Destroyers for Bases Agreement

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In the Destroyers for Bases Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom on September 2, 1940, fifty Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemsonclass US Navy destroyers were transferred to the Royal Navy from the United States Navy in exchange for land rights on British possessions. Generally referred to as the "twelve hundred-ton type" (also known as "flush-deck", or "four-pipers" after their four funnels), the destroyers became the British Townclass and were named after towns common to both the United States and Britain. [1] Roosevelt used an executive agreement that did not require Congressional approval, but he came under heavy attack from antiwar political elements.

<i>Caldwell</i>-class destroyer ship class

The Caldwell class of destroyers served in the United States Navy near the end of World War I. Four served as convoy escorts in the Atlantic; the other two were completed too late for wartime service. Two were scrapped during the 1930s, but four survived to serve throughout World War II, three of these in service with the Royal Navy under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement.

<i>Wickes</i>-class destroyer ship class

The Wickes-class destroyers were a class of 111 destroyers built by the United States Navy in 1917–19. Along with the 6 preceding Caldwell-class and 156 subsequent Clemson-class destroyers, they formed the "flush-deck" or "four-stack" type. Only a few were completed in time to serve in World War I, including USS Wickes, the lead ship of the class.

<i>Clemson</i>-class destroyer ship class

The Clemson class was a series of 156 destroyers which served with the United States Navy from after World War I through World War II.



By late June 1940, Germany had defeated France, and the British and their Commonwealth and Empire stood alone in warfare against Hitler and Mussolini.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

The British Chiefs of Staff Committee concluded in May that if France collapsed, "we do not think we could continue the war with any chance of success" without "full economic and financial support" from the United States of America. [2] Although the United States government was sympathetic to Britain's plight, American public opinion at the time overwhelmingly supported isolationism to avoid US involvement in "another European war". Reflecting this sentiment, Congress had passed the Neutrality Acts three years previously, which banned the shipment or sale of arms from the US to any combatant nation. Additionally, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was further constrained by the upcoming 1940 Presidential election, as his critics sought to portray him as being pro-war. Legal advice from the United States Justice Department stated that the transaction was legal. [3]

Chiefs of Staff Committee

The Chiefs of Staff Committee (CSC) is composed of the most senior military personnel in the British Armed Forces who advise on operational military matters and the preparation and conduct of military operations. The committee consists of the Chief of the Defence Staff who is the chairman and professional head of the forces, the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, who is the vice-chairman and deputy professional head of the armed forces. The Committee also consists of the professional heads of each branch of the armed forces: the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, the Chief of the General Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff.

Non-interventionism is the diplomatic policy whereby a nation seeks to avoid alliances with other nations in order to avoid being drawn into wars not related to direct territorial self-defense, has had a long history among government and popular opinion in the United States. At times, the degree and nature of this policy was better known as isolationism, such as the period between the world wars.

Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd president of the United States

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the Democratic Party, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II, which ended shortly after he died in office. He has been subject to substantial criticism. He is rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

By late May, following the evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk, France, in Operation Dynamo, the Royal Navy was in immediate need of ships, especially as they were now fighting the Battle of the Atlantic in which German U-boats threatened Britain's supplies of food and other resources essential to the war effort.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

Battle of the Atlantic longest continuous military campaign in World War II

The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, running from 1939 to the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, and was a major part of the Naval history of World War II. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany's subsequent counter-blockade. It was at its height from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943.

U-boat German submarine of the First or Second World War

U-boat is an anglicised version of the German word U-Boot[ˈuːboːt](listen), a shortening of Unterseeboot, literally "underseaboat". While the German term refers to any submarine, the English one refers specifically to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in the First and Second World Wars. Although at times they were efficient fleet weapons against enemy naval warships, they were most effectively used in an economic warfare role and enforcing a naval blockade against enemy shipping. The primary targets of the U-boat campaigns in both wars were the merchant convoys bringing supplies from Canada and other parts of the British Empire, and from the United States to the United Kingdom and to the Soviet Union and the Allied territories in the Mediterranean. German submarines also destroyed Brazilian merchant ships during World War II, causing Brazil to declare war on the Axis powers in 1944.

With German troops advancing rapidly into France and many in the US Government convinced that the defeat of France and Britain was imminent, the United States sent a proposal to London through the British Ambassador, the Marquess of Lothian, for an American lease of airfields on Trinidad, Bermuda, and Newfoundland. [4] British Prime Minister Winston Churchill initially rejected the offer on May 27 unless Britain received something immediate in return. On June 1, as the defeat of France loomed, President Roosevelt bypassed the Neutrality Act by declaring as "surplus" many millions of rounds of American ammunition and obsolescent small arms, and authorizing their shipment to the United Kingdom. However, Roosevelt rejected Churchill's pleas for destroyers for the Royal Navy.

Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian British politician, diplomat and newspaper editor

Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian,, known as Philip Kerr until 1930, was a British politician, diplomat and newspaper editor. He was private secretary to Prime Minister David Lloyd George between 1916 and 1921. After succeeding a cousin in the marquessate in 1930, he held minor office from 1931 to 1932 in the National Government, headed by Ramsay MacDonald.

Trinidad The larger of the two major islands which make up the nation of Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The island lies 11 km (6.8 mi) off the northeastern coast of Venezuela and sits on the continental shelf of South America. Though geographically part of the South American continent, from a socio-economic standpoint it is often referred to as the southernmost island in the Caribbean. With an area of 4,768 km2 (1,841 sq mi), it is also the fifth largest in the West Indies.

Bermuda British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean

Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is approximately 1,070 km (665 mi) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; 1,236 km (768 mi) south of Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia; and 1,759 km (1,093 mi) northeast of Cuba. The capital city is Hamilton. Bermuda is self-governing, with its own constitution and government and a Parliament which makes local laws. The United Kingdom retains responsibility for defence and foreign relations. As of July 2018, its population is 71,176, the highest of the British overseas territories.

By August, while Britain reached a low point, U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy reported from London that a British surrender was "inevitable". Seeking to persuade Roosevelt to send the destroyers, Churchill warned Roosevelt ominously that if Britain were vanquished, its colonial islands close to American shores could become a direct threat to America if they fell into German hands.

The deal

President Roosevelt approved the deal on the evening of August 30, 1940. [5] On September 2, 1940, as the Battle of Britain intensified, Secretary of State Cordell Hull signaled agreement to the transfer of the warships to the Royal Navy. On September 3, 1940, Admiral Harold Stark certified that the destroyers were not vital to the security of the United States. In exchange, the US was granted land in various British possessions for the establishment of naval or air bases with rent-free, 99-year leases, on:

The agreement also granted the US air and naval base rights in:

No destroyers were received in exchange for the bases in Bermuda and Newfoundland. Both territories were vital to trans-Atlantic shipping, aviation, and to the Battle of the Atlantic. Although enemy attack on either was unlikely, it could not be discounted, and Britain had been forced to wastefully maintain defensive forces, including the Bermuda Garrison. The deal allowed Britain to hand much of the defence of Bermuda over to the still-neutral US, freeing British forces for redeployment to more active theatres. It also enabled the development of strategic facilities at US expense which British forces would also use.

American and British sailors examine depth charges. In the background are US Wickes-class destroyers before their transfer Wickes class destroyers before transfer to the UK 1940.JPG
American and British sailors examine depth charges. In the background are US Wickes-classdestroyers before their transfer

The Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) each maintained air stations in Bermuda at the start of the war, but these only served flying boats. The RAF station on Darrell's Island served as a staging point for trans-Atlantic flights by RAF Transport Command and RAF Ferry Command, BOAC, and Pan-Am, as well as hosting the Bermuda Flying School, but did not operate maritime patrols. The FAA station on Boaz Island, existed to service aircraft based on vessels operating from or through the Royal Naval Dockyard, but attempted to maintain maritime patrols using pilots from naval ships, RAF Darrell's Island, and the Bermuda Flying School.

The agreement for bases in Bermuda stipulated that the US would, at its own expense, build an airfield, capable of handling large landplanes, which would be operated jointly by the US Army Air Force and the Royal Air Force. The airfield was named Kindley Field (after Field Kindley, an American aviator who fought for Britain during the First World War). RAF Transport Command relocated its operations to the airfield when it was completed in 1943, although RAF Ferry Command remained at Darrell's Island. Prior to this, the US Navy had established the Naval Operating Base at Bermuda's West End. This was a flying boat station, from which maritime patrols were operated for the remainder of the war (the US Navy had actually begun operating such patrols from RAF Darrell's Island, using floatplanes, while waiting for their own base to become operational). The RAF and FAA facilities were closed after the war, leaving only the US air bases in Bermuda. The Naval Operating Base ceased to be an air station in 1965, when its flying boats were replaced by Lockheed P-2 Neptunes, operating from the Kindley Air Force Base (as the former US Army airfield had become). These U.S. air bases were in fact only two of several US military facilities that operated in Bermuda during the Twentieth Century. The United States abandoned many of these bases in 1949 and the remaining few were closed in 1995.

The U.S. accepted the "generous action… to enhance the national security of the United States" and immediately transferred in return 50 Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson-class U.S. Navy destroyers, "generally referred to as the twelve hundred-ton type" (also known as "flush-deckers", or "four-pipers" after their four funnels). Forty-three ships initially went to the British Royal Navy and seven to the Royal Canadian Navy. In the Commonwealth navies, the ships were renamed after towns, and were therefore known as the "Town" class, although they had originally belonged to three classes (Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson). Before the end of the war, nine others also served with the Royal Canadian Navy. Five Towns were manned by Royal Norwegian Navy crews, with the survivors later returned to the Royal Navy. HMS Campbeltown was manned by Royal Netherlands Navy sailors before her assignment to the St. Nazaire Raid. Nine other destroyers were eventually transferred to the Soviet Navy. Six of the 50 destroyers were lost to U-boats, and three others, including Campbeltown, were destroyed in other circumstances.

