Allied Warships

HMS Caldwell (I 20)

Destroyer of the Town class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantI 20 
Built byBath Iron Works (Bath, Maine, U.S.A.) 
Laid down7 Oct 1918 
Launched29 May 1919 
Commissioned9 Sep 1940 
End service1 Dec 1944 

USS Hale (DD 133) arrived Halifax 6 September 1940 and decommissioned 3 days later. Entering the Royal Navy, she became HMS Caldwell During her career in the British Navy, Caldwell was assigned to escort duty in the Atlantic and later in the Caribbean, as Britain tried desperately to cope with the German U-boat menace. She joined the Royal Canadian Navy in mid-1942, and while returning to St. John's, Newfoundland, 18 December 1942, was seriously damaged during a heavy gale. She became disabled, and was found drifting helplessly by Wanderer 21 December. Caldwell was then towed to St. John's and later to Boston. Ready for sea again in May 1943, the ship resumed convoy duty with the Royal Canadian Navy until 1 December, when she returned to Tyne and was placed in reserve. Caldwell was broken up for scrap in September 1944.

Former nameUSS Hale (DD 133)

Commands listed for HMS Caldwell (I 20)

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1Lt.Cdr. Michael Wilfred Tomkinson, RN9 Sep 19401 Jan 1941
2Lt.Cdr. Eric Morrison Mackay, RNR1 Jan 1941mid 1943

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Notable events involving Caldwell include:

6 Sep 1941
HMS H 32 (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Douglas (Cdr. W.E. Banks, DSC, RN), HMS Skate (Lt. F.P. Baker, DSC, RN), HMS Leamington (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Bowerman, RN), HMS Chelsea (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Layard, RN) and HMS Caldwell (Lt.Cdr. E.M. Mackay, RNR). (1)

7 Sep 1941
HMS H 32 (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Chelsea (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Layard, RN) and HMS Caldwell (Lt.Cdr. E.M. Mackay, RNR) (1)

8 Sep 1941
HMS H 32 (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Chelsea (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Layard, RN) and HMS Caldwell (Lt.Cdr. E.M. Mackay, RNR) (1)

14 Nov 1941
HMS H 50 (Lt. E.T. Stanley, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Broke (Cdr. W.T. Couchman, OBE, RN), HMS Wolverine (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Rowland, RN), HMS Caldwell (Lt.Cdr. E.M. Mackay, RD, RNR) and HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN). (2)

18 Dec 1942
The Captain of HMS Caldwell, Lt. Cdr Eric Mackay D.S.C., R.D., RNR was not in his cabin when the forward bulkhead was stoved in by the wave that demolished the port wing of the bridge on the night of 16th December 1942. A signal was made to HMS Churchill for HMS Caldwell to return to St. John's. At 1400 on 18th December, the ship was engulfed by tons upon tons of seawater and lost main steering. The starboard wing of the bridge was folded up, the sea carrying away the whaler and davits. The secondary steering gear beyond the 12 pounder gun position was rendered useless. the scuttles in the Number One's cabin and the Wardroom were stoved in. The ship could not take another blow like the first two and was headed back into the Atlantic. On the morning of 19th the Chief Stoker was reported missing, presumed washed overboard. All through 19th & 20th HMS Caldwell steered 220. On 21st, still 400 miles out, fuel was critical. HMS Wanderer stood by until HMCS Skeena and an ocean tug arrived. Conditions deteriorated and fuel could not be passed and at 0800 the fires went out. On the night of 24th, the battered destroyer, frozen and lightless, secured to the dock at the end of a tow of 126 miles. By 27th December, the twin propellers were removed and at 1000 on 18th January the naval tug Foundation Franklin, took HMS Caldwell in tow for the 885 miles to Boston with HMCS Wasaga as escort. By noon the next day the weather changed and eventually the tow parted leaving HMS Caldell with 400 fathoms of 6" wire & 14" manila towline hanging from the bows. Heroic efforts to stream a sea anchor from the stern resulted in casualties. the seas became worse and by 1500 on 19th January, HMS Caldwell was alone. The 20th & 21st were nightmares. The tug St. Anne and HMS Salisbury had to turn back on the 20th due to heavy icing. On 21st, the tug William Moran and HMCS Columbia also could not help. Then 0900 on 22nd January HMCS Columbia found HMS Caldwell and tried to take the destroyer in tow using the 400 fathoms of existing towline. This not being possible, another towline was passed but it was fed out too fast and fouled HMCS Columbia's props. Then HMCS Wasaga returned on station and succeeded in passing a towline and with HMCS Columbia, props cleared, as escort. The new tow parted at 1500 and HMCS Wasaga was in trouble with the wire threatening to foul the props. HMSC Columbia passed another wire and Captain Mackay shackled the cable eye to the wire hanging over the bow. By this method 90 fathoms of 6" wire were brought into service with the remaining 330 fathoms acting as a spring. At 1300 on 24th January they all made Halifax. At 1300 on 27th January, the tug Black Chief took HMS Caldwell in tow. Again the weather turned bad and the pair of ships spent an awful night hove to off Shelburne on the SE coast of Nova Scotia. Reaching harbour the next day 24 hours rest passed and they set out again at snail's pace. The weather was so bad and cold the U-boats remained submerged. On the night of 31st Boston was reached and on 3rd February HMS Caldwell was secured by two tugs at the Atlantic shipyards of Bethlehem Steel. Lt Cdr Mackay was give a shore appointment in Boston and seven months later became Captain of HMS Braithwaite. (3)

Media links

British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman

Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.


  1. ADM 173/16742
  2. ADM 173/16795
  3. Personal communication

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

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