Town-class destroyer

Not to be confused with Town-class cruiser.
HMS Leamington
Class overview
Name: Town class
Builders: Various
Built: 1917–20
In commission: 1940–47 (RN)
Completed: 50
Lost: 10
Retired: 40 scrapped
Preserved: 0
General characteristics
Type: Destroyer
Displacement: 1,020 to 1,190 tons[1]
Length: 314 ft 4.5 in (95.822 m)
Beam: 30 ft 11.25 in (9.4298 m)
Draught: 9 ft (2.7 m)
  • 4 × 300 psi (20 atm) unsuperheated Boilers[2]
  • 2 geared turbines[2]
Speed: 30–35 knots (56–65 km/h; 35–40 mph)[2]
Complement: 146 officers and enlisted

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 Bahamas and elsewhere, 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.

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 renaming these ships after towns common to the United States and the British Commonwealth.[3] 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.[4]

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.

The original armament was four 4-inch (102 mm) guns,[5] one 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft gun, and twelve torpedo tubes.[6] 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.[7] Twenty-three of the class had further armament reductions for anti-submarine escort of trade convoys.[8] 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.[8]

Ships by United States Navy class

Caldwell-class destroyers

Wickes-class destroyers

Clemson-class destroyers

Ships by World War II navy

Royal Canadian Navy

(RCN: loaned from the Royal Navy)

Royal Navy

Royal Netherlands Navy

Royal Norwegian Navy

Soviet Navy


  1. Lenton&Colledge 1968 pp.88–92
  2. 1 2 3 4 Thomas, Donald I., CAPT USN "Recommissioning Destroyers, 1939 Style" United States Naval Institute Proceedings September 1979 p.71
  3. 1 2 3 Lenton&Colledge 1968 p.80
  4. Milner 1985 p.23
  5. Campbell 1985 p.143
  6. Silverstone 1968 p.103
  7. Lenton&Colledge 1968 pp.80
  8. 1 2 Lenton&Colledge 1968 pp.80&90–92


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Town class destroyers.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/6/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.