A Survey of US Ships Transferred to Britain in Exchange for Western Hemisphere Basing Rights
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.
|USN Name||Date Transferred||New Name|
|DD-75 USS Wickes||23 Oct 40||HMS Montgomery2 (G95)|
|DD-76 USS Philip||23 Oct 40||HMS Lancaster2 (G05)|
|DD-78 USS Evans||23 Oct 40||HMS Mansfield2 (G76)|
|DD-81 USS Sigourney||26 Nov 40||HMS Newport3 (G54)|
|DD-88 USS Robinson||26 Nov 40||HMS Newmarket3 (G47)|
|DD-89 USS Ringgold||26 Nov 40||HMS Newark3 (G08)|
|DD-93 USS Fairfax||26 Nov 40||HMS Richmond2 (G88)|
|DD-108 USS Williams||24 Sep 40||HMCS St. Clair (I65)|
|DD-127 USS Twiggs||23 Oct 40||HMS Leamington2 (G19)|
|DD-131 USS Buchanan||9 Sep 40||HMS Campbeltown2 (I42)|
|DD-132 USS Aaron Ward||9 Sep 40||HMS Castleton2 (I23)|
|DD-133 USS Hale||9 Sep 40||HMS Caldwell2 (I20)|
|DD-134 USS Crowninshield||9 Sep 40||HMS Chelsea2 (I35)|
|DD-135 USS Tillman||26 Nov 40||HMS Wells2 (I95)|
|DD-140 USS Claxton||5 Dec 40||HMS Salisbury2 (I52)|
|DD-143 USS Yarnall||23 Oct 40||HMS Lincoln2 (G42)|
|DD-162 USS Thatcher||24 Sep 40||HMCS Niagara (I57)|
|DD-167 USS Cowell||23 Sep 40||HMS Brighton3 (I08)|
|DD-168 USS Maddox||23 Sep 40||HMS Georgetown3 (I40)|
|DD-169 USS Foote||23 Sep 40||HMS Roxborough3 (I07)|
|DD-170 USS Kalk||23 Sep 40||HMCS Hamilton (I24)|
|DD-175 USS Mackenzie||24 Sep 40||HMCS Annapolis (I04)|
|DD-181 USS Hopewell||23 Sep 40||HMS Bath3 (I17)|
|DD-182 USS Thomas||23 Sep 40||HMS St. Albans3 (I15)|
|DD-183 USS Haraden||24 Sep 40||HMCS Columbia (I49)|
|DD-184 USS Abbot||23 Sep 40||HMS Charlestown3 (I21)|
|DD-185 USS Doran (ex-Bagley)||23 Sep 40||HMS St. Marys3 (I12)|
|USN Name||Date Transferred||New Name|
|DD-190 USS Satterlee||8 Oct 40||HMS Belmont4 (H46)|
|DD-191 USS Mason||8 Oct 40||HMS Broadwater4 (H81)|
|DD-193 USS Abel P. Upshur||9 Sep 40||HMS Clare4 (I14)|
|DD-194 USS Hunt||8 Oct 40||HMS Broadway4 (H90)|
|DD-195 USS Welborn C. Wood||9 Sep 40||HMS Chesterfield4 (I28)|
|DD-197 USS Branch||8 Oct 40||HMS Beverly4 (H64)|
|DD-198 USS Herndon||9 Sep 40||HMS Churchill4 (I45)|
|DD-252 USS McCook||24 Sep 40||HMCS St. Croix (I81)|
|DD-253 USS McCalla||23 Oct 40||HMS Stanley4 (I73)|
|DD-254 USS Rodgers||23 Oct 40||HMS Sherwood4 (I80)|
|DD-256 USS Bancroft||24 Sep 40||HMCS St. Francis (I93)|
|DD-257 USS Welles||9 Sep 40||HMS Cameron4 (I05)|
|DD-258 USS Aulick||8 Oct 40||HMS Burnham4 (H82)|
|DD-263 USS Laub||8 Oct 40||HMS Burwell4 (H94)|
|DD-264 USS McLanahan||8 Oct 40||HMS Bradford4 (H72)|
|DD-265 USS Edwards||8 Oct 40||HMS Buxton4 (H96)|
|DD-268 USS Shubrick||26 Nov 40||HMS Ripley4 (G79)|
|DD-269 USS Bailey||26 Nov 40||HMS Reading4 (G71)|
|DD-273 USS Swasey||26 Nov 40||HMS Rockingham4 (G58)|
|DD-274 USS Meade||26 Nov 40||HMS Ramsey4 (G60)|
|USCG Name||Date Transferred||New Name|
|Chelan CGC-45||12 May 41||HMS Lulworth (Y.60)|
|Pontchartrain CGC-46||30 Apr 41||HMS Hartland (Y.00)|
|Tahoe CGC-47||30 Apr 41||HMS Fishguard (Y.59)|
|Champlain CGC-48||12 May 41||HMS Sennen (Y.21)|
|Mendota CGC-49||30 Apr 41||HMS Culver (Y.87)|
|Itasca CGC-50||30 May 41||HMS Gorelson (Y.92)|
|Sebago CGC-51||12 May 41||HMS Walney (Y.04)|
|Saranac CGC-52||30 Apr 41||HMS Banff (Y.43)|
|Shoshone CGC-53||20 May 41||HMS Languard (Y.56)|
|Cayuga CGC-54||12 May 41||HMS Totland (Y.88)|
|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||Netherlands5||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|
|HMS Campbeltown||28 Mar 42||Expended in raid on St. Nazaire dry-dock|
|HMS Bath||19 Aug 41||Torpedoed by U-204|
|HMS Belmont||31 Jan 42||Torpedoed by U-82|
|HMS Broadwater||18 Oct 41||Torpedoed by U-101|
|HMS Beverly||11 Apr 43||Torpedoed by U-188|
|USSR Deiatelnyi||16 Jan 45||Torpedoed by U-956|
|HMCS St. Croix||20 Sep 43||Torpedoed by U-305|
|HMS Stanley||19 Dec 41||Torpedoed by U-574|
|HMS Cameron||5 Dec 40||CTL after air-raid, sold for scrap Nov 44|
|HMS Rockingham||27 Sep 44||Mined off Aberdeen, Scotland|
|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||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||HMS Leamington and HMS Veteran of Escort Group 2, defending Slow Convoy 42.||11 September 1941|
|U-401||HMS St. Albans, HMS Wanderer and HMS Hydrangea defending convoy Sierra Leone 81.||3 August 1941|
|U-434||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||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.|
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.
- ^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.
- "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
- "The History of Denmark, Volume II" by John Danstrup, 1946
- "Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two" by Jurgen Rohwer
- "R.Smg. Pietro Calvi" at regiamarina.net
- Special thanks to Johan Lupander, George Duffy and Bogdan Zemanek.
- 4 October 2006
- 27 July 2010
- Corrected spelling of Polish submarine Jastrzab
- 28 July 2014
- Deleted USS Graham, added USS Satterlee