell (ex-USS Laub)
- Buxton (ex-USS Edwards; to Canada as Buxton)
- Caldwell (ex-USS Hale)
- Cameron (ex-USS Welles; lost on 5 December 1940)
- Campbeltown (ex-USS Buchanan; lost on 28 March 1942)
- Castleton (ex-USS Aaron Ward)
- Charlestown (ex-USS Abbot)
- Chelsea (ex-USS Crowninshield; to the Soviet Union as Derzki)
- Chesterfield (ex-USS Welborn C. Wood)
- Churchill (ex-USS Herndon; to the Soviet Union as Dejatelny)
- Clare (ex-USS Abel P. Upshur)
- Georgetown (ex-USS Maddox; to the Soviet Union as Zostki)
- Hamilton (ex-USS Kalk; to Canada as Hamilton)
- Lancaster (ex-USS Philip)
- Leamington (ex-USS Twiggs; to the Soviet Union as Zguchi) (starred in 1950 film The Gift Horse, which depicted the St. Nazaire Raid)
- Leeds (ex-USS Conner)
- Lewes (ex-USS Conway)
- Lincoln (ex-USS Yarnall; to the Soviet Union as Druzny)
- Ludlow (ex-USS Stockton)
- Mansfield (ex-USS Evans; to Canada as Mansfield; to Norway as Mansfield)
- Montgomery (ex-USS Wickes; to Canada as Montgomery)
- Newark (ex-USS Ringgold)
- Newmarket (ex-USS Robinson)
- Newport (ex-USS Sigourney)
- Ramsey (ex-USS Meade)
- Reading (ex-USS Bailey)
- Richmond (ex-USS Fairfax; to the Soviet Union as Zivuchi)
- Ripley (ex-USS Shubrick)
- Rockingham (ex-USS Swasey; lost on 27 September 1944)
- Roxborough (ex-USS Foote; to the Soviet Union as Doblestnyj)
- Salisbury (ex-USS Claxton; to Canada as Salisbury)
- Sherwood (ex-USS Rodgers)
- St. Albans (ex-USS Thomas; to Norway as St. Albans; to the Soviet Union as Dostojny)
- St. Mary's (ex-USS Doran)
- Stanley (ex-USS McCalla; lost on 19 December 1941)
- Wells (ex-USS Tillman)
- Bath (ex-HMS Bath) (lost on 19 August 1941)
- Lincoln (ex-HMS Lincoln)
- Mansfield (ex-HMS Mansfield)
- Newport (ex-HMS Newport)
- St. Albans (ex-HMS St. Albans)
- Lenton&Colledge 1968 pp.88–92
- Thomas, Donald I., CAPT USN "Recommissioning Destroyers, 1939 Style" United States Naval Institute Proceedings September 1979 p.71
- Lenton&Colledge 1968 p.80
- Milner 1985 p.23
- Bernard Edwards: Convoy Will Scatter; Pen & Sword 2013
- Campbell 1985 p.143
- Silverstone 1968 p.103
- Lenton&Colledge 1968 pp.80
- Lenton&Colledge 1968 pp.80&90–92
- Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
- Lenton, H.T. & Colledge, J.J. (1968). British and Dominion Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company.
- Milner, Marc (1985). North Atlantic Run. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-450-0.
- Silverstone, Paul H. (1968). U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company.
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