USS Bancroft (DD-256 )/ HMCS St. Francis

USS Bancroft (DD-256)/ HMCS St. Francis was a Clemson class destroyer that went to Britain under the terms of the destroyers for bases deal. In British service she served on escort duties from 1941-1944, although spent much of her time under repair. She was used as a static training ship during the first half of 1945, and probably wrecked while being towed to the scrap yard in July 1945.

The Bancroft was named after George Bancroft, the author of a History of the United States, ambassador to Great Britain, a supporter of Lincoln during the Civil War and ambassador to Berlin after the war.

The Bancroft was laid down on 4 November 1918 by Bethlehem at Quincy, Mass, launched on 21 March 1919 and commissioned on 30 June 1919. After her shakedown cruise she spent five months with the Atlantic Fleet before being placed in commission in the reserve with a skeleton crew. She remained in this state for two and a half years, before being decommissioned on 11 July 1922.

The Bancroft was recommissioned on 18 December 1939 as part of the US response to the outbreak of war in Europe. She was allocated to the West Gulf Patrol and based at Galveston, Texas, into the summer of 1940. She was then chosen as one of the fifty destroyers to go to Britain under the terms of the Destroyers for Bases deal. She moved to Halifax, and on 24 September was decommissioned from the US Navy and commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS St. Francis.

As HMCS St Francis

The St. Francis was selected for local escort duties from Halifax, and focused on that role for most of the rest of 1940 and into January 1941. The one break with that pattern came after the Admiral Scheer attacked Convoy HX 84 and sank the AMC Jervis Bay on 5 November. The St. Francis was one of many ships sent out to try and find the German raider or survivors of the attack.

USS Bancroft (DD-256) in 1940
USS Bancroft (DD-256)
in 1940

On 15 January 1941 the St. Francis left Halifax to head for Britain. She reached the Clyde on 26 January and began a refit in a commercial shipyard. The work was completed by February when she moved to Tobermory to prepare for active service. In March she joined the 4th Escort Group, based at Greenock. Her role was to help escort convoys in the appreaches to the Clyde. On 20 May she rescued the officers and crew of SS Starcross, after she was sunk by a U-boat.

In July 1941 the St. Francis returned to St Johns to join the Newfoundland Escort Force. From August to November she underwent a refit to convert her into a long range escort. This saw the aft boiler removed and extra fuel storage added, and a British style bridge added. She joined the Newfoundland Escort Force in December 1941, and was on escort duties in the Atlantic.

Her first spell of escort duties lasted from December 1941 to August 1942. She then underwent repairs at Londonderry that lasted from September-October 1942. In November she resumed her escort duties, but from December 1942 to March 1943 she had to undergo a refit at Halifax.

In April 1943 the St. Francis was allocated to the Canadian Escort Group C2. From May to June 1943 she operated with that group, part of the Mid Ocean Escort Force, part of the Western Approaches Command.

In July 1943 she needed more repairs at Halifax. Once they were complete she joined the 9th Support Group, based at Londonderry. This group’s task was to reinforce convoy escorts that were under heavy attack. On 19-21 September she took part in the defence of the westbound convoys ONS18 and ON202, which were being attacked by the Leuthen wolf pack. During this battle the Town class destroyer HMCS St. Croix was sunk, as was the corvette HMS Polyanthus, but the St. Francis survived intact.

By now the St. Francis was fairly worn out. From November to December 1944 she was being repaired at Shelburne, Nova Scotia, but in January 1944 she was judged to be unfit for further front line service. In February 1944 she was allocated as a tender to HMCS Cornwallis, a training establishment at Halifax, and from March to May 1945 she was used as a static training ship.

On 1 April 1945 the St. Francis was declared surplus. She was sold for scrap to the Boston Iron and Metal Co of Baltimore, and in July was towed south along with the HMCS Hamilton. On 14 July she collided with the merchant ship Winding Gulf, and both of the old destroyers broke their tow lines. One was recovered by the US Coast Guard and taken to the scrap yard, but the other ran aground off Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island, and was lost. This was probably the St. Francis, although the records are unclear.

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)

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

21 March 1919

Commissioned

30 June 1919

Probably lost while on way to be scrapped

14 July 1945

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (pending), USS Bancroft (DD-256 )/ HMCS St. Francis , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Bancroft_DD256_HMCS_St_Francis.html

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