Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Captain Class Frigates in the Second World War

The Captain Class Frigates in the Second World War by Donald Collingwood

The Captain-class frigates included seventy-eight sturdy destroyer escorts built in the United States and leased to Great Britain in 1943. A member of the Royal Navy who served on one of these combat vessels in the Atlantic has written this engaging narrative of their operations. As a participant, he describes the close teamwork and comradeship that existed within the escort groups of the Captains as they faced the lethal submarine threat, in all weather, week in week out, with all too little opportunity for rest between operations. It is a story of vigilance, determination, and fortitude combined with high skill and unfailing courage. These "Yankee frigates," as they were affectionately known, and the men who manned them saved many thousands of lives and millions of tons of vital supplies needed to keep Britain and the Allies in the war.
Every so often a book comes along which is a true labor of love by the author. This book is one such instance.
Written by a former crewman of HMS Cubbitt, one gets the true sense of feel that others could not have imparted.
Some excellent material is contained in the narrative about the conditions at the Boston Navy Yard in Charlestown, which was a beehive of activity at that time.
As per British custom with ships received under Lend-Lease, creature comforts for the crew such as ice cream machines and laundry facilities were removed. However as an improvement performed in UK yards, proper toilets replaced the as built US style latrine style facilities.
The ships came off the Boston area production lines so fast that Royal Navy crews were not always ready for them. Some of the crews came from RN ships under repair in US yards such as HMS Uganda at Charleston. A number of the ships were sailed up to Halifax and stored at the RCN base there until such time a RN crews could be made available. One of the ships in Halifax sailed to the UK with a Canadian civilian crew and a number of others were sailed over by crews going to get ships being built in UK yards.
The author groups the ships together by the Royal Navy group to which they were assigned. A career history while engaged in these activities is provided for each ship.
Mr Collingwood is to be commended for his fine work here. It is a must of any bookshelf of students of naval history. (DS)

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