Britain had no choice but to accept the deal, but it was so much more advantageous to America than Britain that Churchill's aide John Colville compared it to the USSR's relationship with Finland. The destroyers were in reserve from the massive U.S. World War I shipbuilding program, and many of the vessels required extensive overhaul due to the fact that many were not preserved properly when inactivated; one British admiral called them the "worst destroyers I had ever seen", [6] and only 30 were in service by May 1941. [2] Churchill also disliked the deal, but his advisers persuaded the prime minister to merely tell Roosevelt that: [6]

We have so far only been able to bring a few of your fifty destroyers into action on account of the many defects which they naturally develop when exposed to Atlantic weather after having been laid up so long. [6]

Roosevelt responded by transferring ten Lake-class Coast Guard cutters to the Royal Navy in 1941. These United States Coast Guard vessels were ten years newer than the destroyers, and had greater range, making them more useful as anti-submarine convoy escorts. [7]

The agreement was much more important for being the start of the wartime Anglo-American partnership. Churchill said in Parliament that "these two great organisations of the English-speaking democracies, the British Empire and the United States, will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some of their affairs for mutual and general advantage". [2]

The bases

Northern America

Not actually part of the exchange, but the US received base rights here for free, in addition to those that were part of the exchange. The US Naval Operating Base was established in 1940, operating as a flying boat base until 1965 (when the US Navy switched to using landplanes from Kindley Air Force Base). The base continued in use for other purposes as the US Naval Annex until 1995. Construction began at the same time of a US Army Air Force airfield, Kindley Field, attached to Fort Bell, and which later became Kindley AFB. Transferred to the US Navy in 1970, it operated as NAS Bermuda until it was closed in 1995.
Several Army Air Force airfields. As with Bermuda, no destroyers or other war material was received in exchange for base rights in Newfoundland.
Pepperrell Airfield (later AFB) (closed August 1961)
Goose Bay Army Airfield (later AFB) (turned over to Canadian Forces, July 1976)
Stephenville Army Airfield (later AFB) (closed December 1966)
McAndrew Army Airfield (McAndrew Air Force Base in 1948; transferred to US Navy, 1955; closed 1994 and eventually transferred to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador for civilian use)
A Naval Air Station
Naval Station Argentia (closed 1994)
Multiple Marine and Army Bases and detachments in support of the above.

British West Indies

A Naval Air Station at Crabbs Peninsula
An Army Air Force airfield (Coolidge Army Airfield (later AFB)) (closed 1949)
Naval seaplane base on Exuma Island at George Town. [9] [10] [11]
An Army Air Force airfield (Atkinson Aerodrome (later AFB)) (closed 1949)
A Naval seaplane base near Suddie.
An Army Air Force airfield (Vernam Army Airfield (later AFB)) (closed 1949)
A Naval Air Station (Little Goat Island) and a Naval facility at Port Royal
An Army Air Force airfield (Beane Army Airfield (later AFB)) (closed 1949)
A Naval Air Station (Gros Islet Bay)
Two Army Air Force airfields
Waller Army Airfield (later AFB) (closed 1949)
Carlsen Army Airfield (later AFB) (closed 1949)
A Naval Operating Base, a Naval Air Station, blimp base, and a radio station [12]

The ships

A total of 50 ships were reassigned: 3 Caldwell-class, 27 Wickes-class, and 20 Clemson-class destroyers.

