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Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Alamein
From SN Guides
1. We run the risk of being driven out of the Central Mediterranean 2. We have sent out ships with inadequate armament. 3. Certain types of weapon are available capable of providing a cure for dive bombers. Special vessels with batteries of these might be used in the Mediterranean as AA ships.
The Admiralty Board generally agreed with the Prime Minister’s views, with the important exception that they firmly believed that defence is most easily carried out from the ship under attack. The major problem was finding the resources needed for both the anti-submarine war in the Atlantic and the anti-aircraft war in the Mediterranean. A further difficulty was that pre-war the Admiralty had neglected the growing air threat and as a result there were no modern British naval anti-aircraft gun designs and little manufacturing capacity.
Further details of the development of the Battle Class design will be found in the article Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Agincourt
The 1943 Programme
During the inter-war years the Admiralty had developed an excellent lightweight surface warfare fire control system for destroyers, but this was totally ineffective against aircraft. The Tribal Class destroyers carried a very complex system that depended upon an estimate of the aircraft’s course and speed and an assumption that the aircraft would continue to fly straight and level. This was not very useful against dive-bombers! Various improvisations were made to overcome shortcomings in the equipment but a new approach was needed. Promising new equipment was under development, but the demand was greater than production capacity as all major warships also needed an anti-aircraft gunnery control solution.
The US Navy was far more fortunate, as it had a very complete, sound well engineered solution that had been in full scale production since 1941. In October 1942 approval was given that this director control tower should be allocated Washington Priority 1 acquisition status and that the next group of Battle Class destroyers be designed around this equipment. In British service it was known as Mark 37 Director Control Tower. The DCT was to full US standard with one major alteration that the new British Type 275 radar was used as it was smaller and lighter than the American radar. The modification was very successful and a most effective system resulted.
The main criticism of the (yet to built) first group of Battles was the absence of any surface gun aft. To meet this perceived shortcoming a new single 4.5 inch deck mounted gun was fitted in the Q position, aft of the funnel. This change was of questionable value as the aft superstructure and sensors prevented the gun from being fired directly aft. Various new Bofors mountings were also considered. To accommodate all these changes and to offset the stability effect of weight growth that was becoming evident in the first Battles, it was decided to increase the beam of these follow-on ships by three inches.
Orders were placed for four new Battle Class in March 1943, an additional fifteen in late April and a further five in June of that year.
As the programme progressed, changes continued to be made to the secondary anti-aircraft arrangements, but the most important armament change was to the torpedo arrangements as a result of war experience in the Pacific. The two quadruple 21 inch tubes on the earlier Battles were replaced by two quintuple mountings launching Type D torpedoes. These were 12 inches longer and 200 pounds heavier than the torpedoes carried on the earlier ships. To compensate for this weight increase, the 44 inch searchlight and five depth charges were deleted. In service the destroyers also continued to carry the lighter Type XX torpedoes. Later in the build programme all of the depth charges were replaced by a Squid mortar which threw a spread salvo of three 12 inch projectiles 250 yards ahead of the ship.
The impact of the Japanese surrender
Further details of the cancelled Battle Class orders will be found in the article Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Agincourt
HMS Alamein as-built specification
Operational career of HMS Alamein
In 1948 Alamein was part of the escort for light fleet carrier HMS Vengeance on exercises in northern and home waters. In 1950 she deployed as part of the escort for the Home Fleet Spring Cruise to the Mediterranean. The capital ships in the group were the aircraft carriers Implacable, Victorious and Vengeance plus the battleship Vanguard.
In May 1956 Alamein rejoined the 4th Destroyer Squadron, serving with the Home and Mediterranean Fleets. From the first day of the Suez Campaign, Alamein was engaged on coastal patrols. On one occasion she fired her Squid mortar against a suspected submarine and she participated in the sinking of four Egyptian patrol boats. She left Suez on Christmas Eve, 1956.
On her final deployment to the Pacific in 1958, Alamein suffered an on board fire. She decommissioned for the last time in 1959 and was placed on the disposal list in 1960. Alamein was broken up at Blyth, Northumberland in 1964.