Battle Class Destroyer - "1942" or "Early Battle" Class - Service

Service

Delays in completion of these ships was caused, as in other classes, by the late delivery of the Mk VI DCT's and fire control systems. The first ship, Barfleur was launched in November 1943 and was completed by Swan Hunter in mid 1944, but by August her DCT had still not been delivered. Consequently, she ran trials in September and was commissioned, but had to return to the Tyne to await delivery and fitting of her director and fire control system. Other ships were similarly affected, Trafalgar spending many months laid up in the Tyne during 1944.

It was intended that the first eight ships would form the 19th Destroyer Flotilla with the British Pacific Fleet in the Far East, but only Barfleur made it to the Pacific in time to take part in operations against Japan. Barfleur was in Tokyo Bay during the Japanese surrender ceremony on 3 September 1945. After the end of hostilities she was joined by Armada, Trafalgar, Hogue, Lagos and Camperdown. In 1947 all six ships returned home and went into reserve.

The other two other ships destined for the 19th Flotilla, Solebay and Finisterre were retained in home waters, Finisterre became gunnery training ship for the Portsmouth Command and Solebay leader of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Home Fleet, which consisted of six ships of the second flotilla, Cadiz, Gabbard, St. James, St. Kitts, Saintes (see below) and Sluys. The other two ships of the second flotilla Gravelines and Vigo going straight into reserve upon completion.

The ships of the second flotilla saw a change in the light AA armament. The tri-axially stabilised Dutch "Hazemeyer" mountings with their Radar Type 282 were regarded as unreliable and were replaced by an Admiralty designed Stabilised Tachymetric Anti Aircraft Gun (STAAG). The Hazemeyer's Radar Type 282 was metric and operated through a pair of Yagi antennae, and could therefore only supply target range. The British design utilised the Radar Type 262 centimetric radar with a small spinning dish aerial which gave range and bearing and was capable of "locking on" to a target and could train and elevate the guns as the target moved. The British design was more complicated than the Dutch design and weighed a massive 17 tons each (compared with the Hazemeyer's 7 tons). This meant that only two mountings could be installed in order to keep the top hamper within acceptable limits. These were fitted to the top of the after deckhouse. The middle gundeck, between the torpedo tubes, was left empty. In practice these mountings proved even less reliable than the ones they replaced and led to three ships Saintes, Camperdown and Trafalgar eventually having them replaced by Mk V "utility" mountings, each controlled by a Simple Tachymetric Director (STD) mounted on the top of the gun crew shelter. A further refinement saw the removal of the depth charge equipment and single 40/60 mm Bofors gun from the quarterdeck to be replaced by a Squid ahead throwing depth charge mortar. The after deckhouse was extended to contain a mortar handling room. This eventually became the standard weapons fit for all of the 1942 Battles.

A variation occurred when Saintes was completed with a 4.5 inch RP 41 Mark VI turret in the "B" gun position. Commissioned in September 1946 into the 5th Destroyer Flotilla Saintes spent most of the time in independent trials of the new gun. During these trials, whilst carrying out live firing exercises in the Solent, Saintes opened fire on a target towed by the Brigand class tug Buccaneer, missed the target and sank the tug. Upon completion of trials Saintes paid off and was refitted with the standard Battle class armament before being laid up.

Saintes recommissioned in 1949 when, as D3, and with Armada, Vigo and Gravelines, they replaced HMS Troubridge and the "V" class as the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean Fleet. Barfleur replaced Gravelines in the 3rd Flotilla, but no major changes took place until 1953. The appearance of the Darings at this time spelled the demise of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, and after the Coronation Review all six ships went into reserve. Only two,Solebay and St. Kitts saw further service with the Royal Navy. In 1956 Saintes headed home for a major refit at Rosyth, her crew transferring to Armada. Vigo also returning to home waters to replace Finisterre as gunnery training ship at Portsmouth. By late 1956 only four ships remained operational. Armada, Barfleur and St. Kitts with the 3rd Destroyer Squadron (as they had now been designated) and Vigo as Portsmouth Command gunnery training ship. All the other ships were either in reserve or undergoing refit. Most had the fire control system updated and new ASDIC fitted and those that still had the quarterdeck AA gun had it replaced by the Squid A/S mortar.