NoNameClassService history and fate
01 USS Craven (DD-70) CaldwellTo Britain. Renamed HMS Lewes. Scuttled on October 12, 1945.
02 USS Conner (DD-72) CaldwellTo Britain. Renamed HMS Leeds. Broken up in 1947.
03 USS Stockton (DD-73) CaldwellTo Britain. Renamed HMS Ludlow. Sunk as a target in 1945.
04 USS Wickes (DD-75) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Montgomery. Broken up in 1945.
05 USS Philip (DD-76) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Lancaster. Broken up in 1947.
06 USS Evans (DD-78) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Mansfield. Broken up in 1945.
07 USS Sigourney (DD-81) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Newport. Broken up in 1947.
08 USS Robinson (DD-88) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Newmarket. Broken up in 1945.
09 USS Ringgold (DD-89) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Newark. Broken up in 1947.
10 USS Fairfax (DD-93) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Richmond. To USSR in 1944. Renamed Zhivuchiy ("Tenacious"). Broken up in 1949.
11 USS Williams (DD-108) WickesTo Canada. Renamed HMCS St. Clair. Foundered in 1946.
12 USS Twiggs (DD-127) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Leamington. To USSR in 1944. Renamed Zhguchiy ("Firebrand"). Recreated the St. Nazaire raid in the Trevor Howard film Gift Horse. Broken up in 1951.
13 USS Buchanan (DD-131) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Campbeltown. Destroyed in the St. Nazaire Raid on March 28, 1942.
14 USS Aaron Ward (DD-132) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Castleton. Broken up in 1947.
15 USS Hale (DD-133) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Caldwell. Broken up in 1944.
16 USS Crowninshield (DD-134) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Chelsea. To USSR in 1944. Renamed Derzkiy ("Ardent"). Broken up in 1949.
17 USS Tillman (DD-135) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Wells. Broken up in 1945.
18 USS Claxton (DD-140) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Salisbury. Broken up in 1944.
19 USS Yarnall (DD-143) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Lincoln. To Canada in 1942. Renamed HMCS Lincoln. To USSR in 1944. Renamed Druzhny ("United"). Last one to be broken up, in 1952.
20 USS Thatcher (DD-162) WickesTo Canada. Renamed HMCS Niagara. Broken up in 1946.
21 USS Cowell (DD-167) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Brighton. To USSR in 1944. Renamed Zharkiy ("Zealous"). Returned to Britain and broken up in 1949.
22 USS Maddox (DD-168) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Georgetown. To USSR in 1944. Renamed Doblestny ("Valiant"). Broken up in 1949.
23 USS Foote (DD-169) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Roxborough. To USSR in 1944. Renamed Zhostkiy ("Adamant"). Returned to Britain and broken up in 1949.
24 USS Kalk (DD-170) WickesTo Canada. Renamed HMCS Hamilton. Broken up in 1945.
25 USS Mackenzie (DD-175) WickesTo Canada. Renamed HMCS Annapolis. Broken up in 1945.
26 USS Hopewell (DD-181) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Bath. Sunk on August 19, 1941 by U-204.
27 USS Thomas (DD-182) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS St. Albans. To USSR in 1944. Renamed Dostoyny ("Excellent"). Broken up in 1949.
28 USS Haraden (DD-183) WickesInitially to Britain and then on to Canada. Renamed HMS Columbia then HMCS Columbia. Broken up in 1945.
29 USS Abbot (DD-184) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS Charlestown. Broken up in 1947.
30 USS Doran (DD-185) WickesTo Britain. Renamed HMS St. Marys. Broken up in 1945.
31 USS Satterlee (DD-190) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Belmont. Sunk by U-82 on January 31, 1942.
32 USS Mason (DD-191) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Broadwater. Sunk by U-101 on October 18, 1941.
33 USS Abel P Upshur (DD-193) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Clare. Broken up in 1945.
34 USS Hunt (DD-194) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Broadway. Broken up in 1947.
35 USS Welborn C Wood (DD-195) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Chesterfield. Broken up in 1947.
36 USS Branch (DD-197) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Beverley. Sunk by U-188 on April 11, 1943.
37 USS Herndon (DD-198) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Churchill. To USSR in 1944. Renamed Deyatelny ("Active"). Sank on January 16, 1945 in uncertain circumstances.
38 USS McCook (DD-252) ClemsonTo Canada. Renamed HMCS St. Croix. Sunk by U-952 on September 20, 1943.
39 USS McCalla (DD-253) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Stanley. Sunk by U-574 on December 18, 1941.
40 USS Rodgers (DD-254) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Sherwood. Sunk as a target in 1945.
41 USS Bancroft (DD-256) ClemsonTo Canada. Renamed HMCS St. Francis. Foundered in 1945 while en route to scrap yard.
42 USS Welles (DD-257) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Cameron. Damaged beyond repair in an air raid at Portsmouth on December 5, 1940.
43 USS Aulick (DD-258) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Burnham. Broken up in 1947.
44 USS Laub (DD-263) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Burwell. Broken up in 1947.
45 USS McLanahan (DD-264) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Bradford. Broken up in 1946.
46 USS Edwards (DD-265) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Buxton. To Canada in 1943. Renamed HMCS Buxton. Broken up in 1946.
47 USS Shubrick (DD-268) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Ripley. Broken up in 1945.
48 USS Bailey (DD-269) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Reading. Broken up in 1945.
49 USS Swasey (DD-273) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Rockingham. Struck a mine on September 27, 1944, and sank while under tow.
50 USS Meade (DD-274) ClemsonTo Britain. Renamed HMS Ramsey. Broken up in 1947.

See also

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  8. Neary, 1985
  9. Naval base
  11. The Tourism Boom Archived 2013-03-13 at the Wayback Machine
  12. The Destroyer-Naval Base Exchange Archived 2013-09-27 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading