By Joseph Czarnecki with Tony DiGiulian
Updated 28 July 2014
On 2 September 1940, in response to two requests by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in May and June of that year, the Congress of the United States approved a deal brokered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to transfer 50 old destroyers to bolster British escort forces in the face of heavy destroyer losses suffered by the Royal Navy due to Dunkirk and other costly operations. By the date the deal was approved, the RN had lost 33 destroyers of all types, the majority being modern, capable units. As a result of this agreement, the US gained basing rights at such locations as Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, Bermuda Island and various Caribbean locations.
Following the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the ability of the Danish government to conduct any kind of independent foreign policy was curtailed. This was realized by the Danish ambassador in Washington, Mr. Kaufmann, who immediately declared himself independent from the Danish government. In accordance with US wishes, he therefore took upon himself to conclude an agreement in April, 1941, by which the US agreed to defend Greenland and Iceland, thereby gaining bases in those places to support the convoy lanes to Britain.
Between 9 September and 5 December 1940, the USN transferred 3 Shaw, 23 Wickes and 18 Clemson Class destroyers to the RN and 4 Wickes and 2 Clemson Class destroyers to the Royal Canadian Navy. The new HMS Hamilton (ex-USS Kalk) was damaged in a collision with the new HMS Georgetown and subsequently transferred from the RN to the RCN, becoming the HMCS Hamilton. In 1941, ten US Coast Guard 250-foot cutters were also transferred to Britain.
The destroyers transferred to the RN were given town names common to both Britain and the United States, as was the HMCS Annapolis. The other five ships transferred directly to the RCN were given the names of Canadian rivers. The destroyers in British service were known as the “Town Class” and broken into the “Belmont,” “Lewes,” “Campbeltown,” and “Bath” groups. The former Coast Guard cutters were known as the "Banff" class and were designated as Escort Sloops.
The Belmont Group comprised the Clemson Class ships and the Lewes Group the Shaw Class ships. The Wickes Class ships were split between the Campbeltown Group with 75 tons more fuel and therefor greater range, and the Bath Group, comprising the remaining ships without increased bunkerage.
At the time of transfer, none of the US ships had been modified for anti-submarine warfare, much less received the “escort modification” later applied to a number of these ships remaining in USN service. Some ships required as much as four months of yard work before being considered suitable for use by the British. Royal Navy ship handlers complained about the ships’ excessive tactical diameter and their liveliness in North Atlantic seas due to their very fine hull dimensions. Ratings found the ships’ layout, accommodations and appointments alien, but adapted readily. During their service with the RN and RCN most of these ships lost two or three 4” SP guns, their antiquated 3” anti-aircraft gun and AA machine guns in favor of more modern RN weapons. Torpedo armament was quickly halved and in some cases relocated to the centerline. More depth charge stowage, K-gun and Y-gun depth charge projectors and eventually the Hedgehog ASW mortars were added. Sensor upgrades included the addition of radar, high frequency direction finding (HF/DF or “Huff Duff”) equipment and improved ASDIC (“sonar” in US parlance).
Although some authors have made much of the contribution of these ships, even to the point of claiming they “saved the world,” their primary benefit was to provide the British and Canadians with a large number of escort platforms - although of no great technical capability - until those nations could get sufficient numbers of modern destroyers and smaller escorts afloat to replace them. As new ships became available, the transferred vessels were rapidly withdrawn from escort duty and paid off or moved to such auxiliary roles as mobile aircraft target towing. Some were transferred to yet other Allied navies, including the free Norwegian and free Polish Navies, as well as to the Soviet Navy.
Ten of the destroyers and three of the cutters transferred were lost, as detailed below. One destroyer was rendered a constructive total loss (CTL) by bomb damage before it ever completed its initial yard work in Britain and was then used for testing and finally sold for scrap in 1944. Another destroyer was mined. Seven destroyers and one cutter fell to U-boat torpedoes. In retaliation, these transferred ships destroyed or assisted in the destruction of ten German U-boats and one Italian submarine, while two assisted in the capture and salvage of another U-boat. One of the ten U-boats sunk was the U-110, which was boarded and raided before it could founder, resulting in the capture of the Enigma coding machine, its coding wheels and cipher books.
