USS Laub (DD-263) / HMS Burwell

USS Laub (DD-263) was a Clemson class destroyer that went to Britain under the terms of the Destroyers for Bases deal and became HMS Burwell. In British service she carried out convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic in 1941-43 and as a Air Target Ship in 1944.

The Laub was named after henry Laub, a US sailor killed during the battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.

The Laub was laid down by Bethlehem at Quincy on 20 April 1918, launched on 28 August 1918 and commissioned on 17 March 1919.

She joined the Atlantic destroyer force. One of her first tasks as to support the first transatlantic flight, carried out by a flight of Navy Curtiss flying boats. The Laub was posted off Newfoundland from 2-17 May 1919, acting as a possible rescue ship and a navigations aid. After the flight was over she remained off Newfoundland until 30 June, when she departed for Europe.

The Laub arrived at Brest on 17 July 1919. She was based in western Europe until late August, and was at Southampton on 21 August 1919 when the paddle steamer Tudno, which had been loaned to the US Navy and used to ferry troops from shore to transports at Brest, was handed back to British control and her crew transferred to the Laub.

USS Laub (DD-263) receiving mail, 1919 USS Laub (DD-263) receiving mail, 1919

In late August she departed for the eastern Mediterranean, arriving at Constantinople on 2 September. She briefly operated with the Food Commission, only for a couple of weeks. On 17 September she departed for New York, carrying $5,000,000 worth of gold that had been provided by the Bulgarian government to pay for grain from the US Grain Corporation. She arrivd at New York with her precious cargo on 4 October 1919.

Two weeks later she departed to join the Pacific Fleet, arriving at San Diego on 27 November 1919, at the end of a very active first year in commission. This was probably the highpoint of her US service. In 1920-22 she took part in training exercises off the Pacific coast, before being decommissioned on 15 June 1922.

The Laub was recommissioned on 18 December 1939 as part of the expansion of the US Navy after the outbreak of war in Europe. After a second shakedown cruise she departed for the Caribbean, arriving at Guantanamo Bay on 7 April 1940. She spent the next two months taking part with the Caribbean neutrality patrol. She then moved to Galveston for operations in the Gulf of Mexico. After four months of operations in the Gulf and along the Atlantic fleet she was chosen to be one of the fifty old destroyers to be transferred to Britain as part of the  destroyers for bases deal. She arrived at Halifax on 5 September 1940.

As HMS Burwell

The Burwell was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 8 October. She arrived at Plymouth on 5 November, and underwent a refit that lasted into January 1941.

In February 1941 she was allocated to the 12th Escort Group, but on 13 February she collided with HMS Ripley, and didn’t join the group until March. In March-April she was used to escort convoys in the North-Western Approaches. In May 1941 she transferred to Iceland for use in the mid Altantic area. However this role only lasted from May-June, and she was then allocated to the new Newfoundland Escort Group. 

In July 1941 she began escorting convoys between St Johns and the Mid Ocean Meeting Point. In late August 1941 she was one of a number of warships that were rushed to the scene after U-570 surrendered to a Lockheed Hudson. The U-boat was taken into British service as HMS Graph, although this was largely a symbolic guesture. She continued with her escort duties, transferring to the 15th Escort Group in September and the 4th Canadian Escort Group in October. This was followed by a refit that lasted from November 1941 to January 1942.

In February 1942 she returned to her group and resumed escort duties. She escorted three more convoys, before in April she was withdrawn and sent across the Atlantic for repairs. These lasted from May 1942 to January 1943, began at Londonderry and were completed at Liverpool.

In February 1943 she worked up at Tobermory. In March she resumed escort duties, and escorted a convoy to Gibraltar. In April she moved from Gibraltar to the Azores, and then returned to the Clyde escorting a single merchant ship. She was then withdrawn to work up, possibly with a new crew.

From May to September 1943 she returned to convoy escort duties in the Atlantic, but she was becoming increasingly worn out, and in October she was paid off into the reserve on the Clyde. She was then selected for use as an Air Target Ship. In November she was disarmed and modified for her new role. She was then used as an Air Target Ship on the Clyde throughout 1944.

The Burwell was withdrawn from the air target role in January 1945. She moved to Milford Haven on February and was laid up. She was sold for scrap in March 1947.

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



28 August 1918


17 March 1919

Sold for scrap

March 1947

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 (24 February 2020), USS Laub (DD-263) / HMS Burwell ,

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