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British Destroyers Medea-Acasta, Background and Ship History

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British Destroyers Medea-Daring, Background and Ship History

Hello Gang,

So WG have now released basic stats and images for most of the new RN destroyers (there’s a copy-paste error for Jutland so we’ve not seen her) and stats aside they include some interesting ships. I wanted to give a precis on the ships themselves and their basic design and history.

Tier 2, HMS Medea

q4bQctag.jpg

Melampus, one of Medea's sister ships.

Class: Medea was one of 4 modified M-class ships being built in the UK for the Greeks just before WWI when, in a not unusual turn of events the British decided that those ships might be handy and took them into service. Similar ‘compulsory purchases’ (refunded or not) would also generate ships like HMS Agincourt and HMS Canada taken from the Ottomans and Chileans.

As a slightly modified M-class ship, Medea is a further modification of the L-class design of 1912. The design is typical of British destroyers of the period, and they were among the RN’s best at the outbreak of war. The ships are end-stage of torpedo boat destroyer lineage with 4 torpedo tubes and 3 middle-caliber (for the time) guns.

Medea: Cursory research does not show much. Medea was one of a large fleet of RN destroyers in WWI, something like 320 being in service in 1914 or built during the war, few have detailed online histories. She was too late to see Heligoland Bight or Dogger Bank and not present at Jutland. It’s likely she was deployed in and around the North Sea and English Channel with several ‘M’ class ships usually part of the Dover Patrol and Harwich Force. With 89 M class ships, not all saw noteworthy service.

One source I’ve found suggests that Medea was involved in a fight with some unknown German destroyers on 24 April 1916 suffering 3 killed. The description of the action is here:

Spoiler

BELGIUM COAST OPERATIONS, 24 April 1916, North Sea - Dover Patrol sailed to lay the first Belgian coast mine and net barrage, between Nieuport and the entrance to the River Scheldt, to restrict the movements of the Flanders UB minelayers. The force included six divisions of net drifters, four large minelayers and escorting destroyers, six minelaying trawlers, two monitors, a division of Harwich Force destroyers and the Flanders coast patrol from Dunkirk. The ships were in place by 0400, and by 0730 had laid a 15 mile double line of mines and 13 miles of mined nets. It was probably around this time drifter Clover Bank was lost. The minelayers returned to port while the drifters and supporting ships watched the nets. The force was attacked by aircraft without result, and then about 1445, three German destroyers were sighted coming out of Zeebrugge. Destroyers Medea, Murray (commanded by naval author Taffrail), Melpomene, Milne chased them and opened fire, but came too close to the shore and were all hit by German shore batteries. Melpomene was stopped by a shell in the engine-room, Milne and Medea took her in tow at which point the German destroyers came out again from under the batteries, Murray engaged them with Medea after the latter had slipped her tow. Then the two monitors came into action and the Germans retired:

MILNE, MURRAY, M-class, c1,100t, 3-4in/2-1pdr pom-pom/4-21in tt, Harwich Force and MEDEA, MELPOMENE, ex-Greek, Medea-class, c1,200t, 3-4in/4-21in tt, 10th DF Harwich Force, enemy destroyers sighted at 1445, action started shortly after and lasted for 40min, ships came within 10,000yds of German shore batteries ranging from 4in to 12in. Murray hit on forecastle by 6in shell which passed through the ship's side without exploding, got clear with the help of a smoke-screen by 1550; Melpomene hit about 1540 by one of the last 4.1in shells fired by the destroyers, richochetted into her without exploding, engine-room flooded, speed dropped; Milne came up to take Melpomene in tow, but tangled the cable in one of her own propellers. Murray went ahead through the mined nets, followed by Melpomene with Milne on her port side and Medea on the other at which point the German destroyers came back out from under their guns, closed to 8,000yds and opened fire. Murray dropped back to within 6,000yds of them to lay a smoke screen across the other three destroyers' sterns, then joined by Medea and assisted by 12in shellfire from Prince Eugene, drove them away. This action lasted from 1640 to 1655 and again the shore batteries opened fire. Murray escaped by zigzagging and making thick smoke, Medea was hit by one shell on the quarter-deck, a second close to her funnels, and then by a third, but continued at full speed and all were clear in 5 or 6min; the after hit on Medea killed two men and wounded other shell-handlers. Milne went into the floating dock in Dover to have the cable unwound from her port propeller, Murray received a temporary patch on her bow until the next Chatham refit, Medea went to Chatham for repairs, and Melpomene was dry-docked in Dunkirk and patched up before sailing for an English dockyard (Rn/Cn/D/dd)

http://www.naval-history.net/WW1NavyBritishShips-Locations10Attacked.htm

 

Name

Pennant

Builder

Laid Down

Launched

Completed

Fate

Medea (ex-Kriti)

H9C, H74

John Brown

4/1914

30/1/1915

6/1915

sold 5/1921

 

Tier 3, HMS Valkyrie

D2z5f9j.jpg

IWM Image Q 73956 HMS Valkyrie, The Chooser of the Slain?

