USS Bailey (DD-269 )/ HMS Reading

USS Bailey (DD-269) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Neutrality Patrol in 1939-40, before joining the Royal Navy as HMS Reading. In British hands she was used on convoy escort duties, briefly with the 8th Escort Group, before she joined the Newfoundland Escort Force. However she proved to be unreliable and had to return to the UK for a refit, but after this was complete she was chosen for use as an air target vessel, and carried out that role from late 1942 until the end of the war.

The Bailey was named after Theodorus Bailey, a US naval officer from 1818 until 1867, fighting in the Mexican War and the American Civil War, retiring as a rear admiral.

USS Bailey (DD-269), 1920s
USS Bailey (DD-269), 1920s

The Bailey was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp at Squantum, Mass, on 1 June 1918 and launched on 5 February 1919, when she was sponsored by Miss Rosalie Fellows Bailey. She was commissioned on 27 June 1919.

The Bailey was allocated to the Pacific Fleet. She left New York on 17 September, and after a visit to Cuba, passed through the Panama Canal on 25-26 September. She was then ordered to the coast of Mexico, carrying despatches to Punta Arenas and Amapala in Honduras on the way. After visiting Mexico she finally reached her new base at San Diego on 13 October.

In 1920 the Bailey paid three more visits to Mexican waters, but spent most of the year in southern California. In 1921 she moved to the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Washington, where she underwent a refit that lasted from April-June. After her refit she visited a series of ports in the US north-west and Canada, before returning to San Diego in September 1921. She remained there until she was decommissioned into the reserve on 15 June 1922.

The Bailey was recommissioned on 6 November 1939, after the outbreak of war in Europe. She underwent a refit to make her fit for service, and then departed for the Panama Canal on 5 February 1940. She reached her new base at Galveston, Texas on 29 February 1940. From then until late June she was allocated to the West Gulf Patrol, carrying out four patrols between 7 March and 13 May. During her fourth patrol one of her engines failed, and on her return to Galveston had to undergo repairs that lasted until 25 June.

On 29 June she left Texas, moving to Florida. On 6 July she picked up a group of naval reservists from Jacksonville, and took them on a two week cruise to Cuba. This was followed by three more reserve training cruises, of which two took her to Cuba and the third took place off the Virginia Capes. Her final reserve cruise ended on 20 September at New York.

The Bailey was then chosen to be one of the fifty destroyers that went to Britain under the terms of the Destroyers for Bases deal. She arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 21 November, and on 26 November she was decommissioned from the US Navy, commissioned into the Royal Navy and renamed HMS Reading.

As HMS Reading

The Reading departed for Plymouth in December 1940, and arrived on 17 December. She underwent a refit that lasted into February 1941. She was then chosen for convoy defence duties with the Western Approaches Command, and deployed for her new role in mid-March. However she soon proved to be unreliable and had to return to Liverpool for repairs on 3 April.

After these repairs were complete she joined the 8th Escort Group on 11 May. Over the next six weeks she provided part of the escort for four convoys, but she was then nominated to be transferred to the Newfoundland Escort Force where she was to join the 23rd Escort Group at St. Johns.

From 29 June-2 July she provided part of the local escort for military convoy WS9B as it passed through the North Western Approaches.

After returning from that duty she departed for Newfoundland. She joined the 23rd Escort Group at St. Johns, Newfoundland on 7 July 1941. Her new role was to escort convoys from North America to the Western Meeting Point where they would be replaced by ships from the Western Approaches Command.

In August 1941 she served as one of the guard ships during the Placentia Bay meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt.

After that excitement was over she returned to her convoy escort duties, which she performed from September 1941 until March 1942. However her unreliability soon returned, and she had to be withdrawn from escort duties in April 1942.

The Reading crossed the Atlantic in late April, reaching Londonderry on 2 May. She then moved to London for a refit in a commercial shipyard on the Thames. This refit lasted from June to September 1942, but the results weren’t satisfactory. In October she carried out her post-refit trials, and then worked up with ships of the Home Fleet, but after these were complete she was nominated for service as an air target ship instead of returning to her escort duties.

The Reading was converted into an air target ship in October-November 1942. Her main armament and all unnecessary equipment were removed. She was then posted in the Moray Firth, and was used as a target ship for aircrews training in torpedo attacks. She performed this role from November 1942 until June 1945.

On 11 July 1945 she was paid off and placed on the disposal list, and on 24 July she was sold to T.W. Ward of Inverkeithing to be scrapped.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

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


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


2,500nm at 20kts (design)


314ft 4in


30ft 10.5in


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



5 February 1919


27 June 1919

Sold for scrap

July 1945

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 (pending), USS Bailey (DD-269 )/ HMS Reading ,

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