USS Buchanan (DD-131)
USS Buchanan (DD-131), named for Franklin Buchanan
Franklin Buchanan
Franklin Buchanan was an officer in the United States Navy who became an admiral in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War, and commanded the ironclad CSS Virginia.-Early life:...

, was a Wickes-class
Wickes class destroyer
The Wickes-class destroyers were a group of 111 destroyers built by the United States Navy in 1917-1919. Along with the 6 preceding Caldwell class and 155 subsequent Clemson-class destroyers, they formed the "flush-deck" or "four-stack" class. Only a few were completed in time to serve in World...

In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

 in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...


Buchanan was transferred to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement
Destroyers for Bases Agreement
The Destroyers for Bases Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, September 2, 1940, transferred fifty mothballed destroyers from the United States Navy in exchange for land rights on British possessions...

 in 1940 and served as HMS Campbeltown (I42). She was destroyed during the St. Nazaire Raid
St. Nazaire Raid
The St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot was a successful British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandie dry dock at St Nazaire in German-occupied France during the Second World War. The operation was undertaken by the Royal Navy and British Commandos under the auspices of Combined...

: at 1:34 on 28 March 1942, loaded with four tons of amatol
Amatol is a highly explosive material made from a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate. Its name originates from the words ammonium and toluene...

 explosive, the ship rammed the gates of the Forme Ecluse Louis Joubert dry dock. The ship exploded the following morning, ending the use of the dock for the rest of the war.

Service with the United States Navy

The first USS Buchanan (DD-131) was launched on 2 January 1919 by Bath Iron Works
Bath Iron Works
Bath Iron Works is a major American shipyard located on the Kennebec River in Bath, Maine, United States. Since its founding in 1884 , BIW has built private, commercial and military vessels, most of which have been ordered by the United States Navy...

, Bath, Maine
Bath, Maine
Bath is a city in Sagadahoc County, Maine, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 9,266. It is the county seat of Sagadahoc County. Located on the Kennebec River, Bath is a port of entry with a good harbor. The city is popular with tourists, many drawn by its...

; sponsored by Mrs. Charles P. Wetherbee. The ship was commissioned 20 January 1919 with Lieutenant H. H. J. Bensen in command. Buchanan reported to Commander, Destroyer Force, at Guantanamo, Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, and was temporarily attached to Destroyer Squadron 2 until ordered to the Pacific Fleet in July 1919 for duty with Destroyer Flotilla 4. From 7 June 1922 until 10 April 1930 Buchanan was out of commission at San Diego. She then joined Destroyer Division 10, Destroyer Squadrons, Battle Force, and operated on the West Coast in routine division, force, and fleet activities and problems. It was for this short period that she was commanded by Theodore E. Chandler
Theodore E. Chandler
Theodore Edson Chandler was an admiral of the United States Navy during World War II, who commanded battleship and cruiser divisions in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. He was killed in action when Japanese kamikaze aircraft struck his flagship.He was the grandson of William E...

, who would later become an admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and was killed in action in the South Pacific in January, 1945. In the summer of 1934, after making a cruise to Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 with ROTC units aboard, she was placed in reduced commission attached to Rotating Reserve Destroyer Squadron 20 at San Diego.

Again placed in full commission in December 1934, she resumed operations with Division 5, Destroyers, Battle Force. Buchanan was again out of commission at San Diego from 9 April 1937 until 30 September 1939 at which time she was refitted for action with Division 65, Destroyer Squadron 32, Atlantic Squadron. From December 1939 until 22 February 1940, she operated with the Neutrality Patrol
Neutrality Patrol
At the beginning of World War II, when Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 started the hostilities in Europe, President Franklin D...

 and Antilles Detachment. She was then assigned to patrol in the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

, operating out of Galveston, Texas
Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a coastal city located on Galveston Island in the U.S. state of Texas. , the city had a total population of 47,743 within an area of...

 and later off Key West
Key West
Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida on the North American continent at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. Key West is home to the southernmost point in the Continental United States; the island is about from Cuba....

 and around the Florida Straits. She arrived at Boston Navy Yard
Boston Navy Yard
The Boston Navy Yard, originally called the Charlestown Navy Yard and later Boston Naval Shipyard, was one of the oldest shipbuilding facilities in the United States Navy. Established in 1801, it was officially closed as an active naval installation on July 1, 1974, and the property was...

 2 September and then proceeded to Halifax, where on 9 September 1940 she was decommissioned and transferred to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement
Destroyers for Bases Agreement
The Destroyers for Bases Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, September 2, 1940, transferred fifty mothballed destroyers from the United States Navy in exchange for land rights on British possessions...


Service with the Royal Navy - HMS Campbeltown (I42)

Upon her arrival at HMNB Devonport
HMNB Devonport
Her Majesty's Naval Base Devonport , is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the Royal Navy . HMNB Devonport is located in Devonport, in the west of the city of Plymouth in Devon, England...

