USS Thomas (DD-182)
|Namesake:||Clarence Crase Thomas|
|Builder:||Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company|
|Laid down:||23 March 1918|
|Launched:||4 July 1918|
|Struck:||8 January 1941|
|Fate:||Transferred to UK, 23 September 1940|
|Name:||HMS St Albans|
|Commissioned:||23 September 1940|
|Fate:||Transferred Royal Norwegian Navy in exile April 1941|
|Name:||HNoMS St Albans|
|Commissioned:||14 April 1941|
|Fate:||Returned to UK, 4 May 1944|
|Acquired:||16 July 1944|
|Fate:||Transferred to UK for scrapping, 28 February 1949|
|Class and type:||Wickes-class destroyer|
|Length:||314 ft 4 1⁄2 in (95.822 m)|
|Beam:||31 ft 8 in (9.65 m)|
|Draft:||9 ft 4 in (2.84 m)|
|Speed:||35 knots (65 km/h)|
|Complement:||101 officers and enlisted|
The first USS Thomas (DD–182) was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy following World War I. She was later transferred to the Royal Navy as HMS St Albans (I15), as a Town-class destroyer, but spent most of the war in the exiled Royal Norwegian Navy, before transferred to the Soviet Navy as Dostoyny.
As USS Thomas
Named after Clarence Crase Thomas, she was laid down on 23 March 1918 at Newport News, Virginia, by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company; launched on 4 July 1918; sponsored by Mrs. Evelyn M. Thomas, widow of Lieutenant Thomas; and commissioned on 25 April 1919, Lieutenant Commander Harry A. McClure in command.
Thomas operated off the east coast on training cruises and exercises until decommissioned at Philadelphia on 30 June 1922. During this service, she was classified DD-182 during the Navy-wide assignment of alphanumeric hull numbers on 17 July 1920. She lay in reserve in the Philadelphia Navy Yard's back channel for the next 18 years.
Recommissioned on 17 June 1940 — as the United States Navy expanded to meet the demands imposed by neutrality patrols off American coastlines — Thomas was assigned to Destroyer Division 79 of the Atlantic Squadron and operated briefly in training and exercises off the eastern seaboard until transferred to the United Kingdom under the "destroyer-for-bases" agreement. She arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 18 September 1940 as part of the second increment of the 50 flush-decked, 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, Thomas was officially turned over to her new owners on 23 September 1940. Her name was subsequently struck from the United States Navy list on 8 January 1941.
As HMS St Albans
Simultaneously renamed HMS St Albans (I15) 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 — HMS St Mary's, HMS Bath, and HMS 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 SS Almeda Star, torpedoed by U-96 on 17 January. St Albans underwent repairs at Chatham in February to prepare for her transfer to the Royal Norwegian Navy-in-exile on 14 April.
As HNoMS St. Albans
St. Albans had no sooner entered service with the Norwegians than she collided with the minesweeping Trawler HMS Alberic, sinking the Trawler 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 steamship SS Empire Dew — torpedoed that day by the German submarine 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 the 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's Norwegian sailors brought her safely into Reykjavík, Iceland. The destroyer's seaworthiness and the seamanship exhibited by her Norwegian crew elicited a warm commendatory signal from the Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches (C-in-C WA). 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 aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious from Liverpool to the Clyde and, in the following month, helped to screen convoy PQ 15 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 ORP Jastrząb on 2 May. Five crewmen were killed.
A court of Enquiry found that Jastrząb was 100 miles out of position, in an area where U-boats were expected to operate, and no blame could be attached to either commander. However this conclusion is disputed by other sources.
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 RMS Queen Elizabeth, as the Cunarder 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 RAF 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 German-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 1943, St Albans arrived in the Tyne on 10 January 1944, where she was soon laid up in reserve.
On 16 July 1944, the British transferred St Albans to the Soviet Navy, who renamed her Dostoyny (rus. Достойный, "Worthy"). She sailed under the "hammer and sickle" until returned to the British on 28 February 1949 at Rosyth, Scotland. This veteran of service with four different navies — those of the United States, Britain, Norway, and the Soviet Union — was eventually broken up for scrap at Charlestown, England, in April 1949.
- Dashyan, A.V.: Korabli Vtoroy mirovoy voyny - VMS Polshy i stran Skandinavii (Danii, Norwegii, Shvetsii i Finlandii)" (Корабли Второй мировой войны - ВМС Польши и стран Скандинавии (Дании, Норвегии, Швеции и Финляндии)), Morskaya Kollektsya nr. 3/2005 (Russian)
- Paul Kemp : Convoy! Drama in Arctic Waters p47 (1993) ISBN 1-85409-130-1
- "Thomas I". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History & Heritage Command.
- According to Jerzy Pertek, "Wielkie dni małej floty", Poznań 1976, p.325 (Polish) they were found guilty on 13 July 1942, for they had no right to attack submarines in that sector and the commander of "St. Albans" did not know recognition signs.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.