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Tag: Royal Canadian Navy (Page 2 of 2)

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Buxton

(photos and associated captions are from the Navsource Naval History Website)

This post is another of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Buxton Specifications:

Length : 314’ 3″
Beam: 30’ 9”
Draft: 9’ 3″
Displacement: 1190 tons

Laid Down: 20 April 1918
Launched: 10 June 1918
Commissioned : 4 November 1943
Paid Off: 2 June 1945

Armament: 2 × 12pdr LA guns; one 14″ Torpedo Tube

The 'Town' class destroyer HMS Buxton (ex-USS Edwards, DD-265) showing her well worn paintwork while serving with B6 Escort Group date and location unknown.

The ‘Town’ class destroyer HMS Buxton (ex-USS Edwards, DD-265) showing her well worn paintwork while serving with B6 Escort Group date and location unknown.

HMCS Buxton began life as USS Edwards. She was built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation at their Squantum, Massachusetts shipyard and named after Midshipman William W. Edwards.  Edwards was an officer of the US Navy during the War of 1812 assigned to USS Argus when he was killed in action against HMS Pelican 14 August 1913.  The ship bearing his name was launched 10 October 1918 by Ms. Julia Edwards Noyes, Midshipman Edwards uncle’s great granddaughter.  USS Edwards was commissioned on April 24, 1919 under the command of Commander P.L. Wilson.

In May 1919 Edwards was assigned to transport seaplane spares to St. John’s, Newfoundland as part of the historic first transatlantic seaplane flight by the US Navy.  Later that month she sailed to European waters to take up duties with the Food Administration and reporting to the Commander of US Naval Forces in Europe.  After arriving in Gibraltar she joined the escort of USS George Washington, the former ocean liner carrying President Woodrow Wilson to Brest, France.  Subsequently Edwards visited England and Germany before arriving back in the United States in late August.

The 'Town' class destroyer HMS Buxton (ex-USS Edwards, DD-265) showing her well worn paintwork while serving with B6 Escort Group date and location unknown.

The ‘Town’ class destroyer HMS Buxton (ex-USS Edwards, DD-265) showing her well worn paintwork while serving with B6 Escort Group date and location unknown.

In September she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and upon arrival at San Diego she was placed in reduced commission with a minimal complement.  In February of 1920 she moved to Puget Sound Navy Yard only to return to San Diego a year later still in reserve and only occasionally at sea for gunnery practice.  Finally in June of 1922 she was placed out of commission.

Edwards was recommissioned in December of 1939 to take up Neutrality Patrol duties.  She underwent an overhaul on the west coast before traveling east in March of 1940, making port in Galveston, Texas.  She continued to patrol the Gulf of Mexico until the fall of 1940 when she was selected for transfer to the Royal Navy and was handed over in Halifax on October 8, 1940.

Commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Buxton she set out to cross the Atlantic on her way to Devonport for refit when she was delayed in St. John’s, Newfoundland with serious defects.  Back to Halifax she went and repairs weren’t completed until March 1941.  Further defects arose and ultimately Buxton would go to Boston for a two month refit starting in July.  Upon her return she was assigned for local escort work until she joined the troop convoy TC 14 and crossed the Atlantic headed for the Clyde to join EG-26.  She wasn’t with that posting long before more defects cropped up and she was in Chatham dockyard for repairs and refit in November 1941 not to emerge until February 1942.  While working up after this period she grounded and subsequently those repairs kept her idle until the end of May.

HMS Buxton (H96) off Liverpool on May 22, 1942. Source: Imperial War Museum Admiralty Official Collection by Tomlin, H.W. (Lt), Photo No. © IWM(A 8658).

Finally back at sea she joined Escort Group B6 undertaking convoy and individual ship escort duties out of Liverpool until August 1943 when she was posted back to Canada to join the Western Local Escort Force (WLEF) out of Halifax.  WLEF held the operational responsibility of escorting convoys between the ports of New York and Halifax out to the Western Ocean Meeting Point (WOMP) which was east of St. John’s, Newfoundland where WLEF handed off responsibility to the Mid-Ocean Escort Force (MOEF).

HMS Buxton served on this rout for several months until her persistent defects required she return to Boston for a three-month refit in December.  In March 1943 she rejoined WLEF as part of the newly formed escort group W-1, but finally her ongoing mechanical issues and defects drove the RN to offer the Royal Canadian Navy Buxton for static training purposes.  In this manner she joined the RCN as HMCS Buxton on 4 November 1943—the last of the Canadian Town’s commissioned.  She arrived at Digby, Nova Scotia in December and  continued to serve as a static training vessel until decommissioned and sold for scrap 16 January 1945.  She was broken up in Boston that same year  after an undistinguished wartime career in which she appeared to spend more time in dock under repair than at sea.

Prelude to the Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Grilse (I)

(photos and associated captions are from the Canadian War Museum website)

This post is the first of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.

HMCS Grilse (I) Specifications:

Length : 205’
Beam: 18’ 6”
Draft: 9.2’
Displacement: 287 tons

Laid Down: 1912
Launched: 1912
Commissioned : 15-07-1915
Paid Off: 10-12-1918

Armament: 2 × 12pdr LA guns; one 14″ Torpedo Tube

HMCS Grilse on Convoy Duty - Arthur Lismer

Looking forward along HMCS Grilse’s long, narrow hull, war artist Arthur Lismer‘s print captures Grilse’s destroyer-like shape and high speed.