, England, on 29 September 1940, HMS Campbeltown was allocated to the 7th Escort Group, Liverpool, in the Western Approaches Command. In January 1941 she was provisionally allocated to the Royal Netherlands Navy
Royal Netherlands Navy
The Koninklijke Marine is the navy of the Netherlands. In the mid-17th century the Dutch Navy was the most powerful navy in the world and it played an active role in the wars of the Dutch Republic and later those of the Batavian Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, but reverted to the Royal Navy in September 1941. Between September 1941 and March 1942 she served with Atlantic convoys and was attacked on several occasions by enemy U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s and aircraft, but escaped without damage. On 15 September 1941 she picked up the survivors of the Norwegian motor tanker Vinga, damaged by an enemy air attack.

Saint-Nazaire Raid

In 1942, the German battleship Tirpitz
German battleship Tirpitz
Tirpitz was the second of two s built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the architect of the Imperial Navy, the ship was laid down at the Kriegsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven in November 1936 and launched two and a half years later in April...

 anchored at Trondheim
Trondheim , historically, Nidaros and Trondhjem, is a city and municipality in Sør-Trøndelag county, Norway. With a population of 173,486, it is the third most populous municipality and city in the country, although the fourth largest metropolitan area. It is the administrative centre of...

 in Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 was considered to present a grave threat to Atlantic convoys
Second Battle of the Atlantic
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, running from 1939 to the defeat of Germany in 1945. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany's subsequent counter-blockade. It was at its...

. However, should the ship enter the Atlantic then the dry dock
Dry dock
A drydock is a narrow basin or vessel that can be flooded to allow a load to be floated in, then drained to allow that load to come to rest on a dry platform...

 originally built for the liner SS Normandie
SS Normandie
SS Normandie was an ocean liner built in Saint-Nazaire, France for the French Line Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. She entered service in 1935 as the largest and fastest passenger ship afloat; she is still the most powerful steam turbo-electric-propelled passenger ship ever built.Her novel...

in the German-occupied port of Saint-Nazaire
Saint-Nazaire , is a commune in the Loire-Atlantique department in western France.The town has a major harbour, on the right bank of the Loire River estuary, near the Atlantic Ocean. The town is at the south of the second-largest swamp in France, called "la Brière"...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, was the only one in German hands on the Atlantic seaboard large enough to hold her. It was considered that if this dock could be put out of action, then a sortie by the Tirpitz into the Atlantic would be much more dangerous for her, and probably not worth the risk. The obsolete Campbeltown was selected for the task, and cosmetic modifications quickly done to make her look similar to a German Möwe class destroyer.

Using genuine German recognition signals, the force approached to within less than a mile of the harbour before they were fired upon, Campbeltown as the largest target drawing most of the fire. At 01:34 on 28 March 1942, Campbeltown rammed the dock gate 4 minutes later than planned. Troops and crew came ashore under heavy German fire and set about demolishing the dock machinery. 169 of the raiders were killed (64 commandos and 105 sailors) out of the 611 men in the attacking force. Of the survivors, 215 were captured and 222 were evacuated by the surviving small craft. A further five evaded capture and travelled overland through France to Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and then to Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...


The charges in Campbeltown exploded the next day, 28 March, an hour and a half after the latest time that the British had expected them to detonate. Although the ship had been searched by the Germans, the explosives had not been detected. The explosion killed around 250 German soldiers and French civilians and demolished both the front half of the ship and the 160 ton caisson
Caisson (engineering)
In geotechnical engineering, a caisson is a retaining, watertight structure used, for example, to work on the foundations of a bridge pier, for the construction of a concrete dam, or for the repair of ships. These are constructed such that the water can be pumped out, keeping the working...

, the inrush of water into the dock washing the remains of the ship into it. The dock was rendered unusable for the rest of the war, and was not repaired until 1947.

Ship's bell

The bell was given to Campbelltown, Pennsylvania
Campbelltown, Pennsylvania
Campbelltown is a census-designated place in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 2,415 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Campbelltown is located at ....

 as a gesture of appreciation towards the United States for the lend-lease programme
Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in...

. It was lent by the town to the current HMS Campbeltown
HMS Campbeltown (F86)
HMS Campbeltown was a Batch 3 Type 22 frigate of the British Royal Navy. Built by Cammell Laird Shipbuilders Ltd. in Birkenhead, she was part of the third batch of Type 22s, which were considerably larger than their predecessors and incorporated more advanced weaponry after lessons learnt from the...

, a Type 22 frigate
Type 22 frigate
The Type 22 Broadsword class is a class of frigate built for the British Royal Navy. Fourteen of the class were built in total, with production divided into three batches. With the decommissioning of HMS Cornwall on 30 June 2011, the final Type 22 of the Royal Navy was retired from service...

, when it was commissioned in 1989, and will remain on the ship whilst it is in service with the Royal Navy.


The 1952 film The Gift Horse was loosely based on the story of HMS Campbeltown.

The 1968 film Attack On The Iron Coast was loosely based on the story of HMS Campbeltown.

External links

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