One of the destroyers lost achieved unique fame; HMS Campbeltown being
expended as a floating bomb in a daring commando attack in which it rammed
the gates of the Normandie Lock at Saint-Nazaire, a French city on the
Biscay Coast. The ship was then blown up with a delay fuze to permit
the crew time to escape. The Campbeltown's explosive exploit ensured
that the German battleship Tirpitz would find no repair base in the Atlantic
should she break out of the Arctic, diminishing the raider threat and making
Campbeltown the most famous of the transferred destroyers.
Destroyers transferred from the USN to the RN and RCN
|USN Name||Date Transferred||New Name|
|Former Shaw Class|
|1. DD-70 USS Conway (ex-Craven)||
||HMS Lewes (2) (G68)|
|2. DD-72 USS Conner||
||HMS Leeds (2) (G27)|
|3. DD-73 USS Stockton||
||HMS Ludlow (2) (G57)|
|Former Wickes Class|
|4. DD-75 USS Wickes||
||HMS Montgomery (3) (G95)|
|5. DD-76 USS Philip||
||HMS Lancaster (3) (G05)|
|6. DD-78 USS Evans||
||HMS Mansfield (3) (G76)|
|7. DD-81 USS Sigourney||
||HMS Newport (4) (G54)|
|8. DD-88 USS Robinson||
||HMS Newmarket (4) (G47)|
|9. DD-89 USS Ringgold||
||HMS Newark (4) (G08)|
|10. DD-93 USS Fairfax||
||HMS Richmond (3) (G88)|
|11. DD-108 USS Williams||
||HMCS St. Clair (I65)|
|12. DD-127 USS Twiggs||
||HMS Leamington (3) (G19)|
|13. DD-131 USS Buchanan||
||HMS Campbeltown (3) (I42)|
|14. DD-132 USS Aaron Ward||
||HMS Castleton (3) (I23)|
|15. DD-133 USS Hale||
||HMS Caldwell (3) (I20)|
|16. DD-134 USS Crowninshield||
||HMS Chelsea (3) (I35)|
|17. DD-135 USS Tillman||
||HMS Wells (3) (I95)|
|18. DD-140 USS Claxton||
||HMS Salisbury (3) (I52)|
|19. DD-143 USS Yarnall||
||HMS Lincoln (3) (G42)|
|20. DD-162 USS Thatcher||
||HMCS Niagara (I57)|
|21. DD-167 USS Cowell||
||HMS Brighton (4) (I08)|
|22. DD-168 USS Maddox||
||HMS Georgetown (4) (I40)|
|23. DD-169 USS Foote||
||HMS Roxborough (4) (I07)|
|24. DD-170 USS Kalk||
||HMCS Hamilton (I24)|
|25. DD-175 USS Mackenzie||
||HMCS Annapolis (I04)|
|26. DD-181 USS Hopewell||
||HMS Bath (4) (I17)|
|27. DD-182 USS Thomas||
||HMS St. Albans (4) (I15)|
|28. DD-183 USS Haraden||
||HMCS Columbia (I49)|
|29. DD-184 USS Abbot||
||HMS Charlestown (4) (I21)|
|30. DD-185 USS Doran (ex-Bagley)||
||HMS St. Marys (4) (I12)|
|Former Clemson Class||
|31. DD-190 USS Satterlee||
||HMS Belmont (1) (H46)|
|32. DD-191 USS Mason||
||HMS Broadwater (1) (H81)|
|33. DD-193 USS Abel P. Upshur||
||HMS Clare (1) (I14)|
|34. DD-194 USS Hunt||
||HMS Broadway (1) (H90)|
|35. DD-195 USS Welborn C. Wood||
||HMS Chesterfield (1) (I28)|
|36. DD-197 USS Branch||
||HMS Beverly (1) (H64)|
|37. DD-198 USS Herndon||
||HMS Churchill (1) (I45)|
|38. DD-252 USS McCook||
||HMCS St. Croix (I81)|
|39. DD-253 USS McCalla||
||HMS Stanley (1) (I73)|
|40. DD-254 USS Rodgers||
||HMS Sherwood (1) (I80)|
|41. DD-256 USS Bancroft||
||HMCS St. Francis (I93)|
|42. DD-257 USS Welles||
||HMS Cameron (1) (I05)|
|43. DD-258 USS Aulick||
||HMS Burnham (1) (H82)|
|44. DD-263 USS Laub||
||HMS Burwell (1) (H94)|
|45. DD-264 USS McLanahan||
||HMS Bradford (1) (H72)|
|46. DD-265 USS Edwards||
||HMS Buxton (1) (H96)|
|47. DD-268 USS Shubrick||
||HMS Ripley (1) (G79)|
|48. DD-269 USS Bailey||
||HMS Reading (1) (G71)|
|49. DD-273 USS Swasey||
||HMS Rockingham (1) (G58)|
|50. DD-274 USS Meade||
||HMS Ramsey (1) (G60)|
(1) British “Town” Class, Belmont Group.
