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V & W Class (unconverted)

Veteran modified for short-range escort
Veteran modified for short-range escort
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Fate
D53 Venetia Fairfield 02 Feb 17 29 Oct 17 19 Dec 17 Mined 19 Oct 40
D72 Veteran John Brown 30 Aug 18 26 Aug 19 13 Nov 19 Torpedoed 26 Sept 42
D36 Vivacious A. Yarrow Jul 16 03 Nov 17 Dec 17 Sold out 4 Mar 47
D37 Vortigern S. White 17 Jan 16 15 Oct 17 25 Jan 18 Torpedoed 15 Mar 42
H88 Wakeful Cammell Laird 17 Jan 17 06 Oct 17 16 Nov 17 Torpedoed 29 May 40
D41 Walpole Doxford May 17 12 Feb 18 07 Aug 18 Sold out Mar 1945
D43 Wessex Hawthorn Leslie 23 May 17 12 Mar 18 11 May 18 Bombed 24 May 40
D30 Whirlwind Swan Hunter May 17 15 Dec 17 05 Mar 18 Torpedoed 5 July 40
D77 Whitshed Swan Hunter 03 Jun 18 31 Jan 19 11 Jul 19 Sold out 18 Feb 47
D62 Wild Swan Swan Hunter Jul 18 17 May 19 04 Nov 19 Bombed 17 June 42
D42 Windsor Scott's Apr 17 21 Jun 18 28 Aug 18 Sold out 4 Mar 47
D67 Wishart Thornycroft 18 May 18 18 Jul 19 Jun 20 Sold out June 1946
D89 Witch Thornycroft 13 Jun 18 11 Nov 19 Mar 24 Sold out 12 July 1946
D66 Wivern S. White 19 Aug 18 16 Apr 19 23 Dec 19 Sold out 18 Feb 47
D78 Wolverine S. White 08 Oct 18 17 Jul 19 27 Jul 20 Sold out 13 Sept 45
D96 Worcester S. White 20 Dec 18 24 Oct 19 20 Sep 27 Sold out Sept 1946
D88 Wren A. Yarrow Jun 18 11 Nov 19 27 Feb 23 Bombed 27 July 40
D76 Witherington S. White 27 Sep 18 16 April 19 10 Oct 19 Sold 20 Mar 47

Displacement: 1,188tons/l,207tonnes; 1,490tons/l,513tonnes (full load).
Length: 312ft/95.1m (oa); 309ft/94.1m (wl); 300ft/91.4m (pp).
Beam: 29ft 6in/9m (Thornycroft boats 30ft 9in).
Draught: 10ft 8in/3.25m (mean).
Machinery: three Yarrow boilers (White-Foster in S.White boats); 2-shaft Brown-Curtis turbines(Swan-Hunter boats, Parsons).
Performance: 27,000shp; 34kts (30,000shp; 35kts Thornycroft boats).
Bunkerage: 367tons/373tonnes.
Range: 3,120nm at 15kts.
Guns: four 4in (4 x 1); four 4.7in(4x1);one 3in HA; two 2pdr.
Torpedoes: six 21in (2 x 3).
Mines: 60 (originally, Vortigen, Venetia and Whirlwind only)
Complement: 134

Design

The introduction of the large M class in 1915 led to the need for an even larger destroyer to act in the flotila leader role. The design adopted for this task was known as the V class leader, since all their names begann with that letter. Only five were built, of which two, Valhalla and Valkyrie were scrapped in 1931 and 1936 respectively. Armed with four 4-inch guns, superimposed forward and aft, they were fast, powerful and consequently well received by the fleet. Their success led to an almost identical design being adopted for the 1916-17 programme, after some discussions based on modified R-class designs. Twenty-five boats were built, joining the Grand Fleet from August 1917 to May 1918. Vehement was lost to a mine in August 1918 and Vittoria was torpedoed in the Gulf of Finland by the Soviet submarine Pantera on 1 September 1919 during the Civil War. Verulam too was lost on a mine in the same area on 4 September. Three others, Vectis, Venturous and Violent, were scrapped between the wars, leaving nineteen boats to serve in WW2.

The design was repeated for the nineteen boats ordered on 9 December 1916, with two 'specials' from Thornycroft. The names of these all began with 'W' except for Voyager and they differed from the earlier boats as completed by the adoption of triple torpedo tubes. All completed before the end of the First World War and only Walrus (which ran ashore after breaking her tow in February 1938) did not see service in 1939-45.

