USS Branch (DD-197)/ HMS Beverley 

USS Branch (DD-197) was a Clemson class destroyer that had a brief career with the US Navy before serving with the Royal Navy as HMS Beverley, where she performed valuable service as a convoy escort before finally being sunk by U-188 in the spring of 1943.

USS Branch (DD-197) under way, c.1920
USS Branch (DD-197)
under way, c.1920

The Branch was named after John Branch, Secretary of the Navy in 1829-31 under Andrew Jackson. The name was originally allocated to DD-310, then being built on the West Coast, but Branch’s grand-niece Laurie O’Brien Branch, the ship’s sponsor, was unable to make the cross-country journey, so the name was transferred to DD-197, then being built at Newport News on the East Coast.

The Branch was laid down at Newport News on 25 October 1918, launched on 19 April 1919 and commissioned on 26 July 1920. She spent the rest of the summer at the Norfolk Navy Yard, before joining Squadron 3, Division 37, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet. However she didn’t join her unit for some time, instead spending most of the rest of 1920 around Norfolk. On 4 December she carried President-elect Warren G. Harding across Hampton Roads on the last stage of his trip back from a holiday in Panama. She didn’t begin full power trials until 15 December, at which point two of her boilers broke down and she needed repairs that lasted into 1921.

The Branch finally left for her new base on Charleston, South Carolina, on 11 February 1921, alongside the Clemson (DD-186) and Welborn C. Wood (DD-195). The equally new Clemson actually had to be towed for the last part of the voyage. After reaching Charleston the Branch was given a half complement, and remained in port for several months, only putting to see on 2 March and 19 April for exercises with her squadron. In May she left Charleston to move to Narragansett Bay, the new base for the Reserve Squadron. During the voyage she witnessed the fire that destroyed the old ship of the line USS Granite State at New York on 23 May.

The Branch had a rather inactive summer, spending much of her time moored at Narragansett Bay. She did take part in tactical exercises on 14 June, and towards the end of the month took part in exercises with the ex-battleship USS Iowa, then a radio-controlled target ship named Coast Battleship No.4. This was part of the wider preparation for the famous air attacks on old warships in July 1921, which ended with the sinking of the former German battleship Ostfriesland. July passed in a similar way, with a mix of short exercises and time spent inactive.

At the end of July the Branch moved to New York, at the start of a month of reservist training, picking up the first ten reservists on 30 July and a second batch on 19 August. September saw her take part in torpedo practice, even firing some actual torpedoes on 14 September. During this period she was based at Newport. She left Newport on 30 September, and moved south to her new winter base at Charleston, arriving on 11 October. She returned to Norfolk between mid November and early January 1922, where she remained until the end of May 1922.

The Branch was now selected to be decommissioned as part of the Navy’s post-war reduction in size. She reached Philadelphia on 5 June and was decommissioned on 11 August 1922.

The Branch wasn’t recommissioned until 4 December 1939 as part of the US Navy’s expansion after the outbreak of war in Europe. She joined the Neutrality Patrol at Norfolk in January 1940, despite some problems with her port shaft triggered by a collision with an unknown object on her way to Norfolk. Her first patrol began on 29 January, but only lasted for a few days. She then had to return to Philadelphia to have the shaft problems sorted out in dry dock.

After this work was completed the Branch moved to Puerto Rico. She began her second patrol on 7 March, patrolling the waters to the south and south-west. During this period she came across two British light cruisers, searching the area for any German blockade runners. The Branch attempted to shadow the second of these cruisers early on 11 March, but was soon left behind when the British ship put out her lights and put on speed.

A third neutrality patrol began on 18 March, this time largely off the west coast of Puerto Rico. This lasted to the end of March.

This ended the Branch’s time with the Neutrality Patrol. In July she took part in exercises in the Southern Drill Grounds off the US East Coast, and from 27 July-9 August she took 81 Brooklyn reservists on their annual training cruise (this must have made her a very cramped ship!). In late August she took part in another exercise in the Southern Drill Grounds, and in September she carried out her last service for the US Navy, a training cruiser for Washington reservists.