(2) British “Town” Class, Lewes Group.
(3) British “Town” Class, Campbeltown Group.
(4) British “Town” Class, Bath Group.
Coast Guard Cutters Transferred to the RN
|USCG Name||Date Transferred||New Name|
|1. Chelan CGC-45||
||HMS Lulworth (Y.60)|
|2. Pontchartrain CGC-46||
||HMS Hartland (Y.00)|
|3. Tahoe CGC-47||
||HMS Fishguard (Y.59)|
|4. Champlain CGC-48||
||HMS Sennen (Y.21)|
|5. Mendota CGC-49||
||HMS Culver (Y.87)|
|6. Itasca CGC-50||
||HMS Gorelson (Y.92)|
|7. Sebago CGC-51||
||HMS Walney (Y.04)|
|8. Saranac CGC-52||
||HMS Banff (Y.43)|
|9. Shoshone CGC-53||
||HMS Languard (Y.56)|
|10. Cayuga CGC-54||
||HMS Totland (Y.88)|
Destroyers transferred from the RN to non-Commonwealth Allied navies
|Name||Service Dates||Navy||New Name|
|HMS Mansfield||Dec 40 - Mar 42||Norway||Mansfield|
|HMS Newport||Mar 42 - Jun 42||Norway||Newport|
|HMS Richmond||16 Jul 44||USSR||Zhivuchi|
|HMS Leamington||Jul 44 - 1950||USSR||Zhguchi ("Fiery")|
|HMS Campbeltown||Jan - Sept 1941||Netherlands *||Campeltown|
|HMS Chelsea||Jul 44 - 1949||USSR||Dyerzki|
|HMS Lincoln||Feb 42 - Aug 44
Aug 44 - 1952
|HMS Brighton||Jul 44 - 1949||USSR||Zharki ("Ardent")|
|HMS Georgetown||Aug 44 - 1952||USSR||Zhostki ("Enterprising")|
|HMS Roxborough||Aug 44 - 1949||USSR||Doblestni ("Valiant")|
|HMS St. Albans||Apr 41 - Aug 44
Aug 44 - 1949
|HMS Churchill||Jul 44 - Jan 45||USSR||Deiatelnyi|
* In January 1941 HMS Campeltown (ex-USS Buchanan) was provisionally allocated to the Royal Netherlands Navy, but she reverted back to the Royal Navy in September 1941.
||Expended in raid on St. Nazaire dry-dock|
||Torpedoed by U-204|
||Torpedoed by U-82|
||Torpedoed by U-101|
||Torpedoed by U-188|
||Torpedoed by U-956|
|HMCS St. Croix||
||Torpedoed by U-305|
||Torpedoed by U-574|
||CTL after air-raid, sold for scrap Nov 44|
||Mined off Aberdeen, Scotland|
||Sunk by gunfire off Oran
Salved and scuttled 16 Oct 49
||Sunk by gunfire off Oran|
||Torpedoed by U-105|
U-87 in part by HMCS St. Croix assisted by HMCS Shediac of Escort Group
C-1 defending convoy KMS-10. 4 March 1943.
