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Captain class frigate

The Captain class were 78 frigates of the Royal Navy, built in the United States, launched in 1942–1943 and delivered to the United Kingdom under the provisions of Lend-Lease. They served in World War II as convoy escorts, anti-submarine warfare vessels and coastal forces control frigates. They were drawn from two classes of "destroyer escort"; 32 from the Evarts class and 46 from the Buckley class.

Post-war nearly all the surviving Captain class were returned to the US Navy as quickly as possible to reduce the amount payable under the provisions of the Lend-Lease agreement.

Early history

In June 1941 His Majesty's Government asked the United States to design, build and supply an escort vessel that was suitable for anti-submarine warfare in deep open ocean situations. The requested particulars were a length of , a speed of , a dual purpose main armament and an open bridge. The United States Navy had been looking into the feasibility of such a vessel since 1939 and Captain E. L. Cochrane of the Bureau of Shipping - who during his visit to the United Kingdom in 1940 looked at Royal Navy corvettes and Hunt class destroyers - had come up with a design for such a vessel. This design had anticipated a need for large numbers of vessels of this type, and had sought to remove the major bottleneck of production for vessels of this type: reduction gearing required for the steam turbine machinery of destroyers. Production of reduction gears could not be easily increased, as the precision machinery required for their construction alone took over a year to produce. Therefore, a readily-available and proven layout of diesel-electric machinery, also used on submarines, was adopted. When the United Kingdom made their request, Admiral Stark (USN) decided to put these plans into motion and recommended that the British order be approved. Gibbs and Cox, the marine architects charged with creating working plans, had to make several alterations to the method of production and to Captain Cochrane's original design, most notably dropping another production bottleneck - the 5 inch /38 caliber gun - and replacing it with the 3 inch /50 caliber gun, which allowed a third gun to be added in a superfiring position ("B") forward. The final result was a vessel that could be produced at half the cost of a fleet destroyer.

On August 15 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorised the construction of 50 of the new Evarts-class design as BDE 1 - 50 (British Destroyer Escort). The turbo-electric powered Buckley class were not part of the first order and were authorised later by Public Law 440 effective February 6 1942. The Royal Navy placed orders in November 1941 with four ship yards: Boston Navy Yard, Mare Island Navy Yard, Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Puget Sound Navy Yard. When the United States entered the war, they too adopted the BDE design. The BDE designation was retained by the first six destroyer escorts (BDE 1, 2, 3, 4, 12 and 46) transferred to the United Kingdom. Of the initial 50 ordered, these were the only ones the Royal Navy received; the rest were reclassified as destroyer escort (DE) on January 25, 1943 and taken over by the United States Navy. By the end of World War II the Royal Navy had received 32 Evarts and 46 Buckleys from Boston Navy Yard, Mare Island Navy Yard and Bethlehem-Hingham.

The Royal Navy classified these ships as frigates, as they lacked the torpedo tubes necessary to be classified as destroyers. For those used to Admiralty-designed ships the Captains were unfamiliar: they had no break forward of the forecastle and a graceful shear to deck-line from the forecastle to midship, and the Evarts had daringly rakish cowls on top of the funnels. Those that served on these ships came to view these features as being very handsome. The ordinary sailors were also astounded to discover that they got to sleep in bunks, and it would be many years before the rest of the Royal Navy gave up their hammocks. The crews of the new Captains were also initially very suspicious of the newfangled welded design; Royal Navy ships of the time were largely riveted together.

Royal Navy alterations

On first arrival in the United Kingdom the first port of call for most of the Captains was Pollock Dock, Belfast where the ships were rebuilt more on Admiralty lines. In all there was 109 items in the alterations and additions list for the Evarts and 94 for the Buckleys.

Some of the main design difference between the Royal Navy frigates and the US Navy destroyer escorts were that the Buckley class did not have the forward torpedo tubes fitted (the Evarts class was not designed to carry torpedo tubes) and the ice cream makers, the iced water fountains, the dishwashers were removed, the "cafeteria" messing system discontinued and the replacing of the primitive American two seat "thunder trough" toilets (which did not offer even so much as a simple canvas screen to spare blushes) with an enclosed water closet.