The late 1950s saw the Battles back in business. In 1957 the "Ch" destroyers of the 1st Destroyer Squadron were replaced by the newly refitted Solebay, Hogue and Lagos. Initially serving with the Mediterranean Fleet, in 1959 the squadron deployed to the Far East, where Hogue's career came to an abrupt end when she was rammed by the Indian cruiser Mysore (formerly HMS Nigeria). She was towed to Singapore where she was laid up until scrapped in 1962. Upon the return home of the remaining ships in 1960 Hogue was replaced in the squadron by Finisterre.

In 1957 a newly refitted Camperdown, which had been in reserve since returning from the Far East with the 19th Destroyer Flotilla ten years previously, was brought back into service to relieve St. Kitts in the 3rd Destroyer Squadron. The following year Saintes having finished her major refit at Rosyth resumed command of the 3rd Squadron, relieving Barfleur in the Mediterranean. Five years later St. Kitts was broken up at Sunderland. Barfleur was laid up for several years before being broken up at Dalmuir in 1966.

One other Battle was given a new lease of life. Trafalgar also laid up in 1947 was refitted and commissioned in 1958 as leader of the 7th Destroyer Squadron. She continued in service, alternating between the Home and Mediterranean Fleets until she finally paid off in 1963. In 1970 she arrived at Dalmuir to be broken up.

Gravelines and St. James also commenced refit at Devonport in 1958 but these were stopped a few months later. Both ships were sent to the breakers in 1961.

Three other ships began a new lease of life in the late 1950s. In 1957 Cadiz and Gabbard were sold to Pakistan and renamed Khaibar and Badr. Khaibar was lost to a missile attack in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

Sluys ended 13 years in the Devonport reserve when she was sold to Iran in 1966. Renamed Artemiz she completed a three year refit at Vosper Thornycroft at Southampton. Her profile was radically altered. She was given a new, plated foremast to carry the parabolic aerial of a Plessey AWS 1 long range search radar. A fully enclosed bridge replaced the usual "open sundeck" above the forward superstructure. She retained her 4.5 inch main armament, but these were now controlled by a modern radar and fire control system. Her AA armament now consisted of four single 40/60 mm guns and a quadruple Sea Cat missile launcher on the after end of a new deckhouse which stretched from just aft of the funnel to the quarterdeck. She commissioned in 1970 as a training ship. During 1975/6 she was refitted at Cape Town and fitted with surface to surface missile launchers. During a later refit carried out by the Russians her main gunnery radar and control systems were again modernised, although she retained her original guns, and the Sea Cat system was replaced by a modern Russian surface to air missile system. She was still in existence in the early 1990s although believed to be non-operational.

In 1960 the 1st and 3rd Destroyer Squadrons were amalgamated to form a new 1st Destroyer Squadron. As a result Lagos and Armada paid off into reserve, Armada being broken up at Inverkiething in 1965 and Lagos at Bo'ness in 1967.

The new 1st Destroyer Squadron completed a very busy final two year commission before finally paying off in May 1962. Solebay became Portsmouth harbour training ship until being scrapped at Troon in 1967. Finisterre remained in Chatham reserve until being broken up at Dalmuir in 1967. Camperdown was laid up in the Hamoaze at Devonport for many years until finally being sent to the breakers yard at Faslane in 1970.

Now only Saintes remained. On paying off in 1962 a volunteer towing crew from her last commission took her to Rosyth, where she went into reserve. Here she was used as the training ship for Artificer Apprentices from HMS Caledonia who kept her engines and machinery in full working order. She was eventually replaced by the frigate HMS Duncan in 1972 and she too headed for the breakers yard at Cairn Ryan, the last of the Royal Navy's 1942 Battle class destroyers.

Read more about this topic:  Battle Class Destroyer, "1942" or "Early Battle" Class

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