U-89 in part by HMS Broadway assisted by HMS Lagan of Escort Group C-2 defending convoy Halifax-237. 12 May 1943.
U-90 by HMCS St. Croix of Escort Group C-1 defending convoy Outbound North-113; HMS Burnham also pursued a different U-boat on this occasion. 24 July 1942.
U-110 in part by HMS Broadway assisting HMS Bulldog and HMS Aubrieta of Escort Group 7, defending Outbound 318. U-boat boarded and Enigma code books and machine seized, but vessel sank under tow. 9 May 1941.
U-131 in part by HMS Stanley, assisting HMS Penstemon, HMS Exmoor II, HMS Stork, HMS Blankney and an HMS Audacity F4F-4 of Johnny Walker’s Escort Group 36, defending convoy Homebound Gibraltar 76. 17 December 1941.
U-187 in part by HMS Beverly, assisting HMS Vimy of Escort Group B-2, defending convoy SC-118. 4 February 1943.
U-207 by HMS Leamington and HMS Veteran of Escort Group 2, defending Slow Convoy 42. 11 September 1941.
U-401 by HMS St. Albans, HMS Wanderer and HMS Hydrangea defending convoy Sierra Leone 81. 3 August 1941.
U-434 by HMS Stanley and HMS Blankney assisted by HMS Exmoor II and HMS Deptford, of Johnny Walker’s Escort Group 36, defending convoy Homebound Gibraltar 76. 18 December 1941.
U-587 by HMS Leamington, HMS Grove, HMS Aldenham and HMS Volunteer of Escort Group 2, defending troop convoy Winston Special 17 after DF fix by HMS Keppel. 27 March 1942.
Italian Submarine Kill
Pietro Calvi by HMS Lulworth, escort for Convoy S.4. Depth charged and rammed. During this battle, the German U.130 attempted to torpedo Lulworth but missed. In return, Lulworth fired on U.130 but also missed. 14 July 1942.
U-570 blown to the surface by Iceland based 269 Squadron Hudson’s depth bombs defending convoys Halifax 144, Slow Convoy 40 and Halifax 145. Enigma and coding papers thrown overboard. Intercepted and boarded in part by HMCS Niagara and HMS Burwell assisting trawlers HMS Northern Chief, HMS Kingston Agathe, HMS Wastwater and HMS Windermere. Towed to Iceland, repaired, thoroughly evaluated and commissioned into RN as HMS Graph. 27 August 1941.
Trawler Minesweeper HMS Alberic sunk by collision with HMS St. Albans
off Scapa. 3 May 1941.
Polish submarine Jastrzab ("Hawk", ex-USS S-25) sunk in part by HNoMS St. Albans off Norway. 5 May 1942.
U-960 is mistakenly credited to HMS Ludlow by some sources. This submarine was actually destroyed in part by the American destroyer USS Ludlow (DD-438) of the Livermore Class.
“Hitler’s U-boat War, Volumes One and Two” by Clay Blair.
“Destroyers of the World, An International Encyclopedia” by M.J. Whitley.
“U.S. Destroyers, An Illustrated Design History” by Norman Friedman.
"Warships of World War II" by H.T. Lenton & J.J. Colledge
"US Warships of World War II" by Paul Silverstone
Ken Laesser's Coast Guard page at http://www.laesser.org
HyperWar Website at http://metalab.unc.edu/hyperwar/
"The History of Denmark, Volume II" by John Danstrup, 1946
"Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two" by Jurgen Rohwer
"Italian Submarines in World War Two" at http://www.regiamarina.net/subs/index.htm
Special thanks to Johan Lupander, George Duffy and Bogdan Zemanek.
04 October 2006 - Benchmark
27 July 2010 - Corrected spelling of Polish submarine Jastrzab
28 July 2014 - Deleted USS Graham, added USS Satterlee