Further alterations were:

Sea-keeping equipment

  • A standard Royal Navy whaler was fitted on the port side of the funnel, in addition to the US issue ships boat on the starboard side.
  • Oiling fairleads were fitted to the edge of the hull by the anchor winch.
  • Additional lifesaving rafts were fitted, big ones fitted on sloping launch skids aft of the funnel and small ones fitted aft of the searchlights.
  • Crow's nest.
  • Wind defectors were fitted on the leading edge of the bridge area and a canvas covered shelter on the quarterdeck for depth charge crews to provide better weather protection.
  • The steel work around the binnacle was replaced by non-ferrous materials.

Gunnery

  • The bridge was layout was significantly altered of which the biggest part was the addition of a two-tier director which improved visibility and gave better protection to the equipment.
  • Three inch (76 mm) gun-shields were fitted to the main armament, on some Captains a spray and blast shield was fitted to the B gun only.
  • Two inch rocket flares were fitted to the B gun, Six launchers if the spray and bast shield was fitted and three launchers if not.
  • Vertically fired "snowflake" parachute flares fitted to the bridge wings.
  • Two pounder "pom-pom" bowchaser was fitted to Captains that were to serve as Coastal Forces control frigates hunting E-boats.
  • The MK IV elevating column Oerlikon mountings were replaced with the simpler MK V1A mountings.
  • Additional 40 mm Bofors and Oerlikon guns were mounted in place of the removed torpedo tubes, those Captains that were to serve as Coastal Forces control frigates had extra guns fitted.

Anti-submarine

  • More depth charges were fitted on the upper deck each side of the ship (allowing for about 200 in total).
  • The Captains were eventually given Type 144 series Asdic, an upgrade from the Type 128D.
  • Royal Navy smoke floats were fitted above the depth charges. There were in addition to the US Navy chemical smoke cylinders fitted to the stern of the Captains which were retained.
  • A Foxer was fitted to the aft of the Captains (and most other Atlantic escort vessels) during 1944 to counter the new acoustic torpedoes.

Communications

  • A MF Direction Finding antenna fitted in front of the bridge and HF Direction Finding Type FH 4 antenna fitted on top of mast.
  • In addition to the fitted US Navy long range position fixing set a Royal Navy short range position fixing set was fitted.
  • Two high frequency radio-telephones were fitted for communication with aeroplanes.
  • A radio-receiving set tuned to the frequencies used for ship-to-ship communication by German U-boats and E-boats was fitted and a German-speaking rating carried.
  • Four coloured fighting lights were fitted to aid recognition at night.
  • A Radar interrogation system was fitted which was able to challenge ships at sea, only ships fitted with the system would be able to reply.

Normandy invasion

HMS Dacres, HMS Kingsmill and HMS Lawford were converted to headquarters ships for use during Operation Neptune (the Normandy invasion). These ships had their aft three inch (76 mm) gun and all the depth charge gear removed and the superstructure extended to provide accommodation for extra Staff Officers; two deck houses were built for the additional radios needed and a small main mast was added to support the many extra aerials. Four more Oerlikons were fitted bringing the total to 16, and a number of radar sets fitted (Type 271 centimetric target identification and Type 291 air warning, and the associated Types 242 and 253 IFF sets). The complement was now 141, with a headquarters staff of 64.

Machinery

The Evarts class had diesel-electric machinery, based on an arrangement used for submarines. There were two shafts. Four General Motors 278A 16-cylinder engines, with a combined rating of , driving General Electric Company (GE) generators (4,800 kW) supplied power to two GE electric motors, with an output of , for . It had been intended to provide a further set of this machinery, for an output of to make the design speed of , but hull production greatly outstripped that of the machinery, therefore only one set of machinery was used per ship.

To make the designed speed, the Buckleys had turbo-electric machinery. Two Foster-Wheeler Express "D"-type water-tube boilers supplied steam to GE steam turbines and generators (9,200 kW). Electric motors for drove the two shafts each fitted with a three bladed propeller of solid manganese-bronze that was in diameter.

Ships companies

The Captains had a crew of 156 (Evarts) and 186 (Buckley) Officers and men, the fact that the Admiralty was able to find the numbers of personnel required to man the 78 ships within a ten month period speaks to their ingenuity. The bulk of the men were Hostilities Only and all had to be trained from scratch in which ever branch of the Navy they had chosen to serve, after about six weeks square bashing and getting physically fit, they moved onto the job training. Many of the senior non commissioned officers were pre-war regular service who had been promoted.

Engineering personnel were faced with the added complication of power plants not normally found in the Royal Navy, initially they were trained alongside US Navy personnel at purpose-built facilities in the General Electric Company factories at Cleveland and Syracuse ending with impressive certificates, later training was provided in the United Kingdom.

Ships Companies were shipped over to the USA by them taking passage from the Clyde or Liverpool to New York on liners such as the RMS Queen Mary. On arriving in New York the crews were initially assigned to HMS Saker until they were reassigned to a Captain class frigate. Later, some of the Captains were ferried across the Atlantic by crews of the Royal Canadian Navy coming to the United kingdom to collect River class frigates that had been ordered by the Canadians.

Ships

Naming

It is understood that these ships were originally to named after Captains that served with Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar however as production of these ships continued it became necessary to delve back further into history for names of Admirals and Captains of reputation.

66 of the 78 were the first to bear the names allocated. Lawford, Louis, Manners, Moorsom, Mounsey, Narborough, Pasley and Seymour had been previously used for destroyers during World War I. Rupert was the fifth of that name since 1666. Torrington was the fourth of that name since 1654. Holmes had been used once before in 1671 and Fitzroy had previously been used for a survey vessel in 1919.

Evarts class

Evarts-class ships had diesel-electric machinery.

Buckley class

Buckley class ships had turbo-electric machinery.

Camouflage and insignia

Following standard Royal Navy protocols all the Captains had large pennant numbers painted on the sides and stern of the hull, usually in blue, red or black. The escort groups to which most of the Captains were assigned had their own individual insignia, these distinctive and colourful designs would be painted on the side of the ships funnel and if the ship was home to the escort group senior officer it would have a coloured band painted round the top of the funnel (usually in blue or red). The waterline was always in black.

A total of five different camouflage schemes were employed on the Captains.

  1. This ships came from the shipyards in light-grey with a few light blue stripes.
  2. For those Captains assigned to the North Atlantic a scheme consisting of light and dark blues and greens, with some soft white was adopted as it was believed that this would blend with the sea colour in bad weather.
  3. For those Captains assigned to the English Channel in 1944 (Coastal Forces control frigates and those assigned to Operation Neptune as headquarters ships) a bold design in black, blue, light grey and white was adopted.
  4. For those Captains assigned to the 16th flotilla (Harwich) and 21st flotilla (Sheerness) operating in the North Sea and English Channel a scheme consisting of horizontal upper deck divisions of light and dark grey (as used by the US Navy) was adopted.
  5. Early in 1945 a scheme was adopted that was to be common to all Royal Navy ships consisting of white with a sky blue stripe along the hull.

Operations

The Captains were primarily used to provide an anti-submarine cover to the convoys they escorted, however a small number of ships were converted to act as coastal forces control frigates and as headquarters ships during Operation Neptune.

Collectivity the Captains gained Battle honours for service in Arctic (Russian Convoys), Atlantic, Biscay, English Channel, Normandy (D-Day on the 6th June 1944 and subsequent related operations), North Foreland and Walcheren.

