USS Twiggs (DD-127)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS Twiggs.
HMS Leamington
HMS Leamington, ex-Twiggs (DD-127)
Career (U.S.)
Name: USS Twiggs (DD-127)
Namesake: Levi Twiggs
Builder: New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey
Laid down: 23 January 1918
Launched: 28 September 1918
Commissioned: 28 July 1919 to 24 June 1922
20 February 1930 to 6 April 1937
30 September 1939 to 23 October 1940
Struck: 8 January 1941
Fate: Transferred to UK, 23 October 1940
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Leamington (G19)
Acquired: 23 October 1940
Fate: Transferred to USSR, 16 July 1944
Notes: Transferred to Canada October 1942; returned to United Kingdom December 1943 or January 1944
Career (Canada)
Name: HMCS Leamington
Acquired: October 1942
Honours and
awards:
Arctic 1942, Atlantic 1944-45
Fate: Returned to United Kingdom, December 1943 or January 1944
Career (Soviet Union)
Name: Zhguchi (Fiery)
Acquired: 16 July 1944
Fate: Returned to UK, 1950 and scrapped, on 26 July 1951
General characteristics
Class & type: Wickes-class destroyer
Displacement: 1,306 long tons (1,327 t)
Length: 314 ft 4 in (95.81 m)
Beam: 30 ft 11 in (9.42 m)
Draft: 9 ft 9 in (2.97 m)
Propulsion: 2 × steam turbines
2 × shafts
Speed: 35 kn (40 mph; 65 km/h)
Complement: 122 officers and enlisted
Armament: 4 × 4 in (100 mm) guns
2 × 3 in (76 mm) guns
12 × 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes

The first USS Twiggs (DD–127) was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War I. She was named for Major Levi Twiggs. She was later transferred to the Royal Navy, as HMS Leamington and to the Soviet Navy as Zhguchi, before returning to Britain to star in the film The Gift Horse, which depicts the St. Nazaire Raid.

Service history[edit]

As USS Twiggs[edit]

Twiggs was laid down on 23 January 1918 at Camden, New Jersey, by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation; launched on 28 September 1918; sponsored by Miss Lillie S. Getchell, the granddaughter of Major Twiggs; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 28 July 1919, Commander Isaac C. Johnson, Jr., in command.

Following shakedown, the destroyer joined Destroyer Division 16 (DesDiv 16), Destroyer Squadron 4 (Desron 4), Pacific Fleet, late in October 1919 and operated out of San Diego, California, on training cruises through the spring of 1922. While performing this duty, Twiggs was classified DD-127 on 17 July 1920 during the Navy-wide assignment of alphanumeric hull numbers. A combination of factors—increased operating costs, manpower shortages, and the general anti-military climate which followed World War I—resulted in a reduction of the Navy's active Fleet. Accordingly, Twiggs was decommissioned at San Diego on 24 June 1922.

After almost eight years of inactivity, Twiggs was placed in commission again on 20 February 1930 at San Diego, Lieutenant Commander Thomas S. King II in command. She became flagship of DesDiv 14 and conducted operations out of San Diego with the Battle Fleet until late in the year. Early in February 1931, she headed south from San Francisco with the Battle Fleet to participate in the annual Fleet concentration with the Scouting Fleet. At the end of the exercises on 15 March 1931, Twiggs was reassigned to the Scouting Fleet, soon to be redesignated the Scouting Force as a result of the Fleet Reorganization of on 1 April 1931. Twiggs new home port was Charleston, South Carolina, whence she operated as flagship of DesDiv 7 until late in the spring of 1933. Sometime between 1 April and on 1 July 1933, she rejoined the Battle Force destroyers on the west coast as a unit of DesDiv 6, DesRon 2. The destroyer was completely active until on 1 November 1933 when she joined Rotating Reserve DesRon 20 at San Diego. She remained there in a caretaker status—with a minimum crew on board—until on 1 July 1934, when she returned to fully active duty with DesDiv 4, DesRon 2. She operated out of San Diego with the Battle Force destroyers until late in 1936 when she began preparations for decommissioning. On 6 April 1937, Twiggs was placed out of commission and berthed at San Diego once again.

Towards the end of the destroyer's sojourn in San Diego's "red lead row", Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. To augment the "Neutrality Patrol" which President Franklin Roosevelt had placed around the eastern seaboard and Gulf ports, the Navy quickly set the wheels in motion to recommission 77 destroyers and light minelayers which had been in reserve at either Philadelphia or San Diego. As part of this operation, Twiggs was recommissioned at San Diego on 30 September 1939, Cdr. Lyman K. Swenson in command.

As flagship for DesDiv 64, DesRon 32, Twiggs initially operated out of San Diego on shakedown and training cruises through November. In company with eight of her sister ships, she transited the Panama Canal early in December. Soon after reaching her new base at Key West, Florida, Twiggs got underway to shadow the British destroyer HMS Hereward. Later in the month, she joined sister ship Evans and the heavy cruiser Vincennes in keeping a close watch on the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth as she prowled the Gulf of Yucatan on the alert to intercept the German liner SS Columbus which was attempting to slip through the Royal Navy to safety in Germany. The Americans maintained such a close surveillance of the Australian ship that her exasperated commander—Captain F. B. "Fearless Freddie" Farncomb—was heard to remark: "Queer idea of 'neutrality' these Americans have!"[citation needed]

During her subsequent operations with DesDiv 64, Twiggs conducted neutrality patrols, training cruises for Naval Reserve contingents, battle practices, and exercises through the summer of 1940.

