50 destroyers

Discussion in 'History' started by triskele, Nov 11, 2013.

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  1. If I may introduce me'self, haven't posted before but very impressed with your exremely erudite and witty forum. Just a quickie, looking at the early (very) WW Two events I've come across a remarkable letter from Mr Churchill to Mr Roosevelt written just two weeks after becoming PM and before that nice Mr Hitler had invaded the Low Countries. In it he mentions the urgent requirement for 50 destroyers, which much later became lend-lease. France's army was huge and intact, Germany was effectively land locked, and the U boat fleet was quite small. Why on earth did he urgently request these so early and well before any shipping losses? Their Lords must have been ready...no Med ops, Far East intact, a confident and intact huge Navy...surely he didn't think the old country was that desparate?
  2. Looking to the future was Mr Churchill. The Navy was over stretched already, and knowing what U-boats were capable of he knew that convoy's were going to be used, hence lots of escort ships required.
  3. Churchill had been to war before and could read the runes. We were desparately short of convoy escorts and had already lost more than a dozen destroyers, and he (quite rightly) didn't trust the French who were, in the great plan of things, supposed to contain the Italian fleet in the Med.

  4. SNAP! Wrecks.

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  5. Mind you, the destroyers we received were well suited to the function of dock caisson.
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  6. They did well for their age, just look at HMS Campbeltown for instance (or was that what you were alluding to?), and an old destroyer is better than no destroyer.

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  7. ..blimey you boys are quick. An old boy here told me the early lend lease arrived L'Pool and he was dealing with the different USN electrical gear, something about the water boiling round the ship when they went on shore power.
    Thanks, sharp cookie was Mr C, do you think it was his own suggestion or did Their Lords admit to slight deficiencies?
  8. I did an essay on this, can't bear to re read my notes are relive the stress but there are quite a few interesting bits and bobs about this. There is a book about 'the secret correspondence' between these 2 that shows copies of the original letters sent, really interesting stuff.

    I think this is the one, i just had a different edition: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/0306803909
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2013
  9. Wasn't it Nelson who said "the want of frigates will be found graven on my heart?"

    The RN's re-equipment started with the big, heavy long-lead ships (battleships, carriers, cruisers) hoping that we wouldn't be at war until 1942-3 or so, giving time to catch up with the escorts. Churchill remembered how we never had enough destroyers in WW1, and noted that the US had shedloads of WW1-vintage four-stackers rusting quietly in reserve. We didn't build Flower-class corvettes because we loved them, but because they were "just about good enough" and we were screamingly desperate for escort hulls when the war went less well than hoped.

    Worst case? We're still quibbling over terms for some US destroyers when we stop the German offensive into France in its tracks and Hitler gets deposed or slotted by one of his generals.

    Really worst case? We pay through the nose for some old relics we turn out not to need and have to pay to scrap, in the aftermath of a fairly cheap victory.

    Not a huge downside, compared to how badly we needed those fifty hulls (even if they were obsolete yard queens) as it turned out.

    Churchill got many things wrong, but this was a good gamble: affordable loss if wrong, high payoff if right, and in this case his instinct was right.
  10. Many thanks for the links Rachelthree, and a good clean analysis jr, bleak times indeed if you had a shrewd inkling.
  11. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    Churchill became PM when the Germans made their attacks on the Low Countries. Two weeks in to that and the BEF would have been well on its way to Dunkirk.

    It says much for Churchill that with the disastrs happening over the Chanel, he was able to detatch himself to look at the bigger picture and write to a 'fellow naval person'.
  12. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    The invasion of the Low Countries is an irrelevance. The Battle of the Atlantic started on 3.9.39 with the sinking of the passenger liner Athenia (and continued to the last day of the war). The escorts we had were rapidly being run to bits, overdue for boiler cleaning etc.

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