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USS Buchanan (DD-131)
USS Buchanan 1936.JPG
USS Buchanan off Balboa, Panama, 18 May 1936
Career (US)
Name: USS Buchanan (DD-131)
Namesake: Franklin Buchanan
Builder: Bath Iron Works
Laid down: 29 June 1918
Launched: 2 January 1919
Commissioned: 20 January 1919 to 7 June 1922
10 April 1930 to 9 April 1937
Struck: 8 January 1941
Fate: Transferred to UK, 9 September 1940
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Campbeltown (I42)
Commissioned: 9 September 1940
Fate: Expended as demolition ship during St. Nazaire Raid. Destroyed 29 March 1942.
General characteristics
Class & type: Wickes class destroyer
Displacement: 1,260 tons
Length: 314 feet, 4 inches (95.81 m)
Beam: 30 feet, 6 inches (9.30 m)
Draft: 9 feet (2.74 m) (light) 12 feet (3.66 m) (full load)
Propulsion: 4 Normand Return-flame Boilers, Brown-Curtis single reduction geared turbines, 30,000 shp, 2 shafts.
Speed: 35 knots (65 km/h)
Complement: 158 officers and enlisted
Armament: 4 4"/50 (102/50 mm), 1 3"/23 (76/23 mm), 2x3 21" (533 mm) torpedo tubes (as built)

USS Buchanan (DD-131), named for Franklin Buchanan, was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy.

Buchanan was transferred to the United Kingdom under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement in 1940 and served as HMS Campbeltown (I42). She was destroyed during the St. Nazaire Raid: at 1:34 on 28 March 1942, loaded with four tons of amatol 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, Maine; 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, 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, who would later become an admiral during World War II, and was killed in action in the South Pacific in January, 1945. In the summer of 1934, after making a cruise to Alaska 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 and Antilles Detachment. She was then assigned to patrol in the Gulf of Mexico, operating out of Galveston, Texas and later off Key West and around the Florida Straits. She arrived at Boston Navy Yard 2 September and then proceeded to Halifax, where on 9 September 1940 she was decommissioned and transferred to the United Kingdom under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement.

Service with the Royal Navy - HMS Campbeltown (I42)

Upon her arrival at HMNB Devonport, 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, 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-boats 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

German personnel on-board Campbeltown on the morning after the raid, before the ship exploded

In 1942, the German battleship Tirpitz anchored at Trondheim in Norway was considered to present a grave threat to Atlantic convoys. However, should the ship enter the Atlantic then the dry dock originally built for the liner SS Normandie in the German-occupied port of Saint-Nazaire, France, was the only one in German hands on the Atlantic seaboard large enough to hold her.[1] 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.[2] 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 and then to Gibraltar.[3]

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, 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.[4]

Ship's bell

The bell was given to Campbelltown, Pennsylvania as a gesture of appreciation towards the United States for the lend-lease programme. It was lent by the town to the current HMS Campbeltown, a Type 22 frigate, when it was commissioned in 1989, and will remain on the ship whilst it is in service with the Royal Navy.[5]


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.



  1. "The Chariot Story". St Nazaire Society. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  2. Winston Churchill. The Second World War - Volume IV The Hinge of Fate. Penguin Books. pp. 106. ISBN 0-14-008614-5. 
  3. "HMS Campbeltown Commemorates the Raid on St Nazaire 28 March 1942". UK Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  4. "St. Nazaire, Raid on, (Operation Chariot), Part Two (28 March 1942)". Military History Encyclopedia on the Web. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  5. "HMS Campbeltown". UK Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 2007-03-26. 

External links

Coordinates: 47°16′34″N 2°11′49″W / 47.27611°N 2.19694°W / 47.27611; -2.19694

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