Allied Warships

HMS St Albans (I 15)

Destroyer of the Town class


St Albans as seen mid-war.

World Ship Photo Library Photograph with thanks to Jan Visser

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassTown 
PennantI 15 
Built byNewport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. (Newport News, Virginia, U.S.A.) 
Ordered 
Laid down23 Mar 1918 
Launched4 Jul 1918 
Commissioned23 Sep 1940 
End service16 Jul 1944 
History

USS Thomas arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 18 September 1940 as part of the second increment of the 50 flushdecked, four-piped destroyers exchanged with the British for leases on strategic base sites in the western hemisphere. After a brief familiarization period for the Royal Navy bluejackets assigned to the ship, USS Thomas was officially turned over to her new owners on 23 September 1940. Simultaneously renamed HMS St. Albans and commissioned the same day for service in the Royal Navy, the destroyer sailed for the British Isles on 29 September. After calling at St. John's, Newfoundland en route, she arrived at Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 9 October. St. Albans and three sister ships St. Mary's, Bath and Charlestown were attached to the 1st Minelaying Squadron as permanent escort force. Operating off the west coast of Scotland, the destroyers participated in some of the earliest minelaying operations in the Denmark Strait which separates Iceland from Greenland.

Between minecraft escort missions, St. Albans escorted convoys. On 17 and 18 January 1941, the destroyer searched for survivors from the Almeda Star torpedoed by U-96 on the 17th. St. Albans underwent repairs at Chatham in February to prepare for her transfer to the Royal Norwegian Navy-in-exile on 14 April. She had no sooner entered service with the Norwegians than she collided with the minesweeper HMS Alberic, sinking the minecraft and sustaining enough damage herself to necessitate repairs in the dockyard.

When again ready for action, St. Albans joined the 7th Escort Group, operating out of Liverpool. On 12 June, she picked up the survivors from the sunken motor vessel Empire Dew torpedoed that day by U-48 and brought them safely to Liverpool. On 3 August 1941, while bound from Sierra Leone to the United Kingdom in the screen of convoy SL.81, St. Albans joined destroyer HMS Wanderer and the "Flower" class corvette HMS Hydrangea in sinking U-401. During subsequent operations screening convoys in shipping lanes between west Africa and the British Isles, St. Albans made a score of attacks on U-boats but could not repeat her "kill" performance of 3 August.

During the following autumn, a heavy gale severely damaged St. Albans while she was escorting convoy ON 22 on 8 October. The following day brought little respite from the high seas and strong winds, but St. Albans hardy Scandinavian sailors brought her safely into Reykjavik, Iceland. The destroyer's seaworthiness and the seamanship exhibited by her scrappy Norwegian crew elicited a warm commendatory signal from the Commander in Chief, Western Approaches (CinCWA). In this message of 12 October 1941, he also praised the destroyer's exemplary steaming performance during the previous three months.

St. Albans, meanwhile, continued her escort duties with the 7th Escort Group into 1942. In March, she escorted the damaged carrier HMS Illustrious from Liverpool to the Clyde and, in the following month helped to screen convoy PQ 16 as it carried arms to Russia. During the operation, heavy German air and submarine attacks took a toll of three Allied ships.

In wartime, however, mistakes in identification or errors in navigation sometimes lead to disaster. On one occasion, these factors combined with tragic results when St. Albans and the minesweeper HMS Seagull sank the Polish submarine Jastrzab on 2 May. Jastrzab had strayed some 100 miles from her correct position in a convoy.

Later that month, the flush-decked destroyer joined the Liverpool Special Escort Division. Among the vessels escorted early in June was the Cunard-White Star liner Queen Elizabeth, as the troopship steamed from the British Isles toward the Cape of Good Hope with troops bound for the Middle East. Then, after refitting at Falmouth between July and October 1942 St. Albans again operated with the Special Escort Division until the end of 1942. In January 1943, she served as a target vessel for training Coastal Command aircraft.

Late in February, she got underway and steamed into the North Sea toward the Scandinavian coast to search for a Norwegian merchantman which was reportedly attempting to escape to sea from Nazi-controlled waters. During this mission, the destroyer was attacked by German aircraft but emerged unharmed.

Shifted to the Western Local Escort Force soon thereafter, St. Albans was based at Halifax and operated in convoy escort missions in the western Atlantic for the remainder of 1943. Departing Halifax four days after Christmas of 1943, St. Albans arrived in the Tyne on 10 January 1944, where she was soon laid up in reserve. On 16 July, the British transferred the flushdecker to the Russian Navy, who renamed her Dostojnyj ("worthy"). She sailed under the "hammer and sickle" until returned to the British on 28 February 1949 at Rosyth, Scotland.

The veteran of service with the United States, British, Norwegian, and Russian navies was eventually broken up for scrap at Charlestown, England, in April of 1949. HNoMS St Albans

 
Former nameUSS Thomas (DD 182)
Career notesto Soviet Union as USSR Dostojnyj

Commands listed for HMS St Albans (I 15)

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CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Selwyn Gerold Caygill Rawson, RNOct 194014 Apr 1941

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Notable events involving St Albans include:


18 Dec 1940

Convoy WS 5A and the attack by the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper

This convoy departed U.K. ports on 18/19 December 1940. Destination for the majority of the convoy was Suez where the convoy arrived on 16 February 1941.

On 17 December 1940 the transport Rangitiki (16698 GRT, built 1929) departed Avonmouth. She was escorted by HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St. Clair-Ford, RN) towards the rendez-vous position.