Meanwhile, by the spring of 1940, the Allied cause had taken a decided turn for the worse, as Norway fell after a disastrous British-Norwegian defense, and France and the Low Countries crumbled under the German blitzkrieg. In addition, German submarines—preying upon the convoys in the Atlantic which served as England's lifeline—began taking heavy tolls on both the cargo ships and their escorts. After the fall of France, Britain found herself very much alone in her struggle to prevent German hegemony in Europe.

With British destroyer forces in bad shape (the beatings taken in Norway, in the Atlantic convoy lanes, and in the Dunkirk evacuation had cut deeply into the Royal Navy list of escort ships), Prime Minister Winston Churchill appealed to the U.S. for aid. By the summer of 1940, President Roosevelt hit upon a solution to the problems respectively facing the U.S. and Britain. Accordingly, he and the Prime Minister reached the Destroyers for Bases Agreement; in exchange for transferring 50 World War I-era destroyers to the British, the U.S. would gain 99-year leases on strategic base sites in the Western Hemisphere.

As the summer of 1940 gave way to fall, Twiggs began preparation for her transfer to Britain. She arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia—the turnover point for the "50 ships that saved the world"—on 16 October 1940. The destroyer was decommissioned on 23 October, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 8 January 1941.

As HMS Leamington[edit]

Turned over to the Royal Navy on 23 October 1940, the flush-decker became HMS Leamington (G19), with Cdr. W. E. Banks, DSO, in command. She shifted to St. John's, Newfoundland, whence she departed on 4 November as part of the 4th "Town" Flotilla, bound for the British Isles. En route to Belfast, Northern Ireland, she and her sister ships passed through the scene of the action fought on 5 November 1940 by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay, in defense of the homeward-bound Convoy HX-84, against the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. Jervis Bay '​s gallant delaying action enabled 32 of the 37 ships in the convoy to escape, although she herself was sunk in the action. Leamington searched for survivors but could find no signs of life.

Proceeding via Belfast, Northern Ireland, Leamington arrived at Plymouth, England, on 15 November. There, the destroyer was allocated to the 2nd Escort Group, Western Approaches Command, based at Derry. She conducted convoy escort missions across the Atlantic into 1941. While in the screen of Convoy SC-48 (it had been attacked by German U-boats for more than a week), Leamington teamed with the destroyer HMS Veteran in sinking U-207 off the east coast of Greenland on 11 September.

On 27 March 1942, Leamington added another "kill" to her record when she and three other destroyers sent U-587 to the bottom as the U-boat threatened Middle East-bound troop convoy WS-27. That summer, as the flush decker steamed toward North Russia in the screen of the ill-fated convoy, PQ-17, the German battleship Tirpitz was reported to be on the prowl. Because it was believed that the massed convoy—even with battleship and cruiser escort—presented an easy target for Tirpitz, the escort screen was pulled back and the cargo ships told to separate. The hope was that by allowing the merchantmen to reach the Russian port of Murmansk on their own, the convoy would have a better chance of survival if Tirpitz attacked. However, scattering the convoy exposed the lone, unescorted ships to enemy attack of a different sort; German U-boats and aircraft—which could now attacked unopposed—swarmed over the convoy. PQ-17 lost 23 of its 34 ships. No other Russian convoy during the entire war suffered so severely.

Leamington was refitted at Hartlepool, England, between August and November 1942 and then resumed convoy escort missions in the Atlantic. On 12 November, the Panamian registry merchantman SS Buchanan was torpedoed by U-224. Thirteen days later, Leamington—assisted by aircraft—located the last of the freighter's four lifeboats and took aboard its 17 uninjured sailors.

As HMCS Leamington[edit]

In October 1942, the Royal Navy transferred Leamington to the Royal Canadian Navy, who employed her in the defense of shipping in the western Atlantic over the next 14 months. She experienced extremely bad weather, with extensive icing conditions, while operating in the North Atlantic in late 1942 and early 1943. At one point, the ship reached Halifax after a severe gale on 22 January 1943, coated from bridge to forecastle deck with ice varying from 2–10 ft (0.61–3.05 m) thick.

On 14 May 1943, Leamington collided with the American minesweeper USS Albatross and was docked at Halifax for repairs but managed to be seaworthy again by the end of the month. She then sailed south to Norfolk, which she reached on 27 June, and underwent permanent repairs there until September.

As Zhguchi[edit]

Departing Halifax on 22 December, Leamington returned to the British Isles and reverted to Royal Navy control. After a period of service based at Rosyth, Scotland, Leamington was placed in reserve at the Tyne. However, on 16 June 1944, the British loaned the ship to the Russians, who renamed her Zhguchi (rus. Жгучий, "Fiery"). She served under the Russian flag through 1949 and was returned to Great Britain in 1950, when she starred in the Trevor Howard film Gift Horse as the fictional "HMS Ballantrae", (ex- "USS Whittier") which depicted the St Nazaire Raid. She was subsequently sold to John Cashmore Ltd and broken up for scrap at Newport, Wales on 26 July 1951.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]