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HMS Goodall, K 479 [Evart Class]
Our story starts back in 1940 when the German Army overran Norway and France which enabled them to station their U-Boats in Norway for easy access to the Arctic oceans, and on the west coast of France which gave them the gateway to the whole of the Atlantic Ocean. It was now the period when Great Britain stood alone against the might of the Nazi war machine, and with their U-Boats starting to make themselves a nuisance in the Atlantic, they were also starting to produce new U-Boats at an ever increasing rate. Great Britain in 1941 found herself short of suitable escort vessels capable of deep ocean convoy duties having to rely on corvettes, a few sloops, trawlers and occasionally fleet destroyers which were not as plentiful since their heavy losses during the first year of the war.
In September of 1940 after approaches by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the President of the USA Franklin D. Roosevelt authorised the exchange of fifty old first world war four stack flush deck destroyers from the US Navy reserve fleet for ninety nine year lease of six Caribbean Islands, these old destroyers were really past their best and many spent a lot of time in repair yards with constant breakdowns. As for their crews who spent a lot of their time at sea wet through due to them shipping sea water which found its way down to the mess decks, but they helped to fill some of the gaps in our escort fleet until the arrival of new ships.
In March 1941 the USA Government passed the Lend/Lease Act which would enable Great Britain to procure merchant ships, warships and munitions etc; to help with our war effort. In June 1941 Britain asked the USA to design, build and supply an escort vessel that was suitable for anti submarine warfare in deep open ocean situations. The United States Navy had been looking into the feasibility of such a vessel since 1939 and a Captain E.L. Cochrane of the Bureau of Shipping who during his visit to Britain in 1940 looked at our Corvettes and Hunt Class Destroyers had come up with a design for such a vessel, so when Great Britain came along with their request the US Navy decided to put the plans into motion.
Captain Cochrane had to make several alterations to his original design and method of production but in the end came up with the finished article at half the cost of a fleet destroyer. President Roosevelt authorised the construction of the new vessels in August 1941.
Orders for fifty units were placed with four ship yards in November 1941 at Boston, Mare Island, Philadelphia and Puget Sound, and were initially designated British Destroyer Escort (BDE) but this was reduced to Destroyer Escort (DE) when the United States entered the war, and of course they found they also required an Anti-Submarine warfare ship and the DE fitted their needs perfectly, which resulted in a system of rationing whereby out of every five DE's completed four would be allocated to the US Navy and one to the British Royal Navy. By the middle of 1943 1,005 of these ships had been placed on order, but only 563 were finally built, the rest being cancelled. Those that were built were distributed between six classes mainly distinguished by their power units and various armaments, these were Evarts, Buckley, Cannon, Edsall, Rudderow and John C. Butler, but here we are only concerned with the Evarts and Buckley classes as these were the only types used by the British Navy. All the British ships bar one were built at Boston, the Evarts at the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Buckleys in the newly built Bethlehem Steel Yard at nearby Hingham.
Of the 563 ships built, the British Royal Navy received 32 Evarts and 46 Buckleys. The Free French received 6 Cannon Class (after WWII permanently transferred to the French Navy). The US Navy used the huge balance of 465 the largest number of which served in the Pacific theatre of the war.
Although these vessels were to be produced mainly for anti submarine warfare the US Navy designated them as Destroyer Escorts and in addition to their Anti-Submarine weapons they were fitted with torpedo tubes on the superstructure midships, thus sticking to the Destroyer mentality.
The British on the other hand viewed these ships as unequivocally anti submarine units, so the use of torpedo tubes did not arise, and as they were of a smaller size than a Destroyer they designated them as Frigates. The Lords of the Admiralty in their wisdom dubbed these ships as "Captains Class Frigates", (note the plural Captain) but during conversations between individuals the name always got spoken as singular Captain, which seems to come easier to the tongue. The Admiralty when searching for individual names for the ships put very old names to the most modern vessels, and used the names of captains of the period covered by the Napoleonic wars.
And so 53 years on from the end of the war in Europe, after a lifetime of working for a living all the many ex sailors who manned those gallant little ships having retired from the daily grind, and having spare time on their hands started to reminisce about the times past and the very special bond that existed among their fellow mess mates, this prompted a few to search for old comrades, which of course led to the founding of the...