Town-class destroyer

Design history
This destroyer was of a type mass-produced (273 in total) by the United States during World War I. They were small, but comparatively heavily armed, with 4 single 102-mm guns and four triple torpedo mounts with 12 torpedoes. Their heavy armament shows they were first and foremost intended for fleet action. Characteristic for their design were four stacks, which earned them the nickname "four stackers". As the result of another characteristic of their design, they were also often called "flush deckers". Many (as was Campbeltown) were not ready in time to see service during World War I, but they were used extensively in peacetime roles during the 1920s and 1930s. Many more were mothballed and laid up, and survived to be used in a variety of roles in the United States Navy during World War II.

After the heavy destroyer losses at Dunkirk, and with merchant ship losses in the Battle of the Atlantic mounting, the Royal Navy was in urgent need of ships to escort the transatlantic convoys. The United Kingdom struck the so-called Destroyer Deal with the United States [1], an agreement in which the British received 50 destroyers from the United States, and the United States were allowed to use or establish bases at various strategic points in the Commonwealth territories. These fifty ships became known in Britain known as the Town-class destroyers, named after towns common to both the United Kingdom and the United States.

The first batch of destroyers was transferred in September, 1940. These ships first had to undergo significant modifications to make them suitable for escort work in Atlantic conditions. These modifications included improving seakeeping and stability by removing top weight such as guns and torpedomounts. This also provided the necessary deck space to fit racks, throwers and rails for depthcharges. In addition, equipment such as asdic, and later radar, was fitted. Lastly, anti-aircraft armament was increased.

These modifications could not overcome a number of design flaws that made them rather unsuitable for escort work. First, these ships had a large turning cycle. Second, the steering gear was simple but suffered from wear and jamming, which often resulted in loss of control, with collisions as the inevitable end result. Campbeltown's career is testimony to that, being involved in at least three collisions. Last, the tips of the propellors projected well beyond the ship's stern. The propellors were as a result often damaged during manoeuvering.

In addition to the design flaws, the age of the ships began to show by 1940. In addition to the steering problems, the ships suffered from problems with corroded rivets, which caused seawater to contaminate the fuel oil. In addition, the machinery on board (propulsion, generators etcetera) broke down from time to time, causing the ships to spend much time in the hands of the dockyard.

The Town-class was used extensively, primarily in the Atlantic theatre between 1940 and 1943, and filled a critical gap at a time when they were most needed. However, when more suitable, purpose-built escort vessels became available in numbers, the Town-class was quickly withdrawn from operational service from 1944 onwards. Many of the Town-class were scrapped or relegated to secondary duties such as training.

HMS Campbeltown, formerly the USS Buchanan, served for a brief period in the Royal Netherlands Navy during 1941. Campbeltown spent (in comparison to her sisters) few days under repair, which is a compliment to the technical staff on board. The Dutch requested the ship to be renamed Middelburg, in honor of a town common to both the Netherlands and the United States, but this request was denied.
[1]: More information about this deal can be found in Philip Goodhart Fifty ships that Saved the World (published Heinemann, London, 1965). Goodhart primarily focuses on the political side of the deal. Arnold Hague's Destroyers for Great Britain (Greenhill books, 1990) gives an excellent overview of class design, the destroyer deal and ship's histories.

USS Buchanan at sea, date and place unknown.

Construction details [1]
Name Hr.Ms. Campbeltown
ex-HMS Campbeltown
ex-USS Buchanan
Dockyard Bath Iron Works Corporation, Bath (United States).
Laid down June 29, 1918
Launched January 2, 1919
Commissioned January 20, 1919 (United States Navy)
September 9, 1940 (RN)
January 17, 1941 (RNethN) [2]
Pennant DD.131 (US Navy)
I.42 (RN/RNethN)
[1]: From [WHT] unless noted otherwise. Confirmed by other sources unless noted otherwise.
[2]: From [GB110]

Specifications [1]
Displacement 1154 tons standard
Crew 146
Dimensions 95,7 (o.a.) x 9,3 x 2,7 (mean) m.
Armament [2] 3 x 102 mm Mark 12 (3x1) [3]
1 x 76 mm (12-pounder)
2 x 12.7-mm machineguns.
Torpedoes 6 x 533 mm (2x3)[4]
Anti-submarine Asdic (type unknown)
2 depthchargerails
2 depthchargethrowers Mark IV
Depthcharges (type and number unknown)
Radar No information available.[5]
[1]: From [ANA] unless otherwise noted.
[2]: Armament varied during her career. The armament listed here approximates that carried during her career with the RNethN. See [HAG] for a summary of what the initial refit for Royal Navy service ("Stage 1"-modifications) normally entailed.
[3]: The ships were built with 4 single 102 mm guns. The aft gun was removed during initial refit and replaced by a single 12-pounder (see above).
[4]: The ships were built with 12 x 533 mm torpedo tubes (4x3). Two triple sets were removed during initial refit in late 1940. No information what type of torpedoes were used (standard was US Navy Mark 8 for this type of destroyer in US Navy service. May have been replaced by RN-type)
[5]: The ships in Royal Navy service usually had Type 286 surface warning fitted, later replaced by the more effective Type 271. Campbeltown did have radar according to [GB110, report of action against S/M-contact on August 4/5, 1941].