In January 1918, sixteen repeat 'W' were ordered, but seven of these were cancelled at the Armistice. Thirty-eight more ordered in April were cancelled except for seven units. Of the cancelled boats, Vimy had been laid down 16 September 1918; Votary 18 June 1918; Wager August 1918; Wake 14 October 1918; Welcome 9 April 1918; Welfare 22 June 1918; Wellesley 30 August 1918; Walton, Werewolf, Watson and Westphal in 1918. Watson was launched in 1919 and Werewolf on 17 July 1919, probably to clear the slipways. These repeat W class were known as the Modified W class because reports to the effect that new German destroyers were being armed with heavier guns led the Admiralty to introduce a larger calibre gun themselves. This was the 4.7-inch BL Mk I which fired a 50lb shell 16,000 yards. In fact, the Germans were putting a 5.9-inch gun afloat but in the event, the Armistice intervened before they saw active service.

Thus, this line of development left the Admiralty with the largest and most powerful destroyers in the world at the end of 1919. The end of hostilities slowed down the rate of completion of those units not cancelled and a few were transferred to and very leisurely completed at, the Royal Dockyards. Between the wars they gave sterling service at home and abroad, but as new construction became available they were paid off to reserve, in which state most were to be found in 1939, fortunately for the Royal Navy.

Modifications

With the exception of the 'Wair' conversions, the other destroyers of the V&W class converted to Long-Range Escorts, received interim modifications on the lines described here before their more major conversions. The eighteen unconverted units listed here did not receive major attention for these reasons: (1) they were early war losses; (2) their boiler-room arrangements did not lend themselves to LRE conversion; or (3) the Admiralty valued their 4.7-inch armament for Fleet work. The five boats lost in 1940 probably went down in their peacetime condition, with the possible exception of having exchanged the after tubes for a 3-inch gun.

The 4-inch gunned ships generally landed 'Y' gun to allow increased depth-charge stowage, fitted a 3-inch in lieu of the after tubes and, when available, radar was fitted. Two 20mm Oerlikons augmented the old 2pdr guns, usually in the bridge wings. Radar outfit generally comprised Type 271 in lieu of the rangefinder on the bridge, and a 291 aerial at the foremast truck. By 1942, many had been converted to Short-Range Escorts, which involved only the replacement of 'A' gun by a 'hedgehog' and usually the exchange of the 2pdr guns for two more Oerlikon. Vortigern, Vivacious, Veteran, Wild Swan, Withington, Wolverine, Worcester, Wishart and Witch were all serving in this status by 1942. Four ships were fitted with a twin 6pdr mounting in lieu of 'A' gun to combat E-boat attacks on east coast convoys (Walpole, Windsor, Whitshed and Wyvern).

The 4.7-inch gunned ships retained all four guns until 1942 and still, in some cases, served in the fleet role. They retained their director and rangefinder and received only Type 291 radar at the masthead. As the need for such old ships in the Fleet role diminished, they were given minor modifications as described above.

Windsor pre-war
Windsor pre-war
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Service

Many units took part in the troop evacuations from Europe in May and June of 1940, when Wessex was sunk off Calais and Wakefield was torpedoed by S30 on the second day of Operation 'Dynamo'. In the following days, Worcester and Vivacious were damaged among others. Whirlwind was sunk by U34 south-west of Iceland and Wren by bombers off Aldeburgh. The final loss of 1940 was Venetia, mined in the Thames estuary in October. Convoy escort duties were the order of the day for most of the ships, but Vivacious, Walpole, Whitshed and Worcester of the 21st and 16th Destroyer flotillas saw action against the German ships of the Brest Squadron during their escape up the English Channel in February 1942. On this occasion, Worcester was very badly damaged. Windsor and Walpole, with other surface forces, were also involved in attempting to intercept the raider Michel in the Channel during March 1942. Vortigern, however, was torpedoed off Cromer by S104 the same month. On the other hand Whitshed sank U55 and Wolverine U47, as well as assisting in the destruction of U76. Veteran, which accounted for U469 in September 1941, was herself sunk by U404 in the Atlantic in 1942, and Wild Swan, part of a support group sent to assist Convoy HG84, was hit by bombs from Ju 88s of K.Fl.Gr 106 in the Approaches in July 1942.

Of the survivors, Vivacious, Walpole, Windsor and Witshed took part in Operation 'Overlord' in 1944 but their days were now almost over and they quickly left the active fleet in 1945. Their service record was superb, best illustrated by the fact that many had seen active service during the First World War and twenty-eight boats had operated in the Baltic and the Gulf of Finland in 1918-20 against Soviet forces when Vendetta, Vortigen and Wakeful captured the destroyers Spartak and Gavril, among other exploits. During WW2, the class was responsible for, or participated in the sinking of 33 German and Italian submarines. Vanessa, in fact, had the unique distinction of sinking UB107 in the First World War and U357 twenty-four years later.