Submarine sinkings in which Captain Class frigates participated
Date Submarine Position Sunk Ships Fate of Submarine Crew
October 17, 1943 U-841 HMS Byard 27 lost and 27 survivors
November 21, 1943 U-538 HMS Foley 55, all hands Lost
November 23, 1943 U-648 HMS Bazely, HMS Blackwood, HMS Drury 50, all hands Lost
November 25, 1943 U-600 HMS Bazely, HMS Blackwood 54, all hands Lost
January 8, 1944 U-757 HMS Bayntun 49, all hands Lost
February 26, 1944 U-91 HMS Affleck, HMS GoreHMS Gould 36 lost and 16 survivors
March 1, 1944 U-358 HMS Affleck, HMS Gore, HMS Gould, HMS Garlies 50 lost and one survivor
March 16, 1944 U-392 HMS Affleck 52, all hands lost
May 6, 1944 U-765 HMS Bickerton, HMS Bligh, HMS Aylmer 37 lost and 11 survivors
June 25, 1944 U-269 HMS Bickerton 13 lost and 39 survivors
June 29. 1944 U-988 HMS Duckworth, HMS Cooke, HMS Dommet, HMS Essington 50, all hands lost
July 18, 1944 U-672 HMS Balfour 52 survivors
July 21, 1944 U-212 HMS Curzon, HMS Ekins 49 all hands Lost
July 26, 1944 U-214 HMS Cooke 48, all hands lost
August 5, 1944 U-671 HMS Stayner 47 lost and five survivors
August 14, 1944 U-618 HMS Duckworth, HMS Essington 61, all hands lost
August 24, 1944 U-445 HMS Louis 52, all hands lost
January 26, 1945 U-1051 HMS Aylmer, HMS Bentinck, HMS Calder, HMS Manners 47. all hands lost
January 27, 1945 U-1172 HMS Tyler, HMS Keats, HMS Bligh 52, all hands lost
February 3, 1945 U-1279 HMS Bayntun, HMS Braithwaite 48, all hands lost
February 14, 1945 U-989 HMS Bayntun, HMS Braithwaite 47, all hands lost
February 17, 1945 U-1278 HMS Bayntun 48, all hands lost
February 27, 1945 U-1208 HMS Duckworth, HMS Rowley 49, all hands lost
March 26, 1945 U-399 HMS Duckworth 46 lost and one survivor
March 27, 1945 U-722 HMS Fitzroy, HMS Redmill, HMS Byron 44, all hands Lost
March 27, 1945 U-905 HMS Conn 45, all hands lost
March 29, 1945 U-1169 HMS Duckworth, HMS Rowley 49, all hands lost
March 30, 1945 U-965 HMS Conn, HMS Rupert, HMS Deane 51, all hands lost
April 8, 1945 U-1001 HMS Fitzroy, HMS Byron 45, all hands lost
April 8, 1945 U-774 HMS Bentinck, HMS Calder 44, all hands lost
April 15, 1945 U-1063 HMS Cranstoun, HMS Burgess 29 lost and 17 survivors
April 15, 1945 U-285 HMS Grindall, HMS Keats 44, all hands lost
April 21, 1945 U-636 HMS Bentinck, HMS Bazely, HMS Drury 42, all hands lost
April 29, 1945 U-286 HMS Cotton 51, all hands lost

Additionally Captain class frigates which operated with Coastal Forces, (Motor Torpedo Boats, Motor Gun Boats and US Navy PT boats) sank at least two two-man submarines, and were involved in the destruction of at least 26 E-Boats, One KFK assault barge (coastal escort vessels constructed to a fishing-vessel design), two minesweepers, and the shooting down of a Junkers Ju 88 aeroplane.