HMS Beverley

The Branch was then chosen as one of the fifty destroyers to go to Britain under the ‘Destroyers for Bases’ deal. She left Norfolk on 3 October and reached Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 5 October. She was decommissioned from the US Navy on 8 October and commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Beverley on the same day. She joined the 3rd ‘Town’ Flotilla for the voyage across the Atlantic, and reached Belfast on 24 October 1940.

The Branch was used as a convoy escort for most of her time in British service. She spent much of 1941 operating in the Atlantic, where she carried out attacks on U-boats in March, June and October, although without success.

In the summer of 1941 she moved to southern waters. In July she escorted the 9th Motor Launch Flotilla as it moved from Plymouth to Gibraltar, arriving on 15 July. On 18 July she left Gibraltar as part of the escort for Convoy HG.68, heading back to the UK. However on 19 July she was detached from the convoy to capture the Vichy French merchant ship Isac, dead in the water after her engines had been sabotaged. The Beverley  towed her part of the way back to Gibraltar, before a tug took over. She then took part in Operation Substance, escorting the fleet oiler Brown Ranger on 21-23 July and 25 July. She then returned to the UK as part of the escort of Convoy HG.69.

The Beverley also spent some time on the Russian Convoys. In April 1942 she escorted Convoy PQ-14 from Iceland to Russia. She then formed part of the escort for the return trip of Convoy QP-11. This convoy left Kola Inlet on 28 April 1942, and soon came under naval and air attack. The escort force flagship, the cruiser HMS Edinburgh, was torpedoed by U-456 on 29 April, and had to drop behind, taking two destroyers as an escort. This left the convoy guarded by four elderly destroyers - the Beverley, HMS Amazon of 1926 and HMS Beagle and HMS Bulldog of 1930. All four had been modified to act as anti-submarine warfare ships, with their surface armament reduced.  They were thus at something of a disadvantage when three more modern German destroyers, Herman Schoemann, Z 24 and Z 25, attacked early on 1 May. The Germans made five attempts to attack the convoy, but on each occasion were forced away by their less powerful adversaries. Eventually they moved off to attack the Edinburgh, having only managed to sink one ship in the convoy. The Germans were also driven off by the Edinburgh and her escort, with the loss of the Herman Schoemann, although they did manage to cripple the already damaged cruiser, which had to be sunk. The remaining German destroyers then withdrew and the convoy reached safety.

In February 1943 the Beverley was part of the escort for Convoy SC-118. On 4 February 1943 she and HMS Vimy attacked U-187, forcing her to the surface with depth charge attacks and then sinking her with gun fire. The convoy reached Londonderry safely on 10 February 1943.

The Beverley took part in the battles of Convoys HX-229 and SC-122 in the spring of 1943. She was part of Escort Group B4, part of the escort of Convoy HX-229, the faster of the two convoys. By 16 March the two convoys were in the same area, just as a pack of forty U-boats moved in to attack. The attack began on 16 March, and over the next few days the Germans managed to sink a dozen ships in HX-229 and nine in SC-122. During this battle Beverley was attacked by U-616, carried out a heavy attack on U-228 and came close to destroying U-530, with the U-boat escaping because of the failure of the Beverley’s only Mk X depth charge.

The Beverley’s luck finally ran out when she was escorting Convoy ON-176. On 9 April she collided with the merchant ship SS Cairnvolona, suffering damaged to her ASDIC and degaussing gear. This left her vulnerable when she ran into U-188 on 11 April. The U-boat torpedoed her, and the Beverley sank quickly with the loss of 139 men. There were only four survivors.

Displacement (standard)

1,190t

Displacement (loaded)

1,308t

Top Speed

35kts
35.51kts at 24,890shp at 1,107t on trial (Preble)

Engine

2-shaft Westinghouse geared tubines
4 boilers
27,000shp (design)

Range

2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Armour - belt

 

 - deck

 

Length

314ft 4in

Width

30ft 10.5in

Armaments

Four 4in/ 50 guns
One 3in/23 AA gun
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple mountings
Two depth charge tracks
One Y-Gun depth charge projector

Crew complement

114

Launched

19 April 1919

Commissioned

26 July 1920

Sunk by U-188

11 April 1943

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (29 August 2018), USS Branch (DD-197)/ HMS Beverley , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Branch_DD197_HMS_Beverley.html

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