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With these ships in the latter part of 1943 being turned out so quickly many of the British sailors viewed these all welded constructions with some trepidation preferring to believe the traditional all riveted ships would be much safer when very bad weather or damage was to occur, how wrong they were, apart from the odd bit of skimpy welding these ships stood up to all the Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea could throw at them as well as enemy action.

When first boarding the ships we were very surprised to find the mess decks were comparatively roomy. Another shock was that we stowed our hammocks away for the duration because the American way of life was for comfort and was carried into their armed forces which meant the British sailor would be sleeping on bunk beds, which most thought were superior to hammocks.

Another pleasant surprise was the innovation of a cafeteria messing system as was found on all US Navy ships, where meals were taken from the galley into a separate serving area which was equipped with dish-washing machines, ice cream makers and coffee percolators. Another surprise was a small laundry and to top it all iced drinking water fountains. In the toilet area (Heads) there was even a shower. Unlike the Destroyers of Royal Navy where Officers Wardroom and cabins were under the quarterdeck, in the Destroyer Escorts the officers accommodation was located in the main forward superstructure leaving space below for messdecks.

When it came time to christen the ship a local lady from Boston of some importance would sponsor the ship as well as swing a bottle of champagne on to the bows, when this ceremony was completed the ship would be commissioned into the British Royal Navy.

Working Up

After the crew had taking possession of the ship and stowed all their gear, the next few days were taken up with embarking stores, fuel and ammunition, then they had to forget their life away from the war and come down to earth to prepare for a life at sea.

The first week was spent making daily trips to sea from Charlestown Navy Yard for acceptance trials to be carried out. One feature which very soon became apparent was the superb handling quality of the DE's, their twin rudders enabled them to make a very tight turn. It is on record that one of the Buckley Class on trials made a 180 degree turn at 24 knots in the extremely short distance of 410 yards and only took 70 seconds to complete the manoeuvre.

One rather unpleasant feature appeared when on these acceptance trials they ventured a little further out to sea and found rather choppy water these ships then started behaving like bucking broncos, for which the crews coined the phrase (Rolling on a Wet Teacloth) This feature was caused by the lack of top weight due to the British ships having no torpedo tubes as opposed to the US DE's which carried a triple set of torpedo tubes on the superstructure midships which of course gave them more stability, it was the speed of the roll which did the damage, it took some of the seasoned men some time to get over their sea sickness.

After this acceptance trial was over the really hard work started, first stop was to Casco Bay, Portland, Maine where the main work involved Anti Submarine exercises which when completed after three weeks, the ships then proceeded on to Bermuda where the main work up was undertaken to try and make sure the crews which were mainly young men were up to scratch to undertake the voyage back to the home port of Belfast, this was eagerly looked forward to as it meant a spell of home leave. Some of the ships came home as part of convoy escorts, some made solo trips, and others escorted large R.N.ships which had been in the United States being repaired or refitted.

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Author: Roy Tynan © 2003
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