Class: The Valkyrie was the first of the V-class ‘Destroyer Leaders’, a small (by WWI RN destroyers) group of 5 ships lain down in 1916, Valkyrie in May of that year and shortly before the battle of Jutland.

The V-leaders although only laid down 2 years after the Medea are significantly improved. They have superfiring fore and aft guns and 4 of them rather than the 3 of the Medea, giving them double the fore and aft firepower. Speed is increased from the 32kt of the Medea to 34kt. The V class reflect British practice of the time of liking a somewhat larger destroyer to lead a flotilla of smaller destroyers into battle, providing more command and control facilities.

The V-leaders needed to keep up with the new R- class ships, though ironically the V-leader was then used as the baseline for the V-class destroyer, thus they had plenty of similar non-leader sisters. The V&W class represent the culmination of British destroyer building in WWI and were a baseline for many later ships – I believe they were the first A-B-X-Y superfiring destroyers in the world.

Valkyrie: Valkyrie commissioned in June 1917 and thus missed all the ‘big name’ actions of WWI. Nonetheless in the grinding attritional war of the small forces in the Southern North Sea she did see action and was damaged by a mine in late 1917, suffering 19 killed though making it back to port. The casualties seem to have been concentrated in her engineering crew, suggesting she was damaged in an engine or boiler room. First serving in the 10th Flotilla, she later transferred to the Grand Fleet with the 13th Flotilla.

Post-war the 13th Flotilla served in the British intervention in the Russian Civil War in the Baltic until at least 1920. The ships involved operated against the Bolsheviks in support of ‘White Russian’, Latvian and Estonian forces this included ship action and shore bombardments in which Valkyrie is likely to have participated.

The ship was lain up in 1921 and I suspect she wasn’t really used much again after that until her scrapping in 1936. I’ve found reference to her being with the Atlantic Fleet with a reduced crew in 1921-1928. She’s listed as ‘in reserve from 1928 to 1933. Although some of the V-leaders survived to fight and die in WWII they were the older end of WWI destroyers still in service.

Name

No

Builder

Laid down

Launched

Comp

Fate

Valkyrie (ex-Malcolm)

F83, F86, F05

Denny

5/1916

13/3/1917

6/1917

BU 9/1936

 

Tier 4, HMS Wakeful

r47x3WI.jpg

IWM Image Q 75530 - HMS Wakeful

Class: Wakeful was the first ship of the W-class. The W-class were slightly modified V-class, which were in turn slightly modified V-class ‘leaders’. The most significant change was the replacement of twin torpedo tubes with triple launchers in a pyramid configuration.

Wakeful: Wakeful commissioned about 6 months after Valkyrie in December 1917 and missed the majority of WWI.

Inter-war her record is sparse and probably reflects mostly time laid up in reserve. She was certainly reactivated from reserve in 1939 with the outbreak of war, initially operating out of Plymouth in South West England on local convoy escort duty.

In May however she was directed to participate in Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk. Her first trip went smoothly, lifting out some 631 troops on 26-27 May.

On 29 May while returning from her second trip she was torpedoed and sunk by S-30 with 104 of her crew of 128 killed, she sank very rapidly dooming everyone belowdecks. Her Captain, Lieutenant-Commander Ralph Fisher, DSC with bar, OBE, RN (later a Rear Admiral) survived but tragically of the 641 soldiers on board only 2 survived.

Wakeful was one of 6 British and 3 French destroyers lost during the evacuation efforts.

Name

No

Builder

Laid down

Launched

Comp

Fate

Wakeful

F37, H88, L91

John Brown

1/1917

6/10/1917

11/1917

sunk 29/5/1940

 

Tier 5, HMS Acasta

0uR7iIc.jpg

IWM Image HU 68290 shows Acasta recovering the crew from a mislaid aircraft belonging to HMS Eagle in the Mediterranean pre-war

Class: Acasta was one of the first ships of what would be known as the ‘Interwar Standard’ classes. The A and B class comprised 20 ships including 2 for the Royal Canadian Navy and two slightly different ‘Leaders’ the Codrington for the A-group and the Keith for the B-group.

