USS Tillman (DD-135)/ HMS Wells

USS Tillman (DD-135)/ HMS Wells was a Wickes class destroyer that saw active service with the Royal Navy, performing convoy escort duties.

The Tillman was named after Senator Benjamin Ryan Tillman, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs until his death in July 1918.

USS Tillman (DD-135) at New York, c.1930s
USS Tillman (DD-135)
at New York, c.1930s

The Tillman was laid down on 29 July 1918 at the Charleston Navy Yard, launched on 7 July 1918 and commissioned on 10 April 1921, after an unusually long three year long completion process. She was then allocated to Division 33, Squadron 8, Atlantic Fleet Destroyers, and served with that unit for almost a year, until the spring of 1922. Her first period of service came to an end soon afterwards and she was decommissioned on 3 July 1922.

The Tillman was recommissioned in 1930 and joined Division 23, Squadron 7 of the Scouting Fleet Destroyer Squadrons. By the start of 1931 she had transferred to Division 48 in the same unit. Between then and the spring of 1933 she operated from Charleston, carrying out training cruises for naval reservists and NROTC midshipmen. In the spring of 1933 she moved to Boston where she carried out the same duties. Between then and 1939 she continued to perform a mix of training duties and time in the rotating reserve. Later in the decade she joined Destroyer Division 29, Destroyer Squadron 10 at Charleston and Boston, where fleet exercises and 'showing the flag' trops were added to her duties. She was decommissioned for the second time on 15 June 1939.

On 24 August 1940 the Tillman was recommissioned to take part in the destroyers for bases deal. She reached Halifax on 21 November 1940, as part of the last batch of destroyers to be handed over.

As HMS Wells

The Tillman was decommissioned from the US Navy on 26 November 1940 and commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Wells (I.95) on 5 Decemerb 1940. Her entry into the Royal Navy didn't go smoothly - on 9 December she collided with HMS Newmarket (USS Robinson (DD-88)) , and wasn't able to leave for the United Kingdom until 4 February 1941. She crossed the Atlantic with HMS Newark (USS Ringgold DD-89), but ran into a gale. The Wells lost her topmast in a gale, while the Newark suffered from engine failure and had to be towed back to Halifax.

When the Wells finally reached Britian she joined the 17th Destroyer Division, which was used to escort the 1st Minelaying Squadron. As well as her minelaying duties off Scotland she also escorteda number of convoys to Iceland. On 10 June 1941, while south of Iceland, she attacked a U-boat without success. On 12 June 1941 she attacked another U-boat, but this time only inflicted damage on herself and had to return to the UK for a refit.

The Wells returned to convoy escort duties in the autumn of 1942. On 16 January 1941 she helped rescue the crew of the SS R.K. Cullen, a US merchant ship that had run aground on Barra in the Outer Hebrides. The Wells came under attack herself in the spring of 1941, when she and HMS Brighton (USS Cowell DD-167) were bombed while escorting transport ships west of the Faroe Islands. In November she moved further afield, escorting convoy KX-6, part of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, and then returning to the UK with Convoy MXF-3. After this she returned to the Iceland run.

In August 1943 the Wells moved to the Rosyth Escort Force and was used to escort coastal convoys moving between the Firth and the Thames. Late in 1944 she underwent a refit on the Clyde, and early in 1945 she began a target ship for aircraft training with the Western Approaches Command. She continued in this role until she was placed into the reserve in the middle of 1945, thus seeing out the entire European war in active service. She was decommissioned in July 1945, and sold for break up on 24 July 1945 and was scrapped at Troon, Scotland.

Displacement (standard)

1,160t (design)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts (design)
35.34kts at 24,610shp at 1,149t on trial (Wickes)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
24,200shp (design)


3,800nm at 15kts on trial (Wickes)
2,850nm at 20kts on trial (Wickes)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 11in

Armaments (as built)

Four 4in/50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple tubes
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid Down

29 July 1918


7 July 1918


10 April 1921


July 1945

Sold for scrap

24 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 (16 October 2017), USS Tillman (DD-135)/ HMS Wells ,

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