Propulsion details [1]
Boilers 4 Normand
Machinery 2 sets Parsons geared turbines
Performance 25200 shp
Shafts 2
Range 2000 nautical miles @ 10 knots
Bunkerage 275 metric tons oil
Maximum speed 29 knots
[1]: From [HAG] unless noted othwerwise.

History [1]
Commissioned by the Royal Netherlands Navy January 17, 1941 as Hr.Ms. Campbeltown [2]. Crew transferred from FS Bouclier.
Under repair for collision damage at Liverpool until February, 1941.[3]
Trials between February and April, 1941.
Ready for service with 7th Escort Group April 6, 1941.
Convoy duty in continuation April - September, 1941, with exception of maintenance between June 10 - July 11. Escort movements include:

Convoy Period
Unknown to Reykjavik, Iceland April 20 - 25, 1941
OB-318 May 2 - 7, 1941
HX-123 May 9 - 12, 1941
OB-324 May 19 - 24, 1941
SC-31 May 24 - 28, 1941
OB-329 June 1 - 5, 1941
HG-63 [4] June 2 - June 9, 1941
HG-67 July 19 - 22, 1941
OG-70 [5] August 1, 1941
SL-81 August 3 - 8, 1941
OS-3 August 13 - 17, 1941
HG-70 August 17 - 21, 1941
OG-73 September 1 - September 3, 1941
SL-84 September 3 - 6, 1941
OS-6 September 13 - 16, 1941
SC-43 [6] September 18 - 20, 1941

Assisted Norwegian tanker Vinga September 14 - 16, 1941. Vinga was a straggler from convoy OS.6. This tanker was adrift and afire after having been damaged by a German bomber. Campbeltown picked up 29 survivors and 8 bodies. Eight volunteers from Campbeltown boarded the ship and managed to contain the fires after several hours of hard work. [7]. Vinga was ultimately towed to port.

Decommissioned October 2, 1941 and returned to the Royal Navy. Crew joined Van Galen and Tjerk Hiddes.
Expended in Operation Chariot, a mission to destroy the Normandy dock in Saint Nazaire (France). This was the only place on the French Atlantic coast, where the German battleship Tirpitz would have been able to dock if she'd make an attempt to break out from Norway into the Atlantic. Campbeltown, loaded with explosives, rammed the dock and exploded, heavily damaging the dock.
[1]: Information from [GB110], [NHS] unless noted otherwise.
[2]: Request by the Dutch Admiralty to rename the ship Middelburg, a town common to the Netherlands and the United States, was denied by the British Admiralty.
[3]: From [NHS]: Campbeltown had been damaged three times in a collision at sea between September and December, 1940. I'm not counting the time Campbeltown was damaged when destroyer HMS Caldwell was blown into Campbeltown wile refuelling at Belfast on December 2, 1940. First, she was in a collision with merchant ship Risoy on November 2, 1940 [NHS]. Second, she rammed and sank the coaster Fiddown on November 29, 1940 [Uboat]. Third, she was in a collision with tanker Conus on December 3, 1940 [NHS]. Campbeltown was under repair from that last collision when taken over by the RNethN.
[4]: From [NHS]. I can't match this movement to the information in [GB110]. It's also possible Campbeltown did not join OB-329, or the convoys were combined.
[5]: From [NHS]. Campbeltown was exercising with other units west of Ireland, probably did not join convoy.
[6]: From [NHS]. [GB110] says that Campbeltown searched for the convoy, but didn't find it.
[7]: For more information about the attack on Vinga, see [NMF].

Related links - DANFS entry (Service record) of USS Buchanan during service with USN - The battle for convoy OB-318 - collection of photos of USS Buchanan (DD-131)
USS Buchanan with other destroyers at Halifax, Nova Scotia shortly before transfer to the Royal Navy

ANA Al Ross "Anatomy of the ship - the destroyer HMS Campbeltown", Conway Maritime Press, 2004.
GB110 GB110 (Mededelingen van de Marinestaf), volume 3, chapter 18: "De bewegingen en acties van Hr.Ms. Nautilus, Hr.Ms. Medusa, Hr.Ms. Van Meerlant, Hr.Ms. Douwe Aukes, F.S. Bouclier, Hr.Ms. Campbeltown, F.S. Notre Dame de France, F.S. Jean Frederic, Hr.Ms. Gruno."
HAG Arnold Hague "Destroyers for Great Britain", Greenhill books, 1990
NHS - Service history of HMS Campbeltown
NMF Norwegian Merchant Fleet 1939-1945 - description of attack on Vinga
Norwegian Merchant Fleet 1939-1945 - extracts from official reports.
Uboat - Allied Warships - HMS Campbeltown
WHT M.J. Whitley "Zerstörer im Zweiten Weltkrieg", Motor Buch Verlag, 2nd print, published 1997

July 27, 2014 Updated page (all sections)

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