On 18 December 1940 the following troop transports / transports departed Liverpool, they formed WS 5A slow;
Anselm (5954 GRT, built 1935), Atreus (6547 GRT, built 1911), Bhutan (6104 GRT, built 1929), City of Canterbury (8331 GRT, built 1922), City of London (8956 GRT, built 1907), Delane ( GRT, built ), (Belgian) Elizabethville (8351 GRT, built 1922), Menelaus (10307 GRT, built 1923), Orbita (15495 GRT, built 1915), Settler (6202 GRT, built 1939) and Tamaroa (12405 GRT, built 1922). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Witherington (Lt.Cdr. J.B. Palmer, RN), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Barnes, RN), sloop HMS Wellington (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, RN) and the corvettes HMS Clematis (Cdr. Y.M. Cleeves, DSO, DSC, RD, RNR), HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RNR), HMS Cyclamen (Lt. H.N. Lawson, RNR) and HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR).

On 18 December 1940 the following troop transports / transports departed from the Clyde;
(Dutch) Costa Rica (8055 GRT, built 1910), Ernebank (5388 GRT, built 1937), (Belgian) Leopoldville (11509 GRT, built 1929) and Neuralia (9182 GRT, built 1912). Ernebank was however forced to return around 1800 hours on the 21st escorted by HMS Witch and HMS St. Mary’s. On the 22nd, HMS Wellington, was detached to take over the escort of the Ernebank. They were escorted by the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Cairo (Capt. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) and the destroyers HMS Bath (Cdr.(Retd.) A.V. Hemming, RN), HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN), HMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) S.G.C. Rawson, RN), HMS Worcester (Lt.Cdr. E.C. Coats, RN).

On 18 December 1940 the following troop transports / transports departed from Lough Foyle (Belfast); City of Derby (6616 GRT, built 1921) and Stentor (6148 GRT, built 1926). They were escorted by the destroyer HMS Venomous (Lt.Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, RN).

The slow part of the convoy was met around dawn on the 19th by the light cruiser HMS Bonaventure (Capt. H.G. Egerton, RN) and the destroyers HMS Vesper (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN), HMS Harvester (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, RN) and HMS Highlander (Cdr. W.A. Dallmeyer, RN).

Around 2300/21 all destroyers parted company with the slow part of the convoy.

On 19 December 1940 the following troop transports / transports departed Liverpool, they formed WS 5A fast;
Clan MacDonald (9653 GRT, built 1939), Essex (13655 GRT, built 1936) and Northern Prince (10917 GRT, built 1929).

On 19 December 1940 the following troop transports / transports departed from the Clyde;
Adviser (6348 GRT, built 1939), Arabistan (5874 GRT, built 1929), Barrister (6348 GRT, built 1939), Benrinnes (5410 GRT, built 1921), Clan Cumming (7264 GRT, built 1938), Empire Song (9228 GRT, built 1940) and Empire Trooper (14106 GRT, built 1922).

Escort for the fast section of convoy WS 5A joined around dawn on the 20th and was provided by the aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Naiad (Capt. M.H.A. Kelsey, DSC, RN), destroyers HMCS Ottawa (Cdr. E.R. Mainguy, RCN), HMCS St. Laurent (Lt. H.S. Rayner, RCN) and Piorun (Cdr. E.J.S. Plawski) which came from the Clyde. And also by the destroyers HMS Highlander, HMS Harvester and FS Le Triomphant (Cdr. P.M.J.R. Auboyneau) which came from Londonderry. The first two of these destroyers had fuelled there after escorting the slow part of the convoy for a while. Also the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) (with fighters embarked for Takoradi) and the destroyers HMS Beverley (Cdr.(Retd.) E.F. Fitzgerald, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Allison, DSO, RN) and HMS Kipling joined from Liverpool.

The destroyers of the fast portion of the convoy were detached during the night of 21/22 December 1940.

At dawn on 23 December 1940 the slow and fast part of the convoy made rendez-vous and proceeded in company.

On the 24th, HMS Naiad parted company to return to the U.K. The heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.L. Warren, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Dunedin (Capt. R.S. Lovatt, RN) both joined the escort of the convoy.

At dawn on the 25th the convoy was attacked by the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. She had made contact with the convoy with radar the previous day and had already made a torpedo attack shortly before 0400/25 but no hits had been obtained nor had the attack been noticed by the British.

Then shortly after 0800/25 she made visual contact with the convoy and it came as a surprise to the Germans to sight HMS Berwick.

Around 0830 hours the Germans opened fire on HMS Berwick but due to the bad visibility she soon shifted target to the troopship Empire Trooper which was not in her assigned station. The troopship was slightly damaged as was the merchant vessel Arabistan.

The convoy was ordered to scatter and HMS Berwick and HMS Bonaventure both engaged the German cruiser as did the corvette Cyclamen briefly.

Meanwhile HMS Dunedin laid a smokescreen to cover the ships of the convoy. HMS Furious flew off a few aircraft but these failed to find the German cruiser in the bad visibility.

HMS Berwick was damaged by gunfire from the German cruiser but she forced, together with HMS Bonaventure, the enemy to break off the action around 0915 hours.

In the evening HMS Boneventure was detached to search for the damaged Empire Trooper.

On the 28th the convoy was reassembled at sea (minus Empire Trooper which was ordered to proceed to Gibraltar via the Azores) and continued on to Freetown where it arrived on 6 January 1941. (1)

2 May 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN) and HMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) S.G.C. Rawson, RN). (2)

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. ADM 199/1136
  2. File 2.12.03.6387 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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