Captain class frigates sunk or seriously damaged
Date Ship Incident Casualties
March 1, 1944 HMS Gould Torpedoed and sunk by U-358 south-west of Ireland in position . Loss of 123 hands.
June 8, 1944 HMS Lawford Hit by a Glide bomb launched from a German aeroplane in her hull, port side midships, which blew out the bottom of the ship which quickly sank, off J1 Sector of Gold Beach on D-Day+2. Loss of 26 hands.
June 11, 1944 HMS Halstead Torpedoed by an E-boat in mid channel off Normandy which blew off her bow section, she was written off as Constructive Total Loss. Loss of 27 hands.
June 15, 1944 HMS Blackwood Torpedoed by U-764, the forward part of ship was blown off, the hulk sank at 04.10Hrs the next morning. Loss of 60 hands.
June 26, 1944 HMS Goodson Torpedoed by U-984 approximately south of Portland Bill in position badly damaged towed back to port and assessed as a Constructive Total Loss. No fatalities.
August 22, 1944 HMS Bickerton Torpedoed by U-354 during Operation Goodwood in the Barents Sea, in position seriously damaged and ship abandoned, sunk by own forces. ?
November 1, 1944 HMS Whitaker Torpedoed by U-483 off Malin Head, near Loch Swilly, Ireland; she seriously damaged, and towed back to Belfast. Declared a Constructive Total Loss. Loss of 92 hands.
November 2, 1944 HMS Mounsey Torpedoed by U-295 outside the Kola Inlet but managed to limp back to Polyarnoe where she was patched up by the Russians and managed to get back to Belfast before Christmas for permanent repairs. Loss of 10 hands.
December 6, 1944 HMS Bullen Torpedoed midships and sunk off Cape Wrath by U-775 in position . Loss of 55 hands.
December 25, 1944 HMS Dakins Hit a ground mine off the Belgium coast, she was towed into Antwerp where she was declared Constructive Total Loss. No fatalities.
December 26, 1944 HMS Capel Torpedoed by one of two torpedoes fired by U-486, she sank having had her bows blown off. This happened north-north-east of Cherbourg, in position . Loss of 76 hands.
December 26, 1944 HMS Affleck Torpedoed by one of two torpedoes fired by U-486, which seriously damaged her stern. She was towed back to port and assessed as a Constructive Total Loss.This happened off Cherbourg. Loss of 9 hands.
January 26, 1945 HMS Manners Torpedoed by U-1051 off the Isle of Man. She was towed back to Barrow-in-Furness and declared a Constructive Total Loss. Loss of 43 hands.
April 15, 1945 HMS Ekins Hit two ground mines in the Scheldt Estuary, towed back to port and put into dry dock, when water was pumped out she broke her back and was written off as Constructive Total Loss. No fatalities
April 27, 1945 HMS Redmill Torpedoed by U-1105 west of Silgo Bay, Ireland in position towed in to Belfast with serious damage. Written off as a Constructive Total Loss. Loss of 24 hands.
April 29 1945 HMS Goodall Torpedoed by U-286 outside the Kola Inlet . HMS Goodall was the last ship of the Royal Navy sunk in the European theatre of World War Two. Loss of 98 hands.

Post war

At the end of World War II most of the surviving Captains were returned to the US Navy as quickly as possible to reduce the amount payable under the provisions of the Lend-Lease agreement. The last of the Captains to be returned to the United States was HMS Hotham, which in the post-war period served as a floating power station in Singapore until early 1948 when she sailed for Portsmouth, becoming the base for a Royal Navy Engineering research team which was experimenting with gas turbine engines. HMS Hotham was returned to the US on April 25 1952 and simultaneously transferred back to the United Kingdom under the Mutual Defence Assistance Program. The partially-stripped vessel was later returned to United States custody in February 1956.

Memorial

On April 17, 2005 a memorial to the Captains and those that served and those that made the supreme sacrifice on them was dedicated at the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas, Staffordshire.

See also

Notes

References

  • Franklin, Bruce Hampton. The Buckley-Class Destroyer Escorts Chatham Publishing, (1999). ISBN 086176118X.
  • Collingwood, Donald. The Captain Class Frigates in the Second World War Leo Cooper, (1998). ISBN 085052 615 9.
  • Lenton, H T. British and Empire Warships of the Second World War Greenhill Books / Naval Institute Press, (1998). ISBN 1 85367 277 7.
  • Lenton, H T. British Escort Ships Macdonald and Jane's, (1974). ISBN 0 356 08062 5.
  • Niestle, Axel. German U-Boat Losses During World War II United States Naval Inst, (1998). ISBN 1557506418.
  • Ould, Vic. Last but not least Arcturus Press, (2004). ISBN 0 907322 93 X.
  • Ruegg, Bob and Hague, Arnold. Convoys to Russia 1941-1945 World Ship Society, (1993). ISBN 0 905617 66 5.
  • Elliott, Peter The Lend-Lease Captains. Warship International No.3 1972: N3/72:255. §N1/73:5.

External links

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