The A&B class were developed from two experimental destroyers built in the late 1920’s but show considerable genetic background with the V&W class from the end of WWI. The A&B class retained the 4.7in gun which had equipped the later ‘Admiralty Modified W Class’, though upgraded to the ‘Quick Fire’ QF version from the older, slower firing ‘Breech Loader’ BL type of gun. The class also gained quadruple flat-bank rather than triple ‘pyramid’ torpedo launchers. Displacement grew from the 1,150 of a W-mod to about 1,350t standard and speed increased by 1kt.  

Acasta: After commissioning in 1930 Acasta had a normal existence for a Royal Navy destroyer in the interwar period, initially with Mediterranean Fleet deployments with occasional rotations to the UK for refits.

In 1936 the Acasta was deployed as part of the International non-intervention patrols for the Spanish Civil War. In 1938 she had a bigger refit in the UK including a fit of ASDIC (the A class originally omitted it as-built) and was transferred to the Home Fleet, where the outbreak of WWII found her based in Plymouth.

For the first months of the war, Acasta largely operated as a convoy escort west of the UK, but was deployed with the Home Fleet as the German Operation ‘Weserübung’ invasion of Norway and Denmark kicked off in April 1940. Acasta then operated as an escort for military convoys crossing the North Sea and on to Northern Norway, as the campaign ended in ignominious withdrawal Acasta and Ardent provided the only escorts to the aircraft carrier Glorious, steaming home with a load of evacuated RAF aircraft. Prowling the oceans in search of such withdrawing Allied convoys were the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

Those two ships spotted the smoke from the British carrier and her escorts at 16:46 on 8 June 1940.

Acasta was positioned off the port bow of Glorious, and after the British in turn sighted the Germans moved up to lay smoke between the battleships and the carrier as Ardent moved to intercept. After laying a smoke screen the two destroyers attacked independently and Acasta moved in to launch her 4 torpedoes (one launcher having been replaced with a 3in AA gun and 2 depth charge throwers) while receiving fire from the Scharnhorst. The Acasta’s temerity was rewarded with a single torpedo hit on the Scharnhorst which knocked out her aft turret and starboard engine, reducing her speed and causing her to take on 2,500t of water. Acasta also registered a non-damaging gun hit to Scharnhorst’s B turret, but she was ultimately overwhelmed by the main and secondary batteries of the German ships and was apparently the last British ship to go under.

Due to communication errors the British were unaware of the loss and most of her crew which made it into the water died of exposure, leaving a single survivor. The Scharnhorst suffered 48 casualties and was out of action until December 1940, which meant that with Gneisenau torpedoed by a submarine shortly after Germany would have no operational battleships for half of 1940.

The engagement and surrounding controversy is well documented here:

http://www.scharnhorst-class.dk/scharnhorst/history/scharnjuno.html

 

No

Builder

Laid down

Launched

Comp

Fate

Acasta

H09

John Brown, Clydebank

8/1928

8/8/1929

2/1930

sunk 8/6/1940

Ship data from navypedia.com

 

 

I hope those are interesting, and if well received I will look to do T6-T10 in the next couple of days.

 

Edited by mofton
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HI

Once again very informative work on the history of the new British DD line

thank you

regards

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For those curious to see how a V class Destroyer Leader could perform, the HMAS Vampire is a V class Destroyer Leader.  The only difference as of now is that the Vampire has 1 triple launcher instead of the 2 double launchers.

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5 hours ago, mofton said:

Melampus, one of Medea's sister ships.

It's interesting what happens to ship names over the years. This one also belongs to a small protected cruiser of the 19th Century. Leander, at least twice a cruiser name, was last applied to an ASW/general purpose frigate class. Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth, once battleship names, are now the names of aircraft carriers (in fairness they are also the biggest ships in the fleet, so the naming is appropriate).

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Great read as usual.

BTW. Why isn't moften a CC already? Requiring some number of follows and subscribes are like rewarding XP solely by damage done.

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10 minutes ago, chewonit said:

Great read as usual.

BTW. Why isn't moften a CC already? Requiring some number of follows and subscribes are like rewarding XP solely by damage done.

While posts like these are great, unfortunately historical posts don't earn CC tags - although they probably to factor in to becoming a wiki editor if one participates in the competitions. CC's, if I'm not mistaken, have to contribute game-play wise - for example, youtubers have their channels to post gameplay/commentary/reviews, Twitch users stream gameplay, or some, like LWM, write you reviews - etc, etc.

 

If they offered out CC tags for great work in historical articles, I'd 100% agree, but unfortunately that's not the case.

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Great post, an enjoyable read... I look forward to the sequel!

 

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14 hours ago, Phoenix_jz said:

Great post, an enjoyable read... I look forward to the sequel!

 

Thanks Phoenix.

Here's part 2 with T6-T10:

 

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