Allied Warships

HMS St Albans (I 15)

Destroyer of the Town class


St Albans as seen mid-war.

World Ship Photo Library Photograph with thanks to Jan Visser

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassTown 
PennantI 15 
Built byNewport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. (Newport News, Virginia, U.S.A.) 
Ordered 
Laid down23 Mar 1918 
Launched4 Jul 1918 
Commissioned23 Sep 1940 
End service16 Jul 1944 
History

USS Thomas arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 18 September 1940 as part of the second increment of the 50 flushdecked, 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, USS Thomas was officially turned over to her new owners on 23 September 1940. Simultaneously renamed HMS St. Albans 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 St. Mary's, Bath and 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 the Almeda Star torpedoed by U-96 on the 17th. St. Albans underwent repairs at Chatham in February to prepare for her transfer to the Royal Norwegian Navy-in-exile on 14 April. She had no sooner entered service with the Norwegians than she collided with the minesweeper HMS Alberic, sinking the minecraft 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 motor vessel Empire Dew torpedoed that day by 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 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 hardy Scandinavian sailors brought her safely into Reykjavik, Iceland. The destroyer's seaworthiness and the seamanship exhibited by her scrappy Norwegian crew elicited a warm commendatory signal from the Commander in Chief, Western Approaches (CinCWA). 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 carrier HMS Illustrious from Liverpool to the Clyde and, in the following month helped to screen convoy PQ 16 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 Jastrzab on 2 May. Jastrzab had strayed some 100 miles from her correct position in a convoy.

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 Queen Elizabeth, as the troopship 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 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 Nazi-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 of 1943, St. Albans arrived in the Tyne on 10 January 1944, where she was soon laid up in reserve. On 16 July, the British transferred the flushdecker to the Russian Navy, who renamed her Dostojnyj ("worthy"). She sailed under the "hammer and sickle" until returned to the British on 28 February 1949 at Rosyth, Scotland.

The veteran of service with the United States, British, Norwegian, and Russian navies was eventually broken up for scrap at Charlestown, England, in April of 1949. HNoMS St Albans

 
Former nameUSS Thomas (DD 182)
Career notesto Soviet Union as USSR Dostojnyj

Commands listed for HMS St Albans (I 15)

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CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Selwyn Gerold Caygill Rawson, RNOct 194014 Apr 1941

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Notable events involving St Albans include:


2 May 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN) and HMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) S.G.C. Rawson, RN). (1)

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. File 2.12.03.6387 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)

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