Only five years old, and facing the prospect of German U-boats in Canadian waters—and without destroyers for protection—the Royal Canadian Navy set about acquiring private yachts for use as patrol and escort vessels. One of these was a 202 foot steam turbine yacht by the name of Winchester. To avoid running up against the American’s neutrality, several Canadian yacht owners privately purchased boats from Americans and then traded them to the RCN. This is the manner in which Grisle came to fly the white ensign in 1915.

HMCS Grilse as SY Winchester was one of a family of fast steam yachts used for commuting by P.W. Rouss. She was designed by Cox & Stevens and built by Yarrow along the sleek torpedo boat destroyer lines—which in conjunction with her Parson’s steam turbines could drive her up to 34 knots in good weather.
In an odd quirk of fate, Mr. Rouss commissioned the construction of another yacht named Winchester (the fourth), only to have it pressed into service with the US Navy in 1917—and she would later see wartime service with the Canadian Navy in 1940 as HMCS Renard . In all, three of the 4 Winchesters owned by Rouss would see military service with various navies at least once in their life.

Although not a destroyer in the truest sense, having been designated a Torpedo Boat she was tasked with many of the same escort and patrol duties in Canadian waters as Royal Navy torpedo boat destroyers (those of an earlier vintage than the front-line fleet’s destroyers represented by the M and R classes ). In that respect, she could be seen as the precursor of the navy’s destroyer force.

HMCS Grilse at Speed

HMCS Grilse, seen here steaming at high speed, was the Royal Canadian Navy’s closest ship to a destroyer during the First World War.

She arrived in in Canada and was commissioned the middle of July 1915 and after arriving at the Canadian Vickers shipyard in Montreal she was converted from a luxury yacht to a torpedo boat by the addition of a pair of 12-pounder (3-inch) quick firing guns and a 14-inch torpedo tube (located aft in place of the former salon/deck house). Additionally care was taken to de-store the ship’s fine china and other luxury items—although the wood fittings and other décor remained, leaving one to wonder how difficult life aboard the ship was in good weather!

Although she saw no U-boat during the war, Grilse was much in demand as an escort for convoy’s arriving and departing Halifax (a major Royal Navy base at the time). By October of 1915 she was patrolling off Cape Breton where she hunted for a reported U-boat in and around Little Bras d’Or Bridge and took part in an abortive U-boat trap off Cape Dauphine. The winter of 1915-1916 Grilse was loaned to the British Commander-in-Chief North America and West Indies station based in Bermuda. She would spend her time in the Caribbean undertaking anti-submarine patrols out of Jamaica. Her trip south was complicated by her high fuel consumption (3000 gallons—over 11,000 litres—of fuel oil a day at cruising speed) which left her 150 nautical miles out of Bermuda almost out of oil. She had used more than 13,000 gallons of fuel oil in her passage leaving Grilse to be towed in to Ireland Island Bermuda by the cruiser HMS Cumberland. After several quiet months in fine weather she returned to Canada—again short of fuel and needing to be towed into port.

Her patrols off Cape Breton during 1916 once more showed her lack of fuel economy and so she was pulled from her posting at Sydney, Nova Scotia to report back to Halifax where she would be reserved for escorting important vessels into and out of the port—with the stipulation that she couldn’t exceed 13 knots as a means of limiting her oil consumption.

Torpedo Practice, HMCS Grilse

These photographs show HMCS Grilse taking part in a torpedo firing exercise, a type of practice important for maintaining the ship’s fighting efficiency.

Once again she was loaned to the Royal Navy for the winter and setting out for Bermuda with extra barrels (some 2,000 gallons) of oil lashed to her upper deck Grilse departed Halifax December 11, 2016. She would never complete her passage to the Caribbean. Running into a gale near Sable Island the former yacht nearly foundered as she was repeatedly swept by green seas. The oil barrels were jettisoned, but several crew members were lost as they were washed overboard—including one of the signalmen who was attempting to repair the radio antenna damaged by the gale.  When one of the engine room skylights was smashed open the sea poured in—some four feet of water being shipped in the engine room giving the vessel a 20° list to starboard. Through dogged determination, a long night of bailing and not a little luck Grilse made it into Shelburne, Nova Scotia December 14 with little in the way of free board. In addition to the men washed overboard she had lost 3 lifeboats and a torpedo reload (including the warhead but excluding the gyro ).

Refitted and back to sea by May 10, 1917 to return to her anti-submarine patrol work, she would see no further adventures. She was likely laid up during the winter of 1917-1918 with a caretaker crew (her thin steel hull wouldn’t have fared well against thick maritime ice). By the Armistice she was little used having become very expensive for upkeep and for the limited local patrols.

Grilse was still with the navy when HMCS Patriot and HMCS Patrician joined the ranks of Canada’s naval vessels. She was however no longer in commission, having been paid off in 1918.

Eventually sold to Solomon Guggenheim in 1922, she foundered in a gale in 1938.

Cheers,

Sean

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