Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Alamein
HMS Alamein was one of the third flotilla of Battle Class Fleet Destroyers. They were authorised under the 1943 construction programme. HMS Alamein was built on the Tyne by R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd and like all of the Battle Class built by 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, Hawthorn Leslie and the Battle Class design will be found in the article Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Agincourt
Photo No 1: HMS Alamein
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 the Battle Class design will be found in the article Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Agincourt
The 1943 Programme
With planning stage of the first 16 Battle Class well under way, the Admiralty turned its attention the follow-on destroyers to be ordered in the 1943 Programme. It was already clear that timely production of Fire Control Directors was going to be a major constraint for this 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
On 25 September 1945, three weeks after the Japanese surrender, the Admiralty halted all work on 16 of the ships on order. Work on the remaining 8 ships proceeded at a reduced pace. The completed ships were: -
- Agincourt – Hawthorn Leslie (Leader)
- Alamein – Hawthorn Leslie (Leader)
- Aisne – Vickers-Armstrongs Tyne
- Barrosa – John Brown
- Matapan – John Brown
- Corunna – Swan Hunter
- Dunkirk – Stephen
- Jutland – Stephen (Launched as Malplaquet, name changed when original Jutland was cancelled)
Further details of the cancelled Battle Class orders will be found in the article Battle Class Destroyer - HMS Agincourt
Photo No 2: Lady Alexander (Wife of General Alexander) prepares to name HMS Alamein. With her are Admiral Wellwood Maxwell - Officer Commanding River Tyne (far left) and Robin Rowell - Director of Hawthorn Leslie from 1929 and Chairman from 1943 to 1964 (far right)
HMS Alamein as-built specification
- Type: Destroyer
- Royal Naval service: 1947-1960
- Builders: R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd
- Yard: Hebburn-on-Tyne, Co. Durham
- Yard number: 665
- Laid down: 01 March 1944
- Launched: 28 May 1945
- Commissioned: 21 May 1948
- Displacement (light): 2,347 tons
- Displacement (half oil): 3,053 tons
- Displacement (deep) : 3,418 tons
- Length (between perpendiculars): 355 feet
- Length (waterline): 364 feet
- Length (overall): 379 feet
- Breadth: 40 feet 6 inches
- Depth: 22 feet
- Draught (light): 12 feet 6.25 inches
- Draught (half oil): 14 feet 3.25 inches
- Draught (deep): 15 feet 4 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: 31.25 knots at deep displacement
- Boilers: 2 Admiralty 3-drum type.
- Boiler pressure: 400 lb/sq.in 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. One 4.5 inch Mark IV gun in a single deck-mounted Mark V 55 degree elevation mounting
- 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. Two 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. 11,520 rounds Bofors 40 mm ammunition. 8,000 rounds .303 machine gun ammunition.
- Torpedoes and tubes: Two sets of Pentad tubes and 10 Type D or Mark IX 21 inch torpedoes
- Anti-submarine weapon: One Squid “B” mounting Mark 1 three barrel mortar.
- Complement: 268 (as Leader) maximum war accommodation 337
- Cost: £966,313. (Equivalent to £23.6 million in 2006)
Photo No 3: Alamein slides down the launchways at Hebburn Shipyard on 28 May 1945
Operational career of HMS Alamein
Upon commissioning, Alamein joined the UK based Home Fleet as a member of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla. The Royal Navy was facing an acute manning crisis and like most of the Battle Class, Alamein was several times in and out of reserve.
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.
Photo No 4: HMS Alamein
- 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
- Warships of World War II: H T Lenton & J J Colledge: Published by Ian Allen Ltd: 1973
- Power on Land & Sea: J F Clarke: Published by Hawthorn Leslie (Engineers) Ltd: 1979
- Mr Rod Brownstone - downloaded from the excellent http://www.navyphotos.co.uk/ website with the consent of the site’s owner Mr David Page
- Hawthorn Leslie
- Hawthorn Leslie
- Mr David Downey - downloaded from the excellent http://www.navyphotos.co.uk/ website with the consent of the site’s owner Mr David Page
Article compiled and written by Fred Henderson
Battle Class Destroyers
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