American "Four Piper" Destroyer Crosses the Atlantic

An American "four piper" World War I-vintage destroyer transits the Atlantic on its way to joining the Royal Navy. Fifty ships of the Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson classes were given to Britain in exchange for bases in Canada and the Caribbean after the United States and the United Kingdom signed an agreement on September 2, 1940. Many of these destroyers had been in mothballs; the United States Navy still operated dozens of the ships in Neutrality patrols. They had poor seakeeping, a tendency to roll in rough waves, and a large turn radius, limiting their effectiveness as antisubmarine platforms. The British did not like them much, though they were comparable to their V and W class destroyers. Their four four-inch (102mm) main guns and single 3-inch (75mm) antiaircraft gun and twelve 21-inch (533mm) torpedo tubes lacked modern firing controls. American crews of sixty men, about half of the normal complement, sailed the destroyers from the United States to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they were met by British and Canadian crews for training. The British reduced the armament to improve seakeeping and add hedgehog spigot mortars to attack submarines. All of the fifty ships were designated the "Town class" by the British, and named after British and American towns and Canadian rivers. With the American four pipers, the Town class was the most numerous Allied escort vessel during the first few years of the Battle of the Atlantic. Some of the Town class was transferred to Norwegian and Soviet navies. Nine of the Town class were sunk by U-Boats. One, HMS Campbeltown (ex-USS Buchanan DD-131), was expended in the Commando raid on the Normandie dock at St. Nazaire in 1942. By late 1943 the remaining Town class destroyers were experiencing boiler pressure failures, and many of them were withdrawn from service or relegated to training roles. After the war the surviving British, Canadian and Norwegian vessels were scrapped; the Soviet Town class destroyers served in their navy until they were returned in the 1950s and immediately scrapped.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
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Archival Identifier: 
Date Photographed: 
Tuesday, October 1, 1940
Atlantic Ocean