Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Saintes

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HMS Saintes was one of the ships ordered in 1942 for the first two flotillas of Battle Class Fleet Destroyers. HMS Saintes was built on the Tyne by R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd and like all of the Battle Class built them she was fitted out as a Leader. These ships had additional accommodation for a Captain (D) and his staff. A Captain (D) was the commander of a destroyer flotilla.

Further details of the development of destroyer building and Hawthorn Leslie will be found in the article Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Agincourt

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HMS Saintes in the River Tyne

Operational Requirement[edit]

The design of new destroyers that became the Battle Class was the direct result of an instruction from Winston Churchill in March 1941 to take steps to counteract the menace of the JU 87 dive bombers. The Prime Minister considered: -

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 Battle Class design will be found in the article Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Agincourt

Orders Placed in 1942[edit]

Cammell Laird – Gravelines, Hogue, Lagos and Sluys
Fairfield – Cadiz, Camperdown, Finisterre, St James and Vigo
Hawthorn Leslie – Armada, Saintes and Solebay
Swan Hunter – Barfleur, Gabbard, St Kitts and Trafalgar

HMS Saintes Specification[edit]

  • Type: Destroyer
  • Royal Naval service: 1946-1972
  • Builders: R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd
  • Yard: Hebburn-on-Tyne, Co. Durham
  • Yard number: 660
  • Laid down: 08 June 1943
  • Launched: 19 July 1944
  • Commissioned: 27 September 1946
  • Displacement (light): 2,385 tons
  • Displacement (half oil): 2,906 tons
  • Displacement (deep) : 3,289 tons
  • Length (between perpendiculars): 355 feet
  • Length (waterline): 364 feet
  • Length (overall): 379 feet
  • Breadth: 40 feet 3 inches
  • Depth: 22 feet
  • Draught (light): 12 feet 3 inches
  • Draught (half oil): 13 feet 11 inches
  • Draught (deep): 15 feet 2 inches
  • Engines: Parsons single reduction steam turbines
  • Engine builders: R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd
  • Works: St Peters, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Power: 50,000 shp at 320 rpm
  • Propulsion: 2 screws
  • Speed: 31.8 knots at deep displacement
  • Boilers: 2 Admiralty 3-drum type.
  • Boiler pressure: 400 lb/ at 700 degrees F
  • Oil: 726 tons plus 40 tons diesel
  • Endurance: 4,400 nautical miles at 20 knots
  • Main guns: Four 4.5 inch Mark III guns in twin through-deck Mark IV 80 degree elevation mountings.
  • Secondary guns: Four 40 mm Bofors 40/L60 guns in twin STAAG Mark II mountings. Two 40 mm Bofors 40/L60 guns in a twin Mark V mounting. Three 40 mm Bofors 40/L60 guns in single Mark VII mountings. One Vickers .303 and two Lewis .303 machine guns.
  • Ammunition: 450 rounds 4.5 inch semi-armour piercing, 1,050 rounds 4.5 inch high explosive and 200 rounds 4.5 inch star shells. 12,600 rounds Bofors 40 mm ammunition. 8,000 rounds .303 machine gun ammunition.
  • Torpedoes and tubes: Two sets of quadruple hand-worked tubes and 8 Mark IX 21 inch torpedoes
  • Anti-submarine weapons: Two depth charge rails and four depth charge throwers. 60 depth charges
  • Complement: 268 (as Leader) maximum war accommodation 337

Service History[edit]

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HMS Saintes running full power trials. Notice 40mm Bofors single mountings around the bridge structure; the STAAG 40mm Bofors are not yet fitted aft; whip aerials on funnel and the height of the stern wave.

When Saintes ran her trials in September 1946 the Bofors STAAG mountings had not been delivered. She was commissioned and joined the 5th Destroyer Flotilla but subsequently entered Portsmouth Dockyard where her secondary armament was completed, but her main armament was replaced by a prototype twin 4.5inch Mark VI mounting. This had the box shaped turret that was first used in the Daring Class and was widely used on Royal Naval and foreign warships for several decades.

During 1947 Saintes then carried out live firing tests with the new mounting. These were not without incident. During one set of trials she completely missed the target, but hit instead the towing tug Buccaneer, which sank! On completion of these trials Saintes paid-off and entered dockyard hands to have her own armament fitted.

Saintes was recommissioned in 1949 as Leader of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla as part of the Mediterranean Fleet. On 28th March1954, during this commission, Saintes went to the aid of the stricken troopship Empire Windrush. This ship suffered an engine room explosion off Cape Caxine, which killed 4 of her crew. Saintes took charge of the rescue effort and put fire and towing parties on board the burning troopship. All of the troops and their families, plus the surviving crew were saved. An attempt was made to tow Empire Windrush to Gibraltar, but she foundered on 29th March 1954.

Saintes returned to UK in 1956 and was sent to Rosyth for a major refit. In 1958 she was recommissioned as Leader of the renamed 3rd Destroyer Squadron. By this time the Squadron was a General Service unit and served with both the Home and Mediterranean Fleets. In 1960 Saintes recommissioned as Leader of the 1st Destroyer Squadron, again serving with both the Home and Mediterranean Fleets.

Saintes finally paid-off at Devonport in May 1962. She was then towed to Rosyth to become a training ship for Artificer Apprentices at HMS Caledonia. Her armament was mothballed, but her machinery was kept in full working order by the apprentices. After 10 years, she was finally broken up at Cairn Ryan in 1972, by which date she was the last of the Royal Navy’s 1942 Battle Class Destroyers.


British Destroyers: Edgar J March: Published by Seeley Service & Co Ltd: 1966
Jane’s Fighting Ships – 1946/47 and various subsequent editions
Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships – 1922 to 1946 and 1947 to 1982
Power on Land & Sea: J F Clarke: Published by Hawthorn Leslie (Engineers) Ltd: 1979 A wikipedia article, which provides a brief history of the ship.


Photo 1: Crown Copyright, now in public domain
Photo 2: Hawthorn Leslie publicity photograph

Article compiled and written by Fred Henderson

Battle Class Destroyers[edit]

Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Agincourt Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Alamein Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Armada Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Saintes
Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Solebay