Town Class (1940) DD

During the Norwegian and Low Countries Campaigns the Royal Navy had large numbers of destroyers sunk and damaged and repairs and new construction would not have had much effect until 1941.

During WW1 the US began a massive destroyer construction programme. The basic design became known as  the "flush deck" or "four stack" type and a total of 273 were completed for service.

On 15-May-1940 the British Ambassador in Paris advised that the US Ambassador had spoken about the possibility France acquiring twelve older US Destroyers and had enquired if Britain would like "50 or 100 such ships". The response was immediate that Britain would like 16 modern destroyers, 32 flush deck destroyers and 1,000 close range AA weapons.

Discussions continued slowly until on 04-Aug-1940 a basis for negotiation had been reached So on 17-Aug the Admiralty asked the Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Navies to assist in manning possible ships.  The following day the Canadian Navy agreed to take six ships. The New Zealand Navy declined on 19-Aug and Australian Navy declined on 23-Aug, both due to shortage of available manpower.

On 22-Aug-1940 Washington advised that transfer was imminent, and on 01-Sep-1940 agreement was reached and 50 ships were transferred in return for US leases over British bases. So that same day 1,000 officers and ratings sailed for Halifax.

Initially the ships were to retain their US Navy names as an act of courtesy and the first 16 commissioned and made passage to the UK as this. (e.g. HMS Herndon, later Churchill etc). However in early September it was decided to rename them after towns whose names were common to both US and Britain.

Of the 50 ships, 6 were manned by Canada and 44 by Britain. All required various changes made to fit them for British service and cope with the rigours of Atlantic duty. Some needed immediate work of varying degree, and others had work completed at various later stages. But all ended up in similar condition.

The Class as a whole did not become effectively operational until early 1941, well after the emergency which precipitated their acquisition. Also most were relegated to second line duties by 1944. But although the tactical effect of the ships were small, their strategic effect was much greater.


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This page last edited - 22 April, 2013.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.