USS Conner (DD-72)/ HMS Leeds

USS Conner (DD-72) was a Caldwell class destroyer that served with the US Navy in the First World War, and with the Royal Navy (as HMS Leeds) during the Second World War.

The Conner was named after David Conner, a US Naval officer who served in the War of 1812 early in his career, and as commander of the Home Squadron during the Mexican War, leading his squadron during the amphibious attack on Vera Cruz.

Sponsor's Party, USS Conner (DD-72)
Sponsor's Party,
USS Conner (DD-72)

The Conner was sponsored at her launch by Miss Elsa Diederich, the great-great grand daughter of Commodore David Conner. She was launched on 21 August 1917 and commissioned on 12 January 1918 with Commander A.G. Howe in command.

Amongst her pre-commissioning complement was Theodore E. Chandler, who later rose to flag rank, took part in Operation Dragoon and then moved to the Pacific, where he commanded Battleship Division 2 at the battle of the Surigao Strait. He was fatally wounded during a kamikaze attack on USS Louisville (CA-28) on 5 January 1945. Chandler served on the Conner while she was based at Brest, France, and held temporary command of her between the end of the war and her return to US waters.

The Conner began her active career on 12 May 1918, when she left New York to escort a convoy across the Atlantic to Brest. Brest then became her base for the rest of the war, and she was used on convoy escort duties.

In June-July she was one of seven destroyers escorting a convoy of eight transport ships west across the Atlantic after carrying US troops to France (Little DD-79, Conner DD-72, Cummings DD-44, Porter DD-59, Jarvis DD-38, Smith DD-17 and Reid DD-21). On 1 July 1918 U-86 sank the transport ship Covington (ID # 1409), previously the SS Cincinnati of the Hamburg-American Line. According to the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships six crewmen were killed and 770 rescued. Conner was one of the ships that helped rescue the survivors. She carried out the same duty a second time later in the month. 

On 5 September 1918 U-82 sank the Mount Vernon. Nicholson (DD-52), Winslow (DD-53), Wainwright (DD-62) and Conner (DD-72) all attempted to depth charge the submarine, but she escaped.

In October 1918 she helped escort Troop Convoy 70 on the last stage of its voyage across the Atlantic, serving as the senior ship in the Eastern Escort Group. This convoy was noteworthy for suffering a high number of fatalities early in the great Influence Epidemic

Anyone who served on her between 21 May 1918 and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

After the war the Conner was used to carry mail and passengers between Brest and Plymouth. On 8 May 1919 she escorted the fleet carrying President Woodrow Wilson from Plymouth to Brest, the last leg of his voyage to France to take part in the Versailles Peace Conference.

By the summer of 1919 the Conner had returned to the United States, where she took part in the annual fleet manoeuvres. After a brief spell in the Philadelphia Navy Yard she ended the Reserve at Norfolk, Virginia. In May 1921 she put to sea with a reduced complement to take part in that year's fleet exercises. She then moved to Newport, Rhode Island, for a spell of anti-submarine duties. Over the winter of 1921-22 she was based at Charleston, before she returned to Philadephia, where she was decommissioned on 21 June 1922.

In 1940 the Conner was one of the ships selected for the Destroyers for Bases deal with Britain. She was recommissioned on 23 August 1940, and moved to Halifax, where she was transferred to the Royal Navy on 23 October 1940. In British service she became the Town class destroyer HMS Leeds (pennant number G-27), with Lt Commander W.M.I. Astwood in command. The three Caldwell class destroyers to join the Royal Navy were all considered to be anti-aircraft escorts after their refit.

The Leeds reached Belfast on 10 November 1940. After a refit to adjust her to British standards, she joined the Rosyth Command, where she was used to escort convoys travelling between the Thames and the Firth of Forth. This brought her into contact with German air and surface forces. She was subjected to several air attacks, but was able to fight back. On 6 February 1942 she claimed to have damaged a Dornier Do 215

On 24-25 February 1944 helped fight off a E-boat attack on a convoy off Lowestoft. On 20 April 1942 she towed the destroyer HMS Cotswold into Harwich, after she had hit a mine,

The Leeds was placed into the reserve at Grangemouth in April 1945, and scrapped on 19 January 1949.

Displacement (standard)

1,120t (design)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30kts at 18,500shp
30.20kts at 19,930shp at 1,192 tons on trial (Gwin)


2-shaft turbines
4 boilers


2,500nm at 20kts


315ft 7in


30ft 6in


Four 4in/50 guns
Two 1-pounder AA guns
Twelve 21in torpedo tubes in four triple mounts
One Y-gun (DD-70 to DD-71)

Crew complement



21 August 1917


12 January 1918

To Royal Navy

23 August 1940

Into Reserve (RN)

April 1945


19 January 1949

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 (3 January 2017), USS Conner (DD-72)/ HMS Leeds ,

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